The article made me do it

Have you seen the video of the doctor distracting a baby while he gives the kid a couple shots? It’s cute, right?

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day, and after watching it I left the comment: “So precious.”

In response, a total stranger commented: “Not precious at all – Please educate yourself for your children’s sake.” Attached to the statement was a link to an article on the horrors of vaccination and why people should never vaccinate their children.

Normally something like this wouldn’t bug me, but just a few days earlier I had received some links from a friend regarding various reasons why Ray and I shouldn’t circumcise our boy(s). Now, I have no ill feelings towards my friend, and I appreciate her concern for the wellbeing of our future children (I actually agree with the scriptural portions of her point), but these two occurrences really got me thinking about how mighty the article has become in American culture.

Make room for a new king

Next to Jesus, Google is king in our home, and I’m the one responsible for making it that way.

  • If I want to know how to edit videos better, I’ll google it.
  • If I need natural solutions to ward off malaria-ridden mosquitoes, I’ll google it.
  • If my gas is smelling especially putrid… hold on, just plug your nose for the 0.46 seconds it will take Google to give me a diagnosis, and we’ll be good to go.

article blog

There are millions of articles and random folks out there in Cyberland ready and willing to tell me how to live my life, and I’m totally open to receive most of what they throw at me. Upon reading an article, well usually it’s more like skimming an article, I feel like I’ve become a semi-expert on the matter, so not only does it become a belief that I instantaneously hold personally, but anytime someone asks for help in that area, I’ve got the answer for them too. Just read this article and it will make you think like I do.

The problem is, sometimes I’m wrong.

How many times have you seen an article saying that some research institute has discovered that a certain food causes cancer causing you to promptly boycott the product until a few weeks later the “just kidding” response is released and we’re told that the food actually helps ward off cancer? (The soy controversy had me all kinds of confused.) How many people had you convinced before the “just kidding” article that they should also stop buying that particular item of food? Or how many times had you shared a video or article on Facebook about a certain event only to have someone comment, “Um, yeah, that’s fake” or “That never happened,” and then you felt salty for disseminating a lie?

Here’s a question for you: do you feel saltier for sharing it or saltier for believing it?

A quick detour from the information superhighway

Lest this rant get out of hand, let me get to my point. I have two:

Point 1: Sure, cruise the information superhighway, but remember that you have people in the car with you who have real life experiences as well.

I’ve seen many of my friends go through cycles where they get frustrated with how connected to technology people have become these days, and they get rid of Facebook for a week or a month (the hardcore ones do it for a year or more), all in the name of pressing in to be more relational. I wish that people would do the same when it came to the dissemination of information. Don’t send me an article and just tell me that what I believe is wrong, but walk with me, teach me, show me what you believe and let me come to my own conclusions. If you share an article with me, please share it within that context. I’m not going to do something just because your article told me to. As my friend Lisa once said, just as anyone can find any scripture to back up any belief they have, articles can serve the same purpose.

Ray and I went to visit our neighbors for dinner a while back, and the wife asked me where I learned to make chapati. I told her I googled it and found some videos on YouTube. She looked a bit bewildered and responded, “I’m right next door, why don’t you just come over and let me teach you?” That’s not the first time I’ve gotten that kind of response, which is one of the things I love about Kenyan culture. It’s all about relationship. Kenyans can share information with one another, but they do it within the context of relationship. Wouldn’t it be cool to teach kids more about the importance of primary sources so instead of doing a Google search on the Vietnam war, they actually talk to their veteran uncle? Articles are definitely important, but they shouldn’t take precedence over relationship.

Point 2: Maybe if we valued wisdom and knowledge over tidbits of information, we’d be smarter.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

We are exposed to a wealth of information with the world literally at our fingertips, and that in and of itself isn’t bad, but we can be bombarded with so much information that we don’t actually know anything. I refer to this a lot, but the Hebrew word for “know” is yada. It actually has five dimensions, and the gist of them all is basically that if you claim to know something, you know it in complete detail because you’ve studied, analyzed, investigated, or personally encountered it. This is the root of knowledge. This is what we should be passing on, not information you’ve barely processed yourself but have been persuaded to believe in the two minutes you took to skim through an article or watch a YouTube video. There’s far too much information and not enough knowledge being passed around.

