Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church


Links for Learning, November 17


Photo by Adrian Sampson

Happy Saturday, everybody! My Saturday will be spent reading, going to coffee with one of my Awana girls, cleaning, and (hopefully) exercising. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. 🙂

Here are some links that caught my eye this week:

The most popular post on my blog this week

(broke some records for my blog!):

Also a don’t-miss: I’m starting a new blog series called Learning Grace. If you are interested in guest posting, e-mail me at



[Learning Grace] Introduction: Do You Know How to be Sensitive?

There is a woman in your church who struggles with an eating disorder. She sits in your Bible studies, passes out bulletins, and sings with a soft but beautiful voice during worship. During Bible study, a well-meaning leader says that women have a duty to keep themselves attractive for their husbands, so that they will not be tempted to look elsewhere. And again, she feels like she’s not good enough.

There is a teenager in your church who struggles with same-sex attraction. He’s a leader in your youth group. He loves the Lord, and he is putting all of his energy into fighting this battle. It’s difficult, though, as the gay jokes and the comments of “Christians who struggle with homosexuality just need to submit their desires to God,” make him feel guilty for his struggle.

You probably know someone who was raped.

Or someone who was physically abused.

Or who is experiencing depression.

Or is struggling with something else that is not well understood in the church.

Do you know how to be sensitive toward these people? Do you know how to show them grace?

I’m willing to bet you know them, whether you’re aware of it or not.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed more and more how much I don’t know how to be sensitive. As I’ve learned, I’ve tried to share what I’ve learned with others. I’ve been surprised at some of the responses I’ve gotten. Instead of questions and attempts to understand, I’ve experienced people fighting for their right to say what they say. And, very commonly, they appeal to their own stances to justify their words.

“Rape is awful!”

“I’m not sexist!”

“It’s horrible that anyone would think this way!”

Followed by their justification of why it’s okay for them to say the insensitive thing they said.

Here’s the thing: Sensitivity is not just about having the right attitude toward a situation.

Being sensitive is a skill that must be learned.

It is possible to be horrified by rape, and say something to a rape victim that tears them down. It’s possible to know that eating disorders are incredibly difficult, and say or do something that only adds to the difficulty. It’s possible to see injustice, then turn around and parrot teachings that only reinforce those same injustices. Sometimes these mistakes are fairly obvious (such as comparing women’s bodies to alcohol and men to alcoholics–I mean, really?), but sometimes they’re much more subtle.

I know that I’ve done it. I suspect I still do it sometimes.

But as a follower of Christ, I know I can’t be okay with that. I know that I need to learn how to be sensitive, how to show others grace. Because my God is a God who heals the brokenhearted and sets the captives free, and I want to be part of that.

So I’m going to learn, and I hope you’ll learn along with me.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be reading books, doing research, and blogging about what I’m learning. And I’m going to be tackling some difficult subjects: eating disorders, same-sex attraction, sexual abuse, death, and more. I’ll be reading and reviewing First Steps Out by Christy McFerren, Chasing Silhouettes by Emily Weirenga, and Rid of my Dis(Grace) by Justin Holcomb.

I’m calling this series of posts Learning Grace, and any post that is part of the series will begin with [Learning Grace] in the title.

I’d love to have you join me on my journey.

Here are some ways you can join:

  • If you’d like to guest post, please email me at
  • Read the books and leave your thoughts in the comments
  • Tweet your thoughts, using the hashtag #learninggrace
  • Leave a comment or email me at with any other ideas you have.

I look forward to going on this journey with you!


Christian Dating and Physical Boundaries

It’s a common refrain in the courtship crowd:

You shouldn’t do before marriage what you wouldn’t do with someone other than your spouse after marriage.

Typically, this standard is offered in relation to physical relationships. Is it okay to hold hands? To kiss? To cuddle while watching a movie?

In a culture that is often unhelpful in providing a path to marriage that honors purity, standards like this feel incredibly safe and helpful. Just ask yourself one simple question, and you can automatically know whether what you’re doing is okay or not!

Except it just doesn’t work that way.

Whoever came up with this guideline obviously did not have physical touch as their love language.

Imagine being in a relationship where your boyfriend or girlfriend never got you a gift, not even for Christmas or your birthday. Imagine a relationship in which your boyfriend or girlfriend never complimented you or told you how special you are. Or imagine that they never help you when you need it. Or hardly ever spent time with you.

