Category Archives: Religion

Broken (?)

How many times can we be broken before we are beyond repair?

How many breaks can we withstand before the lost pieces can no longer be replaced or filled?

That missing piece (that missing peace), where has it gone?

Are we stronger after the repair?

How delicate are we now having been broken and repaired?

Where will the next break occur?

When will it happen again?

Are we ever truly restored?

Who are we now? Who were we before?

Were we ever whole? How do we fill the hole?

Where do we go from here?

What are we talking about?

(Insert your hurt here)

Praying for your healing

#restoration

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Guiltless

A few years ago I was dating someone who was living what she called an abstinent lifestyle. Her consecration dictated that she’d have no lover before marriage; and further her courtship was to be a spiritual walk during which she’d be able to determine how’d “equally yoked” they’d both be. A relationship like that brings with it all types of challenges.

I may have thought that I was confident and spiritually grounded, but I learned some very interesting things about my tolerance of others’ beliefs during my journey.

40 Nights

One Lenten season, I asked my girlfriend what (if anything) she’d given up for Lent. I’m not catholic but I believe in self-sacrifice in the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. I smile at the idea of giving up chocolate or soda in hopes that the sacrifice may evolve into a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been successful on a few occasions, but usually become glutinous on the other side of the “fast.” But my faith has not required me to give too much of myself. Moderation. Moderation… A mustard seed of faith is all that is required. No need for extra!

Well, she didn’t see it the same way. Her response sent us down a path of true faith-building that would last years. She said, “I’m giving up intimacy.”

Intimacy…

Our relationship had already been defined by abstinence that was occasionally diluted by kissing and heavy petting. I was in uncharted territory but defended (to myself) that I had already endured a sexless marriage. If distance can make the heart grow fonder, then abstinence can make for short engagements, RiGhT??

So to try something new would be as easy as offering a kid an amalgamation of fresh uncooked vegetables. Carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower…

Not so fast!

And that’s what she said…often! Shaking my head sadly, I accepted the rules of engagement. (Pun intended!)

So she’d given up intimacy. In search of just one more simile, it was like asking a diabetic to give up chocolate. I had to question the lunacy.

“Who told you to do THAT!?!” One of the stupidest questions I could ask, I realize now.

“God!” she affirmed.

“Well, did He tell you that you couldn’t stay here anymore?”

“You mean I can’t spend the night?”

“No!”

I suppose at the time I was more superstitious than religious. My faith wavered more towards punishment than grace. And I was already certain that if I pressed this 40 year old virgin to give in to her hormonal urges, I would be struck by lightening for sure.

I had figured that this would signal the end of the relationship. I was not offering a compromise, nor did I plan on playing games with our emotions. After all, a direction from the Lord did not require my consent.

For me it was a spiritual awakening–an opportunity to assert my own beliefs, develop a sense of responsibility, and most importantly model for my own daughter a balance between religion and self-love.

She asked, “what will you be giving up for lent?”

“Guilt! I’ll be giving up guilt.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean IS that I’m tired of feeling guilty.”

Lust, gluttony, sloth, greed, wrath, pride, envy…cardinal vices. Carnal too. Flesh. The world…

I’m being asked to live according to someone else’s standards. I’m expected to live a life of decency despite the temptations that my brothers (and sisters) in Christ lay before me (?) and, AND, and…

This was years ago. I recount the years that have passed since my life changed. The seasons have cycled many times, but one theme has become constant in my life. I now live guiltless.

That doesn’t mean that I live carefree; nor does it mean that I allow myself to discard the beliefs of others. What it means is that I refuse to allow someone else to project their values on to me.

I can not feel bad because someone else has regret. I must not be held accountable for someone else’s hang ups. I must be free from their sin.

“You mean I can’t stay here for 40 nights?”

“You can not stay here at ALL!”

The love I had for her changed that day. It grew less as my heart and brain began to work together for the first time in my life.

Reason

I began to reason with my own conscience. I began to question how my faith drives my actions. I developed the ability to stay “no”. And only after years of practice have I become proficient is saying this too:

“I don’t believe that I can offer you what you deserve…”

What do we deserve? We deserve to be happy.

Happiness requires our own actions–our own growth and development–hard work and dedication–and most importantly…faith.

No one can give us that.

