Monday, January 31, 2005

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was my birthday. It has not failed to occur to me that the stress and worry I've been feeling over the state of the world has a lot to do with me getting older. I'm now 38 years old. Ouch.

I repeat, Ouch.

That's like, basically half my life over. Done. I don't even have a viable retirement plan. I haven't had kids yet. Menopause is looming in the distance (unless Armageddon comes first.) My gynecologist warned me last year... "ya better start soon." Thanks for the vote of confidence lady! And here I am a year later with nothing to show. I just hope when I go for my annual exam next week she doesn't play the music for final Jeopardy in the background.

Well at least I had a good birthday. We went up to Santa Barbara for the weekend. Stayed at a cool little Inn. Went to Solvang and Los Olivos. Tasted about a dozen wines. Which loosened us up so much we bought a bunch of wines we couldn't afford. Then we joined a wine club we had no business joining. Ate at a few slightly pricey but totally yummy restaurants. Went shopping on State Street in Santa Barbara. Spent money we should be paying bills with. Drove back late Sunday night saying how we really gotta stop that kind of thing and go on a budget. Ahhhhh. Old people like us need to get away once in a while.

I hardly thought about the corruption and evil plaguing our society. I was too busy indulging. Did you know that a good Moscato goes great with white chocolate? We ate dinner at this restaurant called the Palace Grill. Awesome. The stuffed filet mignon is to die for. And the breadpudding is heaven. You really can't beat the friendly service. They even passed out song sheets and everybody sang "What a Wonderful World" as the staff walked around raising a toast with all the guests. Totally goofy. But undeniably fun. I'd go there again in a heartbeat.

I also had another uplifting moment there. There were three guys at the table next to us. I overheard the last part of their conversation. Here's the paraphrased synopsis...

The long-haired blond was expounding, "I read on yahoo news that 2 people were killed in Iraq today. That's what they say in the headlines. But when you read the article you find out it's two Americans and 17 Iraqis. So it was really 19 people but we never count the Iraqis. And they weren't the bad Iraqis, they were the good guys on our side."
"So that's just how the news is man. They twist reality. Why are you making a big deal out it?" his buzzed cut friend replied.
"It is a big deal. I'm just saying the news is warped. It wasn't 2 people that died it was 19! That's my reality."

The waiter came over with their check. His friends basically blew him off but I wanted to yell out, AMEN BROTHER! It felt so good to know that there are people out there that recognize that humanity extends beyond our borders. Some of us can see that this war has not had only had the hundreds (I don't think we've hit 2000 yet) of casualties of American soldiers but also the thousands of Iraqi people who are trusting our government not to use them for oil and then throw them away like so much garbage. It's nice to know that other people out there are thinking for themselves.

We went to another bar/restaurant called the Brewhouse. No politics or religion there. Just a really loud (and awesome) band, a bunch of girls with no rhythm and a bunch of guys watching them dance. It was great. I like having fun. It's... well, it's FUN.

Maybe I will not stress over the country for a couple of days.

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Name

I just thought I share this little journal entry from last week. It was a fantastic experience so why not share it... *****

A few years ago I was watching a TV show. A talk show I think. And the guest was some kind of psychic type person. I think it was a woman. It was a while ago so I don’t remember exactly. But I do remember something she said. Something, like… there are no coincidences. So if you need clarity. If you’re looking for a message from the other side, turn on the radio. The next song you hear will contain the answer.

This morning there was no traffic. It’s Martin Luther King Day. I got to Kearny Mesa in 40 minutes. Half the time it usually takes from Vista, and 30 minutes early for work. The sun was out and magnificently blazing. The radio said it was going to be in the low 80’s. I figured after all the rain we’ve been having that this warranted a stop off at Starbucks for a Grande Vanilla Latte. As I placed my order the girl asked my name. I told her. “Wow, that’s a really cool name. I haven’t heard that one in a while.” “Thanks,” I said, not thinking it was such a big deal. I’ve had it all my life. I was named after my mother so to me it’s hardly original.

As I got in the car, I thought about my name. It doesn’t say a thing about me really. I looked up the meaning of it once on some website that purports to tell you the origins and meaning of your name. “Creative Spirit.” Okay, I’m a writer. I fancy myself creative. And I have a deep passion for the spiritual. I guess I could buy that. Then another time I looked up the meaning of my name from different source and it said it meant “basket weaver.” Basket weaver! That’s a far cry from Creative Spirit. Not nearly so lofty. But the only psychic I’ve ever consulted (on whim during a day at Venice Beach) did tell me she saw that in past life I lived on an island were I was weaving baskets. So that might mean something, if I actually believed in past lives.

