Blog Giveaway! My husband’s book!!

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When most of us think of the “sex talk” from our youth, we think of purity rings, “don’t do that,” “stay away from that” etc.  But is the Bible’s view on sex so negative?  There is a positive and uplifting portrayal of sexual intimacy in the Scriptures and my husband shares this in his book Naked and Unashamed .

It is now available for pre-ordering and available late October.  However we want to do a giveaway and give one person their own free copy.  All you have to do is leave your name in the comments and (optional) how you found my blog.  For an extra entry, like my Facebook page and that will double your chances in wining.

One of my kids will draw a name out of a hat at 7:30 AM Pacific Time on Wednesday…a week from today.

Thanks for supporting my husband in this endeavor.  There is nothing quite like holding book you wrote in your hands as a published author.

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Sex is for women too…

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I came from a generation (like many of you) where sex was not discussed.  It was too personal to talk about.  Unfortunately many of us got an education from the neighbor kids or MTV.  I am grateful that my school had a Biblically based sex education program taught by a woman I liked and respected, but much of it was the biology, the mechanics, and what happens to our bodies during puberty.  Many of us were handed a booklet, encouraged to read it, and come back with questions.  I honestly felt like everyone (my friends, cousins, the neighborhood kids) knew much more than I did.  I often did not ask questions because I felt inferior and embarrassed.

In high school sexual discussions were about abstinence and “saving yourself” for marriage.  We were encouraged to wear purity rings or fill out certificates.  Our youth leaders put a tremendous amount of pressure on us girls to “keep the men in line” and “just say ‘no.'”  Men were referred to as “light switches” and women “as curling irons.”  I like the second episode of the first season of Glee when Rachel says, “You want to know a dirty little secret they don’t want you to know.  Girls want sex just as much as boys do.”

I appreciated our teachers and youth leaders’ intentions.

But I went into marriage as so many Christian women do–ignorant.

The first thing us women need to know about sex is simply is:  It’s for you too.

It’s for your pleasure and your enjoyment.  It helps you be closer to your man in a way no other person on this earth can.  It’s a way to connect on an physical, emotional, spiritual level beyond what you will share with anyone else.

If you are not enjoying it, please do not think there is something mechanically or mentally wrong with you.  The vulnerability of sex might be difficult for you and it might be necessary to talk to your spouse or a counselor about this.  You might not even know what you like and what triggers your ultimate pleasure.  It may take time (and some creativity and spontaneity) to discover that.  If you are too tired or exhausted, you might need to communicate to your spouse you need more help around the house, time away from the kids, or intimacy at a different time of day (there is no rule you have to be intimate right before bed–sometimes for young parents this is the worst time of day).

The truth is if  you are holding back, your spouse is missing out.  Not only that, but you are too.  I believe that is not God’s intention for sexual pleasure.  He created sex between a husband and wife NOT just for reproduction, but to create a closeness that cannot be mimicked in any other relationship.  My prayers are we wives, can be the best we can be–outside the bedroom and in it.

Talking to Girls About Waiting for Prince Charming

I greatly respected what Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said about intimacy in their book A Love that Multiplies.  They reccomend a book for girls called Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally which I finished reading.  For the most part I agree with Mally’s points.  The problem I have is the WHOLE book is on purity and preparing yourself for marriage, but  the word “sex” and even “intimacy” is not even mentioned once.  This is also my problem with how the church and the typical Christian youth group in the 1990’s (my era) handled the sex talks with young people.  Especially girls.

Mally encourages girls to wait until their wedding day to share their first kiss.  She refers to a girl kissing  a guy she is not married to as “taking what does not belong to her” and “giving what is not hers to give.”  She says it is basically “stealing.”  Interesting kissing is mentioned, but not sex.

Do I think girls today go too far with their boyfriends?  Yes.  Do I think kids should casually be making out if they are not in a committed relationship with that person?  No, I think it is emotionally destructive.  But it is not the whole story.  It is not the only thing we should be teaching our girls.

She says about physical relationships:

“We are spirit, soul, and body.  The spiritual and physical are rivals (Galatians 5:16 & 17).  The physical always wants to take charge and control us, but we must not let it dominate–especially in the area of relationships.  The joining together of two people in marriage needs to happen in the proper order: spiritual first, physical last.”

Again I don’t totally disagree with what she is saying.  But it really paints the physical relationship as this “forbidden territory.”

Mally and many church leaders, youth pastors, and purity retreat leaders fail to mention God’s beautiful design for sex.  God has an amazing purpose for creating men and female differently. They can enjoy intimacy in a marital relationship that brings joy and pleasure!

