Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Preparation

Although I don't have time to write a full post today, I highly recommend rereading Preparing for War pt. 2 today.  Because it is New Year's Eve, we all need to be on full alert in regards to Satan's schemes.  Stay in a spirit of prayer and meditate on scripture so tonight will be fun and faith filled.  With this type of heart and attitude you won't have to begin the new year with regrets and guilt.

Remember, God is the God of our yesterdays, our tomorrows, and our present.  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boundaries: Book Review

As promised in my post George Bailey: A Boundryless Man, here is my review to the wonderful book, Boundaries:

Do you ever find yourself saying yes to things you don’t want to do?  Do you have difficulties controlling your time, money, and affection?  Perhaps you are a people pleaser.  The book Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend clearly point out the problems of people pleasing, and teach practical, effective methods for setting healthy boundaries in our everyday lives.

Both Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend are highly qualified individuals to speak on the subject of boundaries.  Townsend is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist.  He also serves as the Clinical Director for the American Association of Christian Counselors.  Cloud is also a clinical psychologist with a wide background of experiences to draw from.  He specializes in leadership and media advice.

Cloud and Townsend co-authored Boundaries, with the goal of helping people gain a life of love, freedom, responsibility, and service.  After thoroughly reading the book, I can safely say that their goal was accomplished in my life.  While Christians are called to lover others as themselves, we often times forget the part about loving ourselves.  Boundaries makes clear when, where, and how to draw the line between the two.

Cloud and Townsend make the point that we can’t love fully if we are giving out of guilt, pressure, or a sense of “feeling like you should.”  When we set clear limits on what we will and will not do with our own resources, we experience more freedom to do what we want.  In this fashion we love more readily and prohibit people from stealing our resources, time, and affection.

The layout of the book is tricky to follow at first.  Step by step instructions, countless examples, and dozens of stories left me feeling confused and overwhelmed initially.  After digging in to the book a little further, I quickly saw how important boundaries really were.  The rest of the steps in the book began to make more sense as I read on.

Boundaries is a great read for anyone, but especially those who struggle with telling people no or pushing people beyond their limits.  Cloud and Townsend communicate limits in a practical, biblical way that help clearly define our own personal responsibilities.  

The three main points I learned from this book are as follows:

  1. YOU are responsible for YOUR actions, time, and money.  Often times we tend to shift blame on other people when we do things we don't want to do.  A line I often use is, "I'd love to, but ____ wants me to do something with her on that day, sorry."  I then leave the conversation feeling angry at the person I promised my time to, and guilty for not spending time with who I want to.  The problem with this is that the only person I should be blaming is myself.  No one said I had to do what I did not want to do.  When we love people out of guilt we are not really loving them at all.  It is a forced love.  Often times fake, forced love and affection will ultimately lead to depression.

    I also realized that other people can't make me angry.  I choose how I want to respond to other people.  While I cannot choose how other people treat me, I can choose how I will respond to their treatment.  When I get mad and resentful, I am letting these people control me.  However, should I choose to remain calm and clearly communicate my limits with them, I remain in control of me.
  2. YOU are NOT responsible for other people's reactions.  As a loving Christian, I sometimes go out of my way to help people with their problems, finances, and personal situations.  This is good.  I am called to love others as myself, however when I continually bail my friend out of a tight financial spot, I am not helping myself or them.  First, I am giving out of habit or obligation.  There is no love or cheerfulness in my heart (2 Corinthians 9:7.)  Second, I am teaching that person to rely on others to take care of their responsibilities.  The person in need never learns to grow up and become a responsible adult, thus the cycle continues.
  3. By setting specific boundaries on how you will not spend your time and money, you can better invest in the areas you do choose to invest in.  This strategy helps keep my life focused and prioritized.  By learning to more readily say no to things I honestly don't want to do, I will be more able to pour myself into the things I say yes too.  

James 5:12
"...Above all, my brothers, do not swear--
not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.
Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No" be no,
or you will be condemned."

Guarding Your Mind

As you may already know, this blog points a lot of attention to Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  This verse tells us that our heart is the most sacred of all places we hold inside ourselves.

From this treasured spot flow our thoughts and desires, which then lead to our words and actions.  Our words and actions are what make up our character.  They have the ability to glorify God or commit sin (Mark 7:15, James 3:8-10.)

Matthew 12:34 says, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."  and Romans 12:2 tells us to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" so we can test and approve God's will, and 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ."  These are strong powerful truths that can help us break the bonds Satan has been wrapping around us with his web of lies.

