“And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.” – Romans 14:15
“Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble.” – Romans 14:21
“We may know that these things make no difference, but we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves. We must be considerate of the doubts and fears of those who think these things are wrong.” – Romans 15:1
I’ve always struggled with these verses. On the one hand, I resent being told how to live. The restrictions some people place on their lives might work for them but would be inconvenient in the extreme for me. I know that I have freedom in Jesus and that most of the habits people see as sinful are actually harmless. Why should I bend to serve their will? Who are they to tell me what to do?
On the other hand, love requires sacrifice and I certainly don’t want to be one of those that give people an excuse for not connecting with God. Insisting on living the way I want according to my desires is selfish. There is no greater joy than seeing those you love grow spiritually; I would hate to disrupt that just for some fleeting pleasure.
On the other-other hand, isn’t the most loving thing I can do to be an example of how others could live if only they would embrace freedom? Shouldn’t we try to raise people up rather than stoop to their level? Shouldn’t we stand in solidarity with others who also live freely and take a stand against judgmental attitudes? It seems that true love compels me to engage with people, inviting them into a better life.
One could argue that the verses only apply when we are directly in another’s presence and are not meant to apply to the privacy of our own home. The problem is that most of our life happens outside the home. If we share life with others, they are going to become familiar with our lifestyles. It is impossible for it to be otherwise. With social media especially, we post all about our meals, adventures, business operations, and meetups with our friends both Christian and non-Christian. Considering that there exist people out there somewhere against consuming pork, shellfish, beef, meat of any kind, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, gambling, reading or writing fiction about witches, working on Sunday, wearing short skirts, tattoos, and supporting the “wrong” presidential candidates and it becomes impossible to post much of anything. There are those that think capitalism is wrong and those that think communism is wrong. How are we supposed to live, then? It’s impossible to please everybody. Did Jesus die to rescue us from sin only for us to tiptoe around it the rest of our lives? I would rather be a pleaser of God than a pleaser of men (Galatians 1:10).
Jesus did not refrain from correcting others. He once told people it was not what entered a man that defiled him, but what came out of him. Another time, he basically argued it wasn’t wrong to work on the Sabbath. If Jesus argued for freedom, why can’t I? In a small way, that is what this blog is about: showing people a better way to live. I shine a spotlight on God’s creation to give him glory. This becomes hard to do when people consider some elements of his creation unworthy.
Jesus came to bring life and abundance of life. This is what I want for you. I want to see you be free and expand your world. Do you really want to miss out on reading a beautiful story of good triumphing over evil just because it mentions witchcraft? Do you want to spend the rest of your life cringing when you hear a swear word or see a woman in a bikini? Bacon is delicious. Try it. If you don’t like the taste, that’s fine. If you avoid it for health reasons, that’s fine. If you avoid it temporarily as a sort of ritual that reminds you to focus on God and this helps you connect, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with fasting for lent. There is nothing wrong with giving God a gesture of appreciation once in a while. Worship God in a way that works best for you. Just don’t avoid it because you think it would be a sin to eat or you think abstaining will keep you in God’s favor. That plays right into sin’s hands. God already favors you.
I suspect these verses have either been misinterpreted or mistranslated.
I visited Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, Florida in October 2016 and was rewarded with beautiful sights of a variety of plants. There are trails for bicycling or hiking across wide fields, marshes, and small wooded areas. There is a quite tall observation tower next to one of the lagoons, which is where I took the photos above from. If you have good eyes, you can see the Skyway Bridge in the distance.
The usual animals were around, including dragonflies, ospreys, ibises, fiddler crabs, and lizards. I also saw a rabbit. Something strange was going on that day with the bees. There were a lot of bees throughout the park everywhere that there were flowers. People say bees around the world are dying out, but I think they have just been hiding in Robinson Preserve. No matter where I went I could hear their distant roar. I did not know what I was hearing at first before I found them. I even saw a hive at the base of Tern Trail. I decided not to go that way.
Another mysterious sound was an occasional bark I would hear throughout the park. It sounded like a cross between a honking goose, a very confused seal, and a human child screaming in mortal terror. I finally discovered that the ibises were making this noise. Every so often they would look up from poking in the mud and bark. I had never heard ibises make noise before. I have not heard them make noise since. This is a strange place.
