The Valentine’s Day Challenge

14 02 2011

The Valentine’s Day Challenge:

Think about someone you don’t particularly care for, that you often forget about, or that you tend to ignore.

Send them love through an e-mail or call affirming their worth and value.

Because even if you don’t remember them unintentionally or intentionally, they are worth your love since you are worth God’s love.

Pay it forward. Especially when you don’t want to.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:13-15)

19 12 2010

Proverbs 3:13-15

13Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
14for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
15She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Wisdom is supposed to do something to us. It’s supposed to change our demeanor. It’s supposed to invoke in us a sense of divine satisfaction where we submit to this feeling called happy. It has this power to determine our mood and how we think about life from that moment until the next moment. It lives in time and does something to how we receive life where we enjoy it and relish it and cherish it. It’s supposed to make us smile.

But that’s only if we find her.

Happy are those who find wisdom. It’s almost as if we’re happy because of the action of finding. It’s almost as if we take more satisfaction in achieving discovery. It’s almost as if the journey creates the path towards our joy when we finally reach this destination called wisdom. When we finally find her, other emotions may very well exist within us, but the dominant trait we bear is happy. The journey towards happiness witnesses to something great within us, the ability to search albeit not consistently, but nevertheless we search. The destination attests to our determination to discover something we do not already have. We look for it in hopes of one day having it. Just like with school where we work for years for the end-result degree, this journey towards wisdom may take years of work, some good and some bad, but in the end, work. We are constantly moving in a direction to have something that, in my opinion, we’ve already started getting all along the journey. Like the building of knowledge in school, our wisdom is built upon day to day repetition of journeying and searching.

We meet her on the way, we realize we’ve been alongside her when we fall and we shudder, partly in fear and partly with amazement when we realize that we had been journeying without her guidance for so long.

The same applies to understanding, revelation, realizing reality—wisdom unfurled.  

We go get her. We take the active steps of retrieval and end up successful because we resolved to make the journey in the first place. To me this is fabulous news, that we are rewarded for the effort, not the performance but for wanting her and going to get her. Because this requires discomfort and not having control, and not searching perfectly, and not saying all the spiritual things we think we should, and not having an organ or three-part harmony because our wailing and crying out in desperation isn’t supposed to harmonize or match up perfectly or play out smoothly. But we encounter real, raw life and errors and the daunting reality that our spiritual journeying is ugly and dirty and soiled and soaked in our human efforts, but honored by the pure Holy Spirit.

We are honored as we seek the honor of finding and getting wisdom and understanding.

Our work is honored. The income of wisdom (and understanding) is more than what money can bring or imply. The income is more than the things we work our entire lives to get so we can live in or with them, but the income is something that lives in and with us. It never leaves us. It never leaves us broke…although we had to be broken to earn her.

Wisdom’s return in our lives earns more for us than gold could ever earn. The knowledge, keenness, awareness, smart-mindedness etc. gives us more than what we think we need to survive. We need wisdom to survive, not gold, not silver, not a big church, not a four-bedroom house we don’t use properly, not more clothes than we can ever wear, not attention from men who we know will never love and respect the way God does…we need wisdom, not stuff or attention from certain people, for wisdom tells us what to do with stuff and people and feelings and touch circumstances and mourning and lament and joy and happiness. Wisdom has the wherewithal to keep us one step ahead of the best dreams we can conjure up for ourselves.

We have to give up the dreams of others that we’ve adopted for ourselves. Cliques cant do for us what God’s wisdom has done, continues to do and can do. Doing whatever we want can’t give us anything better than what God’s wisdom can. Hating people and parties and races and classes can’t give us anything that will help and heal us like wisdom can. Music can’t touch wisdom. Our perfect spouse, our perfect selves, our “I’m not imperfect” attitude that we’ve made into an idol can’t outdo wisdom. For wisdom and understanding doesn’t put up with that. She calls it out; she calls us out, out of wherever we are struggle into a struggle with purpose. We battle ourselves and God and the devil and wisdom teaches us when and how to fight and when and how to surrender.  

Wisdom is on another level than our desires. Our desires fall short, look bland, and appear miniscule in the face of wisdom. When we understand and realize that the wise thing to do trumps what “we feel is the best thing for us” then we’ve begun to allow wisdom to journey with us as the leader through this uncertain life. In this journey we will know for certain that our happiness didn’t come from us, but in our decision, in our will to trust wisdom and to follow God.

Prayer: Lord, we want Your wisdom. Kill whatever You must within, around, above, and chained to us so that we may submit to a Perfect Will ultimately working towards our happiness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.





The Wisdom of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:7-8)

16 12 2010

Proverbs 3:7-8

7Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.

