As I prepare to celebrate and honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, a man who was murdered because he celebrated differences and preached love, justice and equality. It seems that most of the news on my radio as I sit in my prison cell, is bad news. The world You made for us seems to be a mess. There are wars everywhere. Arabs fighting each other, fighting Christians and fighting Jews; Christians fighting Catholics, Whites hating Blacks and people of color, the rich oppressing the poor, white police killing unarmed Black males, rival gangs killing each other, poor people being falsely arrested, over -zealous prosecutors maliciously prosecuting them and prison guards retaliating against prisoners for exercising guaranteed constitutional rights. Maybe this is part of Your design but I seriously doubt that. I believe we are lettering You down. You need for us to cooperate with Your plan, with Your Creation. You need us to cherish life, to protect it. It was hard enough for me when I was a member of free society. It is much harder to think about cherishing life here in prison. But You are a mighty God. Your power can be felt to the ends of the universe. You call us to "walk in right relation" with one another and to honor the work of Your hand and the life You created. It is a challenge, God, my Creator and Redeemer. Continue to teach me to honor Your will. Amen.
I am told in Psalm 133, (Right relations is like a precious ointment.) How very good and pleasant is it when kindred live together in unity! I read in Jeremiah, 14:17-22, that Prophet Jeremiah cries about the pain of the world; I read in Isaiah 58: 1-12, he explains what God requires of us: justice; I read in Matthew 5:43-48, that Jesus offers a challenge: love even your enemies; In Matthew, 22:34-40, I read, the two commandments of Jesus, is to love God and one another; I read in 1 Corinthians, 12:4-11, Paul urges us to appreciate each other's strength; In 1 Corinthians, 12:12-31, Paul explained that we are all connected to each other and, in John 4:7- 21, I read, those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars!
It is important to remember that Dr. King both wrote and said: "I know it isn't popular to talk about [love] in some circles today. I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I'm talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I've seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the south. I'm seen too much hate on the faces of klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities and I say to myself that hate is too much a burden to bear.
I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love! He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality."
We must not only learn to tolerate our differences. We must welcome them as the richness and diversity which can lead to true intelligence. I have a question: have you not learned the most in your life from those with whom you disagree- those who saw it differently from you?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: "The Christian worship includes the love of God and the love of neighbor. The two must go together or your Christianity is false. St. John asks his first epistle how can you say you love God, whom you have not seen, if you hate your brother, whom you have seen? Our love for God is tested and proved by our love for our neighbor. "
You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside of each other. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strength of our individual identities. In order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.
If we accept the basic proposition that all life is one, arising out of a common center--God, all expressions of love are acts of God. Hate then becomes a form of annihilation of self and others. In short, a form of suicide. An unknown author once wrote: "Anything, God, but hate; I have known it all my day, and the best it does is scar the soul and eat the heart away."
A comrade and Nation of Islam Minister tells me when he gains parole, he will join the church and become a Christian Minister. Below are the questions I will impose on him:
- Did you read John 4:7-21? In the excerpt from "Where Do We Go From Here?" Dr. King highlights that passage. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Black South African Noble Peace Prize Winner, also commented on this Bible verse. What does this passage mean to him? Does he think it is true that "whoever does not love, does not know God?
- What do he think Dr. King meant when he said, "I know it isn't popular to talk about love in some circles?" What personal experiences does this bring to his mind?
- Moses conveyed Ten Commandments to the people, but Jesus reduced this to two -love God and love one another (Matthew 22:34-40). In what ways will he try to keep those commandments? In what phases of his life did he fail to keep those two commandments?
Merciful God, loving You is easy- but it's difficult to keep Your commandments to love one another. Some of the people in my life and my surroundings are hard to love. The only person I can truthfully admit that I love unconditionally is my beloved niece, Evelyn Brooks. Help me face the challenge to love others to the best of my ability today and in the future. Write the two commandments of Jesus on my heart that I may do Your will. Amen.
