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God’s Not Dead: Thoughts on Christianity and Romance

The other day, my Bible study group and I went to see God’s Not Dead.

I enjoyed that the movie was one that made me think. If I have to sit and stare at a screen for longer than 5 minutes, it has to keep my mind engaged. This movie did that, and I enjoyed it.

I’d have to watch the movie a few more times in order to be able to comment on the arguments for and against the existence of God. I might need to take notes or something — which is hard to do in a theater, so we won’t get into those arguments.

There is another interesting elements of the movie that I’d like to comment on — you know, the softer, less logical, more emotional part. Those things are (sometimes) easier to understand….

Aside from the main theme of the movie (God’s not dead), the other blaring theme is that of relationships.

Here is a brief synopsis of the relationships in this film:

Reverend Dave and Reverend Jude: According to this movie, if you’re a white, single male pastor, it’s appropriate for you to be close friends, go on vacation and do ministry with a single black male missionary. This relationship was intact at the end of the movie.

Ayisha and her father: Ayisha’s father is a strict Muslim, who puts Ayisha on the streets when he discovers that she has a relationship with Jesus. This is a tragic cultural and spiritual issue, but I’m not sure why it’s part of the plot. It has nothing to do with the main premise of the movie (God’s not dead), and the only thing it proves is that if your family is Muslim and you are a Christian, you will lose everything if they find out.

Willie and Korie Robertson: There isn’t really anything interesting to say about this. This is the only romantic relationship that is intact at the end of the movie.

Josh and Kara: They’ve been together for 6 years, but as soon as Josh does something that Kara doesn’t agree with, she dumps him. How is it possible that they lasted 6 years without having any disagreements? This doesn’t make any sense to me because as one gets older, he/she (should) be growing in maturity, not the other way around. Kara makes a hasty exit about 1/3 of the way through the movie. Josh is left to fight his battles alone. This is (unfortunately) realistic, but very dissatisfying. Josh finds inspiration in his relationship with Reverend Dave and this relationship is intact at the end of the movie.

Amy and the Jerk: They are a non-spiritual, career-oritented couple. And as soon as he finds out that she has cancer, he dumps her. Amy’s cancer diagnosis and new single status lead her to realize (when questioned by the dcTalk dude who is now a Newsboys dude) that she has no hope.

Professor Radisson and Mina: As soon as Mina starts to stand up for herself (and her faith), the relationship implodes. Mina seeks comfort from Reverend Dave.

If you think about this movie from a relational standpoint, you will find that romantic relationships are incompatible with belief in God, unless you are a Robertson, in which case, your redneck awesomeness trumps your belief in God (at least in the romance department) and your marriage is impenetrable. Oh, if we could all be part of the Robertson clan….

As far as platonic relationships go, apparently only single white pastors get to have them. They get to (attempt to) go on vacation with their buddies. They text it up with young male college students. They counsel beautiful (but broken) women. They get to do relationship with all kinds of different people, and in the end, they pray with dying ex-athiest professors and they live happily ever after, knowing they’ve made a difference. But…. they are still (sadly) romantically unattached.

(On another note, Josh develops a friendship at the very end of the movie with the Chinese student from his class. So perhaps they are saying the only appropriate relationships between men are either with clergy or with someone from another culture?)

At any rate, the way relationships are portrayed in this movie is disturbing to me because I’ve noticed a strange trend in most of the Christian circles I’ve been part of, where romance just doesn’t happen. Let me describe briefly what I’ve noticed:

I went to a church for a while where there weren’t very many single men, but the few single men who were there made it clear that they were not “available.” I’m not sure what the reasons for this were — they were so “unavailable” that they wouldn’t even talk to me. And it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part.

I had a situation in this particular church where someone saw me speaking with a single young man twice after church. She asked a mutual male friend to tell this young man to stop talking to me because I “wasn’t ready for a relationship.”

I went to a church where the pastor made it his business who my friends were. His rule was that people who were involved in ministry (me) weren’t allowed to have friends of the opposite gender, unless all parties were involved in ministry, and then it was only appropriate if one or both of the people were married. Two single people were not allowed to spend time together unless it was chaperoned. There were specific rules stating that people involved in ministry were not allowed to date each other, but they also weren’t allowed to talk to anyone who wasn’t involved in ministry, except for very short, very generic conversations. So basically, there was no interaction between single people. Consequently, there were no sweet little romances going on at that church.

