Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Preparing Our Daughters For Lifelong Marriage Part 1

No doubt you're sick of hearing about the Duggars by now, but I really want to encourage mothers and wives by giving a Christian perspective on Anna Duggar's situation, and speak on how we can prepare our daughters for marriage and for a life of faith. Should we really "teach them to breathe fire" and would that prevent heartbreak in their lives?

In this first piece, I will deal with just the beginning portion of the worldly sentiments presented in the letter featured below. In another piece, I'll write on the breathe-fire portion.

Kirkland, a mother of two girls, recently wrote a Facebook post that went viral, detailed here and excerpted below:

Anna Duggar is in the worst position she could possibly be in right now. Anna Duggar was crippled by her parents by receiving no education, having no work experience (or life experience, for that matter) and then was shackled to this loser because his family was famous in their religious circle. Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother. Anna Duggar did that! Anna Duggar followed the rules that were imposed on her from the get-go and this is what she got in reward.
As a mother of daughters, this makes me ill. Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren't given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don't have to marry a man their father deems "acceptable" and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must. Josh Duggar should be cowering in fear of Anna Duggar right now. Cowering. He isn't, but he should be. He should be quaking in fear that the house might fall down around them if he's in the same room as she. Please, instill your daughters with the resolve to make a man cower if he must. To say "I don't deserve this, and my children don't deserve this." I wish someone had ever, just once, told Anna she was capable of this. That she knew she is. As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire.

It's tempting to champion this woman's cause given the completely humiliating manner in which Josh treated Anna. As much as I've cringed at Josh Duggar's heartbreaking sins and how unfavorably they reflect on Christianity, I'm mindful that we know very little information. Isn't that usually true, when we're tempted to judge others?

We have no idea what went on in their marriage or in their daily family life, but I know from experience that when you're caring for a newborn and other little ones, you have little interest in marital relations. (Don't roll your eyes yet...I am not going to excuse Josh or any other unfaithful spouse.) Weeks or sometimes months can go by without any attention to our husbands, easily, during this first year (or during times of intense stress), and our husbands are put in a difficult place, because to keep reminding us about their needs appears insensitive to our exhaustion or our feelings. I think many men remain silent so as not to provoke us or feel like schmucks.

Most women are aroused by feeling close to and in love with their husbands, and by being rested and relaxed enough to feel light and playful. Men are aroused far more easily (given their visual bent) and can even be aroused during times of exhaustion and intense stress.

Communication is very, very important here.

Our husbands are responsible before God for their decisions and actions, no matter whether we remember their needs or not. It isn't fair to blame an overwhelmed and physically exhausted mother for her husband's pornography habit or an affair, but it is wise for mothers to prepare their daughters to keep lines of communication open with their husbands in the year after childbirth, and during times of intense family stress. It's an unwise woman who assumes her husband is doing fine, as long as he isn't nagging for attention. Grace must abound on both sides.

God always provides a way out of temptation and open communication is one of those means in a marriage.

I am not indicating by these statements that I think Josh is a real Christian gone wrong, or that by more marital relations their issues could have been prevented. I don't know his spiritual state, but total deception such as his can start with small spiritual compromises, accompanied by a sense of entitlement. Satan is sure to spur us on in our compromises, by increasing our sense of entitlement.

We need to resist the temptation to make villains of one spouse or the other when we hear bits and pieces of marital stories, since no one knows the inner workings of a marriage, as I said. We do best to pray for our own marriage and the marriages within our churches. Because marriage. is. hard.

I resolve to prepare my daughters for the complexities of married life...for how many of us went into marriage wholly unprepared for the complexity, and had to make mistakes to learn how to dance well together? A lifelong marriage will have very low points, and only the strongest finish the race.

The world will scream for us to cut our losses, get out and start over, but the spiritually steadfast and long-suffering stay the course (though if you are being abused, put physical and emotional distance between you and the abuser, by all means).

And incidentally, when an adulterer remains unrepentant, he is abusing his wife emotionally and she is justified in leaving, with the Lord's blessing. Before it becomes clear that an adulterer is unrepentant, I believe the Lord would rather we keep our eyes on Him and proceed cautiously, though we can leave for adultery right away, if desired.

The world would have us believe that a women who stays is weak and stupid, but God's glory shines through us best when we focus on His character, rather than on what we deserve.

