How they Quitted the Author: Innersextions Pt. 2

Plagurize Tee

If you go too fast, you’re in danger of going through the motions. Too slow and everything becomes stagnant. For most of us, we’re most vulnerable when we feel alone and exposed; our flaws are captured and observed with looks that make our skin squirm. How you fare when you feel threatened or tender depends on what you acknowledge about yourself and your surroundings. Take a deep breath…can you feel God? Can you feel me too? I know it’s hard to remember sometimes.

With an online world full of criticisms, people will put their best selves forward with the question remaining if they are being authentic. The weirdest phenomenon I’ve seen on social media is that people will look on a screen for people who are ‘real’ and ‘raw’ with them. Can you imagine how many trolls there would be if people could reach through their phone or tablet? Judging by the way the world looks now, it’s a good thing certain people don’t have super powers.

But there’s a hidden curse with those with common sense; as they say great minds think alike – and I would add – feel like too. (***Let me take a pause here***) Can you please get that booger out of your nose so I can breathe better? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Last week, some of our dear elders tackled philosophical ideas surrounding identity and the LGBTQ community. Interesting to say the least. I wish we had more people tackling subjects with impartiality, but that’s just what it is for now. I’m noticing more assumptions of certain Christian dogmas as correct (not referring to the elementary stuff here) and when we fail to critique our own stances, we may begin to present our opinions as inflexible truths rather than facts that are qualified by its context. Some things are true until it’s not and vice versa. Did you feel God? Can you feel me too? I know it’s hard to remember sometimes.

6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 1 Tim 4:6 ESV

Howl At The MOON

Philosophy can wear you out man. Especially when it comes to existentialism: whose premise in my humble opinion is scrabbled semantics in a misguided attempt to provide a system to be authentic. Not going to explain my thoughts on that matter for now because the primary focus is to give further arguments in redeeming and correcting the alphabet community. There are certainly bugs within the existentialist framework; whether we are pulling notes from Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, or George Serban, it’s clear that we can’t conflate identity with authenticity, and that any attempt to do so will muddy the waters between hypocrisy and delusion. Hold your horses Lexi! Let me explain that here:

Lexi: Why do you feel you need to explain yourself?

Me: I don’t need to explain myself, unless I’m seeking to express and justify my true nature.

Tee in The Hay

Ti-Grace Atkinson

I know I’m not alone in such sentiments, as is the case for any person whose eccentric, radical or a maverick. Explaining is a premeasure to protect oneself in society and the weaponry to stand up for others. This is certainly the case with Ti-Grace Atkinson; a gay woman who contributed to the system of radical feminism. Quite frankly, there is much for me to learn about the different sub-sets about feminism, except this class is off-putting considering the animosity towards men – Black men – in particular. There should be no surprise that the recent gender wars are rising from repeated instances of dehumanizing the other.

The feminist dilemma is that it is as women — or “females” — that women are persecuted, just as it was as slaves — or “blacks” — that slaves were persecuted in America: in order to improve their condition, those individuals who are today defined as women must eradicate their own definition. Women must, in a sense, commit suicide, and the journey from womanhood to a society of individuals is hazardous.

Ti-Grace atkinson, “Radical Feminism”

POP QUIZ:

  • Name five actors in the coming fast and furious movie.
  • Lee Sang-Guen directed a movie in 2019 about a rock climber who would later become a hero. Another movie developed by Living Waters Production shares it’s name telling a story about suicide. What’s the name of the movie?
  • Name three ways one can pay off debt? What is debt forgiveness? What are the pros & cons of forgiving debt?
  • Finish the lyrics: I’ll give you attention all night, all day…

Butter UP the Quilt

As humans, the more proud we are, the more we are willing to expose our rawness. When shame, threats, or courtesy arises, we look for places to hide. Society oppresses our ‘freedoms’ with consequences should we act in a way contrary with its laws. Such oppressions aren’t bad when the law is just, but let it be misguided or sinister then man!!! It’s horrible how difficult it is for women to get appropriate health care; to get maternity leave without worrying if their livelihood will be lost, striving for equality with men when now they have another existential threat; the transgender woman.

A man who has sadistic thoughts maybe considered unclean or a murderer at worst within a Christian context, but if he genuinely refrains from carrying out his imagination due to repentance, would we still classify him a sadist? If a person identifies themselves as a cat and spends most of their days acting like a cat, we can say they are being their authentic selves, but their body betrays their fancies. How would we identify such a person? A four foot six boy can walk around thinking they are a titan — crushing nations underneath his feet — only to be pulverized by a towering bully at school. Who is the boy ‘really’? What’s the point here?

…it’s clear that we can’t conflate identity with authenticity, and that any attempt to do so will muddy the waters between hypocrisy and delusion.

