Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 (ESV)
A Hamster Story
A hamster runs around on a treadmill all day feeling like he’s getting nowhere. Feeling depressed about his lot in life, going round and round, he thinks, “This is pointless.”
One day, his owner leaves the cage open by accident. The hamster escapes and no matter what tries to catch him, house cat or owner, he’s too quick. He hides, and the next available moment the front door opens he makes it outside. As he looks up at the sun and sky, the first thing on his mind is… “Thank God for that treadmill.”
Keep going… you don’t always realize it, but you are in training for your next blessing.
I’ve been told I act “Holier than thou” from an assortment of people in my life. Well, out of the number of things I could be called, I’m glad that’s the worst they could think of. It’s not that I’m holier than they are, it’s that I always expect more of myself even when I fall short of my own standards. Don’t let your shortcomings lower my expectations, please. If I’m “holier than thou”, maybe you should just raise your expectations of yourself and let me keep mine exactly where they are.
A brotha of virtue has no issues telling someone he loves them. Speak what you feel — just don’t overdo it. Authority comes with brevity and honesty.
Just to clarify, being a brotha of virtue doesn’t mean I’m perfect. Though I may fall short from the title (yet not too far, lol), I still try my best to act in a way I, my family, and my friends can be proud of. In those times where I don’t make the best moves, sometimes I just say f*$# it and do what my feelings say. Cop out — maybe, but honesty still is the best policy to me.
My wife and I had a little argument the other day. I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but I do know that I got upset when she started to call me out of my name way before the argument even escalated to that point. She really hurt my feelings. It was a misunderstanding on my part, but she started in calling me stupid, dumbass, and the like. Now normally I would just shrug it off, but she really started to say it in a way that got under my skin. Later, she apologized for it — she did admit to hitting below the belt for no reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
So now that I felt kind of insulted, I let her know that she had no right to go there. She begins to defend herself and after a half-an-hour, we were left with two stank attitudes and her telling me that she gave me an apology (afore mentioned), and I should just let it go. LET IT GO? Her haughtiness and self-righteousness in her demeanor really got to me. In the midst of me trying to explain to her that she hurt my ego, she justified herself by saying “Well, you do it to me too. You want people to empathize with you, but you don’t do the same.” Funny… (This is something I like to call “The Blame Boomerang”). So, I asked her about her timing. Was this the best time to try to teach me a lesson — when she already did something wrong in the first place? Besides, she has always complained that she hates it when she tries to express her issues to me and I tell her she treats me the same way too. We are really just alike. The only difference is she argues better than I do.
After all the anger dissipated, I wrote this:
It’s amazing how much better than me you are at arguing.
How you can argue and shut down everything I say.
How I can try and get you to see my frustration,
but you can shut it down by scrutinizing every word that comes out of my mouth
forget the feeling behind it, forget my feelings,
You’re angry and
I can’t say it in a way you agree to.
I give up.
I’m so forgetful, I can’t even remember things that just came out my mouth
Like you do…
You use words better than me,
You can talk over me way better than I can.
Even when you are dead wrong,
you cover it up with pure emotion.
You argue better than me,
you scrutinize words and throw them back better than me,
you come stronger in every way.
I give up.
Whether it makes you right or wrong doesn’t matter
because I never stand a chance.
I’ll just keep my feelings to myself
because even trying to show you how upset you made me,
how you hurt me,
how you came off haughty and arrogant like you call me
how you brought issues in that had nothing to do with the situation, but previous ones
how you changed an issue I had with you into one you had with me
simply by telling me how I stated something wrong, washing over my issue.
How you cut me off, but never admit it.
How you deny everything I point out,
because I must be batty or can’t prove it.
I give up.
Everything you say about me is true sometimes,
Projecting the things you do to me right on to me
You say it all to me with no filters and no regard to my feelings
Even your apologies drip with sarcasm.
Like it’s only me…
But God forbid I say it to you
or even try to tell you about any issue I have.
I can’t get past your defenses.
But like you’ve said before,
the argument never ends until I want it to right?
you always have to give in first right?
