Category Archives: Faith

Former Lovers

As in the life of many strong and influential men, there is always an even stronger woman.  She is either his inspiration, his influence, or his strength.  Occasionally, a man is fortunate enough to have a woman who posses more than one of these qualities. And if this woman  is blessed enough to have all three qualities, she is certain to be a driving force in his life. 
  
 
A gentleman shouldn’t kiss and tell.  But this story is not like that at all. This story is about three women who either inspired, influenced, or stregthened me.  
I am a strong man who’s worth can not be determined by spirit nor flesh, but by mortal reflection and a desire to be a better man.  Each day I pray that the Lord bless me with the light of His love.  I pray too that He lead me down the right path. I pray for Love.  

 My prayers have been heard.  And on many occasions my heart was open to accept His blessings.  Despite my willingness to receive those blessings, I could not find my own way.   I needed a Devine intervention.  I could not hear His voice, but I could see His signs.   And so he gave me hope.  

Hope

The first woman had a strange beauty.  Her heart was big.  She was smart, but foolish. She was kind.  Her short, thin hair exposed her tan complexion, but her modest features faded against her brilliant personality.  Her name was Hope.  She inspired my career choices.  We worked in a similar field, and I hoped that I could one day have as positive an impact on others as she had modeled for me.  She was my best friend. 

Hope was married when we met.  She’d married young, and her playfulness was something her husband adored.  He too was kind, and we became good friends.  I respected them both and hoped that I would one day find a love like theirs.  Until one day she confided that she had another lover.  I was crushed.  I cared as much for her husband as I did for her, and I could only imagine the pain he’d feel if he knew of her infidelity.  

I guessed she sensed my pain because she quickly rationalized her actions by revealing that her husband had also been unfaithful.  This new information only sullied my opinion of their relationship more.  And although my disappointment was personal, I didn’t allow it to diminish the friendship that I had with either of them.  

When my own marriage had failed years later, Hope whispered that she had seen the signs long before.  Apparently her experiences left her no faith that my marriage would be any better than hers.  After that our friendship faded.  I’d lost hope.  And I lost Hope.  

  

Faith

Nearly seven years later, I met Faith.  She was alluring.  Short yet buxom, I could not ignore her influence over me.  Like a siren, she called.  And I came.  She asked me if I had a girlfriend.  I told her that I was divorced.  But that was not what she had asked.  She gave me her number, and told me to call her when I had an answer to her question.  It was riddling to me. Not long after, we were intwined.  My head was spinning.  But with a name like hers, how could I go wrong.  Right?

  
Faith was an interesting woman.  Direct and assertive, she assured me that we’d be engaged in within months.  I did not object, but I was weary of her confidence.  I’d later learned that she’d unsuccessful applied this very technique with other men.

Faith was influential.  She had many friends–most as pompous as she.  Introducing me to the important ones, she planned a new career path for me.  Where I would work, where we would live, and how soon we’d conceive.  She was certain that I would accept.  Imagine her surprise when I walked away.  She had more faith than I.  

Faith and I had a few romantic trists since my departure, but they all ended with an argument about commitment.  Her claim that she was more committed to me said nothing for her relationship with her “on-again/off-again” fiancé.  Our last communication with one another ended with me asking her how she defined “loyalty”.  She replied, “it depends…”

I’ll never speak to Faith again.  

  
Love

I learned to love again. This time, perhaps, it would be for the first time.  True love.  My most recent love affair was with someone to whom I would not make love.  Ah yes!  This was a unique relationship where abstinence was key.    A lost virtue.  

Her name was Greek for Love.  She was amazing.  From the first time I met her, I had a feeling that THIS could be love.  She was Love!   Her alabaster skin was tanned by the numerous freckles with which God adorned her.  She was like no other. In my mind, because I was ready to receive it, she was the epitome of God’s love.  

Love asks nothing of us.  She asked nothing of me.  For this feeling, I would offer her the world.  No expectations.  No demands.  Chasted, she gave me no anxiety that another might take my place.  But what my heart wanted, my mind projected. 

It’s still too soon to know if the outcome would have been different had my mind not gotten in the way.   For it was with Love, that I had given more of my heart than ever before. She deserved far more than I could give.  

There was a limit however.  I was unclear of what was happening. We made a plan together–a plan we both could follow.   But a rational plan with irrational people can be disastrous.  Love can not be planned!  Love just happens.  But in this case, Love–well she just didn’t budge.   Love is patient.  Love is kind.  

  
Love!  She waited!  She waited 40 years!  She waited for me.  She claimed she’d wait forever, even before wedding vows.  Specifically FOR those wedding vows.  Love–she continues to wait. Love gave me strength. And it took every ounce of strength to be in Love.  I didn’t have enough.  Alas, I walked away from Love.  

