To Buy or Not to Buy a Baby Shower Gift

If last month it was flu season, then this month is definitely BABY season! I just got the news that two of my closest friends are both pregnant with baby number two—the irony being that five years ago, they were both pregnant at the same time with baby number one, along with my cousin…which leads me to wonder if she may be pregnant again too. A brother and sister, whose mom used to babysit me when I was little, are both expecting, and I have two co-workers whose wives have delivery dates in May and June.

Meanwhile, I can’t buy a man. Well, I guess I could, but I don’t want to. I practically bought that last one, and he had TWO jobs, despite being too broke to do anything.

But that’s a different story for another day.

Getting back to my co-workers (did I mention one of them just has a baby last January? Needless to say, this one wasn’t planned), the department is throwing a baby shower for them later this afternoon, and everyone is urged, though not required, to buy a gift, give them a piece of change, or do something nice for the dads-to-be.

If I’m being honest, I just want to slap them across the back, give my congratulations, get a free slice of cake and pizza, and go back to my cubicle, where I know it will be deathly quiet with everyone else still at the party.

Does that make me a bitch?

I haven’t even thought about buying a present since the day my boss said, “Let’s give them a baby shower,” a few months ago. While I was enlisted to assist in the initial planning, all we did was sit at a round table in her office and go over food, drinks, a half-baked potential theme idea, what conference room to book, and where the guys were registered. After that, the other admin in the department basically took over the planning, so I let her have it. She was all too excited to be included while I couldn’t care less. Since that short planning session, I’ve only gotten an email invite to the party and a link to the registries, which I’ve looked at maybe twice.

Now that it’s the day of the party, I’m probably the only one who will show up empty-handed, if I even show up at all. I didn’t have the best experience at the last joint baby shower we had (when co-worker who is currently on unplanned baby number 2 was expecting baby number 1 along with another co-worker who was pregnant with baby number 2). The admin at the time had sent out an email to the entire department, saying that she will be collecting baby shower gifts up to a certain date, and also asking if anyone wanted give money to put in a card. I didn’t bother to respond because buying expensive baby gifts for two people was not in the budget, and I didn’t really want to give them money either… which apparently meant I didn’t get to sign the card.

Fast forward to the day of the baby shower, the wife and husband of the two co-workers were both there, the table in the back of the room was piled with gifts along with the two cards that had everyone’s signature but mine, and as I stood off to a corner of the room, nibbling on cookies and mints, I realized that I didn’t have a close relationship with anyone in this department. Being a temp, I am often excluded from a lot of functions. the most recent one being just yesterday when the whole department disappeared for what I thought was a full-time employees only meeting but actually turned out to be a party for my boss who’s getting married in June. I was informed of the leftover cupcakes from the party at 5 that afternoon, after everyone had already gone home.

Which leaves me to ask the question: Why should I waste my money on people who treat me like an afterthought? My mom has pointed out to me that even my friends, whose kids I spend too money on, don’t do the same for me (probably because I don’t have any children, but I guess I see where she’s coming from). And when I think about all the things I’ve got my money tied up in—I’m saving for a cruise to Alaska this summer, I’ve yet to file my taxes because I’m afraid I might owe (as if the government hasn’t taken enough out of my checks), my car is three months overdue for an oil change—expensive baby shower gifts for people I don’t particularly like isn’t really in the budget.

One of my resolutions at the beginning of the year was to save money—because eventually I do want to move out of my mother’s house—but two things will keep me from reaching that goal: impulse spending—buying stuff I don’t need or won’t use but once—and giving when my heart’s not in it.

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). It also says when you give freely, you gain even more (Proverbs 11:24). I’ve thought about, if nothing else, giving my co-workers a card. It’s not too late to make a quick trip to Dollar General on my lunch break. But then I would feel obligated to put money in it, because what’s the significance of a card other than to hold money, right? I learned that the hard way when my granddaddy copped an attitude because I only bought him a card for his birthday. Apparently a card doesn’t count as a present (even though that’s all I got for my birthday three weeks later, but I digress).

But even in buying a card, it would still be a reluctant gesture under the compulsion that everyone else is probably getting them something and that I have to, too. My heart still wouldn’t be in it. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not, because I really don’t mean to be. There are times when giving to someone comes as easily as breathing, and others when the thought just slips my mind until the day of. Like today.

