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Los Angeles, California, United States

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Just To Be...

Entrare nell' opera (Entering the Work) 1971
Inkjet print on canvas 93-1/4 x 73-1/4in
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

The first time I saw Giovanni Anselmo’s , “Entering The Work”, it was on the wall of MOCA in downtown Los Angeles.  This massive inkjet print on canvas ( you literally feel like you can walk into it) of a male figure running through a field… larger than life , filled me with excitement. It brought me back to a time and place in my childhood where I'd seen an open field of grass and had the intense urge to run, but was not allowed. The man in Giovanni's work was doing what I wanted to do, and I felt his exhilaration. However after looking at some of Mr. Anselmo's other works, I decided to revisit "Entering The Work", and got quite a different understanding.

As a whole, I find Mr. Anselmo's work to be an exploration of the frailness and weightiness of life... a head of lettuce juxtaposed with a block of granite. A block of granite perilously suspended above Mr. Anselmo's head. The repeated photos taken from a boat, trying to catch the setting sun to illustrate the fleeting nature of time... all of these images, as well as the man running in the field in “Entering The Work" illustrate the angst that I believe everyone feels at some point in their lives.

It struck me as odd that a single image could be so inviting and exciting and yet so tentative. The angle of his legs… the position of his arms… is the man running joyfully or fearfully, as other Anselmo works would suggest?      To me, the man running illustrates how we all run through our lives… at times joyful… at times fearful… at times tentative… and how unnecessary that fear is when you have faith. 

We all have the need to control our lives, some of us more than others.  We even have terms for it… “Control Freaks”, “Type A Personalities”… we are people who have a need to control every aspect of our lives… to be masters of our own universe (and sometimes other’s universe), but the truth is, none of can achieve this.

There is One that is in control, that has absolute control of the universe and that One loves us and if we believe that, we have no need for fear. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” [2Timothy 1:7]. 

Admittedly, coming to accept the truth that we are not in complete control (and it’s not the end of the world) can be a hard pill to swallow.  It doesn’t mean that we have no control or input, we certainly do.  Our actions, our decisions and our attitudes are very important, but they don’t always determine the final outcome. There are always contingencies… the unforeseen… and these things, I have found best to give to God, because He is well able to handle them.  I cast all my care… everything that would normally worry me and I have no control over… on Him, because I know He cares for me. [1 Peter 5:7]

Giving “it” (whatever “it” happens to be… that thing you can’t control) to God is not giving up.  You have to give it to Him in confidence, in faith, knowing that He is touched by the feelings of our infirmity [Hebrews 4:15] and that His thoughts towards us are “…good and not evil. To give us a future and a hope.” [Jeremiah 29:11].  This allows you to appreciate what you have… to appreciate the time you’ve been given because the moment that is past is past and the moment that will come will be predicated on the moment that is right now.  I thank God that we can have an assurance and a calm and a peace… a peace that surpasses all understanding [Phil. 4:7] that will allow us to be… To Be… just to Be… in that moment.  Just to Be… who God created us to be.  Just to enjoy “Being”.  Then we have truly entered the work.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Evil Makes You Stupid, Truth Makes You Free

“Speak truth to stupid”.  This is actually a line from the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s, “Newroom” that inspired this art piece.  It was intended to be a triptych typography piece, but I later turned it into this short video you see here.  The first panel reads, “Evil Makes You Stupid”, which is a personal quote of mine.  Having worked in ministry and seen how people make the same mistakes over and over (I’ve seen this repeatedly) when you tell people the truth about something and they are not ready to receive it or change, they look at you with glazed-over eyes, as if you’re speaking another language and go… “uh… no, that’s not it”.  That is stupid!  Why? Not because they didn’t have access to the knowledge they needed.  They did.  You told them… or someone else told them… or life repeatedly has told them, and yet they can’t receive it because they have rejected knowledge… they’ve rejected truth. 

