spirituality

spirituality

Religiosity: Finding God Anew

October 13, 2015

lotus_pond

Since I moved to Portland, I’ve felt a disconnect with God. Perhaps because I don’t have a church home, despite my best efforts to find one. I had a great church home back in Pittsburgh. A church home – filled with a wonderful church family – that fed my soul regularly and allowed me to grow and flourish in my faith each and every day. I felt undeniably part of the “body of Christ” and undeniably connected to Christ and His teachings. But now, now I am apart from the body, from the life-sustaining vine. And as a result, I lack a sense of spiritual groundedness. Like I’m free floating, with no direction.  {Continue Reading}

spirituality

Religiosity: Deliverance

November 12, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.58.58 PM

This past Monday, as I was finishing up at the gym, I received an iMessage from my bestie that read, “This is a mess have you seen this” with a youtube link. Up to that moment, I had not seen the video but had heard a bit of buzz about it on Twitter. I clicked on the link and immediately shook my head and laughed. I SMH’d and LOL’d in amusement (if “gay” had a look, this guy was it – and prayer didn’t change *that*) and annoyance (we’re still praying the gay away? why is that still a thing?). I iMessage’d back “‘i don’t like mens no more’ lmbooo boy BYE.” When my bestie responded “Girl I can’t y they playing w that boy,” I could only think of one thing to say: “girl he know he still want the D lolol.” Because his use of “mens” told me all i needed to know about his state of being.

And, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this man (boy?) still potentially “wanting the D.”

Now, I’ve had this convo about homosexuality and the church with my [lesbian] bestie numerous times before. We often joke about the idea of “deliverance” from the “spirit” of homosexuality (or homodemon, if you will) because neither of us believe that homosexuality is a spirit, least of all one that requires being delivered from.

Moreover, I think it curious that dude in the video proclaims that he wants to be delivered more. As if hadn’t been delivered enough previously. Perhaps the first homodemon deliverance wasn’t enough to get him to leave the D alone or find comfort in a woman’s arms. Or perhaps he was delivered from some other affliction that left the gay behind. Oops.

Anyway… yesterday I read D. (not to be confused with *the D*) Young’s post about this very thing on VSB. He acknowledged that he, like probably most people, believed this dude was still very much gay and pointed out the ridiculousness of the whole spectacle. Essentially no one believes his gay was prayed away. But DY questioned why wouldn’t Christians, who believe in an almighty, all powerful God, believe that pray could change all things except one’s sexual orientation1.

If we believe that prayer helped an aunt battle cancer or helped our family grow closer or helped us get a new job or provided any other spiritual assist in our physical world, why wouldn’t prayer be able to change someone’s sexual orientation?

I left the following comment on the post:

ive asked this myself. to myself. as a Christian and some one who prays with regularity – with the belief that prayer does, indeed, change things. and at one point i was somewhat convicted when the subject of “praying the gay away” came up and some one said they believed in a God who answers prayer, and if prayer could heal people from sickness, prayer could deliver people from homosexuality. anything is possible with prayer. and for a moment, i thought that makes perfect sense.

and then it didnt make any sense. i dont believe that homosexuality is an affliction or a sin or a burden that *needs* to be prayed away. i dont believe homosexuality is a punishment, requiring mercy, or deserving of punishment, requiring grace.

i think one’s homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as one’s heterosexuality. or pansexuality or asexuality. its just another piece of who we are as people. and that doesnt need deliverance, healing, mercy, or grace. it just needs protection and guidance – so we arent harming ourselves or others through our sexual proclivities.

Maybe I don’t have it right. Maybe homosexuality – and any sexuality other than so-called heterosexuality – is a sin, and requires those who possess this sin to be rescued, set free. Maybe some people really can be and are delivered from their homosexuality. Maybe God really does hate the gays and other sexual deviants. It’s all possible. But I just don’t believe it. I won’t believe it. So I guess I will have to take my chances on the day I meet God and explain myself. I’m OK with that.

Praying the hate away,
~Gem, who still likes mens

spirituality

Religiosity: Life Support

June 25, 2013

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I have been meaning to return to blogging for my Religiosity series on religion and spirituality but sometimes I have so much to say that it feels like I can’t organize my thoughts enough to put fingers to keys. The subject itself is so complex and dynamic that there are times I don’t even want to think about it because it’s too overwhelming. My heart is often heavy because I feel isolated from other Christian believers due to many of my religious and spiritual views.

