Category: Covenant

“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.”

 

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! 🙂

Lessons from a bird and a moth.

It was a sunny Colorado day; just the pleasant sort of day for errands.  I was getting groceries out of my car when I heard a little commotion behind me.

There was a moth banging over and over into the garage window – and on the other side there was a bird simultaneously banging over and over into the glass.  Now, the moth’s intent was simple.  “I just want out of here!”  The bird’s intent was simple, too.  “I just want moth for lunch.”  I watched for a couple minutes and neither of them gave up until I scared the bird away by walking out of the garage.

So, as usual, I began to relate these two little critters to my single life.

Moth perspective

  • ** I’m in a place I don’t like and I want to get into a better place.
  • ** I’m feeling very hemmed in and want to be freeeeeeeeee!
  • ** What in the world is this wall I can see through which keeps me from being freeeeeeeeee?
  • ** I want the grass and sunshine I see and not this gloomy garage!

Bird perspective

  • ** I’m just flying along being birdy and realize it’s time for lunch.
  • ** Should I go to arches of gold or hut of pizza?
  • ** In the meantime, here’s a tasty looking moth.  Here I go!
  • ** Bammety bam bam!  What in the world. . . . .?  (Repeat 10 times.)

I’ve often acted just like those little creatures.  How many times have I complained to God that I’m tired of where I am and tired of being alone?  Too numerous to count, I’m afraid.  For instance:

  •  ** It just seems that if I were married, I’d have a built-in companion to do stuff with.  Crash!
  • ** We’re attracted to each other.  We can work on the spiritual stuff later.  Bang!
  • ** Surely God wouldn’t deny me the desire of my heart.  After all, He promised.  (Psalm 37:4)  Wham!

I’ve discovered that my perception is often flawed.  Sometimes something looks good on the surface, not so good under.  When I was about 5, my mother was making bread.  I saw the rising dough and decided to snitch a piece because surely it would taste as good as cookie dough.  So, I took a small blob and ran outside to enjoy.  As Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame might say:  Aaaarrrggghhh!  In other words:  raw bread dough does not taste good!  It isn’t in its finished state – baked.

It’s all in the timing!

OK.  You get the picture.  The one who penned Psalm 73 hit it right on the head for potential birds and moths like me.

  • ** I know God is good – – – – – but I’m stumbling around here by myself.
  • ** Everyone around me seems to have things so much better – like money and companionship.
  • ** They are healthy and happy and trouble-free.
  • ** Now, I do see that they act in ways I choose not to – even violently with evil intent.
  • ** Oh yes, they have potty mouths, too.
  • ** But, they still have friends and are having a good time.
  • ** I thought following God would be happier and more comfortable.
  • ** Instead, I’m lonely and tired and don’t feel good.
  • ** Is following God worth it?

I find some comfort in the fact I’m not alone in the hard places!  I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons in the process of going from young to seasoned singleness.  Following Jesus is full of challenges – but the commitment is worth it!  If I could go back to talk to my younger self, I would say, “God’s word provides the guidance I need even – or especially – when I don’t get it – or even want it.  Meanwhile, keep talking to God about what your heart is feeling!  He can take it.”

Fortunately, the Psalmist brings us to a glorious conclusion in verse 28:

“But I’m in the very presence of God – oh, how refreshing it is!  I’ve made Lord God my home.  God, I’m telling the world what you do!  (The Message)

CELIBACY – Gift? Choice? Discipline?

wait hereA number of years ago as I closed a college women’s Bible Study, one of the students said to me, “I’ve never known anyone before who has the gift of celibacy.”  I can still see the admiration in her eyes – and can still feel the absolute gut-wrenching punch I felt inside.  I drove home in tears with this question:  “You didn’t do that to me, did you, God?”  I was in my early 30s.

I’ve wrestled with that question for what for some readers is more than their lifetime of years.  Earlier editions of Webster’s Dictionary define celibacy simply as the unmarried state, or as a vow made not to marry, particularly for religious reasons.  Somewhere along the line it also came to mean abstinence from sexual activity.

