Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tabernacles

https://yourwifeisevolving.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/everything-dies-beautifully

I was able to go outside and see the eclipse last night – by the time the moon rose and it got dark enough to see, it was pretty well eclipsed, and quite red.  Beautiful.

I stood outside and watched the moon, and looked at the covered patio that my husband is building for the grill/to hang out in, and I thought about Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles, which not coincidentally at all, started last night at sunset.  (I don’t celebrate, but I do contemplate).

During Sukkot, the faithful Jew creates a temporary structure with a roof through which you can see the stars (and feel the rain, if it comes).  For a week, it is slept in and eaten in, with visitors if possible.

Throughout the Bible a “tent” is the metaphor for the body.   What an interesting symbol – if you go out and sleep and eat in a booth with no proper top, you’re going to be exposed to every bit of weather, good or bad.  You’ll not have privacy.  You’ll not have security.  It will be fun sometimes, and annoying sometimes.  Much like life.

I think Sukkot teaches you to not be so attached to this body, this life.   We only wear this body as a temporary shelter.  Jesus came and wore a tent for a while, and now He has His eternal body… and He has promised us mansions.  We’re not supposed to be attached to this temporal existence, even though we are supposed to live in it, enjoy it, and share it.   The booth, open to every bit of noise and air and rain and heat… that’s not the forever place.

So, while death is part of life – I think that our revulsion for decay is our understanding that decay and death aren’t how things are supposed to be.  Health and life is what we were made for.  Entropy is a curse.  When we see decay, sickness, death, we pull away from a tent that is returning to the soil.   We are disgusted by the shell, outgrown and outworn and simply not fit for the soul it housed.   It never was, and now in death that becomes obvious.

Just a few musings before breakfast…

The Absence of Malice

Deepstrength has been running an excellent series on how to choose a wife.  I applaud this (young?) man and wish him the best.  But some of the conversation has gone where it often seems to go, and it always drives me bonkers… so I’d like to do a little dissection, here on my own turf.

  1. Don’t marry a malicious person.  This is a deal-breaking character trait.  If you find out that your beloved is the sort of person who withholds affection or common decency because you haven’t done what they wanted first – next them.  This is *not* okay.
  2. Assuming you’ve eliminated the deliberately malicious, when someone does something (or doesn’t do something) that causes you grief, assume that there is some reason, and start the communication process.   Possibilities include:
    1. They’re ignorant of the depth of your need/desire.
    2. They don’t see things the way you do.
    3. They’re exhausted, or in some other way dealing with their own stuff.
  3. Men and women are different.  One of the beauties and frustrations of being married to someone who is, by biology, psychology, and culture, utterly different from yourself is that you have to break out of your own assumptions about priorities and ways of doing things.   Please don’t make the mistake of saying the other sex’s perspective is “wrong”.  It’s not wrong.  It’s different.   And you need to understand where they’re coming from to act rightly.

It always seems to come down to the sex thing, so let’s examine a common scenario.   Mother to small children – younger than school-age – has drop in libido, seems uninterested in the advances of her husband.  His libido is doing just fine… and he’s hurt.  Wife would like someone to have a conversation with her that doesn’t revolve around “get this for me now or my world is over”.  Everyone *could* blame everyone else and throw the selfish label around.  OR:

  • Wife could understand that husband desires *her*, and requires sexual release.  She could extend grace.
  • Wife could understand that husband needs touch, just as any other human does – and that he doesn’t get touch at work or socially.  She could extend grace.
  • Husband could understand that wife is being touched (including in the bikini zone) by small, demanding hands all day long – and not take offense when sudden touch no longer arouses her, but startles/upsets her.  He could extend grace.
  • Husband could understand that wife needs some transition time from being mom to being lover, and give her grace … and possibly a glass of wine.  (Men:  Did you know that it can take up to a year after childbirth to no longer experience any pain with coitus?  Yes, that’s normal).
  • So.  Everyone could say, “hey – we miss our intimacy, and we’re going to work for that” and work to make that happen and be reasonably pleasant for all involved… or everyone could take offense that the other person doesn’t seem to have the same needs as they do… and foster a spirit of divisiveness.
  • And everyone could take a deep breath, and remember that this is a stage in life, not forever.

Let’s talk conversation and turn this around… I’m a SAHM and that means I spend all day talking to children.  Also, I don’t get that many atta-girls (no one gives me a paycheck, no one says ‘nice job’, etc) unless I fish for them.   I develop a *need* for face-to-face communication with an adult.  But my husband, who goes to work every day, spends all day communicating with other adults, and sometimes he gets talked out.

