20170210_122510A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
John 13:34-35 (King James Version)

Today is Valentines Day; a day set aside to observe love in all its facets.  It’s a day when schoolkids pass out Valentines cards in class whilst having treats.  It’s where children hand-make cards for Mom and/or Dad.  It’s a time where we get a little present for that person we either admire or have a crush on.  Later, it’s dinner at the fanciest place you can (or hope to) afford with your date; with either a movie, play, concert or dance along with it.  Then eventually, with that “special someone,” it’s intimate time together.  And like many a hominid, I’ve been through the whole spectrum.

However, why should we love?  I mean, why should we risk the one emotion that carries the risk of the biggest hurt?  I too have been hurt by ones that I thought loved me; and God knows I wanted no part of love (possible future post).  I’ve seen friends and loved ones who hoped that special someone would be just that; however they wound up not being so special.  I’ve seen people in churches serve out of love only to be betrayed by the very people (or pastor) they serve.  We love others and try to see the good in them, only to be hurt by the bad in them.

Love compels us to act in ways when our human nature says “No!”.  You have the abused spouse, who cares for their abuser after he/she becomes invalid and can’t care for him/herself.  You have the spouse who’s cheating spouse ends up with cancer of their sexual organs-killing their sex life altogether, yet still cares for because he/she’s disabled thanks to the illness.  You have children whose parents were cold and aloof, caring for same parents in nursing homes or hospices.  You have parents loving unappreciative children and still providing for them.  You have people of color reaching out to racists.  You have women (and men) reaching out to sexists (of both genders).  The list is endless…

Why should we love-not just for today but every day?  Why should I give my heart and soul to those who may use them for toilet paper?  Why should I reach out in love when I’ve been left alone?  Tina Turner said it well in “What’s Love Got to Do With It”; as J. Geils Band said it even earlier, “Love Stinks”.   If I were to look at the pain that’s been associated with love, I would say solitude is the better way to go (like my cat in the above photo).

If we look at Jesus’s words in today’s text, we find our answer.  Jesus gave a new commandment to his disciples: love one another.  What makes this commandment interesting is that it was the first Divinely-ordained commandment since the time of Moses.  Also, Jesus gave this commandment during the Passover meal on the night he knew he was to be betrayed by Judas and denied by the other 10 disciples.  Despite the trials that Jesus would soon face, he commanded them to love one another.

Why?  Because Jesus loved his disciples.  Despite all their issues, Jesus loved them and had a heart for them-even for Judas.  Plus that, Jesus loved the people; demonstrated through his healing, teaching, and caring ministry.  Jesus loved the unlovable in his day: the demon-possessed; the lepers; an adulterous woman; a polyandrous wife; tax collectors; “sinners”; prostitutes; foreigners; etc.  Jesus called for that same love to be in his disciples.  Jesus knew after his death, he would return to God; and his posse would have to be the “ambassadors” of the King/Queendom of Heaven.  Not only would they have to demonstrate that love to the world, they would have to love each other since they’re all that each other had.  And in the end, people will know that these disciples are Jesus’s disciples because of their love.

Why should we love?  Because Jesus did.  And just like his disciples, he calls us to love as well.  Despite whatever hurts, betrayals, etc we face we love anyhow.  Jesus loves us despite how we treat him in our weak moments; and he doesn’t stop loving us.  Even greater, God loves us-despite all our mess.

I hope this helps this Valentines Day.  As you take time to enjoy your day-with another or by yourself-remember Jesus’s words.  And even if you’re by yourself wondering why should you love-remember Jesus’s words.  It might be hard as hell, however we’re called to love one another.

That’s why.


(Image:  that gray ball o’ fur is my cat, Shadow)

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A Fact check for The Faithful

night-newsI have a question for those of you out there in the Boardinghouse of Faith.  Ever heard a pastor/bishop/elder/minister-yours or another-quote this passage of Scripture when attacked?

Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
Psalm 105:15 (King James Version)

Now mind you, this passage serves as a “warning” issued by clergy to those who would attack them (usually verbally).  It tells us that any attack upon the “anointed” would follow with some Divine retribution.  This probably has been quoted by clergy who were being criticized legitimately.  Lord knows I’ve heard this as well.  If I recall correctly, I think I heard a well-known televangelist quote this.

Well before you get unnerved for handing a member of the clergy some harsh truths, let’s take a look at the above Scripture in context:

11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:
12 When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it.
13 When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people;
14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes;
15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
16 Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.

Seem even in a partially larger context, Psalm 105 speaks of God’s goodness to Israel-from His/Her covenant with Abraham up to the settlement in Canaan.  As you can tell from the snippet above, it dealt with the Israelites and their prophets; which were God’s “anointed”.  This verse does not apply to whinny and wimpy pastors/prophets/bishops/overseers in the 21st Century.

Even if some wimpy clergyperson whips out passages from 1/2 Samuel speaking about the “Lord’s anointed,” that also does not apply to them.  The passages in those two books refer to King Saul and King David; again not to 21st Century clergy.

I’m not say to disrespect your clergy if they’re trying to exemplify Christ-no way.  However, many of these preachers who deserved their attack (usually due to some un-Christlike behavior) can’t use the above Scripture as some talisman to scare off others.  If a clergyperson is wrong, they’re wrong, and they need to man/woman-up about it.  For anyone to use this, it’s immature, selfish, and perverts Scripture.

This has been on my heart for some time, and I wanted to give a fact check for the faithful in dealing with un-Christlike clergy.  If your clergy is wrong and uses the above Scripture to scare you off, ignore them.  More than likely such tactics will backfire on them in the end.

Just a lil’ something to think on .  Peace!

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A Friendly Reminder

In our day of “safe spaces,” “panic rooms,” and survivalist bunkers, this is just a friendly reminder there is only one true place you will find security:

mt bethel cemeteryAs long as there is life, there is uncertainty. There are going to be a whole lot of unknowns.  Life is not going to be secure and “safe”.  Not every “I” is going to be dotted; not every “T” is going to be crossed.  Your rubber duckies will not all line up in a row.  Your life will get unbalanced.  Not only that, your “secure” marriage could end in divorce or your partner’s death.  Your investments and pensions could tank and kill your retirement plans; putting you back in the work force.  Your church and pastor may let you down-especially should your religious beliefs fall short.  Your gated community may end up costing too much to afford.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

As my photo reminds us, the grave is the only “secure” and “safe” place on Earth.  It’s in the grave where you won’t be disturbed.  You’ll know what comes each day-you’re dead, of course.  No financial worries.  No worries about crime.  No marital woes.  No worries about job, church, etc.  You’ll have total security.

Now that really sucks, don’t it?

The only other option is to live with the freedom of not having to be “secure.”  To embrace uncertainty and the unknown; living one day at a time.  To realize that “security” is like the campfires the primitives kept stoked at night to protect them from the wild outside the camp.  It is far better to let go of the familiar, the routine, the safe and tread on unknown ground.  Yes, it is scary-God knows it is.  However, it’s sometimes those scary journeys that lead us to great destinations.  And it’s those great destinations in life that will help us live the life we were created (by God) to live.

One day we’ll all end up in a place like the one in the above photo.  It would be a shame when we get to our last hour, we lament that we lived too “secure” and never embraced life.  It would be much better to get to our last our and know we lived freely and embraced the unknown; that’s how I’d like to bow out.

Tonight’s post is just a friendly reminder to think on.  Peace!

(Photo:  Mt. Bethel Church Cemetery.  Port Murray, NJ. 2015)

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Pay Attention…

underpass001For I am full of pent-up words, and the spirit within me urges me on. I am like a cask of wine without a vent, like a new wineskin ready to burst!
Job 32:18-19 (New Living Translation)

To create today, or not create today-that is the question.

Okay, I know it’s not Shakespeare, however, this is a question that I and other creatives ask on a daily basis: do I create or no?  It doesn’t matter whether you are a photographer (like me), a writer, a musician, a sculptor, or even a glass-maker.  It also doesn’t matter if you have a full-time creative vocation from which you make your living, or if you do your creating after hours (like me).  The question is there.

