Being Intentional

Today was the first time I have ever totally disagreed with a Blimey Cow video.  Honestly it was a bitter realization, because their videos oftentimes help me understand different viewpoints.  However, though I understand that the Blimey Cow crew covered the topic of being intentional in their usual sarcastic/satirical way, I feel that they completely skewed the true meaning of dating with intention, turning it into something that the world openly mocks Christians for:  participating in courtships.

Like many other Christians, I tuned in to TLC to watch 19 Kids and Counting before the scandal happened last year.  Though I admired the Duggars’ exhibitions of faith throughout the series, I always had mixed feelings about their practice of courting.  Initially, I admired the concept, due to its similarity to the dating style in Jane Austen’s novels.  There’s something sweet about only dating someone if you like them well enough to marry them; well, unless you’re taking  Mr. Collins’s approach of marrying anyone off the street.  Conversely, the concept is also borderline crazy, in the case that one has not taken the time to actually get to know the person they wish to court before initiating the courtship.  This is where I feel that Blimey Cow went wrong today, mistaking the act of courting for the act of being intentional.

When it comes to dating, being intentional doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to commit to marrying every person you go on a date with.  Actually, it’s quite the opposite.  Being intentional consists of approaching the entire realm of dating while asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I mature enough to take dating seriously?
  • Why do I want a significant other in the first place?
  • Am I dating just because everyone else is doing it/expecting me to, or am I doing it for myself?
  • Does the person I want to date love Jesus as much as I do?
  • Am I seeking to honor God with this relationship?
  • Do I actually like the person I want to date, or are they just a convenient, go-to “prospect”?
  • Could I potentially fall in love with this person, or am I acting on feelings of lust?

You see, dating with intention doesn’t focus on marrying yourself off on the first date.  Instead, it’s intended purpose is to get you to think through your actions in order to sort out your feelings.  If you ask yourself the aforementioned questions and find that the only reason you like someone is because they’re attractive, then that’s a sure-fire sign that you are not thinking of the long-term effects that dating this person could have.  So what if the guy’s hot?  Will he be hot ten years from now when he’s jacked back in a recliner, beer can in hand, watching a game at an obnoxiously loud volume and refusing to go to church with you?  I rest my case.

I totally agree that thinking about marriage on the first date is extreme.  However, thinking of the long-term effects of continually dating someone could save you, and them, loads of heartache.  For example, if a guy who you know you don’t like or have anything in common with asks you out, it is perfectly fine to decline his offer.  In my opinion, being rejected before a relationship begins is easier to handle than being rejected after dating the person for an extended period of time, only to find out that the person you were dating hated your guts.  Basically, what I’m trying to say is that by approaching dating with intention, you are protecting your heart.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
-Proverbs 4:23

Most importantly, being intentional means that you are not only focusing on what you want out of a relationship, but how it will affect your relationship with God.  I can go ahead and tell you that if you have no intention of honoring God with your relationship, then that relationship is going to be pretty hard to bless.  Guard your heart from what you know won’t work, wait patiently, and when the time is right, God will show you what He intends for you to do.

Here’s an alternative video that describes being intentional correctly:

Boys, Boys, Boys by Jamie Grace

Goodnight, and God bless!

-Allyson

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When You Don’t Know What To Do…

Imagine working to fulfill the biggest dream you have for yourself.  You may be thinking about obtaining a Master’s degree, becoming a famous musician, or even starting a family.  You work daily to achieve this goal, learning the ins and outs of how to put your game plan into action.  Putting your blood, sweat, tears, and heart into this goal, you drive yourself bonkers trying to do it all yourself, though you continue to press on.  Finally, you’re at a point where you’re so close that you can taste the sweet satisfaction of a job well done…

…until…

Something happens where you have to drop out of school.  You may be struggling to find a label that will support you, or even acknowledge your ability.  You may have a hard time finding someone to marry, or may be suffering from miscarriages.  Your dreams are fizzling out right in front of you!  You’ve worked yourself crazy over this goal, just for it to end up as an Almost.

