photographer. artist. author. singer. songwriter. musician. teacher. student. humanitarian. visionary.

Posts tagged “God

Bathed in Light: Jesus’ Love

It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m watching The Dark Crystal and thinking about nabbing another bowl of Pistachio Almond Ice cream. Party for one. 🙂

I’m in a particularly jovial mood- a bit celebratory. For weeks, I’d been super depressed- lost in the post-breakup haze that always accompanies splitting up with the mate. I knew I would have my bad days here or there, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be so bad. My heart was just wrecked.

Two days ago, in the twilight hours of pre-dawn, I fell on the bedroom floor and just wailed. I hadn’t let myself cry after Josh left (except for once) and finally, the damn burst; I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I cried and cried and prayed and really just got all of the ick out. I read Isaiah 26 (out loud) and really felt the Lord there in the room with me. After I anointed myself and finished reading the Bible, the cloud passed over me; I could feel it lifting physically, not just in my spirit, and afterwards I felt so light. The chains fell off of me and it’s been that way since. The heartbreak and sorrow were just too heavy for me and I knew that I wouldn’t make any type of progress until I let it all out, and let it all go.

So I did. It’s funny…to the hungry, desperate soul, even bitterness is sweet, and I was just soooo desperate to feel Jesus’ love. My heart has been restocked with sweet love and I feel a warm glow swimming around inside.

I have one of these too. >>>>>>> 🙂

Oh…and these little guys don’t hurt either:

DoeyandVirgilCarl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.4 film lens/Canon Rebel 

We have two new housemates! Our dog, Chance, is crazy about them: He gives them baths and is a great guard dog. Brianna named the male kitty Virgil (from Dante’s Inferno), and Brian named the female Do Re Mi Fa So La To Do, but we call her Doey for short.

They’re absolutely adorable and I’m madly in love with them.

(Time to hit the hay.)
Good night morning, world.

“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.”  -Isaiah 26: 9

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When Love Comes Walking In

It’s such an awesome thing; when life has given you a big crap sandwich for a bit, and then you see two people madly in love and you just have to smile and be in awe and think- I remember that. :0 )

In this case, it’s my son, Brian, and his little lady- Mandy Tator Tots:

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And then when I was driving home tonight, and saying, “God, I know you have a great plan for me. It’s painful, it’s hard right now. But I know you have my best interest at heart.”

And then I looked up and saw this!

rageagainstherain

“Yeah. I’ve got you, kid,” He said…and smiled.


“My Death Needs to Mean Something”

Those were the words that were found in Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note that was posted on all of her social media accounts shortly after her death. Leelah chose to commit suicide because she felt that the life she was given to live was too painful to bear. Ultimately, she was not allowed to be who she wanted to be.

Leelah Alcorn was born Joshua Alcorn. She was born into a moderately strict religious home in which the gender you are born with is the gender you are expected to die with. Leelah took a great risk sharing her conflicting feelings with her parents as a young teenager. I too am a Christian and come from a tightly-woven Pentecostal family. In families like ours, “gender reassignment surgery” (or the like) would be asking for a one-way ticket to Exile Island where you would be expected to live out the rest of your days with spiritual leprosy as a complete and utter outcast. Sadly, this is the perspective of many Christians today.

Leelah was hoping to find love and acceptance and most importantly understanding when she told her parents that she’d felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body since the age of 4. If your own parents can’t accept you for who you are, then who can? She was shocked and heartbroken to be met with resistance, denial, and total rejection. Her parents told her it was “just a stage she was going through” and that “God doesn’t make mistakes”. They immediately banned Leelah from all social media for the next 5 months, taking away her cellphone and laptop. They also deleted her Facebook account and restricted her social activities to church-related group activities mostly, and when Leelah wasn’t being conditioned in such ways, she was restricted to her bedroom. They also forced her into Christian-based “reparative therapy”, which is, in short, a  “corrective therapy” for homosexuals and and people who identify as transgender.

I couldn’t imagine, as a Christian, somebody forcing me to go to “transgender therapy” where I would be told that I would have to be made into the opposite sex- including sexual reassignment surgery. I can only imagine how Leelah must have felt: She was made to feel like a leper in her own home, school, community, and church.

Leelah pre-scheduled her suicide note to post to her social media outlets following her death with one final request, “Fix Society. Please.” On the early morning of December 28, 2014, she walked four miles in the cold to interstate 71 and at approximately 2:17 a.m., she stepped out into the highway and into the path of a tractor trailer.

