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The Sunday After Sermongate

Picture this. You are sitting in church minding your own business the Sunday after the timing is everything part 1 events. You’ve been to Sunday school and are excited to hear another lesson from Hebrews (where we have been for a couple Sundays). In the pre-lesson the minister calls urges us to encourage and support the young married couples in order to grow future leaders in the church. Amen. Then he talks about supporting engaged coupled. OK. Then he says to encourage those couples who should be moving towards getting married, like 2blu and MensHealth. Umm, say what? Did the minister just call me by name from the pulpit like that, followed by how we’ve been hanging around each other for too long for folks not to expect a formal commitment? Yes, he did, along with several other couples, one of which is composed of septuagenarians who just ride ti church and go to the gym together; we all need to stol this foolishness and get married. Direct from the pulpit, with a chorus of amens.

So it’s Sunday again, and I find myself with a little less pep in my step this morning. The above really did happen; it wasn’t a bad dream. MensHealth and I have discussed it, and ironically, our singles ministry leader, who was out of town when it happened, chose the topic of answering the “when are you getting married?” question as Tuesday’s lesson.

It was really shocking to sit there for that and not even be able to defend yourself against some of the obvious implications of this pre-sermon “encouragement.” I am not cohabitating, fornicating, forsaking the assembly, or in any way setting a bad example by making sure we talk through and work out some things before we decide to marry. Haven’t they heard “marry in haste, repent at leisure”? Whether or not we marry, we haven’t set a bad example tor anyone and we aren’t going to mock the institution of marriage by marrying without being sure.

I don’t know how the other couples, assigned from the septuagenarians, feels about being called out, nor why they aren’t engaged or married already. I can speculate, but it really doesn’t matter. As much as I advocate marriage, it’s not something to enter into lightly or to put undue pressure on someone to do. I think it was wrong to call people out from the pulpit by name about their marital status,especially if you are ignorant of the reason for the same. Even if you think something sinful is going on, I don’t agree with saying it from the pulpit. Come and speak to that person face to face and talk to them. If it’s serious enough to withdraw from them, then follow the Protocol the Bible lays out for withdrawal. But unless you are announcing the church is withdrawing from me, or some other confirmed reason, don’t call me out from the pulpit.

As I said, today is Sunday again. I didn’t get to speak to our minister after services about this, and this will be my first time seeing him since. How would you handle this situation?

2blu2btru

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Christmas with the Crew

The holidays are looking different this year. Pink Susie and her husband snuck off on a getaway, Christmas is on a Sunday so we’ll be spending a good portion of it in church, and holiday bonuses and raises will be announced AFTER the holiday season.

To many of you, the list I just gave you may sound a little…depressing. However, in my view, I’ve had the best pre-Christmas in a long time. I’m sure you want to know what’s so awesome about it, so without further ado, what 2blu thinks is awesome about her off-beat Christmas:

  • My dad and youngest brother are here for the holiday. Usually when I would see my dad, it would be in connection with something else–a revival at my uncle’s church, a speaking engagement to speak about one of his books, a visit to see some old friends. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw my dad when he was purely in town to see me and wasn’t just making time in between obligations (well, that’s not true; it was 2008 when I  graduated, sorta; also, for a day or two in 2003, but that didn’t go well). So it was with great surprise I realized he was coming to Florida for a week for Christmas just to see me. We’ve had a few misadventures along the way, but it’s been a long time since I laughed this hard or had this much fun with my dad. Yay!
  • I got Mr. P. an awesome Christmas gift. It’s something he always says he needs, but I knew he wouldn’t buy for himself before I got it for him for Christmas. I hope he likes it!
  • I sent my mom her Christmas gift and she got it before Christmas. She still hasn’t opened it yet, but I hope she likes it. I tried to put together a themed gift, so it’s anyone’s guess if she picks up on it.
  • The fact that reviews, raises, and bonuses are so late means I didn’t go crazy on gifts and such, relying on my bonus to bail me out. Now, when I do get the bonus, the holidays will be over and I can get myself something I want as an (slightly) early birthday present to myself, instead of feeling guilty if I don’t place a few more gifts under a few more trees (and grow broke in the process). Plus, if they adjust my salary for my position, I may get back pay, since I’ve been in the position since October. It’s not likely, but it would be nice. If not, I could get a raise going forward, and that works, too.
  • My aunt finally got to take time off and have a vacation. Yay, Pink Susie!!
  • My mother’s surgery went well, and she’s feeling well enough to help cook (read: micromanage) Christmas dinner at home. My other little brother (Codename: Fat), his friend/brother and his wife, and my Uncle KDS (I’ll tell you what that means post-Christmas :D) pitched in, submitting to being bossed a bit to make the Christmas meal yummy (and my mom happy). Wish I could be there).
  • Christmas is on a Sunday, and I get to spend it with my extended family–my church family. If we are still going to operate on the premise that this commercially run, consumer/materialistically driven time of year has anything to do with the coming of the Savior, it’s only fitting it should fall on Christmas. I celebrate Christ’s birth all the time, and what it means in my life, but if the lining up of days causes a few more people to reflect on that AND go somewhere where they have the opportunity to hear the gospel, well, that’s the greatest gift anyone can receive.

