TD & Serita Jakes

TD & Serita Jakes
FDA

By Michael A. Graham

Photos By Benjamin Lewis FLM Photography

He is an author, filmmaker, producer of music and festivals, father, husband and a visionary.

All centered in being a man of God with his rock by his side, First Lady Serita Jakes. First Lady Jakes is so much more than simply his wife. She is a gifted public speaker and an author in her own right.  and she oversees international Women’s Ministries that support women in everything from spiritual and personal development to battling domestic violence. Both Bishop and First Lady Jakes give their lives to educating and enriching the lives of others, doing so with selflessness and an abiding commitment. 

As we wrap up our last Heart & Soul issue of 2017, what a treat it was for us to sit down and chat with a phenomenal couple within our community to discuss what we believe to be the foundation of our overall Well being.

the Bible says “I wish above all things that you prosper and be in good health as your
soul does prosper.

H&S

We thought it was very timely, to sit with both you and Mrs Jakes going into the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For some, this time of year, is a jubilant period, for others it’s very depressing. We think about all other aspects of people’s health, but we don’t really talk about the mental health and the spiritual health and how it gets exacerbated during these times. So as a man of God, when you think about the holidays, how do you go about the process of letting people know that it’s okay?

TDJ

You know, we are for the most part tormented by our own minds.  If you can give up on the idea of what you had in mind for the holidays, and celebrate what is, rather than what was or what you would like for it to be. I think it has a lot to do with your sense of well being.  We have come through a very turbulent year with a lot of people displaced, losing homes, losing possessions, losing everything, except themselves, and when all those things are swept away, you have to build your hope and joy on the fact that you survived. So whether it was surviving divorce, a crisis, a hurricane, a downsizing on the job, I always teach people that God always uses what you have left to bless you, not what you lost.  So if we can look at the holidays from a perspective of celebrating what we have left, rather than lamenting what we lost, that begins to bring about the mental perspective that is necessary to give us a sense of well-being.

H&S

The holidays is kind of a crossroads for many people. So looking at this entire season, Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be a time when you are thankful for what God has blessed you with, even in the midst of turmoil that you just articulated.  The season of Jesus Christ, Christmas. Why do you think people have turn from the real meaning of Christmas to the materialistic meaning of Christmas?

TDJ

You know, a lot of our ability to respond emotionally is based on what we visualize. The Bible says without a vision the people perish.  We live in a society that puts visions in front of us. Whether we had one inside of us or not.  So when you’ve got 24-hour news cycles pumping visions into your head in milliseconds. It’s very difficult to find that sense of well being, when people are making a living by putting visions in front of torment, agony and suffering. Then add that to your own personal pains and life traumas.  Those visions become depictions of doom and gloom. Unfortunately, we don’t have much support from social media to 24-hour news cycles of positive images.  The only way to counteract that is to build yourself  a collection box of great moments and memories. We can take that, feed on them and at least make sure that you balance the negativity with positivity.  Remember without a vision we perish, and we need a vision going forward that says that there are some things that are still well. There are some things that are still in place; there are some things that are valuable to us and are essential for us to have a sense of well being. I personally, don’t believe that God designed us for the technology we designed. In other words, I think that we have created machines that are killing us. I don’t think that we were meant to be bombarded with the kind of negative images that we see 24 hours a day. I don’t think that we were meant to live with everybody living in our cell phone with us, laying down in the bed beside us through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, that everybody’s opinion about everything bombarding us 24 hours a day.  We have lost the sense of privacy and that is a stressful thing all by itself. To be scrutinized 24/7 and subject to everybody’s opinion regardless to who they are, has brought us to the edge of this cliff and we must push back from it with great intention.  Cutting off our equipment, turning down our television sets, spending time in consecration, meditation, hugging our children or grandchildren, or things that are positive. Everybody has different images that give them a sense of well being.  Find them, pull them to you, and embrace it.  You have to be intentional about this, because they’re not gonna come through your telephone. They’re not gonna come through your television set.  You have to bring those images before your eyes until your mind relaxes in the peace of knowing that you do have something to be thankful for.

