Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking Through The Valley of The Shadow...

Fear will blind you from the light. Faith will reveal it.



"When the Lord knows that good health is necessary for our soul's welfare, He sends it to us; and when we need sickness, He sends that too. Sickness makes us discover who we are." St. Teresa of Avila


I was on the phone with my old friend Kandi yesterday, discussing the latest turn in my health problems. I had yet another MRI scheduled for the evening, pre-Admission testing for tomorrow, leading up to a nerve biopsy that will take place on Monday the 5th. She admitted while she had never experienced anything like what's going on with me health wise, she had gone through much emotional and personal pain over the past year. I said, "You know it seems every 5 years or so, something crazy comes and hits me... five years ago I had the botched knee surgery and the car accident, and was working part time making no real money. Five years before that, I was a freshman in college with no money trying to figure how'd I earn enough for bus fare, let alone books. With each instance, before the storm hit, I felt like I had everything set. Things were all good. Then boom, a crisis that really tests me. Really builds my faith."

If I were to rewind to October 2008, my life was totally different. I had just married my Knight, and although I felt some back pain and leg pain, was outgoing... we shared long walks in the park, I did a 5 mile Breast Cancer Walk, slid on heels to look pretty for work. A year and a half later, I sit in the park, struggle up ONE flight of stairs and am confined to flats (luckily, they are in again this season, lol). I have seen so many doctors at this point if it weren't for my Outlook calendar (Oddly, I keep the doctor's visits labeled in the purple category I titled "Sicky", despite, or maybe because its my favorite color... at this point, my 2009 Year view looks like Barney), I would have long ago lost count. What a difference a year can make.

Last Fall, when one of the many doctors carelessly threw around illnesses like "MS" and "ALS", I had my first real melt down. So like any mature, married woman... I drove immediately to my Mommy's house. She told me she'd pray, that the doctor's didn't know yet, to calm down. Unhappy with her surprisingly rational advice, again, like any grown, professional lady... I went right to my Daddy's arms. I cried, like a baby. And my father began to say "We'll believe by faith in your healing"... and trailed off. With watery eyes, he said, "Read Job, Baby." And hugged me and prayed. My fear quelled, I decided to calm down (like my Mother said to begin with, but, eh...).

I wouldn't actually crack open the woeful tale of Job until January, though, when fear had once again crept back in, and even took out a lease on a nice little section of my brain. Concerned that this most evil little emotion would buy prime real estate in my heart, I flipped through the Old Testament and reread the book I had skimmed through a number of times in childhood. This time, I found myself reading aloud Job's laments, talking to God the way he had. I became a one-woman play, asking why, refusing to curse God but wishing I hadn't been born. Tearfully I became angry at Job's well-meaning friends- didn't they understand this wasn't his fault? Why would they claim it was because of some secret sin? Didn't they believe me... uh er, him?

While I acted out Biblical monologues, I was also acting out at home. Lashing out at work. The world had become so very small. Fear, that ugly thing, seeing how I was travelling in the shadow of death, magnified the darkness, blocking out the light of my faith. I became disoriented, and instead of holding fast to the knowledge I was walking in the valley, I began to reside in an abyss. The shadows of death, became the grave itself. Fear had migrated to my heart, which is lethal, since "it is the well-spring of life."

The professional, adult, mature woman was slipping away. I questioned the honesty of writing this blog with it's title since I felt far from being a Proverbs 31 woman. Like the protagonist Esther in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, I was trapped in my head, viewing life through distortion and uncertainty. My Knight, armed with love, cracked through. Unlike Esther Greenwood, he reminded me that I was no mental patient, but a queen like that Esther from the Bible who stood on faith when it all mattered. "You read through the end of Job, right? You know what happens. Job's health, possessions, life, they were all restored. Why are you focused ONLY on the trials?" He pointed to a plaque I have hanging up in our little galley kitchen, the first picture I hung in the apartment when I moved there alone in 2007. It reads, "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4". Ah, touche. That little picture I brought on sale at Target- funnily hung over the sink, as if doing dishes could be equated with the "sufferings" that St. Paul was referring to- had hit home. And cracked through the fear-built menagerie in which I was encased. "The world, " K said, "is far too large for you to live in your head."

With Lent approaching, my self-pitying cries of "Why" turned to prayers of "God, I feel useless, but I know I'm not. Use me. I humbly ask that You help me to help others." I repeated the prayer constantly, and to my surprise, friends and acquaintances came to me, sharing their hardships. I prayed for them. We prayed together. I shared Scripture. And on some days when I felt low, they surprised me by being strong for me. I mentioned in a previous post how a pastor on TV spoke on Jesus performing the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves to feed 5000. The pastor mentioned how Jesus first broke the bread, and how in our lives, we go through seasons of brokenness. Then Jesus, thanked God. We should do so, thanking God, rejoicing through our suffering. Then the miracle occurred- the multitude was fed, having their needs met. One boy's small offering to Jesus, broken and thanked for, became a blessing through the power of God to thousands.

As hard as being sick has been, I honestly believe that like St. Teresa's quote, it was needed. Needed to reveal that despite my job, clothes, friends, family and amazing husband, I need God. I need Him above all else. So I thank Him now, not in spite of the pain, but because going through this trial, I have grown closer to Him. Fear no longer resides in my heart, although the sneaky devil does make annoying reappearances in my mind. But I think about my husband's admonition to not linger in the dark shadows. I continue with the Psalm, knowing that even though I walk in the valley, I will fear no evil. For He is with me. His rod and staff give me comfort. He prepares for me a table in the presence of this illness to nourish me through this, anointing me for His purposes, to the point I am blessed with more than I need. I know with no uncertainty that goodness and His mercy shall remain with me every day of my life, and I will remain with Him securely forever.


A special thank you to everyone who has sent little messages, prayed for and supported me through all this. A big thank you to K, Gi Gi, Clarissa, Mommy, Tony aka Shaun, Danielle, Kathy B., Kathy S, Kandi, Robyn, Lori, Don. And to Dawn Eden, thank you for your kind words and encouraging emails. God will bless you all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Mail Mary"- The Daily Show Takes on "Mother Teresa Stamp" Opposition

If There Was No Resurrection, We'd Have No Faith


From Crosswalk.com, an article by Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaf about how the Christian faith rests on Jesus' defeat of death:


"The physical resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Without it, Christianity crumbles. It is precisely because the physical resurrection of Christ is at the very heart of Christianity that it is constantly under attack. Our culture frequently denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ due to a bias against miracles. It is common for aberrant Christianity and cultism to deny the physical resurrection of Christ as well. For these reasons, we must be equipped to defend this essential of essentials. To do so, let's look back at the biblical and historical records of Christ's resurrection.

First, the physical resurrection of Christ is affirmed in the canon of Scripture. When the Jewish leaders asked for a miraculous sign, Jesus answered, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19). Scripture confirms that the temple he was speaking of was the temple of his own body (see v.21). John states: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched -- this we proclaim concerning [Jesus] the Word of Life" (1 John 1:1).

Furthermore, the confessions of Christianity are replete with references to the physical resurrection of the Redeemer. Cyril of Jerusalem proclaimed, "Let no heretic ever persuade thee to speak evil of the Resurrection. For to this day the Manichees say that the resurrection of the Savior was phantom-wise, and not real."

