Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Seussical Sex Life

In a recent post, 10 Confessions of a Marriage & Sex Blogger, I mentioned that I often have maybe 10 posts outlined in advance. Well, the following one I wrote a full year ago!

Why haven’t I posted? Because I vacillated whether someone would be offended by my use of “wham-bam-ma’am.” I used the phrase because it sounds whimsical, it rhymes easily, and it worked. However, the typical use of the phrase “wham-bam-ma’am” does not represent the way I look at sex, and anyone who reads my blog knows that. It’s never my intent to offend, but rather to enlighten and encourage. But at the nudging of a dear friend, I’m going to trust my readers to go in with a lighthearted attitude as I offer the post below. That phrase worked in the poem, and the theme of the poem is something I do want to get across.

***

green eggs & ham

Is your sexual intimacy like green eggs & ham?

With all due respect to Theodor Geisel, the author fondly known as Dr. Seuss, I will be using his fabulous book Green Eggs and Ham. This famous text has been adapted over and over to various themes. Today I’m wondering if you can relate to a Seussical sex life.

Husband – “Needy Man” (or could be higher drive wife)
Wife – Main character (or could be lower drive husband)

Do you like
that wham-bam-ma’am?

I do not like it,
Needy Man.
I do not like
that wham-bam-ma’am.

Would you like it
here or there?

I would not like it
here or there.
I would not like it
anywhere.
I do not like
that wham-bam-ma’am.
I do not like it,
Needy Man.

Would you like it
in our house?
Would you like it
with this spouse?

I do not like it
in our house.
I do not like it
with my spouse.
I do not like it
here or there.
I do not like it
anywhere.
I do not like wham-bam-ma’am.
I do not like it, Needy Man.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?
Do it! Do it!
Here I are.

I would not,
could not,
in a car.

Pull-out quote

You may like it.
You will see.
You may like it
just with me?

I would not be so free.
I would not, could not — no, not me.
Not in a car! You let me be.

I do not like it in a car.
I do not like to go that far.
I do not like it in our house.
I do not like it with my spouse.
I do not like it here or there.
I do not like it anywhere.
I do not like wham-bam-ma’am.
I do not like it, Needy Man.

Say!
In the dark?
Here in the dark?
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not,
in the dark.
Not in the dark. Not in a car.
Not so far. Not so free.
I do not like it, Man, you see.
Not in our house. Not with my spouse.
I will not do it here or there.
I do not like it anywhere!

You do not like
that wham-bam-ma’am?

I do not like it,
Needy Man.

You do not like it,
SO you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.

Man!
If you will let me be,
I will try it.
You will see.

Say!
I like that wham-bam-ma’am!
I do! I like it, Sexy Man!
And I would do it in the dark.
And I would do it in a car.
I’d go that far. I feel so free.
It’s so good, so good, you see!

So I will do it in our house.
And I will do it with my spouse.
And I will do it here and there.
Say! I will do it ANYWHERE!
(Okay, not anywhere.)

I do so like
that wham-bam-ma’am!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Patient Man.

Has your marriage experienced anything like this poem? Can you relate to anything in it?

By the way, it’s National Poetry Month. 🙂

Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens?

Stop sign with hand

By Epson291 (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

A friend recently pointed me to a blog post by a couple working in youth ministry. The topic was something entirely different, but in the post, the authors said, “I would have much rather talked to [kids] about sex or drugs or something, because those are pretty concrete topics. We’d stand up and say, ‘Don’t do it.’ End of talk.”*

As you can imagine, I cringed.

What the authors talked about in the rest of their post was helpful and on point, but they completely missed the boat on sexuality. And I would hate for that to be the only lesson my child received from youth ministry leaders at my church.

“Don’t do it” is not enough.

Since when was “don’t do it” enough in any context? When you tell your toddler not to touch the stove, you explain that it is hot and can hurt her little hand. When you tell your elementary child to look both ways before crossing the street, you explain that traffic could be coming and he must wait until it is safe to walk across. When you tell your middle schooler to do her homework, you explain that she will need this information and good grades to continue on the path to success. When you tell your high schooler to mow the neighbor’s lawn, you explain that Mrs. Smith is too old to push the mower herself and that God wants us to help others.

