Tag Archive: God

To Lent…or Not To Lent

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b45037a73a99965e59ee6b23962e1eeaLent 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.

Photo by: helt enkelt

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Courage

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06582575e047872eee18769104257724Last week I was invited to speak at APU and at Forest Home. Since I didn’t feel I could pull off two separate talks, I spoke about the book of Esther at both, each with a different take away. In doing so, I feel like I’ve been living with her story for the past month or so and figured I might as well get a blog out of it:)

If you haven’t read it recently, please do. It’s ten chapters and reads through like a short story. We meet young Esther in the middle of her already tragic life. Both her parents have died and she is forced to live in the King’s harem. Eventually she has to risk her life by meeting with the King to save her people.

What fascinates me about Esther is that it is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God. He literally doesn’t “show up” in the story at all.  There are no miracles, no speaking to anyone, no tangible representation period. One writer I read described it as an “unreligious book” since there is no mention of temple, the law, not even a prayer is spoken…

I appreciate this context because I find it is more like the setting we live in.  God doesn’t usually show up in our lives the way we read about in scripture. He doesn’t perform spectacular miracles or speak to people in the way we often wish He would. Just as Esther must have looked at her circumstances and wondered, “God are you there?”  We, too, wonder the same thing.

When we read Esther’s story from our vantage point, it’s crystal clear that God was working behind every circumstance to accomplish His purpose.  We can see His hand moving behind the scenes in the smallest details at each turn. Since Esther wouldn’t have known this in the moment, she had to live by faith. For her, this meant making decisions and taking action without knowing the outcome. I believe we call this courage. 

There’s this moment in Ch 4:16, when Esther decides she is going to put her life on the line. She tells her uncle to have everyone fast for three days on her behalf and then she will go to the King. It occurred to me this week that Esther didn’t wait for the results of the fast, she committed to her plan regardless. She didn’t fast in order to hear what she should do next, but made her choice ahead of time and fasted as a request for success. There’s a big difference.

God doesn’t always expect us to wait for confirmation or signs. Sometimes, we are meant to seize the moment and trust Him to be in the details on the other side. Just as God doesn’t tangibly appear in the book of Esther, she doesn’t say anything about Him, either. It’s only by her action that we see where her trust lies. In the same way, I wonder if our ability or inability to use courage often reveals something about our own faith.  In a way, courage is an outward expression of an inward belief. We either trust Him with our steps or we don’t.

Easier said then done;)

…. What about you? Any thoughts on courage or taking action?

 


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Book Club: The Gifts of Imperfection

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2545 THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTIONI finished reading this a couple of weeks ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking and talking about it! My delay in posting has had more to do with figuring out how to curb myself from overwriting than anything else.

If you didn’t read this book, please, please do. You won’t regret it. The short recap is world renown researcher, Brene Brown spent 8 years studying shame and vulnerability.  During her more than 10,000 interviews, she realized there was a great divide between people who lived what she calls wholeheartedly (experience joy, peace, love) and those that don’t.  As she compiled lists of what made up wholehearted individuals, she realized she was in the “don’t” category.  This led to a personal breakdown and visit to a therapist. In the end, she believed so strongly in the accuracy of her own findings, she made huge changes to her own life as well as her family’s. The book is her story woven through her research.

Basically, I want to be her. My copy is so underlined, highlighted and covered in notes I can’t even tell you. I wish I could hit on every point…but no one, not even my mom would read that.

So, I’ll tell you about the guidepost I’ve spent the most time thinking about since closing the book. I’d love for you to share your favorite.


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The Young Man and the Sea

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tumblr_mb0yhmlvIW1qzx5hdo1_500[1]Last week, my sister-in-law treated the women in our family to the symphony. The music, atmosphere, and company were all delightful, but what I can’t stop thinking about is the composer, Rismsky-Korskov’s story. (Don’t be too impressed, I read it in the program)

As a child living in Russia, Rismsky was enamored with far off places and cultures. He would anxiously await letters from his older brother’s travels with the Navy and the exotic stories they held. In particular, Rismsky fell in love with the sea, even though he had never seen it.

I picture a small boy, dreaming up the sounds and sights of the waves in his bedroom, using only the written word and his imagination to put it together. For years he wished to see, smell, and hear the ocean before ever having the opportunity. At first it seems sad to think of someone loving something for so long and never getting to see it, and it’s easy to wish you could just rush in and take him. But when you listen to his music, you hear a magical and dramatic tone inspired by these years of waiting and daydreaming. His childhood grew in him a mind that could create and compose something beautiful out of nothing. It made me wonder what would’ve become of Rismsky had he gone to the sea right away. Would he still have become the same person?

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Clearly my own childhood love for the sea was never going to produce any sort of brilliance.

