Fifty Shades of Wrong

50 shadesAll the reviews and hype about “Fifty Shades of Grey” and my preparation for our Ladies’ Bible Study on the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13) has just about put me over the edge today.

How sad that many in our nation seem to have a warped insatiable appetite for sex and violence. How sad that a movie like “Fifty Shades of Grey” would be promoted as a “must see” for Valentine’s Day, and that people flocked to see it in hundreds of cities boasting of sold-out showtimes on opening day.How sad that something classified as poorly written erotic fiction would even be deemed as “movie worthy.” How sad that a movie portraying narcissism, masochism, and sadism would be viewed as normal or even a desirable sexual experience.

Fifty Shades of Grey is about abuse—a total disregard for human life—a reality all too common in our culture.  It’s a perversion that’s been around since the fall of mankind.  As early as the third chapter of Genesis Eve fell prey to a desire for something that God had said was off limits because it was not good for her and Adam.  In the next chapter one of their sons killed the other.  By the time we get to chapter 6:5-7 we read these words: The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.  So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Then the flood came and washed away everything except Noah, his family, and two of every living creature.

However, as man began to repopulate the earth, sin of every kind imaginable once again bore its ugly fruit. In 2 Samuel chapters 13-14 we read the sordid story of how David’s children followed in his footsteps by committing horrific crimes, namely incest, rape and murder.  Furthermore, David did not seem to do anything about any of the crimes.  Oh, he got furious, but that was the extent of it. Because he neglected to address issues with his children, he opened the door for them to commit some version of the same sins he committed—adultery, murder, deception, etc.

My heart is sick over the alarming statistics about domestic violence and rape in our country.  According to RAINN “every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.” And 1 out of 5 women have experienced some level of sexual abuse.  1 in 4 women have or will be the victim of domestic violence, and most of them are never reported (Safehorizon).”Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence [are] were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents” (Domestic Violence Statistics).

loveWhen someone swears you to secrecy about what’s happening in your relationship, all kinds of red flags should go up in your mind.  When someone tells you that the harm he is inflicting upon you be it physical or verbal is for your good, or because the perpetrator loves you, or that you deserve what he is doing to you, it’s a lie.  LOVE DOES NOT HURT DAY AFTER DAY.

When it comes to lovemaking, God gave it as an expression of intimacy between two people who are committed to one another for a lifetime.  He did not give it for one partner to enjoy and the other to endure.  Pleasure derived from hurting someone is evil.  Letting someone hurt you repeatedly is abnormal.

Millions of women today are subjected to physical and/or verbal abuse daily in the privacy of their own home.  Dominated by someone eaten up with narcissism they are whipped into submission either physically or verbally.

ephesiansLet me be clear.  The Bible clearly states that a woman is supposed to be submissive to her husband and to respect him.  However, that does not mean she is to become a doormat or treated as a thing to be used by any other person.  Instead, she should be cherished and loved like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-29).

In preparation for our study today I asked Waylon, my husband, what the Bible says about rape.  This is what he said, “Many passages in the Bible speak to the issue of rape.  Passages like being kind to one another, loving your neighbor as yourself, doing to others as you would have them do to you, as well as, what Jesus said about lust and what Paul said to husbands about not being harsh with their wives slam the door long before it comes to rape.”

The same is true about domestic violence. Domestic violence is ‘fifty shades of wrong.”  Rape and any form of sexual abuse is “fifty shades of wrong.” Neither fall into the grey category. They are abhorrent to God (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).

When are we going to wake up and call these heinous crimes what they are—evil?

When are we going to stop supporting whatever trash the box office offers?

At the Oscars Sunday evening, Melanie Griffith, the mother of Dakota Johnson, who stars in “Fifty Shades of Grey” was asked if she had seen the movie. You may be surprised at how she responded, “No, I don’t think I can.”  Though her daughter was angry and the reporter encouraged Griffith to see the movie, she clearly resisted. Jim Denison in Denison Forum on Truth and Culture asks THE question: “If a film is so immoral that a mother can’t see her daughter act in it, why should anyone else see it?” http://www.denisonforum.org/cultural-commentary/1382-actress-mother-refuses-to-see-fifty-shades

I rest my case.

Gracious Father, when we think about the sexually charged and unrestrained violent culture we live in, it’s hard to breathe.  Countless women were victimized today, and those who have already been exploited are too many to count.  I ask you to be near those women –even men, especially little boys who have been taken advantage of or abused today.  Please put someone in their paths to comfort and support them.  Give them strength and courage to get out of any unhealthy relationships.  Heal their minds and bodies and make them whole again.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Temptation on the Roof

temptationIt was a typical hot spring afternoon in Jerusalem, and David went up on the roof of his palace to try to catch a cool breeze. His soldiers were off at war under the direction of his competent general, Joab. While surveying his kingdom, his eye caught sight of a beautiful woman taking a ritual bath, and instead of looking the other way David lusted after her.

