Monday, February 16, 2015

When You Don't Get What You Expected



Tired to the bone is how I feel after I have spent a week or more preaching in Africa.


Most times, the trip involves preaching more than once a day and there's nothing more I absolutely love. But it is also exhausting -- pouring out physically, spiritually and emotionally.




At the end of the trip I'm soooo ready for a little bit of R & R, and my friends, missionaries Bill and Barb Kuert, never fail to disappoint. We have the most amazing adventures! This last time was no exception and our son Jordan was there, which was extra special.


On our last morning there, we were out on safari a few hours before breakfast, which was scheduled to end at 9 AM.  Jordan, Barb and I had been up for several hours and riding around on the African plains, working up an appetite and pulled up in front of the lodge with about five minutes to spare before we could get in on breakfast.



Walking up to the restaurant, one of the staff members spotted us and said, "Mrs. Kuert, before you  eat breakfast there's something we'd like you all to see."

"Okaaaaaaaaaay," Barb reluctantly answered.

She realized we were five minutes away from missing breakfast and all of us were so hungry. We began to walk along a trail with the staff member and I found myself kind of irritated by it. 

This detour was not what we expected!

In low tones I whispered to Jordan, "Where in the world is she taking us along this trail? And why do we have to do it now, of all times?" He didn't seem phased by it.

We kept walking for a few minutes, and finally ended upon this scene...


Much to our shock, the hotel staff had created a special private breakfast just for the three of us! We would dine on a balcony overlooking the salt lick, where many animals would come to. What a breathtaking view! There were linens and china, and even champagne. Yes, we passed on it. The meal began with a buffet of fresh fruits and fresh squeezed juices and cereals. And our own private chef who cooked up individual orders of omelets, meats, potatoes and all the trimmings! We were absolutely astounded by this blessing. They attended to our every need throughout the meal, treating us as kings and queens.

To what did we owe this blessing? The favor of God, and the manager said that because Bill and Barb had given them so much business, they wanted to provide something special and chose that day to do it. How amazing!

The unexpected gave way to amazing exhilaration! What we thought may be the loss of our breakfast ended up being the provision of an extravagant blessing.

How often do we become irritated by the unexpected only to realize, God had something better for us?

I am starting to realize this principle more, every day in every way. A few months ago, a hotel contract fell through that my assistant Erika and I had been working on for months. I was really down about it for a few days and went to sleep and woke up repeating to myself, "I can't believe we lost the contract".  Nothing irritates me more than hard work down the drain. I couldn't imagine what good would come of the loss of that many months work. But then, when we least expected it, a much better offer came along -- so much better that we secured the next contract for two years! It was so more than anything we previously hoped or dreamed. It wouldn't have been possible had we been locked into the former contract.

I haven't always gotten what I expected -- and can now see how many times that has been an indescribable blessing. 

God has something better up His sleeve than I know about at the time. My place is to trust Him.

What are you angry about that didn't work out as you expected?

Is it possible that something better is around the corner?

Trust.
 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fifty Shades of No Way


This weekend, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie will be released and millions of women are expected to flock to the theaters. 

I will not be one of those women.  

As a leader of women, some have asked me about this movie. The following is my thoughtful response.



Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world. The book series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, and been translated into 52 languages. It set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.  

Is Fifty Shades of Grey just a harmless book or movie?


Although no one seems to be debating this fact, let’s first establish that it’s pornography.  And not just porn, but a genre that is even more dangerous for women. The book glorifies a female character that is controlled and abused by her partner.  

Who is excited about this book and movie?


Hmmmm….you might be surprised.

Many women and girls in our churches have read it. Sadly, I am even aware of pastors’ wives, who have read it. There is a pastor’s wife I’m acquainted with in another state. I’ve known her to be  extremely conservative. I’ve never heard her discuss her personal life to any great degree before.   She has read all three of the books in the Fifty Shades Trilogy and claims they have revolutionized her marriage. She reports that her sex life and in particular her sexual response was dead until she read the books and suddenly it’s alive, claiming this book has created “an awakening” for her. 

Many people use what they claim the book has done for their marriage as proof positive that it’s okay to read it or go see the movie.

Does the end justify the means? I'll answer that in a moment.


What other evidence is there of this book’s influence, other than sales?


The books take the reader through the journey of a couple’s BDSM relationship.  (The term for bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism and masochism.)

Numerous articles have come out in the press about hardware stores running out of supplies. Not just any supplies but the specific supplies used in the book for bondage, discipline and domination. Women around the world are attempting to re-create in their bedrooms at home, scenes from the book. 

There are hotels that have replaced bibles with copies of the book. 

The books have created a whole new genre called, “Mommy Porn” because so many women and in particular young mothers are downloading it.