But today I feel especially compelled to talk about a recent experience I’m having. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love feeling connected to God’s people through various church groups and ministries. One of my first priorities upon moving to Portland was finding a church home, and a group of believers I could have bible study with and grow in my spiritual life. I don’t have a church home yet (more on that at a later date) but I got connected with two women-only “life groups”.

One of the life groups I joined because a friend E (a fellow young Black PhD who is also new to the area) asked me to join with her. E and I don’t live in the same neighborhood as the rest of the women – we live about 15 miles away but make the commute across town to our weekly meetings. E and I are the only single (never married) women and by far the youngest in the group – a few of the women have children close to our age . E and I are the only women with PhDs and we are the only women of color. I mention all these things because when I first met the group I thought, “I can’t do this – we have nothing in common but Jesus! And even then, I’m sure we picture Him differently.” How could I relate to a group of middle-aged white women?

Before the end of the first meeting, I was in love with this group. Though we had little in common on the surface, we had more similarities than I imagined. What I quickly learned was that these women LOVE with their whole hearts and I see God in them. To me they each exemplify in their own ways what Christ stood for – compassion, generosity, patience and love. Each time we meet it feels like a celebration because there’s an endless stream of compliments, hearty laughs, and gushing over people’s good news (testify!). I feel so good about myself when I’m with them and even when I don’t see eye to eye with some one over the Word, I feel welcome and safe to do so (whether or not I verbalize it). I’ve learned so much about myself and my faith in the short time I’ve known them.

Recently, one of the members of our group took a terrible fall and broke her hip. One of the ladies has taken care to keep our group informed every step of the way – from the initial report of the incident, to the surgery, to the placement and then escape of rehab (my girl was NOT about that old foggies rehab life! lol). Without a moment of hesitation, the group rallied together to pray, plan visits, and coordinate efforts to help her and her family during her recovery. There is already a schedule started to bring food for her and her family for the next few weeks.

As I read through the chain of emails in support of our sister in need, I can’t help but feel truly blessed to be part of a group that truly takes cares of each other. They don’t just talk the Word they live it. And it’s these moments where I feel inspired by God and have hope that I can find a comfortable, accepting place amongst His people.

Have you had moments where your faith in the church was restored? Are their people you know who exemplify what you think your faith is about?

Feeling faith through love,
~Gem

spirituality

Religiosity: Challenging Faith

March 27, 2013

angel

Though I have loved and believed in God for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always been confident in my faith or completely satisfied by the spiritual food I was fed in church.

Often times in the church – well, I’ll speak from a Black church perspective since that’s really all I know firsthand – you are taught not to question the preacher, the Bible, or God. Growing up in the church, I remember that more often than not, questions of “why?” and “how?” were ignored or given a hand-waiving explanation, and sometimes reprimanded. “That’s what it says in the Good Book so that’s how God wants it.” “God is mysterious  He has mysterious ways.” Though I always thought these responses were suspect, I didn’t think about it much. Perhaps I was subconsciously afraid to question God or my understanding of God, so I never bothered to ask questions or just wonder about a religion I spent so much time devoting myself to.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I was questioned about my religious beliefs and that I, in turn, questioned my faith as I knew it.

I met this guy at a gig (a few years older than me). He was of the Nation of Yahweh and he spent a few phone calls and many letters trying to convince me of how ignorant and misguided a Christian I was and how enlightened a Yahweh Ben Yahweh follower he was. I won’t go into the details of his beliefs (you can Google them for yourself) or the details of our discourse (I don’t remember it all). There was so much going on, but his man argument was that I did not know my true history as a Black woman and that Jesus was not the son of God and he listed out all the reasons why, and tried to introduce me to “God’s true son,” whom he followed. What stuck out to me the most was how he used the Bible against me in such a way that I felt like I was meeting Jesus for the first time. How was he “schooling” me in my religion? Was I losing?

Now, I thought his religion was the bogus one from jump. To each his own and all but I wasn’t hopping on his bandwagon simply because he declared me to be in the “white man’s darkness.” Besides, none of his arguments held water as to why his faith was the right faith. But he challenged me to a dual and I was not going out without a fight, despite how little I initially came off as knowing about it. I remember taking my dad’s Bible, and searching for answers. I poured over scriptures, I read into the historical context behind them- who wrote them? what was going on at the time? why were there differences in each account? – and I wrote pages upon pages in rebuttal. Unlike him, I wasn’t trying to convince him that I was right, that my religion was truer, better. In fact, it wasn’t even about him.  I searched for understanding for myself, to better grasp what I claimed to believe in. It was important for me to know this God and Son I served beyond what I was taught and what I read in Bible study (all surface level information).

