A P U B L I C AT I O N O F O N M Y O W N N O W M I N I S T R I E S
Young Christian Woman
Think This, Not That! Thrift vs. Tack How Low Will You Go to Save? Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow? Depends on Your Personality
Chick Flicks, Chick Lit: You've Got Lies! w w w. o n m y o w n n o w. c o m
Single! Young Christian Woman Nov/Dec 2012, Vol. 4 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher Donna Lee Schillinger, Editor Kimberly M. Schluterman Editorial Support Contributors Julie Ann , Amy Gross, Tamara Jane, Tommy Newberry, Donna Lee Schillinger, Beth Spraul Except where noted, content is copyright 2012 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Single! and www.OnMyOwnNow.com. On My Own Now Ministries, Inc. is a nonprofit organization with a 501 (c) (3) determination. Your donations aid in our mission to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults during their transition to living on their own. We welcome submissions of original or repurposed articles that are contributed without expectation of compensation. May God repay you. Visit us at www.OnMyOwnNow.com.
An Election Year Win or Lose: Let it be with Integrity by Donna Lee Schillinger Straight Talk from the Proverbs Keep an Eye out for Snakes and Other Distortions of Reality by Donna Lee Schillinger The Recap Think This, Not That by Tommy Newberry Spare Change Thrift vs. Tack: How Low Will You Go to Save? by Julie Ann
.6 .8 .10 .12 .14
Fashion DIVinA Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow? Depends on your Personality by Amy Gross Center Ring Youâ€™ve Got Lies: Chick Flicks and the Worldâ€™s Approach to Men and Marriage by Beth Spraul Just What You Need Senior Year=Photo Op! by Tamara Jane with Donna Lee Schillinger
Winner, 2012 Christian Small Publishersâ€™ Book of the Year
Yep. Itâ€™s that good. If you need more ammunition in the battle to remain pure until marriage, add this to your arsenal. 17 true stories about waiting for marriage to have sex, or not, and the consequences of that choice. Now on sale, $12, free shipping at www.OnMyOwnNow.com.
N N “What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?” Proverbs 25:8
Keep an Eye out for Snakes and Other Distortions of Reality 4
By Donna Lee Schillinger
ou’ve probably read in a science or psychology book that the human brain filters information. It has to. All of our senses are taking in infinite detail at all moments, yes, even in our sleep. According to some scientists, we’re recording it all. But we never know it because our brain has to be very picky about what we pay attention to or else we would crash from sensory overload. A lot of how the brain filters information has to do with our safety and security. If anything comes into contact with our senses that our brain perceives to be a threat, our attention is immediately drawn to it. Like the eight-inch earthworm I saw while I was walking today. I really wasn’t looking down or anywhere in particular, that I can recall. Just as I stepped over the earthworm, it wiggled (probably freaking out over my threatening presence) and I spotted it. Nothing draws my attention as effectively as a long, slimy creature on the ground. Why? Because I’m afraid of snakes. I used to have a textbook phobia of them but have progressed to the point where after the initial startle of happening upon one, I can watch calmly as my husband does battle with it to catch and release it somewhere a mile or so down the road. It’s the lucky ones that take a ride in the truck. The uncooperative or slit-eye variety meet with a tragic end. Though snakes, the poisonous ones at least, can be a threat to all humans, not every person’s filters are set to pick up on a snake on the ground. A few months ago, my husband and I were hiking in the early spring. He was leading the way keeping an eye out for snakes – a gallant service he lovingly provides as he is not really afraid of snakes (though he startles at first sight too). Even though he led, I had my eyes on the leaf-strewn ground anyway, as an extra precaution. Well, you guessed it, he stepped right over a snake without any inkling. The same slithery sucker caught my attention in a big way and I let out one of my famous ultrasonic squeals! That’s not the first time that has happened either – and not just with my husband but with others I’ve hiked with too. Why do I always see the snakes? My sister says it’s because I’m looking for them. And you know that’s so true – I have my filters programmed to block out rare mosses and lichens and attend to the slithery
from the proverbs things in my path. Now that you see how this works, it’s easy to understand how our preprogrammed information filters can cause us not only to attend to specific things that others don’t see, but they can cause us to interpret information in certain ways. Often those ways don’t correspond to reality. The essence of this proverb is that often when we think we have things figured out, we don’t. There are two main things getting in the way of our truly understanding matters like we think we do. The first is incomplete information. Even when the situation involves a family member, best friend or roommate, who we think we know so well, there’s always something they are not telling us, which if we knew, would shed a new light on things. The second limiting factor is our own personal filters. When I was the director of Hope House, I hired a weekend house parent who only worked for a short time – it just didn’t work out for her. In that time, however, she and I became friends. We had a few key things in common – we were both single mothers, she was homeschooling her son and I hoped to homeschool my daughter when she became school age. Although she was from Washington, a state I’ve never even visited, I felt like we shared similar perspectives more so than I did with my fellow southerners. I liked this gal. I visited her home; she visited mine. She babysat for me when I had evening meetings. It seemed like a solid friendship was emerging. Then one day I called to ask if she could watch my daughter but she didn’t answer the phone. I left a message. She didn’t call back. The occasion passed. I called again just to say “hi.” She didn’t answer. I left a message. She didn’t call back. Over a period of about a month, that same scenario played out a couple of times more. She was blowing me off! After some careful thought about what might have gone wrong, I finally decided that I had abused the friendship by asking her one too many times to watch my daughter. She never asked me to babysit, in fact, I didn’t do anything to return her favors to me. I had blown it. I felt bad about it and also felt a little rejected – she didn’t like me enough to hang in there or just tell me she didn’t want to babysit so much. Then one day about three months later, she called. The first thing out of her mouth was an apology for having been incommunicado for so long. The next thing was the real reason why: she was pregnant. She
