[from my notes] a firm foundation.

One of my earliest memories is of watching my mom do her makeup. I’d watch her “put her face on” and wonder why each product was needed, how it worked, and how long it would last. When it was time for me to get to wear makeup, I wanted to use all of it. I quickly realized that eye shadow is too complicated and blush gives me anxiety. I’m pretty basic and I can put my full face on fairly quickly. There’s one product that my mother insists on and that I’ve grown to love, and that’s makeup primer.

If I want the colors to be what they’re supposed to be and for them to stay all up on my face for a full day, I need primer. That base needs a base; you gotta prep the ground for the foundation. I’m not a builder (in fact, that’s the furthest thing from my particular set of talents) but I have a funny feeling that you don’t just slap a foundation down without making sure the ground is good to go.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that if we hear His words and act on them, we are like a wise man who builds his house on a rock. Our foundation is strong and sure, so that when the storms come our way, our structure won’t fall. I love the picture that Jesus paints here. When we take in His teachings and then act in a way that honors him, not even the strongest storm of life can deter us. We may experience job loss, deaths of loved ones, or any other terrible life event, but if we are firm in our faith, we can still stand strong in Him.

Matthew 7: 26-27 says, “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Jesus is telling us that trials come in an “and…and…and…and…and…” kind of way. He doesn’t say, “Things will get real tricky for a little while, beloved.” Trials come like a mighty storm, where rain drops form into a flood and the winds will strike repeatedly, intent on destroying everything in their path. When this happens, that house doesn’t just slowly deteriorate over time. We’re not talking about paint chipping off bit by bit. And great was the fall of it. There is no doubt here – the house will fall. It will fall and it will be devastating.

Foundations are crucial in so many areas of our lives, not just in makeup doing and house building. You have to lay some ground work in order for relationships to be fruitful, whether it’s romantic, a friendship, or a working partnership. You can’t just throw something together and call it ready. Growing up in the church environment, I had this idea in my head that you accept Jesus and you’re given some kind of club card like at Sam’s. You just sign up and check in every once in a while and you’re ok. I thought I could pray sometimes, treat others the way I want to be treated only on Tuesdays, and still be able to stand strong and sturdy when the storms came.

Jesus Himself tells us that if we hear His words and we do them, we will be like the wise man. He doesn’t say we’ll be like the wise man if we act on His commands occasionally, if we do them. There’s a sense of consistency in that statement. We do them. In Matthew 7 alone, He tells us not to judge others and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Measure those areas in your life. How are you faring? Jesus isn’t saying we have to be perfect because we know that isn’t possible for us sinful people. However, we are capable of trying. We’re capable of awareness and repentance. We’re capable of building a foundation and maintaining it.

It takes time and energy in order to prepare ourselves for the next season in our lives.There are areas in my life that God is revealing to me that chip away at my foundation. He is convicting me of these distractions that are leading me toward the gate that is wide and easy and leads to destruction. (Matt. 7:13) We have to be ready for when the rains come and we never know when they will. If I decide to give Jesus the side eye instead of following and pursuing Him, just so I can go my own way for a little while, I won’t be ready for the next storm. My foundation will be weak and when trials come my way, the fall will be great. I’ve tried my own way; I’ve been the foolish man building on sand. And friends, the winds did blow and they did beat against me until there was almost nothing left. The only thing that remained was Jesus. He is always there, asking us to build again, asking us to hear and do.

My favorite makeup primer is a beautiful thing. It allows my makeup to be its best and to last all day long. I can face whatever the day will bring, be it rain or tears or lots of eye-rubbing, and trust that everything will stay where it is. But then the next day, I have to apply it again for a new day. I can’t expect whatever remnants remain from the previous day to last for another round. Daily pursuit of Jesus is the only answer to an imperfect foundation, an imperfect person. I can’t expect the church camp I went to in 7th grade to hold me over in my faith 12 years later. I need to take His commands to heart and act on them every day. The Lord’s love is never ending and His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23) Every morning, He is faithful again and always will be.

As I work on my own foundation (daily, if I’m honest), I pray God leads me closer to “the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2) He is life and love and blessed assurance. Jesus, You’re my firm foundation. I know I can stand secure.

[from my notes] the teacher who fails tests.

