“Beloved”

    On the road again. Sitting in the hotel room with Michael W Smith playing in the background;I looked over the pile of pillows to see my daughter reading a book. A deep engulfed trance. She’s reading a novel written by a Mennonite author, it’s my book actually but I let her check it out while I sat quietly and started  writing. We were waiting for dinner, our reservation was for 6pm;this would be followed by seeing Michael W Smith in concert…
     I watched her unplugged from the world, there was a peace in her countenance. Oh how I hoped she could see the value in just turning off the noise of this loud world we live in. There aren’t many teenage girls willing to put down their phones and put social media in it’s place…in the background of real life. 

   As I watched her I replayed  a few of her many questions. “Can I dye my hair blue?”, “Can I put on my makeup when we get there?” the words echoed in my brain. I smiled a little, this kid is crazy I thought. On the other hand, at least it’s not a tattoo at 14. I don’t know how some of you deal with that. She’s been after me about makeup for a few months now. A couple of months ago she said “I asked mommy but she said I had to ask you”… We ended with, not until you’re 16. But you can practice at home. No posted photos! But, I also gave/give her opportunity to wear makeup when we’re out on a date or special occasions.

   The concert opened with Nathan Tasker, I’ve heard of him but he music and humor warmed the soul. Next up was Jordan Feliz, now I’ve never heard of him either, but there was a song I’ve heard on the radio. His music and performance was filled with energy. Jordan, said he had recently become a father of a little girl and he thought of the world she would grow up in, he wanted her to know how loved she was and have the strength to stand. He wrote a song her and all of us, dear reader:

       “… you are essential, not accidental and you should realize, you are beloved. I wanted you to know, you are beloved. Let it soak into your soul. Forget the lies you heard, rise above the hurt and listen to these words. You are beloved…” –Beloved by Jordan Feliz from the album, The River. 

     As a junior high school girl about to enter high school as a freshman; who just lost her mother  suddenly and in front of her. A creative mind with a wicked dry sense of humor and decent human being, if there is one message I want to convey to her before God calls me home, it is; know the God of your mother and father and know how much he loves you. Jordan is right, his little girl as mine has already experienced, will be told some really stupid messages from the world around her. “Too fat”, “Too black…”, “not black enough”, “you’re not cool enough”, “your hair is fake…”. Now, there are some things that my daughter will hear, that are unique to her culture and ethnicity. The point still reminds, to herself, ourselves, is to see as God sees us. Worthy and worth his love…

     After the concert we stop for some pie, we took it back to the room. She was tired, in fact I saw her dosing off in her seat; but she wanted to finish her drawing when we returned to the room. She did. I started the beginning of this post… I thought back to when I first became a Christian over 24 years ago and how things; including the world, has changed. Not all for the good. I came to faith years ago as a relationship ended and I was a newly minted single father of two small children, ages 2 and 4 going 3 and 5. I immediately took them to church with me. On Tuesday night’s the 3 of us would pray for the world, missionaries, family and friends. We’d read(I read) letters from missionaries around world. We supported them and other ministries on a non existent budget. I was on public assistance at the time but thought I still had more than most of the world. Churches in those days knew who they were… 

    Fast forward to today. The exposure my older children had to Christian living in all of its various forms. As well as teaching them to be generous, caring human beings, is pretty much extinct. The guiding principles were part of everyday life. Not so anymore. We as a country as well as pop culture, have accepted and created  a world of hate. Not from any one source but from all sources. So, the advent of social media; not to mention the agenda to push it on younger and younger children, is making it harder and harder to help children both girls and boys, grow up well adjusted. It really doesn’t matter whether you raise them in your faith or in a secular home. Gay sexual themes are in their faces far before you can explain to them how their own bodies work. Political agendas are pushed in younger grades, where they were never taught in school at all…

Lancaster Pa. Stopping for ice cream on the road, heading home. 4/9/2017

  So, when the opportunity arises to take my kid to her first rock concert comes or to expose her to something new, I do it. Not because we’re friends but because she’s far too precious to allow pop culture to dictate to her what a good time is. Mind you, it is a small window but as we taught our older children. The Feds study the real bills in order to spot a counterfeit. As she gets old enough to make her own decisions she’ll be able to spot the pop culture lies.

