Rev Fave

Life in HD (Holiday Depression)

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It struck me during Finals Week of my senior year in college. The end of exams meant driving back to my parents’ house in Northwest Indiana. My girlfriend was five months pregnant with twins and we had just lost one of them. It had been several weeks since I spoke with my mom; I suppose the disappointment of becoming an unwed father was too much. It was going to be the first Christmas without my grandfather. They were cutting hours at work; despite having a car, I was slushing through dirty snow to the bus stop because it was cheaper. It was the first time Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas anymore.

Family tension, financial challenges, academic pressure, adapting to life without my (very large) family’s patriarch… sent me spiraling into holiday depression (HD).

The next 10 years were spent wearing the smile for the sake of the kids. Money came and went. More family members passed away. I pacified my wounds with relocations, pseudo-serious relationships (while sabotaging real ones) and career aspirations. I had kept HD at bay until I my first year of marriage. My decision to wed was so abhorred that my parents declined our invitation to attend. I went from company cars and expense accounts as a corporate executive to unemployment and sporadic freelance work. Money got smaller while the kids’ Christmas list grew bigger. It was going to be the first Christmas without my grandmother. I locked myself in a room and stared into the darkness.

Family estrangement, financial turmoil, blending a dysfunctional family… sent me further down the gravely road of holiday depression. This time, I didn’t care.

It got worse before it got better: separation came, divorce followed, losing lucrative contracts and more relocations continued to wear on my body and spirit. But I thank God for rescuing me from a mental breakdown and spiritual catastrophe.

I endured the symptoms that many share during the holidays (and beyond): grieving dead loved ones, dealing with money problems, the isolation of family conflict and other life events seem amplified during the holidays… driving some precious people to question the validity of their existence and others to attempt to end theirs.

It’s hard to hear their yells in the midst of “jingle bells.”

God’s grace is the only reason holiday depression did not swallow me. This is a magical time of year; yet, my heart remains tuned towards those whose spirits are low during the holidays. While others enjoy the holiday feasts, laughter, classic films and time off… I’m compelled to pray for those who can’t wait until the first week of January, when all this will be over. I’m praying for those who are skipping through the store with the false satisfaction of knowing that they have their suicide planned out and the pain will be over soon.

I’m praying for grown orphans. I’m interceding for those who thinks no one cares (like I once did). If it’s nothing but a silent prayer, quick tweet, engaging Facebook message, clever Instagram post, sincere text or unexpected phone call… I want us all to make it to 2017 while leaving HD empty handed from an unsuccessful grasp at our souls.

In the interim, we can implement our own anti-HD strategy through increased exercise, adequate sleep, sun exposure, abstaining from alcohol and gluttony (IKR!), avoiding family conflict and getting help. Getting Help. GETTING HELP.

The PrayerLine is 1-800-365-3732.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

You can also talk to God 24/7. No phone required.

The Replacements (You Know What I’m Saying?)

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As the cream-filled donut introduces artery-clogging cholesterol, glucose-spiking refined sugar and unwanted trans fat — the fear-filled words introduce satan’s word system to steal your motivation, kill your joy and destroy your destiny…or so he thought.

I’m thinking about what what I’m thinking about and placed a proverbial magnifying glass on my everyday speech. How do you sound in response to the world around you? What thoughts are you embracing and for how long? Are those thoughts promoting fear or strengthening your faith?

I’m replacing it all. Every negative thought, every horrible re-enactment, every highlight reel of disappointment. Each fearful scene comes with a script and the enemy is burning up (pun intended) waiting on me to “read my lines” so that I speak fear, degradation and destruction into my world.

Not today, satan.

Pray like God is sitting in your living room (because he is), speak life into the dead areas of your life. My prayer is that we seek God for the strength to continue our fight of faith. I pray our fear-filled words are replaced with the faith-filled words in our rhetoric. Our lives are a reflection of the words we’ve spoken from the time we learned our native language until now.

So what are you saying?

The Sound of My Father’s Voice

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I never liked the sound of my father’s voice.

Let me clarify. 

I never liked the sound of my father’s voice when he yelled. As someone who grew up in a two-parent household, I was exposed to my dad’s rustling baritone throughout my childhood. He was generally a quiet guy — which amplified his outbursts in contrast to his normal tone. My father is 5’10” and possibly 180 at his heaviest; but those moments when his voice roared, you thought he was ferocious enough to tear down brick walls with his bare hands.