Along the northern edge of the park there are breaks in the vegetation separating the trail from the bay. These lead to small, secluded beaches. The water remains incredibly shallow far into the bay. I could see ibises and herons walking on the mirror-like surface of the sea as far as a hundred feet from shore. On the southern edge of the trail there is a narrow channel of water that connects the sea to the water bodies inside the park. This runs like a river when the tide comes in or goes out. I could see it branch as it cut through the trees into places where I wasn’t allowed to go. What goes on inside there?
Here are some more pictures from my adventure:
This is a poem I wrote in 2010. I imagine all of my poetry to music though I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. This poem I imagine set to the tune of Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen.
Always busy with your studies
Always busy with your plans
To make lots of money
You never had time for a man
You're always so driven
You're life's so full of haste
To learn the world of finance
How long can you keep up the pace?
I thought I'd give you...
I thought I'd give you that chance
For fun and recreation
And maybe just maybe romance
Now you're still alone
Baby, I'm lonely too
Here's just an idea
Maybe I could spend time with you
You can make me think
That's such a rare find
To find a woman
Who has more than half a mind
You've got a nice figure
I like your smile, I like your face
I like the way you stand up
And you put me in my place
We could take over...
Take over the whole God-Damn World
I'd do the politics
And you'd be my economics girl
Now you're going nowhere
Soon you'll have to go home and leave the states
I'm not asking for commitment
I'm just asking for one date
We could just try it...
Try it out and see what unfolds
What better option
But to leave each other in the cold?
I know its hard
When you've got so much on your plate
I'm not asking for commitment
I'm just asking for one date
I'm just asking for one date
I'm just asking for one date
just asking for one date
asking for one date
Mmm-mm mm mm mmm
A walk through the woods is never just a walk through the woods unless you let it be that way. How can you find interesting things? Here are some tips:
I never want to tell other people how to live, but I’ve had some ideas for a long time I thought deserved to be heard and thought through. Tell me what you think.
Everyone has a psychological need to express themselves when experiencing surprise, pain, anger, or frustration. Often, the words “augh” or “ouch” suffice, but more extreme situations can call for harsher words. Culture decides what words these will be. Unfortunately, there are those that will not allow others to vent. Granted, there are those who drop the F-bomb in every other sentence. When this happens, the word begins to lose all meaning and no longer functions to express much of anything, but when used sparingly it can be quite useful.
Swearing can get you into trouble. On television, it can get you fired or fined. In school, it can get you detention. At home, it can get you spanked or worse. In general, it gets you put down and called a bad influence. Swearing must be an awfully harmful thing in order to justify treating people this way, right? What’s wrong with it? No one has ever been able to explain it to me.
Are some subjects simply too offensive to discuss? Certainly there is a time and place to discuss one’s bowel movements and the dinner table is not one of them, but society is very inconsistent in these standards. Discussing BMs might be frowned upon, but it doesn’t necessarily get you into trouble. Why is it that it is perfectly permissible to use the words pooh, poop, scat, feces, caacaa, manure, excrement, droppings, doodoo, and crap, yet not permissible to say shit? The meaning is exactly the same! If it were the meaning of the word that was the problem, this would not be. Of course, as often as not “shit” is used not to refer to fecal matter, but to express surprise and pain, such as when you hammer your thumb. Used this way, it is no different in meaning than saying “ouch.” If ouch is not a bad word, why is shit?
Is it never okay to express displeasure with people? Sometimes it is considered permissible to be mean. When another is being a jerk, it’s usually acceptable to call them a jerk. Why is it unacceptable to call them an ass or a bitch? When another is being a liar, it’s usually acceptable to call out their lies. Why is it unacceptable to call out their bullshit? If a bully is just going around calling people names that don’t deserve it, the problem is the bully, not the names he uses.
Are some combinations of sounds inherently offensive? Certainly running fingernails along a chalkboard is, but what about the word “damn?” Repeating this word in school can get you sent to the principal, yet its sound is identical to the word “dam,” meaning a structure to block the flow of liquid. Why is it permissible to say dam but not damn? If it were the sound that was the problem, this would not be. Why is bitch okay to use when referring to canines but not humans? Why is faggot okay to use when referring to cigarettes but not humans? It has nothing to do with the sound at all, does it?
