Category: relationships


After last week’s fairly quiet week on the internet, this week seems to be right back up there with issues or race and transformation taking centre stage, with a sweet injection of Christmas in between. Here are the blog posts, links and stories that have been catching my attention this week – which one was yours?

MOST EXCITING

My friend Dalene Reyburn finally launched her book, ‘Dragons and Dirt: The Truth about changing the world and the courage it requires’ which i was privileged to read in advance so that i could write a review for Amazon – please check this out and consider buying a copy, especially if you know moms with young children who i think will appreciate it more than most, although there is something for everyone!

 

MOST SIMPLE EXPLANATION 

This Teacher Taught His Class a Powerful Lesson on White Privilege – the White Privilege for Dummies in one sense as a teacher comes up with a simple but clear way 0f demonstrating Privilege

 

BEST PERSPECTIVE ON RACISM AND FERGUSON

NFL player Benjamin Watson’s Ferguson post on Facebook goes viral – the absolute best post i have read on the Ferguson and race conversation simply because it seeks to look at the issues from a number of different perspectives – READ THIS ONE!!!

 

MOST HELPFUL LOCALLY

Inching closer towards a truly changed South Africa – Michael Talbot gives us a brief but insightful view into the process of engaging with crucial ideas and conversations

 

MOST IN YOUR FACE

When the Norm is Twisted – my friend Linda Martindale challenges the so-called norms by looking at the effect they can have on other people

 

MOST LIKELY TO CREATE PUSHBACK

Black is the new Black: White Privilege and White Fragility – another challenging piece from out of the #Ferguson story but with some vita truths worth paying attention to which have relevance to us here in South Africa as well

 

MOST EMPATHETIC

What My Married Friends Would Like their Single Friends to Know – Meet Lisa van Deventer – this really popular post shares some thoughts from a married woman to her single friends

 

Most WRESTLINGFUL

When Violence Stares You in the Face, and you Turn and Walk Away – what do you do when there is a potentially abusive or violent situation happening in your space? This is a huge thing i am wrestling with and am looking for answers and ideas and creativity.

 

MOST HONEST

Inching closer towards Reconciliation, one post at a time – my friend Michael Talbot shares some of the story of his engagement with the race conversation we’ve been having.

 

MOST REFRESHING TO READ

Two True Meanings of Christmas – Guest post by Graham Heslop – one of the most exciting ideas in Christianity for me is that of the Incarnation – God coming near – and Graham gives two short but excellent reflections on this and other Christmas vibes

 

INSPIRATIONAL TWEETS OF THE WEEK:

@BobGoff Our worst day isn’t bad enough and our best day isn’t good enough; we’re invited because we’re loved, not because we measure up.

@shaelb: Complaining won’t change the complaint. @JabuMTS

@meganshead: The thing that gets me is that it is real. There is a puppet in court.  #puppetcase

@ozchrisrock: Just found a new app that that tells you which one of your friends are racist. It’s called Facebook. #FergusonDecision

@DemetriMartin: Today could have easily been called Givethanksing instead.

 

LOUDEST PICTURE:

mert

 

What about you? What blog posts or articles caught your eye this week? What has been making you think or laugh or be challenged or go, ‘Wo!’? What have you written on your blog that is worth taking a look at?

Leave us a link in the comments for our weekend reading…

 

Lisavd

10 years ago, I was never going to get married. I was a single mom, had my own house, my own business and my own car. I had the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and with whom I wanted.

I was happy. Until one day I wasn’t.

I had broken up with a man whom I thought I loved, and I was just so tired of hurting and fighting. Frustrated I ran into my garden and started shouting up at the clouds. My neighbour must have thought I was deranged, shouting out loud and shaking my fists. I told God, as I supposed that was who was up there, that if he thought marriage was so fabulous, and such a great idea, then he should choose a man for me. My exact words were “please mail him to me, because I sure as feathers (actually I used a rather less delicate phrase), wasn’t leaving my house to look for him”. I stomped back into my house, poured myself some coffee and burst into tears.

