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

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There is an example of every behavioral issue in the Bible- we just have to look.

Samson is an example of a boy, now a grown man, whose parents had difficulties saying ‘no.’

The first clue we have is that Samson asks for a wife a man in his position- Jewish (which is enough), a judge, and a Nazarite- should never be asking to marry. His parents vaguely try to dissuade him by asking if there is not another, perhaps Jewish, woman he might want, and when he demands to have his way, they give in and proceed to give him what he wants, even though they know it is not good for him. (Judges 14-16)

So here are the traits that result from never hearing ‘no’ in any meaningful way…

  1. He does not think the rules apply to him.

Samson eats unclean food out of a dead lion’s carcass, he sleeps with prostitutes etc.

Samson, to his eventual detriment, disregards the rules when they do not suit him. This does not mean that he is always bad, but when the rules interfere with what he wants to do, he does what he wants.

  1. He does not fulfill his responsibilities when it is inconvenient to him.

The groom is expect to provide wedding clothes for the groomsmen. Samson finds ways to get out of his responsibility and stick his new friends with the bill.

  1. He throws tantrums when he is thwarted.

When the groomsmen answer his riddle, Samson does not handle it good-naturedly. Instead he goes out and brings them back the clothes of dead men, who were brutally killed in the outfits he presents.

  1. He does not consider the feelings of others.

Samson embarrasses his bride by not providing clothing for the groomsmen she provided him with and then with the horrid way he finally provides the clothing. (Samson may have no friends.)

  1. He storms off.

Upset about not getting his way and having to provide clothing, (even though he knows this is a societal norm), Samson storms off and goes home, leaving his bride devestated.

  1. He does not understand that his behavior will have consequences.

Later, Samson returns and believes his wife will be waiting for him, happy to see him, even after his horrid behavior.

  1. He does not accept that he caused the problem. It is not his fault.

When confronted by his father-in-law, and told that his wife has been married to another (because his behavior at their wedding seemed to indicate to everyone but Samson that he did not love her) Samson kills his ‘bride’ and her father and sets the neighborhood fields on fire, condemning the citizens of that area to starvation.

  1. He over-reacts.

When he finds his ‘bride to be’ married to another he kills her and her father and burns the fields, condemning others to starvation, or at least a very difficult year.

  1. He does not understand love and trust.

Samson is easily deceived by Delilah. This is likely due to the fact that Samson has never had a decent relationship, nor has he ever paid enough attention to another to be able to determine whether, or not, they are trustworthy. Being self-centered leaves you a target for others who are self-centered. No one with an once of self-respect wants to be close to a spoiled brat, so Samson has no wise counsel, or experience with ‘good’ people; so when someone comes along who is worse than he is, he is an easy target.

Still, God is with Samson.

Why?

There are two reasons found in scripture:

  1. God keeps His promises.

God made a promise to Samson’s mother before he was born- that he would deliver Israel. This may not have been the method God would have preferred to deliver Israel, but God can use anyone, even a spoiled brat. (Not that this is what we should aim to be… but our faults, no matter how large, do not mean that God is done with us.)

  1. God knows the beginning and the end.

Samson repents. Granted it is at the end of a very troubled life, but he does repent. God wants us close to Him- and He wants all of us close to Him. The relationship is the end-game, and in this instance, Samson eventually gets it, and that is exactly what God wants, for us to eventually get it and want a relationship with Him. Samson’s spoiled nature leads to a hard life, for him and those around him, but it does not disqualify him from having a relationship with God. And if Samson is not disqualified, neither are you!

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While the Bible is clear that God hates sin, God is not the hard-nosed disciplinarian many make Him out to be.

Let’s take, for example, Esther.

Esther is a good girl, who is picked, without her consent to be part of the king’s harem. She does not fight, or protest or try to escape. Instead she goes along with a system where she is to be one of many women whose sole purpose is to pleasure the king. (Many women in abusive relationships are told that they should have… (fill in the blank).) Esther is in a ungodly situation and yet she does nothing to effect a change. In fact she complies with her captures so well she is chosen to be queen. (God redeems her role in a way- though she will see her husband rarely and it is not exactly a love match.) And even though she is in an ungodly situation, she is still to be used mightily by God.

Rahab is a prostitute. When she performs her heroism and saves the Hebrew spies she is still a prostitute. The red sheet she hangs from the window is not the bed covering of a virtuous woman, nor has it seen only virtue in use. Yet god uses her, a sinner, and a sheet, a sign of her sin, as a sign and method of salvation. She, as a former prostitute, becomes the bride of a virtuous man (Salmon, one of the spies she saved) and is a mother in the line of Christ. How often do we shame women who were not pure in their youth as if it is a lifelong condition they can never overcome? This is not how God deals with a woman who has likely lost count of the number of men she has had…

David is a man after God’s own heart… Yet his list of sins is so long it bears numbering…

  1. He is an adulterer.
  2. He is a murderer.
  3. He ignored the fact that his daughter was raped and did nothing about it.
  4. He did not forgive his son who was obviously repentant and grieving for his father’s love. (Absalom)
  5. He did not come back for, or send for, his first wife, who risked her life to save his while he was on the run, even though he had acquired other wives whom he felt able to protect.
  6. He did not do justice in the case of Joab, Shimi and others, but left them for Solomon to deal with.
  7. He called for a census against God’s will, which resulted in a plague.
  8. He did not follow God’s instructions (or even know what they were) in carrying the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem the first time.

