Thursday, October 18, 2012

Religious Freedom?? Here? In America??

Okay, so I believe in religious freedom, right?? I have friends and family from different countries, different religions, NO religion, different races, ethnicities and I am doubly-blessed and grateful to have them. I have a broader view of the world and of life in general because of my friends and family, and because of the honest and real relationships with them. But here, in America… do we really have religious “freedom?” If you are not a cookie cutter version of someone that would “plug and play” in the 700 Club, PTL, or AFA… are you free? Are you accepted? Are you a “real” Christian?

Everybody that is an American citizen has the civil right of religious freedom. It’s in the very 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. We, as citizens in the 1700’s noted and then VOTED to allow people to practice their belief structure, personally and privately, without persecution, without recrimination. So, then why is religion such a big deal? Why is it a big deal in America, in general? It’s not as great of an issue in Europe, or in other parts of the world. But here, it is. It’s a big deal in politics, in entertainment, in friendships, in love… It became a big deal because of religious and political extremists. The founding fathers of our nation were actually quite sick and tired of being told how and when to worship, and how and when to believe and (in my own Christian, humble opinion) might have gone too far left in separating the church and the state aspects of our nation. But, they did. It was ratified. It was accepted. It was amended. It is IN our Constitution.

Now, truthfully, and quite bluntly, I don’t care, personally, that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. If he wants to believe and practice Santeria or Voodoo, I don’t care. If he wants to be a Scientologist, I don’t care. However, I care that he says he’ll govern and religion will play a part in his decision making. I care because I am NOT Mormon. I don’t want ANY leader to use THEIR personal belief structure in making legislation for me or mine. I care that he wants to have it BOTH ways – he will use Christianity as the foundation for his own religion’s influence on his decision making. Yet, he wants that off of the table of discussion. I DO care that he wouldn’t discuss it – for almost 5 years. I care that he won’t allow questions about his family, finance, or faith in press conferences or interviews. THEN, he complete flip flops and does controlled and very contrived PR opportunities about his faith to quell the press and publics outcry. It’s very weird, to me, how the entire thing was produced.

I care that our highest office and the transparency that goes with the campaign and political process are being both circumvented and subjugated for this particular (well to do, white) man, by a group of (well to do, white) men for the purpose of… Well, that’s where I have the problem. WHY are the very people that only want a white, well to do, homogenous Protestant Fundamental Christian nation in America supporting Mitt Romney? Until very, very recently (this week) the Billy Graham website had Mitt Romney’s religion listed as a cult. After a meeting with Mr. Romney, that part of his site was “cleaned up”. I find that pretty odd.

I DO care that so many conservative fundamentalist Protestant Christians are supporting Mitt Romney openly. I care because most of their websites and internal monologues in churches for decades have been that Mormonism is a cult. They are only now embracing one Mormon despite their beliefs and Christianity because the alternative is a Protestant Christian (openly stated and declared) that also happens to be black. And, yes… Barack and Michelle Obama have already stated and self-identified as Christian. Barack Obama also answered questions regarding his personal choice to go from his father’s religion of Muslim-turned-Atheist to his mother’s Christianity with: “It’s not my job to convince others of my conversion.” Uh, dear President Obama, I mean NO disrespect when I say, “Amen, hunty… amen.”

So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Why am I even raising this point? Because I have seen friends and family have discussions that are inaccurate. They are just INACCURATE. And I don’t care what “god” you worship, or what book you claim is “holy” as long as you are informed and making your own choice. But when your pastor is changing the nature of his beliefs… and when even Billy Graham is changing his own websites old view of a sect and cult within the (very large, very loose interpretation) umbrella of “Christianity”, then it’s getting weird. It’s getting sad. It’s getting serious. When your pastor is telling you Mitt Romney is your choice, based on the simple fact that President Obama is a Democrat, Christian, Black American that embraces ideas and ideologies that are more liberal or progressive than past sitting Presidents… that’s wrong. Wrong because then that tax-free, religious, supportive place becomes a lobbying firm paying speakers, musicians, teachers, and staff while they tell you and lobby you (the attendee, the lay person) to vote their way and their belief and what the conservatives want. Then it becomes a legal issue and their tax status should be stripped and they should have to file the appropriate paperwork LIKE ANY OTHER LOBBYIST. Also, it’s wrong to change and support a man that goes against your basic belief structure, because…UM… IT GOES AGAINST YOUR BASIC BELIEF STRUCTURE. Also, let’s not forget that during the Republican Primaries… Mitt’s religious status WAS discussed and he WAS dissed and “Christians” didn’t want a “Mormon” in office. The other candidates, the other GOP primary candidates, the people, and the constituents and “leftovers” from his previous “work” didn’t like him - didn’t care for him - didn’t want him. The people that hated him in the primaries actually stated, “I am voting AGAINST Obama, rather than FOR Romney”. I guess if your only other choice is a nigger, then even a Mormon is better than staying true to your beliefs and ideals. It’s racism. It’s control. It’s fear. And it’s wrong.

We, as citizens have a right to religious freedom. A very small and powerful section of our population has made it seem that if you don’t fit their ideal of “Christianity,” then you are not welcome here in the United States. That’s not true. And, personally, as one that identifies my personal beliefs as a Christian, I am reminded and thoughtful on a verse from OUR holy scriptures. It applies to Christians, and it is about our belief that our God will judge us if we are evil and not living and proclaiming the Christ. Not, 700 Club, not James Dobson, not AFA, not any televised and Billy Graham-esque portion of what they “think” today’s Christians look like – but God will judge us, and judge us harshly if we don’t follow our Christ’s teachings and example. I think that those Christians that misquote, misrepresent, change and revise their stance on our scriptures and our beliefs, specifically to fit a political or social agenda, ought to think on
Revelation 3:16: And you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am going to vomit you from my mouth.
I seriously pray for this country. God help us and bless us all.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Monday, September 17, 2012

#MamawSue: Early Morning Wake Up Calls and LaNita's Ability to Insult...

This call came to me one morning at 7AM...

My mother swears it wasn't meant to offend her aging mother, simply for her to get up, and start getting around because they had a busy day - beginning at noon. Now, Mamaw can cook. Mamaw can sew. Mamaw can do just about anything. But she doesn't like "fancy" and she was never "pretensious" even though she had it in her blood and passed it down to her daughter and grandson! But she was never one to be a "lady who lunches". She doesn't necessarily like lunching with the ladies auxillary, or the like. She's a "drink coffee on the porch and talk about your 'Prayer List'" kind of woman. If she DID go out, she was in floor length formals and fabulous costume jewelry and mink going to some Lodge affair with my grandfather.

Now, in all fairness, and in all honesty... my mother truly (possibly, truly) wanted her to get up and get dressed, get her hair done, etc. What she said was, "Get up, Momma... you need to stay active!" Which, as any southern woman worth her salt, can twist into: "Get up, Momma... you are old and getting fat and need to move around." That's where I entered and had to diplomatically diffuse a situation. After that, Mamaw informed everyone she'd earned the right to sleep in, if she so chose.

I have yet to receive another of these calls.
#JustBeingMichael ツ

Swallow A Knife...

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Saturday, September 15, 2012

#MamawSue: I'll Always Love You More...