And that is what she wanted. She wanted me to have faith in HER. She wanted me to adhere to her belief system and to honor her in the ways that she wanted (that were also subject to change whenever HER god saw fit). The god in her was not the God in me.

And the God in me said, “no more”.

The God in me said, “I release you from your own chains and the invisible chains that have shackled you to your ‘future queen'”.

“You can never stay here again.”

“But I’ve come all this way for you!” she exclaimed.

“Don’t come here. I have children who are watching me closely. I have a daughter to whom I should never have to explain that we sleep next to each other, but we don’t touch each other. I don’t want to lie… down to anyone. I don’t want to feel guilty!”

I stood up. Standing on promises. Standing up for my future generations. Building a new legacy. Starting now…no wait. Starting NOW. No wait! StArTiNg…NoW

Christ died for my sin. He spread his arms wide, and His believers cried…so that I may never have to cry again.

“I don’t have to die. I don’t have to cry. And I don’t have to lie (or lay) next to you again.”

She left. And although she came back, she didn’t stay.

She didn’t stay.

Forty days passed. And 40 more. Till there were no more.

“Don’t let the door…hit you on the way out.” What began as a challenge, became a life lesson and a new diet–a diet filled with moderation and understanding and a relationship with God that was far greater than a relationship with any person.

Someone else can bear that cross. Some other man will make her sacrifice. If it goes well, it won’t be a sacrifice at all.

But isn’t Love a sacrifice. Must it be? I may never know again. But that’s a beautiful thing too. Not knowing…there can be beauty it not knowing. But it can be painful as well. Devine agony.

What agony, to love no more?

And now her beliefs are beheld by another, till death do them part.

I recall a time when that destiny was mine. But with the will to change (my mind) and the desire to live for me, I am guilt free.

And no less…

I am guiltless.

Guilt-Free V-Days

Two days before Valentine’s Day, I find myself sitting at a kitchen table while my student reinvents herself through a group science project. A project that is designed for a group, yet doled out for an individual student while she’s on medical leave….

THIS is what I’m facilitating as a blog from one of my favorite bloggers catches the corner of my eye.

Beauty Beyond Bones is one of the few blogs I read–mostly because I get an email every time the author publishes. But it’s easy to proclaim a favorite when there aren’t many others for which I will sacrifice my time. For as long as I’ve been on this reflective journey as a blogger, her blog has caught my attention. I suppose it’s because her persona reminds me of someone who I once loved. I say this with no guilt, however. And that’s because I gave up guilt for lent nearly four years ago.

That’s right! I gave up guilt for Lent. Here’s why:

This person I once loved, she has a name. But for simplicity, let’s just call her Love. She had convinced me that she was the one the Lord held aside just for me. She’d been praying her whole life for what she called “my sweet king-to-be” (MSKTB) for which became the moniker for this blog thread. She waited her whole life–and I mean she WAITED.

Her unrelenting chastity was something I honored. I’d figured that she was worth the sacrifice especially since she’d already sacrificed so much. But as the years passed I began to question the validly of a “sacrifice” of something that was never experienced. I longed for the integrity of a pure relationship. After all, no relationship prior had yielding a godly outcome.

This particular relationship did not come without its conflict and confusion. This was uncharted territory for me. I’d been divorced for nearly five years. My beautiful children and much-needed experience where the fruits of that union. Alas I’d experienced a sex-free marriage. How hard could an abstinent courtship be?

And believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult at all. The challenge was understanding the “rules” of an abstinent relationship. Love, well she didn’t make it easy. This courtship, as she called it, forced me to recall medieval times when marriages were arranged and fathers held the key to the mystical chastity belt. Weird!

It made me wonder if there were occasions where restricted access was circumvented somehow. Or if the whole concept was more-or-less a myth. I suppose I had a front row seat to my own private show. It was an interactive one-act play where I was both the star AND the antagonist. It hinged on torture, but Love led me to believe that it was necessary to truly appreciate the sanctity of marriage.

She had a hold of me. To my circle of friends, it looked like a circus. I thought I was the lion-tamer. Nah, I was merely one of the clowns (the one without the makeup).

As our relationship entered its first Lenten season, I asked her if she’d given any thought to what sacrifice she’d make for 40 Days. I figured it would be akin to my own fast of soda or chocolate. No! Hers was much deeper!!

Intimacy!

Huh? What?

