Thinking Out Loud

June 4, 2015

Split Person

Kevin was the reason a whole bunch of guys from one of the local high schools started attending our youth group, and later joined the follow-up Bible study.

His leadership qualities meant that people listened when invited and many of the guys, as well as a few girls I probably wasn’t aware of, stayed and became part of the local church. Some of those I still see today.

Kevin was also rather promiscuous.

While at an age where boys are often more talk than anything, there was no denying his feeling of entitlement to an active sex life. He shared his philosophy with anyone who would listen, including my own circle of friends, and there didn’t seem to be any filters as to who he would try to make converts to his liberal views on sexuality.

Sometimes when there are disconnects in the life of a Christian, we say they have "a divided heart." Read more at Psalm 86:11.

Sometimes when there are disconnects in the life of a Christian, we say they have “a divided heart.” Read more at Psalm 86:11.

One time he invited me to a particular club he was going to on a weeknight. Though the bar was in downtown Toronto, it was on the edge, about ten minutes from where I was living. I wanted to hear the band, so I went along and got to see him in action. Within minutes he was in deep conversation with one particular young woman, had bought her a drink, and then they were dancing.

I had some conversations, too; but had a sense of being in the wrong place. Around the same time, I would write a song, “You Don’t Belong Here,” about a young person who is basically looking for trouble, but the people he meets up with have a sense that he belongs to another tribe, and simply don’t let him enter in fully to what they’re doing. The situation repeats through another two verses, and then in the final verse, he finds himself standing before God who checks his list and says, “You don’t belong here.”

I got Kevin to drive me home, and then, as I learned later, he drove back to the club and reconnected with the woman. It wasn’t all talk.

He was a strange mix. An ambassador for both Evangelical Christianity and a Playboy lifestyle. He was actually one of three people I knew during that time period, whose personality and person-hood was split between competing ideals, and had basically no problem with that. At the time, I always felt there was an element of secrecy about a duplicitous life, so I couldn’t really think of him as hypocritical when he broadcast his views so widely and loudly.

If it were me, I would be torn apart with internal conflict.

Troy was another. Despite a very conservative Christian upbringing in which he was still committed to, he had no problem regularly going to strip clubs.  By age 23, he had seen more women naked than most men would ever see in a lifetime. While I was tempted, his invitations to me to tag along were never accepted.

Derek was another. Vowing never have sex with a non-Christian, he would invite the girls to church and see that they prayed the sinner’s prayer before taking them to the bedroom in his parents’ home. That was the one that disgusted me the most, and when you analyze it, there was nothing particularly redeeming about his ‘vow;’ it would probably have been better if it never existed. 

I should say that around the same time, I realized that there is a sense in which everybody has some type of compromise, albeit to a greater or lesser extent. With the three guys here, it was just so brazen.

These are the types of people I met in church when I was in my early twenties.

In their own way, God used them to refine my faith.


Names have been changed. The youth group was a mix of teens and college and career aged people and so two of the three people in the story were of legal age for drinking and clubbing. Two of the three people in the story maintain a connection to the church.

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January 6, 2011

Dressing Your Children Appropriately

This first appeared here almost exactly two years ago, was repeated about a year ago, and still applies… abercrombie-girl

Check out this statement:

The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls. What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology—and this link between our theology and our wardrobes is not a recent phenomenon.

Intrigued? Want to read more? If you’ve ever wondered if there is a “theology of clothing,” check out Dr. Timothy Paul Jones Continue reading here. Maybe your choice of shirt or pants today wasn’t entirely spiritually ‘neutral.’

 

 

 

About 50 pictures were rejected before choosing this one. Then there were dozens of others that were never seriously being considered.

February 8, 2010

Yichud

Okay, so first of all, if you’ve landed here from a Google blog search or a WordPress tag, you need to know that I’m not Jewish.   This is actually a Christian blog, and up until about an hour ago I’d never heard the word Yichud before.   Since then, I’ve been reading various internet articles, and while I’m not an expert, let me say to any Jewish readers who land here, I’m impressed with the concept.

