In the Blink of an Eye

This has been an interesting week here in Texas to say the least. And quite possibly one of the longest weeks I can remember. Sunday brought freezing rain that we were driving home in. Monday was more ice and a crazy, hectic day at work. Tuesday was mostly the remnants of Monday. But, oh, Wednesday brought some hope! Wednesday morning started off with a snow covered car and gray, gloomy skies. But by lunch time, just four short hours later, there wasn’t a single sign of snow left and beautiful blue skies had emerged!

As I was sitting there on my lunch break, I started thinking about what I had written the week before about staying focused on the future that’s ahead of you and not getting side tracked on what’s currently happening around you. But God took this one step further with me, when I started thinking of how quickly our circumstances can change for the better.

In a matter of just four hours, or 240 minutes, the weather here in “bi-polar Texas” changed from freezing, gloomy, with snow to cool, sunny, and clear blue skies. If the weather can change that quickly, how quickly can our circumstances change when God is involved?

Given God’s track record, I’d say quicker than the speed of light.

When God was creating the world, and the world was without light, God spoke change into the void and light was. God didn’t speak it and then several days later, after a bunch of other things happened and fell in to place, light finally happened. God didn’t speak it and light only showed up in one place, but not another. No. God spoke “let there be light and light was!” (Genesis 1).

I started thinking about this in my own life and my own circumstances. I’ve seen it happen personally before. I can think back to last summer, when I had been told I was at the top of my pay grade for my position and there was no hope for a raise if I wasn’t willing to change departments. But God’s will was for me to stay right where I was and to be obedient to Him (staying forward focused and not being distracted by the present facts).

One afternoon, while in a drive-thru for lunch, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me to pay for lunch for the car behind me. I did so out of obedience and keeping my focus straight ahead instead of thinking, how tight my finances already were and what the current facts around me were screaming. Not ten minutes after I made it back to work from lunch, I was called in and given a raise that I had been told before was impossible! Not only impossible, but RETROACTIVE! And God’s change didn’t stop there…just three months later, I received another promotion that could only come at the hand of God!!

And as I am writing this, I am listening to a testimony at a church service, where a congregation member lost consciousness and a pulse, but as they began to pray over him and speak God’s life changing power over him, that situation changed and he was brought back from death!

Even now, as my hearts deepest desire is for a spouse at this time in my life, God quickly reminded me of Adam. Adam saw all of God’s creation around him, and it was good, but none were a match for him. God took from Adam and created his helpmate, Eve. And you know how quickly that change occurred? It didn’t take months of searching through online dating – no, Adam’s change took place in the course of an afternoon nap!

I know it might not be logical to think when you wake up from your Sunday afternoon nap, your helpmate will be right there waiting for you. Of course not. That would actually be a bit weird and perhaps worth calling the police over (I mean how would they get in to your house if you’re sleeping?). But it is logical to believe and EXPECT God to move that quickly to change your current circumstances!

When you are obedient to God, and in the right place where He wants you at that time, the circumstances around you won’t matter because you know how quickly they are going to change – In the blink of an eye! In the time it takes to speak them in to existence! In the time it takes to activate your faith and put it to work, God’s change is going to be right there waiting for you!!

So be encouraged. No matter what you are facing. If God can speak and light is… If a man can be dead, yet risen again by faith… If Adam can take a nap and wake up with a wife… What issue can you possibly think is too big for God to change instantly when you believe and put your faith and obedience in to it?! The answer – NONE!!!

Toss the List – Part 2

A few days after I posted ‘Toss the List‘, my father posted two great articles on Facebook from Charisma Magazine.

When God dealt with me, and my list for a husband, back in 2002, He didn’t leave me without some guidelines of what to believe for and look for. But what is important to understand is that it’s not MY list, it’s God’s list for me. I sought after God and what He wanted for me and my husband.

I don’t look at this list every day. I don’t even look at it every month. I’ve had 12 years with this list, so trust me, it’s imprinted on the very depths of my soul at this point. But I also don’t share it with others – this is something between myself and God. I’ve seen what can happen when women share their lists; magically Mr. Wrong starts doing everything right to fulfill that list. The last thing I want is Mr. Wrong parading in Mr. Right’s clothing – I’ve encountered enough wolfsheeps for a lifetime.

I can’t tell you what is right or wrong for YOUR list of the spouse God has for you. That is between you and God. But I can honestly say if God had a general guideline for all of us, these two articles written by  J. Lee Grady, for his blog Fire In My Bones for Charisma Magazine, are superb and yet so simple in their truths.

As Christians, the unbeliever should be a non-negotiable for relationships. When I first moved back from living overseas, I was spending time with a guy I had grown up next door to – he was/is an Atheist. I enjoyed his company. We had a lot of the same likes and interests, and definitely the same sense of humor. But when I brought one of my brothers along with us on one of our “friend dates” and I saw the disappointment in his eyes that he later vocalized, I knew these were waters I didn’t need to be treading. Which also goes back to the dangers of casual dating when you don’t see a future there, even casual friend dates…someone always ends up with feelings involved, even if it’s unintentional.