H&S

Our audience, as you know are women of color.  We focus on talking to our female audience across every medium and platform that we have.  One of the things that’s been important to us is mentoring and bringing young women up. Mrs. Jakes, I know you are the genesis of the Women’s Ministry here. We would like to get your thoughts as to when you were putting this together, what were your goals and what were the objectives of the Women-to-Women Ministry?

Mrs. J

When we first moved here to Dallas, I saw such an overwhelming need and I didn’t know how exactly I could cover all of the women with one blanket. If I covered the head, the feet would show. If I covered the feet, well you know. It was just very strategic to me to bring about a sense of relationship and harmony.  Although, we were a large group of women, I found that the commonality would be children and wanting to make certain that the next generation didn’t suffer from some of the things that we suffered.  I wanted the girls that had the academic strength to be acknowledged. I think it’s DISD, Dallas Independent School District has one of the lowest graduation success rates for children of color. I knew that these girls with A, B averages were  going home and living in crack infested neighborhoods, so I wanted to be able to expose them to something different, to let them know that there’s more to life than what they live in. I wanted them to know, they could create that space in their own head, not just with books, but with cultural events, sisterhood fellowship, health, wellness, even some of them are little entrepreneurs but just to make them blossom. And that’s what woman to woman ministries does. We celebrate the relationship that women have with one another, and the relationship we have with our male counterparts. Whether it’s our spouse, our fathers, our brothers, our employers, we can have a language that would transcend not just the feminine gender, but could easily be interpreted in the mind of a man.

H&S

You spoke about entrepreneurship, I know that you are having a conference tomorrow focused on entrepreneurship. As you know, women of color are forming businesses at a fast rate, certainly minority women are, and I know you yourself have launched a line, a home line.  and have entered into the entrepreneurship world.  What advice would you give women, who are thinking about being an entrepreneur? Especially women in corporate America who decide to reinvent themselves.  What do you see as the wins and the challenges to become an entrepreneur?

 

Mrs. J.

The impetus for me in starting my home line was to make home important again.  I felt we that we’ve gotten so busy as my husband often says, with everything other than home.  We need a place where we can just come, relax and rest. Some of the cares of the world would just dissipate. So I created something that would appeal to the senses; it’s what you see that makes you feel at home, it’s what you hear, what you smell, what you taste, what you touch. So with my home line, I am defending the right for us to have a safe place that we redefine home and that we just anchor in it, just anchor in it. I think that the challenge of entrepreneurship is sometimes your dream is so much larger than your means.  A lot of the women that are going into business are also finding that the expense of it all will make you a little bit saddened because hope deferred, as the scripture says makes the heart sick, and so just because you are delayed in the process of launching your business does not mean that God is not going to get beneath that vision wind and blow. So I celebrate my sisters, that are going into business and I also respect those ladies that said oh no this is not the right season for me.  I had to wait until our last baby was gone, so I could start figuring out, so who are you? I had to redefine myself, and it’s still home.  I am a very introverted person and what I find safety in is home. I tried to set up an atmosphere, earlier in our marriage, where when my husband comes off the road, he wasn’t coming home stepping on Tonka trucks, Legos and Hot Wheels and I would have them just be quiet and give him his space.  I found out early on that if he had a minute to detox, he would be able to handle the washing machine is broken down, somebody’s failing algebra, you know, as opposed to hitting him as soon as he comes in the door with all of my little things that have gone on.  He gave me a house, and it’s my duty to make it a home.