Now I know that it is not exactly PC (politically correct) to use the word “stupid” with relation to people due to its negative connotations, but let’s take a look at what the word “stupid” actually means.  According to Merrian Webster’s dictionary, “stupid” is defined as, “not intelligent: having or showing a lack of ability to learn and understand things.  Not sensible or logical.  Not able to think normally because you are drunk, tired, etc.  Dulled in feeling or sensation”.  Based on the actual definition of the word, I think that we can all attest to having done stupid things in the past, myself included.  Times when we didn’t think things through or ignored the preverbal “handwriting on the wall”, but this is not an acceptable way of life, especially not for a believer.  The part of this definition that is the most troubling to me is “having or showing a lack of ability to learn or understand things” which is why some people make the same mistakes repeatedly and never seem to acknowledge their responsibility in what has taken place.   They have, either consciously or unconsciously, rejected knowledge… or rather truth and to reject truth isn’t just stupid because when we reject truth or the Spirit of Truth, we’ve rejected God. For God is the spirit of Truth [John. 14:17, 16:13].   Evil causes us to reject truth every time.  It blinds us to the truth of the things that are before us.  Speaking truth to someone who rejects knowledge is like speaking a foreign language to a person who has no knowledge of that language.  The words that are coming out of your mouth make absolutely no sense to them.  Why? Because evil has blinded them to truth. 

The second panel of the triptych is, “Speak Truth To Stupid”.  There’s a beautiful speech given by MacKenzie McHale (played by Emily Mortimer), Will McAvoy’s executive producer and former lover, where MacKenzie states that you have to “speak truth to stupid”.  MacKenzie wants Will to be the jouralist he used to be and not pander to the network executives and the public for ratings.  She wants Will to treat his viewing public intelligently and “speak truth to stupid”… which she sees as the inflammatory tabloid journalism that out there, filled with opinion and sensationalism and very little fact or thoughtful commentary.  The only way to combat the “stupid” that’s out there is to speak truth… and she’s right. 

As believers, we have to speak truth to stupid.  It allows those of us who are merely having a stupid moment the opportunity to change or correct our thinking and get back on course.  As believers, we have the responsibility to speak truth, God’s truth as it has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit because we are saved by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony [Rev. 12:11], to share the Good News to “Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]  “If anyone has an ear, let him hear”. [Matthew 11:15] When God’s people, those who believe, hear truth it resonates with us on a very deep level.  It may not even make any sense at the time, but the person will have an understanding that what they are hearing is, in fact true, and nothing else will be needed.  It sticks.  Truth is powerful!  Truth is God!

Now the reason we have to speak truth to stupid is the third panel, “Truth Makes You Free”.  John 8:32 states, “… and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”, and it does because it makes us free to choose.  God gives us the freedom to accept or reject the truth… which means we have the freedom to accept or reject Him.  This is what free will is all about, and he has given each person on earth the freedom to choose.

I thank God that He has given us the freedom to choose… that our worship is not forced… that instead… His love draws us… woos us, so that we as believers (the Church) may truly become the bride of Christ.  [Ephesian 5:26-27]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Living On The Interest

I have a stock account, meager though it may be, I definitely have a stock account ( two actually). One of the reasons I started buying stock is because I have a dream... possibly a delusion of granduer... I don't know, of being able to do something that people call “Living on the Interest ”meaning that you have enough stock in your porfolio, enough savings put away, that the interest alone will take care of you. It's part of my retirement plan.

I'm working on it. Right now I have a total of maybe oh... seven stock, only one of which is actually profitable, but that 's the goal. And hopefully, that will change for the better. And I'll keep putting a little bit extra away to make sure that I'm able to continue to build that account.

But I began to realize as I was sitting here... actually lying awake in bed at 4 o'clock in the morning... after having had a couple of surgeries and preparing for another one, that I have a different account and that that account is important, because with that account, I am currently living on the interest... and it's not interest on a treasure I've accumulated, but the interest earned by those who deposited before me. People, men and women in my family who have gone before me who made covenant with God... who have served Him, who have loved Him... who have received promises from Him and although they may be long gone, I am living on the interest of their deeds.

