Tag Archives: Faith

Saying No To The Power Ball


Avoiding pop culture or hot topics is something that I choose to do, but escaping the pondering of every big-eyed, hopeful who believes that $1 billion will fix all of their problems is well…impossible.

Why in the world would I buy a Power Ball ticket?!?

Is there something written across my forehead that says that I will overlook the hypocrisy, lunacy, conspiracy of it all?

Buying a ticket or participating in the pool at any of my five jobs only puts me in direct competition with the people I share my time.  Knowing that the odds of winning are slim will    allow us to comfort each other inevitably.

I can’t manage the little bit of money I already don’t have!  What of the billion times more than I have in my coat pocket right now?  I’ve already got too many companies in my pocket with demands from bills and past debts.

My pastor once told me years ago that “there will always be an electric bill”.  I think he said this a few moments before the collection plate was passed around (for the third time). I don’t attend that church anymore–but not for want of more.  For want of less, in fact, is my current mantra.

In theory, wouldn’t winning the lottery obligate me to a ten percent tithe?  Why don’t we ever hear of that?   Why don’t we ponder the required 33% that will be jacked by the government BEFORE the jackpot is disbursed? No!  But we conceive of the notion of how we will accept our payment.  Annuity or…?

I thought that the lottery was supposed to be a fundraiser.  I thought it was to benefit “older Americans” or state education funds!   Am I the only one who feels lied to?  Bamboozled!   I heard six months ago that one state has become insolvent and unable to pay its lottery obligations.   Imagine that!!!!

“Win the lottery, and die the next day.”  Isn’t it all ironic?

I’ve given up so many vices in the past few years, it seems ludicrous to entertain an indulgence now.  Given up?  Wait!   Some vices, I’ve never pursued.  But to win the lottery….

When I was young in my “walk” I’d ponder.  What if every American invested their faith and/or hard-earned dollars into the church (or some other community trust)?  Collectively we’d all be better off.  My theory was to write a $50 check weekly and watch it grow.  Perhaps if I’d put it in the bank instead of donate it, I’d be better off financially.

Who am I kidding?!?   I’d have spent it!

Well today I lived a fantasy.  I pretended that I won the lottery (or at least behaved like I had). I told my boss to fuck off!   It was liberating!   Haven’t you ever wanted to do that?   Yeah!  My boss was surprised too!   I didn’t even elude to my lottery winnings, nor did I tell my co-workers why.  I walked back to work space and carried on like nothing had happened.

Later on in the day, I cleaned out my accounts and boarded a jet.   One of my friends texted me, worried that I hadn’t taken her calls in days.  I replied that I’d catch the evening’s rants from the State of the Union Address on YouTube, as the captain switched on the “fasten seat belt” sign.  I had a window seat on a red-eye to Jacksonville.   But I won’t say which one.  I mean, you know why.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back tomorrow.  I’m sick of this shit!   I didn’t even buy a lottery ticket.  And I feel like I’ve already won.

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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.

Dear Dad…

When there are so many things to write about and so many things to reflect on, today is a day that my focus shifts.  As a father and a son, Father’s Day is a day when I can do what ever I like (in theory).  However, it is the day that I represent all that is important to me.  Not too many fathers will admit, but the truth is that we are far more important than we are given credit for.  This is not to diminish mothers or grandmothers or even grandfathers, aunts, uncles, or anyone else that helps raise up a child.  But on this day we focus on the importance of fathers.

As an educator, I spend very little time discussing any of the “holidays” because of the need to focus on everything else.  I don’t place a high priority on any holiday because I end up having to justify and dance around beliefs systems. Otherwise I’d try to make a way to incorporate the meaning of the holiday into a bonafide lesson.  And because Father’s Day usually falls so close to the end of the school year that it gets overlooked anyway, no one complains–not even the dads.  The mayor of a local town recently posted to his Facebook page that he is so proud that 15 dads came out to the “Annual Donuts with Dad Breakfast. ” This kind of puzzled me.  I certainly could address that, but I’d like this story to take a different direction.

As a social worker, my focus on dads was minimal because mothers usually accepted all the responsibility in the household. For court, counseling, and intake interviews moms carry the load.  Sure there’s mention of dad but there’s always a compelling reason that he could not attend.  And although there’s a shared responsibility of raising a child, there are usually responsibilities that are often overlooked that dad is actually fulfilling.   Dad is not there to defend himself.