I had a group of friends who decided that I was “boy crazy” (and this was a problem) because I spoke with a male friend from church on the phone twice and mentioned it to them once. Shortly after talking with these friends, the male friend in question took me to Perkins to tell me that he wasn’t interested in me. Um? Ok? Did I say I thought you were? Can’t we be friends? I like having friends…. No? Well, this is awkward….

On a happier note, I got a free meal out of the deal. And I haven’t had a conversation with the person in question since.

His loss.

I had a male friend during that time that I only got to see or talk to when I was around the girls who accused me of being “boy crazy.” He told me I was hot once. And my entire life imploded. Literally. The girls in question just couldn’t handle it. Including myself. It was a lose-lose situation for me. If I had responded to it, I would have lost my entire life outside of him. I knew that, so I chose to not respond to it. It turned out that I lost it all anyway, because my “friends” couldn’t deal with the idea that my friend found me attractive.

My experience has been that in Christian circles, relationships between single men and single women are not encouraged because it could lead to romance and romance is not compatible with Christian belief.

I’d like to point out that God invented romance, and He said (back in the book of Genesis) that everything He invented is good. When did this change? And how? And why? And how do we get back to the idea that it is good?

Because….. I want to love God. But I want to love a husband and children and friends (of both genders) too. And I think that is the way God wants it to be.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Current Events

 

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He (was) A Jolly Good Fellow

My car and I have a special relationship.

At least we did. Until about the 21st of December.

My car has had his share of insults. Everything from other cars bumping into him to snide remarks about how he’s not going to get me from Point A to Point B, especially if Point B is further than across town.

But I believe in him.

There was the time the basketball coach from the local college (in Minnesota) drove into my car while he (my car) was parked on the side of the road. (Yes, this really happened. And yes, said coach’s insurance paid LOTS of money to repair the damage.)

And then there was the time two years later when my car was parked in the exact same spot (you’d think I would have learned….) and somebody hit the same part of the car as the coach did. And then they had the audacity to leave. Without telling me or anybody else what had happened.

(No. It wasn’t a narrow road. It just happened to be the road from the bars to the college.)

Someone once told me they didn’t think my car would last much longer. This was after the coach (and the other guy) hit it, but before the car made the acquaintance of the hay bale near Webster SD. And it was right after I made the last loan payment. I said I bet he would last me 5 more years.

It’s been 4 years and 11 months.

This particular car seems to work a lot like a Hollywood-ized romance.

Whenever somebody would say anything negative about the car, I would come to his defense. Or if anything went wrong, I would pray. And anoint him with oil — about a quart, every time I drove more than 300 miles at high speed. After I figured out that oil was important (and I should like…. check it…. sometimes), he and I got along very, very well. We were equally faithful to one another.

I admit sometimes I was a little late on oil changes and sometimes the tires may have been a little low (and I never gave him a bath), but he knew my heart was in the right place. And he was faithful. Especially when I prayed for him. (And anointed him with a quart of oil.)

Since I got my faithful little car almost 12 years ago, aside from oil changes, the only maintenance I’ve had to do was two new sets of tires and two new batteries.

Until two weeks ago.

It all started several weeks ago when I saw an ad for a used car that someone just wanted to get rid of. I looked on it with lust. It was being sold for roughly 2/3 of it’s value. It was newer. Aesthetically, it had a lot more going for it than my little buddy (who acquired several scratches and paint chips and a rather awkward-looking gash on the side while making the acquaintance of the hay bale in Webster), so I was intrigued.

My lustful thoughts must have hurt my car’s feelings. Because several weeks later, after taking him in for an oil change, the guy who delivered the car back to me asked if I was aware that the heat didn’t work.

I knew it took a little longer to heat than most cars, but it did heat.

I defended my car vociferously.

But the damage to his fragile ego had already been done.

The heater had given up the ghost, which I discovered on a very cold evening while driving to a town nearby to visit a friend. I was reminded again the next day when I went back to said town on a whim, to visit said friend, teeth chattering the whole way.

Oh, why did I not have the common sense to bring a blanket?

I realized later that I had at least 3 blankets in my car the whole time.

Oh, why did I not have the common sense to use said blankets??

I drove around without heat for a week before the mechanic had a chance to fix it. And $357 later, he was as good as new. The trip to the aforementioned “nearby town” that night was as cozy as if I’d been sitting in front of a fire, wrapped in a snuggie and drinking a big ol’ mug of cocoa.