So where do you go from here?

Well first things first, Sherlock.  Let’s start with the root of the problem.  Think back to the day that you conspired to put this dream into action.  In every circumstance, no matter the size of the dream, no matter your age, no matter your status in the community, there is always one key step involved in obtaining a dream: Prayer.

Step 1: Pray it out

Yes, it really is as simple as that.  As soon as it has crossed your mind to put your plan into action, immediately face God with the situation on your heart.  Tell God what you’re feeling, how much you want the dream to be achieved.  Submit your request to God.

Step 2: Seek God’s will

After you have spilled the desires of your heart to God, ask Him to have His will in the situation.  See, when you were trying to solve the problem on your own, you were practicing complacency (self-satisfaction).  Complacency, though admired by today’s society, is not something God wants from us.  1 Corinthians 10:12 states the concept well, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” In other words, you may think that you’ve got it all figured out in your game plan for the dream at hand, but your plans are liable to knock your feet right out from under you at any given time.  Furthermore, Romans 12:2 emphasizes the importance of seeking God’s will, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”.  The key thing to remember here is to vanquish your mind of complacent thoughts.  No matter how hard you try, if it isn’t in God’s plan for your life, you can’t make it happen.  Instead of trying to solve the problem on your own, be open minded to what God has in store for you.

Step 3:  Wait patiently

Here comes the most testing portion of the process: waiting on God.  The waiting period can go in two drastically different directions depending on how you approach it.  If you continually put faith in God and His plan, then you’ll become satisfied in the here and now.  The burden of the dream at hand will feel lighter, knowing that God is carrying it on His shoulders.  This isn’t the same as complacency, for you are allowing God to work His plan into action instead of your own.  On the other hand, the waiting period could seem like a never-ending cycle of endless prayers if you become a selfish prayer warrior.  Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with continually praying about the situation; God actually calls us to do that in Romans 12:12, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer”.  By selfish prayer warrior, I mean don’t become that person who gives God the ultimatum of “give me what I want when I want it, or don’t give me anything at all.”  I did that once, and it was not pretty.  Honestly, it was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, period.  God has planned each and every one of our lives from beginning to end, whereas we don’t even know if we’ll still be alive tomorrow.  Therefore, let Him show you His plan.  Besides, even if you were doing it on your own, you’d still be waiting anyway.  Might as well let the Master of all things take the wheel.

 

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

 

“[Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you!” -1 Peter 5:7

 

Good day, and God bless!

-Allyson

 

 

The Single Christian’s V-Day Playlist

Introduction:  Being a single Christian is nerve-wracking at times, especially during couple-centered holidays like the one being celebrated this weekend.  However, let not your hearts be troubled; below is a compiled list of songs just for you guys!  I hope these songs help you as much as they have aided me in overcoming the longevity of the single season.

Wait patiently…

Just a Friend” by Jamie Grace: Admittedly, this is my #1 single girl jam.  I blast this song whenever I’m thinking of a guy I like to remind me that God’s got this all figured out. Because even when that guy actually does see you as just a friend, or just an acquaintance, or not at all (yeah…), God sees you as His creation, and like Jamie Grace says, He sees what you don’t.  So who knows?  That guy could be a Wickham, or a Darcy, or a Knightley in shining armor… but trust God to reveal the outcome to you.  Just be a friend until God says it’s go time.

Tell Me” by He is We:  Whenever I’m feeling doubtful about ever finding love, I turn to this lovely little tune by one of my favorite bands.  “Tell Me” focuses on praying for your future spouse, which is 100% necessary if marriage to a godly person is a desire of your heart.  Prayer and keeping faith in God’s plan for your life are the only ways to survive the dark alleyways (i.e. loneliness) of the single season.  Just trust Him; God’s got your back.

