Archive for April, 2007

The Art of Selling Out

Today I recommend going and reading all of my fellow horror writer’s, Wrath James White, blog, Selling Watermelon: Ode to Marquis Styles. Don’t get me wrong, Marquis Styles has not seen print yet, but Marquis is submitting urban romance projects. Marquis may also gain a sister, to be named later, who will be writing paranormal romances.

Why?

(… Continued on Blogging in Black – The Art of Selling Out)

Also, my latest Intake column, No time to reflect

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Hot Fuzz – A Review

Hot Fuzz is an action packed comedy set in the unlikeliest of locales, a place where nothing ever happens. Which is exactly why the movie works: by not winking at the audience, it brilliantly spins the obvious into the unlikely (and vice versa). Unlike the skewered target in Shaun of the Dead (the similarities between zombies and the English pub crawling life), Hot Fuzz takes aim at a much broader target, namely one of (America’s) Hollywood’s chief exports: the big-bang action movie. The action movie is one of the easiest movies to do poorly and one of the hardest to do effectively – and, because they tend to border on spoofs of themselves in the first place, they are one of the hardest to parody well. However, just the idea of the team behind Shaun of the Dead doing to the police action-comedy genre (think and 48 HoursBad Boys) what they did to horror genre is enough to make me plunk down dollars.

Though modest and far from flashy, Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) had an arrest record 400% higher than anyone else in his precinct. His personal initiative was such that his colleagues conspired to get him transferred for making them all look bad. So from London to the sleepy hamlet of Sandford he goes, a community so small that everyone knows each other, greets each other, and the big crime concern is loitering and the nuisance influx of living statues. Angel ends up partners with Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), son of the village police chief, Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent). Butterman is a student of American action flicks (Bad Boys II and Point Break being, in his opinion, the pinnacle of the genre) and is eager to live out his Bruckheimer-inspired cop fantasies through Sgt. Angel: two-fisted gun battles, extreme car chases, and wise-cracking trash talk.

Co-written by director Edgar Wright and Pegg, the duo are every bit the students of film that their American counterparts, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (Grindhouse) are. Smart even in its juvenile humor (with charactes named P.I. Staker, Cocker, Blower, Skinner) to its less obvious gags co-opting all manner of pop culture influences (for those that missed the role of the N.W.A. in the movie, let’s just say that it makes the song from the soundtrack, “Straight Outta Sandford,” all the more hilarious). The quick cuts and edits turned even the filling out of paperwork into over the top action sequences.

“I’m open to the possibility of religion, I’m just not overly convinced by it.” –Sgt. Angel

Crime can be found anywhere – scratching the surface of even the calmest of villages reveals the dark heart of humanity. Evil is irrational and uncontrollable; life gets so twisted about, that grand conspiracy theories start to make sense when the truth is much simpler. We don’t like the feeling of helplessness that life often leaves us. Some folks clutch at idea that we have to follow the law without exception as the only way to survive – without the grey. Sgt. Angel’s “the law’s the law” attitude can seem to be a myopic view of the letter of the law.

“The law can be proper and righteous and used for the benefit of mankind.” –Sgt. Angel

We don’t get to make up the rules as we go along; the Law is meaningless if it isn’t consistently applied. Of course, that’s the rub, isn’t it: the Law isn’t consistently applied. It can’t be because the appliers (humanity) aren’t consistent – no matter how much talk there is about applying the law “for the greater good.”

“The boys here are not used to the concepts you’re bandying about.” –Inspector Frank Butterman

Sgt. Angel knew the law better than anyone else and applied it equally. He “believed in the immutable word of the Law” and that with procedural correctness there had to be moral authority. This set him apart from the people he was called to; a people that had so bought into the values of their culture, had been so brainwashed into not questioning, that they were happy and contented with the illusion they had created for themselves. Riding in on his white horse of judgment, in a lot of ways, he’d come to fulfill the law which made him a threat to all of the institutions of the village, the empire. Religious, medical, law, commerce, he was up against institutions and a way of life seemingly bigger than himself.

