101 Secrets For Your Twenties (Review)

0257

I think we can all agree: This twentysomething shoot ain’t easy. It’s a decade exploding with intensity and ambiguity. Anxiety and excitement. Purpose and pointlessness. Answers riddled with questions. Paradoxes mixed with 100 percent certainties. There are so many “firsts.” So much change. So many “what ifs, what nows, and what the hecks.”

That’s an excerpt from “101 Secrets For Your Twenties” by Paul Angone. He is the founder of AllGroanUp.com, as well as a speaker, humorist, story-teller–––because really––––which of us doesn’t want to be those things? As a wanna-be humorist (I try, folks), Paul’s words resonated with me as I flipped every page.

The Skinny

In short, 101 Secrets is exactly like it sounds: 101 tips for twenty-somethings that range from relationship advice to career monotony and back again.

He writes in a format that makes for a very quick read. I finished it in two relatively short sittings, and I don’t think that’s a knock on Angone. In fact, I consider it a plus. The ease of readability made me not want to set this book down.

Some tips are merely a heading with no need to expound, while others are fully flegded chapters. The mixture of both provides an attainable pace that allows the reader to enjoy the journey, which is what being a twenty-something is all about.

The Score

This is a fun read. Paul’s usage of bouncing around from topic to topic proved to be the path to least resistance for this reader (who has a mile high stack of yet-to-be-reads). At some points I wish Paul would’ve taken a larger crack at some topics, but overall, I feel better equipped to handle my late twenties. 4 stars out of 5.

You can preorder your copy of 101 Secrets For Your Twenties here. The book drops on July 1.

We Are Not Hoodlums.

I think we've all been there.

You've scoured the Christian section at Barnes and Noble, searching for a jump start. An ignition, if you will, for your lost–––or lonely–––or broken–––life. Invariably, your eyes find the devotional section and you settle on a devotional that might help deliver you from your distance from God.
 

we-are-not-hoodlums


There's no settling here.

A great friend of mine and Quarterlife writer, Cory Copeland, wrote a devotional called We Are Not Hoodlums. It releases today.

This is not your normal devotional and the cover states it succinctly: "a devotional for the rest of us." Because how often do we head to that Barnes and Noble, only to pick up a devo that leaves us feeling less than? It's as if, unintentionally, these devotional writers come from a higher place to prescribe what we truly need.

Cory did not write this devotional to be seen as a religious authority; you can see it on every page. He wrote this as if to say:


"Hey. I'm over here sitting in the mud. I see you sitting over there in the mud. Can we sit in the mud together?"


To broken people with broken hearts and lives, this is sweetness to the soul. I mean, honestly… who writes about life being unfair? And, furthermore, is genuine about it? It doesn't matter if it's worthiness or loneliness or dream-chasing or chasing our past–––it's all covered with an air of humor and grace.

But then my dear friend set me straight and told me I could write such a book because I was in the same boat as someone who needed it. My own broken walk with God is lacking, so why couldn’t the reader and the writer be cut from the same cloth? Why couldn’t we—you and I—begin a Biblical journey together? Why couldn’t a book of devotions and examinations be written from a place of equality rather than a place of supposed superiority? 

(from We Are Not Hoodlums, introduction)

In total, there's a months worth of reading, if you're a one-devo-a-day type of man. If not, read the whole thing in one sitting because you'll love it. I am recommending this to all of you, my dear readers, because you deserve to walk through the trials of life with laughter, stories, and scripture.
 

You can find the book in paperback on Amazon here and you find the Kindle version here. Also, it's Cory's birthday today, so do two things:

1) Sing happy birthday into your computer screen, then find him on Twitter (@Cory_Copeland) and wish him a happy birthday.

2) Get on Amazon (here) and download the Kindle version FOR FREE today. Consider it a birthday celebration.

 

 

Of Hobbits and Angels

After seeing the new Hobbit movie (in 3D nonetheless), and being a bit of an Inklings nerd, I was left wondering; “If Gandalf keeps saving the dwarves with miraculous power, why doesn’t he just use that power to take them to the end of the quest?” In one instance, when the dwarves are cornered and death is eminent, giant eagles arrive to carry them to safety. Why can’t the birds just take them to the mountain?

