Re-emerging…

The Well

This is going to be a busy but fun weekend for me! Our church is in the throes of preparations for our “re-emergence.” We have been undergoing change on a foundational level, and it’s been awesome! God is doing something in our hearts, individually and collectively as a body and we are being stretched and conditioned for the work ahead.  Hence the term “re-emergence.”

Tomorrow, we will be at our local (Lake Mary) Farmer’s Market, providing music, water, crafts for the kids, all for free. Just one of our various ways of reaching out and showing some love to our community. I missed last month’s (I was in Lagos), but I heard the story of one old man who, with tears in his eyes, said he’d been in church a long time, but he’d never felt the love and presence of God more than he did as we served at that Farmer’s Market. What a tiny offering, compared to calvary!

Then this Sunday, we’ll be back at Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lake Mary, for our first service since we left a couple of months ago, to retreat, reflect and re-evaluate. What a time that was! Our re-emergence Sunday is March 8 at 10am. If you’re in the area, do stop in, whether at the Farmer’s Market tomorrow or at re-emergence on March 8 – we’d love to see you and love on you for a bit. But next week, remember to change your clocks the night before so you’re not late! More information at www.churchatthewell.org.

Have a fabulous weekend. I know I will!  😉

Are you truly alive?

It occurred to me a moment ago that there is a distinct difference between living and being truly alive at least the way I see it. Living is existing and performing all the functions that pertain to life. Being truly alive is squeezing the juice out of life and exploring its potentials. Think of a ruby red grapefruit, if you will. No matter how sweet it may be, there is a tanginess that comes with the sweetness, but a whole lot of benefit that results from eating it.

In this life, there’s a lot of stuff that threatens to drain the vim and verve out of me and leave me in a state of existence (living). In spite of this, I can decide that I only get one go-around and I’m going to make the most of it while I’m here (truly alive) so that my life impacts others’ in a positive way. Sure there’ll be “moments”, but life issues notwithstanding, I want to be in a constant state of “truly alive”, so help me God! 

Even if I never write a book, make a ton of money, receive a Pulitzer prize or get those washboard abs I so desire, I want people to say of me: “there goes a woman who’s truly alive.”

Woo-hooooooo!!!!

How relevant are you?

 

Lately, I’ve been undergoing a sort of self-analysis, which is also a prevailing theme in my family and our church at the moment.

Our church is gearing up towards a re-launch and we are experiencing great momentum as we share our vision through outreaches and other means. One thing we are finding out repeatedly is that people are tired of business-as-usual as far as the church is concerned. People need a community of love where they can belong and be accepted. Up until now, we in the church (generally speaking, of course) have created the impression that you have to believe before you belong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not espousing “a new gospel” here. I’m not referring to the kingdom of heaven which has undisputable pre-requisites, but to a community of love which breaks down the barriers and objections to the gospel message and opens the door to the kingdom of heaven. Let’s face it, people don’t always understand the language of the kingdom of heaven, but they always understand the language of love.

The way my husband illustrates it is that we inadvertently draw a circle around the cross, demarcating who’s “in” and who’s “out.” The truth is, Jesus never did that. He never for one moment lost His sense of purpose or compromised His mission and principles, yet He broke down all social and cultural barriers in order to reach all. Whether it was to the prostitute, despised and marginalized by society, or the rich, young ruler who had it all, or the regular every day folks who became His disciples, Jesus was real, relevant and touched a need in people’s lives. He loved first, made people feel like they belonged, and then they believed!

Joseph and I like to fly below radar as much as possible. When we meet people, we leave out the part where we mention that we are pastors. Reason being, sometimes when that tidbit of information is revealed, we immediately see a shift in their attitude and they start to apologize for every cuss word they used. If people can’t relate to me in default mode, then how can they relate to Jesus whom I claim to represent? Can I truly embrace someone who does not believe like I do, or do they have to believe first before they belong in my “circle”?

Anybody feeling me out there? If so, please join me on the doctor’s couch of self-analysis. Plenty of room…

Traditioooon – take two!

The church ceremony marks the grand finale of the wedding activities in the yoruba culture. The actual wedding is very much like any wedding in the western world, except minus the rehearsal dinner the night before. There’s a lot of eating and drinking around this period, anyway, so a rehearsal dinner is totally unnecessary. Because of the constant presence of family, guests and well-wishers at the bride’s parents’ home, food is continuously being prepared and served. How do we foot the bill for all these expenses? Great question, glad you asked! 🙂

The phenomenon of the extended family is a given in the Nigerian context. In my family, on both sides, the extended family is a close-knit unit. As a result, anything that concerns one family member concerns the rest. When we celebrate, we celebrate together, when we mourn, we mourn together…you catch my drift. Those who can, chip in to defray the cost of a wedding or any event. Even close friends participate in this sharing of the load (all this is done with no solicitation on the part of the families). Everyone shares in the joy of the bride and groom’s immediate families.

