Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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For the past two years I have been blessed to lead a daily “Power Prayer” call. For the past two days* that prayer call has centered around praying for the family of Trayvon Martin and countless others who have suffered loss and been further victimized by the “Injustice” system.

In the Trayvon Martin case, Skittles have become a symbol of this injustice as, we all know by now, that he was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when he was shot and killed. I do believe that Trayvon Martin’s candy choice has a lot to teach us as we as a global community try to reconcile his loss.

1. Remember the Rainbow

For years, the marketing slogan of Skittles has been “Taste the Rainbow.” The rainbow is a universal sign of hope. God first graced humanity with the rainbow after The Great Flood and Noah’s ark. It was a reminder that He would never again destroy the world by water. When we see cases like Trayvon Martin it’s easy to focus on all the negatives – the rain. We must remember that after the rain comes the rainbow, and we must have hope that somehow God will bring some good out of this and turn this tragedy into a triumph!

2. Celebrate the Colors

Skittles are unique in that the candy is intentionally made up of different pieces of all different colors. This is interesting in light of the fact that “color” has played such a central role in the Trayvon Martin case. Quite frankly, Trayvon was profiled and subsequently killed primarily because of the color of his skin. And, no doubt, the color of his killer’s skin has had at least something to do with the fact that he has not yet been arrested for his killing. As I stated in a previous blog, this is not a problem for the Black community…this is a problem for the HUMAN community. We must learn to celebrate our differences and focus on diversity.

3. Stand in Solidarity

No one buys a bag of Skittles and just eats one. The power of Skittles is in the fact that you can get so much diversity of taste in one bag. Somehow, all of the colors are able to coexist in the bag. While we all may have our preference of which color Skittle we like best (mine is purple 🙂 ) we have a taste explosion in our mouths when we pick up a handful, regardless of their color and eat them TOGETHER. What a wonderful illustration of unity! We can have an explosive effect right in the mouth of injustice when we stand together!

Let’s go down to Sanford, Florida…and make them “taste the rainbow”!

*If you would like to access these recorded prayer calls dial 712-432-6190 code 124541#. The recording numbers for the Trayvon Martin prayers are 032312# and 032412#. Feel free to join us for the live “Power Prayer” call every day 6:00a-6:10a (Eastern) by dialing 712-432-6100 code 124541#.

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“My marriage is on the rocks!” That’s one of the first statements I hear from the many couples I counsel who are having marital problems. Or they may say that they’re going through a rocky period in their relationship. Whatever the terminology, the point is that things have gone from bad to worse, and they can’t even remember what good felt like. It’s at this point that I remind them that instead of throwing rocks at each other we must work together to build our marriage on The ROCK. This is no easy task, but whoever said that marriage would be easy?

There could be no better example of marriage than the first one. Adam and Eve had the perfect relationship. They were LITERALLY made for each other. They had a mansion with no mortgage (and it came with a beautiful Garden). Adam had a great job and because they had no bills, Eve was able to stay at home and take care of the house. They didn’t have any kids yet, but they had tons of pets to keep them company, and perhaps best of all, they had no nosey in-laws trying to get in their business :-).

Despite all of this, one day trouble came knocking at their door. Their marriage faced its first real test. It doesn’t matter how great your marriage is, one day it will be tested. Adam lost his cushy job in management and had to start working in the field (literally), Eve got pregnant and had to deal with the pain of childbirth (not to mention the mood swings of pregnancy), and they got evicted from their beautiful home. Talk about a test! And to make matters worse, when Adam had a chance to stand up and take responsibility for his mistakes, he blamed everything on Eve!

Most marriages would not have survived all this turmoil. In fact, many don’t survive much less than this. Yet, Adam and Eve stayed together and built quite a little family (they’re called The Human Race – ever heard of ’em?). I wonder what kept them together? How did their marriage survive? Adam could have asked God to put him to sleep and make him another wife, after he all he did have a few “spare ribs” (BADUM-CHING – LOL). Eve could have left and moved back in with her mother…oh wait, she couldn’t…but she could have decided she didn’t want to stay with a man who blamed her for everything and decided to go her separate way, effectively ending the human race. The entire world was riding on their marriage! Thankfully for you and me, they decided to stick it out and stay together.

The secret, I believe, is that from the beginning, Adam and Eve were not alone in their marriage. Their marriage was built on The ROCK. No, I’m not talking about that wrestler-turned-actor who’s always inviting people to smell whatever he’s cooking. I’m talking about “The ROCK of Ages.” The only reason Adam and Eve’s marriage survived is that their marriage was not only built on their relationship with each other, but also on their relationship with God. When the world is counting on your marriage to survive, you better have more than your mutual love because as one singer so eloquently put it, “Love don’t pay the rent.”

