Tag Archives: Christianity

Wrestling with God

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Thursday Night: Blog post titled “Looking for a Fight“. Nuff said.

Friday Night: I don’t feel like reading my Bible. I don’t really feel like praying. God, I’m just kind of sick of thinking about You, right now. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I want a break. I am usually more alert at night than I am in the morning, so I do my devotions just before bed. I skipped them that night.

 Sunday Morning: I spent Saturday night at my parent’s house [warmed the bed in my old room which is now very different, but still somewhat familiar] and awakened Sunday morning to the bustle of my family members as they prepared for church. Yawn. At home, with no one but my cat to wake me, I often sleep through the morning church service. With no excuse, I rise out of bed and wind up at church only slightly late (as opposed to the 30-45 minutes I usually come in late to my own church if I get up at all).

 

So I stroll into my parents’ church, and after the worship service comes to a close the pastor approaches the front and the powerpoint displays the following passage:

Genesis 32:24-32

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’

But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

And he said, ‘Jacob.’

He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’

Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’

And he blessed him there.

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’

Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”

 

Pastor’s point? God invites us to wrestle. He’s not afraid to fight. He wants us to get close to Him. You must get close to wrestle.

 

 

 

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Reflections: Love, Respect, and Sex

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

Okay, I skipped a few weeks on responding to these 700 club episodes. I’ll admit, it is no coincidence that I procrastinated on this specific episode. For one thing, I’ve written a lot about sex recently. I kind of wanted a break. Bur another reason I avoided this one is because I’m simply not sure how to respond.

I agree with parts of the teacher’s philosophy. I’m not so sure about other parts. I agree that sex within marriage is God’s plan and that it is absolutely the best way to go. I don’t suggest sex outside of marriage. However, his words leave me wondering how a couple will readily embrace the sexual union inside of marriage after training themselves to stay so far away from it.

That is always my issue when I look at the church’s approach to sex. I feel like this “Bad, bad, bad, stay away!” approach immediately followed by “You’re married now! Everything goes!” is just a disaster waiting to happen. I’m not necessarily sure what else to suggest, however.

Purity isn’t the part I struggle with. Single purity that leads into married purity is the issue I struggle with – if that makes sense. I think the sky high divorce rates within the church are a decent indication that whatever the church is teaching about sex and marriage right now isn’t very effective. I still feel as if the church uses the words “lust” and “attraction” synonymously. And I don’t think they should be interchangeable. I believe there is an important line that separates the two. I’m just not sure if I could point out that line.

Your thoughts?

Sex and Vodka

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It tastes like Swedish Fish! How could one resist?

I enter the liquor store and begin to browse the aisles. This is completely foreign territory for me. Less than ten minutes later I approach the counter and ask for direction. I will never find the bottle I’m looking for by myself. I’m clueless.

A few minutes later I am standing in the parking lot talking on the phone with my friend. She tells me how cute it is that I’m self-conscious about asking people for help in a liquor store. All of the sudden I realize how loudly I am discussing the fact that I just purchased vodka in a public parking lot. Who might hear me? What will they think?

A few distinct faces and their potential thoughts immediately enter my imagination… I need to get out of here…

I do not believe that drinking alcohol is sinful. The Bible clearly indicates that drunkenness is a bad thing. And addiction is quite obviously [biblical backup or not] a bad thing. But drinking in moderation? I don’t believe it is wrong. I’ve made this statement multiple times.

As a general rule, however, I do not drink. Primarily I avoid alcohol because I do not want to cause anyone else to stumble (I’ve had many friends who struggle with addiction) and because I do not want to develop any addiction myself. I have a rather addictive personality.

If you are wondering, “What is your point?” at the moment, I ask you to bear with me for just a tad bit longer.

Two of my friends had a really rough week. Things got particularly emotional regarding certain men in their lives. On Wednesday, after buying cherry red lipstick completely on whim, I suggested the three of us have a girl’s night out this Friday. Theme for the night: bold lip color. Why not? Nothing cheers up a woman better than making herself beautiful and then flaunting said beauty with others.