The Waiting” by Jamie Grace:  When you’re trying your darnedest to wait patiently for something you really desire, the struggle is real.  But, when we’re waiting on God and putting faith in His infallible timing, faith keeps us on track.  Remember, you’re not alone in this.  You’re not the first, nor the last, to be kept waiting for love.  Keep holding God’s hand and be patient, because His love will never leave you.

Love is Waiting” by Brooke Fraser: “Musing lazily on love… pondering you.” Seriously, like every single (no pun intended) day of my life.  Ha, but that’s not the point of this song.  “Love is waiting ’til we’re ready, ’til it’s right”: that, right there ladies and gentlemen, is the point.  If you currently have no “prospects” (something my momma calls potential people who want to date you… yeah don’t ask…), you may feel as if you’re unlovable.  Been there, suffered through that.  But to be honest, it’s not because you’re “unlovable”; it’s because God finds you totally lovable, and He sees that you’re not ready to mingle with the right person yet.  So wait.  When God wants you to meet your Jedi Knight in Shining Nerdom (or whatever else you prefer to call them), He’ll place them in your path.  No need to rush love, my friends.

White Boots” by Jamie Grace:  Okay, so here we have a third mention for Jamie Grace, but only because she’s the reigning queen of CCM single season songs.  “White Boots” is about purity.  Sometimes when people hear the word purity, they automatically think of the physical aspect of the word, when in reality purity spans beyond remaining abstinent until marriage.  Staying pure also relies on keeping our minds free of toxic thoughts that would get between our relationship with our Truest Love:  Jesus Christ.  So watch what you think and watch what you do, because He’s always watching you!

Every Little Thing” by Hawk Nelson:  I knew I was going to be in love with this song from the moment the first verse ended, mainly due to the fact that it reminds me of Landon and Jamie’s story in A Walk to Remember.  Imagine someone being head-over-heels in love with you mainly due to your love for Jesus.  Then, imagine falling in love with that person for the same reason.  You see, worldly relationships are between two flawed people, and that’s why America has a divorce rate of 50%.  Godly relationships are between three:  husband, wife, and Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the glue that holds marriages together, not the piece of paper that proclaims your marital status.  So say goodbye to the brokenhearted, because if you keep Jesus in your heart, every little thing will fall into place.

Keeping Me Guessing” by Francesca Battistelli: That’s the thing about our Lord, He keeps us guessing.  Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised, but I’m going to be completely honest here, it’s frustrating not knowing what’s going to happen.  There’s always that nagging thought at the back of my mind, “will I be single forever?” I used to let the frustration fuel my hate fire for being stuck in the single season, but that only made me develop a cynical attitude towards the idea of finding love.  Only when I realized that God is omnipotent and all-knowing, and that little ol’ me has no control over what or who the future may bring, did the frustration subside.  And who knows, some of us may end up being single forever.  However, that doesn’t constitute our worth, especially to God.  Remember this:   “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord” -1 Corinthians 7:32.  No matter if you ever find love on earth, our God will always hold a special place for you in His heart.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

 

…even when you just want to cry and stuff your face with five pints of Ben & Jerry’s…

Be My Escape” by Relient K: I could fangirl about this song, but I’ve already explained why it’s one of my favorites (and the inspiration for this blog) in and earlier post.  Instead, I’m going to recommend it as a song for those times when you’re traveling down the dark alleys of loneliness.  I lived in those alleys for a couple of years, and it was one the lowest points of my life.  Because I tried and failed to fix the “problem” of singleness on my own, I fell into a rut of sorts, thinking that change was impossible.  Hearing this song for the first time helped me see that only Jesus can be my escape from loneliness, not a change in my relationship status.

Take Me” by Hawk Nelson:  When you’re in the process of having a good old cry-fest, this song will work wonders for your outlook.  Psalm 57:1 says: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” This song emphasizes this verse in a beautifully healing manner, and I highly recommend it whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed about anything.

More Than Useless” by Relient K:  You’re single, not useless.  Don’t let society’s expectations of relationships constitute how you feel about yourself.  You are more than a relationship status. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, a work of art formed by God Himself!  God makes no mistakes, and you my dear are certainly not a flaw in His system; society’s expectations are where the errors lie.