She makes it sound like the thoughts a girl has when she first lays on that special man are wrong.  The girl with a crush needs to be distracted and put these thoughts out of her head.  But what is these thoughts and feelings are part of God’s beautiful design?  How could we not find one another if we did not feel the sparks?  God says in Genesis that it is “not good for man to be alone.”  We need one another!

I cannot tell you how many girls and women have told me:  “I wish someone would have told me about sex rather than just handing me a book.” or  “I wish my parents would have sat down and talked to me about it rather than relying on Sex Education class at my school” or “I had questions about sex, but my parents were too embarrassed to talk about it” or worse yet, “They punished me for asking questions about private things.”  Or “All the church ever said was ‘wait before marriage.’  I waited.  Why do I have all these ‘intimacy problems’ in my marriage.  How did that happen?”

We cannot assume that when our daughters come to us and want to talk about sex, they are asking for permission to get on the birth control pill.  If they do not feel like they can talk to us because we are uncomfortable, embarrassed or overwhelmed, they are going to talk to someone else.  That “someone else” could be someone with less authority.  Or they will learn the “safe sex” agenda promoted by MTV which believes sex is OK as long as it is consensual and safe. Which is not an evil message.  But obviously it is not the whole message.

Purity Rings?  Contracts?  Are they even neccesary?  I don’t know.  What I do know is we need to be open and available.  We have to be comfortable with the “sexual” terms and be able to answer questions.  If our message is only “Do not,” we are not giving them the whole message.  That is OUR responsibility:  not the church’s, the youth leader’s, the school’s, nor MTV’s.

In His Own Words: The Pursuit Of Pleasure Part 2

So what?

What if the prudes are wrong – and sex isn’t a necessary evil?  What if sexual pleasure is not only “tolerated” by God, but actually something that He intends for you to drink deeply of in your marriage?  What if some of the inhibitions that you’ve had lingering in the back of your mind for some time now stem from an inaccurate view of what you’ve been told about what the bible says?  What would it look like if you took to heart the message of the Song of Solomon?  What would it take to make this happen in your marriage?

Some years ago, someone became famous by writing a book (which led to a series of books) comparing women and men to Mars and Venus.  Most agree that men and women are sharply different.  It’s just as true when it comes to how we enjoy sexuality in its fullness. Husbands and wives have different needs, different desires, different understandings of what satisfaction means.

Rather than “Venus” and “Mars”, suppose that you and your spouse are both math books.  Romantic, right?  Your husband is your basic 3rd grade textbook.  You know – 3×4=12.  ¼ + ¼ = ½. “One train leaves Chicago at 9 AM, travelling at 50 MPH…”  Pretty basic stuff.  Stuff that a person can figure out without overheating the brain.  A wife is more like advanced trigonometry. Remember?  Sin, Cosin, Tangent?  tan (x / 2) = ± [(1 - cos x) /(1 + cos x)]1/2 ?  (And if the math book analogy doesn’t work for you, how about poetry?  Your husband: “Jack and Jill went up the hill…”  You: “If music be the food of love…”)

It’s meant as a compliment.

Sure,  trigonometry is a bit more work to figure out. You don’t get it the first try, but the potential and possibility is far greater.  That principle seems to hold true in the context of the marriage bed as well.  There is no small amount of evidence that
points to women having a (far) greater capacity for sexual enjoyment than their husbands– though achieving this fulfillment usually requires a bit more time, patience and practice.

If I were addressing your husbands – and maybe I am – I would challenge them by asking, “Are you selfless when it comes to your wife’s sexual fulfillment and enjoyment?” Husbands need to be committed to taking seriously the stuff they often don’t take seriously when it comes to helping their wives find enjoyment. Backrubs. Massage.  Affection during the day. Taking it s-l-o-w-l-y. Being willing to delay your fulfillment so that your wife can enjoy hers.  You need to be patient, not pushy or demanding or pouting.

And if I could be so bold as to address you, I would ask you to reflect on the way you pursue pleasure in your marriage.  Have you made your gratification a priority
that you pursue with purpose? Are you willing – and able – to articulate to your husband what you want and need sexually (‘cause we usually can’t figure it out on our own!)?  Or do you settle? Do you resign yourself to the idea that “it’s really more for him anyways…”?

Here’s the thing. Good husbands – and that’s a lot of them – are most sexually satisfied when their wives are sexually satisfied. Did you catch that?  Loving husbands enjoy sex most when their wives enjoy it most.  As a couple, are you willing to pursue this pleasure in one another?  Are you willing to be creative, spontaneous, curious and passionate about your pleasure?

