Monday, December 9, 2019

Top 5 Reasons NOT to Use Hormonal Birth Control

Hormonal birth control is extremely common today and many people, including many Christians, take it without a second thought. But there are some important reasons to avoid hormonal contraceptives. Here are my top 5 reasons not to take hormonal contraceptives, in reverse order.

#5 - Hormonal birth control can produce mood swings and even depression in some women. We all know our female hormones can make us moody at certain times of the month. There's a reason we say we're "hormonal." The hormones in birth control can do the same thing. Many women report an increase in feelings of being down, depressed, anxious, or angry while on hormonal birth control. Some women do not seem to be affected in this way, but some are. It can be especially important that women with existing depression or anxiety watch out for a increase in symptoms if they take hormonal contraceptives.

#4 - Hormones in birth control can kill a woman's libido. They have even been known to affect her attraction to her husband. A woman's normal cycle is intended to have a period each month where her libido naturally rises and she desires sex more strongly. Hormonal birth control prevents her natural cycle and this natural increase in desire. The estrogen and progestin in hormonal birth control also lowers testosterone production. While many people believe testosterone is a male hormone, even women produce some. In women, testosterone is one of the major factors that controls the sex drive. Without enough testosterone production, a woman's libido can drop greatly. In some women, it can take away any desire for sex and greatly reduce pleasure during sex. A lot of women go on birth control before becoming sexually active and thus don't have a normal baseline for comparison, so they may think they don't like sex when in fact birth control is destroying their sexual desire and enjoyment.

#3 - Hormonal birth control carries a risk of blood clots. This can be especially dangerous for those with a family or personal history of blood clots, high blood pressure, or various other circulatory problems. The early birth control pills were solely estrogen and killed a number of women due to blood clots. The more recent combination pills, patches, shots, and rings have much lower doses of estrogen, but there is still a risk of blood clots, especially for those with other risk factors.

#2 - Hormonal birth control increases the risk of some female reproductive cancers. This link is especially strong for breast cancer. There is some indication that ovarian and endometrial cancers may have a lower risk while taking hormonal birth control. However, breast cancer risk may increase up to 20% while taking hormonal birth control and for 10 years after stopping. Not only does the pill increase the risk of breast cancer directly, but delaying childbearing can also increase the risk of reproductive cancers. Having children young and breastfeeding them protects against breast cancer.

#1 - Hormonal birth control can be abortifacient. The hormones in birth control make the uterus inhospitable for a baby to implant and thus can cause an early abortion by preventing implantation. In fairness, this is not the main mode of action. There are three mechanisms by which hormonal birth control works. The main mechanism is to prevent ovulation. If no egg is released, there can be no conception. This mechanism is truly contraceptive by preventing conception. The secondary mechanism is to thicken cervical secretion to impede sperm motility. If sperm do not reach the egg, then no conception occurs. However, the third mechanism works as a backup in case the first two mechanisms fail. If an egg is released and fertilized, then the new child will fail to implant in the womb. The baby then starves and dies. There is no way of knowing which is happening each month for any particular woman.

Because of the potential for causing a human child to die, hormonal birth control is not only a health concern, but a moral concern as well. The birth control advocates will tell you that hormonal contraception does not interrupt a pregnancy, but what they don't tell you is that the definition of pregnancy was changed a few decades ago to begin at implantation rather than fertilization so that they could claim hormonal birth control does not cause an abortion. Yet human life begins at fertilization, not implantation. Ending that life is a very serious moral issue.

If we believe every human life is sacred, then we need to show that in our actions. I could not take hormonal contraceptives because of the risk of killing my child. There are other ways to prevent pregnancy, if you must. There are many good reasons to say no to hormonal contraceptives.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Savory Potato Soup

This is, by far, my favorite potato soup. I might be slightly addicted. It is definitely not boring. It's very savory and creamy and really awesome on a cold day. Serve with a hearty sandwich or some cornbread or use it as an appetizer before a nice meal.

