Converge Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:23:25 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 8 things to do before your 1st anniversary Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:44:19 +0000 8 things to do before your 1st anniversary by Olive Chan

If you’re newly married, or about to get married, this is especially for you.  But even if you’ve been married...

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8 things to do before your 1st anniversary by Olive Chan

If you’re newly married, or about to get married, this is especially for you.  But even if you’ve been married for a while, you can still use these ideas as tune-ups.

Here are eight things you won’t regret doing before your first anniversary:

1. Work on your sex life

Yep, I’m starting with an attention-getter.  Unlike what the movies would have you think, having great sex doesn’t come naturally.  Take time to find out what the other person’s preferences are, talk about it, read books on it.  See what works and doesn’t work for the both of you.  Talk through any sexual history that may hinder your intimacy as husband and wife.  Physical intimacy is a reflection of the other aspects of intimacy that make up a strong marriage, so it’s essential to develop this part of your relationship.

2. Practice fighting fairly

In your first year of marriage, you are bound to come across differences of opinions, as well as instances of miscommunication.  Use this time to practice your skills of conflict resolution.  The scarier this prospect is, the more important it is for you to work on it.  Establishing the groundwork of how to fight fairly will be extremely valuable in future years.  Keeping the air clear also builds trust between the both of you.

3. Travel and have fun

Enjoy the honeymoon period!  Even though marriage is a major transition in life and brings many adjustments with it, there is something special about finally starting a life together with your best friend.  Take advantage of not having children yet, go explore places and try new activities together.  Make memories that you can look back on and smile at.  Laugh together every day.

4. Develop friendships with other couples

Great marriages don’t happen in a vacuum.  Connect with other couples who have the kind of relationship you want to have.  Learn from them.  Observe them.  Ask them questions.  Connect yourselves also with couples who are in a similar stage as you.  It’s good to have company on the journey.

5. Establish the habit of praying together

Someone once told us “The couple that prays together, stays together.”  And statistics support this.  When we first got married, we wanted to set for ourselves a pattern of checking in with God each night before we went to sleep.  It took a bit of work at the beginning to remember to do this.  But over time, it has become one of our favourite times of being together in the day.  When we connect with God, we naturally also connect with each other.  Our prayers reflect what’s going on in our lives.  Sometimes they are longer, sometimes they are a short, “Thank you for loving us, God.”  But this practice reminds us that God is the source and strength of our relationship.

6. Make time for important conversations

As with everything new, there is a learning curve that comes along with getting married.  Be intentional about giving yourselves the space and time to have those important conversations.  For us, part of making sure we could do this meant that I worked only part-time.  We also decided to pull back from some other commitments at church so that we could focus on our marriage for that year.  Additionally, we took a mini-getaway every three months to evaluate where we were at and dream about how we wanted to keep growing in our marriage.

7. Spend time with your in-laws

The in-law relationship frequently has a bad reputation.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you are able to, spend time with your in-laws.  Get to know them and invest in your relationship with them.  It may feel awkward at first, but you are now family.  These are the people who have loved your spouse for his/her whole life.  They are also the people who will be your children’s grandparents.  Getting to know them now not only paves the way for a better future together, it also gives you a different perspective to know your spouse better.

8. Deposit as much as you can into your relationship bank

The marriage relationship is like a bank.  You can make deposits.  And you can make withdrawals.  In the good times, make as many deposits as you can so that when the hard times come, you can make withdrawals without risking bankruptcy.  Ways of doing this include going on weekly dates, regularly expressing appreciation to each other, attending a marriage conference, creating positive memories together and laughing whenever you can.

A great marriage is the most worthwhile relationships to invest in, and the first year is key to building a solid foundation for all the years to come.  Don’t let it slip by without making the most of it.


Flickr photo (cc) by José Manuel Ríos Valiente


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Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:36:04 +0000 Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction by Kevin DeYoung

  Content adapted from What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung   There is a growing...

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Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction by Kevin DeYoung


Content adapted from What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung


There is a growing discussion among those who agree that the Bible forbids homosexual practice about whether same-sex attraction itself is sinful. The issue requires careful thought, not least of all in defining our terms. What do we mean by words like orientation, attraction, and desire? What do others mean when they use these words? What does the Bible say, if anything, about what they should mean? While much of the underlying exegetical and theological work has a long history, the question itself is very new. It has come to special prominence as more and more Christians who experience same-sex attraction are, in a powerful picture of God’s grace, choosing to live celibate lives rather than violate the clear teaching of Scripture.