I’ve been blessed.   I could expect no more than I’ve already experienced.  Some men never come close.  I convince myself daily that I’m allowed to have amazing experiences for a reason.  One day all of this experience will bring me to a pinnacle–a place where I will use what I’ve learned to overcome a huge challenge.  There is victory on the other side of a battle…I hope. 

I got to see what Hope looks like, but witness her disappointment.   I had Faith.  She was alluring, but I lost her.  It makes me wonder if I ever truly had her.  Ah, but Love…   Exciting and new!  Love is exciting and new for everyone, but she is unlike Hope and Faith.  Love is both.  Love is neither.  Love is…

  

The Power To Stay, The Energy To Leave

  
When we feel that lull in our lives or that too-familiar melancholy, we know it’s time to change something. We know it’s time to move.  Whether it’s been a few years or a few months, we sometimes yearn for the next chapter to begin.  

It takes an emense level of power to stay in a situation that we’ve outgrown. Prayerfully our current setting is one that we’ve chosen.  But not always.  Prayerfully when we are ready to progress, we have the energy.  But that’s it!  We may think we are ready when we are not.  It’s rarely on our own terms.  We must be provoked.  We must be motivated.  We must be propelled by an energy greater than our own. 

And when we harness that energy, it’s amazing.  It’s mystical at first, magical in it’s delivery, and…satisfying.   

The energy that it takes to move to the next level is so much greater than the energy it takes to sustain the change.  Like a roller coaster, the force needed to get to the top is slow and building.  Click, click, click gradually running out…seemingly pushed to the limit.  But then the magic!  Predictable.  Not spontaneous.  Planned, calculated, and an outcome that possessed all the qualities that we anticipated (without an once more energy than we needed).  The climax comes a nanosecond before the drop.  

Falling sometimes wildly.  Dropping quickly,  with a force exponentially greater than anything that we imagined.  But it doesn’t last. 

It’s that energy that we are addicted to.  We will wait hours for a great thrill at an amusement park.  In life, we will wait weeks, months, years…for that thrill.  

In our careers, in our relationships, in our personal goals we can endure the wait.  But how long will we wait for the NEXT big thrill?  How much energy will it take for us to leave our current situation?  

The next chapter has probably already begun. Whether we realize it or not, life is continuing regardless of our participation.  Being still and patient requires power too. It’s called restraint.  The energy we reserve is building, building, building until…we release. 

Tomorrow is here.  We are more powerful than we were.  We’ve released, restored, re-done.  We get another chance, we do it better; and with less energy.  

Harder, better, faster, stronger!

Blessing in the Storm

  
This morning I sensed something above my head.  I heard scratching and then a rustling.  The dog barked, the cats scurried, and then I saw this squirrel fall from my roof. Out my window, I watched this seemingly confused creature of God hustle through the snow and climb the bark of a nearby tree.  

What could this mean?  What in the world?!?

The storm, no doubt, has changed our path. The months leading up to today caused more confusion than reason.  Heat in the west, floods in the south, blistering winds to the north, and here we are trapped in this debilitating snow!

 
Years ago a man gave a trial sermon that I desperately wanted to witness.  For reasons that I cannot remember, I could not attend the event.  His wife offered me a digital audio copy of the sermon days later.  I gratefully accepted and played it immediately.  I then put it aside knowing that I could appreciate it again later. 
And then I forgot about it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  

There have been trials in my life that have been a reflection of either poor decisions, failed recognition of the “signs” or a wavering faith.  Each trial or “storm” brought with it a destruction of what was.  It also brought (more than) a restoration on the other side of the storm.  

No matter how prepared we think we are, He is more powerful!  

And so as I sort through my preparations (for the next storm), I discovered this sermon amidst my emergency supplies.  When I found it a week ago, I hadn’t heard any weather predictions yet.  I did not know of the impending Blizzard.  

And yet…

He knew.  It is His storm!   He creates the devistation.  He placates the hearts that receive Him.  He restores after its done.  

Below is that sermon, prepared years ago; converted to a shareable format, and available for you on this Sunday morning that most churches are closed.  

Click the link below:

Blessings In A Storm

Week’s Reflection On Tolerance

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I’ve watched from a distance as the world around us begins to implode.  I have to wonder if the days that we are living in now are worse than the days when we were children.  Is it because the exchange of information is more rapid than it was 25 years ago?  Are we no longer in an age of innocence?  Or have we just matured? Is this what a nation looks like after nearly 250 of democracy and freedom?

