Who Did You Commit To?

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post for my church folk, church-y folk and otherwise church-ified folk. So, I’ma do one this time, and maybe for a minute . . . . just so ya know.

Picture it, Jerusalem . . . . After Jesus has ascended, but not much after. Folks was up in the church house, and the service was high. The Spirit was movin’ and Joseph, called Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement”), was led to place the money he received from selling a piece of land in the offering that Sunday. And, it was a common practice in the church back then, to express the Spirit through generosity. The folks in the church gave to the extent that there were no more needy people in the church because the ones that had much gave to the ones that had little.

Now, also in this congregation were a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They got caught up in the moment and made a pledge to the church, too. But, then they got home. And, they realized just how much money they were going to give up. It wasn’t that they didn’t have it to give. They weren’t hurting. They just weren’t quite ready to give up that much money. They wanted to keep a bit of it for themselves. So, the talked about it, and they decided that they would give most of the money to the church, but not all of that money to the church. They just wanted to keep a little bit of it.

Now, up until this point, they were fine. It wasn’t like they were knocking over 7-Elevens to get the money for the church. And, even if they wanted to keep some of it, that was fine, too. After all, it was their plot of land, and they could do what they wanted to with it. But, when you read what happened in Acts 5, you see that they lied when they brought their offering to the church and told the church folk that they brought all the money from the land. Can we say epically bad move? Like, that was not even in the same ZIP Code of the right move . . . . not even on the same side of the solar system of the right move. But, they lied because they wanted to appear better than they really were . . . . to the other church folk, not to God.

It’s the same sort of lie that Judas told, earlier in the Scripture. (Yeah, if you’re following along carefully, you see that these folks didn’t end up well . . . . take note.) Jesus was about ready to be crucified, and a woman who the scriptures identify as Mary (popular name back in the day) brought a bottle of expensive ointment/perfume and poured it all over Jesus. Judas objected to her offering because he said, in front of all the people, the perfume was valuable and could have been sold and given to the poor. But, the Holy Ghost told off on him in the scripture and said, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6).

What makes these lies similar? The liars lost sight of exactly who they had committed to, and thus who they were lying to. It’s bad enough to lie to people. But, these people thought they were going to pull a fast one on God. And, I don’t care how good your hustle game is, it ain’t that good. Look at how Anaias and Sapphira end up. Peter wasn’t worried about the offering, as a lot of people seem to think. Peter didn’t get into how much money they were short on the offering. He didn’t quote any dollars and cents. He said, “You lied to the Holy Spirit!” His concern was that they had committed something to God, and they were going to lie about fulfilling their commitment rather than tell the truth about where they were spiritually. They didn’t want to risk having to give up their little treasure trove. But, they wanted to appear sold out to God.

The fact that they were holding out meant that they didn’t have faith to believe that God really wanted good things for them, that God didn’t really need their little offering to make the kingdom of heaven work, that God would supply and was truly the source of all their needs, and a lot more. If they would have been honest about it, they could have been discipled to grow in some areas. And, while they saw where they were short, they hid and covered up. Not because they cared what God thought, but because they wanted to make friends and influence people.

Peter told them, “Wasn’t this your land to do what you wanted to with?” That means, they could have kept the money, if they wanted to. But, he was concerned about their heart. And, God was concerned enough about it to make them an object lesson for the rest of the congregation. Yeowch. They lifted themselves up to get shut down. Majorly shut down. Like, that’s a “404″ for you, right there . . . .

Your gifts are your own, and they can either bless you, or kill you depending on how you use them. But, don’t lose sight of who you’ve committed them to. Don’t let the approval of people become the ultimate set up to get shut down.

 

Adventures on the Health Food Aisle

As you all know, I’ve been cleaning up my diet and living more healthfully these days. And, part of that is being open to trying new things, trying old things different ways, etc. You just have to be open . . . . And, to be honest, I’ve made quite a few discoveries in this process that I’m quite happy with. I still have my things that I won’t eat, that I’m scared to try, that I’m very skeptical of, but normally, those things turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Well, picture it, it’s a lovely Sunday afternoon, I’m out doing my grocery shopping for the week, and I’m in the Organic/Health food section of the store. I spy, with my little eye, the sample cart. I love the sample cart. It makes my little heart sing with glee. I don’t have to take a dive into the proverbial deep end, when there’s a sample cart. I can tip toe down the steps of the shallow end and see if I like a product. Huzzah!