I have a long-standing history of being a skilled test taker. Multiple choice, pesky true/false questions, short answer – you name it, I’ve passed it with stars and stripes across me. Every time God presents me with a spiritual pop quiz, however, I consistently fail. The conundrum here, though, is that the answer is always the same: trust God’s will to prevail. The answer is consistent and yet, I can’t quite get it right. It’s like the answer choices are

A. Trust God.

B. Trust in God.

C. Be one who trusts God.

D. I will trust God.

and instead of choosing one variation of the same answer, I’m leaving the question blank. My students will occasionally skip a question on exams and I’ll bring it to their attention. They respond in one of two ways: (1) smirk and say, “Oh. Oops,” or (2) their heads begin to spin and they yell, “I’M SUCH AN IDIOT. WHO DOES THAT?”

Since October, I have been through two of these spiritual surprise tests. Once was when I was in a car accident through no fault of my own. I remember hitting the car that had pulled out in front of me and thinking I was living a nightmare. This is a nightmare I’ve had before. Automobiles in general make me a nervous wreck (no pun intended.) Over the course of the next few days, everything seemed to be rapidly getting worse: multiple trips to the emergency room, back and abdominal pain, panic attacks, and financial worries plagued me. I was in a constant state of confusion and emptiness. I kept looking around at my situation and thinking, Okay…this is the part where God arrives in glorious splendor and rescues me.

The next spiritual test occurred at the beginning of this year. My dad’s eyesight was slowly deteriorating and the way the doctors behaved had us believing he could go blind if surgery wasn’t arranged. We sat in my apartment for a full day as he made phone call after phone call trying to get something set up. The tension was tangible as we wondered how long he had before he wouldn’t be able to see any longer. The next day, we drove across the universe to get him where he needed to be. Phrases like, “We can’t help you” and “I don’t know what to tell you” were common over the course of those two days. I kept trying to be positive, but I couldn’t help thinking, What lesson could God possibly be trying to teach us right now? Is he just ever going to show up?

I’m not ashamed to admit that there have been numerous times in my life where I’ve theoretically shaken my fists at the heavens and literally shouted, “Where are you, God? Where is this maker of the heavens and the earths I’ve spent my life serving?” Instead, I should be saying, “I can’t wait to see how God is going to use this for His glory.”

As a result of my car accident, God has shown me how blessed I am to have my current job – my coworkers and students rallied behind me, showering me with encouraging words and candy (because we all know how helpful the latter can be.) God has used this situation to open an avenue of conversation about His goodness and faithfulness to me. He has even used it to provide for me financially in ways I never could have imagined.

The day my dad and I drove around to various doctor’s offices and were turned away, God was preparing us for the next couple of weeks. A week after this impromptu adventure, we were both driving back to those same offices for surgery and follow-up appointments. The weather was poor but since we’d been there before, we were confident in where we were going. Not only did this debacle allow my dad and I to spend some time together, cooped up in my small apartment, but it allowed us to share in God’s workings together. I am forever grateful to have been through a trial with my dad and to have conversations with him about God’s love and His perfect timing.

My prayer is that for us all, when trials come we remember the God who created us. The King of heaven and earth does not abandon His creations. He created us for His glory. How would it serve Him to leave us on our own? He isn’t going anywhere. Choose the correct answer choice: choose to trust Him.

In these moments from doubt to redemption, God’s glory won. In these small nuggets of time, we were thanking God for His goodness. These moments had me shouting from the rooftops wanting to tell everyone what He had done for me. I failed the exam at first, but He is faithful. His glory will always prevail.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3

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[from my notes] why i’m not a good Christian.

For a long time I’ve sought to debunk the idea of “good Christians.”

…I try to be a good Christian…

…He’s a good Christian…

…She WAS a good Christian…

What does that even mean, friends? I’m a word person. I love words.

Let’s look at “good”, the adjective. 

Friends, meet a really useful adjective: good. It can also mean of high quality, proper or correct. A high quality Christian…a proper Christian…a correct Christian. This would imply that there’s some kind of grading system for being a Christian…a rubric, if you will.

“10 points for not lying to your mom! 12 points there for choosing Christian music! Oooh, sorry… -5 for being jealous of his new phone.”

