Lent has never been strongly encouraged in the churches I’ve been a part of, but I have participated a few years here and there. As yesterday came and went, I still couldn’t decide.. “Do Lent?? ..Don’t do Lent??” My main struggle was over my attempt to honestly avoid using it as a form of “Self Help.” I didn’t want to give up something I’d been meaning to cut back on, or use it as motivation to achieve a goal. Getting bikini ready for spring (oh, and Jesus) seemed a bit disingenuous. Maybe you can give up something you love and think of Jesus, but I just usually end up mostly dwelling on “How many days are left??!”
Lent was designed to prepare a follower of Christ for the celebration of Easter. Through prayer and reflection, we sacrifice things in order to identify with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food, water, or companionship. I thought I’d read the story to see if it sparked an idea for a more intentional practice. What jumps out first is it opens with, “Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness.” He was led there by the Spirit. If I’m going to do Lent, I should at least pause and ask God if it is something He is leading me into.
As soon as the 40 Days were over, the Devil starts in on Jesus by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. He wanted Jesus to lose faith and resolve that God would provide and fully support Him during His journey. When looking for something to give up, we can ask ourselves:
What keeps me from trusting God with my life? …Is it my calendar? Obsessive complaining? My finances?
What things keep me from being grateful or noticing His provision on a daily basis? …Pinterest? Comparison to others? Shopping? TV?
Next the Devil tries to test Jesus’ trust that God will protect Him. I could spend forever on how our culture, myself included, is obsessed with safety and struggle to trust God in this area. We might ask ourselves:
What things am I doing on my own because I don’t believe deep down God will come through?… Am I a workaholic? Can I attempt to give up worry with the words I say to myself and others? Am I too focused on something I want that I don’t have?
What crazy things do I do to control situations? How am I holding on too tightly to things and people I love? …What could I stop doing that would teach me to entrust them to God? Do I snoop on Facebook? Do I hover? Is there an outlet I use to channel my fear?
The final temptation is fascinating to me. Jesus knows he has a very tough road ahead of Him. Since He will soon go through great pain and suffering on the cross, the Devil tempts Jesus with an easier road. He offers Jesus the illusion of a shortcut and wants Him to lose faith that God knows best. We can ask:
Where am I distracted from or full-on avoiding the life God is calling me into?
What things am I doing or not doing because I am struggling to believe God’s way is best?
Jesus went straight into the wilderness from His baptism where God told Him, “You are my Son and I love you.” Immediately after, Satan is right there casting doubt on Jesus’ identity.
What keeps me from believing I am fully loved by God… Social media? Certain people in my life? Lies I dwell on?
What could I add in that would help my heart and mind believe I am His and fully loved ? ..Reading, praying, memorizing Scripture.
Lent is not about getting fit, organizing a closet, or checking off the “I read my Bible” box. We have a greater opportunity to identify with Jesus as He struggled to affirm His identity and trust His father with His life before going to the cross.
To Lent..or Not to Lent. I still need a bit more time to sit with my own questions (welcome to my crazy head). I’ll be late about it, but the end result will be better. If you need ideas, blogger Rachel Held Evans put out 40 Ideas for Lent 2014 you may want to take a look at. I’d love to know what you are giving up or adding in this season.
A guy friend of mine and I recently got into a conversation about his experience in online dating. He’s been reading my girlfriend’s stories and wondered if I’d want him to write-up his perspective. Did Christmas come early? As women, we analyze and then over analyze what little we know of the male brain to no end. If you are offering me a window in, I will take it.
So here you go! Oh.. he needs a nickname…. Let’s just call him E.
So I have to admit I signed up for online dating with much grumbling at first. From a guy’s perspective, our pride constantly tells us that, “I am too good for this,” or “Signing up for a site is too desperate…she will come.” But after years of her not “just coming” I thought, “What could it hurt? Besides I won’t tell anyone I am on it.”
. So I looked for the free ones because again, “paying for an online dating website was for losers.” But not long after swimming with “PlentyofFish.com” I soon figured out that most of those were bombarded with profiles that were titled, “Just looking for some fun,” or “If you can have fun, then you can’t have nun” …just trashy girls really.
. I’d like to believe myself to be a good guy; I have a good head on my shoulders, a career, a car, an apartment (just got one but still…), I get along with people, I would like to humbly say I am good-looking, and I hold to a Christian world view with Christian morals. So trashy was out, and it was on to the Christian websites.