Adam and Eve had The ROCK to run to when their marriage was on the rocks. The first thing The ROCK did is He covered them. Genesis 3:21 says, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (NKJV). They were naked and ashamed, and God clothed them. He covered their nakedness, their hurt, their anger, and their pain. Perhaps the reason our relationships are so rocky is because we’ve got uncovered wounds. Any health professional will tell you that if you have a wound, you’ve got to cover it before it gets infected. Many of us are walking around in our marriages with uncovered wounds that have become infected with the spirit of bitterness. Now the infection has spread to all parts of our marriage, and what started out as a fairy tale has now become a horror show.

If that’s the story of your marriage, the good news is that if you don’t like what you are seeing, you have the power to change the channel. Don’t settle for a marriage on the rocks when you can have a marriage on The ROCK. Of course this begins by putting God first in your life and in your marriage, but there are also a few practical steps we can take to make our marriage ROCK.

1. Repent to your spouse for all you’ve done wrong.

Repent of the wrong you have done to your spouse in the past. You cannot move forward in your marriage if you don’t deal with the stuff in your past. Otherwise, it will keep popping up at the most inopportune time, and a discussion about who left the dirty dishes in the sink last night will turn into a full-blown argument over all the dirty things you’ve done over the years. I’m not saying that you should go back and cut open every old scar, but I am suggesting that you should recognize that there are scars and acknowledge your part in putting them there. This is one area we should NOT take our cue from Adam and Eve. When turmoil hit, they both shifted the blame and failed to take responsibility for their actions. Repent for your past so you can move on to your future. This is something that BOTH parties should do. Even though one person may have done the most wrong, no spouse is blameless. Focus on what YOU have done wrong and repent for that.

2. Overcome the spirit of bitterness.

We overcome bitterness through forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness are not an “If/Then” proposition.  One is not a pre-condition for the other. They are both unconditional expressions of unconditional love. If you want to put your marriage on the ROCK you must remove all conditions. In other words, you cannot say, “I will only forgive my spouse after they repent.” You are called to forgive your spouse whether or not they repent and ask for forgiveness. The first statement Jesus made from the cross in Luke 23:34 was “Father forgive them.” They never asked for forgiveness. In fact, He forgave them while they were still crucifying Him! Marriage is not a give and  take; it is a GIVE and FORGIVE. You give your best…and forgive your spouse’s worst.

3. Consider your spouse’s needs.

As you move forward with your marriage on The ROCK, your spouse’s needs must become your priority. That means you must be mindful of him or her before you do anything. Most “rocky” relationships are the result of selfishness on the part of one or both spouses. Marriage is the process of two becoming one. You cannot become one if you’re always looking out for number one. Marriage is a sacrifice…that’s why it begins at an altar! Consider your spouse’s needs, and do everything in your power to meet them.

4. Keep repeating steps 1-3.

Building your marriage on The ROCK is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight…it happens over time. You have to constantly work on improving your marriage. It’s like the bottle of shampoo that comes with the instructions: Wash, Rinse, Repeat. You can’t just do it one time and think your work is done. As a matter of fact, your work has just begun. You have a lot of work to do to build your marriage on The ROCK. The good news is you have a lot of time to do it. After all, marriage is meant to last a lifetime!

What’s wrong with marriage? Clearly there must be SOMETHING wrong with it. All we hear on the radio or see on TV are negative images and portrayals of marriage. Referring to a recent interview where Oprah Winfrey said that she’s “not the marrying kind,” the Tom Joyner Morning Show crew went on a long diatribe about how marriage just does not work. Nevermind the fact that marriage has been around for as long as, well as long as humans have been around. Apparently, it’s working for some people. I guess the more appropriate question would be, “What’s RIGHT about marriage?”

In my humble opinion, there are at least three things that help make a marriage “right.”

1. The RIGHT person

Many marriages fail because many people fail to marry the right person. Far too often we are attracted to a person’s SUPERFICIAL qualities instead of their SACRIFICIAL qualities. When someone is superficial, they’re main priority is themselves. When someone is sacrificial, they put others ahead of themselves. It is extremely difficult – almost impossible – to make a marriage right when the person is wrong.

Even worse than marrying the wrong person is BEING the wrong person. You can’t expect your marriage to be right if you’re not. In fact, I’ve discovered that the easiest way to improve a marriage is to improve yourself. You can’t change your mate, but you can change yourself. The right marriage starts with the right person, and that person is you!