     The blue hair thing isn’t off the table…but… I’m not totally convinced its the best idea. We’re researching how it could be a less permanent thing. For the moment, it’s nail salons and occasional make-up. That’s all this dad can stomach. A few months ago I took her to see her first horror movie followed by a rated R film. I let her chose but it was a guided choice. So we saw, Split and Get Out.   Honestly they were far more funnier than serious. We laughed until we had a headache. It also opened up a discussion about her teacher’s statement. Read and listen carefully, dear reader. One of her teachers said she wanted  to see “Get Out” but didn’t think she could because she “..is a white person”. How ridiculous have we became, that folks think that there’s a qualification to see a film? Like, really?! After we both laughed at the stupidity  I shared with her how the other day; while working on a short story I’m in the middle of, I changed I line then thought what the heck am I doing.  How did I let Pop and PC culture dictate my art?  This is what wrote: “I loved the juke around the fat guy and the dog lady” I immediately said to myself, you can’t say that, I was about to strike it out then said “screw that!”. I ended up writing that mental conflict into the scene with the characters. Heads up, it doesn’t end well. As it doesn’t in real life anymore either.  We’ve painted ourselves into a corner where honest conversation has been replaced with careful words and beating around bushes. That’s the reason why the teacher felt disqualified to see a movie and fools tell women of a certain ethnicity, that they can’t wear hoop earrings….

    See, dear reader, Jordan’s song is great and necessary message for his daughter, my daughter, our sons and ourselves. To view ourselves as a Beloved creation from a creator that views us as being worthy of his love. If you/we can understand that, then the media would be put in its place and young lives would be less tortured by pop culture’s dictates. 

4/9/2017 taking a picture while the kid took one.

     By the way, dear readers; I told my daughter she would be part of my subject this time. She’s okay with it. Usually on long rides the kids would put in their ear buds. This time we enjoyed the same music, whatever I played. At one point, as a treat for her and torture for (Lol) I through on Spotify and let her choose the music(psst I also get to hear what she’s listening to)….oh, dear lawd! First, I gotta admit, Adele has agreat voice it’s something I could listen to…I probably won’t. Simply because I find that today’s pop music all sounds the same and I’m not a pop guy. Which brings me to, “Adele radio”, again oh lawd! My great frustration with internet radio, the lineup of “similar artist”. We eventually, ended up with just Adele, thankfully. Oh…and better that than Radio Disney! God bless you, poor reader, who’s children use that form of torture. 

    So, did it work? Did the message of God’s love for her get through? Does she know how beautiful she is, especially in God’s eyes? Will it be enough to  strengthen her character and combat PC and pop culture’s bs? I don’t know, dear reader; only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep training her to spot the counterfeit. We have a task before us, fellow parents but don’t give in and don’t give up the fight… 

        click on it:   You are beloved  

Until next time….

“I Love You”

I Love You… 

Three big, little words. Big in it’s meaning or meanings but small in a sense; in the amount of words and effort it takes to write or say the sentence. It is the sentence that every woman as well as every man in love wants to hear. Every child wants to hear their parents tell them these three words, even though they may not know why. There is, some sort of comfort in these words, some strange sense of …a warm blanket or blankie on a cold night. Words uttered on a death bed or last dying breath, give us a sense of comfort knowing that the person leaving truly loved us. But do we really know what love is?

love These three words make many of us uncomfortable to hear and say. I am at the top of that list. Yet, like others I love just as deeply as the next person. My wife wouldn’t have been with me if I didn’t. But she knew how I felt and I also told her. I thought about writing this for some time now but hadn’t had time nor was I making the time to do it. But I found myself forced to write on this subject. Why? Because a dear friend of mine went away for a while… it’s not the first time we have been separated. But twice I went through the same thing, this time more pronounced though. I couldn’t figure it out and then it hit me about 4 days later…

happy-married-couple

The dictionary defines love as a feeling of strong affection or an attraction based on sexual desire. The latter definition is where most people’s understanding of Love exist. Rarely, does a person see love without a sexual desire attached to it. It is that thinking, that causes a heap of trouble. We often jump straight to sex in a relationship and when it sours, so goes the relationship. Now, the dictionary did attempt to give more than just one meaning for love. But the Greeks did it much better , in fact, they have 4 to 6 different meanings for the word love. 05-secrets-of-happily-married-couples-kids        storgē  that familiar feeling, for instance the love  parents have for children and children towards their parents. That “I know you, you belong to me” kind of love. Agápe is one of the highest forms of expressive love. The greatest example is God’s love towards us, God’s love for mankind/humans. It is a verb, it is the command to do, is it the unconditional, it is the charity, it is the love that compels us to stop and buy a sandwich for that hungry person. When Jesus said to love one another it was not only a command but it was this kind of love he meant.

