But What if You’re Unhappily Married?

This past week, I’ve been thinking about the fact that life, marriage and dealing with our sexuality is a perennial challenge for all of us, whether we’re straight or gay, and I remembered this little devotional from Timothy Campbell’s pull-no-punches book, Everywhere You Go There’s a Zacchaeus Up a Tree. To  me, it hits the nail on the head! I hope it encourages you too:

“Shocking News for Unhappily Marrieds”

“I’ve been unable to find anything in traditional wedding vows or in the Bible that allows for the breakup of a marriage because either party is unhappy… Selfishness has no place in a marriage. Self-denial does…

“The Bible takes a high view of marriage, comparing it to the mystical union between Christ and all believers. Husbands and wives can experience the love bond our Lord has with every person of faith, a love that is enduring, forgiving, sacrificial, giving, and expressed often. This kind of love is ever seeking the happiness of others in the family, not its own happiness.

“In worshiping God with our families and laboring to provide for them, we reach the end of our search. What we’ve been looking for isn’t in breaking from family responsibilities to pursue some romantic dream with another person, but in selflessly carrying out our obligations to those we’ve pledged to love.

“In the path of duty, we stumble onto happiness.” Roger Campbell

“Envision a quick make-up after every shake up.” Roger Campbell

Love “beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things
” (
I Corinthians 13:7).

For more information on this really wise and witty book, check out my review:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/everywhere-you-go-theres-a-zacchaeus-up-a-tree/

 

Rise Up, My Love (271): Poison Apples

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave…” This verse stopped me for months when I was originally studying the Song of Songs (now fifteen years ago). My husband and I had just come and gone on our thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration, and even though we’d  enjoyed a really happy vacation together, from the deepest part of me I felt the heat of this verse. There is nothing, nothing, in our relationship that has come close to causing as much pain and anger as jealousy.  (Again, we’re now just about to celebrate our 45th anniversary, and we have a much better relationship, but I could still experience jealousy in a flash if provoked!)

What does it mean to be jealous? Jealousy is “fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position…vigilant in guarding something…intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity.”* Are you jealous of your spouse? All of those above definitions fit me painfully well. I didn’t know I had a jealous bone in my body until the night my husband-to-be first kissed me, but from that night to this, I have been amazingly jealous of his affection. I had (erroneously) thought that I would never kiss anyone but my husband, and I hoped he would also save himself completely for me.

My beloved husband-to-be totally disagreed with such a policy and kissed me without permission one night as we were saying goodbye for yet another semester of college where we would be separated for months. He had drifted away from the Lord at the time, and we had a very tenuous, unstable relationship. As soon as he left, I sat down and cried. I wasn’t at all sure this was the guy I wanted to marry! I knew Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” I’d even composed a song about it. I knew I could never marry anyone unless he was a Christian who not only “believed” but had truly surrendered his life to Christ. I also cried because I felt violated. How dare he rob me of my “purity?” (Note: Kissing is not fornication; the fact that I didn’t want to kiss anybody but my husband was my choice, but it  was going beyond what the Bible teaches.)

Looking back, I realize that I was being “over righteous,” which is what Solomon warns against in Ecclesiastes 7:16, but I didn’t understand the sin of my own pride, which led to great heartache, just as predicted: “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” I cried because I felt like he didn’t respect my boundaries and needs, and I felt like he didn’t really love me. And, I cried because something deep inside me said, “This is the guy you’re going to marry.” I don’t know where that came from, but I do know that on the heels of that sense came the thought, “and he doesn’t care one bit about maintaining purity…his or yours.”

Looking back, I know the last part was a Satanic deception, but I fell for it. I cried, but I became angry and then extremely jealous of his affection. When he casually wrote a few weeks later saying he and his roommate had taken in another roommate who was female, I thought the worst and decided to get revenge. I fell into Satan’s trap and thought, “I’m going to marry this guy, and he’s totally trashing himself.” (Which, by the way, was not true, but you know how Satan loves to deceive us!) I failed to heed Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” I failed to heed Romans 12:19, which teaches clearly, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Why? Because only God can mete out vengeance and still retain his righteousness… because only God is perfectly just and holy.

