Monthly Archives: May 2012

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

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My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

A long time ago I read a phrase in a book that has stuck with me:  “The weight of wings”.  The idea was that birds never complain about the weight of the things that give them the gift of flight.  They don’t think about it- they just fly naturally.  I think that’s how God wants us to live our Christian life- naturally.

When we spend too much time and energy focusing on HOW we are of service to others, our Christian duty becomes a burden, a weight.  But if we keep our focus not on ourselves and our usefulness but on Jesus, then our service becomes natural and effortless.  We will unconsciously be useful to God and to others.  It will be as natural and normal as a bird in flight.

I am challenged today to keep my focus on Jesus and to just BE whatever he’s made me to be.  BEING is more powerful than all the DOING in the world.  Focus on Jesus, not on myself.

What happens when you smell like Death

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“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one, we are an aroma that brings death; to the other an aroma that brings life.”  2 Corinthians 2:15-16

That crazy homeless guy was standing at the balcony of the floor above me spitting on me again.  I think he did that to everyone, so I didn’t take it personally.  From my customer service desk on the first floor I reached for the phone to call the mall security.  Once again they ushered him out of the mall.  The day proceeded as normal after that.

A while later, Sheri, an off duty cop who also worked security at the mall leaned on the side of my desk making small talk to pass the hours of our shift.  Sheri was a lesbian.  Having grown up in the Twin Cities, I have known many homosexual people and I find them generally delightful people.  The ones I’ve known are sensitive, intelligent, humorous, creative, and kind people.  I don’t agree with their lifestyle on a moral basis, but I’ve never had any problems being friends with someone that I don’t agree with.  As long as they are willing to accept me as a Christian and not censor my faith, I am very willing to be friends with homosexuals.

Sheri and I had spent a year and a half getting to know each other while leaning on my desk.  She told me about how her partner lost a bunch of weight and needed to buy some new clothes, she told me about the time she broke her hand right before her deployment to Iraq, she teared up when she told me about men teasing her and provoking her to fight.  She listened to my stories from missions trips to Mexico and Guatemala, she heard me tell about the night that I got engaged to Josh, she laughed with me as we sang the lyrics to old 80’s songs together.  I considered her my friend.

While Sheri and I leaned and talked, suddenly Crazy Homeless Guy was standing right beside me.  (Yikes!  Where did he come from!)  He leaned over my desk and got right in my face and hissed, “Christian!  Christian!  You hate homosexuals!”  In my spirit I was aware that this was a demon speaking.  Crazy Homeless Guy was demon possessed and was hissing at me like it was a sick and perverted thing to be a Christian.  His accusation that I hated homosexuals was clearly intended to hurt Sheri.  In unison, Sheri and I both shouted at him.  I shouted, “NO I DON’T!” and she shouted, “NO SHE DOESN’T!”  At the sound of our shouting, other mall cops rushed to our defense and ushered Crazy Homeless Guy out of the mall once again.

Sheri and I both stood there shaking with a mixture of rage and adrenaline.  My spirit knew that was a demon.  I had that bad after-taste that I get in my spirit after I brush up against something truly evil.

A few months later Crazy Homeless Guy actually tried to sue me!  The company lawyers were on the case before I even knew it existed.  I gave a deputation about his past behavior towards me.  Sheri testified for me.  Crazy Homeless Guy earned himself a restraining order and all the cops I worked with kept an eye out for me any time they saw me on the street.

How did Crazy Homeless Guy know that I was a Christian?  I had never spoken to him before that day.  Why did he spit on me?  Why did he hiss at me?  I think the demon in him smelled the aroma of Christ in me.  To those who are looking for a way out of sin and death, Christians are the sweet aroma of new life.  But to those who hate God, those in rebellion against Him, Christians smell like the blood of Jesus… we smell like their eventual defeat and punishment.  And demons don’t care who they wound.  His false accusation that I hated homosexuals was not really aimed at me.  I think he was trying to hurt Sheri, to drive a wedge between us and to throw her off the scent of Christ in me.  I’m glad it didn’t work.

