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Date a Woman of God

I’ve been seeing all these cute blog posts about “Date a girl who…” or “Don’t date a girl who…” essentially encouraging guys to look for girls who are involved in these activities and careers because the girl will then have certain personality traits and ways of viewing the world.

Don’t date a girl who reads (because she expects more out of life). Don’t date a girl who teaches (but really do, because she is awesome). Date a girl who runs (life won’t pass her by). Date a girls who travels (who doesn’t love to travel??). Date a girl who bakes (who cares about fitness when there are cupcakes?). The list goes on. Seriously. Just Google.

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But as much as I love to read and write; although I bake and I run; for goodness sake, I am a teacher. And who doesn’t like to travel? …. As much as I am so many of these date-worthy girls, I can’t reconcile myself to this relatively new trope. Because my identity is more than my love of books, stories, and the written word. I matter more than my baking, my running, my traveling, even more than my teaching. Because I am a child of God. I am a co-heir with Christ. My identity, my core, my being comes from this relationship, not my relationship to books or food or even my dating relationship.

I also take umbrage at the trope being date a girl. Dating girls is well and good for boys, but I am a woman and I want to be dated by a man. A man who is responsible and kind, who is seeking God’s will for his life, who loves deeply and selflessly. A man after God’s own heart. Just as I am striving to be a woman after God’s own heart. A woman who is kind and compassionate, who is responsible and practices good stewardship, a woman who loves passionately and freely. There are so many more words to describe a godly man or godly woman, and this post is not about looking such a person, but for goodness’ sake, search out someone who follows God sincerely.

So don’t just date a girl because she travels, read, writes, bakes, or participates in any other activities. And don’t date a girl if you are a man. Date a woman. Date a woman who loves the Lord. Date a woman with intelligence and humor, who has cool interests and hobbies that line up somewhere with yours. Date a woman who loves God more than she loves anything else, and whose love for God spills over as love for everyone in her life.

When the time is right, stop dating this woman of God and marry her. Set up a home together and practice hospitality, humility, and love. Always love.

Because when this life is over, God is not going to care what your hobbies were and if you had a cool girlfriend, and while memories last a lifetime, we don’t know how long they last after that. God cares how you loved. How you spread his love and his message. So store up for yourself treasures in heaven by dating a woman who loves and loving her. Store up treasures by using your life to love God and love others.

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Gifts and Talents and Stacking Chairs

Although I’ve taken a bunch of personality and placement tests, God teaches me all the time about what I am gifted at, what I need to be doing, and even the things that I don’t love but that need to get done.

For instance, I love to sing and act and be on stage, so at church, I help coordinate worship for the kids’ services and I act as the host on stage for the Saturday service. However, we also need people to pull curriculum and schedule volunteers and get the room ready– I don’t have the spiritual gift or talent of stacking and unstacking chairs, but I am needed there just as much as I am needed on stage.

While I love teaching, I don’t love teaching elementary school. But a school I went to trying to get work as a sub needed an elementary teacher. I teach several kindergarten classes and I work with middle schoolers. Not my favorite ages. And at church, we needed someone to lead the 3rd and 4th grade small group. Although I would rather be teaching college English students and youth small groups, I am needed here. And I have the skills to teach at this level. God is providing more of the patience, thank goodness, but I think I am learning about patience myself in these roles (keep praying for me!).

Although I end up stacking chairs and filling in with younger students, God still opens doors for me to function in my specific gifting. I do teach older students when I tutor. I am applying to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I work with youth on Wednesday nights. God knowns my heart and he provides what I need; I even have a role in a musical coming up this winter. I love being back on stage, singing and acting. And you know what’s funny? If I hadn’t taken this teaching job in Cedar Hill, I would not have been in the right place to do the show.

So I love getting to be back in theater. And I love working with youth and teaching writing to older kids. But my other roles are important as well. God has provided for me through this job working with mostly elementary students. God is stretching me and teaching me, and he is using me to provide what TCAL needs to. Sometimes, I need to fill in the gaps that I can and pray for God to bring along a better-suited person. But sometimes, he is making me into that person. Other times, he has me waiting there until he can move me somewhere else.

