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“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you— unless indeed you fail the test.” —2 Corinthians 13:3-5
Remember when I told my mom I wasn’t going to church or looking for a new one, and she asked, “Are you still a Christian?” I was annoyed at the question, but I need to revisit it. My adopted grandma says, “You don’t have to go to my church, but you do have to go to my god.” So I ask: Have I gone to God recently? Is my heart still there? Is there a Google Maps app that can tell you how far away you are from God? (First person to say The Bible gets punched in the face.)
From what I told you I believe, things get cold sometimes. Things get dry. But the relationship is not dead. Living things have been frozen solid, but cold does not mean dead. Anyone who didn’t know my background might look at my relationship… frosted, unmoving, and deathly still… and deduce with good reason that it is dead.
If my mom sees someone call themselves a Christian while living below the expected standard, she’ll say, “But they’re not a real Christian though.” Ma might snatch that membership card away quick if you don’t pay your dues. Continue reading
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In Part 1, I detailed how Robin’s death worked to free me from shackles I didn’t even know I was wearing. That would have been good enough. But there was one more gift… inside a gift inside a gift, like a Russian nesting doll.
It began as a reunion with an estranged friend while at the hospital. Paris* and I hadn’t had a good conversation in years. After her divorce, she left the church we all co-founded together in a cloud of petty rumors, resentment, and hurt. I didn’t know any better, so I let her drift tacitly away.
But the time of reckoning had come for us both. I was at the hospital because of an unspoken promise to Robin. And Paris had a crippling fear of anything to do with death. While sitting around a hospital bed, we caught up, laughed, prayed, worshipped, and watched Robin’s breath go from shallow to imperceptible.
The memorial was beautiful. No casket. Just portraits of Robin proudly perched on easels. It was harrowing though. Afterward, we were emotionally rubbed raw. Paris asked me for a ride home, so we could enjoy a comfortable silence. Continue reading
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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
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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.
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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