Like the church fathers, the medieval church and the Reformation produced compelling confessions concerning the bodily resurrection. Thomas Aquinas condemns those who "have not believed in the resurrection of the body, and have strained to twist the words of holy Scripture to mean a spiritual resurrection." the Westminster Confession assert: "On the third day he rose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sittith at the right hand of the Father."

Finally, the characteristics of Christ's body bear eloquent truth to his physical resurrection. Jesus invited the disciples to examine His resurrected His resurrected body so that they would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was the exact same one that had been fatally tormented. He also ate food as proof of the nature of His resurrected body.

Jesus provided the final exclamation mark for His physical resurrection by telling the disciples that His resurrected body was comprised of "flesh and bones." "Touch me and see;" He says, "a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39)"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Palm Sunday!


I found this video of a sweet little four year old girl named Aliana sharing the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jereusalm, humbly riding on a donkey. Check it out:




Now the story, directly from Scripture:


The Triumphal Entry John 12:12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Hosanna!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey's colt."

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"



Friday, March 26, 2010

This Is No Small Wonder!

Workers putting together the robo-baby boy.

Definitely the strangest news I've read in a while. Although the story of robo-children is familiar (remember the 1980's sitcom "Small Wonder"?), this is totally real. From FoxNews:

"The automated doll developed at the University of Tsukuba, called Yotara, giggles and "wakes up" when a rattle is shaken.

He sulks and dozes off like a real baby and smiles when his stomach is rubbed. The robot can also sneeze and have a runny nose, thanks to a heated water pump system...


"We wanted to create a new type of robot that is soft, cuddly and cute," said project leader Hiroki Kunimura. "We'd like people to experience the innocent, joyful expressions typical of small babies."

"Through this experience, it would be great if some people started feeling that they wanted to have their own baby, if they started feeling that working is not everything."

Japan's birth rate is among the lowest in the developed world at 1.37%, compared to 2.12% in the United States and 1.84% in Britain."

To read the whole story, click here.

Forgetting Haiti



Since people have attention spans that last, oh, about 5 seconds longer than a fruitfly, its time to remind everyone that the suffering continues in force for the wrecked Caribbean nation. From today's New York Times' Editorial:

"The emergency in Haiti isn't over. It's getting worse, as the outside world's attention fades away.

Misery rages like a fever in the hundreds of camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of the 1.3 million people left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake. The dreaded rains have already swamped tents and ragged stick-and-tarp huts. They have turned walkways into mud lakes and made difficult or impossible the simple acts of collecting and cooking food, washing clothes, staying clean and avoiding disease. The rainy season peaks in May.

Worsening the weather crisis are the unchecked sexual assaults and rapes in the camps, where families are squeezed side by side in flimsy quarters and women and girls are left unprotected after dark.

A new report from Amnesty International affirms that security is inadequate, that police and soldiers are often missing, that every nightfall brings terror. Victims stay silent because rapists go uncaught and unpunished; what little policing exists is focused on other priorities.

Both the shelter and safety crises demand an urgent response, and while feelings of urgency abound in Haiti, their impact is only sporadically felt. The little country is swarming with well-intentioned organizations, each trying to do their little bit of help. One group is trying to distribute thousands of flashlights to women and girls. It's a kind and practical gesture, but what they really need are shelters from sexual violence, and adequate policing. Haiti has neither, Amnesty International reports.

Any effective solution would need to be coordinated with the government of Haiti, whose leaders have been absent from the lives of Haitian citizens since the disaster. When former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton visited the capital of Port-au-Prince this week, they joined President René Préval in touring the camp in Champ de Mars, across the street from the slumped-over presidential palace. Screams of frustration greeted them. Where have you been? Why have you not helped us?"

The Haitian people are suffering. I ask that you continue to pray for them, and if you have not done so, donate to a reputable charity. Especially as Lent is coming to a close, a small financial sacrifice would be fitting.

For the rest of the article click here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jesus Did Not Mean "Do The James Brown" In Remembrance of Him

Black churches have long had a history of being very emotive. But this... this is just a hot mess!


In what can be described as a "Holy Ghost" sacrilege (yes, I'm quite aware that thos three words should not even go together), one overzealous brother "caught the spirit" while testifying, and began shouting... on the Communion Table. Yes, stepping right over the pulpit, Brother Footloose lost his mind and began tap dancing, spinning and pretty much shucking and jiving all over... the COMMUNION TABLE. Sadly, Jesus' words "This Do In Remembrance of Me" are carved right on the front of the table where normally the bread and wine rests, but in this crazed instance held his quickly tapping toes. He does make his way off the table to dance, running man-style, center stage, while the drummer just kept time with the madness.




In all my years of being Pentecostal, I never saw nearly anything so demented. PEOPLE: You better be careful what church you go to, because I don't know what "Spirit" would drive a person to such nuttery, but it ain't holy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Christian" Pastor Fred Phelps' Son Turns To Atheism

The "Reverend" Fred Phelps' church is well-known for holding disgusting protests such as this outside the funerals of slain soldiers across the county.


In what cannot be surprising to anyone, the son of the "Reverend" Fred Phelps, the infamous senior pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, Nate Phelps is an atheist. I can see why growing up in a home headed by a hate-filled, vicious father could push a kid to deny there is a Heavenly Father. From the National Post:

"Mr. Phelps was not from a typical churchgoing family, but from what a BBC documentary once called "the most hated family in America." His father, pastor Fred Phelps, leads the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The family, and a handful of followers, has held nearly 43,000 demonstrations, mostly in U.S., a few in Canada, once in Iraq, picketing synagogues and Holocaust memorials, disrupting the funerals of American soldiers killed in action, and of murdered Amish schoolgirls. They are infamous for their hatred and cruelty. Their signs insist that "God Hates Fags," and hates America, too, for tolerating homosexuality. They chant "Thank God for 9/11," and for the bombs killing U.S. marines. They tried infiltrating the Winnipeg funeral in 2008 of Tim McLean, who was brutally murdered and decapitated on a Greyhound bus, calling it God's punishment for Canadians' sins, but backed off over fears for their safety. They march with broad smiles on their faces, their young children beside them, delighting in the outrage they provoke.

"This is the family into which Nate Phelps was born 51 years ago and fled 33 years ago. At the time, his father had not yet graduated to street protests, but used a fleet of fax machines to broadcast his unabashedly hate-filled screeds to the world. Of his 12 brothers and sisters, only he and two others have deserted: The rest have grown Westboro with their own sons and daughters, inculcated in Pastor Phelps' intolerant, Armageddonist preaching.

"...Up until a year ago, he was driving a taxi in B.C.'s interior, quietly questioning God by soaking up in his off hours the anti-religion arguments of Mr. Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Today, as a faith-doubting refugee from Christianity's ugliest extreme fringe, he has become, rather by accident, a figure in the North American atheist movement.

