Memorial Day 2017

Another Memorial Day come and gone.  I made no tributes.  I had no wreathes to lay at half-mast flags.  No war movies to binge on today (I’m trying to catch up on Dr. Who).  No parades to watch (it rained in my neck of the woods).  The cookout I did go to was on a lovely Saturday evening for my cousin who graduated from Howard University. I didn’t go to the Jersey Shore (that rain again).  No excessive Memorial Day shopping (except for a few groceries).  I did nothing to really “commemorate” today.

Today was a day dedicated to the dead-plain and simple.  We saw images of loved ones who served flashed on social media.  We also saw images of non-White and female vets who served a country that never recognized them.  We played “Taps” on bugles and “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.  We visited the graves of loved ones either in civilian cemeteries or military cemeteries.  For our recent dead from Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the 1990s skirmishes of Kosovo and Somalia there are empty seats at our dinner and cookout tables today.  Despite all the pomp and celebration, today was (sadly) a day we honor those, who directly or indirectly ended the lives of others-be they combatant or civilian.

Despite all this “honor” we never learn anything.  We’ll still fight because we think it’s the right thing to do.  We’ll send our boys and girls (usually poor and/or non-White) to some far-flung killing field for hollow “democracy” and withering “freedom.”  We’ll make big fake-sounding speeches how “some gave all” and making the “ultimate sacrifice.”  We’ll hold up these people as paragons of “manhood” and “womanhood,” whilst even a dummy will tell you they were just corporate patsies.  We’ll have a cowardly president stand in front of us and give lip service to these people.  We’ll keep having Memorial Days over and over…

In the meantime, I will be the one on the sidelines, shaking his head.  I’ll still post in hopes that someone will read and maybe-just maybe-ponder on my words (and the words of others who feel the same)….

Until then, Peace.

(Image: Flag. 2016).

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Now What Do I Do?

Scriptural reference: Psalm 107

This is a follow-up to my last post, “The Danger of Trying to ‘Fit In’.”

Oh shit!  I have been trying to fit in all this time!  I never paid attention to the Spirit’s calling to stand out for God!  Now I am at this point in my life and feel as if I’ve screwed up big time!  My heart is broken and my soul’s crushed as I realized that I spent all these years trying to fit in, looking for love, for approval.  I took shit that even a fool wouldn’t just to be accepted and liked…

I’ve sold my soul for the proverbial mess of pottage and now my life’s a wreck-like Trump’s presidency!  I cannot look at myself…I’ve been used, abused, humiliated, and left on the curb-all with my approval!  I’ve burned up my funds trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” I’m divorced and paying (or receiving) alimony/child support. I surrendered my dreams seeking the “love” of another and wound up supporting theirs.  The ministry God had for me to pursue is stillborn…The list is endless.

Now what do I do?  Maybe I just need to trudge through life the best way I can and hope for the best.  Should I give up on what God may have for me and realize it’s too late?  Should I reach out to God, or has God given up on me?  Should I go back on those who took advantage of me and seek revenge, ruining their lives in turn?  Or should I give it all up and die…?

Before we fall into the “all is lost” trap, I suggest that we look at an interesting passage of Scripture.  About 20 years ago, I was going through some personal issues.  It was one day at work while I had a free moment I was reading my Bible-in the Psalms to be exact.  During that time, I stumbled upon the 107th Psalm and began to read it.  It was in this passage that God spoke to me and gave me hope.  And thank God, He/She allowed me to bless you by using it as a reference.

Psalm 107 talks about God’s saving those who have sinned against Him/Her in many ways.  These people strayed from God and wound up in deep shit.  Some were more lost than the Jupiter 2 or the USS Voyager.  These people however woke up and reached out to God-crying out to Him/Her.  God then delivered these people, restoring them, taking them to better places to live.  If we apply this psalm today, it gives us encouragement and hope that God is still willing and able to rescue us and bring us to the place He/She had for us from Day One.  We need to reach out to God-period.  No matter where we are we need to reach out to God, confess our straying trying to fit in, and ask God to lead us to where He/She wanted us to be.  THAT’S what we should do!

Now, I’m not to say God’s going to turn the clock back.  However, God can take us from where we are-right now-and move us to where we’re supposed to be.  In regards to those who have taken advantage of you?  I don’t think God’s going to strike ’em with plagues (for a moment that was my request); however, God will re-position them to a place of insignificance where they will see you blessed, yet will lose out on your blessing them.

However, like I said earlier, we must reach out to God.  It would be stupid to know our state, yet stay in it.  This in itself is a dangerous trap.  We must be willing to open up and be honest with God-even if it scares us.  Like those in in the 107th Psalm, we must call on God for deliverance.  This is what we must do if we’re going to truly stand out for God instead of trying to “fit in” with the world.

