18 Nov

#MeToo and Shades of Gray..

I’ve been down with the bug that’s going around as has hubby so I’m way behind in many things around here. After I write this I will be prepping the latest in the series on ROMANS. AND… I have a special houseguest coming for the week so when able, I’ve been trying to tidy up the place and get ready for winter. As a result, I will be taking next week off, just too much going on! In December I’ll be resuming the Romans study with “Chapter by Chapter” study. I honestly AM trying to be more consistent in writing. In the meantime…

Today I did one of those Facebook “most words” things and realized how I’ve been more involved with the current political climate. In the past when I’ve done this my loved ones and my faith have been those BIG BOLD words but not this year. An issue that I haven’t yet talked about is the huge uptick in women coming out about the humiliation of various forms of sexual harassment to outright forcible rape. What seems apparent to me is the varying degrees of these claims and what it means not just to these women but to the men involved and the much bigger issue of the prevalence of it in our culture. And it disturbs me. It used to be worthy of expulsion to commit such acts and now well, it seems you can even be a president or maybe a senator! Have we become that uncaring?

A lot of what I’m going to say is personal opinion based on my experiences as a counselor as well as being female and a victim of many forms of abuse. First, I’d like to offer a few of my personal definitions for the varying degrees this abuse might take. While abuse is abuse, I am of the thought that some is more serious and harmful than others. I know there are some women out there who may disagree with me and that’s ok. Keep in mind I don’t think a single bit of it is ok! IT IS NEVER OK and NEVER THE VICTIMS FAULT!!!

First, there is harassment. This is strictly verbal by the perpetrator. Innuendo, out of line comments on anatomy( not to be confused with “I like your new hairstyle” etc), cat/wolf whistles, and stuff like that. You may be “sexually harassed” if something a colleague or other acquaintance says things that make you feel uncomfortable. This can happen on the job, in school, and yes, even in church! Best defense is a good offense-TELL SOMEONE as soon as possible.

The next is sexual assault. This IS a crime and should be reported immediately to someone in law enforcement and/or a rape crisis hotline!
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent. Some forms of sexual assault include attempted rape
fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forced performing of sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body. While touching may not be involved, someone performing an act in front of you is also assault.

The last is rape. Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Keep in mind that this includes what is often termed “date rape”.

Now that I’ve defined these terms, let’s talk about how we got here. Throughout history, especially ancient history, we gals were often considered valuable only as a means to end. Often more property than person. And yep, a “lesser” human being. This wasn’t always the way it was and definitely not what I believe God had in mind. Consider that woman was created to be a helper (Genesis 2:18 ) In Hebrew the term is עֵזֶֶר ˓êzer, ay’-zer;to aid:— help. Derived from another Hebrew word עָזַר ˓âzar, aw-zar’; to surround, i.e. protect or aid:— help, succor. OK you got the idea. And then came the fall! It seems that after that women started to be less regarded as helpers and more subject to the menfolk. ( see Gen. 3:16).

Sexual assault was also told of in scripture…
The gruesome story of how a woman traveler was sexually assaulted and murdered in the town of Gibeah is no doubt a typical example of what was going on during the time of the judges. (Judges 19:1–30). If you read on from there, you see the outcome. Consider also the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon found in 2 Samuel 13:1–19 …. this is not only forcible assault, it’s incest. Other victims include Jacob’s daughter Dinah ( Gen. 34:2), and some may even say that Bathsheba was “ordered” to submit to David. Being summoned by your king can be pretty intimidating!!

On the other end, we must also mention that Potiphar’s wife wrongfully accused Joseph of assault which got him in prison. And therein lies an issue that can complicate the entire discussion!

In today’s political climate, many women feel that legislators are still trying to control our bodies. Some states are trying to criminalize legitimate forms of birth control under the guise of the “pro-life” movement. While I hate the NEED for abortion, there are reasons for the medical procedure (think rape, incest especially). Many states don’t allow needed education for our teens to learn not just how to prevent pregnancy, but also how to behave with and toward the opposite sex. Our culture, in general is highly sexualized especially in advertising. Body shaming is out there and too many young women think if they’re not a size 2 that they aren’t going to be “wanted” unless they acquiesce to the unwanted attention of co-workers or fellow students. While it is cheered when young men “get there”, women are maligned for the same behavior. It’s all part of the bigger issue!