Whatever we tell our kids — whether yours or ones you teach — we give reasons for why they should do X and not do Y. Of course, we tailor those reasons to their age and maturity, but we say something nonetheless.

And there is no “end of talk.” Teaching children and teenagers what constitutes sexual purity and how to maintain it is not a one-and-done proposition. It’s like teaching them manners. Has any parent ever told their child to use “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” once and been heeded?

You have to be willing to step up and have conversations (plural) with your children. And youth workers must be willing to discuss this topic as well, not simply with a “Don’t do it” message, but an explanation of why.

A plaque with Deuteronomy 10:12-13 hangs on a wall at my house:

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

And as James MacDonald has said, when God gives commands, he isn’t just saying “Don’t.” There are reasons. Our loving Father is saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Oftentimes, we hear the usual warnings about pregnancy and STDs, but there are deeper reasons why God wants us to wait until marriage for physical intimacy. In a recent guest post at Sheila Gregoire’s To Love, Honor and Vacuum site, the blogger said it beautifully:

I want my children to understand how important purity is because it affects more than the just the now. It is far bigger than whether or not they get pregnant or catch an STD; it affects their hearts, minds, and souls.

This woman had a terrible sexual past from which to recover and understood the pain and scars that came from that experience. I attest as well that the consequences of my premarital choices regarding sexuality were not so much external as internal — deep wounds in my heart, mind, and soul.

God has healed me, but it was not without challenge and change. I’d love for every teenager to avoid that hardship. We have to stay open to discussing sexuality with our children and our church youth.

There are also reasons why teens want to have sex, and not because they have thrown out God altogether. Many of them haven’t. They just need information, guidance, and explanations about God’s design for sex.

What messages did you receive from adults about sex when you were growing up? What have you told your own children about sex? Is sex a topic easily discussed in your family or church youth group?

*By the way, I’m not sharing the link to the article because that’s not the point. This couple’s main topic was well-handled, and I wish them blessings in their youth work.

So What Should We Aim for in Marriage?

Last week, I took on what I think is a false dichotomy: Whether marriage exists to make you happy or holy. I came up with several biblical purposes of marriage, including holiness, happiness, children, and witness to the world.

Target

Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

But if there are several purposes to marriage, what should we be aiming for? (And for those of you who know me to write about sex, don’t worry . . . I’ll get there.)

I gave this a lot of thought this past week, and I came up with all kinds of ideas with theological bases and implications. Frankly, I could write a doctoral thesis on this subject. But theologian Karl Barth was once asked in a college lecture Q&A to summarize his life’s work. He answered simply: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Sometimes it’s about the basics.

Here’s what I know about God’s design for marriage: The Bible never prescribes how to get a mate. There are no instructions to find someone perfectly compatible to you, someone you have amazing chemistry with, someone who gives you the sizzle-wizzles down to your toes. We have biblical examples of marriage that occurred to connect families (Genesis 24:3-4); as a gift for a deed well done (Judges 1:12-13); for romantic love (Genesis 29:18,20); and as a witness of God’s love to the world (Hosea 1:2). Oftentimes, we don’t know why two people married, just that they did.

The Bible instead focuses on how to be a good mate. God seems to be saying that you can develop a good marriage. And it comes down to basics. Galatians 5:14 says: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we all approached our marriages with that command, which Jesus said to be the second most important (Luke 10:27), we’d go a long way to getting everything out of marriage that we should.

Bull's-eye! Illustration from Microsoft Word Clip Art

Bull’s-eye!
Illustration from Microsoft Word Clip Art

The Bible shows us through stories and passages like 1 Corinthians 13 what that love looks like. We have numerous “one another” passages in the New Testament that give us specifics, like forgiving each other (Colossians 3:13) and encouraging one another (Hebrews 3:13). We have Jesus’ example of ultimate love.