We were trying so hard not to laugh…

The plan? Dinner out. Drinks and chick flicks at home.

That’s when I drove off to the liquor store for drinks. Then that feeling of guilt washed over me. In my mind, I reviewed all of my personal convictions about alcohol. Why do I feel so uncomfortable? You see, I’m not even sure if I can describe my feeling as “guilty”. You see, I did not feel concerned that God would condemn my behavior. I only felt concerned about what other people would think. I kept reminding myself, “If what I am doing is not morally wrong, then I have no reason to feel ashamed right now!”

After dinner out, we hit the grocery store to pick up some lemon-lime pop to be mixed with the vodka I purchased earlier. I grab another drink I have been wanting to try. As long as I am drinking alcohol tonight, I might as well try everything I want. Then we run into a pastor we know who is just entering retirement. I give him a hug, alcoholic beverage in hand. Then we chat for about twenty minutes. The whole time we talk, I am wondering how he feels about the drink I am holding. Then I am arguing with myself that it shouldn’t matter. I have no reason to feel ashamed. We are not getting drunk tonight. He doesn’t say a word about the drink. (But he does compliment the lipstick ;))  We head for the soft drink aisle and I change my mind about the drink in my hand. After holding it for twenty minutes, I decide I don’t want to try it that badly – the vodka will be enough for tonight. I put it back and we leave.

Also trying to keep straight faces here.

Back at the apartment, we mix our drinks and watch our movie. True to our intentions, none of us get drunk. Not even tipsy. I had two drinks in the span of about three hours. No big deal.

Tonight, in the very same apartment, we had Bible Study. The discussion? Romans 2. Specifically, we talk about the word “conscience”. How much of our conscience is naturally placed within us by God and how much of it is formed due to training?  It hits me: this is exactly the issue that came up last night. I feel no natural convictions about drinking in moderation from God. But the churchianity view that all drinking is bad has nurtured my conscience in a different direction. In other words, at times I feel guilty about things I don’t have to feel guilty about. Although I did nothing wrong, I walked around half the night in shame. False shame.

What does all of this have to do with sex? Just like alcohol, sex brings with it a bad stigma. In all reality, it is a wonderful thing while experienced in the right context. In Ecclesiastes we learn that life is short, and therefore we should enjoy it!

Ecclesiastes 9:7-9

“Go, eat your bread with joy,

And drink your wine with a merry heart;

For God has already accepted your works.

Let your garments always be white,

And let your head lack no oil.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”

We couldn’t help it… Started laughing.

We are advised to enjoy drinking wine and to enjoy marriage! We can live life – and live it happily – without either. Paul gives great argument for singleness. But if we choose to drink sometimes or to get married, we can enjoy both of those things to the fullest! The problem with the modern church is that  such things as alcohol and sex are emphasized so greatly as negatives, that many Christians aren’t sure how to enjoy them anymore.

Young adults enter marriage and do not know how to enjoy physical intimacy. Or worse, young adults do not enter marriage when they should – with the sentiment that they want to put God first. Putting God first is healthy. But it doesn’t always mean that we should neglect marriage. We have been forced to stifle our sexuality. Churches are teaching all kinds of things about sex. Some good. Some not so good. I’ve heard it taught that singles should not even kiss. Okay… I can understand some of the reasoning behind that mentality. But what is a bride going to go through when she transfers from “Do not touch him ever – kissing is sinful!” to “Everything is allowed. Your body is his and his is yours.” I’ve heard singles accused of idolatry simply for desiring a marriage relationship. Since when is desiring a husband sinful? Obsessing to the point of “I can’t think of anything else!” isn’t so hot. But let’s not bash the desire. In backlash to the sin of lust, many Christians seem to think that men and women should not even be attracted to one another. “Young man, if you have desire for that woman, you are in sin!” Not true! How about the practice of the Catholic church when they force clergy to commit to celibacy? A godly man who wants to become a priest in order to teach God’s word must stifle his sexuality in a way God likely never intended.

