Trouble Don’t Last Always or Nah?

Last night I had a great conversation about the power of positive thinking. This wasn’t the usual “will things into our space” type of thinking but rather we touched on the concept of expectation. To paraphrase, my very astute Sista raised the idea that people have been programmed to believe that blessings have to be preceded by hardship, and when things come easy we have a tendency to think something must be wrong. Things that make you say “Hmmmmm!”

To that notion I must agree. While there are many character traits believers must develop to embody the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), in certain contingents I notice longsuffering seems to be the one that is embraced most. I remember during my early Christian years I was constantly in a state of angst because I was “suffering for the anointing”. I readily accepted hardship and shirked responsibility when things went wrong because I considered suffering my normal. And if I didn’t hear that message in some form through spiritual mediums, the world also told me that without pain there is no gain, and that life is not perfect so expect trouble. Today I find that philosophy troublesome.

When we have the attitude that things should always be hard, it could cause us to accept things that we shouldn’t. And when we consistently do that, it can become a doctrine unto us and anything other than a tough time is seen as an anomaly. I do understand the spiritual truth in 2 Timothy 2:12 that in order to reign with Christ we must also suffer with Him, but that is not all Christians do. Why do we readily accept the suffering but not the times of ease the Bible also talks about? Balance is the key to life and I venture to say that there may be quite a few Christians out here who don’t know how to live without some form of discomfort. Even God had a day of rest.

I agree that life is not perfect and anyone who knows me can vouch for my keen awareness of it. In fact, the conversation last night was precipitated by my statement that I went through hell en route to living my dream. And while many of the things I have, and still do, experience was and is God’s way of purging, humbling, and training me, I understood the point made. I am one of those people who is so used to fighting for what I want that when things fall into my lap I spazz out for a second. I can admit that when things are not so hard and blessings come without sorrow, it can be tough to imagine there are no strings attached. So in some way, shape, or form when things are absolutely quiet for a minute, something inside of us may be waiting for the other shoe to drop. It reminds me of the time I was at my aunt’s house in Freeport and the kids were upstairs playing. Surprisingly I could hear a pin drop and that made me go check on them. I was so shocked they were quiet that I figured they had to be up to something. Now how many times have things been quiet in our lives, and instead of accepting the blessing of a respite from trouble we opt to go “upstairs” to find out why things are good? Spazzzzzzz!

I’d like to challenge everyone, including myself, to practice to not always treat seasons of ease as suspect. Instead, trust that the goodness of God is real and sometimes He blesses us because He can and not because we kicked and screamed. Let life be good and when hard times do come, draw upon those testimonies of God’s blessings.

Well, in the words of my dear friend Evangelist Cadwell, “That’s my two pennies.” And a hearty shout out to Coco for the deep thought. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

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In Defense of Ambitious Women

In my studies I have encountered materials that discuss the role of women in religion. Notable in those sociological examinations is an acknowledgement of the changing roles women have in society. No longer relegated to the private sphere of the home, women are now very public and making strides in all sectors of life including the corporate world, academia, and politics. While at one time the only aspirations a women could have were to be a wife and mother (which, by the way, are high honors and noble aspirations as without those roles the whole world would be in quite the jam), the door has opened for many to realize opportunities their forebears only dreamed of.

Despite such progress, it is not without complications. (Mind you, this is a fireside chat based on my observations and not scientific data, so please keep this disclaimer in mind.) Women’s rights came at a cost, and one price that was paid was the ease of entering partnerships for the purpose of marriage. Because women no longer need to marry to secure their place in life, it has made a lot of them realize they have the right to exercise standards their mothers and grandmothers might not have imposed. Nowadays it is not enough for a man to just have a job, a house, and a few dollars in the bank. Because we have infiltrated and succeeded in so many different sectors of life, we have experienced areas of development that make us less satisfied with just having a warm body next to us.  We are now community organizers, lecturers, insurance agents, politicians, health experts, therapists, world travelers, and a host of other things that expose us to life outside of domestication. Therefore, because we are more we need more. We need more deep conversation. We need to see a commitment to growth. We need to see financial, professional, and spiritual stability. And in our desire to see those things, the caveat is that we understand we must offer the same in return. More importantly, many women today have a lot more to lose than the previous generation. In my mother’s day a lot of women went straight from their parents’ house to their husbands’ homes and were still at the age where starting from scratch a couple of times was cute. Today, many women own their own homes, have great careers, and are getting married a lot older. As a result, they have so much more to lose by connecting with a man who is not right for them. This is why I don’t believe in peer pressure dating or even revealing a dating situation is taking place because for some people single means desperate, and that leads to a woman feeling pressured to make things work with someone who may be compatible but not suitable.

I’ve had many conversations with women who hold traditional and non-traditional views about what a woman should want and be. Personally, marriage and children were never a top priority for me because I highly value the ability to carve my life in the way that I see fit (albeit with God’s input), irrespective of the wishes of others. It is not an act of rebellion but rather an exercise of freedom after having witnessed people dear to me not live life on their own terms because someone told them what they should want. My grandmother always told me that her deepest aspiration for my sisters and me was for us to “make something” out of ourselves? Why? Because that’s what she wanted for herself but was not able to experience the manifestation of that desire because she grew up being told a woman’s role in society was to be barefoot and pregnant.

It is highly fulfilling to have the kind of power and fearlessness that makes life an adventure. However, women like myself are often accused of being anti-male, feminists, and running from–or compensating for–something in our past or present. In one of our deep conversations during our time as English majors in graduate school, fellow blogger-friend DiAnne Malone at Who’s That Lady, made the point that a man who espoused such views about life is seen as normal, while a woman who lives by that same mantra is seen as an anomaly. Or as I’ve often heard, “Something must be wrong with her.” And because something must be wrong with her, theories must be formed to explain the reason why she’s not married yet (She can’t  keep a man), why don’t we ever know who she’s dating (She’s a closet lesbian), why is she always chasing goals (She’s immature and unsettled), and why doesn’t she want kids (She’s selfish). Now how many men face such accusations? I have yet to meet any, although that is not to say there aren’t any out there. But my point is it seems so much of who a woman is rides on male- validation versus self-validation, and whoever heard of a self-made woman anyway (insert EXTREME sarcasm)? Where they do that at? Can you smell what The Rock is cooking right now? But does anyone ever entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, a woman is actually fulfilled in her single, high-achieving state? Or has anyone entertained what the Lord has spoken to her in prayer about her life, and that because she has peace about what He will do, she is not fretting about her next phase? And what about those who simply prefer a lifetime of celibacy and want to just serve the Lord? There are people like that, you know.

