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Artist, Teacher, Blogger concerned with American culture, its effect on faith and how Christianity effects American culture, specifically, what the word "christian" means to Americans today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger


Tempering… 
Definition:
1. To mix clay with water or a modifier (grog) and knead (wedge) to a uniformmixture.
2.  To harden (as steel) by reheating and cooling in oil.
I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago with this word on my mind.  The examples I immediately thought of were tempering steel and clay.

As I thought of the word, it became apparent that the last 13 years of my life had been an exercise in tempering, but the first two definitions were not the most accurate me, the one that really fits is one of the last definitions in the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, “ to make stronger or more resilient through hardship, toughen.”

Starting in 1999, I entered full-time ministry with my mother, first as part of a non-profit that provided food and clothing directly to the poor and to other ministries in the Los Angeles area and then December 24, 2000, we started “Agape Love Fellowship International Church in south Los Angeles and the ministry was extended to include street evangelism, a support group, bible study and Sunday Worship services.
In the process of doing this we, my mother and I, lost everything we own… a couple of times, but I remained faithful to the ministry until December 24, 2006, when my mother fell ill and I began to realize that many of the people we were ministering to, and our “home church” (and I use that term loosely) really didn’t have our best interests at heart.

My mother fell ill with a viral infection after my former pastor ordered her to leave the house we shared with another minister, knowing we had no place else to go, and didn’t offer alternative lodging.  We stayed in our car the winter of 2006 and that’s when she became sick.  She went to the hospital and was prescribed an overdose of antibiotics, which in turn caused  Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, which is a severe inflammation of the colon, often resulting from eradication of the normal gut flora by antibiotics.[3]
During her stay in the hospital, several of the members of our home church paid a visit, but our pastor never called or came by.  My mother wasn’t even put on the prayer list until she was released from the hospital 11 day later.  Considering my mother had served as a pastor, evangelist and intercessor at that church for over 10 years, I believe that this was a travesty, and should have been a signal to her to leave.  Members were still calling and asking her for prayer while she was in the hospital, too sick and too weak to walk, and yet when she was in her hour of need, the church as a whole was no help to her.

I tried my best to get my mother to leave that place, but she chose not to and to this day is still a member.  She has continued to go through trial after trial and I yet she remains, but this experience change me forever.  I began to realize it isn’t just the fact that you serve the Lord that’s important; it’s the people you serve with.  I had already severed all ties with that church before my mother’s illness, but her refusal to separate herself from that place after the illness caused me to sever ties from my mother’s church as well.  I knew it was time to go my own way.

When I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2007, I was in need of a change and completely disillusioned.  I needed to be in a place that wasn’t so  hostile… where I could feel the love of family… where I could heal.  I needed “home”… but can you really ever go “home” again?

Well, suffice it to say that “home” wasn’t exactly the way I envisioned it, but it was a real education.  I’ve written about some of my experiences there in earlier blog posts… being hit by a car while walking across the street… the estrangement with my father and other members of my family…  my experience teaching… it wasn’t exactly the welcome I was hoping for, but I did learn how to manage myself.  I developed “equipoise”, a much needed state of equilibrium that taught me how to counter the extremes of that city, the experiences I’d had in the last 13 years of my life and the extremes in my faith… the differences between what the word of God says and the what I had experienced in today’s “New and Improved” Christianity.  In this very hostile environment, I found MY faith… my very own tried and true faith that has sustained me and has indeed, made me stronger.

At the beginning of this post, I defined “tempering” as, “to make stronger or more resilient through hardship, toughen.”  I can see with all certainty that I have been tempered.  What did not kill me, has indeed made me stronger and I will “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14)

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Is Beauty?

What is beauty? I have always been a little... shall we say... different when it come to seeing beauty. This was really evident when I was little, because then, if you were nice, you were pretty. It didn't matter what you looked like to anyone else. And if you you were mean... well, you weren't pretty and no one could tell me different.   I honestly could not see what others saw and had quite a few arguments with my Grandmother over who was "pretty" (which to me meant good) and who wasn't in our family, with me defending those who I felt were beautiful against her obvious poor judgement.