For humans, vengeance is a beautiful, poison apple that—if eaten—will plunge the victim into a sleep of death. In fact, for twenty-five years I felt like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, living a death, awaiting true love’s first kiss to undo the damage. Did Prince Charming ever come to my rescue? Yes, but I learned that the real Prince Charming is Christ. He is the one whose kiss breathes life into our withered souls. He is the jealous God who desires and demands our total allegiance, and he is the only one we can ultimately trust to be unswervingly faithful to us. If we truly fulfill the first command, and love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it takes the poison out of experiencing the pain of human frailty and imperfect fidelity.

For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

*The American Heritage Dictionary, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), 964.

Laura’s Authentic Moroccan Chicken Tangine (Tanjine; )طجين

I love meeting new people and trying new foods, so I was especially delighted last Wednesday our kids (Dan and Brianna) invited us over to meet Kirsten and Stevie, a newly married couple at their church. They grew up in North Africa and were bringing over something I’d never heard of: Moroccan Chicken Tangine.  Actually, I’d never even heard the term “tangine” before, but I’ve learned via Wikipedia that it’s a round, clay pot with a conical lid designed to return all the condensation back into whatever delectable dish is being slow-cooked inside.  Now, you don’t really need to own a tanjine to make delicious stews. Any large skillet or pot with a lid, a crock pot, or an instant pot will work!  Kirsten’s meal was so savory that I asked for the recipe, which she told me her mother had learned many years ago from a Moroccan neighbor (whose name we don’t know, so I’m naming it for Kirsten’s mom). Here it is, and thanks, Kirsten and Laura!

Laura’s Savory Moroccan Chicken Tangine
(Serves 6-8)

First: Sauté 8 large pieces of chicken (breast and/or thigh quarters) in 1/3 cup olive oil with 4 large, chopped onions. Cook until the onions have caramelized and the chicken is starting to brown. Cover the chicken with water until it’s completely covered and even a little more. Then add:
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste (or 1/2 chopped tomato)
1 teaspoon tumeric (to make it yellow; Kirsten didn’t use any because she didn’t have any; she says it doesn’t effect the taste but gives it a brighter color)   Simmer for two hours, covered, on low heat, checking/stirring just often enough to make sure nothing sticks on the bottom. Serve piping hot in bowls and use pita bread (or any good home made, flat bread…Kirsten made hers from a Betty Crocker recipe) to soak up the broth. Kirsten said that when she was growing up in Morocco, people ate it without utensils, even using bread to pull the chicken off the bones. I guess if you’re good at it, you don’t even get your fingers dirty, although I used a spoon and fork. 🙂

Stevie is still in school, so they’re not rolling in dough (rich) at this point, but Kirsten said there are many variations. Some of the common options include:

*Several large carrots cut into two-inch lengths and quartered
*1/2 cup of sliced green olives
* minced clove of garlic

For a sweet version:
Place in a separate pot:
1/2 cup of broth
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
package of dried apricots   Simmer all these ingredients until the apricots are tender, and then add this mix back into the tangine with the meat and onions and continue cooking (to complete the two hours). Another popular variation is using lamb with dried prunes.   After studying this morning, I discovered that American recipes often call for boneless and/or skinless chicken, but that’s not authentic! Also, I saw photos of tangine prepared with broccoli and served with toasted almonds and cilantro, which looked attractive, although I don’t know if that’s authentic either! Apparently it is common (and authentic) to serve it with couscous in some countries. At any rate, Kirsten’s was memorable and delicious…and even little Samuel loved it (after he tried it; he wasn’t too sure at first)! If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures, hear below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.”
(A common Christian blessing and doxology, written by Thomas Ken, 1674)

 

 

Leaving Mormonism but Growing in Grace

Although I virtually never read books that counter other religious viewpoints, I have begun reviewing books for Kregel Publications. I think they produce some outstanding Christian resources, and their recent release, Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, intrigued me. The few Mormons I know are clean living and service-minded. In fact, there are many Mormons who serve in our military, and my military kids have become good friends with several because of their moral standards and family values. Therefore, I wondered why four Mormon scholars would take such a strong stand against the teachings of their church.

