I love our neighbourhood! Not everyone can say the same thing about the community in which they live, so I feel blessed that God has placed us where we are.
A neighbourhood is a district or area with distinctive characteristics and the people who live near one another.[i] They are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interaction among members.[ii]
Our immediate neighbourhood is just such a community. It’s not simply a street lined with homes, well tended properties, mature trees, and paved driveways. For me, a neighbourhood is about the people who live in those homes and spend much of their daily lives in close proximity to each other. We are busy people – jobs and careers to fulfill, children to shuttle to and from school and extracurricular activities, grandchildren to care for, groceries to buy, appointments to keep, houses to maintain, and properties to manage.
As we come and go we wave, say “Good morning” and “Have a great weekend!” One neighbour’s dog trots up our front steps looking to greet our kitty. The teen girl next door is baking and knocks at our door wondering if we have a cup of sugar. My husband crosses the street to borrow a tool from another neighbour’s well-stocked garage. Our contractor neighbour spends an hour inspecting our water damaged rec room giving advice. Another man down the street loans us his shop vac. These are common daily or weekly occurrences. They may be typical of your neighbourhood as well.
But you know you live in a special neighborhood when they
- offer to look after kitty while you’re away
- spontaneously put away your garbage bins after pick up
- help you carry groceries into your home
- allow baby shower guests to park in their driveway because there is too much snow to park on the road
- come over during torrential rain to help bail out a flooded outside stairwell
- help support each other during a family crisis
- gather together and provide a meal for grieving neighbours
- stand talking about whatever might be of concern to them or you
One thing East Coast Canadians are passionate about is the weather. We love to chat about it, complain that it’s not to our liking, and wish it could be warmer when it’s cold and cooler when it’s hot. We have an age-old quip, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!” Nothing seems to draw Maritime neighbours together quite like the weather!
I’ve wanted to do this for years!
And during the last two months, what weather we have had!! Snow, rain, freezing rain, ice pellets, nor’easters, flash freezing, ice – oh, the ice that has coated our Halifax neighbourhoods! Several inches of ice! I’ve never heard so much complaining about our city officials and snow removal crews. Many people are so fed up with the amount of snow and ice, but I’m fed up with all the complaining! Social media makes it much worse as many find an easy voice to air their discontent and anger. What happened to we Maritimers being tough and well seasoned to push through whatever weather comes our way!
What did thrill me in my community during the last week was seeing neighbours emerge after two storms two days apart dumped 80+ centimetres of snow on top of the mounds we already had. My next door neighbour is over six feet tall and you can just see his head above the drifts. During the first storm last Sunday while my husband was in Toronto, he came over and used our snow blower to clean our driveway before his. He insisted on doing it all not wanting me to do any shoveling. On Wednesday, he and my husband shared the snow blower and they helped shovel three feet of the white stuff from our front porch and back stairwell.
Thank you neighbour!
No plow yet!
Exquisite designs on our skylight!
At one point I looked out and could only see the plumes of snow being blown over the bankings of several driveways. Neighbours were helping their storm-weary neighbours in a spirit of love and concern for each other. It made me feel warm and deeply happy in what was otherwise a discouraging reality. The sun shone brightly and the little song sparrows sang and I knew all would be fine. Later as I scanned my Facebook friends’ posts, it was heartening to see many neighborhoods across our city coming together in such a selfless manner. Some were even using their own snow blowers to clear their street as plow operators were occupied with opening up the main arteries. It put those complaining self absorbed individuals to shame.
I believe this is the spirit Jesus referred to when He taught us to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” When asked what was the greatest commandment His reply was that all commandments could be summed up in this one great command. I am always overjoyed when I see people live out this command regardless of whether they acknowledge Jesus or not. I believe that goodness and concern for their neighbour, whether geographical or otherwise, lives within many of us and is built into our human spirit because we are created in the image of God.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, however, I am called to an even higher calling. More about that later!
Until next time,
In the past few years scientists have been discovering amazing facts about our brains. We know that already in the womb many of the key pathways betweens nerves have already been made. By the time a child is three years old his or her brain is 85% wired. By the end of adolescence, the brain has 10 billion neurons jammed up against one another. Electricity flowing through the neurons makes the brain work. There are more than 100 trillion synapses, the connections between the neurons that make the brain function. Then there are the neurochemicals that bathe the neurons and the synapses all the time, moving messages through the brain.
Three of these neurochemicals – oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine – are very involved in our sexual interest and behavior. When we look at what these chemicals do, we see some of the answers of Science to the question, “What is sex for?”
