Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Birthday, Lindsey!

Today is my daughter-in-law's birthday!  Let me tell you about Lindsey...

  • Lindsey is an overachiever.  When she sets her mind to do something, she will give it 110% and even make it look easy as she does it.  
  • Lindsey is multi-talented.  Her mind goes in so many different directions because she has that many interests and giftings.
  • Lindsey is a wonderful mother.  She has well-disciplined children who are creative thinkers, hard workers, and love the outdoors.  She loves big!
  • Lindsey is an organizer.  We all used to call on her when we were moving, organizing closets, or needing someone to oversee a project.  Minnesota, we hope you appreciate what you have in her....because Texas wants her back!
  • Lindsey is an investigator.  Not the private-eye kind...although she could be.  But when she's interested in a subject, she won't rest until she completely understands it.  She will be a perpetual student the rest of her life.  She's not content until she understands every facet of her subject.
  • Lindsey is a nutritionist.  This is one of those things she's studied and worked hard to understand and implement in the life of her family.  It started because she wanted to help her children and continued because she saw the benefits.  I've encouraged her to follow this as a career path because she loves it and people look to her for answers.  I told her she might as well get paid for what she's naturally doing.
  • Lindsey is a gifted writer.  She's been a magazine editor, she's a blogger, and she works for another blogger.  
  • Lindsey is a photographer.  She especially loves to photograph the food she cooks.
  • Lindsey loves to cook and create healthy food.  She's even written her own eCookbook--and took her own photos, of course.
  • Lindsey loves her home.  She creates warmth and beauty in it.  
  • Lindsey is persistent.  She doesn't give up easily.  I've watched her pursue relationships which were broken until they were restored.
  • Lindsey is an overcomer.  She won't stop with a problem...she solves it.
  • Lindsey loves big.  She loves my son well...for which I'm very grateful.  She loves her kids with all of her heart.  She loves family.

Lindsey, I hope your birthday is super special.  I know it will be since you're surrounded with family today.  Lindsey means "from the Linden tree isle."  The interesting thing about the linden tree is that the flower holds medicinal value.  It's the tree of lovers.  And its timber was used to make Viking shields.  The fact it was on an island makes me think of how you love having your family surrounding you--shielded from the hurts of the world.  

I'm glad God gave you to our family!  And I hope this birthday is a very meaningful one.

I love you,

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dating--Part 6 "How to Prepare for Marriage"

When I was 12-years-old and learning about dating and marriage, my camp pastor gave us the simple version of preparing for marriage:  "Begin praying now for God to prepare you for your spouse and to prepare your spouse for you."  I'm sure he had no idea I would take him up on that, but I did.  Interestingly, when I was 12, Andy was 17.  So for the next 6 years, I prayed this prayer.  Then when Andy & I met on a blind date when I was 18, I knew he was "the one."  He told me later that he could have proposed that night--because he knew, too.  Remember...I had written my dating standards and what I wanted in a husband at that camp when I was 12.  As I got to know Andy, I realized he had everything I'd written on that list.

I know some people don't believe God has someone specific picked out for you...that it's a matter of choice.  I do believe God gives us a choice!  (If you're already married and reading this, please know that if you didn't pray about your spouse, God starts right where you are.  He wants to make your marriage the best!  He's a redeeming God.)  But I also believe if we put it in His hands and commit to praying and asking for specific things,  God delights in doing more than we could ask or think!  Why else does He say, "Ask and keep on asking?"  I'm glad I asked.  I also believe as we pray this prayer, "God prepare me for my spouse and prepare my spouse for me," some things happen.  I believe God begins working on whatever is needed in our lives--our emotions, our minds, our choices, or our spirits.  He may begin emotional healing in one or both of you.  Or he may begin correcting your course.  The important thing shouldn't pray this without meaning it or without listening to God so He can correct your course.

What are some other ways to prepare for marriage?  You may not like my answers, but I stand by them.