As a father, I do not need to defend myself.   As a son, my father’s absence had an explanation.  I never questioned it.  I knew and I understood.  But because the moms of the world were always there to offer an explanation, the real reasons were diluted.  Our world has two sides to it–the explained and the unexplained.  This is a balance that is necessary to keep things in check.  Although we might not be comfortable, please understand that balance is required in everything.  The ying to the yang, the male to the female, the rational to the irrational, and the list goes on…

But we force an inequality.  We demand more than we should and accept less than is acceptable.  It’s a paradox!  We overlook the need for balance.  Mother Nature will find the balance though; just like Father Time will never cease (even though we don’t see him until it’s too late).

My father is no longer here.  My mother is.  Balance.  I miss him.  My mother demands that I miss her.  Irony.  I have to laugh to keep from crying.  Today I celebrate the fathers who can no longer be there with their children.  I recognize the reasons.  I embrace those reasons even though I may not endorse them.

In this world full of so much tragedy, we manage to find some happiness.  Balance.  When the scales are tipped too much in one direction there is chaos.  We’ve come to accept certain arguments and conditions. Someone might suggest that the scales need to be re-calibrated.  This rings true in just about every aspect of our natural world–and probably in the supernatural realm as well.  Let’s explore that for a moment.

I spoke to one of my pastors yesterday who suggested that our role in the church has become antiquated. Men don’t come out to church as often as they should because the church is perceived as effeminate.  We refer to our Savior as a man who is caring and compassionate, who counsels and nurtures, who provides and heals.  This sounds more like a mother than a father.  I replied that “We call Him Father, but treat Him like a mother…”  Make of that what you will.  I’m certain that it will become a preaching point in today’s sermon.

My father was no mother.   As caring and compassionate as he was, he was still assertive and stubborn in his ways.  He provided resources that the family happily consumed.  He provided for several families and raised more children than he conceived.  He married more often than his wives would have preferred, but he was respected by each until the relationship had ended.  He loved his trucks and his sailboats.  He loved his projects and his books.  And he loved his children.  He was riddled with the guilt that he hadn’t enough love to give–even though he had given all that he had.  That’s not effeminate. That’s the type of man he raised me to be.  That’s the type of man that all of his son’s have turned out to be.  These are traits that I am modeling for my son.

dad

In his absence, I’ve learned the meaning of balance.  I only had him as a constant in my life for 13 years.  Too short?  No way!  That’s way longer than than I’ve been in my son’s life (so far); and way longer than most children have their fathers in their lives.  I am blessed to have been conceived by him, to be supported by him, and to have him there to show his love to me.  My father demonstrated balance in his life.  He was a poet and a sailor.  He lived his life like a well-narrated story, filled with comedy and tragedy.  He rarely completed a project, and his ultimate demise mimicked his projects.  This was no accident.  As I said, he was a poet.  Had he been a painter I’d suggest that all of his brush strokes were deliberate.  Instead, I confirm that all of his “I’s” were dotted and all of his “T’s” were crossed.  He left this earth of his own free will.  It’s been impossible to grieve his death because I daily celebrate his life.  Although I’m criticized for my perception of my father, I will learn from his model.  I will live my life the way I know best and I will teach my children how to LIVE life to the fullest.

Today, I also celebrate my children.   They were conceived in love and are nurtured daily by a mother and father who want nothing more than for them to be healthy and happy. Our children’s lives are not traditional.  However, “traditional” is no longer the norm. Therefore, their existence is actually better than most–and certainly better than what they could have had–no father.  I am the best father that my children will ever have! That’s as easy as affirming that I am the only father they will ever have.  I had a step-father for a few years who once told me, “you only get one mother…” Puzzled, I asked him if the same was true for fathers.  He had no answer.

034IMG_0001kids and me

Dear Dad, I love you.  Knowing that I will never see you again, I am happy for those years we had together.  You will live on in me as I provide for my children.  And one day when I too have left this earth, my children will be great people and live happy lives.

Umi

One of my all time favorite Mos Def Songs, “Umi”Positive Change

I don’t wanna write this down,
I wanna tell you how I feel right now
I don’t wanna take no time to write this down,
wanna tell you how I feel right now…

Tomorrow may never come…

For you or me, Life is not promised…

Tomorrow may never show up…

For you and me…

This life is not promised

I ain’t no perfect man. I’m trying to do, the best that I can,

With what it is I have.

I ain’t no perfect man. I’m trying to do, the best that I can,

With what it is I have

Put my heart and soul into this song.

I hope you feel me.

From where I am, to wherever you are…

I mean that sincerely.

Tomorrow may never come…

For you and me…

Life is not promised…

Tomorrow may never appear…

You better hold this very moment very close to you [right now]

Very close to you [right now]

So close to you, So- close to you

[your moment in history is right now!]

Don’t be affraid, to let it shine

My Umi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see.

