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Posted on Apr 21, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 15 comments

Just Friends?

Just Friends?

   Jennifer Knapp is gay.

At least, that’s what I read this week in a Christianity Today article.  I had heard the rumor before, but this time it’s in her own words.  She’s been in a relationship with a woman for the last eight years.

I love Jennifer Knapp’s raw and honest music.  I’ve been walking around humming, “I am weak/I am poor/I am broken, Lord/But I’m Yours/Hold me now” for a few days.  Honestly, I feel sad and frustrated.  I’m frustrated because I wish I understood the issue from God’s perspective more.  I know some amazing people who live in committed relationships with same-sex partners and profess to love God with all their hearts.  I can’t claim to fully understand the issue, but I do have an opinion I’d like to share on the topic. 

I believe as a society, we have lost our boundaries.  We have elevated the sexual relationship to the “highest” form of a relationship and undervalued the genuine goodness and fulfillment of friendship. 

If I am so blessed to have a dear female friend who I absolutely adore and with whom I thoroughly enjoy spending my time, plus I also happen to think she is attractive, then it is insinuated that I need to act out sexually with her.  Or that I already am.  What?!  (Do all my female friends need to be ugly or uninteresting?)

I get very frustrated and offended by this line of thinking.  Recently, I told a funny story to a male friend that included a reference to “my pretty friend Sally.”  This Christian man’s eyebrows shot up and he winked and asked me how pretty I think Sally is.  He wanted to know if I want to date Sally.  Grrr….   I was so irritated.  It was the third time in as many days that a Christian male had made some sort of reference to me about either being sexually aroused by lesbians, insinuating that I might be interested in a woman sexually, or suggesting that a female friend might be interested in me sexually. 

I bit the poor guy’s head off.  I told him he was perverted and I was sick to death of Christian men referencing lesbianism like it’s desirable.  He hung his head and apologized and I felt bad for shaming him.  I’m just so tired of having those thoughts placed into my head, inviting me to feel suspicious or to think there’s a sexual motive behind every compliment or smile. 

I’m just saying that friendship, in and of itself, is a good thing.  Sexuality is a good thing within the bonds of marriage.  But when we lose the boundary of marriage for our sexuality, does every type of sexual relationship become fair game?  Where is the line drawn?    

Why would Christian men even think it’s desirable for two women to be together sexually?  I have to wonder how much pornography they’ve been watching recently…  But it’s also very clear to me that pornography isn’t needed to stain our minds.  Our society has done all it can to elevate the sexual relationship to the highest level possible.  We can’t watch a primetime television show without seeing people begin a sexual relationship within moments of declaring their interest in one another.  At other times, the third date has some magic appeal as the time when a new couple has sex.  We’re told to use hand sanitizer after we touch a menu or a doorknob, but these people barely know one another and have no problem exchanging bodily fluids and all kinds of possible diseases with one another?  Yuck!  Not to mention what it does to the soul to be joined with another…

I have dear friends for whom I am extremely thankful.  They are beautiful, fun, entertaining, deep, spiritual, challenging, and engaging.  I love spending time with them.  At times they know me better than I know myself.  They are God’s gift to me, not to be placeholders until my husband comes along, but to fill my life with richness that cannot be found any other way.  My friendship with them is one of the highest forms of relationship I have ever found. 

I believe that the love of a godly, smart, intriguing man is possible.  When that day comes, my pretty friends will stand by my side and rejoice with me.  They will listen to me cry when he disappoints me and makes me mad.  They will make sure I stay accountable for my behavior as a wife and challenge my decisions.  They will offer advice, laugh with me, get me out of the house, and tell me if I’m wrong.  What would I do without my friends?  It would be a lonely, empty life. 

Sexuality is to be reserved for that one person with whom we covenant to spend our lives.  We are to exchange bodily fluids with that one person alone. I think if we all understood that concept more, if we understood godly boundaries better, the world would be a much less confusing (and diseased) place.

I’m not sure what to say about Jennifer Knapp.  She mentions in her interview that people questioned her non-sexual relationships with women when she was in college and told her to “re-negotiate” them.  Maybe I’m over-simplifying it, but I wonder…  If that insinuation had never been made, would she have enjoyed her friendships with women and never felt the need to become sexually involved?  I don’t know.  I just know what I’ve experienced and if men feel comfortable talking to me, a minister, that way, then I can only imagine what other women are experiencing these days.

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Posted on Apr 9, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 8 comments

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

It’s been hard to know what to post recently.  Some of the things I’ve been going through don’t seem like things that need to be blasted on the internet for all to see…  Some things are deeply personal and too precious for publication. 

I hope the look on my face says it all.  I am happy.  I am full of peace.  God is good and He is blessing me in some wonderful ways. 

I looked at some pictures on Facebook tonight of a high school classmate.  She is beautiful; was a beauty queen many times over.  She married a handsome, successful man and they have lovely children.  It appears that they have everything anyone could want.  But the look in her eyes is far from happy.  She is smiling, she is wearing clothes that flatter her surgically enhanced figure, but there is not one speck of joy in her vacant eyes.  It made me sad. 