I don’t think this guy ever imagined that he would drive me closer to Christianity. Perhaps a weaker believer would have folded at the first sign of uncertainty and lack of knowledge. But he challenged me to challenge myself, challenge my beliefs, to know my beliefs. And what I discovered on my journey to understanding was that I believed in God (and Jesus) because of something greater on the inside of me, not because some one told me to believe or scared me into believing. My understanding of my faith or my religion may not have been well rooted or nourished at first, but it was real.

But despite this new assurance security in my faith and my religion, I was still a bit… uncertain. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if we (the church in general) have gotten it all wrong? What if the Biblical authors wrote more from self than God? What if we completely missed the message of what God was trying to convey to us? Of all the churches working in Christ’s name, who is right, if any? Is God pleased?”

My faith in God is undeniable. My faith in the church is not. Because I’m not convinced that the people involved in the church’s development and maintenance have gotten “it” – who God is, what God wants – right. As some one who attends church regularly, and desires to be part of church ministries, this is quite a conundrum. Compounded by the fact that my doubts have made it very difficult for me to relate to other believers and I often feel like an outcast.

How can one be so convinced in their faith but so uncertain in their religion? Is Christianity as a religion even for me, when I have such quandaries about the written word it is founded upon?

Soul Searching,
Gem


1 I played string bass in high school student. As such, I was invited to play bass with a group of musicians (the leader of the band was a friend of my dad’s and he was looking for some one to fill in on bass). We were playing for a grown folks event downtown. Yeah, Teenage Gem was feeling something like a boss. (Despite having my parents’ watchful eyes there, I felt quite grown lol).

spirituality

Religiosity (Part 1)

March 21, 2013

bible

I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Probably even before then. I’ve spent most of my life regularly attending church (mostly of the Baptist denomination), despite having parents who aren’t church-goers or particularly religious. Though both of my parents were raised in the church (mother, Catholic; father, Baptist), I can’t say for certain if either of them even consider themselves Christians.  I was probably one of the only kids I knew growing up who actually wanted to go to church… every Sunday, no less. In my very early years, my parents attended church with me. And when I was old enough, they would drop me off or let me go to church with family friends. I attended a Christian preschool. I was Christened as a baby and chose to be baptized as a teenager. I was active in the children and youth ministries, and even sang in the choir. I’ve always loved going to church, being in church, being part of the church.

When I was 5 or so, I wanted to be a nun. I had seen The Sound of Music, and was convinced that I, too, could be a nun like Fräulein Maria. I mean, I loved God, I loved singing, I loved dancing – it was the perfect job! My desire to be a nun was serious – I walked around with my head bowed with a make-shift habit on my head (usually a sweater) and my hands in prayer position. It was not a game. Until my father informed me that I could only be married to Jesus did I rethink my calling to life in a convent. I loved Jesus, but not like that.

I cannot say whether or not I truly understood what it meant to be “saved” as a little girl. But I did love Jesus and saw him as a Savior. So much so that I often responded to my parents when I thought they were being unfair by saying, “I’m gonna tell Jesus on you!”

To this day I regularly attend church. It’s important for me to be part of a church – not just as a Sunday worshiper, but a student of the faith and one involved in church ministry. I enjoy being in worship and fellowship with other believers, and it’s important for me to have close relationships with other believers, to grow stronger and more mature in my faith. My faith is also an essential part of my relationship, and will continue to be in my marriage and family.

For all of these reasons I proclaim myself to be a religious person. I have often heard Christians say they aren’t religious but spiritual, as if to distance themselves from the undesirable aspects of the Christian church. But the very act of being part of or following a religion makes one religious, no? Yes, Christianity has it’s painfully obvious blemishes and more than it’s fair share of “wacky” followers, but I cannot deny something that is so much a part of who I am and why I am.

Though I consider myself a Christian, and undoubtedly believe in God’s existence, I have often questioned Christianity and wrestled with certain Christian principles. My personal and political ideals are often in conflict with what is generally accepted in the Christian faith.  My beliefs are not all supported by my Bible. I believe in an enormous God who is constantly being forced into small boxes. But I also believe in a God who has expectations and requirements. After all these years as a believer, I still have not reconciled my faith in Christ with the institutional Christian faith.

