Joy’s Rant List Volume 20: Jumpin’ for Jesus – Seriously?

 This is the story of my morning, Sunday August 16, 2009.

I sing in the Voices of Praise Choir at my church. I am calling out the name of the choir because 1) there are like 5 choirs in my church and 2) I love them jokers!  Anyway, we only sing every third Sunday.  And this was our Sunday to sing. Now, the reason I joined this choir is because this is the silliest group of folks in the church.  As a matter of fact, the reason I joined the church – on my first visit – was that the pastor is silly too. On my first visit, I watched him wrestle a palm tree across the pulpit.  Sold!  This is where I wanted to be. They crazy up in here! LOL!

So, we have two services. During the first service, we kind of ‘try out’ all our songs on the congregation to see if we should bring it to the second (larger) service. My choir has a reputation for putting on a good performance. But this morning, we were SO off. Nobody had practiced, the tenors didn’t show up until rehearsal was over and our director Calvin looked like he was about ready to bite somebody. We just couldn’t get it together.  And it came across in early service. We got a lukewarm reception – pastor looked at us a little sideways like “what the heezy?”  The only thing that saved us was the one song on which Old Dude sang lead. (I don’t know his name, so that’s what I call him.) He pulled it out and saved us. And early service was kind of … meh…

After early service we all went to breakfast, and Calvin laughed and talked about us, and the rest of the choir showed up (the 11 o’clock additions) for rehearsal. This time in rehearsal, Calvin really pushed us to do better and reminded us that we were a great choir and capable of more. And at the end, he prayed (as he pushed us out the door) “Lord please let us sing and do our best and let it please you Lord, and get some folks in the spirit and save some people today Lord. In Jesus’ name…” Hallelujah, get out! (He didn’t say that, I added that…)

As we are walking out to the front so we could march in, I am NOT in the spirit. I will admit it. I was distracted with my own thoughts and problems. I am already planning to NOT come to church next Sunday. I was thinking about my own wants and desires. I was watching this lady with a C-cup walk by and wondering why she thought she didn’t need a bra. She needs to read my rant #3 on ‘dress code’. No club clothes at church!  Clearly, my mind is not set on the Lord.  And as we march in, we are singing a song that not only do I NOT know – but have never heard. So I tried to fake it as best I could. I am watching the lips of other people and trying to mimic the shape of their mouths to try and guess the words. It sounded something like “Ayyyyy..oooonnn… Yiiiieeeeouuuuu Lorrrd” (I knew it ended with Lord…)

We get into the choir stand and I immediately kick off the shoes (why did I wear new shoes today?). Pastor Barnes pre-empted our first song and just started singing old stand-bys that he knew, having lost faith in us. And Calvin is just going with it and giving us a “you know you deserve it” smile. We sang about 4 little old-school songs and then we went into the one song we had murdered in early service. But this time, we tried harder – and we did well!  And now that we are somewhat redeemed, we all relaxed a little bit.  We welcomed visitors with our special “Welcome to Macedonia” song. We are singing “Welcome to the plaaaace…where love makes the difference…” and Javon (lead tenor) is up in the first row doing the snake. So that catches on and soon I and the rest of the sopranos are snaking it up and fellowshipping and just generally having a blast. Until Calvin gave us the “church mama” look from the organ.  Then Javon went down to direct us in the next song: Old Dude’s song. Now I told you that he had pulled it out in early service, but this time, it was special. It was the song “Broken But I’m Healed” by Byron Cage and Varn Michael McKay

There was something about this song that touched me. I actually listened to the words I was singing:

God can heal, he can dee-LIV-ah (that’s how we sang it)

He can mend your brokenness

He has a miracle to fit your needs

Once you trust Him, you will receive.

There was an element to the lead singer’s voice: it sounded like he meant what he was saying. Like he had been through something and he wanted to tell you about it with this song. And I was hearing it. My eyes started to get a sharp pain in them and I had to close them and look down, and then I realized that my shirt had spots on it. Was this from breakfast? No! Am I crying? I’m crying! I don’t cry in public! What’s going on with me? And I look towards Javon, and his face is crumbling too. I realize that I am singing and I can’t hear myself – but I must be on key because nobody is giving me dirty looks. (Quietly, that is a small miracle in and of itself.) Tears are running down my face because I am FEELING this song! I am wiping them and magically someone puts a tissue in my hand. And the song is over but I don’t remember singing it. Did I sing? Did we do well? I look around and the piano player is feeling it too. He starts the happy-dance song (you know that song I am talking about). And I look over at Miss Tina (my play mother) and she is pumping her arms and they are holding her. I am still crying. Am I bouncing? I think I am. Wait, I don’t bounce. What?