My Abi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see[I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My Abi said shine your light on the world [Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My Umi said shine your light on the world

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free]

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people to be free, to be free…]

Sometimes I get discouraged.

I look around and, things are so weak.

People are so weak

Sometimes;  Sometimes I feel like crying.

Sometimes my heart gets heavy.

Sometimes I just want to leave and fly away [fly fly fly, like a dove].

Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself [ow!]

Passion takes over me.

I feel like a man Going insane Losing my brain…

Trying to maintain…Doing my thang.

Hey hey hey hey hey.

Put my heart and soul into this y’all.

I hope you feel me.

Where I am, to wherever you are…

Sometimes I don’t want to be bothered.

Sometimes I just want a quiet life,

with Me and my babies, me and my lady.

Sometimes I don’t want to get into no war

[Black people to be free, to be free…].

Sometimes I don’t wanna be a soldier.

Sometimes I just wanna be a man, but

Umi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see.

My Abi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see

[I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My dreamers(?) said shine your light on the world

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people]My elders said shine your light on the world

[Hey hey]Shine your light for the world to see

I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free.

All my people to be free, to be free, to be free.

Oh black people to be free, to be free, to be free.

Oh black people to be free, to be free, to be free

That’s all that matters to me

Black people unite and let’s all get down.

Gotta have what,Gotta have that love,

Peace and understanding.

One God, one light, One man, one voice, one mic.

Black people unite come on and do it right.

Black people unite come on and do it right.

Black people unite come on and get down.

Gotta have what,Love, peace and understanding.

One God, one voice, one life, One man, gon’ shine my light

Black people unite, now hop up and do it right.

Black people unite, now come on and do it right.

Yeah baby that’s what I like.

Yeah baby that’s what I like.

Yeah baby that’s what I like…

Umi

The Rock

Who’s your rock?  My friend used to call me her rock.  I didn’t understand what she meant, but it sounded like a compliment so I received it happily.  She was going through a storm and I seemed to resemble a beacon of hope.  She put a lot of faith in me which made me nervous. I felt a little unworthy. But who was I to dispute her opinion, especially when she was in duress.

Years later she’s come through the storm and has the battle wounds to show for it.  She made it through the worst on her own, as far as I knew. When I called upon her recently to reiterate some of the “good advice” that I offered her, she only said, “be still”.  She told me that was the best advice that I’d given her.  In fact, she admitted that it took years to realize how important being still was to obtaining serenity.  I was confused because the same advice I had given was the precise advice that I needed.


I’d forgotten the power of release.  Sacrifice comes in many forms.  Personal sacrifice requires an understanding as well as a commitment.  The most important component of personal sacrifice is that it can’t be dictated by someone else.  We find comfort in sharing someone else’s experience, but we can never truly make their experience our own. Even in a book, we can only be provided an out-of-body experience.  However, living the tale is a story unique in its own right.

When we are lost, we look to a map. The map may come in the form of a fold-out paper with a key and squiggly lines, or it can be a valuable testament of biblical proportions.  My pastor used to tell us to remember to bring our map to church every Sunday.  But we worshiped while learning how to interpret the map.  I put my faith in the map.  I put my faith in the Bible, and I put my faith in  the the preacher.  It sounds like a good plan.  Putting my faith in good should yield positive results, right?

Where we put our trust we put our faith.  When we put our faith in the wrong person, the disappointment shutters our belief system.  No more so than when everything hinges on a single belief that there is a master plan that doesn’t work.

The rock.   This is where we want to put our hopes, our trust, and our faith.  More emotional than any of these is love.

Lovers Rock
When my father died, this song was what I played each time I entered his solemn abode. It was a new release at a time before Pandora, mp3s, or satellite radio.  Putting the cd on repeat was the worst thing I could have done. It made me hate a song that I’d have otherwise loved.  It was symbolic.   At a time that my family lost its rock, I was the replacement pebble.

For my formidable years, my father was my rock.  I was certain that I’d be the rock for my kids soon enough. But the circumstances by which my father’s life was lost left me wondering if I’d placed my faith in the wrong person. For me there was faith in the father, and there was faith in the Father.  I thought that the two weren’t mutually exclusive.   My father was instrumental in my walk with the Lord. When he was gone, my walk truly became my own.