We need to realize that not all of our thoughts come from us.  Many of them come from our sinful nature, a.k.a. Satan.  Paul talks about such spiritual warfare in Romans 7.  Though we are set free in Christ, we often times still struggle with the temptations of the flesh.  Because Satan is the father of lies, he begins tempting us with a lie  (John 8:44.)

These lies are first brought to us through a thought in our head that comes from Satan.  When you catch yourself thinking something that doesn't exactly glorify your maker, it is your choice what to do at that point.
  • Option A) You can feed off of this lie and run with it.  Let your imagination carry you wherever it wishes.  Fantasize about that man, dwell on the anger that relative caused you, or build up your frustration so you can let it all out.  Though this is the option we naturally and most commonly take, it rarely ever ends well.
  • Option B) You can stop this web of lies immediately by calling out Satan and reminding him that you are a child of God who has been set free from all these childish games (Romans 6:6, Galatians 3:26, 1 Corinthians 13:11.)
As I explained in Preparing for War pt. 2, God gives us all the tools we need to fight against Satan, in Ephesians 6.  Not only that, but Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that if we would only pray to God about anything and everything, our MINDS would be guarded by the peace of God.  Yes, our minds, this means that we can learn to control our actions and words by protecting our minds from believing lies Satan throws at us.  This idea is reinforced by 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Matthew 26:41, and Ephesians 6:18.

The next time you catch a negative thought entering your mind, try praying a prayer that goes something like this,
Father, I know without a doubt that this thought is not from you.  It is negative and sinful and know it is a lie.  Your word says if I pray to you, you will protect my mind from such things.  Please God, take this thought out of my head and help me focus on your Word instead.  Renew my mind so that I may test and approve your will.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

THEN, take out your verse of the week and recite it to yourself.  Quoting scripture is always a good way to reinforce the holy thoughts bouncing around in your brain.  Even Jesus used this tactic (Matthew 4.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

During the Holidays

After reading this post you may agree with my brother and think that I have way too much thinking/observing time on my hands, but that's okay, it's what I do.  Through a combination of observing past holiday experiences and present circumstances I have caught on to another tactic of Satan.

Some of you may remember my post in early November Preparing for War, and Preparing for War pt. 2 in which I warned of Satan's Holiday tactics.  As I have survived Thanksgiving and Christmas (knock on wood,) I have noticed that these tactics of Satan have been executed once again.

In my previous post I described how the process starts.  You might have seen these plays used on you around Thanksgiving time.  Now that Christmas is over I think it is interesting to evaluate how we all handled the temptations thrown at us (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

In my own life, I have had randomly had several extra "male callers" lately.  What makes it interesting is that these men and I have nothing in common, and this has previously been established.  However, when I got the first random text a few weeks ago, all I could do was giggle at Satan's attempt to trip up both me and the fellow.  When I fall, it always begins with a random text from a random guy.

As I told my brother, if God hadn't of clearly warned me to watch out for Satan (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10) and closely guard my thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:6-8), I would have undoubtedly fallen into the lust trap as I have so many times before.  Fortunately, I promised myself I would stay in the Word and on guard throughout this Christmas break.  When I am obedient, God is faithful.

Not only have I seen Satan try to trip me up with emotional lust and attachment, but I have closely watched it happen to many other people in my life, both this year and years past.  Think of any dating or talking couple in your life right now.  Have they not become closer throughout this holiday season?  I've seen strong single girls sink into texting guys they know they won't be with during this time of year.

Watch Facebook and you'll see twice as much flirting.  Many of my Facebook friends have been playing the "Date or Pass" game to try and find a date.  I'm sure you've seen the lonely statuses too.  Everywhere you turn people are coupling up or complaining about being single until someone does couple up with them.  Why?  Because everyone wants to feel loved, especially during the holidays.  This is not a sin, it's how we are made.

It becomes a sin however, when we take these desires to someone/thing before we take them to God.  No person will ever completely fulfill us if we don't first learn how to rest in God. (Philippians 4:12)  It is also a sin when these desires give birth to sin (James 1:15.)

So right now, in the middle of the Christmas break, before New Years, I ask that you would examine some things in your life and on your mind right now.
Have you recently seen a relationship spring up in your life that does not honor God?
Have you turned to a relationship or person to take away your impatience during this season of life?
Are your actions reflecting your faith in God or your ability to do things in your own power?
Are certain thoughts causing you to stumble?  Where do these thoughts come from?

