Monday, March 30, 2009

Donnie McClurkin Disgusted with Pastoral Abuses and Excesses

This past week, popular preacher, recording artist and pastor, Donnie McClurkin, went on record to declare his deep disappointment with what he sees as pastoral abuses in the body of Christ. His comments have raised a legitimate question about abuse and excesses in the body of Christ and has brought attention to a topic that has largely been ignored in the church community.

In an article appearing in Essence this past week Pastor McCLurkin is quoted as saying:

“As pastors, we have to link arms and have bi-partisanships. The [Black] church has always been the face of the community. Now we have to take on the responsibility of becoming true servants to the people from all walks of life. I get so mad when I see these pimpin' preachers driving Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, flying around in their private jets, and making it seem like prosperity and money is the way of God when 90 percent of your congregation is on Section 8 or can't figure out how they are going to keep their lights on or feed their kids. I'm big on perception, and what would it look like for me to live so lavishly if the people in my church are struggling?” says Pastor McClurkin in the article."

In venting his frustration over the behavior of some in the church community, Pastor McCLurkin reveals his own humility and sense of service to God and God’s people, by outlining his own relationship, financial and otherwise, with his church and his refusal to take revenue from a congregation that he has built from the ground up.

“I've done great in gospel music, and only a few of us have accomplished what I have, and guess what? I live in the ‘hood, not some place on the outskirts of the ‘hood. There ain't no gate around my house; I have a white fence because the people I pastor live in that community. I have one vehicle and it's not a
Mercedes, it's a Lincoln Navigator. I don't receive a dime—not an Abraham Lincoln copper coin—and haven't for the last seven-and-a-half years because I'm okay.”
he tells Kenya Byrd of Essence Magazine.

As such, Pastor McCLurkin has become a model and an example for others to emulate. His mentality and actions, that places a greater emphasis on service than profit, can only be admired by all of those who love the Lord and are seeking to do his will to the best of their ability. Pastor McCLurkin makes it clear that he has options, but chooses to live a modest and humble lifestyle because that what God has called him to do.

If I wanted to buy a Phantom or Bentley I could and not hurt my pockets, but I'm okay with what I have. I can sing and work and I let all that money go back into the church so we can buy the delicatessen on the corner, or the house next door to make it state-of-the-art low-income housing. We've trained our people to put their leaders on pedestals, and some people want to live
vicariously through their pastor and say, "My pastor has this and he's on television and so on," but then what do you have? How have you prospered and grown? So when I hear other pastors say, "My people take care of me," I'm thinking, But you're supposed to be taking care of the people. I just don't get it. Pastor McCLurkin goes on to say.

What is best gleaned from the wisdom and honesty of Pastor McCLurkin is his healthy attitude about the church and who it belongs to. His “ecclesiology”, which is worthy of our consideration, perhaps best represents what Christ had in mind when he gave pastors to the body of Christ in the first place.

I don't have a church, but I do have a church that I pastor. I can't name something the Donnie McClurkin Temple because the people do not belong to me and if they did that would mean I have slaves. I am simply a vessel to deliver God's word. At the end of the day, it's God's church, not mine, advises Pastor McCLurkin.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Weary of Looking for Work, Some Create Their Own

March 14, 2009
By Matt Richtel and Jenna Wortham

SAN FRANCISCO — Alex Andon, 24, a graduate of Duke University in biology, was laid off from a biotech company last May. For months he sought new work. Then, frustrated with the hunt, he turned to jellyfish.

In an apartment he shares here with six roommates, Mr. Andon started a business in September building jellyfish aquariums, capitalizing on new technology that helps the fragile creatures survive in captivity. He has sold three tanks, one for $25,000 to a restaurant, and is starting a Web site to sell desktop versions for $350.

“I keep getting stung,” he said. And his crowded home office is filled with beakers and test tubes of jellyfish food. “But it beats looking for work. I hate looking for work.”

Plenty of other laid-off workers across the country, burned out by a merciless job market, are building business plans instead of sending out résumés. For these people, recession has become the mother of invention.

Economists say that when the economy takes a dive, it is common for people to turn to their inner entrepreneur to try to make their own work. But they say that it takes months for that mentality to sink in, and that this is about the time in the economic cycle when it really starts to happen — when the formerly employed realize that traditional job searches are not working, and that they are running out of time and money.

Mark V. Cannice, executive director of the entrepreneurship program at the University of San Francisco, calls the phenomenon “forced entrepreneurship.”

“If there is a silver lining, the large-scale downsizing from major companies will release a lot of new entrepreneurial talent and ideas — scientists, engineers, business folks now looking to do other things,” Mr. Cannice said. “It’s a Darwinian unleashing of talent into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Even in prosperous times, entrepreneurs have a daunting failure rate. But those who succeed could play a big role in turning the economy around because tiny companies are actually big employers. In 2008, 3.8 million companies had fewer than 10 workers, and they employed 12.4 million people, or roughly 11 percent of the private sector work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists say there are some peculiarities to this wave of downturn start-ups. Chiefly, the Internet has given people an extraordinary tool not just to market their ideas but also to find business partners and suppliers, and to do all kinds of functions on the cheap: keeping the books, interacting with customers, even turning a small idea into a big idea.

