“Singleness is my Only Companion” ☆

beach-footprintsFor the very first time I can remember, I found an article which begins to embrace much of what I wish others knew about prolonged singleness.  The January 2017 online edition of Christianity Today has an article, “Singleness is my Only Companion,” by Ekemini Uwan, a speaker and an MDiv degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  While she is in her lat 30s (and I am over twice her age – – – ) I can relate to much of what she writes.

“My perpetual state of singleness is an enigma, but it is not for lack of trying.  I’m certainly not a hermit.  I travel, take in festivals, go to events, enjoy concerts, and attend academic talks to satisfy my intellectual curiosity.  I’ve even tried online dating, which only resulted in “situationshps” — those faux relationships that revolve on an axis of grey.”

I hasten to say that yea these many years of pondering my own singleness have not been fruitless.  For instance, 28 years of being accompanist of an incredible community chorale led to opportunities to travel all over the world.  Being able to share music in at least 20 countries brings many cherished memories.  While we performed a great variety of music, performing the works which brought glory and honor to God still gives me goosebumps – – – Mozart and Haydn Requiems, sacred choral numbers, early American folk music and spirituals.  One vivid memory is of a wonderful tenor walking to the middle of the stage in Shanghai, China, with a Bible and singing, “I’m gonna tell you ’bout the comin’ of the kingdom!”  Wow!

Quite simply, when I play the piano, I feel His pleasure!  This echoes a quote from Eric Liddell, the subject of the movie, “The Chariots of Fire:”

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast!
and when I run I feel His pleasure.”    Eric Liddell

I can honestly say that I have finally come to a place of deep contentment with who I am.  While there is not an adoring human companion, I have come to see that the God of the Bible is my ever-present Companion, Supplier of needs, Encourager, and Lover of my soul.  He walks with me when I travel alone.  He is in the process of rekindling my desire to dream, which includes touching people’s hearts with my writing.  He smiles when I use my hands to make music and to do colorful needlework, and work at my computer.  He rejoices with me as I finally get to THE LAST mortgage payment!  Wooohooo!

At the same time, He leaves a man-shaped space in my heart because He made me for deep human relationship.

“. . . There is another dimension of heartbreak that comes into view when one is seen but not sought after.”

You might want to read that sentence again, noting the pain of never having been chosen.  That grief is real.  While I know there is deep grief in losing a spouse by any reason, there is also a different sort of deep grief for the one who feels the “loss of never having.”

Articles abound on “What wives wish their husbands knew they need,” and vice versa.  They all seem to say the same things – deep love, respect, compassion, companionship, encouragement, help with  housework, etc., etc., etc.  What I never see there is that it is not just married couples who have these needs.  I think they all boil down to just two things:  Being heard and sharpened hearing skills, and comfortable companionship.  Of course, there are a lot of bullet points.  Having harmonious spiritual values would be at the top of my personal list.  In short – – –

Everyone needs a cheerleader!

“I’ve come to hold all things loosely–including the good things I desire.  As I get older, I realize that this unrequited desire may never be filled   But I arrive at this conclusion with a peace that surpasses all human understanding and an inner resolve wrought by the Holy Spirit.  I know that God promises to be “a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  (Psalm 84:11 ESV)

After Orlando — what’s next? ☆

powerpoint-question-mark-clip-art-561252It seems as if we are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, doesn’t it?  And, there are so many “other shoes” that we almost lose count.  Certain words bring horrific images to mind:  Dallas; Columbine; Twin Towers; Sandy Hook; San Bernardino; Aurora theater; and now, Orlando.  Presidential assassination; high school killings, attack on U.S. soil, elementary  school killings; community center killings, movie theater shooting, and now, a night club massacre.

This is just the tip of a very large iceberg!  In fact, this is like a snowflake on the tip of a very large iceberg!  Things like this happen all across the world every day, and we do not hear about most of them.  When we do, most of us simply cannot comprehend how anyone can think that the mass taking of human life will solve anything.  We can see that those who are bent on bringing this type of destruction will find a way no matter how many rules and regulations are in place.

I’m sure we can echo these thoughts from a long-ago author who wanted to run away from home:

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away.  I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”(1)

These words were written by a king – a handsome king – a musician king – a shepherd king – a warrior king.  Later on, King David would write:

“Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace.  I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.” (2)

Now, he sounds like a soul-weary king.  He knew that no matter how many battles he won, there would be another and another and another.  Sort of sounds like today, huh?

For some, the power they feel when people are under their control is intoxicating.  The ensuing grief and pain of others is way off their radar – or else they simply do not care.  They try to fill a bottomless pit in their hearts, and what they think will help is never enough – even when they do what for most of us the unthinkable.

