Got Faith?

“Yes, I’ve got to have faith . . .” are the words that end the popular 80’s song “Faith” by George Michael. These are telling words, prolific words in fact.  I too have got to have faith. But it seems that I’ve lost my way . . . lost my faith?  My faith has been, and may always be, a questionable matter (and that pains me). In the past decade or so my endurance in this race has been challenged in a number of ways, on a number of levels, and a number of times.

In the bible there is scripture that points out that, “Knowing this, the trying of your faith works patience,” (James 1:3).  If this is in fact true, I have gained a great deal of patience over the years.  I am also familiar with Hebrews 11:1 which reads, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” There have been times in my life where I have been extremely hopeful.  There have likewise been moments when I couldn’t capture an ounce a hope to cup in my hands.  And finally, there is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Herein lies my true dilemma. As an individual who was raised to “fear God” (reverence God) I have struggled with this concept of faith for nearly all of my waking life.  Has my lack of faith or intermittent faithlessness displeased God?  On a conscious level I believe that God is real, but there are moments when I question His presence in my life.

Perhaps my problem is that I lack the diligence to seek God. If I think about my spiritual “walk”, I have to ask myself: have I been walking with God?  Do I commune with Him daily?  Do I seek His face with a heart and demeanor that desires nothing in return but the feeling of His love, forgiveness, and devotion?  Honestly?  I cannot in good conscience claim that I seek God’s face faithfully. There are, and certainly have been, moments when I have walked far from God.  And conversely, there have been moments when I have seemingly been in stride with God.  There are days when prayer is the last thing on my mind.  And then there are days when I am thrust upon my knees.  There are undoubtedly moments when I ponder God’s presence.

Why?  You ask.  I question if He is real because of all that I have ingested from the Bible, what I have heard from one pastor, preacher, evangelist, etc., and from what I have experienced in life. Take Psalm 37:4 as an example. It reads, “Delight thyself in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  If I take the logical approach, it seems that all I would need to do in order to actualize the desires of my heart is to delight myself in the Lord God.  But what does that really mean?  Does it mean that I walk around 24-7 spouting that I’m delighted to know God?  Or is it something more?  I’ve cross-referenced the KJV with The Message translation and this is how The Message reads, “Get assurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last.”  Honestly, I’m even more confused.  How does one get assurance with God?  Is it through prayer?  Through communing with God? Is it through reading and confessing His inspired word?  The translation says to “do a good deed”, but what qualifies as a good deed? And is there a quantity attached to the number of deeds required before my heart’s desires are actualized/realized? Now if “assurance with God” comes through faith—this substance of things I hope for and the evidence of what I don’t see, then my faith must grow in order for me to please God and then receive the desires of my heart—at least logically that is the conclusion I have drawn.

So let’s take this conundrum a step further.  Let’s look at Romans 10:17 which reads, “. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.” Okay, in order for my faith to grow perhaps I have not heard enough, heard enough of God’s word. I’m torn again. I grew up in church. I grew up hearing some man or woman [of God] share his or her interpretation of the Bible which is “God’s inspired word to man”.  I grew up hearing my grandmother’s and mother read from their Bibles.  And I have heard, heard God’s words for all these many years, yet why is my faith, my faith in God, called into question time and again? Why do I doubt that He will give me the desires of my heart?  Why do I wonder if he has heard my petitions?  Why God? Why?

Today, I posed a question to a group of students who had been reading a book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, about a Rwandan woman’s survival of the 1994 genocides that rocked her country. Here is what I asked four 8th graders, “Does it take an experience like Immaculee’s (surviving genocide) in order to meet God face to face—grow your faith?” I too had been reading the book alongside my students. And while I had been reading the harrowing experience this woman went through, it seemed that my faith kept being called to the carpet.  One at a time they each shared their personal thoughts.  The consensus: perhaps it does take a life-altering experience for our faith to grow and develop.  I looked at one of the girls and said rather plaintively, “I would hope to never have to experience genocide in order for my faith to grow.” I went on to state that I wanted a spiritual experience like Immaculee Ilbagiza (the author of the book and genocide survivor).  “Here dream was so vivid,” I said as I recalled the dream Immaculee had regarding her murdered family after she had made peace with their deaths and forgiven their Hutu killers. Immaculee had great faith throughout her ordeal.  She prayed and sought God daily while hiding from Hutu tribesmen who sought to rid Rwanda of its Tutsi population.  And it seemed that her seeking God made all the difference for her survival amidst the genocide.