The “village,” with its values and its control and order is safeguarded at a price. Though it believed itself to be a “community that cares” – the reality is that the community was so rotted from the inside it had lost its way.

“It’s not your village anymore.” –Sgt. Angel

That is the good news that Sgt. Angel comes to bring. Through his “death” and “resurrection”, he inaugurates a greater kingdom, a different way of living, one that challenges the ways of the village. It’s an announcement that you don’t have to live the way they had been living. They didn’t have to pursue empty goals of materialism, consumerism, or chasing after the ill-defined false glories of “success”.

Instead, they could be about freedom, since we have been freed from the chains of crime (sin) and death. They could be about the pursuit of justice. The way Sgt. Angel chose to carry out his calling was to invest himself in a few, those that had been called for a purpose. They became his disciples of justice and he calls others to join in their mission of justice.

“Still feel like you’re missing out?” –Sgt. Angel

Hot Fuzz–though mostly an action buddy cop comedy–brings with it elements of many slasher movie moments. Deconstructing the genre, it includes moments of too tender male-bonding – the man-love demonstrated points to the unstated obvious about the undertones of the buddy cop relationship: these are testosterone fueled romances.

Subversive in the way it hits every cliché, nails them, and twists them on their head, the Wright-Pegg team gets the movie mostly right. While it does feel a little long, particularly near the middle of the movie, the hyper-explosive, downright ridiculous, last half hour makes up for it. Plus, it’s a non-stop laugh riot, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy.

Belong Before You Believe

The church should be countercultural, a school of life, a pocket of resistance against the status quo, a foretaste (and first fruit) of things to come. It isn’t always.

The question becomes, should we join a church? (The short answer is “yes” and I’ll now refer you to “Why go to a church service?”). The issue that fascinates me is the one of how and why we go about becoming “members” of a church, because there are some real consequences to this decision.

Some people just aren’t joiners, or at least want no part of the rigamarole of joining. Whenever I’ve joined a church in the past, there were forms and doctrine statements that I had to sign to attest to their beliefs. I have NEVER been to a church were my beliefs lined up perfectly with theirs (mostly I skim them to see whether or not I can still drink). More than once I’ve told them that I can’t sign their membership papers because they would be making me lie to them (usually, they say that it’s just an acknowledgment that we know what the church believes. I still couldn’t shake the feeling like I was being Mirandized). Some churches have made me go through classes, as if you could actually flunk out (Lord knows, to my wife’s dismay, I’ve tried). Most times, joining a church has been more like an arranged marriage: can we live with each other.

I think any regular attender is a member. By the power of their presence, they have placed themselves under that church’s “authority,” as it were, to speak into their lives. One of the church’s role is to facilitate people into the formation of Christ’s image and I understand that trying to get some manner of commitment out of them would ease that process. And I get the frustration that some leaders have when their members have a lackadaisical attitude toward regular attendance.

But you know what? I would seriously consider not joining a church. Seriously. If one of the church’s roles is to make disciples, we do that (practically speaking) by being a part of people’s lives and butting into them. In fact, in this regard, I don’t see the church operating much differently than, say, AA (or insert whatever you want for what it is the church is trying to get you up those 12 steps to solve). Frankly, I might even go one step further and say don’t be a part of any close circle of friends. Only this past week I was asked whether or not a friend’s situation had deteriorated to the point of needing an intervention. An intervention certainly sounds like a group of us taking it upon ourselves to butt in where we aren’t particularly wanted.

I would enter into joining a faith community with my eyes wide open to the fact that being a part of a church body means you are inviting them into your life every bit as much as they are inviting you into theirs. That’s the nature of relationships and the reality of community. The deeper the relationship, the more likely butting in and holding each other into account there will be. So if I wanted to do whatever I wanted, with people being allowed to speak into my life when I want them to and only in the areas I want them, I wouldn’t join any faith community – especially a smaller one where people are more likely to know me.