Please note that I’m talking to a specific group of people here. Some of you do have sufficient knowledge in the things that you share with others. As long as you’re following point one, more power to you.

There’s a reason we’re told to seek wisdom as for precious gold. It’s through our life experiences and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we gain the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. Knowledge can help guide the decisions that we make, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Wisdom is. There was a time I was asked to speak at an AGLOW meeting, and I shared on the Holy Spirit. I had spent the summer really sitting with God and asking some questions about how to live by the Spirit, so everything I shared in my message was the result of that extended conversation. After I spoke, an older gentleman approached me and said, “I just want to encourage you because God showed you in a few months what has taken me thirty years to learn.” I can’t and don’t say that to brag, because it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat before the Lord and asked His Spirit of wisdom to enlighten my eyes instead of going straight to the computer to find articles or commentary whenever I have a question. Again, I’m not saying commentary is bad, I love using it, but I am saying that there’s something to be said about the acceleration of true knowledge and wisdom that comes from seeking it directly from the source.

Knowledge unto itself is just knowledge

In the western world we tend to value our access to information and we take pride in our knowledge, but knowledge unto itself is just knowledge. There’s no real fruit to be gleaned from it unless it’s put into action. I know people who have studied the Sermon on the Mount forwards and backwards multiple times, yet they don’t live its teachings out nearly as well as some of the people I’ve found here in Kenya that have maybe a sixth grade education and couldn’t even tell you where the Sermon on the Mount is located. It’s not about how much you know, people, it’s about how well you live out what you know. When you stand before the Father one day, that’s all He’s going to care about. Can it be all that we care about too?

[Disclaimer] I must end this slight diatribe by acknowledging that I do realize the irony of writing a blog post about why we need to stop relying so much on articles. Just doing my part to challenge you in your search for understanding. 😉

The green-eyed marriage: is your marriage monster-proof?

Maybe it’s because we’re still newlyweds (coming up on eight months now) or maybe we’re just really insecure, but our marriage seems to be the perfect dwelling place for that ugly little creature called the green-eyed monster (GEM).

“Who are you talking to?”

“Why are you looking at her Facebook profile?”

“Can we walk down this street instead of that one? There are too many good looking people over there.”

The insatiable desire to be THE ONE AND ONLY

As a single person, I used to have a particular fantasy about my future spouse. He would be on stage performing or preaching with a million beautiful women in the crowd dying to get his attention. These ladies would be some of the most beautiful women on the planet, and in comparison I would feel quite… less than. Suddenly, the man on stage would peer out into the audience and say, “You. I want you.” Like most women, I would look around and prepare myself to envy the lucky lady he referred to and maybe even trip her as she approached the stage, but then the crowds would part and it would become obviously apparent that he was speaking to yours truly.

Again, he would say to me, “You. You’re the one I want.”

I would have to be an idiot to not see how much of a catch Ray is. He has the cutest dimples, boyish charm, and he’s one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He truly is the epitome of the guy I envisioned on stage. Even though he’s married, especially now that he’s married and people see what a wonderful husband he is, there are some women (I use other terms for them when it’s just Ray and I) that will flirt with him and try to get his attention.

Just last week a young girl that works at the shop by our house told my husband that if she cooked for him, he would never want to eat my food again. It took the almighty right hand of the dear, sweet Lord Jesus Christ to keep me from going downstairs and punching her in the esophagus when Ray told me what she said. Fortunately, Ray handled it by taking me with him to the shop and introducing me as his “lovely” wife and excessively commenting on my beauty. I could’ve kissed him right there, I was so pleased by the way he handled it, but I didn’t want to rub it in. The fact that I didn’t severely injure her was kindness enough.

That was an obvious example of how GEM typically surfaces in my heart, but I’ve found that he enjoys pushing my buttons when it comes to small things as well. When Ray scrolls through Instagram photos, I make him unfollow any girls that have that “come hither” look. When he’s chatting with friends or clients on Facebook, I read through the messages just to make sure he’s not flirting (he never is, but I still do it anyway). When he’s on the phone laughing, I come running from the other room to try and ascertain if it’s a male or female voice. I’d like to say that it matters if it’s male or female, but it doesn’t. Sometimes he can be talking to his best friend, and I can’t wait for him to hang up so I can have him to myself.

