Tuesday, March 1, 2016

6 Steps to Take When Our Feelings Take Control

I have road rage. It’s shameful to admit, but I do. I get angry if people are driving too slowly. I get angry if people are driving too fast. I am generally just angry when other people are driving. I want the road all to myself. I feel as though I somehow deserve that.

When I am driving and my road rage kicks in, I have two options: I can act on my anger or I can choose not to. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. When my feelings are strong enough it feels like my ability to choose goes out the window.  When someone cuts me off, I instinctively lay on the horn and throw out some choice insults. I have been known to flip people off a time or two. It’s easy to not give this a second thought because I feel it’s justified. They hurt me. I was angry. I responded.

It’s easy to think that, if we feel something strong enough, we have to act on it. I was overwhelmed so I didn’t finish what I said I would. I was scared so I didn’t say what I was actually feeling. I was hurt so I gave him the silent treatment. I was angry so I snapped at her. The thing is, we do have a choice. Our reactions to things are choices that we actively make. Even when we don’t do anything in response to a situation, we are choosing not to act. Our reactions are our responsibility.

I have a huge fear of other people thinking badly about me. It is the motivating factor behind many of my choices. Just the other night my husband and I were talking about my blogging. He told me that he worried how I would respond to negative feedback that I could receive if my blog reaches a wide audience. I’m not known for having thick skin. One bad opinion of me and I feel devastated.

The battle to not be controlled by emotions is one that I see most women fighting. We need to remind ourselves that, just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Let me say that again: just because you feel a certain emotion doesn’t mean that you are obligated to act on that emotion. You can say no. In fact, you probably should say no more often. Here are six steps you can take to help you say “no” to your feelings and “yes” to God’s truth:
  1.  Pray. This is key. This is the most important part. We have to go to God first if we want our hearts to be changed. If we’re not talking to God, how can He help us grow? Fight for regular time with God each day. Put up post-it notes to remind you to pray about this. Add it to your prayer cards or prayer journal. Put a reminder in your phone. Pray, pray, and then pray some more.
  2. Memorize Scripture. God’s word is alive and active. It is God’s truth given to us. Memorizing scripture is such a useful tool because it gives us something to redirect our minds to when we have a strong reaction to something and we are trying to sort through how we should respond. There have been many times that a verse that I memorized popped into my head at a very timely moment and prevented me from doing something I would later regret.
  3. Think about your reactions. When we react to a situation, we are revealing what is already in our heart. If we take the time to analyze why we reacted the way that we did, we can get to the root of whatever sin area is taking hold of us. This involves some deeper thought and prayer. It is helpful for many people to journal about things or talk through feelings with others. You may even want to seek the guidance of a professional counselor for help working through deeper heart issues.
  4. Focus on what is true about you. Many negative reactions that we have are a result of us believing something that isn’t true. If we regularly meditate on scripture that tells us how God views us, we will be able to fight these lies. This point ties in with the first and second point. Talk to God about what lies you’re believing and memorize verses that talk about your identity now that you are in Christ.
  5. Talk to others. Sometimes it’s hard to get outside of our own head. When we voice our thoughts and feelings to others we are able to hear God speaking through them. Often our friends are able to view situations with more clarity than we can, especially if they are also actively trying to follow God. They can show us grace and truth and help us see more clearly the path God is asking us to take.
  6. Practice saying no. Just because you have a feeling doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Just because you have a thought about someone doesn’t mean it’s true. Learn to take your thoughts captive and take the action steps listed above before you act.

What about you? Do you often feel controlled by your emotions? How do you choose to say “yes” to God and “no” to negative feelings? Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Breaking Down Fortress Theology

Fortress theology is the idea that the world around us is so bad that we need to isolate ourselves from it by creating our own separate culture that lives up to our standards of safety and purity. I see much of this today in women who vilify secular music, movies, TV shows, even businesses. Women who try to make you feel guilty for buying the newest Kanye album or not homeschooling your children.

I want to make something incredibly clear up front: choosing to abstain from societal things is not in itself a bad thing. For example, I do not watch TV shows or movies that have graphic sex scenes because I struggle with lust and I know it could easily cause me to sin. The temptation is too great. I don’t want to put myself in that situation. I would not tell an alcoholic that it’s wrong for them to avoid bars. I would not tell a recovering materialist that it’s wrong for them to avoid going to the mall. God calls us to avoid temptation and speaks against anyone who would do something to try to stumble a brother or sister in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 or this really cool article for more on being a stumbling block).

Fortress theology happens when we see things that might cause us or others to be tempted and immediately write it off as something to avoid at all costs. I understand that these intentions are good, but how does this help us reach others for Christ?