Do you feel as if you have distanced yourself from God over the past few weeks or month?

The Worst PR Response EVER

As a Public Relations major, I often find the PR side of life in all sorts of random things.  Today I was listening to some good ol' Dixie Chicks music when I stumbled upon the song that ended their career.  I almost forgot about the controversy this three and a half minute sucker stirred up, but after listening to the lyrics I quickly remembered.

Before the song was released, the lead singer Natalie had made some negative comments about our then president, George Bush.  This was where the crisis began to sink in.  Many people boycotted the Chicks's music, and quickly defended their fearless leader Bush.  While some even agreed with Natalie, they still did not sense it appropriate to bash the president on national television.

A few months later the Dixie Chicks performed "Not Ready to Make Nice" live at the 2007 Grammy's.  In my opinion, this was the worst PR move ever.  I have no idea if the Chicks' had a PR person at this time, but if so, I would hope this practitioner immediately got fired.  

The message of the song is prideful and arrogant.  Natalie makes it very clear that she does not care what the nation thinks, she still doesn't like the president, and she is not going to take back a thing she said.  This is the worst tactic for a crisis situation.  As time and PR tells, the move definitely ended her multi-million dollar career, and her world-known success.

Anybody heard their latest song?  Exactly.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Following Him

Have you ever been lost? Did you wonder where to go to get directions? Where a map was? Even wonder which way was north? We have all been lost, and we have all found a way to get back on the right path. The same goes for our spiritual life as it does for our physical life -- we all get lost, but God will always lead us back home.

Honestly, who hasn't been lost (physically and/or spiritually)? I have. The funny thing is that there is one answer for both -- GOD! He can always lead you home, but you have to ask for his help. Prayer is the most powerful tool that man possesses. It is a lot harder to try and do things on our own than it is to ask for help, so why not ask the one who can help in any situation?

There's only one catch -- God doesn't just want to be in our lives when we need help, he wants to be in our lives at all times. He doesn't want us to fall on our knees in times of sadness and pain only, but also during times of joy and happiness. God deserves credit for all of the good things in life, and we are all guilty of not giving him the credit he deserves.

I wish I could say I have always given Him all of the glory for everything good in my life but I haven't. Because of self-pride and acts of selfishness I have gave myself credit for some of it, although, I know deep down inside I could not have done it without my Lord and Savior. I hope to follow His path and go where He leads me, instead of following my own selfish acts as I have done in the past. My will is not perfect, but His is.

                                                                                        Contributed by: Lynsie Watkins

Monday, December 19, 2011

George Bailey: A Boundryless Man

The last few weeks I have been reading a book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, called Boundaries.  Although I'm only one third through the book, I am beginning to really understand what these wise men are talking about.

The first week I read the book I couldn't possibly see how any of it applied to my life.  Quickly after the fact, God revealed to me how much I people-please and often let others walk over me.  Since then I have continued reading the book and I am already seeing changes in my lifestyle and relationships.  I also have seen a deep continued need for setting boundaries in my own life.

Yesterday a group of friends and I went to the local theater and watched the 1946 American classic, It's a Wonderful Life, with James Stewart and Donna Reed.  One of my favorite Christmas movies, my family has watched this film every year since the day I was born probably.  This year however, I picked up on an altogether different theme as I watched it for the thousandth time.

If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend you do.  I apologize if I refer to something you do not understand.  If this tends to be the case, check out the movie and then come reread this post.  Better yet, read the book too, then maybe my babbling will make complete sense!

About half way through George Bailey's life, (the main character of the film) I began to see exactly what Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend had been teaching me about all week.  The poor man can't say no to anyone!  George turned down EVERY desire of his in order to help others.

When he was a kid, he lost the hearing in his right ear to save his kid brother.  As a young adult, he gave his college money to his brother while he took care of his father's old loan building.  George Bailey gave money to everyone who asked, even when he didn't have it.  In fact, he even handed out the $2,000 he saved for his honeymoon!  Once again, because of his inability to say no, he never even took his wife on a honeymoon.

Time after time again, George Bailey represses his desires in exchange for the needs of the greater public.  Yes, I realize the point of the movie isn't boundaries, but this is just a clear picture of it.  As explained in Boundaries, the more we repress our own desires, thoughts, and feelings on account of other people, the more anger and bitterness we store up inside of us.  This eventually gets us to the point where our yes doesn't mean yes, and our no doesn't mean no (Matthew 5:37.)