I believe that we become like the person [or things] we think the most about.  Video games are no longer the little yellow pac-circles gobbling up other little pac-circles.  Most are focused on violent destruction of things and people or creatures, and discovering dark pathways to even darker sites.  Movie titles reflect this, too.  I searched online for “current movies” and found titles such as:  The Neon Demon; The Conjuring 2, The Darkness; There’s a Hell Below; The Night Stalker; The Violators; Raman Raghav (following the life of a serial killer); and Warcraft: The Beginning.   TV channels abound with stories involving kidnapping, rape, stalking, killing and sexual escapades.  All these things paint our minds with jagged colors.

When something happens on U.S. soil such as the Orlando night club shootings, people rally together to cry, pray comfort, and support one another.  And, that is a good thing!  The wrenching grief does not put an end to the violence, however.  Just in the past couple days, gun stores were smashed into and numbers of guns stolen in Denver.  Who knows what that will bring.  There’s always something afoot!

The same evil one who tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God’s one command, to refrain from eating the fruit of one tree, is the same one who led into the Holocaust and other current genocides.  Jesus described this one best when he said, “He [the Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (3)  And, He’s still at it!

So, what do we do?  We have choices to make.  We can walk deeper and deeper into the darkness, OR we can look for the Truth and walk closer and closer its light.  If you have read any of the posts here, it’s no secret Who I recognize as Truth as a follower of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church to “put everything evil out of your life” and to “wear a new life” patterned after the God Who made us.(4)

The Apostle John has this to say:  “We know that we are of God [if we believe in the name of the Son of God], and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him Who is true, and we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life.”(5)

So, what’s next?  We PRAY that people’s hearts will be changed – and we start with our own!  That’s what’s next!

  1. Psalm 55:6-8
  2. Psalm 120:6-7
  3. John 8:44
  4. Colossians 3:5-10
  5. I John 4:13, 19-20

 

A Single Window Pane ☆

When I first moved into my 1920 vintage home, the kitchen had those crank-out sort of windows.  They didn’toutside looking in work so well, because the cranks kept falling off and eventually would not work anymore.  One of the windows would fly open in the wind and I had to nail it shut.  First big expense – double-paned windows.  A week and BIG chunk of change later, I had windows I could open and shut with ease and the double panes helped with my heating bill.  Rain would slam onto the screens and the outside pane but keep the inner pane dry.

Fast forward a couple years.  Moisture began to gather between the panes of those expensive windows.  Thanks to the warranty, another big chunk of change for labor, and I had airtight windows again.  I guess you could call that “labor panes.”  Sorry!  I couldn’t resist that.

So, why the thoughts about windows today?  Because for a few weeks now, I’ve been bumping up against a single window pane of the mind which causes emotional pain.  Advice for marriage and family abounds.  Some of my long-visited Christian websites have either discontinued their pages for singles, or have buried them under pages labeled “for women” with fewer and fewer articles for those without a life partner.  And, generally the articles there tend to be written by now-married women who focus on “what to do while waiting.”  Articles abound on “how to raise children” and “10 little things to brighten your husband’s day.”

Venturing onto pages “for men” is usually a different experience.  While there are articles for “5 things your wife wishes you knew,” it is rare to find any mention of singleness on men’s pages.  Maybe it’s because fewer men than women walk through life as a onesome.

I’ve come to realize that singledom, especially in the church, is an invisible village.

Sermon series for God’s design for sex and marriage are popular.  Onesomes are told to pray for their married family and friends, armed with increasing information on what marriage should be about.  I’m quite happy to do that.  I respect marriage highly.  I’m not blind to the endurance of many in this challenging place.  Why, however, is it not just as important for those who are married to understand more about the challenges of living as a Godly single, and to pray for us as well?  I’m here to tell you that being single takes a lot of hard work, too!

In the absence of attention at church-level in general, I’m aware that there is definitely an elephant in the room – and it seems to be me.  Well, at least, it is those of us who do not have a life partner at present.  Most unmarrieds who come to the church are those who have had the experience of having had a spouse.  Sadly, marriages end by death and divorce, both very painful situations.  I’m also here to tell you that never having had a spouse can also be a very painful situation that very few acknowledge, bringing loneliness most folks just don’t get!

I’m saddened greatly that most churches do not think about a sermon series – or even one sermon – on what it means to live a Godly single life.  There is an urgent need for even middle and high school students to know how precious their emotions and hormones are to God, and that He is very interested in helping them develop self-control and contentment.  College men and women are thrust into a world where many of them are on their own for the first time, and if they have not learned the value of faithfulness and self-control at a younger age, they may have trouble seeing the value now.  The term “single” is not generally used until they are post-college age.  Once again, they are on a huge learning curve of how to be self-supporting and responsible adults.  Too often, too many do not have a practiced discipline in their moral lives and may not see a need to gain one now.  Why not?