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Love to Death

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Our world pulsates with the aches of injustice, persecution and poverty. Our country suffers from the bipolar struggle of relative economic strength, riddled by deviant social constructs — slithering beneath a veneer of post-racial, pro-gender acceptance. Our community embraces the dichotomy of global connectivity through smartphones and the discomfort of making eye contact with another soul.

And in this realm, we find love. 

I’ve watched Facebook statuses evolve from devastating bouts of loneliness, depression and longing for human touch – to engagement photography in beautiful, green parks. Digital tears, short circuiting the flow of funny videos and selfies, are now dried up by the sand of beach ceremonies. These mad dashes toward God with lifelong promises range from the seemingly haphazard to the meticulously orchestrated; yet they all reach the finish line with a kiss.

And in the wind of this bliss, we find death.

Inexplicable and sudden, death seems to be on a spree where anyone can be taken. I’ve watched my sister depart with preparation. I’ve been saddened by the loss of a hero, despite my subconscious anticipation. From those closely woven to my lifeline, to creative juggernauts whose expression cascades across my generation – death is going ham in 2016. It cannot be stopped, yet I pray for its deceleration.

Then appears the question… are you ready? 

Where is my level of preparedness for either scenario? My soul was custom manufactured to love, but I’ve tainted my capability from constant exposure to perverted interpretations of what love really means. What’s unfortunate is that I was taught as a child that God = love; therefore, anything that does not point back to Him could never give back to me something good. How can I be ready when I see things, people, feelings and circumstances through a smudgy lens of painful experiences I have yet  to fully release?

And though I long to love my family, my friends, my brothers, my children, my church, my community, my society and my dark, twisted world… how long will it take for me to get it right before death comes to transition me out of here?

Love will transition you out of indifference. Death will transition you out of carnal bondage. Both are poised to guide you towards someplace eternal. Neither are responsible for your condition upon their arrival. That’s on you.

That’s on me. 

I just want to love to death. One is an action waiting to be associated with your spirit. The other is a moment that shifts you into an eternal somewhere. Both have an inevitable impact that correlates to our level of preparation.

Are you ready?

 

When Love is Enough

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To have no love is to have no God; yet to know God is to know love. When the universe extends beyond our lifespan, it becomes an eternity that only our souls are able to reach. But while here on earth, we’ve taken distorted self-images and hedonistic wishes and mixed it with a broth of dim glimmers of spiritual shine. We warm those feelings by the exasperated exhales of fairy tales until it smells of our interpretation of love. That’s when we begin to breathe deeply; but the aroma is deceiving and by the time you know, you’ve already begun to choke.

Somewhere between euphoria and despair, you learn to breathe the haze as you await happier days filled with what you thought was love.

This dysfunctional depiction of love becomes your absolute definition of love, but your measuring stick is sick from poor nutrition that began before you could really understand how true love feels. Now you feel because you are an adult because you’ve endured heartache so severe that it brought you to your knees – and then you decided to pray. Your experience with love has tugged your soul towards the edge of your skin; bringing you as close to heaven as you could get without dying – yet you still haven’t lived.

Your past has become a barometer used for fortune telling rather than extrapolated lessons for newness and change. Paranoia passes for discernment. Pain is leveraged for intuition. Anger is given a makeover to resemble protection. We do this in the name of love but we’ve named the wrong thing because love does not require such modifications nor interpretations. This is why you feel love is not enough. Your love is a cornucopia of chaos derived from physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, cultural misconduct.

Where is God in your love equation? If you believe, then you know that God is love and his absence is love’s absence. That’s why your heart feels empty. Love sans God isn’t love at all. If you want to love someone, you want God for them. If you want to be in love, your desire must first be in God’s will. If you want to show him the greatest love of all, you must reflect the love God has for you. If you want to be her greatest lover, you must follow Christ before you can lead her to happiness.

God is the answer. God is infinite. God is the salve to heal your misappropriated emotions. God is more than enough; therefore love is enough. Love is enough. With God, your love is enough.

Seasons Change and There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

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I was blessed to experience the fullness of all four seasons every year. Each season contained a special trait which I enjoyed: the rain showers of Spring, the intense sunshine of Summer, the colorful hues of Autumn leaves and the majestic coolness of snow in Winter. Before any aspect of each season became mundane, the winds ushered in the next one and I found myself adjusting for the enjoyment. Seasons are inevitable. They are unstoppable. Their forward movement is irreversible.

Seasons often prepare you for their transitions; it’s a gradual progression from one to the next — making room for restoration and rejuvenation of the earth. Seasons provide conditions conducive to our needs – from the sun and rain for photosynthesis of plants to the cold climates necessary for hibernation. The reason for the seasons in your life are a mere reflection of the ever-changing landscape of nature.