Take a moment to read Psalm 107, no matter the version (I originally read the NIV back in the day).  We will find ourselves in the passage; and we will find encouragement for our situation.  That’s the answer to tonight’s question, “Now what do I do?”

I pray that you will take that brave step out from fitting in and discover what God has for you to do.

Peace, my beloved.

(Image: This was a road taken near Leavenworth, Kansas last month when we were visiting our Godmother).

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The Danger of Trying to “Fit In”

You are not faithful to God. Don’t you know that to be a friend of the world is to hate God? So anyone who chooses to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.
James 4:4 (New International Reader’s Version)

Since the dawn of humanity, we have tried to fit in with the crowd one way or another.  We will do anything to avoid the dreaded FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.  We will change our personal style in clothes, music, politics, even career to be part of some “in crowd.”  Many of us will change our very persona-especially trying to nab a certain person for romance.  As I said earlier, we will change our career plans to jobs (that we would normally avoid like the plague) just to fit in with people we think are cool.  This fitting in starts in school while we’re a  young age; we try to fit in with the other kids.  It later manifests in adolescence through sports, certain clubs; or on the negative side, gangs.  In college, it’s joining a fraternity or sorority.  In adulthood it manifests even more since we’re job and mate hunting.

However, trying to fit in can manifest itself in deeper ways: many of us trade for what God made us to be.  You were called to be single so God can work with you, yet to fit in with family and married friends you marry and have a family.  You were called to be an artist, yet to fit in with your “professional” friends you get an MBA and slave work for Corporate America.  You were called to live in the low-rent part of town so you can minister to the locals, yet to fit in with your “bourgeois” pals you go in debt to your eyeballs and buy a “McMansion.”  God has called you to spend time with Him/Her so you can grow, however you try to fit in with your social media pals and go jet-setting all over creation.

Some of us even walked away from God Him/Herself, shutting our selves from Him/Her so we can fit in with our social circles.  This is dangerous-period!  Tonight’s Scripture is a punch in the gut for those trying to “fit in.”  James, who was Jesus’s sibling, warns us that being a friend to the “world”-the ego-driven, illusory, transient, shallow realm that all about us-is being unfaithful to God.  In fact, James minces no words when he wrote that friendship with the world is being God’s enemy.

And the sad part is that no matter how much we do fit in, it will never be enough.  We will continually compromise those things that God has for us.  No house, money, sex, position, social circle, status, etc is worth the trade off.  We will lose what God made us to be as the world swallows us up more and more until we are completely taken over.  And in the end, Jesus’s question will ring in our ears:

What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses their soul?  Mark 8:36 (NIRV)

Trying to fit in with the world conflicts with what God desires for us and our lives: a fuller, deeper, and eternal abundance.  In fact, I daresay that God wants us to stand out: to go against the “world’s” status quo.  To let God shine though us so that our divine humanity can be seen by all.  God created us to be unique individuals and live that uniqueness through what we were given.  There we can be true representatives of the Realm of God in the world.  We can let our lights shine so people can see our good works.  We can be truly human, instead of trying to “fit in.”  And who know?  We may turn around and liberate those caught in the “fitting in” trap.

Trying to “fit in” is dangerous.  Let’s instead be what God created us to be.

Peace.

(Image by Me: Adirondack chairs, West Orange, NJ)

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The Devil and American X-tianity

and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan
Revelation 2:9(b) (New King James Version)

American X-tianity made a deal with the devil, if not sold its soul.  From as far back as the Puritan days, this perversion of Christianity has done everything contrary to the teachings of Jesus the Christ.  We all know the many evils in this land the American church endorsed; how many suffered at the hands of this “church” as well.  We could read over the many clergy who had the chance to stand up for righteousness; however due to race (White) and gender (male), decided to craft doctrine that had lasting impact.

Today, we see this deal with the devil in full bloom.  Groups like the Moral Majority and its ilk have freedom to influence what goes on in the public square; and tried to influence what happens in Washington.  We have pastors who endorsed racism hidden behind “Scriptural authority,” yet Jesus would have never recognized such authority.  We have clergy who support the “squatter in chief” currently occupying the White House despite his un-Christian attitudes towards women, non-Whites, the poor, etc.  What’s even worse is non-White clergy who have been co-opted into preaching trivialities to the people instead of truth to power.

Jesus expressed this to John in Revelation in the above passage.  Jesus warned John-and those of us in the Boardinghouse of Faith-that there are those who say they’re of the faith, yet are of the “synagogue of Satan.”  What Jesus warned was that there are those who’ve embraced the devil and follow his/her practices, ways, attitudes; yet have the nerve to say their in the faith.  To Jesus, those who say they’re of the faith yet act like the devil is blasphemy to him.