They have not been told how important and valuable their moral lives are to God, themselves, and those around them. 

Read this:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.  (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

The temple in Scripture is described as a visually spectacular place, full of color and lush fabrics, and gold, silver, and gems of every type.  Of course, its real purpose was not to be spectacular, but to be a place where people gave back to God from their crops and livestock, acknowledging their shortcomings – sin – and receiving forgiveness.  While the Temple does not exist in Jerusalem today, its memory does.  And, certainly the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice in my place for my sin exists!

In the process, He considers me as a beautiful temple which is furnished by the Holy Spirit within me!  How can I help but live my life glorifying Him as best I can!

However, I still find myself as a sort of Lone Ranger shouting a message few want to hear.

Are you listening?

“Nature is our greatest spiritual teacher.” Oprah Winfrey ☆

question mark 2You know who is one of the most influential spokespersons in the world today on spirituality?  Oprah Winfrey!  Read this quote from a CNN interview which shows that she definitely sees herself and her current mission as a spiritual leader.

“. . . I’m very clear about what my role is and purpose is.  This isn’t about me.  I am the messenger to deliver the message of redemption, of forgiveness, of gratitude, of evolving people to the best of themselves.  So I am on my personal journey.  My personal journey is to fulfill the highest expression of myself here as a human being here on earth.”  Hence, she is interested in fostering spirituality but not religion.  She wants people to turn inward for relevant and spiritual wholeness, not to structures, theological systems or the church.  In so many ways, we are talking about one of the most powerful spiritual leaders of our time–more influential and more powerful than almost any pastor or religious leader one can imagine.”

Now, personally I think Oprah is a very talented, confident woman.  She obviously wants to understand spiritual things.  She is articulate and intelligent.  She has a way of engaging folks to talk about what is going on in their lives and wants to help them figure out ways to grow.  She is a very generous woman who takes joy in sharing her wealth with a variety of people, especially those around the world who are the most needy.

Now, I also personally think that Oprah’s spiritual advice is most often–well–WRONG, and that those who call themselves Christians in particular need to ramp up their understanding of God’s word as it stands beside Oprah’s words!  Let’s take the title to this post.  What in the world does this statement really mean?  What “nature” are we talking about?  are we talking about birds and animals and fish?  Are we talking about beautiful scenery and the universe?  Are we talking about the nature of mankind?

And, what “spiritual” are we talking about?  Are we talking about God, or a higher being, or someone or something beyond ourselves?  Are we talking about the deep soul and spirit each of us possesses in this physical body?  Are we talking about ourselves as we look inside and ponder what, who, and why we are?

I find it interesting that Oprah will quickly say she is a Christian, but does not talk so quickly about her relationship with Jesus.  Read this description:

Winfrey said her definition of spirituality is living life with an open heart, through love, and allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life.  She said she believes there is a divine thread that connects spiritually to something greater than ourselves.  ‘My favorite Bible verse–because I am a Christian–is Acts 17:28.  It says, “In God I live and move and have my being.”‘”

Another time, she said, “Well I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.

And another:  “Christ did not come to die on the cross but to bring Christ consciousness.”

And even another:  “And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience.  And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about a belief, it is not truly God.”

Oprah has a great variety of friends in realms deemed spiritual.  When she attends megachurches Potter’s House in Dallas (T.D. Jakes) and Lakewood Church in Houston (Joel Osteen) she raises her hands and amens frequently..  Currently, she is close with spirituality author and speaker Eckhart Tolle, who writes and lectures about “the inner state of your consciousness” and “your essence identify.”  Oprah’s Belief TV series in 2015 explored major world religions to display that there is a deep longing inside people to find someone or something beyond themselves which will bring peace, contentment, and joy.  I watched several of this series, and did not see a whole lot of peace, contentment, and joy represented there.

