Thoughts on Love, Sex and the Bible for Valentines Day

There I said it: sex.  A word not often heard from the pulpit of a church on Sunday.  A word often used as a weapon against Christians to deride their values and beliefs and falsely accuse them of being prudes or (worse) hypocrites when sexual misconduct takes place.

The truth is that God created us with the ability to engage in love and sexual activity, for procreation and for pleasure.  There is no sin in sex for a Christian.  There are some boundaries that God expects us to follow, and those boundaries are logical and for our best interests.

Love and sex outside of an existing marriage violates God’s desires and plans for us.  It violates the marriage contract, pledged before God, and strikes at the very heart of the intimate and trusting relationship every man and woman enjoys and expects in a marriage.  The sacred nature of the marriage relationship, which involves sharing your very essence and soul, innermost feelings, hopes dreams and fears with another, is so deeply personal that to violate the trust that is required to be so exposed is devastating.  This is why so many people never get over such a betrayal.

Love and sex without marriage also violates God’s desires and plans for us.  The beauty of physical love and attraction combined with the marriage commitment is the intense splendor it brings to our soul.  The unique mixture of friendship, physical attraction, soul matching and family-building is like the perfect cocktail mix of all the best that there is in life.  It is the perfect mix of love.  Sex without love is just an act, appealing to our physical and emotional impulses. Once it is over feelings disappear.  Sex with love satisfies our souls and enriches our lives. The good feelings last forever.

The greatest physical pleasures I have ever enjoyed were those I have experienced with my wife in a marriage filled with friendship, physical attraction, spiritual bonding and mutual love for the Lord.  God planned it this way and it is the perfect combination!

The Bible offers us the Song of Solomon which in quite explicit detail discusses the beauty and joy of physical love as God planned it for us.  Solomon, whom God tells us was the wisest man of his day, was clearly as brilliant about love as he was about faith, conflict and human nature.

This Valentines Day forget the cheesy Hallmark Card…pull out your Bible and write a love poem to your soul mate that speaks of the depth and breadth of  true love made possible by the deep love God has for each of us, and the spiritual, physical and emotional pleasures that we are blessed to enjoy in a true loving relationship:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;  your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out. From Song 1

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. From Song 2

On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. From Song 3.

Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.  Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.  Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. From Song 4

How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. From Song 4

My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool.  His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies,  dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. From Song 5

I Cannot Hide It Any Longer, So Its Time for My Coming Out Party

I cannot wait in silence any longer.  It is irresponsible of me, given the current social climate and the status of the world today for me not to reveal to everyone my inner feelings and the true nature of who I am. I was made like this.  I was created to be like this and the whole world needs to hear about it.

I know that there are many who will  ridicule me.  Some will call me names.  I am certain to find discrimination and prejudice against me because of my announcement.  There are some backwards-thinking, self-righteous people who think that people like me are dangerous, evil, a poor example for others, and they find my lifestyle reprehensible.

My children know about it and support me.  Some people think they will be harmed by my lifestyle and call me a bad parent.  Of course my children cannot discuss it in school without a trip to the office or worse.

My wife embraces my lifestyle.  When she first met me she really did not understand my feelings…which I kept from her I admit because you have to let people in on this slowly.  Eventually she herself decided the lifestyle was right for her.  This made our marriage work out better as we both could relate and live the way we wanted, with each of us respecting the other’s choice.

I’ve lost a few friends who found out about me.  I have to be careful how I demonstrate my lifestyle and beliefs publicly because I can offend strangers with just a word, something I wear, or because of my opinions which go against the grain of what’s acceptable.  I guess I make people nervous.

I am not the perfect representative for my cause.  There are many others who are better at vocalizing what we stand for and the rights we deserve in society.  Look to them as leaders not to me.

However I do need to make a public statement about who I am and what I am, if only to inspire others who hide their true nature and are bullied, intimidated or nervous about everyone knowing about their true feelings and their lifestyle choices.