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah AlcornMJ

Her family’s rejection of her chosen identity was more than she could bear. It breaks my heart that her mother still lives in denial- still choosing to call her Joshua instead. Even after Leelah’s suicide note had been posted, having begged other parents to never reject their children’s rights- including their right to choose their own gender- her mother posted this message to her Facebook account:

“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”

They rejected Leelah in life, and they reject her in death. That’s beyond heartbreaking to me.

Jesus’ Words have forever transformed my heart and life. When a group of men had gathered around a woman to stone her (having accused her of adultery)- each having a handful of stones- Jesus looked at them and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

One by one, they all dropped their stones. Jesus said to the woman, “Go thy way and sin no more.” He forgave her and loved her. Completely. One of my friend’s once said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said, “The sound of forgiveness is the sound of a stone dropping.” I love that. And although Leelah’s life choices weren’t a “sin” to her, the fact remains in many religions, a transgender lifestyle is viewed as sinful. I think we should stop expecting other people to “live up to our expectations” but rather deal with our own insufficiencies and our inabilities to accept his or her alternative lifestyle. After all, our lifestyle is “alternative” in their eyes.

I do not “support” suicide, but I most certainly respect any person willing to die for his or her cause. Leelah didn’t commit suicide because she was “so depressed”. Not really. She committed suicide because she felt that she had a cause worth fighting and dying for. Soldiers do that every day. Who’s to say that any person’s cause is more important than another’s?

So for Leelah, I’ll do what I can so that she didn’t die in vain. As a parent, I’ve let my kids know (and they all know this already) that I will support them always– no matter who they choose to be. True love is all-encompassing and non-conditional. If my children choose different genders, religions, whatever- I will love them just the same. It’s not my “job” as their parent to love them, it’s my privilege. I only wish Leelah would have received the same support from her parents. She may have chosen to stick around…

It saddens me that Leelah’s parents are wanting to put Joshua Alcorn on her tombstone, instead of Leelah Alcorn. I have just gone and signed the online petition so that her parents might honor Leelah and give her her chosen name for her tombstone. Already, there are over 200,000 people who have signed the petition. If you too think that Leelah should have the right to her own name on her tombstone, you can go here and sign the petition. I think it’s what Leelah would have wanted.

To any parents out there who may read this and defiantly cling to your strong Christian roots- I admire you. I cling to mine too! But let’s do what Jesus wants us to do above all else, and that is to love others- just as they are; not who you think they need to be:

 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1st John 4: 7-8

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

-John 13:34

In memory of Leelah Alcorn (Nov. 15, 1997- Dec. 28, 2014)
Leelah Alcorn

If you’d like to support Leelah’s right to have her name on her tombstone, you can sign this petition (and/or reblog this post).

Thanks for viewing! x


No Greater Love

-John 15:13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

I used to think that Scripture was about Jesus dying on the Cross (only). Now I have a deeper understanding of it. I think now, in order to truly love one another, we have to die to ourselves- even if just a little bit. it takes strength and courage to be selfless. In the world we live in today, self promotion is a way of life: Facebook, Twitter, blogs.

I’ve been hit pretty hard lately and have had to scrape myself up off of the floor. I can’t write about it here as I want to protect the nature of the matter and the persons involved, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with to date. My soul really felt as if it could have just perished. But yesterday, and the day before, I awoke with a whirlwind surrounding me. I could feel the Lord circling me with His strength. His breath was rushing through me- the Holy Ghost- which I’m a big believer in was rushing through me like cold water- there’s really nothing like it. It’s like having goosebumps on the inside. Two mornings ago it was so strong it actually pulled me out of sleep and yesterday it was the same thing.  This morning I  woke up and it’s been the same thing- so very strongly. When it’s this strong, I know that I’m feeling the prayers of others who are praying for me.

I have a sneaking suspicion I know who that person is. 🙂

When we pray for other people, we nail ourselves to the Cross, as it were. As we take on their burdens, we also take on death and die to “self”, becoming crucified with Christ. I know now that this is what that Scripture means. When we pray for others, we’re laying down our lives for them- standing in the gap.

