Category: Sep/Oct 2011

Early Bird and Night Owl Dates

morning Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, explore the different options your favorite time of day has to offer. But don’t forget to step out of your normal routine every once in awhile and schedule a date at the time you usually sleep through!

Early Bird Dates

Morning Hike/Walk
Morning is the best time of day to get some fresh air. Find a good trail you can hike and get up early enough to see the sunrise together. End your hike or walk with a breakfast picnic. Try not to discuss anything negative or stressful during this time, instead, talk about things that set up the rest of the day to be wonderful.

Breakfast Picnic
No need for heavy preparing for a breakfast picnic. Grab some smoothies or bagels, or make a quiche, then sit somewhere scenic and enjoy the fresh morning together. Encourage each other for the day ahead.

Go to the Gym
Take a gym class in the morning together. Some classes start as early as 5am and can be a fun activity. Take turns deciding which exercises to do for the day. Challenge each other and cheer each other on.

Yard Sales
Early mornings are the best times to check out weekend yard sales. Rummage through other people’s stuff together and see if you can find anything romantic. Look for things such as board games, sports equipment, or poetry books that you can enjoy together.

Local Coffee Shops
Try a different local coffee shop in the morning once a week. Give each coffee shop a rating depending on service, drinks, and crowd. Or if you have a favorite coffee spot, take the time to try a different thing on the menu each day. Either way, do what you can to enjoy your cup of coffee and morning conversation.

nightowlNight Owl Dates

Midnight Movie Showing
Movie theaters love their late night showings. If you go late enough after the release and late enough at night, you might find that there are very few people in the theater. Or you can see a midnight release of a new movie.

Nighttime Picnic
Pack some warm drinks and soups, or fruit and chocolate if the evening is warm enough. Spend some time star gazing and talking about the universe. You can even set up a picnic in your backyard, with candles or solar lights for a romantic ambiance.

Cosmic Bowling
Cosmic bowling is open until the wee hours of the morning and is a good idea for a casual nighttime date or a late double date. Bowling alleys usually include arcades and food, so be sure to check out those things as well. If you’re not into cosmic bowling, try cosmic rollerblading or play sports with glow in the dark equipment.

Karaoke
Places that have a karaoke night are open late, and this is a good way to get out of your comfort zone. Sing duets or love songs, choose songs for each other to sing, or just cheer on the other singers. Don’t worry if you can’t sing; karaoke isn’t about being talented.

Arcade
Arcades are usually open pretty late and have plenty of games for two. Also, depending on the type of arcade you go to, you can also play billiards or shuffleboard. Play co-op games, challenge each other at shooting or dance games, and see if you can find old school games that you grew up on. Relax, have a good time, and play hard.

Truth Verses Fear

fear2One night I was watching Necessary Roughness, and the main character said something that stuck with me. She said, “Do you know what FEAR stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real.”

Fear is – well – terrifying. It’s paralyzing, harmful, and sometimes completely illogical. It rejects reality and creates a false universe. A universe where we can’t be ourselves. A universe we can’t function in. A universe that threatens our faith and our peace.

Fear has dire effects: depression, paranoia, obsession, lack of concentration, stomach aches, hyperventilation, a lack of close relationships, uncontrollable crying, a “I’ll leave you before you leave me” attitude… Can you relate to any of these things? Where in these things do you see the love and peace of Christ?

Here’s what I want you to do: Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. On one half, write out your fears:

FEAR: “I’ll never get married.”
FEAR: “My marriage can’t be saved.”
FEAR: “I am completely worthless.”
FEAR: “God has forgotten about me.”

Now, on the other side, write out solid, Biblical truth:

TRUTH: “God put desires in me and will fulfill them.” (Psalm 37:4)
TRUTH: “Nothing is too hard or impossible for God.” (Jeremiah 32:27)
TRUTH: “In God’s eyes I have unmeasurable worth.” (Psalm 139:17)
TRUTH: “The Lord hears me and will answer my prayers.” (Psalm 120:1)

Write out all your fears, side by side with God’s truth. When you’re finished, pray over your fears, and praise God for His truths. Then tear your columns apart; tape the list of truths to your wall and burn your list of fears.