8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chicken base (such as Better Than Bouillon)
8 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
6 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons dried chives OR fresh chopped chives
6 tablespoons flour
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bacon bits

Bring chicken broth, chicken base, and potatoes to a boil in a large pot and cook until potatoes are just tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the minced garlic and the dried chives. Alternatively, you can use fresh chives instead of dried and add them at the end, but I don't usually keep fresh chives on hand.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and heat until bubbling. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. This mixture forms a roux which both thickens and flavors the soup. Once the potatoes are getting tender, add the roux to the soup, stirring as you pour. Continue boiling for a minute or two until it begins to thicken.

Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and pepper and stir until combined. Heat through. Serve with bacon bits on top.

This soup is really good served with grilled cheese or grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I use sharp cheddar for the best combination with the soup. I lightly butter the outside of the bread, put the cheese in the middle, and heat on a griddle or pan until the bread is browned and toasty and the cheese is melted. These are great dipped in the soup. The sharp cheddar really complements the creamy soup. It makes for a warm and satisfying meal on a cold day.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

My (Rather Controversial) Advice for New Brides

There's lots of advice out there for newlyweds, some of which is helpful and some of which is not. A lot of it gets repeated many times. "Don't go to bed angry." "Happy wife, happy life." We've all heard these and others. I won't repeat the classic snippets of advice everyone tells new married couples, mostly because they're not always super helpful, but also because I don't need to. Yet there is some advice most people won't tell you because it's not politically correct and doesn't always produce warm fuzzies.

I give this advice specifically to women. There is advice that applies equally to both husbands and wives, and some of that is very good and necessary. For example, I recommend that both husbands and wives get in the habit of selflessly serving one another, even in the little things, and without keeping score. That applies equally both ways. But a lot of the best advice for the newly married is specific to their sex. Men and women are different. They have different strengths, different temptations, and different roles. Since I'm a woman, I speak to women. I will leave it to the men to advise their own.

So here is what I would recommend specifically to young brides. It applies to all married women, but a new marriage is a chance to start fresh and build a strong relationship from the ground up, and having a good foundation is vital. These are things that you can do to avoid some of the most common pitfalls that cause strife and unhappiness in a marriage.

Let him lead you.

Follow his lead, ladies. You will be happier. He will be happier. Everyone will be happier when you live according to the marriage roles God designed for us. Don't push for control. Step back and let your husband lead. This is a lot easier to learn if you practice it from the very beginning, when you're still in the honeymoon phase. Defer to his judgment. Don't manipulate. Just let him be the boss and look up to him. Make him your hero and follow his lead. It works out better all around.

Don't hold him hostage to your emotions.

We women tend to be emotional, but our emotions should not control us. We shouldn't make people walk on eggshells, afraid to make us upset if they tell us what we don't want to hear or do something we don't like. That is especially true when it comes to our husbands. Because they love us so much, it is easy for our husbands to avoid anything that upsets us, even if it's something that needs to be done. And it's easy to let our emotions become a tool to manipulate him into doing what we want. Don't let yourself do this. Control your emotions and don't try to punish him with your displeasure if he chooses a course of action you don't agree with. That means no sulking, no pouting, no silent treatment, no outbursts of anger, and no crying fits. Your emotions should not rule the home. It's an easy habit to get into, so make it a priority not to let it develop.

Don't argue with him. 

It takes two to argue. The cycle can stop with you. Simply don't argue with him. Arguing is the least productive way to handle a disagreement. You're going to have disagreements at some point or another in your marriage, but they don't have to be handled disagreeably. Discuss the matter calmly and without pushing for your way. Bite your tongue if you can't be kind and considerate. Make a decision together, if at all possible, but if you can't come to an agreement, let him make the final decision and support him in it. There's no reason you need to argue. Arguments are not a necessary part of marriage. I've been married almost 10 years now, and my husband and I have never had an argument. We have more productive ways of settling disagreements.

Stand by your man.