So Y, this is a special thank you to you, because I know your prayers have broken through! I’m strengthened and feel so much stronger. My spirit is revived and I can literally feel your prayers and I’m rejoicing. Thank you my friend. ♥

I’m dedicating this pic to you! Rain on glass. (Yes, I was actually driving in the rain when I captured this shot. I know, “bad me!” But it was worth the efforts!) it was nothing special at first, but then I defocused the lens and it turned into this beautiful, impressionistic work of art of the traffic in front of me. Hope you likey! 🙂

Helios 44-2 film lens/Canon Rebel XSI/SOOTC- straight out of the camera
rainMJ


The Fine Art of Picking up Strange Black Men

 

I remember driving in Lousiville, Ky one night. It was summer, loud, stereos were bumping- it was a Saturday night and I was out and about in the bad side of town trying to track down my BFF at the time, Olivia; a large black woman with a brood of kids and grandchildren she’d raised. Olivia is pure gold in my eyes. We met in a homeless shelter. I had been standing along the wall “people watching” and suddenly, a burst of music rolled into the room: Olivia was laughing and dancing and spinning around- completely entertained- with a boom box on her shoulder. She was larger than life! I smiled and knew I had to meet her. 

We talked after some time and realized we immediately liked each other. We spent the next few weeks hanging out together and passing time- smoking weed out back with many of the residents there. One day, I returned to the shelter and Olivia was gone. They told me she’d gotten her own place.  So is the life at a homeless shelter; people come and go- you have to get used to that. Some you see later, some you never see again. It teaches you to love people hard while you have them and let go quickly. That was worked into me many years ago. 

As life would have it, I ended up moving into her neighborhood just a few weeks later. For the next three years we were virtually inseparable. She helped me through some very dark times and I gleaned so many good things from her. I have a very special love for that woman. And a high respect. 

After some time, we both moved out and we lost contact with each other. I had made up my mind on that particular Saturday night that I would track her down. Very much like a gypsy or nomad, I’ve traveled as a wanderer in this world. Nothing has held me back. Being poor certainly hasn’t. If anything, it’s been a catalyst.

But on that night, I set out in my car purposefully driving to the bad end of town. I knew Olivia had moved to the next state over in Kentucky, so I cross the bridge and drove into downtown Louisville. It was a hot, muggy night.

As I headed deeper into the back parts of the city, I popped open an beer, lit up a smoke and turned up the radio. (Back in those days, it was standard to find me driving with a beer nestled in between my legs- a joint or two always close by. A lot has changed since then!)

People stood out on the corners, openly dealing drugs. They knew others knew what they were doing- didn’t care. Cops rarely bothered the little fish anyway. As I was pulling up to a red light, I saw a black guy standing on the corner. I don’t know what grabbed me about him, but something did. Let’s say, it was destiny.

“Hey, you need a ride, man?” I asked him.

“Yeah, yeah…” he said and he hopped in the car.

Now this isn’t the wisest of things to do, no doubt- pick up a black guy I don’t know in the bad part of town. But at that time, I really didn’t care. I was governed by my instincts and driven with a purpose. I had no idea what my purpose was half the time, but I new that I needed to do what I was doing and that’s all I knew.

“Where ya going to, man?”

“My mother’s house,” he said. 

We chitchatted briefly and he told me his story. He had been excommunicated from his family some years before. They had given up on him and pretty much cast him out. I felt really bad for the guy. He went on to tell me that he had only just decided to go and see his mother on that very night, and was in fact pondering the decision when I picked him up. I felt honoured that he would include me in that. Totally. 

We bonded immediately. I may have even smoked a joint with him. It’s no big secret that I was a total stoner back then. I smoked 1 to 3 joints every day for 18 years. As a matter of fact, “stoner” is putting it mildly. My Dad had the best stuff for miles and everybody knew it. He was known for that and so I never lacked for good weed. It’s no wonder I ended up being an artist in life. Weed does that. I know everybody thinks it’s so “bad” and it’s a gateway drug and all kinds of other things that they’ve been taught to believe, but I will always be an advocate for marijuana and a person’s right to smoke it. I just don’t smoke it myself anymore and haven’t for years but I’m strongly for it, if the person and the circumstances are agreeable- let’s put it that way. 

Moving right along, we eventually made it to his mother’s house. I thought we would say our goodbyes right there but he invited me to come along. Wow. He hasn’t seen his mom in years, and is hoping to be reintegrated back into the family unit and now he’s going to bring a stoned white girl with him who picked him up on the corner. Ok!

We stood outside on the porch and I stole a few glances in his direction. Even stoned, I could see a lot. He was hopeful and meek. I really like that guy. That took guts.

The door opened and a small woman stood before us, small in stature but full of expression and total shock. My mind plays it as if it’s in slow motion- her mouth, open with shock- she was yelling and mumbling and screaming to somebody else that their man had come back. I don’t remember his name now. It was 18 years ago.