A few weeks later at a total loss about my life, I asked a friend to take me to church. One of the nights, I went to a meet and greet at church, and I sat looking around. I spotted Cobus and smiled at him. I hadn’t said a word to him, but as I looked at this man, God told me that this was my husband. I thought I had lost my mind and left.

I went home that night and in pure shock, blocked Cobus out of my thoughts, and forgot about him. A while after this I was saved, and had a quiet conversation with God and told him that I was ready for him to change my life. Months after I was saved, a friend emailed a group of us inviting us to a function and I replied to “all”. Cobus was on that list, and he took the opportunity to email me and invite me out for coffee. That date became dinner and a year and a half after that, we were married. (Remember how I had told God to mail a man to me!).

The point in sharing this story with you, is that I want to tell you what I believe you as a single person should consider.

God knows what is good for you, what is right for you and especially what you need. It is not that you are not thin, rich, good looking or available enough. The problem is that you are trying to do Gods job. You are enough but you don’t know what makes another person function. You don’t know their pains, their dreams or their beliefs. These are things that you only learn after you meet someone. God knows these things about each and every one of us. So surely it stands to reason then, that he should know who would be good for you, better than you would.

I have not walked an easy path, and my childhood left me broken, angry and making really bad decisions. However, the moment I let go and asked Him to guide me, I made good choices and the best of these was allowing my husband into my life.

It’s not an easy thing to do, which is why you need God’s grace. You sit on my couch and tell me how you were meant to be alone, and that is why you have your sport/ job/pets/ friends which keep you busy and leave no time for romance. I don’t believe that. God made us to love one another, and be in community with one another. How then can you say that you are meant to be alone?

I believe that God is my Father in heaven, and that he wants the very best for me. I know this, because I as a parent, want the same for my children. I cannot force them to trust my judgement, my experience and my love, but the moment they ask me for help and allow me in, I will be there for them. I know that God is the same.

I’m not saying settle and be with anyone so that you are not alone; I am saying trust in the Almighty to choose the very best for you, because that is what He wants for you and what you deserve.

Yours in being blissfully married, 7 years on.

Lees. x

[For more stories of what Married Friends would like their Single Friends to hear, think about, and know, click here]

chrisjacobs

Where do you even begin to describe the real challenges associated with singleness vs. marriage? I run the risk of making myself incredibly vulnerable by the detail I share in this post, but to most of your readers I am a “relative stranger”, so whilst there may be some risk, I believe sharing may benefit some and in turn out-weight the associated risk.

I’ve been reading through your, and everybody else’s posts and have found myself literally laughing out loud! This is not because I think anyone here is a joke, it’s because I’ve been in exactly the same place as all these people, and reading the common response from our family and friends is genuinely humorous! It’s a kind of mix between christianease and self-help mantras from Oprah or Dr Phil! Sure, these things are expressed with a well-meaning heart, but that never guarantees how they will be received. Allow me, however, to share my own thoughts and experiences…

For some context, I’m a 30 year old man, single, never been married either. I’ve had a couple of long-term relationships (18 months – 4.5 years) and have desired to be married for a long time now. Now I know what some of you are already thinking, “Buddy, you’re only 30…” To help you understand my position, this is coming from the guy who wanted to be married from as early as 21!! So sure, I don’t fit the typical male stereotype in that I actually wanted to be married, but that is just who I am. To give you more context, I come off the back of a 4.5 year relationship where I believed we were going to get married, but didn’t. Since then I’ve tried twice to date again, and both times failed dismally…but that’s another story for another time.

Things that I wish my married friends would hear or know, well there’s a lot. I think the overarching idea that married people need to know first is this; trite little answers do more harm than you would begin to imagine. I’m not second guessing my family and friends’ genuineness, but you have to take into consideration that we’ve (singles) probably already heard it all before, and we all know what is said about familiarity breeding contempt. One of the things which most single people will have to battle with at some stage is the mental gymnastics of “am I meant to be single or have I just not found a compatible partner?” Nobody has ever even come close to giving an answer to this question, and I feel that perhaps this is either because I haven’t heard a valid answer, or because I personally have too much personal resentment with the idea of being single till the day I die, and therefore don’t care to hear the answers from anyone.

