Does God Even CARE?

wildernessI’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it is we can believe in God and trust that he actually cares about us, in the midst of pain or seeming “silence.”

There’s a lot to be said about the problem of evil in the world, but this isn’t so much about disputing God’s existence based on human suffering.  This isn’t a philosophical problem.  It’s more about questioning his care for us… his affection… when we suffer.  It’s really a resurrection problem.
What??  Stay with me.

When we are in the midst of a confusing or painful season, we wonder to ourselves – Where is God?  Does this bother him?  Why isn’t he stepping in to fix this?  Will praying about our circumstances do anything?  And if not, then why pray?

I read an article that talked about our perception of God being “silent” – that it’s merely that – a perception, not reality.  And that in those moments, we must put our trust in the promises we know, not in what we see right in front of us.

But I think it’s not so simple.  Yes, by all means, we should trust the words of Scripture that promise God will never leave us or forsake us, or that we are loved beyond all measure and comprehension.
And, often we need to believe in what we can’t see right in front of us.  “We live by faith, not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:7

But the problem is – the biggest evidence of God’s love and care for us is right in front of our noses, and in our minds it doesn’t count.  God’s love has never been more apparent than in the rescue mission he planned from the beginning of time – the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  And if we’re honest, we don’t really think we need saving…so then the death and resurrection of Christ…just doesn’t really matter.  And it certainly doesn’t provide much comfort.  Why would it?

Let’s take it back a few thousand years to those grumbling Israelites in the wilderness.  We give them a lot of grief for complaining about manna and building idols, but they had the same problem we do… they’d forgotten what a sorry state they’d been in just months beforehand when God miraculously rescued them from their slavery in Egypt.  Exodus and the books to follow are constantly harkening back to the rescue from Egypt in an attempt to remind the Israelites not only how bad things used to be, but that God cared about them so much, he literally moved heaven and earth (parted an ocean, sent a bunch of plagues on their captors, led them with fire…talk about a dramatic escape) to save them.  They were enslaved.  They were dying.  They were without hope.  But God.

God loved them too much to leave them in their mess.  He rescued them.  And a few weeks later, they were already forgetting how significant that was.

And we do the same thing.

We can’t be comforted by the finished work of the cross – by Christ defeating death and rescuing us to live with him forever – if we can’t even remember or acknowledge our need to be rescued.  So then, when we feel pain or loneliness and we wonder where God is, the very best ‘proof’ that he cares about us, doesn’t ‘work.’

But…for the sake of experiment… just TRY it.  Try for a moment to imagine a world in which God cared about you so much, that he went through the most gut-wrenching broken heart anyone has ever experienced.  That his body was ripped apart, he was treated with merciless cruelty, mocked, teased, broken, beaten, dismissed, and rejected.

All to rescue you.

All to save you.

Because you actually do have a problem.  You need a savior.  I do too.  We’re enslaved…not by Egyptians, but by our selfishness and pride and greed and disordered desires and beliefs that we’re just as important as God or that we don’t need him.  Ephesians 2 says that we were dead.  Unable to do anything to save ourselves.  Dead people can’t grab the paddles, yell “clear,” and restart their own hearts.  Someone has to step in on their behalf.  And God not only did just that, but he planned it since before you were even born.  He loves you enough to step into our crappy world, live among us, suffer and die with the weight of every evil  – every hell – crushing him.

So, if we imagine such a world, does that change things?  When we endure loss, when we’re depressed, when we lose a job, when we go through a breakup… could it be that we can turn our eyes back to the love poured out on us at the cross as a reminder that God cares the MOST?

I’m not saying it makes pain go away.  Sadly, that’s the nature of a broken world filled with a bunch of free agents who choose to rebel against God all the time.  This life is full of suffering.  But we do have a rescuing God.   If we choose to believe in our need…then that rescue means everything.

Last thing.  If you’re reading this and you’re my friend, then know that you are loved.  By me.  By God.  If you can’t sense his love right now, lean on mine and take my word for it that it comes from a deep well of supernatural making.  Maybe God has me in a season where I can ‘see’ God’s goodness and care, so that I can have an extra dose of trusting him, to share with you for a while until you see it again too.  I’m praying for you.  I trust that God loves you, and has never left you.  Let’s walk along together in the gift of community God has given us, as you come home to him.

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Love Kills

Warning – the following blog post is wrought with reverse sexism.  It’s a joke, people.  Please don’t comment about how I’m setting women’s rights back. 


Recently, I’ve had a bit of a bug problem.  Gross, huh?  Well – it’s all fixed now, but when I was texting my landlord about it, I was joking with her that she could either call an exterminator or, …find me a man.  A man who will kill bugs for me.

* Swoon *

Well, I’m still waiting on the man (thanks a LOT, Glenda… geez…what do I even pay you rent for?), but we did get to talking about how many dates you’d have to go on to be able to ask for such favors.  I propose that a girl should be able to ask for such things on date 1… as part of the sizing-up process.  You see… there’s lots of different methods for disposing of 6 and 8-legged creatures (yes, yes, I know spiders aren’t technically insects… You can spare me the science lesson on thoraxes and such… but if they’re an abomination (which spiders CLEARLY are), they count toward my thesis…and they need to die), and the way a man kills them tells you tons about him.

Bug Killing Personalities:Bug killer

1.  The “Squash and Scram” –
This is the guy who rides in on his noble steed, who bravely vanquishes the befouled beast, and then leaves you to …clean up the guts?

Where is the chilvalry?  Where is the sacrifice?  The guts clean-up is the worst part.  Nay – it is the essential part.  It’s that “fashion a giant mitt of paper towels to mop up all manner of pest entrails and juice, whilst fighting back the bile creeping up your throat” moment that begs for a big strong man who will smash it, and conceal all evidence.
That’s the stuff of fairy tales.

