Oct 202014
 

Offering Our GiftsBelieve it or not, one of the most treasured gifts I’ve ever received is one I actually had to pay for myself. One day when my son was in kindergarten, he was packing all of his stuff into his backpack and suddenly realized that he was forgetting something. “Oh, Mommy, can I have five dollars?” Matthew asked with his big brown eyes staring up at me expectantly. When I asked what he needed the money for, he responded, “I can’t tell you ‘cuz it’s a secret.” Since it was the last week of school before the Christmas holidays, I suspected what he was up to, and I couldn’t deny his request.

Christmas morning arrived several days later, and Matthew placed a small, unwrapped box in my hand, along with two dollars worth of change from the five dollars he had borrowed. As my son eagerly awaited the expression on my face, I tucked the money into the pocket of my robe and proceeded to open the box. To my surprise and delight, I discovered a very large plastic ruby and cubic zirconia ring, one that actually looked similar to the ring my grandmother used to wear when I was a little girl, although Matthew would have never known that when he picked it out.

I knew his gift would probably turn my finger green, but I didn’t care. The thought of my precious son shopping around at his school’s Secret Santa Workshop and choosing this beautiful ring just for me thrilled my heart. I scooped him into my arms for a tight squeeze and a loud smack of a kiss on his chubby little cheek. It didn’t matter that the ring was far from the best quality. It didn’t matter that it only cost three dollars. It didn’t even matter that it was my three dollars that paid for it. What mattered was the loving, thoughtful spirit in which the ring was given, as if to say, “I love you so much, Mommy!”

While we may get a chuckle out of Matthew’s innocence, aren’t the gifts we give to God much like the gift my son gave to me? If we think about it, even the greatest gifts we could ever offer Him are actually gifts He gave us the provision for. Have you placed a nice-sized check in the offering plate at church lately? Whatever amount of money you may have been tithing on, He supplied all of that money into your hands Himself. It only makes sense that we offer a portion of it back to Him with a happy heart, doesn’t it? Have you served on a special committee at church or in your community lately? Isn’t God the one who gave you the time, the talent, and the heart to serve in the first place? Have you sung Him a song of praise lately? Did you thank Him for the voice with which you sang? The very air in your lungs? A mind sharp enough to remember the tune and the lyrics?

Everything in the universe belongs to God; there’s not one single thing we can offer Him that He didn’t give to us in the first place. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

CH - COVER

Excerpted from Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2007.  All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.

Oct 102014
 

Connection between spirituality and sexualityNo words in the English language could possibly describe the look of panic on my mom’s face as she pulled into the driveway to witness me standing barefoot in the dew-covered grass, holding a fallen electrical line in my hand.  I’d been watching Sesame Street, when suddenly the TV went totally dead, along with all of the lights in the house.  I went outside to ask my dad to investigate, but stumbled upon a potential explanation when I saw the severed black cord lying limp on the front lawn.  So I picked it up, as if somehow I could reconnect it to its power source and restore everything to the way it was supposed to be. And, amazingly, I lived to tell about it.

In many ways, [my writing, speaking, and coaching are intended] to do the same thing—to reconnect married couples to their Power Source, and to restore passion and freedom in the marriage bed. Hopefully I’ll get better results this time, and avoid any shocked facial expressions in the process.

Asking the question, “Is there any connection between sexuality and spirituality?” is the equivalent of asking, “Is there any connection between body and spirit?”

Think of the spirit as the “energy” we’re given as humans who are made in the image of God.  Think of our body as the “conduit” through which that energy flows. Without the conduit (the body), there would be no way for us to experience that energy and let it flow from ourselves to another human being.  But without the energy (the spirit), our bodies alone can’t muster the human connection we naturally crave.  Oh, many try.  They find human outlets for their physical sexual desires—manipulative seduction, child molestation, sexual abuse, sexual addiction, prostitution, human trafficking—it wears all kinds of ugly masks.

But a physical connection to someone with whom we also share a strong spiritual and emotional bond, that’s something else entirely.  That’s pure love . . . romance . . . passion . . . intimacy . . . ecstasy . . . euphoria.

When you’re expressing your sexuality in the way our Designer intended, there is an enormous, undeniable connection between sexuality and spirituality.  Humans are sexual.  Humans are spiritual.  It’s the primary common denominator among us all. Are there spiritual people who aren’t sexual?  No.  Absolutely not.  There are spiritual people who aren’t sexually active, such as priests, monks, or nuns who’ve pledged themselves to a lifestyle of celibacy, or single people who are purposely holding out for marriage.  But they are still sexual beings, and will be until they die.

Are there sexual people who aren’t spiritual?  That depends on whom you ask.  Some would say that those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus are not spiritual.  This may be an acceptable definition of Christianity, but is a very narrow definition of spirituality.  Others would say that all people are spiritual, simply by the fact that they are alive, regardless of whether they are currently practicing any sort of spiritual activities or disciplines.  I agree with this latter camp.  We’re all made in the image of God, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we acknowledge God or not.

You simply can’t take the spirit out of the body (at least not until that body is dead). Just like you can’t separate two sides of the same coin. Nor can you take the protein out of a Black Angus steak. Or take the chocolate out of a chocolate bunny, as my friend Steve Holladay says.

It’s all swirled together, sexuality and spirituality, never to be separated. So since we can’t possibly separate the body and spirit, or sexuality and spirituality, how about looking to see what we can learn from fully integrating and celebrating the synergy between the two?

Excerpted from The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage   by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved. Published by W Publishing Group, and imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.