I ponder these questions (and others) as I steal away from family, friends, and media.  I wonder about tolerance.  I think about what freedom really means.  Democracy is starting to look more like hypocrisy as we defend our varying degrees of freedom.

We have freedoms of speech as long as you watch what YOU say.  YOU being the key term here.  Those making the rules and those forced to follow the rules tend to be very different. “Do as I say, not as I do” mentalities are becoming the catalyst for frustration.  “Just do it!” is not just the mantra for prominent athletes; but the cry from the authorities. Like the frustrated parent or the burnt-out school teacher, the need to gain a result (just for the sake of getting it done) has society unraveling.  Why?  Because after years of doing things a certain way with sub-par results, we’ve become intolerant of complacency.

The conservatives cry “us back to a time when things were better.” Meanwhile those who’ve struggled long enough scream for justice (and not JUST US).  The neo-rebellion is upon us.  These are not fighting words though. Hold on to hope.  Be certain that there are powers at play here that far outreach our own ability.  Be inspired that change is coming.

We have become intolerant.  We see changes in the way we…learn and the way we…teach; the ways we gather information and the means we use to disseminate the selective bits of bias and propaganda.

What raced to find efficient and effective means to accomplish goals has resulted in a plethora of liabilities.  As a nation, we wanted it quick!  Fast! Now!  “Your way, right away”is now “This way…cause that’s the way it is!”

Options?   As long as those options don’t slow the machine. Now we have default settings on everything.  From our cheeseburger fixings to the electronic seat positions on our $70K Cadillac.  Problem is that we are so used to having options, we’ve become entitled.

 

Twenty-five years ago, the average family had at least one car.  Now the average family has at least one parent.  My colleague shared his theory that many of our students have a “no-parent home.”  He explained that the single-parent families rely on other members of the village (i.e. grandma, auntie, or neighbor) to raise the children while the parent struggles to hold down a day-job AND the part-time night job.  The adults “watching” the children are setting the kids off in a corner in front of a television or with a handheld device to entertain them until mom/dad gets home.  Homework doesn’t get checked.  The PG-13 ratings on unlimited programs the kids are absorbing gets absolutely no “Parental Guidance” and the kids are raising themselves.  They are not favoring inspirational videos on YouTube nor Modern Marvels on the History Channel.  A steady diet of Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network holds nothing to the unlimited info-tainment guzzled by our youth.  The degree of care for your kid is diminished by the amount that she cares for her own kid.  The point?  What are we doing to teach tolerance?

Those children between the Generation X’s and the Millennials have endured a immeasurable disregard for what is important.  Those children, OUR CHILDREN, have invented a new set of priorities.  Our own lust for immediate gratification only models how “dead-set” we are.  We’re intolerant of waiting on change.   We will not save.  We will not plan.  We want it now.  “Mine is more important than yours!”  And for those who’ve continued to wait through this era, the time for change was YESTERDAY! So there will be no more waiting.

Some have had it already.  They were born with it or they earned a great deal in a short amount of time.  The worth has diminished.  And we still want it.

Yesterday’s greed mongers have either squandered the stolen wealth, retired, or died.  The descendants of that wealth are scrambling to protect it; as they realize that the 99% that DON’T HAVE will certain develop a means to take it.  And it’s happening.  By riots destroy everything.  There will be no resources left to rebuild.

Corporations

As more and more injustices are revealed through news media, social media, and recovered evidence in police brutality and political corruption, It has become clear.  Society has run out of time.

I hope that when all is destroyed and it’s time to rebuild, we will be more tolerant of each other.  I hope that we will pay closer attention to what we’ve done.  I hope new history books will be written and that the story will be accurate this time.  I hope we will have learned enough to model better for our children.

I pray we will rebuild together.

 

not wrong, just write

What if there were no wrong in the world?  I mean beyond what you and I may perceive as wrong (or right), what if all of this is the way it’s supposed to be?  A perfect balance between good and evil that is perpetuated to prevent either from destroying the world.  Too much good would result in a heaven fit for everyone, and too much evil would transform this world into a living hell!

Sometimes the righteous are so convinced that their  beliefs are correct that it pains them to even consider an alternative.  Those who seek righteousness look for a model either in a higher power (God), an example in mankind (Mother Theresa), or in scriptures (Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc).  A road map, if you will, is needed to see where we are and to plot a course with new discoveries along the way.  Our destination is never ReALLy predictable though.

The meek will inherit the earth.  Yes, it’s scripture to those who believe.  But to others is proverbial.  It’s an expression open to interpretation…as is everything!  This world is what we make of it.

