Peace of Mind

I feel relieved. Holidays are here so I can have a lie-in, do some much needed revision and relax for a bit.

At the same time I feel worried. Money is running low, I’m still without a job and I haven’t done as much Bible study as I would have liked. I started so well, researching into the Old Testament texts but then one night I was too tired to pick up my Bible and it’s been over a week later with no progress. I’m trying to get back onto it.

My life of true singleness is going fine though. That’s probably where the rest of the relief is. Now that I’ve stepped out of the proverbial boardroom, to leave the youth to stress about how Godly they look to the opposite sex, I’ve been able to concentrate on my walk with God a bit more. I want to learn more about myself and about Him and just … live.

My mother came with me to church last Sabbath for Visitor’s Day. She enjoyed her day and I’m just hoping she got something out of it, something more than just a rousing sermon. That’s my prayer, anyway.

A short blog post. There are other things I want to write, more poems I want do, but at the moment I’ll just leave this here. Hopefully I’ll be able to put more of my thoughts down during the holidays.

xXx

Two Things I need to Pray For…

Assertiveness and Confidence.

I find the two go hand in hand but my lack of both have hindered me on several occasions. I’ve allowed people to trample on me until I’m nothing but a pathetic sack of nerves. I don’t continue arguments—and I mean genuine arguments, not little spars with my friends—because I just can’t be bothered to fight my corner and when I see someone doing something that I disagree with it’s likely I won’t say anything. There’s been times when some of my friends have been spoken badly about to me, as in, someone just wants to start bitching about someone else, and I don’t say anything. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve started to say “I don’t agree with that…” or “well that person’s my friend so I haven’t seen that side of them before…” and such things. This is because I’ve realised that by staying quiet I’m just as guilty. Guilty by association.

I lack confidence with many things. With my singing ability, my writing, with talking to others and speaking in public. Giving testimonies in church is something I don’t do often because the image of tens of eyes staring at me makes my heart flutter. There’s so many things I want to do, that I wish I could do, but can’t. I hate being in the spotlight.

Sometimes I look back on my Dark Ol’ Goth days and wonder if the music I listened to and the way I dressed was a coping mechanism. It was a way for me to be outrageous, to be interesting and a talking point of sorts. People at school called me weird, people at church thought I was a lost cause. It was a lonely time but for once I felt like I had a thing, something about me that I could say was different.

There you go. Another confession.

Dressing like that is the most confident thing I’ve done: not many Black people around my way would do it. Social pressures would contribute to that: South London is saturated with African/Caribbean culture and the expectations placed on the Black diaspora is immense. Now that I’m converted I wonder if I still have the confidence to dress in such a way and if I don’t, then what’s happened? Shouldn’t it go the other way around? One pastor said that God can turn you from being shy and reserved to bold in Christ. Why aren’t I bold yet?

I would have put this on the prayer request list on Facebook but I don’t want to tell those people. I’m not friends with all of them. So I’ve decided to go even more public with it and put it on this blog instead. *ironic chuckle*

xXx

“God Condones Violence”. Does He Now?

This is something that I’ve been meaning to study for such a long time but to be honest I’ve been worried that I won’t find the answer—or that if I do, it won’t be the answer that I want.

The UK is fast going the way of France in that secularism is the flavour of the month. I know people who claim to be atheist but are so concerned with religion it makes me wonder if they are anti-the system or anti-God Himself. Because there is a difference: you can’t hate something if you don’t believe it exists. It’s popular now to just hate God, to mock the Bible and anything resembling religion, not because people are angry at religious intolerance or corrupt clerics (because if they were then they would start a movement or campaign or something, not mock well-to-do people on internet forums) but because everyone else is doing it and at the moment it’s fun.

As this has become a popular standpoint for a lot of people, so-called Voices of Rational Thinking have emerged, skimming over Bible passages, picking out the ones that sound odd and making entire theories and speculations about them. They extrapolate Bible texts and share their “solid” theories with others who will never search for themselves to even check if the passage is in the Bible. This is passed onto others until a warped image of God is established. This is why God gets blamed for all of the world’s ills; why people get angry at God for the Holocaust and not Hitler, or the one from which minds like Hitler’s are created.

Something that I’ve come up against of late is this idea that God condones violence. I’m sure every Christian has heard this:

If God is so loving, why does he condone slavery, rape and genocide in the Old Testament?

As the Christian, what have you said? There are websites dedicated to “exposing the truth” of the Evil Book. Anti-theists have used these texts as a trump card of sorts.

Once upon a time I used to get really angry at it.

Now I feel pity. They don’t actually know God. They know of Him, but they’ve never prayed and asked for an answer. They’ve read the Bible but they’ve never studied it. If I were in their shoes I’d probably be just as angry upon reading these texts, because Christians don’t talk about them.

It was an atheist that brought those passages to my attention. Why hadn’t these texts been explained in church? Why aren’t there any Bible studies on them? We may want to bury our heads in the sand about them but it won’t stop people from demanding of us what they mean. For a lot of people, the Christ they do or don’t see in a Christian can make or break their relationship with Him, so we need to be well versed in the Old Testament, in the passages that make us uncomfortable so we may educate and explain.

Or … I wonder if these passages aren’t explained because people don’t understand them? This baffles me to no end. Whilst I know that there will be some things we just won’t understand about God, He hasn’t hidden anything from us. It’s all in the Bible for us to know about. “Come let us reason together” remember? I’m someone who’s always inquiring about something; I love knowledge and I love finding new things so I find it odd that some people can be in church for 20+ years and never ask about certain things. It’s just … weird.

I know God doesn’t condone violence. I know he abhors rape. I know that the Bible that was used to defend the slave trade was the same Bible that was used by abolitionists to end it. I know that God wasn’t rubbing His hands in glee during Rwanda, Armenia, Darfur. So what do these passages mean?

