Category Archives: Reviews & Musings

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.

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?

Guh….ross.
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.

Nuh-uh.

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….

You’re a Jerk. It’s all my fault?

The post last week about women’s expectations of fantasy/romance (you can read it here) has sparked quite the feedback, especially from my male readers.  Totes interesante.

In particular, my friend and blog-reader I referred to in the post as being a real-life romantic, wrote to me about a theory of his, that WOMEN create the unromantic men.  Interesting, no?

So, I decided to post our sparring here for you to read.  Enjoy.  And feel free to weigh in with your opinions!


Brad:

For far too long, women have claimed they mature earlier than men. When it comes to relationships, I posit a contrary hypothesis. Men learn in their early teens that sensitivity is rewarded with rejection. Middle and high school girls enjoy the bad boys. They cling to guys who treat them poorly. Guys learn quickly to deal with heartbreak and – perhaps through survival instinct – that an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.

Sarah asked whether women’s expectations have been skewed by romantic comedies. I prefer to believe that women are capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Instead, women are reaping the rewards (or consequences, as a matter of perspective) of years of male training.

Here’s a muscular analogy in honor of Sarah. Think of men in the comfortable colloquialism piled on us for ages. Men are dogs. In a sense, this is true. We have been trained to salivate for the bells women ring. Our greatest desire is to be happy with a woman. To achieve that end, we strive for attention. When we fail, we observe those who succeed. When women/girls provide attention to the bad boys and ignore the nice guys, we notice. We learn. We adapt.

The next time the bell rings, we salivate in the desired way, expecting the reward. It works. The behavior is reinforced. This pattern continues with reinforcement of those behaviors through high school and college. By the time women realize they want something different, those dogs are trained.

Not wanting to accept the responsibility for their actions, women blame men’s behavior on movies, porn, immaturity, selfishness, or not being raised right. The dogs continue to salivate at the sound of the bell. Women, now desperate to find something more tangible, provide rewards for less than they want – further reinforcing the behaviors they no longer desire.
Women begin to adapt. The security of a relationship being their reward; lowering their expectations, their salivation. Men continue to observe.

Today’s moral, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

————————————-

Sarah:

Brad… may I?

I wholeheartedly agree that much of what women complain about in men – we have only to blame ourselves for. We have contributed to the unfortunate cycle by settling for less than what we truly want, or rewarding the sort of behavior that feeds on insecurities rather than cultivates confidence.

But… (and there’s always a but in this contrarian mind of mine)… in the same way that not all men drink the kool-aid of high school conditioning, not all women are drawn to jerks. In
fact, there is a large contingent of us who didn’t even DATE in high school because the inverse of your theory was at play.

Guys want to date the girls who don’t have self-esteem and will LET themselves be abused. And girls like me – who were raised in a healthy home and taught that our value lies in our character – don’t get asked out. So….which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Sure – high school boys look around and see weak-willed women swooning at a guy who has the emotional intelligence of a doorknob and so they slowly morph into a bad boy archetype. But, aren’t women (girls) taught the same thing – just mirrored back? We look around at the girls who get asked out and it’s the ones who are throwing up in the bathroom between classes to keep their waists thin, who are panting at the scraps of attention thrown their way by a self-centered tool, and who laugh at the jokes that subversively make fun of them – not standing up for themselves because that would probably push jerky-boy away.

I’m not sure what the answer is (not that I don’t have lots of THOUGHTS about how these things begin in our families of origin, experiences, etc.).  But I do know that unilaterally blaming women for men acting like trolls can’t be right…

I mean, c’mon – sugar and spice and all that!?  (wow… who’s thirsty for tea?)

 


Brad:

Of course there are exceptions, but on the whole, human beings develop behaviors that are rewarded.  The problem now is that women in the dating pool are competing for extremely limited resources.  You addressed this in a previous post to your readers. Ignoring exceptions, I see two possibilities:

 You’ve made your bed. Lie in it.  The pool of men has been shaped by your hands ladies. Accept the results and move forward.  I suggest treating the sculpture the way you would children’s artwork.  It isn’t pretty, but you find the good in it and focus there.  Most guys are still worthy of refrigerator magnets.

Take your ball and go home.  So you don’t want to face the results of your creative efforts?  Fine.  Enough women will choose to accept the flawed men in the dating pool – providing no reason for the men to change. Stay home and complain about how terrible the men are “out there”. 

Enjoy the “Spinserthood of the Traveling Rants”, available now in paperback.


 

So, there you have it folks… what do YOU think?

 


Brad Culbertson has been teaching elementary education in Florida for ten years.  His two children, Kendall, 14, and Gabriel, 12, and his love, Jaime, are his greatest passions. He has published a book of poems dedicated to her available here and he is currrently writing his first novella. Sneak a peek here.

 

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Bestseller

Several friends told me I “had” to read this book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” by Patti Stanger.

I don’t know what it says about me that they think I need literary help in my dating endeavors, but…nonetheless I read it.  Turns out, (as you may have guessed), that about 50% of it was stuff I already knew and the other half I disagreed with.  (But then, are you surprised?)  Really makes me think I need to write a book.  Apparently you can be a bestselling author by writing a bunch of common sense relationship advice interspersed with your own unique ideas, even if they’re based in nothing other than your sheer personal opinion.  Here are some of the dating rules she made…that I’ve either already broken, fully plan on breaking in the future or just flat out think are dumb.

– Don’t ever initiate conversation online

At LEAST half of my dates have come from me initiating communication with a guy online.  Isn’t the whole point of taking the search to an online venue, that you’re embracing the deliciously postmodern era of dating where men and women can equally initiate contact?