A quick bit of perspective from Ray’s end so you don’t think the monster is me in disguise

When my wife first came up with the idea for this blog, I was like, “Really? Jealousy? I’m not jealous of anything.” But I have come to realize that this has been, and to some extent still is, something I personally fight with. Early in our marriage (I know we are still in the early stages, but you know what I mean) I didn’t like it when my wife laughed at other guys’ jokes or when she shifted her attention from me to any other person, especially a guy, irrespective of age, profession, or even if they were family. Sometimes I would get mad at her when she constantly giggled while looking at the screen of her other ‘baby’ (her iPhone) at odd hours of the night, forgetting that in Kansas it was daytime.

One area where we can never be like God

At first we used to justify the presence of the GEM in our marriage by saying stuff like, “If we’re not jealous, it shows we don’t care”. There is an element of truth to that. I’d hate it if I was crossing the boundaries of flirtation and it didn’t bother my husband at all. Disinterest to that extent can be dangerous! Just as God is jealous for the affection of Israel, His betrothed, there should be an intense desire for the affection our spouses.

But we have to remember that we’re not God.

Jealousy is such a tricky emotion because when it is borne out of a heart that is in constant need of spiritual renewal, it can become the puppet to insecurity, control, anger, and all those other nasty things that lurk in our hearts waiting for a reason to be lured out of their dark hiding places. I think that’s why we’re told in the Bible to avoid jealousy and envy and all manifestations of selfish ambition. Our weak, feeble hearts just don’t know how to handle it. It’s like a chainsaw. In the hands of someone who knows how to use it, the largest trees can be conquered, but put it in the hands of someone who doesn’t, and that will be the last day you see them with all of their extremities intact.

The best way we know to handle this is to present our hearts and all that’s in them to God on a daily basis and to repent to each other and to God when things get out of hand, but we’d like to end this blog by opening the discussion up to you guys to see what else we can do to supplement that.

Do you experience jealousy in your marriage? How do you handle it?

Looking forward to hearing your comments and ideas!

Who wears the pants in your family?: a co-blog

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Before we got married, Ray and I received very similar warnings:

“Be careful of American women. They’re very controlling.”

“Be careful of African men. They’re very controlling.”

To say the least, these well meant presages have created some very interesting dynamics within our relationship.

Revisiting the power of words (S’ambrosia)

I’ve written about the power of words before in the “Oh Be Careful, Little Mouth” post that went semi-viral (1,000 views within a few days is pretty exciting for a fledgling writer like myself), but I didn’t realize until recently just how much those “beware, take care” conversations had affected our relationship well before we were married. When you have statements like that repeated to you frequently, and by people you love and respect, it becomes very easy to slip into misinterpreting or even demonizing the actions of your spouse.

During my time in Kenya prior to our engagement, I came to know Ray as a big ole’ squishy teddy bear. He was the most amiable guy I’d ever met with a mammoth sized heart of compassion that was bent on serving others before himself (even to the point of being taken advantage of). It wasn’t until I came back home and announced my engagement, that I began to see him in a different light, as various people emerged out of the woodwork to warn me about how mean African men are to women. For the longest time I tried to defend Ray and explain to people that when they met him they would see for themselves that he wasn’t at all like what they described, but my attempts were to no avail. They would give me those “knowing” nods and tell me that they’d pray for me, and I would leave the conversation slightly frustrated, but impacted all the same.

I never knew how bad the impact was until Ray and I would talk on the phone or Skype.

All of a sudden, everything he said was offensive to me, and every single word had a subversive meaning behind it. I became paranoid about whether or not he had ulterior motives for marrying me, and I frequently voiced the concern (not really my concern, but the concern other people had drilled into my head) that he would change after we married.

At the same time, Ray was voicing concerns of his own…

What’s going on in the kitchen? (Ray)

Knowing the culture I was marrying into, I was scared at first because of what everybody around me was saying. I heard things like: your wife won’t let you see your family and friends or your wife will make you wash her panties. The list was endless.  I remember my friend from the States, after I told him I was marrying an American, told me that one thing I should keep in mind is that they should always have their way. Discouraging, right? I tried to safeguard myself from statements like this, but they were confirmed one day by a personality inventory we took from a pre-martial counseling packet. One of my highest traits was the lion, a decision maker who is determined, confident, and likes to take charge. Guess what my wife was. She was a lion too. Needless to say, I was a little bit discouraged.