was 30 years old, never married, had one child out of wedlock and was now pregnant with another – by another man. To have this happen once was humiliating – for it to happen again made her have to face some hard reality about herself and she didn’t like what she saw. And then there was the concern over how she would provide for another child when she was barely making ends meet with the one she had. She had decided to move back to Washington and live near her mother to get some help. This was what was wrong, not that I had asked her one too many times to babysit or that she had not liked me enough. That experience taught me a lot about my own filters and jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information. I think a lot of people are like me in that we take things more personally than we should. In fact, not everything is about me! I have learned to notice when I am filtering information through the “it’s about me” filter, and go through the important mental exercise of concocting several other scenarios that could explain what I’m seeing. When the neighbor speeds by me on the road near our house without waving, I begin to think of some reasons why she might not have even noticed my presence. Maybe she’s calculating bills in her head and feeling a little overwhelmed by the sum. Maybe she’s late to pick up her kids and is kicking herself for having, once again, piddled around too long before leaving. Maybe she just caught her husband looking at porn! There could be a hundred different reasons why she’s not attending to who’s passing her on the road – even something as simple as maybe the sun is in her eyes! We need to slow down before we make assumptions, examine our own filters, try to diffuse them and consider other possibilities. We should seek more information, and if that’s not possible, play out some other plausible explanations for what we’re seeing. It could save us the mental angst and humiliation that often accompany incorrect assumptions.
Hold this thought: Maybe there's another explanation.
An Election Year
Win or Lose Let it be with Integrity by
Donna Lee Schillinger
Photo Courtesy of
his is a great season for anyone who is into politics. For the rest of the nation, it really bites! People you have known for years suddenly change in character when allegiance to a particular party or candidate is at stake. In some ways, it’s better people watching than on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. It’s fun to see how passionate some people can become and what competition brings out in us. I agree with author Gary Thomas, who said, “An apathetic person is a pathetic person’” and in general, I applaud wholesome, passionate living. Yet just like other passions, political passions run amok can be self-destructive, and in this election, I have noted that passion’s target of destruction is often the Christian character of integrity. Integrity is one of those traits difficult to grasp; it’s often used synonymously with honesty, or is simply defined as “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” Integrity includes both honesty and doing the right thing, but it’s much more than that. Its dictionary definition is, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character in the whole person.” The word comes from the root “integer,” which means “whole” Indicates that these values, beliefs and faith should fully permeate our lives. It’s also helpful to contrast “integrity.” The word has no true opposite and “lack of integrity” still leaves you wondering what integrity really is! Two good contrasts are “compromise for lesser principles,” and “inconsistency in living out one’s morals and ethics.” Election 2012 has left integrity in short supply nationwide. The Democratic Party lacked integrity when it passed the motion to restore the God and Jerusalem language in its platform. The party chairman heavy-handed the motion which needed a two-thirds majority verbal vote to pass and, in each of the three different calls to vote, came up obviously short. (You be the judge: watch the two-minute video of this infamous vote). Alternately, the Religious Right lacked integrity in quickly spinning the event to further disgrace the Democrats by saying they had “booed God.” It would have been impossible to say with certainty (without interviewing a good many of them), but in all likelihood, they were booing the bogus call of the chairman. Given my conservative circle of friends, I can provide more examples of lack of integrity from Republicans than I can from Democrats. A Ron Paul supporter, I nonetheless found
myself continually defending Obama from slanderous attacks upon his faith and personal character, trying to reason with my friends who, for example, circulated the spliced, diced and precooked video “Obama Admits He is a Muslim.” I understand, however, that not everyone who circulates a fallacious video or article is actually lacking in integrity. Many people are lacking in discernment. Between the receiving of garbage and the forwarding it to one’s entire email list, we should ask ourselves the critical question: “Does this seem reasonable?” How many times a quick trip to Snopes or Wikipedia could have answered that question and changed the course of action! Still other individuals are simply uneducated about what constitutes reputable journalism. Yet for many, lack of discernment is no excuse. It is certainly not an excuse for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Last week, after meeting with Mitt Romney, the Association removed Mormonism from a list of cults on its web site. Was Mormonism on the list to begin with only because no truly important personage had ever been a Mormon? That’s all that has changed here. No, the association’s decision makers removed it because to them, it was more important to change the political regime in this country than to remain truthful about Mormonism. The decision-makers sacrificed truth at the altar of political power. Integrity, however, is not like virginity (thank God!). You can get it back. The first step, as always, is to repent of having compromised on certain values, morals, and ethics. Then it’s as easy as just being, through and through, who you say you are. And when you botch it—which we all do from time to time—humbly get back on track as quickly as possible. Are you a Christ-follower? Do these words mean something to you: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1,2)? If these words are among those you value, if they are formative in your morals and the basis for your ethics, I urge you to wholly, integrally embrace them and live them out … whoever wins the election.
Between the receiving of garbage and the forwarding it to one's entire email list, we should ask ourselves the critical question: "Does this seem reasonble?"
