17Nov

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

It can’t go on like this.

Adolescence cannot last from 11 years old to 29 years old.

The headlines are everywhere:

Most sociologists view adolescence as beginning at puberty (for some at 11-12 years old) but that’s not the problem. The problem is there is no longer any conceivable end to the age of adolescence.

Adulthood used to be measured by 5 major milestones (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child). Yet these depict a cookie cutter path to adulthood that not everyone takes. (See: You May Never Get Married)

And that’s okay. Some of the most mature people I know have never had children or been married and some of the most irresponsible crazies I know have the most children. But I would argue the first three of those traditional milestones are still really important.

So are 20-somethings just up the creek without a paddle? It’s getting harder and harder to obtain financial freedom. Student loans are a necessary evil for many and that debt can shackle you for decades. Not to mention the degrees you took the loans out to obtain mean less and less all the while more and more education and experience is being required for entry level jobs. Where do you go to work to get the 3-5 years experience that everyone seems to want for you to get a job?

I know the deck can seem stacked against 20-somethings in many ways. But that’s not my concern. I see it almost everyday. Some of my friends have looked at the landscape of their 20’s and simply concluded, “This period of my life doesn’t matter.” And that’s a narrative they have bought into: hook line and sinker.

All this talk about millennials yet so few conversations with them. With that in mind…

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

1.) You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not an “emerging” adult. You’re an adult.

While there is no denying adolescence, it needs to have a definitive ending point. Your 20’s are not simply a continuation of your teenage years. They are not a time to grow up; they are a time to be grown up. I know it can feel like you’re stuck sometimes but real life is happening all around you today. (See: The In-Between Places)

The apostle Paul wrote the following about maturing into adulthood:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

2.) The relationships you make and cultivate in this defining decade will shape the rest of your life..

Many people meet their spouse in their 20’s. Who you date matters because who you marry matters.Your 20’s are not a time to waste time dating losers you know you could never marry. Keep the bar high because if you lower it a whole bunch of jokers will start jumping over and then you’ll have deal with the fall out.

The friends you have in your 20’s are also different than any friends you’ve had before, even if they’re the same people. In high school and college it can be hard to tell who your real friends are because they’re picked largely based on proximity. You go to class together. You live near each other, etc. But once you graduate college and/or start working, you really start to learn who your real friends are. Friendships can be harder to maintain but ultimately more worthwhile.

3.) You’ll gain financial freedom or financial captivity.

Student loans stink. Learn to HATE your debt. Think about all you could do without that amount weighing you down every month. Work hard. Get promotions. Move up the ladder as you’re able and feel comfortable in doing so. Learn how to manage a budget. (See: Chop Wood, Carry Water)

It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a discipleship issue. Everything is God’s. We’re managers at best. Manage well. Your success or failure in this area during this decade will largely determine your financial health for the next three decades. (See: The 1 Thing We Fight About)

4.) You’ll find your sweet spot at work, eventually.

A lot of your 20’s is spent discovering what it is you’re truly passionate about. You’re young enough to switch careers and depending on your personal life situation (married/unmarried, with/without kids, etc.) you can really pursue a wide path. But don’t be afraid to settle in when you find something you love. No situation/job/boss is perfect. (See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry)

In the immortal words of Monica to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”

5.) Your 20’s are not your own.

You don’t own any part of your life. It’s all a gift of grace. Life with Christ isn’t just for your 30’s and beyond. You’re not even guaranteed to make it to 30.

Your 20’s are a wonderful gift, given to you and me from God. Honor him with these years. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have had more to be truly grateful for in my 20’s than ever before.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (and your 20’s). – 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20  (italicized mine)

Question: What would you add to the list? Why else do the 20’s matter?

16Nov

My Favorite Word in the Old Testament

The last 2 weeks or so have easily been some of the most stressful and uncertain in my life.

I don’t intend to stack it against your most stressful or uncertain week, though. Many of you have suffered and endured more than I could ever imagine.

  • My wife and I do not have any children yet so we do not know what the loss of a child is like.
  • We have consistently had provision for our basic needs so we know nothing of what it is like to wonder where our next meal would come from or how we would keep the lights on in our house or the heater on in winter.
  • Both of us have been consistently employed in jobs we enjoy so we have never felt like we were giving ourselves to something pointless not do we know the sinking feeling of unemployment and all that often comes with it (depression, identity crisis, self-esteem issues, etc.)

