Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lingering Effects

Sometimes...side effects linger....

My current realities

In Truth and Transparency

Soli Deo Gloria


Thursday, April 24, 2014

JJ's Grill

Just had a gentle reminder how short and precious life is...

So around the old house is a little hood spot called JJ's Grill. Last year during a lazy moment I decided to give them a try because I loathed Captain Hooks. There I meet an Indian Brother by the name of Jude. Jude was an interesting fellow because unlike other Arab/Indian Store restaurant owners in that area, he was actually polite, sometimes too polite, but still polite. I noticed this right away and thanking him for being respectful and not calling me "boss", talking down to kids, just generally not being a jerk. At the time, I was wearing my "Theology requires brains" hoodie and he asked me if I was a Christian. I got nervous wondering if our pleasant conversation was going to get nasty but in fact it didn't. Come to find out Jude was a devout Christian, to be more concise he was an apologetic. I think we chopped it up for like 40 mins that afternoon. I learned that we liked some of the same folk: Tony Evans, Ravi Zacharis, both liked Moody even if we thought they were a bit "crazy". I shared with him my goals to enroll in Seminary during the new year and he from that moment on always called me "Preacher" "Reverand" or "Counselor" no matter how much I tried to stop him, I just would bristle at those titles he kept saying it. For the next couple of months we would chop it up about different Christian topics: Being Saved in a hostile environment, being Christian Parents, the role of fathers etc. I do believe had it not been for the move, I could have seen myself trying to truly be his friend and I like to think he was beginning to see me as such.

Today, having a tired lazy moment I placed the called to JJ's Grill since they delivered to grab me and the Heirs some dinner. Jude didn't answer the phone, another voice did. Rather than explain my order to the new person I asked for Jude since he knew it by heart. I also wanted to surprise him since I didn't get a chance to tell him I was leaving the area. It was his brother who answered the phone and he shared with me that Jude died a couple of weeks ago from a heart attack at the age of 42. I offered my condolences ordered my food, one time for the road. Before we ended the call I shared how his brother was an encouragement and a breathe of fresh air and asked he continue the policy of respecting the community. He said he would.

I had been meaning for the past month to swing by the restaurant on my way home to check in, let him know how school was and chop it up. Each time I'd put it off because I was tired, had to meet with someone, or just because I was lazy. I never got a chance to tell that Brother in Christ thank you for that encouragement at a time when I felt I had zero encouragement or support. It was one more reminder to stop, slow down, enjoy this journey. All this grinding and moving and hustle hustle hustle for what? I can do this and enjoy life. Visit the people and places I love and still be effective. My man TN is right...(and I hate admitting when he's right cause he gooses me) but it's OK to relax, spend time with loved ones and just chill on this journey. No Seminary work tonight, no GO Fund Me website, just gonna hang with my Heirs and relax. This one off day ain't gonna hurt nobody. To my friend..I pray for your family, esp your two young daughters and wife. I hope you are enjoying paradise. Most importantly Jude...Thank you.

Soli Deo Gloria

In Truth and Transparency

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Side Effects of You: Kill Bill

*Author's Note: 4-17-2014. This was intended to be the culmination of a five part series that lead to the Good Friday blog, however after a few Blue Moons, I think creatively, it might be best to start here posting this one first, and place it after the Good Friday Blog. Emotionally, I probably need to dump the emotions tied to the final entry as this has had the most profound impact on me. I've started this entry no less that 20 times and I think tonight in between beers sips and tears I can finish it. Let the weekend of dying and ultimately healing continue. I will return to write the author parts at a later date.
Soli Deo Gloria
"But what a fool believes he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems to be
Is always better than nothing
And nothing at all keeps sending him..."
~What a Fool Believes (The Dooby Brothers)

I debated on whether to include this final entry in this series as writing about this topic ALWAYS brings about more complications than being silent. But then I asked myself who is it more complicated for: me or the others in my space whom this topic is uncomfortable. However, the first rule in coming out of retirement was no censorship so I might as well be completely honest and write about this person that has left a side effect on me. I'm not sure side effects are even the most appropriate term. Side effects don't last a long time, unless they are residual. This is more than that. This is a gaping wound.

