Monday, May 30, 2016

Why Marry?

It's become widely acceptable to live together as a couple in our you may question, "Why marry?"  This isn't meant to bash those living's meant to encourage those who are truly questioning God's reasons for marriage.

Everything that God did was good.  He created man in His image and said, "This is very good."  But Adam was alone and God said, "This is not good."  So he put Adam into a deep sleep and took a rib out of his side (or a part of his side) and created woman (or womb man).  And when Adam woke up, God brought the woman to him.  This, in essence, was their wedding--or covenant relationship.  God created woman for man and brought them together and said, "Be fruitful and multiply."  You can find this in Genesis 1 & 2.

When we marry, we enter a covenant relationship.  We are committing all that we are and all that we have to one another--just like God did with us.  A covenant is different than a contract.  A covenant is a life-long mutual commitment to relationship or a promise that this relationship will never end.  A contract has an end in sight and can be voided when one party does not fulfill their end of the deal.  For instance, if your partner asks you to sign a prenuptial agreement, that is a contract demanding legal rights should the relationship end.  It has an end in sight.  God intended for marriage to be forever.

In Ephesians 5, we're told that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church.  Just like Jesus loved the bride enough to lay down his life for her, a man is to love his wife in that way.  We are representatives of something bigger than ourselves.  As believers, husbands are to show the world just how much Christ does love the Church--by loving his wife more than he loves himself.  By loving her sacrificially and being completely committed to her his entire life.  By being faithful.  When a husband loves his wife this way, the world sees Christ.  A wife is to respect her husband--which shows the world what the Church's response should be to Jesus.  But both man and woman are to love, respect, and submit to one another without any selfish agenda.  It's grace...just like God loves us.

God's good plan was to protect us and fill our lives with love and grace.  There's just nothing like total and complete commitment from another person.  Your heart is protected.  Without that commitment, you're always wondering if they really love you or if they'll leave you or move on to someone "better."  God wants to bless us with His very BEST.  He doesn't want us hurt, damaged, and carrying heavy baggage or burdens.  He doesn't want us giving ourselves to someone who loves themselves more than they love us.  If they're unwilling to commit, they're considering themselves first--and looking out for their own best interests.  God is "ALL IN" His relationship with us--He gave His Son for us.  He's been completely committed to us from the beginning of time.  And He wants us to experience not only His love and commitment, but a beautiful picture of that here on earth--marriage.  It's His good gift to us.

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"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Jesus' Name

I've been studying the name of Jesus to understand what it means to pray in His name.  It's powerful.  The name actually means, "The Lord saves."  And that was His purpose--to come into the world and save people from their sins.  So when I reasoned and meditated on this, I saw that when we come in His name, His desire is to save us and help us.  There's so much more...for instance, His name is so powerful people have been resurrected...or killed for associating themselves with it.

But I was getting so bogged down in my study of Jesus' mighty name, I asked God to simplify it and show me what it meant to come to Him in Jesus' name.  Why do we pray in Jesus' name?  Is it just a tag at the end of our prayers?  Or is it more than that?

Immediately, God gave me a picture.  If a poor man showed up at my house and asked me to feed him and give him a bed to sleep in for the night in my house, I'd be very cautious.  Because I know I'm to help the poor, I might be inclined to help.  But I also know there are wicked people in the world, so I might feel a little fearful.  But...if that same man showed up at my house and said, "Mrs. Dietz, your son, Matt, (Amy, David, or Zach--any of my kids) told me to come here.  He said you might be willing to feed me and give me a place to sleep in your home."  THAT would change everything!!  I'd probably call or text my son to ask him about the man, if he knew him and had actually sent him, and why he was there.  And if Matt explained who he was and why I should help him, I'd invite that man on in.

Just because the poor man knew my son, the doors to my home would open.  When we come asking God for anything, we ask in Jesus' name.  His Son's name opens doors.

But it's also coming with requests which are in agreement with God and His Word--what we know to be reasonable requests.  Matt wouldn't have sent the man if he knew the request was unreasonable.  He knows me and he knows what I'd be willing to do.  He actually knows I've helped people in that way before.  And if my son sent a man to ask for food and shelter, but the man decided to take advantage of me and asked for $100,000, too...Matt would indignantly expose his con game and I certainly wouldn't be helping.

