Daily Prompt: Young At Heart

(What are your thoughts on aging? How will you stay young at heart as you get older?)

These daily prompts are fun.  They make me think.

What I think about this one is that I feel sorry for those who dread any sign of aging; who value old people very little; who equate age with senility and uselessness. Frankly, just the opposite is true for me.

I’ll be 67 next birthday.  The only real regret I have is being overweight, but that didn’t come just with age.  It’s harder to get rid of as we age, though.  I guess I also miss being able to sing.  That’s something I never thought about losing until maybe ten years ago, when I recognized the vast inequality between male and female voices.  Women’s voices age earlier, get the quavers, become either shrill or way too deep.

Other than that?  I don’t regret a thing.

My life has not been trouble-free, but the joys far outweight the sorrows.  There are laugh lines around my eyes, and I’m fine with that. There are wrinkles in my forehead, and I’m fine with that.  I don’t particularly love my turkey wattles, but you know, they haven’t always been there.  For years and years I had a normal neck  😉  In fact, it was normal for more years than it will be wattled, and you know–scarves are a very big fashion deal!

I have some of the conditions that come with age:  My friends Arthur and Burs (itis); two artifical knees; bunions that prevent me from wearing cool high-heeled shoes; varicosities that look like roadmaps.  But I don’t mind, because I’ve earned all of it. My hair is almost entirely grey these days, and that’s ok too. I never got into coloring it because I’m just too lazy to keep touching it up.

So what are the benefits?  Well, I’m very thankful to say that I’m in generally good health, still able to work three days a week, to enjoy my grandchildren, to continue to learn new things every single day, to enjoy a good meal and good friends.  There’s nothing more pleasant than to be in the company of people you love, and who love you back–even if you’re no longer youthful-looking.

Mostly, I believe my relationship with God has kept me young at heart, because no matter how tough things can be in this old world, I’m always, always looking forward to the sure hope of heaven for all eternity. Not only will I be reunited with those who have gone ahead of me, but I will finally see the One Who provided His Son for my salvation, and I will be able to enjoy His presence forever.

Some people fear old age because they fear death. When you know Jesus Christ, death holds no fear. It is only the bridge from this world to the next, where age won’t matter at all.

_________

Daily Prompt: Three Coins in the Fountain

(Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?)

Image

Thirteen is a wonderful, terrible age. Still caught somewhere between childhood and womanhood, the thirteen-year-old girl has hopes and wishes and dreams that she doesn’t truly understand.  Things are happening in and to her body that are both exciting and confusing. Emotions she doesn’t understand can overwhelm her with sadness or delight.   She’s at odds with herself, with her family, with everything as it is; at the same time, she needs desperately to have the comfort of her family and the safety of home while she dreams about all the things on the outside of that  comfort zone.

So, as Gina stood at the fountain that shimmered with  wish coins, she gripped her own while she thought of all the things she could wish for.  Her dreams tended to reach far into the future. She saw herself as a prolific writer of great historical novels. She pictured a mansion filled with beautiful furnshings and  echoing with the laughter of children. She heard the resonant voice of the world’s most incredbly handsome man as he called for her when he came in from his business day.

Leaning over the edge of the fountain, she saw herself.  Long hair, straight and mud-brown.  Bad skin. Big brown eyes, her best feature, didn’t make up for her lop-sided ears and the gap between her two front teeth.

“No,” she thought. “I’ll never be a famous anything.  I’m too plain, too poor, and too shy to ever accomplish all that.  I’ll be lucky to find an ordinary guy who doesn’t mind how short and dumpy I am, and who likes mud-brown hair.  What can I wish for that might actually come true?”

Gina didn’t believe in fairy tale magic. There would be no Prince Charming in her future, she was sure. She wasn’t about to waste wishes on things that were impossible. Lost in thought, she didn’t notice the little old woman who approached the fountain and stood next to her until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Glancing up, she smiled a bit at the kindness she saw in the woman’s eyes.

