You Gotta Feel It!

Coffee with Cream and Sugar
An Invitation into the Sweet Oneness of God
#5-You Gotta Feel It! 


Happy birthday to you!  Whether the traditional “happy birthday to you” song or Stevie Wonder’s rendition, which was written, sung, and recorded to advocate for and celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday being made a national holiday. Birthday commemorations, observations, recognitions, and celebrations are always in order.

Henri Nouwen in his devotional, Bread for the Journey titled his February 13 meditation, “Celebrating Being Alive.” Nouwen says, “Birthdays are so important.  On our birthdays, we celebrate being alive. On our birthdays people can say to us, ‘Thank you for being.’ Birthday presents are signs of our families’ and friends’ joy that we are part of their lives.” He goes on to say that “birthdays keep us childlike. Birthdays remind us that what is important is not what we do or accomplish, not what we have or who we know, but that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life.”

Every year, I celebrate being born. I remind myself and sometimes others of psalmist’s words, “For you (oh God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14).

Oh!  And let me say to the mothers, “Happy Birthing Day!

Last year, February 7, 2023, I was blessed to celebrate what the scripture calls, three score and ten, (70) years on the planet.  Seventy years is significant and special, yes, and I would have been quite content with cake and ice cream with the family and maybe a toast with a few friends.  But as usual, my wife, Brenda, always plotting, had something much grander up her sleeve.  She, along with the Friendship Baptist Church family, made my 70th birthday a very festive occasion with family, friends, delicious food, and lots of fun.  As part of the celebration, I was roasted, toasted, and generously gifted. Much gratitude I will always owe. Much love!

That 70th year went extremely fast (I know you relate), and here it is that I was nearing seventy-one.  I attempted to place limitations on another big event, preferring, perhaps, to quietly recognize seventy-one years in gratitude to God for another year—as the view lifts the eyes patiently wondering and anticipating the 75th milestone as it approaches, taking nothing for granted and saying, “if the Lord says the same” or “if the Lord decides.” Well, Brenda (I mentioned plotting already…I will add determined and persistent here) along with my Associate Minister, Rev. Michael Adkins, planned something surprising and spectacular!  We worshipped! We celebrated Black History! And we celebrated my birthday. A trifecta indeed! My 71st birthday was certainly one I would label “beloved”, and one that called me from my quiet gratitude into dance (dare I say that out of character “I cut a rug!”, meaning I danced in exhilaration and joy, two left feet and all.)

Happy Birthday to you!  If your birthday has passed, Happy Belated.  If you’re the one giving birth, Happy Birthing Day!  You are Beloved. Cut a Rug! 


Did you read that one little sentence in the middle of Joe’s reflection that bridges Stevie Wonder, Henri Nouwen, and the Holy Scriptures with Joe’s own personal birthday stories. It reads, Oh!  And let me say to the mothers, “Happy Birthing Day!” This phrase is the center place for me—bridging the realms–Mother God–Mother Earth connecting with the birthing mother, celebration planner, gift giver, cake baker, lover—lover—lover of the children—all God’s children that dance and sing and eat and feel and know that they are beloved. I am a mom—and I do love to celebrate life and birth and birthdays—especially the birthdays of others (I bet Brenda; the determined plotter, relates).  

 I received Joe’s reflection not long after he celebrated his 71st birthday. It arrived at a time of the year that is the “birthday season” in my family—wonderfully connected to the coming Spring. As the earth wakes up in Wisconsin, the human babies arrive to join the baby birds singing and the new life bursting forth from the soil. I’m sure it is not a coincidence that Joe’s words landed in my inbox as I was traveling to Minneapolis, MN for a weekend where my family was gathering in celebration of not only my niece’s 21’st birthday, but my son’s 20th Birthday, my father’s 79th birthday, and my mother’s 79th birthday. Cutting a rug was an understatement on this one.  

Is it possible that my children and nieces are in their 20’s? My goodness, wasn’t it yesterday that they were small? Joe hears Stevie Wonder…I hear Bette Midler’s rendition of Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof oh those lyrics will make a mother cry…is this the little girl I carried, is this the little boy at play, I don’t remember growing older, when did they? When did she get to be a beauty, when did he grow to be so tall, wasn’t it yesterday when they were small? And really is it also true that my parents are 79 years old? My goodness, we need to start plotting that 80th birthday party—if the Lord decides (thanks Joe). 

As a mother, I know that I have been gifted a unique understanding and experience of God’s process of knitting in the mother’s womb that Joe points to in Psalm 139. I felt that work, that weaving going on within. Perhaps it called me back to some unconscious knowing—some memory– that we all have (every single one of us) of our own kicks in the wombs that held us too while we were being woven. I imagine those kicks (sometimes with the same left foot, Joe) are a form of dance with Mother God that we reconnect to when the Birthday music plays, the drums sound, the spring bursts forth, and the rug is cut, again, in celebration of beloved and miraculous birth. 


