Stuck on Stupid

Foolish people who do the same foolish things again are like a dog that returns to where it has thrown up.
Proverbs 26:11 (New International Reader’s Version)

Don’t let the cop-out, “That’s what I am” jeopardize what God desired for you to be!
Last night’s Facebook post by Me

Ever seen someone say or do something that makes you scratch your head, and when you ask them about it they say, “That’s what (or who, or how) I am”?  It’s as if they give some “rationale” for their irrational behavior or talk.  And the strange (and sad) part is that they think they’re normal!

One classic example is anxious behavior.  Let’s say you have a loved one named who worries all the time.  And on this particular day, she’s worrying over a financial issue.  You go up to her and try to encourage her to trust in God’s goodness and care; not to worry over the issue.  However, she tells you, “You gotta understand, that’s how I am, I get anxious!”

Now you look at your loved one and say, “Okay….,” however we’re a lot like her in similar or different circumstances.  Many times we have attitudes, behaviors, or thoughts that keep us from what God has for us.  And when confronted-like our friend above-we give some rationale defending such behavior.  “That’s what I am” is a cop-out, plain and simple!  It keeps us from having to confront issues in ourselves-if left unchecked-can be self destructive.  Such an attitude will jeopardize what God could have us; and would want for us to grow into.  We will ultimately get “stuck on stupid”-aptly described by the Scripture above.  We’ll keep doing the same thing, giving the same explanation, yet going nowhere in the end….missing out on what God had for us because of who we “are”…

Sucks, don’t it?

Like in the above scenario, our friend justifies her anxious attitude.  Then every time some challenge comes along, she reacts anxiously and her mind shuts down to any possibilities before her.  She’ll find herself going nowhere as she is stuck in a stupid place that slowly disempowers her.  She may get into addictive behaviors as “self-medication” to calm herself.  Her health will decrease as her anxiousness turns into anxiety, which produces stress hormones that lead to numerous illnesses.  She may also push away positive people that may have been willing to help her move forward.  As time progresses, she’ll block any blessings or destiny that God had ordained for her.  She may end up living a go-nowhere, disempowering, life.  Like I asked: sucks, don’t it?

Today, let’s take the time to confront this issue inside us and see what it really is: a cop-out.  We must look at ourselves honestly and see why are we acting such?  Could it be some learned defense mechanism with childhood roots?  Could it be that we’re afraid of vulnerability in some areas of our lives, so we put on these fronts?  Or, do we really trust God with our lives?  These are the issues-and probably others-that lie beneath our “That’s what I am” rationale that we need to bring forth and confront.

Also, if we confront this issue, we may start getting answers to questions that nag us deep inside: Why am I always broke?  Why am I never getting over ____ illness?  Why do my relationships suck?  Why do I seem to be going around in circles in life?  Why do those who have less than me do more? We may find that these questions stem from the “That’s what (who/how) I am” attitude and are keeping us from real God-given living.  As we confront this, we can bring it to God in prayer and mediation; He/She will open our minds to positive alternatives that could bring us in line with what God truly wants for us: the abundant life.

Life is too good to be stuck on stupid and wreck what God has for us.  Let’s move beyond that so we can truly live the abundant life God has for us!

Peace!

(Photo: Abandoned House. Plainfield, NJ. 2017)

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Independence Day 2017

Tomorrow we will celebrate the 241st birthday of the United States of America.  We will have our parades, cookouts, beach trips (unless you live in New Jersey), outings, and fireworks to cap off the day.  Some of us (including me) were off today as well as being off tomorrow.  We’ll “rally ’round the flag” and have another patriotic love-fest.

However, where is America?  What has happened to the promises of Independence.  We still have to include Blacks (who built this nation), First Nation Peoples (who were the original inhabitants of the Americas), the non-White/non-Christian individuals who became legitimate citizens, and so many others.  We make hollow statements about “freedom” yet we have a high incarceration rate.  We talk about “all men are created equal” yet it only applies to White (heterosexual, Protestant, Right-Wing) males, some of which are given a hall pass to act with impunity on others.  We put on a face of “equal justice under law” yet Blacks are still the number one target for law enforcement.  We say “bring your tired huddled masses” yet ready to deport law-abiding people because of their ethnicity and religion.  We talk about being the “leader of the free world” yet bomb out sovereign nations to promote our own interests.