In a difficult world, you ought to be able to count on your spouse, of all people, to have your back. Be there for your husband. Be his biggest fan. Take his side against the world. Don't let in-laws or friends or kids or anyone else come between you. You're on the same team. Act like it. Every problem you face is the two of you together, working on a solution, not one of you against the other. Make that a habit from the start. Don't complain about him or air his faults to anyone (including, and especially, your mother). Don't do things behind his back. Don't compare him negatively to other men. He's your husband, and you need to be on his side.


This is by no means a comprehensive guide to a perfect marriage, but these are issues that I have seen handled poorly in many marriages, so I offer a better way. Marriage can be a wonderful oasis in a broken world where we build one another up and provide a safe haven for each other. But bad habits can destroy a relationship if we let them get established. Building a good marriage takes effort and intentionality. It doesn't happen automatically. Nobody ever drifted together. If they drift, they drift apart. So taking the time to identify good marriage habits and purposely develop them is worthwhile. May God bless your marriage.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Homemade Granola Bars

Granola bars are a popular snack around my house, but it's cheaper to make my own than to buy them, and I get to pick my favorite flavors. These are chewy, wholesome goodness and they disappear in a hurry. 

2-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup nuts (whole almonds, sliced almonds, pecans, peanuts, or whatever you want)
1/4 cup corn syrup or honey (whichever you prefer)
1/3 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup add-ins (see below)

Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper and grease it lightly.

Spread the rolled oats and nuts on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 350 for 5-8 minutes or so.

While the oats are toasting, add butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup or honey to a 3 QT saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture just starts to boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

Stir the oats and nuts into the sugar mixture until all of them are coated well. Stir in the add-ins. If you are using any kind of chocolate chips, put them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before adding them to the granola and let it cool a bit before stirring them in. Otherwise, they melt.

Press the granola mixture into the lined baking pan with a spoon or spatula or with wet hands. Chill the bars in the fridge for a couple of hours. Take the granola bar chunk out of the pan and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days or freeze for longer storage.

Alright, so that's the basic recipe. What add-ins you use can vary, as can the nuts. Here are some options:

-Almonds and dried cranberries (pictured)
-Almond slices, white chocolate chips, and flaked coconut
-Peanuts and chocolate chips
-Chopped pecans and dried blueberries
-Dark chocolate chunks and dried cherries with almonds or pecans

You can also add some healthy additions like wheat germ, sunflower seeds, or flax meal.

Note that you only want up to 3/4 cup of total add-ins (not counting the nuts, which were already measured at 1/2 cup). So, for example, if you want to do almond white chocolate coconut bars, you use 1/2 cup of almond slices and toast them with the oats, then add in about 1/4 cup coconut and 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (totaling 3/4 cup of add-ins).

There are lots and lots of possibilities for these granola bars. Use your imagination and see which flavors you like best. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Make Your Own Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy food that is useful, not only for protein and healthy fats, but as a probiotic because of the good bacteria it contains. But yogurt can be very expensive to buy and often contains fillers that are not so healthy. Making your own yogurt is a lot cheaper than buying it, and it's easy to make. Plus, you get to control what goes into it. Most store bought yogurt is low fat or even non-fat, so if you want a creamier version with healthy dairy fats, try homemade full fat yogurt. If you prefer organic foods or milk from grass-fed cows, you can turn your favorite milk into healthy yogurt.

The short version of making yogurt is super simple. You just heat milk to 180°F, cool it to about 110°F, mix in yogurt cultures, and keep it warm for about 8 hours. The bacteria do the rest. But I'll explain in a little more detail how I do it.

First, pick your milk. I like to make mine with whole milk and add a little cream so it's super creamy. It's mostly my kids who eat it, and they can use the fat. It's especially important for my baby, who needs a high calorie diet. But fat is healthy for all of us as long as we don't overdo the calories. So I recommend whole milk. It tastes a lot better too. However, you can use 2%, 1%, or even skim milk if you want to. The less fat there is, the thinner the yogurt will be. Some people add dry milk to skim or 1% milk before incubating to help it thicken better.

