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Give Yourself Permission to Be Uncertain

This is about fragility, vulnerability, uncertainty, poor decisions and giving yourself permission to do things over when you’re in a better mental state.

#life #permission #doover #selfhelp #selfreflection #fragility #vulnerability #uncertainty #harvest #harvestlife #evolution #women #woman #womanhood #harvestlifeblog

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Starting off fresh.

For the last five years or so I’ve taken a two week vacation straddling the last week of the year and first week of the new year. I don’t often travel during this time. If I do, it’s only for a few days in the middle of my break. My initial goal for the time off was to enjoy my home and local attractions because vacations and weekend trips always took me away. After years of using all my time off traveling, visiting, or generally moving around and realizing very little to none of my limited time was spent being still, resting, refreshing or reconnecting with myself, I began shutting down at the end of the year.

During this years’ break I’ve been much busier than I wanted to be, but it is also a pivot time in my life. That being said, a few days ago I simply stopped the busy work, picked up my Bible and allowed myself to sleep in.

This last year has been all about being enough for my life, refreshment and grace. What does it mean to be enough? What is refreshment? How does one embrace grace?

For me, being enough for my life means everything I need to function, grow and excel in my endeavors is within me. I am complete. I am equipped. I able, capable, ready and willing to do what needs to be done to move forward in life.

Refreshment comes from rest. It’s not just about doing nothing. Resting is willfully stopping and choosing to be still. Breathing. Recalibrating.

Embracing grace is about accepting your vulnerabilities, shortfalls and weaknesses. In relation to my year-end shut down, grace is present when I reflect on last year. How have I fallen short on my goals? What did I want that wasn’t achieved? Did I do what I am able to do and let go of the things out of my control?

There’s also grace in planning for the next year. How can I progress on last years goals? How can I move any ball forward? Do I still want what elluded me last year? How have my priorities changed? How do I allocate my time, energy and resources? What do I let go of or put on the back burner?

Reflection, self-evaluation and goal-setting have long been part of my year-end process. What’s new is showing myself some TLC while allowing myself time and space to process my life.

Here’s to hoping you’re giving yourself time and space to recalibrate and start of fresh in 2018.

Continued blessings to you all.

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Wonder

“People go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” ~ Saint Augustine

This quote represents the essence my new book, “Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace” (available for pre-order at https://squareup.com/store/spirit-harvest). So much so, it’s the first words of the book. How many of us spend our lives wandering and wondering? Searching outside of ourselves for direction, instruction and satisfaction? Trying to figure out how we can dominate, control or eliminate our issues and our foes? Dedicating our lives to someone else’s vision, purpose and grand scheme? Adhering to lies, misdirection and trickery because its all we know? How many of us are stuck in rut because life simply stopped flowing in our immediate favor; we reached a bottle-neck or a fork and decided it would be easier to just stay put?

In all the ways life comes at us, in the countless ways we analyze our lives, we rarely give ourselves the benefit of wonder.

won·der /wəndər/
1. a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

When was the last time you felt surprise and wonder at the beautiful creation you are? When was the last time you embraced the unfamiliar and inexplicable in your life?

The Bible speaks of God’s wonderful works, His miraculous creation, as expression of His everlasting love. Psalm 139 is an ode to humanity. “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; that I know very well (v 14).” Humans are Creator’s wonderful work.

YOU are a wonder! Your wonderfulness is not dependent on money, employment, family, friends, network, possessions, status or anything else. You are a wonder because you were created that way.

How are you going to surprise yourself today?

Be blessed as you go.

#wonder #humanity #individual #IAM #Psalm139 #StAugustine

 

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Desert of Solitude: Elevator Pitch

NEW BOOK — COMING SOON!

Death and Life in the Desert of Solitude

From worn and torn…

We all want what we want, but what happens when we don’t get what we’ve been hoping and praying for by a certain time? For example, by the age of forty?

Desert of Solitude is for dreamers and strivers. People who may have achieved nothing, something or a great deal, but that “one thing” continues to elude them. What is it that you want from life, in life or through your life? What do you think you’re missing? What do you believe will complete your existence?

It doesn’t matter. Whatever “it” is, you are enough for your life as you are now.

To whole and sufficient.

