Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AWPATT IX: August 22-27 (Thoughts 83-88)

83 It’s eminently reasonable to take care to introduce oneself to others by “putting your best foot forward,” so long as it’s done with more of an aim to project one’s good traits rather than conceal undesired traits. Just don’t place too much emphasis on the process than is beneficial. You can stand to gain in relationships by not calculating every move or speech to try to accomplish a goal beyond merely helping a person get to know you. In romance, I feel that she will eventually get to know all of you eventually, if she’s the One, so being boldly open about yourself can do nothing more for the most part than help ascertain if the girl you’re interested in really IS the one.

84 Asked if I have a yearning for close male friends, not just my future wife, I pondered why I might not be so interested. I concluded that I have no resistance to male friendships, and have a welcoming attitude toward such fellowship, and that I can see the benefit thereof. However, I feel nothing drawing me in the same way that I feel an emotional void that a wife would fill. I neither need nor am made for having a lifelong intimate male partner. I’m made for a woman. This is Biblical. So the answer to the question was no, but not with a rebellious attitude, just with a sense of lack of both interest and need.

85 That should be clarified: married men don’t need “buddies.” They don’t need to have guys they hang out with in order to satisfy their need for social interaction. I do say this as an introvert, so there’s a risk my opinion is skewed from that. Fair warning. But I think a man should be first and foremost satisfied socially in his wife. She’s the one he connects with. She’s the one he can talk to—talk with—and listen to. She’s his companion and she’s the one he participates with in entertainment, rest and relaxation, chit-chat, philosophizing, sharing advice, talking about life, helping each other with problems, etc etc. FIRST. What’s he need male friends for, but to help him with the rare things he needs advice on with respect to his wife that he CAN’T ask her about (if they’re fighting and she’s giving him a cold shoulder, for example. Or if she’s mourning, and he wants to be careful and sensitive). This gets to the point of having male friends. The interest and need at the end of point #84 is emotional. I have and will have no emotional need for other men. The benefit (me-directed; my benefit to others is another Thought) of male friends is in their ability to improve your Christian walk in the few ways that your wife can’t—namely, she can’t tell you from personal experience how to be a Christian man. You can only get this wisdom from other Christian men. And if your buddies before marriage aren’t Christian, drop ‘em. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

86 But a single Christian man can only give you so much help. I’m writing this blog openly as a single Christian man. I have lots of thoughts and possibly very good advice for other single young men. Not limited to them: this blog can certainly be insightful to young women, or even people who are unsaved, or married. But what I have to offer will be less and less helpful to each successive person in that list. Why? Because in the case of women, I can only help them see what a Christian man ought to think and how he ought to behave, but I can only approach Biblical Womanhood from the outside—I can’t offer them as intimate of an insight. I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman; it’s not my experience. I can speak to a woman’s heart, but I can’t speak from a woman’s heart. And in the case of the unsaved, if you don’t accept the Gospel, theology has little practical benefit to you. Being willing to obey it is sort of a prerequisite to benefiting from being obedient to it. And in the case of those married, I can’t yet speak to their personal experiences, because I haven’t had many of them. I can only give them my approach to women, romance, courtship and marriage. I can’t tell you anything from my own experiences. To get the wisdom gained from marriage firsthand, you’d have to talk to a married man! This whole Thought’s point, then, is that you can benefit much more from friendships with married men, especially if you’re married, yourself!

87 And the direct consequence of this last point, then, is that if you as a married man have sought a married man as a friend or mentor, logic dictates that he has a wife. The reasonable thing to do, then, is for you to, as a couple, make friends, jointly, with other married Christian couples! So harking back to point #84 and #85, I don’t ever anticipate having ANY friends, when I’m married, who* my wife doesn’t also know, and likely no one that she isn’t also friends with! And to my best knowledge so far, from what I’ve learned from older people who have spoken on this subject, this is both the best practical thing to do, and it is Biblical and wise. It removes opportunities for temptation, keeps your accountability high, and gives you trusted confidantes who can help you in your walk, as a Christian and as a spouse.