And I am sure there are more if we start to really pick through all that is written about him…

The point is that God still used David, and loved him, despite his mistakes. His mistakes in life did not disqualify him from God’s love, and did not take him out of the plans God had for him. Sure, he was punished, and if there was anything David did well, it was repenting (practice makes perfect?). But the point is that our past, even our recent past, does not change God’s love for us. It does not distance us from Him in a manner that is irrecoverable. God looks at our heart, not the tally sheet of nasty things we have done. It is our sorrow over our situation, not the situation itself, that is judged. It is what we are going to do next that is important, not what we have done. God wants us to love Him and to love others- not that we will be perfect, but that we will try to do better.

So we are to forget the past, in that it is not there to hinder us in doing what is right, and great in the future. And draw closer to God, realizing that He is there for us regardless of the condition we come to Him.

Love Thyself

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

To acquire good sense is to love oneself… (Prov 19:8)

… a good person gets satisfaction from himself. (Prov 14:14)

To act without knowing how you function is not good… (Prov 19:2)

Just a few things I picked up in Proverbs today.

  1. Know Thyself

How many of us try to please others and try to be someone we are not- working more on our weaknesses- trying hard to be perfect? Is it not better (happier, more fulfilling) to spend more time working in your strengths and using the gifts God did give you? This does not mean we neglect those things that must be done, but where is much of our time spent. Remember, a person who loves what he does never works a day in his life*. Be that person!

  1. Be Satisfied With Yourself

Do not seek happiness from others. Imperfect people cannot impart perfect peace. It won’t happen. Instead be content with who you are and what you do. Only then will you bring peace into your relationships. Focus on what you can do to make things in your life better (something you can control) and not on how others should treat you (something you will become frustrated trying to control).

  1. Love Yourself

God made you. He does not make mistakes. You are unique, wonderfully made. Find what you are good at; the gifts God created you to use. (It is typically what you enjoy.) And use your gifts! Stop seeing your uniqueness- your not being like others- as something bad. You are you for a purpose- embrace that purpose and love being you!

Some practical ideas to begin being you:

  1. Make a list of what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. (They are often the same thing.) Make these things a priority in your life.
  2. Make a list of what you hate doing, or feel you are bad at. Find a way to eliminate (delegate them to others- usually for the money you will make doing what you love- remember the Proverbs 31 woman had servants- you can too) or find ways to do them quickly so they do not take up much time in your life.
  3. Go to a thrift shop, a big one. Be honest about what you like and what looks good on you. (Do not take a friend unless you know you can both be dead honest with each other- you may come home with more of what she likes than what you enjoy…) Wear what suits your personality and makes you feel good. You should enjoy (or at least not hate- some of us are more utilitarian) getting dressed in the morning.
  1. Quit trying to make your husband/ friends like you or do what would make you feel special. Make a list of what you like to do, and if time and finances allow, do these things. You will find that people respond more positively to people who are happy/ content, and, when they see what makes you happy, and that there is a possibility of successfully making you happy, they are more likely to bless you in these areas. People like to know their efforts will result in success. Trying to make unhappy people happy is a daunting task that people instinctively avoid. If you can’t please yourself, how do you expect others to figure it out?

*Confucius- paraphrased

All verses from The Complete Jewish Bible- a translation by David H Stern

photo by Matija Barrett

photo by Matija Barrett

Two interesting pieces of scripture crossed paths this week- the parable of the talents and the Song of Songs. And it made me think….

Within marriage, sex is a blessing, a gift.

In Song of Songs, the two main characters are definitely physically attracted to each other and are enjoying the physical side of their relationship.

In the parable of the talents we learn that it is wrong to take a gift from God and not utilize it.

Our sexuality is a great and pleasurable gift. But how often is it ‘buried’ under so many other things. We are too busy, tired, frustrated, mad etc.

In Song of Songs our ‘Beloved’ guards our rest and tells others not to wake his/her Beloved. Do you guard your spouses rest and make sure he/she is not overworked?

Do you guard your rest and make sure you are refreshed and able to enjoy the good gifts God has given you?

In Song of Songs we also read that we are to take care of the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard. Are you taking care of the little things before they get big and ruin your relationship?

Just some thoughts…

God gives us so much, and wants us to be good stewards of it.

How good a steward are you being of this wonderful gift?

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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.

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