5 powerful secrets to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right as a Young, Christian Single

5 powerful secrets to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right as a Young, Christian Single

Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr


Let’s face it. Being single and Christian is hard. It’s even harder to find that person you want to spend the rest of your life with. There are so many factors to consider: age, personality, looks, and spirituality. It can all become a blur. How do you even figure out if someone is a match for you? What does God have to say about it? Here are five powerful secrets to finding Mr. or Mrs. right as a young Christian single.

Serve

The first thing to consider is whether you and the other person are serving the Lord. One of the first things I discovered about my wife was that we were both passionate about serving God and looked for ways to bless others.

In fact, I met my wife preparing for a short-term mission trip. The funny thing is it wasn’t love at first sight for either of us. We continued to serve together at different times and in different places for about four years.

One day I looked up and I realized we were spending a lot of time together and I had stars in my eyes.

Be Yourself

You can’t find the right person for you if you are putting on a mask in public. The person you attract will be drawn to the mask and not the real you.

So don’t be afraid to share your real opinions about things. Put your likes and dislikes on full display.

Yes, some people will be repelled but the right people will be drawn to you. Now, don’t get me wrong.

You don’t want a clone of yourself who thinks and believes the same way you do. You want someone who will be attracted to your authentic self.

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I grew up in a small storefront church in Los Angeles. Most of my family still attends this church.

My heart will always be there, but staying within this circle made my choices for a mate slim.

Once I got out and started becoming involved in leading a Bible study on campus, and eventually going overseas on short-term mission trips, the dating pool started to widen.

I started meeting different people and more people who were going in the same direction I was going. That all started with me stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Decide That You are Dating to Marry

This should be a no-brainer for Christians but oftentimes we just date people because we don’t want to be alone.

Other times it’s just hormones taking over. If you didn’t know, Christians don’t date just to date. We date to marry.

I can remember hearing a sermon about marriage and being a single Christian man. The pastor said that if we’re not going to a hostile mission field or secluding ourselves in the Amazon jungle to find a cure for cancer we need to plan to get married.

That basically put me on blast and I started actively seeking to find the wife God had for me.

Be willing to let go

The last secret is this: Be willing to let go. Sometimes the person you are dating is not the right person.

Still many people go on dating someone when they know that they don’t want to be with this person for the rest of their life.

There are more red flags than a Chinese political rally yet the person still holds out hope that maybe they will change. Most of the time they will not.

It’s best to stop holding on to hope that this person will change their ways or their basic personality traits. When you do that your perspective on the situation changes.

You begin to compromise. You want the relationship to work so badly that you will do anything to make it happen.

Eventually, either you both move on after wasting time or you end up marrying them and committing to a person who is not for you.

Trust God. Be willing to let go.

 

The Simple and Hard Facts About Being a Healthy Black Person

The Simple and Hard Facts About Being a Healthy Black Person

Young african american woman eating an appleBeing healthy is pretty simple, but most people in the United States find it pretty hard. And for an African American, it’s over-the-top hard. Not only is the struggle of getting healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle embedded in the culture, but there are sometimes actual physical and financial obstacles to overall health.

There are many things in life that are simple and hard. Like staying committed to your spouse. It’s simple. Just stay faithful to one person for the rest of your life. It’s hard because there are all kinds of ups and downs you go through.

Alongside various temptations, you will also lose that euphoric feeling you had when you first met. That’s what makes it hard for the long haul.

Following Jesus seems simple. Jesus is to be the Ruler and number one priority in your life.

Sounds simple, right? It is but it’s also hard to do it. It means you have to deny yourself. Who wants to do that?

It means that you have to trust someone you cannot see. That’s a pretty high expectation, and if you have ever tried it, it’s extremely difficult.

Application is Key

The simple part about being healthy is summed up in a maxim from Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules: “Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants.” It can also be summed up in the overall guideline of staying active. That seems simple enough but even in the overall culture, it is a tall order. Folks who try often get buried in a mountain of guilt over late-night binges and how that occasional donut in the morning becomes habitual.

