Category Archives: Religion

Chasing Bad Guys

Police-sirens-and-lights

I’ve come to realize that “chasing bad guys” is EXHAUSTING!  Not in the sense of being a police officer (although I have been called that a time or two…THOUSAND), nor in the sense of being the chick that likes the so-called “bad boy” type. I’m talking about the temptation of general suspicion that follows a “fall”, if you will, of a personality or institution that was once held in high regard, or to a standard that all but ensured CERTAIN failure…no matter how long it took to become evident.

It’s so easy to become cynical (or even sinister) in the face of major disappointment…but what good does that do? It becomes a toxin that seeps into every fiber of one’s being and eats away at the very soul. Life becomes a moot point, and everyone becomes a potential enemy or betrayer.  Just thinking about such an existence, I can feel the very cellular makeup in my body changing and the energy becoming stale…

This is not to imply that one should necessarily go through life with rose-colored glasses and blinders on to the very real evils and lack of integrity and noble character that in fact DO EXIST. However, to suspect EVERYONE of such “possible” failure, or live in such a way that infers a defensive offense is the perfect way to make it through life having merely “existed” or “done time” on the earth.  One can’t possibly fully experience life’s beauty, wonder, Love, and divine exchange while being engrossed in such a dreary outlook.

I particularly appreciate Max Ehrmann’s encouragement in his 1927 poem Desiderata to “…exercise caution…but let this not blind you to what virtue there is…” This has been true from the beginning of time, but as the media relishes in glorifying and sensationalizing every negative happening, it is even more critical that we become aware of the air of light that is all around us!

We only notice the negative so prominently because it is NOT NORMAL.  Think about it… The air we breathe in is most commonly good.  Yet the only time we “notice” it is when something foul comes along and we go into maniac mode (at least I do) to try to get rid of whatever “not normal” stench is disturbing the norm. The same can be said of crime, disease (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual), and any other “evil” we perceive.

To be honest, I believe that conspiracies do exist. I believe we live and function in so many broken systems that it would drive us to literal insanity were we to REALLY know what goes on behind the scenes.  But I also believe in the inherent good that IS THE NORM. It is the air we breathe. I believe in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and that our being here is somehow part of the solution to whatever ails the nations.

So instead of spending my energy chasing bad buys and “confirming” my (and the rest of the world’s) suspicions, I’m choosing to learn how to become aware of these rarities…while desperately fighting to strengthen my link in the chain of healing.  I believe this is the most productive use of my life.

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Mirror, Mirror…

I’ve had the opportunity to re-read some of my blogs lately, and every now and then I see an ugly monster rear its head.  And I want to address it.  It’s not envy or jealousy, but rather is hypocrisy.   I’ve noticed that in recent years I’ve become a version of the very thing that bugs the hell outta me…judgmental, critical, and self-righteous.  I’m not proud of it, but I am owning it as true.  Otherwise, there’s no other way to begin to change it, because there’s no acknowledgement that a problem exists.  Isn’t that the first step to recovery?  Well, I’m diving in.

Being raised in differing denominations of Christianity, and attending a Christian university, I had some very fundamental religious concepts instilled into me.  Things like original sin, the necessity and grace of salvation, resurrection, hell, holiness, purity, trust in a just God, God’s sovereignty, the smallness of man, and so on.  (I’m not a theologian, and never claimed to be one…so if any of these things aren’t technically “Fundamental”, forgive me.  When I say “fundamental”, I’m referring only to the things that were basically drilled home on a regular basis…not official dogma.)

My early years were lived in a more liberal type of religious environment, but the fundamentals were the fundamentals…so they were basically the same.  But beginning with my sophomore year in high school, I changed homes and began to attend a more “charismatic” church.  Here, the fundamentals were LIFE.  Not only were they taught, but they were lived with a vehemence that I’d never experienced or encountered before – complete with tracts, door-to-door witnessing, altar calls, lock-ins, and the like.  Straight up “kingdom business”!

In my early years, I attended church regularly because it’s all I knew.  It was what my family did.  But the lifestyle wasn’t as restricted and constricting as it became when I changed homes and churches.  Funny thing is that my home wasn’t restrictive (quite the contrary…it was more freedom than I’d ever known up to that point), but there was a religious regimen in place that left no room for anything other than the teachings being presented.  It wasn’t mandatory clothing and no make-up, but the culture was that of strict compliance to the Bible – God’s holy word.  Anything to the contrary was cause for not only concern, but depending on the infraction, prayer, fasting, laying on of hands, and possible pastoral counseling.

In this environment, I went from a sometime-y churchgoer to the Lord’s cheerleader.  I learned what it looked like to actually “live” what I’d been taught in the other church environment…and I was faithful.  I felt a strong sense of obligation to the tenets that my spiritual understanding had been built upon to that point.  But I also felt a strong sense of guilt whenever I wasn’t as excited about the Lord’s work as it seemed I should have been.  It was in this environment that I learned how to judge.