  • She sought God and He protected them from being detected in the Hutu pastor’s bathroom for three months
  • She sought God and avoided being attacked on the road by a throng of Hutu killers wielding machetes
  • She sought God and obtained a job working for the United Nations
  • She sought God and married the man she petitioned God for

 

I too want(ed) my faith to grow and expand to the point that it is more than positive thinking, but a deep-seated intrinsic “knowing”. As the group’s discussion transitioned, I found myself moved for two reasons. One, I was so very much impressed with the level of analysis the students had with regards to the text and the concept of genocide.  All too often we Americans take things (experiences) for granted.  But more importantly, these four young adults had made such poignant remarks about humanity that I was nearly moved to tears. And all the while I kept questioning my faith.  Where is my faith?  I’ve got to have faith!

So I am posing a question to anyone who doesn’t mind answering.

 

How do I grow my faith?

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“Let’s Do Brunch” from The Misadventures of Sister Girl

Really?

Joker, don’t act like you don’t know what you’re working with.

 

What time are you having me over for lunch/brunch?

Excuse me?

 

I’ll be over around 1:30 unless you have any objections.

Sure I had objections.  Your Honor, I have objections.  Hell, I had a variety of objections.  But I was unable to express any of them.  For reasons unbeknownst to me I didn’t curtail what I knew in my gut to be disastrous.  I was flirting with the devil and it excited me, ignited me, and invigorated me.  Hell, it turned me on.  That, and the little (mad bad, wrong choice of words) stunt he pulled with the picture. Why couldn’t I be honest enough to stop him from coming over?  Why wasn’t my rational mind resisting what it knew to be danger (danger Will Robinson)? 

Address please

14382 Cypress View Lane

Apartment 107

 

Hit me up if there is something you need me to pick up. 

K

 

I put down my phone and ran around my apartment like a mad woman.  My apartment looked like the aftermath of a tsunami disaster area.  A ridiculously busy week at work had left me with little time to tidy up my place.  I couldn’t let Davis see my spot looking like this.  I had three hours to cook, clean, and appear presentable.  Hold up!  Why am I worried about impressing a man that I’ve known for years?  Why am I getting bent out of shape when I know him—well, know/knew of him?  At any rate, I spent the next two hours cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, dusting furniture, mopping, and picking up a week’s worth of clothes from nearly every square inch of my apartment.  With only an hour to go I rushed to the store for fresh fruit, a couple bottles of wine (my stash was low), a bottle of champagne, and orange juice.  I needed something to calm my nerves and a date with one of my battery-operated toys wasn’t going to fit into my already tight schedule.   Nevertheless, I somehow managed to get things together just before Davis arrived—late (thank goodness). 

A strong rap on the door pulled me from the nearby kitchen.  I stood on my tippy-toes to catch a glimpse of him through the peephole.  If he was looking raggedy I could pretend not to be home and hopefully dodge a bullet.  Fat chance.  Did he look that good in high school? 

“Hello sir,” I said as I pulled the door toward me.  No, he definitely didn’t look that good in high school.  He stepped into the small foyer and enveloped me in a hug—no, an embrace.  The warmth of his body ignited a small fire down below.  He stepped back and sized me up and down.

“The years have been kind to you.  You look good.”

“Thank you.  You seem to be aging like a fine wine,” I said with the back end of my statement drawing a smile on my face.  With that, he turned around taking in the atmosphere.  Was his butt that tight back in the day?  “Please have a seat on the sofa.  Help yourself to the fruit.  Would you like a mimosa?” 

“Yes, please.  Let me guess–your goal is to get me tipsy so that you can take advantage of me.  Right?”  He asked with a laugh. 

“You got jokes.  I’m not sure how to take advantage of the willing,” I counted as I walked back into the kitchen. 

“Let’s get this straight right now,” he began. 

I looked at him sitting there.  As he opened his mouth to deposit a strawberry I noticed that the goatee on his dark-chocolate face was newly trimmed.  Time had been on his side.  He had assuredly aged, but it was a mature look that fit him well.  And the muscles I detected (from our recent embrace) under his shirt were certainly saying my name as he then lifted his wine glass from the coffee table.  Yep, he’s going to get it.  