We enter each other’s journeys as a component of particular seasons. Circumstances determine how our seasonal presence shapes the lives of those we encounter.

Maybe he’s there to help you grow patience. Perhaps she’s there to teach you how to love unconditionally. The lessons entrenched in our environment, decisions and memories cascade through seasons —  providing a gradual process of discovering our identity and God’s purpose.

Just as you cannot restrain the autumn leaves from falling; it is impossible to force your season with someone to overstay their welcome. This is the cause of imbalance in our relationships. Once the lesson is learned, the transition begins and the seasons change. People change. Relationships change. Love evolves. Wisdom cultivates. Life goes on.

As seasons come and go, some seasons will bring you back into the ecosystem of past connections. God bless those who are destined to participate in our four seasons of our lives. Thank God for placing us in the pathway of seasonal transition in someone else’s life. Praise God for the lessons learned that we can carry into our future as we say goodbye to those of seasons’ past.

The good news is that some return for new lessons, new experiences and a new season within a new future. Everyone is not meant to stay; but some are destined to never leave. It’s up to us to ask God for the discernment to know the difference. As our exchanges, lifestyles and challenges are orchestrated to work diligently for our Godly purpose — it’s a blessing to catch a glimpse of why the seasons change and who will love you in winter, spring, summer and fall.

When You Realize Their Everything is Not Enough

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When I fell in love, she consumed my thoughts. I spared no expense to spoil her. To hear her voice was to be soothed and escaped from the troubles of the world. I loved her smile, her eyes, her hair, her touch, her whispers, personality, walk, the way she chewed her food — I was in love with the way she blinked. She was my everything.

And that was the beginning of the end.

She didn’t hide her flaws; I refused to see them until it was too late. The irony in placing someone so high on the pedestal of perceived perfection, that you stand in shock and disbelief as they fall ungraciously towards reality. Her screams amplified by the altitude in which you’ve placed her. While she once fulfilled your finite fantasies, she was never meant to be your everything. That was not God’s design.

And since it was not His design, it will never be part of His will. Because it falls out of the will of God, the lifestyle of someone being your everything is scripted to fail…everytime.

What happens when you realize their everything isn’t enough? What do you do when the heat of your human nature burns the fairy tale version of you before their impressionable eyes? In addition to the pedestal fall, there’s difficulty in the forgiveness, sensationalization of the shortcomings and the inevitable expedition through temptation in order to fill the void not filled at home.

Why must I be like that? Why must I chase? Nothing but God not in me. We’ve neglected the source — the living God who made us whole so no else had to “complete you.” Our Almighty God is everything and so massive that He’s everywhere all the time and knows your every need – from the ones you shout from rooftops to the microscopic wish list at the bottom of your soul. Meanwhile, we mistakenly worship little gods disguised as big love and wonder why it still can’t fill the coffers of our spirit.

As I sat there empty, God waits patiently to fix it. He stands there with tools of peace, mercy, grace, comfort, healing, understanding, forgiveness, protection, encouragement, inspiration and restoration — but he also stands there waiting for you to stop forcing the person you love into being something they will never be.

When you both stop looking to each other to be everything, the drama can subside. When you stop expecting perfection from imperfect people, the pain won’t be so catastrophic. When you stop gazing at another human being to give you superhuman perfection, your expectations won’t set you up for a huge let down. When you stop looking for and trying to be everything and start looking up to God for your joy — everything will finally be in your grasp.

 

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)

5 Lessons I Learned From My Grandma Fannie

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Despite being an only child, I come from a very large family in which my paternal grandmother, Fannie Robinson, was the matriarch. Growing up I spent a lot of time around her and witnessed elements of her personality that carried valuable life lessons. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from my Grandma Fannie that guide my thoughts to this day:

 

Celebrate Life

With 15 children and over 50+ grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Grandma Fannie never forgot a birthday. She didn’t need Facebook to remind her. I don’t recall her having a calendar with names written down. I believe she retained those birthdays in her mind because our lives were very important to her. She knew each of our lives had purpose, even before we came into the world (Jeremiah 1:5). That day in which we entered the world – and God’s purpose was activated – is cause for celebration and Grandma Fannie’s recollection of so many of our “introductions” was a pleasant reminder that we are all special.