“Did you ever make a wish here?”  she asked.

“Oh, my yes.  When I was just about your age.”

“Really?  Did your wish come true?  Will you tell me about it?”

“Yes, my wish came true.  It was simple.  I wished that I would find someone to share my life with, someone who would always be glad he had met me.  That’s all I wished, but I got a lot more than I wished for.”

“What?  What else did you get?”

“Why, my dear, if I tell you that, you’ll waste your wishes on things that might not be best for you.  The key is to wish for someone you can love, someone whose life will be better because of you. Your life won’t be without sorrow and loss, but you will never regret the life you shared with a person who believes you made his life better than he ever dreamed.”

The woman turned and walked away, and Gina still sat on the edge of the fountain, dreaming.  Finally, she stood and  tossed her coins, one by one, into the clear water.

“I wish,” she whispered, “That someone else’s life will be better because of me.”

 

Sexual Assault: Focus on Male Victims, part 4

The myth for today on this subject is that  those who abuse boys are homosexuals. If you try to follow the logic on this one, you’re going to get all twisted up.  It makes about as much sense as this silly little comic strip:

So let’s take a look at some of the implications of this belief.

First,  one must assume that all who sexually abuse boys are males; otherwise, why would a homosexual woman abuse a boy? Wouldn’t she choose a girl instead?

Second, one must assume that women do not abuse boys. This is patently not true.  Here’s just one of dozens of websites on this subject: http://kalimunro.com/wp/articles-info/sexual-emotional-abuse/male-sexual-abuse-victims-of-female-perpetrators

But let’s get back t the idea that every man who abuses a boy is a homosexual. We need to be very careful about making these 100% kinds of statements, because some very damaging beliefs can develop from them. One is that a boy who has been sexually abused becomes homosexual. Another is that all homosexual males abuse little boys.  Neither of these statements is true 100% of the time. We need to be careful how we use 100% words, like all, every, always, never. 

Are there homosexual males who molest young boys?  Of course.  Are there heterosexual males who abuse young boys? Of course.  Do all boys who are molested become homosexuals?  No.  Do all boys who are molested grow up to become molesters? No. Do either of these things happen sometimes?  Sure. But not EVERY time, not ALL the time, not EVERY boy!

So why does anyone molest a young boy?

There are no simple answers here.  We need to remember that every human being is born with the nature to sin.  That sinful nature is going to manifest in many different ways.  One of those ways is to sexually abuse people who are unable to prevent the abuse.

There are several passages in the Bible that express how the sins of the fathers will show up in the children for several generations (Numbers 14:18, for example).  The meaning of these verses is not that the children will be punished for their fathers’ sins, but that the same tendency will exist in them as it did in their fathers. That’s one reason generational incest is such a problem.  An obsession with pornography, or any other kind of sexual sin, is very often traceable in the family tree.

That doesn’t mean it has to continue.  Each of us has the choice to follow the path of evil of the path of righteousness, which is a topic for another post.

There are some common features  in those who abuse children:

  • A person with power or influence over a child can develop a sexual interest in the child.
  • There are no “stops” that keep the adult from improper behavior.  It is very easy to convince oneself that it’s okay, because the child didn’t resist; the child actually enjoyed it, and so on.
  • The person acts out their sexual fantasies and impulses toward the child, because he/she can’t find an adult who will cooperate; or the person is afraid of rejection, and a child is pretty helpless.

For me, the bottom line here is that Satan is out to destroy whatever God loves; God loves children; therefore, Satan targets children with no end of abominable abuse at the hands of those who have no conscience, and who care only about their own gratification. We call them sociopaths these days. And that, too, is a subject for another post, another day.

Never discount the presence and power of evil in this world.

Thou art the Christ!