You will also need some source of the lactic acid producing bacteria. The easiest way to do this is just buy plain yogurt at the store to serve as a starter. It needs to be unsweetened and be sure it contains live and active cultures. You can also buy a powdered yogurt-making starter, but I haven't used those yet.

The proportion of ingredients is not all that important in making yogurt, but if you want a general rule of thumb, I use 2 quarts of whole milk, about 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup plain yogurt.

Place your milk (and cream, if using) into an appropriately sized pot on the stove and heat over medium heat to 180°F. Don't use a non-stick pan for this. I use stainless steel. Stir it frequently to prevent burning. The reason for this step is to kill any bacteria or fungi that might be lurking in the milk. You only want to grow the good bacteria when you start incubating. I find it helpful to use a candy thermometer during this step. Mine clips on the side of the pot and stays a little above the bottom so I get an accurate reading on the contents.

Once the milk reaches 180°F, remove it from the heat, cover (to keep airborne bacteria out), and cool it to around 110°. You can just leave it out on the counter or you can set the pot in a pan of cold water to hurry it up. A candy thermometer tends to get in the way of the lid at this point, so I found it most helpful to switch to one of those meat thermometers that has a probe on a long wire and can be used inside the oven. Just put the end of the probe in the milk and put the lid over the wire. If you don't have that kind of thermometer, you can either leave the candy thermometer inside and wrap plastic wrap around the top of the pot or remove the thermometer and check the temperature only periodically.

Once the milk cools to around 110°F (it doesn't have to be exact), remove a cup or so of the milk and whisk it with your yogurt starter. Then add the milk and yogurt back into the pot with the milk and stir until well mixed. At this point, you just need to keep the milk warm and undisturbed while it incubates. The good bacteria multiply and convert the milk sugars to lactic acid by fermentation. You want to keep the temperature between about 100° and 110° for 6-10 hours.

An oven works well for incubating yogurt because it is insulated and you can warm it up. What I did with my old oven is turn the oven on for just 2 minutes or so when the milk is almost cooled. Once I add the yogurt starter, I wrap the pot and lid in a clean towel and set it in the warm (not hot) oven. A thermometer probe is super helpful at this point because I can keep an eye on the temperature without opening the oven or disturbing the milk. (However, if your probe falls all the way into the milk, the moisture may get into the probe and make it stop working. I went through 3 probes this way.)

If you don't have a probe to use in the oven, you can just check the yogurt every couple of hours. If the milk is getting below 100°, turn on the oven for a minute or two to warm it back up. I find it most useful to start a batch of yogurt first thing in the morning and just leave it all day. I check it periodically when I'm in the kitchen, but mostly I ignore it. When it is getting toward evening and I need the oven for making supper, I take the yogurt out. You can also prepare it in the evening and leave the yogurt in the oven all night, but you may want to start it a little extra warm (~115°F) and insulate it well with a thick towel to keep it warm enough all night.

I recently got a new oven that has a dehydrate feature. It allows me to set the oven temperature much lower than most ovens go and the thermostat keeps it that temperature for me. That is perfect for making yogurt. I set the thermostat for 110° and then I don't even have to check it until the time is up.

Some people also make yogurt in a slow cooker. Just put the yogurt in small containers and fill the empty space in the crockpot with water. Then turn it on low periodically to keep it warm enough.

The time period you leave the yogurt to incubate will affect the yogurt in two ways. The longer you incubate, the thicker the yogurt will be. And the longer you incubate, the more tangy it will be. I usually shoot for about 8 hours, but you can do it longer or shorter as you prefer. You can get a little out with a clean spoon to check it periodically if you want, but keep in mind that it will not be sweet and be sure not to stir up the pot or contaminate it with a dirty spoon.

After your yogurt is done, you have an important decision to make. You can either leave the yogurt in this state or drain out the whey to make a thicker, Greek-style yogurt. Or you can divide it and do some of both. If you want to use the yogurt as is, stir it to make it smooth and chill in the fridge. You can add sweeteners or fruit or other flavors later.

