Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fairy Tales, A Birthday...

(And Hope for Hard Times)

My son Bryant was (is) a special kid… Now I happen to think that ALL kids are special, each in his or her own way. Children are  given  loaned to their parents to nurture, teach, encourage, discipline and prepare so that they are able to make their positive mark on the world.

If only we parents fully understood this. Shortly after Bryant’s suicide, Travis and I saw a grief counselor. His instructions were the same as the flight attendant who informs air passengers in the event of emergency to secure the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to help a child or anyone else. The counselor advised us to do everything we could to stabilize ourselves so that we would be able to help our other children process the loss of their brother.

I think this is a good principle for the parent/child relationship in life in general.

It is true that you can’t give what you don’t have. So it follows that a healthy (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally) parent will be best prepared to pass that good health on to their child(ren). An unhealthy parent will not.

(I feel the need to say that there are also no guarantees. There is no absolute formula for success in parenting. Like playing the stock market, there are general guidelines that usually produce a favorable outcome. But there are no guarantees. You can be healthy, do a good job by your children and still have things turn out negatively. I also know of many “success” stories of children who made it, despite having had unhealthy parents and all kinds of terrible odds against them.)

Last night Travis and I read thru the journal I started keeping for Bryant when he was a little boy. Over the years I wrote periodically to him about our life, about his specialness to me and what I hoped his life would be like. (Tears)

I read thru the journal again this morning. Today, on his 19th birthday, 229 weeks (exactly 1604 days), since he left, reading about his life makes me smile. He had a short but wonderful life. In just 14 years he: received the “Daniel Award” in Kindergarten for the boy in the class with the best character; attended Flight Camp and flew a small plane with his instructor; swam/fished in the Chesapeake Bay @ Boys Camp in 2000; cut the Ribbon at the Grand Opening of KIDS Inc.; went to Disney World twice with his grandparents (thanks Mom & Pop Stoves); toured the Nation’s Capital; waded in the Atlantic Ocean; spent a week touring New York City (just a few months before the Towers fell in 2001); observed a bear in the wild in Gatlinburg Tennessee ; built a bird house and model car at Home Depot Kids Workshops; participated in Debate Training and Tournaments; performed in church and community plays; was a talented shooting guard in Basketball; danced in the rain at age 12 --just because he felt like it :D; was the undefeated family champion at Putt Putt Golf; was a fierce UNO, Connect Four, Flinch, Phase 10 and Monopoly player during family game times; was a history buff, especially the Civil War and an avid reader— BRYANT read EVERYTHING, the USA Today, all kinds of books, a favorite title was, “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham” & anything on Greek Mythology; was an accomplished piano student and swimmer; Old School music lover; his 8th grade SAT complete battery score was “Post -High School”; was the #1 Auburn & Indianapolis Colts fan. And last but not the least bit least, all time world record holder for most CHICKEN eaten!

He was bright and funny. He loved life. He had a rich life. We miss him so. Why did he have to leave? Sometimes life seems to make no sense.

One weekend a few months ago my family and I were having a leisurely afternoon in a Books a Million bookstore. I ended up settling comfortably in a chair with a stack of books on one side of the store. Travis took the kids over to the youth section. A few hours later as we were getting into the car to go home, Travis began to tell me about an experience he’d had inside. He was reading and the kids were playing when he noticed a cute little blond headed boy, about 3 years old, playing with our kids. The boy’s dad sat down near Travis and they eventually got talking. The boy’s father, a man in his late 30s asked Travis about the book he was reading. It was a book on faith and they discussed it for a few moments. The man told Travis that he hadn’t been to church in a great while and that he was in quite a difficult spot these days. He shared that he’d lost his corporate job more than a year previously. The wife, also corporately employed, had moved out of their home and they were currently splitting custody of their son. She wanted a divorce. Their family home was in foreclosure. Travis began to talk with him about his (our) own struggles and the faith that has sustained him. He said the man began to cry. Travis encouraged the man, assuring him that God cared. That all was not lost. That our struggles come. to. pass. That he could make it, that he would make it. They finished talking and the stranger gathered his son to leave. Travis said that the man got almost to the door with his boy when he turned, came back and said, “Thank you. You just don’t know. Thank you.”