She ushered us inside and we followed her to a back room where a woman lay in bed. I sat down quietly on the side of a chair and tried to disappear. I could hardly believe I was there and I felt a bit like I was in a movie. The woman in bed was his mother, who immediately cried upon seeing her son. They embraced and he crawled right up next to her and they just held each other and cried together. 

I have absolutely no idea how we got on the subject but they found out that I sang and was a songwriter. What happened next can only be described as something so bizarre that it now seems more like a dream than a memory, but I sang. I sang A Capella, a song that I had written, a song about Jesus. Four strangers sat in the room there- eyes fixed on me- in a semi-petrified state, mouths slightly open. They felt honoured that I would sing for them. I was honoured that they let me.  

I sang from my heart and sang especially for that mother and son. It was one of those rare moments in life that you know has been brought together- orchestrated by God even- that will never happen again: A true once in a lifetime moment. 

The mother cried again and thanked me repeatedly for bringing back her son. I was especially emotional because at that time, I was separated from my own two children who the system had taken from me years before. It brought me great comfort that I could reunite a mom with her son like that, and I cried too.

I hugged them all and made my way back to my car alone. I smiled all the way home.

“You’re awesome, God,” I said, smiling, tears still in my eyes.

He smiled too.

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Up with the Chickens

 

 

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Ohio River/foggy morning/Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass f/4- natural lighting/5.19.13

I awoke this morning to find our home enshrouded in thick fog. How could I not go out and grab a few shots? I drove down to the local marina with a fresh cup of coffee. I have plans today to do one lesson in each course: Public Speaking, Earth Science, and Health Psychology (no small feat), but when I put my mind to something, I don’t let go. 

Mornings like these are my favourites: the world is so still- everybody’s sleeping and completely unaware of the fog. For the past several days, I’ve been getting up early and hitting my PC and BS- that’s not short for computer and “BS” – it’s short for “prayer closet and Bible study”. When I start my days with these things and in this order, everything falls into the right places in my day. My mind is renewed, as is my faith, strength, and hope- challenges become “doable” and I have a promise of success already- I just need to do the work.

When I was praying this morning, I felt the Lord wrap his arms around me and give me a big hug. I know that I’m loved, terrifically; I don’t worry about things.

So I’m off to put a huge dent in my schoolwork.
It’s going to be a beautiful day. :0)

 

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

 


Sheltered by These Stones

Sanctify me
From the dark and stormy seas
That try to keep
Me
From fighting the good fight

From fighting
The good fight

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Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 timothy 6:12


Angel Above You

It’s time for some church up in here! [Spoken in my native southern Texas accent.]

Josh and I took Brianna and Brian down to the river last night. There are three distinct areas we like to hang out at. 1) The creek bed, which runs along the flood wall. 2) The fossil beds- a perfect place to study brachiopods, trilobites, and other fossils which are embedded in the rock layers. 3) The “beach”. This is a part of the river that mimics an actual beach; complete with rolling tides, tons of driftwood, and plenty of sand. We love it there, and that’s the region we chose to frequent last night.

I’ll add another post later this with more family/river pics (including Brianna’s “sand bath”- hair included) but for now, I want to add a few inspirational pics.

I found this particular pic to be very interesting and curious. I shoot in manual- always- so when it’s getting dark, you really have to know your stuff (ISO/shutter speed/aperture/exposure compensation/white balance, etc.) because when shooting in manual, your lighting is always changing from second to second, continuously, even in broad daylight. Shooting at and after dusk is especially tricky because the focus takes longer to “catch”. This is what happened last night when I captured Josh blowing on the fire. Just as I clicked on the shutter, a stray ember popped up from the fire, shooting up and behind his shoulder (you can still see its trail) and formed a perfect cross above him. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pic in the LCD immediately afterwards. (This pic hasn’t been “shopped”, or Photoshopped.)

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I’m sure the specifics of the fire could be explained away scientifically, but I prefer to know and believe that God works in strange and beautiful ways. Even with fire. He lets us know His eyes are always on His Children, and those who love and believe in Him.

From a photographical standpoint, I shot this with a slowed shutter. (1/8 of a sec.) To non-photographers, that means that “time” was slowed down, and the camera picks up what the human eye cannot. In the blink of an eye, this cross was there and gone, but the camera’s “pause” allowed it to be captured. (It’s a good self reminder to pause more in life; we’ll see more crosses.)