  • OBEY YOUR PARENTS...If you're still at home with your parents, the best way to prepare is by obeying your parents.  Hear me out.  In Ephesians 6:1, we're told, "Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you."  The word "obey" in the Greek is hypakouo.  The meaning of the word is "to listen" and then to obey a command.  Let me tell you why this is important.  If you don't learn to listen to your parents, you aren't going to be open to listening to your future spouse--or God.  And anyone who is married will tell you the most important thing in marriage is communication.  You have to learn to listen to have good communication.  Learning to listen to your parents is good practice for marriage.  The reason most kids don't listen to their parents is because they've developed a bad attitude or have begun resisting authority.  Neither one of those things is healthy to bring into a marriage.
  • OBEY YOUR BOSS...If you're already out of your parent's house and not married, you have opportunity to do the same thing by obeying your boss.  Ephesians 6:5.  It's the same Greek word for obeying parents.  It's learning to listen and then carry out their command. Do it as unto the Lord--even if they're difficult--maybe especially if they're difficult.  This may bring new purpose into your job as you wait.
  • GET ALONG WITH YOUR SIBLINGS...Work hard at your relationships with your siblings.  If you learn to get along with your siblings--especially those of the opposite sex, it will help you in understanding your spouse in the future.  Work at unity and communication.  As one of my sons was leaving home, I was asking him how he thought he'd get along with his new roommates.  He told me, "I figure if I can get along with my family, I can get along with anyone."  Very true.  If you learn how to receive your brothers and sisters as God's best for you, you'll be in a good place to receive your spouse.
  • PUT YOUR DESIRES ON THE ALTAR...I never wanted anything but to get married and have kids--but I had to lay all of my desires on the altar and sacrifice them to God at one point.  I knew if it was His plan for me to marry, He'd resurrect that desire and make it into a reality.  But I had to sincerely mean I'd give up marriage if that was His plan for my life--knowing He was enough.
  • KNOW MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK...No one ever tells you that.  Even if you wait on God's best for a spouse in your life, marriage is going to take a lot of adjustment, communicating, and plain hard work. I knew that God had given me Andy.  But we came from very different backgrounds.  Even though both families were Christians, we just did things differently.  Holidays were celebrated differently, vacations looked different, disciplining children was different, how we hung the toilet paper was different.  If you go into marriage thinking you're "right," you're going to have a harder adjustment.  Go into marriage understanding that there will be compromises for all of your differences.  Plan on working hard for your marriage and believing the best of your spouse.
  • NEVER USE THE WORD 'DIVORCE'...The pastor who counseled us before marriage gave us this bit of advice.  Andy & I made a promise we'd never use it--it was never going to be an option for us.  If you don't plan ahead, angry, hurtful words can come out in the heat of an argument that you don't mean...but Satan can use them to roll around in your mind until it becomes an option. (Please note that I'm not saying there are not scriptural reasons to get a divorce...there are.)    
  • FOCUS ON LOVE...You can focus on being jealous in your marriage or you can focus on love.  You can focus on yourself or you can focus on your spouse and their needs.  You can be angry and list a long roll of offenses in your mind, or you can die to those things and choose to love.  Love is a choice...not an emotion.  You CHOOSE whether you love or not.  You'd do well to study or memorize I Corinthians 13.
  • READ SCRIPTURE ABOUT MARRIAGE--Ephesians 5, I Corinthians 7, I Peter 3, Colossians 3. If you don't understand it, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.  That's His job...and He can't wait!
There are so many more things I could say about preparing for marriage, but if you prepare in these basic things, you'll be on a good path.  I can't say enough about using the situation you're in right now to learn how to be a good spouse later on.  Learn how to obey your parents, how to get along with your siblings, or how to be a great employee!  It's the best training ground you could have.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dating--Part 5 "What a Girl Wants"

If a guy hasn't grown up with sisters, he may have a hard time figuring a girl out.  She's complex.  As I interviewed girls and women for this blog, I had to laugh.  Their answers were numerous and as diverse as they were!  God created women this way.  A woman is multi-faceted with layers of knowledge, intuition, personality, emotions, and gifts...just waiting to be peeled back and discovered.  God created woman for man and they were to enjoy one another--she was a gift to him.  She was to be a partner and companion to him--bringing herself, her gifts, and her strengths to the relationship.

Since the men in my life don't like to wade through a lot of details, I am going to sum up what I discovered girls want from a guy.  A girl wants to be cherished by a guy. Girls desire a friendship where a man gives to their relationship--and doesn't just try to "get."  They long to be understood, loved, and encouraged in their strengths.  That's the bottom line, but if you'd like to know more in-depth of what girls are thinking, these high school girls, college girls, single women, and married women had a lot to say...