In our culture a wife is responsible for all the household chores, while the husband is in charge of decision making, manual labor or technical work, and of course providing the daily bread. There was a time that African men never went into the kitchen. If a man was ever spotted in the kitchen, he would be the talk of the village; some would even say that his wife is a “control freak” or that ” that man is the woman in that family”, to list but a few. Even if the wife was the breadwinner, we do have some cases of that here, and the husband stayed home, he would hire a house girl to go in the kitchen. With that kind of background, you can imagine how worried I was about what life would look like for me and my American lioness here in Kenya, but I was relieved when my wife told me that she believes that she is the one to take care of the house (even though washing utensils and laundry is not her thing, lol) and merely requested that I would be helping whenever I could. That was one less fight for us to have.

More than a stereotype (S’ambrosia)

As Ray shared, we eventually discovered that control actually would be an issue for us, not because he’s African and I’m American, but because it’s simply the nature of who we are as individuals. We don’t doubt that our cultures have influenced our personalities to some extent, but at least now we can speak about our control issues on a level that goes beyond the cultural stereotypes. Unfortunately, we still hear comments from people who only see me as a typical American stereotype, but once again we have advice from one of our mentors to fall back on. He encouraged us to be each other’s champion. When people from Ray’s culture harp on me for being too “American”, it’s his job to defend me, not mine. The same applies for him. The logic behind that is that when you’re dealing with people of your own culture, it’s easier for them to dismiss an issue when you address it as opposed to when your spouse does. They’ll forgive you quicker than they will him. This has been another great piece of advice that has really helped us stay afloat in either country. It’s also pretty neat to see my husband stand up for me amongst his peers. It really does wonders for my love tank.

Working out the kinks (Ray)

Through the help of our mentors, we also discovered that for an intercultural marriage like ours to work, though I believe the same applies to any marriage, there was a need to create our own culture as a couple. This means we had to  come up with our own set of rules to govern our marriage.  Some rules favored my wife, and some favored me, but above all we had to be accommodating. Even though my wife has agreed to the duty of being a home maker, I have personally made it a rule over the weekends to give her a break from all the duties in the house. It’s still easy for me to do this because we are just the two of us, so I am not afraid of people laughing at me (Sam: this is a legit fear that he has), but what is more important is the fact that we agree on something beforehand, and we do our level best to ensure that we honor our promises. As far as  decision making is concerned, yes I know am the head of the house, but we both have a right to give input, so long as in the end we have each others blessing, even though some decisions may be hard to bear for the moment.

(S’ambrosia) Although part of the Wasike culture involves shared decision making, a very real and current struggle we have with overcoming some of the things people have said/say to us has been Ray’s fear of exerting any control over me in certain situations. Before we were married, some people told him that if he did something I didn’t like, I would get on a plane, go back home, and leave him. No matter how much I tell him I’ll never do that, he can’t shake the doubt. So there are times we will discuss issues and I’ll argue my point, and to keep from having to deal with me getting too upset about how controlling he is, he’ll just say, “Okay, do whatever you want,” and drop the conversation completely. In his mind he’s keeping the peace and appeasing his cray cray wife, but in my mind he’s giving up the right to use his God-given authority as the head of our house. Truth be told, I actually want my husband to boss me around. I don’t mean that in the sense that I want him to be domineering or controlling (you can unfurrow your brows, ladies), but I want to be able to look up to see my husband at the helm of this marriage with one hand in God’s and other in mine and feel nothing but trust in his leadership capabilities. It’s hard to trust your husband’s leadership when he’s always putting you in that role to keep you from bursting into angry dances all over the house.

I have since given Ray total permission to exercise his authority over me without fear, even if it means I have to perform an angry dance or two. I may be throwing a fit, but secretly I’m admiring his ability to lead me in the best way he sees fit. Of course it’s incredibly baffling to him to hear me say something like that when he knows that me giving him authority doesn’t mean that I won’t argue my case until I need to pause for a water break, but he’s coming to understand that just because I want to make sure that I make my points known doesn’t mean that I won’t adhere to his plan. It’s just nice to know that he values my input.

We’re definitely still working this out; my husband is only on book 7 of “How to understand the convolutedness of your wife”, but God is faithful and He really has been teaching us both so much about submitting to one another in love. In turn we’ve agreed to just ditch the pants and clothe ourselves in garments of humility and servitude instead.