Just a few days ago I was at a nearby library. I was sitting at a table looking thru a few books. I also had with me the library’s copy of the Bible. There was an older African American man, (I’m guessing mid to late 50s) sitting near me as I was reading and writing. He probably looked older than he was. You know the kind of person who looks like maybe they’ve had a tough time in life. The man was with two boys who were working on the library computers not far from us. One of them looked to be about 12. The other boy was well over 6 feet and looked about 16 or 17. I noticed them because they would periodically come over to the man and their interactions were noticeably respectful…

The boys finished up on the computer and it seemed they were about to leave when the man (their father) saw the Bible near me. He spoke to me saying, “Are you a Christian?” I answered that I “most certainly” was, then he said, “Well I’m trying.” I said, “Brother, you don’t have to try to be a Christian. You just make a decision for Christ and stick with it.” He said it was hard. He began to tell me about his life. He said the factory where he worked had shut down earlier this year. He was separated from his second wife and everything in life seemed to be upside down. I began to share a little of my life, in contrast to my KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING that God is good no matter what. I told him about Bryant’s death and how life often makes no sense but that God is always God. I told him that God knew about what was going on with him and that God cared. That he just needed to call on Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) He shared some more. He and the boys were sleeping in their car. School had started. He was trying to figure how to get them registered without proof of an official residence. He began to cry. Right there in the middle of the library.

People are hurting.

In this country and worldwide. Right next to you in your office or cubicle, in your neighborhood, across the screen on the www, across all socio-economic and cultural lines,...in the library and at the bookstore. I was praying once earlier this year and I began to ask God why there was so much suffering in this world? His response came quickly and clearly. He said, Sharmayn, I made this world and filled it with goodness, with everything you would need to have a good life. Then I put you (mankind) in charge. Most of the problems the world is facing are not because I don’t care. They are because YOU (mankind) don’t care.” (Genesis 1)

Travis met a woman at work last week. She, her husband and three children are career international missionaries. They have just returned here for a 6 month sabbatical from some part of Russia. Travis told me she said they had been on this last assignment for 7 years. She said that in all that time NOT ONE PERSON accepted faith in Christ. NOT ONE. She said that there is such a heavy “darkness” – a resistance to the things of God – there that even the young children are permitted to regularly view pornography. (I will surely be discussing that on another post.) This family has worked faithfully to try to help, regardless of the outcome. They are living for something more than personal happiness and satisfaction.

I have said before that we are not here for what we can get. We are here for what we can give. I think one of the reasons our country has experienced this economic slump and national hardship is to remind us of this truth. Somehow we decided that life was all about getting stuff.  When in truth and actuality, life is really all about our SOURCE-- and not our resources. All our stuff-- our ability to produce, acquire, store and maintain stuff, is an unsure foundation upon which to build a life or place our trust. Here today, maybe gone tomorrow. If all my hope is in my job, my bank balance or financial portfolio, (or even my earthly relationships) the stuff I can put my hands on, what happens when Bernie Madoff has made off with all my money? Or my job is gone? When my marriage ends? Or my child is gone?

This time last year when I was apart from my husband, I was praying and asking God to fix our mess, to give Travis a change of heart and bring him home to his family. I felt God say, “My Daughter, I have heard your prayers. I allowed Travis to explore what he thought might be the answer to his troubles, I allowed all this to bring him to the end of himself. I permitted him to fall (and fail) so that he would have to put down his idol-- his ego and pride... his foolish attempts to make and find his own way. He tried to make you his god. When you failed, as you surely would, he decided that he would be his own god. Now My child, you are not to take up that idol and attempt to make Travis your god. I know that you love him and want him to come home. But  I Am the Only One you can’t live without.

Too often we have believed the fairy tale of life. That there really is such a thing as an American Dream. And that it is ours to be had.  That we should have it. A perfect family, a white picket fence, a dog and not a trouble in the world. It is the stuff of make believe.

The things we see have been made from what is unseen. (2 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:15-16) The unseen things of life are MORE REAL than the seen. The Bible says that we should “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) That just means that we are able to recognize the difference between the facts and the truth. There is a big difference between the two, you must know. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation” (fact), He goes on to say “But take heart (be of good cheer), I have overcome the world.” (truth) (John 16:33)

Four years ago when my son died, I had to have something deep and real to anchor to. Or it would have been too much to bear. Last year, when my life was again blown apart, there had to be something – SOMEONE – to believe in, a TRUE King who COULD put humpty dumpty together again.

Life is hard. But I am a witness that God is AWESOMELY GOOD. Come what may, Jesus is the only one I can’t live without. He is real. He wasn’t just a good man. He was fully man and fully God. (Philppians 2:5-11) His Spirit (RUACH) is my comfort always. May He be yours as well.

Happy 19th Birthday to my sweet baby, Bryant Colin Stoves! Looking forward to seeing you again one day soon!


“ Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1

“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NKJV)

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus, the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (Message Version)

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Sunday, August 15, 2010


(And Why I Still Love It) --- A Treatise on Grace and Forgiveness

So how have you done it?