I think about my faith often – while in church, while at work, while attending life group (bible study), while reading the news, while discussing politics. Considering my faith is often stressful and worrisome for me. As such, through a series of blogs posts, I intend to be transparent about some of my religious struggles and try to articulate why I believe what I believe, despite the large opposition of such beliefs. I can’t be the only one with this struggle. I’ve never admitted these things to people who aren’t close to me, but I now feel compelled to think aloud and work this out through my favorite form of therapy. Besides, confession is good for the soul.

Speculating & Meditating,
~Gem

race + gender + politics spirituality

My God vs. My Country

April 2, 2012

Two weekends ago I attended a conference at my church  – “The Threshing Floor, an exclusive place in God’s Presence for a deep work to begin. A place He called safe and secure, to ensure that His promised work in your life be fulfilled.” The 1st night of the conference centered around an intense praise and worship and a Word from a visiting minister. When I say intense, I mean intense.

That Friday night, I was in church with about a hundred other believers for 4hrs. I hadn’t expected to spend my entire evening in church, and I started to feel a bit fatigued and had a massive headache, but I didn’t want to leave! I was overcome by the Spirit. I felt God moving, touching each soul that cried out (oh, did they ever cry out). I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Praise and worship lasted almost 3hrs. It was fascinating to witness all that was happening during this time. People sang, danced, jumped, stood, sat, shouted, cried, fell to their knees, prayed, swayed, stretched their hands heavenward. People praised, people worshiped.  It was indeed intense to not only feel the presence of the Lord dwelling within me but dwelling in all those around me. Though we were together collectively as one body for one purpose, each of us was experiencing our own personal praise. No two worshipers’ praise was the same. There was no pretense on how to worship – to each his/her own. We were free to connect with the Spirit and present ourselves to God as we individually saw fit.

One song (quite possibly played for an hour straight) brought me to tears, as I internally examined my own relationship with God and the spiritual path I traveled, feeling vulnerable and convicted, but also empowered and liberated.

The More I Seek You – Kari Jobe
The more I seek you
The more I find you
The more I find you
The more I love you
I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breathe
Feel your heart beat
This love is so deep
It’s more than I can stand
I melt in your peace
It’s overwhelming

These lyrics washed over every atom of my being. They so accurately captured how it felt to genuinely seek my Maker, without any reservations, without any outside distractions. And as I looked around through tear-filled eyes, I couldn’t help but think, “This is what it means to love God- here of our own free will to follow Him, to worship Him, to love Him, to have Him dwell in us.” It’s intimate. It’s personal. It’s judgement-free.

Yet when I left the walls of the church, and took a look around, my countrymen would have others believe that being a Christian isn’t a personal choice, an intimate experience, or a relationship without judgment. My countrymen would have others believe Christians spread the gospel through policies and legislation. My countrymen would have you believe that to know Christ is to force specific religious beliefs1 – despite their contradictory nature to what Christ stood for – on others to oppress, suppress, and ostracize those who do not fit their criteria of what is moral and righteous. My countrymen would have you believe that Christianity is a political power play instead of a beloved religion of choice by the believer. My countrymen would have you believe that religious isolation will make this country better.

But when I think of Jesus and His teachings, I don’t think of politics, alienation, control or hatred.  I think of him as my homeboy an extraordinary being who embodied the true meaning of LOVE. He spent time with society’s bottom of the barrel – those deemed evil, undesirable, and unworthy. He showed compassion, love, and mercy to everyone He encountered. Jesus led by example through His actions and deeds. People chose to love and follow Him because they could see the goodness of God through His deeds.

To be a believer of Christ is a personal choice, one that cannot be forced or commandedAnd despite what many of my countrymen might say to the contrary, no amount of laws or political influence can save the souls or make righteous any (wo)man.2 It’s the churches responsibility to help put a believer on the right path, not the government’s.3

As a believer of Christ, I find it absolutely reprehensible to support or promote policies or legislation that does the exact opposite of what Jesus would do – to love, accept and meet people at the point of their need. I’ll NEVER support anti-gay rights, anti-women’s reproductive rights (including abortion), anti- [insert any host of issue that is supposedly about morals here] – laws grounded in ignorance and hate, not in God’s love. I’ll NEVER support policing people’s personal lives that may not agree with religious doctrine. Because these laws won’t make anyone a better person or a better Christian, and supporting/promoting them doesn’t validate one’s moral status.