More work needs to be done to help Christians think through the issue of same-sex attraction in a way that is biblically faithful, pastorally sensitive, and culturally conversant. I confess that I don’t have all the answers, nor am I even sure of all the questions. But perhaps these building blocks—using the three categories I just mentioned—might help lay a good foundation for further reflection and application.

Block 1: Biblically Faithful

Whenever same-sex attraction manifests itself in “lustful intent,” the desire is sinful, just as it would be for someone attracted to persons of the opposite sex (Matt. 5:28). That much is clear. But might there be some neutral ground of approval or approbation that falls short of sinful desire? I think so. A brother may be able to discern that his sister is beautiful, or a grown daughter may be able to recognize that her dad is handsome, without committing any of the wrong kind of epithymia (desire). In the same way, the person with same-sex attraction may be able to apprehend someone of the same sex as beautiful or handsome without moral culpability. But let’s be careful: sinful desires aren’t always as obvious as the articulated thought, “I wish I could have sex with this person.” Sinful desires bubble up in long looks, second glances, entertainment choices, unhealthy emotional attachments, daydreams, and wandering eyes (Job 31:1). This goes for all of us, no matter our orientation.

As for the particularities of same-sex attraction, given the exegesis in this book we have to conclude that even unwanted homosexual desires are disordered (and if the desire is tantamount to “lustful intent,” then sinful). That is, as one friend who experiences same-sex attraction put it, same-sex attraction—used here to mean more than men simply desiring the company of other men or women of women—did not exist before the fall, comes as a result of it, and will not exist when the fall has been finally overcome. Desires are deemed good or bad not just by their intensity or sense of proportion, but based on their object. For a man to desire to have sex with another man (or a woman with a woman) is not the way things are supposed to be.

Block 2: Pastorally Sensitive

But that’s not all we must say. If we stop here, we will crush the spirits (or worse) of brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction through no conscious choice of their own. Every Christian wrestles with thoughts we can’t quite understand and feelings we never wanted. This is not a homosexual problem; it’s a human problem. I imagine a young man coming up to me as his pastor and saying, through tears, “I find myself attracted to men instead of women. I feel so dirty. I’m so ashamed. I feel bad, miserable, and mad at myself and like a failure before God every second of the day.” In this situation I would eventually get to the call of Christian discipleship to live in purity of thought and deed, but that’s not where I would start because this man already feels impure. I’d tell him that feeling this does not make him a failure, and that the desire to walk in holiness is evidence of the Spirit’s work in his life. I’d tell him about the good news of the gospel. I’d tell him that I’m not the way I’m supposed to be either. I’d tell him that Jesus is a sympathetic high priest, that he intercedes for us, that he knows what it’s like to be tempted and tried. I’d tell him that God gives us limps and thorns for our good and for our glory. I’d tell him that God can use our struggles to bless us and to bless others through us. If the person coming to me were a fifty-year-old planning to leave his wife and kids to run off with another man, my counsel might sound much different, but for the honest struggler we want to emphasize that disordered desires can arise in us unbidden and that finding yourself attracted to persons of the same sex does not destine you for a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing.

Block 3: Culturally Conversant

This is where the conversation gets even trickier because we aren’t just dealing with what the Bible says or what we should say but what the wider world thinks we are saying with the words we say. Again, defining our terms is crucial, as is discerning how others are using the same terms. It’s true (and a sometimes overlooked point) that terms like orientation and gay are used to signify much more than sexual activity or sexual desire. They may speak to a person’s preference for same-sex friendship, or a person’s place in much-needed community, or a person’s delight in same-sex camaraderie and conversation. When people speak of “orientation” or “being gay,” they may be speaking of much more than sex. But we must also bear in mind that the world probably doesn’t hear less than sex when we use these terms. For this reason, I prefer to speak of “same-sex attraction” or Rosaria Butterfield’s (not quite identical) phrase “unwanted homosexual desires.” However we parse out these terms—and we cannot avoid parsing terms (new terms are probably needed too)—we must at least be clear about what we mean when we talk about matters so emotionally charged and verbally complex.