2.  The “ ‘If you Love it, Set it Free’ Bug Hippy” –

We all know these people.
They take that whole “why he wouldn’t even hurt a fly” thing WAY too seriously.
They’re the ones tenderly corralling the 4-foot cockroach into your good Tupperware (which now has to be burned), only then to liberate it from it’s human home-shaped prison, back into the wild where mother nature intended.


The only catch-and-release program happening in my home, is the one for the guy who won’t actually kill the bug.  ‘Cause I know what happens….. that bug, once emancipated, goes and tells all its horrid little friends about the mean lady who was scowling and rolling her eyes while the knight in shining armor rescued it from its certain death…. And then they conspire to come and get me in the night.

Yup…I’m fairly certain I have my finger on the pulse of the bug community and this is exactly how it goes down.  Town meetings, assembling a quorum, grabbing their tiny pitchforks and storming the castle of my bedroom to call down their reign of terror.  So – if you’re going to set it free… you might as well just keep walking.  Your alleged mercy is my impending doom.


Bug Killer 3

3.  The “Girly-Girl Trapped in a Man’s Body”

(if it wasn’t already anti-feminist before…buckle up)

Look – I want a man who kills a bug like it’s built into his DNA.  …Like it’s no big deal or better yet, like he enjoys protecting me from the multi-legged menaces.  I don’t want someone to cower or whimper or scream like a girl while performing bug murder.  (I’m not making it up – I’ve had two significant men in my life who would literally scream while taking care of an unwanted critter).

75% of the bug killing’s purpose is to actually exterminate the invaders.
The other 25% is to display his bravery, so I’ll practically faint with adoration.

I’m being silly, but there’s something to this… I’ve watched as friends of mine handily kill and dispose of a bug and I find my insides getting all squishy with desire.  Recently a friend killed a spider outside my house and I think I may have audibly moaned.  Yup.  That happened.

So, if he winces and eeks in fear, I’m still glad for the insect death, but I’m not going to pounce on him for a smooch either.


4.  The “Half-Hearted Warrior”

This is the guy who doesn’t really get what the big deal is.
You’ll find out who these men are when faced with the bugs who get away…
you know – one of those “I just saw him, but I don’t know where he went” moments. bug killer 2

Guys – we want a man who will go on the hunt – for LOVE!  I mean… er… for the bug.  If you say, “well, I don’t see it now…” and sit down on the couch expecting my affection to resume at the same level where we left off… you are sadly mistaken.

See, the importance of my happiness to you is directly correlated to how long and how hard you’ll search to end the little devil’s life.  Will you move a couch?  Will you look under a bed?  Will you lie in wait for the creature to think he’s bested you and leave his hiding place, only to suffer your wrath?  Now THAT’s romance.


I could go on, but I think we get the idea.

There are a few things you have to experience with a significant other – to truly know whether it’s a good fit.  Dance with ‘em, play Monopoly, have them meet your parents, and maybe most importantly …see if/how they’ll kill bugs for you.

Look…this life is hard.  If I can find some small measure of solace in the strong arms of a bug killing man… is that too much to ask?

Kill bugs.  Kill ‘em good.  Clean ‘em up, and come back to claim your reward.  Rrrrrr….

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Sending out an S.O.S.

Well – ’tis the season… The wildflowers are in full bloom, the temperature and humidity are rapidly rising, the pollen count is high, and people have reclaimed all those vices they gave up for lent.  It can all only mean one thing.  Springtime is here!?  Well, perhaps, but it also means we’re long overdue for a chat about online dating MESSAGES.  (What…is that not a seasonal thing?)

At the risk of being a resounding gong… how many times do the women of the singles community have to say it – we just want normal, thoughtful first messages in our various dating app inboxes?

It’s not difficult.  It can be as simple and generic as “hi there!  Your profile is great!  I’d love to get to know you more.  Take a look at my profile, and if you don’t go running for the hills, let’s chat!  Fingers crossed…
Cute, huh?
Then, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could even make a reference to something in her profile that caught your eye – or make a joke – or ask her a question (as simple as “what are some of your favorite things to do/places to go in [fill in your own city here]?)”

Was that too difficult?  Heck, half of it could be locked and loaded in copy-paste mode ready to throw down on any interesting profile you come across.

But nay… that is NOT what happens.

What women DON’T want are things like:


Yes, shocking though it may be, this bulwark of imagination and wit isn’t exactly the invitation to a whirlwind romance we crave.  What it IS is the least number of characters a body can type and still be understood.  It almost never even comes with punctuation.  I mean,…c’mon…throw a girl a bone… an exclamation point!?  An emoticon??  SOMEthing.

I decided a couple months ago, for the sake of entertainment, that I would start answering the messages I usually delete… but with a response commensurate with what they sent me.  So, if they begin with the ubiquitous “hi,” then I’ll “hi” them back.  Then, for every subsequent communication, they’ll get back what they give.  And the results of my sociological experiment were…well… predictably horrifying.

msg - hello hello


Another great way to start things off is to jump right into personal or intrusive questions.  Thusly:

msg - slydevil 2

Finishing with the half insult is always a boss move.  But why not take it one step further and simply  START with a criticism?  Like this guy:

msg - capitalize


Or, you could mix it up… throw in something which could be an observation, but is likely a criticism, followed by grammatically flawed compliments.  Something like this:

msg - mixed messages


msg - brain hurtsFirst of all – let me clarify that I don’t know why we’re starting with “hello AGAIN.”  I’ve never chatted with this guy before.

Next…in case you’re thinking, “awww…maybe English is his second language?!”  No.  It’s not.  He’s as white and born-&-bred ‘Merican as they come.  He’s just…  not bright.
Or he’s high…
Either way – pass.

And now we come to the part of the post where we discuss the nasty guys who come right out of the gate with naughty stuff.  Because somehow years of relationship evolution haven’t reached them and they’re under the delusion that women, though their profile lists them as wanting a “relationship,” REALLY, in fact, just want someone to approach them like a drunk frat boy at a bar.