So here it goes….today I am unafraid to tell the whole world that I AM A CHRISTIAN.  I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST.  I CHOOSE TO LIVE A CHRIST-CENTERED LIFE.  I KNOW IN MY HEART THAT GOD IS NOT DEAD BUT ALIVE IN ME, AND I AM GRATEFUL!

If you no longer wish to be my friend I understand.  If you no longer want to do business with me I understand.   If you feel awkward around me, or talking to me, don’t.  I’m just like you, except I have given my life to Jesus Christ.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Yes Virginia, there is an American Exceptionalism, and One of its Foundations is Free Religious Expression

In the past few years the idea of “American Exceptionalism” has been attacked as biased, arrogant and ignorant of the overall global geopolitical realities.  In fact it is none of that.

The truth is there IS an American Exceptionalism rooted in a representative democracy (government of the people, by the people and for the people), freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religious expression.  When the founders created our form of government there was none like it in the history of mankind and there have only been followers since.  The concepts of freedom and representative government have allowed Americans to enjoy the most abundant, fruitful, just, compassionate, inspiring and secure culture and society ever known.  There is no other country, culture or society that can match the American record.  None.

This does not mean that America is always right, is perfect, is without blemish, blame or fault.  Throughout our history slavery, discrimination, economic inequalities, gender inequalities and political corruption have existed and restricted individual growth and success.  However the fact that America HAS  a representative democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religious expression has allowed this nation to address these problems, find solutions and largely overcome them.  There have been no fatal blows to our founding principles.  The same cannot be said wherever inhumanity, discrimination, bias and oppression reside.  Dictators, tyrants, military juntas, and terroristic governments have come and gone but still America stands.  American leadership in the world has always been based upon a widespread recognition (albeit not always appreciated and sometimes resented) that America offers a special hope as a sure partner for anyone seeking to uphold and defend the principles of freedom.  Because where freedom is lost,  oppression begins to take hold.

It stands to reason that efforts to restrict, reduce, and marginalize representative democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religious expression are fought in this country and resented as un-American.  Perhaps the most important of these is religious freedom.  Why?  Because the free expression of religious beliefs establishes the moral and ethical foundations for life; stripped away their absence leaves a vacuum where there are no boundaries, there are no ethics, there are no rules for living and man becomes  a “beast” whose life is “nasty, brutish and short,” to quote Thomas Hobbs.  There is a reason that the country was founded as a nation “under God,” because the founders knew that God-fearing people would ensure that a free society would not devolve into chaos, where anything goes, everything goes, and rules and laws are whatever one decides that they might be for their own selfish purpose.

I am thankful that I was blessed to be born and raised in an exceptional America.  Where I can write this essay without  retribution or imprisonment.  Where I can fall on my knees and pray to God without restriction or oppression, and where I can petition my government through an elected representative to propose and enact laws that continue to support and protect the freedoms so many have fought and died to defend throughout our history.

God Bless America!

For Me the Super Bowl is EVERY Sunday

Today millions of us will gather before our television sets in homes, bars, restaurants, clubs, and yes even churches to watch the annual Super Bowl game.  Nearly 70,000 will brave New Jersey’s bitter February cold spell to sit outdoors and root for the Broncos and Seahawks.  We will yell, scream, laugh, cry, raise our hands in triumph and hang our heads in defeat.

The emotional rollercoaster of American sports is a phenomenon worthy of sociological study (which has likely happened ten times over) because it reflects certain things about us as a culture and a people.  What entertains us, what inspires us, what motivates us (to sit in frigid weather!), and what we lift up in admiration and emulation.

Every Sunday, whether it is football season or not, I can be found in a church being motivated, inspired, and lifting my hands in triumph.   Not because of some mortal man’s exploits, but because the King of man died for me and bestows hope and blessings on us beyond anything the world offers.  With Christ however, there is no defeat, no disappointment and no losing team.  When you are with Christ you are with a winner, THE winner, who defeated sin and death for us.  So I gladly lift my head and hands up to Him each Sunday because Christ is my winning team. He won the greatest Super Bowl of all…not the fight to the goal posts, but the fight to overcome sin and death.  He barreled into the end zone with the finesse of Jim Brown, the speed of Tony Dorsett, the strength of Joe Green, the mental toughness of Johnny Unitas, and the strategic genius of Vince Lombardi.