Touching on what I spoke about in “Yoke or Burn”, might I suggest that another reason Christian marriage is failing is due to this concept of false shame? Remaining celibate until marriage is difficult in itself. Magnify that difficulty by bringing shame upon actions that are actually okay and see what results. When you think about these things, I encourage you to study what the Bible truly teaches. Is this actually wrong? Or is that just the common rumor amongst churchgoers? Is this a healthy boundary in my relationship? Or am I putting up a wall in an effort to look more righteous? Am I single because God wants me to be single right now? Or am I fighting marriage in an effort to appear more devoted to Christ?

Drinking alcohol and having sex are very comparable. God intended both for good within a certain context. Both have unfortunately been tainted by the world. And in response to world, the church has taken them to the opposite extremes.

Yoke or Burn

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Okay – I don’t talk about sex on this blog very often… or in great detail. Mainly because I find it awkward to write about the subject. But it is important.

DISCLAIMER: Do not take this post as personal dating advice. I am not offering advice. I am simply bringing up a point – a point which may be slightly controversial in the modern church community.

Mr. UnpaidTherapist called me into his office this week.

“Sarah,” he said. “I know that you already know this. But I feel the need to tell you again. Do not marry someone who isn’t Christian…”

He continued by describing the failing marriage of a couple he counsels. Wife is Christian. Hubby’s not. Marriage is falling to pieces. He then listed three women we both know who struggle in marriages with non-Christian men. He doesn’t want to see me face the same trials.

I listened to his lecture and chose not to respond. I’m not terribly comfortable sharing what I am going to post on this blog with a 45 year-old man at work. Nope.

But I’ve really been pondering this whole dating/marrying non-Christians topic lately. The entire basis for this advice against marrying someone with no faith or a different faith is that verse in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6. Verse 14 declares, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Now before anyone who doesn’t follow the Bible gets offended, let me explain that this is not saying that Christians should cut off all contact with people who do not agree with us. I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ’s entire lifestyle would argue that concept. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors [who were infamous for cheating people].

“Yoked” essentially means joined, united, or brought together to accomplish a specific task or purpose. A yoke pulls two animals together to push a plow. Harnessed together, they create a more powerful force.

Okay, so when Christians quote this verse, they often continue to the “joining” of a married couple. They say that a believer and unbeliever should not be unequally yoked. Mr. UnpaidTherapist did not quote the verse. But this is the sentiment he was getting at. Believers and unbelievers should not unite in marriage… it will only cause problems…

Here’s my problem: If you read that verse in context, Paul was not writing to the Corinthians about marriage. Instead, he was discussing teachers. He was telling them not to become involved with false prophets and idols. Not once in this chapter does he mention marriage or anything closely related to marriage. If Paul intended to advise believers not to marry unbelievers, why didn’t he bring it up in one of the chapters that actually talked about marriage?

On the other hand, in passages like 1 Corinthians 7, where it would make a lot of sense for Paul to give advice about whether or not Christians should marry non-Christians, Paul gives no such command. Instead verses 12-16 indicate that an unbeliever who remains in such a relationship is sanctified by his or her believing spouse and that their children are made holy rather than unclean. As a whole, I do not believe Paul encourages believers to unite with unbelievers, but I do not see where he actually says it is wrong.

Apparently I like to go backwards… so if we jump back in Chapter 7 to verse 9 we see the reference I made in a different post recently. “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am, but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Glance over 1 Corinthians and you will quickly realize that Paul warns these people up and down to flee from sexual immorality because it is so detrimental to their bodies and their spiritual health. Over and over again he tells them to avoid it. If you can’t keep it in your pants, get married!

If you will notice, he did not say that if you are struggling to control your sexual appetite you should wait until you find the godliest person alive and then get married. He did not say that you should only get married to someone who will accentuate and empower your ministry. He did not even say you should at least hold out for someone of the same faith. All Paul said was that if you really want to have sex you should get married. Period.

If a believer marries an unbeliever, they will naturally disagree at times. And yet, every married couple disagrees about some things. Mr. UnpaidTherapist is right, I’m sure, about the trials that come with these types of marriages. However, my question is this: Are those potential trials easier or harder to face than the desire for sex while I am still single?