It’s simple to understand, but it is hard to do. Because we are selfish and because we often mistakenly define happiness as having a pain-free life. In fact, studies have shown that happiness is not about an absence of hardship, but rather comes from earned success. When we aim to make each other both holy and happy, we become more holy and happy ourselves. With God’s divine help, we earn that marital success.

This aim to love our spouse the way God loves us oozes into every part of our relationship. It breaks my heart to read stories from commenters who say that their spouse is loving in every way but sexual intimacy. Our aim for loving our spouse shouldn’t end at the threshold of the bedroom. God’s Word for us should infuse every part of our lives.

This is why I’ve written posts like Love Is Not Self-Seeking and The Gospel in the Bedroom.

Indeed, the bedroom is a place where you can aim to help your spouse be both holy and happy as well. Plus, this is where other purposes can be fulfilled — like conceiving children, supporting one another, and reflecting Christ’s love for the church.

It’s not a matter of head knowledge. Honestly, I prayed for years for improvements in my faltering marriage. It wasn’t until I started putting into practice the specific commands on how to love that I noticed a real difference in how I saw my husband and how we were getting along. I’m still working on that, of course. In the list of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), my husband and I can both attest that I have not yet mastered gentleness and patience.

But it’s what I aim for . . . to love my husband as closely as I can to the way God loves him.

When I treat him that way, he’s happier, he’s holier, and so am I.

So what do you think? What do you aim at in marriage? Are you being consistent with those aims in the bedroom? Does your holiness and happiness extend to your sexual intimacy?

Related posts: See Generous Husband’s post on Her Happiness Is Her Responsibility and my guest post on One Flesh Marriage, Marriage: Mission Possible.

10 Confessions of a Marriage & Sex Blogger

On Monday, Kate of One Flesh Marriage posted 10 Confessions of a Marriage Blogging Wife. On Tuesday, Lori of Generous Wife followed suit with Confession Time. (Update! On Wednesday, Debi Walter of The Romantic Vineyard shared 10 Confessions of a Marriage Blogging Wife, and on Thursday, Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage shared 10 Confessions of a Sex Blogger.)

Kate tagged me to add my thoughts. I’d previously written on Confessions of a Sex-Happy Wife, but today I’ll talk about being a sex-blogging wife.

1. I have a mild panic attack every time I look at the stats for Hot, Holy & Humorous. My original intention when starting the blog was to help a person here or there out in the universe who might stumble across my site. But now seeing how many people have visited, commented, and shared their stories makes my knees buckle and my brain go, “Really, God?”

2. I hate that I don’t have time to reply to every comment anymore. But I don’t. One of the consequences of this blog growing and reaching out is that I simply can’t get to everything anymore. I do try, but sometimes a comment falls through the cracks and I discover that days after. Then I feel bad . . . because I do care. I really, really do care.

3. BUT life doesn’t stop while I’m blogging. I do not have a housekeeper, a chef, a nanny, an accountant, a chauffeur, or a personal masseuse. In addition to blogging, I keep house, parent children, cook dinners, manage finances, volunteer in ministry at my church, and write fiction.

Murder of Roger Ackroyd book cover

Enjoy mysteries?
Be sure to read this classic!

4. Oh, and I read. I love to read. I feel like I should be reading more non-fiction, especially marriage and sexuality books, but I find myself reading about one of those for every 4-5 novels I tackle. I just love story. My favorites are mysteries and young adult fiction, although I read in almost every genre.

5. I do not run out of topics. I get asked this from time to time, and you might think that at some point, I will have covered everything I want to say about marriage and sexuality. At this point, however, I usually have about 10 topics outlined in advance. Moreover, readers suggest topics with their questions and comments, and current events inform and inspire what I should talk about. I also pray that God will direct me, and if I feel Him nudging him in a particular direction, I go there.