In the movie, we watch George Bailey go throughout his entire life, never telling a single person no.  As explained, all of his resentment and anger builds itself up, until at last he explodes with anger, letting everyone he loves feel scared and belittled.

The breaking point for all of this anger, is when his business partner, Uncle Billy, misplaces $8,000 of the company's money.  Because George does not clearly understand boundaries, (where his responsibility ends and another's begins) he once again takes full blame for a mistake that would lead him to jail.  The following scene truly captures his unclear thinking in boundaries when Potter asks him, "You misplaced $8,000 dollars?"  and George replies, "yes."

Unfortunately, the director of this movie didn't read the book Boundaries, so we watch the entire movie, and despite a happy ending, George never learns to say no, nor let go of others' responsibilities.  If you have read Boundaries you probably understand where I am coming from.  Those of you who haven't read it, again I encourage you to do so, so that my point can be made for me. lol just kidding...sort of...

I will write a review for Boundaries when I finish reading, thus making this post more understandable.  Happy Monday everyone and thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Thoughts Regarding the Proverbs 31 Movement

Several friends of mine have brought to my attention the Proverbs 31 Movement.  Perhaps you may have seen the logo on Pinterest of Facebook.  Anyhow a wonderful blogger I follow, named Preston, stirred things up a bit as he very humbly and biblically corrected the movement.  You can see one out of the three posts he published here.

 (While you're there I recommend following his blog and checking out some of the other posts--great stuff!)

Anyhow, I have studied Proverbs 31 on my own lately and this is what the Word tells me.

First of all, Proverbs 25-31 were written specifically as advice for leaders.  Proverbs 31 is wisdom King Lemuel has learned from his mother.  The first 9 verses have very good points such as:

  • Watch out for adulterous women
  • Don't get drunk on wine
  • Defend the poor and weak
The next verses (10-31) are the infamous "Proverbs 31 Woman" that we all have come to love or hate.  Something I learned while studying this chapter appealed to me as very interesting.  Verses 10-31 are an acrostic, meaning each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  We use acrostics for all sorts of cutsie little things now.  I'm not totally sure if the acrostic was used for the same types of things back then or not, but an example can be found in the picture to the right.

While the common misconception is that the Proverbs 31 Woman is an example we are all supposed to follow word for word, this is false.  As Preston stated, there are many other noble women in the bible worth following who don't meet the P31W standards.  (I'm pretty sure that just affirms their human citizenship.)

Some theologians even suspect the passage is a picture of womanhood altogether, not just one single woman.  This makes sense because how many women do you know who are a manufacturer, farmer, seamstress, merchant, wife, and mother, who never sleep?  If you answered yes, this woman might be a robot.

Anyhow, as with every point ever made in the Bible, we can always draw it back to our two main commandments as Christians.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind first.  Then, love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-40)

As verse 30 touches on, what makes this woman beautiful is not her talents, careers, and style, but her deeply fearing heart for the Lord.  Our overall goal as Christians is not to maintain a superb standard, or to outserve everyone else.  Our goal is not to imitate the P31W,  nor Ester, nor Sarah, nor any other woman in the bible.  

No, our goal as Christian women is to imitate Christ and let him mold us and shape us into the life-long sanctification process of becoming women of God, who love the Lord with gladness and strive to give him glory, honor, and praise everyday of our lives because our hearts are so broken before him.  Our goal is to live and love in true humility that comes from knowing and receiving the gospel of Christ which we did not even deserve in the first place.  
(Ephesians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Romans 6:18) 

This is what the P31W is pointing us to, a life lived in reverence to Christ.  If you try to do all that she does in your own strength you will fail.  Not only that, but you will be running around like a chicken with your head cut off, ignoring all the real important things in life because you are busy worrying about your next sale or investment.  This is not at all how Jesus calls us to live. 
(Ephesians 5:2, Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 6:33, Psalm 28:7)

So my goal for you today is this: seek to imitate Christ above all else.  Love him with every part of your heart, even the parts you don't want anyone else to see.  Love him until it hurts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where I Come From

I absolutely love every lyric to this song.  It's so true to real life in a small town.  From the big moon shinin', to the fact that nobody calls the cops, Montgomery Gentry nailed this song completely.  One of my favorite lines is

See that door right there
Man, I swear that it ain't never been locked
And I guarantee that it never will

Probably the absolute hardest thing for me to get used to in the city was locking doors.  I didn't decide to all of a sudden start locking doors out of fear, actually in my own naivety I would have kept things unlocked. Fortunately/unfortunately, I had three roommates last year who were all from large cities and they were absolutely anal about locking the doors.