If you are going to speak into my life, you have to have a relationship with me. More than an “I recognize your face/I know your name” relationship. We have to have lived life together. Shared times. Then you’ve earned the right to speak into my life. People need to belong before they believe, even if they never believe. The church should be a hospice, a safe haven where people can work out their questions. Allowing doubts, allowing people of differing beliefs, doesn’t change what you believe. Accepting and welcoming people where they are and as they are doesn’t change what we believe the Bible has to say about what’s right or wrong. We can’t just be about wagging fingers at one another.

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Church is Not a Building

I think the sentiment that church really doesn’t happen on Sunday is total crap (to put it bluntly). It goes against centuries of tradition – both Jewish and Christian. The pinnacle of Israel’s and the Church’s formation took place in public liturgical worship. The services really meant something to them. Sure, this can be abused, but so can the idea that Sunday church doesn’t matter, and only picnics in the park do. For too long, evangelical Christians have been too critical of those who faithfully attend Sunday worship as if they are second-rate Christians, as if they don’t know true community, as if they are not really committed, etc. Sadly, we reap what we sow: We can’t talk this for long without undermining Sunday worship. I know, for some, I sound like a museum-piece… and that’s ok. I don’t mind. I know that it is very cool and hip right now to criticize the church, be cynical about its future, disparage its workers, and pretend that organization is the devil’s greatest work. (Interestingly, the same folk who decry “organized” religion would demand that their hospital, library, and school be organized.) But I can vouch as a pastor who prayerfully puts in long hours in order to make sure my flock is spiritually fed each week, that a low attendance impacts my spirit. I preach better when my flock is with me. I preach worse when I feel alone. For more of my rantings on the necessity and centrality of corporate worship, check out my most recent sermon “All Together Now”. Please accept these ravings in the spirit in which they are given – with much love and concern. The pursuit of true spiritual transformation cannot happen apart from self-denying commitment to the good of others, and one way to maintain this stance is to meet together regularly for worship, instruction, and service. No matter how innovative the church becomes, it will never improve on the discipline and rhythm of regular liturgical formation.

(And now a link to Rich’s sermon, All Together Now, his look at Psalm 150 as if offers a concentrated vision the where, why, how, and who of corporate worship.)

Many of us have gone through what Dan Kimboll called Reality Church, the stages of our involvement with the thing we call church. Our reactions to “how we do church” has folks all over the place, calling for more “high” church to the practical eradication of any sort of weekly gathering. I know many folks have wrestled with the disillusionment of seeing some “mega-churches” sprawl out of control, focusing on the building and its maintenance—caught up in empire building—while forgetting about the community, the neighborhood. Church isn’t a place. We’ve come to think of church as that building we go to on Sundays, that performance we go witness, that thing we do.

As I am thinking about the idea of church membership, the koininia, the fellowship, that comes from belonging to a people, I can’t help but recall something I heard about pods of whales. Humpback whales come together, as a pod, with their individual songs. Once they are together, they learn a new song, changing their individual songs, and then go their way to teach their songs to others. Church is a relationship, the developing a community of faith, a sacred space we carve out in our world and lives.

With the common goal of being committed to following Jesus we gather together. The grace of God is a school in Christ and everyone is welcome in the school … but the school is meant to progress you. The school is to “graduate” disciples. The church should be countercultural, a school of life, a pocket of resistance against the status quo, a foretaste (and first fruit) of things to come. It isn’t always.

“It is important to think about the Church not as “over there” but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” –Henry Nouwen

Community Crutch

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” –Galatians 6:2

Do you ever have to deal with someone you know you are supposed to be responsible for that just sucks the very life out of you? A person you want to be there for, and in theory should be there for, but they just make too many demands of you? I’m going to try and do more than just vent in this blog, so I’m going to at least go through the motions of examining the responsibility of a community (be they friends, family, church, or what-have-you), even as individuals, in taking on one another’s burdens.