Senior man giving woman piggyback ride

Dear reader, are you starting to see that there is more to these 3 little words? Is it becoming clearer that perhaps the entertainment industry is just absolutely wrong in what they purport is love. Anyway, let’s move on.

Philía …ah.. though we have Heard it translated as the brotherly love, it means friend.  marriedPhilia is a deep love for a friend, friendship love. That deep connection to the one that makes you laugh, maybe gives good advice. They are probably the first shoulder you cry on. The friend you can rely on, someone you feel an affinity for but never thought of your closeness as love. This isn’t a sexual thing, this is not a same sex attraction thing. When I was in my teens I had a homeboy/friend whom I would have done any for and likewise. We were inseparable, if you saw me, Larry was not far behind. He also had some fine older sisters to (that’s a different kind of love). His mother loved me as her own, always offered food and kindness. I’d help her upstairs with her groceries when she came into the building. Once I was so high (don’t tell my mother she doesn’t know this story) I couldn’t move or go anywhere. I think it was my first time…before that I didn’t smoke weed or did drugs and my friend always protected me from it. When someone tried to pass me the joint Larry would say “Ty doesn’t smoke” then I’d be passed a beer instead. As far as I knew he didn’t smoke either, so the day I saw him, my ace, my best friend smoking a joint I was heartbroken. The next time someone offered it to me I took it and it didn’t end well for me. In it’s truest form Larry’s philia love kicked up a notch. He protected me from further harm. He took me home, well his to house and I slept in his brother’s bed. His brother was a bouncer at a local club, so he wouldn’t be home that night. Larry checked on me to see if I was cool ,the next thing I remember was him waking me up so that we could get to school. After our friend, who was the youngest of the crew, died tragically; we all split into different directions. I plunged into work and walked away from school…

asian-couple Now, philia can lead to other kinds on love, we’ll get to that later. But for now let’s move on because you are probably wondering what happened to me “4 days later…

As I stated earlier, a friend went away and all of a sudden I felt this strange feeling. Now I couldn’t put my finger on it but when I did it was like an elevator had a sudden dropped. If you’ve been in one when that happens, you get the analogy. Your heart skips, you reach for the sides, your eyes widen, you’re thrust into a panic “this can’t be happening!!”…but it is. I have known of this person for at least 3 years but didn’t get to know them until about 4 or 5 months ago. Over those months I discovered the enjoyment of life again. A month or so ago, we grabbed some dinner before going home to our families. While we were talking, somehow Sharol (my late wife) came up, I didn’t realize I had never told her the story. I went into the full details, something I hadn’t done since talking to the doctors at the hospital, when I saw the shocked look I knew that we hadn’t talked about it before. But I enjoyed the time, it was casual, no pressure to perform. We’ve talked many times about the world we both work in and other things, like my very short trip into the world of online dating. Never again!  But isn’t that what friends are for? Sharing time together. So, what was my issue? I had gotten into a funk, a blue mood if you will. Then a thought came to me I didn’t get a text today. It took a couple of days but while I was sitting next to my 13 year old daughter eating dinner, the elevator dropped. I told her what it was that had been troubling me and in true Bland sarcastic fashion, without skipping a beat, this kid said “Aww… you miss your best friend..?” We laughed. But she was right! I missed my friend! the proof, dear reader, was when I got a text later that night and my mood lightened. Now, I honestly don’t know if this friend feels as close to me as I do her. I have always been a loyal friend to my friends that doesn’t always mean our friends view us in the same light…6-fabulous-dating-tips-for-married-couples

Eros. The 4th and final of the Greek meanings I will deal with. Eros, is the intimate expression of love. The sexual expression of that close bond, the intense attraction of love that causes your mind, your body and your soul to explode with passion for the one that has you heart. It is this love that the entertainment industry parades in front of us and our children, as LOVE. They skip all the other expressions and meanings of love and head straight for the bed. So do most of us and we all lose out on a deeper relationship, friendship, companionship, something that lasts forever. Something, that every married couple knows. Charm and beauty won’t last, neither does sex! You will get old, you will get sick, the kids will leave your home, you will not always have money, someone will lose a job… one of you will die. If you base a relationship on sex as your expression of love or it is the only meaning of love you have, you are in grave danger. If you skip these, dear I say, stages of love, then you will not have a lasting relationship.