And she was 100% right.
No one ever love(s)/(d) me as much as my Mamaw. I would dare say that sweet, hardheaded, strong, precious woman has prayed, cried, and "been there" for our family more than anyone I've ever known.

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Friday, September 14, 2012

#MamawSue on Life Makeovers & Changes...

My Mamaw is an amazing woman. She's full of common sense, wisdom, and moral fortitude. She's also a pistol. She'll tell you things before you realize that you didn't necessarily want to hear them, and even later realize that you needed to hear them.

I was trying to talk to her about my "Life Makeover" and the Changes I've been working on... She had already told me this quote years ago, but she said something similar to it again and gave me some encouraging words. Granted, she said she didn't understand "makeovers" in general. Her school of thought was:
"If you were being who you were supposed to be, or wanted to be in the first place, you wouldn't need to fix anything or have a makeover. Let that be a lesson, pet... live the way you are supposed to, and do what you know is right, and you won't have to change friends or 'say you're sorry'."

Well, Mamaw, hindsight being 20/20, I'll do that from now on. She also told me:
"Don't never regret anything. If you never make mistakes, hon, then you would never learn how you should fix them. Sometimes you have to know how to make things right. Fixing things and making things right is a great skill to have in this life."
She even said she'd add me to her prayer list. If you know my Mamaw, that means I'm also being gossiped about!!! But THAT's a whole 'nother story!!

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Deep Space Photographs... Magnificent!

Who doesn't like pretty pictures from the universe?

This article is hilarious. Now, y'all be careful, because it is riddle and rife with bad words and suggestive language, but the author is absolutely correct in his assessment of the magnitude and simple gorgeousness of the universe around us.

The #1 spot-and the most amazing to me-is when they pointed the Hubble at some "black sky" and there were no stars and nothing to see. This is what the Hubble brought back:

Now that may not seem TOO impressive until you realize that those are not stars. At all... Check out the 110MB 6400P pic here and you'll see in GREAT detail that each point of light is a GALAXY!

I don't know about you, but that's MIRACULOUS to me, and not a little bit intimidating. Just me - out in the universe. I am small and unknown as one spec on this one planet in this one solar system in one galaxy among tens of thousands of galaxies in the universe.


Diane Von Furstenburg + Google Glasses?? Yes, please...


Thanks to DVF and Google, we can see what it's like to walk the runway.
We can also see the future of fashion and technology as it begins to merge.

I am already enamored and overwhelmed by my phone(s) and tablet. I am also increasingly less dependent on actual workstation computing, connecting, and sharing. Travel, cloud, connectivity, and my evolving lifestyle have afforded me this luxury of not being tied to one single locale to peform "work". And it's magnificent.

This only makes me want more, more, more!

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Accountability Is Key...

If something is broken, fix it.
If you have a broken item, that cannot be fixed, get rid of it.
If something is hurting, mend it.
If you have a hurt item, that cannot be mended, end it.
That seems elementary. That seems like common "horse sense." But it isn't. We are barraged with images and with ideals that our society has become too quick to discard things. And we have. There are more divorces than ever. It's at an all time high. There are more relationships that end, and some for no more reason than a misunderstanding. Today, there is more pollutions, trash, and "thrown away" items than ever before. We ARE a society that wants things instantly, becomes bored or un-impressed even faster than that, and we are quick to discard, leave, abandon, and divorce at a rate that could make even the most jaded cynic blink.

Is that a bad thing?
Yes, and no. Selfish and senseless abandon are not great qualities. And our society today makes it more tolerant to do such "because it makes us happy." But, there are things to be said for working through relationships, mending friendships, fixing broken heirlooms, practicing and working to be better at sports, work, and acheiving our goals. Those are honorable and great things. They are just increasingly rare qualities in our society. But there are times when things cannot be fixed, cannot be mended, and cannot be overcome. There are times to honestly admit that, and honorably find a way to move on to the greater good in your life. There is absolutely no benefit to holding onto the bad things. Old things. Broken things. Dead things. Outdated things. If you cannot fix it, why are you hoarding it? If you can fix it, why haven't you? What is the fear and procrastination that are preventing that?

Proverbs 13:9: "The righteous are like a light shining brightly; the wicked are like a lamp flickering out."
I want to be righteous. I want to be a light to others and I wanto to shine. Brightly. But, that's hard to do if you are clouded, burdened, and distracted. You cannot fulfill your directives and destiny, if you are carrying the the discarded and broken things of other people's expectations, disappointments, and baggage. And that means your family, your friends, your lovers, and your internal voice. Those burdens are not yours to bear. Life goals, life goals, life goals...  You cannot reach them and become what you were meant to be if you are hoarded down with old broken things you will never use. And there are times to stop, back up, fix whatever needs fixing, and keep going... and there are times to know that something is irrevocably damaged and move on. I struggle with that decision repeatedly. The only advice I have is to pray for guidance and wisdom to know those situations.

In my own life, I've had to make the decision on which path to take - I've had to determine what I thought could be done with situations. Could they be fixed, mended, or patched together? Or did they need to be discarded? It's never an easy call. Especially when other people are concerned. But, I've had to apologize, and eat a little crow before to save a friendship. I've had to, also, end friendships that after some evaluation, I determined to be something I didn't need to have in my life. I've had to work with lovers and patch things up in relationships, and I've had to end relationships. I've had to relegate and compartmentalize people so that I didn't depend on them or think of them as certain labels (lover, family, friend, acquaintance) or of a type (trustworthy, wary, sneaky) so that the actions of peopel would not either cause me to be dependent on them or would not disappoint me. If you expect nothing, you are not let down when they deliver nothing. (The flip side is - that's a sad way to be... but sometimes necessary).

The truly wonderful thing in my own life is that I have friends and family I trust implicity to hold me accountable to my new life goals. There are very few I can say that about these days, but a man can count himself lucky if he has even one friend, right? I have more than that, and am doubly-blessed. I need the accountability - to keep me honest, and to call me out not only for the physical goals, but the emotional goals. There is now a formal and definite exercise plan in place. There is a a formal and definite nutrition/food plan in place. For those I've told about my health issues - there is a formal and definite plan in place for the upcoming surgery vs. pills. I'm still not sure I want surgery, but either way, it's being handled. There is NOT one yet for the smoking and drinking cessation and moderation plan. But, there will be. (Roma no se construyó en un día, no?!)

Not to mention the exciting and new career opps I am getting. I can't believe much of this is even coming my way. Still, all of this is still going to be a work in progress. As of yet, there are no set plans for the [in]famous attitude and snark. Also, as an afterthought (it should be a given, but just in case) there are no set plans to not be a vocal participant in my own life and the course of my nation. It IS election season, after all. And that's enough rambling about me for today. 

#JustBeingMichael ツ

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OMG - I'm FAT!!!

OR - Thank you for alerting me to the fact that I've put on weight...

Ok, let' be serious, unless you are completely oblivious, or a total idiot - you already know when you've gained weight. Everyone knows. And if you don't know, I admire you. There are truly a handful of people out there that are just UN-self-conscious and I envy and admire that. As for me, I am very aware of body consciousness when I have lost or gained weight. I had always assumed that everyone is like that... so, from my vantage point, a couple of pounds and you are aware, trust me.

You know when you look into a mirror - it's right there in front of you.
You know when you see your "friends'" faces - because they register judgement, or shock, or even may say something.
You know when your clothes don't fit right - and when you need to buy something else to wear.