I thought long and hard about how to frame this situation. I kept asking myself what pop culture reference could I use that conveys the entire scope of our seven years together. Ike and Tina? Nah that's too cliched and intellectually dishonest? Batman and Talia? Close, but their dynamic was often complicated by proxy via Ra's Al Gaul. Then I remembered very simply a conversation she and I had some years ago about our dynamic and I realized I had the perfect example staring me in my face. Who we were, who we are can simply be found in the timeless love story (and yes it was a love story): Kill Bill.

For those of you who have been in a coma or living under a rock, Kill Bill is story about two dysfunctional arse people who took heartbreak and disappointment to the next level. I won't offer a full synopsis in the blog but you can either read it here or go check in out somewhere on the internet. I'll wait while you do that.

You finished? I can get started.. If you have been following this blog you know I've written about her quiet a few times as she has overlapped a number of seasons. She has been through a number of struggles. Yeah she was a major fixture in my life. Of course I'm talking about none other than Wei Yan. You can read about her here, here, and in a number of other posts. I'm sure if you goggled Wei Yan/Blackthought39 you'd get all the blogs mentioning her.   

So what makes this different. Whelp, to quote a line from the Kill Bill, I've never been able to tell the truth to her and what she meant to me. Honestly, I never told her the truth about anything regarding us to all but three people. Conversely, even now I believe she won't tell the truth about me yet that is all immaterial now. The difference is this there is nothing to be lost or gained because of one painful truth: Wei Yan got married. But more on that in a minute. Let's get started:

In our time together she was THE greatest:

  • Student
  • Lover
  • Friend
  • Ally
  • Step Mother
  • Confidant
  • Weapon
  • Source of Joy
  • Source of Pain
  • and ultimately enemy. 

As stated, I've written about our dynamic extensively in this space, perhaps as a way to try to make sense of how two people who loved each other so hard, so deeply could ultimately do so much harm to each other. I've put so much thought into US that this last entry in the series was actually written first. Somehow it just seemed proper and true to work on the side effect that had (and has) the greatest impact on me today. While the others do still run through my mind and spirit every one in a while,  more often and not this one keeps me awake at night. This one makes it impossible to ever listen to John Legend or even watch Kill Bill with the same lens. I've read our emails hundreds of times only last month stop reading that love letter she wrote me after my father died in 2006. Yeah. I read the same letter at least twice a month for the past 8 years.

Perhaps what makes this the so hard to process is that now with the hindsight of maturity and honesty, I can admit to myself that I truly loved her deeply. I loved her more than any other woman. Yeah I thought I loved others, thought others really were the truth and maybe a couple of them were that cold (after I this is a five part series) but Wei Yan was IT. I loved and cared for her. I just didn't know how nor want to know how to care for her by her needs. She become my "thing" and I stopped hearing her as a woman and a person. She used to accuse me of quitting whenever it got hard or whenever she didn't acquiesce to one of my demands to find something easier or as she put it an illusion of better. She often accused me of treating her as a tool or as some kind of pawn in a larger cheese game.

And you know what? She was f'n right. The interesting thing is that no matter how many times I thought I found better, the truth is none was better. None lasted. None out shined her when it counted. In all the attempts to break and replace her only one even came remotely close and ironically she's NOT one of the five. The truth is snarky mofo reading this is that I made a choice to get rid of one of the few people on this planet who loved me unconditionally (even if it was dysfunctional) and now I utterly regret it. This decision haunts my sleep and wrecks my spirit. It's par the course with me in matters of the heart. I get pissed, make an irrational decision and then I'm forced to clean up the mess. But this time there is no clean up. There is nothing. Not ever her children I claimed as my own. Nothing. I am deeply sorry for this.

Don't get me wrong I've FINALLY come to peace with the fact she's married. In the back of my mind and spirit I'm rejoicing that she found someone who could do what I wouldn't do. She found someone to love her and be all that I should have been but I was either to afraid or too stupid to be. I pray her marriage be blessed and long. I'm many things. I am not a hater and I don't wish for the worst. I want this to work.

Yet I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wish this was an alternative universe. In an alternate universe, Wei Yan would walk through the doors of this Starbucks, sit at my table and I'd simply say I forgive you and yes. I'd eat the backlash. I'd eat the losses. I'd eat it all because you know what I'd be where I wanted to be. I'd do everything from giving up Facebook to dueling multiple samurai's to make sure this time would be different.

