Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

You’ve Got A Friend, A Spiritual Friend That Is…

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

We’re doing 5:30-6:00am Lenten Devotional meditation series at the church right now.

This morning’s devotional lesson talked about the importance of having and nurturing spiritual friendships.

We have different friendships for the different sides of our personalities. We have friends we go out with. We have friends we work out with. We have friends we keep up with online. We have friends we talk to about books. We have friends who knew us back in the day. We have friends we trust with certain secrets. But what the ancients called spiritual friends are different. Spiritual Friends are people who pay attention to the presence and movement of God in your life. Their friendship brings focus to your spiritual life. When you hear from them, their queries about how you’re doing come down to one thing, “How goes your soul? Is it well within? Are you any further along on your spiritual path?”

In a general way, all true friendships are spiritual in the sense that they involve our spiritual faculties — the emotions and the will. Obviously this is not what is meant by spiritual friendship in the ancients’ mind when they wrote about spiritual friendships. They called those friendships spiritual which are created, sustained and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. A friend is someone who helps me get by. But a spiritual friend is someone who goes deeper, and helps me get by to another place … a place closer to God. In all honesty, some seasons you don’t want to hear from your spiritual friend. But those are precisely the times when you need most to talk and share with your spiritual friend. It is when you don’t want to be around your spiritual friend is when you need to hear most from her. You know she will be honest. You depend upon her honesty. You know she sees.

In a spiritual friendship we share about our spiritual lives in a way that encourages each one’s growth in God. More importantly, it’s with a friend of your spirit that you feel comfortable enough to admit to feelings of spiritual emptiness, sadness, anger, or nothingness. And your spiritual friend listens without judgment. After all the key characteristic of a spiritual friend is her ability to engage in “holy listening.”

Those of us who are great talkers often make lousy listeners.

According to Kay Lindahl, founder of the Listening Center, “most of us spend about 45 % of our waking hours listening, yet we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent of that time. Marketing studies indicate that the average attention span for adult is 22 seconds. When someone has finished speaking, we remember about half of what we heard. Within a few hours we can recall only about 20%. The number of adults who have had training in listening skills is less than 5 % of our population. Most of us listen just enough to prepare for what we want to say in response. Lindahl concludes, “Deep listening is a forgotten art.”

Think of who might be a possible spiritual friend for you. If no one immediately comes to mind, ask God to help you find a person who can help you grow spiritually. Write down in a journal what you might want and need in a spiritual friendship. Write down what qualities you think are important in a spiritual friend.

And now comes the hard part. Make an honest appraisal of yourself. Ask yourself: Are I capable of being a good spiritual friend to someone else? Are there aspects of my self that might need to change before I can be an authentic friend to another person’s intimate journey with God?

Name 3-4 friends that help you connect with God? Can you name 2? How about 1?

Why Do Men Cheat?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Because they can.

How’s that?

It seems that some of you have been wondering why I haven’t commented on the one story that in my neck of the woods managed to supplant the death of Michael Jackson  this past weekend. And that’s the murder of retired NFL star Steve McNair, married, father of four, by his 20 year old mistress

It’s not because I haven’t kept up with the story that I’ve haven’t brought it up on the blog. Hey, I’m a married woman. Stories of cheating husbands make you sit up and pay attention whether you want to or not. But if you’re one of the two readers who’ve wondered, the answer is simple. I’m not an ambulance chaser. If I chased down every story with tawdry details about yet another married man caught having an affair I wouldn’t be able to blog about anything else. Besides, this isn’t a gossip blog. A blogger who tries to stick with religious and moral dilemmas (mostly) has only so much moral capital to throw around. And I try to expend my limited share where it’s needed the most. Adultery speaks for itself.

But since the other blogpiece I’ve been working on isn’t coming together, and since our appetite for the salicious is still whet after a week of feasting on Michael Jackson’s remains, why not offer a comment or two on what there is to learn from McNair’s tragic end?

Permit me a disclaimer. Like the prophet Paul I write not as a prophet nor as a minister in this blogpost. Not even as a woman of faith necessarily. I write here as a thinking woman who happens to be married.

For those like me who don’t follow football, McNair retired famed NFL player was found murdered in his Nashville condo this past weekend, two shots to the head and two in the chest. His 20 year old girlfriend was sprawled out dead at his feet, one shot to the head, the gun underneath her body on the floor. Officials have all but ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.

