Sunday, May 31, 2009

Like Fire- The Day of Pentecost

At church, the priest spoke on how today is the Day of Pentecost, which occurs on the seventh Sunday after Easter. According to Acts, chapter 2, it was on this day around 2,000 years ago that the earliest Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time. Before Jesus' crucifixion, He promised His followers Another would come:

" 4 -7"I didn't tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, 'Where are you going?' Instead, the longer I've talked, the sadder you've become. So let me say it again, this truth: It's better for you that I leave. If I don't leave, the Friend won't come. But if I go, I'll send him to you.

8 -11"When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

12 -15"I still have many things to tell you, but you can't handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I've said, 'He takes from me and delivers to you.'" (John 16)

Below is the story of Pentecost:

Acts 2

A Sound Like a Strong Wind

1 -4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5 -11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans? How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs! "They're speaking our languages, describing God's mighty works!"

12Their heads were spinning; they couldn't make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: "What's going on here?"

13Others joked, "They're drunk on cheap wine."

Peter Speaks Up

14 -21That's when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: "Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren't drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk—it's only nine o'clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

"In the Last Days," God says,
"I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I'll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they'll prophesy.
I'll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved."

22 -28"Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side.
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I've pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you'll never dump me in Hades;
I'll never even smell the stench of death.
You've got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.

29 -36"Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—'no trip to Hades, no stench of death.' This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say,

God said to my Master, "Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet." "All Israel, then, know this: There's no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross."

37Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?"

38 -39Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."

40He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"

41 -42That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

43 -45Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.

46 -47They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

“And You’ll find the Starbucks Just to the Left of the Sanctuary…”

I just finished reading S. Michael Craven’s “If You Build It, They Will Come” Ecclesiology which is part of a series analyzing the current state of Protestant churches. These churches are divided into three types: “consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile.” This article focuses on the first type.

Living in the tri-state area, there are an abundance of megachurches full of “Xbox and Playstation for the youth, weight rooms, yoga classes, restaurants, and, of course… a Starbucks.” To be quite honest, I’ve never been too crazy of the idea that the church has to be a combination shopping/ entertainment/ wellness center in order to attract or maintain members. I don’t even like visiting these kind of churches. I’m a child of the commercial generation, having grown up more familiar with advertisement jingles than television theme songs (remember in the 90’s when they started phasing out the “coming-on” of sitcoms? You only saw the “Friends” opening in syndication, and “Seinfield” never really bothered to have one). From the time I was a toddler, I’ve been pushed and goaded to try some new cereal or get my mom to buy the latest Barbie. In a strange way, I always felt going to this type of church, they were using similar tactics… to sell me God.

In a previous blog, I mentioned leaving my former nondenominational church, and although their membership is in the hundreds and aren't quite in the megachurch league, they seem to be headed down the same path. I think that’s one of the reasons I never felt totally at home there. The problem with this type of “consumer driven church” which is also known as being “seeker-sensitive” is the mistaken belief that “church activity produces spiritual growth.” I saw this at my former church, especially among the young people. Hundreds of teens would come to youth group to play ball, dance and on Sundays, sing, dance some more and do artwork. They went to the church coffeehouses and stayed busy at retreats and doing volunteer work. These are all beautiful things. Unfortunately, many seemed to never go beyond attendance, and didn’t grow spiritually. When the inevitable life challenge occurred (pressure to have sex, try drugs, join a gang, a parent’s illness or even beginning college), the babes in Christ would drop off. Some questioned their newfound faith, or wrote it off. These things occur at every house of worship, but when a church runs on getting seats filled, it is doomed if it does not have Scripturally based plans on how to disciple the people once they are there.

Another problem faced by these churches is unprepared leaders who “… are completely ignorant of church history and the most basic theological terms and concepts and those responsible for providing oversight and guidance are mostly unaware of what is missing. It is often the blind leading the blind.” This is bound to happen if a church is rapidly expanding. Growth will dictate that more teachers, speakers and deacons are needed. Thankfully, at my former church, I believe most of the pastors were sound in their doctrines. I did notice though, a few of the lay leaders promoted erroneous teachings such as the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith. This church taught “Every Believer is a Leader,” so there were some who were unprepared to lead small groups but did anyway.

Craven reminds readers that the church is not a mere building, but the actual body of Christ, the Believers. “The body of Christ is called to be distinct from the world, being those who have been made “alive together with Christ“ (Eph. 2:5; emphasis mine), “fellow saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). And to this body, Christ gave “pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we attain to the unity of the faith and of knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood … so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro … and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Making “the body grow … so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:11–16).

I pray Protestant churches begin to change. There’s nothing wrong with keeping with the time, but we are never to conform to the culture. As the “salt” of the Earth, it’s our job to preserve the Truth in this fallen world. And we can do it without Caramel Macchiatos.

Babbling Brooke

Brooke Shields recently told Health Magazine that she has regrets about losing her virginity at age 22- she thought it should have happened sooner. According to Page Six, the actress, who struggled with a low self image, said "I think I would have had sex a lot earlier . . . I would have lost my virginity earlier than I did, at 22, [because] I would have been much more in touch with myself. To me, that's a health regret." Um, WAITING to have sex, as an adult, is a “health regret”? This is the first time I’ve heard that one.

Most of the women I know regret NOT WAITING until they were adults. They (me, too), like Brooke, dealt with low self-esteem as teens, which resulted in poor body images. Unfortunately, this is quite common among young people of both sexes. Sadly, many girls become sexually active at a young age because of their feelings of insecurity, with devastating results. At a age when most can’t even legally drive a car on their own, they deal with STDs, heartbreak, or unwanted pregnancies. Or all three.

Sex, while a wonderful thing, is not a fix for low self-esteem. If you had it before having sex, you’ll most likely have it after, too. It also should not be used as a tool to better get “in touch” with yourself. I don’t even understand how intimately touching another person would help you get in touch with yourself. Yeah, you might learn what you like in bed, but that’s not going to help the insecurities clouding up your head.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Get Hitched Or Die Tryin'

“Dying” to get married? You might have more in common with this man than you think.