A quick trip to the car and back consisted of carrying my keys with me, something that I thought was absolutely ridiculous.  I have this theory that if someone wants to break into your house bad enough, they'll break in--whether the door is locked or not.  I also don't put too much value on "stuff," so if my apartment were to get broken into it wouldn't be the end of the world for me.  Convenient yes, devastating, no.

To say the least, I am 20 years old and I have YET to see the key to my parent's house.  We do lock doors when we leave town, but we just come in through the garage when we get back, which is opened with a key pad.  I also never took my car keys out of my car till I moved to college.  I realize now that some people think this is ridiculous, but to me it was all I had known growing up.

After three years of college I have begun to feel like I am very city-trained now.  Out of respect for my roommates, I always lock the door, and my car, and carry my keys with me.  I take my keys in with me when I go shopping every time.  Well, almost every time.

A couple of days ago I went to a doctors appointment downtown.   As I walked out of the office, I reached in my pocket for my car keys and found nothing.  Rummaging through my purse, (which is entirely too large I've decided,) I still found nothing.  Getting frustrated, I lugged my suitcase, I mean purse, on top of my car and opened up wide to see if the keys had fallen to the bottom.  Nope, nothin'.  

Pausing to think of where these keys would have gone, I then sighed as a light bulb went off in my head.  I walked around the car, opened the door, and found my keys sitting nicely in the ignition where I had left them, my backpack, CD's, and recent purchases were siting in the front seat right next to it, untouched. :)

I guess there are some habits that you just can't take out of a country girl.  Thank God for the grace he has laid around my head!

Friday, December 9, 2011


God has really laid it on my heart to share this video with you all.  I haven't seen it in a few years, but last night it was laid strongly on my mind.  I really pray that you watch this and think about the baggage in your own life.  Where did come from?  How did it start?  Are you still carrying it?

I hope you sincerely feel the weight of the baggage we carry around.  Soetimes these pains, hurts, and failures get so stored up that they come out as anger.  Other times they are released when we do physical harm to ourselves.  And sometimes we take this baggage to other people and ask them to fix it.  Often times it is a boyfriend or a girlfriend who we try let heal us.  

The truth is, all of these attempts at healing and breaking free from the baggage are failed.  Although it may seem right at the time, we do in turn, end up picking up even more baggage. 

So today I want you to do something for yourself.  I want you to sit down and make a list of all the "bags" you've picked up.  Start with the biggest, deepest hurt in your life.  Where did that come from?  What other bags did it lead to?  Write them down specifically.

Then, I want you to take each bag individually and pray through it with your savior.  If it was pain from the words of your parents, ask God to give you the grace to forgive  them.  If it was being bullied in elementary school, pray for those bullies (Matthew 6:44) and let Jesus take away the bondage you have to them.

Work your way through the whole list, giving each specific bag to God.  Allow him to heal you and make you whole again through this process.  There are two rules to this activity.

1.  After you give the bag to God, you can't pick it back up.  
Satan will try to give it back to you undoubtedly, but this is when you are to be on guard and pray against it.  Pray that God would remind you that he has it under control.  It's not yours anymore.  (Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:7)  Let go.

2.  You cannot skip bags.
As badly as I want you to be free to dance in grace, I don't want you to do this at all if you aren't going to lay down every single bag.  If you skip one, it is most likely because it is the hardest one to let go of.  The cut is so deep it has defined you.  You skip over it because letting go is too painful.  Well guess what, that isn't going to heal anyone.  

Jesus said, "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

His life, Jesus said.  Not just a few things here and there, but everything.  You see, the call to follow Jesus requires your everything.  He never once calls for pieces of our obedience or faithfulness.  No, the Lord commands our all if we are to truly experience freedom in him.

So don't skip that bag.  Take a long extended amount of time to be with God and work through that tough bag.  It will make all the difference.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dead Week.

It's dead week!!  Sorry I haven't posted the last few days..I have written 40 pages of academic work instead.  Get in the word and comment to tell me what you've read this week! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ode to My Hair

Oh hair, oh hair,
What color are you?
How desperate, how desperate,
I wish that I knew

My eyes are simple,
They’re big bold and blue,
But hair, oh hair,
What color are you?