Desert of Solitude isn’t a pity party or a survival story. It’s a story of a woman who was tired of being tired. Tired of waiting for life to get better. Tired of praying for a partner in life or an immaculate conception. Tired of being alone in the world. After years of being weighed down by deferred dreams, hopes, expectations and plans, she decided to get up and move forward. As she was in that moment… and each subsequent moment. This is the story of a forty year-old woman shaking herself loose of all her youthful ideals and understandings, who made an honest evaluation of her life and proactively began to transform it.

Dedicated to women

Desert of Solitude is a sisterhood helpline to women who have reached the end of their rope with family, friend, and societal expectations for who they should be, how they should live, and what they should have. Women who are impacted by the demands of womanhood, feminism, faith practice, virtue, marriage, singleness, motherhood and career. This is for the woman who is simply tired of not being able to be herself. Who has lost contact with her inner being. Who seeks refreshment, revitalization, new direction, new life. You are not alone. This message is a gift to those whose lives have become deserts; those who do not want to remain dry and fruitless. Life comes after death. Release yourself. Embrace your rebirth into your truth: a wonder-filled, over-flowing existence as a conduit of love and light.

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Stork Delivery, Part 3: A Tree & Its Fruit

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.   ~ Matthew 7:18-20

I ruminated on Youngin’s words and actions for perhaps a month after her departure. I thought about the two sit-down conversations I had initiated to clarify expectations and understandings for both of us during her four weeks in my home. After our second sit-down, I couldn’t stop thinking how much she is like her grandmother, who is the hateful aunt from my youth. Fortunately for me, I remember my lessons well. I learned how to deal with my aunt by marriage as a child. I remember how she claimed to be such a good friend of my mother’s (their husbands were brothers). I remember how my mother saw her as a friend and sister. Yet when I saw that “aunt” for the first time in a decade months after my mother died, all she did was desecrate my mother’s memory, her beauty and her marriage. Before I completely lost my cool, I reminded her that my mother loved her like a sister and had never spoke an ill word against her – even when she spoke ill to me. As I got up to leave, I said, “I’m not going to sit here and listen to you disrespect my mother whom I just buried.” I may have made reference to her own abusive marriage and how she was projecting her flaws onto my mother. In fact, I’m sure I did. She called me out my name and it was pretty much about to go down from there. Lucky for her, her sister stepped in and kicked me out.

My grief over losing my mother  had weakened and overwhelmed me to the point that I had foolishly accepted an invitation from Big Cuz to move to Arizona to be close to her family for emotional support. Big Cuz had come to Milwaukee, where I lived at the time, in an effort to provide moral support. She couldn’t handle the cold and couldn’t manage life without her super large extended family in close proximity. Her effort for me made me want to make an effort for her. So I packed up and moved across the country ill-prepared. With the intention of depending on people who had only ever been destructive towards me.

In hindsight, I see the aunt’s attack as a targeted attack. I was already doing well in life… for my roots. I was twenty-one with no children, was working on my bachelor’s degree and supporting myself as an assistant restaurant manager. That wasn’t supposed to be my life. I was the no-good, too-black, too-ugly, too-skinny, too-stupid, can’t-talk-right niece that would never amount to anything. Nothing like her perfect, light skinned, beautiful, well-formed, super smart daughter, Big Cuz, who had dropped out of high school and had two kids by this time, no steady employment and was only focused on men, drinking and the next party.

Without any spiritual understanding at the time, this aunt provided my first spiritual lesson on the power of our words. As a teen I would reference her as a person who only spoke evil into me, yet every word she spoke against me manifested in her daughter’s life. That’s probably the main reason I have compassion for my cousin. Big Cuz has lived her mother’s words, self-hatred, and repression all her life and perhaps remain unaware of how profoundly she’s been impacted by her mother’s bitterness. This is also why I do my best not to speak ill of anyone. I have no desire for my words to ricochet off of them and enter the generations that birth from me. The one thing I have been the most purposeful about has been breaking the chains of bondage, or generational curses, attached to my bloodline and life. There are things that occur in families that people assume are natural or just the way things are. I’ve looked at thought patterns, actions and behaviors within my family networks and sourced them to symptoms, root causes and conditioning.