I couldn’t blame my girlfriends. The girls, who upon learning of my impending nuptials last fall, reacted with varying degrees of annoyance and anger. Yes, I was disappointed, but I understood. I had been there too, excited for your friend but feeling desperate because of your own single status. Like Katherine Heigl in “27 Dresses”, there’s only but so many weddings a girl can attend before she starts to feel exhausted, aggravated, irritated and yes… alone.

My own cracking period began a few years ago. I had been to a few weddings during college- they were mostly small affairs for my cousins and were pretty fun. Then came September 2006. The good times started to dry up. First, my sister Joscelyne’s best friend Jennie said her vows to James. The ceremony was fine, but the reception? Um, Jennie if you’re reading this, sorry girl, but being hit on by your husband’s weirdo cousins half the night equalled out to a craptastic time. I couldn’t help thinking if I had a real date (since Joscelyne was my “date”), I could’ve been shielded from the drunken come-ons. But I couldn’t get a (male) date to save my life. I have a theory that happily single guys don’t want to go anywhere near a wedding unless explicitly invited by a member of the wedding party or are part of said wedding party themselves. Contrary to “Wedding Crashers”, the single guys I knew didn’t want to go anywhere near one. They thought it would give me “ideas.” Well, they were right. It gave me the idea to ask Joscelyne who agreed to come with me to the subsequent weddings I attended.

Two weeks later, my best friend Giddel married David, and I was (and am) so happy for them. I cried when she walked down the aisle, escorted by her grandfather. They looked beautiful. And I think it was around the reception that I started to feel very… alone. Joscelyne was there, of course, but I felt my singleness painfully. I didn’t have a man. No partner, no one to pose with in pictures lovingly. No man. And part of me felt even more alone since my bff had become a wife. Don’t get me wrong, I felt elated for her. But without any Raputre, I had been left behind. Giddel’s grandfather tried to cheer me up by saying, “Girl, as pretty as you are, you won’t stay single! What do these guys know? Let me bring you down to Puerto Rico, you’ll have guys lining up to marry you!”

Instead of Puerto Rico, the next month found me at my girl Robyn’s wedding to Dan. I almost didn’t go. I had a date (yup, Jos again), but I didn’t like any of my clothes, I didn’t know how to get to the place… and to be brutally honest, at this point, I was ready to plaster a big “L” for loser on my forehead. While Robyn giggled at her bridal shower, I was gagging. Not at her (really, Rob, if you’re reading this, I repeat, not at you!), but at my own pathetic single state. I tried to back out of going to her wedding, but she was relentless, so I conceded and wound up having the best time. Just when I had got my single girl swag going at the reception (at least I thought I did), it was time for the bouquet toss. Life is funny, because I caught it. Later that night at home I couldn’t help but feel that sneaking lonely sadness again. I might have caught the bouquet, but I couldn’t even catch a decent guy’s eye for more than a minute. And if I did, I soon found out, yes, he, too was married.

In came 2007 and I was still begrudgingly celebrating other people’s marriages. I had to RSVP “no” to Ilaf & Solman the previous November because I was just plain broke, but by January, I had recovered enough financially to attend my Uncle Curtis’ and Aunt Nancy’s reception. In February, my high school friend April and her honey Gary tied the knot. I wanted to tie a noose around my neck. I was sans Joscelyne who went in for an emergency appendectomy a few days prior, and I allowed my loneliness to take over. The ceremony was beautiful, and April’s dress was gorgeous. Gary beamed. I cringed. Sitting all alone in that pew, I felt an array of emotions. Happiness, for my friends, but anger, too. I sat thinking (evilly I might add), “WHAT ABOUT ME? WHERE IS MY MAN? How many more freakin’ weddings do I have to attend, huh? Nobody is celebrating my singleness, why do I have to keep celebrating their weddings? What am I doing wrong anyway? I’m not bad looking. I’m no Beyonce, but still dang, I can’t even get a date? What the freak??...” I know that’s shameful, but it’s the truth. I allowed my singleness to turn to loneliness, which in turn soured my attitude. I had officially become a hater. I also became obsessed with getting a man. Okay, maybe not obsessed, but I did have a touch of crazy. I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up a number of books on singlehood, relationships and marriage. I broadcast to everyone to “hook a sister up” with any God fearing, available guys they knew. I spent time in prayer asking the Lord to bring me my man. I went to seminars on singlehood, and even tried to complete eHarmony’s famous “Compatibility Test.” (Somewhere around hour number two in the process, I gave up. I got through the SATs twice, but Neil Clark Warren beat me.)

It’s this frenzied, crazed and desperate state which now reminds me of 50 Cent. Don’t see the correlation? It’s cool, let me explain. I was watching 50 Cent recently blab to an interviewer in an old clip on Vh1 how he would’ve done anything it took to make his rap career a success. His 2003 album “Get Rich or Die Tryin” wasn’t too much of an exageration. He was obessessed with getting to the top, and in his pursuit, lost friends, gained enemies and almost lost his life. In my single desperate days, I never risked life or limb (or hung out with Eminem or Dr. Dre), but my personal pursuit to get married did take a negative toll on me emotionally and even spirtually. I was envious (give me credit for admitting this, I NEVER would have then) and insecure, and was becoming bitter. Bitterness, if allowed to fester, is deadening. Instead of being truly happy for your friends and family, bitterness will kill that joy. Instead of seeing their love, bitterness comes in and distorts the picture, and instead you get stuck only seeing your own loneliness. The bitterness can deteriorate a part of your heart, leaving it lifeless- an emotional death, of sorts.

So when a few of my friends seemed offended by my wedding last year, I didn’t want to end the friendships. No, I wanted to hug them, tell them I understood. Really, I did. Some didn’t want to hear that from me though, and I even understood that. I knew they were thinking, “How can Alisha understand? She’s got a man!” So, now I’m letting you know here. I understand. And I don’t want you to waste time worrying about a future that you help shape by the decisions you make in the present. I lived and learned, and if I had any clue a year and a half after attending April and Gary’s wedding I’d be planning my own, I wouldn’t have sat there miserably. I would’ve enjoyed those weddings, danced at the receptions, tried to enjoy the food (tried because, let’s face it, wedding food is not always the best). I would’ve enjoyed my sister-date, because after her own wedding in May of 2007, we no longer had all that time together. I would’ve rocked a real single girl swag, thankful to know so many beautiful people who wanted me to witness one of the most important days of their lives. But like “Sex & The City”, “Shoulda Coulda Woulda.” Don’t make my mistake. There was nothing wrong with my wanting to be married, but the disappointment I allowed to rot my insides when it didn’t happen at the time I thought it should was very wrong. I’m so very thankful my outlook improved. After all, I never would’ve gotten hitched if I had let myself “die” trying.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer, summer, summertime!

