Posted in My Journey

I Praise Him

When I worship God, I stretch my hands in the air and thank him. I thank him for my life. I thank him for my family. But most of all, I thank him for my relationship with him. That, had it not been for him believing in me, I would not be where I am today—praising him with every breath I draw into my lungs.

David did the same, except I have yet to dance as he did when he defeated the Philistines to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14, 16, 20-23).

That day was special. That day, the Lord God fought on David’s behalf and won (2 Sam. 5:17-25).

Now, when I praise God, I praise him for fighting for me. I have the reassurance that he will not leave me or forsake me, and just as he had done with David, he will send his armies before me to make the way clear so that it seems as if I have accomplished it all on my own.

It sounds crazy. I agree. But after seven months of God’s constant intervention in my life, healing me of my neck problem, ridding my heart of bitterness, exiling those who despised me into utter darkness, he has yet to fail me:

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

And I will continue to praise him, lifting my arms in true thanksgiving for extending his mercy over my life and the lives of those in my family, just as it says in (Ps. 148:1-4):

“Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
Praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
Praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!”

Therefore, I pray also that he, too, may bless and fight for all of you as he has done for me because his mercy is great and his reach is infinite.

Posted in Bible Studies, My Journey

The Bible: Cover to Cover

When I set out to read the bible from cover to cover last year, I did not know I would be in for a few surprises.

For instance, I had no idea that Job lived before Abraham, in spite of the fact that the Book of Job is located several hundred pages after Genesis. In addition, it was a revelation to me that after the flood, God declared that all animals would fear humans (Gen. 9:2 ESV throughout). And the thought that an honorable man such as Jabez, whose name meant “man of sorrow” or “borne out of pain”, had two verses written about him to demonstrate God’s blessings over his life (1 Chr. 4:9-10), left me wondering what else in the bible have I yet to discover?

The reading plan I used to accomplish this feat is part of the Olive Tree Bible Study app, which resides on my phone and on my tablet. I simply chose a chronological reading plan that consisted of the English Standard Version (ESV). When I travelled, I read it on my phone, sync’d it with my Olive Tree account, then, when I returned home, I picked it up from where I left off on my tablet. Even today, it makes for a seamless experience.

Choosing to read the bible chronologically has its advantages, too. I gained an incredible amount of insight into historical events when reading about the same story through two different accounts. I did not have to understand why certain things happened the way they did because the context remained the same throughout. The chronological reading plan is especially helpful when working through the Books of Kings and the Books of Chronicles, as the reign of kings can be quite confusing when studying it in a non-linear fashion.

All history aside, though, my favorite part of the bible is the gospels. In the gospels Jesus talks about how to get along with others (Mat. 5:43-48), how to have a relationship with God (Mat. 6:5-15), and what the ultimate goal for believers should be (Mat. 6:19-21).

And, of course, one of my favorite verses I cling to comes from the gospels:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

In its basic form, it means that whatever I give is what comes back to me. I can attest that this principle works every single time I use it—and it does not apply to money only.

Anyway, I learned all these things in my first year reading the bible from cover to cover. I am hoping after having read the New International Version (NIV) this year, I will have something more to say about the experience.

In the meantime, I will quote this verse as my last thought for this post: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Posted in My Journey

The Cost of Change

I had a good week last week. When I think back at everything that has happened, I wonder how I did it. I have my neck problem that appears occasionally, but I have been able to manage it. I am meeting new people, and my family life has never been better.

As for the new church I have been attending, I can truly say I am enjoying it. The organization is not the cult group that I was a part of twenty years ago; therefore, I am thankful knowing I can be myself without worrying that I am breaking some stringent directive. Given many may describe it as an evangelical church; the messages have a general theme aimed toward changing the heart.

My writing has also gone through a change, which is really a reflection of what has been happening inside me lately. No longer do I have the root of bitterness that has held me captive for all these years, inspiring me to write horror. Now I wake up in the mornings with God on my mind and with thoughts of how I could glorify and praise him. The stories I am writing deal with people who overcome spiritual and physical challenges at the cost of moral obligation.

All these changes did come with a price.

I no longer post articles three times a week. My focus has shifted toward God first, family second, and friends third. And my book Resilience, which I had written over the winter, currently does not have a publication date.

Regardless of these things, I am happy.

For years, I suffered insomnia, averaging two hours of sleep a night. Now, not a night goes by that I do not have a solid six to seven hours. It reminds me of the other day when I was watching Saving Private Ryan. In one of the scenes, the sniper character was able to sleep through anything. He was God-fearing, and he recited scripture whenever he delivered a bullet to an enemy. One of the other soldiers wondered how he could sleep through the night, given all the bombs going off around them and the number of people he had killed. Another soldier replied that the man had a clear conscience.