I wish I knew how to share this joy I have found with everyone.

I have written this before, but I will do it again.  This joy is only found in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can have that relationship by getting to know Him through His Word:  Scripture, The Bible.  If you don’t like to read, listen to an audio-version of it.  Fill yourself up with God’s Word, spend time in prayer, talk about what you’ve read with others, think about it, write about it, study it.  Get involved in a Bible study with other believers, find a good church you enjoy going to and get involved, find creative ways to express your love for the Lord – but more than all of those things, learn His Word.  There is no substitute.  Spending time with God is the only way to have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I know it sounds boring, tedious, and time-consuming.  We don’t want to be dorks who can’t talk about anything else and start wearing our pants really high on our waists.  I get it.  I felt that way myself in spite of the fact that I was living my life in service to Him as a committed Christian.  I prayed and asked God to give me a love for His Word, and amazingly He did it.  Everything has changed now.   I’m even wearing my pants really high on my waist.  (So that’s not true, but you all let me know if I start looking like a dork, okay?)

Loving God isn’t easy because it takes work, just like being in human relationships takes work.  But It is worth it.  I promise.  Pick up a One-Year Bible and join along with me.  If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear from you. 

Jesus saves and He makes all things new.

*Photographer:  Leslie Coelho

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Posted on Mar 21, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 15 comments

A Good Day

A Good Day

    

I’ve been through some dark times, days when I wondered if God had forgotten I existed or had simply decided to punish me for my many sins.  I have faced depression and anxiety, rejection, loneliness, fear, hatred, being over-looked and discarded, and other negative emotions and experiences.  I have also faced days when I thought the world was crashing in because I couldn’t meet a deadline or my laundry wasn’t done when I wanted to wear that special shirt.  None of you have ever done that, right?     

One day several years ago, I got frustrated over an assignment that couldn’t be completed without the input of colleagues who were not cooperating.  After work I called a friend to complain about what a bad day I was having.  She listened to me for about 60 seconds and then told me to turn on the news.  In stunned silence, I watched the end of a report on foster parents who had just been arrested for sexually abusing the children in their “Christian” home.  When the report ended, my friend quietly told me that she was the social worker who had trained those foster parents and placed the children in their care.  She was responsible for overseeing them.  She had no idea of the abuse taking place.  There were no signs.  She was devastated.  Can you imagine?     

I’ll never forget her words to me:  “This is a bad day.”      

That situation taught me a lot about perspective.       

During one of my darker days, I longingly remembered some good days I’d had.  I had good friends and an active social life, a good job with relative calm, and there were no major problems shaking my world.  But as I looked back I realized that I had not fully enjoyed nor appreciated those days.  I had allowed worry over things like losing 20 pounds or not having enough money to get a facial to steal my joy.     

That day I made a commitment to appreciate the good days.  Using the perspective I had learned, I’d put aside temporary struggles and be thankful for the day I had been given.  I would learn to declare good days GOOD.  So these days I often stop in the middle of a day to evaluate how things are going.  There is such joy in recognizing the good days when they come.  I declare the day GOOD, thank God for it, and try to be fully present in each moment.  Rather than missing the joy of that moment because I’m fretting over something I won’t remember in two weeks, I soak it in and use all five of my senses to enjoy it.     

March, 2010 - In front of cabin at the retreat center

 

Last week I spent the night at a spiritual retreat center.  Alone in a little cabin on 225 acres in the country, I could be as loud or quiet as I wanted to be.  The weather was perfect and I had nowhere else to be.  It was just me and God, and He gave me a peaceful spirit.  I explored creeks and woods, sat by a fire, read some good books, wrote in my journal, and prayed.  I sat in the sun on my flagstone porch and listened to the sounds of nature all around me.  I disciplined myself not to dwell on my problems, but to enjoy the moment.  After leaving there, I got to hang out with many good friends in a relaxed, casual atmosphere full of celebration.  I came home happy, tired, and satisfied.    

It was A GOOD DAY.    

How long has it been since you had a good day?    

My "Hermitage" at the retreat center

 

The creek I explored

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Posted on Mar 18, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 5 comments

Why Long for Heaven?

Why Long for Heaven?

I often think that the whole “heaven” thing is just weird.  Do you?  I can’t imagine it.  My life can get really busy and I have so much I still want to accomplish.  The idea of sitting on a cloud and singing for a thousand years doesn’t exactly appeal to me.  At times I find myself wondering if we’ve made the whole thing up.  My feelings about heaven don’t mean I don’t believe in God and want to honor Him with my life.  I just don’t really concern myself too much with the afterlife.  I know my life sucks without God directing it, so I’ve submitted to His direction.  But that’s all about my life.  Not my afterlife.

In my daily devotions last week, there was a part in there about heaven.  I felt a little guilty for my attitude, so I whispered a quick prayer.  “God, please change my heart.  It’s not that I don’t want to see YOU face to face, it’s just that I don’t understand why I should long to be there rather than working for You here.”