It’s easy to hide. Anyone can download it discreetly on mobile device without anyone knowing. Many don’t hide it. One day I mentioned the book and one of the women in my church remarked, “I’ve seen so many women with that book, out and about around town…” A few months ago my husband and I were on vacation and when I went to the pool for a while, I noticed several women sitting out in the sun, reading it on their lounge chairs.

Evidently, the books are being credited with a baby boom.


The “Don’t Criticize Unless You’ve Read It” Argument


Many people criticize speakers or writers who warn of the dangers of this book, without reading it.  There is an effort to silence the voice of anyone who has not read it, claiming we couldn’t possibly know for sure if it is wrong or dangerous if we have not thoroughly participated in it ourselves.

Do we try cocaine so we can speak of the dangers?

(By the way, according to psychologist Dr. Victor Cline and Focus on the Family, pornography can be a more difficult addiction to break than cocaine.)

I do not have to read Fifty Shades of Grey to be able to speak to the issue adequately. 


Christian Leaders See the Dangers

 
Talk of Fifty Shades of Grey has hit the pulpit, the blogosphere, Christian magazines and leaders are speaking out about the dangers. A lot of them are sharing about how it has the potential to negatively affect your marriage.  Others point out how to spice up your marriage without reading the books. Many have published alternative suggestions and books that are not pornographic, to revive the sexual aspect of your marriage.

While I agree with a lot of what is being said by these Christian writers, I want to say something else. 

I’ve heard no one say it so far.  
And I can’t believe we’re missing this message.
I keep waiting for someone to say it.
And it’s bothering me.

To adequately explain why I believe the way I do about the book and movie, I have to cover a few facts.


What is the book and movie about?


First, I’ve been informed by quite a number of gifted professional writers who have read the book that the writing is actually poor. They say it sells well only because of it’s sexual content.   I trust the word of these writers, respecting their level of literary skill.

Pornographic books or movies by their very nature don’t have amazing plots. They don’t need a good plot. Sex is what sells them.

 I haven't read the book. But I've learned facts from reading synopsis of the book that does not contain pornographic content. Fifty Shades of Grey chronicles the details of a controlling and abusive relationship.  The main character, Anastasia Steele, is na├»ve 21 year old virgin. She meets a mysterious and powerful man with beautiful gray eyes. His name, ironically enough, is Christian Grey.  He woos her and proceeds to take her on a wild ride, introducing her to everything she knows sexually and grooming her to be his.    

He wants her to be his "submissive."  Why the interest in this? Because he wants to make women submit to him who look like his "birth mother."  Christian Grey is adopted. He is angry at his birth mother for not being able to keep him and take care of him.  

This post is not about adoption, however I want to mention that I consider this storyline hurtful to the adoption community. I am an adult adoptee. I am in close relationship with other adult adoptees some of whom are Christians, many who are not. Some of those adoptees read the book and came away from it feeling sad because of how the book portrays adoptees and foster children, and even birth mothers as psycho-paths or potential ones.

So, going on with the theme of the book, Anastasia has a challenging job ahead of her because she feels the need to “fix” Christian and his post-adoption issues. Thus, she puts up with his control and abuse.

Anastasia has a free will and a mind of her own. However, any time she asserts herself she winds up in danger.  Hazardous situations ensue when she tries to assert any level of independence from Christian. She also ends up in peril when interacting with one of Christian's former foster brothers who was never adopted.  The book indicates that Christian’s need to control every detail of Anastasia’s life, as well as his former foster brother’s mental issues are  the direct result of their experiences in adoption and foster care.  

Along with all of this drama of trying to help Christian, the book details Christian and Anastasia’s sexual escapades that go constantly as if all they have to do in life is have sex.

 The title of the book comes from the way Christian describes himself to Anastasia. He says that he’s “fifty shades of messed up.”

Many Christian leaders share that pornography is not a blessing to a marriage, even if it seems to ignite a spark previously missing. They bring a message that we are called to purity. That’s true. A few insightful comments I've read from adoptees speak of the harm this book causes people in the adoption community.

All of these things are valuable points that need to be brought forward. And yet they are not my main reason for believing this book and movie are wrong and dangerous.

Here is what I want to say.  

We we were made for more than this. 

God didn’t create us to be in bondage, disciplined, dominated, or submitted to abuse.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a huge step backwards for women everywhere.

It is not freeing.

It opens the door to normalize something that is not normal.  


What about the marriage bed “undefiled?”


Hebrews 13:4 states, “marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled.”

As long as husband and wife walk in agreement, and no harm comes to either, there is freedom in the marriage bed.  Sexual fulfillment in marriage is exactly what God created and intended.

So, why is Fifty Shades of Grey wrong if there is freedom in marriage? Especially when some people, even Christians, say it has enhanced their marriage?

It’s so clear.  I can’t believe many people don’t see this.

Here’s the answer: 


Abuse is defilement. 

Abusive, control, and domination are by their very definition defiled.

