One Shade of Black! ☆

By now, everyone is aware of the book and movie titled “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  I’m here to tell you that you can find out the plot, see still pictures, view the movie trailers, and read graphic quotations – and get all you need to know without reading the book or seeing the movie.  This trilogy (with “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed”) came out in 2011-12 and gained renewed energy in 2015 with the release of a movie – on Valentine’s Day – the supposed most romantic day of the year.

Reading the host of reviews is quite interesting.  One said the trilogy will “possess you, obsess you, and stay with you forever.”  Really?  Do you really want the rest of your life to be affected by someone’s imagination?  Some reviewers are saying “boring,” or “didn’t show enough detail.”  Hmmm.  I’m glad I don’t know what they have been watching.  I have yet to find a review which says, “right on,” “what an inspiring story,” or “something I’d take my children to – or want them to read.”  Unfortunately, a lot of teens and tweens are devouring this book, and even though the movie has an “R” rating, many are seeing the movie with – and without – adult permission thanks to creative ways to enter the theater, DVDs, and the internet.  If the World Wide Web is to be believed, and in this case I think it is, even the number of Christian women reading this book is astounding.  Sad commentary.

Now, sex is a good thing.  In its simplest form, it is what differentiates us as men and women.  It’s a big factor in what attracts us to one another.  It is one of the most intimate forms of relationship which can be experienced.  God created it to be all these things.  AND He put it into the context limited to a man and his wife.  (NIV) Genesis 2:24-25:  “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The human anatomy has pretty much remained the same since the beginning.  We know what we look like.  We’re taught from the earliest age that certain parts of the body deserve the dignity and respect which keeps them protected and covered.  Why?  Because they have the ability to create new life – let alone create intense feelings.  Let’s face it.  Other parts of the body simply do not have that incredible function.

What in the world has happened to bring such focus to areas which are worthy of privacy?  Why are we not ashamed?  We all agree that violation of private areas of a child is wrong.  So, when is a person not a child anymore?  Why are younger and younger children experimenting with one another – and where do they get their ideas?  How is it that teenage sex is becoming a normal thing?  A lot of teens might pause if they think, “what if Grandma was watching me right now?”  But, what if Grandma is preoccupied with reading books like “Fifty Shades?”  If we accept everything we see on TV and movies, why do we agree that rape is wrong?  I could ask a lot more questions, but you get the gist.

Well, the answer to “what in the world has happened” is that the enemy of our souls, the Devil, has taken something God meant for good and has made it into a twisted tool for over-satisfying imaginations and appetites.  Purposefully inflicting pain on someone you love, especially during a time which is meant to express deep affection, is not an expression of the husband loving his wife mentioned in Ephesians 6:28.  We agree that folks who hurt themselves and others need help!  It is simply not the way it is supposed to be!

We all like stories.  I find mysteries especially riveting – the ones which do not describe or show gore in disgusting and violent ways, that is.  I like a good love story, too.  I do find, however, that personally I must limit my reading or watching movie love stories, because they always end with boy getting girl and vice versa.  While that is sweet, it is not realistic, and even the most G-rated movie can tend to feed my thoughts with growing unfulfilled yearnings – because in real life, boy does not always get the girl and vice versa!

One thing “Fifty Shades” shouts loud and clear:

“Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstance.”

This is a quote from an excellent article written by Mariam Grossman, MD about the destructive effects of “Fifty Shades of Grey” which deserves our attention.

Well, I’m sure this will sequel itself into another post. 🙂

 

 

Where did the river go? ☆

useless bridge*Take a good long look at this picture and it will come to your attention that something is amiss.  There is a river and there is a bridge.  But, one or the other is in the wrong place.

This is the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras.  It is a well-designed and fully-functional bridge built in the 1930s.  But in 1998 Hurricane Mitch dumped so much rain on the area in just a few days that the deluge of water carved a new channel for the river around the bridge.  It now sits on dry ground.  It is a perfectly designed bridge that has no purpose anymore because the river moved.

I’ve pondered this picture a lot this week because it seems to say a good deal about how life often happens.  People are really good at having and following dreams and goals.  And, that’s not a bad thing.  Children usually have an answer to what they want to do when they grow up.  My guess is, though, that most folks do not end up doing what they thought they would do as a child – or perhaps even as an adult.

The river called “single life.”

  • * Sometimes our strongest dreams do not materialize because of circumstances totally out of our control.
  • * When we are single, and career dreams disintegrate, we may not have the opportunity (perhaps luxury) to be employed in our chosen profession because there is no one sharing the financial responsibilities and we must simply work to pay the bills.
  • * Having a deep relationship with someone, especially one which might lead to marriage, is not something we control by ourselves.  It takes two who agree.
  • * There is often a fine line between being able to do for ourselves and being too independent – too cut off from anyone who can walk alongside us to help us sort out daily living.
  • * Some single folks revel in the independence of financial and time flexibility.  Others struggle with not having someone to work out hard details of large decisions, and find their time is not particularly flexible because there is no one to share day-to-day responsibilities.
  • * There are griefs to be borne alone in every segment of singleness:  :those who lose a spouse to death; those who lose a spouse to divorce; those who must be single parents; those who never marry.
  • * Often our married friends just do not get it – not because they do not care, but because their life focus has totally shifted.  Personally, I can be very happy for friends who marry and have children, while realizing that our friendship will be harder to maintain – and maintaining it is usually up to me.
  • * Sometimes our married friends express fear to us because they cannot imagine how they would manage if they were alone.  We are a constant reminder of aloneness.

