The Valentine’s Day Challenge

14 02 2011

The Valentine’s Day Challenge:

Think about someone you don’t particularly care for, that you often forget about, or that you tend to ignore.

Send them love through an e-mail or call affirming their worth and value.

Because even if you don’t remember them unintentionally or intentionally, they are worth your love since you are worth God’s love.

Pay it forward. Especially when you don’t want to.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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friendships and birthday parties

11 02 2011

friendships are like your birthday parties, you have to make them happen yourself because you’re too old for surprises





My Problem with “Valuable” Friendships

2 02 2011

 

 I have a huge problem with the word, “valuable”, especially when it comes to relationships. I hear it tossed around so much, that I believe it has lost the power and appeal it was intended to have and has adopted a completely destructive (albeit well-intentioned) meaning. “Tomi, you’re friendship is valuable to me” doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, precisely because of the word “valuable.”

When I hear valuable, I hear abandonment. And I think I’m right in hearing this, for when things are labeled “valuable”, they are abandoned, untouched, left alone for fear of some outside force or circumstance altering or affecting it. I don’t think “valuable” and “friendship” or “valuable” and “relationship” should be the same sentence anymore. Yes, I’m calling for a divorce.

If “valuable” implies importance and value, then the subsequent actions attached to the word valuable shouldn’t apply like they do. China dishes are valuable so they are rarely used. Diamonds are valuable so they’re rarely worn (well, sometimes). Expensive furniture is valuable so they remain unused in that sitting room that no one really sits in. Let’s face it, valuable has become code for “used rarely”.

And that’s where my problem lies. Friendships and relationships can’t be “used rarely.” They must be used often, especially in circumstances where they can get messy, damaged or broken because that is the point of their existence, to last and to last well. This, to me, is the definition of valuable: often used so as to experience its longevity.

I mean, when I think of something or someone having value, I can’t help but turn to Jesus. Jesus is the epitome of what valuable meant and still means. His value rested not only in who He was, but in how He still lives. He was tested and beaten severely and proved valuable. He died, but His value came in His re-living. In Jesus we have the space and the opportunity to re-examine value. Value is something that is not kept aside and protected or ignored (because that’s just what we do with it), but value is something that is used, often, even brutally, and still lives.

Herein lays my frustration with friendships. If a friendship is valuable to you, use it. Don’t use it when you need to fill you “black friend quota” or your “I hang out with a Muslim quota” but use it because you want to, you need to, and you need it to move forward another day a changed and better person. If that’s not what your friendships are for, stop lying to yourself and others.

I urge everyone who is reading this to be honest with yourself and release people and yourself from the torture of neglected friendships. They hurt and are not serving a purpose as something valuable should. If a friend means so much to you that you are actively a friend back to them, keep it. If not, make it clear that you have a good association, but stop abusing the word “friendship”. If you want to honor someone’s value, be around them, be with them: love them in this way if you truly consider their heart and their soul “valuable.”  

Let’s stop hurting people, especially in the church. White lies aren’t the Christian thing to do.





Fantasy.

21 07 2010

Sometimes I just plain rush into things.

I thought I was going to marry him…before I met him.

I mean he was black, he was around my age, he was in college at Ohio State. What else was there to discuss?

The summer before my third year in college, I was eager and nervous for my first encounter with urban ministry. I had done “A Day of Service” projects all that time in college, but I wanted something deeper, something that would stick.

So when the Urban Promise people came to UVA’s grounds and pitched the best “This summer will change your life” spiel about their Christian summer camps in urban districts all around the country, I was sold.

But I’m not a great saleswoman. I knew I wanted to do something different that summer and if I could avoid raising money for it, that it’d be even better. Well, it worked out to my favor. I had to raise eight hundred dollars, which was better than the two to three thousand mountain of funds I would have to raise for another summer ministry opportunity.

So Urban Promise it was! The next question that faced me was where.

I knew that it wouldn’t fly with my mother if I selected UP’s most popular sight in the wonderfully-safe city of Camden, New Jersey. So I tried my best to play my cards right. The least dangerous place seemed like the most random, Wilmington, Delaware.

So I was set to go. After God’s favor, I was promoted from mere intern to Assistant Director (head intern of my peers and campers). For this opportunity, I was grateful as it seemed like a huge leadership role in my first ministerial experience outside of a week’s time.

I arrived at the site early and they had no problem putting myself and my fellow Assistant Directors to work (there was one AD per camp and intern team totaling three of us).