Well, In Oprah’s stepping onto “Christian” turf, she’s in territory I am more familiar with.  When she makes statements like, “Christ did not come to die on the cross. . .” I can go to the Bible to find these words of Jesus when His death was getting closer.  “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No.  It was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name!”  (John 12:27-28)

There’s so much more to say–and I’m working on more posts on this subject.  On the surface, the title of this post may feel like a “deep” thought to many–and if Oprah said it, it must be true.  Right?  Hmmmmm.  I see it as a thought which can lead us down a myriad of bunny trails which hide the way to the Truth, Way, and Life who is Jesus Christ!  (John 14:6)

More scratches on the surface of this topic to come soon. 🙂

 

When do we pull the plug on innocence? ☆

As I sit here with my cup of coffee this morning thinking about the massacre in San Bernardino yesterday, the title seems most apt.  For some unfathomable, as-of-now unknown reason, two people thought that brutally killing a number of others was an answer to something.  99.99% of us cannot even begin to wrap our minds around what that answer might be, and it does no good to ask “why?”  We live in a broken world which continues to crumble.  If we ever needed peace and innocence, the time is now!  And so, on to the article which has percolated in my head the past 3 weeks.


baby snow monkey 3OK, OK.  I admit it.  I am in love with the “wild” Japanese snow monkeys – especially the babies when they are in full fur and are running around like fluffy furbies.  A photographer named Kiyo has captured hours of these creatures in all annual seasons and stages of life from tiny babyhood to the elderly.  The monkeys in Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are used to tourists getting right up in their faces with cameras, and yet they are not tame.  They run, play, love, raise babies, and doze in hot springs while remaining wary of their human visitors.  Most of the mothers are incredibly tender with their tiny offspring, becoming disciplinarians when necessary to teach them monkey politics.  They rarely smack their kids – although an occasional bite happens.  They also use very stern facial expressions to let a baby know when he/she has overstepped boundaries.  Babies throw tantrums during the weaning process, and Mom just sits waiting for it to end, while training them to find their own food.  The adults are small – not even 2 feet tall, and the babies are small enough to fit into even my cupped hands – and I have little hands!  The year-old youngsters are about the size of a fuzzy loaf of bread with legs.  They learn to hang on for dear life to Mama’s fur while she bounds through deep snow.  I am especially drawn to their tiny faces which show a huge variety of little emotions.

baby humanNow of course, the epitome of innocence is found in people babies!  Few can resist the little facial expressions, arm and leg motions, and little noises coming from such tiny living packages.  They are quite simply, innocence personified!  We do everything we can to protect these precious little ones.  We make sure they are clean, warm and fed, and have a safe place to sleep.  Now, sometimes Baby does not seem to appreciate all that, and moms and dads can attest to the decibels of noise which can come from these little lungs making sleep impossible.

Our protection of their innocence continues for a number of years into toddlerhood and elementary school.  Where lines begin to blur may be when they enter middle, junior, and high school.  Hormones begin to blossom, and while we do not want them to experience adult issues prematurely, the value of their innocence may begin to erode.  Too often, we cave into what our society blasts at us with daily regularity:  “we have to face the inevitability of the hook-up culture beginning at younger and younger ages.”

Our society seems to be under the impression that God is not able to comprehend the depth of physical and emotional passion and that innocence has a shelf-life.  The Bible is just an interesting book written centuries ago and its admonitions to us about male and female relationships are outmoded and useless. Kids will do what they are going to do.  Without realizing it, we’re unplugging innocence as futile and worthless.  In moral issues, to use terms of an adult such as innocence and purity – and heaven forbid – virginity –  becomes a laughing matter.  Society fails to see that inexperience is not automatic lack of knowledge and understanding!

Inexperience is not automatic naivety!

So, when is it time to pull the plug on innocence?  Is it when a child becomes 10? 12? 16? Certainly by 21?  Society decries exploitation and trafficking, particularly of children and young folks, and winks at sexual activity between folks of the same ages during school events.  How can we continue to live with double-mindedness?  When will we say, “Enough!”  When will we realize that only God can fix our messed up lives?  When will we understand that . . .

God has already pulled the plug on innocence!

God is absolutely crazy about babies!  He sent His son, Jesus – Emmanuel – “God with us” – in the little body of a sweet baby boy.  While we do not know many details about His growing up years, we do know that He is exactly like His Holy Father.  Hebrews 1:3 tells us Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”  Other Bible verses tell us that God is holy.  Webster’s definitions say of “holy:” “unimpaired innocence and virtue; pure in heart; acceptable to God.”  Adam and Eve fixed it so that no human could have that acceptable relationship with God on their own.  But even that spiritual death sentence brought the blessing of Jesus into the world to make it possible for people to know God.

God pulled the plug on innocence when Jesus screamed from the cross:  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  (Mark 15:34)

God plugged innocence back in with Jesus’ resurrection from death and His gift to us of forever pure, holy, and, yes, innocent  life with Him.  Spend time this season pondering innocence and its rightful place in our lives.

Blessed time of remembering Jesus’ birth!

I’d love to know what you think about this.  I don’t know yet what the next post will cover, but it may be some sort of sequel.

