Friday, 28 August 2015

What to Expect When You're Expecting to Be Published


Yeeaah. I don't know what other soon-to-be-published authors feel with mere weeks to go before their first book is published, but, right now...

Ohhhh myyyy Godddddd! My first book is coming out soon and people, like, real people, are gonna read it!! What if they do read it??!! Uggghhh! What is that rumbling in the pit of my belly??!! Wait. What if...oh no! What if nobody wants to read it??!! What if people don't read it?! Or, what if they read it and they think it's crap??!!

What is that rumble?

Ah, yes. The fluttering of so many butterflies. And I'm constantly whipping them into V-formation.

Neither my image - nor my butterflies.

Seriously, it cannot be that others are as cool as a cucumber in times like this. No way. There must be a heavy dose of adrenaline coursing through the veins on any given day - and twice on Sunday.

Now and then I think, "I did it. I really did it." It may be crap, but it's my crap. (Umm, that didn't come out the way I had it in mind.) Point is, we are constantly bombarded by life-affirming and ability-affirming quotes and memes and books and speakers and influencers and and and... We hear and read so much about moving forward against the odds; facing your fears; winning; taking a leap; go for it, etc., etc. Inevitably, though, after we reach our goal, or, if after much effort we fall short, as night follows day, some will find something to pick at. It comes with the territory.

This is not to say that as creators, and humans doing, we should not be open to getting frank feedback about our work. Very few get it right the first time around. So, we "tek telling" as the Jamaican expression goes, and work toward better. It is to say, rather, that the naysayers we have always with us. "It's what it's" - as a funny tweep wrote the other day. Lol!

Fear. The fear of not getting it right. The fear of people laughing at what we've created. The fear of what people will say. Fear in some shape or form is what keeps us from starting, doing, finishing. Know what? Do your dream because: (1) It is yours to do. No one else in the world can do your dream like you. (2) Some people will always have negative things to say. It's like it's in their DNA. Plus, they don't matter. (3) You will feel good, real good, after beating the fear and doing what you set out to do! I promise.

This book is rather personal - and telling. As one reviewer had said, by the end, readers will feel like they know me. Still not sure whether I'm ready for that reality. But, it is written.

They will know this book is about life and love and heartbreaks and that...that I dared to get back up. Every. Single. Time. And hope. They will know that, although it often feels like Love has kicked the crap out of me, I'm still here. (I feel a voice-over coming on: We the unbeatable, do the "impossible", and remain hopeful "in the face of aridity and disenchantment.") I've made the choice to embrace the good and be inspired by the joy of those close and not so close; to hope that, come what may, I will always choose to live fully in each moment.

Hope.

I hope in God to lift me and set me up upon a rock; to make my feet like hinds' feet; to make me mount up with wings as eagles; to restore to me the years the locusts have eaten... Hope is a good thing. Where I place it is even more important. Many don't mix their creative work with worship. I do. I am, after all, blessed and highly flavoured. Chocolat. To God be all the glory for His favour and His hand upon me and this writing journey and this new book. And the new website. (It's getting there.) His thoughts and actions toward me are terrible, awesome, wondrous, and beautiful. He is about to blow my expectations of success - millions of copies sold worldwide; published in several languages - and my dreams of positively touching lives, out of the water! #ExceedingAbundantly. He loves me, and if I knew nothing else, that would be enough. But, I also know this: He is holding my heart. 

Funny, at this point in the post, I don't feel as anxious as when I'd started. :-)

Here's the thing: If I'm not gonna dream big, then what, pray tell, is the point of dreaming at all? I dream big (and in colour) to the point where it sounds ridiculous - and scary! And, I put in the work, too, and continue to do so. I'm not just referring to the decades of putting pen or pencil to paper. I'm talking about the more recent writing, and editing, and working with the publisher who said they'd like to work with me. I'm talking about finding... no, making time to write. I have a full-time job which, occasionally, has me travelling. I've whipped out my phone and got to writing during my morning and evening commute on the GO Train; at lunch; at work (shhh); on vacation; on the plane en route to my vacation destination; on staycation; at the park by the Lake; in the bathroom (don't ask); in bed... I have even been awoken by a vivid thought and scribbled notes while half asleep, and, come morning, tried to decipher what the heck I had written on the post-it pad.  But still I write. #writeorsuffocate

I learned to reach out for help. I even know what it feels like to woman up and ask a complete stranger for their take on an excerpt. Why? I try to keep my focus on that which cannot be seen by the naked eye. I keep telling myself, it's going to be beautiful. And, I want to leave behind something bigger than myself; something relatable; something new.

