What It Means To Be a Woman

by Brianna Heldt | Women are, by any standard, unquestionably strong. We are uniquely positioned to influence, shape, and form society as well as capable of leaving a living, breathing legacy long after we are gone. (image, Pixabay – Woman)

Whatever can be said about our current cultural climate, particularly when it comes to the two sexes, one thing is for certain. The battle lines are becoming ever clearer.

What it means to be a woman, or to be a man, is at the front and center now. The things that used to be the subject of hushed conversations and were only spoken of in subtle undertones in polite society now serve as the focus of our general cultural dialogue.

During last Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, for example, female Democratic senators—clad in white—sat together with the clear intention of making a statement. Though their choice of dress was apparently intended to pay homage to women’s suffrage, that was not the primary message they sent. Instead, a strong and united support for abortion was the loudest and clearest signal coming from our nation’s most visible female leaders.

It was striking, to watch and consider that this group of women have turned their backs upon what is arguably the pinnacle of being a woman—namely, motherhood. To refuse to publicly condemn late-term abortion and infanticide, well, it doesn’t get much more anti-woman than that. To defend a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy for anyreason ought to be unthinkable, especially when you’re a woman and theoretically capable of carrying, birthing, and raising a child yourself.

This very public rejection of womanhood—by women, ironically—may ultimately be a good thing. Perhaps now that fewer people are pretending to believe that abortion ought to be a rare albeit necessary reality, the rest of us can address the fact that abortion has become a beloved sacred cow. When women are proclaiming en masse that the right to abortion—right up until the moment of birth no less—is an integral part of being a woman, perhaps we can finally suggest that the modern conceptualization of womanhood is deeply and profoundly impoverished.

To be fruitful, to bring forth life, and to infuse a culture with love are, of course, the true mission of woman. It is a difficult and largely self-sacrificing venture, to be sure; who can deny that the daily grind of chasing cranky toddlers, or parenting equally cranky teens, is exhausting and even sometimes—seemingly, anyhow—thankless? What person would claim that motherhood, which begins with the challenges and discomforts of pregnancy, passes through the pains of labor and birth, and sees love through to the end, is a glamorous and easy existence? The waking-at-night infant, the mouthy teenager, and the young adult struggling to carve out an identity for him- or herself each represents a unique opportunity for a mother to grow in character and virtue, to die to self, and place the needs of her child before her own personal comfort and autonomy.

But though it is challenging, it is also precisely what it means to be woman.

Women are, by any standard, unquestionably strong. We are uniquely positioned to influence, shape, and form society as well as capable of leaving a living, breathing legacy long after we are gone. We may spend decades with our noses to our own respective domestic grindstones, incapable of seeing much else beyond our own doorsteps, but the inevitable and lovely outcome is that we wield a great deal of influence. Yet what we witness so often today is a counterfeit of womanhood as God intended it to be—a grotesquely distorted manifestation of femininity which eschews hearth and home while rushing headlong into the cold embrace of barrenness and death.

This diminished view of womanhood can be seen all around us. It was certainly on display among the “women in white” during Tuesday night’s speech. But as it emerges into the open, revealing itself to be nothing more than an assault upon the very thing it claims to prize—namely, the feminine experience—a stunning contrast becomes equally visible and increasingly important. The embrace of true womanhood in all its natural, complicated, and beautiful glory, which is ultimately an embrace of life, stands as a testament to what women can achieve both for themselves and for the world.

So let us press forward, those of us who want a better way for ourselves and for our children. Let us take up our cross of living out our womanhood in a time and place where things like self-sacrifice and humility, the very things that characterize womanhood, are not encouraged or valued. Let us reject the notion that what we do with our bodies, and the precious beings who may temporarily inhabit our bodies, doesn’t matter.

We are women, after all. We can lead joy-filled, fulfilling lives of tremendous worth, marked by dignity and love, while simultaneously contributing in big and small ways to the culture around us. We do this, however, not through the embrace of death and the rejection of biology, but through the acceptance—and, dare I say, pursuit—of what it means to be a woman, namely, an openness to the inevitable joys and sorrows of life, a careful and deliberate cultivation of life-giving love, and the fierce protection of the most vulnerable among us.

It is at the same time so much more, and yet so much simpler, than the culture’s wholesale reinvention of what it means to be a woman.

Brianna Heldt is a writer and podcaster. She is a blogger for the National Catholic Register, exploring topics ranging from parenthood and faith to social and cultural issues. Brianna has been a featured guest on a number of radio programs, including BBC Radio. Her personal blog can be found at www.briannaheldt.com. Brianna lives with her husband and nine children in Denver, Colorado.

 



Pope Francis’s Candid Views on Sexual Morality

by Richard A. Spinello | According to Pope John Paul II, Jesus’s compelling message conveys that the “concupiscent look,” a purely lustful desire for another, is disordered even when a husband looks lustfully at his wife as an instrument of pleasure. Adultery in the heart reduces the other to a sexual object and threatens his or her dignity.

Just weeks before the Catholic Church’s summit on the sexual abuse crisis, the faithful became privy to Pope Francis’s rather unorthodox views on sexual morality. In a book length interview  with Frenchman Dominque Wolton, who accompanied Pope Francis to World Youth Day in Panama, the pope concurs with Wolton’s premise that the most radical message of the Gospel is greed and “money madness.” This message is obscured, however, due to what he sees as the Church’s preoccupation with sexual immorality and deviance.  In his response to a question about how to refocus the Church on this message, the pope speaks in generalities that bristle with clues regarding his true sentiments on chastity along with the import of sexual misconduct among the clergy.

According to the Pope, “There is a great danger for preachers, and it is that of condemning only the morality that is—pardon me—‘below the belt.’ But other sins that are more serious, hatred, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking a life … these are rarely mentioned.” He goes on to elaborate that “sins of the flesh are the lightest sins, because the flesh is weak.” On the other hand, the most dangerous sins are “those of the spirit … angelism, pride.”

The pope’s declarations are provocative but highly dubious. First, as he has done so often, Pope Francis constructs a convenient but flimsy straw man: the Catholic preacher preoccupied with sexual sins, who conveniently ignores more serious moral transgressions. Yet just the opposite is true. We hardly ever hear from the pulpit sermons that treat sexual misbehavior and condemn sexual perversion. Second, and more importantly, the pope’s remarks falsely minimize the gravity of sexual sin and sensual egoism. To be sure, Pope Francis isn’t suggesting any doctrinal changes. He doesn’t deny that promiscuity, pornography, masturbation, or other deviant acts are sinful, but he believes that we needn’t worry very much about them. The pope mentions his admiration for a cardinal who confided in him that as soon as someone brings up sins “below the belt,” he immediately says, “I understand, let’s move on.” He makes the penitent or parishioner recognize that “there are other mistakes that are much more important.”

It is quite likely that this casual attitude regarding the vice of lust is shared by many in the hierarchy aside from the unnamed cardinal whom the pope admires so much. We surely find this attitude echoed in the remarks of Cardinal Schönborn at the last Synod on the Family: “The Church should not look in the bedroom first, but in the dining room.” Given the tone and substance of papal writings like Amoris Laetitia, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that this lower profile for sexual sinfulness is at least a tacit theme of this pontificate. This minimization strategy is one way of accommodating to some degree the new moral order ushered in by the Sexual Revolution. Perhaps this cavalier approach also explains why so many bishops who heard “rumors” about Cardinal McCarrick’s perverse misdeeds never took them too seriously until it was revealed that minors were also his victims. And maybe it explains why there isn’t more indignation over the sexual misbehavior of the clergy with young adults and seminarians. The same logic employed by Pope Francis may be operative: there are far more important sins than these lustful encounters and other relatively benign sins associated with concupiscentia. Contrary to the Pope’s opinion, it also accounts for why we hear so little preaching about sexual morality and chastity throughout the Church.

If this dangerous mindset of minimalism prevails at the upcoming summit on sexual abuse, the summit cannot possibly lead to any long-term success. At the deepest roots of the sexual abuse scandal convulsing the Church is a failure to respect and teach the inter-connected virtues of love and chastity. As George Weigel has pointed out, at the foundation of the Catholic Church’s response to this turmoil there must be a retrieval of its profound doctrine on chastity as the integrity of love. Without a sincere renewal of the universal value of chastity the Church can never begin to resolve this massive problem in a satisfactory way.

The pope’s gnostic evaluation of a sexual morality that sharply divides sins of the body from sins of the spirit fails to appreciate the troubling consequences of the Sexual Revolution and the irreparable damage caused by those minor sins “below the belt.” Sexual promiscuity, which has swept through Western culture, has led to the mistreatment and degradation of women and the unravelling of the institution of indissoluble marriage. As scholars like Mary Eberstadt have shown, the chaotic effects of unrestrained sexual profligacy have fallen most heavily on the young and the vulnerable.

To accommodate his view that sexual sins are the “lightest ones,” the pope appears to rely on the proposition that the “flesh is weak,” and this weakness disposes us to noetic and moral frailty. People follow their sexual impulses and find themselves giving in to illicit and irresistible desires. But this is hardly a justification and cannot dispense any person from full responsibility for his or her actions. According to Pope John Paul II, “free love,” or sexual promiscuity that masquerades as love, exploits human weaknesses with the blessing of public opinion. By referring to the seductive power of sensual desire, there is an attempt to “soothe” consciences by creating a “moral alibi” (Letter to Families 14). But what gets easily forgotten by Pope Francis and others who fall for this rationalization are the dreadful consequences of non-marital sexual activity. When these sins happen among married couples and lead to infidelity, the family suffers the painful effects of marital chaos and divorce. How many families have been destroyed or damaged by those who surrender their sexual powers to the rule of emotional and bodily satisfaction?