And I wouldn't give two damns to what anybody thought about it. I'd actually hope and pray she forgave me.

But there are no alternate universes at least that I know of. There is the here and now and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Recently, I ran across a picture of her and her husband on twitter. She looked happy. Genuinely happy. My immediate reaction: I got totally sick. Pucking sick. I haven't been that type of sick in years. I threw up right there on the Red line and 35th. I couldn't even cry. I just puked. Then I went home and killed a six pack of beer. Nothing happened. All was left was me and my grief. 

Grief. Brother MB from school says I gotta get this up offa me. I need to write my Lamentations and leave it at the cross. (It's bad that folks know about her in Seminary. I've discussed her in Pastoral Care, with some students in Old Testament, and with some of the Black Seminarians.) He told me to cry and let it out and tonight I'm going to do that. I've already had a healing come to Jesus moment with another dear friend and now I need to have a moment with the Lord for me. I have no other option if I'm going to close this hole in my spirit and move on with my life. This has to die on Good Friday. It has to go in the tomb. I need to mourn and accept the truth. Castles made of Sand right....boy did I make this on sand.

Wei Yan once told me that the time for honoring myself would soon be over. She wasn't lying.  If I'm using the Kill bill analogy Kiddo got her revenge. She got her justice and what he deserved....

Giving Honor to My Creator, Who is Forever Praised Amen
In Truth and Transparency,
*Originally started 1-31-2014, edited on 3-10-2014, and 3-27-2014. Completed on 4-19-2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Castles Made of Sand...

If there was an apt description of what the past calendar year would look like, 2013 could best be described as a heavy wave washing away every single thing I built on my little beach called life. With the exception of my children (and even that was washed away as it related to Youngest Heir), and a few scattered allies, NOTHING remains. To give a more vivid picture if the sandcastle example isn't enough, my city (life) looks like Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped. However, I think the image of the sandcastle is most appropriate if for no other reason there is a certain theological context that I will explore. 

But more on that in a minute.

So what did this tidal wave of destruction take in 2013? What exactly was washed into the sea? A number of things which were integral to my existence and happiness: My church home, my best friend, the one person I truly loved and desired, my job, my emotions, my natural home, and in some cases my faith. I'm sure in time these things can be replaced. There will be other jobs and a career from it, my faith is already slowly being restored due to my time in Seminary. Another Church home can be found, new allies made, and even as painful as it is to type, the love I lost (or gave away) can be replaced. I even will have a better place to live. So that's good. Yet that still doesn't explain the why. Why all that transpired happened. There are two simple reasons for this: one spiritual and one not so spiritual. Let's explore them both.

The first and most obvious reason was that on some level God either caused the storm or allowed it to happened. I believe the reason for this is that God needed to see what my infrastructure was made up of in a barren season. In order to achieve this, like so many men of faith before me, God had to make me Anonymous. You see according to Alicia Britt Chole, author of Anonymous: Jesus' Hidden Years and Yours, every so often God needs to see what our roots and branches look like. God needs to see how sturdy we are and thus the excess in our lives (think tree leaves: are stripped away. Once my coverings and trappings were gone, would I survive this test or would I crumble. At the core lie two simple questions that would yield two simple answers: 1) On what ground did I build my faith and 2) Where did I store my treasures?  To the first, the honest answer are that I built my home/faith on sand. I did not obey God in a lot of areas in spite of being sent messengers, signs, and instructions. The response to the second question is even more direct: my treasures stored were no where near heaven. They were in that unstable beach house I put on the sand. In effect, I had become lazy. My infrastructure weak and bloated; like a corrupt city entity I had become self serving and began to take Christ for granted. Thus in essence while I was sprouting leaves I bore no fruit. As the scripture points out, I needed to be put in a whole lot of manure in order to grow. There was no better way to cover me in the mess I needed than to remove the sand castles I was hiding in. But I knew better. On these matters Jesus is clear where to build your home and where to store your treasures. So snarky one reading this, since there are NO social promotions in the Kingdom of God, since there are no sliding or curves I get to rebuild. This time one proper ground and storing my treasures where they belong. 