So I hope you all take a moment to read these articles that were written last year around Valentine’s Day (or as many of us call it, Single Awareness Day). And please, PLEASE, pay close attention to the very first one – The Unbeliever and “Missionary Dating”.

10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry by J. Lee Grady

My wife and I raised four daughters—without shotguns in the house!—and three of them have already married. We love our sons-in-law, and it’s obvious God handpicked each of them to match our daughters’ temperaments and personality.

I have always believed God is in the matchmaking business. If He can do it for my daughters, He can do it for you.

Today I have several single female friends who would very much like to find the right guy. Some tell me the pickings are slim at their church, so they have ventured into the world of online dating. Others have thrown up their hands in despair, wondering if there are any decent Christian guys left anywhere. They’ve begun to wonder if they should lower their standards in order to find a mate.

My advice stands: Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Too many Christian women today have ended up with an Ishmael because impatience pushed them into an unhappy marriage. Please take my fatherly advice: You are much better off single than with the wrong guy!

Speaking of “wrong guys,” here are the top 10 men you should avoid when looking for a husband:

1. The unbeliever. Please write 2 Corinthians 6:14 on a Post-it note and tack it on your computer at work. It says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB). This is not an outdated religious rule. It is the Word of God for you today.

Don’t allow a man’s charm, looks or financial success (or his willingness to go to church with you) push you to compromise what you know is right. “Missionary dating” is never a wise strategy. If the guy is not a born-again Christian, scratch him off your list. He’s not right for you. I’ve yet to meet a Christian woman who didn’t regret marrying an unbeliever.

2. The liar. If you discover that the man you are dating has lied to you about his past or that he’s always covering his tracks to hide his secrets from you, run for the nearest exit. Marriage must be built on a foundation of trust. If he can’t be truthful, break up now before he bamboozles you with an even bigger deception.

3. The playboy. I wish I could say that if you meet a nice guy at church, you can assume he’s living in sexual purity. But that’s not the case today. I’ve heard horror stories about single guys who serve on the worship team on Sunday but act like Casanovas during the week. If you marry a guy who was sleeping around before your wedding, you can be sure he will be sleeping around after your wedding.

4. The deadbeat. There are many solid Christian men who experienced marital failure years ago. Since their divorce, they have experienced the Holy Spirit’s restoration, and now they want to remarry. Second marriages can be very happy. But if you find out that the man you are dating hasn’t been caring for his children from a previous marriage, you have just exposed a fatal flaw. Any man who will not pay for his past mistakes or support children from a previous marriage is not going to treat you responsibly.

5. The addict. Churchgoing men who have addictions to alcohol or drugs have learned to hide their problems—but you don’t want to wait until your honeymoon to find out that he’s a boozer. Never marry a man who refuses to get help for his addiction. Insist that he get professional help and walk away. And don’t get into a codependent relationship in which he claims he needs you to stay sober. You can’t fix him.

6. The bum. I have a female friend who realized after she married her boyfriend that he had no plans to find steady work. He had devised a great strategy: He stayed home all day and played video games while his professional wife worked and paid all the bills. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thess. 3:10). The same rule applies here: If a man is not willing to work, he doesn’t deserve to marry you.

7. The narcissist. I sincerely hope you can find a guy who is handsome. But be careful: If your boyfriend spends six hours a day at the gym and regularly posts closeups of his biceps on Facebook, you have a problem. Do not fall for a self-absorbed guy. He might be cute, but a man who is infatuated with his appearance and his own needs will never be able to love you sacrificially, like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). The man who is always looking at himself in the mirror will never notice you.

8. The abuser. Men with abusive tendencies can’t control their anger when it boils over. If the guy you are dating has a tendency to fly off the handle, either at you or others, don’t be tempted to rationalize his behavior. He has a problem, and if you marry him you will have to navigate his minefield every day to avoid triggering another outburst. Angry men hurt women—verbally and sometimes physically. Find a man who is gentle.

9. The man-child. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m suspicious of a guy who still lives with his parents at age 35. If his mother is still doing his cooking, cleaning and ironing at that age, you can be sure he’s stuck in an emotional time warp. You are asking for trouble if you think you can be a wife to a guy who hasn’t grown up. Back away and, as a friend, encourage him to find a mentor who can help him mature.

10. The control freak. Some Christian guys today believe marriage is about male superiority. They may quote Scripture and sound super-spiritual, but behind the façade of husbandly authority is deep insecurity and pride that can morph into spiritual abuse. First Peter 3:7 commands husbands to treat their wives as equals. If the man you are dating talks down to you, makes demeaning comments about women or seems to squelch your spiritual gifts, back away now. He is on a power trip. Women who marry religious control freaks often end up in a nightmare of depression.