There are times when we ought to take as much of another’s burdens as possible. There will be times when I’m in a good place (financially, emotionally, physically, time wise) and a friend or family may be crunched and I can take that burden from them. However, while propping them up is one thing, but it’s not the ideal long term solution.

As I wrestle with the practical implications of what it means to support one another, what it means to share one another burdens, I can’t help but think—counterintuitive as this may sound—sometimes being a constant safety net keeps folks from growing, trying, experimenting, risking failure. Knowing someone is always there can make folks lazy and dependent. When I think of my role as a parent, the goal is to get the kids out of the nest by preparing them to be on their own, not constantly following after them in case they falter. There comes a point when we have to let go of the handle bars and trust that we’ve taught them how to ride the bicycle.

The problem arises when we encounter some folks who try to get by on pity. They won’t work or won’t hold down a job. They seem content to continue to put people in bad positions. It’s a form of emotional blackmail, like tagging along when folks are going out to eat knowing that you have no money: being invited along is one thing; infringing on them is another. Community is a two way street. It’s often hard enough for many folks to ask for help in the first place, these are the same folks who wouldn’t want to be supported that way – dependent on other’s good natures, sponging off folks, mooching our way through life, especially if they want to be seen and taken as grown-ups.

“God helps those who help themselves” is an ancient proverb that shows up in the literature of many cultures, including a 1736 edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, however, it is not in the Bible. This truism does speak more to our nature than it does to God’s: it’s easier for me to help those who are trying for themselves. We don’t want folks to use community as a crutch unless their leg(s) are truly broken.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” –Colossians 3:13

(But I’m still going off to listen to Tim Wilson’s song “He’s my Brother-in-Law.” Right now, I’m finding it … soothing.)

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Friday Night Date Place – No Kids?

Last week’s Friday Night Date Place on meeting the kids got me thinking about the reverse scenario. The situation I’m talking about is the single person who finds themselves creeping up in age and the prospect of finding a partner and having a child of their own seems to be fading with each successive birthday. They hear their friends, hear the words of their families, and hear the (however unintended) message of the church and come to the conclusion that they are not fulfilled unless they are married with children. What have we been telling these folks and what should we be telling them?

There are several reasons why most folks are single:
1. Choice – some folks choose to be single.
2. Time of life – there are times when folks are more focused on getting through school, climbing in their careers, or are simply pursuing other interests such that it is not the right time to “settle down.”
3. Socially inept/clueless – I’m not going to lie, some folks haven’t quite figured out how to make connections with others (though, frankly, some of those people still end up married, they’ve just found someone to put up with them)
4. Just hasn’t happened. Try as hard and desire it as much as they want, marriage, much less kids, simply hasn’t happened for them.

Now, is the right message we are to be sending them that they have somehow fallen out of God’s will by remaining single?

There are two mindsets at work here: 1) we act like marriage is a trade up when it’s a trade over, a lateral move of equal value; and 2) we, as a church, have placed family on an altar as if sustaining the family is the be all of Christian living. All of this means we will have to examine what it means to be fully human.

We’re called to join in God’s mission, whether doing it on our own (as singles) or as a team (if married). I know, no one buys the whole “Jesus and Paul were single” argument (though, Paul might have been married at one point). Focus on the Family of God needs to be lived out more deeply instead of worshiping the idea of family. (If I was the cynical type, I’d note that the emphasis on families might have something to do with the fact that families, giving units, are where the money is.)