One of the reasons I'd wanted to publish this anthology at this time, is that I wanted to...make room, if you will, for the new phase of love in my life. And, the new phase of me, too - ready to be loved thickly in return. Pretty brave of me to come right out and say that, but, given that this book is a go, well, I must get used to the idea of allowing those words to leave my lips. Plus, as I've learned, love alone is not enough. Deciding to be with someone for the rest of your life takes, among other things, courage.

Another reason is: I wanted for my mom to behold this completed work. She has been one of my main cheerleaders, and it would give me joy and pleasure to see her reading my book. Tee hee. And, just so you know, all my birth family and close friends have been supportive. They rock! Muahh!

Yet another reason: For one, or two, or three people - a girl can hope - who will be able to say, "I can relate." Yeah. Relatabilty.

Today marks the 7th anniversary of my blog. I've said it in this space a few times before, Usain Bolt's performance on the track at the Beijing 2008 Olympics helped to light a fire within. On Sunday, August 23, he sprinted to victory in the 100m at the World Championships - again in Beijing. He wasn't in top form, physically, and there'd been much talk of a Bolt/Gatlin face-off. At the finish, he came through in 9.79s to his main rival's 9.80s. Someone made the point on Twitter that he is mentally strong. I agree. One needs to be able to silence the demons and the negative voices in one's head; rise above the fray, and persist to succeed. I smiled in agreement and admiration as Bolt articulated this bit in a recent Puma ad: "...when he says, "On your mark," and I take a deep breath, look down the lane and...it's time to go." Love that. Live that.

In the end, I did it for me. It was time to share this part of myself. As I've said in the intro to my book, I do not have a story. I am a story. I have a voice.

Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years speaks volumes. I truly hope that you will give a listen.


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

All of Life is Happening


Among other reasons, I decided to make my website (cyopro.com) a "real website", as my first book is about to be published. The author's bio for Fourteen To Fortyish does make reference to my website, and, well, I did not relish the thought of readers heading to a starter page on Yahoo!

So, this past June, I made the leap! I asked around and went with the strong recommendation from one of the IT guys at work. I bought a template from Template Monster. The Live Chat guy was very good. He knew his stuff, and he was patient. Over three hours later - I had to choose from hundreds! - I was all sorted out. We'd narrowed it down to a WordPress theme, given that the flagship feature is going to be about the book and, a close second, my blog. Yes, this blog. Plus, he'd also walked me through purchasing hosting services from Blue Host. They're pretty good, too.

Thanks to help from sis, @MizDurie, who refused to have me languishing in the throes of copy and paste, I learned there was a plug-in to transfer blog posts from Blogger to my new WordPress-themed website. The transfer took about five minutes. It might've taken less time, had I not stopped to read and take screen shots of the instruction pages. Y'know? For my files? (Like I'm asking.)

Let's move on.

So, that's where I am now. I've changed the title of the home page; done some font changes; added photos, and populated the home page with starter copy. I recently referred to the write up/rationale for cyopro in its genesis. The words I'd written in my notebook back in 2010 still hit home: "...a vibrant place of engagement where stories are told and experienced...where authors go..." Okay, that's enough of a sneak peak. :-) The plan is to tighten it up here and there. I believe it will speak to someone. Relatability, right?

