Pray For India; Wordless Wednesday

Our hearts and prayers are with India that The God Who Is will bring a speedy end to the suffering of its people.

2021-05-12 Wordless Wednesday Pray for India
Multiple funeral pyres of Indian victims of COVID-19 burn in a New Delhi area converted for mass cremation on April 24.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/may/pray-for-india-christians-covid-19-virus-oxygen-cremation.html

Rated R: The Mystery of Marriage

The word “mystery” in the Bible does not mean what most people seem to think.  The first definition of the word is anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.”  However, other definitions are more fitting: “an event that remains unsettled until the very end,” or specifically, “any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.”  I.e., a mystery is not something about which we are still in dark; it is something that is being or has been revealed, though it was once hidden.

Now to the singles reading this, I will offer very little to aid you in your sexuality, other than to note that Jesus was a young adult single.  I can offer (in another blog sometime) advice on this matter, but only as an observer and student of Scripture, because I am “the marrying kind.”  Jesus, the apostle Paul and others, both men and women, were not, and they lived fulfilled and purposeful lives without spouses, and with complimentary relationships without sex.

As for the MPA Rating, the R is a slight overstatement.  Spoiler: there is no lewdity, nudity, or excessive foul language or violence, but the subject matter IS something which you probably don’t want children to read without parental input.  If you have come here for the R rating, please stick around for a few minutes and read about the mystery of a marriage.  Regarding Same-Sex marriage, I refer you to an earlier blog.

Consider for a moment what most modern American marriage relationships look like.  Now this a VERRRY broad generalization and not to be taken as a model for how a marriage must work, but just an observation of how most in our nation work.
He mows the lawn, maintains the vehicles, does minor repairs around the house, works outside the home, and sometimes shares some of the housekeeping or cooking.  He maintains the checkbook, figures their taxes and spends some time with the children.
She does most of the cooking and housekeeping, organizes vacations, makes reservations and is primarily responsible for raising the children even though she may also work outside the home.
And he shows love to his wife and she shows respect to him, and they satisfy each other sexually.

If they are more affluent they may hire a landscaper to maintain their lawn, and they will take their autos in regularly for maintenance.  If anything in the house needs attention they just call a repairman.  They may hire a CPA to do their taxes and may even have a personal financial manager to pay their bills, and tell them how much they can spend on amenities each week. 
Perhaps they will employ a cook and a housekeeper or order meals from a service that provides on time delivery.  The cook may do the grocery shopping and the housekeeper maintains their cleaning supplies.  They may sign up for a cruise or tour group and leave the travel arrangements entirely to the tour company.  A nanny could be hired to come in daily, or an au pair may live with them and share meals with the family.

All of these services can be hired without incurring any personal guilt or judgement from society.

However, if they indulge in sexual infidelity, there will be consequences.  These may involve separation, legal actions, social stigmatism, and maybe divorce.  There will be changes in family relationships beyond the couple, including children, in-laws, shirt-tail relatives and family friends.  There may be job losses or changes, housing rearrangements, financial hardships, and a complete reorienting of their lives.  All because of violating one feature of the marriage relationship.

This suggests that there is something unique about the sexual relationship in a marriage that makes it apart from all of the other intimacies and details of the “normal” marriage.  The Bible supports this idea in 1 Corinthians  6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” 

The husband who does not tend to his wife’s sexual desires risks pushing her away, either into the arms of another or into volunteerism or vocational obsessions.  The wife who does not tend to her husband’s sexual desires may find him falling for promiscuity, prostitution or pornography to gratify them.  The unique thing which elevates their marriage above every other relationship a husband or wife may have is their sexuality, specifically their sexual fidelity.

Every marriage is as unique as the couple involved.  No two are exactly alike, but there are certain commonalities that can be recognized in any successful and pleasant marriage. 