Christianity shouldn’t be a government-led crusade, but rather a personal journey with a collective purpose. I just pray my country learns to lead by example, as Christ did. I pray my country learns to love their God without acting Godlessly through hate, ignorance, and fear.

Am I alone in this? Does one nation under God mean we must spread the gospel through government force?

Separated by church and state,
~Gem, the Perplexed Disciple

———-
1 Of course, only convenient beliefs. There’s no ban on, say, eating pork for instance…
2 Not that I, for one second, believe that these so-called righteous bastards politicians are truly doing God’s work in their absurd political moral crusades. It’s only smoke and mirrors. But sadly, it’s working.
2 I won’t even go into the church trying in its own way to dominate people’s lives. But fundamentally, I think it’s important for the church to operate in the same love and peace as Christ. Not to condemn, but to set free.

growth + wellness spirituality

Unplugged

January 31, 2012

Will the world still turn if I don’t stay connected?

This weekend I culminated a 3-week long fast. This was the longest I’ve fasted, outside of Lent‘s 40 day fast, which I observe each year. Typically when I fast, it is in observance of a church-wide fast that only lasts 1 day or 1 week at a time. I often struggle with various spiritual and personal issues that require more focused devotional time with God, and fasting helps one draw closer to God by withdrawing from self. But it’s hard to be connected spiritually when I’m “too busy” being connected to everything else.

You see, I’m not really too busy to make time for my spiritual rejuvenation. It’s just… I’m allergic to staying focused and on task. I lack discipline in my fitness goals, academic goals, and especially my spiritual goals. I dedicate a small portion of each day to reading devotionals (often times forwarded to me by good friends, which I’m thankful for), but I know that I don’t put in the same amount of time into my spiritual relationship as I do other things in my life. But like any other relationship, its necessary to make the intentional effort to spend quality time so that the relationship can grow and flourish.

So when an older friend of mine from church asked me to join a group of people to do a “start of the year” fast, I immediately agreed. I knew this would be my chance to have a real life “come to Jesus” moment,  to regain focus in my commitment to my spiritual relationship and my other neglected priorities.

To do this, I not only fasted from certain foods (meat, white rice/pasta, soda), I fasted from major distractions. Yep, I gave up my beloved Facebook, Twitter, television and even gchat during the week.

To be perfectly honest, the food fast was the easiest. While the smell of a good hamburger or perfectly fried wings was tempting, I found new and tasty vegetarian/pescatarian recipes to indulge in. Giving up social media, however, during a time when I used it the most–AT WORK–was soooooo hard! Detaching myself from the very outlet that allows me to think aloud, share ideas, vent, or just be foolish for foolishness sake was probably one of the most difficult tests of discipline I’ve ever encountered1!!

It was a bit of an ego bruise to face the realization that the virtual world does not revolve around me and life indeed goes on whether I’m plugged into the machine or not. I struggled not to login to collectively wish my sorority sisters “Happy Founders Day” or to read the reactions to my YouTube debut2. But I was committed (or resolved, if you will) to my fast and to what it signified. I wasn’t going to cheat for a brief, fleeting moment of satisfaction.

So, after I got over this desire to just be in the virtual “know”, I became immensely productive and learned to really enjoy and appreciate my new found free time. I had so much more time to do my work (had a grant proposal and manuscript to write), to exercise and pay attention to my diet, to read leisurely (currently reading A Feast for Crows), and most importantly to spend in devotion, mediation and prayer. I felt good about my new found discipline and the benefits that came with it.

The fast gave me a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation for the many blessings I’ve received and will receive. By giving up a few of the things that have prevented me from achieving the discipline and focus I craved, I **wait for moment of revelation** gained the discipline and focus I craved. Funny how that works, huh? 🙂

Being unplugged from the noise allowed me to be plugged into myself and my Creator. And that feeling is priceless. It feels good to step outside of my comfort zone3 and actually hold myself accountable for my actions. I’m far from perfection, but God is still working on me. Now that I’ve reopened the path to communication, me and the Big G can keep working things out.  I look forward to fasting again for Lent and finding new ways to connect by disconnecting.

Are there things you need to unplug from? Do you spend more time in your distractions than you do in your priorities? Do you ever take time out for an extended period of time to just focus on yourself and your goals (i.e. through fasting)? What are some things you do to retreat from the noise of the world around you?