In the root of every fear is a lie. Those lies ruin our confidence, our love, our relationships, our lives. Destroy those lies with God’s truth and get back to living life to the fullest! We may not always be fearless, but we can remember that God is always bigger than anything we fear.

Verses to Think About:
2 Timothy 1:7
For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-control.

John 14:27
“I [Jesus] am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Hebrews 13:5b-6
…For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper,so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’

The Big Picture

picture2Some people think marriage is about finding someone you feel all gushy about, and then deciding to get married to show off how gushy you are about them. Those people aren’t thinking big enough.

Some others think marriage is about finding someone who will take care of you for the rest of your life and in return you promise to take care of them too. Maybe those people aren’t thinking big enough either.

And then there are others that think marriage is about having an intimate relationship with someone you deeply care about. And they’re closer than the other two– but even they might not be thinking big enough.

The design of marriage points to something.

Don’t get me wrong, marriage can be all those things, and probably should be all those things. Marriage is quite a masterpiece. It has so many rich threads and fine details. Fine details that make a larger picture.

God designed marriage with many purposes. (The more I learn about the design, the more impressed I am!) But bluntly, marriage is the representation of the love Christ has for us. It is about that passionate, unquenchable desire God has for an intimate relationship with us.

Ephesians 5 explains it like thus:

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” (Verse 25)

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Verse 22)

“As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” (Verse 31-32)

See the picture? Husbands represent Christ– who gave His life for the church because He loved it so; and wives represent the church– who respects and submits to the Lord out of love for Him.

Let me just say quickly that both men and women will fail at being the perfect picture. None of us are perfect, therefore, none of us can create the perfect picture. Our sin gets in the way of that.

But how much in the other direction are we going? There’s a difference between failing to color within the lines and trashing the picture completely. If the picture of marriage is Christ’s passionate love for us, how does an unloving husband ruin this picture? How does a manipulative wife ruin this picture? What about cohabitation? Fornication? Gay marriage? Adultery? Abuse? Divorce?

So think about it: what kind of picture is your marriage creating? Is it about your own design? Or does it point to a bigger picture?

The Bad Boy

motor2Women are attracted to the “bad boys.” So much, in fact, that they’ll get themselves tangled up in horrible relationships, and shut out any advice or word of caution in order to keep what they are attracted to.

But it’s been my thought that there are certain qualities a bad boy has that women like, yet don’t quite understand what it is they are really attracted to. Let’s look at some of the typical bad boy qualities women find attractive and expose them for what they actually might be.

He doesn’t listen to anyone and doesn’t let anything stop him.
Actual quality you’re attracted to: He has his own mind
No woman wants a “yes” man. And that’s what makes the bad boy so attractive. He’ll tell his friends no, his parents no, and will even say no to you if he wants. Women want men who act like leaders and make solid decisions. The problem is that the bad boy doesn’t even listen to wise advice and doesn’t really consider the feelings of others. A man should make his decisions based on what is best, not on what he feels at the time. And he should always seek the council of God when he has to make a decision.

He’s aloof and somewhat anti-social, but you see his softer side.
Actual quality you’re attracted to: Intimacy
You see this quality in the movies a lot. The heroine reaches the heart of the bad boy and sees a light in him that no one else sees. The attraction in this is that the heroine has an intimate relationship with this guy that no one else has. And that’s a good thing to want! Marriage includes having a special relationship with your spouse that you can’t really share with anyone else. And maybe, on some level, women want that special relationship because we want to be the most important relationship a guy has. Your spouse should be your most important relationship, only 2nd to your relationship with Christ. But if no one else sees this “light” in your guy, it’s probably because he hasn’t reached his full maturity yet. It’s not your job to bring him to full maturity. It’s his.

He and his motorcycle hit the open road whenever they feel like it.
Actual quality you’re attracted to: Adventure and spontaneity
No woman wants a boring relationship! Every relationship should have open adventures and tons of spontaneity. It keeps it romantic and fun. The bad boy, however, will probably use adventure and spontaneity to get away from you when he’s in a bad mood instead of including you in it.