Asking "In Jesus' name, amen" isn't just a tag.  It's the name which will open doors.  Amen means "so be it."  So I'm asking God, the King of the Universe, for help.  And I'm coming because I intimately know His Son.  His Son has saved me and will verify He knows me.  And that name will open doors in the kingdom of heaven for my benefit!

I've come to God in agreement with--and in the identity of--His Son.   So be it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Imitate Me...

"Imitate me, brothers and sisters, and look around to those already following the example we have set." Philippians 3:17

This is what Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Imitate me" ...or  "Follow my example."  As a little girl, I tried to imitate my dad a lot.  As I ate a fried jalapeno today at lunch, I told my sister-in-law that I guess my love for hot things began by imitating my dad.  He loved hot peppers and would put salsa on almost anything.  Because he loved it, I tried it.  I don't know if I loved it right away or if I grew to love it.  My dad liked boiled okra...I liked boiled okra.  My dad liked a tall glass with chocolate cake and milk...I liked a tall glass with chocolate cake and milk.  My dad liked fried peanuts...I liked fried peanuts.  Why did I imitate what he ate?  Because I loved my dad.  I wanted to be like him.

Paul was telling the Philippians how to live.  He was warning the believers that there were wicked workers who were trying to suck them back into living under the law.  But he was also telling them that he was sprinting after God and that nothing would stand in his way because God had grabbed him and wouldn't let go of him.  He was leaving his old life behind and following passionately after God.  And he said, "Imitate me."

Who is imitating you?  My dad had no idea I was imitating him...but I was.  We may think no one is imitating us...but they are. Where are we going?  And where are we taking them?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Parenting Tips from God

I was talking with a friend today about the perfect parent--God.  He is the perfect parent and has given us some really great parenting tips.  We all know how much He loves us--He sent His only son to die for our imperfect, sinful lives.  That's a lot of love.  He's shown us mercy by not giving us what we deserve--death.  He's shown us grace when we receive that gift of salvation from our sin and then He sees us as perfect.  He constantly encourages us to become the best person we can be!  He cheers us on and delights in us.  Love, mercy, grace, encouragement, and delight...what an awesome place to start with parenting.

But it doesn't stop there.  There may be a few things you've not given thought to in God's parenting style.  He disciplines His children.  I'm not talking about punishment.  He trains us.  He disciples us.  He's given us the Holy Spirit (who lives in us and is with us constantly) to teach us, guide us, help us, and mentor us.  God wants us to live a holy life--a life which is set apart for Him.  He wants to use us in His kingdom--to be a true representation of Him, His name, and His love.  In fact, He's given us His name and His identity by adopting us...and it carries a lot of weight.  He gives us responsibility.  We get to represent Him and use the gifts He's given us as we grow.  It's a powerful thing to partner with Him in our purpose as we mature.

God also corrects us.  God wants us to walk in truth and freedom!  So when we fall into error or lies, He is committed to correcting His kids.  Don't think of God as "a man upstairs who is carrying a big stick, ready to beat us."  He cares about us and will speak to our hearts--correcting us.  God has also given us boundaries--not to keep us from fun--but to protect us from evil.  It's like a fence of protection--to guard us from the enemy who wants to destroy us.  If He's told us something is wrong, it's because He wants us to move into a fulfilled life--one where we'll be protected, happy, satisfied, and content.

God doesn't always rescue His kids.  I think this concept is so important!  God's purpose is to grow us up into strong, healthy adults who can impact His kingdom.  So when you find yourself in a painful situation, God may or may not jump in to help you.  He knows where you are in your level of maturity.  Instead of rescuing you, He may hand you a sword and teach you to fight your enemy.  And He will do that enough times until your spiritual muscles have bulked up and you've learned how your enemy thinks, where he usually attacks, and how to resist him and help guard others.

God will always be your safe place.  You can always run to Him and He will defend you.  And even when you may mess up BIG time, He will meet you where you are, receive you, clean you up, feed you, and redirect you.  He always offers forgiveness and full restoration.  God's love never fails.

These are some important parenting tips from God.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson

Dee Henderson has hit another home run!  I have to admit...I'm a huge fan of Dee Henderson's writing and was excited when I was given her new book to review.  I wasn't disappointed.  The thing I love about Traces of Guilt is that characters from some of Henderson's recent books are a part of this new series.