Faithful” by Brooke Fraser:  Praying, at times, can feel like a one-sided conversation, especially when you’re praying for love.  When you have no “prospects”, it may seem like God is ignoring your request.  The truth of the matter is that either He’s preparing you for the answer to your prayers, or He is trying to get you to realize that it is not in His plan for you.  Yes, the latter outcome is not what you want to hear, though it is exactly what you need.  Going back to the fact that we don’t know what our futures hold, why would your plan be better than God’s?  He created this world.  He created every one of us.  He knows everything; we know diddly squat compared to that.  So, why not have faith in His plan?

Ill With Want” by The Avett Brothers:  To many people, being single is thought of as an unwanted, almost plague-like condition that needs to be fixed in order to feel any amount of worth.  In this case, often times a greed for a relationship reformation settles in, a desperation for love of any kind, no matter how vile.  People become ill with want, developing an addiction to toxic relationships, causing the problem to grow deeper roots.  Like The Avett Brothers say in this song, “A need for something, now let me break it down again.  A need for something, but not more medicine,” quick-fixes won’t solve deep-rooted problems.  That “something” we need is a relationship with Jesus Christ, the only relationship that truly matters, and the only One that can heal our pain.

His Name” by He is We: Have you ever cried yourself to sleep over this whole singleness issue?  I used to, too.  Quite frankly, it feels like rock bottom.  Sounds loathsome, right? No one aspires to hit rock bottom.  But, it’s not always a bad thing.  Tony Evans said, “sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will discover that He is the Rock at the bottom”.  Boom… there it is.  Climb that Rock, seek the face of God.  Let not your heart be troubled, you’re safe in the palm of His hand.

because this single season may not last forever…

and waiting on God is totally worth it. 😀 ❤

Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts  | Worth It” by Francesca Battistelli | “Happily Ever After” by He is We

They may be out there, waiting for you, or they may not.  However, God is always out there, always waiting for you, no maybe about it.  You’re not alone, guys.  Never have been, never will be.

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” -Joshua 1:9

Goodnight, and God bless!

-Allyson

 

Bonus (Non-music) Videos:

Boys, Boys, Boys” and Mom, Can I Have a Crush?” by Jamie Grace: The importance of approaching love with intention, and waiting on God to get you there. Besides… what’s the point of being in a relationship if your intention is not to glorify God once you get what you’ve been praying for?

Pastors Versus Preachers

As Christians, we often use the words “Pastor” and “Preacher” interchangeably to describe ministers of the church.  To the naked eye, the titles are identical in meaning. However, after considering different ministers who have impacted my life, I have come to the conclusion that preachers are vastly different from pastors, and that we should be wary of their ministry.

I would like to note that I am not aiming to attack ministers who go by the title of Preacher; the title one chooses to go by does not affect the heart of their ministry.  What I am proposing is that there are many preachers who are truly pastors, and pastors who are truly preachers.

Kind of confusing, I know.  But here’s my reasoning:

When defined, a pastor is described as an “archaic word for shepherd“, according to dictionary.com.  Therefore, because the word “pastor” is a synonym for “shepherd”, true pastors perform the same duties as shepherds:  protecting God’s sheep through their ministry.

 “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
-Jeremiah 3:15

In contrast, a preacher is defined as, “a person whose occupation or function it is to preach the gospel,” (dictionary.com). Here, we find the subtle, yet immense difference between the two titles.  A preacher, by it’s definition, simply shares the gospel with others.  Unlike a pastor, a preacher’s description does not imply acting as a shepherd for God’s sheep, meaning the church.

What do I mean by shepherd?  The parable of the lost sheep explains it well.

“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”

-Luke 15:1-6

So, when I say “pastor”, I mean someone who is willing to go to great lengths to minister to the sheep within the church, and beyond. Simply put, a pastor, to me, is someone who puts the needs of others before their own in order to spread the love of God.  Kinda like WWJD:  What would Jesus (the Good Shepherd) do?