A few days into our hard labor but days full of meaningful work and full moments of rest, we learned of who our interns would be.

That’s when I met him. Well, kind of.

My camp director sat me down over dinner and told me who I’d be in charge of and working with this summer.

Ok, so there’s John. He’s from Massachusetts. He’ll be teaching the Science class.

 

Me: Ok, cool.

 

There’s also Adam. He’ll be teaching art. He’s a little younger than you and is apparently an avid reader. He sounds like he’ll be more laid back than anything.

 

Me: Sounds good.

 

Oh! I’m so excited! We have a young lady coming from the UK to help us for a little bit. She’ll be coming a week late and leaving a week early, but she’s going to be with us for a good month or so. Her name’s Cathleen. She should be helping out with Recreation time with the teen employees.

 

Me: Ok, so her job won’t be too bad.

 

Yup. And then we have James. He went to Ohio State. I talked to him the other day. He seemed excited. He’s black you know!

Whatever my Director said after that, I didn’t hear. My mind had already rehearsed the moment we would meet, become good friends, date, then eventually marry after working out the long-distance relationship until we graduated college…

I don’t have any enlightening Biblical principle to drop on you now. I just have a funny story.

I suppose I could proof-text and tie in Peter’s rushed action and thought-process when Jesus prophesied his death in Mark 8 was speaking to his thought-process that rejected anything undesired occurring was like my hurried imagination rushing James and myself into a concrete mental relationship.

I suppose I can also proof-text how Peter’s anticipation and rushed thinking towards not the impossible nor improbable, but the necessary arrest of Jesus prompts him to cut off the high priest servant’s ear John 18 so wonderfully points out. And somehow that this event relates to my instinct to react in the manner in which I’m not supposed to assuming that our physical proximity would generate a result that if I wished hard enough would manifest itself. And if it didn’t I would have to fight to save my fantasy, wish, and silent promise I made to myself that even though I knew better, what I want has to happen.

But I’m not going to.

James never showed up. My Director never really got a reasonable explanation why not. It wasn’t a big deal to her, but it rearranged my entire summer and life’s plans.

Looking back at it now, I think his absence, God not honoring my request if you will, was an awesome thing.

I think that somehow God told James not to come because some girl imagined that through their summer together, a lifelong relationship would emerge, instead of wishing, hoping and fantasizing that the summer would bring much needed humility and dependence on God for her present strength and uncertain future.

Maybe God told James that there would be a girl imagining the wrong kind of friendship with him and that he should stay at Ohio State for his safety and her spiritual well-being.

Because if he had come, she would not see the beauty in those already around her, in the Directors, in the teen workers and adolescent campers, in the intern from the UK who immediately took to her and formulated a quick friendship, and would have been day-dreaming about something that was not supposed to be instead.  

She would have seen all the wrong things. And missed an experience that she has not to this day forgotten.

Maybe she is kind of like James and John, asking for a “let-me-sit-at-you-right-and-the-other-at-your-left-in-glory” moment when she doesn’t even know what she’s asking.

Like she’ll get it eventually, but currently doesn’t understand the sacrifice involved. Maybe she’s too selfish and immature right now for an anything. Maybe she has some growing up to do.  

It’s true. Funny thing is, I’m still growing and don’t think I’m anywhere near where I should be for the whole husband-thing.

Sigh. Sometimes fantasies speak to areas of proposed growth and doesn’t affirm the cute cuddly “dream language” we so readily attach to it. It’s more lecture speaking to potential than simply potential standing solo.

My potential isn’t patient enough to just wait and learn until she blossoms into reality.

But she’s getting there.   

Again, God’s grace is covering her.





What happens if the table made before your enemy is prepared before…you?

5 07 2010

 

What happens if the table made before your enemy is prepared before…you?

What if you are your own enemy?

In the black church tradition, what I often hear is the same story, which frankly I get tired of hearing sometimes. The enemy this, the enemy that. Lord deliver me from my enemies. But what if we don’t know what we’re asking? What if we’re asking God to deliver us from ourselves and in the process of correcting and cleansing us, since we find it painful, we cry out even louder for the Lord to deliver us from the pain and pressure to change or do something different falsely thinking that everything that happens to us that we don’t like or appreciate is Satan? (whew!)