2. The RIGHT time

Finding the right person cannot compensate for marrying at the right time. Many marriages don’t survive because the couple married “out of season.” There is a time and place for everything. We must make sure the time is right…or things will go all wrong. The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. When you find the right person (and have become the right person) make sure that it’s the right time. Timing is everything!

3. The RIGHT reasons

Marriage is wrong when it happens for the wrong reasons. And we must recognize that the wrong reasons often seem right at first glance. It may seem right to get married so you can have “legal” sex, but sex is not a right reason to get married. Sex was made for marriage, but marriage was not made for sex. If you only marry someone because he or she is SEX-Y, when the sex is gone all you’re left with is Y?

Marriage is right, but it has to be with the right person, at the right time, and for the right reasons. Many people jumped into a marriage that wasn’t RIGHT…that’s why they LEFT! Even if your marriage started off wrong, you have the power to make it right. You are the right person, now is the right time, and your happiness is the right reason for you to make your marriage right.

The blogosphere and social networking sites have been buzzing with news of reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, filing for divorce from her husband of 72 days, NBA player, Kris Humphries. The saddest part of this short-lived union is that, while the divorce announcement came as a surprise, it certainly was not a shock – at least to everyone NOT named Kris Humphries.

Dream Wedding/Hollywood Ending

What was billed on TV as “A Fairy Tale Wedding” turned out to be a horror show. What magazines called the “Dream Wedding” was actually a nightmare. However, considering that Britney Spears’ first marriage lasted just 55 hours, perhaps Kim K should be applauded for hanging in there so long (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

The “Hollywoodization” of marriage has not only affected those on Reality TV. It has also plagued real people who watch TV. It affects those who make $65 million per year and those who make $6.50 per hour. Far too many couples are choosing the “Hollywood ending” and opting for the easy way out instead of the hard work of making a marriage work.

For many, “Til death do us part” has become a HOLLOW SENTENCE instead of a HOLY STATEMENT. Marriage involves SACRIFICE – that’s why the ceremony is performed at the ALTAR. It is the place where two individuals go to die…and be reborn as ONE. When there is no sacrifice, it is the marriage that is destined to die.

Far too often, marriages end in divorce because people enter into the marriage with unrealistic (or worse) un-communicated expectations. One of the reasons news outlets reported that caused the Kardashian-Humphries split was that they could not agree on where to live. He wanted to live in Minnesota, and she preferred living in California. Quite honestly, this (and a lot of other things) should have been discussed and decided long before anyone bought a 20-carat diamond ring.

Thankfully, for those who’ve fallen into the “Hollywood ending” marriage trap, there is always an opportunity for a sequel. We can learn from our mistakes and make the most of our marriage. In fact, Hollywood doesn’t have to go very far to learn how to improve the “Hollywood ending.” It takes some of the same elements to make a successful marriage as it does to make a successful movie.

A Great Director

No movie succeeds without a great director. It is the director whose vision shapes the scenes and gives life to the movie by bringing everything together. Similarly, in marriage, it takes The Great Director to give life to any dying marriage. When couples start the movie of their life with God in the Director’s Chair, He helps to bring everything together and produce an Oscar-worthy marriage.

The Right Lead Actor & Lead Actress

The best movies have both a strong male and female lead. They both must be able to carry their weight, otherwise the entire production suffers. Many marriages fail because either the lead actor or actress (or both) was miscast. That’s what the Bible calls being “unequally yoked” (II Cor 6:14).  If the lead actor and actress don’t have the right chemistry, the movie/marriage will end up as a failed experiment.

A Great Script

A great movie is dependent upon a great script. Even a movie directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts would fail if there was no dialogue. No one wants to sit in a movie theater for 2 hours and just look at a screen without any sound. So why do husbands and wives think they’re marriage will survive with no communication? Both husband and wife must actively communicate with and listen to each other because it takes a great script to make a great movie (and marriage).

A Strong Supporting Cast

A great director, great lead actor & and actress, and a great script are not enough to make a great movie. Every great movie needs a strong supporting cast to fill out the dialogue and help add depth to the characters. Similarly, every great marriage is dependent upon a strong cast of people who help undergird the couple. The supporting cast should include family members, friends, clergy, counselor(s), and others who all help band together to ensure the sustained success of the couple’s marriage. The key to remember is that everyone in the supporting cast, must be supporting. If they’re not supporting, they shouldn’t be in your movie…and definitely not in your marriage!

When we apply these principles to our marriage, I believe that we can change our Hollywood ending. We could end up like another couple who was in the news recently. Gordon and Norma Yeager died holding hands in the hospital after 72 years of marriage. That’s a whole lot longer than 72 days, and that is a true “Hollywood ending.”