Listen, before I was Sharol’s husband and lover, I was just a choir mate. A friend who would talk about children’s TV shows , because we had young kids at home. We called each other at night and talked, many of those nights she fell asleep on the phone. Then came the feelings of wanting to do anything for her and with her. What followed was a different expression of love. I knew then that I wanted to marry her, but it all started slowly drawing our hearts together, moving through the multiple expressions of love. the-pearl-africa-story-teller-app One last thing, dear reader, before I go. Yes, love is a scary thing sometimes. Even scarier to admit that you feel love. Pop culture has all but destroyed love, it’s meaning, it’s purpose and it’s passion. It’s over use of the word and the twisted value of it, has made it meaningless. Yet, God has created in us this thing that draws us to seek after it. First from him and then from others. How ever which order you put it in, you are still drawn to it. Do I love my kids and family? Absolutely. Do I love my coworkers? Yes, and pray for them as well. Agape will do that to you. Do I you my friend? I absolutely do. Is it Eros?  No… It’s something much more, something that surpasses sexual attraction and only the grown-ups in the room understand that companionship is the greater love. It is the closeness that leads to marriage and Eros. So, sorry youngins’ it’s not the other way around. There were days when I walked down the streets or even sat at my desk in despair and out of nowhere, I’d get a text are you okay?  That was the Lord sending me a life raft. I’m sure she had no clue she was being used to brighten my day. Or on another day when I was feeling like the only person on planet I’d  get something like this, Hey, did you eat yet?  It is bread crumbs like these that opened a door and lead to a friendship that I have come to value. So much so, that when my friend went away I missed her terribly. This, dear reader, is the effects of love in all of it’s glorious Greek meanings. We can’t escape it because love in all of it’s forms surround us. If we have a better understanding of it, which I hope you have just gotten, then we can stop translating it into that despairing image of love that we see on screens… and enjoy a life of loving and being loved by others.

Until next time…love1

 

Faith

image

Faith… Trusting and believing in something you can not see, feel or even touch. And hoping, no, knowing that it is there. One dictionary described it as putting your full weight on something. Interesting right?!

image

We exercise faith everyday. For example, we step into elevators  with no thought to how they are made, if it will hold…unless fat people get on, if we’ll make it to the top or bottom safely. Our concern for safety comes when our faith is tested or rocked! Like when the elevator jumps, skips a floor…or worse, when it stops. Then we look at the fat people, scan the capacity sign and question Otis’s manufacturing abilities. I know, I’m one of the people they look at. It’s at that very moment that many decide never to get into an elevator again. That’s because fear has set in, the faith had been tested and it didn’t seem to work. At the very least, it didn’t work properly…
   I have been living life as a Christian since 1993 and I have seen many phases of my faith, belief, ideology… etc. In twenty plus years I’ve gone from crazy new “believer” that wanted everyone saved, to, wanting the same thing but present it differently because I’m much older now. For example, I fearlessly walked in a bar once to pass out flyers and talk about Christ. I would go to basketball courts etc. Other christians would sometimes frown upon my boldness. I didn’t care.
   Now that I’m old enough to be staring retirement in the face and…just slow enough not to duck a punch add to that, the current direction our country is going. I’m more likely to strike up a conversation first. I’m also quickly approaching the other side of life…
   Faith, now, takes on a whole new meaning. Before I stepped on the elevator without thinking. But I’ve experienced the jumps, floor skips and stops. My Faith has been tested…heck, it’s been rocked!
  This has been a most trying year. I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary 3 weeks ago. But there wasn’t much celebration. From the beginning, our marriage had an uphill climb. We a “blended family” as the experts call it. So there were those challenges. But we championed those hurdles. Then came finances, unemployment, debt, illnesses etc.
   But this year, dear reader, has been strange indeed. Items in the last sentence are still hanging over us. But for some reason the start of this year began with an argument that hasn’t seemed to receive its course correction. Every effort to fix it, didn’t/doesn’t work. Piled on top, are the issues of our children, even the grown ones, which seem to be at every turn. So, as you parents know, every time you think we can get back to us…another disaster shows up and the space between us gets wider. And it did…hints the lack of celebration.
   Though we cannot afford it. I found myself searching for lawyers to end what has already ended. We know so many couples, too many, whose marriages have ended for less…what made me think we could do better than them. You know, in an age of electronic distractive devices. When a couple aren’t talking to each other, these devices make things worse! Anyway, like those who chose not get in another elevator because of the bad experiences. I too thought of, as I just said, it was time to call it quits…

image

Did you that faithfulness is not a good thing? The bible teaches that it is impossible to please God without faith. Yeah but! Is my response too.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”-Hebrews 11:6.  Yeah but!
  