Oh, the sweet, sweet, sugar that brings us together in the sharing of stories again. I am returning to writing this morning, March 5th, my birthday! Joe and I met early last week on an unusually warm late February day to listen for the sugar in our birthday reflections. And like Joe always says, God keeps us smiling—so get ready–get read to feel it–or to taste it!  

The sugar, first and foremost, we noted, is in this practice we are sharing—this practice of sitting down together to listen—to be still and know—to trust—to make time to gather around a table, to light a candle, pour a cup of coffee, sit in silence, to laugh and to cry and to share, to follow where God leads us. When we do this, the surprises of God’s presence are so abundant it is hard to hold them all. Joe and I found ourselves marveling and in awe—and really wondering how to best share the gifts of the sweet, sweet oneness of God (in this case–the birthday gifts). 

As we reflected on the birthday stories, we giggled a little as I inquired, what is the astrological sign for all of these February birthday people? Joe’s inner hippie was quick to share his certainty that he is an Aquarian! What does it mean to be an Aquarian? Do we dare look to the stars for some sugar today—to be led, like the wisemen followed the star, like the psalmists look to the heavens? We didn’t wonder for too long as it seemed only seconds and we were singing the words and finding the music video for the Age of Aquarius song by the 1960’s band called the 5th Dimension (which Joe also knew without Google’s help).  Oh, if you have time in this moment to listen to this song, to really listen to and sing the words, feel encouraged to do so right now.  Perhaps you will notice (as we did) that this particular music video is filled with images of young, white hippies dancing to the words and voices of a young black hippie band…coffee with cream and sugar was the message to us. 

Honestly, we were simply reminded that the sweet sugar of the Lord is in all things. We heard Scripture in the words—prayer in the words, hope in the words, unity in the words: peace guiding the planets, love steering the stars, harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding, and no more falsehoods….After we got done smiling and dancing a little (along with again acknowledging that the sugar frequently flows through music), we decided that the invitation was to practice Lectio Divina. We have shared previously about this practice, which has formed us in our Benedictine journeys. In this practice, we read or listen to a passage and notice a word or phrase that speaks to the heart in this moment. We then then spend time with it so it may reveal its teachings. It is traditionally done with Scripture, but why not a song–why not this song?  

 And here is the phrase that found us: Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in… You got to feel it (let the sunshine in) You got to feel it (let the sunshine in).

These moments–these birthday moments–this moment, right now as you are reading with us–these moments of our lives are meant to be felt. You have to feel itYou have to feel it! The band says, if you have been mistreated, let the sunshine in and feel it. If a friend has turned on you, let the sunshine in and feel it. Can we learn to celebrate being alive in this way? Can we recognize that every second of every hour is someone’s birthday—and is a new moment for us to celebrate being alive? Can we let that sunshine in and feel it? Can we radiate that sunshine for others—let that light shine—so that others can feel it and feel safe to let it in.   

 You gotta feel it! 

Tell us a birthday story! What’s your sign? Let us all in on some sunshine—We wanna–we gotta– feel it!  

5 thoughts on “You Gotta Feel It!”

  1. I appreciate both of your beautifully written reflections on birthdays. I remember The 5th Dimension’s The Age of Aquarius playing in our home when I was a child. I loved their music. I may have to download it and hear it again.

  2. Joe and Heather,

    Wait until you are awaiting your 82nd birthday! What a blessing to have the “Gift of Years” ( book by Joan Chittister). Yes, there has been pain but much joy as well in my 82 years. I hope you feel the same as you age another year. May your Lent be helpful to you and lead to a joyful Easter. Thank you, God, for life and community.


  3. Thank you for sharing this reflection. For me this birthday is #67 (which is a prime number). This Wednesday we have a group going to celebrate my Mother’s 89th birthday singing “Children of the Heavenly Father” (89 is a prime number). This morning I woke up to a Facetime call from grandsons, Miles (13) and Charlie (3) as their mom, Carrie (43) was driving them to school (3, 13 & 43 are all prime numbers). For me getting to this year was entirely by God’s grace. I’m sure this year will be full of grace as well (God’s not gonna leave now!) and for all I know God is celebrating a prime number, too!

  4. As I near my birthday, March 20, a “Spring baby”, My reflection was centered around my mom whom transitioned just 5 days before March 20, 2022. I don’t know why the last 2 years I have convinced myself, not to celebrate, rather weep. However, today, the key takeaway for me , is to enjoy life, dance to the tune in my head, even if I have 2 left feet. Pastor J, Ms. Heather, your reflections has made me rethink that death is ultimately the essence of celebrating life.

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