A young, masculine hippie, manning the cart, with a wide brimmed shade hat and requisite Jerusalem cruisers on. He motions towards a bar confection and invites me to take a tiny square. “Yerba Maté brownies,” he said with a flourish. And, I being hungry, popped the tiny morsel back with haste. Mmmmmm . . . .brownies, I thought. And, what could be wrong with a brownie? I’m usually all about sugary confections. 

BAD MOVE. OH BOY. THAT WAS A BAD MOVE.

The problem is that I have a very readable face. Like, there is no way in hell I would ever win at poker with a 10 year old, readable face. So,I pretty much have to be honest because you know what I’m thinking, anyway. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. And, this was less than a pleasant experience. I don’t know where I’d put the bar on that one. It tasted like a very yummy almond/peanut butter protein bar that had some yard clippings and dirt tossed in, for extra fiber. If I had not been standing in front of the senior salesman, proprietor and co-inventor of the confection (he was talking as I “sampled”) I would have spit it out immediately with a vehement, “YECH!” But, alas, there he was extoling the virtues of Yerba Maté and the all natural ingredients that went into the bar. 

I must have really looked horrid because his face morphed from sunny salesmanship to pallor and concern. I think he wondered if he were going to have to recall the Heimlich maneuver, unexpectedly. I tried to smile and nod, and listen patiently. Once I did indeed swallow and manage to speak, the Yerba Maté brownie mogul released me to my shopping. And, to his credit, he was genuinely concerned about my well being, on top of being a very nice young man. He also is a very smart young man, he didn’t ask me how I liked it, at all. 

Now, I will admit, I’m intrigued by the ingredient. And, maybe, on another day, I will try it in a different form. But, alas, I don’t think the Yerba Maté bar was meant for me . . . . at least, not with the expectation of a wondrous peanut butter brownie on the brain. I think my lovely peanut butter brownies are going to have to stay free of Yerba Maté for the immediate future. I feel bad, though. I’m sure anyone who caught sight of me sampling those brownies steered clear of his cart. 

Don’t mind me, folks. I’ve got issues.

Truth Teller

For a brief period of time, not too long ago, I was in therapy to deal with a trauma. But, the process of therapy gave me this gift, this truth, about myself. My therapist told me that I am a truth teller.

Now, to be honest, it wasn’t that big of a revelation. But, it was a validation of what I already knew about myself. I have said for a number of years that my greatest strength is that I speak my mind. However, my greatest weakness is that I speak my mind. I’m the sort of woman that, if someone asks me out on a date, and I don’t want to go, I simply say I don’t want to go. And, I don’t mean to say that such-and-so is a bad person, or hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m telling the truth. I feel that it is kinder and more efficient. I don’t understand why it doesn’t happen more often.

I’ve said in this blog that the person who tells the truth in the relationship has the power in the relationship. Well, I still believe that to be true. But, what I want you to understand, lovelies, is this: by not speaking your truth, you are giving up your power. You may be giving up your power to people that you don’t even like, let alone respect or that may have earned your trust. To walk in your truth is a means of exercising your own personal power. And, when you don’t walk in it, you are giving up your power to that person.

Think about it: you don’t say whatever you think to those who you feel have some sort of authority over you. Often, fear of punishment, or fear of reprisal will keep your tongue in check. But, before you put a muzzle on yourself, you should ask yourself,”Has this person earned the right to legitimately exercise power over me?” That may change who you’re speaking your truth to. Why are you not telling your partner that you’re not happy? They’re going to leave? Well, hell, wouldn’t that put you in a position to find a partner that could make you happy?! Why are you not telling your friend that they’ve done such and so to bother you? They would withhold your friendship? So, it’s better to nurse resentment until it festers into disrespect? Don’t you owe it to yourself to act like a partner, a peer, a friend, a colleagues and let them know what’s on your mind?

You know, I was glad and very proud that my therapist called me a truth teller. And, I’m glad and very proud to be one. You may not walk in that thing the same way I do, and there are times where I wish that I had executed that thing more graciously and with more tact and discernment. But, you won’t get 100% of the things that you don’t ask for. So, speak up.

Beautiful

A while back I got to do makeup for a group of young girls. And, when I say, “do makeup” I want you to rid your mind of all the images of Jon Benet Ramsey that just popped in your head. Think glitter and lip gloss. And, let me tell you, nothing makes you more popular in a group of little girls than being the person with a big ol’ box of glitter and lip gloss. I had a glorious time, giggling, primping and preening. And, they seemed to enjoy me, as well.

