Olaolu Ogunyemi is a loving husband, father, teen mentor, and U.S. Marine Officer with a deep passion for working with children fueled by an unending supply of energy and imagination! Since he was young, Olaolu has been nicknamed the "life of the party" because he pours his exuberant personality into everything he does. As the fifth of six children, he became intimately familiar with the bond forged during quality story time; thus, Olaolu was inspired to start writing children's stories to help create loving and memorable family moments. He is the author of the Amazon best-selling children's book, "Crow From the Shadow," "Horace the Horsefly," and "Billy Dipper's Time to Shine."
Olaolu writes and speaks in a simple, easily understandable language and with an entertaining style that keeps families and listeners hooked while learning vital lessons about virtues and sparking a continuing conversation.
Olaolu is a frequent traveler and in his free time, he enjoys playing music, exercising, writing, and spending time with his family.
Connect with him at
How to increase your pull-ups and upper-body strength in 30 days!
**Disclaimers: 1. I am not a trainer. I am just sharing what worked for me. 2. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.**
We Marines love our pull-ups! Every year we do a Physical Fitness Test (PFT), and one of the three events is the dead hang pull-up. The number of required pull-ups for the maximum score is based upon your age. At my age, you have to do 23 correct repetitions (reps) to get a perfect score on this portion of the PFT. I usually can comfortably do anywhere between 30-40 reps.
This is the program I used to go from 7 pull-ups to 30-40 pull-ups! (Not in 30 days, but over time). You should expect to increase somewhere between 3-8 pull-ups in the next 30 days. Everyone’s body is different.
This guy could only do 7 pull-ups! 👇🏾
(I took this picture and made this “magazine cover” as a freshman in college… I do not know why. Don’t judge me! 😫😂)
I designed this 4-week pull-up program for a Marine that was getting between 12-16 reps with the goal of getting him to 23! Although I absolutely love the gym, he had very few weights and mostly resistance bands. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! So, I designed this moderate-advanced workout with those factors in mind.
You do not have to be a Marine to do pull-ups (or complete my program). In fact, pull-ups are an excellent upper body exercise if done right! Remember, physical toughness is one of our Pillars of Fortitude. Enough talking…
Welcome to my gym! Get Ready to BRING IT! 💪🏾
I will introduce to you the first four weeks of this workout plan. Here are some general rules to remember throughout:
*Do not use negative words in my gym… ESPECIALLY the word “can’t!” You can, and you will! You are mentally, spiritually, and physically strong.
*Work your core every other day. Strong core muscles are critical to doing a proper pull-up! I personally like doing 3 rounds of 3 sets of 15-20 reps of my favorite core exercises.
*As required, do 10 second weighted negative pull-ups to reach rep count. I get it! Your muscles are super tired. You just need to go shower, lie on the couch, and binge watch your favorite show. Not today! Finish every set! If you feel like you have maxed out on the amount of reps you can do, start doing “negatives.” Meaning, start off at the top of the pull-up, and slowly lower yourself down. Click here for more tips on negative pull-ups.
*Pause reps are done at the “top” of the motion unless otherwise indicated. Squeeze the targeted muscle group.
*Always engage core during pullups.
*Slow and smooth reps. Think “jazz” not “heavy metal.”
*I use the term “pull-up” very loosely. I want you to do CHEST ups! None of that “chin barely going above the bar” stuff.
*Warm up, cool down, remain hydrated, fuel your body with the proper nutrition, and have fun!
*Record your max reps before starting the program and after finishing the program.
*I recommend adding at least 3 cardio sessions for at least 30 mins a day. Also, I recommend adding a recovery day between each of the below workout days.
Let’s Get to Work!
Shoulder Day (Day 1):
1. Endurance set:
–2 sets of Max reps–2 min ammo can/military press (90 sec break in between sets). For reference, a military ammo can is normally 30-50 lbs. You can use a sandbag, gallon of water, whatever you’d like.
2. Front raises (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).
— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)
3. Upright row (3 second pause reps with resistance bands or dumbbells).
— 4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)
4. Close grip (6 inches or less between hands) underhand pullups (bar to upper chest). (2 second pause rep at the top)
— 4 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)
5. Lat Raises (2 sec pause with resistance bands)
–4 sets of 10-12 reps (60-80 sec breaks between sets)
Arm Day (Day 2):
1. Endurance set:
–2 sets of Max reps 2 min close grip pushups (90 sec break between sets)
2. Bicep curl:
–5 sets of 8-10 reps (3 sec pause rep with resistance bands or dumbbells).