He’s possessive and somewhat violent.
Actual quality you’re attracted to: Protection
Even the women that can defend themselves want a man that can protect and defend them when necessary. Sometimes the outside world gets a little out of hand, and a woman wants to know she can depend on a man to back her up with the waters get choppy. The moment of fearlessness a man shows when things get dangerous is contagious; she’ll continue feeling fearless as well. But the bad boy normally is looking for fights that aren’t necessary, and will sooner or later turn his anger towards you. A violent and possessive man is not a mature man; he has no self-control. What you really want is a man who will protect what important: his family and loved ones.

I assure you, ladies, there are men out there with the qualities you’re really looking for that aren’t the lost, troubled bad boy who is more of a dangerous wild card than a solid safety net. Don’t cheat yourself out of what is best for the “bad boy” you are attracted to. The bad boy is bound to disappoint or even turn on you, but what is best will pleasantly surprise you.

Speak

micro2I watched a news program recently that interviewed a pastor who said he made it a point to steer clear of the topic of sex, abortion, or same-sex marriage. He said that he didn’t want to “separate people;” he just wanted to stick to “what he was called to.”

As a pastor, you’re called to teach God’s truth. All of it. Even if you don’t necessarily like it; even if you don’t feel comfortable with it. You don’t worry about what other people think, you worry about what God wants to say.

But he’s not the only pastor I’ve found guilty of avoiding such touchy subjects. Even just the first of these topics (sex) is something I’ve watched pastors skip over, as if it is too dangerous a subject to expand on. But sex is everywhere. Adultery, fornication, lust– these things are ruining people’s lives on a daily basis. If Christians– who have access to God’s blueprints for sex– don’t stand up and speak the truth of its brilliant design, who will? Sex is not a secret. It’s a gift from God. He’s designed it Himself, and has blessed its purpose! And yet, sometimes it feels like the church sees it like a dead animal on the side of the road that no one wants to make direct eye contact with.

I agree that sex is somewhat delicate and private, and should be handled in such a way that does not stir emotions before their time. But people want to know about sex. They’re curious about what God has to say about it. And God has not only told us how sex can destroy our lives, but He’s also told us how to have the best sex there is. Without guidance from God’s word, people are trying out sexual boundaries for themselves and finding the results “satisfying enough” to settle for. They don’t even know there’s something better than what they have. But the church can be hesitant to be joyful when it comes to sexuality. Christians have the reputation of seeing sex as inappropriate discussion. But sex is holy. Since when has something holy ever been inappropriate?

God didn’t create rules for sex to make people “more spiritual.” He created the rules because He wants people to enjoy an awesome sex life, without remorse or regret. But people won’t know that unless we tell them. And we should, because we’re cheating people out of the very best if we don’t. It’s our job to speak the truth. All of it. Because the truth expresses the real, authentic love God has for us which is the overwhelming reality that truly changes lives.

Verses to Think About:
Psalms 78:4
We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders.

Psalm 119: 43
Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope.

Jeremiah 9:3
“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth. They only go from bad to worse. They do not know me,” says the Lord.

Matthew 22:16
They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with [Jesus]. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites.

John 8:32
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Harmless Pornography

computerWe want to believe pornography is harmless. Pornography is everywhere in one form or another and more is done to encourage it than confront it. But think for a moment: What are the actual, solid benefits of viewing pornography?

How strong are the arguments in favor of it? Excuses that run along the lines of “It doesn’t hurt anyone”, “It’s natural to explore your sexuality”, or even – when grasping for the really thin straws – “It’s legal, so what’s the problem?”

The problem is our selfish desires. The problem is the perversion of sexuality. The problem is the destruction of intimate relationships.

“Come on now,” you may be saying to yourself. “It’s not that big of a deal.” Is it?

In each of us is a sex drive. This is a great thing. Our sex drives not only steer us towards procreation and intimacy, but even stoke our creativity, playfulness, and adventurous side. But in our attempts to satisfy our desires, we can fall into the habit of turning to lesser things that indulge us for a moment, but never fully quench our thirst. Pornography is guilty of the same false sense of gratification that alcohol, drugs, or any other form of addiction offers us.

Pornography is often used as a filler or a distraction. It is used when someone is waiting for marriage and feels stifled in their sexuality. It is used when someone’s sex life is stale or on hold. It is used when someone is empty or stressed and wants some form of escape from their reality. And it works, but only for a very short period of time. Maybe only a day, or even just a few hours. That’s when a pattern evolves and an addiction forms. Someone longs for the distraction it brings; for the high their imagination gets from it.