I saw how well other people were treated when they were serving God and doing it “right”.  I saw how “lost and lonely” other people looked and were treated when they tried to master being faithful to God, but somehow fell short.  I learned how to do the right things, and stay on the right side of righteousness so that I would be treated well.  And I also judged myself, based on all that I saw, because I saw others being judged…and I didn’t want that stigma.

I loved the aspects of restoration, reconciliation, and grace but was horrified by the idea that the God I served could be so mean and cruel as to cause (or graciously “allow”) bad things to happen to people if they weren’t holy enough.  Mortified by the idea that not only would He allow bad things to happen to them here, but if some freak accident caused them to die while they were thinking or doing something unholy, they would burn in hell for all of the rest of eternity.  No chance of parole, and no pardons…no exceptions.

That being the case, after high school, I wanted to make sure that I stayed “in grace”…so I continued on to a Christian university.  Here, I saw and heard of all MANNER of hellbound activity!  Everything from cursing, drinking, premarital sex, listening to secular music, partying with heathens…the whole nine.  My Christ cheerleading pom-poms were almost worn out by the end of freshman year…and I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked for condemning my roommate for ROCKING to Michael Jackson (she was in LOVE with him).  It was a lost cause and I felt myself “backsliding” because I started to actually “like” Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love”, thanks to the hellion of a dorm beautician who had her music on blast mode.  Yeah, I was falling and falling fast.

That way of living seems so far removed from me today, as I chill my sweet moscato, listen to the soothing “secular” jazz sounds of George Benson, enjoy a schedule that’s not dictated by spiritual emphasis weeks, visit different bars and do karaoke without feeling “convicted” or compelled to tell them about Jesus, and acquaint myself with the sound of my own voice rather than waiting to hear if what I want to do is “normal” and okay with the churchgoing public.

But these days I find myself plagued by a different version of the same judgmental virus.  Only it’s directed at those who now live the life that I once knew and followed oh-so-intimately.  It’s almost like a lashing out and poking fun at them…how small of me!

Here’s what I know…  Although I do not subscribe to the same ways of conducting my life, it’s not my place to judge them for how they conduct theirs.  HOWEVER, with my emancipation has come a yet untrained tongue and face (it seems to have lost its ability to bullshit anymore) which can be quite sharp in asking a “soldier for Christ” to back up off me should they push me to that point…I’m working on reclaiming my grace.  Nevertheless, I’m saying that I realize that there is a way to be free of what is no longer authentic for me without antagonizing those with which I once closely identified.

Because the truth of the matter is that judgment is judgment…regardless of where it’s aimed.  And I neither desire nor have the right to be anyone’s judge.  It’s just that I sometimes feel the need to “set the record straight” and go out of my way to prove that something is a certain way…when it’s absolutely unnecessary.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.  No need to prove anything, or set anything or anyone straight.

It’s pretty much a fight or flight type of response to what I perceive to be a potential threat.  But threat to what, is the question.  Threat to my personhood?  Threat to my liberty?  Threat to my future?  Threat to my own definition of who I am?  None of these things can be stripped of me…I’d have to surrender them.  So where does the fear come from?  What am I really afraid of?

Marianne Williamson’s “Return to Love” suggests that maybe I’m afraid of myself.  My own brilliant, incredible, amazing, resilient self.  And you know what?  I’m inclined to agree.  Because I’ve compared myself to so many others over the course of my life and journey, and felt as though I didn’t shine like them in some way or another.  But what I’ve come to realize is THAT’S THE POINT!!!  Living in other people’s shadows and under their umbrellas of what’s possible or acceptable is overwhelmingly exhausting!  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever grow into fullness and pure and genuine fulfillment coloring myself by someone ELSE’s numbers.

Judgment isn’t me.  That was someone else.  So while I know I’ll continue to speak about my various experiences and how I believe many of them made me shrink into a way-too-small version of myself, my goal is to learn to do so without venom and without contempt.  Beauty, grace, dignity, authenticity, humility, and truth is who I am…and how I want to deliver.  So when I look in to mirror today, I won’t see yet another “version” of me…but simply Dionne.

Does this mean that everything will be diplomatic, “safe”, and virtually pain-free?  Not at all.  There’s no way to satisfy or protect everyone.  But the point is my AIM should not be anyone or any group of people.  When I share, I want all of me to be free and have a place wherever I am.  But in this space of genuineness, I no longer have to fear that I won’t fit and therefore force myself into yet another space that doesn’t honor my truth.

Learning how to balance all of this is such an interesting journey, but one that I’m so glad to finally be on.