It's all coming together. Some days it feels like baby steps, and on others, I look back and think I've taken a leap. Annette did appear! :-) The timing of all this is something else, too. It has been an extremely busy year - so far!  I expect that the pace will not slow down and that things will be better. I've changed jobs; left the country a couple times; sold and bought new homes; moved; unpacked. Correction: I'm unpacking... During all of that, I finished and submitted my manuscript; provided write-ups; worked on the cover, and did the first revision of the interior file. And now, I've taken to work on my website. Yes, it does feel like all of life is happening - at once! :-)

You remember that saying, right? "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different." - C.S. Lewis

Yeah, it's kinda like that.



Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro





Saturday, 8 August 2015

Unphotographable Beauty Is A Thing


Unphotographable beauty. I came across that term for the first - and only - time in Toni Morrison's Tar Baby. Its use has been warranted more times than I can recall. For, who among us has experienced a pang of disappointment when, upon reviewing a photo of a majestic scene, realizes that the picture simply does not do it justice?  Go on. Raise your hand. I'll wait.

Okay.

The term came to mind - and use - again, during my recent visit to Jamaica. Reuniting with family and friends was a joyous experience. The highlight of the trip was the wedding. Sis, Durie, got married to her fiance, Ric. I was honoured and humbled to have been asked to be her Maid of Honour. Their special day was a beautiful one in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.

The visit yielded hundreds of breathtaking photos. Hundreds, for, as you know, while there's storage, there will be pics. And that was just from one camera (read: smartphone).

Here are a few I thought I'd share. Again, that term comes to mind. Unphotographable beauty.

Approaching (the dreaded) Flat Bridge, Bog Walk, St. Catherine

Closer...

Almost there...

Over it!

The rather popular "vaggie rock". You can see why. In colloquial language, it goes by another name. 

View from the North South Highway.
(If yuh want good road, toll haffi run.)

The folds of the rolling hills, the dramatic suspension of the clouds...

Panoramic view.

Making our way through the curves and turns of Fern Gully.
Yes, it's two-way traffic. #GotSkills?

Heads up! Fern Gully.

Clean, clear, cool (I guess), and inviting.
As far as the eye can see...sea!
  
Ackee and Saltfish (the national dish) with fried bammy.

Polly did not want a cracker. Well, we didn't offer one. And, I don't know whether her name is really Polly.

The clouds were striking! Look! There's a cartoonish character chasing a small dog.

 #UnphotographableBeauty




Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Travel: Would You Like Sighs With That?


Bag Drop. But, Not Really.

I checked in for my flight on West Jet the evening before. When I got to the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), I approached one of the designated kiosks, thinking it would allow me to print baggage tags. It didn't. It spat out a duplicate of the boarding pass I already had. No worries. I moved on to the Bag Drop line. (Side note: About a year and a half or so ago, the Bag Drop line didn't work. As in, sis and I had enquired - having checked in prior - and were told that "everybody is in the same line." That did not make sense to me. What, pray tell, was the point of a designated Bag Drop line - with sign indicating that, btw - if those who'd checked in before were made to stand with those who had not? I had asked then and was told that it was on that airline's say so.)

Fast forward to this most recent episode. I joined the Bag Drop line for Kiosk/Web check-in at approximately 11:45 a.m. and stood behind three parties. There were between 2 and 4 people in each party. One agent stood at the counter made for two. The queue to my right was for those who had not checked in prior. I watched as their snaking line moved steadily with new people joining, checking in, getting baggage tagged, and leaving the counter, while I waited for half an hour before being called up. When I approached the counter at 12:15, I knew I had to ask. Hi and hello over, I tilted my head forward to get a closer look at his name tag, "I have a question, Wayne," I said. (That's not his real name, btw. It's close enough.)
 "Yes?" "You're an employee of West Jet, correct?"
"Yes."
"Okay. Could you help me understand why I just waited half an hour in the Bag Drop line, when people were coming and going in the check-in line?"
"Well, as you can see, I'm the only one at this counter. Sorry about the wait."
"Yes, I can see that. I don't think this is what West Jet had in mind, though." I told him I'm gonna have to talk with them. I mean, if they need to hire more people to uphold the quality of service many have come to expect, so be it. Many Jamaicans are in need of jobs. There must be a waiting list. In the meantime, it makes no sense to me to have passengers stand in the Bag Drop line for longer than passengers checking in at the counter. What's the point of encouraging passengers to check-in early? At Toronto Pearson, the kisok had spat out baggage tags, and we had quickly gone over to Bag Drop, joined a short queue, and were done in under five minutes. Please do something about this service at NMIA, West Jet.