A major problem in many marriages is that most people pay more attention to their cars than they do their marriage. This is not much of a surprise since it is easier to get a marriage license than it is a drivers’ license. To get a drivers’ license, most people have to take classes, study, and pass a test. Yet, for a marriage license, all you have to do is go downtown, pay a few bucks, and you’re ready to go. No wonder we see so many marriages turn into major wrecks.

I do believe, however, that there is some symmetry between maintaining a car and maintaining a marriage. Both an automobile and a marriage require routine maintenance in order to function properly. My wife and I are celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary. In honor of our eight years together, I’d like to offer eight marriage maintenance tips. Perform these eight tips regularly, and you will avoid having to do any major repairs on your marriage.

1. Oil change

In your car, the engine oil is responsible for lubricating the moving parts of the engine to reduce friction. If you notice an increase in friction in your marriage, perhaps it’s time for an oil change. Oil represents joy. When there is no joy in a marriage, you are bound to experience increased friction. Friction can cause major damage. That’s one of the reasons automakers encourage you to change the oil in your car every 3,000 – 5,000 miles. Change the oil before the friction causes any major damage. One way to perform an oil change in your marriage is to do something fun, different, and spontaneous with your spouse – like when you were dating. Take him or her to a favorite restaurant or the place where you had your first date. The key word is FUN – no friction allowed!

2. Recharge your battery

Your car can’t start with a dead battery – neither can your marriage. Take time to relax with your spouse and recharge the battery in your marriage. Oftentimes, couples can become so busy with life, careers, kids, etc. that they don’t take time to spend with each other and simply allow their battery to recharge. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to recharge your battery. You don’t even have to go far. In fact, you don’t have to leave your house. Both you and your spouse can take a day off and spend the day at home in your pajamas – or not :-).

3. Check your tires

Tires are important for movement.  The problem is that the tires in many marriages have gone flat! Don’t get stuck in a flat marriage. Check the air pressure in your tires regularly to make sure they aren’t underinflated. When tires are underinflated they rob your car of gas mileage. Similarly, your marriage can’t go very far if you don’t have enough air. Every marriage needs a breath of fresh air every now and then. Don’t let your marriage go flat. Also, be sure to rotate your tires regularly. Tire rotation reduces the wear on individual tires. Be sure to rotate responsibilities in your home and marriage so that one spouse doesn’t get completely worn out.

4. Wheel alignment

Much like checking your tires, a wheel alignment, affects the movement of the car. Wheel alignments ensure that the vehicle travels straight and does not pull to the side. Every now and then couples must check the alignment in their marriage to make sure their goals and lives are aligned. Too often, couples end up “pulling” apart because they were not properly aligned. Proper alignment also ensures that one or both spouses are not “pulled” toward someone other than their spouse. Regular communication with your spouse is one way to make sure that your marriage stays properly aligned. Talk about your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Take one night a week as your “alignment” night to make sure that you are both still traveling on the same straight path.

5.  Check your brakes

Your brakes are the mechanism that helps your car to stop. It is important to have a stopping mechanism in your marriage. Often, there are obstacles on the highway of life intended to cause your marriage to have a wreck. You need to make sure that your brakes are working properly in case you ever have to stop short. The key with brakes is that they will often tell you that they need to be replaced before they need to be replaced. If you notice any squeaking on the brakes in your marriage, it’s time to go in and have your brakes checked. Don’t let your marriage spiral out of control. Stop, go to counseling, do whatever it takes to avoid the wreck. Check your BRAKES before your marriage BREAKS!

6. Change your coolant

The coolant is the liquid designed to keep your engine from overheating. Make sure that you keep enough coolant in your marriage so that things don’t get too heated. Arguments are a part of every marriage, but you and your spouse must learn how to fight fair. Develop safe words or phrases that you both agree on that will put a pause on any argument. Use that as your coolant to communicate to your spouse that perhaps now is not the best time, and you’d prefer to table the conversation before things become overheated. Do this BEFORE your next argument so you already have the coolant in hand before the argument becomes too heated. Remember, an overheated engine can lead to engine failure, and many marriages have failed because one or both spouses were unable to keep their cool.

7. Change your windshield wipers

The windshield wipers help to remove water and debris from the windshield to increase visibility. One thing is certain on the road and in life, the rain will fall. When rain falls on the road, the windshield wiper is needed so that the driver can navigate his or her way through the rain. However, if the wipers are old, the driver’s view is blocked, and he or she is likely to have a wreck. When the rain falls in your marriage, you need to have fully functional windshield wipers to ensure that you can see where you’re going. Many marriages end up in wrecks because the couple has no vision. Change the wipers on your marriage so you and your spouse can develop a shared vision for your life – one that no rain or storm can stop you from achieving. There are normally two wipers on the front windshield of your car because both driver and passenger need to be able to see the same thing. Make sure you and your spouse are seeing the same thing.

