Tag Archives: God

Wrestling with God

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Thursday Night: Blog post titled “Looking for a Fight“. Nuff said.

Friday Night: I don’t feel like reading my Bible. I don’t really feel like praying. God, I’m just kind of sick of thinking about You, right now. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I want a break. I am usually more alert at night than I am in the morning, so I do my devotions just before bed. I skipped them that night.

 Sunday Morning: I spent Saturday night at my parent’s house [warmed the bed in my old room which is now very different, but still somewhat familiar] and awakened Sunday morning to the bustle of my family members as they prepared for church. Yawn. At home, with no one but my cat to wake me, I often sleep through the morning church service. With no excuse, I rise out of bed and wind up at church only slightly late (as opposed to the 30-45 minutes I usually come in late to my own church if I get up at all).

 

So I stroll into my parents’ church, and after the worship service comes to a close the pastor approaches the front and the powerpoint displays the following passage:

Genesis 32:24-32

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’

But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

And he said, ‘Jacob.’

He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’

Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’

And he blessed him there.

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’

Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”

 

Pastor’s point? God invites us to wrestle. He’s not afraid to fight. He wants us to get close to Him. You must get close to wrestle.

 

 

 

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Reflections: Love, Respect, and Sex

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

Okay, I skipped a few weeks on responding to these 700 club episodes. I’ll admit, it is no coincidence that I procrastinated on this specific episode. For one thing, I’ve written a lot about sex recently. I kind of wanted a break. Bur another reason I avoided this one is because I’m simply not sure how to respond.

I agree with parts of the teacher’s philosophy. I’m not so sure about other parts. I agree that sex within marriage is God’s plan and that it is absolutely the best way to go. I don’t suggest sex outside of marriage. However, his words leave me wondering how a couple will readily embrace the sexual union inside of marriage after training themselves to stay so far away from it.

That is always my issue when I look at the church’s approach to sex. I feel like this “Bad, bad, bad, stay away!” approach immediately followed by “You’re married now! Everything goes!” is just a disaster waiting to happen. I’m not necessarily sure what else to suggest, however.

Purity isn’t the part I struggle with. Single purity that leads into married purity is the issue I struggle with – if that makes sense. I think the sky high divorce rates within the church are a decent indication that whatever the church is teaching about sex and marriage right now isn’t very effective. I still feel as if the church uses the words “lust” and “attraction” synonymously. And I don’t think they should be interchangeable. I believe there is an important line that separates the two. I’m just not sure if I could point out that line.

Your thoughts?

Welcome Home!

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Mommy, it’s too early to shine a camera flash in my eyes!

<— I can’t imagine waking up to a cuter face. I was in Jamaica for twelve days. That’s it. My parents pick me and my friend up from the airport and give me a “welcome home” gift from two of my close friends. I drive to my apartment and find my kitty, delighted to see me, evidenced by mass quantities of cuddling and purring. I open up my refrigerator to discover more food than I could ever dream of eating by myself. I gave my brother some money and food to watch my cat and my apartment for me while I was gone and he blessed me with far more groceries than I gave him money to buy. He also shared all the stories of how miserable my cat was while I was gone and how Oreo would not let him sleep because he was not me.

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I’ve been home for four days now, and my cat is still acting ridiculously cuddly compared to usual. This is actually a beautiful thing – Jamaicans are such a warm people compared to Americans. I became accustomed to constant touch throughout the day… Hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, you name it. To have all that healthy touch ripped away from me is difficult. It sounds kind of funny, but my cat helps me cope.

Last night I went to play volleyball with some friends. At the end of the night, one of them apologized to me that everyone seemed to have paired off while I was gone. She mentioned how hard it must be to see that once I returned. She also noted how hard it must have been to go back to work after my trip.

But I don’t really feel that way. I feel pretty awesome actually. I may keep whining that I should have stayed in Jamaica [I do miss the friends I made, but mainly I whine just because I am a whiner baby.] But how many people go on vacation for less than two weeks and come back to welcome home gifts and a thousand “I missed you so much!”s from their friends? How many people return from vacation to find more food in their cupboards than when they left? How many singles come home to an animal eagerly waiting at the door for them because the house sitter just was not mommy? On the flip side, how many singles return home from vacation to an empty house with no pet to smother them with attention? How many women go on vacation and literally feel no reason to return home? How many people return home and wonder if anyone missed them at all?

