Singles Training #3: How to View Yourself

103943824I am a child of the King.

Say it again.

I am a child of the King.

Keep saying it.

I am a child of the King.

Look up Zephaniah 3:17 while you do it.

I am a child of the King.

And Romans 8:31-39.

I am a child of the King.

And all of Luke 15.

I am a child of the King.

Dear longing single, you are going to need this knowledge. You are going to your identity in Christ embedded deep in your soul. The favor, the privilege, the delight you hold in the eyes of God. The bewilderingly good fortune that God chose to rescue us from the filth and consequence of our sin. Learn it, marinate in it, embed it deep in your soul.

And you’re going to need it for more than just finding the right mate. 

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Singles Training #2: How to View The Kingdom

running-man-sunset-fullframeOne of the high schoolers I used to mentor became a married woman this past spring. (That’s two of them who have beaten me to marriage! Oi.)

I had the privilege to attend her wedding, even drove through a May snowstorm to reach it (and it’s not the first time I’ve done it. Montana, y’all). It was one of those affairs you never forget, the liturgy interrupted by great splats of melting snow hitting the pavilion roof and great splats of happiness hitting our hearts. The couple danced to “You Are Mine” by Secret Nation and wrote their own vows, the kind bursting with yearning and breathless delight. (No disrespect to the sobriety of Baptist weddings, but would it kill you, Christianity, to include both of these divine intentions once in a while? Ephesians 5 and the Song of Songs?)

But what got me excited about N & D was hearing the pastor talk of shared purpose. Here are two people who want to share each other’s callings and are well-crafted to do so. A union of two disciples who know their role, who have delved deep into God and are discovering what he created them to do and be. They’re headed in the same direction.

That sounds way better than any rom-com I’ve ever seen. (Not that I’ve seen a lot. Guy.)

Do we envision a marriage as face-to-face, or side-by-side?

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Singles’ Training #1: How to View A Spouse

sparringPlease share this if someone you know might find it valuable.

It’s fair to say that we singles view these days as a kind of training.

As we wait for God to bring us someone, we’re told enthusiastically by those around us, “This is the time for you to be preparing for marriage!” We’re told to grow in holiness, learn the Word, and hone our character as part of our preparation.

(We also get a hint that God might be waiting until we’re “trained” to marry us off. Never mind that God marries off plenty of people who aren’t even remotely ready, that nobody is exempt from learning to love, and that we’re training for a lot more than just marriage…)

But pull me back from the rabbit trail.

Training.

I love training. In a masochistic way. Something about those training montages in movies just gets to me. Rocky. The Matrix. Any superhero origin film. The entire Harry Potter series. The hero doesn’t get kid gloves; he must adapt and learn, or he’ll be hosed. It’s a calling out, a strengthening and preparation for a mythic role. And he is usually guided by an old sage who cares enough about his welfare to show him the way, equip him for survival.

Honestly, if we learned to see our lives’ trials more like Shifu’s rigor towards Po, or de la Vega’s harshness towards Alejandro, we might start seeing God differently.

Singleness has its own training. We, too, love just reading about it (right?); it makes us feel like we’re “on the way”. God is our sage, showing us the ropes.

But to what great arena, what great mission, is God calling us singles?

Love.

No, not the fun version. Love. Giving up, sacrificing, letting go, often with no visible prospect of reward.

True love is brutal, and so its training must be. I’ll make a bold statement here: in my experience, many of the deep kingdom secrets of love are not found in typical advice to Christian singles. Tragically, they’re often left to the marriage books. Love isn’t cushy. It’s going to cost everything you have. For Jesus, it was a cross. It will demand of you.

Why wait until marriage to start becoming the awesome spouse you’ve envisioned yourself being? What if we could start…right now?

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Unbeliever – Is There Anything You Need Prayer For?

pexels-photoI just spent a work shift hearing about people’s lives – tossed and spun and beaten like the pizzas.

Many of my coworkers do not believe in Jesus. Yet their stories have me compassionate. Have me wanting to ask anyone within reach – including unbelievers – is there anything in your life for which you’d like some prayer?