The second reason is more natural but no less true. Nothing was really taken from me. By not following the instructions in the manual I willingly gave it away. I was not supposed to return to my church. I was supposed to move on. I was supposed to do my best in Arkansas, I got lazy. I was supposed to be more mindful of the needs of my allies and our joint boundaries and I wasn't. I should have never let her go. But I did. I should have told EVERYBODY to fudge off and begged her forgiveness but I didn't. I chose people and a space that is now long gone. Mine was one of hubris. Mine was thinking I knew best. It was the never ending fatal flaw that has brought me to ruin before: arrogance. Nothing was really taken. I gave it all away by not following the rules. This is the truth I take to bed every night.

But what do I do with these realizations? While it is true, I survived, but as one who survived the fire (or in this case a typhoon). But survival isn't necessarily what all this is about. This is about a mature Christian using bad materials, on bad ground, which happened to store his treasures that got washed into the sea.  So the first realization that I need to rebuild, following the instructions laid out. I don't know what's best all the time, if ever really and by not following the plan I'm going to continually get my ish washed into the sea. Yet an underlying theme to in this is something I never really allowed myself to do: grieve. Part of the reason I came out of blog retirement is to write these pure lamentations so I can later write songs of jubilee. It is time that I deal with all the pain in my life; it's especially time I dealt with all the residual scars, the crushed dreams, the guilt and the utter sadness. That's what I am putting on my cross this Good Friday. This is what I am burying in that tomb so that on Sunday I can rise a different man. But I understand the process of the crucifixion. This hurts. It means part of me will have to die so the rest of me can rise. We all have to go through it in some form or another...

For me this process involved learning one simple truth:

"Castles made of sand...slip into the sea....eventually"

Giving Honor to My Creator, who is forever praised, Amen

In Truth and Transparency,
Straight, No Chaser

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Six Things I have learned in Seminary Thus Far....

"Seminary Ain't Bible Study"~Rev M. Allen

1) Contrary to what the old men said to me during the Men's Retreat in October (ie it’s the cemetery) this isn't a cold non spiritual place. There are "really saved" people (and even that classification is starting to be problematic for me) in this space. Interesting enough, a lot of the dialog here both in the classroom and in general revolves around my spiritual formation and developing my relationship with God during this journey. Nobody has "taken away my Jesus" but actually got me to think deeper about my relationship to him both within and outside of my own theological box. Conversely, Seminary isn't anti church. In fact I have yet to meet a person here who looks down on the church or non-seminary trained folk. This isn't to say that people like that aren't here, or that everybody here is a true believer (hell cause you find this outside of Seminary) what I am saying it isn't this cold, soulless place where we intellectualize God...although we do think intellectually about God.

2) THEOLOGY MATTERS! I know a modern refrain (esp. in Black Christian spaces) is relationship over religion, relationship over theology etc. but I am learning that this kind of thinking, in my opinion, falls short. Theology, to put it simply, is your operating system in the faith. Do you believe in retribution theology? Liberation Theology? Orthodox Theology? Hell if you say "I just do what God says" then that’s your theology. Your operating system will determine how you act out your FAITH and as such how you ( shows the presence of God to others. Yeah, theology matters big time. Every question, every conversation is framed along the lines of "Where is God in this" and "What's the theology behind it."

3) A mentor told me before I started Seminary that "It ain't bible study or Sunday school". Nothing could have been truer. This is graduate level biblical studies. In essence your churches series on say lust really ain't gonna fly here. I'm not saying toss away your Sunday school lessons per se, I'm just saying that "what Pastor had said" is not gonna get you very far.

4) Denominations aren't evil. Prior to Seminary I thought of denominations as gang banging for Christ. But having met and talked to a few folks, having begun to truly understand the rationale behind them they seem pretty cool. I'm still unsure if its something I'd do but I can say I have a much greater respect for them.

5) The Faith has a history that pre dates Constantine and the Catholic Church. I kinda knew this already and I'm not saying Nicaea wasn't an important event but there is at least a couple hundred years of history before it got co-opted for the Romans. When you learn about the great persecutions that befall the early church mothers and fathers (yes the church had women leaders in the first couple of centuries as it was developing as an institution. We got this woman pastor thing all wrong today. Totally.) by the Romans you realize there was a history and culture that pissed the status quo off and was quite different from the system that say gave us the Crusades.