– The Prototype, “How They Quitted the Author”

Off in the Town

If we can see how acting upon every impulse may not be good, we can indulge in the more introspective, innate part of us. At what point should we suppress our desires? When should we let ourselves go and be “free”? As long as we can recognize that our identity is in some respects shared, we can build genuine relationships. Again, I know what it feels like to be trapped in a fragile body. I’m sure many people do. To do what I think is best for myself, I must adhere to a code; an ethics I develop personally but is also consistent with logic, nature, and the society I live in. In my personal opinion, making such decisions help me to move in a way most harmonious with the world, although I don’t need to agree with everything the world says. Some discord is good. Just ask Bartok.

Can’t lie to ya/

I didn’t zip my fly when I walked in the wider room/

I just threw my pants on, but I’m no panderer/

Panner, pinner, penner, panda/

See you can check my stamina/

Got no weight except this pound of cake/

Please excuse my grammar. Sorry Irma/

Didn’t know how things would pale/

Is it gay or happy? Is it BI or farewell?/

Gotta ID to market but my good nature won’t cell/

Now they tempt me to whore mong’ them cus they say sex sales/

Nah I’m good, I already made my choice/

No matter how many obstacles there are/

I’m gonna stay on course/

Let me be cool with these letters,
I don’t have to use force/

The genuine knows when they’ve strayed from the source/

I’ll come at this topic from one last angle and then we’ll move on. To all those within the LGBTQ community, you are loved. If you believe in God, try to discern how God wants you to follow Him/Her.

Questions to Consider

Does identity equate to authenticity? When do you KNOW you’re being authentic? Is being your true-self consistent with your identity?

For Christians:

How can we better relate to the LGBTQ community?

In what ways can we tackle to issues of racism, sexism, and other schisms in our community holistically?

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

— 1 Tim 4:16 ESV

Emptying Yourself to Recieve His Brand: A review on Bishop T.D. Jakes Message, a complimentary take to James Richardson’s review

Philippians 2:2-11

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

    and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

“Grace and Peace”

This greeting rings in my head, I used to hear it time and again during a season of my life in which I attended a church in the south suburbs of Chicago. During this time James and I would help lead worship by playing our instruments in the morning and then high-tail it back into the city to attend our church in the afternoon.  The church members at this particular place of worship would consistently greet one another this way. At that time I thought it was nothing more than “Christianese”. And yet now almost ten years later, it has become a life gripping phrase for me as I have become more aware of how much grace and peace I need to navigate the hardships presently before me. I am also aware of the tremendous grace He has given me to do what before seemed impossible- to grow in patience and in faith in the face of persistent struggle. It is with this opening that Paul writes his letter to the Philippians. Chapter 1 verse 2 he writes:

“ May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” So now I say to a younger, more ignorant, immature version of Shandra “ No, this was not some religious idiom, it is a lifeline of encouragement, drawing from the true source of strength you will need in life- Grace and Peace in the Lord Christ.

But now what does this exactly mean, what does it even look like? This is where I’d like to share some insights I’ve gleaned from this passage in Philippians, my life experience, and a message recently preached by Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Oftentimes when we discuss grace in the biblical context we are focusing on its chief definition which is known to most as “unmerited favor”. In the context of salvation, yes it is right to think about this because we have been granted eternal and unmerited favor through the death and resurrection of Jesus to live with Him throughout eternity should we embrace salvation. Right now, I’d like to underscore another dimension of the word which is more aligned with this definition:

Oxford Dictionary

noun

  1. 1.
    simple elegance or refinement of movement.
    “she moved through the water with effortless grace”

2.

courteous goodwill.

“at least he has the grace to admit his debt to her”

verb

  1. do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.
    “she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades”

And so when we say “grace be upon you” we are granting that someone would have the elegance to move with refinement, the strength to do goodwill, and the capacity to do honorably in whatever circumstance they find themselves within. We see this unfold in Paul’s instruction in Philippians chapter 2. In this text Paul brings up the conduct that Christ displayed while here on earth- he made himself nothing, humbled himself, became a servant. By the way, how authentic that Paul would write this type of encouragement while he himself is imprisoned! He was displaying the type of grace he encourages others to obtain.  And you may ask “Why? Why do I need to have this type of grace and to what end?” This is where I wholeheartedly appreciate Bishop T.D. Jakes sermon. Bishop Jakes would say for the purpose of “Brand”. Brand, as expressed by Jakes, is to be sealed, authenticated so that one understands the ownership thereof. We know that in this life we cannot escape hardship. Hardships come in many forms- physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. And these categories themselves lend to various types of hardships one can suffer and the intensities thereof. Regardless of whether my hardships have been more intense than yours or not, one thing is true among us- we have faced them and they have profoundly impacted our souls. Given that suffering is inevitable, what comes out of its process is what becomes of chief importance. In other words are we better or worse off through it and after it? Are we more virtuous and productive than before? Note when I say productive, I am referring to the ability to produce life-giving attributes. This is exactly what we see of Christ, he went towards the cross, through the cross, and out of the cross giving eternal life to all who fellowship with Him. My goodness, we should pause right there and seriously contemplate this profound occurrence…Christ gave life while embarking upon the pathway towards death. Am I giving (life not grief to others) while on this pathway of suffering? 