The church community teaches that Christians should not date or marry non-Christians as a general rule. However, the church community also has a sucky divorce rate and a lot of extramarital sex scandals. I don’t buy this sentiment that all non-Christian men are skunks (and yes, that sentiment is rampant in the church realm). I also don’t buy the idea that all Christian men will make good husbands (don’t even get me started on that one…).

If we place two scenarios side by side, which one wins?

Scenario 1 shows a girl who is holding out for the right Christian man to come sweep her off her feet. This guy is hard to find. Therefore she remains single until she is about 36. Needless to say, a typical woman in her twenties and thirties has some significant sexual hunger. These are her most fertile years; she was created to desire sex. Although she waited to marry until she found Mr. Right at age 36, she was sexually active on a number of occasions prior. From ages 18 to 35 she slept with 9 different men. Each sexual encounter left a mark.

Scenario 2 displays a young lady who married her high school sweetheart at age 19. Although she was always a church-girl, he never showed much interest in the things of God. He gets irritated at how she “lives” at the church and how she always wants to give away their money to those dumb missionaries. But he loves her and he is loyal. They have their struggles, but he would never dream of leaving her. He is her one and only and she has made a choice never to leave him either.

Well? Who appears to be better off? I’m not telling anyone to lower their standards. I’m not advising anyone to marry the next jerk that asks them out just because they’re feeling kind of horny. But I raise the question: Is being “unequally yoked” in marriage really such a big deal? Is the common advice of “wait for Mr. Right – no matter how long it takes” really such a good idea in this sexually charged world? Is this ever-popular Bible lesson about believers only marrying believers actually biblical? What do you think?

Reflections: Satisfied in Singleness

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

I enjoyed this one particularly. I have to admit, the very first point that the primary speaker makes is one that I have also thought to myself time and time again. I cannot stand it when someone hears how long I’ve been single and responds with shock because I’m “so pretty”. I always think what she thinks immediately – that there are lots of ugly married people. And then I  turn to the obvious point that pretty does not necessarily make a woman into a wife, let alone a good wife. Yes, attraction matters. But it’s not just about being pretty.

After loving her sentiment on that point, I kind of hated a different point she made. I disagree with her comment about wanting to be married for the “wrong reasons”. Sex has a bad rap in the Christian community. The Bible soooo clearly says that if you “burn with passion” – get married! In other words, it is okay to desire a spouse in order to fulfill your sexual desires! That being said, the church has turned things all around and seems to teach that singles should want to be married for every other reason on the face of the planet and that sex is just a nice little side thing that comes along with marriage. I’ve been told that I should be so wrapped up in ministry that one day I will just happen to bump into someone else who is absorbed by ministry and we will get married and have an even more powerful ministry together. Sounds good – right? And yet, I don’t see that philosophy in scripture. I never found the verse telling singles only to marry in an effort to further ministry. Nope. Bible says instead that you should get married if you want sex. Sex is not a “wrong reason”. I could continue on this point… but I’ll shut up.

Finally, I like that she pointed out that some of our most influential and foundational leaders in the faith were single. I agree wholeheartedly. Paul made excellent points when he wrote about singles being able to fully devote themselves to God without the distraction of family or spouses. However, I would not go so far as to say that we are the “pillars”. I mean, Jesus was single, and He is quite obviously “the” Pillar. But besides that – I don’t think singles are any more or less important than married people in the church. We are all important. We all have different roles. Let’s make an effort to act out our roles to the best of our abilities – single or married.

Reflections: Are You a Leader?

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

Episode 2 was more primarily aimed toward men. That being said, I’m still going to respond.

First of all, I feel the need to emphasize that more than any other thing – what I want from a man if I am to get married – is godly leadership. I can probably count on one hand the number of men I know that are still single and within my age range whom I can truly view as potential spiritual leaders.