The word and I crossed paths in a stage show review published Thursday  in The Toronto Star.     Longtime theatre critic Richard Ouzounian was reviewing a play bearing this word as its title, in an article titled Wedding Crashers.   The husband and wife in Yichud are, in real life, also husband and wife.     She grew up in Judiasm, while he converted from Roman Catholicism.

So what is Yichud?    Let’s start with Wikipedia which quickly alerts us to two different definitions around which the play Yichud revolves:

…the impermissibility of seclusion of a man and a woman a private area. Such seclusion is prohibited when the man and woman are not married to each other in order to prevent the two from being tempted or having the opportunity to commit adulterous or promiscuous acts. The laws of yichud are typically followed by Orthodox Jews. Some Orthodox authorities view these laws as so strict that they may not be broken even when a life is in danger.

Okay; got that one?   Then you’re ready to move on to meaning number two:

…a ritual during a Jewish wedding in which the newly married couple spends a period of time secluded in a room by themselves.

But it’s the first definition I want to return to.   The prohibition finds its roots in the story of David and Tamar, as spelled out here on the website JewishMag.Com.   (II Sam. 13: 1-29)    The restrictions — which extend to parents and siblings — are spelled out in detail by Rabbi Howard Jachter.

[Sidebar:  To my Christian readers — There is a Jewish internet world*, besides the Christian internet world.   You should check it out sometime.   Of course I realize this is going to come as a bit of a shock to some who didn’t realize there was a Christian internet world beyond the Calvinist internet world.]

Everybody back?  I want to return now to comments that were made by Aaron Willis, the Catholic-turned-Jewish actor in the Yichud review, and his wife Julie Tepperman:

“There are so many levels of seclusion, within religion, within family, within ourselves,” says Tepperman. “I came to realize that all the laws of Judaism keep us safe. The Torah is like a blueprint for life.”

Willis adds his perspective. “My experience with Judaism is that one of the most beautiful things about it is that you experience it by doing, rather than intellectualizing. There are 613 mitzvot or commandments and every one is capable of making your life fuller and deeper.”

What strikes me there is the complete trust that — without putting too many words in their mouths — God’s rules have our best interest at heart.   It reminded me of another scripture verse that may be more familiar to my regular readers:

Trust in the Lord with everything you’ve got,  and don’t depend on your own rationalizing.   Put Him first in every decision and He will illuminate the pathway for your journey.    Prov. 3: 5,6 (my paraphrase)

When it comes to definition number two…

…What Tepperman discovered was that “many people consider the time spent there more sacred that the wedding itself…”

The play itself  “revolves around an arranged marriage, where this is the first time the couple have been alone together. Originally developed by Convergence Theatre, the production transforms the entire theatre into an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue.” [Toronto Star stage play summary, Feb. 4]  And yes, the various websites on the subject indicate that some couples do, in fact, do it in the Yichud room, while a greater majority would indicate no, couples do not, in fact do it in the Yichud room.

Christians believe that with the coming of Christ, we moved from a period of law into what is called the “age of grace.”   However, we also believe that God is the same:  In the past, in the present and in the future to come.  (Hebrews 13:8 speaks specifically about Jesus, but the expansion from this to the very nature of God Himself is implicit, such that the verse is often misquoted with God as the subject.)

Do we as Christians have the same trust that God is looking out for us, as Julie indicates in her appraisal of the commands?    Psalm 119 — the long Psalm — also testifies to a love of the law, with almost each of its 176 stanzas praising law, commandments, ordinances, statutes, etc.

Finally, the take-away from this for Christian parents with preteens and teens is huge.   Or even non-religious parents who are trying to maintain some kind of moral or ethical standard in the home.     Go back to the Rabbi Jachter link above, and show your children the rules that some teenagers live with, even in sex-saturated 2010.  I’ll bet the rent that it makes whatever rules you’ve got in place at your house seem tame by comparison.

Remind them that God doesn’t view our choices as simply good or bad, but that in his view, our good choices can be overshadowed by the possibility of better choices, and that those in turn, are nothing when compared with best choices.   God is looking out for our best.

Do we delight in his law to the same extent as Psalm 119 does?

*I tried to find an updated version of these 2006 awards for best Jewish blogs, but even though many of them may no longer exist, I’m posting the link anyway, because I want you to see the categories that they assign to various Jewish bloggers.

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