The America we’ll sing about tomorrow has yet to exist.  It’s a dream held by many, yet made unreachable by those in power.  The America celebrated tomorrow is still a fabrication, designed to mollify those who truly cry out for freedom, equality, and justice.  This America is likened to a baby yet to be born; and I’m concerned that it may be stillborn.  Far as I’m concerned, the current version of America that’s doing the celebrating is a farce.  The America that we’re in is a twisted shadow of the America we claim to celebrate.  There is no “land of liberty,” no “one nation under God;” it’s all a farce.  Our parades, celebrations, and fireworks will be hollow and without any true meaning.

Welcome to Independence Day 2017. I’m still trying to figure out what we are celebrating.  Peace.

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Never Too Late

Several other men of Israel went up with me. What they reported terrified the people. But I followed the Lord my God with my whole heart. So on that day Moses made a promise to me. He said, ‘The land you have walked on will be your share. It will be the share of your children forever. That’s because you have followed the Lord my God with your whole heart.’ (Deuteronomy 1:36)
10 “The Lord has done just as he promised. He made the promise while Israel was wandering around in the desert. That was 45 years ago. He has kept me alive all this time. So here I am today, 85 years old! 11 I’m still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. I’m just as able to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 So give me this hill country. The Lord promised it to me that day. At that time you yourself heard that the Anakites were living there. You also heard that their cities were large and had high walls around them. But I’ll drive them out, just as the Lord said I would. He will help me do it.”
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. He gave him Hebron as his share. 14 So ever since that time Hebron has belonged to Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. That’s because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, with his whole heart
Joshua 14:8-14 (New International Reader’s Version)

 

Usually when we look at people who are blessed to do the impossible in later lives in the Bible, we’re quick to bring up Abraham and Sarah, or Elisabeth.  However, Caleb is my fave when I read about those with later life achievements.

In tonight’s Scripture, we see the Israelities taking possession of Canaan-the Promised Land.  This was a process done with military action.  Here we have Caleb requesting the hill country of Hebron from Joshua.  If you remember in Deuteronomy, Caleb was one of the 12 spies that entered Canaan to see if it could be conquered.  Despite Canaan’s bounty, 10 of the 12 spies reported that the land was unconquerable and spooked the Israelites from conquering.  Only Joshua and Caleb said that God has given them the land.  In response to the negative reaction of the Israelites, God said that they would wander the wilderness until the fighting men (adults) were dead. In the end, only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land of Canaan.

Now 45 years later, we see an 85 year old Caleb still rarin’ to go and possess Hebron.  He assured Joshua that he was just as strong as he was when he was 40.  Joshua gave him Hebron; and from what I gather Caleb successfully drove the Anakites out of Hebron and claimed it.

Now many of us would tell Caleb to take it easy and relax.  Of course, we’d give the pat, “You’re too old for that,” or “It’s too late to do that now.”  Joshua however saw Caleb’s desire, plus the promise made to him 45 years ago.  Joshua didn’t hinder Caleb’s request, however blessed it and the rest was history.

Many of us who have lived for some time-even those of us who are skateboarding into their 40s or 50s-had a dream from back in the day.  Maybe it was something we desired as a child or as a younger adult. Maybe we had a glimpse of our “promised land” and knew that God would deliver it into our hands.  However, we had our “10 spies”: parents; besties; teachers; pastors; spouses; someone we trusted who said it would be impossible; and we allowed their words to impact us.  Then like the Israelites, we too wandered in our wilderness for years….

Now, we’ve lived some and things changed: Maybe your kids have grown up; your spouse has either grown up or has gone; your besties done beat it…whatever.  Your now feeling that dream  coming back to you-your “promised land” coming back into view.  Now you want to try for it again after years of wandering.  Well I have good news: it’s not too late!   Like Caleb, you can still possess your “Hebron”; your “hill country”.  Plus, God will empower you to drive out the “Anakites” of opposition out: nay-sayers and the lot.