After fifteen years of progress without my dad, I’ve lost more faith in man and garnered more faith in myself.  As a man, faith in self is an arguably less popular trend.  As a Christian, faith in God’s will is enough to restore any lost faith in myself; but it does nothing to restore my faith in man.  I am.
 I’ve learned to distrust.  Having faith in relationships, organizations, colleagues, and family has left me empty and disappointed.  We know the importance in having faith. We simply struggle with knowing how to cope when things go wrong.  There will certainly be disappointment.  But the vagueness on how our map was constructed or how to combat the struggles en route to our destination–that’s the hardship!  It’s those milestones and all the tribulations along the way that really test our faith.  You see, that rock seems worthless if we don’t step off of it.  I mean, how do we lead a life without movement?  We step off the rock, assess the situation, and proceed with caution.  The whole while we are keeping the rock in sight (in case we need to run back to it).  And what do we do when we falter?  We seek the rock. Mankind can not merely savor the comfort and sanctity of salvation.  #Savorthefavor

 Who’s your rock?  Have you invested so much faith in man (and the world) that you’ve lost sight of the Rock?   Will you turn to your rock when all else fails?  Or will you not only stand on the rock but encourage others to do the same?

If only I had known…

If only I had known, I probably would not have bothered.

egg

If only I had known that running for township committee would require party leaders demanding that I see things their way (instead of asking me to consider the alternative), I would not have run for office.

If only I had known that another member of the fire company would be asked to run for a public office to represent the community, I would not have obligated myself.

If only I had known the outcome of my previous career endeavors would have resulted in me changing careers several times, I might have never embarked.

If only I had known that becoming the leader of my union would have resulted in management trying even harder to withhold our labor rights, I might have reconsidered.

things not seenIf only I had known that my marriage would end in divorce after nearly ten years, I might not have taken those vows.

If only I had known that I’d be leaving my home after twenty years of raising a family there, I might not have purchased it.

If only I had known that my pension wouldn’t be there for me when I retired, I might not have taken up a career in public service (or I would have at the very least invested differently).

If only I had known that the road that I travel now would not bring me to my destination unscathed, would I have chosen a different path?

I am not certain.  Had I not been elected to public office, I would not have recognized why our system is broken.  I wouldn’t have learned that just because we have only some similar beliefs, we still have vast differences.  I wouldn’t have learned that we must also look beyond our differences and engage in discussions about the many ways WE can meet our collective objectives.  I would not have learned that when they try to stifle me, I swell up with zest to overcome the barriers.   I would not have developed my voice!tied up  If it were not for the challenges that I’ve faced, there would have been no victory.

If I had known that they would pit someone LIKE me AGAINST me, I would have walked away because they created an unnecessary adversary.  I would not have realized that the goal was never to accomplish something, but instead to fuel the unrest that is destructive.  We were never on the same page.

My careers as a program coordinator, judicial assistant, probation officer, and family counselor all prompted my endeavors as an educator.  All of that experience fuelled my passion for advocacy.  My studies could have never prepared me for what was to come.  My entire life has been an internship that simple paid a little bit better than being a volunteer.

My stint as a union president was merely a foundation for a different kind of leadership—one where livelihoods were at stake.  The dues were small, but the rewards were great!  If managers had not suggested that I break the law, I’d have never realized how important it was to preserve the law, uphold the law, and defend the law.  Now I know how to change the law.

When I was young and naïve, I thought that all that was needed to have love was the opportunity.  If I wanted it bad enough (and if my heart was open to it), I could have what my heart desired.  Lost love and love lost?  I chose wisely, but next time I will be even wiser.  How my life will improve through such experience need not be said.

I purchased a home with the intention of sending my children to one the most diverse schools in the area, but by the time they were school-age the demographic had evolved and the ideas had changed.  Like-minds contributed to a population explosion and now there isn’t enough for everyone.  I won’t be the last to walk away, but I am certainly not the first.  As the trash litters the roadsides and the houses are either boarded up or burning down, I ask myself “what were you thinking?”

And now my life savings is being held hostage!  Any chance to have a fruitful life on the other side of retirement is in the hands of officials that we trusted to protect our interest and to preserve a promise that was made when we were hired.  Perhaps it was realized too late that the most efficient way to get the public service to function like the private sector was to treat them the same way (by robbing the public servants of their benefits).  But even my colleagues who’ve invested what was left of their budgets are dissatisfied with their returns.  Now I fight for my rights along side of people similar to me (and different from me) as we mumble, “if we had known…”

I’ve said all of that to say this:  Even if I had known then what I know now, things would not be much different.  Why?  Because my faith is the same!  As a matter of fact, a direct result of not knowing what the future holds makes my faith even stronger.  It’s not even a question of spiritual strength as much as it is the need to be patient, a need to hold on to those things that are important, and conversely the need to let go of those things that aren’t important anymore.  Being able to predict the future is actually counterproductive to being prepared for what is in store for us.  Although our walks are different, we are positioned to bring our knowledge, our experiences, and our passions to the table.  Absence of faith requires no work at all.  Absence of faith is absolute loss.  Faith without work is death.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1