Date Night Ideas

Date Night Ideas

Here’s a quick run through of date night ideas. My wife and I actually use these. And with it being close to Christmas, maybe there’s a few good ideas you can turn into a gift…

Cheap/Basically Free:

  • Netflix and Chill. Come on it had to be here! My wife and I like to watch a favorite series and eat ice cream in bed.
  • Interview Questions. This is fun, and can be done in combination with almost any other date ideas. We ask each other questions, specifically intended to find out more about each other – and we still do this after 15+ years of marriage! We’re still discovering more and more about each other, and loving very step along the way. Some of our responses have changed over the years also. Don’t know what to ask? Start here.
  • 2-player video games. We’ve been playing Overcooked on Nintendo Switch lately and it’s a blast!
  • Nice Dinner at home. I love to cook, so I’ll occasionally grab a couple steaks, or scallops, or mussels, and cook up a simple, quick, elegant meal for just the two of us. There’s something intimate about cooking together.
  • Cleaning Party. Ok, no lie, this is nowhere near my first choice. I’d much rather “Netflix and Chill”! But we get some needed things done around the house, and that makes both of us feel more romantic.
  • Run errands together. We hear couples complain about never having enough time together. So turn ordinary things into a date! Buying groceries? Get a coffee together and make it a date!
  • Coffee and Prayer. I’m trying to do better at this. With 4 kids and a constantly busy house, there’s plenty to interrupt us. But we try to consistently have some regular morning time to pray for each other… over a cup of home made coffee.
  • Board/Card Games. These are so fun together, but also a great idea for family nights. We like Sushi Go, Game of Life, Ultimate Werewolf, and, yes… Exploding Kittens.
  • Overnight date at Home. This one’s for all the married with kids folks! We have a few other trusted families who we swap off watching our children overnight with about once a month to every other month. Our kids get to have sleepovers, and so do we with each other.

Moderate Cost:

  • Dance Lessons. Contrary to my Baptist roots, dancing is fun, romantic, and not inherently evil. There’s a great little affordable class you can do together in-home here!
  • New restaurant. We love to eat out, and we’re very adventurous with trying new foods/cuisines. We’ve got a favorite ramen joint, Ethiopian spots, plenty of Indian, Korean, phò, and of course Mexican options all around us. More importantly, we love experiencing them together.
  • Night at a nearby hotel. Occasionally, we’ll take a night out – in or near our own town! It’s like getting away but with far less travel time. And for the cost of a single hotel night, it’s pretty fun.
  • Art Gallery. We’ve only gone to a few art galleries, but have had a lot of fun each time! These are reasonably affordable trips, and this is another good family “date” for kids in many cases.
  • Comedy Show. These can be tough to find decently clean shows, but we recently went to Gabriel Iglesias and LOVED him. Hilarious, and decent.
  • Nearby travels. We have the good fortune of living in the SF Bay Area, and we’re surrounded by lots of great date day options that amount to a day trip. We’ve toured San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Paso Robles, Downtown San Jose, Willow Glen, Fremont, and several other parts of our greater Bay Area just to discover people and places together.
  • Fire pit. We have a enough yard space to enjoy a fire pit. It’s perfect for cuddling, talking, and enjoy a drink or meal, and just unplugging from all the other distractions for a bit. This is the one we use. We paid less, and we’ve had it for years.

Special Occasions/Pricey:

  • Michelin Star Chef. As a big food nerd, I found out there was a 3-star chef nearby that I was dying to visit. We saved a considerable amount of money for this trip, but enjoyed what is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime meal. We’ll share the memories of that meal for the rest of our lives. WORTH IT.
  • Hawaii. We went here for our 13th Anniversary a few years ago. As an Army brat growing up, I lived on Oahu for 3 years, and already knew several “must do” stops. But we spent half the trip on Kauai and just relaxed. Maui and the “Big Island” are also great. Lanai is tiny!
  • Missions Trip. We recently went to Kenya together and got to serve some missionaries and Kenyan pastors. It was a joy to serve together, and reminded both of us of what our marriage is centered around.
  • Family Reunion. My extended family is literally spread coast-to-coast. We had a big family reunion a year ago and reconvened with most of them in Oklahoma where my parents live. The trip there and back was as rewarding as the time with our relatives.
  • Conference/Retreat. We’ve both spoke at different conferences, and have attended dozens more. Some were focused on ministry, our marriage, or just a getaway with other couples. They are all rewarding and great to experience together.
  • Special Experience. We have loved some of the wine tours around us. We’ve gone fishing together on charter boats,
  • Visit another part of the world. We’ve got more travel plans. I promised my wife when I married her that I’d take her to Ireland. So Ive got plan that out soon! We’ve been to Germany, and hope to also go to A few tropical places sooner rather than later.

This is just a simple kick-starter list – the point obviously is to spend time together, enjoying each other’s company and building intimacy. What are some other favorite married date ideas you’ve enjoyed with your spouse? Anything I should have added?