Donna Lee Schillinger is editor of the recent anthology Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off, winner of the 2012 Christian Small Publisher’s Book of the Year.
the the recap Recap
Think This, Not That by
healthy body produces energy. Likewise, a healthy mind produces joy. This is not an accident. If you want to experience vibrant health and abundant energy, it is essential that you consume certain foods and drinks and refrain from consuming others. The same is true if you want to lose weight or put more muscle on your frame. You have to say yes to the foods that lead you toward your goal and no to those that lead you away. Very simply, you need to eat this, not that. And while, for the most part, this is now considered common sense, it is not always common practice for those desiring to reshape their physical bodies or increase their energy levels. Progress toward joy begins the same way, with a firm decision to cut back on joy-reducing thoughts and increase joy-producing thoughts. In short, you have to change your mental diet. You have to think this, not that. After all, joy is the sum and substance of emotional health. Many well-meaning individuals desire to be leaner or more energetic but then continue to indulge in a diet and lifestyle that takes them in the opposite direction. Consequently, they do not reach their goal. Many with the goal of increased joy run into the same predicament:
they keep consuming a mental diet mismatched with their goal. In both instances, there is a major disconnect between desired objectives and daily behavior. Joy is a state of mind that must be purposely cultivated if you are to live and love and influence others as God intended. Fortunately, joy does not depend on the outer conditions of your material life, but rather on the inner condition of your mental life. Joy is the result of something strikingly simple, though not necessarily easy: consistently thinking joy-producing thoughts. Is this within your grasp? Is it even possible for anyone to accomplish? Before you answer, let me remind you that few endeavors worth pursuing come easily to anyone, and the attainment of a joy-filled spirit is no exception. There are risks in shooting for this gold standard of faith in action. There is a high price to be paid, and it must be paid in advance. Certain comfort thoughts will need to be relinquished. Counterproductive habits will need to be abandoned. Tenured excuses must be surrendered. Since you are free to choose what you think about, and you have billions of options, what specific thoughts should you increase to become joy filled? What specific thoughts should you
decrease? What kinds of thoughts will distress your soul? What types of thoughts will nourish and hydrate your soul? At any given moment we can consciously choose to: • think excellent thoughts, not mediocre thoughts; • think focused thoughts, not scattered thoughts; • think fresh, exciting thoughts, not stale, boring thoughts; • think compassionate thoughts, not harsh thoughts; • think innovative thoughts, not common thoughts; • think loving thoughts, not indifferent thoughts; • think energetic thoughts, not exhausted thoughts; • think constructive thoughts, not destructive thoughts; • think helpful thoughts, not hurtful thoughts; • think successful thoughts, not failure thoughts; • think faith thoughts, not fear thoughts; • think fit thoughts, not fat thoughts; • think bold thoughts, not comfort thoughts; • think opportunity thoughts, not security thoughts; • think giving thoughts, not getting thoughts; • think serving thoughts, not self-centered thoughts; • think grateful thoughts, not entitled thoughts; • think abundant thoughts, not lacking thoughts; • think responsible thoughts, not irresponsible thoughts; • think reconciliation thoughts, not retaliation thoughts; • think principled thoughts, not popular thoughts; • think positive thoughts, not negative thoughts; • think thoughts of victory, not thoughts of defeat; or • think about the promises of God, not the problems of this world. Think about what you want, not what you don’t want. Why is this required for joy-filled living?
Very simply stated, we tend to bring about what we think about. As King Solomon counseled, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, nkjv). Building on Solomon’s wisdom, James Allen wrote that “the outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns both by suffering and bliss.”1 It is my intention that during this forty-day regimen, you will start experiencing more of the bliss that is called joy-filled living. Starting today, release the need to hang on to thoughts that haven’t worked well for you. It is true that we can think this, not that! Try this exercise: Think about the person you intend to become. Then on the following page, identify a few specific thoughts that are incompatible (Not That column) with that vision. In the left-hand column, identify a handful of thoughts that are compatible (Think This column) and helpful. At the bottom, write a short sentence indicating your commitment to improve your thinking. Excerpted with permission from 40 Days to a JoyFilled Life: Living the 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. ©2012 Tyndale House Publishers, 288 pp. $14.99 Visit TommyNewberry.com.
