Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chipped Teacups and Broken Mugs

I saw this meme on Facebook and thought the image they chose was perfect as an example of how we truly are in the eyes of God without Christ.

From the Tim Challies' blog:

I appreciate the cup being broken. Some like to portray us as "chipped teacups." You can still drink out of a chipped teacup. I happen to have a prized teacup that is chipped, and it's easy to hide its imperfections when I have it on display. I'm afraid that is how we see ourselves too often. We're just a little chipped. We can hide that.

My prized Royal Albert teacup
It's easy to put our best foot forward when others are looking. We can dress modestly and lust after someone attractive. We can keep our mouths shut when our hearts are full of cursing and bitterness. We can carry our Bibles to church and neglect to crack them open during the week. I'm sure the whitewashed graves Christ compared the Pharisees to were a lovely sight to behold gleaming in the sun (Matthew 23:27), lovely receptacles for the dead men's bones hidden inside.

Whited sepulchres (source)
In reality, we are like the broken coffee mug, useful for nothing. We aren't worthy of display or even to be stashed behind a cabinet door. We are completely broken and worthy of the trash bin. Yet, God loved us in spite of ourselves and gave the greatest gift in the universe to redeem us, His own Son. When we believe in Christ, He gives us His Spirit, making us new creations useful for the good of others, all for His glory and not our own. 
Amazing love. 
Amazing grace.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Re-evaluating the Purity Culture

The following thoughts were spawned by reading a blog post by Sheila Wray Gregoire called 10 Things That Scare Me About the "Purity" Culture. In it she raises some very good points to consider about how we teach purity to our children. 

I was not raised in the "purity" culture in our home. In fact, my mother laughed when I told her I intended to save my first kiss for the altar. However, she always taught me sex was good and that sex was a gift from God for married people only. All the other purity teachings I got were from the pulpit -- never touching or being alone with anyone of the opposite sex at all whatsoever, long and loose clothing, and having a chaperon on dates, to name a few --, and I accepted those beliefs as my own convictions.

However, I don't remember any of my religious teachers even remotely implying that sex was dirty in the context of marriage. On the contrary, they taught us that purity before marriage would lay the foundation for a healthy sexual relationship in marriage. They expected us to have crushes and be tempted. They just didn't want us to do something we would regret later in our marriages. I am thankful to this day after 30+ years of marriage that I listened to them!

Perhaps the problem is in teaching that what is perceived as sinful is actually only unwise and could lead to sin, such as kissing. Women who have had sex know full well that kissing is closer to the final act itself than holding hands and that holding hands is closer to intercourse than just looking longingly into the other's eyes (see Song of Solomon 6:5a).[1]

Also, any way you look at it, wearing clothes in order to incite lust is laying a stumbling block before our brothers and is indeed sinful. Now, what incites lust may be debatable, but as a woman of faith and with love toward my brothers in Christ, I want to find out so I can avoid it. Perhaps that is also why most purity teaching is directed toward girls because guys seem to struggle more with this.

However, we do not want to make the mistake of guarding against all that attracts the opposite sex or making all that is attractive sinful. I think that is the main point Sheila is trying to make.

We taught the purity principles (laws?) to our children as they were growing up. Still we always gave the expectation they would all probably marry some day and that God would give them the gift of sex at that time. However, when it came time to find a mate, they discovered that because we had separated the boys from the girls so well, they were total strangers to one another. We discovered after the fact that we had made a huge mistake. We should have encouraged them to spend more time together in mixed-sex fellowship. What a novel idea.

I am not "scared" about the purity culture, but I am concerned we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water by our too stringent ways. There should be teaching on purity, of course, but there should also be time for them to socialize and put those teachings into practice. If purity is showing respect for others' sexuality, then they need a context for showing respect to those others. Getting to know each other in group settings first is a perfect way to get to know one another without the expectation of sexual attraction. Then, once it is clear there is an attraction accompanying a genuine friendship, dating may ensue. It's time to be alone with one another.

The age and maturity of the children should, of course, be taken into account. But, I've known young people in their twenties who still live at home and are not allowed to be alone in company with someone they are dating. If they choose to have a chaperon, that's one thing; but, if they would be comfortable dating without one, then they should be treated as the adults they are and be given that choice without raising a stink or putting them on a guilt trip.

