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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feel the Love

Everyone enjoys warm and fuzzy feelings. Much advertising is based on them. You see a moody setting: fireplace, warm colors, people dressed in sweaters, drinking hot chocolate …. It’s especially nice this time of year! It’s cold outside, and nothing is more enticing than Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire after Jack Frost nipped at your nose.* Even if it’s never been your reality, you want that mood. Warmth, laughter, mulled cider, fruity and cinnamony smells, home and hearth.

We crave those same feelings in our relationships. You only have to scroll your favorite social media feed to see couples you know in tight embraces, looking at each other with stars in their eyes. We love it—love and appreciation, passion, warmth—the glow.

We want it for ourselves: a rosy posy always loving relationship. My perfect man. Feel the love! We want our home to be just like those commercials: two people on a fuzzy rug in front of the fireplace, sipping something warm and delicious. We want the passion.

We also crave it with God. We want to experience the ecstasies of Elijah on Mount Carmel. We desire victory in every battle, the feeling of following Miriam with our tambourine and song. We want the Holy Spirit to make us feel great. We also want every church service to so fill us that we leave satisfied to overflowing.

But, reality and what we want are two different things.

You may have gotten married in the fall or winter and sipped hot chocolate together by a roaring fire. You may have experienced some incredibly beautiful moments in your marriage. But anyone married a week or more knows that not every moment is film-worthy. There are clothes to wash, dinners to cook, and bathrooms to clean. Sneakers get stinky, and even Mr. Perfect Husband doesn’t always look so good. In fact, most days are normal life. Even in the very best, loving, beautiful marriages, about 90% of the time, both spouses are simply doing life. They are not always on passionate mountaintops. (It would be weird if they were!)

It’s the same way with our spiritual life. Oh yes, we can take gorgeous photos of our devotions, complete with steaming coffee cups, and we can sincerely enjoy our Bible and prayer. But, about 90% of the time, our learning and sharing life with God isn’t filled with warm and fuzzy feelings. About 90% of our church attendance doesn’t exactly produce an “overflowing” experience, either.

When I put my trust in the Lord for salvation, I didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t emotional at all. It was 100% real, but it wasn’t accompanied by fireworks and choruses of angels singing—that I could hear, anyway. Several years later, I remember complaining to my mother about my total lack of feeling in my Christian walk. I knew without a doubt I was saved. I knew by experience that God answered prayer. But, I told my mother it would be nice to feel something. I wanted warm and fuzzy in my spiritual journey. She explained to me that emotions and feelings really don’t matter and that Truth does. Of course, she was right.

Not long afterwards, God gave me an amazing experience as a specific answer to group prayer. It was incredible! I wasn’t alone, so I know I wasn’t making it up. It was all the emotional experience I desired and then some. Afterwards, I knew God did that for me. He let me touch the hem of His garment and actually feel something for the first time in my life. It was a holy thing that He did that evening. None of us will ever forget it, but I think He did it for me—a teen who wanted to feel Him working.

Since then, I’ve had some precious times with the Lord, but nothing like that experience. I have been moved with praise and awe, and I’m often moved to tears in thankfulness for what God has done for me. But, I’ve also learned something:

My relationship with God doesn’t depend on my feelings.

Whether or not I feel anything, God is always with me. Whether or not I have a fantastic experience, God is listening to my prayer. Whether or not I feel full to overflowing in church, God is ministering to me through the Word and fellowship with His people.

I don’t need anything else.

Roll the warm and fuzzy. We know those pictures are staged—and they represent the ten percent, at best. Feelings of ecstasy in our spiritual lives will be very rare. But God never changes. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is much better than the best of marriages: always there, always available, always listening, always loving.


*"The Christmas Song," by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Flirting and Harassment: What to Do

It started with the Hollywood bigwig, then Westminster, and now, accusations of sexual harassment are coming out all over. Once someone has the guts to tell on these guys, victims come out of the woodwork. Seriously, some of the complaints are ludicrous. “He wrote me a compliment.” “He touched my knee.” Oh, they really happened, and they were unwanted. True. But seriously? Was this horrific?

So, what is flirting, and what is harassment? How can you tell the difference?

Let’s just talk, okay?

A man in the office compliments a woman on her appearance. She has several options in that moment. She can say, “Thank you,” with a smile—which might encourage the guy. She can also frown at him. Is any other action needed? No, I don’t think so.