*I am really curious if I used the right who/whom in this instance. Anyone with knowledge on the subject, please leave a comment. :)

88           Why do I have an easier time making female acquaintances than male ones? There’s two suggestions: one is that I put more effort into it because girls are more interesting. If that doesn’t account for it, then I suspect it’s because I’m more interesting when I open my mouth, to girls—particularly those with some life experience—than to guys. When I talk about love, romance and marriage, by and large, young women respond with head-nods of affirmation that they agree with my ideas, that I paint a picture that appeals to them, that the characteristics of a husband that I describe are what they desire. They act as if it’s refreshingly different to hear these things coming from me. Why? I think that, more so than guys, girls “get it.” Guys typically don’t know what women want, though they have many ideas. I’ve gotten closer to the mark, choosing to imbibe Biblical theology and wisdom from the life experience of esteemed elders, rather than take my cues from what other guys—or my own emotions—have been telling me. And when I express what I think women want, to women, I generally perceive that it’s warmly received—because women, being women, know what they desire in their own hearts, and are able to recognize it in what I say!
                I want to take a break in the middle here and make a caveat that I’m definitely not trying to cast myself as a know-it-all who has females all figured out. I’m using generic language for the convenience, but I don’t mean “all women” when I say ‘women.’ Please don’t mistake that. I’m simply sharing anecdotes in this Thought, and will surely affirm elsewhere that I have plenty of things I think or say that probably irritates women, too. Don’t misinterpret my words as reeking of pride. Be charitable in your interpretation of my statements.
                So, the point I’m getting at is answering the question of why it’s easier for me to make acquaintances with females. And the answer I believe is most accurate is that I have a tendency to talk about sex, love, romance, marriage etc with women (I’m very casual in conversation, as I am in writing), and more so than idiot guys my age and younger (and older, sadly), the kinds of things I express are things that make very good sense to thoughtful young women. Even more so if they’ve had bad experiences in relationships. They’re far more apt to assent to my notions that men have a certain responsibility in how they treat a girl, and agreeable to the notions of abstinence and the order of events. Guys, who neither bother to learn this stuff nor are women so as to be by nature better poised to intuitively recognize the sense it makes, generally respond to my philosophies in a patronizing or dismissive way, supposing that a guy with no history of relationship, single and virgin, can’t know very much. But what they fail to appreciate is the role restraint plays, and especially the fact that experience doesn’t guarantee wisdom—wisdom can be learned willingly through study, without the pain of your own mistakes forcing you to submit to it.
                And so, I have fewer guy friends because they’re more interested in chasing tail than having deep talks. Girls are far more interested in that, and so it’s the easiest and most obvious way for me to connect with them, conversationally.  That’s a long answer to a short question, and it constitutes a single thought out of 1000.

~ Rak Chazak

Friday, August 22, 2014

Two Game-Changing Tidbits Behind the Headlines

This won't be a huge post. I'm simply using it to redirect to two important articles, given recent developments.

Have you heard that the Israelis are bombing UN schools in Gaza? Read this to find out more about the "UNRWA," and what it is and what it does, and decide for yourself whether to decry or applaud the Israeli military.

Have you heard about how everyone's jumping on the "Ice Bucket Challenge" bandwagon to raise money for ALS? Who is the organization getting the money, and where is it going? Is the research sponsored by the money raised ethical or not? Read this to find out.

This isn't "conspiracy" in the sense that the information is covered up at all. It's all out there for anyone with a keyboard and the motivation to find it. But discovering it still gives you a very similar feeling. You've been lied to, and your whole perception changes when you're given the truth.

May these articles be helpful.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, August 21, 2014

AWPATT VIII: July 20-August 21 (Thoughts 50-82)

50 It seems unlikely to me that I’d marry someone much taller than me, because of the physical aspect to being her protector. If she couldn’t feel safe because she could ‘look up to me,’ in a sense, that would be a detriment to our relationship.

51 I also wouldn’t be very much interested in someone very much shorter than me, because of how shortness is associated with childishness, psychologically, for me. I wouldn’t want the temptation to look down on her like a child.

52 Basically I want someone I can look straight in the eye as an equal. A reasonable height is not important for its own sake, but for it to not subconsciously interfere with my ability to easily see and think of her as who she really is, without distraction.