I recently spoke with my sister, catching up on our families. She too has had a rough year. She questioned God on His “not giving us more than we can bear…” She reminded me, as I told her how I’ve lived this life for over 20 years and didn’t know how to nor did I want to quit, that too many people don’t sit down ask God, “why?” and wrestle with Him for the answer Or wait, they let the issues drown out the answer, whether it be wait or move on and drown out their faith.
   If you read chapter 11 of Hebrews you’ll find a running theme. The people described in the chapter faced incredible odds and each one chose God and chose to serve Him above their circumstances. Some like Abraham, whose obedience was counted as faith, please God immensely even in their imperfection. They were blessed because of their faith.
   Blessings don’t always mean money. It could be your health. The ability to work as another verse says.
  Walking and living by faith isn’t easy…far too many have the misconceptions about Christians, that “they are weak and need a crutch”. That’s a fallacy, there’s no statue for us to hold and prayed to… There’s just Faith. We’re called “stupid” because of it and it takes and awful lot of strength to hold on to what you believe, just like the strength of character to hold on to your marriage…and life.

image

My computer died last week with no money to replace it. I was a third into my my novel and in the middle of updating my current book, when this happened! ( currently using my phone) Dear, reader, I don’t know what you face but I’ve told you what I’m facing. I am quite sure that I don’t wish to give up even though the elevator stopped between floors. To get to where I’m going, I need to step in it again and again. I have chosen to hold on to Faith in the face of adversity. Believing that my creator, who knows my needs, will bless me because of that faith…and turn my adversity into victory.
What will you choose…?

“Moms’ Night Out” From Bad To Worst

image

Oh what a night, as the old song goes. I will not giveaway any spoilers, my wife will probably read this before she gets a chance to see this film. I watched it during my lunch and dinner break at work on the phone. It was extremely difficult not to laugh out loud in a room full of people who might think me crazy. With my BOSE QC15 snugly strapped to my head and my hot Lentil soup steaming from my thermos, I ponied up the diner counter top style table, put on my reading glasses, slapped my elbows on the table…and tuned out, leaving my co-workers to their own entertainment.
     There were a few close by, but I was huddled in corner snickering like a school girl. On second thought, I live in the Bronx where people regularly talk to themselves…well, it looks like it since there’s no phone to their head. Anyway, I wouldn’t look that crazy laughing out loud to something no one else can hear.
     Well, there is plenty to laugh at…but one of my first uncontrollable outbursts caused me to pause and text my wife, “I can see Noah doing that!” Noah is our 1 1/2 year old grandson. What happened? You ask.  The kid (off camera) got his head stuck in the potty! Noah is the adventurous grandchild…praise God he belongs to our daughter. We are far too old to be chasing kids and Noah is the child they wrote the riddle about “why did the boy throw the clock out the window…he wanted to see time fly”
   So, quite naturally I thought of him wearing the potty on his head as a hat.    It doesn’t matter if you are a single parent or are married like some in the movie…if you have children and your bag is filled with gum, keys, baby wipes, cell phone, bottles and paper “toilet protectors” then you most definitely will get this movie.
      Like all parents, these ladies just want to go out…or do they? Yeah, we experienced ones, know how this works; you leave emergency contact information then you’re out the door. Then you spend 2 hours thinking about and talking about your little ones or not so little ones. Unfortunately, on these ladies night out, they can’t eat because of a schedule mix up. So they go somewhere else…oh wait, their van is stolen…a baby is missing and gets worse.
    What I love most about this film is it reminded me of my own family. My earlier days of parenting and a huge reminder that no parent is perfect, all while laughing at ourselves. The film was beautifully crafted without vulgarity. Yes, it has been labelled a faith (Christian)-based movie. But really who cares,  when was the last time you laughed at a “comedy” that didn’t begin and end with sex jokes, cursing, someone kicked in the “jewels” or somebody’s clothes off. It’s become standard Hollywood… you only really notice when it’s absent. Truly, I have stopped watching comedy because it’s not funny. But the antics in this film will make you laugh without feeling guilty or sending your kids out of the room. In fact, they could sit right beside you!
     The pastor’s wife caught dancing with an arm full of beer bottles…”Awkward!” My daughter used to say. Most people would say “that’s not such a big deal” perhaps it isn’t, but in this instance, it was Christians poking fun at themselves…
   I enjoy watching movies and going out to catch one and this is one film I didn’t regret spending my money on. Hey, when you get the chance check it out and let me know how you liked it…