With that said, though…here’s what went down in a matter of days.

  • We discovered a hole in our roof…when it rained. When the roof fella came over to work on it, he put his boot through the ceiling of our dining room. When it rains, it pours. Literally. In our dining room. Upside? We had a skylight for a few weeks!
  • Our oldest dog, Cooper, almost died. We’re kinda dog people so this was maybe a bigger deal for us than it would have been for you, and that’s okay. We discovered he had a huge tumor blocking his digestive tract, and stealing all kinds of nutrients from his body. He stopped being himself and lost tons of weight, rapidly. We took him to the vet and they scheduled surgery the next morning. Sometime the night before the surgery his tumor ruptured, filling his stomach up with blood. Surgery went great! He’s back to his old self and will be great but he was 10 hours away from dying.
  • The engine in my car fried. The ENGINE. You know, the part that makes a car…a car. The engine cost more than my car is worth.
  • My wife’s teeth have apparently been in an open revolt against her for some time now. She went for a check-up and came out with more bling in her mouth than 50 Cent. Then part of that bling didn’t do its job so she had to get a full-on root canal. Lovely.
  • Somewhere in the middle of all of this I attended an out-of-state conference for 3 days.

I’m sure you know what this season is like. Everything seems like it’s about one second from spinning out of control. The other shoe has dropped about 10 times and you’re wondering how many other things could go wrong. You don’t know who Murphy is but his law sucks and if you ever find him you’re gonna punch him right in the jaw.

It’s in moments and seasons like these that I return again and again to my favorite word in all of the Old Testament. I highlight/circle/box/underline it every single time I come across it.

STEADFAST

It can actually be a catch-all word in English because 6 or 7 words in Hebrew are translated as “steadfast” in the Old Testament but we understand the meaning. Steadfast means stable, enduring, patient, constant, never-wavering, long-suffering, etc.

It’s probably the quality I most admire in others.

In the Old Testament, it’s almost always referring to the character and nature of God, his steadfast love. It’s the Hebrew equivalent of “grace” albeit rather roughly translated.

Think about it. God’s grace, his loving kindness, is most often expressed to us in his stability, in his enduring, never-wavering love for people who constantly waver from him.

Even though we far too often “swerve to the right or to the left” (Proverbs 4:27) God never does.

This should give us great encouragement when life kind of hits the fan. If I were to go back through the list I cited earlier of all the things that converged upon us in a stressful time, I could show you all of these situations sort of worked out. Some were more expensive than expected but some weren’t. Our dog could have just as easily died but he didn’t. My wife could have lost her entire tooth but she didn’t.

But none of that has anything to do with God’s steadfastness, not really. To say it does is to promote some type of prosperity gospel which would be a desertion of grace and a “turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one.” (Galatians 1:6-7)

Our circumstances could have gone worse but they also could have gone better. Either way, God is steadfast in his love toward us and that was, is, and always will be our greatest hope.

“20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:20-22

14Nov

Saturday Morning Coffee

Every Saturday morning I make a full pot of coffee, a little more than usual.

Most weekday mornings find me nursing my first cup as I get ready and then filling up a to-go mug on the way to work.

But Saturdays are different. Unless we’re hitting up early garage sales, we have a little more time to wake up.

In those moments I find myself catching up on articles, videos, or other interesting Internet finds. Starting today and on most Saturdays I’ll pass those along to you here.

Welcome to the 1st Edition of Saturday Morning Coffee:

 

Relevant had a great 2-part series this week:

8 Types of Women You Should Never Date

10 Guys You Should Never Date

 

Solid Dose of Internet Cuteness

Mom Sews Incredibly Accurate Disney Costumes for her Daughter to Wear at Disney World (pictures are awesome!)

tarzan-jane

What You Should Tell Your Teen (and yourself) about Kim Kardashian by Annie F Downs

kimgirl

Unless you have been living under an Internet-proof rock you have heard the buzz surrounding Kim Kardashian’s latest round of nude photos. Annie writes a great article directed toward girls and women who feel the daily pressure of living up to a fake and impossible standard.