Humans have an expiration date

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“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the Judgement…” Hebrews 9:27

Humans are born with an expiration date.  Everyone has a day when their time is up.  In the movie, “Little Big Man” Dustin Hoffman demonstrates his bravery in battle by saying, “It is a good day to die.”  Our day will come.  We have no control over this if we embrace life naturally.  Even if someone tries to commit suicide, sometimes they don’t die.  It wasn’t their day to die, their time had not expired.

Once, when I was in college, I thought my time had expired.  I was working a lousy job in downtown Minneapolis where I worked back to back shifts- closing one night and opening the next morning- with 4 hours of sleep in between shifts.  I was living in St. Paul, just over the river from Minneapolis.  My commute consisted of throwing my bike in the trunk of my car and driving to the college parking lot on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.  From there I would bike a mile to work.  The commute in reverse would be repeated after my 8 hour shift.

One night, I was leaving work around 11:30 PM.  I was riding my bike on the sidewalk because at this time there were no bike lanes on the street.  The light in front of me turned green just as my front tire left the curb.  Rolling smoothly through the crosswalk, I was aware of a city bus on my left that was just entering the intersection.

Suddenly I realized that the city bus was turning right… and life switched to slow motion.  Surely he will look to see if anyone is in the crosswalk.  Surely he will stop when he sees I’m here.  The bus kept coming.  He’s going to hit me… I’m going to die.

The things that flash through your mind at the moment when you face your own mortality reveal the true contents of your soul.  Emptied on the pavement, moments swirl slowly like oil in water, and you have the leisure to admire the irridescent rainbow that will be all that’s left of your life on Earth’s road.  In one moment I thought an entire soliloquy.  I’m going to die.  This is really going to hurt.  But just for a moment and then I’ll see Jesus.  I haven’t done anything that I wanted to do yet.  I haven’t graduated from college.  I haven’t gotten married and had children.  I wanted to do so much, and now so many dreams will be left undone.  But I’m going to see Jesus.  I’m going to die.  I’ve always wondered how I will die.  I’m going to see Jesus.

I remember the thud of my shoulder hitting the side of the bus and the yank of my bike wheels catching under the rim of the bus wall.  The wheels crumpled under the bus and I flew sideways to the right.  Skidding across the pavement on my elbows and knees, leaving fabric and skin and blood on the road, I sensed that the bus driver didn’t even know that he hit me.  I’m not dead yet.  Get to the curb, get to the curb.  I scrambled with all my might to reach the sidewalk and I rolled up onto it just as the back wheel of the bus scrapped the yellow paint off the curb.  At eye level, I saw my mangled bike under the bus striking up sparks as it drug helplessly along.  That could have been me.  But it wasn’t.

It wasn’t my time.  My expiration date had not arrived yet.  After it was all over I went back to the oil slick of my thoughts on the road and examined again what had spilled out of my heart.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  Above all else, I value Jesus.  I live for the day when I will see him face to face.  Everyday I believe, “it is a good day to die,” but if I don’t die, then it is a good day to live as well.  To live is Christ and to die is gain.

Fortune Cookie Faith

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There are a lot of books being written in the Christian Living Genre that are just plain brainless babble.  I get so sick of seeing status updates from Facebook friends who are quoting their latest guru.  People just don’t know how to THINK anymore.  And the Christian psycho babble that passes as “good writing” just infuriates me.  It reminds me of the Witch Science scene from Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.”

It used to be called Bumper Sticker Christianity because you would find these pithy little sayings glued to the bumper of every car sporting a fish decal.  I AM a Christian and when I would see Christian bumper stickers, it would make me want to ram the back of this idiot’s car just to remove that dumb saying from the face of the earth.  I can’t imagine how irritating it would be for a Non-believer.  I don’t have any issue with free speech, my issue is with stupidity.  The only bumper sticker that I’ve ever seen that I actually would put on my car was the one that said, “Stupid should hurt.”  I whole-heartedly agree with this.