Earlier this year, when I shared my story with a close friend of mine who lives in another state, his first question to me was, So how much time did you spend in jail?”  I dearly love this dude and we had a good laugh about it. But when I share this latest saga of my life – my experience of adultery – with people I often get asked, “How have you done it?” How have you been able to move on with your husband in light of what has happened? How have you forgiven and moved on?

I have spoken of the grief I experienced when my son died four years ago. And now I am fervently speaking about the grief I experienced from the betrayal of my husband last year with two “sisters,” two women who were members of my faith family in the small church where Travis and I were members for more than a decade. When my son died I became extremely sad. When my marriage died last year (from premeditated murder), I became extremely mad!

C'mon now, really, how does a person commit adultery with someone they met in church!? I mean that just feels like a whole other realm of wrong. (Can I get a witness?)

I have said that I love people. All people. Even those who seem to hate me. I want to share my story to speak to believers (of the gospel of Jesus Christ), non-believers, and probably most especially to the make-believers – those people who are either pretending or are self-deceived about their faith relationship with God.

In my last post I discussed how I believe adultery amounts to the rape of a betrayed spouse. How the Scripture says, "Let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. The husband should give his wife what she is entitled to in a marriage relationship, and the wife should do the same for her husband. The wife is not in charge of her own body, but her husband is; likewise, the husband is not in charge of his own body, but the wife is.” 1 Cor 7: 3-4. In a marriage the husband and wife have given their bodies to one another. So when one spouse “gives” their body (physically and/or emotionally) to someone else, they and their adultery accomplice are essentially raping the unsuspecting spouse. How many of you in a marriage would consent to your spouse being emotionally or sexually involved with someone else? (If you raised your hand, stop reading now. And know that I have said a special prayer for you.) ;-)

Besides the trauma of the infidelity, when my husband’s adultery was exposed in the church last year I experienced further wounding from many in the church. Travis was so deeply deceived (in spiritual darkness) and he was not initially repentant. In hindsight I understand now that this kind of sin brings great shame upon the perpetrator(s). If h/she was caught, just as the first man and woman did in the Garden, s/he will automatically (naturally) look for someone (else) to blame. Travis blamed me. I had forced him to cheat. After months of cataloging my shortcomings (both real and fabricated), first with one friend,  then with another, the list of my faults was long and terrible. When I spoke briefly with his first accomplice, the sister who brought the initial break in my covenant with my husband, she concurred. Their adultery was all my fault because I had neglected my husband. He was so “lonely” she had to help him out. (Ok, I am not generally given to profanity but some choice words came to mind in response to the absolute ridiculousness of that rationale.) They made the choices they made -- to sin -- because THEY WANTED TO!!

Church folks began to shun me. Some seemed to agree that it was my fault. (Remember, “Take care of your man or someone else will”? If I had just been on my job, none of this would have happened, right?) I’ve also said that when something terrible happens to “good people” those who witness it sometimes become afraid that it might be “contagious.” About six months after it all came out, I sent a mass email to the church body outlining everything that had happened. It was as tastefully written as a letter about three “Christ followers” in sexual sin could be. [I admonished the church that this thing was just completely UNACCEPTABLE. It should not have happened in a church as “loving” and spiritually intelligent as ours should have been. My former pastor is one of the MOST GODLY men I have ever known.] But after I sent the email the church was, for all intents and purposes, finished with me. (My letter also informed the church that our family would be leaving. As I’ve said adultery ALWAYS produces some kind of death. How was I to continue fellowshipping with these women? Our relationship there was destroyed ---by all their choices.) I was further rebuked. Few wanted to deal with it. (Truth is, some might have been privately dealing with this same thing themselves.) I believe it just hit too close to home. It forced everyone to take a good look at their own lives for any personal “darkness” there might have been, that is, hidden things being done in secret. It was just too much. Not everyone blackballed me. But many did.

If you know anything of the Christian church, you know that church people can be really wacky. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” Alas, much wrong has been done in the name of Christianity. Can we just say slavery? People who claim Christianity are too often some of the most misled, uninformed, greedy, mean spirited people I have ever known. I heard the story of a woman last week whose family was stalked and harassed so badly until her father, the pastor of the church, was eventually killed. All this happened at the hand of a deacon in their church. (Her book "Devil in Pew Number 7" is now on my reading list.) On our TVs are men and women preachers who attempt to sell people the gospel blessings for a “gift” of XX amount of dollars. And I wanted to scream when Sarah Palin was introduced several years ago at the Republican National Convention. She was pretty, reasonably well spoken, a break-out political star touted as a devout “Christian.” But her Christian label left me wanting (and wondering) as I heard her sling mud all over her opponent, the now sitting president, Barack Obama. (We can put Sarah Palin down as another topic that is a book unto itself in my head.)