Are you gold and yellow
Like that good lookin’ fellow
Or dark and thin
Like my latino friend?

Hair, oh hair,
What color are you?
In middle school you were pink,
Red, purple, and blue.

Now I am older,
More natural too.
But that hair, long hair
Is indecisive as you!

Some say it red
Like the fire is on my head,
Others say it gold,
Or so I am told,
But none agree with the shade that it be.

For now I won’t care,
hair, oh hair
what color you wear.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Game of Life

What is the meaning of life? Is it finding someone to share your life with that will make you happy? Is it living everyday like it will be your last? Is it being devoted to helping others? Life is what you make of it -- it can be one, some, all, or even more than those things. Everyone has a different definition of what "life" is, but anyone who keeps God first will discover the true meaning of life.

Life is like a basketball game. Your family and friends are like your teammates - with the right people surrounding you, you can do anything you set your mind to. The people who try to pull you down are like the opposing team -- they will do anything they can to keep you from succeeding. And last but definitely not least, God is like the coach -- if you follow his game plan, all of the "plays" will be ran the way they were designed.

A basketball team is nothing without their coach, and we are nothing without God. We may not always pick the right "play" to run, but that doesn't mean God will kick us off his team. Every coach knows their team won't play a game, much less a season, completely flawless, and God knows that it is impossible for any human to go a day, much less a lifetime, without making a mistake -- Jesus was and will be the only perfect person to walk this Earth. Just as a coach would make you run to make up for the mistakes, God wants us to ask him for forgiveness to make up for our mistakes in life - its not an easy task but you have to do it to stay on the winning team. As long as we keep God first and follow His game plan we can be proud of everything we accomplish in the game of life.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." - Philippians 4:13

                                                Contributed by: Lynsie Watkins

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What is "Hanging Out?"

One of the hardest things for me to get used to in the city is the difference in "hanging out."   No, I am not talking about anything sexual, and I'm not referring to body parts of any kind.  I am talking about spending good quality time with friends of your choice.

Urban Dictionary says the term usually refers to some type of fun with friends, but the way country kids describe fun and the way city kids describe fun is completely different.

In the small town I call home, my friends and I spent our high school days getting into every kind of fun available, (which obviously forced us to come up with creative alternatives to the ideal.)  Although most nights in my town consisted of sittin' on tailgates in front of the Farmer's Coop gas station, there were the occasional full-moon nights like described in my posts, The Grain Bins, and Taggin' Up the Ag Barns, and Climbin' the Water Tower.  

Every time I visit home my friends are constantly walking in and out of the house, just dropping in to "hang out."  When I say hang out, I mean literally hang out.  Most normally we all sit around the bar in the kitchen and watch my mother cook, while talking about whatever the latest gossip might be.  These chat sessions usually last 2-4 hours, sometimes longer.  The great part is, we can do this any part of the day, any day of the week.  There are no operating hours, rules, or regulations, just good folk sittin' around swappin' stories and reminscin' on the good times past, present, and future.

This type of leisure time was all I had ever known when I moved to the big city.  I had more talking hours with my friends that I could even count, and this for one thing, is what I contribute to making us so close.  My first semester in college proved to be a shock when I asked my new acquaintances if they wanted to hang out.  

"Yeah sure!" they'd reply, "I'm available from 1-2 on Thursday, or 3-5 on Mondays and Wednesdays, which works best for you?"

Looking back with a blank stare I would reply with a broad answer like, "anytime."  Who knew you had to be fit into the schedule of these city slickin' folk!  Who did they think they were anyhow, the president??

"Great! You want to meet me at McAlister's downtown or at the Union on campus?" they would say next.

Good grief, I would think.  Why can't you just come over unannounced and watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns with me, I wanted to reply.  At first I took this highly scheduled alternative to hanging out as a slap in the face.  Why didn't people like me here?  I had always been the life of the party before, perhaps it was my look, my personality, or my sense of humor.  Is there something I say that offends them?  Why don't they want to spend time with me for longer than an hour?

Before too long I soon found the answer to these disturbing questions.  
It's the city.  Everyone's on a schedule.  
This came through loud and clear as I began juggling harder classes, internships, meetings, and fun.  Yes, I gave in and started scheduling "fun" in my planner.  As ridiculous as I still think this all is, I now understand that this is not a slap in the face, a rude suggestion, or a stuck-up habbit.  It is the way things must be handled on busy schedules with busy people.