Sexual musings – MATURE CONTENT

Fucking.  If you can’t make it past this word, then this article might not be for you.  Because what I’m pondering here is something that goes beyond a mere profane word, and might go a little deeper or be a little more graphic or “other” than what some will feel comfortable with.  So “fucking”, is essentially like being tossed into a chilly swimming pool to shock the system, rather than being given the opportunity to ease into it slowly.  So if you’re still reading, you might be shaking a little, but I’m assuming your mind is open and you might not get lost before the end.  If not, adequate warning has now been given.  Alright, here goes…

What is sex?  When most of us think of it, we’re thinking of the physical contact between genitalia.  And by definition, that’s technically what sexual contact is…the joining, stimulation, or manipulation of sexual organs.  And for the purposes of keeping this from becoming a full dissertation, I won’t delve into what constitutes a sexual organ (but anyone who’s successfully survived puberty should know that sexual stimulation goes far beyond the penis, breasts, and clitoris/vagina…more on that at another time).

One thing I’ve wondered is why is sex such a triggered response to so many emotions and scenarios?  It’s almost like eating…and in some cases, it IS eating (and this is usually quite welcomed).  Sad?  Have sex; it’s a great picker-upper (MUCH better than any paper towel, for sure…and hopefully not so “quick”).  Happy?  Celebrate it with sex (nothing says “I love you” like a great session of head/face, hair-pulling, back-scratching, and ass smacking…sounds more violent than it really is).  Pensive?  Sex can help clear the mind and release those endorphins, so the thoughts come more clearly (no pun intended; eh…okay, maybe a little).

I recently had a very stimulating and provocative conversation with a friend, and at the end of that conversation I was primed and ready for some pretty intense sexual activity…and the conversation was as NON-SEXUAL as it could get.  This shocked the hell outta me.  Because I was wondering why the hell that conversation had me so “open”.  I had been stimulated in every way EXCEPT sexually, and felt so “full” and vibrant, yet grounded and at peace, that I literally wanted to be filled with more of that.  Not that friend, but that which matched me.  In that moment, my reality was missing nothing, I felt whole and awake, and my senses were alert.  A “booty call” wouldn’t have done the job.  It was as if the infinity of my soul had opened and I wanted to drink in (figuratively and literally) and connect with more of my own infinity…and no, masturbating wasn’t the answer either.  Nah…right then, I wanted to connect with my own infinite match.  It wasn’t a “longing” so much as it was a readiness to receive, and a desire to pour out more of myself…so I’m writing.

And this experience brings me to the topic of casual sex.  I was raised to believe that it was wrong…period.  No explanation given, other than it went against God, defiled my body and created “soul ties” – whatever that meant.  My comprehension of those concepts was far below what was needed to make sense of any of it.  But now I get it.  And my understanding is expanded…probably to the point of heresy of the original context, but that’s not my concern or problem.  So let me break down my understanding for you…

  • Going against God means going against myself…because I AM God.  Aw shit…did I lose you?  I’m not the “concept” of God that is prayed to, worshipped, or glorified…I AM the same energy that whatever God-concept you subscribe to is.  Think about it…if that energy is infinite, how can I (or you) be anything other than the same?  Infinity cannot be separated. Just sit with that for a bit…you won’t go to hell for it.  Casual sex does not honor that which I am, because by the very general understanding of casual sex (non-committal and non-obligatory sexual relations) it cannot.  It’s like going to the bathroom…you don’t have to have a relationship with the toilet in order to release into it; just “handle business” and be done with it.
  • Having casual sex doesn’t defile my body any more than the other shit we do that doesn’t encourage optimal health, such as drinking alcohol, eating fatty foods, being around people with toxic attitudes, or speeding.  But I’m not going around rebuking a bag of chips nor feeling the need for an altar call after driving 9 miles over the speed limit (they ticket at 10+ mph over…ain’t nobody got time for that).  But since all that I “am” is currently utilizing this body, these are things that could jeopardize how long I get to experience this side of eternity if practiced frivolously.
  • Lastly, sex is not the only activity that creates ties to people we don’t necessarily want or need to be connected to.  So banning sex on the principle of being “unequally yoked” is like denying a road trip, or forbidding the lending or borrowing of money…which probably SHOULD be forbidden, but I digress…  Sex in a casual sense can create an illusion of oneness and implies obligation to the other person (I mean really…it’s not a simple handshake).  So it stands to reason that I would be prudent about who I invite into my intimate space and bind myself to.  Because even if I KNOW that things are supposed to be casual, if that person gets sick in their body you can bet your last dollar that I’m going to be(come) concerned and want to know what’s going on…because they were once a part of me, literally.