Christ won the big game for you and me.  Today before you dip into the nachos, enjoy the BBQ ribs, and lift a cool drink to celebrate the 48th Super Bowl, give thanks to Jesus Christ the biggest winner there ever was and ever will be.  I’m proud to say He is my favorite player and number one in my fantasy draft!

Thanksgiving Visitor: An Original Short Story

The man walked slowly up the long driveway, his hands trembling from the cold, he had no gloves, and his head was uncovered. He had forgotten how cold it could get in November in Kansas.

His mind raced as he trod heavily, avoiding patches of ice, ice that had formed the night before with a biting, wet rain. He wondered whether he would be welcomed, or remembered, because he had been away so long and people tend to forget those who no longer fill their lives, even those who they have loved, because time changes things.

He noticed the long row of oak trees, ancient now, yet still sturdy, their branches coated in ice and snow, bending, not breaking from the weight of a cold, hard winter, and he smiled at the tenacity of nature. The barn had a new coat of paint, bright red, and the color burst through nature’s billowed cotton drape, the blanched whiteness stained and shocked by the scarlet structure rising above the pasture.

He continued along the road, over the small wooden bridge that covered the narrow creek which fed a small pond behind the smokehouse. There ducks and geese frolicked in warmer weather; he had fond memories, feeding those birds and making idyllic life plans while the sun set in the Western sky.

The old bridge creaked and moaned as his bulky frame, added to the week’s worth of snow and ice, stretched the load capacity for such a fragile platform. Small patches of ice and snow cracked and dropped from its sides into the freezing, winding waters below, disturbing a blue jay resting nearby.

An old wood-framed house was in view now, just in time as his hands were nearly numb and his face was reddened by the sharp winter wind. He noticed that the Christmas wreaths were already up, on each window, hand-made of course, and the old horse-drawn sleigh that was stored in the barn was out and ready, should anyone want a ride through the neighboring woods. Many of the neighbors were always ready to take that long and joyous ride, and the plow horses never tired of that long round-trip either.

The house was quiet, and the man suspected no one was home, maybe everyone had gone into town for one thing or another, as there is always one thing or another that needs to be done the day before Thanksgiving.

As he approached the door he sensed the aroma of roasted turkey, although he was not certain it was real or his imagination taking him back to Thanksgivings years before, when he was young, and naïve and life was simple. He had not seen a turkey, let alone tasted one in a long, long time. He rapped lightly on the screen, in nervous anticipation that someone may actually be there and see him, and in response he heard the sound of footsteps across the floor.

The front door opened slowly and an awkward period of silence took place, as each of them, the visitor, and the mother who had given birth to him, nursed him, raised him, and stood by helplessly as he was shipped off to war in a far off, distant place, struggled to comprehend the reality of the moment. The silence was shattered by her scream, and his loud laugh and cry, “I’m home, mom, just as I promised!” The man, still dressed in a sharp, desert colored uniform, flung open the screen door and gathered up his mother in his brawny arms and lifted her high. The commotion brought his sisters and his father running where they came upon the poignant scene. Each one, in turn, expressed the sentiments that had been so long delayed and denied by the soldier’s absence.

A man, who left home as a boy only four years ago, returned home, to his family, and the holiday joy that had only existed as a cherished memory while he lived and fought as a soldier, in the dry and deadly mountains of Afghanistan. No matter how far, no matter how long, he knew that one day he would see the old barn, cross the bridge, and weather the long, cold walk towards the home he missed and the family he loved.

Twelve hundred miles away, another man, once a boy, rode anxiously in a yellow taxi cab through the streets of the Bronx, New York City. Unsuspecting family gathered at the same moment to toast the Holidays, and the hope of seeing their son, once again, alive and well and back home.

THE END