"I'm not inclined to settle on that my dad's truth is the right truth, because it's a pretty scary truth if it is," Mr. Phelps says. "But it's just as difficult for me to settle on mainstream Christianity as the truth, because the essence of the message is still there. That these miraculous things happened; that this man who supposedly lived 2,000 years ago did this for us; and this is the basis of where we will spend eternity. Those are tough concepts to look at and say ‘yeah, that makes perfectly good sense.'

"...In the pastor's version of Calvinism, he promised that nearly all humans were sinners, pre-destined before birth to spend an eternity in a lake of fire. There was nothing anyone could do about it. It was terrifying.

"What has stayed with me all these years is the psychological [effect]," Mr. Phelps says. "It's the message, it's the information that you take in in your youth that you carry with you for the rest of your life."

The Bible does say to train up a child in the way he should go, and won't depart from it. And it's clear the way The elder Phelps raised his brood of a dozen WAS NOT the way they should go- "The Way" who is the Truth and the Life. Instead, they were spiritually fed poisonous lies which amounted to spiritually smothering Nate Phelps'.

May God touch his heart, and strike down his father. Okay, not really that last part (God forgive me), but I do hope the wrong Reverend stops spreading hate in the name of Love.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fan, Follow or Formspring Me



Really, I'm no gossip, but I am quite the networker. So, If you are on Facebook, you can be a fan of Far Above Rubies by clicking on the little Facebook icon at the bottom of the home page. I put up links to a variety of stories there that I don't have time to blog about, and sometimes do "extras" to series I have going on here, like Hair Stories.

You can also follow me on Twitter by going here or by clicking on the Twitter box at the bottom of the home page.

If you have a question for me, you can Formspring.me by going here. Or you can always be so 1996 and just plain email me at alishadefreitas@gmail.com.

If only my ACTUAL social life was so active...

http://twitter.com/alishadefreitas

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Honest To God", Celebrating Lent Prepares Us for Easter




It's over half way through Lent, and I'm happy to report that I haven't eaten any meat or drank alcohol, but I have been praying much more and reading Scripture daily. If you've been fasting and sacrificing, you might be feeling a little tired. I found a great article that hopefully will inspire you to stay motivated. It's called "Honest to God" by the Reverend Kenneth Collins. Here is an excerpt:

"We avoid Lent and Holy Week because it isn't a happy and uplifting time--but to be honest, neither is most of life. Sometimes we come to church all scrubbed up, dressed nicely, with smiles on our faces, and when people ask how we are, we reply that we are, we reply that everything is fine and we even boast how wonderful things are--but it is all a lie. Life is not always uplifting, or wonderful, or pleasant or joyous--but we have been taught the lie that for spiritual people like us, , it must be so. So we become play actors, hypocrites--telling ourselves that by lying, we are having faith, and that if we lie enough, the bad things will fade away, like a dream upon awakening.

"But in this we miss the whole point of the incarnation! God became flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus faced temptation. He suffered hunger, and thirst, He suffered the agony of crucifixion. Jesus our God did not suffer these things so that we would be exempt from them, He faced these things so that we would have dignity in them....





"The people of this world believe in the power of positive thinking and in happiness, and in believing in these things, they are very shrewd. For people of this world have only this present moment , and if they are unhappy in it, they have lost something. But we who are Christians can endure unhappiness and sadness and loneliness and backstabbing and betrayal and friendlessness and poverty and hunger and thirst; we can face mourning and grief and even death, because Jesus faced all these things. As Christians, we know that Jesus' suffering was His way to glory, and His Crucifixion was the door to His Resurrection. We know that He ascended on high and sits, alive and well, at the right hand of His Father, where He rules over all things. We can face our own crucifixions in life, because we know we will share in His Resurrection on the Last Day!*"

To read the whole article, click here. For more Lenten resources, click here.

*Copyright ©1995-2008 by the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins. Reprinted with permission.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! (So Who Was St. Patrick, Anyway?)


I'm a Jersey girl, so my first exposure to St. Patrick's Day was through images of the world famous parade right next door in Manhattan. As I got older, it became a day when my father would happily cook corned beef (my father is all about any holiday that involves delicious meals). By the time I hit college, it unfortunately had spiraled into a day that everyone wears green (I'm actually in green as I write this), becomes "Irish for the day", and then gets wasted. But then, like nearly all holy days, once they become commercialized holidays they usual mutate into a day of excess spending, eating or drinking. (Does anyone know anything about St. Valentine, either? Really?)

Yesterday I was asked about St. Patrick's Day at work since I had marked it on my calendar, and could only stutter out a "Um, he's the patron saint of Ireland. I think he helped feed the hungry during a famine?" Yes, that sentence came out like a question, because, well, I don't know about the guy. So, being the inquisitive girl that I am, I decided to find out about Saint Patrick by looking him up on the EWTN website. Here's what it says:

"The field of St. Patrick's labors was the most remote part of the then known world. The seed he planted in faraway Ireland, which before his time was largely pagan, bore a rich harvest: whole colonies of saints and missionaries were to rise up after him to serve the Irish Church and to carry Christianity to other lands. Whether his birthplace, a village called Bannavem Taberniae, was near Dunbarton-on-the-Clyde, or in Cumberland, or at the mouth of the Severn, or even in Gaul near Boulogne, has never been determined, and indeed the matter is of no great moment. We know of a certainty that Patrick was of Romano-British origin, and born about the year 389. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon, his grandfather a priest, for at this time no strict law of celibacy had been imposed on the Christian clergy. Patrick's own full name was probably Patricius Magonus Sucatus.

"His brief gives us a few details of his early years. At the age of fifteen he committed some fault—what it was we are not told—which caused him much suffering for the rest of his life. At sixteen, he tells us, he still "knew not the true God." Since he was born into a Christian family, we may take this to mean that he gave little heed to religion or to the priests. That same year Patrick and some others were seized and carried off by sea raiders to become slaves among the inhabitants of Ireland... he tells us him self that "constantly I used to pray in the daytime. Love of God and His fear increased more and more, and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred up, so that in a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers and at night nearly as many, and I used to stay out in the woods and on the mountain. Before the dawn I used to wake up to prayer, in snow and frost and rain, nor was there any such lukewarmness in me as now I feel, because then my spirit was fervent within.

"After six years in captivity, he gained his freedom and returned to his family. "When Patrick was again restored to his kinfolk, they gave him a warm welcome and urged him to stay. But he felt he must leave them. Although there is no certainty as to the order of events which followed, it seems likely that Patrick now spent many years in Gaul....stayed for three years at the monastery of Lerins... and that about fifteen years were passed at the monastery of Auxerre, where he was ordained. Patrick's later prestige and authority indicate that he was prepared for his task with great thoroughness.



"Patrick was consecrated in 432, and departed forthwith for Ireland... in the land of his former captivity..." where he preached Christ in a land ruled by a pagan king counseled by Druid priests. In his "Confession", he wrote "It was not any grace in me, but God who conquereth in me, and He resisted them all, so that I came to the heathen of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to bear insults from unbelievers, to hear the reproach of my going abroad and to endure many persecutions even unto bonds, the while that I was surrendering my liberty as a man of free condition for the profit of others. And if I should be found worthy, I am ready to give even my life for His name's sake unfalteringly and gladly, and there (in Ireland) I desire to spend it until I die, if our Lord should grant it to me."