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ll be back with a Christmas recap later. In the meantime, what did you get for Christmas? How are you celebrating? Are you celebrating? What are some of your family traditions?

XOXO

2blu2btru

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From Poor and Pitiful to Praise!

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
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*Hopefully my minister won’t mind me using his sermon title from yesterday for this blog post. Nor, I hope, will the couple I’m using for the basis of it, mind their instant celebrity from being featured in this really awesome blog! 😀

Sitting in church listening to the sermon “From Poor and Pitiful to Praise” (Acts 3:1-11), I was struck by how much of a privilege certain things in life are, yet we treat them as if they are obligations (and by struck by, I mean my minister hit us over the head with it, or, as he likes to see he “dropped this” while he was “flying over”). People often treat going to church and school like obligations. We complain about our situations, even when we know they could be worse. Even when we have reasons to be thankful and full of praise, all we can do is complain about what we feel like we are lacking.

I knew that sermon was meant for me the second I heard it. I’ve been doing a lot of complaining lately–about trying to get things ready to move, not having enough money, and, most unforgivably, about what I deserve but don’t have. I am guilty of being able to praise, but choosing to still be poor and pitiful. Well, no more.

This was brought home to me even more by the *Smiths. The third Sunday of each month, the church van drives people to third Sunday fellowship after church, where local congregations get together and fellowship. This means that the van can’t take people home until after the fellowship, sometimes after evening service. The Smiths had rode on the van that morning, but needed to go home after morning service, as they had to work. The Smiths live on the same side of town as Mr. Perfect and I, so he graciously agreed to drive them home.

The Smiths graciously invited us inside. “This is the home that God blessed us with,” Mr. Smith said as he ushered us inside. I helped Mrs. Smith with the baby while the two men talked in the living room. I oohed and ahhed over a mountain of pink in the wardrobe. “All of these things were given to us for the baby,” she gushed, indicating the furnishings in the room.

Rejoining the men, she said, “can you believe just a few years ago we were homeless?”

I had known that, but somehow, I’d forgotten all about it. I remember when they first began coming to church, and it amazed me how very different they are now, how much faith they both have. They are both working to better themselves and their situation, but they are still so thankful and full of praise over what they have and how much further they are in life. They are so confident that things will continue to improve for them. It made me feel ashamed of myself for being such a complainer.

In the spirit of being thankful, as so many others are at this time of the year, I want to take a moment and just be thankful. I’m thankful that God has always been with me, even when I wasn’t with him. I’ve never been homeless or starving, never been without a means to care for myself. I have all my senses and mental capabilities. I have people in my life who care about me and who are willing to help me to improve. I may not have all I want, but I have what I truly need.  

What are you thankful for? What privileges have you been treating like obligations? How are you going to change your attitude into one of gratitude? Go on, inspire me!

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Gender Roles Discussion Part Two

I get the impression that maybe the title of the other part put some of you off of the subject, so I titled this one simply, lol. Or maybe you were waiting for the conclusion. So, without further ado, where we left off…

The biggest impediment to establishing roles is trust. I don’t trust you to do it like I would like it done. I don’t trust you not to forget to do it. I don’t trust you to make the right decision for both of us & not just you. I can’t say I will obey you because I don’t trust that whatever you ask will be something I both can do & agree is the best thing to do. I don’t trust you can do what I ask. I don’t trust you not to go against what we agreed to & “do you.”

There’s also communication. Do you agree on what the words used to describe your role mean? Is submission to him brainless devotion & no opinions? Is provider to her someone who works so I can shop, go to the spa, & spend money without working? Sometimes we assume all words mean the same thing to all people, but this isn’t the case. Communication is key in every aspect of a relationship.

Finally, there’s the Independent Woman/Commitment-Phobe Man syndromes. Women are getting so independent, they don’t need a man for anything–and spend so much time trying to proe it, they destroy good relationships. They berate & belittle men who make less than them. They impress so forcefully upon men that they aren’t needed, the men begin to feel they aren’t wanted, either. They feel they have so much in wealth, career, etc. to safeguard and protect they can’t be as open in the relationship as they should be. Their lists of things they can’t accept begins to outweigh the things they can. They’ve been doing it all alone so long, they can’t seem to do it with anyone else. They are not merely independent–they are impenetrable (Note: This is not true of all women with careers or who consider themselves independent; these are characteristics of a syndrome.)