Thrift vs. Tack How Low Will You Go to Save? by Julie Ann
n the last edition of Spare Change, we discussed thrift verses theft—the fine line between being thrifty and essentially stealing products or services to save a dime. But that’s not the only line you have to steer clear of when trying to live on a budget. There’s also a fine line between thrift and tackiness. It may be something legal and even moral, but if it is going to leave people shaking their heads and wondering about your sanity, it’s probably tacky. One of the most obvious issues that straddles this line between tacky and thrifty is “dumpster diving” —the practice of fishing through trash, looking for treasure. On one hand this can be fundamentally disgusting in that you may be sorting through spoiled foods, poopy diapers and who knows what else, looking for
loot. This can be quite risky when it comes to health and personal safety (razor blades, knives, broken jars!). On the other hand, if a neighbor leaves something reasonably nice by the dumpster, an old end table or bean bag, why shouldn’t you take it? If you can use it or “up-cycle” it into something else, why should it end up in a landfill? Clearly, by setting it to the side of the dumpster, the neighbor intended to potentially have someone else get some use out of it (this happens almost every week in my apartment complex.) Some people believe so strongly in using other people’s garbage that they’ve made it a religion of sorts. It’s called Freeganism, and its practitioners, Freegans, are often anti-consumerism and, according to Wikipedia, “employ a range of alternative living strategies based on limited participation
in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.” Even these bestintentioned divers should take care to retrieve discarded items without compromising safety or health. As we rapidly approach the holiday season, the issue of re-gifting or giving second-hand gifts will be a hot topic. On which side of the thrifty/ tacky line this falls depends on motives and intentions. If you are re-gifting or second-hand shopping merely because you are too cheap to buy a “real” gift, you may be in tacky territory. However, if you were given an item that you absolutely can’t use or isn’t your style and know that someone else would love it, then it’s okay to bless them with that item. (This should go without saying, but just make sure the original giver and new recipient won’t cross paths to avoid an awkward situation; or if you think they might, meet it head-on and tell them both about the re-gifting.) Or if you know that someone loves second-hand or vintage items, then the thrift store would be the perfect place to shop for that person. Then, in the spirit of Freeganism, there are those who for whatever reason—to lighten Christmas’s carbon footprint, reconcile the holiday with their nonconsumerist values, etc.—have a standard for giving only hand-made or second-hand as gifts, and that’s great too. The point of gift-giving is to show a person that you love them and have put some thought into giving them an item that they would really like to receive. If you are giving out of obligation and trying to get off as cheaply as possible, you should examine your motives and consider alternatives to traditional gift-giving. Another way people can find themselves wandering into tacky territory is by recycling everything, and I mean, everything. Being green
is good for the wallet and the environment, but to avoid becoming a recycling nut, you need to know when to recycle and when to just let an item go. I occasionally wash and reuse plastic cutlery, use paper and wrapping paper cardboard rolls to keep my boots standing straight and use plastic grocery sacks for trash bags. However, there is a point when being green can become disgusting, or even harmful to your health. For instance, Styrofoam containers can get more dangerous with continued use. Avoid taking on Styrofoam in the first place and invest in a ceramic mug or dish. Or possibly, you save money by refusing to call it refuse—you just won’t throw that old toothbrush or pillow away, because, well, they still work! Yes, but did you know that up to 10% of your pillow’s weight can be composed of dead skin cells and dust mites? Make a doggy bed out of it or something, but if you’ve had that pillow for a few years now, it’s time to buy new! (A sleeping pillow is something you definitely don’t want to buy second-hand, unless it’s for your dog). I am all for reducing the amount of trash I haul to the dumpster, but there becomes a point when trash is just that. Learn to tell legitimate trash from recyclables. There are thousands of ways we can turn being thrifty into being tacky (just watch the TLC show “Extreme Cheapskates” some time if you don’t believe it). The key is to take a moment to selfevaluate and ask yourself if what you are doing is safe, healthy and done with the right motives. Ask yourself, “What would others think if they knew I was doing this to save a few cents?” and if you find yourself embarrassed, then find a new way. There are plenty of ways to be thrifty without running the potential of coming off as an eccentric.
Fa s hion DIV inA
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow? Depends on your Personality
hen I woke up this morning, I realized I had been dreaming that I was a platinum blonde. I also realized that I really liked being a platinum blonde in my dream, and that got me started thinking about whether I could actually pull it off in real life. I guess I’m what you would call a Hair Experimentalist. My hair has been long, short, medium (it’s currently spiky-short), and every shade of brunette and blonde out there except platinum (at least not yet), and once, a weird Sharon Osbourne shade of red when I accidentally grabbed the wrong box of color off the shelf. My hair has also been straight, shagged, spiked, and spiraled. There have been many periods of my life where getting my hair ready for the day ate up at least 30 minutes of my morning and used an army of styling products and electrical tools. At the moment, it takes me exactly three minutes to wash and rinse my hair (no conditioner needed at this length) and 10 seconds to throw some product in
by Amy Gross
it—probably my record for hair care brevity. I always look forward to my next visit to the salon, and 99 percent of the time I’m carrying a photo of a hairstyle that I’d like my stylist to try. (Now that I think about it, the last photo I brought in was of a woman with spiky-short, platinum blonde hair. Hmm.) And yet, I have friends who have literally not changed their hairstyles since we were kids. Same length. Same color. Same part on the left side. Let’s call them Hair Traditionalists. It has taken me many years to appreciate this, but I realize now that whereas I use my hair as a changeable accessory but don’t really update my wardrobe style that often, my friends with nochange hairstyles tend to be much more trendy and up-to-date when it comes to their fashion styles. Does this mean there’s a correlation between changing your hairstyle and changing your fashion style? Hard to say. When was the last time you radically changed your hairstyle or color
or bought a new piece of clothing that was totally off-the-rails trendy? Would you ever consider doing both at the same time? Well, since I’m clearly not a fashionista, I can’t speak to trendy clothing styles. But as a Hair Experimentalist, I can offer a few tips and inexpensive products for ramping up your hairstyle if you’ve been thinking about trying something new. Update your cut. If your locks have traditionally been long, lop some off. You’ll be amazed at how much bouncier your hair will be with four or five inches removed. You probably won’t even notice the difference in length—but you’ll definitely notice the difference in fullness. If your hair is bobbed or medium-length, consider an angled cut where the length is shorter in the back than the front. Bet you’ll get more than a few compliments; the angling trick draws attention to your facial features and highlights eyes and nice cheekbones. Straighten or smooth with a cool electrical gadget. Many people swear by flat irons. Me, I’m too much of a butterfingers. My favorite gadget for smoothing out waves and adding body is Conair’s 2-in-1 Hot Air Brush (available at Wal-Mart and most drugstores for about $25). Using the hard spiky brush attachment, allow the iron to heat up while you dry your hair with a blow dryer to about 90 percent dry. Experiment with the spiky brush at the roots of your hair (to add body up top), or at the ends to flip up or under. Dragging the brush through your hair will smooth out waves and add shine. The beauty of this gadget is that it’s great for every hair length except super-short. Texturize with product. Mousses, foams, and even gels can add body and make your hair responsive to styling. Here’s a great one for us
shorties: Short Sexy Hair Control Maniac. At $11$15, it’s not inexpensive, but a 1.8 oz (that’s not a typo!) tub will last you a good four to five months. Unlike many styling products, it’s waxy rather than oily. You can style your hair in all kinds of funky ways without worrying that it will be greasy-looking and limp by the end of the day. The ultimate plunge: changing color. You can easily do this at home for about $10, rather than spending $90-$120 at a salon. But go slow! Better to make color changes over time rather than finding you hate the look of a radical change. When choosing your drugstore haircolor product, keep in mind that the more expensive, the better the quality. I like L’Oreal’s Excellence Creme line; it goes on evenly and lasts a good four to five weeks. If you have medium or long hair, you will probably need two bottles. And if your hair is supershort, cut down on the amount of processing time stated in the directions. If you’re a Hair Experimentalist (or would like to become one), good luck making some exciting new changes to your look! As for you Hair Traditionalists, well, go out and buy some cute shoes (on clearance), for heaven’s sake!