The goal for many entrepreneurs nowadays is not to create a company that will someday make billions but to come up with an idea that will produce revenue quickly, said Jerome S. Engel, director for the center for entrepreneurship at the Berkeley Haas School of Business. Mr. Engel said many people will focus on serving immediate needs for individuals and businesses.

“It’s a very painful thing,” he said of the pressure people feel to find new ways to make money. “But it’s a healthy thing.”

Mr. Engel noted that the dot-com bust helped propel a pack of hardy companies. One of those, in fact, was Google. While it was started in the late 1990s, the company succeeded during the bust in part because it was highly focused and did not need much capital, Mr. Engel said.

Ryan Kuder, 35, understands the notion of scaled-down start-up fervor — and the worry and exhilaration that goes along with it. He was laid off in February 2008 from Yahoo, where he was a senior marketing manager. He job-hunted for a bit, then decided to start an Internet company that would let people do social networking at the neighborhood level.

Mr. Kuder and his business partner toiled until November, when he realized his big dreams had run headlong into reality. He needed money to pay the mortgage and buy health insurance for his family.

They transformed the company into a new one called Koombea that designs and builds Web sites for businesses. Koombea has grown to nine people, most of them in Colombia, where the cost of living allows them to do Web design relatively inexpensively.

Mr. Kuder and his wife agreed that he would give up working for Koombea at the end of January if he did not hit certain revenue goals. They narrowly missed the target. For a few days, Mr. Kuder sent out résumés. He found no work, so he is back investing himself full time in Koombea — and says he is feeling transformed.

“My sleeves are rolled up, and I’m dirtier than I’ve ever been before,” he said. “It’s incredibly nerve-wracking. I wake up nauseous everyday. But it’s probably easier right now to find a problem, solve it and charge people than it is to find a job.”

Monica Zamiska, 25, said it was “traumatizing” when she was laid off in January from her first postcollege job as a junior account executive with the public relations firm Ogilvy & Mather. After meeting with five recruiters, she began to realize how barren the job market was. “You can only send out so many résumés,” Ms. Zamiska said.

So she turned her full attention to a pet project called the Confoodant, a Web site with restaurant reviews written by a by-invitation-only network of food enthusiasts. Her main financial obligation is her rent, but with her savings and four weeks of severance pay, she is confident that she can devote at least six months to getting the project off the ground.

“I love working,” Ms. Zamiska said. “So I made work for myself.”

The surge of interest in entrepreneurship can be seen in the demand for related workshops and networking events. Monica Doss, director of FastTrac, an organization that offers training to aspiring entrepreneurs, said she expected participation to double this year from the 10,000 people it had last year.

“People are thinking, ‘These jobs aren’t going to come back in three years. I’ve got to find something else to do,’ ” Ms. Doss said.

Mr. Andon, for one, seems to have found his niche. He said he recently received an order for a large jellyfish tank that should sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

His entrepreneurial fever seems to be catching: at least four of his roommates are starting companies. Two of those — Erin Kitchell, 28, and her brother Andrew, 25 — are making laminated, fold-out language guides for travelers. In the next few days they plan to print their first 8,000 copies and start trying to sell them.

Ms. Kitchell took a voluntary buyout in June from Wachovia, sensing a layoff would come anyway, and is not sanguine about finding good work.

“This is as good a time as any to try something entrepreneurial,” she said. “There is not a lot of opportunity right now in finance.”

Matt Richtel reported from San Francisco, and Jenna Wortham from New York.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 14, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Wall Street to Church Street through Main Street and Side Street

By Akin Ojumu
March 24, 2009

Wall Street is no place for the simpletons. Nincompoopery is scarce in Lower Manhattan. The faint hearted cannot survive in this place where the kings of the earth pay homage at the feet of the mammon god. The brightest and the best minds of the world offer up daily sacrifices, at the altar of this being, who governs over the twp by the East River. As the smoke of the burnt offerings waltzes up into the skies, it lifts up the almighty dollar that lays resplendent within its almighty throne.

The minds that run Wall Street rule the world. They are the Masters of the Universe. These are the captains of the world financial ship – the drivers of our economic automobile. When they sneeze the world catches cold. When they talk the people of the earth listen with rapt attention. These are very powerful people whose pervading influence permeates deep into every nook and cranny of our livelihood.