There seems to be no end to the people telling us that we need to eat better and stay active. The problem is not more information but application.

Usually where application fails is when we try to break ourselves from our normal routine. It’s all about habits. Habits are what shape our lives.

In his book the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says that habits can be broken down into three basic steps.

First, there is a cue or the trigger that tells our brains that we need to do something. The next step is the routine, which is the behavior that leads to the reward. The next step is the reward that reinforces the habit.

This is something he has labeled the habit loop.

Breaking Old Habits

Woman Doing Resistance TrainingIt seems simple to break a habit then. All we need to do is recognize our cues. Then we can choose alternate behaviors that lead to a different reward.

The problem comes when your whole culture is made up of cues that go against the habit you are trying to break. That’s when the mountain of unhealthiness seems insurmountable.

At that point, you have to choose between your cultural identity and your personal well-being. What do I mean by that?

It’s Sunday afternoon at Big Mama’s house and everyone is famished after spending hours at church. Big Mama’s table is full of all kinds of things that are detrimental to your health: creamy mac and cheese. Fried chicken. Chocolate cake.

The only thing that’s decent is the collared greens and those have been overcooked with ham hocks. So the health factor is reduced.

What do you do? Do you skip the meal? You’re hungry and after all, you don’t want to disappoint Big Mama. Plus your family has been eating this way for years.

Besides that not only has your family been eating this way but millions of African American families have been eating this way. It’s embedded in your culture.

You begin to remember that time when your unusual cousin from California came and ate a salad the whole week and everyone ridiculed her and said she had been hanging around white folks too much.

You don’t want to be thought of as betraying your race. So you reach for the fried chicken. It’s only right.

Limited Time and Resources

Bald office worker eating burger while typing on laptopHow about the many African Americans who are single moms? You don’t have time to cook healthy meals for the kids. You are just trying to make it through the day and get some peace once they are finally put to bed.

So what do you do? You give them the quickest and easiest thing.

Most of the time the quickest and easiest thing is also the unhealthiest. It is loaded with sodium and sugar. It is targeted to parents and children and has been tested and refined to produce a bliss point.

I learned about this concept from the book by Michael Moss titled Salt Sugar Fat

The bliss point is the perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that will get people craving for more. You don’t want to hear this but you’ve been had.

The food companies are deliberately making you unhealthy so they can make a profit from your lack of time to cook healthy meals for your family.

What if you did choose to live healthy in spite of the inconvenience of cultural identity and time? You still may face other challenges.

Let’s say you decided to follow Michael Pollan’s food maxim of eating real food and mostly plants. The economics are against you. Real food just costs more.

When you’re faced with feeding your family with the amount of money for food in your budget you have to make some choices. If it doesn’t add up you will buy the junk. And then you’re pulled back into the cycle.

There is also the existence of food deserts that totally trump eating healthy. A food desert is a swath of a usually urban community that does not have a grocery store.

There is no access to healthy food and families resort to buying food from the corner store which is usually processed and packaged. No fresh fruits or vegetables in sight.

If you are part of the 23.5 million people (mostly African American and Latino) in the United States who live in a food desert, this is a huge obstacle.

Let’s Talk Money

How about if you said that you wanted to stay active? You want to get a gym membership. That’s going to cost. You also have a family to take care of and a job to go to. You have to find time to squeeze it in.

Not only that but when most of your friends are not active then you won’t be active. Jim Rohn, the popular self-help guru, is often quoted as saying “You are the average of the five people you most spend time with.”

When it comes to being active, most black people don’t hang around other active black people. Watching sports on TV doesn’t count.

This is the essence of the struggle many black people face when it comes to health. On the surface, it seems like the struggle that anyone who wants to make a major change faces.

In many ways it is. What makes it unique is the cultural factors surrounding health.

