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.

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? 🙂

 

 

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

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?

Covenant is for Singles, too (Part 3) ☆

Covenant is for Singles, too!

A marriage covenant is a public pronouncement of a couple’s honor and faithfulness to one another and to God.  Ideally, this involves careful and thoughtful coming to terms with their sexuality, giving them new opportunity to share that area of their lives in the God-ordained boundary of marriage.  It also brings their commitment into the public arena of fellowship with fellow believers.  There is no comparable public celebration for the single, however, especially for those who live in faithful “waiting.”

For singles, advice is usually summed up in abstinence and “don’t do’s” emphasizing over and over what we cannot have and still be pleasing to God.  Unfortunately, it overstresses that “it is all up to me.”  Patience and self-control stand toe-to-toe with desires and raging hormones.  Yielding does not show the strength of temptation.  Resisting does!  The path to I Corinthians 10:13 is arduous, but can become a cherished truth.  God does provide a way out of temptation every time, period.  It brings one into partnership with God, taking conquering temptation out of the “it’s all up to me” mindset.

While abstinence centers around the individual and his decisions, the practice of celibacy centers around relationship.  It always involves another person in thought, word, or deed.  While I personally do not feel “called” by God to be single, I am called to be faithful with my thoughts, words, and acts, and remaining celibate falls under that parameter.

The practice of fidelity as a single is the best training for fidelity in marriage.  And, fidelity is precious to God whether we are unmarried or married. Grasping that the practice of celibacy is a partnership with God which can lead to a covenant as a single is a way of opening the door for God to change the heart.

While a single’s covenant is not publicly celebrated in ceremony or anniversary, it is nonetheless very precious, and is a very serious commitment.  It is quite simply recognition of God’s love and faithfulness to me and my promise to be faithful to Him in all areas of my life.  This covenant is only possible with His working out its truth in my life in the deepest part of my soul, for His good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13)

Do I have this mastered?  It is a life-long process, and I’m still on the way!

Prayer of personal covenant:  Dear God, I commit my deepest longings, desires, hopes, and dreams to You and bring them under Your covenant of faithfulness, acknowledging that I cannot be faithful to You in my own strength, but only with Your grace, mercy, and power.  I rededicate myself to You – body, soul, and spirit.  I will be honest with You about temptations and struggles, and trust You to transform my life in Jesus Christ.   Amen – so be it!

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