When a woman does not take ownership of her desires, things happen that put her outside the realm of her best life. I’ve met people who married because they were told they should, and wound up unhappy and eventually divorced. Countless women had children before they were ready and shared how they wish they would have done more before having kids.  Then there are others who wish they had more education or pursued a particular career, but they were hampered by ideas that there was something wrong with being ambitious. But I wonder if people realize the world we live in today was shaped by people who have gone above and beyond. Something as simple as taking ibuprofen for those dreaded menstrual cramps is a privilege enjoyed through the hard work of researchers who stayed in the lab all night over-achieving. Or what about the luxury of owning a refrigerator or using a cell phone–inventions by people who did not count it robbery to do more than what was expected?

To finalize my point, I must pay homage to my housewife grandmother who, because she took her role as wife and mother seriously, made it possible for me to be who I am. I also must take my hat off to my traditional, Army vet, train engineer grandfather who made sure he fulfilled the role of how a man should be to the letter, so much so that he came out of retirement and took jobs delivering school mail and pushing a broom at a car dealership just to make sure his three granddaughters would not wind up in foster care. I owe my ability to enjoy my current lack of tradition to the traditional values on which I was raised. It was a platform for me to be me, and gave me a deep respect for any and all desires a woman may have–feelings that have absolutely nothing to do with being anti-anything.

I am done with my little chat. Now to all you women who are settling for less than the life you deserve because you are self-conscious about being YOU, in the words of Tamar Braxton, go “Get cho’ life!”

Shelton out.

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Black Folks

American Flag Wallpaper (1)Soooo, I read something a while back that made my skin itch that I’m just getting a chance to write about. It was a quite ill-informed, well, downright ignorant remark about African-Americans from a person who claimed to be a descendant of the African diaspora, except their boat dropped them off on a tiny, yet mighty and culturally vibrant island in the Caribbean while my boat sailed straight to North America. The comment was “African Americans have no culture.” Say what now??

Immediately my blood began to boil because I know way better than that. First, I am part of the first generation after Civil Rights, experienced the afterglow of the Black is Beautiful movement, was born and bred in an all black suburb, and to top it off I teach African-American literature from slavery through the 70s. If anyone can get it cracking about black culture I certainly can. But, I held back from going off-road because I have encountered such attitudes quite a bit and realize it all boils down to one thing; ignorance.

In thinking about that statement (ugh!) I asked myself how could anyone bypass one of the most visible signs of black culture, which is our impact in the arts? We have musical HarlemRenaissancetraditions that go beyond R&B and hip hop that some people only seem to know about. How about some New Orleans jazz or zydeco? Mississippi blues anyone? What about the big names of the legendary cotton club era in Harlem like Duke Ellington, or the poetic and political verses of our beloved Gil Scott-Heron? And we certainly cannot bypass gospel music that was informed by its predecessor, the Negro spiritual, songs sung by slaves on the plantation which used biblical allusions as coded messages to sing about the longing to be free. Yes, the same slaves who shared the same blood and mother continent as other people of African descent, slave and free?

Beyond music we have the artwork of Charles Bibbs and Ellis Wilson, and the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay. We have rich and linguistically accurate stories about black life written by Zora Neale Hurston, the short stories of Charles Chesnutt, slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, and compelling stories by our beloved gems Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. And let’s give props to the younger literary set with contributions from writers like Erica Kennedy who wrote the The Tides That Bind, a well-received book I taught in my first ever African-American literature class in 2007, with a tight, upwardly mobile ensemble cast that will remind you of a very popular movie franchise (but she did it first!). Then there’s  K.D. Smith, author of Crystal Stairs, whose page-turning novel pulled at the heart-strings of everyone who has read it. And I cannot forget our media titans Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Antoine Fuqua, Spike Lee, John Singleton, et al.

Beyond the arts we have contributions to academia, science, and politics. Let’s start with the likes of one of my favorite speakers, Dr. Cornel West, social critic Michael Eric Dyson, and resident scholar Henry Louis Gates. What about the scientific contributions by Neil deGrasse Tyson and George Washington Carver, inventions by Lewis Latimer and the young Tony Hansberry, and the first African-American woman in space, Mae Jemison? And we must give mad props to #44, Barack Obama, who dropped the mic and turned his cap backwards as he sauntered into the sunset after making history for eight years. The icing on the cake? Civil rights greats like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. whose contributions to black enlightenment and social change made every descendent of the African diaspora–and Africa proper–beneficiaries of civil rights gains that include being able to go to any college we want, live where we want, and work where we want. The system is not perfect, but a lot of those supposed “cultureless” African-Americans, and others, fought and died for those rights we ALL enjoy. Say thank you!

And let me break it down to the most basic level and talk about our food and dialects thatblackpowerguy vary by region, state, and sometimes even city. Us African-Americans are so diverse–and our culture so wide and long–that you can visit New York and have one experience, then mosey on down to Tennessee, the Carolinas, or Louisiana, and have equally varied and authentically black experiences all under the umbrella of the same culture. We have our versions of English, hair styles, fashions, local sayings, and a host of other things that equal culture.

 

In the tradition of Marcus Garvey I am a Pan-Africanist. That means I don’t care where Africayour boat stopped, or if you’ve ever even been on one. If your mother is Africa, there are no comparisons to be made about which black is best. We have different cultures but are of the same blood. And better yet, ultimately we belong to the human race, which is a tapestry of all things good from the whitest ivory to the bluest black…and every hue in between. So to all those who erroneously believe us American black folk have no culture, as you walk through the front door of an establishment and not the back, or drink from a water fountain with no sign telling you to quench your thirst elsewhere, get a scholarship to any college in the USA and not just an HBCU (which were formed as a response to not being able to go to college anywhere), or can get yourself a pickle with a peppermint stick in the middle from the ice cream truck (yup), in the words of one of my favorite Memphians I say, “Get your mind right and get it in perspective!”