Verse 7, in my opinion, offers up a unique definition of engaging in evil: being wise, rational, smart, justifying your life and actions. To be honest, this is kind of weird for me because I think that I’m a pretty rational person for the most part. I don’t try to be evil when making most of my decisions. I don’t try to harm others but do what is best and healthiest for me; if it holds the potential to harm others, then I’ll think it through carefully before coming to any rash decisions. Given this fact of careful consideration, I don’t think that my rationality is an evil thing. I think it’s a good thing and good quality about myself.

But then I think about the depths of decision-making that I don’t really want to deal with. I think about that fast-food purchase, that decision to save the dollar I could have given to that homeless person because I wanted some M&Ms or an iced tea. I think about the clothes I don’t wear but need to hoard in case I do need them. I think about the fact that I pay for internet when I can go to the library and use it for free. I think about times when I buy just because I want.

I think about things I “do for my sanity since I can’t save the world” like not pick up the phone because I’m pretty sure so and so will want something, the e-mails I delete that address the water problem in Africa, the food problem here in the United States and the prison problems here in the Triangle. I think about food I throw out every couple of weeks because I wanted it then but don’t want it now. I think about how my attitude was justified because I was mad at them. While I act friendly towards someone I think about how they did me wrong many times and how they don’t deserve my forgiveness; and they may never get it because I don’t want to give it.

And I begin to realize how I only survey my decision-making when I’m making “good decisions”. I tend to forget the hundreds of bad decisions I made during the week that were not so good, even, dare I say it, evil. My ten god decisions may affect others but my hundreds of bad decisions were about me; and ironically, they still affect others. Maybe this is what God’s wisdom is warning us against, the hundreds of little things we do wrong that we make nothing of, that we are so quick to forgive ourselves of, or that we justify we deserve to forget.

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but our wisdom, our rationale, falls short.

The solution rests outside of ourselves. They involve us, but we are not at the center. God is. But even God gives us back the space. We must understand the vastness of God, and once we do, there is no other human response but to fear God, not in human-fear, but divine-fear. We fear God because we realize how far away we are from God when we take up our own agendas. We realize how much trouble we are in once we leave the protective covering of God. That is how big God is. We fear how far away we are once we realize how big God is. We fear our location and how we managed to get there. This is the fear of the Lord.

Fearing the Lord and turning away from evil seem like a combo deal. Once we realize that if we’re not with God, we’re in trouble, it is easy to spot and avoid evil. We won’t be fooled, for God’s wisdom will be with, on and in us. Evil won’t have a chance to plant any seeds within us, we’ll be too smart for that.

All this comes if we decide not to follow our thoughts and rationale alone and if we decide to listen to and follow God first, not what we think God should be saying, but what God is saying. Even our interpretations fall short. Humans have specialized in messing up God’s instruction. We must remember that anything of God’s is better than anything of ours. Relying on God’s instruction is a balm. It heals. It re-joins. It rehabilitates. Reliance on God patches up the holes in our hearts, the emptiness in our relationships, and the hate in ourselves. Placing our trust in God rejuvenates us because we don’t have to do the work of fixing people. Depending on God’s ways takes the burdens we can’t bear off of us, and gives us a lighter burden. We must remember that we ultimately make the choice to apply God’s wisdom or not. We have the choice to take the better burden and build up our strength all the while recovering, recuperating from burdens we weren’t meant to carry. If you are carrying burdens you weren’t meant to carry, drop it immediately. Pick up the burden of grace, mercy, peace, and love and continue journeying onwards. You will heal. It will take time, but it will happen. But take Jesus’ burden and never put it down.

Prayer: Lord, impress grace, mercy, love, understanding, kind-heartedness, peace, and justness into our hearts and onto our backs. We will be strong with them on it, and impossible to destroy with them in us. Lord, govern that transition in Jesus’ name, Amen.





Headphones

14 08 2010

Headphones

By: T.O.O.

 I need to shut out demons with headphones

A sound bite of God nestles Herself in my conscious mind and subconscious soul

And soothes

Away words and language that burn holes in my flesh

Thoughts in my ears

Lies in the dermis of my soul

Scarring me for hell, not resurrection.

I need to shut out demons with headphones

Airlifting peace and harmony into the veined places of my heart

Caressing cargo of care injected holy wonders and fluid memories

Into summer afternoons and fall sunsets

Winter moments and Spring cathedrals

Daring God’s grace to save me. And love me.  

Until I can’t feel fire anymore

I can’t hear gnashing teeth anymore

I need a barrier to barricade barrage after barrage of self-pity, doubt, hate, scorn

Suicidal mental notes to never take this life seriously again

A gifted serenade of mental notes floating far above my dreams and fantasies

Hopes and fears

Sacrificing lambs and rams filled with the sins of my songs

Doused in Hell’s hot sauce just for good measure

And redeemed

And restored

And renewed

Because it was sacrificed

I need to replace my gushing catharsis of Satan’s sanity

With God’s growing harvest

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven

Hear me Holy Spirit

Help me remember music that ‘tis so sweet

I trust in Jesus

Who places Satan behind Him

Beneath Him

Revised hymns of hip hop laced blues

Jazz-infused psalms of God’s heaven and grace

Comfort me, cover me, in wings, windows and words

That open up worlds unknown –

Submerged in headphones.