What *we* do, is that he calls me on the phone on the way home and chats for a bit, we chat for a bit while he’s in the shower, and for most of the rest of the evening I leave him to unwind.  Kiss and a word or two when I bring him something, and otherwise he gets to chill.  Once a week or so, we go out and I get my big pile ‘o talk.  I don’t take it personally when he wants to spend time shooting things online and making loud bang-bang noises that send me out of the room post haste.  He extends grace and chats to me when he’s tired.

We do a lot of things like that – he and I are very different people.  Sure, it would be nice to be around someone who had the same needs, who viscerally understood that you need to talk yourself out when you’re wound up, or “play” your stress away after a long day at work.   But mostly marriage is complementary, not mirrored.  (Aka you marry someone who fills in your missing bits … well, that means they’re not like you).

And it never stops.  You never stop changing, you never stop learning about things that can make you a better spouse.  Your choice – will you choose to love, choose agape, love in action?  Will you choose to communicate and be honest about your own needs and where you are, and what’s okay and what isn’t?  I figure most people with good brains can figure out how to get their needs met and extend need-meeting if they sit down and think about it.  But it all starts with knowing what you need and what you have to work with.

None of that stuff tends to be easy in the moment.  In the long-term, it can make a huge difference in your marriage – and in your life.

Just my 2c – I want to remind folks not to assume malice when a whole host of other things are the more likely culprits.  You can’t fix malice, only God can do that.

Amoral Virtues

Perhaps I should title this, “American Virtues” – but I’d like to look at a few things that we, as Americans, consider virtuous, but which, considered Scripturally, are, in fact, amoral, merely the raw material for virtue or vice.

Independence:  Independence is one of the great American virtues.  Standing on our own two feet, beholden to no one and nothing but God above, we run our life on our own power.  The presupposition that this is one of the ultimate American virtues runs deep.  Our culture is based on independence!

And independence can be a good thing.  It can help us stand firm on our faith, it can help us escape the octopus-like clinging mess of a dying culture, it can encourage us to stand apart from the crowd, and it can encourage us in the virtue of hard work.

But independence can be a bad thing, when it encourages us to leave good communities, to fail in our duty to support those around us, to ignore wise counsel, to flout sensible tradition as well as folly.

Stoicism:  This is a virtue brought over from the English, and is found more in traditional American culture than in modern American culture – at least at first glance.  When you go deeper, you find that the refusal to kowtow to undesirable emotion is still considered virtuous.

Stoicism can be a good thing – there is a time and place to carry on and do what is necessary, not make a huge parade out of every little thing.

But I think we take stoicism too far and allow ourselves to become shallow.  Happiness, sadness, anger, celebration and mourning are important parts of the human experience.  We’ve allowed ourselves to stop trusting emotion so that the celebration of a wedding or a new baby is a brief moment of cheer, not a outpouring of gladness.  The death of anyone except those in the immediate family isn’t supposed to stop us from smiling at an acquaintance three days later.

This stoicism encourages us in deceit – to deny in ourselves the depth of our emotions, the breadth of our emotions, so that we can be socially acceptable.  And while it is then socially useful – society doesn’t care to be inconvenienced – it fails to be virtuous, because instead of accepting, confessing, and surrendering even the blackest of emotions to Christ, we instead shove them under the couch and pretend they were never there.

We neither rejoice with those who rejoice or weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), we just try to keep everyone – including ourselves – calm.

And that’s something I am personally working on – letting all my emotions have their day, whether that day is a second before I confess them or a week when I delight in their company, however transitory.

I’m sure there are more – what amoral virtues could you suggest?

The logic of relating to God

IF you believe in the God of the Bible, who is

All-knowing

All-loving

All-powerful

The Creator

… then you are forced to accept that the laws He has given are given for our good – not His.

Think about it – if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, what use is our obedience or worship to Him?  Is there anything we could do for an all-powerful God who created the universe that makes His life better?

But He loves us, so He wants what is best for us, and wants to see us happy, so He gave us rules.  If we follow the rules, we’re happier, the people around us are happier, society is healthier, etc.

God is not arbitrary.  We might not understand why He gave us certain rules – but there *is* always a why.  Even the law about loving Him above anything else…. that too is for our good.

It is God’s love for us that creates His rules for us.

I don’t know that that makes following the rules any easier, but it does make hedging ’round them and explaining them away more ridiculous.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments”.

Just stop arguing already and obey.

God was never meant to be used as a means to an end

I’ve been reading old books again… and it’s struck me that this thing that we think of as new, where Christianity is valued primarily as a civilizing force, is far from new.  Because a relationship with Christ will make you a better person, and a nation full of better people will become a better place to live, we reverse things and start trying to force everyone to *act* like Christians (which is dangerous ground in the first place) so that we can have a nicer place to live out our mortal lives.  Because we notice that Christians are more likely to win at life, we value Christianity for its social utility – it makes things work better.

