Category: Cherished

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  Our culture sees it as outdated and jaded in its content.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.

 

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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A pastor apologizes to singles

wait hereAs I’ve spent time fleshing out several ideas for posts here, I kept running across this May 2015 online apology from “the church” to “singles.”  Author John Pavlovitz makes some good points worth considering, which I’ve sort of combined and summarized.  My comments are in purple – my fave color.

  1. Sometimes, unintentional segregation happens with the understandable attention given to marriage and family in sermons, programs, and activities.  The majority of pastors and ministry leaders are married folk.  I have often contended that when people marry, something happens in their brain to wipe out their memory of being single. 🙂
  2. Sometimes deep needs and unique challenges are overlooked in program planning.  Singleness covers a very wide range of ages and life stages making this admittedly difficult!
  3. Sometimes singleness is seen as an affliction to be cured or a problem to be solved.  It is neither.  While marriage is desired – and attained – by most, it cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the soul.  It’s important for married and unmarried to share their challenges without fear of judgment or lecture.
  4. Sometimes singles are seen as halves waiting to find their other half, biding time until the right half shows up.  Until then, they may be subtly treated as “less than” in social and leadership situations.
  5. Sometimes singles are given incomplete and unsatisfying advice,  Singleness is not something like adolescence.  You don’t grow out of it.  Your status may change, but it is not simply a matter of maturity or immaturity.

Now, I appreciate this apology, and I find others springing up across the internet.

BUT, I have yet to see substantive articles addressing THESE main areas:

  1. Churches have marriage sermon series and classes; how about the same energy for successful singleness?
  2. How can the church address celibacy as a blessing for the unmarried which provides attractive, compelling – and attainable – reasons to reserve intimacy for such time as they are married.  Churches are good at admonition; not so good at encouragement – that is, if it is addressed at all.
  3. How can the church help singles celebrate their age and stage?  Of course, the range is wide and diverse!
  4. How can the church better address the culture of casual sex and living together without the commitment of marriage as less than God’s intent.  “Just don’t” is not enough!

Now, I understand that I am in a minority of my peers, although it is hard to say since as an older, never-married onesome, people like me have simply faded out of church attendance at all.  There are many who are widowed or divorced and far fewer who live in faithful protracted singleness who attend.

Above all, the most important thing I can ask of my church is to help me become transformed in my spiritual walk.  Unmarried or married – God tends to our hearts one-on-one without looking at our ring finger.

 Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (The Message)

Personally, I do consider my wonderful church to be my family.  At the same time, I experience a very real loss at not having a husband and family to enjoy ministry and grow older with, within this wonderful church family I need people to hear and understand that!

How about you?  Let me read your comments!

Little Big Things – another oxymoron. :)

I’ve been having “Kumbaya my Lord” flashbacks to church camp this week.

camp merrillThe original Camp Moses Merrill in Nebraska was located near the little town of Fullerton, and I remember several weeks spent there as a kid and then as a camp counselor.  It offered great places to hike, with the most daring being “Lover’s Leap” which overlooked the Cedar River and held a lot of American Indian and pioneer folklore.

While I remember evening bonfires with roasted hot dogs and s’mores, one memory stands out for the impact it had on my life for many years.

I was a 13 year-old high school freshman, and had enjoyed a week of Bible studies, hiking, crafts, and looking for arrow heads.  The highlight of these weeks was a Saturday night “banquet” such as one could have in a rather rustic building.  The girls wore dresses and the guys wore nice shirts, and the food served was a step above what we had gotten all week.  Often we ate by candlelight, and then had a special service in the chapel where we were challenged to make Jesus the Lord of our lives.

Now, of course, as young teenagers, we were interested in finding dates for this special meal.  There was a boy I really liked in many of the Bible studies and hiking groups, etc., and I dreamed he would ask me to the banquet.  And, then it happened!  I was ecstatic!  But then, as I turned a corner around the snack shack, I ran into a group of laughing boys – including my Prince Charming.  It seems that they were having a little contest to see who could invite the biggest number of “ugly girls” to the banquet – who would fall for the invitation, that is.

I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach.  Ugly girl?  Of course, no boy materialized on banquet night.  I still remember the black and white dress I wore.  I remember curling my blond hair and putting on my happy face and going to a meal which tasted like sawdust.  I let those words, “ugly girl,” haunt my thoughts for way too many years.  My guess is that many of you reading this may have similar little-big stories?

Fast forward a bunch of years – to 2015.

I was privileged to be accompanist for 28 years for The Greeley Chorale, an auditioned choral group which has gained fame with worldwide travels by singing in:

  • *  The American Pavilion on July 4th at the 1988 World’s Fair in Brisbane, Australia.
  • *  The jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
  • *  The Mozart Requiem in the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria and the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford, England.
  • *  Vespers services in St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy.
  • *  The huge outdoor amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey – where the Apostle Paul preached a number of times.

