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good love

good love

“I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. I want a love that’s sure to stand the test of time. I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love.”

The longing for love in our lives can become more pervasive on February 14th of each year, a day many look forward to and as many dread. It can be a day of surprise (i.e., marriage proposals) or a day of disappointment (i.e, the surprise delivery of roses and chocolates never arrives). If we are among the disappointed ones, we may also experience envy on Valentine’s Day, wishing for ourselves the kind of affirmations others receive seemingly so easily.

I like that Anita Baker’s hit song, “Good Love,” qualifies what kind of love she wants – a good love. Too often we just say that we want love in our lives, that we lack love. More often than not, that’s not the case. We do have love, just not “good” love. If we can begin to acknowledge the various kinds of love and then begin to qualify them, we are well on our way to actually having what we desire.

“[O]ur experiences of love, and our loves, take multiple forms. Some thinkers prefer to reserve the name ‘love’ for a love that has normative content – that is, for loves that they consider to be good loves. Yet we know that not all of our loves are good, though they are loves. There are wise loves and foolish, good loves and bad, true loves and mistaken loves. The question ultimately is, what is a right love, a good, just , and true love?” (Margaret Farley, as quoted in Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual and Spiritual Goodness by dr. candi dugas [available on Amazon, $11.68 Paperback, $9.99 Kindle])

Farley suggests 3 criteria for good love:

  1. A clear and true understanding of whom you’re loving
  2. Your interior (i.e., your soul) connects with whom you’re loving (mutuality not necessary)
  3. Affirming whom you’re loving in ways that are honest about the person’s current reality and potential

No. 1 is in play when we do not objectify a person, only loving him for what we believe he can do for our egos, bank accounts, social statuses or careers. We are engaged in No. 2 when what we’re experiencing is more than words or even actions. And No. 3 is at work when we are not having an affair with a man committed to another relationship as if he was not, as if he were free to commit to us.

When any 1 or more of these 3 criteria is not present in our relationships, we have a mistaken love. Mistaken love is not when we think we love someone, but we’re actually feeling something else, like obligation. Rather, mistaken or false love is when we believe we have a love that does not match the nature of the relationship.

Let the love you have be the love that it is. Find out its name and call it out. If it’s not a good love and that’s what you want, end it; let it go. Then make it your business to get the good love you seek. You deserve it. And you can have it. “What you seek is seeking you.” (Rumi)

“If you’re the man I hear you say you are, I don’t quite understand why loving me is so hard. Never have I felt the need to be this close. Words cannot say, heaven only knows: I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. I want a love that’s sure to stand the test of time. I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. Morning, noon and night, forever all my life.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(c) 2017 candi dugas, llc

a bishop’s legacy

What bothered me most when the story broke in 2010 that accused Bishop Eddie Long of forcing young men into sexual relationships was his arrogant response and misappropriation of the biblical story of David and Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)

While he was clearly the one in power, with emboldened arrogance rather than contrition or even compassion, he attempted to place himself in the victim’s position, the weaker party under attack. And the most loyal members of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church congregation wildly supported him there. Quite troubling, but not surprising.

On the occasions when I visited New Birth, I was always struck, saddened and deeply concerned by how that community had created an environment that worshipped Long. I do mean every literal bit of that word, worship. In ethics classes and with so many other opportunities, as we are educated, trained and otherwise prepared for professional ministry, we are warned against ever becoming an idol or a god for the people. I do not doubt that Long moved some mountains for folks, that some can credit him for literally saving their lives – but we are called to worship One that is greater than we are, not one who is just as flawed and susceptible to mistakes.

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image: wallpapers.brothersoft.com

The thing is, though, given his power and position, Long’s mistakes caused deeper harm with a reach beyond any average parishioner.

Now, he certainly wasn’t the first clergyperson to abuse his power and never apologize for it. Unfortunately, he will not be the last either. And the issues around the allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct do not live outside of the context of the larger issue of the Church’s woefully anemic approach to sexuality and spirituality. When the Church does not educate responsibly, authentically and truthfully around this intersection – along with promoting doctrines and practices that exclude people based on their sexual identities, orientations and behavior – it creates a rich environment for leaders to hide their true selves and harm others, as well as themselves.

Then one day, it all ends in a tragic death, of one kind or another.

So, today the man called by God to preach the Gospel and to heal the souls of his community leaves behind a legacy that is forever compromised by accusations that he settled out of court with a huge sum of money. It’s all quite sad. My heart continues to grieve for all the various kinds of pain folks are feeling now with the news of Long’s death. My prayer is that we may recognize, sense and commune with G~d’s all-knowing, merciful and gracious presence – always, in this and all matters that involve and affect humanity.

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image: positivepsychologyprogram.com

The silver lining? Well, the Church could determine that enough is enough. The Church could take this opportunity to address human sexuality with at least some common sense, if not critical and spiritual scriptural (re)interpretation. The Church could renounce its own arrogance, apologize and repent. But it won’t, no more than Long did under pressure and threat to his empire.

