Posted in encouragement, theology

Theology Gals: Encouragement for Singles

By Elizabeth Prata

I don’t “struggle with singleness.” There are lots of things I do struggle with, but living single isn’t one of them.

My parents’ marriage was not the best, and other marriages I’d observed weren’t glowing with love and gentleness either. Divorce was rampant in my growing up years. The US was changing from strict divorce laws to less restrictive, or no-fault.

I was saved at age 43 so that meant for a long time I was a heathen, living for myself. I had an idol, and that was marriage. I wanted to be married, to be a wife. The guy the idol of marriage came with didn’t matter so much as me longing to be in the state of marriage. I felt marriage was important, offered security, and I wanted to be somebody’s number one. Not being saved, I had no clue about the state of marriage being a picture of Jesus with His Bride. I got married. But the Lord showed me the error of my thinking. Painfully.

But in my 20s when I so badly wanted to “be married” I remember the yearning, the wondering, the silence of the empty house, the aching of time passing. I know that being single is an issue that many women deal with. In order to learn more, I listened to Theology Gals’ podcast on the subject. Angela Whitehorn, Coleen Sharp, and Ashley Glassick are co-hosts. The blurb for the podcast states,

Theology Gals is a podcast by women on Reformed theology. The podcast addresses a variety of topics on the study of God’s Word, sound theology and the Christian life.

The co-hosts talked with their friend Jean Keeley about singleness. Jean offers encouragement to other singles through sharing of her journey and also scripture. The hosts also discussed singles and the Church.

What I appreciated about the interview was that when one of the co-hosts asked a question, they allowed the interviewee to answer at length, without interruption, diversion, or laughing/joking/giggling (as so many podcasters are wont to do). I learn more when I can listen to a reply unbroken and with no rabbit trails or personal anecdotes from the hosts.

In this interview Jean Keeley made some insightful statements about her reconciliation with being single. She said she has remained in her church for decades, the first one she joined. From that vantage point, she said she remembers when her church was small with few members. There were one or two women who were older (to her at that time older was mid-thirties) who weren’t married. She thought to herself, “That won’t be me. I’ll find somebody.” Then suddenly she was in her late 40s and still not married and thought, “Gee, that IS me!” It was then she had a long struggle with her status as a single woman. She said whether you’re a woman in your 20s and seeing all your friends get married, or you’re as she was, awakening one day to find you’re on the shadow side of the hill and still not hitched, I found her thoughts and journey for both/all demographics to be helpful.

The quote I remember best from the interview was,

“Ladies, this isn’t God’s Plan B for your life. This is God’s best for you.”

Jean Keeley described how she came to the Lord, which was an encouraging portion of the podcast. Then Keeley revealed some aspects she delights in with the single life and some things that for her aren’t so delightful. She discusses the difference between aloneness and loneliness. She offers practical advice on resting on God’s word in these matters. The hosts and Kelley discussed the verse from 1 Corinthians 7:34 and how it applies to each of them in the different states in which God has provided for them, married and single.

The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

The conversation progressed with grace, in grace, with neither status -married or single- being elevated nor disparaged.

For me, my singleness forces me to trust wholly in Jesus, and to lean totally on Him. He knows best. The remnants of making my husband the savior are still roaming around in me, I suppose, as well as the distraction of serving husband and abandoning my Lord is still likely being a risk. The Lord does know best for each one of us. I enjoy being in a narrow chute, like a horse with blinders, having to look only to Jesus. When struggles come, and they do- I was in one just yesterday- I pray to Him, read about Him, and look only to Him, and that in the end is sweet to me.

If this topic interests you, Ladies, for whatever reason, I commend the podcast. I hope you enjoy it as I did.

Encouragement for Singles


Posted in theology

Overheard in the Coffee Shop

By Elizabeth Prata

Picture the scene. It’s a festive coffee shop at your favorite spot. You’re there sitting and sipping and savoring being alone for a few minutes before heading home. You have your hand curled around a warm cup of coffee and you’re enjoying the hum and din of the throng, the twinkling lights, and the strong beverage warming its way down to the bottom of your toes.