6. The Anonymous thing. This is one of the other most-asked questions: Will I always remain anonymous? My answer is no. Unlike superheroes and intelligence officers, I do expect that someday you’ll all know who “J” is. However, circumstances in life remain that make me unwilling to reveal at this moment. When will I “come clean”? It’s not so much a time as when certain events in my life line up, so we’ll see. But I promise Elizabeth of Warrior Wives that I will let her know before I go live with the information, since she has said that it drives her a little insane not to know who these anonymous authors are. (Hi, Elizabeth, if you’re reading this!)

Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage

My good friend, Julie

7. I am friends with fellow marriage bloggers. A small number of people know who I am. I have connected personally with Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage. Also, it was a reasonable requirement to be a part of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association to reveal my name and location to the core team, which includes Paul and Lori Byerly of The Marriage Bed, Generous Husband, and Generous Wife. Even those fellow marriage bloggers who don’t know my real name “know” me because I really am in person exactly the way I am with them in email and online. What you see, or rather read, is what you get.

8. My family doesn’t think I’m as funny as my readers do. Speaking of the “what you see is what you get” thing, I crack jokes and use wordplay here at my house as well in an attempt to lighten the mood and find humor in life. I do get laughs from the hubs and kids at times, but I don’t get the “I laughed so hard, soda came out of my nose” comments (thanks for that, Paul). I wonder if it’s like Jesus saying that no one’s a prophet in his hometown (Luke 4:24). I tell my family that I’m funny, that people say I’m funny, but I get a lot of huh looks from the gallery. Maybe the person who also gives you a honey-do or chore list just isn’t seen as being all that hilarious.

Good grammar is sexy. t-shirt

Another t-shirt I need.

9. I am a grammar girl. I love language and grammar. Our rich language is one of the things that separates man from animal. We can convey so much more because of our ability to describe our environment, express ideas and emotions, and tell stories. Good grammar and punctuation help to make sure readers receive the message intended. For instance, it’s apparently been argued for many years whether Jesus meant in Luke 23:43:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (NIV, and the way translated by most) or
“Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

See the difference? Commas were not in the original at all. (If only Luke had me to proofread for him! And don’t even get me started on the Apostle Paul needing an editor to break up those impossibly-long sentences. LOL.)*

The point is, I hate when I see an egregious spelling or grammar error in a post on my blog. So if you see anything amiss in that department, go ahead and speak up. I will not take offense at being corrected. I want to do whatever I can to effectively get my message across.

10. My favorite book of the Bible is not Song of Songs, although I refer to it a lot here and I think it rocks. I don’t know anyone else who picks my favorite book: Ecclesiastes. It’s right before the Song of Songs, but it’s not nearly as uplifting as that book of romantic love. Yet, as a pessimist by nature, I love the inclusion of this book in the Bible. When things in life don’t make sense, Ecclesiastes reminds me what is most important, especially the conclusion to simply “Fear God and obey his commands” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). My favorite verse in the book? Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Confession time over. What surprised you? What else do you want to know about being a sex-blogging wife?

*Note: In no way do I believe such issues detract from the veracity and authority of Scripture. Moreover, Jesus can go to Paradise whenever He wants, and I can’t wait to be there with Him.

Holy or Happy? What’s the Purpose of Marriage?

Debate

Has anyone else noticed this debate going on about the purpose of marriage? Is marriage supposed to make you happy? Or make you holy?

Granted, our culture promotes happiness as the end-all-be-all of life. We are told to pursue happiness, follow our dreams, arrange our lives to avoid pain and increase pleasure, to esteem ourselves and make daily choices that will bring joy.

Too often, people consider happiness the ultimate goal and even get married with the idea that this intense love will make them happy. Then life happens. Marriage challenges appear. Conflict occurs. “This isn’t what I signed up for! I’m not happy!” And sometimes spouses walk away from a marriage that could have lasted, if only they were willing to work toward mutual benefit rather than demand personal happiness.

The answer many preachers, marriage educators, and down-here-in-the-masses Christians have given is the saying: “Marriage isn’t meant to make you happy, but to make you holy.” They point to such verses as Ephesians 5:31-32 (“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.”)  and Proverbs 27:17 (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”). This is the premise of the excellent book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.