Plugging back in just a little,
Gemmie

—–
1 No lie, it was sheer torture initally. Wall sliding and fiend-like behavior occurred frequently during the first week. Social media withdrawal is a real life condition (lol).
2 Looking back, its a bit ironic that I gave up certain media distractions but not ALL such distractions. I managed to develop an addiction for many of the “sh*t ____say” YouTube videos. I mean, I watched my favorites EVERY day, MULTIPLE times a day. And to make matters worse, it kilt me not to be able to share my new addiction with others via social media. SMDH. I have a problem. #iNeedFree
3 I know, I know, it’s sad that social media is my “comfort zone”. But in my defense, I do have a REAL life outside of the internet, that is highly social (lol). I’m actually one of the most social persons I know. I just so happen to also love my virtual social ties. *shrug*

spirituality

Perfect Peace

September 22, 2011

I was engulfed by a mix of emotions while watching the media coverage of Troy Davis‘ execution on yesterday evening, September 21. I had spent most of the day trying to work on a paper I need to submit for publication (which would put me one step closer to defending my PhD), but breaks to check various social media outlets persuaded me to pay attention to Troy Davis. I didn’t want to pay attention to the injustices of another Black man facing capitol punishment because of a potentially wrongful conviction, because I knew it would ignite a flame in my soul that would be hard to extinguish. I just wanted to just finish my paper and be done with it. But Troy Davis was hard to ignore.

I could spend hours and countless paragraphs expressing my feelings about the legal [in]justice system, the death penalty and the states who support it. I could lament over Troy Davis’ death, and numerous others who have presumably been sacrificed in “legal lynchings”. But what stood out to me the most above all  is that when describing Troy’s moments leading up to the execution, it was reported that he refused the sedative offered.

Can you imagine how mentally free and calm you have to be for you to go into your execution without the pharmacological help of anti-anxiety relief? I find that mind blowing.

Hell, I need a sedative now to keep me from throwing my computer across the room and I’m only dealing with writers block.

I think it’s truly inspiring and comforting to know that Troy Davis was so spiritually in tune with his Maker that he could face his execution on the strength of his faith alone. I think very few of us ever reach that kind of spiritual clarity and peace. It’s so easy to be consumed with our woes that we get anxious, worried, stressed and just lose our damn minds as a result. Yet here is a man who was executed, despite the questionable evidence against him,  and he manages to make his peace with God, his spiritual freedom, and uses some of his last moments to express love, hope and encouragement. That is DEEP!

In light of that, I can only pray that I reach such spiritual freedom, such perfect peace. If nothing else, Troy Davis has taught me about faith and what it means to be free in the midst of confinement.

So as I sit at my desk, trying not to be consumed by my frustration of writing, I shall take a few moments to be still, to reflect on the good in life, and to know the joy that my God has given me. Even when life, and my dissertation, can seem so cruel.

In search of perfect peace,
~Gem

spirituality

Best Things I Don’t Have… Yet

August 1, 2011

How many times have you wanted some thing or some one so bad that you it consumed so much of your time and energy that you couldn’t think of anything else, and in your mind this thing or person became larger than life? How many times have you felt your life had a void because you didn’t have this some thing or some one that would help make it complete? How many times have you petitioned to God in prayer to grant those desires of your heart? If I had to count these occasions, we’d be here all day.

As a single woman in my late 20s with no marital prospects, living on a full time graduate student stipend, renting a home in a city I have no intention of staying in permanently, I have often felt like there are things missing in my life. I’ve often prayed to (read: pleaded with) God to change my situation or to give me more than what I have. There are people all around me who got more but gave less, and yet sometimes I feel like I give a lot but get only a little. Am I not worthy to have more? Am I asking for too much?

And just as I began to think once again about all the things I don’t yet have, I was reminded during yesterday’s sermon (based on 1 Corinthians 3:1-5) that sometimes we, believers, just aren’t ready to receive the blessings that God has for us. And yes, God does have blessings that He’s just waiting to give us. Often times I’m so consumed with what or who I want or don’t have that I don’t take the time to reflect or focus on what I need to do to get them. I want God to bless me, but I tend to focus too much on the gift rather than the giver. My priorities get screwed up and I don’t even realize that I’m in no position to have more sh*t I probably have no business having anyway stuff. But just like a good parent, God knows our circumstance and withholds things from us until we show that we are ready to receive it responsibly. And I truly believe that He lets us know exactly what we need to do to get our blessings. We just stay blocking ourselves from being blessed.