With that in mind, I would like to voice a dilemma. Many of my Christian female friends and I have noticed a devastating truth in the Christian dating scene. Godly men are not pursuing. It’s past the point of “maybe this guy isn’t pursuing me because he simply isn’t interested in me”. It’s quite obvious that these guys aren’t pursuing any women. The ones we find most desirable happen to be the ones who haven’t, to our knowledge, asked a girl out in the last 3 years. The reasoning? They are just “so” into God right now that they don’t want to be distracted by women. I get it. I’ve used the same argument. Here’s the thing: God never said that all dedicated Christians should be single. Yes, there were some very influential singles in the Bible. Yes, Jesus was single. But no where does my Bible say that all the decent Christian men in this world should stop pursuing Christian women. Although I believe the man in the video had the best of intentions, I kind of want to tell him “SHUT UP!!!!!” when he said that men should work harder on “being the right one” than “finding the right one”. He said that becoming the right one will attract Christian women. As a Christian woman who has been “attracted” by these kinds of guys, I want to argue with him and say, “Do one without neglecting the other. Work on becoming the right kind of guy while you find the right kind of girl.” As a Christian girl does not want to have to completely throw herself at you to earn your attention, you are going to have to pursue in order to marry one of us. There is nothing wrong with wanting a wife.  Find one, would you!

Final thought: I kind of didn’t like when he said that non-Christian men will view women as nothing more than trinkets or toys. I think he has a serious point, and that in some cases he may be correct. But I don’t believe that the secular world is completely void of men who value and respect women. That was an overstatement.

Guys, as this video was aimed toward you: What did you think?

Dating and Relationships: The Church Rules

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The Rules

  1. A boy and a girl must never ride together alone in a vehicle. Not for any distance, any purpose, or any length of time. The ONLY exception to this rule applies to a boy and girl who are brother and sister. Obviously, any other combination of male and female riding in a car alone will lead to the car being pulled over so they can have wild sex in the backseat before they arrive at their destination. Obviously.
  2. Boys and girls must sit at least a Bible’s width apart at all times. Those tiny New Testaments the Gideons leave around don’t count. We’re talking regulation biggest-Good-Book-we-can-find size.
  3. A female must wear clothing which covers every portion of her body from her chin to her knees. If she has pretty legs, those should probably be covered also. Beauty tempts young men. Men should never have to face temptation. If clothing is truly “appropriate”, men may even forget women have boobs – which is exactly as it should be since men are incapable of controlling themselves around women they find attractive.

These are the top three rules pounded into the teen-aged girl’s head about dating or relating to the opposite sex by Sunday School teachers and youth leaders nationwide. Boys cannot be trusted around you. You cannot be trusted around boys. If ever you two are left alone together, babies emerge nine months later. No exceptions. None.

For a girl who actually wants to be pure, these rules are very intimidating. You see, when I was young and naïve, I believed I could accept a ride from one of my male friends. But by the time I was 17, I understood how inappropriate that looked and that he would likely rape me at some point during the five minute drive. At one point in time I believed that it was a good thing for a man to look at me and recognize my beauty. Before I exited adolescence I realized that my beauty is wicked and dangerous when noticed by men. When I was a little girl, I loved to cuddle close to the men in my life. But soon after puberty hit, I learned that all physical contact with the opposite sex is completely unhealthy and will somehow give me AIDS.

What’s really sad – is that I wouldn’t even call the churches I attended legalistic. It scares me to consider what truly legalistic congregations are teaching young people if I learned such skewed lessons where I went. Unfortunately, teenagers hear from their Christian leaders that they cannot be trusted – they cannot even trust themselves – to make good, healthy decisions regarding the opposite sex. Fear tactics are fired at them in the name of purity. Instead of being trained to enter healthy relationships, teenagers are taught to avoid relationships at all costs because relationships lead to sexual immorality.

According to the typical Christian youth leader, I am a success story. I escaped high school with my virginity intact. But if you ask me, purity is so much broader than virginity. And if successful means terrified of intimacy and unwilling to be vulnerable to a man, then I agree. I am very successful.

But sometimes success is overrated.

Stereotypical Man

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“Men are pigs. They can’t help themselves.”

