Engaged and Waiting to have Sex: Is There a Point?

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I don’t know where it came from, or how it came into my possession, but I have this candle. It’s not a particularly nice looking candle. And the scent is entitled Mediterranean Breeze as if it were the happy hour special at a bar in Miami. Either way, this candle has been on my bedside table since early in high school. I remember thinking that I’m going to wait for a special occasion to light it, but I realized that young men don’t have many special occasions in which lighting a candle is necessary. So I decided that the inaugural flame would be saved for the much anticipated night that I lose my virginity. Initially the idea was a bit of a joke, but the candle has seemed to find its way onto many night side tables, through many moves, and bedrooms I’ve had over the years and it’s still waiting to be lit. This candle has become a symbol for chastity in my life and for the discipline I’ve somehow been able to practice. But it hasn’t been easy, and through the relationships I’ve had over the years, being chaste has been a huge challenge for myself and for my fiancée.

Growing up in the church I remember hearing the same messages that ‘True Love waits’ and that the church has a standard for all Christians to maintain their virginity until they are married. And for years I accepted this without any questions. Then some of my Christian friends began having sex with their girlfriends, and the questions quickly followed. I remember thinking “what does the Bible really say about this issue”, so I looked it up and I found what Paul says in Corinthians 6 about staying away from fornication. I then realized how confusing this issue is within the church. For so many people, fornicating might not mean having sex with one partner whom they have been with for many years. And many Christians will justify this by saying, “it’s not like I’m going out and having a one night stand!” And to a certain extent they are right. But why is there still such an emphasis on waiting within the church? And is it really necessary?

It wasn’t until I entered into a serious relationship that these ideas and principles became more and more serious for me, and I certainly had more questions than answers. And as I think about it, I still have so many questions. Darcy (my fiancée) and I will still frequently ask each other, and some of the couples who mentor us, “Do we really have to wait?” And from all of these couples, most of whom waited, but some who didn’t, the answer is always a resounding “YES”. I think the best perspectives that I have been given as to why sex can be dysfunctional in a non-marital relationship have come from my many friends who have had sex before marriage. They explain to me that even in long term relationships, there isn’t the level of trust and commitment that a marriage has. In a dating relationship, you don’t have to vow to the other that you will always be there for them. Whenever I think about this I realize that with Darcy and my current living situations, (with aunts and uncles and parents respectively) we would have to sneak out and commit this ‘act’ so to speak. Something about that just doesn’t sit right. Besides, I have to bring my candle!

The thing with chastity, as with all spiritual disciplines, is that it takes a great deal of faith and prayer to practice. Darcy and I really won’t see the ‘fruits of our labor’ until we are married. For us it really isn’t about what we brought into our relationship as only one of us is a virgin, but it’s about the foundation that we have built together, within this relationship. A foundation of patience and discipline among many other things. This awkward and incredibly difficult period of dating/engagement has allowed us to sharpen the many different aspects of our relationship. And it’s not like we’re both completely hard done by, as Darcy and I are able to moderately express our sexuality in other ways without having sex. And there is something really special about the anticipation that has steadily been increasing towards our wedding date in October. We are able to plan together what that special night will look like. In many ways I know that practicing this discipline has only brought us closer as a couple. For Darcy, she knows that I respect her for more than just being a sexual being and for me it allows me to fine tune patience, which I learn more and more truly is a virtue!

For so long the church has put the emphasis on the sinful act of ‘losing your virginity’. I think it’s time that we start placing the emphasis on the spiritual discipline of chastity with our partners. We need to take time in our relationship to get to know one another and to grow together, and I truly believe that a chaste relationship provides an environment best suited for that growth. We live in a society that wants things right away and wants those things in excess so we are definitely in an uphill battle. I don’t think it’s possible for any couple to go through this alone. This discipline provides a wonderful opportunity for you to welcome God into your relationship. But also for you to involve other people, not necessarily Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, but perhaps some other married couples around you. Darcy and I have been so blessed by the wealth of knowledge and discipline that God has provided us with through the numerous married couples in our lives.

So, as I said before, all of this won’t come full circle until October when the lights go off and the candle goes on. But I can tell you right now that as Jesus is worth waiting diligently for, so is Darcy. And so is the woman/man in your life. Whether you’ve been having sex or have been practicing chastity for years, I encourage you in this journey toward spiritual discipline. I understand that at this point in our relationship, Darcy and I have just been building the foundation, with that, we have been given an opportunity to practice all of the fruits of the spirit together, heading towards the culmination of our labor when we enter into the marriage vows and a new journey of marriage begins. And between you and me, I hope a candle is lit for a lot of it.

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1480575_10151728129751793_2070801544_nMatthew Hill is currently a student at Tyndale University in Toronto completing his degree in Biblical Studies and Theology. He’s engaged to the beautiful Darcy (seen in the picture) and they are planning on getting married this fall. Matt is also a huge sports fan, loves music, film, and coffee.

Why Christians Don’t Know How To Talk About Sex (and what we need to do differently)…

holding-handsSo…

I like sex.

Quite a bit.  Am I allowed to say that?

I’m going to jump right into this thing.  I’m assuming that most who read this blog are interested in a Jesus perspective on all sorts of different issues, and are willing to ask and think about tough questions.  And since I know Darcie, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an intelligent person who is ok living with tensions and has a decent BS-o-meter.  So let’s talk about how we view sex.