Amy Gross is a freelance writer and the editor-inchief of Su Casa magazine. She lives in Santa Fe, NM, where every day is a good hair day.
You’ve Got Lies:
Chick Flicks and the World’s Approach to Men and Marriage
he more time that I am afforded to spend on this earth, the more I understand why the Lord allows (not causes, but allows) certain things to happen in our lives. Indeed, if you “truly allow yourself time to heal from your own past hurts and wounds” (Psalm 147:3, Hebrews 12:12-17), the greater chance there is to not just extend compassion to another in their suffering (just as Adonai does, Psalm 111:4), but to also be provided with a clearer understanding of what they may be going through...and why they continue to send themselves through it. I have quite an extensive movie collection. Actually, my husband says I have an extensive “chick-flick” collection. I remember in college when my girlfriends and I would try to borrow each other’s movies. It was often a useless exercise because we would discover we already had all the same titles, like “Pride & Prejudice,” “Sense & Sensibility,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Ever After,” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” But how does Hollywood know how to make a movie that most women will not only love, but want to own -- and then (this is the part that perplexes my husband) be willing to watch countless times, sighing or tearing up
By Beth Spraul each time at the same sappy endings? Could it be that these movies strike an emotional nerve—a nerve that longs for the bliss of falling in love with the perfect man or the rush of romance that will replace our emptiness and loneliness? Whether we realize it or not, as we munch our popcorn, films communicate underlying emotional messages to us. What are these messages teaching us about life, love, and romance? Better yet, what do these films teach us about the nature of true masculinity and femininity? Does watching such movies actually affect our understanding of romance or shape how we go about looking for this ideal husband? I think the answer is yes. We may think we are savvy enough to detect the subtle lies present in this genre of films. You might be reading this saying, “What’s wrong with a little escapist entertainment every once in a while? It’s just a Hollywood story, and I know it’s just fantasy.” If that’s the case, then why is there still that sigh or even a few tears after the 20th viewing of your favorite romantic movie?
feature article Something in us is stirred. I’d like to discuss briefly what I think are three powerful lies communicated to and believed by women through “chick-flicks” as well as “chick-lit” (literature). Most Christians are concerned about the harmful effects of pornography, right? This extremely destructive industry has perverted God’s good design for sex within marriage and impelled men and women to view each other as objects for selfish pleasure. It also grossly distorts a man’s view of the way normal women approach sex and sexuality, turning women into idols who are always sexually ravenous and are perfectly happy engaging in physical sex acts that are completely divorced from any sense of commitment, love, security or relational intimacy. Counselors consistently report that when men indulge such a distorted view of women and their sexuality, they become dissatisfied with their own wives and sex lives, tend to evaluate potential spouses based chiefly on physical attractiveness, or bring impossible expectations for sex into marriage. All of the above lead to sin and heartbreak. I’d like to suggest that culture attacks women similarly — it is just a bit more subtle. The lies told to women are introduced at the level of women’s emotions (less harmful, right?) in how they dream about men and in what they long for relationally. Like pornography, chickflicks take a good gift from God (romance, relational intimacy) that women are created to desire, and distort it by presenting as “normal” an unbiblical and unrealistic picture of men, love, and marriage. And just like men who buy into the lies of pornography, women who believe that their husbands and marriages should always be like what they see on the screen will be sinfully dissatisfied with God’s good gift to them of a “normal” husband and marriage. Obviously, the analogy is not perfect. Unlike pornography, it is possible to engage in watching “chick flicks” and have it be a sin-free activity, whereas the very act of viewing pornography is always harmful and always a sin. However, before you assume you are able to watch
chick-flicks and read romance novels without harmful effects to your expectations for men and marriage, consider the following lies often propagated by these movies in light of what Scripture teaches. Lie #1: Men think of romance and relational intimacy exactly like women do. No they don’t. Just like men and women are wired differently (by God’s good design!) when it comes to sex and sexuality, they are also wired differently when it comes to emotional and relational intimacy. Everyone is unique, but in general, men tend to be less emotionally driven, more analytical, more compartmentalized in their thinking, and more into problem-solving than verbal “processing.” Given these differences, men tend to need less relational intimacy, it tends to come less naturally to them, and—here’s the kicker— they tend to think less about romance than women do! Though these differences are real, they are part of God’s wise design for complementarity between men and women. Women often bring relational strengths to the equation (gentleness, more nurturing, often communicative, etc.). These contrasting emotional tendencies actually help men to be steady in leadership and decision-making. However, men need to work at these areas of intimacy and romance in caring for their wives. They are not off the hook simply because it is less natural to them! C.J. Mahaney’s book, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God is a popular resource for men, with practical “surefire ways to kindle romance” within marriage. If such knowledge was so intuitive to men (as Hollywood wants women to think), men wouldn’t have to proactively learn how to love and serve their wives in these ways. As women/ wives, we should realize that, on balance, most “typical” men are not like Mr. Darcy or (insert favorite romantic movie/novel character here) all the time (though they may have their moments!), and that’s actually part of God’s design. As we relate to our husbands or go about finding a husband-to-be, we need to remind ourselves of this truth. Lie #2: If I marry the right man, my life will be right.