Holla at me in the comments section. Shelton out.

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The Devil’s Foothold

Angel on shoulderSo I’m in a deep conversation with my BFF and we talked about watching characteristics that could sabotage one’s future. I told her if it’s not a pattern maybe there’s nothing that needs to be said just yet. She said not so because she is looking way down the line and can see the self-sabotage on the horizon. When she put it that way it became very clear what God was saying as she spoke. She saw where the devil could create a foothold that would eventually become a stronghold. In order to stop it from coming to pass, it has to be nixed while it was still in seed form. It made a whole lot of sense.
It has been made evident through the actions of every person who has ever walked the Earth (with the exception of Jesus), that imperfection is something that can’t be avoided. In spite of that, Galatians 5:22-23 makes it clear that as believers, we are expected to cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in order to consistently work towards becoming Christ-like. Now this is not about being good so that we can get to heaven because our righteousness is not in ourselves but in Christ (Romans 3:21-22), but rather understanding that a life in the spirit requires the death of the flesh (Galatians 5:24). It doesn’t happen all at once but it’s a lifelong process that takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

In addition to what we must cultivate in our character, there are certain traits that are emphasized we must not espouse; unforgiveness (Colossians 3:13), anger (James 1:20), and pride (Proverbs 8:13) to name a few. When we stew in those characteristics we create an environment where the flesh rules and the spirit has to jockey for supremacy. The Bible says a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9), so all it takes is a drop of negativity to go unchecked to create a whole loaf of jacked up bread.

And this is where we have to keep it real. A lot of us are too comfortable always being angry, bitter, resentful, unforgiving, attitudinal, manipulative, over-emotional, ungrateful, entitled, violent, and a host of other things that erode the goodness we have worked so hard to cultivate. This is not to say we aren’t human and feel some kind of way from time to time, but when we allow that negativity to take up residence, we roll out the red carpet for crop failure later on. The wheat and tares will grow together!rusty-winter-wheat

A lot of you may be wondering why you used to be happy about life and now you feel numb inside. Is there a negative emotion you refused to pry out of your heart because you let it sit for years thinking it was okay? Or what about always needing to take someone’s head off for a minor offense? Is it because you didn’t work on emotional discipline so that you can stick with the “That’s how I am” false narrative? Negative emotions can give birth to mindsets and emotional patterns that could arrest our development, ruin blessings, and hinder goodness from coming into our lives. Remember the story of King Saul in I Samuel 17:57-18:16 where he was so jealous of David that his intentions for him grew murderous? Instead of Saul enjoying the blessing of being king, he allowed his heart to be hardened and set himself up for failure. Like Saul, when good things happen we may not even recognize or enjoy them because we are so busy scowling in Jesus’ name. One day we may look up and wonder how we got to such and such a place, not realizing it started a long time ago going along its merry way unchecked. We may say that life is no longer exciting or positively eventful without doing some self-work to see if we are actually repelling serendipity. It’s like people who complain of not having any friends, not realizing they carry a constant aura of mistrust and suspicion from past hurts.

Lastly, this is especially for those who are called to–or are active in–ministry. Let me tell you, I have seen this dynamic happen with my own eyes where leaders who do not cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives wind up perverting their gifts. My uncle told me that we all have something inside of us that can operate righteously and unrighteously, so we most work hard to err on the side of the righteous. If not, the trustworthy pastor can operate like a witch. Instead of leading he controls and manipulates. The prophetess can be given to a lying spirit because her heart is not right and she is too puffed up in pride to work on her shortcomings. I’ve seen many people with good intentions pervert their gifts because they allowed dangerous emotions and lines of thinking to enter their space and stay there. No bueno.

That’s about all I have to say. I’m going to take some time tonight to reflect on areas I need to work on, watch for weeds, et cetera, et cetera. This life is work but it’s good work. And keep the devil’s feet off your couch!

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Amen.

Marriage Series Part V: The Good Wife

BrideHello Readers! In this final segment of the marriage series I interviewed a very good friend of mine who is the epitome of a good wife. She sticks by her husband through thick and thin, prays for him, and makes sure her house is in order so that there is peace in the home. Despite her busy life as a professor, writer, and doctoral student, she embraces a traditional marriage life by cooking great meals, keeping a clean home, and looking good for her husband. And because she clearly shows her devotion to the health of their marriage, her husband does his share as well to make sure he has a happy wife so that he’ll have a happy life! Let’s get into the interview.

 

How long have you been married?

I have been married for 3 years now.

How did you two meet?

We met at church on several occasions however we finally communicated when we happen to be seated next to each other one Sunday morning. We were both surprised! Then during the service the pastor said turn to your neighbors and say I love you. I hesitated but he said it quick, lol! The pastor said you never know that may be your husband or wife. After service we exchanged numbers and later he arranged to meet for lunch. God is definitely in the details!

What did you do prior to meeting your husband in preparation for marriage?

In preparation for marriage, I asked God to prepare me through prayer. I also took several months looking for scriptures in the Bible that pertained to marriage and studied them in order to align myself. I spoke to several married women that I respected and who were at different levels in their marriage to gain some knowledge/advice. Finally, I cleaned up my credit (besides student loans) and started cooking more so my husband wouldn’t starve.

Share some things you learned about marriage growing up.

Growing up in a Caribbean household I learned the importance of prayer, communication, partnership, providing affection, and caring for the household in marriage. My dad would often share how to care for a man and what not to do. My mom would often say you better learn how to cook and clean but she never spoke of intimacy in marriage. That was taboo for her.

How did those perceptions change after marriage?

After marriage I tried to be this super wife and apply all the advice I was given, which did not work at all. I became overwhelmed trying to impress my husband and he hated it. I realized that I had to create my own story and including my husband was key. My husband grew up in a household where he saw his mother cater to his father and he always said he did not want his wife to do this. My husband asked me to tell him how he could help me because we were a team and in this together. In the beginning it was tough for me because I could be a bit controlling when things are not done my way or in the time I expected. I had to let go and when I did it paid off.