Since it is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer... I just had to post this! Love it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

After The Choice

I was on The Raving Theist the other day, reading an old blog entry from January regarding President Obama's decision which reversed "President Bush’s policy barring U.S. aid to international organizations which provide abortions or advise women on how to get them." (link to full Politico story here).

After the story, there are numerous back and forth comments against and for the President's action, and it being a pro-life site, most were against. The argument turned ugly at points, but one comment touched my heart. It's a woman named Ashli's story, and I had to share it here:

It’s 5:20 A.M. …. It’s here… the 8th anniversary of my first child’s death.

Even though I realize that time is linear and nothing bad is happening right here and now (unless you count heartache), I can’t help but relive it. January 30th rolls around and sweeps the cobbwebs from my mind’s dusty corners. Images fly at me like bats.

Peering through time, I stand a ghost at my yesteryear bedside. I see myself sleeping only hours away from the horror of the rest of my life as a grieving mother. I see my precious child floating securely, possibly resting, possibly exercising, but completely safe, warm, and unaware of the fate that awaited him/her later in the day.

Forward a little. I see….

The forms, the plexiglass, the “nurse” calling my name…

I remember the pregnancy test and the mourning as I realized this was the last time my child’s life would register in mine. I didn’t want to do it. “It’s OK,” the nurse reasoned, “You can always have another baby later.”


I remember…
The counseling. And how the counseling was not counseling. And how there was no 11th hour salvation for us.

I remember…

The Room.

The absorbant pad. My fixation with it and inability to remove my clothing for staring at it and catching a glimpse of the future, of our blood draining into it, soaking it as our love became garbage, medical waste.

The sonogram and the man that turned it away. ….

I can feel myself crying even now, pleading with the abortionist that I didn’t want to kill my baby but didn’t know what else to do because of my illness. He sent my husband in. I remember…

I can see his body appearing in the room, but he doesn’t have a face. Just a flesh-colored blur. Where are you, husband? Nowhere, it appears… trapped in the same numbing void that enabled me to sit on a gut pad and kill our child.

That’s when I hear it… the cart. Squeaky wheels. Yes, the doctor is in. “I don’t want to do it! I don’t want to kill my baby. But I don’t know what else to do!”

“OK then,” says the good doctor, “Are you ready?”

I say nothing. That’s it. It’s over. I’m gone. I hand him my arm. The end.

I wake up in the middle of it. I’m shaking. He is pulling something out of me. Pieces of something. Something awfully tenacious. He tugs and tugs. I heave back and forth as we are mangled. I pass out again.

I wake up. Someone is crying. Someone is bleeding. It’s me. It’s me. I see the nurse yanking me up. She is not nice anymore. She is yelling at me to be quiet. I stand in crimson-soaked socks, all that is left of my child splashing to the white tile floor. I look. I see. I faint.

I am manhandled, injected. Someone shoves a pad in my underwear and pulls me into a chair. I am fed. I eat for the first time in ages. …. I fill my stomach but find that it is empty. Something is missing. Something electric and wonderful. Something small and perfect. Something precious. Someone being knit together wholly wired for loving me. My child is gone. Death for physical respite. It was not worth it.

We pull over on the way to the hotel. I puke on the side of the road. I eat at the hotel. I bleed at the hotel. That is why I am AT the hotel. “Do not go home,” the abortionist warned. “Call us with your blood loss every hour.”

I remember how he lied on my records. He said I left the abortion clinic with no bleeding. I bled for weeks and weeks. In a way, I am still bleeding.

Through the grey veil, I see my husband falling into hotel sheets and disappearing. I am at his side thinking of our child in pieces back at the abortion facility. I see him/her twisted at the bottom of the bell jar. I want him/her warm and safe and back with me. I’m so empty. There’s no life in me. I look for a way out of the window. I’m done. There is none. I crawl into a porcelain corner and cry until I fade away forever.

I come home and life is different. Everything is strange and foreign. I will never be the same.

I try everything to cope. To survive. I have other children. But it’s not like it’s supposed to be. Every happy thing is tinged with sadness.

Eventually I start a blog. I talk about my child, my loss. I expose the royal scam. A few people even care.

Days go by. Months go by. Anniversaries come and go. When they arrive again I try not to think of it, but I can’t not.

Curiously, I focus on the moment when the cruel lance first touched the amniotic sac. That split milisecond just before the end of all things. That shallow short breath that divides the space between life and death, happiness and horror. I see a delicate, precious orb and a sharp threatening instrument puncturing it. It’s too late now.

Liquid spills out onto the pad. Diamonds flow into an oversized sanitary napkin. Diamonds… and rubies.

There is no turning back. This is the rest of my life. This is what one human life will buy.

Another anniversary. Another one. Another one. Another one…

I have friends and family members who have had abortions. For some, it was a decision made in the past, and they have moved on. I remember a girl I went to college with... I'll call her Lisa, who had 4 abortions by the time we met. She was 19. My face must have shown the shock after she told me nonchalantly over lunch that day, and she asked me "What?" I chocked out a "It's NOT supposed to be birth control..." On the flip side, I do know girls who do regret their abortions, and have cried about it, holding on to the anniversary like Ashli did. And even though the media doesn't typically feature such woman, they do exist and feel the pain of their choice, sometimes decades later. There will be no chastisement from me on this subject. Reading the heated debates on many websites leave me flustered and at times, sad. Instead, I'll say a prayer for the women out there like Ashli, and ask that you do the same.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Not-So Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why are you writing a blog? Are you bored or something?