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” We have the same calling. When we go to reach the lost, we need to show them that we accept them and understand them where they are at, because that is where God meets them. God doesn’t expect them to clean up our act before we start a relationship with Him. We need to make sure that we are communicating that to others.

I have seen this countless times when trying to evangelize to younger women. They balk at the idea of becoming a Christian. They would have to give up all their fun and become someone that they are not in order to please God. That is what people see when they look at communities of Christians who focus more on the evils of smoking or drinking or R-rated movies than they do on the transforming grace of God.

When I became a Christian I was not sold on the idea of giving up worldly things that were holding me back from truly surrendering my whole life to God. It took time. It took me learning how to trust God. It took me accepting the loving correction of those who had already proven to me that they love me. It took me figuring out on my own how God viewed me and seeing how that transformed my heart. I didn’t give up drinking and smoking weed at an altar call. I didn’t drop it in one conversation. I surrendered those things to God through prayer and the support of a loving community.

Part of what convinced me that this loving community was worth being part of was that they all seemed so normal. They would have a Bible study and then go to a bar afterwards and hang out. They would host movie nights and watch Judd Apatow films. They were current on books and TV shows and movies that I was into. They did all this while displaying an authentic faith in Christ and a vibrant, accepting community. I could be myself there. I could see God meeting me where I was at.

God calls us to be in the world but not of the world. This means that we can live our lives being a part of society while rejecting societal values that are against God’s will. In fact, being conversant in pop culture and being able to think critically about it can give us a huge advantage when sharing Christ with others. If we’re able to speak knowledgeably about the world around us and have deeper answers for why we abstain from things like premarital sex or drunkenness, we could have a huge impact on other people. Just telling people, “Oh, those things are so sinful,” or “I would never do that,” is only going to alienate people.

Here’s the thing about living in the world while rejecting its values: we need to understand why those values are bad. If we can dialogue with others about why we choose to abstain from things instead of just vilifying them (and, as a result, make it seem like we are vilifying the very people we are reaching out to), we will see more successful spiritual conversations with those who don’t know the Lord.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if what you’re avoiding is actually fortress theology:
  •  Is it Biblical? Does the Bible expressly forbid what I’m trying to avoid, or am I taking it beyond what God’s word says? The Bible doesn’t talk about dating, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t condone it. The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality, but that doesn’t mean that kissing before marriage is a sin. Have you taken God’s word and extended it beyond what it actually says?
  • Am I focusing more on avoiding things than I am on learning to say “yes” to God and “no” to temptation? It’s easy to shut out the world and never have to face temptations like stepping into a bar and choosing not to get drunk or watching TV and having to wade through whether or not what I’m viewing is promoting the world’s values. It’s easier too to try and protect our children by never having them face the world system in an attempt to help them remain pure. I truly believe that this prepares us more to fall than it does to help us say no to sin. We have the Holy Spirit guiding us and leading us. We have prayer as a direct access to God. We should be able to face the world and rely fully on the Father to be able to say no to sin.  Plus, this will model to those around us that it is possible to grow and change and choose to say yes to God more and more.
  • Is my attitude about this going to alienate others? Am I able to have a respectful conversation with others who disagree with me on this? Is my explanation of my decisions going to make people feel judged? Am I making others feel like they’re too “sinful” for me to accept?
  • Am I doing this to please myself or to please God? Am I abstaining from this because I deeply desire to please God? Do I understand that I am free from the slavery of sin? Is this a step towards victory over past struggles? Or am I doing this because it makes me feel righteous? Am I adding this to my list of reasons why God should give me what I want? Am I viewing my choices as a checklist that I have to adhere to?

The American church is rapidly losing millennials. If we want to reach young women for God, we need to look at the message that we are sending. Are we expressing God’s acceptance and love? Or are we building up walls around God’s message and refusing to let anyone in?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Blessing of Being Single

If you had told me years ago that I would be writing about how being single is an amazing place to be in your life as a woman of God, I would not have believed you. For years, my main goal in life was to get married. I felt that I needed the love of a man the way I needed oxygen. I had been through an incredibly damaging relationship when I was 15 that left me feeling broken and incomplete. I thought that all of the nightmarish things I had been through were my fault. If only I had been prettier or more winsome or had more sex appeal things wouldn't have gone the way that they did. This mentality followed me for the next ten years. It shaped the way I related to men and the way I viewed dating and marriage.