When I think about it, I suppose I, too, go to bed with a clear conscience.

The other thing I have done is to reconcile with almost all those who have considered me their enemy. I found it surprising that everyone I offered my hand to in renewed friendship embraced me with open arms. Of course, I had to humble myself before them with apologies and sacrifices, but overall, almost all responded positively to me wanting to put the past behind. This experience has prompted me to write a long bible study on forgiveness, of which, one of these days, I will publish here. For the time being, however, I cannot say it is ready, as I have yet to write a conclusion.

Is there anything else I can say about the price I paid?

All things considered, the recent changes in my life have introduced me to new things that I do not think I could have experienced had I not found God again. Just knowing I am free from the burden of having done wrong has brought a new hope I will surely appreciate no matter what life throws at me in the coming months.

So, yes, with my whole heart I can say I had a good week.

Posted in My Journey

Our Deepest Fear

I recently watched the film Coach Carter. I remember having caught the movie years ago, but so much time had passed that the memory of it had faded. I am glad I spent the time to enjoy it once again.

The plot focuses on Ken Carter, a hardware store owner, who takes the helm coaching an inner city basketball team that he leads to an undefeated season.

By all measures, this story inspires and provides a glimpse of what obstacles people face when battling trials on the road to success. I found, however, the most poignant moment of the film does not come from one of the team’s many wins, but comes when one of the students thanks Coach Carter for his dedication to the team. Even more so, the speech is in answer to the coach’s curiosity of what the student feared most.

After some research, I found the origin of the speech the student recited came from a book written by Marianne Williamson called A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I have been thinking about how my presence could help liberate someone else’s fear. As I look to become stronger in God’s word, I am finding the things that once frightened me are no longer an issue. This is to say, much of what I have learned in the past few months has given me the freedom from the anxiety stemming from fear. If anything, I have allowed God’s spirit to flow through me and on to others who need it. In other words, lately I have functioned as nothing more than a conduit for helping others.

Now, believe me when I say this, it has never been my intention to live the life I am living now, renewed in the spirit and allowing my light to shine in an obvious way. Before this, I have chosen to stand by the sidelines while permitting others to step in on my behalf. I will admit my liking to having had a low profile.

This is the reason Williamson’s quote has affected me so much. It reflects that which has taken shape in my heart, manifesting itself through deeds I did not know I could accomplish. And realizing I no longer fear because I no longer linger on the thought of suppressing my real self, makes me all the more thankful I am living the life God wants me to live—shining a light so that others may be liberated also.

Therefore, I ask. Would you care what anyone thought if you knew what your true potential was?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Ryan Stone

I have something to say about a woman who doesn’t break down during the time most trying in her life. To see her at her worst and wonder how she’ll ever survive. To know in all that she’s accountable for, she will try her best—no matter what. It’s one thing when a woman says she can fight, but it’s another seeing it done without her ever having to speak the words.

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone

Women Who Wow Wednesday proudly presents Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), the force behind the movie Gravity.

If you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know what I mean when I say Ryan Stone in Gravity lays it all on the line to become a true hero. How else can I describe her other than someone who relies on her ability to endure in order to stay alive?

Ryan Stone reminds me of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) from the feature Cast Away. In that film, Chuck crashes on a deserted island with little to live on and a willingness to sacrifice with the aim to live another day. Stranded, he does what he can to make it through storms, rain, famine, and the undisputed wall of challenge.

Much like Chuck, Ryan has her work cut out for her. As the lone survivor to a space catastrophe, she bucks the wave of destruction headed her way to push forward and live. One hit after another her determination gives her the optimism she needs to carry onward without complaining. If one challenge doesn’t spark defeat, another waits in the wings for her to recover just enough to hit her again.

Gravity's Ryan Stone
Gravity’s Ryan Stone

The film is a case study of a woman’s resilience to go beyond herself so as she can attain the highest form of praise available—to live. That fortitude within herself is what makes the movie so jarring. Multiple viewings provide the moviegoer a front seat to Ryan’s point of view as the protagonist with a penchant to last against unsurmountable odds.

The best part about Ryan Stone’s character is that no matter how bad it gets, she manages to pull herself from the devastation and fight back. Her character is such that she doesn’t recognize defeat, even during her lowest point. She doesn’t gripe. She doesn’t complain. She has her moment, but then she works through it to become stronger. That strength makes her a survivor.