True story:

When I was in 9th grade, I had a revelation that was struck down by the “smartest”kid in the class.  Naturally her uniqueness, flowing hair, and witty comments had my attention.  And because she was smart, she made ME her boyfriend (chuckling sarcastically).  Sitting beside her in the lunch room was her good friend and admirer whose personal circumstances were far different.  My girlfriend was very accomplished by her freshman year in high school and was on course to being the valedictorian and an IVY scholar.   Her friend however would eventually need to leave her mother’s home at age 16 just to protect her right to finish high school.  Two very different women…

I sat across from them both in lunch.  The conversations were typical of teenagers in the 80s.  MTV, Twin Peaks, and the newest rap song that our parents feigned.  One day I had an epiphany.  Before I thought it through fully, I spoke.  “What if everything that is happening is supposed to be happening?  What if we are getting what we deserve in life even if we don’t like it, even if it is unhealthy, or EVEN if it kills us…?”  My girlfriend kicked me under the table.

“Wha!?!”  I yelled in pain.

She motioned to our mutual friend sitting with us who immediately looked embarrassed.  As if I had said something wrong, I tried to clean it up, but didn’t know how.

“…er…I mean what if the things that are happening now will correct themselves is some way, without our intervention?”

My girlfriend was NOT pleased.  But our mutual friend looked on with mild interest.  I continued, “what if every good thing that is happening now will be countered by an equally unpleasant thing sometime later in life?”

The scholar put a stop to the conversation at once before my though could evolve.  Later in the day she pulled me aside and explained that type of talk is hurtful.  She warned me that I shouldn’t cast my beliefs out like that because it’s simply unfounded (yeah she spoke like that in the 9th grade).

Fast forward to the present.  The scholar attended an IVY as predicted and went on to get her PhD. Our mutual friend is a mother of five, wife, educator, and the greatest person you could ever know.  I’m glad that my girlfriend was wrong.  I suppose I’m glad that I couldn’t predict the future, but I’m more pleased that I didn’t fully abandon my theory.

I am glad for insights in my youth.  I am hopeful that things in our lives improve.  I’m mindful of the balance in life.  And I am grateful we are sharing these experiences.

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My Life in a Peanut Shell

I just realized (in the spirit of life imitating art) that recent events in my life were merely a series of promos for the upcoming Peanuts movie.

Everything that I needed to know I learned in kindergarten(?) or maybe in some of the cartoons that my mom relied on to babysit me.  We already know that some of the greatest childhood entertainment came from Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, and Peanuts.  Charles Shultz would be turning in his grave if he witnessed the evolution of children’s entertainment.

“But NO!  I had to listen to YOU…”

The above clip has had significant meaning to me in the past few years.  Take a look at the script:

“I’m glad you came back…”

“You’ll see the Great Pumpkin with your own eyes…”

“If you try to hold my hand,  I’ll slug you!”

“You look all around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy…”

“I was robbed!  I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin!”

“Halloween is over, and I MISSED IT!”

“And it was all your fault!  And I’ll sue!”

“What a fool I was…”

“You owe me restitution!”

pumpkin carving

“You’ve heard about furry and a woman scorned, haven’t you?”

“Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a [woman] who’s been cheated out of trick or treats.”

Each line above has meaning to me.  We could explore the nuance of each one, but it is a personal journey, no? Remember, these cartoons were created nearly 50 years ago!  Although they were not likely to be a prediction of things to come, they were certainly a reflection of the way things were at that time.  A happier time, maybe.  My naivety and genuine innocence prevented me from perceiving the full weight of what was happening in those cartoons.  But now, it’s far more than an opportunity to reminisce.  There was something there for me to see THEN.  There is something so familiar that it has awakened something in me NOW.  I’m not embarrassed that I could draw something so prolific from a childhood memory.  In fact, it lends itself to the notion that a seed was planted then that will blossom now.

Do you suppose that the most overlooked part of Trick Or Treating is the trick?  We are so focused on the treat, that we forget that there is an alternative…the silver lining, if you will. That trick is a surprise.  It jolts the system causing either alarm or uneasiness.  It’s a learning experience, and its an opportunity to avoid being tricked again.  That knowledge is far more valuable than any classroom lesson or parental warning. Ah, the silver lining…the reward on the other side of disappointment.

I come from an era when my mother was reluctant to let me engage in tradition Halloween shenanigans like “mischief night,” “beggars’night,”or the actually dressing up to go door-to-door asking for treats.  She blamed her mistrust on the Atlanta Child Murders, the Tylenol Scare, and a general mistrust of strangers.  It was never due to the evil that the holiday represented.  And for me, whatever mom decided was law!