Wall Street can do no wrong………..or so we thought. All our hopes and dreams for the future naturally follow our trust. So we rest our nest egg in the arms of Wall Street whiz kids. And our IRA, 401(k), and 403(b) are fully vested in the hands of the Colossus before whom all men bow and worship. Into the care of Wall Street we commit our automobiles, mortgages, children’s education, and of course our retirements. We are sold on the infallibility of man-made financial system.

From Wall Street to Church Street through Main Street and Side Street the clarion call goes out, “Do not cast your bread upon the waters.” We are told to give unto Caesar that which belongs unto Caesar and then some. Daily we are buffeted with the shout to lay up treasures for ourselves and ourselves alone.

Pastors preach it, Deacons declare it, and the House of the Lord soon has become a den of financial planners and wealth managers, drunken with wine from the Wall Street orchard. The message from the pulpits becomes the how to of building personal wealth and financial security. They tell us it is time for the transfer of wealth from the world to the church. The House of God, we are told, will soon become the center of world’s prosperity. And so we are charged to invest in real and imagined estates. “The only thing real,” a big man of God always says, “is real estate.” “Borrow and buy,” we are counseled, “Income should not be a hindrance. Just stretch your faith a little bit and let Mortgage broker do the rest.”

Thus the Wall Street mindset takes hold in the House of Worship. The Body of Christ is caught in unholy web of materialism. The yardstick of church growth becomes the acres of land on which the church building stands and individual success is measured by the number of houses owned as investment properties. The focus and thought process shifted from:

".....Brethren, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service....." Romans 12:1

To that of:

".....I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry....." Luke 12:18-19.

And it works well for a time. It is like the seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. Bigger homes, magnificent edifices of worship, luxury cars, and even private jets. Then the house of cards comes crashing down. The seven years of plenty is always followed by seven years of famine. The foolishness of Wall Street is unraveled and the infallibility of mammon debunked.

In the book titled Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about the Tragic Vision of humankind, which he described as a school of thought that believes in the existence of inherent limitations and flaws in the way we think and act and requires an acknowledgement of this fact as basis for any individual and collective action.

The world does not subscribe to the philosophy of fallibilism, the philosophical doctrine that all claims of knowledge could, in principle, be mistaken. To the whole world Wall Street can do no wrong. And in our own childish innocence Believers in Christ also believe - and strongly so - that Christian leaders can do no wrong. Yet the world in the height of its wisdom is still pitifully foolish.

Whereas the scriptures tell us:

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21.

Wall Street tells us the direct opposite. So whose report do we believe and whose orders do we obey?

The whole world (the whole creation), it turns out, seems programmed to spit in the face of the Creator. At every turn and at all times we flaunt our free will and haunt our Maker with our power of choice. The world seeks universal truth and attainment of the highest individual human potential. It is the theme of the books we read, the rhythm of the songs we sing, and it is the common thread that runs through all the TV shows beamed for all to see.

The preservation of self is the weltanschauung of the new age mentality and it is the foundation of Wall Street.

But the truth is the Word of God will always prevail because:

".....whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it....." Mark 8:35.

Ukraine-based Nigerian Pastor in Fraud Charges

By Ezra Ijioma
Daily Champion Newspaper, Nigeria
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Flambouyant Nigerian pastor and apparently Ukraine’s most prominent Pentecostal leader, Sunday Adelaja, has been indicted on fraud charges. Pastor Adelaja is the senior pastor of the largest church in the Ukraine, "The Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations, Kiev."
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has accused him of defrauding citizens of money, the ministry’s Department for Media Liaison and International Activity said. Sunday Champion gathered that the amount is over $100m.

"The investigator has brought charges against Nigerian citizen Sunday Adelaja, who permanently resides in Ukraine and is a senior pastor at the Embassy of God church. The charges were brought under Part 4, Article 190 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the embezzlement of funds in very large amounts via fraud)," the ministry said.

Last month, several church members went to authorities saying they were unable to recover the money they invested, which left many of them bankrupt. Police later arrested one of King’s Capital leaders, Aleksandr Bandurchenko, on suspicion of fraud.

Speculation about Adelaja’s involvement with King’s Capital grew after reports surfaced that he was part of a bank in Nigeria known as GS Microfinance Bank Limited. Some speculated that Adelaja, a native of Nigeria, invested funds from King’s Capital in the African bank and planned to leave the country.

Adelaja, however, said those accusations are unfounded. He said he has never been involved with King’s Capital but denied that it is a Ponzi scheme, which uses later investments to pay dividends to earlier investors.

He said King’s Capital was a legitimate business that failed under the pressure of the global financial crisis. He said because the company poured most of the investment capital into real estate, which decreased in value, it has been unable to pay investors.

"When the economic crisis came, all the real estate is no more selling. The land is enough to pay back the money owed. ... The problem is ... everything is stopped in the country--nothing is selling now in Ukraine,’’ he said.