The Power of Prayer

“Their minds had been infected with the evil [propaganda] that had spread across the country [Rwanda], but their [Hutu extremists] souls weren’t evil.  Despite the atrocities, they were children of God, and I could forgive a child, although it would not be easy . . . especially when that child was trying to kill me . . . That night I [Immaculee Ilibagiza] prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart.  For the first time since I entered the bathroom [genocide “sanctuary”], I slept in peace.”

–from Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiz (with Steve Erwin)

I read the words and felt immediate conviction.  Perhaps my inability to sleep soundly (without waking at the slightest sound or movement) is directly related to my efforts (or lack thereof) in praying for others.  Sure enough I have a prayer life.  At times I have been more fervent than others with my prayers.  But I’m talking about praying from a deep place within.  I’m talking about praying for more than myself, the safety and well being of my friends and family; I’m talking about praying for those who have brought anguish and pain to my doorstep.

When I was younger I was often confused by the language found in my bible (King James Version), I sought to know The Word, but found myself struggling to make sense of the unfamiliar string of phrases.  As I grew older I found solace in the myriad of translations that were made available.  I still read from the King James Version, but now I find clarity in reading from the Amplified Bible as well as The Message translation.

Luke 6:27-28 (KJV) calls us to “. . . Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

The Amplified Bible translation of the same verses reads, “But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred, Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you].”

The Message translation of Luke 6:27-30 notes, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.  If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it.  If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.  If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.”

That call to action can seem like a pretty tall order when you are carrying the load of hurt, pain, anguish, hatred, and/or malice in your heart.  Just recently I began reading the book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza.  Ilibagiza tells the harrowing truth of how she survived the genocide that ripped through her homeland of Rwanda in 1994.  The text is not typically one I pick off the shelf; decidedly so, I have been on a science fiction high as of late.  Nevertheless, I just began a unit of study with my 8th grade students on the challenge of social justice.  While the unit of study initially called for the students to form literature circles and read about the Holocaust of European Jews, my school’s media specialist and I made the executive decision to expand the readings to explore stories of global genocide (fiction and non-fiction).  We found half-dozen-or-so titles that cover acts of genocide from across the globe and spanning the past eighty years.  Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell is one of the books on my student’s list.

By now you may be wondering where I’m going with all this.  It’s actually rather simple.  When I reached part two of the text, “In Hiding”, I was confronted with a harsh reality similar to that of Immaculee Ilibagiza—a heart that contained hurt, hatred, and unforgiveness.  At this point in the text Immaculee is hiding in a small bathroom in the house of a sympathizing Hutu pastor in her village.  One of six women in the cramped space, Immaculee comes face to face with the reality that she must forgive, and pray for the souls of the Hutu extremists hell-bent to rid Rwanda of the Tutsi tribal minority they believe are out to gain control over the government.

The conviction hit me square in my chest.  How could I continue to harbor feelings of unforgiveness (hatred and malice) and not pray for those who have despitefully used me, when this woman who suffered a far worse experience, was able to do so in the midst of her turmoil?  Right then and there I put down the book and began to pray for those individuals who I felt had wronged me over the course of my life.  I prayed for God to forgive me for the things I had said and done to hurt others.  I prayed, not because I so desperately want a night full of peaceful sleep (earnestly I do), but because I want a life of peace.  We have been given life in an effort to make the world we live in better.  Each one of us has something to say and/or do that will leave this world better off, not worse off.

Despite the fact that Immaculee Ilibagiza went through a living hell in Rwanda, she has been able to use her experience to heal a country–a world that is fractured.  I have been moved by her experience.  Though I have not yet finished the book, I am looking forward to the additional lessons–morals that it holds for me.

Every book that I read leaves me different.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a work of fiction or non-fiction; I am never the same person after the book is finished.  The same is true about the individuals who bless us with their presence.  Every friendship changes me.  Every experience of love (breath taking and heart wrenching) has changed me. I firmly believe that we should take away something positive from every person, every experience we encounter—good and bad.

I’ve been challenged to live differently, to pray differently.

What “take aways” have you gleaned from acquaintances, books, enemies, experiences, friends, family, movies, songs, etc?