“Intolerant of intolerance?” ☆

integrityThe whole “tolerance/intolerance” thing seems to be the buzzword of the day, doesn’t it?  It’s easy to get to the place of saying, “Enough!  I simply cannot tolerate intolerance any more!”  Crazy, huh?  When will we learn that fighting intolerance with intolerance just doesn’t work?

You know me well enough by now to remember that I love consulting my old friend, Noah Webster about definitions:

  1. Tolerance:  the power or capacity of enduring; the endurance of the presence or actions of objectionable persons, or of the expression of offensive opinions.
  2. Intolerance:  refusal to allow others the enjoyment of their opinions, chosen modes or worship, and the like; lack of patience and forbearance; unjust impatience of the opinion of those who do not agree with us.

Quite frankly, it seems to me that calling someone “intolerant” has become a reasonable excuse to be rude to one who disagrees.  Words fly as opponents throw “expert opinions” at one another with attitudes of superiority.  Facebook™ and youtube™ abound with all sorts of opportunities to bash those who differ with name-calling comments and disrespectful language.

I find it interesting that many opinions expressed by Christians are most vigorously and mockingly vilified.  And, what I find even more interesting is that many times the ones on both sides consider themselves to be Christians.  So, what’s up with that?

I also find it interesting that the opinions expressed about morality issues cause the most vigorous attacks.  Now, fortunately, the majority of us can agree that important issues exist:  child molestation; human trafficking and rape; bullying of any kind; and embezzlement.  The problem comes when we try to place descriptive borders on these:

  1. Ultimate child molestation – abortion at all stages.
  2. Human trafficking and rape – coercing someone to go beyond what they want, particularly in sexual areas.
  3. Bullying of any kind – making fun of those with different personal standards and beliefs; taking advantage of the vulnerable – the ones most susceptible to being wounded.
  4. Embezzlement – appropriation of another’s possessions for personal use.

And, if you have read many of the posts to this blog, you know that I consider not engaging in intimate sexual activity apart from marriage to be a standard worth upholding as one way to honor God and to follow His word as given to us in the Bible.  Various translations use prohibitive words such as:  practicing sexual immorality or relations; playing the whore/harlot/prostitute; practicing fornication/adultery; being unfaithful to a spouse; promiscuity; and lustful acts.  These phrases are unmistakably clear and the definitions have not changed much over the centuries.  Adultery is understood as sexual activity including someone who is married; fornication is understood as sexual activity on the part of someone who is unmarried.  No one is left out.  If brought into the public arena, most people are embarrassed and feel shame.

Throughout scripture, to marry has been understood to take a husband or wife – a life-companion of the opposite sex.  To remain single for life was rare, so few words describe that in the Bible, except for occasional uses of “unmarried” and “virgin.”  It was understood that one who was not married was expected to refrain from sexual activity.  While the word, “celibate” does not appear in the Bible, its meaning is clear.

While some of the women on the TV program, The View, can heckle and demean long-term celibacy all they want as an unreasonable and downright silly practice, I can look at Biblical folks like Paul and – well – Jesus – as examples of men who lived fulfilling and adventurous lives without marriage and its physical/emotional aspects.  They also had close friends with whom they could confide the deepest longings of their souls.  That gives me great hope.

How is it that our society can admire athletes who practice great discipline to sharpen their skills, and laugh at onesomes who practice the spiritual fruit of self-control to follow a life of abstinence?  The society “how” is that we are trained in the science of taking, more than giving.  As I’ve written in a number of previous posts, the life of an unmarried, committed Jesus-follower whose desire is to glorify Him in thought, word, and act, includes a covenant with the living God who created sex in the first place, and who gives His power to put it into proper context.  Easy?  Absolutely not!  Possible?  Absolutely!

Read how The Message presents some words of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament:

(I Corinthians 6:16-20)  There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin.  Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.  As written in Scripture, ‘The two become one.’  Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever – the kind of sex that can never ‘become one.’  There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others.  In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for ‘becoming one’ with another.  Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?  The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you.  God owns the whole works.  So let people see God in and through your body.”

 

Powerful words from a 6 year-old ☆

first grade rocksA young couple I know has four amazing children, and I love seeing them bounce into church on Sunday mornings.  The night before school this fall, young mom asked oldest son, Drew, to think about something he might say to his younger siblings the next day.  She didn’t tell him what to say, and expected he would say things like, “Have a happy day,” or “Play nice.”  Well, read this and be amazed at what came out of this boy’s mouth!

“Today is Drew’s first day of first grade.  As we drove to school he took a few minutes to talk to each of his siblings:

‘Abigail, even though I’m going to school and you are staying at home for school (kindergarten), I’m real proud of you.  You are a good girl and you are still my best friend.  I love you so much.  And you are a beautiful daughter of the King.