We spent the next 8 days in comparative bliss. Even on the coldest of days, my car produced enough heat to (perhaps) warm a can of soup. Or at least, enough heat to thaw my fingers and toes, provided that my trip lasted longer than 15 minutes. Which, none of them do. (My owner’s manual says you only have to let the car run for 10 seconds before driving, even on the coldest days. I’m a rule follower. And with the price of gas these days, and the woeful state of my hourly wage, warming one’s car up is something for people of a significantly higher tax bracket and social status than I am. Even when it’s -20*F outside.)

A few days ago, the weather took a turn for the worse. We’re talking literal -20* with wind chills in the -40s. Long johns and three pairs of socks don’t cut the mustard. Exposed skin freezes instantly. And skin that is covered with only a couple of layers freezes within minutes. My fingers and toes (and nose) have been protesting obstreperously.

My car’s protest has been decidedly less obstreperous than that of my fingers and toes. Less obstreperous to the point of sluggishness. I turn the key, it makes a small effort, putt-putts for as long as I keep trying to start it and it dies as soon as I let go of the key.

Run little car. Run. Please?

I’ve checked all the fluids. The battery is working like a boss. I’ve given a dose of generic Heet (because I couldn’t find the real thing) and…. nothing. I don’t know what else to do.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Current Events

 

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Serendipitous Me

Today is the first day of Week 8 in my Quest to Make the Acquaintance of My Inner Skinny Girl. You know — the one that’s been hiding under several (hundred) layers of Stress and Rejection and Pain and Lies Religious People have Told Me (that I was stupid enough to believe) and Self-Loathing.

You know — that illusive creature who once in a great while might peek out to see what’s going on, but the second anybody says or does anything that feels even remotely prickly or pokey or potentially harmful, she scurries back into hiding. It’s safer there.

Sort of. It might feel safer on some levels. If you’re hiding, you don’t have to risk experiencing emotional pain. Or so you might think. There’s always the chance that some hateful soul will watch you walking down the street and holler about how you need to go on a diet.

It’s been 7 full weeks since I first set out to find the elusive Skinny Girl. It’s been such a great experience! I’ve learned a lot. I’ve lost a lot of weight. Twenty pounds, to be exact. I feel so much better — on so many levels.

I’m a studious girl, so I want to share some of the things I’ve learned since the last time I posted on the topic of Things I’ve Learned.

I’ve learned that there are a couple weeks during a month that a girl should avoid weighing herself — unless her goal is to gain weight, in which case she would avoid weighing during the weeks that people like me enjoy weighing. During my most recent Don’t Weigh Week, I had been so busy (which equals doing a lot more walking than normal) and had been so careful about what I ate. I was really excited to step on the scale because I anticipated that I’d lose a decent amount that week. I stepped on the scale and much to my astonishment, I had gained 3 pounds. Three pounds. I think I actually cried.

After sopping up the tears, I was determined. Determined that I didn’t care that much anyway and life goes on. The next week I sat in my chair a lot. I had a lot of stuff I needed to get done that didn’t involve exercise, and I was sort of in survival mode. I ate what was in front of me. I counted calories, but I didn’t make too much effort in trying to keep my calorie consumption as low as normal.

And the next week, I lost the three pounds plus a couple more. It was a little bewildering.

Maybe I wasn’t eating enough the week before. Or it might be related to fluids. But what I learned is that one should never give up, simply because one week doesn’t go well. The next week could very well make up for it.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to eat full portions. I went to Subway the other day and I wanted more than just a sandwich, so I got a sandwich and some sun chips. Sun chips are a middle-of-the-road choice, calorie-wise. I didn’t want to eat that many calories at the same time, so I ate half of the chips. I was satisfied. I ate the other half for a snack later. I found that eating a small serving of sun chips after work filled me up enough that I didn’t need to eat so much for supper. Apparently, what they say about eating more frequent, smaller meals is true. Who knew?

Finally, I’ve learned that sometimes, a girl should just kick back and eat pizza and cake and ice cream (in moderation, of course) when the opportunity arises. It’s ok. You won’t die and, if you enjoy them in moderation, it won’t negatively affect your weight-loss goals. You gotta live sometime, and it might as well be today, right?

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Current Events

 

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There’s Always Room for Ice Cream….

I was pretty busy today and didn’t get much eating time in. It got to be 8:00 pm and I still had 300 calories to spare, so I thought I’d go to Dairy Queen and get a blizzard. After much (meticulous) research, I came to the conclusion that the Mint M&M blizzard has the fewest calories (of the flavors I could find info on), and since I love chocolate and mint and ice cream and basically everything about Mint M&M blizzards, I thought I’d have one.

A mini one. Because a blizzard’s a blizzard, even if it’s a baby one.

