Category: celibacy

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?

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.”

 

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! 🙂

“God won’t give me more than I can handle.” – – – Oh, really?

aaahHas anyone ever said that to you when hard times come into your life?  My guess is your answer is a resounding “yes.”  Just over the past few months I’ve heard it said to – and by – folks going through terrible health issues, financial problems, grief, or relationship fractures.  It is meant to encourage – I guess – but it implies that if we just try hard enough and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, we’ll get through whatever, because God thinks we are up to the task of “handling it.”

Well, guess what!  God knows we are NOT up to the task of handling a great many things – and we know it, too, don’t we?  The daily news is full of stories of people who yield to unbearable situations:

  •     **  Depression abounds, and some resort to suicide.
  •     **  Finances disappear, and some resort to crime.
  •     **  Relationships falter, and some resort to unfaithfulness.
  •     **  Catastrophic illness occurs, and some resort to soul-killing resignation and bitterness.
  •     **  Murder happens, and some resort to destructive revenge.

So, where in the world did this phrase come from?  Is it really in the Bible, which would make it true?  The internet has a number of articles and sermons which affirm this phrase as actually coming from the Bible.  Well, it doesn’t!  It just sort of sprang up as a re-combination of the words from this verse:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  (I Corinthians 10:13 – NKJV)

Let’s face it.  When unbearable temptation comes upon me, God does not promise that my unbearable circumstance will change.  He does promise to always make it possible for me to respond to it in constructive fashion.

This faulty phrase also blatantly states that it is God who actually gives me the unbearable stuff.  Can we really think that God looks at “Joe” or “Sue” and decides to put incurable cancer into their bodies because “they can handle it?”  Does He decide that a percentage of folks can “handle” desperate poverty, so He makes that happen?  Does He decide that “Mary” can “handle” long-term singleness, so . . . well, you get the point.

You knew I had to apply this to singleness, didn’t you?

Some think that protracted singleness is unfair and just too heavy a burden to bear and they will take any way to make marriage happen.  Sometimes that works out well, sometimes not.  Some come to see God as One who withholds and not One who provides.  OK – I plead guilty to having these thoughts at times as I have committed to live life according to Scriptural principles – and have always been single.

  1.  Doing life alone is too heavy to bear!
  2.  Living a celibate life before marriage is unfair and just too heavy to bear!
  3.  God doesn’t care about my feelings, and that is indeed too heavy to bear!

Living with these three elements in the context of a Jesus-follower-life can be difficult.  But, I have experienced the truth of God’s provision in the midst of the varied mix of unanswered desires and joy-filled living.

  •     **  There is promise of God’s always being with me!
    • Hebrews 13:5 . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (NIV)
  •     **  Jesus shares every aspect of my life – heavy and light!
    • Matthew 28:28-29     Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (NIV)
  •     **  He considers all my feelings to the depths!
    • I Peter 5:7   Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  (NLT)

So, my dear friends – unmarried and married:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  (Proverbs 3:5-6  NLT)

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!

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.”

Casual glance, casual dress, and, oh yes, casual sex. What???

I’m back to my fave book, the dictionary, for a summary of the word “casual.”

  1. Happening or coming to pass without design.
  2. Happening without being foreseen or expected.
  3. Relaxed and unconcerned.
  4. Careless or offhand.
  5. Occurring by chance.
  6. Seeming to be indifferent to what is happening.

OK.  That’s plenty of definition which I believe makes the phrase, “casual sex” an unfortunate oxymoron – two words which aren’t compatible, like “definite maybe.”  In fact, if you search online for “oxymoron casual sex” you’ll find a lot of articles secular and faith-based which discuss this for what it is:  a twisted view of something precious.

Now, I’m all for good communication about all aspects of life.  From what I read, most parents find it uncomfortable to have “the talk” with their kids.  In fact, if you are brave, and you want to laugh uncontrollably, go to monastery.com and read this hilarious response to her kids’ questions.  Just a note:  while she draws some spiritual ideas in her blog which i do not hold, “Sex is tricky” has got to be one of the funniest articles of the year.  Now, my guess is that most of us did not gain this intellectual knowledge in quite the same manner or intensity.

What in the world happens to us?  Well, when we are babies and little tots, people are really protective of us – of every part of us.  Cute clothes cover parts of our anatomy considered precious and private.  Little kids are taught not to just disrobe anywhere they please.  We teach value and respect for the body, especially because the mature mid-body areas have the capability of bringing forth new life.  Think about that a bit.  Not only is pleasure involved, but the possibility of bringing forth new life is an incredible gift – not to be taken lightly.

Shouldn’t we have a large measure of awe and respect for something so powerful?

So, what in the world happens?  Where, here are a few things:

Little children are thrust into a sexualized world at earlier and earlier ages through things like beauty pageants where they wear makeup, fake teeth, hair extensions, and are taught to move provocatively.  Little children, especially girls, may see this on TV and learn at a very early age that the way they look is most important.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love to see little girls and boys in dress-up clothes.  But, forcing them to act in sexualized adult ways is not cute.