53 Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be romantically alone for…well, up to and including my whole life, and why? Because the older I get, the more the chance diminishes that I’ll be able to meet someone my age who hasn’t over time done away with purity. Yea, when a son of man leaves his father and mother, will he find faithfulness among the women on earth? à That’s not a Bible passage, but it’s taken from a mashup of two that came to mind, (Matthew 19:4-5 and Luke 18:8). The connecting thread is this: The world is trending from more faithful to less faithful. This primarily concerns, per the passage, the amount of people who will come to Jesus Christ out of a generation—but it also affects the amount of people who will, as a result of that faithlessness, have any sort of decency in their character over the course of their life. The double meaning in my phrase plays on the second definition of being faithful as being sexually exclusive with one’s spouse. Will it be at all possible to find a single woman who hasn’t made herself unclean? Knowing my own sin*, it’s troubling to consider that most people, even still, are worse than I—by their own admission, in polls and anecdotes. Where is the restraint? From time to time I am brought to despair.

*of a specific sort. I am definitely not saying that I’m, across-the-board, less of a sinner than others. That would be monumentally naïve and arrogantly presumptuous.

54 If she initially shows a modest disinterest in me, save for a few glances perhaps, it would give me the impression she’s wholesome and restrained, whereas if she couldn’t take her eyes off me, and acted overtly to express physical desire for me, it would give me the impression she’s lustful and possibly lacking in sexual restraint, which would be unattractive.

55 I don’t much like people who appear uptight, but I’m far more favorable toward someone who’s awkwardly modest, than someone who’s notably immodest, awkward or not.

56 I thrive on direct communication. One of the many consequences of this is that I despise experiencing one-way communication with someone who’s emotionally withdrawn, or otherwise stunted. Normally pleasant people have behaved awkwardly and secretively after indicating some romantic interest. This could be expanded into a full treatise but I’ll stop here. I will strongly suggest to young women that refusing to say anything lest you say the wrong thing IS saying the wrong thing.*

*[note that this is in the context of a conversation and not in sharing your opinion, publically, on a subject of debate—there are numerous Proverbs attesting to the wisdom of holding one’s tongue in the latter case]

57 Watching movies together on evenings is one of the more consistent things I’ve done with my family in recent years, now that we’re older and all working. I imagine movie nights (even better with discussion) would be an easy tradition to begin while we’re courting, and continue when we’re married.

58 It’s historically been difficult for me to think and talk at the same time as I’m looking someone in the eye—at least at the beginning of formulating a thought, before I get into it. One thought from this: if I seem less intelligent when talking to you, you may be having an effect on me. Awe generally initially begets speechlessness.

59 The other thought from this: I’ll be able to practice and improve on this with you, to become a more capable speaker in one-on-one, face-to-face conversations, as in an interview, or sensitive counseling situation, for example.

60 The chances of finding a woman who has the four characteristics of being close to me in age, agreeable in similar/shared life goals, attractive and theologically sound are very low; it’s an easy thing to find people having just one or two of those! Considering that I know so much theology compared to the typical 20something non-seminary-student, I’ll probably find someone I like but who I’ll be minded to correct on some level. The thought: if I’m to be the Biblical husband and serve as spiritual leader for my spouse, she’d have to be willing and actually able to change wrong ideas and learn and adopt what is right and true, from me—not because I know everything that’s true, but the flipside is that she can’t, like any other person in the world, resist what I say just because I say it. That’s a different sort of bad response. Whereas she shouldn’t listen to me for my own sake, she shouldn’t disregard what I say for the sake of it being said by me. If this isn’t something that can happen with a young woman I’m getting to know—if she refuses to listen to reason early on, particularly if she’s imbibed wonky theology, then clearly she can’t be that woman who would be my wife.

Monday, August 4, 2014

4 Degrees of Separation from Meriam Ibrahim

These are the stories I stay alive for. Life on earth is an epic drama, and at this point in history in particular, we have a treasure trove of stories from history at our fingertips, waiting to be dug up and relished. The ability to know what happened in the past, let alone what's happening right now, is a blessing and privilege that can't be understated. I am quite confident that in eternity, God will show us flashbacks of what really happened, that we never knew about, simply so we can know what He did and give Him glory for it. And in the meantime, in my sense-limited experience of earth history as a participant, I take pleasure in getting just a little taste of seeing how His plan is unfolding. It's exciting. I can consider a day a good day if I learned something about men and women of today or men and women of history that makes me marvel at God's involvement.

