Sometimes It’s just too much!

Big-eyed toddler

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the few who follow my musings, you know I try not to write too much about the dark things that hound us. I just finished watching a video that moved me to tears. I had a strong debate with myself about whether I should write about what I watched. My heart won the argument. I’m writing about this to deal with my emotions. Self-serving, I know, but my intentions are good.

A few days ago, a four-year-old child by the name of Maleah Davis went missing in Houston, Texas. Of course, the normal amber alert and other efforts were activated in attempts to locate her. Her dismembered body was later found on the side of Interstate 30, over three hundred miles from Houston near Fulton, Arkansas. Arkansas is the state in which I live. Authorities say Maleah’s body had been dumped on the side of the Interstate, and sometime afterward, run over by a mower, performing regular highway maintenance.

Three children

I won’t get into any more details reported in the news about circumstances surrounding this precious little girl’s “far-too-early” exit from her young life. The preceding details may be too much, as scant as they are, for you. They certainly were hard for me to write about. However, I guess I should say that there was CCTV footage of Maleah’s mother’s boyfriend carrying a laundry basket from the apartment in which they lived, containing a garbage bag. Enough!

Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. composed a song in 1939 titled, “God Bless the Child.” The lyrics start with:

” Them that’s got shall have
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own”

I’m not exactly sure what the lyrics to this song mean fully; however, I do feel strongly that little Maleah wasn’t blessed, and she didn’t have her own; her own opportunity to live a full, blessed life. Our children are among our most precious of God-given resources. They provide sunlight in our lives today, and they are inheritors of the future. When we abuse them, misuse them and cut them down, preventing the harvest of all they have to offer the world, we commit the most heinous examples of what inhumanity looks like.

God bless you Maleah, and may you rest in peace. I wish that had been so on this side.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Our inner voice: are we alone?

Inner voice three

Have you ever heard someone say: He made me do it? Or have you ever said it yourself? When you made this utterance, there was no gun pointed in your direction, with an accompanying threat to life and limb, if compliance was not quick. Someone might have said something that didn’t sit well with you. Rather than ignoring the irritating comment, you chose to birth an argument that went far beyond any level for which you felt comfortable. Not wanting to accept any blame for what occurred, you succumbed to the voice in your head that convinced you this would not have happened had she not made you do it.

Our inner voices are experts at convinces us of what to say, what to believe, how to act in any set of circumstances. As I write this piece, my voice is chatting away convincing me of what words to use and how to place them in some understandable order for you to receive what I’m attempting to say. Our inner voices are our motivators, consolers, indictors, guilt trippers, and more. If there are dark spirits about, attacking us from all sides, and I believe that there are, they spend most of their time coaching our inner voice about what to tell us. Fortunately, it’s not just the dark spirits, but the spirits of light and joy at work, too. Depending on what circumstances are present at any given time, we tap into the dark or the light spirits. If we feel good about ourselves and we have a healthy attitude about all things around and within, the spirits of light are predominant in our lives. I hail from the Judeo/Christian tradition; therefore, the dark spirit I contend with is Satan and the light Spirit is the triune God Himself (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). However, I’m convinced that whether you follow a religious tradition or not, you have an inner voice, and it’s influenced by good and bad.

children's inner voices

We live in a time when inner voices are being influenced by all manner of outside forces. How often do we hear news reports of folks being radicalized by one terrorist group or another? Whenever I hear this sort of report, I wonder what the inner voice of the person who commits some atrocity was saying at the time he committed some heinous act against an innocent group. We don’t come into the world with prerecorded inner voices. They are programmed, and continually being voiced over by others and ourselves. How we act and react (to circumstances) is influenced by the inner voice that chats away silently in our heads.

