Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

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One of my biggest pet peeves is when people, who know nothing about something, feel the need to comment negatively on it. So, when I began seeing comments on my FaceBook feed saying, ‘I would never read this book, but…’ that then went on to thoroughly bash something they just admitted they knew nothing about, I felt the need to do some investigating. First I read the reviews, many of which started with, ‘I have not read the book, but… here’s my uneducated opinion…’ (OK I added a bit there.) Since the reviews were mixed, and not helpful, and, since, surprisingly, the BDSM crowd also had problems with the book, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was about. Here’s what I found:

  1. Christian Grey is admittedly a very disturbed man. In fact, the book is called 50 Shades of Grey because he repeatedly says he is “50 shade of f’d up.”
  2. Why is Christian 50 shades of messed up? Because he has severe attachment issues due to a history of abuse. Christian’s birth mother was a cocaine addict and prostitute. Christian frequently did not have food and had to take care of her. He was also abused by at least one man, leaving cigarette burns on his back and chest. When he was four years old she died, leaving him in the apartment with her dead body for days. When her pimp found her, he called the police, then left Christian there with the body until help arrived. He was adopted by a great family, but could not stand to be touched and did not talk for 2 years. Because he craved touch, but could not allow anyone to touch him appropriately, he fought and was kicked out of more than one school. At 15 (as often happens to abused children) another predator found him and introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle. He became her submissive and, because she taught him to behave properly, and thus improved his life, he thought this was a wonderful relationship. This lasted 6 years, until her husband found out, beat her severely and divorced her. Christian then entered into 3 month agreements with women who were already in this lifestyle, who looked like his birth mother (another messed up issue), where he was the dominant in the relationship. His adoptive parents knew nothing about this and thought he was gay, since he did not date. Christian sees a psychiatrist once a week, as he has throughout his childhood.
  3. Ana is 21 and Christian is 26. Ana is a virgin, just graduating college, with a mother who is married to husband #4. Christian is a billionaire who dropped out of college to start his own business. He employs 40,000 people, takes his responsibilities very seriously and has no friends, except the woman who introduced him to BDSM.
  4. Ana is the first girl Christian has ever been interested in having a real relationship with. Since it is all he knows, he tries to introduce her to a BDSM lifestyle. He believes that her being his submissive allows him to protect, teach and take care of her. One of his main issues is making sure she eats regularly (likely because he did not always have enough to eat as a child).
  5. Ana never signs the contract to be his submissive. When she asks him to show him how bad a punishment could be, he does. She hates it and breaks up with him. He is devastated and does not understand why she is upset since she could have used her ‘safe word’ at any time to stop it. (Which he explained to her before hand.) Christian does not understand that normal relationships do not have ‘safe words.’
  6. Christian does not try to isolate her from her friends. Christian is jealous and possessive-true, but the people he has trouble with, he has reason to have trouble with.

First there is Paul, Ana’s employer’s brother who has been told no, but needs to hang on Ana even though she is clearly uncomfortable with it.

Then there is Jose. The first time Christian sees Jose he is trying to kiss Ana even though Ana is clearly saying no and pushing him away. They are both drunk. While Christian and Ana do drink frequently, Christian is against Ana overindulging. Jose turns out to be an ok guy who had one bad night and Christian learns to tolerate this friendship, even allowing Jose to stay in their apartment when he visits.

Ana’s second boss is also a problem. There are rumors of sexual harassment, which Christian warns Ana about. He is right. The boss accosts Ana, she defends herself, and he is fired. He then spends the rest of the book trying to kill Christian, Ana and Christian’s family. Christian also buys the company Ana works for in an attempt to protect her.

Christian does try to stop Ana from going to a bar with her friend Kate, and suggests they go to their apartment instead because someone is trying to kill Ana and the apartment is more secure. (Ana does not obey, goes to the bar, and ironically the killer is in the apartment. Christian points out that in splitting the security detail, Ana placed the security team in danger as well.)

While Christian is definitely controlling, he does make some valid points…. His biggest problem is that he acts without talking to Ana first, and does not give her information she needs to make wise decisions in his attempt not to worry her—which she frequently yells at him about.

  1. The BDSM lifestyle is itself not made to be glamorous (though the kinky sex is). The other person who tries to kill Christian, Ana and herself is an ex-submissive of Christians who clearly has issues. Christian also realizes he was abused at 15 by the woman who introduced him to BDSM when he hears her side of the story as Ana confronts her. Christian’s adoptive mother also overhears and is very upset. The woman is a family friend. Christian breaks ties with the woman eventually as he processes all of this.

8.While Christian and Ana do try many things from the BDSM lifestyle, they never enter into a dominant/submissive agreement. Ana refuses to have the word ‘obey’ in her wedding vows and frequently reminds Christian that she never promised to obey him.