McNair retired a year ago from professional football after 13 seasons in the NFL. He was a three times Bowl pick (whatever that means). He played nine seasons as quarterback for the Tennessean Titans before being traded in 2006 to the the Ravens in Baltimore where he retired in 2008. McNair was found dead this past weekend in his Nashville condo,  Black sports fans were especially proud of the fact that McNair, a graduate of Alcorn State, was one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history who was drafted in the first round out of historically black colleges and universities. Friends remember him as a kind and generous sort of fellow. (But as we see with MJ’s death these things get redacted a lot in death.) It’s just a shame that the man died because he couldn’t keep it in his pants. It’s a shame that in addition to his accomplishments on the field he will be remembered off the field as a man who was killed by his mistress who was a high school drop-out.

Did I mention that McNair’s wife of 12 years, Mechelle, mother of the four sons he leaves behind, had no idea about her husband’s affair?
But then the wife is always the last to know. Or, so they say. Another one of those posthumous redactions, I suppose.

definitionof adultery

To the question. Why do men cheat?

Because it’s easy to do. Because it’s one of the privileges that come with patriarchy. Because men claim to need more sex than their wives are willing to put out. (As one man put it, “Men are always thinking about sex: they’re either thinking about the last time they had sex, or thinking about the next they’re gonna have sex.”) Translated: Men cheat because they can’t help themselves. Men cheat because there are women out there who don’t think twice about sleeping with married men. Men cheat because they crave the affirmation and the boost to their ego. Men cheat because of the adrenaline rush they get from sneaking around and getting away with something they’re not supposed to do. Take your pick.

Lots of men do not cheat on their wives (or significant others). Many, many, many do, or so it seems. Especially men who are public figures.

That is, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. And lots of politicians too. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. David Vitter, R-La., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., one-time Democratic presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Gary Hart, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-DC Mayor Marion Barry, current New York Gov. David Paterson, former President Bill Clinton.

And, oh yeah, there are the preachers.

You’re probably asking, “Do married women cheat?” Of course they do. But that’s not the question on the table.

If I were writing as a minister (which I’m not, mind you) I would probably quote Scripture to bring men to their senses. But the Bible, at least the part written by men, doesn’t say  that adultery is a sin. Not when it’s men doing it. Let me be more specific. Not when it’s a married man having an affair with an unmarried woman. It’s only an affair when he’s having an affair with another man’s wife. As for what the Bible has to say about when a married woman has an affair. Stone her . Whether her lover is married or not. Stone her to death.

Lots of men cheat and never end up having to pay publicly. In times past there were politicians, presidents even, who tipped out and didn’t pay publicly, John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt are two that come to mind.

It’s a different world now. Ours is a public that goes into a feeding frenzy at the opportunity to download stories of marital affairs, review videos of extramarital trysts,  listen in to tape conversations, read text messages and email between clandestine loves, click to examine a mistress’s dress with his DNA still on it. Technology has developed in the public an insatiable appetite for scandal, an appetite that media is only too eager to feed.

Which makes it all the more unfathomable why men, especially men who are famous, tempt fate by cheating on their wives. But they do. Despite living in a fish bowl men like Governor Sanford of South Carolina, you would think, would resist flying the coup and running off to Argentina to see his mistress. But he didn’t.

You would certainly think that adulterers would know that there is no such thing as free extra meal. Eventually the bill comes due. Somebody will pay for those text messages and  hotel bills. And I promise you, it won’t be just you – and your mistress. It will be your family. Especially your wife whose every tear or stoic expression and dress size will end up being parsed by a public that’s dying to know how much she knew, when she knew, what’s wrong with her that she couldn’t keep her man at home, and why does she stay(a topic I’ve addressed before). And then there’s the children, the poor children. The greatest victims of it all. How will the way their father died impact the lives of Steve McNair’s sons as they grow up? Heaven help them.

Moreover, you would think that the fear of disease, public humiliation, losing your job ruining your family life, hurting your wife, damaging your children, and undermining your life’s work would be a deterrent to men who cheat. Not.

So, why do men cheat? Because it’s worth the risk. Or so says the part of the brain that’s responsible for the blood rushing to the penis.

What’s a wife to do? Get a life. Have a plan. And stay on speaking terms with God.

But remember, I’m blogging not as prophet here today, but as a thinking woman who happens to be married.

Ummph. Ummph. Ummph.