Several years ago, a friend of mine would ask me and our mutual friends if we wanted to go out for ice cream, and if someone said they “weren’t hungry,” he would say, “But there’s always room for ice cream! It melts and fills in all the gaps in your stomach.”

I used to live by that rule. No matter how full I was, I could eat ice cream. Lots of it. And I got rather um…. chubby…. in the process. Actually, most of my flab can be attributed to ice cream, which is really strange considering that I’m not really that fond of ice cream in the first place.

But then, 42 days ago, I decided that I was over that. I decided that winning the weight-loss challenge at work meant more to me than food did. And wellness in general meant more to me than food did. And as the days passed, I gradually began to conclude that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I’m far from being “skinny,” but when you can shop in the regular size clothing (rather than plus size), it gives you a little thrill, which I imagine is something like what “skinny” feels like.

Forty-two days into the process, I have discovered that “there’s always room for ice cream” isn’t completely true. There’s always room for ice cream if you want to have room for ice cream.

At some point in the past 42 days, I changed my mind. I no longer want to have room for ice cream — because nothing tastes as good as “skinny” feels. I can have it sometimes, and that’s fine. But as I was sitting there eating my baby-sized cup of minty goodness, I discovered at about the half-way mark that I was full.

Full.

Who knew?

There isn’t always room for ice cream.

I discovered, much to my astonishment, that it’s possible to train yourself to have a “full” line. And feeling full after an itty-bitty serving of ice cream (in comparison to what I used to eat!) feels…. amazing.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Lessons From The Past 24 Days

I’m attempting to make the acquaintance of my Inner Skinny Girl.

I know she’s in there somewhere, buried beneath several (hundred) layers of pain and confusion and rejection and depression and anxiety and all the other reasons that I tend to eat more than is necessary or good for me.

The day after Labor Day, my employer started a weight-loss challenge. The winner will get a big chunk of change and 8 hours of PTO. I joined up because I like a challenge.

And because a big chunk of change sounds fabulous.

And 8 hours PTO? Whoa! I could take a vacay!

But mostly, I joined because its a 90-day challenge, and the longer you stick with a new habit, the better your chances of having it “stick” once you’re not obligated to it anymore. In the past, the longest I’ve ever stuck with a healthy eating plan was 45 days. I’m doubling it this time. And immediately after that, I’m planning on tripling it.

My action plan was to cut out high-calorie sweets and fried foods, drink lots of water, exercise for 20 minutes at least twice a week and keep my calorie intake under 1400/day. (Most days it’s been more like 1200-1300.)

I’d like to increase exercise, but reality is that I’m a busy person and so far, it hasn’t been possible.

The first 3 days were tortuous. I was hungry and crabby all the time. I cried at the drop of a hat. Before, I would have eaten and felt better. I told myself, “this, too, shall pass.” Just keep swimming, in the words of Dorie, my favorite little blue fish.

And it did pass. I learned that I had been using food to protect me from my emotions. I didn’t want to cry. So I ate. I didn’t want to feel. So I ate. I didn’t like my life. So I ate.

I’m learning that emotion and feeling things isn’t actually that bad. It helps you relate to the world. It’s awkward at times. Sometimes it’s confusing. But it’s a good thing. And when you can’t eat to make yourself feel better, you’re more likely to try to change what you don’t like about your life. It’s really very exciting.

When you limit your food intake, you have to learn to choose. I used to take one of everything. Not anymore. I look at the calorie content. How likely is this food to keep me from getting hungry before its time to have a snack? Is this food really worth it? And, if I take a bite of something and I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. Because if I only get 1300(ish) calories a day, why would I waste them on stuff I don’t like?!?

I’ve learned that when you don’t stuff yourself with food all the time, everything tastes a hundred times better.

I’ve learned that just because food is there, that doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

I’ve learned that its possible to go to parties and to eat out without going overboard on calories. It’s a little more difficult at Olive Garden, but it’s doable.

I’ve learned to enjoy the beauty of cool early morning walks. I wish I could do it every single day. But sometimes I have to work at 5:00 am. Literally. Aw, well. I’m thinking of using my 15 minute breaks at work to walk each day. That’s a good alternative.

I’ve learned that sugar isn’t as good as I thought it was. After the initial 3 days of torture while I was adjusting to no sugar, I decided that if I hadn’t consumed 1200 calories by 7 pm each day, I could have one cookie or other desserty dish, as long as it was 100 calories or less. The first time I had a cookie, I took a nibble and said, “this is nasty! Why did I ever like this stuff?!?” And then I ate a cucumber. Because cucumbers are awesome. Watermelon is also amazing for those times when you just want something sweet. It’s a great source of hydration too, so as long as you eat it in moderation, you can’t go wrong with watermelon.