Next steps? We, the people, the other church, must continue to create our own safe, relevant and truthful spaces that feed our holistic well-being. The greatest thing about the Gospel is that it is and makes G~d accessible to us all. And there are enlightened faith communities around that will do for us what the Church never will. Such un- or under-traveled paths require a bit more effort and work on our part, but I think G~d is pleased with this reality. I think G~d has been waiting on us to be more (pro)active with our spirituality and relationships with ourselves, G~d and others.

Could this, then, be Bishop Eddie Long’s legacy???

(c) 2017 candi dugas, llc

ready-made man

ready-made man

There is no such thing.

From time to time I become incredibly irritated by the sanitizing of so-called conventional wisdom. It doesn’t matter to me if the sanitization is of romance or religion – in any context it doesn’t do anyone any good at all.

Too many women live in constant desire of a mate while also living in burdensome fear of the ones that cross their paths regularly. Of course, I am not advocating that we throw all caution to the wind and entertain the affections of any prospective lover. No. As always, however, there is plenty of good middle ground between the extremes.

Too many women, especially women of faith, ascribe to best practices that dictate a man be in a certain place in life before he becomes worthy of her affections. In essence, we are told to prepare ourselves and wait for the ready-made man. Just open the box, add water, and stir.

There is no such thing.

I have learned that life and being human is messy and that we cannot avoid the messiness, no matter how meticulously we try. On our best days, with our best efforts, we cannot sidestep or circumvent the natural flow of things. One certain aspect of life’s process is that there is a kind of assignment that romantic love must carry out. Romantic love has a particularly unique way of getting to the heart of matters to which we must tend in order to grow and heal. That is why when we end relationships before love has completed its work, we continue to meet the same lover over and over again, just in a different body.

May we move into 2017 without the rose-colored glasses? May we approach romantic love as women, pulling up our big-girl panties? May we be/become so secure in ourselves that we can handle the man’s growing edges because we know that together we can simultaneously support and challenge each other, going forward together to unknown adventures. May we stop looking for the ready-made man?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As you reflect and prepare for a new year, check out our 2016 posts:

image: pinterest

(c) 2016 candi dugas, llc

good girl syndrome

good girl syndrome

MISS BLOSSIE – I just thought you were the kind of girl who would make better choices.

RACHEL – Kind of girl?  What kind of girl?

MISS BLOSSIE – A good girl who understands that God made sex to only be between . . .

RACHEL – A GOOD girl?

MISS BLOSSIE – I’m not comfortable with your tone.

RACHEL – And I’m not comfortable with your judgment. I suppose I do agree with your pastor, in principle.  It sounds like a really good idea.  But that’s all it is – a really good idea. (pause)  You’re not helping and neither is the Church.

MISS BLOSSIE – So you settle? (clears her throat) The scripture says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.  Rachel, you have to trust that GOD has a divine plan for your life, one that you want deep down inside.

RACHEL – Sounds like an Easter speech.

MISS BLOSSIE – What?

RACHEL – Nothing.

And so the conversation goes between Miss Blossie, a church and community icon, and her play niece, Rachel – after Miss Blossie discovers Rachel consuming her unmarried lover in Miss Blossie’s kitchen.

Janelle Harris’ Washington Post article, “Pastors tell black women to be passive and wait for love. I don’t believe in that.”, reminds me of the “good girl syndrome,” explored in several convesations in my play, no ordinary sunday, like the one above between Miss Blossie and Rachel. Being passive and waiting for love is based on the outdated interpretation of Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV), “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.” Now, no doubt if one finds a loving life partner, that is a beautiful blessing. The problem is when this scripture is interpreted to be a mandate for the only way a couple can come together in love and commitment.

Pastors and other faith leaders completely disservice women when they insist on a biblical foundation for gender-based subservience. Have they not understood, overlooked or denied that the bible also describes a loving life commitment that results from a woman’s advances? Naomi schools Ruth in the fine art of oral seduction that so impresses Boaz, that he is compelled to make Ruth his wife.

Ladies, when you plead with God for your Boaz, do you know what you’re actually asking for? (Ruth 3)

(c) 2016, candi dugas, llc

Featured image: pinterest.com – abstract goodluck art greeting card

the ankles and the pussy

the ankles and the pussy

I LOVE it when a production delivers way more than I expected!

Last week, I attended Synchronicity Theatre’s production of Anne Boleyn, a revisionist take on Queen Anne’s romance and marriage to King Henry VIII. As the story is also a part of Christian church history, I expected to experience it through a theological, Protestant reformation lens. However, I was not prepared for the extent to which Howard Brenton’s (playwright) approach would affect me.

