Tag Archives: biblical sexuality

A Romance Book You Can Read

Romance novels regularly get pummeled. Sometimes with good reason.

I’ve written about the myths of romance novels, aware they often convey wrong messages about love and sexuality. Plus, I feel bad for husbands who are trying, but the standard women seem to want, based on romance novels, is unrealistic and impossible. (We ladies know how unrealistic and impossible feels based on visual images, so you can understand my compassion. It sucks being compared to a fictitious fantasy.)

And then there’s the “cheese factor.” As in some romance novels — including some Christian fiction — are just cheesy. I don’t even know how to say this better. These are stories in which the characters don’t seem at all like ourselves or any real people we know. Sure, that could be fun for an escape, but I don’t read many of those novels. I know some of you don’t either.

Still, I believe in the importance of story. God’s Word is filled with stories teaching principles to live by, and Jesus taught many of his lessons in parables.

Bestselling author Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So I decided to leap in with both feet and write the kind of stories I’d like to read about love, marriage, and sexual intimacy.

Final Book Cover - smallerBehind Closed Doors is a collection of inspirational short stories addressing marriage and sexual intimacy. Following are previews of the five stories:

“The Rose Club.” Wendy and her two best friends are still mourning the death of Aunt Rose, as they sort through her treasured belongings and their childhood memories. When a discovery in the Aunt Rose’s bedroom sheds light on an unexpected side of their straight-laced “aunt,” the revelation unleashes confessions among lifelong friends.

“After the Baby.” Jack knows the exact number of days since he and his wife made love. With a newborn baby and an overwhelmed mommy in the house, how much longer must he wait? More importantly, how can they reconnect not simply as parents, but also as married lovers?

“Shotgun.” Tina and Josh are newlyweds, thanks to a surprise! teen pregnancy. But when a pregnancy complication knocks Tina onto her back for bed rest, it’s even more grown-up problems and less, or rather no, sex. Are the doctor’s orders for abstinence in their marriage a case of divine payback?

“The House the Densons Built.” Candace is a wife, homemaker, and mother of two, devoted to her family—until the arrival of a mysterious package shatters everything she believed about her marriage. How could her husband destroy their trust? Now they must confront the truth and decide if their marriage can be saved.

“Suite Nothings.” Nadine has dreamed of her wedding since childhood, determined to transform herself from tongue-tied klutz to fairytale princess for at least one day. After finding Mr. Right and setting the date, she realizes her preparations don’t include anything post-nuptials. Add another tab to the notebook! What can she do to make their wedding night unforgettable?

What can you expect with my romance book, Behind Closed Doors?

No sex on the page. Thus, the title Behind Closed Doors — since I believe what happens between a specific couple in their marriage bed is a private matter. So while many romance books include steamy sex scenes, they are not in my book.

References to sex. That said, there is definitely sexual desire, tension, and hints at intimacy between married couples. Nothing is written in an effort to titillate, but rather to be authentic about marriage and intimacy.

Real characters. Of course these are fictitious people, and I didn’t base them specifically on anyone I know. However, I tried to give them real skin, so to speak. I wanted these characters to feel authentic and experience real problems, real emotions, and real hope.

Specific scenarios. These are stories about these particular people, so don’t read too much into the specifics of their situation. For instance, the couple who marry young following a teen pregnancy does not mean I condone premarital sex, teen pregnancy, or marrying that young — but I know it happens and I used that specific setup to tell a story.

Universal themes. Although these stories and characters are specific, there are definitely takeaways. Themes of godly sexual intimacy, grace and generosity in marriage, and redemptive hope run through all of them. I believe stories can teach us something about life and ourselves, and I hope Behind Closed Doors achieves that goal.

I also hope a series of short stories revolving around biblical love, marriage, and intimacy will appeal to people who wouldn’t normally pick up a book about biblical sexuality. Maybe this is the kind of thing you could share with someone who won’t read a “self-help book,” but who does enjoy a good romance.

Behind Closed Doors is available through ebook, and it’s available with several vendors:

Amazon / Kindle | Barnes & Noble / Nook | Kobo Books | Scribd | iBooks

Many blessings to your marriage and what goes on behind your closed doors!

Step Up, Church, and Talk about Sex

Q&AIs it Monday again? It’s time for me to address another question left by a commenter on my Q&A with J at HHH post:

GREG DONNER: “I also mentioned this to Julie [Sibert, I suspect], but I would be interested in your take on how we as believers can (and should) be doing to boldly speak the truth about biblical sexuality in the church. It’s something I’m very passionate (and frankly, very concerned about).”

In some respect, Greg answers his own question: boldly.
Take a look at the letters of Paul in the New Testament: He boldly addresses whatever issue plagues the church and refocuses people on God’s desire for their lives.

Wrongful thinking and behaviors regarding sex permeate our culture. From the sexually abused child to the promiscuous teen to the porn-addicted husband to the withholding wife to the married couple who struggles to connect physically, we are off target a lot. Jesus never turned a blind eye to sin and pain in His midst. It is our God-given duty to speak into others’ pain and confusion, to speak for God where He has spoken, and to pass on God’s desire for their lives, even in the area of sexuality.

