Leap Year Love

Ladies the pressure is on as the gentlemen get to lean back and take a load of this Valentine’s Day as it is a leap year. Once every four years the onus is on the ladies to treat their men like treasures. It seems like a long wait for a man to feel valued and treasured doesn’t it?

Many years ago the media launched a smear campaign against men with slogans such as “dead beat dad”, “broke baby daddy”, “I can do bad all by myself” and “ladies leave your men at home”.  Media also promoted the notion of the independent woman doing it all on her own. While many women got distracted by the “grand lie” that came with this discourse, in doing so, they forgot that God made men and women for a reason. A reason which runs far deeper than paying for fuel in your car.

God created an intricate level of co-dependency that is not intended to be demeaning for anyone, but comforting and fulfilling. Too often women get bogged down in our long to do lists and we bulldoze our way past the men in our lives in an effort to get things done. Or we focus on all the things that annoy us about our men. Then every four years you are sitting in front of the TV a few days before a leap year Valentine’s Day and that advert comes on that makes you feel awkward. That advert says, “Your man is strong, protective and handsome. Your man works hard, celebrate your man with Yardly”. Suddenly you realize that you haven’t taken a moment to recognize even one of those qualities in your man. You realize that you last saw an advert like that four years ago when you got the last Yardly for men. What have you and the media been doing to honour him for four years.

marriage

This leap year let’s do something different. Let’s honour our men but commit to honouring them for the next four years. It not cool to do it all yourself ladies; it’s lonely and exhausting. It’s not cool to endorse the discourse that degrades your man, it’s destructive. It’s not cool to ignore him because you are busy complaining with the girls at lunch about all the things your men do wrong. The very first thing God created women for was for relationship with man. He saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and his solution was Eve. When we allow media to create a rift between men and women, and especially between husband and wife, we are going against God’s plan. God wants us to love one another daily. Ladies, four years is a long time to wait to treat you man with love and respect and it is time we never get back. Let you leap year Valentine’s be today and every day!

 

Stress Balls

Remember those squidgy balls you could squeeze and squeeze whenever you had a really stressful day and you felt like ringing someone’s neck? You could squeeze the stress ball till you felt better and your stress has been managed to a healthy degree.

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Have you noticed that these days we are buying less and less stress balls? In fact they are even becoming rare on the market. We have replaced them with human stress balls, our spouses, children, friends and other family. Day after day we are carrying burdens and we are not sharing these burdens but are either dumping them on our loved ones or making them take the blame. Poor husbands and wives who weren’t even part of their spouse’s day at work are forced to feel the wrath of an angry spouse after work. Kids tremble as they hear the gate intercom and know that mummy or daddy is home from that dreadful place called work.  They almost whisper a greeting before they scamper off to safety as files and briefcases come crashing down, only to come to a grinding halt  in terror after hearing a loud “and where do you think you’re going?”

That is the right question to ask, however mum and dad, an even better question is where do you think your kids are going when they scurry off? They are going to a safe place where they feel they can find peace, acceptance and maybe even love. They are going to social media to find someone who will listen to the things you’re too angry to hear, to get advice and to find out what they did to make you yell every time you see them. That’s right – they think the outpouring of anger is because of something they did. They don’t know that actually you are choosing to turn them into your stress balls. A stress ball doesn’t do anything; it’s incapable of being the cause of your stress; it merely sits in wait for you to put it under extreme pressure so that you feel better. Take a moment to think about this; that is exactly what we have started to do to the human beings we claim to love.

It’s time to take stress management seriously for the sake of our children, our husbands, our wives, other loved ones and you know what, maybe even for the sake of our cats and dogs. We ourselves can live longer and more fruitful lives if simply start to manage our stress better.

stress

There are things we can do to make this happen:

  1. Know what your stress triggers are
  2. Know how stress manifests in your body
  3. Know how you likely respond to stress
  4. Discover what relieves your stress
  5. Take responsibility for managing it in a healthy way and, finally
  6. Communicate this information to key people in your life.

Allow your loved ones to do the same and support them in managing their stress. It’s an amazing gift to have people to come home to. Don’t let stress push them away.

