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African American grandmother, mom & daughterThe phone rang.  Almost out the door, I turned to answer.  It was Lauren, the daughter of my friend Jane.  “I’m so glad you’re home.  This call is completely out of the blue, but I wanted you to know that my mom told me.”  There was a pause, then, “She said you would understand.”

I did.  I knew immediately that Jane, after thirty-some years, had decided to confess her abortion to her only living child.

Did Jane have to confess this sin to Lauren?  No.  Did mother risk a changed relationship with her daughter?  Yes.  But, as Lauren talked with me, I sensed she was genuinely relieved to know the truth.  “Suddenly everything makes more sense,” Lauren said.  “Certain attitudes and behaviors of my mom now have new meaning to me.”

Lauren continued, “I often wondered why mom seemed, well, heavy with life”.

“Do you mean melancholy?” I asked.

“Yes,” Lauren replied.  “That’s it.  Melancholy.  And, you know, she doesn’t really want to discuss the tough things out there in the world.”

Lauren explained that birthdays “have often been difficult for my mom.”  There was something else.  “Mom apologized a lot,” Lauren said, “as if she didn’t think she was a good mom.  That made no sense to me because she is a good mom.”

Lauren continued. “She’s a good grandmother, too.  She gives an extraordinary amount of herself — her time and energy — to my children.”  Lauren was expressing what I knew to be true.  My friend provides daycare for her grandchildren during the week.  She returns home tired, but she tells me over and over again how privileged she feels to be a grandmother and how precious the time is with her grandchildren.  This is not unusual for most of us grandmothers.  Lauren agreed, but added that now she sees her mother’s relationship with her grandchildren “in a new light.”

It does not surprise me that it took so long for Jane to confide in Lauren.  It took many years for Jane to tell me her story in bits and pieces.  Only as she learned to trust me did Jane share details of the choices that made abortion thinkable.  But, telling her daughter was different.  Jane was afraid.  The harmony with her daughter mattered too much.  She did not want to lose it.

The phone call from Lauren to me was significant.  It was evidence of God’s work.  He had been strengthening the bond between this mother and child.

“We had our difficult days when I was in high school,” Lauren told me.  She assumed it was the usual stress between moms and daughters made more challenging by single motherhood.  “But, you know what?  I’ve always known the blessing of two parents who love me.”

Lauren supposed that her mother tended to be melancholy about life, in large part, because of the divorce.  But, with Lauren’s knowledge of the abortion came new understanding and opportunity to process certain memories and experiences.  It seemed that Lauren was responding to the surprise of her mother’s abortion in much the same way I had.  Neither of us turned away from Jane.  Instead, the Holy Spirit cultivated a greater love.

Listening to Lauren, I wondered.  With her carefully guarded secret now exposed, would Jane’s energy be better used?  In knowing her mother’s restlessness, doubt, and unfaithfulness in marriage before the decision of abortion, would Lauren better avoid temptations?

“My marriage is a struggle,” Lauren told me.  “I was nearly tempted away from my husband.”  But, her mother recognized the signs.

Oh, what a difference is made when one generation mentors another!  When a mother is not afraid to act her age or revisit the mistakes of her past, she becomes an invaluable teacher.  She can steer the younger woman away from foolishness and despair.   Jane identified her daughter’s marital frustration and impatience.  She knew the consequences of doubting God and determining for herself the way life ought to be.  She had searched for a more preferable love.  She allowed herself to be wooed by another man.  And, to “fix” the resulting “problem,” she scheduled an abortion.

Jane knows the generational effects of her abortion.  That decision influenced the way she sees her own mother.  Her daughter.  Her grandchildren.

I’m sure that, on occasion, Lauren will ponder her mother’s seemingly strange apologies, but she will also know wisdom gained through her mother’s experience.  There is every reason to believe that, from now on, both mother and daughter can bear witness to one another of the divine order and amazing grace of their heavenly Father.  In this, there is hope for generations to come.

Lauren was at ease during our phone conversation.  She had only one question.  “Did the abortion happen before or after me?”

“It was after you were born,” I told her.  “But, please believe me when I say that the decision had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with you.  Your mother loved you before you were born and she loves you now.  One of her greatest fears, I think, was that she could never be the kind of mother to you that her mother was to her.  The love, however, that your mom has always had for you is as real as the love God has for you both.”