We’ll start with the light stuff and get grosser as we go.  I know…I’m excited too.
msg - turn you on

I don’t think he got that I was TRYING to be obtuse about the “turn me on” thing…acting like I didn’t get that it was sexual.  But he just kept barreling on like a dog with an obsolete bone.

Then there’s this… not even sure how to tee this one up:

msg - spank me

Big thanks to my friend Kevin for helping me come up with the nod to Green Eggs & Ham.


That’s out there.

And then… oh… this one’s a doozy.  See if you can keep up with me.  I tried to be especially obtuse here…
I played “I don’t know NOTHIN’ about [fill in the blank] at every turn… and he
poor fella…

msg - snackpack

Not much to say after that.

I will say this.  One guy played along with my antics, so I had to showcase him as one of the rare exceptions who was a good sport.

He started with one of my pet peeves – a first message with only one word.

So, naturally, I responded in kind, with another random single word.  But then he kept going…and he made me giggle with his last word, so – here’s a shout out to this guy:

msg - good sport


Well, there you have it.

While all you coupled-up folks have fun watching the daffodils bloom and seeing little girls skip to the playground in their floral dresses, us single folks will still be here face-palming at the receipt of stupid/tawdry/lazy first messages.

Posted in Winner's Circle Series | Leave a comment

I Need Some Space…


So...tell me... what do you like about ME?  Hold on...let me just get this text...

So…tell me… what do you like about ME? Hold on…let me just get this text…

A friend of mine (married) recently chuckled as he said, “Oh I love that one story about the guy who went on a date with you and didn’t ask you anything about you.  That’s my favorite.”  I looked at him in complete deadpan calm and said, “That’s EVERY date.”

Truth is… the NUMBER one thing men do wrong on dates (are you paying attention, guys?  This is it!  You’re always asking and I’m here to tell you) – is using all the time to talk about themselves and never investing in getting to know the woman.  Not engaging at all in getting to know who I am.

And I’ve tested this a bit.  When on a date with a guy and having realized we’ve spent the last 10 minutes talking about him (partly because I ask…I really do want to learn about him!), I’ll use a counseling trick and let us sit in up to 30 seconds of silence (which, on a first date, is a LIFETIME, by the way) to see if he’ll fill the uncomfortable quiet with something meaningful.  And 9 times out of 10, it’ll end with me having to pick the conversation back up with, yet, another question for him.

"Ok, champ.  You're gonna be great tonight.  Just tell her all night long what a catch you are... you'll have her begging for more by dessert."

“Ok, champ. You’re gonna be great tonight. Just tell her all night long what a catch you are… you’ll have her begging for more by dessert.”

I’ve even tried just inserting facts about myself into conversation, unbidden.  He’ll finish a story about his family and I’ll say something overwhelmingly smooth, like, “speaking of families, I’m the oldest of four kids…my dad’s a pastor…”… and then wait as the crickets play their symphony of discomfort around us.

A few times when the guy texted the next day to ask for another date after a first date I wasn’t thrilled with…I’d explain that I felt like he wasn’t particularly interested in getting to know me.  One time, a guy came back with, “I know ALL about you!  You’re the oldest of four kids!  Your dad is a pastor!”
Good job, detective.  You pieced that together from me TELLING YOU, did you?  Sigh…

I suppose this isn’t just a male problem, per se… it’s a cultural problem that plagues us all – men and women.

We are increasingly self-absorbed and unaware.  (which is a paradoxical combination, if you think about it.)

blog - spaceOne of my biggest pet peeves is when someone is walking into a building/store/restaurant in front of you and instead of holding the door open for an extra 2 seconds to allow you in, they let it slam behind them.  As if you weren’t even there.
And don’t talk to me about how chivalry is dead.  Letting the door shut on the girl behind you goes way beyond chivalry (which, I don’t actually think has all the way died.  It may be on life support, but there are still a few gentlemen out there opening doors and telling women they look pretty.  Not many…but they’re out there.)

No – the reason people don’t hold doors open or ask questions on dates is, I think, not because we’re losing our sense of good manners…but we’re losing our sense of SPACE.

My brother posited a theory which I’m loving more and more (well…not LOVING in its application, but in its wisdom).  He said… as we become increasingly drawn to the small space between our eyes and our smartphone, we’ve become ONLY aware of that small field of vision… so much so that, even if you’re not currently looking at your phone, you’ve trained yourself to be unaware of anything outside that zone of attention.  The world, for all intents and purposes, is invisible.

I think he’s right.

"This is the perfect date... she's not bugging me and getting in the way of my defending my clan from that annoying 5th grader who's always attacking..."

“This is the perfect date… she’s not bugging me and getting in the way of me defending my clan from that annoying 5th grader who’s always attacking…”

As technology has grown, our awareness has narrowed.  Noticing the beauty and peculiarity and intrigue around us has been replaced with apps that do just about anything we could ever want or need.  No need to even make eye contact with the Starbucks barista… just swipe your phone and move along.  If you play it just right, you might not even have to stop your game of Trivia Crack to get your drink.  Walking to your car after grocery shopping?  No need to look up… just use your app to find your car and then let another app tell you what route to take to your next location.  Heck… there are apps to tell you how you slept and if it was a particularly restless night and your phone got lost in your sheets, just use your FitBit to find it.

I have no problem with technology, mind you.  I love all my nifty apps.  But, it seems if we want to have things/people in our life that MATTER, we’re going to have to make a concerted effort to look up from our screens and see the world around us… engage with it… ask it some questions.  I know I’m not the first person to say this.  But, I contend that this issue is part of what makes people BAD at dates.

You see…as the space we ‘live’ in has narrowed, so has our scope of interest and awareness.  It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to only care about what’s right in front of us…what’s easily accessed… what doesn’t take any work or energy on our part.

Not only that… but our smartphones haven’t just made us stupid about things like mapping your way to a new location, but even knowing yourself.  People depend so much on devices telling us what to do, where to go, what’s funny, what’s trending…that we spend less time in self-reflection and self-awareness.  And if we can’t even be self-aware (a very sexy quality in a date, by the way), then how ever will we manage being “other aware?”