Most likely you’ve got something. Some current crisis, some ancient ache, where you’d be grateful for some help. (It’s a fair guess – we’ve all got something.)

I want an opportunity to lift that ache up to God for you. That’s it. No agenda.

Well, alright. I have an agenda. I want to demonstrate that God cares about your life.

I can almost see your eyes narrow in suspicion.

There’s some catch, right? Do I have to agree to repentance or church attendance? All for the God who spews demands and judgments, breeds wars and hatred and angry people, through a book he expects me to trust on faith?

Let me tell you a Jesus story.

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An Open Letter To Those Who Say Prayer Isn’t Working

praying-hands-1381582628wU2As we ache in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, I see a reaction spreading amongst our society that makes me grab a deep breath as it falls upon my eyes and ears.

“Prayer isn’t working.”

I admit I am deluged with my own questions. It feels truly churlish to fling theological essays at times like this.

But to attack the reputation of prayer? Even as an honest Christian willing to question, that’s one place my ruminations have never taken me.

Now, I’m all for making laws to protect ourselves, and I’m all for making my hands and feet part of the solution. But having taught for several years and watched my students regularly flout anti-suffering efforts like the speed limit and drunk driving laws, for no better reason than “YOLO!!!”, I question whether human effort can fully insulate us. We are flawed. We need help.

I’m only just starting to learn prayer as a discipline, as God calls me to it. But I’ve learned just enough to know that there are reasons to find hope in prayer, to continue turning there – and that we can never judge its effectiveness by looking at the chaos of the post-Curse world. There’s just too much that is hidden.

Even as heartbreak and anger encroach our hearts, I humbly ask for open minds as I offer what God is teaching me.

 

1. Prayer isn’t ineffective; it’s under-used.

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Should Christians “Let Go” Of Toxic or Draining Relationships?

18208764578_c5d99b67e4_bIf you’ve read my blog lately, you know I devote the occasional post to Reacting to Internet Memes™. I didn’t intend for that habit to happen. Like tofu, it just kinda did.

Today, it’s this (and a collection of similar meme quotes):

“When people walk away from you, let them go.”

“Run, my dear, from anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings.”

“Letting go of negative people doesn’t mean you hate them. It just means that you love yourself.”

“Keep people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you, and make you happy. If you have people who do none of the above, let them go.”

You’ve probably seen that. It’s about knowing when to let go of people. (Do not sing Frozen songs at me. I will hit myself with a chair.)

On one hand, I understand. Life would be so much easier if it wasn’t for people. God does say “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). If your walk with God is threatened, we have Biblical basis to pull out of hard relationships. You owe God more than you owe anyone.

But the above collection of quotes – which is bombarding the “keep things positive” side of Facebook right now, I might add, and influencing an entire generation – is speaking of an entirely different motive: letting go of people simply because they are difficult. No character threat, just high-maintenance.

And absent anywhere in that line of thinking is the thought that it might actually not be about you at all.

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(Part 2): 7 Ways Satan Wants to Poison Your Singleness

(This is Part 2 of an article on how we allow Satan’s lies to darken singleness. Part 1 can be found here.)

desert-dry-path-track

4. Compromise

Some young Christian singles stick it out through their twenties with admirable gumption. They stay surrendered to God, their standards high, buoyed by their belief in God’s ability to deliver.

But as the years go on, the compromises become easier to accept.

You might meet someone who clicks with you and finally offers relief from the loneliness. But then you discover a fatal flaw. He’s foolish with his money. Her anger is out of control. She’s not a believer. He is, but has zero interest in attending church or leading spiritually. It’s a glaring item on your “no-fly list”, one of the things you’ve been taught will bring strife to a marriage. A last-minute foul on the play. You’ve got to be kidding me.

You know deep down this opportunity isn’t God’s best for you. But you’re tempted to “make the best of it” and just go for it. Man, do I know how that feels. After years of feeling invisible, after years of the roller coaster of hope and longing, you’re not sure what you believe about God’s plan anymore. You are sure that you’ve got a chance right in front of you, and you’re taking it. After all, nobody’s perfect and it’s about learning to love anyway and God wants us to be happy, right?

Don’t do it.

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