Girls were about the same age as guys when they started dating:  12-18 years old, with most being 16.
When I asked them what they were looking for in a guy when they were dating, these were their responses (in order of most replies first):

  • Someone to have fun with/a good friend/a good personality or sense of humor 
  • A Christian
  • Male attention
  • Someone who was kind
  • Someone who liked her family
  • Someone caring or who would care for her
  • Someone who wasn't trying to have a physical relationship (touching, kissing, or sex)
  • Someone who shared their same morals
  • Someone respectful
  • Someone loving
  • A nice guy
  • Someone who was cute
  • Someone who approved of her
  • Someone who would take her places
  • Someone she could be herself with
  • Someone who would understand her
  • Someone to complete her (but learned that God was the only one who could complete her)
  • A boyfriend
  • Someone giving
  • Someone who would listen to her
  • Someone gentle
  • A soul mate
The number one thing a girl was looking for when she started dating was someone to have fun with.

When I asked what turned them away from a guy--before they began dating or after they'd been dating awhile--I received just as many varied answers.  They're in order of most replies first:
  • Arrogance or cockiness
  • Unkindness
  • Wanting sex
  • Obsessed with my appearance--told me what to wear, how to cut my hair, or that I should lose weight
  • Guy grew uninterested in God
  • Too serious
  • Too clingy or possessive
  • Not trustworthy
  • Lies
  • Drinking alcohol/Addictions/Partying/Ran with wrong crowd
  • Unfaithful
  • Immaturity
  • We had nothing in common
  • Looking at other girls
  • He was a jerk
  • Disrespectful
  • Not having the same morals
  • Didn't go to church
  • Too jealous
  • He mistreated me
  • Too opinionated
  • He made big promises
  • Impatience
  • Said things like, "I need you" or "God sent you to me"
When I asked them when they began thinking about marriage, a lot of them said the same things the guys did.  But they also had some new answers:
  • High School
  • 18-20
  • During College
  • After College
  • When the guy said, "I love you"
  • When they were a child (most little girls dream of getting married)
  • When they began dating--each guy became husband-potential
  • When their Dad liked the guy
  • When they met the right person
So, guys...I'd say each girl is very unique.  They think differently.  They're a mystery waiting to be understood.  What is important to you isn't important to them.  They're looking for someone who will get to know them and encourage them spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and know what their dreams are.  They want someone who will be a spiritual leader.  And they're totally turned off by a know-it-all.  

Our culture has changed so much that many girls have become the sexual aggressors.  They're the ones making sexual advances and suggesting sex before marriage.  Joseph is a great example in how to handle that---RUN!  When Joseph was seduced by Potipher's wife, he ran out of the house.  I can promise you that if you present yourself as a pure husband on your wedding day, the two of you are going to have so much less emotional baggage to deal with.  Andy & I encourage total honesty before marriage.  And it's so much easier to be honest when you've run from sexual sin.

"Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts."
II Timothy 2:22

Dating--Part 3  "I Love You?"
Dating--Part 4  "What a Guy Wants"
Coming up:  Dating--Part 6  "How to Prepare for Marriage"

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dating--Part 4 "What a Guy Wants"

Guys and girls are totally different--God created them that way.  And they enter into a dating  relationship (and marriage) with vastly different goals.  If you look at Genesis 2, you see how God formed the heart and mind of man.  God created man and then put him in the Garden of Eden and gave him the job of naming all of the animals.  After completing that task, it says, "But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him."  Adam had begun searching.  God had created an appetite in him to seek a helper, someone to complete him.  It's an appetite that remains in man.  Then God created woman out of a rib of man and he made her so beautiful that she took Adam's breath away!  So man has been in pursuit of a beautiful woman ever since.

I don't presume to know what a guy wants when he's dating since I'm a woman.  So I interviewed married men, single men, college guys, and high school guys--in a wide range of ages.  Interestingly, their answers were all very similar.  And they had a lot to say...

So I asked the guys I interviewed how old they were when they first started dating.  I heard answers all the way from 13 to 17.  Of course, the 13-year-old's couldn't drive, so they were meeting a girl at the movie, etc.

Then I asked the guys what they were looking for in a girl.  I'll put them in order of the greatest number of answers I received.