What should this boldness look like? Ideally, churches should have a cradle-to-grave approach. Here are some suggestions for how churches can minister to people in various stages:

Childhood/Teen Years

Provide parenting classes to help families address the subject. Plenty of parents want to equip their children with a godly view of sexuality, but they simply don’t know how to talk to their kids about it.

Empower youth ministry to address biblical sexuality with tweens and teens. All too often, parents resist having the subject brought up in church. Guess what? It’s being brought up everywhere else your kid is. Isn’t it better for our children to get information from a biblically-driven youth pastor than from his/her school friend or a TV show?

Host fun, well-supervised teen events. Churches can help teens by hosting events that provide opportunities to mingle and have fun without the sexual temptation that often exists in secular venues. It needs to be something that will attract teens, but also keep them out of pressurized situations. For instance, when I was a teen, a couple of churches hosted teen dances; the likelihood of anything inappropriate happening with my date at the Mormon family dance was practically nil. Here’s another out-of-the-box idea: What if a church rented a bunch of luxury cars and had volunteer members drive teenagers and their dates to and from local proms?

Singles

Provide preengagement and premarital classes and counseling. Preengaged.com focuses on this kind of assistance, and Brad and Kate Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage recently mentioned a premarital program at Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas. There are some excellent studies for dating couples (although I am only familiar with Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright). Ask most married couples if they wish they had prepared more, and they will say yes–including in the area of sexual intimacy.

Help singles find a mate. I don’t believe everyone must get married or that being single is a lesser status. However, 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” And although marriage rates are declining in the U.S., the vast majority of people still want to be married at some point. Hey, the best thing the church ever did for my sex life is introduce me to my husband. But too many single Christians have few options. What can churches do? They can offer area-wide singles events. I’m not suggesting some Christian version of The Bachelor or The Dating Game. Such events shouldn’t be meat markets, but rather worship, fellowship, or Bible studies which allow singles to gather and get to know one another. Love can take it from there.

Marrieds

Make marriage classes, retreats, and seminars routine. In addition to in-depth scriptural and theological studies, churches should teach on the practical application of God’s Word. Look for biblically-based marriage studies or find couples with knowledge to share. Here are a few series I have been through: Marriage Helper (Dr. Willard Harley); Love & Respect (Emerson Eggerichs); Love, Sex & Marriage (Joe Beam). I am also a fan of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (who has a study titled The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted) and just about anything Dr. Kevin Leman writes (he has a study titled Making the Most of Your Marriage). Several friends have also spoken well of Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.

Stop skipping the sex part! This is part B of the above suggestion. I was recently told by another blogger that churches often skip the sex lesson in a marriage series–perhaps because the topic is considered too sensitive. That tidbit of information had me V8-headsmacking the rest of the day. (Ouch.) God wants married couples to have growing marriages and great sex! Let’s support healthy marriages by helping couples do exactly that.

Financially support marriage ministries. Many quality marriage resources can only continue through outside financial support, and churches can make that a goal of their budget.

Provide babysitting services to married couples with children. One of the hardest periods for marital intimacy is when your kids are young. A group of church members (e.g., youth, “Golden Agers,” singles) could provide babysitting as a ministry. Or a church could establish a babysitting co-op in which couples keep others’ kids at times and get their own date nights.

Miscellaneous

Take a sex survey of your church and present your findings. Oftentimes, we don’t know that church members are struggling with sexuality. Who’s going to stand up on Sunday morning and say, “Could you address biblical sexuality because I ain’t gettin’ any at home?” We can awaken the attention of church leaders and members by asking for anonymous input about where they are thriving and where they need help.

Be specific. Too often, churches address sexuality at too high a level. For singles, we hear, “God wants you to stay pure.” Yes, He does. But be specific about how a sexually-ramped-up 17-year-old boy can stay cool when a hot girl throws herself at him. Or how a 23-year-old single woman can wait another seven years to let her libido see daylight? For the marrieds, it isn’t enough to say, “God wants you to have a good sex life.” How does a husband figure out how to pleasure his wife to climax? How can a women deal with her lagging interest in sex? How can a couple move beyond negative sexual histories? Be specific.

Bring in special speakers. Christian colleges and universities often have marriage and family therapy or Christian ministry departments with qualified experts. There are also writers, bloggers, counselors, and speakers who address this subject. For instance, get Sheila Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, to come talk to your church (or better yet, my church).

Offer couples counseling. Couples counseling should be available to dating teens, couples in serious relationships, engaged couples, and married couples. The singles may need a session or two to learn strategies for stopping sexual activity before it starts, while a married couple may need to address a lack of intimacy or physical barriers to satisfying sex. If the church does not have the wherewithal to offer such counseling, it can subsidize another church’s counseling center or a Christian-based counseling practice.

Plug into ministries that help those who need special care. Has a child been sexually abused? Is a husband dealing with a porn addiction? Is a couple dealing with adultery? Such issues go beyond typical couples counseling. Find ministries that address specific issues.

