Lessons from a suicidal cat

Earlier this week, I saw a kitten dart onto a very busy, heavily trafficked street.  I knew immediately that this was not going to end well.  (You have been warned.)

It’s commonly held that cats have nine lives.  I was convinced I was going to see one of hers vanish right before my eyes.  In fact, I was shocked the cat did not meet an instant, painful death.  Somehow, it barely avoided being struck by a truck and found its way underneath – momentarily safe.

The wind of the moving truck must have knocked it off balance and she began rolling end over end.   With the truck driving on and other traffic fast approaching, the feline was clearly off-balance and disoriented. As she got back on all fours – she darted one direction and then suddenly the other.   She moved with the erratic grace of a schizophrenic squirrel.  Clearly recognizing her life-threatening environment, she sprinted to the curb narrowly missing other vehicles and instinctively leaped over the nearby guard rail – presumably for safety.

lessons from a suicidal catAfter watching a heart wrenching eight seconds of Frogger, I was excited to see the little gal make it to safety.  Then, my heart dropped.   I realized the guard rail she leaped over was…

…on a bridge that led to a busy highway some fifty feet below.  #thiscatonlyhadonelife

I’ve had a few days to process this disturbing scene and came away with some thoughts that apply to our human experience:

Sometimes we make really poor decisions because we are lost, scared and unaware of their consequences.

As I look back at my life at some of the poor decisions I have made, the worst moments were often made when I was emotionally or spiritually scrambling.  Like the kitten, I was standing in the middle of oncoming relational traffic and simply trying to survive.   I moved right or left – not because they were the best places to go but simply because it avoided me getting run over from the particular truck I was facing at the moment.  In such a chaotic state, ones thinking is clouded and it’s almost impossible to know the impact of your decisions – especially on those who love and depend on you.  This cat was stuck in a physically lethal rut.  Many times, we find ourselves in emotional ones.

I’m not sure what enticed the cat to run into oncoming traffic.  Maybe it was a blind mouse?  Perhaps it was spooked by something else and that seemed like the best decision in the moment?   Sometimes it takes situations like these for clarity to kick in.  From that point on, this kitten found herself in over her head and doing her best to survive.  She wanted help but had no idea where to get it.   Can you relate?

You’ve seen this scenario before, maybe not with cats but people;

  • The homeless man begging for food.
  • The divorced Mom looking for love in all the wrong places.
  • The young professional who escapes to porn.
  • The alcoholic step-Dad with an anger issue.
  • The teenage girl who cuts herself.
  • The church leader who drinks more than he prays.

Regardless of age or gender, we see hurting people all the time just trying to survive their particular pain and their choice of survival seems counter-productive, if not self-destructive. Relationships and trust are damaged in these dangerous environments.

As I have surveyed the landscape of hurting people, I have noticed two things to be true.

One, we tend to judge those who sin differently than us.   It’s easy to condemn pornography when you struggle with gluttony.   It’s effortless to throw a moral stone at an adulterer when your darling sin is cursing.   As long as you find a vice in another that makes your vice look less menacing, you perpetuate a wrong attitude toward those who are just as sinful as you, just struggling with a different sin.

Last week, I was sitting in my buddy’s truck at a red light.  A few seconds later we heard a horrible crash outside my passenger window and saw three cars next to ours involved in a pile up at the light.  Instantly, I jumped out of his vehicle and ran over to the cars involved, two of which had their airbags deployed and clearly had drivers in need of medical attention. As I attended the scene as the first person on site, I didn’t ask who was responsible.  I didn’t try to figure out fault. That needed to come later from someone more qualified than myself.  My job was simply to help the hurting.

This brings me to my second point:

We seem to have more compassion for those in a physical mess and less sympathy for those in a moral one.  We naturally want to help a cute kitten in traffic.  They deserve to be rescued.  As for the home wreckers, they simply need to be hung.   When someone is in a car accident, we suspend judgment and rush to offer sympathies and aid.   We don’t find out who was responsible for the wreck and determine their treatment based on that.  But when the “wreck” is entirely moral or relational in nature, we will often let the instigator rot in their emotional collision.  Why is that?  Why are we quick to help those in physical pain but gossip, slander and withhold our assistance from those writhing in moral pain?

To be clear, I’m not trying to defend the decisions of those who make poor moral choices.  I’m merely suggesting that those of us who have fallen morally have done so because we were lost, scared, and in our own pain and unaware of the inevitable consequences – as obvious as they may be.  Perhaps it is because we cannot understand their sin therefore it’s easier to judge it?

And this leads me to the second lesson of the fallen cat:

Oftentimes, all we need is someone (on the outside) willing to help us find our way home.

The cat, almost immediately, needed help.   She knew she was in trouble.  She knew she needed assistance.  If only she had someone on the outside in a position to help her, she would still be with us today.   Most anyone would “jump in” to help a struggling kitten but we are less likely to offer the same enthusiasm to help a stranger in need, especially if their need is self-inflicted.  We are even more reluctant to help someone who sins egregiously because they “deserve whatever comes to them.”   Instead of realizing “there but by the grace of God go I” – we quickly climb our shaky moral ladder to the ivory tower of pride and throw as many stones as we can at those who desperately need support.

How does a homeless man get a second chance?  How do people recover from an addiction?  How does a divorced person rebound from a broken family?   How does someone who’s been evicted find housing again?   Usually only with help.   Like the cat on the street, they aren’t going to make it without some assistance.

You know what I didn’t see that day?   A bunch of other cats on the curb condemning their feline counterpart.   The kitten’s parents weren’t there meowing their disapproval at the cat’s poor decision.  The cat’s neighbors, siblings or “friends” were not there hissing at the cat’s predicament.  Apparently only we do that.   Had the cat family been there to witness it, they would have done anything they could to save the life of their feline.   And once she was safe, on the curb, they would have licked her wounds and nurtured her back to health.

Sadly, we rarely do that.   We like to give lectures.  We like to point out the mistakes.  We enjoy making others feel bad for the wrong decisions they make.   We revel in the “I told you so” moments – especially when our advice is revealed as wise.   But is that what is really needed?   Can a lecture bring healing like a hug can?   Does pointing out the mistakes create the “aha” moment, or do “aha” moments more frequently come with grace?

Years ago, I had a close friend who confessed to me, in a moment of transparency – a moral failure he had experienced with his (at the time) girlfriend.   As a fellow Christian and youth worker, I was shocked that he had fallen into such sin.  I couldn’t believe he didn’t keep a higher sexual standard.  I was disappointed in his lack of self control and repeated nature of the offense and let him know so.  I tried to be compassionate but truthfully, it felt manufactured.  In case he didn’t feel bad enough for his mistake, I felt the moral obligation to let him know my disappointment.  Looking back, I felt it was my duty to express moral outrage and God’s displeasure.  I handled it all wrong.