I used to use the expression of surprise “jeezum crow.” Then I was told that I was really referring to Jesus Christ, making this an example of using the lord’s name in vain, and therefore offensive. It had never occurred to me that there might be a connection. How can anybody mean something other than what they actually mean? Especially when they are unaware of it? Who decides what the “real” meanings of expressions are anyway? Holy cow!
When you say “gosh darn it,” are you really saying “God damn it?” Of course not! If you call someone a pussy, are you really calling them a vagina? Is vagina a bad word now? How do you know you aren’t really calling them a cat? Is cat a bad word now? If pussy can refer to both cats and vaginas, why can’t it also refer to wimps? Is wimp a bad word now?
If you call someone an ass, are you really calling them a bottom? Is bottom a bad word now? How do you know you aren’t really calling them a donkey? Is donkey a bad word now? If ass can refer to both bottoms and donkeys, why can’t it also refer to jerks? Is jerk a bad word now?
If you tell someone they’re screwed, are you really telling them they have lost their virginity? Is that bad to say? How do you know you aren’t really saying they are being slowly impaled by a rotating object (like an actual screw)? If being screwed can refer to both sex and handiwork, why can’t it also refer to being in some sort of hopeless trouble? Is trouble a bad word now? What does it really mean to tell someone they are fucked? I once met a woman who actually tried to explain to me that “get your poop in a group” was wrong to say because it really meant “get your shit together.” What the heck?
People tend to get really hung up on symbology without ever understanding the underlying meaning and this phenomenon extends well beyond swearing. I was actually told by a lady once that those who celebrate Christmas on December 25th are “really” worshipping the sun god because the date was set by the early church to compete with a pagan holiday around the same time. How is it possible for one to worship the sun god if they don’t believe in his existence and are completely unaware that historians don’t know for sure what time of year Jesus was born? If the rest of society celebrates Christmas on December 25th, and you don’t know any better than they do what the real date should be, isn’t the sensible thing to celebrate along with everyone else? I have also been told by more than one person that scientists have proven that the Earth circles the sun instead of the other way around, not understanding even after I have explained it that motion is relative. Modern scientists use the sun-centric model because it is mathematically simpler, not because it is more accurate.
People are so easily offended. Tell one person merry Christmas and they will assume you are trying to proselytize them. Tell the next person in line happy holidays instead and they will assume you are part of a war against Christmas. Protest government policies that are distressing the country by holding a flag upside down (a sign of distress) and people assume you are anti-American. Proudly adopt America as your own by wearing clothing bearing the stars and stripes and people think it is in poor taste to touch the flag with your body. Wave the confederate flag around to celebrate your heritage and then watch people completely lose their minds.
How does this happen? Could it be that teaching our kids young that some words and symbols are always bad – rather than having the potential to be used for good or harm like most words – creates in them a mindset allowing such strange ideas to flourish later in life? At the very least I think they would grow up as very confused people. Could regulating speech be more dangerous than the speech itself?
Do you let your kids swear?
This company will take your child’s wacky creature drawings and create large stuffed toys based on them. They can do the same for photos of your pets or people you know. It’s expensive, but a small price to pay to make your imaginary friends real and ensure your dolls and stuffed animals will be unique. This idea is too cool. I have got to do this someday.
Deep in Lithia, Florida lie the 6312 acres of mostly forest that make up Alafia River State Park. This is a popular place for bicyclists. Off the sides of the mixed-use trail are countless bicycle trails. These trails are narrow, twisted, and very hilly due to the entire place having been used as a phosphate mine in the past. Mountains are a rarity in Florida and this is one place for mountain bikers to get their fix. They are rated as “epic” by the IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association).
I did not know any of this before I went and I don’t have a bike; I went for the extensive walking trails, which are shared by bicycles, horses, and also tortoises. Soon after leaving the trailhead, I rounded a corner and saw a tortoise coming from the other direction at a decent speed. Only when I got close did it take any notice of me and this was just to slow down a bit every time I moved. I also saw a navy-blue dragonfly.
