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Shelter-In-Place

Psalm 23 says,

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

The word of the lord for the radically inclusive, unconditionally loving, extravagantly welcoming, open and affirming people of God.

Amen.

I thought that this scripture, that appeared in the lectionary this week, spoke into this moment.

“Marvin, where are you reading, performing, speaking, dancing, being this week?” is the question I remember being asked often in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I had no clear path because I had no clear future, so I was ALL OVER THE PLACE.

I was called flakey, uncommitted, wishy-washy and flighty because I was looking for my future in poetry readings, in theater, in dance and in writing.

I was all over the place. I was all over creation. I was on everybody’s set. It made sense to me, the instability, the detachment, the ability to get up and go to the next thing, to have a taste satisfied and not stay for the whole meal, to have a new taste for something unnamed and then go and spend years finding it.

All over the place. See, the thing about being all over the place, is that you actually want to be still. And when you finally tire out. You have to practice being still.

At 54, I am in place. I am findable. You can locate me. I have an address. You can plan a visit with me. You can pop in on me. You can send me a card, flowers, candy. One day I realized, that I want to be in place.

I want to be installed. I want to shoot down deep roots. I want to be a respectable chandelier in my old age, mid-century modern ensconced, a Tiffany lamp appreciated in value.

And while my life may not have been lived efficiently, so close to burning out, now, because I am in place, I am working on being a beacon and a landing strip.

I am a lighthouse, a siren, a traffic signal, and you can triangulate your journey by where I stand, work, pray, preach and organize.

You see, that’s why “Sheltering-In-Place” is a spiritual principle. It says that it’s time to stop sounding the whir and being the blur.

It’s time to be sought out and found. It’s time to say to God, to spirit, to opportunity, to love, “Here I am and I ain’t going nowhere. I am “Sheltering-In-Place.” You can find me here, not waiting on you by the door, but comfortable in my skin, being my own best company, consoling myself, cooking for one.

But if you looking for me Oh Great God, I now know that all that chasing and pursuing of dreams was made for me to know that this moment, this physical distancing, is about feeling like I want you to know that you can come home to me God.

That opportunity can come home to me.

That love can come home to me.

I am finally still. I am no longer in the “Lean-to of Displace,” I am “Sheltering-In-This-Place.”

This Corona Virus and COVID-19 moment is bringing up all kinds of latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious thoughts that I have held about myself. You see, I was shaped by a pandemic, and if you have ever had to recover from an accident, if you served in the military, if you are a spouse of a police officer, if you believe in miracles, if you believe in science, if you believe in both, if you believe in humanity, and nothing you believed in has made you worry less, then you, like me, you have been shaped too, and have some questions.

Right now, everybody has a hair pin.

Everybody is a missile in a silo.

Everybody got everybody else’s launch code.

Everybody’s firing.

Everybody ready to come to blows.

Everything coming up now.

Even our homes for some of us, the very homes that we are paying for, have paid for, put the welcome mat out on, our “be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home” home, feel like prisons and not castles. For some of us what’s coming up is that we never felt at home.

And that makes Sheltering-In-Place hard.

What this moment is revealing to us, and be encouraged, things are becoming clearer and not muddier right now,

What this moment is revealing is our proximity to the mother who collapses after news of her son being shot is on the evening news, you see she was in her house minding her business, just like we are right now.

Clearly, there’s no difference between us.

We are closer to the father taking back to the bottle after being laid off, and now everybody on edge because a rage is coming to their house, which is a house just like ours.

Clearly, there’s no difference between us.

Or…

You see, “Sheltering-In-Place” says that we are present flesh. Because this place is all we got.

Can’t go back to that place and we ain’t got to the next place, we “Sheltered-In-Place.”

We have to turn “Sheltering-In-Place” into a practice.

We have talked about it, and now we are really in “The Era of Self-Care.”

We are finally meditating, whether we wanted to or not.

The world is meditating.

We are finally at our “Still Point.”

Not sitting ducks. But caged birds singing.

Take a knee, and don’t sing, “Make America Normal Again.”

Don’t go back to routine, hitting alarm clocks, punching time clocks, being measured by how much blood, sweat and tears we produce alongside our work.

Don’t go back to homelessness, and violence, and sex trafficking, and poverty, and addiction being just abstraction and conceptual thoughts.

Don’t go back to being the prettiest in the room, the boss of everybody, the A-Student, the Closer, the whip-into-shaper and the unsatisfied.

