Thursday, March 28, 2013

Covenant Marriage


This blog was sent to five clergy of five distinctively different denominations for accuracy in theology. One of them is a woman.

I am not any kind of “phobe” and I don’t belong to any “party” groups. I am not occupying anything but my house, car and office. I am just me and I have an opinion. Not everyone will agree with me. But I feel led to take a stand on this.

Don’t call what I have had for 35 years the same thing as what some people want to call “marriage.”

Most people get up in front of a bunch of people, say some nice words, and call it a marriage. They have no clue as to what the marriage covenant is about.

The first covenant in the Bible is between God and Noah in Genesis 9. God promises to Noah that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood, and sets the rainbow in the sky as a testimony to His promise. Noah and his descendants would always see the rainbow and remember the Promise.

The concept of covenant continues in the Old Testament between God and Abram. No, not Abraham, that’s what his name is AFTER God makes His covenant with Abram and thereby changes his name. This covenant is God promising to Abram to make his descendants a prolific nation, the nation we know as Israel. The Covenant includes the “sign” of circumcision, and its narrative is in Genesis 17.

This is long after Adam makes the statement about leaving parents and cleaving to each other in Genesis 2:24. Actually this is narrative provided after the fact. God speaks through the writer, who most believe to have been Moses.

Covenant is when two parties PROMISE something to each other. I could go on and talk about the Covenant of David and Jonathan, which is found in First Samuel 18, but the reader can look that up. David promised to “take care” of Jonathan’s decedents and Jonathan, for lack of a better word, promised to put David above his own father, who was David’s enemy in battle. This is a covenant between two people, not God and man. A covenant was binding, not until one person didn't like the other person very much.

Covenant marriage is binding. It means sticking together through thick and thin.

Now, I don’t have anything against calling something a “civil union.” I am not even remotely trying to tell someone how to live their own lives. We cannot and will not legislate what people do or do not do, and I believe that everyone, including me, will answer to God at some point. 

I don’t pretend to make everyone think my way. I personally would like less government in our lives; and believe that insurance companies can make their own business decisions—just as Assurant and Aetna did (and yes, let’s name names) when they refused to insure me because of the inaccurate diagnosis of sleep apnea. I believe anyone can name anyone a beneficiary, buy property together, leave their estate to whomever they want to. I have no problems with any of these things.

Just.don’t.call.it.marriage.

The Bible is clear in Genesis about one man and one woman. Yes, Solomon took a boatload of wives. He didn’t live in covenant marriage with any of them. Biblical characters were imperfect. People were real and made mistakes.

The Bible is also very clear about what does NOT constitute a union, and what God considers detestable.

Leviticus 18:22 - "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."  Leviticus 20:13 - "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."*

This isn't my idea; it is what God has said. Fundamentally, each one of us can rewrite what God has said to fit how we want things to be, or we can take Him at His word. This is the bottom line. If writings in the Bible don’t line up with what you want to believe, you have to be willing to say “I don’t believe in a God that isn't {whatever my own idea of God ought to be}.”

That’s what it comes down to; not this issue or that issue. It comes down to agreement with God and what He has given us in His scriptures. Either you believe it, or you don’t!

You do what you do. I am not your judge. I have done plenty of stuff on my own! But I am in a covenant marriage with a man that I stood before God (and these witnesses, some of you reading this were there!) and promised to be loving and faithful in a variety of circumstances.

I have not always been very loving; but I have stood in this marriage when others might have bailed, and sometimes I felt like bailing! But I am here; our marriage has stood the test of time because of commitment.

Just don’t call what others “want” marriage, because it’s not the same thing. They may think it’s a covenant, but it’s not what God calls a covenant.

And therein lays a big problem. Re-inventing God.

