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..."

January 27, 2015

Social Media and TMI

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I think its safe to say that most people the world over are connected in some way to the internet.  Believe-it-or-not I can remember when the internet was a novelty.  I was still in college and had to ask some fellow students what was "internet."  I had no idea what they were talking about when they began to explain how to type in a URL address.

I spent many hours at the library computer lab teaching myself how to get around the "web".  The main search engines I remember were Yahoo, Google, and Ask Jeeves. I really picked up the concept of email pretty quick because that was how all the professors were asking students to contact them.

It seems like another life time ago now.  Today I don't think twice about internet searches and emails and twitter and Facebook and Youtube.  There is soooo much to do online, am I right?

And as wonderful as the internet and sharing information can be it is a double-edged sword. Especially when I see how reliant so many people are with social media.  As a teacher I see so many kids and even college students completely incapable of setting down their smart phones or smart pads.  Or if they do set them down they are constantly glancing at their devices to check if someone updated their Facebook status yet.  Honestly, does a 4th grader really need a blackberry?

Its as if we have opened Pandora's Box.  " Pay attention to me!" That's what the message really means when people snap selfies and post them online.  " Look what I did or where I've been/am!"  And then there are the articles and posts filled with opinions.  Everyone becomes a critic and an authority in anything and everything... including this post.  *sigh* See what I mean?

Don't misunderstand me.  I do see good things too like people coming together to raise support for a good cause or creating prayer chains.  Those are great ways to use the internet and social media.

But in general there is too much information.  And by that I mean people are being exposed to too much and becoming increasingly pessimistic. There is so much negative news and sensationalized news about events all over the world.  I honestly don't believe that people were ever meant to know about all the bad things happening the world over.  Its simply too much.

But we our enticed to soak in more and more with the idea that we must remain informed of current events. Could all of this be a way for modern man to try and push God out of the driver's seat? Has knowledge become the modern Tower of Babel?  It seems that mankind wants to believe that through knowing we can have power and control over our lives.  But the truth is that we don't.

The internet and social media have become a drug that either sedates or incites the masses.  It is becoming more and more the tool of choice to manipulate.  And it has become a place where people socialize and fantasize to the point that they no longer know how to have a face-to-face conversation.  Friends don't call or visit anymore they just glance at your Facebook status and have their fill of you.  Its all so sad!

Let me end this post with a few challenges:

For anyone on Facebook try for one month to physically visit with any "friend" whose status you check.  And when you do, don't spend that time checking your smartphone.

For those of you who are news junkies limit your feed to only three articles/news stories for one week.

For those of you addicted to writing posts pull back to writing once a week or less for one month.

The point I want to make is that we don't realize how much time we waste online.  What could we be doing for the Lord during that time instead?  Is there a neighbor who needs a ride to the grocery store?  Do you know someone who needs to visit the pharmacy or doctor office?  Perhaps there is someone at the hospital or at a nursing home.

Do something that requires you to physically be involved and present for the sake of others.  It may take some practice if you don't already do this.  But that's okay!  Practice.  Do little things until they are habitual for you.  The Lord will lead you in how He wants to use your life to be a blessing to others.

I wish you success!

~ Sincerity
" ... dear brothers and sisters, never tire of doing good."
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:13