If you would like to know more about St. Patrick, click here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ripple Effect


We are all here for a reason, and there is purpose to our lives (even when we cannot see it). Recently, Pastor Kerry Shook, of Woodland's Church in Texas, did a series on how one action we take can ripple, and become magnified and touch countless others. You can hear or watch the whole sermon here, which is taken from the story of Jesus' taking a little boy's lunch of a few fish and loaves of bread and multiplying it to feed thousands.

He uses Ephesians 3:20 as a key verse: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,".

The videos below are personal stories shared by members of the church within the series. Very inspirational.



Single & Committed: The Ever Rising Phoenix

Cathy, the Rising Phoenix. Take that Jean Grey!

Note: This is part of a series on Love, Sex, & Relationships from a Christian Perspective. It was inspired by "No Ring, No Ting".



"An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words." - Sanford Meisner


Actor Sanford Meisner was referring to the field of acting in that quote above, but it applies to life as well. Cathy, a single, 21 year old Theatre major and Youth Ministry leader, is well aware her behavior- on and off the stage- many times outweighs what she says.

Also, known as Rising Phoenix, Cathy has had her share of ups and downs. But like the mythical bird of fire, she is determined to continue to rise. Extremely busy, between a full class load, theatre productions, trips to New York City and her role working with inner city youth, I managed to get her to share some of her journey as a Christian single.

I asked her about chastity and abstinence, if there is a difference, and (gulp) if she practices abstinence. She answered, "I've never really thought about it, but in my mind, chastity means choosing to never have sex in a lifetime, and abstinence means choosing not to have sex until you are married."

Okaaay, so are you abstinent? Why or why not? (I think in asking these questions, like with April, I feel like a creeper. Thankfully, like April, she had no problem answering. Phew!) "I do practice abstinence because I believe that sex is a gift that I want to give to my husband to show him that I am trusting him with ALL of me. If I had sex with other men, what would I do to make my husband feel any different from them?

"Mind you, I save my kisses for ONLY my boyfriends and roles for a show. I don't give kisses or myself freely. Plus, it really makes my life easier because I don't have to constantly think of fulfilling that urge, and it doesn't add on extra stresses- disease, even tougher breakups, pregnancy, etc."

Before I married K, I stuck to kissing, too. Unfortunately, that kissing led to some below the waist action, which led to major regret and guilt. Although I gave my virginity to my husband on our wedding night, I felt in many ways, I had given up my integrity long before. Speaking from experience, it's hard to live a life of purity, especially in a world that tells you there's something wrong with you if you are NOT giving it up. Even the conservative "The Rules" book counsels woman to wait for a certain amount of time, not until they've swapped vows.

I asked Cathy if she had experienced any slip-ups. "Fortunately, I have never had sex, and I am very thankful for that. I admit that I had compromised myself in the past, but it never lead to sex. Even though I didn't go all the way, Yes, I felt guilty, and yes I sought out repentance. I have learned from those mistakes and didn't make them again."



Pretty as a picture, this could be a head shot.


But is it even possible to have a relationship, let alone casually date without, shall we say, taking the car out for a test drive before purchase? Plenty of people say "no". Actually, a resounding "no." Witness these comments left about an article on "Thrill of The Chaste" author Dawn Eden, a pro-purity author on Salon.com. Virgins and those who abstain aren't just nerds, but weirdos. (By the way, I've read "Thrill of The Chaste" and loved it. I highly recommend it to everyone, single, married, guys, but especially girls. I wrote about my anticipation just getting it here.)

Cathy thinks otherwise, "Yes. The longest relationship I ever had lasted almost three years, and the break up had NOTHING to do with sex." I did two and a half years, so I second that motion. Don't believe the lies. It can be done.

Some Christians have remained celibate by, um, how shall I put this... giving themselves a hand. The debate rages about this. Some say, "Well, it's not expressly forbidden in Scripture." Others say, "No it's not, but what of the impure thoughts? Jesus said to just lust after a woman is a sin!" Countless others just remain mum about it, unwilling to enter the fray. When I asked our sweet actress if she thinks it's okay, she point blank, flat-lined it: "No."

So, no sex, no masturbation. Some Christians say no physical anything, like famous Christian writer Joshua Harris, who "Kissed Dating Goodbye" but refused to kiss his wife until the minister marrying them told them to do so. What's the line then? Or is it one extreme or the other? "It all depends on what the individual's weaknesses are," she explained. "I think that when you've gotten to heavy petting/touching, you are playing with some serious fire. Even though there aren't any black and white rules for what you should or should not do, we need to know God's Word and be close to Him so we can know when He places those convictions in our hearts." Ultimately, it all comes down to the heart of the matter: God. A famous quote by Maya Angelou goes, "A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ, that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.”

Like Joshua Harris, Cathy does see a difference between just dating and courtship. "Dating is getting to know someone on a level that is more than just your average friendship (WITHOUT the 'benefits' stuff), getting to know someone with the intent of something more in the future. Courtship is when you are involved with a person with the intent of marriage. I guess then dating is the move before courtship."

Okay, dating->courtship->marriage... which brings me to my next question. Do you want to get married? Hey, there are some people who feel St. Paul's call to singlehood. But if you do want to get married, any fears? "I would like to get married one day. Since that day seems very far from me at the moment, I don't have any fears. I'm not afraid of being "alone" though, but it IS difficult sometimes. However, I trust that God will take me to where He wants me to be, and whether that involves being married or single, I'll still follow Him."

Do you have a list of qualities you want in your future husband (I did, long before K and I went on our first date)? "Yes, and even though a lot of my non-Christian peers think they are 'unrealistic,' I know that God put expectations in my heart so that I will not be easily swayed by a pretty face with nice words." Good, cause as I mentioned in the opening, she is a Theatre major, meaning she is in college, and there are a whole lot of pretty faces looking to sway, and a whole lot more with a girl.

While we're on the subject of marriage, what are the roles of husband and wife? "A husband and a wife are meant to COMPLIMENT each other. Where the husband may lack, the wife thrives, and vice versa. Both are to be friends, love each other and do their best to help the other person be the best that they can be."

How do you think marriage will be versus being single? "Well, you lose the excitement of the first date, first kisses, crushes, etc. However, with a marriage, you gain things that will replace those that you are 'giving up.' I know that marriage is not easy, and it takes a lot of work. I expect my husband to respect me, be my friend, lover, companion and treat me like the princess I deserve to be treated as. He should encourage me and I will do the same for him out of love. He will give me 150% and I will give him 150% in return."

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby, in the baby carriage. Okay, not for a whole lot of people these days. But do you want kids? And how important are they to marriage? "Kids would be fun to have. I don't think they MAKE a marriage, but kids definitely add a new layer or responsibility, experience, and memories to the mix."

Her eyes tell a story.


In the story of the phoenix, she rises from ashes, remnants of a past gone. Not too long ago, Cathy had to deal with the end of that nearly three year long relationship. But, she is resolutely positive about it. God has given her beauty for ashes. "After the breakup, I clung to God tightly, and really tried to learn lessons from the relationship. I used the time after to discover more about myself and who I am. I believe that it made me a better Christian, actress, and most definitely a better leader. I don't think it's wise to immediately jump into the arms of another person as a rebound (even though it may be very tempting) because you lose what you could have learned from the last relationship.