What does it mean to you when the Bible states a wife should submit to her husband, the husband is the high priest of the home, etc.?

To me it means I am to respect my husband and remember that he is the leader of the home. I am not to try to take or replace his role. At the end of the day it’s all about the chain in command. My husband will have to answer to God and I will also have to give an account for my role as well.

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Explain your role in your marriage as it relates to supporting your husband, household duties, etc.

My role in my marriage is to support my husband. I do this by praying for him, being that listening ear, working with him and not against him, and providing constructive criticism that will better him. I also make sure that my home is a place of peace. When it comes to household duties, we share the roles. However, the kitchen is my domain. I do all the cooking but I make all efforts to teach him how to cook as well just in case I am unable to.

As a professional woman with a doctorate degree on the horizon, how do you feel playing a traditional role in your marriage with your spouse as the head?

My professional advancement is certainly for the betterment of my family. My spouse has been there for me from the start of my degree. If I advance he advances as well.

In every marriage there will be times when a spouse experiences disappointment, anger, resentment, etc. How do you manage to deal with things when they are not so perfect?

Hard times can really bring much stress to a marriage. At times they are unpredictable but require lots of patience. To manage we pray, at times fast, and find scriptures to cope. I also speak positivity and remind my husband that trouble does not last always.

How is your relationship with your in-laws and how do you manage to be involved with your spouse’s family without having anyone overstep their bounds in your marriage affairs?

One thing I was very specific about when I prayed for my spouse was the relationship with my in-laws. I asked God that I would fit in and forget that they were in-laws, always remembering that they are family. I can honestly say that the Lord answered my prayers. Nevertheless, space is important. There is a good balance.

Does your spouse have children?

Yes, just one.

Explain what it’s like being a stepmom?

Being a stepmom is not easy. However, the key for me was to establish respect on both ends and to build a relationship with my step daughter without trying to over step my boundaries. In respect to my step daughter’s mother, I am courteous. If there is interference or no cooperation, my husband handles it. There are times when you can tell the child is being influenced being a teenager by the words used or actions taken. In such cases I take the opportunity to speak to my step daughter and allow her to process her actions and make it clear that it will not be tolerated. One thing I remind myself is “It is not the child’s fault”.  That is why I make efforts to help her feel comfortable and treat her like she was my own.

Is it really a big deal to not be the first to give your husband a child? Why or why not?

For me it’s not a big deal. As long as there is a balance of time given to each child, I’m fine.

Share the importance of your spiritual life in your marriage.

Having Christ as the foundation of my marriage has certainly assisted me. Marriage is a beautiful thing but can be very challenging, especially in the beginning. I believe my marriage is definitely a ministry and it is all about how God can be glorified in it. I also believe God allows us to go through certain situations to use us as vessels to help someone else.

Based on your experiences mentoring women who are newly married or engaged, what do you find to be the most common impediment women have when it comes to how they treat their significant others?

Every experience is certainly different. However, based on my experience common impediments include the lack of communication and intimacy. The smallest things can cause a major argument. For me, in the beginning of the marriage the major issue I had with my husband was the fact that he never put the toilet seat down. I did not realize how much I was annoyed by that until I started slamming the seat and yelling at him. I had to understand that when he was a bachelor he never had to share the toilet seat with anyone. I had to decide if I was going to let it affect me or if I would simply take a piece of toilet tissue and put it down myself. Once I started to put it down myself and totally let it go, my husband started to put it down. He doesn’t remember to do it every time but when he does I appreciate it and thank him for doing it. Lack of intimacy is also a major issue which can cause problems. Sometimes the woman expects the man to read her mind to know exactly what she is thinking at all times (I was guilty of this). I find that it is important to share with your spouse what you like and don’t like. Knowing your spouse’s love language is also helpful and will allow you to comprehend where he is coming from.

Why do you think those problems are prevalent?     

I believe these problems are prevalent because of a lack of patience and the refusal to remove self from the marriage (Me-Me-Me mentality). Many individuals come into a marriage with preconceived notions and expectations of what it should be like, and later realize marriage requires work and patience. Others view the marriages of friends and wish that theirs were the same, but don’t realize that no marriage is perfect and all have issues. The key is the way you decide to handle the issues, whether it be family meetings or counseling, something needs to be established early on.

Let’s shift to the fun stuff. What special things do you do that make your husband want to come home?

My husband loves to eat (what man doesn’t). I would prepare his favorite meal plus dessert. I also make efforts to keep up with my looks. I think this is very important because it is so easy to get comfortable and forget that men are visual. Keeping up with your looks also gives you confidence. I also like to plan something small whenever possible to make him feel special like a trip or a small gift just because. I realize that men like to be appreciated just as much as women do, the smallest things go a long way.

What things do you do outside of the home to keep things fresh? 

Exercising is huge for me to stay toned. At times I would invite my husband to join me in a walk or run, and it really gives us a chance to reflect, plan, and bond. Going to a nice restaurant and getting dressed up is something else we enjoy and allows for more bonding. Sometimes I look for free or cheap events around town to get us away from the day to day.

Any final words you want to leave with readers?

Marriage is a beautiful institution that God has created and does require lots of work. No marriage is perfect because no individuals are perfect. You will certainly learn more about yourself in addition to your spouse daily. Communication is certainly important. However, trust must be established. Having God as the foundation will not make everything go smoothly, but it will provide you some reassurance that everything will work out according to God’s purpose as long as both husband and wife are aligned in His will.

Marriage Series Part IV: The Good Husband

Hello Everyone! Let’s take a break from the ladies and hear a man’s point of view on the topic of marriage and what it means to be a good husband. And before you think this brother is too good to be true, I have known him practically all of my life and can attest to the fact that he is who he says he is.

Shawn WeddingElder Shawn Everette Rogers is a singer, songwriter, and audio engineer residing in Baltimore, Maryland, but his edgy, in-your-face lyrics still carry the aroma of Long Island, New York where he grew up. Shawn Everette Rogers combines urban contemporary Christian music with a quiet storm brand of soul and worship music. With influences from a variety of music styles such as R&B, gospel, and praise and worship, his signature sound is destined to capture the mind, soul, and spirit of people from vast musical taste bringing them to a common point of truth.  Check out the links after the break for great music. Let the interview begin!

