Whether you're in a new relationship or happily married, it's always nice to treat the person you love with a fun day or night out. Restaurant meals and movies can add up, but there are still some great ways to have a romantic date on a budget:

Make a homemade meal. This may seem like an obvious one but often people are so busy these days that meals become more of an afterthought than anything else. Why not make an actual appointment to set the table for a real meal right at your own dinner table? Use some nice tablecloths or place settings and make your significant other's favourite recipe. It'll definitely be a success!

Have a picnic. On a nice summer or fall day, grab a blanket or sheet and head to a park with a packed lunch and some books. There's nothing nicer than an afternoon without the distractions of TV and the internet. You can also bring a deck of cards or other outdoor games to pass the time.

Go for a walk or bike ride. It can be fun to break a sweat with your significant other, and even if working out isn't your favorite thing to do, a nice leisurely walk is a great time for conversation and just enjoying a nice evening outdoors.

Take a drive. You don't have to plan a weekend away to explore a new area. There are probably some great spots just a short drive away. Plus, spending time in the car with some good music on and the windows down can be a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.

Do you have any ideas for fun dates?

"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."

~Proverbs 23:7

Giving your heart to another is one of the greatest gifts you can give. If given without much thought, it can also be a painful experience. Knowing with whom to share is an essential lesson of love to learn.

Take time in the beginning to discover more about him. Doing so can mean the difference between falling in love with a man who will carefully and responsibly tend to that love and one who will take it for granted, or exploit what you have given him. While you can't determine with complete certainty whether someone will ultimately hurt you or not, you can move slowly, learning more about the person before becoming deeply involved.

The early stage of a relationship is a time to begin sharing your history and current life experiences with one another. You will each say a lot, but evaluate beyond the words. Witness the other person's actions in various settings, body language in conversations, and contemplate deeper what is being shared. By focusing on these things, you can learn whether a person's nature includes being honest, caring, faithful, loving, supportive, responsible, and more.

If you are able to see what is in his heart, you will discover his essence.

Only then should you give your own.

by Kelly Sajonia

It's amazing how the human mind can contain so many conflicting ideas at once and yet still be able to function as a whole. Ethical and moral ideals are constantly battling one another and shifting from one plane to the next. Computers could never keep up with the complexities that our right and left hemispheres are capable of.

The Mind's Material

A few nights ago, I stopped amidst the outpour of my regularly occurring thoughts to analyze my mental process when it comes to the topic of money. I realized that most days I go about my daily routine on auto-pilot, with the idea of money filed away somewhere in the back of my mind. I don't think much of it—Money is here and there. Rent was paid. My cell phone bill is due next week. I'm extra hungry today, so I'm buying lunch early. No big deal. There may be fleeting thoughts of career goals, my financial future or my next paycheck, but most days there are no continuous, trumping thoughts about the importance of money in my life.

However, there are those occasional slots of time, while driving late at night or chatting with friends, where the topic of money strangely shifts to the forefront of my thoughts. The thoughts are usually deep, philosophical conundrums about how important money is in my life and it's usually a brief conversation with myself.

The Entrepreneur vs. the Spiritual Guru

In a nutshell, the conversation goes something like this:

“Man, I'm not getting any younger. I want to see the world, I want to live in luxury and do all the things I've always wanted to do. If only I had millions of dollars, I could do this. I could retire, discover my hobbies and focus on the things I really love.”

Almost immediately, an additional character—the devil's advocate in the form of some kind of wise spiritual guru—enters my mind and interrupts the previous thought with a calm smile and slow pretentious head shake:

“That is not the path. Money is only a distraction to the true essence of life and the important things. . . family, integrity, friends, creativity, culture, wisdom. Those are real. Cultivate those things.”

Living for Joy

Does this dialogue sound at all familiar? If so, I'd like to unofficially presume, without any sources, that you are like 99 percent of people in this country—stuck between the romantic notion of a life of excess and simple, practical living. Progressive pastor and writer Ed Young describes his book "Outrageous and Contagious Joy”:

“Most of us feel like we're missing something. We think that we could have a more exciting, rewarding life. We think that if we had the big bank account, the large house, the luxury car, the successful career, the buff body and youthful good looks, our lives would be just perfect. So we set out in pursuit of our dreams, working hard, living large—and we may even acquire some or all of these things. And then what? We're still not happy. So we move on to the next pursuit, still searching for happiness.”