The high from pornography, however, is something completely different from the satisfaction of sexual intimacy. Pornographic highs are caused by lust. Lust cannot be cured, it can only be fed. And sooner or later it will, in fact, demand to be fed. It will not stop despite the status of your sex life. When you are married and have a great sex life, or when you feel content and satisfied as things are, the lust that has been fed will still seek you out.

In addition, an addiction to pornography cannot be cured by marriage. Although some people think that they’ll just play with pornography until they get married, the truth is that most people who get addicted to pornography before marriage continue to look at it after marriage. This is a huge cause for divorce. According to a meeting by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2003, two-thirds of the divorce lawyers that met said the internet had a heavy contribution to their cases, with pornography relating to half of those cases.1

In reality, viewing pornography is an attempt to fulfill a selfish desire instantly, avoiding any human intimacy or responsibility. Michael Leahy, whose family was torn apart by porn and sex addiction, addresses this in his book, Porn University. He writes to his sons, “It was all about me. I made it that way. In fact, I was so into me that after awhile, I hardly noticed you or your mom at all.”2

The desire to have sex is not wrong; the act of finding a way to satisfy it outside of marriage is. This goes for many things: pornography, premarital sex, romance novels, racy magazines, or even television programs. All these can pervert or distort the view of sex, and in turn, it lessens the gratification of pure sexual intimacy. It doesn’t matter if the people in these forms of pornography are real or not. The destructive feelings are. The destructive patterns and distorted views of sexuality is what makes pornography harmful. It takes the beauty of sexuality and turns it into a selfish indulgence, free of real intimacy or commitment.

No one was ever cured of loneliness, a bad sex life, or sexual frustration by viewing pornography. It is not created to assist society in any way; it is really only out for money. The workers behind pornography will never take responsibility for– or even feel sympathy towards– what happens to your relationships or life due to an addiction problem. Pornography is not interested fulfilling your desires. It is only interested in fulfilling its own.

But we are not guiltless when it comes to the equation. We are the ones guilty of handing over our money, along with our intimate relationships, our self-control, and our pure and powerful sexuality.

Pornography is not harmless. It is as dangerous and destructive as any other kind of addiction that sinks its teeth in us.

 

1 “Divorce Statistics: Pornography.”California Divorce Online: Orange County Divorce: Do It Yourself. Divorce Wizards. Web. Aug 2011. <http://www.divorcewizards.com/Divorce-Statistics-Pornography.html>.

2 Leahy, Michael. “A Letter From Dad.”,Porn University: What College Students Are Really Saying about Sex on Campus. Chicago: Northfield Pub., 2009. Print.

Are You Making the Most of Your Singleness?

full2Are you living your single life to the fullest?  Take our quiz to see.

How busy are your weekends?
A. Empty
B. Somewhat busy
C. Ridiculously Busy

How good are you with kids?
A. Very inexperienced
B. Some experience
C. Highly experienced

Can you balance a checkbook?
A. Can I do what now?
B. I know how, but I don’t actually do it
C. Yes, I’m actually pretty frugal

How well do you cook?
A. I’ve memorized many fast food menus
B. I can cook the basics
C. I can cook just about anything

How close are your relationships with others?
A. I’m not really close to anyone
B. I have a few very close friends, but not a lot of friends in general
C. I have a really close community group

What does most of your time consist of?
A. Daydreaming
B. Working or playing, but not both
C. Working hard, then playing hard

How often do you travel?
A. Almost never/very little
B. Occasionally
C. Whenever I have the chance

How involved are you with the community or ministry?
A. I don’t do anything related to either
B. I do some volunteer/ministry work
C. I donate a lot of my extra time to community/ministry work

How are your professional skills?
A. I can write a résumé . That’s it.
B. I have the basics covered, such as customer service and some minor skills
C. I’m great with personal relations and I have a solid skill set

How often do you work on your hobbies/talents?
A. I don’t have any hobbies or talents
B. I work on them sometimes, but not as often as I could
C. I spend a lot of time on my hobbies and explore new things often

Tally Your Score:
Mostly A’s – Singleness Slacker
You aren’t utilizing your single season at all. Where are you directing your focus?