3. Underhand pullups (12 inches between hands–bar to upper chest). (2 sec pause rep at the bottom)
–5 sets of 8-10 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)
4a. Deep Weighted chair dips (1 sec pause rep at top)
–5 sets of 10-12 reps
4b. Tennis ball grip squeezes (5 sec rep pauses–closed fist). I use “Captains of Crush Grippers).
–5 sets of 10-12 reps
(60-80 sec breaks between sets)
5. Tricep kick back (3 sec pause rep with resistance band or dumbbells).
–4 sets of 8-10 reps
*Bonus burnout!! 🔥🔥 60 sec (or max time) underhand flexed arm hang.
Back Day (Day 3):
1. Endurance set:
–Round 1: 6 reps of 15 sec overhand Pull-up negatives
(60 second break)
–Round 2: 5 reps of 10 sec overhand Pull-up negatives
(80 sec break)
–Round 3: 4 reps of 5 sec overhand Pull-up negatives
(90 sec break)
2a. Overhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).
–5 sets of 10-12 reps
2b. Underhand bent over row (3 sec pause with resistance bands or dumbbells).
–5 sets of 10-12 reps
(60-80 sec breaks between sets)
3. Weighted wide grip overhand pullups (I use the plate carrier… With plates of course) *HEAVY, evenly distributed weight can be added.
*Try squeezing sandbag or other heavy weight between feet
— 6 sets of 6-8 reps (90-120 sec breaks between sets)
4. W Superman holds (3 sec pause reps)
–5 sets of 10-12 reps
(60-80 sec breaks between sets)
*Bonus Burnout!!: 🔥🔥 Still got more in your tank??!
–3 sets of Max reps overhand pullups.
(90-120 sec breaks between sets)
That’s it! Like, comment, share, let me know what you think. Stay motivated! 💪🏾
Exploring the importance of spending quality time with the ones you love!
Hey folks! I hope everyone is doing well on this beautiful Saturday evening. So, I was watching this video on Facebook, and I was reminded of how important time is!
Here’s tonight’s tip!
Take a Break! That’s right. Unplug, turn off the phone/laptop/tablet, and give your family undivided attention.
Invest time into building intimacy with your family! Another word for “intimacy” is “closeness.” This is where you truly get to know the people you live with. Communicate. Ask questions. What makes them happy? Do you know what makes them sad? What are their interests?
Memorable moments. As a country guy from Louisiana, I became extremely familiar with losing power whenever there was a little rain. One of my fondest memories is sitting around a lantern while singing/harmonizing with my family! My parents created such beautiful moments and memories during those times. I encourage you to strive to create and capture (if you can) your own memorable experiences. Your family will appreciate it later!
Enjoy the moment! This is for the super-duper organized planners… Or those that are super-duper busy… Or whatever your “super-duper” is that distracts you. Be an active participant in creating the moment and enjoy every bit of it! Eliminate the distractions.
Alright, that’s enough for this evening. Time for me to get back to the crew. I hope you enjoyed this evening’s Quick Tip about TIME! Check out https://parent-child-connect.com/blog for more great Quick Parent Tips!
Dillon Stokes is the “the rose that grew through the crack!” Raised by a single mother, Dillon has done his best apply himself and overcome any obstacle that comes his way. As a result, Dillon has maintained above a 4.0 Grade Point Average, and he was accepted into several universities, including LATech and Grambling State.
Dillon attributes his success to his faith in God, and his active participation in several departments at Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church Ruston is how he shows his gratitude.
Ashton Jackson knows how to overcome adversity through persistence and resiliency! Active in clubs at Lincoln Preparatory School and his local church, Ashton has learned to apply the resiliency he has built throughout his life to excel at school. A gentleman and a scholar, Ashton knows how to get the job done!
What is the Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship?? 🤔
The Ogunyemi Family Foundation, Inc. established the Wisdom, Strength, and Endurance Scholarship to provide underrepresented minority students the opportunity to pursue higher education by alleviating and/or eliminating the financial barriers to the student’s success. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69.7% of 2016 high school graduates had enrolled in college by October 2016. The college enrollment rates of African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos during 2016 was 58.2% and 72% respectively. Lower income students can only afford to attend roughly 3% of colleges in the U.S. without a loan.
