Rave Parties vs. Water Ballet

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Today, I read an article on the Relevant Magazine called The Myth Of Perfect Dating. The article talked about the Christian cha cha that we tend to do with dating, where you keep taking two steps forward and then one step back. I like him! You cry! Two steps forward. But is this God’s will? One step back. Maybe we’ll get married! Two steps forward. Wait a second, I barely know him. One step back. He is actually really wonderful! Two steps forward. But dang it, was that magazine article about breaking up a sign that we shouldn’t be together? Three steps back. Can you say double mindedness?

I am going to take the analogy one step further and say that Christian dating can be even more like rave. We jump up and down in a spiritually inebriated stupor for three months screaming at the top of our lungs is he the one? hoping that the messages in the clamoring music will give us an answer. Then we fall down in a heap of exhausted despair when it wasn’t everything we thought it would be. Or else we continue raving for another three months.

To put it bluntly, we are a little on the hysterical side when we date.

I think the reason for this is that we think about marriage much sooner than the mainstream world. Rather than just getting to know someone day by day, getting good information over a solid amount of time, we want to know now. We ask is this the one chosen for us since the beginning of time where it was written in the glorious portal of heaven that the love our lives would fall on our doorstep at the right time with a bunch of gerber daisies and some quality chick flicks? 

The answer is how the heck are you supposed to know that when you just met the guy? 

We have a frenzied desire to have an answer about whether we’re going to marry this person, which has been spurred on by the tsunami of the I Kissed Dating Goodbye era. This era gave us the damaging idea that we should know if we should marry someone even before we date them. (For more on this phenomenon, read my series 90’s Dating Gone Bad. )

What do we do to aleve these frantic thoughts? We ask God to tell us what  to do. We ask for signs and look for them everywhere. If the next person I talk to says the word banana, that means I’m supposed to go out with him. Stuff like that.

The truth is, we are scared. And when we are scared, we tend to over spiritualize things. Dating is risky business. We don’t like the out of control feeling it brings us. We want God to give us an answer now so we don’t have to be scared any more. So we can have control over the situation through knowing the answer to our questions, while in truth, God may want to answer our questions gradually.

This kind of franticness is contrary to many verses in the bible, like “be anxious for nothing” or “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself.”

One of my favorite things to do is float in water. I am really good at it. Like I could do it for hours. I guess I am just a really buoyant person. One time I was talking to the lifeguard at my gym, and he was like “Oh, I know who you are. You’re the floater. Dude, teach me to relax like that.” He spoke with a slight sense of awe, as if had discovered I was James Bond or something.

The reason I love floating so much is that it is a place of complete rest for me. All that I can feel is the water underneath me, surrounding me. It run through my hands, and the coolness of it against my skin is all I feel in that moment. The clamor of the world fades away until all I can hear is my heart beat.  In that place, I can block all the world out until it is just my spirit and God’s communing with each other.

As I am floating,  I will meditate on some phrase, repeating it over and over like God, surround me like this water surrounds me or Be still and know that I am God.

I am not always a peaceful person. I have rave parties going through my head all of the time. But the more I choose to “still and quiet my soul, like a child with it’s mother” as it says in Psalm 131, the more I choose to trust in God’s goodness and be at peace with the gradual process I am in.

So choose to quiet your soul. Stop going to rave parties and do water ballet with God instead. (Was that an awesome last line or what?)

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Big Bangs and Marching Bands

Big Bangs

Note before my post: Well folks, I have one week left to raise another three thousand dollars if I want to publish! Don’t be scared by that number, though. $15 and you get a copy of one of my CDs before Christmas, $20 gets you that PLUS the book when it comes out! Even those little gifts help. I also have a shorter version of the song “Thirty Something and Single” that you can put up on your walls to promote the campaign or just because it is funny. Go to the campaign website and click on “Updates” to see the song. Click here to preorder the book! Don’t forget that 20% of the profits of the book after it’s published will go help two of my most loved charities, iempathize and AIDchild. By helping me you will be helping them.On to my post!

