Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Road Of Life

I used to dream a lot when I was younger and for some reason now I don’t so much anymore.  Occasionally though, something will trigger a dream and I had an “old friend” return last night.  You see, I used to dream I could fly—just me by myself.  It was more like swimming and floating, but hey, it worked.  I also dreamed that I went to school without my pants, homework, or that I hadn’t been able to find a class at college all semester, and today when I found the class, it was the final exam and term paper due session.  

Who was the “old friend” that returned last night?  It was the dream that I’m on a difficult road and the road disappears under treacherous water and waves at the ocean’s edge.  It looks like I can barely fit my vehicle around a cliff base and get to the other side, and I’m doubtful and afraid.  I’m not even sure I can walk safely through that patch.

I suppose my dreams are typical of many of yours, but this one in particular came often and didn’t seem to be tied to anything in my ‘waking’ life.  Perhaps we all wonder about the road we are on and the bad spots we have to cross.  Will we make it?  Is the road going to collapse under us?  Will we be washed away?  What is on the other side around that cliffside waiting for us?

Life doesn’t provide a guarantee.  We all suffer pain and loss as a result of the free will decisions of others, and the laws of nature that operate freely in God’s design.  The one real guarantee we have is the promise that God made.  He is with us through all of life’s trials, and we are promised the joy of being with Him eternally in a perfect paradise through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross as an atonement for our failings. 

When I see that spot in the road disappearing under the waves, I know that Jesus is with me, and life is just around that cliffside “corner” that I must navigate.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sex Is A Gift From God

Consider this a post Valentine's Day weekend commentary:

Sex is a good gift from God, but when sex becomes an addiction beyond what it was intended it can ultimately be destructive.  Admittedly, sexual craving is a lot like an addiction when it is used even in a normal healthy manner.  I think God intended us to want to have sex, that’s pretty obvious, but He wanted it to be in the bounds of a permanent relationship and for the purpose of raising children and making a closely bound family unit.

Today, we see something vastly different going on, and it is very troubling.  Our free society has given us not only the freedom of speech, but the freedom of perversion.  The Supreme Court in America allows wide latitude to the production of pornographic materials in this country, and the internet gladly obliges the availability of nearly one-quarter million web pages of sexually explicit material.

That availability has led to nearly 40 percent of adults in this country regularly visiting porn sites.  Of course my readers will say, yes I expected as much…men are pigs.  Well ladies, at least 30 percent of internet porn users are women and 90 percent of children ages 8 to 16 have viewed porn online.  Almost 42 percent of all internet users view porn sites (68 million requests per day which is 25 percent of all search engine requests.)  Lest Christians get on their holier than thou horse, they comprise a huge part of this phenomenon.  Almost 68 percent of Christian women admit watching porn ‘frequently’ and more regular users of internet porn are found to be about 70% of Christian males and 30% (I’ve also seen 40% in surveys) of Christian females.  Over 40% of Christians classify pornography as a “problem in their home.”  If you start looking at all these statistics the numbers get much higher if you look at younger populations – both Christian and non-Christian.  And, the more recent the survey, the higher the percentages.

How does this happen?  Most who involve themselves with porn start early in life, they keep coming back until it becomes regular, then it escalates to looking for more graphic porn and they become increasingly desensitized to what would have been disgusting earlier.  At this point, many make the jump to acting out sexually in the real world.  The comparison to addiction to crack cocaine has been made as a fitting comparison.

So, what’s the big deal?  One of the primary problems is that pornography is generally degrading to women and presents a violent and demanding male viewpoint that women are supposed to like anything done at any time by any man.  Often force is employed.  It objectifies women rather than developing a relationship with them.  In its worst forms it portrays children in degrading and unnatural sexual activity and it glorifies homosexual porn.  Additionally, pornography’s effect on marriage is often catastrophic.  Nearly 68 percent of divorces involve husband or wife meeting a lover over the internet, and 56 percent show obsessive interest in porn websites.  Almost 33 percent involve excessive time spent in computer chat rooms where cheating relationships can be commonly developed.  The purpose of marriage that I believe God had in mind is to bond for life with another, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  To watch porn degrades that bond in the mind of the partner, and devalues them physically and emotionally.  It often creates an appetite for perversions of sex that may not be accepted by the spouse.  It creates a wedge that grows in the marriage until it often collapses the union.*

What can we do?  If you have a problem, don’t sweep it under the rug.  There are counselors and therapists out there who can help.  Internet filters can be set up to prevent access and monitor use.  Here are four of them:  X3church (www.xxxhurch.com)  Mobicip (www.mobicip.com)  Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com)  Internet Safety’s Safe Eyes (www.internetsafety.com)   And like in any addiction program, accountability partners are a big help, especially if they have access to internet filter alerts on porn site access.