Kristen Welsh from We Are That Family successfully dealt with her husband's addiction to pornography (he's an ex youth pastor) and they have a strong marriage now. With our eyes on God instead of on our immediate heartache, marriage can persevere.

Anna Duggar is in the worst position she could possibly be in right now. This is a worldly perspective only. Anna Duggar is (let's assume), a born-again Christian and as such, she's got eternal life to look forward to, rather than eternal suffering. Contrary to Ms. Kirkland's sentiment, Anna is blessed beyond measure.

The 20-year-old woman who gets in a car accident a month before her wedding and becomes a paraplegic for life, is in a pretty awful situation, too, but like Anna's situation, it's part of the sin curse. We all suffer and everyone has devastating periods in their lives, whether they come early or later in our middle years. We all need divine strength to get through the day. We all need to be thankful for every day, and reminded that godliness with contentment is great gain.

Anna Duggar was crippled by her parents by receiving no education, having no work experience (or life experience, for that matter) and then was shackled to this loser because his family was famous in their religious circle. 

Anna was crippled by her parents? While at least a two-year degree or a vocational skill is desirable before marriage, the Bible does not ask us to put our hope in education. Psalm 39:7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

The Bible does mandate one type of education--spiritual education, as outlined here:

Deuteromony 11:19 "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,…

The Bible also teaches that if we put the Kingdom of God first, then God will provide for all of our daily needs, education or not--and I say this as someone who, as a former public educator, has been guilty in the past of worshiping education.

Matthew 6:32-34 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It's so easy for all of us to disregard this verse when our daily bread appears insecure, as it may for Anna right now, but God's Word stands firm, no matter our circumstances. When we make a commitment to live each day for his glory and give tomorrow to Him, our joy abounds.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hope in His Power

God, the lover of my soul, gives me hope. Scarcely a half hour goes by before any despair I experience is replaced with Hope. Sometimes, it's in the form of tangible evidence he gives me about the future.

Last week, my son Peter had to respond to a writing warm-up from Apologia's Jump In Writing Curriculum. His prompt was God has given me...

He writes thus...

God has given me the gift of teaching. When I teach I feel God speaking through me. I can find so much to teach about in the Bible. It is the book of life that I live by, and the best book ever written. It has a lot of great advice in it.

This simple paragraph gives me hope because it speaks of my son's passion, of his confidence in the Lord and in Scripture, and in God's provision for his life's work. It helps me believe that despite any disabilities, God will use my son for His glory. Indeed, he already is.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

Friday, August 28, 2015

The One Thing You'll Never Regret

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Do you worry about the future and what it holds for your children?

As a mother I have legitimate reason to worry about my children, but I try not to. When the waves of despair threaten me, I do a stubborn about-face and go in search of joy, instead.

God is too powerful, too gracious, too faithful, for me to fret. I know it's a sin, besides.

But the signs are all there. Signs of series mental illness in more than one of my children. One, who previously wasn't a source of much worry, is displaying early bipolar signs.

It's hard not to feel terror when I assess the situation and see the tell-tale signs.

That's one side of my life circumstances.

The other is this: my children delight me with their love, their sibling relationships, their unique intelligences, their sweetness, their evangelistic efforts with more and more neighbor children.

I see their gifts, their huge hearts, their worship of the Savior, and I'm overjoyed.

Life is like a teeter-totter. On the one hand is immense joy, and on the other hand, intense sorrow.

When I'm at my best spiritually I know the Lord's holding it all in balance; there isn't a single detail he's going to forget about, or fail to cover for in his ultimate plan.

I don't have a crystal ball to see the adult outcome for my affected children, whether it's missionary work, a lucrative self-employment, a professorship, or even a subsidized apartment on disability. Success or failure, I can't predict. The statistics don't help me, because the mentally ill can get by fine, or they can falter, crash and burn.

I have no control at all. We're stubborn and sorely mistaken when we insist we yet wield some control over the future.

So much happens to the adolescent brain and my little girls may not escape something mental themselves. Mental illness can get worse or first appear around that time, and usually persists for a lifetime, at great cost to loved ones and to the sufferers.

I've learned to do the only thing I can do--I spend an inordinate amount of time pointing my children to Jesus, the Healer.

Maybe you don't have these concerns with your own children. Maybe everything about their futures looks promising.

Still, you don't have any control either. I highly recommend spending an inordinate amount of time pointing them to the Savior. 

It's the one thing you'll never regret.

Or the one thing you'll wish you'd done.