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Been in debate back and forth with grown, thinking, opinionated women all week about Elizabeth Edward’s new book Resilience and her tell-all interview appearance on Oprah last Thursday.  (Believe me when I tell you that that was painful for a grown woman to watch). We’ve been going at it about whether she should have done it. You know. Write a book about it. Tell her side of the story about it. Go on Oprah to talk about it. Stay married to John Edwards after it. Spend whatever time she has left reliving it.

In case this isn’t one of those stories you’ve been following (and it’s perfectly alright if you haven’t), let me bring you up to date.

Boyishly attractive Senator John Edwards from North Carolina ran for president in 2008.  Edwards is a millionaire plaintiff’s trial lawyer who is married to another lawyer, Elizabeth Edwards.   During the campaign, Senator Edwards told his four-years-older wife, who has admitted publicly to having stage 4 cancer, that he had been having an affair with a woman he met at a hotel in New York whom he later hired to work on his campaign website. The woman, now has a one-year old daughter, whose father’s name she will not divulge. Edwards, the cheating husband, has appeared on national television talking about the affair being between him and “my Lord”.

Folks are weighing on both sides on Eliabeth Edward’s story about John Edward’s affair: those who think she should shut up, and those who think she should have her say.

While this is not Elizabeth Edward’s first memoir ( that would be her 2006 memoir, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength From Friends and Strangers) , “Resilience” is something of  a coda to “Saving Graces” — a meditation on her life after learning about her husband’s affair and the resurgence of her cancer.  If you’re intolerant of public figures airing their dirty marital drama in public, the book will probably strike you as self-indulgent. If you’re curious about how people survive public humiliation and are short on scripts on how it’s done, it’s a painful but brave book.

I know. I know. Blog readers prefer bloggers with outrageous opinions and outrageous talk. Skewer cheating husbands. Slam wives who stay with cheating husbands. Crucify public officials who lie and their family members who stand by their side. Hits on this blog would skyrocket if I yelled more and thought less. I do yell, but this is one of those topics where I listen more than I yell.

When it comes to tales about love and marriage, and why folks choose the way they do and do the things they do, I prefer to take my Aunt Dora’s posture and shake your head, keep kneading dough, all the while saying to yourself “Ummmph. Ummmph. Ummmph.”

I don’t know anything about being abused and I’ve not had to deal with a cheating husband. But what I do know is that marriage is messy and complicated and beautiful and wondrous and nerve-wracking and infuriating and joyous and precious and sacred and insane. And everyone deals with the pain of betrayal,  humiliation, disappointment, and broken trust differently. Which explains why, regardless of color or class, I cut women like Hilda Spitzer, Hillary Clinton, Juanita Bynum a lot of slack here on the blog, even though I have never and can’t imagine living through what they’ve lived through.

broken vows

Why did she write a book about his affair? As millionaires the Edwards obviously don’t t need the money. Why is she talking? Why doesn’t she (and John) resolve this matter privately and quietly, away from the cold, cruel light of public opinion like decent folks do? It’s obvious from the pained expression on Elizabeth’s face when Oprah asked pointedly”Do you still love him?”and from the fact that she refuses to speak the other woman’s name while  is most animated when talking about the other woman and from the anguished looks on her face when John was part of the interview — Elizabeth Edwards is still in the throes of anguish and rage over her husband’s affair. (”And John Edwards didn’t appear remorseful during the interview, not remorseful enough for me,” says one of my friend.)

Isn’t she as guilty as he? another friend chimes in. Wasn’t she complicit with him in lying to the public about his character, not to mention her complicity in projecting an image of a fairy tale marriage and fairy tale couple. Isn’t she the one who stood before the camera a year ago asking us to elect as President a man who is capable of callously getting into an affair with a woman he meets in a hotel while his wife is at home battling stage 4 cancer?

Why not leave him? For Elizabeth Edwards, the answer is clear. More than a romance, the marriage is a shared sense of purpose, of how to engage the world — a partnership that transcended fidelity. “[A]lthough I no longer knew what I could trust between the two of us,” she writes, “I knew I could trust in our work together.”

Why is Elizabeth Edward’s talking? Who knows? Perhaps it’s because she’s a woman who is running out of time. Her husband’s affair was, she writes, yet another a gut-wrenching blow to a life marked by tragedies sudden and inevitable, from the 1996 car-crash death of Wade, her oldest child, to the slow physical demise of both her parents; and — finally — the cancer that she’s been battling since 2004 and that she expects will kill her.