The scholarship seeks to award students who have triumphed in the face of adversity, not allowing circumstances to separate them from achieving their dreams! 💡
Mental health is a tough topic of discussion in most homes and oftentimes met with negative comments. Those who deal with mental health are often shunned and ostracized. I thought “finance” was a sensitive topic, but discussing mental health is like walking on thin ice. It is often seen as an untouchable, unspoken topic. My mental health journey started at an early age, and I have personally learned from my own journey. I felt as though I would be viewed as crazy or looney, require a lifetime medication prescription, and/or be locked in an asylum for the rest of my life. I was always afraid to face my mental health head on and be open with my parents about how I was feeling. Growing up in the church, we were always taught that negative thoughts were the devil and we should just attempt to pray them away and hope for the best. As I got older, I often felt my mind drift to darker places than the last time. I finally learned that prayer alone just wasn’t going to cut it.
What I’ve learned.
What I have learned along this journey is to be open and honest with my family and –most importantly– my children. With our world crumbling right before their eyes, who knows what could be going through those little minds? I dealt with my mental health in adolescence alone because I was too afraid to open up to my parents and older siblings, thinking they would think something was “wrong with me.”
I do not want that for my children. When they deal with their mental health, I want them to understand that IT’S OK and PERFECTLY NORMAL. I want them to understand that their biggest hero and cheerleader, Daddy, has and continues to go through those feelings while on his own mental health journey. Those little boys will know that I am here to guide them through their journey and make sure that they are able to grow along the way.
I have learned to replace words like “struggling” and “coping” with words like “learning, growing, and progressing” when discussing my mental health journey. We all have our own journey, but it is imperative that we teach our children to navigate through this tough topic. How do we teach them? Let’s walk through this guide together!
Day Two: Time to break the mold!
“Shut up crybaby!” “Suck it up!” “Stop acting like a girl!” “You must be a wimp!” “Stop crying… real men don’t cry or show emotion!” “Toughen up!” “If you want sympathy, look in the dictionary between…” You know the rest. These sound familiar? In an attempt to teach our young people how to overcome adversity, these are some of the things we say. We should be developing what I like to call the three pillars of fortitude: physical toughness, spiritual toughness, and mental toughness; however, by constantly barraging our children with anything like the aforementioned clichés, we are inadvertently teaching our children to suppress pain/feelings while emotionally disconnecting from themselves and others.
Society’s perception of masculinity and toughness has built crumbling mental toughness pillars.
🎥Watch this🎬: The Mask You Live In is a film worth watching that, “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity… [This film] ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.” –therepresentationproject.org
Did you catch the Major Payne quote above?? That is definitely one of my favorite movies! For those that have not seen it (spoilers loading…), Major Payne is a comedy film from the ninety’s that stars Daymon Wayans acting as Major Benson Winifred Payne–a nail eating, combat tested, United States Marine (Oorah!) that was honorably discharged after being passed [twice] for promotion. He later finds a job as a JROTC instructor and faces the tall task of turning a “…gaggle of maggots into a well-disciplined cadet unit” (his words, not mine). Fast forward to the end, the newly-cohesive unit wins the Virginia Military Games!
Now before you go purchase hand grenades to “train” your children, please understand that I am not endorsing Major Payne’s [hilarious] leadership model. He had A LOT to learn about raising/mentoring young people. The good news is after reading “The ABC’s Of Being A Positive Male Role Model,” Major Payne began to comprehend the importance of teaching young people to reconnect with their emotions. He understood that he had to “be sensitive to [their] needs” to reach their hearts.
Tomorrow, we will discuss how we can make the same tweaks in our leadership abilities as the infamous Major Payne! Stay tuned.
Day Three: The Major Payne Leadership Model
Boot camp 101: “Fall in” is a command that means, “take your place in a military formation.” In the Marine Corps, we “fall in” at the position of “attention.” Meaning you are attentive and ready to hear what’s next.
Since I have not located the book that triggered Major Payne’s transition from trained killer to effective mentor, I created the below ABCs Of Being a Positive Father and Role Model! Don’t worry… I’ll stop at “D.”
Always seek to inspire: this tip is a science and an art.
The science (the what) is to be firm, be fair, teach your children how to be responsible, set the example with your own actions, and hold your children accountable.
The art (the how) is to encourage, use positive reinforcement when they do well, and fill their minds with positive thoughts when they make a mistake or disappoint you. Lather your children in positive affirmations!
Note: the definition of “patient” is, “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” That will definitely take some practice, but you can do it!
This is a tough one, because, like Mrs. Trunchbull from the movie Matilda said, “They’re all mistakes, children. Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.” Right? WRONG! Ok so let’s start there; have a little grace. Although we were all angels growing up, children are going to be children–they are just young human beings. They will make mistakes. They will sometimes disappoint you. They will sometimes get it wrong again, and again, and again. But it is ok! Take a deep breath, and extend a little grace.