Then you have mens so scared of being trapped, of not being able to be with a diffrent person every night if he wanted ( which he may very well NOT want), they can’t commit. They say they will commit, but they will only commit when Perfection in a size two comes along. They can say this because they know she’s probably not coming. Any sign of permanence from a forgotten hairbrush to a question on where this relationship is going is an appeal for a ring and sounds like prison bars closing. *Clink* They can’t settle down with you because there is always something better that they have to hold out for. After all, with so many more women than men, they should be able to find exactly what they are looking for, and they shouldn’t settle; settle is a bad word, no matter what it’s attached to, except maybe court settlements.

Once you get past all of this, you have to acknowledge that marriage is an institution, a business. It worlks like any other business. I, like many, have a boss. Even if you own your own business, you are subject to government fair business practices. Everyone has someone to answer to and no one is above the law. This structure, this hierarchy of position & responsibility is important and should be maintained. This is where the roles come into play for me.

God is the head. Our marriage relationship must mirror Christ’s relationship to the church. The man is like Christ and the woman is like the Church in this model. The man is answerable to Christ, as is the woman, but the woman is subject to her husband. Wives are exhorted to submit to their husbands and men are exhorted to love their wives as the church (Ephesians 5:21-32).  Here’s what the Bible reads in Ephesians 5:21-32, the New International Version (Via Bible Gateway):

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Here’s where we get into those tricky words: submission & love.

Submission is not the mindless follow of a lemming right over the cliff’s edge. It has more to do with my relationship with God than to a husband: God said it, I will do it. But let’s explain what it means.

This definition of submit gives a full picture of what I think the Bible means:

 : to present or propose to another for review, consideration, or decision;
3 : to put forward as an opinion or contention  1 a : to yield oneself to the authority or will of another : surrender b : to permit oneself to be subjected to something
2 : to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another

You can still have an opinion and be submissive. A loving husband will seek your opinion. Just like your boss has authority but listens to your suggestions, so your husband should listen to you. He ultimately makes the final call, but he should do so while fulfilling his role to love you as Christ loves the church. Submission is not forced; you have to consent to submit. You are showing your submission to God’s will by submitting to your husband.

The man is supposed to love his wife as himself and as Christ loves the Church. Christ gave His life for the Church, and we all know how we love ourselves. We would never make decisions that aren’t in our best interests. We would belittle ourselves or not adequately provide for ourselves. We listen to ourselves. We hurt when any part of our body hurts. We treat ourselves with gentleness and respect. By taking such loving care of your wife, you are showing your submission to the will of God.

None of that says that the man has to write the checks and the woman has to cook. None of this says men have to make more money or be smarter than their wives. None of this says woman should have no say in what kind of car they have or how to disipline the children. None of this is easy.

God addressed things it would be hard for us to do. Women are supposed to be better at loving; it supposedly comes more naturally to our nature. We don’t have to be told to be loving (most of us). Eve was always intended to be a helpmate for Adam, but she took charge when she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam. She was seduced into believing she could be like God (Genesis 3). She didn’t want to help; she wanted to take charge.

Many of us have the same idea today that we know better than any man (and, consequently, God) how it should be and that no man is going to tell us to do anything. But God set the order/positions and doled out the responsibilities! Disobedience costs mankind greatly.

And that’s how I feel about it. You can (respectfully) disagree, agree, or whatever else strikes you as (respectfully) appropriate after the beep…

*Beep*

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On Bended Knee

Someone got engaged today at church. No, it’s not me, and no, I didn’t know beforehand. It seems like everytime I think I may run out of things to talk about here, something else happens. Either my life, or the lives of those whose lives intersect mine in some way, are more interesting than I thought, or now because I’m looking for the gems in the day, I find them. Either way, I lucked upon this one.

Tis the season for longterm couples to get married, I guess. Last year it was the Singles Ministry Leader, and this year it is another of the ex-singles ministry participants. They have been together at least as long as I’ve been attending  the church, longer than I’ve even known Mr. Perfect, and who knows how long before then. After service, as everyone was going around fellowshipping, a ripple of excitement makes me turn my head in time to see the gentlemen go down on one knee and fumble madly for the ring box in his pocket, right there in the sanctuary in between the pews! Of course she said yes and all the women gawked. Then, unexpectedly, Mr. Perfect and I were attacked.

It wasn’t enough to have one couple embracing the idea of matrimony, but they need us to get engaged soon as well. One of the elder’s wives swatted me hard several times in her excitement, wondering aloud when Mr. Perfect and I will get engaged. I was searched like a criminal for a ring, and my empty hand was clucked over. I can’t count the number of times I was asked when I was getting married, what I was waiting on, where was my ring? It was as if they expected since one person had gotten engaged, another ring would materialize and the spirit would sweep Mr. Perfect up and put him on bended knee.