So after all that rambling, have I come to a decision? I think I’ll pass on buying a gift. I don’t want to. I don’t feel lead to from a kind and sincere heart. And feeling obligated to do so because “it’s the right thing to do” and “everyone else is doing it” isn’t a good enough reason.

So what’s left? Will I skip out on the party? Will I go just to mingle for a few minutes, grab some free food, and slip out (who would notice anyway? These people never notice me)? Or will I fade uncomfortably into the background like I did at the last baby shower? The more I think about it, the more I convince myself not to even go. Again, who would notice?

There’s Something in the Air…

The flu is making its rounds through the office this month. Up and down the halls you can hear coughing and sneezing and hacking of mucus from the lungs. The latest to fall ill is our department head. My cubicle is located right outside his office, so it’s got me a little paranoid.

He came in to work on Monday all red faced and puffy cheeked, breathing out of his mouth, barely able open his eyes, in denial that it was a cold or the flu, probably just allergies. That morning he had an interview in his office with a candidate for a recent job posting. He promised the potential new employee and the rest of the interview panel, four in total crowded at the round table in his office, that he would sit off in the corner, so as not to infect anyone, forgetting that the flu is airborne and the mere fact that they’re in his infested office, they are most certainly all going done.

Later that day, he came around the corner, handed me an empty tissue box and asked me to order some more, and without realizing the significance of the passing of the baton, I took the box from him and threw it away. Then I heard him cough, and blow his nose, and I jumped from my chair so fast and ran to the bathroom to scrub my hands and arms! I even topped it off with a pump of hand sanitizer. You can never be too careful.

It seems the flu has been particularly nasty this year. North Carolina has seen around 600 new flu cases since the end of January, and new numbers reveal the death toll has risen up to 44 people.  Now, I don’t know “normal” flu statistics, but with our modern medicine, 44 still seems a little high. I heard from a coworker that a doctor said this season’s flu shot isn’t working too well. I don’t know if that was his personal opinion or a professional observation, but the way people are dropping around here, it’s definitely made me conscious about touching my eyes, nose, and mouth, eating all the fruit and Vitamin C that I can whenever I feel my throat getting scratchy, or my nose getting stuffy. I might even resort to taking a shot of apple cider vinegar—the miracle juice when it comes to any type of aliment, that is if you can keep it down; it tastes almost as bad as cough syrup.

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One thing that has always puzzled me about my fellow Americans is that we can be so sick we’re throwing up our internal organs, but we’ll still come to work. I hate this “live to work,” “work hard, work harder,” mentality. It’s that same mentality that forces moms-to-be to work until they’re about to drop their babies right on the office linoleum. That same mentality forces them return from maternity leave before they’re ready because at a lot of companies, their job isn’t guaranteed.

Yes, I know the Bible says if you don’t work, you don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but at this rate, you don’t even have time to eat because you’re working so much, and worrying about working, and even dreaming about working! Work has become life. Somewhere in there you gotta squeeze in a day of rest, and for heaven’s sake if you’re sick, STAY HOME!

I commend my boss for coming in on Monday, setting an example for those who abuse sick days, but he could have easily worked from home, allowing himself time to heal and recover. Most offices only allow 1 to 2 sick days, which I personally don’t think is long enough (again, that “work hard, work harder” mentality), but if you need to, take an extra day. Your co-workers will thank you. A lady once told me that the groomer’s office she takes her dogs to had been completely shut down because everyone had the flu.

It’d be a shame if the entire HR department was out sick next week because of one person. No one would get paid, no one would have their employee problems resolved, managers would hire whomever they choose, including their no good, lie on their rusty dusties, can’t keep a job, grown-ass man-children—there’d be total chaos!

The world needs HR. The world needs a healthy HR.

Flu be warned. If things get any worse, I may have to bring my Lysol spray and hose some people down.

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What NOT to Do This Friday Night

Happy Friday! Thank God it’s finally the weekend. Sure, most of us are probably at work, but c’mon, who really works on a Friday anyway? Your minds are already on tonight, and on Saturday night, and on praying for forgiveness Sunday morning.