The trails were a bit confusing. Even though they are marked, they are not always marked at every intersection, and there are many side trails not on the map. Most of these are bicycle-only trails, but it is not always easy to tell. After getting lost several times over I found myself near where I started. Since I was more tired than I expected that day, I decided to leave early without seeing most of the park. On the way back to the parking lot, I saw two tortoises where before there had been one. Very cute.
This is a poem I wrote in 2010. I imagine all of my poetry set to music but I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. This one I imagine set to the tune of Hell’s Bells by AC/DC.
Feel your blood
flowin' through your veins
How you feel
you can't explain
Life caught up with you
livin it as a game
Who never told you
that's not okay?
you f-felt okay
you'd go d-down t-today!
You're stomach hurts
you're turnin' white
The world is spinnin'
and your breathin's tight
Instincts are screamin'
fight or flight?
Doesn't matter one bit
once she has you in sight
if you w-win every f-fight
she'll getcha t-t-tonight!!
Seeking the Golden Gloves
it's on your face
You've fought before
and you like the taste
Try to tell me
you're one of the greats
But you're still a member
of the human race
Cassie'll put you
b-back in your p-place
These Golden Gloves'll
kn-kn-knock you t-to outer space!!
It doesn't matter
if you practice all night long
It doesn't matter
if you practice till dawn
It doesn't matter
what charms you have on
Either way, in three seconds
you'll be gone
Makes no difference
if-f you've done r-right or wrong
You'll b-be on your back
when the b-bell goes d-d-d-d-dong!!!
Finding Adventure Close To Home:
Adventure can be found anywhere at any time. You do not have to go far looking for it. You do not have to be lucky enough for it to happen to you. You simply have to recognize that you are already surrounded by adventure. Even in your neighborhood, there are some places you have never gone. I used to take long walks from my house and cut behind businesses and walk along the railroad tracks. I found snakes, deer, turtles, and found the largest cache of blackberries I had ever seen in my life (and still to this day). This was where I saw for the first time a dragonfly catch a meal in flight.
Finding Joy In Everyday Life:
Even at work or around the home there are situations that have never happened before. There are little mysteries and challenges to be overcome. These can be adventures too. Not everyone is capable of this mindset. Some are depressed and are physically incapable of adventure even when it is pointed out to them. I’ve been there and I know there is nothing to say to make you feel better. Just know that it doesn’t last. Others simply lack the skills because no one has shown them where and how to look. That is what I hope to do on this blog: prove by example that adventure can be found anywhere and you don’t have to go far from home to find it. It just takes a little practice.
Here are some tips:
What is the next adventure you will go on?
I never want to tell other people how to live, but I’ve had some ideas for a long time I thought deserved to be heard and thought through. Tell me what you think.
We live in an oversexualized culture and sometimes I get tired of it. I’m tired of coworkers trying to make innuendos out of my innocent words while I’m trying to tell them something important. I’m tired of people giggling when I talk about the biology of invertebrates (apparently penis-fencing hermaphroditic flatworms are funny). I’m tired of preachers ruining movies for me by warning me of all the double entendres that I was happily unaware of. I’m tired of people telling me the intimate details of their encounters when such things are best enjoyed privately between two people. Sex is a small part of life, but most people focus on it unhealthily to the exclusion of all else, bringing up the subject all the time. Furthermore, we certainly do have a problem with some giving in to temptations to extramarital sex, divorce, rape, homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, and more.
However, while sex is a small part of life, it is still a very important part of it. God created humans with the same basic physiology as other primates and clearly planned on us mating often. There is a certain minimum level of sexual awareness that allows us to be attracted to others in the first place and this awareness permeates every social situation. I know firsthand how abstinence can wear on a person and how torturous it sometimes is. We cannot fight sexual sins by fighting sex; we must do so by promoting the Christian marriage ideal and bringing people to Jesus. While not affecting as many people as promiscuity, abstinence is another evil that must be addressed. The human body and psyche is not designed for it, yet many people remain single for years until finally giving in to pornography or prostitution when they can’t take it anymore. It isn’t enough to simply tell people not to do wrong without giving them a way out because we are fighting against a powerful, God-given biological drive to be fruitful and multiply. If Christians really wanted to help these people, they would marry them. When people are starving, we don’t simply preach about the sins of theft. Instead we feed people and then train them how to become self-sufficient. Why don’t we do something similar with sex? Why don’t we offer matching services?