Share with readers what your spiritual beliefs are.

I am a Christian.  In today’s society that statement has become very blurry. My definition of a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ, the Jewish teacher from the 1st century, and lives a life that reflects the whole of the biblical account in modern society.  I accept the scriptures he taught from, which we call the Old Testament, hold them to be truth and depend on His Spirit to teach me how to live them out today.

How did your beliefs factor into your search for a wife?

I prayed for a wife.  I was hanging with a young lady as friends for a few months before I started dating my wife.  My spiritual father at that time pulled me to the side and said “You need to pray for a wife and tell God exactly what you are searching for.” I thought that was bold but I listened.  I prayed and asked for some specific things.  Now I have to admit some of the things I asked for were, well, shallow. But come on I am a guy!  We do need to know what interests us.  Now my Godfather was a Pastor so I thought this was crazy but he said “Be specific. You want to wake up in 10 years, roll over, and stare at your wife and smile.”  Yes, I too thought to myself “Ummmm WOW!” So I knew I wanted a Christian wife.  There was no desire in my heart to marry someone who did not love Jesus.  That is just asking for heartache and conflict.  As I look back over my marriage, I can clearly see it was God who knew much better than me what I needed.

When you met your wife, how did you court her and what things did you do or say to let her know you were serious about her? At what point did you know she was The One?

Now this is where the fun begins!  Can I say from the start this is my story and it may not happen like this for everyone?  The point is when we trust God He knows exactly how to pull it all together. As I stated earlier I did pray about finding a wife.   I have to say I always loved the idea of being married and having a family.  I first met my wife about three years before we got together. Fast forward two years, she began attending the same church I attended and I watched her dance on the praise team. I remember being in the sound room and one of the guys said, “She is a sweet and beautiful girl, and some dude is going be blessed to marry her.” The thought, “Wow, the man that marries her will be a happy dude!” was in my head every time I saw her.  At an organizational function I mentioned to one of her sorors how beautiful I thought she was and she said “You know she is single now.” I did not think anything more about it because she always gave me the B.L. (blank stare). Now I told you my Godfather told me to pray and I did! I was specific saying, “Jesus please let my wife be someone committed, who wants children, loves you, loves me, and all the spiritual stuff.” Finally I said, feeling sheepish, “I like long hair, fair skin, and it would be interesting if she had brown eyes.” A few weeks later God gave me a dream. When I awoke I knew the dream was about my wife.

It may have been a few weeks later, I was getting on the bus to go to work and as I stepped on my future wife was on the bus. Now we had never talked since the first day I said hello when we met three years prior. She really didn’t notice me at all at church.  This day on the bus when she saw me, she said her heart jumped.  She smiled at me with the most welcome smile. We sat and talked for the first time on that bus ride.  That same night after church we got the same ride home and I asked if I could call her.  She said yes and we began to talk on the phone.  After about three months she asked if I thought she was my wife.  I said yes.  She said “how do you know?”  I told her about the dream and all the things God showed me so I would be clear when my wife came into my life. That dream was a confirmation that put in my spirit the assurance of who she was when we got together.  I really believe she was my miracle from God to tell me no detail in your life is to small for Him to be involved in. We were married in six months after meeting on that bus.

Now in the 20 years we have been married I have found that I was clueless to what I really needed in a spouse.  There are so many things that have come up in our lives that have been trying.  In every circumstance we have found we are just what each other needs.  Only God can do that.  He looked into what I needed and provided that along with the things that were just heart desires.  What an amazing God we serve.  I did learn after we were married that my friend I talked to at the organization function told her I was fond of her.  I had no clue she would do that or any hope this women would fall in love with me.

What things did you do in preparation for being a husband and father prior to marriage?

First let me say if someone is not at an age to get married there is little point in dating.  The process of underage dating is a set up for emotional barnyard rides, unneeded heart decay, and hurt that constructs moats and castle walls in fields of mistrust around the heart that may take years to undo.  It can be the foundation of major issues in marriage.  The potential for promiscuity sky rockets because intimate relationships will progress.  It is the natural order of them. Make lots of friends, go out in groups, and get to know people, their personalities, keep your emotional wits, and pray. It is then you will have a broad canvas to work with when you are of age and mentally ready to find your spouse.

I can’t stress enough how detrimental premarital sex is even if it is with the one you marry.  Saving yourself (as the first) for your spouse will give you years to learn and explore new things for the first time.  There is an amazing spiritual and emotional bond in that.  It will also save you from fighting demons of your past, abortions, shame and mistrust.  Now I want you to know that the above is what I learned through experience after the fact. In the midst of a wonderful marriage I so often think how much richer it would have been had I known then what I know now.

As a husband of 20 years and a father of four teen-aged boys, I can say the only thing that prepares you for the journey of marriage and family is Jesus.  So, often I feel unprepared, lost, inadequate, unworthy, clueless, blindsided and dumb.   Through all that I know God loves me, loves my family and because it is his will that we succeed. I can hope in Him despite all the above.  The sweet, teeth jeering icing on top is that I LOOOOOOVE my wife and kids.

How do you problem solve in your household and who has the last word? Why?

We spend a lot of time together watching TV and eating dinner as a family.  We attend church and do family stuff.  Dating is a consistent part of our marriage even if it is a date night at home with a movie and some popcorn.  We argue and learn how to resolve issues and through that we have really come to understand that we are committed to one another.  We don’t always have to agree but my wife is big on order and will say to me, “God has set you as the head so it is your final decision.”  She says, “These are my thoughts but the outcome rests on you as the head.”  I have learned to consider things much more carefully because I realize my family will be affected by my poor or great decisions.  I thank God for a wife that does not try to take over, but lovingly and with great wisdom shares with me her thoughts and then prays for us.  She has really helped me to understand what true love is in marriage.  I don’t have a problem saying my understanding was severely lacking.  One of the greatest benefits to marriage is it will show you who you really are.  God through marriage helps us to cultivate humility.  We realize our faults and imperfections as our spouse is a mirror reflecting back our image.   We need to use those truths not to build walls but to build bridges and doors to our inner most person and to our spouse.  We should allow our spouse to point out those rough edges and help us become what God wants us to be.