I think of these quotes from shallow Christian authors to be on the same level as fortune cookies.  They are about as deep and equally likely to be true.  For example, I read this on my Facebook wall today, “If you want God to do something NEW in your life, you cannot keep doing the same OLD things.  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.”  Holy Subjects and Verbs, People!  If I want God to do something new, then I have to do something new?  Wouldn’t that just mean that I am doing something?  Where is the evidence that God’s works are connected to my works?  Can God be so easily manipulated?  Does God copy me?  Seriously, I’d like to hear where these guys come up with some of this mental fluff.  It’s like cotton candy for Christians.  It’s fluffy and sweet, but nutritionally void of any value and likely to make you hyper.

Give me a deep thinker with a logical argument and I am far more likely to quote him.  I agree with author and speaker Ravi Zacharias who argues that Post Modern thinking lacks logic.  One of the qualities of Post Modernism is the ability to hold conflicting ideas simultaneously.  This idea for example, “All religions lead to heaven.”  First of all, all religions do not CLAIM to lead to heaven.  Second of all, almost all religions CLAIM to be the EXCLUSIVE way to wherever they are going.  So that, logically means that SOMEONE has to be wrong.  We can’t all be right, because we all say we have the ONLY way.  But there are millions of people who are completely willing to embrace these two conflicting ideas embedded in the simple statement of All roads lead to the same place.  In real life, do all roads lead to the same place?  No.  In the math world, do all lines lead to the same point? No.  So why would you embrace that idea on a spiritual plane?  It’s illogical.

“Truth by definition is exclusive.  The moment you affirm something, you exclude anything that challenges that.” ~Ravi Zacharias

Yet time and again I read these fortune cookie quotes on my Facebook page and I just shake my head that this is what passes as Faith now days.  Watch this youtube video blog featuring a 5 minute clip of Ravi Zacharias talking about the question, “Can All Religions be True at the Same Time?”  It’s logic.  Let’s use our brains to express our Faith and quit subscribing to these authors of Fortune Cookie Faith.

I set myself on fire!

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When I was in high school art class we had an assignment to draw a self-portrait using colored pencils on black paper.  We were not allowed to use any skin tones, but we had to have at least three colors- a dark, a medium, and a highlight tone.

I quickly found my “zone” and focused in on my self-portrait.  I didn’t pay any attention to anyone around me for the duration of the class period.  When the bell rang and we turned in our drawings, I looked up for the first time and took notice of the other students around me.  All of the girls had chosen pretty pastel colors and had drawn soft, flowing pictures of themselves.  In contrast, I had chosen spicy colors:  red, orange, and yellow.  My features looked sharp and my long, wavy hair looked like flames!  What had I done?!  I instantly hated my self-portrait.

I got a fantastic grade on the picture, but I was ashamed that I didn’t look like the other girls’… soft, pretty, pastel.  No, I was bright, sharp and fiery!  It was not what I wanted to be, but that’s what had come out of me.  I didn’t care about the grade, I crumpled up the picture and tossed it into the trash.

My teacher saw me throw it away and pulled it out of the trash.  He asked me why I did that.  I just shrugged and said, I didn’t like my picture.  What I meant was, I didn’t like myself.  The next day when I came to class I was horrified to see my crumpled work of art hanging inside the locked display window in the hallway outside our classroom.  Why!?!?  Why had he done that?  I screamed dramatically when I saw it hanging in there all alone.  He said that he liked the picture.  It was well done and it really did look like me… on fire.

Even through I hated the contrast between myself and the other girls, my teacher saw the fire in me and wanted to feed that flame.  It took me a few years to embrace the fire in me, and when I finally did… it consumed me.

“He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”  Hebrews 1:7 (taken out of context.)

The Art of Small Talk

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For years I had a love/hate relationship with the T.V. show Seinfeld.  I hated it because it was a show about nothing, but I loved it because it made the everyday stuff of life so funny.  Now I have had to restrain myself in conversation, to limit the number of Seinfeld references I make in any given conversation for fear that it will appear that I am watching too many T.V. reruns instead of living a real life.  In every episode I found something to relate to, something that made me say “THAT is SO true!” or “I KNOW!” or “I hate it when THAT happens.”  And I think that was the true reason why the show was so successful, because everyone could relate to it.