These are all things that fat people know. Well, maybe not all fat people, but it is certainly something I know. What's sad and sometimes hurtful is what you don't know. You don't always know when and how people talk behind your back. Or more specifically, when they text about you while they are with you to mutual friends. You don't always know when people post things about you - like pictures of you with "funny" captions. So, I guess basically, the sad part is that you don't always know who your real friends are, or are not. But, gain some weight - you'll learn quickly.

I don't blog about this to be "ugly." I am not going to name names for the public, but I am sure you know who you both are. I get that it might have gotten you a good laugh and maybe you thought it was funny, but it's not. And I appreciate the well-meaning friend that told me - who was even hurt and angry on my behalf!! But, the truth is that I have much more important things happening in my life than this. Things that are happening for me and to me. Things that are more important than this impropriety of so-called "friends," more important than me being "fat." For instance, I am working a difficult and intensive life makeover and I have so much more going on... my career(s), my writing, my music, my art.... Hell, even my personal dramatic life and adventures... my successes, my spectacular failures! There are just so many things to talk about... why focus on just my waist or my clothing size? And the bottom line truly is - I can lose the weight. I can become healthy or fit, or even skinny again, but neither of you will never be as cool or as good as I once thought you were. Ever. Why not text about that next time. Why not post pictures of your husband getting fired for drugs from the easiest place on earth to work? Or the fact that if his parents didn't have money... you two couldn't survive on your shop girl salary while he smokes pot and plays video games?? That's a pic worth posting. :) Or how about a picture to post about the fact that you take pills every day just to survive your emotional trauma and how your mom's a hot mess. Post pics of you taking from the register at work and helping your drug addicted friend to become even more entrenched in their disease. Or, if you are a Sneaky Texter - text about your penchant for taking hand me downs in clothes, cars... hell, even lovers next time. Text about your trips out of town to exchange sexual favors for designer clothes. Text about how you become a chameleon for every lover and only take on the traits they approve of, instead of ever being true to yourself. Or if the two of you can't come up with better things than that - or don't want to put your own lives out to the public... There are so many colossally stupid things I've done to post about or text about. Text about my famously failed relationships, my tendency to be a total cuntzilla, or even my lack of emotional connectivity to almost any person - you know, "real" things I need to work on. Text about the "real" things that I do that need scrutiny... be a little more creative than just talking about my inflated size.

Now, truly, and sincerely - I don't say any of that to be ugly. I am only bringing it up, because I am baffled that for two people with so many of their own skeletons, it's amazing how they'd pick ME to talk about. And do pick such a superficial topic about me (of all people) is silly. I already know I'm fatter than before. I know I've gained weight, bulked up, and need to lose weight.

Why? I know this because I am not a total fucking idiot.

I have eyes and a brain and can see and feel and hear. But, maybe that's not enough. Maybe I did need these events to happen (both in the same week). I now also know this because the fag hag of an ex-lover posted a picture of me with derogatory remarks on it. I now also know this because someone I considered a friend sent text messages about me and my fat to another friend while I was at the table - right in front of me. Maybe I should thank the two people - I mean... when you think about it - thank God someone had the sense to tell me I was fat. Otherwise, I might not have ever known!!! I dunno, even thinking about this, writing this, or dealing with this seems a little bit petty to me. But, if I don't deal with it head on and in my typical "MK" fashion... then I think I'll hold a grudge, let it build up and let it affect me - which is something I definitely do not want. Furthermore, with my new life plan in place and the changes I am enacting on my person, and about my relationships to all of those around me, this might be the best thing that could've happened. Maybe it's a good thing that I've learned this lesson the hard way. This might be God's or the universe's big test of me to see if I'll stick to emotionally purging old baggage and hurts - even if they come up and are new. The bottom line is that I need to forgive these people for what they've done because it is technically none of my business and I'd likely have never known if a well-meaning mutual friend had not told me to wary of this person. The real laugh is that the person only told me because I was taking up for Sneaky Texter when someone else was speaking poorly of them. THEN I was informed that I looked quite stupid to take up for someone that was bad-mouthing me. Who knows... maybe it would be better for my psyche if I had not known. But I DO know, and that's okay too. I know, it's ill-timed for my life makeover and it's hurtful what the two people said and did. So, I have a choice - be what I want to be and move forward, or hold a grudge and be ugly about it. I am going to choose to move forward because it will only hurt me to hold a grudge and only hold me down to hate or have the negativity around me.

That isn't easy for me. My natural state is pretty bitchy and I tend to embrace confrontation vs. shy away from confrontation. And it makes me wonder - since one of the people had been heavier before - why? WHY would they do that. I've helped them in the past. I've let them stay with me. I've housed their belongings. I've cleaned up their messes and hid them from crazy exes. So, why make fun of me? What's the enjoyment or pleasure? What's the benefit or emotional payoff? And why am I hurt? They technically did not lie. The truth is that I have gained weight - too much weight. But it's not like I don't know that or haven't been honest about it. I haven't run around town it clothes that are too small and pretended to be the hottest cock on two legs... Maybe some people were born to be heavier or naturally carry more fat. That doesn't mean it's okay or healthy, but it's just some body types and some genetics. And per some studies, maybe some people's healthy place is at a higher BMI. Other studies say the opposite. But what is right? What is real? What is the answer? There are some people that just never lose weight easily or naturally. Some people were born big, stayed big, and have always been big. Some gain weight after weight loss, because their "natural" resting weight isn't low, and their metabolism is slower, naturally. Some gain weight after they get older. Sedentary lifestyle and age will cause weight gain, loss of muscle, and the addition of fat. Some gain weight through poor diet after emotional trauma, physical trauma, or other issues that cause food to be a comfort... I had/have problems with all three of those. I lost so much weight, and did it in an unhealthy manner. I am getting older and it's harder with travel and jobs to workout and be active. I ended relationships and got fatter and more depressed and ate more and got fatter and more depressed and at more and got fatter and more depressed and ate more... You see the cycle? It sucks. It's stupid, and it's easier to be a drug addict or alcoholic in America than be fat.

I was scrawny and skinny as a child until around age 8. Then I got fat. I was fat in junior high. I've NEVER had a six pack or an 8 pack. I was thin in my face, shoulders and chest, but I've always carried weight on my stomach. Always. I got really fat once. Like, really fat. And to lose that weight, I employed dangerous and destructive eating habits. I was severely bulemic for two years - and it worked. I got way too skinny, then. I got very skinny. And I loved it. It was wonderful. But I threw up everything I ate, took diet pills, and exercised 7 days a week. It ruined my health, my digestive tract, my hair, my teeth... it was detrimental to my mind, my heart, my stomach, my liver, and it has been just awful. And I have the ramifications, health problems, and scars to prove it. So, for me, being skinny or fit wasn't a natural leaning. It was very, very difficult to get there and even more difficult to stay there. Some people are just naturally skinny... (Of course, I hate those types. :)) I think I am somewhat of a combination of issues. I am too sedentary. But a lifestyle of offices, meetings, drinks, dinners, constant travel and sitting, sitting, sitting are just not healthy. I hold only myself responsible for not doing something about that.  My last blood panel showed low testosterone levels that caused other issues as well. It can cause so many other problems besides weight, sluggishness, apathy... Luckily, I have two great doctors and it is since being regulated. And in the past several years I have dealt with one major life shift and upset after another. So, life changes and traumas that caused emotional eating and lack of pride in a healthy diet. That is all my fault, too. I choose what to eat. And it's no one's job to regulate that but my own. It was just bad timing, on top of bad genetics, and unregulated hormonal changes... and all of that is still under my control. So, now what? Well... I am on my Changes Journey and it is up to me to make it work.