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But I do know what it’s like to want to see a new place, live another life, to love sights and sounds I’ve never seen or heard. From middle school all the way to graduation, I couldn’t wait to get out of the small town I grew up in. It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate those years, certain they developed many of the best parts of me, including an appetite for the unknown. For good and for bad, my life will always need some measure of adventure;)

Rismsky’s story was a good reminder to keep dreaming bigger dreams, and to view the “not there yet” as the seasons God uses to prepare us for what is next. Typically, we can’t wait to reach the destination, even though the rough and unknown road shapes us into the people He wants us to be. Our natural tendency is to skip to the easy part, never knowing how our spirit was stunted by choosing comfort.

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I came across this quote last year during a small group study.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I’d love to hear how this strikes you today. If you are in the middle of a difficult “not yet” season, I hope it encourages you. Perhaps you are “already there” and it’s time to push yourself into the unknown.  You only live once; find the next ocean to dream about and allow God to change you and use you in new ways. Please remind me to keep doing the same.

200480620882748974_PFS6FBpe_c“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. “—Psalm 52:8


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In 2013, I Resolve to Date More Jerks

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Have you ever noticed that everyone warns you about the cheater and the liar? By now, you’ve learned how to spot and avoid the player.  The guy nobody ever warns you about is the nice guy.  Friends even recommend the nice guy! But as I thought about it, nearly all my friends and I have been burned by guys people describe as “nice.”  Very few of us have any horror stories from outright “bad” guys…they’re all from “good” guys.  It’s confusing.  Since my blog was getting too pleasant for my own liking anyway, I reflected on some dating stories from friends, and a few of my own, to compile a list of “Nice Guys” to watch out for.

97249673173859414_kFvN4Oog_c[1]The Too Nice to Himself Nice Guy

This guy is the best.  He’s good at his job, plays sports, and goes to church- all of which lead him to believe he deserves the perfect partner.  I like to think he was the most popular kid in his youth group and that this residual awesomeness has blinded him to his own imperfections.  He is, however, not so nice to the girls he is dating and trying out.  They must actually be perfect in order to be good enough for him. Yikes.

 

205265695487000744_hAwPWv4q_c[1]The People Pleaser Nice Guy

This is the type who never says what he truly thinks, and mistakes this behavior for being nice, when in actuality, it’s just cowardly.  He can’t say things that need to be said because he doesn’t want anyone to dislike him or be upset, which in the end is still all about him.  He comes across as nice because he never says anything direct or harsh. Girls get hurt by this guy because they never get to know who is underneath all the “niceness” and it’s very hard to ever unearth the truth.   This type likes to use God and/or others as scapegoats, “I’m super busy at work, maybe we should spend some time apart” or “I prayed about it and I’m still not sure if we should keep dating…but please don’t go date another guy until I know for sure.”  Boo.  You want someone who is willing to make a decision and live with the consequences.

 

114490015498192740_TOJ210EL_c[1]The Inappropriate Friend Nice Guy

He’s so nice…. SO nice.  He’s always there to talk, he really gets you, you never know what the hell is going on.  Are you dating? Are you not dating?  People think you are together but he’s too nice to actually draw a line.  Really, underneath the niceness is a user.  There’s a good chance he doesn’t know if he wants you enough to keep you or cut you off.  Since he enjoys your company and attention, he never does either.

 

 

high fiveThe Nice to Every Girl Nice Guy

Outgoing, a positive attitude, really looks you in the eye when he compliments your hair as he invites you into his Bible study. It all seems so perfect….Except, somehow every other girl in the room feels like the something might be happening between them, too.  His excessive and flirting make it very hard to read the signs. I know what you’re thinking- women should not read into signs. Agreed. We should not.  But I still call foul on this type because most men do not have multiple women thinking they like them at one time.  Nor do they have a long line of broken hearts in their wake.  When that happens, the guilt is partly on the nice guy.

 

There are plenty of genuine nice guys that are kind for the right reasons.  I can think of a number of friends or spouses of friends who go out of their way for others and are grateful for the women in their lives.  I’m beginning to think these men must all have a little jerk in them because they can put their foot down when they need to and say what needs to be said when the time is right.  In the end, you always know where you stand with them.  These qualities don’t always come off as nice, but a bit of a rough edge is a good thing.  My mom has always said I need someone to keep me in line. The fact that I wrote this silly blog post probably proves she’s right;)

Well, there you go! Being the nice girl that I am, I’ve warned you. (If you can’t find double meaning in that, I can’t help you)


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O Little Town of Bethlehem

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136515432426097599_uwEoGtkP_c[1]Merry Christmas Eve! Tonight I want to write about my favorite carol, lyricaly speaking. If we are talking straight Christmas songs, it’s All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. But word wise, it’s O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Phillips Brooks(1835-1893), 1868

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by;

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,

And, gathered all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wondering love.

O morning stars, together

Proclaim the holy birth.

And praises sing to God the King.

And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven.

No ear may hear His coming;

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him,

still The dear Christ enters in.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,

Descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin and enter in;

Be born in us today!

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us,

Our Lord Emmanuel!