Yesterday at the 'Life Group' (adult Sunday School) at the SBC church in my hometown I've been trying to be obedient in attending, the executive pastor dropped by to share a story having to do with the church's practice of "prayer walking."
Prayer walking is not something mystical. It is simply going out and walking around the community while praying for the people in the houses etc as you pass them by. The motivation is to connect the petitioner with the real world in a tangible way (praying from home is just as effective because God is the One who answers), so that as they go around, they get a sense of the needs of the community so that they have a better idea of what to pray for. Basically it's an immersive activity to help you target your prayers more specifically. It's not in any way suggestive of the idea that your prayers become more 'powerful' because you're doing a sort of ritual. Nope. Not at all. The whole goal is to make you more personally involved, and incite you to feel more compassion for the people you're praying for.
The executive pastor shared that he'd been at a retreat in New York (state) with his family some time ago, but recently. Also staying there was another family he's gotten to know, and the husband is an elder in Tim Keller's church. If I remember the details, this man suggested to him that someone he knew was conducting a prayer walk in the Bronx River Housing Projects in the early morning one day that week. The man's name was Demas, and was a former felon who'd become passionate about starting a church in the Bronx. 

My executive pastor showed up in the early morning, and walked with Demas and some other men as they prayed over the people there. He shared with us that he was affected by hearing how they were praying--one example was that they'd literally ask, "God, we ask that you put a spirit of preserving life in the pregnant women, today, that they will not choose to have an abortion today." Raw stuff. 

As they continued, a man came walking toward them. His name was Bill, a friend of Demas. Somewhat confused at first, but becoming more interested the more he heard, this was the conversation the executive pastor overheard:

Demas: How was your trip?
Bill: It was great. I got to hold the baby!

Bill's trip was to Khartoum, Sudan. He has been friends with the foreign minister of Sudan for some years, and he had been one of a group of high profile people who traveled there to contend for the release of Meriam Ibrahim. Her daughter had begun crying while he was there with her, and Bill asked to hold the baby. Apparently he has a way with kids. Final details about Bill from the story: he hadn't grown up in NYC (PA or NJ, I forget which), but if I recall, he had had a heart for the lost of that city and is an elder together with Demas in a church they started. I could be off on some of these last details; they're an attempt to piece together the stuff I heard that didn't fit into the linear storyline.

Bill offered Meriam a place to stay, and that's where her family is now headed. The exec. pastor pointed out that that's a dangerous thing to do. The entire world knows that he's harboring this woman, now, and it's a small thing for a cleric somewhere to issue a fatwa demanding his death and there will be tens of thousands of true believers hoping to secure their place in muslim-heaven by killing him. But this didn't even enter into his decision. It was an easy choice to make, because it was made on faith. It was the right thing to do.

Bill and the foreign minister do not affirm each other's beliefs; they are honest with each other and think the other is wrong, but they have been able to be respectful of each others' person, over the years. When Meriam was in jail, Bill went to the foreign minister and told him "what you are doing is wrong," and used his influence to help get Ibrahim released.

Who would imagine that God would forge a friendship between a NYC pastor and an official in Sudan, so that one day one innocent person could be freed from the injustice of the Shariah Law? No one. But the One orchestrating world events is the same One who lays the groundwork, years and decades in advance, to effect the exact result He desires, in His sovereign will. It's heady. I'm amazed to hear of it.

It should be noted that Ibrahim's case was high-profile but that there are dozens and hundreds of Christians wrongly imprisoned in various countries around the world, and they need prayer as well. We might not know what happens with them, as we can with a case like Meriam's, but I'm nearly totally confident that we'll find out one day. Meanwhile, God is still in control and has the power of life and death in His hands. Nothing comes to us or any other person that He did not do, or permit. So let us confidently trust in Him for all things, and not neglect to pray for the things which are outside of our control. Nothing's outside of His.

~ Rak Chazak

PS Out of curiosity, I searched to see if Bill was already a known man. Otherwise I would have changed his name to protect him. But when I found that there was a top-tier Google result telling about what I have just been reporting, I was left with no further concern that I would jeopardize his safety:

I also misspelled Dimas' name at first (no time to correct it right now, gotta get to work)