We start another spontaneous song, something like “I’ve got a praise and I’ve got to let it out!” I don’t know that song either, but I know I sang it along with everyone else. I look out at Javon and he is happy dancing in the first row. Calvin has gotten up from the organ and is doing high kicks to the right of the pulpit. Pastor Barnes is jookin’.  By this time, Javon has left the choir stand and taken off running back and forth across the front of the pulpit. RUN, Javon! RUN! One of the lead sopranos on the 1st row tried to get out of the stands but didn’t make it, and ended up doing her happy dance right where she was. The lady in the 2nd row in front of me is bending from the waist and then throwing herself back. We had to hold her. I am fanning her with one hand and trying to wipe my eyes with the other. I am yelling “Hallelujah!” … But I don’t yell. I don’t act out. I don’t ‘get happy’. But did I? Yes, I think I did. Wow, seriously?

That was my novel experience. I will be honest with you, I have never really bought in to the whole ‘happy dance’ phenomenon. I used to think that people were faking. I still think some are. I used to think that maybe I just wasn’t capable of feeling that, or maybe … I don’t know. I will tell you this: I had Steve Harvey’s voice in my head at some point when this was happening. Steve Harvey? Strange choice, huh? But at the end of each of his morning shows, he says “don’t be ashamed to pray, don’t be too proud to pray…” Was this my problem? Not the prayer, per se, but the praise. Had I been too proud to praise the Lord like I should? Maybe. Too ashamed? Sometimes. But not anymore. And here’s another image that flashed through my mind while this was happening: Remember the movie “Fallen” with Denzel Washington, where the bad spirit would jump from person to person, chasing him? I wondered if maybe the spirit of the Lord could travel from person to person in the same way. It sure looked like it. You could almost see the spirit moving around the congregation. And I wondered: if I am a part of this conduit, what happens when I don’t let it out? Am I blocking someone else from getting the spirit because I won’t let it go through me? Had I been doing that? We all kept praising and crying and shouting until Pastor Barnes calmed us down. And he knew just what to say to help get us all under control again, and break the spell:

“There is a red Nissan out in the parking lot, license plate 9Q7…”

LOL!! Okay, Pastor Barnes. We’re good.

He went on to preach an amazing sermon about faith, and its healing powers. (Matthew 10:46, if you’re interested). Sometimes we have 20-20 vision and yet are still blind. If you want to receive a blessing and have your sight restored, and really SEE, call on the Lord. And don’t let anyone stop you. And coincidentally, about 15 – 20 people came forward today (remember Calvin’s prayer?). And since we still had too much energy at the end of the service, Calvin let us Reebok it out. Yes, you read that right. I told you we were silly!

I wanted to share this experience with you because I felt I had to. Sometimes, I get things in my heart that I just HAVE to let out. I am a generally happy person, but I have never ‘gotten happy’ before. I hope to experience that again. It felt good. But not every week – it makes my contacts cloudy and I don’t want to have to change them out constantly. But I will now look at the other people in church, whom I may have unfairly judged, with new eyes, now that I can SEE. And for those who wonder why I am quoting comedians and fictional movies – you can get a lesson from anywhere, if you are open to it. I could have published this earlier, but I figured: if I put it out on Sunday, then it will probably be another week before you have to decide whether to get up and go to church, or sleep in. Wake up! Jesus is calling you! Time to do the happy dance!

Rant Volume # 20 done, and I’m out.


Joy’s Rant list Volume # 19: A Man’s Perspective. The Final Frontier

Okay y’all, this is the last rant about relationships and the like.  And I am going to close it down in grand style!  I have been running off at the mouth about what I think and what I believe, and it hit me – am I right?  The answer, of course, is yes.  But I wanted validation.  So I chose several of my good male friends – REAL men, by any definition – and asked them all the same batch of questions.  These men are all happily married.  YES!  They do exist!!  Men, if you want to be happy and whole in a relationship, ask the experts – the guys who are where you want to be.  And these men are reformed players, nerds, militants, politicos, geeks, corporate executives, divorcees and more.  The history is different but the story is the same.