The thing I've recently learned about myself is that I love solving mysteries and unraveling puzzles.  It's obvious that Dee Henderson loves the same.  But she not only unravels mysteries in her books--she creates them to then solve them.  And I'm always surprised.  I never see the endings coming.

Traces of Guilt brings in a new character:  Evie Blackwell, a young detective who is being groomed by Ann Falcon to work with the governor.  Evie comes to Carin County to spend two weeks working two cold cases as a precursor to launching a task force who will work across Illinois solving cold cases.  She meets the Thane men as she begins working these cases and they become partners in trying to solve these crimes--crimes which are personal because they happened to those they love.

I'm anxious to read the sequel(s) to this book!  I can't recommend it enough.  If you'd like to meet some of these characters, I'd recommend reading Taken.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Your Name

plural noun: names
  1. 1.
    a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.
    "my name is Parsons, John Parsons"
  2. 2.
    a famous person.
    "as usual, the big race will lure the top names"
    synonyms:celebritystarsuperstarVIPleading lightbig nameluminaryMore

I've been doing some intensive study on names.  Are our names important?  What's behind your name?  And more importantly...who does God say you are?  Here are some things I've discovered...

Your name IS important.  God gave Adam the authority to name each creature.  So it wasn't a far-fetched idea when he named the woman God had given him--Eve.  God had given him that authority.  This came after Eve had sinned.  I think this indicates Adam knew sin had messed up God's perfect plan.  So Adam was renaming her back into life.  Woman or Ishshah meant "womb man."  Eve or Chavvah means "life spring, life giver."  Adam means "man made from the earth."

God also changed names of some people.  He changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah.  As I studied this, I saw that God gave a portion of His name to both--the Hebrew letter ה "he" or breath of God.  God breathed into Abram and made him Abraham.  Abram means "exalted father and Abraham means "father of a multitude or many nations."  So God's breath brought expansion!  He did the same with Sarai and she became Sarah.  Sarai means "my princess" and Sarah means "Princess."  The connotation is that her kingdom expanded from one family to include many.  God changed Simon's "God has heard" name to Peter "rock."  And then God promised He would build his church on that rock--probably of Peter's revelation of who Christ was.  Expansion.  God has breathed on each of us as we receive Christ as our savior. The Spirit (pneuma) is breath.  Jesus breathed the Spirit on His disciples.  He breathes on us, too. And I believe it brings expansion for who He's created us to be...and then we are transformed from glory to glory.

In the Hebrew and Greek languages, when a name is spoken, it's the same as saying the meaning of the name.  So if I were to say Jesus in Greek, you would immediately know I was saying "Jehovah is salvation."  If I said Esther in Hebrew, you'd know I was saying, "Star."  It's kind of like me saying Hershey's Kiss in English.  What picture does that bring to your mind?  This?

Just like you imagined this when I said Hershey's Kiss, your name brings an image to mind.  Isn't that amazing?  You can google your name.  I've found the best way to find the meaning to your name is to google it this way:  "meaning of name ______"  You may have to search a few different ways if you have an unusual name.  Most of our last names have a location as the meaning or the "son of" someone.  Those are descriptive meanings to separate Bob by the hill from Bob, son of Peter.  If you're Bob Peterson (son of Peter), look up the meaning of Peter because most sons take on the characteristics of their father.

It can become complicated.  But God wants us to know what our names mean.  It's significant to who we are and who He created us to be.  Through your name, you'll begin to even find your purpose.  Don't you think Abraham knew he was meant to be a father over a multitude?  So he was given skills to rule and lead.  His heart was also bent towards following God.

If you're a believer, you have the Spirit (breath) living in you.  He's there to instruct you.  Ask Him to show you what your name means.  Every name you have or that has come into your life (maiden name, mother's maiden name) is significant to who you are.  Let me give you the meaning of my name as an example:
  • Becky--trap
  • Darlene--darling
  • Childress (mother's maiden name)--orphan/orphanage
  • Sanders (maiden name)--helper of mankind
  • Dietz (married name)--ruler of the people                          
Putting it all together, what does it mean?   I am a precious child of God.  My mind and spirit have become a trap to contain all God wants to teach me.  Satan tried to convince me I was an orphan, but God's good plan was for me to become a life-giving and life-sustaining house for orphans.  I am a womb sharing the life of God with others.  My greatest desire is to share that life with all of mankind which I know can help change their lives and they, too, can become precious children of God.  I rule and influence the people God has given me with life, grace, and compassion.  I am meant to shelter, sustain, and help God's people--all because I know how much God truly loves me.  I've received life and I share that life with others.  (Which, by the way, is why this blog is called Life to LIFE!)