Although I have come to cherish the 30 minute-to-an-hour lunches with my friends, I still feel most relieved when I'm back home with friends who have no schedule, no responsibilities, and no need to rush off.  Now that's how your soul gets fed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dating v. Courting (Tom Brown)

A friend of mine sent me this link on Facebook.  I couldn't agree more with the context of this article.  Here is a snippet of it, but for the whole thing you can follow this link:

Dating verses Courting 
By Tom Brown

Joshua Harris wrote a book with a provocative title, "I’ve kissed dating goodbye." You need to kiss dating goodbye. I believe that dating is the world’s way to find a spouse. Many might be wondering, If I don’t date, how am I going to find a spouse?

You should find a spouse through courting. Courtship is more of a scriptural way to meet a prospective spouse than dating. What is the difference between dating and courting? Let me say first of all: Don’t get hung up on terms. It is possible to use the word date but not necessarily have the same understanding as my definition. I am giving you my definition of dating. If you say you date but don’t do what I define dating as being, then I feel you are practicing courting, although you might still use the term dating.

My definition of dating is that it is a modern game where intimacy is practiced before commitment. It often involves romantic talk, holding hands, kissing, making out, and oftentimes sex. Commitment never proceeds intimacy. The word date comes from the word mate. It doesn’t sound good to tell someone you are mating with Mr. X. You prefer to use the word dating. It sounds so much better, but in reality, dating and mating are sometimes the same. I looked up the worddate in my encyclopedia and it said, "see Sex and Teenage." Even my encyclopedia agrees with my definition.

Courtship is the time-honored and successful practice of learning about someone enough to know whether or not the two is compatible for marriage. It often involves friendship, discussing each individual’s future plans, knowing the parents if they’re alive, and praying privately for God’s will in the matter. After deciding it is God’s will to get married, the couple prays together and then go to their parents to seek their blessings and finally to the pastor to seek his approval. After engaged the couple still avoids intimacy until marriage. Commitment comes before intimacy.

Someone might be thinking, How old is this writer? I’m under forty, and my wife, Sonia, and I proved that courtship could work in this modern age. We both were virgins when we married each other. So don’t tell me that this is unrealistic. We never kissed or even held hands until we were engaged. It can work. We’ve been married for almost 18 years, and are still in love. J

Why people fall away from the Lord?

I’ve been pastoring for almost two decades, and I’ve noticed that the number one reason people are led away from God is because they get involved in a relationship which is not honoring God. People rarely fall away from God as a result of drugs, alcohol, or cults. Christianity is a relationship, so it stands to reason that an unholy relationship will be the number one cause of backsliding.

We are relational people. Our faith is based on a relationship with God. We need a relationship with God to fulfill us. Satan knows this, so he tries to replace your relationship with God with a wrong relationship with another. If he can succeed, you will discover that your relationship with God will suffer.

Dating is Satan’s method of getting you distracted from God. As I said before, dating involves intimacy. Once a person develops intimacy, they can easily make each other out to be idols. The Romeo and Juliet syndrome takes place.

"Oh, I can’t live without you! I need you! You are everything to me!"

Like Romeo and Juliet you will began to despise the advice of your parents and others who care for your spiritual well being. You will soon give more and more time to this person. You will began to spend less time with your family and Christian friends. Before you know it, you rarely attend church.

"Who cares, I’m in love!" you say. Remember the end of Romeo and Juliet: they killed themselves! That is not exactly a romantic ending.

Satan tried it on me

Hey, I am a guy! I know what I’m talking about. Satan tried to get me involved in wrong relationships with different girls. Oh, they were so pretty! But they weren’t born-again, Spirit-filled girls. I knew God had called me into the ministry, so I realized my choice for a wife was critical. None of the girls I liked were interested in being a preacher’s wife.
Satan almost got me on several occasions. One girl, who was drunk at the time, said to me, "Tom, with you being religious and all that, and me being such a sinner, we would make a good couple." Yea, sure?

When I met Sonia at church, I asked her to play tennis with me. We saw each other every week at a nursing home that we ministered at together. We went out a couple of times. In all those months, we never saw each other as idols. We were simply good friends.
The trouble with many marriages is they are built on sex, not friendship. There is more to a marriage than sex. Yes, sex is fun, it has its place, but friendship is even more important.

Many argue that unless you have sex before marriage, you might not be satisfied with your spouse’s performance. They say, "Better find out if you are compatible sexually before marriage than after marriage."