Funmi’s wedding was no different. There was so much love and joy, it was practically palpable! We sang, we danced, and we were all decked out in our finery. The only thing (person) missing was my mother, and we certainly missed her, knowing it was a day she’d looked forward to for a long time. However, we were consoled by the thought that, knowing her, she would have worked it out such that she was watching from her spot in heaven!

After the wedding ceremony was the reception. Can you say “food galore”? After that there was one more thing. The day was ended by a symbolic event where the groom came to my Dad’s house with his siblings and their wives and they came to “formally escort” Funmi to her husband’s house. After the reception, the bride goes back to her Dad’s house for the last time, to say goodbye. The matriarch of the family, my Dad and each one of us siblings (Funmi is the baby, and she has 3 older siblings, of which I’m one) said a prayer over the new couple. Then we loaded up their car with food, Funmi’s personal belongings (a token fraction – the girl has some STUFF!) and everything she’ll need to make a good wife 🙂 and waved as they rode off (OK, they drove) into the horizon (OK, into the traffic). As they left, my Dad made a comment that warmed my heart: “Now my children are complete!”

…And they lived happily ever after…   ~ THE END ~

 

Bride and father-of-the-bride, my proud Papa

 

Bride, groom & bridal party

 

Dad, praying blessings on the bride and groom

Traditioooon!

You just have to say the title of this post with the same verve and gusto as Reptavia (sp?) in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, or else it will lose its oomph.

Thought I’d share with you a tradition from the Yoruba tribe (from whence I cometh). The traditional wedding ceremony, which has since come to be referred to as the engagement ceremony is considered the marriage of families. When a couple decides to get married, it is not simply two individuals that are joined, but two families. So you can imagine just how extended the extended family is! In my older sister’s case, she and her fiance were not even present at their own engagement ceremony, as they both lived abroad at the time. Yeah, really and truly!

At the appointed time, on the appointed day, the groom arrives at the bride’s father’s house bearing gifts, with his family and friends in tow, and a designated spokeswoman from the family (whom we will call Rep. A). They approach the bride’s family (who is gathered in the front yard) and state their intent, which is to ask for the hand of a daughter of the family in marriage. There is a whole drama that ensues and this back-and-forth dialog is the fun part of the ceremony. The bride’s family also has a designated spokeswoman (whom we will call Rep. B) and there is usually a lot of humor employed in this scenario. Rep. B’s job is to determine, via communication through Rep. A, the sincerity of the groom’s intentions and establish that he is worthy of the bride he seeks. After demonstrating that this is, indeed, the case, the bride is summoned from inside the house and she comes out veiled, escorted by her friends. She is unveiled and there is much jubilation as the groom confirms that this is indeed the object of his affection. Gifts are exchanged between the families and the elders of both families speak blessings over the couple and the celebration continues with plenty of food and drink.

Back in the day and even still today, in certain circles, this was/is a ceremony recognized by the government as a legally binding marriage contract. However, for Christians, the marriage is not yet considered complete until the church ceremony, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “engagement ceremony.”

So, consider yourself educated in some manner regarding a Nigerian custom and tradition!

Bride & Groom (Baby Sis Funmi & Tayo) at yoruba traditional wedding/engagement ceremony

 

Joseph and me at our engagement ceremony 20 years ago

Lagos!

Approaching the southeastern coastline of the U.S.A

 My trip to Lagos with Baby Girl #2 was incredible! So many highlights…it was fun catching up with old friends and extended family members, of which there are umpteen million! My mother’s family is very large and very close. My father’s family is not so large, but also features strongly in my life. The challenge for Temi was trying to remember everyone, especially when they all embraced her as if they’d known her forever!

The wedding was fabulous. There was a traditional ceremony/formal engagement a week before the actual wedding. I’ll be sharing on the symbolism of that in my next post. The African culture is so rich and I’m so proud to have that heritage. In the mean time, here are a few photos to whet your appetite…

 Temi with Tayo & Funmi (bride & groom) after the traditional engagement ceremony
Me and Baby Sis, Funmi on her wedding day