I find it interesting that while the Bible never uses the term, celibacy, it is well understood that abstaining from intimate physical relationships is the recommended way of life for those who do not have a spouse.

Gift?

Many Bible scholars use I Corinthians 7:7 as proof positive that Paul calls this way of life a gift.  “I wish that all of you were as I am, but each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (NIV)  He appears to be speaking of the practice of abstinence from physical intimacy in and out of marriage – limited abstinence by agreement of husband and wife if married, total abstinence if not married.  For the unmarried person, Paul goes on to say in verses 8-9:  “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:  It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

So, what happened to the gift?  Is it returnable?  Is it acceptable in some cases, not in others?  Is it one of the more specialized gifts termed as spiritual?  Are the effects instant if you accept it?  When and where do I get it?  What if I am one of the “burning” ones?

Hmmmmmm.  I wonder.

Choice?

Now, my stance on Scripture is constant.  I believe II Timothy 3:16-17 implicitly:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  So, that’s how I handle my frustration at times when I wish the Bible went further in some of its explanations – especially for the onesome.  Even though verses specifically for the single are few, they say exactly what God intended to say on the subject.

Our lives are rarely without choice in some form.  We choose to make God the center of our lives.  we choose modes of conduct, such as to steal or not steal, to envy or not to envy; to respect or to disrespect; to be faithful or to cheat.  We choose what to eat, wear, say, and do.

My personal opinion is that celibacy is a choice God leaves up to me.  Now, sometimes choices are made willingly – or unwillingly.  Both depend on what we conclude are the right things to do.  Why in the world would I choose celibacy when every part of my being desires that close connection with another person?

  • *  Well, first and foremost, I believe it is what God requests of me in order to serve Him faithfully.
  • *  I believe that physical intimacy involves giving of the deepest parts of my being to another.
  • *  I want the deepest parts of my being to be entrusted to my husband, not just anyone.
  • *  I want my husband to whom I give the deepest parts of my being to have mutual spiritual values.
  • *  I want to avoid distraction of physical/emotional complications caused by short-term intimate social relationships.
  • *  And so, I choose celibacy.

Discipline?

Personally, I believe a celibate life involves both well-considered choice and intentional discipline!  Self-discipline is one of the spiritual fruit mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22.  While this verse does not specifically connect it to intimacy issues, there are a host of scriptures which tell us to avoid unfaithfulness of all sorts, including sexual issues.  Where I used to rant and rave at God about the battle of hormones vs. faithfulness to Him, I find that disciplined practice brings a solid consequence of more consistent contentment with where I am now.  Let me illustrate.

I am a pianist.  I began piano lessons when I was about 4 years old because I would stand at the piano and pick out tunes I heard – mainly hymns.  My mother helped me begin to develop the gift of music.  Along with that came a bunch of choices.  I discovered along the way that my tastes moved toward traditional baroque, classical, and romantic composers:  Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Hearing music by composers like these just blessed a depth of my soul unlike much of contemporary music.  And then came discipline.  I decided to major in piano performance in college.  I thought I was pretty good as an incoming freshman piano major.  And then, I met my piano professor!  He took me way back to some basics I thought I had far surpassed.  I had to learn every piece at a snail’s pace.  BORING!  Then, one day I discovered that when I could play pieces from memory up to tempo, it was almost as if I could read them in my mind.  Learning them very slowly to begin with brought freedom from memory lapses, and great confidence and fun in performance.  I learned that discipline, while is often not fun, brings great reward!  I’m sure great athletes think the same.  What we see in public is born out of thousands of hours of private repetition and practice and study.  Discipline enhances the gift and the choice.

