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?

“Nature is our greatest spiritual teacher.” Oprah Winfrey ☆

question mark 2You know who is one of the most influential spokespersons in the world today on spirituality?  Oprah Winfrey!  Read this quote from a CNN interview which shows that she definitely sees herself and her current mission as a spiritual leader.

“. . . I’m very clear about what my role is and purpose is.  This isn’t about me.  I am the messenger to deliver the message of redemption, of forgiveness, of gratitude, of evolving people to the best of themselves.  So I am on my personal journey.  My personal journey is to fulfill the highest expression of myself here as a human being here on earth.”  Hence, she is interested in fostering spirituality but not religion.  She wants people to turn inward for relevant and spiritual wholeness, not to structures, theological systems or the church.  In so many ways, we are talking about one of the most powerful spiritual leaders of our time–more influential and more powerful than almost any pastor or religious leader one can imagine.”

Now, personally I think Oprah is a very talented, confident woman.  She obviously wants to understand spiritual things.  She is articulate and intelligent.  She has a way of engaging folks to talk about what is going on in their lives and wants to help them figure out ways to grow.  She is a very generous woman who takes joy in sharing her wealth with a variety of people, especially those around the world who are the most needy.

Now, I also personally think that Oprah’s spiritual advice is most often–well–WRONG, and that those who call themselves Christians in particular need to ramp up their understanding of God’s word as it stands beside Oprah’s words!  Let’s take the title to this post.  What in the world does this statement really mean?  What “nature” are we talking about?  are we talking about birds and animals and fish?  Are we talking about beautiful scenery and the universe?  Are we talking about the nature of mankind?

And, what “spiritual” are we talking about?  Are we talking about God, or a higher being, or someone or something beyond ourselves?  Are we talking about the deep soul and spirit each of us possesses in this physical body?  Are we talking about ourselves as we look inside and ponder what, who, and why we are?

I find it interesting that Oprah will quickly say she is a Christian, but does not talk so quickly about her relationship with Jesus.  Read this description:

Winfrey said her definition of spirituality is living life with an open heart, through love, and allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life.  She said she believes there is a divine thread that connects spiritually to something greater than ourselves.  ‘My favorite Bible verse–because I am a Christian–is Acts 17:28.  It says, “In God I live and move and have my being.”‘”

Another time, she said, “Well I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity.

And another:  “Christ did not come to die on the cross but to bring Christ consciousness.”

And even another:  “And God is a feeling experience, not a believing experience.  And if your religion is a believing experience, if God for you is still about a belief, it is not truly God.”

Oprah has a great variety of friends in realms deemed spiritual.  When she attends megachurches Potter’s House in Dallas (T.D. Jakes) and Lakewood Church in Houston (Joel Osteen) she raises her hands and amens frequently..  Currently, she is close with spirituality author and speaker Eckhart Tolle, who writes and lectures about “the inner state of your consciousness” and “your essence identify.”  Oprah’s Belief TV series in 2015 explored major world religions to display that there is a deep longing inside people to find someone or something beyond themselves which will bring peace, contentment, and joy.  I watched several of this series, and did not see a whole lot of peace, contentment, and joy represented there.

Well, In Oprah’s stepping onto “Christian” turf, she’s in territory I am more familiar with.  When she makes statements like, “Christ did not come to die on the cross. . .” I can go to the Bible to find these words of Jesus when His death was getting closer.  “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No.  It was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name!”  (John 12:27-28)

There’s so much more to say–and I’m working on more posts on this subject.  On the surface, the title of this post may feel like a “deep” thought to many–and if Oprah said it, it must be true.  Right?  Hmmmmm.  I see it as a thought which can lead us down a myriad of bunny trails which hide the way to the Truth, Way, and Life who is Jesus Christ!  (John 14:6)

More scratches on the surface of this topic to come soon. 🙂

 

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? 🙂

 

 

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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Singleness – solitary confinement or solitary refinement ☆

orange and bananasSolitary confinement is considered to be the toughest, most extreme form of prison punishment.  People are put into a small hard-surfaced space for up to 23-24 hours a day, with no personal human contact.  Even their exercise time is alone.  Depending on the prison, they may have very limited opportunity for any stimulating experiences, TV, radio, education, hobbies, and reading.  The length of time may be days, weeks, months, even years.  Research shows that if a person was not mentally compromised before this experience, they will almost surely be, following lengthy isolation which was thrust upon them.