The urge to satisfy one’s libido can take many forms such as the desire to look at pornographic images. But this urge once satisfied can easily become an obsession and undermine a person’s mature self-possession. In his Confessions, St. Augustine describes with impassioned eloquence how “lust served became a custom, and custom not resisted became necessity” (8.5). A single, lustful act that might lead to such compulsive behavior or addiction must be resisted and not taken lightly. Confessors should not “move on” if they are informed of such potentially disruptive sins, but should ensure the penitent appreciates the gravity and possible ramifications of his or her actions.

Another severe consequence of sexual license is the reliance on contraception, and when contraception fails, abortion as the last resort. Sex for pleasure typically includes the use of contraception, since the birth of new life is an obvious impediment to pleasure when there is no long-term commitment or authentic interpersonal union. However, obstructing the natural function of a person’s sexual powers inevitably involves not choosing other basic human goods such as life-in-transmission (or procreation). It is an illusion to think that we can rebuild and sustain a culture of life without overcoming the blight of sexual license.

Pope John Paul II understood quite well how misguided it is to polarize sins of the flesh with sins of the spirit as Pope Francis has done in this interview. Sexual sins are the result of sensual egoism and transient lust that seek instant gratification. These acts result in the objectification of the person who is used solely as a means for pleasure. Those who regard sins below the belt as generally innocuous fail to consider the depersonalizing character of casual sex. The use of another for mere pleasure or self-gratification is inconsistent with that person’s innate dignity and inevitably leads to emotional and spiritual harm. Use of the other for pleasure, even if consensual, is the exact opposite of love which always affirms the other for his or her own sake.

In addition, sexual relations that are not the sign and means of permanent spousal love but simply the pursuit of self-gratification have implications for achieving romantic intimacy and conjugal communion. By yielding to concupiscence a man does not relate to a woman as a spouse or even as a person but merely as an attractive body. And if a man regards a woman’s body as truncated from her personal reality, she, too, will come to think of her body in the same way. Yet the body is an integral part of the person and thus it cannot be separated from the totality of the person without causing grave damage. According to Saint John Paul II, “lust … brings with it an almost constitutive difficulty of identification with one’s own body” (Theology of the Body 248). As a result, the gift of one’s whole bodily self to the other, the essence of marital communion, becomes quite difficult, because the person has a disintegrated view of the self that does not include the body. Promiscuity, therefore, violates the intrinsic good of marriage because it impairs the person’s capacity for spousal self-donation.

Finally, Pope Francis’s claim that sexual deviance is not the Gospel’s most radical message is true to some extent. We do not find in the Gospels ample material on conjugal morality. Nonetheless, the passages that address the themes of marriage and the vice of lust are quite striking, concise, and clear. They cannot easily be ignored by sincere hearers of the Word.  Just as Jesus shocked his Jewish listeners by proclaiming the indissolubility of marriage (Mk. 10:1-12), he also must have awakened their moral sensibilities when he redefined the meaning of adultery in the Sermon on the Mount: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:28).  According to Pope John Paul II, Jesus’s compelling message conveys that the “concupiscent look,” a purely lustful desire for another, is disordered even when a husband looks lustfully at his wife as an instrument of pleasure. Adultery in the heart reduces the other to a sexual object and threatens his or her dignity. Thus, Jesus himself does not lightly regard sins below the belt, since he condemns not only adultery and sex outside marriage but even these lustful desires that corrupt a person’s reason and will. His radical admonition in the Sermon on the Mount is a call to master concupiscence, and this call springs forth from “an affirmation of the personal dignity of the body and sex” (Theology of the Body, 309).

The pope’s casual observations in this interview reveal a mentality on sexual deviance discordant with the Catholic tradition that has always underscored the vital significance of chastity and the gravity of sexual misconduct. This dispiriting discourse with Mr. Wolton does not reflect the wisdom or resoluteness necessary to defend marriage, which is under such savage attack in our current ambient culture. In my book on Pope John Paul II’s theology of marriage, I begin with a reflection on Sister Lucia’s (one of the three children who witnessed the Fatima apparitions) prophetic comments made to the late Cardinal Caffara: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.”

Marriage and family is the decisive issue for the Church, but the more its leaders marginalize sexual morality and the central importance of chastity, the greater the risk of forfeiting this battle. Many Church leaders are quite content to neutralize Jesus’s powerful but difficult teaching on sexuality and reduce his overall message to “social justice” issues. Chastity, which is the habit of viewing the other as a person who is never to be an object of use, liberates love so that it can evolve into the permanent spousal love of marriage. To assume that illicit sexual practices have little to do with this epic battle over marriage is to live in a house of delusion. Unless the pope and rest of the Catholic hierarchy begin to take chastity and conjugal morality more seriously, these would-be guardians of marriage will become its subtle destroyers.

Richard A. SpinelloRichard A. Spinello is Professor of Management Practice at Boston College and a member of the adjunct faculty at St. John’s Seminary in Boston. He is the author of The Encyclicals of John Paul II: An Introduction and Commentary and, most recently, The Splendor of Marriage: St. John Paul II’s Vision of Love, Marriage, Family, and the Culture of Life.



7 Tips for Living Together Happily 

by Kat Kennedy | Treat each other to little simple things you know will be loved. Living together has shined a light on each of our strengths and weaknesses, bad habits and destructive behaviors but also allowed us to gain a new kind of closeness that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

I’m no relationship guru by any stretch of the imagination but rather a regular girl who’s compiled a list of seven savvy tips for keeping cohabitation with my significant other light-hearted and fun.

Generally speaking, we find a positive correlation between length of relationship and the more serious it becomes. Somehow time makes us prioritise other things over fun, laughter, and dreams, and we wind up bitter, resentful, and neglected before we know it. This isn’t necessarily across the board – it hasn’t been in my relationship, for example – but it is possible that as the two of you sink into routines, you will edge further and further away from those spontaneous little moments that you had when you initially kindled your romance.

Living together has been a whimsical journey, but it has also been eye-opening and challenging. It has shined a light on each of our strengths and weaknesses, bad habits and destructive behaviours but also allowed us to gain a new kind of closeness that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Every couple is unique, but I’ve got seven solid tips for you today that can give you a strong foundation upon which to build a dream life together. Just like a pizza: if the base is good, you don’t have to worry about much else.

1. Spend quality time together 1 or 2 nights a week. When we first decided to share our space, we were worried we might get bored with seeing each other so much, but in fact the opposite occurred. We fell into the trap of co-existing without spending any quality time together. We’d return from work, eat dinner at the same time and then part ways, us each working or studying solo for the duration of the evening. By the time we’d climb into bed, all energy had been sapped, and we realized we were never getting the best of each other. Now, we make it a point to put work aside a couple nights a week and linger at the table after dinner, prioritising catching up on life.

2. Monthly dining indulgence. Before we lived under the same roof, our date nights would often revolve around cooking for one another or going out for a bite to eat. While it’s great to have our own kitchen now, we still make a point to indulge once a month by planning an evening out at a favourite or new restaurant and treating ourselves to some delicious food and ambience.

3. Alternate cooking for each other throughout the work week. After a long day, coming home to dinner ready and waiting is like a warm embrace. Cooking for your partner infuses your meal with love and care, and there’s no simpler way to spark a smile or appreciation than to help each other out.

4. Keep communal areas clean. It is inevitable that you will get, ahem, closer when living together; It’s a lot less difficult to hide bad habits! But while you should, of course, be able to feel at home, we make it paramount in our house to keep joint areas like the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room clean. The dining room is pretty much mine, stacked with notes and books for working, and Jonny has his music room filled with his medley of instruments. In these spaces, we know we can delve into our own realms and be free to live how we want. But in the joint areas, we maintain strict no-clutter and no-dirt policies. If you live dirty, you feel dirty, and for us, we are both in the best head space when we are keeping on top of the chores. This translates into our relationship. I mean, think about it; it’s not particularly alluring cooking up a romantic meal together in a crusty kitchen, is it? Or climbing into a bed piled up with clothes, food wrappers and whatever else!

5. Treat each other to little simple things you know will be loved. Once you live under the same roof, you’re both involved with the bills, the necessities, and the chores. Treating each other to little surprises reminds one another that you care. This can be a funny note, a baked good, a plant, or whatever brings an instant smile on your partner’s face. It doesn’t have to cost a penny, and it can still be heartfelt.

6. Have a joint pot of money for shared resources and share the job of doing them. While talking money is anything but sexy, being respectful of each other’s resources is. There is nothing worse than feeling that you’ve been taken for a ride, so it’s important from the get-go that you’re on the same page. Split your bills in a way that both parties are happy with, and have a shared pot for food money. Set a budget and stick to it, saving the need for any disagreements or hard feelings. We’ve also found that it works best when we both split the food shopping; this way it feels as though both of you are getting to make choices about what to eat. It’s a simple thing that makes a big difference.

7. Have monthly reviews. We joked about having a monthly review around about 30 days after we moved in but actually found it to be really useful. It gave us a chance to reflect on what we had enjoyed for the previous month, as well as any concerns that had been brought up and were worrying either of us. We now find it really easy to express how we’re feeling about things, remembering the importance of affirming positive experiences to the other party as well as being honest about what isn’t making us so happy. Practicing this each month makes it easier to be comfortable with being open and honest without sparking conflict.