And, to be sure... I will make it work. As for those that want to make fun, wish me failure or ill, or are just plain haters... well... Like I said, the nice fact is - I can have hormones regulated. I can workout. I can eat better. I can get healthy. I can even just get skinny if I want. But you will always be you - and you will have to live with that. I am loving who I am becoming - I hope that you can do that as well.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes, Part Four

Well, per usual, I've said a lot.

Maybe too much. It's not like anyone is actively interested in any of this. But it's very cathartic. And it's good for me. It's a tool. And it's something I really do feel like I've been instructed to do. So, there's that.

Ch-ch-changes, Part Two
Ch-ch-changes, Part Three

I've laid out the things that I needed to lay out publicly. I've set something in motion that I know cannot be undone and that I'll have to see through to the end. Change is still hard. The process, the journey, the unknown - it's all hard.
Here I am again, at another crossroads. Getting ready to move, getting ready for new projects, new callings, and new things to accomplish. I know I spoke a great deal about fear, but there is also excitement. There is anticipation. There is joy. Not just happiness, but joy. I just know that for whatever reason, this is necessary. I know I want to be… better. I want to be more. I want to be fuller. It's not about being important. It's about taking stock. It's about self assessment. It's about pruning. It's about pulling out the weeds. And that leads me to one last bit of business. It's a sort of "pre-apology" to some people. You will not have full access to me any longer. You will not occupy my thoughts, my ideals, my obsessions or my daily existence. It's not that you are "not good enough", and it's not that I don't love you, or want the best for you, or won't pray for you and continually, continually hope for you. But I have to do all of that for me. I need to do all of that for me. I want to do all of that for me. So, if you are constructive, positive in either influence or assistance, and equitable in friendship, then great. If not, I'll be thinking of you and hoping for the best! But this is mine. This life is my only life. This body is my only body. This existence, thoughts, hopes, goals, and calling are all the only ones I have, and I cannot afford to be distracted and deterred any longer - and I won't. I can no longer afford to subsidize you emotionally when I am on empty, when I need recharging, refilling, and restoring. I will be praying for you -for all of you. And I will be writing, and working, and living - living openly, living out loud.

Just living, maybe.

God Bless,

Ch-ch-ch-changes, Part Three

Anytime we go through things in life, especially something challenging - we question it. And, believe me, I think that's perfectly natural. I do it. I think that we as humans are built to question and wonder. We want to know why natural disasters exist. We all want to know why loved ones' lives are cut too short. We want to know what happens after death. Is there an afterlife? Is there a God? Is there a real Heaven and will I go there? Changes, jobs, the economy, a zit, broken limbs, deaths in our family, the dog eating a shoe… all of these cause questions. All of these create moments for us to reflect on our lives, our anxiety, and our reactions. The basic and bottom line is that change can be a good thing. Even negative change can create a chance for us to react positively and grow.

I had too much to cover in one little blog. Changes are afoot. My life is under some real change. Change that excites me, and makes me anticipate next steps... and change that is scary, but for the ultimate best. (See previous blogs Changes and Changes, Part Two...)

That's what I want this to be - My New Life. New is the operative word here. I have been thinking about things - lots of things. And that means some good, some bad. Some changes, some fears, some old hurts, some needed closures. But the key word is new. And what changes and newness can do for those old, negative things. And what newness can do for the old good things. I've been thinking of ways to build on those, reconnect with those, and move forward with those.


Thinking back, I have to say that my life is so different than it was 10 years ago. I had never been lived outside of Mississippi. I was much younger and sheltered. I was in love and in a very odd and somewhat unhealthy relationship with a dear friend. I was reeling from a bad breakup and wondering exactly where my life was going, where would my career go, and what would I end up "being." Then I moved to North Carolina, got a promotion, and married my friend and lover off to someone else. I became a proud workaholic and hardened my heart. I began getting exposure to "big city life" in Research Triangle Park! I began getting exposure to real "big city life" in places like DC, Baltimore, and NYC! I lost loves. I made lifelong friends. I learned a little bit more about "whom" I was at my core. And I found a relationship with God through prayer, love, and research that haven't wavered to this day. I was hurt. I was healed. I went through some tough times and I went through some easy times.

My life is so different than it was only 5 years ago. I had moved back to Mississippi to be close to family that was ill. And rekindle some relationships both familial and friendly that were crumbling. I was making career advancement and change - in ways only God could have orchestrated. I was making new lifelong friends and enjoying my life in ways I couldn't have hoped for. And I was seeing age long friendships suffer and practically disintegrate before my eyes. I was seeing family struggle and change and go in directions that were detrimental. I would see my sister nearly die and my father become someone I didn't even know. I would meet loves and see them use me and leave me. I saw strength in friendships that would amaze me and to this day (this very day) help to save me. I would see me struggle with drinking problems to cope with loss and change and adversity instead of running to a faith that had seen me through so many times before, and I would see me not understand what was wrong. (Wrong with me, with others, with God.) I would see an eating disorder destroy parts of my health that I struggle with to this day and still seek medical attention for the damage done. I would see me try to be brave, put on a happy face and find new ways to make ends meet, to try a new career, to try out love again, to return to government work and forge a new and exciting path for myself.

My life is so different than last year - even up until last year. I would see my relationship fail. I would see friends move away and old friends return. I would experience some of the most horrific things in my life with family, with my aging parents and grandmother. I would grow closer to family in recent times than in years past due to differences of opinion, differences in religious beliefs and differences in civil issues. I would see just who was a friend in difficult circumstances, who was a friend in good times only, and just what the worst of people could do. I would also see love and compassion from friends and family that exceeded my wildest imagination. I would see a faithfulness from God, and true, real Christians that I can never hope to understand the source. I would come to understand, in hindsight, just HOW good God was to me, and how He had shaped my path - every pebble, every curve, and every person along that path for my own good. Forged a path specifically suited for my own need, and for my own purpose. He would show me how things I had done to others, to me, and needlessly avoiding His will and purpose for my life could be only partially beneficial, but not truly whole and healthy and happy.

I've said this a hundred times, and I'll say it until the day that I die:
I've led a charmed life.
God's been good to me. He's given me more than I ever deserved. More than I could have ever hoped for and more than I thought I would ever have. I've been placed in situations of opportunity and privilege that I took full advantage of at work, socially, and with loved ones (friends and family.) And I've ignored and tried to work my own will probably just as many times, to my own detriment. I've recently seen more mercy, and more grace from God to be alive, and to be able to sit and type this sentence, these paragraphs, this piece, and the work that He's set before me. I've still got purpose, which is a life necessity to me. I've still got gainful employment and even too much to do. God has bestowed me with an embarrassment of blessings. I've been packing. I've been cleaning out. I've been moving. I've been purging. Those are literal statements for recent facts in my life. But I am also packing, moving, cleaning out, and purging spiritually and internally.  I want this. I need this. I need to be rid of old memories that haunt me. I need forgiveness for some things. I need to forgive for others' things. I need this. I want this. I need to get rid of the things that hold people back: ideas that are outdated and possibly wrong, friends that are toxic or unresponsive - even apathetic, places that are unhealthy to you, bad for you, and bad to you. Some things just carry bad "ju ju" as a friend of mine would say. Why keep anything that has no happiness attached to it? We clean out our houses, we clean out our cars, and we clean out our closets. We do that physically. I am doing that emotionally.