Adelaja said Interior Affairs Minister Yurii Lutsenko accused the church of involvement because he wants to undermine the evangelical movement in Ukraine. With several thousand members across the nation, God’s Embassy is one of the most influential congregations in Ukraine.
"(Lutsenko) is in a very bad situation," Adelaja said. "He’s got to prove now that (King’s Capital) is a pyramid scheme, but he cannot."

Adelaja said he never encouraged his church members to invest in the company and cautioned them to invest in businesses that offer insurance. "Of course ... if you invest with insurance you get less percentage," he said. "What happened was many people said they didn’t need insurance because the (King’s Capital leaders) were Christians."

He acknowledged being affiliated with GS Microfinance, but said he invested his name and influence in the bank, not millions of dollars. He said GS Microfinance was formed to give small loans to poor Nigerians as a way of lifting them out of poverty. "It’s not about what you can get, but the vision of the program is to elevate and get as many people out of poverty as possible," Adelaja said. "That is one of my lifetime passions ... because I grew up in poverty."

Although Adelaja has repeatedly denied any involvement in King’s Capital, which has not officially been deemed a fraudulent business, Pentecostal and charismatic leaders across Ukraine are calling on him to repent, saying they heard him encourage church members to invest in the company on several occasions.

"He was not a president of this company, but he was the No. 1 spiritual leader, and he told them what they have to do," said Bishop M. S.Panochko, leader of the All-Ukrainian Union of Pentecostal Churches of Evangelical Faith, which is comprised of 1,500 churches across the nation. "He can do everything to tell them that he is not involved, but all the leaders have a lot of facts, and we have a lot of video of when he was pushing people, and he encouraged people to invest in this business."

Panochko was one of 10 leaders who met with Adelaja last Tuesday to confront him about his alleged support of King’s Capital and the negative impact some of his actions have had on the evangelical church in Ukraine.

The Pentecostal bishops, who together represent more than 2,500 congregations, listed seven items of concern and said Adelaja has a pattern of making exaggerated statements. They pointed particularly to his alleged claim that he led the 2004 Orange Revolution--when Ukrainian voters protested a presidential election many considered fraudulent--and his reports that God’s Embassy has 100,000 members across the nation. The bishops say those and other statements are untrue.

After the meeting, Adelaja issued a statement saying he did not organize the Orange Revolution, though his congregation participated in the demonstrations. He also asked forgiveness for the negative impact the King’s Capital scandal has had on Ukrainian churches, but he added that he did not personally have any involvement in the company.

Despite the statement, Panochko said the bishops would continue waiting for Adelaja to apologize for allegedly endorsing King’s Capital. If he does not repent, Panochko said the bishops would issue a statement to Christians in Ukraine and abroad, and to the Ukrainian government, denouncing Adelaja and claiming no affiliation with him.

Moscow-based pastor Rick Renner, founder of the Good News Association of Churches and Ministries for Russia, Latvia and Ukraine, said Adelaja’s claims are hurting Christians in the former Soviet Union.

If convicted, Adelaja may spend up to 12 years in imprisonment, according to Part 4, Article 190 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pastor Adeboye, Buying a Plane to see God

By Tunde Fagbenle
Sunday Punch Newspaper, Nigeria
Sunday, Macrch 15, 2009

Have you heard the news? That our pastor, Pastor Adeboye, has acquired a brand new aircraft for N4 billion? Jesus is a mighty God, a mighty God, Jesus is a miracle God.

"Sharaap! Are you mad? So what business of mine is that? Now you see why I am not a Christian, and certainly cannot be your kind of mumu Christian. You are hungry and jobless and you are singing praises to Jesus that your bishop has gone to buy an aircraft for 4 billion naira! I am sorry for you. Please, get out of my sight."

"Na bad belle dey worry you. Can't you see the glory of God in that? A Gulfstream 4XP aircraft, whao, that's a pleasure ride, man, I mean a pleasure fly. Our pastor is the first to buy that kind of aircraft and he didn't even borrow a kobo to buy it. Cash down. I told you, our Redeemed Christian Church of God is the biggest and best church in the world, and buying this plane has just confirmed it, he has beaten others to it. We lead; others follow. Hallelujah!"

(Shaking his head) "Are you sure you're well? So, tell me, where did your pastor get N4billion from? With that kind of money, do you know what industry he can set up to provide employment for thousands, the likes of you jobless graduates who throng his churches in droves seeking the "salvation" of a job? In a land full of poverty and deprivation, a "man of God" goes ahead collecting monies from the poor and rich, promising them the kingdom of God, and going ahead to buy such luxury aircraft. Psshhh!"

"What you fail to know in your ignorance is that that money is not just our collections, not just our tithes and offerings, it is the blessing of God. How is it possible to collect N4billion just like that if God did not bless it? It is like the miracle of the five fish and two loaves with which Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour fed five thousand people. These things are not possible except through God. Look at all the wonders that are happening to us, look at the size of our churches, look at our university, everything. And we can still buy a N4billion aircraft and you think that is done by man? You are ignorant. May God open your eyes and let you see His wonders."