As you settle and your body relaxes and your mind clears, you begin to pick up snippets of conversation around you. The guys over there mention the Super Bowl. The teen at the table by the window is on her phone. And next to you there’s a table of four women, laughing and talking rapidly, as women do. They have scarves artfully arranged on their necks, slim fingers play with their mugs, dancing along the rim, and a couple of them twiddle their shiny new wedding rings. They laugh full body, open mouth, showing all their teeth. They are relaxed with each other, friends for a long time, even if some of them are newly married. They’re young.

They’re talking about boyfriends and husbands. As you smile to yourself and glance away, you hear one of the young women with a new looking ring on her finger say this:

“I always do what pleases him.”

The other women still, and look at her mouths agape. You don’t know what preceded this half sentence, but clearly the other three women are startled. One of them furrows her brow, and suddenly the entire room seems to quiet, the table in the middle of the coffee shop becomes and island, though the rest of the customers don’t seem to notice. You do, though.

“Laura!” exclaims one of the women loudly. “You can’t mean that!” The lady by her side chimes in, “You’ve never been a doormat!”

Blushing and looking down, ‘Laura’ says, “Well…I do nothing on my own authority, but only what I’ve heard from him. He is the authority in our home.”

The conversation now twists on a dime, pivoting on her words, and suddenly there is a gang of three against a lone woman of one. They argue and fuss and exclaim, insisting that marriage is 50-50, that she is her own woman, that women’s liberation has come a long way, baby, and all that. The relaxed atmosphere at that table is gone, and an adversarial one has swept in. The tide is against the woman they called Laura.

You decide it’s time to go, sadly and creakily arising from the table. You leave the din behind as the door swings shut behind you, shaking your head, pondering the lives of the young, which to you was so long ago.


What the imaginary woman in the hypothetical scene was talking about was submission. It’s a dirty word these days, and by these days I mean since about 1966 when the second wave of women’s liberation, or the feminist movement, came to the fore. The S-word. Today it’s a synonym for doormat, mouse, enslavement, even.

But submission is simply a yielding to a higher authority. Men and women do it every day in other spheres. We yield to the Boss, the Lieutenant, the President of the Company. We yield to the Officer, to the Judge, to the Guard. We yield to the velvet rope, to the law, to the policy. We para-professionals yield to the teacher, the teacher to the assistant principal, the assistant principal to the principal, the principal to the superintendent, and the superintendent to the school board. Hierarchy exists, and women submit to their place within it every day.

It’s the notion of female submission in the home that galls. It galls the unsaved to the degree that they are willing to march, yell, overthrow in aggressive and passive-aggressive ways. It even galls the new Christian, perhaps raised in a storm tossed bowl of feminism, waves upon waves nearly choking and drowning them but the struggle to stay afloat in it remains after conversion, hopefully for only a short while.

It is IN us to rebel. Genesis 3:1-7 shows it and Genesis 3:15 declares it:

To the woman he said, I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

John MacArthur explains it this way

Just as the woman and her seed will engage in a war with the serpent, i.e. Satan and his seed, (v 15), because of sin and the curse, the man and the woman will face struggles in their own relationship. Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into  distasteful struggles of self-will. Lifelong companions, husbands and wives, will need God’s help in getting along as a result. ~MacArthur Study Bible, Gen 3:15

Our marriages are patterned after the relationship Jesus had with His Father. Jesus emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men, as Philippians 2:7 says.

We submit every day to everyone else, except when it comes to the husband. Then, we rebel against the thought of submitting to him. Yet the Bible says,

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24).

That’s the pattern. Oh, and the woman in the hypothetical coffee shop that said the provoking words…’for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him’? That was from John 8:29b, and it’s what Jesus said that HE does.

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.

It seems OK when we read that same phrase in the Bible, that Jesus only does what pleases the Father. If we put those words into a woman’s mouth, though, it seems incendiary. But that’s only because we might have lost the awe that Jesus chose to remain submissive to His Father.