 

I hear the sentiment from all kinds of women in all kinds of places. This stereotype shoots across cultures and religions. Men cannot control themselves around women. Men are lustful. Men only think about sex.

 

I’m sure this is a real problem within the male race. However, this stereotype implies two falsehoods:

  1. Women      do not wage a similar battle against sexual temptation.
  2. Men      should not be held accountable for sexual sin because they have no control.

 

The other night I stumbled across Proverbs 7. The author (Solomon, I believe) recounts a situation with a seemingly clueless young man and a crafty, seductive woman. The woman spends the chapter luring the man into her home to have relations. The man spends the chapter being lured. Simple enough. Although the man in this scene falls for this provocative woman’s tactics, Solomon does not speak of any stereotype indicating this man had no control. He, instead, points out this man’s lack of wisdom. Then he warns his own son, and he teaches him that wisdom will protect him from women like “her”.

 

He says, “Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” (v. 25-27 KJV)

 

Tell me: If  men were not able to control their sex drives around women, why would Solomon even bother with this statement? Solomon knew that saying “No” to a woman like that would be difficult for his son. But he also knew that it would be possible.

 

I thought it was interesting that men, in general, take most of the heat for being sexual aggressors while this woman in Proverbs made all the moves. The man was an almost-innocent bystander. No, he was not completely innocent. But he was also not the leading offender. She dressed up like a harlot. She caught him. She kissed him. She perfumed her bedroom. She invited him home while the husband was away. She did most of the dirty work.

 

Next my mind wandered back to the story of Joseph. Joseph was doing his work, taking care of Potiphar’s household when “his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, ‘Lie with me.’” (Genesis 39:7 KJV)

 

Joseph, being a man and everything, lost all control and screwed around with the beautiful woman… Oh, wait – that’s not what happened?

Once again, the woman victimized the man. She pursued his affections. She did everything in her power to seduce him. When Joseph turned from her advances, she became angry and framed him.

 

It seems to me that modern society turns its head from scenarios like the two above. These are definitely not the only instances of sexual sin referenced in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, men and women are shown battling sexual temptation. I referenced these two specifically because they seem to embody the issues that are often ignored these days.

 

Let’s face the facts: Both genders are guilty. Humans lust. Humans struggle with sexual temptation. Enough with this “He’s a man; he cannot help it.” Enough with this “She’s a woman; she can’t be in it just for sex.”

 

Once we quit pointing figures, we can begin to work on solutions.

He Is With Me

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http://youtu.be/P3CVlv2dz3w

Everybody seems to focus on the negative aspects of breakups. I have to admit – breakups seem to work in my favor. Or at least one breakup worked in my favor. I just got back from a fabulous Mandisa concert due to a breakup. My friend’s extra ticket was originally designated for her boyfriend. But since she is newly single, she invited me along instead… And we had a blast!

I enjoy some of Mandisa’s music, but I am no diehard fan. Therefore I had never before heard this incredible woman’s story. Without going into great detail she referenced some childhood abuse and her resulting mistrust toward men. She moved on to describe her fear-driven journey toward obesity. She numbed the pain from those unfair memories bite by bite, taste by taste, seeking comfort in every morsel.

Unfortunately, the comfort those empty calories carried was fleeting. At her heaviest point, or in her words –her “morbidly obesist” – she realized that her unhealthy eating habits were ruining her life. She did not seem to care about being skinny. She did care about being healthy.

In a world where reference to abuse is taboo, Mandisa boldly shared her testimony. In a country where gluttony is considered “culturally acceptable” and pastors don’t preach against it, Mandisa bravely confessed her struggle. The greatest part, however, was her ending point: Jesus delivered her.

That beautiful woman dropped 100 life-inhibiting pounds, and now she dances on stage with all kinds of enthusiasm, praising her Deliverer! I am posting “He is With You” on this blog only because she sings about giving up about finding your true love toward the end of her song. As she belted those lyrics out live at the concert, she gestured toward herself to humbly proclaim her own fears.