How is it that school children in younger and younger grades are seemingly compelled to experiment sexually with one another?  What has happened to the respect for all parts of our anatomy which should have carried over from baby and toddler days?  How it is that so many folks from high school on up make intimacy so commonplace?  How did baring their bodies to each other become so commonplace?

TV and the Internet have certainly carved deep paths into minds of all ages, giving access to a whole bunch of input for people who may not have anyplace to put it.  Along with that, many of us do not get compelling teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for those who make the covenant of marriage with one another.  We are not told that we are precious and are not meant to give ourselves away with reckless imitations of intimacy.

People want to be important to themselves and others.  They want to feel good.  No one denies that sexual intimacy is desirable – it feels good.  But, even the best things are often made better by restraint.  Eating a piece of dark chocolate cake is enjoyable.  Eating the whole cake is not.

The Message puts it so well in 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.

(Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message.)

A Bunch of Tiny Tadpoles

tadpolesI like to think that I saved the common toad from extinction – well, at least one family line.  When I was about 10 years old, a big rain storm left big puddles all over the barnyard.  I noticed that one puddle was alive with all sorts of little tadpoles.  When the puddles began to dry up in the sun, I couldn’t let my babies dry up, too.  Every day after school, I would carry pails of water to that puddle, and loved watching the little creatures swim around in a bigger and bigger pondlet.  I would scoop them up in my cupped hands, and feel them tickling my palms as they swam around.  They were all heads and tails, big eyes and no mouth, and well – cute.  Then, one day I noticed that little legs started to stick out and their swimming became more energetic.  Their little heads started to change shape, and suddenly they had little mouths.  I kept carrying water to that puddle until every tiny tadpole had turned into a little toad and bounced its way into an adventurous life.  I didn’t tell my parents about my “children.”  When I was in college, I remember telling my mother about them.  She said my dad had asked her if she knew why all the puddles were drying up, but that one just seemed to get bigger and bigger.  She had seen me trudge across the yard with pails of water and looked at the puddle while I was at school, discovering it teeming with life.

Remembering those little toads always makes me smile.  And, of course, I have to figure out some way to connect them to real life, right?

FIRST, Momma and Daddy Toads are absent parents.  They do their thing and Momma lays hundreds of eggs and hops off to find another Daddy and repeat the process.

SECOND, little toadlets have to figure out how to do life all by themselves.

THIRD, No one teaches them how to face the challenges of life.

Makes you glad you’re not a toad, doesn’t it?

FIRST, for most of us, parents were not totally absent.  We can all think of things we wish our parents had done better.  But I have come to realize a very important thing.  Parents do the very best they know how to do – the very best they can – given their own growing-up baggage.  For the most part, they take good care of their kids.

SECOND, everyone wants to help cute little kids do things.  Like walk.  I’m told that when I was first toddling around, I would take hold of a piece of paper, and walk confidently across the room.  Take that piece of paper away, and I would fall.  Somewhere along the line, I got the walking thing down.  I loved school most of the time.  I went to a little country school for grades 1-8, and had the same teacher for 7 years.  I didn’t know I was 2 years behind in math and science until Mrs. Lawson came for grade 8.  I didn’t like it at the time, but came to appreciate her firm insistence which helped me in high school and gave good lessons for tackling college – and life.

THIRD, challenges of life.  The biggest challenge I have faced is being a singleton in a world which emphasizes coupledom – even in the animal and plant world.  Nothing multiplies without an opposite-other.  Of course, we don’t see warm hugs flower to flower or tree to tree.  But, without cross pollination, they would not survive.  Some animals mate for life while others don’t give a darn except for a few moments of intense physical activity.  But, the two-by-two thing is always before us.  Most people find their opposite-other fairly early in life.  However, for those who do not, the road gets increasingly rocky and full of forks in the way.

As a Christian single, I’m puzzled as to why there is not a well-used method of training us how to DO “single.”

It seems that the longer a person is single, the fewer the instructions on how to go about it well.  Well-worn phrases such as “sex is only meant to be exercised in marriage,” and “just don’t,” while true, have not been well thought-out by churches as to meanings which make sense to a waiting person.  It certainly doesn’t help that the easy access to all sorts of sexual materials and opportunities grow daily.  But, is this a new thing?

I ran across a verse recently in Ezekiel which shows that not only is it NOT a new thing, but that our society’s fixation on excess sexual acts is not a surprise to God!  Ezekiel 8:12 says . . . “have you seen what the elders [leaders] of the house of Israel [or any of us for that matter. . .]  are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures?  For they say, ‘the Lord does not see us. . .'”  (English Standard Version)  [Italics mine.]

Some translations use words like “images,” or “idols,” or “at the shrine of his idol.”  Could this be a computer?  Hmmmm.

Well, this fun post is just a short step to a sequel to “One shade of black.”  Stay tuned. 🙂