Satan’s busy but not in the way we think. Maybe Satan is busy feeding us the wrong information. Maybe Satan is busy feeding us the lie that the pain we’re feeling is bad and we need to demand God to rid us of it. And if God doesn’t, perhaps that opens the door for doubt to creep into our faith or for us to go to more extreme measures paying off pastors and ministers for that “come-to-the-altar-and-sow-your-seed-of-one-hundred-dollars” breakthrough. Maybe Satan is busy but we open the door for Satan to be so busy in our lives by imagining that every hard thing in life is not from God.

Maybe we don’t understand that we are the cause of a lot of things that happen in our lives including God’s graceful correction.

Correction isn’t easy.

In fact it hurts. A lot. It feels, smells and tastes a lot like “enemy” but it isn’t. It’s us. Or if we’re so pressed to stick with “enemy” language let’s be real, honest and upfront and name ourselves as our own enemy.

And let’s not get offended that when we ask God to deliver us from ourselves, our selfishness, our being inconsistent and unreliable friends to people, being workers but not worshippers in the church, gossips in and outside of the church, being picky ministers, saying it’s not about the little things one moment but then saying the little things are showing excellence towards God etc.

I’m actually very tired of it. And like all my posts, I’m tired of it because I have lived and experienced it myself.

Prayer-life is important, but I think we need to make ourselves the subject from which we must be delivered rather than the object of deliverance. We’re not that great. But we’re not that bad. But we must remember, we’re not that great. No one is a victim 99% of the time, nor 50% of the time, nor 25% of the time…

My challenge especially goes to the black community. Yes, oppression still has its grasp around the throat of our peoples, but what about the oppression, murder, and pain we commit on ourselves? We have to be honest before God and with ourselves. Sometimes, it ain’t white people’s faults!

This Psalm-23-load-of-crap prayer isn’t okay, especially when we know that we are our own problem, or if we don’t know, we don’t stop to look at ourselves to see where we fit into our own troubled equation. Maybe I’m single because I’m not an easy person to get along with or I always talk about myself and my problems. Maybe I don’t have friends because I’m too churchy and they’re not feeling that. Maybe I’m not doing well academically because I ask God to bless my overnighter instead rationing out an hour a week to get a large assignment done over a long period of time. Maybe I don’t get invited to things because I’m always mean-mugging. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I brag too much. Maybe I’m not a good steward over my finances and resources. Maybe there are plenty of things I need to be delivered from within my own self before God can take me to a new place.

It’s difficult but maybe I’m wack and God’s been trying to tell me that. Maybe my breakthrough is “Work on your self-centeredness and ego”. Maybe I won’t die a millionaire but a quality person building up the Kingdom of God via my transformation. Maybe I have to see my table set up from afar before I am invited to partake in it. Maybe God can me from wolf to sheep.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ 

I’m not posting this blog to be mean; I just love to write about what most of us don’t want to talk about. It is so necessary and since people only want to mention it in sermons and not do anything with it, I propose we do something with it. I propose we confess that this is where we are, seek accountability among people we trust not only with our hearts (and venting) but with our secrets and we actively work day by day to be better people.

Sometimes I think that is all God needs. I know that’s what others need so let’s seek out the needs of others and not only the desires of self. Life is so much better that way…





I’m still working on it but I used to get very, very upset when people didn’t call or text me back.

28 06 2010

I’m still working on it but I used to very, very upset when people didn’t call or text me back. And not just any people, but the people who were supposed to be important in my life. I felt that the people who were supposed to be there for me just weren’t.

So I thought it legitimate to blame it on technology.

Facebook and cell phones are evil, I used to muse. If I didn’t have a cell phone and they didn’t have a cell phone I’d be perfectly content on waiting to ask them what I must via letter or whenever I would see them next. It wouldn’t be a problem, but the urgency of technology has created a problem persona within me. At least that’s what I used to tell myself, until I recognized that there are some controlling aspects of me that I need to work on now rather than later. And that there is this deep tendency in me to take things personally that, even if they are meant personally, like not answering a text message until a week later, I still have control of my feelings and not control over other people’s actions.

And it’s time to stop blaming technology. I know a lot of people have this trend where they speak badly against technology because it has created the falsity of instant relationships, communication and contact; and I agree with that to an extent, but after a while we must admit that this technology-affects-relationships debate matters to us so much because we were overeager and fell head over heels in love with it. We overdosed on its drug-like affects of euphoric communicative abilities and now want the drug abolished, but it doesn’t work like that. It took too long to get the drug legalized.