**Check this out: My youngest daughter literally jumped (fully clothed) into a kiddie pool as I was typing this section! So, I had an immediate opportunity to practice being patient. 🙃 I grabbed her hand, calmly told her, “you’re all wet; let’s go dry off,” and walked her inside. Po-si-tive *Major Payne voice **
Care and Compassion
Care is probably the simplest of the two C’s. To care is to provide the basic necessities of life (i.e. food, shelter, water, and electricity). This is where us fathers typically thrive, and sometimes, we are too quick to let everyone know (don’t brag; it’s your job 😉). Be physically present, and provide for your children.
Compassion requires you to validate and value your children’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “it’s really not that big a deal.” Instead, allow your children to share their feelings with you, so you become empathetic enough to have a strong desire to help. Don’t try to be “Mr. Fix It,” but at least express the desire to help! For example, someone once stole a very rare unicorn from my oldest daughter in an online game that she enjoyed playing. It seemed silly at first, but I realized this really hurt her feelings. So first, I had to verbally validate her feelings and emotions. Then, I shared the moment with her until she felt better. Simple but effective!
**BONUS “C”: Celebrate!! My youngest was potty training when I wrote this. So I took a quick break to celebrate with a silly jingle and dance I made up, “Eni went poopy in the poooottty!” *Clap *Clap (repeat). Positive reinforcement goes a long way!**
Do not be afraid to cry openly!
I heard my wife tell my son, “don’t be afraid to cry if something really hurts.” My initial cringe at that statement shows that I am NOT perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Now, I am not saying lie on the floor and project a deep wail (although I think that would be hilarious) next time you stub your toe, or Hulk Smash through a wall to show that “Daddy angry!” I am simply encouraging you to show emotion. Look your children in the eyes and say, “I love you.” Rejoice with them, and allow them to see your happiness. Let them see you be angry, yet tempered and respectful. And when the opportunity presents itself, embrace them and cry with them.
That’s it! Just like that, you now have all the tools you need to be successful. Now throw on your best Major Payne voice and go lead your home to a stronger mental health.
Note for my readers: If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace.
What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father.
There is hope! Join us in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!
Be Free from Condemnation!
We are currently living in unprecedented times! We have wildfires, a pandemic, social unrest, and the list goes on and on. During these times we may feel a bit distant from Christ—I know I have felt that way plenty of times. In fact, there were times that I felt I really wandered away from Christ! Is that you right now? Do you feel like you are too far gone to pray? Are you so overwhelmed with your guilt and shame that you cannot feel the love of God? Are you having a hard time connecting through God’s Word because of mistakes you have made? I understand; I have been there.
The last time I was in that moment—sulking in embarrassment and guilt—God freed me through His Word by reminding me of His grace, love, and compassion. So I have a quick opening message for you even if you are feeling distant right now—our heavenly Father loves you unconditionally,and He still wants a relationship with you!
Before we can learn to defeat distractions, we must be free from our own condemnation (very strong disapproval; punishment) and truly understand and embrace God’s love for us. Let’s talk about God’s love for a bit.
God’s love is free(ing):
Ephesians 2:8 AMP tells us, “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God.”
I absolutely lovefree stuff! I know most people call me cheap, but don’t judge me. For example, one day while I was in college, I ordered food at a drive-thru restaurant. I was very excited to get my go-to budgeting college student value meal. When I approached the window to pay, the young lady said, “Your meal has already been paid for.” I would’ve done a flip in excitement if I were skilled enough to do so without injuring myself. “Wow!” I thought, “Why would a stranger give me a free gift?”
When I reminisce on that day, I realize how happy that free meal made me (I saved about $3), but when I think about the free gift that Christ gave us (He saved my life) exuberant joy begins to overwhelm me. What’s amazing is Christ gave us this free gift because He loves us and this undeserved gift frees us from the oppression (control) of and judgment associated with sin. Now that’s a double-double to get excited about! So don’t beat yourself up when you mess up. Ask God for forgiveness, brush yourself off, and be free!
God’s love is unexplainable:
John 10:11-18 reminds us that our heavenly Father has given us an unexplainable (and seemingly illogical) love. Imagine this, you are sitting in an open field watching sheep. The weather is beautiful, and you are basking in the sun while enjoying an ice-cold cup of lemonade. Out of nowhere, a wolf comes to take one of the one hundred sheep you are watching! I know what you are thinking, “well, 99% isn’t bad!” I mean really, who wants to fight a wolf for that one sheep? The Good Shepherd does.
He is always willing to lay down his life for us and will even leave the ninety-nine to save the one [wandering] sheep (Matthew 18:12)! My human mind cannot comprehend that kind of love, but I am extremely grateful that Christ is willing to sacrifice for you and me!
