Tag Archives: love

5 Things I Learned Before Getting Engaged

So I got engaged a few months ago. I always wondered when the time came how I would know I’d found the right woman to spend the rest of my life with.5 Things I learned Before Getting Engaged

Some people told me “you just know,” or “you have this feeling.” No help there. Could you be anymore vague? Others had stories of God telling them they would marry someone before they had even met her. Sounds cool but God rarely reveals His plan beforehand to me.

When it came down to it, there were several reasons I knew I had found the right woman for me, but none more vital than the fact that we had fought, argued, pissed each other off, offended each other, yet we learned how to resolve the issues, rectify our problems, forgive, and still love.

Along with that, here are five things I learned in finding my future wife.


I may have found the one I want to spend my life with, but the idea of a “soulmate” is erroneous, dangerous, somewhat heretical, and otherwise B.S.

I, like many lovesick saps (both Christian and secular) grew up believing there was one chick out there specially-designed for me. Our souls were connected even though we hadn’t met. It falls in the line with romantic fairy tales and emotional porn that often give us unrealistic expectations and perceptions of what relationships and romance are about.

No woman was designed or designated for me, nor was I designed or designated for a woman. We are designed for God, that’s it. We meet people along the way that we connect with, complement, and carry out a purpose together.


Like many people, I had a list of the type of mate I wanted. It was a short list with some basic characteristics to help me measure potential partners by. Though my fiancée embodied most of the things, there were others that she didn’t.

For example, I wanted a woman who was an extrovert because I thought it would balance my introvert tendencies. Well, my fiancée isn’t an extrovert. And in the process of being frustrated with that, I realized that I wasn’t an introvert. I’m much more outgoing than I realized. And our personalities balance each other. No matter how old we are, we’re still in the process of self-discovery. It’s hard to know exactly who we need when we don’t truly know ourselves.


I had already started to learn that conflict was necessary for character development, but never have I experienced it like I have in this relationship.

Oftentimes when things are going rough in life we think it’s an indicator that we’re on the wrong path. But it’s usually the opposite. Anything worth having will require conflict to get. Conflict shapes our character.

A pastor once told me that it’s good that our relationship had rough spots. If we had no issues, then there would be cause for concern.


I always thought I was a great catch. Heck, for some lucky woman I’d be the ideal man. I’m a gentleman, romantic, patient, love God, have a good job, etc. But I had more flaws than I realized… way more flaws than I realized.

The relationship brought all the crap to the surface. Awareness of my flaws makes me more patient and understanding of hers.


If nothing else I’ve learned on this journey so far it’s that love is not a feeling, it’s a choice. There are days when I don’t feel like loving my fiancée. I don’t feel in love. But I have decided to love. No matter what, I have decided to love. And when you’ve made that choice, feelings follow.



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3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Even if You Hate It

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so you’re probably saying one of three things:

“I freakin’ hate it!”3 ways to celebrate valentine's day even if you hate it

“I can’t wait for it!

“What day is that again?”

It’s not surprising that a day about love can draw such emotional or even indifferent reactions. That’s how love is. It’s an emotional thing. No feeling tugs on our hearts like love. I’ve probably had all three reactions to Feb. 14 at different times in my life. I’ve been single and lonely, despising the every commercial and TV show celebrating love that I lacked. I’ve been in love and eagerly planning the perfect date (and ordering flowers too late to arrive by Feb. 14). And I’ve been indifferent.

The reason we have these different reactions to Valentine’s Day is because it’s marketed to one segment of the population. If you’re not “cuffed” for the season, it ain’t for you. But if the day is truly about love, then it shouldn’t be limited to couples.

The best Valentine’s days were in elementary school. Remember then? Everyone bought a box of mini-Valentine’s Day cards to give to each person in class. It was big party with sweetheart tarts, heart-shaped candy, chocolate…it was like Halloween in February minus the costumes. I remember in third grade we had a big ice cream party. School was awesome then. But the best part is no one felt excluded. Sure I had a crush on the girl two rows behind me and she paid me no attention. But heck, I still got ice cream, candy, and cards from every girl in the class anyway, so it wasn’t a bad day.

But after elementary school, Valentine’s Day is a roller-coaster of emotions: some years you’re up, some years you’re down. But what if we went old school on Valentine’s Day? What if we took it back to when everyone was included? That’s what love really is like, right? Jesus is the author of love and His love is for everyone. It’s inclusive. So how can you make this the most inclusive Valentine’s weekend you’ve ever experienced? It may take some last-minute planning, but it’s easy to pull off. Here are three ways to have an inclusive, true love Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single or coupled.