So, how does this relate to singleness?  Well, when a person is single for a lengthy part of his/her life, it can sometimes feel as though they have been put into a box labeled “alone.”  And, many of them simply did not “choose” this solitary circumstance.  It may feel as if it is a room which becomes smaller and more confining the older they get.

God addresses the solitary part right away in Genesis 2:18 after He had made a huge variety of animals and birds and a man who was given the incredible job of naming all these creatures.  How interesting must that have been?  But, when all was said and done, God saw that it was “not good that the man was alone.”  Now, given that He did go on to provide Eve for Adam – you know the rib story – over the years many have taken that verse to mean that it is not good for man to be unmarried.  But, the meaning is far wider than that.  No one can survive in a healthy manner totally and always alone.

Being isolated and alone for long periods of time changes who you are!

Unfortunately, many singles go through a period where they make the choice to exaggerate their aloneness by removing themselves from places where they feel their singleness is exaggerated.  And, unfortunately many onesomes feel that church is a place where this happens.  When marriage is held up as the “normal way to live,” they may wonder, “what about me?”  Now, I love seeing little folks running, laughing and playing, and love seeing moms and dads with their growing families.  I love seeing little glances couples give one another, and seeing them hold hands as they stand for prayer or singing or scripture reading during worship services.  In fact, for me, it is often just those simple things which warm my heart with joy – and which bring tears at the same time.  For some singles, going to church alone is simply too hard, and so they find other things to do with their Sundays.  In short, many isolate themselves from anything which is uncomfortable when it comes to relationships.

Most folks think of singleness as being a period of waiting – waiting for the next romantic relationship, waiting for that special person to marry, who also wants to marry you.  It is also considered preparation time for marriage.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with that.  However, I can tell you that “waiting” has a whole different feel when you are 20 or 30 than at 50 or 60 and beyond.  The Apostle Paul and I would have an animated conversation about a couple verses in I Corinthians 7.

Paul:  (NIV) 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.  (verses 8-9)

Me:  I agree.  But I need more details.  Is there some sort of “marriage pool” for eligibles?  You make it sound so easy.

Paul:

Me:  Uh, I can’t hear you.  I’m burning here.  (Repeat this last exchange over and over until you realize Paul doesn’t have an answer for you.)

 Let’s face it.  Just deciding by yourself that you will marry is not enough.  Wanting, desiring, longing, wishing, hoping, and even praying are not enough.  Going to singles activities, joining a singles group, going on-line to meet others who want relationship, and making yourself as attractive as possible, may not be enough either.  After a number of years, energy may wane.  And, let’s also face it.  It takes two to choose one another!

For many, it feels like solitary confinement which isolates, separates, and disconnects.

So, what is the alternative?  Solitary refinement!

Solitary refinement integrates, joins together, and connects, as well as frees from entangling and hindering things – “sin” is what Hebrews 12:1 calls it.  And I John 5:17 expands on it by calling it any un-right-ness.  Solitary refinement focuses on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – otherwise known as fruit of the Spirit.  Solitary refinement even rejoices when waiting is interminable, when broken relationship brings deep heartache, when God brings spiritual surgery using suffering as a scalpel.  “Consider it pure joy” is the way James 1:2 says it.  Faith-trials and testing bring perseverance, maturity, and completeness.