Now I’m not saying you can fulfill your dream of being a professional soccer player you had at 25, or go into ballet as you dreamed at 20; and now you’re in your 50s.  However you can coach a soccer team, or be a marketer for a local dance troupe.  There are still ways you can reconnect to that “promised land” that evaded you for whatever reason in the past.  Me? It’s being a full-time photographer.  Even though I’m married with a child in my 50s, I can still do fine art and showcase my work.  My ultimate dream is travel photography, which I can move towards as my child matures starting here in the US of A.

Tonight, let’s look at Caleb-a Biblical hero given a second chance.  We too can see that God will grant us our second chance and show us that it’s not too late to follow our dream; to possess our promised land.

I hope you have been blessed and encouraged by tonight’s post.  May God empower you to follow you dreams and reach your promised land, no matter you age.

Peace.

(Image: Clock face at night. South Orange, NJ (?). 2015)

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“You’ve Changed!”

15 Then they came to Jesus. They saw the man who had been controlled by many demons. He was sitting there. He was now dressed and thinking clearly. All this made the people afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told them what had happened to the man. They told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to beg Jesus to leave their area.
Mark 5:15-17 (New International Reader’s Version)

When you grow in life and people see God moving you to your next level, you’ll have those people who will say, “You’ve changed!”  Usually, this is said with a hint of distaste directed at you.  When I was in college, people used to say that you “broke new” on them-with the same hint of distaste.  It can be irritating when you try to improve your life and live the best possible and some “so and so” hops up and makes you feel like you’ve offended them-even when you ascribe the power to God.

Today’s Scripture text is a familiar one that can answer your dilemma. It was the story of Jesus’s healing the man possessed by many demons called “Legion.”  You remember, this was the cat who hung out in the graveyard naked and cut himself whilst crying day and night; he was unable to be restrained.  Then Jesus cast the demons into a herd of 2000 swine, causing them to run off a cliff and into the nearby lake.  Next thing, we see the man clothed and sane with Jesus.  Now you’d think the people in the region would break into a praise and worship celebration at Jesus’s miracle.  No, these people wanted Jesus to leave.  Huh?  Why?

The theory I hold to came from my Black Church professor, Rev. Carter at Seton Hall University: the man was no longer an object of ridicule.  When the man was possessed, the people in the region felt superior to him and could marginalize him.  Now completely whole, the man was not longer an object of ridicule; plus he was an equal to the others-a person.  The man was changed and the others didn’t like it.  I also would dare to add that the other people were in some way under the demons’ sway since the demons originally didn’t want to leave the region (verse 10).  Now they see the man changed and moving forward in his life with God’s help, yet they seem to be stuck in their spiritual rut.

People who are stuck at a certain level in life get uncomfortable when God moves your from their level, or worse, from a lower level and puts you on a higher level-whatever it may be.  You my have been ridiculed or marginalized.  Or, you may have been at the same level as others stuck on stupid.  Then God comes and moves you on higher.  However instead of the others celebrating your change, they get upset.  Some may even eject you from their circles.

However, the story had a happy ending.  The man-now changed-wanted to join Jesus and his posse.  However Jesus told him to go back to his people and testify to God’s goodness in his life.  The man ultimately went throughout the Decapolis-or the Ten Cities- and told his story.  You too will have a happy ending as you go forth and tell others about God’s goodness to you-new people who will accept what God has done for you.

Sooo….if next time some “somebody” whines “You changed!”, smile, thank them, and move on.  And while you’re at it praise God!

Peace!

(Image: Military Park at Dusk. Newark, NJ. 2017)

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Deficiency or Necessity?

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who was blind. He had been blind since he was born. Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned? Was this man born blind because he sinned? Or did his parents sin?”

“It isn’t because this man sinned,” said Jesus. “It isn’t because his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God’s power could be shown by what’s going to happen.
John 9:1-3 (New International Reader’s Version)

I touched on this subject very briefly in my last post, “Gone…for Good.”  However, there are times where things need to be expanded for our growth and enlightenment.

The above Scripture passage is a familiar one from John’s Gospel, however these opening lines bear scrutiny.  When Jesus and company encountered our visually-challenged friend, the disciples ask was it his fault* or his folk’s fault that he wound up born that way.  The disciples demonstrate our human nature to point out one’s deficiencies as through some fault of their own: “They asked for it” as we’re wont to say.  However, Jesus flips their logic on its head by saying that the man’s being born blind was to serve a higher purpose: people could see God’s power in action (through Christ) in his upcoming healing.

