Three rap singers band on the roof

What gangsta rap taught me about my husband

There’s this thing going around on Facebook called the “7-day love your spouse challenge” where, for seven days, people post pictures of themselves with their spouses along with loving commentary to help spread support for love and marriage as a whole. To keep the meme going and the love spreading, people tag friends as an invitation into the challenge.

I have been tagged several times but haven’t participated because, while I adore the idea of spreading the message of love, I’m questioning what message I’m really sending if I post my pictures. Frankly, love is hard and mine doesn’t look like those lovey pictures I see coming across my feed.

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I’ll give you an example. Hubz and I are celebrating our 12-year wedding anniversary this weekend, and we’ve been together for almost 15 years. For the last 15 years I have totally judged and even at times criticized Hubz for not being a very “deep” person. One of his greatest loves in life is old school gangsta rap followed closely by old school country songs. I’m talking N.W.A to Kieth Whitley; the more gangsta and more tragic the song the better. If I had a nickle for every time I rolled my eyes, “tsk”ed my tongue, and made a snarky comment about his music I’d be a bazillionaire in Tahiti right now. Never mind the fact that not only does Hubz listen to the songs of these artists, he knows everything there is to know about the artists themselves. He knows their stories inside and out.

Last weekend I suggested we watch the movie Straight Outta Compton, which was really weird given my absolute distaste and foul attitude for gangsta rap music and lifestyle. But Hubz has wanted to see that movie since it came out, and God had something to show me about my heart.

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I’ve been a judgmental ass. I’ve always viewed the “gangsta style” (life, music, culture, etc.) as boobs, booze, and violence. What Straight Outta Compton showed me was the deeper stories of struggle, danger, humiliation, racism, and cultural dissonance between blacks, whites and cops suffered by the black community. I was so fascinated by what I learned in the film that I watched every second of extras–interviews with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of N.W.A; behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director and movie crew; deleted scenes that never made the movie–all of it. I soaked in every ounce of perspective that film offered.

Then I looked over at my husband and realized what a jerk I’d been to him for the last 15 years. I associated his love for gangsta rap with boobs, booze, and violence and cut his character off at the surface. However, it’s the cultural and personal reality the music speaks of that touches my husband–something I never even bothered to hear let alone understand. It’s more than the beat and tune of the music that draws Hubz to these lyrics and artists; it’s the stories of struggles and triumphs and perspectives that move him. He values story.

And because I was so blinded by my haughty short-sightedness, I completely missed that Hubz and I have something very special and deep in common–the understanding of the importance of personal stories and the effect they have on us as individuals and as a culture. That’s why he spends so much time learning about the artists themselves–it makes the music that much more meaningful and inspiring for him.

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Love is admitting that I’ve been judgmental and unfair, confessing and apologizing to my husband’s face, and seeing/adoring my spouse in a completely new light. But on Facebook all you’ll see is this:20160812_195051

 

 

 

 

 

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True love cannot be captured in a snapshot because it’s a bigger picture made up of many moments of humility. Gangsta rap revealed a shortcoming in my own heart and a depth to my husband’s heart neither of which I knew existed. And in that humility of growth, love rooted deeper between us both. How do you post that on Facebook?

 

 

When my daughter was called “fat”

The neighbor kiddo called my daughter fat. They are both only 8-years-old. As a recovering anorexia patient, of course I was triggered. Thankfully my healthy voice is dominant right now, and this is how the conversation with my daughter unfolded:

“Hmm. How did it make you feel when she said that?” I asked.

*shrugs shoulders* “I don’t know,” Daughter said sheepishly. “Is it true? I feel like maybe it’s true. I don’t understand because she said she didn’t know why she said it. She said she ‘just felt like saying it to me.'”

“That sounds confusing,” I said.

“Yeah.”