This is my favorite carol because of the line, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I like to think of it every night at some point during Christmas Eve. I love to stop and attempt to wrap my head around the moment all of our hopes, all of our fears, for all of mankind, throughout out all of time were met in the person of Jesus. Anything we could ever want or need deep in our souls are somehow realized in Him. Everything we are afraid of, all our pains, and all of our longings are fulfilled in Him.

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For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6


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What Child is This?

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What Child Is This?

William Chatterton Dix, published ca. 1865

What Child is this, who laid to rest,

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian, fear: for sinners here,

The silent Word is pleading.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,

The Cross be borne, for me, for you:

Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;

Come peasant, king to own Him.

The King of Kings salvation brings;

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Raise, raise, the song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby:

Joy joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Jesus could’ve been born at any time, under any circumstances. Really?? A barn in the Middle East? “Why lies He in such mean estate?” Surely He could’ve come up with a plan that didn’t include taking on a feeble body, capable of exhaustion, hunger, pain, and death. It doesn’t make any sense. Martin Luther said, “He sunk Himself into our flesh” and that it is, “beyond all human understanding.”

I’ve always loved the carol, What Child is This? because it asks the question in so many words, “Who would do this?”

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“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

“The Word” is another name for God, and this short verse tells the story of Christmas. It’s describes the unthinkable moment when God came down to live in the harshness of earth. Karl Barth called it the, “climbing down of God.”

This is Christ our King.” He wasn’t born in a palace and he didn’t live a life of comfort. Jesus could’ve surrounded himself with the most powerful and influential people living in that day but chose to hang out with beggars, and outcasts instead. From the way he was born and all the way through his death, Jesus’ entire life was the continual giving up of power, prestige, and well-being.

Quite frankly, Jesus lived his life in the opposite direction I normally try to live mine. He went downward, while I feel a constant desire to move upward. I want to hold on to comfort, safety, and pleasure when those are the exact things he let go of on Christmas. And why did he do this? As the carol says, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” Even as a baby, God was earning our forgiveness.

I heard a great sermon this morning (by my dad:) that touched on the inn keeper in the Christmas story who didn’t have time to deal with Mary and Joseph when they showed up on his doorstep. Can you imagine being that guy? God has literally given up heaven to come to earth and you can’t give up a bed for his pregnant mother. Sadly, I do this kind of thing all the time. Even at Christmas, right when I should be thinking about all Jesus gave up to be here, I find myself too busy with my own agenda to spend quality time with Him. If you’re like me, then it’s time to make it happen- pray, attend a Christmas Eve service, or read the story. However you do it, I pray God meets you in a powerful way this Christmas.


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Online Dating: A Male’s Perspective

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photo (2)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.”

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.)
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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.
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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
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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…
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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.
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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.”
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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.”
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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!”
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So many thoughts….how to keep this a readable length… Ok. I’ll hit two points.
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1. Lists

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.
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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.
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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)

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It’s Fall…. or so They Say

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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)


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I Don’t Know How You Pray, But….

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beach day

 

God,

Wow! My brother’s wedding was amazing! Everything was beautiful and perfect, it truly was. Thank you for blessing me with my family and for gifting us such a wonderful day. I guess it’s not a big deal that my brother is four years younger than me. I mean, on a scale of world problems it’s very tiny. I guess in my world it’s rather BIG… tough to quantify these things…who can really say? It would’ve been nice to have at least had a date. Boyfriend, maybe. Or even an escort like in “The Wedding Date” with the guy that looks like a cute version of Sylvester Stallone. Something along those lines doesn’t feel like too much to ask. You being God and all. … But really, WHAT THE HECK? Have you forgotten me? Are you torturing me? No… that doesn’t sound like you….I know, you are probably working on my character…again… Which by the way I feel good about and would love to avoid more future growing experiences if possible. Not that you’re asking.

Lesson One: Answering if I’m still single, who I came with, or hearing awkward well-meaning encouragement laced with pity six times that day in many variations was you working on my humility.

Lesson Two: Having my foot stepped on the second I took my shoes off. (What exactly is the connection between the two?) I did a pretty good job cursing under my breath as opposed to shouting amongst friends and family. Good skill to have.

Lesson Three: Breaking off two relationships this year closer to the wedding than I would’ve liked was you… hating me?? Wait, no. You love me. I have no idea what the lesson is. You’ll have to be more clear on this one.

Lesson Four: Having Grandpa save the day when the couples song played was a reminder that love comes in all forms and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Most handsome man at the wedding!

Lesson Five: Standing in my fourteenth wedding. You want to root me from all love of money.

Lesson Six: Having the rest of the bridal party tell me they thought I was only 24.  Awesome! I look good! Or, I come across as immature. ..hmmm…

Lesson Seven: Catching the bouquet! Assuming the superstition is real, things are about to look up for me! Wait, that’s probably bad theology. Is that a problem?

We found a love in a hopeless place

Lesson Eight: Seeing Mark happily commit his life to a wonderful girl and begin a life together centered on you reminded me to wait for great. It does exist.

Much love and lukewarm trust,

Cindy


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