Driven by desire he sent someone to find out who she was. Upon returning, the messenger gave David the scoop on the woman. Her name was Bathsheba. Her father was Eliam, one of David’s soldiers. Her husband was Uriah the Hittite, a soldier who was among an elite group of 30 warriors known as David’s Mighty Men–much like our special ops today.

Unfortunately, the knowledge that Bathsheba was a married woman–the daughter and wife of two of his soldiers out on the battlefield–did not deter David’s desire. Instead, he brought her to the palace, committed adultery, and sent her back home. However, in a month or so, Bathsheba sent him word that she was pregnant. The implication was–what are you going to do about it?

David had two choices: he could try to cover up his sin or he could come clean knowing that the penalty for adultery for both the adulterer and the adulteress was death (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22). He chose to try to cover it up and felt confident that it could be accomplished easily.

All he needed to do was summon Uriah home from battle and allow him to spend the night with Bathsheba. The paternity of the child would appear to be Uriah’s.

There was just one problem–Uriah was a man of character who was loyal to his LORD and to his fellow soldiers. He refused to go home even though David tried his best to dangle opportunities in front of him. Uriah said, “The Ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing! (2 Samuel 11:11).

Even after getting Uriah intoxicated, David could not persuade him to go home–not even for one night. Convinced that there were no other alternatives, David felt that murder was his only option. Therefore, he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a letter that had his own death sentence in it. The letter commanded Joab to attack the enemy city, assign Uriah to the front line, and then withdraw from him so he would be killed. That’s exactly what Joab did.

After Uriah’s death David did what appeared to be a magnanimous deed–he married Bathsheba, a defenseless widow. From David’s perspective everything was just fine.

However, everything was not just fine because what may have been concealed from most of the people, was not concealed from the LORD. “The thing David did displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27b).

For the remaining months of Bathsheba’s pregnancy David lived in denial and rebellion, refusing to acknowledge his sins before the LORD. He was miserable–emotionally, physically, and spiritually. In Psalm 32:3-4 he later confessed, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”

Shortly after the baby’s birth, the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin. After hearing the prophet’s compelling story David was convicted and confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD” (12:1).

Although the LORD assured David he had been forgiven of these horrific crimes, He also reminded David that the consequences would last his entire lifetime. Sadly, his family would be forever effected by this sordid episode that all began months earlier with a look from the roof of his palace–an episode that could have been aborted if only David had turned his head and removed himself from the temptation.

The sad reality is we, too, are capable of committing heinous sins just like David. We all face temptation, and unless we choose to handle it differently, we can expect the outcome of our situation to be very similar to David’s.

After studying David’s story allow me to suggest a few ways to be proactive when it comes to temptation.

1. Expect it. Saying something will never happen to you is very foolish. We all have an Achilles heel. Satan knew where David’s was. He knows where yours is, too.

2. Prepare for it. At that point in David’s career, things had settled down somewhat for him. He had time on his hands. Instead of being in the trenches with his men, he was in a battle on his roof and the stakes were high. We have to be prepared everyday by praying and asking God to give us strength not to succumb to subtle temptations that come our way. Scripture tucked away in our hearts that we can access on a moment’s notice will be our lifeline.

3. Deal with it quickly. David’s downfall was his failure to deal with the temptation quickly before lust took hold of him. The longer we contemplate a sin the more of a grip it has on us.

4. Play the movie. By that I mean imagine how this will look after you have taken the bait. How hard will it be to confess it to your spouse, your children, your parents? How will it affect you financially, emotionally, spiritually? Can you still remain under the umbrella of God’s favor if you yield to the temptation?

5. Remember the law of the harvest–you reap what you sow; you reap later than you sow; you reap more than you sow.

6. Seek a trustworthy accountability partner. That’s someone who will tell you when you are about to mess up–big time. He or she will not give you permission to do something you will regret as long as you live. Instead he or she will pray you through your season of oppression while under temptation.

It’s not a matter of if but of when temptation will come. File the story of David away. Never forget how his life and his children’s lives could have been so different if he had only remembered to be proactive when he faced temptation.

Dear Father, how we need Your protection from the evil one.  Help us not to be naive, but to expect temptation.  May we hide Your Word in our hearts so we will not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). Help us remember that our behavior has consequences.    Remind us to play the movie and expect the law of the harvest to apply to our decisions.  We don’t want to live our lives in regret while watching the devastating consequences our sins have on our families and others.  We need You desperately, Lord.