Parenting through presence….not presents

It is the easiest thing in the world to give our children presents in order to distract them from the fact that we really aren’t present at all. We can give them the latest this and the trending that to shut them up while we bury ourselves in our work or in our trivial pursuits.

Parenting has become harder these days, as there are more things that infiltrate our efforts, things we feel powerless in the face of, such as the Internet and social media. We know very little about who our children are in these elements and how they are experiencing them. In essence many parents feel threatened by these things. The world today has put more pressure on people to chase a material life style and work harder each day to maintain that life.

Simplicity is a thing of the past as we take piles and piles of work home after having worked overtime. While we clutch our work in one arm and our latest bribe in the other hand we walk into the house tired and burdened, for a moment we smile as our kids run to us, but our joy may be short lived as our children get to us and all they say is “what did you bring me?” The parent realizes in that moment that actually what they really needed when they walked through the door was a loving hug and the sound of playful giggles first before any demands. Yet how can we be saddened when we ourselves have set that precedent? We have started a culture of things above people. How can our hearts break as we stand at the entrance of our homes upon arrival and watch our children grab our gifts with extreme entitlement and run off to their little corners or bedrooms. If we yearn for connection with our children perhaps we must seek it with utmost intentionality. It is quite simple really…. be there.

Be present. Do not send your presents to represent you. Earthly gifts must supplement the greatest gifts of all which are love, joy, togetherness, and family.

parenting with attention

Just an idea, leave the pile of work in car; enter your home with thanksgiving in your heart. Look at your children notice how much they are growing, hug them and kiss them, ruffle their hair. Let them see you kiss your spouse hello and watch them giggle. Talk about your day, hear about theirs, from the little stories about the mud cakes they made to their struggles with trigonometry. Soon and very soon you will be privileged enough to play a role in dating advice.

Don’t shy away from your parenting role, for God chose you for such a time as this and moreover he chose you for those very children knowing all that you are all and all that you are capable of. Don’t let the world hijack you role, while you work yourself to an early grave helping the world win your children’s hearts. Let our parenting strategy be presence first, presents later.

The Gender War Agenda

For decades men and women have been at war with each other. A war fuelled largely by media. Many hip hop male musicians have been instrumental in the derogatory labelling of women while women in pop music have retaliated by birthing a female culture that seems to need nothing more from men except sex. Just as wars between nations are profitable for a few and detrimental to the masses, the gender war profits the media giants and has catastrophic effects on the general population. This may sound dramatic but let’s really get into it.

The message boys receive about girls and women, via the media is this: women are sexual collectables. Gather as many as you can and train them all to answer to one name, which may start with the letter “B” or the letter “W”. Bring forth as many offspring as possible from your collectables and spend as little time with them as possible. If you got the money, throw as much as you can at them to shut them up.

The message girls receive about men is; men are dogs. Get them and tame them fast. Make more money than them when you can. If you cannot make more money than them, take them for all the money they have. Trust none of them and use all of them. You have to squash them all if you want to stand tall. Show them that they are replaceable. Remind them that save for one thing; “you can do bad all by yourself”.

There we have it, a crude breakdown of the discourse we are allowing our children to internalize. It may seem like your children turned out ok when you see them walking down the aisle and running off to into the sunset with the boy next door, but the truth is even though we may outgrow angry hip pop and childish pop songs, there are some universal effects of this social energy that stay with us. Look at the alarming increase in the number of single mothers today. There is a new trending ratio of 1 man: X number of baby mothers. There is also increase in gender-based violence with both sexes being perpetrators. Financial battles are becoming an increasing concern within marriages. This is what happens when we push against each other rather than work together. In bringing each other down we bring ourselves down.

It’s time for a truce. Look at it this way. There can be no men without women and no women without men. God made it that way so we would lean on and support one another. These women, who young men are taught to perceive as collectables, are women who God put on this earth to be helpers to men, to support and love them. They are nurturers of humanity. How can anyone not respect that?

The men who are presented to women as “animals” are people chosen by God to be pillars of strength for women and their families, and well as sources of love and joy. They are the providers and protectors of humanity. Again, how is that not worthy of respect? What an honour it is to love and what a blessing it is to be loved. Human to human let us connect again, for that is all we are: human beings. We can choose so much more, for God created both men and women for so much more.