Before I endeavor to answer that question, this needs some setup: The Hobbit is about a hobbit named Bilbo, who is invited by a wizard named Gandalf to join a company of dwarves who are going to a mountain to slay a dragon. The interesting part is that Bilbo is a homebody who rarely even leaves his garden, while the dwarves are all veteran warrior-adventurers. It’s kind of like if you got asked to be a walk-on to Seal Team 6. The warriors are annoyed to have an amateur along, and really the only person who thinks Bilbo should be a part of the company is Gandalf himself. Along the way, when the company gets into trouble (wolves, trolls, and other mystical threats), Gandalf appears to assist in the company’s victory, sometimes fighting alongside the company, sometimes using wizard skills to affect the outcome.
Okay, now back to our question about the birds and Gandalfs power:

In a particularly bad situation, the company is cornered with no escape, and Gandalf calls giant eagles to rescue everyone. At the end of an incredibly arduous 24-hour battle, the company finds themselves resting (and even sleeping) on the backs of giant eagles, who take them well out of reach of their enemies to rest and regroup.

Why doesn’t Gandalf call the birds at the beginning? Why set out along the ground in the first place?

I mean, if the goal is to get to the mountain, kill the dragon, and return victorious, wouldn’t getting there faster be better? “And then the company flew to the Mountain, slew the dragon, and returned victorious. The End.”

In a pragmatic sense (assuming the internal logic of a fantasy novel) the answer is “No.” Bilbo would likely get killed in such a scenario. Without the trolls, orcs, swordfights and Gollum he wouldn’t have gotten his sword, discovered the ring, or found his courage. In short, he’d be useless at Lonely Mountain if he arrived unprepared, and it is the Unexpected Journey itself that is preparing him.

Wikipedia says the reason the Eagles don’t offer an express ticket to Lonely Mountain is because they are sentient beings and, while happy to do Gandalf a favor, it’s just that – a favor. They have their own stories to attend to.

The Bilbo from the Shire is not the Bilbo the company needs for the Unexpected Journey. The Bilbo the company needs is formed in the course of the Journey.

Why am I asking such questions in a Theology of Culture post?

It’s a big surprise, but Gandalf really plays the role of God in these films. (Although if you want to get picky, he’s more like Melchizedek or the holy spirit) He guides, challenges and saves the adventurers, but most often works through the world they inhabit, and only rarely pulls of a wizard/miracle event to save everyone. This where the mythological framework of Middle Earth jives with biblical truth: God’s not sent us on our journeys for his good or our fortune. Whatever your goal is, God’s plan is to forge a new you out of the old you. While he protects and guides us, he’s not merely in the business of dragon-slaying. If god wants the dragons of the world slain… he could do that himself.

I, like many of you I expect, have my own crises of calling from time to time. I know where I want to go, and while I am assured that this goal is a calling from God, he hasn’t shown up to put me in the express lane to get there.

What if Gandalf brought Bilbo on the journey to transform Bilbo (and by extention, the Shire, the Company, and Middle Earth)? What if the good he is trying to bring about, and the justice he is trying to serve isn’t just the slaying of a particular dragon, but transforming the world of Middle Earth?

God has sent me on my journey to transform me. He wants a Kyle Baker that is more fully Kyle (and more fully Christ) than I am. In the process of transforming me, he’ll also transform (and bring a hint of redemption to) those I journey with, and the places we journey through.

This thought gave me incredible comfort.

Purity: Asking All The Wrong Questions (Plus Giveaway!)

[alert style=”info”] Ed. Note: Today’s guest post is from Ally Vesterfelt. She is a writer extraordinaire and the editor-in-chief at Prodigal. You can follow her on Twitter and scroll below for the chance to win a copy of her new book! [/alert]

I used to think that being single was awesome because I didn’t have to worry about anyone but me.

In some ways, I was right.

