Single Women in the Church

Craig wrote a little paragraph a few days ago asking how the church can do a better job ministering to "older" (meaning 30+) single women. 71 comments later (as of this posting), there have been some dynamite suggestions and some brutally honest critiques as well. I would highly recommend reading the entire thread -- especially if you're in church ministry of any kind. It's very revealing of the pain and struggles unmarried women go through, and amazingly gracious and balanced despite its length. This one has so far defied Godwin's Law.


Abstinence or Chastity?

Ever since the oh-so-wise and ultra-experienced new mom Bristol Palin expressed her opinion about "abstinence" being "unrealistic," the Christian blog world has been abuzz, with bloggers tsk-tsking, scolding, pontificating, and hand-wringing by turns.

I'll be the first to admit that the abstinence movement (the stalwart True Love Waits and various smaller efforts) has been a joke and a general failure. A Slate.com article from a while back (one of many on the subject) called such programs a success on a sociological level, in that they motivated participants to delay sexual intercourse by around eighteen months, on average. Wow! Eighteen whole months! What a triumph...

"Joke" might sound like a bit of a strong word. It is. But in the words of Inigo Montoya, "Lemme splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up."

Abstinence is a stupid term. Abstaining is something teetotalers do, something Sylvester Graham touted. However fancy the packaging, the word "abstinence" still feels punitive. It's the absence of something. And as any dieter will tell you, when you feel deprived, you're that much more likely to splash out by having an appetizer AND a rich dessert AND a glass of wine.

But a proper view of human sexuality is not supposed to feel like eating celery sticks at the Food and Wine Classic. Sexuality is woven into the created order. It's got a whole book of the Bible dedicated to it. It's supposed to be honored and protected. It's meant to be celebrated by the community of faith. It's part of our identity as image-bearers of God.

Do you see why it's completely insufficient to say merely that true love (whatever that means) "waits"?

Waits for what? Waits how? Waits why?

I think we need to completely remove the idea of "abstinence" from our discourse -- particularly the discourse we aim at young people -- and put in its place the idea of chastity. Chastity is both broader and narrower in its focus than "abstinence." To abstain is to do without something -- in this case, sexual intimacy. To be chaste is to view sexuality and sexual intimacy as something godly, valuable, and noble, to be experienced freely and joyfully in the right context, and to be directed toward that context. It's not a "don't." While abstinence is necessarily temporary, chastity is to be practiced throughout the Christian life.

(As a side note, I can't tell you how many times I've heard Christians say, "I was sexually pure until I got married." Hold up! If you've only ever been intimate with your spouse, you are STILL sexually pure. I believe this rather amusing and revealing malapropism stems from the idea that sexual purity is for the virgin but not the wife -- still perpetuating the old stereotype that sexual intimacy is a malum in se rather than an evil only when misused.)

I signed a True Love Waits pledge as a young teen, and I even wore a promise ring for a while until I misplaced the darn thing (sorry, Dad!). But I did so alongside dozens of friends who went on to forget those foundationless and hastily-written promises, which sounded so meaningful at age fourteen but somehow wore thin over time.

The truth is, we have failed to give young people a compelling reason to direct their sexuality toward marriage. At the same time, we've encouraged them to put off marriage, making even compelling reasons ring hollow! We've hinted that sex is dirty and sinful. We've told them No, No, No, No, and that's the end of it. We've told them they have to conquer the beast of temptation alone. We've spoken in hushed and shocked tones of fallen women and p orn addicts and all manner of other sexual sinners, driving the struggling and fainting heart into isolation.

Worst of all, we've failed to put before them the blinding glory of Christ and the plan of the Almighty God of the universe for human relationships. We've failed to tell them of the provision of Christ for our every need, and for the precious gift of the Holy Spirit who comforts us in our distress and guides us into all truth.

Given all these failures, is abstinence unrealistic for most young people? Of course.

But chastity, grace, and the glory of God? That's a message well worth our time to tell.


There is A Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

One of my favorite hymns -- this one almost always makes me cry. Little known fact: girls will undoubtedly remember in the movie version of Sense and Sensibility the scene where Marianne is brutally critiquing poor Edward Ferrars's reading of a poem. We catch the lines: "No voice divine the storm allayed/ no light propitious shone..." The author of that poem, William Cowper, is also the author of "There is a Fountain."