God’s love is unconditional:
Now this aspect of God’s love is truly amazing! We humans tend to have a limit when dealing with others. “You better not cross my [proverbial] line or it is over…dead…finito. You will henceforth and forever be excommunicated from my life!” Yep, God is definitely not like us, and here comes the amazing part: in God’s eyes nothing can separate us from His love!
Paul asks in Romans 8:35 NLT, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” Then he answers in verse 39, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read it again! No matter where you are from or what you have done, nothing can separate you from the love of God!
Walk confidently today as you embrace God’s amazing grace and love! Never again condemn yourself for your mistakes—instead embrace the free, unexplainable, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the free, unconditional love that you have given us. Though we can never truly comprehend it, we know that your love and grace is what allows us to be free from the crushing oppression of sin. Father, please forgive me for the things I have done that were not pleasing to you, and help me to overcome the temptations that arise today. Father, thank you for removing the guilt, shame, and condemnation from my life and preparing me to grow closer to you. Amen.
Distraction #1: Worry!
“Will my family get sick? Am I doing all I can? What will we eat? What do others think about me?…” If we are honest, some of our minds continuously reverberate with these kinds of questions daily! The second our feet touch the cold or carpeted floor in our bedrooms, our minds begin to race. Usually this race persists until we finally return to bed at the end of the day. The unfortunate truth is our minds naturally dwell on difficulty and troubles which distract us from the important things in life like developing our relationship with God, family, and friends! So let’s take down our first distraction–worry.
When I began meditating on this topic, three scriptures immediately came to mind. First it was Matthew 6:27 NLT that asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Then, Proverbs 12:25 NLT reminded me that “worry weighs a person down.” Lastly, Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 NLT “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
The Word is abundantly clear about worry, and we all know that increased worry causes increased anxiety which causes increased mental and physical health concerns…So why do we worry? Why don’t we simply adopt the infamous meerkat and warthog duo’s slogan and lifestyle? (You’ll catch the reference at some point throughout the day.)
Well, I will start by sharing how I [falsely] justified my worry:
A little worry combined with fear is my instinctual way of emotionally preparing for the worst outcome. I am like a gazelle on a Safari! My worry and fear keeps me from being consumed by the lion (life). Right? WRONG. Along with the increased physical and mental health risks, worry was increasing my paranoia. Simply put, my physical presence was not a “gift” to my heavenly Father, family, friends, and work colleagues because I was so busy worrying about being consumed by life that I was not building healthy relationships and enjoying life!
My worry allowed me to thoroughly analyze a situation to develop a well-rounded solution. Solid logic right? WRONG. Worry primarily focuses on the “difficulties and troubles” (negatives) associated with a situation; thus, my perception and analysis is skewed to focus solely on the negative outcomes.
Those are my [busted] myths associated with my worry. Take some time to examine your own myths… then bust them!
Now that the jig is up and we have eliminated our excuses to worry, let’s answer the million dollar question: “How do we combat worry?”
The million dollar answer is that we must fully understand and appreciate this fact: You are what you THINK!
A fairly recent study following tens of thousands of people from 2004 to 2012 found that those who were optimistic had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death, including: heart disease, stroke, cancer (including breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers), infection, and respiratory diseases.
Sounds like a pretty clear answer to Matthew 6:27!
The study concluded that several proven benefits of thinking positively include:
Better quality of life
Higher energy levels
Better psychological and physical health
Faster recovery from injury or illness
Lower rates of depression
Better stress management and coping skills
Longer life span
I’ll take the benefits please!
Now that we understand the importance of positive thinking, how do we put it into practice?
Make a concerted effort to focus on positive things. This is a tough one for us because sometimes you just want to sulk. In my personal life, I found a way to justify sulking. I felt that I deserved to be frustrated and disappointed! “Coincidentally” my Pastor emailed me to remind me that though the overall circumstance may appear to be negative, I can choose to dwell on the negative aspects of the circumstance or fix my thoughts on the positives. Yep, it is a choice!
Try this! Write down three positive things about your current circumstance! Even if the list starts with “I am breathing,” celebrate the fact that you are still alive with an opportunity to make it through this circumstance with an amazing story to tell!
Practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude has been proven to reduce stress, increase your self-esteem and the self-esteem of those around you, and foster resilience amongst you and your inner-circle. Every day, find no less than three things to thank God for (and thank Him) and find no less than three things to thank others for (and thank them). When offered an opportunity to complain and criticize, thank! When you think of the positives, thank for the positives.