Mandisa worries she may be single for life. She asks Jesus Christ to walk beside her down this path called life. She trusts that through all the worries, all the pain, all the struggles, He is with her. She clings to hope and boasts of God’s steadfast loyalty. As she faces her childhood haunts, as she lives her dream onstage, as she battles the temptation to overeat, and as she cherishes the friends around her, Mandisa reminds herself and others that God is always with us. I believe Mandisa knows that although she is single, she is still the lovely Bride of Christ.

A Coffee Encounter

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“I do not believe a person needs to attend church in order to go to heaven.”

I looked him in the eyes, evenly. “I don’t either.”

His face became puzzled. “Then why do you want me to go?”

I had explained to this man earlier that I wanted him to go to church because I believe in Heaven and in Hell. I told him that I could not force God upon him, but that I at least wanted to be sure he knew more about Jesus Christ because it makes me sick to envision him in Hell someday. Oh yeah, and I did not want to be the one to teach him about Christ. Hence, the invitation to church.

“I believe that you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to go to Heaven. I want you to come to church so that someone other than me can teach you about Jesus. I did not want to talk to you about Jesus because you like me.” I slowly poured forth my reasoning.

His eyes twinkled, but he still looked slightly puzzled. “What makes you think I like you?”

I fixated a “You’ve got to be kidding me!” expression onto my face and crossed my arms. He started to grin and then reiterated, “What have I done to make you think I like you?”

Several obvious signals stood out in my memory. I made a quick reference to something he had done earlier that day and then challenged, “Tell me you don’t like me!”

“I can’t,” he conceded. Then he smiled shyly and looked away for a second. When he met my gaze again his eyes were still twinkling.

After that issue cleared up I returned to my initial point. “Sometimes a man who likes me will tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear. I did not want to tell you about Jesus because I did not want you to make a decision based on your feelings toward me.”

My latte vanished within the first fifteen minutes of our conversation. But we sat and talked for over an hour. Our discussion ranged from church and salvation, to drinking and smoking, to hunting and motorcycles, to marriage and past experiences, to why bad things happen if God is merciful, and back to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m sure I’ve skipped a few things as well.  All in all, I enjoyed the time spent together immensely.

Which leads to my next dilemma. What do I do in the future? Now that I have shared the gospel with this man, Operation Flirt to Convert is complete. He knows all that he needs to know in order to make a decision. If I move further I will cross the line into Missionary Dating. I kind of wish that I had hated the entire Coffee Encounter. But I didn’t. I loved every minute of our friendly debate and humorous banter. The more serious aspects of our conversation also intrigued me. His point of view, even where it differed from mine, was very interesting. I almost hoped he would make me angry or disgust me. Then I would not have to contemplate a next step. I would simply walk away.

As it stands, I’m not sure how to proceed. He assures me that he will come to my church sometime under the condition that I sit with him. He does not want to sit alone like an outcast in an unfamiliar place. I understand that. Unfortunately, now that he knows about Jesus, I do not feel such a strong desire for him to attend my church. Now that the Good News has reached him, I worry about the trivial things that escaped my imagination previously.

Suddenly I am extremely aware of how potentially awkward I may feel while I introduce this man, whom I have no clear relationship with, to the other attendees at my small church. He is not my boyfriend, not my husband, not my brother, cousin, uncle, or any other kind of kin. He is not a friend visiting from out of town. He is not close friends with someone that I know. In all reality he is a random stranger whom I’ve met a handful of times and have no reason to still be connected to – except because he likes me and I want him to meet Jesus.

Sitting across from a table, sipping coffee wasn’t so bad. Sitting beside him in a pew sounds terrifying. What will I do if he slides his arm behind me across the back of the pew? Exactly how close must we sit together? Does “Bible’s width apart” apply? If so, where might I find a bigger Bible? Instead, might I be able to borrow one of my pastor’s kids to sit between us? Or will that cause us to look like a family?

GAAAHHHHHHH!!! When did this all become so complicated? Note to self: Cats are so much easier than men. Let’s skip Flirt to Convert next time the opportunity arises.