A. Yes, quite. However, I also enjoy writing. It’s fun.

Q. Why do you use so many Bible verses in your blog entries?

A. Well, the primary reason is, I’m a Christian, and I apply Biblical guidelines to my everyday life. My writing is obviously a reflection of that. After 14 years of Christian school, and being raised going to church several times a week and being a preacher’s kid, the Bible is ingrained in me. Sometimes, I think in Scripture, actually.

Q. So is this a Christian blog?

A. Well, no. It’s my blog. My brother describes it as a “curious mix of the sacred and profane”. My husband describes it as an “entertaining mix of spirituality and current events." Since I am a Christian, many of my posts reflect that fact. But I also write about relationships, tacky reality shows, fashion, news and culture. It’s basically a hodgepodge of my many crazed thoughts.

Q. If you’re a Christian, what’s with the references to “Family Guy” or “For the Love of Ray J”? That’s not very Christian…

A. Neither is your question, Judgey McJudgey pants. Ok, seriously, perhaps you have a point. I just don’t agree with it. As mentioned above, this isn’t a Christian blog, but is written by a committed follower of Christ. If you find my mix of Scripture and the secular offensive, allow me to recommend to you a couple of good sites like Crosswalk or the Christian Research Institute.

Q. What kind of Christian are you, anyway?

A. As my brother would say, a “Metha-Penta-Bapta-Apolsta-Cathol...”. Playing. I give a brief history of my religious upbringing here. I stick to simply being called a Christian though, since I am not formally involved with any particular denomination. I’m not a cafeteria Christian, either. But I have found something I love in various churches. I admire the reverence and atmosphere found in Roman Catholic churches, the music in Baptist and Pentecostal churches, and the relatable sermon given in many charismatic churches.

Q. Why don’t you write everyday?

A. This site is staffed by one. Me. And I have a full time job which actually pays my bills.

Q. Can I submit something?

A. If you’re interested in being my guest, email me at It could also be posted on my brother Joe’s site, The Blog of Blogs, which was created by us to showcase the best (and maybe the worst, too) of the blogosphere.

Have more burning questions? Then I might have the cooling answers! Just email me or leave a comment!

The Purpose Driven Essay

The purpose of this essay is to discuss the purpose of life. I hope I'm not inflating weak ideas, obscuring poor reasoning or inhibiting clarity. If I have, I've been in academia too long.

At work, one of my co-workers put out a challenge: “Write an essay and/or poem on the Meaning of Life.” There would be incentive prizes given out to those who participate, and entries would be included in a booklet. Yes, I know, typically office coworkers talk about sports, current events and the like, but my department is special. And existential.

Today is the submission deadline, and I’m finally getting around to actually writing something. I mean how can I capture something so huge with a few words strung together in prosaic form? Forget a poem. I’ve written a few, but Maya Angelou I’m not. My best poetic attempt would be hackneyed. But even in an essay, discussing the meaning of life is daunting. I’ve read so many perspectives, opinions and beliefs as to why people are here. At my former church, the congregation went through Rick Warren’s famous book, “The Purpose Driven Life” together. The book covers why we are here- for service to God, our families and to the world. The time devoted to studying the book was called “The Forty Days of Purpose.” Believe me, I was pumped up throughout, devouring chapter by chapter. Then came day 41. I found myself asking “What now?”

In the Biblical book of Ecclessiastes, King Solomon seemed to keep coming to that “What now?” question. He begins with the depressing statement, “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”(1:2) Ouch. But King David’s boy explains his pessimism: “What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again…. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. 9History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.”(1:3-5, 8-11)

He then goes on to lament the futility of gaining knowledge and even wisdom. Next up, he takes aim at pleasure: “ 1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless.”(2:1) He doesn’t find fulfillment in work, either, and finds cruelty in the injustice of the world (I hear you!). Although he was a rich ruler, he also knew money can’t buy you happiness. “ 10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!” (5:10-11) To quote the late Notorious B.I.G. “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems.”

His life experiences taught him much, and he shares these nuggets of wisdom in chapter seven: “7 Extortion turns wise people into fools, and bribes corrupt the heart. 8 Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. 9 Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. 10Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.” Aww, I know he’s very right on this last one, but really, high school was so much better! My pressing concerns were the SATs, Prom and pesky papers. Good times!... but moving on, what do we have in this life??? Solomon counsels in chapter 9 to “ …go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! 8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne! 9 Live happily with the woman you love…10 Whatever you do, do well.”

So what’s the point of life? To LIVE! We will find meaning and purpose through our experiences- the actions we take and the memories made. Through our family, friends, co-workers, loves- all of the people who touch our lives and whose lives we touch. Our purpose can be found in this journey- a journey that is far more than the accumulation of knowledge or wealth. Life is not fair, and will force us to deal with injustice, hatred and loss. But even these hard things are for a reason, helping to mold us and prepare us to help others. Oh, and I would be remiss to not include King Solomon’s parting words of wisdom in the closing verses of Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”

So I think Rick Warren has pretty much gotten it right. I might have missed it at first, expecting some big, huge reason to answer my “What now?” question. When the answer is to simply live. Live, through the laughter, tears, fear, pain and love. And to do it well.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In Reach of Beautiful

Acts 3

1Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered into the temple. He, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, "Look on us." And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, I give thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And leaping up, he stood and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and they knew that it was he that sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

I read this passage yesterday, and I was struck that the temple gate's name was Beautiful. The lame man sat daily, just outside that holy place, begging for a few coins just to get by. From reading this Scripture, we see he received far more than gold or silver, instead to be blessed with complete healing. That man had been unable to walk since birth, so it makes sense that after years of being handicapped, he had lowered expectations. He had come to expect just a little money to live on, even if it meant depending on others. I sometimes wonder if in life, perhaps, based on our life experiences, we limit our outlook and beliefs.

I admit, I found myself with lowered expectations as far as love and marriage. When my parent's 25+ year marriage fell apart when I was a teen, it shook my view of relationships altogether. And many of the guys I met worsened my opinion. The players, immature brats and self-centered jerks... I dated quite a few. Even though I only had three boyfriends before I began dating Keiron, I went to the movies, museums, dinner and the theatre with quite a few less than stellar guys. Some were nice, though, and we remain cool today. Others? Lord, have mercy! The saddest part in my misadventures in dating though, was my dim view of love. I often felt exasperated after the latest "fake" guy got the heave-ho (I should explain now that my brother and sister referred to many of the pre-Keiron guys as "fake" because they knew they wouldn't last; I hadn't found the real thing). By the time I went on my first date with K, I had settled into a nonchalant mindset. I figured "Hey, if I don't end up with someone great, I'll at least get someone good- or good enough."