The first is a common faith, a recognition that the marriage is not just for their happiness, but is a “mystery,” a reflection of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31-33)

Let’s reveal this “mystery!”  Jesus said the pattern for marriage was laid down by God at the creation: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.”  (Matthew 19:4-6)

Problems in marriages come because none of us is completely sinless as Jesus was (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15).  So when you put two fallible people together and tell them to love and respect each other (Ephesians 5:33), there will inevitably be conflicts, as each of them needs the other to discover where their selfishness lies.  It is in the curing of that selfishness that married couples become a model of Christ and the Church.

2021-04-17 Marital FidelityThe second is a developing intimacy that will increase and expand as they live together.  Sexual expression will likely be a part of that intimacy even when age or illness deteriorates the actual sex act of consummation.  An acceptance of a spouse’s body in the same way one sees his or her own body will grow in this intimacy (Ephesians 5:29).  Just as one looks at his or her reflection in a mirror and tolerates developing wrinkles or extra body fat or minor defects, loving and respectful husbands and wives will become more comfortable with each others’ bodies, and can enjoy physical intimacy that reflects what the Scripture means when it says “the two shall become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24)

Note the inclusivity and exclusivity of this expectation:  Nothing is forbidden in the marriage sexual relationship as long as it is mutually agreed and not harmful.  However, it is ONLY for the two committed to the marriage.  (See for more about this.)

As books have been written on these subject, I will simply refer you to some of best I have encountered and encourage you to explore this wonderful subject of what makes cohabitation a marriage by reading a couple of these references:
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
The Gift of Sex by Dr. Clifford and Mrs. Joyce Penner
The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. William Harley

See https://www.marriagebuilders.com/ for an excellent online resource from Dr. Harley.

Mystery solved.  Revelation resolved.

 

Intermezzo Guest Blog: On Being Infected With Covid-19 On Thanxgiving

2020-11-25 Intermezzo Blog

Basement Isolation Reflections
By Karla Duerson

When [insert certain circumstance here] then I will be happy, fulfilled, satisfied.
If only [insert certain circumstance here] then I could live meaningfully, fulfilled.
When all the kids are finally gone . . .
If only he would stop antagonizing his sister . . .

These subtle whispers can rob reality right out of in front of my nose.  Life is happening right now.  That’s it!  Yet the zest and spice of life are illusive.  The mundane quotidian lulls me.  Sometimes I want to shirk responsibilities.  I back away from complexities and challenges.

I work a lot.  I do a lot.  I think a lot.  I take care of people a lot.  I get tired.  Sometimes I daydream about being alone.  “When all the kids are finally gone . . .”

Well, now covid-19 has brought me closer to aloneness than I have been in a long time.  No one is talking to me.  No one is interrupting me.  I have very few tasks to complete.  Strange.

The strangest covid-19 symptoms are those that have robbed my senses.  I cannot taste coffee!  I cannot smell chocolate chip cookies.  I cannot touch my children.  My vision was even affected for a day.

My friend said, “Taste, smell, touch – God gave us these to enjoy life.  When one or all of them go away, it really is a wake-up call to His goodness!”

Well put, my friend.  This world is an explosion of God’s breathtaking artistry!  Tree-lined mountain tops, a home-cooked meal, gifted flowers in a pretty vase, Wylies’s round little cheeks, and Neva’s brown silky hair, Guy’s strong growing arms.  The world above in space, the world below in the sea, the world all around us on the terrain is remarkable beautiful.

How can I stay awake to that splendor?  How can I ward away dullness, ingratitude and boredom?  One of our very young participants on our Simple Church Zoom call suggested the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Well, sitting in the bed in the basement for the fourth day in a row while listening to the hustle and bustle of the activities going on above, concerning myself about everyone’s well-being without being able to lift a finger, and longing to cuddle and comfort my people, this brought me to tears.  I love it when children share.  

Even more, Gavin reminded us of the next part of the letter:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I will learn the secret that Paul did because just like my BSF notes stated last week, “God intends hardships to draw us closer to Him, so we become more content with His presence and provisions.”  So, “whether in plenty or in want,” I will learn to be content and that I “can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I am in the basement.  Topside, in the upstairs of my home, I am in plenty.  Either way, I have Christ who empowers me to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to smell His wonder-filled world, to truly live!