Movie: The Good Lie (tonight’s date night flick)

After Losing 160 Pounds, Man Strips Down To Show Excess Skin, His Biggest Insecurity (no nudity)

Daniel Radcliffee Raps Blackalicious’ “Alphabet Aerobics”

If you find something you think should make it on next week’s Saturday Morning Coffee you can always e-mail me: hillcsteven@gmail.com

 

13Nov

Nothing is Anonymous

When I was in junior high, the girls in our grade created a slam book.

In case you haven’t seen Mean Girls (what are you doing with your life if you haven’t?), the slam book was a homemade scrapbook with a page for each student in our grade. As the book got passed around people took turns writing what they really thought of each other on their respective pages. The results were overwhelmingly hateful and almost always negative. That stupid book caused a lot of hurt in our little world because nobody ever completely figured out who wrote what comments.

It was anonymous. Anybody could write whatever they wanted.

What was hurtful in the slam book, circa-2000 is just as hurtful in the Yik Yak app, circa-2014.

Yik Yak is an app where users can “get a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” Yik Yak allows users to post and read other users’ comments based on their location…and it’s completely anonymous.

I was talking to some of my students a few days ago and they were all telling me the same story: Yik Yak is out of control in their school. They told me sobering stories of how students at their school, including some of them, were using it to say terrible things about not just students, but faculty and staff.

I was curious to know the depth of the hurt being caused through this app so I asked several of them, “What is the worst thing you’ve read?”

They took turns telling me stories of students writing and commenting on sexually explicit posts directed towards all ages of people, as high-ranking as members of school administration and as young as girls in 7th and 8th grade.

I understand how Yik Yak could be entertaining but it is hard for me to see much good in it.

Before we go any further, let me just caution you to not buy into the lie that this generation is any more sinful or fallen than your generation or mine. I firmly believe that it has never been more difficult to be a teenager than it is today.

To think that there is a golden age of morality to which we should return is to tragically misunderstand the depth and pervasiveness of sin on all people in all times.

What saddens me most about Yik Yak and Snapchat and other apps like them is simple: they operate under the cowardice of perceived anonymity.

Nothing about them is really anonymous, though.

School districts are cracking down on Yik Yak users all over the country. The authorities can track what is written to the corresponding IP address of your phone, tablet, or computer with ease. There is nothing anonymous about it!

The same is true with Snapchat. Just a few weeks ago, over 200,000 Snapchat accounts were hacked and leaked all over the Internet. Read that last sentence again. Not 200,000 pictures. 200,000 PEOPLE. The images of 200,000 Snapchat accounts were leaked, easily several million images. There are hundreds and thousands of websites and Instagram/Twitter accounts dedicated to hacking and leaking “anonymous” snaps.

Snapchat rather famously has an unofficial API, which basically means any 2nd grader with an iPhone can hack into it through a 3rd party app and Snapchat can claim that it’s the 3rd party app’s security problem, not their own.

I don’t care if you can’t spell Yik Yak or have never heard of Snapchat, it matters.  It matters because our teenagers have bought into a lie that we have modeled for them, that what they do in private doesn’t matter.

John Wooden once said that the true test of one’s character is what they do when no one is watching.

Maybe it’s not with Snapchat or Yik Yak, but you and I have been guilty of thinking we can speak and act in a certain way in private but then speak and act in a different way in public, or maybe you act differently around some friends than others.

Part of the reason our teenagers feel such great freedom to exploit apps like Snapchat and Yik Yak is they look around and see adults living double lives too.

But here’s the reason this stuff pains my heart so much.

Here’s the reason this applies to all of us, digital natives and digital foreigners alike: God sees everything. Seriously.

God sees everything. I don’t mean that in a “Santa Claus, you better watch out” type of way. But think about it. God, on his throne, reigning and ruling over the world and your heart, who LOVES you, sees everything.

Nothing is anonymous in a world created and sustained by God.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:13

“The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” – Psalm 33:13-15

For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” – Proverbs 5:21

26Oct

It Takes Time to Take Heed

Our church is currently preaching through 1 Corinthians. It’s been fascinating seeing how many of our present-day issues and situations are the same things Christians have been wrestling through since the very beginning.

