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.

Already Sick of Christmas Music? Yea, Me Too

Happy December! If Thanksgiving didn’t do it for you, maybe the first of December will put you in the holiday cheery mood? Though, I would totally understand if you’re still not feeling it. Our world is in shambles! The Southeast is on fire while California is actually getting rain, our U.S. government is once again at war with the Native Americans, Pat McCrory still won’t accept that he lost North Carolina because of HB2, and the radio stations have been playing the same damn Christmas music since the 50’s!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas music. I’ve been listening to it since that horror show that is a Trump election. But you can only hear “Let it Snow,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” Rudy, and Frosty, and countless other songs that have been around since my mom was a kid, so many times before you lose your ever-Christmas-lovin’ mind!

Every year, there are at least a few artists who drop a new Christmas record for the masses to consume. I loved Ariana Grande’s EP, Christmas and Chill, last year, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra is always my go-to band during the holidays, both their Christmas albums, and their original music. I attend their concerts faithfully every year, and this year’s no different. I can’t wait to see my sexy bass guitarist David Z, rock it out on stage next Sunday!

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via Pinterst

Unfortunately, the newer Christmas music doesn’t get much traction on the radio. For as long as I’ve been listening to TSO, I’ve only heard one of their songs played on the radio, and that’s their rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” which is actually titled “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo.” It is without a doubt their most popular song, and I crank up the volume every time it comes on, but they have three albums-worth—roughly around 60 songs—of Christmas music, and the radio stations can only play one?!

I guess I could just call in and request the music, but who wants to do that when we can simply create a Spotify playlist and fill it with all the songs we love to hear at Christmas. My playlist is nothing but TSO, with a little bit of Ariana Grande, a little bit of Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, Kirk Franklin and the Family, and other artists whose Christmas music I love. I also have to add my Gospel tracks to the playlist, because you can’t have Christmas without first, the Christ.

Still, it would be nice to turn on the radio and listen to a Christmas song that I haven’t already heard 50 thousand times. Maybe that could be my next challenge, to write a Christmas song that would finally put a nail in the coffin of those oldies the world is so obsessed with playing. After all, I do write poetry, and what is music but poetry sung to piano, or guitar, or your favorite melodic instrument?

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Are there any Christmas songs you are absolutely tired of hearing? I know I didn’t name them all. Which are your least favorite, and which do you wish would completely disappear from the human ear and mind?

By the way, I’ve kicked off my 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans challenge over on my other blog, Lovely Curses. Check it out, and if you love creating stories like I do, why not join the fun? Some of the best stories are the ones told at Christmastime, starting with a little baby boy born in a manger in Bethlehem.

Holiday Temptations while Counting Calories

Everybody knows calories don’t count on Thanksgiving . . . or the day after, or Christmas . . . or the day after, or New Year’s . . . or the day after . . . Let’s face it, you can forget about sticking to your diet plan until at least January 3rd.

But if you’re like me, and you’ve been busting your butt all year (technically, I started this journey in June, when I disappeared from writing), you don’t want to toss all of your hard work down the drain by overeating during the holidays.

Then again, that mac and cheese sure looks scrumptious . . .

Via Steve Johnson -- Flickr Creative Commons
Via Steve Johnson — Flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving morning, I made the mistake of stepping on the scale. I wasn’t expecting to see a number I particularly liked, I just wanted to measure the damage I’d have to recover after feasting out later that day. Imagine my surprise when the number flashed and the ten pounds I’d been struggling to lose since September were wiped away! I had to weigh myself again just to make sure my mind (or the scale) wasn’t playing tricks on me. The number flashed again and it was no joke. I nearly screamed.

I am now only 2.5 pounds heavier than my skinny as a twig brother, who is about 7% body fat. Don’t know how that’s even possible unless all of his weight comes from his height and his bones, and his muscles are just denser than my fat, but I’ll accept that. I’ll probably keep this news to myself for now. My brother can be a total dick sometimes, and he is skilled at crushing a girl’s spirit when it comes to body image and appearance, even when he doesn’t mean to. That’s a man for you. Sometimes they don’t know when to shut the fuck up, keep a compliment a compliment without following it up with a backhanded slap across the face.

