Monday, February 28, 2011

What Needs To Be Said?

You shall not commit adultery.  Exodus 20:14 (The Old, Old, almost old-fashioned Testament)

Adultery, it's the new black of all fashionable marriages.   (Trendy cultural norm)

Infidelity:  as each day passes it becomes a more darling indulgence in "romance" novels, movies, TV-shows.  It's fun and exciting!  Like jumping on a trampoline or eating an ice cream cone.

A short time past, The Official Media portrayal of adultery was flirtatious episode that puts the main character into a bit of a jam and as the laugh tracks and soundtracks play on the character weaseled his or her way out of the Oops.  Indiscretion.  Diversion. Mishaps. Naughty.
But today, in The Official Media adultery is the new and improved ingredient for any marriage.  It's encouraged, presented with the same laugh tracks and soundtracks, but now as a healthy, spicy, fresh ingredient to the martial mix--like a good homemade salsa.  Mix up the monogamy, and your marriage will have even more flavor and zest.
So, let's start with the obvious:  that adultery in the land of trendy pretend both then and now is a cruel lie. Real world adultery is a poison.   Too much exposure to this pretend adultery-as-entertainment will numb reality of poison and instead plant the seeds that it's really constructive, or at least permissible. Time I tune that message out.

I'm not just working up a commentary on the abstract media, this blog started with two recent people, trapped in the real destruction of cheating.
 
The past few days, I was confronted by both sides of the adultery coin, these are both friends of friends (FOF).  The first of my friends (FOF) has a neighbor who is cheating on her spouse.  The second friend of mine has a friend whose spouse is having an affair.
 
So, my mind rolls on, what to say about real life adultery?  Is it even my business? 

It occurred to me that part of loving other people, demands engagement with them.  It's not very loving to just toss out the minding my own business card as a dodge when life gets dark or complicated.

It also hit me that minding my own business leads to the exaggeration of isolation.  Living in a world of isolation islands is the perfect exotic locale for toxic consumption.

So what's the faithful response to these two FOF which avoids the useless and self serving trap of being a curious bystander or prissy Pharisee?

To the FOF, who is currently having an affair...what to say?  I think, start and stay with simply what is true...
  • Adultery is a decision, not an accident.  It requires planning and intentional choices (no falling in and out of love)
  • Adultery is destructive, it will harm many people and relationships in its path.  It's cruel.
  • Adultery is usually about power, not so much about sex.  Address the real problem.
  • Adultery is not caused by an unhappy marriage, it's caused by a spouses unfaithfulness. (period).
When our friends or our FOF opt for such destruction damaging relationships, let's point to what is true about it.  There is a huge cost that must be paid for extramarital sex;   a moral, physical, financial and emotional cost. 

Risking the perceived label of judgmental, I would remind my friend about the costs of real world affairs.  No laugh tracks to ease us from one scene to the next.

Next, my response to the devastated FOF whose spouse cheated:   
  • I am so sorry for your pain from that violation. 
  • I would look for ways to care for you, to remind you that what defines you is not your spouse's words, deeds or thoughts.   I
  •  would pray for your healing and for an experience of grace--where you can experience getting better than you deserve after experiencing worse than you deserve.
  • I would say get thee into a sound, faithful group of the same gender, who will encourage, equip and remind you of God's ways through God's word.  Sound counseling too...let the help help.
  • I would pray for the power of reconciliation to take over the marriage, possible albeit counter to what seems right or fair or good. 
The real pain and consequence of adultery is lost in the ad campaign for lust or the bitter fights of divorce. 

Healthy marriage does actually enhance the physical, emotional, financial, intellectual life--it clearly contributes to that abundant life, that free life,  that joy,  God portrays in painting a picture of a faithful life.

We are well served to remember honestly what is constructive about faithful marriage--celebrate it.

We are well served to remember honestly what is destructive about an unfaithful one--grieve it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guest Post by Mother Teresa (isn't that just like her to share)

I have said for a while that most people are not as grace filled as Mother Teresa nor as consumed by evil as Hitler, so why do we compare our lives (or others) by those standards?  Look up and then in the heart for the true measure.   However, what's a good Monday without an exception?  My friend Sue from Bible study just sent this to me, and I loved it, and want to share.

Mother Teresa's Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Looks like a devotional I pulled together for a meeting tomorrow is going to cancel (the meeting, but not devotional) so I will share/recycle with you all in the a.m.

Happy President's Day, grateful for elections and civic freedoms (different than spiritual freedoms) even if politics is as thick and sticky as simmering molasses.  OK, I am getting a little homespun.  Signing off.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pausing to Consider: Where Did That Come From?

Forgiveness:  typical of many truths, we all agree on its merits and very few agree to fully express it.  We all love to be on the receiving end of it, we often hesitate to be the deliverer.  That lack of balance creates some real daily tension in my mind and heart.

The word resentment means to feel again.  It is to recover, review, repeat and relive again and again an old hurt or disappointment.  I came across in reading today this quote from Martin Luther, "Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had in the course of their nine hundred years.   Eve would say, 'you ate the apple, ' and Adam would retort, 'you gave it to me.'"