The Make-Up Confession

7 08 2010

I’ll be frank. I don’t wear make-up for two reasons:

First, I don’t like other people telling me what will make me important, beautiful and loved; and, second, I think we (society, even the world) wear make-up so that our flesh (and others’ flesh) can be pleased, so that our flesh can feel like we have control over something in our lives. We feel that if we control our looks we can control our love.

But I truly don’t understand this. People are made to feel bad if they don’t mask their true selves. God didn’t make me with make up so what is it saying that I make myself into the way “I want to be so others can desire me”? What is it saying about where my heart is?

It doesn’t make sense to me. I thought God loved us as we are. And we aren’t made with make up on. Nor are we made with minds that value the root of what make-up represents: dissatisfaction and disappointment with how God made us.

Make-up is learned. It’s a verb full of colors. It’s a strange attempt to recover something that we cannot, unconditional love and acceptance, by putting colors on our faces to cover up our blemishes.

Honestly, when it gets down to it, God sees our blemishes.

To me, make-up is the half-hearted sacrifice to God. It looks good; we think we’re doing something pleasing, but we’re covering up our sin and greed and mistakes by buying into the falsity that our natural beauty isn’t good enough; we must make ourselves look better.

How God made us wasn’t enough. We have to improve it. No one can see our blemishes, only God can, even if we don’t want Him to either.

Tomi. Whoa. You’re doing too much. I only wear make-up because it’s something nice. It enhances my features. I’m not hiding from anything.

Maybe not, but maybe so.

Sometimes we hide without knowing we’re hiding or sometimes we’re taught that hiding is normal and those who don’t hide, who sit with their faces: their pimples, skin blotches, creases and wrinkles exposed are the posers, are the losers, are ugly because they won’t hide too.

But what is ugly? Exposing all flaws so that nothing is out of sight, nothing is hidden; nothing is giving an untruthful impression? Or does it trick people into a perception of perfect, and cause people to love, lust over, be attracted to what really isn’t?

It’s risky, not wearing make-up, but it can be a spiritual act of confession.

The natural face confesses flaws up front and doesn’t desire to be masked. It doesn’t put a band-aid on a scar but allows the scar to show.

Jesus had scars that He gladly showed to prove one thing: He was real. (John 20:24-30)

Maybe not wearing make-up can do something similar. It can prove our humanity, imperfection and remind us and others that we don’t have it together even if make-up or clothes say so.

Maybe make-up confesses our frailty and our peace with the fact that we are really human, just as Jesus was.

Marks, blemishes, and scars, imperfections say so.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing but a faith thing.

We acknowledge our limitations and rejoice that Jesus is perfect even when we aren’t.

And that His perfection came with skin blemishes too. Divine scars.





High School Poetry

8 07 2010

I wrote this poem my senior year of high school. It’s ironic. I think I turned this into a publication during college. These questions and feelings stuck with me then and are still with me now. The stuff I was struggling with then has never left me. Now I’m more aware of it. Now it’s gotten more complicated. Now I can read stuff like this, shake my head about how crazy it is that I was tune with myself, and journey on.

Blacker than I was in the Summer

T.O.O. 

As the sun penetrates the dark skin on me

I’m wandering what the light nation will see.

They probably see the sun indulging me

And my skin changing like the leaves on an autumn tree.

They see my skin getting darker, getting closer to the place

Where I’m as dark as my ancestors in skin and in face.

They see the black kid, who probably has bad parents,

The thug, the ignorant, materialistic; it’s apparent

That to them the darker I am, the more I don’t know

The deeper I’m not, the more I don’t flow

The fine places in the future, they know I won’t go.

The decent qualities in me, they know I won’t show.

 

The dark nation says they see all that other stuff,

To put it plainly, they see me as not being black enough.

They think I “live too good” like my past wasn’t rough.

They hear me speak, automatically I sound too white,

Just because I’m really focused, my future’s too “bright.”

They say, “You’re turning too white, look your skin’s getting light.”

 

Oh so that’s what it’s about,

My skin’s too light for you, so I need to go out.

Speak blacker, think blacker go soak up the sun.

You think if I go out in the real world that will really be done?

Do you truly think if I experience what you’ve been through

I’ll be blacker, not whiter, not myself, but like you?

 

As the sun penetrates the dark skin on me,

I’m wondering what the light nation would see.

And as the dark nation says what they want me to be,

I’m asking the whole nation, can I just be me?

 

 

 








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