I thought not knowing whether I was coming or going was normal.

Didn’t know that the gap between my realities was so spacious.

And now I know that there is a time set aside for me, that allows me to be with and be myself.

And that time is now. That ain’t never been my normal.

This moment, this Corona Virus and COVID-19 moment is my gap year. Before I join back in, I am going to look at all of my latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious trauma. I am going to look at why I, at 54, let things go untreated, unpaid and unchecked.

And how despite my privileges, I’m like everybody else who don’t have access to medical care.

Even got me thinking about if I isolate and quarantine and shelter-in-place, will anybody come looking for me.

And how now I’m like everybody else who lives invisible lives in tent encampments, knowing that no one is coming to check on them.

Even got me thinking about how much time I have to stand in line to buy food.

Now I’m just like everybody else hungry enough to wait in line for a free meal.

Even got me thinking about how suspiciously people look at me in my mask.

And now I’m just like everybody else who is racially profiled wearing the exact same mask.

Even got me thinking that if I cry for help, it might be met with a physical, systemic, professional, emotional or intimate violence, but you will call them my “feels,” and tell me to be in them is a sign of weakness.

Questions come to you when you practice, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

The years of believing I am the reason for what happened to me and the reason who happened to us and now I know why that never felt right or made sense.

Because you know if black people didn’t have diabetes or hypertension or heart disease, and if old people weren’t old, and Prime Ministers weren’t Prime Ministers, and young people weren’t young people and the rich weren’t rich, and the loved weren’t loved and the fathers weren’t fathers and the mothers weren’t mothers, and the nurses weren’t nurses and the doctors weren’t doctors, then they wouldn’t be dead from the virus right now.

This is not your “Still, small voice talking,” it’s your anxiety, and “Sheltering-In-Place” shows you that sound like love, but it’s not.

But there is in this a hope and a promise.

Psalm 23 says,

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and

your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

God is a shelter-in-place my whole life long.

We have come to address in this pandemic the condition: the historical, the systemic, the dysfunctional family systems, the enabling, generational trauma, the shame, blame and secrecy, that every person who shows up needing healing gets healed of.

You can find us in our inseparable and indivisible lives intertwined in this COVID-19 moment, absolving those with COVID-19 of a crime that they did not commit and we begin to consider the mitigating circumstances; the impact of the amount of love or lovelessness in the world.

Our divine coordinates, with the one who removed our restraints and shackles to capitalism, to bring us into a knowing that we are all caught in a cycle of incarceration. And liberation is a universal right.

Our resolve is a fixed location of hope in the face of people who tell us to give up on the lives of those who are bottoming out, homeless and untested for the virus; when they tell you people are dead to you, hold on to hope.

We are finally in the zone, our locations grouped together, even in isolation, the zone of loving ourselves enough to know that our own health, mental, physical and spiritual, is important and it’s time to unlearn that you have to push through your pain or live with it, hold on to hope.

The count is rising.

The flood is rising.

The death is tolling.

The timebomb is ticking.

But hold on to hope.

Keep “Sheltering-In-Love.”

Keep, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

Your home is the open house that God has come to see. Wants to know how yawl gon’ get along when it’s time for your “dwell with him forever.”

So, Keep “Sheltering-In-Joy.”

Keep, “Sheltering-In-Place.”

Because you shall dwell in the house of the LORD your whole life long.

The Middle Passage was not your lifelong…

The Enslavement was not your lifelong…

Reconstruction, and Jim Crow and dashed Civil Rights dreams was not your lifelong…

Fighting for Women’s Rights and Suffrage was not your lifelong…

Holding on for LGBTQ protections, rights, equity and inclusion was not your lifelong…

Waiting for your stimulus check was not your lifelong…

Waiting for a cure, a balm, a test or a vaccine was not your lifelong…

And the Corona Virus and COVID-19, can only endureth for a moment, but Joy is coming in the morning.

And these two months might feel like you dwelling in the house your whole life long…Hold on!

You have done the hard part, you lived.

“Sheltering-In-Place” says you want to live so you can see the day when it’s safe to come out.

Don’t live in a house divided against itself. It won’t stand for you. Don’t stand for it.

In this moment, let love come to mind, make yours a house of prayer for all people.

Make yours a house of god. A god house.

And Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. My refuge and my fortress, is my God, in whom I trust.

“Shelter-In-Place” and rest, beloved.

Amen.