 Well as time went on and I became more aware of the world around me and attempted to find my placement it, the rose colored glasses I viewed the world through in my youth faded and became more clear. I began to recognize what the rest of the world saw. Who was attractive and who wasn't. Who was popular and who wasn't. Who was acceptable and who wasn't, but I am happy to report that although my eyes may recognize what the world sees, my heart doesn't. It still sees beauty as truth, kindness, gentleness, courage, as noble.

 For me, beauty is and will always be an issue of character and not how much you paid for your clothes or how popular you are or how pretty the world thinks you are... all of which can change at any given moment, depending on what's in vogue. Merrian-Webster's Dictionary defines "beauty" as, "the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing, that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. Loveliness." "Loveliness" is defined as, "eliciting love by moral or ideal worth" and I agree. Beauty for me is lovely. It is a loving action or a person who shows love... love for others as well as love for God.

I have had the honor of knowing people who to look at, wouldn't warrant a mention, but whose actions and hearts were so beautiful, they moved me to tears. I am still nourished by their love, even though many are long gone. My Aunt Willie Mae, my Grandfathers William Howell and James Robinson, without their teaching, love and guidance, I would't be here today. Mrs. Frank, Sis. Therese, Father Gillian, Pastor Daryl Coley, Pastor Pearl Taylor and Pastor Chris Kringle (and yes that was really his name), whose instruction, spiritual guidance and prayers continue to inform and cover me and whose example of what it means to be a servant, a leader, a king and a priest, I find so very beautiful.

None of the men and women mentioned above would be considered beautiful by today's standards. They didn't drive fancy cars or have flashy wardrobes. Many of them didn't have big degrees. They wouldn't be voted prom King or Queen. They wouldn't be elected politicians or celebrities, but they were... and are still more beautiful to me than you will ever know. I have come to the conclusion that what I instinctively knew as a child, and what the word of God confirms for me today, is that what is truly beautiful in life... is love... in all it's forms, and God is love (1 Jn. 4:7). "Now abideth faith, hope, love these three, but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

 So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the post, "what is beauty?", for me, the answer is simple, beauty is the manifestation of the love of God in the world... Beauty is God.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hanging On To The Rock


I unfortunately have never learned how to swim, and that deficit in my abilities was never more clear than the day I almost drowned.  I was 15 and it was Memorial Day weekend and I was at the beach with my church youth group.

If you’ve ever swam, or in my case, walked, in the ocean you know it is a very different experience than being in a pool.  The bottom shifts and is uneven, undercurrents and waves crash into your body and the motion of the water can be somewhat disorienting, making it difficult to judge distance… disrupting your equilibrium. 

That day at the beach I attempted to brave the waters, which seemed tranquil enough at the time and venture out in the waves to meet a group of my friends who seemed to be having a good time in the ocean.  The water on them only seemed to be as high as their waists and they seemed to have no problem dealing with the waves.  “How hard could it be?” I thought.

As I took my first steps, it became apparent that this journey was not going to be as easy as I thought.  The shifting sand beneath my feet seemed to disappear and I found myself sinking if I stayed in one place too long.  With each step, I seemed to sink deeper and deeper and water was already at my waist and I hadn’t even completed half of the journey.  As I stood wondering why I was so deep in water and I hadn’t gone half the distance my friends had, I decided to take one more step, and if that didn’t work, I would turn and go back to shore.

Suddenly my head was under water and I couldn’t feel the bottom.  I was thrashing around frantically, trying to remember everything I had heard about swimming… just trying to keep my head above water and somehow, in all that panic, I managed to flail over to barnacle encrusted rock.  It was slimy and smelled of old fish and the barnacles cut my fingertips, but I clung to that rock for dear life, because that rock was the only thing keeping my head above water.

Eventually, I was able to call out to one of my friends enjoying the waves in the distance and she came and somehow got me safely to shore.

As I look back and think about that day and how my friend and I sat on the beach  in stunned silence… both of us too afraid to speak out loud about the tragedy that almost took place, I think of that rock, how steadfast and true it was… barnacles and all… in my moment of need.

Psalms 61:2 says, “from the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”  That day, my Rock was covered in jagged crustaceans and smelled bad… not the best of conditions… and as with most things in life of value, it wasn’t easy to hang on to.  You have to be willing to get past the circumstances that surround the Rock.