So we as a culture have set marriage and kids as the be all of existence, setting folks up to believe that it’s our destiny as humans. Somehow you’re not fulfilling your role as human being if you’re not reaching those goals (it doesn’t matter how much you would like it to happen, but it hasn’t ). You know what? Some folks may need to be reminded to cling to their faith that God loves them and is for them (God’s will is not out of whack. If all you do is work and go home, God isn’t going to materialize a partner for you. Your choices and decisions matter, so be for Him in all that you do, after that, it’s on you).

I’m not going to lie, I like seeing myself in my children. Now that I have them, they are my primary ministry. I still have responsibilities to do kingdom work and if I’m being honest with myself, marriage and kids pulls me from that. Time is one of the trade-offs when I went from being single to being married. We need to cling to the true purpose and mission of life: to be fully human is to be fully loving and be in community. When Romans 14-15 talks about living out the Christian life, it’s not about making babies. The bigger point is that we’re co-creators with Him, joined in a mission or reconciliation. We’re all called to be fully human, but that’s an edict that isn’t solely fulfilled by being married and having kids. For many, there is an emptiness and longing for something that hasn’t happened. We don’t know how to speak to that void (and most times, we’d be better off not saying anything). We do them a great disservice by treating (and telling) them as if they are less than human otherwise.

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Thinking Bloggers

I’ve been tagged with a meme by a blogger who has just come to my attention. Apparently I make someone think. Woo-hoo!

Of course, I have to come up with five bloggers who make me think. It’s not like Scot McKnight, Rich Vincent, or Brian Keene need anymore blog love. So how about:

Anthony Smith

Rod Garvin

Wrath James White

Matt Cardin

Marc Davidson

And though I wish Lauren David and Andre Daley wrote more often, Jay Lake actually blogs more than I do.

Also, I took a look at Don Imus, then Reverends Sharpton and Jackson, and I wrap up my take on this whole mess by examining the role of hip hop in our culture with my Intake column “I Used to Love HER”.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

A Muslim Take On Community

So I have this friend in prison with whom I dialogue regularly about our respective faiths (he has discovered Islam while in prison). Every so often, he guest blogs for me. Since we continue to contend that Islam and Christianity can teach each other anything and shed light on each other’s beliefs, here is his take on the idea of community.

The question that initiated this line of thought was whether or not we (by “we” I mean the Muslims here at Indiana State Prison) are a “community” in the way it is defined along Islamic terms and is this definition harmonious to the general understanding of community (and what is the general understanding of community). And depending on the answer to that question, what is our responsibility to either maintain or achieve community.

Community is defined as:
1. People in area: a group of people who live in the same area, or the area in which they live
2. People with common background: a group of people with a common background or with shared interests within society
3. Nations with common history: a group of nations with a common history or common economic or political interests

So depending on the context that it’s used, one could say that community is basically a group of people that either live in the same locale or have similar backgrounds/concerns. I would also say that this is the general understanding that people of the concept of community.

As such, when we talk about the black community, for example, what does that mean? We don’t all live in the same are, we don’t all have common backgrounds, or share the same interest. I guess you could argue that we do have a common history and that we are all darker than white people, but does this really define community?

My problem with this is that community should mean more than that. If we limit ourselves to the above understanding, then we are no more than a collection of individuals that are sharing space. There is no sense of … I don’t know … concern/love.

Islam defines community as a brotherhood (which obviously has a richer connotation – goodwill, a feeling, fellowship, and sympathy for other people). And it is along these lines that Islam defines community. Allah says, “Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher; therefore serve ME and no other,” and “The believers are but a single brotherhood: so make peace and reconciliation between your two contending brothers; and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.” (23:52 and 49:10).

The idea that is being put forth is that the believers are bonded together, unified by their faith in Allah and that as a result of this there is a responsibility to one another. Actually a love for one another. Allah says, “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.” (3:103)

I don’t want to get preachy here. Suffice to say that the idea is that through our common faith, we are bonded together. We are commanded to love one another. This love is not necessarily the kind of love that you have for a wife or a child. In fact, you might not even particularly like a fellow brother. It is the kind of love, I suppose, is best exemplified amongst members of the armed forces. During my tenure as a Marin, there were plenty of guys I didn’t particularly care for, but the bottom line was that they were Marines. As such, I would always extend that man the respect and courtesy that he was due, I would assist him in whatever he need assistance with, I would put my life on the line to protect him.