Lauren had not shed a tear to this point, but now she gave way to emotion.  Between sobs, she whispered, “Thank you.  I needed to hear that.”

Can a daughter find comfort in her mother’s failures?  I believe so.  It was helpful for Lauren to realize that her mother had struggled with a marital frustration and impatience similar to her own.  It was instructive for Lauren to know that doubting God and putting ourselves in His place leads to danger.  It was protective of Lauren when her mother chose to remember the sins of her past.  When she did not resist using lessons learned the hard way, mother was equipped to lead daughter and grandchildren away from harm.

Lauren has been granted a new perspective… one that will serve her family well.  But, just as time was needed for Jane to trust me – little by little – with her story, time was also needed for mother to trust daughter.  Jane and I talk often about God’s faithfulness in her life.  I believe it is that faithfulness on the rocky road of life that nurtured trust between mother and daughter.

A long time ago, Jane gave me permission to share her story with women wherever I speak.  “I can’t tell my story,” Jane said to me.  “But you can.  So, please.  Tell young women not to do what I did.  And tell older women that Jesus loves them no matter what the sins of their past might be.  The forgiveness of Jesus is real.”

I have done what my friend asked.  And, in doing so, many women have approached me privately with confessions of their own.  Christian women in every family and congregation are carrying heavy burdens of disappointment and guilt.  They see the Cross.  They know what Jesus did for them.  They may even trust His forgiveness.  But, like Jane, they are unable or unwilling to forgive themselves.

It is my prayer that Lauren will help her mother forgive herself.  God is the God of relationships… and of the healing that comes through tenderheartedness.  He uses parents and children, friends and even strangers to bring us closer to Him.

Perhaps this Christmas will bear a gift never before found under my friend’s tree.  As Jane looks into the eyes of her daughter and grandchildren, may she find confidence in her confession of Christ.  Confidence that emboldens her to proclaim:

He who is mighty has done great things for me.  Holy is His name.  His mercy is for those who trust Him… from generation to generation.

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There are two things (we’re told) we should never talk about.  Religion and politics.  That’s difficult… and silly.

A few days ago, two women and I – standing in a very public place – avoided the “safe” topics found in the pages of People magazine to enter into dialogue about the election and matters of faith.  I don’t know either of these women very well, but I believe that when we are attentive to facial expressions and body language, we can usually recognize another person’s willingness (or unwillingness) to dialogue.  Experience proves to me that a great many people are hungry to talk about issues of faith and life, but they need an invitation to speak whatever might be on their mind or hidden in their heart.

Dialogue is sadly becoming a lost art.  Perhaps we feel ourselves ill-equipped to speak about what may be emotional topics.  Perhaps we’re afraid of conflict.  But, it’s o.k. to disagree.  Two people who don’t agree on something can learn from one another during the polite exchange of thoughts and ideas.  If we keep silent and don’t speak about controversial issues of life from the Biblical perspective, we might miss the opportunity to comfort a hurting soul… to share a word of hope… to point to forgiveness and healing.

We need to break the silence and, with a caring and careful manner, talk about abortion, cohabitation, same-gender “marriage,” health care and, yes, the election.  That’s what happened quite unexpectedly in a public store with two women I’ll call Ellen and Diane.

I know Ellen only because of family connections.  I know Diane because she is a supporter of the pregnancy center where I volunteer.   At a recent fundraiser for our center, Diane told me she didn’t think she could vote this year, “neither for a Mormon,” she said, “nor for Obama.”  That comment stayed with me so, after greeting her in the store, I took the opportunity to tell her that I’d been giving some thought to what she had said about not voting.  I asked her if she had ever considered that Thomas Jefferson, while not a believer in the deity of Jesus Christ, was nonetheless a defender of religious freedom and encourager of virtuous people.  Diane admitted this might be applicable to this year’s election.

“It seems to me,” I said, “that we should vote for the man who will keep us the farthest from the edge of the cliff.”

At that moment, Ellen leaned in to the conversation.  She smiled at me, then said to Diane, “Linda should be out speaking!”