Then I met Darrell. We started dating. And really quickly I began to realize that it isn’t really fair to say that my single life was all about me. In fact, the decisions I made before I met him affected someone other than me, someone who I didn’t even know existed at the time was was making them.

There are some decisions I made as a single woman that I wish I wouldn’t have made so flippantly. I wish I would have realized that the decisions I was making in my single life were decisions that would one day impact my husband.

I grew up in church and heard the messages about “Waiting for Marriage” from the time I was young. I was part of the “True Love Waits” generation and read books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and When God Writes Your Love Story.

I even went on a retreat with my youth group where I started writing letters to my future husband. Between the ages of 15 & 18 I wrote a few hundred letters and kept them in a box under my bed.

Cute, right?

 

During late high school and college I decided I didn’t really want anything to do with God anymore. I was sick of all the rules I had to follow and I just wanted to hang out and have fun.

It was a slow change at first. I would kiss guys and make out with them, that sort of thing. What I was doing wasn’t that big of a deal (or so I told myself) It was just kissing. Right?

When I got to college I started drinking and that changed everything. I never made good decisions while I was drinking but at least I got to use alcohol as an excuse. I partied and hooked up with guys.

I acted like I was having fun living the “college life” but it never made me feel as good as I thought it would. Especially after the fact.

Here’s the thing. My story doesn’t get any “worse” from there. No stories of rape or pregnancy or STDs. Pretty typical “college girl” type things as far as the world is concerned, right?

I was just really, really broken and lonely.

I started dating a guy who said he loved me, and pretty soon we were having sex too. I figured it was okay because we were in love; and love was what I had been missing before.

But when that relationship went down in flames, I felt as awful as I did before, the morning after a college party, hungover and used.

“How had I ended up here?” I wondered.

I had grown up in church. I had a box full of letters promising myself to my future husband. And I had been told since I was a little girl that I was “worth waiting for.”

I would read the Bible or hear a pastor talk about “sexual immorality” and cringe a little because I knew I wanted to do things God’s way again but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t even explain why I felt that way. It just felt right.

So I re-committed myself to purity. I wasn’t really sure I deserved it and I wasn’t sure how to do it but I knew I wanted to.

It didn’t come naturally.

 

I would set rules and boundaries for myself, cross them, and get disappointed and depressed. After making mistakes, I would set stricter boundaries to safeguard myself.

Even strict boundaries were no match for the insecurity and loneliness I felt. I would do just about anything I could to get attention. I kept messing up again and again and again.

Finally, I gave up. I isolated myself. I turned down dates when they came my way. I was friends with guys, but rarely more than that, because I knew that if I let it go beyond friendship I was in danger of making the same mistakes again.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of being faithful to my future husband.

But looking back I realize how much I was just managing my sin.

Here’s the thing. I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who wants to honor God with my actions, but can’t figure out how to do it. I know I’m not the only one asking, “Why are we waiting anyway?” “What’s the point?” “Is there hope for me?” and “Is it worth it?”

I’m not the only one who needs the answer to “Why should I wait for marriage to have sex?” to be more than just, “Because the Bible says so.”

That wasn’t enough for me. I needed there to be more.

And instead of fighting silently, I want to start the conversation.

So I wrote a book called Asking All The Wrong Questions: Why Christians Are Waiting for Marriage for Sex. It talks honestly about my journey, my struggle, and the answers I’ve found to the questions I’ve asked. It also admits that there aren’t answers to every question. It highlights the nature of God, and how that helps us fill in the blank spaces.

If you want to commit yourself to purity, but you’re not sure how, or you aren’t sure it’s even practical, this book is for you. I hope it helps you in your process.

 

Book Giveaway!

Do you want a free copy of Ally’s new book, Asking All The Wrong Questions: Why Christians Are Waiting for Marriage for Sex? We are giving away one copy of Asking All The Wrong Questions to a random Twitter follower on December 1st!

Make sure you’re following us here and then tell us why purity is important to you for another entry (tweet to @QuarterlifeMan or use the hashtag #QuarterlifeQuestion).

Good luck!