When Paul and Silas were in prison, it was their knowledge of Christ as Savior that was their Rock, but it was also the reason they were in prison… and yet they hung on.  The Rock that John the Evangelist hung on to… that gave us the book of Revelation and the Gospel of John… also got him imprisoned on the isle of Patmos and boiled alive in oil (although he didn't die)… and yet he continued to hang on.  The Rock that Joan of Arc hung on to, the fact that she heard from God… eventually got her burned at the stake, by the Catholic Church no less… the church she loved and had helped.

My experience with hanging on to that barnacle encrusted… slimy… smelly rock wasn’t nearly as challenging or as dramatic as John or Paul or Joan of Arc, but it was just as important.  If I hadn’t, I might not be here today.  If I hadn’t, I might not have learned an important lesson that has enabled me to hang on in more recent and more spiritually trying times.   Hanging on to the Rock is never easy, but it is always… ALWAYS… worth it.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You On 9/11?


On this day in 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four jet airliners and flew two of them into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon while the fourth was commandeered by brave citizens who sacrificed their lives and crashed it into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I remember September 11, 2001 in great detail (as I am sure many do)... I remember exactly what I was doing when I got a call from a friend, telling me to turn on the TV. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember my shock and horror at seeing the smoke billowing from the building and how stunned I was to see the second plane hit the second tower. I couldn't believe that this was happening on American soil. This was the kind of thing that happened in war- torn countries... “over there” somewhere, then I came to myself and I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I got dressed as quickly as possible, got in my car and drove straight to church... to intercessory prayer, where I knew I could be of the greatest service to all those who were hurting in New York and D.C. As I walked in the door and stood before the intercessory prayer leader, the first words out of my mouth were, “reporting for duty”... which really shocked me because I had never served in the military and the whole idea seemed foreign to me, but I knew it was real, I knew I meant it and I knew I was there to “throw down”. I knew that this wasn't just a physical battle, but a spiritual one and I was there to “war in the spirit”... for the protection of my country, for the solace of the families who lost loved ones and for those whose lives were hanging in the balance... that they would live and not die. That was a very intense prayer session. I spent several hours there praying, crying, travailing... by the time I left, I was spent... but I knew I had to do something more.

As the days progressed and more news came forward, I found myself watching TBN. Paul Crouch was interviewing a pastor from a church at ground zero. The pastor talked about how ministries from all over the world were coming to “help” in New York, but few took the time to find out what the ministries already there were in need of... and it was not very helpful to the ministries who were already there... who knew the people and the lay of the land. The number for this pastor's church flashed on the lower part of the screen and thought... “I'll call. Maybe I can leave a message for the pastor, get an address to send them something... anything”. I dialed the number and to my amazement, the associate pastor answered. I was so shocked to hear an actual human being on the other end, it took a second before I could speak. The associate pastor and I had a brief but very nice conversation and it was surprisingly joyful. He and his congregation had been through a lot and were definitely in need, but what they needed most was prayer and it was so good to speak with a fellow laborer and to know he was o.k., that his spirits were high and to encourage one another. At that moment, I decided it was time I got to know more of the body.

I spent the next couple of months visiting other ministries... doing street evangelism with Dream Center here in Los Angeles, visiting Dyan Cannon's ministry, “God's Party”, I even found the Quaker House at USC and tried to make contact with them (we were never able to connect). We increased street evangelism at my home church and at the church were my mother pastored. I made a special effort at her church to highlight how special this country is to God, how important the people in this minority, urban community are to God and how they should celebrate God's love for them and rejoice in being an American, because I know due to bad treatment, that is something some minorities have a hard time doing. I wanted that community to know that no matter what anyone may have said to them or about them, God wanted them here, God loves them and to walk in full ownership of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of being an American... and above all, to defend it.

That 4th of July, I along with a group from my mother's little church (about 6 of us... and that was probably a third of the church) stood on the corner of Crenshaw and Hyde Park in South Los Angeles, sparklers and little flags in hand, and sang the Star Spangle Banner and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the top of our lungs, waving little flags, waving at cars and praying for people as they walked down the street.... people who needed prayer... people who gave a nod or words of support... people who wanted to join in, and some did. Passing drivers honked their horns and waved. It was a good 4th of July, one of the best in my life and I was proud to be an American. Proud to be born in a place where these words were true “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...”
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Monday, September 3, 2012

The Mystery of the Seven Churches




http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-randy-s-woodley/native-american-christianity-through-bullets-and-arrows-to-peace_b_1826126.html?

utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=2501334,b=facebook



I've always believed that the way Christianity is expressed should reflect the people practicing it. Like the seven churches discussed in the book of Revelation (1:20), each church had a different character and a different angel over it and different strengths and weaknesses with Christ as the head, but they were all "the Church"... and it's no different today.