In Your name, Amen.

White Out

The Whiteout

Let me share a chapter from my book, Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away. It’s about a terrifying incident that happened to us one winter while on a skiing vacation in Colorado.

whiteout copy

A light snow had begun to fall just as we left Breckenridge, Colorado. After skiing with our family for several days Waylon and I were on our way to Beaver Creek to ski with some friends. As we made our way to Interstate 70, the snow was coming down hard. Being from South Louisiana where it snows every ten years if we’re lucky, we proceeded cautiously toward our destination.

The farther west we drove, the harder it began to snow, and the more tense I became. But because I had my heart set on seeing our friends, I didn’t say anything at first. Besides, I could tell this situation qualified as an adventure for Waylon. The thought of turning around never occurred to him. However, as the visibility decreased, the knot in my stomach increased. Finally when I could stand it no longer, I expressed my anxiety even though I knew Waylon was going to think I was a sissy. Obviously a bit perturbed, he asked if I wanted to turn around. Without blinking an eye, too frightened for words, I nodded my head. Waylon pulled off at the next exit.

We tried to reach our friends by cell phone but were unable to get through. With the conditions worsening by the second, we got back on the interstate and headed toward Breckenridge. By that time not only was it snowing quarter-sized flakes, but also the wind was blowing fiercely. Within minutes the roadway was completely blanketed with new-fallen snow concealing all the striping. And when I say all, I mean ALL. To make matters worse, heightening our anxiety, the windshield wipers froze and became inoperable. Talk about terrifying, it was terrifying! To top it all off, cars were zooming past us like the sun was shining in the middle of July. By this time Waylon had joined his neurotic wife emotionally. He was scared too. Normally, he acts like Mr. Cool and assures me that everything is going to be fine, but on that stormy afternoon there were no reassuring words—only panic-stricken ones. With the frozen wipers it soon became apparent to both of us that the only way we were going to be able to keep the car on the road was for me to stick my head out the window and verbally direct Waylon. Much to our surprise and relief we discovered that the shoulder of the road was marked with four-foot stakes about every fifty feet. Later we learned that the stakes were there for situations just like we found ourselves in. They were the only thing that enabled us to safely stay on the mountainous road.

By this time we had slowed to a snail’s pace, but we knew that to stop completely would be the worst thing we could do. Our greatest fear was that we would rear-end someone who had done that very thing or be rear-ended ourselves. As we inched our way ever so slowly along I-70, remember thinking, “Did Breckenridge change its geographical location while we were gone?” It seemed like an eternity since we had turned around. Then all of a sudden I looked up, and in a split second I realized that we had missed our exit—the huge green sign to Breckenridge. “Oh no!” I thought. “What do we do now?” I don’t know whose crazy idea it was, but we decided to back up on the interstate. Was that dumb or what? We didn’t care. We were desperate!

Although Waylon’s vision couldn’t have been any more impaired if he had been blindfolded, he safely maneuvered us off the interstate with my verbal assistance. (If you want to test the trust level in your marriage, put a blindfold on your husband and get out on the interstate. Then try directing him for the next thirty miles. If you live to tell about it and your marriage survives, you’ll probably celebrate your fiftieth anniversary.)

We pulled into a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken. It didn’t matter what kind of joint it was; I just wanted to get off the road and out of the car before I hyperventilated or froze to death.

Getting out of the car, Waylon, visibly shaken but relieved, looked at me and said, “Martha, you amaze me. I can’t believe how cool you were under such intense pressure.” I don’t have a clue what he expected me to say or do. Prepared or not for my reaction, I looked at him and started bawling like a baby. I must have cried for half an hour after we got inside the KFC. Everyone stared at us as if we were crazy. I didn’t care. I was happy to be alive. I didn’t care if I lived at the KFC for the rest of my life.

What we didn’t know then, but later learned, was that this phenomenon is called a white out. Shortly after we headed toward Beaver Creek, the state police had closed the interstate. We were in a much more precarious situation than we even feared. If something had happened, no one would have known where we were—not to mention that we didn’t have adequate food, water, or clothing to protect us from hypothermia.

martha bailey copyBut there was One who knew exactly where we were—the One who is so keenly aware of us that He “knows when I sit and when I rise” (Psalm 139:2). The One who sees my “going out and my lying down” (Psalm 139:3). The One who never lets me out of His sight. The One who “hems me in—behind and before” (Psalm 139:5). The One who takes His responsibility to care for me very seriously. And on that stormy day in the mountains of Colorado, He proved it.