One was Charles Kirkman-Bey. He was my maternal great-great grandfather... my maternal grandfather's maternal grandfather. He was a leader of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a group started by the same founder as the Nation of Islam and he ran it in Chicago for almost 30 years.

Kirkman-Bey was a man that believed that truth transcended culture and religion and that there was truth in all of the major faiths. He took parts of Taoism, Buddhism, early Christianity, Freemansonry Islam and Gnostism. He looked at all of these faiths and saw truth in them all and combined them and helped to create the Moorish Science Temple of America, and lead the Chicago temple from 1929 to 1959. From all accounts, when he died in 1959, he left a legacy... a legacy that still exists ... a legacy of honor and compassion that exists to this day, and not just in the city of Chicago.

Another person in my family was my Aunt Willie. She was known on the northside of Chicago for feeding people during the Depression. She had a gift for talking to people, especially young men, and leading people into right action... to be an asset to their communiity instead of deficit. She had no official training, was not an official priest of any denomination, but she had the heart of one, and hated to see decent people suffer. She was single-handedly responsible for bringing our family to Chicago and she was able to do this on a cleaning woman's meager pay. When she died in 1977, there were so many cars in the funeral procession, you couldn't see the end, and these were not family members, but people in the community, black and white, rich and poor, who came to pay their respects. She left such a strong legacy in Chicago so that when I moved back to Chicago in 2007, there were still people that remembered her and because of her deeds, looked after me... I lived on her interest.

Another is my fraternal grandmother, Luna Gaddis, who was known for praying for people. Again, not in a denomination that honored women ministers, but who ministered. No title necessary. I didn't know her well, but when I went to her funeral, there was standing room only in the church and people overflowed out into the street and it wasn't just family. It was the people she had loved and prayed for and counselled who were in tears and weeped heavily at the loss of someone who had poured so much into their lives. I had the opportunity to hear person after person talk about how she had counselled them, how she had prayed for them, how she had helped them see that there was a call on their life. I live on her interest.

My great grandmother, ... my maternal grandmother's mother, Sophie Virginia Howard (her maiden name)... was the “family elder”. On my mother's side of the family, we have a designated family elder who is the head of the family and it's normally one woman. She was known for being a “holy woman” and not just by members of the family, but by the people in the community. She died before my mother was born, so I never got a chance to meet her, but I did get a chance to speak with my last “family elder”, Alene Matthews, Sophie's granddaughter, before she passed, who imparted some knowledge about Sophie Virginia, who I'm named after (Virginia's my middle name) and I understand that I'm living on her interest as well. Sophie Virginia was not just a woman of prayer, she was a healer. She was of Cherokee, English and African ancestry and although she attended a Baptist church, her faith was closer to Cherokee/Christian practices. She was known for being a godly and decent woman... and today I live on the interest.

Now I personally, have done some things to deposit into this account. I haven't just completely relied on the interest acrued by others deeds. I've attempted in my actions in my life, to make deposits myself, but I know that the reason I exist isn't necessarily just because of the deposits I've made, but because of the deposits that were made long before me... long before I was born... long before I was even thought of. Those deposits are covenant with God, made by members of my family for the care and well being of their bloodline... That “their seed shall remain [Ecclesiaticus 44:13] and God keeps His word. I live, because of their interest. I live because of those covenants. I live and move and have my being this day, because God honor's His word... because “God magnifies His word above His name” [138:21].

Long after the bodies are gone, long after the deeds are done, long after all this is said and done, what remains is what we have with our heavenly Father, what remains is that interest, that deposit that we made in faith, that deposit that we made knowing that we served a God that would never leave nor forsake us [Deut. 31:6] that God is true and cannot lie... that heaven and earth shall pass away before his word returns unto him void. [Matt. 24:35] Even when it seems like things aren't going well, the fact that we remain is evidence of that covenant, and we live on the interest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Accident Is Just As Important As The Intention

Hello again!  It's been a while since my last post.  I've been busy... I moved (yeah!). I started a new job (gotta pay the bills) and I've been busy fixing the place up and getting settled.