Now that you have recognized and shown gratitude for the positives, create and maintain a gratitude log. Label it, “People and Things I am grateful for.” I know. I know. It sounds corny, but it works! Maintain your log in a place you visit often, and keep focusing on that growing list.
Open yourself up to humor. Laugh a little! I heard someone once say, “if you’re happy and you know it, tell your face.” We cannot allow life to beat us down so much that we walk around like a bulldog eating lemonheads (just picture that for a second–maybe that was your laugh for today). Take out time to enjoy the pleasures of life. God has always intended for us to enjoy the pleasures of life. I mean, think about how beautiful the Garden of Eden was! We were designed to be happy. So take a second, look in a mirror (or prepare for a selfie with your electronic device), and make the biggest smile you can! Now let the brightness of that smile, your positive thoughts, and your attitude of gratitude melt the negativity away!
Check your inner-circle! You are who you hang with. In the country, the old folks would say “if you hang with stray dogs, you may catch fleas!” Spend time with Positive Paulas versus Debbie downers. Think back to my story about my Pastor. Had he begun to sulk with me and feed my negative thoughts and emotions, I may not have survived that circumstance. Remember this, Debbie Downers wallow in defeat, while Positive Paulas bask in triumph!
Start off on a positive note by practicing positive self-talk! Instead of beginning with worry, begin with a prayer, devotion, meditation, and affirmation or declaration that you will have a positive day. Then carry that declaration with you throughout the day. As you walk into a situation that appears negative, say to yourself (or aloud if you’d like) I will see the positive in this! Still have that mirror or selfie handy? Let’s try this right now! Smile, say something positive about yourself, and make the declaration that, “I will see the positive in every situation!”
I believe that these steps will not only eliminate worry, but these steps will also foster a more healthy relationship with God and everyone you come in contact with!
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to see another day and meditate on your Word. You are truly our source of happiness and strength. We pray for your forgiveness for failing to see your beauty in every circumstance, and we ask you to help us to fix our thoughts on you! In Jesus’ name. Amen
Distraction #2: Need to Disconnect
Now that we are free from condemnation and we have kicked worry to the curb, let’s talk about another distraction that becomes more complicated everyday. A lot of us are Distracted by the need to Disconnect.
So I had to do some self-reflection to prepare for this one, and I ask you to join me. Take out your phone, tablet, or whatever device you use, and list out all the applications that take time from your day. My list went like this: Instagram, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, XBox Live, Zoom, Marco Polo, GroupMe, LinkedIn, news app, weather bug app, and Gmail. Wow!
That was alarming to me because there are still only 24 hours in a day (and I spend about 16 of them either sleeping or working)! With that in mind, I felt a little better because my research told me that I am not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American checks their phone 96 times a day or once every ten minutes. To compound the issue, social distancing and quarantines have given us an even more insatiable desire to remain connected and socialize.
It is very apparent how this distraction has caused distance, because, as I said before, there are still 24 hours in a day!
So how do we disconnect so that we can focus on God? Well, I will start by saying, we talk/socialize too much and oftentimes, it is done in the wrong way.
The right to speak is important; saying things at the right time in the right manner is even more important. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”
So how do we defeat this distraction?
Watch your words. Words matter because words mean things. Proverbs 15:1 NLT “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Say less. Connect less. Be Wise. (Proverbs 17:27 NLT) “A truly wise person uses few words…”
Words are like dollar bills. They should be spent wisely because we cannot take them back. Yep, that means even on social media…especially on social media! I am not saying we should not socialize/connect, but when done in excess, it drives a wedge between us and God. Simply put, we just don’t have time for God.
Don’t look like a fool. Mark Twain said it best, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Because we are so connected, we often find ourselves caught in constant debate (most times publicly). Which leads me to the last tip to fight this distraction:
Three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone
Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
Take inventory.How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God?
Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
What kind of Conversations are you having?Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter?
Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1
Think about these things and challenge yourself to disconnect from the rush, rat race, and rigamaroo of life. Disconnect from distractions so you can reconnect and build a healthy relationship with God.
Father, thank you for your grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. We realize that busyness, drama, and life circumstances constantly pull us away from you, and for that, we apologize. Father, give us the strength, wisdom, and wherewithal to disconnect from the many daily distractions we encounter so we can connect to you. Thank you for continuing to love us! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Distraction #3: You are what you eat!
Don’t worry, this isn’t health 101 where I judge you for your vice in the kitchen. Quite honestly, I don’t do as well as I should when it comes to eating right–whether in reference to physical food or mental food.