I'm so thankful that even though I was willing to just get by in relationships, God had the best for me. While I spent years allowing my negative experiences to dictate what I thought I deserved, after just one date, I knew K was someone far better. But you know, I'm thankful for having gone through the "fake" ones. I value, cherish and love my real one so much more.

So I ask you, is there something in your life that you have settled for? Maybe it's a career goal or about receiving an education. Maybe you hold in your heart a secret dream, but as time has passed, you've found yourself letting your expectations fall, as you wait outside Beautiful. I encourage you to have faith. Not in your own limited hope, but in God and His will, knowing that He has a purpose for You. Beautiful can be reached.

Below is India Arie's song "Beautiful" which quite simply is... beautiful. Listen and enjoy.

Beautiful - India.Arie

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Awakening

My absolute favorite time of the year is Spring (allergies not withstanding). I wanted to share some pics of what I've been doing lately, since I feel the most inspired right now. It's kind of a rebirth of my creativity, which usually goes in to hibernation after too much turkey around Thanksgiving.

The cherry blossoms in our neighborhood.

I painted this with watercolors from the Dollar store. I don't think it's particularly good, but K loves it. I call it "Praise". The three African ladies are giving the Most High praises.

I took this just yesterday, at the park where K proposed to me. Beauty can be found in the mundane.

A self portrait-watching the sun set.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why do bad things happen to good people? This question has been asked so many times, and answered seemingly even more. Books have been written, articles have explored it, as have countless shows and movies. And yet, even with some of the best answers, when you are experiencing the pain of losing someone you hold dearly, nothing seems to suffice.

Last night, Keiron came home and told me his friend and college roomate Chris was killed in a car accident early yesterday morning. He's been shaken up badly, and his mind keeps going back to the last sentence of that Daily News story which says Chris "would likely have survived had he been wearing his seatbelt." K keeps thinking, if only he had put it on... My brother Joe, when his best friend Anton was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 2005, had warned his friend the day before not to make the trip to upstate New York that resulted in his death. Joe found himself similarly caught in what-ifs. Painfully, we cannot undo past events. No one has the power to turn back the hands of time. We can pray, though--pray to God, who is above and beyond time- to the One who encompasses time.

I read a blog, "Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen To Good People" this morning, and I found comfort in these words: "... it's worth remembering that we Christians believe, "Our days on earth are as transient as a shadow,"while what comes afterwards is eternal. Sometimes on this side of eternity, all we can do is realize that we are going to see our share of sorrow, accept that, "God moves in mysterious ways," and keep on keeping on, secure in the knowledge that there is something better to come when this life is over."

I ask that you pray for Chris' family and friends and all those who are suffering now with his tragic death.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Theory Of Relativity

Over the past week or so, I started reading up on the Emergent Church Movement. My own personal jury is still out at the moment, but I did come upon a good scholarly essay on it that included a whole page about truth. Or at least a page of great quotes on truth, which run counter to post modern thought that truth is relative. Here are some of my favorites:

"If truth is
relative, it's impossible to lie."
Gene Edward Veith

"The business
of truth is not to be deserted even to the sacrifice of our lives, for we live not for this age of ours, nor for the princes, but for the Lord."
Ulrich Zwingli

"Opinions are
relative to cultures but truth isn't"
Peter Kreeft

"If the world
goes against truth then Athanasius goes against the world.

"Peace is such
a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth."
Matthew Henry

"Not to take
any side strongly is no evidence of a large soul or a great purpose. It is generally an indication of littleness."
Horatius Bonar

"Tolerance of
everything is a mark of an empty head not a mark of agape love."
Edward J. Carnell

"I am quite
sure that the best way to promote union is to promote truth."
Charles Spurgeon

"We are not
entitled to infer from the fact that a group of people are drawing nearer to each other that any of them is drawing nearer to the truth."
J. I. Packer

"Some preach the
truth and don't have love. Some preach love and don't have the truth. Get the mixture right. You have to mix it."
Vance Havner

"A half-truth
masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth."
J. I. Packer

"If you believe
what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For The Love Of… Why My Affair With Reality Dating Shows Is Coming To An End

R &B Singer Ray J, contemplating whether his show will finally get him off the B-list. (It won't).

It hit me the morning after the finale of the VH1 show, “For The Love of Ray J.” I had fallen asleep just shy of seeing the B-list R&B singer choose “Cocktail” over “Unique”, and did not know who won the “prize” of being Ray J’s girlfriend (I found out when K, who also nodded off, checked online). But what hit me was the fact that I no longer cared. Not just about Ray’s quest to find love- and I suppose his subsequent discovery of it with the former “Bad Girls” castmate- but about the reality dating genre as a whole.

You must understand, it’s taken me quite a while to get this point. Like most affairs, mine began quite harmlessly. Back in 2004 after finishing college, I found myself with extra time on my hands and began casually watching “The Surreal Life”, a show that borrowed from “The Real Word” in dumping a group of strangers in a house full of cameras and watching them hook up and/or try to destroy each other. Unlike “The Real World”, these housemates were washed-up former celebreties, or other reality show winners (like Adrienne Curry, who won the first cycle of “America’s Next Top Model). On that particular season, former Public Enemy member Flavor Flav fell for Brigitte Nielson, a former model and actress who was once married to Sylvester Stallone. They were the odd couple personified, and quickly outshone the rest of the C-listers who were on the show that year. But then again, I guess it’s probably not too hard to outshine (a very grumpy) NKOTB’s Jordan Knight or nice guy Dave Coulier, of “Full House” fame. VH1, realizing they had reality show gold on their hands, greenlit a follow up series, “Strange Love” the following year, which focused on Flav’s global pursuit of Brigitte. At this point, I still wasn’t totally into the affair. It was more like flirting. While Flav could be entertaining at times, with only Brigitte starring, he got way too much screen time and I found myself bored at times. I’d watch it if it were on and nothing else was.

