Happy Valentines Day, ft. Crys

Standard

Every once in awhile, I get the chance to share some wise words, witty quips or entertaining interjections written by some truly talented writers. You all know my style by now. I’m not one to use super-duper dictionary language. I like to keep it simple, and that’s what I look for in talent.

Today, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across a heartfelt post written by my sister’s best friend–Crystal–to here husband. It was brilliant, so I told her I planned to share it with my reading/writing friends. With that, let me introduce you all to the work of Mrs. Crystal Nickson.


“Let’s talk about Marriage.
It’s pretty great. 👍🏾
It’s also pretty damn hard. 👊🏾

Like forreal it’s simultaneously the most beautiful–yet humbling experience I’ve ever been a part of…if that makes any sense. 🤔

It’s so easy in this day to say ‘To hell with it,’ whenever something doesn’t go the way you think it should. But we don’t.

That’s the humbling part.😔

It’s hard being who and what I am in this world, knowing that I’m part of a group that is pretty much last on the list to be genuinely cared for, nurtured, respected & listened to.

Sometimes I get angry at–and agitated with–my husband (and the world at large) because of this.

But we reset. We always seem to reset.
So:

To the man who still says ‘Excuse me; I apologize baby,’ whenever he slips up and curses in front of me…🤬

To the man who has never once sent me a ‘Good Morning, Beautiful’ text, because he instead chose to be able to slide in the bed next to me, kiss me and say it to my face every morning…(okay 4 outta 7 days ain’t bad, hell)…💋

To the man who still asks me to dance whenever an old school jam comes on (even though his rhythm is questionable😁)🕺🏾💃🏿

To the man who supports every BIG & small decision I make in life…and is still there, loving me, after the smoke clears…😫

To the man who literally thanked me for never leaving him (like, forreal y’all, that one got me last night) 😭

To the man who has always chosen faithfulness over fickleness; patience over pride & benevolence over bullsh*t…

🗣TO MY STRONG, KIND, QUIET, BEAUTIFUL, BLACK MAN….✊🏿

HAPPY 15TH ANNIVERSARY, BABY.
I LOVE YOU & I LOVE OUR LOVE.❤
Marham Nickson”


Beautifully said, Crys.

Happy Valentines Day, all.

What Up, Pounce!

Standard

“What up, E?!”

“What up, Pounce!”

Whenever I heard that call, shenanigans were afoot. His voice will forever haunt me. He was never Darion. He was never Pouncy. Not to his crew. No sir, to his WMU friends—comprised of native Flintstones, cats from Detroit and a lil’ dude from a small town called Ecorse—Darion Earnest Pouncy was simply “Pounce”. He was the glue that kept us together. Sometimes, attitudes would flare between boys, and Pounce would always be the voice of reason to bring us back in sync. He wasn’t boisterous; wasn’t loud or larger than life. He was cool. His demeanor was quiet confidence; never really one to take the spotlight, but always alongside his friends supporting the plan, whether it was taking the game to the court, or breaking into the dorm cafeteria after hours. Yeah, we did that. I’d never met anyone like him, and there will never be another to take his rightful place in my heart. Had I known the last time I saw him would in fact be the last time I would ever speak to him, I most likely would have said something a bit more profound. You can never go back. Today, my friend is gone.

In the Fall of ’91, I moved away from my family, and into a first-floor dormitory room at Western Michigan University’s Garneau Hall—Valley Two; an uphill climb, both ways between the housing dorm and the main campus. The first night of my freshman year was the loneliest night of my young life. I remember feeling utterly alone and homesick. Tough guy that I am now, I think some tears were shed that night. Long before I ever found the Lord, I remember actually praying to Him to make the next day better. True to His character, the Lord came through. That next day, I was walking out of my dorm room, when I literally bumped into a young cat from Flint, Michigan who was passing through the hallway, on his way back to his own room…two doors down, on the left. His name was Darion Pouncy. That fateful encounter led to a friendship that would last until the end of his days.