If there was ever a time for Christians to study their Bible, it’s now.

Listen.

When I was little I asked you for a rabbit
some Nike shoes
good hair
and for me to be popular in school

A little older I demanded game consoles
clothes, money
a boyfriend
and a place to call my own.

Older still I wanted success
exams, coursework and projects
that took me away from you
and shifted the scope of my care.

But now I wait. Meditate.
And listen.

Proverbs 31

It’s a beautiful passage in the Bible in which the image of a “Woman of God” is described. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether this emphasis on young women in church being a “Proverbs 31 Woman” causes more harm than good.

There are constant pressures in the world telling us what women should be. Modelling agencies tell us to be size zero; everyone else wants a “real woman”: curvy and rounded. We shouldn’t be sluts, but we also shouldn’t play hard to get; we should either straighten our hair or be “natural beauties” and join the movement of big chops and dreadlocks. Going into the realm of Ethnic minorities, we should remember our places in the home and not follow the western women into wanting independence and equality. I get annoyed at these pressures, as would a lot of people—man or woman—and I know God alleviates some of this by setting equal requirements in the Bible for what a man and a woman should be together.

It’s just starting to niggle at me that there is now a requirement within church to be the Ultimate Woman. The Proverbs 31 Woman. Hey, to me, there’s nothing wrong with women encouraging one another, praying and helping one another to hold on to Christ, but I’m noticing that the level of a woman’s virtue, her sexual purity and her obedience is starting to cloud the desires of women and men in particular. These things shouldn’t be a man’s concern, but similar to the world, the church places a lot of value on a woman’s sexual prowess. I know males who have had their “fun”, they’ve been out in the world, sleeping around, breaking hearts and whatnot, who would have a real problem if their future wife wasn’t a virgin. Not only is that hypocrisy, it’s sexist and downright hurtful: it’s in her past. Let it go.

I do find it strange when I hear young men going on and on about pure, holy, submissive and virtuous women. It sounds oppressive. Life is hard enough for women without us coming into church and being told we need to be virtuous and pure. The more I hear such things is the more I feel a life of celibacy is the one for me. Perhaps God is calling me to that life? I’m not sure.

But anyway, this is just something I was thinking about today. I’m beginning to feel the pressure, I suppose. I’ve been called a “humble” and “virtuous” woman, amongst other things (by men), and I still don’t know what that means. Is it because I’m quiet? That I don’t wear high heels? That I wear a hat to church? That I wear knee-length skirts? That I’m a virgin? Or that I’ve never been in a relationship? Or am I being overly cynical?

The mind wanders.

Christ2012

When the video invaded
all means of communication
and spread like a river
breaking the bank,
the subject on the lips
of every man and woman
to stop evil and join a
new fight,
When I knew that soon enough
there would be another
movement to capture
the hearts of young people,

I thought about Christ
and whether I
would be so willing to share
the everlasting Good News
to those who are in need
of Love.

Praying.

I’m not too sure what’s happened, but ever since January I’ve been praying like never before. I never hated praying or anything, but like most things I made the act of getting on my knees to be a procession, until I had no desire to do it. There were times when I didn’t know what to say; other times when I was so upset I couldn’t speak. I invested in a diary—which I keep locked and hidden—for my prayers when I’m too distraught to say anything. I’m someone who closes up when I’m upset and sadly God is the easiest person to do that with: you can’t see Him! He doesn’t have a phone to pester you with.

But I didn’t want to stay distant from Him. Some of the things written in the diary would surprise some people, but there are some things that only God needs to or should know about. There are things about me that I don’t like saying out loud, even in the confines of my own room; even when no one’s at home. The diary allowed me to express these things.

The diary helped in other ways too, I guess. It started me on my way for a healthy prayer life. I used to go to Wednesday prayer meeting just because it seemed like the right thing to do, but now I truly enjoy it; when I don’t go I’m bored, my Wednesday night somewhat of a damp squib. I like praying in the mornings, the evenings, and throughout the day. Ever since I started driving I pray in my head as I go. I think praying in this way has helped me stay calm when people blast their horns at me and spook me out.

I pray for my family and for their success in life. I pray for my own. University has been tough; it’s been a dramatic change from doing a course such as Creative Writing to the much tasking Sociology, which requires academic reading and assignments. I didn’t like university when I first started and even now I worry if I’ll do well in my first year exams. But when I pray for my success, God reminds me of all the times He’s helped me to pass. I’ve never failed an academic exam, why would God let me down now?

My friend set up a prayer group on Facebook where we can post prayer requests and testimonies. The whole idea of the group and the way how it’s taken off has really been a blessing. It’s been encouraging and it feels nice when I put requests on there to know I’ve got people praying for me, people who don’t even know me but are willing to pray anyway.

There’s been a case in the news this week about a couple who tortured and killed a 15-year-old because they believed he was a witch. Since then, certain pratices of corrupt churches in London have come into the limelight. I’ve seen these churches and I know about them; they spring up from no where, on the top floors of abandoned shops, with long entrances that look like the openings of caves. Their signs are dubious, with advertisements of prophets and prophetesses, who will heal your sicknesses. These people inject paranoia into vulnerable adults and brainwash them into believing their children are possessed. Some of these children are seriously ill and their parents ignorant of vital signs, so they go to these pastors who pray and chant over them, forever traumatising the children and leading them into distress. Some of these children are killed. The pastors are rolling in the tithe and offering money given to them by their congregation. Prayer can be abused.

But in its purity, it’s an amazing thing. There’s no other force like it. Read through the Bible and you’ll see countless miracles performed through prayer, the prayer of someone who truly believes and loves their Creator.

I could take or leave prayer before. Now I can’t live without it.

Happy Sabbath.

xXx