The above Huffington Post article by Dr. Randy S. Woodley is a deplorable example of what happens when we don't adhere to the teachings of Christ when sharing the Gospel.  He tells of atrocities committed on Native Americans by so-called "Christian" missionaries and pastors, who were more interested in promoting their culture than the teachings of Jesus.   As an African American with Native American ancestry, I am the product of two cultures that have suffer these atrocities by people who never intended to be "living epistles read of men" and I know that if our faith... the Christian faith... is going to continue, the atrocities must stop.  The world is fed up with it and more importantly, I believe God is too.  It is His responsibility to separate the wheat from the tares (Matt. 13:24-30), and practicing a eurocentric Christianity does not ensure that you are the wheat.

Whether we practice a more eurocentric Christianity (and even that's not all the same) or an ethnocentric Christianity (Christianity as interpreted by different cultures), what's most important is that we respect the Christ that's in each of us as believers, and give each other the room to grow in our faith... and learn from one another. If we are to truly be a body "fitly joined together, joint supplying joint", instead of the the self mutilating body we've become, we are going to have to live out Jesus' commandment... to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbor, each other, as our selves.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Are The Church


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-sandlin/back-to-church-again_b_1841106.html?utm_hp_ref=religion&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

I found the above Huffington Post, Mark Sandlin article, "Back To Church Again" really interesting, but I can't say that I agree with the writer at all.  I don't believe, if you are a believer, you can ever leave the church because you ARE the church.  The church is not brick or mortar or stone, it's the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and if you've received Jesus in your heart, that dwelling place is YOU.  No matter where you are, nothing can separate us from Him or His love... we are His home.  "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).

Maybe the writer needed to leave his little Presbyterian church in order to grow as an individual, and I can relate to that. I've had to leave a couple of churches in order to grow myself, but I know we're supposed to do that.  Romans 1:17 says that would are supposed to go "from faith to faith, for it is written; the just shall live by faith".  If we don't leave where we're at, we can never move on to where we're supposed to be... and let's face it, nothing living remains the same.

So my hope for the writer is that he be prayerful about his decision to return to his old church and seriously consider the reasons he left.  I'm not saying that he shouldn't return, but I know I never could.  The experiences I've had and the closeness of my walk with Christ now is something that's been hard won, at great cost and I value it too much to turn back to a place that wouldn't necessarily be supportive of it.  I am grateful for what I've learned in each of the churches I left, but I know that I must "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" and for me, that means moving on.  I'm not sure where this will take me, but I know I am ready for the journey.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Learning To Let Go


What should we do when the vehicles we've used in the past to steer our lives no longer work? We learn to let go.

When I was about 16, I got a bike for Christmas. A little late I know, but I was excited. Excited to have the freedom it provided... to go to the store... to go to a friends house... or just to go and explore.

One day, as I set off on my way to the store, I put my foot to pedal and began to pump. My foot slipped off the peddle and became wedged between the spokes of the front wheel. This caused my front wheel to come to a screeching halt, and my rear wheel to fly up into the air, propelling me forward.

As I, in a state of panic, looked at the ground getting closer and closer, I came to the realization that I had to make a decision, and make it fast. I was either going to hang on to those handle bars and plunge face first into the pavement, or I was going to have to let go... and see what happens. I decided that letting go was the only chance I had of averting a disaster.

At that moment, I let go of the handle bars, put all my weight on that foot wedged (sideways no less) in the spokes of my front wheel, swung my other leg over the handle bars as they came down, holding on to nothing, and somehow to my amazement... landed on my feet. The whole thing happened so fast, but to me it seemed like an eternity... as if it were happening in slow motion.

There are times in life when we just have to let go of the handle bars... the steering mechanisms of our life and trust... trust God that He will provide what we need... trust ourselves that we made the right decision and trust the process... the letting go... the taking that first big step...believing that we will land on solid ground... in one piece.