I always go through a little bit of post-travel depression. I LOVE to travel, and each time I come home I wonder why I have not moved from this country yet. But it wasn’t so bad this time. This time I was too aware of how loved I am. My friends pairing off? It’s nice to see them happy. My job? There are worse jobs. I am blessed to have one that allows me these luxuries in life such as travel. Loneliness? What loneliness? God has surrounded me by people who love me. One of my new friends from Jamaica called me last night and he immediately asked me if I was okay. All I could think was, “Why wouldn’t I be okay?” No problem, Mon – life is good!

Sex and Vodka

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It tastes like Swedish Fish! How could one resist?

I enter the liquor store and begin to browse the aisles. This is completely foreign territory for me. Less than ten minutes later I approach the counter and ask for direction. I will never find the bottle I’m looking for by myself. I’m clueless.

A few minutes later I am standing in the parking lot talking on the phone with my friend. She tells me how cute it is that I’m self-conscious about asking people for help in a liquor store. All of the sudden I realize how loudly I am discussing the fact that I just purchased vodka in a public parking lot. Who might hear me? What will they think?

A few distinct faces and their potential thoughts immediately enter my imagination… I need to get out of here…

I do not believe that drinking alcohol is sinful. The Bible clearly indicates that drunkenness is a bad thing. And addiction is quite obviously [biblical backup or not] a bad thing. But drinking in moderation? I don’t believe it is wrong. I’ve made this statement multiple times.

As a general rule, however, I do not drink. Primarily I avoid alcohol because I do not want to cause anyone else to stumble (I’ve had many friends who struggle with addiction) and because I do not want to develop any addiction myself. I have a rather addictive personality.

If you are wondering, “What is your point?” at the moment, I ask you to bear with me for just a tad bit longer.

Two of my friends had a really rough week. Things got particularly emotional regarding certain men in their lives. On Wednesday, after buying cherry red lipstick completely on whim, I suggested the three of us have a girl’s night out this Friday. Theme for the night: bold lip color. Why not? Nothing cheers up a woman better than making herself beautiful and then flaunting said beauty with others.

We were trying so hard not to laugh…

The plan? Dinner out. Drinks and chick flicks at home.

That’s when I drove off to the liquor store for drinks. Then that feeling of guilt washed over me. In my mind, I reviewed all of my personal convictions about alcohol. Why do I feel so uncomfortable? You see, I’m not even sure if I can describe my feeling as “guilty”. You see, I did not feel concerned that God would condemn my behavior. I only felt concerned about what other people would think. I kept reminding myself, “If what I am doing is not morally wrong, then I have no reason to feel ashamed right now!”

After dinner out, we hit the grocery store to pick up some lemon-lime pop to be mixed with the vodka I purchased earlier. I grab another drink I have been wanting to try. As long as I am drinking alcohol tonight, I might as well try everything I want. Then we run into a pastor we know who is just entering retirement. I give him a hug, alcoholic beverage in hand. Then we chat for about twenty minutes. The whole time we talk, I am wondering how he feels about the drink I am holding. Then I am arguing with myself that it shouldn’t matter. I have no reason to feel ashamed. We are not getting drunk tonight. He doesn’t say a word about the drink. (But he does compliment the lipstick ;))  We head for the soft drink aisle and I change my mind about the drink in my hand. After holding it for twenty minutes, I decide I don’t want to try it that badly – the vodka will be enough for tonight. I put it back and we leave.

Also trying to keep straight faces here.

Back at the apartment, we mix our drinks and watch our movie. True to our intentions, none of us get drunk. Not even tipsy. I had two drinks in the span of about three hours. No big deal.

Tonight, in the very same apartment, we had Bible Study. The discussion? Romans 2. Specifically, we talk about the word “conscience”. How much of our conscience is naturally placed within us by God and how much of it is formed due to training?  It hits me: this is exactly the issue that came up last night. I feel no natural convictions about drinking in moderation from God. But the churchianity view that all drinking is bad has nurtured my conscience in a different direction. In other words, at times I feel guilty about things I don’t have to feel guilty about. Although I did nothing wrong, I walked around half the night in shame. False shame.

What does all of this have to do with sex? Just like alcohol, sex brings with it a bad stigma. In all reality, it is a wonderful thing while experienced in the right context. In Ecclesiastes we learn that life is short, and therefore we should enjoy it!

Ecclesiastes 9:7-9

“Go, eat your bread with joy,

And drink your wine with a merry heart;

For God has already accepted your works.

Let your garments always be white,

And let your head lack no oil.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.”

We couldn’t help it… Started laughing.