Home Training

Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

This weekend I spent thirty hours in the presence of girls ranging in age from 5-14.  While being around kids isn’t anything new to me, what was new was being around children who seemingly had no “home training.”  For the most part, many of the girls were well behaved.  However, there were instances where I wanted to literally haul off and give one of the teenagers a piece of my mind.

Yes, I said “home training”.  I am old school in certain respects (pun intended), and this is one of them.  I firmly believe that children need to stay in their place.  No, you shouldn’t blindly accept everything you hear, and no, you shouldn’t trust just anyone.  But when it comes to adults and people in positions of authority, I believe that children should show some respect.

Maybe it’s me.  But it seems that a portion of today’s youth have lost their sense of respect for their elders and for authority figures.  Take this scenario for instance.  If a rule is given that you shouldn’t bring your electronic device to camp and you not only have it out in the presence of an adult, but go so far as to use it in their presence, should you not expect to be reprimanded for breaking a rule?  Nope.  One child had the never to roll her eyes, suck her teeth and continue her phone conversation.  I was not only appalled; I was ready to give her a piece of my mind.  But I held my tongue because of two reasons.  One, I just met the child that day and had no rapport with her.  Two, I didn’t want to make a bad impression on my superiors given the fact that I am brand new to the organization.

Seriously.  What are parents teaching their children?  Are parents teaching their children?  Or are they expecting “teaching” to only take place at school?  I know I may get some negative feedback because I’m not a parent, but seriously though, is there any instruction being given at home with regards on how to speak to, and interact with adults, because some of the girls I was around this weekend seemed to think we were on the same level.  Granted, we may have been on the same height level, but don’t let my youthful look and petit frame fool you into believing you can disrespect me.

I’m curious.  What happened to the respect?  How and when did we get to a place in our lives where we stopped saying “please” and “thank you”?  When did it become acceptable to refer to your parents by their first names?  At what point did it become “normal” to openly violate rules and challenge authority in response to possible consequences?

I am in no way faultless; I was far from being a perfect child.  However, I knew to respect the elders in my family and community.  I wouldn’t dare respond to an adult’s request with “Who you think you talking to?”  But that is what I see and hear all too often these days.  If we think about the message in Proverbs 22:6, we (collectively—parents and adults who regularly interact with children) are training our children to act, behave, and react in specific ways in their adult lives based upon what we teach them (or the lack thereof) in their youth.

So here are my questions: How do we get it back?  Yes, how do we get back to the days and times when children showed respect and reverence to adults and authority figures?  What have we lost along the way?  And can we find it again and bring it back?

What say you?

Manhood MMS

Author’s Note:  What follows is the first installment of what will be a weekly fiction piece I’ve chosen to title The Misadventures of Sister Girl.  Truth be told, I haven’t dabbled in writing fiction since my senior writing project at Denison University (’98).  But one of my current students inspired me to “pick up my pen” and write.  So here I am, returning to my first love: fiction.  I am not completely certain how Sister Girl’s story will unfold, but I am definitely having a great time developing characters, conflict(s), and dialogue.  I hope you enjoy this piece and those that follow.  If you have suggestions for plot development or anything else, please drop me a line.  And, as always, happy reading!

from The Misadventures of Sister Girl: “Manhood MMS”

You Sleep?

The next morning I awoke to the image of his manhood staring me in my face–literally.  If I’d acknowledged that as I sign, I may not be in my current predicament.  The joker who sent me a pic of his manhood doesn’t call me; he texts me and calls it “talking”.  He’s delusional.  And so am I for that matter—at least to a degree.

My apologies.  I should introduce myself.  My name is Olivia, Olivia Washington.  Most of my friends call me Liv however.  Liv—the irony.  I’m a living, breathing, walking, talking irony.  I’ll let you keep reading to determine if my irony is situational or dramatic.  Live.  I suppose you could call what I do live.  I like to think that I live to the beat of my own drum.  I’m not much concerned with how others view me—at least that hasn’t been the case as of late.  I make attempts to live my life in a way that pleases me.  And then there are those moments when I seem to just be existing—accepting the crumbs from the Master’s table instead of demanding a full plate.  And therein lies my dilemma.  My mother probably wouldn’t approve of the myriad of things I’ve seen and done, but I’m living for me and not her.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my mother.  She is the strongest woman I know.  Really.  Any woman who can stand tall after her husband of twenty years walks out on her is a lioness.  She is my SHERO!  But she is old school and I’m what you might call new school.  But enough about that.  Let’s get back to this business of texting and the manhood MMS.