 

Vision > Circumstance

If you spent any amount of time at my grandparents’ house in the 80s, you knew that Grandma Fannie had every television in the house on the same channel (usually a soap opera). Whether you went in her room, the boys’ room or the living room — every television had the same show playing. Each room had different arrangements – some more cluttered than the other – but when you looked at the TV, the show was the same. I learned that when you have a vision for your life, you must maintain that channel no matter what environment you’re in. Some parts of your life will get cluttered, messy and downright catastrophic — but your TV (aka your vision) must stay on the same channel in order to see it through to the end.

 

Keep it Moving

My Grandma Fannie never drove a vehicle. She walked all her life. Even in the house, she made her rounds frequently – checking on us in every room. You almost felt weird if she didn’t pop her head in the room from time to time. This was a consistency that my grandmother kept for several decades. She knew that she had to keep it moving no matter what. This lesson is key in all things. When we don’t move, we don’t progress. This is true in health, personal and professional relationships. Forward movement and frequent assessment keeps us aware and proactive. We’re flexible and limber to bend and not break under life’s challenges.

 

Know What You Want

When I got older, I would offer to take Grandma Fannie to Walgreens. There was a specific Walgreens she liked to visit. We passed several Walgreens stores and various other drug stores on the way to the one she wanted to visit.  At the time, it seemed a little nick picky but the lesson is that she knew where she wanted to go and did not compromise that desire. We’re often tempted to compromise our vision, integrity and personal worth under the pressures of life and attacks of the enemy. This goes back to that vision. When you are secure in your vision, there is no compromise.

When you know where you want to go, you will pass several “substitutes” to get to the real thing. Don’t settle. Grandma Fannie didn’t.

 

Love Unlimited

With so many children, Grandma Fannie rarely had a free moment throughout her entire life. I often thought she would get tired of us clinging to her all year round or perhaps there were too many of us to truly capture her attention. She fussed at us, but she never made us feel unwanted. One of the greatest memories of my grandmother was when I was just out of college and working for the City of Gary. I would go visit Grandma Fannie on my lunch hour. Sometimes I’d pick up her prescriptions or just sit in the kitchen and eat a sandwich. We talked more in those moments than we ever did while I was growing up. It was individual, personalized time with my grandmother who was a mother to so many Robinsons. But in that space, I learned that her love for all of us was unique, unconditional, limitless and focused – whether one on one at lunch or a big holiday gathering. Grandma Fannie taught me that real love comes from God and like God, it never gets tired nor makes you feel unwanted. That’s the kind of love we need to have and share.

I miss my grandma but her lessons live in me on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

Friends…How Many of Us Have Them

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Reflecting on the value of friends today…real friends. Not the ones who simply add to your number count on FB. I’m not referring to the ones who are quick to comment “Beautiful!” on your new profile picture (but haven’t called you in months). I’m definitely not talking about the ones that appear only when they’re in need yet vanish when you’re in crisis. Let’s be real…those are not friends.

I thank God for friends that celebrate my gifts but remind me to use them to glorify God. Praise God for friends who are unapologetic when it comes to right and wrong; thus, quick to tell me when I’m either. Thank you Jesus for friends who smile during triumphs, cry during pain and pray through both. I am grateful for friends who reach out when they don’t want anything and don’t hesitate to give everything, while not compromising their convictions for nothing.

I got dope friends. Rich friends. Struggling friends. Famous friends. Family-oriented friends. Middle class friends. Saved friends. Crazy friends. Straight-laced friends. They are scattered across the globe in proximity but close knit in spirit. They’re business owners, hard working employees, civil servants, writers, actors, actresses, singers, producers, teachers, cops, customer service reps, preachers, pastors, doctors, students, social workers, mothers, fathers, stepparents, caregivers, nurses, chefs, promoters and most importantly, they’re ALL children of a great God who saw fit for our seasons of life to align so that our purpose in Him can be fulfilled.

This is why I value friendship more than general acquaintances and fleeting romances. My friends hold me down. When I think of all I’ve endured in recent years, I know exactly who are “Fans of Fave” vs. “Friends of Trel” and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thank you for telling me about myself when I was tripping. Thank you for reminding me that I’m blessed. Thank you for laughing at my jokes, listening to my music, reading my poetry/prose, watching my sermons, supporting my children, slapping me back into reality, giving me harsh truths and denying me delusional praise. You are my real friends.

Yeah, my friends are dope. Childhood. Young adulthood. Corporate America. Church ministry. Online. Offline. Gary. Muncie. Chicago. Atlanta. Albany. Montgomery. Birmingham. Houston. Los Angeles. New York. London. Toronto. Cape Town. Oakland. Netherlands. Everywhere. Anywhere. Nowhere.

God bless you from the depths of my being.