Look for experts in your midst. That physician who attends your church? The labor and delivery nurse? The psychologist or counselor? The recovering sex addict? The woman who was sexually-abused as a child and found healing? The couple that lived through an affair and have a thriving marriage? They have something to offer. Ask how they are willing to help support healthy and godly sex lives for church members.

Maintain a quality library with helpful resources on biblical sexuality. There are many Christian-based books and video and tape series available, but cost can be prohibitive for families. Churches could use purchase resources, and then let families know that they are there.

No one church can offer all of this, so we must rely on each other in the larger church body. But each church can address godly sexuality throughout the seasons of life by offering biblical knowledge, specific information, relationship support, and prayer for the purity and intimacy of their members.

Now that I’ve thrown out my brainstorming ideas, what are yours? What are your churches doing to boldly address biblical sexuality? What would you like to see your church or area churches do?

What Is Sex?

"Sex" spelled outGiven that I blog twice a week on marriage and sexuality, you wouldn’t think I’d even ask such a question. Don’t we all know what sex is? Yet sometimes when people use the word sex, I wonder if we’re all talking about the same thing.

The dictionary definition is sex is simply coitus, or intercourse. Sex originally referred to gender and was not used to denote intercourse until 1929 (thank author D.H. Lawrence for that). However, the original meaning of coitus, from Latin, was merely meeting or uniting. The root word “coire” means “together.” Coitus also once referred “to magnetic force, planetary conjunction, etc., before sexual sense came to predominate” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

Enough background research. Why am I even bringing this up? Because I think when we discuss sex as Christians, we’re talking about more than intercourse. The union of two individuals can involve a myriad of sexual activities outside pure penetration.

Are we having sex if we fondle our spouse’s naked body? Is it sex if we engage in fellatio or cunnilingus? Should we call it sex if a husband brings a wife to climax through digital stimulation?

Taking the narrow definition of sex as only intercourse causes us problems both in defining our boundaries and in feeling freedom in our marriages. As to boundaries, if only intercourse is sex, then singles can pronounce themselves virgins so long as they don’t cross that one last line. Spouses may feel that they have not committed adultery with someone because their interactions with an opposite-sex person haven’t led to intercourse, even if sexual flirting or contact has occurred. Prior to marriage, we may not make the right choice to wait on the whole kit-and-caboodle until the wedding night because we don’t really feel like we’ve had sex.

In our marriages, we also need to understand that we are not limited to only one way of God-approved sexuality with our mate. God has designed marital intimacy to include different ways of appreciating, exploring, and pleasuring our spouse. Of course, intercourse is the ultimate act and the one that produces children. However, we have freedom in the context of marriage to engage in other acts that are indeed sexual in nature and increase our sense of intimacy with our spouse.

Looking more specifically at what the Bible considers sex (or whatever word we want to use — intimacy, sexuality, physical union), the Old Testament primarily speaks of sexual relations between a husband and wife using the Hebrew word “yada‘.” This word means to know. It doesn’t denote a Tab A/Slot B act, although that is certainly implied, but rather a joining of two bodies in deeper knowledge. Once the robe is off, you know that person more than you know others.

Those of us who have experienced that sense in marriage (and sadly, outside) understand that to be true at some level. Sex is a physical knowing of another individual that rises above the usual knowledge you have of others. It goes beyond friendship and involves entering the boundary of physical privacy that we otherwise maintain. I believe that includes more than intercourse. (See Sheila Gregoire’s Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy While You Make Love for more on this “knowing.)

In the New Testament, the term for sex varies more. Sexual immorality is typically porneia (recognize the root there?); however, the references to sex in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7 are more general words also translated as “come together” (sunevrcomai) and join or cleave (e.g., proskollao). It’s like saying “sleep together” now when an audience can easily discern by context when you mean sex. Interestingly enough, such words all connote unity. Indeed, Paul even warned against such sinful joining in 1 Corinthians 6:16 (“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.'”).

Is such physical unity with another restricted solely to intercourse? I think not. In fact, the prohibition in the New Testament against extramarital sexual activity includes lust and inappropriate touching (see Matthew 5:28; 1 Corinthians 7:1 KJV — which provides more literal translation of the Greek word “haptomai”). Sexuality includes two bodies uniting in sexual activity, which often includes intercourse but doesn’t have to.

When I think of my “sex life,” I think about all of those things that go into having phenomenal physical intimacy with my spouse: the randy flirting we do long before we arrive at the bedroom; the touches, strokes, and gropes that we engage in; the gazing at one another’s naked bodies; the sensuousness that pervades our bedroom time together; the foreplay that is pleasurable in its own right and builds toward the main event as well; the array of sexual activities that show our desire and delight in one another; and the beautiful joining of our two bodies in intercourse. It’s a whole package deal.

If you’re just going for the intercourse, you’re missing out on some other great aspects of marital sexuality. We need to appreciate that sex as God intended is comprised of all those parts of our physical relationship which are uniquely shared with your spouse. That is what I think of as sex.

What do you think sex is? How do you think Christians should define sex? And do you think the definition even matters?

Additional sources used: BibleGateway.com, BibleStudyTools.com, Sex Scripture Notes from La Vista Church of Christ