The Cost of Life

The greatest gift we have is the gift of life. Life is our passage to experience, and experiencing all the treasures of creation is the most amazing privilege. We often take life for granted; our own life and the lives around us. While we can say life is a gift, it can be challenging. And at times, the challenges may convince us that life is more of a burden than a gift.

It is true that the life and times of present day make peace a rarity. We as a universe are moving too fast, speaking to one another but not actually talking, hearing each other but not truly listening, we are looking at one another but we are not taking the time to see each other. So many of us roam the earth living as the unseen, unheard and unloved, isolated shells of humanity. Life is reduced to mere existence and breathing simply becomes about air. When a living being feels dead inside is suicide so shocking?

When a member of the family commits suicide the surviving members are shocked and devastated. Some of words uttered in grief are “He seemed fine when I last spoke to him yesterday. He had problems but I thought he was coping.” The tragic truth is that humanity is fighting to simply cope; coping is below the standards God set for us when he gave us life. Coping is misery and it’s a sure sign that we are hanging by a thread. We cannot be satisfied with coping, not for ourselves and not for each other. We are empowered to overcome and more over, we are allowed to aspire to that.

There was a time when suicide was a rarity yet now the World Health Organization reports that every 40 seconds a human being commits suicide in the world. Before this article comes to its conclusion the world would have lost approximately 50 people to suicide. As you gasp at that shocking truth, someone else has given up, someone else has found a loved one who never truly knew their worth this in this world.

The impact of suicide on family is unimaginable. Those left behind feel a different sort of grief. Natural death is hard to accept yet still easier than loss due to suicide. What is even more devastating is that there are people who use suicide as a tool for manipulation in their relationships. They say, “If you walk out that door tonight I will kill myself”. The receiver of this message is paralysed with fear and guilt and that has become the nature and currency of that relationship.

It is time for us to revisit our approach to life. Can we return to our maker and admit that we have rewritten the manual when we didn’t understand the creation to begin with? Can we ask for healing for ourselves and our brothers and sisters throughout the world? As we ask for this fresh start can we look around and tell each other ‘I see you’ and ‘I hear you’, ‘you are not alone in this world’ and above all else ‘I see Jesus in you – he hasn’t left’. More than utterances let these word be action; more than action, let these words be a living truth in our lives today. And as we dare to speak life into each other on a daily basis perhaps we will find the courage through Jesus Christ to speak life into ourselves.

Fullness of life

The city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, Africa has declared the 19th of September the day to fast and pray against suicide in the city and for the families grieving for loved ones lost through suicide. The focal place for prayer on that day is the city’s 24/7 prayer room between 8am and 5pm. Anyone reading this article is invited to unite with the city in prayer from wherever you are. May God and his gift of aliveness be with you and those around you this day.

fullness of life 2

Unlocking the Potential of Family in Africa

Next week, Family Impact will be represented at the 6th Global Micah Consultation in Lima, Peru. Our paper, Unlocking the Power and Potential of Family In Sub-Saharan Africa, can be found here. We are excited to have been selected to present our paper and hope to inspire and encourage others about the potential of families that live out Biblical family values to bring shalom to neighbourhoods, communities and nations.

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“We are working to prepare Africa for a future that does not line up with predictions, a future that defies the statistics and unlocks the transformative potential of family for individuals, communities and nations.”

Lobola – Licence to Cohabit?

Lobola is evolving dangerously in our communities. We have already discussed the misuse of lobola for economic benefit (read here), which has led to thousands of children being married off. However, there is another issue arising, which is that today lobola in many cases is not carried out for the purpose of being married. Instead the motive is merely ‘legal’ or ‘socially acceptable’ cohabitation.

There is an increase in the number of couples reaching the stage of lobola who have already had a baby or babies or have been living together in secret for some time. Where babies are involved, the father’s family tends to put pressure for lobola so they can have legitimate access to their grandchild and the girl’s family pushes for the process so as to ‘save face’ and also to ensure their daughters are taken care of in the long run.