In the years ahead the church will be forced to think through these issues, think of them often and then act. The church will have a tremendous opportunity to be slow to speak and quick to listen, to keep our Bibles open and our hearts too, and to speak the truth in love and show truth and grace. Let’s pray that we are up to the challenge and ready for the opportunity.


Content adapted from What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187,


Photo by (Flickr CC) Danilo Urbina


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Broken Families and White Picket Fences Tue, 30 Jun 2015 04:00:26 +0000 Broken Families and White Picket Fences by Melanie Jones

Picture this: a mom, dad, son, daughter and a Golden Lab named Waldo; a picture perfect family with a white...

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Broken Families and White Picket Fences by Melanie Jones

Picture this: a mom, dad, son, daughter and a Golden Lab named Waldo; a picture perfect family with a white picket fence surrounding their house. The fence symbolizes togetherness and joy.

When I was in high school I longed for this “white picket fence” – I was longing for something I thought I was missing out on. My parents separated when I was in grade six and divorced when I was in grade nine. It wasn’t messy, which made the transition smoother for my sister and I. However, deep down inside I felt like an outcast since I was the only one in my core group of friends whose parents weren’t together. I thought that because of my family situation I didn’t measure up to all my friends — they didn’t come from broken families.

I began to think there was a standard foundation for this so called “picket fence”; a foundation I was suddenly lacking with divorced parents. (The one positive was that I loved having two bedrooms to decorate the way I wanted)

I’m still not sure when it was, but I gradually began to experience a major shift in how I viewed my family’s situation. I realized that the term “broken family” is only true if you let it be, if you believe it to be true. In reality, there is no perfect family situation.

As time went on I started building my own white picket fence of togetherness and joy – one that involved dinner dates with my mom, movie nights with my dad, and sleepovers with my big sister. When life got messy we handled it and I kept building the fence that I had desired for so long. I was learning how to truly embrace and enjoy moments with my family even though it didn’t involve sit down dinners at the end of each day with both parents present as I tell them how my day was. I was learning how to be happy with my new family dynamic; one that I never imagined having when I was a little girl. I had more one-on-one time with both my mom and dad, getting to know them as if they were my new friends.

A big part of this story is how I chose joy. But this was something I couldn’t grasp alone; I found my strength in God’s continuous love and grace. I found rest in Him, knowing that He was in control. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This promise gave me newfound hope — a glimmer of light when it felt so dark.

It took me a while to figure it all out, and as I get older I keep learning more. The most important lesson I’ve learned that there is no set definition for what makes the “white picket fence”. If we get too wrapped up in how we think things should be, we will miss out on the good things that are right in front of us. For me, it was about finding joy in the midst of the trials. I couldn’t control or change the circumstances, but I was able to change the way I looked at it and how I responded.

I stopped focusing on what I thought I was missing and began to see that my happiness and fulfillment came from the relationships I was building with my family. It didn’t matter that there was two homes instead of one; my family was still my family. There was something so freeing about these realizations. I was no longer an outcast; I was just me — building my fence one post at a time.


Photo by (Flickr CC) June Marie


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Temples to Self Sun, 28 Jun 2015 23:49:00 +0000 Temples to Self by Chelsea Batten

  As a teenager with worse-than-average body issues, I scrupulously avoided the gym. I was devastated just by a stray...

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Temples to Self by Chelsea Batten


As a teenager with worse-than-average body issues, I scrupulously avoided the gym. I was devastated just by a stray glance in the mirror; I couldn’t bear the idea of seeing myself reflected among a thousand other bodies, preening sweatily and (I thought) self-righteously as they loped along on their treadmills. Admittedly, my body shame made me really oversensitive. But even today, if I get talked into visiting the gym by a friend, I seldom see fun or health or camaraderie. What I see is a religion.

Never mind the stucco colonnades and faux marble finishes; it’s the activity inside the gym that really evokes a semblance of religion. The music is turned up to such deafening volume that it conveys only a mesmeric rhythm, to which the devotees march synchronously, their faces contorted with fervent effort.

In glass-lined antechambers, the gym’s elders lead novices in group rituals, exhorting them with shouts and skillful demonstration. At discreet intervals around the room, people line up at stations where they can take the measure of their faithfulness in pounds and inches. And in quiet recesses, people sit, wrapped in towels, to regulate their breathing and to reflect on the merit of their performance.

