March 02, 2015

Your Future Looking Back

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 "Alice" by Elena Kalis

Tomorrow.  The future.  What do those words make you feel?  How far ahead are you willing to ponder?

Sometimes we are faced with a future that is uncertain.  We don't know what is to come.  We yearn to take just a peak into the future.  And at the same time we fear to do so.  Perhaps in truth we as human beings would never learn to appreciate all the beautiful moments we have today if we knew what every tomorrow would bring.  There is a mystery and wonder in not knowing.

Only a few days before he died, Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) posted his final Twitter message.  It said the following:  

" A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory..."

God knows that our lives are short and that the days of our lives arrive and disappear like vapor.  Why do some of us cling so tightly to the past when life itself propels us forward?  

" You do not know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
~ James 4:14

All the most beautiful experiences, all the most breath-taking moments we may ever know are only a fraction, one iota, of the beauty waiting for us in heaven.  The Bible says that no human being has ever even imagined the wonders and hope and love that God has waiting to give everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

Meanwhile, though, we must live our lives today.  And sometimes that is not an easy thing to do.  We suffer in living.  The whole world groans for its redemption.  And even so it is possible to rise above the pain and the hurt.  It is possible to ride the crests of sorrow and loneliness.  We don't have to give in.

I am learning that whenever I hand over my expectations to the Lord everything works out. Sometimes that means that my expectations have changed to better mirror what He desires of my life.  Sometimes it means that I have let go of what I want.  And many times God surprises me by revealing that He had been making them so much better and bigger and brighter than I ever hoped for.

I am learning to let go, take a deep breath, and step forward into my tomorrows.  I used to be so afraid of this when I was younger.  In my heart I used to cling to everything and everyone in my past.  I just couldn't imagine living without them.  

Who am I without my past?  What hope is there in a tomorrow where my loved ones are not with me?
What is the point in living today if my future looks bleak?

These are questions many people ask.  And these questions plague the rich and the poor, the famous and the obscure.  Deep down we are all the same, really.  We want to know that everything will be better tomorrow. We want to believe that someone trusting and loving will be in our  future to take care of us.  We need to know that who we are as a person is never forgotten.

These things are entirely human and good and true.  I might even go so far as to say that they are divine.  And I say this because there is a part of us that is eternal.  We were created to live forever.  But not as we are today.
"He remembered that they were but flesh, 
a passing breeze that does not return."
~ Psalm 78:39

A single thread cannot depict an entire pattern.  It must be woven under, over, and along side countless others.  It must be led by the weaver who alone knows the final design.

Never be afraid to step into your future no matter how dark your today may be.  Learn to let go of your yesterday's so that you are free to accept the beautiful moments you have right now.

God is always with you and He has promised to always be your future.

" ... and your life is hidden away with Christ in God. When Christ, who is
our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory..."
~ Colossians 3: 3-4

February 07, 2015

No Mr. Grey for Valentine's Day

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God says in Jeremiah 31:3:

" ... I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."

We live in a broken world filled with broken hearts.  There are so many people walking around us every day wondering if they will ever know what it feels like to be whole again.  Some of us may feel like we are undeserving of love.  Some people feel that God could never forgive or accept them. Past trauma and abuse, broken relationships and trust, wrong choices... all these and more can haunt the heart of anyone. So even when our minds might know that God loves us our hearts don't accept it.

Have you ever wondered why?  There are perhaps as many reasons why hearts resist as there are traumas and wounds they receive. Perhaps one of the most powerful causes of heartache, whether someone is married or single, is loneliness. 

What woman doesn't want to be noticed, cherished, and wanted?  What woman doesn't want to know from the top of her head to the tips of her toes that her life made a difference in a man she loves? Who doesn't want to meet their "soul mate" and live together for the rest of their lives?

These are universal desires of a woman's heart.  But when these desires are left unfulfilled, even within marriage, it leaves her wanting.  It leaves her empty and sad.  And when the pain becomes too much to bear she must turn somewhere for relief.

And this is where many women fall into a cycle of addiction and despair.  Instead of turning to God and to the Bible women are turning to erotica and romance literature.  They find it in physical books like 50 Shades of Grey and they find it in on-line reading like fanfiction.

This topic is not talked about much anywhere, especially in churches.  Its as if they don't want to admit that women have sexual and emotional needs as powerful as men do.  Its as if Christians believe that experiencing any sexual desire outside of marriage is wrong.

But is it a sin to desire sex even when you're not married?  Is it a sin to seek an outlet for such powerful emotions and needs?  I don't think so.  The Bible never says that sexual desire in and of itself is a sin.  It says that lust and acting on lustful desires is a sin.  

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
" For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; 
that each one of you know how to control her own body in holiness and honor,
not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God."
God created sex!  God also created the emotions and desires that go along with sex.  God also created romance and beauty and youth and everything gloriously enchanting about this aspect of human nature.

But what on earth are we suppose to do when these powerful emotions and needs are unmet? God urges us to go to him with all our needs.  But the world has other suggestions for us doesn't it?  

The movie 50 Shades of Grey, based on the popular books by same name and coming out in a few days, is representative of a movement that has been sweeping the entertainment industry for the past few years.  Erotica, also known as "mommy porn" or "soft porn," is just as emotionally and psychologically damaging as straight pornography.  It does for women what porn does for men... it turns human beings of the opposite sex into objects.

For women it encourages a habit of retreating from reality and living in worlds of fantasy where the object of desire, the man, has no real flaws.  Everything is over the top and if the man does have issues they always resolve in a manner that is favorable to the woman.

More than all of this, pornography of any kind creates very real physiological responses.  Women who habitually expose themselves to this kind of entertainment train their minds, hearts, and bodies to respond more to the fantasies than to the real deal.  And after a time a little-bit of fantasy isn't enough anymore.  Ultimately it destroys a women's ability to nurture true intimacy in current or future relationships.

Psychologist, wife, and mother Dr. Julie Slattery has done extensive research on this very topic.  She even went so far as to read all the 50 Shades of Grey books.  This is what she has to say about erotica and entertainment of the same nature.

So what are women to do when they are lonely and frustrated?  Is God just a kill-joy?  What if you are single with no man anywhere on the horizon?  What if you're a widow?  What if your husband, for whatever reason, is unable to help in this matter?

I think the first thing women need to do is recognize that God is loving and good.  He cannot do anything against His own word.  So when temptation knocks we can focus on promises from the Bible like this one:
I Corinthians 10:13
" No temptation has overtaken you that is uncommon to men (meaning men and women.) 
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,
but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able
to endure it."

I think with sexual sins the temptation to believe," You are the only one," is very common.  There are so many women of all ages wrestling with loneliness and turning to lust mistakingly believing that it is a safe alternative.   

The truth is that no one is alone in their struggles even when it seems that way.  As stated at the beginning of this post God loves us forever.  He is faithful and good.  No matter how many times we mess up we can still go back to Him and try again.  In Christ there is no condemnation.  That is not an excuse to continue in habitual sin.  He will forgive us if we are sincerely broken about our bad habits.

This Valentine's Day would you consider spending quality time with the Lord?  If you do not struggle in these areas would you please pray for the sisters-in-Christ who do?  This is a very real need for so many.

And if you know someone who struggles in this area would you consider reading and/or giving this book to that someone?

Dr. Julie Slattery shares below what she hopes this book, a true labor of love, will accomplish for everyone who reads its pages.

May God bless each of you who truly seek to honor the Lord in all areas of your life. May you always remember that in Christ Jesus you already have the victory!  It is finished! 

Ephesians 3:17-19

" So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love, may have power... to grasp how wide and long
and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge..."