Kat Kennedy is an explorative writer and advocate for sustainable living. She’s a proud ‘third culture kid’ who is passionate about houseplants, vegan baking and outdoor adventures. You can read more of her articles on her blog, Sphynx Kennedy, or keep up with her on Instagram @sphynxkennedy.


The Life and Music of Florence B. Price (1887–1953)

This is the inspiring story of a gifted woman’s triumph over prejudice and preconceptions | (Photo courtesy of U of Arkansas Libraries – Special Collections Department).

Born in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas to extraordinary parents, Florence Beatrice Smith Price became the first African-American woman whose music was performed by major symphony orchestras. In 1933 the famous Chicago Symphony performed her ‘Symphony in E minor‘ at the World’s Fair. There are over 200 Price’s compositions, photos and a commentary that are recently discovered which are now part of the Florence Price collection at the University of Arkansas. She composed songs for the great singer Marian Anderson who sang Price’s music at the Lincoln Memorial performance in 1939 – a watershed moment in civil rights history.


The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar used the metaphor of a “caged bird” for the oppression of black Americans [excerpt] by Er-Gene Kahng.

Her father, James H. Smith, was the first black dentist in Chicago – but after the great Chicago fire he relocated to Arkansas. He was more than a great dentist, he also held many patents, had a painting exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and was the author of two novels. After an appalling lynching in Little Rock near her home, the Price family moved to Chicago and here she met and collaborated with important figures in the ‘Black Renaissance‘ including Langston Hughes and Katherine Dunham.



A Brief History of Women’s Rights Movements

Scholastic | In the United States the first definitive position on women’s rights—hitherto intermingled with antislavery issues—was taken in 1848 under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. (Gettyimage).

This account of women’s history started since 1776 and even before the Colonial era when the roles of women were ignored not only in textbooks but in all popular documented histories at the time. Women’s rights movements are primarily concerned with making the political, social, and economic status of women equal to that of men and with establishing legislative safeguards against discrimination on the basis of gender. Women’s rights movements have worked in support of these aims for more than two centuries. They date to at least the first feminist publication, in 1792, entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by British writer Mary Wollstonecraft.

Militant political action among women began in Britain in 1903 with the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) for the right to vote. The organization was led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Women of all ages and classes demonstrated on a massive scale; the demonstrators were jailed, locked out of their meeting places, and thrown down the steps of Parliament. National divisiveness ended in a truce at the outbreak of World War I (1914) with the WSPU’s decision to support the war effort. The ensuing mobilization by the WSPU of thousands of its members for voluntary participation in the war industries and support services was a highly influential factor in overcoming government resistance to WSPU aims. The right to vote was granted in 1918; it was confined to women age 30 and above. In 1928 the voting age was lowered to 21.

In the United States the first definitive position on women’s rights—hitherto intermingled with antislavery issues—was taken in 1848 under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. (see Seneca Falls Convention). In 1850 the National Women’s Rights Convention was held, led by Lucy Stone, an early activist. Both groups coalesced in the formation (1863) of the Women’s National Loyal League, under Susan B. Anthony. Anthony wrote and submitted in 1878 a proposed right-to-vote amendment to the Constitution.

In 1890, Wyoming became the first state with women’s suffrage. The movement was accelerated by the formation (1890) of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and the election (1900) of Carrie Chapman Catt as president. The ensuing campaign attracted many educated, wealthy, and influential women to the cause, with resultant political professionalism, increased funding, and the development of massive parades and demonstrations in the major cities. The Anthony amendment, as written in 1878, was ratified as the 19th Amendment and became law in 1920.

From 1920 to 1960, militancy on behalf of a single issue diffused into a number of women’s political groups, such as the League of Women Voters (1920) and the National Council of Negro Women (1935). Such groups supported various types of liberal reforms related to the rights of both men and women. An equal rights amendment drafted in 1923 by the National Women’s party (founded 1913) remained dormant for another 50 years.

At the international level, however, the women’s rights movement made progress. The preamble to the United Nations (UN) Charter (1945) referred to equal rights for women; in 1948 the UN Commission on the Status of Women was established; in 1952 the UN General Assembly held a convention on the political rights of women. The United Nations Decade for Women (1976–85) emphasized the international scope of the women’s rights movement. Three related conferences—in Mexico City (1975); Copenhagen (1980); and Nairobi, Kenya (1985)—did the same. Beijing was host to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. That conference endorsed a nonbinding “Platform for Action.” The platform would serve as a blueprint for promoting women’s rights in the 21st century. In September 2010, UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon appointed former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to the new UN position of undersecretary-general for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

During the 1960s a militant feminist trend emerged in the United States. It was encouraged by significant feminist studies, such as The Second Sex (1953) by Simone de Beauvoir and The Feminine Mystique (1963) by Betty Friedan; it was also aided by a general legislative climate favorable to minority rights and antidiscrimination movements. Militant women’s groups were formed. The Women’s Liberation Movement, which was social rather than political and was manifested in literature and demonstrations by radical feminists, may have raised the awareness of the nation to the prevalence of discriminatory beliefs and attitudes.

More significantly, feminist political organizations arose that developed into a full feminist movement by the 1970s. These included the National Organization for Women (NOW), formed in 1966 under the leadership of Betty Friedan; the National Women’s Political Caucus (1971), composed of such nationally known feminists as Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Gloria Steinem; the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council (1973); and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1973).

The force of the women’s rights movement, spearheaded by NOW, was brought to bear on the major issue of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. The ERA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972. On June 30, 1982, however, ratification of the ERA fell three states short of the 38 needed by that deadline. Later congressional efforts to reintroduce the measure have failed, although a number of states have added equal-rights clauses to their constitutions.

Since the 1980s the women’s movement has focused on diverse issues. These include reproductive rights, that is, preserving a woman’s right of choice to have an abortion against the fervent pro-life movement; sexual harassment; and the “glass ceiling” that impedes women in corporate advancement.
Women continue to make advances in the political field. In 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton made a historic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although she was defeated in the primaries by Sen. Barack Obama, she won some 18 million votes in those polls. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was the first female Democrat to be nominated for the vice-presidency. Sarah Palin followed her as the first female Republican nominee for that office in 2008.

Women have made considerable gains in the other political arenas. In 1991, there were 2 women serving in the U.S. Senate and 28 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the 2010 elections 17 female senators and 75 female representatives were serving, including 3 nonvoting delegates. In January 2007, Rep. Nancy Pelosi became the first woman selected Speaker of the House. She was chosen House minority leader after the Republican party won control of the House in 2010. Also, 6 women were governors in 2011. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg followed her to the nation’s highest bench in 1993. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor as the third woman and the first Hispanic American Supreme Court justice. Elena Kagan became the fourth woman to join the high court in 2010. Madeleine Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state (1997–2001); Condoleezza Rice held that post during the George W. Bushadministration. In January 2009, Hillary Clinton succeeded Rice as secretary of state.

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Why Your Destiny Is Directly Linked to Your Sexual Purity

by Dr. Doug Weiss | Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus.

There is a direct connection between your sexual behavior and your destiny in Christ. God has designed you and me to do amazing things for his kingdom, and our level of sexual purity will determine how useful we are. Sex and destiny are linked. This is why the devil works so hard to ensnare you in sexual sin. His goal is to neutralize you through immoral sexual behavior, thereby making you ineffective for the kingdom. And after 20 years of counseling men on this issue, I can tell you this is evidence that the devil is scared of you. Yes, afraid. Here’s why.

We have all seen great men of God excelling in the Lord and moving toward global impact, only to succumb to sexual sin. Suddenly, all they can do is watch as their ministries, families and reputations crumble in shame. Had these men prepared themselves to fight against sexual sin—been transparent with others, sought counsel, remained accountable—we would still benefit from their ministries today.

As I like to say about the devil, if he can seduce you, he can reduce you. There are examples of this throughout the Bible, especially regarding sexual temptation. Our biblical forefathers’ and mothers’ responses to temptation had a direct impact on their fates. Just look at Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife, for example, in Genesis 39:7–10:

After a time, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “My master does not concern himself with anything concerning me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my charge. There is none greater in this house than I. He has kept nothing back from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” She spoke to Joseph every day, but he did not listen to her about lying with her or being with her.

Joseph said no and stood his ground. His response cost him his job and almost his life. He was thrown in jail, but he refused to compromise his integrity for a moment of pleasure. You are probably familiar with the rest of Joseph’s story. He interpreted dreams for Pharaoh; then in a single day; he went from an imprisoned man with sexual integrity to being the second-highest leader in the greatest nation in the world.

Had Joseph failed this test, he could have easily been disqualified or killed earlier in his life after Potiphar found out about it. That one sin would have caused the death of millions by famine, because he would not have been where God needed him to be in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and tell him to store crops for food. Sexual purity is what maintained Joseph’s destiny.

What about you? What’s it going to be? Will you fight and take a stand? Or will you give in and forfeit the Lord’s calling on your life?

The devil tried to stop me through a series of emotional setbacks. My father and mother abandoned me at an early age. I fell into the traps of sexual abuse, drug addiction, pornography and promiscuous sex. Looking back, I can see that the devil was rightfully concerned that I would figure out God’s purpose for my life and pursue my calling in the Lord. Thankfully, I did. By God’s grace, I was able to recognize the wonderful life He had planned for me, which caused me to give up all my addictions and give everything back to Him. As a result, I have seen God gradually increase my influence through major media outlets and a robust international speaking platform. I now see men saved and set free from sexual sin everywhere I go.