The same could be said for whatever “deficiency” you may have.  You may not be the smartest in your family; wall papered with degrees and straight-A’s.  You may not be the wealthiest cat in your social circles.  You may be awkward in romance to the dismay of your partner.  You may not even be with your church’s “in crowd” headed by your pastor.  People will look at you and link that deficiency with you to the point it becomes your identifying quality.  This has caused people a lot of grief, heartache, and wounded lives.

However, if we go back to Jesus’s response above we can see who it applies to your “deficiency.”  If we look at the bigger picture, to God your “deficiency” is in really a “necessity” so He/She can manifest His/Her power through you.  You may not be the smartest in your family, however you’re the one God uses to offer rational and workable solutions to family crises.  You may not be he wealthiest cat in your social circles, however God uses you to bless others-and be blessed-while your “wealthy” pals are stagnant in their wealth.   You may be awkward in romance-even in the sack, however God uses you to be there for your partner when trouble comes in their life and be that loving and nurturing agent. You may not be in with your pastor and his/her “in crowd,” however God uses you to be a blessing for those who crave real intimacy with Him/Her by how you live.  Ultimately, the people who point out your “deficiency” will find it’s a necessity in their lives that God worked through you.

However, be prepared for those in your life that just won’t get it.  In the above Scripture, we would later see that Jesus healed the blind man.  Later in the story the Pharisees cornered the man and tried to discredit Jesus’s role in his healing (it was also on the Sabbath).  Despite the man’s trying to get it into the Pharisees’ thick skulls that Jesus did the healing, the Pharisees expelled the man from the Temple (a painful thing in Jewish culture, however a blessing for the man).  Today, there will be those in your life who will not get God’s using your “deficiency” as a necessity; they’ll think it’s impossible.  They will think that you can’t be used by God and that you’re still deficient.  Eventually, you may find yourself “expelled” from their lives, which will be a blessing for you in the end since God will still show His/Her power in your life.

So take heart.  What people see as your “deficiency” can be God’s necessity in your life that He/She can use.  Be blessed!

Peace!

*From what I recall in extra-biblical sources, in Jesus’s time people believed in reincarnation.  The disciples thought the man had sinned in some past life and was being punished in his present life with blindness from birth.

(Image: Community garden in Plainfield, NJ. 2017.  The lot may be a neighborhood “deficiency,” however it becomes a necessity.)

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Gone…for Good

36 “But no one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows. 37 Remember how it was in the days of Noah. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes… 40 Two men will be in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill. One will be taken and the other left.
Matthew 24:36, 37; 40,41 (New International Reader’s Version)

Good Evening.  Tonight’s post is not what you think it’s going to be.  Now with that PSA stated, I can go on with tonight’s post.

There are going to be people in your life that will eventually leave you.  These are the people who been with you; maybe even for a long time.  They can be your “bestie”, a close family member, or even a spouse.  However, there is something different about these folks.  These people were never truly on your side.  They’re the critical spouse: nothing you do is ever good enough for him/her, despite your love and devotion to them.  The discouraging dream-killer who wants to quash the vision God placed in you.  The parent who tries to live their vicariously through you instead of letting you be you.  The people who act “superior” to you because of some perceived “deficiency” in you-be it educational, financial, or physical.  They could be a pastor who tries to discourage your ministry that God called you to for fear of “outshining” them.   The list is endless. These people are found at home, church, school, work…even on that flight to Vegas with you!

These people are in  your life for a season.  I believe God has them with you for the moment so they can be blessed by your life; and hopefully change.  The spouse has your love and devotion to inspire them to do likewise.  The dream-killer sees your dreams so that he/she can discover their dreams.  The parent who will see your life and may bless it.  The “superior” ones who will see your “deficiency” as an asset (future post subject).  The pastor who sees your ministry, and maybe will bless and encourage it.  However, these people will more than likely be the opposition they build themselves up to be.

However, God will come to your aid.  Metaphorically speaking, God is going to say “Enough” and snatch those folks from your life.  I believe that God eventually removes the wicked from our lives.  No, He/She’s not going to bump them off like a mob hit-person.  No, God will take them out of your life-and quickly.  You’ll turn around and find folks out of your life-be it through divorce, move, or you giving the boot-they’ll be gone.  Plus, like the Noah analogy, it’ll happen to them so fast, they won’t know what hit them!  You’ll be free to live the life God called you to (or in the case of the married person love like God called you to), and not have to deal with those folks again.