This is a hard thing for me to answer. It isn’t that I don’t want to be married, or that I don’t know what my answer would be if Mr. Perfect asked. It isn’t that I’m waiting for him to ask, either. I can’t say enough how averse I am to anyone asking me to marry them for any other reason than because they want to. Marriage is hard enough when both people know they want to be married, and the other person is who they want to be married to. I don’t want to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, and I don’t want to be settled for or accepted in the fear you may not find better. I know it’s slightly unrealistic and romance novel-esque, but I want someone to have the certainty they will not find better, that I am what they want. At the very least, I want them to make up their mind that the 80% of what they want that I possess is worth more than the 20% that I don’t, that they believe that I have more of what they want than anyone else they’ve met and they believe that we can spend our lives together in love and companionship. I don’t need all consuming, I can’t live without you love; I need slow burning, long enduring, Musiq Soulchild’s “Dontchange” love. If it’s not that, I don’t need it walking up to me with a ring, talking about let’s give this love and marriage thing a try. I can get a roommate to split bills. I can get love and companionship from friends, family and a pet. If you don’t have a special love connection with me, want to share a life with me, then I can’t accept it. I’m better off without it, especially if I’m loving and giving with all and you aren’t sure. Mr. Perfect isn’t there yet, and I am perfectly content not to have to answer a question he isn’t ready to ask in all seriousness. Trying to force the fit is how some women end up in relationships in which, after a while, they feel underloved, as if the other person no longer loves them. Maybe the other person doesn’t and they leave. Diana Ross and the Supremes said it best. “You can’t hurry love; you just have to wait. Love don’t come easy; it’s a game of give and take.”

Mr. Perfect thought that church was an odd place to propose, but I see the foresight in it. Everyone is there to witness it, which not only saves phone calls but shows seriousness. Church is where you make the most important decision of your life, to become a child of God; why not make the second most important decision, with whom to spend your life, there?  You walk down the aisle, confess that you believe this is the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with if she’ll have you, and a little later you get to walk down the same aisle and take her as your wife. It has symmetry, circularity, and a great statement of intent. And it is all in the sight of God (So yes, I know He’s everywhere, but there’s a difference between knowing and acknowledging). Clearly this means that the gentleman means for God to be an important part of their lives together.

So this entry is dedicated to the future Mr. & Mrs. Richards. Congratulations and many blessed years ahead! God bless you both.

2blu2btru

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Singled Out?

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Mr. Perfect and I visited with an older gentleman from church after morning services on Sunday, and something he said got me thinking. I asked him, as we were preparing to leave, if he knew if we were still having a Singles’ Ministry meeting and whether or not he was going. He told me that he wouldn’t be attending any more of the Singles’ meetings because of the person over the Singles. He doesn’t feel that person should be over the Singles anymore.

The main issue that he has with the Singles’ Ministry’s current leader is that he recently got married. Our singles’ leader is in his late 30’s and this is his first marriage. I liked him for singles’ ministry because he was a little bit older and the way he chose to run the ministry seemed appropriate to me. The focus wasn’t how to find a mate, why you haven’t found somebody, or anything like that. It was about enjoying your singleness, using your single time to get closer to God and serve him, and general relationship skills that are important with your interactions with all people, not just those you want to be romantically involved with. But now that he is married, should he lead us singles?

There are married couples who lead singles’ ministries in other places and do a wonderful job. As the focus of our group isn’t really on the single state as much as it is on being a good God-centered individual, it doesn’t really matter to me that he isn’t single; in fact, the only difference to me is that now he can clearly see both sides of the aisle. He can let us know a few things (those few of us who have never been married): How did you know that this was the one? Why did it take so long for you to know (or so short a time)? What were you waiting for before you decided, what did you need to see or know before you made that leap? What is different about being married vs. being single that you hadn’t even thought about but you think we should? I love insider information. Let me know how it is!

And there is no one else with his unique positioning and credentials. He is old enough to have some wisdom, but young enough to relate to the younger people. He teaches for a living, so he knows how to keep people involved and interested. He always brings the focus back to the Bible, but if the conversation starts to switch to another topic that is on people’s minds, he rolls with it. He allowed a lot of input from us on activities and topics. He was always there and prepared to take part in every event.

My thought is, if you have a heart to minister to singles then you should. Just because you are a man doesn’t mean you can’t be a good OB/GYN; even though you haven’t got a vagina, as long as you know how one is supposed to work sufficiently to get board certified, you can analyze and prescribe all day. Every married person used to be single, so at least he has personal experience with the state of being he is ministering to.