Friday, November 30, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Subtitle and Chance to Win!

As November passes by we are one month closer to the release of my book, True Love Dates (Zondervan, August 2013)!!

I'm excited to announce some of the subtitle ideas we've been brainstorming with the team at Zondervan, and would ask that you please take a moment to comment and place your vote!

All who vote will be entered to win one of the classic dating books by Dr. Townsend and Cloud called "Boundaries in Dating" (or if you're married, my all time favorite marriage book "The Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas). 

The top three subtitles (in no specific order) are:

1.  True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life
2.  True Love Dates: Three Dates to Finding the Love of Your Life
3.  True Love Dates:  Finding True Love Within the Chaos of Dating

How to win:
1.  Cast Your Vote by commenting in this post! - (Name gets put in the drawing 1x)
2.  Refer a friend to vote and have them put your name in the comment box (Each friend that votes  = Additional opportunities to have your name drawn- no limits!)

Thanks for your help and I'm excited to share these great books with you!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can Jesus take the place of a girlfriend...err, boyfriend?

Genesis 2:18
It is not good for man to be alone...

"Jesus is your boyfriend now..."

I was watching a funny you tube video by this comedian who talks about stuff Christian singles hear.  It's full of phrases that most Christian singles have heard at some point in their lives.  Lines about waiting on God, happening when you least expect it, and viewing Jesus as your significant other...

Things people actually say.  Things Christian people actually say.  

But, I wonder, for all the struggling singles out there- are those phrases really helpful?  I mean, is it even possible for Jesus to take the place of your significant other, for Him to be your make believe boyfriend in times of loneliness and isolation?

For some people, those phrases are.  For some people, they can look past the simplicity of those phrases and make a place for Jesus in their hearts as their companion, friend, and significant other.  But I know for me as a single woman...that was hardly the case.

I used to feel this terrible guilt when I was single.  I felt guilty for longing for a husband.  Guilty that Jesus wasn't filling the voids and deficits in my heart.  Guilty that Jesus was not "enough" for me, because deep down I longed to be in a relationship, to find true love, and to hurry up and get married!  As much as I was in relationship with Jesus, and as much as I loved Him with all of my heart...there still seemed to be room for someone else.  A place in my heart that had not yet been filled.  Jesus was my Savior, My Redeemer, and My Love...but I was never really able to make him my boyfriend.

I think as Christians we are too hard on ourselves.  I think we place expectations on our shoulders that are not only unrealistic...they are un-human.  For the single man and woman out there, take heart...even God is on your side with this one!  The truth of the matter is that God himself saw that it was not good for us to be alone.  He creatively fashioned for Adam a wife...and that ancient design to be connected with another human being is something that was placed in your lineage from the very beginning of time. 

If you long for that connection, that relationship, that intimacy with another human being, take were made to have that longing!  It doesn't mean that you are unholy, or that Jesus has not filled your heart the way He should...rather, it means you are human, created in God's image.  A God who loves, who connects, who longs for relationship. 

Jesus can never be your boyfriend/girlfriend, because He was never intended to.  There is a significant part of your heart that was designed specifically for JUST Him....but there is a part of your heart, that was also designed specifically for others. 

He can never be your boyfriend/girlfriend, because He was intended to be so much more than that.  He was intended to be your Master, Your Savior, and your Healer.  He was intended to be your Counselor, Your Peace, and the Love of your life.  He longs for you to be in relationship with Him, but He has made you to also be in relationship with others.  Because He knows how you function, and He knows what's good for you. 

If He is God, then He can really be trusted with your heart, with your future, and with your relationships.  Jesus may never become your significant other, but He can become your significance, your serenity, and your satisfaction.  Trust Him for this. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Evening with a Homeless Man:

Matthew 25:40
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

We were walking the streets of D.C. early this week, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and of course...homeless people.  As we walked by this one particularly busy area on a Sunday evening we noticed 3 homeless men, fighting for a spot on the street.

A fourth man walked by, shaking his head in disdain. He looked to us and said "three homeless men, fighting for a spot on a street they don't even own!  How silly is that?"  To be honest, he looked a little homeless himself.  Dressed in sandals on a cold windy day, and somewhat unkempt hair and clothing.  We smiled at him, and the situation in general, and continued walking. 

Three blocks later, this middle-aged man in sandals was still walking by us- only a few feet away.  

And then came that feeling.  You know, that little voice inside of you that grows louder and louder.  The echo of the Holy Spirit, whispering your name, telling you what He wants you to do.  

"Talk to him," the internal voice said.  "Invite him to grab a bite to eat".  