My neighbors, who had witnessed the whole event, came over to see if I was ok.  One said, “I've never seen anything like it! How did you do that?” They were amazed and to be honest, so was I. I had not even come close to falling. I didn't even twist the ankle of the foot caught in the front wheel... it had somehow managed to work it's way out. I'd landed flat footed, like a gymnast's dismount and the only answer I could give my neighbor's then... and the only answer I have now, is that I let go and stepped out.

When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and asked to come out to him, the only answer Jesus gave him was “Come” (Matt. 14:29). Peter had to have the courage and the faith to take that big first step, letting go of all he knew about the world, letting go of reason, and trust that if Christ said “Come”, it would be alright. Jesus only chided Peter when he began to look at the circumstance... the stormy sea... and believed it more than he believed His command to “Come”, and Peter began to sink.

Since that first lesson I received in letting go, I have had many others. When I left Los Angeles and moved to Chicago at the spur of the moment... without even packing a bag, I had to let go. When I began teaching for the first time and equipment began disappearing making my lesson plans for that day useless... I had to let go. When the job market dried up in Chicago, I had to let go. Each time I had to trust that God would provide what I needed, that my decision was right and believe in the process, knowing that I would land on my feet...I've had a few stumbles when I looked at the circumstances, but for the most part, I have. I've even reclaimed a few good things along the way.

Learning to let go, and let the Spirit be my teacher, life be my classroom and God be my leader, is the scariest, most exciting and most wonderful experience I've had. I highly recommend it. Enjoy the journey.


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Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Group Are You In?


Happy Easter/Resurrection Sunday Everyone! Since the term Easter refers to a pagan fertility holiday, personally and for the purposes of this blog, which focus's on Christianity, I will refer to this day as Resurrection Sunday from this point forward. I hope your day thus far has been a joyful celebration of our risen Lord and a remembrance of the resurrecting power of God. My prayer for you (and for myself) is that all of the promises of God that you thought were dead... dreams, relationships, careers, etc... be resurrected this day and that the pain of the Good Fridays in our lives be a distant memory.

I read my horoscope the other day and found it very interesting. I NEVER read horoscopes because I don't believe in astrology, but after reading my cousins I thought, "what the heck". Some of it was accurate, but what I found most interesting was it's emphasis on group dynamic. I don't "do" groups. Never have, never will. I'm much better on my own or with a mate (I've only had one and he died) and a few close friends. This allows people to come in and out of my life at will. That way, everyone has space to grow and no one becomes burdensome.

Now I bet your wondering how this refers to Resurrection Sunday... and I'm just getting to that. Jesus was a member of a group, a large religious group, however he spent most of his time with twelve close friends. Within his small group, he experienced very few problems. He wasn't always understood, but most of the twelve (all but one) loved and respected him. Christ's problems really started with the larger group who was afraid of how his message would effect them`, and their position in it. So in an attempt to “nip it in the bud” (the message that is) they accused him of a crime he didn't commit and had him crucified .

Now when I spoke to my cousin about her horoscope and my views on groups, we had a long discussion about the pros and cons of belonging to them. Her take on group dynamic is that you can move at will in and out of groups and change groups whenever you want, but I don't believe that this is the case and I think the story of Christ's crucifixion supports this. Life requires movement and growth. Nothing living ever remains the same. Groups have a tendency to stop growth and that to me is worse than death. And it doesn't really matter what large group you belong to, the larger the group, the larger the structure, the greater the conflict.

In Christ's case, the leaders of the larger group he belonged to, decided the only way to handle Christ's message and his mission to help others grow spiritually was to demonize him, and bring up on charges of calling himself a king, which would be the equivalent of treason today, and have Him executed... and the funny thing is that it should have worked, but we all know it didn't. In fact, just the opposite happened. Instead of squashing Christ's message and the impact of his small band of followers, Christ's crucifixion and subsequent resurrection catapulted Jesus' message throughout Asia minor and ultimately the entire world. That one act of intolerance literally changed the world.