"O, I see! You guys collected N4,000 and your pastor performed Jesus miracle, prayed on it and it turned to N4billion! I wonder where is the taxman. About time religion stops being the excuse for not paying taxes. I am ignorant, ehn? Well, I would rather remain so than belong to your "enlightened" group."

"So, what's your gripe, anyway? What's an ordinary N4billion aircraft when even smaller boys own bigger planes in America, and even here in Nigeria? After all, Bishop Oyedepo of Winners Chapel, also has an aircraft. But ours has beaten his own."

"So, it's a case of 'my Mercedes is bigger than yours'? Hehehe."

"Stay there. If only you know how busy our pastor is and the magnitude of the evangelism he can achieve by being able to fly all over the world at short notice and convert people and expand our size, then you wouldn't be saying the nonsense you are saying. With that plane, now you have to know that no matter the money you bring to God through our church, you know our pastor is bigger than that. You bow."

"Hmmmmm, I see. But tell me, when will you get a job, now that your bishop has bought this plane?"

"Leave that alone. What you don't know is that in the same way that God has been faithful to Bishop Adeboye and granted him his wish for this plane, so will He be faithful to the rest of us and grant our wishes. Even with this plane, how do you know it wouldn't be a means for our bishop to be able to carry our supplications to God in heaven faster?"

"O, I see. You must be right. The plane flies in the sky, and heaven is in the sky, sebi? So your pastor will literally fly in his new plane to take your supplications to God? O pari o!"

"The fool says in his heart, there is no God. Please stop being a fool. I want you in paradise with me."

"I pass. Your pastor should be enough company there."

"So, what about the N100 I asked for? I'm really hungry, man."

"N100? Hundred naira ko, hundred kobo ni. Adeboye no dey there?"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Christian Marriage II

By Ema Eirewele-Momoh

It is me again with my sustained interest on the Christian marriage. I am not one to over spiritualize issues but I feel that the pressure to preach what I practice (I prefer this to practice what you preach there’s a slight difference) since I wrote the piece precluding this on the Christian marriage has been heightened.

I am almost regretting sending that piece because I hesitated a great deal before I sent it. But no way; no regrets, no retreat no surrender I guess the issue of being in the battlefield comes to mind right now.

Lately (after that piece) I have been under immense pressure in my home just little provocations here and there that I would ordinarily (before I got enlightened in this area WHILE WRITE THE FAMOUS PIECE) have said “what rubbish” and be quick to remind my spouse that marriage is not a do or die affair (them no dey die put- the pidgin English version) and release all kinds of negative statements about the marriage. But now I ‘know’ better and I try to restrain myself. Please don’t get me wrong by restraining myself I do not mean that I did not give full vent to my anger. It is just that for one, I did not talk about moving out or being tired of the marriage or ask myself what I was doing here. To buttress the difficulty it was to restrain myself, I cried. Cried for the change I was going through; cried because I could not say those words chosen to deliberately hurt and tear one down, with the intent of transferring the hurt one feels to the ‘PHYSICAL’ cause of the hurt; cried because I felt really foolish exposing myself to be hurt (by loving wholly) AND DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT.

Someone once said that the devil is deliberately attacking the family unit subtly but steadily. In fact, the attack is being heightened in the face of the current status of the global economy. According to analysts, more men are being laid off from their jobs for the singular reason (it seems at least in the physical) that they were the higher paid of the 2 sexes anyway, but what is underlying that we need to be discerning is this: Homes become skewed from God’s original plan (of the man being the bread winner and the woman being the help, meet for him to fulfill his God given role). Then we have more women headed homes (they abound even before the crises). Now the woman takes up the responsibility of producing, reproducing and caring. She soon begins to succumb to the pressure of the weight she is carrying, she begins to be fed with lies (in her mind nothing external yet) from the pit of hell that she really doesn’t need the man to the point that she begins to believe it. The cream on this brewing tea will be a rapid successive barrage of the usual provocation that comes from living with somebody else that man (Homo sapiens) must exhibit, then it is only the grace of God that will keep the home intact (the good news is: HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US).

Let me at this point crave your indulgence to lift as is, what was written for Day 69 of Calvin Miller’s Daily inspirations for those who await the saviour- UNTIL HE COMES (hey by the way my husband bought it for me-now I am posing do allow me)

Dividing the Indivisible
Mathew 5:31-32
“And it was said, ‘WHOEVER DIVORCES HIS WIFE, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DISMISSAL [Deut. 24:1,3]; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”(Emphasis his not mine).

To divide anything that longs to be whole sins against unity. To cut off the roots of a great tree and separate them from the tree destroys it. For the leaves feed the roots as the roots nourish the leaves. Roots and leaves are vastly different, yet each makes life possible for the other.