I remember a night in the late Fall season of that freshman year, when the crew assembled for a road trip to Detroit. Pounce’s beat-up hatchback was gassed and ready to make the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Kalamazoo to Detroit’s infamous dress-to-sweat “Club Inferno”. It was a different atmosphere in the 90s, and we were ready to cut loose and blow off steam on the dance-floor. A small portion of the crew—which included Alford “Gene” Harris; Bobby Johnson and Dante Carter—had packed into that little car and bounced; Tupac Shakur’s first album, “2Pacalypse Now” blaring through the screechy front and rear speakers of the rust-bucket, followed by Uncle Luke’s (that’s Luther Campbell to you squares) gig album of the year. That night, we partied until the club closed at 4AM, before making the long and tiresome ride back to Kalamazoo. While everyone slept during the return drive, I sat in the backseat as Pounce quietly navigated the darkness of westbound I-94. Occasionally, his head bobbed in time with the bassline of “Soulja’s Story” crackling the busted woofers of the little car’s taxed speakers. During that trip back to the dorm, I periodically checked on our driver, just to let him know someone was up awake with him.

“What up, Pounce?”

“What up, E? Did you have a good time?”

I remember glancing around the car, at my sleeping brothers and realizing these cats were my new family. “I did. I had a good time. What about you,” I asked. He answered in what would become trademark Pounce fashion.

“It was straight.”

The trip took a little longer than expected, and I remember crawling into my dorm-room bed as the sky was changing from midnight black to pale blue, with the rising of the sun. It was the first time I’d ever stayed awake for over 24 hours. I crashed, exhausted yet grateful for my friends; my brothers; grateful for the chance encounter with Darion Pouncy.

Somewhere along life’s path—after Western Michigan University—I took a turn that caused me to lose touch with my brothers. At the time, I figured leaving those relationships behind was probably for the best, because the change in trajectory had brought my wife into the picture. As a consequence, distance created a gap between me and everybody else who I’d once considered WMU family. Although social media provided a way for us all to reconnect, it just wasn’t the same. As we grew older, we lost touch—I lost touch. In spite of me, time and distance, some true friendships endure.

In August of 2015, I was sent to Kalamazoo to complete a professional project for work. It had been years since I’d last seen or spoken directly to Pounce but like a true friend, when I called, he came. I opened the door of my hotel room and was greeted by that familiar voice. Suddenly, years melted into yesterday.

“What up, E?!”

“What up, Pounce!”

The dap was strong and the love transcended time. In that moment, we were simply brothers catching up with one another after a short stint apart. I told Pounce about my life after Western Michigan University: kids, career, marriage, music, writing and God. I gave him a copy of my recently published book, and a CD of my music. He listened and brought me up to speed on his life, his lady and his dog. The reunion was short. He had things to do and I had a job to prepare for. We promised to catch up again, stepped outside of the hotel and snapped a selfie on his phone. Somewhere between the count down from “three” and “cheese” I flashed a goofy grin. I regret it now…because it was the last time I saw Pounce in the flesh. It was the last time I would hear his voice. I guess I figured there would be more time. It never came.

Darion Earnest Pouncy was my first true friend, in the land of Kalamazoo. He didn’t know it then, but just knowing him changed my life for the better. When I danced in public, he cheered me on; when I ran guard on the court, he was by my side; when I was down, he had quiet and simple words of encouragement. Darion never knew I struggled with anxiety as a kid, right up into my first year at Western Michigan University. If he’d figured it out, he never made fun of me. He never laughed at me. He laughed with me. I regret the time I wasted out of touch with him; with Al; with Doug; with Dante; Jeff; Bobby; Redic, James “Book” and Jesse. I missed my friend. I will miss my friend. I wish I could have thanked him for bumping into me in the hallway. I pray he’s with Jesus; no more suffering; no troubles. I hope he’s straight.

What up Pounce…

 

 

A House Divided

Standard

Mark 3:25 (NIV) – ” If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

A house is generally strong when it’s set on top of a solid foundation. Maybe that foundation is a simple concrete slab on grade; maybe it’s a solid wood crawlspace; or just maybe it’s a good old fashion poured-concrete wall basement with a 6-inch concrete slab. Whatever your foundation is constructed of, it’s an integral part to building a strong house that will eventually be weather retardant.

On top of that underground foundation, the builder constructs solid walls of treated wood framing with insulation and brick facade. Maybe your home has steel reinforced dead-bolt doors, vinyl weather-guard windows and seamless gutters circling a pristine asphalt-shingle covered roof. Even your chimney flue is cover protected. Can you see it? Of course you can! You’re picturing it right now, in your mind.