Mistreatment of God’s daughters is defilement.

There is nothing hot about abuse.

There is nothing sexy about your husband needing to know where you are all the time.

There is nothing endearing about your partner controlling what you wear or criticizing your friendships.

There is nothing in the least bit wonderful about being in the position of "fixing" a man who hurts you.

There's nothing enticing about a man who strips you of your resources with the intention of eliminating whatever independence you might have from him.

There's nothing wonderful about being with someone who doesn't understand the meaning of the word "NO."  


Does “NO” apply to a husband?


Yes. 

A husband must have respect when his wife says no at times. Are we supposed to withhold sex from our husband?  No, unless there is a compelling and legitimate reason such as fasting and prayer for a brief time, or illness. I Corinthians 7 says that neither husband or wife should withhold sex from each other, however this doesn’t ever mean force, rape or coercion would ever be biblically allowable. 

Ephesians 5:21 says, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” 

What about “one another” don’t we understand? 

Force of any kind is absolutely unacceptable.

Godly marriage by true definition is characterized by mutual submission. 

Tenderness. 

 Lovemaking - not domination.

Here's a question: When did real lovemaking go out of style?

What have we as a society come to when couples are role playing abuse, and rape as "fun"? 

Are people really so desperate that they stoop to this for a thrill instead of really taking the time to learn to make love?


It’s not really all that. It’s not as bad as you’re describing…


It really is. 

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Ephesians 5:3 

Not EVEN A HINT. What about not even a hint don’t we understand?


But we’re just playing --it’s“all in fun”


Quite honestly, some things are not okay to play around with.

There’s nothing funny about the mistreatment of another human being.

I will use an illustration those of us who are mothers will understand.

There are times our children may mistreat their siblings and say it’s all in fun.

Have you ever sat at your dinner table and had one of the kids say to one of the others, “you’re stupid” or “you’re a butthead” or “you’re fat”? 

Ever walked in the room and seen one of your boys trying to beat up their brother?

They might say, “we’re just  playing, Mom.”

But do most of us mothers allow that? No. We have more sense than that. We know they might like to make cutting remarks and call each other fat or try to beat one another up. But although they might temporarily like to do that, we know it’s not good for them. In fact we know it’s horrible for them. It can leave scars on their lives not only as kids, but as adults. They are left to try to get those words, “you’re fat” and “you’re stupid” out of their heads.

It’s not healthy.  Even in fun. So we put a stop to it immediately because we are sane, rational thinking women. We want our kids to grow up to be emotionally healthy and we know that kind of behavior is not good for them.

How have some women been sold a bill of goods that it’s okay to act out a fantasy whereby they are  tied up, beaten down, and abused by their husband?  

What about people who say, “But I like it. It turns me on.”?


Sometimes we start liking things that are bad for us.

Everything that initially feels good is not good for us.

Hebrews 11 tells us that sin is pleasurable for a season.
 

Romans 1 in the Message Bible says it so clearly.

Romans 1:24-27 (The Message) 

24-25 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

26-27 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another… 

There is a downward spiral that occurs with soft pornography.  Soon it will be tame and boring.  And you become desensitized.

 The need for more explicit forms of pornography becomes great. Where do you go to from there? Considering that Fifty Shades starts with BDSM (which is considered  explicit and graphic in the porn world), where to next? It’s like skipping the gateway drugs and going straight to heroin. Anyone who needs  a cheap thrill to breathe life into a dead existence is going to quickly be forced to find greater thrills.

After going down this road, a return to normal, Godly sexual health might never be possible, save for the redemptive work of Jesus.

The truth is that many people believe their sex life needs to be “naughty” to be powerful.

We need to renew our minds and come back to truth that HOLY and HOT go together. 


Why have women been so quick to jump on the Fifty Shades Bandwagon?


They are in desperation.

Many do have dead sex lives, and want a revival in this area of their lives.
I don’t blame them for wanting amazing sex.
I want amazing sex too. Thank you, Larry.


God created us as sexual beings.

He designed us to have powerful orgasms, and lovemaking with our husband that makes it seem as if the earth either spins or stands still for a while.

We long to have that.

We need to have that.


And when our sex lives are less than powerful, it is tempting to stoop to trying cheap imitations and substitutes when we long for the real thing.

It takes more effort for a husband and wife to learn to make love in a way that is mutually fulfilling throughout the seasons of their marriage. 


Marriage is work.  
Great sex is work. 
It’s not like what the movies portray that everything is effortless. 


Accept no substitutes for the real thing.

Accept no cheap imitation for what God has for you.

He didn’t make you for abuse.

And in the context of marriage He has made you for mutual respect. 

Tender touch.
Passionate lovemaking.

Beautiful women of God, I plead with you to say no to both the book and the movie. Do not accept the substitute of abuse and degradation for the destiny that God has for you.