But still as I backed out of my parking space at Starbucks I thought. My name can not be my real name. Even when I hear people say it, sometimes I don’t feel like they are talking to me. It sounds strange in their mouths and even stranger in my own sometimes. Really, no one’s name really describes who they are. Michael. Nope, doesn’t say a thing about his soul, his struggles, his dreams, his fears or his love. Nothing. Even people with meaningful names like “Imani,” “Hope,” “Aisha,” or “Felicity.” Those names are more a reflection of their parent’s prayers and beliefs than they are of the person who bears them. So what name really describes us?

On Star Trek (TNG, I think) there was an episode where an alien race had no “names” because their names were in fact a recounting of their entire history. So introductions could end up taking weeks. I don’t think that’s what I’m looking for. But then again, in a way it is.

As I turned from the parking lot onto Clairemont Mesa Blvd, I realized that I wanted to know my true name. The appellation that speaks of my entire history, my purpose, my weakness, my strength and my eternity. The secret name that belongs only to me. My God Name. The name that God gave me when He thought me up. The one that I have had since time began. I will finally answer to that name when He calls me. And I felt at that moment a pang of sadness. Because I realized that I would have to live the rest of this life without knowing my own name. Only on the day of my death would it be spoken. And it seamed like such a lonely journey from now until then. And then what if it turns out it was my plain old name all along? Or worse… what if it really is Basket Weaver? Worse still what if I have no name?

And then a song came on the radio. Seal’s “Love Divine.” The piano in that song is so beautiful. It quieted my thoughts and pulled me in. Seal began singing as if in mid conversation…

Then the rainstorm came over me
And I felt my spirit break…

His sadness echoed what I was feeling. I sang along in the moment, not thinking ahead to the chorus.

I had lost all of my belief you see
And realized my mistake
But time threw a prayer to me
And all around me became still

Yeah time is like that, I mused as I sang with him. It’s a healer alright.

I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name.

And now I have lost my breath. My unspoken wish granted in the words of a song. God heard me. He does have a name for me. His divine love will help me to know it. And I won’t have to die to hear it spoken.

Through the rainstorm came sanctuary
And I felt my spirit fly
I had found all of my reality
I realize what it takes

I had to blink back the tears. A huge smile covered my face as I drove. “You’re pretty clever,” I whispered to God and laughed. I felt like I was flying.

'Cause I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, loves is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I don't bend [don't bend], don't break [don't break]
Show me how to live and promise me you won't forsake
'Cause love can help me know my name

Funny how the words of a song can do the praying for you. For me this is not just a garden variety love song to another person who brings love and meaning to your life. This song is a prayer to God. And one that I was trying to pray at the very moment I heard it. I need only live by His calling to be what He wants me to be and He will be with me. He knows me. By name.

Well I try to say there's nothing wrong
But inside I felt me lying all alone
But the message here was plain to see
Believe me…

I am reminded that no matter what happens to me, no matter how lonely it gets, I can never pray alone. God is not just the listener. He prays along with me in a way. Adding strength to my pleas by His own ineffable love. And knowing that and feeling it is how faith is born. It’s what it means to be known and loved.

'Cause I need love, love's divine
Please forgive me now I see that I've been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh don't bend [don't bend], don't break [don't break]
Show me how to live and promise me you won't forsake
'Cause love can help me know my name
Love can help me know my name.

Amen to that brother.

January 17, 2005

Break The Bank

It is disheartening. Almost everyone I talk to has given up. I hear people say that the elections were stolen. People who voted for the first time say, “I really studied the issues, I made conscious choices. But it didn’t matter. They stole the election with fraud and dirty tricks. My vote didn’t count.” And now they retreat into their discouragement. They will likely not vote again. And those who didn’t vote, and never do, because of the corruption they see, are saying, “you see that’s what I mean. This country doesn’t belong to the people anymore. It belongs to those in power. That’s why I don’t vote.”

It’s like watching someone who’s suffered a broken heart give up on love. Tragic.

But I think we are missing the point. We're looking at it all wrong. We do not hear the quiet jubilation of those who manipulated the vote. We don’t hear the sighs of relief. The elated cries of “what a bargain!” Yes, a BARGAIN. You see it takes money to cheat. It takes large transfers of cash to steal votes and then cover your tracks. The elections were expensive for those who bought them. And even the deepest pockets can’t sustain that year after year. Not at a high rate anyway. So they are quite happy to see us give up. That makes it cheaper for them next time around.