Matthew 16:15-16. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This astonishing moment must have rocked Peter’s world, and the other disicples’ world, as well.  To my knowledge, this is the first time any of the disciples came right out and said, “You are the Son of God!  You are deity.  You are Yaweh, Messiah, Immanuel!  You are God!”

What a solemn moment. What a moment of personal realization for Peter.  He speaks up here as the mouthpiece of the other disciples. He says that which the Father has revealed to him. Whether or not he actually got the full import of his statement, we do not know. It is clear, though, that Peter and the others were beginning to realize just Who it was that they were following and serving.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of walking, sitting, or standing in the very presence of the Creator of the universe, the One Who condescended to take my place of shame and pain and then to rise again to life so that I can have life abundantly, I just can’t think of it without tears. I can barely grasp that He knew me before I was ever conceived; I can never understand that He loved me before He died for me, and that when He was on the cross, I was on His mind.

Whom do Men Say that I AM?

Matthew 16:13.”When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist,some Elias, and others, Jeremias,  or one of the prophets.”

Jesus was now about to set the stage for some of the most radical, life-changing teaching that He had yet uttered. This is an incredibly important passage of scripture, and everything changes from this point onward.  Yet, He begins simply. He asks the disciples what others are saying about His identity.

It is significant that this conversation took place in Caesarea-Phillipi.  It is Gentile country. Jesus made a pointed declaration that because His own had not received Him, He would turn instead to the Gentiles. It is the place where He made His revelation concerning the church.

When He asked His disciples who people thought He was, of course He already knew the answers. And those answers, echoing the many voices in Israel, made it very clear that most of them didn’t have a clue Who He really was. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets–really?  These were the best guesses about Him, Who was God incarnate?

And do we not, in our superior knowledge and supposed intelligence, make the same silly guesses about Jesus?  Those who don’t want to accept Him as God are very good at describing Him as just a man; born of a little Jewish girl and a Roman soldier; a rabble-rouser who tried, like many before Him, to raise a rebellion against Rome; a low man who associated with prostitutes and tax collectors, and was probably no better than he should be.  Just another prophet, albeit an unusual one, whose fame has continued through the centuries because he spoke such words of wisdom.  Just another historical figure, like Mohammed.

That last one is, without any doubt, the one I find the most egregious. To say that Jesus and Mohammed are similar; to compare the Bible to the Koran, is so outlandish that I find it hard to understand how anyone can believe it.

Yet they do.

There is nothing new under the sun.  But hang on to your hats, because Jesus is about to say some astonishing things!

What is the Matter With You!

Matthew 16:7-12. “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, He said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand neither remember  the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

If Jesus had been One Who rolled His eyes, this would have been a good opportunity.

If you’ve ever had children, or had anything to do with the teaching and training of children, you know that sometimes they just don’t get it!   Nothing in their noggins. Vast empty expanses.

I used to tell my kids something I felt was important. I insisted that they look at me, right in my eyes. I told them what they needed to hear.  Then I said, “Okay, now what did I just say?”

As they grew up, they got better at listening and repeating what I had said.  Then I would add, “And what do you think I meant?”  Hmmmm.  Results varied.  I didn’t have stupid kids.  They’re all actually very bright, and I’m proud to claim them all.  Just in case any of the four of them are reading this 🙂  The thing is, sometimes they just weren’t paying close attention, and so they missed the point, and had to hear it again. And again.

That’s pretty much what was going on with the disciples in this passage.  They were so hung up on who should have bought the bread that they weren’t really getting the meaning of what Jesus was trying to tell them.  He had to tell them again, reminding them of the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and then the four thousand, and all the leftovers.

Why would they worry about bread for twelve?

Why do we worry about anything?

Oh we, of little faith.

Take Heed!