Read more of Karla’s writing at www.karladuerson.blogspot.com

On a lighter side, be sure to check out Gavin’s take on Black Friday:

Inside Joke – Black Friday

And for some thought-provoking apologetics, check out the CSLewisDoodle on “Good Infections”:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw-kYN6wWXWDyp_lB0wnlxw
C.S.Lewis Doodle

You’ve Never Failed Me Yet (?)

Nice words to a beautiful worship song, but what about when it does not feel true?  When you pray and seek the face of Father and the heavens seem bronze.  Worship ceases to be celebration of love and care because no one really seems to care, not deeply.  Worse yet, leaders do not seem to care about the people for whom they are performing with volumes too loud for comfort and enough to injure ears.  (Psalm 55:12-14)

Like the story in Reader’s Digest, a wife complained to her husband about the car beside them with the booming stereo that was rocking their car, “Well, that driver will soon enough be almost deaf.”  To which he replied, “Yes, Hon, but it won’t do us any good, He’ll just crank it LOUDER.”

Maybe denominational leaders should require hearing tests for pastors and worship leaders to see if they are operating with damaged ears.  They might realize then what they are doing to the rest of us, especially children with not fully developed hearing apparatuses.  Maybe the rocker, Ted Nugent, was right, “If it’s too loud, [I’m] too old.”  Maybe too old to attend “worship” performances that will damage my hearing as much as circular saws and hammer drills which operate at ~90-100dB.  (See https://capost2k.wordpress.com/the-science-behind-if-its-too-loud-youre-too-old/.)

Just feeling very discouraged these days and wondering if anyone really cares.

2018-12-10 Someone Watching Over Me

“Someone Watching Over Me” © c.a.post, 1985

  1. So many times I’ve been so lonely,
    no one seemed to really understand.
    The pain I felt inside was more than only
    an ache that could be soothed by a gentle hand.
    Longer than I even can remember,
    the bleeding heart-wound never seemed to end.
    Looking for relief I just would wander,
    blinded by the razor hurt within.Yet, time again I’d catch a glimpse behind me and I’d see
    the flash of death’s cold glinting sword that brushed so close to me,
    and wondered how it failed to end the task it had begun,
    my soul so tired, I couldn’t, if I’d known which way to run.Chorus
    There must be Someone watching over me.
    I surely couldn’t make it on my own.
    I feel the pull of His unseen hand.
    I hear His silent whisper in my soul.
  1. I never found a crowd that I could fit in;
    could never find a home where I belong.
    Running from the weakness that I knew, I’d just pretend
    the loneliness would leave if I was strong.
    Looking for a circle that would close me in its arc,
    I’d cover all the fears I had to hide.
    But as the line drew closer to what’s really in my heart
    I’d step back and watch it close with me outside.So darkness followed sunset just as dawn came after night,
    and days turned into weeks and months without a hope in sight.
    Year by year I wondered how this life could still go on,
    waiting for each day to pass and glad when it was gone.
  1. Sometimes my days just turn like empty pages.
    Sometimes they feel so full they ought to burst.
    I know too well how far I missed the best that life can give;
    I also sigh relief; I missed the worst.
    But now I know that Someone special’s standing by;
    knowing, yet it does not stop His care.
    Laughing with my laughter, feeling every tear I cry;
    there’s nothing in my heart that we can’t share.Now all those empty memories of tears I cried alone
    are just shadows of a nightmare passed before Your love-light shone.
    And all these times and questions that I still don’t understand
    don’t really matter anymore since You now hold my hand.Alternate chorus
    Then You reached out and took me by the hand
    even though You’d seen the dark inside.
    You loved me back to life and made me understand
    there’s nothing from Your love I have to hide.Chorus
    There must be Someone watching over me.
    I surely couldn’t make it (couldn’t take it) on my own,
    I feel the pull of Your unseen hand.
    I hear Your silent whisper in my soul.