When Mitt Romney was campaigning for the Republican presidential ticket, I remember sharing the gospel with a Mormon gentleman on a flight home from the West Coast. He expressed such warm agreement that I assumed the Mormon church must have changed a lot in the past forty years. Perhaps it wasn’t a “cult” after all. Perhaps it’s just another branch of true Christianity. Or, so I thought!   The book is deep and wide. I was blown away by how much I didn’t know. Each of the four scholars trace their own life experience of loving the Mormon Church  (some whose lineage can be traced back to the times of Joseph Smith) but growing into such an appreciation for the Bible as the true Word of God (which they go to great lengths to support) that they could no longer believe Mormon doctrines. Why? Because at their heart, many Mormon teachings run contrary to what the Bible says. Consider just a few essential doctrinal contradictions:

“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (Brigham Young).

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (The Bible, Revelation 4:11).

“The Spirit of God fell upon me to a marked extent and the Lord revealed to me, just as plainly and the sun at noon-day, this principle, which I put in a couplet: ‘As man now is God once was; As God now is, man may be'” (Lorenzo Snow, Latter Day Saint (LDS) apostle and prophet for three decades).

…we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 8:4-7).

A “plurality of gods exist…There is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods” (LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie).

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he” (The Bible, Mark 12:32).

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (LDS apostle and prophet for four decades, Spencer W. Kimball).

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As Cory Miller points in the book, “One can be wrong on every other nonessential Christian doctrine and still go to heaven. But no matter how sincere one is, if one is wrong on the doctrines of God and salvation, one could be sufficiently wrong to lose one’s soul. In this Mormonism does not provide a path to the reality of the good life, eternal happiness in the knowledge of God.”

Leaving Mormonism not only lights the way for understanding the clear teachings of the Bible about the person of God and the way of salvation, it’s also one of the most scholarly books I’ve read in recent years on apologetics,  defending of the authenticity of Scripture and the reasonableness of faith in God no matter who you are. So, if you are a Mormon, love a Mormon, or are interested in sharpening your own spiritual sensibilities, please consider reading Leaving Mormonism!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

 

Longing for Intimacy: Four Promises for Same-Sex-Attracted Christians

The following article is so good that I obtained the author’s permission to reprint it here. (Thank you, Christopher!) More than 2 dozen of my blog followers self identify as homosexuals or experience same sex attraction (SSA), and I have dearly loved friends both my age and in the younger generation who struggle with SSA too. I hope this transparent, uplifting article will be a comfort to you in your own journey and/or if you have loved ones who are grappling with gender issues. Although I’m duplicating the entire article below, there is a link to the original at the end if you’d like to connect with Chris or learn more about his ministry.

Article by Christopher Asmus, Pastor, St. Paul, Minnesota

I am a husband, a father, and a pastor. And for as long as I can remember, I have experienced same-sex attractions (SSA). Although I have always been physically and romantically attracted to women, I also have never been without deep emotional and sexual attractions to men.

Many in our culture would like to label people like me “bisexual,” but I believe Jesus has spoken a better word.

“I Feel, Therefore . . . ”

The overarching sexual ethic of our day is “I feel, therefore I am.” We see this clearly in the ongoing conversations around “gender identity.” Proponents of nonbinary “gender categories” suggest that if someone feels contrary to their biological sex, they belong in the category that correlates best with their feelings. In the same way, many in our culture would have people like me think that if you feel homosexual desires, then you are homosexual.

We commonly hear statements like, “You can’t choose whom you love; just be true to yourself.” Or, “Stop hiding your feelings and embrace who you really are.” Such statements mean your sexual desires actually define you. Your desires determine your definition. Your sexual attractions are who you really are at the core of your being.

The Bible, however, does not teach, “I feel, therefore I am,” but rather, “I feel, therefore I need.” As a result of the fall, our hearts are out of order and dark (Romans 1:21). Instead of loving light and hating darkness, we love darkness and hate light (John 3:19). And as we fall more in love with darkness, we sin and choose the way of death (James 1:14–15; Proverbs 14:12).

In short, being human in a fallen world means being attracted to things that are contrary to human flourishing in God, things that oppose God’s good plan for us and lead to death. I feel these attractions to sin, and therefore I need a Savior.

As I have daily battled against same-sex attraction, four particular promises have been bullets of grace in my fight for joy.