TDJ

For her, I want to jump in and say, for her, the whole modeling of the home becomes a brand through which her products are disseminated from her and I think that’s the core of success in business.  Business must be true to who you are, your authentic self, what you really value, what you’re passionate about your purpose is always relegated by your passion.  The one thing, one of the reasons I wrote Soar was because the large amounts of African American women who were going into business and the huge amount that were turning around and going out of business, that’s a real concern.  The stats suggest that women who go into business because they need money are much more apt to go out of business. Rather than women who see and felt a need in the community and see their business as an answer to that need. So in other words, purpose driven business as opposed to profit driven business actually becomes more profitable in the long run.  And so anybody needs money, we understand that as a given, but when your needs become the paramount vision of your company, you are less likely to succeed.  People want to feel like what you are providing is for them and not for you.  So one of the things that we wanted to do, we are both strong advocates for entrepreneurship.  We both come from backgrounds where family in one way or another reflected some levels of entrepreneurship and I think it’s imperative in the society we live in now that underserved communities of all colors and all kinds no longer sit around waiting on some great hope to come from some private sector corporation that is coming back considering that 99% of the jobs in this country are done by companies with under 500 employees.  If you are going to have success, you have to have small businesses to succeed not only for you, but for the many, many people who nest up under the vision of those small businesses and women are leading the way.  I wanted to help mentor them, because mentorship is genderless especially as it relates to business.  I wanted to help mentor them because a strong woman produces a strong child and indelibly impresses upon that child certain values that perpetuate itself for generations and so we are both committed to that, my wife is reflecting that in her life, and my daughters now in their lives are doing the same thing because it is important that we have a vision, that we have a business, that we have a goal, and that we have a legacy to pass on to our children something that doesn’t say that you necessarily have to preach just because you are my child.  I wanted you to have something to inherit that didn’t require divine intervention.

H&S

Bishop, what does spiritual wellness mean to you?

TDJ

Spiritual wellness to me means to be whole in the ways that matter most.  To me, the Bible says “I wish above all things that you prosper and be in good health as your soul does prosper.”  If we have prosperity outwardly and don’t have it inwardly, we’re still bankrupt.  If we are physically astute and in great shape physically, but we’re mentally tormented we’re still in trouble, so spiritual wholeness means first of all, that I am in my spirit, in my core well and whole enough not only to cause that wholeness to affect other areas of my life, but I like to say it this way, I’m safe to love.  Because when people are bankrupt inwardly they’re not safe to love and when you invest in them, you go bankrupt with them.  So having somebody who is on stable ground inwardly, whether they are financially or not, you can fix the financial part, you can go back to school again, you can exercise and get in great shape, but if you’re not whole on the inside that often requires divine intervention and I think that is very very important in this unstable world that you have something at your core that you can count on and for many people that’s spirituality.

H&S

When the two of you are alone, and you think about balance, what does that look like for the both of you? What’s a healthy work/life/love balance for the Jakes’?

TDJ

I can tell you one thing we have learned over the years. First of all we are completely opposite, I’m an extrovert, she’s an introvert. The things that feed her, bore me.  The things that feed me, drive her crazy and make her nervous, so we couldn’t be more opposite any way in the world. I think you marry your opposite and spend the rest of your life trying to make them like you. But in reality, that doesn’t work at all. In the marriage is the mystery of the void that the human soul has; extroverts tend to marry introverts because we secretly want you to save us from our workaholic personas.  And I think it’s in our marriage, we attempt to balance in the unity of each other something that she’s extremely one way and I am extremely the other.  In our efforts to stay together, we have to move to the center. She has to come out of the shadows, blow out her candles and her spa music. I have to come out of my fringes, and my hip hop sort of lifestyle in terms of everything is turned up to 10 and we have to meet at a range of 5.  We have that balance and I think that you really hit the key, it’s something that I work on everyday, some days better than others. I have found that the most important thing for me to have in my life is balance and it’s the hardest thing to get. We have become police officers over each other.  I’m the one who’s telling her you need to go to bed you’re doing too much; you need to slow down. Because we both love what we do so much, it’s easy to overdo it and I know it.  On the other hand, she’s saying to me you need a break. I found out that for me balance isn’t always sleep or rest. I don’t necessarily graze in the same grass that she does. Balance for me is being surrounded by people who don’t want anything from me. Who don’t require that I perform, that allows me the space to be a person and not a personality, that is like really, really refreshing for me, you know, to do something that’s out of my norm, maybe even a little out of my comfort zone.  Maybe it’s something that I normally wouldn’t do like ride a motorcycle, or something that’s a little bit crazy to me but I found out that once I do that, I get to be somebody other than my norm. It’s like going to Hawaii in terms of how it refreshes me and gives me a life outside of what I do.  I love what I do, but sometimes loving what you do can be detrimental to you because it also consumes you to the point that you lose who you are in the process of doing what you do.