Here's my latest post entitled, "The Accident Is Just As Important As The Intention".   I'm trying something new this month.  I decided to upload a recorded post.  I was a little low on time and found myself  "thinking out loud" (i.e., talking to myself) about the subject, to come up with something and decided an audio recording would work best.  I've included the painting discussed and a guy I work (thank you Dave) put this file together for me.  Just click on the link below

I hope you like the new format.  I will probably be doing more of these in the future.  I would love to hear your feedback.


Felicia V. Gaddis

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Let Me Tell You About Mr. Big

I was talking to a collegue the other day over lunch, and somehow we got on the subject of “Sex In The City”, the now cancelled HBO show about the friendship of four New York professional women and their adventures in trying to find love in the big apple. Now, you may not think that a show like “Sex In The City” is something that I would (or that should be) discussed in a devotional blog about christianity, but if it weren't for this show, Ikthos as it is would not exist.

I became a fan of the show after it went into syndication (I didn't have cable) and began airing on my local television station... so basically, I've only seen the sanitized version of the show, but I still love it, because of the relationships between these four New York women, Miranda ,Samantha, Charlotte and of course Carrie. Sarah Jessica Parker's voiceover of Carrie Bradshaw's column is what caused me to re-think the way I approached Ikthos and gave me the courage to make it more personal and conversational although anyone who's ever seen the show knows our subject matter couldn't be more different.

If you've seen the show (or the movies for that matter) you know the ongoing relationhip Carrie has with Mr. Big. Mr. Big is the love of Carrie's life. He's smart, successful, wealthy, tall, dark and handsome... but unfortunately for most of the show's run, completely unavailable. Either because he afraid of commitment to Carrie or because he commited (married) to someone else. At the end of the first film, Carrie and Mr. Big finally tie the knot in a very simple, unceremonious ceremony at the Justice of the Peace... and of course the girls, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte are all there. This is Carrie's happily-ever-after... she's finally nabbed Mr. Big... the fish that always mananged to get away from her, and as a viewer, I was very happy for Carrie. She'd been through a lot to get this man to meet her at the altar, in fact, her left her at the altar at the beginning of the film, but Carrie and I have a very different idea of what triumphant love is... about what's worth fighting for... about who Mr. Big really is. Let me tell you about Mr. Big.

In Carrie's world, Mr. Big is a man who is afraid of commitment. Who shutters at the thought of emotional intimacy and vulnerability and who only understands Carrie's value to him after he marries another woman,divorces this woman and leaves Carrie at the altar. Only then can he come to terms with the fact that Carrie is the one for him and in a seeming sign of defeat... like raising a white flag in battle... does Mr. Big marry Carrie and I guess this is victory, but thank God my Mr. Big... God in the person of Jesus Christ, isn't this way.

He is faithful... always, and longs for intimacy with is people... no fear of getting too close here. And as for commitment, we are the one's who fear committing to Him. He never leaves or forsakes us [Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5]. He's the one who pursues us, because he first loved loved us and He waits patiently for us to understand and appreciate His undying, eternal love for us.

Now I'm not saying that we can't love others, of course we can but I am saying that without understanding God's love for us, the ongoing love affair God has for and with His people... with His Church, the Bride of Christ, we will never be able to love others with abandon. We will never know what it truly means to be loved... we will never be able to impart that love to others.

I'm not saying that understanding God's love for us is revelation that you get all at once. I believe it's a life-long process that we learn through experience, with God, with others and through prayer and how we handle events in our lives, but it a love relationship that we as individuals should want to pursue and is the model for every loving relationhip we have after.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your loveis more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.”

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