Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

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Finding A Good Wife

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Who Am I? Part 8

This is now the eighth part in a 26 part series that I have wanted to share with all my readers.  That might sound like a lot of articles, but then I am trying to write out the highlights and key moments of my 50 year life span.  And this article is going to be a special one, as it marks a truly pivotal moment of my life, the decision of who I would marry.  The only other moment that was more important than this was when I was ready to turn my life over to God.  You can read that in the article, “For My Tears, Jesus Died.”

Everything else in my life up to this moment was a period of learning and growing and getting ready for this major life-changing decision.  Sort of like Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, I was going to change from being a child to becoming a man.  For a very long time, it was clear to me and to others that I would be wanting to find the right woman who would marry me.

In fact, I think you might say that I was chasing women from a very young age.  I can still remember the day in Grade Two that I was sent home early from school with a note from the principal to my parents.  I thought it was great that I got to go home early.  But I must say that my parents were not too thrilled to get this note from the principal which read:

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Weatherhead,

I regret that I have had to pull your son out of school today and have sent him home with this letter.  I would like it very much if you could sit down with your son and talk to him about his behavior while at school.  Please tell your son that it is not appropriate for him to run after girls during recess, to tackle them down and try to kiss them.  Your help in this matter would be most appreciated.

Sincerely,

The Principal

Now thinking back to that moment in Grade Two, I remember going home with the note.  But I don’t remember if I got scolded and disciplined by my parents or not.  Gee, maybe my Dad even congratulated me for taking the initiative in developing male/female relationships.  (LOL)  Just kidding.  All I can say is that I took a healthy interest in girls at a very young age.

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Skipping ahead over many years, and many more interesting/funny/embarrassing stories which will have to wait for future articles, let me bring you up to the time that I was starting to date Jill.  You may remember the prophetic and funny statement my grandmother said to us, “My little Norman usually walks about three feet off the ground, and Jill, you walk about three feet under ground.  But as long as you two keep on holding on to each other, you will be fine.”

Actually, when Grandma said this, neither of us thought about being too serious at that time.  But God seemed to smile on our relationship and a short dating period (50 days) led to a short engagement period (5 months), and on May 11, 1984, we pledged our love to each other.  And as you can see from the picture below, we were on top of the world that day.

Now let me back up just a bit to give our story a little more context.  Even though our dating period was short, as I mentioned, we had in fact known each other for more than three years.  Jill had been a room-and-board person at my parents house for parts of 1979 – 1983.  She had become part of our family long before she married into our family.

So were we friends forever who finally got married?  Actually, no.  After I got home from my year serving with Teen Missions (read about that year here), I found that “some strange woman” had taken over my bedroom and I was relegated to the dusty basement room.  😦  Needless to say, I was not too impressed, nor happy about the arrangement.  And so I first got to know Jill as a rival in the family, someone to compete against, not someone to want to date or even marry.

But again, God did some interesting heart adjustments for both of us.  I thought I knew what I was looking for in a wife, but now that I look back, I know that I was being influenced by my culture.  It really is difficult these days not to be influenced by the bombardment we get through the media, modern advertising and such dominant cultural centers such as Hollywood.

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But thankfully, Jill stepped in twice to give me a subtle suggestion that the girl I thought I was interested in was really not a good match for me.  But being a guy, of course I missed the subtle cues.  (There are lots more to the stories, and I’m sure you’d love to hear them one day.)  But then Jill asked me one day if maybe there might ever be a chance that the two of us might want to date.

Well, then it really hit me.  Even though Jill and I had lived in my parent’s house together and squabbled like a brother and sister might at times, there was a common bond that kept us interested in each other.  Both of us had wanted to serve the Lord on the mission field one day.  And so we talked the same language: missions and missionary lives.

So finally, after 3 1/2 years of missed opportunities, Jill and I saw that in fact we would be a good match together.  And so I was able to realize what the writer had to say in Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”  And guess what?  I can still say after 27 years, that it was the right decision.

(Our 25th Anniversary Cruise Celebration)

God Triumphs Through Difficult Times

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God Triumphs Through Difficult Times

On June 8, 2010, a letter of invitation was sent asking me to come over to Papua New Guinea to help do the consultant check of Matthew for one of the local language groups.  There had been some discussion about me also doing the consultant check of Hebrews for another group, but dates and circumstances did not allow me to do this on this trip.  Instead, we are anticipating that this may be put into a program plan for a Spring 2011 trip.