There is no denying that Young is correct in that the pursuit of materialism as a means to an end is an empty search. As we've all heard time and time again, money is only temporary and cannot buy happiness. However, the pastor's next quote brings up a very sobering point:

“God wants more for us. Happiness is just a cheap imitation. God wants something so much greater than the fleeting and shallow feelings of happiness based on current circumstances; something beyond our imagination; something that is deeper, lasting, and real. He wants us to have absolute joy.”


Ed Young, a figurehead representing family and community, is not saying that we should not strive for material success, but rather we should strive for more. In essence, there should be some kind of balance between the pursuit of materialism and spiritual fulfillment in order to find true happiness. We should not be ashamed of money and material success, but we should not be absorbed in it either. By balancing physical, spiritual, emotional and financial health, we can achieve lasting joy and peace.

It’s Time to Opt-Out

by Jason Kotecki on September 13, 2012 · 15 comments

When you buy something online, during the checkout process, there is almost always a checkbox with an invitation to receive promotional emails of some sort. Sometimes you have to check the box to get the emails. Other sites have pre-checked the box for you, automatically assuming that you want their stuff. If you don’t, you physically have to uncheck the box — or opt-out — yourself.

If you’re not paying attention, you could end up getting a bunch of stuff you didn’t really want.

Too many people live life with their checkboxes pre-checked.

Every society has certain norms about how one is supposed to navigate through life. Here are a few that are pretty standard in America these days:

  • You work a job you only kinda like — if you’re lucky — and then get to do what you really want when you retire.
  • You always take the promotion.
  • You should live together before you get married.
  • A household needs two incomes in order to survive.
  • A family must have two cars.
  • You have your babies in a hospital.
  • When they are four or five, you send them to school.
  • Your kids should be involved in as many extra curricular activities as possible as early as possible. (If you want them to be well-adjusted and get into good schools, that is.)
  • Your family room should be centered around a television.
  • You of course subscribe to cable.
  • You carry a monthly balance on your credit card.

Interestingly, most of the norms above only became norms within the past 50-100 years. Which makes it all the more peculiar that we are so quick to follow them. "The way we do things" hasn't always been the way we've done things. And yet, many people go through life with these “checkboxes” pre-selected.

It’s time to opt-out.

Opt-out of all the preconceived notions, assumptions, and stereotypes. Then mindfully choose what’s best for you.

Just because everyone around you is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, overcommitted, overwhelmed, and financially overextended doesn’t mean you have to be, too. Just like online, if you don’t pay attention to what you’re signing up for (and why), you could end up with a life flooded with things you don’t want. Things like stress, debt, and regret.

Of course, opting-out requires a fair measure of thought. You have to think: is this what I really want? Were did this norm come from? What are the pros and cons of sticking with it or ignoring it? Are there any alternatives?

On top of the heavy thinking, opting-out requires faith and courage as well.

It’s not my job or my aim to tell you WHAT to choose. I just want you to be intentional about your choosing. Your life doesn’t have to stick to the same standard plot as everyone else. In the end, you may end up choosing to keep many of the things the same. But at least the decisions are yours, and not anyone else’s.

In the end, that’s what leads to a rewarding life filled with meaning and adventure. And keeps you from getting a flood of stuff you never signed up for.

by Jason Kotecki

How To Use Your Thoughts To Break Free Of A Nightmare

by Stacey Curnow

Have you ever had the feeling that your thoughts were more foe than friend? For me, there’s always a theme to my stressful thoughts and they involve events over which I have no control. In the spring of 1999, a tornado ripped a massive old oak tree out of my backyard and threw it into […]

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Think UP!

by Jen Slayden

Over Labor Day weekend my family took a road trip over to Idaho to go to Silverwood Park, a big amusement and water park near Sand Point. The talk of the trip was of the newest, scariest roller coasters they had opened up on Roller Coaster Alley with names like : Timber Terror, Panic Plunge, […]

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The Importance Of Preparation

by Lance Ekum

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax” ~ Abraham Lincoln Prepare: to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity Athletes do it. Sports teams do it. Airline pilots do it. Professional speakers do it. Musicians do it. Event planners do it. Successful people […]

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