The thought occurred to me, as they filed through my chair, giggling and gleaming as their turn to be made “beautiful” that there was not one girl that sat in my chair that was not absolutely adorable. Gloriously, wondrously, adorable. I didn’t look at one single girl and say, “Oh my. This one needs some help. Let me get out some serious paint.”  They didn’t look the same. As a matter of fact, they were a surprisingly diverse group of girls. So, you had some Asian, some Latina, some Black, some white. Some of everyone was represented there. But, they all were beautiful. All of them. 

When did we lose that? When did we stop being beautiful? 

I watch a Facebook community called Curvy and Confident. I don’t get on that page and say much at all. But, what I like about that page . . . . what I’ve experienced about that page . . . . is that while there are male onlookers, there’s a lot of “Go ‘head, girl!” going on in that room. And, you see that all sorts of women, women that may not have heard people call them beautiful in a while, are drop dead gorgeous. I have the same realization admiring those women in there, as I did admiring the little girls that sat down in my makeup chair. That they each were beautiful. I may have picked different shoes to go with her outfit, or dressed her differently, applied her makeup differently . . . . but, there wasn’t a single woman there that wasn’t, in fact and indeed, beautiful. 

And, don’t get me wrong, I have some friends that are non-plus curvy that shut it down, too. Tiaras and all. I have friends that are trainers, body builders, gym bunnies, beauty queens and skinny minnies that are absolutely beautiful. But, I can no longer covet their beauty as being something outside of myself and unattainable. Because you know what I see?

. . . . A woman that is holding her baby is beautiful. Ask anybody. The love that glows between them is glorious. And, it happens whenever she cradles them. Even if that “baby” is 20 years old, look that that mother’s face gleam with pride, with contentedness, with wonder. She’s radiant.

. . . . A woman with her head thrown back, clutching her belly with laughter is beautiful. And, if you stare at the picture long enough, you will get the giggles, too. You don’t even have to know what the joke was about. Honest.

. . . . A woman with her head tilted upward will make you feel hopeful and optimistic.

Basically, we may paint it up and decorate it in different ways. But, we all are beautiful. We all have a spark and a fire that make us attractive. Beautiful isn’t limited to a specific set of features. Beautiful is everywhere. 

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Fight for It

Fight for It

We live in an interesting time. The mechanisms which kept our narratives in a box are slowly, but surely being dismantled. Whether it’s the studio system of Old Hollywood, or publishing system, the news industry . . . . almost every genre of narrative that you can think of is being set on it’s head. There is a mass democratization happening, and everyone has a chance to step to the mic and say their piece. Even 10 years ago, some of the things that are happening now, would not have been feasible, possibly even conceived of. But, yet, they are happening.

I’m a writer. I’m not a published writer. I’m not a famous writer. But, I can use this blog as my microphone and make my statement to the world. Today, I discovered WattPad, and that may be the outlet for the fiction that I’m working on. But, I’m not constrained by who is willing to print my words and to publish me to get my writing . . . . the good, the bad and the ugly of my writing . . . . out into the world for whomever cares to consume. And, I’m glad to say that there are more people than I thought possible, more people than I ever dreamed following; reading, re-posting, sharing, discussing, amen-ing, critiquing. It’s not at the level I want it to be, just yet. But, it’s here. It’s growing it’s breathing and it’s alive. And, the possibilities of the thing are endless.

And, I’m saying all this to say to you, my loves, that if your dream and your vision are important to you fight for it. Add a little backbone to your wishbone. If you can’t publish it in print, can you publish it in an ebook? In a magazine? If you want to dance bad enough, you’ll dance in the living room, by yourself until you can get into a studio. If you want to sing, you’ll sing while you wash the dishes and invent harmonies in your head. Your stage, your studio, your media may not be here, yet. But, keep honing your skill for the day that it is. Keep testing the waters and trying new things until the new thing is the right thing.

For what it’s worth, loves, I believe in you. I believe that you can write it, dance it, sing it, paint it, breathe it and be it . . . . whatever your “it” is.

Now, stand up, square your shoulders and fight for it.

Strange Fruit

This is going to be a different kind of post. But, please bear with me, dear readers. I’m just trying to work something out.