That was an invitation to continue the conversation.  With the invitation, however, also came a memory.  A faint memory of Ellen’s past.  After high school, Ellen left home in search of something different from the life of her parents.  There were some rough years.  I don’t know specifics.  But, this memory prompted me to respond to Ellen.

“I am a speaker,” I said.  “I’ve been a pro-life speaker for a long time.”  But, I explained to Ellen, “it was only when I became a listener that I really learned.”  Often, in a hallway or the restroom after my presentation, women would approach me, wanting to confess their abortion.   The pain in their voices, I told Ellen, compelled me to dig beneath the symptoms of promiscuity and abortion to the real problem.

“We’re in spiritual battle, Ellen.  It seems to me that Satan and our Savior both desire our attention, but what they have in store for us is very, very different.  Trusting ourselves, we are deceived and bound for trouble.  Satan offers no comfort when we fall.  But, even after our sin and in the midst of consequences, Jesus stands close with arms open wide.”

Ellen’s eyes never wandered from mine.  Her cheeks were moist.  I suspicioned that she was thinking about her own life.

“We all have a story,” I said.  “We all have a story.”

At that point, we needed to go our separate ways.  Ellen and Diane went to one part of the store for coffee, I to another.  Within a half hour, one of my closest friends walked in the door.  Jane was in town to visit her mom.  We had not planned to meet, but apparently God had a different idea.  “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” I asked.  We settled into chairs at a table across the room from Ellen and Diane who were enjoying their time together.  When they got up to leave, Diane and I waved to one another.  Then she headed for her car.

Ellen, however, approached our table.  “That conversation we had mattered,” she said.  “This afternoon has been good.”

She kept looking at Jane.  “There’s something familiar about you.  Do I know you from high school?”

Jane looked surprised.  “Oh, my goodness,” she said.  “We graduated the same year, didn’t we… but that was a long time ago.”

Ellen pressed on.  “Weren’t you in a serious car accident?  I remember reading about it in our class reunion book.”

“I was,” Jane said, “and God sent mighty angels to protect me that day.”  She gave a few details.  Then paused.  Ellen could have excused herself and said good-bye.  But, she didn’t.   This was another invitation.

“Ellen,” I said, “the fact that Jane is here with us today is God’s amazing grace, but she has another story to tell… a powerful story of Christ’s work in her life.  She doesn’t tell this particular story publicly, but . . .”

At this point, Jane interrupted.  “No, I don’t tell my story, but I’ve given Linda permission to tell it.”

“And it’s so important that I do,” I continued.  “It’s after I share Jane’s story that other women are more willing to come up to me and share their own stories.  They tell me they feel more welcomed and less alone and vulnerable.  Jane’s story is one of hope.  It reminds others of how patient God really is and that He never turns His back on us.  We may walk away from Him, but our Father never abandons us.”

“There is so much fear,” Jane spoke up.  “It can be overpowering.”

“It is,” Ellen agreed.  “It is overpowering.”

“I’ve come to believe,” I added, “that every one of our wrong choices is made out of fear… fear of being out of control or unloved or insignificant.”

It was long past time for Ellen to go be with her family, but she lingered.  She seemed to be searching for words.  “I came home to visit my parents, but never would I have imagined meeting up with the two of you or having a conversation like this.”

Ellen continued.  “Do you know what this afternoon has meant to me?  I’ve been close to losing my faith . . . I was told by my parents that my life and the lives of my children have been difficult because it’s punishment for the sins of my youth, but you have reminded me that God doesn’t work that way.”

No, He doesn’t.  “There are consequences of our choices – good or bad,” I said, “but rather than punishing you, it seems that God is staying the course with you.”

Jane nodded and said, “I thank God every day that He never lets go.”

Ellen hugged Jane.  Then me.  “Thank you.  Thank you for this visit.  For the honesty.  What a difference this has made for me.”

Jesus makes the difference.  Jesus – the very Word of Life – speaks to every important issue of our day.  Trusting Him, we can dare to break the silence.  Ellen was hungry to hear someone speak to the concerns she has about our nation.  Even more, she was hungry to get personal… to hear someone remind her that sins of the past may affect our lives, but do not have to bind us.  Newness of life in Christ is real.  We are forgiven and set free to start our lives over.