Here is the panel interview:

So when you first met your wife, did you know she was special? 

With my wife, for the first time in my life, I KNEW I wanted to be with her forever, and I also KNEW (at the same time) that she wanted to be with me. Relationships before that always seemed to be more one sided or another (meaning one of us was really thinking it was the right thing, but the other one wasn’t).

My wife and I were like two peas in a pod when we first got together.

The best word I can use to describe when we first got together is easy. No game playing. No wondering and waffling about if I should do this/say that… We talked about what we wanted in life and in a relationship as a part of our normal early discussions. So as we grew closer together, we just knew it was right.

I met her at a club. 1 of 3 I met that night… She was the only one of the three that I wanted to call. We went out twice and it was on from there as far as I was concerned…

Did she make you chase her?  Did she play hard to get or anything like that?

I don’t think she made me chase her (and she agrees with that.) Not that she was easy, or that neither one of us made a few mistakes along the way early on, but I think we both knew that relationships take work, and are not always going to be easy going, so you have to get past the small stuff and focus on making sure that the person you are with is going to be able to give you the important things (whatever those are for you.)

She did not make me chase her. In fact, she approached me.

There was no chasing involved. We both really enjoyed each other’s company. I can’t believe that any dude who really wants to find a good woman to settle down with would be a dude who gets caught up in the chase. The focus is completely different. I understand the pull of the can be exciting..but I got over that a long time ago.

We rarely had disagreements. Our eyes were open the whole courtship because we weren’t confusing love and lust.

Were there any moments or times when you thought that things might not work out?  Did you ever question the relationship?

We had a few arguments along the way, and there was one night that she gave back her engagement ring (not for very long, and I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about). But I don’t think I ever really doubted the relationship, and I don’t think she did either.

There was a time that I freaked out…but it had more to do with the complications of an interracial relationship than it had to do with the actual relationship.

I think anybody that says they don’t question the commitment they make when they get married, unless they are older, is a bald faced liar.

I didn’t freak out or question the relationship at any point. As w/any couple getting together, there are going to be some bumps in the road. So we talk about issues to get them out in the open and made the relationship better. But I never had any serious thought about breaking off anything.

I never thought I made a mistake or got freaked out or questioned our relationship.  Our roughest patch happened in our first 6 months of marriage. We were co-habiting and getting used to each other and it wasn’t much fun. Growing pains, if you will. We discovered that we didn’t communicate well face to face… We went to marital counseling and after about 4 sessions we knew what we had to fix. We wanted the same things but didn’t know how to communicate that to each other. It was like she wanted Chinese food and I wanted Chinese food, but instead we kept getting Italian because we didn’t understand each other. We learned to talk to each other the way we needed to be talked to in order to properly translate what we want and need from each other… Smooth sailing ever since.

I always knew that we were gonna have to work through something and I had made a thoughtful, committed decision to spend the rest of my life making her happy. But I didn’t realize it was so simple.  It also helped that we were both complete when we met. We didn’t have any baggage lying around to trip us up… That is very, very important.

Any words of advice you have for the guys (and girls) out there looking? (I didn’t ask this question outright, but there were other things that they said that need repeating.)

Effective interpersonal communication is the key. It’s not enough to just talk to a person. You have to put to them the way they need to understand it… Just like that love language thing… You have to love someone the way they need to be loved and not the way you want to love them.  And learn to pick your battles… Some things you just have to let go…

We were happy being single and we were very honest and upfront about what we wanted in a relationship.

We were able to integrate and not compromise to be together.

My wife is growing with me. She reads. She tries new things. She’s open to change. [My first wife] was stagnant and so we grew apart.

She bought into my vision for our family and took ownership of it with me… That way, there’s no blame passing or power tripping if a decision doesn’t work out…

Completion + Communication + Commitment = Win. Love is a thoughtful, committed decision.