‘Simon, You are crazy.  I’m praying that you will be a good boy today, that you will listen to mom and make good choices.  I will play with you when I get home.  I love you, buddy.

‘Essie, you are so silly and goofy.  Don’t grow up too much today.  I’m sorry I have to go to school and I will miss your birthday.  I know you will be a good happy girl all day.  You are a beautiful daughter of the King.  I love you.’

As if that wasn’t enough . . .

‘Mom, I love you.  You do so much for me.  I’m real proud of you.  I hope you have a good day.  You are beautiful.  Don’t be late picking me up.’

Yes, I cried.”

Wow!  This articulate little boy – and so many like him – is our future!  I anticipate that he and his family and friends will stand firm in the relationship they are building with Jesus!  His will not be an easy world.  We see more and more derision of those who are Christ-followers, don’t we?  Many paint all of us with broad brush strokes because of the unwise and thoughtless – perhaps trite and downright stupid – words and acts of a few who identify themselves as Christians.  Fortunately, it’s not up to me to decide whether they are or not.  That’s God’s business.

It’s getting less and less popular to believe that the Bible is adequate to be our guide.  Our culture sees it as outdated and jaded in its content.  Folks like to pick out a phrase and use it as proof text that the whole of scripture has outlived its usefulness.  But, my guess is that most will adhere to much of the Ten Commandments to largely shape their moral compass because they see the value of the relational “do-nots:”

  1. Do not murder.
  2. Do not commit adultery.
  3. Do not steal.
  4. Do not give false testimony.
  5. Do not covet – envy – what others have which you do not have.

Just about any crime against another falls under one of these categories..

There are five more Commandments, though.

  1. Have no other gods before Me – the Lord your God!
  2. Have no idols which you honor and worship instead of Me – the Lord your God!
  3. Do not misuse the name of God in any form – use it in a way which dishonors the Lord your God!.
  4. Take a Sabbath Day – a day of holy rest.
  5. Honor your parents.

Jesus summed up all ten of these in a succinct sentence:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)  I believe that if the “Love your God” part is in place, the “love your neighbor” will also fall into place.

I have the privilege of seeing Drew and his brother and sisters grow up knowing and expressing the love of Jesus, and also have the privilege of praying that they and their peers will grow in their knowledge of Him, learning discernment as they face all sorts of opposition to their beliefs.

Oh yes, have you noticed that when folks are so vitriolic in their criticism of Christians’ intolerance that they are practicing the intolerance they are criticizing?  Just a thought.

 

So, Ashley Madison, what’s next? ☆

why question markThe news of the recent hacking of the Ashley Madison website has sort of died down in recent days, but the internet continues to buzz with articles about the “what now.”  The CEO has stepped down.  It has been suggested that a couple of suicides are linked to the list of names revealed.  There are incidences of extortion cropping up as some seek to use another person’s ill-fated decision for their financial gain.  Many marriages are being further torn apart as names are made public.  Reputations are at risk – and not only in the USA.  According to numerous online articles, names are included from the UK, Asia, and Europe.

No matter how we look at it, it is a sad commentary of our world-wide society!

What made this website so alluring to so many folks?  I think there are at least three areas to consider:

  1.  Entitlement
  2.  Opportunity
  3.  Appearance of anonymity

Entitlement:  How many times have we heard, “You deserve . . .”  Some stay unemployed because they “deserve” the exact job and salary of their dreams and will not accept anything less.  Fewer people start out in modest living spaces because they “deserve” to have homes, cars, and other possessions which are often way beyond their means.  We frequent fast food businesses and use our microwave ovens because we don’t “deserve” to have to wait to eat.  We “deserve” to be happy NOW, to be satisfied NOW.

It doesn’t help that we have to deal with desires and hormones daily as magazine covers and advertisements use varying levels of sexual messages to entice us to buy just about anything.  TV and the internet provide visuals which are next to impossible to erase from our minds.  We have come to believe that we “deserve” to do anything we want to do with our minds AND our bodies.

Opportunity:  The website in the news is not a new one.  It started in 2001.  And, it is not the only one.  Nor is it the only avenue to explore if one entertains the thought of straying from marriage vows.  I think it is also safe to assume that a number of those who registered may have not been married.  For them, it provided a “safe” place for a play date.  Perhaps it was just one of a number of sites intentionally visited.  Availability provides heady opportunity.

Appearance of Anonymity:  Just as we sort of think that everything we read in the newspaper and hear on the news is accurate, we fall into the trap of thinking we can be anonymous on the internet because a site promises unbreachable security.  It is unfortunate that entities such as large stores, banks, and governmental agencies – AND websites – are magnetic targets for some who seek pleasure in the pain of others.  The allure of breaking codes and creating havoc to millions of people is an enticement some just cannot resist.  But, let’s face it.  Everything we do online is always floating around out there!