"Also, you don't know if you are involved with the person because you care, or if it's to find a quick fix way to heal your heart. I don't feel bitterness about it, but accomplished, because I really love who God helped me become. Immediately after the breakup, it's hard to say these things, but it takes a lot of time to grow/heal/learn. However, not focusing on the 'Oh no! I'm single, I have to start over, etc.' mentality and having true Christian friends really helps too."

Being in this world but not a part of it, can be hard, especially for a Christian single woman. Society often runs afoul of what Scriptures teach regarding marriage. I asked Cathy her take. "I believe that the husband should be the spiritual leader of the home, but the wife must also help him/encourage. I don't think the 'submitting' thing is in a negative way, as some people who like to start arguments or twist the scripture think. I mean, we submit to the LORD, and we go on an incredible adventure. Part of Submitting is trusting, and why would you marry someone you don't trust?" Great question. Awesome point. Ladies, if your boyfriend is not imitating Christ, why would you want to marrying him, thus promising to submit to him? The Church, as Christ's Bride submits to Him... this is the model for the Christian marriage. Food for thought...

In courtship, physical acts aren't black and white, but what about in marriage? Are there any areas that are no-go's? "I really wouldn't know, but as far as I can think, I would say that would go under the whole relationship with God. You can't try to justify something if in your heart, you feel the tug that says it's wrong."

I couldn't end an interview about sex and marriage, without asking about divorce. With nearly half of all marriages- Christian and non- ending with a decree of dissolution, I asked Cathy why she thinks people don't follow through with the whole "til death do us part"-part of their vows.

"Because people get married for the wrong reasons, which could include:
A) Getting married because you feel that "you're not getting any younger."
B) Getting married because you wanted to have sex without the guilt.
C) Getting married because you wanted to give your parents grandchildren.
D) Getting married because you thought it was a good idea at the time/that you could change a person eventually.
E) Getting married because you thought "I'm done with college, so the next step is to find a man."
The list could go on, but I wont. =P"

Her list ended but her warm attitude regarding relationships hasn't, despite a break-up. I commented after she gave her answers, that I found her to be spiritually positive. And I suppose, that's why her behavior- full of commitment to God- speaks volumes, without her ever muttering a word.

Confidential to Cathy: TCA girls will always rule. ty4this.


If you are interested in talking about sex and relationships from the Christian perspective, email me at alishadefreitas@gmail.com.

"Today's Unthinkable Is Tomorrow's Reality"

Double amputee Iron Man, Scott Rigsby.


The title of this blog comes from a quote said by Scott Rigsby, a Christian who feels his push to overcome his life changing accident as a teen, comes directly from God. He said those words while appearing as a guest speaker on the DayStar Network's "Hour of Power" which is taped at the Crystal Cathedral.

He was only 18 when he was in a car accident that resulted in the loss of both of his legs. He went through numerous surgeries, and spent many years suffering from depression as a result. Over 20 years later, in 2005, he hit a low point, asking God to give him purpose. Two weeks later, he was given it. Watch the news report of his story below:




Through his trials, Rigsby, with the grace of God, persevered, and has now broken world records and inspired thousands. He recounts his story in the book "Unthinkable".

His story reminds me of St. Paul's words in Romans 5:

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'm Disconnecting This "Telephone"


Dear Lord. When my brother Joe told me he was freaked out by the Lady Gaga and Beyonce collabo "Telephone", I knew it was be strange, disturbing, even. I didn't think I'd spend the entire time watching it with my mouth stuck in a "O" position.

I have a conflicted opinion about Gaga. Her music is catchy, but after watching every video she's put out after "Poker Face" I've become increasingly leery. Her costumes make Tim Burton movie wardrobes' seem like something you could pull off the rack at Target. She murders boyfriends with abandon. She plays with guns and nudity. All while claiming celibacy and women's inability to freely express themselves sexually.

The Disturbing Duo.

My opinion is now set. As talented as she is, she's freakin' scary. After watching the "Telephone" video, I quickly said a prayer (really). So, be forewarned. THIS VIDEO IS RATED R. IT FEATURES CURSING, PARTIAL NUDITY, AND DEPICTIONS OF MURDER. On a side note, why Tyrese? Why? We all know your music career died a long time ago, but still...???


Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Spiritual, But Not Religious?" Maybe You Should Think Again


I know you've heard someone say it before- "Oh, I'm not religious, but I am spiritual." They say it with such pride. Heck, I've even said it in the past, trying weakly to differentiate myself from "religious, church folk" who are judgmental, hypocritical and embarrassing to the faith. But lately, I've realized just how non-committal that phrase sounds. I mean, what does, "I'm spiritual" even actually mean, anyway? There are people with Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds who all claim to be "spiritual". Some people are even Agnostics- unsure if there is a Higher Power- yet refer to themselves as spiritual!

I understand the folks who don't want to be called "religious" since it often has negative connotations tied to the word. Others, though, are "spiritual" simply because they don't want to commit to any one faith tradition. They want it all. The problem with this I've found, is to everything in practice becomes very little, if nothing. I once dated a guy in college who I labeled a "Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Everything". Although he was raised Baptist, he had fallen away from any church, and chose to cherry-pick through what he deemed the best of them all. And the strange thing is, although he thought Jesus was awesome, he never actually read the Gospels. He respected the Koran, but never attended a mosque or read more than a few Hadiths. While trying to claim it all, he did nothing and believed very little. Needless to say, the relationship fizzled out pretty quickly.

Over on Busted Halo, I stumbled on this article by the Reverend James Martin, a Catholic priest. Here's an excerpt from his piece:

"Everybody seems to be spiritual these days — from your college roommate, to the person in the office cubicle next to yours, to every other celebrity interviewed. But if “spiritual” is fashionable, “religious” is unfashionable. This is usually expressed as follow: “I’m spiritual but just not religious.” It’s even referred to by the acronym SBNR.

The thinking goes like this: being “religious” means abiding by arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. (Which would have surprised many thinking believers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, Dorothy Day and Reinhold Niebuhr.) Religion is narrow-minded and prejudicial — so goes the thinking — stifling the growth of the human spirit. (Which would have surprised St. Francis of Assisi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, St. Teresa of Ávila, Rumi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Or worse, as several contemporary authors contend, religion is the most despicable of social evils, responsible for all the wars and conflicts around the world...

There is a human and sinful side to religion since religions are human organizations, and therefore prone to sin. And frankly, people within religious organizations know this better than those outside of them.

Some say that on balance religion is found wanting. Still, I would stack up against the negatives some positive aspects: traditions of love, forgiveness and charity as well as the more tangible outgrowths of thousands of faith-based organizations that care for the poor, like Catholic Charities or the vast network of Catholic hospitals and schools that care for poor and immigrant populations. Think too of generous men and women like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Catherine of Siena, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King again. Speaking of Dr. King, you might add the abolition, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, all of which were founded on explicitly religious principles. Add to that list the billions of believers who have found in their own religious traditions not only comfort but also a moral voice urging them to live selfless lives and to challenge the status quo...