I explained, “Her comment doesn’t make sense for two reasons. One, you aren’t fat, so the comment is wrong. It isn’t true. Number two, and most importantly, even if you did live in a larger body, your size has no bearing on who you are. You would still be the same creative, compassionate, funny, gracious person you are in the size you live in now. While your body can be lots of different sizes, your heart stays the same. So her effort to try to make you feel bad doesn’t even make sense. It’s confusing.”

“Why did she say it? She said she didn’t know why and she just felt like it.”

“Sometimes when people get a bad or hard feeling in their hearts,  like sad, mad, jealous, disappointed, hurt, or scared, they want to get rid of that bad feeling so they can feel good. One way people do that is to make someone around them feel bad. It’s like taking off the bad feeling and putting it on someone else to feel. It makes them feel better to see someone else feeling sad or mad or hurt or whatever the feeling. A lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t even know they’re doing this.

Your friend, rather than telling you she had a bad feeling in her own heart, tried to make you feel bad instead by calling you fat. My guess is she didn’t even realize she had a yucky feeling inside and that’s why she didn’t understand why she said it.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you what happened. But it was growing and growing in my chest and I thought it was going to explode outside of me!”

“Yes! That is a great explanation of feelings, Baby Girl. When we don’t talk about our feelings, for you the feelings were confusion and maybe hurt, they sit inside our bodies and they grow and grow until they have to come out. Your friend’s feelings exploded on you in the form of a hurtful comment, that ultimately didn’t make sense. It’s always better to talk about how you’re feeling in the moment so they don’t explode later.

You did the absolute right thing in telling me. Do you feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. If this happens again, then come tell me and I’ll help you. I’ll talk to your friend and her mom. It’s not okay that she was trying to hurt you.”

“She might hate me if you talk to her.”

“Well, if she hates you because of her own actions, then that’s on her and she isn’t a good friend in the first place. Would you rather me not talk to her?”

“I want you to. I need help.”

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My daughter came to me a few days later and said it happened again. This little girl called my daughter fat and tried to cover it with “I’m only kidding” when my daughter tried to stand up for herself. As promised, I pulled this young girl aside and gently explained that her comment isn’t true and that it isn’t okay joke around about people’s body size because it’s hurtful.  It isn’t funny.

I texted her mother and let her know of the situation and my words to her daughter. We had a positive face-to-face conversation about it later. She confessed her daughter keeps all feelings inside despite her attempts to draw her daughter out; often this little girl comes off as just plain mean. I offered my understanding and support, mom-to-mom, friend-to-friend; she gave me permission to talk to her daughter anytime a situation warrants adult intervention.

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Here’s what I want you to know dear reader. Everything I said to my 8-year-old applies to any age, and any gender for that matter. Feelings are human and not age dependent; personal character is human not body size dependent.  Joking or making comments about body size doesn’t make sense at any age for any gender. So if anyone has ever insulted you about your body size, large or small, try to remember there is/was something negative growing inside of them and it’s exploding on to you.

In the spirit of grace and love, and if the situation lends itself, let them know their comment doesn’t make sense. See if you can navigate the conversation deeper, beyond body size, and pin point what’s really going on for the person who is trying to hurt you.

 

 

Stormy sky over flooded lighthouse

Rendered Silent

The world suffers loudly, enduring violence, injustice, fear, ridicule. People with names, faces, families–with purposes and reasons for living–suffer. There is injustice afflicted on black lives, Christian lives, LGBTQ lives, mentally ill lives, women’s lives, children’s lives… The discrimination, persecution, and exploitation of particular groups of humans is undeniable.

In the midst of the madness and loss, loathing arguments fling across social media, pelting the intelligence and opinions of well-intentioned people who try to speak up for what feels right in their hearts.

Me? I am rendered silent. Silence isn’t safe in our culture; is is almost as unsafe, or even more so, as shouting the wrong opinion. I see/hear the judgement from many who shake their cyber-fists at those of us who choose not to speak up.