He as God-the-Son in the Trinity emptied Himself and was submissive to His Father in all things. God in the form of Jesus is submissive! Jesus was not a doormat. Of course Jesus while in His incarnation on earth had his own thoughts, ideas, opinions. For example, in the Garden He shared those in prayer with God, ‘please take this cup from me’ but followed that plea with ‘thy will be done’. So in all things He submitted his own will by placing the Father’s first.

If it is good enough for our King/Savior/God-the-Son, it is good enough for us in our relationship with our husbands. We have thoughts, ideas, opinions, and our husbands are our partner, and in safety we shae them. But ultimately he is our authority in the home and out goal should be to do all things that are pleasing to him. In the end, this pleases Him.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

How to be a good wife

Our church sponsored a Womans’ Event recently. We ladies had brunch together and then retired to a classroom to hear a talk by a charming and wonderful woman on being a Christian Wife.

Karen Schaeffer is wife of 52 years to Fritz Schaeffer. Now, Dr Schaeffer is a world-renowned Doctor of Chemical Physics. He is one of the most highly cited scientists in the world. He is also a Christian, as is his wife.

I mention Dr Schaeffer’s renown to provide a backdrop for his wife’s talk to us ladies at our church. Wives have a difficult go. Wives who are mothers have an ever harder time. Wives with children who are married to men in the spotlight have even more challenges. Reputable scientists’ wives who are also Christians face challenges most of us never even know.

Being happily and solidly married to a man for 52 years is an achievement. It is only by the Holy Spirit that two people who at birth and up to conversion are selfish and evil. After conversion men and women are still cursed with tendency to either be passive or to usurp. It is by the Spirit that He grows submission, respect, and love between two people. Through Him, man and woman are united and one flesh, living a Spirit-empowered life.

It is with that wisdom we went to hear what we could learn from this remarkable woman.

I noticed immediately her demeanor. A woman is supposed to be a lot of things, according to the Bible. Both men and women are supposed to be meek and gentle and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Add to that special instructions for young women and/or older women as Titus 2 says, and then add to that special instructions for wives as Ephesians, Proverbs, and 1 Peter explain, and we have a lot to consider as we strive to honor our glorious Savior.

Mrs Schaeffer exhibited these qualities and in humility shared from the wisdom gained from her experience as a long-standing wife. Her humble and gentle demeanor was striking and at once noticeable to the ladies in the audience including me.

She began by sharing that in turn, she was mentored and influenced in her younger days by a Godly women, with whom she is still friends. She noted the importance of surrounding one’s self with mature -in-the-faith women from whom one can seek advice, or ask questions. Like this one Mrs Schaeffer had asked her mentor/friend long ago:

Mrs S.: Can you wear jeans to church?
Mentor: Sure. … If that’s the best you’ve got.

Note: Not the Schaeffers

As a wife, she said to be sure not to impose your personality upon your husband. She said for example, that she is an introvert and he is an extrovert, and it would be easy to become dissatisfied with his rambunctiousness, eagerness to be among people, and excitement at trying new things. Be wary, wives, of pressuring him to conform to your personality, Instead, support him in his. “Let your husband be himself”.

This might seem like obvious advice, but how many of us fall in love with a man because of certain qualities he exhibits that we find charming or fascinating, then as the decades go on, those very same qualities begin to grate on us?

t’s easy to compare your husband to others. When we do, we become dissatisfied. “Her husband does the dishes,” one grouses learn to be content. “Her hubby notices things that need fixing without having to nag,” another wife might complain. Do not compare. Consider no others and make no comparisons. You chose him. He chose you. And, you’re no prize, either. 🙂 If your husband isn’t all you want him to be, God might be growing your faith.

If I can interject my thoughts at this juncture, I’d like to say that though Mrs. Schaeffer’s advice to wives to be content and patient may be obvious, it is a revolutionary thought. Many women these days expect immediate results because all they ever wanted was immediately gratified. Many others want what they want Without working for it. Learning contentment is a foreign notion. It wasn’t foreign to Paul, though. Philippians 4:11 says, “I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances.”