Still, it’s not surprising that, given all the problems with organized religion, many people would say, “I’m not religious.” They say: “I’m serious about living a moral life, maybe even one that centers on God, but I’m my own person.”

“Spiritual” on the other hand, implies that, freed from unnecessary dogma, you can be yourself before God. The term may also imply that you have sampled a variety of religious beliefs that you have integrated into your life. You meditate at a Buddhist temple, participate in Seders with Jewish friends at Passover, sing in a gospel choir at a local Baptist church (great again), and go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at a Catholic church (also great).

You find what works for you, but don’t subscribe to any one church: that would be too confining. Besides, there’s no one creed that represents exactly what you believe.

But there’s a problem. While “spiritual” is obviously healthy, “not religious” may be another way of saying that faith is something between you and God. And while faith is a question of you and God, it’s not just a question of you and God.

Because this would mean that you’re relating to God alone. And that means that there’s no one to suggest when you might be off track.

We all tend to think that we’re correct about most things, and spirituality is no exception. And not belonging to a religious community means less of a chance of being challenged by a tradition of belief and experience, less chance to recognize when you are misguided, seeing only part of the picture, or even wrong.

Consider a person who wants to follow Jesus Christ on her own. Perhaps she has heard that if she follows Christ she will enjoy financial success — a popular idea today. Were she part of a mainstream Christian community, though, she would be reminded that suffering is part of the life of even the most devout Christian. Without the wisdom of a community, she may gravitate towards a skewed view of Christianity. Once she falls on hard times financially, she may drop God, who has ceased to meet her personal needs. Despite our best efforts to be spiritual we make mistakes. And when we do, it’s helpful to have the wisdom of a religious tradition.

This reminds me of a passage from a book called Habits of the Heart, written by Robert Bellah, sociologist of religion, and other colleagues, in which they interviewed a woman named Sheila, about her religious beliefs. “I believe in God,” she said. “I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.”

More problematic than Sheilaism are spiritualities entirely focused on the self, with no place for humility, self-critique or any sense of responsibility for the community. Certain “New Age” movements find their goal not in God, or even the greater good, but in self-improvement — a valuable goal — but one that can degenerate into selfishness.

Religion can provide a check against my tendency to think that I am the center of the universe, that I have all the answers, that I know better than anyone about God, and that God speaks most clearly through me.

By the same token, religious institutions need themselves to be called to account. And here the prophets among us, who are able to see the failures, weaknesses and plain old sinfulness of institutional religion, play a critical role. Like individuals who are never challenged, religious communities can often get things tragically wrong, convinced that they are doing “God’s will.” (Think of the Salem witch trials, among other examples.) They might even encourage us to become complacent in our judgments. Unreflective religion can sometimes incite people to make even worse mistakes than they would on their own. Thus, those prophetic voices calling their communities to continual self-critique are always difficult for the institution to hear, but nonetheless necessary...

Religion provides us with something else we need: stories of other believers, who help us understand God better than we could on our own...

Religion also reflects the social dimension of human nature. Human beings naturally desire to be with one another, and that desire extends to worship. It’s natural to want to worship together, to gather with other people who share your desire for God, and to work with others to fulfill the dreams of your community.

Experiencing God also comes through personal interactions within the community. Sure, God communicates through private, intimate moments — as in prayer or reading of sacred texts — but sometimes God enters into relationships with us through others in a faith community. Finding God often happens in the midst of a community — with a “we” as often as an “I.” For many people this is a church, a synagogue or a mosque. Or more broadly, religion...

Overall, being spiritual and being religious are both part of being in relationship with God. Neither can be fully realized without the other. Religion without spirituality becomes a dry list of dogmatic statements divorced from the life of the spirit. This is what Jesus warned against. Spirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community."

To read the article in its entirety, click here.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Be My Guest: Poetri In Motion


"When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses." ~John F. Kennedy


Spring is in the air, and poetry is in my spirit, thanks to my perusal of the My Medium Blog, authored by Poetri in Motion. As I was sipping my coffee this morning, I read one of her latest, "The Color of Coffee", and well, I'm feel very... caffeinated, ha ha. I figured I'd share it here, and encourage you all to go check out her site. We all get enough power struggles throughout the day- it's nice to be cleansed by poetry.


The Color of Coffee

He is…
The color of coffee
Light and sweet
Yes…
He-
Awakens
Me-
To…
Eye opening-
Clarity
And I savor
The aroma
Of his-
Flavor-
Mellow...
With just a hint of…
Cin
-na
-mon...

The-
Essence…
(sigh…)
Of his-
Fragrance
(sigh…)
Enchants me
To dine…
So I amassed
My thoughts…
My dreams…
Imagination’s delight
That were kept out of mind-
That were kept out of sight
Once neglect
-ed
In fact direct
-ed
On a course
Of sure distruction-
Affection?
Still questioning some decisions…
But he-
Gathers me-
Yes he-
Pours…
(sigh...)
Himself
Into me-
And I
Am-
Filled
With
Imagination’s-
Pregnancy
Revived to-
Lyrically…
Deliver
Destiny’s infancy

His breath-
Is life
And I-
His clay…
With eyes agape
I allow
Love's dictation
To start
Regeneration
Of spirit's potency
Within the shell
Left of me
He lifts-
My chin
And I survey...
The sun’s-
Beams;
Kiss the sky’s-
Rim;
She ascends…
And…
(sigh…)
A tear-
Filled with
Un-
Spoken language
Un-
Written sound
Travels my cheek…
Melancholy?
No-
Beauty...
Positive
-ly
That is "HE"…
I think-
Of him-
His skin-
The color of coffee
Light and sweet
And I am awakened…

-Poetri

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cause of Course, Christopher Hitchens Knows More Than God

Christopher Hitchens, atheist evangelist, has decided The Ten Commandments just don't work for today, and has decided to not just correct them, but well, throw them out. And introduce a far more progressive set, one of which actually manages to include both a prohibition against cell phone usage and an expletive.



Of course these type of moral relativistic revisions should be expected. After all, faith in God will always be foolish to the faithless, whereas their temporary opinions, wise.

Lady Gaga's No Romance & Miley's Lolita Lyrics

Every once in a while, I post a picture so... so... um, like this, that I can't even make a sarcastic remark about it. I'm speechless. (Photo from CNN)


Although Lady Gaga sings about "Bad Romance", turns out right now, she's having no romance. And no sex. According to CNN.com:

"Lady Gaga has made an art form of skimpy outfits, but at the moment it's all for show. The pop star says she is currently single and celibate. "I haven't got time to spend on the road to get to know anyone," she told reporters... 'Even Lady Gaga can be celibate. You don't have to have sex to be loved.'"

Even though I don't agree with her freakish wardrobe (although I'll give her props for being marketing savvy/attention loving enough to wear them), I have to admit, I agree with that last sentence. So I'll just repeat it. You don't have to have sex to be loved. Or in short form, sex does not = love. But anyway, back to the story.