And then came the now infamous “Flavor of Love” in 2006- I was hooked. Really not much more than a “Bachellor” ripoff, it featured a bevy of ghetto and trashy beauties vying to heal Flav’s heart, which was broken when Brigitte opted to stay with her twenty something boy toy instead of him. I sat glued to the tv every week, watching as Flav gave out clocks, girls attacked each other by pulling out tracks and spitting, and everyone drank way too much alcohol. I knew my burgeoning relationship with “Flavor of Love” was just plain wrong. Too much bleeped out cursing and flagrant disrespect- for women, from the women, and sadly of how love was viewed. I got the feeling after watching the show that I needed to go take a mental shower. But I was hooked. So it became my dirty little secret.

I continued the affair, as it led to my viewing a bad sequel in “Flavor of Love 2”, and then to “I Love New York”, it’s even uglier illegitamate baby, starring Flav reject (2x over) Tiffany Pollard, aka, New York. VH1, showing they were an equal opportunity exploiter, began airing the trailer park trashy “Rock of Love” with former Poison frontman Brett Michaels. It was another mansion (actually, I think it’s the same mansion- at best, there are probably two, just constantly being redecorated) full of unbe-weavable girls who party too hard and fight too much. Oh, and “love” their washed up man- which means they really like having sloppy drunken three ways with their competition. These women seemed to up the ante- they were proud to have posed for men’s magazines or to be exotic dancers. Brett would go on to have two more seasons, the last forcing me to take my reality show affair on the road in a tour bus. Meanwhile, New York got another season, and wound up with Tailor Made… until they split and she stopped fake dating and started having a fake acting career. Flav did a third season, but on it’s reunion show, admitted he never found love amongst any of the featured women. By then though, the illusion had long sense died for me. I knew the truth- no one would be finding anything close to a lasting relationship on any of these shows. They would get instant fame- although far shorter than 15 minutes for the contestants. It really didn’t matter anyway. They wanted quick, cheap celebrity. And so did the lovelorn series stars. Hasbeens or neverbeens looking for the spotlight. And of course, money. At least the “Survivior” ripoff “I Love Money”, which just aired it’s second season gets right to the punch.

And slowly, I began to get sick of the affair and myself. The thrill was gone. I stopped feeling like I needed a mental shower- no, I knew I needed some thought penicillin, because after cohorting with the likes of Real, Chance, and yes, sadly even Tequilia, I had caught something nasty and it burned. You see, these shows happily distort love. Real love. Pure, self-sacrificing love. They’re actually about lust- for winning challenges, fame, power and money. And I agree wholeheartedly with I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have …caused themselves a lot of pain.” It’s of note that this book of the Bible was written to Timothy, a young man. It appears that throughout time, it’s young people who seem to be the easiest caught in such snares. If we go back a few verses in that chapter, it says “Nothing to this world we bring; from it take we nothing. With food to eat and clothes to wear; content we are in everything. But people who want to get rich keep toppling into temptation and are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires that plunge them into destruction and ruin.” Money in and of itself is not bad. Making it a god in your life is. But it’s the next set of verses that make me see why my affair was so foolish: “But you… must flee from all these things. Instead, you must pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” If I’m constantly filling my head with garbage by watching these pitiful shows, it’ll be very hard to stay focused on the pursuit of “godliness” and “love”.

And just a little reminder of what real love is, here’s a passage from I Corinthians 13:

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

That’s a far cry from any of those VH1 shows which feature love in their titles. And real love is what I’m striving for in my marriage, in my friendships and as my major character trait. After all, God is love, and it’s only what I do for Him that will last. So, as I was saying at the beginning of this piece, I don’t care who Ray J and now Daisy will choose to love for this season. My affair is over. Good riddance.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The "Bog" Blog & Becoming A Butterfly

After I posted "Climbing Out of the Bog: Ending the Dating Drama" a couple of weeks ago, I reposted it on Facebook and got quite a few positive responses (thanks!). Most commenters could relate to the seemingly endless cycle of dating and breaking up with the wrong guy. My friend Kathy wrote "Amen to that! people don't change, you do! you can't change anyone, only they can change themselves.. fix your own inner problems first. why does someone attract a loser? work on that first! :)" I responded to her: "I hear you, Kathy. It's not so much that opposites attract. As much as it hurts, if you always find yourself with negative partners, they're being drawn to your own negativity (and vice versa)."

Now, I'm NOT an adherent to "The Secret." After reading through just a few chapters of it, I found myself revolted by the ugly side of it's Law of Attraction premise. If we think good things, we'll attract good. But if we think bad, we attract bad? Even worse, we might unconsciously attract bad things to us. Left to it's extremes, The Secret teaches us that rape, incest and murder victims brought those things on themselves... pretty scary thinking. But I digress*. While I do not believe in that hogwash, I do think people will attract others like themselves. While my best friend and I are different in many ways (she's athletic and adventurous; I'm more introverted and reflective), what has kept our friendship going for nearly twelve years is our shared values, morals and faith. And that's what I was referring to in my response about attracting negativity. People aren't magnets; opposites can attract, but if like my friend Isis, you're stuck in a dating bog, it's probably your mutual weaknesses keeping you that way.

I was listening to India Arie's "Voyage to India" yesterday and the song "Butterfly" made me think of Isis.

Constantly creepin' caterpillar,

Still a swoon in a cocoon.

Soon you might emerge,

And you're made to emerge.

A little longing to love, lush,

Starving for affection.

Hidden by the size of my perfection,

With one exception...

If you wanna butterfly,

You gotta be a butterfly.

You know that nothing falls out of the sky.

As Isis continues to grow, and work on herself, she will begin to attract the type of person she not just wants, but needs. She is not there just yet- still a "caterpillar" in many ways- but since she wants a butterfly, as Ms. Arie sings, she'll have to be a butterfly. But it'll take time:

...your time ain't up, be patient.

Now you see the sun is rising

and your realizing,

Wise enough to know,

That you gotta let yourself grow.

India continues:

What goes around comes back around;

This is nature's way.

Be conscious of what you do,

Because you will be repaid.

If you put turnips in the ground,

You will not harvest grapes.