And now the coup de grace:  The story of my parents, who were married for 42 years (until my mother’s passing) as told by my father, Mr. Charles Robert Stephens:

Dear daughter, I hope this will be an interesting short story. Your mom and dad were fortunate to have several friends that knew us both very well.  They in fact decided that we would be very compatible before we were introduced. We actually met at an arranged dinner party by this group.  I had already decided that this was probably the girl I would marry just based on mutual friends’ description and explanation.  When I met her, she was beautiful, very intelligent, had a great sense of humor and she was a professional lady.  She was independent and very self reliant.  Sparks did not fly right away mainly because I was, well, let’s just say I was a true bachelor and she had never left home.  Our relationship started off kind of cool, but we gravitated toward each other fairly quickly.  She came from two good people, her parents that grew to love me as much as her.  My in-laws did not like losing their only child at first, but soon decided they had gained a son. I did not know anything about her relationships before me and would not let anyone discuss that with me.  One of her cousins, a male, told her I was too much of a player and she would never be able to control me. We were married 42 years and he has been married 4 times.  Go figure.

I really was impressed with her attitude toward our relationship.  It was always obvious that she did not need me or any man to define or validate her as a woman.  She was completely satisfied with herself and who she was.

“He’s my brother, he ain’t heavy”, does not apply in romantic relationships. When you start to lean on your mate too much, hovering, covering, smothering, being demanding, and helpless, the relationship will soon be adversely affected. We gave each other space; there was trust. I had her understand that I was ultimately responsible for the overall well being of the family. There were disagreements. There were negotiations, but when you both seek the best conclusion for the family, all you have to do is listen to each other and take the best part of each other’s position, and table the rest for a while. Sometimes you have to table a disagreement forever.  And it’s funny that as time goes by, it all loses its importance. We never accused each other of infidelity. We always said that it was pointless unless you had absolute proof.

Now Joy, about some other ladies I dated. Some were good, just not good enough.  Some were too anxious. After a couple dates, then came the question: Do you ever think about getting married?  What kind of definitive answer is required for that question? That would be the last date.

Then there were the beggars!  It starts like this: I say “you seem a little out of it today, what’s wrong?” Response: “Oh, nothing really.” Now there’s the catch word: really.  But I’d say “you’re not having a nice time and you seem depressed about something, want to talk about it?”  Response: “Well, I hate to say anything; I just don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent this weekend.”  Paying someone’s rent is not a part of courtship, sorry.

One lady had the nerve to tell me I should give her money because her time was worth money. So I suggested she spend more of her time at Macy’s.  See what they’d give her for it.

One lady was such an intellectual she though ordinary everyday things should not be expected of her. Such as knowing how to cook or grocery shop. House cleaning was completely out of the question.  She said that if I ever wanted cornbread, I should try and find a Lubys.  In addition, she drank too much!

Here’s another story about me and your mother.  Early in our marriage, she couldn’t cook anything.  And it took me by surprise because I had eaten plenty of meals at her parent’s house.  (Your grandmother told me that it really was all her fault that her child couldn’t cook.)  But one day she asked me if I wanted salmon croquettes for dinner.  Well sure, I’d be glad to eat anything she cooked.  And then for dinner, she came out with this platter of about 25 – 30 croquettes.  I wondered why so many… But then I bit into one.  It was…impossible…to eat.  She had mixed a can of salmon with an entire bag of corn meal.  I couldn’t eat them, and she got offended.  She said she would just take them to her parent’s house and let her dog eat them.  She did, too – but the dog wouldn’t eat them either.  She was so hurt.  But she kept trying and learning and eventually she became a great cook, and passed those skills on to you and your sister.  But early on, all she could make was toast.  So she would ask me if I wanted toast and coffee.  I didn’t drink coffee, but I would drink it with her, because it was something we could do together and she was proud that she could make that.  I still drink coffee with breakfast to this day.

Once, we were in New Orleans for a bowling tournament.  Actually, I was just passing through from a trip to Florida on business.  When I got to the bowling alley, there was a real cute little curly headed New Orleans guy that was smitten by my mate.  I just stood in the background and watched the bowling, I was not worried.  Finally after she finished bowling, she told him it was nice meeting him but her husband had come for her.  He turned blood red but I just smiled at him.