As women, we should realize that, on balance, most “typical” men are not like Mr. Darcy all the time ... and that’s actually part of God’s design.
center ring This is the lie in most of Jane Austen’s novels and their movie spin-offs. Dave Harvey wisely observes in his book When Sinners Say I Do that each of Austen’s books conveniently ends at the wedding. The reader is left to assume that the couple lives on in complete marital bliss. Also, the female main character always marries a wealthy and handsome husband, usually after she’s rejected other eligible and worthy suitors. In Austen’s world, marriage and Mr. Right are the ultimate things that will truly satisfy. Marriage is also a trouble-free commitment that only yields joy. Austen wants you to forget that even Mr. Darcy is a sinner and that marriage will have its trials and disappointments. It is good and right for women to desire marriage and a godly husband, but we must realize that all husbands will eventually hurt us in some way and that marriage is hard work as two sinners rely on Christ in the work of dying to their selfishness and growing their relationship. Additionally, although marriage will certainly provide tremendous joy in your life, it will fall significantly short of making all things right. There are parts of this life in a fallen world that will remain difficult and broken simply because of the presence of sin, regardless of when or whom you marry. Even the commitment, love and romance between a faithful husband and wife cannot answer all of this life’s longings. We need to remember that there is Someone who will make all things right, but He isn’t your husband or husband-to-be. He isJesus Christ, the One who was crushed for your transgressions (Isa. 53) and Who bridged the infinite gap between you and your Creator by His death on the cross (Col 2:13-14). Being united to Him in His death and resurrection will ultimately make all things right not in this life, but in the life to come. If we approach our husbands with expectations that he will take away all of our loneliness, insecurities, fears and longings for love, we hold him to a standard no human being is able to meet in this life. We set ourselves up for great disappointment when our husband doesn’t deliver such total sweeping happiness to our lives, and
we can be tempted to blame him when it is our own worldly and idolatrous expectations that are to blame! Such expectations can even lead us to be discontented wives who are unsatisfied with the day-to-day realities of life and responsibility in marriage. We can become unsatisfied with our husband’s love and service and care because marrying him didn’t cure our deepest emotional struggles. Lie #3: I will know that a man is right for me by the feelings I get when I’m with him. How many movies and books contain the predictable plot in which two strangers meet, spend two glorious weeks together and discover they are soul mates (after dodging a few obstacles like disapproving parents or differences in social status)? We see this in the tag line for “Sleepless in Seattle”: “What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew, was the only someone for you?” I could quote countless examples of the entertainment industry’s lie that emotional experience and the subjective experience of attraction or “chemistry” trump all else in discerning if someone is right for you. This lie insinuates that relational fulfillment hinges on the emotions of romantic experience like the “chemistry” or connection in conversation, or perhaps “the way he looks at me.” We see this with lines like, “With one touch of his hand, I just knew...,” “You complete me,” or “I wanted it to be you.” (Ladies, can you name those movies?) It’s dangerous to put too much stock in emotion. First, you can easily convince yourself that you are experiencing “true love” while having little regard for a man’s faith, character, service or ability to sacrifice himself for others. Second, an over-emphasis on emotional experience and chemistry can cause women to dismiss possible worthy suitors. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve been there myself: A woman doesn’t immediately “feel” that a man is her “type” or the “ideal” that she’s had in her mind for her husband, so the man is simply dismissed without a chance to demonstrate his possible worthiness.