Blessings,
Pastor John

People versus Projects

People versus Projects

People“When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion…” Matthew 9:36

While crossing the busy street to the shopping center across from my neighborhood I ran into two men holding signs misquoting Scripture of God’s wrath and literally yelling at people driving in traffic past them. That was bad enough. But on top of that, they were handing out very out-of-date “tracts” that were nothing more than goofy black-and-white comics depicting Satan tricking people into Hell. All in the name of “soul-winning”. I can’t make this stuff up.

In addition to their yelling and sign waving, and tract handing – I watched one of them, the younger of the two, approach a woman unsolicited and tell her that she was a sinner before God, and that if she didn’t repent of her sin and tell God she was sorry and believe in Jesus she would go to Hell. He then attempted to lay out three “simple” steps to salvation and get her to believe in Christ in less time than it took for the crosswalk lights to change. All without this woman wanting to participate.

As he continued his diatribe, the look in the woman’s eye compelled me to do something. So I leaned over, gently got the lady’s attention, and told her, “Ma’am, I just want you to know that I’m a pastor of a church nearby, and we’re not all like this guy. There’s at least one church here that cares about you. You matter to God and you matter to us.” In less than 1 minute of talking with her I learned her name (let’s call her “Sarah”)*, a piece of her story, and that she would love to connect with a sincere, caring church.

Before that minute was up she was asking me where my church met, what time, and could she come. I was happy to oblige her. I meant what I said about her mattering to us.

As the lights changed, she smiled and thanked me before crossing the street. Then the young man took an interest in me…

Long story short, he was rude, abrasive, and almost entirely uninterested in me as a person. He shared with me that “they” (his church) had led 710 people to believe in Jesus over the last three years doing what they were doing here on this busy street corner. Not one of which he could name, when asked, citing the fact that he talks to “so many people” that it was impossible for him to keep track of all their names. So I just asked him if he knew the name of the one woman he was just talking to… he didn’t know her name either. He didn’t know that she was hurting. Or that she actually grew up in church. Or that her name was Sarah*. Or that just caring a little bit about her might have given him the chance to speak life over her instead of condemnation.

He didn’t know because he didn’t care. She was just a project to him, not a person with a story, and a heart, and real needs.

I found out that this man was actually the pastor of the church he represented. A church that, according to him, consists of twenty people. Twenty. That have supposedly led 710 people to pray a prayer at a crosswalk. None of which he can name. Small churches are fine. A small church is one thing. Being rude, weird, and hostile to strangers is quite another.

The only people that Jesus got hostile toward, were the religious hypocrites of His day who were more concerned with advancing their agenda than loving people. I know these people mean well, but they’re missing the forest because of all the trees in their way. Or, as my post title suggests, they’re missing the people they could be ministering to because they’re too busy with their project.

Now, I’m not Jesus, and I’m not about to get on the hate-train against this man or his church. I’m not even going to name them. That’s not my style. But I want to be clear about this:

Jesus is not like that. His church is not suppose to be like that. And as best as we know how, LifeCity Church is never going to be like that. We choose to speak life – to let God’s Word and Spirit flow through our speech and actions in such a way that people get a glimpse of God’s heart because it’s beating inside of us.

Whoever you are, and whatever you’re going through we care about you and your story. We care about the pain you’ve experienced and dreams that you hold onto. We care about your family. We care about your struggles. We care about you. We want to learn your name and hear your story.

And if we get the chance and you realize that you can trust us, we hope to share why we care so much about you – because you matter to God and you matter to us.

We hope you’ll come see that for yourself. If someone has ever treated you like this man treated Sarah*, I’m so sorry. And no, not all churches are like that.

Yes, we believe you need Jesus – that we all need Jesus. But we would rather demonstrate that in person than yell it from a street corner.

 Blessings,
Pastor John

*To be clear, her name is not Sarah. But yes, I learned her name. 🙂

“Over-The-Top” Love

“Over-The-Top” Love

Over-the-Top

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overtake you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
Isaiah 43:1-3

So my youngest daughter learned quite awhile ago that a “million” was the biggest number she could think of. So anything she perceived as much more than she could count was simply labeled as “a whole million!” So we get to use this on her in fun ways that make since to her rough means of estimation. Even now, my favorite way to tell her how much she means to me is to say, “Kali, Daddy loves you a whole million!”

God consistently speaks to His people with the same kind of over-the-top language. Clearly, God understands our insecurities and doubts! And yet, more often than not, He doesn’t seem as frustrated with us as He does reassuring. You see, God understands our fears and longs to replace them with confidence in Himself – we refer to that confidence in God simply as faith.
Because of that, God tends to use these over-the-top descriptions such as this one in Isaiah 43 to make one thing clear: God doesn’t break His promises.