But more unnerving than any of this is how the number of attendees, at any given time, is visually multiplied by the wall mirrors encompassing the room. Enter, and you feel like you’ve done more than come to perform your devotions — you’ve joined a cause with legions in its thrall. You’re surrounded by people who reflect the values that you want to embody, whose success motivates you to strive harder and achieve new heights of physical enlightenment.

If you live anywhere but southern California, this description will sound overblown. But for those who grew up within reach of the San Andreas fault line, “exercise” will probably never mean a 20 minute jog or a soccer game in the park. It means a choking heart rate and hair plastered to your brow. It means spandex and muscle shirts and new shoes every four to six months. It means soreness, fatigue, and a stony sense of accomplishment. It means results.

Naked and unashamed

naked and unashamed

What Do Results Mean?

Many people in California want help making their bodies fit to be seen. Several of my friends from back home are or have been personal trainers. The cornerstone of their job, they tell me, is helping their clients define what “results” mean.

Apparently, it’s rare for a client to simply come in and say, “I want to improve my health.” Instead, it’s some combination of size in relation to body part. Smaller waists, bigger shoulders, targeted gain and loss from the pectorals to the external obliques.

For most people, visual results require much more time and effort than it does to simply feel better and have more energy. This discourages some from making any effort at all.

My friend Melissa used to be a personal trainer but found the environment increasingly unhealthy to be in. Now she only trains family members and friends, and she hardly goes to the gym at all. The competitive edge it provokes in her is, she says, not good for her family. (Nor was the outbreak of head lice that her kids got from hanging out in the gym childcare facility.) Instead, she goes running in her neighborhood and lifts weights in her garage. But recently, after a rare gym workout, she turned around and was confronted by the sight of a woman about her age and size, who had the abs and shoulders Melissa has constantly worked to achieve.

Close behind her initial reaction of competitive envy, Melissa says, came a conviction that she ought to reach out to the woman. So she said something complimentary; they began chatting. After a while, the woman confessed, “I’ve always wanted to have kids like yours.”

“That was funny,” says Melissa, “because I wanted to say ‘I’ve always wanted to have shoulders like yours!’”

The interaction made her reflect how instinctively we judge others and ourselves based on how we look. How our judgments, and the ways we respond to them, siphon our attention away from the actual person behind the appearance.

Photos by Joel Krahn

Photos by Joel Krahn

Does Beauty Need a Purpose?

My friend Rondi, a Pilates instructor, modern dancer, as well as a pastor’s wife, notes that Christians tend to be uncomfortable with the idea of beauty. Whether it’s simply how something looks, or how beautifully it moves, unless they can identify a clear purpose that drives the beauty. A basketball player gliding upward from the three-point line is safe to admire; a sinewy principal in the Alvin Ailey company feels somehow more dangerous.

And it is dangerous. Ugliness is much safer than beauty. Nobody is provoked to lie, hurt, or sin because they’re attracted to something ugly.

Beauty triggers a primal instinct for worship. It’s on that account that pagan cultures worshiped nature. It’s on that account that the Greeks equated “the beautiful” with “the good” and “the true” as the highest virtues. And it’s on that account that the Bible repeatedly enumerates beauty as one of God’s attributes.

So why should it alarm us that God endowed His creatures with a reflection of His beauty in their physical bodies? As humans, our existence is first of all a work of fine art. If you’ve seen an artist at work, you know that there is beauty in his movements well before they produce anything to look at.

Likewise, our bodies are meant to exhibit beauty not only statically, but kinetically. Our obedience consists not only in service to God, but in serving Him freely and beautifully. Choosing to exclude or ignore beauty is like sawing a leg from a tripod. Freedom and service are crippled when you remove attractiveness from them. Abasing the body and its capabilities is just as disobedient as worshiping it.

Of course, as we’re constantly reminded, this is a broken world. Because of sin, we are limited. Maybe this is the reason we don’t all naturally look like fitness models. Apart from sin, would we struggle with laziness, overindulgence, sickness, or deformity? Would we have bad digestion, fallen arches, weak joints, or chronic fatigue?

I don’t mean to suggest that less muscle tone makes you less godly or less worthy, any more than limited creative talent or intelligence or even spiritual perceptiveness does. Everyone expresses certain aspects of God’s nature more easily than others, which is why some people can maintain perfect abs on a diet of pizza and beer, while others can work out six days a week and still get asked if they are pregnant.