This is not a review. This is my homage to a character filled with hope. May that hope inspire those who need it the most.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you seen Gravity? What did you think of Ryan Stone?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Stream of Consciousness II

I wrote my first stream of consciousness post with no planning other than randomly choosing the Rocky quote I had used as a springboard for ideas. Today, for my Freedom Friday series, I’d like to try my hand on an additional post armed with nothing but a quote and no idea what will come out.

Again, to reiterate a couple of things from my first post, I write about zombies. It doesn’t mean I am a zombie nor does it mean I’m obsessed with death, although in the movie I’d taken the quote from, the main protagonist is. I enjoy life and living as abundant as I can without interfering with other people’s happiness. It sounds insane but it’s true. Also, the way stream of consciousness works is whatever comes to mind is what stays on the page. No editing. It’s a snapshot of my brain.

Now, I’ve been meaning to use this quote for a while. The opportunity, though, has never presented itself. It’s from the 1971 movie Harold and Maude about the relationship between a teenage boy obsessed with death and a septuagenarian woman living life to the fullest.

Anyway, I don’t want to say anymore. Here is the quote:

Harold and Maude
Harold and Maude

“A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt, even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.”

—Ruth Gordon as Maude in Harold and Maude

Big breath. Here we go:

Lions roar not to defend their territory or because they’re hungry, but to say, “I’m alive!” Their heart beats. Their hide is warm. Every single cell at their disposal goes into that roar. “I’m alive!”

We live each day thinking we have all the time in the world, not realizing that one day we’ll be gone. Our grievances hold us back. Our doubts shroud us in darkness. Yet, it’s never too late to press onward and upward.

I’ve failed. So what, everyone’s failed. I’m afraid. So what, everyone’s afraid. I can’t. Everyone can.

Whatever is holding us back, we have to let it go. If we don’t, we’ll die—eaten away by our own miserable wants.

No one ever said life was easy. It’s not. Life is hard. Life is disappointing. We could have all the money and success in the world, yet without happiness it’s all for naught. If someone says to us they’re happy because of such-and-such or so-and-so, don’t believe them. They are lying. Happiness does not come from without, but from within. Success is a byproduct of happiness.

Glory comes to those who don’t look for it. Beauty surrounds those who are the outcasts. Joy lives in those who have dedicated their lives to the weak.

Allow your words to travel as a whirlwind into the ears of the deaf. As lightening cracks, so let your life shine to those in darkness. As thunder rumbles, move others to action. Live each day with conviction, giving life to those who are dead in spirit. Let the earth shake beneath your feet causing others to stir from their seats.

Roar like a lion. “I’m alive!”

Did my stream of consciousness session make any sense? Should I think about preparing a number III?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Stream of Consciousness

When I write a post for my Freedom Friday series, I always envision it to be a placeholder for my life’s little adventures. I also think of how it will best reflect fun, whereby you the reader can determine with your very own eyes that I, who has chosen to write in the zombie genre, am normal folk with the same dreams and aspirations as everyone else.

For this reason, I’m going to try something different this week. I’m going to write this post in stream of consciousness. What that means is whatever comes to mind is what will remain on the page. No editing. This will be a snapshot of how I think.

Now, I have a number of topics I prepared ahead of time to get my juices flowing. I’ll pick one at random. Since I have them written down, I’ll close my eyes and point a finger at one of them.

Done.

I’ve chosen a quote from one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Rocky Balboa:

Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you!”

So many thoughts. Rushing. Here we go.

A football team can only take so many hits before they hit back. When they do, nothing can stand in their way. They will mow down their opponent until there is nothing left of them. Courage is not by honor but by strife. Winning happens when you go beyond yourself to achieve the unachievable. When someone asks, “Can it be done?” the answer should be, “My name is Affirmative Action. Nothing from heaven on high to the earth beneath my feet will prevent me from doing so.”

Taking the path of least resistance will only offer a temporary win. In the end it will cause you to fail. If everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to. Success does not come by sight but by mind.

But I’m too short. I’m too tall. I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. My father beats me. My mother is on drugs. My brothers and sisters hate me. I’m poor. My life is a mess. I can’t go on another day. Why me? Why, why, why me? What have I done to deserve this?

No one can defeat you. You can defeat yourself. Only you. No one can take away your right to be the best person you can be. Only you can do that.

Take flight on eagle’s wings. Soar above the multitude. Perch on the footstool of heaven overlooking the ordinary. Keep to the sky, never letting go of the dream to move others as you would have others move you.

Stir. Encourage. Inspire.

Give hope to where there is darkness. Raise those who are low. Make strong the weak. Give dignity to the mortified. Let there be such an explosion of joy from your heart that no one can deny the optimism that lives within you.

Should I attempt to write in stream of consciousness again in the future? Did any of what I’ve written make sense?