Mostly B’s – Intermediate Single
You’re doing pretty well in your single season, but you still have room to live your singleness to the fullest. Don’t be afraid to do more.

Mostly C’s – Singlestar
You’re doing great in your single season of life! The skills you have now will definitely be of service to you in your marriage.

Your single season of life has three major benefits: it gives you time to serve your community or in ministry, it is the best time to create lasting relationships with others, and it is a time to prepare yourself with the skills you’ll need for marriage. Can you do those things after marriage? Of course. But with the demanding attention that a home, spouse, and a family needs, doing these things proves to be more difficult in a married life than your season of singleness.

Singleness is not a curse, although your aching heart might think it is. It is the only time in your life where you are free to explore your talents, passions, and interests to the fullest, without any heavy responsibilities and distractions hindering you. Marriage is indeed a magnificent blessing, but it also causes you to sacrifice a lot of time and energy to keep it thriving.

The idea of singleness is not to take time to focus on yourself, but instead develop yourself. If all you’re doing in your single season is spoiling yourself or obsessing over nothing but your own needs, you’re going to find that your single season will end up feeling empty and will render quite fruitless. But if you spend your single season developing yourself by serving others and gaining skills that will serve you greatly after you are married, your single season will be fulfilling. And when your single season is fulfilling, there is a better chance that your married life will be also.

10 Romantic Computer Projects

computer2Technology isn’t just for personal convenience, it can also be used creatively for romance! Here are some romantic ideas related to your home computer that you can use to impress and touch the heart of your special sweetheart.

#1- Make a Slideshow
Use Powerpoint or Windows Movie Maker to create a slide show of special memories of you and your love. Pick a combination of pictures from a certain special event or choose a variety of pictures from many special events and set the pictures to music. Give the photos effects such as a sepia tone or make them black and white. Set up a special screening of your presentation.

#2- Make a Photo Collage
Using Photoshop or GIMP, combine some photos from an event to make a collage. Put this collage on a flash drive and then take it down to get it developed into a large picture. Frame it and give it as a gift.

#3- Create a Blog or Personal Website
A romantic blog can be a fun way to tell others about your romantic journey together, or about your engagement and wedding plans. You can use WordPress or Blogger, or sites that make it simple to put together a website such as Webstarts or Webs. Pick a theme for your blog or website and make it a habit to update it once a week together.

#4- Create a Desktop Wallpaper
Find a few pictures and add some text to them using Photoshop or Picmonkey. Give them uplifting or romantic messages so that your sweetheart has a reminder of how much you adore them every time they turn on the computer. Email the wallpaper to them, or surprise them and change their background when they’re away from their computer.

#5- Make Love Coupons
Create coupons such as “One coupon good for eating at the restaurant of your choice” or “One coupon good for a 10 minute foot rub.” Buy a little box to keep the coupons in and present it to your love. Throw out the coupons when they’ve been spent or keep them somewhere safe and reuse them. This is a great project because you can create it in something as simple as a word processor.

#6- Create an Animated GIF
Make something simple like a beating heart or get elaborate and make GIF designs of you and your sweetheart flirting. This takes some skill and programs like Photoshop, GIF Construction Set, or JASC Animation Shop, but if you can do it it’s sure to make an impression.

#7- Create an eCard
Create a small file in Photoshop or GIMP around 500px x 400px then pair a sweet photo with a cheerful and romantic sentiment. Animate it with Flash or even Windows Movie Maker, taking different photos and fading them into one another. At a loss for words? Use poetry or famous quotes to go with your pictures. If you’re having a hard time finding photos, use stock.xchge for copyright-free photos.

#8- Make a Game
If you have a lot of computer skills, make a game for your love. Make it as simple as catching hearts with the cursor, or make it complicated as a RPG. Use Flash, Game Maker, or ADRIFT (for text adventures) to make your game.

#9- Digital Scrapbook
Create digital scrapbook pages using Photoshop or GIMP, and either print them and make a book out of them, or build a website and post them. You can use different free digital scrapbooking sites such as Shabby Princess, Free Digital Scrapbooking, or ScrapbookFlair.

#10- Compose a Song
What’s more romantic than a love song made especially for your love? Even if you’re not exceptionally musically talented, you can use programs like JamStudio and Audacity to create simple songs for that special someone.