I thought it would be fun to post a bit about my history. And what what better place to start than the minimum security prison that we all know as Middle School.

It was the early 90s. We were still in shock from the late 80’s, otherwise known as “The Era of All Things Big.” Big shoulder pads, guys with steroid enhanced big muscles, big rock ballads like Pour Some Sugar On Me, and big earrings. (One of my favorite pairs literally had a scene of a castle with a prince riding up to it.  I am not making that up. Said enormous castle scene earrings actually weighed my earlobes down so much that one of them tore. I still have the tear in my right ear to prove it.)

The most important  thing on this “big things list” was BIG HAIR. It was that special decade in which we were unknowingly hairspraying a hole in the ozone layer the size of Russia.  But what thirteen year old girl in their right mind is  environmentally conscious when she is trying as hard as possible to fit in?

All the popular girls would come to school with their bangs styled in perfect 90s form: half curled back, half curled forward, like waves breaking in the Barren Sea. These girls had apparently found an elective class called “Bang Curling 101,” where they could spend hours a day perfecting the art.

I myself had taken Band Class instead of Bang Class, opting to play the keyboard in the marching band. That keyboard was stinking heavy, but it was the price I had to pay to be a part of the dysfunctional family know as middle school band class.  I didn’t have a lot of time to master styling my hair when there were other things on my mind, like making fun of the baritone sax player who I had a secret crush on, or carrying a thirty nine pound instrument down the football field while simultaneously playing it. I am now seriously considering writing to my band  teacher to ask him if he has ever heard of any other marching band with a keyboard player (because i certainly haven’t,) and then kindly suggesting that he pay all of my chiropractor bills.

I had such a hard time with the art of bang maintenance that I opted to grow them out. I proceeded to bleach my hair with Sun In and crimp it  every day until it eventually looked like Mount St. Helen’s on a hot day. It was the 90s, folks. Hairspray, vests, tube tops, hats with sunflowers on them, hair that falls out in clumps. These were our very own fashion rites of passage, and you better not make fun of them.

My best friend in elementary school had become popular overnight when we reached the seventh grade. I had the privilege of riding on her popular coattails for a while.

But my brief liaison with popularity ended one day, when she came up with this simple formula:

Walking around with best friend Kate from elementary school+scorched hair instead of bountiful 90s hair+band geekiness+ Screech- from -Saved- By- The- Bell -like -tendencies= popularity quotient going down drastically .

She wrote me a note using lots of cuss words, had all the other popular girls glare at me when I tried to sit with them in the lunch room, and threw my stuff out of our shared locker.

There are three things that are a sure in life. Death, taxes, and girls being ridiculously mean to each other in middle school. World without end, amen.

Thankfully, after a long lonely season, I bonded with a group I affectionately refer to as the “Banned Locker Refugees.” All of us had our stuff thrown out of mean girl lockers. We had an incredible assortment of haircuts, including the “mushroomed,” the “feathered like a hawk,” the “skater gone bad,” and the “I stuck a bowl on my head and my mom cut around it.” None of us had the right bangs. But we laughed a lot and a we enjoyed each other. I still talk to one of those girls almost every week.

I had survived Middle School. Just barely. But I survived.

Anyone have funny 90’s moments? Horrible middle school moments? Wonderful middle school moments?

90’s Dating Gone Bad #5: Don’t Date Someone Unless You Are Sure You Are Going To Marry Them

This is the last in my series on 90’s dating gone bad. (For background on this series, start with this post.)

Often, we Chrisitian women complain that men do not pursue us enough. But can you blame them? As a result of the “Zero dating tolerance” era, they are expected to know if they want to be with us forever within the first few dates. The bridesmaids dresses are picked out after the first cup of coffee. These men find themselves in a quandary. “I want to get to know this girl, but if I ask her out, I need to be pretty sure that I’m serious. But how do I know if I am serious about her if I don’t spend quality time with her?” It is a catch 22. I would be scared too. See what a bunch of rules does to us?