We are so oversensitized to sex that we are quick to proscribe the harshest punishments for those who break the rules. Someone is accused of pedophilia or homosexuality and they are considered by the public guilty until proven innocent. Even teenagers can be convicted of a sex crime for urinating outdoors (something every guy (and several gals) I know has done at least once) or innocently suggesting that a ten-year-old take off her shirt (kids dare each other to do things all the time and are naturally curious about that which is normally kept hidden). Sex offenders are restricted in where they can live, what kind of jobs they can get, and in their internet use. All these things make it very difficult for them to find a spouse so they can finally enter into a healthy relationship and no longer be tempted. I’m not saying that their hardship in any way excuses recidivism, but so long as these hardships are placed on them by society, society should expect to be violated.
We are so oversensitized to sex that we see it when it isn’t even there. When I read a news article about a man sucking women’s toes on a subway, I understood that he was weird and probably annoying but could not fathom why the police were calling it a sex crime. There is much that I find perfectly innocent that religious conservatives want to interpret as sexually deviant and make a big deal of. One has to admit that much of the increase in sexual deviancy in our culture might be an illusion and that talking so much about it only adds strife to the relationship of the church to the world it is trying to reach. I have heard of cases of possibly gay couples being asked not to return to church because they were seen holding hands, but in Saudi Arabia men hold hands all the time and the Muslims are less tolerant of homosexuality than we are. In France, one might greet another with a kiss rather than a handshake, but do this in America and you will be assaulted. Within America, so many people have different life experiences with subtly different cultural exposure that we can’t even agree on what is and isn’t a sexual signal. Is it possible that some see sex where it wasn’t intended and this is why we think the media is pushing it on us and our children even when they aren’t?
I hear over and over that the media (especially advertising) sets a particular standard for feminine beauty that most cannot attain. This is only true if women take it that way. Just because a woman in an ad looks a particular way is no reason to expect that you have to. The problem is not the advertisers, but the attitude of the women at home viewing the ads. When it comes to sports, we celebrate talent without putting others down. When it comes to business, we pay extra for good talent. We celebrate musical, artistic, and scientific talent. Why then do we have such a hard time celebrating God-designed physical beauty? Should beautiful women be banned from advertising? Shouldn’t we instead share their beauty with the world to give glory to the one who created it? The problem is not only that Satan is using the media to push sexual sin on us; the problem is that we are so obsessed with sex that we see it everywhere and do Satan’s work for him. We fight sin but we still play by sin’s rules.
I have heard it suggested that depicting Supergirl as a large-breasted woman sends the message that to be attractive one must have large breasts, making average women feel inadequate, yet no one suggests that Superman makes average men feel inadequate for lacking his large muscles or the ability to fly or fire heat rays from the eyes. Some women really do have large breasts and to put down Supergirl is to put down them as well. I have even heard of a case where a woman was told to cover up more than others because someone deemed her “too” attractive – but God made her that way! I hear about actresses and models being put down for being “too thin” and thus promoting unhealthy attitudes about food and how women are supposed to look – but some women are naturally thin and to put down the models is to put them down as well. God made them that way!
The one biggest sexual symbol I hear talked about is nudity, but I have never thought of pure nudity as sexual. In fact, I have always believed that if we were all accustomed to experiencing nudity on a daily basis from birth onward, we would not and could not associate it with sex. If most people were naked most of the time, strip clubs would go right out of business. If you want to eradicate pornography, the obvious solution has been right there in Genesis 2:25 the whole time! As Christians, we are right with God and should feel no shame over that which is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We instead have freedom to be what God created us to be and saw “was good.” What kind of world do we live in where the victims of clothing theft have to feel more ashamed than the thieves? This happens with no other kind of theft. What kind of world do we live in where I have to worry about a visit from the police for simply trying to keep cool on a hot day? We all have bodies and so every one of us is vulnerable and lives in constant fear. I have always believed that it is psychologically and sociologically unhealthy to both hide our bodies from others and to shield our eyes from the sight of others’ bodies. Do not call unclean what God has made clean!