With unabashed gratitude, and happily, I say that God is a huge part of my life. On the surface, and for all of the life memories I can recall (a not insignificant feat, I can assure you), I have always been a Church boy, with family always in some sort of ministry. And even I went to seminary, anticipating a life of service and ministry. I believe in living a Godly and Christian life. But I am ashamed that I tried to suppress God, God's call, and my own ministry for years. It's easier to maneuver through this life and society as a gay man, when you don't have to listen to a lot of negative commentary because you love God. The gays weren't quite sure what to do with me as someone that was as "Jesus-y" as I can be. And the Church had a stance that I was an abomination. There was such hurt on both sides and both sides caused such hurt. It took some serious research, writing, tears, prayer, some fundamentally amazing souls and Christians to show me God's plan, God's real love, and how to stand strong in that situation, when you just want to crumble into the fetal position and die. The bottom line is that God called me - who is anyone else to interfere? God accredited me - what are man's affirmations or defamations to that? God shared with me a treasure chest of blessings and talents that (as I continue and will continue to state) are an embarrassment of riches - who am I to let man dictate the rules that God set? God never ceases to amaze me with the right people at the right time, the right phone call, the right story, the right project, the right job, the right place - all at the right time. It may not always be comfortable. It may not always be in MY time. It may not always be what I want - but it's always what I need.


Ch-ch-ch-changes, Part Two

"Turn and face the strange…"

I love David Bowie's version of that song. I also love the line: "Time may change me, but I can't change time." In this journey and in my recent musings I've definitely been trying to turn and face my own strangeness. I'm trying to embrace time, and the change that it inevitably brings. I'm trying to embrace the good and the bad within me. In Part One (Ch-ch-ch-changes), I've stated what I want, and how I intend to get there, but it's definitely a process. How can we decide what to keep, what to purge, and what our next moves in life will be if we don't go through the process? If we don't take the time to look inside?

There are things I love about me. I have good qualities. These can help to define me in a positive way. I am not going to produce a bulleted list here-not because I don't want to, but because my own narcissism would just be fed. But, there are things that I love about me. My goal is to focus on those loves - work, writing, music, organization and help to provide momentum in making me a better, whole-er, and more fulfilled human being. Conversely, there are things I don't love about me. I have bad qualities. These, if I am not careful, can define me in a negative way. I won't give a bulleted list of those either - because my own critical nature would be fed, and that's not productive to my end goal. But those things I don't love - fear, intolerance, procrastination - need to be analyzed and ultimately minimized to help provide momentum in make me a better, whole-er, and more fulfilled human being.

I want this. I need this. And in the moments where I think this might all be too hard, too much, or too "frou-frou-crazy-in-your-head-there-are-more-important-things-in-life" I need to remember: This is important. This journey about me, for me, and TO me is important. It is necessary. It is vital to my own end goals. And, in those moments, I need to remind myself that I am ultimately worth the trouble. I am worth the effort. I am worth the pain of change. I am worth overcoming fear of change and fear of ridicule for going on this journey, and for documenting this journey in front of the world. Sure, I'm scared that exes, people that would like to see me fail, people that won't understand, and people that are "not on my side" might ridicule me. But this isn't for them. THIS is for me. THIS is mine. I have this litmus test I have used almost all of my life to know if I am living "right" or living "wrong:" Can I look myself in the eyes? Am I happy with what I've done? Am I proud of myself or ashamed of myself? We, as people, can lie to others. We can lie to our families, our friends, our lovers, our co-workers… And we usually do. But we cannot lie to God. We cannot lie to ourselves. We try to convince ourselves that things happened differently, or that we imagined it and we were better and more like what we wanted. I want to rip away that guile and that "politeness" and truly be blunt, forthcoming, and "naked" with myself and others.  Thus, this journey and this blog turn… These are the changes I want. These are the changes I need. These are the changes I am ultimately craving, even if I didn't know it before. These are the changes I am making so I like the "me" that looks back in the mirror, all of me - the inner me, the outer me… the real me.

Oprah or Jane Fonda will likely never read this blog. She will probably never know (in this earthly life) the effect one sentence she spoke had on me. I am okay with that. I may not ever know who reads this blog and what it means to them. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of doing this journey in a blog, and a book, and essentially in public. I feel like God told me (read that as "made") to do it. For myself essentially, to combat fear and to force myself out of a (very) comfortable zone I had gotten in. And maybe for one or two other people that need it - people I may never meet (in this earthly life) and that I may never know if it helped them as well. I am okay with that, too.
But, Ms. Fonda said "It really takes a lot to be whole; you have to live an examined life."
 And, like I said… God immediately began working on me - needling me, if you will - to start this project. The embarrassing part is that I've started something like this before. I've journaled and had journals upon journals, best intentions, and book drafts, outlines and life goals and plans that quickly fell by the wayside. Great resources to go back and revisit for this project, and this journey - but also a powerful and sobering reminder that I have to make this time different. I have to make this time count. I have to "get it right" this time. God, like a parent, will only tell us something or work with us on something for so long… and then he let's us exercise our Free Will. He will use someone use to write that blog, that book, that song… There is something in knowing the tone of your mother's voice when you have stretched her nerve right up to the breaking point, but didn't quite go over. That's kind of what I heard this time from God. He's given me talent. He's given me passion for this. He's given me years of good and bad personal material to work with… now, I need to either do it - or face the fact that I'll never realize some goals and tasks that I feel like He's given me. It is sobering. And I hope it conveys the serious with which I am undertaking this whole "living right-out loud-in public" calling I'm undertaking. But, it's scary. And it's not without challenges. And it certainly isn't without self-examination. Without this part of the process, I can't get to where I want to be later in life.
Without self examination, we cannot diagnose the problem(s).
Without diagnosis, we can't provide a prognosis for help and healing.
Without healing, we can't move forward in our journey. We can't make ourselves whole.
If we aren't whole, how can we give of ourselves or help others?
In this journey, I will have to make some apologies. (I am so not looking forward to this.) There are those I have wronged. There are times I've been wrong. There are things I've done wrong. There are situations I've handled poorly. There are people that I've hurt. It isn't about if it was allegedly deserved or if I was just reacting to bad situations. In some of my self reflection, I've realized that anger in response to anger doesn't fix anything. It doesn't help anything. Pain in response to pain doesn't do anyone any good. Revenge and payback are of no value to anyone. (I should admit that I detest being wrong. So, if you are reading this and you are already rolling your eyes… go ahead and gloat.) I don't like to think that my reactions to people, to gossip, and to being hurt or abused are the incorrect or inappropriate responses. But they can be, they have been, and they were. Someone talking well or poorly of me is ultimately none of my business. I've learned that lesson before and I miss that outlook. Cutting old friends off because they misunderstood my situation, reacted poorly when I needed help, and gossiped about me wasn't the answer. It only caused additional pain on both parts. A better way would have been to explain what they did not know and forgive what they did. Many of those situations will remain private (more for their sake and unless they agree I can write about it… it's their privacy, too.) But, yeah - apologies. Wish me luck on that.