That is exactly how I feel about the discipline of celibacy after practicing it throughout my life.  It helps manage my thoughts and actions.  Choice of what I watch on TV and how I exercise my love of reading is managed by the discipline of knowing what causes me to move into areas of intimacy which simply are not available to me at present.  You know all those Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas?  Girl always gets boy, even in the most impossible of circumstances.  Even those I have to watch with discernment, because sometimes they feed a yearning in my heart which is not one God has chosen to fulfill – so far anyway.  There’s nothing wrong with the movies.  But, discipline has taught me that I need to discern the vulnerability of my heart to choose whatever I read and watch and think about in order to cultivate the quality of my life.

So what do you think?  Gift?  Choice?  Or discipline?  For more of my thoughts on this, see the first posts of this blog:  “I Corinthians 7 – a new look.”

What do I do with deep longings which feel like losses?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about longings which feel exactly like losses – even though I’ve never experienced the longed-for thing.

Can you really lose something you’ve never had?

Apparently a lot of song writers think you can because when I googled™ that question, a whole flurry of song lyrics came up.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that not one drop of my DNA would go beyond me.  I was at a family reunion and watched as my married brothers gathered their children and grandchildren together for pictures.  While my personal desire to have children has always been tied to husband first, children second, the realization was still quite like a sledge hammer blast to the heart.  I melted into a puddle of tears and fled to a quiet corner to be alone.

That awareness has served to give me great compassion for those married folks who ache to have children, but for varying reasons, cannot.  Some go through the heartache of hoping with expectations which are dashed to pieces over and over.  It brings some couples together in heart-to-heart ways they would never had anticipated.  It tears other couples apart as each person deals with grief in different ways which shreds their relationship to pieces.  Other couples struggle as one spouse wants children, the other does not.  Each of these bruising experiences has its roots in that fateful day in Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.  Not only did they live their whole lives suffering the consequences, but they passed that legacy on to every one of us.

Paul understands those effects when he wrote Romans 8:35-39.  He asserts confidently that the love of Jesus Christ cannot be shaken by trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, violence [sword], death, life, angels, demons, present, future, powers, height, depth, or anything else in creation.  Well – that about covers it all, doesn’t it?

There are times when I allow some of these admittedly huge things to hide God’s love from my sight.  There is a line in verse 4 of Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” which says, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free!”  Think of it!  Even when we have Jesus as Savior and Lord in our lives today, we are living through the consequences of sins He died for 2,000+ years ago.

He wants us to live in the reality of canceled sin which has no power over us!

Read some more of Paul’s words in Colossians 2:14-15 from The Message:  God brought you alive–right along with Christ!  Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the cross and marched them naked through the streets.

“Longings reveal something is missing in our lives yet our attempts to fill up the hole often leave us terribly unsatisfied.  I explore the question, “What if our longings are sacred, given by God for a purpose?” **

Longings come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no “one size fits all.”  More and more, I believe that my longings are truly designed to drive me deeper into knowing God with every ounce of my being.  Jesus alone is my Savior, is always with me, will never fail me.  No person on earth can fill those shoes.

So, what about you?  What are your longings?  I appreciate your comments, and invite you to read Janey’s thoughtful comment to the post, “really good resolutions for us all.”    I also see that I’m off on an internet trail of great thoughts from others about singleness and Godly longings.

** From website, “Deeper Devotion” by Elizabeth, a spiritual director

Bulls eye – right in my gelato!

It was a very warm day in Venice, and I was enjoying a delicious cup of gelato with friends on a stone bench outside St. Mark’s Cathedral.  Our community chorale was waiting to sing a vesper service in this historic place.  I think I just had one spoonful, and suddenly – SPLAT!  One of St. Mark Square’s numerous pigeons doo dood right in my gelato!  Laughter erupted, of course, as I looked sadly at a treat never to be enjoyed.  I’ve never quite thought the same about gelato since. 🙂pigeons st mark

Pigeons had been a matter of concern at my little abode, also.  The noisy, filthy little critters built little condos on top of my porch.  They sat under the eves of my roof and splattered all over the outer walls.  Money spent to pigeon-proof my house was money well-spent.  Three-inch spikes kept them from roosting under the eaves and netting on the porch roof served to foreclose on their several-storied nests.  For several days they lined up on the edges of the front of the house when I came home from work, voicing their displeasure as they swooped en masse at me when I went out for the mail.  Finally, they accepted their fate and moved on.  I have to say, though, that I did not find the Italian cooing versions any more attractive than the Colorado ones – especially when one ruined my gelato!