I suppose if all you’re interested in is getting me into bed, plying me with the drinks and talking about yourself all night might actually work.  (I don’t know…that’s not really my thing).

But if what you want, ultimately, is to make a meaningful connection with someone and build the relationship to a place where it brings you pleasure and a deep-down satisfaction, …then you’re going to have to KNOW me.  There’s no getting around it.  So, why not start from the beginning?  Move your attention from your virtual smartphone and engage the world around you….or at least across the table from you.

It’s easy to do.  Ask questions!  Anything, really.  People love to talk about themselves, so you don’t even have to be particularly clever…just provide the conversational springboard and let narcissism do the rest.

The world of first dates would be infinitely different if people could begin to look away from their smartphones, look inside themselves, and then look at me.  Eyes up here, folks.


Posted in Dating Advice, Relationships | Leave a comment



MjAxMy1mYTc1NjkzZDJhZDU1NzBk_511718d534a78Why do so many people hate Valentine’s Day?

Right, right, I can hear many of you reciting that over-used line, “It’s just a ‘Hallmark holiday’.”


Is Hallmark inherently evil?
Don’t thousands of companies latch onto holidays to boost sales?  We’re capitalists!
We don’t hate Presidents Day because linens are discounted, do we?
Does Egyptian Cotton trump flowers and candy?

Perhaps you’d say, “It’s an invented holiday.”
OOooooooh, ok… not like those organic ones we’ve found while out farming the land.  Right…

Maybe you’d respond with, “Why should someone else tell me when to show the person I love that I love him/her.  I SHOULD be showing them all year ‘round!
Great!  Yes!
You should!
Go do that!  Valentine’s Day isn’t keeping anyone from showering their loved ones with affection on the other 364 days of the year.

Are you afraid you’re going to think up a romantic gesture for your sweetheart and right when you’re about to leave her that note or give her that gift, you’ll get a firm knock on the door from the Valentine’s Day Police?
Sir, …sir, are you aware that it’s April 12th?  What were you THINKING?  Loving your significant other is strictly forbidden.  Any thoughts, words, or actions of amorous expression must wait until next February 14th.  V-day LAW.”


Truth be told, Valentine’s Day isn’t making anyone do anything.  It just is.

If there were such a thing as “Hug Day,” would you fold your arms and refuse free hugs?  What about “Compliment Day?”  or “Get $100 Day?”  These are all good things… things that should not make people bitter, but excited!



The beautifully sweet thing about this holiday is this:
It’s one day a year, set aside, to celebrate love.

That’s it.

LOVE, people!!

The most important thing in this life… ought to have a day…right?

I mean… even people who aren’t at all religious, let baby Jesus have a day.  (That’s Christmas, y’all)
And hardly anyone turns away green beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
No one complains that the 4th of July FORCES them to play with fireworks and eat BBQ.

Why does Valentine’s Day get such a bad rap?

I think the answer is this:  people resent the fact that they don’t have the love they most want.
Valentine’s Day shines a light on the places where we feel lonely or hurt.  Stick with me for a moment.

– Married people who are unhappy in their marriages – hate the idea of a spotlight on love… because they are feeling that awful cringing pain of not feeling loved.

solo– Single people who crave a relationship, but don’t have one – hate the world turning their red and pink attention on those who HAVE found their lobster (which are, appropriately red…).

– Boyfriends and girlfriends in undefined, ambiguous relationships, don’t enjoy the holiday that breathes down your neck and whispers, “you know… you really ought to think about what you want, and what this is.  …I’m just sayin’…”

Anyone who is at all unfulfilled in any relational way – feels the heat of a day whose focus is the very thing you want, but don’t fully have.

And I get that… if there was a day that celebrated designer clothes or cool cars or fancy big houses, …I might feel left out.  Like, “hey – I want those things too… but, alas… not this year.”

The DIFFERENCE is that  Valentine’s Day is about ALL love… not just the Rom-Com, smoochy, McDreamy, end-of-the-movie-swoon-worthy-speech, PDA, fluttery tummy, grand gesture, sweeping soundtrack, surprised by flowers and poems kind of love.  Valentine’s Day is about so much more.

Those things are all fine…but they are one sliver of the story.

I propose… you look a little further.

Celebrating love doesn’t have to be a romantic love.

cheesy v-dayI know, I know…this sounds trite…you’ve heard it before, …but all those super classy corner tables/tents full of roses and cheap teddy bears don’t exactly scream equal opportunity love…they ONLY make us think of 2 groups:
1. gooey-eyed lovebirds – new to the sweetheart scene, and untarnished by the world.  Or,
2. guilt-driven men in panic-mode, on their way home from work

But, I’d encourage you to look beyond the consumeristic piece of this holiday and contemplate the heart of it.  Aha!  The HEART!  😉

You really can take a step back and look at your life…and appreciate the love of your parents, you can ponder the love you have for your children.  You can take an honest look at the friends, co-workers, roommates, neighbors, etc. in your life…and have a moment of happiness when you realize they are all gifts.  And maybe, …maybe you’ll even be inspired to tell them so!?

And if you look around at your life, and you truly have NO one to love… then (and I’m not pandering… I mean this), reach out.  Maybe that means seeking out friendship, maybe that means reconciling with someone who’s caused you pain or who was the recipient of your anger/distancing/etc.  Maybe it means visiting a church to find a new community.  Heck, come visit MY church!

I know you all probably get sick of me going on and on about how I still have hope for finding love… and I do.  But today is about appreciating and celebrating the love you ALREADY have.  I’m blessed to have so much love in my life – amazing friends (I mean, AMAZING), awesome family (who I can call ANYTIME when I need a ‘shoulder to cry on’), and the two most beautiful, creative, sweet children a person could hope for.  So, on a day made to honor love… I am full to the brim.  🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Posted in Relationships | 1 Comment

A Study in Santa – Pt. III …Do You Believe?