Matthew 16:6. “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

I’ve been baking most of the bread for my household for 45 years now.  I’ve learned quite a bit about the process.  I know, for instance, that it takes only a tablespoon of dry yeast to give me two big, beautiful loaves of bread.  There can be anywhere from six to eight cups of flour in those loaves, plus milk, maybe 2 cups, and a tablespoon of sugar to “feed” the yeast. Add a little salt and oil,  and you have some really good bread. Smells like heaven when it’s baking 🙂

So what does that have to do with this verse? 

Well, think about the small amount of leaven (yeast) that is required to affect 6-8 cups of flour.  Not very much, and yet when the yeast is introduced into the flour mixture, and gets a little bit of sugar to activate and feed it, the yeast totally changes the character of the bread. Without the yeast, the bread would be flat. It would not rise. It would be very heavy, and not particularly appetizing. 

In Bible symbolism, leaven is not usually a good thing.  When God demanded purity in sacrifices and/or feasting, He always specified unleavened bread.  A little leaven affects the whole lump of dough, just as a little sin affects the truth of God’s Word as well as the purity of our lives. 

The false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees had created great confusion. Strict adherence to traditional law, not necessarily God’s law, had made the Pharisees seif-righteous and legalistic. Incorrect interpretations of the Sadducees had created false doctrine including a rejection of the resurrection of Messiah. My dad used to say that the Sadducees didn’t believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, and that is why they were sad, you see?  Kind of corny, but it helped me remember. 

So. Jesus took the irresponsibility of the disciples, who had forgotten to purchase bread, and turned it into  a teachable moment.  A little bit of false teaching can completely change the character of the gospel as well as the character of those who accept the lie along with the truth. 

The song in Mary Poppins says that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  So that spoonful of sugar in the bread mixture feeds the yeast, causes it to bubble and grow, and sweetens the final product.  In bread, that’s a wonderful result. 

In changing the truth of God’s Word, the sugar and the yeast are poison. 

Such a Shame!

I read an article from The Blaze this morning about a Connecticut pastor who confessed his infidelity to his congregation, and shortly thereafter died of an apparent heart attack. He’d been married to his wife for 50 years.

The tragedy here is multi-layered and far-reaching.  I don’t want to write about this man in particular, because all I know of him is what I read this morning. However, I’m a preacher’s kid; I’ve been in church for over 61 years; I went to college at a strong Bible school; I worked in Christian schools and now I’m working in a Christian therapy office. My whole life has been centered on serving the Lord and His people. I’ve seen a lot, and heard a lot, that is heart-breaking to me. I can’t imagine how it must break God’s heart.

I have a few thoughts about why pastors and others in Christian leadership fall into sexual sin. Before i go there, I do want to say that sexual sin is NOT the unforgiveable sin. The only sin God cannot forgive is denial of His Son, Jesus Christ. Sexual sin, however is grievous because it pollutes the symbolism of Christ, the Bridegroom, and His union with the Church, His bride.  I have always thought it significant that the very first thing Satan touched with his reptilian finger was human sexuality. As soon as they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness.

Here is what I believe, in part, leads pastors into sexual sin:

Image

John Dahlberg, Lord Acton, said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

When a pastor has absolute power and authority in the church, that power is not good for his character.  He not only can become dictatorial; he can actually come to believe that every word he utters is directly from God, and no one should ever, ever question anything he says or does.  I have known of pastors who believe they are above sin because, they believe,  they are called of God, and somehow endued with the power to misbehave and not have it matter.

My father had a list of rules for himself.  One, he would never be alone in his office with a woman. Two, he had a window place in the door of his office that gave a complete view to any passer-by. Three, he never was in the car alone with any woman except my mother, or my sister or me. Further, he never took his secretary alone to lunch, or anywhere else. They never traveled alone together to conferences or even across town. If he was called upon to counsel a woman, my mother was always there.  He never touched women except for a public handshake. He was above reproach in these matters, and was never, ever accused of misbehavior with any woman.

I’ve known pastors who did not follow these rules, and who did come up for reproach even when they were not guilty of sexual sin.  It’s a matter of avoiding all appearance of evil, a principle that seems to be fading into the dusty past of history.