* New American Standard Bible ©Lockman Foundation 1971, 1995

Comments on this blog will be moderated. I recognize that some completely agree and some completely disagree; but I expect any comment to be civil. Anonymous comments will be allowed if you don’t have a google or yahoo account, and you sign your name. Completely anonymous comments will not be published.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ten Books That Have Influenced Me--Part Two

In my last blog, I began a discourse on the ten books that have influenced me most as a person. Number one is the Bible; others include Open Heart, Open Home, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, Ladies of the Club, Living More with Less, and The Tightwad Gazette. Today I begin to discuss the last four books which have made a large impact in my life (thus far.)

I was just like any other mom. I was working, trying to keep a house and keep up with the husband and kids. Everyone has doctors and orthodontist appointments. The good thing about having kids five years apart is everything does NOT happen at once. My husband was a great partner in getting everyone where they needed to be.

I was at a Christian women’s conference when I came across the book Margin by Richard Swensen (© 1992, by Richard Swensen.) This book is written from a Christian perspective, but it has good ideas for anyone. The idea was that we schedule too much into our time, so that if one thing goes wrong (i.e. a doctor running late), we are thrown into a tailspin. We need to deliberately schedule in “margin” between ALL activities. I changed my thinking after reading this book. It wasn't just about “activities” either; it was about all the needs we have in our lives. Yes, sometimes my husband and I tag-teamed as parents, as most parents do. But I learned to manage my life better. I guess I didn't learn enough when I was a younger woman.

There's a whole series of
"Boundaries" books.
I purchased Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (©1992, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend) when I began working as a secretary at a church in 1997. I thought I would need to set boundaries better so I wouldn't be “eaten up” by church demands. In actuality, the church treated me wonderfully; I needed that book to set boundaries at home. We weren't in a terrible place—yet—but that book gave me resources to enter the next decade and more with a secure feeling that my family did not need me for everything and that they could handle whatever came along. I set boundaries at home! In my work as a social worker, most of dysfunctional family dynamics, whether with the elderly, or their children and grandchildren, comes from a lack of setting appropriate and healthy boundaries. This book is on my bookshelf at work. It is one of the BEST books I have ever read.

Lest you think I have it all together, another powerful book for me that I have read only recently is So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore (©2010, by Beth Moore.) Anything by Beth Moore is great. Her books and videos have enriched my life. But this particular book came at a time when I was very insecure about myself, who I was as a woman rapidly approaching my 7th decade. It helped me to see my value and to shed the parts of my life that were making me feel insecure. This is a continual battle, but I am winning it.

I read Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (©1992, by Gary Chapman) while working at the church. It had been recommended by someone and it was the “hot book” of the time. The five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift giving and physical touch (not necessarily sex). It didn't take me long to figure out mine and if you know me at all, you know it is words of affirmation. But I had to read the book TWICE to figure out what my husband’s was; until I realized that he...does. He paints his parents’ house, his sister’s house (and yes, he paints ours too!) He went to Atlanta to help my brother after his accident. Now, years later, he takes care of our grandchild while I work. Only by learning what your spouse’s love language is—or really, this goes beyond “romantic” relationships and certainly can apply to children, co-workers or ANYONE you spend a good deal of time with—can you really reach them in ways that mean something to them. I still struggle with this. I want to compliment him or TELL him something, but he “listens” to acts of service. And I just want to be complimented! I really AM a cheap date!

I have read lots of other books too, many that had to do with child-rearing (and then I usually went by instinct), those books on what colors to wear and not to wear, definitely those books that I think will enrich me as a person. Of course, I will continue to read as I live life. There may be others that impact me more as time goes on. But as of now, these books are the ones that have influenced me the most.

What has influenced you, and why?




P.S. Margin, Boundaries and Five Love Languages have been updated. I have listed the original copyright dates.




Friday, March 22, 2013

Ten Books That Have Influenced Me--Part One


I wanted to take on this subject, primarily because I think it says as much about a person as anything else. While I wouldn't go so far as to say, “You are what you read,” I don’t think it can be argued that the books we have been exposed to in our early years help formulate who we become in life. That said, I believe education is life-long. In fact, the books I am mentioning have all been books I read in adulthood, with the exception of the Bible.