Everything begins with the way we think. Yet it is not practical to attack other people’s thoughts. However, we can confront and attack our own way of thinking. In that way we can prune our own lives at the root. Our thinking projects our reality and from that we perceive what is possible for us in our lives. We can cultivate fantastic lives just by cultivating our thoughts.

We can hold our thoughts up to a greater truth. For me today, that Truth is the Word of God. In my youth, that truth was what I thought of myself – or who I knew myself to be.

The way I began changing my life was by holding the painful destructive things up to who I know I am and who I saw myself becoming. If someone’s words about me did not align with what I knew to be true about me, I rejected it. When I began to study the Bible in my thirties, I dove deeper and began pulling up things festering under the surface of self. The things I pulled up where held up to the light and sat next to the things the Word of God said about me. Everything I pulled from the darkness inside me burned up in the light. There was no substance to it. No truth. The footholds began to fall away from my life.

On the surface, the interactions I had with Youngin’ may appear to be small and inconsequential, however, the test is always in the spirit.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  ~ Ephesians 6:12-13

What I know to be true of myself and where I was in the moment Youngin’ arrived on my doorstep, was a downward spiral of deepening apathy. I was over everything. Nothing held any interest for me. I was tired of living alone and tired of being alone. Completely exhausted and discouraged with my solitary existence. Yet I was channeling all my remaining energy into changing my whole life so I could be better positioned to receive a partner and a family. Life transformation is a slow moving wheel. My accumulated disappointments fermented into depression. I had stopped nurturing my job. I no longer enjoyed my home in New York City. Traveling, the longest most constant love of my life, had become a boring chore. How did that happen? Everything that had been a source of passion and excitement in my life had dried up. My thinking began to change. I can’t pinpoint any particular thought moment, but going to church was no longer a priority. Listening to sermons I missed no longer interested me. I stopped checking on the people who stopped checking on me. I stopped caring about things I had no control over or was not impacted by. I didn’t want to want anything. Life had become a big blah and I felt like a wisp floating on the wind waiting to land in my final resting spot. Can’t I be done now, Father? I’m so over all of this.

Then a 22 year old relative catapulted into my life and sparked all the dormant instincts and urges I had come to believe would disappear from the earth with no one benefiting from them. The most prominent was my need to love. Instantly, even as I protested the no-warning drop-in, I thanked God for finally sending me someone to love. I had been telling Him for years that I would welcome whomever He sent to my door. The table He provided for me would be their table. That prayer began in 2013 when I bought my apartment and purchased the largest dining table I could fit in the space with very comfortable seating. At the time, my prayer was for a husband and Bible study group to share the space with. A few years later, a disrespectful young relative showed up. I was ready to embrace her flaws and all. I was willing to wrestle with her and nurture her into the light.

Until I noticed how she was actually inching me further away from the bit of light I was clinging to. Oddly, one of her regular complaints about me was that I kept challenging her. An interesting word choice since she was the adversary in my home opposing my life. Perhaps what she really wanted to know was, “Why was I resisting her?”

During our first sit-down conversation to discuss expectations and understanding, I decided I had to be vocal about the love I have for myself, my God and the work He has performed in my life. I had to actively protect my blessings and declare them off limits for encroachment. From the seat of my truth, I could see how Youngin’ was running from wisdom and the Word when she avoided me and attacked my character. It was clear she was not interested in building or having a relationship with me. She vehemently and viciously took advantage of, then rejected, me, my love, my hospitality and my lifestyle.

This realization did not hurt. The act of dealing with Youngin’ shocked me into revival. But when confronted with her departure, my shoulders gently shrugged upwards and eased down again. I let go – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Trying to hold on to her while she was holding on to everything I’ve already let go of, would’ve kept all that baggage in my life. I’ve come too far to turn back now. I will not risk my true life for someone who doesn’t know enough to recognize love when she’s sitting in the midst of it.

Youngin’, like her grandmother, was one of the best and most effective haters in my life. The lessons they provided on the nature of people and the spirit in the world are not things that can be fully appreciated via Bible text. They are best received as on-the-job-training. For being such excellent trainers throughout my spiritual journey, I remain grateful to them both.