When a pastor comes to be revered by his people to the point of worship, it sets him up to believe he can do things “normal” men cannot do. He loses the humility he may have had when he began his ministry.  He takes on an attitude of infallibility that God never gave to any man, and loses sight of his need to remain above reproach.

Why sexual sin?

Most pastors deal with women who treat them with great respect, almost with adoration.  They never question anything the pastor says or does, and that kind of unquestioning “followship” would turn any man’s head.  Why do executives have affairs with their secretaries?  Why do Presidents have affairs with beautiful, famous women who fawn all over them?

Often, women who are in terrible marriages are drawn to a strong, compassionate pastor because those qualities are missing in their own marriages. That’s understandable. That’s also why a wise pastor will not meet alone with a woman he is counseling, especially in marriage counseling.

It seems to me that there is a strong movement, in some church circles, toward the idea of the pastor as the infallible, indisputable leader who is never to be questioned or confronted. I can’t find any biblical support for that attitude.  It is harmful to the man himself, harmful to his wife and family, and harmful to the people who become afraid to make any life decisions without the approval of the pastor.  He is not intended to rule our lives, but to minister to our hearts. He is to teach and preach the truth of the Word of God and be a wise and caring shepherd under God.

I believe sincerely that if more pastors would humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, fewer of them would be caught in the trap of sexual sin.

It’s better to put a guardrail at the top of the cliff than to have an ambulance in the valley.

They forgot the Bread

Matthew 16:5. “And when the disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.”

“Hey, Judas!  Did you remember to buy some bread and other food?”

“What, ME?  Why should I always be the one to buy the groceries!  Thomas could have done it, or Peter or James.  I’m not the only one who can pick up the supplies!”

“All right, you guys, did anyone think of buying some food?  We’re going to be mighty hungry, and embarrassed, if we don’t have anything when it’s time to eat.  Anyone?”

“Nope.”

“Forgot.”

“Not my job.”

“Didn’t think of it.”

“I didn’t have any money.”

“What am I, your errand boy?”

“Judas is the money bags. He should have thought of it.”

“We should form a committee and take a vote about who has to go back for the bread.”

“It’s too late now. Man, I can’t believe how disorganized you guys are.”

And Jesus sighed in His spirit.

The Sign of Jonas

Matthew 16:4. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And He left them, and departed.”

The fact that the Pharisees and Sadducees, who hated each other, were lumped into the description of a wicked and adulterous generation must have really ignited their tempers.  They considered themselves above the rabble.  They were learned, “holy,” the arbiters of all things lawful and unlawful. Jesus said they were part of a wicked and adulterous time in the history of Israel.

It’s not the first time the Israelites focused more on the weather than they did on the Word. We in America today certainly spend a lot of time considering the weather, don’t we?  And we ignore the Word unless we can turn it to our own advantage. We’d better wake up. We’re no different, no better, than they were.

The reason they couldn’t discern the signs of the times was because they were wicked and adulterous!

Sometimes, after I’ve been on the computer too long, it seems as if there’s a film over my eyes.  I hope it’s not cataracts or something, but it does seem to go away when I leave the computer.  That film over my eyes makes it hard for me to see clearly, so I have to look elsewhere for awhile to give my eyes a rest and let my vision come clear again.

If we look too long on the things of the world, our spiritual vision can film over so that we can’t see clearly. We need to look away from the world and all it offers, and get our eyes back on the Word, back on the Lord.

The sign of the prophet Jonas is the only sign they would get. What was it?  Jonah was cast into the sea to save the innocent.  He spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish (phew!) and then was burped up onto dry land and went about his appointed work.

Jesus would die for the guilty; the Innocent for the wicked.  He would spend three days and nights in the grave, and then He would rise again and go back to the Father.

Would the Sadducees and Pharisees understand that sign?

What do you think?