  • Physical appearance--Beauty
  • A great personality
  • A friend
  • Someone who loves God--or believes like you do
  • Someone who lets you be yourself
  • Someone who gets along with your friends--fits in
  • Someone comfortable to be with
  • Someone easy to talk to

When I asked them the number one thing on their mind when they began dating, there was only one answer:  Sex.  

When I asked them what turned them away from a girl--before they began dating or after they'd been dating awhile--they became pretty animated and their answers came faster.
  • A girl who pursued them--"She looks desperate"
  • Someone who is high maintenance
  • Someone who is too serious--or pushed for a more serious relationship
  • Someone who is too possessive--the guys want to maintain their friendships
  • Someone who didn't try to fit in with their friends
  • Someone who quit going to church/worshiping
  • Someone with marriage on their mind
When I asked them when they began thinking about marriage or looking at a girl and wondering if she was "the one," none of them were thinking of marriage in high school.  Some began thinking of marriage in college.  Most began thinking about marriage at the end of college.

To sum it up, I would say a guy is driven by physical attraction and has sex on his mind...but he's not thinking about marriage until he's older.  He also wants to do the pursuing.  The guys also told me the harder it was to "catch" a girl, the more attractive she appeared.  They enjoyed the pursuit.  The married men also agreed guys are really too immature to be dating in junior high and even high school.

There you have it, girls!  I hope it gives you insight into guys and how they're thinking.  I can't encourage you enough to just do group dating in junior high and high school and get to know one another.  Treasure your body--it's a gift which should be given to your husband alone after you are married.  My prayer is that you will come to understand how God sees you and how valuable you really are.  You are priceless and need to be treated that way by every boy you date.  Let God overwhelm you with His love--and love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

"There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body."     I Corinthians 6:19-20    The Message

Coming up:  Dating--Part 5  "What a Girl Wants"

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dating--Part 3 "I love you?"

The Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers have created a phenomenon.  We now have a generation who is desperate for love.  So many of our young adults and their children have grown up in broken homes.  Thirty years ago, I met my first set of grandparents who were raising their grandchildren.  This year, I met my first set of great-grandparents who are raising their great-grandchildren.  It's tragic.  I've never seen so many young people who are seriously craving love and affection.

Tonight, I'm addressing those young people:

We've let you down.  I'm so sorry some of you are growing up the way you are.  Some of you are raising your siblings and are even having to parent your own parents.  I'm sorry you're having to openly ask the responsible adults around you for hugs--because those at home are incapable of doing it.  I'm sorry you go to bed hungry at times or have to dig in the dirty clothes pile for something to wear.  I'm sorry there is no one instructing you about the important things of life.  I'm sorry you're so angry because you feel so alone, abandoned, and rejected.  I'm sorry there are nights you cry yourself to sleep wondering if anyone loves you.  It's breaking my heart to think about it!

Can I tell you a wonderful secret?  God loves you completely--just like you are!!  You don't have to jump through hoops for him to love you.  Come to Him--because He's waiting with His arms wide open to receive you and fill your hungry heart with love.  He loves you fully, completely, totally, and wonderfully.  He's created you in His image.  And that hole in your heart?  It's God-sized and He's the only one who can fill it!  Just tell Him that you want Him to come into your heart and tell Him that you want to give yourself completely to Him--sin and all.  And then He'll clean your heart and make you His very own--just like that!  He delights in you!!

Did you know God won't allow anyone else to fill that God-sized hole in our hearts?  (Even those of us who grew up in healthy homes.)  Not a boyfriend, not a girlfriend, not a daddy, not a mama, not a husband, or a wife?  God is a jealous God.  He wants to completely meet every need we have.  He wants to fully heal those places that are hurting; those hurts your parents may have caused.  He wants to talk to you and tell you how great you are.  He wants to whisper sweet-nothings in your ear.  He LOVES you.  And He wants to tell you how much.

So what I'm trying to say is this:  don't be so quick to run into a boy's or girl's arms.  Don't tell them, "I love you" too quickly.  I know you want someone to love you.  I know you want a happy marriage.  But need to let God heal your wounded heart.  First, you need to know HIS love.  First, you need to know what love looks like by letting God kiss your heart and make it alive and well.  No boy or girl can do what God can do.  And it will take time for your heart to heal.  After all, it wasn't damaged overnight.

And after you know and delight in God's love?  Then you're either ready to meet the one God has for you to date, and then, marry...or you'll be perfectly content to spend the rest of your life just basking in God's love.