What do you think?  If we who claim to know the Lord of life are afraid to dialogue in the public square about issues of life, what will happen?  What won’t happen?

We may not want to make waves, but what about a ripple here and there?

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Sex is protectively positioned between religion and biology.  Otherwise… well, let’s take a look.

“The Obama Administration,” writes Chuck Colson, “has decided to promote and emphasize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered rights – and it is doing so at the expense of everyone’s God-given freedom of religion.”  (Breakpoint 1-17-12)

Colson backs up this strong statement by quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  In an address entitled “Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century,” (12-9-09), Clinton said people “must be free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose.”

“Did you catch that?” Colson asks.  “In one sentence, little noticed at the time, Mrs. Clinton showed the Administration’s true priorities.  In one fell swoop, she changed our God-given right to freedom of religion, a public act, to a much more restricted ‘freedom of worship,’ a private act, which any Chinese official could go along with.  At the same time, Mrs. Clinton, speaking for the administration, elevated the quote ‘right to love in the way they choose’ as a fundamental human right.”

Last December, Mrs. Clinton told a gathering of diplomats that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”  She also said the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human right of LGBT citizens.”

President Obama told a pro-gay-rights group, “Every single American – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – every single American deserves to be treated equally before the law.”  Colson rightly asks, “Does that include marriage?”  There are those in this present Administration who have expressed their support of so-called same-sex “marriage.”  This Administration has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  Where is the threat to religious freedom?  If so-called homosexual “marriage” can be defined as a civil right, then those who oppose it on Biblical grounds could be branded as practicing “sexual discrimination.”

So, how did we come to this place?  How is it that sexual liberty trumps religious liberty?  That sexual freedom is the one right above all rights?  The one right upon which no one else dare tread?

We were taunted with one question, “Did God really say . . . ?”  We doubted divine creation.  Put ourselves in place of God.  Raised our will above His.  Determined our own identity.   When we see ourselves, first and foremost, as “sexual beings,” then one might assume the right to express that sexuality according to personal preference.  But, God created us to be more than our flesh side.  We are each a soul.  We are created in His image and, though fallen from that perfect image, we are not captive to sexual instincts.  The Savior, Jesus Christ, pulls us out of ourselves and away from harmful choices.  His Spirit equips us to avoid sensuality and, instead, pursue purity and holiness.  Things of God.   When we fail, all is not lost.  We are not destined to despair, but invited to confess.  Ask for forgiveness and help.  Start over.  And over… and over…and over.

A good way to start over is to leave foolishness behind.  We have been too long in “human sexuality” class and not nearly long enough in Biology 101. 

Heterosexual is a biological term describing how a mammalian species reproduces.  The “higher” species reproduces sexually.  The lower invertebrates reproduce asexually.  Therefore, the suffix “sexual” refers to reproduction.  The prefix “homo,” which means “same throughout” with “sexual” is an oxymoron.  Mammals can’t reproduce with two like genders: male with male or female with female.  For the sake of civilization, let’s get our biology straight. 

Who better to consult than the Master of biology.  When He finished speaking animals into existence, God put His hands to work on His greatest masterpiece.  Humans.  He made two genders: male and female.  Count them.  Not three or four or five, but two.  He shaped man, then built woman from man.  He made them equal, but different.  Gender is determined by our anatomy.  (If you’re not sure which one you are, look down.)  An individual male or female, not paired, might be lonely, but they can actually survive without sexual involvement.  However, if they want to continue the human species, they must “fit together.”

God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  “Fit for him,” taken literally, means “like his opposite.”  Do you comprehend this?   Male and female are compatibly different.  Their different anatomy allows husband and wife to “fit together” in order to bring new life into the world.  It is for our physical, emotional, spiritual, and generational health to live as male or female in a way that honors God rather than self. 

God tells man and woman to avoid sexual immorality and sensuality, but never once does He tell us to avoid being male or female.  As a man or a woman, single or married, we have a choice.  We can live in a way that glorifies God and makes the world a better place… or not.

Mock God, Mr. President.  Re-define creation, Mrs. Secretary of State.  Replace freedom of religion with “freedom of worship.”  Disregard biology and let people “love as they choose.”  Claiming to be wise, you lead many on a path of foolishness.

