Loving Bravely

Loving Bravely

Loving bravely is risking great personal cost to do good for someone, even when you know that others may ridicule you for doing so. That’s the kind of love I want to give this Valentine’s Day.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m gonna try something different. Something brave.

Brave, as in, “this-year-I-will-forgo-typical-expressions-of-love-and-instead-donate-to-her-favorite-cause” bravery.

No, that’s not what I’m planning. I’m just offering that as an example. Eschewing a gift for a donation is the kind of thing that you only do when you really know somebody well, because if you’re wrong, you will pay for it. (All the married men should be nodding their heads right now.)

That’s what I mean by brave. Something unexpected that shows how much you care, something that might seem reckless, but is, in fact, very meaningful.

I have some work to do in the bravery department. Holly and I have been married for five years now, and unfortunately, I set the bar pretty high when we got engaged.

A friend of mine was the worship director at a megachurch in the area, and his band was planning on covering Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love,” for their worship service, since they were doing a series on relationships. So he asked me in advance to write another rap for it and bust it out during the service. So I upped the ante, and with their permission ahead of time, I wrote the rap verse as my will-you-marry-me speech, and during the middle of the song, I jumped off the stage and came down to where Holly was sitting, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry me.

It was so romantic.

Afterwards, I got mad cool points for going to such a length to surprise her. Afterwards, everyone kept echoing the same sentiment: Man, that was so brave.

Far be it from me to revise, as my grandmother used to say, even a jot or a tittle from the Bible. However, if I were to bring any editorial changes to an iconic biblical passage, I would choose 1 Corinthians 13, and right after “love is patient, love is kind,” I would add a third clause: “Love is brave.”

‘Cause seriously … ladies dig bravery. And for good reason.

Think of great leading men in popular films:

• Cary Elwes throwing himself down the hill in The Princess Bride.
• Bruce Willis fighting the terrorists in Die Hard.
• Will Smith trying to express his feelings in Hitch.

These are characters who found themselves in unfamiliar territory, and against all odds, they chose to do something good to help someone else, and found themselves being stretched (or in Smith’s case, swollen and contorted) beyond capacity in the process.

These are universal themes, for sure, but the common element here is bravery: the massive chutzpah required to stare down adversity and do the right thing anyway. It’s the stuff heroes are made from.

It’s important, though, that we not get confused about what bravery is, and more importantly, what it isn’t. Being brave, for example, is not the same thing as simply going against the flow.

Awhile back, I avoided seeing the last huge James Cameron blockbuster, mostly because I figured I already had a pretty good handle on how it ended (the boat sank), but also because I got tired of the hype. I just decided at some point that I’m going to be The Guy Who Never Saw Titanic, just to show up everyone else who thought it was so great.

The sad part is, I’m tempted to do the same with Avatar, even though I’ve read countless reviews and articles (including this one by UF’s Todd Burkes) that suggest that it’s a film experience worth having. It’s like I’d rather be the guy who didn’t see it, even if it means I miss out on seeing a great film.

Being contrarian is quite a marketable skill these days, because if you want to be a celebrity in today’s celebrity-saturated media marketplace, you have to do something to stand out from the rest of the pack. The quickest, easiest way to do that is to find a stance that is accepted as conventional wisdom, and then oppose it as vociferously as possible. This is why the Internet is full of people who oppose relatively normal things, like certain type faces, or even lowercase i’s next to capital letters.

(If you didn’t get that last reference, it’s ’cause you didn’t follow the link to the word “tittle” earlier. Go ahead, it’s not naughty or anything.)

This desire to stand out, in my opinion, is why former-NBA-journeyman-turned-culture-critic Paul Shirley recently penned a crude diatribe suggesting that Haitian citizens are culpable for their deplorable living conditions. Even though there are points he made that I agree with, I don’t think it was a particularly brave thing to say. He was looking to get a reaction, and he got one. People will accuse Shirley of many things, but loving too much is not one of them.