I’ve learned to love Edy’s Outshine fruit bars. They have only 70 calories and aren’t as sweet as baked goods, so it takes care of sugar cravings, but you don’t go overboard on them. (As long as you only eat one!)

I’ve also learned that even though Edy’s fruit bars are kind of spendy, I can get a two-week supply for the price of 2 Dairy Queen treats. Who knew that eating sensibly (calorie-wise) was also sensible for the checkbook?

I used to tell myself that I couldn’t afford to eat healthy foods. I’ve learned that the only reason this was true was because I spent so much money on junk (fast food) that I felt like I was broke all the time. Not anymore.

The best part is that in 24 days, I’ve lost 13.4 pounds! I’m so excited to see what happens in the next 24 days!

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Current Events

 

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The Best Feeling in the World

The best feeling in the world is knowing that people actually like you.

People have told me in the past that I should not be concerned about having friends or getting people to like me. They said that if I can make peace with the fact that God loves me, then people will like me more. They also told me that I didn’t need friends because God was supposed to be enough.

Then they would plan parties and invite everybody but me.

So, God is supposed to be enough for me, but you get to have oodles of friends. Makes sense.

Not.

I tried to explain to them that in order for me to feel like God liked me, I needed to know that His people liked me too. Because His people are supposed to be an expression of Him, and if His people don’t like me, then how the heck would I ever get the idea that HE liked me? If His people don’t like me, then there’s a pretty good chance He doesn’t like me either — because He’s supposed to be making people like Him right? And if He’s not causing them like me, then He must not like me either.

Or else they’re just being hypocrites with their sermons on how I need to know God loves me and be happy with that when they themselves are free to find love and acceptance in whatever and whomever they please.

I did get to a spot where I felt the Lord’s deep, unending, compassionate love. It was truly amazing. It is thrilling and beautiful. It revolutionized my life.

The problem was that it proved the claims of those people to be completely false. The more I felt adored by God, the more people resented me. I felt confident. People resented that. I was motivated to share His love. People resented that. I felt compelled to share in the suffering of His precious ones who were experiencing hardship. People resented that too.

The more love I felt from God, the more rejected and dejected I became.

I think it’s safe to say that the hypothesis that in order to receive human love, one must first receive the love of God is bogus — or at least completely backwards.

My Grandma makes me feel cherished. I saw her this past weekend, and it was lovely. Between several games of
Skipbo and hours of dishes and chores and just chatting, my love bucket slowly got filled.

I came home this afternoon and saw a few friends. They added drop after drop after drop to my love bucket. Laughs and jokes and great food and celebration and just being together — it all equals love.

And I realized that people actually like me!

At the end of the day, I drove home thinking about how I knew God loves me, and I felt compelled to worship. I knew God loves me because His people had shown me. When they took the time to be Jesus to me, that was when I was convinced again (because I’d given up after experiencing the cruelty of some who claimed to be Christians) that He really does adore me.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Dear Diary

At dinner tonight, my grandma told me that back in the day, when she went on trips, she would keep a diary of what went on throughout the day.

So, here is my diary for today:

Dear Diary,
Today I learned what a spade is.

The kind of spade that you use for digging.

I also learned exactly what “spading” entails.

In the process of learning about spades and spading, I made the acquaintance of several large worms and one enormous beetle. I also sentenced several weeds to their deaths.

After all of that, I learned that gumbo is not easily removed from spades, and since my Gramps wouldn’t dream of putting anything away dirty, I got in there with my hands and cleaned the spade up before putting it away. It sparkled like a diamond when I was done.

That one was for you, Gramps. I hope my nails don’t get all cracked and brittle and I hope it won’t completely ruin my cuticles.

100_1282
On another note, the photo above details exactly what my love life is like. I spend a fair amount of time dreaming of Prince Charming. Meanwhile, if Prince Charming even realizes I exist, he’s got his nose pointed the other direction. Ok, so maybe he isn’t really that supercilious (hopefully not!), but this is what it feels like sometimes. Or maybe the problem is more that I believe that people should turn their noses up at me, so when they are indifferent, my brain says, “See? You’re right. You really aren’t good enough. You can dream all you want, but in the end, your life will consist of man after man turning his nose up and walking away.”

That is all. Ta-ta.

PS The photo is courtesy of me, taken by me, at my grandma’s house. She has a shelf full of these lovely “Kid” figurines. I think they are absolutely adorable.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Current Events

 

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