I know that as you read this, many of you may feel like you have been drowning, figuratively speaking, or like you have been burned by some circumstance you had to go through. Heck, you might be going through such events in your life right now. “Where was God then?!” I know the feeling, and quite frankly, I’ve been there too, trust me. As a pastor, I often am required to carry burdens that I must bear in silence. Things that were not right for me to share, or that I would be unable to receive outside help for anyway. I’m certain that many of you know just what that’s like.
But God did not promise that we’d never go through a storm, fire, or flood. His promise was not that life would be easy, but that He would see us through the circumstances of life’s difficulties. Always.
In some ways, the trials and struggles we endure are the best part of our stories – they give us milestones to mark God’s presence in our lives. I’d rather experience God delivering me through unbelievable odds, than to have a care-free life. Because we all know there will be trials, this promise motivates us to lean hard into God’s grace, the only thing we possess that consistently sees us through each mess life throws at us.
And God makes it clear that in the face of impossible obstacles, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us and gave Himself for us.”

By the way, that comes from another place where we see God’s over-the-top promises. Romans 8:38, 39 tells us that,

nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Kali Markum translation? “God loves us A WHOLE MILLION!”

Rest in God’s promise to love you no matter what! If you’ve never opened yourself up to God’s love, consider beginning a relationship with Jesus today. You can trust Him. He’ll never leave you. Put your full faith and confidence in His over-the-top love.

Blessings,
Pastor John

7 Valentine Ideas for Men

7 Valentine Ideas for Men

If you’re a dude, you know that you can’t neglect to do “something” for your wife for Valentine’s day. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not be sure what to do. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking in the right direction. By all means, adapt as necessary to woo your woman’s heart…

  1. Come home early. There’s hardly a worse way to begin a night of romancing your wife like trying to hurry her out the door so that you don’t miss a reservation. Take your time.
  2. Flowers. Simple. Easy. And (almost) every woman loves them.
  3. Dinner. Either somewhere decent, or home cooked, but only if you have more in your cooking repertoire past grilling meat.
  4. Dress nicer. Please tell me you have at least one good button-down collar shirt? Tie not required. You’re dating your wife, not taking her back to the wedding altar.
  5. Personal touch. Do at least one thing that is special and unique to the two of you. This shows that you actually planned something. This could be in the form of a gift.
  6. Talk! Don’t go to a movie or anywhere that you are expected to sit quietly. Instead, go for a walk somewhere decent where you can connect.
  7. Memories. Bring up a favorite time the two of you had together, and tell her why you liked that time. Use details.

Be a real man: romance your wife.

Blessings,

John

The High 5 for Hubands

The High 5 for Hubands

“Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her… for a man who shows love for his wife, actually loves himself.” Ephesians 5 :25,28

The idea of the husband “loving” his wife here in Ephesians 5, is the idea “to cherish.” In other words, to make safe; worth protecting; to treat as precious. This means that she can allow herself to be vulnerable because she is safe with you.

Husbands, if you want a happy marriage, you must make your wife feel cherished in the following 5 areas. Wives, don’t be afraid to point your man to this post:

  1. Physically: This one’s simple. Bottom line, she doesn’t have to be afraid that you’ll physically hurt her. This also includes providing a safe home, keeping “bad guys” away from your family, and getting up to chase odd “noises” out of the house at all hours of the night.
  2. Emotionally: This is most often displayed best during a disagreement by what you say and don’t say, and how you say it. If you resort to verbally attacking your wife during an argument, she will not feel emotionally safe around you. But if you can find a way to speak life into her even though you’re upset, then you can actually gain from an argument, instead of simply enduring it.
  3. Financially: Dude, you don’t have to make all the money in the house (although you could…). You don’t even have to make most of the money. Honestly, if you’re wife is some mega-millionaire author, I don’t even care if you work outside the home at all. But you are still responsible for making sure the financial needs of your family are met. You don’t have to make excessive amounts of revenue, but you must make her feel safe, financially.
  4. Sexually: Sex is more than a physical interaction between a husband and wife. It is emotional and, I believe, even spiritual. Many women feel the most vulnerable in this area, and her husband must make her feel loved, cherished, precious, and worth protecting. Men, be very careful about criticizing your wife’s body or giving her a litany of the things about her physically that you wish were different. Choose to see her as the most beautiful women in your world. True love isn’t blind. It just wears blinders.
  5. Spiritually: In too many homes, the wife is the one nagging everyone on the weekend to get ready for church. I’m just going to say it: Husbands, stand up and be a man. Take leadership in your home. YOU be the agent of spiritual growth for your family. Don’t make your wife have to take those reigns. Pray with your wife. Talk to her about spiritual things. If she knows more than you, it’s ok. Ask her questions. Initiate spiritual leadership in your home.

All these things are intertwined. They are connected and one affects another. This may seem like an over-simplification of how a husband should treat his wife, but if every husband (myself included) became masters at loving their wives in these 5 ways, we would all likely have better marriages.

Blessings,

John