That also leads to Forgiveness. Even if someone never forgives me for some slight, some retaliation, some "mean girl" action I've done in the past… I have to forgive myself. I need to ultimately disabuse myself of the notion that by following God's direction to begin this journey publicly, it will be something that everyone reacts to positively. There are those I've hurt. Those I've heaped my own baggage and abuses on, as well as receiving others' baggage and abuses. I have to forgive them for whatever my perception of the situation was (I can honestly say, I rarely instigate my own personal drama, but I was raised to "handle my business" and that lead to me being a real douche to some people, simply by reacting in kind.) I have to forgive others, whether or not they think they need it. And I have to forgive myself. Otherwise, who is hurt? Who is thinking about it? Who is obsessing over it and taking and re-taking the situation to God? Them? Doubtful. It's me. It's you. When I bite the bullet, put on my big boy pants, and ask for forgiveness, to the person and to God - the next step is to forgive myself and move on. Without that, I'll never truly be free of the memory, the situation, and the brokenness of that perception. Those memories can become powerful - for the betterment and good of your life. I can use them as tools to move forward, upward, and to provide compassion and knowledge for the future. They can also become powerful for the negative. They are like anchors that will weigh you down. They will cause fear. They can cause intolerance. They can make you procrastinate and wait for a lifetime to trust, to heal, to reach out… And if even one of you is reading this - I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I forgive you.

It's a quote somewhere, by someone that the only constant thing in this world is change. How powerful and true is that statement? In my own life, I've learned some a few things; so I want to amend that: Things have changed. Things are changing. Things are going to continue to change. My new directive is to participate fully in those changes, document my journey, and share those changes with others.




Why do so many of us live in fear? We live in fear of our lives. We live in fear of others. We live in fear of the unknown. We are afraid of our bills. We are afraid of success. We are afraid of poverty. We're afraid of money. We are in fear of our partners. We are afraid of what our partners might or might not do for us. We are afraid to be alone. We are terrified of our friends' opinions. We are scared to not have friends. We are afraid to not come out as ourselves-thinking we'll leave this life never having been understood or validated. We are afraid to be honest and live an honest life-thinking we'll leave this world unloved and abandoned by those with whom we are truly honest. We are afraid of what others think of us. We are afraid of our own truths. We are afraid of what we think of ourselves. Essentially, we are afraid.

Let me assure you that Fear is no way to live. More importantly, Fear is certainly no way to die. My sweet grandmother (#MamawSue) often said to me that you shouldn't do things you can just "live" with. Make sure you live in a way that you will be happy dying with… That's a powerful and true statement. It's poignant if you think about it-possibly even an excellent example of profundity. If you let it, that concept will shape how you approach each day and the people you meet during the course of each day. I want to let it.

Change has been happening at a frightening rate in my own life: changes in my health, my finance, my living situation, my location in this country, and my own social circles. Change sometimes frightens me. I try to embrace it, and my ADHD should push me towards change and stimulation, but the truth is that change can be scary. I feel change. I feel change coming. And I am tired of being afraid of it, so I am going to turn, face it, embrace it, and challenge the change and myself to create a better life - a life worth dying with, a life that mattered. I wan to have lived a life that meant something more than I thought it would, or even could. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I have come to realize that I have been afraid - too afraid. I never thought that about myself. I suppose that's one of my own truths that I avoided. My friends would probably be surprised to hear that. I rarely confide too much in others. I am an excellent listener. I like to be the person that helps and saves - not the one that needs help or saving. I certainly put on a brave face, and I certainly have a lot of bravado and things I've accomplished that are contrary to fear. But, if I am honest… fear was present. But I am going to try to change that. There is a quote (paraphrased, I'm sure) that states, "Courage is not the absence of fear; but facing fear." Hello.

In my own life, I'm taking ownership. I'm taking ownership of me, my actions, my reactions, and my future. After some self reflection and self introspection, there are three things I refuse to abide any longer: fear, intolerance, and procrastination. Yes, you read that right. Fear. Intolerance. Procrastination. Fear isn't doing me any good. As referenced above, it's destructive. Fear is crippling. Fear is essentially useless. My own fears are unfounded, and unbalanced. They are not worth the credit I've given them. Those fears have stopped me from achieving goals, realizing dreams, and performing at a level that would normally be natural for me. Gone.

Intolerance is another useless… emotion? What is intolerance? Is it just lack of tolerance? Is it an ideal? Is it a mindset? Is it a set of thoughts or actions? Is it someone disagreeing with you and unwaveringly "acting ugly" to you because of that? Is intolerance sexism, racism, or bigotry? I don't know. I DO know that intolerance is a by-product of fear. I know that fear breeds intolerance. I don't really know how to classify intolerance into a nice package. Maybe that's because intolerance is something that can't be nicely packaged. Maybe it shouldn't be. Intolerance is a hot button topic these days. It's in politics. It's in social media. It's in schools, in churches, and in workplaces. Intolerance is the word that (IMHO) has been overused. Sort of like the boy that cried wolf. I am not just talking about gay people, or politics, or bullying. I mean real intolerance. I mean my own intolerance. I mean others' intolerance of me. And, dear reader, don't confuse intolerance for injustice. I don't support injustice or inequality, but tolerance and intolerance are now the buzzwords used in place of true discrimination and true injustice in the world. To me, intolerance lets me know that I don't have to like you, and I don't have to like your lifestyle or politics, but I need to pray and truly understand what it is like to be tolerant and accepting of others' rights to be themselves. They have that right, regardless of my opinion. BUT - I am going to demand that same respect and right in return, regardless of their opinion. Maybe that's all intolerance really is… differing opinions on steroids. Opinions Gone Wild. Opinions that, like assholes… stink. Maybe tolerance is just a peace offering to that stinky asshole, to that 'roid-raged opine that allows for greater discourse and growth - by both parties involved.

Procrastination is evil. I think it, too, is a by-product of fear. Fear can cripple you and cause you to procrastinate for a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime. Procrastination can cause you to look back on your life with regret and anguish that will never truly be healed. Opportunities missed have the ability to haunt you the rest of your life, if you let them. Procrastination will keep you from becoming healthy, from reaching out to loved ones, to friends, and to God. Part of procrastination can be attributed to laziness and ignorance. It really can. You can keep putting off exercise "for another day" until your health won't allow you to easily exercise. You can keep thinking you will call your mother or grandmother "tomorrow", and eventually that opportunity will cease to exist. Forever. Procrastination is a stealthy and silent thief. You will never get today back. You will never get "10 minutes ago" back. You will never, ever see yesterday, or last month, or last year, or the last decade again. Ever. You only have right this minute. You don't have later today, and you don't have tomorrow. You only have this very moment. I only have this very moment. Going forward, I'll strive to maintain this ever-presently in my mind and make sure to give my best, be my best, show my best, and live my best.