 

Allison Vesterfelt is a writer and thinker who is becoming brave enough to live and tell the truth. She loves her job as the Editor-in-Chief of Prodigal Magazine  where she gets to help people live and tell good stories. She has one foot in Portland, OR, and one in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can keep up with her by following her on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

(Full Disclosure: The link to Ally’s book is an affiliate link, which means that she/they receive a commission if you choose to purchase her book (or anything) at that link. Quarterlife Corporation does not explicitly endorse this link, so if you really feel horrible about helping their cause–––and we’re not sure why you would–––you can buy the book here.)

Extreme(ly Ineffective) Home Makeover

I have never watched ABC’s hit series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” without getting goosebumps, at the very least. A recent episode featured an incredible rehabilitation project at a school for deaf youth. My heart strings weren’t tugged. They were yanked. I was enthralled with the stories of the kids, and deeply moved by the incredible transformation which took place.

But, sadly, Extreme Makeover has been has had a very shaky record of success. When the projects ended for many of the recipient families, and the celebrities were replaced with utilities bills, their homes became a suffocating hardship. Six of the families have actually gone into foreclosure. For these six families, the Extreme Makeover experience made a big splash but became a big burden.The ongoing costs and maintenance required for heating these huge homes and keeping the swimming pools operable were exorbitantly and unaffordably high.

Source: TV Guide

These families struggled with a gift they were not prepared to receive. Tracy Hutson, an interior designer on the show, responded to these foreclosures: “I think our hearts were in the right place, but we just got carried away.”

Tracy’s reflections to her failed charity projects mirror feelings we all have experienced after our own misguided compassionate endeavors. Like the producers, donors and celebrities on Extreme Makeover, we often swarm into poor communities with our cameras flashing. We generate a firestorm of enthusiasm, but so often our results fall woefully short of our noble and charitable intentions. Our hearts were right, but our outcomes were wrong.

To their credit, the producers of Extreme Makeover have since adjusted their approach to ensure a higher level of success: They are building smaller homes with more manageable upkeep and they are working with recipient families to ensure they are capable of maintaining their new homes. Likewise, the solution to our failed charitable efforts should not be to abandon Good Samaritanism altogether. Instead, we need to intensely scrutinize our efforts, retool where necessary, and ensure that those on the receiving end of our efforts are partners in the process.

Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

Cinderella Man on the Brink

I fought off tears for the entire 144 minutes of Cinderella Man. My emotions churned as I watched Jim Braddock fight for his family’s survival. Before the 1929 crash, Braddock was a superstar heavyweight boxer. But, injuries and the Great Depression knocked him to the mat. He stumbled from stardom and lost his place on the professional circuit. At home, his career crash meant he could no longer provide for his wife and kids. Star-turned-beggar, Braddock worked on the grueling docks for mere pennies to keep his home’s heat on.

On the brink of collapse, Braddock intercepted a whisper of hope. With the pantry sparse and the coffers empty, he caught a shot to reclaim his dignity: His agent secured him a fight. It wasn’t the main stage, but a chance to dance was better than no chance at all. His kids’ hungry bellies trumped any indignity he felt about back-stepping to the minor leagues.

[divider]

I fight and I put a little more distance between my kids and the street,” Braddock said.

He grew tired of hoping-and-praying. He knew the purse in this minor league fight would create a buffer for his family. The relatively meager payday would move them a step back from the cliff. Not a mile from the cliff, but far enough to avoid disaster.

[divider]

Several weeks ago while in India, I walked through the types of neighborhoods I only knew from documentaries. Weaving through tight corridors with corrugated tin homes creeping onto the footpath, I came to terms with my own prosperity. The last shantytown we visited was the saddest place I’ve been. There, I sat with members of this community who explained the plight of their town–––poor health, drugs, violence, porous homes, bad schools, lepers–––their list went on and on. Because of their disheartened lot, they named their squatter village Helpless. They could have chosen anything, but they selected a name that voiced their pain.