I don’t recall where in the Bible Jesus was calling out points to people like they were a student at Hogwarts. (10 points to Hufflepuff!) Being a follower of Jesus Christ doesn’t involve checking good deeds off a list. Sure, there is a perfect Law for us to follow, but the beauty of God is that He stands in forgiveness. When He looks at you, He sees the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Your sin is gone…we can’t earn brownie points with God.

There’s no ranking system for His followers. After all, it says many times in the Word that, “The first will be last, and the last first.” We are all on the same level. Louie Giglio spoke at Passion Conference this year about how we are on the same level as the Saints in the eyes of God. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for 20 years or 20 minutes, we all have received the same restoration and redemption. If something is good, we can assume that comparatively we can find something “better” or superlatively, “best.” That’s not how Christianity works. If there can’t be “better” Christians or awards for the “best” Christians…can there be “good” ones?

Jesus’s Response

In Mark 10, this conversation takes place:

“And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'” (v 17)

Pause. This is the part where Jesus hands out the rubric to the class, right? Wrong. Let’s continue.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” (v 18)

Okay, so…no grading system? But where do the bonus points come in? Can I get some extra credit, here?

Unless I have a faulty Bible, there’s nothing in the footnotes that imply that this verse means anything different in Greek.

Not only does (A) Christ not share the secret formula the rich man wanted to hear but He (B) also says that only God can be described as “good.” Only the creator of the universe is good. (I encourage you to continue reading in Mark 10.)

Anything that can be described as “good” within me stems from God; it IS God. Any “good” decision or “good” word out of my mouth is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus within me.

I am not good. Only God is good. I am not a “good” Christian. However, I AM a Christian filled with the goodness of God.

I pray you rest in the goodness that can only come from the One who formed you. He is love and life and all things beautiful. Seek Him. Seek His goodness within yourself and man…let it shine.

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[from my notes] comparing God to a chair.

I know a lot of people who have a “life verse.” A life verse is that Bible verse that carries you throughout your life…a line you always come back to…something that really hits home to you. I don’t know that I have ever really had a life verse. I have a lucky number (47) that pops up in my daily life…literally…I see that number every single day. It’s spooky. But a life verse? Mmmm…not so much. Until recently.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

I’ve read that verse more times in my life than I could possibly count. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really READ it…and understood it. My Iron Group (or Bible study group) is going through the book “Discerning the Voice of God” by Priscilla Shirer. In one of the chapters, she writes about this verse.

She says, “This doesn’t mean that He’s necessarily giving you what you want, but rather that He is in the process of transforming your soul to desire what He wants” (55).

Did you hear that? That was your brain exploding.

I’ve heard people (but mostly girls) talk about how:

– I’m choosing to wait on God because if I do, He’ll give me what I desire (AKA He’ll give me what I want AKA a boyfriend AKA a husband.)

– God will answer that prayer (for that husband) because it’s what I truly desire in my heart. And the Bible says He gives us the desires of our hearts!

– I really want to go to that college. I know I’ll get in because it’s what I want. I’ve done all the right things…God will get me through this (AKA God will send me an acceptance letter.)

Sound familiar? [insert buzzer sound] Wrong! This is a perfect example of how we’ve taken scripture and mighty morphed it to fit our needs. The Bible isn’t a magic 8 ball.

This verse is saying that God will give us the things in our hearts that we desire. He will put the desires in our hearts…not give us WHAT we desire. The more we choose Him, choose His way and His Word, the more of His desires He will give to us.

So, yeah it’s really interesting but why is it my life verse? How does this verse pick me up and carry me onward?

I have a nasty habit of wanting things. I’m a reader and a dreamer. I have a picture of how my life should look now and in 5 years…and in 10 years, etc. I tend to push aside what God is clearly showing me that He wants for me because it doesn’t fit into my plan. I don’t have room to pencil in His desires. This verse is constantly reminding me that when my focus is on Him and on furthering His kingdom, our desires align. I find myself wanting what God wants for me. I’m no longer making room in my plan for God…He IS my plan.

It’s like that latest Haverty’s commercial (you know…with the girl that looks like me?) I’m designing my life around the chair. Did I just compare God to a chair? I mean…it’s a good looking chair… Is that a stretch of a metaphor? Yes. But it made for a snappy title.

Delight yourself in God. Ladies, He made you as beautiful, dignified women whose purpose is to seek His face and foster relationships among believers. Fellas, you are leaders whose purpose is to further His kingdom in strength and loyalty. When you answer the call – when you live your life by His word – He fills you with His desires. What better existence could there possibly be?