For most African Americans eating processed, cheap, nutrient-absent foods and sitting on the couch watching reality shows has become a way of life.

Gathering around the table to consume salt, sugar, and fat in copious amounts has become the symbol of what it means to be family.

History of Soul Food

Man on ScaleDon’t get me wrong. I love soul food. I think that the distinct flavor of the cuisine that we grew up with is worth having once in a while but I also believe that some of the ingredients have gone the way of just wowing the taste buds instead of delivering the sustenance we need.

Bryant Terry, author of Afro-Vegan, in his article “Reclaiming True Grits” points out that once upon a time African American food was nutrient dense and less processed.

He recalls the meals that his Ma’ Dear made in Tennessee and how they were organic and contained ingredients from the garden. It is important to note that we didn’t always eat like this.

So what happened? Corporate America happened. Concern for profit became more important than concern for humans.

In the 1960s, Soul Food became a hit and the recipes became more dangerous to our health. We have come to equate soul food with the fare showcased in the episode of the Boondocks about the “itis.”

You know, that feeling you get after a big meal and you just want to fall over and go to sleep.

TV or play video games on the couch are not what we are designed to do.

It’s a way of life I’ve seen played out in too many homes. Personally, I’ve tried to break away from it. I do it in fits and starts.

Some leafy greens here. Some HIIT workouts there. Then sooner or later the holidays come. That’s when the temptation levels are the highest.

My mind has two thoughts battling each other. The first thought is to not give in and pursue my highest ideals. The second one is that I’m not only missing out on the stimulation of my taste buds but the community that I’m a part of.

Community Woes

Most African Americans are a part of the church. It would seem that this makes things even worse. When church people get together, they eat.

And they don’t just eat but they eat good (or bad depending on your point of view). Treating our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit seems to only apply to sex, smoking, and drinking in the church world. Packaged foods and large meals get a free pass.

I can remember when I was a strict vegan for six months in college. I was filled with energy and it was mostly from the food that I was eating and not eating.

I felt like I was lighter than air. My mind was clear and I didn’t have any illnesses. Why did I stop? Family telling me I was eating rabbit food.

To put it simply I had no community to support me. And when it comes to food and many other lifestyle choices, the community always wins. That’s why for most African Americans, eating healthy is simple and hard at the same time.

Thankfully there are those in the African American community who are banding together to promote good health. Here are just a few websites to help you find the community for your new fitness habits.

So what about you? Do you find it hard to live a healthy lifestyle? Do you find African American culture presents a barrier to a healthy lifestyle?

The Curious Origins of Christmas

The Curious Origins of Christmas

Close-up view of ancient stones during sunset at UNESCO World Heritage Site at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK.

As we immerse ourselves in the holiday season and get into the full swing of the Christmas season, I’ve heard people accuse this celebration of having origins in paganism. Yes that’s right paganism. I’m talking about the good old garden-variety orgy and sacrifices paganism.

If you don’t know your church history you will be taken aback. When you find out that this holiday that we have known as the celebration of the birth of Jesus is rooted in ancient Roman fertility rites it may throw you for a second.

This same holiday that has inspired so many songs and beautiful movies was also inspiration for people to release their inner lusts. Yes Christmas has pagan roots, but that isn’t a reason to drop it just yet. I will get into the reasons for that but first let’s start with a little history just in case you are not convinced of its pagan origins.

Christmas was created as a holiday that coincided with the pagan Roman holiday of Saturnalia, a week-long festival that involved sexual license and human sacrifice that revolved around the Winter Solstice and the pagan god Saturn. Early Christians succeeded in converting large numbers of pagans by allowing them to continue to practice Saturnalia as “Christmas.”

In fact no one knows the actual date when Jesus was born. The date of December 25th was chosen to coincide with the Winter Solstice in which the sun was reborn. This seemed to be a likely date for the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).