I have had good men in my life who were frozen because there is so much pressure in Christian dating. They wouldn’t  give me a chance because God did not give them a vision in which I was wearing a white dress. This kind of thinking seems emotionally driven, and based on the “feelings” you have. Feelings are a good thing, but they should not be the only thing you focus on to assess  whether you would make a good match. There should be a lot of wisdom involved as well as feelings.

As I have stated before, I think slow steady dating where you are getting to know someone day by day is the best way to do things. Something I have tried to do with the last few people I have been interested in is to not think about marriage too soon. I use what I call the “Holiday Effect.” I ask myself “Is there enough enjoyment and beauty and mutual sharpening in this relationship that I want to keep pursuing this to the next holiday?” If the answer is yes,  I invest wholeheartedly in the relationship day by day  to that next holiday, and then I check what is going on with us as a couple and what is going on inside of me. I keep doing the next best thing. Someday, I will get enough information to know whether a future with this person is a good idea or not. (The only bad thing about this theory is that I could potentially be breaking up with someone on every happy day of the year. But you get what I mean. Go in seasons.)

In my experience, few guys have taken the risk to date me like that. They want to know they are “supposed” to marry me (a term I really don’t like as it sounds so much like a duty rather than a joy) or they just want to be best friends with me. Nothing in between. Honestly, I would feel much safer dating and knowing we are praying day by day about where our relationship is going than being best friends. I know a lot of guys think there is more integrity in staying it friends rather than dating, but it can actually be so boundary-less that it ends up being damaging to a woman’s heart.

I have been interviewing married and divorced people for my book. I have heard over and over that a biproduct of this kind of thinking can be marrying someone you don’t know very well and rushing to get married. This can be very dangerous.

What do we do in the wake of our dating hell tsunami?

We need to move from a culture that is scared of dating to a culture that feels confident that they can date well and make decisions with God. In the courting model, we were taught that God wanted to choose our spouse. But God choosing a spouse for someone only happens twice in the bible. Once with Isaac and Rebecca, and once with Hosea and Gomer. As one of my favorite teachers, Dann Farrely says, “a fifty percent chance of marrying a prostitute is not very good odds.” Most verses about marriage in the bible are filled with imagery of being wise, and of choosing with God.

I believe that in order for these deep seeded unhealthy views of dating to change, a revolution needs to happen.  The Christian church at large is in a  pivotal time right now. We are more concerned with social justice issues. We are learning to become less hypocritical and more compassionate. We are trying to read the bible for what it really says, not what culture tells us it says. I would love to see our Christian communities grow in the area of dating as well. To have a revolution in which we are allowed to date and have adult relationships while still maintaing our values and boundaries. To allow a man to feel like he can ask woman out just to get to know her better without everyone in his life asking him when the wedding date will be.

I’d also love to hear sermons for single people where we are being taught good dating principals. Someone once said to me that it isn’t fair to married people to have to listen to a sermon for singles. But how many married sermons have we listened to? There are almost no unmarried pastors out there, so they don’t often think about what singles need to hear. Please, leaders in the church, make it a priority to learn what single people go through, and start bringing healthy teachings for us to grow and for our culture to change.

There also needs to be good books written about being single that will help shape the culture. Namely: a little book called Getting Naked Later which I am almost done with. (Making me rich, famous, and married to a hot guy would also be good goals for my book.)

For out dating culture to change, we all have to change together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, especially you men.

BY THE WAY: I am thinking of doing a tour to North Carolina and surrounding states in the end of June. If anyone can think of places that I could guest lead worship or do a house concert, or even teach my sexy celibate ways to singles groups, will you let me know? Thanks!

90’s Dating Gone Bad #4: Don’t Be Alone

Today, I am going to continue my series on 90’s Dating Gone Bad. (Click here for the background article on this post.)

Here is the next rule that we made up in the wake of the I Kissed Dating Goodbye phenomenon. It is the one I am most worried to write about because it is such a hot button topic. Be gentle with me.

Rule #4: You shouldn’t be alone with the person you are dating (or courting, or buggying.) Being alone leads to kissing. Kissing leads to sex. Sex leads to dancing. And we cannot have any dancing now, can we?