Let’s pretend the man goes further with his flirtation. He makes it obvious he wants to take her out and actually asks her. The woman has the options yes or no. Does she want to date this guy? Does she not? She needs to word her answer in very clear language.

Both of these scenarios would be called flirting. I am not sure it’s terrible to compliment someone in the office. It might not be advisable, though. It’s probably best to keep to business behavior in the office. Personal lives can be conducted outside.

Any unwanted touching—any that you’re not comfortable with—should be immediately rebuffed. When the British Member of Parlaiment put his hand on the woman’s knee, she threatened to punch him in the face. Needless to say, he got the message—and he didn’t try anything with her again. It is important to immediately tell the person your opinion about the action and make it stop. If it doesn’t stop, it should be reported to the appropriate person. No one has the right to make unwanted advances.

Harassment is unwanted touching or stalking. It is inappropriate. It is usually also repeated and constant. Harassment should be rebuked and reported—every single time. The victim should go on record to her immediate authority that she does not appreciate this named person’s behavior. (Many states will help with a restraining order for any harassment that makes one feel actually threatened.)

Why does harassment go unreported (or ignored)? It’s because of fear. Usually, it’s a person in authority who picks on someone lower down the scale. The more powerful person takes advantage of an underling, and he thinks he’s invincible and entitled. This happens in almost every business. It’s not just in Hollywood!

It even happens in churches.

What should we do?
  • Keep our eyes open. Is this a threatening situation? Do we feel comfortable or uncomfortable?
  • Is this appropriate? For example, it is never appropriate for a married person to flirt. It’s not appropriate for married people even to compliment the opposite sex—unless there’s a huge age difference—and then, with caution. (For example, I might tell a child who’s all dressed up for church that he looks nice. I would not tell a middle-aged man the same thing, and I would certainly not tell a man my age anything about his appearance, unless he were my brother.)
  • If the flirtation is between two singles, it needs to be pure and sweet, not sexual in nature.
  • Any touching should be as normal between friends, and nothing more. If any unwanted touching happens, we let the other person know in clear terminology it is not appreciated. We also tell a trusted friend about what happened. If the touching is groping, we tell the authorities in the church and police.
  • It is wise to be careful about being anywhere alone with another person. This goes for same sex as well as the opposite sex. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you might be falsely accused. You also would not want to be overpowered or assaulted. Always being careful about being alone with others will help you avoid being in a situation where someone could take advantage of you.

If you work outside the home, these are some good rules for your protection:
  1. If you are married, display your spouse’s picture on your desk or at your workplace. Talk positively about your spouse often. Make sure that anyone fishing for possibilities realizes you are simply not available.
  2. If you are single, watch your own behavior. Get rid of any conscious or unconscious come-ons. Make sure you dress modestly and keep to yourself. Make sure you don’t flirt. A smile is fine. Flirting is not. Keep all relationships businesslike.
  3. Do not go into a room alone with another person, unless the door is left open. Avoid being in “hidden” places where someone might trap you. Keep out in the open always. If you feel insecure, ask a coworker to walk with you.
  4. Never have a meal one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex. It might be purely business, but it looks (and feels) like a date. Make it your business policy always to have business lunches or dinners in a threesome.
  5. You might want to invest in one of those pull alarms. If you ever feel threatened, pull the pin. 

If anything ever happens to you—groping, unwanted advances, propositions, harassment, or assault—always, always report it to the authority over you. Write down the date you do that. Make sure it gets reported! If the authority does not deal with the problem and the offender isn’t reprimanded, go higher. Go as high as you need to so that this problem is dealt with.

If you feel harassed, you can go to the police and fill out a report. If you have been assaulted in any way, fill out a police report. Any assault is a crime against your person.

One other thing: be careful what you repeat and what you believe. Anyone can accuse anyone. Make sure you know the facts. Do not spread gossip. If the case is not about you personally, it’s none of your business. Don’t be guilty of spreading news that isn’t helpful. Let the authorities deal with any subject of harassment or assault. The Apostle Paul said about some young women, And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not (1 Timothy 5:13). None of us wants to be guilty of that!

Be aware and cautious.

Jesus said, Behold, I send you forth as sheep 
in the midst of wolves:
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 
(Matthew 10:16)