Fast forward 20 years.   I was now the one in the position to confess.  I needed to come clean about the double life I had been living, while in the ministry, and share my sins with this dear brother in the faith.  I fully deserved a verbal lashing.  I was completely expecting him to throw the first stone at me.  In fact, to save time – he could have just used the one I hit him with some two decades earlier.  I braced myself for judgment, however, it never came.  Instead, of feeling the guilitine, I felt grace.  Instead of condemnation, he offered compassion.  I can’t even begin to tell you how healing that was for me.  It didn’t excuse my behavior.  He didn’t condone my actions.  It didn’t remove any consequences.  But he did something that day that lectures and sermons and ostracization just can’t do:

Bring healing.

He rolled up his sleeves and tried to help, as someone who truly understood the temptation and struggle. In doing so, he helped me come home.

Is there anything better than that?   The prodigal son didn’t think so (Luke 15).   After years of poor decisions and reckless choices, he came back to the only place that ever truly loved him:


And what was waiting for him?

  • A lecture?    Nope.
  • A cold shoulder?   Nope.
  • Harsh treatment?   Nope.
  • A long list of things he had to do to get back in good standing?   Nope.

He was greeted with a hug.  And given clean clothes and a huge party and a second chance.

Who does that?

Someone who understands what it’s like to be in the middle of rush hour traffic without a prayer.

For those of you out there who relate to the cat, this message is for you:

Come home.


It’s time.


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;  the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” – Psalm 121


Why grocery stores hate men

man-grocery-store-400x300Last night I went to the local grocery store for a few staple items, things like milk, bread & Doritos.   It took me 3 hours.

Needless to say, I really dislike trips to the grocery store.   I never need many items and it takes me about as long to shop for those items as it does for me to re-paint the house.

As I wander around in the grocery store’s version of purgatory, I have come to the realization that this place was not built for men.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The layout.   Most grocery stores have you walking right from the parking lot into the produce section.  Shocking as this may be, men do not prefer to pick up their brocoli first.  Or ever.  Men want soda, chips, beer, and pizza.  If grocery stores really wanted men to be there, they would put our items first, not make us wander around the labyrinth of aisles looking for them.
  2. The aisles.  When women were creating grocery stores, who decided what items would be grouped in a particular aisle?  Who decided the order the aisles would be in?   Why do they not have a map at the front door that makes everything more clear?   (For the record, men like maps – we just don’t want to have to ask someone for help reading one.)   Instead, I walk in with a small list of things to get and the next 3 hours are a scavenger hunt.  Where are the hot dogs?  Why are the buns half a mile away from them?  If you could watch me on film, you would see that I am in every aisle about 4 times – carefully looking up and down every part of it – looking for my item, otherwise known as Waldo.
  3. The shopping cart.   There is absolutely no way to push a shopping cart around and retain any level of cool.  Given that 9 out of 10 shopping carts have a rogue wheel that cause them to swerve in the aisle, it is an impossible machine to tame.  Besides, it is a well-known fact that men like to ride on things, not push them around.  The ride-on mower is “exhibit A” for this argument.  If a woman ever invents a ride-on shopping cart (or vacuum cleaner), men would instantly be interested in taking over these duties.  Just a suggestion.
  4. Too many things to kill.   Since caveman times, men were known as hunters and women were gatherers.  Following our instincts, most men and women treat all forms of shopping the same way.  Men enter, focus on the prey, kill and leave with it in hand.  By contrast, women enter, look at everything, touch everything, and come home with 37 bags of groceries.  For a man to hunt one item at a store is easy.  They are good at that.  But give a man a list of 10 items and 4 will be the wrong size, 3 will be the wrong brand and the other 6 will be stuff he wanted, not on the list.  Frankly, it’s unrealistic for men to remember long orders like, “Pick up chips, soda, beer, milk, bread, chicken, pizza, napkins, sugar, cheese, etc.”   All we hear is “blah, blah, chips, soda, beer, blah,  blah, blah, pizza, words, words, words, etc.”
  5. The store temperature.   It could be the dead of winter in Alaska.  You could be in the middle of Hell in the middle of July.  It doesn’t matter – the grocery store temperature will feel like 30 below zero.   I am always freezing when I am in there.  How can I expect to make a decision on what can of tuna fish to buy when my teeth are chattering?   How can I possibly focus on my coupon savings when I’m trying to cuddle with the man in the same aisle for survival?   It’s well documented, the longer you stay in a store – the more you will buy.  If they want men to stay in the store longer, they need to raise the temperature to at least the low teens or provide NorthFace thermal underwear and a ski mask.
  6. The lack of other men.   As you might expect, 90% of the shoppers are female.  Inevitably, I will walk down an aisle and see an experienced shopper there.  This shopper, always a woman, has an intimidating amount of groceries in her cart.  As I look at her pile of groceries, I can’t help but wonder how long she has been here.   Given that it takes me 3 hours to pick up six items, she has to have been here for weeks.  I wonder if her kids miss her.  Or how hungry her husband must be.  On the rare occasion that I do see another man, I usually give him a knowing nod that is the equivalent of “I got your back.”   It’s like he’s my battle buddy.  Except we are not in battle and he’s not my buddy.  Other than that, it’s just like that.
  7. The lack of help.   Doesn’t anyone notice that I’ve been in the store for 3  hours?  Isn’t someone watching the security camera wondering why I’ve been circling Aisle 3 for the last 45 minutes?  Aren’t there supposed to be employees that are available to help those with a confused look on their face?  And why do the experienced shoppers (aka women) watch us men helplessly wander instead of trying to assist?  If the roles were reversed (let’s say at Lowes) both men and store employees would go out of their way to help our confused/lost female counterparts.   When I finally reach the check out counter, (disheveled and exhausted) and the lady asks, “Did you find everything ok?” – I just want to cry.
  8. The abundance of options.   Why are there so many choices out there?  How many different brands of cat food companies are there?  How many different flavors of cat food does a cat really need?  Before grocery stores were invented, cats ate mice.  Now, cats have more options than most high school cafeterias.  Fortunately, I don’t buy cat food but the human food choices are no easier.  How can I possibly know what to buy with all of those options?   Am I shopping price alone or do I need to look for sodium percentages?   What about calories?   And how much saturated fat is there?  (Can there be a more disgusting combination of words than “saturated fat?”)   Shopping time would be reduced in half if they just had two options per food item.  Big or small.  Cheap or fancy.  Healthy or tasty.  I feel like using a lifeline to call a nutritionist just to buy a box of cereal.   It’s utterly exhausting.
  9. Self-check out.  Self check-out is a brilliant concept.  Instead of standing in a 45 minute line, the self-check out option makes you feel like you control your destiny… or at least have some control over your schedule.   But is it really any quicker?   For starters, I can never seem to find the bar code for the machine to read.   Then, I’ll want to scan bananas, except there is no bar code for them so you have to weigh them.   Apparently, the scale takes a few hours to stop shaking from the last piece of fruit that was on it.   Of course, as soon as I begin my self-check out experience, a line immediately forms behind me.   I now feel pressure to scan quicker, bag quicker, pay quicker.   Paying quicker is never an option though and whatever you do, never pay with cash.  You will stand there forever trying to get the machine to accept your wrinkly bill as if you are presenting a peace-offering to an Egyptian god.   The self-check out money god seems to prefer plastic. 