Gd as inner voice

As I survey the landscape of public discourse these days, I’m convinced that there’s heated competition from various sources to program our inner voices. Some cries from these sources are healthy, and they offer healthy boosts to the character of our inner voices. Contrarily, there are voices of darkness, dishonesty, voices of deceit and narcissism bent on disrupting the general welfare of things for their own benefit. How we nurture our inner voices is important. What are you listening to? A good sign of what you are can be found in how you behave. One of my favorite Michael Jackson songs was, “The Man in the Mirror.” Is it about time many of us look, and adjust our inner voice? Doesn’t society deserve us having better conversations with ourselves?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The value of that we can’t see

Immeasurability

Do you remember Barney, the purple dinosaur? Barney and his entourage used to sing a song called, “If you’re happy and you know it…” There were two signs of happiness that followed this preposition, if one was happy. One would stamp their feet and/or cap their hands.

I was watching a YouTube video recently about some African American kids, from San Francisco, who went on a trip to Ghana, in West Africa. Ghana was the first African country to gain its independence (in 1957) from Britain. Its largest city is the capital city of Accra; a bustling metropolis that has many of the urban amenities of any western city. Of course, it still has the traditional African villages, where one steps back a bit in time when visiting. The American kids were quite impressed by the happiness and the attitude of gratitude they witnessed in the village children who had little, in terms of material wealth. This caused many of them to promise that they would have a different attitude about materialism and the fleeting attachment to things. Several of the kids talked about how the children were anxious to be in school daily and seemed satisfied with their life overall.

There’s a reality that many of us in the United States don’t realize, and that is that most of our poor have more materially than many of the poorest people of the world. We in the west tend to measure our level of happiness and well-being by how many material possessions we’ve been able to latch onto. We want the biggest flat screen television, the latest iPhone, a house much too large to hold all the stuff we don’t need. And, once we’ve achieved that prideful level of consumption, we often find ourselves hankering for more, or the latest versions of what we already have. We just don’t seem to able to achieve a sustained level of happiness, satisfaction, contentment that would allow us to stand fast and enjoy ourselves, our families, our friends and all that’s around us.

I’ve come to realize, at this point in my life, that outward manifestations of just how well a person is doing are symptomatic of things we can’t see, touch, smell. When was the last time you saw love, happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction, or any state of mind that exhibited itself in some degree of euphoria? We can’t measure these emotional states, but we can see their effects on a person’s well-being.

The-Four-Immeasurables-300x268

At this autumnal stage of my life, I often harken back to the days of my childhood, when I lived in dire poverty. Disposable income was not to be had. Subsistence living was the model for all aspects of my family’s earthly existence, but I recall my cousins, uncles, aunts, and all people around me laughing, and seemingly at peace with the little they had. Of course, an enormous number of things in life could have been better, but folk seemed to have had a way of making the best with the worst. Today, when I retrospectively look at those times, I think how there was an imbalance of a healthy mental/emotional state, compared to the paltry physical state in which many people around me existed. That might have been true, but the fact that I’m thinking about those days (with what some might call an inaccurate degree of romanticism) they convince me that life is best enjoyed by having an abundance of things we can’t see, smell, touch, or even quantitatively measure.

Just as I’m now finishing up this bit of musing, I’m reminded of a song Dionne Warwick sang, “What the world needs now is love…” That’s one of those immeasurable commodities that would exhibit great measurable results for us all.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Momma

Mom's hands

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, May 12. As I found myself thinking about my mother, who moved on to be with her Lord and Savior July 5 of last year, I went looking for a note I wrote to her back in May 2015. Actually, the note was more to me, since she was well on her way into the deepest, darkest room Alzheimer’s could design for her. At the time I wrote this note, I was spending some precious time with her, giving my sister, the primary caretaker a much needed break.