Dating--Part 1 "Dating Standards"
Dating--Part 2 "Signs of a Bad Date"
Coming up:  Dating--Part 4 "What a Guy Wants"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dating--Part 2 "Signs of a Bad Date"

Lucy seemed so perfect for Charlie Brown...or so he thought.  But it seems every time he made himself vulnerable to her, she'd blindside him...and he just never seemed to learn.  How do you know when someone is bad for you?  It doesn't just come from the person you're dating disappointing you one time--we can all do stupid stuff every once in awhile.  But if they consistently show any of these signs, you need to take notice.  Here are 9 signs of a bad date:
  • SELF-ABSORBED...If the person you're dating only thinks about themselves, it may manifest in different ways.  They may never ask you what you want to do on a date, they always keep you waiting, they turn every conversation to themselves, they only spend money on themselves or they insist that you spend your money on them, they want your undivided attention, they want you to look good so they look good, they demand a physical relationship, or they have an ego bigger than life which constantly needs stroking.  If you're dating a self-absorbed person, you can probably add to this list.
  • RUDE, CRUDE, INDECENT...This person doesn't care who you are or who they're around, they will tell off-color jokes, make racial slurs, sexist comments, or totally degrading critiques of a person's anatomy or personality.  They won't value you.  
  • ANGER...This is a huge red warning flag!  It may start off small like being angry about a rule their parents have made or how unjustly they were treated in class.  But it won't stop there.  They may become angry because you're doing things "wrong."  Or they're angry because a person made a questionable comment on your Facebook wall.  If their anger only intensifies and becomes directed at you, you should run as fast as you can.  If they become angry enough to put their fist through a wall or dent their dashboard, you can know it may some day dent you.  You can't change them.  Most people in an abusive relationship will tell you in hindsight that they saw the warning signs...they just didn't heed them.  *See below.
  • IMPATIENT...This characteristic is a cousin to so many others.  They may be impatient because they're angry or self-absorbed.  But this person has no grace for others.  They want to win at all costs.  They may constantly tap their foot or look at their watch.  They consistently drive in the speed lane.  They're dangerously impetuous and  they want things done their way--NOW!
  • JEALOUSY...Jealousy is a relationship killer.  It may seem sweet at first--it appears your boyfriend or girlfriend is being protective of you because they value you and want you to themselves.  The signs that it's moved beyond that is they want you to give up friendships, family, or shut down all social media.  Their world with you will become smaller and smaller until it's just you and them.  They will be highly critical of you, constantly asking where you've been or who you've talked to, and become very demanding and controlling.  They may even exert control by belittling you and destroying your confidence until you believe you deserve that kind of treatment.
  • PRIDE...This person is never wrong.  They brag constantly about who they are, how important they are, or how much money they have.  They're highly arrogant.  They also have an unteachable spirit--because they already know-it-all.  You'll never have a chance in their world.  They are the president of their own fan club.
  • TRUST ISSUES...This is a close kin to jealousy.  A lack of trust indicates this person will never believe you.  You can tell them the truth until you're blue in the face, but they just don't trust what you're saying.  They will doubt you and question you.  
  • UNKIND...Unkindness may start out as thoughtless or heartless and end up as mean, cold-hearted, and even inhuman.  Signs may show up early as being unkind to animals or making fun of small children or handicapped people--those who can't defend themselves.  It usually doesn't stop there.
  • LAUGHS AT INJUSTICE...This person will laugh at wrongdoing and will find it especially funny when they get away with their wrongdoing.  They think there's nothing wrong with cheating others, stealing, breaking the law, racism, or corruption.  They'll probably ask you early on in your relationship to do some minor infraction to make sure you're on the same page.  
The thing is...any of us can have some of these traits at any time.  But assuming you're dating a believer, if they're exemplifying one or more of these traits a lot, they're not walking in the love of God.  They're walking in their flesh.  I Corinthians 13 tells us what love looks like.  And it's the opposite of the things on this list.  Love is patient, love is kind...  It is NOT being self-absorbed, rude, crude, and indecent, etc. This isn't my list.  It's God's list from I Corinthians 13.