We’ve got to start to reframe the sex conversation in a couple of ways.

Because as I was growing up, it was the mark of true Christian faith.  You could pretty much be as mean as you wanted, but you were the poster child for Christian faith if you stayed a virgin. That pretty much fits with many ways that we often understand Christian faith.  Don’t drink, smoke, swear, sleep around, or do anything else that sounds remotely fun, and you’ll be a good Christian.  Wooohooo!  Sign me up!

But seriously, if you’re in the position where you are choosing to wait (or trying your best to choose to wait!), sometimes it can feel like it’s torture, like God is simply telling you that you’re not allowed to have fun like everyone else, and deep down, if you knew that you could deal with the guilt and get away with it- you’d totally go for it and have a fun one night stand.

Those feelings are natural.  I dealt with them too.  But here’s what I’ve learned as a married, sex-having person…. choosing to be intentional about sexual decisions is about waaaaaay more than not having fun.  It’s actually about how God has wired us.

I have this inherent belief that Jesus wants us to have fun. Yes, there’s serious sacrifice in there.  But I think Jesus invites us to a way of life not because he wants us to be miserable and always have to struggle to follow the right rules, but because he actually wants to set us free.  Living, I believe, is the word he used for it.  Fully living.

I also tend to think that God created us intentionally.  And I tend to think that for the most part, following Jesus makes sense.  Real life sense.  More sense than we realize.  Not just in deep spiritual ways, but in totally normal, practical ways.  Forgiving people makes sense because you’re not free when there’s bitterness in you– your emotions are wrapped up with that person.  Being generous makes sense because money can create this jail that stops you from being able to live freely in God’s world because your emotions are wrapped up in your stuff.  And having sex with the person you’ve committed your life to makes sense because, well, you’re free to have your emotions wrapped up fully in that person, and not in someone else.

This whole sex thing is not just about the spirit.  It’s about the body.  More studies are now being released that are showing the chemicals that the brain releases during sex- not just chemicals of pleasure, but chemicals of connection. When you have sex with somebody, you become connected to them in a unique way.  There’s an emotional and psychological connection that is significant, long lasting, and wonderful.  Except…. when it’s with someone you’re not going to keep having sex with forever.  Then it sucks.

I feel like I got this incredible gift by struggling through the whole not-having-sex thing.  It was way harder than I expected, and I got pretty close a few times. But here’s the crazy thing- I become bonded to my wife. I learned how to have sex with her.  And my emotions were able to stay wrapped up in her, instead of trying to unwrap them off of someone else.  There was and is complete freedom, and it’s wonderful to be free in that way.  Many people aren’t.

I’d love it if we were able to start talking about sex a little differently.

First, can we start talking about sex in terms of what we’re doing instead of what we’re not?  The outside world looks on the Christian approach to abstinence as strange because we don’t know how to talk about it.  It’s looked at as a limitation on freedom- maybe we can express it as an expression of freedom.  We’re actually living the way our bodies were intended to function- free from significant heartache and emotional hurt that comes when our bodies make a commitment that our hearts and minds aren’t able to make.  I’d love to see those in the abstinence camp be able to comfortably talk about their abstinence as doing something, rather than not doing something.  If we knew how to talk about this stuff, maybe others would be able to hear the wisdom in it.  That being said, we are a culture that LOVES instant gratification, and sex is nothing if not that, so waiting will always be a radical and countercultural thing.  It’s cool though, because Jesus was both of those things too.  

And second, can we please stop it with the judgmental spiritual superiority that those who abstain give those who don’t?

I’m going to say it- having sex before marriage is not the end of the world.  Jesus specializes in helping bring life in hard situations.  Abstinence is not the mark of true Christian faith, nor is premarital sex the unforgivable sin. Waiting makes life a whole lot easier later on, without a doubt. But you are not damaged goods.  Seriously.  People who are trying to maintain purity and end up having sex deal with a lot of shame and guilt already, not to mention all the emotional weight of being connected intimately to multiple people.  That journey is tough enough, and there is emotional baggage that many of us have to carry from sexual brokenness and find healing for.  I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a hard enough journey. Please don’t add to it!

Ok, one more sex tip for single friends who are choosing to wait, and feel like years are beginning to pass you by…. you know, the really good sex-having years….. Rest assured that sex is like wine.  It ages really well, and you have plenty of time.  Sex is great.  But the freedom Jesus gives us – in sex, in life, wherever…. is even better.   Hang in there.

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unnamed-1Keith Miller lives in Newark, Delaware, with his wife, Bethany and 3 little people they made.  He pastors the LifePath Church community and loves the adventure of figuring out how to follow Jesus in a world that’s gone nuts.

The Type of Sex Worth Waiting For: Looking Back After 9 Years of Marriage…

to-my-future-husband-600x400In middle school, I decided that True Love Waits. I got a purity ring that I wore on my left ring finger as a reminder that Jesus was my first love and I was saving sex for marriage. In high school, I decided to completely Kiss Dating Goodbye. Why waste my time dating before I was old enough to consider marriage?