Sometimes when I read the Bible, certain verses just rattle in my head for days, sometimes weeks, after I read them. The following verse has been on my mine since we unpacked it over a week ago now:

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12

Don’t rush past that. Read it again. Slowly.

Paul is writing to a pretty new group of Christians who had a lot to be proud about in their city. They had unparalleled access to other cultures, knowledge, art, etc. The city of Corinth laid across a pretty major trade route so their world was growing smaller and smaller as they gained more access to the influence of other countries, people groups, and cultures. Sound familiar?

They had a lot of reasons to stand up and be proud. Or so they thought.

Paul’s encouragement to the church at Corinth echoes the encouragement God gives us in the Psalms, “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10.

Paul’s plead with them to take heed can seem hard to understand at first. We defined taking heed as “paying special attention to the condition of your heart before God.”

One of my favorite thing about our church is our home groups. For those who attend, they are rich blessings, a tangible exercise in the often-intangible pursuit of true community. For those who do not belong to a home group, they are missing out on a big part of what it means to belong to a local church.

This verse is rattling around in my heart because of something someone else said in my home group. These two comments from two different people answered two questions I had about this processing of taking heed of our hearts before God.

1.) Why should we take heed?

My wife is brilliant. When we were focusing on the words “take heed” she called us back to the beginning of the verse. She said something incredibly profound like, “Maybe our problem with the whole taking heed thing is we think we’re standing when we should be bowing.” *drops mic*

It’s in these moments that I am a proud husband and a humiliated pastor. I’m incredibly grateful for my wife and am just counting down the days until she “wakes up” and realized she really got the raw end of this whole marriage deal. But she also just saw something in the text I never saw and I preached the dad gum sermon.

But she’s absolutely right: Maybe we refuse to consider the position of our heart toward God simply because we refuse to acknowledge our great need to do so.

2.) How do we practically take heed?

I was proud of our group this last week. When this question came up, they refused to offer the typical “pray, read your Bible, etc. etc.” Those things are fantastic and a huge part of our lives but I’ve learned you’re either doing them or you’re not. Still, taking heed is something different, anyway.

While we were fumbling a bit trying to wrap our heads and hearts around how we actually go about taking heed, one of my friends launched into a really compelling time when he shared his frustration with how busy our culture has become. He had grown weary of the imposed expectation that his kids constantly be involved in 6 different activities at the same time. (His only do one at a time. These people exist, parents. I promise). He talked about how selling some of their extra stuff had recently enhanced their spiritual life and how they were really fighting to be open to God calling them to do anything or go anywhere at any time.

Then he simply said, “You know Steven, it takes time to take heed.” *drops mic*

He’s right. And God has seared that sentence on my heart the last week or so. It takes time to take heed.

Whether through Scripture reading or prayer, quiet contemplation on a run or a trip to the grocery store, it takes time to truly consider the position of our heart toward the One who made it. To place ourselves in a position of bowing instead of a position of standing because I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to try and stand on my own.

Today, take time to take heed of your heart. After all, it is what God is after above all else.

14Oct

Why I Hate Christian Bookstores

I hate Christian bookstores.

Can I say that? Yep.

They are frustrating for so many reasons.

But the $30 wooden angels that looked like they were carved by a blindfolded 4-year old or the t-shirts designed by someone who flunked a community college graphic design class are not what frustrates me most.

The books are the worst, and I LOVE books.

I don’t know what it is that makes Christians gobble up whatever the newest version of shallow theology peddled by some Christian author that may or may not even be a part of the local church. From prosperity “gospel” nonsense to virtue-based teaching steeped behavior modification the lack of solid, Christ-centered resources in a Christan bookstore can be astounding.

So with all these options – all these books from all these pastors writing about all this stuff…where should we start

How does the average Christian know what to buy and what to avoid?

I have one rule that helps me wade through the Christian bookstore maze: When it comes to books intended for a Christian audience, I generally only read books written by active pastors of local churches.

I have no interest in reading books from presidents of organizations, professors, or Christian authors in general. I am not saying they write sub-par books, not by any means.

There is just something about reading a book written by a man or woman who is in the trenches of ministry week in and week out. They’re not sleeping in and spending days holed up in their home office writing their books in solitude.