These are in no particular order; but I do begin with the most important book in my life: the Bible. I couldn’t even tell you how many I have in my home at this moment, but probably between 15 and 20. I have given others away. During many studies, I want to compare different versions. A discussion of those versions as well as the many Bible helps, commentaries, dictionaries and research materials would take AT LEAST another blog, so I won’t even try.

This is what I would grab first
in a fire.
My favorite Bible for study is the International Inductive Study Bible (©Precept Ministries International), with the New American Standard Bible version (© Lockman Foundation.) The one I use is over 20 years old and has a plethora of notes in it. The NASB is considered an excellent word-for-word translation, but sometimes you can get bogged down with each word in itself. For other study I might use the New International Version (© Biblica) for a phrase-for-phrase translation. It is easier to understand. I also use the English Standard Version, which is the most recent Bible I have purchased. It is the Bible on my iPad that I “take” to church.

The Bible is the guide for my life. The children’s song “I stand alone on the Word of God” describes me. If you disagree with that, we will have disagreements in this life. It influences choices, decisions, and the day-to-day issues of life.

When I was a young wife, before becoming a mother, I read a book called Open Heart, Open Home, by Karen Burton Mains (©1976, Inter Varsity Press.) It made a huge impact upon my life; and let me say that later in life (I was about forty-five) I was able to meet her and have dinner with her—and a small group of others—and let me say, she is the real deal. Open Heart, Open Home is about living a life of openness and hospitality and using your home as a tool for making great memories, and creating new and nourishing old relationships. She had a formula for housekeeping that I adopted, which keeps your home 15-minutes-from-company at just about any time (well, maybe not when we are painting.)  She also had some items she always keeps in the pantry or freezer to be ready on 30 minutes notice. I was raised in a hospitable home, and that is the type of home I wanted to create. I don’t do this perfectly, but I have a plan. I love using my home for gatherings such as the Annual Christmas Party.

Another book that came into my life at about the same time is Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman,” by Anne Ortland (©1977, 1984 Thomas Nelson, Inc.) This book helped me to organize my life—I hesitate to use the word compartmentalize—but she was able to show me as an individual; what is important to me and how to keep everything in balance. Anne invented the original dayplanner before any office supply store did. I didn't even have children at the time, but I had a job, church activities, extended family, personal friends and neighbors, and “compartments” of my life, some of which overlapped. Anne showed me what it meant to be a Godly woman, beauty from within, not externals. It’s a lifelong pursuit.

During this pre-kid time of my life, I had the time to read a long novel and the book Ladies of the Club (©1982, The Ohio State University Press) was released. This was a big deal in our neck of the woods because it was written by an 88-year-old woman from Xenia, Ohio, Helen Hooven Santmyer. The fictional characters were born in 1850 and came of age (post high school) three years after the Civil War ended. This was a time when women got married and had babies, and literary clubs were formed to enhance a woman’s education beyond her high school years, when college was not in the picture. It follows the lives of two young women as they join the club, women come and go, and they grow older together; and it’s the story of their families, their community and how it all intertwines. {They are common great-grandmothers to the same children.} It was the first time that I became aware of time really marching on, with regards to relationships and community. I was in my late twenties when I read it.

As I had children and we determined to be a one-income family, I found the book Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre (©1980, Herald Press.) This book was originally copyrighted in 1980 and has been updated in 2010 with co-author Valerie Weaver-Zercher. (Mrs. Longacre passed away from cancer in 1979 and the book was her last project.) The premise of this book was not just about how to feed your family on less, or sew your own clothes; it was about a worldview (Mennonite) of the using of the earth’s resources. This book influenced me on many levels; the obvious of living on one income, but establishing a worldview of wants vs. needs.

Another series that came out while my children were young was the Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn (©1982, Amy Dacyczyn), which was actually a three-book series, and then later published as a three-in-one volume.  Amy had a home business of writing books and newsletters, and all before the computer age.  Today we have lots of blogs on frugality. I am frugal; but I am frugal in some areas so I can splurge in others. I wondered what had happened to Amy as I knew her kids had to be grown by now, so I found this on You Tube. I am not her, but she influenced me, and I can be VERY frugal if necessary. As a postscript, most of these blogs are written (out of necessity) by mothers of large families. However, information can be used for small families. My personal favorite is frugalhacks.com.