6) Pastoral Care IS my calling, but that joint is hard. I've had to learn new skills and adapt to new paradigms quickly. This is my hardest class and the one that has blessed me the most. I'd be all day talking about this class but I can say God is in that classroom as I learn the art and science of helping people in a Christ like (and professional) way. :-)

Giving Honor to my Creator, Who is Forever Praised, Amen

In Truth and Transparency,


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Revolutions and Rotations: Starting Back at One

So you been on fast train, and it's gone off the rails" 
~Fast Train by Solomon Burke

This month I celebrated my 38th birthday. Like countless birthdays before it, I am celebrating the revolution and rotation in the aftermath of a crisis, specifically losing my gig at Philander Smith College and having to reverse relocate back to Chicago. While my birthday itself was fabulous, the rest of this season has left me lacking words. I just know that  I am wounded, hurt, and embarrassed.

 Yet at the same time I don't understand these feelings. Surely I have overcome so much and beaten odds worse than this. In fact in my entire life I have only failed to "answer the bell" once, and that was the heartbreak courtesy of the Gypsy Soror (that lead me running to Christ). I survived two parents death,  I have been fired before, and I have been on the bench before. So why is this current situation thisclose to making me tap out? What the hell is wrong with me that I am in a funk and depression over a relatively light situation?

Is it because I fell like a total failure? I never expected to return to Chicago with everything reset to zero. I always expected to return at the top. I cried for years to get to the big dance and when I did, after two years I wash out? What is going through the mind of my natural and adopted children? My peers? My enemies? I am afraid to know. I won't discuss this with my heirs and I haven't reached out seriously to any of my PSC babies. I worry how I look in their eyes.

I am struggling with the notion of pride. My sons and I are in need yet I won't ask for help. Serious help. I can bs ask for stuff on Facebook all day, but real stuff I just can't. Men don't ask for help right? We solider through. We press. All we got is our word, our rep, and our pride. Yet the Bible teaches pride is a bad thing. God hates the proud. I am confused by this. Can I ask for others hand and it not be tossed back in my face? My manhood and competency questioned? What lesson is this for the boys? I don't know.

I am struggling with anger. Yeah I made some mistakes, naturally and spiritually, but did you have to reset it back to zero Lord? What did I do to have to return to a place I ran from, and return broken and defeated no less? I know I thought about moving back at one point but I could have sworn you said no. So why bring me back now? Like this? Clearly I missed a lesson so what is it?  I get my calling isn't on that front of struggle anymore. I know what you want me to do with my gift and talents. But how can I do it now? 

I swear this must be how Barksdale felt in season 3 of The Wire. Or more historically this gotta be how Liu Bei felt as he laid depressed and dying at Bai Castle after the battle of Yi Ling. How can one be so close yet so far from the title? Man this stuff can wreck faith and that's the one thing I can't afford to lose as it will undoubtedly lead to the sickness unto death. But I swear if this was The Wire...the montage from season 3 would totally fit my mood (Solomon Burke's "Fast Train").  

I get as long as I am alive I have another day to do it right. I get the story isn't finished. I get something greater later and all that, but right now I am so disconnected it aint funny. I have no clue where to start and can't get enough quiet time to think. I need to figure this thing out because my familia, my friends, and my heirs are watching. My testimony is on trial here. Yeah in the natural and in the spiritual streets are watching. I just gotta figure out where to start because as of this writing I am at zero on all levels and descending rapidly. 

I guess I can start here:
Thank you God for another year. Thank you for my heirs and heiress. Thank you for my PSC babies. Thank you for my network.  Thank you for people who love me. Thank you for an awesome first six months. Thank you for giving me a blessed and special birthday. Just thank you. I love you. I am yours. 

Giving honor to my creator, who is forever praised amen,
In truth and transparency 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To Write or Not to Write

 "This used to be my playground"

Man, this space is old and abandoned. It used to be my safe house, my refuge, my open letter to the world now long forgotten.

Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes, I wanna come back and write. But after that craziness with with "She who shall not be named" and our "true rebound love", I just don't know. You see for as much as I love, this space I also at times loathed it. It was often violated and attacked. It was disrespected. But most importantly it was misunderstood.

There is so much to share, new victories, new set backs, and interesting enough a new disappointment in love, or rather what I thought was love. I guess that's the story of my life.

Anyway, I'm considering dusting off the keyboard and going once more into the breach.

Either way, it was good to visit this place one more time....

Giving Honor to my Creator who is forever praised, Amen

In Truth and Transparency,