“…the very emblem of our faith is suffering….we carry crosses to remind us that this did not come cheap…”

Bishop T.D. Jakes – Branded

What is my mindset as I navigate these hardships? In honesty- during what I call grey days, I have thoughts that range from- “ I deserve better than this…” to  “ This is the consequence of my sinful behavior of the past, if I only do better from now on, I can circumvent suffering in the future…Lord please give me the grace to get out of this!”. Once I sober up from this state, I come to recognize that first, these are lies. They are lies because they are extreme statements that derive from a place of judgment of the heart that is not based on a full view of what is truth. No matter what I did in the past or do now, I cannot circumvent suffering in this world, our world is marked by hardship. Further, these types of thoughts do not produce in me the capability (grace) to walk in peace and give life to all that is good in my life despite the hardship. Instead, they have me turn inward and get stuck in the mire. And this is exactly what amazes me about Jesus. On his way to the cross, he washed the feet of his disciples, he fed the masses, he healed the ill and did that which seemed impossible for a man who was to face the most gruesome death physically and spiritually. Make no mistake Jesus was under duress. We are told in Luke 22:43-44 that He was so stressed in the Garden of Gethsemane that He began to sweat blood! And it is this reality that puts my heart in check. Surely I can serve well despite my disappointments… YET I can only do this by thinking like Christ and drawing from His divine strength.


I have begun to learn the art of drawing from His strength. Can I tell you a secret? Mastering this art is not rocket science and it is one of the hardest skills one will need to learn in order to survive the darkest hours.  It is much like the training of a young Jedi. Mastering self-control while drawing from the strength of the force is critical in order to avoid the destructive, seductive power of the Darkside. (More on Star Wars and biblical theology…)

Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

Hebrews 6:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

These passages side by side convey something about our strength’s source and resting in the Lord. First that there is a power within the Lord and secondly that your very life depends upon its resource. I have learned that resting requires a discipline of redirecting my thought life, redirecting my attention,  recalibrating my body, forcing my mouth to praise when my heart is so heavy it has tried to lock down my words, exercising and moving, fellowshipping with others, withdrawing from others at the appropriate time, and so much more. Resting is not only physical health, resting my friends is mental health (more on mental health in a future blog and podcast) To rest in Christ is to trust that the hope of being with Him eternally and internally is greater than the pain I currently experience from the cross He has allowed me to experience. I am so sure there are deeper layers of truth to what it means to rest in Christ. For me, this is what I have come to understand at this leg of my journey. I also rest my worry of the unknown in the fact that I know that come what may, there is a beauty unfolding towards a purposeful end. In other words, I do believe there is a purpose to my current hardship- branding, authentication, to be useful to others in a greater life-giving way, etc. 

A few years ago, 2 Corinthians 1:4 became my “jam” while I was in a hard space. This became my jam much like a slow R & B to groove or a funk soundtrack one dances to no matter what circumstance they find themselves in. And so it says: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” It is important to not miss the “so that” in biblical text. It’s like the pocket by which the beat resides and produces more resonance. It is the purpose I am talking about. If we miss the purpose, then what really is the point of it all?

I’ve seen this come to life in my own life! I began to realize that the encouragement I would give to others was now more than what I call “Christian platitudes”. By the way here’s the definition of platitudes:

a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.

Thats Good To Know Lisa Mcdowell GIF from Thatsgoodtoknow GIFs

If you’ve been around church people for some time you know these all well-  verses out of context thrown at you during a hard time, unbiblical phrases such as “ Well, He won’t give you more than you can bear…” By the way, that’s nowhere in scripture my friends. And is actually quite offensive to people who have borne a crapload. Or another one I disdain is the “ Thanks for sharing…” left with a hollow emptiness and no mutual return of exchanging how one has either experienced God’s grace in an equally difficult time OR an admission that they are in need of God’s grace in a similar or profound way. What we find in 2 Corinthians 1:4 is the mark of one who has been authenticated, branded not just with hardship but with the comfort that those who walk with Christ experience! I can now look another person in their eyes and truly tell her/him I know what it means to come to the recognition that Christ alone is my all as I’ve experienced deep relational disappointments. I can equally tell you what God’s comfort meant for me as He gently but firmly showed me the darkness and deception of my own heart and how I’ve deeply hurt those I love. The point here is- receiving His brand requires us to be unashamed of the gospel in our lives.

And so I’d like to end this blog with an invitation for you to share your process with someone about how you are being branded for a greater purpose. I’d suggest to you that even if you just share what insights you’ve gathered (without sharing the details of the situation), that alone is a gem that could touch another soul in the deepest parts of their being- calling them towards endurance and life. You may share with us by commenting, share with me directly by email,  or better yet share with another with whom you are in relationship with throughout your daily life.

Grace and peace to you friends, may the Force, the only true One, be with you.