I was confused. How much more un-intimate could we be??? I pressed her for an explanation. She obliged.

She said she’d spoken to God about it, and he told her to take her sacrifice deeper.

I thought this was a joke. But Love doesn’t joke about God. I began to plead with her. And then I realized that there was no integrity to in that at all. So I encouraged her to explain further. She said “no touching!”

Yeah ok.

“No kissing…”

Huh?

“No lustful gazing…”

To which I replied, “where will you be staying?”

This is where she became confused. I continued.

“When you spoke to God, did he tell you where you’d be staying when you come to visit me?”

I realized at that moment that I was venturing into a very ugly territory from which there’d be no return. But there was no turning back.

I gestured gingerly, “Hun, I know that you come a long way to see me. I know the sacrifice that you make to be with me. You are tired when you arrive, and most weekends you want to lay down; which results in you spending the night.”

“But you’ve also got to realize the challenge that comes from you spending the nights here when my children are home–the challenge created from trying to model this righteous behavior in the face of being “chased”.

My daughter had begun to emulate pristine behavior. She asked for a purity ring of her own. She spoke of the importance of waiting…

What father wouldn’t want that? Now I was offered an opportunity to step up. I’m not taking one for the team. I’m embracing a responsibility far greater than a “man-in-waiting” (is there such a thing?); or was my search for masculinity manifesting into a fatherly responsibility?

It didn’t matter. For a moment–perhaps minutes at best, Love melted. Her eyes gazed upon me and I felt appreciated.

But that too was confusing for me. And so I did what I do best. I stuck out my chest and…

Ruined it!

She asked me lovingly, “what will you give up for Lent?”

“Guilt! I’m giving up guilt!”

Love was lost.

I defended that if God was going to have a private conversation with my love, I was going to assert my role in my relationship with God. I looked up to the ceiling and continued, “you can’t stay here, wear sexy pajamas in my kitchen, tell me I can’t look at, touch, or kiss you and stay here. It’s teasing and it’s mean.”

Well maybe I didn’t say it was mean. It was a bad memory. What do you want from me?

“I Am giving up guilt for lent!” The Lord died for my sins. The fornication, the lust, the adultery, and all the other illicit stuff that I reluctantly confess to. I don’t need to harbor any guilt.

I sorta thought that I should have consulted a priest on this one, but…

I’m not catholic.

Love left that night. She went home to her father’s house where he and her mother later praised me for raising my own daughter to be a queen. I’m not sure how I felt about that, but…

Now THAT Ash Wednesday did not fall on Valentine’s Day (like it does this year), but the sheets have been cold ever since. Well, cold on Valentine’s Day at least.

As a middle-aged man who is on the cusp of denial, I will love myself this Valentine’s Day. And once you get your mind out of the gutter, you’ll probably do the same.

In case you didn’t know, the boxes of chocolate go on sale after 6pm at most pharmacies. And the Ex-lax is a few isles over.

Happy Ash Wednesday!

(Not) Making Love To The False Prophet

I shall use this as an opportunity to reference a lesson that I’ve spent the past three years learning.  When I thought that I was in the presence of God, I was instead being protected by him (which is far more personal). I endured a storm so harsh, others could not have survived it.  But I came through unscathed.

I’d been fooled and conditioned into thinking that I was on the path to blessings.  All along, however, I was being led by a temptress who called herself the dream maker. My naivety cloaked her harmful ways.  And although she could spew scripture and scoot in and out of sanctuaries unaffected, she was no angel.  To the contrary, she may have been a minion–a false prophet indeed.

I’m safe now, but she’s only begun to call upon the next like a siren.  The next guy is the son of a preacher man. That guy may not stand as a good a chance than I because, as a descendant of a holy messenger, the bounty is far greater.

I pray for his soul; that the Lord create a hedge of protection around him; and I pray that he is more discerning than I was.

Much has been written about false prophets, but as I searched for images, this is what I discovered instead.

False Prophets Mimic the Spirit of God!

The Story will be told by many men.  It will be a story of a woman who claims to be the heir to the throne.  She will argue that if she has to prove her legacy, her challengers simply lack faith.

She demanded that each man she tempted believe in her. In doing so, those “kings-to-be” will have a Devine connection to the Almighty.  It was believable.  I admit that I too conceded. I tasted the forbidden fruit, and it came easily. Am I condemned as well (for trusting this wolf)??