Anjali

For the group we visited in Helpless, however, cautious optimism broke through the clouds. “Before, I would spend every penny I had,” Anjali shared. “Now, I have two hundred rupees [$4] saved.” It wasn’t much, but this savings account, like Braddock’s modest winnings, put a little distance between her kids and the street. Now, when Anjali’s kids caught the flu or when she found the rice bin barren, a safety net broke the fall.

In these communities, survival teeters in delicate balance. When the storms of life hit, they cause more than minor setbacks. Four dollars in a safe place means the difference between disaster and desperation. A subtle, yet remarkably substantial, difference.

[divider]

As I watched Cinderella Man after my return from India, the scenes of Hoovervilles reminded me of Helpless. It wasn’t hard to reconcile these two images–––both places stifled by suffocating despair. In the midst of the chaos in Hoovervilles and Helpless, however, unrelenting hope emerged. Braddock and Anjali refused to admit defeat and fought their way back from the cliff. That first step away from disaster is the most important. For Braddock, this step came with a fist pump in the boxing ring.  And for Anjali, that step took the form of two hundred rupees in a savings account with her neighbors.

Zimbardo: How Video Games & Porn Are Ruining a Generation

If you've ever taken a psychology course at any level, you know the name Philip Zimbardo. If you don't (and have 30 minutes to spare) watch his Stanford Prison Experiment here.

Zimbardo teamed up with artist and psychologist Nikita Duncan to write "The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It," released Wednesday by TED Books. As a part of the release, the pair also published an article to CNN health:

'The Demise of Guys': How video games and porn are ruining a generation

The article is incredibly on-point. Although it's purely clinical and doesn't mention any faith/God/Jesus whatsoever, you can't help but see how this generation of boys/men is clamoring for something more. Here are a few excerpts:

[box_light]

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are "arousal addictions," where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.[/box_light]

[box_light]

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that "regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are. … The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation. … Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual."

Similarly, video games also go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality and real-life interactions with others.[/box_light]

[box_light]

Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.

Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until "the time is right."[/box_light]

[divider]

Here is Zimbardo's conversation at TED in 2011:

[box_help]What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.[/box_help]

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

On March 23rd, the highly anticipated movie, “The Hunger Games”, will hit theaters.  I must admit that I knew nothing of the books before the movie was announced–––but I have since read the first and second books, am currently reading the last, and am now eagerly awaiting the movie?

This movie has been marketed in a way which seems to suggest it is nothing more than the next “Twilight”, nothing more than attempt to fill in the space left by the ending of one franchise, and I fear that some will not give the series a chance because of this.  While I cannot speak for a movie which I have not seen yet, I can vouch for the book, and hope that the movie holds true to the amazing tale which Suzanne Collins presents in the book.

While both “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” are “Young Adult” books, both feature a female lead, and both have a prominent love triangle, this is where the similarity ends.  “The Hunger Games”, is dark and relentless in its tale of children forced to take part in a game to the death, televised for what’s left of the world to watch; a world ruled by the all-powerful Capitol.

Suzan Collins launches you into a world where one’s life is cherished, yet everyone has become ok with the idea of others’ deaths and, if necessary, they are prepared to take the life of another.  It is a world which seems devoid of hope and love.  A world where children are taken from their families, placed in an arena, and forced to violently pursue and murder one another.

Suzan Collins successfully achieves making you feel the weight of the violence, the brutality of what the kids are put through, the hopeless feeling of everyday life within the world of the book, and creating within the reader a hatred for the Capitol which is on par with the main character.  However, Collins does so without crossing a line of being grotesque.  Though there is no denying the violent nature of the book, Collins masterfully expresses the true horror and brutality through the psychological impact it is having on the main character, rather than relying on graphic descriptions of the violence itself.

“The Hunger Games”, is not simply the next “Twilight”, but a powerful story of life, survival, discovering hope, and the ever present possibility of Revolution.  The main character, Katniss Everdeen, is a complex character, taking the reader through her deep, and wide, range of thoughts and emotions, as she searches for where she fits in a world filled with such horror; and the reader experiences Katniss’ doubts over her motives for the choices she makes, and her inner struggle as she is reluctantly pushed toward being a hero.