During the month of July, I did some initial study of key terms and difficult phrases in Matthew.  This would help me identify potentially difficult parts of Matthew which would need to be examined carefully.  Meanwhile, I was waiting for the VE file of the Matthew translation to be sent to me from PNG.  (A VE is a vernacular to English literal back translation from the village language into English from which I can compare with the Greek NT to spot errors or areas of discussion.)

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At the beginning of August, it was clear that a more pressing matter was arising within the Branch, namely the sudden illness of the Director.  Immediately we began emailing the leadership in PNG and praying as to whether we should actually try to come as planned, or cancel the trip until a later date.  As we dialogued with them, we all came to the decision that we should still come, and trust that we would be able to get some of Matthew checked.

And so I began in mid-August to do intense studies on the Greek text of Matthew, and using a computer program called Paratext, was able to write myself inline text notes.  I noted areas of the Greek text where translation would be difficult or ambiguous, and also made note of various interpretations and cultural issues unique to the biblical era.  These exegetical and cultural notes would help me to evaluate the translation when the back translation was given to me orally, so that even without the written VE, I would be able to spot potential problems and areas needing revision.

Sadly, the Director died on the day I left Canada, and even before we started, we all wondered how this would affect the team and when the memorial for her would take place.  So I went into the sessions expecting that there would be even more delays and interruption.  I think what helped all of us from the beginning was that we all agreed that any verses we could do the consultant check on was still good, and was still moving forward the goal of having the New Testament finished for this language group.

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The date for the memorial was finally set for October 9, the day Jill and I would fly out of PNG, so it did not turn out that we would stop our sessions in the middle of our checking of Matthew.  But then a new area of major concern arose.  Due to a drought and the stagnation of existing water in the region where the national team members lived, scores of them were becoming sick and three people did die during our three weeks of checking.  In addition, the wife and son of the key national translator, were also sent to Wewak for medical attention.  Thankfully, they recovered quickly after getting treatment.

Understandably, this caused the team much distress and concern which made the checking even more difficult.  The final decision by all of us was to end the sessions early and have the men return to the villages so that they might be able to help out and comfort the people during this difficult time.

In spite of all these obstacles that our team faced, it is amazing to look back and see what progress was made and how God’s hand was in all of this.  In 12 days of actual work, we were able to check, correct and revise 20 out of the 28 chapters of Matthew.  We were able to check an average of 56 verses a day, which is pretty good considering the many hard passages of Christ’s teaching.

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Another area for praise is how God sustained us all.  My health was good during the entire time, and I discovered two women in the Center who knew how to do massage therapy so that I could get my legs worked on twice while there.  The massages, along with adequate rest periods each day, allowed me to function with a much lower pain level than I expected.   For this I was very grateful to God, and I am sure the many prayers of God’s people helped to carry me through this trip.

I am also thankful once again that Jill was able to come join me (two weeks later) and then return with me on the trip back to Canada.  She helped me in so many ways to be able to function and live each day over there in PNG.  And she has such a desire to help out, that when a special formatting task was sent up by CD disk from our Publishing Dept on short notice, Jill willingly worked on the computer during my breaks (sharing my computer) and on the weekend to get 166 Shellbooks (literacy picture books with empty text boxes) fully reformatted and ready for use by translators.

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So what is next?  There is already discussion about me and Jill coming in Feb-April of next year.  The book of Hebrews in one language is ready to be checked.  The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Jude in another language are anticipated to be ready.  And there are still the final eight chapters of Matthew to do for this language group.  Translation consultant checking remains a constant area of need in our overseas branches.  I am just happy that I can be involved and do my part to see God’s Word made available to these language groups.

I must also say thank you to all of you who so faithfully pray for us and support our ministry work with Pioneer Bible Translators.  We  could not do this work without you standing behind us.  Above all, we give thanks to God who has equipped us and sustained us to be able to do this good work.