However, what I must say is this; I believe that the biggest irritation that married people cause is actually elevating the position of the single person, i.e. you’re free to do whatever you want, “I wish I was still single, there is so much I’d do!” Don’t get me wrong, freedom is great, and I love being able to do whatever I want…but for the guy who’s wanted to be married for easily that last decade, I believe life is best shared. The fact remains that we always desire the next stage of life, and that could be anything, marriage, kids, boarding school, varsity, retirement, the goal is essentially not what’s important here, it’s the state of your own heart. So elevating your singleness as something to be grateful for is a good as not making the podium at the Olympics and being told that it’s so awesome that you made it to the Olympics! The real issue is, are you content or not? Period. I don’t personally like to think this way, because most days I’m not content with where I am and that leaves me feeling pretty disillusioned with life, but on the odd occasion that I do feel content I can only thank my Creator for everything I am and have and will ever be, knowing that even if all I have is Him, then I am still doing pretty damn well!

Practically speaking, married people shouldn’t handle us singles with a 10-foot barge pole with a bar of soap on the end, nor with kid-gloves. We’re still the same people who will sometimes accept and sometimes decline to attend social gatherings. We understand that your time will be more scarce because you are married, and sometimes even more so if you have kids, but what’s important is if you make even just the occasional effort. Include us in your life, and in the spirit of any good salesman, don’t make up my mind for me!

You know, this doesn’t even take into account that some single people just plain choose to be single, and if that’s their choice, then leave them be! They shouldn’t be looked down upon or pitied, that’s what they want and that’s ok.

One particular thing which I believe most marrieds don’t get is probably the most painful of the lot. speaking out of my own context, the vast majority of marrieds I know and associate with, if not all of them, have never had to deal with the rejection associated with a failed relationship like that of mine. i.e. 4.5 years. I genuinely believe that the world we live in today has a different way of viewing relationships and commitment, and so to hear of people giving up on relationships, whether dating, engaged or married, is not uncommon. So for the married people who have found a friend who became the spouse, and are still trucking along together, you have no idea of the challenge associated with finding somebody who will chose you and chose to stick with you. The reason why I say this, is because the older you get, the higher the likelihood the pool of singles you associate with (and date) are in the same boat as you, i.e. broken-hearted in a state of repair as you begin to trust another person with your heart. I’ll be the first to say, two slightly broken-hearted individuals do not make a whole!! The point I wish to make here, is really about the way in which marrieds don’t understand this, and they don’t understand that we will probably never find some “pure, spotless and untainted individual” like they did because life in the western world has a fantastic way of hardening and callousing the hearts of those who have to “go it alone”. (Wow I’m starting to hear my own angst here…)

There’s no recipe or sure-fire approach to dealing with singles as a married couple, but at least if all you married people can hear this stuff you’ll understand our hearts a little better.

[For other thoughts Single People have wanted their Married Friends to know, click here]

[For some thoughts from Married People on what they would love their Single Friends to know click here]

southafrica

[a guest post by Sindile Mlingo Vabaza]

I will not pretend to have grasped the inherent difficulties in running a country but I think I can confidently assert that if we want not only a free and fair and just South Africa, but one that has clearly engaged it’s past and moved into a post-colonial and post apartheid state, we are going to have to be both honest and have intellectual integrity no matter what viewpoint we espouse.

This is important for a number of reasons.

1. South Africa is a secular and constitutional democracy and implied in that is the freedom for people to bring multiple perspectives to the table as to what will constitute a ‘thriving, just, economically sound, racially and socially cohesive country that is built on being non-racial and non-sexist’.

That is the baseline agreement.

How we get there is up for debate. Vigorous debate.

In entering these debates there must be some sort of binding social agreement which holds us to intellectual integrity(meaning we do our homework and we are able to properly convey our ideas in the marketplace of ideas) and also that we rightly justify the opinions we hold.

Although, a difficult balance we also need to be open to changing our ideas while remaining in a position of conviction of the ideas we already hold.

2. The powerful social influences of religion and culture/tradition can easily overpower reason and due diligence.

Religious people need to be careful when quoting verses from their holy books to justify their opinions. Firstly holy books were written within vastly different contexts to our own and at a time when scientific knowledge was quite non-existent and to apply glibly these verses is to do both religious and non-religious communities a massive disservice.