Loving bravely is not just taking an unpopular stance; it’s risking great personal cost to do good for someone, even when you know that others may, in fact, ridicule you for doing so. Obviously I’m not privy to all the details, but it seems to me that, by choosing to stand by her husband, Gayle Haggard chose to love bravely. It’s possible that Elin Nordegren Woods may be choosing similarly.

This is the truest essence of love, and as Christians we see it all over the Scriptures.

Consider this passage from 1 John 4:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This idea of sacrificial love, of doing for others what they cannot do for themselves, is one of the foundational principles that underscore all the worldwide efforts at Christian evangelism. And evangelism, as we all know, takes on many form — some subtle, and some not so subtle. The best strategies are ones that require truth and vulnerability, but still are basic and doable.

I’m reminded of “The Best Stuff In the World Today Café,” a cool little ditty by Take 6 with a nifty analogy of evangelism imagined as a downtown restaurant:

Time for lunch, my stomach said
I left the office to get fed
I had dined at every place on Main
My appetite was ripe for change.
And there stood this old restaurant
I had never seen before
And a stranger in an apron
Came bursting through the door and said

‘Welcome to The Best Stuff In the World Today Cafe
We are all believers in a better way
We were served as customers not so long ago
Now we are all waiters, we thought you oughta know’

It’s a clever song, and given the abundance of vocal talent in Take 6, I could probably listen to them sing pages of HTML source code and still love it.

Still, I wonder … what would happen if we really tried this? What would happen if I really grabbed someone off the street on an average Sunday morning and told them, “I don’t care what you planned to do, you gotta try this Jesus thing?”

I don’t know what would happen.

And that’s why it’s such a scary proposition in real life. Maybe that person would undergo a dramatic, Paul-on-his-way-to-Damascus conversion to Christianity. Or, maybe that person would give me the stink eye and say, “Dude, get your hands off me.” That’s why it’s such an act of bravery to put yourself out there like that.

And whether we recognize it or not, this holiday that we celebrate every February 14th, the one that was seemingly invented by purveyors of greeting cards, flowers, stuffed animals, and expensive chocolates … you know, Valentine’s Day?

Its origin is rooted not in empty sentiment, but in bravery.

Consider the following, courtesy of Wikipedia:

• The name “Valentine” is derived from the Latin valens which means “worthy,” and which bears etymological resemblance to our English words “valor” and “valiant.”

• The holiday itself has roots in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, where it was known for centuries as the feast day of Saint Valentine

• All the romantic sentiment related to love and courtship that has been traditionally associated with this feast originated with works of art like Jacobus de Voragine’s thirteenth century Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend) and Chaucer’s fourteenth century poem “Parliament of Foules”

• The name St. Valentine is actually an umbrella name for a number of martyred figures throughout church history, many of whom were known for various acts of kindness and bravery

• These acts include marrying and otherwise providing aid to Christians persecuted under the reign of emporer Claudius, and restoring the sight and hearing to the daughter of the jailer who subsequently imprisoned him

You put all that together, and it becomes evident that all of the sentimentality on display every year is just our society’s misguided yearning for a purer, less self-centered version of love than what we see in the movies, on television, and in gossip magazines.

It’s misguided because, sadly, we as a society keep returning to those same movies, TV shows, and gossip mags to inform our ideas of what true love looks like.

That’s why it’s incumbent on us as Christians to show, as Paul said, a more excellent way.

So this Valentine’s Day, I say be brave.

I can’t tell you what that act of bravery should be, because it’ll be different for all of us. Maybe it’ll mean being honest and really sharing feelings and issues that you would rather keep buried. Maybe it’s going out of your way to show your spouse that you love them, and doing so in the way that they really appreciate, rather than the way you happen to be good at.

Maybe it’s just stopping, out of the blue, just to say, “I love you.”

But whatever you decide, step on out there and do it.

And if it involves rapping a marriage proposal in the middle of a Sunday-morning worship service, don’t tell them I sent you.

Kenyan pastors offer young people a token of love

Kenyan pastors offer young people a token of love

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) On Valentine’s Day, some Kenyan pastors handed out red roses as a sign of love to HIV-positive youth suffering stigma and discrimination.

The gesture was meant as a way to reach out to youth, many of whom feel rejected by the churches.