This speaks to the confidence a man needs to be in a healthy relationship.  Sometimes ladies dislike such confidence, but let me warn you: A man without confidence is a potential danger.  Let me quickly explain. A man without confidence cannot accept his success with women.  It’s easy for him to believe that whatever he can accomplish, any other man could have had that same success. Therefore there is no uniqueness in his stature with his mate.  Now here comes the jealousy and accusations. Then maybe possessiveness.  Some men will break things off with you, just to beat you to it.

Now, let me explain the ladies’ dislike for a man with confidence.  Sometimes a lady thinks she wants a man she can control. She has an arsenal of weapons to exert this kind of pressure.  But when she gains that ultimate control, it renders him spineless, hopeless and downright disgusting. Her feelings start to change.  First, he is boring, then she develops a dislike for him, then she can’t stand him, then she hates him.

So guys, your mate wants you to “be the man in her life”, and if you can’t, move over and let a better man have at it, please!

Daddy-o! My ultimate "prototype".  :-)

Daddy-o! My ultimate "prototype". 🙂

Joy’s Rant List Volume 18: It’s Called SELF ESTEEM! How Can They Mess up How You Feel about YOU?!

 Okay, I just happened to notice all the recent relationship status changes on FB.  First, congrats to all the folks singing “At Last” a la Etta James with their status change.  But… most folks seem to be entering ‘summer break up’ season.  This seemed like a perfectly good opportunity to tell you how to deal with a break up (men and women) and come through it without turning into a stalker and/or committing a felony.  Just say No OJ!  Listen to me for a bit, before you go cover yourself in ashes and put on that sackcloth…  

The first instinct people have when they “involuntarily get out of a relationship” is to start singing the blues.  A whole genre of music is dedicated to this.  “I’m so sick of love songs,” “She’s out of my life,” “Cry me a river,” “She threw my cat out the car window” (That cat deserved it. Cats are assholes – see Rant #6)… But the list goes on and on…    If there is one thing that’s universal, it’s heartbreak.  If you were the first person to get your heart broken, Lenny Williams wouldn’t have made a song about watching television until television went off!  Jasmine Sullivan wouldn’t be bustin’ windows out of her ex’s car!  Chante’ Moore wouldn’t have a song telling her ex that she hated his dog! 

 …. And let’s examine Ms. Chante’ for a minute…

 I used to straight-up HATE that song “Chante’s Got a Man”.  You know why?  Because it seemed like that’s all she had to say.  How’s the rest of your life going, Chante’? Or is the man the only thing that’s important?  And one of the verses was “I can’t help it that your man is just cheatin’ on you, creepin’ on you…beatin’ on you…”  Really, Chante’?  You can’t help your girl out at all, even if she’s getting beaten?  You can’t even recommend a shelter or nothing?  That’s messed up! What kind of friend are you?!?  Unfortunately, we know women like her.  They are not whole or happy until they have a man in their lives.  And when that man leaves…. “I hate your dog….n-word”.  My question to Chante’ is this: why were you with him, if you hated his dog!?!  

It wasn’t the break-up that made Chante’ hate his dog.  It was the fact that she let that break up affect her self-esteem.  She chose to base her self esteem on her ability to catch and keep a man.  And that is how women measured their self worth … 80 YEARS AGO!!!  Women, we are so much more than whom we are dating!  Stop thinking that if a guy dumps you, you are in any way less than you were before.  It’s only in your mind.  Now, when I say dumped, this isn’t always in dating.  This could be after 5 years of marriage.  And even if the marriage goes wrong – it could just be circumstances.  It doesn’t mean that you were less than awesome.  The same goes for those guys who consider themselves a failure after a bad breakup.  Just because she left, don’t let her take YOUR swagga with her! 

 TIME TO PAY ATTENTION:  When a person breaks up with you, it rarely has anything to do with YOU.  So many people let their self esteem get damaged when they get dumped.  It’s not because you were too ugly, too fat, or too rich or too smart.  That person just doesn’t want to be with you.  Getting plastic surgery or losing weight won’t change things.  Getting a better job won’t change things.  Fake breasts generally don’t help and neither does being able to bench press 300 lbs.  Being more of a people pleaser or being more submissive won’t help either.  If you change yourself for a man (or a woman), you are just going to end up pissed off that you did it.  It never changes how they feel about you.  And if it does, then you are allowing them to love a lie, and in the end that will be disastrous for both of you.   Basically, changing for anyone other than you is just a waste of time and an exercise in “acting stupidly.”  (I love quoting our president!) 