For example, the difference between the secular and religious view of sexuality can be summed up in that sexuality for secularists is a health issue(physical, psychological, emotional etc), whereas it is a fundamentally moral one for religious people.

The problem with making ‘societal’ sexuality a fundamentally moral one(as religious people are given to doing) is that people and indeed cultures and worldviews can differ vastly but people with those differences can be equally sexually healthy or unhealthy.

This is borne out by many studies including those done by the Barna research Group(a Christian one) which seems to show that young Christians in America are just as sexually active as their non-Christian counterparts, but less likely to use contraceptives(they don’t want to make it seem like they planned it) and more likely to engage in oral and anal sex(often without the requisite knowledge to do it safetly). Other studies seem to bear this out as well and in fact have discredited the whole ‘Abstinence only’ movement.

Now my point is this; I understand for example that waiting until marriage is important for a lot of religious people and an important tenet of faith(the mystery of marriage is that of Christ and his church in the case of Christianity), but a call for real honesty needs to be made to religious leaders and communities when addressing this issue (and many others of course).

The often not-always-well-thought ideas on which teaching in religious communities rests on, particularly pertaining to general sexual behaviour is at times troubling.

The idea that people who have sex before marriage are ‘damaged goods’ is a pervasive and in my view a nefarious one. While holding abstinence from sex until marriage as a key value to strive for, issuing judgement and condemnation when it is not maintained seems to strongly contradict the concepts of love and grace that are at the heart of Christianity.

This does not call into question the wisdom of Christian teaching but it does call into question how it is TAUGHT and APPLIED and in WHAT CONTEXT.

In South Africa in particular, this lack of real thought by religious people combined with cultural/traditional mores and a fundamentally more conservative outlook mean that when young women who are sexually active want to seek contraceptives(especially in rural and poor township areas) they are often shamed(from a moral point of view) and because of that many do not always seek preventative health measures which further compounds our HIV and STI woes and also in a lot of cases simply helps the CONFIRMATION BIAS of religious leaders and communities.

Also because we live in a deeply patriarchal and misogynistic society the shame and guilt(again very moral terms) is shifted to women mostly and having personally noted this, I as a man, am shocked at how deeply the lived experience of women, especially young women in this country is marked by pervasive feelings of guilt and shame and how popular ‘slut shaming’ is amongst both men and women.

Is it any wonder women are so reluctant to report incidences of sexual violence and what about all the young women in universities and colleges around the country, women who are this nation’s next leaders, who have to live in shame and pain because they are afraid their sexual histories and habits will be open to public scrutiny if they come forward about being coerced or drugged(then raped).

There is a price to pay for a lack of intellectual integrity and due diligence in everything but more insidiously the price is higher in this regard.

The dream that undergirds the New South Africa is one of both Non-racialism and Non-sexism. We absolutely hammer non-racialism home but hardly seem to be concerned about the non-sexism part.

We need to be.

In my own honest opinion I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with religious teaching on sexuality because there are young people who want to remain virgins(and not all of them are religious) and faith can often give them the tools to navigate the world and preserve their convictions.

The sexual health of young people especially young women cannot become an ideological war between those who are conservatively minded and those who are liberally minded.

Young people deserve better than that and quite frankly they need mature, live and healthy examples of the Christian sexual ethic(that to me seems to be the best tool to persuade others of the religious sexual ethic).

[For some thoughts Sindile has on First Steps towards a genuine New South Africa, click here]

[For some challenging thoughts by Sindile on Employment Equity, click here] 

friends

One of the most important relationships one can have is friendship. Family is family but you get to choose your friends, and all that.

i have a crazy amount of good friends who i thoroughly appreciate and thought it necessary to have some posts looking at how we can make good friends as well as be good friends to those around us – i hope you enjoy:

Cheering Section: The Art of Mentoring – I believe there can be a huge overlap between mentorship and friendship and especially the principle of ‘Wounds from a Friend’

How To Lose a Friend in Ten Ways – Some irritating habits in friends that make friendship with them tricky.

I am Thanx-Filled for my friends – This Thanksgiving inspired piece that i wrote in the States, naming some of my friends and inviting you to do the same.