Although marriage will certainly provide tremendous joy in your life, it will fall significantly short of making all things right.
feature article The next time you think about saying “no” to an offer of courtship or even a coffee date, honestly ask yourself if your answer would be any different if he were tall, extremely handsome, and said his favorite pastimes were taking long walks and writing poetry. None of these are qualities Scripture exhorts you to be looking for! Let me be clear that I am not advocating the other extreme of arguing that attraction and emotional connection have no place in such a decision. However, my concern is that such factors are often elevated above what the Lord values. Have you ever turned down a godly brother whom you know is a fruitful, faithful Christian, able to serve others sacrificially and desiring to get to know you in an honorable way, but yet “doesn’t seem like the right fit”? If so, are you not guilty of putting greater priority on what you “feel” rather than what you know God values in a man’s character? Ladies, beware of elevating worldly preferences and expectations above godly qualities when considering a man. Doing so makes you guilty of the same error that men in the church can make when they elevate physical appearance above biblical character qualities in us. Let us flee from holding on to Hollywood-programmed ideals and instead look to God’s word for our criteria. Let us stop asking the wrong questions when considering a man, such as: Is he a good dresser? Do others find him attractive? Did I get the “feeling” I always thought I would get when my future husband would ask me out? And, is he romantic? Instead, start asking the right questions: Can he lead me spiritually? Do I see examples of him serving others? Is he humble and teachable? And, do the elders and other godly men commend him? Ladies, if you can answer “yes” to all of the right questions about a man that has pursued you, then carefully consider what would keep you from being willing to get to know him in a courtship. As Christians, we must place ultimate importance on those biblical qualities the Lord identifies in Scripture. This may mean dying to some worldly desires and preferences that have been fed through our culture but have no eternal weight or importance. Getting Personal I have fought this battle within my own heart. I have been tempted to trust my own feelings, preferences, and worldly expectations more than godly wisdom and counsel at crucial times in my life. Here’s a glaring
example: When my husband of now nearly ten years asked me to begin a courtship with him back in the summer of 2002, I was shocked and caught off guard. I was only living in DC for a summer to do a counseling internship, and I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough to say “yes” when he asked. To top it off, my first instinct was to say a polite, “no thank you,” because he was not at first glance what I “imagined” my future husband to be. He had a “California-surfer” style to him which I interpreted as “slacker.” He had a bold, confident, and outspoken personality, which I interpreted as “arrogant.” I knew we had different interests and tastes. He was a crunchy, outdoorsy environmentalist, and I’d never been camping in my life! However, when he asked me to court him, he encouraged me to talk to three elders who knew him best—one who had discipled him for several years. He told me to feel free to ask them any questions I wanted about his character. I was very impressed that he was willing to open himself up to such scrutiny, allowing these men to speak to me about his strengths and weaknesses so openly. I was interested to hear from these men instead of having to go on my own limited knowledge. I hoped to base my answer on his character confirmed by others, not on my mere feelings or instinct at the time. I spent the next several days prayerfully considering his offer. My instinct was to say “no.” He was simply not who I had imagined and it didn’t feel like a good fit. Yet, through the wise counsel of my dad and older brother Scott, I met with all three elders separately. I was completely shocked by what they had to say about Greg’s character. They spoke of his humility, how teachable he was, his sacrificial service, strong, natural leadership ability, passion for God’s Word, and his organized, disciplined work ethic—so much for the arrogant slacker! I soon realized that my brief, external evaluation of him was not at all accurate, and that I would actually be crazy to say “no” to the kind of godly man these elders were describing to me. They were describing the kind of man I wanted to marry, even if he did dress like he was from San Diego! Shortly after starting the courtship, I began to experience Greg’s godly character myself. My attraction and affection for him grew quickly and easily, and I was so thankful I had said yes to him. As I started to experience his strong leadership in the pace and details of our relationship, I found it to be a joy to be led by him.
center ring I praise God for placing wise counselors in my life at the time of our courtship who urged me to prioritize godly character in a man and not let my initial instinct and feelings trump everything else. Our affection for one another continued to grow, and I soon found that this was a much better fit than I could have ever possibly imagined for myself. Five months later, Greg asked me to marry him, and this time I said yes without any hesitation! So, What about You? With hopes of fueling some thoughtful self-examination and fruitful discussions, I’d like to challenge you with a few application ideas: • Be willing to expose this part of your inner life to other Christians. Invite older, wiser counselors into your life to help you discern if you are placing appropriate priority on biblical character qualities when considering relationships with men. • Have some honest conversations with a wise Christian sister or married couple, and try to understand how you’ve been influenced by the lies of chick flicks and literature. Ask them to tell you in what ways they see how your thinking and ideals have been influenced. • If you have let your feelings, preferences, or expectations possibly trump all else in the past— even if thatmeans you’ve said “no” to courtships with godly men that didn’t fit your ideal—be willing to confess this to a wise Christian sister or married couple. Ask them to help you grow in this area of valuing biblical character over your own preferences. Be willing to acknowledge your misplaced prioritiesof the past. Better still, ask them to hold you accountable to carefully respond differently in the future! • Instruct your heart by reading good biographies about godly women who honored the Lord through their faithfulness and sacrifice in their marriages. Fill your mind with these real life stories of saints living godly lives through decades of marriage and ministry, rather than getting lost in a Hollywood story of little substance. I recently finished the biography of American author Elizabeth Prentiss. I was deeply moved by various sections describing the love that was sown between