I would highly recommend giving the book a try, and I will be in line to see the movie as soon as possible.  I can’t yet speak for the movie, but I do believe that the book will surprise you.  It is one which is hard to put down, and the only disappointment is that it must reach an end (though take comfort in knowing you still have books two and three to read).

I know that these books have been around a while, and that I am late to jump on the bandwagon, but if you haven’t given these books a try, strongly consider joining us.

The 84th Annual Academy Awards

I am a HUGE movie fan.  There is nothing quite like going to a movie, sitting with an audience, and being transported to another place or time; to take a journey with fellow travelers, as you experience a world outside of reality.  A good movie can excite and inspire, while a great movie can reach deep inside and pull out thoughts and feelings you wouldn’t even admit where there.

I simply can’t get enough of movies.  The shelves at my house are lined with almost 600 alphabetically arranged DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s, waiting to offer a couple hours of deep emotion, profound thought, or simply mindless entertainment.

Now, I don’t write of my movie collection simply to share the number of DVD’s I have, but to express that I LOVE movies.  I love the world of entertainment.  I love stories which speak to the deepest parts of you, and stories which awaken the excitement of the child within.

It is because of my passion for movies, that there is one night that I am excited about every year.  It is one night, when the stars gather and everyone awaits the announcement of who will be triumphant; The Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards are my Super Bowl.

Yet, I have found myself becoming increasingly disappointed over the past couple years.

How can a show, which is entirely devoted to recognizing the top entertainers and entertainment, be so completely UNentertaining?  Why is it that Hollywood can’t seem to pull together and produce a show worthy of the movies they are recognizing?  Why is it that Hollywood seems to believe that Billy Crystal is still relevant to our generation?  It is apparent that they are striving to reach the “Younger Demographic”, as they placed Justin Bieber in the Opening Monologue for the sole purpose of (jokingly?) stating that he is there to get them the “18-24 demographic”, yet the show seems sadly outdated.

The night had its few entertaining moments.  I laughed as Chris Rock spoke about how he doesn’t understand when actors talk about how hard it is to do cartoon voices, and again when Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis (who purposefully mispronounced his own name, since none of us can get it right) played cymbals (and dropped cymbals) while presenting the award for “Best Original Song”.  Also, Robert Downey Jr. didn’t disappoint, as he came out with his own film crew and stated that he was making a documentary called, “The Presenter”.  However, as a whole, the night felt lacking.

I will admit that I will tune in again next year and, whether disappointed or not, I’m sure the year after also, but is it too much to ask that it be something worth tuning in for?  Can Hollywood’s elite please get together, brainstorm, and come up with a way to not only honor The Academy and each other, but also the lowly fans sitting at home, longing to be even slightly entertained, as we watch you receive praise?

After all, where would Hollywood be without the lowly fans?

Cheating Love

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine who was recently married.  He told me that his wife had a relationship before they met which had become physical.  When the two of them began to see each other, they decided to wait until they were married, and had found great joy in having done the right thing.  He said, what is odd is that it doesn’t upset him that she has a past, he has forgiven her and loves her with all his heart, but the only thing that bothers him is that he will never be able to know her the way that the other guy did.  He is glad they waited, and wouldn’t do anything different, but it is a part of her he will never know.

There are profound implications when we try to cheat the love God intends for us.  When we love as God desires, every relationship becomes deeper, closer, and more meaningful.  When we cheat love, we give away a piece of ourselves, and take something from others, that we cannot replace.  Forgiveness is available, and God can restore, but we can never get back the part of our life which we have chosen to give up.  It is a truth that is powerfully made known in sexual relationships.  God can mend a person, they can find the love He has for them with another, but there will always be a part of themselves that they gave away to someone else.  When we seek love for ourselves through others, or believe that we are showing love to others by engaging in acts outside of the way God intended, there will always be a sacrifice involved.

A Christlike love never causes reason for one to feel that they have been cheated out of experiencing love with another.  It does nothing that takes away from what a person is meant to be, it does not seek fulfillment at the expense of anyone, and it always brings peace and harmony, never introducing any reason for disconnect.