If loneliness doesn’t drive single men into a relationship, the grocery store certainly will.  No man in his right mind can enjoy this experience on their own.  Other than the sample food kiosks where kind older people prepare food and let you sample it, there is little appeal to the grocery store for men.  

Call me when the ride-on grocery cart is invented.  Until then, I’m going to pray that God sends me a bird to feed me as He did the prophet Elijah.  Now THAT is a great way to get your food!

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.   So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”  (I Kings 17:2-6)

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Trusting a total stranger… totally

map of philadelphiaA few years ago, for my Mom’s 50th birthday, I took her to a musical concert in center city Philadelphia.   If you know downtown Philadelphia, it is a maze of one way streets.  It didn’t take me long to become “misplaced” in this big city at night.   I seemed to be driving in circles and struggled to find our destination. 

My Mom, being a natural born worrier, was convinced we were going to get carjacked.  Considering the murder rate in the “City of Brotherly Love”, car jacking would have been welcomed.  The only thing worse than being carjacked at night in Philadelphia is being carjacked at night in Philadelphia with your Mother.  That’s just embarrassing.  At any rate, we were sufficiently lost, running late and needed to find our way to the concert.  Since this was before the days of GPS and smart phone navigation apps, all I had was a AAA fold out map and my concerned mother as the co-pilot.  Being that my Mom had never driven in Philadelphia or used maps or enjoyed driving at night or enjoyed being in the most dangerous section of a dangerous city, she was not much help in the fetal position – hyperventilating on the floor of the car.  Time was running out and I knew I had to do something that would go against every male fiber in my being – ask for directions.  

Being evening, my options were limited.   I could either ask the group of men talking in the middle of the street or the lovely young lady on the opposite street corner.   My Mom was convinced the group of men were part of a gang and interested in taking our car.   Being her birthday, I obliged her fears and headed towards the woman.   As I slowed down, she approached my car with a strange familiarity.  Immediately, I realized two things.  First, this was no ordinary woman.  By all appearances, she was an employee in the world’s oldest profession.  Secondly, she knew the city streets well.  

My Mom was aghast.
Mom: “You can’t stop here. You can’t talk to her! Do you know what she does for a living?”
Me: “Yes, I know EXACTLY what she does for a living and no one knows these streets better than her.”

After talking to my female GPS friend, I got the directions and we were on our way.

At some point in time, we have all been in foreign cities (or cities foreign to us) and have gotten lost.  Being lost on unfamiliar turf, sometimes the only way to our destination is to ask a local.  After all, no one knows the area better.   We approach with humility, ask for directions and do exactly as they say, particularly if they seem confident in their response.

But, how do we know they are really a local?  How do we know they are telling the truth?  How do we know the people we ask really know where we are trying to go?  

Occasionally, while in a foreign city, another traveler will approach me (assuming I am a local) and ask me for directions.  To be honest, before I tell them I am from out of town as well, I have a very sinister thought.  Having no idea where they want to go, there is a tiny evil twin inside of me that wants to start giving very specific, clear directions and see if they believe me.

“Oh sure.  I know exactly where you need to go.   You want to take a right at the light.  Turn left onto Main Street.  Go past the bank and take another right at the school.   Go 1.3 miles and your destination is on the left.”  

For all they know, I could be sending them in the opposite direction or directly to the local graveyard.   For all I know, I may have just given them directions into a dangerous, car-jacking part of town. 

Likewise, we have all flown in an airplane.  We plan our trip, buy our ticket, get to our gate, board our plane and walk right by the cockpit without knowing the pilot’s name, his credentials or if he is even sober.  How do we know he is really a pilot?   Did he graduate from airline pilot school with straight A’s or is this guy the class clown who barely passed?  Does he even know where he is going?

The girl giving directions.  The man flying our plane.  The doctor in surgery.  The local mechanic.   Complete strangers to us and we trust them.  We trust them implicitly, without hesitation.

If we can trust these people with directions or even our very lives, why do we struggle trusting the God of creation?

God has never forgotten to rise the sun.  He has never been late on a sunset.  He keeps the stars in place and causes planets to orbit without collision.  He provides rain for the grass blade and food for the ant.  He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and He’s counted the number of hairs on your head.  He gives what is good to those who ask Him and through “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).  If that were not enough, He loves us more than we can even love ourselves.  So much, that He died in our place so that we can live in His.

Next time you ask for directions, be reminded of who you are trusting.  Next time you board a plane, remember that your life is in the hands of a total stranger.  They don’t know your name.  They don’t care about your day.   But you trust them without blinking.  A total stranger.   We trust an unknown stranger before we trust the God who knows us.  The truth is, God is a stranger to those who do not trust Him.

Is He a stranger to you?

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

There are many things that make me go, “Hmmmm.”   People who stand on street corners are one of them.

I’m not talking about people waiting for the bus or people trying to cross a street.   I’m talking about people who stand there with no clear mission or purpose.

I understand why street preachers preach.   I understand why the anti-abortion guy walks around our city pushing a stroller with a doll in it.   I understand why “ladies of the evening” strut down the road.   I understand why politicians stand on street corners and wave to cars on the eve of an election.  I understand why employees walk around with a picketing sign.  I even understand why sign spinners are dancing in front of their store.   I don’t necessarily agree with any of their reasons or methods, but I do understand why they do it.

What I do not understand is this:

The sign reads, “It’s all about how we treat one another on earth.”

What would prompt a grown woman to wear orange gloves and stand on a busy street corner with a sign that reads, “It’s all about how we treat one another on earth.” 

She couldn’t be happier.  She couldn’t wave more enthusiastically.   She couldn’t smile any bigger.  She couldn’t look any sillier.

What is she doing there?   Did she lose a bet?   Is she on a new reality TV show I have not heard about yet?   Is this her calling in life?  Is this some sort of cruel & unusual punishment some unorthodox judge gave her?  Is she getting paid to do this?  If so, who would pay for such a thing?  Barney??  If she is not getting paid for this, what motivates her to do it?   What is her end goal?  How does she know if she is successful?   I truly want to know.

Of course, I don’t want to get out of my car to find out.   She may try to recruit me to join her and I hate saying no to happy people.  Why can’t these people ever post their email address??

Come to think of it, she was out there on the day before our National election.  Perhaps there is a connection there?   We tend to be pretty ugly to each other when it comes to politics.  And religion.  And sports.   Maybe her message is more important than we think – particularly in this divisive climate we find ourselves in.

Last night as I was driving home, I came upon a woman who drove her car into a ditch.  I couldn’t help but laugh (on the inside) as that was my mother’s worst fear for me as a teenage driver.  Here she was, a mother herself, with her car in a literal ditch.  Naturally, I stopped to help.  Within minutes, two other men also offered their services.

A picture of me directing traffic.

I directed traffic, the man with the truck attached a chain to her car and the third gentlemen guided the car out of the ditch.  It was a good Samaritan moment – a true team effort.  Because of where her car was stuck, it caused traffic to back up on three different intersecting roads.  Because of this, directing traffic was essential to not only get her car out but for everyone’s safety.   While the three of us worked feverishly to get her car unstuck, someone in line decided to lay on their horn.  Repeatedly.  I couldn’t help but wonder why.   Because of where the car was stuck, everyone in all three lines of traffic could see what we were doing.  They could see that we were working as hard and fast as we could to get everyone on their way.   And yet this person honked like an angry goose.  It made me go, “Hmmmm.”