. I found some free ones, but the free ones never came with a large enough “fish pond” to sort through. After looking on some of those I found there to be some really unattractive women on there. And I will stand by view that the person you look for needs to be attractive both inside and out. You should never feel as if you settled, I don’t want a girl settling for me and I don’t want to feel as if I settled for some girl either. So being physically attractive was a priority on my list. And I would say that it is a priority for all guys. I don’t consider myself a “sexist pig” or a “horny” guy and people who know me would never give me those labels, however when looking for a girl, she first has to pass my physical attraction test.
. The physical attraction test doesn’t really consist of anything really tedious or overly critical list, but I would say, it’s a list that everyone would consider the “must haves.”
. The Must Haves: Physical
– must have a cute face/smile (If I potentially have to look at you everyday for the rest of my life since I essentially date to marry, then you better be cute to me. You don’t have to be drop dead gorgeous but you have to be cute enough.)
– must have good hygiene (This is typically found out on the date or in person. Bad breath, body odor, acne, crust in your eyes as if you just woke up…these are all pretty much deal breakers.)
That’s it physically! You don’t have to have this “supermodel body” and all that mumbo jumbo. The requirement for me is cute and well taken care of. Anything above that is a plus for me. I feel sorry for the guys who expect perfection and they themselves are far from it…I have a few friends like this…they are single haha.
. The Must Haves: Personality:
– Must be Christian (One who lives it out and has morals)
– Must not be prideful
– Must not be rude
– Must not be boring (In other words we know the very quiet people out there who really have no personality at all? That’s not my cup of tea! I want to be able to have a conversation with someone, not be the one doing all the talking. So someone with a little life, able to express their views, opinions, and interests.)
– Must have a sense of humor – (Please be able to laugh and joke about things, life,…whatever it may be. If you cannot take a joke or anything of that nature I wont bother with you.)
– Must be caring and loving
Everything else is pretty much an addition. Ultimately I am looking for a girl who I can share life with and we have some similar interests. In other words I probably wont date a girl who loves opera and quiet nights at home reading…..Anybody in their right mind would want to date someone with some similar interests…
. So that’s my mindset as I look for the girl on Christian websites. I have somewhere along the line allowed my pride to move by the wayside and pay for the good ones such as Christianmingle or Eharmony. Yes I have tried both and so far no luck.
. It wasn’t long after my time with E-harmony that I figured out that I would rather try Christianmingle. Guys are visual by nature and so rather than waiting for E-harmony to send me some “matches” that they think would work well with my preferences and personality, I thought the “free browsing” through profiles on Christianmingle was more convenient because it allowed me to quickly sift through a number of profiles quickly using my “must have physical test.”
. Not long after I got a date. She lived about 30 minutes away from me so that was already a plus. Her pictures all passed my physical must have test, her profile described a girl with morals, who went to church weekly, and we shared some similar interests. All signs pointed to go. So I messaged her, which might I add is the hardest thing for guys. Why? Because we don’t know what to say? We typically stare at your profile for minutes trying to figure out how to not sound “cheesy.” Do we keep it short and just say, “Hi” or do we find something on your profile that stuck out to us and conjure up some way of adding it to the same ol “came across your profile and saw that you liked….” or “anyways just stopping by to say hi, hope to hear back from you.”
. The truth is we have no clue. Woman these days have made it so hard for a guy to approach them with anything because everything to a woman seems like a “cheap line.” Or they just ignore or shrug you off. Especially here in Orange County; Seems like every girls requirement in is white boy, blond hair, washboard abs, a lot of money and a good car. Then woman hope that there is at least some good qualities and personality traits that can come with the predetermined requirements. But anyways, back to what I was saying; We don’t know what to say. The truth is we are nervous and already feeling low for being on an actual website that we find something to say, and pray that it works as we quickly hit “send!”
So many thoughts….how to keep this a readable length… Ok. I’ll hit two points.
We all have some form of a test or checklist that we use while dating and yet we slightly resent that our date is using one on us. It feels judgemental when it’s coming our way. My brother and I were talking the other day about lists and whether they were a good idea or a bad idea. We both agreed that the real sign of a good prospect is when you forget the list all together. When you’re super aware of how someone is or isn’t preforming, you are probably trying to convince yourself you feel something you don’t. Anyway, that’s our 2 cents.
2. What to say
I’m so glad E brought up what a guy should say when approaching a girl! Honestly, it’s simple. Say hi. Just say hi. Be it email or in person, that’s all you need. You won’t believe the things guys try. Just last weekend, one gentleman approached our table and asked if we’d like to play a game. In the bar. Nope. I wouldn’t suggest trying to be “creative” or “different” since I’ve never once heard any of my friends say that was something they were looking for in this interaction. Want to know what we all say we want when meeting a guy? NORMAL. So be that..