Apart from sin, would we have such a hard time knowing whether or not we are simply enjoying our bodies, without worshiping or abasing them?


Stuck in Self-Examination

I used to hate looking at mirrors when other people were around. I’d keep my head down when passing plate-glass windows or washing my hands in public restrooms. I felt ashamed of what my body said about me.

In private, I’d study my body carefully in the mirror. I’d pucker my lips to hollow out my cheeks. I’d suck in my stomach until my hipbones were like the pelvis of a starving cow. I wanted to reassure myself that, under the obtuse fat and the dull skin, the bones were still there. I wanted reason to hope that, with the right lighting and the right clothes and the right angle of vision, someone might see that underneath, I was actually beautiful.

We all hold up mirrors to each other, and we form all kinds of relationships on the basis of similar reflections. But when we place value on those reflections, rather than on the relationships they enable, we begin to feel things like pride, shame, worship, and disdain, that end up destroying relationships, and leave us fixated on ourselves.



This is an excerpt from an original article published in Converge Magazine, issue 12. 

Flickr photo (cc) by A&APhotographyServices


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Bring your own device to work: innovative or destructive? Thu, 25 Jun 2015 06:08:18 +0000 Bring your own device to work: innovative or destructive? by Colleen Little

It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s even got its own acronym. BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is transforming the...

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Bring your own device to work: innovative or destructive? by Colleen Little

It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s even got its own acronym. BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is transforming the business world. With BYOD, you can combine work and home technologies; any personal smartphone, computer, or iPad, can now moonlight as a work device, allowing you to stay plugged in beyond the 9 to 5.

It’s an easy formula. Employees are able to utilize the technology they’re most comfortable with, and companies don’t have to foot the bill. As a result, employees can be expected to be perpetually available to ever-increasing workplace demands.

Tonie Chaltas, a Toronto-based chief operating officer of public relations firm Hill & Knowlton Canada, describes the BYOD movement as an anticipated necessity. Today’s world of constantly advancing technology, she says, is creating customers who expect faster results. And the BYOD phenomenon is just the key to achieve this.

In a recent survey by Cisco IBSG, employees saved an average of 37 minutes per week by using their personal devices. In the countries with the highest productivity gain, BYOD resulted in employees “working more efficiently and being more available to their colleagues and managers.”

But is there a problem with having your work and personal lives collide?

Two words: electronic leash. Workplace consultant Graham Lowe found that while this trend can create a better chance to complete work, people are more likely to generate an unhealthy attachment to their jobs. If an employee has her work phone on her at all times, she’s — at the very least psychologically — always on the clock.

Work is there when you wake up, when you drive to the office, when you sit through a lunch meeting, and when you eat dinner with your family. This behaviour is no doubt consuming and exhausting.

There’s nothing wrong with work; on the contrary, humans were made for it. God created Adam with the intention that he would live in the garden and care for it. Producing, creating, building, cultivating: we are meant for these things. And there is incredible value in doing something wholeheartedly. Giving 100 per cent in our work is something that pleases God.

But when work starts to take over your life — your relationships, your identity, your very existence — that’s when it becomes a problem.

Leviticus 23:3 says, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

Rest — Sabbath — reminds us of who God is, His creation, and what He has done for us. It’s a way for us to remember that God should be at the centre of our lives. And it gives us the rest and space we need from the stresses that our work lives so often bring.

Understanding Sabbath, healthy work-life boundaries, and what it looks like to fully rest in God means setting limits on when and how long we use our electronics. So let’s start our own trend: DBYOD — Don’t Bring Your Own Device! Or at the very least, resist the temptation to check those work emails during dinner.


Originally published in Issue 21 of Converge Magazine.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Jonathan Velasquez.


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How do you love? Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:25:05 +0000 How do you love? by Michelle Sudduth

If I asked you, “Who do you love?” I’m sure you could give me a list of the significant relationships...

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How do you love? by Michelle Sudduth

If I asked you, “Who do you love?” I’m sure you could give me a list of the significant relationships in your life. Pondering these people probably brings up an assortment of feelings: gratitude, joy, sorrow, longing, and maybe even regret. If you look closely, you may notice some of the feelings associated with our past and present relationships have had tenacious staying power in controlling how you love.