You see, like many young Christian girls in the 90’s, I had a master plan. Once I was settled into my Christian college, surrounded by mature men, it would be Boy Meets Girl and I’d Say Hello to Courtship. (I may have been a Joshua Harris groupie.)

I prayed for my future husband, I wrote letters to him, I daydreamed about who he might be. During high school, I was proud of my unconventional choices and content in my singleness. I wasn’t just saving sex for marriage, I was saving my heart.

I was a purity rock star.

I knew finding the man I was meant to marry might be tricky, but saving sex for marriage? That should be a piece of cake for a girl like me.

Not true.

I met the man I would one day marry midway through my first year of college, and I knew almost immediately that he was perfect for me. Keith was handsome and funny and charming. He was outgoing and able to draw me out of my shell. He had a compassionate heart, felt a calling into pastoral ministry, and, get this…. although he had gone on several dates in high school, he had never really had a girlfriend! I felt like I had struck gold.

I was so excited to share all the newness of a romantic relationship with Keith. We met each others’ families, we talked about the future, we prayed together, we laughed together, we cried together, we wrote letters, we professed our love, we held hands, we kissed…we held each other…we touched each other….

And we found ourselves tempted in areas we had always been strong.

It had been so easy for so many years! But that was before I truly fell in love. That was before I knew how intoxicating love could be. It really is like a drug sometimes.

Even with the best intentions and the most pristine track records, things get messy when you fall in love. As humans beings, the physical, emotional, and spiritual are intricately woven together. With attraction as an undeniable part of our relationship, it seemed nearly impossible for us to limit our physical relationship as we grew closer in every other way.

For over three years, we fought to keep our virginity intact, and it was only by God’s spirit that we were able to wait. It was certainly not by might, nor by power; we were weak.

After two years of dating, one year of engagement, and nine years of marriage, I am so thankful that I was able to discover sex by discovering my husband. And while I cannot compare sex outside of marriage to sex between a husband and a wife, I did experience physical intimacy outside of marriage. And even with what could be considered best case scenario physical intimacy (we had no prior relationships and ended up married to each other), I know firsthand that physical intimacy between a husband and a wife is so. much. better. Why? Because marriage is like a protective bubble where it is just the two of us, fully committed and totally free.

And that type of sex is worth waiting for.

~ ~ ~ ~

unnamedBethany is still happily married to that guy she met in college. They moved to Delaware in 2011 to start LifePath Church and have loved watching God do amazing things over the past three years. Bethany is a stay at home mom to her twin boys, Kylan and Judah, and her 2-year-old daughter, Sariya. She enjoys doing creative, messy things which makes her kids happy and her house very, very sad. 

Up All Night to Get Lucky: Meet Josh, a 28 Year Old Guy Choosing to Wait…

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About a year ago, I moved to a new city. I lived on my own. It was a big city,  and I could easily get lost. For the first time after having grown up in the church, gone to a small Bible College, touring in a Christian band and living in some kind of spotlight for much of my life, I was just a guy in a city.

And one day it hit me, I’m here and nobody knows me. If I wanted to I could go out to a bar, pick up a girl, sleep with her,  and no one would “catch me”. It would be fun, boost my ego and be physically fulfilling.

For the first time in my 28 years, I had to decide how I wanted to live my life. I was still a virgin and finally had to answer this question for myself, “Why am I waiting for marriage?”

It’s easy for me to think I believe something, but when I am challenged with an opportunity, that’s when I find out what I actually believe. I know I’m “supposed to” wait for marriage to have sex… but why? Do I actually care? Does the Bible actually say that? And if so, do I actually believe it?

I believe that the Bible condemns sex outside of the marriage union. I believe that from start to finish, the Bible shows the intimacy that sex creates and that it belongs between two people in marriage.

I believe it because I see it in the Bible,  but I also believe it because of my experience. While yes, I am a virgin, I have had some exceptionally intimate and sexual moments. At the time, I told myself these moments were purely physical… but in retrospect I can also see how they affected my mind and my soul. I was very selfish. Whether you think the Bible forbids sex outside of marriage or not, it does tell us to love. And love and selfishness are complete opposites.

I know how intimate those moments were and I know that I don’t want to share another moment with anyone other than my wife. That was my selfishness at work. When I choose that path it not only affects me, it affects women, their husbands, my future wife, maybe their kids, maybe my kids, potentially more… Intimacy outside of a marriage is selfish, plain and simple. It may feel like love in the moment, but it’s not;  love puts the other person first. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) I wind up marrying the person I’m sleeping with – I am still engaging in an incredibly intimate and spiritual moment that may not be mine to engage in. Love, true love, is selfless and true love wouldn’t risk for a second, taking away a special moment from someone they love, or implanting a memory that will forever be with someone who is trying to be intimate with someone else. I know that there are memories that will forever be with me, memories I wish didn’t live in my dreams and at the back of my mind. And I never want to do that to someone again, especially someone I love.

If you were wondering, I didn’t go to a bar that night (or any night after) and try and pick up a woman to try to sleep with her.  As it turns out, I do believe it is best to wait. And it’s not because I’m “supposed to”, It’s because I want to. I want to live a life of love and selflessness – because that’s what Jesus taught me. I want to honour my wife and honour Jesus with waiting. I do have my mistakes, and I can’t take those back. But each day, each time I choose love over selfishness, and waiting over my wantings, is another moment, another gift I give to my wife, whoever that may be and another example of the life Jesus is calling me to live.