The Holy God stands in contrast.  “My ways are not your ways.”  While we have opportunity, let us speak of holy things.  Oppose foolishness.  “Fit together” in marriage.  Grow children.  Explain what it means to love.  To be human.

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Seems that New York has followed the lead of my fellow sophisticated Iowans.   Same-sex “marriage” has just become law there, too.  People like me who don’t believe we have the right to define an institution created by God justifiably oppose tampering with marriage and parenthood.  But, we are told, not to worry!  Legalizing same-sex “marriage” won’t hurt a thing.

I disagree.  So does Michael Cook, the editor of Mercatornet.  In his article of July 11, he asks: “Anything else on the menu?”

He offers three reasons why the legalization of same-sex “marriage” will, indeed, affect our culture.  All come from authors featured in the New York Times.  First, Michael Cook notes the commentary of Katherine M. Franke, a Columbia University law professor.  She confessed that she really didn’t want to marry her long-time lesbian partner anyway.  Why lose the flexibility and benefits of living as domestic partners?  Cook quotes professor Franke, saying as far as she was concerned, “we think marriage ought to be one choice in a menu of options by which relationships can be recognized and gain security.”

“One choice in a menu of legally supported relationships?” Cook asks.  “How long is the menu?”

Cook offers a second reason why legalizing same-sex “marriage” will impact society by highlighting another article in the Times by Ralph Richard Banks.  Banks is a professor at Stanford Law School.  What comes after gay “marriage”?  Banks “puts his money on polygamy and incest” because legal prohibitions on either practice are losing strength.  Society forbade them in the past because they were seen as “morally reprehensible;” therefore, society felt “justified in discriminating against them.”  I follow Banks’ reasoning.  Just as homosexual advocates are working hard to shift our thinking and normalize the behavior God calls a sin, so will advocates of polygamy and incest.

Two more behaviors, Cook notes, are added to the “menu of [sexual] options.”

The third reason why legalized same-sex “marriage” will have a domino affect on the culture is voiced by Dan Savage.  The Times describes Savage as “America’s leading sex-advice columnist.”  He is syndicated in at least 50 newspapers.  Here’s what Cook writes about Savage.  “Savage, who claims to be both ‘culturally Catholic’ and gay, thinks that gay couples have a lot to teach heterosexual couples, especially about monogamy.  Idealising monogamy destroys families, he contends.  Men are simply not made to be monogamous.  Until feminism came along, men had mistresses and visited prostitutes.  But instead of extending the benefits of the sexual revolution to women, feminism imposed a chastity belt on men.  ‘And it’s been a disaster for marriage,’ he says.  What we need, in his opinion, is relationships which are open to the occasional fling — as long as partners are open about it.”

Cook continues, “Traditional marriage — well, actually real marriage — is and has always been monogamous and permanent.  There have been and always will be failures.  But that is the ideal to which couples aspire.  They marry ‘for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’.  The expectation is exclusivity in a life-long commitment.”

Cook believes that legalization of same-sex “marriage” will most assuredly “affect the attitudes of young couples who are thinking of marriage a decade from now . . . it will be one of a number of options . . . they will have different expectations . . . marriage will include acceptance of infidelity, will not necessarily involve children, and will probably only last a few years.”

Advocates of same-sex “marriage” in New York say it’s good for marriage.  Cook concludes:

“In a way, they’re right.  Just as World War II was good for Germany because out of the ashes, corpses and rubble arose a heightened sense of human dignity and a democratic and peaceful government, same-sex marriage will heighten our esteem for real marriage.  But in the meantime, the suffering will be great.”

Amen.

Mercatornet: Navigating modern complexities
Check it out!

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Is this life after The Pill?

Shirley Wang is the author of “The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction — Taking Birth-Control Pills May Mask the Signals That Draw the Sexes Together, Research Shows.”  (Wall Street Journal)

Rush Limbaugh’s program of May 10, 2011, featured “The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction.”  My husband happened to be listening.  I thank him for catching this… and sharing it with me.  Whatever  you may think of Rush Limbaugh, research is research.  The thing is, some of it gets shared… some of it stays hidden.  This research helps make sense of many choices, behaviors, and lifestyles that I’ve been watching or aware of as a post-pill woman.