Mrs. Schaefer used a vivid symbol here. She said to “fence your marriage.” She was speaking here of becoming too close to other men. “Don’t go to lunch one-on-one with men, do not confide in them. Don’t draw too close in friendship with men.

Criticism. That’s a huge subject. Mrs. Schaeffer said that it seems that men are highly affected by a wife’s criticism. “A little goes a long way,” she said. When something happens, she advised praying for three days. “If you still remember it, if it still seems like something that needs addressing, then bring it up.” But first, cook him his favorite meal, or bring it up when he is feeling good. “Be careful with criticism.”

Note, not the doorknob in question

She related a story about when they lived in Germany for a while. He wanted to go for a long walk on a trail that goes beside the river. They would end up in Munich. “It looks like rain,” Mrs Schaeffer said. The reply was that everything owuld be fine.

Well come a deluge. There was nowhere to hide for miles, and they trudged on. No umbrella, no rain gear, they were simply soaked. They eventually got to their destination, and she said she never said a word and never ever said “I told you so.”

“Don’t yell or argue, ever.” James 3:5-6 was cited here, So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 

Humility is in order, forgive as Christ has forgiven you. If you have done wrong, apologize fully, not saying “I’m sorry, but…”

The husband is out in the world, working and providing and persevering, sometimes in a job he loves and sometimes not. Make him happy to come home, Mrs Schaeffer said. “If he is getting criticism at work, then make the home a happy, safe haven. If he’s getting praise in the world, and you criticize at home, then why would he come home? Therefore, no nagging.”

Mrs Schaeffer told a story of the loose doorknob. It was broken, kept falling out. She waited. She asked him to fix it. She asked again. It ground on her nerves. Then she got some perspective. Paraphrasing, she said counted her blessings. “If he can live with it, so can I.” Her advice: Fix it yourself,hire someone to fix it, or ignore it.

I thought important advice to hear was not to rely on him for all your emotional needs. “Have close (female) Christian friends or prayer partners. Develop your talents and hobbies, something he can respect.”

After the Lord, make him your number 1 priority. Get away together alone, occasionally. It’s never a good time to go away but make time.

By the Lord’s grace, perhaps you will be blessed with a 51-year or longer marriage. It isn’t easy, sometimes it is downright boring, but overall, it is worth it to meld together into one flesh on the journey into being transformed into Jesus’ image.

Posted in divorce, Uncategorized

“My Real Mom”

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

As my day working in an elementary school goes along, I hear kids talking to each other. They chat in the halls coming in for the day, they talk in the gym as they await the opening bell, they talk at lunch and at recess… Sometimes I overhear snippets of what they share with each other as they pass me. What kids say is at turns funny, silly, or heartbreaking. This essay is about one particular phrase I overhear that just breaks my heart.

We all know that nuclear family depicted in The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, for example, have expanded to include all manner of blended configurations. Divorce is rampant. People marry and divorce for all kinds of reasons, and some don’t even try to stick it out. If a set of parents stay together over the course of a child’s life, that is the miracle now. Divorce is a violent act.

Kids chatting with each other will say, if they have parents that are divorced and one or both spouses have remarried, for example,

My real mom is getting a new job
My real dad doesn’t live with us

They distinguish the step-parent from the original parent with that heartbreaking word “real.” Kids know. It’s true that nothing can ever, ever replace the real parent. I’m not talking about foster-child cases or adoption, though the lack of the biological parent in a child’s life will also leave wounds, but different ones than divorce. I do not mean to disrespect any step-parents. I know you work hard to provide a loving home for your blended family. It’s just that, the fact is, there is only one real mom, only one real dad. Divorce affects the children tremendously.

As for divorce being a violent act, I don’t mean that people act violently after a divorce because they are in turmoil. I mean that it’s a violent act because divorce itself is a violent act. In the secular world we know that divorces at best are almost always emotion-filled, bitter experiences. At worst, they are war. And it IS a war, in the flesh on earth, for booty (furniture) and for territory (house) and for captives (children.) It’s also a spiritual war in the celestial realms to directly attack one of the most important foundations Jesus laid down: the family. Let’s look at the language the Bible uses:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Cleave is to adhere, cling, or stick fast. If you use wood glue and then after it dries, if you want to separate the two pieces that you made into one, you have to tear it apart by force, and they never come apart cleanly. There are splits in the wood, pits, damage.