I went into Thanksgiving dinner with that number burned into my brain. I tried to be conscious about what I was putting on my plate. It wasn’t hard to skip certain foods. After all, our Thanksgiving dinner was catered this year, and half that shit I didn’t want (I’m very picky about foods other people cook).

The dressing looked like raw liver pudding with bits of egg white in it (we still don’t know what he used to make that shit, it was just gray mush). I heard the green beans were good, but the casserole on top was a lumpy, soupy, “don’t know what that white stuff is” mess, so I had to pass (I will never understand people’s obsession with green been casserole. I so much prefer my veggies cooked PLAIN). The ribs were more fat than meat. I skipped the gravy because he didn’t make it with the turkey giblets (Grandma has spoiled me with her giblet gravy). In fact, the turkey was actually bought from the Honey Baked Ham store (or so it tasted), along with the ham! On top of that, the man forgot the bread and pie. (may all low carbers dance and shout for joy!)

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So what did I eat for dinner? A little turkey and ham, mac and cheese, of course (though not as much, because it wasn’t Grandma’s mac and cheese), some sweet-ass yams that my brother didn’t think were sweet at all (have I cut my sugar intake that much?), some cabbage my mom cooked, some clean (meaning NOT seasoned with bacon grease!) black-eyed peas that I cooked, along with rice (because you can’t have beans without the rice, especially when the gravy ain’t Grandma’s giblets), my homemade tart cranberry sauce (that my brother kept calling “that pure shit” like I’d cooked him up a pound of coke. No, chile, it’s just fresh), and some turnip greens that were surprisingly delicious. I usually eat my leafy greens by pinching my nose and gulping them down, but these turnips were so good, I had to get myself a second helping!

I think I did pretty well keeping myself under control this Thanksgiving. But I was still stuffed afterwards, falling asleep like a Thanksgiving pro on Granddaddy’s couch while watching football. It’s going to be tough seeing that number again with all these leftovers in my fridge. Thankfully, my mom portioned out most of the food and put it in the freezer, and my food vacuum cleaner brother should take care of the rest before the week is out.

My sabotage actually came a few days after Thanksgiving, when my mom and I went to a church fellowship at a restaurant called Class E, supposedly fine dining (so it says on the door), but it’s really an overpriced soul food buffet. I ate more mac and cheese than I should have and had banana pudding for dessert. However, in my defense, it was $16 a person—I was trying to get my money’s worth!

Now that it’s back to the ol’ grind (it was so hard coming into work yesterday, I had to write this story for some comedic relief), I need to dive back into my normal eating routine so I can see that magic number again, and maybe one lower than that. But it is officially the holiday season now, and avoiding certain foods is only going to get harder. As long as I have a few “clean” dishes of my own to add to the potluck, I should be OK. Hey, maybe I’ll even share some of my recipes with you. 😉

Let me know if you want the recipe for these pumpkin spice pancakes!
Let me know if you want the recipe for these pumpkin spice pancakes!

Sunday Morning Word: Give From Your Heart

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7; NIV)

After my little rant yesterday about how a little old woman in the grocery store conned me out of $20, I knew “giving” would have to be my message today. For Sunday Morning Word, I usually take some inspiration from whatever sermon my pastor preached that week. If I already have an idea brewing, he usually confirms it with his sermon, and lo and behold, he did that again this week (I know it can only be the Holy Spirit aligning our hearts and minds to do His Will), leading us to Exodus chapters 35 and 36, when Moses asks the Israelites to give what they have to the Lord.

Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. (Exodus 35: 20-21)

With Thanksgiving finally behind us, it is officially the holiday season, which also means it is the season of giving. Yes, when the elaborate lights, decorative snowflakes, and Christmas trees come out, people start to feel just a little more generous than they do any other time of the year. If you shop at Food Lion, you’ve probably been asked at the register to donate a $5 hunger box to people in need. Any day now, the Salvation Army will be standing outside of all the major stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s, and others, ringing their bells. My local FOX news station sponsors “Give a Kid a Coat” and “Gifts for Kids” campaigns at this time, as well as a holiday concert where your only “ticket” is donated canned goods. My church even has an “Adopt a Family” program, where members give toward the program, as they feel lead to do so, during the offering, and the church uses that money to “adopt” a family in need and give them a Christmas they’ll never for get.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17; ESV)

Giving to the needy is such an integral part of Christianity. There are verses all over the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, about how important it is to give. With Christ, we have the ultimate example. Jesus gave His life so that we all could live, if we just believe in him; “For God so love the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16; NIV). If Jesus was willing to die on the cross for little ol’ me, who am I to say I won’t give a dime to my brother in need?

The great thing about giving, and I’ve said this before, is that it feels so good, like the releasing of euphoria, when you do it. Remember, “God loves a cheerful giver.” However, if you don’t feel lead by the Lord to give, don’t do it. Don’t give “reluctantly or under compulsion,” like I did with that little old woman, but with compassion and an eagerness to help, and God will reward you. Going back to the scripture from Exodus, if you read through to chapter 36, you will see that the Israelites gave so much that Moses had to order them to stop giving because they already had more than enough (Exodus 36:6-7). We see this overflow of blessing again in Malachi 3:10. This is the only time God invites us to test him. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house . . . and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

With that being said, don’t be boastful about your giving. God loves a cheerful giver, but he detests the proud (Proverbs 16:5). Jesus said in Matthew 6:2-4, “When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men . . . But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Everything we have belongs to God anyway, which is why we tithe—“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17)—so when you give to someone in need you are essentially giving back to the Father.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:35-40)

Is there anyone out there today so generous? Would you sell all of your possessions to give to someone in need (Acts 2:45)? It truly bothers me when I turn on the news or login to social media and see so many of my fellow Americans act so cold-hearted towards people less fortunate than they. They ridicule people working minimum wage jobs—they call these people lazy, yet they work; they live in poverty, but they don’t deserve an increase in wages, they don’t deserve the wealthy’s increase in taxes to sponsor welfare programs that would put food on their tables to feed their families. These proud people sit on their high horses and look down their noses, they preach from their soapboxes that nothing is free when they themselves didn’t obtain their wealth on their own. “For what makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Remember, God detests the proud, but blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Matthew 5:3-12). Blessed are not the proud, blessed are not the boastful, blessed are not the content with their own wealth. Jesus himself said that “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:21), because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Don’t let your treasure be in your earthly possessions. Humble yourselves; give to your brothers and sisters in need.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him. (Proverbs 14:31; ESV)

It bears repeating— Everything you have God gave to you. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” Honor God with your gift by giving to the needy. This is as much a message for me as it is for you. God is very reciprocal. Serve your brothers and sisters, as you would serve the Lord (Ephesians 6:7). Treat them with love, respect, forgiveness, and kindness, as you would have your Father in heaven do unto you. Give of your heart this holiday season and see if you should not receive a hundredfold from God.

Happy Sunday.

Dial 1-800-Get-a-Damn-Spine!

I am nice. I am too damn nice. And I don’t know how to say, “NO!” to strangers. I don’t know how to say no period. Seriously, it’s a miracle I haven’t been knocked up yet.

*scurrying to knock on wood . . . be right back . . .*

What’s the number for SpongeBob’s abrasive side? Because I desperately need to order one. He was so mean and nasty, he actually made Squidward cry.

From SpongeBob SquarePants "The Abrasive Side" ©Nickelodeon
From SpongeBob SquarePants, “The Abrasive Side,” ©Nickelodeon

Because that’s what I need—to be more like Squidward. To be rude, disinterested, self-absorbed, uncaring of other people.

I want to make these con people cry. And not because they’re running a con, but because my growl made them quiver, because they peered into my snarl and saw the wrath of God, because they opened their mouths and I palmed their foreheads with Holy water, shouting, “GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!”