I cannot stand up for all the issues and all the people. I cannot feel the hurt and advocate for the safety, recovery, equality of all who suffer. You see, when I think about all the people and all the issues and all the injustice and all the pain and all the inequality, I freeze. There is too much, and it all sits on my chest like a boulder. No injustice or forced pain is greater or less than another in my heart. The loss of black brothers is just as tragic as the thousands of children lost in the sex industry– is just as tragic as the thousands of Christians massacred across the world– is just as tragic as the transgender teen who dies by suicide– is just as tragic as the police shot during a protest– is just as tragic the father so weighed down by depression he can’t get out of bed– is just as tragic as the young girl who is blamed for her own rape…The list goes on dear reader.

I am rendered silent because screaming into a raging storm is hopeless. But reaching out my hand for someone seeking shelter from the storm–I am rendered empowered. Staying alert and sensitive and curious to the people and situations around me, that’s helpful. Teaching my children to be curious, compassionate, inclusive, sensitive, and loving toward all people–that’s helpful.  And when the Spirit leads me to take action, to get involved, to speak up and to stand up for someone who’s hurting, I do. And that is good. It is enough. The cyber-fist shakers won’t agree and that’s okay. I don’t answer to them. And if I did, I’d only be contributing to the widening chasm that keeps us from connecting in a way that makes a genuine difference to those who suffer. I answer to Love–to those who seek love in their suffering and the One who is Love.

 

 

Grumpy cat

One of the rudest things you can say

“You shouldn’t be eating that. It’s so bad for you.”

This is one of the rudest things we say to each other in our culture.

We say this ALL THE TIME. From friends at lunch, to families at meal time, neighbors at BBQs, and complete strangers all over the internet, whether through articles or personal commentary, we say this in the name of health.  But what we’re really saying is “you’re doing it wrong and that’s bad. You should be better.”

We shouldn’t be doing is tolerating this statement in our lives. It isn’t okay for people to be in our food or food habits. Even if, especially if, we’re struggling with weight challenges.

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Would you ever say  to someone, “You shouldn’t be wearing that. You’re too fat”? It’s just as rude to tell someone they should or shouldn’t be eating something.

To say openly comment on or to accept commentary on what someone should or shouldn’t be eating, what’s bad or not bad is judgmental and hurtful. No one knows our own bodies better than ourselves. And if we’re judging what others are eating based on body type and/or potential future body type, then we’re missing opportunities to concern ourselves with things that actually matter.

This is especially damaging for children. Forcing the shoulds and shouldn’ts of dietary rules interrupts not just the joy of eating but also the natural signals kids get from their bodies about what they like/dislike, what sounds good, and what they need. Food is meant to be fun and fuel; the best way to keep kiddos healthy is by teaching them to listen to their bodies, not cultural rules.

School Lunch - Girls TableOn that same note, it’s important to teach our children it isn’t okay to judge others’ food. The same way we’d tell them not to peek in the windows of our neighbor’s house or comment on Grandma’s potent breath, we must teach them it’s not okay to make comments about people’s food or food habits.

 

Things that are okay to say, because food is actually really fun and interesting to talk about when we’re not judging each other about it:

  • “That looks really good!”
  • “Did you make that? How did you make it?”
  • “I don’t really like that flavor, but I do like…”
  • “Have you ever tried (name of food)?”
  • “What other things do you like to eat?”

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Health looks different for each body.  The food my body needs and enjoys is different than what your body needs and enjoys is different from what every other body needs and enjoys, regardless of body size and type and health. So unless we live inside each other’s bodies, we have no basis upon which to tell each other what we should or shouldn’t be eating and why.

No more tolerating “You shouldn’t eat that; it’s bad for you.” Stay confident in what you choose for yourself and advocate for each other to eat what sounds good.