Marriage is the grafting of two souls into a wonderful, spiritual interdependency. Life becomes a oneness that did not exist before a promise made a single organism out of seperateness. Marital love arrives where the paths of mutual submission meet. When a man and woman voluntarily surrender their private agendas to each other, each promises enduring commitment to the other’s welfare. They vow that in sickness and health, through ultimate trials of soul, they will live for each other.

But if they are not disciplined in their loving, divorce may divide them. The lure of new passions will smother them in the ashes of their lost integrity. Have they not promised “for better, for worse forever”? Then why this voluntary selling of their souls to promote their own private agendas? Did they not agree that they would have no private agendas? Did they not say what’s mine is yours and yours is mine? Now do they dare to take back their words, reschedule their oaths, or sell their secondhand promises to others?

Mark this: there is no such thing as self-seeking love. The two terms cancel each other out. A marriage altar is a union of high promises, not the welding of errant self-interest. So when I(Christ) said that he who divorces his wife sins, I(Christ) was really saying this: All breakers of holy union are committing sins of broken integrity. Think long and hard before you make a marriage promise. Then commit yourself to all you promise. If you say “till death do us part”, never make secondary vows with lesser texts. Determine to be a person of integrity.

Lord Jesus,
Help me never to join that permissive
war of arrogance
by which the self-excusing
excuse themselves of their integrity.
Help me to honour every vow
and to mean it when I say
For better, for worse, forever.
Avoiding such poor marriage surgery
is but to keep my vows from perjury.

I think this is a good place to sign off as I leave us all to ponder on these things.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Make Room for Daddy

By Damon Syson

United Airlines Hemisphere Magazine

Is being a stay-at-home dad an enlightened gesture, or a dastardly parent trap I’ll never escape? One man’s journey to paternal maturity.

TWO YEARS AGO, I HAD THE PERFECT life. As a London-based freelance journalist, I was sent on a variety of international assignments. In one year, I traveled around southern Africa with Bono, underwent astronaut training with Richard Branson, and sat wide-eyed in the stern of an America’s Cup boat as yachtsmen were swept overboard and masts snapped around me. Okay, so my salary was irregular and I had zero job security, but my life was exciting, spontaneous and fun.

Then we had a baby. And everything changed. Bethan, my partner, has a full-time job, so together we decided that once her maternity leave was up it made sense for me to curtail my foreign exploits and do the lion’s share of the childcare. Almost overnight, editors crossed me off their “will pack bags at a moment’s notice” list.

These days, the longest trip I ever take is to the local café. My luggage has gathered dust, my passport sits dolefully in a drawer and my world has shrunk to a mile’s radius around our house. Having once been flown to LA to interview Hollywood celebrities, I now go for entire days talking to no adults except the staff at Ava’s daycare and the occasional supermarket check-out worker. The edgiest my life gets is trying out an adventurous pasta recipe from Annabel Karmel’s Baby and Toddler Meal Planner.

I should stress that I haven’t entirely given up work. On the three days of the week when Ava is in preschool, I have the luxury (and it really does feel like a luxury, in a way that it never quite did before) of a 9-5 working day. But because I work from home, the majority of domestic chores—shopping, cooking, cleaning—also fall to me.

I’m not alone. I know at least three other men who have scaled down their careers—temporarily, they are always eager to point out—in favor of bringing up small children. If your wife earns more than you and has greater job security, it makes sense, especially in these turbulent times, to reverse the traditional roles. And with the looming specter of widespread job losses in 2009, I expect I’ll be one of a growing band of disconsolate, unshaven men pushing swings on weekday mornings.

I’m not complaining about my new life. Actually, maybe I am. But I know full well that I can’t expect any sympathy—neither from men, who probably view me as a cautionary tale, nor women, who can be forgiven for enjoying seeing the tables turned. And yet adjusting to my role as a domestic drudge has been a challenge. I’ve always thought of myself as a progressive, modern male—a fellow traveller in the march toward gender equality. And yet as much as I try to convince myself that being a stay-at-home dad is a worthy occupation for a man, I can’t help but feel like my masculinity is under attack. I can’t help feeling… well, like a housewife.

The other day, for example, I sulked for half an hour when Bethan arrived home at 10 p.m. I’d spent hours preparing a complicated vegetarian moussaka and she’d ended up working late and eating at her desk. Recently, during a minor dispute about doing the dishes, I caught myself uttering the words: “You don’t even notice half the things I do around the house!” It’s only a matter of time before I start a knitting circle.

Although Ava, who recently turned two, is a delight, and I recognize that the time we spend together is a privilege, I have to confess that I haven’t always enjoyed parenting (at least, not the way I enjoy, say, traveling around South Africa, staying in luxury hotels). The biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to the long stretches of forced inactivity. Most of us go through life wishing there were more hours in the day. I now know that parents of small children instead spend large chunks of the day wishing time away. Only two hours until dinnertime, you find yourself thinking, then bath time, then bedtime stories, then a well-deserved glass of Shiraz for Daddy.

