Expressions Storytelling Institute and Writers Conference

Expressions Poster

The 2020 Expressions Storytelling Institute & Writers Conference is this Friday, January 31, at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FLorida. Special guest speakers are Jeff Goins and Carol J. Post, with genre workshops by Joni M. Fisher, Scott Morgan, and Paul Linzey. And then a fabulous panel discussion with SEU faculty members in the Department of Communications:  Adrienne Garvey, Bethany Miller, Chris Clark, and David Sparling.

The cost is $10.00 for the breakfast and $30.00 for the all-day conference. There’ll be a break for buy-your-own lunch at one of the campus restaurants.

Planned and hosted by Professor Hannah Benefield, this is undoubtedly one of the highlights in the state of Florida’s active writing scene. It’s better to register online in advance, or you may register and pay at the door. The conference is in the Campus Science Building. Make plans to join us. 

You Are Not Your Own

Roger & Michelle 2When you’re a Christian, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says that your body doesn’t belong to you. Your life doesn’t belong to you. Jesus Christ bought and paid for you, and now you belong to him. The Lord owns you. Therefore, the way you live your life matters. You decided to live your life the way the Lord wants you to.

Then in chapter seven we discover that a wife does not have the right over her own body. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body. In other words, you are not your own. You belong to Christ, who owns you. And if you’re married, you are not your own, you belong to your spouse, who owns you. Therefore, you might want to consider your partner’s preferences when trying to make lifestyle decisions.

I understand that this flies in the face of what the secular culture might be telling you. The message from your friends, your therapist, and the media may be more like, “Do your own thing. Who cares about what your partner says. Be your own person. Nobody owns you. If she doesn’t like it, so what. If he doesn’t like it, do it anyway. Be your own boss. You own yourself.” That’s what a lot of voices might be telling you, but they’re wrong . . . Every one of them. Your church might be telling you something different, too.

Before you click away from this blog, or decide that this concept is so outdated you’re going to forget it and live the way you want to, please keep in mind that this is the Word of the Lord. Life works better this way and marriage works better this way. But also, the harshness of being owned by someone is mitigated by the fact that ownership in marriage is mutual. You own each other. It’s not a one-way street; it works both ways.

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When the apostle Paul uses the word “body” in 1 Corinthians 7:4, there are three ways to understand his meaning.

The literal way to read the verse is that it’s talking about your physical body being owned by your spouse. In a literal sense, it’s saying that your partner has the authority to make decisions that affect your body, because your body belongs to your spouse. Interestingly, this is what a Medical Power of Attorney establishes. In some states, it’s called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

My wife and I have both a Durable Power of Attorney (financial/business authority) and a Medical Power of Attorney (medical/healthcare authority). You might consider preparing similar documents, but before you do, you need to make sure you have a relationship and a reputation of complete trust in each other.

A second way to understand “body” in this verse is to see it as a pronoun. It can be interpreted to mean the self. A wife doesn’t have authority over herself, nor does a husband have authority over himself. Biblical scholars point out that Paul sometimes uses “body” and “flesh” as if they were pronouns referring to the self.

And a third way to understand body in 1 Corinthians 7 is as a metaphor for life. When I committed myself to my wife in marriage, I transferred ownership of my body, myself, and my entire life to her. When she married me, she made the same commitment.

That’s why marriage can be scary. That’s why the decision to marry shouldn’t be made in a hurry, or before knowing each other pretty well.

The fact that your spouse owns you doesn’t mean he or she makes all the decisions. It doesn’t mean your mate can boss you around, bark out orders, or issue commands. It doesn’t give your partner permission to abuse you or take advantage of you, and it doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for yourself.

What it does mean is that you are accountable to each other. It means you are aware of each other’s feelings, desires, and preferences, and you choose to honor one another with your body, your decisions, and your lifestyle.

While driving to a restaurant one night, I asked my wife what she thought about the biblical principle of mutual ownership. Her response surprised me, but I really like what she had to say.

“It’s like Jesus’s parable about the Pearl of Great Price,” she told me. “The pearl was expensive. It cost the guy everything he had. But he was happy, because that pearl was precious to him.”

When we become a follower of Jesus, we count the cost and are willing to give up everything in order to follow Him. He is Lord, and His will is really what we want more than anything else.

In the same way, marriage costs everything we have. But what we gain is precious.

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What Mutual Submission Looks Like

couple-1030744_1920Husbands are called to submit to their wives just as certainly as wives are called to submit to their husbands. What might this look like in a marriage?