You see, in the Scripture above, Jesus was explaining what the day of God’s Kingdom/Queendom coming will be like.  Jesus warned that it will sudden-like the flood in Noah’s day.  Plus Jesus warned that the wicked-not the righteous-will be snatched up.  Jesus used the analogy of how the authorities in his day will snatch someone from their place if they’re accused of a crime.  The righteous will be the ones left behind!  Thanks to John Nelson Darby, it was reversed when he started preaching Dispensationlism-causing confusion among the faithful for generations.

So tonight, be encouraged my friends.  These people who try to criticize your love, kill your dreams, look down on you, and discourage your ministry will one day be gone; and you’ll remain-not missing them at all.

They’ll be gone…for good.  Peace.

(Image: Inside an abandoned space. Newark, NJ. 2017)

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America the Irrelevant?

 

They say a house divided cannot stand. What about a house decayed?

36 The Lord will drive you out of the land. And he will drive out the king you place over yourselves. All of you will go to another nation. You and your people of long ago didn’t know anything about them. There you will worship other gods. They will be made out of wood and stone. 37 You will look very bad to all the nations where the Lord sends you. They will be completely shocked when they see you. They will mock you and make fun of you.

38 You will plant many seeds in your field. But you will gather very little food. Locusts will eat it up.
Deuteronomy 28:36-28 (New International Reader’s Version)

Remember back in 2003 when then President George W. Bush said that the UN needs to lend its support (militarily) to the military action against Iraq, or become “irrelevant”?   Funny just over 14 years later, Bush is living to see the mighty US of A sliding into the pit of irrelevancy.

This slide into irrelevancy is evident with our current presidency in America with Donald Trump, who is nothing more than an overgrown bullying frat boy who has the class of a boar.  This “president” Tweets his rants instead of confronting his opponents.  This is the individual who just pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement due to his being in bed with Big Coal and Big Oil.  Trump has shown blatant dis-acknowledgment for other NATO leaders due to his fragile ego, and in turn has prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say that Europe has to look past the US for leadership.

Not only that, we’re seeing China emerge as the new superpower: economically and militarily.  India is launching satellites into space, and is a tech powerhouse.  North Korea is developing missiles that might reach the US in the near future.  Africa is starting to show slow, yet promising economic growth.  America’s time on the world stage is starting to sputter badly.

Home is no better either-sad to say.  We have strayed from any ideals that could have made this country great: diversity; creativity; diplomacy; tolerance; and democracy.  We’ve traded in Christ for a evangelical straw man-especially among White evangelicals.  Women, non-Whites, GLTBQs are demonized. There are even bills being passed in Texas and California to secede from the United States as a whole.

The rest of the world is watching and laughing at America as it becomes more and more irrelevant.  If we keep this trend up, America will fall so far behind, we’ll be virtually invisible.  If we look at the Scripture above, we can see America in it.  Originally, the above passage was quoted by Moses as part of his “farewell speech” where he warned the Israelites the consequences of obedience (blessings) and disobedience (curses); obviously this passage is from the latter.  If I read this in modern terminology, God will remove the US from its place on the world stage.  We will end up “going to another nation”, or, having other nations call the shots that would affect us (uhh…China?).  We will “worship other gods…of wood and stone;” we’re already worshiping patriotism and false Christianity that will not save us.  We already look bad to other nations, shocking them with our very policies to the point we’re mocked and laughed at.  And in the end, we’ll be economically ruined as our GDP falls and other nations will benefit.

Before you laugh this off as some anti-American or anti-Trump rant, please take a look at what’s happening.  Look at the news-especially the foreign press-and see how the world views this nation.  Our nation is in trouble as we’re on the slippery slope of irrelevancy.  We need to realize this now if we’re going to salvage this nation and turn things around.  If we don’t, we’ll end up being a third-class nation that will become a failed state.  And despite how you feel about America, it would be a shame for us to wind up in that predicament.

America the Irrelevant?  It’s up to us.

Peace.

(Photo: Abandoned house in Union Township, NJ. 2017).

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