After I became a Christian, I wanted marriage even more. I saw my friends getting married at 21 and 22 and I thought there was something wrong with me. My parents married when they were 22 and 23 and talk often of how much they enjoyed the eight years they spent together just the two of them after they got married. I didn't want to wait until I was in my late 30's to have kids, so if I wanted to get those precious years of it just being my husband and me, I needed to find someone. Fast.

The older I got, the more my panic set in. I heard from a friend that women who have two children before they were 30 greatly lower their risk of getting breast cancer. Now my life was on the line. I read about the risks of getting pregnant later and life and how it could lead to more complications. Now the lives of my future children were on the line. More and more of my friends got married. More and more of the single guys I knew got taken. I was desperate.

I went through a series of terrible dating relationships with guys who were overly passive and easy to control. I was drawn to passive men because I knew they wouldn't reject me. I could make them love me. I could manipulate them into doing what I wanted and being who I wanted. Most importantly, I always knew in the back of my mind that if it had to end, I would be the one doing it. The thought of being dumped was too terrifying for me to risk dating someone who might do that to me.

Needless to say, those relationships sucked. They were damaging, distracting, and not fair to either of us. I started to see that the common denominator in these relationships was me and my desire for control. I desperately sought God's healing and direction and took a year off dating.

In the fall of 2012 one of my roommates planned a weekend trip to Seneca Rocks. A bunch of my friends were going and I excitedly jumped on board. I grew up vacationing in national parks and hiking mountains. The idea of spending a weekend away in the woods, sleeping in cabins and climbing a mountain was too good to turn down. We packed up our stuff and drove five hours to stay at a summer camp that had closed down for the year. It was everything I wanted. We spent the weekend hiking, climbing, building bonfires, eating meals together, and going on adventures.

The day we climbed a small mountain.
Aren't we adorable?
As I sat with some of my friends one night, laughing and talking and telling stories, I realized something. I didn't have to ask anyone's permission to come on this trip. The only schedule I had to work around was my own. I had used my money that I earned to pay for the trip and I didn't have to run it by anyone. I felt a sudden and wonderful sense of freedom and joy that came from knowing the blessed position that I was in.

I had spent so much time freaking out because I thought my life hadn't started that I was missing the life that was right in front of me. God had given me so much and I was throwing it all away because it wasn't what I thought I needed. I came back from that trip with a new perspective about my life.

I was free to live my life the way I wanted, which freed me up to live selflessly for others. I could give money to whatever organizations I felt convicted to give to without having to worry about whether or not my husband agreed or if I could afford to feed our kids while giving that much. I could drop everything to spend time with a friend who needed my help without having to see if someone could watch my kids. I could take on additional ministries that I wouldn't have time for if I was married. There was so much that I could say yes to and experience and learn. I was completely available to God.

Don't get me wrong, being married is amazing and a huge blessing as well. And I know that having children will be a new adventure and bring even more blessing into my life. I'm not saying it's wrong to desire those things or that you won't be able to be used by God once you're married and you have kids. I'm saying that you shouldn't let your desires for the future overshadow what God is placing in front of you right now. 

In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that, "...each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned them, just as God has called them." (1 Corinthians 7:17) If you are single, you are in such an amazing and unique position that lasts only a short time in your life. Don't say no to what God has for you now because you are desperately waiting for the future. Here are some awesome things that you can do while single that will bring such a huge blessing in your life:

  • Live with other single Christian women. I lived with single Christian women for over seven years before I got married. We spent time praying together, reading the word together, building in with each other and pushing each other towards God. Most of my closest friends are women that I got to live with. I learned so many valuable skills that have carried over into my marriage. Skills like conflict resolution, being open and vulnerable, and pulling your weight with house chores and doing the dishes. I got to see what it was like to live with other people who will see your sin and call you out on it. I also got to see what it was like to see their sin and practice giving them grace and forgiveness. My marriage would not be as strong as it is now if I hadn't had those experiences.
  • Disciple or mentor younger single women. I have spent many years meeting with younger women to pray together and study God's word. I have done this with college students, high school students and middle school students. God has used me to help them learn more about Him and become more and more like His Son. There has been so much joy in seeing them grow, but also a tremendous amount of frustration and heartache. I have watched some girls refuse to listen to the Lord and do serious damage to themselves or others. I have watched girls walk away from God completely. I have had girls refuse my well-meaning advice, get angry when I spoke truth, and choose not to act on conviction. Relationships can be the most painful things that we experience and the most rewarding things we experience. I know one day I will have children who will kick and scream and say hurtful things and sneak out at night and do exactly what I have told them not to do, but I will be prepared for that kind of frustration and heartache. I have joyfully been enduring it for years now (Ok, not always joyfully. Sometimes very over-dramatically). This also gets harder to do once you get married and have kids. Develop these relationships and build these skills now while you still have so much free time!
  • Develop your own walk with God. Do you spend time with the Lord each day? Are you seeking a greater knowledge of Him and His word? Are you trying to learn and understand things that are challenging? Can you accurately defend your faith? Are you able to admit your sin before God and allow Him to lead you in victory? Do you have others in your life who will push you towards God and hold you accountable? Getting married will not jump start your relationship with God. You need to have these things figured out before you get married. Don't rely on your future husband who is fallen, broken, and sinful to make your relationship with God fulfilling. You will also have so much more to offer your marriage and your husband if you have a strong relationship with God already built.
  • Develop a ministry. What are you good at? Do you love children? Volunteer to teach Sunday school. Do you have a career in the medical field? Offer your services at a free clinic. Can you spare time to tutor and mentor an inner-city kid? How about becoming a conversation partner with an international student? There are so many rewarding ministries that are desperate for people who are willing to serve. Pray about where God might be calling you and then dive in! Marriage itself is a ministry, as is raising kids. Go into these things with as much preparation as you can!
  • Get a career. Seriously. Figure out what you're good at or what you enjoy doing and go after it. Go to college. Take that internship. Say yes to that management position. If you're like me and you'd like to be a stay at home mom one day, you can cross that bridge when you get there. But what if that never happens? What if you don't get married? What if you can't have kids? What if your husband can't work for some reason? God created us to seek out meaningful work. I had a very rewarding career in banking before I got married (towards the end it was not so rewarding, but more about that in another post). I now have a career in real estate and my husband and I have been richly blessed by it. I love what I do, and if I have to keep working when I have kids, I don't think I'll be as upset about it.
  • Have fun. Travel. Stay out all night. Develop a hobby. Go on a mission trip. Make a bucket list and cross off as much as you can. Our God is a God of excitement and adventure. He wants you to have fun, meaningful experiences. Go out and enjoy life. 
It is my prayer for you that you see how much of a blessing being single can be. Ask the Lord to help you take hold of all that he has for you. Run in such a way as to win the prize, and who knows? Maybe one day you'll find someone running right beside you, ready to help you win the race.

What other blessings have you experienced while single? Leave a comment and let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I have long been interested in what it means to take hold of God's plan for me as a woman. From the beginning of my walk with the Lord, I have had so many questions. What does true biblical feminism look like? What does it mean that I was created in God's image? How do I wade through the murky waters of what our society says I should be while glorifying God and not alienating those who don't know Him? A (shamefully) brief survey of what the Bible says about women resulted in passages like this:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." -1 Timothy 2:12
"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." -1 Corinthians 14:34
"Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you do to the Lord." -Ephesians 5:22


Bookstores and blogs weren't much more helpful. The image they give of women is that we are all naturally inclined to be demure homemakers who desire to live a quiet life serving their husband and children. Almost all of them are written to wives and mothers, and the minuscule amount that are written to single women are all about focusing on preparing yourself to be a wife and a mother. I looked for anything that would clue me in to how I was supposed to live in the condition that I was currently in. I was single, childless and trying to focus on my ministry and career, I came up empty handed.

Double yikes.

I am not demure. I am not quiet. I have a career, I drink, I swear, I watch R-rated movies. My husband and I make "That's what she said" jokes constantly. I play "Cards Against Humanity" with my friends and can usually explain what all the cards mean to people who don't know. Before I was married, I went to bars and dance parties. I stayed out late. I have done all of this while being a devoted follower of Christ.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that women shouldn't desire to be homemakers. Women should embrace their God-given desires and talents and the path that our Lord has chosen for us. That just wasn't where I was at the time.

Where are my books, blogs and articles? Where are all of the women trying to follow God who don't want to be told that they are a delicate flower? Where are the women who aren't married or who don't have children? Is my life just on hold until I have a husband and children? Do I not really start following God until I have those boxes checked off? I used to nearly give myself panic attacks wondering if I would never get married. Would my life just be an empty shell? Was God going to use me less because I was single?

I know I am not alone in this struggle. I wonder sometimes how many women run away from the good news of salvation through Christ's death on the cross and a life lived for Him because they think they will have to cloister themselves in the kitchen when a godly man finally comes along and gives them purpose.

Jesus said that He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. My hope is that this blog will help other women, modern women find that life and learn how to live abundantly. I want women to see the love that Jesus has for them and embrace it in a way that helps them discover who they are and what God has for them. I want to show others how Christ's love can give them freedom and joy.

My name is Dana, and this is my modern love.