- Sex is to join a man and a woman for life. When two people have sexual intercourse, or when they just touch intimately, oxytocin is released into their brains – even if the touch is just a 20-second hug. Oxytocin is present in both male and female, but it is primarily active in females. When it is released into the woman’s brain, it does two things: it increases her desire for more touch and it causes her to bond to the man with whom she is having intimate physical contact. In sexual intercourse, her brain is flooded with oxytocin, creating deeper bonding with each subsequent physical union. Oxytocin is like an emotional super-glue, bonding the man and woman together. The neurochemical responsible for the male brain response is vasopressin. It bonds a man to his mate and creates an attachment to his children.
- Sex is to build trust between husband and wife. Oxytocin also produces in the woman a feeling of trust in the man with whom she is being sexually intimate. Vasopressin has the same effect on the man in relation to the woman.
- Sex is for pleasure, to make us feel good. The neurochemical dopamine is also known as the “reward signal.” It pours into the brain when we do something important or exciting or rewarding. It makes us feel good, and we want to repeat the action. Sex is one of the very strongest generators of the dopamine reward; sex is rewarded by floods of dopamine into the brain.
Science shows us that we have been designed to be sexually monogamous, to be with one mate for life. We already know this from the Bible, and in the Bible we have instructions for living this way.
What happens, then, when two young people who are not married are sexually intimate?
They also experience bonding, because of the “emotional super-glue”. They experience the trust. The sex feels good. But when the relationship then ends, the emotional pain is real, because real brain chemicals have acted on real brain cells, causing those brain cells to bind them together. If this happens often, it can leave one feeling dead inside, lost and hurt, unable to love adequately, feeling unworthy of being loved.
Although sex makes one trust a partner, that trust may be misplaced.
The sex itself may lose its excitement.
Sex with multiple partners damages our inbuilt bonding mechanism. Vasopressin no longer has the same power to bond a man to a woman, or to his children. Sex rarely holds people together unless they are married. This, too, we know – from the Bible, and from experience.
How does the Bible answer the question “What is sex for?” The first three answers come from the first two chapters of the book of Genesis:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
When God brought to the man the woman he had made, “the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother
and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23-24)
These four verses give us the context and the purpose of sex. Even if these were the only references we had, we would have enough:
- Sex tells us something about God, about his nature and his character.When God created us, he created us as sexual beings, male and female. We are alike in that we are both human beings, but we are also different as men and women. Just as the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are distinct but in perfect union, so as male and female we are distinct but are called in marriage to be one. As Jesus longs to be one with the Father, so male and female long to be one and sexual intercourse is the ultimate expression of that oneness.
- Sex is for producing children. God told us to “be fruitful”. And a natural result of sexual intercourse can be “a little us”, the product of our union.
- Sex is part of the process of joining a man and a woman in marriage. A man leaves his father and his mother (his biological family), holds fast to his wife (establishes a new family), and in becoming one flesh with her (their bodies are joined in sexual intercourse) the marriage is consummated – made complete.
But the Bible also tells us that:
- Sex is an expression of love. Sexual intimacy is the most intimate, physical, and expressive way of saying “I love you.” The Song of Songs is about an intense love and the expression of that love physically.
- Sex is for pleasure. Abimelech saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah (Genesis 26:8). The author of Proverbs writes of erotic zones of the female body and of being “intoxicated” with love (Proverbs 5:18-19).
- Sex is to satisfy sexual needs. The Apostle Paul recognized sexual desire. He encouraged each man to “have his own wife and each woman her own husband” to guard against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). He charged husbands and wives to “not deprive one another” so as to avoid temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5).
- Sex is to reflect, and to proclaim, the faithfulness of Christ to the church. The Apostle Paul compares the “one flesh” relationship of a husband and wife to the relationship of Christ to his body, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). When a man and a woman unite sexually with only one other, and remain faithful to that one other, they are a picture to the world of Christ and the church. Sex before marriage and infidelity within marriage deprive the world of this witness.
What is sex for? The world gets some of it right. But the part we get wrong, engaging in sex outside of marriage, ignores the purpose for which God gave us the gift of sex and effectively says “My way, not yours, is best.”
As Christians, is that what we want to do?
To be continued . . .
Over the past few weeks I have been on a new writing journey. Those who faithfully read my blog, and I thank you for your encouraging words, may wonder where I’ve been the past month. Last November I mentioned that God had laid the book of Galatians on my heart. I started reading, researching, and prayerfully considering the focus and theme for this Bible study endeavor. It is such a powerful, rich, and satisfying journey I’m on! I’m learning so much more about the freedom we truly have when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our one and only Source of redemption from the bondage of sin. Every day I experience more joy; joy that accompanies embracing the freedom Christ won for us. I’ve entitled my study, “Free At Last!” and today I would like to share some of what I wrote a week ago:
One of the greatest threats to the advancement and spiritual growth of evangelical Christianity today is legalism. It suffocates the freedom for which Christ died. It is akin to putting a dog on a retractable leash; it has the illusion of freedom until the handler reins it in when its behaviour is undesirable. The dog is never really free from the handler’s views of what is right or wrong, what is best for the dog’s welfare, and what would give a favourable impression to others.