S A L T   O F   T H E   E A R T H

ImageMy daughter, Brianna/50 MM 1.8 II/manual focus/manual exposure/natural lighting

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

-Matthew 5: 13-16


Dreams and their Interpretations

It’s not hard interpreting dreams. I used to want to know how to do this. I would ask my Dad as a young girl, and he would smile.

“We’ll, let me hear your dream,” he’d say.

“Alright. I was going to check the mail. I opened the mailbox and as I stuck my hand in the box, a black cat screamed at me. It clawed at me and hissed, and tried to attack me,” I said.

“You have a murmuring and complaining spirit,” he would say. “Start giving thanks more.”

Wisdom cannot be bought- not with all the money in the world.
And interpreting dreams is a gift- not just anyone can do it.

I only began to interpret them after reading more and more of the Bible. It opened up my mind, completely, and sharpened my discernment. Now, when I review a dream, the meaning fills my mind immediately. It’s not anything I have to think about.

Last night, I dreamed that I had a visit from a childhood friend. She was my best friend when I was a teenager. In my dream, her legs had been mutilated just above the knee on her left leg, and just below the knee on her right. She had crutches. Also, she had black stubble coming out of her face, like a beard that she had shaved. She’s a blonde, so this was particularly odd.

In my dream, we were in a small room by the highway. A truck came roaring by, and my friend began screaming and yelling at me out of fear, as the truck grew closer, trying to kick me. Of course, she couldn’t.

In real life, she and I haven’t seen each other in over a decade.
I understood the dream immediately.

Her legs represented her Christian walk with God. The mutilation represents her struggles over the years. Because her wounds had long since scarred over, the injuries are indicative of her childhood. The stubble represents “foreign” relationships, for two reasons:

1.) the colour
2.) it’s not something that naturally occurs
(a beard on a woman)

The fact that it’s new stubble, means that it’s very recent.
Because it’s dark, male hair coming from a female chin speaks of her possible homosexual tendencies. If I were to make a bet, it’d be a safe bet assuming that she has recently taken interest in women. (Or something along those lines.)

Because she was afraid of the truck, which was zipping by, and she tried to attack me, meant that she blamed me for some of her childhood mishaps.

Interesting dream.

Another dream I had was on a patch of land, that had many hotel rooms. Each room held a prostitute- they were gaudy, wearing tacky silver dresses. The rooms were small. I had knocked on a door, because I had lost my room. I was trying to find it. My room- was clean, with nice furniture and a fireplace- very private.

I was let in to a room that I was unfamiliar with. A prostitute was trying to coax me in there. She held a small, white animal, like a little pet dog. I looked through her window and saw, over the courtyard, my room! The door was open and I could see into it. I ran fast to get down to my room, and to safety.

Another interesting dream. 🙂

The patch of land represents my heart. All of the rooms; various rooms in my heart. Notice a whore lived in each room. This does not mean that I am secretly a prostitute! But make no mistake, a whore lives in every human heart. Consider it.

What’s the first thing that happens when we see something we want, badly, that we don’t have?
We lust after it.

Yes, I’ve grown accustomed long ago to the fact that in every human heart, there indeed lives a whore.

In my dream, I was able to see the various channels and avenues of lust that I need to work on.
No matter if it’s better hair, higher grades, a skinnier waist, just this THING inside of each person that screams out, “Me! Me! Me!” That is the little whore inside.

It always wants recognition. Praise. Attention. Satisfaction.

As a Christian, I know that it is my job to willingly crucify that beast.
Daily. To take it to the cross, and lay it down.

What is it that Paul said?

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

1st Corinthians 15:31


Where I Belong

Yesterday, an amazing thing happened as I was driving.

I was thinking about all of the catastrophic things I’ve been through lately, and recalled a discussion that Brianna and I had had about God. I thought about God’s love and Who He Is as the creator of the world. I began to talk to Him, simply acknowledging Him! I thanked Him for His great love and for always watching out for me.

A warmth filled my heart, and I felt God surrounding me, completely. I could feel Jesus’ Love, filling my heart up. It felt as if the entire car grew warmer and I was swimming in love. I thought- at that very moment- that this was where I belonged, always. And that feeling is better than anything a person can say or do, and it’s better than anything money can buy- better than any drug. That feeling was what it’s like to truly be in God’s presence: in His presence, there’s an absence of hatred. Hateful things can’t abide in such truth and light.

I don’t ever want to forget these things…