No, these are the people who write sermons by day and books by night. They may not reach their written word count goal for the night because a church member calls in a moment of need. So they give of themselves, their time and energy, to the ones God has entrusted to them and they write double the next night.

They can’t afford to sleep half the day away like other writers because they have staff meetings to conduct and hospital visits to make. They can’t quite seem to wrap up their latest chapter because they performed two funerals and welcomed a new baby into their church family.

After being wrung out for the Gospel all day, they ask God to fill them up on the way home so they can be wrung out yet again ministering to the ones that matter most, their family.

This week I’m at a small conference for church leaders at The Village Church in Dallas where Matt Chandler serves as pastor. He is the only “famous” pastor I really pay much attention to. I have enjoyed listening to his sermons since I was in college but I have gained a new level of respect for him today because I saw him make time for his church people, his family, and a room full of young pastors. His breakout session was filled with story after story of interactions with people in his local church, which will never make it into a book.

Of all the options at your local Christian bookstore, I would suggest reading the words of a humble, hard-working pastor who lives out what it means to love Jesus all the while leading others to do the same.

What are you reading right now?

13Oct

Co-Habitation, Dating, & Marriage

Are two people who decide to live together outside of marriage headed for divorce?

That’s the question I set out to answer, or at least learn more about, a few weeks ago. I stumbled across The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage, a 2012 New York Times article written by a clinical psychologist who works primarily with 20-somethings and has made a healthy living counseling couples and individuals with issues specifically related to cohabitation.

Jay tells the story of one of her clients, a woman named “Jennifer.” Jennifer lived with her husband for four years before they married yet started receiving counseling from Jay when she was considering divorce just one year into marriage.

“What happened?”

Jennifer eventually confessed that when she was living with her husband before they got married, before she knew his commitment to her, it felt like she was constantly trying out to be his wife, wondering if this was the month, or even the year, where she would be seen as worthy enough to be a wife.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. “We had all this furniture. We had our dogs and all the same friends. It just made it really, really difficult to break up. Then it was like we got married because we were living together once we got into our 30s.”

Jennifer’s story is heartbreaking, and if we’re not careful we can miss the real issue with co-habitation.

I could see how it’s easy to start living together with someone, especially someone you’re already having sex with.

You’re already staying over at each other’s houses. When you’re both at his place, you use his Internet while your paid-for Internet goes to waste with all your other lonely, underutilized utilities. When you’re both at her place and she wants to invest in some new furniture it’s not the craziest thing for her to ask you what you think. She doesn’t really care but she’s really asking, “Is this furniture eventually going to be our furniture?”

The whole 30-is-the-new-20 culture communicates that your 20’s just don’t really matter that much. And study after study shows that 20-somethings are the most likely to live together outside of marriage. It does matter what you do, all the time, especially in your 20’s. They might be the most formative years of your life because you’re making decisions then that you’ll deal with the rest of your life.

But cohabitation can wreck your 20’s, (or your 30’s, 40’s etc.) because you end up compromising in ways you never intended:

Step 1: You start dating someone.

Step 2: The exciting newness of your new relationship has worn off. Things are honestly going well but you’re not super sure about where the relationship is going long-term so you decide to fast track things, stop the house-hopping and live together. More sex. Less rent. Win-win.

Step 3: The exciting newness of living together has worn off. You look around one day, still unsure about the future of your relationship long-term, but now it’s messy. You think about what it would take to end the relationship. You’d have to find a new place, get new cable/Internet/utilities, etc. You’d have to decide who keeps the dog you adopted together. You’d have to find some, if not all, new friends. If you’re church goers you have to find a new church, small group, etc. If you’re honest with yourself, all that just doesn’t seem worth it.

Step 4: Something gives. Marriage, all of a sudden, doesn’t seem so terrible. Maybe you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re just exhausted at the idea of starting all over with someone new. The thought of doing the whole first date, awkward get to know you, meet the parents routine sounds dreadful. So you get married.

Step 5: Divorce? Maybe. Happy marriage built on a fierce sense of loyalty and covenant commitment to one another? Probably not. You think to yourself, “How did I get here? I would never date my spouse if I was just meeting them now.”

What happened?  Cohabitation happened.