While I was meditating on this topic, I John 2:15-16 NLT became the focal point of my devotion. It says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”
So what is the Bible telling us? Does this mean we cannot enjoy the pleasures of this world? Of course we can! In fact, God desires that we laugh, eat, and enjoy life! So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is telling us to avoid becoming enamored with the physical pleasures of this world. In other words, we should pursue our purpose in God and the upbuilding of His kingdom. Though enticing, pursuing physical pleasures distracts us from achieving what God wants us to achieve and drives a wedge between our relationship with Him.
In my moment of self-reflection, I realized while I am distracted by my continuous craving for/pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world (like great food, accolades, keeping up with the Joneses, and being the “first to know”) I could be praying in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Staying alert and being persistent in my prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). While I am constantly seeking to obtain my oral fixation, I could be doing what Jesus instructed us to do in Mark 9:29 KJV when He healed the boy that was possessed. Fasting, praying, and meditating on Christ is critical to building a close relationship with God! While I am constantly feasting on the negativity of the media, I could be “Fixing [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
What we eat, becomes who we are. The “old folks” used to say “you are what you eat.” Meaning, choosing to enjoy healthy physical and mental food increases energy, increases brain function, and increases your better overall mood.
But what happens when you feast on negativity? It leads to spiritual:
Indigestion: We reject wise advice and biblical teachings and turn to “strange doctrines” for hope and guidance.
Heartburn: Our hearts are burning with anger, rage, and hatred for others instead of burning with compassion for the poor, widowed, and sick.
Diarrhea of the mouth: Instead of being silent and patient, we are quick to vent our anger/frustration and our disdain for others. While slow to talk to God.
I Corinthians 6:12 NLT does an excellent job of summarizing this last point by saying “You say, I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” We must choose to avoid becoming a slave to our appetites! Let’s pledge to make sound choices with the physical and spiritual food that we enjoy.
I am confident that if we apply the basic principles that we have discussed the last few days to our lives and avoid these distractions, we will begin to live more healthy and whole lives, build better relationships, and most importantly, draw closer to God. I am excited and proud that we serve a God as described in one of my favorite songs, “there’s no shadow He won’t light up, no mountain He won’t climb up coming after me. There’s no wall He won’t kick down, no lie He won’t tear down coming after me!” I said all of that to say, with all of our daily distractions, our loving Father is still there, waiting on us to reconnect with Him. So my question to you is, will you defeat these distractions and reconnect with God?
Father, we honor you, we praise you, and we thank you for your Word. Thank you for being a great God! Now Father we pray that over the next few days, weeks, and months we become less distracted with our daily lives, and more focused on you. And ultimately Father, we pray that everyone reading these words can feel your unfailing, unwavering, and never ending love. We magnify your Holy and Righteous name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We all grew up in the same environment, yet have different perspectives–same teachings, different takes. Although we have encountered and been forced to overcome adversity- from personal struggles to systemic barriers- we still have hopes of creating the best of opportunities for our children. In this blog, we will examine how our upbringing influences our leadership style as fathers in today’s society.
My creation and birth were a result of the perfect storm: I was the first boy; I was gifted two wonderful older sisters who were 11 and 9 years old at the time, and I had TWO very nurturing parents who have been in my corner since day 1. As such, I always knew that it was my birthright to inherit the Ogunyemi throne (LOL). I can recall, oftentimes, my mother calling out my oldest sister for “trying to be my 2nd mom”, while trying to keep my “younger” sister from killing me. These two experiences granted me a wealth of knowledge about the structure of the family, even more than I even realized at the time:
1. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS look out for family ESPECIALLY your younger siblings and
2. Never allow resentment to set in between siblings.
If we look at point #1 – the nurture & protection that my oldest sister SHOWED me created a protective nature in me that only grew as I became a big brother three times over. NO ONE – and I mean No one – could touch a hair on my little brothers’ heads. Now that I am a father of two, I am able to instill those same values & principles into my children. Our mother used to always tell us that when things hit the fan, when the world is in chaos, when the world turns its back on you, ALL we will have in our corner is each other – and that’s enough! I have taught my oldest son that it is his job – his duty- to protect his baby brother and to make sure that his baby brother feels the love, nurture, and protection from THIS household FIRST.