If it's the former in your case, your child's life will reflect His glory. His glory with eclipse any pain, suffering, or sadness. And let me tell you...these aren't just some soothing words on a screen. They're my reality.

He. is. faithful. Hallelujah.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Josh Duggar's Demise, Part 2

The latest Josh Duggar scandal--a Christian catastrophe--is shattering enough to write about not once, but a few times, as we glean what we can from it and move forward as a Church body.

In this post I want to flesh out Satan's role a bit more in Josh's demise, and then in another post I want to respond to the woman who asserted that Anna Duggar's parents failed to empower her, and that as mothers we should be teaching our daughters to "breathe fire".

If Anna decided to divorce her husband the Church would not stand in her way due to the adultery, though if she entered what's called a covenant marriage, (legal in three states) she would have to go to counseling for a couple years with Josh before deciding to leave him. I know nothing about the nature of their union, but I feel confident she's not actually stuck. If he proved to be unrepentant over time, she would undoubtedly do what her prayers tell her is best for her children.

For the record, I'm personally trying hard to mercy Josh Duggar, who my heart wants to despise. As a Christ follower I know hating him is not an option for me, anymore than it is for his wife, parents, siblings, in-laws, or church family.

Josh is not off the hook by our mercy, however. Church discipline is waiting for him, I imagine, which I pray will completely humble him before his Savior and fellow Christians. His hardest fight yet, which he may have already begun in May--after canceling his Ashley Madison accounts in the wake of the molestation scandal--is to fully repent and allow God to heal him from his sexual addictions.

What's sure to prove true is that Satan will not let go of Josh easily.

Addiction is the ugliest of human problems, stealing the soul and leaving massive destruction in its wake. It starts with one poisonous thought put in us by the enemy: I deserve this.

~ I deserve more clothes, more furniture, a nicer home or car...
~ I deserve the most exciting and thrilling intimate experience imaginable...
~ I deserve my computer gaming time..
~ I deserve a "high" have a little fun and feel uninhibited...
~ I deserve all the comforts the world has to offer...
~ I deserve social media because all the other people are doing it... (a popular teen mantra)

What do humans really deserve? Hell.


Though I need to qualify this with a heavy side note: This sentiment of what we deserve need not be an excuse to enable someone in their addiction, or to allow people to abuse us. We aren't supposed to participate in the sins of others (including as victims) and both addiction and abuse are sins. As such, distancing and protecting ourselves from these people is sometimes absolutely necessary and healthy and moral. Additionally, we should do everything we can to secure the release of moral prisoners, such as those caught in human trafficking. As people created in the image of God we do deserve dignity, and so we should do everything we can to fight spiritual and physical poverty.

We are the created and our destiny is in the Creator's hands. The gift of free will can sometimes make it seem like we have control, but choice is not the same thing as control. The Creator holds ultimate, overriding power in our lives and in the universe.

Those using Ashley Madison accounts thought they had control, but God's proven otherwise.

As Believers, we enjoy the knowledge that he works all things for our good. What this really means is that He molds our hearts so that our will eventually intersects with his. What it doesn't mean is that things will always be easy. It's our ultimate good he's after, not always our immediate good.

What does God our Creator offer us, and what did he offer Adam and Eve?

He offers everything our souls truly crave: Eternity and beautiful, soul-deep fellowship with Him, both in Heaven and while we wait for him here. A few encounters with Him are not enough; we need continual fellowship to benefit from the soul food he offers, and it's only when we break fellowship with Him and hide or deny our sins instead of confess them, that Satan gains a stronghold.

One of the best defenses against Satan besides prayer and bathing in the Word? It's to hold captive for Christ the thought that we deserve a particular thing. Another important and related defense is gratitude. The grateful person does not seek pleasure as a false god.

The Ashley Madison hacking was orchestrated by God, I believe, to give the Church and the nations a wake-up call. Let's pray it works. Not only are there suspected suicides from it, but divorce attorneys, therapists, and even pastors will have plenty of work in the coming few years, as God cleans house.

Before the Ashley Madison scandal leaves the news cycle, we need to ask ourselves...what does he need to clean up in my heart? 

Name it, gouge it, and pray it out of your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Avoid a Josh Duggar Heart

Like my fellow believers, I've been sickened by the news of Josh Duggar's cheating ways, as well as by the commenters claiming that Christians are like everyone else, or even sicker. "If there was a God, they assert, he would change hearts. What evidence is there that Christians have better hearts? None."