Solitary refinement brings freedom to serve the Lord in both body and spirit, bringing undivided fidelity to Him.  Note how strongly Young’s Literal Translation says it:  I Corinthians 7:35  “And this for your own profit I say, not that I may cast a noose upon you, but for the seemliness and devotedness to the Lord, undistractedly.

In other words, God through Paul is telling us that He does not want to confine us, but to refine us!

For more thoughts on I Corinthians 7, go back to the very first posts in this blog.

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.

Would you marry someone at first sight? ☆

question mark 2A door opened and a bride began her walk down the aisle.  The thing which stopped my channel surfing and glued my eyes to the TV screen was that after she looked at the groom, her eyes teared up – and her face looked incredibly distressed.  This was not a movie drama.  This was a very real wedding ceremony which is part of an “extreme social experiment” called “Married at First Sight,” a very popular show which began in Denmark which has found its way across the globe to us.  We learn in voiceovers that this bride was not in any way, shape, or form, attracted to the person she saw standing at the altar.  Not a good way to start any marriage, I’d say.

Read this description:  “Married at First Sight” is an extreme social experiment that follows six brave singles yearning for a life-long partnership as they agree to a provocative proposal:  getting legally married to a complete stranger the moment they first meet. . . The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle and see each other face-to-face, for the first time, at the altar.  Over the course of several weeks, episodes capture each couple’s journey as they go from wedding, to honeymoon, to early nesting, to the daily struggle of working on their marriage.  After several weeks together, each couple must make a decision:  do they remain together or decide to divorce?”

Of this A&E channel show, Heidi Stephens for The Chicago Tribune writes (June 3,:2014):  “I love this idea.  Not because it will lead to three beautiful, blissful unions.  It won’t, obviously.  But because it forces us to reckon with, once again, our complete and utter hypocrisy about marriage.

I have to agree with that last statement.  We live in a time when marriage is still desired – and yet shunned – because it is considered by some to be old-fashioned, out-of-date, and unnecessary.  Lip-service is given to fidelity, and yet too often, common practice is anything but faithful.  Books, TV, and movie themes so often center on someone’s affair while attempting to keep a marriage “intact.”  Internet offers 24/7 access to whatever the mind can imagine.  Yet, so many who are addicted to spending time on explicit sites are often the ones we would least expect, and they would be embarrassed if it was known.  Hypocrisy ruins a lot of lives!

Thousands of men and women signed up to be considered for “Married at First Sight.”  Many have tried over and over to find “the one,” their “soul mate.”  They have tried online dating sites and some may have met a variety of possibilities; some have not.  Biological clocks are ticking and years are passing, and that special person is not showing up.  People are grasping at straws to find something to satisfy their deep longings and desires for companionship.  I understand that the numbers were pared down considerably when folks realized that it really did mean exchanging vows with someone they had never actually seen until the big day.

So, what about the ones who remained?  Who would actually put their lives in the hands of people they have never met – a psychologist, sociologist, sexologist, and spiritual director – to choose the one they could potentially spend the rest of their lives with?  Do they really believe this outside analysis can accurately decide who is compatible and will guarantee attraction?  Well, apparently.  For some things in life, it is easier if someone else makes the decision.

I can understand the loneliness and yearning in hearts of those who think they have waited long enough for Mr./Miss Right to show up.  It seems to be logical to try something which promises longed for results.  This program, however, offers an escape clause.  The cameras follow the couples around for one month.  ONE MONTH?  If they have decided not to continue, “Married at First Sight” helps them get a divorce.  Something is definitely wrong with this picture!

The whole concept makes me sad.  Nothing can replace building a strong relationship before making a lifelong covenant with one another.  Even then, the challenges of marriage are great.  It takes both people giving 100%/100%.  While this program does have a “spiritual adviser” on the panel, he is described as a “humanist chaplain” at Harvard, with the words, “agnostic” and “atheist” following his name – which shouts volumes about his interest in “spiritual things” –  minus Jesus.