Getting down to brass tacks, the multitude of revelations of sexual abuse have brought the issue to the forefront. And yes there ARE degrees of this kind of abuse. It’s one thing to have one accuser and a disgusting act photographed, no matter the reason. BUT when there are more than one, A pattern is developed. Many of these men are the same that seem to want to rule over women and indeed common belief says that men who abuse are all about power and not sex at all. Yes, I know men can be vulnerable also, but in recent months it’s women who are coming forward, raising their voices to make us all aware that it is more common than just political candidates and movie stars. Just think – how many have suffered that don’t garner headlines? (Just search on “#MeToo on Twitter)

I am one of the #MeToo folks. I’ve been harassed, assaulted and worse! Strangers aren’t the only offenders. Our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, uncles, fathers may also victimize. Our bosses, teachers, superiors and co-workers too! So, ladies, speak up, speak out, stand tall! Talk about it with someone!! Let’s stop it!

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

06 Nov

Counting the Cost of Freedom…

Living here in the United States is a blessing. Living in the freedom provided by God through Jesus Christ even more so!

I was in the process of researching for one of many other things on my mind this day when I learned of the latest mass MURDER in a small town near San Antonio, Texas. I don’t know about you but I’m somewhere between complete outrage and total numbness. Wasn’t it less than a month ago that 50+ people died when another human, for reasons not yet determined, took his private arsenal to a hotel room and killed people???

Earlier this week, right here in my neck of the woods, a self-described supporter of ISIS ( a supposedly ‘religion oriented” terror group), rented a truck and mowed down a crowd of people enjoying the afternoon on a bike path. The victims of today’s shooting spree were in CHURCH!

As I have written before, I’m not against owning guns. Our Bill of Rights says that is one of the many freedoms we have. per a few different interpretations. However others may disagree. That is neither here nor there in this discussion. I get that in many parts of the U.S. a gun may be necessary for protection. This is especially so in a small town like Sutherland Springs, TX. Rural areas, including much of the Midwest are also likely to need a form of protection as properties are often very far apart. Farms need to protect themselves and their livestock from wild critters whether they have four legs or two. (I just finished re-reading “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote where an entire family was murdered by two small time ex-cons in very rural Kansas)

All that being said, over the history of the country, our governing leaders have provided conditions to protect us from ourselves while still able to exercise the freedoms we have. Keeping in mind that our governing document, The Constitution, was written before television, the internet, social media etc. so forth and so on. As technology and innovation brought us the current marvels, so too did our elected government create legislation to regulate these things as well as commerce, the food we eat, and how we travel. These acts are/were created to keep us safe from dangerous things. We need a license to drive a car, just as a doctor needs one to practice medicine. There are laws about the criteria needed to sell beef, chicken, and other livestock. Regulations about what a business can and can’t do and yes, different states have different laws about the types of guns allowed and who and what it takes to get that freedom. Sadly, abuse of these laws as well as any kind of common sense safety-minded regulation has gone by the wayside.

Personally, I blame our Congress who has chosen to serve the gun lobby instead of the people they were elected to protect. The lobby-aka the NRA and gun manufacturers- make sure to contribute to politicians who are more concerned about keeping their jobs than actually doing what they were hired for. What’s really sad to me is so called “Christian leaders” support this dereliction of duty. These have chosen a Master other than Jesus to serve and THAT is sin in my book. It’s in THE BOOK as well. Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13 ) He also warned us about those who profess to be believers and followers of Jesus in word but not in deed. In Matthew 7:15–23 Jesus warned us about false prophets ( think Falwell, Franklin Graham, Huckabee, etc) who are more interested in schmoozing with political leaders than they are in preaching God’s Word. In my view they are just as bad, if not worse than the hypocritical leaders in Jesus day. They, more than any other, were singled out by Jesus! No less than 18 verses (NIV ) in the Gospels he points to them as part of Israel’s biggest problem! (Chart Bible Search for hypocrite)

I’ll be honest… I’m not sure exactly what to do. Unlike the leaders of Jesus’ day, we choose our leaders by voting. This coming Tuesday many states are holding an election of some kind whether its for a federal position (Senate) or other legislative or executive office. Whether state, county or local-get out and vote for someone who is willing to be courageous enough, who has enough moral and personal integrity to say NO to all the lobbyists and to perhaps even take a chance on being replaced and turning their back on the mammon that it seems is inherent in government “service”. If you don’t have an election (and even if you do) call your Congress person and Senators in Washington and tell them you’re tired of the insanity which is senseless mass murder.