One last thread to tie this all up.  Woven through the Song of Solomon is the
image of a Garden.  The bride is described as a Garden, locked up for her husband-to-be, and unlocked on their wedding day.  The two then enjoy the delights of sex in the beauty of an ancient garden.  The whole garden thing is no coincidence; after all, sex started in a Garden.  In paradise.  Song of Solomon is giving us a picture of what sex was—and is—supposed to be according to God’s “Garden-of-Eden” design.  Sex, the way the two lovers enjoy it in the Song is a return to Paradise!

May you and your beloved find mutual fulfillment as you embrace God’s garden together.

In His Own Words: The Pursuit the Pleasure

“I am my beloved and He is mine, His banner over me is love! His banner…over meeee….is loooove…”

As a fourth-grade class, we belted this song out as best we knew how.  It was, after all, a bible song.  A song with the words lifted right from somewhere in the Old Testament, praising God for his love for us, His children.  At least that’s what we assumed.

I chuckle at the mental image of elementary school kids, singing this song from the bottom of our hearts.  We figured we were singing about how much God loves us – and of course He does.  We figured we were singing words right out of the bible – and of course, we were, from right there in Song of Solomon (chapters 2 & 6).  The catch is, these words aren’t about God’s relationship between Him and His people; they were written as love poetry between a man and his bride!

Song of Solomon is one of those books in the bible that many of us don’t quite know what to do with. Read at face value, it’s pretty erotic stuff.  (If you’ve never read it through it in one sitting, take 20 minutes and read it today; you’ll gain a new appreciation for God’s design for our sexuality.) Consider a few verses:

“Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely.” (4:3)

“His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh. His arms are rods of gold set with topaz; his body is like polished ivory…His legs are pillars of marble…” (5:14-15)

“…if the pomegranates are in bloom, there I will give you my love.” (7:12)

And these are just the more “blog friendly” verses.  There are dozens of other verses, describing in poetic and vivid (if a bit unusual) detail the delight of every part of the human body.  Every part.  The question that has stumped pastors,
preachers, theologians (and fourth grade teachers!) for centuries is, “Why?”  Why is a book that is so graphic, so explicit, and so carnal in the bible anyway?

The simple answer is that God wants us to grasp that He designed sex for our pleasure.  Not just for pleasure of course, and not pleasure on our own terms, but for pleasure nonetheless.  Sex is supposed to be physical, sensual and passionate.  To enjoy sex most fully is to embrace the truth that God created us with bodies that are capable of immense pleasure.  Song of Solomon insists that our bodies are not just machines that pump blood and digest food and carry us from place to place.
Instead, God made us as creations with nerve endings and sensory receptors, people who have been made to enjoy touch, massage, kissing, and a wide range of sexual pleasure.   In this oft-neglected book of the bible, God gives his benediction on His gift of erotic desire.

Why do we need to know this? Because certain segments of our society have long insisted that pleasure isn’t God’s idea – especially when it comes to sex.  I know – there is also a large chunk of our culture that has radically diminished sex into nothing BUT “what feels good.”  But meanwhile – especially for those raised in a church setting – others have been taught to think that somehow, pleasure isn’t okay with God. That sex is strictly for procreation. That “spiritual” people avoid sex, or at least try to quell the urge as much as possible (Why, for example, do we talk about sex as “dirty” or “naughty”?).  Somehow, many have concluded that anything to do with our bodies is unspiritual, unchristian, even sinful, while only those things that enhance our spirit are “good”.  Women been have fed the lie that “nice girls don’t do that” (whatever “that” might happen to be) or that “sex is more for him, and you can’t really expect to enjoy it as much as your husband.”  In many ways, women have been made to feel inferior about their bodies (too fat, too thin, improperly shaped, too many wrinkles, not enough tone…) and when you dislike your body, it’s tough to embrace the idea that your body is designed for pleasure.

None of these attitudes fits with what the bible says about sex.  And just to reiterate – God’s plan for sex is not JUST for pleasure (I covered that in a previous post) and it’s not pleasure when and how we want (The Song of Songs lyrically conveys sex as a locked garden that is unlocked at the wedding altar). In fact, even within
marriage there are limits to what a couple ought to engage in.  The bottom line, however, is that God created us to enjoy the passion, the desire, the fulfillment and the physical delight that sex can bring.  He designed us to enjoy our bodies –including (especially?) our sexual side.