Cowper battled depression his whole life. I love the fact that, in the midst of his struggles, he wrote such a beautiful hymn that expresses not just his personal hope but the hope of "all the ransomed church of God."


Praying and Waiting!

UPDATE! She's here! Olivia Kious Jolly, born today (Eastern Standard Time), but 7:20 a.m. February 16th in Hobart, Tasmania! Congratulations!

Just a quick update to ask you to pray for my dear friends Mike and Christine in Tasmania, who just headed to the hospital where they are hoping to meet their baby girl, Olivia! Pray that it's not a false alarm, that the labor and delivery go smoothly, and that Olivia enters the world in perfect health!


Introducing MadEnough Tips!

Hey all! I've been working on a new blog for all the Kitchen Keeping tips I've posted on here, as well as lots of other fun stuff on frugal living, gardening, preserving, and much more! Add it to your blogroll if you like, bookmark it, follow it, or just stop by occasionally.

All the frugal and KK tips will be moved over to MadEnoughTips next week, and It's a Blog will go back to its regularly scheduled programming.


Kitchen Keeping Tips #5 -- Waste Not, Want Not

I just finished reading a long thread on the Chowhound boards about culinary gems that usually get thrown away. It was a great reminder to me to return to my blog and continue the Kitchen Keeping series with a post about using everything in your kitchen.

To me, frugality is, in large part, about stewardship. My desire is to make the best possible use of the things I buy, so when I shop, I think in terms of how I can use up every item, true -- but throwing food away is not the only issue! Anyone on a budget hates throwing away food. My previous posts on planning and shopping can help you cut down on (or even eliminate) food waste.

But what if you were discarding stuff that you thought of as trash, but that wound up actually being a highly valuable asset to your cooking? Here is a list of things I never throw away:

1. Stale or old bread. Dried out bread (or heels or crusts) should be ground and stored in a bag or canister in the freezer. You can dry it out in a low oven for easier grinding. Dozens of uses: as filler/binder in meatballs, as a crispy coating for any meat, as a thickening agent in soups, etc.

2. Vegetable scraps. Carrot ends, celery leaves, parsley stems, and onion and garlic skins go into my stock bag to be either made into a delicious veggie stock or added to chicken scraps to make a rich chicken stock. If you're just making a veggie stock, you can add any other kind of veggie scraps you have on hand. I wouldn't add potato peels, but other than that, the sky's the limit. Also, re-think what "scraps" are. Don't toss radish tops, use them like you would any other green. Don't throw away broccoli stems, peel them and thinly slice or shred to add to stir fries or salads.

3. Bones. Seriously, if you roast a chicken or use bone-in chicken parts or have a ham with a bone or beef or pork ribs or anything else with a bone in it, for the love of flavorful cooking, do NOT throw those things away!! Even if you don't have the time to use it right away, at least put it in the freezer and mark your calendar. If you have beef or pork bones, toss them in a vegetable soup to add richness (not to mention nutrition!). If you have chicken bones or a whole carcass, throw that in a pot with your veggie scraps (along with skin and, if you're lucky and you have a good chicken, the neck and innards), cover with water and simmer for a few hours, and you'll have the most delicious stock you ever tasted! If you have a ham bone, put it into a pot with any kind of beans, some carrot and onion, and let it simmer all day. You'll be amazed at how much flavor you can get from something most of us would just throw out.

4. Cereal. Almost any kind of cereal can be used to make muffins, and there are dozens of good recipes online. Yesterday I made honey-walnut-banana muffins because I had a couple cups of Kashi cereal sitting around, four black bananas in my freezer, and a few tablespoons of walnuts languishing in a bowl on my counter. Something I would have otherwise pitched out became my breakfasts for this week AND next week!

5. Milk. People: ignore, forget about, and reject the date on your milk carton, ok? The milk I put in my tea on Friday was three and a half weeks past the date, and it was just as sweet and fresh as the day I bought it. Here is the trick: every time you get milk out of the fridge, give it a quick shake before you put it back. It will last a good month past the date on the carton, easily. And if you forget to shake it for a few days and the last of the jug goes sour, bake something. Sour milk is perfect for biscuits, scones, cakes, pancakes, even homemade bread.

Next up: a fun new project...