All that being said, I’m not a fan of casual sex, but it’s not because of a religious directive against it…although there was nothing inherently wrong with the directive.  Except that once I grew into an understanding of my own, I felt like what I was told before was manipulative and fear-inciting.  But hey…whatever gets the job done, right?  Problem is, I still had casual sex and know countless other religious folks who got that same message and still “got it in” on a regular basis…so the “job”?  Yeah…not done.

I don’t care for it because, for ME (others may feel differently), of the lack of perception involved.  I need understanding.  I want to understand and be understood.  To see and be seen.  If there is a significant lack of essential understanding between myself and the other person, I find it difficult to become or remain sexually attracted to them…no matter how physically attractive, smart, charming, etc. a person may be.  If we don’t “get” each other, we probably won’t GET each other…what’s the point?

And when I forego a sexual encounter, it doesn’t mean I’m judging the person…I’m simply acknowledging a dissonance in our understandings.  It’s not that I’m any better than that person, but I’m wanting a certain type of connection.  One that strokes not only my “lady parts”, but perceives the vast fullness of my being.  Along those lines, I’ve had encounters where no sexual gratification was involved, but because of the perception experienced I felt compelled to unite all of myself (genitalia included) to that person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had and enjoyed meaningless sex a number of times.  But these days, not so much.  I can stimulate myself – I’m very good at it, I know what I like, and there’s no performance anxiety.  And yes, there are times when my physical orifices are all but screaming out to be fed in every sense of the word.  But the idea that I would invite someone into my space that I don’t truly perceive and who has no idea of “who” or what I am pretty much keeps me from pursuing it.  [But as “enlightened” as I am, I’m still human…if he finds “that” spot before my coochie shield is securely in place, it’s a wrap.]

And dammit…I STILL went in directions I hadn’t planned on taking in this writing.  But apparently, it wanted out.  There you have it.  Stay tuned; there’s more still to come…


Strapping In For the Ride

As a writer, I’ve thought about a number of different writing ideas and projects.  The bulk of the ideas are fantastic.  No, I’m not being narcissistic or egotistical…I mean many of the ideas are grounded in various fantasies of experiences I’ve never had.  For example, I’ve wanted to write about the different “holy moments” in life, such as birth (well, I’ve experienced it myself obviously, but haven’t had the opportunity to witness it), death (GLAD to be in the dark on that one on a first-hand basis), “seeing” someone for the first time (not just visibly, but having the experience of being able to embrace their very essence), and so on…  All of these and several others I’ve dreamed about and imagined what it would be like to be in such a moment, but still I’m clueless.  I’ve also had several ideas surrounding the whole phenomenon of falling in love…again, not something I’m sure I’ve experienced.  I’ve had crushes, sexual flings, and been infatuated with the “idea” of people…but the experience of being baptized in the holy warmth of a whole love with someone who’s right there in the baptismal with me is something that has escaped me.  But the one thing I have working for me is my imagination.  

Even with that, I have yet to allow myself to tap into all of the recesses of myself without judgment.  For example, an incredibly dynamic writer that I’ve grown to appreciate is Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal).  But some of the ideas she comes up with are from places that I’d be afraid to fully venture into.  Although if I did, I believe I’d surprise myself.  I have enough dark places inside me that “Hollywood” would probably welcome me with open arms, but I haven’t quite released the idea of emotional safety (probably another reason why I’ve never been exposed to that baptism I referred to earlier…because being in love is not “safe”.  It’s the riskiest thing we ever do.  But I’ll write about that another time.)  But I know that those “safe” story lines are the corny predictable stories that don’t go anywhere beyond superficial pleasantries.  And the truth of the matter is that I’m not a “safe” thinker.

For as long as I can remember, my imagination has tended to lean in the direction of the worst possible scenario.  Fear and uncertainty were groomed in me by the unexpected experiences of my childhood…more stories that I can’t write about because they’re not just my stories, and would expose things about other people that they haven’t revealed yet.  And I don’t have the energy to change all of those scenarios and facts to protect them…might as well just make up a new story altogether – which is where that vivid (albeit dark) imagination of mine comes in.  It starts in truth, but then spins off into layers of details and complexities that turn it into something completely different than how it started.  I’ve done this in my life a number of times.

The thing that has preserved me through this darkness is an uncommon optimism that things will actually work out in the best possible way.  Not necessarily in a cliche “happily ever after” fashion, but in a peaceful and joyful resolution that leaves all parties whole.  Huhn…guess that is happily ever after.  Whatever the case, the point is it doesn’t end in my dark imagination.  There is always hope.  And hope always prevails.

These two can be kinda maddening at times, but rather than condemn and/or try to “fix” the two ideas, I’m taking them as a gift.  And with that gift, I intend to allow it to work for its best purpose…one that I won’t try to define.  It will define itself, and I’ll work within it.  

So I’m strapping in for the ride…