If you’ve made it this far in this post you might be familiar with a cohabitation, dating, and marriage survey I created over the weekend. It was taken by hundreds of people and brought about some interesting results. You can see the most recent version of those results here. (The survey is still open and the results are constantly being updated).

Survey Background Facts:

  • 75% of the survey responders are female.
  • 50% are under the age of 30.
  • 34% have lived or are living with someone outside of marriage.
  • I intentionally left out comment boxes or religious preferences.

5 Thoughts on Cohabitation

1.) Cohabitation is more simple than some people realize.

Cohabitation is most dangerous for people living with who the studies referred to as a “serial cohabitater.” This person, male or female, has no real desire to get married. They are operating out of a misguided, more sex/less rent attitude and/or they desire some companionship without a deep commitment. Ironically, cohabitation requires a commitment that cohabitation cannot actually provide. This group is full of the people trying to rationalize their decisions when really their situation is simple: get your own place.

2.) Cohabitation is more complex than some people realize.

For some, cohabitation is much more common and increasingly more complex. This group is made up primarily of lower-income populations, particularly uneducated, single mothers. Maybe they made some mistakes in their past, giving up on a dream or college to be with the man they loved. Maybe a teenage pregnancy altered their life forever. No matter how they got there, they have now arrived at a place of need it seems impossible to break out of. They might have multiple kids with multiple partners but for them, cohabitation has become a financial necessity.

My hope for them would be to move in with parents, friends, other family members…basically anyone but a potential sexual partner. It’s this group of people that gets overlooked by these studies and articles. Remember “Jennifer”? She was paying to see a very expensive and highly sought-after therapist to unpack her cohabitation-based problems. No one from this group is able to acquire such help yet their life’s problems can be largely chalked up to cohabitation as well.

3.) There is a very real correlation between couples living together outside of marriage and the success of their future marriages.

An absolutely conclusive study does not exist. Cohabitation does work sometimes, as long as “work” is defined by a lack of divorce instead of faithfulness to the God-ordained covenant of marriage. When cohabitation does “work” it is almost always the same situation: Two people who genuinely care for one another in a particularly selfless way date and eventually move in together. They later get married after living outside of marriage but it turns out that both of them only ever lived with each other before they got married.

My encouragement to them is simple: If you’re ready to move in together, you’re ready for marriage. If you’re not, then you’re not. That’s even more selfless. Cohabitation relationships are harder to dissolve than just dating but much easier to dissolve than marriage. Marriage communicates the ultimate “I love you and I actually mean it.”

Yet the facts are hard to dispute. Cohabitation does make breaking up harder and eventually makes marriage easier…all to someone you may not actually have ever decided to marry if you had never started living together.

4.) Cohabitation requires absolutely zero commitment.

This might be the hardest reality to grasp because perceived commitment is all around you!

  • You picked out the furniture TOGETHER.
  • You made new friends TOGETHER.
  • You got a pet TOGETHER.
  • You have a bed TOGETHER.
  • Yet there is nothing, no level of mutual trust or lasting commitment keeping one person from waking up one day, deciding to quit, and walk out. People definitely walk out of marriages in similar fashion, but they break real commitments to do so, not perceived ones, not counting the financial and social consequences divorce has.

Men often perceive cohabitation as precious time bought to avoid marriage while women simultaneously think they’ve got their man moving toward marriage.

5.) Co-habitation is incredibly uncomfortable for kids.

If you’re a single and/or divorced parent, you should never have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleepover and you should never live with a partner and force your kids to live in that same environment. It is confusing, unfair, emotional, and incredibly selfish. You put your kids in a very difficult situation to like, trust, and/or ever love your significant other if they do indeed become your spouse one day. Just don’t. If your partner is not willing to marry you, they don’t get that level of access to you. Even if you don’t value yourself enough to deny them that access, value your kids enough to make the right decision.

What are your thoughts on cohabitation? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below.

10Oct

The In-Between Places

She was an outcast of all outcasts.

The lowest class. The lowest race. The lowest religion.

She was a member of the lowest community, and even among that community, she was rejected.

The woman at the well is one of my favorite stories in Scripture (John 4:1-45).