Do you believe in Santa Claus?
I mean…duh… obviously, you know that he isn’t real.  But still…….do you believe in the magic and wonder that sits just beneath the fantasy?

Let me explain…
(and yes…I’m reusing a post from last Christmas, because I still stand behind what I said then!)


What do we do with Santa Claus?   Jolly ‘ol Saint Nick.

Some people don’t believe we should propagate the false story with kids, some people are neutral, some people go full-tilt fantasy as long as their kids keep believing and then some (*raises hand*).

I’d like to make a case for Santa.  After all, he’s WAY too busy today to speak on his own behalf.

This year, my little girl is right on the cusp of belief and disbelief.  It’s definitely the last Christmas I can pull off the fantasy.   So, I enlisted the help of my dad (an excellent storyteller) to tell the kids about the origins and evolution of Santa Claus – the REAL Santa Claus – to drive home all those smooshy feelings that keep you choosing to believe in something, even when the evidence is beginning to outweigh the power of imagination.

santa 4Turns out the REAL story of St. Nick is the story of love, kindness, and helping those in need.  Isn’t that a story we can ALL get behind?

santa 1The original Saint Nicholas, who was later made Bishop and mimicked by countless other secret night-time gift-givers, was so convicted about giving to the needy and providing money, food, and toys to children who had nothing, that it caught on.  Talk about a trend worth following!

Whether you’re spiritual/religious or not, the idea of showing basic human kindness to others is something everyone can agree on.

So, the question isn’t really whether you ‘agree’ with Santa, it’s – are you on board with our modern-day take on him?

santa 8And, yes, I admit, the idea has morphed into a more materialistic chase that frustrates even the unbreakable Christmas spirit in me, at times.  But, we don’t have to let it BE that.  Instead of surrendering to the greediness that can be bred by the Santa story, we can use the idea of Father Christmas to do two things:

1.  Enjoy the gift of creativity and imagination.  There is such beautiful artistry in a great story.  Think of the delicious elements of a timeless fairy tale…   The way we weave the best aspects of the known world we can think of – pleasure, love, good winning over evil, bravery, sacrifice, etc., along with the supernatural or impossibly wonderful – (i.e. magic) – into a narrative that fills us with wonder… is there anything better?santa 5


You do this on a small scale – all the time.  Even bah-humbug grown-ups make up miniature fantasies anytime we WISH traffic would just part and make way for us to scurry home, or we close our eyes for a milisecond in hopes that that guy will call us back after a date, or we hope, beyond all reason that it’ll be sunny even when the weather channel says there’s a 100% chance of rain on a special day.  We WANT there to be MAGIC.  It’s in our nature to yearn for fantasy.  It’s why stories and movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are so popular!

Passing this on to our children is a gift.  The gift of creativity and the gift of WONDER.  Teaching them that there is a possibility ….that there exists the tiniest crack in reality that …COULD be magical.
That COULD be other-worldly…
it not only stirs their imagination, but it breeds hope.

2.  Appreciate the thrill of anonymous giving.  The anonymity that exists in the legend – that is, the fact that you don’t get CREDIT for the gift – gives it a another layer of honest goodness and sweet satisfaction.  Any selfish desire to get that kickback feeling that comes when someone recognizes you… is gone.  So, it removes any self-centerdness to reveal a pure underlying love of giving and generosity.

Have you ever given a gift where the person never knew it was from you?  Wasn’t it divine?  This is another certain privilege of participating in the Santa story.

santa 9

This is a season where that crack of possibility, that there might be such as thing as magic, opens just a little wider;
Our capacity to dream becomes a little larger;
Our willingness to open ourselves up to whimsy and wonder and even the foolishness that a fairy tale brings, becomes greater.
And our reluctance to suspend disbelief starts to chip away.


And maybe for just a moment – BELIEF in something magical becomes a reality.  Even if it happens for a fleeting moment…just a flash of “what if?” …isn’t it wonderful?

santa 7So – I don’t know about you, but as long as there are Christmases, I’m going to choose to engage in the mysterious wonder of Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas to ALL of you, and to all – a good night!

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A Study in Santa – Pt. II …Naughty or Nice?

I’m co-opting a blog from another site for this post.  But never fear…the author is just as amazing as I am…  😉

And yes, you’ll note some similar themes as the previous post, but it’s coming from a different angle.
If you want to read it on the original website, click here.

In recent Christmas discussions, my children have been pondering (and possibly worrying) about whether they’ve made the cut. Whether they’ve been “naughty or nice,” as it relates to Santa coming, this is. Now, while my daughter still believes in Jolly ‘ol St. Nick, my son, Timothy, only participates in these conversations to keep the fantasy alive for her, which is pretty sweet, actually.

As we talked, the question at hand was something like this: No kid can ever be good ALL the time, …that would be impossible… So, …what “counts” as far as Santa is concerned? How good does one have to be to avoid the lump of coal? And how much naughtiness is assumed in the normal kid behavior bell curve? Is it just during the Christmas season? What about when you do extra nice things…do those “buy” you a later screw-up? Are there levels of goodness? Like – sorta good gets you a scooter, but REALLY good gets you an iPad? Basically…we were trying to define “naughty and nice.”funny santa

At first, I gave them an answer along these lines: “Well, I think it’s more about your heart. Do you try to be obedient? Do you apologize when you make mistakes?” I was trying to get at the idea that Santa looks for children who are generally good, knowing full well that no one is perfect. And apparently, we decided that if you’re better than Hudson (a kid at Timothy’s school who’s notorious for getting into trouble), then you’re probably ok. But still… fingers crossed on Christmas Eve… and let’s hope the letter we send to the North Pole is cute enough to push us over the edge into the “nice” camp, if Santa was on the fence.

But, as the conversation was humming along in the back seat of the car, in my mind, all I could think of was, “of course ‘Santa’ is coming! Because… I’m Santa (really hoping I didn’t just spoil the surprise for any of you…), and I WANT to bring them gifts! I mean – I REALLY want to. I can’t WAIT to give them gifts.