This note, for some reason, has much more meaning for me now than when I wrote it. I hope you can appreciate the state I was experiencing mentally and emotionally at the time. Here it is:

Momma, as I look at you, I see a foggy image of what you were. At 84, you still possess the natural darkness of hair you had at 48. At 64, I somehow don’t view your years beyond me as old. Momma, I talk with you, but the memory from which you draw topics retrieves points of reference from many years gone by. As you talk about these memories, you paint them with colors as fresh as if they were applied fifteen minutes ago. While your memories of events from fifteen minutes ago are quickly etherealized. Momma, I find myself stretching to be patient and understanding of your lately acquired mental acumen. I listen to the same stories at intervals of minutes that are much too short. You must have done the same for me, in my youth, some time ago.

Momma, when I visit you, you take much more time to prepare yourself for a visit to the house of worship, the place where you still light up as if you were already in heaven. After you’ve cleaned yourself up well, you often consume a lot of time in a search for your purse. We often find it under your bed, where you have placed it for safe keeping, seemingly even from yourself.

Momma, you often get confused; you get angry; you accuse those who love you dearly of doing things we would never do. And then, on good days, the momma of times past surfaces to show love, support, understanding and compassion that we remember with great fondness.

mother's day 2

Momma, I love you just as you are, as you loved and still love us. Your memory has been realigned, but your heart for the last 64 years has been the best momma to me.

mother's day 3

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Faith: It’s a personal gift

Ebb and flow of faith

One of the things I hold dear to me is my faith. My faith is what exactly? For one thing, it’s based on a being far greater than I; one who’s described in ancient scripture as the creator of all that l can and cannot see. One, who if he decides to withdraw his support from holding all things together, the universe would cease to exist. I often think about this being, this entity that I can in no way truly fathom his state of being. I can only, through faith, believe that he exists, and that he has my best interest at heart. That’s the only way the existence of an all-powerful being can make any sense, to believe that he cares about me as if there was no one else on the planet. And, to believe that he loves everyone the same way.

I think sometimes that the sheer enormity of God’s being is too much for me to understand. In a strange way, it has becomes routinized. I get up each morning without concern for another twenty-four-hour solar cycle, and all the other physical occurrences that mechanically function with the precision that supersedes the workings of the finest Swiss watch. Being a member of a faith community, I often hear what I call “faith speak”: God is good and good all the time; Give God what’s right… not what’s left; A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing; He who kneels before God can stand before anyone; In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma, but never let him be the period… Those of us who have been a part of the faith community for some time, have become accustomed to hearing saying like these. They’ve become platitudes of sort, intended to project the depth and width of our faith. However, we hear them so often until they have become platitudinous, seemingly holding insufficient reverence for the celestial landlord of the little blue dot which we occupy. These sayings, oftentimes, seem no weightier than, “have a good day.”

Ebb and flow 3

I often find myself in awe of the one I pay homage to for his work as creator/sustainer. I can’t always find the right words to communicate during personal prayer and meditation. Of course, scripture tells me that I need not worry during these times, because there is a spiritual connection that ensures my true thoughts and feelings are made known, whether I know how to say them or not. It’s that dynamic that makes it clear to me that my faith is more than platitudes. I can’t sum it up in little sayings intended to be truly heartfelt expressions of faith, but somehow sound like factory produced mantras for the masses, who lack appropriate words of their own, as do I.

Ebb and flow 2

My faith is indeed more than platitudes, more than what others might want to offer as a definition for it. It was authored by God and given to me. He has honored me with exercising stewardship of it. I’m not always a good steward of it. I can’t seem to keep in a state continuous linear projection. My faith ebbs and flows; however, it’s mine, given to me by God, and I thank him for it.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The world continues in agony

inhumanity 1

This morning, April 21, 2019 is Easter Sunday, according to most of the Christian world. As I leave home this beautiful morning for church, I hear a story on National Public Radio which has become so ordinary on the surface. (I hesitate to use the term ordinary, because of the loss of human life in large numbers; however, the slaughter of people does seem to solicit no more than an objective mention in news reports these days.) And the public response to these kinds of stories is no more or less matter-of-fact. But there is something significantly different about this story. The story is about some terrorist acts in Sri Lanka, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of individuals. Furthermore, the attacks seem to have been targeted at Christians. Easter, is the day of the year when Christians, are joyful, thankful and moved to glorify Jesus. It’s a day when life anew is celebrated. There is no room for the senseless death of any, especially Christians who have gathered in the spirit of praise and worship.