For someone whose life was goal-orientated, the frustration of ending the day with an untouched to-do list was maddening at first. I would set myself a minor task (“Today I will pay the phone bill!”) and fail to achieve it. In talking to friends, I’ve found that men feel this frustration more keenly. Out at the playground, it’s always fathers you see attempting to read newspapers or squinting at their laptops. Initially a lot of men think they can slot parenthood into their normal life like a rather time-consuming and expensive hobby. We soon learn otherwise.

The worst example was a friend of mine who thought he could simultaneously play a competitive, 90-minute game of Sunday League soccer and baby-sit his infant.

“Are you nuts?” we inquired when he arrived in the locker room pushing his three-month-old daughter in a stroller.

“It’ll be fine,” he shrugged. “She’ll sleep.”

How wrong he was. From the moment the whistle blew, the infant wailed, forcing her hapless dad repeatedly to sprint to the sideline and make goo goo noises—and severely hampering our offensive game. He wound up bailing at half-time to take his squalling cheerleader home for a nap.

Perhaps all this explains why I was more excited about Ava’s first day of preschool than she was. The moment I dropped her off, I was overcome with an incredible sense of freedom, like a sailor on furlough. I even went to the gym! But arriving at 5 p.m. to pick her up, I could hear the familiar sound of her wails a block away from the school. “How long has she been crying?” I asked. “Oh, not long,” replied one of the daycare workers, looking uncomfortable. “Perhaps you should have come a little earlier.”

One might expect for all my efforts that Ava and I would be deeply bonded. No such luck. Apparently absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Last night, for example, I spent 40 minutes rocking her to sleep, 30 of which were spent listening to her bellow, “No! Not you. Go away. I want mommy!”

Friends with older children insist this is just a phase. “In a few weeks she’ll be a total daddy’s girl, you watch,” one father of three said comfortingly. “Your time will come.” He later admitted that in the case of his daughter the phase had lasted six years.

The amateur psychologist in me has run through the possible reasons for this rejection. Since I’m the one who takes her to day care, in her mind I’m the bad cop. And when I pick her up in the evening I’m generally too busy making dinner to play hide-and-seek, whereas when Bethan gets home it’s all fun and games. And since she feels so guilty about being away from Ava, the word “No” never passes her lips. Once again, I’m the bad cop.

Of course, it would be much easier for fathers to embrace a larger share of parenting if childcare didn’t still feel like a female dominated occupation. Even though I live in a bohemian neighborhood where the sight of a man wearing a BabyBjörn is routine, there are still times when I feel like I’ve gatecrashed a bachelorette party.

The other day in the park I was surprised to bump into a group of Ava’s friends and their mothers attending a birthday party. The hostess looked embarrassed. “We wanted to invite Ava,” she mumbled. “But we didn’t have your number.” It suddenly occurred to me that while I’d had my head buried in the sports pages, the moms had all become friends! Their children got together for regular playdates, and they had a network of people to call if a last-minute childcare crisis came up. I felt like I had let Ava down just by being too male.

Sometimes this awkward distance turns into hostility. Last week at the playground, I had the rare pleasure of bumping into another father I know. As our kids played on the slide, we chatted animatedly for a few minutes. By the swings, I noticed a well-dressed woman in her sixties staring at us intently. Finally she strode over and jabbed an accusatory finger in our direction: “The playground is for children!” she hissed. “Not for grown men to shoot the breeze.”

I pointed to my daughter, who at that moment was digging in the sand box. “You know, men can be parents too,” I told her with a forced grin. “Look it up.”

Though the woman was apologetic, her comment stung. I’d given up my career, put aside my masculine pride and bucked social convention—all to take care of a dyspeptic, if adorable, little creature who didn’t especially appreciate my efforts—and here I was being treated like a common criminal. It struck me then that this full-time daddy track wasn’t such a bright idea after all.

The turning point happened a few months ago, when Ava came down with a cold and wound up staying home from daycare. Under normal circumstances, a day of baby-wrangling would be broken up with a walk to the playground or the grocery store, and a much-needed cappuccino. But a howling thunderstorm and Ava’s Vesuvian nose meant I was trapped in a small flat with a crotchety toddler for the forseeable future.

Having already driven both parents to the brink of insanity by waking up hourly from 2 a.m. onward, Ava now proceeded to wail inconsolably all morning long.

She didn’t want to play with her toys, she didn’t want to eat (making the point by knocking her breakfast off the table with an imperious swipe) and she refused to be put to sleep, or play, or do anything but hang onto my neck.

At 10:30 a.m. I looked at the clock and felt crushed by the weight of the hours to go before Bethan would be home. It was one of the longest, hardest days I’ve ever experienced. Then, at around 3:30 in the afternoon, something unexpected happened. I lay down on the sofa and Ava fell asleep on my chest. This Hallmark image was something I’d assumed would be a regular part of fatherhood, but up to that point it had never happened, not once. She wound up sleeping for an hour and a half. We both did.