And that’s my point. Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus. I believe it is God’s desire to expand your influence for His kingdom. He can make it happen if you will remain faithful.

Now is the time to get clean. Your family, friends, church and even nations are waiting for you. I could give you hundreds of examples of men caught up in pornography, adultery and other improper sexual behaviors who decided to repent, become accountable and build a support team. As a result, they began to help others and change the world.

You are God’s solution for someone or something on this earth. He lives in you, and He has given you special gifts unique to your personality. You are a great warrior, and the enemy attempts to scar warriors early in life. Beyond your guilt, shame or desperation is a heroic, epic story only you and God can write.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books, including Clean. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at heart2heart@xc.org.



The Role of Women in Building the Church

by Dr. (Mrs.) Omobukola Olaoye | In the new testament……God used these less known women to speak out, lead, and support people’s call to repentance. These women also had issues, hence, suffered some form of pain while serving. Yet, the scripture shared their gain, and reward, Acts 21:8-9 & Matthew 9:18–26 (image: ECWA Women at ECWA USA International Conference, Chicago, IL, July 20, 2018).

The Greek word for ‘church’ ekklesia relates to a called-out assembly (Ek = out of, Kaleo= to call). In as much as there was no ‘church’ in the old testament, there were the ‘called out’ that assembled in the wilderness. Abram was called out to go to the promised land – Canaan, and God used the services of Moses to lead the called-out people (Israel) from Egypt to Canaan. Apostle Stephen made reference to God’s called out people in the wilderness on their journey to Canaan. Acts 7:37-38  – 37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelis, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

 The Mandate
Gen 6: 5 -5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

In the days of Noah, there was wickedness, evil, corruption, and violence, hence a mandated call for someone to speak up, and a call for repentance.

No king ruled in Israel after Samson died in Judges 16, until the time of Eli in 1st Samuel. The incidence of evil in Judges 19 called for someone to speak up, and a call for repentance. Judges 19: 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelite’s came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

There was a call for repentance through true fasting in Isaiah 58:1 – “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.”

Aside from the popular women such as Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and Abigail in the old testament, there were other women that were less popular whom God used to speak out, to lead, and to support people’s call to repentance.  These women had issues, thus suffered some form of pain while serving. However, the scripture shared their gain, and reward. Table 1 below shows a few of the less popular women in the Old Testament by their marital status.

Table 1. Less popular women in the Old Testament by their marital status.

Unmarried The Pain The Gain
Rahab
Joshua 2:1, 3; 6:17-25
Current Stigma:
-`Prostitute
– Betrayer of her own people
Mentioned in the Hall of Faith –
Hebrews 11:31
James 2:25 – Rahab was considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction.
Married The Pain The Gain
Noah’s Wife, Son’s Wife –
Genesis 9
– Nameless
– Scorned during the preaching, and
-Loneliness after the flood
1 Peter 3:20 – God’s patience while Noah was building the ark is a reference point today.
Rahab Past Stigma:
-`Prostitute
– Betrayer of her own people
Rahab married Salmon and they had a son named Bo’ oz. Bo’oz’s son was Obed and Obed’s son was Jesse, the father of King David. – the line of Jesus – Matthew 1:5
Jehosheba, wife of Jehoiada the priest. She was the daughter of King Jehoram and Queen Athaliah. As well as a sister of Ahaziah, (Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel who murdered her grandchildren, thus Jehosheba was the granddaughter of Ahab and Jezebel.) Jehosheba took Joash (her Nephew) the son of Ahaziah, stole him away, and hid him for 6 years. II Kings 11 – Little-known woman,
– Surrounded by ungodly family members,
– The sorrow of losing so many nephews killed by her mother, and
– A complicated life.
Her courage preserved the royal line of David through which Jesus came. She is a point of reference for good today.
Widowed The Pain The Gain
Widow of Zarephath – fed Elijah – man of God who was ministering to the children of Israel. 1 Kings 17:7-16 – Poor
– Hopeless
– Helpless
Jesus recognized and mentioned her faith and work. – Luke 4:26
Unknown Marital Status The Pain The Gain
Woman of Thebez  – killed Abimelech, bold/courageous, was at the war front.

Judges 9:50-57; 2 Samuel 11:21

– A mere unknown woman,
– At the war front
– High risk
– Hard work
Made history, hence, an example
Wisehearted Women -These skillful women with willing hearts labored as unto the Lord. Gave their treasures, time and talents ungrudgingly for the completion of God’s Tabernacle through Moses in the wilderness.

Exodus 35:22-29

 

– Nameless,

– sacrifice,

– hard work

 

Made history, hence, an example

Tabernacle Women – Made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Exodus 38:8

– Nameless

– sacrifice

– hard work

Made history, hence, an example

In the new  testament during the time of Jesus, people gathered in Synagogues and temples. Luke 4:16 – He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.

John the Baptist called for repentance due to wickedness, evil, corruption, and violence at that time.

Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:17 “ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.”

Similarly, in the New Testament, aside from the popular women such as Mary, Elizabeth, Dorcas, Table 2 below shows a few of these less popular women by their marital status. God used these less known women to speak out, lead, and support people’s call to repentance.  These women also had issues, hence, suffered some form of pain while serving. Yet, the scripture shared their gain, and reward.

Table 2. Less popular women in the New Testament by their marital status.

Unmarried The Pain The Gain
Daughters of Phillip the Evangelist

These four single young women had the gift of prophecy. They represent boldness, courage and a willingness to step out for the Lord no matter what season of life. –  Acts 21:8-9

– Nameless Their ministry is mentioned in the Book of Acts.
 

Jairus’s daughter was dead – Matthew 9:18–26

 

 

– Hopeless

However, God used her resurrection to bring praise to His name.

Reference point today

Married The Pain The Gain
Priscilla – co minister with her husband Aquila as Tent Makers. An effective mentor to Apollos. – Acts 18:2 – Possibly expelled from Rome for Christ

– Sacrificed time from their business

Mentioned today as a good example.
Salome – wife of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56), the mother of James and John that requested they sit in places of honor in the kingdom (Matthew 20:20–21), & a female follower of Jesus. One of the women watching when Jesus was being crucified—with other women (Mark 15:40). Together to anoint Jesus on the 3rd day (Mark 16:1–8). Only Mark mentioned her by name. – The anxiety

– pain from losing Jesus

– Almost unknown

Mentioned today as a good example.
Widowed The Pain The Gain
The Samaritan Woman – The woman at the well. Able to confront her past truthfully and transform into a motivating mouthpiece for the Lord. – John 4 – Her past was loaded She became one of the first mass evangelists for Jesus Christ.
Widow of Nain – her son was raised from the dead. Luke 7:11-18 – The pain
– The loss
– The grieve
Her life became a testimony and a source of praise to God
The Widow’s Mite – who gave her all in the temple that Jesus commended. – Luke 21:1-4 – The hopelessness Jesus recognized and mentioned her faith and work
Unknown The Pain The Gain
Syro-Phoenician Woman – The Canaanite woman who begged as a dog.

Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30

– Nameless Great faith that Jesus recognized.

The power of such resilience needed in building the church of God today.

Present and Future – Building Solid ECWA Churches in the U.S.

The Role of Women in Building the Church

ECWA Women at ECWA USA International Conference, Lanham, MD, June 21, 2014

The church started at Pentecost, after Jesus ascended, and was referred to as the body of Christ. (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18).

The Mandate
Due to continuous wickedness, evil, corruption, and violence in the world today, there is a need to speak up, and for action to repentance.

Matthew 24:37 – “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Matthew 28:18-20 – The great commission – 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 – The Ministry of Reconciliation

Today, God, regardless of our marital status, God is looking to use our services to speak out, lead, and support His ministry of reconciling people to Himself as we call them to repentance.  We may have issues like the less known women referenced in both the old and new testament, we may suffer some form of pain while serving. Yet, the scripture encourages us that there is gain and reward for us sometime in the future.

Pain
As discussed so far, women may be experiencing or may experience some of the challenges below or more.

– Current or past stigma/loaded past

– Nameless and unknown/little-known

– Scorned because of Christ

– Lonely, poor, hopeless, helpless

– Surrounded by ungodly family members

– Sorrow, grieve, and pain from loss of loved ones

– A complicated life

– At the war front– in a high risk and very challenging situation

– Working hard

– Sacrificing and giving on several ends

– Possibly expelled/disowned for the sake of Christ, and

– Anxious

We are called to work, give, sacrifice, reach, touch and transform the body of Christ

Gain
Similarly, some of the rewards include, but not limited to.

– Being considered righteous

– God exercising patience with unbelievers because of us

– Making history as a point of reference/good example

– Having a life of testimony and being a source of praise to God, and

– Possessing the power of resilience needed in building the church of God.

 
Conclusion
We will be raising Godly lineage and preserving posterity through our courage –  Psalm 144:12 – Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Psalm 128:3 – Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children (boy/girl, young man/young lady) will be like olive shoots around your table.

We will be mentioned/recognized by the only One who matters – for evangelism, ministry, faith and good works, hence, reward us in heaven for joining Him in the ministry of reconciliation.