So my prayer for you (and me) at the beginning of this post, that the pain of the Good Friday's in our lives... of our crucifixions, become a distant memory, is based on the knowledge of the greatest comeback story in human history. He lived again on that first resurrection Sunday two thousand years ago, He lives today and lives in you and me and can cause all that we thought was lost to be resurrected.
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do We Really Want To Be Sophisticated?



When I was in my early 20's I worked as supervisor at B. Dalton Booksellers in Redondo Beach, CA. I enjoyed the job, because I got to be around books, something I truly love. That year, Word For The Day calendars were all the rage. We sold many of them at the bookstore and I had one on my desk. One morning when I came in to open up the store, I tore off the previous day's date/word and found a word I had never seen before. “Sophist”, as defined by the Merrian-Webster dictionary is one who uses“subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation”. However the definition I saw that day was much stronger. It was “one who forms arguments or reasoning based on false knowledge”. That last phrase false knowledge, struck me in my gut and shook me to my core. I had never before read words that had such a powerful and jolting impact on me. I actually experienced fear when I read them.

This experience immediately led me to the dictionary where I looked up the word and discovered that Sophist shared the same root word as sophistication, which is defined by Merrian-Webster's Dictionary as, “sophistic reasoning; the process or result of becoming cultured, knowledgeable, or disillusioned....” Another definitions given by the Free Online Dictionary is, “to make impure; adulterate. “ I decided at that very moment that I NEVER wanted to be sophisticated and to this day, it is a word I rarely use.

There are some good uses for the word... say for instance, in design. A sophisticated interior design can deceive the eye into believing a room is bigger or brighter or taller than it actually is. A sophisticated use of color can manipulate the emotions of a viewer, causing them to be calmer, or happier or more energized than they previously were. In both cases, the deception can be beneficial because it can make a person happier with what they have...until they get what they really what... a larger house/room with better light and a genuinely improved mood. But sophistication is never any substitute for the real thing, which is why in life, with people, it never works. And that's why I made a vow never to be sophisticated. I never wanted to deceive anyone into believing I was something that I wasn't and I always try to be truthful, because nothing of value is ever built on a lie.

Now as simple as this way of being may seem to be, it has actually gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years, and from some really unexpected sources. Not just because I have said things or asked questions people didn't want to deal with, but because I expected others to live by the same credo. Big mistake. To my amazement, it seems that some people want to be deceived. In recent years I have found it increasingly more difficult to find individuals who appreciate and seek truth, who are honest and forthright, but fortunately, I know one who is.

In 1John 5:6-7 it says that “... the Spirit (The Holy Spirit) is truth” and that the Godhead , “the Father, the Word (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit, are one.” I never have to second guess God's leading, or his word, or his love for me. He tells me that He will never leave nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5), and that He will teach me all things (Jn. 14:26) and write His law in my heart (Heb. 8:10), and He has.

So whenever people or society want me to be more sophisticated, I think back on that little slip of paper with the word Sophist written on it and what that really means, I and align myself with the Spirit of Truth, who is Truth and thank God He's allowed me to keep my vow of never being sophisticated.
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

What will you become in 2012?

Happy New Year!!! My prayer is that everyone has a happy and prosperous New Year and that we prosper even as our souls prospers... and I pray your soul is indeed prospering! This month, I want to share with you a journal entry I wrote in 2009, because I think it fitting for the beginning of a new year. It's about becoming... becoming what you were intended to be, becoming the person who can fulfill your life's purpose (and yes I do believe that everyone has one), and that rebirth is the process by which we become.

What do you do when you’ve done the right thing, and it wasn’t good enough? Not because you did it wrong, but because someone thought you were wrong. You return to your beginnings.

This is the story of the last 10 years of my life. From 1999 to 2006, 7 years, I spent just trying to get it right. To be the person others wanted me to be… but it didn’t work. I couldn’t be someone else. I couldn’t deny who I am. And who I am is not bad! I’m a compassionate, loyal, intelligent woman to those who are compassionate, loyal and intelligent with me. However, I have no respect or love for those who don’t treat me with the same respect. This is who I am. This is who God, in His infinite wisdom, made me… and He made me this way for purpose.