If your Christianity is valuable because of its social utility, then it doesn’t matter whether or not Christ rose again.  It doesn’t matter if Creation is literal or figurative.  The rules (OT or NT) are irrelevant – because Christianity is just a more sophisticated version of the “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” poster.    Faith exists *only* to be an opiate for the masses, it exists to keep people well-behaved and orderly.   Church is a social organization.

This attitude, that Christianity is valuable because it makes people nice, leads directly to post-modernist thought, where nothing is objectively true.  It leads directly to the blasphemy present in the mainline churches, where pastors are allowed to speak against the Resurrection from the pulpit.   It leads to where we are now, where half the confessing church is willing to deny key doctrines of the faith.  This isn’t *new*.  This isn’t from today.  In 80 year old footnotes, I was reading the same thing!  We compromise with the world, in an attempt to make the world compromise with us.  It never works, it never has, it never will.

The temptation to try to conquer this earth and make it into a paradise with our own hands is as old as Christianity itself.  This is one of the temptations our Lord was presented with, to exchange the worship of the prince of this world for ownership.

Matthew 4: And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

And that’s a temptation that well-meaning Christians have fallen to ever since.  I think you can lay most of the worst of what has been done in the name of Christ to that sin… when we try to force this world, this world that is intended to die and be remade, to become like Heaven.  What do we do?  We compromise.   We say, “well, this person isn’t so bad, we’ll ignore the evil things because he’s offering us part of what we want”.  We say, “well, we know we shouldn’t hurt other folks, but if we can force them to convert by torturing them… that’s all good, ’cause they converted”.  “We know that those guys on the front line taking over the country are raping and pillaging … but they let us preach to whomever is left over, so okay”.

We didn’t wait for God.  We didn’t say, “well, we’re just going to do things God’s way – even if that seems confusing, or illogical, or if it takes longer”.  We grabbed for it.  We wanted to make things happen!

We are reaping the fruit of that now.  Because the last variant of “let’s use God” was a movement away from the Truth and towards niceness, now goodness has been redefined so that our stubborn alignment with the Truth is seen as evil.    We, Christians in the West, we took the easy way.  We compromised, and this is the fruit that was borne.

Our relationship with Christ is meant to be our lighthouse, our guiding force, our center.  Our first allegiance is to God, not to man.  If you are a Christian, it is not possible to say that an oath to the state trumps your faith in Christ*.    We are Christians.  People of our faith died because they wouldn’t compromise and burn one measly stick of incense to Caesar.   Our core should be devotion and love for Jesus.   What, after all, is the first commandment?  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit.  He saved us from our sins!  He gave us new life!  He gave us new hearts!  He made us new!  He has done everything for us – including giving us a beautiful future that doesn’t involve this fallen world.

Compromise is evil.

We will be pressured to compromise.  We always have been.  Those who are already compromised will be the first ones to pressure us to do so, and the ones – because of their own guilt – who will demonize us the most for failing to do so.

Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

It is almost time for the harvest, and the wheat and the chaff are being separated.   The Church is going to be purified – those who are willing to stand on the Truth and stand up and be counted, those folks are going to start getting some flak.   We have had centuries in which we’ve allowed ourselves to think that this world is something we can fix, that this world is where we should keep our treasure, that this world is where we “win”.  It.Is.Not.

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

With whom will you align, Christian sibling?  With the world, or with God?  We cannot choose to lie to ourselves and say that following our Master will make our stay in this world a more pleasant time.  It may – for all the laws that our Lord gave to us are good laws, and were designed with us in mind, for our benefit – but it may not.   Ours is the victory because His is the victory.  In the short term, perhaps in our lifetimes, we may “lose”.  That’s irrelevant to those of us with faith in Christ, and in His promises to us.

Habakkuk 2:4  “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

God was NEVER to be used as a means to an end.  He *is* the beginning and the end.  Follow Him because He is Truth.  Allow yourself to be made better from the inside out.  The time for whitewashing the tombs is over.

The hatred for Christians?  The building resentment?  It’s not over.  It’s not going to be over any time soon.  Choose you this day who you will serve – and think it out.   Our days of easy service are coming to an end.

*http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/politics/kentucky-clerk-same-sex-marriage-kim-davis/index.html

Bunning said he, too, was religious, but he explained that when he took his oath to become a judge, that oath trumped his personal beliefs, the station reported. “Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” Bunning said.  That would be idolatry – putting something above God.