This is a good stopping point. The next four books were read later in life and had a different impact on me because of the stage of life that I was at when I read them. Tomorrow I will discuss those.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Turning 60: March, A Michael W. Smith Concert


We got there early and we were still
in the nosebleed section!
I had no idea when I wrote my entry for September that this concert was in the planning stages; but I have wanted to see Michael W. Smith in concert for years. When I learned about it, I knew exactly who to call, my friend Debbie, who has attended half a dozen Christian concerts with me.

Michael is 55 years old and has been writing and singing worship music for 29 years. He and his wife have raised five children and are in the same stage of life as I am now. It seems hard to believe. I have been singing his music in choirs and praise teams—and in the car by myself—forever!! I expected the concert to be somewhat laid back, worshipful, quiet reverence of our Awesome God (one of his many songs).

Well, I wasn't expecting such high energy from a very middle-aged man, but  there was no doubt that it was a worship service. If we believe that Heaven is going to be continual worship (music?), then Agnus Dei gave me a preview. Most concerts are a combination of old and new, and I usually know about 33-50% of the songs. In THIS concert, two songs were instrumental and two were new; but I knew ALL of the others.

So did everyone else in the place!

So the Dixon Center at Cedarville University was full of praise the whole evening!

The concert was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Dayton Christian Schools, so one of the highlights was the Dayton Christian choirs singing three songs with him. They were excellent!

I think Michael presents himself more as leader than performer. He would stop singing and let the audience “take it.” It was beautiful!

Everyone in the place probably has a favorite song; but he did mention one as a song he didn’t think he would have to sing every night of his life for the rest of his life—the nearly EXACT words I heard James Taylor say about his song “You’ve Got a Friend” a couple of years previously.

“Friends” are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them…..
I am on the left and Debbie is on the
right with another friend in between
us. This was taken in front of my home.

It is not lost on me that I went to this concert with the “perfect” friend for me. Debbie and I met in the 6th grade, practically upon my move to Fairborn from Medway. She was the neighbor of the first close friend I had in Fairborn, and we all hung out together!

Debbie and I were friends all through high school. We went to the same church and we were in classes and activities together. She worked after high school while I went to college, but we ended up at the same company—a furniture store. We worked together about 6-8 months. A few years later, we worked at a bank together. Several years later, while we did not live in the same community, our children attended preschool together—a few years later her youngest son also attended the same preschool, the last year I worked there.

We recreate the above picture in 2010.
By this time, I HAD moved into her community, which meant now—at the middle school level—our girls would be in school together. They played softball together. Here we were, full circle, having played softball together as girls, watching our girls play softball.

As believers, we knew that we could call each other on a whim if we needed someone to go to something with us. She called me on a day’s notice to go to a Women of Faith Conference with her. This was NOT a problem with my employer. Now, these concerts are more planned, but you never know when something will come up!

It’s true. Friends are friends FOREVER, if the Lord’s the Lord of them!

And yeah, we sang together in high school choir and we’re both still singing!

As a P.S. to this story, I found a picture of my daughter and a few of her friends singing “Friends” in church in 1996. The occasion was the moving of one of the girls to Florida. I didn't take this picture. I was attempting to hold a camcorder steady, but I can assure you that there wasn't one dry eye in the house!





Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Days: A Gift From God


Like most people, I have worked in fields that did not take off for weather-related issues. I remember snow days fondly from my school days, but they were rare. Today it seems that schools and other organizations close for every little thing, and the two-hour school delays play havoc on everyone’s life; but it does save those calamity days for use at another time.