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1461215_10151745803800998_65942097_nJosh is a 29 year old artist from Eastern Canada. He likes to make music, write, cook, design and take photos of things, and brew coffee… but mostly he just wants to dance. He is all over social media and you can find him at “/joshuaamharris” www.atlanticreative.com, www.atlanticcommunity.cc

*Cover photo taken by Joshua Harris of his sister, Linsey and brother in-law, Greg. For the record, they both waited and are “so SO glad we did” :).

“I’m Sexy But No One Knows It”: Thoughts From a 29 Year Old Virgin…

I’ve posted on singleness many times. I’ve been single for the better part of my 29 years on this planet. There was a brief stint in high school (like 11 days brief) where I technically had a boyfriend, though I’m not even sure at this point that I count that. I’ve dated a bit, but haven’t been out on more than two dates with anyone since then.

And this is the shocking part.

I’m OK with that.

But I’ve never once talked about celibacy in this platform before. I’ll be honest when I admit that I’m a little nervous to write this. And I’ll also admit that it’s one thing to write it with the intention of handing it over to Darcie, but I’m nervous to post it on my own blog….to my own readers.

I’m single. I’m also a virgin. I have a few reasons for having made that choice, and for having maintained it all these years. And this may be surprising, but the reasons for still being single and a virgin run deeper than “because the Bible tells me so,” although that’s a completely valid reason.

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Firstly, I’m single mostly by choice. I haven’t found anyone yet for whom I’m willing to give up the independence I’ve grown to love deeply. But I also have a lot of experience in watching absolutely broken relationships, as well as phenomenal ones. As a result of the combinations of those, I’ve made a conscious decision not to settle. If it means I’m single until the day that I die, I’m ok with that.

Before I came to grips with this for myself, before I was really ok with that (even though I’ve been saying it for a long time), I had many people tell me that it’s better to be single than in a bad relationship. I knew deep down that they were right…I did. But it was very hard to internalize that. When you look at a good relationship though… a really good relationship… you see the things that are worth waiting for. They respect each other. They have each others’ best interests at heart. They share a common love of Jesus (when they’re Christians — I’m not at all saying that healthy relationships don’t exist outside of Christ, they do…I just don’t want to be in one of those). They know how to disagree with each other. They share common values and aren’t completely opposed to each other on really key things like how they raise their kids. They’re friends — they know how to relate to each other in all circumstances because they do life together. They share a sense of humour. They’re equally committed to the success of their relationship.

I am holding out for a relationship with a man who can share that kind of relationship with me…. even if it never happens. In the meantime, I have incredible friends – I’m so blessed. I have a family who loves me dearly. I have a church community that I love. I have great interests and things that I invest my time in while I continue to become the best version of myself I can be in Christ. I’ve waited this long, I don’t intend to settle for less than wonderful.

Now…something that goes hand in hand with this is that I’ve never had sex before. Absolutely, it’s something I’d like to do at some point…and I won’t talk about that any more….but I made a decision really early on in my young years that just like the Bible instructed me to do, this was something I’d like kept for my husband. It’s my sincere hope that when I do find a husband, he’s done the same for me, though I hope if that’s not the case that I can be full of grace and understanding.

But for me it’s more than just a “because the Bible tells me so” kind of commitment. I’m a product of the youth group era where we glued paper together and showed the damaging effect sleeping around can have…we get all torn up and we’re damaged. And then I grew up and realized how terrible of a message that is without the other half of it — we’re covered by grace and there is beautiful redemption in the arms of Jesus if we didn’t make it to marriage. I have an issue with the amount of shame that was pushed on us while I was a teenager, and it pains me to know that we’re still preaching the same rhetoric without the love and grace.

Anyway — beyond the Biblical reasoning, beyond the possible diseases, beyond all of those typical reasons…my biggest reason for keeping sex inside of marriage (if I ever get there) has come in the last couple of years, when I would say I’ve really owned this decision and made it for myself and really thought it through. My biggest reason has come from something really profound that a couple of friends of mine (who are married to amazing men) have expressed to me. The type of relationship you have with your partner outside of the bedroom will impact the type of relationship you have with your partner inside the bedroom. It would stand to reason then that it’ll be better if I wait until I’m in an awesome relationship…and if I’m holding out for a God-glorifying relationship before I commit to giving up my singleness, why wouldn’t I hold out for the God-glorifying sex that goes along with that?

I think that the people who claim that you can’t really know someone until you’ve slept with them (I had a guy try to pull that one on me after we’d spoken on the phone once… ick!), are wrong. Because while I know that this isn’t a popular stance in the culture I’m in, God’s designs for us aren’t meant to be culturally popular. In fact, normally they’re counter-cultural…. and I’ll trust the designs of my Creator who knows best for me before I’ll take the advice of my culture.