I remember growing up in two very legalistic evangelical churches. There were many dos and don’ts. One church even had a code for dress and men’s hair length! As a thirteen-year-old I was criticized by my Sunday School teacher, in front of my classmates, for not wanting to wear a head covering. We were not allowed to go to movies and dances, wear two-piece bathing suits, play any kind of sports on Sunday, wear make-up or, heaven forbid, play cards! I remember one Sunday going to my friend’s home after church and her parents did not allow us to do anything but read or sleep! Needless to say, I had no desire to spend Sunday afternoon there again!
I’m not saying these things are necessarily right or wrong; nor am I somehow “wounded” by the actions and words of well-intentioned Christians who sincerely believed they were doing the right thing. I have learned to put these things in their proper perspective and see them as experiences that drive me to discover how God intends for us to be truly pleasing to Him. I also appreciate the guidance and spiritual training I received from my parents and other Christians who helped to shape my values and motivate me to study God’s Word. I simply grew up in a spiritual environment in which adherence to rules and traditions were seen as markers of spiritual maturity and acceptability to God.
What did offend me, as a young person, was the attitude behind the rules. You were seen by many Christians as “less spiritual” and, in some people’s minds, your Christian faith was in question if you did not adhere to their expectations of what was acceptable for a Christian.
What bothered me more was the hypocrisy that coincided with the legalistic demands. It was fine to impose a strict dress code on children, as was the case with one family in our church, yet the father turned around and treated the children and the mother with disrespect, yelling, and angry outbursts. It was not acceptable to see a movie in a theatre unless it was a Christian one; what if someone who knows you claim to be a Christian sees you coming out of a theatre where smutty movies are shown! As Christian teens we often spent more time worrying about what other people would think about our Christian testimony than learning how to exercise our freedom in Christ responsibly. There were no “gray areas” for us to use our God-given intelligence and conscience to work through. Like the little chorus we often sang, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Period. No questions! Don’t rock the boat!
Please do not misunderstand; I certainly do believe in the infallibility of God’s Word! I do believe what God said, but not everything we face in life is spelled out in the Bible. What He does give us for those areas in question are values, principles, wisdom, and truth that the Holy Spirit within us utilizes to guide our minds, heart, and behaviour.
I reminisce simply to point out that this is not what Jesus intended for us! He said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!” (John 10:10) If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed! (John 8:36) The Law and modern-day legalism are like a thief desiring to rob us of what is rightfully ours.
How long are we going to allow legalists to control us with a retractable leash?
Until next time,
Think about it . . . What is sex (sex play, sexual intercourse) for?
What do you think about these answers (actual quotes from individuals, professionals, organizations, and sex educators)?
“To show that you care for someone.”
“To satisfy your appetite for sex. When you’re thirsty you drink something; when you’re hungry, you eat. When you have sexual desire, you have sex.”
“To make you feel better.”
“To relieve sexual tension, fulfill natural desires.”
“For getting to know someone better.”
“Something fun to do.” A 15-year-old, “What I enjoy most is making love and playing hockey.” An 18-year-old boy, “What I enjoy most are skiing and sex.”
A college girl: “It’s just a normal part of a relationship.” This girl, looking for a male study partner, described what she was looking for as “sort of like a boyfriend, but without the sex.”
A participant in an international AIDS conference, “To satisfy a basic human need, a natural urge. It’s inhumane to expect a teenager not to have sex.”
A psychiatrist, “A rite of passage into adulthood.”
A sexologist, “For healthy personality development.”
An association of school librarians, “For pleasure. It’s the ultimate human experience.”
The founder of Planned Parenthood, “To find inner peace and security and beauty. . . to attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world and light up the only path to an earthly paradise.”
SIECAN (Sex Information and Education Council of Canada), “For pleasure.”
An American theologian, “To communicate. It’s a form of communication.”
A curriculum for public school sex education, “To help develop a healthy personality, enhance quality of life, foster personal growth, and contribute to a fulfilled life.”
A sex ed text, “For health. We’re made for sex, so it’s unhealthy to repress natural urges.”
Another sex ed text, “For recreation and procreation.”
A professor of philosophy, “You decide. You determine your own meaning for it.”
* * * * * * *
How would you have answered this question growing up? How would you answer it now?
How will your son/daughter answer it?
Can you discuss this question with your teenager?
To be continued . . .