You really play this game better than I do.
I’m reduced to paper because you have me beat on the spoken part. I give up.
She was not happy with this. She simply stuck with “I apologized for calling you names.” and that I treat her the same way. Even when I tried to tell her that this was deeper to me than the name calling. That this is an issue I’ve had for years about her. She still takes all the problems I have with her and makes it my fault. I know I make my own mistakes and no one makes me do what I do. I wish that when I have an issue with her, she would just acknowledge her part and not point it back at me. Yeah, I get it. I do it too. Now can we accept the fact that we have to elevate above that and accept our part?
Not all of our shortcomings are because of another person. Deflection is just denial through blame when it’s too hard to accept blame on yourself. The same ego she accuses me of she has a healthy dose of too. I give up trying to get her to see that and accept it. I guess it’s not my job.
It’s a good thing I love her as much as I do…
Funny how you can be chillin’ minding your own business one second, then lost in a reverie the next. The closer my relationship gets to God, the more He reveals to me the purpose He has for me. Anyway, he revealed to me that I was about to undertake a huge task (which I am not at liberty to expose just yet) and that I would have to prepare myself for such an undertaking. “How?” was the first question I asked. He said, “Your table is a mess. In order for me to give you the feast I have promised you, you are going to have to clean the mess you have made.”
I stood clueless as to how it would happen, so I went to my pastor and told him of the vision I had. He directed me to Daniel 1:4-20 which told how Daniel and his followers denied themselves of the king’s meat and wine for ten days. After the ten days fast, Daniel and his people stood before the king “and in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in his realm.” After reading this, I resolved that I too must fast in the same way so that I may prove myself worthy to God for the undertaking he has shown me. This would be my way of sacrificing and clearing the table for God.
For the first fast I have ever done, I have to say that I am becoming amazed. My clarity is increasing, God is constantly making himself aware to me, and I have prayed (talked to God) more than usual. The Daniel Fast is basically eating only fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (no sweetners or leavened breads) for ten to twenty-one days, and I can only drink water. My body has been cleansing itself of all of the impurities of fast food, processed food, and hyper-sugarized foods. I feel better than I expected.
After three days of the fast, God indicated to my heart that I needed to do more. It was then that I decided to eat nothing for a day — only water. In the middle of the first day of no food, God revealed that should go without food for another day. I was shocked, but I did it anyway. Then, towards the end of the second day of no food, God said to me: Do one more day for me. I couldn’t believe my heart. Was I really doing this? I lost 11 pounds. I was in a constant buzz of energy and I was talking and listening to God more than ever. Is this what this was all about? Plus, could I make it another day?
By the middle of the third day (after realizing that I would live), I was in awe of the fact that I could actually go through with this. What I learned:
- Through God, all limitations of the flesh can be conquered.
- Fasting is an integral part of getting closer to God. The more you give, the closer you can get.
- All experiences you have with God are best done in private.
- Listen to God. He knows whats best for you more than you do.
I continued with my Daniel fast after the third day (God told me three days w/ no food was enough. Trust me. I asked.). After this first experience with fasting, I know I will do it again. Being close to God through sacrifice works and I love Him more for it.
In this wonderful world we live in, the quest for more influence drives the majority of our decisions, which in turn affects our actions. We desire to have more influence in our workplace so we can affect production or quality to get us a promotion. We need more influence over the public so we can get more sales or more clients. We want to influence our significant others by impressing them or wooing them into loving us more. Whatever the reason, increasing our sphere of influence is a desire most of us share.
The issue is that there are so many who already have a lot of influence in this world, but they chose to neglect the power of it. How many times have you heard an artist or athlete say that they are not a role model, yet there are thousands of people that hang off of their every word and action. In the name of freedom of expression, or being human, there are some that forgo the responsibility of the power they have and just do what they want to do. It is a tricky debate — the freedom to be who you are, or the responsibility to use your influence wisely.