Charlie Brown never could change Lucy.  And the only person we can change is ourselves.  And it actually takes us agreeing with the Spirit of God for any real change to take place.  If you find yourself in a bad dating relationship, take a step back.  Talk to a trusted counselor and be willing to listen and even hear hard truth.  The worst thing you can do when you see definite strongholds in a person's life you're dating is to proceed in that relationship and ignore the warning signs.  God wants you in a healthy, loving marriage.  And it starts with being highly aware of any red flags while you're dating.

If you see yourself on this list and want to change, you can.  Turn to God and ask His forgiveness and ask Him to change you.  Then find a trusted Christian counselor to guide you into wholeness.

*If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, please check out this free app for your phone.  But even more than that, please tell someone you trust who can find you help to get out of that relationship.  

Dating--Part 1  "Dating Standards"
Coming up:  Dating Part 3  "I love you?"

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dating--Part 1 "Dating Standards"

I was 12-years-old when a pastor taught a group of us about dating.  This is the first thing he taught me:  Get your Bible out and create your own dating standards from it.  And make up your mind NOW that you won't compromise and lower those standards--even if someone comes along who is really good-looking but doesn't meet those standards.  And...if you find a standard you expect someone else to meet, you must measure up to that standard first.

I always share the #1 thing every believer should have at the top of their list for dating:  A Christian.  II Corinthians 6:14-16 says that we are not to be yoked to unbelievers.  Light and darkness have nothing in common.  In dating, and then marrying, the absolute #1 undisputed standard should be "Christian."  We shouldn't date an unbeliever if we want to marry a believer...because we marry who we date.  But is dating a Christian enough?  What kind of Christian?  A growing Christian, a worshiping Christian, a mission-minded Christian?  Answer these questions for yourself.  What is important to you--for yourself and for your future spouse?

Another standard that should be on our list is: No Sex Before Marriage.  And the reason we should set that standard is because God set that standard for us.  Ephesians 5:3 says that believers shouldn't engage in any sexual sin.  I Thessalonians 4:4-6 says we should learn to control our own body and not lust after one another.  Sex in itself isn't bad or sinful--just the opposite.  Sex is fun and enjoyable.  But God put it within the boundaries of marriage to protect you.  He knows that if you engage in sex before marriage, Satan will weigh you down with mental, emotional, and spiritual baggage...sometimes even physical baggage.  It's wrong to have sex before marriage.  If you already have, all you have to do is turn away from that sin and ask God to forgive you and He'll wash you whiter than snow.  He's a redeeming God!  I can promise that if you enter marriage without all that baggage, the wait is going to be worth it.

What standards should you set for dates?  Will you go to an R-rated movie?  Will you go to a club or bar?  What kind of dancing will you do?  Think through these things and compare it to Philippians 4:8.  God's Word should be our guide.  Is the activity pure?  Is it wholesome?  The reason we get into situations we don't know how to handle is because we don't prepare for it in advance.  If we decide ahead of time what we will or won't do, we can be better prepared to make a stand.  Daniel is a great example.  Daniel 1:8 says that Daniel made up his mind that he wouldn't defile (trash) himself.  You have to make up your mind now about what you'll do when you're faced with that choice later.

Andy & I highly encourage kids to just have fun in a group.  Dating leads to break-ups and people being angry with one another and even hating one another.  It can be so bad that it affects an entire school or youth group.  The goal should be to get to know one another and just see if the other person has qualities you're looking for in a spouse.  The goal isn't to have dozens of mini-marriages with just as many break-ups.  You want to get to marriage with "forever" in mind.

Think about what you want in a spouse.  Make a list.  What's important to you?  Does he need to love cats?  Does she need to love the outdoors?  Does he need to get along with your brothers?  Does she need to have a sense of humor?  Usually, we never even really consider what's important to us...until after the marriage.  And then we wonder why that person isn't what we expected--when we never defined what we were expecting in the first place.  Make a list of things that are important to you and look at it often while you're dating.

As you make a list of dating standards from the Bible and make a list of what you want in a spouse, you're going to become focused.  With the standards, you'll be focused on what God wants for you...and He wants the very best.  Keep your Bible open, read it often, and allow God to speak to you--He may even change your mind while you date.  God loves you and wants more for you than you can imagine!  I hope you come up with a full page of standards from the Word of God.  Search for it like hidden treasure...because it is!

Oh!  And that pastor who taught me?  He told us we weren't ready to date until we'd come up with a list of dating standards from the Bible.

Coming up:  Dating--Part 2  "Signs of a Bad Date"