This is my purpose.  And it's all in my name.

And then there is a Name that is above every name.  Jesus!  And for Jesus to be called the name above every name indicates that our names are significant...His is just MORE SIGNIFICANT!

Who are you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Work is Honorable

"Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve. " Colossians 3:23-24

Did you realize work is not a curse placed on man because of sin?  Work was a gift given to Adam at the very beginning of his life. In fact, God worked the first 6 days of creating.  And then He rested.  Man was created on the 6th day, so his first full day of life was resting.  And then he worked.  God rested from His work; man worked from his rest.  And that's the way it should be.

The work God gave Adam to do was to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden.  There was discovery, delight, fulfillment, and VALUE in all that Adam did.  In fact, there was gold in one of the rivers flowing out of the garden.  Don't you imagine Adam discovered that?  He tilled the soil.  Everything was beautiful and...perfect.

Then Adam & Eve sinned.  Because of that sin, God had to remove them from the garden because if they'd eaten from the Tree of Life at that point, they (we) would have forever been locked into that sinful state with no hope of recovery.  After the fall, man wasn't cursed.  The only one cursed was the serpent.  Man was given a consequence for his sin.  Now he had to toil...not till.  Work would be difficult.  BUT when Jesus died on the cross and paid for our sins, he redeemed us.  And when we receive that free gift of salvation from our sin, it changes everything.  WE are redeemed.  Our WORK is redeemed!  We can once again till; we discover, delight, are fulfilled, and find VALUE in all we do.

God set up the principle that if we don't work, we don't eat.  (II Thess. 3:10)  He also said that a man who doesn't provide for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  (I Tim. 5:8)  Can I just give an example of someone who has always provided for his family?  I so admire my middle son, David.  There have been times when he's been waiting (for years) on the job he really wanted to do, but he didn't remain idle.  He did whatever it took to provide for his family.  He waited tables.  And he became the best waiter Hoffbrau has ever had.  And while he did that, God was honored.  It was good, honest work which provided for his family.

There is no honest work that is shameful.  I believe we are created with a desire to do different things.  God has planted that purpose in each one of us.  If you enjoy what you do, you've already discovered part of that purpose.  It may be that you don't really enjoy the job, but you enjoy the opportunities it presents.  Work should bring fulfillment and purpose to our lives.  Work is a gift from God...and it is good and honorable.  And you're serving the King of all kings and fulfilling His good plan when you do it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Let's Dance!

I read something on Facebook this morning by my friend and former classmate, Lakan Mariano.  He talked about dancing with his wife and comparing it to dancing with God.  Since I was already thinking on my past interactions with God this morning, it began to bring my relationship with Him into focus.  You see, my whole life, I feel like I've been impatient.  I've been a poor dance partner with God.  (I actually don't know how to dance.  That's probably because I was never willing to give up control.)  If God shared anything with me about my future, I wanted it to happen right then.  I could well relate to Joseph and his dreams...which took years to actually come about.  Or if I began to sense my future was going to change, I'd try to force the change.  Or I'd sit around and BEG God to change things.  It's been hard for me to learn contentment.  But mostly it's been hard for me to give up control and learn to follow His dance steps.

I feel like I'm finally learning.  And I think the things which have been most helpful to get to this place is learning my purpose in life.  Why did God put me here?  What does He want me to do?  How did He create me?  When that was answered, the next question was, "How?"  And God began to show me...just do the next thing right under your nose.  Life isn't about waiting for the BIG THING to happen, it's about doing the next step.  It's following His lead.  It's a beautifully intimate dance choreographed by God but to which He's offered His hand and asked me to follow His lead.

So many times, the next thing right under my nose is something small which pleases me--and pleases God--something I was created to do.  And when God has completed that purpose, He'll promote me to the next thing.  It's like a twirl or a dip added into this amazing dance called life.  It's movement, it's grace, it's the unforced rhythm of grace.  This video is a picture of what I'm talking about.

"Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace."  
Matthew 11:29