We live in a culture where we have a sense of urgency about everything. We aren’t always willing to be disciplined enough to delay gratification or invest in developing ourselves now and letting good things come later. Because more often than not, the best things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue that leads to greater rewards. So what’s the rush? #pumpyourbrakes

Besides, some things that seem so great and wonderful in our minds turn out to be less than desirable once we actually get them. That’s one of the reasons I love  Beyonce’s new hit single, “Best Thing I Never Had,” so much. Looking past the relationship tone of the song, I find the lyrics to be  profound because you can want something or someone so bad, but once exposed for what it or they really are, you end up being glad you don’t have it.

 I wanted you bad, I’m so through with that / ‘Cause honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had

Looking past the relationship tone of the song, I find the lyrics to be  profound because you can want some thing (one) so bad, but once exposed for what it (they) really is (are), you end up being glad you are without.  Some things are better out of reach, admiring from afar. I can’t even begin to describe that many times I sighed in relief at how much better off I am without the things or people I thought I couldn’t live without. #praiseHim

I want the best of what God has for me, but I’m willing to actively wait on them. And by actively wait I mean to act in faith by keeping my priorities straight and preparing myself to be receptive of the blessings I claim to want.

Have there been times you wanted some thing or some one so bad that was missing from your life? Have you ever wanted things that you knew deep down that you weren’t ready for? Are there things you really wanted, but later were relieved that you never got?

Waiting on the best that’s yet to come,
~Gemmie

growth + wellness spirituality

Friday Reflection: Learning to Give In

September 3, 2010
Oh, to be the work of these hands.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I often express my ever increasing frustration with Science. It seems to me as if Science is in my life to torment me and break me down to my lowest point. After numerous failed experiments causing my research project to go nowhere fast, I swear Science is basically saying “Eff you, eff your dreams, and eff everything you thought this life was about.” I don’t know how Science and I got here but I often wish we could just hit the relationship reset button and get back to the way they were when we first committed at Salk Institute, sharing the bliss of a promising new relationship. Yet, every other day I find myself cursing Science out for causing me so much emotional distress. *shakes fist*

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t doubt my compatibility with Science. But destiny–through a series of unlikely and coincidental events–brought us together and forced us to interact. How could we NOT be meant to be together? I guess I expected this relationship with Science to be easy, or at the very least rewarding. I knew things wouldn’t always be perfect or go my way, but I didn’t realize I’d end most days feeling defeated and incapable of turning things from bad to good. Even when I give my best and try my hardest, the return is sometimes nothing. What the eff, Science?

But I’m forgiving, so I resolve to make the most of even the worst situations with Science. I’ve come too far to give up on Science, we are in this to win this (and by “win this” I mean reach “Philosophize Deez” status). I can’t stop, won’t stop. So as the universe would have it, the daily devotion I read last night from my boy Joel O’s book  Your Best Life Begins Each Morning, hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

…Clay works best when it is pliable, malleable, and moldable. But if you are hard, crusty and set in your ways, God will have to pound away on that old hard clay to get out the lumps. Be willing to deal with any issues that God brings up. Work with Him in refining process rather than fighting against Him.

Whether or not you believe in the Christian faith, or adhere to any religious affiliation at all, I think the general sentiment behind this can be applicable to anybody. Sometimes it takes external forces (via negative or challenging experiences) of uncomfortable shaping and shifting to get us where we need to be. And the more stubborn and willing to change we are, the more unpleasant these external forces feel. It almost never feels good to go through this process of molding at the time; but once the process is over, the resulting product is satisfying and pleasing.

I am not always willing to be shaped and molded by my creator. But I want to be. The times I have submitted to the process, I’ve never regretted it and was thankful for it. I accept the challenge to continue to battle it out with Science in our “it’s complicated” relationship. And while I may still whine and moan and throw my hands up in despair, one thing is certain–I will not lose. *b-girl stance*

Does anyone else feel me on this? Do you see the great good behind the unfavorable circumstances you go through? Are you always willing to be formed by your experiences, despite how bad they might seem? Or does this all seem like BS to you?

Laslty, I encourage you to meditate on this, grasshoppers…

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” – Confucius

In my potter’s hands,
~Gemmie

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