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[noteworthy] “Trademark”

In honor of Relient K’s newest album Collapsible Lung, I’ve been rocking some classic Relient K tracks. One of my favorites is “Trademark” from the album Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do. It’s one of those songs where every time I hear it…it’s all I can think about for a while. One of the lyrics that plays on repeat in my head is, “It seems if my ties with You get severed I can’t seem to hold a thing together/I just fall apart, ’cause that’s my trademark.”

I have a really bad habit of doing this yo-yo thing with Jesus. That sounds like some kind of fun game, but really it’s a miserable cycle with lots of me disappointing myself. I get comfortable and complacent with where my relationship with Him is, then it’s like I forget that faith is a work in progress. It’s like any other relationship – it takes nurturing and time…time spent together…time in confidence. When I get in the place of realizing that I’m slipping away…I always think, “There you go again, Caitlyn. Classic you.” It’s my trademark move.

“It’s my, my trademark move/To realize I should improve
And sometime soon after that You’ll see me come crawlin’ back.”

Sing it, Relient K. Sing. It.

I always catch myself in a moment where I don’t feel like myself. I realize I can be better…that I AM better and go crawling back. I have this image of God standing there with His arms out and this look on His face. The look isn’t disappointment or annoyance…He’s not angry with me. It’s more like a “we’ve been here before” look. I don’t even know how to describe it.

So, what is it?

“I’ll kill the thing that turns me away/Amputate the arm that will disobey/Withdraw from everything that’s hurting me/Until You finish Your work in me”

There comes a point in everyone’s faith walk where they can identify what it is that pulls them away from God. It’s different for everyone. Sometimes it’s temptations and addictions. Other times, we find idols and other ways of trying to replace God in our lives. We realize that there’s nothing big enough to outweigh the place God has in our hearts and lives and we run back home. There’s this stuff that’s weighing us down and pulling us away from Him.

So, we cut it out. When I was a youth intern, we talked about cutting out the bad influences (music, movies, TV shows, etc.) Sometimes these things are hard to quit cold turkey. Been there, my friends. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can handle it because it’s just that entertaining. This is something I cycle with, too. If I’m listening to music and watching movies or TV shows with bad influences all at the same point in my life it can be overwhelming and I have to cut a few things out. Again, that’s something that’s different for everyone. I have friends who won’t watch anything that’s not honoring God and I have other friends who don’t even understand the concept of honoring God with what you watch. I’m not going to tell people that God doesn’t want them listening to bad music. I don’t know what God wants. I think it’s what we do after we listen to it or watch it that matters…the effect it has on our minds.

So, that’s my trademark move. Slip away, come back, repeat. Sure would be easier if I could cut out the slipping away part, huh?

Work in progress. No one’s perfect.

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[unmentionables 9.0] what is love?

…baby don’t hurrt meee. Don’t hurt meee. No ‘mo.

Obviously that’s where we were all going with that.

“Love is a many splendid thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All we need is love!” I can literally think of a dozen songs that “proclaim” the meaning of love.

Let me tell you what else proclaims the meaning of love:

His love is unwavering…

“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (Ps. 13:5)

He knows us better than we know ourselves. He meets us where we are, sees the black in our hearts, and loves us anyway…

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” (Ps. 31:7)

His love is endless and timeless…

“Your love, Oh Lord, reaches to the heavens…” (Ps. 36:5)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (1 Chron. 16:34)

His love provides tireless strength and protection…

“I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of You love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Ps. 59:16)

Biblical love can only be described as this:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corin. 13:4-7)

There are many different kinds of love. One of the most important, however, is loving our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor who has different colored skin, our neighbor who has a different set of beliefs, our neighbor who does things we don’t agree with…there are no footnotes about exceptions to this law. Love your neighbor. All of your neighbors…no matter what or who they are. Love them.

Love each other.

I found this dialogue image recently and wanted to share it. You don’t have to agree with what someone does, but God still wants us to love them. For once, let’s stop trying to throw stones at each other.

new

This is not a political statement. This is a statement of love. That’s all we need. The Beatles had it right, after all.

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[unmentionables 8.0] the one where I need a thesaurus.