These are heavy topics. They are heavy burdens and I really hope that in writing this down, in getting it OUT of my head, and into a place for discourse, dissection, and discussion - it will help me. It will be cathartic and help to cauterize the ebbing flow of my spirit and passion for what is essentially my charmed life. And trust me, hon… God's been good to me. I have no real reason for Fear, Intolerance, or Procrastination. So, how did I get there? Some slight? My parents? My exes? My own bad choices? I think it's all of the above. I think that there are real consequences to actions and reactions and it's MY responsibility to find out what happened. What went wrong? What went right? What do I need to do so that I can duplicate and transfer successes into all areas of my life? What do I need to revisit, root out and rectify in my own life to temper and truly change for the better? Introspection can be hell, but it is the best gift you can give yourself.
Jane Fonda said a quote once in an interview that made me sit straight up in my chair and made the hairs on my arms and neck stand at attention: "It really takes a lot to be whole; you have to live an examined life."
 That, to me, is a very true and very powerful statement. In that one instant, seeing Jane Fonda sitting beside Oprah and casually talking about these things in her life, I looked inside. That was maybe a little over a week ago, and ideas and thoughts began to formulate. I love the way God works. God has that amazing and sneaky way of planting one little seed. One little thing that begins to bloom and grow, changing the fundamental way you see things. Old books I'd read, Scriptures I'd memorized, and songs I'd heard began to play over and over in my head, in my heart… even in my spirit. Like I said, that was maybe a week ago, and it changed me. It profoundly changed me-like scriptures change me or epiphanies change me. I was not examining my life. I wasn't even close to examining my life. I didn't want to examine my own life. I don't want to know why certain things fail, while others are easy. I wasn't ready to face family conflict, or ghosts of past relationships. I wasn't examining my own successes or failures. And I wasn't whole. The problem is that I don't want to be un-examined. I don't want to not be whole.

This will be a process. This will be difficult. But this will be worth it. Yes, some will be scary and possibly cause fear. I'll have to face those things anyway. Things will make me realize my differences with others, and I'll have to face intolerance (mine or theirs) and that's okay. There will be times I want to do something else, something different, or procrastinate any and all of this, and I'll have to call this to mind, and keep going. Changes are coming, and I hope to be courageous and excited about them. I hope to face them in a way that gives credit and glory to a Creator and God in a deserving manner. I hope to face ideas, fears, and people in a way that makes me proud of myself - that makes me happy to die with.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Daily Proverbs 17:3 - Some heart tests can only be administered by the Great Physician...

I am not a fan of tests, hon. At all.

Well, that's not entirely true. I actually love tests. I love passing tests, to be exact. As a child, as a teenager, and as an adult, I like being tested and proving knowledge or skill on a subject. I like being certified and proven. I like the feeling of accomplishment and the feeling of self-worth that comes with ACE-ING whatever subject/test/skillset I need to and  that "pride" that comes with it. THOSE tests, I love. THOSE things, I can handle.

I don't like unfair tests. I don't like when friends test you "to see what you'd do or say" in a situation. I don't like when lovers or partners "test you" to see if you'd be unfaithful, to see if you'd speak behind someone's back or if you'll tell the truth to someone. FYI, I've not failed those kinds of tests. I can honestly say I have never cheated on anyone, or had to lie to a loved one or partner. I have been tested by them. I have been tested on fighting and (somewhat) failed those kinds of tests. I've had a partner hit me. I failed that test because I hit back. I shouldn't have (probably), but I did.

But what about your heart? Doctors perform tests to assess your health and your body's current status. They run electrocardiograms, they run stress tests, they run blood tests... There are endless ways to assess yourself and your current situation. But what about your heart?? What about you soul? What about your mind?

#DailyProverbs 17:3 "Gold and silver are tested by fire, and a person's heart is tested by the Lord."
God gives us tests. Trials. Tribulations. They seem unfair, they seem unnecessary, and they seem harsh. And they are of the above. Some tests are unfair, but life isn't fair. Some tests are unnecessary, but a lot of things in life are unncecessary. Some tests are harsh, but life can be very harsh. These things help to refine you. Do mold you. To train you. Training can be painful, seem unfair, and harsh... but the other end of training can be wonderful, when you are ready to be tested, when you are ready to be certified and proven. Don't begrudge the training, the pain, the hardship, for it is those very things that help to refine and purify and create a more valuable, strong, and beautiful piece of art.

The fact that God tests us, fairly or otherwise, is a fact. That's "just the way it is..." whether we humans like or agree with it or not. And there is a wisdom in that. This concept and school of thought is nothing new. It may not sit well in today's advanced and more "even and level playing field" society, but the fact remains: There is a God. He tests his people. His people pass or fail and learn from those tests and become ultimately better. The concept is simple really...

There are several times in various scriptural writings where God and his testing is compared to metallurgy, or where God is compared to a metallurgist or silver-/gold-smith:
Psalms 66:10 "For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried."  So, this is obviously a metaphor taken from melting and refining metals; And what SHOULD be obvious is that the afflictions and trials of various kinds are represented as a furnace where ore is melted, and a crucible where it is refined. And this metaphor is used especially to represent cases where there is doubt concerning the purity of the metal, the quantity of alloy, or even the nature or kind of metal subjected to the trial. Directly correllated is that God is said to try His people that He might know what was in them; and whether they would keep His laws, word, and testimonies: and ONLY then, according to the issue at hand, his conduct towards them would be made clear and appropriate for His people.

1 Peter 1:7 "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" This epistle is addressed to believers in general, who are strangers in every city or country where they live, and are scattered through the nations. These are to ascribe their salvation to the electing love of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost; All possessions here are stained with defects and failings; still something is wanting: fair houses have sad cares flying about the gilded and ceiled roofs; soft beds and full tables, are often with sick bodies and uneasy stomachs. All possessions are stained with sin, either in getting or in using them. Gold does not increase by trial in the fire, it becomes less; but faith is made firm, and multiplied, by troubles and afflictions. Gold must perish at last, and can only purchase perishing things, while the trial of faith will be found to praise, and honour, and glory.

Isaiah 1:25 "And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:" Dross may shine like silver; but it's not silver. It's not pure. Wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine, but it's not wine and it's not as good. It's not as strong. It's not as pure. Matthew Henry said, "Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them." I know that as "MichaelK", I have much to answer for and we, as humans, may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The refining power of God is a blessing, regardless of the process. Why? Because by the process of the trials of God, and the burning away of our "dross" and the taking away of our "tin", we are set free from the prisons of our birthright, being born into sin and slavery to that sin.

Isaiah 48:10 "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." We, as humans, and as (hopefully) followers of the Judeo-Christian faith, have not one thing. Not one. Nothing. We have nothing ourselves to plead with God, so why should God have mercy upon us? Really think about that and let it sink in for a minute. You, in and of yourself, have nothing to bargain with. You are born sinful. You are infantesimally small and insignificant next to God. So, what is His interest? What is your value? What can you do? Nothing. It is for HIS praise, to the honour of HIS mercy, to spare. It is God and His bringing men into trouble, that is for their better good - to do them good. God does this to refine us and to make us better. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes skill. The ancient silversmith could not make the fire too hot, it would burn up the silver. He could not extract and purify the silver all at once, because it would have destroyed it... So the silversmith took his time, and through process after process, refined and re-refined the silver. He takes them as refined in part only. And if God delivers his people, he cannot be at a loss for instruments to be employed.