We are advised to enjoy drinking wine and to enjoy marriage! We can live life – and live it happily – without either. Paul gives great argument for singleness. But if we choose to drink sometimes or to get married, we can enjoy both of those things to the fullest! The problem with the modern church is that  such things as alcohol and sex are emphasized so greatly as negatives, that many Christians aren’t sure how to enjoy them anymore.

Young adults enter marriage and do not know how to enjoy physical intimacy. Or worse, young adults do not enter marriage when they should – with the sentiment that they want to put God first. Putting God first is healthy. But it doesn’t always mean that we should neglect marriage. We have been forced to stifle our sexuality. Churches are teaching all kinds of things about sex. Some good. Some not so good. I’ve heard it taught that singles should not even kiss. Okay… I can understand some of the reasoning behind that mentality. But what is a bride going to go through when she transfers from “Do not touch him ever – kissing is sinful!” to “Everything is allowed. Your body is his and his is yours.” I’ve heard singles accused of idolatry simply for desiring a marriage relationship. Since when is desiring a husband sinful? Obsessing to the point of “I can’t think of anything else!” isn’t so hot. But let’s not bash the desire. In backlash to the sin of lust, many Christians seem to think that men and women should not even be attracted to one another. “Young man, if you have desire for that woman, you are in sin!” Not true! How about the practice of the Catholic church when they force clergy to commit to celibacy? A godly man who wants to become a priest in order to teach God’s word must stifle his sexuality in a way God likely never intended.

Touching on what I spoke about in “Yoke or Burn”, might I suggest that another reason Christian marriage is failing is due to this concept of false shame? Remaining celibate until marriage is difficult in itself. Magnify that difficulty by bringing shame upon actions that are actually okay and see what results. When you think about these things, I encourage you to study what the Bible truly teaches. Is this actually wrong? Or is that just the common rumor amongst churchgoers? Is this a healthy boundary in my relationship? Or am I putting up a wall in an effort to look more righteous? Am I single because God wants me to be single right now? Or am I fighting marriage in an effort to appear more devoted to Christ?

Drinking alcohol and having sex are very comparable. God intended both for good within a certain context. Both have unfortunately been tainted by the world. And in response to world, the church has taken them to the opposite extremes.

Reflections: Are you Dateable?

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A friend of mine steered me toward a new series regarding singleness. http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

I believe the first one I watched (Are you Dateable?) made a lot of sense, so I plan to watch and respond to each episode. Feel free to offer your own feedback after viewing.

The expert in the first episode refers back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

I have to admit, I have always wondered about these words. Each and every time I read them, I ask the same question: What if you don’t love yourself? That word, “as”, holds a lot of power. I felt like jumping up and down when this man immediately addressed my ever-present question. I loved his point and I agree.

We are all screw-ups. We all make mistakes. We all act viciously at times. We all say things we regret. We all do things we regret. We all look in the mirror and find things we don’t like at times. We all have issues. Issues often make us ultra-aware of how unlovable we are.

Then there is God. The Bible is funny in that a large portion emphasizes mankind’s flaws. In other words, it agrees with all of our self-conscious, regretful, shame-faced feelings and says God is good, but we are not. And then it goes on to show that God deemed us lovable anyway! Although, we aren’t perfect, He proudly declares that we are made in His image! We disobeyed His loving guidance, and He gave us grace. “Try again. I’ll send my son, Jesus Christ, to give you another chance. And I will give you My Holy Spirit to help you along as well. It’s going to cost a lot… My son’s life, in fact. But you are worth it.”

I tear up as I envision my heavenly Father and His love for me. He offered up His only Begotten, in order to adopt me in! I can give Him my lopsided, scribbly picture – my attempt to portray the sunset He created… and rather than point out my mistakes and toss out my artwork, He smiles at that picture and hangs it upon His refrigerator. “That’s what my daughter drew for me!”

The Lord infuses value into His people. When I go to Him, I can pour out  my flaws, my weaknesses, all of my ISSUES, and God turns them all around. He heals me, teaches me, works with me, blesses me, and after all that when I screw up again, He keeps on loving me.

When I see the way He loves me, I cannot help but begin to see things from His perspective, and love myself as well.

He Is With Me

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http://youtu.be/P3CVlv2dz3w

Everybody seems to focus on the negative aspects of breakups. I have to admit – breakups seem to work in my favor. Or at least one breakup worked in my favor. I just got back from a fabulous Mandisa concert due to a breakup. My friend’s extra ticket was originally designated for her boyfriend. But since she is newly single, she invited me along instead… And we had a blast!