Now imagine that I’m actually a 25-feet tall gremlin, dangling a gigantic screaming chainsaw monstrosity over your beautiful roof. The blade on this demon-tool is 24 inches wide and spinning so fast, the teeth are glowing red hot. I’m smiling at you, because we both know what’s about to happen. You watch horrified as I arc a tremendous chop, bringing the chainsaw down and through the center of your new dream home. As I pull the machine free of the smoking cut line, we watch your house collapse into the gap left by the chainsaw. For a few moments, your house bucks and strains against its own weight. Wood beams splinter. Glass windows crack. Bricks fall from the facade. Where the structure was once a single solid unit, the two separated halves now struggle for balance, pushing against one another. Finally, the strain proves to be too great. We watch your ramshackle abode implode, falling into the basement. Your home is totally destroyed.

Do you understand that example is exactly what the devil has planned for your marriage? Or how about those relationships within the church (the church, people!) that are toxic. Sister so-n-so is mad at brother what’s-his-face over something inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That toxic relationship and that struggling marriage are bound to drive a wedge between what should otherwise be a united body. Gossip and rumors divide a church. Power struggles divide a marriage.

This afternoon, I was in Kroger going through the checkout line with my wife. The bagger was an older woman who happened to glance at my River of Life T-Shirt (shameless plug for my home church, y’all), before smiling at me.

“You have a home church or something?” She asked. I was a bit bewildered because she had just checked out my T-Shirt.

“Yes ma’am,” I said. “We’re in Belleville, and we love it.”

“You should think about visiting us sometime. Some of those other churches are just too ‘churchy’ if you know what I mean.” She said. “We’re non-denominational and encourage people to come as they are. We don’t get into all of that extra church stuff.”

I was stumped on so many different levels. Did I not just tell this woman we loved our home church? Why in the name of Jesus would she ignore that and suggest my church might be too “churchy”? By the way, what does “churchy” look like? And, what is all that other extra churchy stuff?! In the body of Christ, we should honestly encourage each other, rather than divide one against another.

Could you see your left eyeball having a conversation with your right foot?


“Hey, how’s it going down there? You enjoying kissing socks all day?”

“Uhh–”

“You know, you should seriously consider coming up here where right and I hang out. We don’t do that ‘Walk-N-Balance’ stuff. We see no point to it.”

“Did you seriously just invite me to  park on top of face? Who’s gonna get us all to the car in the morning, if I’m not where I belong?”

“Don’t worry about that. Just come on up here where our vantage point is way better than anything you’re looking at down there.”


Yeah, when we fight each other–whether it’s a spouse or a brother in Christ–we’re destroying our own home. Power struggles have no place in the body of Christ. Think about it.

 

 

Man, That Fight Though (Marriage Exerpt 2)

Standard

This morning, I walked into a gas station and stepped right in the middle of a spousal feud. It was pretty bad, I have to warn you. The husband was irate.

“You wanna know when I stopped lookin’ at you? When you started to get fat! You wanna know when you started gettin’ fat? When you got a smart phone! For four years, you ain’t got the time for me because you’re too busy *blank*in’ your phone and eatin’ snacks! That’s why I’m seein’ another woman! If my wife ain’t interested in givin’ me what I need anymore, someone else is glad to take care of me!”

Needless to say, I bought my Gatorade at another station…quickly. I got out of there, before I became witness to a murder. As bad as that scene was, it did give me a moment to think about why some marriages fail. As I said last night, sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. Any number of trials could trigger danger in a relationship, but the big one (in my opinion) is infidelity.

Last night, my son and I attended a men’s group at church. During the discussion, our brother Steve spoke on God’s intent for a man and his wife. Steve said in not so many words, “God intends for the husband and wife to have eyes for each other. What he wants for us is to not be able to keep our hands off of the one who is for us.” In this case, I should have eyes and a burning desire for my wife: her only.

When I thought back to that train-wreck I’d just witnessed in the gas station, I was reminded of just how far away from the biblical purpose of marriage that guy had fallen. He not only turned his eyes and desires to another woman; he loathed his wife. Her waistline and eating habits might have posed some difficulties in their marriage, but I got the feeling that he hadn’t really tried to work things out. Almost as if those qualities were his justified excuse for stepping out.