“We came to show the youth that we care and support them,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Wanjala Munialo, a pastor with Vineyard Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Nairobi.

“We’ve also been teaching them the right perspective of love,” he added. “The right perspective helps people care and eliminate stigma and discrimination in HIV.”

Widespread stigma prevents many youth living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from coming forward and acknowledging their condition.

“Most parents prefer the status of their children remain unknown,” said Munialo. “They fear guilt by association.”

Mary Mutua, who is HIV-positive, said she blames the church for not giving greater priority to people like her.

“The church does not want to talk about it,” she said, because it means acknowledging that young people contract the virus through sexual intercourse.

“Many are comfortable supporting those who got it at birth because they feel it’s less sinful,” she added.

AIDS is the No. 1 cause of death among adolescents in Africa, according to a UNICEF study that showed the number of teenagers dying from AIDS has tripled since 2000, while the number of new infections in other age groups has slowed.

Girls subject to sexual violence, forced marriages and trafficking, and gay and bisexual boys who use drugs are especially vulnerable.

The Rev. James Muhia, the parish minister at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Ruiru near Nairobi, acknowledges that churches have not always done the right thing by young people.

“Forgiveness will open the doors for the church to accept and embrace them,” Muhia said, referring to young people.

Jane Ng’ang’a, the program officer for the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV-Kenya, urged churches to work to become safe places for the youth and others.

“There are some wounded youth who have come to church,” said Ng’ang’a, “but they do not feel safe enough to share their condition.”

(Fredrick Nzwili is an RNS correspondent based in Nairobi)

 

 

 

6 Things to Do While Waiting for Your Boaz

6 Things to Do While Waiting for Your Boaz

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which can sometimes be difficult for single women who are still waiting for their “Boaz” to come along and sweep them off their feet. The story of Ruth and Boaz is arguably one of the greatest and most popular love stories in the Bible. It’s the story of Ruth, whose heart was broken after the death of her husband but healed by her faith in God. Ruth met the wealthy and kind Boaz while working in his field to “glean behind the harvesters” (Ruth 2). In addition to being protective of Ruth, Boaz admired her loyalty to her mother-in-law and her love for the Lord. As hardworking women of God, so many of us often dream of meeting our hard-working, loving—and sometimes wealthy—Boaz, but what are we doing in the meantime? Here are several things you could be doing while waiting on your own Boaz to arrive:

Complete Unfinished Projects

We all have them. Whether it’s that book you’ve been meaning to write or the new business you’ve been planning to launch, now is the perfect time to regain your focus and get it done.

Enjoy Time with Family and Friends

While in a relationship, it is so easy to spend all of your free time with your partner, leaving little room for time with family and friends. Call up your loved ones for a fun movie night, an impromptu girls night, or even a weekend road trip. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so spend those precious moments with your loved ones while you can.

Personal and Professional Development

There is always room for personal and professional growth, so why not start now? Sit down and make a list of all of your personal and professional goals. Perhaps your goals include going back to school to get your college degree, strengthening your relationship with God, receiving some sort of certification in your industry, or losing weight. Whatever your goal is, it is important that you also write down the list of tasks that must be completed in order to achieve those goals.

Read a Book

Yeah, we know. This may sound like an easy task, but in this day and age, taking time to sit down and read a book is easier said than done. Not only does reading serve as a stress reliever from our day-to-day lives, but it also allows us to educate ourselves on a variety of topics that we may have never taken the time to explore had we not been single.

Spend Time with Yourself

When was the last time you took yourself out to dinner? What about going to see a movie alone? Perhaps you should give it a try. Spending quality time alone is actually a great way to build self-confidence in addition to changing your mindset about needing a partner in order to have fun.

Take Time to Explore What You Really Want

Before jumping into your next relationship, now may be a good time to sit down and really figure out what it is that you really want in a partner. There’s a reason why none of your past relationships worked out, so perhaps it’s time to hit “pause” and really figure out what it is that you not only want in a partner, but what you actually need in a man.

What about you? What are some things you recommend doing while waiting on Boaz?

All My Single Ladies!