We (Christians) get angry at the jihad (the holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty), that remnant of Islamic religious fanatics who have taken “world peace” into their own hands. But some of us (Christians) are in many ways just like them, full of hate; dogmatic and self-righteous.

Make no mistake. I have already said, this adultery thing has made me plenty mad. I feel hate. But I don’t hate people. I hate sin. (Starting with my own.) I hate what the people who betrayed me did. And I hate the Evil One who encouraged them to do it. That’s why I write. To expose him. I don’t write to make anybody look bad. I write to make sin (and the devil) look bad. To show it (and him) for what it really is.  Evil comes enticingly dressed. It draws you in (and then takes you out) like the proverbial frog in a pot of cool water. The temperature is turned up slowly. The frog is unaware that soon he will be boiled to his destruction. Devoured in his own complacency and unknowing. How many people do you know who planned to become a drug, porn or gambling addict? How many times have you ever heard a child say, “When I grow up I’m gonna be a prostitute”? or “I want to one day be an alcoholic or maybe a murderer?” The origin of this stuff is sin, either our own or someone else’s that was forced upon us. There was a time unfortunately when church folks seemed to think EVERYTHING was wrong. But these days we will accept just about anything. Nothing is wrong anymore. “Everybody just live and let live.” When it comes to sin, people either want to glamourize it, make excuses for it or turn a blind eye and deaf ear to it—ignore it and hope it goes away… That is until it comes to your house and victimizes you or you find yourself having done something unthinkable. We gotta deal with this stuff. I’m calling it out!

I want to stop a minute and address something here. I'm calling this a "Treatise on Grace and Forgiveness." I feel the need to clarify something that I believe is widely misunderstood. Forgiveness is not equivalent to forgetting. It is not pretending that a wrong did not occur or that you no longer feel pain from the offense and it is not never speaking of it again. If I had a dollar for every minute Travis and I have spent talking about his infidelity, we could move next door to Oprah or Bill G. I've heard people say that God "remembers our sin no more" and "casts it into the sea of forgetfulness" and this is most certainly true. The Bible also says that love "keeps no record of wrongs" (or taketh no account of evil). Again this just speaks of a person not continuing to hold the debt or the charge against the offender. When we ask for forgiveness God DOES NOT HOLD our wrongs against us any longer. Our debt has been paid.  He does this for us and all of mankind just as He did for a whole slew of folks in the Bible. And yet from the very beginning the Bible is full of stories of people's disobedience, pride, murder, grumbling, sexual immorality, lying, backbiting, (I could go on and on). Their FAILURES have been recorded for all mankind to read, study AND LEARN FROM. When we truly forgive, we release our offenders from their indebtedness to us. But rarely are we able to forget. If I get drunk and drive and take someone's life in a car accident, God will certainly forgive me. But the family of the victim will NEVER forget. And neither will I. Rarely is there no consequence to our sin and offense against one another. The two issues of forgiveness and forgetting are separate and distinct. We cannot hold offenses against our offenders. But I will continue to talk about this (the redemption of it)  until God tells me to shut up!

Me thinks I have greatly digressed. =) I wanted to share with you how I have forgiven. How I can simultaneously feel the pain of betrayal and an inexpressible joy. Why I continue to love my husband, more than I ever thought possible-- and how I have released the two women who were deceived into trying-- for a brief minute-- to be me.

When Bryant died, the Lord God, the RUACH (His Spirit) was literally my life support. It was the worst of times (up ‘til then) but it was also the best of times. If you don’t know God in that way, I pray you can understand this. I felt God’s presence -- HIS COMFORT-- in such a magnificent way. Some months later though, as life begin to move on and I was no longer able to nurse my sadness, I started to feel angry. I was angry at Bryant for being so foolish. I was angry at myself, for all the ways I failed him. I was angry at Travis too for the ways he’d failed our son. Anger can a very dangerous thing. Pair it with accusation and you have a time bomb waiting to ignite. The Evil one is called “The accuser of our brethren.” (Revelation 12:10) That is in fact who he is --our Accuser.

What do we do when we have been wronged and mistreated? We rehearse the offense. We say, “I can’t believe you could _______ ( name the offense).” “How could you treat me this way?”

I believe that anger is often an emotional response to the grief and hurt of ill-treatment in our lives. As I worked thru my anger (grief) over Bryant’s suicide, I had to deal with each person individually. For me, I forgave myself saying, “I did the best I knew to do for my son. I loved and cared for him as best I could. He had a good life.” I said the same of Travis, “He was the best father he knew to be. He loved Bryant more than his own life.” There is no guilt or shame in doing the best you can for your child. But for Bryant, forgiveness came differently. It came directly from a Biblical passage. I was able to forgive Bryant as Jesus did when He hung on the cross and said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” I was able to say, “Lord, I forgive Bryant, because he did not know what he was doing.”