Santa gives gifts on the condition that they’re good…
Mommy gives gifts out of pure love.

My children receiving gifts depends much less on them and so much more …on me…on my desire to bless them. And, sure, I much prefer when they’re well-behaved, but Timothy’s right – no one can be good all the time. And if true goodness is what we’re aiming for,…everyone will fail. In truth, we ALL deserve a lump of coal.

Thank goodness God works more like the real Santa (parents), and less like the song. He doesn’t give us good gifts because we’re good (despite what some folksy theology may teach), but because HE – the giver of all good gifts – is pleased to give them to us. It makes HIM happy. And if you’ve ever given a child a really amazing gift on Christmas morning, you know the feeling!

In the end, that creepy Christmas ditty we sing to children this time of year… you know the one – the stalker tune about how Santa knows when we’re sleeping and when we’re awake, …how “he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake” – isn’t at all the spirit of Christmas OR the truth of life. If you do things that way, you’re not even behaving for “goodness’ sake,” you’re behaving to hopefully earn good gifts. But, moreso – the real gift giver wants to give the gifts, regardless of our behavior.

Santa gives gifts on the condition that we’re good…
God gives gifts – including the gift of His Son – out of pure love.

So, perhaps in this season of presents and stockings and holiday gift-lists, we should spend less time trying to achieve the bare minimum “goodness” to be in Santa’s good graces, and more time being thankful for Emmanuel – God with us – the giver of grace.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

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A Study in SANTA – pt. I …is Santa Naughty?

‘Tis the season to read articles on why Santa is evil.
I know…’tis the season to be jolly…but not too jolly, because that would be acting like Santa…who’s evil.

Ok, ok, maybe not evil – but DEFINITELY not something a good God-fearin’ mama would inflict on her innocent children.

Every year I read these, and every year I react the same way – I agree with so much of what these parents are saying.  I respect their point of view and admire the fact that they’ve given so much thought to the subject.  But I still disagree.

Sometimes the claims are things like – since Santa isn’t real …if we play along that he is, then our children will think that EVERYthing we tell them is a lie.

If that line of reasoning is true, then I’d better not take them to a Harry Potter movie, or play pretending games, or read fiction.  C’mon…  As parents, I’d like to think we’re savvy enough to help our children distinguish fun fantasies from truth.

But many of these articles have gotten much more sophisticated in their anti-Santa reasoning.lighten bag

This year I read a very well-written blog post from a mom describing the biggest reasons why her family doesn’t participate in the Santa fantasy – and the number one reason was this:

Santa promotes works righteousness.”

The idea is that the whole Santa story encourages a conditional system whereby good behavior EARNS you a prize/reward, and bad behavior keeps you from getting something.


She’s right.

Santa DOES encourage a works righteousness system.  And you know what?
I’m glad!

I’m glad for two reasons:

  1.  That’s how much of this world works.

It may not be the way we want it to work, but that’s inconsequential…because it does.  In this life, characteristics like hard work, kindness, patience, thoughtfulness, considering others, etc. all garner you good consequences.

Now, there are certainly exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, if you are considerate and thoughtful, people will like you.  If you’re diligent and steadfast in your studies/work, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals…maybe even enjoy some prosperity.  If you are patient and kind, your relationships will work more smoothly.  From the corporate world to the marriage union, being good earns you good things in return.

This is one reason we teach our children to care for others, to love people, to share their toys and respect their elders.  We don’t just do that so they’ll be ‘good people,’ but because we want them to be liked and accepted.  We want them to get into good schools, get good jobs, make good friends, and find loving romantic partners.  We want them to be good – to get good things.

I’m not saying that my theology ends here.  Of course not.  There is something far deeper at play in raising up my children.  I want them to honor God in their lives, to make sacrifices, and to know the love of Christ whether they are experiencing joy or sorrow.  But, that doesn’t negate my desire for them to have a good life.

Santa isn’t evil for being conditional.  Many good things in this world are conditional.  Very few things are unconditional…which brings me to my second point.

2.  It sets up the perfect dichotomy between Santa and God.

I WANT Santa to be conditional, so that my children will see and experience the freedom and delight of a God who is not.  God is unlike any other mini ‘god.’  Anything we can make into an idol – including Santa, but also things like money, power, sex, attention, etc. – will disappoint us when we can’t live up to the place we’ve assigned it in our lives.  But God loves us DESPITE our failings.

Santa brings gifts to reward good behavior…because we are good.
God sent his son while we were in full rebellion against him…because he is good.

I WANT my children to realize the vast and beautiful difference between the two.  I want them to enjoy the fantasy of Santa, but bask in the freeing reality of God’s love.
I want them to realize that Santa’s gifts are conditional, but God’s good gifts are unconditional.

If Santa didn’t promote a works based system, I’d be much more leery…because he’d be dangerously close to mimicking God.  As it is, he’s a fun piece of fiction.

In the end, the gifts from Santa…and the gifts from this world – are fleeting.  The only gift that endures, is the gift of life.  And thank goodness that doesn’t depend on our good works.

So, yeah… Santa does promote a works righteousness…just like the world.  But that’s ok, because Santa isn’t the final arbiter of righteousness at all.  God is…and his system is much kinder.  No matter how nice we are, we all have the capacity and the tendency towards the naughty.  And God loves us despite that.  For goodness’ sake.  🙂


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You Get What You Pay For…?

I know y’all love to hear the tales of my failed dates, and as many of you have been letting me know – it’s been too long since I posted one.  So …here we go.  I think I’ve waited the requisite amount of time that (I hope) he won’t be reading this…, fingers crossed.

I met this guy (let’s call him Adam) online and we chatted a bit before deciding to meet up for a drink.gingerman - outside 2

My first mistake was this (and it’s taken me a while to figure this out):
I was his first date after his divorce.
Big no-no.
(Ironically, as I write this, I must admit I haven’t followed my own new rule and have gone out with two other recently divorced guys and each time it’s proved the rule… sigh.)  Anyway…

I realize that SOMEONE has to be the first date… but why ME?