Therefore, we need to do the little we can. The women in the Old and New testament did not do it all, they just did their own part and passed the baton on. What are we doing that others can learn and pick from?

Dr. (Mrs) Bukky OlaoyeDr. (Mrs.) Omobukola Olaoye is a Home Healthcare Quality & Management Consultant; Administrator for A Premium Healthcare Solution, Financial Director of ECWA USA DCC.



Contraception and the Manipulation of Language

by Bob Sullivan | How did things get so bad? There has always been a battle between good and evil, but just looking over the past 100 years in the United States, we can see a blueprint that comes right out of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and through the Frankfurt School of pre-WWII Germany  (images: Reverend Peter Pang Wenxian holds the Bible above his head, Big Think)

Individual Americans have enjoyed more personal freedom, individual rights, and collective liberty than most, if not all, other civilizations in history. Yet we are living in a time when freedom, rights, and liberty have been so thoroughly redefined and distorted that we struggle to communicate with each other. A faithful Catholic uses the same words as a secular progressive, but the meanings of the words we use are often different. We may as well be speaking a different language. Words like freedom, gender, identity, and healthcare are defined differently by progressives. Meanwhile, public relations firms and marketing professionals spend untold hours coming up with the perfect way to pitch the product and ideology of their client. Arguments are carefully framed to make sure all dissent sounds politically incorrect. The redefinitions are now being used to eliminate religious freedom, virtue, and the most basic building blocks of civilization: marriage and family.

Redefinitions have led to new laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, known as SOGI laws. Once adopted, SOGI laws are used to make public sacrifices out of dissenters such as Jack Phillips, Melissa and Aaron Klein, and Barronelle Stutzman. The intent is to send a warning to all who may dissent: comply or suffer the consequences. Brendan Eich suffered the consequences and he was not even dissenting; he was simply donating money to promote California’s constitutional amendment to define marriage as an institution in which one man is married to one woman. If the LGBT activists win the cases currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, it will take a century or more before the country can return to just laws. Many question whether the United States has another century.

Eich, Stutzman, Phillips, and the Kleins are the victims we know about. There are many anonymous victims as well. Their parents dress them in clothing which conflicts with their biological sex or give them hormone treatments to arrest their physical development, so they have time to decide which “gender” they want to be for the rest of their lives. We have victims of abortion as abortion workers laugh about the baby parts through which they sort, selecting which organs can be sold for scientific experimentation. Then there is the silent agony of the mothers who suffer deep regret for their abortions. How many people are ritually euthanized in their hospital beds in the name of economy and sympathy? Then there are our co-workers and colleagues who feel they must remain silent for fear of losing their jobs after Brendan Eich was publicly shamed into resigning.

How did things get so bad? There has always been a battle between good and evil, but just looking over the past 100 years in the United States, we can see a blueprint that comes right out of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks and through the Frankfurt School of pre-WWII Germany. It was through these sources that came the “Long March,” which is Cultural Marxism’s way of overthrowing Western Civilization. Lenin’s style of Marxism required violence, oppression, and state-controlled propaganda. Gramsci’s Cultural Marxism simply required persistence, patience, and carefully manipulated definitions of existing words and phrases. Russia’s Marxism was a messy and violent process whereas the “Long March” of Cultural Marxism in America was accompanied by kind smiles, songs about sexual freedom, the aroma of marijuana, and the ringing of cash registers. We can blame those who introduced the Long March to the U.S., but in the end, we must simply accept the blame ourselves. We stood dumbfounded as Satan assaulted our culture and then our families, through six blatant attacks within the last 100 years. The first attack was artificial contraception, followed by no-fault divorce, abortion, hedonism and consumerism, same-sex “marriage,” and pornography. I do not think it is a coincidence that technology, from television to the internet to the smartphone, has played an increasingly significant role in these attacks.

Since this July we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae, we’ll focus on the first attack: artificial contraception.

You may know Margaret Sanger as the founder of Planned Parenthood, the abortion powerhouse, but her initial focus was artificial contraception. Sanger traveled the world trying to sell birth control to anyone who would listen. However, as she was scheming for the legalization of oral contraception in the U.S. from the 1920s into the 1960s, she kept running into a scientific roadblock. At that time, the medical and scientific fields agreed that pregnancy (and therefore, life) began at fertilization. Fertilization happens when a sperm unites with the egg. At that point, the two become one. The new life is called a zygote, a.k.a. a fetus, a.k.a. a baby. It is at fertilization that the new life form receives its own DNA and the sex of the child is determined.

Medical and scientific professionals knew that oral contraception would not prevent the fertilization of the egg on many occasions. When the pill fails to prevent ovulation, it can prevent the fertilized egg (now a distinct human being) from implanting into the wall of the uterus and therefore, the human life dies. Until the late 1950s, doctors, scientists, and others knew that to legalize the pill was to legalize abortion. Because of this, whenever Sanger and her supporters would promote artificial contraception, knowledgeable people knew they were talking about an abortion pill, and they almost always rejected contraception.

All this began to change in the late 1950s when some medical professionals began to say that life begins at implantation. A new definition of conception was in the making. Implantation occurs approximately five to seven days after fertilization. By 1960, the FDA had approved an oral contraception, an effort largely funded by Margaret Sanger and her supporters. As usual, changes in culture happen in small increments, but the legalization of contraception for married women was to be one of the most significant increments in the cultural change of the United States. A little change in a definition made this possible.

The floodgates opened in 1965 through word games in the courtroom and the medical field. First, the U.S. Supreme Court entered its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, declaring birth control legal via prescription for married women. According to the Supreme Court, the right to birth control was found somewhere in the “penumbras” of the Bill of Rights. Are we to believe that the woman’s right to privacy was hiding in the shadows of the Bill of Rights for 184 years until five judges discovered it? The Supreme Court thought so. And if you wanted to advocate for the right to life, you were declared a nosy, foolish, religious fanatic who wanted to control women. Those words had a chilling effect on people who disagreed with the Supreme Court. Word games are not always fun.

Due to the Equal Protection Clause, the Griswold Court knew that by legalizing contraception for married women they were laying the foundation for legalization of contraception for all women. This occurred in 1972, in Eisenstadt v. Baird.

On the heels of the Griswold decision, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a bulletin redefining the term “conception.” The bulletin stated that conception occurred upon “the implantation of a fertilized ovum,” instead of fertilization. One wonders if the projected revenue generated by the legalized pill had anything to do with the new definition.

Regardless of laws and definitions, reality tells us that artificial contraception does not always prevent fertilization and frequently results in full-term pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute says that over 50 percent of women who have an abortion report using contraception during the month they became pregnant. The U.S. has approximately 1.5 million unplanned pregnancies per year in which the woman was using some form of artificial contraception. The Shriver Report says that approximately 43 percent of these women choose to abort their child. Many doctors and abortion advocates believe that the ultimate backup plan for failed contraception is induced abortion, not adoption.

Remember those silent victims of the LGBT craze I mentioned earlier? Contraception has many millions more silent victims each year: women diagnosed with blood clots, those who wonder if their infertility or cancer is related to their use of hormonal contraception, and all those five to seven-day old humans who have their own DNA and sex, but die due to their inability to implant in the uterine wall. Contraception’s failure to prevent fertilization can result in an abortion long before anyone knows about the pregnancy. Contraception, including IUD’sDepo-ProveraOrtho Evra, etc., commonly acts as an abortifacient (a drug or device which causes an abortion).

As of 2018, there have been over 60 million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade. But this only counts the abortions we know about after implantation. How many millions, if not billions of abortions have taken place because the artificial contraception did not prevent fertilization? This is not an easy question to consider, due to the widespread use of the pill among Christians, including Catholics, sometimes prescribed by Catholic doctors and distributed by Catholic pharmacists.

Scientific knowledge didn’t change in 1965, nor did human biology. Advocates of contraception changed the way they talked about it, and doctors and judges simply changed their minds. America has had to cope with the change in the definitions and verbiage. Most of us coped by going along with the word game. We simply used artificial contraception without wondering if we were aborting our child. After all, intelligent doctors and unelected judges told us not to worry about it. If anything happens without our knowledge, it is as if it never happened.

As faithful Catholics, we need to be more knowledgeable about the history of the legalization of contraception and we need to recognize that artificial contraception is the largest killer of human life in the United States. We need to teach this to our children, and we need to help our contemporaries understand this as well. Regardless of the word games, reasonable people do not want to kill people, much less their own children.

Bob Sullivan and his wife Carmen are the parents of five daughters. They live in Hastings, Nebraska, where they attend St. Cecilia Catholic Church. When he’s not practicing law, Bob writes and speaks about faith and the teachings of the Catholic Church. He writes a column for the Southern Nebraska Register and has had several articles appear in Catholic Answers Magazine. He blogs at www.bsullivan.org and www.thosecatholicmen.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@BobSullivan87) and Facebook (bob.sullivan.10004).



Protect Your Teen From These Unequally Yoked Relationships

by Patricia Bootsma | The worst parenting regarding dating is no boundaries—little input or leaving it up to the child to flounder through those years (the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. – Getty Images/Jill Giardino)

Outside of the decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and live a surrendered life to Him, the next most important decision made will be who one chooses to marry and share their life with. In 22 years of full time pastoring, I've seen too many Christian young people derailed from their destiny by marrying someone who did not share an equal commitment to Jesus. The Apostle Paul gave the directive to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).