The truth is, your success has very little to do with your method. Your demise can, if you do something weird or awkward, but not your success. If she likes you, she’ll find whatever you do endearing and tell her friends about it. I’m not an expert, but I’d send a friendly low-key email instead of an over-the-top one to be on the safe side.
There are no solid rules that will eliminate the element of risk involved in dating. Everyone gets rejected, it’s just part of the deal. I don’t envy guys’ role in this and I can see why E finds it scary. But if you are up for it, just give a hello and ask her how her night is going. Be genuinely interested and the rest is up to _________ (chemistry, fate, personality dimensions, God, Adele, Tequilia…pick your love source)
Well, I’ve more than dropped the ball on this one. Harmony has been kind enough to send me her stories throughout the summer and I’ve neglected to get them up here. If you remember, her goal was to go on one date a week. The one below is a good one;) Enjoy!
“Scott is 37. Works in pharmaceutical sales. Lives in Sherman Oaks. This guy has the most amazing story of how he accepted Christ maybe 8 years ago. Complete with details of the raunchy Vegas bachelor party hotel room scene that somehow led him to begin his journey with the Gideon Bible. After we retold our testimonies, discussed family and tragedy we got into the really vulnerable part of the conversation:Me: “So tell me about your job. Is it like Love and Other Drugs? (Proud of myself for the cute joke, not really remembering how that movie played out.)Steve: “You know I haven’t seen it, but I definitely don’t drive as nice a car as Jake Gyllenhal.” (Ok, he’s funny.)Me: “What kind of drugs do you sell?”Steve: “I’m in the men’s health business.”Me: “So like vitamins? ”Steve: “No.” (awkward pause) “I sell ED medication.” (Oh, gotcha! No need to elaborate.)Steve then leans in because we are in the middle of Yogurtland, 3:30PM on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by tables of families and young children. “Erectile dysfunction medication,” Steve whispers. I KNOW WHAT IT STANDS FOR!!!Super nice guy but we both know it’s not going to go anywhere. We didn’t have a whole lot in common in the end. I am learning a few things along the way that I’d like to share. Ladies, we all have our two or three absolutely perfect outfits. You know the ones that accentuate all the right parts, smartly hiding all the multiple wrong ones. Early on I spent a little money on the perfect first date outfit and it has been a good use of money because I can keep wearing it over and over again since I’m consistently meeting up with new fellows. ”
This one needs very little commentary:) I am noticing that it sounds like a lot of her dates go deep pretty early on. I’m not used to this and wonder if it is me or a part of online dating. Is it because the profiles already display a lot of the surface stuff that one might discuss on a first date? Or are people typically looking for a serious relationship and feel it’s a better use of time to get to the serious stuff? Anyone care to weigh in that has tried it?
The first day of fall is known as the autumnal equinox. Equinox (Latin for equal night) is when the day and night are equal lengths and the sun is directly over the equator. I read this happened in the US at exactly 6:49 a.m. ET on Saturday. At first it felt comforting to hear something as large as the season of fall is contained nicely in a box and can be predicted down to the minute. I suppose I prefer that to randomness. But that kind of precision doesn’t mesh well with reality. For starters, it was over 100 degrees on Saturday. No one told the sun in Orange County it was time to back off. It’s still too hot for a soy pumpkin spice latte and I’m stuck in a sundress instead of my favorite leather jacket.
This fall thing bothered me all weekend. (Proof that I may need more of a life) There is no exact moment when seasons of life change. I can’t turn to life and say, “Excuse me, it’s 2:13 pm on Monday and XYZ is supposed to take place.” Life is far more chaotic. Life is complicated. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word complicated the past few months in relation to faith and life. Christianity can feel like a box, like precision and calculation trying to enter (or worse, be shoved down) complicated lives. Some problems feel too big and messy for the truths and wisdom of the Bible. They can come off as cliché, simplistic, out of touch. When your gay friend tells you being out and in a relationship has grown his relationship with God. When the new guy who doesn’t go to church treats you way better than your Bible reading, small group going, regularly tithing ex. (and the two before him) When your friend wants to know if it’s ok to divorce her husband for his porn addiction. It’s then that you want to say to the simple answers- you don’t have all the facts! You don’t understand! It’s not freaking fall. Step outside, it’s hot as hell!