When my husband packed his stuff and left our home early that July morning last summer, I was devastated. Later that day I would learn that for the past several months he’d been secretly living as if he were a single man. He did not leave for another woman. After the “covers were pulled back” on his illicit activity, as BB King would say, the “thrill (was) gone.” His midlife reality escape had shown itself for what it really was-- a smelly mirage of smoke and mist. The gig was over but as I said, he was not initially repentant. He (with the help of the Accuser) had convinced himself that I would never forgive him. The adultery had given him a sort of “spiritual suicide.” He had totally lost himself and he believed everything else was lost. Anais Nin said, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” I’m convinced of this truth. We see the things of life as we are. When we are broken inside, our view of life is broken, our thoughts and corresponding actions are broken. (That’s why personal wellness, wholeness and freedom are so vitally important.) Eight days later, when I learned there had been an earlier violation with someone else, (a few “hook ups” with our close friend) I was completely destroyed. There had been a triple betrayal. GANG RAPE. Wicked depravity all up in the church.

I wasn’t sure I could survive it. Forget divorce, I’m talking feeling the life go out of you.

Then the Lord spoke something specific to me from His Word in the Bible. It was from 1 Samuel 8. If you are not familiar with the story, you should read it. Basically the Lord said to me, “Do not be distraught Sharmayn, ‘for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.’ ”  (verse 7)

When my husband ran out that Monday morning, he wasn’t running from me. He was running from God, from the truth (and from himself). When my friends decided they wanted to have sex with my husband, they weren’t betraying me, they were betraying their God. They believed the lie that God’s comfort, love and provision for their lives was not enough to satisfy them. They all acted in ignorance. And in deception. Like the first man and woman in the Garden, they were tempted “to eat death disguised as a slice of life.” They all bit. And they would all suffer the self-inflicted consequences.

And so, armed with this truth I was able to leave the question of “How could you do this to me?” and just ask “How could you do this?” (And God had already given me the answer.) As much as I was hurt, I had to de-personalize all this. It really wasn’t about me.

God gave me such a special agape (unconditional love) for my husband. The compassion God gave me for him surprised even me. Travis had been thru alot.  He was (is) still struggling with our son’s death. Despite a mountain of challenges, my husband had cared for me, both of my parents and our children like the champion that he is for more than 18 years. It was easy to keep my vow to him (even tho he had broken his to me) because he had proven himself faithful in so many ways. [His kind heartedness (mis-directed) was in some ways what got him into all this mess.] He was my rock, a broken one, but mine nonetheless.

It was not, however, that easy to forgive these women. I had been nothing but a kind sister to both of them. These women had no right to my husband and they should have known better, done better, been better. Should have. Over the course of the months, I went back and forth between feeling pity and forgiveness for them and fighting bitter hatred towards them. I’m just calling it like it was. (At times I felt a struggle with “feeling forgiving” towards Travis as well. I love that man. But the thought of the offense angered me terribly.) I remember when Travis had come to himself and decided to return home. A dear friend whose marriage had survived infidelity told me, “Be prepared Sharmayn. The devil will not be happy that his plan to destroy you two did not succeed.” Nowhere have I seen that be truer than in my attempts to forgive my husband’s adultery accomplices.

But forgiveness is an essential ingredient of a free life. Unforgiveness is a virtual prison. I have a friend whose mother-in-law was hospitalized in intensive care for several months before she died. The doctors performed all kinds of tests but were never able to find out what was wrong with her. After the woman passed, my friend said her husband commented of his mother’s state, “There is no test for bitterness.” First it paralyzed her. Then it killed her.

As with my son’s death, I knew I had to settle the forgiveness issue. Otherwise I would be held hostage by grief, anger, bitterness… my own pain. It has only happened recently but I can say with truth and certainty that I have forgiven these women for what they did. First of all their offense was against God. They will have to deal with Him. If they have earnestly repented (to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it; to make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins ) then God has forgiven them. A few weeks ago as I was praying and writing, I was near tears. It hurt so much. I told the Lord that I did not think I had it within me to truly forgive-- to fully release them from their debt for the severe pain I was feeling because of what they chose to do to me and my family. I just didn’t think I could do it.

Then I sensed the Lord saying, “Well, are you willing to let Me forgive them? Will you let Me do it in you,... for you?” My answer to Him was of course, “Yes, Lord.” A short time later I felt a release inside me and once again the words came to me, “Father, forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.” Glory!