“Flee from sexual immorality…” (1 Corin. 6:18 NIV)

Flee…why would Paul use the word “flee”?

I’ve been thinking about that since reading last week’s guest post. I started wondering what other Bible translations said, so I checked it out:

“Flee fornication.” ASV and KJV

“Avoid sexual immorality!” CEB

“Run from sexual sin!” NLT

I especially love the ones with exclamation marks. Don’t dilly-dally, run! Flee!

What does it mean to “flee”? Run away, escape, elude, evade, leave, retreat, scram, etc. So the opposite would be to stay, stand, wait, etc.

Paul isn’t telling us “hey, just try and avoid” sexual immorality! He’s telling us to flee! He’s saying it’s a trap we have to escape from. It’s something we have to quickly avoid. I’ve seen so many people get caught in the trap. It’s so easy to get lured into the realm of sexual immorality, especially in the last few years. Pop culture has made sex the norm. If you aren’t having sex before you’re married, you’re a rare breed in our world.

So, instead we stay. We get lured in and find that it’s easier not to run, but rather to stand still. We wait. Not the good, holy kind of waiting where we wait on God or wait for marriage…we wait until…what?

[next up: what is love?]

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[unmentionables 7.0] a guesty guest.

We’re doing something a little different this week! Presto-chango. This week we have a guest post. This post was written by a girl who’s also been helping me write others in this series. I hope you enjoy her story and her voice:

Let’s take a minute to talk about SEX. (I said that in slow motion.)

*CROWD GASP!!*

“She said the “s-word!” Jesus never would have said the “s-word!” ”

False. You can find the s-word all up in the Bible. Oh, yes. All up in the Word of God. God-breathed truth, the same place you’ll find the story of the Holy Ghost falling down at Pentecost. The same place you’ll read about Jesus’ very own death and resurrection. It’s everywhere. This is not a subject God intended for us to overlook.

So! Let’s inhale deeply, now say it with me: Sssseeeeeeexxxx.

What does the Bible say about sex?

Let’s hone in on something I’m sure you’ve already been told in some form or fashion.

“Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually sins against himself.” 1 Corinthians 6:18

“Okay, we get it. Sex is bad. Stay away. Bad things will happen. God doesn’t like it.”

Well, first of all, let me make this clear: Sex is not bad. Brace yourself for this one.

God invented sex.

Oh, yeah. He definitely did. God designed sex to be embraced within the sacred bond and commitment of marriage. It’s actually a very beautiful thing.

Mkay, so, if God invented sex, and it’s so beautiful, why does it say so many times in the Bible to flee from it?

I think part of the reason we are so easily won over by sexual temptation is because we don’t understand why it is that God puts so much emphasis on fleeing from sexual acts outside of marriage. We see it as just another rule we have to follow, and human nature tells us that rules can be bent or broken. When we think about the consequences of sinning, we think that what we will have to face is mere guilt in displeasing God. Still, we know in our hearts that God will forgive us, because he loves us like crazy – even if we don’t realize this until after the act. It’s this specific formula we go through in our minds when dealing with sin.

I’m here to tell you that God has a reason for everything. He doesn’t make up silly rules just to be in control. He knows what he’s doing, I promise you.

The reason God is so serious about this, is because he knows just how much this sin will hurt you. The body is a beautiful, sacred temple. It’s not like any regular object. Sex is two bodies coming together, becoming one in spirit. Each time you commit a sexual act, you are giving a piece of yourself to that person. That’s why God intended it for marriage, so you give yourself to one person who is yours forever. Because sex is an incredibly powerful movement.

Can you imagine the condition of your heart and spirit after giving a piece of yourself to even just one person? I’m going to be real with you. From personal experience, I can tell you that it hurts like crazy. I found myself giving pieces away to any old Joe, and in return, receiving feelings of abandonment and worthlessness. I have felt as though I didn’t deserve to be thought of at all by God, or anyone. I decided I was filthy. And I owned it.

That’s why Satan is so persistent in tempting you with sexual sin. Dude, he hates you and me. But you know who he’s really trying to get at? Our very own Heavenly Father. He knows how these things will hurt us, and he knows how God’s heart breaks when he sees his creation – his children – hurting.

I urge you: keep yourself holy. Flee from sexual immorality. This isn’t just a rule you need to follow. This is a rule God designed to protect us. He knows the turmoil we will go through.

