[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: 650. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
I am a huge Chaka Khan fan. Really big. I’ve met a lot of the artists I respect, but Chaka has eluded me like a ghost for nearly 15 years.
Back when the internet was young, I built a comprehensive website called Chaka’s House. It attracted a core of fans and established an internet presence for the fiery-haired songstress during an important time. Her management team, headed by her sister Tammy, caught wind of it and contacted me. I was thrilled! I would’ve gladly turned the site over to them to carry forward, but Chaka did not want to commercialize it.
Ain’t nothin’ but a maybe
As a consolation prize, Tammy invited me to the video shoot for “Don’t Talk To Strangers.” This was before the age of cell phones, so I had them call me at work. In a comedy of errors, my bungling co-workers didn’t pass me her message until the day after the shoot happened.
So Tammy tried again. She scored me an invitation to a scientology benefit held by Kirstie Alley featuring Chaka as the mainstage entertainer. I received the invitation in the mail the day after the event happened.
Third time’s the charm, right? Tammy called to invite me to a Prince concert Chaka was opening at The Forum. I would have loved to meet them both; however, as a struggling college student, I couldn’t afford the tickets.
Pretty frustrating. I still love her though. Something about the frequencies and vibrations she generates stirs my soul in all the best ways, but I unofficially resigned that maybe it wasn’t meant for me to meet her.
[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: 553. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]
During one of my weekly crisis phone calls, one of my friends suggested I pray the Lord’s Prayer. She emphasized the “your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” part explaining that I would be inviting in God’s perfect will for my life. Wait. Whose perfect will? Not mine? Are you sure it’s perfect? (This has been a point of contention in the past.)
I used to be afraid to pray the blank check prayer. “Lord, I will do anything you want. Have your way with me.” I just knew God would send me to Africa to be a missionary to poor children. Black and proud as I am, I have never wanted to go to Africa. My motherland is California. And missions do not turn me on at all. I’m also not a fan of poverty. Or children.
[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: 496. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]
Whenever I visit my hometown, my mother does not let me leave until she prays for me. It’s always been that way since the mid-80s when she got good and saved. That means whether dropping me off at elementary school or releasing me to the freeways so I could get back home to Los Angeles, it’s still the same thing. I would have to pad my travel time by about 5 or 10 minutes for Mom.
There is a very singular way her hand shakes when Mom prays for me. It’s not violent, or over the top. It’s just the slightest bit stronger than the magnitude felt when you lean against the dryer on its final spin cycle. It’s actually kind of relaxing. In any case, I can see it coming on as she reaches up to place her hand on my forehead.
If I didn’t know her well, I might think it was a put-on to dramatize the prayer. That’s no act. It’s been consistent throughout, which gives it credence. Fakeries reveal themselves over time.
These days, I moonlight as a skeptic. But I wonder about that. There must be something real to it. And I wonder what it is. Continue reading
[Word count: 879. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
Sade’s “By Your Side” is my ideal love song.
Even while writing God and the Silent Treatment, I remembered its lyrics are one answer to the forlorn, abandoned questions posed in Jars of Clay’s “Silence.” Often when romance is exaggerated in a love songs, it becomes something men and women are incapable of giving. However, the faithful love described in “By Your Side” is very godlike. It doesn’t take a great leap to relate it to scripture.
“You think I’d leave your side, baby? You know me better than that.”
Doubting God may be engrained in my analytical nature. I almost always need God to mock my unbelief and cite our history. “Do you really think I’d abandon you? C’mon. You may be unsure about many things, but you know that you at least know that.”
I’m like one of those kids who goes into histrionics whenever a parent leaves their sight. Mom or dad has to come back and calm the kid down: “Have I ever left you? Don’t I always come back? Don’t you know how much I love you?”
[Word count: 839. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]
Lately whenever I hear “you said,” I pocket it away, like a child does a shiny object found. At the emotional climax of Karate Kid, Jaden Smith pleads earnestly, “You said when life knocks you down we can choose to get back up. Well I’m trying to get back up! Why won’t you help me?” Something pinged in me.
It called to mind Jaden’s mom in A Low Down Dirty Shame who, caught by an angry and villainous Charles S. Dutton, reminds him innocently, “now, you said that you wouldn’t hurt me!” Ping again.
Jessica Reedy’s “Marching On” opens with the lyric, “Thought my mistakes would change the way you love me, but I remember you said you’d never leave, you’d never go.” Resounding ping.
I caught the pattern. Hearing others’ pleas for fairness and promises kept was echoing the silence of my own. As things in life periodically turn bleak, I wonder, “God are you still going to keep your promises?” Continue reading
Posted in Faith
Tagged authority, belief, Christianity, control, doubt, faith, fatalism, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith, Jessica Reedy, Karate Kid, Marching On, sovereignty
[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.