Freedom came. I can honestly say that I have fully forgiven them. Does the thought of their actions still hurt? Yes. I look forward to the day when the wound becomes a scar. Healed over and no longer painful. But the God I know is a Redeemer. A Healer. Just like with Lazarus in the tomb (John 11), GOD called my marriage back from death. And He has given me double for my trouble ( Job 42:10) in the wonderful way He has brought me back together with my beloved husband (Song of Solomon 2:16 & 5:16). I love the Lord God, His One and Only Son Jesus, and His Wonderful Spirit, the RUACH that keeps me flying high above the pain and circumstances of this life.

And I love the church. Messed up as we are. We need to know there is no such thing as perfection in this life. Our families, our workplaces, our social organizations, even our churches, they all have their idiot-syncrasies. (I'm actually thinking IDIOT –sin- CRAZIES – play on word intended). Some of us are even the ones in question! {As my former pastor used to say, "Everybody's got a little something wrong with them." That includes you and me.} Earlier this year we joined another church, a big one. I was shocked to learn just last week that there is all kinds of foolishness-- not about issues of sin, but as best I can tell, personality issues-- going on behind the scenes there. Instead of complaining or running, I've just ramped up my prayers for our new pastor, who seems to be a dynamic man of God, and for the church people. We’re trying (to get it together). And we’re gonna get there. There are wonderful folks out there who are not caught up in religion, those who understand that faith is not about rules and regulations...that faith, true and authentic faith, is about RELATIONSHIP with our Creator God. He is real. He is love. (That’s not all He is, but that’s another post.) He loves us, idiot-syncrasies and all. His grace is amazing. I do love Him so.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God therefore. As dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." ( Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35 NIV

"Jesus replied, 'All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them.' "   John 14:23 (NLT)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


(But Stuff You Need to Know Anyway or My Tribute to Married Love)

(The subject matter will be a bit edgy but I think this is a message for everyone who is able to understand, regardless of your marital status.)

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. Yey for us! If you know anything at all about me, you know that life for me and my man “ain’t been no crystal stair.” “And still (we) rise.” :)

For the record I want you to know that I love being with my husband. (You know what I mean.) After 20 years, he knows me. We’ve spent a lot of time over the years fine tuning an already great machine- that one flesh union between us. Of course there have been times when things weren’t all hot and heavy, when we had our “dry spells” but from the time we said “I do,” I recognized this unique gift for what it is. And I thankfully and happily receive it as often as I can. (wink)

So today in honor of marriage… in honor of my marriage, I want to talk about sex. Not your run of the mill, garden variety, wild thang, Have-it-Your-Way-Burger-King style sex, but Sacred Sex, sex the way it is supposed to be.

Now this is my story. I am not concerned about offending anyone because this is life the way I see it. The way I understand it to be. My views are not an indictment upon yours, should your views be different. These are simply that, my views.

I happen to believe that there is a Creator and therefore a created order for things. An intelligent design. (And my man and I didn’t follow it. But I’ll say more on that another time.)

What Sex Is

Sex is an indescribably wonderful gift to humanity, thought up and given by a wonderfully indescribable Originator (God), to two people (an adult man and an adult woman) who have given themselves totally and exclusively to one another … for a lifetime. In the same way that frosting was designed for cake, the sexual experience was designed for the exclusive, committed life union of one man and one woman. Sex was created to equal married love. It is the sweet and delicious topping on the delicacy of two lives that have been irrevocably entwined, who are in covenant* to be together, no matter what, ‘til death do they part. This is the only manner in which this gift can exist without negative consequences. Like fire in a fireplace, sex gives warmth and comfort and light to a relationship between two married lovers. In its purest experience it is passionate and mind blowing, ecstasy beyond imagination. But experiencing this “fire” without that bond of exclusivity and covenant is like setting a fire in the middle of the bedroom floor. Tho it is a physical act, to the human soul this is absolute devastation in the making. A certain disaster.

What Sex is Not…

Sex is not a recreational activity akin to some extreme sport. It is not a biological necessity like eating, drinking and breathing. It is not even the “best thing” in the world or the best thing about marriage. (It is a wonderful thing to be sure, but it is not the most important thing.) Sure everybody seems to be thinking about, doing it, thinking about doing it, talking about it, writing about it, dreaming of it, watching it (Heaven help us!), or otherwise obsessing over it but sex is NOT the end all experience of life. (And this is coming from a woman who LOVES it!) It is truly wonderful to experience but I just happen to understand that the sexual relationship wasn’t meant to be a come one, come all means to “getting the monkey off your back” (Do people still say that? LOL)

The sex act was meant to be the crescendo of oneness, the explosive experience of being fully known, accepted and treasured: the union of body, soul and spirit between two people who “forsake all others” for one another. It is a kind of worship (the act of showing great reverence, honor, respect , etc.) where two people are “naked” before each other – not just physically but in all ways-- “and unashamed” because they are fully committed to one another. It is the God given glue of marriage, the physical expression of the partners love and faithfulness to one another. I believe it was meant to say, “I want to know you in the most intimate of ways,” “I love you” and “I want to experience all of you and give all of myself to you because I want to and will be with you always.” “What we two have is just for us, just between us…It is sacred [devoted exclusively to one service or use- (as of a person or purpose); entitled to reverence; holy by connection with God]” What we enjoy together is...