Crazy Christian lady alert . . . take three steps back . . .

I know it was a mistake going to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t getting that much . . . I wasn’t even getting “Thanksgiving” ingredients.

Well, I did buy cranberries to surprise my brother with some homemade sauce. Unfortunately, I didn’t put enough sugar in it, so it was extremely tart. But my mom and I love tart things, so we enjoyed it!

But back to my grocery store nightmare, where people constantly beg me for money. Do I look rich? I don’t think I look rich. Sometimes I walk up in the grocery store looking a hot damn mess. Maybe it’s my innocent face; I look vulnerable, like there’s a “Doesn’t Know How to Say No” sign flashing above my head the minute I step through the sliding doors. I seem to find the assertiveness to turn down my brother every time he asks to borrow five dollars, but don’t let there be a little old black lady turning the corner, wearing a hospital wrist band, saying, “Do you believe in helping people?”

Sucker!

I should’ve ignored her. I tried to, but the bitch followed me! I should’ve told her, “Leave me alone, I’m not interested,” and if she kept at it, a more aggressive “Get the fuck away from me!” but my voice sounds like a three-year-old child. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get people to take angry you seriously when you sound like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum because mommy wouldn’t give you any cookies?

d83597ee0b6baf355fecee9254b655ba1d6658267208970715daa527cdfda744This is the main reason why I don’t shop at Wal-Mart anymore.

I’ll suck it up and pay Amazon shipping.

I’ll spend the extra 45 minutes walking circles in Harris Teeter (because that store is like a maze, and I can never find what I’m looking for, and when I do find it, it’s a dollar and a half more expensive than in Wal-Mart).

I’ll reluctantly pinch a penny and buy the Food Lion brand because Food Lion never carries the brand I really want, which seems to only be found in Wal-Mart, but I’ll do anything to avoid the Wal-Mart beggars who follow you to your car at night in the pouring down rain, who ask you for money to buy baby formula (because baby daddy skipped out on paying child support this month), and when you give them a twenty, they ask you to drive them home ALL THE WAY IN BROWN SUMMIT!

Bitch, I just gave you bus fare!

I thought I could get in and out hassle free—even on the day before Thanksgiving—at the grocery store closest to my job on the safer (see “white”—don’t get offended, we’ve all said it, we’ve all thought it) side of town. I’ve been approached for money there too, just not as often (the last time, it was a white couple sitting by the shopping carts, saying, “We’s poor. We’s so poor”).

I wasn’t so lucky on this particular day, however. I made the mistake of turning down the baking aisle (hunting ground for Thanksgiving con people), looking for some honey. She spotted me, followed me, started quoting scripture (“GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!”), then wanted me pay her $40 motel bill.

Why didn’t I walk away?!?!?!

I gave her half. And it frustrates me because I had that cash in my purse specifically for groceries. I did not want to use my card. I spent that whole morning budgeting out my paycheck so I would not have to use my card. UGH!

I came home to vent to my mom (who was at that same store earlier that day), and lo and behold, she told me about the woman’s partner who was working the front of the store. I think he might have been that toothless guy who approached me when I first walked in, and said that if he had a penny for every pretty girl he saw, he’d be rich.

So when the con lady started her speech on Mom (“Do you believe in helping people?”), my mom simply said, “No,” and walked away. God, I wish I could be mean like her!

But I do believe in helping people. I’m a very charitable person; I give money all the time, and I’m usually happy about it—the Bible says God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). One time I gave a man on a corner five dollars, and he was so happy—he already had three—he told me he was going to Subway, and right there at the stop light, we were laughing and talking and going on and on about how much we both loved the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich. Giving to people should always feel like that; it shouldn’t feel like a burden; it shouldn’t feel like your credit score just dropped 150 points because you handed somebody all of your pocket change.

There’s nothing I can do about it now. The money’s gone—I just pray I won’t miss it this week. The bad thing is, I didn’t even get everything I came for, because that grocery store never has what I’m looking for, it’s always in Wal-Mart.