In the 3 years after 2006, until today, I have been in a struggle to return to my beginning. I moved back to the city of my birth, Chicago. I have visited every area I lived in when I first lived here. I’ve basically reconstructed my life. Everything from my birth certificate and baptismal certificate to listing every address, school and job I’ve ever held. These are the things that constitute who I am and they have also given me clues as to who I am intended to be. They’ve given me clues to my purpose. Things I didn’t see from the beginning, but are becoming more crystallized as time goes on. Today… like a phoenix from the ashes of my life, I am being reborn.

August 2007 to June 2008, I taught school for the first time in my life. It was not at all what I expected, but it was a very useful task because it showed me something. I can teach, but not everyone knows how to learn. How do you learn to appreciate truth and accept it when you’ve never been taught to value it? You could have the best teacher in the world in front of you, telling you amazing truths, but because your first teachers, parents and pastors/priests never taught you to value truth, you can’t appreciate it when you hear it. You don’t have an “ear to hear” because your ear has not been circumcised.

I also added another skill to my resume. I’m a potter. March 17, 2008, on St. Patrick’s Day, I “accidentally” discovered Lillstreet, a predominantly Irish artist studio and school focusing on the manual arts. 2 weeks later, I started my first wheel class there and was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of working in clay. The process of working with clay taught me a great deal about myself and how I work as opposed to how I should work.

Clay is meditation. To work it well, you have to get to know it. It’s intimate and calming. The most important aspect of clay is to … TAKE YOUR TIME! Don’t rush the clay. If you don’t wedge the clay enough before you put it on the wheel, it will develop air bubbles and ultimately make a weak vessel, one that could explode in the kiln. If you try to pull it too fast, it will break. If you apply too much pressure, your fingers will go straight through it… or you’ll wind up pushing it off the wheel, destroying the vessel. You have to know your clay. Wedge it well, center it and bring it up slow and even… then you will have a well formed, stable piece. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in clay. If we did the same with people, we would have well adjusted adults. Instead, we do just the opposite.

We don’t wedge them enough. Not training and teaching them enough. And training or teaching doesn’t mean academic teaching, but generational teaching. Instruction in lessons that can only be passed down from generation to generation, from parent to child, elder to youth, leader to community.

We stress them to no end, pulling them way too fast. Requiring them to mature too fast, forcing them to deal with adult situations long before they are able. Some believe that conveying generational lessons is a function of culture, and to some extent it is. However, culture is not the best way to pass these lessons on because following culture and doing what it dictates won’t give you an understanding of why these lessons are important. Culture gives you the “what”… what to do and what not to do, but it won’t give you the “why”, which is just as, if not more important.

Now you may ask, what has all this got to do with going back to the beginning? What has this got to do with rebirth? A lot! When you are born the first time, you are born into darkness. As the bible says, “you are born in iniquity”. You have no idea why you do what you do or why you are who you are. In fact, you don’t yet know who you are. You do what you’re told, or what you want blindly, without understanding. You do the “what”.

When you are reborn, your motivation changes. You begin to see more clearly, or maybe for the first time, the why. And the answer is never just because that’s what you were told. You begin to see the connectedness of things, people and events in your life, relationships you’ve had, good or bad, and how each event has culminated to creating the person you are and why continuing to discover and develop who you are is paramount to fulfilling your purpose.

You also begin to recognize that your purpose is bigger than you. It really isn’t just about you, and your desire to fulfill it isn’t just some selfish pipe dream… it’s quite intentional and important and timely. The greater your since of urgency, the greater the need. The greater your focus has to be to accomplish what you were born to do.

I’ve discovered this process of rebirth is not a onetime event; however it does have a point of origin. Awareness is the key. From the moment one becomes aware, the rebirth process has begun. It then takes place over time and becomes a constant state of becoming. It’s boxes within boxes. Each containing the promise of a new gift. I believe that I’m about midway through this process. Paul talks about not knowing what we shall become. I know what he means. I look through the glass darkly, not seeing everything clearly, but things are beginning to take shape. There has been a struggle to clear away all the preconceived notions that cloud my view and unlearn or learn accurately the lessons of the past that were taught wrong or with malicious intent. But my vision is becoming clear and I look forward to learning each lesson… to opening that next box, to get to the promise that is inside.

As we enter into 2012 and make our New Year's resolutions, please keep in mind that along with the standard loose weight and exercise more mantras, we resolve to become, to be reborn and to pursue being the person God created us to be, so that we might fulfill His purpose, in this world, for His glory.
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