Sacred Sex.

Sex was not intended to be a means to an end for people to “relieve” themselves and hope for the best-- even sex by yourself misses the point. (Yep I said it.) Anyone who has experienced sex apart from covenant knows full well what I am talking about. Whether you will admit it or not. Something inside you tells you it ain’t quite right. I don’t care how drunk or high you were, how horny, how “in love” or how “committed,” if you’ve ever gone there with someone who wasn’t exclusively and eternally yours, you’ve felt that “morning after” pang of regret (if only for a moment). Even if you didn’t fully recognize it for what it was, you knew that something just wasn’t right. Yes, in the beginning it feels good. You “need” it. Maybe you even think you “need” the person. But when the “relationship” (if there even was one) ends, you know deep in your soul you just lost something of yourself. (see 1 Corinthians 6:18)

Because you see there is a divine order.

1. Covenant commitment (‘til death do we part) => (yields) 2. Sexual experience ( the gift of sacred union) => (yields) 3. Relational health and stability (We together are in this for the long haul.)

That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway.

A few months ago I read the most astute and profound comment on this topic in a Facebook discussion and I must share it with you. The conversation was about covenantal versus non covenantal sex and the commenter stated something to the effect that-- There is no such thing as non covenant sex. When people go around from partner to partner, they always end up unfulfilled because what they are looking for (in a non-covenantal union) DOES NOT EXIST. Sex was created as a GIFT in MARRIAGE. If you are having it any other way than under that circumstance, what you are experiencing is a counterfeit.

An imitation crabmeat sandwhich.

A knock off designer bag.

A simulated plane ride.

A game of tennis on the Wii.

All those things can be nice and good. But they are FAKE. Not the real thing.

Once again I’m just telling you what I know.

Before I married I had my share of FAKE sex. -- I write that with shame and regret. (Having enjoyed the freedom of marital unity and sacred sex --- the REAL THING -- for two decades now I can tell you that put up against the imitation stuff, there is ABSOLUTELY. NO. COMPARISON.) I was a girl raised in the south by an old fashioned mother who told me simply “Don’t do it.” That was pretty much the extent of my sexual education. At least from my Mama anyway. I managed to obey her out of sheer fear until I was almost out of high school. But when I ended up with a boyfriend who I thought really “loved” me, well you know what happened.

[Now there are volumes I could say right here on this. I have a passion for the education, wholeness and well being of young girls and women but I won’t digress to all that right now. I just want to say that when a girl grows up without a father, or with one who is mentally or emotionally unhealthy, she is set up for relational/sexual failure. A father is a girl’s first exposure to male love. He is supposed to teach his daughter how she should relate to a man. If he fails at this, she usually becomes a marked target for sexual misuse and abuse. Yes, she has choices. But (like me) she will often make bad ones as she “looks for love in all the wrong places.” But I’ll talk about all this another time when I can devote an entire post to it.]

I am horrified at some of the things I hear that people are doing in the name of sex these days. I won’t get started with the perversion of child porn and the like. I am sickened and grieved by what some people have decided is “normal.” Does anyone truly believe that sex with a child or an animal is ok? And what about cyber sex and the kids who are “hooking up” or the college students (and adults as well) who have “friends with benefits”? I read recently that in the decade of the 60s there were like 3 or 4 sexually transmitted diseases. Now in 2010, there are like 58!!!!!! (Check me out on this stat for yourself. I’m going from memory as I don’t have time right now to verify it specifically.) If sex is whatever we want it to be, somebody tell me what is up with that!?!

Beloved, I promise I have an entire book in my head on this whole matter. Last December, Travis and I rededicated our vows in a mini ceremony at the church where his infidelity occurred. We bought new rings and wrote new vows to one another and one thing I said to him was that I was sorry that I didn’t wait for him. He was always the one for me. I just didn’t know I needed to wait for him.

In just a little bit my guy is going to whisk me off to a nearby city for some time of uninterrupted communion, just he and I, celebrating our love and renewed commitment to one another. We were briefly separated this time last year and did not spend our anniversary together. We’re planning to gloriously make up for that this year. Yeah baby! :D The emotional, spiritual and physical celebration we enjoy with each other is unlike anything else on this earth. He sends me. I send him. That is the gift and benefit of twenty years of covenant together. In spite of the breach that occurred last year-- perhaps even because of it (Genesis 50:20)-- my husband and I have discovered new heights of intimacy that I could never have imagined. Heights that I believe can only be experienced through the total, selfless giving of oneself to another through covenant love as you grow together. For better or for worse. Our love has stood the test of time through storm, earthquake and flood. I’m his and he’s mine. He’s not going anywhere without me. I’m not going anywhere without him. Glory to God for His wonderful gifts!