For everyone, the river shifts its course when crises hits.  Catastrophic illness, job loss, and broken relationships all carve new river paths.  Good things carve new paths, too.  New job opportunities, financial blessing, and new rewarding relationships also make our life-river strain at its original path.

The bridge called “single life.”

I find identifying the stranded bridge to be a bit harder than recognizing the nuances of life.  (Now, these nuances have no connection with “50 Shares of Grey.”  That’s a whole different post.)

For many of us – me included – the land-locked bridge may have a name like:  “Fellowship of the Ring.”  There is a beautiful partnership signified by a wedding ring, and for years I have been one outside looking through the clubhouse window yearning to be a part of that fellowship.

While this is a God-given desire, it is not a God-promised desire.

Whether I see it, think it, feel it, or not, it is a “working together for good” because I am called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

It has everything to do with life-long hopes and dreams and a deeper walk with a loving yet firm Heavenly Father Whose love exceeds our imaginations.  Over the course of this blog, I’ve expressed continuing desire for close relationship and deep conversation with those whom I can cherish and treasure AND who cherish and treasure me.  But, I have trudged over this particular bridge for many years, and have finally come to see that it doesn’t serve a very useful purpose.

I honestly long for the kind of intimacy the Psalmists had with God.  They cried; they hollered; they raged; they praised; they sang; they loved.  They met God in the trenches and on the mountain tops.

And you know what?  God met them there every time!

That’s the kind of intimacy which overshadows every attempt we make to find the closeness we crave.

I’m discovering that God is not so interested in a bridge over my life river as He is walking through the life river with me.  Now, that’s what I call adventure!

Singles and Church – are they compatible? ☆

jigsaw puzzleThere are many online articles about the small number of singles in churches, the even smaller number of singles in church leadership positions, and explanations of why singles do not come to church.  Many churches see the need for singles ministry, but are puzzled as to how to begin and maintain.  Well, I guess it’s time for me to weigh in on some issues as I see them repeated online.

  1. The many differing aspects of singleness have similar, but unique, needs.
  2. Singles get lumped into “one size fits all” regardless of age and reason for their singleness.
  3. Family, family, family.
  4. Marriage is celebrated, singleness is not
  5. Many questions simply do not have answers, and may be trivialized.

“Single” is a simple designation for someone who does not have a spouse.  There are church ministries up through high school, and in some cases, college.  Where does the post-high school or college person, who is now called “single,” fit?  Suddenly they are faced with questions about independence as well as the realization that they are now “single.”  Where do they go?  The many categories of singlehood have the “single” thing in common, but physically, emotionally, mentally, and certainly age-wise, they may be worlds apart.  One thing is common:  Churches do not know what to do with them – with us – with me.

Categories as I see them:

  • *  Single but in a relationship; or single but not in a relationship.
  • *  Widowed – death of a spouse.
  • *  Divorced – separation from a spouse.
  • *  Single with children, whether widowed or divorced.
  • *  Never-married.

There is simply not a “one size fits all” way to deal with singleness.  While every person on the planet needs relationship to thrive, thoughtful consideration has a place in dealing with widely varied needs and desires.  Singles are thrown together with the assumption they will “bond” simply because they are single.  The ages may span 20s to 80s with the host of life-stages in between.  Many singles simply do not see a compelling reason to be in a church which does not speak to their own life.

Churches develop grief classes for those who have lost a spouse, and divorce recovery groups as more and more Christians walk that very difficult road.  The need arises for single parents to talk together so they can see they are not the only ones in that situation.  Something else arises which makes it uncomfortable for some widowed, divorced, and single parents to come to church, particularly if they were part of a former couple in the church.  They may no longer feel the acceptance they felt as a couple.  Where couples may have exchanged dinner invitations, it feels awkward to invite just one.  In divorce, one or both have decided not to attend any more because it is just too uncomfortable.

Many churches will not recognize that their important emphasis on family makes it difficult for some onesomes to fit in.  Of course, young families and children are necessary for the future of the church.  Too often, though, conversation is limited to children or family life, making some singles feel as if they are sort of pasted onto someone else’s family and not an important unit on their own.

Marriage is celebrated.  Singleness is not.  Now, these days, many single couples decide to live together and even have children outside of marriage.  The widespread practice has changed the complexion of the church as parents struggle because what they believed to be right is not followed by their children.  Celibacy outside of marriage is considered impossible and unnecessary – and even laughable.  Marriage sermon series abound, often without the realization that perhaps more than half of their congregation is in one of the single categories – and they are aching to be recognized with compassion and understanding.

Some questions are able to be handled in loving ways.  Who knows if/when I get home at night?  Who is there to talk to when I really need to talk?  I love Bible study.  Where can I find someone to go deeper with?  The answers to these and others like them all hinge around fellowship and relationship with others.

Other questions are not answered so easily, or they may be trivialized.  What do I do with the God-given desire for physical, emotional, and mental intimacy with another person – a spouse?  How do I handle desire for sexual contact?  Who mentors me in self-discipline to practice celibacy?  How can the desire for deep heartfelt conversation with a spouse be filled?  Apart from the Song of Solomon, romance is not particularly addressed in scripture.  But, it’s enough to bring up the question – Who chooses and cherishes and romances me?

Phew!  Now it is definitely time for a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie!  I know this post is longer than usual.

I hope it has sparked some thinking – and I really want to know what you think about you and church.

 

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