H&S

We can concur.  You know, faith and fitness is something that we talk about a lot because we do believe that spirituality is also complementary to a healthy lifestyle.  One of the things that we’re focused on is bringing awareness to an overall healthy lifestyle. We need to know more about ourselves, our health and all the issues in which we over index.  What do we do as heads of household to help combat health related issues? We’re finding as churches begin to take leadership, the message of health and wellness changes. The response more importantly changes because it’s coming from someone they trust, so it’s like a light bulb.  This is the other piece of the interconnectivity really having the congregation begin to say, our spiritual wealth is also tied to our health and wellness. Is that something the both of you are embracing with the congregation here?

TDJ

One of the things that I was very intentional about doing is we put a gymnasium in our facilities for our staff so that they wouldn’t have to necessarily get a membership in another facility. They could get off work and go work out whenever they wanted to.  That gymnasium is available on the weekends for our church to have basketball games and activities of that sort that I think are very important.  It is a battle for me, I yo-yo all over the place, depending on which picture you saw what size I was. I have a big rack and a low rack of suits but I stay in the fight and it is a fight all the time because if I let go altogether, I know I would be much worse than it is, I have found not only for health and for physicalities.  Its important, and appearance it’s important but sometimes even more importantly for stress.  I found out the level of stress that leadership brings if you don’t do some kind of exercise that stress lays down and turns into insomnia, turns into diseases and fatigue.  So having gotten the opportunity to look closely at the last several presidents that we’ve had in this country the one thing you will find common in Democrats and Republicans, that very soon in the office they develop a very strong athletic routine, because the stress is so high, that there’s something about exercise that releases endorphins that give us a sense of well being and tranquility and has a lot to do with our emotional well being so all of this stuff is interconnected in a way that is inextricably related to your sense of happiness and wholeness and feeling good about yourself. The tragedy for me is when I’m busiest that when it’s hardest to do it.  When things slow down, I can drop 30 pounds at a low point and then gain them back at a high point because you’re jumping from hotel to hotel. You’re getting in late at night and that lifestyle has a lot to do with that. But I would say to the people like me and you yo-yo back and forth, you’re up and you’re down stay in the fight don’t get discouraged because it’s better to be in the fight than to stop putting up the fight and let it take you over.  I really believe that if I let myself go, I’d be one of those people they would have to cut a hole in the wall to get me out of the room and I could really go that far with that the way my body responds to certain types of foods, so my consistency, particularly as I get older to fight back is to have the longevity.  I’ve already outlived my father and my grandfather. I’m already older than my father got to be, much older than my grandfather ever got to be, my grandfather was murdered, my father died early of renal failure and I’m already the oldest one of that side of the family in our lineage to have lived that long, with the exception of my uncle.  So it’s been a commitment to try to stick around long enough to get on my grandchildren’s nerves and do all those things that old people get to do that’s so fun and free and say whatever you think and to blame it on your age. But if you don’t fight back, you can easily lose it altogether.

H&S

We’re not trying to keep you, but I was just curious about the women of color that view all of our platforms, they’re always asking the questions when you look in most churches in America, women are the predominant congregant in churches. What advice do you have for their spiritual wellness? And then the second part to this is, what is lacking in men that we don’t seek that solace in the Word or in an institution? Because I don’t think it’s because of their spirituality necessarily as it is the institution that they come into and not being made to feel as if they are men.