“Much of the attraction between the sexes is chemistry.”  Not hard to swallow, eh?  Let’s continue.  “New studies suggest that when women use hormonal contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, it disrupts some of these chemical signals, affecting their attractiveness to men and women’s own preferences for romantic partners . . . Evolutionary psychologists and biologists have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates.”

The article goes on.  “One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the T-shirt study, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts.  The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors knows as pheromones.”

Continuing, “The study also showed that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune system genes known as MHC . . . the family of genes permit a person’s body to recognize which bacteria are foreign invaders and to provide protection from those bugs.  Evolutionarily, scientists believe, children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more pathogens.  More than 92 million prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches and injections, were filled last year in the U.S., according to data-tracker IMS Health.  Researchers say their aim isn’t to scare or stop women from taking hormonal contraceptives.  ‘We just want to know what we’re doing’ by taking the pill, says Alexandra Alvergne, a researcher in biological anthropology at University College London in the U.K.  ‘If there is a risk it affects our romantic life and the health status of our children, we want to know.’ ”

Wang, in her article, explains that, “Both men’s and women’s preferences in mates shift when a woman is ovulating” (most often day 14 of her cycle) . . . “Some studies have tracked women’s responses to photos of different men, while other studies have interviewed women about their feelings for men over several weeks.  Among the conclusions: When women are ovulating, then tend to be drawn to men with greater facial symmetry and more signals of masculinity, such as muscle tone, a more masculine voice and dominant behaviors . . . The women also seemed to be particularly attuned to MHC-gene diversity.  From an evolutionary perspective, these signals are supposed to indicate that men are more fertile and have better genes to confer to offspring.”  (Limbaugh comments here: “All of this happens in a split second.  It’s not something that’s calculated . . . but it does dictate behavior and choices . . . .”)

Wang’s article continues, “Women tend to exhibit subtle cues when they are ovulating, and men tend to find them more attractive at this time.  ‘Women try to look more attractive, perhaps by wearing tighter or more revealing clothing,’ says Martie Haselton, a communications and psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Research on this includes studies in which photos that showed women’s clothing choices at different times of the month were shown to groups of judges.  Women also emit chemical signals that they are fertile; researchers have measured various body odors, says Dr. Haselton.  Such natural preferences get wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown.”

But, “Women on the pill no longer experience a greater desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation.  Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears.  And men no longer exhibit shifting interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, perhaps because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.”

Also, “There is accumulating evidence indicating men react differently to women when they are on birth control.  A 2004 study in the journal on Behavioral Ecology used the T-shirt study.  But instead put the shirts on 81 women.  A panel of 31 men, smelling the T-shirts, experienced the greatest attraction for the non-pill-using women when they were ovulating.  Twelve women on the panel didn’t detect any difference.”  (Limbaugh comments: “Basically, if this is true, the natural selection process of a woman wanting a traditionally masculine guy when she’s ovulating goes out the window.  Nothing to do with sexual orientation here.  But this, for example, could give rise to this whole notion of the metrosexual [a man who likes to shop, is in tune with fashion and appearance], if this is true.  That’s why if all of this is true, then it changes everything we know about our lives since when the pill became profligate in 1970.)

Take it… or leave it.  Limbaugh concludes, “It’s fascinating.  Now, you couple all this with the obvious role changes that militant feminism brought on, and it could explain a lot about general unhappiness, confusion, who’s supposed to be what that both sexes seem to exhibit.”

And, finally, another thought on the impact of hormonal birth control and how it affects women and men: “When the pill was approved for use in the U.S. in 1960,” said Limbaugh, “the divorce rate was less than 10%.  Over the two decades that followed, divorce rates climbed to over 20%.  So maybe it’s harder to stick it out in a marriage if the power of attraction wanes, and if the attraction wanes because the chemicals aren’t there that make it possible, well, that would explain a lot, too.”

Fascinating, don’t you think?

Men… women… not the same.  Dare we say created to be different, yet attracted to one another as part of the design… for a purpose.  Life.  Generations to come.  Hmmm.