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1415764_10100315611180360_358670549_nLaura is a 29 year old primary teacher living in South-Western Ontario. She grew up in the Niagara Region in a great church with a great church family, but really had to start owning her own faith in God since she moved out on her own and started teaching in 2008. She loves to write, sing, play the fiddle, watch movies, and read. Laura would gladly quit her day-job and write full time if someone would hire her. Please check out her blog where she writes fairly frequently at http://thisblogisepic.wordpress.com

Yoga and Faith: A Guest Post by Amanda Newhouse…

a-blog 4I don’t do yoga. In fact, I can’t even touch my toes. So when Stand Up Paddle-board (SUP) Yoga started to grace the cover of every fitness and lifestyle magazine and the requests to put on a SUP Yoga class came pouring in, I figured “hey, those that can’t do, teach.. right?” Just kidding! I hired the best instructor in town and away we went. This added another program to my Stand Up Paddle-board business that I recently started this past summer, called Fearless Females. And now after reflecting on a great first season on the boards, I can’t help but think that sometimes my relationship with God is kind of like doing Yoga on a Stand Up paddle-board.

As mentioned, I’m no Yogi. As an athlete I can respect the flexibly aspect that can be obtained by doing yoga, but I truly believe that strength comes from the Lord, and not from a person’s centre or from “within”, so hear me out as I explain my theory and some experiences from this past summer.

Yoga is all about balance and so unfortunately, when you’re doing yoga on a board in the water,  the consequences are a little more severe when you lose your balance. Every time I take a beginner out, I make sure to explain the parts of the board, and explain “the sweet spot”- the position on the board where you will find the most balance. Too much one way or too much another and you’ll end up in the drink! Keeping this sweet spot in mind is crucial when doing yoga on the board, and this brings me to my first point… having a good relationship with God requires balance. I used to find myself way too far forward – always worrying and fretting about what was next, trying to control the future, and getting ahead of myself instead of staying balanced and leaning on God. I’m often too far to the right – consumed by friends, social gatherings, fitting in, or I’m too far to the left and lusting over the things of this world instead of focusing on His kingdom.

I continually tend to find myself trying to do everything on my own; in turn taking a step backwards and leaving that prefect balance and sweet spot with God. This reminds me of my favorite (and most hilarious) fall of the summer – it was almost slow motion as one of the girls began to lose her balance and took a step back, this was accompanied by a panicky “No!”, and another step back again with a frantic “No” as the board started to move forward! She continued to take a few steps backward until there was nothing left but open water! This made for a lots of great laugher and fun, but I can’t help but think that I continue to find myself taking those steps backwards and landing flat on my back, only it’s not water, and it’s not so funny. Luckily, with God’s grace, just like in paddle-boarding, we can hop back on, find our sweet spot in perfect harmony with the Lord, and continue on our journey.

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Me about to fall in the water in 3, 2, 1….

After our first couple of classes I couldn’t help but laugh every time I saw the perfect image of a girl doing SUP yoga. Not a ripple in the water, a prefect sunny day, the girl standing on her head.. completely dry.. sureeee! This makes for a lovely picture, but when you show up to the lake with a group of eight+ excited participants and that strong north wind is blowing, some adjustments need to be made. We quickly and resourcefully solve the problem of drifting away from each other and blowing into shore by posting up in the weeds.. yes we park ourselves right in the thickest, most potent weed patches we cab find – the thicker the better! Nothing like breathing deeply inches away from warm seaweed, and dead floaters to create that “Zen” yoga atmosphere and truly connect with nature.

Magazine Image

Magazine Image

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Sometimes it’s easy to portray this prefect image of being a Christian by going through the Christian motions; showing up to church every Sunday, saying things like “I’ll pray for you” and conveying this spiritual images that on the outside all look fine and dandy and right with the Lord, but really when we take a second and think about it – our relationship is “in da weeds” (great Jamaican saying for “in trouble”). Busyness consumes our spiritual time, praying and talking to God seems farther and farther apart, and our bible seems to be getting buried farther and farther in the bottom drawer. There has definitely been times, dare I say seasons, where I’ve been doing life with God “in the weeds”.

I’ve come across every excuse in the book on why people can’t come paddle-boarding, but then they give it a try and volia! Some direction, words of encouragement, a little guidance when the water gets rough and they are paddling like champions! Sometimes, I’m the one with all the excuses and doubt as God tugs little strings and puts different ideas, things and people on my heart. But again with some direction from his word, encouragement and guidance from other believers and mentors …and Volia! However, even when I fail or fall off, with God’s grace he continues to pick me up and encourage me as I climb back up and try it again.

Did my yoga skills improve this summer? Probably not. I still can’t touch my toes and I will again have to hire someone next year to teach the class, but we had fun, shared great laughs and survived our first season of SUP yoga! Who knew yoga could teach me so much about faith?!?

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431513_473219552696636_274994554_nAmanda Newhouse is a young entrepreneur, running her own company called “Fearless Females” which aims to link ladies in Niagara to action, adventure and actives! In the summer you can find her out on the water – running her Stand Up paddle board programs or with wakeboard in hand, and in the winter she enjoys hitting the Slopes with Snowboarders for Christ . Keep up to date on the all her Fearless Females activities by liking them on facebook: Fearless Females Niagara and visiting SFC online. 

 

Imagine: A Guest Post by Natalie Frisk

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I love John Lennon’s song “Imagine” minus the first verse. I just don’t want to imagine “no heaven.” I like heaven. But imagine: no countries, no religion, no possessions – sounds a whole lot like the kingdom of God, doesn’t it?