I write. I’ve written my whole life. I write essays. I write short stories. I write poetry. It’s how I work things out. It’s how I work things out of myself. Or, I work things out for myself. Depends on the issue at hand, really.

I’ve been working on a short story based on the life of my maternal grandmother. My grandmother spent the majority of her childhood in Paris, TX. She believed that Paris, TX was the lynching capitol of the world. We cannot validate that statement either one way, or the other. But, in pondering that statement, and the fact that she believed it to be true, I have some uncomfortable questions to deal with. The first and foremost of which is: what would it do to someone, psychologically, to witness that level of brutality and violence on a regular, if random, basis throughout their childhood?

But, furthermore, this type of violence had to be traumatic for all of the children, in any given community; not just the black children, who might harbor the fear that the mob would come after them. But, also, the white children, who might struggle to understand why the mob attacked anyone. What would it be like to know that you were living with, or around, people that were capable of such savagery? Moreover, to be powerless to move away from those people. What would it be like to live in a community you had seen violently change in a moment? Given how prevalent the practice was, at the time my grandmother was living, how many people were traumatized, but never received help? Or, even any acknowledgement that the event was potentially traumatic? Maybe even not any further acknowledgment that the event ever happened? How do people cope? Move on? Process that pain? What happens, after the fact, in the community?

On an individual level: What does this teach a child about power? The proper use of power? The abuse of power? What does it teach a child about violence? What does it teach a child about dealing with people who transgress their values?

We know that El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz said his father was lynched by white men in Michigan. And, his biography goes on to quite factually, dispassionately, recounts what happened to his family as a result of losing their father. The biography points to the fact that his father’s murder contributed to a series of stressing events that led to his mother’s institutionalization for mental illness. But, Shabazz doesn’t tell us enough in his autobiography that we understand what it did to them as children to know that the strongest man in their world was spirited off in the middle of the night, never to return. It is absolutely horrifying to think about. How many childhood nightmares does that encapsulate, in one single event?

Admittedly, this is a strange and dark topic. And, I don’t have a single one of these answers, to be certain. But, it occurs to me that I can’t truly understand the woman, or her view of the world, unless I grapple with these questions. And, the fact of the matter is that even if I had answers, I still may not understand her. However, it makes me grateful that her struggle placed me in a better world, where I cannot fathom what it would have been like to live in hers.

Rebuilding . . . .

So, my friend let me know that her daughter is now able to wear the clothes that I had been holding on to. I think she officially regrets that decision, now. Because, she told me Saturday afternoon and the information had time to sink into my brain Saturday night while I slept . . . . Then, in a flurry of action on Sunday morning, I sprung out of bed ready to give my clothes to my “niece”. That precipitated an insane in the morning phone call that woke both women up. But, I needed to know if she wanted each and every single item . . . . Have you ever felt someone giving you the side eye, “Help her Lord” hand raise, and the “Lord, give me strength before I choke her” look, all at the same time, over the telephone? Friends, let me tell you, I have. It’s good that I called while they were still trying to hold on to their right mind before church because if I had called at insane on Saturday morning they might have just let go.

The victim of this purge: clothes that were the wrong size. And, I have a feeling, that I have more clothes to get rid of. I’m feeling that I should get rid of everything that I don’t like, as well. That will leave me with very slim pickens, in my closet. And, you know what, that’s liberating. First of all, less laundry. Secondly, it makes deciding what to wear a lot easier.

I can say that I had a fair amount of anxiety when I saw my closet afterwards. I had “What the hell am I going to wear?!” in my head on repeat for a few minutes, to be certain. However, I also realized just how much I had. I gave away over 20 hangers, 2 oversized shopping bags, one regular shopping bag and a fairly large box overflowing with clothes . . . . and, still had clothes left over. Not the clothes that I am used to. Not the clothes that I want. But, enough to not wear a barrel.

And, enough to bless not just my “niece”, but one of her friends, too.

But, it’s also the first phase of rebuilding and reconstructing my wardrobe. I may be tardy to the party on this one, but this process has forced me to think about how much your clothes are truly your public face. It is forcing me to think about what I want to present. Who I am, and what I want people to feel and think about me without saying a word. I always told myself that I didn’t care what I wore. I didn’t care what I looked like. And, I have since found out that I was lying to myself. I just didn’t believe that I could change it. And, I’m in the process of truly thinking about where I want to start and what I need instead of just consuming things and hoping that I can put something together that works.

Watch out world.