If you are a woman of God, don’t sell your spiritual birthright by marrying a guy who doesn’t deserve you. Your smartest decision in life is to wait for a man who is sold out to Jesus.

8 Women Christian Men Should Never Marry by J. Lee Brady

Last week my column “10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry” went viral. More than 1.2 million people have shared that message so far—most likely because so many single men and women are seriously asking for guidelines on finding a compatible mate.

In response I received numerous requests to share similar guidelines for men who are looking for wives. Since I am mentoring several young men right now and have seen a few of them marry successfully during the past few years, it wasn’t difficult to draft this list. These are the women I tell my spiritual sons to avoid:

1. The unbeliever. In last week’s column, I reminded women that the Bible is absolutely clear on this point: Christians should not marry unbelievers. Second Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB). Apart from your decision to follow Christ, marriage is the single most important decision you will ever make. Don’t blow it by ignoring the obvious. You need a wife who loves Jesus more than she loves you. Put spiritual maturity at the top of your list of qualities you want in a wife.

2. The material girl. One young friend of mine was engaged to a girl from a rich family. He saved up money for months to buy a ring, but when he proposed she told him he needed to go back to the jewelry store to buy a bigger diamond. She pushed her fiance to go into debt for a ring that fit her expectations. She wanted a Tiffany’s lifestyle on his Wal-Mart budget. I warned my friend that he was stepping into serious trouble. Unless you want to live in debt for the rest of your life, do not marry a girl who has dollar signs in her eyes and eight credit cards in her Gucci purse.

3. The diva. Some macho guys like to throw their weight around and pretend they are superior to women. Divas are the female version of this nightmare. They think the world revolves around them, and they don’t think twice about hurting somebody else to prove their point. Their words are harsh and their finger-snapping demands are unreasonable. Some of these women might end up in leadership positions at church, but don’t be fooled by their super-spiritual talk. Real leaders are humble. If you don’t see Christlike humility in the woman you are dating, back away from her and keep looking.

4. The Delilah. Remember Samson? He was anointed by God with superhuman strength, but he lost his power when a seductive woman figured out his secret and gave her man the world’s most famous haircut. Like Delilah, a woman who hasn’t yielded her sexuality to God will blind you with her charms, break your heart and snip your anointing off. If the “Christian” woman you met at church dresses provocatively, flirts with other guys, posts sexually inappropriate comments on Facebook or tells you she’s OK with sex before marriage, get out of that relationship before she traps you.

5. The contentious woman. A young man told me recently that he dated a girl who had serious resentment in her heart because of past hurts. “Before I would propose, I told my fiancee she had to deal with this,” he explained. “It would have been a deal-breaker, but there was a powerful breakthrough and now we are engaged.” This guy realized that unresolved bitterness can ruin a marriage. Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” If the woman you are dating is seething with anger and unforgiveness, your life together will be ruined by arguing, door-slamming and endless drama. Insist that she get prayer and counseling.

6. The controller. Marriage is a 50/50 partnership, and the only way it works is when both husband and wife practice mutual submission according to Ephesians 5:21. Just as some guys think they can run a marriage like a dictatorship, some women try to manipulate decisions to get their way. This is why premarital counseling is so important! You don’t want to wait until you’ve been married for two weeks to find out that your wife doesn’t trust you and wants to call all the shots.

7. The mama’s girl. It’s normal for a new wife to call her mom regularly for advice and support. It is not normal for her to talk to her mother five times a day about every detail of her marriage, including her sex life. That’s weird. Yet I have counseled guys whose wives allowed their mothers (or fathers) total control of their marriages. Genesis 2:24 says a man is to leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Parents should stay in the background of their children’s marriages. If your girlfriend hasn’t cut the apron strings, proceed with caution.

8. The addict. So many people in the church today have not been properly discipled. Many still struggle with various types of addictions—to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medicines or pornography—either because we don’t confront these sins from the pulpit or we don’t offer enough compassionate support to strugglers. Jesus can completely set a person free from these habits, but you don’t want to wait until you’re married to find out your wife isn’t sober. You may still be called to be married, but it is not wise to tie the knot until your girlfriend faces her issues head-on.

Your best rule to follow in choosing a wife is found in Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Look past the outward qualities that the world says are important, and look at the heart.

Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

Last year, around this time, I was Christmas shopping in Target and came across this book: Never Have I Ever, My Life (SO FAR) Without a Date by Katie Heaney. Of course, I snapped a quick photo of it and sent it to Berta, jokingly saying “Hey look, it’s a book about ME!”