Freedom from the Punishment of SSA

Christians struggling with SSA often feel especially ashamed and embarrassed by these attractions. We sense the perversion of our contorted wants and desires, and as a result, we often feel too dirty to be in community with others, or to be in communion with God.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Christian, God will never use your SSA against you. Because Christ drank the full cup of God’s wrath on your behalf (Romans 5:8–9; 1 Peter 3:18), you will never experience even a moment of judgment from God over your homosexual desires, or over anything else.

Freedom from the Power of SSA

Often Christians experiencing SSA feel hopeless and helpless to its power. As attractions intensify, temptations deepen, and fantasies — like a mirage of cold water in a desert — look more and more appealing, the desire for a same-sex relationship can be so potent that it seems nearly impossible to overcome.

Christian, because of the accomplished work of Christ on the cross, your same-sex attractions do not have any dominion over you (Romans 6:14); Christ has dominion over you (Romans 6:22; Ephesians 6:6). Because you were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), you are no longer enslaved by your attractions, but fully free to reject them and render them powerless in your life (Romans 6:6–7).

Even in your moments of greatest temptation, consider yourself dead to SSA and alive to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11).

Freedom from the Pleasure of SSA

The most foundational lie SSA tells us is that a homosexual experience will be more pleasurable and more satisfying than what you are experiencing here and now. But God promises that Christ himself is infinitely more pleasurable and satisfying than anything this world has to offer (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 107:9), especially the sad counterfeit savior of a same-sex experience.

Christian, don’t believe the lies SSA tells. Our homosexual attractions may stem from good desires for intimacy and love, but sin has contorted them in a deadly direction. As a carnival mirror reshapes reality and convinces the eye that things appear different than they really are, so sin reshapes our wants and desires, and convinces the heart that lies are actually true. Don’t believe the funny mirror of SSA.

Your God-given longings for deep, intimate satisfaction can be fulfilled only in the person of Jesus Christ (John 6:35; Psalm 22:26).

Freedom from the Presence of SSA

Maybe the hardest thing for Christians experiencing SSA is the fact that the feelings don’t go away overnight, or over months, or, for many, even over a lifetime. While God has given us powerful weapons to fight sin with — such as prayer and fasting — we still must live in our fallen bodies with our wicked wants and desires as our ever-present reality. But these wants and desires have an expiration date.

Believer, your body, including its attractions and longings for sin, will one day be finally and fully redeemed (Romans 8:23). When that redemption happens, in a flash, you will never have a misplaced attraction again, because all your desires for intimacy and love will be completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

If you’re a Christian struggling with same-sex attractions, know that you are not defined by your sin. Your identity is not determined by your temptations. “Embrace who you really are” by embracing Jesus Christ and your new life found in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Be true to yourself” by clinging to Truth himself (John 14:6) and enjoying the freedoms Christ purchased for you with his blood.

The Art of Life

How is your January coming? Have you noticed that it takes a certain amount of leisure to be meditative and creative? I have to confess that between all the marvelous company (beginning November 21 and lasting into January, which made me extremely happy but exhausted) and a strangling cold that wouldn’t relinquish its grip until Alan and I went on a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal (where we rested in healing, sunny, 82° sea breezes)…until these past two months came and went, I’ve been so focused on living that there’s been precious little time for meditative reflection or writing. Have you also noticed how valuable it is to take a step back from your daily routines every once in a while to gain perspective and recalibrate your spirit?  During our break, I was encouraged by these words from Leonardo da Vinci: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”*  Isn’t that the truth…not only for the creative genius of a Renaissance man, but for the creative art of making our lives a work of beauty and goodness?   I’m well, refreshed and ready to begin anew. Here is my first offering…a little poem that came to me while enjoying this peaceful Pacific sunrise last week:

Light

I long to write a poem:
Simple.
Elegant.
Filled with God.

Even more, I long to be a poem:
So filled with light that all are drawn to the Light.
So beautiful that those who draw near are also warmed and filled.
So deep that even eternity will not end our unity.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

 Jesus prayed, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23).

(*The three middle photos weren’t taken in Central America but from a different vacation, with our two youngest sons, while visiting da Vinci’s residence in Amboise, France known as Clos Lucé.)