Marriage is work. Yep…I’m reiterating what was already said last night. Marriage is (sometimes) hard work. Chances are, 20 years after the wedding, we might look a little heavier or move a little slower. Maybe the fires of our youthful desire need a little stoking to rekindle. Whatever it takes, under God. Folks, we have to protect our marriages. Husbands need to adore their wives and wives need to cherish their husbands, because the enemy of biblical marriage is out there…winning. I saw it today. I almost experienced it personally, a few short years ago. Had it not been for God’s Devine intervention, this might be a totally different type of post.

I think sometimes we need to put our own wants aside and do for our spouse. If I know my wife desires something, but I purposely and frequently deny her, am I not setting our marriage up for failure? The reality is that temptation is real. If she’s not satisfied—whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually—I’m making temptation that much more appealing to her. I have to put my selfish desires to rest and give her whatever she needs. It shouldn’t have to be a “job” to do so, either. I should do it because I want to please her.

We have to fight for our marriages.

Marriage (Excerpt)

Standard

Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, God intended for one man to join with one woman, and for the two to become something new and whole entirely. This is what biblical marriage looks like, as ordained by our Heavenly Father. The first family—Adam and Eve—were created to compliment one another unabashedly. In fact, verse 25 of Genesis chapter 2 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The first union should have been perfect, if not for human nature. Adam and Eve’s fall from grace ushered sin into the entire world, and erased perfection from marriage.

Today, television and movie screens paint marriage in many different facets, ranging from the perfect high school sweethearts who live out perfect lives in the west, to the perfectly prearranged middle-eastern marriages that survive lifetimes without trials. While such tales make for interesting entertainment, the truth of marriage is seldom a smooth-sailing route.

Marriage is work. Make no mistake about it, the happy-ending romantic dramas displayed for our entertainment usually oversimplify the complexity of the union between a man and woman. Real marriages often face insecurities, incompatibilities, compromises, deceitful choices and silent moments; all of which are firey darts shot for one very specific purpose. Sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. If your marriage in under fire, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Anything worth having, must be fought for.

Always and Forever

Standard

You remember being a kid, and words like always and forever didn’t carry much weight? Think back to when you were five years old. Maybe you had a favorite stuffed animal to sleep with every night. It was a sure bet that you would always love that plush teddy, and would probably keep it until the end of time. Maybe at seventeen, you had “the” crush. No matter what happened in the years to come, you were going to always love that boy, or hold a special place in your heart for that one girl forever. Steve and Lindsay know what I’m talking about (I love my brother and sister). Or, how about that 1960s muscle car you bought with your own saved money, dad. You babied that car for decades, and just know that you’ll always cherish it. Even now, well into your 60s, that car’s going to be with you forever.

Okay, those examples may have been a little superficial, but deep down at the heart of it all, that’s the kind of love that makes an awesome marriage. When a man and a woman come together under God, weather any and all storms that rage against them, raise a family as a united front and pass on into the after life knowing they’ve given their all to their blessed mate; that’s what always and  forever looks like.

It doesn’t just pertain to the marriage relationship, however. Lasting friendships can–and often do–exhibit always and forever, too. Did you know that King David and Saul’s son Johnathan loved each other with a deep love? I don’t mean any funny-business-love either. I’m talking pure, no judgment, deep, lasting love that only the best of friends share.

Do you know what it is to have less than a handful of deep root inner circle friends? I’m talking about pals you might not even speak with on a daily basis, but when you do get together, time stands still. Do you know what it is to instinctively know when your pal is hurting? That sixth-sense type of love that takes precedence over everything else going on in your life, for one moment? Some of you know what I’m talking about. That’s the always and forever bond of true friends.

Most parents instinctively know what always and forever love looks like. It’s that unspoken bond you have with your children that automatically makes you put yourself and your needs behind theirs. No matter what, you’re going to always love them, forever. That kind of love makes a 41-year old mother refer to her 24 year-old son as, “my baby”. It’s sappy, but it’s pure.

Do you have a spouse, a friend or a child in that always and forever spot locked in your heart? Make sure you tell them what they mean to you, sometime this week. Life is short. Our loved ones need to know we care, and that we’re in their lives for the long haul, no matter what.

 

*always*