TD & Serita Jakes

 

TDJ

There are a lot of factors, boy that we could do the whole interview and would stay on that subject right there.  To the women, this is a dawning of a new day for women in faith.  They have shattered the glass barriers between the pulpit and the floor. They have moved into positions of leadership and influence. The only thing that I can think that would enhance their relationships more is to break down into sub groups in the local churches where they can talk. A lot of women process through communication and going to church is a one-sided monologue, whereas women actually need the stimulation of expressing how they feel.  Not many churches create the kind of atmosphere for dialogue, which is very, very important for a woman’s sense of well-being is to be able to be heard, not just to listen, but to be heard.  So the next step in the evolution of the experience of the woman, and the black woman in particular in church, is to create atmospheres where she can talk.  Because sometimes she can’t say what she wants to say at home. Sometimes, she can’t say what she wants to say at work. If she doesn’t get to say it at church she doesn’t get to say it all.  To the man, it’s a much more complicated issue.  And I think it is a matter of loyalty to institutions. I think that creates a problem that men are suspicious of, inherently suspicious of, sometimes because they’re introduced to church by women who come home from church talking about what some other man said, that’s not really attractive to us. 

My church, let me start with my church, my church is 50% men.  Amazing amount of men and it is 50% millennial and I’ve asked myself over and over again what caused that to be.  I think one of the things that causes men to drift away from church is their struggle with fatherhood.  The absence of father, the absence of a strong male voice, and then to go to church to hear often a male, saying you ought to do this and you ought to do that, is a strange sound that we don’t run to and we don’t trust because a lot of our distrust begins with the disappointment of fathers who didn’t stay.  I find that we are having the ruined influence of men who find more comfort in the voice of a woman, because the voice of the woman remained when the voice of the father did not, I think that’s an issue. I think that men are not as interested, one of the other reasons I think that men don’t go to church.  Men are not interested in shouting, men are interested in resolutions, in communication that leads me to something than other than an emotional experience and I think that the more a church addresses issues rather than creates atmosphere, the more likely you are to draw the attention of men, we want the bottom line, straight no chaser. What do you mean? What am I supposed to do? How do I get through this?  We don’t necessarily need the degree of emotional stimulation that women do in order to feel whole and over the years. The church has become increasingly pointed toward the needs of women at the expense of the needs of men.  And finally, a man needs something to do in the church that involves him that gives him a sense of well being and he needs to know because, I think in my church, I don’t think that we have 50% men because I’m a pastor, I think we have 50% men because I’m a father, and at my core I am a father and for many of our men, that’s the first taste of fatherhood they have ever had.  So I’m going to talk to you like you’re mine. I’m going to jack you up like you’re mine. I’m going to get you over in the corner and get in your face and tell you get back in the ring and do it again and the bond between us is almost more family than it is church.  Because a man is only a father biologically because he makes a deposit, a woman is a mother because she nurtures that deposit.  The same thing that makes us a biological father is required for us to be a spiritual father.  You’re only a spiritual father when you’ve made a deposit in the lives of those men and that deposit will reap a harvest.  I am amazed, I mean you get me to talk about this, I‘ll go on and on. I’m amazed at what fatherly attention does for men.  I’ll meet a guy who was failing and falling and can’t pastor his church and tie up his shoelaces or get grades in school or go back to college or anything, for somebody to act like that he matters and is male? I’ve seen them flourish and turn into things you would not have thought they could have ever been because they got male attention.  I must say to our male pastors out there, if you’re going to pastor men you have to give them attention, you can’t just run them in and out like cattle. They’re not coming to church so much because you preach good, they’re coming to church trying to find their fathers and if you understand that fathering trumps preaching, you’ll draw more men. 

H&S

And finally, you know, one of things we noticed here, you know words speak power.  Your latest book Soar, we noticed the words on the tree, “blessings and belief” if you had to kind of sum up those words that speak power for both of you to people, what would those words be?