Do we chastise the ones who believe the lies?  Do we judge the fools?

God protects the children and the fools.  The children do not know better, but the fools are in peril because of their simple ignorance.

“Tomfoolery is alive and well,” she used to say!

In short, she was a liar!  Or was she??  She choose a narrative that was not genuine. And she sold it.  A sucker is born every minute…every minute that he spends with her.

Her entire story was a cover up of a life she choose to live–a life of ill-repute and a life of regret; a life that could have been forgiven by her Savior. She may never gain forgiveness because she choose to lie about it instead of testifying.

After searching many scriptures, this one gave me every certainty that I was in the midst of a raven:

“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.”‭‭(Deuteronomy‬ ‭13:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬)‬

She inspired a higher belief in God (accidentally).  Having survived her clutches, I am affirmed that He protected me. I was bathed in the blood of Christ.  Her plan was foiled. She did not mean for me to get closer to Him.  She wanted my essence for herself.

While in the midst of a spiritual attack, during a fast or consecration, I would to say to her, “are you ReAlly surprised that these attacks would come now?” I’d say this to her each time we witnessed God’s glorious works; each time he protected us from certain destruction. Any time we weathered a spiritual attack, we knew He’d protect us.

She must have secretly been crossing her fingers.

My prayer today is simply that the Enemy release His hold on her life so that she not be destroyed nor damn her victims.

Peace be unto her, for I refused to sleep with the enemy nor make love to the false prophet.

A Storm Deferred

Lingering rain droplets replaced the morning dew. The summer breeze enticed Angels’ tear drops to roll off the maple trees leaves. An acorn falls onto his shoulder, and he quickly turns about to see who threw it. There was no one there. He was alone again. 

He’d seen many storms and had come through several of his own. He was no longer afraid.  He knew that his walk was a lonely one.  His path was his own.  His perils were only temporary.  The storm had passed. All that was left were the drying leaves and the moist grass between his toes. 

He was refreshed…

Rise & Shine

Rise and shine, and give God the glory, Glory…

Before I awaken my resting Angels 
Before I walk out this door 

And inhale the air outside

I pray the Lord keep them by His side
We are blessed to have

each and every soul

That is in our lives

I pray He protects each of us

That He keep us

That He humble us

Empower us

Through wisdom

And Hope.

Through Faith

And Love

Amen

High(er) Heals

Weddings are beautiful.  The innovative ways the bride and groom bring their families together to witness the moment that their lives become one. The smiling pastor and the glistening bridesmaids are all cheerful in anticipation; the groomsmen laughing and trying to remain dignified (still recovering from the night before); the groom smiling from ear to ear; and the beloved bride…glistening in her glory.  

My eyes were filled with visions of hope.  My ears awaited that single phrase, “I do…”  I began to tremble when the bride recounted how her husband-to-be was always there, but waited until the sanctified moment to do what he was called by God to do.  He was obedient. She was ready.  Their story brought tears to my eyes.  For although I’d come close to identifying  with their romance, it was so special and so unique that it was certain that God had his hand on it the entire time.  

As a mere witness to this couple that I barely knew as strangers, my heart swelled.  I was inspired.  Could this be how true love manifests?  There was healing in this ceremony.  It was ordained and sanctified.  Blessed and sincere, I too just know that all the days remaining from this day till the end would be blissful for this couple. 

She spoke of how’d they’d met; how their circles of friends were intertwined, how’d they were destined to be together, and how they had deviated from their paths only to finally come together as one.  It was a love story created before either of them had been conceived. 

Yes!  Stories like this truly exist!

As they prayed, I felt a healing.  

My heart had ached for hours the night before.  I woke cleansed but it wasn’t long before that deep pain crept back up on me.  Certain to be doomed, I was pessimistic as I arrived to the church.  I’d actually called upon several of my brethren to pray for me because my pain was internal.  No doctor could ease my pain.  My discomfort grew into anger which blossomed into rage.  

I was in no mood for love stories or pleasantries.  I resented the smallest gestures of kindness and repelled any hints of a smile.  But as s man of my word, I arrived to the chapel on time to bare witness.  

I’m glad I did.  

Beautiful dresses, handsome tuxedos, scuffed shoes, broken heels…

There were broken heels, but all that was broken is now healed.