#nofoodshame

 

 

 

Depositphotos_30835387_s-2015

Christians are not all the same

We’re not all the same, you know. Us Christians. About the only thing we have in common as a collective church is that we believe Jesus to be the Son of God and He’s our savior. When I say I am a Christian, that’s what I mean. Jesus is my savior, so I follow him. But each Christian is unique in living out what following Jesus means.

What I want you to understand is that I am not one of the Christians who will keep you at arm’s length with a Bible flapping in my outstretched hand showing you how you’re living your life wrong. (The only time I’ll keep you at a distance is if you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally harming me or my loved ones. And even then I am not going to stab you with Bible verses.)

I don’t believe you have to repent or “be right with God” before he’ll wrap you up in His arms to love you. If you want Him, if you need Him, if you desire your life to be different, then turn around right now–as you are–because He’s there with his arms outstretched waiting for you. If there’s repentance that needs to happen, it will happen and it will happen between you and God. Just the two of you. When it’s time, you’ll know because you’ll feel a conviction in your heart–a tug, a knowing, an understanding you can’t explain, a gut-wrench that pulses up your body and makes you a little bit dizzy–and you’ll want to be forgiven and healed from the wrongdoing. You’ll want to be made different.

God will never force you to be different, clean, or “good enough” the way some Christians will. I’m sorry if that has happened to you already. Truly sorry.

Personally, I’ve never seen nor experienced Jesus wait for repentance before he offers love, grace, and mercy. Some Christian’s believe grace isn’t free. I disagree. The best example I have is when Jesus was on the cross being tortured while literally hanging by nails, and he lifted a prayer to God on behalf of his torturers: “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Call me crazy but I don’t think the lynch mob having their violent way with Jesus was “right with God” nor were they repented. Heck, they didn’t even believe Jesus was God. Yet, Jesus, went to bat for them with God anyway. Because he loved them.

He loves you the same. And I’m guessing you haven’t even lynched anybody lately. You don’t have to be a certain way to receive God’s love. Just be you. That’s enough.

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 Of course, you could say, “No way is this true. Dumb Bible speaks fantasy.” Wouldn’t it be great if it was true, though? If this God, this Jesus, this wacky Holy Spirit Christians talk about were the real deal?

Well, I believe 100%. I believe in that LOVE.

And because I believe, and because I love Jesus and I want to do my best to follow him, this is what it means for you and me as friends:

If you are labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other sexually oriented specific gender/non-gender label, then I am going to be your friend. I will draw you in close and honor who you are without conditions. I’ll will support your fight for the right to love and live how you need to love and live. If you’re hurting then I will pray for you, hug you, and take you out for coffee.

If you are thinking about an abortion, then I am going to listen to your story, your pain and fear. We’ll wrestle through your options together. I am going to tell you that if you keep your baby, you’re going to be okay and God is going to love you and take care of you and that little baby through the hardships. I will tell you that if you abort your baby, God is going to love you and take care of you and that sweet little baby through the hardships. I’ll tell you that I hope and pray you choose life, but if you decide abortion is the only way, then I’ll help you find a clinic that is safe, help you find followup physical care and mental health support, and help you find healing for your heart.

If you struggle with mental illness and/or are thinking about suicide, then I am going to listen to your story and your pain. I am going to ask you directly if you’re safe and if you’re not, then I am going to find a way to get you help. We’ll wrestle through all your options together. Suicide is an option, but I promise there are better ones. I am going to tell you that you matter, and if no one else sees you, know God sees you and He loves you. And if you don’t believe it, that’s okay. I am going to help you find good mental health support, and I am going to pray for you anyway.

Pick a hot topic and I’ll keep going. My point is:  Right or wrong, sinful or not, I believe Jesus walks with you and God loves you. I don’t worry about nor require your repentance to accept you or hang out with you because that isn’t my concern. My concern lies solely with whether or not you feel loved by God.

Some Christians may argue that you have to repent and get right with God in order to truly earn the love and the grace Jesus offers. I am not one of those Christians. We aren’t all the same. He loves you as is. And so do I.