What is it with some people?  One impatiently honks at you for helping a stranded stranger while another stands on a street corner smiling with an overly friendly sign for no apparent reason.

This holiday season, I’m going to smile more.  I’m going to continue to help parents who end up in the ditches they warn us about.  I’m going to open more doors, pull out lady chairs, say “please” and “thank you” and “sir” and “ma’am” to everyone in my path and honk less.  And I’m going to do it without a sign telling me to.

That should make people go, “Hmmmm.”

The Dangers of Dating

The inevitable happened this week.  I knew this day was coming but I honestly hoped I had more time.  I was asked the dreaded question by my son, “Dad, when can I start dating?”   My “handsome 14-year-old freshman boy turning into a man” son wants to date.  It seems like only yesterday I was teaching him how to tie his shoes.  Needless to say, this crazy dating idea of his can never happen.  He will never date.  In other news, my daughter will never marry and my six-year-old is not allowed to turn seven.  These things I have decided.

Though I have previously served as a professional youth worker (for about 15 years) and have addressed this issue with countless other parents, I honestly wasn’t prepared to talk about this with my own son.   Not this week.   He has other milestones to achieve first like graduating from high school, then college, then the Marines, then law school, then medical school, and then seminary.  After those hurdles are complete, I’ll consider the dating request. (That is if I can’t think of more hurdles for him to jump over.)  To say I was thrown off guard by his request would be an understatement.   But there we were.  Me in the driver’s seat.  He in the passenger seat – eagerly waiting my response.  I’m not even sure he has someone special in mind.  I think he is just exploring the idea of it. 

There is at least one positive about his desire to date.  Mainly his personal hygiene habits have improved dramatically.  There was a season where I had to drag him into the bathtub much like you drag a cat to the Vet.  There was a time when I had to beat   force “motivate” him to brush his teeth.   Now, he cares about his appearance, hygiene and breath and for that, everyone wins.  🙂

But dating has changed dramatically over the last 25 years when I was first doing it.  And quite frankly, after watching thousands of other teenagers date (at too young an age), I have seen it ruin many a person in the moment and many a relationship thereafter.  Dating is a dangerous exercise, even for the adults.  Below are some of my observations as to why it is not recommended for most people under the age of 45.   I’m only half-kidding.  🙂 

  1. Dating raises the emotional stakes.  The average teenage boy is barely equipped to handle the emotions of losing an X-box game.  The average teenage girl can scarcely break a nail without tears, let alone endure the higher stakes emotional “game” of dating.  There is a lot more maturing that needs to occur, particularly when the emotions of another person are involved in the matter.   To be honest, most men do not even think about the emotional sensitivity that is required with their female counterpart, let alone a 14-year-old boy.  At that tender age, they do not even know what they don’t know.   A few years of maturity will do wonders for them in this area.
  2. Dating encourages unnecessary emotional deposits. With every relationship we are in, we have an accompanying emotional checking account with that person. When we spend time with them, we make a deposit. When we think about them, we make a deposit.  Emotional deposits can occur in their presence or in their absence. Typically, women invest more emotional dollars into the accounts of men than vice versa.  When you are alone, you make larger emotional deposits into only one account. When you are in a group setting, you make smaller emotional deposits into many accounts. The reason that a teenage breakup is so painful is because one feels an emotional bankruptcy after losing all their investment in that one particular account.
  3. Dating raises the physical stakes.   Dating implies being alone.  This alone time puts immediate pressure on the relationship.  The boy wants to be funny.  The girl wants to look pretty.  Both are putting their best foot forward and trying hard to impress the other one.  In other words, they are making massive emotional investments into unstable emotional accounts.  Whereas a group setting eliminates many pressures and temptations, being alone escalates them.  Combine these temptations with raging hormones (on both sides) minus the emotional maturity and wisdom to understand the dangers – you are asking for trouble.   Pregnancy and STD’s are just two of the devastating consequences waiting to pounce on our young children who cave in to the physical temptations they face.
  4. Dating creates isolation & thus does not encourage community.  Group settings are the safest setting throughout every aspect of life.  Fish travel in schools.  Wolves travel in packs.  Gazelles travel in groups.  Interestingly, women go to the bathroom in groups of two or more.  Apparently the woman’s restroom is wrought with danger.  We even have a well-known adage in our culture, “There is safety in ___________.” (In your head you thought “numbers.”)   This is especially true in regards to dating.   Teenagers, like young gazelles, need to be protected (even from themselves) during this time of growth.  Oftentimes their bodies are maturing faster than their emotions.  Very very few can handle such intimate isolation.  The risk outweighs the reward.  Time alone is important for all romantic relationships, but only when that relationship is mature enough to handle it.  
  5. Dating shuns true commitment & cultivates the heart for divorce.  This will no doubt be a controversial point but one that I think is worth making.  Dating’s commitment is generally skin deep.  In other words, it pales in comparison to the commitment of marriage which is “till death do us part.”  When we get accustomed to “leaving” our dating partners (for a variety of reasons), it grooms our heart for the ultimate exit of an unhappy marriage.  Whereas the marriage relationship should have an undying commitment and the “D” word (divorce, shhhhhh!) never mentioned, dating (by default) has a marginal commitment.   After all, you’re “only” dating.  It’s not like you are engaged or married.   The more you date, the more your heart is encouraged to avoid commitment, particularly a lifelong, faithful commitment to one person.  If you don’t like the one you are with now, you can always just date someone else.  It can do a disservice to your heart, ability to commit and future relationships.
  6. Dating does not assist one in guarding their heart.   A human heart can be broken.  It should be the goal of every parent to guard their child’s heart.  It should be the goal of every girl/woman to guard her own heart.  It should be the goal of every boy/man to not only guard his own heart, but also learn how to guard the heart of the girl/woman in his care.   It’s not an easy task – but a necessary one when it comes to relationships.  Too many hearts are broken simply because there was no appropriate guard in place.  Because dating is so personal and intimate, it is nearly impossible to guard one’s heart while doing it.  When the heart is not properly guarded it faces consistent heartbreak which, in turn, causes it to either suffer constantly or become so calloused that it becomes cold and jaded.  Neither consequence is healthy for anyone’s heart – let alone a younger heart, still learning what love is supposed to be.   This is why Solomon (considered to be the wisest man ever to live) wrote these words, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) 
  7. Dating discourages parental involvement (in most cases).  
  8. Dating by-passes parental approval (in most cases).
  9. Dating prohibits parental protection (in most cases).

For now, I’ll leave #7-9 as bullet points.   The main point is that no one knows you better and loves you more than a parent and dating (in the traditional sense) keeps most parents in the dark.  There is more that can be said here for another time or another blog.  