I enjoy some of Mandisa’s music, but I am no diehard fan. Therefore I had never before heard this incredible woman’s story. Without going into great detail she referenced some childhood abuse and her resulting mistrust toward men. She moved on to describe her fear-driven journey toward obesity. She numbed the pain from those unfair memories bite by bite, taste by taste, seeking comfort in every morsel.

Unfortunately, the comfort those empty calories carried was fleeting. At her heaviest point, or in her words –her “morbidly obesist” – she realized that her unhealthy eating habits were ruining her life. She did not seem to care about being skinny. She did care about being healthy.

In a world where reference to abuse is taboo, Mandisa boldly shared her testimony. In a country where gluttony is considered “culturally acceptable” and pastors don’t preach against it, Mandisa bravely confessed her struggle. The greatest part, however, was her ending point: Jesus delivered her.

That beautiful woman dropped 100 life-inhibiting pounds, and now she dances on stage with all kinds of enthusiasm, praising her Deliverer! I am posting “He is With You” on this blog only because she sings about giving up about finding your true love toward the end of her song. As she belted those lyrics out live at the concert, she gestured toward herself to humbly proclaim her own fears.

Mandisa worries she may be single for life. She asks Jesus Christ to walk beside her down this path called life. She trusts that through all the worries, all the pain, all the struggles, He is with her. She clings to hope and boasts of God’s steadfast loyalty. As she faces her childhood haunts, as she lives her dream onstage, as she battles the temptation to overeat, and as she cherishes the friends around her, Mandisa reminds herself and others that God is always with us. I believe Mandisa knows that although she is single, she is still the lovely Bride of Christ.

Valentine’s Day …

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Dewey is on the left and Duffy is on the right.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. This day is all about romance, all about love – dedicated to sappy couples. To us singles, it is often just a brutal reminder of how alone we really are. We can’t ignore it because every time we walk into a store we see big red displays; hearts plaster the walls and flowers bud in every aisle  The advertisements may start as early as the first week of January, leaving us to hope, dream, and be disappointed for over a month. To make matters worse we can’t overlook all the excitement on the actual day. Bouquets sent to coworkers and friends’ gleeful cries over what their sweethearts’ gave them forbid us the peace forgetfulness offers.

I have to admit, I have shed some tears on Valentine’s Day. My very first heartbreak occurred at a school Valentine’s Dance. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to.

It started in high school. Two of my male friends had crushes on me. They’d been pursuing me for weeks. Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. I was terrified that these boys would get me Valentines and expect me to respond romantically. They were my friends and I did not want to hurt them. But they were my friends and I also did not want to date them. I dreaded the awkwardness that awaited me should one of them give me a gift and ask me out.

On the other hand, most of my peers were dating and I knew they’d be getting gifts. And I knew that I would hear them gloat over their wonderful relationships and then I would long for someone to give me a beautiful gift. I would yearn to feel special, feel loved. So I prayed.

I didn’t know what to ask for. I understood that asking for a Valentine, just to make me feel good, was selfish. I also realized that if I told God I didn’t want any Valentines I would be lying. If I didn’t get any Valentine I would probably wallow in self-pity, because that was the mood I was working myself up toward, and that self-pity had the great potential to turn into anger at God over my loneliness.

So I decided to spill my guts to God and tell him exactly how I was feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted something. After pausing and contemplating, babbling and stuttering, it came out kind of like, “Dear Lord, it would be awfully nice if someone who didn’t like me at all gave me a Valentine.”

Along came the big day. I went to school. Not a single gift. Thank you, Lord, those guys didn’t buy me anything. I went home mostly satisfied with the way things had turned out. I didn’t have to face any awkward conversations or accept anything I didn’t want. But I have to admit underneath all the positive feelings, I still carried a little disappointment.

Then I got a phone call. My next door neighbor asked me to come over. She was an elderly lady whom I talked with almost every day and had practically adopted as my grandmother. I walked over to her house and to my delight she held a great big pink dog with a huge heart attached to his collar. He was absolutely adorable and as soft as could be. Best of all, he was for me.

I knew that dog, Duffy I named him, wasn’t just from my next-door neighbor. God looked down at me that Valentine’s Day and decided to remind me that He loves me. If He loves me, what more do I need?

Since that Valentine’s Day I have had a few on which I didn’t receive a thing. But that doesn’t bother me anymore, because I know how much my Jesus loves me. That’s all I need. And for now, I would rather not be getting any Valentines than getting them from men I don’t like. 😉