That’s what a relationship with a very low amount of physical contact feels like to someone who has physical touch as their primary love language.

With good intentions to guard the sacredness of purity and marital intimacy, the courtship/biblical dating crowd has taken one expression of affection, which has just as much potential as any other to be beautiful and life-giving, and has, perhaps inadvertently, labeled it as bad and dangerous.

The truth is, all love languages can be beautiful and life-giving.

They can all also contribute to premature intimacy. It’s possible to say “I love you” to soon, to spend too much time together, to be too extravagant with gifts, and to communicate more intimacy and commitment that is appropriate for that stage in the relationship.

But just as growth happens in any area of a relationship–more time is spent together, communication becomes deeper, more of life is shared–it is natural to expect that an appropriate physical relationship will develop and grow alongside the rest of the relationship.

What that looks like for every couple will be different. Some couples hardly touch when dating, hold hands during engagement, and have their first kiss on the wedding day. And this can be beautiful. Some couples hold hands while dating and kiss when engaged. This too can be beautiful. Some couples have their first kiss while dating. And this, too, can be beautiful.

There is no one-size-fits all standard for physical limits. Each couple must seek God and decide for themselves where their standards will be. This does not mean that each couple gets to see how much they can get away with! Rather, they must ask themselves how to bless each other, how to point each other towards God, and how to help each other avoid lust and temptation. Sometimes, the boundaries a couple decides on will look very similar, if not identical, to “the rules” that many of us have been taught. But when boundaries are drawn from a place of freedom and a desire to honor God, they become blessings, not burdens.

I’m not advocating a free-for-all in dating.

Rather, I would propose that the question of, “What is okay?” should be traded for the question of “What will bless my boyfriend/girlfriend, communicating genuine and appropriate affection and showing them the love of Christ?”

Because when my boyfriend runs his fingers through my hair or kisses me on the forehead, he communicates care and honor. One-size-fits all standards that go beyond what God has said in the Bible and restrict Christian freedom, don’t.

Leave a comment

Why I Loved the Baylor Homecoming Parade

This year was the first year I got to watch Baylor’s homecoming parade from start to finish. My four years as a student, I was in the parade with Baylor Swing Dance Society. It was really neat to see the wide range of organizations represented in the parade, from BSDS and Baylor Dance Company to the sororities and fraternities, to the Baylor Driving Club, the Baylor Wakeboarding Club, the various academic associations, Student Foundation, etc. It showed the diversity of people and interests at Baylor and highlighted how many people and groups have found a home at Baylor.

What I didn’t expect to enjoy, though, was watching all the homecoming queen nominees go by. I figured they would all be the stereotypical type of pretty that you expect to see in magazines and movies. I always resented the homecoming queen competition while at Baylor; I figured it probably started as a way to show off the prettiest girls on campus and did nothing more than make other girls feel inadequate and insecure.

Surprisingly, I found that watching the homecoming queen nominees was one of my favorite parts of the parade.

I was surprised at how diverse the nominees were. While it’s true that most of the nominees were white and thin, there were nominees who were black, asian and latino; some who wore extra makeup and had perfectly coiffed hair, while others wore their hair in a simple, everyday style and wore minimal makeup; many of these girls didn’t fit the traditional definition of “pretty.” I was surprised, and pleased, to even see a couple of overweight girls dressed beautifully, sitting in cars and waving to the crowd.

The parade felt like a celebration of the range of female beauty.

Now, I’m not trying to set up the parade as perfect. I’m sure there is a lot of room for more diversity, and that many of the girls did fit within the traditional parameters for beautiful. But watching the parade, I felt hopeful. I felt hopeful that more and more people seem to be recognizing that beauty comes in different shapes and sizes. Hopeful that beauty is being displayed not just as something achieved through makeup and hairstyling, but as something that is naturally in every girl. Hopeful that I’ll someday bring my daughters to the homecoming parade and not be absolutely terrified that their self-esteem will be crushed by watching the queen nominees go by.

In the parade, the nominee from the Baylor Wakeboarding Club, who wore her hair simply, had minimal makeup, and wore a simple but pretty dress, looked just as beautiful as Miss Texas.

Helping build the self-esteem of the female population won’t come through blanket insistence that “everyone is beautiful,” but through celebrating beauty in its diverse forms. And this is why I loved watching the parade at Baylor homecoming 2012.