Now the devil is also a shrewd businessperson-even better than Trump.  He/she will let these X-tians run rampant as they had for the last 400 years-especially now that their boy Trump is in the Oval Office.  Satan has American X-tianity in his/her pocket.  For American X-tianity, things could not get any better…

…Until Satan presents American X-tianity with the bill.  As I said before, Satan’s a shrewd businessperson who will collect.  Oh, I know some of you will say that Satan has no power in over the Church, however that’s for those who follow Jesus the Christ.  However for this American perversion from Christianity there will be no protection.  These men and women will be of the “reprobate” mind that Paul warned of (ref. Romans 1:28).  They will lose all sense of who they are and will quickly tear themselves apart before the eyes of others.  The nation they tried to “create” with their influence will collapse under their feet and they won’t be able to escape its fall.  They will cry out to God, yet it will too late since they rejected Him/Her.  It will be a sad time as a potential witness for Christ ends up a dead victim with Jesus’s pronouncement ringing in its collective ears:

 See! Your house is left to you desolate
Matthew 23:38 (NKJV)

American X-tianity will be dead and no one will miss it.  It will be a part of American History that many will want to forget.  I wish I could have a different outlook, however history will bear me out.  We’ve seen how religion that has been co-opted by empire with die out when empire dies out.  I predict that this “dark age” of American X-tianity’s running the show will soon die out as this perversion of Christianity dies out as well.

The devil and American X-tianity: something to think about.

Peace.

(Image: Abandoned church in Hewitt, New Jersey)

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Stop Crying!

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
1 Samuel 16:1 (New King James Version)

A backdrop to tonight’s Scripture/post: God had just rejected Saul as king of Israel.  In the previous chapter, God commanded Saul to turn the kingdom of Amalek into a parking lot-killing every living thing.  However, Saul decided to spare the best sheep and oxen of the Amalekites; and the Amalekite King, Agag.  Bad idea, Saul.  God was not a happy camper and (through the prophet Samuel) served Saul notice that his king days were over.  Samuel was upset with what happened and mourned over the whole deal.

Now we come to our Scripture.  God’s asking Samuel how long will he pine over the rejection of Saul.  Then God commanded Samuel to fill his horn with oil and head to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem so God can pick a king from one of his sons.  And as you know, God eventually selected Jesse’s youngest, David to be Israel’s next king.

When we look at Samuel, we may tell him to get over the rejection of Saul.  We may tell him that Saul would have wound up a lousy king after his affair with the Amalekites.  However, when I looked at Samuel I saw us: how many times we mourn over something or someone that we need to let go and move on.

How many of us still pine over that past love because they were good in the sack, despite the fact they were wishy-washy in their affections towards us?  How many of us pine over that lost job that might have paid a good salary, yet almost killed us with long hours and adversarial coworkers?  How many of us pine over leaving the “old neighborhood,” despite the fact that it was changing for the worst?  How many of us pine over the “good old days,” despite the fact they were some of the roughest times of our lives?

Like with Samuel, God’s telling to stop our crying and move on.  We need to move on if we’re going to progress and live.  Samuel had to move on from pining over Saul so he could be used to anoint David.  We need to stop pining over that “ex” and enjoy the fact we have a loving spouse and a family.  We need to stop pining over that killer job and enjoy our restored health and peace of mind.  We need to stop pining over the “old neighborhood” and enjoy the benefits of where we live now.  We need to also stop pining over our glorified past and enjoy the present we’re blessed with.

Many of us today still cry over the past, much to our detriment.  We must stop our crying and move on so we can enjoy today and move on to the future.  If we keep mourning over the past, we’ll find ourselves regressing.  We’ll wind up behind in life whilst the present moves on without us.   We could lose out on today’s blessings.  Many of us wound up divorced, sick, broke, socially crippled, bereft of opportunities, etc because of crying over our past.

It’s time for us to stop crying over a lost past and move forward.  God has great things for us today that we can enjoy.  Remember, we can’t drive forward if we’re constantly looking in the rear view mirror! And nothing else, tomorrow’s not promised to us!

A little food for thought.  Peace.

(Image: Abandoned house window. Baptistown, NJ).

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An Analog Lent

Okay folks, which is which? Analog or Digital? Hmm…

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (New International Reader’s Version)

Good evening Dear Readers.  I hope you’re having a blessed Lenten Season; and that God is leading you to where He/She is calling you to.

Tonight’s post is a somewhat personal one to me.  You know I am a photographer, and have been one for about 35 years.  Like many of my age, I started shooting with film back when film was still popular.  However in the interim, I’ve watched digital technology come on the scene and change the photographic landscape within less than 20 years.  I too started using digital (and still do).

It was also during those “in the meantime and in-between times” we saw vinyl records (I still have mine) give way to CDs and then streaming music.  We also saw printed media give way to Kindle® and other e-books.  Within less than a generation, we saw “analog” media (film, printed matter, vinyl/tapes) give way to digital form.