Forgiveness:  to release, excuse and not pursue any kind of compensation for an offense or perceive offense.  It's the only escape hatch for the pit of resentment. 

Lewis Smedes concludes  in his work, The Art of Forgiving, that God seems to move through stages to forgive humans.  Initially, he sees the humanity of the person who wronged him, but removing the barrier created by sin, then he gives up his right to justice, and a fair response (he takes the punishment) and last he changes his feeling toward humans so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, restored.

That is insightful, but only helpful if we can assume that posture when confronted with real rejection, real violation or even the real irritation.  What does that first stage really look like?  Considering the humanity of the person who launched at me or you?  

Rather than reliving the moment, what about reconsidering the context--what makes that person tick or ticked off?  Why did his or her brokenness come crashing down on me--what is that brokenness?  How can I help them, or what would help them? 

Instead of trying to just love the unlovable,  maybe a first small step of pausing to consider his or her humanity (the comment of Christ on the cross...forgive them for they know not what they do).  Why did he say that?   The second part?  That we did not know we were killing the Son of God, yes.  But was there more to that comment?  We act poorly in ways we don't fully appreciate--unintended consquence or underestimated consequence.

Can I consider that the one who hurt me has no full understanding of that hurt, just as an intial step in the pursuit of gracing others?

This, of course is not to dismiss the necessity of boundaries or the wisdom of creating some space with people who are destructive in ways that I am not equipped to engage--but I started with resentment.  Snake nibbles, not bites, that are an all to common occurrence.

What do you think, what do you think it means to consider the humanity of the offender?

(Luther and Smedes quote pulled from What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey--an incredible book).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Shelter of God's Promises Delivers on It's Promise

The Shelter of God's Promises by Shelia Walsh is the best personal Bible study/book that I have read in a long time.  Too often personal studies are difficult to stay with--most studies are best suited in a group setting.  However, this reads like a book with commentary/study aspects that make it something that can naturally fold into an individual woman's schedule.

This excerpt from the chapter on Strength captures Walsh's gift for pairing reality and spiritual truth.

She begins with a spiritual truth:  "True strength invites us to live with an open heart and soul, knowing that Christ has a good, strong hold on us."

Then,  she honestly discloses the reality of her personal depression, concluding:   "Depression is only one of myriad isolating realities.  I think of the woman who has just been told that she cannot have children, the nursery door slams in her face and she will remain an outsider.  To the one whose husband looking in her eyes,  after twenty years of marriage and tells her, 'I don't love you anymore, I'm not sure I ever did.'  Or the woman who looks in the mirror after the landscape of her femininity has been ravaged by breast cancer, 'pull yourself together, you have so much to be thankful for!'   To those who are in the eye of the storm, that is like saying to a child with a crushed leg, 'get up and walk.'"

That is truth:  life truth, Biblical truth.  The lives of faithful people are not tidy.

Shelter is not sentimental, not afraid to capture life--but does stay true to its focus on the many  promises of God.  Walsh grabs scripture, real life and sound application in every chapter, presenting the promises of God in a relevant and inspiring way.  No small trick.

So often promises of God are packaged in a Name It, Claim It formula or like fortune cookie encouragements--Walsh never engages those common traps, and writes a substantive and tender look at the power and importance of those promises.

She enhances her work with many quotes from others writers (such as C.S. Lewis) and regular scriptural references, including conxtext and transliteration from Hebrew or Greek, so the reader really experiences this subject through solid study methods--but again, it can be a nighttime read, not requiring the kind of attention of traditional studies.

The Shelted of God's Promises delivers on it's promise to teach and encourage.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Song Of Solomon & Valentine's Day


"Come with me from Lebanon, my bride...you have stolen my heart, my bride, you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes with one jewel of your necklace, how delightful is your love, my bride?  How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice."  Song of Solomon chapter 2 

 "He mouth is sweetness itself;  he is altogether lovely.  This is my lover, this is my friend."  Song of Solomon chapter 5

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.  It burns like a blazing fir like a mighty flame.  Many waters cannot quench love   rivers cannot wash it away."  Song of Solomon chapter 8

Hebrews put all human experience and expression into words, and love is no exception.  Song of Solomon is the voice of love in the Bible.  Tucked into the Bible at the end of the books of poetry:  Job (profound); Psalms (emotions of the faithful); Proverbs (wisdom for faithful decisions) and Ecclesiastes  (a mind wandering in search of faithful meaning) then Song of Solomon--the description of  love (romantic love, sexual love) feels like and sounds like between two lovers in a marriage.

It is neither cheap, like our culture,  nor is it priggish or embarrassed--much of the poetry is graphic capturing the physical expression of love and sex. 

What is it then?  Like all Scripture its true.  Our heart yearns and desires to express love physically with someone we love completely.  It's powerful, sensual and intimate and beautiful. 

Which brings us to Valentine's Day.  Note what I found on my desk this AM.
 
Inside it reads: I HATE VALENTINES DAY...but I love you! 
Followed by a very sweet and affectionate note from hubby JR.

Well, Song of Solomon it's not.  Why doesn't our modern day Valentine's inspire great expression of love (not that this card isn't a beautiful treasure of romance).