Yet, I believe there is another form of being unequally yoked. That is with believers who do not share the same level of passion or pursuit of the heart of God, or who may not share a common vision or goals for life. How can we as parents help guide our children into making the best decision for a life partner?

Hopefully, as Christian parents, we are training our children in the value of living our lives with a biblical worldview. This includes prioritizing the Great Commandment of radical love for the Lord above all else (Matt. 22:37–39), obedience to Him that leads to fruitfulness (John 15:10), living a Sermon on the Mount lifestyle (Matt. 5–7) and a biblical view of relationships.

Two Views of Courtship

The biblical view of dating or courtship is very different than that of our modern cultural norms. In the biblical model, an interested young man would request permission from a girl's father to pursue the possibility of a relationship with the intention of a life-long commitment to her. Any pre-marriage relationship was under the oversight of the father, family or even the church (synagogue).

Courtship was about enjoying one another's company, often with family, friends or in groups, with a goal of determining if it was God's will for the other person to be one's future husband or wife. Commitment happened before intimacy.

By contrast, today's form of dating has little or no oversight by families and is more about "playing the field" with multiple partners with little or no intention or commitment to pursue marriage. Dating relationships are common (even expected) in ages as young as 11 or 12.

Since the oversight of a modern dating relationship is generally left to the couple, there are more opportunities to fall into temptation and not walk in purity. There tends to be much time spent alone. Emotional and physical involvement is expected. Intimacy happens before commitment. Having multiple dating relationships is like having multiple mini-divorces which can shatter hearts, shake confidence, plunge one into depression and awaken love before its time.

We have instructed our children in the biblical view of dating or courtship. We have asked them not to engage in the modern process of dating. We are happy for our kids to hang out in groups with friends, go to coffee shops for conversations that build friendships or help them get to know someone.

However, if a man pursues one of our daughters romantically with a more serious intention of dating, we have asked our daughters to have him request permission of my husband, John, and I to court or biblically date our daughter. Our permission would only be granted if this is one John and I would consider someone our daughter could marry.

Similarly, for our son (we have one son and five daughters), we asked him to speak to us first before pursuing a girl so we could share a unity that the girl is indeed "marriage material," and we all have a witness from the Lord to proceed.

Besides the obvious issue of no physical intimacy until marriage, we have asked our children not to kiss until engagement. But simply put, do not kiss before getting a ring, and do not take your clothing off until after the wedding. The question should never be, "How far can I go in physical touch and actions before it is too far before marriage?" The question should be, "How can I honor God and His person in my actions, maintaining utmost purity?"

I have appreciated the teachings of Lou Engle in his booklet Nazirite DNA. Basically, a Nazirite call (see Num. 6) has to do with setting aside time in one's life to seek the Lord, be consecrated to Him and not be distracted by things like dating. Our three oldest children took a Nazirite vow for periods of their lives to focus on the Lord and not pursue relationships. For example, our son did this for the duration of his high school years. Parents can encourage their children to not be caught up in culture's push for premature dating but save themselves for God's best.

What If It Seems Too Late?

What about parents of children already dating or those who have already 'gone too far' or for those who messed up themselves in dating relationships before they became parents? Well, I know firsthand what that is like since I had multiple unhealthy dating relationships before I met and married my husband.

The prayers of my mother proved very fruitful to help guide me. Upon seeing the error of my ways, the Lord purified me, cleansed me and forgave me of my premarital wrongs. While engaged, the Lord spoke to my husband, who was a virgin when he married me and was struggling with my previous dating past, saying, "Do not call unholy what I have made clean." We have now shared 27 years of a healthy, happy, glorious marriage.

The worst parenting regarding dating is no boundaries—little input or leaving it up to the child to flounder through those years. Stay strong your boundaries, have a consistent prayer life for your child to marry God's choice for them and give honest, loving input. Keep communication lines flowing as much as you can. Encourage your child that the Lord will repeatedly confirm a romantic relationship that is of Him. Perhaps they could speak to other spiritual leaders to seek advice or even listen to godly friends.

While speaking at a conference internationally, I was billeted in the home of leaders of the church. I was appalled to find out these leaders allowed their son to sleep with his girlfriend in his room in their home. They didn't want to confront him because they were afraid he would leave. I felt the spiritual oppression in that home due to the parents' unwise choice to let "anything go" in their home. I would rather have a child move out and face the consequences outside of my oversight than tolerate willful sin in the home that I have authority over.

Single parents such as single moms trying to help a son navigate dating years could reach out to mature men in their church family to help provide male spiritual leadership and friendship to their son. Parents with children who have already gone too far can teach and model the value of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus—starting over and not accepting any lies that now they are "dirty" or "trash." There is forgiveness, freedom and healing in Jesus.

Parental Blessing

In the blessing ceremony we have held for each of our children at age 13, among other things, they signed a covenantal commitment to sexual purity including abstinence until marriage. The ceremony is similar to a Jewish bar mitzvah, but in the Christian form is a bar (for a boy) or bat (for a girl) barakah, which means "son of the blessing" or "daughter of the blessing."

When in a courtship relationship, which we are all agreed on as Christian parents with our children, we also ask for a written and signed dating commitment. It includes activates to pursue (such as encouraging one another's spiritual vision, being actively involved in ministry, going to prayer meetings together and reading the Word together) as well as activities to avoid (such as kissing before engagement, being in compromising situations, watching movies that stir up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled, drinking alcohol together, being alone in a home). In order to be accountable to uphold these standards, the couple should submit the written and signed commitments to parents and those they view as mentors.

Very importantly, and before all of the above, the prayers of a parent for the guidance of God to bring their child into the marriage relationship He has for them is of utmost importance. We began these prayers regularly after their birth.

Of our six children, three are married, and three are still teenagers. I'm delighted to report that of our three married, our daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law are outstanding, godly young adults. They were our children's first dating relationship, first kiss on engagement and first sexual encounter at marriage. They have complementary passion for Jesus, live with common vision for the future in walking in destiny and are abundantly happy in marriage.

In regards to dating—there is a higher way. Let's choose God's way.

This summer teens are invited to "Awaken to Christ. Run with Others." at Awakening Teen Camps. Join hundreds of teens for times of corporate worship and biblically-sound teachings in a safe and fun environment at Awakening Teen Camps.

Patricia Bootsma, with her husband, John, gives pastoral leadership to Catch the Fire Toronto Airport Church. She is the director of the Catch the Fire Toronto House of Prayer and represents the province of Ontario to the Canadian Prophetic Counsel. Patricia travels both in North America and internationally, ministering prophetically and helping believers to walk in passion for Jesus and live out the fullness of their destiny. Patricia and John are the parents of six amazing children.



When God’s Plan Seems Crazy

by Shae Bynes, I want to remind you today that you are not alone. You never were and you never will be. (Image: journeyofanb.com)

I was standing on the rooftop of a tall building. It was dark outside, but there was plenty of light to be able to see a wooden plank lying flat over the edge of the building, almost like a diving board.

I felt an internal nudge as if I was supposed to stand on that wooden board, so I slowly walked towards it. I quickly realized that something was different about this board. There was nothing that was attaching the board to the rooftop! It was sitting there with no support of any kind. I knew in my heart that I was supposed to stand on it, but I was thinking "This is stupid. If I stand with both feet on this board I'm just going to fall to my death."

I stood there staring at the board for what seemed to be an eternity. I placed one foot on it (and kept the other one firmly planted on the rooftop) to test it and see if there truly was no support there. I was right. No support. I knew I was supposed to get on it, but it just wasn't making any sense.

After a few moments I placed my foot on the board again, and then I felt a gentle but firm push. The board gave way and I started to free fall off of the building. I was terrified for maybe 2 seconds before I heard a voice say, "Check your pocket." I reached into my pocket and there was a button. I heard the voice again. …"Push it." I pushed the button and a parachute shot out from the button and I started to drift safely. As I was breathing a sigh of relief, I heard in the most loving and comforting voice, "See … I got you."

That's when I woke up from my dream.

Have you ever felt like the God-given vision and assignment placed before you is completely crazy or impossible or downright terrifying, but you know it's what you're destined to do and it is the will of God concerning you?

It could be related to your business, ministry, professional career, or even your marriage or family.

I want to remind you today that you are not alone. You never were and you never will be.

I want to remind you today that you are equipped for the task ahead of you. You were equipped before you even entered the Earth.

Ephesians 2:10 says: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them."

You are God's masterpiece. You are not a product of your past or present environment. You are not a product of your experiences. You are a product of God. You were created for a work that is beneficial, distinguished, and honorable. As far as that assignment or task is concerned? Well, according to the original Greek text the word ordained is proetoimazō which means to fit up in advance (literally or figuratively).

You have been pre-fit and prepared for what's ahead of you.

With that good news in mind, go ahead and take the risk. Step boldly on that wooden plank. Your loving Father's got you.

Shae Bynes is a passionate storyteller, best-selling author, and engaging teacher whose life was completely changed by encountering God. She enjoys the response she receives when she tells people that she is a Firestarter, igniting fires in the marketplace and in the bedrooms around the world. Shae has authored several books on the topics of God-centered and Spirit-led business and marriage and is the Host of The Kingdom Driven Entrepreneur Podcast. Visit ShaeBynes.com to learn more.

 



If God Is Just, Why All This Suffering?

Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson | Holding God's goodness and the world's pain in tension (image by Bret of caterwauler.org)

A million girls and boys trafficked for sex each year.

Millions of widows facing violence and destitution at the hands of their own family and neighbors.