What things do you do to make your wife feel special?

I make her feel special by buying her flowers, watching movies/ TV shows that she likes, listening to her (as best a man can), praying for her, working hard to provide for her, being compassionate to her, coming home to her and only her, making the Bible my road map to life, including her in decisions, trusting her, holding her in my arms as they were made for her, and every day trying to love her better then yesterday.

What things do you believe a wife should do in general to make her husband feel needed and wanted?

I think the Provebs 31 woman is a good example.  1 Peter chapter  3 is great. It states:

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

If more women understood that the above is what a GODLY MAN needs, life and family would be good.  Now I capitalized GODLY MAN because the Bible says husband love your wives as Christ loves the church and (gave himself for it) died for it.  As husbands we should be treating our wives as our own flesh.  We don’t hate ourselves or abuse ourselves or cheat on ourselves.  Why should any man expect reverence from his wife in whom he is not being loving to? Remember marriage is a mirror reflecting back at you.  Now men give love (women want to be loved) and wives give respect (men want to be honored).  That is the broad stroke and there is blending of other stuff in those two things.   If we look out into the world men don’t love their wives and women disrespect their husband, and that is really the root of problems in marriage.

Share with our readers what it’s supposed to look like when a man is into a woman.  

This is a hard question because you have to spend time finding out what makes your woman feel loved.  It is most important that you are willing to take the time to find out what makes her melt like warm honey. It is time consuming and frustrating sometimes because women can be emotional.  That’s not a bad thing; it is by design.  We as husbands need to be man enough to take the roller coaster ride and hang on for all the steep dips and head snapping turns knowing all the while that that is part of the fun.  It is a journey well worth taking.

Please give advice to the brothers who need to understand what they must do if they are serious about finding a wife.

  1. I think men who are serious about finding a wife need to first pray. Be serious about finding God’s purpose for your life and then allow God to bring you someone who will complement that. Examine your calling and ask if you do get married will it add to or take away from your purpose.  For example, it will be hard to raise a family as an entertainer.  If you are never home or don’t have time to be there, is it really smart to start a family you will not have time for?
  1. Deal with your demons. Be real with God and yourself about your past and let God heal you from it. Don’t bring mess into your marriage. Get rid of the ideas of old girlfriends, secret rendezvous, and pornography (marriage is soooooooooo much better), and be ready to commit to one woman.
  1. Be determined to submerge and stay in the water (water meaning marriage) no matter what or don’t bother getting in. Never have a plan B for your marriage.
  1. LOVE HARD. BE HUMBLE. I cannot tell you the amount of things I found out after getting married–both good and bad– about myself, my spouse, and life.  I don’t think one can ever be prepared because there are so many ways life can come at you.  What is most important is to STAY COMMITTED, TRUST GOD, PUT GOD FIRST, YOUR WIFE SECOND, AND LIFE THIRD.

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Marriage Series Part III-Life After Divorce

Broken heartFor Part III of the Marriage Series I interviewed a 40-something (ask her and she’ll tell you she hasn’t reached her 3oth birthday yet!) mom, writer, teacher, entrepreneur, and woman of God. What is unique about this interview is she shares her perspective as a woman who does not believe in divorce, and therefore fought for her marriage even when the handwriting was on the wall. She shares insight into her relationship with her ex-husband from the time they met up to when she received a revelation that she will be alright! Please take time to read every word of this very candid account of life after divorce.

How long were you married? How many of those years would you say were good years and what made them that way?

I was married for 15 years.  I remember the first year being a really good one.  I was still excited to be married and we did a lot of date nights and traveled so the element of fun was still there.  We had intermittent good times over the entire 15 years, such as the birth of our son, the purchases of homes, and couple’s moments.  The sex was also great so many of the serious problems were trivialized or pushed to the side.  We were stuck in the newness of our relationship.

When did you begin to notice signs of trouble that would impact the longevity of the marriage?

If I could be perfectly honest there were signs of trouble before we even got married that weren’t properly addressed by anyone. I said properly addressed because they were noticed and discussed but not in the right way.  Things that I noticed about him that I felt needed to be changed I would bring up but to the point of nagging (they were frustrating) and not really seeking real solutions for change.  The problem was that he didn’t want to change so his issues remained.   The issues he had with me he was perpetually nonverbal about.  He basically ignored them and repressed them in his mind and allowed them to ultimately turn into resentment for me (he had a huge passive aggressive personality).  Furthermore, certain issues that I brought up during our premarital counseling sessions with the pastor of our then church were dealt with so lightly that I began thinking maybe the problem was me and that maybe I was being too sensitive.  That unfortunately was not the case.

At that point were you fearful that things would continue to spiral or felt that they would pass?

It was ongoing. Our marriage was troubled from the beginning.  We argued about everything.  At the end of the day we were just two different people who viewed life differently.  When I met him he expressed a desire to get baptized (he wasn’t a Christian) but in retrospect I think he only did it to please me.  His heart wasn’t in it and his walk with God showed that.  Towards the end of or relationship he was really degrading about my faith; making fun of me, calling me a dreamer, and vetoing any ideas I had for a better life for us.    He finally took off his charade of “Christianity” and stopped praying and going to church.  Long before that I started to see that he and I were unequally yoked and didn’t feel the same way about God.  How can two walk together unless they agree?  He was masquerading as an angel of light yet his heart was so far away from God.  I learned the hard way that just because someone goes to church doesn’t mean they love God.  I was caught up looking at the outer appearance of the man and never evaluated him the way God does; by looking at the heart.

You can’t just jump into something and think it will work itself out later.  My ex-husband didn’t turn into these things.  He was like that from the beginning but I only saw in him what I wanted to see.  I closed my eyes to the truth for years and made excuses for him until my son too started feeling his father’s negativity and neglect for him.  That’s when I woke up.  I started to see that our relationship was broken because I was with a person who didn’t want to be a husband or a father.  I used to pray for God to change his heart and make him into a loving husband and father until the day I realized God will not go against His own Word.  God tells us to not be unequally yoked in any relationship but we ignore His truth thinking that we can pray and make people change their ways. That’s witchcraft.  It’s manipulation to use God to try to turn the frog into a prince, especially after not seeking Him first in the selection of that mate.  God never said to seek Him second after you try it your way and fail.  He said to seek Him first.  When we stopped having sex and he began to happily plan his life without me, I knew our relationship was over.