Some thoughts
1.  None of us like to be told what to do, think or feel.  Valentine's Day creates an obligation more than an opportunity for expressing love.  Men feel this annoying duty more than women, I think.

2.  Valentine's is cheesy, as is the word cheesy and it sounds cheesy, its an  onomatopoeia!  I digress.  Flowers, candy, cards, jewelry are fine amusements but they do not capture love, they capture amusement.  They are delights, but not our heart's desire.

3.  Valentines Day is like many holidays it's an artificial celebration, like Earth Day (April 22) or Family Day--a day to eat with your children (September 28).  We know these "holidays"  don't really merit a designated special day.  I would add more, but I don't want to offend.

4.  We as Americans lose perspective on the minor things.  Instead of this being fun, we stress about the plans for our children's Valentines party, we have unreasonable expectations for gifts and response to gifts from our loved ones, we outfit our homes in the theme and spend loads of cash on something of little substance.

So, why did JR feel the need get me this card (and plan a getaway weekend)  if I have such an objective impersonal, mature view of Valentine's Day?  Well, the truth is I love it and I love it because I love him:  I am not objective, impersonal or mature about it at all. 

I love having fun with it, using it as an excuse to flirt and buy myself some pretty flowers.   I like the sappiness of it, and I think I like it because I share life with a wonderful man who, in spite of his Scrooge/Valentine's Day posture, adores me and treats me with love and affection.  He is a joy to live with and because of that, propping up a commercially driven day is to me, kinda fun. 

Sappy, romantic, goofy...sign me up, for one day a year.

Valentine's Day is no Song of Solomon in capturing the passion and power of love (better than the Huey Lewis song)...but it can be fun and playful.  Song of Solomon reminds me that what Valentines Day feebly points to, Song of Solomon captures with much more passion and power--but both are representative something amazing--the great gift and importance of love. 

Whether it s a frivolous expression or a Biblical expression--it's pausing to appreciate a glorious thing--when humans get life right.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why No Blogs? A Famous Blogger Stopped By and so I Stopped

My writing absense excuse--its not my fault, it's Jon's.

Yep, that familar line reads just as lame as it sounds coming from my darling resident teens. 

Rule one of blogging--blog regularly.  More writing will lead to better writing, but most of all it's considerate.  Having readers check in routinely and find nothing new is annoying.  Annoying is not helpful or funny.  If one is going to be annoying, one should be cute too, like a puppy and I am not cute.  So my apologies to you for my hiatus.  Now why I tried to throw Jon Acuff under my procrastination bus...

Jon Acuff, a blogging super star, checked into my blog and e-mailed me his thoughts as an evaluation (he is not one of my three regulars, but perhaps that will change).  He was kind, encouraging and offered some suggestions.  One of them was lists.  I like lists, so here is a list of planned blogs entries, then the story behind his review.

Upcoming Topics
  • --friend of a friend's adultery, my response
  • --silly American prayers
  • --why my denomination makes me sad and mad and a tiny, tiny, wee bit glad--but more sad/mad
  • --sound theology, its like breakfast--really important to good health, energy
  • --why is unforgiveness so attractive
  • --major in the minors (weekly entry)
  • --pearls--what friends taught me (regular entry, depending on the wisdom dispensed and my ability to listen/remember)
  • --faith on the front lines:  when faith and family thrive and nosedive (regular entry)
  • --book reviews (new Shelia Walsh and new Jon Acuff on deck)

Back to Jon Acuff (writer of Stuff Christians Like--a must read, along with Faith & Grace Notes and The Bible).  It startled me to get his e-mail with my blog review.  It was like Throw Down with Bobby Flay only minus the Throw Down part and the Bobby part and the TV camera part and the food part.

However, it was totally unexpected.  I was e-mailing thanks (also not the most considerate means of communicaiton) some Mom committee volunteers, when presto a famous person's note popped up in my inbox. 

I responded like a bozo at first, sorta nervous and excited and well--WOW and then oh no, he actuallly read my blog.  Yikes.  Which was great in that I did not dress up my blog to try and impress.  I did not speak in soothing tones trying to sound smart.  He saw the real thing and so his help was really helpful.  Still, it was weird to have someone,  who is considered one of the best bloggers in America,  swing by my little site.

If you are wondering why would blogger big man visit--it was part of a reader response on SCL tied into his new book (Gazelles, Baby Steps...).   I didn't know he would "select" me, and I had forgotten about responding to his idea and book promotion in December.

The experience took me back to one of the first Bible study groups I was part of, where we shared what we would really be like if Jesus in person came to our home as a guest for awhile.  What would we pretend to be like, and why fake it?  Who are we kidding?  It's a funny thing to imagine--what you would wear, the manners you would try and achieve, the food you would serve:  I would do something ridiculous like try and serve Kosher, or I would serve pork and then apologize or pretend to be vegan or just drink water, unless he turned into wine...get the picture.  Imagine it and laugh at yourself, or just laugh at me--

This leads to another blog entry that is not on the list, but will be soon--isolation that comes from pretending.

More, soon--very soon.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?