Tens of millions of slaves locked in crushing labor.

Hundreds of millions of girls raped.

How do we hold in tension the truth of God’s goodness and love for justice with the reality of pandemic suffering? There are countless stories of people all over our world—people created by God for a life of wholeness and flourishing but who instead undergo a living nightmare of injustice. How do we open our eyes and see the dire needs of our neighbors while holding fast to hope in a God who rescues, heals, and restores?

Derailment in the face of suffering is far too often the norm rather than the exception. Even those of us launching forth with the deepest passion for justice and conviction of God’s goodness can lose heart and fail to persevere over the long haul. Everyone is vulnerable to derailment; injustice can breed disillusionment and doubt. Suffering can drive cynicism or, even worse, despair.

But God invites us to come to him—not in spite of doubt and derailment but in the midst of it. Woven throughout Scripture is an unguarded type of prayer known as lament. To lament is to ask “Why?” and “Why not?” as well as “What are you doing God?” and “Where are you?” To lament is to pour out our hearts, holding nothing back. It is to pray without trying to be more full of faith than we actually are. Lament is prayer that honors the honesty of pain and anger while also honoring the truth that God is the one who reigns and whose hesed love never fails. Lament holds in tension all the suffering that seems to make no sense with a determination to believe that God is just. Lament draws us near to God when we are tempted to turn away. Lament enables us to keep moving forward with perseverance in the justice calling; it is a way to remain deeply connected to the God who loves us and loves justice even when injustice makes us ask the hardest questions of God.

The Heart of Lament

Lament is a gift. In the midst of everything going wrong around us—whether in the world at large or in the lives of people whose names and faces we know and hold dear—lament is a gift given to help us hold fast to God. God invites lament because he knows our temptation to turn away rather than toward him in the heat of hardship. Some of us turn away by not talking to God when we experience pain in our lives or see the suffering and evil of oppression at work in the world. Others turn away by pretending they can simply press on with their lives and shelter themselves from the pain they feel or see, seeking to avoid the tension of wrestling with a good God who reigns over a world that is festering in grief. Lament is only the beginning of our journey toward God in hope, but it is a beginning that we can hardly plumb too deeply. Even as we station ourselves to wait upon the Lord and determine to rejoice in the midst of trembling, in the face of injustice we need to return again and again to lament.

The more we probe Scripture to see how prophets and leaders and ordinary people lamented their circumstances, the more it becomes clear that God invites our questions and pleadings rather than our despair and silence. God can handle the questions we bring; no question is too shocking or big for God. In the midst of the enslavement of God’s people, Moses shows us faith that laments: “Why, Lord? Why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?” He even goes so far as to accuse God of not doing what God has promised, crying, “You have not rescued your people at all” (Exodus 5:22–23).

The psalmists accuse God of not being present in the midst of suffering: “Why, LORD, do you stand far off?” (Psalm 10:1). They show impatience with God’s timing, frustration at having to wait, and the pain of feeling forgotten: “My soul is in deep anguish. How long LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3).

They admit that the ultimate victory of the Lord is not always clear, that defeat often feels much more near: “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2). They argue that suffering and injustice make God look like a fool and ask why God does not show the world the truth of his power: “How long will the enemy mock you, God? . . . Why do you hold back your hand?” (Psalm 74:10–11).

The Prayers of Lament

The books of Job and Lamentations echo harrowing questions directly accusing God of being the one who not only allows but also intentionally inflicts vicious suffering.

The prayers of lament in Scripture give us the gift of anguished language when we cannot find words of our own. And we need to speak; we need to speak aloud to one another during those times when we feel we are continuing to talk to God—we’re clinging and crying out to him, moving toward him, praying, worshiping, seeking him—and yet we don’t experience any response on his part. It can seem that not only is God turning a deaf ear, but he is no longer even present.

When we are brutally honest with God in the midst of true lament, we may find that “rock bottom” does not seem to exist; there can appear to be no end or limit to the grief, no enduring relief for the pain. We need to know that we are not alone in this sense of fathomlessness.

Jesus shows us what prayers of grief look like when the bottom has fallen out. Quoting Psalm 22:1, Jesus utters the ultimate protest of lament. Hanging on the cross in the fullness of his humanity and deity Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, emphasis added). Like Jesus, we can and should turn to the desperate cries of the psalms and the prophets as we grapple for words in our lament.

Cry out to God. Even when you don’t see his footprints amid the mighty waters, stand firm. Remember who God is even when you cannot see the truth of who he is in your midst. Rejoice that he is the God who fulfills all that he has promised, the God who saves, the God whose love for us and all of his creation is everlasting, never-failing. All glory will be revealed (Isaiah 40:5; Romans 8:18). Darkness will never be the final word.

Bethany Hanke Hoang is a Founding Director and Special Advisor for the International Justice Mission's Institute for Biblical Justice. You can follow Bethany on Twitter at @Bethanyhoang.

 



Can fibroids hurt your pregnancy?

Linda Carroll | In most cases, fibroids won't cause a problem with pregnancy according to experts | (Today Health & Wellness)

Often, the first time a pregnant woman learns she has a fibroid is during her initial routine ultrasound. That's because fibroids usually don't cause symptoms. But they are quite common—more than 70 percent of women have them.

In most cases, fibroids won't cause a problem with the pregnancy, experts say.

"Common as they are, complications during pregnancy are relatively unusual," says Dr. Philip D. Orons, a professor of radiology and chief of interventional radiology at the Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "The most common problem is symptoms in the mom, which can include pain, nausea, fever, vomiting and occasionally elevations of the white blood cells."

Uterine fibroids are abnormal, noncancerous growths that develop on a woman's uterus. Their cause is unclear, but they may be related to hormones or run in families. Once a woman is pregnant, fibroids can't be removed because the uterus is prone to bleed more than normally. So women have to live with them until after the baby is born.

Related: FDA warns against fibroid removing device in this Novemebr 2014 article on NBCNews.

Although problems associated with fibroids are rare, it's still important to be aware of the possible complications.

Pain

Fibroids larger than 2 inches are more likely to increase in size during pregnancy since their growth is driven by the hormones progesterone and estrogen. When growth is rapid, sometimes the central portion of the fibroid can degenerate and this can cause pain, Orons says.

Another scenario is when a fibroid is growing outside the uterus on a stalk.

"You can have a torsion of the stalk and that can cause pretty severe pain during pregnancy," Orons says.

Generally doctors will treat the pain with acetaminophen. If that doesn't work they may prescribe a short course of narcotics or NSAIDs like ibuprofen, Orons says, although "NSAIDs should only be used before 32 weeks gestation because the use of these types of medications later in the third trimester has been associated with developmental defects. Rarely, patients need to be hospitalized for intravenous pain control."

Complications during pregnancy:

  • Comprised blood supply: "If the fibroid is located right by the placenta, it can affect the blood supply to the fetus," says Dr. Stacey Scheib, director of minimally invasive gynecology at the Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Hopkins Multidisciplinary Fibroid Center. "Then sometimes the baby may be born a little on the small side and there can be complications, including difficulty breathing, problems maintaining weight and body temperature." If the blood supply is severely compromised and there's a drop in weight, doctors may need to deliver sooner rather than later.

  • Risk of preterm birth or premature rupture of the membranes: A growing fibroid can increase the likelihood that the birth will be premature, or that the woman's water will break before the baby is ready to be born, Scheib says.

Complications during delivery:

  • Baby's position adversely affected: Depending on the location and orientation of the fibroid, the baby can end up in either a transverse or breech position, Scheib says. That may necessitate a C-section.

  • Fibroid can make vaginal delivery impossible: If the fibroid is in a lower part of the uterus near the cervix, it can obstruct delivery, Scheib says. In that case, a C-section will be required.

  • Fibroid may lead to hysterectomy: Sometimes the fibroid will need to be removed in order for the obstetrician to close the uterus up, Scheib says. "Those situations are rare but because of them, there is a slightly increased risk of hysterectomy at the time of the C-section delivery," she adds.

Ultimately, women should take comfort in the knowledge that all of these pregnancy complications are very rare, both Scheib and Orons say.

 



Girl’s perspective: How to talk to women properly

Here is an insight for men on how to carry on conversation during a date with that special someone (Canamgirl Music photo)

Dear Men of all ages, I am sure that you all have the same question that you ask yourselves on a regular basis, “How can I pick up the ladies?” It is constantly on your mind, not only because you actually want a relationship or even just a date. It is an unwritten code among men. You hold a high place in your own manly society if you are that guy who gets all the girls. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is an issue? How do you think women respond to this knowledge? Do you think it works in your favor? Well gentlemen, I am here to answer all these questions and give you some insight. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of women who are losing faith in men.

Tip #1:Don’t try so hard.
Honestly if you make a couple attempts to get that girl onto the dance floor….to no avail…. it is most likely a wise decision to take a few steps back. Your chances of even a decent conversation will be a lost cause if you continue to push. This tactic becomes extremely annoying, not only that, eventually creepy. Instead, try asking once for that dance, (or whatever it may be) if you are “Shot Down” just wait for another opportunity to approach and strike up a conversation. You are basically still trying quite hard, although to the female species it will be seen as persistent; not pushy. You may actually instill in them a feeling of curiosity to know more.
 