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Stork Delivery, Part 2: Uninvited & Misguided

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.  

~ Ephesians 4:14-16

Last summer when the stork delivered the ill-tempered 22-year-old relative and her tag-along-friend, I was happy for the company. After our discussion the first night, I was looking forward to sharing some quintessential New York moments with a couple of out-of-towners. I’m sad to report that my gratitude for their company and hopeful outlook didn’t last long. Mostly because my house guests were exhausting. They weren’t gracious. They were dismissive of me, my time and the largesse of my hospitality (i.e. opening my home to two people I didn’t know). In short, they were not good guests. Still, I didn’t regret inviting them in. From the first day, I felt I was being tested in some way. That was the true source of my giddiness. I was looking forward to the test. Eager to embrace blessings. Not so eager to embrace the disappointment that quickly arrived to overshadow my small spot of light.

Youngin’ comes from a very vicious degenerate family. Her grandmother, my aunt by marriage, used to use words against me that left no doubt that she thought me ugly, unappealing and practically worthless – usually as compared to her daughter, Big Cuz (Youngin’s mother), who was deemed everything I was not. I never held this against Big Cuz because her mother brainwashed her in other ways and essentially thwarted her growth, development and life. I eventually forgave Big Cuz’s mother because I had witnessed how much she deluded herself, and through her self-delusion spread damage and hate throughout her immediate and extended families. Big Cuz’s mom was devoted to an emotionally and physically abusive husband who turned out to be an amazingly adept liar and destroyer. Unfortunately, her devotion and delusion stemmed from her own mother/father issues. Overall, her issues from her primary relationships were magnified and poured into her only surviving daughter – the cousin whom I have remained available to for the length of our lives. Even though we hadn’t spent time with one another since Youngin’ was around two years old, except for a brief visit when our grandmother was dying a few years ago. That’s when Big Cuz and I exchanged numbers… “to keep in touch.”

I provide this background to give insight into the history that feeds my concerns, as there remains some resentment and mistrust on my end.

I’ve never been comfortable applying all the malice and wrongdoing of her parents to Big Cuz. By the same token, I did not burden Youngin’ with the history I have with her mother and grandparents. My word to her was that she’d be judged by her own interactions with me. I’ve always hoped Big Cuz had survived her childhood whole and intact, if not spiritually, then perhaps emotionally. Unfortunately, time and very limited exposure tells a different story. Being around her daughter for a cumulative two months tells the remainder of what I need to know about the type of women Big Cuz and her daughter became.

Within a couple of days with Youngin’, I was thanking God for not giving me situations in life I had no preparation or wisdom for. I could see how the things her mother hadn’t been taught were glaring absent lessons in Youngin’s interactions with me. I could see how she mimicked an emotional hardness she had no true understanding of, a street persona she had no experience of, and a world-weary nonchalance she couldn’t quite pull off. I hoped to reverse some of that. People I spoke with encouraged me to simply live my life and allow her to see an alternative way to live. Honestly, that’s all I can do and therefore all I had been doing. Unfortunately, she closed herself to me before we ever got started. She’s actually admitted to shutting herself down and just trying to get through the remainder of the days I’ve agreed to share my home with her. As if dropping in on me and pleading for shelter without notice or grace was is a hardship to her.

At the end of her third week, she posted on Instagram an exchange with her grandmother, Big Cuz’s mom, in which she was inviting her “Grammy” to NYC in July to celebrate her mixed tape (CD) release party. She then went on to invite her whole family to the City and the party. Now as far as I know, she’s broke. That’s the premise on which she asked to stay with me. She had started a minimum wage job a week prior and had plans to move out the following weekend into a weekly rental in New Jersey. By no stretch of the imagination, based on the information she had given me, could she afford to produce a CD recording and host a release party in New York City within the next two months.

I didn’t mention the Instagram post to her. She mentioned her plans to me a couple of days later. I asked no questions. She won’t be in my home in July. She’s been insisting that she’s independent and is getting by in NYC on her own. However this venture works out, it’s her experience; she has to own it and figure it out. What I know for sure is that her grandmother will not step foot in my home. At all. Ever. If asked, I would meet her in a public place but I would not bring that unfiltered dark energy into my private space.