TDJ

You go first

Mrs J

I don’t know what tree you’re talking about…oh yes, oh ok

H&S

The tree up on the second level of the building, it has blessings. It has belief, and just from your vantage point, the words that you think of when you’re talking to people that speak power to them?

TDJ

I’ll go first, loyalty.  In both giving and receiving it, to me it represents stability and you can’t do anything with something that’s not stable. So loyalty really points to a big word for me that gives power; it means I don’t leave, it means I don’t run, it means you can count on me, it means I won’t quit, it means I can see the very ugliest part of you and still believe the best about you, loyalty to me is a strength giving word.

Mrs. J

So I’m still back with the children, I think we’re trying to instill some values in the kids when they come, so anything that we can do that can become a core value for them is very, very, very important. Many of them as Bishop says, they come from fatherless homes and then they’re staying with their grandmothers. There’s a generational gap of conversation that needs to happen so when they come to Destiny World. We try to instill in them there a vision for their lives, a hope for their lives and a forgiving heart for things that went awry and they had no control over.

TDJ

Would you think that a strength word for you would be family?

Mrs. J

Family, um, I think purpose or commitment.  A lot people say why are you in Dallas? Why Dallas? I said it could have been anywhere but purpose was found for us here in Dallas, so I think purpose would be mine.

TDJ

Commitment is strong too. Commitment is strong

Mrs J

That stick-to-itiveness

TDJ

Yeah, no matter what, I mean that’s a substrate of our family values, ride or die. Ride or die.

H&S

I know that was the last question but see it leads to another question. You alluded to it earlier, when you were talking about this technological society, this instantaneous society that we live in now, there is no sense of loyalty or commitment or stick-to-itiveness. At the first sign of trouble you want to throw in your cards and say I’m out, and it breaks down the family, which leads to some of the devastation we see in our children.  Our children don’t see that connectivity, and that family unit being strong and stable, and they don’t see their parents working together to solve an issue and overcome, so it has a ripple effect.

TDJ

Right, yeah you’re absolutely right. I think everything we learn about life starts in the house.  You know, I often tell people that family is the gym God gave your love to work out in. It is the gymnasium that your love gets to work out in, and it gets a good work out and over the years. It gets a tremendous work out. But if kids don’t see that, they don’t learn things like conflict resolution, they don’t learn big words like forgiveness. They don’t learn big words like trust. If a person doesn’t learn those words like forgiveness, than any mistake means I’m finished, I’m finished. Those are the kinds of things that give them a sense of well being because no matter where you unpack your bags, you’re not home until you’re in a place of unconditional love.  You have to be someplace where right or wrong, up or down, crazy or silly, I belong here, okay. When you start giving them that, and we work from there, we don’t work from a perspective where the principal becomes more important than the person; the person is more important than the principal.   So we are using the principal to shape the person. We’re not using the person to shape the principal. So the kids need to know, I need to know, my wife needs to know this is home because this is a place where you’re safe and you are accepted regardless of whether I agree with what you did or not. You still belong here and once you have a place of belonging, then you can deal with the cold, vicissitudes of life outside our address.  We told our children you can go home when you can’t go anywhere else, our door is always open. I might be angry, I might be fussing, but I’ll be cooking while I’m fussing because you’re home, okay you know?  And I try to operate this church up under that same premise.  I don’t think you can call a church the Potter’s House and then walk away because somebody’s broken.  Because the Potter made the vessel a new vessel that was marred in His hands and what I try to be as a church, is a place where people can come marred and broken and they are, and find the same thing that I need; the touch of the Lord, the patience of God, and the word of God, because becoming who you are supposed to be is a lifelong journey. It’s not a 30-second prayer at the altar, or filling out a commitment card, or joining the church, this is a lifelong project, it’s a marathon, you’re going to be working on this when your teeth are coming out so you might as well settle in to a place where you can come back prodigal son smelling like hog pen and corn husk in your hair and have your daddy come out and meet you and seem not to notice the smell because you are home.

H&S

That’s great – thank you both.

TDJ

My pleasure

 

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