So yes Christmas does have some pagan origins and many of the things we do to celebrate Christmas (Christmas trees, mistletoe, gift giving) are leftovers from the older pagan holiday.

But it would not be fair or factual to declare that it’s a complete pagan holiday. It is a Christian holiday with some practices that contain pagan roots.

Whether we should celebrate or not celebrate Christmas is an issue of conscience. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans regarding holy days:

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.  Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. (Romans 14:5-8)

In other words it’s not about the origins of the day but whether you can give honor to God with a clear conscience by celebrating that day. For most people, Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth and the arrival of hope in the world, not a pagan festival.

This is the way they have grown up and it does not offend their conscience because they partake in festivities in honor of Christ’s birth and not to the Roman god Saturn or to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.

Others may have a hard time with it due to knowledge of the origins of Christmas. This is their prerogative. The key thing is whether it will bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And that brings me to another reason we shouldn’t drop the celebration of Christmas and condemn those who do. Christmas is for pagans because Jesus is for pagans. What do I mean by that?

I think the story of the three wise men illustrates my point. The three wise men from the east were unchurched “pagans”. They weren’t schooled in the rabbinical schools at Jerusalem. They weren’t raised as children to observe the Mosaic law.

They were pagan astrologers and all they had was a star. But what that star led them to changed their lives.

Christmas is for pagans because everyone needs Jesus. Today we are always in danger of being inordinately focused on our gifts and presents. While we are decking our halls and making our lists we may be ignoring those who need to find Jesus.

If this season of toys and wrapping paper and office parties can be used as a springboard to talk about the greatest gift God has given the world then let’s keep celebrating. We must figure out ways to turn it away from the consumer-driven season it has become and make it more like the star that attracted the wise men to Bethlehem.

Let’s focus on Christmas being a tool to inspire people to worship the God of the universe. This is what the world needed back then and this is what the world still needs now.

The Curious Origins of Christmas

The Curious Origins of Christmas

Close-up view of ancient stones during sunset at UNESCO World Heritage Site at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK.

As we immerse ourselves in the holiday season and get into the full swing of the Christmas season, I’ve heard people accuse this celebration of having origins in paganism. Yes that’s right paganism. I’m talking about the good old garden-variety orgy and sacrifices paganism.

If you don’t know your church history you will be taken aback. When you find out that this holiday that we have known as the celebration of the birth of Jesus is rooted in ancient Roman fertility rites it may throw you for a second.

This same holiday that has inspired so many songs and beautiful movies was also inspiration for people to release their inner lusts. Yes Christmas has pagan roots, but that isn’t a reason to drop it just yet. I will get into the reasons for that but first let’s start with a little history just in case you are not convinced of its pagan origins.

Christmas was created as a holiday that coincided with the pagan Roman holiday of Saturnalia, a week-long festival that involved sexual license and human sacrifice that revolved around the Winter Solstice and the pagan god Saturn. Early Christians succeeded in converting large numbers of pagans by allowing them to continue to practice Saturnalia as “Christmas.”

In fact no one knows the actual date when Jesus was born. The date of December 25th was chosen to coincide with the Winter Solstice in which the sun was reborn. This seemed to be a likely date for the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).

So yes Christmas does have some pagan origins and many of the things we do to celebrate Christmas (Christmas trees, mistletoe, gift giving) are leftovers from the older pagan holiday.

But it would not be fair or factual to declare that it’s a complete pagan holiday. It is a Christian holiday with some practices that contain pagan roots.

Whether we should celebrate or not celebrate Christmas is an issue of conscience. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans regarding holy days:

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.  Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. (Romans 14:5-8)

In other words it’s not about the origins of the day but whether you can give honor to God with a clear conscience by celebrating that day. For most people, Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth and the arrival of hope in the world, not a pagan festival.

This is the way they have grown up and it does not offend their conscience because they partake in festivities in honor of Christ’s birth and not to the Roman god Saturn or to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.