"Security!"

Still at NMIA. I went through without a beep. While waiting for my stuff on the belt, I stepped to the side and softly said to the security officer who had just waved me through, "May I ask you sopm?"
"Yes."
"The last time I came through here, I didn't beep, but I was pat down anyway. Why? I thought it was a standard thing, if you don't beep, you don't get pat down."
She smiled. "Well, it depends. If, say, 50 people go through and the machine doesn't go off, we check the next person. It depends on the instructions we get for the day - every tenth person or after 50 and so on."
"Oh, so it's company policy, not what makes sense...in my head?"
This time, she chuckled, "Yeah."
I told her thanks and moved on.


No Backtracking 

This term took on another meaning as we waited in line at the gate. Passengers had cleared the distance between the agents who check for boarding passes as you exit the food court, and the gate. I overheard a man ask no one in particular, whether he could go back to get some food. Apparently, it had just dawned on him that he might need more than the pretzels and/or cookies to tide him over to Toronto. In the next breath, he asked someone whose uniform looked like a security guard’s. The security guard told him no, he could not go back to the food court – even though we were all the way toward the back of a very long line.

(And the hits just keep on comin’!)

I had to ask. 

I waited a few minutes.

As the security guard paced his way back down the line, I stepped to the side and got his attention. I made out a part of the crest adorning his dark blue uniform. Special Constable. Oops. My bad.
“Excuse me, I have a question.”
“Yes?”
“Could I go back and get something from the food court?”
“Hmm, no. You can’t go back up there.”
“Ummm, why not?”
“It’s the airport’s policy, a security thing.”
“Okay. Thanks.”

I waited a few more minutes.

I saw another man who was attired as an airport worker – I figured. I stopped him as he walked toward my section of the line and asked him. Because, you  know, I  wasn’t going anywhere for a while; I was out of Snickers, and, sometimes, information isn’t consistent. I asked the same thing. He told me he didn’t see why not.

I waited.

This time, I asked the West Jet employee who was checking boarding passes. Yes, we were just about to board now.
“No, not at this point.”
“I understand that. I meant earlier when we were all the way back in the line.”
“Mmm. Technically, you could, but it’s airport policy and a matter of security. So, no. I mean, if you had to, someone would have to escort you back.”
“Oh, so in exigent circumstances, then.”
“Exactly!”
“I see. Thanks.”

I proceeded to board.

A matter of security. Right. Now I know. And now you know.

I…I just don’t know. Smh.




Claudia



Sunday, 19 July 2015

Dear Travel-related People, It's Not You...It's Me


Making my way from Jamaica, as I approached the security checkpoint, I removed all items from my person that'd likely set off the alert. Holding my passport, I made my way through the arc. No beep. I started eyeing the belt that held my laptop and hand bag. Next thing I knew, the security officer was telling me to "step this way" and immediately proceeded to start patting me down. No heads-up. I protested. "The machine didn't go off!" I said. "We can still pat you down," she said. As her hands made their way over my body, it took every thing in me not to slap them away from me. I was incensed! I had done everything I was required to do to prevent such a thing from happening, and it happened anyway. As she continued to pat, involuntarily, I backed away. I have traveled many times by air. I have never been pat down by hand before. The one or two other times were by wand. I could not get away fast enough. If there's no beep, one is allowed to proceed, isn't one? Somehow, I was of the impression that that was a standard rule that applied at all airports. Not so at the Norman Manley International Airport. Apparently.