Now you may be thinking, “then why does that make preachers so bad?” Going back to the definition above, it’s a preacher’s occupation to spread the gospel.  While there is nothing wrong with spreading the gospel (I mean, we’re called to do that in Matthew 28:18-20), an occupation of speaking is drastically different from performing the acts that mirror the Good Shepherd.  Consider these words from Jesus about hirelings:

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
-John 10:11-16

Some ministers reference the entire Bible,

while some select only the sections they agree with.

Some ministers visit with every person in their congregation,

while others only make time for a select few.

Some ministers are involved in all church activities.

Many are not.

Some ministers preach that living in sin is futile, and that we should all (including themselves) accept Christ in order to be saved.

Many do not.

Some ministers forgive others, as Christ would do for them.

Many will not.

A pastor is a shepherd,

whereas a preacher is a motivational speaker.

Choose wisely.

Goodnight and God bless,

-Allyson

Combating Complacency

Jesus:  Be My Escape

Inspired by one of my favorite songs by Relient K, the purpose of this blog is to spread the Word of God, and to encourage others to seek a closer relationship with Christ.

“I’ve been housing all this doubt and insecurity
And I’ve been locked inside that house
All the while You hold the key”

-Relient K

 

Until last year, my life was accurately summed up by the above lyrics.  Though I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at age eight, I had never really sought a relationship with Him; I thought that it was something that would evolve naturally, something that I wouldn’t have to work at.  So I didn’t.  Sure, I said my goodnight prayer every night, and prayed before meals, but it was an equivalent to rambling off meaningless nursery rhymes.  My heart wasn’t in it.  Instead, it was locked inside that dark house-longing for love, popularity, friendship- which in turn encompassed me with insecurity and anxiety.

My breaking point came in the form of losing multiple friendships: switching churches, growing apart from friends after graduating high school, and a breakup.  All of this happened within a year, and though it surely isn’t the epitome of tragedy, I developed a cynical outlook on life.  Constantly feeling lonely, I turned to social media to feed my need for acceptance.  However, I never gained true friends nor another boyfriend through the string of friend requests I sent and received.  Oh, guys talked to me, but when they each lost interest in me within a matter of weeks, I took the blame upon myself.  And with the mindset of never being good enough weighing on my mind, I shut the curtains of that dark house, not wanting anyone to know how insecure I was.  Still, the door was still slightly ajar, never locked up completely.

 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

I don’t remember the first day I started praying with the intention of focusing my life on Christ.  From what I recall, my prayer life was somewhat haphazard; my reliance would waver based on the results of what I could accomplish on my own.  Eventually, after multiple disappointments, stubborn little me realized that I can’t rely on relationships with other people to make me happy.  More importantly, I learned that I can’t rely on worldly relationships to constitute my worth.  I couldn’t handle life on my own. Last year, as apart of my New Year’s resolution, I promised myself that I would work on my relationship with God.  I began reading my Bible for the first time in my life, meditating on what God’s Word instructs us to do, and made a habit of praying every night.  At first, my prayers were awkward; it was like naming off items on a grocery list.  Please help my family, my friends, on and on.  But, like developing other skills such as playing guitar or writing, over time I grew more comfortable expressing my thoughts to God.  Comfortable, but not complacent like I was before.

 

“I’m afraid that this complacency is something I can’t shake
I gotta get outta here
And I’m begging You, I’m begging You, I’m begging You to be my escape.”

-Relient K

 

The world teaches us that complacency is welcomed in today’s society.  Please believe me when I say that complacency is the dark house in which I lived in for so long.  Placing all of your burdens on yourself is the quickest, most effective way to run yourself into the ground.  Instead, seek the Lord, and cast all of your problems on Him.  I mean, He paid the price for it many years ago on a wooden cross.

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”-Psalm 55:22

Goodnight, and God bless.

-Allyson