George Rahsaan Brooks, #AP-4884
1 Kelley Street
Coal Township, Pa 17866-1021; http:decarceratepa.info/voices/free/george-rahsaan-brooks now; iippi.org/eorge-rahsaan-brooks
God, President Elect, Donald Trump campaigned on racism and divisiveness. I pray You enter into his heart and show him how to be a healer in a world divided by class and racial hatefulness. We need for You to teach us to respect our differences. God, You made us all and love us, You delight in the creation of Your human rainbow, which spans the earth with colors from the darkest ebony to palest white and, in-between, skins of weathered red and saffron. We are all children of Your creation. We are meant to share the air, water and minerals of this planet in peace and plenty. But greed, selfishness and fear have distorted Your design and human creation. We have made Your planet a place of racial hatred, war, hunger, homelessness, hurt and pain. And within prison walls, where I am rotting away actually innocent of my crime, children of Your creation are being subjected to cruel and usual punishment. I ask You in Jesus' dear name that You forgive the arrogance, foolishness and ingratitude of the human race. Lord, guide us to heal the hardness of our hearts and to seek freedom, justice, equality and peace. God of the universe, hear my prayer today. Amen.
The voice I use today from the Bible are as follows: Psalm 46, (Be still, and know that I am God"): God makes wars cease to the end of the earth' God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; Isaiah, 11:1-11, the wolf and the lamb shall live together; Isaiah, 2:1-5, Isaiah has another vision of people learning to get along; Mican, 4:1-5, The prophet Mican repeats Isaiah's prophecy of peace; Luke, 10:25-37, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan, a despised outcast; Matthew, 5:43-48, Jesus says it is not enough to love only your friends; Acts, 16:19-40, A jailer is forgiven and baptized by those he oppressed and, Ephesians, 2:14-22, Jesus breaks down the walls of hostility.
Minister Malcolm X said: "Every free moment I could find, I did a lot of talking to key people whom I knew around Harlem, and I made a lot of speeches, saying: 'True Islam taught me that it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the Human Family and Human Society complete. Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have become to include all kinds- some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called Capitalist, Socialist, and Communist! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremist - some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and white! I said to Harlem street audiences that only when mankind would submit to the One God who created all only then would mankind even approach the peace of which so much talk could be heard but toward which so little action was seen.'"
Jesus said, it is not enough to limit your love to your own nation, to your own group, to your own race. You must respond with love even to those outside of it, respond with love to those
who hate you. This concept enables us to live together not as a nation, but as the human race. We are now at the stage of history where we will either take this step or perish. To be sure, in Christ, there is no east, west, north or south; but one fellowship of love throughout the earth. I hear a lot of talk about peace but it isn't enough to talk about peace. We must believe in it. And, it isn't enough to believe in it; we must constantly work at it!
I recorded in both my mind and my life St. Francis Assisi's words which I incorporate in my prayers:" Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; not so much to be understood, as to understand; not so much to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning, that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
Although God delights in all people, we rarely delight in ourselves. In recent history, bias, hateful and racial incidents happened to the following groups and made headlines in our nation, the LGBT community, Blacks, Mexicans, Women, Syrians, Arabs and Jews. Have you experienced any of these divisions? If so, ask yourself how many of these divisions affected your life.
In Acts 16, I explained about a prison guard who was forgiven by prisoners who he mistreated. Forgiveness does not mean forgiving abusive or oppressive behavior- but what does it mean? What does this Bible story bring to your mind?
Minster Malcolm X came to the conclusion that we are all children of One God. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
How can your life be used to heal divisions while you are in prison, on parole or a part of a religious faith group? Can you use your life for healing like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X did?
Merciful God, be with me as I exist in this world so divided with prejudices and hate. I pray that you heal the hardness in our political leaders' lives and the hardness in the lives of our police, prosecutors and judges. Teach me to be an instrument of Your peace, a healer in a world divided by prejudices and hate. When these incidents occur let us sow love. Amen
George Rahsaan Brooks, # AP-4884
1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, PA 17866-1021;
http:decarceratepa.info/voices/free/george/rahsaan-brooks now; iippi.org/george-rahsaan-brooks
God, I was wrongfully convicted and have been unlawfully confined for over four-decades and I feel that most of my life have been wasted in this concrete and steel tomb. Another Jan uary in a cell that feels like an icebox; nothing seems to change! Every day, the same tasteless food and mystery meats ; the same routine---every day wearing the same ugly brown clothing with the words DOC stamped on the back on shirts, jackets and coats in large WHITE letters causing me to fell like branded cattle, property belonging to the Pa. Dept. of Corrections. Should not society wonder why these places of horror are called, CORRECTION Facilities when inmates warehoused in them are punished and very seldom, if any, are Corrected? Every day the same sad and angry faces; the same feeling that my life is wasting away. If I allow myself to think or focus on my cruel living conditions for more than a few seconds, my grief would be too much to bear! So, I try to stay busy helping others who are not as wise and strong
as myself mentally and spiritually because I want my life to matter. Giving up or laying down, is not an option for me; I do not want my spirit, "my self ' to die. Helped me to find my beloved niece, Evelyn and this have kept my life from being a waste. God, as you breathed new life into the dry bones found by Ezekiel, continue to breathe new life into me. Continue to stay with me, merciful Lord, Amen .