When did you begin to realize that things would not repair themselves?

My ex-husband told me he wanted a divorce and would be filing. That didn’t happen for a year.  I thought in the meanwhile things would change.  I thought we had a chance.  We weren’t arguing and had even begun to co-parent our son better. Even though our relationship seemed to be improving, his attitude towards wanting a divorce never changed.   I prayed relentlessly and kept the hope he would change his mind.  Even when he presented me with divorce papers I had hope things would change.  I wasn’t seeing the truth.  Then one day I asked God a very specific question about myself and then went to sleep.  When I woke up He had given me my answer in a dream.  I meditated on the answer for a month then I told my husband I was ready to sign the divorce papers and did with no regrets.   What God had told me let me know that things between us would not repair themselves.  So I stopped fighting it.

Since there’s two sides to every story, how do you think you may have contributed to the disruption in the marriage?

I misdirected my focus to my ex-husband making him my God. At the time I worried more about pleasing him than pleasing God.  I was an emotionally delicate woman due to issues in my childhood, and I looked to my husband too strongly for acceptance and validation.  When he couldn’t meet my emotional needs I felt further rejection and abandonment.  I put a heavy burden on my ex-husband that he couldn’t possibly bear.  It was not his job to understand me, fix me, or make me whole.  I thought it was.  Because of that I was hard to live with at times.  I was wrong for that.  In the time just prior to the divorce I became the wife I should have been from the beginning.  I learned about submission, and being a wife and not a mother to him.  Financially I supported the household and he was a stay-at-home dad. I stepped back and gave him space to make his own way.  Later in the marriage he got a job where, for the first time ever, he made enough where we were able to split all the bills 50-50.  I finally had money to spare and could do nice things for my son and me.  He couldn’t be lazy any longer because I no longer enabled him.  We were finally operating as a team, at least financially.  With all these improvements he still felt he would have a better life without me so he continued to pursue the divorce.

Since you do not believe in divorce, explain the spiritual dilemma you experienced trying to make things work when your husband was ready to give up.

Well, it felt like a nightmare.  I was trying to respect God by honoring my wedding vows (for better or for worse) and he was literally hell-bent on doing the opposite.  I felt like I was being forced into a divorce and into a life I did not choose.  Spiritually there was so much conflict.  Would I be punished for participating? Would my blessings be cut off? Worse yet, how could I explain it to my son that his dad was divorcing me and not him (kids take divorce so personally) and that we would no longer be a family? That was the hardest part.  Remembering how my son cried when my ex-husband told him we were getting a divorce.  Now he would be a child of divorce.  How would he handle that? After thinking about how divorce would affect my son I also started thinking about how it would affect me.   I got into the Word and started studying what it says about divorce.   From what I read it looked like I was being forced into becoming an adulterer if I ever remarried or worse, that I would have to be single forever to prevent from sinning.  That was a horrible thought.  I felt I was being punished.  I cannot say that I am very clear on the biblical rules for divorce.  My only concern was if I would be able to marry again biblically.  After directing this question to my pastor and key people in my life, and also studying divorce as it pertained to mixed marriages (union of a Christian with a non-Christian) I felt at peace in knowing that I could in fact remarry without guilt.

How did you come to terms with the dissolution of the marriage?

As I said before I knew a year in advance that he would be filing for divorce.  That helped a great deal.  I got the opportunity to learn to live without him while we were still living together.  We had moved into separate rooms and became more like college dorm mates.  I could grieve for the loss of my marriage without the inconvenience of experiencing the accompanying physical loss.  I found a new church and committed to membership.  I grew closer to God as my faith increased.  That church became my marriage counseling and anger management all wrapped up in one.  It became my destiny.  I was using God’s word to help me heal and it was changing me at the same time.   I became alive again.  I saw me as an individual for the first time in 15 years and not just the identity-less silent partner I had become in my marriage.  I started pursuing my own dreams.  I quit my job so I could homeschool my son full-time (I had already been doing it part-time), started my own business in media, wrote my first novel, bought my dream car and made plans to move back to my home state where my family was.  As my faith in God increased I got stronger emotionally.   I stopped making my divorce about me and rejection and hurt and pain and fear.

The divorce was uncontested.  I showed up to the trial and made up my mind that I was going to leave out the court room the same way I came—at peace.  My ex-husband was bitter throughout the entire trial, which was surprising to me since he was the one who filed. While waiting for the case to be called I excused myself to feed my parking meter, gave a homeless girl $3, fed his meter, came back, got divorced, threw him the deuces sign and went and got my hair done.   There were no tears.  So to answer your question, I came to terms with the dissolution of my marriage by losing dead weight and growing taller.

 What spiritual counsel did you receive regarding your situation and what impact did that have on the outcome?

I received spiritual counsel from the Holy Spirit Himself.  I never went to marriage counseling.  I went to church. I went to every Sunday service and every midweek service for 12 months straight. I jumped into the Word of God with both feet.  I recorded my pastor’s teachings on the gospel of Jesus Christ and the topic of faith and I listened to the recordings practically every day for a year.  I made my situation more about my relationship with God and not my divorce.  It was always in the back of my mind but there were so many wonderful things I was learning about my walk with God that I stopped paying attention to it directly.  Jesus became my friend and counselor as He said He would, and when I did feel like crying I would cry to him and it helped.  I didn’t cry a lot though.  I am one of those people that get up quickly when they fall.  I don’t nurse heartache and I never feel sorry for myself.  I had to go on living for my son’s sake and the new life I had forged.  By renewing my mind, I became transformed. The rest is history.

 If you knew then what you know now, what might you have done differently during your courtship with your ex-husband?