In college I read James Baldwin’s “Evidence of Things Not Seen”baldwin This gave me healthy a perspective of the racial relations that led up to a mis-adjudication of a black man for crimes committed against young children by an “uncatchable” serial killer.  “The Tylenol Scare” referred to an urban legend about children receiving tampered candy and medicinal treats instead of the traditional Halloween spoils. The general mistrust of strangers is certainly a trait that I’ve carried into adulthood however.

My childhood was probably no different from any other child born in the early 70’s who endured the disco era, Reaganomics, or 80’s fashion.  But it was the cartoon entertainment that had the most profound impact on me.  From Peanuts, I grew excited about the holidays.  I learned mistrust from my “friends” each time I witnessed Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown (every time he began to believe in the genuine goodness of people).  I developed an enjoyment of neo-jazz from the score in each Peanut’s Holiday Special.  I witnessed gender identity develop each time “Chuck” had an encounter with Peppermint Patty.  The lone black kid, the musician Schroeder, and Pig-Pen were all characters that I could relate to because I either knew someone like that kid or I WAS that kid!  Not to mention the very first time I heard what Christmas was all about [Charlie Brown]. It was my first exposure to the biblical story according to Luke.

But the Halloween Special…  that one’s most meaningful to me now.  Have you ever considered the undertones about faith in that one?  The waiting for evidence of things unseen?  That’s Hebrew 11:1!  And only as recent as yesterday did I stumble across what some believe to be the true meaning behind the Allhallows Eve. But what I experience now adds meaning to what I already held to be true.  The caution, the waiting, the patience, the disbelief, and now the 12 steps to recovery.  Laughingly, I recognize that not everything in life requires therapy to recover.  Sometimes a few moments of silence is all that is necessary.  I wonder what the the Peanut’s Valentine’s Day Special has in store for me.

She said that she’s ready…

Last week I sought out a friend.  She told me that she was tired.  In her words she explained that she’d wished that the Lord would just come and take her.  Her heart was heavy and her body was weaker than it had ever been before.  Although she was able-bodied, she wanted to be finished with the work, the stress, and the aggravation that surrounded her.

I wouldn’t dare debate her.  I recognize the responsibility to intervene, but I also understood the value of listening and offering support.

Weeks prior, I made a similar comment, “I can’t wait for the end to come.”  However, when I said this, I knew in my heart that this was NOT a cry for help.  It was an acknowledgement of the signs of the apocalypse and an awareness that these problems were not going to correct themselves.   I understand that I am the change that I want to see.  But I also know my own limitations, and these current events represent circumstances greater than me.  I can’t fix them.  I can only watch and pray.  I pray that the Lord’s Will be done.  I know how the story ends.  I am anxious.

pmlbt

For anyone else to hear my story might suggest that I might be too anxious.  I am not.  I am patient.  I have watched and I have seen these circumstances before.  Daily, I am learning more about the past.  History is being rewritten.  The truth is being told.  These are exciting times!  However, to hear my friend speak caused me to reflect on my own words.  Are our concerns aligned?  As she’s old enough to be my mother, I call her my sister because, not only does she guide me, she is willing to be my friend.  She doesn’t preach (normally).  On this day though, she was prophesying her own fate. I was concerned.  When the faithful loose their faith…?

sunset

As the sun sets, it rises elsewhere.  An end is not a finality, but the beginning of something new. Perhaps my friend was not praying for an end as much as she was eager for a beginning.  However, she was not eager to return to her beginning (to redo a life of passionate experiences); but a new beginning where she can bask in the Lord’s Love.   This would be a place where time stands still and the worries of the world no longer exist; a place where evil has no meaning because it does not exist.  Is it delusional to long for such a place?   Are we not living our lives to eventually arrive at such a destination?

Some argue that we can have heaven right here on Earth.  Others argue that we must live a righteous life here on Earth to earn a place in heaven.  What about those who have no faith?  No ambition? No destination?

Like a child swinging in the park, our emotions waiver. We try to find reason in the world around us.  Absent God’s Word, we are lost.  Even when we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ, we fight what we know is right.  We want to live right but we want to do it on our own terms.  If ever there were a paradox…

We look for a constant.  The pendulum of daily circumstances offers us countless opportunities to get it right.  And with every right decision there is a (usually easier) option that we’ve omitted…yes omitted.  By skipping over the paths most traveled, we position ourselves to endure a harsher, more challenging route.  We become stronger.  We become bolder.  We become resilient.  We also become less emotional, less vulnerable, and more callous if we are not careful.

To exercise descretion, some may argue, is to waiver.  To deviate from the “right” course is to risk destruction.   And stopping along the way to contemplate allows for distraction.   Choosing the path that is right for you is the biggest challenge.