"Sex should be fun, beautiful and colorful, but women get the short end of the stick,' she said. 'We're just receivers. We can't talk about sex, we can't sing about sex." Huh? Okay, true, some surveys show women may be pulling a Sally, as in "When Harry Met Sally" on a regular basis, but we're JUST receivers? Way to put our sex down, Gaga. And as for that whole we can't talk or sing about sex, did she just teleport in from the Victorian Age or something? (Hmm, might explain the first part of her moniker.) Considering one of her biggest fans, Madonna, released a book called "Sex" nearly two decades ago which was chock full of eroticism, I don't know what she's talking about. Heck, since Madonna, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears (among a host of others) have made careers off of selling sex, I can only guess that maybe all that makeup is leaking through her skin and effecting brain cells.

Eww. Did she not catch even one episode of his three season VD swap of a show, "Rock of Love"? (Photo from Post Chronicle.)

Speaking of Britney and building careers on sex, Miley Cyrus seems to want to take the Disney-darling-turned-tramp path to stardom that made Ms. Spears an international success. It might have also helped lead to two quick, failed marriages, erratic behavior, rehab, a couple of stints in psychiatric wards, a very unfortunate "haircut", but eh, that's all par for the course. Like Britney, Miley has already had a controversial, underage sexy photo spread in a magazine, and has gyrated like a stripper on an awards show. You'll remember Britney had her moment back in the day. Or maybe "Christian" child stars from the South just like to drop it low instead of dosey-doe these days.

Miley's trip down the spiraling path to infamy recently had her stopping to make an icky duet with 40 something washed up Poison frontman/VH1 Celebreality star Brett Michaels. From The Post Chronicle:

"Cyrus asked the Poison star to join her in the studio for her reworking of the band's classic 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn', and fell in love with one of Michael's tunes, "Nothing To Lose", and asked if she could perform with the rocker on the track.

Michaels tells Billboard.com, “When we were in the studio, I said, ‘Do you want to hear some of my new tracks?’ She said ‘I’d love to,’ and I played her Nothing to Lose and she fell in love with it and said she’d love to sing on the song. I was like, ‘That’d be killer!’”

You can hear the inappropriate, age-mismatched duo here:



Just a reminder. Miley is 17. Brett could be her dad. And yes, he is singing about her falling down on him. Most disturbing is that Miley's mom was in the studio while all of this took place. But then again, Lynne Spears tagged along a lot with Britney...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Become One: April & Gary


April & Gary attending a friend's wedding.


Note: This is part of a series on Love, Sex, & Relationships from a Christian Perspective. It was inspired by "No Ring, No Ting".



“You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes” Song of Songs 4:9b



April and Gary had pretty much grown up together, attending the same church, belonging to the same youth group. Yet, they weren’t close, just cool. After high school, Gary joined the military and shipped off far from home. April, in the meantime, finished school and left for college in Seattle, eventually earning a degree in nursing. After serving honorably, he was discharged and headed back home, back to his family and the church he grew up in. April headed back home, too, and settled in with her parents, rejoining that same church, where her father is one of the pastors. Years had passed- both had grown older, wiser. Both had dated, but wound up single. And within a few months of meeting back up in 2006, they were married. Actually five months later, in February of 2007.


What always amuses me about their story is how the two of them knew each other for years, yet they didn’t actually “see” the other until that autumn. Now married three years, they continually see each other in new and exciting ways, as children of the King, friends, roommates, partners and lovers. I got a chance to capture April's thoughts on their marriage, having already read some of Gary’s opinions (I even posted some of his stuff here on FAR. You can check it out here and here).


April described their whirlwind courtship with smiles (full disclosure- this interview was conducted via email, but knowing her, there was a smile on her face while answering my probing questions):LOL, well....we were technically preparing for our wedding before I got a formal "Proposal" LOL. We knew on the first date that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.” Let me just interject here by pointing out that there were two “laugh out loud’s” in that opening. There is no way she wrote this with a straight face. Let’s continue. “Gary talked with my parents. And then we went out to dinner with my parents together and talked to them about us planning our wedding pretty quickly. My DAD told me a month earlier, "Why don’t you guys get married next month?" LOL slow down dad! Then 2 months before the wedding, while Gary was up here (he was living in Florida during our dating) for Christmas, he proposed to me Dec. 23rd.”


April’s father, Pastor Bill, is gifted when it comes to “seeing” things, even when others don’t. Five years ago, while I was at a retreat, he described K to me, saying he’d come into my life and bring plenty of blessings and happiness. Being the Pessimistic Paula that I was at the time, I balked. The funny thing is, a few months later I met K, but inexplicably, did not “see” him. It wasn’t until three years later that my blindfold came off- and it’s been blessings and happiness since. Ahem, but enough of my story, back to April’s proposal. “I was sitting in my living room, painting for my aunt's Christmas present. He came in the door and whispered in my ear..."Do you trust me?" Then He blindfolded me and carried me to the car (i had no shoes on). Drove me to Rahway park, gave me his big sneakers to walk in LOL..and lead me to the river in Rahway Park [located in Rahway, New Jersey]...where he'd placed roses everywhere in a quiet area. He took off the blindfold and knelt in front of me. The ring was tied to one of the roses. He knelt, in his sox, in the mud and asked me to marry him. LOL, I'm covered in paint, wearing his sneakers, and so the adventure began, LOL ;)”


April might have gone into that proposal blind, but she didn’t enter their marriage that way. She had long prayed for her future spouse, even before knowing who he was, and received sound advice about the life changing commitment she made in saying “I do.” This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of learning both had to do, and fast. Soon after the nuptials, April kissed Jersey goodbye, along with the family and friends she had just reunited with, to move to Florida where Gary was working. As Christ as their head, the two set out trying to find a proper balance, learning what it means to be husband and wife.


The core basics… for a Godly balance: The husband needs to be the head of the home and be responsible for the decisions made. This means decisions are made as a team, but the end choice and final say is the husband's… and his responsibility. The wife is his helpmate, and this will be different depending on the needs of the husband. I was blown away when Gary and I started going out. What I thought I would need to bring to the table in a serious "Godly" relationship... wasn't necessarily what Gary needed from me. I thought I needed to be the one who promoted ‘spirituality’... and [so I] encouraged him ‘spiritually’.”


She laughed thinking back, “But that wasn't what Gary needed from me (in general)...so I had to start from scratch with him. Which was great... because now that we're married, I can encourage, empower, and uplift him in any way he needs. The other major core basic is to love each other. If the communication -verbal, emotional, physical- is not reflecting I Corinthians 13, then there is something missing. I think it’s so easy to say you need to be ‘Patient, kind, self controlled, slow to answer....etc’. But to put that into creative application within a fluid relationship is the art of marriage."



April describes communication as “LIFE to the marriage. I find that when I'm in a funk, or have an attitude, it’s because I’m not talking to Gary about something. He's so good at being patient with me as I learn to articulate what I’m feeling.” She laughed again, “I always feel like a boy when it comes to this.” Don’t worry, Girl, if that is a masculine trait, I might have a little Y chromosome in me, too. She continued, “The style of communication will differ. BUT, it is oxygen to the lungs. Gary and I share everything together. Our love aim is to know all about each other's heart and to run this race as one. This kind of openness varies within different personalities in marriages, but in the end, if you are living as a team, learn to express what’s inside. ;) Some need to learn to express less....some to express in love...and some to learn HOW to communicate in general. How can you empower, heal, grow and become a mighty team if the thoughts in your mind and the things on your heart are not known by the other part of your community?”