Others may have a hard time with it due to knowledge of the origins of Christmas. This is their prerogative. The key thing is whether it will bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And that brings me to another reason we shouldn’t drop the celebration of Christmas and condemn those who do. Christmas is for pagans because Jesus is for pagans. What do I mean by that?

I think the story of the three wise men illustrates my point. The three wise men from the east were unchurched “pagans”. They weren’t schooled in the rabbinical schools at Jerusalem. They weren’t raised as children to observe the Mosaic law.

They were pagan astrologers and all they had was a star. But what that star led them to changed their lives.

Christmas is for pagans because everyone needs Jesus. Today we are always in danger of being inordinately focused on our gifts and presents. While we are decking our halls and making our lists we may be ignoring those who need to find Jesus.

If this season of toys and wrapping paper and office parties can be used as a springboard to talk about the greatest gift God has given the world then let’s keep celebrating. We must figure out ways to turn it away from the consumer-driven season it has become and make it more like the star that attracted the wise men to Bethlehem.

Let’s focus on Christmas being a tool to inspire people to worship the God of the universe. This is what the world needed back then and this is what the world still needs now.

10 Commandments of Social Media for Christians

10 Commandments of Social Media for Christians

Video by THE BEAT by Allen Parr


Social media is pervasive in everything that we do. You can’t buy dog food or gas for your car without seeing an invitation to like the product page on Facebook or follow the Twitter handle.

So how do we as Christians engage the “clap back” and “you’ve been canceled” world of social media? After looking online and seeing so many faux pas and mistakes made by those who name the name of Christ, I’ve come up with “10 Commandments” of social media for Christians.

  1. Pause before you publish

The one thing you must do before you do anything else in the world of social media is to stop and think before you click “Enter” and send that post or tweet or Instagram photo. Think through the ramifications of what you are about to send to the entire Internet.

Your friends and people you don’t even know have a window into this part of your world. Where most communication is private, this is public in a way that wasn’t public 20-25 years ago.

More often than not, we forget that the words and pictures we send are going into a vast public record and open to the peering eyes of our bosses, co-workers, church members, potential employers, family, and friends.

Think about the words that you are about to type and send. It can go a long way in maintaining your online and offline reputation.

  1. World Star Hip Hop is not a credible news source

One of the things to think about is whether you are passing on credible information. Sometimes our hearts are already open to something that is more than likely a lie. We see the latest expos and what it really exposes is the bent of our heart.

Newsflash: Celebrity gossip is not news. So many rumors can be circulated in a matter of hours, and no one stops to check the facts but just publishes this stuff like it came from the mouth of God.

We have snopes.com now. There is no excuse. In this age where a story can spread faster than you can say “Ferguson,” we need to discover whether or not it is true.

Sometimes a story is just satire. Sometimes it’s for real. You need to know the difference.

  1. Improve your offline to online ratio

I see some people on Facebook no matter what time of day it is. The phone is probably the first thing they pick up in the morning and the last thing they hold at night.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some people slept with their phone. These are the kind of folks who obnoxiously text and tweet while having dinner. This is not the person you want to be.

As a follower of Jesus, you must place a higher value on your offline relationships than online. Your online relationships are flat and cannot see into the depths of who you are, and vice versa.

Technology has the privilege of giving you the ability to edit the parts of your life you don’t want others to see. Not so with real-life flesh and blood relationships.

The more time you spend with others, the more time you see their real authentic selves, and the more time they see your real authentic self as well.

This is a good thing. This is why God created Eve for Adam. This is why the “one anothers” of the church exist. We are called to live in community together, and online interaction cannot replace that.

  1. Would you want your grandma to see this?

First of all, as a Christian, some pictures don’t need to be taken. Yeah, that skimpy outfit just should not have been worn, much less photographed.