So essentially, Youngin’s decision to post her plans and invitation aligned her firmly with an attacker on my life and existence. The characteristics I had not been willing to fully apply to Youngin’ became undeniably obvious.

During her last week in my home, I sat Youngin’ down twice to discuss the way she chose to communicate with me. Both conversations were the result of text messages. The first text we discussed was one in which she asked to stay for another two weeks after she started working. I responded a few days later with the sit-down and a typed weekly rental contract. The second text was her snarky response to a paper note I left next to a dirty can on the counter, “rinse before recycle” on my way out the door to work. In both sit-downs she applied negative characteristics to my personality.

During the first sit-down, she said that she didn’t want to talk to me (in general) because I would “go left” (go off on her) and she didn’t want to deal with that. She had no examples of me “going left.” There are none. When I asked for further clarification, she told me I was a dictator. I asked her if she knew what “dictator” meant. She asked for a definition. I said simply, “someone who controls you and tells you what to do.” She double-downed and said, “Yeah, you’re a dictator.” I told her I had never been called that before and asked for examples. She cited the fact that she can’t come and go as she pleases. “This is my home. You had fuller access when you first came. You messed that up. Next.” She then said that my telling her that she needed a job made her anxious and she felt like she needed to please me by accepting anything. At that point, I realized she was just talking out the side of her mouth.

At the beginning of her second week with me, she had an orientation for a sales job and a second interview for a hostess post at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock. I told her from her from her first mention of Top of the Rock that that would be a good place for her to work. She had made it sound like she was working in a restaurant at the Top of the Rock. I told her she would meet and see a lot of entertainment folks. She could start building a network for her music. When she was confronted with an orientation for a job she couldn’t even explain which conflicted with a job I had hyped, she asked me what to do and I told her a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. She asked for clarification. I said, an orientation is better than an interview. She asked me, “What would you do?” The orientation was 9:00am-3:00pm and the second interview was at 2:00pm. I told her I would go to the orientation and ask for an early release. If they refused, I would make a decision by lunch time on whether or not I wanted the job. If it wasn’t for me, I would head to the second interview. She did what I said I would do and she got offered the job at Rockefeller Center. She started the following week.

So… as she sat at my dining table and told me I was a dictator whom she didn’t want to talk to about her concerns because I might “go left” on her when all I’ve done is attempt to encourage her towards actual independence in New York City, I became disheartened by her very amateur character assignation attempt.

I had started that first sit-down by telling her that my struggle was staying true to myself and my faith practices while not condemning her for her choices and preferences – though I hoped she would grow out of some of her preferences. I told her that she was bringing things into my home that I had purposefully expelled from my life years ago. Though they may seem like small things, small things make a way for larger intrusions.

She asked for an example, I gave her three.

One night during her first week, she spoke about how much she depends on horoscopes. She doesn’t begin her day with them, but she ends her day with them because she likes to see how they can explain her emotions and the content of her day to her. I told her I stopped reading horoscopes years ago and don’t pay attention to them at all. I shared that I depended on God for everything and he’s been good to me. She responded that she has never needed to depend on God for anything because she has her parents. I wanted to point out that the fact that she was in my house proved her statement a lie. It was only by God’s grace that I opened myself and my home to her at all. I held my tongue.

A couple of days before Good Friday, Youngin’ asked me to look at some lyrics she had written that day. The first two lines were a refrain, “God is good. Amen n—-a.” After my eyes registered that she wrote that twice, I tossed her phone back to her. “That’s extremely disrespectful. Why would you approach God like that?”

“I’m not calling God a n—a!” She laughed as she said this.

“But you’re calling someone He created one while referencing Him. We are to approach God with reverence and respect.”

“We communicate with God in different ways, Shawnda. He understands me and knows what I mean.”

I ignored that foolishness. Maybe I went back to watching TV. She was writing for commercial gain and shock value. Her words were not meant to be an actual communication to or about God. It was blasphemy.

This exchange was one of the reasons she said she doesn’t like talking to me. Apparently, my rejection of her blasphemy had hurt her feelings.