I don’t think Lennon had any idea or intent to point to a kingdom theology in his song, but he sure does. No international borders, no religious trappings, no possessions that stand in the way of relationships – this is the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus declared, unlocked the door to, and laid down his life to usher in.

And so, when Jesus said love your enemy, I think he meant it. I think he also showed it with incredible implications. The cross is often pointed to as the ultimate act of enemy love – Jesus died for all people. Imagine. People who warred against him. People who insulted him. People who hurt him.

But Jesus also does something incredible the night he is betrayed. A mob is coming to take him to his death. (A mob, in fact, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders – imagine your church leadership sending a mob after someone.) As this happens, they take hold of Jesus and one of his disciples busts out a sword and lops off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

Jesus practices enemy love. He is in the act of being arrested. He knows that his arrest will lead to painful things and end in his death, and yet, here he is stopping a scene from going from bad to worse to more bloodshed. Jesus stops them from further violence. But he doesn’t end his efforts there.

Jesus restores. Despite the fact that the injured man was coming to arrest him and lead him to his inevitable end, Jesus stops the violence and heals this man. This enemy. He doesn’t leave him wounded. He doesn’t simply help this man find a bandage. He restores him.

Imagine.

Imagine if we took a play from Jesus’ book. Imagine if we could lay down our own feelings of betrayal or pride or hurt and seek the same kind of restoration. What would that look like?

I know there is a cynical voice somewhere who says, “But I’m not Jesus.” You’re right. Thank God you aren’t. But we are called to be more like him each day. And what does it look like to be more like Jesus? To lay aside our own feelings of personal injustice, of pride, or of betrayal and love unconditionally?

It looks hard. It looks like work. But it isn’t impossible.

“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”

Imagine.

And then live it.

~ ~ ~ ~

485743_484959431574895_2036711021_nNatalie Frisk is the Curriculum Development Pastor at The Meeting House Church – a multi-site church in Ontario, Canada, and an ordained minister with the Brethren in Christ denomination in Canada. She is married to Sam and together they have an awesome daughter, Erin Penny.

Read more of Natalie’s writing at nataliefrisk.com and follow her on twitter @NatalieFrisk. 

Love, Chastity & Sex: An Interview with Blogger & Author Arleen Spenceley…

A few months ago I had the opportunity to be a part of a book launch team for Paul Angone’s 101 Secrets for Your Twenties… I got the chance to meet some pretty awesome people and one of these people included a fantastic girl named Arleen. Arleen is full of spunk and wisdom and I’m super excited that she agreed to let me interview her because you have to check out this girl’s writing, seriously!

So without further adieu…meet Arleen…

Q: Arleen, anyone who knows something about you or reads your writing knows that you’re a woman of many talents. But for those who haven’t stumbled upon your writing yet, tell us a little bit about yourself?

A: You are too kind! Thank you. I am a 28-year-old follower of Jesus Christ who lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. I write for the Tampa Bay Times (Florida’s biggest and best newspaper!), and blog about love, chastity, and sex. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. I really like watching scary movies, eating good food, and laughing as much as possible.

Q: You write about love, chastity, and sex. Why are you passionate about these topics? How did you get interested in these things?

A: My quest to spread better messages about love, chastity, and sex started when I dated a guy who didn’t practice chastity. As a chaste woman, I don’t believe we are supposed to commit to a person because sex is pleasurable with him or her, but that we’re supposed to create a pleasurable sexual relationship with the person to whom we are committed in marriage. As you can imagine, expressing this to a guy who disagrees didn’t end well (for him, anyway). But the experience was access to a world I hadn’t known before — one in which chastity is foreign, infatuation is mistaken for love, and nobody believes it’s possible (or a good idea) to save sex for marriage. But resistance to chastity (which, for the record, is not the same as abstinence) is the source of some of awful realities. If we all practiced chastity, there would be no abortion, no unfit parents, no unwanted babies, no abuse, and I could go on. There’s a better sexual ethic than the one that tends to surround us, and I’m eager to introduce it to anybody who’ll listen.

Q: You say that you’re a Roman Catholic Christian. What do you mean by this? For those Christians who have trouble understanding how Catholicism and Christianity can co-exist, can you enlighten us? Do you ever encounter a tension when you tell people you’re a Catholic and a Christian?

A: From fifth through twelfth grades, I was a student at a private, Protestant school, where I was routinely (but mostly mildly) discriminated against for being Catholic. Some Protestant schools of thought say Catholics can’t be Christians, that Catholicism isn’t a Christian religion. Both notions are totally false, which is  probably why I started to call myself a Roman Catholic Christian. Kind of my way of familiarizing people with the idea that Catholics can be Christians, too. In recent years, I’ve written a couple posts about the tension between Protestants and Catholics. I still get feedback from people who think I’m headed to hell in a handbasket, but for the most part, my Protestant friends and readers agree that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ.

Q: What’s inspiring you these days? 

A: I’m inspired lately by two things. One is by working in a newsroom. I just returned to the Times after a nearly-year long break, during which I finished my master’s degree. For some reason, I totally write better when I’m in a room with fellow journalists. The other is a few friends of mine, who are each going through some very heavy stuff. I am inspired by their faith and perseverance.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one item with you, what would it be?