A married couple I’m friends with did this a few years ago. A woman at church lost her husband in recent months. It was going to be her first Valentine’s Day alone in more than 30 years. So the couple invited her to their home. Their children made cards for her and decorated the place. They bought her flowers and had a family dinner with her. She said it was one of the best days she had since her husband died. There’s likely someone in your church, community, or family who has been widowed, divorced, or separated within the last year or so. This is the perfect opportunity to show them love this weekend.


Take it back to elementary school and host a Valentine’s Day party. Call up some friends, tell them to bring games, wine, and ice cream. Just celebrate those you love most. As a bonus, have each person write a note or card for someone in the group explaining what their friendship means. Don’t be exclusive either. This is not pity party for singles. Invite couples and singles and share the love.

  1. SERVE

Love is giving. There are plenty of opportunities in your area to volunteer to help people less fortunate. Whether it’s serving a meal at the Salvation Army, giving clothing to the homeless (it’s going to be ridiculously cold in the Northeast this weekend), giving out Valentine’s Day cards at a nursing home or children’s hospital, or simply ordering a meal for someone who is experiencing hard times. Choose to give this Valentine’s Day.

It’s time to take Valentine’s Day back from the marketers. We know love is broader than romance. Let’s make this holiday more inclusive. So whether you have a bae or not this weekend, think outside the (chocolate) box, and celebrate love in a grander way.



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Have We Created an Elitist Faith?

Earlier this year, I attended a Buddhist wedding ceremony my first time attending a non-Christian wedding. It wasn’t much different from any other wedding I attended because, ultimately, a wedding is a wedding.

courtesy of compfight
courtesy of compfight

Toward the end of the reception, the bride was sharing her heart with the attendants, thanking everyone for coming and partly sharing why she became Buddhist. She said she grew up Christian like most people in her native country. She shared a story of when she first moved to America, she attended an all-day event with her daughter. They were both hungry and a Muslim family shared some food with them. She said years later, when she was recently divorced and moved to a new neighborhood with her children, Hindu neighbors would mow her lawn for her. These interactions with people of different cultures and religions opened her eyes to the good in people of other faiths and led her to explore other religions.

A recent study from MIT found that the percentage of Americans with no religious preference has risen 18 percent in the last 20 years. The study attributed at least 20 percent of that drop-off in religious affiliation to the rise of the internet because it “allows more personal interaction with people of other religions.”

Though the study included all religions, I think a large portion of those losing their faith were Christians.

The MIT study and the bride’s comments at the wedding have me thinking: Have we created a form of Christianity that is afraid of other religions? Have we, through the pulpit, ministries, or the Christian culture created an elitist mind-set that believes no one outside of Christ could possibly be good? Have we set up our children for culture shock when they interact with people of other faiths or face intellectual challenges in classrooms? Have we developed a simple-minded worldview within Christendom that views everyone outside of the faith as evil?

In a way, it’s hard not to develop an elitist ideology in Christianity. The Word of God says Jesus is the only way to the Father, the only way to salvation, and every other option is false. No gray area there. While that doctrine is sound, without balance and proper emphasis in other areas, the church can raise children and parishioners with a disdain and phobia of people of other faiths.

There are two major, false beliefs created when we do that:

1. We create a belief that atheists, agnostics or people of other religions are our enemies, when in truth, people are not our enemies, but rather ideologies, false doctrines, the system of the world, and Satan.

2. The belief that only Christians can be good, and “good” is usually measured by good works. I know plenty of people outside the faith who are “better people” than many Christians and do way more good works. While good works are essential to Christianity, they aren’t exclusive to it. Furthermore, we must be careful to remember that our hope and our righteousness is not in our good deeds, but in the work of Jesus Christ alone.

Though these problems aren’t pervasive in Christianity, they are contributing factors to the problem of millennials leaving the church, and will continue to be a problem for youth in church today.

So how do we resolve this issue? By developing believers properly by focusing on love. Love doesn’t sit in church and memorize doctrine, it engages individuals and culture. It’s exactly how Jesus lived and taught His disciples.

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, He knew she was of another faith and it was culturally unacceptable for Him to speak with her, but He engaged in communication anyway. With confidence, faith, and openness, He spoke with her and listened to her. When she made assumptions about Him because of His faith “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim the place we must worship is in Jerusalem” He explained the truth “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:19-21).