At home however, I lived with a teacher and had children in the public schools.They were in the same school system only four years. The next eleven they were not, and there WAS a difference between urban and rural schools. Think blowing and drifting snow. It’s a reality in the country that I never thought much about as a city girl. However, for the most part, I did NOT have to deal with the “Who is going to take care of my kids at home while I go to work?” Dad was home most of the time, and we had neighbors, and eventually they were old enough to keep themselves out of mischief. I mean, what can you do on a snow day? (Create You-Tube videos of lip-syncs to popular songs!)

I do remember the Blizzard of 1978. We were off three days and for a bank, that was noteworthy. But, what did it matter? No one else was open (businesses) and they couldn't get to the bank, nor did they need to. That was a LONG time ago, I was a newlywed and I think I spent some time organizing old pictures or something.

I always worked for organizations that cared about me as a person; getting to work safely was the most important thing. But it was NOT a day off! And let me say one thing—there is a huge difference in getting a day off when you know you are going to be paid, and getting a day off that you know you will have to make up at some other time, somehow. But I believe, they are both gifts from God of time.

So, given that gift today, how will I use it?

Not that I wouldn't appreciate a nice quiet day with my husband. The electricity is on and I am writing this blog. I just heard the refrigerator kick on. I sit here in my living room with a beautiful view outside my windows. I plan to make cream of broccoli soup later on.

The view from my dining room!
My husband left early this morning for his volunteer job at the hospital. He got there OK and he will stay late as admittedly they are short-handed. He’s there; he might as well stay there and do whatever needs done. They let him have a good meal in the cafeteria, so therefore the soup decision for our evening meal.

Because I have always worked later hours than the family, I rarely have had time alone in my home! When I had a day off during the week, I did have that, but the last time I had that was early 2005. So THIS DAY is truly a gift!

I was surprised first thing this morning by the sounds of my across-the-street neighbor shoveling our walks and driveway for us. I stuck my head out the door. He is 28, two years behind my daughter in school, and has gone from that skinny little kid that we watched play JV basketball to a very helpful young man that we rely on many times. He said that the snow was too heavy for us to be messing with. I am truly blessed.

I actually had a project that I was waiting on a snow day to complete, but I did it last night! I wanted to re-create a “playlist” for our Class of 1971 web site. That is one of those tasks that once you get on a roll…..you just go with it. My original playlist had several songs removed, so that needed my attention, and I kept putting it off.

So here I am….what am I going to do, other than write a blog, and perhaps start on a couple of other blogs that are rattling around in my brain? I don’t have the responsibility of preparing for a Sunday school lesson anymore, but I continue to study the Bible as much as possible. I have let go of the idea that it MUST be every day. Right now I am working on a study of the book of Galatians. I do read a sequence of Bible passages each day, so I do that. I will spend some time in prayer. I will wash and put away a load of laundry and clean my kitchen—twice actually, as I am going to make that soup later. I have a library book to finish up as I am anxious for the sequel. That’s a real book; I always have something “open” on the iPad to read.

What I will NOT do today! I won’t go to the gym, (but I will lift some weights later on). I am NOT EVEN turning on my music. I am listening to the quiet. I do not choose to have the TV on. (Realizing that when the husband gets home, that will change) I will not worry about my job. I will not think about my clients. I will not run around and do errands. If I don’t have it here on hand here at the house, we will do without. Although I have a texting discussion going on with my son as I write this, he has a snow day too and I am not worrying about him.

So often we think of weather-related days as either a boon to us, or a real inconvenience when something needs to be done. We don’t think of them as a gift of God. In my Bible passages this morning, there are some “forced prayers” which I don’t really go for, but this morning’s reading talked about being grateful for the rain or snow, and I got to thinking; how often do we thank God for the cycles of the year? [You may not live in Ohio, but there are cycles are where you live too.] We need the snow to blanket the earth and give the crops and vegetation rest. We need all precipitation to keep our water table at good levels. This is part of the circle of life.

And I guess, if you don’t like Ohio’s circle, find one you do like!

So today, I will relax my mind, refuel my spirit, enjoy my solitude, and enjoy the splendor of God’s creation outside my window or doorstep. I will thank God for neighbors, and I will enjoy my husband’s company when he arrives safely home from the day.

It is all good.