I want to talk a moment with those of you who have already given a piece, or maybe many pieces of yourself away. Listen to me. You are not damaged goods. God wants you to know that. You were more precious than rubies before you ever thought about sex, and you are more precious than rubies even now. You are not filthy. You are beautiful and clean, white as snow because of what Jesus did for us. We are worthy to God.

He loves us like crazy.

{I love being reminded of how much He loves us. Sometimes we forget that. How could we possibly forget?? But we do. It’s important to remember that after we sin, our slates are wiped clean when we confess and repent. When God forgives us, we’re made whole again. I think our culture tells us that it’s okay to do whatever because God loves us. That doesn’t make it ok. We’re still hurting Him. But the beauty is that He forgives us and we’re able to move forward. What an awesome truth. -Caitlyn}

[unmentionables 6.0] a deadly sin.

“Lust” is one of those words that feels strange coming out of my mouth. Lust is almost always painted in a negative light. It’s an intense desire…a craving. You can lust after something or someone, you can lust for knowledge or power, you can lust after someone else’s chocolate bar…is just one of those words. Lust is something that every religion has something to say about. It’s in the Bible. It’s considered to be one of the seven deadly sins. It’s kind of a big deal.

If you Google “lust”, you’ll find the word mostly used in a sexual, physical context. Lust vs. Love, poems about lust, lust and desire…the list goes on and on. It seems to be something everyone faces. Right?

Right.

Lust isn’t some low-brow emotion that only non-Christians feel. Lust is something that is spoken about in a lot of churches with a “we don’t experience that” attitude, but that’s a lie of the devil. Thinking that we, as Christians, are above feeling lust in a physical or emotional context is one of the world’s great lies.

Lust in this context automatically makes me think of the ever popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” series. I know a lot of people who have read this series and I also know a lot of people who don’t have a clue what these books are really about. Romance novels have been around for the last 50 years or so, but never has a romantic fantasy book taken off in such a way as this particular series. Why? What’s so different about it?

This series has permeated our culture in many ways. In our sex-saturated world that’s obsessed with sexual fantasies, these books found a hook. The song “Feel this Moment” by Pitbull has lyrics that say, “She read books, especially about red rooms and tie ups/I got her hooked, Cause she seen me in a suit with the red tie tied up.” Those lyrics are a direct reference to this popular book series.

I’m a curious person. I love reading. I like being able to participate in conversations. Naturally, I started reading this series to see what all the hype was about. I didn’t even make it halfway through the first book before I called Amazon and asked for a refund for the Kindle copy I had purchased. (Read the synopsis here.)

When I decided to read it, and I’ll admit that I knew what the basic premise was, I thought of all the girls I knew that raved about it and never thought it would be as toxic as it was. My first thoughts about the character Anastasia is that she has a pretty messed up notion of what love is. When I read the synopsis for the other books in the series, I realized that her idea of love continues and the storyline ends “happily.”

This is incredibly disheartening. The character finds worth in a rich, handsome man wanting her. She finds worth in the idea that her love can change his twisted ways. That’s not love. This series is all about lust and becoming slaves to lustful desires. This is not the life that God intended for His children. We are worth more – deserve more.

I’m not saying we’re supposed to feel guilty about every little sexual thought.In a lot of ways, we’re teaching kids to be afraid of sex, then they get curious and it all hits the fan. Conversations are key. Safe places are so important for this particular topic of conversation. Someone has to tell young, teenage girls that love is more than sex. Someone has to teach girls what God says about them. Otherwise, they’re going to get swept up in this toxic culture and fight battles the rest of their lives.

Capturing thoughts. That’s what we should be focusing on. 2 Corinthians 10:6 talks about capturing our thoughts and making them obey Christ. I’m so visual that when I read that verse I imagine grabbing a strand of thought (very Harry Potter-esque), twisting it around, and forcing it to go the other direction. We have complete control over our thoughts. (“The Fantasy Fallacy” by Shannon Ethridge is an amazing book that talks a lot about the different kinds of sexual thoughts. You should check it out if you find this topic as interesting as I do.)

We have complete control over our thoughts.

We have complete control over our thoughts.

That’s so important for us to remember. It’s so easy for us to blame the devil for “putting” a thought into our heads, but we forget that we’re capable of shutting those thoughts down. Galatians 5:16 says that when we walk with the Spirit, we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh. Meaning, we won’t give the sinful body the sinful satisfaction it craves.