I must admit, this rule can really irk me. And I don’t use the word irk lightly. Because it is a really awkward word.

It seems backwards for us to avoid sex so much that we march our innocent little butts down the aisle towards a person we barely know. Sex before marriage can be destructive, but so can marrying a person who you ask on the honeymoon “so, what’s your middle name?”

Don’t get me wrong. I have lived my life with the philosophy that sex is something incredibly sacred. So sacred in fact, that I have personally chosen to only be that imitate with someone inside the boundaries of a life long covenant. I have not chosen that simply because it is what my Christian culture expects me to do. I have chosen it because I know having sex with a man (or many men) who is not in covenant with me would be very, very hard on my heart, and could change my life in ways that I don’t want it to be changed.

I also don’t want to downplay a subject that has been a life struggle for some people. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a man or woman who has been tortured over a sex addiction. (Let me say that I applaud you for being brave and fighting for freedom from this.)

As always, there needs to be balance. Balance between knowing the sacredness of sex and knowing the sacredness of making a good choice when it comes to tying yourself to someone for life.

Here are two things that I think will help us in the quest for this balanace.

#1) Know Thyself.

These are Plato’s words,  and they are full of wisdom.Try to understand what is going on inside of you. Figure out what you can handle.

In my case, I know that I can make a boundary with someone I am dating and stick with it. I can kiss and not feel a need to go further. It has actually been healing for me to kiss people, (not very many mind you, but a few).  I have gone through certain  things in my past that made me apprehensive of any kind of intimacy. But over they years I have dated trustworthy, kind men who respected our boundaries. God brought a lot of healing through that, even though I didn’t marry them. I now really enjoy intimacy rather than being scared of it.

Other people, on the other hand, can not handle very much. They would want to go past their boundaries if someone was wearing the right pair of earrings. Be honest with yourself. Communicate well with the person you are dating. Make boundaries together that you know you can follow. And tell her put on some really ugly,chunky, Grandma earrings.

#2) Foster a culture that does not succumb to the lie that we are slaves to sin.

Yes, sex is tempting. Yes, we need good boundaries. But we have to stop telling ourselves that we are weak.That if left to our own devices we will have no choice but to lose ourselves in passion.

If we see ourselves as sinners that have no control over ourselves, it may be a self fulfilling prophesy. We should start seeing ourselves for what we are; people who the Lord has made strong. People who have self control and who do not need chastity belts in order to be in the same room with someone of the opposite sex. The more we see ourselves as weak, the weaker we will be. We must remember the truth; temptation does not have control over us. We have control over temptation.

I am not saying it is wise to sleep in the same bed together, to always be alone, to go off for the weekend to some romantic place and think we won’t be tempted. There is something special about saving those things for covenant, and you don’t want to set yourself up to go beyond your boundaries.

But I am saying that we need to see ourselves as people who can have adult dating relationships that allow us to get to know the other person very, very well before we get married without having to tear each other’s clothes off before the wedding night.

What do you think?  I want to hear your perspective.  We can all learn from each other.

90’s Dating Gone Bad #3: Families Should Be Intimately Involved With Who You Marry

Today I am going to continue my series on 90’s dating gone bad. (Read this article as an introduction.)

We come to our next rule, that families should be intimately involved in picking our spouses. I include this rule because it was one of the main points in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Out of all the rules that we made as a Christian culture from the book, I really think we could learn from this one.

I wish that  family was as important to our culture as it is to most of the cultures around the world.  It breaks my heart that it is not. The importance of materialism and comfort over family is probably the saddest byproduct of our countries’ independence. But the reality is, in our culture there are very few families that are healthy enough to pick our spouses, or to even help us pick our spouses. Fifty percent of them seemed to do a pretty bad job picking their own.

If you have a wonderful believing family that you are close to who you can dialogue with about your dating life, then go for it. If they treat you like an adult but also want to lovingly help you make such a big decision, that’s invaluable. But not all of our families are like that.