We were created to be in perfect union with God, ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live, and our lives are lived in the search to reconnect the unions which have been broken by sin.

At the beginning of creation, all things were as they were meant to be.  Man was in loving harmony with God, humanity, and nature itself (Genesis 1&2).  Sin entered the story through twisting the love of self into pride, and mankind was introduced to the devastating idea that maybe we could be more than God intended for us (Genesis 3:4&5).  Harmony was broken, and things quickly spiraled out of control.  Man and woman became ashamed of themselves (Genesis 3:7), hid from God (Genesis 3:8), turned on each other (Genesis 3:12), and then turned on nature (Genesis 3:13).  Unity was broken (Genesis 3:14-19).

I believe that every problem we face with sin can be traced back to the desire for love, and every problem is overcome by discovering the love that God longs for us all to find through Him and the price He paid on the cross.

We were created in the image of God, bearers of a divine spark, and I believe this spark to be love.

When sin entered the world, it shattered the unions we were designed for.  Sin then continues to reign in our attempts to reconnect these unions apart from the will of God.

We were created to love, and be loved, and sin is ultimately a perversion of love.

The love of self is perverted into pride and greed.  The need for love is transformed into depression and, or, the need for power.  The desire to love others is twisted into the desire for control.  Our union with the world we live in becomes the exploitation of our planet, or the exhalation of the planet itself over the people who live on it.

The power of sin is rooted in our longing for the love we were created for, and every act of sin furthers the splintering of the unions God desires to reconcile.

I have heard it said that the difference between men and women is that women desire to feel love and connection, while men desire honor and respect.  I would argue that all of humanity desires the same thing.  A desire for honor and respect is a desire for love and connection.  It is a need to be seen as the wonderful creation we are, and should be rooted in showing others the same thing.  This is why our culture is drawn to music and movies which express our need to feel importance and acceptance.  Media may express it as the need for more stuff, the act of catching the guy or girl we want, the frustration of being treated improperly, or the anger against all the things that make us feel wronged, but all of it is a cry for the love and connection we want to feel with the world.  We watch reality TV so as to feel connected to the people whose lives are placed on display, performers are told to connect with the audience and to always leave them wanting more.

Consider the man who lives for his job.  He has an inner need for love and respect, and has decided to seek fulfilling this need through success and power.  His worth becomes rooted in achieving the next promotion, and he will step on anyone he must in order to climb the ladder of success.  If he could just make more, just drive that car, live in that house, or gain that title, then he will be somebody; then others will look at him differently.  Family, friends, and coworkers all become second to his job.  He sacrifices true love by seeking love through achievement, and in his search for worth and purpose, becomes willing to give up everything else.  His friends make statements like, “I don’t even know him anymore.”  His wife and family are pushed aside.  He becomes lost and empty; driven by the attempt to fill the void in his life with power, wealth, and making a name for himself.

Think of the people whose ministries become their lives, at the expense of their family and friends.  Their desire to love others pulls them from the ones they are closest too.  They become focused on the number of lives they can change, but lose sight of the importance of those nearest to them.  The big picture focus of loving others causes them to miss the small acts that express profound love.

Our good works can cheat us out of experiencing the love we were meant to share.

We can get so caught up in OUR idea of loving people, that we actually miss out on love entirely.

This is why ministry can bring burnout and even cause families to fall apart.  If we turn loving others into simply achieving a successful ministry, we will never experience a love that causes everything to become more united.  If we turn loving our neighbor into a religion of works, we create our own standard by which we judge the hearts of others.  We can begin with the good intention of growing closer to God and others and become lost in our own religion, which says that everyone should show love in the way that we have decided it is to be shown.

Jesus wants us to be known as belonging to our Father.  He wants us to find satisfaction from our longing for love by discovering the worth and purpose we were created for.  He wants us to make a name for ourselves by being associated with His name, and He says that all this will be known “by your love.” (John 13:34&35)

How we love determines how we live.

A Christlike love reaches out to everyone.  It never places importance on one aspect of our being over another.  It does not require us to lower our love of self for others, nor does it ever place ourselves over others.