If you want a Greek-style yogurt, do not stir it. Instead, line a strainer or colander with several layers of cheesecloth or a thin, clean, flour-sack towel and set it over a bowl or pan that will collect the liquid. Carefully spoon the yogurt into the cloth without disturbing the curds any more than necessary. Let the whey drain out for a couple hours or more, until the yogurt is the thickness you desire. Since I usually incubate my yogurt all day, when I make Greek-style yogurt, I just put the draining yogurt in the fridge all night. In the morning, it is super thick, almost like cream cheese. You can always stir a little of the whey back in if you want it thinner. You can use the whey in smoothies or other recipes for extra protein. Just be aware that the whey is very sour. That means when you drain the whey out, it makes the yogurt less tangy and more creamy.

Now, for the fun part. There are lots of ways to use your new yogurt. You can simply add a little sugar (or other sweetener) and vanilla. However, I like it best with sweetened fruit. Blueberries are our current favorite. I mix blueberries (frozen or fresh) with some sugar and a little water and bring it to a boil, then add a small amount of corn starch in water to thicken it to a thick syrup. Once it thickens, cool it in the fridge. This blueberry compote can be stirred into yogurt, put on pancakes, spooned onto cheesecake, or various other uses. You can do much the same thing with strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries. These kinds of fruit compotes are great mixed into yogurt. If you're trying to reduce sugar, try just the fruit - either fresh or cooked. You can also use yogurt in smoothies or as ingredients in various recipes. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

What We Lose When We Dismantle Taboos

Suppose I told you that my husband sometimes goes hiking alone with another woman. She's beautiful and just a few years younger than he is. He also has been known to call her and talk at length about what is going on in his life and hers. You might be concerned for the state of my marriage. However, you would be missing an important piece of information. She's his sister.

That sort of information makes a huge difference, doesn't it? It's the difference between appropriate and inappropriate. It's the difference between concern that an affair is brewing and totally normal and acceptable interactions. But why?

The difference is the cultural taboo on incest which allows us the presumption that close family interactions are platonic rather than sexual. Most people think of a taboo as a negative thing, but they are really positive because they are protective. The taboo against incest makes it unthinkable to inject a sexual note into family ties, and this gives us the freedom to interact with family members in close and intimate ways without fear or shame or innuendo or temptation. The taboo protects our family relationships so that we can enjoy one another's company. My husband can go hiking with his sister without needing a chaperone or coming back to an upset and suspicious wife precisely because of this taboo. She's not just another woman. She's his sister. Sisters are not objects of sexual attraction.

Taboos are important for the flourishing of human society. They are not optional. They are vital. What happens when we undermine and break down useful taboos that have been long established is that we diminish our own freedom and the freedom of those around us. We make ourselves more suspicious, more encumbered, and make all our interactions more complicated and tense. In the end, we break down society.

Let's take a look at one such example - the acceptance of homosexuality. In times past, homosexuality was taboo. It was unthinkable for the vast majority of people in society. If people engaged in such behavior, they did it secretly. This shame and revulsion around homosexual behavior has been claimed as wrong and harmful and even repressive, but in reality it was freeing. A taboo against homosexuality allows for the assumption of platonicity in all same-sex interactions. It allows men to be friends with other men and women to be friends with other women without injecting a note of sexuality into those friendships. When we accept homosexuality as normal, we destroy not only the taboo, but also the presumption that same-sex friendships are platonic which derives from it. This breaks down our ability to form and maintain close friendships with others of our sex.

It has long been noted, and sometimes lamented, that men and women cannot be platonic close friends. The question of sex is always an element, no matter how much we might like to avoid it or deny it. Even if the people involved have no sexual attraction to one another at the moment, there is always the possibility that it will develop later and always the concern that other people will misunderstand the relationship or that signals will be misunderstood as sexual cues. This forms a serious barrier to male-female friendships.