Oh, my. This is certainly a compelling argument against religion, with pastors and parishioners falling left and right. We're even sicker, people assume, because we hide our sins deeper down, hoping to stay in the good graces of our fellow Bible-thumpers...or something like that.

My first thoughts were: How does a true Christian participate in ongoing sin--having these awful Ashley Madison accounts, for example, for two years? How do you eat at the family table, take care of your children, go about your family life, while living a lie? How are you not utterly miserable while doing this? How do you not worry about your wife's sexual health, which you are putting into jeopardy with your insane selfish acts--as well as the health of any unborn babies? How do you not worry about your children, who will be ashamed of their last name and their Daddy? How do you live with yourself everyday? How do you not break down and confess early on?

I still don't know the answer, and of course it's not my place to judge another's salvation. My purpose today is in offering wisdom as to how the rest of us can avoid ongoing sin.

I can witness to you about what happens within me when I pray before my family, confessing my sins. My friends, it is humbling, cleansing. It's as though you're using a toothbrush to get at the deepest grime between the tiles. Don't get too busy to pray humbly before your family, who love you and can help heal you.

It's possible to participate in corporate or private prayer without the confessing part, but this is not God's design. It's so easy to avoid examining our own hearts--especially when we're busy analyzing others' heart--but our heart's purity demands this examining step, daily.

If you said something unkind to your husband, for example, it will come up as you examine your heart during prayer time. The Holy Spirit will make sure it comes up. And your heart, as you confess and ask for forgiveness, will be softened against your husband, helping you avoid another unkind remark or heart stance.

If we don't keep up with a daily cleansing of the heart, we begin to feel like we have a right to our sinful feelings, attitudes, or behaviors. Our hearts harden and life becomes about us, not about loving God and our fellow man.

The Holy Spirit keeps us pure, but it's our job to turn to Him, boldly looking him squarely in the eyes, asking: search my heart and cleanse me.

I will go through The Lord's Prayer below, explaining how we are to model our prayers, but first, let us read about David's contrite heart after sinning against God.

I've always thought this a beautiful prayer, and I see it as God making beauty from ashes out of David's sin--in producing a heart model for us to follow after we have sinned. This Psalm is David's prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51: A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17My sacrifice, O God, isb a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Commonly known as the Lord's Prayer, but better termed The Disciple's Prayer, this is the model Jesus gave for how to pray. 

Matthew 6:9-13

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

It starts, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. When we go before our heavenly Father in prayer, we should begin with praising His holy name.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Next, we should pray that the Lord will come back soon, and that more people will come to Christ beforehand, including our family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances. God puts people in our path to pray for and influence, and we should remember them all at this time. The Lord desires that none shall perish.

Next, we should pray that we, and others, will live according to God's will, not our own--that God will work this into our hearts. 

Give us today our daily bread. We have nothing and deserve nothing outside of God's grace and will, and everything on the earth is the Lord's. We humbly acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on God; we ask him to provide everything we need to live on a daily basis: physical nourishment, shelter, clothing, spiritual strength, grace. We also pray for other's daily needs and petitions here.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We pause a moment in prayer and let the Holy Spirit reveal our sins to us, so that we can name them and ask for forgiveness. We then ask that our hearts will be softened toward those who have offended us, so we can thoroughly forgive them.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. These two clauses belong together, and according to John Calvin's commentary, their meaning is thus:

“We are conscious Of our own weakness, and desire to enjoy the protection of God, that we may remain impregnable against all the assaults of Satan.” We showed from the former petition, that no man can be reckoned a Christian, who does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner; and in the same manner, we conclude from this petition, that we have no strength for living a holy life, except so far as we obtain it from God. Whoever implores the assistance of God to overcome temptations, acknowledges that, unless God deliver him, he will be constantly falling.

The Lord will make beauty from ashes out of Josh Duggar's sins, just like he did with King David's, though we may never see it. Josh's fall is a reminder to us all that, outside of prayer with confession, we will go likewise.

Daily life is so very busy, especially with young children around, but prayer need not take a long time, as we see from this model. There will be seasons of life when it can be luxuriously long, when children are gone and the house is still and quiet, perhaps. But in the meantime, we open ourselves up to sin and pain and shame, if we ever claim we are too busy to pray. Even five minutes with a spouse is significant and holy.

How does your family do prayer?