  1. Christian removes all the things from his apartment that are repugnant to Ana (most of which involve physical punishment) and leaves only those things she approves of. Ana does consent to everything sexual, as well as being tied up and lightly spanked. (She is able to tie him up and spank him as well.) After they are married, when a set of handcuffs leaves red marks on her skin, Christian is very upset with himself. Ana also speaks with his psychiatrist who approves of their relationship and assured her that Christian does not ‘need’ to hurt her and is not a sadist before she consents to marry him, though it is clear that she has already decided to do so.
  2. Everything leads to sex, and Ana realizes that sex is a coping mechanism for Christian. It is a way to avoid the argument and a way to assure himself that she will not leave him.
  3. Admittedly, everything leads to sex, there is a lot of sex and it is thoroughly described. As an older married woman I began to wonder that Ana didn’t get sore, and began to say, ‘really?’ Truth be told I have never found an elevator that exciting (probably because I had seven kids fighting to press the buttons in it) and I could not see becoming aroused while someone is chasing me in an attempt to kill me, but maybe that’s just me…
  4. In the end they are happily married with two children. Christian has overcome some of his issues, but they still have a varied sex life that does include light spankings. (Not that we needed to know this…) Christian also allows his adoptive family to touch him, and finally believes that they do love him.

While this is not a story we would want any of our children to live through, it does bring up some valid questions we should be exploring:

  1. The author points out that Christian wedding vows contain the word ‘obey’ in only the woman’s vow. If you believe in male headship, when does male authority change from a women’s responsibility to obey her husband and become controlling and emotionally abusive? (Do not cop out and say ‘when he hits her.’ We all know that abusive behavior can be more than just physical, and Christian is abusive in his control of Ana even when he is not physically hurting her. He also is only doing things in her best interests, because he loves her, yet we can all recognize in his character that there is something not right…)
  2. What can Christian couples do sexually in a marriage, and what can they not do? Ana consents to everything they engage in, yet many Christians still are upset by some of the sex-play- so where is the line?
  3. What is porn? Can married Christians read a book like this for pleasure? Where is the line that changes this from a story about a man with reactive attachment disorder that is learning to have a relationship and a book that should not be read?
  4. Who is un-marriable? Clearly Ana should have waited to have a physical relationship with Christian and/or marry him until he was doing a little better psychologically- but where is that line? Ana was lucky that things turned out as well as they did; many are not so lucky. But, the truth is that none of us are perfect, or without our issues when we marry, what criteria can we use to teach our daughters when to say no?
  5. Why are millions of American women drawn to a story about a man with severe emotional problems? What does this say about the state of our relationships?

BTW- the BDSM community (or at least those who objected on line) dislike the book because Ana and Christian do not have a signed agreement, Ana does not fully understand what Christian wants from her (she is too naive to be approached for this relationship), they do not use their safe words etc. The BDSM community does not consider this a ‘good’ relationship either, and does not believe it is a fair representation of their lifestyle. In condemning this book, it is one of the few times you will see Christians and BDSM n the same page, for admittedly different reasons.

The Last Day of Sukkot

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On the eighth day of Sukkot (The Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles) God commands all the Jews in Israel to hold a sacred assembly (get together in Jerusalem, do no work and eat).

On this day the Jewish custom is to pour water on the altar as an offering to God. It is also on this day that the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read.

It was on this day that Jesus said ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink..’ (John 7:37-39) implying that He was the source of living water (God).

So how would a Christian home celebrate this day?

Some suggestions include:

-Reading Deuteronomy 28- the blessings and curse- explaining to your children the benefits and disadvantages of following God’s Word. (This is not the final chapter. The final chapter of Deuteronomy involves Moses’ death and Joshua’s commission.)

-Pouring out water (onto the ground) as a reminder that God provides the water of life.

-If your climate co-operates water activities for the children or the young-at-heart may be part of the celebration. Slip and slides, sprinklers, pools and water guns are always fun, as is a trip to the water park. If your climate does not co-operate, you may wish to include snow cones, dry ice concoctions, bubbles, water colors, or fishing may be fun.

-A happy birthday Jesus party. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, and many believe that it may have been on the last day of Sukkot, since Sukkot commemorates the time when God ‘tabernacled’ or lived among the Israelites in the desert. (FYI: The Jewish people at this time did not typically celebrate birthdays. Instead they tended to remember death days…)

-Since the last day of Sukkot was the day the Jewish people finished reading the Torah in the synagogue, (the readings would begin again with Genesis 1:1), they frequently passed out candy at this time (honey treats). As a reminder that God’s Word is ‘sweet’ (pleasant to follow) the candy would be distributed among the children. A piñata, or throwing of candy during the reading of the blessings in Deuteronomy may help reinforce this concept.