If my parents picked a spouse for me, today, it would most likely be a modified kind of a business proposition (like in the Bible) where they found someone who would take care of me and my kids.  I’d probably get an accountant with a nice mustache and some good hair on his chest. (For some reason I have vague memories of my mom telling me she liked those things. Weird.)

There is nothing wrong with an accountant with a nice mustache, but I am glad that I have the opportunity to pick a life partner that I deeply love .

I like that I can look for  someone that I can dream together with about the kingdom and bringing it here to earth.  That I can look for someone that believes like I do: that  loving people is one of the most important vocations we can possibly have, even if it doesn’t pay well. A man who who simply brings home a decent paycheck and doesn’t think about the world around us is not enough for me, even though it would probably be enough for my parents.
I like that I can choose the man I will spend the rest of my life with. I feel like that is my right as a human being.

On the other hand, I don’t want to be the selfish, non family oriented American that I just described. I have a new, wonderful family around me, a family called the body of Christ. Most of the intimate friends I have chosen in this season of my life are the kinds of friends that never tell me what to do, that trust me to make my own decisions, but who process with me about all things that are important in my life and give wise advice.

I want to process with my family. I want to tell my family how I feel, and genuinely listen to what they have to say about the relationship that I am in. I trust them. They are not controlling, they love me.(If your family does not make you feel safe and try to control your dating life or you I would suggest running away fast.)

If I had eight of my most trusted friends  telling me that they are concerned that the person I’m dating could be a bad fit for me, I would be wise to listen. They can see better than me, since at this stage my brain greatly resembles a bowl of hormonal soup. A bowl of hormonal soup does not often think clearly.

I do make the final decision. They get a vote, I get the biggest vote. But I want the people I trust  to be involved in the process.

Another thing I would like to challenge the church on is creating better singles groups so that our “family” can help us in the dating process. Most single groups now involve a bunch of awkward people standing around a punch bowl asking each other if they like star wars. I hate small talk, and so singles groups are the scariest places on earth to me (along with eharmony first dates.)

I went to Bethel church in Redding last year and attended their single life workshop. I was so impressed with the way they went about bringing single people together. We all met in a large group, but had small groups that we sat with every week and had intimate conversations with. The groups were (heaven forbid!) both female and male! And we (heaven’s to Betsy!) talked about very intimate topics in our group like sex, communicating, even struggling with pornography. Somehow the evangelical police did not arrest us, even while talking about those topics with people of the opposite sex.

We also talked about sexual abuse- something I was surprised and incredibly saddened to discover was something many men had suffered. It was the first time many of them felt like they could talk about it, partially because there were women in the group who had gone through the same thing. They felt safe for the first time.I learned so much about men in those groups-  the way they think and date and struggle and how to pray for them. All invaluable information.

We were encouraged to date each other without crazy amounts of pressure. In fact, Bethel has their own dating website for passionate Christians, which includes links to wise teachings on dating. (ondaysix.com) Our leaders trusted us to be thinking adults who can date well. It felt good to be trusted as a single person.

My Christian culture has often made me feel like I haven’t gone through the “right of passage” of marriage, and so I am not as mature as married people. Why try to teach me on communication,  being a parent, or sex when I don’t need to know any of that? (Except how not to have sex, of course.) The leaders of this group made me feel like this information was important for me to learn, even as a single person.  They made me feel like a valuable, thinking adult. I would love to see people taking the initiative to have these kinds of healthy single groups popping up in churches everywhere.

So let’s take this 90’s dating gone bad rule and make it balanced and redeemed. Let’s love each other enough to teach about singleness. . To dialogue about our dating lives in non manipulating, empowering ways. Marriage is a big decision, and it is good to have family around us to walk with when we make big decisions.

90’s Dating Gone Bad #1: Dating Isn’t Biblical

In my post “Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs,” I mentioned that for most of my adult life, I wanted God to make a decision for me about getting married rather than making a decision with Him. Why did I want God to make the decision for me? Because I was scared to death of dating. Why was I scared? I’ll tell you why I was scared: my prime dating years began in the 90’s.  A decade I would like to refer to as “Christian dater’s hell.”