I was struck by our historically persistent narrative of the perceived threat of woman to power. We sisters today call it our Black Girl Magic. Every subset of woman has it, though, a way about her, a mystique that changes, transforms, influences, causes things to happen … and threatens. Instead of celebrating this phenomenon, the world tends to criticize and condemn it – I suppose because it cannot control it.

Henry’s (played by Brian Hatch) attraction to (fueled by his weakness for her ankles!) and I assume, love for, Anne (played by Brooke Owens) changed the world as they knew it. As Cardinal Wolsey (played by Kerwin Thompson) faced off with Anne – and lost, in her I saw all the women charged with threats to/falls of/losses of power (read the downfall of a man that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the woman – and/or the loss of a way of life as the people knew it, because of the woman), including: Eve, Delilah, Jezebel, Helen of Troy, Hester Prynne, Joan of Arc, Wallis Simpson, Princess Diana, Duchess Camilla, Olivia Pope … (What are the names you would add to this list?) We can actually list other women whom we know personally, in our communities, who are just a little too sexy, a little too influential, a little too helpful … for their own good.

Beautiful women's legs

And then I think about our current US presidential election and the threat that Hillary Clinton has always posed. She’s simply too smart and capable, regardless of people’s determinations about her trustworthiness. Still today, too many men seem incapable of dealing with smart, capable women – much less, able to do so well. They seem not to be able to separate us from our pussies – a term I use, in this context, to represent this magic that is always desired, yet must always be guarded against (despite Donald Trump’s and others’ misogynistic use of the word) – must always be controlled. Maya Angelou called it the diamonds at the meeting of our thighs. The thing is, though, you cannot control magic. I even wonder if the attempt to do so contributes to the conflicts and the downfalls that are blamed on woman.

This “magic” does not have to be overwhelming. I refuse to accept that men are not capable of being more holistic, well-rounded and not beholden to the ankles or to the pussy – scapegoats for a man’s inability (or lack of choice, courage) to make mature, wise decisions. Where is your magic, brother? Are you selling yourself short? Could it be that if you live fully into your magic, you might be able to meet mine somewhere in the heavens and really transform the world?

Perhaps it is male privilege that keeps men settled in being and doing just enough, that prevents them from doing the inner work that results in healthier and more balanced approaches to women. Humanity can be lazy; we don’t do anything remotely hard unless we have to do so. Unpacking misogyny, privilege, oppression, etc. is difficult and taxing, especially for people conditioned to be out of touch and uncomfortable with their own emotions and the plights of non-privileged persons.

Towards the end of Anne’s story, the overall narrative continues as Henry discards this amazing love of his life in favor of another woman for pleasure and purpose of offspring. The less-thans continue to be commodities and pawns in the hands of those who have and wield power – political, economic, personal, sexual, etc. Is this the fate of humanity? A persistent game of chance and chess, where our most intimate and compelling desires are subject to the callous and calculated choices of life that seek to maintain power and privilege?

I am not a rose-colored glasses type of gal, but I surely hope that we can more than create spaces in our lives free of calculation, that there are sacred spaces protected from such manipulation. I hope that our loves and passions can be enjoyed and even consumed without threats and jockeying for position and power. Let not the beauty of our vulnerabilities be so stained. Rather let it bloom and produce more beauty, appreciated for the wonder – and even the loss of control it can cause in our souls.

(c) 2016 candi dugas, llc

a love worth living

a love worth living

“When love beckons to you, follow [her], Though [her] ways are hard and steep.

And when [her] wings enfold you yield to [her]  Though the sword hidden among [her] pinions may wound you. And when [she] speaks to you believe in [her]  Though [her] voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall [she] crucify you. Even as [she] is for your growth so is [she] for your pruning. Even as [she] ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall [she] descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn [she] gathers you unto [her]self. [She] threshes you to make you naked. [She] sifts you to free you from your husks. [She] grinds you to whiteness. [She] kneads you until you are pliant; And then [she] assigns you to [her] sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

Two wooden hearts on a cut timber background.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart. But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.

gentle roses

When you love you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’ And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love, And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

[L]et there be spaces in your togetherness.

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.

~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

~~~~~~~~ amen

(c) 2016, candi dugas, llc

love lessons

love lessons

to think that love is a straight line
is part of the myth
the myth of sanitized – & therefore righteous – romance

the path to love is more than circuitous
it can be messy, as in complex

it is the piecing together of an elaborate puzzle, true love that is
and like an elaborate puzzle, it is not completed in one sitting

it requires walking away, returning, walking away again –
focusing your attention on something else, returning, walking away yet again –

and the process continues until the moment in its time is ripe
ready to be discovered, plucked and placed in the appropriate spot

eventually the puzzle is complete

and we realize that love is not a destination
rather it is a journey, one that happens over and over again

and in that way, it is never complete – true love that is

More on Love’s Reality Check

(c) 2016, candi dugas, llc

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