Tip #2Play hard to get
Usually women are the ones who play hard to get. I can honestly tell you it is because it gives a feeling of being “hot stuff” “worth the chase.” Why not turn the tables?? Allow them to realize what a great catch you are! Pull away ever so slightly, give the woman a time to mull things over and realize how great you are Eventually she will turn up on your caller ID for a change. Trust me, we don’t give up that easily.
 
Tip #3DON’T be cocky!
There is nothing less attractive than a man who portrays himself as “Gods Gift to Women.” Be modest in conversation, try directing questions towards her, show an interest in her likes, dislikes, career etc. Be an honest gentleman. Tip #4Be truthful in your intentions. Men, please don’t get our hopes up for something more if that is never your intention. If you are just interested in a few casual dates now and again don’t be afraid to tell us. It is better to know that there is no current interest in a committed relationship right off the get go.
 
We will respect you for it.
Nothing worse than having the wrong idea and then getting hurt in the end. So, to sum things up……You all have moms, sisters, and female friends, pay more attention to the things that they talk about. I’m sure they can be heard complaining about that last date, or how they wish ( the man in question) would speak to them differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those special women in your life, trust me, it will make you no less of a “man.” In fact, to a woman, you will see more of a man than ever!

is a blogger and the publisher of Susie Magazine: Find your soul mate. You may read more here.

 



A Decree for the New Year

As a single mom, "I've come to realize that it's not a sign of weakness for me to be lonely" (photo ECWA Archive)

Today is the 31st. The last day of the year, although it marks more than that for me. Today also closes out seven years of loneliness for me. On Jan. 1, I will begin my 8th year, and that's a long time. A very long time when you were made to love. When you were made for companionship.

A very long time when you're running yourself into the ground and losing your entire identity while you push yourself past every limit in effort to be both mom and dad, raising kids to feel as little as possible of the pains that come along with a single parent household. I'm tired. And I never get used to an empty bed. Never.

This year, year seven, has been monumental for me. To make a long story short(er), for the first time in this journey, I've come to realize that it's not a sign of weakness for me to be lonely. It's not a part of me that I have to allow to scar over, making me tough. I don't have to pretend … to the world or even myself, that I'm happy living life on a solo run. I've come to the end of a season in my life, and thankfully, the end of one season, means the beginning of another one.

As I'm looking with new eyes, I'm seeing that we are surrounded with people who are walking alone. I dare venture to say that 98% of said people don't prefer to be alone. I will only speak of myself here, but if the shoe fits, I'd encourage you to wear it as well. I've been inundated through the years with "let God be your husband" mentality. I've become ashamed for my own desires and somehow felt that to push for wholeness in this area was a direct reflection on my relationship with God not being where it should be.

Now I know that's not correct. Is God to be the center? Absolutely, but that's the case if you're married OR single. Spoiler alert: Our Father did not create us to walk alone. It was never His plan, He never intended it, even His disciples were sent out two by two. You're no holier by acting like you can win life all by yourself. He looked down at Adam and quickly admitted that it wasn't good for man to be alone. If God Himself admitted that, they why do we feel weak and powerless to do the same thing? It's time to get past that and I don't mean with Facebook rants about how sad we are. I mean in our prayers.

With this new revelation, I have personally decreed 2016 to be a year of new beginnings in our relationships, and not just for myself. I've decided to carry this for everyone in similar life situations who walk alone. It's time. I'm declaring this to be a year of prayer like never before. I'm going to move things in the heavens this year and I'm doing it for far more than myself. I'm doing it for you.

As I've come to this position, it's safe to say that I went through cycles of wanting to spit venom. I've hoped before and landed in a face plant every time. Many years ago I decided that it was better just to not try than to constantly be in heartbreak, so I simply isolated myself to keep the cycle from repeating. I convinced myself that I didn't need a mate. I was just fine. I was strong and I was bull headed. I could do just as much alone as I could together. Guess what? I was wrong.

As I keep feeling God pushing me in this direction, of course the thoughts come of all the times I've hoped in vain. How many times my heart got a fresh dose of sickness from hopes deferred. I keep pushing away the thoughts that try to convince me to NOT try again. Too many times I've thought the light was showing from the end of the tunnel, only for it to be a train that plowed over me.

Yet still … I hear the whispers … hope again. Just like Peter, he'd worked all night, was exhausted, every effort yielding nothing. Not even the smallest reward for his perseverance. Maybe there were even fishermen all around him, pulling in a good haul, but not him. He gets nothing. The sun comes up and he's done. He prepares to go home empty handed, again.

He pulls his boat up to shore and starts washing his nets when a man named Jesus asked Him to take Him out into the water so he could speak to the crowds better. Peter is tired, but he does. We don't know how long Jesus talked. Jesus MAY have been very long winded, we don't know … we just know Peter was tired, and empty handed. Peter had given up.

Just when it looked like Jesus was done and Peter could go back to shore, Jesus tells him to go out into the deep and let down his net. It's at this point that Amy (err, I mean Peter) says, "but Lord! I've done it all night. I'm tired. I've dropped these heavy nets and worked so hard to pull in what I needed to live and got NOTHING, even when everyone around me was successful. I've done this before, same exact spot … but .. sigh, just because you said so … I'm going to do it again." Simply at your word.

And we know the rest of the story. Peter pulled in more than he could even manage from likely the same spot where he'd come up hopeless just hours before. He put the needs of Jesus before his own by taking Jesus out on the boat when he was tired, discouraged and hopeless. Because of that, Jesus turned things and gave him the desire of his heart.

So many of us have invested years into serving God with broken hearts. We've "carried" the presence of God to a broken world, even when our own heart was empty. No more. This is the year of new beginnings and I'm encouraging you to go ahead and take a look around. Look around at all the times you've stepped through the same scenario and ended up with a dirty nose. Then, because He's saying so … try again. Same thing, same place. Try again.

(I just read a book that flipped my emotional tables on every level. As you decide if you will take the chances and drop your nets yet again, I'd strongly persuade you to read what I just finished. Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk. And just buy the thing … you'll want to highlight every page)

You. Have permission to hope.

Amy Howard Davis has been a single mom for the last seven years and lives in Kansas City with her two sons, ages 8 and 9. Follow Amy on Facebook.

 



Healthy Dating Practices for the New Year

This is what it means to date with intentionality and maturity (photo © Glow of Love by Angela D. Coleman)
 
There are plenty of unhealthy ways to date, so I've compiled 10 healthy dating practices that I believe cut to the core of what it means to date with intentionality and maturity.
 
1. Date with intention.
This is going to be for the best of both parties involved. Dating isn't a game, and the last thing you want to do is get in a relationship with someone when your intentions are anything but pure. If you're just looking for fun, I'd recommend you be open and honest about your intentions with anyone you meet or connect with. It's only fair to them and their emotions.
 
2. Make sure your first date is in a public place.
You just never know who you're going to meet. I'd recommend your first date be in a public place in front of lots of people and I'd even recommend you let your friends know where you will be in case something were to happen. You never know who the person you've chatted with on the phone might act in person, and the last thing you want to happen is end up in a private place with someone whose motives are anything but respectful.
 
3. Try to learn as much as you can before meeting them.
Yes, the beauty of social media. If they have public profiles, then make sure to do your due diligence and research as much as you can about the person. It only makes sense to do a little Facebook stalking to see whom you're meeting with. Come on, we've all done it. While someone's online profiles might not always match up with how they act in person, it's always a good idea to see how someone presents themselves online and it may give you the opportunity to end a date before it even starts. Better to be safe than sorry.
 
4. Value the input of your friends and family.
Your friends and family play a valuable role in your dating life, and it's always good to get their opinions when it comes to the person you are dating. Mind you, they might always give the best advice but it's always good to get wisdom from the people who are looking out for your best interest.
 
5. Continue to stay social with your friends and family.
Don't be that person who gets a relationship and then disappears from the face of the planet. We all know that person. Yes, I know you want to spend time with your new babe, but it's also healthy to continue carving out time for your friends and family members.
 
6. Have a "define the relationship" every few dates to see how things are going. 
Nobody likes dating in the dark. I don't mean literally, but emotionally. Not knowing where your relationship stands can be extremely stressful, so I suggest that you and your new girl/guy take time every few weeks to discuss where each other is at with things.
This will give you both clarity, keep the relationship healthy, and keep the relationship from ever going further than it needs to.
 
7. Be open and honest from the very beginning.
Relationships thrive on transparency. Letting people know about you from the very beginning is quite possibly the best thing you can do for your relationship. Everyone's made mistakes, and I'd encourage you to share about the big pieces of your life that have made you who you are today. Don't keep things hidden in fear of rejection. Be open.
 
8. Don't play with someone's emotions.
If it's not working, then end it. Some relationships are kind of like the TV show American Idol—they go on way longer than they actually should. Seriously though, don't keep a relationship going just for the heck of it. The best thing you can do is be transparent about how you're feeling. If things aren't working out, then end it with care. Ending the relationship as soon as you realize it's not working out will show you care about the person more than dragging it along. Trust me.
 
9. Don't have important conversations via text or email.
We've all been there. Auto-correct and text interpretation can be a relationship's worst nightmare. Save the important conversations for an actual conversation, not a banter of back and forth emojis and broken English. Plus, waiting to talk in person will give you time to really think about what you want to say instead of texting out of pure emotion.
 
10. Don't settle.
Simple. Don't settle for a mediocre relationship. You deserve to be with someone who supports you, encourages you, cares for you and loves you for who you are. Don't settle for mediocre when you could have extraordinary.
 
Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger and founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.
For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com