A: Just one? That’s tough. I’m torn between my Bible and a GIANT bottle of water.

Q: I hear you have some exciting news to share, you’re releasing a book…can you give my readers any inside glimpses to what it’s going to be about and when it will hit stores? 

A: Yes! I am both pumped and humbled to have recently announced a book deal with Ave Maria Press. Generally speaking, the book will be about love, chastity, and sex (and is intended to spread messages like the one I spread when I wrote an essay for the newspaper called Why I’m still a virgin at age 26.). The book is slated for a Fall 2014 release.

Q: Last question….many of my readers are Canadian! Tell us your favourite thing about Canada or some place in our great country that you’d like to visit. 

A: I haven’t been to Canada yet, but a landmark I’d love to visit is St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. It’s a Catholic basilica and Canada’s largest church (according to the Internet, anyway). I saw a documentary about it once and have been intrigued ever since.

~ ~ ~ ~

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You can follow Arleen on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

Read her blog at arleenspenceley.com.

I Can’t Deal: A Guest Blog by Laura Winger…

My vocabulary is fairly extensive, but it varies depending on the audience to whom I’m speaking. I’ve found recently that many of the things that come out of my mouth started out intending to be ironic, making fun of those who say them seriously, and then made a home in my vernacular as if they were meant to be there all along. Examples include: peeps, cray cray, legit, and using hashtag in every day speech… yup! Out loud. I know… #ridiculous.

Some of the phrases or words that have crept into my speech patterns are not quite so egregious (like the word egregious… I think it needs to come out more often). I took note a couple weeks ago that the phrase “I can’t deal,” or its close cousin “I can’t even deal” has become something I utter often.

When I’m standing in front of my kindergarten phys. ed. class, and only six kids are listening because they’re distracted by the giant parachute on the floor, I speak over them: “Kindergarten friends! When the whistle blows, we freeze, please!” Then, I look at the EA or the ECE and I mutter “I can’t even deal with this right now.”

When discussing my many failed attempts at dating over the interwebz, I’ve exclaimed to many a friend in extreme frustration “Gah! I can’t even deal! Why does this always go down this way!?” It’s usually followed up with something ridiculous like “peeps be cray cray, I tells ya!”

When I want to emphasize my point, particularly in writing (where I emphasize my point best), I often separate my phrase by breaking it up with a bunch of periods. Can. Not. Deal. I feel like eliminating the use of contractions in a sentence broken up by periods just adds much more of a sense of weight to it.

But I noticed something.

After months of slowly letting “I can’t even deal” creep into my every day speech patterns, and letting it become something that I’m now quoted as saying by colleagues and friends, I’ve started to question the attitude and the mind set behind it.

I’m a language lover, so I’m always interested when a sentence can be deconstructed and the language in it can be examined. This sentence has three parts.

1. I

No one else, just me. I haven’t invited anyone else into whatever the situation, no matter how dire, to help me deal. I am attempting to deal on my own. I’m flying solo and I have no trouble admitting it when I declare “I can’t deal.” Notice how many times the word ‘I’ was used in that point?

2. can’t

This implies that what I’m trying to do (on my own, you remember) is not something I’m capable of accomplishing. When I’m struggling with any situation and I decide that I can’t deal, I’ve checked out, and really the only options I’m left with are accepting defeat or continuing to whine.

3. deal.

This part may not seem quite as important as the others…. but this is the verb. It’s the action. It’s the one thing I repeatedly declare for the masses to hear that I can not do. Deal. I can’t deal. Loose synonyms include: I can’t handle this, I can’t take it anymore, I can’t go on, I can’t function.

Lesson learned:

I like to try to find something that I can take away from a musing like this, especially when it sits on my heart and my brain for weeks like this one has.

While I occasionally say “I can’t deal” for comedic effect, and I know as well as everyone around me that I in fact CAN deal with the situation… there are times when it gives a really clear peek into my heart.

When I declare to everyone around me that I can’t deal, I’m also declaring (while not everyone may realize it) that I haven’t taken whatever the situation is to my Saviour, and that even though I don’t think I can handle it, I don’t want to give it up, either. I don’t want to let go of my control over whatever that thing I can’t deal with is. I imagine God doesn’t like my attitude much when I go “ugh! I can’t deal!” instead of saying “God, I can’t deal with this, so I’m trusting You to step in. Your plans are bigger than my plans, and You know what’s going on here. Please do what You need to do in Your timing and in Your will, I trust You.” How little trust does it show to say “I can’t deal” but still not give it up to the One who CAN deal with it?

Does this strike a chord with anyone else?

~ ~ ~ ~

1415764_10100315611180360_358670549_nLaura is an (almost!) 29 year old primary teacher living in South-Western Ontario. She grew up in the Niagara Region in a great church with a great church family, but really had to start owning her own faith in God since she moved out on her own and started teaching in 2008. She loves to write, sing, play the fiddle, watch movies, and read. Laura would gladly quit her day-job and write full time if someone would hire her. Please check out her blog where she writes fairly frequently at http://thisblogisepic.wordpress.com

It’s About Time We Talked About It…

5STR828CV28HGEDA-rszw514As I sit here and I write, I have to admit my burden is heavy.

It sits on my chest. The day seems somewhat grey and there’s a fog that seems to be sitting over my part of the world.