I’ve heard it’s a holiday weekend, though I’m not sure what holiday. People don’t normally take the Friday before President’s Day off. Especially since we don’t get President’s Day off. Maybe the people working in the federal government do, but us average Joe’s, working eight to ten hours a day, making next to no money, we definitely don’t get the day off. Hell, I doubt even the kids get a break from school. Unless it’s a teacher work day, which means the tired, worn, and broken teachers still have to report.

Ahh, such is life.

But I’m not here to complain about how hard working Americans don’t get nearly enough vacation days in the year, or that my temp contract requires me to work 2,000 uninterrupted hours before I can get paid holiday. (For those of you slow at math, that’s 50 freaking weeks!)

Truthfully, I am here to celebrate that it’s Friday, and that I’ll have two days off to relax, regroup, and most importantly, write.

How do you plan to fill your weekend? To my single readers, should I expect nothing but pure debauchery and regret? That was always the case for me—more regret than debauchery, though.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about . . .

STAY HOME!

My church has a Saturday night contemporary worship service for millennials and people who ain’t trying to get up on Sunday morning . . . or miss football (man, I miss football).  Anyway, last Saturday, one of the associate pastors preached a sermon on staying under the authority of God. One thing he said that truly tickled me was this:

“When you leave here tonight, don’t go home and put on your disco clothes. Put on your pajamas and get in the bed!”

Boy, the congregation had a hoot! (See, it’s ok to laugh and have fun in church). But all joking aside, if everything within the fiber of your being is telling you to stay home tonight, listen to it. We are always asking for signs, some divine intervention to show us where to go and what to do. But when they come, and the answers to our burning questions are glaringly obvious, we choose to ignore them and get ourselves into trouble.

Trust me, when God doesn’t want you to do something, He’ll make it known.

via Final Destination Wiki
via Final Destination Wiki

A few months ago, a woman at my church told us a story about a time during her not-so-Christian days. She was seeing (insert sleeping with) a man who had no intentions of being anything serious with her. One night, she drove to his place in a horrible storm. Torrential downpours, crashes of thunder, lightning streaking across the sky. When she got to his apartment complex, the parking lot was flooded, and a lightning bolt had either struck the water or had struck a wire that was spinning around in the water. Every time she tried to get out of the car, the wind blew harder, and the electrically charged water rose closer to her feet. Finally, she decided he wasn’t worth her life and went back home. Would you believe that when she got home, there wasn’t a drop of rain falling from the sky, not a clap of thunder, nor one strike of lightening? Nothing to indicate there had been a storm anywhere in the city. Nothing but peace and tranquility. She looked up and there wasn’t even a cloud; she could see the stars. Now if that ain’t a sign . . .

Needless to say, she didn’t see “ol’ dude” again after that.

I’ve had signs like that. Not as wild, but they’ve definitely come. The last one came this past Christmas. I had recently resumed talking to a guy I used to date. We had a huge falling out back in March, and it should’ve ended there. Unfortunately, I don’t always listen to my inner conscience.

On one of those lonely nights, I finally answered his texts, and we made a date to drive around the city and look at all the Christmas decorations. Of course, I had to drive because he had no car (note to self: date a man who can at least get himself and you around). I lost interest in the lights pretty quickly, and was ready to take him back to his place. In fact, I was fully prepared to drop him off at a reasonable hour—8:30—go home, put on my pajamas and get in the bed like a good little Christian girl.

I don’t know why I didn’t kick him out of my car, but we sat there in the parking lot close to an hour, and I listen to him drone on and on with his chauvinistic pride, which was really quite laughable, because what exactly did he think he had that made him better than everyone else?

You can scratch a car off that list. You can scratch money to pay for a girl’s dinner off that list. You can scratch a clean apartment off that list. You can scratch a furnished apartment off that list. You can scratch money to buy aspirin for that damn toothache he kept bitching complaining about—a toothache that prompted him to leave me alone in his house for an hour on two separate occasions to meet a friend for the medicine, only to come back with that same toothache and still no medicine—off that list.

And while material things don’t mean a thing, he was a very materialistic person, and he fronted like he had something people would be envious of, when in reality, he had nothing.

But the ultimate sign came when I looked in my side mirror and saw a penis.