A One-way Mirror

You’ve seen them; those crazy one-way mirrors which show us our image on one side and allow us to see through on the other.  This hacking/exposure fiasco has served to show us that hiding in the depths of most of our souls is, at least, a hint of what is right and wrong, moral and immoral.  On one hand, refraining from sexual activity outside of marriage has become an outdated, old-fashioned idea which many choose to ignore.  On the other hand, publishing the names of those doing this has served as a finger-pointing situation because we really do know it is unacceptable – and, well – wrong!

We simply cannot always trust our feelings.  Just because something feels good or right does not make it so.  We need some sort of objective measurement.  It is no secret to anyone reading this blog that I believe that objective measurement is found in the Bible.  Even in the Ten Commandments which are shunned by some as outdated gives us short – even terse – advice on a number of things destructive to society, including, “Do not commit adultery.”  That is as unmistakable in its meaning now as it was then!

Jesus addressed the source of many of our societal woes when He said, “it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.  (Mark 7:21-22 NIV)

Well, that about covers it all, doesn’t it?  We cannot always avoid the thoughts, BUT we can avoid entertaining and acting on them.  Once again, a verse I’ve used often in this blog tells us that with every temptation comes the promise that God will provide a way out of it!  (I Corinthians 10:13)

Oh yes.  Don’t you feel sorry for those women whose name actually is Ashley Madison? 🙂

 

 

Thoughts about Ashley Madison ☆

mirrorMy guess is that until a few weeks ago, most of us had never heard of Ashley Madison.  Then, it seemed that name was popping out all over the place.  First Josh Duggar, and then an infamous list of folks leaked into public view.

Actually, Ashley Madison is not a new site.  It’s been around since 2001.  The name sounds innocent enough, but even a cursory search brings these self-descriptions:

  •      *  Infidelity site
  •      *  Online personals and dating destination for casual encounters
  •      *  Married dating and extramarital affairs
  •      *  Site slogan:  “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

Well, no attempt to cover up the real purpose here.  Of course, it is not the only website dedicated to helping folks stray from their wedding vows.  If you google™ the words, “encourage adultery” over 500,000 entries show up for exploration, including other explicit websites encouraging infidelity.

There seem to be two main thoughts which demonstrate a crazy double standard:

  1.   Cheating on one’s spouse is a rather popular, expected, and even accepted activity.
  2.   If it is so commonly accepted, then why does its public exposure become such a shame-filled event?

Suddenly, morality which is laughed at as a general rule becomes a big deal!

Unfaithfulness, commitment, and pre-marriage celibacy become subjects of great debate, generally painted with broad “impossible and unnecessary to carry out” strokes.  But when these things are exposed in the lives of public figures, we are disappointed because we hold them to a higher standard from ourselves.

The Ashley Madison hacking incident has become a mirror exposing what is really going on in hearts and minds of people from all walks of life.  It has shown us that we’re all on a level playing field.  No one is immune from being tempted to do what we know to be wrong.  No one!  Folks from every walk of life are worried their name is on the list.  Of course, those who are Christians in the public arena are especially up for public ridicule if their names do appear.

There are numerous articles summarizing what the great needs are for a husband or wife.  Well, newsflash  these are needs for all men and women, married or single!  It’s just that we onesomes miss out on the built-in other person to help bring these things to life. Now, I’m also realistic enough to know that many married folk miss out on the fulfillment of these things, too, because we are a broken human race.

Anyway, these articles all seem to cover the same topics.

  1. Wife:  love, affection, protection, security, commitment, appreciation, value, compassion, partnership.
  2. Husband:  respect, admiration, peace, commitment, acceptance/participation, sense of purpose.

While sexual satisfaction is also a part of these needs, the lack of the above is what really sends men and women outside the covenant of marriage to gain a sense of fulfillment and understanding.

Let’s face it.  Adultery is not a new thing.

God addressed it through Moses when He gave the Ten Commandments.  (Exodus 20:14)  We have no record that the people asked Moses, “What is adultery?”  They already knew well the temptations to worship false gods, speak loosely of the God Who created them, to not set aside a special time to worship Him and to rest, to murder, steal, lie, covet things not belonging to them, AND to commit adultery.

So, why is it that we are surprised when a website such as Ashley Madison leaps into public view?

Because we think we are better than we are!

We forget that no matter now perfect and good we try to be, we cannot achieve perfection and goodness on our own.

That does not stop us from trying, however.