We are worth love, and therefore all should love.

It seeks harmony in all things.  It rejects sins perversion of love and opens the possibility for all love to be more meaningful.  When we love as God intends, balance is achieved in life.  There is no room for pride or greed.  Any place of power is used to better love others.  The need for control is replaced with a loving guidance that allows freedom.  The planet we have been blessed with is cared for and order so that everyone and everything can benefit.

True love exalts all things and invites Heaven to Earth.

It brings importance and purpose to every aspect of reality.  No one is seen as better than anyone else, and no one is left wanting.

Through true God-ordained love, all things find balance, and all sin is overcome.

All you need is love (I had to fit the Beatles in).

As we strive for the love God intends, we bring light into darkness, hope into despair, peace into chaos, harmony into discord, and fellowship into loneliness.  No one and nothing is left outside of the love of God.  All of creation is invited back into the unity that it was created to enjoy.  We do nothing that would diminish the worth and purpose of all things.   We speak joy, hope, life, and harmony into the world.  We do not seek to elevate self, but elevate all things as God intended.

Love brings all things back to the Father.  He paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be free to experience the bountiful, glorious, joyous love we share in an existence grounded in Him.

Our world is searching for true love, but so often we cheat ourselves and settle for sin’s twisted perversion.

We accept empty imitations, while God desires for us to experience the richness and beauty of a profound love that satisfies the deep longings of our soul.  We accept sin’s lie that God is holding us back, and allow ourselves to miss the truth that He wants nothing more than to see us experience a life far beyond all that we could dream of.

One of sin’s most blatant perversions of love can be seen in our world’s decaying view of marriage.  Marriage is intended to be a spiritual and mysterious union in which two people become one.  A man and woman become whole through their joining into a covenant that is meant to be a source of encouragement, strength, harmony, and love.  A husband and wife are meant to be a picture of what the unions we were created for looks like.  Their relationship is to be one which lifts each other up, brings each of them closer to God, and better equips them to reach out to the world in harmony.

Yet our world has settled for sins deformed vision of marriage.  It has become a union in which each partner seeks what they want from the other.  Both hold on to their sense of entitlement and greed, and when the other is not fulfilling their needs, they separate.  The world then begins to view marriage as unnecessary.  Instead, when a man and woman decide that they are in love, they decide to live together and try out their compatibility (After all, it does make it much easier to walk away if things don’t work out.).  When two people decide to play house, they are cheating themselves out of the joy of the commitment.  The commitment of marriage is not meant to be a “ball and chain” which weighs two people down and holds them back from experiencing life, but a wondrous pronouncement that two people have become whole.  It is the joyous proclamation that they have chosen each other, and wherever life may lead, theirs is a unity that cannot be broken.  Marriage is not just a piece of paper, or a ring, but an amazing example of the reconciling of unity.  It is two people joining together, forging a new life, and becoming a shining beacon of the hope of reconciliation.  It is two people accepting each other as they are, and then always striving to become what the other needs.

Marriage is meant to be our world’s most beautiful picture of what a life of Christlike love looks like.

We have allowed one of the most amazing examples of unity to become commonplace and expendable.

We have become content with the hollow vision of love that our sin has shown us.

Our world has allowed sin to reign, and has let itself become blind to what true love looks like.  Wrath, pride, greed, lust, envy, slothfulness, and gluttony have become the norm, and true love announces that these have no place here.  Instead, love proclaims forgiveness, humility, charity, respect, the celebration of others wellbeing, an urgent desire to express joy and hope, and the need to see all things ordered in such a way that no one is left in need.  Love is the uncompromising announcement that all things are wondrous, all things deserve tranquility, all things should be treated as holy, for all things are God’s.

Where there is love, there is hope.

Where there is love, there is peace.

Where there is love, there is joy.

Where there is love, there is grace.

Where there is love, there is mercy.

Where there is love, there is restoration.

In a world filled with longing and despair, love conquers all.

[box_info]Excerpt from “Fix Me, Love Them: Christianity as it Should Be”, by Matt Wells.  Available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and iBooks[/box_info]