In Psalm 31, I read "everyone but God has forgotten me. [For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing ...but I trust You, O Lord; I say: "You are God."]
In Luke 15:1-10, Jesus tells two stories of God 's love (lost sheep, lost coin). In Ezekiel37:1- 14, God breathes life into a valley full of dry bones. As I consider the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision, as I consider the dead body of Lazarus, I realize sometimes we are dry, lifeless, despairing of our faith and despairing of our actions. O God, in Your presence, we recognize that we ourselves are not spiritually, fully alive. We let go and give up. We often give in to the sin of inconstancy and despair; we lack energy and ability. We are brittle. If asked to bend , we break . Like the neighbors and friends of Lazarus, we give up hope for a new life and we need Your spirit of power to fill us; we need our faith to become active.
I thank you God for putting the power of Your spirit into me. This has allowed my faith to stay active. Faith without action is meaningless. With your blessing, I have been able to breathe new life into my dead surroundings, that Your name may be glorified! Amen.
I fully understand that it is a great temptation to use our many obvious failures and disappointments in our lives to convince ourselves that we are really not worth being loved. Be cause, what do we have to show for ourselves? But for a person of faith the opposite is true. The many failures may open that place in us where we have nothing to brag about but everything to be loved for. It is becoming a child again, a child who is loved simply for being , simply for smiling, simply for reaching out. This is the way to spiritual maturity: to receive love as a pure, free gift.
The progress of growth is, it seems, the art of falling down. Growth is measured by the gentleness and awareness with which we once again pick ourselves up, the lightness with which we dust ourselves off, the openness in which we continue and take the next unknown step. Have you ever watched the changing high tides and low tides? If so, you have surely realized that we too have our low and high tides. It is important to keep a firm grasp of this truth: bitterness, harshness, sadness are feelings that weaken us. They do us harm! Instead of helping us face our problems, they only make the situation worse; I consider all people I am involved with. There are too many who appears to be totally defeated by their incarceration. That will "never" be me. I will never let go of my dignity and my sense of purpose, in prison or not.
We must learn to awaken and keep ourselves awake by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. In Ezekiel37:1-14, God breathed new life into dry, brittle bones. If God could breathe new life into you today, how would this change perspec tive, your attitude, your actions? What would you do with your new energy? Are you someone who breathes new life into a hopeless situation today or tomorrow? I witnessed God breathe new life into my beloved niece, Evelyn. So, I know what it looks like when someone has new life breathed into them; it changes their look on life, their perspective and their actions. I am a benefactor of her new life and positive energy because God breathed new life into a negative situation and experience she was caught up in. Her situation and experience was hopelessness. She now has a sense of dignity and purpose; God 's purpose!
I long ago recorded in my mind a saying of Minister Malcolm X: "Children have a lesson adults should learn, to not be ashamed of failing, but to get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so 'safe,' and therefore so shrinking and rigid and afraid. This is why so many humans fail. Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure."
Dear God , sometimes Satan causes me to feel like I am a failure. I am overwhelmed by prejudice , racism and rage. I have caused shame on my family-tree by being incarcerated , in spite of being framed by racist police, prosecutors and a court system that turns a blind eye to blatant injustices done to people of color. In spite of all this, God has been with me in the valley of steel, concrete and dry bones. God opened me with His power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to be filled with a new life. God has shown me that He will never abandon me, that He seeks out those who are lost like a shepherd searches for a lost lamb. I was lost but now I am found; my beloved niece was lost and now she is found . Great is God 's love, O God, You are my sustainer.
George Rahsaan Brooks , # AP-4884 1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, Pa. 17866-1021
http:decarceratepa.info/voices/free george-rahsaan-brooks; iippi.org/george-rahsaan-brooks