You see for every 10 people who vote their conscience, they must buy 11 votes. And I believe there are far more of us who cannot be bought than there are those who can. So even if I know that they are going to do their damnedest to steal the next election, I’m going to vote anyway and I’m going to get others to vote too. Why? Because I want to BREAK THE BANK! I want to force them to spend more and more cash to win dirty. I want to make it so expensive for them to cheat that they get sloppy.

All that money changing hands…They are bound to make a mistake. And I have faith in their greed and their unbridled lust for power. They are too vain not to barrel forward. And even if they are extra careful they will have to cast a wider net. And that means there’s a great chance they’ll snag an honest whistleblower who’ll bring down their house of cards.

I challenge everyone, Democrat, Republican, Green, undeclared… vote your conscience not the party line. Make those who corrupt our voting system pay more to commit their crimes. Eventually they will destroy themselves. Don’t let them discourage you into silence. If you do, you’ve done worse than sell your vote. You’ve given it to them for FREE!

Maybe I'm more sensitive than most about voting because I'm a black woman (PC translation... African American Female). I've got the historical double whammie of people trying to keep it out of my hands. But, damn ya'll, don't lay down and roll over like a bunch of whipped puppies that easily for crying out loud. Instead of giving them the finger and storming off for a beer and a bitch session, put that finger to good use on that little touchscreen ballot so they have to pay more to void it out. (Wash it first though, I might be using that booth after you and I don't know where your finger's been.)

Seriously though, Vote in spite of them!!! It's a crazy idea, I know but no worse than that dumb "Gas Out" boycot idea. Besides, who knows we may be so busy trying to break the bank that we beat them anyway FAIR AND SQUARE.

Of course, "we" and "they" are left undefined on purpose. Hey, man, I don't wanna point no fingers. But them guilty parties know who they are. ;-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Brutally Honest Confession

As I promised here is one of the emails that, uh, shall we say, raised an eyebrow or two amongst my compadres...

I have a confession to make. I lie. I am greedy and materialistic. I spend money on stupid trivial things and rationalize that if I buy stuff for other people that means I’m generous. I run up my credit cards without a care in the world as if I’m counting on dying before I ever have to pay it back. I worry about what people think more often than I worry about doing the right thing REGARDLESS of what they think. I find it easier to blindly follow my leaders than to question the clear lack of integrity they show and dark deeds that they do. I cringe when stereotypes and slurs of other races, genders, sexual orientations, political ideologies, religions and cultures struggle, barely restrained, at the tip of my tongue as they try to lunge forward into the world. My road rage makes me curse like a sailor 7 days a week even when I’m driving to church. I’d rather watch reruns of my favorite sitcoms than the evening news. My ethics and values are often pawns in the game of “What’s In It For Me?” If a minister (or anybody for that matter) peppers his speech with “hallelujah”s and “Praise God”s it’s unlikely I’ll question anything else he says or does; even when I know he’s taking bribes, cheating on his taxes and lying just as badly as I do. ‘Cause after all an anointed “Man of God” must be filled with the Holy Spirit so I should just do what he tells me and let him do my thinking, and if necessary my voting, for me. And all that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I hate all these things about myself and yet I can not overcome them.

I am a Christian. Saved by the blood of the lamb. Bible-reading. Daily praying. But obviously I have a problem. Faith without works is dead. It’s the work that I have trouble with. The work of telling the truth even if it gets me into trouble. Of being satisfied with and grateful for what I have. It is much harder to give the time, talents and loving care which people crave, than it is to buy trinkets for my friends that they don’t really need; and it’s pretty much just a weak attempt to buy their love and a little glory for myself. It is far simpler to give in to immediate gratification than it is to live modestly and save up for the things that really matter. I resist the labor of putting integrity before popularity. I shrink from the toil of realizing that citizenship doesn’t end in the voting booth, it STARTS there. It is a small struggle to hold back my own latent bigotry but the greater struggle is to look it in the eye again and again; and to deconstruct it bit by bit until I find and destroy the lie that gives it breath. Laziness and inertia are my personal demons and slaying them is a task that would give Hercules pause. My anger is a stumbling block and my vanity a crushing stone; neither of which I seam to have the strength to move. I think that sticking to the values gifted to me by Christ, even when they don’t serve my desires, will be the hardest thing I ever do, period. It takes near superhuman effort to actually take my guidance from the Holy Spirit rather than His “mouthpiece” in the pulpit who may (consciously or unconsciously) have his own agenda. Christ called his shepherds to be “servants” not puppet masters. And I am to be gentle as a lamb, not to be as gullible as one. It is a fearful undertaking to boldly declare that the words “thank you Jesus” in the mouth of a false prophet is a far worse blasphemy than an angry exclamation of “Jesus Christ!” in the mouth of a born-again believer who’s just stubbed his toe. And that, as I said, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe you’ve read all the books I’ve read. Prayer of Jabez, Purpose Driven Life, the Bible... But though they lay out the work quite clearly, I think reading those books doesn’t make doing the work easier. Maybe that’s why I haven’t really started yet. I’m only just now realizing you can’t get out of DOING the HARD, HARD WORK of it no matter how many Bible Studies you go to and prayer journals you keep.