So, who would I want to walk into the sunset with?  Well, of course, there would need to be mutual attraction and enjoyment in being together – on a foundation of mutual belief that the Bible does indeed provide instruction – which works – in all areas of life, regardless of marriage status.  We would have to agree in the truth of who Jesus Christ is – Lord of lords, King of kings, Savior – God!

That would take longer than a month!

Marriage is too valuable to be called an “extreme social experiment!”

 

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.)

One Shade of Black – The Sequel ☆

How we blow things out of all proportion, until a simple truth is no longer recognizable.

Isn’t that a great sentence?  I ran across it today in – of all places – a murder mystery.  I think it is the perfect summary of the sensational press for books and movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  Just take a look at movie titles and so many of them scream of seduction, infidelity, sexual crimes, violence, witchcraft, and making normal things abnormal.  TV shows make comedy out of sexual innuendos, affairs, teenage escapades, and activities which most of the general public still considers to be inappropriate.  And, yet, they also find them funny.  Go figure.

Going beyond the comedy are very graphic depictions of murder, kidnapping, violent crimes, crimes against children, and pornography of all levels.  The Greeks had a word for this:  porneia – the selling off or surrendering of sexual purity; promiscuity of any type.  Sound familiar?  And, that word is in the Bible!

So, what about Fifty Shades?

“To truly understand the success of Fifty Shades, one first has to revisit the book’s roots.  Despite a determined campaign of internet scrubbing by author E.L. James and her publishers, it’s still relatively common knowledge that Fifty Shades began its life as an online Twilight fan fiction serial called Master of the Universe.”♦♦

Author Kirsten Andersen summarizes the Twilight plot, and says Fifty Shades is simply the same teen story told for adults.  Both tell the stories of shy, innocent girls/women who are attracted to very attractive and magnetic boys/men who have an innate desire to hurt them.  The women agree to things they would not ordinarily agree to because of the intense attraction and the intense high from having a popular, incredibly powerful man seemingly interested in them.  That someone finds them that attractive, is enough to erase their inhibitions about intimate moral activity.

Let’s face it.  Heightened appetite for anything can overrule our best intentions.

Paul addressed a Greek audience in I Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he said, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.  Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor–not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.”  (NLT)  Now, the pagans he was talking about were those living in a Twilight and Fifty Shades mentality.  They were coming out of a culture which made sexual activity common place even in their religious temples.  Their appetites had been groomed to accept overindulgence as the norm.

Once you acquire a taste for something, it’s hard to stay away from it.

God knows the strength of our passionate feelings.  He created them – and they are good.  Our tendency is to single out sexual intimacy as our entitled right, and that is so much less than God wants for us.  Just look at the list of Spiritual Fruit in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And, there are no lows against any of these!  Imagine our lives if we took full advantage of all these things which are part of our inheritance in Jesus Christ!

Is it possible to learn self-control of body appetites?  Absolutely!

Is it easy?  Nooooooooooooooooooooo!

The pattern has been set.  The enemy of our souls has taken a God-given desire and turned it into an addictive frenzy which will not subside any time soon.  I’ve discovered the truth of Psalm 119:11 which is a life-long pursuit – that of hiding God’s word in the heart to keep sin at bay.  Now, understand that I am certainly no Pollyanna.  Just ask my friends.  This verse brings responsibility into focus.  And that is not easy!

I wrote to a very good friend recently, “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the deep end of the swimming pool because my experience is far below my knowledge – – – thankfully so!”  He wrote back, “Our culture has gone off the cliff, especially in our handling of our sexuality.  When you think of sexual desire simply as another bodily function like eating, why not indulge with whomever you want?  It is and will be a lonely walk for those living under clear biblical teaching.”

How true, how true.  So, fellow onesomes, stand firm!

  •   The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Minotaur Books 2009, page 179
  • ♦♦ Just search for “why is 50 shades of grey so popular” for interesting insight to some of what guides our culture.

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