Isn’t that the way with life at times?  We’re in our comfort zones, enjoying a pleasant day, and along comes something which changes the course of the whole day – perhaps the whole life.  We have a neat little plan all in place and – SPLAT!  Well, I know you have your own stories to tell, right?

I have to admit that as this Christmas approaches, I again struggle with the realization that my life has turned out differently from my plan.  My plan included husband and family and personal traditions as a result.  Well, there was just one thing which which complicated my plan.  It needed someone other than me to complete it.  Well, Mr. Other-than-me has not shown up yet.  So much for that plan. 🙁

Several years back, there was a strong trend of choosing a life-verse from the Bible.  I sort of flitted from verse to verse depending on what mood I was in, or what I thought would answer my heart’s cry.  Somehow, I never seemed to be as blessed by “my verse” as those around me.  And then, I read the story of Daniel and was riveted by the absolute commitment of him and his friends to God.  Daniel 3:17-18 tells about three men who were just about to be thrown into a blazing furnace because they refused to bow down to worship a golden idol.  Here’s what they said:  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (NIV)

And then, it happened!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely no desire to be thrown into a blazing furnace.  It’s just that the words, “even if He does not,” stood out to me.  “Even if He does not deliver us from this blazing furnace, we will still trust in Him!”  It was as if God said to me:

What if you are to spend the rest of your life unmarried?  Will you still trust Me?

I’d like to be able to tell you I was like the much younger Mary in Luke 1 when the angel told her she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  She placed herself totally in God’s hands even though she did not totally understand the impact of the words the angel spoke to her.  (Luke 1:38)  Scripture does not record much of the day-to-day realization which grew in her heart.  My guess is that there were many tears as she daily committed herself to this incredible plan.

I certainly know it has taken an ocean of tears for me to finally accept that God has an incredible plan for me as a single woman.  Along the way, I have asked God to show me how to be a contented and joyful onesome for however long that will last.  Finally, I accept that the whys and why nots are not mine to understand – at least yet.

So, dear single friend – and any others reading this post – my prayer for you is what God said in Jeremiah 31:3 to His chosen people:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

May you have a joy-filled day in celebrating the birth of Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus!

Resignation? Acceptance? Contentment?

Resignation?  Acceptance?  Contentment?

These three words have been on my mind this week as I have wondered if they generally mean the same thing – particularly as they apply to the single life.  It’s obvious by now if you have followed this blog that I am a never-married single who chose early on to follow Scriptural principles in all areas of life, especially the single life.  However, let me say up front that I have never felt “called” to be single, and have dealt over and over with a deep desire for marriage which is based on mutual spiritual beliefs and intimacy – body, soul, and spirit  While facing the distinct possibility that marriage may never happen for me, I’ve traveled through the states of all three words with varying degrees of heartache.

Resignation:  submission to a feeling that the way things are cannot be changed; a deliberate giving up; unresisting acceptance of something as inescapable.

For many years I struggled with the “what” and “why” questions:

  •      *  What if I had made different decisions in my 20s?
  •      *  What if I missed someone significant because I was distracted by any number of life issues?
  •      *  Why is God ignoring my deepest heart cries?
  •      *  What am I doing wrong?
  •      *  And the biggest question of all:  What is wrong with me? ? ?

Keeping hope alive was a painful proposition.  Romans 5:1-5 gives a list of life experiences – mainly tough stuff – and includes the words, “hope does not disappoint.”  God heard from me a lot about that phrase because it seemed that there were brick walls directly behind what I perceived as open doors with great regularity.  I tried major online matchmaking sites.  I traveled to singles groups within a 50 mile radius.  I tried any number of suggestions from friends – including blind dates – to no avail.  The results were disappointing.  And so, somewhere over a period of years, I quietly slipped into the state of resignation.  Frankly, it was far less painful than trying to keep hope alive.