This question comes from the deep stirrings inside the soul to create.  Deep in one’s heart there is a “creative call” (thanks to Janice Elsheimer) that calls to us each day to express our talents.  For me, it’s photography and writing.  For another, it could be singing or poetry.  This call is for us to express on a daily basis.  When we create, we are like the Divine Him/Herself.dancers-at-duskHowever, many of us are bogged down with responsibilities: family, job, church, the list is endless.  Many of our responsibilities may be legitimate: I know I have to work to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, and medical care when needed.  Other times, we have quasi-responsibilities that we think are important, however, don’t bode the end of the world if not met. It is the latter that usually gets in the way of paying attention to those stirrings; we get too “busy” to listen.  We don’t realize that when we don’t listen, or worse, hush it with claims of “too much to do,” or “later,” we become like the wineskin in the above Scripture passage-we get full.  We full of words, notes, images, and other inspirational fodder that never gets expressed.  And although our heads may not literally “burst,” we’ll burst spiritually.  I’ve known I’ve felt restless, unfulfilled, depressed, and downright ugly.  Plus, who’s to say we may have another chance to express our creativity?  Something to think about….

words-of-wisdomTo create for the creative is like air, food, drink, and sex-things that nourish.  Even in our “busy” times, we can find time to create.  The writer can bring a notebook or digital recorder to jot down their thoughts; same for the musician with the music in their heads.  As a photographer, I bring a camera with me-even when I go to work-so I can capture any inspiration that hits me.  Three-dimensional artists can bring a sketch book to “flesh” out their ideas on paper.

cold-beerAlso, blocks for creative time are needed; time without the distraction of others.  I know if you like me and have a family, this may sound selfish, however it’s necessary.  I’ve had those times and they’ve been very productive for me.  It doesn’t have to be a days-long retreat in some mountain cabin miles from the nearest outhouse-no.  I’ve had times that only been an hour or two deep in the heart of “civilization”, yet accomplished lots in the process.  It’s a refreshing process that is important for nourishing the creative’s soul and paying attention.

steepleTo create today, or not create today-that is the question.  It’s a question that we have the opportunity to ask every day.  Let’s pay attention and answer in the affirmative.

Oh, by the way, the images featured in tonight’s post are images I’ve exhibited over the last couple of years.  Many of these were the result of paying attention to crate!


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Farewell Mr. Obama…

As I write this, I am listening to President Barack Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago; an end of administration ritual going back to George Washington.  It was an interesting speech and very uplifting too.  The speech hearkened back to Mr Obama’s first campaigns in 2008 for the Presidency.  Obama spoke on what was right with America, which was refreshing in this cynical time.

The speech was a rousing hour that many an Obama supporter loved as they saw their man give his final speech; many wished that he could have another four years in the Oval Office.  However, as I could envision many Americans-especially Black Americans-eating up tonight’s speech and celebrating Mr Obama’s legacy; I have a different feeling.  I feel like the young bride who-after keeping herself sexually until marriage-on her honeymoon night asking, “Is that all there is?”

Don’t get me wrong: Mr Obama was a gentleman politician who handled his enemies with grace.  He was an excellent family man who made sure his wife and daughters best interests were seen to.  He also still saw the best in America even during our worst times.  I admit at times I’ve been harsh in my posts about Mr Obama.  However, it was all because I felt he could have done a whole lot more as President…

Mr Obama could have reined in the Wall Street banksters; letting the big banks sink or swim instead of being bailed out.   Mr Obama could have truly assisted homeowners with distressed and underwater mortgages-even if it meant a “mortgage freeze” where mortgagors would leave their mortgagees alone.  He could have closed Guantanamo Bay ASAP, instead of waiting.  Mr Obama could have engaged the Black community in regards to the police violence against innocent Blacks.  He could have put the brakes on our incessant warring in other countries instead of caving into Conservative war hawks.   So much more that Mr Obama could have done.  I know many-especially in the Black community-would disagree with my stance, however I have to tell it…

Well, Mr Obama’s taking his leave with his farewell speech.  Ten days from now, President Obama will become Citizen Obama as he passes the reins to Donald Trump.  I wish Mr Obama well and Godspeed.