But, what happens when we tamper with the design?

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“It is not good,” said the Lord God, “that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Let’s assume a Biblical understanding of the word “helper.”  A “helper” (Hebrew: ezer) is defined as being an “assistant” or an “ally.”   Perhaps most significantly, it is a description of God Himself.  Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised His disciples that He would send “another Helper” (John 14:16).  That “Helper” is the Holy Spirit who is described as a “comforter” (Greek: parakletos) or someone who appears on anothers behalf.  Some commentaries speak of the Holy Spirit as an “encourager.”   The Holy Spirit imparts truth.  Builds up.  Strengthens.

I am not demeaned or offended to be a “helper fit for” man.  There is order and purpose to everything that God does.  God is order, the opposite of chaos.  The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet the three are equal.  The Holy Spirit is not inferior to the Father or the Son, but plays a different role.  Lives are affected through the power of the Spirit’s presence as He helps, comforts, and encourages.

In the created order, woman is not inferior to man but plays a powerfully different role.  Her presence and the way she chooses to use her natural power affects the lives of others.

Will she choose to use this power to discourage or encourage?  To bring pain or comfort?  To tear down or build up?

Man was created to be a good steward over all the earth, a defender of life, a tender covering over his wife, and the mentor of children and grandchildren.  But, he can’t do this by himself.  He needs the Word of God.  After that, he needs a helper.  That helper, said God, is woman.

How a woman helps, especially in her vocation as a wife, is explained by the way in which the first woman was made.  “The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman . . .” (Genesis 2:22).   The Hebrew word for “rib” is commonly used for a structural component related to the side of something.  When speaking of a building, it may mean a pillar or beam.  But, when used in reference to a person, it generally means a “rib bone.”   In the structure of our anatomy, the rib guards the human heart and breath of life.  Martin Luther called his wife, Katie, his “rib.”  I am my husband’s rib.   The rib is a strong bone, but it is also easily fractured or broken, especially when under attack.  Women — and the men that women love — are vulnerable in a sinful world.

In this fallen and difficult world, a woman helps her husband by being a pillar supportive of his personhood and his vocations.  Those vocations, or callings, include his stewardship, fatherhood, employment on behalf of family, and respected place in community.  How does she do this, yet remain fearless in the face of her own vulnerability?

She clings to her identity as God’s creation and the treasure for whom Jesus Christ gave all He had.  This identity never changes, no matter the circumstances.  Some women think their identity is found in being a wife, mother, teacher, musician, care-giver, or friend.  Some find their identity in their appearance, popularity, or health.  All of these vocations and circumstances are in a constant state of change.  Our identity as God’s creation and the treasure of Christ never changes… no matter if our children grow up or we lose our job, best friend, or health.

When a woman trusts her identity in Christ, she is free to use her natural power in positive ways.  She doesn’t have to control the people or circumstances in her life, but can practice self-control for the good of her neighbor.  In a marriage, that neighbor is her husband.  She has the power to make or break or husband; to build up or tear down.

Some women know they have this power.  They make a conscious decision to assume control.  Some women are clueless about this power.  They may slowly and painfully destroy their husbands with cruel and insensitive words and behaviors.  Perhaps, feeling small, they try to build themselves up by tearing their husbands down.  Both kinds of women have the same core problem: Their foundation is unsure.  They have forgotten (or never been taught) their identity in Christ.   There is another woman.  She is keenly aware of the power entrusted to her by God; therefore, she strives to use that power for good.  She knows her identity is sure and certain, no matter the circumstances.  She turns outward from self to others and, in so doing, brings glory to God.

God’s Word in the book of Proverbs speaks of a woman’s power — and choice.   “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (12:4).  “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (14:1).  “A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.  House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:13-14).

The power of a woman — the helper, pillar and rib — is life-affecting and life-changing.  Disciplined, it is awesome.  Undisciplined, it is dangerous.

Will a woman choose to tear down… or build up?  The answer to this question doesn’t only affect men.  It affects children — for generations to come.

This ezerwoman will continue to ponder and think aloud on the journey.  In the meantime, you’re invited to visit Titus 2 for Life.