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One of his neighbors was standing next to my car, his phone in one hand, his penis in the other, peeing inches from my gas tank. Mind you, it was still about nine thirty/quarter to ten. I was parked under a street light. The road was literally right in front of us, with cars driving by! If not me, someone else was bound to see him.

It was the most repulsive and unsettling experience I’ve ever had in my life. To make it worse, when he saw that I was in the car, he and his homeboy preceded to watch me through the driver’s window and laugh, while the guy I was with did nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, he thought it was funny too.

I was not laughing. And I damn sure wasn’t comfortable.

But even after all that, I still went inside his house, greeted by the disgusting stench of rotten potatoes. (Do you know how long potatoes have to be sitting out for them to get that far gone? A long time! Who doesn’t know the bag of rotten potatoes sitting in the corner of their empty kitchen is the source of the foul odor filling their apartment?!) I stayed there while he left me alone (to not remedy his toothache), babysitting his stupid, jumpy puppy, watching some idiotic American Pie-type movie, starving because he didn’t have any food and his kitchen stank.

Eventually, I left. But it it was nearly midnight, and I was so frustrated with myself for allowing someone like that to completely waste my time and disrupt my inner peace that I went home and wrote a nasty Facebook status update that I later deleted.

But seriously, did I expect something different? His utter disregard for my feelings, my time, or my comfort was the exact reason we fell out last March.

Being bitten by that loneliness bug renders you temporarily an amnesiac. I should find something else productive to do. Like tell you of my horror stories as a reminder to myself.

I say all of this not to gain your sympathy (really, I’m fine. Single . . . Mingle Me Not, remember?), but to urge you that if you have a sinking feeling your Friday night will result in a similar train wreck . . .

STAY HOME!

Go see the new Lego Batman movie with the kids. Meet up with your girlfriends at the bowling alley for a night of gutter balls and chili cheese fries. Put on your pajamas and go to bed.

Do anything but call that no good man who still hasn’t made you his girlfriend, yet requires boyfriend privileges.

You’re worth so much more than that.

via Pinterest
via Pinterest

Sweet Without the Heart

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. The day of love, though nothing “loving” ever occurred on this dreadful day. I’m talking massacres, executions of priests. Valentine’s Day should really be called the day of martyrdom, because a lot of saints were killed this day. Lord only knows which “St. Valentine” the holiday is actually named after.

Nevertheless, today we celebrate love. Couples exchange long sappy paragraphs and cheesy love poems, men break the bank buying roses, chocolates (specifically truffles), and romantic dinners for their loves, boyfriends propose to their girlfriends, and the already betrothed get married, social media addicts flaunt their relationships, much to the chagrin of their miserable single friends.

Like I said, nothing “good” ever happens on Valentine’s Day.

Truthfully, it’s a holiday I can do without. Not because I’m single and bitter, though I am half of that equation (the half that’s not bitter). I would say my hatred strong dislike for Valentine’s Day started in high school. My high school had a tradition that in hindsight was quite a nice gesture. Organized by the student council, every Valentine’s Day, students could purchase a rose for a dollar to be delivered to their sweetheart during first period.

First period, Valentine’s Day, Freshman year. Student council members walk into the classroom carrying baskets of roses. They stand before the class and read off the names on the cards. One by one, each girl, and even some guys, step up to receive their gifts. Some one rose, others two or three, a few wrap their arms around dozens. . . . And I get nothing.

For four years, I had to live that experience. It’s meaningless now, but back then, during my emotional high school years, when those teenage hormones were raging, it was like a dagger through my heart. You mean to tell me no one, not one person, thought about me on Valentine’s Day? It’s not like all of my classmates were dating someone. Most of them were single like me. It was their friends who were spending a week’s worth of lunch money on roses for them.

I bought my friends roses. When I had a boyfriend, I bought him a rose. No one got me anything.

I take that back. One year, either my Junior or Senior year, I received one rose from my little brother. It was so sweet. He signed the card with one letter, K. But I recognized his handwriting in a second. It was the thought that made me smile, though. The thought was more important.

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Still, I’ve learned not to expect anything on Valentine’s Day. That way I’m never disappointed, and if something special does happen, I’m always surprised.