Jesus’ way of faith didn’t shy away from those outside nor did He see them as enemies; He embraced them, interacted with them, and conversed with them. Jesus understood other people’s beliefs, listened to their stories, and brought the truth in a way that was welcoming, inviting, and revealing.

Maybe the larger issue of the exodus from the faith is what we’re emphasizing. Are we more focused on teaching a set of beliefs and practices than helping people develop a personal connection with the person of God and allowing that relationship to grow in its own unique way (through trials, questions, struggles, and personal encounters)? The Christian bureaucracy will lead us to believe that the greatest challenge to the faith is political ideologies, postmodern thought, and moral decline. But I happen to believe nothing outside the church is strong enough to hurt it (after all, Jesus said even the gates of Hell can’t overcome it). Only those within can hinder its progression.

I believe Christianity is credible and strong enough to stand up against questions and encounters with other kind-hearted people of other faiths (or of no faith). Our job as individuals and the church raising up young people in today’s culture is to make sure we are grounded not in an elitist set of beliefs, but rather in love. Love isn’t afraid of other beliefs, nor does it isolate itself from them; it engages every individual, sees the best in others, and endures. God is love and love never fails


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Stop Chasing Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not this side of Heaven. Most of us know that, but our expectations often belie that truth.

We know nobody and nothing is perfect, yet we are quick to complain about all the imperfections in the person we’re dating, the church we attend, or the job that pays our bills.Stop Chasing Perfection

High expectations are a good thing. Having a vision for the type of marriage you want, the church you serve in, and the career you navigate is important and admirable. And I believe the vision you imagine can become a reality as long as it’s grounded in reality. There must be some compromise and tweaking to the vision along the way.

Most people understand this. Where we go astray is when our focus shifts. Instead of remembering everything in life is a process, we get impatient with the immediate. So we focus on our partner’s imperfections, our church’s problems, and our employer’s negative practices. We magnify the few things that tick us off, letting those idiosyncrasies overshadow what we enjoy about our current state of life.

Consequently, we become complainers part of the unfortunate majority miserable in our relationships and jobs, and tuned out in church. Sometimes discontent means it’s time to move on. But most of the time the discontent comes from within, not without.

Changing jobs, churches, or dating someone else won’t change things when the problem is within you. The problem is often perspective. And perspective is tainted when problems arise: when there’s tension in your relationship, when there’s disagreement in church, and when there’s frustration at work. These aren’t signs to bail out; these are signs to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The life you want takes work. The vision you have won’t manifest without pressure.

So when things in life particularly pertaining to your relationships, church, and job become frustrating, shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Intentionally dwell on the good things about your situation. This fosters peace, patience, and problem-solving ability. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then maybe it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ll realize that though life isn’t perfect, it is good, and with patience you can build something close to perfect.



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There’s No Fear in Love

By Kevin Howellno fear in love

Fear has been a common thread in my writing lately. It’s not been on purpose, it’s just what comes out when I sit down in front of the computer.

I guess that says something about what’s deep inside. It’s something my soul is trying to convey to myself and to you. We don’t have time for fear.

No time to dwell on it.

No energy to waste fighting it.

We all know fear can holds us back from doing great things in life. And, what we fear most points to our greatest dreams and desires.

Our focus should be love. Love may not seem as the proper way to combat all your fears, but it can dissolve most.

When we’re focused on love, and living in love, we don’t give thought to fears. We don’t hesitate to do what our soul is stirring us to do. Whether it’s inviting a friend to church, making time for your irritable co-worker, starting a business, buying a house, moving out of the state or country, or simply saying “no” when you always say “yes.”

We fear these things because of our insecurity. It’s not necessarily because the tasks are too great, it’s because our faith is too small.

I don’t mean our belief has to be great in order to overcome fears. Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed can accomplish great things. The faith I’m talking about has more to do with trust. The more trust we have in someone, the more secure we are around him or her.

I realized most of my fears were rooted in insecurity. They were internal. I was afraid to do things because I was afraid to fail and fall flat on my face, so in order to save face, I stayed safe.

But the more secure I became in God’s love, the less I thought about failure. The less I cared about failure. I felt free. Doubts and concerns became minimal.

It’s weird, but something I would consider solely spiritual or theological was so practical, it permeated my entire life.

The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins. It covers a multitude of fears as well. 

Love provides security, ensuring that no matter what you venture to do, someone trustworthy is always there. Love doesn’t minimize the risk associated with fear; it just changes the perspective of it. When we live within God’s love, we see everything through the lens of His loving security.

What people think no longer matters. Our weaknesses no longer matter. Who’s with us and for us means everything.

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.” 1 John 4:18

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