You bounce back. You decide what’s important to you.  You forgive. You live. You survive. You move on.  You start over.  No matter how clumsy or difficult it is to do. Because tomorrow is not a given.

Ummph. Ummph. Ummph.

To Hell With Crying

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Ok, so I forgot. It’s Valentine Weekend. Lord, where have I been? (How about Atlanta,  DC, Lancaster, Dallas, and a few other places over the past few weeks!) Sorry I failed to put something up here on the blog about everyone’s favorite topic: love.

Anyway, I’m late. So, I thought I’d do the next best thing and post yet another favorite heartbreak song here on the blog.  Heartbreak songs is another one of those “fun” research topics of mine. Next to women’s shoes, that is.You can tell a lot about a culture by the music it produces. You can also tell a lot about a generation by the music it listens to. You can tell a lot about a generation of women by listening to their break up songs.

You’ve had your chance and proved unfaithful
So now I’m gonna be real mean and hateful
I used to be your sweet mama, sweet papa
But now I’m just as sour as can be.

–”I Used to Be Your Sweet Mama,”

I’m old school girl who grew up on break up songs like  “Frankie and Johnny” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “Cry Me A River” and the feminist national anthem of them all, “I Will Survive.”

Breaking up ain’t what it usedta be.

Gone are the mournful elegies of a previous generation, filled with melancholy and sadness, where women sat around singing about what went wrong, who was wrong, and why things went wrong.

A new generation of achey breakey love songs have come on the scene where it’s all about revenge, ridicule, and women claiming their own agency. To hell with crying. Or so it seems.

Lord have mercy…you younguns’ done taken breaking up to another level. It’s not enough to survive. How about a little revenge to make things go down easier? LOL. Take Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust The Windows Out Your Car.” Sure, Frankie shot Johnnie, says the song, when she caught him cheating on her with another woman. LOL. But women in my and my mother’s  generation probably wouldn’t have thought to rhapsodizing about busting the windows out his car. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we don’t know about bustin’ out windows. (Cough. Cough.)  It’s just not something a real lady would ever admit to doing.  Shooting is classy, but bustin’ windows is…well…you know…common. LOL.

Rihanna’s “Take A Bow”  is another one of those songs by a young female artist that I enjoy a lot. The woman in the song sees right through her man’s many guises and deceptions. With photos of Rihanna’s black and blue bruises from a beating by her teen idol boyfriend Chris Brown circulating around the Internet these days, it appears that the real flesh-and-blood singer lacks the guts and good sense of the song’s protagonist. This recent beating was not Brown’s first time hitting Rihanna, according to some reports,. Here’s hoping and praying that the singer has the good sense to let this be Brown’s last bow in her life.

Forget all the sad, lovey dovey, mushy “I miss you” songs.  If today’s urban sounds tell us anything it’s that today’s young women don’t believe in suffering in silence. They put it all out there.

Exhibit One: “Call Tyrone” (my favorite!).

I nearly ran my car off the road the first time I caught neo-soul diva Erika Badu singing her no nonsense anthem. Down home earthy, gutsy, raw and, oh so, very, very sassy.  Talk about a woman’s song. Talk about a down home blues song. Talk about a woman flicking her nose at bougeoise notions of femininity and womanhood, demanding  respect and declaring her own autonomy. Like a good break-up song, “Call Tyrone” is cool and smooth, free of shrill, jilted hysteria. Straight talking. Indignant. No nonsense. As with all blues women singers, whose main topic is always love, if they have to choose between singing a perfect note or expressing raw emotion. Emotion wins. Can’t you just see tough talking blue singers of old like Bessie Smith, Ma’ Rainey, and Alberta Hunter rolling over in their graves and giving each other hi-fives as they hear young women like Badu in “Call Tyrone” continuing the bawdy tradition of  women singing the blues ?

I’m gettin’ tired of your s*&t
You don’t never buy me nothin’
See everytime you come around
You got to bring jim, james, paul, & tyrone
See why cant we be by ourselves, sometimes
See I’ve been having this on my mind
For a long time
I just want it to be
You and me
Like it used to be, baby
But ya don’t know how to act

You gotta love Badu’s last line of the song -  “But you can’t use my phone“– that’s gotta be the smartest, most perfectly timed, send-off dis in women’s break up music. IMO. A real jab to the male solar plexus. A line that belongs on a Valentine’s Day card –to your ex.   I believe in love. I really do. But I also believe in a woman knowing when it’s time to call it quits and take back her self.