A few days later I heard a statement that struck me as strange.  It was something like, “In heaven we will no longer need self-discipline.”  Huh?  No self-discipline?  Well, that’s just sin.  Isn’t it?

I thought about it for a while and realized – it’s true.  As Christians, much of our energy and effort is taken up in self-discipline.  We guard our hearts.  We discipline our eyes (be careful little eyes what you see), we discipline our ears (be careful little ears what you hear), and we hold ourselves back from going places we don’t need to go (be careful little feet where you go).  We fast, denying ourselves the pleasure of food or TV for a time in order to purify ourselves.  We stop ourselves from pursuing inappropriate sexual relationships.  We feed on God’s Word in order to keep our hearts and minds pure.  We’re careful about what we say – not claiming defeat or negativity, not gossiping, encouraging one another.  As Christians, we spend a big portion of our time disciplining our sinful nature and trying to rise above it.  Hopefully we get so used to it that it becomes second nature to us.  But nevertheless, we are in a battle every day – a battle against ourselves.

In heaven, there will be no need for self-discipline.  We will be like God and our sinful desires will be gone.  Whatever we desire, we can do or have.  All our desires will be holy and pure.  There will be no more restraining ourselves, holding ourselves back.  We will just be able to BE. 

Imagine that.

And I told God I’d rather fight the battle against myself every single day in order to accomplish what I think He still has for me to do, than go to heaven and be with Him for eternity???

While there is still much that I want to accomplish in my lifetime and I have no desire to leave this earth at a young age, the peace and freedom God promises us in the afterlife are almost too much for me to comprehend.  The joy of it blows me away. 

I know that it’s a weird concept and very difficult to wrap our minds around.  We cannot comprehend what we have not seen.  And yet, that is the mystery of faith.  We believe, even though we cannot see.  We trust, even though our trust may be misplaced.  We choose to follow this path and see where it takes us. 

I am aware that it’s possible all this God stuff is made up.  But I also know what He has done for me.  I know the peace and joy He has given me.  I remember that He parted the Red Sea, He raised the dead, He calmed the wind and the waves, He walked on water, and he healed me.  This God I serve is worth facing my fears of foolishness.  He is worth facing my doubts.  He is worth giving up everything.  And I look forward to the day I see Him face to face and feel the total peace and rest of no longer fighting against all the evil that my human soul is prone to pursue.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson and John Wyeth

…Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace…

Is there anything that makes you long for heaven?

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Posted on Feb 16, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, My Crazy Family, Spiritual Life | 0 comments

February 14, 2010

February 14, 2010

I cried a lot today.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, but for once that had nothing to do with my tears.  I cried today because after three days with my niece, I had to leave again.  I also cried because I know my life is changing.  

Alexis Grace

 

My niece is two years old, and she has totally charmed me.  If I tell her I’m going somewhere, she gets a concerned look on her face and insists repeatedly, “And me.  And me!”  She wants to go along.  This morning I packed my bags and put them by the door.  I told her I had to leave, had to go back to my house, and I’d miss her.  Instead of saying, “And me!” she said, “Stay here.  Please stay here with me!”  And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces.  As little as she is, she understands the difference between a short errand and going home.   She understands that she won’t see me again for months.  And today she further understood that her charm will not always get her what she wants.  It broke my heart that I’m the one to teach her that terrible, but necessary lesson. 

My life is changing.  I’ve been blessed with 3+ years of stability, proximity to my family, a stable job, and relative calm.  I know this time has been a gift from God and I’m thankful for it.  But something is stirring inside me.  I wish I could articulate exactly what it is, but the only thing I know to call it is CHANGE.  God is changing me.  He is stretching me.  He is challenging the commitment I’ve made to total obedience, trust, and love.  He is asking me to give up things I’ve held to tightly, to open my hands and offer them to Him, with no visual of anything to replace the cherished.  

He isn’t dangling a big piece of Godiva chocolate in front of my face and asking me to let go of the m&m.  He’s just asking me to let go of the m&m.  I really like m&ms. 

I cried today because letting go is so hard to do.   

Even though I believe God has something more for me, it’s so hard to let go of the comfortable and familiar.  For a moment I berated myself for being so emotional, so dramatic, and for indulging in self-pity.  Then the thought came to me, “If this isn’t worth crying over, then what is?”  So I let the tears come and didn’t try to stop them.  I cried myself out.  

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17th.  This year I’m taking the time to purify my heart, mind, and body.  I’m emptying myself before the Lord.  I’m looking forward to standing before Him, ready to be filled by His truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness.  I’m also dreading the days ahead when I will likely feel the gamut of my emotions with nothing to soften the rawness.  I’m giving up my comforts so I may learn to look to the Lord alone for comfort.  

Anticipation of the results is what will give me the strength to do it.  Love for My Lord and Savior will pull me through.  And yes, I plan to be radically changed.  I’m ready.  I’m excited.  Today I mourned the loss of the familiar, but my tears weren’t without hope.  Through my fear, I face my blindness regarding the future and trust God to guide me to a place of bright color and beauty.

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