8. Change the spark plugs

Every marriage needs that extra spark every now and then. Don’t let the spark go out in your marriage! Keep it hot and sexy! If you’ve found that you’ve lost the spark, then it’s time to change your spark plugs. Wives, that may mean you need to change your wardrobe. Stop going to bed in a headscarf and housecoat…put your FREAKUM dress on!!! Husbands, you may need to change your conversation. Make love to her mind in the morning, and you won’t have to worry about what will happen at night! Get out of your routine. Change things up. Put the spark back into your marriage!

I can almost guarantee that if you perform these eight marriage maintenance tips, your marriage will run better, the ride will be smoother, and it will cost you less in the long haul. After all, it’s better to take good care of the car you have now than to go out and buy a new model! Keep the gas tank full – keep filling your spouse’s love tank. Make sure that neither of you ever go empty, and you will have a full and happy marriage!

ancient roman marriage

You may shake hands with the bride!

Research suggests that nearly 90% of all businesses in America are family-owned, and family businesses account for 50% of our Gross Domestic Product. I find it interesting that while there has been a great deal of attention placed on the family business, very few writers have considered using business as a metaphor for family.

There are numerous correlations between what it takes to run a successful business and what it takes to run a successful family.  One aspect of this is using the corporate merger as a metaphor for marriage. Marriage is, at it’s most basic level, a transactional relationship, and in many ways it resembles a business deal. A marriage is the coming together of two separate entities for the express purpose of operating as one. This is the essence of the biblical message that the TWO shall become ONE (Ephesians 5:31). MARRIAGE is a MERGER.

Marriage is a merger – not an acquisition. An acquisition is the purchase of one company or business entity by another. Usually, a larger company consumes a smaller company. This is not a fair and equitable exchange. Far too many marriages have taken the form of an acquisition instead of a merger. One partner dominates, and the other feels consumed and gets lost in the marriage. In other words, the couple is “unequally yoked.” This situation is less than ideal, and it usually does not work. Research suggests that 50% of acquisitions end in failure. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that 50% of marriages end in divorce – many were acquisitions instead of mergers.

Marriage is not a “hostile takeover.” Some businesses are acquired through hostile means. The company was under some form of duress and another company took the opportunity to swoop in and buy them out. The owners of the company are usually left with few options and are forced to sell – often settling for an offer they would have rejected under normal circumstances. Many marriages are doomed to fail from the beginning because they were initiated as hostile takeovers. One or both partners were forced to settle and ended up selling themselves for less than they were worth. Spouses who settle often end up resenting the person they married – even if the spouse had no idea they were settling.

In order for the marriage merger to succeed, both partners must negotiate and enter into agreement from a position of strength. In its purest sense, a merger is when two entities come together in agreement to form one new, combined entity. This is commonly referred to as a “merger of equals“.

There are several keys to ensuring a successful merger…in business and in marriage:

Define leadership roles.

Corporations and couples need to clearly define the leadership roles of the new entity BEFORE the merger takes place. Both entities have existed with their own established leadership and guidelines. The leadership structure of the new entity must be discussed and defined in detail. Couples should discuss and decide who will serve as the de facto CEO of the family. Who will be the Chief Operating Officer and run the day-to-day affairs of the house? Who is better at handling money and will serve as the Chief Financial Officer? These are just a few questions that need to be discussed prior to the marriage merger.

Demand a financial audit.

No company merges with another company without having a complete and thorough picture of the other company’s financial structure and standing. Yet, couples merge every day without knowing how much the other person makes, how much debt he/she has, their credit score, nor their general approach to money. Considering that money fights are the number one killer of marriages, it is vitally important that both parties have a clear understanding of each other’s financial position and are not blindsided post-merger. One quick final note on the financial aspect of the merger: Both parties should have equal ACCESS to all ASSETS. “My” and “mine” cease to exist after the merger.

Discuss long-term goals and vision.

Many marriages end in divorce because the partners realize that they are on divergent paths. They had little to no discussion pre-merger as to where each other wanted to go in life and what they hoped to achieve. Consequently, they were like two boats sitting on the ocean that slowly drifted apart. It’s bad business to merge with a company whose goals, values and vision are diametrically opposed to your own.

Discuss those goals before the merger…you may find out that you were never meant to merge at all.