Oh my!  I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what I want to say.  Keep looking for some sequels! 🙂

Oh Soul Mate – Where Art Thou? ☆

soul mateApologies to a movie with roughly the same name where an interesting set of escaped convicts in the 1930’s try to find a lost treasure while being pursued by a relentless lawman.  For many, finding their “soul mate” is a much desired treasure to be found on a path with many obstacles.

A friend told me a couple weeks back that a number of people are talking to her about having finally found their “soul mate,” and for some of these, this did not appear to be their spouse.  They were puzzled about what to do.  Hmmmmm.  Started me thinking about that term.

So, where did it come from?

Most www sites talk about it in connection with Greek mythology, and I found the shortest, clearest summary on Dictionary.com:

Though the phrase soul mate gained steam toward the end of the twentieth century, the idea goes all the way back to Plato’s Symposium, written in 385-380 BC.  In Symposium, when the two dialogists discuss love, Aristophanes tells Socrates that human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two faces, and they were happy and complete.  But Zeus was jealous and split them in two with his thunderbolt, and now humans spend their lives searching for their other half.  This idea of an “other half” has been with us ever since.

Now, google™ tells me there are at least 800,000 results for “soul mates” and I did not attempt to explore them all.  But, the ones I did scan – even the ones which hold on to the theory of “soul mates” – warned of the heartache which can come from holding this belief to an extreme, and most call it a theory – a speculation, a conjecture, a guess.  The theory of “soul mates” falls into the category of myth, and the simple definitions most found for “myth” are fable, legend, fairy tale, allegory, illusion, invention, untruth, and the list goes on.  Myths are stories which usually involve beings with more than human powers trying to explain mysterious events or religious beliefs.

 So, why is finding one’s “soul mate” so tantalizing?

Now, obviously, no one today is looking to literally connect with another set of arms, legs, etc., as described above.  But, my guess is that the person one chooses to marry is often considered largely because they just seem to “fit together.”  They enjoy the same things.  Mutual love brings them to the conclusion that they are “meant for one another.”  They feel as if they “complete” each other.  Others look at them and think they are “perfect for one another.”  I think that our current view of marriage too often falls into the “I’ve-found-my-soul-mate” category.  And, too often it brings disappointment.

So, what happens to the ones who haven’t happened on to their “soul mates” yet?  I live in Colorado.  What happens if my “soul mate” lives in Maine, or Peru, or Bangladesh, or,, heaven forbid, has died ? ? ?  Well, you get the picture.  How am I to know if or where to look?  Does my singleness totally depend on whether or not I find “the one” and if so, what do I do with my heart desires in the meantime?  Will I never be “complete” if I don’t find the soul mate?

So, how does the “soul mate” theory compare with what the Bible teaches?

Some try to put the “soul mate” theory into what Scripture teaches right from the beginning of Genesis where we are told God created Eve from a rib from Adam’s side.  Adam’s response when he first saw Eve was, “Wow!  Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  (Genesis 2:23)  Obviously the “Wow!” is my version of what I think Adam must have said after his work of naming the animals was finished.  Obviously, if there was only one other creature in Eden to whom he could relate and give himself totally to, they were obviously meant to be together.  This seems to be the only option in Scripture in which there was only one solution to being together.  But, there is nothing in the Genesis narrative which describes them as “soul mates.”

All through Scripture, the equation to describe God’s intention for marriage is 1 + 1 = 1

Genesis 2:24  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Matthew 19:4-5  “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘ made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?'”

Ephesians 5:31-32  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Even when folks stray outside their marriage engaging in sexual activity, “they [literally] become one flesh.  (I Corinthians 6:16).  They do not necessarily “become one” in soul or spirit.  The oneness God intends goes far beyond what most of us think.  Paul continues to take this far beyond the physical realm, saying in verse 17:  “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”

Ah, now we see that mere body to body with another person – or even soul to soul – is not all there is for us.  This oneness we all seek is ultimately spiritual.  It is in God alone that we can really be “one,” be total, be complete.  Jesus prayed that for us in John 17:20-21.  “My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . .”

So, here’s my take on the “soul mate” idea.

Out of the billions of people who have entered and left the world, I am blessed to meet any number of folks who become close friends.  While the “other half” and “one soul mate” idea is intriguing, I am not bound to that limitation.  For those of us like me, a “onesome” still hoping for another “onesome” with whom to enter into a mutual marriage covenant, life continues to be a great mystery.  The details of much of my future days remain hidden to me.  It is my privilege to simply keep walking one step at a time in the path God puts before me.  One thing I do know.  God has not promised marriage to me.  He has promised an abundance of living in Him, single or married.

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.”

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