A while back, I knew God was asking me to offer love to someone who, as far as I could tell, didn’t particularly care about me. One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I sometimes doubt that people really care, which makes me feel like I’m not worth being cared about. So, you can see why God asking me to love someone who didn’t seem to care about me felt like a mean thing for Him to ask me to do. But God was not at all being mean. Instead, He was saying, “You are going to have to believe that I care for you, otherwise you will be unable to really love this person as I am asking you to.”

God knew I had read all the marginally helpful, “You Are Cared About, No Really, You Are!” books, so He had to sneakily put me in a situation where I would have to believe it. Much of the way I had “loved” before was tied to an unspoken, anxious need for the other person to prove they cared first. I realized the question, “Am I cared for?” was between God and I, and not between me and anyone else.

Sorting through this situation by praying and being in conversation with wise friends enabled me to see clearly that God was asking me to do this for two reasons (though I’m sure there are more I’ll never fully know).

  1. To prove the point that loving someone is something I do unto God, not because they have made it a good deal for me, and..
  2. To heal me of any lingering feelings that I’m not worth being cared about.

People can be the powerful means of healing and love, but God is the only one who heals and who puts “loved” at the core of our being so we don’t go trying find it in the world.

When I started offering love in response to God’s leading, while not asking the other person to care first, our interactions became more-or-less free from my care-hunting. This incredibly healing experience allowed many beautiful things to transpire between me and the other person.

Jesus is the most amazing example of a person with an untangled identity. When He knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples, when He taught His disciples to no avail, when He didn’t respond to the enemy’s temptations in the desert, He showed us that love and service are offered gifts, not tactics for self-fulfillment or self-healing. Following God and letting His love flow doesn’t require the participation of other people or even their capacity to understand it.

So, I ask you, where are you spending energy trying to get another person to do or undo what only God can? Where is God asking you to respond to Him alone, despite the complexity of another person or situation? God wants to heal you and give you what you may not even know you need. Let God give you cues for how He wants you to relate to others, no matter what how the other person responds to you. In letting God alone lead your relationships, you will soon find yourself on the road towards being untangled, free, and healed.


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How to create an effective morning routine Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:12:38 +0000 How to create an effective morning routine by Shara Lee

Mornings are tough for most people, but they don’t have to be. They should be a time for reflection, introspection,...

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How to create an effective morning routine by Shara Lee

Photo by Sun Ladder

Mornings are tough for most people, but they don’t have to be. They should be a time for reflection, introspection, and above all a time to connect with the creator. To create an effective morning routine, you cannot start the morning you decide to make a change. The secret to blissful mornings begins with restful nights.

1. Eat early

Try to have dinner earlier than you usually do. If you’re planning on making a big meal, save extra of certain ingredients for the next night’s meal. (Check out Miriam Miller’s Plan a meal Plan from our Spring issue for a guide and recipes on how to do this).

2. Cut out TV completely

If you’re having trouble, limit yourself to a half hour sitcom. If you’re feeling gutsy just cancel your cable.

3. Make time for relaxation

Allot at least half an hour to wind down before bed. Make sure to turn off all electronics. Some suggestions: stretch on your bedroom floor, drink a cup of tea in silence, read a good book or magazine.

4. Give all worries to God and trust that he will take care of whatever is on your mind

Before you doze off think about why you are making a commitment to be an early riser. Maybe you want to get in that extra cardio time for much needed endorphins. Perhaps you feel you’ve neglected your spiritual life and want to spend time with God. Whatever the reason, keep it in your mind and commit to it before falling asleep.

5. Set alarm and put it far away from your bed

Far enough so that reaching for the snooze button is not an option

6. Sleep early

To be truly rested, try to get at least 7-8 hours of good sleep time. Oh and don’t forget to set that alarm clock.

7. The time you rise is really up to you, but at least 3 hours before you start work/school is a good idea

This will give you ample time to meditate on a bible passage, pray, exercise, eat a hearty breakfast as well as make your commute to work. You may have to ease into this.  Don’t immediately attempt to wake up an two hours earlier than usual. Try waking up 15 minutes earlier each day until you get to your desired time.

8. Drink a huge glass of water

Do this soon after you wake up and again before you head out the door. This will refresh and hydrate you.