That same love is called for in Islam in terms of our relations with one another. Allah tells us to hold on to the Rope, all together. The idea is that we are stronger together than we are individually. You have heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Kind of the same idea here, that collectively we support one another in the areas we are weak. That collectively, there is a measure of accountability that is not present individually.

Then, of course, we have a model of community. We have the historical accounts of how the Prophet (saw) and the early Muslims lived. And what we see, in short, is a body in which the individual sacrificed for the greater good of community, a structure of mutual respect and assistance, and (very important) a very real practice of accountability. This is the best example of what a community is.

Okay, with this on the table, how does this stack up to how or what we generally apply the term community too. Looking at, for example, the Islamic Communities out in the world. What we see, in general, is Muslims falling into what I call the contemporary Christian paradigm (you really need fancy titles for something simple, I could have just said the way Christians do stuff these days).

Here’s what I’m talking about. Let’s go back, oh, 100 years ago in this country. What we will see is a particular standard of morality. This standard, obviously, had a Christian foundation. More importantly, this standard was being not only espoused from the pulpit, but there was an expectation of adherence by the general populace. If one would act counter to this societal standard, then there were repercussions. For the sake of time and space, I’m being really general, and there are exceptions but I think you get the gist of what I’m saying.

We fast forward to 2007, and there is still a standard of living being propagated from the pulpit, however, there is no accountability to the message. A message is preached on Sunday and then the people are dispersed back to their individual lives – which is all good and well for Christians (ha!). The problem, as I see it, this is also true of the Muslim communities. This is counter to the very spirit that is embodied in what community means, or should mean, to the Muslim. Nevertheless, brothers go to the mosque on Friday, but then is seen coming out of the liquor store on Saturday, turning up a 40 oz and what? Nothing. That’s a problem.

So, to answer my own original question, do we have a community here? I would say yes we do. We certainly have the commonality of faith. We express a degree of love that is expected of Muslims for one another. And, just as importantly, we have a degree of accountability and expectation of one another.

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42

I’m not a baseball fan. I didn’t grow up watching the game, my dad was never a lover of the sport, nor did I ever really play it. In other words, baseball wasn’t part of the fabric of my childhood. Yet, even I have to take note of one of the most important cultural, social, and political moments in our nation’s history. Sixty years ago today (April 15, 1947) Jackie Robinson crossed the color barrier to become the first black player in the Major Leagues.

Ironically, not much of it was made in the mainstream press, though the black press covered this event as if it were the Second Coming. Think about the impact of this: when Jackie Robinson crossed the color barrier, Malcolm Little was in prison at the time, listening to the games, inspired by what black people could achieve.

“A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” –Jackie Robinson

Being the first must’ve have been difficult. Not instantly accepted by his teammates or the fans of his team; challenging the paradigm that the color line was not to be crossed, a paradigm that many folks grew up believing, accepting, and living by. The racial epithets from other coaches, the death threats, opposing players refusing to take the same field as him – all alone, the only black man in the game, handling that kind of pressure, is a testament to how tough he was. His was an exercise of self-control.

Being a trailblazer is unimaginably difficult. I don’t know what it must have been like to live with the fear of failure (not just of playing in the big leagues, but to let down the hopes and dreams of an entire people) or the fear of success (to be a symbol of democracy and equality). The crap he had to go through and take … yes, he was angry. If anyone had a right to be angry, he certainly had that right. It took a restraint few of us have to not lash out, but instead channel it and use it as fuel. How he played the game, as a rookie, is a testament to the type of player he was.

Suffering so that others could come after him.