As for my son’s request, he knows it’s not an option right now.  The group setting is where he’ll be or home alone with one of his parents.  He’s a great kid and very mature for his age but for now, we don’t think he’s ready.  Besides, he can’t drive and the last thing anyone wants is a parent on a “date.”  If his Mom and I are wrong, time will reveal that and all we will have lost is time.  If we’re right, we have saved him (and some little girl out there) a world of hurt.   The risk outweighs the reward and since it is my son’s heart in the balance, I’m not willing to risk it.   No 14-year-old girl is worth the cost of his broken heart, entrusted to my care.  

I would love to hear from some of the more seasoned parents on how you handled your children in this regard.  Did you let them date?  Did they date in spite of your wishes?  Positive outcomes?  Negative aspects?  Any broken hearts? 

Parenting, on our best day, is an impossible task.   Recognizing this, Mark Twain gave this helpful parenting tip.  I always laugh when I think of it.

“When you have a child, you should put him in a barrel and feed him through the hole.  When he turns twelve, plug the hole.”

No broken hearts in the barrel, that’s for sure.

I have an addiction…

I have come to the realization that I have an addiction.   Actually, to be more accurate, I should probably say I have “another” one.  If I were to truly examine my black heart, I probably have more than two but since addictions carry a massive stigma in our culture, I’ll only officially admit to two*.  Yes, I just put an asterisk after the number two.  After all, no true addict lays down his sword easily without a semantic duel and definition argument.  In other words, whether I have an addiction depends on what your definition of addiction is.  Yea, let’s go with that.  Maybe I only have one now?   Or four.  Ugh.

I am tempted to talk about my addiction in broad terms as that makes me feel better about myself.  For example, I really want to Google this addiction and give you the latest statistics as to which demographics share my addiction, how many people are impacted by it and even the celebrities that also struggle with it.  For some reason it doesn’t seem as pathetic if you can say you have the same addiction as a leading Hollywood action “hero”.  Somehow, placing my addiction in the midst of that sandwich makes it seem more “common” and therefore, less stigmatizing.   Even though I am not alone in this embarrassing pit, sometimes you feel like you are the only one who struggles with it.  Or, that no one struggles with it as much as you.  That is the insidious nature of addictions… to make you feel powerless and convince that you alone are the sole struggler. 

Of course, I would probably tell you most days that I am not addicted to “it”.  I would laugh at your accusation and scoff at your absurd suggestion.   Isn’t that the classic response of an addict?  I would passionately persuade you that I can give “it” up any time I want, for any length of time and be totally OK with that.   But, isn’t that the mantra of all addicts?   Of course, I would give you the same reaction if you accused me of being addicted to cottage cheese but does that response alone mean I am actually addicted to it?   Because seriously, I’m NOT addicted to cottage cheese.  That’s absurd.  I can totally give that up any time I want.   No, I mean it.  

See how convincing I can be?   I actually believe it myself. 

That’s one of the major obstacles of overcoming an addiction, getting the addict to stop believing his own lies.   It’s easy to deceive others if you can first deceive yourself.  And because of this, this is the main reason why the addict is the last one to see his actions as they really are – addictive.   No one likes to be confronted with the ugly truths about ourselves, particularly when those truths are damaging ourselves or our relationships with others.  One of the reasons we deny the accusations so vehemently is not because they are totally false, but because they are mostly true.   A truly ridiculous accusation we can laugh off and move on.  One that is drenched in partial or total truth is a lot harder to blow off.  Add the embarrassment of the truth, the consequences of the habit and the recognition that your once private addiction is now on a highway billboard – it can become utterly overwhelming and devastating to the addict.  

Denial is not only the obvious response, but it is the only one that can keep the addict emotionally intact.  To address the addiction is to address the heart and to address the heart can feel like you are tearing the soul.   The addiction is there to cover some large gaping wound from our past or serve as the anesthesia for our current hurt.

The harsh reality about addictions is this… though it can be a very real and serious problem, the addiction itself is the secondary problem.   The addiction is merely the symptom of a larger issue that needs to be addressed.  There is always something much more insidious underneath it.   Sadly, as a culture, we have stigmatized the wrong thing.   We stigmatize the symptom and we often ignore the root.   

The hard part for any addict is not that he loses his go-to comfort “blankie” in times of stress, but he also must address the reason why it is so important to him.  The goal for any addict is not simply the removal of the habit.  That is merely the first step.  The actual goal is the addressing of the source of why it exists.  All addictions, at their base, are first heart problems before they ever become physical problems.

There are four things I have learned about addictions over the last three years:  

  1. Many people have at least one.  (Don’t try to deny it.  We already know that trick.)
  2. Most everyone has an addiction rating system.  We rank some addictions as being worse than others.   Most would say that a smoking addiction is better than a gambling addiction which is better than alcoholism which is better than drugs which is better than… etc.  
  3. Those inside the church often hide their addictions behind good deeds or under shiny exteriors.
  4. Those outside the church often wear their addictions on their sleeve.  They seem to be more open about their problems.

I’m trying to be more honest about my problems.  I’m really trying to become more transparent about my sins and struggles and habits and past.  I used to be a counselor to many – now I sit before one weekly.  I used to help others with their problems, now others help me with mine.   I used to proudly show my shiny exterior and good deeds to anyone who glanced my way.  Now I try to humbly let people look through my stained-glass window and hear about some of my not-so-good deeds – when needed.   It’s been refreshing.   My addictions and problems may not be on my sleeve (yet) but they are certainly out of my pocket.

One of the most encouraging things about the Bible is that it is a book filled with sinful people who God loved anyway.  Most of the characters in the Book committed some pretty horrible deeds – and God still used them to accomplish some amazing tasks.  Just to name a few:

  • Noah got drunk after God used him to build an Ark that saved his family. (Genesis 9:21)
  • Abraham lied and yet God still allowed him to be the Father of Israel (Genesis 20).
  • Abraham’s nephew, Lot, willingly offered his own daughters to depraved sexual predators (Genesis 19).   In spite of this one-act, the Apostle Peter called him “righteous” (II Peter 2:7).
  • Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was deceitful (Genesis 27) and yet God blessed him anyway (Genesis 32).
  • Moses was a well-known murderer before God used him to deliver the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 2).
  • Eli raised “worthless sons” and yet God allowed him to serve as the High Priest of Israel (I Samuel 2).
  • Samson intentionally married someone forbidden by the Lord and yet God used him to destroy about 6,000 enemies of Israel (Judges 16).
  • Rahab was a known prostitute and yet God spared her (and her family) for her brave assistance and faith (Joshua 2, Hebrews 11).
  • King David was an awful parent, murderer and adulterer and yet God made him into the greatest king that Israel has ever known (I & II Samuel).
  • Jonah was an appointed prophet of God and yet initially ran from God’s explicit command to preach (Jonah). Jonah reluctantly preached and led the largest revival in recorded history.
  • At Christ’s most vulnerable moment, Peter (one of His most trusted and loyal disciples) denied that he ever knew Jesus (not once, but three times in Mark 14) and yet God restored him to his previous position (John 21) and used him mightily in the church (Acts 2).
  • The promiscuous Samaritan woman was divorced four times, yet that did not stop Christ from using her to spread the gospel in her hometown (John 3).
  • Saul was a known Christian killer and persecutor (Acts 9) and yet in spite of that lifestyle, God changed his heart and used him to change the world.  Because of the murderer of Stephen (an early church Deacon), we have 13 books of the New Testament.  