Now, the only Valentine’s gifts I receive are from my Mom or my Granddaddy. Granddaddy’s gift today really made up for the blunder he had this past Saturday. He’d invited me as his guest to a Sweetheart Breakfast at his church. Now Granddaddy already has a “lady friend” so I wasn’t sure if my invitation was just an afterthought or if he truly wanted me to be there. I came anyway, on time, though on time for that church means five minutes early. His lady friend was there, as I’d expected, but Granddaddy still pulled out the chair for me and served me breakfast, a menu he no doubt wrote himself (scrambled eggs, potatoes and onions, sausage, sweet apples, and a roll—if that ain’t a classic old black man breakfast, I don’t know what is). However, the problem came during the introduction of sweethearts, when he stood up and said:

“This is my granddaughter. She’s not married, that’s why she didn’t bring nobody.”

Valentine’s Day, a vindictive holiday created to remind the single that they ain’t got nobody.

I put on the biggest fake smile I could muster and tried to laugh with everyone else clearly amused by my exposed loneliness. The clapback came hours later while I was in my room trying to erase the embarrassment from my memory.

I don’t need a man. I’m married to Jesus.”

I dare the seasoned saints at that church to tell me He doesn’t count.

By the way, I wasn’t the only single woman there. I was just the only one who got called out. I’m still trying understand his point, other than to make a joke at my expense. His church being very old with a dying congregation, all the men there were his age. Even if there was one guy from my generation, it wouldn’t matter because they all brought their sweethearts. Remember, Sweetheart Breakfast. Maybe he’d hoped to hook me up with somebody’s grandson? Eh, I’ll pass.

Granddaddy redeemed himself today, though. He bought me roses and a box of Dove milk chocolate truffle hearts, so I guess I can forgive him.

Looky there, now two people have bought me roses on Valentine’s Day. Ain’t I special!

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Finish What You Start

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3; NIV)

Finish what you start . . .

It was the title to a series my pastor preached several years ago. Unfortunately, the title is all I remember. That and one particular sermon about how unmarried people should finish being single before they rush into a marriage. That was probably one I should’ve paid more attention to. I might’ve been able to avoid a few disaster relationships, or more specifically, “situationships,” if I had.

Still, the title itself convicts me . . . Finish what you start. . .

I haven’t been able to finish many things lately. As a writer, I am the ultimate perfectionist. When I catch the editing bug, nothing I write is ever good enough. I can edit a story down to nothing if I’m not careful. And if it’s not the next great American novel that I want it to be, instead of writing it down anyway so I can revisit and rework it later, I don’t write it at all, too embarrassed by how dreadful it will read. (That’s why it’s called a first draft, silly.) And don’t let me fall behind in my word count. Even if it’s only a day, it’s a mountain I just don’t have the motivation to climb anymore. Hence my countless disappearing acts from the blogging world, and why I left 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans hanging at Day 10.

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But I intend to finish Holiday Hooligans this year, this April in fact, for the A to Z Challenge. No, it’s not the holidays, technically, but if I wait to December, a whole ten months from now, I’ll never finish it. And yes, I do realize the A to Z Challenge was the main reason for last year’s burnout, but if I don’t get back on the wagon somehow, sooner rather than later, I may never write a story or poem again, and for someone who’s been doing this since she was old enough to write, that is beyond terrifying.

So this is my second attempt at finishing what I started. A 2017 New Year’s Resolution do-over (because we all know January doesn’t count—we were too busy trying to drop all those holiday pounds we gained). There are a lot of things I plan to accomplish by the end of this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to organize myself so that I’m not overwhelmed in striving to reach my goal. But if God could create the entire earth and everything that dwells within in six days, just to kick back and relax on the seventh when He finished, then I have no excuse whatsoever.

Throughout the Bible, the number seven is used to signify completion and rest. Completion and rest. Ahh, that is so true. Unfortunately, instead of Day Seven, my day of rest usually comes at Day Four, or Five, or sometimes even Day One, and I never complete what I began. So many great stories left hanging off a cliff; so many protagonists left unfulfilled.

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But to actually finish something. Yes, that would be monumental.

Think about it. When you finally relieve your shoulders of that heavy burden of always having to do something, don’t you just want to lie down, kick your shoes off, read a good book, or play a good movie, maybe turn up your stereo, and do absolutely nothing because you’re at long last “done”? Yes, I know I do. Coming home from a long day at the 9 to 5. Wanting to get in my bed and disappear from the rest of the world for the next eight hours. Yes, that sounds heavenly . . .