As we look at point #2 – nipping sibling resentment at the bud – my “younger” sister and I had MANY spouts…I swore that she was always upset with me (eye roll). As I got older I began to understand that SHE was the youngest for NINE YEARS and then all of a sudden, this new baby had disrupted her entire world. In adulthood, my household is what most would call a “non-traditional” or “blended” family. For the 1st 4 years of his life, it was just me and my oldest son, Ethan. Fast forward, his daddy meets a girl, and a few short years later, he is a big brother. I observed as he would act out and I could deduce that he could not even explain WHY he was acting out. My experiences with my sister taught me the “WHY” and how to make sure that resentment did not set in and that he did not begin to dislike his fresh new baby brother. With this in mind, I can deduce that my first two interactions with humans other than my parents (my big sisters), taught me how to deal with different personalities and to ensure seamless transitions within the “modern” family dynamic.
“Put some food in your mouth!” our dad would sternly interrupt, as we sat around the dinner table and one of us had said one word too much. “Putsomefoodinyourmouth,” he would rattle off, almost like it was one long word, anytime conversation was (let’s just say) unbecoming. I now understand as I sit across the table from our 5 year old son while his mouth runs at about 1,000 words per minute.
Looking back on it, Daddy (yeah, I still call our daddy, “Daddy”) taught us a valuable lesson. I don’t know if he ever actually said these words, but the phrase “put some food in your mouth” (or whatever hilarious quote we derived from that phrase), taught us to MAKE YOUR WORDS COUNT– to be thoughtful and measured. He taught us to “think before you speak, son.” and as our mom would put it, “there’s a time and place for everything.”
Obviously, we were unaware of it then but a couple decades later, all of us echo their words to our own children. Though I’m sure our parents oftentimes preferred we would actually shut up and eat when they said things like, “finish eating your food FIRST, then play,” these phrases surpass the literal and have become metaphorical pillars in our individual households. These incredible lessons taught us to prioritize–PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST! As I reflect on that ageless guidance, I am excited to know that I am contributing to my own children’s success as I teach them to FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND. Though sometimes humourous, these experiences during our adolescence greatly contributed to our ability to lead and nurture our children today.
Fathers, internalize this reverberating message, your experiences have given you everything you need to be successful! My brothers made sure that I had my share of adversity growing up. I was the fifth of six children, and in our family, number five just happened to be the odd ball–one and two were two peas in a pod, three and four were partners in crime, and number six was in a protected class known as “the baby.” With that in mind, I remember going to my Mom with what was probably one of 1,000 complaints about my brothers. I wanted vindication. I wanted revenge. I wanted justice! Instead, my Mom looked at me and calmly said, “if you allow people to know what buttons to push to upset you, they will always push those buttons.”
Of course at the time, I did not understand or appreciate how profound that statement was, and I definitely did not expect to be teaching my children similar lessons down the road; however, life provided me many opportunities to apply this timeless advice. Simply stated, I believe one of the keys to overcoming adversity while pursuing opportunity is to master the art of conquering conflict. As a father, we have an innate desire to protect our children; however, I implore my fellow fathers to never waste a negative experience. Use them as teachable moments.
Now I am not encouraging fathers to stand idly by, waiting to offload a lengthy lecture ripe with anecdotal phrases and clichés while their child gets pummeled, but I am encouraging my peers to use the natural clash of wills between two human beings to nurture your children and develop the characteristics needed to be successful in today’s society. Applying this simple approach will help turn our hopes for our children into reality.
I, the said “baby” find it quite comical that Olaolu considers certain aspects of his growing up adversarial and “odd”… Objectively speaking, the youngest is ALWAYS the best (i.e. King David). Nonetheless, my siblings found it necessary to “teach” me otherwise. Being the youngest, I often had a chip on my shoulder- to be the loudest, tallest, to fit in with my older siblings. In many ways, this obviously backfired. In the best of ways, though, my family found ways of cultivating that lively, rambunctious personality into the person and father I am today.
My family has always been my biggest unconditional support system. I can recall multiple conversations of being told, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you enjoy it, make us proud, and strive to be the best.” As an adult, I continue to take pride in the Ogunyemi name with hopes of passing that pride to my son. As my reflection, it is important for me to teach Kian how to be persistent, resilient, and driven while using discernment in every situation he will find himself in. My family taught me when to be loud, but that there are more times to be more quiet than loud. As a father, I hope to continue this strategic approach in celebrating whatever Kian’s personality becomes so he can continue to make a difference in the world.
The short story for all of us is that we have a faith that drives everything we do and parents and older sisters that loved and supported us (still do) in everything we sought to accomplish. We interpreted situations very differently and have a diversity of experiences. In fact, you may think it is a full blown war whenever we get together for holidays or other occasions. Nonetheless, unconditional love persists. We have stood side-by-side for successes, failures, traumas, special moments, heartbreaks, and everything in between. Because of this, we stand before you as college graduates, spouses, mentors, leaders, advocates, friends, brothers… And most of all, good dads!