Yet when we normalize homosexuality, people of the same sex are no longer seen as being off limits as sexual partners and this has implications for all our future interactions. It produces the same distance and barriers between same-sex friends as men and women have been dealing with since the dawn of time. If homosexuality is normal and acceptable, then same-sex friends have to contend with sexual elements appearing in their friendship. If they do not wish to send sexual signals, it takes a lot more effort and care to avoid them. Once you destroy the presumption of platonicity between people of the same sex, it places distance and caution between them lest other people misunderstand. It makes things more awkward. Every word, every gesture, every expression of affection becomes a potential minefield of complications and misunderstandings. In the end, we usually seek distance to relieve the tension and stress and it leaves all of us more disconnected, isolated, and emotionally poorer.

Our society is breaking down and our people are becoming more isolated, sad, and lonely at least partly because we have been breaking down the taboos that protected us. We tore down the fence without first asking what it was there for. The Sexual Revolution was a society-wide experiment with human nature, and it has failed miserably. The aftershocks are still causing damage. And they're not over yet. Not only is homosexuality becoming more and more accepted and normalized and transgenderism is well on its way, but there are movements beginning to normalize pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and more. Not satisfied with the damage already done, some are attempting to "fix" society by destroying all the rest of the taboos we have left. But rather than the utopian paradise they think they are ushering in, they will produce an utterly broken, dysfunctional society full of absurdity and loneliness. If you want to fix something, you need to have an idea of how it's supposed to work and the limits of what you can do. Neither have been addressed adequately.

One way that we can help to counter this current toward the cultural abyss is to stand up and boldly proclaim that taboos are good and useful because of the boundaries they produce and the safety and clarity they foster - not just for those who are "normal," but for everyone. We have had taboos in place against deviant behaviors to protect us. They provide guideposts to shape our choices and our behaviors. They provide freedom to ignore some options as unthinkable. They foster clarity of communication, without mixed signals and misunderstanding. When we have good taboos that rule out harmful and immoral behaviors, society flourishes. When we tear them down, we descend into madness.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Marry Sooner Rather Than Later