·       *  I could talk for hours on ideas for keeping sex exciting in marriage and how to have active and engaged partners in sex, but suffice it to say here the most important seems to be talking about your needs with each other and what excites you, and keeping desirable physically.  A lot of sex is mental and there is much that can interfere with that connection.  Some things that frequently interfere are the stress of life, housekeeping, job, kids etc. taking dominance over everything else…especially problematic in those early and middle years of marriage.  There are some great books out there on this and other issues of marriage like “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard Harley.  Another good one is What Women Want Men To Know, and also What Men Want Women To Know, both books by Barbara DeAngelis.  Steve Harvey has some great perspectives for single women on it, too, in his Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What, Me Work?!?!?

I’m convinced that pretty much anything worthwhile to accomplish is challenging and perhaps usually not even much fun to do the work it takes to get there.

I remember when I was learning to play lead guitar and how bored I was practicing scales and learning licks to the point I was ready to give up.  I stuck to it, and after a long while I decided I would try my minimal progress against a backing track or playing with another musician.  The difference was enormous!  Suddenly, it was fun and I could see a purpose and progress from the difficult and uninteresting things I had been working through in my learning.

I’ve seen the same thing when someone finally makes it to the third year of their college programs.  Something changes.  Not only do they finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but they start to see how what they have been learning fits into an enjoyable whole.  Consider the person who struggles daily in order to lose weight.  They measure calories and exercise a lot more...and they are miserable and frustrated.  Then one surprising day, they notice that bulge is a little smaller, and months later they realize they fit in a size 5 now.  What about the marriage that is struggling and you just don’t see a way forward, but as a last resort you talk to a counselor that gives you hope but tells you it will be work!  Work????  Wait a minute, I just “fall in love” it’s supposed to be easy and magical and perfect!!  Nope.  Long term love is intentional.  Decide to love and your actions bring the feeling along…of course you need to meet each other’s various needs in the process (I don’t want to make this sound simple, remember…not one of these examples is simple…or even always fun at first.)

Finally, I think faith is not simple.  I spent years learning the facts of my faith.  To be honest, it didn’t give me pleasure or joy to know them…but somewhere in that long struggle that I stuck with, I came to know my God in a personal way, and it has made all the difference.

So, no matter what your goal, don’t give up.  Live intentionally, as I’ve said before on this site.  It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, but it is worth the effort!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Transactional Religion

It’s been true throughout history that religion is practiced by humans in a manner to provide something to the practitioner.  You sacrificed something to the ancient Gods so they would grant you the things you hoped for.  Even Christians today usually practice some form of this transactional thinking. 

For example, we pray and ask God to bless what we are doing so it will prosper.  We pray to receive healing for ourselves or others.  We put money in the collection plate thinking God will approve of us for that.  We use the transactional method to encompass our thinking and often get upset or angry when things don’t go the way we prayed for.  We say how come God doesn’t care.  I’ve heard that called “faith in our faith, rather than faith in God.”  It’s an apt description.

Recently I was with a group of people who were asking those hard questions about faith, and one person posed the question “how do you feel about God allowing such tragedy to happen in life?  Why would He let a child be viciously killed for instance, or a plane to crash, or a terrorist to kill innocents, and why would he allow your unselfish prayers not to be answered?”

All this hits the heart of what the non-believer says when he exclaims, “What good is believing in God.  What does it do and what good do you get from it.”  Transactional thinking at its best.  Unfortunately, it ignores what our faith is actually about.  My son once wisely mentioned that allowing bad things to happen to him was the only way he learned the value of good things and the danger of the bad.  It also can teach us much about how to treat other people and to help others.

I believe faith is about having a relationship with God…one that was broken long ago.  It is about knowing that we are not in charge, and knowing that this life (as a test) is only a miniscule fraction of what our existence is all about.  Suffering often is the one thing that makes us turn to God and gives us the realization that we are not in charge.  Eternity awaits us, and only through trust in God, and a love relationship that waits patiently on Him, is the way found to an eternity of incalculable joy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Just A Game

People are weird.  Think about this for a minute. We have teams play against each other and eventually wind up with this “Be All, End All” battle between the best at a stadium that has thousands of police officers, FBI, Homeland Security etc.  We spend millions on doing the event, we charge millions for advertisers and ticket buyers.  People get so worked up about the outcome that they actually fight with each other over allegiance to a particular team.  Sometimes they even try to kill each other.

Now when you take time to consider all this, what does it look like a model of sanitized and scoped down in size?  Warfare.  Pure and simple, it is a substitute for warfare.  Even our Olympic Games are long standing traditional attempts at substitutes for battles between countries (in a perceived peaceful manner usually) about who is the best and holds dominance!

It seems everything is a battle for supremacy.  Even if you play chess with your buddy, it’s a battle.  What is it about us that creates that need that has persisted throughout all of known time?  When we look at us individually, do we exhibit the same behavior.  Aren’t we all dealing with ego issues about how good we are.  Let’s face it, we are centered on “self” and we transfer ego based thinking to our religions and our patriotism and our football teams.

Is it all good?  What would an “Other” based world look like?

Now I’m not really suggesting we give up chess or even football, but I am wondering if the world championship were one of “who gave the most of themselves to help others” and the name was kept anonymous until the person was dead, how would that change the world we know.

What do you think?