Tag Archives: forgiveness

Singleness ~ a most valuable season

woman dancing

In American culture we’ve treated the state of singleness as a state of me-ism, freedom from other’s needs and desires, carefree liberation, interspersed with times of mutual body disrobing. One nonfic writer admits, fueled by several glasses of wine, she started her list of things to do for her-single-self in prep for this body disrobing with another adult. The list included exercise class, clean apartment, spiff up her appearance and style, etc.. Doesn’t sound that liberating to me.

woman with violyn

As Christians, God should always be Number-One in our lives. We should seek God’s will for this single life-season. Actually, singlehood is one of the most valuable seasons. It’s a time to develop into whole, fully functioning human beings. A shalom time. In Hebrew, shalom means nothing lost, nothing broken. Whether we will marry, or stay single, singleness is a time for personal growth, healing, and developing of God given talents.

man and woman 1

I’m now single, again…a widow. However, when I was single the first time, it was commonly said, “two will make a whole.” That’s not true. Two half-people do not make one wonderful whole. Two half-people are two broken people floundering in a marriage. Many of us went into marriage that way. With God’s help, fifty percent of the marriages survived. Can I suggest, that mate-seeking model is flawed. It’s also a horrible model for eventual parenting. Jesus gave the best advise for relationships.

29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12: 29-31

In my belief system, Jesus is telling me at the bottom of this, I should have appropriate self-love, but certainly not the puffed up kind. As a Christian, I believe all life on the planet, as created by God, is amazing, and all human life is sacred. That includes my life. As a born again believer, I realize the Spirit of God dwells within me. That’s something incredibly awesome and valuable.

I was born into singlehood. Although I didn’t always recognizance this, from day one until the day I married, was a time of preparation. Ideally, it was a time to get to know God intimately, and a time to know myself. It was a time of intense personal growth…a time to discover my talents and my purpose on the earth.

Forgiveness

In order to live intimately with another human being of the opposite sex, from a different cultural background, heritage, and ancestry…these years of singleness were a time to learn about forgiveness. In marriage you will have to forgive. You will have to forgive yourself perhaps even more than you forgive your mate.

These are things in our culture we don’t talk about much. We make game shows and reality TV out of marriage. We talk about buying the perfect wedding gown, taking an amazing honeymoon that will be the envy of our friends and coworkers. The wedding gown gets packed away and eventually might be given to the Salvation Army Store. We come back from the honeymoon and have to live together…actually communicate and relate to a human being totally different from ourselves.

Why not take this time of singleness as a time to know that God loves us. We can then love Him, appropriately love ourselves, and more deeply love others. Not just love a marriage partner, but our families (even if they’re flawed and they’re all flawed), and our friends. We can learn how to love the unlovable — in Christ, and not get stepped on, manipulated, and used because we know we have worth and purpose. Yes, singlehood is a very important and wonderful season of life.


Most Pastors Are NOT on the Ashley Madison List ~ most are NOT unfaithful

Lipstik on CollarReportedly there have been up to 38 million Ashley Madison users. Ashley Madison, of course, is the organization that sought to facilitate and protect those seeking extra-marital affairs. Their slogan was: Life is short. Have an affair.

Well, Ashley Madison was hacked and its list of users leaked. Apparently upwards of 400 pastors and church leaders were on that list. While I do not condone any pastors or church leaders appearing on that list, let’s keep it in perspective. That’s 400 pastors and church leaders out of a total of 38 million users.

What does the 38 million figure actually represent? It is people who have created a profile on Ashley Madison. It breaks down into approximately 32.5 million men and 5.5 million women. Journalists who have looked at the profiles have noted that a large percentage of people (especially the women) who created profiles never actually used the site. Of that 32.5 million men and the 5.5 million women with profiles who may or may not have used the site, there appears to be only 400 pastors and church leaders. I say, ‘only’ because I’m relieved about that small number. Then I take a slow breath, and of course, that’s 400 too many. Then again, the way some have been reporting it and others have been commenting on social media, you’d think half the church was on the list.

I’ve tried to find the total number of Christian pastors, world-wide, and discover it’s an elusive figure. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are 33,000 Christian denominations. Presumably they have numerous churches headed by pastors and they have associate pastors, youth pastors, and various church leaders. I wonder if that would even come close to 38 million? I seriously doubt it.