We live in an upside-down world where every sitcom can include dialogue implicitly and explicitly referring to sex (including perversions), bedroom scenes with characters writhing under the sheets, breast-grabbing, and scenes of kissing – and no one thinks anything of it, but if a mother breastfeeds her baby in public, we call for censorship! We want to battle the oversexualization of our culture, but we do so by attacking the human body. This is like banning airplanes because terrorists might use them, banning guns because criminals might use them, banning cars or alcohol because somebody might drive drunk, or banning soda because somebody might get fat.
We especially go bananas over children seeing nudity, but no child in history has ever been hurt seeing nudity that wasn’t first taught that they were supposed to be hurt. We certainly aren’t born with the knowledge of the existence of clothes. I remember a case wherein a man was naked in his own home, not visible from the street or the neighbor’s homes, but only visible from one spot on the edge of his yard where a mother and daughter were walking by for some reason. The mother complained not that she was offended, but that her daughter was “having nightmares.” My thought was immediately that the mother must have filled her daughter’s mind with her own fears and prejudices and that this was child abuse! The man didn’t abuse anybody simply by being himself, but the mother did abuse her daughter by teaching her there was something so wrong with seeing bodies that they should always be covered. What kind of message does that send the daughter about her own body? No wonder we have eating disorders in America!
Swimsuits make especially little sense to me. For me, by covering certain parts, they only bring special attention to those parts. To divert the focus, one should either be fully dressed or fully naked. Swimsuits represent a sort of reverse psychology. By conspicuously covering something, I notice things that could otherwise hide in plain sight. One might even think that swimsuits are designed to call special attention to the body. In fact, they are; swimsuit designers openly admit this! It annoys me that not only do I have to cover up, but I have to help perpetuate the idea that certain parts of the anatomy are sexually special by what I wear. This is a free speech issue. I do not want to be party to perpetuating such falsehoods. I do not think it appropriate to force others to discuss which parts they find most attractive. That’s a private thing. It is because sex is private that I reject the idea of covering special parts based on one person’s biased ideas of which parts are sexual. I don’t want to know what others consider the “sexual parts.”
To be clear, I firmly believe that sex is a special, private thing shared between committed romantic partners not to be shared with others. When one is romantically entangled, they want to make the partner feel uniquely entitled to receive their affections. That’s what makes it romantic. I do not want to talk about my sex life, I don’t want to hear about the sex life of others, and I don’t find that romance or pornography make good entertainment. I dislike porn. It cheapens the sacred, but modern culture does this all the time and it isn’t even thought of as porn. Society praises those that dress up to show off the body and look pretty (and therefore sexually attractive) but puts down those that are pretty without dressing up. Putting in extra effort to dress (including makeup and jewelry) to attract a mate is just normal, but being oneself as God made them is somehow sexual and must be censored? Seriously?
In America, people are even having sex even as young as Junior High. I agree that this is a problem, but why is this a problem? Did God err when he arranged for sexual feelings to enter the mind during puberty? Why would he have put those feelings there if he did not intend us to act on them in some way? In hunter-gatherer societies, members of the tribe are married off between the ages of 13 and 16. Their resulting children are watched by the whole tribe, sharing the burden. Social support is available to prevent divorce. The problem with Jr. High kids having sex is that in American society, we lack the social support structure to enforce commitment and it is nearly impossible to raise a family and make a living by hunting. We require so much education just to navigate our institutions and to get a decent job (and have laws against child labor and age restrictions on entering legal contracts) that it becomes extremely risky to get pregnant before 18 – even riskier if the father doesn’t stick around. Due to the instability of the economy many couples are putting off having children until much later in life. I find this very sad. The problem isn’t as much the sex, but the lack of love, commitment, and economic opportunity for the young.
In conclusion, I see that the only way to fight those obsessed with promoting sex is not to become obsessed with fighting sex, but rather to stop being obsessed with sex at all. The deepest human drive is to commune with God. When God is put first, every lesser drive will fall into place.