The Bible says, “A man who finds a wife finds a good thing!” So, my single ladies, are you a “good thing” or used goods? How many more men will you let into your life that simply want to USE you … physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually? Hopefully your answer is “no more,” and you’re ready to give God full control of your love life.

My single ladies, I want to speak restoration, wisdom, and strength into your life right now … so you can walk down a path toward becoming the “good thing” God wants you to be — and perhaps find your own “good thing” in the process.

Another blast of Scripture for you: “A prudent wife is a gift from the Lord ” (Prov.19:14). Well, ladies, if you are a GIFT, keep it wrapped tight. Don’t let the bow slip off until it’s time for the big reveal! Don’t let just anyone unwrap you! You are a beautifully wrapped gift and will be presented to your husband-to-be by God in God’s time.

Listen, sisters, if you’re a single woman of God waiting for marriage, this message is for you. Are you ready?

Y’all better go wake up your girlfriends, and send them this link, because Cee Cee is ’bout to give you some truth for your life right now! If you’re feeling lonely, inferior, desperate, or depressed … this one’s for you. Listen up and check out these 20 nuggets of real-life relationship wisdom, because something here is a message from the Lord to you.

1. No Begging Allowed. If you are feeling rejected by your current boyfriend as we speak … he is not for you. No one should have to beg for affection and compliments. You should never have to ask a man, “Baby, do you think I am beautiful?”

2. Follow Their Example. No women in the Bible put their lives on hold to find a husband. Not Mary, Not Rebekah, Not Ruth, Not Rachel, Not Esther, certainly Not Eve! These women all were busy working and serving when their husbands found them.

3. Pursue Self-Improvement. Work on yourself, ladies. What’s God tellin’ ya? Get an advanced degree, launch a business, redecorate your rooms, learn to create a loving atmosphere for your home, plant a garden, make a scrapbook, write a novel, sew, knit, take cooking classes, take a ballroom dance class, learn how to put up drywall. Then get involved at your church — volunteer to sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, or work with the youth. GOD LOVES WHEN YOU SERVE HIM, and it’s a must to explore your various spiritual gifts while you’re still single!

4. Wait for It. Ladies, this is an obvious one but oh so easy to forget: Please do not have sex with a guy before marriage! This so clouds everything, and you know this! Emotions get attached, or you become physically attached and then may manipulate the guy into marrying you when neither of you are truly ready. Uggh! Not good! Not God!

5. Only God Makes You Whole. Ladies: Please know that you are okay and you are excellent and you are whole without a husband. You must be whole before marriage. Two halves do not make a whole concerning marriage! Marital Math is: Whole + Whole = a Wholesome Marriage. Never say, “I just am not complete without him. He makes me complete! He is the air I breathe!” WHAT?! Girl, JESUS is the air you breathe. Don’t confuse a man with the Son of Man. Keep your priorities straight.

6. Is He Serious About God? If your man does not know the Word, apply the Word, live the Word, speak the Word, pray the Word, and meditate on it, then he does not have his sword — which means he’s not gonna be able to fight for you or your marriage! WAKE UP, somebody! A true soldier straps on his sword every day, baby!

7. Beware of the Bling. “Put a Ring On It?” Not so fast! Do not fall for every ring that comes your way. Anyone can flash a ring at you. Some brothers even recycle rings from the last girl that said no!!!! Whew Jesus! Ya betta go tell yo friends this stuff!

8. Do Your Homework. Before you get too far in a relationship, be sure to ASK if he has ever had a drinking problem, abuse problem, drug problem, if he was abused or molested in any way, if he’s been to jail, got warrants, pays child support, even sees his children, has current pictures of his children, been tested recently for HIV and other STDS. Will he even go take an HIV test for you? And if not, why?

9. Yeah, I’m Going There. If he even seems gay … please just let it go, ladies. My God! Stop the madness for real. Who are his friends? Is he extra effeminate? Does he wax his brows? Can’t live without his guy friends and boy trips? Wake up, woman! You are a COVER GIRL!