Making my way from Toronto, as I approached the security checkpoint, I removed all items from my person that'd likely set off the alert. Holding my passport, I made my way through the arc. No beep. I started eyeing the belt that held my laptop and handbag. I approached the belt unhindered.
"Is this your bag?" The security officer on the other side of the belt enquired.
"Yes, it is," I replied, stiffening.
"I'm gonna take a look at what's inside," she said, half to me and half to the other security woman seated at the x-ray machine.
"Ok."
She proceeded, with gloved hands, to shift items and remove items and walk back to the x-ray officer then back to the bag then back to the x-ray woman asking her something or the other about the pack of Clearasil face wipes she'd happily discovered. X-ray woman must've told her they were okay. She came back to the bag, and dug and searched.
"What are you looking for?" I'd had enough.
"...", as she proceeded to dig.
"What are you looking for?" I asked again.
"...", face down ignoring me.
"Are you not obligated to respond?"
"I'm just looking for something." She looked up, while digging.
I shook my head and picked up my purse from the bag.
"Ma'am, please calm down," she said.
"I'm simply removing my purse with my very valuable items, ID and such," I replied.
She proceeded to search for God He knows what. Just because she could. Apparently. A few seconds later, she was done.
"Thank you for your patience," she said.
It was better to remain silent, so I did. I retrieved my bag and left the area.

Making my way to customs in Jamaica, I held my bag of left-over lunch and fruits (cherries). I had indicated on the customs form that I had fruits. The customs officer asked what they were. I told her. She said to "put them in the bin over there." On my way to the bin, I dropped the bag and stepped on it. Then, I put the bag in the bin. In under 5 seconds, she was about 6 inches from my face yelling and asking why I did that. I didn't flinch, nor was I offended by her animated and aggressive approach. I was dealing with Jamaica's customs officers and I expected no less - truth be told. In rapid succession, she asked why I did it. In rapid succession, I started to reply. Finally, as we were both not getting anywhere, I said, "If you will allow me to reply, I will let you know." She took a deep breath, held her hands together below her very pregnant tummy and said, "Okay, go ahead."
"If the fruits aren't good enough to enter the country, then they simply aren't edible," I told her.
By then, about three or four other customs officers had come around. One of them kept asking me the same thing. I told her the same thing. She asked again. I told her the same thing. Again. Not sure whether she was expecting me to tell her something else; something she wanted to hear. She called me rude. That was...telling. They took it as an affront. Apparently. I wonder why. (I don't, actually.)

While paying the JMD$10,000 fine (I had stepped outside to get the funds from my dad. I had CAD funds, but the thought of changing them at the dismal exchange rate at the cambio right there, pained me. Side note: I later handed my dad the funds in repayment. He said to keep it. Bless his heart.) I heard one person in line at the cashier saying how he was charged for his laptop. A friend of his had bought him one on sale a month ago. The customs officers decided it was new. He paid JMD$6,000. As he shook his head in dismay, he ended his story, "Is alright. Next time mi know wha mi a go do." That was...telling.

I paid the fine for breaching S.198(4) of the Customs Act. I had destroyed the item to prevent seizure by a customs officer or stte. The officer had originally written $5,000, but her supervisor said to change it to $10,000. I possess no qualms about facing the consequences of my actions. It's a personal philosophy. I realized...figured, rather, that if I proceeded to ask them to define seizure and prevent and destroy, I would likely have another $5,000 or $10,000 slapped on as a "mouthing off" charge. Because they could. Also, depending on the nature of the breach (I s'pose) one could be fined up to $100,000. (And  the whole thing had already taken about 45 minutes. Because they could.) I let it be.

Just before handing my passport back to me, the customs officer decided to explain the procedure for acquiring a permit to bring fruits into the country. I asked whether that would mean I would not be charged a fee if the inspecting officer decided the fruits were okay. She assured me that's what it meant. I quickly imagined that my definition of okay might very well differ. Plus, I'd only bother to go that route simply to test that theory. I said none of this. I did tell her that the rationale for the "breach" was something we disagreed on. I shrugged, closing the door to further conversation. My people had long been waiting outside. We said our goodbyes and I took my passport and left.