This era started with a handful of well intentioned  books, the most popular one being written by a 21 year old, which is kind of sobering when you consider what happened next. The books turned into a Christian phenomenon that turned into a bunch of rules that turned into tsunami whose wake we are still recovering from.

Here is a brief summing up of the rules that came about in this era.

Rule #1: Dating isn’t biblical.

Rule #2: You should never date. You should only court.

Rule #3:  Families should be involved with picking the spouse.

Rule #4: If you do court, you should never ever be alone with the person. Because being alone leads to kissing. And kissing leads to sex. And sex leads to dancing. And we cannot have any dancing now, can we?

Rule #5: If you do court, you better darned well know you are going to marry the person from the first group date you go on. Because you can’t court and then break up. That goes against the very nature of courting.

Most of my single friends and I agree that this was the most detrimental decade to be a Christian  looking for love in the history of mankind.  (Let me add that I do think that most of these guidelines are actually a smart idea for teenagers. But for fully grown adults, they just don’t work well.)

In my next few posts, I am going to look at each of these guidelines and how there may be a few holes in them. I will also try to challenge us with ways to create a more healthy dating culture.

I will start with Rule #1: Dating isn’t biblical:

It is true that dating isn’t biblical. It’s not in the bible. So maybe we should try a marriage philosophy that is in the bible; polygamy. David had lots of wives.  Solomon was the wisest man on earth, and he pretty much had an entire motel full of them. That’s in the bible, so it must be biblical. Taking up this biblical marriage practice would solve a lot of problems. We all know that there are probably about fifteen Christian women for every one Chrstian man. If we just started practicing this tradition, voila! Problem solved!

Of course, we understand that this is not a good idea. We understand that this was a part of the Hebrew culture and surrounding cultures (mostly in the upper class), but that it was never necessarily God’s best. Just because it is in the Bible does not mean that it is right. And conversely, just because it is not in the Bible does not mean that it is wrong. Sometimes it just means that it was not yet a part of the culture.

Our culture is so different then the culture of the bible. When our father wants to buy some land, he doesn’t offer our hand in marriage along with twenty camels and a flock of sheep. Marriage is no longer a business proposition like it used to be. It is a search for a life companion.

Women have so many more rights than they used to that they now get to choose the man they spend their life with. They also are able to make enough money to live off of, and so it is not required of them to have a husband in order to survive. (Throughout history,  there were few alternatives to marriage for livelihood besides prostitution for women.) Women’s rights  have been one of the major factors in our society that brought us from a culture  of arranged marriages to a culture where we can date.  Therefore, dating is not necessarily a bad institution. It is an institution that has progressed as the marriage institution has changed. As we became more independent as a culture, we also became more independent in the way that we chose our mate.

People will argue that the way the western world dates now ends in a 50% divorce rate. I would absolutely agree with them. We live in a culture that is so set on having pleasure that sometimes we stomp on anyone we to get it. We sleep around as if sex was as much of a commitment as buying a cup of coffee in the morning. Some people seem to try spouses on and then throw them out like they are jeans that have gone out of style. Our popular culture has little or no value for covenant and often makes fun of the sacred institution of marriage. I know that this is not the best way. Jesus weeps when relationships are this broken, and so do I.

At the same time, I don’t want to go back to a culture where I am seen as a commodity, where I have no choice in something as important as a man I will live with the rest of my life and that will father my children. I do believe that dating is an institution that has been abused. But just because people around us abuse it or the media might abuse it doesn’t mean we have to.

Instead of seeing dating as unhealthy because it is not in the bible, or unhealthy because people around us have abused it, maybe we can use it as an effective tool in choosing a good partner. We can have good boundaries in our dating. We can learn a lot about ourselves and what match would make sense for us. We can make wise, educated decisions because we have spent good time with different people and ultimately the person we are going to be committed to. Dating can become very useful in our journey of marrying well if we use it the right way.

Maybe now we can come into a new era where we can side hug dating hello. (I would say kiss dating hello, but we need to have good boundaries now, don’t we?)