That night, I told Bethan how frustrating I’d found the day. “I achieved nothing!” I proclaimed.

“Yes you did,” she responded. “You achieved looking after our sick daughter.”

I nodded. “She fell asleep on my chest, you know,” I said, turning off the light. And though I knew we’d probably be woken up in a couple of hours, I went to sleep smiling.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Christian Marriage

By Ema Eirewele-Momoh
March 1, 2009

I was just flipping through the bible and the passage of marriage being honourable and the bed undefiled jumped right at me, pricking my conscience to write this because I have been meaning to.

I am writing on the subject of The Christian marriage. This subject has piqued and held my interest for a long while now. Maybe because my marriage has not manifested as a Christian one and so cannot be called that right now though I am tempted to, based on the scripture that says, I quote

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:14a.

I am not one to look for scriptures to defend an action by trying to interpret it to suit the situation so I am still confessing and praying. Okay then having said that. Let’s not get distracted from the issue. CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE.

I was in a service once and the pastor commented that he was in a meeting (so this is strictly hearsay, or better still anecdotal, it is not the fact because no research has been carried out) and it was said that about 70% of Christian marriages are unhappy and a large percentage of the total marriages that end up in divorce are Christian marriages. He (i.e. the pastor) said he believed it was true because according to him, this statement was met with absolute silence from the congregation. If it were not true, the congregation would have made remarks like “I reject it in Jesus name” or “it is not my portion” (and very strongly too, snapping their fingers as their hands go around their head for the congregation in Nigeria) to refute the statement. I know for sure that certain Christian homes are shaky and some others have ended up in divorce and remarriage (in Nigeria-sorry for the emphasis this is quite abominable even “outside” the church setting except a certain religion I know that permits it). There is one incident that has made my every bones cringe and that is because the Pastor, Minister, Father-in-the-Lord, Daddy (and so many other acronyms by which this Man of God is called) who joined the couple in the presence of God and witnesses ACTUALLY (I hear because I did not witness it but I know the parties involved) formally dissolved a marriage he conducted and did pre-marital counseling for by the authority vested in him by God in the presence of witnesses (some key members and elders of the church) and certified the woman fit to RE-MARRY. I am here with my bible reading and re-reading 1 Corinthians 7. In verse 10 of this part of the scriptures Paul emphatically said; in fact let me quote the scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 reads:

"Now to the married I command, yet NOT I BUT THE LORD: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife".

Please don’t stop reading. Right at the beginning of verse 12, it says

but to the rest I, NOT THE LORD, SAY:……"

Please I am not judging this man of God the bible says what right do I have to judge another’s servant…………. I repent if it comes across as that.

The point is: What is happening to Christian marriages????? This is just a one off example maybe it is heavy because a man of God dissolved it. What happened to working out the purpose of God? What happened to all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose? There is no need asking if God’s standard has changed because I KNOW it hasn’t. Before this article (so this is actually preaching to me) I used to be a proponent of divorce especially in the case of physical abuse but I don’t think it is right at least not anymore. While I am not advocating that the recipient (we always assume it is the woman that would be physically abused but not necessarily) of the abuse stays put till they are abused to death, I think they can pull away for a while and keep praying for a change in the situation (my head is fighting this even as I write but deep down in my heart I know it is right), empower themselves and GO BACK WHEN THE SITUATION CHANGES. It is not an excuse to run amok and go marry that TDH you have had your eyes on.

This case in point, the lady actually sited Paula White as an example who gave up her marriage to pursue her ministry. I don’t know the Paula White details and I really do not care. She is not the one I am looking up to; I look up to Jesus the author and finisher of my faith. What ministry are women pursuing???? Is it not the same God who says a woman is relieved of any vow she made if her HUSBAND stops her from fulfilling the vow?????

Having said or written this much, I think we Christians should look beyond ourselves and look at the big picture which is the purpose of God. Even if we did not have the consciousness when we were getting married that God will work out his purpose through the union, even if we were not born again when we got married, or we got married to an unbelieving man in total defiance and disobedience to the instructions of God (like me) the earlier we recognize the sovereignty of God and the fact that EVERYTHING HE MADE (US ESPECIALLY), He made with a purpose and He is committed to bringing that purpose to pass the better. Even when we think we made a mistake, as long as you are a child of the Most High, He said He’ll work everything out for our good because we love Him and are called according to HIS not our purpose.

I had told my husband that I’d rather be happy single than unhappy married (my excuse for wanting to pack up and go), I repent I said that (how foolish). That advice is only valid before marriage. It is not about us it is about God. I believe when we realize that our life is about working out the purpose of God on the earth then true and unspeakable JOY not happiness will be our portion.