My first date after my divorce ended up being with the man I fell deeply in love with… so, I guess I never really gave this issue much thought…, until being on the other side of things.
The dark side.

This is, I’m sure, not the case for everyone, but for several of the men I’ve been out with – if it’s their first foray back into the world of dating, and especially if they were in a LONG relationship/marriage, they’ve lost their dating “touch.”  And I basically have to hold their hand and guide them through the terrifying stormy waters of first-date-land.  I’m basically the e-harmony of the human realm.
Awww….I can hear you all now, “that’s so mean!  It sounds sweet to me that they’re innocent and don’t know how dating has changed… don’t BLAME them!”  And, I don’t.  Blame them, that is.  I just don’t want to be the guinea pig that has to endure a bad, boring, or awkward date because they’re getting back on the horse.

But back to the date.

Adam lives in Pearland (ugh….might as well be Siberia…(for those of you not in Houston, Pearland is a suburb.  So, yes, I’m exaggerating.  I’m an inner-loop snob.  It’s protocol.  It’s in the ILS handbook.))

Since he doesn’t live in the city AND he’s recently divorced, he didn’t have any ideas/suggestions as to where we should meet up.  (This is an example of losing the touch.  Women want a man who will at least show enough leadership to suggest a meeting place….Or, at the very least, master the fine art of “Yelp.”)

Gingerman - outsideSo, fine – I put out a few options.  One was a wine bar, one was a coffee shop, one was a beer house… and he chose beer.  Great!  We went to the Gingerman (it’s a super chill spot with about eleventyhundredteen beer choices.  Seriously…it’s a lot.)

I got there a few minutes early.  He got there late.  (strike 1)

While I was waiting, I ordered a beer and paid for it/closed the tab.  I like to do this on dates sometimes, so that the guy knows I’m not just trying to milk him for his cash-o-la.
When he finally arrived (he had a hard time finding the place… apparently he’s as adept with Google Maps as he is with the Yelp), he went to order a drink and asked me what I was drinking.  I told him, adding that I liked it but didn’t love it, and …
he proceeded to order the same beer.  Out of 14-bajillion beers, he just copied mine.

beer menu
Fine…perhaps he was nervous, so his imagination wasn’t at full speed.

We sat down on a bench in their back patio and started chatting.  Some about me, some about him.  Ok, mostly about him.  Ok, ALL about him.
At one point, I went to the restroom and texted a friend of mine that I was bored out of my mind having to keep up with his incessant self-agrandizing.  My friend wrote back, “oh…give him a chance.  He’s probably just nervous.”

gingerman - back patio

So, I went back out and suggested we get a bite to eat and another beer.  We went in to the counter and I ordered the blah-blah-blah with brie (does the rest matter?  It had brie.)  He looked over the menu and decided he’d have the same sandwich.  Then, I perused the beer menu and ordered another (as in – not the same kind I had the first time) pint.  He ordered the same one as I did.

If you’re not keeping score, that’s THREE items for which he just copied my order.  I mean – I’m a good orderer, but c’mon…
(strike 2)

Then the bartender told us the total and asked how we wanted to pay.  Ugh…. I hate these moments.  On the one hand, I want to hand over my card to show that I’m perfectly fine paying and I’m not assuming the guy will.  On the other hand, I think there’s something really sweet about a guy taking care of the bill, so I want to hesitate.  But I don’t want to hesitate so long that it looks like I’m EXPECTING him to pay.  Gah… in this achingly long 5 seconds, this is all going through my mind, whilst I glance quickly at him to see if he’s reaching for HIS wallet.  Which he’s not.
So, I give her my card.  She asked if I wanted to close out or keep it open and I told her to keep it open.

As we’re walking back to our table, he says, “Why’d you do that?”  I say, “Do what?”  He says, “Pay!  I’m supposed to do that!”  I’m thinking…Right!  Well…why DIDN’T you?  I gave you an excruciatingly long 5 seconds?!?… but what I SAID was, “Well, the tab’s still open, so – we can figure that out when we leave!”  That’s a nice way of saying – if you want to pay, you can.  Later.

We sit down to more one-sided conversation (thank goodness there was brie…), and then he told me that his ex-wife reads my blog!  What???  (Ex-wife…if you still read this and you know I’m writing about your ex-husband… we should chat – hit me up).  What are the odds?  I don’t know this woman.  So, in my mind, I’m excited because a stranger is reading!  That’s fantastic!  But, I don’t think HE thinks so.  Anyway – that’s not really an integral part of the story…

He orders one more beer – on my tab.  ijs…

After an hour and a half, I decide I’ve used up enough of my time on a date that I know is going nowhere, so I politely ease into goodbye time, at which point the bartender sees us collecting our stuff and asks us both, “Do you want to close it out on the card we have already?

Ok, Adam… this is your chance.  This is the moment you were….WE’VE all been…waiting for…   So I waited… not 5, not 6, not 7, but TEN looooooooong seconds before answering her.  He said nothing, y’all.  Nada.  Just stood there and watched as I closed out the tab and paid $40 for our date.  He even had 1 more beer than I did… isn’t that bad form?  I’d never order 3 glasses of wine if my date only had one or two… but whatevs.  I pay… I tip… and I gallop towards the door.  He walks me outside and we realize we’re parked in opposite directions.  Did he ask to walk me to my car?  No.
(strike 3)

What he DID ask was far worse.  He made two horrifyingly awkward comments:

1.  Him:  “So… what are we gonna do?
Me:  “about what?”  (I can’t decide if this is about the not walking me to my car, the failed conversation, or the money thing…there really are so many options)
Him:  “the money!  You didn’t need to pay!”   (didn’t I?  I mean…SOMEONE did!)
Me:  so annoyed… “well, she was asking for a card and you didn’t give her yours, so I just took care of it…
Him:  “Well, how can I pay you back?
Me:  “I have a paypal account…write this down”   KIDDING!  (I wish I’d said that…)  what I really said:  “Um…well, I’m not sure, Adam.”  I mean…what was I supposed to do?  Walk with him to an ATM?  They guy didn’t even offer to walk to my car, let alone a banking kiosk.
(strike 4)

2.  Him:  “Can I take you out on a second date?
[note… I don’t think people should ask this question on a first date.  It’s one thing to imply that you’d LIKE a second date, but to point-blank ask the other person out on said second date…puts them on the spot.
Plus…read the room, dude!  This date was an act of social mercy…why would you think I’d want another?]
Me:   bumbling and looking nervous, I’m sure… “Um…. can I process things a little and let you know?”  Gah!  What kind of answer is THAT?  I might’as well have just said, “Nope.  You’re boring and cheap.”  He knew right away what ‘processing’ was code for…   poor guy.
(strike 5)

Whelp, …5 strikes and you’re out.  That’s how the saying goes, right?