Second of all, some pictures don’t need to be published to the rest of the world. As a follower of Jesus, you are not just representing yourself, but the agenda of the King and His kingdom. You are representing your local and universal church family.

And if these things don’t strike a chord with you: You are also representing your own family.

Before you publish a picture, think to yourself: “Would I want my grandma to see this?”

Now if your grandma is living foul, then this doesn’t work, but if you’ve got one of those old, church mother, saved and sanctified grandmas, this can be very effective.

You wouldn’t want that grandma to see you getting “turnt” in the club or in a bikini gyrating with some dude.

  1. If you can’t say it in person, then don’t say it

For some reason, people are bolder online. It’s not just the anonymity. This sometimes happens when people know each other. I think it has to do with the lack of proximity.

By being far away from each other physically, we are emboldened to say things we wouldn’t say if we were looking at someone directly in the eyes.

Remember this: If you can’t say it in person, don’t say it. There is nothing courageous about being an online prophet and an in-person yes-man.

Just because you get an amen corner online doesn’t make you bold. Real boldness is speaking the truth even when you don’t have an amen corner at all.

  1. Pass on being passive-aggressive

Have you ever seen these posts that are directed to someone and no one at the same time? These are called “sub-statuses” or “subtweets,” and they are full of bitterness, anger, sometimes sarcasm.

They point out anonymous people’s faults. Sometimes they make you wonder if their online temper tantrum or cutting remark is targeting you. That’s not how saints of God air their grievances.

Private grievances need to be handled in private. Public grievances need to be handled in public.

Even if you are going to express your frustration, you at least need to name the person you are frustrated with. The Bible commands us to speak the truth in love.

Being passive-aggressive in your posts is anything but truthful or loving.

  1. Leave the doomsday prophets in the Old Testament

As followers of Jesus, we are called to share the good news.

Often when I look at people’s Facebook pages and tweets, I am surprised when I see the latest gloom-and-doom prophecies about how the nation is going down the tubes or how Black America is doomed to fail.

A lot of what I see is just negative events or news articles.

Yes, there is a place for being realistic, but spreading negativity shouldn’t be our default. Our default is joy. Our default is peace. Our default is hope.

The things we repost and retweet need to be aligned with what we value as the people of God. They should speak to the wider world of our orientation toward the kingdom and the hope we have in Christ.

  1. Bible-thumping doesn’t work (in person or online)

Have you ever talked to someone and the answer to every question was a Bible verse? These are the kind of people who figure out what kind of cereal to get with a Bible verse. And if it’s a religious question, they don’t actually answer the question, but just spew out Bible verses.

Don’t be that person.

Yes, we believe the Bible to be true in all that it affirms, but we also need to be aware of the world we live in.

Commenting on people’s posts with Bible verses that are most of the time out of context does nothing to win people over to Christ or a Christian perspective.

It’s best to meet people where they are and then explain what the Bible says about a subject than to proof text verses and expect to persuade people to your perspective.

  1. Respect the Internet

The Internet has specific guidelines when it comes to communicating.

ALL CAPS USUALLY INDICATES ANGER. Now I wasn’t angry there, but sometimes we put all caps on things where we shouldn’t and unintentionally communicate anger.

Because Internet conversations are in writing, they don’t always convey the intended meaning. What we intended as a joke can potentially be seen as a threat or an insult. Emoticons can help.

The key is that as followers of Jesus, we don’t want to look like noobs on the Internet, and most importantly, we don’t want to offend people unnecessarily.

The Gospel is already offensive, and if people know that we are Christians, they may be offended by our very beliefs. We don’t want to offend them unnecessarily any other way.

  1. Keep Jesus at the center

Last but not least, keep Jesus at the center of everything you do online. If being on Facebook or Twitter is becoming more of an addiction and less of a purposeful conversation tool, then drop them.

If you are unsure of whether to post something or respond to a comment, then think about the person and the work of Christ.

You will never go wrong by keeping Jesus as a model for your social media interaction.