Elizabeth and her husband through their many trials as a couple on a life journey together. Reading the excerpts of their love-filled letters stirred me as I noticed the depth behind their affection for one another in contrast to the shallow love that Hollywood depicts! Enjoy these closing lines from a letter from Elizabeth to George, written during a season of suffering in their lives. George suffered from chronic sickness and was away from Elizabeth trying to regain his strength on a doctor-recommended trip of forced rest. Elizabeth was left to care for several of their sick children, often battling sickness herself, while desperately hoping her husband’s health would be restored. In spite of severe circumstances that could hinder affection and intimacy, Elizabeth wrote: “I found it hard to listen to the sermon with necessary attention this morning, for my thoughts kept wandering to you. I felt grateful to God for having granted me the rich experience of satisfied affection, and almost tremble when I look my felicity in the face. What would have become of me if I had never known the happiness I have found in looking up to, leaning on, admiring and loving you! We ought to bless God every day for our daily joy and solace in each other—and so we do, yet not half enough … What a wonderful thing human love is! Think how by a breath, as it were, you can fill me with ecstasy!” Beth Spraul is a wife and mother of two, a Southern Seminary grad, and serves part-time as a biblical counselor for women at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
Just What You O
ne of young life’s milestones is approaching: graduation—be it from college or high school, which means photo op! But not of the candid sort. It’s time for senior pictures, one of the few times in your life you get to play model—a dream come true for some, more like getting a root canal for others. Regardless of how comfortable you feel with the business end of a long lens pointing your way, you’ll want these pictures to be the best they can be, and I’m here to help! Before we get to the creative stuff, we should make sure we can afford this photo shoot. You may have dreamed of shooting your senior pics with Hawaiian surf in the background, but if you live in land-locked New Mexico, you might need to adjust that ideal to the real. Likewise, that slick brochure or sample you got from the best local photographer could cost you more than a semester of college! Senior pictures seem paramount now, but if you poll older friends and family, they will help you put it into perspective. Best to find an affordable photographer who will give you the disk of your pictures that you can print out yourself through retail photography departments like those at Walmart or Walgreens, or online services like Snapfish. For that matter, there’s no reason why you can’t ask a shutterbug friend or family member to take the pictures. Digital cameras have considerably leveled the field of photography so that even amateurs with inexpensive cameras can work wonders! There isn’t as much information online as you might think about DIY senior portraits, so searching “photo ideas” on Pintrest might be your best bet. Then follow the links to blog posts such as this one enti-
Donna Lee Schillinger
tled, “The Posing Guide.” Additionally, the blog post “The Rules of Good Portraiture” is worth reading. Ask for photographer recommendations from your budget-minded friends and do a Facebook search for “photographer” plus [your city or area]. Just about all photographers, even the very affordable ones, have a Facebook presence or Web site where you can review their work. Contact two or three possibles who you think could accurately capture your unique personality, and compare what they can offer. When setting up your session, write down all the details to avoid confusion and stress at the last minute. If you’ve been dealing via Facebook or a website, be sure to get a phone number (for last-minute questions or emergencies). Where and when will you meet? How many outfits will you need? Where will you change your clothes? What’s your rain plan? You may already have the perfect shoot in mind. More likely, you have only one parameter: you don’t want it to look like everyone else’s stuff! Ironically, you can generate some original ideas by looking at other people’s photos, refining your likes and dislikes, and customizing others’ ideas. Your photographer may also have suggestions based on your interests and future plans; but it’s still nice if you have an idea to help guide the photo shoot. They are yours, after all. A week or 10 days before the shoot, put your outfits together: clothes, shoes, jewelry, hair accessories and props. You need to think this through in advance to give yourself time to track down that something that would make the whole thing perfect. A friend of mine had a vision to sit in a plush chair in a field, but she didn’t have a plush chair, and even if she had had one, she didn’t have a vehicle to move said plush chair to a field. Considerable brainstorming and planning had to happen to get that plush chair in the middle of the field by the time of the photo shoot. When choosing outfits, take into account the weather and season. You’re going to
senior year=photo op!
Just What You look anachronistic in your favorite spaghetti strap dress with leafless trees in the background. And even if you find some evergreens as a backdrop, your bluish skin tone will reveal the chill you’ll be feeling in those unseasonal clothes. Also, keep in mind modesty. Try to find things that are cute and fun, showing your sense of style, but not too much else. You can do it, I dare you! Just ask yourself, “Will what I’m wearing in any way keep Dad from wanting to dish out good money to pay for a lot of these pictures?” Value Dad’s opinion; of the two of you, he’s the one who has been inside the male mind… Your photographer may offer you the option to change clothes once or twice. Keep in mind that time changing clothes and locations can mean fewer shots to select from, and less time working on poses to get great shots. Nonetheless, most people like one casual outfit and one more formal. In both cases, keep the clothes simple so that the focus remains on you. Think about the colors of your background and try to match. Solids with accessories that pop work better than busy patterns. Some things from my closet that would work well are a red scarf with a black shirt. Take those blue shoes or that green belt—whatever favorite crazy things you have in your closet—and mute them with a simple foundation. Let’s talk about the day of. Try to sleep late (or go to bed early the night before). Beauty sleep is for real! Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, a good half hour more than you think you could possibly need. You’ll want to look your best and not feel rushed. Iron, steam or tumble dry out wrinkles from your clothes, eliminating any stray strings that could come back to haunt an otherwise perfect shot. Arrive early to your shoot location and take a friend or family member with you, talking through the shoot with your help on the way there. Having someone along who makes you laugh can keep your nerves at bay, make the experience more fun and prime your face for the best, most natural smiles. The last words of advice are actually the hardest: be yourself. This is never harder than when you’re staring at a telephoto lens! If you’re feeling hopelessly awkward, just strike up a conversation with the photographer. It will help you to feel more at ease and distract you from the task at hand. You’ll make it through the embarrassing times. Just laugh at your blunders. Laughing makes the best photos anyway! And if all else fails, thank God for Photoshop!