Seinfeld is a show about small talk, and I’m not so good with small talk.  When we decided to go on the mission field I realized that I would have to learn how to make small talk.  Missionaries have to talk to people.  I had to face the true nature of my personality.  I am really an introvert.  There, I said it.  Conversation wears me out.  I get stressed out anticipating situations where I will have to talk to people that I don’t know well.

It’s not so much that I have nothing interesting to say.  It’s more that I’m less interested in others than they are interested in themselves.  I have a hard time making small talk, and without small talk, it’s nearly impossible to jump to the deeper and more interesting topics in a conversation.

So knowing that I have this blank spot in my brain where small talk should go, I decided to take a deliberate step to LEARN the art of conversation and to PRACTICE making small talk with people.  So I got a job as a barista in a coffee shop.  Baristas are always chatty and friendly.  And it’s hard not to like someone who engages you in a 2 minute conversation about yourself and then hands you a steaming cup of coffee as you walk away (maybe the pleasant small talk is to distract you from the distressing fact that you just paid $5 for hot water).  I watched how my co-workers did it and I learned.

In this job, I started paying attention to the details of people.  I started looking for little things to talk about.  The guy who brings his daughter in after a soccer game, I see the ball and shin guards and ask her who won.  The woman who orders several drinks to bring to co-workers, I ask her if there’s a big meeting today.  The little old lady wearing a sweatshirt from a quilting competition, I ask her if she had a project in the competition.  The guy that carries the most recent issue of Field and Stream magazine, I ask him if he’s excited about the fishing opener next month.  And that, my friends, is how you make small talk.  You notice a detail and build a conversation around it.

Some people have the talent for conversation, the gift of gab; others must learn this skill and practice it to get good at it.  Small talk is not about caring about the topic of conversation, it’s about caring about the other person enough to make an effort to make them feel comfortable.  Small talk is not about telling you about myself, it’s about letting someone else feel special and important even if it’s just for a minute.  Small talk is such an important little thing in our society that someone wrote an entire T.V. sitcom about it… and it lasted for years.

What does Love look like?

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I hope this touches someone today.  This is a beautiful song by Misty Edwards called “Arms Wide Open.”  When you ask yourself those deep, soul-searching questions like “What does Love look like?” and “How will I know love when I see it?”  That is the time to look at Jesus.  The Jesus was the embodiment of God’s love for us.  It was his plan from the beginning, to die for love.  That’s why he came- to spread his arms wide open in love for you, and to die for you.  Jesus’s love is my example of how to love deeply, sacrificially and selflessly.  That kind of love changes people.

Here are the lyrics to the song “Arms Wide Open” and a link to the song on youtube.  The video is nothing special, so just listen and read along with the lyrics.

Arms Wide Open- By Misty Edwards

“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”
“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been asking of You

I once believed that love was romance, just a chance
I even thought that love was for the lucky and the beautiful
I once believed that love was a momentary bliss
But love is more than this
All You ever wanted was my attention
All You ever wanted was love from me
All You ever wanted was my affections, to sit here at Your feet

Then I sat down, a little frustrated and confused
If all of life comes down to love
Then love has to be more than sentiment
More than selfishness and selfish gain

And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
He was looking at me, looking at Him, staring through me
I could not escape those beautiful eyes
And I began to weep and weep

He had arms wide open, a heart exposed
Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding

Love’s definition, love’s definition was looking at me
Looking at Him, hanging on a tree
I began to weep and weep and weep and weep

This is how I know what love is, this is how I know what love is

And as I sat there weeping, crying
Those beautiful eyes, full of desire and love

He said to me, “You shall love Me, You shall love Me
You shall love Me, You shall love Me”

With arms wide open, a heart exposed
With arms wide open, bleeding, sometimes bleeding

If anybody’s looking for love in all the wrong places
If you’ve been searching for love, come to Me, come to Me
Take up your cross, deny yourself
Forget your father’s house and run, run with Me
You were made for abandonment, whole-heartedness
You were made for someone greater, someone bigger, so follow Me
And You’ll come alive when you learn to die

Hugging Judas

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I sat in the passenger seat of the church van while my husband filled the tank with gas.  Behind me sat four of the girls in our youth group.  I was excitedly reminding them to sign up for the next Girls’ All Nighter when one of them said, “We aren’t going.  We don’t like you.”  Just like that, right to my face.  I looked into the faces of the other three girls, searching for any sign of remorse, any breaking of rank.  I saw nothing but betrayal.  I quietly said, “I’m sorry that you feel that way, you’ll miss a good time,” and I turned around in my seat.