The Art of Holding a Friend’s Head Under the Water – you know, as one does. But actually the life-giving experience of getting to baptise a friend.

The Friend Test – Another What Kind Of Friend Are You question, but this one focusing on what happens if a good friend hurts you badly?

What Kind Of A Friend Are You, Anyway? This post pretty much asks that question, and gives some examples of possible answers.

Also there is always a clip or two of my funniest moments in the hit sitcom ‘Friends’ to keep you going:

Funniest Friends Clip ever – My favourite Friends clip

Funniester Friends Clip ever – Just kidding, it’s this one!

gales

To be a Dad

I’m heading towards 50, a father to a 19yo son Dylan, and an 18yo daughter Brynn.  I lost my dad this year and I miss him terribly.  I seem to have done a fairly good job of fathering my kids if other people’s unsolicited comments are anything to go by.  There are a good few things I regret not having done, but very few I regret doing. Here are some of my thoughts in response to Brett’s call for “to be a dad” articles.  I hope they resonate with someone and encourage you to be more intentional about fatherhood:

Fatherhood is hard.

Every dad has a large “Learner” plate on his back and seldom admits it.  The lack of good fathering, I firmly believe, is a root cause of many weaknesses in our society, but that’s a whole new topic.  You don’t have to stand alone though, and you have a great role model to follow if you study Him well.  Anyone who views God as a vengeful, aloof, distant deity has clearly not read the bible diligently.  The essence of all I believe about life, finances, career, and fatherhood stems from my understanding of what it means to call God “Father”.

Be there.

The first thing I’d say to any young father is that you need to make time for your kids.  Quality time is good, but quite frankly just showing up for bath time, bed time, reading-to-them time, is better than attending the odd sports day or prize-giving (do make those a priority though!). Later, you might want to be more intentional about time for ‘doing stuff together’ that broadens horizons and minds, and is great for bonding. Pounce on opportunities (no, rather make opportunities!) to have intentional conversations about life; the half hour or so, lifting or walking your kids to school can be life-changing.

Share.

Moms do this naturally; dads don’t. Find other dads who share your principles and conspire with them.  Make time to talk about the challenges; how to enforce boundaries, how to deal with mood swings, defiance, deviant behaviour. A teacher at my son’s school started a movement called Engage Schools, where the school initiated meetings for fathers of boys at the school to get together to hear from older, wiser fathers, and to share their own experiences.  It doesn’t have to be that big – it can be 2 or 3 of you. Grab a beer together, have a braai… but bring up your kids together.

Create traditions and memories.

I regret not doing some sort of coming of age ceremony with our kids. I regret not creating more family traditions (who cares if it only starts with you, if it lasts for generations and creates a means of growing women and men of character and stature in your family!). We decided to view our kids as adults at 16, but unless you mark that somehow, the rest of your family won’t treat them that way and it can be problematic.

Kick the kids out of home.

That really is your job, believe or not.  By the time you are finished fathering, they need to be able to stand alone to a large degree, with a healthy view of who they are; how to be active and constructive members of society and their community and how to be good parents.  If you are a God-fearing man, then you need to have given them the foundation of knowledge of Father God and the means to make their own relationship with Him.

Love and protect their mother (from them!).

One of the best ways of giving your kids the best childhood possible is to love their mother fiercely and openly.  Kids see through pretence like glass.  You chose to be their father and her partner – step up to the plate.  When they get to their teens and your wife’s nurturing role starts to wind down and your preparation-for-the-future role kicks up a gear, you will need to let them know quite clearly that when you promised to love and protect her, it included protecting her from them.  Do not let your kids disrespect or bully your wife, ever.  They will be all the better for it.

Be the hero you’d want them to emulate.

This is hard, but you have to be the person, you’d want them to look up to.  It does not mean you have to hide flaws and be perfect.  It does mean you have to remain true to your principles, stand up for injustice, be the change, not tolerate wrong, apologise when you’ve screwed up, keep going when it is hard.  I have a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s “if” on my office wall; I like to think it applies to fatherhood as much as it does to manhood.  If you won’t be that hero, someone else will and they may not share your values.