You might be interested in Why you should be an early riser 


Photo by (Flickr CC) Lovisa Lagerqvist


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Do We Have Guaranteed Spots in Heaven? Mon, 22 Jun 2015 15:50:40 +0000 Do We Have Guaranteed Spots in Heaven? by Sam McLoughlin

  If we go to church, do we have a guaranteed spot in heaven? What if you constantly skip church...

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Do We Have Guaranteed Spots in Heaven? by Sam McLoughlin


If we go to church, do we have a guaranteed spot in heaven? What if you constantly skip church but lead a very good life? This question gets at the heart of most people’s understanding of religion, which is basically that the point of religion is to ‘get into heaven.’ And if I’m basically a good person, shouldn’t God let me in, even if I’m not very religious? Books could be written on this subject. And have been.

These concerns presuppose a version of Christianity that is very different from what most theologians (i.e. people who study and teach Christianity) believe it’s all about. Namely, that Christianity is not about getting into heaven. Let that sink in for a second. The point of faith is not ‘fire insurance.’ It’s about bringing heaven to earth. This is the most common misconception about the Christian faith. Jesus taught about building the Kingdom of God right here, right now: to be a part of what God is doing on earth. That’s why he prayed “Your will be done, on EARTH as it is in Heaven.” He didn’t teach us to wait around and go to church (aka the Synagogue, back then) a lot before we die — he taught us to help the poor, to do justice, and to learn to love each other: to be a part of the new kingdom, the new system, that God is building. And remember that the Bible ends with a picture of heaven meeting earth in the New Jerusalem, where Jesus will begin to reign forever.

Now, that isn’t to say heaven doesn’t exist, or that we won’t go there when we die. Scripture paints a portrait of a day of judgment, when God will right all the wrongs in the world. Until then, it’s very possible that your ‘soul’ goes to be with Jesus “in paradise.” But that’s not the end of it. While most theologians would say we’re not really sure what that period looks like, or who gets to go, it’s pretty clear that having confessed and believed that Jesus is Lord is the key, not how many times you went to church when you were alive, or if you just led a good life. People must accept Jesus and his sacrifice in order to have him on ‘their side’.  When our time in court comes a long list of the ‘good’ things we’ve done won’t cut it.

It’s also important in all this to understand what Church actually is — what it is not is simply one of a multitude of buildings you could go on any given Sunday. The New Testament teaches that those who believe and follow Jesus are an extension of his body. There are different parts, but we are all connected. Going to church is like saying “I want to be a part of Christ’s body, his people, to be a part of what this people is doing.” The point of going to church is not to rack up goodwill points with God, but should come from a place of wanting to grow deeper in your faith, in your relationships with other Christians, and a desire to partner with them and with God. It’s about desiring to be a part of his work of building the Kingdom here. You could lead a good life without going to church, but by getting close with a bunch of like-minded people who desire to follow Jesus, you’ll invariably grow in the depth and knowledge of faith.

To conclude, there are no ‘guaranteed’ spot in heaven by being good or having perfect church attendance. The closest thing you’ll get to a guarantee is a personal relationship with Jesus, which will always be easier to foster inside church than outside of it. And it’s not really about living a good life: it’s about being connected to our source and through Him making a difference for His kingdom.

Photo by flickr CC: Hartwig HKD


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Millennials are Leaving the Church because we’re Flakey Fri, 19 Jun 2015 15:30:57 +0000 Millennials are Leaving the Church because we’re Flakey by Sam McLoughlin

In an article for CNN, blogger/author Rachel Held Evans talked about giving a presentation to some church leaders on why...

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Millennials are Leaving the Church because we’re Flakey by Sam McLoughlin

In an article for CNN, blogger/author Rachel Held Evans talked about giving a presentation to some church leaders on why Millennials aren’t showing up for church. She points to a few factors that research shows to be responsible: “young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.”

Then there’s the sex thing: “the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules.”

What is it about the church that makes us walk away? The simplest, most blunt answer is this: We’re in our 20’s. And we’re flakey.

We’re what Louis CK calls ‘the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots.” They’ve written books about us with titles like Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. We’re self-obsessed and non-committal to the core, and Christianity is a religion that asks us to be selfless and totally committed. As Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

Church is too hard for us: at least, for this time in our life. When we know we can’t commit ourselves fully to service, tithing, regular attendance, study groups and supporting a church’s outdated theology on women in leadership, hell and homosexuality, we don’t want to commit at all. It’s hard enough for us to commit to a city, career, relationship or even cell phone let alone a community of people we don’t know that well. In our 20’s, we’re figuring out the tender balance between committing to something good and having the freedom to do what we choose.