As a child, I was a fan of the Spider-Man comic books. Peter (Spider-Man) was the kind of character that liked to crack jokes and not take anything or anyone seriously. His uncle, Uncle Ben, gave him a piece of advice early in the series, a slogan that would become the theme for the entire franchise for years to come: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter shrugged it off, not knowing that right after hearing these words, he would be bitten by a spider and receive great powers beyond his wildest imagination. While he was learning to use these powers he didn’t understand the responsibility he had to use these powers for good — until his neglect of this responsibility led to to the death of his beloved uncle. This tragic happening was the catalyst that led him to never forsake the gifts he was given and use them for good.
The lesson: Brothers (as well as others), if you have been given a gift of influence, are you using it for the betterment of others? Or, are you the type that considers your self-interests more important? If more men would stand up and take responsibility for the power they were given, how would the world be better? As a father, I know it is my responsibility to raise my children properly. I have heard so many rappers, singers, and athletes say, “It is not my job to raise your kids.” That’s fine. Just know that “your job” is making my job more difficult. You have decided to neglect the responsibility that you have earned. Let’s not even mention the hundreds of fathers that neglect their responsibility everyday…
Artists, athletes, politicians, fathers, community leaders, blue-collar workers, and all others in the public eye, you have influence in the world, otherwise you would not be in the position you’re in. With that power you have a responsibility to those that watch you. Whether you like it or not, you are influencing those around you. Influence is power, and with power comes great responsibility. Real men accept responsibility. Are you up to the challenge?
I was walking behind my wife as she sat on the couch looking at a magazine when a random article had caught my eye. The moment I stopped to get a closer look, she began to turn the page – not realizing that my interest had been caught. Politely, I asked “Could you turn back to the last page?” Almost immediately she says, “You just want to look at that half-naked girl on the page.” True enough, when she turned the page back, there was a model posed in the nude (with all of her naughty parts covered) for a lotion ad. “No, I wanted to glance at what this article was about.” At this time, I saw the article was not what I thought it was, so I dismissed it; yet her comment kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Playfully calling her a “female chauvinist” for the comment, I smirked and also let her know that every time I see a half-naked girl I’m not going to lose my mind and stop everything… Well at least not every time, lol.
As little as the incident was, it still left a lingering thought. She assumes that just because I am a man, I can’t control my libido, or I am some sort of sexual hornball. I admit, I can be a sucker for a pretty face, or nice body (that’s how I met her), but I do know when to turn it off. Not every guy wants to screw everything that moves. Has it come to a point in time where women think that just because men have testosterone, we all are mindless oafs when it comes to sexual self-control and emotions? Do they consider this a weakness? What else do women consider about men that is beneath them? It seems, as this link further explains, that women do have certain views and stereotypes associated with men that make them feel in ways superior to us. Female chauvinism is alive and well.
I have heard the old but definitely not wise adage come out of women’s mouths time and time again: “Men are stupid.” I’ve even heard my wife say it in casual conversation with my friends either in exact words or implied statements. I have even been conditioned to think this is in some ways true, so I just shrug it off. As most men know, we aren’t really stupid (well some of us are), but we learn to practice a sort of feigned ignorance or indifference (cause sometimes the argument isn’t worth making the point. This may have back fired on us over time…).
We are now in an age where some of the social tables have turned. There are more women than men earning degrees (especially in the black community). There are many women raising families on their own and being head of the household. Certain technological and medical advances are showing women have no physical need for men to have babies. All of a sudden, some of the very things that used to make some women respect and revere their male counterparts for taking charge and run things is what fuels their need to proclaim that they don’t need us anymore. How many times have I seen a woman become upset because their man won’t take charge and “be a man”, yet when he finally does, the woman is shaken out of her control-freak comfort zone and she can’t stand it?
Bottom line, there is such thing as female chauvinism, and just as men have to be careful not to say general statements like, “You can’t do that cause you’re a girl,” or “That’s a man’s place to do that,” women should be careful about how they generalize men in similar ways. Once again, we are faced with the issue of treating people by the content of their character, and not their God-given characteristics. Are we all up to the challenge yet?