Yea, my addictions, sins and failures don’t look so bad in that company.   Yet, that is not the point.  I’m not supposed to compare myself to other fallen people since we all wear the same sinful sleeves.  Granted, my sin (or addiction) may be different from yours – but at the end of the day, we’re both still sinners (or addicted) and in need of some help.

Our world does not value broken, weak, addicted people.  God prefers us like that – not because He wants us to remain in that condition – but because He likes to show us what He can do with us and through us – even in our mess.

That’s why Paul writes, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” – I Corinthians 1:27-29

Only God can make a prostitute pure.  Only God can heal a leper’s skin.  Only God can make a liar truthful.  Man can change a behavior, but only God can change a human heart.  And that same God can take my addiction (or sin, or past) and turn it into something beautiful and useful to Him.   He can do the same with your junk too.

Oh, and I almost forgot… as for the current addiction of mine that prompted this particular blog post… the picture below sums it up.

And for the record.  I’m really not addicted to cottage cheese.  I’m serious.

8 things I don’t understand about the summer Olympics

Like most Americans, I’m glued to the television watching the Olympic games.   Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter – I love watching them both when it’s in season.   I remember watching my first Olympics back in 1980 as a ten-year old.  I was mesmerized with the athletes and their pursuit of gold.  I remember jumping up and down on my couch (literally) when the United States Hockey Team beat “USSR” in the last few moments of the gold medal championship match.  Four years later, I repeated the couch jumping celebration with Mary Lou Retton’s perfect ten performance in the gymnastics competition.   Both were magical experiences etched into my memory.  Few things infuse a shot of patriotism into a citizen like watching the Olympic games.

As much as I love the games, however, there are several things I just don’t understand about these Summer Olympics.  Perhaps you resonate with the following areas?  If you have any “light” to shed on these (or wish to add any of your own commentary), I’d love to hear them.

  1. Post-competition Interviews.  Why must we interview these athletes seconds after they competed?   Most of them can barely breathe after such physical exertion and we are shoving a microphone in their face asking them to talk about their experience.  Can’t we wait five minutes for them to catch their breath before we hear their side of the story?
  2. Interviewers.   Where do we come up with these people?  Where do they come up with their questions?   Just prior to an Olympic match one interviewer asked a coach, “What is your plan with tonight’s game?”   Seriously?   Um, how about win?   Or, here’s a profound answer – outscore the opponent?  Apparently I am not the only one fed up with some of the questions.  There have been over 160 complaints filed against the BBC for such ludicrous and “insensitive” questions.
  3. Handball.  How did that become an Olympic sport?   How does one get on the Olympic team?  From what I recall, we played that sport twice in gym class in 7th grade and then never played it again.   Was that my Olympic try-out and I did not know it?   Was some Olympic coach watching us with a clipboard to see who had the potential to “go for gold?”  Since no American team has ever won a medal in the sport, our gym classes probably need to offer it more than twice.  Just sayin’.
  4. The scoring system for sports like Gymnastics.   Unlike most other competitions, the scoring for this sport is mostly subjective.  It’s like having an Olympic art competition.  How can you judge certain aspects of a routine?  Absent a glaring mistake, how can you possibly deduct points for a seemingly “perfect” routine?  One judge might score a 9.0 while another scores an 7.5.  Why the discrepancy?  I think this needs to be addressed as it provides an inconsistency in scoring and allows an opportunity for corruption among the judges.
  5. Diving competition.   How in the world do these divers get their bodies to spin so many times in so many different directions before hitting the water?  How in the world do you even practice that?   The only way I could imagine my body doing such twists and turns is if I was somehow in a deep, R.E.M. sleep on the diving board and then was suddenly pushed off.   Then, and only then could I possibly come close to making such turns.  Of course, my arms would be flapping like a duck in a tornado – I’m sure you lose points for that.  I certainly wouldn’t land gracefully or head first.
  6. Synchronized swimming.  For starters, it’s extremely impressive.  How do they do match their bodies so perfectly?  Having said that, how can anyone admit (out loud) that they do this for a living?   How do you coach that sport?  Coach: “Your knee and her knee were not in synch.  Do it again.”  Also, why hasn’t the synchronized idea caught on to other sports?  Why don’t we have synchronized running?  Or synchronized weight lifting?  And I have a problem with the subjective scoring in this sport as well.
  7. Badminton.   Seriously?  How did that become an Olympic sport?  Was there a shortage of sports when the Olympic committee decided to let that one in?  The only thing funnier than it being an official Olympic sport is the shuttlecock scandal that rocked the competition this year in London.   Olympic athletes intentionally playing like me?   Had I foreseen that move, I would have tried out for our own team this year.
  8. The expense it costs to host an Olympics.   Though there are some cities that actually profit from hosting the Olympics (Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Beijing), most suffer enormous losses.  Montreal, for example, hosted the 1976 Olympics and it reportedly took them over 30 years to finally pay off that debt.   In this global recession, is it wise for certain cities to risk hosting the games for the potential financial payoff in return?  It has been reported that the financial trouble that bankrupted the Greek government was because of its overspending as host of the Olympics.  (Reference: Victor Matheson, a member of the Sports Economist group blog)

Regardless of my questions, the ridiculous answers or the sports I don’t really appreciate, I love watching these games and seeing the best of the best compete.   For 17 days, I get to cheer and route for local hometown kids who have given their lives to a sport I may barely identify with.

Still, it’s fun to watch.  And thanks to Michael Phelps and the women’s beach volleyball teams, I’ve done plenty of jumping up and down on my couch this year.  If that were an Olympic sport, I’d be wearing gold by now.

What blogging has taught me about being popular

This is me at 13 years of age. Slick hair. Favorite shirt. Flexing non-existent muscles. Mouth full of braces.  Huge nose.  String bean body.  The only thing I remember from that moment was I thought I looked great. Seriously?? That’s the difficult thing about pride… it’s the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.
“Be not proud of race, face, place, or grace.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

With the publication of this particular blog post, it appears I will have reached five mini-milestones and one “A-HA” moment.  First, the milestones:

  1. For starters, it will mark the 3 month anniversary of my blog.  Though I have been writing for years, this is my first attempt at writing within the blogging walls.  It’s been an interesting experience so far.
  2. This is my 50th post.  Originally I had planned on writing one blog entry per day.  That goal, it turns out, was a bit ambitious and unrealistic, given my life circumstances.  Now it seems that I average about three a week.  Since I prefer quality over quantity, I’m fine with my current pace.
  3. With this post, my blog will have been visited over 26,000 times.   When I started, I wasn’t even sure I would read what I wrote.  The number is humbling.  I originally thought it was due to my Mom clicking on my blog 26,000 times.   Moms are supportive like that.  But seeing that her Facebook page hasn’t been accessed for over two years, there must be another explanation.  One of my best friends told me today that he has never read my blog.  If my friends aren’t reading it, I must have a lot of enemies.
  4. As of today, this blog has been read in over 100 countries, some I have never heard of!  From Canada to Japan and everywhere in-between. It’s even been read in Pakistan, Iraq, & Madagascar.  I thought Madagascar was a movie??
  5. My blog’s mission is to produce thought-provoking material.  Provoked thoughts provoke comments.  With the publishing of this 50th entry, it will have generated over 400 comments.  Most every writer loves feedback.  It allows us to see how (or if) we are connecting with our invisible audience.  I have enjoyed reading each remark, even the few that have had an issue with what I have written.  Since I respect the time that it takes to read my blog and comment, I have made it a point to personally respond (eventually) to each reply.  As much as I have enjoyed this exercise (and will continue as long as I can), it has led me to an “A-HA” moment.