In a post early on in this blog, I wrote of the realization that:  “My quiet resignation was not confident acceptance of God’s good intent in my life.  It was belief that, for some reason, God was withholding the one earthly desire I wanted the most.  Being resigned did bring some emotional relief, and I was quite settled in it until the Holy Spirit gently peeled away layers of bitterness and distrust and showed me how dishonoring [my] resignation was to God.”  (Covenant is for Singles, too)

Acceptance:  receiving what is offered with satisfaction, acquiescence, approval

I believe that for me, resignation was a type of unwitting and unspoken vow over my life which made daily living feel less distressed, but which was keeping me from a significant relationship with the Heavenly Father Who made me – with desires intact for intimate relationship.  Moving from resignation to acceptance was hard – sort of like walking from a dark room into the sunshine.  Just as it takes the eyes time to adjust to seeing things clearly without pain, it took time to look at this acceptance as a covenant with God, partnering with Him in His faithfulness – with less heartache.

Psalm 73 was a camping out place for a long time.  The Psalmist affirms God’s goodness and his intent to follow God faithfully.  But, he contrasts his health and comfort with those who are not following after God.  He is sick, cold, hungry, and poor; they are well, warm, well-fed, and wealthy.  He laments in verse 13:  “surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.”  But then, he discovers that God is not so interested in his present comfort as He is in his present relationship with God.  He concludes that those human relationships are fraught with disappointment, but the ultimate satisfaction comes only with persistence, perseverance, and intentional following after God’s counsel and guidance.  He says in verse 26:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (NIV)

Contentment:  rest or quietness of the mind in one’s present condition; satisfaction

It has taken a long time to get to a consistent place of contentment, but I can honestly say I am truly contented – most of the time.  I still talk to God about the desires of my heart – which still include a spouse to grow older with.  At the same time, there is a growing realization that I can be satisfied even with permanent singleness.  I learn more daily about enjoying the world around me, relishing time spent with folks who care about me, nurturing time in God’s word and prayer, taking time to grow in skill in a number of hobbies, keeping my fingers nimble at the piano – and indulging in Agatha Christie Miss Marple DVDs.

Well, those are the thoughts for this week.  How about you?  Where are you in all this?

What in the world is a “Christian sexual atheist?”

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The Christian Post ran an article in the Spring of 2014 called “Sexual Atheism: Christian Dating Reveals a Deeper Spiritual Malaise” which highlights an alarming reality in today’s single society.  It uses information from a 2014 survey done by christianmingle.com called State of Dating in America.  While this was not limited to those who claimed to be Christians, a significant number of Christians participated.  It is worth your while to look at all 81 pages of this report which includes dating etiquette, deal breakers, expectations, and a host of other information.

Out of 2,600 singles from 18 to 59 years of age, over 80% believe that engaging in any sort of sexual activity with someone outside of a committed relationship is considered as unfaithfulness.  This includes flirting and texting suggestive messages and pictures.  But, even though fidelity is given lip service, about 25% would consider marrying someone who has been unfaithful to them, with a slight % increase of those who admit to having been unfaithful in a relationship.  So, faithfulness is important, but not so important that it is a limiting boundary in many lives. In the scale of faithfulness and temptation to infidelity, the temptation often proves more appealing – of greater value – more important – irresistible.

The Christian Post article says that 63% of the Christians surveyed indicated that they would have sex before marriage.  This is not terribly surprising to us given the world we live in today.  Sexual messages smack us in the face in advertising, movies, and online opportunities.  We all know folks who choose to live together outside of the marriage commitment, and sometimes children are also in the picture.  And, we are not surprised.

Some who say they have given their lives to Jesus Christ and are committed to honor and glorify Him are ones who admit they are sexually active outside of marriage.