BUT I HAVE TO FINISH THAT NOVEL!

The price of being a writer with a day job; there never seems to be enough time in the day to do both, especially when said day job is in an unrelated field and the only good thing it’s giving is a nice a paycheck. Nice, not fat, but nice. Coming home and having to switch gears and get into the writing mode is just . . . well, hard. But I have to do it. This is my life—not some measly job that doesn’t offer me affordable benefits worth a rat’s ass when I do get sick. Writing is my life. Creating stories is my life. Entertaining the masses with this craft God has blessed me with is my life.

So let’s hop to it. Start it. Finish it. Read it. Rest.

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Sunday Morning Word: Overcoming Temptation

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Temptation. We all face it. It’s a natural part of being human. That inner battle that results in us choosing to either do good, stay the course, and continue walking in the Spirit, or veer from the path and stop at a little dive bar off to the side, where we can fulfill the desires of our flesh for just a couple of minutes.

Sometimes we are able to overcome temptation. Other times, the call of the flesh is just too loud and it gets the better of us. If you succumb to the temptation, don’t make the mistake that I often do and go silent, as if to say, “If I don’t say anything, maybe God won’t know.” That is only the tricks of the devil, and you have to kill that thought before it even arises. God is everywhere. He sees all and He knows all. He knows what you’re going to do even before you do it. Hiding from God because you’re ashamed, like Adam and Eve did when they ate from the forbidden tree and saw that they were naked (Genesis 3:10), won’t get you anywhere. It’s almost as if you’re making a fool of Him to think that he doesn’t already know. What’s done in the dark will come to light, but that doesn’t mean He won’t forgive you when you finally do come to Him. The question is will you?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1: 13-15)

Sometimes it’s hard to admit when we do wrong. We fight it with all our might. Deep down, we know we’re good people; we just had a moment of weakness. We know we’re better; we can do better. So we’ll pretend this moment of weakness never happened. We’ll continue to be the “good Christian” people we know we can be. But what happens when that temptation returns? Will we be able to resist it, or will we again have a moment of weakness and try to fix it ourselves by sweeping it under the rug and hoping that God won’t find out?

We are doing ourselves a true disservice when we don’t let God into our problems. David shows us in Psalm 32:5 how truly forgiving God is if we only confess: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Then again in Proverbs, we see what covering up our sins gets us. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy”  (Proverbs 23:13). But for those of us who like to put on our “good Christian” faces even when we know our actions show the opposite, John brings that conviction that we need to finally kneel before God and tell him all our troubles.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

So what happens after you confess, after you finally include God in your life, showing Him your troubles and asking Him for help? Don’t expect Him to wrap you up in a bubble so that you’re never tempted again. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world” (John 16:33). Let us not forget that even Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but He was able to overcome it. If He hadn’t, if He had fallen to the deceit of Satan, He couldn’t have become the Savior of the world. You don’t have to wait until after you’ve messed up to go to Him. Run to him while the temptation is still strongly pressing down on you. He knows exactly what you’re going through because He’s been through it, and He can provide you with a way out.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Your way out of temptation is the word of God. If we look back to the temptation of Christ, we see that each of Jesus’ responses to the devil comes directly from Scripture. When Satan tells Jesus to turn the stones to bread for food, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4). When Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the temple to see if the Lord’s angels will catch him, Jesus responds, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ ” (Matthew 4:7). When Satan promises Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He will only bow down and worship him, Jesus answers, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ ” (Matthew 4:10).

If we are to resist the temptation of the enemy, it is important that we know the word of God, and not just have it memorized—because Matthew 4:6 shows us that even Satan can quote the Bible—but know it and understand it. Ephesians 6:11 instructs us, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Part of that armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The King James translation of 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We must study the word so that we can discern what is of God and what is not. And for the things that are not of God, we can use His word to resist them violently.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate, for you and for me, how important it is to stay under God’s authority when dealing with temptation. Trying to do it all ourselves only leads to our own self-destruction. My home pastor teaches us that the spiritual principle of authority is God’s plan to protect our lives. So let God protect you. Galatians 5:16 says to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” I encourage you again and again, to walk in His Spirit, immerse yourself in the studies of His word, resist the devil and his tricks and temptations with the tongue of Christ, which is a double-edged sword (Revelation 1:16), and he will flee from you.