To Him be all the glory,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead

My Birthday Surprise

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In the past week, I have been very nicely surprised by having not one, but three little birthday parties.  The first with my immediate family, with all the trimmings: food, cake, streamers, balloons, cards and presents.  The second with two close couple friends for tea and some good laughs.  Then on my actual birthday, our family of five was together again, so hey, let’s have pizza, pop and a movie.  Yippee!!

But my real surprise for turning 50 happened six weeks ago.  Jill and I had finished our month-long mission work of doing the consultant checking on the book of Matthew, and we had arranged our airline tickets in such a way that we could spend a day and a half in Cairns, Australia.  We had saved some money and had talked previously about doing something special for my 50th while we were Down Under.

On the day we arrived, I immediately took a rest when we got to the hotel, which left time for Jill to stroll along the Esplanade of the Cairns downtown harbor.  I thought she was just sight-seeing.  Little did I know what she had up her sleeve.  So when she came back to the hotel, she gave me her first surprise by telling me she had booked a catamaran cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef.  We had talked about this, but the deal and the adventure she found was even better than I had hoped for.

The ride out to the Reef was an adventure itself.  It took an hour and a half just to get out there.  And when we got to the open ocean, the captain opened up the throttle and raised the bow right off the water.  Meanwhile, I had just changed into my swimming trunks at the stern, and when I tried to go uphill to get back to our seats, there was no way I could make it.  I just leaned uphill and held on to my pole.  But thanks to a willing staff member who basically put me on his back, I did get back to Jill.

Once we arrived, the catamaran docked alongside their permanent floating pontoon platform, and all kinds of aquatic activities began.  Now just as an aside, I am well known for NOT being able to swim, and in fact I am famous for sinking to the bottom of any pool or body of water.  But we both decided we would try a snorkel led tour of the reef to try to see the beauty of the marine life.

It was simply unbelievable how clear the coral looked that day.  And so many varieties and colors, it was breathtaking.  And one staff member told us, the Great Barrier Reef is over 1,000 miles long.

We were able to see many kinds and colors of fish as well, but by the time you got your camera ready, they darted back into the coral again.  So to help the “tourists”, the staff would throw food pellets into the water to bring schools of fish back.

Well, praise God, the instructor lent (at no charge) wet suits so I could glide better, and since numbers were down, we got a private tour for 30 minutes of the Coral Reef.  And to help me, the newbie of snorkeling, he gave me simple instructions: make an “O” with your lips, bite lightly but firmly on your mouthpiece, place your head down at a 45 degree angle, stretch out your arms and hold on to the life ring, and gently move your legs to swim.  I did pretty good.  I followed all the instruction, up till the last one.  I have always been afraid of water, and my legs don’t work very well anyways now, so I hung on for dear life, and the instructor towed me for the full half hour.  My outstretched arms hurt like the dickens later, but boy was it all worth it.

After a brief rest, and half a lunch plate later, they announced that the glass bottom boat was ready to go.  So we quickly boarded that vessel and saw more of the reef.  Very cool to look straight down and see the fish and the reef.  But better than that, they had finally just fixed some problem so that when we got back to the pontoon, the semi-submersible ship was ready and we hopped over and down into it for another ride to the reef.  Super cool!  It felt like we really were in a submarine.

You would think my day was done, but Jill had her greatest surprise left to give me.  There was one last adventure to have to mark my 50th birthday.  By this point, I had been on the water, in the water, and under the water.   The last thing to do was to go over the water.  And so I did.  Jill arranged for me to go up in helicopter ride to circle around the Reef at 500 feet.  Now is that pretty special or what?

I have always wanted to go up in a helicopter.  And in 1999 I almost did, as I was scheduled to go to a remote village to do some language surveying.  But a sudden trip home to see my father for the last time cancelled that flight.  So certainly for the past 11 years I have thought about going up in a helicopter.  Well, how can I tell you how amazing it was to see the Great Barrier Reef from the air.  The shapes, the shades, the colors.  They were all truly amazing as you can see.

I must say, this adventure that we had Down Under will be very hard to beat.  I think I can say that this was truly an adventure of a lifetime.  And considering all the places I have been in the world, that’s saying something.  But most of all, I must say “Thank you!” to my wife Jill, who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I had a wonderful 50th birthday.

Thank you Honey!