Well – on to my point before I get totally lost in Memory Lane!

Being involved with Chorale brought healing in many, many ways as a musician/pianist and as a person loved by caring friends.  Week after week brought heartwarming rehearsals filled with music which challenged me as a pianist and often gave rise to personal worship in my heart – even during the stop and start nature of rehearsals.  Great choral music of all types was in our repertoire from show tunes to opera to American music to spirituals to large sacred works.

While I retired from that accompanist position several years back, they asked me to accompany two numbers in May 2015 to help celebrate Chorale’s 50-year anniversary.  What a privilege it was to sit before “my people” again to play Randall Thompson’s Last Words of David, and Rene Claussen’s At the Name of Jesus.

After lots of applause and lots of hugs, I was thoughtfully tiny-stepping my way in heels through a snow storm to my car.  Yes, it was snowing even though it was Mother’s Day weekend!  But, I didn’t mind because the warm glow in my heart far outshone the freezing night.

And then it happened!  A gentlemen came alongside me, took my arm, and said, “Let me escort you to your car.”  We chit-chatted our way through a couple blocks, and he made me sit inside while he brushed an amazing array of snowflakes off my car, and then left with a friendly “Good night.”  I had never seen him before, and will most likely never see him again.  But, that one simple kindness made me feel beautiful!

A marvelous example of a little big thing which will always make me smile!

I think it is God who brought the long-ago camp incident to my mind as I drove home, just to let me know that it has no power over my thoughts any more!

Colossians 3:12  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (NIV)

♥ The original Camp Merrill is now the Nebraska Broken Arrow Wilderness.

Chosen and cherished . . . are you?

Remember times on the playground when you waited on tiptoes to be chosen for a team?  Since Ifriends‘ve always been a bit sports-challenged, I was generally one of the left-overs.  I don’t remember being particularly upset about it.  It was just the way it was.  Other memories of being chosen for a desired job, or a scholarship, or a nice dinner out or other special occasion, bring a smile to my face, because I cared very much.

.I have never been chosen by anyone as a life partner, though – a husband. (Wow!  Did I just write that for all to see?)  I wanted to choose someone a number of years ago thinking we were on the same page – but he didn’t choose back.  Ouch!  That crippled my soul for a long time as I fell into the trap of “What’s wrong with me?”  It took years for God to rescue me out of that “slimy pit,” “to set my feet on a rock,” and “put a new song in my mouth.”  (Psalms 40:1-3)

Webster says of the word “cherish:”  deeply loved and valued; to treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to protect; to hold dear.  That raises a couple massive questions.

“Who do I get to cherish?” and “Who cherishes ME?”

Being cherished, in my single experience, is spending time with another in deep conversation which speaks soul to soul.  It includes things like soft touches on the arm or shoulder as you walk by someone in a group of people.  It includes hugs and friendly hand holds and warm eyes.  It includes someone you love saying your name in a caring manner.

It also includes limits when the other person is married.  “Emotional mistress” is never a term I want to apply to myself!

 In 2001, one of my brothers was very ill with liver failure.  Our every-third-year family reunion was in June, and we all gathered at another brother’s home in Iowa.  Dear Wally and my sis-in-law drove from Florida, and even though he ended up in a couple of hospitals on the way, his smiling face is etched in my mind as he helped spread joy and laughter at being together.  Even though hugging and calling each other endearing names was not something my family particularly did as I was growing up, that reunion was full of both.

In July, 2001, I traveled to China as accompanist for a community chorale, singing the Mozart Requiem and a number of American songs for very responsive and friendly audiences in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai.  When I returned home, one of my first calls was to my brother who was in a Florida hospital waiting for a liver transplant.  I told Wally I loved him, and his instant words, “Thank you, sweetheart,” are as clear in my mind now as they were then.  Those words are a cherished and much treasured memory for the rest of my life as I imagine his smile in heaven now..

Of course, since my focus here in this blog is as a Christian single, I choose to go to Scripture to know the ultimate answer of Who cherishes and chooses me.

  •   * God chose us before the foundation of the earth to bless and glorify His name.  (Ephesians 1:4)
  •   * God lets His chosen ones live with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [cherishing] for one another.  (Colossians 3:12)
  •   * God equips His chosen ones to work in faith, labor in love, and stand firm in hope.  (I Thessalonians 1:3)
  •   * The clearest earthly expression of choosing and cherishing is meant to be in marriage.
  •   * Marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ future relationship with His chosen, the Church.  (Ephesians 5:25-33)
  •   * God’s love is everlasting and His choice is unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

I confess, however, that sometimes the ultimate answer doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the “I want someone with skin on” itch.  How about you?  .