Provide.

Tough job, but your kids should never feel that dad will not always be doing his level best to provide food, shelter and security.  I’m not talking about the latest fashion accessories; I’m talking about meeting needs and keeping them safe. You in turn can look to God as Father for that – the Word is full of examples of His faithfulness in this. I can testify to that.

Young adults.

I caught myself in a yelling match with one of my kids over the age of 16, I forget which one.  I remember clearly realising that I was expecting them to behave like an adult just because they wanted me to treat them as one. Not exactly fair when they’ve spent the last 16 years being kids!  When I realised that I had to allow them to still behave like kids while treating them as young adults and gently guiding them into adult behaviour, the stress levels lowered and we stopped fruitlessly yelling at each other.  Home was more pleasant for it.

Give direction and then step back.

As my son stepped through the security gates to catch a plane to the USA to spend 3 months being a leader on a Summer Camp earlier this year, I realised that at that moment there was nothing more I could do for him, he was on his own with only his experiences, observations, learning and Father God to guide him.  It’s worth giving time to thinking about what sort of things you’d want your kids to be able to do if you’re not around any more, from changing a tire or the oil in the car, to applying for a bank loan, to keeping their integrity and soul intact.  Give them direction, give them learning opportunities, then stand back and let them fail.  Help them up again, and be there while they take wing.

I seldom saw my dad after I turned 18 and went to varsity; we lived in different provinces and visited infrequently. I always knew that he loved me unconditionally and that he was there for me if I needed advice or guidance.  It’s my turn to be there for my kids now.  I’m not alone though; no dad has to be.  My dad died while my son was in the US.  Dylan sent me this to read at my dad’s funeral and it completely undid me:

“… I take comfort in knowing that he was the man who made my dad who he is and my dad is the reason I am the way I am today. I will miss him like crazy and never forget him as long as I live.”

It is a privilege to be a dad; don’t waste a moment of it.

[The one glaring omission here is that fathering is meant to be only one side side of the parenting coin. Standing back to back with me at times, but mostly alongside me, is a wonderful, long suffering soul-mate, my wife Barbara, mom to both of my kids. Without a life partner, I can only imagine how hard being a dad must be.]

[To read Tim van de Venter’s thoughts on ‘To Be A Dad’ click here]

[For a whole collection of posts on the theme of ‘To Be A Mom’ click here]

 

rainbow i have loved the conversations happening on my blog with regards to matters of Race recently. A lot of the posts are specific to South Africa, but i imagine there are themes, ideas and principles that will translate to other contexts around the world and it will be good to get some outside voices as it were to comment as well. What has been particularly exciting to see has been the spirit of engagement that has taken place in the comments sections as people with clearly differing views have looked to listen and address what is being raised and queried without letting it become personal or aggressive. i thought it would be helpful to create a home page specifically focusing on ways of moving forwards so that these conversations are easier to find and jump into. So please look around and more importantly dive in and get involved – we want to hear your voice. But please play nice. Let’s wrestle but with open minds and the possibility of hearing and learning new things and ways as we try and figure out this New South Africa together. As we seek to build a truly Rainbow Nation:

A Practical Way Forward – We invited some friends round for dinner and a conversation on race, location and boundary.

Time to Lose the Other – i think this is one of the most important conversations we need to have in SA: Us vs. Them

First Steps Towards a  really New South Africa: Nkosi Gola gives some thoughts on the question, ‘What can white people do as first steps towards making a difference?’

First Steps in the New South Africa – Sindile Vabaza tackles the same question with some different perspective and a really exciting way of viewing the future.

Steps Towards Transformation – Hulisani Khorombi steps into the conversation and shares some of her thoughts.

A Look at Employment Equity – Sindile Vabaza talks through this one example of things to consider when pushing ahead

Inching closer to a Changed South Africa – hear some thoughts from Michael Talbot on his journey of listening and questioning

Some thoughts on Restitution – Avuyile Tu from Khayelitsha shares some ideas on this important topic

10 Important things for the Rainbow Nation to hear – Busi Ledibane shares some of her thoughts on things that need to change

[For other conversations on different aspects of the Race question, click here]

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