You are what you attracted...

If you wanna a butterfly,

You gotta be a butterfly.

To all the Isis's out there, I dedicate this song to you. Below is a video of the remix of the song:

*For a thorough review from the Christian perspective, click here.

Happy Belated Mother's Day

With my Mommy on my wedding day last October

Although, I'm late in writing this, but I hope all you mothers out there in the blogosphere had a great day yesterday. My sister and I (along with our husbands and her kids) took our Mom out for dinner last night, and we all had a nice time.
Click on this link to hear one of my favorite songs of all time dedicated to moms.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Say A Little Prayer

Today is The National Day of Prayer, and there have been numerous opinions written on whether the U.S. should even have such a day, some in favor, while others have been opposed. President Obama seemed to split the difference by signing the proclaimation for it, but not having a public prayer event, a departure from George W. Bush's celebratory style.

Politics aside, I encourage you to take a moment out to prayer. There are so many things to pray for- the messy ecomomy, the soldiers involved in the war, our communities, our families, even ourselves. Or follow Jesus' words, and pray like this:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.


Faith Grows Dreams

My blog from a couple of days ago discussed faith- from the daily mundane, to trust in the unseen Creator and finally, a hope for future generations that even nonbelievers hold to tightly. I believe for people, no matter their religion (or lack of), faith is natural. God has given us the gift of hope for the future. "He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds ...", Ecclesiastes 3:11.

This morning, my thoughts have turned to dreams, and how faith fuels them. I wrote three years ago questioning what would happen to my dream to be a writer since it had been deferred. In "I Went To College For This???" (I'd love to post it here, but unfortunately, after deleting my old MySpace page, it was lost and I'm still looking for another copy), I lamented having my dreams be put on ice for the practical, full time (but hellish) entry level office job I had just begun. I quoted Langston Hughes famous "A Dream Deferred"- and wondered if I'd end up weighted down by unmet expectations, or worse, dealing with nothing but their scorched remnants. I wrote then that I believe dreams are fluid things. They can change shape and even change to become something new outright. A dream can be deferred without it necessarily being destroyed. I know now that in order for them to survive, though, faith must be present. Without belief in something (for me, Someone) greater, they will become sores. Faith acts as a guard to your heart, and a sustainer of dreams.

Hindsight being 20/20, it's been a good thing that I did stay in the safe job. The sad state of the economy has forced many a talanted writer into the taxing world of freelancing, and to be quite honest, I am so very thankful for a regular paycheck. But the biggest blessing, by far, is that by staying, I met my Knight, who has changed my life in so many ways. So did my dream die? No, I'm writing now (albeit, on a much smaller scale). My dream has changed, yes, but along with the writing one, many more have been created. To have an impact on the lives of those who are hurting, to be a great mother, to adopt a child, to travel the world, to participate in a missions trip... my dreams have grown greatly! So I continue to grow my faith- by prayer, reading Scripture, and fellowship- which in turn, fuels my dreams. And I know I'm moving closer to reaching them...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Of God & Man: Why Faith?

I was just over on Current, and came upon their new Humanism channel. Right under a picture of the classic “Thinker”, is a quote from Nietzsche: “Faith means not wanting to know what is true". Ouch. They also have this gem: “"Man is the measure of all things" from Protagoras. Humanism is certainly not a new idea, as evidenced by these quotes and other infamous ones such as “Religion is the opiate of the masses” an English translation of the opening lines of a book by Karl Marx in 1843.

According to the Current Humanism page, Humanism is “…an optimistic stance that entails self determination and the dignity and worth of all people. More than a negation of the supernatural, Humanism is a process by which truth and morality is sought through human investigation.” Ok, well that doesn’t seem too bad. But the definition continues: “Tools of the investigation are reason, science, and the scientific method. Humanism rejects tradition, revelation, and/or mysticism (the supernatural) as appropriate or legitimate tools for determining what is true and moral.” So basically, Humanism admonishes that we turn inward as opposed to religion or spirituality to find the truth and standards for morality and ethics. In pursuit of the truth, Humanism allows for the use of reason and science. This definition of Humanism is, in my opinion, quite good. Except for that “optimistic” part.

But what is faith? To the humanist, it is inappropriate and illegitimate for determining truth. However, for billions of people worldwide, from many different religions (or none at all), it is what they base their lives on, their reason for being. Yesterday, I was having a Bible study with my friend Clarissa, and the topic was actually on Belief in God. Questions asked were, “Why believe? What did you believe as a child as opposed to now? What do you believe?” Faith came up as well. We discussed how even when we aren’t conscious of it, we step out on faith every day. When we get behind the wheel, we have faith our car will work (sometimes it doesn’t), our seatbelts will stay fastened, and other drivers will drive responsibly (and as a lifelong Jersey resident, I can tell you, many times they won’t). Yet we have faith these things will happen. It seems for some people, it is much easier to have trust in material things or perfect strangers than in a Higher Power. So what is theological faith? According to Hebrews 11:1, it is “… the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In plain vernacular, The Message explains the verse this way: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see.” As opposed to Nietzche’s quote that faith is not wanting to know what is true, faith is a desire to know the ultimate truth, of why we are here and also giving meaning to our lives while we are.

One of my biggest problems with Humanism is in turning to man as “the measure of all things”, we’ll be bound to continually come up short. Although religion is often blamed to be the root of all evil by many a secular humanist, it seems to be obvious that man is the source of history’s biggest tragedies. This is not to say religion hasn’t been misused repeatedly over millennia. In the name of God, people have enslaved, raped, destroyed, tortured, maimed and murdered. But even when religion is not a factor, grave injustices have been committed. Race, class, sex, ethnicity, tribal feuds- any difference can light a fire of hate. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” No one, regardless of their beliefs (or lack thereof) in God, is sinless or perfect. So if we’re seeking a good measure in which to judge morality, how can we turn to ourselves? Our very nature is that of unrighteousness.