Really, God?  It's 8:30pm on a Sunday night, in the middle of D.C.  Really, God?  We have our two kids with us, only 25 months and 5 months you really want us to take the time to buy this man a sandwich?  But, it's freezing out!  And our warm hotel is only a block away...

The voice persisted.  God softened my heart with each step and filled me with compassion.  Turning to my husband, we both looked each other in the eyes and knew what we should do. 

"Sir, you don't happen to be homeless do you?"
With a chuckle "Why yes, yes I am..." he said.
"Well, can we buy you something to eat?"

And with that began our conversation with Charles.  A sweet man who had lived through great obstacles and struggles, yet was full of life, wisdom, and strength. We passed our hotel and walked  few more blocks with Charles.  It was a really blessed evening, filled with good conversation, a chance to pray for him, encourage him, learn from him, and get to know him.  A chance for him to get to know us, to hear about our children, and to feel connected in this lonely world once again.  A chance for him to hear about Jesus in our lives, and what He could do in His.  A chance to be the voice, the hands, and the feet of Jesus...even in the freezing cold streets of D.C.  

We were blessed by Charles, and I hope he was blessed by us.  More so, I hope our children, even at such young ages, will learn to live a life that is more in tune with Jesus in their hearts than any other voice in this world.  That they would learn to love, to serve, and to give back all that they have been given. 

Lord, give us the strength to teach them that in how we live our lives. 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why There's No Such Thing as Casual Dating:

Matthew 5:37

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'..."

They'd been dating for about 4 months.  Everything seemed to be going great.  They got a long really well, had similar interests and goals, shared beliefs and values, and simply had a lot of fun together.  But all of a sudden one day, she seemed to back off.  Just like that.  No warning.  No communication.  No answers.  A few weeks later they reconnected, and this is what she said:

"I'm just not ready to commit to this level of dating.  Can we just keep it casual?"

The fallacy of "casual dating" strikes again.  I cringe whenever I hear this phrase.  Though many people use the term in an attempt to maintain space, push off commitment, and implement some distance- in my humble opinion, what it really means is this: I'm just not sure if you're right for me. 

In this day and age, we have a tendency to complicate dating.  I love this verse because it reminds us that simplicity is so important when it comes to our communication with others- including others of the opposite sex.  Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.  If we seriously applied this rule to dating, the "maybe" of casual dating would vanish instantly within the certainty of yes, or no...

Here are a few points to think through if you are stuck at the dead end of casual dating:

1.  Are you past the point of casual?  There is a time and place for casual.  That time is called the stage of the firsts.  First time meeting.  First conversations.  First dates.  In the early stages of dating it should always be casual.  No thinking ahead, no commitments, and definitely no promises.  It's a time of knowing and becoming known.  It's a time of testing interactions, communication, and attraction between two people.  The first few months of dating can be considered casual, because the direction up ahead is still unclear.  But what makes a relationship turn from casual into committed?  The answer is always time.

Within a few months, the very nature of a relationship turns from casual into committed.  The time that you spend together, the conversations you exchange, and the affection you begin to develop can no longer be considered casual.  Once you have entered this stage of a relationship, there should be no going backward.  The future is either a YES, or a NO.  Time should always eliminate maybes, and if it hasn't- then the maybe is actually a NO.

2.  Consider what it is about casual that makes you comfortable:  If you are the one that is longing for casual, you need to ask yourself why.  Either the problem lives within you, or within the relationship.  For some, the baggage of their past brings fears of future, commitment, and permanency.  For others, the relationship itself is not all that they had thought it would be.  They see flaws within the relationship and they're filled with doubts, fears, and worries about the future. 

Rather than helping you make a decision, casual dating keeps you stuck in confusion longer than you were ever intended to stay.  It paralyzes you from making a choice, and keeps you stagnant in mediocre rather than moving forward toward fulfillment.  If you are comfortable in a casual relationship, you need to really consider what it is that is keeping you from moving forward, and be quick to deal with whatever that thing is.

3.  Realize the cost of casual:  For those who are living within the comfort of a casual relationship, there is always a cost.  Relationships are meant to be exciting, fulfilling, and healthy.  They are made to grow, to stretch, and to mature.  They are meant to deepen in intimacy, connection, and in love.  If you are at a stand-still within the world of casual, you have to really ask yourself what you are missing out on.  There is always a cost.  Casual will always take the place of passionate.  Casualty will always win over certainty.

Maybe by holding on to casual you are keeping yourself from a relationship that could offer you so much more.  Maybe by waiting for things to magically change, you are missing out on the change that could be taking place inside of you.  Maybe by clinging to complacency in a relationship, you are saying yes to casual and no to finding true love.