-During this time Jewish children often paraded by with flags they had made symbolizing what they had learned. Adults would toss candy for the children to catch. Making flags that represent your thanks for what God has blessed you with may also be a fun activity. (Instead of flags, you may make other items such as collages.)

-Food ideas: Create a menu that includes food from the sacrifices at the temple: beef, lamb, goat, unleavened bread, and wine (grape juice for the kids). You may also wish to include citrus fruits, since the lulav is to have citrus associated with it. A Happy Birthday Jesus cake may also be fun. (FYI: There is no prohibition against eating leaven at this time. Unleavened bread is typically offered at the Temple.)

-The final waving of the luval, a bundle of four types of branches: citrus, palm, myrtle and willow. (Lev. 23:40)

Ideas for the day after Sukkot

Since Sukkot represents the end of the harvest season, ideally the end of fall, this is a good time to get ready for winter. The day after Sukkot may include:

– Getting the yard ready for winter (putting away lawn chairs, the grill or anything else that will not be used in the coming months). Play praise music and make it fun, thanking God for the seasons, and the fact that summer yard work has come to an end!

– Winter clothes shopping. Hats, boots, gloves etc will soon be needed. The day after Sukkot is a nice time for this event. Since it is a planned outing, and not a rushed trip when the first snow hits, this should be a relaxing, fun time away from the house. Plan a nice meal out as well to make it a relaxing, fun day for all.

– The first cup of hot cocoa, or pumpkin pie may also be a nice treat, indicating that fall is finally here.

You may stretch these activities out instead of doing them all in one day, since this is not an official holiday. Just remember, it is easier on a family to do these activities as relaxed, fun, planned events, rather than rushing around at the last minute to get everything done. Sukkot gives us a date that reminds us the time to do these things is near.

Sukkot: The Feast of Booths

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The Feast of Booths

aka The Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles

aka Sukkot (Sue-coat)

The Feast of Booths is a time of joyous celebration, when everyone is to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is basically a week-long camping trip for all believers.

During Sukkot a family would travel to Jerusalem. There they would build a shelter using wood and intertwining vines and flowers so that the stars could be seen through the roof at night. It is here that the family will reside for the week.

The Jewish people celebrated Sukkot to remind them of their time of wandering in the desert. It was also a time to bring in their tithes and offerings, and thank God for the harvest. The Jewish people also poured out water at the Temple and thanked God for the rain that occurred during the proper season at this time.

Sukkot is also a time for people to get together. God requires each family to gather and wave four different types of branches. This bundle of branches is known as a lulav and it consists of citrus, palm, willow and myrtle branches. Since these branches grow best in different areas it can be assumed that God wished for the people to interact with people from all areas of the land. This wish for the people to interact is further exemplified by God’s command for the people to leave the city from the gate opposite to the one from which they entered. (Ez. 46:9). God wants us to know and interact with other believers from all over.

It is believed that it was at Sukkot that Jesus proclaimed that He was the Water of Life. It is also believed to have been Sukkot when Peter wished to build booths for Moses and Elijah when Jesus transformed on the top of the mountain and was seen speaking to these men. It is also believed that Sukkot is the only Old Testament feast we will be celebrating when Jesus rules and reigns on earth, likely as a reminder of the time when His presence was not here. (Zec. 14:19)

So how may we honor this feast today?

While a week off of work would be nice, it is not practical for many families. And, since the weather in northern climates is harsh and/or rainy during this time, living in a booth is also not practical. Many families choose to celebrate this holiday instead by building a simple shelter and eating dinner in it for the week, with perhaps one night set aside for star-gazing and/or outdoor sleeping.

By the way, Jeroboam changed the time for celebrating Sukkot to one month later in order to discourage people from wanting to celebrate it in Jerusalem (outside of the kingdom he ruled) where it would now be too cold for comfort. (1 Kings 12:32)

For more information check out http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm (Judaism 101), Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16.

A Real Man (Ruth 3-4)

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Here is Boaz, he has eaten and drunk and his heart is merry (likely a euphemism for having had at least a little alcohol). He gets into bed and a woman crawls in with him.

Now Ruth is young, beautiful, loyal, hard-working, and a Moabite (a people group the Jewish people at this time have little respect for). She is everything a man could ask for, and she is of a class of people no one cares about. Further she has only an elderly mother-in-law to look out for her. She is incredibly vulnerable, and she is lying at his feet, in his bed, at night.

Boaz could very easily take advantage of her, and then claim he mistook her for one of the prostitutes who often hung out around the fields at harvest time when they knew the men did not go home, even though he knew she did this with the hope of marriage.

But he doesn’t.

He protects her.