Tomorrow, I’ll expand a bit more on what this means for your marriage (and it’s not what you think). In the meantime, let me challenge you to reflect on your attitudes towards sex.  Deep down, is it possible that your views towards sex and pleasure have been jaded?  Is it possible that you have somehow woven pleasure and guilt together in a way that they don’t belong together?  Might you be restraining yourself from enjoying sexuality in its fullness, the way God intended?

- Written by Rob Toornstra – senior pastor, father of three, and my husband

In his own words: The Naked Truth

Okay, here goes nothing. Amy asked me to write a guest post for mom’s about sex.

And if I were you, I’d be skeptical too.  I’m a man –who am I to write about sex from
a woman’s point of view?  What do I know about spending the day changing diapers, wiping up messes, calming down screaming kids, collapsing into bed, only to hear, “So, honey, are ya in the mood?  I admit you’ve got me there.  I’m not going to pretend to know what your day is like, and I’m not going to give you the “Nike  line” (you know, “Just do it!”).  I’m not going to lecture you about the emotional needs of men and women.

Instead, let me make two points.  First, the church has probably not done a very good job teaching you about sex. Oh, you’ve probably heard pastors, youth group leaders and well-meaning Christians say plenty about sex.  Even if you’ve never set foot inside a church building, you’ve heard the church speak loudly about sex – usually in the form of a negative.  “True Love Waits!” “Don’t do it!” “Sex Is God’s Wedding Gift; No Peaking!”  For the record, I believe that all these are true. But incomplete.

Consequently, a generation has been raised with a negative view of sex.  Many feel
subtle guilt – even within marriage – over sexual enjoyment.  Almost as though God were frowning when people have sex. Many women have been told that “good girls don’t do that sort of thing” and many women have resigned themselves to a mediocre sex life.  It’s a chore, one more thing to check off an already too long to-do list.  It’s something more for your husband’s enjoyment.

It’s impossible for me to *ahem* flesh out everything the bible has to say about sex here.  I want to offer you one idea towards a more complete and positive theology of
sex.   The story of sex begins already in the second chapter of the bible.  You probably
already know that Adam and Eve weren’t created wearing clothes.  In fact, the writer of Genesis goes out of his way to make that point; after a beautiful and theologically rich description of creation, the account culminates with this: “They were both naked and they felt no shame.” (Gen. 2:25) In fact, this is the very last word before sin enters the world.  What does it mean?

Biblically, to be naked is, among other things, knowing one another at the deepest level of our being. God made us for intimate, personal almost-sacred relationship with others.  In Eden, Adam and Eve were naked and that meant that they knew each other – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and at a sexual level.  Intimacy was a complete package– far from being simply a physical act, sex was created as a way of sharing the totality of one’s being, right down to the most personal part of themselves: their sexuality.  Having sex was a part of sharing whole-person intimacy; Adam and Eve shared emotions, laughter, ideas, work, or beauty.  But the most personal layer of intimacy is sexuality, and in being “naked and unashamed” Adam and Eve were able to fill their need for deep intimacy.  In simple terms, sex is God’s way of allowing us to share connection at every level of our being.

What does that mean for your marriage today?  Primarily that sex is not – and was not –intended to be a physical act only. Couples get it wrong when they assume that sex is just a physical act.  Husbands get it wrong when they figure that their wives should be in the mood without putting in any effort to foster whole-person intimacy beforehand.  Wives get it wrong when they figure that their husbands are just looking for physical satisfaction.  Husbands and wives crave intimacy – you long to be known, and so does your husband.  You both go about it differently, of course.    For many wives, sex is the completion of intimacy.  That means that sex is what happens after the intimacy has been cultivated with your husband.  After he encourages you. Listens to you.  Shares himself with you.  When you feel close to him, you want to make love to him.  For many husbands, it’s the opposite. Husbands view sex as the beginning of intimacy.  Your husband usually doesn’t want sex just for a physical release or to “feel good”.  He wants sex because he wants to feel close to you.  For your husband, sex is where intimacy begins!

You can see how God created a symmetry here.  True intimacy is best cultivated when both husband and wife seek the needs of their spouse.  When husbands are sensitive to their wife’s need to build closeness beforehand.  When wives are sensitive to their husband’s need to build closeness through having sex.  True intimacy, then, requires a husband and wife to love the other person by setting aside their own needs, and looking to the needs of others.  Let me close by challenging you to discuss this with your husband.  How are you meeting each other’s needs?  How are you learning to “know” each other, heart, mind, soul and body?  May you seek to enjoy the goodness of Eden!

- Rob Toornstra is a pastor, father of three, and my husband.  :)