Zechariah 13:9 "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God." You have to love the faith that God puts in us, as people that are fallible and ultimately so, so human. We fail. We make careers of failure. Yet, God trusts that the tests we fail, the fire and trials/tribulations we endure will REFINE us, not CONSUME us.

Malachi 3:3 "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." Please note that he begins at the priests, that they might be lights, and shine unto others. The truth is that when God chooses people, he doesn't always choose PERFECT people, and he doesn't always work through and use PERFECT people... God has this sardonic sense of humor and tends to use people that NEED perfecting and God will use them as examples. Through their testimonies, trials, tests, failures, and ultimate successes... God uses all of it to inspire others, to reach others, and sometimes, just to be an example of what NOT to do for others...

The refining process is not an easy one. It's not easy on the original material, it's not easy on the metal, and it's a tiring and trying process on the REFINER as well. Think about that for a minute, God doesn't HAVE to care about you. God doesn't HAVE to care about your needs, and what might make you a better person. But, He does. That's why it is I am incredulous at the fact that God would take time and put in the effort on ME. When you consider that a metallurgist would have to find the silver. Silver is found in native form, as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorineThe principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc.

The key is to separate the precious metal from the crap. Ancient techniques used pyrolysis. That's just a really fancy way to say they "burned it." In pyrolysis, the crap products are released from the other materials by solidifying in a melt to become cinder and then poured off or oxidized. Ancient silversmiths would burn the ore/alloy and oxidize the bad stuff and then put the purified silver back into the fire. This process would occur over and over until the silversmith could see himself as a reflection in the silver. THEN and only then was it was pure enough. I love that. So re-read it, and think about it. I LOVE that. God, as a silvesmith, keeps us in the fire, and keeps working on us, and refining us, UNTIL He can see himself IN us. He wants to work with us until he can see his own reflection in our lives, our works, our beings. And that's a great comfort to know during the test!

So, while I still hate being "tested", and I still LOVE passing tests and proving myself... this is one test, trial, affliction, tribulation, and life test that I intend to pass. ツ


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daily Proverbs 16:3 - You need a plan...

#DailyProverbs 16:3 "Ask the Lord to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out."

I have never been one to shy away from a little bit of hard work. I was raised with a strong work ethic. Plus, it probably didn't hurt that in my family, if you wanted privileges, allowances, and freedoms - you had to earn them.

NOTE: The Proverbs I've chosen for today doesn't say, ask God to make your dreams come true. It doesn't tell you to beg God for help. It doesn't tell you to ask God to create a plan for you, to carry it out for you, or to do the work for you. It says that YOU should ask God to bless YOUR plan, so that YOU can carry it out.

I know, I know... that's a foreign concept in this day and age. Everyone seems to think that you are born with the right to "things" instead of being born with the right to "opportunity". I am a staunch believer that if you want to earn "things" you must make the most of your "opportunities". And growing up, that meant chores - yard work, helping out around the house, the yard, the farm, our grandparent's house... There was PLENTY to do. In return for the work, the helping, and the duty to family and solidarity, we were rewarded not only with a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies... we actually were given some spending money, some freedom of choice in how to spend our time and money, and some respect. I liked the respect part best. My father, grandfather and Mamaw all treated you a little more like a grown up, and actually paid attention to what you had to say IF you ACTED like a grown up and helped the grown ups get things their grown up things accomplished. Sometimes, that would mean you had to get up before school to help in the garden. Sometimes that would mean you had to work with the animals and taking care of the yard so the adults could maintain the income-based gardens or animals. On top of all of that, there was still school, homework, extra-curricular activities AND church and social activities... That was pretty normal growing up for me. That was pretty normal with my friends and school mates and work colleagues. We all had school, we all had homework, and growing up in the country, we all had chores and work to accomplish. This ALL took careful planning, because NONE of it could fall by the wayside.

That's the key point, planning. So much of the necessary things took planning. Maintaining work, gardens, animals, school, grade point averages, and a life outside of even all of that was excellent preparation!

Why? Because today, so much of my work and projects now take planning, multi-tasking, and juggling priorities and life. One of my favorite quotes that I use relentlessly is "Plan the work, work the plan." That simply means to take time to prepare and think through the steps of what you need to accomplish, then don't deviate from the plan!!! ツ

What do YOU need to plan? What do you need to follow through on, carry out, and "work the plan" on? Ask God to give you good sense, give you patience, give you wisdom, and help you have the strength and fortitude to carry those wise, strong, plans you created out.  Good luck, and God Bless!
#JustBeingMichael ツ

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

60 Healthier Drinks for Boozing

This is a very neat article for winos and drinkers. Especially those of us that DO try to live a more healthy lifestyle!!

Just remember that the guidelines to less caloric and healthier drinks are important and that you will still be able to lose weight, be healthy, and feel great following these rules! I have already been using many of these tips and tricks for years in my own mixology and when I make drinks at home. Try these out and see if you like them...

60 Drinks For Healthier Boozing


RecipeOfTheDay: Indian-Spiced "Tater" Tots

I love to eat. That has never been something I debated, but I DO want to eat healthier and as I get older, I am also trying to get "fitter" and eat well. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more important to me than ever, and it's not just about being fit and looking great. It's about feeling fit and feeling great.

I love to snack, and during downtime, or watching movies, that is something I like to do. I like the social aspect of eating with friends or family. Here is a GREAT recipe I found for tater tots that are good, and can easily be translated for healthier versions!


  • 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 medium), cleaned and washed
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 1/2 to 2 cups canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon panch phoron, finely ground in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (if you have to buy it in powdered form. IF you have fresh tumeric, or tumeric you freeze and use, then freshly grated is the best...)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use 2 "pinches", as I don't absolutely love the bite that cayenne gives)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
  • Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce, for dipping
  1. Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake until easily pierced with a knife but still firm in the center, about 35 to 40 minutes. (If you have 3 smaller potatoes, cook them about 25 to 30 minutes.) Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the panch phoron, turmeric, and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still hot, peel away the skin using a paring knife and discard. Shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, sprinkle in the flour, salt, and cooled spice mix and stir gently until combined.
  3. Measure 1 teaspoon of the potato mixture and roll into a short cylinder about 1 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining potato mixture until you have used all if it and made the tots.
  4. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels; set aside. Add enough of the remaining oil to a large frying pan to reach about 1/4 inch up the sides and set over medium-high heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Check to see if the oil is hot by submerging the handle of a wooden spoon or wooden chopstick till it touches the bottom of the pan—the oil should bubble vigorously. When it’s ready, fry the tots in batches of 8 to 10 pieces (do NOT overcrowd the pan), turning once, until medium golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet and season with salt. Serve immediately with cucumber-yogurt sauce. (NOTE: If you have a "Fry Daddy", it's okay to use that, OR - to be healthier, I have a kitchen machine that "fries" things in a vacuum and uses only spoonfuls of oil, rather than cupfuls. It's a much healther, if more expensive and involved, alternative for "frying" food for snacking. If you go that route, you save TONS on calories and oil consumption.)
  5. To freeze, let the fried tots cool, then transfer to an airtight container or zip-top bag. Arrange in a single layer and place in the freezer. To reheat, heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Evenly spread the tots in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until hot, about 15 minutes