[Word count: 467. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]
Before, he was just the belt wielder. Barber. Things-around-the-house fixer. Wood chopper. La-Z-Boy occupier. Pipe smoker. Grandmother’s nagging post. I wasn’t fond of him. As a disciplinarian, I came to see him as stern. And mean. So I kept my dealings with him limited. Nine-year-olds prefer grandmothers anyway. They’re softer. Permissive. Willing to bend rules for precocious children. Better at banana pudding from scratch. I was certain I chose well.
Then, certain reversals of fortune cause ten-year-olds to grow rapidly. Age substantially. Wizen prematurely. Grieve deeply.
Rules of the game would need to change. No more hiding in the billows of her dress. I couldn’t pit queen against king. Now, it was just the king and I. Two of us on a somewhat bare board. In a much-too-quiet house. Taken aback. Having to stare at each other in the eyes. Perhaps for the first time.
The king, though prized, is probably the most vulnerable in the game. Only moving about slowly, one space at a time. Not a problem with a queen present. She can fly around accomplishing multiple tasks at one time. Enforcing order while retreating selectively. Defending territory while deferring demurely. A queen makes every piece stronger. Losing one early puts the fate of the whole game at a disadvantage. Faced with the challenge, some kings concede. Mine reworked his strategy. Continue reading
[Word count: 855. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]
God is not my mother. The two are not the same. They’re different. They are different.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem some two-thousand odd years ago, not Bakersfield in the 1950’s. Most depictions show him as a white man with a mellow expression and Clairol-ad-worthy hair. Not a black woman with luxuriously extended eyelashes, high cheekbones, café au lait skin, and a shy, affable smile.
They are not one and the same. It took years of work to convince myself of this. And it seems the maintenance on this work is never done. Continue reading
[Word count: 635. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
On Father’s Day, a sermon in a Black church usually needs the disclaimer: “Because we have problems with our earthly fathers, relating to God as a ‘heavenly father’ is difficult.” That’s because we view our relationship with God through our experiences with people. This guarantees a warped view.
Among my own warps are some weighty abandonment issues. And lately, they’ve become inflamed like a habanero on the tongue. I basically believe leaving is just something people do. People become disinterested. People get distracted. People take offense. Sometimes they die. But one way or another, they leave. And since God seems to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, this feeds a nagging suspicion He may do the same.
- “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20 KJV)
- “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
- “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18 KJV)
- And this is my favorite: “Neither height nor depth nor principalities nor powers nor past or present nor future shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)
Through my warped filters, I hear these scriptures differently. They may say nothing can come between us, but what if that “nothing” has an asterisk? This scares me. Por favor, no me abandonas. S’il vous plaît, ne me quitte pas. How many ways can I say… please don’t leave. Continue reading
[Word count: 623. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
“For so long, all I wanted from Christianity was for it to make sense.” —from For Believers Who Have Considered Apostasy When Faith Isn’t Enuf (Junkyard Salvation, March 28, 2012)
I’m getting into Talking Heads. Their music is aloof and funky and odd. It’s only for your ears… not your mind. One should clearly not look for intention or meaning in these songs. Their non sequitur titles and absurd lyrics warn me to expect no Grand Design. Nothing makes sense. When I realized this, I breathed a sigh of relief, and a usually overactive part of my brain took five.
My friend Joshua writes poetry. Good poetry. It doesn’t matter how good it is though. I hate poetry. I have a personal vendetta against it. It loses me at “hello.” And I hate feeling lost.
Mostly, I lack patience. I don’t want to wait for the words to wash over me and leave their impression. Poetry is like traditional photography. You have to sit in the dark with it awhile before any recognizable images appear. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Continue reading
[Word count: 721. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]
“Skepticism is the beginning of faith.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
What if, some glad morning when this life is over, none of us fly away? What if the lights go out and our stories just end?
More than a few occasions in 2012 found me devolving into a non-violent, slow-motion panic—mostly over my God and his perceived absence. Enough flummoxed descriptions of my mounting crisis of faith and someone finally put a name to it: the Dark Night of the Soul, a temporary spiritual crisis marked by doubts about the afterlife. Reportedly, Mother Theresa was a notable sufferer, having spent nearly 50 years of her life in this state. Though technically correct, nothing that lasts 50 years should get to call itself “temporary.”
For someone outside Christianity, a more accessible term may be existential crisis. Whatever you call it, I’m just glad it’s identifiable. If someone recognized it, then it wasn’t some new mystery disease with no treatment, no cure. Someone lived to tell the story. Continue reading
Posted in Church Business, Faith, Human Nature
Tagged apostasy, belief, Christianity, church, crisis of faith, dark night of the soul, death, disillusionment, existentialism, hope
[Word count: 933. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
“If you want my love, well, you’ve got to get closer to me
I don’t understand why we can’t get close enough.”