It took several days but I finally put my finger on what really bothered me about that customs episode. Comments from friends and family with whom I cared to share it, telling me good on me because seizure usually resulted in them taking the items for themselves, didn't make me feel better. The certainty that others who hear it at some point will say I was mean, won't make me feel worse. The thing? It becomes a major challenge for me to accept going along with what is required, when what is required makes absolutely no sense to me. That was the button that pushed me. I eventually assured myself that everyone has their button. After all, I'm only human.

"Human. It's been a while since anyone's called me that." - Monk

Between the impositions and intrusions and a host of things up with which I don't want to put during cross-border travel, I'm seriously considering staying put for a while. Canada is a big country. I should get out more and see more of it.

(Oh, btw, this post was due on the 18th. Sorry. I...I was way too tired to write yesterday. Thanks for reading!)



Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Cover Story


On a visit to Jamaica earlier this year, my parents and I went on a road trip, or, as we call them sometimes, a drive out. My dad loves to take us on those trips. They were a staple of our childhood, and are pretty much expected now when we visit Jamaica.

This road trip took us to Manchester. I had made a special request for roast yam and saltfish. I knew exactly where we were headed - Melrose Hill. Or, as it is often called, Yam Hill. Actually, I think Melrose Hill is the name of the original road (the old road) where the vendors used to sell. It has been a long time since, but the vendors relocated to their current location on that section of the Winston Jones Highway after the highway was cut.

And, you know, this post isn't even about Yam Hill. Lol! See, before we stopped there on our way from Clarendon, we went all the way up the road to Mandeville. We conducted our business and quickly headed back toward Clarendon.

It was just after we  passed the mud lake on Winston Jones Highway, that I saw a really beautiful sight. I thought it would make a really lovely picture. I immediately shoved my phone to the front of my dad's car - a gesture he's grown quite accustomed to - and snapped away from the back. He didn't question the gesture, he simply obliged. My mom, as usual, leaned a little to the left in her front passenger seat so I could get proper photos. (Just so you know, drive on the left in Jamaica, and the majority of vehicles are right hand drive.)

About five photos later, I figured I'd got what I wanted. At least two or three of them could be used. They didn't do the natural scenery justice - unphotographable beauty is a thing - but they would bring me pleasure on reviewing.

Fast forward a few weeks later. My publisher asked me to provide write-ups - along with book cover artwork - for the upcoming poetry book, Fourteen To Fortyish. I did. I submitted my best rendition of one of the images, complete with overlaying text and all. I knew we would have a bit of back n forth, but I still wanted to have a very good springboard.

Well, during those exchanges, I reached out to family to hear how the cover spoke to them. I even learned the term "dichromatic" from one of my sis, Lat, an artist. The final rendition shows a dramatic and fitting transition that captures the essence of the journey. I'm very pleased with the cover now.

I've shared a section of the cover on other SM platforms - Twitter and Instagam. Here, though, in my little space in cyberspace, I'm sharing the full cover. It's a good time to tell you, dear reader, that I am also working on making my website, cyopro.com, into a real website. :-) These blog posts will be moving over to my "home in cyberspace" - if you will. Or, even if you don't, actually. :-) Those baby steps? Yeeahh. #LeapAndAnnetteWillAppear. :-) I've learned so much in the past several days about what is required to make this happen. I bought a WordPress theme template, and switched hosting services. Gonna be bonding with the new site over the next little while. Please bear with me. It is a work in progress - a work in progress that has to be finished before my book gets published in September 2015. No pressure!

(((Drum Roll)))



Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Sunday, 28 June 2015

One Judge. I Am Not Him.


God has a sense of humour. Some things you don't see coming. He does. When they appear, well, between the both of us, we got this. Nothing is of a surprise to Him. His Word says, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiates 1:9) (I like the poetry of the KJV.) As a matter of fact, another verse says, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. (Ecc. 3:15)

I am Christian. I believe in Jesus, and daily seek to maintain a close relationship with Him. I believe the Bible is the word of God. To get to it, in the last week, much happened regarding gay rights in the USA. (Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since July 2005.)  As a Christian, when I utter my thoughts on this sensitive topic, I fully expect to be derided and ridiculed and accused of being homophobic and being a Bible Thumper and and and... It's the way it is. True, there are Christians who go about expressing condemnation of members of the LGBT community. They spew vitriol squarely directed at them at every opportunity. So, Christians who are more mild in airing their views are lumped in with that batch.