Psalm 130:1-6
Out of the depths I cry to you, Yahweh; Yahweh, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If You, Yahweh, kept a record of sins, Yahweh, who could stand?

But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You.
I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for Yahweh, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

What Are You Listening For?

Our world is too noisy, too busy, too crowded.  Even when you look for something good to do, you can be so overwhelmed by how many good things need to be done, you can wind up frozen to inactivity by the myriad of choices in front of you.  We desperately need quiet.  We desperately need time.  We desperately need solitude.

machine-shop-2Quiet:  One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from when I lived in Alaska for a year.  I stopped by a machine shop where a friend worked as a steamfitter, running a huge pipe-cutting machine that trimmed 12″ solid steel bars (30.5cm diameter) into pipes for offshore drilling rigs.  The machine shop was a huge warehouse building with dozens of threaders, grinders, benders, welders, brazers and cutters whirring and clanking away at the various tasks of making pipes and their fittings.

machine-shop-1The noise in the shop seemed deafening to me as we “chatted,” or rather yelled at each other, in order to be heard over the other machines that were all noisily performing their jobs.  Suddenly, mid-sentence, my friend held up his hand, and apologized, “Sorry, I have to take care of this.”  As I wondered what he needed to take care of, a half dozen other men came rushing to his machine.

Somehow amidst all the noise of the machine shop, he and these other men heard something go wrong on his pipe-cutter, and everyone sprang into action to do their parts to take care of “what they had heard.”  Their ears were as attuned to the sound of this machine as clearly as a mother is attuned to her baby’s cry.

Time:  Father has given each of us 24 hours every day, no more, no less, no matter how you use it, abuse it, or lose track of it.  You and I have the same resource of time that Jesus had and that presidential candidates have.  We have the same 24 hours per day that the homeless guy sitting beside his belongings in a grocery cart on the street corner has.  The issue is prioritizing what each of us needs to do.  And for that we need guidance.  A small voice whispering in our ear, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

It is a small voice, even though it comes from a very great source.  In Elijah’s day he was instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for Yahweh is about to pass by. Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-12)  And God was in the low whisper, or as the KJV puts it, a “still small voice.” 

Isaiah further went on to describe the Messiah speaking to the world,
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Isaiah 42:2-3)

God does not need to yell.  He is God and His purposes will stand.  His plan will be worked out in the end, though all hell and its demons rage against it.  The clamoring noise of the world can protest and scream; they can build bombs and try to destroy what He wants to accomplish, but He will just keep whispering to His people, to anyone who will listen for Him, and He will finish what He began in the Garden of Eden.

We cannot “make time.”  Time is what it is, and we can simply use it, abuse it or lose it.  We use time by setting some aside and spending it in quiet solitude to listen for a “still small voice.”  Ralph Carmichael understood this when he penned the words to There Is A Quiet Place.

Solitude:  Loneliness can be devastating.  It feels even worse when other people are around, but you are disconnected from them.  A feeling of emptiness can suck the life out of a marriage when a husband and wife are on different wavelengths.  A comedy club is one of the most miserable places in the world for one who has no one with whom to share the jokes.

Crowd 1.pngBut solitude is time chosen to be away from the masses, “far from the madding crowd,” (Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard).  Often Jesus would withdraw from the crowds who longed for His leadership (Matthew 14:13, John 6:15), a far cry from today’s politicians or celebtrities who love the limelight.  But Jesus knew that, as a man, He needed time to digest His role, His position, and His mission.

You:  So before you embark on a week of noise, busy-ness, and crowds, take some time for quiet, peace and solitude.  As you listen for His voice in the quiet times, learn to hear Him even when the noise crowds in around you.  Underneath all the noise of the tv, radio and iPod, in the flurry of all of this world’s busy-ness, and in the middle of the crowds of Lexington or LA, listen for His voice.  He is here, and He is not silent.  What are you listening for?

See  for more thoughts about Prayer, one of the Marks of a Man or Woman of God.  And take a look at for a wake-up call a friend gave me to be more careful to listen.