Simple truth in a complicated moment can make you angry. Reducing a big situation to a small one feels wrong- even when you are right. I’ve come to think that this is a key part of why Jesus came. After giving the written law, prophets, and setting up religion, God said, “I’ll send a baby.” In the end, He didn’t just send us a book of wise teaching, a set of religious practices, and a moral code to follow…. He sent a person. As important as that stuff is, it wasn’t enough. Only a person can always offer something new to our lives. Only a person was able to expose the heart behind the wisdom. Only something living and breathing is complicated and fluid enough to enter into our ever-changing lives. Christianity can seem too simple and finite at times. Jesus never does. He’s always surprising us- compassion for the ones who messed up, a harsh word for the ones who did everything right, a life of downward mobility in a world that pressures everyone to get ahead. He continually did the unexpected. He approached situations from left field. And even now, He’s up to date on all the facts, sides, and contributing factors of our problems. In a good way, He’s not one size fits all in His dealings with us. He meets us where we are at.
In Colossians 2, Paul tells the church that religious practices, rules, cultural festivals, strict diets and a long list of other things are never meant to be the point of our faith. He went so far as to call them useless for living correctly. In verse 17 he says, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Like in Plato’s Cave, the shadows are only meant to be pictures of the real thing. The real stuff, the whole point, the substance is Christ.
I find myself very grateful for this. I’m so glad I follow a person instead of a religion. Especially in a crazy world of eat at Chic-Fil-A/don’t eat at Chic-Fil-A, vote this way/don’t vote this way, bumper stickers, and soundbites that try to ignorantly tell us it is simple. I hate that stuff. And so I feel good about offering friends a person; a God/Man who is with us in our moments of need and confusion. I recently had dinner with a friend in a bad relationship and I didn’t know what she should do. While searching for the right advice, the thought came that she should just pursue Jesus. I really believe that if she does, He’ll figure it out with her. He’ll lead her in the right way. I can trust her to Him. I believe He has something to say to all our lives if we’ll listen and take time to hear him. His words won’t feel outdated, simplistic, or naïve- even if they’re ancient truths Christians have believed for thousands of years. Because Jesus is not simple. In fact, He’s the most complicated being that has ever walked the earth.
…So, take that fall. (Get it? Really bad Xtian joke on the double meaning of fall. Forgive me, I needed a conclusion and that’s all I had)
Same-sex marriage. ugh…talk about a bomb. I struggled all week over whether to bring it up. Since this is, in theory, a blog about relationships, it seems to fit under the umbrella. My main problem with blogging about it is that above all, I wish Christians would stay out of it…. And here I am. Getting involved. Publicly. Here are my main thoughts as of today:
1. I’m not the best person to ask. I am straight. My closest friends and family are straight. I’m also pretty politically ignorant at this time in my life. I worked on a political radio show just long enough to become disenchanted. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I watched more CNN than STYLE Network. The one thing I bring to the table is my ability to (hopefully) think and care about people as best I can through a Christian perspective.
2. A friend had a status update of “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married“. Bold. Can’t say I don’t like it. I don’t like the idea of legislating my religious Christian values on people who aren’t Christian. I wouldn’t want it done to me. Do I think homosexuality is a sin? I do. Do I sin? All time. It’s messy. Government isn’t the answer.
3. I hate the idea of putting anything in between someone who doesn’t know Jesus and Jesus. Like a street corner poster, unwelcoming spirit, or that weird shakey face thing women get when they are talking while angry/afraid. Who can see Jesus through all of that? If we believe He offers the best plan for life, let’s lovingly lead people to Him and let Him take care of the convicting and changing.
4. Same-sex marriage isn’t the biggest problem facing marriage and family. We are. We’ve done a terrible job with fidelity, fathering, and set unrealistic expectations for marriage all on our own. Can you imagine if Christians took all their passion, time, money and energy and channelled it into growing healthy singles, marriages, and parents that were centered on Christ? If we held out a way of life that people wanted in on then sin could be traded for life, bondage for freedom, fear for peace. RELEVANT Magazineposted a smart people debate about it. My main issue with the writer who is against same-sex unions is that he is worried about what it will do for the definition/meaning of marriage. To me, it’s entirely up to me to take care of the definition of my marriage and keep it Biblical. It’s up to me to make it meaningful, not culture.
Hopefully this came across as an invitation for discussion. What do you think? What have I missed? How or will you vote? Please leave your thoughts. Especially if they are different from mine. But also if they are like mine. Than I’ll feel better about myself. Just kidding. Kind of.