A marriage home built on such shaky ground could fail or struggle. This situation often creates a man who is marrying with no intention of being a husband and a woman who is getting married with every intention of being a wife. Even if the woman had no real desire to become a wife at the start, come ‘lobola day’ she will be singing a different song because, from the moment a mother hears whispers of lobola for her daughter, she unleashes marriage boot camp. However, the men are often not prepped to become husbands in the same way. They are left to focus on looking for money to pay the lobola.

lobola

The disequilibrium between such a couple means they have different expectations of what the lobola process means for their relationship. When they are now all alone in their home, she expects her marriage to begin and in many cases, he expects life to simply continue on as before, now that the cohabitation has been made acceptable through lobola. While many people plan for the couples do the process of lobola then do the church wedding or court wedding, there is a growing trend of couples undertaking the lobola process and going on for years until the relationship falls apart before even making it to a church.

If one should choose to be in a traditional marriage, respect of the values and foundations of marriage is still essential for that marriage to flourish. If men use traditional marriage as a ‘cop-out’ and a way to appease the masses while they continue to be a bachelor under the radar, that marriage will surely perish.

Perhaps there are various other solutions to this problem. Parents must stop avoiding talking about dating, sex and marriage with their children. The concept and purpose of lobola should be shared earlier. Preparing children for marriage shouldn’t be girl child focused, it should be for all young girls and boys. Preparing children for marriage shouldn’t be a crash course months before lobola. It should be a natural process, which is part of parenting.

Encouraging God to be the head of the family will go a long way towards guiding young people through marriage. Lobola is a process of uniting and celebrating families through the giving of tokens of appreciation to the bride’s family. It is not a giant bribe to the girl’s family so they can look the other way while you live with their daughter and not honour the commitment. God’s plan for couples is the fullness of marriage.

Child Bride – At What Price?

Media reports triggered an uproar as the Zimbabwe-based Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana, made comments advocating child marriage and legally recognised sexual consent as early as the age of 12. In his remarks he stated that it would be a mistake to arrest and convict the men, that these young girls are involved with, especially if the girls have dropped out of school. His reason being that arresting the men would rob the children of any hope of economic survival.

This is not just a Zimbabwean problem, it is a global crisis. In 2011 the Research and Advocate Unit released a report titled ‘Married Too Soon: Child Marriage In Zimbabwe’, which revealed that globally 10 million girls are married off before the age of 18 every year. A significant number of these marriages are to men twice or even triple the age of the girls.

child-marriage-map

Through marriage, the girls are used to settle debts between the father and the man the girl is forced to marry, used as collateral to secure loans for the father or to ensure a steady income from the man she is to marry. Girls can also be married off because their parents are deceased and surviving relatives cannot support them.

A little girl of 12 who should be dazzling her jeans, braiding her friends’ hair at sleepovers and giggling about a little crush she has on a boy at school is now forced to bear the burden and responsibility of clearing family debt and being a wife. The role of a wife is not something to be taken lightly. Moreover, this poor girl is subjected to sexual intercourse with a grown man. If a single 12-year-old child were found to be engaging in sexual relations with an old man who visits the family home often, that man would be considered a child molester. Yet if this man pays as little as US10 in some instances, he is no longer a sex offender but a husband entitled to his wife.

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A wife is called to be a helper to her husband. Many men have reached greatness through the wisdom and support of their wives behind the scenes. A little girl of 12 hasn’t had enough life experience to take on that role. Anyone with common sense should realise this. Therefore it is obvious the motive behind such a marriage is control and abuse on the part of the husband. As a result of being asked to bear the responsibilities of a wife from such a young age, by the age of 20 that girl who was once a little fireball waiting to experience the world is a deathly shell of herself, aging well before her time. And she has been deprived of that gift God gave us all: the profound gift of love within the marriage relationship.

Economic challenges will come and go, but family is forever. A united family can overcome hardship easier than a family divided. In all the trials we face, the one gift we can be grateful for is our children. Let us not sell them off. There isn’t enough money in the world that can fill that void.

The world comprises of mums and dads, uncles and aunties, grandpas and grandmas, big sisters and big brothers: family. How in such a world can we continue to allow our little babies to be robbed of their right to simply be children? Let us give the children back their childhood and stand up against child marriage.

Porn before marriage

 

The single, sexy and curious phase before marriage is a crucial time in ones life. The decisions made and actions taken at this time can have a huge affect on the quality of the marriage later. It is natural to be curious about sex; but it is dangerous to look for answers in the wrong places. Pornography is a big pull factor for many who are curious about sex.