Like I said, I should have acknowledged that MMS as a sign.  No, it wasn’t a sign that the stars had aligned and I had found my sexual equal.  It was a red, hot, shiny STOP sign!  But I wasn’t thinking stop when I saw it.  I was thinking . . . yes, you know damn well what I was thinking.  Any virile single woman with half a brain was thinking what I was thinking.  Yep, that’s exactly what I was thinking.  And the look on my face said it all.  It’s a good thing no one was around to see me lick my lips, bite down on my lower lip, and shake my head from side to side.  Because that is exactly what I did.  What I needed was for someone to shake the shit out of me—not literally—but figuratively shake some sense into/out of me because after I looked at that image long enough I had lost all sense of reality.  And I’m pretty sure you know exactly what transpired after I took a long (pun intended) look at his manhood—yes, that’s exactly what happened.  But before we get to that, I’ve got to tell you how this Joker, Mr. Manhood (Davis Reed), and I came to be acquainted.

Davis and I grew up orbiting each others social satellites.  It just so happens that we grew up in the same small town, but never had the pleasure of being anything other than acquaintances in our younger days.  I dated friends of his which only allowed us to come into contact for instances of small talk over the years.  But it wasn’t until we found out that we lived in the same city, over 2,000 miles from home, that our paths crossed again—nearly fifteen years later.

Despite the fact that I believe social media platforms (one in particular) are the spawn of Satan, one in particular has at times been beneficial for communicative purposes.  In the case of my reconnecting with Davis Reed, this one platform had a redemptive moment.

Davis Reed:                                                         6/16, 10:22pm

How have you been Liv?

Liv Washington:                                               6/16, 10:23pm

I could complain, but I won’t right now.

Davis Reed:                                                       6/16, 10:26pm

True dat.  So when are we gonna finally hang out?

Liv Washington:                                              6/16, 10:31pm

IDK.  Call me sometime and we’ll figure it out.  555-555-5555

Davis Reed:                                                               6/16, 10:33pm

I will.  Thanks.  BTW, here is my number 111-111-1111

I figured we would do our regular song and dance and I wouldn’t hear from him until he caught me online again.  I’m really not sure why I gave him my number anyway.  I had no intention of seeing him.  After all, he and his buddies had probably already talked “shop” about my high school misadventures, and that was reason enough for me to evade him to infinity.  But I underestimated Davis.  I had hoped he’d forget about me and my phone number.  He didn’t.

Liv, why haven’t I seen you yet?

Sorry Charlie!

I suck at keeping in touch—

among other things.  LOL

I shouldn’t have gone there.  But I’m a work in progress.  Living at an emotional low during the transmission of his text, I was in need of some attention, any attention.  I baited him, just like he would later bait me with that Manhood MMS.

I’m waiting.

How can I make it up to you Mr. Reed?

Meet me for lunch.

Okay.  Pick a day.

Now.

But it’s not lunchtime.

It’s ten at night.

It’s lunch somewhere.

LOL.  Good point.

I’m already in my pajamas though.

Perfect.

Ha!

You’re cute.

I know.

Yes.

We’ve already established that.

Seriously though.  How about tomorrow?

I suppose I can wait another day.

You’ve only blown me off for the past four years.

 

I haven’t begun to blow you off; I can show you better than I can tell you. 

Ouch!  That hurt.

You throwing jabs already?

Not fair.

My bad.  I heard you liked it rough.

What does he know?  What has he heard from his buddies?

 

Really?

I don’t know where your “intelligence” is coming from,

but that is only partially true.

LOL

LMAO.

You ain’t changed a bit.

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

The texting back and forth persisted well into the night.  Not once did he take the initiative to call, but I didn’t press the issue either.  I kept right on texting . . . until I fell asleep.

You sleep?

The next morning . . .

Does President Obama know about your WMD?

LOL

LMAO.  Umm . . . no.

Just saying.

That’s a nice piece of equipment you’re working with.