I no longer actively listen to popular music (radio, cd, parties, clubs, etc.). I mentioned that her choice of music – with words that were offensive to women and Black people was nothing that I wanted to hear in my home. She had taken to playing her iPhone on speaker while in the bathroom. Music that raised my eyebrows in the morning, was her motivation to get going. I think I told her what she feeds her ears and mind will flow through her life – I was certainly thinking it. She agreed to keep her ear buds in going forward.

My third example was the port incident from a week prior. I stopped eating pork about five years ago. The first year was a pork fast to see if I could do it. I did it and I haven’t gone back – for the most part. During the second year I spent two weeks in Poland and I couldn’t see myself staying in Poland and not having any polish sausage. I ate so much sausage during my stay that I was over it before the trip ended. I haven’t craved pork since. During her second weekend, Youngin’ made dinner. She made baked spaghetti, home fries and salmon patties. I was out of the house when she came from the store and started cooking but I saw that she put sausage in the pasta. I asked her what kind of sausage she had used. She said pork. I said ok. She then asked if I eat pork. I said no. She apologized for cooking with pork. I told her not to worry about it. When I saw how much pasta she had cooked – an overflowing 13×9 inch pan – I felt bad for not eating any. I thanked her for cooking dinner and told her everything smelled great. She looked really disappointed, so I gave in and told her maybe I could eat a little of the pasta. She cheered up and said please do! I fixed my plate with all of her options. I picked out noticeable pieces of sausage and I thought I was doing good. So good in fact that when I packed up the pasta to freeze for her I nibbled quite a bit more. That night I woke up vomiting in bed. I have no way of knowing if it was from the first mercy bite or the last greedy bite, but I know that my body rejected it. The next morning, I told her what happened and told her that I knew better and I shouldn’t have agreed to eat the pork dish when I knew my body couldn’t handle it.

The pork incident was wrapped up the list of expelled things Youngin’ had brought back into my life. I was a breath away from mentioning her grandmother as the main thing I’ve exorcised that felt as if it was seeking a foot hold to climb back in, but I have no kind words for her grandmother, though long forgiven, I have no found memories of her; so I don’t mention her. I told Youngin’, “When you have a faith practice, or a life practice for that matter, it is imperative that you protect what is important to you. For years now, I had been removing things from my life on purpose. There was a time when I was trying to write my own horoscope charts. A time when I went to clubs and danced to the raps songs. I used to LOVE pork! Now, I’m done with those things. There’s a twenty year age difference between us. I don’t expect you to be where I am. I got here by living and making choices for myself. You will do the same. There are some things that I will say “no” to from now on and some things that just aren’t welcome in my home.”

She apologized for those instances. I assured her I didn’t think she had done any of those things with malicious intent. By the same token, I know that many people are not aware of how they are being used by the enemy. I was very much under attack. The instrument being used against me simply didn’t know she was a tool. I told Youngin’ I wanted her to be who she was, by the same token I needed to be true to myself and protect the work that has been done in my life.

A few days later during her text rebuttal of a simple instruction that didn’t require a response, she asked “Where is all this animosity coming from?” When I sat her down later that day, I began with, “This is the second time in a week that you’ve applied negative characteristics to me that have nothing to do with me. Where are your preconceived notions coming from?” Of course I knew. I thought she’d want to come clean as a sneak-attack-agent-sent-by-the-enemy.

“I don’t have any preconceived notions. That’s not how I treat people.”

“No, you do have preconceived notions about me. Have I ever “gone left” on you?”

“No, but I haven’t given you a reason to.”

I restrained from rolling my eyes. Even though I wanted to believe she was unaware of her negative impact, she was hitting former soft spots with no way of knowing these were former vulnerabilities of mine. “I don’t need a reason to go left. Have I gone left on you?”

“No.”

“Yet last week you said that you thought that I would. That’s a preconceived notion. You had no basis for that comment or belief. I am not a dictator and I have no animosity in me. I am a very consistent person. I can tell you without a doubt that you could ask people about me from different time periods of my life, who have never met each other, and you will pretty much get the same description of me as a person. I know how I come across to people, because they tell me and they tell other people. I hear the same things over and over again.”

She uttered some feeble defense that made no sense. Then began talking about how uncomfortable, yet comfortable, she was in my home.