If you are married, engaged, dating or single, I’m going to ask you to reread what April shared above, because I think, personally, this is where so many marriages go awry. We tend to focus on and talk about money, careers, kids, families, friends, church, sex, money... again, and then shove communication, truly sharing, in a wise manner, our fears, concerns and thoughts under that huge pile which makes up life. But as April pointed out, communication is “LIFE” to the marriage. Don’t allow life to smother the LIFE out of your marriage.


One topic which was discussed by every horny, “Silver Ring Thing” wearing Purity Pusher (and take no offense to that, I was a member of this group, sans ring) I knew throughout Christian school and in church was sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex. Ha! The group of kids I ran with talked about it so much they probably would’ve made Salt-N-Pepa blush. Even the ones who were doing it, talked incessantly about it, and we all foolishly believed sex would be the piece de resistance of our future marriages. Ha ha ha ha ha! Well, for anyone out there who is thinking this way, allow me to correct your thinking. Sex does not make a marriage. Don’t get me wrong, lack of it, abuse of it and having it with a non-spouse CAN break a marriage. But it should never be a foundation for one.


So there was no way I could ask April to discuss marriage without bringing up sex. Admittedly, I felt a little worried, she’d be taken aback, but thankfully, she was ready to share on this topic, too, making sure to run things by Gary (good move). Sex is “extremely important in our marriage. I truly believe God infused sex with a spiritual way of uniting two people beyond words. Yes we always hear it "ties two souls"...but I really think it does just that -without quoting scripture. I'm talking just as a woman and wife. There have been so many times I cannot express what is on my heart, but I've been encouraged, empowered, relaxed, and healed by intimacy with my husband. ;)


“Yes, we all know there are many different kinds of sex, but I think it is such a beautiful power that God has fused into marriage. But, just like any weapon...or power...things can be misused when there is something skewed in the relationship. So, sex in a healthy relationship, molded into a healthy way, is, for me, one of the most powerful, non verbal gifts.” April and Gary waited until their honeymoon to make love for the first time, and is so happy they waited. She believes there is freedom of expression in the marriage bed, but again, stresses communication is key. “I think what is desired within sexual acts will be different with every couple. I believe that as long as one of the partners does not feel uncomfortable, violated, humiliated, hurt...etc... then I believe in the beauty of creativity and exploration.


“So...no, I don’t think there are certain sexual acts that shouldn't be performed within marriage. And within marriage, I'm talking about Sexuality between only the man and his wife. Any kind of sexual immorality as described by God's desires: i.e. more than the husband and wife involved, homosexuality, animals ...etc is a perversion of this freedom. As for pornography, I don’t feel that is wise, healthy, or God-inspired. I think the man and wife should only be turned on by each other. Sexuality should be original between the two souls. If education is the desire, and creative inspiration is needed, there are other ways of attaining ideas and knowledge without porn: books, talking with experienced people...etc. Between the man and woman who are married, there will be seasons of sexual maturity and different desires and needs that can be explored through patience, sensitivity and thorough communication.”


Ok, so let me play Nosey Nancy. What about “toys”? And no, I’m not talking about Monopoly (although there are some games that could be played by rolling a set of die). “I think this kind of falls into the previous question. I think all "things" ;) are good to go if both partners are understanding. Again, if someone is being hurt (in a way they don’t desire), violated, humiliated...etc then take the toys away. Bringing another individual (not the husband or wife) or many people, animals, or porn, are not in the toy... but the porn is something I don’t think is beneficial or pure. Purity belongs in marriage as well. Seeing other people have sex, is not something I think God calls holy or pure. But toys...I don’t see why not if that’s your way of having fun together.” At the end of this sentence, she smiled again. Really. As you can see from the smileys I left in, this is one happy girl. Her middle name is Joy, and she lives up to it.


So is it okay to NOT have sex in marriage? For a partner to abstain? “I would need to ask... why? I think in a fluid love language, nothing should be withheld. Communicate. Talk. Figure out the right words to express what is on your mind and in your heart spinning around. What is the reason for withholding sex? I don’t think this is a healthy strategy in marriage. Overall answer...No, I don’t think it is right. Again, I want to know the situation. Is there a physical pain? Is there a fast going on? What is the heart motivation? Do both parties understand? If it is attitude, control, or just because...then no.


“Marriage is a powerful tool given to us, to live in community with another soul and God. This should always be in a fluid movement forward to strengthen and bring joy to the community of the three. Withholding, or even being ignorant of knowing the needs of the other is a red flag to me. Affection is also something that needs to be discussed. Why withhold affection? Is the partner turned off? Thinking about something the other did wrong? Control? Why withhold anything? Talk. Find the words to express what is on your heart to the other. You are a community...and that requires understanding for actions. Note: Some times this requires the couple to get counseling if this becomes an issue.” I agree with her. If there is something in your past, such as abuse that is preventing you from being comfortable sexually with your spouse, get help. There are countless women who have experienced harassment, molestation and rape. I encourage you seek help and healing so that you can move forward, free of fear and full of love.


Sometimes, though, it’s not the past putting the brakes on intimacy. It’s the present. It’s work, bills, sickness, stress, headaches… sometimes, you just can’t stand him. And I’m purposely using “him” here, because for the majority of problems like this, it’s the woman saying “no” to the man. What’s a wife to do if she’s not in the mood? “I think this is a complex situation. Not something that has a textbook answer. I would ask them the foundation for this feeling. How are they loving their husband? What is their love language to him? What does he need? LOL, if he's a man- I'm speaking to Godly women, so it should be a man- then he will need and naturally desire sex. Has she talked with him about this? Are there cleanliness issues? History of sexual pain/trauma? Discomfort? Physical issues? Lack of a general sexual desire? What is the core issue...and then address that.


Um, no, ladies, definitely not the way to handle problems. Even St. Paul warned against putting on the brakes for too long.



“In the end, I would love to see the woman, not just "serve" her husband sexually...but truly become a fluid gift and powerful beauty for him, through sexually loving him. Is she aware, before he asks, of what he needs/wants? Is she confident to initiate? Being a sexual gift (and not obligation) to her mate is one of the most beautiful and powerful things we have to empower and strengthen him. If this is an area of hesitation, I would need to know her heart. Her thoughts. And so will her husband. There may be medical reasons as well that could be lowering her libido.”

For the singles out there, and those in the dating and engaged phase, I asked her about abstinence. “I think there is a difference between abstinence and PURITY. Abstinence can be chiseled down to technical verbiage. Purity is in the heart, and what is happening between the two souls and God. In the end, if what is happening between the two is something that cannot be talked to God about....then maybe things need to be evaluated.”


And really, no matter what state a person is in relationship wise, if they are serving Christ, I believe a regular self- evaluation or heart check is in order. What God desires from all of us is purity in the heart, and I believe as we seek after that, all of our relationships- marriage included- will be stronger. We will “see” each other as God sees us- as simply ravishing.



If you want to read more by April, check out her blog "Colors of An Old Soul". If you are interested in talking about sex and relationships from the Christian perspective, email me at alishadefreitas@gmail.com.

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