So here is the thing. The laborers are few. No matter how saved I am, I am not automatically one of them. That’s just the cold hard reality of it. I am praying for the mind of Christ. The heart and passion of a laborer. I have the soul of salvation but I need the work-worn hands of a carpenter. Else, am I not dead? So please. Pray for me.

Do me a favor. Don’t send me a thousand inspirational Christian emails promising me a miracle if I forward it to ten friends and the person who sent it within the next 30 seconds. Don’t make it a test of my faith or a sign that I’m secretly ashamed of Christ if I don’t. Quite frankly I’m not going to do that. Clicking “forward” and spamming everyone in my address book is not even remotely “work” for me. I put more effort into preparing my morning cup of coffee than that. And honestly, I don’t like the sputtering "halo of holier-than-thou smugness" I feel just after I hit “send.”

But please pray for me. Just because you do, it doesn’t mean you’ll get any big reward. And if you don’t, I sincerely doubt there will be some big whammie waiting for you around the corner, nor will it become some ugly black mark to keep you from your Heavenly reward. You don’t have to respond to tell me that you did it either. I don’t need proof of your love or faith. You don’t have forward it to all your Christian friends or your non-Christian friends for that matter. I don’t really care who sees this. Because there’s no real work to any of that.

I make this confession for two reasons. First, because I need all the help I can get to get me moving. And second, because I suspect I am not the only uncomfortably complacent Christian who’s trying to take an honest look at herself and doesn’t like what she’s seeing.

Well then, I guess my hand is on the plow now, isn’t it?
end of email.

See why some folks were wigged out? heheheh (nervous laughter) heheheh...

Hey This Is Fun...

Like a kid with a new toy. Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog.

Okay what started me on this riff? Blame that blasted liberal swag of a mag, Vanity Fair. I LOVE that magazine. "Chronicles of the Rich Behaving Badly," I call it. But, great grist for indignation mill. And food for thought.

I've been thinking a lot lately. Too much really.

War scares me. A little for myself -- there's an awful lot of military bases around me, what if some terrorist decides to go all "Pearl Harbor" on San Diego?

But mostly for the world. It's almost like we think this is a movie where the only people who die are the nameless extras and the hero saves the day before anybody important (like ourselves) gets killed. I have a very bad feeling that it's not going to work out that way. Especially since everybody's sitting around waiting for the hero to show up. Well the Second Coming notwithstanding, I have my doubts.

I feel so bad for the soldiers. They're trying so hard to fight for freedom, but our government policies just seem to be ramming them into walls. Save that for another day.

Today I'm just excited about this whole blogging thing!

In the next day or so I'll post some emails that disturbed the heck out of a few of my friends. Which also might explain why I'm getting into this bloggy territory. I'm a wimp though. I'm not yet prepared to take comments. I'm still figuring out what my point of view is. Where I stand. Trying to defend it to anybody who thinks I'm an ass would pretty much be an exercise in futility as I might end up agreeing with them.

And so as I enter the realm of Blogdom with tentative steps this 26th day of January in the year of our Lord 2005; I inhale the scent of the bloggy air and my plaintive voice cries out, "What the heck is that smell?!"

Gotta Start Somewhere

Well, after disturbing my friends and relatives with various religious and political rantings over the last month or so I've decided that might not be the best way to go. (My friend Carmen asked me what made me "snap.")

Life is making me "snap." The injustice, cruelty and unfairness I see are pushing my buttons. I don't like my buttons being pushed. But all that stuff has been around forever and isn't likely to go anywhere so... what to do... what to do?

I could move my buttons out of reach. But that's not gonna happen in this world. Colonization of Mars is pretty far off and Alien abduction is such a crap shoot these days, so... what to do... what to do?

I just need to find a way to vent. To express my opinions. To take it out on somebody else other than my loved ones. To get some really cheap therapy. And maybe even make a difference. Or not. I don't really know.

But hey, you gotta start somewhere.