Loneliness

09BengaliDhaka lone treeIt is one of the most powerful negative forces in the universe.  It is the primary motivator in the 2000 or more suicides that occur every day around the world.  In China someone takes his/her own life every two minutes and in America every 17 minutes, making suicide the 8th leading cause of death here.  In fact, suicide deaths in the USA outnumber the homicide deaths three to two; that is, annually for every two murders there are three suicides.

Such deaths occur across the spectrum of socio-economic success.  Think of the Robin Williams or Marilyn Monroes that have more money, fame or power than most of us ever dream of having.  While more suicides occur in lower socio-economic strata, could it be only because there are more of us living here?  There has been very little examination of rates of suicide compared to wealth, most studies focusing on mental health and familial support systems.  The fact remains that material success bears almost no relation to the sense of loneliness that eats away the feelings of living.

It is that sense of loneliness that precedes almost every suicide (exceptions made for altruistic suicide, i.e. suicide for a “cause”).  “No one ever has suffered as much as I am suffering, no one understands my losses, my stress, my problems.”  This is the common thinking just prior to a suicide.  “No one  .  .  .”   I am all alone.

DisappointmentLoneliness has a way of sapping the life out of your innermost being.  It leaves you exhausted after a full night’s sleep; it haunts you in a crowd of laughing friendly faces; it shuts out the light that should brighten a day; it deflates you like a balloon with a tiny pin-hole, slowly but certainly exhuming any breath of life.

But the truth is that no one is really alone.  The Bible tells a different story: No temptation* has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted* beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted*, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13;  *The word translated most commonly as a negative “temptation,” also carries the positive concept of “test” or “trial run.”  As a wise friend says, Don’t be impressed; you can look it up. 😉 )

From the very beginning of earth history, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  But because of our willful sinfulness we became separated from That Source of Life and loving fellowship, and now we often find ourselves feeling very much alone.  Job felt it deeply when he was under oppression by the enemy of men’s souls:

Job without comforters11 “Therefore I will not keep silent;
    I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that You put me under guard?
13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint,
14 even then You frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine.
16 I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.

17 What is mankind that You make so much of them, that You give them so much attention,
18 that You examine them every morning and test them every moment?
19 Will You never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?
20 If I have sinned, what have I done to You, You who see everything we do?
    Why have You made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You?
21 Why do You not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?
    For I will soon lie down in the dust; men will search for me, but I will be no more.” (Job 7:11-21)

<p
“If any man besides the Lord Jesus was ever alone, Job was it!  Feelings of bitterness, abandonment, worthlessness, and hopelessness filled his days.  His highest reach was to die and escape the misery of this life, though he refused to sin against God and take his own life.  But his emptiness of purpose, of meaning, and of real companionship, not to mention his physical ills and all the misfortune that had fallen on him, were draining his very life away.

“However, God’s plan for us, for you, is to not merely survive, but thrive.  Many times that I have been asked the polite question, “C.A., how are you doing?”  I have responded, “Surviving; it beats the alternative. 😉 ”  But there is actually a better alternative: to thrive!  The dictionary defines thriving as blossoming, developing, flourishing, successfully growing, to shine!

Another Bible author who experienced intense feelings of despair penned an entire Lamentation of his pain.  Jeremiah, often called The Weeping Prophet, summed it up in Lamentations 3:19-20:I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”  However, instead of wallowing in the despair and humiliation that had been heaped on him, he went to God’s words revealed in previous prophecies and most of all to his own relationship with The God Who Is There.

Then he proceeded to write:
Lonely No More.png21″ Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust — there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off by the LORD forever.
32 Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.
33 For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”  (Lamentations 3:21-33)
(Note: the LORD in all caps is the translators’ replacement of the personal name of God, Yahweh, or the I AM, sometimes anglicized to Jehovah.)

The apostle Paul several centuries later declared, “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

So if you are feeling lonely, rest in the assurance of the prophets and apostles, and rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing.” (Psalm 68:4-6)

Trust Him to set you in a family of His choosing, and rejoice in the LORD, Yahweh, and say goodbye to loneliness.