But, no matter how mild the approach, the Christian with a point of view borne out of their belief is often not... (what's the word? Allowed?) ..."allowed" to express his/her dissenting view. I don't get it. I'm Christian, and I believe homosexuality is a sin. Should I acquiesce and go with someone else's view just because I don't wish to offend them? That is ridiculous. I have relatives who are gay. By the time I found out, well, I had already loved them to pieces. No judgment. I believe we will someday all answer to one God for the time we spent here. Meantime, my duty is to love and shine, including when I join the conversation on controversial topics. I have made a choice to believe what I believe. Look around. The world is a mess. It takes more than wealth and popularity to attain that which is most precious in such a time as this - peace of mind.

Earlier, I referred to the Bible. If someone does not believe the Bible to be the Word of God, it is pointless to quote from it as an authority in support of the point being made. Enter grace, through faith - and time. We live. We believe. We live according to our belief. Philip Yancey - atheist turned Christian - wrote in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew: "God's terrible insistence on human freedom is so absolute that He granted us the power to live as though He did not exist, to spit in His face, to crucify Him. Although power can force obedience, only love can summon a response of love, which is the one thing God wants from us and the reason He created us."

So, people are free to do whatever with whomever. I don't bash friends who don't share  my faith, for example. Love them and leave them to Jesus and time. I believe He can and does make a wonderful difference in people's lives. People make the difficult decision to "come out of the closet". No judgment. And, it's not because the skeletons in my closet have skeletons in their closets. It is because I am not the JUDGE. I cannot be presumptuous to think I can judge and mete out sentences to whomever I think is not living according to God's word. Especially when I am a daily beneficiary of His amazing grace.

It seems, though, no matter how many times as a Christian you say and demonstrate love and kindness even as you disagree with "the masses", you will be ridiculed, vilified, etc. Not everyone will share my views. I get that. Still, one word in dissent, and many immediately go for the jugular. Yet, they are the same ones exercising their right to speak their views freely. I don't get that.

You know what's not funny? We can be angered and get freaked out by the news that a three year-old girl has been raped by a 30 year-old man. Why? Because something inside our make up says it is wrong. There is still wrong and right in the world. It's not always black and white, but it exists. It is not, as much as we would like to think, a case of anything goes. Consensus doesn't mean right. Humans are fickle beings. What is right today is not necessarily right tomorrow. But, God's word and standards do not change.

In today's " Look at me!" world, it is not surprising that some compromise on their beliefs for the sake of popularity; for adulation; for likes and favs and retweets. "Do you, boo!" But, as a person who seeks to abide in Christ, my choices do not often coincide with the world's. And that is to be expected. I don't think my final words on my deathbed will be, "Oh, I wish I had been more popular on Social Media." Nope. The Christian journey is not an easy one and every day is a struggle, but I try to keep the proper perspective and focus on what really matters. The Holy Spirit does not leave me alone.

Speaking of expectations, what also seems to be expected is that folks like myself should go sit in a corner somewhere because we have a dissenting view - no matter how much in love we express it. Yeah. About that. We have been commissioned to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, we will and do have a belief out of which we speak. I think it was the ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus, who said, "All religions must be tolerated...for every man must get to heaven in his own way." *raises hand* Umm, about that "in his own way" part? No. The Word I live by quotes Jesus as saying He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. Hmm. Not only do we want to live however we want, we also want the assurance that it's okay. And, some of our spiritual leaders, sadly, have given in to this. For myriad reasons, I suppose - the desire not to offend; not to step on anyone's toes; not to lose popularity, etc. The unadulterated word of God can be hard-hitting. Nobody is perfect and has it all together in this walk. Enter, grace. 

Sigh. The criticisms for expressing particular - and particularly dissenting - positions will come.

We got this.