Your 20’s is a time of sampling­­ – different careers, lifestyles, friendships, and relationships. We date churches like we date people – we spend enough time with them to get to know them, but before long their charm begins to wear off, their small blemishes turn into huge issues, and we move on to the next one. And speaking of dating…

OK, I’ll admit it: One of the central reasons I try out so many churches is because there are attractive, single females there that I don’t know. I go to peruse the selection, and if it is plentiful, I may return, or even commit to a community group. If it isn’t, I probably won’t come back. So many of us date churches in order to date people. The simplest answer to ‘Why are people not showing up to my church?’ may be because there aren’t enough single, good-looking people there, not because you play too many (Chris) Tomlin’ tunes. Though it might be that as well.

The reason that churches are losing the Millennials is because the Millennials have been raised with a consumerist mindset. We are the customer, and the customer is always right, and if a product has a problem, or doesn’t fulfill us as we expect, we move on. But Christianity stands in stark opposition to this mindset: it’s about growth and self-giving love. If a church wants to hold onto its young people, it needs to stop catering to them, and start helping them learn how to grow and love. This requires structure and support, not hype and style. We need discipleship, structure, and occasionally someone to kick our ass a little. We need a constant reminder that there is more to life than endless selection and distraction: that true life comes from investing yourself in something, something deep and real. Something that requires work, commitment, and sacrifice. Something timeless and true that takes our work and turns it into something greater than we could ever imagine, thereby showing us the meaning of life.

In the meantime, church, don’t worry too much. We’ll be back in our 30’s — if and when we realize there’s more to life than the ‘freedom’ of being flakey.


 Flickr photo (cc) by Matt Biddulph


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Reading the Bible Metaphorically Thu, 18 Jun 2015 06:19:49 +0000 Reading the Bible Metaphorically by Sam McLoughlin

When reading the Old Testament, should we interpret it literally or metaphorically?   Answering this question depends what we mean...

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Reading the Bible Metaphorically by Sam McLoughlin

When reading the Old Testament, should we interpret it literally or metaphorically?


Answering this question depends what we mean by ‘literally.'(the best answer to nearly every tough theological question: ‘Depends.’)
‘Literally’ originally meant ‘as the author intended,’ or the closest interpretation to what the author wanted to convey. However, it has come to mean something like ‘accurately’ in our everyday use. So if we are asking whether the Old Testament is true, accurate history, or is it just a bunch of made up stories, the answer is, it depends! (Namely, it depends what part you are reading!) Most of the time, the truth is somewhere in the middle, swaying closer to one side or the other depending on what book you find yourself in.
Most theologians would say that the Bible is mostly historical: that most if not all of the figures in these stories were real, actual people, who did and said things that were pretty close to what we read in Scripture. I mean, there is such a people as the Jews, and such a town as Jerusalem, right? And most of the places you read about can be visited if you can afford the plane ticket! However, because many of these stories were passed down orally over many generations before being written down, we cannot know for sure how historical they are, and we cannot know if the stories have taken on a bit of a life of their own in the telling. Ever hear an old person talk fondly of the Good Ol’ Days? They probably aren’t lying to you, but the stories have gained a little more flair over years of telling than really took place. The older the story, such as the stories of Job or Noah’s Ark, the more likely they are to have took on bits of ‘flair’ which aren’t entirely historical.
However, it is fair (and orthodox!) to read the Old Testament as history, especially if you don’t have time to read more into it. However, these books contain more than history as well, and are written in different genres, such as apocalyptic, prophetic, poetic, etc. It is also important to remember that an author is usually trying to convey a particular lesson over and above true-to-life history, and that they aren’t writing to people who’ve taken History 101. If you have a hard time believing certain events are historical, such as Noah’s Ark or Jonah and the Whale, that’s ok! You are required as a Christian to believe they ‘literally’ (aka ‘accurately’) happened just as was recorded in Scripture. If we have problems with a story, we can always do some more research as to what the author is ‘literally’ trying to convey: such as this: is Jonah actually a metaphorical figure that is meant to represent Israel as a nation?
And remember — our faith and salvation is rooted in Jesus’ death and resurrection, not whether we believe the earth was ‘actually’ created in six twenty-four hour days.


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