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The man had been taken captive to sin.  It would seem that the man tightly grasped Jesus’ robe of righteousness and let it be his cover.  But, he did not seek help when his marriage and family suffered.  He did not confess sin’s hold on him.  Was there no one to whom he was accountable?

He brought a variety of movies into his home, but was there a reason he avoided “The Passion?”  Many times, I asked his help in equipping us  for spiritual battle.  He didn’t.  Maybe he couldn’t.

Publicly caught in his sin, he did confess — to one time of foolishness. To his wife, he confessed to more.  The public showered mercy and forgiveness upon him.  His wife found herself homeless.  Some tried to hold him to the higher standard of a man who had taken a vow before God, but he maintained that his private life didn’t affect others.

One day, the man told me that his grandson didn’t know how to respond to him.  So, as a grandfather and role-model, the man wrote his beloved grandson a letter of encouragement:  “I understand that you don’t know what to say to me.  Let me offer three suggestions.  You can say, ‘I forgive you.  I love you.  Let’s play golf!'”  After sharing this with me, I feared for the man.  Could this be the summation of his theology?

There was no way I could speak to this man except by using the Word of God.  What follows is part of my letter to him:

My dear friend . . . Moses spoke to the Israelites about the covenant made by God with His people.  No other people had ever received such a promise.  But, in Deuteronomy 29:19, Moses was inspired by the spirit to caution,

Beware  lest there be among you . . . one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’

A commentary on this passage of Deuteonomy reads: “To continue willfully to sin while claiming eternal security in Christ is a dangerous, perhaps even fatal, presumption.”  (One can read the continuing verses 20-29.)

My friend, you have always said that God’s Word changes lives.  For this reason, I proclaim with King David that I love the Word.  It gives me confidence.  It provides instruction.  It leads me to a future of hope.  But, like King David, our bones will waste away and our strength drain away like in the heat of summer if we do not acknowledge, confess, and turn away from our sins (Psalm 32).  You have confessed… in part.  Sadly, I believe you have covered so much repetitive sin with: “I forgive you.  I love you.  Let’s play golf.”

I am as much a sinner as you.  I have my confessed and unconfessed sins.  But, I am called by the Father God to repent and, after I have repented, stop repeating the sin.  I need to be held accountable.  I need others to hold me accountable.  I have and will continue to fail in being righteous.  Thankfully, the forgiveness of God in Christ has been poured out for you and me.  We are washed white as snow for eternity.  But, as one called to be holy, I cannot — must not — cheapen the priceless gift of Jesus Christ by asking for forgiveness and then boldly returning to bad habits, old ways, and repetitive sin.  Such actions carry powerful consequences that reach children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

That being sad, God’s mercy is to thousands of generations of those who love Him.

There is opportunity in this moment.  God has allowed some of your sin to be exposed.  You have expressed sorrow and remorse.  But, confess it all.  Don’t persist in the theology of: “Forgive me.  Love me.  Let’s play golf.”  Confront the pain and grief that years of a repeated sin have caused.  Mourn the loss of the wife that, while sinful herself, remained loyal to your high calling as a Christian leader.  Grieve the loss of damaged relationships with your children.  Confront the reality of your choices.  Be heartsick.  Be sorry.  Be shamed.  Then, turn from your sin… and sin no more.

Watching you these past years, I fear that your bones have been wasting away and your strength drained as in the heat of summer.  Has God’s hand been pressing down on you?   I want this to stop.  Don’t you?

Stop with the “Forgive.  Love.  Let’s play golf.”  Start  new by proclaiming: “Yes, I am forgiven.  yes, Jesus loves me eternally.  Now I must not only face but live with the consequences of my sins.  With the Spirit’s help, I can change my ways.  I beg for mercy and discernment to properly handle the Word of Truth.  I put on the armor of God for continual battle against evil and remind others to do the same.”

This is part of a letter I wrote to my fallen friend.  “Two are better than one . . . for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up . . .” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).  This letter is also a reminder to me.  My doubt of God’s Word and the sins that follow bear consequences, too.

It’s a mucky and twisted road we travel.  Danger lurks at every turn.  False security leaves us more vulnerable and places others at risk.  Therefore,

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed . .  .

(Hebrews 12:12-17; 1 John 1:5-10)

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