I think what I’ve learned through all this is to be content where I am and see how I can grow there, to look for how I am needed, and also to look forward to what God is doing in my life. Because he promised to have good plans for us, and he promised to never leave us. And he told me to do whatever I do as if working for him. So I strive to run the race set out for me and walk forward in faith. And I am content where God has placed me for now.

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Singing for Freedom

This week, Paul was preaching about grace and it was awesome. I know I spend so much time thinking I can get things right myself, that I can be perfect on my own, and that when it all falls down, I have totally failed. And while I do fail at running my own life, it’s not because God expects that from me.

Instead of preaching a gospel of “do- Christianity-better,” TCAL preaches grace and freedom: grace, goodness and salvation freely given from God to people who don’t deserve it, and freedom, from the ways of the world, from the treadmill of self-improvement, from emptiness, and chains. It’s awesome.

I’ll be talking a lot more about this freedom and what it means to me personally and theologically, but for today, I just want to celebrate. So celebrate with me! We are free!

Free from failure.

Free from unfair expectations.

Free from having to fix it ourselves.

The list goes on and on, but I also want to celebrate with a song:

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Back to the Basics

So I know I am supposed to read my Bible and pray every day. And I mean to, I really do. But somehow, I don’t.

I end up going to church and Bible study like four or five times a week. I listen to Christian music in my car. I pray sporadically when I think about it, and I read about Christianity and theology and such online. Shouldn’t all that be enough? Does God really want even more of my time?

Yes and no. God wants me, not necessarily my time spent doing things about him. He wants to talk to me and he wants me to talk to him. Because God desires relationship. And God works in us through relationship. This means I need to be talking to him and listening to him and devoting time to spend with him. So yes, he wants my time. But not if it’s not focused and purposeful.

And yes, God talks to me through music on the radio, and as I learn more about him, I can’t help but feel closer. And coming together with a community of believers, whether I am serving or attending, puts me in God-designed fellowship and relationship with other believers. The more I’ve learned in all that blog-reading, the more I’ve realized the importance of being in community and surrounded by other believers.

But I also need to be alone with God. I am more introvert than extrovert actually.

And I’m coming back to reading the Bible.

I’m setting aside all my questions about feminism and Christianity, about Biblical interpretation and translation, and about the Biblical way to do church and faith and life with God, all the questions that cropped up when I began to look into why I believe what I do.

Instead, I am just reading.

I’m not deconstructing or structuralizing or any of the fancy lit crit things I’ve learned in Grad school.

I am soaking in the words about the Word.

And I can feel something changing. I’m not sure what it is yet. I feel softer, more teachable. I feel more in tune with God’s heart, and I’m frankly amused by some of what I’ve missed before with my reading-for-instructions or critical-reading methods. Like when Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine for his tummy aches (vs 23). And sends greetings from real people who knew Timothy and Paul and sent their love. I am seeing the real people behind the Holy Text, and it’s that much more profound.

I quite like reading my Bible. I think I am going to make this a habit.

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Guarding Our Hearts?

So the Bible, in Proverbs 4:23, tells us to guard our hearts, for “it is the wellspring of life” (NIV). This is an awesome verse, and it is super important for us to be careful what goes into our hearts. I know that what I watch on TV, listen to on the Radio, and read during my free time soaks into my mind. Probably because we live in a media-saturated generation, and probably because I am an extremely verbal person, what goes into my mind severely affects my heart. I can’t read several books in a row with explicit language without that language coming into my mind when annoying things happen. I can’t listen to an entire Evanescence album, no matter how much I like their sound, without getting depressed. What we put in affects us.

This verse has been applied to dating relationships more and more lately, though, and that trend is starting to worry me. Should we be careful of who we let into our hearts? Yes! We just did a great series at church about the power of friendship and the importance of being wise in who we ally with. Your heart is important! We need to be wise and guard against things or people who will turn us away from God and his will for our lives.

BUT

We as Christians have gotten a little obsessed with guarding our hearts. Who has seen this image on Pinterest? Or Instagram? Or Tumblr?

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Honestly, this picture scares me a bit. Rather than seeing a heart protected from harm, I see a heart that cannot be opened to new friends, to new love, or to new revelation from God. It reminds me of a J.K. Rowling Tale about a man who hides his heart in a treasure chest so it can never to hurt, only to find it hard and useless when he wants to love. And it makes me so sad!