 Hold up…  You do realize I am giving you credit for doing what you should be doing as a woman or a man in the relationship???  Well then…If you were the bomb when you met them, what happened to take that away from you?  The next time a relationship doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, think about this:  Now that (s)he’s gone, is your credit bad?  Did you lose your house?  Your car?  Did you get fired?  Does God not love you anymore?  Did you mysteriously gain 100 lbs overnight?  Did you break out in shingles? Did you go blind in one eye?  No?  Then what’s different about you, really?  Now that the girl or guy is gone, what’s really missing in your life other than him (her)?  And they are replaceable.  (Even Beyonce had to remind Jay-Z that he was NOT “Irreplaceable.”) 

It’s natural to feel sadness over the end of a relationship that you enjoyed, but you don’t need to tattoo a permanent scarlet letter on your forehead.   Everybody that you meet on the street doesn’t need to know that you just got dumped. (SOOOO unattractive!)  And that goes for men and women alike.  Bitter is butt ugly.  End of story.  So slap on a smile and go out. … They say the best way to get over a man is to get under another one.  This is patently BAD advice, but the theory is sound.  Go out, and flirt with someone, and remember how much fun it was.  (Don’t – I repeat – DO NOT get under them!  Or, at least get an HIV test!!!)  Enjoy life like you did before – which is why you attracted that person in the first place.  Learn from the experience and restart the game!  (See previous rant.)

 BUT before we hit reset, let’s go over some indications and red flags that we all should be looking for in the next round: 

  1. If a woman or man doesn’t return any of your phone calls, they are not playing hard to get.  They don’t want to talk to you.  They probably don’t really like you ‘like that’.
  2. If a woman tells you that you are just too nice, she is not physically attracted to you.  There’s nothing wrong with you – you are a cool and sexy dude.  Just not to her. 
  3. If a man tells you that you are too nice, he is not offering what you are looking for.  And he knows that, and is trying to warn you.  Listen to his WORDS.  Because if you keep hanging around, he will probably hit it if you let him and then all hell breaks loose.
  4. If, after a few dates, a woman says she is not looking for a relationship right now, she is lying.  Women are always looking for a relationship.  She just doesn’t want one with you
  5. If a woman asks you a lot of questions, she is trying to seriously get with you.  The only real reason you could possibly have for not answering the questions is that you don’t want to seriously get with her.  And if that is the case, just tell her that and let her go – she is looking for more than you are bringing.
  6. If a woman is NOT asking you questions, she is not interested in you.  Beware of the girl that seems to not need a lot of attention, or that doesn’t seem pressed about being with you.  If she isn’t trying to be where you are, she is not trying to be with you.
  7. Also beware of the girl that seems to always have some material demand or task for you.  If you are doing things to earn her love, then what you are getting is NOT love, it is conditional acceptance.  What happens when you stop doing those things?  The same goes for women whose men are hung up on looks.  What happens when you have a kid and can’t lose that baby weight?  Musiq Soulchild said he would still want you if you gained a little weight, girl. 
  8. If you are looking for a girl who likes you for you, stop flashing money around.   I used to have a friend that always left his BMW car keys out, and always took women to expensive $200 dinners.  And then he would dump them because he said they only wanted him for his money. Well, that may or may not have been true.  But he had to assume that it was, because that’s the bait he was dangling. 

 And now back to the point of all of this ranting…  Here is a real self esteem issue for both men and women:  Stop assuming that you have to put your representative forward to attract someone.  THIS IS NOT TRUE.  And if you do so, the people you attract will be looking for you to maintain that representative persona ad infinitum.  Bottom line – Exercise your SELF-esteem and BE YOURSELF!!  And when someone comes along who likes you for you, then guess what….  RESTART THE GAME!!!

But, if you are one of the ‘recently single’, then you will probably grieve for a while.  And that’s okay.  Allow my friend the giraffe to help you identify and get through the five stages of grief.  (Click link below, but it has sound, so beware.)

Rant # 18 done, and I’m out. 

P.S.  – I’ve been doing interviews and gathering information for my next rant, and that one will be straight out of the mouths of MEN (with a surprise guest).   Stay tuned…