The one thing to remember about relationships is that they are not as complicated as we make them.  Healthy relationships are natural.  Healthy relationships are comfortable.  Healthy relationships progress every so easily, deepen ever so quickly, and develop ever so passionately.  There is no room for the "maybe" of casual when it comes to finding true love, because true love is certain.  Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

It's time to let go of casual, and step into something new. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Your Encouragement to Others Says About You:

Hebrews 3:13
So encourage each other that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 

My cousin Jennifer is one of the most encouraging people I know.  For the past year I have been observing her bless and encourage the people around her with phone calls, text messages, emails, and so much more.  It seems so natural for her, as though she doesn't even have to think about it.   No matter what has been going on in my life the past couple years, she's always reached out to say a simple hello and let me know she is thinking or praying for me....even during times when I wasn't always reaching out to her. 

I'm challenged by this kind of encouragement in the body of Christ.  It's a kind of encouragement that embodies the love of Jesus.  It's a kind of encouragement that reaches beyond self and into the lives of others.  It's a kind of encouragement that exudes confidence, grace, and sincere compassion.   

I want to be a person that encourages those around me, because according to scripture, people who can't seem to encourage others are some of the most hardened people on earth.  In Hebrews we are reminded to encourage each other daily..."so as not to be hardened by sin's deceit." 

When encouragement is difficult in your life, you must really ask yourself why.  Because 100 times out of 100, the difficulty to encourage has nothing to do with the people around you- and everything to do with your heart.  When we fail to encourage those around us, our hearts become insecure, covetous, isolated, and weak.  Like the Grinch, our hearts become three sizes too small.  Our lack of encouragement is always a symptom of something more.  Something deep inside of us that is not as it should be. 

You see, the greatest deceit we can experience is by believing this world is all about us.  The hardest our hearts will get, is when we believe that we are to be recipients of encouragement rather than distributors of encouragement.  When we focus inward, we will find our hearts cold, hardened, and alone.  We will find ourselves trapped in our own sin of selfishness and despair. 

I want to practice encouraging others in every aspect of my life.  I want to work on being called outside of myself, focusing on the lives of people around me.  I'm doing my best to practice this within my core group of friends, but I want it to become so much a part of my life that it is felt by everyone I come into contact with.   I want the confidence of Jesus and the value I have in Him to be my foundation, so that I am freed to give encouragement to others without the motive to receive it in return. 

I want to encourage others daily, so that my heart is soft and secure...and freed to love like Jesus loved.

"Student says- 'I am very discouraged what should I do'. Master says- 'encourage others'"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are you stuck on your past?

Genesis 19:26
But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

One of the greatest things that inhibits us from moving our past.  

For Andrea, that was exactly the case.  She was unable to get over the struggles of her past.  The neglect.  The abuse.  The longing for love.  Longings that were never filled.  Love that was never felt.  20 years later and she's still asking why.  Looking back, trying to make sense of it all.  And in her pursuit of looking back- she has failed to look around, and has ceased to look forward.  She has lost her present and her future...because of her past. 

Lot's wife struggled with the same things.  God had called Lot and his wife out of Sodom, and into something new.  Out of the darkness of their past, and into new adventures.  Out of the sin and struggles that they were surrounded by, and into something better.  But Lot's wife was unable to let go of the past.  She looked back...and "became a pillar of salt".  The truth of the matter is that the past can be paralyzing.

It's healthy to sort through our past every now and again. It's important to understand where we came from and what we went through.  It's vital to see the things from our past that made us who we are today.  But when we find our gaze is fixated on our past...we will ultimately waste our present, and lose our future.

God calls us to look forward. To see the new things that He is doing in our life rather than to dwell on the old.  To focus on hope, healing, and potential rather than waste our life on regrets, judgements, and needless analysis.   

He calls us to live for today, and hope for tomorrow...because no matter what has happened in our past, greater things are yet to come. 

Maybe you are stuck on your past.  Maybe a devastating break up has paralyzed your heart.  Maybe the sting of abuse and neglect continue to haunt you.  Maybe the choices you made and the road that you once traveled are causing you major regrets. Maybe your mind is filled with things you "should have" done and bogged down by those which you shouldn't have.  Maybe your heart is heavy with loss, pain, and unending questions of "why".   If this is you, the past may be wrapping it's deadly tentacles around your heart, trying it's very best to steal your life and rob your hope. 

It's time to overcome your past and stop looking back.  It's time to focus on your present, here and now.  It's time to look around and focus on where you are now and where you hope to be.  It's time to trust God with your future, and allow Him to help you fix your eyes forward. 

Don't let the pain of your past take away from your present and keep you from your future.  It's time to look forward and be freed.