Happy Anniversary to us!   (And much love to you!)


Sex = Married Love

* Covenant- a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or promise, different from a contract in that "A CONTRACT is an agreement made in suspicion. The parties do not trust each other, and they set "limits" to their own responsibility. A COVENANT is an agreement made in trust. The parties love each other and put no limits on their own responsibility. "

“For this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims…

You know the old saying, “First you eat to live, and then you live to eat”? Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor Him with your body! …

There’s more to sex that mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God- given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body… "1 Corinthians 6: 12-13, 16-20 (Message Bible)

Monday, August 2, 2010


[From my journal this morning…]

Week 227/Day 1589

“I feel unsteady and a twinge of fear. Like I’m learning to walk all over again… As tho a toddler who has just discovered the real purpose of her legs…

Can I love (again)? Can I really love? I woke up this morning with the reminder that my spouse is NOT GOD. I can’t/ shouldn’t be angry with him because he has failed me (large or small). He is a mere man. Clay feet and all. He can never FULLY satisfy me [although he does a great job trying. ;-) ]”

In 48 hours my husband Travis and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Our whirlwind courtship and marriage has seen a flurry of high highs and low lows. Although we met thru great commendations from a long time mutual friend (thanks TRob! We love you!), twenty years ago when we decided to say “I do” we honestly didn’t know each other very well. When we married, I had a toddler from a previous relationship, absolutely no idea why people should marry and more “baggage” than a slow boat to China. All I knew was that my future husband looked good, felt good and seemed to care more for me than any man I’d ever known. That sounded like a good enough reason to marry him to me, huh?

In actuality we were a divorce statistic waiting to happen.

The book “When Bad Things Happen To Good Marriages” says, “Marriage is the closest bond that is possible between two people. Legally, socially, emotionally, physically, there is no other means of getting closer to another human being. It is this extraordinary closeness which propels us into matrimony. We long to belong to another person that knows us and loves us like nobody else in the world. This kind of intimacy is the rocket fuel of marriage. It is what enables couples to transcend themselves and explore the universe of love. Without intimacy, life becomes horribly cold and lonely. So we plunge ourselves into marriage and give our heart in exchange for another to discover the deepest and most radical expression of human connection possible.” (p 51)

Plunge indeed… Twenty years with the love of my life has taught me a lot. (And I know there is still so much more to learn.) Marriage can (and will) plunge you into depths of despair or penetrating passion, into abstruse anger or encompassing ecstasy … And sometimes all of the above. But mostly you will have to learn to walk in the regular-ness of life, in the reality that, “We have been poisoned by fairy tales.” (Anais Nin). That although the heat of passion and “marital bliss” were never meant to last, lasting love can and does exist. I’m a witness…

In our twenty years, my sweet baby-- my “Big T” and I have taken some hard hits from life. We cared for both my ill and aging parents until they each died. We buried a handsome (beautiful, to me), smart, funny 14 year old son after he- in a moment of utter foolishness- strangled himself to death in his closet. We lost material stuff (houses, cars, etc.) often thru our own lack of planning and discipline, but sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control. We’ve cried and laughed, argued and agreed, embraced and denied, loved and hated. We’ve seen storms and sunshine. And most recently, just when it seemed our bond was truly unshakeable-- unbreakable, our marriage experienced the test of all time, my husband’s decision for unfaithfulness… twice... as in with two different people.

For the record, I hate the word affair. (At least as it is applied to a person breaking his or her marriage vow.) Last year my guy had two brief infidelities, with friends of mine, no less. When I say that I know the depths of despair in a marriage I think you will accept that I am credentialed. Yep, bona fide and card carrying. This time last year, at a time when we would normally be celebrating, I was separated from my man, the man that I love, as he was trying to figure out what had become of himself, his promise and our marriage.

I’m going to write about it all.

For now I just want you to know that I love my life. Unsteady as it may often feel. Like the little one who is just beginning to walk, I am discovering my true purpose. I love my husband, as imperfect as he (and every single one of us) is. And I love my life. I’m happy to be me...
Big T’s butterfly.
Brenton, Bryant, Brooke & Bradley’s mama.
Your friend, acquaintance or earthly neighbor.

Life is surely hard. But life is good. ( And I'd like to tell you why.)

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." Proverbs 31:25 (ESV)