inhumanity 3

The stark irony of listening, on my way to church on Easter Sunday, to a story about the slaughter of Christians in Sri Lanka made it clear to me that inhumanity has no compassion, no sympathy, no shame. It takes shape wherever and whenever it desires. It cares little for the sanctity of human life and the idea that love, if given a chance would prove to conquer evil. The holy scriptures tell us the God has no favoritism, and that He loves the world (the people who populate it) so much that He gave up His Son for a sacrifice. Inhumanity, on the other hand, selectively reigns its horror on those who for some reason are deemed not worthy of life and joy. The sick irony of people losing their lives, in church on Easter Sunday, celebrating God’s victory over death is too tragic to ignore. It warrants more than a mere objectification by a news outlet.

The world aches, groans and contorts in agony as it suffers one calamity after another. Sure, there are earth quakes, massive fires caused by natural occurrences, and many other forms of destruction for which we have no control. However, whenever hate prompts one human, or a group of humans to wantonly take the life or lives of another or a group, it is an act for which control can be exercised. As I look at history, I often wonder why we haven’t erased ourselves off the surface of the planet. Then, I realize the grace of God is real, and it reigns supremely, providing providential protection over all.

inhumanity 2

The world continues in agony, a symptomatic state brought on too frequently by inhumanity. But, by the grace of God it continues.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

No, you didn’t do it by yourself

help upward 1

I often wonder, whenever I see people who have attained a significant of amount of success, just how much help they had along the way. From a purely existential perspective, God was certainly involved in the mix. They wouldn’t be here to play the music, sing the song, perform the life-saving surgery without the souls of others being invested in their journey of accomplishment. After being a cancer survivor for over nineteen years, since diagnosis, the reality of all of us being the total of all our experiences to this point is a reality of which I’m keenly aware.

It’s confusing to me to hear anyone tout their accomplishments as if they were developed in a self-constructed vacuum. As brilliant or average as anyone may be, none of us can say unequivocally that we did it on our own. I recall one of my graduate school professors telling a story of a college professor, who routinely ignored and devalued the custodial staff in his department. One evening, when he chose to work late, there was a snow storm. The weather was horrendous. When he left for the evening, went to his car and tried to start it, it wouldn’t work. He didn’t want to get stuck away from home all night, so he went to the one custodial worker, who was on duty for the evening for help. To his disappointment, the staff member, who was on duty told him he couldn’t help. He said there was no jumper cables, or anything in the department that could be used to help him start his car. That was certainly true, but what the staff member didn’t tell him was that he had a set of jumper cables in his pick-up truck. That professor lost an opportunity to have another human being contribute to his development along his life’s journey.

Help upward 3

I’m sitting here stroking away at the keys on my laptop, trying to communicate an idea to you. The simple task of me collecting thoughts and using symbols to place them on this electronic representation of a page, wouldn’t be possible without an enumerable host of people, who have entered my life at various points along the way. There was the first-grade teacher, and all the teachers through elementary and secondary school. There were college professors and mentors, who set aside time to share their knowledge and wisdom with me during times when they saw something lacking in my development. The amazing thing is that I can’t think of any souls, who had my best interest at heart, short-changing me of any guidance they had to offer. I am what I am due to all that I’ve experienced.

help upward 2

No, none of us does it on our own. Wouldn’t it be great, if we all could produce a list of all the people, who have made contributions to who we are after thirty, forty, eighty years, and send thank you notes to the ones still surviving. Short of that, consider trying to remember them all and make a pray of thanks to God for all of them. Somehow, I do believe those words of gratitude will get to the right place.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.