Instead of immediately kicking her out of his bed, he allows her to stay with him until morning, because he knows she is safe in bed with him. (This is true purity.)

He then protects her reputation. He wakes up early, or perhaps does not sleep, to make sure she is on her way home before too many people realize what she has done. He also warns his men not to let anyone know that there was a woman there.

Before she leaves, he provides her with grain. He knows she has not had a good night sleep and will likely not be in the best condition to glean, so he takes care of her needs.

He praises her. He assumes the best. He does not berate her for doing this, but instead looks at the situation through a positive lens. She could have gone after younger men, and there is the unspoken assumption she could have become a prostitute, or loose woman. Instead she turns to a man she believes is the one who is right for her, who will be her kinsman-redeemer. He does not assume she is a gold-digger or someone trying to trap him into marriage. He assumes the best.

He takes care of her problem immediately. It is the middle of the harvest, a time that is so busy that the men sleep on the threshing room floor instead of going home, but he puts his needs aside to make sure that she is cared for.

He obviously wants her, but he goes about things the right way. There is another relative who has a claim on her. He approaches this man and makes sure that he has permission to pursue her.

He knows that marrying her comes with obligations, and he is willing to accept those responsibilities. He will have to buy back her father-in-law’s fields and care for them for a son who will bear another man’s name. His first son will not be known as his, even though he will be the father who raises him, and he must hope for a second son to inherit and care for the lands he has loved and worked hard to make prosperous. He will have to train two sons as heirs, splitting the time between the needs of each estate. He will be a busy man until these boys reach manhood, and he is already an older man, but he takes on these responsibilities with pleasure and allows his first son to be laid on Naomi’s lap when the child is born, indicating that legally he is hers, to inherit all that her husband had.

Boaz is a real man. He does not give into his lusts, and takes care of his responsibilities without complaint. Let us train our children to know that this is what a real man looks like, and to eschew any teaching that implies the contrary.

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Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references: http://www.calvaryoxnard.org/studies/nt/Mark/The%20Torn%20Veil.htm

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

I Remember… 9/11

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I remember 9/11. My husband called to say something had happened and we should turn on the news. We connected an outside antennae to the television and friends joined us to watch. The children were scared and we assured them that even if somehow some force were to take our cities, no one was going to take our hill- there were too many guns, and too few people who knew the woods like the backs of their hands. We calmed them with word pictures describing unknown others trying to find hunters whose presence in the woods was never noticed until they wanted it to be, while watching in somber disbelief as more and more reports came in.

The churches called people together to pray, and we gathered.

When reports of flight 93 came in we were proud, because this is America, and when the threat was known, the passengers behaved like Americans, using what little they had to save countless lives, and almost saving their own.

When we were called to war, many in our small town signed up to go, because we are America and we believed in our country.

When my son in boot camp was asked where he learned to jump and kick, he replied ‘his mother,’ because in our America unexpected people have unexpected skills and we share them with others.

When the drill instructor tried to tear my son down by making fun of his mother, he did not know that the mother did not resemble the son, because in America when a child needs a mother many answer the call regardless of what the child looks like or has been through. Because while there is still a long way to go, we are learning and overcoming and trying to be everything a person should be, because this is America.

While in countries torn by war our soldiers came back with pictures of cute kids and dogs, because even though they were fighting an enemy, they understood that not everyone and everything in a foreign land is evil, and they showed love to both when they were able, because they are Americans and this is how they were taught.

When the soldiers came back they were welcomed, because we learned from our mistakes and would not do what had been done in the past, because this is America.

When our country was again attacked, and our embassy fell, we demanded answers and remembered the victims, because this is America and our people do not die without reason, without answers.

This is still America. Twelve years later millions of bikers are riding to remember those we lost. Millions of people are setting aside time for prayer and remembering. Millions of people, many of whom knew no one personally, are still deeply affected by the events of years ago, because we are Americans. We are people who care, and we are a people committed to God and country. We are the people who run into danger to get someone else out.

So, while the media and those in power may wish to believe that what a young girl does to embarrass herself on TV means more to us than what a leader does to affect our lives we know that the America we know still exists, is still strong and is ready to be heard.

America, the land of the brave, the land where people fight terrorists on planes with coffee pots when needed….

America, the home of the free, the land where our children sign up to fight because we still have a country they wish to believe in…

America, the country who remembers her roots, her principles and her constitution even when those who rule seem to forget, we are the people who stand up and force them to remember…

Continue to pray for our country today. Pray that God strengthens us where we are weak so that we might change, gives us wisdom so that we might know the better ways to go, and the courage to stand up to those who would lead us astray. And then thank God that we are still a nation where the people, we the people, help when crisis hits and remind us that we still have the power over the few who would like to be king.

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In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

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