The Shakes

[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

If, Then, But, and Other Things You Said

[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.

Jada Pinkett

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

Smart People Problems

[Word count: 718. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

Bible against a green black board with math problems on it.

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.

Continue reading

Nothing Can Come Between Us

[Word count: 814. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]

We’re still together. But sitting at opposite ends of the couch though. Not saying much to each other as we go in, out, and about the house. Sharing the same bed, but not touching. Going to church together, but not making eye contact. The honeymoon phase is over. Being together doesn’t give us the tingles anymore.

It’s been some time since we were on the same page. We’ve each made independent decisions that met with disagreement from the other. Some days I wonder exactly who I married. I’m not as attracted as I was at the start. I roll my eyes a lot now. I sigh hard and breathe out troubled subtext until our living space smells of it. One might say our relationship is strained.

When the dissonance between us gets so loud that I can’t stand to be in the same room, I wonder where we went wrong. People said we would always be together. We started off so strong. Couples have said they wanted to be like us. Yet now there’ve been several months though—I don’t know how far back to start counting—when I have not been the happiest in this relationship. It’s not looking so great right now.

But I remember our song:

“In the middle of the madness
When the time is running out and you’re left alone
All I want is you to know that
It’s strong still
Can’t pull us apart
Nothing can come
Between us
Nothing can pull us apart… can come between us.”

I don’t know when it officially became our song, but whenever I hear Sade’s “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” I think of Jesus and I. I envision us as a newlywed couple having a first dance in front of so many witnesses. They have sworn to hold us to our vows. He’s the groom; I’m his bride. The contract says “until death do us part,” but even then… Continue reading

Like a Child

[Word count: 620. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

“Here’s my plea
I want to see your face, feel your warm embrace,
And lay here like a child
In your loving arms, where I’m safe from harm,
And the sorrow fades away.”
—Crystal Lewis, “Like a Child

Just woke up from a bad dream where I had to relive when my Papa told me he was dying. A friend suggested I re-read the blog I wrote about it. In that story I remember how, from a place of ignorance, God swept in and rescued me before calamity could crash in on top of me. That all took place when I was still 19.

I turn 33 on Tuesday. A lot changes in 13 years. I’m more skeptical than I was as a young adult, a little world weary in places. I believe less readily than I once did. My once-shiny faith is a little dog-eared and yellowish now. It’s like a sun-beaten rubber band, dried and showing cracks. I fear if I stretch it to believe, it may snap.

Continue reading