There was one time when I approached one of our grown children about a situation I thought might be unwise. They and their sweetheart were planning a day trip to a remote, secluded beach. I didn't mean to imply I thought they were planning to "do something;" I only wanted to warn them that it might be an unwise situation that could lead to something they would regret later. They took my advice, but I would have been wrong to reproach them if they had not. There was a mutual respect and trust between us.

Teaching wisdom regarding modesty and purity to your children as they mature is important for their well being and that of their future marriages. Yet, we must do so with the expectation they will one day use those God given attractions and urges to develop a fulfilling holy marriage bed. And remember, without those attractions and urges you won't get grand kids! :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Were you raised in a purity culture? What problems, if any, did you encounter or still struggle with because of it? What do you wish you would have done differently either in your own views on purity or in rearing your children? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.

[1] See Dr. James Dobson's stages of intimate bonding for some enlightenment on why these things may not be wise:

Thursday, December 31, 2015

10 Tips For Making New Year's Resolutions a Reality

Why do we do this to ourselves every year? Because there is hope in it. There is hope that this year will be the year we finally keep those resolutions to develop healthy habits, set up a cleaning routine, make more time for family, and get out of debt. Yet, it doesn't take long before all our best intentions fall apart like the snowman melting in the sun in the front yard. 

So, what could make this year any different? Let me share with you a few tips and tricks for finally making at least some of those New Year's resolutions a reality:

  1. Determine whether or not your resolutions are really attainable. If your New Year's resolution is to lose weight, you might consider that not every woman is meant to weigh 120 pounds. If you've made the same resolutions year after year and have failed consistently, it may be time to re-evaluate.
  2. Write them down. You don't have to set up a special notebook for this exercise, just get out a sheet of notebook paper and write out what you are resolved to do this coming year.
  3. Keep your list close at hand. If you read your Bible every day, as you should, you may wish to keep them in there where they will be handy.
  4. Pray over them diligently. Just about every resolution you may think of begins with heart changes. But, the flesh gets tired of doing spiritual things. Keeping your resolutions in your Bible will be a good way to remind you to pray for God's grace to implement them. 
  5. Tell someone about them. This isn't necessarily for accountability's sake, although that may be a good idea, but you are further cementing them in your own mind by verbalizing them. 
  6. Plan for success. You will be better able to keep to your resolutions if you have a plan of action. Do some research regarding your chosen subject, then map out what it will take to get to your destination. Someone hoping to lose weight might begin by purchasing or checking out cookbooks with healthy recipes from the library and making menus from them. Anyone interested in keeping their home clean will need to work out some sort of schedule and perhaps assign others in the family to assist in the work load. He who fails to plan, plans to fail.
  7. Gather the necessary tools. You cannot build a house without the proper tools, and neither can you make your resolutions work without the means to carry them out. What exercise equipment or apparel are needed to begin your exercise program of choice? Do you need a budget software to keep your spending in order? What foods should be purchased to make the healthy meals you have planned?
  8. Break them down into attainable goals. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was your messy house, your overweight body, your mounting debt, your (fill in the blank). It is best to begin with an easily attainable goal relating to each resolution. For instance, instead of making it your goal to wipe down the bathroom every morning, decide to keep a bottle of cleaner and a cloth out on the counter each evening before bed. You will be one step ahead of the game by doing this one little thing. For weight management, you might consider preparing some meals for the freezer, cleaning and chopping vegetables for recipes ahead of time, or parsing out snacks into individual portions. You get the idea.
  9. See your failures as temporary setbacks. Most of the time, our resolve is quickly broken when we discover we are fallible human beings. We miss the mark and give up. But, if we see the flat tire as part of the journey, we may fix it quickly and get back on the road. 
  10. Use the buddy system. This is the best way to keep resolutions regarding your health. Find a support group for losing weight or start your own with some friends from church or at work. Ask your spouse, one of the kids, or a friend or neighbor to start walking with you. It's always more encouraging to continue when you know there are others who will be expecting you to join them. 
I was intrigued to find a list of resolutions penned by a well-known minister of the American Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), found hereI can't help wondering how well he was able to keep his resolutions. Much better than I am, I'm sure! :)