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Remembering Maya Angelou

“Bring heaven right here! Every moment present in God’s presence,” Maya Angelou said at Trinity Institute in 1990. “I want to live under God’s generosity, which forgives and allows me to doubt and still try to believe. I want all the things heaven has for us—love, kindness, mercy, joy, fair play, loyalty, and more.”

Angelou, author and poet, passed away earlier today at the age of 86. She was known for her 1970 memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and five subsequent volumes of autobiography, as well as her poetry.

Angelou was a keynote speaker at the 1990 Trinity Institute, God With Us. A summary of her address from Trinity News is reprinted below.

The Caged Bird Sings

“We move away from God and pretend ignorance about God’s love for us,” said Maya Angelou, author of the best-selling book and television movie I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. “So I encourage people toward self love. I know that if you love the Lord you are able to love yourself. I doubt if you can love yourself without loving the Lord. That may be. But I doubt it. I don’t feel comfortable with the person who doesn’t love himself but says he loves me. There’s an African phrase, ‘Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.’”

There is a different between modesty and humility, Angelou explained. As soon as life slams a modest person against the wall, he or she is likely to drop that modesty so quickly it makes your head swim. Humble people are secure people. Humility comes from within and keeps us aware that there are those who went before us.

Angelou has a deep voice which she often uses for singing when telling her stories. “I would like to think that the love of God would make me identify myself always as ‘one of the least of these,’” she said on more than one occasion. Her exuberance for life and for God were evident.

Speaking on “Trying To Make Heaven My Home,” Angelou commanded her rapt listeners to “Bring heaven right here! Every moment present in God’s presence. I want to live under God’s generosity, which forgives and allows me to doubt and still try to believe. I want all the things heaven has for us—love, kindness, mercy, joy, fair play, loyalty, and more. Right now, while I’m living here honest account, I have to confess, I’ve blown it 89 times that day. And so I thank God for forgiveness, for one more chance, for God’s tolerance. When I say I’m a ‘practicing’ Christian, I believe it is not a condition one achieves, where one can say ‘I’m okay now, I’ve got it.’ Instead, I have to keep working and straining and laughing and praying and love.”

Charting the Soul’s Geography at Trinity Institute 1990 by Dolly Patterson, originally published in Trinity News Winter 1990. 

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