Again, I’m not calling for banning guns. But how about FEDERAL extensive background checks, fixing the loopholes in gun sales by private sellers and gun shows. RESPONSIBE and SENSIBLE universal federal regulations for EVERY gun owner. And maybe – even limiting the number and type of guns one person can own. These are just suggestions. Other countries do it and it seems to work. I don’t want my America to be known as “The MURDER CAPITOL of the world”.

As I leave you with these thoughts, here is a very old song that still has much meaning. I know, my age is showing 😉.Hope you’ll take the time to digest the thoughts in this post and the words and music here.

02 Nov

Romans – A Brief Overview of the Big Picture

First, I am again sorry for the huge delay in posting. However, that also means you had an entire month (and more) to read through the entire epistle! Right?

While not yet at 100%, my desktop is once again working and yes, better than ever. I guess my Zok (this computer has a first name…) needed a laxative. On a technical note-everyone should do a complete re-install at least once a year… but remember back-up Back-up BACK UP!

OK so let’s get into the “book” of Romans…

As I said last time, more than any other book of the Bible it has determined the course of Christian thought. Consider how it changed Luther and as a result of his “95 Theses” changed the Church and brought about the Reformation. It is one of those sections of scripture that each and every believer should really dig into, feed on, and digest thoroughly! Mastering the teachings found within it is to be truly grounded and settled in the faith. A lifelong pursuit if there ever was one!

As the time of its writing, the Gospel had been preached all over the Roman world for about 25 years (written around 56 A.D.) and there were now many communities of believers. As Christianity grew, so too did some pretty deep questions. Things like God’s righteousness if sinners were also pardoned by His grace? The relationship between the Law of Moses and the Gospel. And how about those Gentiles having the same privilege as those of Jews? And accountability? And Israel? Many Jewish believers may have felt their very heritage as God’s chosen people was being blown away…. and the controversial questions go on and on!

On these points and many others, Paul was uniquely qualified to tell what he had himself learned. As a Pharisee he had been trained in all things Jewish…and as an apostle, called by Jesus Himself, equipped in all Jesus had preached! To say that it cost him is putting it lightly.

-Structure & Message-
I am trusting that you have read Romans in its entirety a few times by now. So after you’ve read Paul’s mail… let’s break it down just a little by a  more familiar notation-chapters.
Chapters 1-8: This might be considered “Doctrinal”and tells how the Gospel saves the sinner and expands on the basics of Jesus teachings.
Chapters 9-11: Paul gets down to some specifics points; “National”; and how the Gospel relates to Israel and the Jews
Chapters 12-16: Last but not least is Pauls “Practical” section. This tells of how the Gospel relates to the character and conduct of all who believe. One might say this is the “to do” list for believers and how to apply the teachings to living the Christian life.

You might also break these sections into exposition, explanation and application.

-Some interesting points-
Each of the three parts end with a prayer of praise to God! (Romans 8:38-39 , Romans 11:33-36, Romans 16:25-27 )
The “theme verse” of the entire letter is Paul first talking about himself! (Romans 1:16-17) and touches on all the ideas he plans to write about: The Gospel-power of God-Salvation-everyone-believes-righteousness

I’ve prepared a more detailed description of these three sections available in .pdf format. You can view it here: Romans Overview-Section Analysis

Now, how about a brief quiz?

1. What are the three primary parts of Romans and what are the three sub-divisions?

2. What is the key verse? What are the leading doctrines and the developing truth in Romans 1-8 ?

3. Where is the Israel section in Romans? Why is this subject included in the letter?

I’d love to hear about something new you discovered in reading Romans! Please share in the comments!!

You can answer in the comments section.. or … ?

Assignment for next time…
Read Romans 5-7 and Romans 9-11
Having discovered the main structure and important points we’ll take a walk through some of the reliable general direction and guidance found within. We’ll take a deeper look at some of the brilliant highlights of these readings as well as a little history about Rome, the Church and Paul himself!

If you’re just joining in, the first post in this series can be found here.