Happy Sunday.

Sunday Morning Word: The Prodigal Son Returns

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20; NIV)

Good Sunday morning! I wake up to gray skies and a blanket of damp leaves covering my lawn. It’s been a surreal past few days, all of it coming to a head when I heard the news that a wayward family member was recently arrested for allegedly . . . robbing a bank. I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. The only time we ever hear from him is when he needs money, and once he has it, he’s gone again. He’s been walking the edge of this path for five or six years now. Still, I’m disappointed, because he won’t be able to wriggle himself out of this jam. He is most definitely going to prison, possibly serving an extended sentence.

“The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” (Luke 15:12-13)

Since hearing the news, my family has been spinning on their heads, crying waterfall tears, making themselves sick with worry. My reaction (if you could even call it that) hasn’t been quite so dramatic. For the past several months, I’ve been training myself not to react with my emotions to thing that I know are in the Lord’s hands. I and my family and even a few prayer partners at church have been praying hard that he has a dramatic, soul-changing encounter with God, similar to Saul on the road to Damascus, or Jonah being swallowed by the whale (he’s spent all his time running from Him, we prayed that he would instead run smack into Him), and this just might be that encounter we’ve been praying for.

I hate that it means he might go to prison, possibly for a long time. This society wasn’t created for black men to be successful. They dangle a false promise of the “American Dream” in their faces, then throw them behind bars for the tiniest of infractions. Once tied up in the justice system, it’s so hard for them to break free. I know he’s a good kid. Deep down, he’s a softy. He breaks down and cries the second he gets in trouble. But this world, and the people he’s chosen to associate himself with has made him desperate. And desperate people do desperate things.

“So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:15-16)

But then I am reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. How he went out into the world and lost everything he had, even down to his own dignity and self-respect. With his tail firmly set between his legs, he travels back home to his father feeling shameful and unworthy.

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19)

But he isn’t met with judgement or ridicule. When his father sees him, he is filled with compassion. He runs to him, kisses and hugs him. He instructs the servants to kill the fattest calf. They were going have a feast to celebrate his son’s return home.

My unfortunate dear loved one is no saint. He’s made mistakes, he’s hurt a lot of people, including me. But when he does come home, even if it’s just for money, I welcome him in my arms. I forget everything he’s done and plant a wet one right on his cheek, because I’m happier to see him alive and breathing (for the longest time, I feared he was dead), and back home with his family. That’s how I’ll be when he gets out of jail, whenever that will be. I’ll welcome him home as if nothing’s happened. Because what’s more important is that he was lost, and now he’s found, and that is a cause for celebration.

“Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)

This is how our Father in Heaven will react when we finally dedicate our lives back to Him. The Bible says that Heaven rejoices when just one person is saved (Luke 15:7; 15:10). Nobody’s perfect, and there’s no sense in trying to be because when you fall short, that failure will eat you alive. But God loves you anyway. We talk so much about wrath, fire, and damnation, but we don’t talk enough about His love. Jesus Christ died on the cross because God loves us. He rose from the grave on the third day because God loves us. His precious blood washed us free from sin because God loves us. I don’t know if you know this, but when you return to Him, there’s a party going on in Heaven, and it is LOUD.

And please don’t be like the prodigal son’s brother, who was jealous of the welcome his younger brother received; “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with, my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him” (Luke 15:29-30). Sometimes we as Christians don’t realize the treasures we already have in Christ. We get impatient in our prayer, and when we see someone, who hasn’t be saved for nearly as long as we have, get their heart’s desire, we cry out to God for our cut.

But remember that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God gave us salvation through Christ. He already loves you for your faith, your enthusiasm to do the work of ministry. Everything His has is already yours. Jesus says to the people, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Paul tells the Philippian church, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God celebrated just has hard for you, whether you noticed it or not, and He doesn’t love anyone else any more than he loves you or I. So rejoice in your brother’s/sister’s coming home. Our family is expanding to greater sizes everyday.

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Happy Sunday.