The girl who had spoken for the rest of them was a person who had benefited from some of my most selfless acts of love in the past.  When her mother kicked her out of the house, we took her in.  We bought her bedding and dorm room accessories.  We drove her back and forth to school an hour each way until her mother took her back.  Now here she was spitting in my face.

One of the other girls was always on the fringe of any group.  She was socially awkward and lacked any true friends.  She was only accepted into the group of popular girls because she was too naive to notice their slights.  Every week I gave her a huge chunk of my time, listening to her and praying for her problems.  I hugged her like a daughter and guarded her like a mother.  I even helped her with her homework and spent time with her after school every week.  Now she sat glaring at me silently, not willing to compromise her moment of popularity with the “in” girls.

Another girl had consumed hours and hours of my time nearly every week.  I met with her outside of youth group.  She was struggling with some deep-seated demons.  In my limited counseling capacity, I was trying to help her.  I was also playing both ends to the middle in trying to get her parents to wake up and pay attention to her too.  I noticed too late that she was stealthily pulling the rug out from under my feet.  I would find out in the next few months that she had spread some horrific rumors about me that still churn my stomach to recall.  She was a Judas to the extreme, kissing my cheek and stabbing me in the back at the same time.

The fourth girl and I had never had one single confrontation.  I liked her a lot and it seemed she liked me too.  I couldn’t understand why she didn’t speak up for me.  She just turned her face to the window when I tried to look her in the eye.

Judas.

I knew for a fact that I wielded a dangerous weapon.  My tongue.  I could have slashed these girls to pieces and continued to destroy them and their reputation in our group.  I had the power to defend myself in the strongest of terms.  I chose not to use that power.  I chose not to fight back against their rumors and slander.  I knew their weaknesses and I chose not to exploit them.  Why?  Partially because they were still children, big children. And partially because I saw how Jesus dealt with Judas.

The Bible says that from the very beginning, Jesus knew which one would betray him.  He knew that Judas was dipping into the group’s money purse and stealing.  He knew what was in that man’s heart from day one.  BUT HE NEVER LET ON THAT HE KNEW.  As they sat together as a group, eating their last supper together before the night of his betrayal, Jesus said, “one of you will betray me.”  And every single man around that table asked, “who could it be?”  They had no idea, but Jesus already knew.  For the entire three years, Jesus treated Judas just like the others.  Day after day, he gave him chance after chance to choose another path in his heart.  Judas heard the same sermons that John and Peter and the other disciples heard, but he chose a different course of action.  Betrayal.

Because Jesus was meek and humble, even giving his betrayer the best bite of the meal, that is the path I chose to follow with these girls.  It hurt.  Over and over again, it cost me something.  Over and over again, I opened my arms to embrace my Judas when what I really wanted to do was to close my arms and shield my bleeding heart.  It cost me a lot to love like that.  But not as much as it cost my Jesus.

We love because he first loved us.  And his love sustained me and strengthened me to do the right thing.  These were some of the Bible verses that I depended on when facing my Judas.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:5-7

“Trust in the Lord and do good… commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:   He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”  Psalm 37:5-6

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

“Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

Sometimes I just don’t know “What Would Jesus Do?”

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You remember that bumper sticker saying from a few years back (OK, like more than 10 years ago) that reduced the Christian faith to four letters WWJD- What Would Jesus Do?  It was intended to help young people think more like a follower of Christ.  But I found that pity little slogan to be irritatingly inadequate sometimes.  Let’s be honest, sometimes we have no clue what Jesus would do in a certain situation.