There are many ways this can be implemented. One way is the impact it has on the decision-making process. For example, some couples take turns making decisions. Others make every decision together, talking it out until they agree on what to do. One method is to have the partner who is more knowledgeable in that area make the decision. Another possibility would be for the partner who feels more passionate on that issue to decide. My wife and I have used every one of these methods. The key is to build and maintain unity in the marriage, to honor one another, and foster equality and mutuality.

Bible and TeacupThis is one of the take-aways of Ephesians 5:21, where the apostle writes, “Submit to one another in reverence for Christ.” It seems to me that “in reverence for Christ” is a reference to the Imago Dei, the Image of God in both husband and wife. We are to submit to each other and honor each other because both husband and wife are made in the Image of God.

Another way mutual submission might show up in marriage is the way you balance two careers. We discovered early on that a wife’s career is just as important as a husband’s. We also realized that it’s sometimes difficult for both to get good jobs in the same area at the same time. Because of this, my wife and I have taken turns making professional sacrifices in order to further the other’s career.

A few years ago, I was pastoring a good church when my wife had an opportunity to join the faculty at a university that was a bit too far to commute. After discussing it, praying about it, and thinking it through, I decided to resign from the ministry position in order for her to take the teaching job. A lot of people criticized me for doing that, because they believed the husband and his career mattered, and the wife and her interests should always be subservient or marginalized. A few months after we moved, the Lord opened the doors to another ministry opportunity for me. Linda found fulfillment in her career, and so did I.

Ten years later, I had a chance to go into the Army as an Active Duty Chaplain. Knowing how much that meant to me, Linda willingly resigned from the teaching position that she loved, in order to facilitate my dream of being a military chaplain. It just so happened, that my first duty station was near a university that had a PhD program in her field. She applied and was accepted.

As she was completing her degree, she got a new job that wouldn’t have been possible had she not completed the doctorate. Again, one of us submitted so the other could pursue a career opportunity. Every time we did that, it worked out to the benefit of the one who was making the sacrifice, and we were both able to pursue our dreams.

If you want to read more about this, take a look at WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage.

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The Annual Newsletter

Annual Newsletters: You’ve seen them, so you know the format. A recap of what happened during the year. Pictures that coincide with the stories. Almost always, the newsletter focuses on the good and fun events that happened during the year: the vacation, the promotion, the positives. We get them from friends and relatives every year, usually during the month of December. You get them too. You probably even sent a few.

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But what do you do when only bad happens during the year? Do you still send out that festive, upbeat newsletter? This happened to us a few years ago. Right after Thanksgiving, my wife asked, “Are you doing a newsletter this year?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll tell all our friends what a crummy year we had.”

When we recounted all the painful experiences and disappointments that happened during the year, we started laughing. That year, my wife gave up a job she really loved in order to be with me when the Army transferred me to a different part of the country. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer and had multiple surgeries. As she was recovering and going through chemotherapy, the Army sent me overseas, so I couldn’t even be with her. That same year, I had an evil boss who was trying to destroy my career. One of our sons was unemployed, and our other two sons were struggling with personal issues. Bad news after bad news piled on top of us, and it seemed there was no end.

We have a pretty good idea how Job felt when he experienced horrible losses back to back to back, one after another. No wonder he groaned and grumbled and grieved. No wonder his wife suggested that he simply curse God and die. When life gets too painful and it seems there’s no end to the suffering and bad news, there’s not much you can do. We understand, because it happened to us.

But Job didn’t turn his back on God. He didn’t lose his faith. He didn’t curse. And he didn’t end his life. In fact, Job 1:22 indicates that in all his suffering, he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t end his life, he didn’t sin, and he didn’t blame God.

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In our worst year ever, we adopted similar goals. We wanted to keep our eyes on Jesus and stay faithful in every way. When the world would advise us to give up, curse God, and die, we refused. And by the end of the year, even though we hadn’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel in those dreadful situations, we managed to laugh together.

James 1:2-4 reminds us to remain joyful even when facing many kinds of trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces character, perseverance, and strength. 1 Peter 4:12-13 adds that we shouldn’t even be surprised when life gets ugly, as if something strange were happening. Instead, we can continue to be joyful, knowing that our Lord suffered too, keeping in mind that if we are faithful during the tough days, the Glory of the Lord will eventually be revealed in us.

Job knew this a long time ago, which is why he could proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand.” And then he adds, “And I will see Him with my own eyes.”

The same is true for you, my friend. Do your best to remain joyful and faithful while you’re struggling, and you will see the glory of the Lord, because your Redeemer lives.

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