Here is my counter-cultural advice to young singles: Marry sooner rather than later. This is Biblical advice because the Bible specifically tells young people to marry rather than continue to burn (I Cor. 7:9). Most young adults have a sex drive, and this is evidence that they should be moving toward marriage. To delay marriage without cause is foolish at best, and sinful at worst. This principle of moving toward marriage rather than burning with sexual desire was given to prevent sexual sin. It is no surprise that in a society that avoids and delays marriage, sexual sin is rampant. We Christians should not be following the ways of the world that lead to sin and destruction, but rather prioritizing God's ways and wisdom. This principle of moving toward marriage intentionally works out a little differently depending on where you are in relationships. Here are some practical tips to help you move toward marriage in your situation. If you are engaged or very close to engagement because you know who you want to marry, plan a simple, inexpensive wedding in the near future. My general recommendation is that engagements should be 6 months or less. It doesn't take very long to plan a simple wedding. The longer you drag the engagement on, the greater the chances that you will fall into sexual sin. The Bible tells us that it is foolish for a man to work to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul. Similarly, it is foolish to choose a long engagement if that means disobeying God by having sex outside marriage. If you arrive on your big day having stained your souls with fornication, you have lost that which was more important. We should not purposely put ourselves in the position of needing super-human strength to stay sexually pure. Move up the wedding date and avoid the temptation. Prioritize obeying God and don't leave room for sin to creep in. A cheaper wedding is also important. Reducing costs is a good thing anyway as it is wasteful to spend large amounts of money on a wedding rather than investing in the marriage. But it's important to be frugal in order to start your marriage off right. Studies have shown that the greater the amount of money spent on the wedding, the shorter the marriage tends to last. Elaborate and expensive weddings tend to lead to divorce. Invest in your marriage. A wedding is just one day and soon over. You want the marriage to last, so prioritize it over the wedding. That might mean giving up some of your dreams for a fancy, picture-perfect wedding, but that is a worthwhile trade to make. If you are in a relationship, be intentional about marriage as your goal. Dating is often a very fun time of getting know someone, and there's nothing wrong with having fun. But fun can't be your purpose for the relationship. A dating relationship needs a goal, and that goal is to determine whether two people should marry. Marriage should be the underlying question in every dating relationship. Are you compatible on your beliefs, your goals, and your values? Do you work well as a team? Do you resolve conflicts well together? Are you willing to fulfill the duties of marriage together if you marry (including leadership/submission, frequent sex, raising children, faithfulness, communication, and selflessness)? These are the kinds of questions you should be answering about each other and your relationship as you go along. When you pursue the relationship with intentionality, this does three important things for you. First of all, it greatly increases the chances that your relationship will be successful. A successful dating relationship does not necessarily mean you will marry. You might successfully determine that you are not suitable for one another and end the relationship. That is a perfectly valid outcome of a dating relationship and not a failure. If you knew you wanted to marry, you could just skip to engagement. The relationship before engagement is precisely to determine whether you should marry. If you decide not to marry, that gives you information you did not previously have and fulfills the purpose of the relationship. If you decide to marry, then you have also fulfilled the purpose of the relationship by finding that you are ready to move toward marriage with one another. But notice what does not fulfill the purpose of the relationship - aimless fun without assessing one another for marriage. They say if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. That is nowhere more true than in a dating relationship. If you have no purpose for your relationship, you will never know if you have been successful or not. And in the meantime, you waste one another's time without moving toward marriage and set yourselves up for temptation without cause. Too many young people find themselves having dated one another for years and yet still don't know whether they should marry. That's insane. The second thing intentionality does for you is that it speeds up the process of finding a spouse. Aimless dating is one of the biggest reasons for delayed marriage in our culture today. Many young people are not serious about looking for marriage, but they play at romantic relationships for years and sometimes decades. They often don't marry until their 30's or 40's, if at all. Marriage prospects grow more and more dim as one gets older and fertility declines as one gets older as well. It is easier to find a good spouse in your 20's, so don't waste this decade. The third benefit of being intentional is that you are more likely to avoid sexual sin. The people waiting until their 30's to marry aren't usually remaining chaste in the meantime. Our sex drives were given to us to move us toward marriage as marriage is the proper outlet for sexual expression. But if we delay marriage, we have all that drive and no proper outlet for it. This leads to great temptation and, for many, sexual sin. We weren't meant to spend decades single and sexless. If that is our lot through no fault of our own, then God can certainly give us strength to be obedient in this area and remain chaste. But it's best to avoid prolonging the temptation. That is why we are told to marry rather than burn. Avoid wasting your time with a relationship that has no purpose as it will not move you toward marriage and this will lengthen the amount of time you will need to say no to sex and increase the chances that you will give in to temptation. If you are not in a relationship, be intentional about looking for a relationship headed toward marriage. In our culture today, it is easy to drift along, thinking marriage will happen one day, but not in any big hurry to find a spouse. This drifting often goes on for years before the person decides to intentionally pursue a serious relationship headed toward marriage. It is not too uncommon for them to find, to their chagrin, that marriage doesn't appear automatically and that their prospects are few when they finally do start getting serious about marriage. What is especially odd about this lackadaisical attitude toward marriage is that it is usually accompanied by a belief that a good marriage partner is really hard to find. When you think about it, that makes no sense. If we really believe a good spouse is hard to find, it seems like we would want to start early and put a lot of effort into it. We might need to be realistic about our preferences and be ready to settle down with the first person who looks like a decent match and is willing to have us. We might even need to go out of our way to visit places where singles congregate, brush up on our social skills, build up a solid marriage resume, and speak positively about our intentions to marry so as to attract the few decent potential mates out there and get a leg up on the competition. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what most people today are doing. Most young adults think of marriage as something to worry about several years down the road, and then only when they find the perfect person who meets their every preference. Delaying marriage and not pursuing it with any great effort only make sense if we believe awesome marriage partners can be had under every bush and around every corner. If there are great numbers of acceptable matches around us and we could marry any time we please because opportunities are so numerous, then it might make sense to put off the search for awhile and be really picky about choosing the best among the numerous good choices. But that is not the world we live in. The reality is that people of good character who wish to marry are fairly few in our culture, and most of us have quite limited options even among them. That is why we can't afford to leave marriage to chance. It can take years to find a good spouse, even if you are actively looking. Not every relationship turns into marriage. Sometimes you have to date several people before you find someone who makes a good match. So don't put off the search. If you find a spouse right away, that's great. Start building a life together. But if it takes awhile, you'll be glad you didn't wait to get started. So, if you want to build a good relationship that is headed toward marriage, how do you prepare for that? How do you find someone to start a relationship with? And how do you attract them? These are all worthwhile questions to answer. This article is already long enough, so I'll talk about that in a future article. ------- Of course, marriage is not the only purpose of our lives. We can still have purpose and meaning in our lives without marriage. But marriage is a good gift from God that forms a means of normal grace for most people. Marriage is a way to fill our loneliness, satisfy our sexual desires, and build the next generation. Marriage gives us a partner who is there for us through the good times and the bad - someone to witness our lives and for whom we can make a difference. Marriage and child-rearing is a means of taking dominion and bringing the world into submission to Christ. It takes our impact for God down through the generations and multiplies it. Marriage is a means of sanctification. It pulls us out of ourselves and teaches us selflessness, patience, gratitude, and generosity. Marriage is a good thing worth desiring and pursuing. It is God's calling for most of us.
Because marriage is so valuable and because most of us are called to marriage, we should be sensible about pursuing marriage. Other things we value we pursue with focus and determination. The effort most put into building a career, for example, is often lauded as noble and praiseworthy. A good job isn't going to land in your lap. You have to go out and build your skills, search for openings, advertise your strong points, and make the choice of which position to accept very carefully. Yet marriage is much more important than a job and more difficult to find. It is worth expending the effort to pursue it intentionally.
"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." Proverbs 18:22 "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." Proverbs 31:10 "Marriage is to be held in honor among all." Hebrews 13:4a