Pornography communicates many misconceptions about the nature of sex. It tells us good sex is rough and demeaning. For a woman to give her man pleasure, she must be willing to be called names that degrade and dehumanize her. She must also be willing to endure physical assault in the process if need be. Pornography also communicates that sex is purely carnal or physical. The more disconnected two people are the better. All these things then translate to the quality of marriage. Your marriage will be demeaning, violent and degrading with no real emotional connection.

porn and marriage

Surely when ladies put on the stunning white dress and tiara with the veil and 5-inch heels, that is not the marriage experience they are dressing up for. Surely when proud fathers walk their daughters down the aisle that is not the life they want to deliver them to. When a man and a woman say ‘I do’ one would like to think they want a healthy, fruitful and loving relationship.

Pornography is not a manual for good sex. It would be a shame for women to watch pornography in order to learn how to please their future husbands and a bigger shame for future husbands to watch porn so they can learn how to treat their women. When people in 1886 wanted to understand the way the first modern practical car functioned it would have made sense for them to ask Karl Benz; the inventor. The porn studio director named “Big Pimp” is not the inventor of sex: God is. The sex God created is not a dirty word. One does not cringe in a marriage ceremony when the priest or pastor reads “and for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become one.” Sex is a bi-product of that beautiful union. If you are curious about sex in its authentic, mind blowing form you cannot help but be curious about God. As a couple prepares for marriage it is vital to remember that God’s plan for marriage and sex is founded on an unwavering truth. That truth is love, not porn.

Kids and Porn

The majority of us think child pornography is vile. We are horrified when we read the headlines or watch a documentary highlighting this global concern. Many of us in our own ways stand for the fight against child pornography. Having said that, there is a new threat we need to be aware of. That is child exposure to pornography. As parents many of us are guilty of this; and we may not even be aware of it.

kid and port

Pornography should be viewed like the paedophile; something the community unites to fiercely defend its children against. It was easy back in the day. We could send our kids to bed at 7pm, when daytime television gives way to night time dicey soap operas. Today there is no such divide between completely clean daytime television and naughty night time television as far as content is concerned. As a result, parents need to be more vigilant.

For example, Mum finally buys ‘Frozen’, the ‘must see’ hit Disney production. She nonchalantly slots it in the automated DVD player and walks away satisfied that her little person will be sufficiently distracted for 90 minutes. Unbeknown to her, the DVD has trailers and before the trailers the DVD company has put promo material advertising all the types of DVDs they sell. There within your Frozen disc is a snippet from Nicki Minaj’s latest very explicit music video. By the time mum re-enters the room again the wonderful song from the Frozen soundtrack is on and the little one is singing. Mum smiles and thinks ‘what an innocent age’.

For some people, a few minutes of Nikki Minaj isn’t that bad. After all, a few seconds followed by an hour of Frozen will surely erase the memory of it all. Here’s the thing; exposing your child to those clips normalises pornography. When mum and dad let the kids watch even the softest porn, the path is paved for deeper pornographic exploration later. This can have devastating effects.

child and porn

Some of us may remember Ted Bundy, who was one of the most prolific serial kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile in America in the 70s and 80s. This was when even the hardest pornographic content was soft compared to what we are challenged with today. In his final interview he stated that the thing that influenced him the most was the pornography he discovered in magazines in the dumpster when he was a young boy. In the interview Ted Bundy remarks that some of the stuff brought into homes in 1989 would never have been shown even in the adult X-rated theatres 30 years before. He goes on to warn parents that exposure even to what were popularly known as ‘slasher’ movies in the 80s can have a damaging effect on children and generations to come. Today we remember Ted Bundy’s words, as we look at increased crime statistics of rape, murder and other sexually deviant behaviours worldwide. Africa is no exception as there are growing cases of teenagers committing murder. In many cases these atrocities can be traced to exposure to pornography.

As parents, let us not allow pornography to be trivialised or normalised in our homes. It is increasingly subtle and found in what we would assume are ‘safe ‘places. Not only can pornography destroy your marriage but it can also destroy your children and have a devastating effect on the community in which you live.