The “A-HA” moment is simply this: I care what you think.

That may not seem very “A-HA-ish” to you, but it was surprising for me.  Here is why:

I spent my entire elementary, middle and high school career wanting to be liked.  Who doesn’t?  Everyone wants friends.  Unfortunately, I learned the cost to being popular was a higher price than I ever wanted to pay.  Often times, I saw the “cool” kids were mean to others.  I guess by putting others down, it made them feel better about themselves.  Or they were snobby.  Only those just like them were allowed in their inner circles.  They often stayed in their cliques.  As we advanced in school, some began cursing to keep their “cool” status.  Or they were doing drugs.  Or getting drunk.  Or having sex.  Or ______________ (fill in the blank).  Please note, I’m not implying that every “in-crowd” member had to compromise like this.  As a general rule of thumb, though, it seemed to me that the popular kids weren’t always the altar boys.

The problem, for me, was that as much as I wanted to be popular – I didn’t want to compromise who I was raised to be.  I was taught to be nice to everyone.  I was told to speak appropriately.  Watching my Dad die from smoking at age five, I knew I didn’t want to touch the “death sticks.”  Losing three friends in high school to drunk driving, I was afraid to drink the addictive liquid.  Drugs never made sense to me.  Besides, Nancy Reagan told me to “just say NO.” so I did.  Being the acne-ridden, skinny kid with a big nose and bad hair, sex wasn’t an option for me.  Besides, you saw the picture.  “Babe magnet” was not one of my nicknames.  As a result, I grew up with the realization that I would not be super popular and I was determined not to care.   Little did I know how helpful that indifference was for me.  It allowed me to maintain some convictions through the years.  It kept me from making some stupid decisions during some critical years.  It gave me the freedom to have friendships up and down the social ladder.  It taught me to do the right thing (most times), even if it was unpopular.  And most importantly, it showed me the importance treating all people kindly, not just the ones that could do something for me or improve my “status.”

What I have found fascinating is how Facebook is the great social equalizer.  When I signed on five years ago, I started getting friend requests from my middle and high school classmates.  People I never spoke to in high school (literally) now wanted to be my “friend.”  People that were mean to me (20 years ago) now wanted to add me to their friend number.  Had they finally come to their senses and added maturity to their resume?  Or were they merely trying to be popular in this new social medium?  On one level, it was amusing.  On another level, it was like getting inducted into the “in-crowd”, twenty years late.  As I look at my high school friends on Facebook, social standing is now irrelevant.  There is no cool table in the online lunch room.   We send messages and comment on status updates like we are family.  Too bad maturity often eludes youth.  We all lost a lot of time being petty about our friendships.

As Facebook has forced me to address friendships I had long forgotten about, so blog writing has forced me to question what price I’m willing to pay to be “liked” – even now as an adult.   I am realizing that it’s a slippery slope.   For example, if I write a blog about how I like President Obama, the Republicans will be all over me.  If I say there is a God, the atheists will come out of the woodwork with condescending mockery.  If I admit I’m a Dallas Cowboy fan, I’ll have death threats from my home-town Philadelphia Eagle friends.  If I say anything negative about Muhammad, I’ll have a fatwa on my head before noon.  See my point?  There is just no way to truly be popular with all people all the time.  Everything I could say is disagreeable to someone.  And that is where the “A-HA” moment comes in.

Though I do care what you think, my pen has to be consistent with my conscience.  From the well of my convictions, I have to fetch the water that I believe to be true.  With each published post, I have tried to align my thoughts with God’s thoughts (as revealed in the Bible).  Instead of trying to make 26,000 people in 100 different countries “like” my blog, I am finding I prefer a heavenly Audience of One.  Frankly, it’s a lot easier.

The truth is, people change.  God does not (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6).  The people who like President Obama today, will hate him tomorrow.  Just ask President Bush.  Those who were Bronco fans last season will like the Jets this season.  Just ask Tim Tebow.  And as soon as I try to become popular with one group this month, tides will turn and my blog will be ignored by the same group next month.

Billy Joel echoed this truth in his song, “The Entertainer”:

“I am the entertainer, And I know just where I stand:
Another serenader, And another long-haired band.
Today I am your champion. I may have won your hearts.
But I know the game, You will forget my name,
And I won’t be here In another year,
If I don’t stay on the charts.”

The reality is that we are a temperamental, wishy-washy, fickle people.  And God knows it – firsthand.

After all, one week the Jews were shouting “Hosanna in the Highest!” and laying palm branches before Christ as He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem.  The people loved Him when they thought He was there to save them from the Romans.  He wasn’t.  Disappointed, their sentiment changed.  One week later, those same Jews were shouting “Crucify Him!”  He had come to save them, not from Roman rule, but from their sinful selves.   Jesus wasn’t trying to become Homecoming King.  He came to be King of all kings.
He was never trying to please man.  His only aim was to please God.

How about you?  Who are you trying to please?  Your Boss?  Spouse?  Kids?  Parents?  Be careful.  People are fickle.  In a lot of ways, they are like children.  One week they want “this.”  Next week they want “that.”  In your attempt to please everyone you will discover that you can please no one.

Those you aim to please this week may place you on an ass.  Next week they might consider you one.  🙂

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” – Colossians 3:23

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

Single? 10 creative ways to find a mate

It is estimated that there are over 54 million single people in the United States.  Most of my single friends say the same thing about finding love, “It’s so hard to meet someone decent.”   Many of them have exhausted the traditional places one searches for their next date (the church, the bar, the office, the gym – to name a few).   Beyond those places, where else can you go?   Before they allow their parents to pre-arrange anything, many today go online.

According to StatisticBrain.com, 40 million American singles have tried online dating sites like eHarmony or Match.com.  With the average dater spending over $200 per year for such sites, the industry rakes in over 1 billion dollars annually.  The Beatles claimed that “You can’t buy me love.”   Apparently, they were wrong.  Love can be purchased and it has a steep price tag.  Interestingly, (according to the same website) the typical online marriage lasts just over 18 months long.   Love is expensive!

But what if you do not live in a technological area?  What if, for example, you are Amish?  Would you attend the local barn raising event or enter a butter churning contest to find a suitable mate?  What if you did not grow up in a technological era?   Where would you find love if you grew up in a Biblical town during the Biblical days?  After a brief survey of the Bible, I have compiled a list of how folks in the Bible found their mate.  After reading the below segment, it should make online dating (OR letting your parents choose for you) much more attractive.   If you are single, perhaps one of the methods below will work for you?