In the end, I was out 1 1/2 hours, and $40.

But at least I have the tale to tell – for all of you… including his ex-wife.

Lucky me.

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Ask Sarah – When to NOT have sex?

Dear Sarah,

I’m convinced that God intended physical intimacy as a gift that should be reserved for marriage. However, I get the impression that this is not the normal practice on the dating scene, especially when you’re a grown adult, even within Christian communities. This is a really important faith practice to me, so much so that I want to find someone who shares the same perspective. That brings me to two related questions: 1) How unusual do you think this belief is within the 30’s+ dating scene? 2) How do you advise someone who holds this belief to communicate it both (a) early enough to be forthright and (b) not so early that you’re a creepster?


Dear Sex-Saver,

What a great question – and you’ve definitely come to the right place.
I am an expert in how to NOT have sex.  In fact – a whole lotta of my single life has been comprised of just that.

Oh…that’s not what you meant?


Well, regardless of where your ‘line’ is for sex, most people have SOME standard they try to follow…and when should such a thing come up?  How do you talk about it with a potential relationship partner?  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first question you asked was how common your perspective is.  I can only answer from my own experience, but I’d say it’s (sadly) EXTREMELY RARE.  I can count on one hand the number of people I know or have ever met in this season of dating,  who hold to the ‘wait until marriage’ sexual standard.

Now, that certainly doesn’t comment on the rightness or wrongness of anything.  It’s just to say – VERY few people I’ve interacted with fall into this camp.  So, yes, that makes it really difficult to hold to your beliefs…when almost no one else is – even in the Christian community.
Le sigh…

One side note of encouragement on this front:  it works to your advantage that you’re a man.  Men who want to wait until marriage, (in my opinion) have an easier go than women who do.  Women who want to abstain have to find a man who wants to wait (and we all know that, statistically, men – on the whole – have a greater or more seemingly ‘urgent’ sex drive than women.  Oh…chill people.  I know it’s not true across the board.  I also know that sex drives are expressed differently between the sexes… but c’mon… typically men want sex sooner and more aggressively than women do.)  Anyway – if that’s true, it’s going to be a lot easier for YOU to convince a woman to wait, than for me to convince a man.  Women are touched/impressed with men’s resolve in this arena.  Men are typically just turned off.  I’m just sayin’…

I would say this… like SO many other sticky-wickets of dating… people are a whole lot more likely to get on board with something they might not otherwise agree with or choose…if they find themselves smitten by you.  I’m not saying to TRICK people, but I AM saying…let them see how great you are before dropping the “fat chance of gettin’ lucky tonight, babe!” card on ’em.

On my online profile, I have it listed like this:

waiting for sex 6


Why that one?  Because it’s the truth – but it’s not enough to scare someone away.  I’d much rather wait until after having met a guy and started getting to know each other – to drop the “I’m kinda a prude” hammer on him.  It’s my HOPE that by that time, he’ll be so insanely smitten with me that he’ll be willing to wait longer than he had originally planned.

Another thing I did – just to put this on the radar of anyone interested… was to put this in my profile:

waiting for sex 1

And it’s not just religious folk who think it’s a good idea to wait.  Even Steve Harvey tells women not to “give up the cookie” for 90 days.  That’s a long time in the modern dating world!  Why 90 days?  Because Christians or not, smart people know that when you hold off on sex… there are loads of relational advantages, not the least of which is seeing if the person is even willing to stick around to get to know and love YOU!

And there are lots of other ways to let someone know you’re sexually conservative without spilling the “on the wedding night” beans so early it scares ’em.  I’ll sometimes use the opportunity of flirty texting to throw it out there.  If a guy makes a joking reference to sex (which…hello….give any of them enough time, and they all will), I’ll sometimes text back, “haha – rewrrrr!  But I should tell you… as much as I love the entendre jokes and flirty banter, I’m actually a good girl.”  I’ve never had a guy respond negatively to that.  Probably because if I’m texting him, he’s likely a decent fellow – and they tend to actually WANT to date someone with a bit of moral fiber in her character.

Also, if you use OKCupid (which is the one I recommend to people), you get to answer tons of questions about all kinds of topics.  Then, when you have a potential match, not only can you peruse his/her profile, but you can see how your answers line up with theirs – AND you can search by category!  What?!

waiting for sex 5

It also lets you leave comments on the questions to clarify your stance.  Here’s an example of one I wrote – to let people know I’m not a goodie goodie for lack of desire…but because I think there’s something there worth waiting for.

waiting for sex 3

So, I guess what I’m saying is this:

Don’t focus on the fact that the majority of the dating/single world doesn’t hold to your standard.  Focus on getting to know someone who seems otherwise great – let her see how great YOU are, and she might just be willing to wait for cookies…

In the meantime, you can put some hints out there – (see above examples) – but I wouldn’t explicitly bring it up until at LEAST date 3.  And trust me… a guy who will wait to talk/joke/intimate about sex… is a pretty dreamy anomaly in today’s dating world.  Women (the good ones, at least), will find it refreshing.  Let her know you’re interested and you desire her, without chomping at the bit.  That’s the sexiest thing in the world.

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