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Recipe for Entitlement

Take one child and give him everything he could possibly want all his life. Make sure he never goes hungry and always has his needs met. Heap to him gifts of all kinds to please and entertain him. Never make him work for these things, but rather have them appear.

Give him an education that costs him nothing, but be sure not to give him a good understanding of how people of the past have lived or how unique his particular upbringing is in the grand scheme of human history. If he counts his blessings, let it be only once or twice a year and drown that out with food and entertainment and muffle it with repetition so that he need not take it too seriously. 

Surround him with other people who are similarly prosperous and be sure not to let him come in contact too often with those less fortunate. Let him make his friends from those who have also never had to go without. They will only convince him that prosperity is normal. 

From these formative experiences, he will almost certainly come to believe that the world he lives in is horrific when it fails to fulfill his least fantasy and this will leave him dissatisfied and depressed at the imperfections rather than grateful for what he has. 

Be sure to tell him he's wonderful and smart and informed as he is, and let him assume from this that he need not learn from his elders or study the past in order to learn from it. He's going to change the world, you see. Why would he need to know about the past? His elders obviously did it all wrong or else all the problems would have been solved by now. But he is better than they. He sees the imperfections they seem not to notice. Arrogance is as important as ignorance if you want a really fine case of entitlement. 

After this preparation, he will be ready to follow anyone who promises him one of his fancies and will, in pursuit of this purported improvement, think himself a very fine person to be changing the world in such a way. The sacrifices of the past that have placed him on this pinnacle will be unknown to him and thus unheeded. And in his ignorance, he will destroy all that has brought about his bountiful prosperity because he does not even know that it exists. It will be to him like water to a fish - just his normal habitat which is always there and which he never sees or thinks about.