We take a lot of things for granted today, black and white folk alike. Black folks forget just how hard it was. We often take for granted the strides and struggle done for us by our grandparents. Grand parents – those are stories that can still be told. White folks, well, sixty years wasn’t that long ago. When I hear things like “why do we need a “Black Miss America” a “Black Expo” or a Black whatever?”, again, sixty years ago we needed a Black press. We did for ourselves when it wasn’t being done in the “mainstream”.

There are times when sports are a mirror to our society, showing us who we are as well as who we could be. Today, when the story of Jackie Robinson has him almost faded into myth like some African-American god of integration, only 9% of baseball players are black, but 44% are minority. That’s a lasting victory and legacy. (Jonathan Eig has a book out on Jackie Robinson called Opening Day that I can’t wait to read.)

As a part of the remembrances that are going on today, some players don’t feel worthy to wear #42. I respect that position. It’s hard to see greatness and measure yourself against it; to examine yourself and how you are living up to that legacy. However, you can’t have too many people involved in celebrating this day or this man.

(A special shout out to the memory of the Indianapolis Clowns and the other Negro League teams.)

Friday Night Date Place – Meeting the Kids

Every now and then, I think about what if I was to find myself single again. I’m approaching 40 (it’s the new 20!), I have two boys (complete darlings!), and I would be facing the possibility of dating all over again (I bring teh hotness!1!). I just celebrated my 7 year anniversary and I was a contented single person. However, the thought of dating period, much less navigating those treacherous waters with kids in tow, reminds me to pray that my wife will outlive me.

To a degree, I can still sympathize with trying to date while having kids. It’s hard enough finding the time to go out with just your spouse, to keep the relationship fresh. One of the reasons we decided to stop at two kids was that we could still find people to babysit for two (free!). Around three or more, we weren’t just paying, but we would be paying big. Or else making better friends. Many folks find themselves single with kids or single again with kids or have to go through the motions of weighing the pros and cons of dating someone with kids. There are many issues that they have to check off. Issues like:

-going from being single to an instant family
-dating while juggling kids
-dating while dealing with ex-spouses or the children’s other parent still having to be around
-blending two families
-how and when to develop/allow the appropriate attachments

It’s a lot to absorb and deal with on top of trying to figure out if you like the person you’re going out with, though every relationship has its baggage. I talked to a few friends of mine to see how they handled dating folks while having kids, and a few similar threads kept coming up.

1) Take time before introducing the kids to the other. Okay, one person I talked to made it a point to not introduce her kids to whoever she was dating until the relationship had lasted a year first. Your timing may vary. The point is that your first responsibility is to your kids and creating a stable environment for them. You don’t want to confuse the kids with a constant stream of “friends.” And the simple fact is that it’s important to see if the two of you are going to work as a couple, if they are worth the time/emotional investment, to move to the next level.

2) Take the attachments slowly. Judge the children’s reaction to your significant other and your significant other’s reaction to them. For one thing, you don’t want to let the kids get attached only to have your “friend” disappear. Break ups are hard enough on adults, but they are even tougher on kids. On the other hand, you also want to allow time to allow the relationship between your children and your significant other to develop naturally.

3) Be honest and upfront. My sister handled introductions this way: “Hi. My name is Ro. I have two kids.” It puts the facts immediately out there and gives them an out that way they can run if they’re going to run.

4) Realize that where there are kids, there are parents. A baby momma/daddy may still be in the picture, another party to your relationship. Like any other family, you inherit them as a part of the relationship. If there is any drama with the children’s other parent, that needs to come up pretty early in the discussion also. (I’m thinking that “By the way, the baby daddy’s crazy” is a date three conversation.)

The key rule to relationships of all sorts boils down to how best you can love one another, your kids and yourself as you seek to find your own happiness. This topic is way too big for me to gloss over in one blog, no matter how lengthy, so I may me re-visiting it again in the future. What are your thoughts?

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