What has happened to disconnect these folks from honest and straight-forward teaching on moral conduct and holy living?  Is this just a reaction to strict and discompassionate lectures of the past?  Is it just a reaction to the common command, “No sex before marriage,” with no solid and honest help to deal with a normal strong desire built into us by the God Who created sex and everything else?

What has happened to honest exploration of Scriptures such as I Corinthians 6:12-19:

  •      * I can do anything – but everything is not beneficial.  I have choice!
  •      * God created me to glorify Him in what I choose to do.
  •      * Immorality – sexual practice outside of its intended parameters – is harmful to the body.
  •      * Therefore – choose not to harm your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit – in this way.

A much more pressing issue is, the Church has said “don’t” for centuries.  But the question of “why” has not been answered adequately in order to build a good enough reason into single hearts to comply.

Just as “because I say so” is not necessarily a convincing statement to a defiant child, “because God says so” is not necessarily convincing to a person whose hormones are screaming for release.

Consider this quote from The Christian Post article;

“. . . nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct.  It is the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually.  It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46, NIV)  There is a disconnect between identity and activity.”

Well, my brain is off and running on this topic!  I hope this has spurred some new thinking for you.  Your comments most welcomed!

Polyfidelity??? Polymonogamy????? Polybaloney!!!!!!!

question many directionsSome time ago I watched a Dr. Phil show in which a married man loudly and boldly defended his activity with a mistress using a word, polyfidelity.  His wife of 19 years sat mostly in silence while her husband declared his love for her – and for the other woman.  He ignored the pain in his wife’s eyes which was evident to all who were watching.  He was convinced that his “faithfulness” to both these women would last a lifetime.  Dr. Phil’s marvelous comment was something to the effect of, “I have another word for polyfidelity.  It’s called cheating!”  Score one for Dr. Phil.♥

Now, polymonogamy is another oxymoronic term which has been around for several years.  Online definitions are a bit hazy.  It seems to describe someone who is convinced he/she can have multiple sexual relationships with more than one person and say they are monogamous since their attention is completely on whomever they are with at the time.  Another thought I find is that while one person in a marriage is faithful to their spouse, the other wants to have multiple partners.  The oxymoron part comes out with the prefixes, “poly” and “mono.”  “Poly” means many; “mono” means one.

Let’s see what Webster Dictionary says about fidelity, monogamy – and baloney:

  •        * Fidelity:  Adherence with faithfulness to the marriage covenant.
  •        * Monogamy:  Marriage with but one person at the same time.
  •        * Baloney:  Nonsense; foolishness.

As our society gets increasingly defiant about acting within the confines of faithfulness, we see multiplied increase of terrible body, soul, and spirit injury.  No matter how much people talk about freedom in all areas of morality, we see the same people being terribly wounded in the process.  I believe it is because in their heart of hearts, they still see value in faithfulness to one spouse.

Now, where does singleness come into this?  Let’s face it.  The general opinion and action is that singles can be as sexually active as they want with little thought to the consequences because there is no commitment – covenant – in short-term relationships.  While we see some semblance of commitment when an unmarried couple chooses to live together for a longer period of time, the avenue of escape remains if it doesn’t work out.  It’s still a tough breakiup, but there are no particular legal ramifications – unless there are children.  In that case, many of the consequences fall upon the little ones’ shoulders.

Living out life as a single Christian who practices self-control in a whole host of things is not an easy stance.  Foolishness abounds.  Temptations abound.

But God’s promises abound as well!

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to emphasize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)

I Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

  • *  Faithfulness as a single person is the best preparation for faithfulness in marriage.
  • *  If unmarried, there is still faithfulness to God and to one’s own person.
  • *  This does not diminish fulfilling relationships with men and women which include far more than physical intimacy.
  • *  Setting appropriate boundaries in all areas of life is important – for unmarried and married alike.

So, stand firm, my friends, whatever your life holds!  God is in charge!

♥  drphil.com – “Twisted Love”