1.  Have God create a wife for you while you are asleep. 

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  But for Adam  no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribsand then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:18-24). 

2.  Marry your sister.   (Where do you think Cain’s wife came from??   Prior to the passage below, the only people mentioned on earth are Adam & Eve.)

“Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city,   and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.  Lamech married  two women,  one named Adah and the other Zillah.” (Genesis 4:17-19)

3.  Find a man who owns a farm that has lots of daughters.  Impress him by watering his flock.

Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue  and watered their flock.  When the girls returned to Reuel  their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”  They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”   “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”  Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah  to Moses in marriage.”  (Exodus 2:16-21)

4.  Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours.

When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.   Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured.”  (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

5.  Find a prostitute and marry her.

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”  So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (Hosea 1:2-3)

A prophet marrying a prostitute?  Now there’s a headline!

6.  Purchase a piece of property.  Make sure a woman is part of the deal. 

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown.   Today you are witnesses! ”  (Ruth 4:9-10)

7.  Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.

And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left?  The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out.  We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh,  which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem,  and south of Lebonah.”  So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’”  So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing,  each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife.”  (Judges 21:16-25)

(Warning: I have a feeling that this option would carry some serious legal ramifications if tried today.  Just sayin’.)

8.  Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife.

Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’”  They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law?  I’m only a poor man and little known.”  When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.  When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal  in marriage.” (I Samuel 18:22-27)

(A word of caution here: Think twice before you use this method to obtain a wife, as this option is life-threatening.  If this is what your future father-in-law requires you to do before he gives you his daughter’s hand in marriage, ask yourself if this is really the kind of family you want to get involved with?   Lastly, if you thought admitting that you met your mate online was embarrassing, try this one.)

9.  Grab someone else’s wife and kill her husband.  

(Warning: It’s a very bad idea, breaks two major commandments and will not end well for you or the husband.  II Samuel 11 covers the entire story.)

10.  Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity.

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.  He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.”  (1 Kings 11:1-3)

(For those of you who are married, you know how hard it is to please one wife.  Can you imagine 700 or more?   This option really is not wise at all.  Interestingly, Solomon was considered to be the wisest man to ever have lived.   Apparently even the wisest among us have lapses of judgment from time to time.)

Final note…

If you are reading this and are married, thank God that He has provided you with a spouse.  Do what YOU can to strengthen that marriage TODAY since we know that a strong marriage is wonderful for both the family and the country.  Remember, “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16) and NO ONE wins when that option is chosen, except maybe a lawyer.

If you are reading this and are single, thank God as well.  Perhaps you are not called to be married (I Corinthians 7:24) or that God is saving you from severe heartache?  If you think you are lonely now, it pales in comparison to being lonely in a marriage.  Or maybe you are not ready for a relationship yet and God is still working on your relationship with Him (Matthew 6:33).  Regardless of the reason, embrace and enjoy your singlehood.  There are many who jumped too quickly into marriage (for all the wrong reasons) and would love to trade places with you now.

Personally, I’d choose option #1.   How cool would that be?   You drift off asleep – dreaming about the perfect spouse and when you wake up – there he/she is – ready for you!   Humorously, an evangelist (Ray Comfort) once remarked that “God put man into a deep sleep and nowhere in the Bible does it say he ever came out of it.”  

(Forward this to all your single friends.  They need as much help as they can get!)

Happy Birthday to you!


Once a year, people feel compelled to congratulate you on reaching your birthday milestone.   Normally they share their well wishes via phone calls, emails, text messages, handwritten notes, flowers, chocolates, balloons, singing telegrams, etc.  

I, on the other hand, decided to write you a “Happy Birthday” blog.  This particular blog entry is dedicated to any friend of mine who will be celebrating a birthday sometime in the next year.  If today is not your birthday, then be patient.  Eventually, this blog will be relevant to you. 

Sure, I could have sojourned to the local CVS or supermarket and spent hours perusing overpriced, over-sentimental cards.  Then I could’ve signed my name to someone else’s idea of humor or sympathy (depending on your age).  But are you really deserving of such a card?  I mean, all you have done (since my last congratulations) is survived for another 365 days.  How hard is that?  Also, if I did the traditional card option, then I would need your address.  And a stamp.  And a pen.  Would you even appreciate the gas money I invested to and from the store?  Besides, who really wants to walk ALL THE WAY to the mailbox to retrieve a card that points out the glaring fact that you are OLD?  Basically, I am saving you time and what better gift is there than the gift of time?  I’m thoughtful like that. 


  • According to wikipedia.org, the melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by siblings Patty & Mildred Hill in 1893.  The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song that would be easy to be sung by young children.
  • The 1998 Guinness Book of World Records reveals that the song “Happy Birthday to you” is the most recognized song in the English Language.
  • The song’s base lyrics have been translated into 18 languages.
  • Unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it.  This is why most restaurants (or other public party venues) have their own annoying original Birthday song or cheer in honor of the birthday celebrant.


  • February is the least common birth month.
  • August is the most common birth month.
  • October 5th is the most common birth date (Interestingly, it is exactly 9 months after New Year’s Eve.  Badda bing.)
  • May 22nd is the least common birth date (besides Leap Year – February 29th.)
  • Birthdays were usually only celebrated by nobility (which may be why we like to put a Birthday Crown on the birthday person) until the Germans began the practice of celebrating children’s birthdays called “kinderfeste” and bake a special sweet cake.

  • The picture above is of Tu Youyou, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in medicine.  Also known as the most confusing person to sing Happy Birthday too.   Try it, just for fun.  🙂
  • $27.2 Million – Most money spent on a birthday party.  This extravagant party was for the Sultan of Brunei’s 50th Birthday in 1996.  My 45th birthday celebration was a close second.

Speaking of expensive parties, did you know that there are two birthdays celebrated in the Bible?  Some interesting things happened at both….

Birthday #1: Pharaoh’s Birthday Party (Genesis 40):

At the first birthday party we find Joseph locked behind bars interpreting dreams for two men who used to serve in the King of Eygpt’s court.  One man was Pharaoh’s cupbearer.  The other was his baker.   Joseph correctly predicted that both men would have their “heads lifted up” by Pharaoh.   The cup-bearer’s head was lifted up and he was restored to his original office.  The baker’s head was also “lifted up” and placed in a noose and hung.  Nice party.  Try the veal.

Birthday #2: King Herod’s Birthday Party (Matthew 14):

At the second party we find John the Baptist bound and imprisoned at the request of Herodias, King Herod’s sister in law.  During the party, Herodias’ daughter was dancing (think dirty, not square) before the king.  The dance pleased King Herod so much that he promised (with an oath) to give the girl whatever she asked.  Having been prompted by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Odd request.  Most girls her age ask for earrings.  Sadly, she got her wish.

There are a couple of lessons for you here. 

On your special day…

  1. Avoid prison.
  2. Keep your dreams to yourself.
  3. Don’t party with kings.
  4. No dancing.

Blessings on your special day!