Most pastors are workhorses who are overburdened. The public is aware of the televangelists, the prosperity preachers who own their own private jets. These high-profile pastors keep incredibly tight work schedules often preaching for weeks on end without a day off. That is also often the case with the pastor down the street, minus the jet of course. Then you have the bi-vocational pastor whose church can’t afford to pay a salary and he works 8-hours a day as a plumber, stock clerk, customer service rep, or the like. After putting in a full work-day, he prepares his sermon and counsels distressed members of his flock. According to the website “Pay Scale,” the average senior pastor’s salary range is from $27,288 to $89,076. Yearly bonuses range from zero to less then $8K. Many small and even medium sized churches do not offer any retirement and/or healthcare package to paid staff. Just to be fair and balanced, most, if not all of the prosperity preachers do offer their staff these benefits packages.

I do not believe God condones hacking and leaking any more than He condones adultery. However, He can use it to clean house. And I must confess, when I first thought of this, I gave a mirthless chuckle. Yes, I did, out of nerves. I also thought of the 38 million Ashley Madison users and noted that the devil doesn’t protect his own. In fact he used one branch of his empire to strike at another. I couldn’t help but laugh again. Not a funny, satisfying, ha-ha laugh. Not at all, but a laugh nonetheless.

Tomorrow (Sunday) or later this week, four hundred men will resign from their church positions. There will be no laughter in the pews of those churches. It will be heart-rending and excruciating for those men, their wives and children, and for the faithful who sit in the pews. The entire body of Christ must keep them in prayer and remember we are under God’s grace. With God’s grace there is room for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Repentance and forgiveness can be instant. But restoration takes time…months, not days, and many times years. There’s a restoration walk to walk, an open, healthy, and honorable track record to establish. There’s also usually accountability. Those who have transgressed, especially those who are high profile and in leadership, should show a willingness to come under spiritual authority…an elder or leader in their denomination or the pastor of another church who is unbeholden to them should oversee their Christian walk.

It is time to look at this issue and the larger issue of morality in the clergy and in church leadership squarely and without hysteria. Fortunately we have a book that tells us how to do this. It’s called the Bible. Remember, the overwhelming majority of pastors and church leaders are slogging it out in the trenches, often a difficult and thankless job.


INESCAPABLE by Nancy Mehl ~ a much overdue review

Inescapable

I’ve been remiss. I meant to read and review this wonderful novel long ago. I can only plead a towering “to read list” that is quite unmanageable. Finally, I’ve gotten to it and I’m so glad I read this one.

 

Elizabeth Lynn “Lizzie” Engel grew up in Kingdom, Kansas, an Old Order Mennonite community hidden away in a remote rural area. She became pregnant as a teen and her stern and unbending father, an elder in the church, planted a seed of shame in her. The youth who was the father of her baby was promptly whisked away by his parents and Lizzie didn’t know what had become of him. Not able to take any more condemnation, Lizzie ran away with her baby to Kansas City.

Fast forward, five years later. Lizzie is about to lose her job at a women’s shelter as she’s been accused of stealing money. There’s also someone stalking her and sending her threatening notes. Afraid her young daughter, Charity Lynn, will be taken from her if she’s arrested, Lizzie flees, quite reluctantly, back to her home town. When she gets there she finds her father is as unforgiving as he had always been. So, she takes a job as a waitress in the local diner where she and Charity are allowed to live in rooms above the eatery.

Charity asks why her father never came back to the village of Kingdom looking for her. So, once settled in the village, both mother and young daughter have to face the same issue. Both have the same question. Does my daddy love me?

I’m used to being faced with a body at the start of a murder mystery, but in this story the murder takes place well into the story. I didn’t find that to be a problem as it’s seamlessly woven into the plotline.

Lizzie’s character is crafted in such a way that I felt as if I actually new her. A number of secondary characters came vividly to life as well. The author describes Mennonite traditions, apparel, the scenery of rural Kansas, as well ferocious winter storms in such detail the reader can clearly picture them. Yet, meticulously depicting all of these elements doesn’t negatively impact the pace of the novel.

I hate to call this a bonnet book, as it doesn’t resemble in any way the usual Lancaster, PA type of romance story. There is tension between the religious Mennonite community and the outside world, with church elders doing what they can to keep outsiders out, or at least their influence. This is to be expected. There is also a mini-revolt within the church itself: legalism vs. grace. Several of the more strident members of the church come off as slightly deranged, yet they are depicted in such a way as to allow the reader to see their humanity, as well as some of their past hurts.

A sweet romance begins to bud. Noah, a young elder in the church who is part of the contingent who believes in God’s grace, has loved Lizzie since childhood and is finally not too shy to say so. Just as this is taking off, the author throws a curve ball into the mix. That curve ball itself turns out not to be what it at first seems to be This is a story that can be enjoyed by readers from 12 to 112.

Purchase Links:

Amazon/Kindle: http://amzn.to/1j04ot0

Barnes & Noble/Nook: http://amzn.to/1j04ot0

 


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