What does work is reflecting on why I may need to talk to “so and so” so badly. I have to face it; technology will keep evolving and be around long after I’m gone. I can’t control that; but I can control myself and who I allow into my life and inner circle.

A lot of the times, I reflect on the prophets and how some, especially Jeremiah weren’t feeling God’s communication back to them. They talked constantly and let God be the center of their life and didn’t feel like they were receiving the same effort from God.

Now, I know my friends are not nor will they ever equate to God, but perhaps the correlation between the prophets and I is the “I”. Maybe the common denominator is the person who feels hurt whether the anticipated communicator is a good or bad friend, or God. Perhaps the most impactful part of the lesson of non-communication is that the party with all the expectation sees something in that relationship worth being upset for or they don’t.

I have a hand in determining my mood. If I don’t like a class, I can drop it. If I am not connecting with a church body, there are others out there, one that could fit me best, but I must do the leaving and cleaving. Technology is not to blame. Even my non-communicative friends are not to blame. I have the choice or who is allowed in my life and in that choice, I can evaluate where I am (if I’m too needy or not, or if I am justified in expecting a certain level of communication from someone in my life).

It’s not a technological debate. It’s a personality issue, whether it’s mine or the said person in question. For the prophets it was not God. God was God and could do what God wanted or did not want to do. Hmmm, I guess we humans can do what we want to do too. Including evaluating what’s most important to us and what we must change or adjust in order to lead peaceful lives.





A Panel of Hearts/My Mouth

3 06 2010

 

 

My heart is both full and strangely empty.

I just came from the panel of amazing leaders from all over the continent of Africa: from the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan. (at the panel “For Such A Time As This” during the Center for Reconciliation’s Summer Institute)

And their hearts were just pure. And honest. And full. And mine was empty.

I knew not of their countries hardships. Sure I heard about some of it. Sure I see when my white friends post it on their Facebook statuses. But my heart doesn’t react. And usually has a hole. But now the hole has been plugged up and I’ve realized that my heart is full.

Of pain. Of agony. Of weariness on behalf of my brothers and sisters fighting to minister, let alone exist across the Atlantic. But what I received as pain they conveyed as a bridge to hopefulness.

Africa is not lost. Africa is not a place to pity. It is a place to invest hope in for surely everyone will receive a return.

Their hearts are honest and ours longing for something. Ours being the audience…those who got to watch, soak in love, soak in justice and repent in our silent tears we wiped away. At least I did in the silent tears I quickly wiped away before anyone could see them.

These quotes and points say it all.

– Africans tribalize denominations. They are ready to die for them when no one really knows what Methodist or Presbyterian is…one’s denomination is not their Christianity.

“In forgiveness is justice.”

“How do we give up the right to revenge? Forgiveness, that is giving up the right to revenge.”

“Forgiveness is the beginning, Then begins the process of healing.” Father Emmanuel Katangole

“Pain that is not transformed is transferred.” Violet

“I think people get it wrong when you want to do something instead of just being. It’s not about ‘what you can do’ but ‘how can I come and be with you?” Celestine

“To learn the country is to learn the language.” Michael

There it is.

Sit. Listen. Be with people. Love them. Bless them because of the sheer fact that you are blessed.

An African-American minister asked what could African-Americans do to help. They all suggested friendship and partnership, coming and just listening to each other. They suggested that Africa had some things to say that the West has never asked, including African-Americans. They suggested that African-Americans can be a bridge of sorts (in my mind, I jealously wondered why I as a first or second generation Nigerian couldn’t be that bridge…the answer to come later)

THEN, John Perkins said what I’d been wanting to know. Basically he asked if African-Americans have had any type of impact because he knows that black ministers like to hear their own voices and their people feed their egos but they don’t do anything truly productive.

My sentiments exactly. Except I wasn’t thinking that black people did it but that I did it. Often. And that I can say something catchy or smart and the comments and accolades I receive all feed my ego but do not feed one hungry child who may speak the language my ancestors spoke. But I stay well fed. Gluttonous.

And my gluttony is a reflection of a sick heart.

I’m working on my hard heart. But maybe I don’t have to. Maybe God will work on it through panels of leaders who have practical requests that our churches, ministries, personal wallets and bank accounts refuse to alleviate. Maybe my mouth can be used for something other than wise sayings. Maybe it can actually do some real work and ask genuinely, “How can I be with you?”








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