The Bible, with constant admonishment to be wise in what we take into our hearts, also warns us against hardening our hearts, where we no longer heed God’s words and we have no love for our fellow man. If we over-guard our hearts, we close ourselves off to love, which is not what God wants us to do at all! (for more of those thoughts, check out Emily Maynard here).

Perhaps the image would better illustrate what God wants if the heart had a shield or clearly removable armor rather than being entirely sealed. Or if it had other hearts around it, because we are supposed to love and protect our friends right?

So what do you think it means to guard your heart?

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Grace, everyone needs a little

One thing bothering me lately is the general lack of grace I hear. People complain about their jobs, their families, their life in general. And it makes me sad. And to be honest, I am a complainer and blamer too. I get annoyed when things don’t go just my way; I always find someone to point the finger at. And that’s not really a good thing.

We all need grace– I need so much grace. Grace is essentially giving something to someone even when they don’t deserve it, but giving good things. Webster says grace is “unmerited diving assistance given humans.” I see grace as offering forgiveness eve when it isn’t Asked, thinking of people and trying to bless them somehow even when they don’t deserve it, and generally looking past all the little things (and many of the big things) all of us do wrong everyday.

I spent a lot of the summer being snappy and grumpy from a stressful situation at work, and I spent a lot of the summer taking out my frustration at my boyfriend. Thank goodness for grace, because he always forgave me the harsh words and helped me see what was really upsetting me. And I’m glad God gives me grace, because I mess up so much– being mean to my boyfriend, complaining about work, little white lies… the list is a long one. I’ve learned to give myself some grace too; I am not perfect and sometimes I don’t get everything right, but that’s okay. God still loves me; my family and friends still love me. Life is still okay.

And I need to give grace. I need to give grace to my boyfriend when he does something annoying (and it’s not just me being grumpy!) I need to give grace to the school that is working hard to get all the financial aid sorted out before this semester. I need to give grace to the friend who hurt my feelings and to the boss who has too much on her plate too and to the driver who just cut me off, because I really don’t know what’s going on in his world, but I am sure he needs some grace.

Funnily enough, the more I give grace, the more peace I feel. I don’t get so annoyed at work, I don’t want to get revenge when I’m hurt, I don’t drag everyone else down when I am disappointed. And life is just better with more grace going around.

Where do you need more grace? and where can you give it?

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Let’s Explore

The phrase that comes to mind is write about what bothers you. To me, this means examining when my feelings tell me something is off. Looking deeper at ideas and ideologies that don’t fit in my brain. And then writing.

Lots of things bother me. Misplaced commas, crooked picture frames, and bad music bother me. Light when I want to sleep, people honking in traffic, and being disrespected bother me. I am very bothered by irritating noises, and I cannot stand when someone chews with their mouth open. But I suspect these things bother many people.

What bothers me particularly? I’m bothered when the church seems false or I feel manipulated in worship. I am bothered when women are mentioned only in how God uses sinful people and non-Jewish people, not in how God uses all the unexpected people, including women just because they are women. I am bothered by people who say it is a sin for me to be leading anything church-involved, and I am very bothered by women being silenced by a church acting on archaic words taken out of context. When people pick and chose what to apply from the Bible, but fail to examine their criterion for choosing, I am bothered. It bothers me when people say depression only happens because you are sinning. It bothers me when Christians claim to have all the answers, but the answers they offer are hopeless and hate-filled.

Sometimes, the labels applied to what I believe, and the people representing my faith bother me. Oftentimes, it’s other people’s reaction to the labels I embrace that bother me.

So here I am going to examine what bothers me. I’m going to quote people and cite other bloggers, and I am probably going to change my opinion. I’m going to explore what labels like ‘Christian,’ ‘evangelical,’ ‘feminist,’ and ‘conservative’ even mean to me. And what they might mean to you. I am hoping to find some answers: why these things bother me, what we can do to fix them, or how I need to change in relationship to what I am learning. And I hope you will help me along this journey. Learn with me as we go. I want to hear your questions. I want to know what you think about my questions. I covet your prayers. I want to find out what bothers you so we can look at that together.

So let’s go exploring, shall we?

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