I did get an idea for my next grocery venture, though. While perusing the shelves, I walked by this kid wearing earphones, rock music blaring, and it suddenly came to me! Plug in music! A tried and true method for ignoring bothersome people.

JJ Watt in Bose Headphones commercial
JJ Watt in Bose Headphones commercial

I think I’ll even go the extra mile and talk to myself. Maybe they’ll think I’m on the phone, or just bat shit crazy, either way, if they ain’t Salvation Army, or fellow Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki lovers on the side of the road, they’d better flee from me in seven different directions . . . IN JESUS’ NAME!

Food. Family. Football

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17; NIV)

I love Thanksgiving! I love being around family and friends, pigging out on good food, watching my Cowboys whip some Deadskin ass on my granddaddy’s big screen TV (because I haven’t met a grandparent or great aunt/uncle who didn’t have a big screen TV in the living room, as if they don’t only watch the news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!).

This year, we’re having Thanksgiving dinner catered, so I don’t know how “delicious” the food will be, I just pray it isn’t canned. My mom and I have decided that we’re going to cook some extra sides to go with dinner just in case it’s not good—black eyed peas, wild rice, cabbage, sautéed zucchini & yellow squash, spinach dip (I’ve convinced her to make it with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Shhh, don’t tell my brother), and I’m going to venture out and make some homemade cranberry sauce for my brother who literally drinks the stuff, and try my second attempt at hot for food’s pumpkin spice muffins now that I have all the ingredients.

Click image for recipe
Click image for recipe

I actually wanted to make the muffins with fresh pumpkin instead of canned because 1.) fresh is always better, and 2.) I recently watched a YouTube video (Is there anything you can’t learn from YouTube?) on how to puree a pumpkin. It’s much easier than I thought (now that I know you don’t use Jack-o-lantern pumpkins)! For now, I’ll stick with the canned, but in a future “pumpkin” recipe (because it’s the holiday season, and I’m gonna be cooking pumpkin til New Year’s), I may use sweet potato or butternut squash (my new favorite vegetable . . . even thought it’s really a fruit) because they’re sweeter than pumpkin, and I won’t need to add as much sugar (but who’s really counting calories this time of year? 😉 ).

I have a food obsession—can’t you tell? Since changing my diet and focusing more on whole foods and made from scratch meals, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for food and fresh ingredients. I feel like an artist every time I cook now—combining all the ingredients, like paint on a canvas, the intoxicating fragrances filling the kitchen as the meal comes together. So this is how it feels to be Italian!

But before I gnaw off the inside of my cheek with all this talk about food, I want to take the time to remind you what this holiday is truly about . . .

Food. Family. Football.

Kidding! But seriously, guys, while the story we all learned in elementary school about Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together for the first Thanksgiving may have been fiction, the message is very real. Be thankful today. Eat with gladness in your heart. With the breath from your lungs, be appreciative of what you already have—the love of God, of family and friends, that you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, a hefty meal in your stomach. Give your dinner time to digest before your break down the doors to Belk, or JC Penny, or Macy’s, or Wal-Mart for something you don’t need that’s really not on sale.

There are so many people in this world who aren’t so lucky. Even as I type this, Native Americans in this country are fighting for basic human rights, and they are getting shot at with teargas and rubber bullets, sprayed with water hoses in subzero temperatures, reminiscent of the attacks African Americans historically suffered while fighting for their civil rights (a fight that continues today).

Enjoy what you already have, and pray for those who have less.

The only plans I have for today are prepping for dinner (even though we won’t actually be cooking that much food), stuffing my fat face, enjoying quality time with my hilarious family, and trying to stay awake as I lie on Granddaddy’s very comfortable couch and attempt to watch the football games. Tomorrow, I’ll probably start my morning with a run in the park, come home and avoid the leftovers (hey, I have all week for that), and get to work on Christmas plans. It is the kickoff to the holiday season, after all.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)