I haven’t even scratched the surface with this topic. Again, if you want to read more about the different kinds of sexual thoughts you should read “The Fantasy Fallacy” by Shannon Ethridge. I can’t rave enough about it.

Advice from an [unmentionables] collaborator: “Don’t hide from or try to avoid temptations that occur with dating. The more one denies it, the more likely that person will be taken by it by surprise and fall into it when the temptation is at its peak.”

[next up: a guest post!]

*Disclaimer: This is not intended to review the “Fifty Shades” series or judge those who have read it. I’m not the judgement type. This is merely my thought process.

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[unmentionables 5.0] making the most of your single status.

I remember being in a relationship and changing my relationship status on Facebook from “single” to “in a relationship.” I felt so empowered. I felt special. Now, looking back…I feel silly. Our relationship statuses have become so incredibly important. They’ve started to define us. When I first got to college, everyone wanted to talk about relationships and dating. When it would get around to me, I would just simply say I’d had one boyfriend. People would go ballistic.

“How is that possible?…How have you only dated one guy?…Why wouldn’t you want to date?”

A high school girl told me a couple of years ago that she wanted to have had at least 2 boyfriends before she graduated because she didn’t want people to judge her when she went to college. She didn’t want people to think she was weird or that something was wrong with her. That broke my heart.

I understand what she said about feeling judged, though. I still get that sometimes from people that claim to be my friends. After a while, I started to buy into the lie that I was missing out on something because I wasn’t out dating every weekend or hitting up the bars to meet guys. I spent a large part of my time single being sad. During that sadness, I also felt a lot of regret for ending the relationship. All of a sudden I was boyfriend-less! I had to change my relationship status back! I felt like I wasn’t special anymore. No one was calling me. No one was texting me “Good morning.”

[I’m judging myself a little bit as I write how I felt during that time. I was probably the most annoying friend in the world during this time of the world’s greatest pity party.]

Then, I snapped out of it. (In case you haven’t noticed, I do a lot of snapping out of things.) I don’t remember what happened, but there was this part of me that remembered how loved I was. I remembered how much God desired me. Guys are great, but no desire compares to the desire that our Father and Great Love has for each and every one of us. I love this quote by Louie Giglio, “God calls each and every star by name. It’s not likely He has forgotten yours.”

So, how do we snap out of our single sob story and into making the most of our single status?

One [unmentionables] friend says, “As a woman it’s hard to wait around for the right man to pursue me. I want to chase after them to speed the process and because so many boys don’t seem up for the challenge. But I know trusting God’s timing means waiting for the right MAN (not boy) who pursues me the way Christ pursued us. I feel like I am not ready for Mr. Right to come along just yet…there’s lots of work I still need to do while I’m single!”

Right on! We can choose to be miserable during our time of singleness and worry what other people think, or we can really utilize this time for God’s glory.

She also says, “Relationships take up a lot of time and focus. While you’re single use that time to bring other girls closer to Christ before it’s gone! Talking with other girls about the struggle of waiting for Mr. Right opens so many connections to deep, Christ-centered relationships. You are sure to receive a blessing while being a blessing.”

The communication door has to stay open between young and old regarding relationships. If we rely on our own, young-person knowledge and add in what our culture tells us about relationships – we’ll go down a slippery slope. I can’t tell you how much I rely on my older friends who have had more life experiences than I have. And in the other direction, I have former students from my youth intern days that still call and text me asking questions and seeking advice. It’s so hard for young girls to admit they aren’t ready for a relationship. Sometimes that thought actually seems silly. It’s all part of the whole growing up thing, I suppose.

When I was a youth intern, that summer we talked a lot about pouring into others and what it means for someone to pour into you. I have no doubt that God honors the bond between Christians who pour into each other. That’s at the center of a Christ-centered time of singleness.

We aren’t meant to do life alone, after all.

[next up: a deadly sin.]

Advice from an [unmentionables] friend:

“I would tell younger girls to wait patiently. Unfortunately, I realize that this may be an impractical way to approach a girl, especially the ones that are resistant to that idea. All I can do is to share my wisdom with them, pray for them and with them, and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide and be with them when others won’t be when she needs to make important decisions.”

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