That actually hit me in the heart. I take pleasure in my hospitality and how well it’s received. I had told her during our last sit-down that her haphazard way of living put me at a disadvantage. She skeptically asked how. I responded that the two times she showed up on my doorstep asking for shelter left me unable to prepare myself or my home for her. My home is a clutter fest with piles of personal papers, documents, writing projects, photo prints and supplies covering every surface. My life is exposed to this person I know nothing about and I had no notice or time to put my home in order. A person’s mess is an intimate thing – as is their home. The only thing that made me feel less exposed was her obtuseness – her utter lack of awareness of how exposed I really was. I live in a two room apartment. I can close the door to my bedroom but the rest of the space is open (kitchen, dining and living area). “You’re uncomfortable here?”

“Yes.”

“No one has ever told me they’ve felt uncomfortable in my home.” I paused. “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere I was not comfortable.” I was completely taken aback. She was sitting curled up in the curved arm of my velvet sofa, feet tucked to the side with my faux fur throw tossed over her lap. I wanted to ask her why she was still in my house. Perhaps the expression on my face conveyed my thoughts.

She tried to backtrack and said, “Well, that’s why I said I’m comfortable, but uncomfortable. I feel safe here, but we don’t have the same interests and that makes me uncomfortable. We like different music and different TV shows. I don’t know what to talk to you about. Each week I’ve been here, I’ve tried to adjust to how I think you want me to be. I’ve tried to stay out your way. I know you’re used to living alone so I’ve tried to give you your space. When you’re on the sofa, I sit at the table. I figure it would be awkward to sit on the sofa with you while you’re watching TV and I’m on my phone. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in your home.”

“Are you serious?” I was incredulous. “You don’t have to worry about me feeling uncomfortable in my home. That’s not going to happen. If I want to do something and you’re in my way, I will let you know. Trying to act like you’re not here, doesn’t make it so. Do you think I don’t know you’re here when you’re sitting behind me at the table? Yes, I like living alone, but you’re here, so be here. You don’t get to know people by avoiding interacting with them. How are we going to learn anything about each other if you’re constantly changing based on what you think I want? Just be yourself. It shouldn’t be so hard to be who you are.” Famous last words….

“I tried being myself. You don’t like horoscopes. You don’t like my music or my creativity. I’m not like you.”

“So… you can’t talk about anything other than horoscopes? The first two lines of your song is a summary of everything you’ve ever written?”

“No!”

“Then there must be more to talk about. You keep talking about how different we are. We both write. There’s a great deal to talk about with writing.” She mumbled an agreement.

I’m pretty amazed at the ridiculous words she sprouted. I spoke only enough to refute what she was saying. By the second sit-down I had already resolved that the agreed upon day would be her last day in my house. She would not be welcomed back a third time. I even debated blocking her number so she couldn’t reach me, but I decided I would rather know how she was getting on in the City than not.

She seems to have gotten more comfortable showing more attitude with time. I could hear in her various ramblings that she was choosing the wrong words, but even with follow-up questions and providing definitions she insisted she was saying what she wanted to say. When she first arrived to my home, I told her I would hold her to her words. Words carry weight with me. Though I don’t believe she believes the ridiculous accusations she’s hurling at my character, I do believe her intent is to inflict harm any way she can. That exposes her character and what I see is not pleasant.

 

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Seduced by the Enemy, Part 3: Wanting to be seduced

Showtime aired a series called Penny Dreadful. It’s a comulgation of numerous horror stories from myths, literature, pop culture and religious texts. It’s a show I wasn’t interested in being interested in. I caught an episode here and there and the storyline began to intrigue me. After a while I was looking for the show. This last season had a Bride of Dracula theme that reached deeper into darkness than that story.

The pursuit

The heroine’s name is Vanessa Ives, a devout believer in God who believes she is damned and being pursued by demons. To protect herself she used witchcraft, spells and chants. During the third and final season Miss Ives learned that the demons stalking her life are Dracula, who was presented as the brother of “Lucifer the fallen angel”, and Lucifer himself. They both were fighting to claim her because they believed she was the Mother of Evil and would usher in the end of days and reign with her chosen partner for ten thousand years. She learns this in a hypnotized dream-state so she had no idea of the form Dracula took in the physical world to pursue her but she knew he was close. A portion of her conversation with the two went like this:

Dracula: You are powerful…become the wolf, the bat, and the scorpion. Be truly who you are.