Well, I was mostly joking, but part of me was actually a little excited because that meant there was someone else out there like me (for the most part – the dating ship sailed a long time ago). No longer was I some mythical, sparkly unicorn alone in a world full of stallions and asses (yes, I said asses…after trying online dating and the slim pickings that are left over once you reach a certain age, that’s the only word that adequately describes some men you will encounter).  But right there in front of me, in print, was someone else who had the guts to actually share her real self with the world.  This blog is about as close as I’ll ever likely to get to her courageousness in putting something so personal out there.

It’s been two full decades since I sat in a Wednesday chapel service in 7th grade listening to someone talk about Godly and ungodly relationships. We were each handed two hearts; a blue heart and a pink heart glued together. At the end of the message, the speaker then asked us to remove the pink heart from the blue heart without leaving anything behind. After much trying, it was evident that the task before us was impossible. The two hearts could not be removed from one another without tearing and leaving pieces behind on the other heart. Once those hearts separated, they would never be whole again.

This example, of hearts intertwining in a relationship, really stuck with me, and obviously two decades later still does. I wish this analogy could be used with every young person before they reach the age of dating. Will it save everyone from heartache? No. My heart was still broken in high school. But it only took one painful time to know that wasn’t something I wanted to do again. I knew I only had one heart to give and I wanted to give as much of that as is possible to the man God has for me. I just wish I could yell it from the rooftops to today’s youth that the old adage of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is a lie straight from hell.

I’ve been listening to my favorite ministry tape series this week on my lunch breaks. It’s amazing how much they still minister to me. For 13 years these tapes about Godly friendships, relationships, and marriages have spoken to me, at different points in my life, new rhema words from God every time.

In 2001, a precious pastor from Australia did a marriage seminar at our church. At that time I was just coming out of a nasty breakup – my only real breakup to this day. I was young, and completely naïve. I had spent two years dating on and off again with ‘D’, but more importantly, I was head over heels in love with him. Well, I was in what I thought at that time in my life was “love” – it was anything but love.

Now, at 32, I look back to my 17-19yr old self and thank God for His protection on me at that point in my life. When I broke up with ‘D’ for the last time in 2001, using a few choice words, I was devastated and my self-worth was non-existent. He knew I had made a decision to save sex for marriage. But somehow, by God’s grace and mercy, he never once pushed me to change my mind. It was absolutely a God thing, because at that age, and as in love as I thought I was, I would have probably caved quickly.  Sounds like a great guy, right? I mean he wasn’t pushing me to sleep with him or anything. Well, that’s what I thought too until Christmas vacation when he went to visit his dad. It didn’t take long, once he was back, for the rumors to make their go around. He wasn’t pressuring me for sex because he was getting it elsewhere. Over his vacation, his father had bought him a prostitute.

Feeling absolutely worthless and undesirable, with the rug yanked from under my feet, I turned to those ministry tapes. I turned to God. I truly believe, with every fiber of my being, that not only did God completely protect me in that situation, but He then hid me away to save me from any further heartache, to save me for my husband one day (FYI God, I’m ok if You are ready to unhide me).

I hear stories now from other friends of things that were happening in our circles at that time, and in the years to follow, and know that God kept me from all of that to protect my heart. Our hearts are far too fragile to be spreading them out, leaving pieces of them behind with each failed relationship.

Listening to the tape series this time (the millionth time), I heard something this week with a new revelation. Dating and breaking up over and over again is nothing but practicing for divorce. Practicing for divorce!

Frankly, I used to be ashamed to admit my inexperience in the dating world; my inexperience in all things really. My good friends can testify to me being the most awkward flirter ever – I either come across as super friendly or a bitch. But you know what? I’m ok with the inexperience (and trust me it’s taken a long time to own up to that – it’s a conscious, daily effort at times). Practice might make perfect when it comes to learning a new instrument or playing a sport, but practicing relationships with the wrong people will never amount to anything perfect by God’s standards!

I think deep down this is why I knew from the start with ‘T’ a couple of years ago that things weren’t right and he wasn’t the ONE. Oh, but “you should still go on a date with him, it never hurts getting in a little dating practice”. I think I can hear God laughing now. I knew then that I didn’t want to ‘date around’, but it took an abscess and a root canal (literally) to get my mind focused on staying the course, WITHOUT practice. God, if you’re reading:

If I ever end up in that boat again (which I never plan to), would you mind giving me a sign that isn’t so costly to my bank account? I’d be forever grateful.
Yours Truly, Gertie

So, here God, take my heart. It’s yours till you see fit to give it to the husband you have for me. No more practicing for failure and practicing for divorce. I’m setting my sights on You and on Your perfect plan. Experience or not, I’d rather fumble my way through life with the right ONE man God has for me than be some expert at it all with a lot of torn up hearts left behind. My ‘Never Have I Ever’ list might be really (REALLY) long, but that’s ok. It’s time to stand up, be proud, and take ownership of that list.