—Jars of Clay, “Closer”
I met an interesting girl online recently. She was the holy trinity of smart, talented, and beautiful. But, to my chagrin, she was very furtive and dodgy. If she was playing coy, she was playing to win. My curiosity was piqued because she kept her thoughts and feelings so hidden. Typical of me, I’m always fascinated by what I cannot understand.
I decided I wanted to get to know her better, but that wasn’t happening fast enough. So I worked up my nerve and expressed interest directly. The response I received was dusted with sugar. I imagine she giggled and shrugged her shoulders as she essentially told me, “you know enough about me already!” Fierfek.
The response landed like a playful punch on the chin, with the indication that a less-playful punch could follow if I didn’t pick up the first hint. Access firmly denied. She has decided to remain mysterious and aloof, the way she wants to be.
My ego was chapped over her polite refusal. But before I could get about the business of licking my wounds, I had déjà vu. The way I felt about her is the same way I feel about God. Well hot damn. Look at that. Continue reading
[Word count: 773. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]
The Bible documents well the story of Jesus’ birth, some scant details about him as a pre-teen, and multiple accounts of the last years of his life. But I’ve always wondered about the little details of Jesus’ life that didn’t make it into the Bible.
I don’t much care whether Jesus was the long-haired white guy seen in most photos. What he did overshadows how he may have looked. But I have this fantasy that whatever Jesus’ physical appearance was when he walked the Earth looked like the facial average of every person who has lived or will ever.
That way Jesus wouldn’t represent any one race or bloodline and no one gets to claim superiority. He would just look like a cross between my face and yours… and your boss’s… and every other face. If we looked at him, we would just instinctively understand that he is connected to us and we him, making us all connected to each other.
[Word count: 718. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
In order to set up some background, I need permission to be narcissistic for a moment. Okay, here it goes. I am smart. It’s one of few things I know, and rarely doubt. I haven’t received a Mensa invitation, but I know I have an uncanny ability to comprehend complex concepts that don’t come so easily to most. While other children might have been hearing “you’re so special,” “you’re so pretty,” or “you’re so cool,” I was hearing, “oh, he’s so smart, so advanced!”
Intelligence is part of my identity. I’m known for it and, to an extent, it defines me. I’m thankful for it, but it seems to have a downside. I’ve long held that I had the ability to reason my way out of my faith. I think the two may be mutually exclusive.
[Word count: 840. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
I dated the sweetest girl in my 20s. Perhaps if I was sweeter to her, we might have stayed together. But I was working at home one day when she decided to surprise me and stop by. As per usual, my dual living-and-working space was a mess. I was caught off guard by her presence, but glad to see her. She walks in visibly excited to see me at my desk, despite my work-disheveled state. I am no knight-in-shining armor today. What is she so happy about?
If you asked me, I’d say the girl’s in love. She would have to be. Only someone with that kind of madness would do what she was about to. I was in the middle of a number of thought processes at the time. And although multitasking beyond a certain point for me is like being drawn and quartered, I had to pull my focus in, snap into action, and protect her.
She walked in and sat down in the middle of my bed, rested her soft purse by her left thigh, and began to lean slowly to her right like a sexy, caramel-skinned Tower of Pisa. As it dawned on me what her intention was, a miniature explosion of panic detonated in my head. Continue reading
[Word count: 1839. Approximate read time: 6-7 minutes]
I’ve thought about it often. The scenario loops in mind. It starts a few moments before my heart got broken, but plays out differently this time. Originally, I didn’t know what hit me, but this time I’m ready. My senses are keen. I discern when I’m being patronized, snowed. I know the true words from the constructed pictures. I know the sincere smiles from those stiffly pasted on top to keep me dawdling unawares. This time I’m nimble for the moment when I should parry. This time I’m just out of their weapon’s reach. Prescient of my opponent’s next move, I counterstrike and draw both blood and surprise. I pause and turn up a corner of my mouth taking in the surveyed victory.
Had my reality played this way, I wouldn’t have lost my power. So much might not have fallen out of balance. I would not have become a victim and someone’s casualty. As I step away from my imagination, I notice in running this scenario that my muscles have tensed, shoulders tight having not yet left the fantasy. My brows have furrowed and jaws clenched without prompting. The conflict has become so real during this mental exercise, that if the assailant were to appear before me physically, I could easily burst into a commotion of bared teeth and hurled furniture, expletives zipping through the air like throwing knives. It ain’t all good.
There’s just a moment to break myself out before the scene replays again from the beginning, folding another layer over on an already rugged anger. My conjured emotions have produced an ire that is very present and sizzling hot to the touch. The way I’ve rehearsed this vindication so well for so long, I become more and more confident in my ability to perform it. That scares me. That’s not the performance I wanted to perfect. I was supposed to forgive.