Farewell Mr Obama…


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Something New

a001410-r1-20-3aBehold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (King James Version)

Happy 2017! We’re here at last! If you were like me, you might have attended a Watchnight (New Year’s Eve) Service to witness the arrival of the New Year. At last night’s service this Scripture was read (and again at this morning’s service).

Here we see God’s promise to Israel that He/She was going to do something new in Israel. It was at this time that Israel was exiled to Babylon; her people was carried off after Babylon defeated her.  Israel’s sin against God caused her eventual conquest and her peopled exiled to a foreign land.  These Jews, away from home, feel as if they were separate from God-all alone. Tonight’s Scripture was a metaphor using “rivers in the desert” as the seemingly impossible to the Jews of that time: returning home to Israel from exile.

How many of us came into 2017 feeling exiled? Maybe somebody reading this post feels as if their sins, their issues, their whatever is keeping them exiled in the foreign land of separation from God.  Who of us maybe feel that we’re exiled and will never be connected to the Divine?

However take comfort in knowing that God will still do a “new thing” – even today.  God will do what we may think impossible for use in 2017: bring us out of exile.  God will let refreshing streams of love, mercy, forgiveness, restoration, deliverance and renewal flow through the deserts of our lives.  God will bring us back home to Him/Her; and not in some future “bye and bye,” but right now.  Then we can walk into 2017 new and ready to engage whatever lies ahead of us empowered by God’s love.

Something new?  Yes, I believe so.  And it’s still available to us now, no matter how “impossible” it may seem.


(Image: Creek near Paradise Lake, Bushkill, PA.  April 2015.)

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Another Year’s Journey

dscn4641God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
Psalm 46:1-3 (King James Version)

We’re coming to the end of 2016, and what a ride it’s been.  It seemed like yesterday I was writing my New Year’s post on January 1, 2016 when I hoped and looked forward to the new things  God had in store for us.  And despite the fact 2016 had events that challenged us collectively and personally, God still had new things for us.  Some of us this year grew spiritually and cast off shit that kept them from living fully.  Others (like me) woke up and took a good look at their lives and vowed to make them meaningful.  Some went through some deep shit that tested them to the very core, yet they came out “as pure gold.”  For someone, their dreams finally manifested this year.  Bad relationships were dissolved, whilst new relationships were born.

However, we’re entering 2017; and what will face us as we enter this brand New Year?  What personal challenges will we face?  What victories we’ll celebrate-or losses to endure-in 2017.  Will our dreams finally manifest in 2017, or will they be deferred (again) for another day?  What spiritual challenges will God call us to encounter.  Who will come into our lives, or leave our lives this year?  What will come knocking on our door in 2017?

And we wonder what will face use collectively in 2017.  We’ll have a new US President with a questionable agenda coming into office.  Will Syria resolve itself peacefully in 2017?  What about economic hot spots like India, which is going through a banknote demonetization?  Will the refugee crises resolve this new year?

Regardless of what come may, tonight’s Scripture reminds us that we have a sanctuary and empowering agent in God.  That God will be there to strengthen us, engage us, keep us from falling for the shit that’s in the “world.”  The psalmist assures us even when the shit hits the fan in our lives-collectively and personally-God will still be there for us to turn to.  God can’t be shaken or tripped-up by whatever happens.  Plus, this same God will give us power to face whatever and whoever crosses our path in 2017.

It’s been another year’s journey, yet God has brought us through-despite what’s happened.  As we begin our journey into the New Year of 2017, let’s take confidence that God will bring us through as well.

Peace and Happy New Year!

(Image: Lambert Castle Observation Tower/Garrett Mountain Reservation, Paterson, NJ. February 2015. Image by Me)

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