She’s a woman living a life where nobody wants her in a place where nobody wants to live. Jesus’ own disciples never seem too excited to be there. When John narrates Jesus’ arrival into the woman’s town he notes, “he had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4).

Samaria was a place to pass through. To avoid. The place where you play the license plate game with passing cars hoping the time passes by faster than the cars.

The place that’s in between where you are and where you want to be.

Do you know the place?

The place that’s in between where you are and where you want to be?

  • The place where you feel most alone and most rejected.
  • The place where your starter home never quite turns into your forever home.
  • The place where the person you’ve been waiting for never quite walks into your life.
  • The place where you feel stuck between what you’re doing and what you were made to do.

The woman at the well knew the place. She lived that place.

Yet for all its brokenness and frustrations, it’s precisely the place where Jesus chooses to meet her. That’s not a coincidence. It’s also not a one time thing. Jesus does this a lot…meeting people in the in-between places.

And in those in-between places, Jesus is always doing more than sitting down to have a drink.

He is always extending the same offer he extended to the woman at the well: the chance to become fully alive in a world of death. The chance to experience life, life with God and life with others, as it was always meant to be experienced.

It can be very hard to truly be content. I know very few people who have mastered the task. For the rest of us, we need to be reminded, often daily, that Jesus meets us in the in-between places.

Whatever your in-between place looks like, no matter how dull or never-ending it may seem, there is the divine offer of life swirling around you.

It refuses to rise above the monotonous details of your current position. Instead, Jesus saw fit to weave his life-giving offer into the very details that you and I allow to beat us down.

So on the very worst of days, when we feel most alone or rejected, most stuck and paralyzed, the offer to experience real life is all around us.

One of my favorite parts of taking that offer, taking that drink from Jesus, is seeing the in-between places disappear.

Don’t get me wrong; they’re still there. But instead of seeing them as holding grounds for the life I’m really supposed to have or the work I’m really supposed to be doing, I see them as the places in which Jesus wants to sit and meet with us.

We just have to take the drink freely offered.

Are you thirsty?

5Oct

God Doesn’t Need America

God doesn’t need America.

Disclaimer: I’m very grateful to be an American. I’m exponentially more grateful to be a Christian.

No version of America (1776 or 2014) should be equated with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. We are not God’s chosen people.

We are not set apart from other nations in the heart of God. God doesn’t love Americans more than Syrians. or Russians. Or Canadians (yes, even Canadians).

Yet this myth persists, and it baffles me. Because we can agree to disagree about the purpose of the founding of our country all day long. (If you ask me, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the connection between “religious freedom” and mass genocide of…the people who already lived here).

What truly troubles me about the syncretism swirling around the intersections of faith and patriotism is this belief that somehow God needs America. I haven’t found someone who would explicitly say that, but it is seems to be a valid, logical conclusions made from a foolish thought process.

In our country, we have created a God in our own image. He loves the same people we love and hates the same people we hate.

We have forgotten that we serve “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

God doesn’t need America. God doesn’t have a special relationship with America. Nations have come and gone, and will continue to do so, yet our God remains the same.

I remember reading a Puritan sermon in college, “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop. As early as 163o, Winthrop and others were calling for a new nation that could be a “city on a hill” as if the ancient text they barely referenced (Matthew 5:14-16) was just waiting to be fulfilled by the yet to be formed starts and stripes.

The idea that God would bless America in a unique way as compared to other nations shows, among other things, a complete disregard for the global nature of God’s love and sole focus on our worldview as the center of a very small universe.

Some churches are hosting God and Country services, “dedicated to calling America back to the God of Abraham and Isaac, and of Washington and Lincoln.” Instead of a Sunday morning worship service. Can’t make this stuff up.

godandcountry

 

 

 

 

I’ve seen church members leave a church for good when the American flag was removed from the stage in an effort to give singular focus and devotion to Jesus.

I think these folks are well-intentioned; I really do. But I also think heaven will be a shock for them (if they make it!) because they’ll see such a rich, diverse gathering of people, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10

America is a fantastic country. If I could pick any country in which to live it would undoubtedly be this one. I don’t share many of my generation’s disdain for our country, and especially not the men and women who protect her. However, I am beyond convinced that God does not need America.

America is not the hope of the nations. America is not the light of the world.

Jesus is.

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