But like other juxtaposed concepts, I have this nagging feeling that we have set up a false dichotomy. Like the answer shouldn’t be one or the other (holy or happy), but simply YES. Take, for instance, these examples of when you knew the answer was not either/or but yes:

Nature or nurture? Yes.
Do I look thinner in this dress or this one? Yes.
Tastes great or less filling? Yes.
Chocolate syrup or whipped cream? Yes.

Moreover, these two possibilities don’t encompass everything. For instance, it’s a peeve of mine that psychology discusses nature and nurture ad infinitum without ever giving a passing nod to free will. (Which is especially foolish since counseling and treatment have some free will involved in them.) Two opposites do not explain all of the layers of some ideas.

Marriage need not be only about holiness or happiness, although it is about both of those. Let’s take a look at some scriptures that give some idea of the purposes of marriage.

Support.

Genesis 2:18:  “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” Adam and Eve were to be partners in life, working together and supporting one another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor . . . Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” We can accomplish more than another person than we can alone, and it helps to have that someone be a spouse with whom you can keep warm at the end of the day.

Romans 16:3: “Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.” Looking for a biblical marriage to emulate? Try Priscilla and Aquila who worked together in ministry, teaching and opening their home to others. Many married couples pool their talents and resources to reach out to others for Christ.

Children.

Genesis 1:27-28a: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'” This is the first command God gives a married couple: Go have kids. Of course, not every marriage will produce children, but marriages as a whole are the way that God has chosen to give us offspring and fill the earth.

Malachi 2:15: “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.” Our children are a mission field in our midst: People whom we can convert to the Lord through care and instruction. I have known married couples who conceived or adopted children with this very thought in mind — to increase the number of godly people in the world.

Holiness.

Ephesians 5:25-27: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” This is a beautiful picture of love, that our husbands would care not only about our bodies and hearts, but our very souls.

1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” This scripture is a little confusing, right? What exactly is meant by “sanctified”? But clearly, a Christian wife has influence on her husband and can help him to become holy.

Happiness.

Proverbs 5:18: “Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.” This verse is followed by the one all husbands like to memorize: “She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.” But yeah, it’s about enjoying your spouse. Feeling good and happy and excited about being with them. God wants you to experience pleasure in marriage.

Song of Songs 1:2: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth — for your love is more delightful than wine.” If it was all about holy, why is there kissing? What does kissing accomplish? It just makes us feel good.

There’s nothing wrong about wanting to take pleasure in your marriage. Indeed, when Jacob worked for seven years for Rachel — “but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” — he didn’t finish his time and say, “Now give me my wife, so I can get to working on this holy thing.” (Not that anyone says that, but you get the point.) He was pretty focused on his enjoyment of her: “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.'” (Genesis 29:20-21.)

Writing about sexuality, I am convinced that God is in favor of us getting some happy in our marriage. Of course, happiness is certainly not just through sex. We enjoy our spending time with our spouse, laughing with them, sharing experiences, and more.

Witness.

Isaiah 54:5: “For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Just awed by that image.

Ephesians 5:31-32: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Our marriages reflect Jesus’ relationship with His church.

Revelation 19:7: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Get ready! Our bridegroom is coming.

Ultimately, the relationship of husband and wife provides a testimony to ourselves and the world of what the relationship of God to His people is like. His love for us mirrors the pursuit and passion of a loving marriage. He commits to and delights in us. When others ask what God is like, we can honestly say, “Like the most loving husband you can imagine.” People get that. They can fathom what that’s like, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves.

Hopefully, however, we do experience what God desires us to have in marriage. And yes, it includes holiness and happiness, but other things as well. God also designed marriage to be the crucial institution for the rest of community life. It is a pillar, if you will, for the structure of society.

What do you think the purpose of marriage is? Is there one goal that stands out to you above others? What do you think about the holy vs. happy debate?