However, we’re seeing a resurgence in analog media.  In photography, film is making a comeback through a renewed interest by new photographers and encouraged by older ones.  We see a renewed interest in vinyl albums as pressing vinyl once again is in vogue.  Even publishing is seeing a resurgence in printed books and other media.  Last week, I heard a podcast on The Art of Manliness website with author David Sax discussing his new book, The Revenge of Analog, which was a very interesting interview.

In my field of photography, we see countless online “film vs. digital” debates to fill the Library of Congress (I’ve given my two cents in a couple).  As I read these debates, and listened to the above podcast, it dawned on me what was going on: we want tactility.  We as human beings want something we can touch; something that can engage our five senses.  With film, I can hold negatives and see my finished images burned on to them by light and chemical processes.  When I listen to vinyl, I can hold a disc and enjoy the act of putting it on a turntable with needle to play; enjoying every crack and “imperfection”.  With a book, I can hold it in my hand and feel the pages with my fingertips-feeling more connected with the writer. Plus, we can slow down and spend time with these: taking time to capture and develop a photograph; the process of playing a vinyl album; and the time to sit and slowly enjoy a book.

Tonight’s Scripture could have been taken out of our contemporary yearning for analog.  John wrote about how God’s Wisdom became flesh-became “analog.”  When this Word, Jesus was on Earth, we could touch him with our hands.  We could hear his words through his breath on us.  We could smell his odor after traveling all day on the hot and dusty roads.  We can connect with him through his healing, his teaching, his eating with us, his living among us.  God became analog for us.  God slowed down time and space so that we and Jesus can fully engage each other.  Even after the resurrection, when Jesus told Thomas to touch where the nails were in his flesh, we had a tactile…an analog experience.

Today it doesn’t matter what medium people use.  The fact is that we need an analog experience-a God we can touch and hold.  We don’t need the digitized sermon snippets or Scriptural “word bites” we see on social media.  No, we need the “Word made flesh” in our age; a God we can hold onto and truly experience in our digital age.  We need this experience not just for Lent, but for all times.  And then we can share that experience with those who need it the most among us; and we can show the Word made flesh and know that he still dwells among us.

The Word made flesh for an analog Lent: works for me.

Peace.

(BTW, both images above were taken by me October 20, 2016.  The top image is the digital taken with my smartphone.  The bottom is the analog taken with a Minolta Maxxum 7000 on Kodak Portra 800 film).

 

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Perversion at Lent

22 Jerusalem, your silver isn’t pure anymore.
    Your best wine has been made weak with water.
23 Your rulers refuse to obey the Lord.
    They join forces with robbers.
All of them love to accept money from those who want special favors.
    They are always looking for gifts from other people.
They don’t stand up in court for children whose fathers have died.
    They don’t do it for widows either.
24 The Lord is the Mighty One of Israel.
    The Lord who rules over all announces,
“Israel, you have become my enemies.
    I will act against you in my anger.
    I will pay you back for what you have done.
Isaiah 1:22-24 (New International Reader’s Version)

In light of recent budget cuts by the current administration affecting programs that benefit millions in this country, this post was written.  It’s a shame that we have people who profess to “know” Christ marching in lock-step with such indiscriminate use of power.  A review of the last two months of Donald Trump’s presidency (if you want to call it that) shows a man who does not care for the people he swore to govern-save those in the 1% income group and his family.  We’re seeing a president that is totally out of control: perversion of power.

If we look at tonight’s Scripture, we see our current government situation in it.  We see a total perversion of power.  In ancient Israel, God warned through the prophet Isaiah about her perverting power.  God listed charges against Israel that He/She could read against America today: rulers siding with the corrupt; catering to special interest groups; not caring to those who are struggling.  The parallels are staggering.

As we continue on into Lent, we need to recognize this perversion of power.  We must first be sure we’re not guilty of this: be it in our homes, jobs, churches, or social circles.  We must not abuse that which God has entrusted us; and exercise this power justly.  Plus, we must be sure not to condone (or endorse) such perversion-directly or indirectly.  We must pray and ask God to alert us to this.  If we’re guilty, let’s pray that God will change our hearts.

After we rid this perversion in ourselves, we must speak out to perversion of power in the larger community-especially to those in power.  We can preach, blog, social media, vote, petition-whatever it takes to bring this sin to attention.  If we are to be the salt and light Christ calls us, we must be serious.

For you see, God warned Israel-and us-that He/She will pay back in kind those who perverted power; since they will become God’s enemies.  And trust me, none of us would ever want to be on God’s “shit list.”  No matter how powerful we are-even the President-God will deal in kind.  Those in power will end up being on the bottom rungs, the marginalized, the humiliated.

Perversion at Lent is something we need to be on our spiritual guard for.  We need to see and call it out for what it is: individually and in the greater community.  For if we don’t, God certainly will.

Peace.

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