I don’t think that by being the first person to say hi (or “wink” or “flirt” or whatever that site’s cheesy equivalent is), I’m giving up my position of femininity or lowering my worthiness of pursuit.  I am ALL FOR a man to pursue a woman.  I love this idea – always have.  But, if I find a profile of a guy online that piques my curiosity – should I do nothing, hoping that he’ll stumble across mine among the 1,000s out there and contact me?  All I want to do is put myself on his radar.

If you think about it – this is the virtual equivalent of going to a bar.  Just by putting yourself in the same space as a single guy, you’re putting yourself on his map.  Later she’ll talk about doing a “5 Second Flirt” when you’re out at a mixer/bar/restaurant and then waiting for the guy to ‘bite.’  Isn’t that all I’m doing by saying hi first online?  After that, he is free to chase.  Nay – invited to!  And most quality guys do.

– Don’t opt  for less than dinner for your first meeting.

I ABSOLUTELY disagree with this.  I will NOT go out to dinner with a guy I’ve never met.  I’ll do coffee or drinks or maybe lunch.  That’s it.  I think she’s exactly right about coffee being an audition.  But what’s the matter with that?  Isn’t that what dating is about?  I’m auditioning guys for the role of partner/boyfriend/lover/husband.  And they’re doing the same!  I am perfectly fine being auditioned.  And I don’t mind if another girl was there before me and another is coming afterward.  I know what I bring to the table and I’m confident.  If he chooses one of them over me, then I’ve lost nothing – we weren’t meant to be anyway since he was obviously looking for someone different for the “part.”  Auditioning is EXACTLY what I’m doing.  And I’m fine with that.

The idea of going out to dinner with someone who I haven’t yet interacted with in person sounds like the first circle of hell.  Being trapped for that long without any real map of who this guy is, other than the “on paper” persona he’s created online (which we ALL know is “always 100% true…”) is a huge gamble.

What if…(and the following have all happened to me) – he is much more overweight than he indicated?  What if he has really bad teeth?  What if he has awful breath?  What if he makes uber lame jokes and then laughs awkwardly at them?  What if he does that uncomfortably long staring thing?  What if he answers all your questions with short clipped one-word answers, thereby giving you nothing to work with to create engaging conversation?  What if he smells (and not in a good way)?

I know that I must sound harsh, but my time is SO limited.  Between 2 jobs, 2 children and church and volunteer work, my time to go on dates is precious little.  I do not want to waste 2+ hrs on someone who I know within the first few minutes is not going to be a good match.  I’d much rather be out 45 minutes and a cup of tea or a beer.  That’s an acceptable sacrifice for a flopped audition.

– 5 second flirt

This one cracks me up more than any of the others.  This is one of her infamous tips.  The 5-second flirt.  Sounds great, right?

Yeah…for Ted Bundy maybe.

Here’s the thing.  I tried this.  And I’m here to tell you that a true 5 seconds is a friggin’ eternity.  I think it’s actually longer than the lifespan of a mayfly…but don’t quote me.

Staring at someone for 5 entire seconds, without breaking the gaze, is essentially telling them you have plans for them that night that include them ending up in small pieces scattered in your rose garden.  If a guy held eye contact with me for 5 whole seconds, the creepiness factor would be so high he would’ve killed any chance of further flirting.  And when I say “killed…”

I suppose it’s one thing if you’re in a dark bar where there are tons of singles looking for a romantic connection.  But, when I imagine this happening in daylight, in line at the prepared foods section at Whole Foods, …it kinda makes me want to have a bag boy walk me to my car… just in case.

Before reading this book, I’d already adopted my own version of this idea, which is just to make eye contact with a cute guy and hold it just ever so slightly longer than I’m really comfortable with – just to let him know that it’s not an accident.  Then I smile and go back to what I was doing.  My method works.  Well…it WILL work… someday.

Hmmm…

– Don’t ever pay

“Masculine energy,” huh?  I thought it gave off the “I’m a secure non-gold-digging woman energy.”  Guess I was wrong.

I agree with the idea that the guy should pay.  Maybe it’s being blindly traditional, but I just think it sets a tone of respect and him acknowledging that you/I are worthy of being taken care of.  It’s sweet.

But – I always sincerely offer to help out when the bill comes.  I think this comes, in part, from talking with so many men whose number one complaint is about finding women online who are looking for a wealthy guy to help them out of debt and into a life of opulence.

I don’t want him to think I NEED him to pay.  So, by offering to pay and then (hopefully), him insisting to, it shows HIM that I’m able to and not a gold-digger, and it shows ME that he is a gentleman.  Win-win.

And I’m not even gonna TOUCH that hunter/gatherer bit… c’mon now, Patti…

– Don’t talk about funny dating stories

Really??  You’re gonna take that away from me?  That’s my JAM!

In this age of internet dating, there’s such a rich collection of conversation material, that I actually think this makes a great topic for a first date.  Look, you’re already both a little nervous…what’s the best cure for that?  Laughter!  And if you met online, chances are that you each have stories of either dates gone wrong or bizarre profiles you’ve run across, and sharing those does a few things:

–       it provides levity,

–       as you’re talking about your experiences, it gives your dates small clues/snippets as to the kind of person you are based on the kinds of things you like/don’t like from online dating

–       it breeds familiarity by leveling the playing field a bit.

I have talked about the online dating scene with all of my dates.  It’s an easy go-to topic that’s a shared interest and is entertaining…I think those conversational benefits outweigh the slight possibility that my dating life will intimidate him.  I mean…hello – we’re both obviously on the dating scene – that’s how we FOUND each other.

I could pick apart different parts of the book as well, but who has the time?  What with writing my OWN treatise…

I suppose all I need to do now is sit back and wait for some snotty blogger to pick IT apart.  It’s the circle of authorship.  I’m glad to be a part of it.