Hindsight really does have 20-20 vision.  If I knew then what I know now I would have outrun Forest Gump!!! I would have never married him.  I would have seen through his nice-guy act and would have been really honest with myself that I deserved better.  Not that he was a bad person but he was needy.  I would have not taken him up as a “project” to mold and make him into a man. That was not my job to do.  He was one of those really co-dependent people that never took the opportunity to take care of himself.   I had told him before we got married that he needed to get his own apartment and live on his own for a year (he was living with his mother at the time) before we got married.  He would have learned about responsibility and accountability.   I should have stuck to that plan.  We got married only after nine months of courtship (no premarital sex) and he moved directly from his mother’s house to mine.  He went from being her problem to being mine.

As life always goes I have a good friend with a really goofy laugh who told me back then not to marry him but I didn’t listen to her.  As a matter of fact, we kind of didn’t talk for a few years after that.  We lost years but we’re back on track now and If I could I would tell her I am sorry for not listening to her.  And that I blame her (just kidding).

 Explain how you thought of yourself as a wife and woman when you realized divorce was inevitable.

At the beginning of my divorce saga I wasn’t feeling very confident about being a wife or a woman. I felt unloved and rejected.  Halfway towards the middle I realized that I was a prize and that there was nothing wrong with me.  I was aware of the dark path I had started to go down and quickly got back on track.  God then spoke to me in a dream and gave me a life changing message that revised my outlook on my divorce.  The exact quote is in my upcoming novel so I won’t use it here, but He basically told me not to expect more out of people than what they can give.   My ex-husband had very little to offer to me or our son.  It wasn’t his fault.  He was just deficient.  In terms of the divorce he honestly did what he felt he needed to do for him.  Things like commitment and perseverance were honestly too much for me to expect from him.  It just wasn’t in him.  And I’m cool with that.  To this day we are not friends (I think it’s whack to remain friends with an ex-husband—let it go!) but we are co-parents and do not hesitate to make decisions on behalf of our son.  We text more than we talk and my son has his own cell phone so he can contact him directly without going through me.  Preferred!

Did you hold on to the marriage out of fear of being alone or feeling like you may have failed?

I held on to the marriage because I don’t believe in divorce. I didn’t want to be out of covenant with God.  Underlying all of that I also didn’t want to be another statistic.  Everyone in my immediate family is divorced.  I really didn’t want to be the next one.  Things like being alone or feeling like a failure made up a small part of my thinking.  I love my own company and my marriage had really failed from the beginning.  Sad but true.  In my heart I really didn’t like my husband and I wanted a divorce, but I was willing to fight for my marriage to the very end.  I was willing to work on fixing it.  In the end he did me a favor.

What are your thoughts about being single again after 40?Broken heart bandaid

When I hit 40 I’ll let you know.  Just kidding! I think being single again after 40 is actually better than being single at any other time.  At least for me.  There’s less of an urgency for me to get back into a relationship.  Been there, done that! Without sounding like a narcissist I really do enjoy my own company.  I am a business owner now so that takes up a lot of my time and focus.  Furthermore, I already have experienced being married and I already have a child so I am less aware of a biological clock ticking.  The motherhood and wife factor have both been demystified at this point.  I will remarry again but won’t put myself out on the dating scene—dating a hundred frogs hoping one will turn into a prince.  That’s totally random.  I am more sensitive to finding a “mate” this time than finding a husband.  Finding a husband is something you feel pressured into doing because of age, time, and social pressures.  It’s an action.  Finding a mate is a revelation.  It’s the moment you realize, without any outside pressure, that the guy you’re interested in is the right one, and is the one with all the right spiritual qualities that makes him a great choice. He’s the one you should have married in the first place if you were honest with yourself and weren’t so impatient.  You have evaluated his character and see that he would make a terrific father to your already present child.  You two appear to have been made for each other.  Even with all his quirks you can see how he fits into your life to complement it.  Here’s the best part—even though you feel convinced that this guy is the one, YOU SAY AND DO NOTHING!  You go on living your life.  Building your own dreams.  A man that finds a wife finds a good thing… You let him find you this time.

 What advice would you give to women who are in a challenging situation and want to fight for their marriage? It’s hard to speak on this because every situation is different and every challenge is different. I would say first and foremost that if your challenge involves physical abuse and a potential loss of life that you have to get out of that situation immediately because God is not in it, marriage or no marriage. Leave first and pray later!  No man is worth being beat up for.  God did not call you to be a martyr for domestic violence.  Now if this is not your situation then thank God you haven’t experienced the worse.  Everything else you will get through.  Seek God first.  Your marriage is in trouble because God is not in control of it.  Be honest and open your eyes.  If God is in your marriage it can’t fail.  It’s failing because you and/or your husband are in control, not God.  You manipulate him, he manipulates you, you want your way, he never gives in, etc.

Wives learn to submit to your husband.  Submit is a tough word for many woman because we were taught that it means being weak and giving in to everything all the time.  That’s not biblical submission.  Biblical submission is power for women.  It means you learn to shut your mouth and stop telling your husband off every time he upsets you.  You stop saying things out of character and giving up your power.  Instead when you feel that your husband upset you, you take your fragile heart and your broken feelings and dump everything you were going to say to your husband on God.  Get it all off your chest (just delete all the expletives! Lol).  Cry, snot, yell but do it with Jesus.  Your husband was not designed to be a carrier for your emotional breakdowns. After you finish dumping your heart aches on God pray for your husband that he will learn to __________________ (you fill in the blanks).  Then give God space to work.  Now when you have calmed down and you are no longer emotional go back to your husband and say, “Sweetheart, when you spoke to me like you did earlier I didn’t like it”.  He gets to now process your real concerns and not your hurt feelings and you can rationally talk to a solution.

It’s time to keep your focus on God and stop pretending that He called you to be a wife only. He called you to a purpose in Him single or married.  Find out what you were brought here to do and pursue it.  Start getting your act together.  If you are looking at a divorce realistically start preparing for it.  Start paying off your debts, save money, write a book, scale a mountain, hug your children, but whatever you do don’t walk around sad and depressed like you have no hope.  Jesus is your hope.   Take back your power and start living your life.  You never know what could happen in your marriage while you are restoring your focus.  He may pull his stuff together too and seek reconciliation or he might leave.  Either way you will be stronger.

Heart

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