Lucifer: He’s appealing to your lust. Your appetites. You are spirit and soul.

Dracula: You want her soul. I don’t need it. Give me your flesh. Give me your blood. Be my bride…. I love you for who you are, Vanessa.

Vanessa: I see you clearly now. Two brothers fallen from grace. The spirit and the animal. You seek my soul and you my body, but both belongs to another. He who vanquished you. He who is my protector and stands with me even now.

Dracula: Who are you to defy me?

Vanessa: I am nothing. No more than a blade of grass, but I am. You think you know evil, here it stands…. I tried to be normal…then he asked me about my faith and I answered truthfully: God’s immortal glory lives in me as in all of us.

At the point of that conversation, Vanessa had not yet met Dracula in the flesh. However, by the time she recalled the conversation years later, she had already met him and was already falling for him in the physical world. He was an unassuming museum director who came across as bashfully charming and somewhat forgetful. By the time she realized who he was, she was already firmly caught in his web. The seduction had already happened and she was no longer interested in resisting. When she confronted him, she thought she still had a fighting chance to save herself and to defeat him. She railed at him that she would never submit to him. He calmly replied, “I don’t want your submission. I want to serve you. Accept me.”

As she fell into his arms in actual surrender, she professed, “I accept myself.”

She had been running from him and his expectations of her, accepting herself could only mean she had finally accepted all the evil she knew she was capable of. As she surrendered in Dracula’s arms he bit her neck and began her process of dying.

Coming to grips with reality

“What is planted in the soil of contemplation will be harvested in action.”

For most of this year, I have been in a state of running constantly along a mental scale balancing between what I’ve long thought to be my future and what is presented before me right now. I teeter between everything I’ve come to believe is required of me and alternatives that may detour me but may also flesh out my life, i.e. fulfill certain areas.

I’ve come to a point where temptation has lost its mystique and air of danger. I used to run from things that tempted me to act against my best interests, but now those things appear as non-threatening options and opportunities to change and/or improve my life in some way. I’ve reached a point where the thought of giving in to a seduction sounds much better than not being wanted at all. The pursuit, even by the enemy, is a declaration of sorts that can translate to a lonely and tired heart that there is some worth to this life especially if someone finds something of value in me to pursue. Something precious to them to battle for. It becomes unimportant in the moment, that that something may be my soul. After all, what can I see of my soul in this life?

Becoming the seductress

After the serpent seduced Eve into disobedience, she turned and seduced Adam into the same. She thought something better than what she had in hand was at her fingertips. She reached, she tasted, she offered. After giving in to a pursuer, becoming the seductress is a natural next step – even if only to share the ecstasy of your fall from grace.

Wanting what we want transforms us. We become active in our efforts to acquire what we desire. We find ways to be where we want to be and get what we want to get. We use our wiles, our charm, and our coyness. We tantalize with the chime of our laughter, the lilt of our voice and the movement of our bodies. In some species, this is part of the mating ritual. But for humans, we add deeper or shallower connotations to our biological urges and tendencies. Essentially, we want to be wanted and we need to love. There is no more basic desire than to share life with someone with whom the wanting and love is mutually reciprocated. And therein lies the foothold for temptation to take root and lay a path to disappointment and possibly destruction.

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ACAD – Praise: Matthew 21

The Triumphal Entry

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?”

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John,from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The Parable of the Tenants

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants[c] to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;[d]
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”[e]

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 21:5 Or donkey, and on a colt,
  2. Matthew 21:12 Some manuscripts add of God
  3. Matthew 21:34 Greek bondservants; also verses 35, 36
  4. Matthew 21:42 Greek the head of the corner
  5. Matthew 21:44 Some manuscripts omit verse 44
English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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ACAD – Praise: Joshua 7

Israel Defeated at Ai

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai,  and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

The Sin of Achan

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction.[a] I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of theLord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise[b] to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.[d]

Footnotes:

  1. Joshua 7:12 That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
  2. Joshua 7:19 Or and make confession
  3. Joshua 7:21 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
  4. Joshua 7:26 Achor means trouble

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.