10. A Word to the Brothers. The Down Low is on the rise. Pay attention, ladies. (And men, get yourself together. STOP ruining women’s lives just to make yourself look straight on the outside. The truth is gonna come out. Some of ya’ll should get an Emmy for the act you put on. Just get truthful with God. How dare you use a woman and then bring up children in that deception and confusion!)

11. No Shackin’ Up. If you are living with your current boyfriend, consider moving out right now! Pack yo’ bag and go to the nearest sistah friend house, or back to your mama, or get a nice li’l 2 bedroom with a girlfriend and split the rent. Come on, now … there has got to be away that you can be self-sufficient. And if YOU took him in cuz he had nowhere to go, umm … where exactly is that going? Honestly!

12. I Repeat, You Need to Wait. Even if you are engaged, please do not live together to save money … Just have him live with a relative until the BIG DAY! There are options, ladies. DO NOT CHEAT! It is so worth it to move in on that big day! Get prepared, but do not cut corners like that.

13. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Ask him now if he likes PORN. People, this junk will ruin — did you hear me? — RUIN a marriage! And if you are hooked on porn, hit my inbox and let me pray with you right now. ‘Cause U got to come up off of that! It’s fake, scripted, perverse, and passionless. They want you to think it’s what sex is, but IT’S NOT. It is godless and destructive! And it has no place in a marriage. LET GOD direct your marital sex life, not X-rated videos!

14. Get Over Yourself. If you are spoiled and selfish — and you know it — DO NOT GET MARRIED … just keep loving your doggone self. You are a Last Days personthe Lord said there would be many … so just keep being a lover of yourself! Just admit it! Maybe if you face it, God will Heal you from it and you will actually be able to LOVE someone else!

15. Is He Trippin’ on the Past? He got the nerve to hold your past against you? What! OMG! Let it go! If he cannot see the God in you now because he’s too distracted by what you used to be, let that suckah loose! We are new in Christ! All old has passed away… and you walkin’ the narrow way too and he wanna talk about who and how you use to be? Awww nawww player … naw! Cut it loose, baby girl! The accuser type! Diggin’ up your buried past! Later!

16. Be Wise About Online Hookups. Beware of using the Internet to find a man. People ain’t always what they seem to be on here. Some ladies are on Match.com, Matchmaker.org, Hitched.com, BlackPlanet, Eharmony, Emarriage … just a searchin’. First, search the Scriptures, baby girl! Many of ya’ll have wrecked Facebook already, just plain abused it, trying to find a man. Some have ruined other women’s marriages! Sad! Beware, ladies!

17. Does He Prefer the Old You? If you meet a man and he is more attracted to the old, unsaved you than the new, saved you … RUN, FORREST, RUN!!!

18. Get the Big Picture. Check out his family and other parts of his life. Meet the parents! If his dog is scared of him, honey run! If he kicks a dog, he will kick you. If he cheats on his taxes, he might cheat on you. If he lies to his mama and his boss, he’ll lie to you. I am so serious! Ya’ll betta open you eyes!

19. What’s Comin’ Outta His Mouth? If he consistently, and in a negative or pushy tone, says you are: fat, ugly, dumb, not good enough, too much, too little, too this, too that … tell him that he’s too unlike Christ for youSee ya!! A real man will do whatever it takes to win your heart with LOVE, not criticism and abuse!

20. Pray Early and Often. Single ladies, one more thing. If God blesses you with a partner someday, one of the most important activities you will do as a wife (without fail) is PRAY FOR YOUR HUSBAND. Well, why not start praying for him now in advance? It makes for great practice. That way, it will be more of a natural part of who you are when he finally comes. Pray for his health, his thought life, his finances, his heart! Pray in advance! Can’t hurt! It certainly worked for me!

That’s my 20, ladies. I’ve got plenty more, but I’ll let you reflect on these for a minute. Here’s the bottom line: In a mutual relationship, a man will do ONLY what you let him do to you … it takes two. So, call on GOD for strength, wisdom, holiness, and self-control right now. You need the Word more than just on Sunday mornings when Pastor is preaching it. Keep your soul ready, your mind sharp, your hair right, and your muscles tight. Keep smiling and believing, single ladies. This is your day!