Take heart today in knowing that God is always looking out for His children. There is no place you can go that will be out of His jurisdiction. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Lord, Thank You so much that You don’t need a GPS to know where I am and what’s going on in my life. I am so thankful that there is nowhere I can go that You will not be with me. Thank You that You are my “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”In Jesus’ Name, Amen

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”—Psalm 46:1

Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-12

Twenty-Five Cent Word

photo credit: Coins via photopin (license)

photo credit: Coins via photopin (license)

Our girls are five and a half years apart in age. Anna is a typical firstborn, eager to please and easygoing. Emily, on the other hand, came here making up for lost time. Accepting the fact that she couldn’t do everything Anna could do was hard for her. It caused her many frustrating moments.

One afternoon the girls were playing in the den when a domestic disturbance erupted. “You old E-pisto-palion!” I heard Emily exclaim at the top of her lungs. She was trying to call her sister an Episcopalian. No offense to those of you who are of the Episcopal faith. It was just that Emily had never heard that word until a few days before. Why she chose to use it in a derogatory way, we never could figure out.
All in all, I’d say the relationship our girls had while growing up was rather typical for most families. By typical, I mean they had their moments of hugging and kissing followed by moments of intense sibling rivalry. Family vacations were the time that behavior seemed to be the most pronounced. I’m sure being cooped up in the car for days only exacerbated the situation. 
There’s one trip in particular that stands out in my mind. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, the duel began. The first controversy erupted over space. Each girl felt a need to claim her territory so an imaginary line, like the equator, was drawn down the backseat, equally dividing the space. Shortly afterwards, everything became “stupid this” and “stupid that,” and they knew that they were going to be reprimanded every time I heard it. “Stupid” was on my bad word list. I certainly wasn’t going to tolerate it for a week in the car.
Determining that verbal correction was not accomplishing my goal, I resorted to a more behavioral approach. Turning around and giving them what the girls always called “mama eyes,” I stated authoritatively, “Girls, every time you say ‘stupid’ it’s going to cost you twenty-five cents, and we are going to give the money to World Hunger.” To make a long story short, let’s just say there weren’t very many hungry children fed by that fund. Except for one or two slipups, we didn’t hear the word “stupid” the rest of the week.
Months later the girls were playing in the den when another heated argument broke out. At that point big sister Anna had the upper hand, and the little one had reached her frustration threshold. I heard Emily exclaim, “Anna, you make me so mad! I feel like calling you a twenty-five cent word!” Ascertaining that the situation might intensify to the next level and would involve a skirmish, I sailed into the den. The minute Emily caught sight of me she immediately started explaining. “I didn’t call her stupid,” she said defensively.
“That’s right—you didn’t,” I replied. “But you and I know what you meant. Tell her you’re sorry.” Leaving the room I remember thinking that parenting was a much bigger job than I had ever anticipated. Not only did I have to police what my children said, but I also had to shepherd their hearts. 
The writer of Proverbs said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). You see, while inappropriate words often appear to be the problem, in actuality they are only a symptom. Jesus explained that the root of the problem lies in our hearts. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” He said. “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:34b-35). When it gets right down to it, our words are simply nothing more than expressions of our hearts. Garbage in and garbage out, they used to say, and I think that is precisely what Jesus had in mind.
James encouraged us to use our words responsibly. He said, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).
Have you ever said something in anger and immediately wished you could take it back? Well, wish is all you can do because once a word is spoken it can never be retrieved. You can ask someone to forgive you, but you can never “unsay” anything. Once it’s said, it’s said. There have been times when I’ve been on the receiving end of someone else’s unkind words, but even after a heartfelt apology it was very difficult for me to get over it. Contrary to what we would like to believe, kind words don’t cancel or erase unkind words.
Image credit:  http://kaysepratt.com/2013/10/psalm-5110.html

Image credit: Kayse Pratt of kaysepratt.com

The Bible advises us to be sensitive, careful, and thoughtful with our words before we say them rather than having to be sorry, apologetic, and embarrassed afterwards. But don’t ever forget that while our words are very important, they can only be as good as our hearts. Therefore, we need to pray as David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). What do your words reveal about your heart?

Dear Lord,“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).In Jesus’ Name,Amen
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
—Matthew 12:34b
Scripture ReadingMatthew 12:33-37

I Like the Promise but not the Process

claimIf I claim the promise in Jeremiah 29:11“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”—I have to accept the process.

That was a take-away from our Ladies’ Bible study last week. Life can be a grueling process with many unexpected and unwelcomed turns. It was that way for David, the anointed but not yet enthroned king of Israel. He was young when he was chosen, but someone else occupied the throne. Furthermore, David was not ready to be king.   Continue reading