For example, back when we were in youth ministry I found myself in a church politics pickle.  A former youth group girl had shacked up with a bad guy and had gotten pregos. We warned her that he was a bad apple.  We told her parents that he had a restraining order against him.  But this family made US the bad guys and they let the wolf in the door.  The girl had left the church, but her parents were still active members… and very vocal.

One day, I was very surprised when I received a baby shower invitation from the parents of this girl.  I was more than a little stumped about what to do.  I didn’t want to encourage this girl’s rebellion- she was still unmarried and living with this guy.  But since her parents were strong church members I didn’t want to offend and alienate them either.  They still had other kids in the youth group, and we wanted to keep a good relationship with them too.  So I was in a pickle.

I tried to apply my bumper sticker mantra and asked myself, “What would Jesus do?”  And no solution became obvious to me.  I had to admit that I had absolutely no idea what Jesus would do in this situation.  Not one clue.  So I aimed a little lower and asked myself, “What would my pastor do?”  I still had no idea, but NOW I had someone to ask. My pastor was one of the most highly respected men in my life.  I trusted his judgement.  When I presented my dilemma to him and told him that he was the next best thing to WWJD, he laughed timidly.  He told me that he didn’t know what Jesus would do either, but his wife was going to send a gift but not actually attend the shower.  Nice move, politically speaking.

So my point is that sometimes I have no idea how Jesus would handle some situation in my life, but I believe that God has given me respectable mentors who can guide me with advice and by their examples.  I may not know what Jesus would do, but I can most definitely search for wise council.

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”  Proverbs 11:14

Advertencia para las mujeres que utilizan sus pechos para llamar la atención

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Esta es una anécdota que espero vaya a dejar en claro algo para todas aquellas mujeres que utilizan sus pechos para llamar la atención.

Hace algunos años en los días de nuestro ministerio juvenil, asistíamos a muchísimo a obras de teatro colegiales, recuerdo una obra en particular. Antes de la obra, yo estaba en el vestíbulo del teatro, estaba lloviendo y esperaba a mi esposo en la puerta; mientras yo miraba a la gente en el vestíbulo, me percaté de una chica bonita que también esperaba en la puerta. Tal vez tenía ella unos dieciséis años, era bastante voluptuosa, llevaba una blusa muy corta que mostraba más de lo que cubría, se mostraba su vientre y sus pantalones estaban muy bajos en sus caderas. Ella sonreía a su mismo reflejo en la puerta de vidrio.

De lo que ella no se percató, fue que a su izquierda estaba un hombre mayor bastante feo, que la miraba de arriba abajo con la mirada más vil que su rostro pudiera dar, casi comiéndosela con los ojos, y mientras ella soñaba con el chico guapo de su clase de matemáticas, el tipo feo tenía en su mente pensamientos sucios de ella.  Sentí asco.

Este es el punto:

Crees que usando tu cuerpo vas a llamar la atención de un chico como este: 

PERO, en realidad tienes mayor probabilidad de llamar la atención de esto: 

Es lógico, hay muuuuuuuuchos más tipos horribles y solteros disponibles, a los que el corazón les palpita por una chica como tú que solteros guapos e inteligentes, y aunque Brat Pitt te viera  el súper sexy cuerpo que tienes, ¿dejaría a su otra chica por ti?

Entonces señoras y señoritas: sé que se sienten tentadas a “usar lo que tienen” para llamar la atención, pero caigan en cuenta que esa “carnada” que utilizan, determina el tipo de “pez” que atraparán: Si usan sus pechos para atraer a los hombres, entonces solo atraparán hombres que les gusta mirar los pechos de las mujeres, es bastante simple. Y ese no es el tipo de hombre que quieren, incluso si luciera como Brad Pitt.

No todos los tipos de atenciones son iguales. Guarda ese maravilloso busto para el hombre que atraigas con tu mente brillante,  tu conversación inteligente y tu dulce corazón.  Así cuando envejezcan juntos (y ambos sean menos atractivos) todavía él valorará tu mente, tu corazón y tu conversación, y te amará por eso. Vale la pena pescarlo con la carnada apropiada.