You know this argument is so lame. Common sense tells us that sex will be wonderful so long as you are in love with the person. It doesn’t matter if they can do gymnastics in bed, what matters most, is if they love you. Sex is meaningful with someone you love. You can learn to perform better as you go along. That is part of the fun.

Get it out of your system

Another argument of the proponents of sex before marriage is this: if you wait until marriage to have sex, then you will always desire more; better to get it out of your system before marriage than to do it after marriage.

This argument is so ridiculous. I would argue just the opposite. Sex can be addictive. I’m more worried about playboys settling down.

Take for example a man who hates to shop. He decides to go to Wal-Mart and gets himself some overalls. Let me ask you this question: how long do you think he will keep his clothes? Remember he doesn’t have many clothes. Yet, you and I both know he probably will keep those overalls for many years.

On the other hand, a woman who loves to shop will buy some expensive clothes and add them to her dozens of outfits. How long do you think she will wear them? Not very long.
You see you don’t have to try on many clothes before you will be satisfied with what you bought. My wife loves to shop. She will take hours trying on different dresses to see which one she likes. Finally, she decides on a dress, only to take it back later. On the other hand, I try on one pair of shoes, it fits, and I take it home. I will wear those shoes out until my wife encourages me to get another pair.

Trying on different people does not make it less likely that you will want to keep the one you picked. Actually, chances are you will more likely become dissatisfied with the person you married, because you know what others are like, and you might start to reminisce about the other guys you slept with. But someone who knows only one person, does not have anyone else to compare him with, and is more likely to be satisfied with their "one and only".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unconditional Love

My cousin Brian has been going through a tough time lately.  After being married for only one year, he and his wife decided to take some time a part.  It has now been two months and he has only received a few text messages from his wife over the past two weeks.  He has not seen her, touched her, or held her all this time, and she is his wife.  With this kind of treatment most people would tell Brian to give up, throw in the towel, and call it quits.

Thankfully, my cousin serves a God greater than himself, and because of his love for Christ he has chosen to love his wife.  Ephesians 5:21 says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  This is how we know it is biblical to love regardless of what we receive in return.

In Dr. Emerson Eggerich's book, Love and Respect, he uses the acronym COUPLE to explain to men how to love their wives unconditionally. The best way for a man to love his wife is through Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty, and Esteem.  For the full synopsis of each word you will have to read the book and apply it to your own life.

One of the practical application steps for husbands is to write their wives love notes.  Brian chose to do this just the other day.  I have chosen to share his note with you all as an example of loving selflessly.  Keep in mind she hasn't given him the time of day for the past two weeks.

"...I want you to know that I'm sorry for the way I have been for our first year of marriage and even before that. I was just plugging through life with no direction or motivation. Maybe I thought well I'm married now that's all I need, no reason to try and improve anything. I hope that you can forgive me for being so disconnected to you and for being so lazy. Regardless of whether you decide to give our love another chance or not please forgive my actions. Even if you feel there is nothing to forgive, I assure you there is. I cannot make you love me, nor would I want to try to put you through that. But I do offer you my love, it has always been there even though my actions didn't always show it. While I also have some doubt about whether we can make this work or not, I am still hanging on to a tiny glimmer of hope that you will still want to try. Don't you think we owe it to ourselves to at least try? This excerpt was quite encouraging to me. I feel like I have changed quite a bit the last couple of months. I am still not even close to where I want to be, but definitely headed in the right direction. I know you mentioned something similar in your letter to me. I see no reason he cannot head in these directions together, no reason we cannot shine our brightest together. I am humbled today for what I have been through recently. I am thankful for your actions, regardless of the final outcome, because they have awoken me from a great slumber and in turn began to make me a better man. I am excited to see you Thursday. I have no expectations of anything but am remaining hopeful. Just know that I am still here waiting to love you, if you are ready, if you are willing."

This is an example of reflecting Christ's love for us.  We did nothing in the first place to receive it, yet no person in their right mind can run from this much love and commitment.  Have you ever realized just how much Christ loves you, despite your decision to run from him?  Look at this excerpt from Nehemiah chapter 9.  In just three short verses God's unconditional love for us is made abundantly clear.

Nehemiah 9:29-31
"You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. 
 they sinned against your ordinances, by which man will live if he obeys them. 
 Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 
 For many years you were patient with them. 
 By your spirit you admonished them through your prophets. 
 Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. 
 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, 
for you are a gracious and merciful God."

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