I spent the weekend up north for a youth retreat. I hung out with some of the most amazing kids. We laughed and danced and sang songs of worship. I watched in awe as Jesus captured the hearts of so many students, some for the very first time.

I needed to see that happen again. I needed to remember what it looks like when God captures your attention for the first time. There was something that happened deep in my soul as I heard a student utter that they never knew that God loved them until now. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

On that same day I heard about two people from two very different parts of my world, that died. The kind of death you don’t expect, the kind that shocks you to the core. The kind that makes you want to tell everyone important in your life that you love them. The kind that makes you breathe just a little bit deeper and hug just a little bit longer.

On the same day that my heart rejoiced for those kids that experienced Jesus in a new way, my heart broke because one man took his life and another man lost it. I am reminded once again of the tension of this life.

This weekend student after student poured out their hearts to trusted leaders. Things came to the surface that have been buried down deep for so long. The things that these kids are facing these days astounds me. Yesterday morning I heard one friend say that she was speaking to a guidance counsellor at a local school, they told her that she shouldn’t be alarmed that one kid was considering suicide because it’s normal these days, most kids do it.

I’m sorry, what?

When did this become ok? When did it become “normal” for most of our kids to be contemplating suicide? When did life become so hopeless that the only way out was to end it all?

Who told you that you are worthless?

Who told you that you don’t have a choice?

Who told you that no one cares?

Have we done this to ourselves?

Well, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of not talking about it. I’m sick of the idea that in order to follow Jesus and belong to the church you have to have it all together.

Where is it getting us?

Instead of creating safe places, we’ve created a culture of guilt and shame.

You’re depressed?

Anxious?

Bulimic?

Bi-polar?

Schizophrenic?

HIV positive?

Have same gender attraction?

Suicidal?

Don’t talk about it. Pretend it’s not there. Pray about it. Don’t think about it. Blah blah blah.

We use language of shame and guilt. We create a culture of spiritual abuse.

And this is what we want to invite people into?

I don’t want to do it anymore. We need to talk about it. We need to acknowledge that in this day and age more people are struggling with mental illnesses than ever before. It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian, it doesn’t mean God loves you less, and it doesn’t mean you’re sick or screwed up. But we can’t be quiet anymore. Because there are too many people walking around dying inside and putting on a smile so no one knows.

I have anxiety. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. A few years ago it got so bad that I started having panic attacks. My thoughts would make me so anxious that nothing could calm me down. I hated myself. I was frustrated with God because he wouldn’t take it away. I felt like no one could understand what was going on inside of me. I was so ashamed that I was struggling with this. I thought that going to see a counsellor meant I was crazy. I thought that only crazy people needed medication. And so I suffered in my worry, until I read this book by a young Mom who talked about how everyone should see a counsellor at some point in their life. She talked about creating space when you’re young to work out your “junk”. Somehow, those words in that chapter freed me. I decided I should talk to a counsellor. My anxiety got so bad that I started to feel like I couldn’t go on living this way. So I did some research and as I looked and read stories of people, I realized that there were others struggling just like I was. I started taking some medication to help with my anxiety about 3 years ago, and it’s actually changed my life for the better. I started seeing a counsellor, who I went to for about 2 years, which also helped me work through a lot of my feelings of guilt and shame.

As I started to feel better, I became more and more open with people about my struggle with anxiety, with coming to grips with the fact that I needed help and that I couldn’t do it on my own. As I started to share with people, they started to talk about their own struggle with similar things. It was like a domino effect, and I found that people need to talk about it. They need to know that they’re not alone, that their struggle shouldn’t make them feel ashamed, that there is hope and help and a light at the end of the tunnel. I started to find that the more freedom there was to talk about these things, the more the walls of stereotype and stigma came down.

God didn’t heal me of my anxiety. I still struggle with it daily. I still take stuff to help me. I still have days where I feel like I’m having a heart attack because I have so much anxiety. People can’t see it from the outside. Most people would never look at me and think, oh she must really struggle with anxiety, or she’s for sure had those dark moments that seemed so hopeless, where her parents didn’t even know what to do with her. God didn’t just take it away. This has been a long journey for me. A long journey of becoming comfortable with who I am, with owning the fact that I’ve got some junk and God doesn’t always just fix it. Sometimes he chooses to walk with us through it, because that’s how we learn to know him. He wants that for us so badly. So maybe in a way God did heal me, just not from what I thought I needed healing from. I’m tired of this “healing language” that tells us that we can always pray our problems away. Sometimes, God chooses to take it away but most times he chooses to jump in the mud with us and help us find our way.

And usually we find that there’s a whole lot more people in the mud than not, and they need us. They need us to share our story, they need us to come alongside them and tell them it’s not always going to be this hard. This is true community, and this is what the Church should be.

So please, can we just talk about it. Whatever it is, wherever you find yourself, find a safe person and just talk about it.

Be a safe person and listen.

Actively break down those walls.

Stand up against the language of guilt and shame.

Cast it out.

Call it out.

Declare that there’s no place for it.

My burden is heavy because I don’t want my students to grow up having to keep it all in. I don’t want them to think that the church is a place where perfect people live. I want it to be a safe space, with safe people, where they can share without shame.

We have to start somewhere.

So, where will you start?