So maybe, as a collective, humanity hasn’t been so great, a humanist might argue, but there have been outstanding individuals we can use as examples. This is true. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Theresa*- many people would uphold them as exceptional people. But please note, I wrote MANY people, not all. Therein lies another problem I have with humanism, which is relativity. What’s good for me might not be good for you and vice versa. I just finished President Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father, and he details the polygamy that was common (and expected) in his father’s Kenyan tribe of the Luo. Polygamy is accepted in many cultures, but not (for the most part) in Western society. Who’s right? The polygamists or the monogamists? Or we who hold to the monogamist view being bigoted against polygamy based on a superiority complex? Are polygamists trying to hold on to an unnecessary custom that is outdated and anti-women? Or do we just say all is relative, which means we can never have an absolute standard for morality?

I mentioned previously I have a problem with the Humanist definition which listed it as being “optimistic.” If Humanism is really against faith or hope, I can scarcely see the positive in it. The thing is, though, from reading numerous comments on the Humanist page, I see a form of faith, not in God, but in fallible mankind. Far from being just a religious theme, faith can be seen throughout our culture. Coming second only to the theme of “Change”, President Obama’s 2008 campaign trumpeted “Hope” to the masses. Hope- a belief with one definition of “to put trust in”- is linked to faith. People have a natural inclination to hope, to believe “that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” Singer India Arie, in her song, “There’s Hope”, describes having no money and then making a million, but not finding joy upon earning it. Instead, she sings happiness comes from “the size of the FAITH in your heart.” It is the faith in God in my heart which brings me not only happiness, but forgiveness for past mistakes, security in my present and guidance for the future.

*While it was not intentional on my part while writing this to choose three people who were strong adherents to their particular religious faith- King to Christianity, Gandhi to Hinduism, and Mother Theresa to Catholicism- I think it is quite noteworthy that they were. Their respective faiths were catalysts for them to do good.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pure & Simple

My friend Lakeyia posted this YouTube video on her Facebook page created by a Christian apologetics group which shows that while many view purity as having little importance when it comes to sexuality, it's a vital thing as far as a simple bottle of water.

This makes me think of a scene from "Clueless" when Cher was defending her virginal status: "You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet."

If only more people would take as much care of their spiritual and emotional insides as they do their physical outsides...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thought For The Day


by Maya Angelou

'A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ
that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.'

When I say... 'I am a Christian' I'm not shouting 'I'm clean livin''
I'm whispering 'I was lost, Now I'm found and forgiven.'
When I say... 'I am a Christian' I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... 'I am a Christian' I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.
When I say.. 'I am a Christian' I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say... 'I am a Christian' I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.
When I say... 'I am a Christian' I still feel the sting of pain..
I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.

When I say... 'I am a Christian' I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner Who received God's good grace, somehow!'

Friday, May 1, 2009

There REALLY Isn’t Anything New Under The Sun…

…especially in music. I was listening to 107.5, New York’s WBLS, a couple of weeks ago, and Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” started playing. This is a song from his “Off The Wall” album. As I was listening, I immediately liked it. A lot. So smooth… and earnest. And familiar?? I turned up the volume. Yes, most definitely familiar. Where had I heard the music from??? Not my childhood. While my Dad did have a few of Michael’s albums, the only one I can actually recall hearing is “Thriller.” It took a minute, but then I remembered the music had definitely been sampled on Fabolous’ 2004 “Baby.” And no, I don’t have exceptionally good memory when it comes to music from five years ago. It just so happens that K has the CD in the car. Click below for Michael’s version and Fabolous’ song.



This isn’t the only time an artist has borrowed from the King of Pop. It was only a couple of years ago that I realized LL Cool J did with his 1995 hit “Hey, Lover” with Boyz II Men. Michael first made the track a hit with his “Lady In My Life” off of “Thriller.”


LL Cool J

Sampling, remixing, covering- all of it is a given in music. Unfortunately, it does sometimes go wrong, like when Beyonce hurriedly recorded "Still in Love (Kissing You)" for her “B’Day” album… without giving credit to Des’ree, who first released it as “I’m Kissing You” on the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack. Whoops. Thanks to my brother for pointing this one out to me.

Anyway, if you think you might be experiencing musical déjà vu but are unsure of how to prove it, I found this site to be fantastic. Oh, and if you happen to be listening to ANYTHING released by P. Diddy, you can rest assure, no, it is not original. Ok, almost anything...

The Not So Thrilling Wait To Get "Chaste"

I trekked to the mailbox at the front of my apartment building yesterday, and yet again was disappointed to not see my copy of "The Thrill of The Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On" which I ordered from Amazon. Okay, so actually, I ordered it from a private seller on Amazon, and I guess that's making the difference in receiving it.

If you're wondering why I, as a married woman, would be getting a book now about chasity, let me explain. Besides being a fan of the book's author Dawn Eden, and her blog, I am coming to value the concept of chastity as being a lifestyle and not simply being a substitute word for sexual abstinence. Sure, there is a definite link between abstinence and chastity. One definition is simply "virginity" or "celibacy," but it goes deeper to meaning "virtuous character" and "moral purity." These are certainly characteristics that are desirable, no matter your relationship status.

In an article Eden wrote called "The Thrill of the Chaste: Defending Sexless Dating", she describes a married friend's practice of chastity: "My friend Brett practices married chastity. That means he’s faithful to his wife, giving himself fully to her and receiving her love as a gift, rather than treating her as an object who exists to give him what he deserves. It also means the love he and his wife share adds fuel to all their relationships, including their devotion to their two children. "

The concept of love being more than an emotion (a seemingly whimsical one at that) is foreign nowadays. One need only spend an hour watching VH1's "I Love... fill in the name of the latest C-list reality 'celeb' in search of romance and exposure" to see how flippantly love is thrown around. However, it's not just cable television "reality"; since nearly half of all marriage in the U.S. end in divorce, it actually is reality. I Corinthians 13, the "Love Chapter", breaks down what true love is:

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

Reading what love actually is (which obviously is NOT random sex with washed up rappers or former Poison members), I see an inextricable link between love and chastity. Eden writes "...chastity flowers from is not just about sex, but love. It is a lifelong journey of learning to love every individual in the fullest possible way — whether a friend, a relative, a spouse, or a stranger."

With these values in my heart, I endeavor now more than ever, even when I was a virginal single, to practice chastity. And patience for the sloooooooow receipt of my book. Next time I'll try Barnes & Noble.

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