The oft-used phrase during marriage vows, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” comes from Matthew 19:6 NIV. The World English Translation puts it this way: “So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.” Tear apart. We see in Genesis that the man and woman (not man-man nor woman-woman) who are to be married cleave, stick, become ONE flesh. Splitting that apart causes damage because to separate something that has become one, into two, is violent. It requires tearing, pulling, splitting, cutting.

Marriage is a covenant between three people: man, woman, God. A covenant is an eternal promise, a sacred thing. God discusses it here, “You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (Malachi 2:14). Satan hates any and all Godly covenants. Therefore marriage and the family become prime targets for satan’s evil will to be done

So why is divorce so violent? Satan is behind it. God said: “I hate divorce…” (Malachi 2:16). What God loves, satan hates. What God hates, satan loves.

John MacArthur on the scriptures regarding divorce:

In Matthew 19, Jesus states that God ordained the institution of marriage, and He has decreed that in every marriage, the husband and wife are to become one for life. Divorce destroys the marriage and thus breaks asunder a union God Himself has established (Mark 10:9). “I hate divorce,” says the Lord (Mal. 2:16). Jesus’ teaching on divorce is clear. He restricted divorce under most circumstances, and He forbade the remarriage of those who divorce on improper grounds, calling such remarriage adultery (Matthew 5:32). … So God’s utter hatred of divorce is very clear in Scripture. Nonetheless, there are two extraordinary cases in which Scripture teaches that God does permit divorced people to remarry.

Those cases are if the spouse commits adultery and if the unbelieving spouse abandons the believer. (1 Corinthians 7:14). That’s it. God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16).

When two people are united, they become one flesh. Ripping apart one flesh back into two is painful and creates wounds, deep wounds. It seems strange in my 58 years of life I’ve watched divorce go from a stigma whispered about to an almost respectable sin, as Jerry Bridges had termed the so-called lighter sins, such as gossip or worry.

We Christians talk a lot about homosexuality, and also hammer on about pre-marital sex. But divorce is an event that occurs under the umbrella of sins, too. So many casually divorced people sit in the pews, remarried to boot, with few words said about this sin. If a believing spouse has divorced for a reason not listed above, he is in sin. If a spouse has remarried after a spiritually illegal divorce, he remains in sin.

Someday, children will not describe their family as having ‘a real mother’ or ‘a real father’. Divorce is a sin. It is also a violent act that directly contradicts the standards for moral behavior Jesus set forth.

If your marriage is on the rocks, Jesus can heal it. He ordained it, He witnessed it, and He keeps you in His fold. As His sheep, He has already regenerated your heart once from pagan to Christian. He can help you two get back on track and re-ignite your covenant love for one another. Here is a page of testimonies and resources of couples who had been on the brink of divorce, but who are thriving as a united couple now.

Further Reading

To a Spouse Considering Divorce

How Should a Christian View Marriage and Divorce?

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands

Our pastor is going through Jonah. It’s a great series. Naturally I got interested in reading Moby Dick, the Great American Novel, by Herman Melville.

I’m to the part in Moby Dick where narrator Ishmael is signed and shipped aboard the Pequod. They are about to set off from Nantucket in search of whales for their oil, which at the time, lit the world.

The character of Ishmael, who is ‘narrating’ this whale story, waxed philosophical about a particular quality in chief mate Starbuck, namely, his courage. Ishmael spent a good while extolling it, called practical, since mere man will soon face leviathan in his own element, the rolling deeps of the great cetacean.

At this point in his introductions, Ishmael said of Starbuck,

But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete abasement of poor Starbuck’s fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose the fall of valour in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man.

The paragraph reminded me of the verse from 1 Peter:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8).

It’s wedding season. Marriages are vowed before God and two become one. Wives, the Bible says, love your husband and submit to him. (Ephesians 5:22, Titus 2:4). Though Christians are saved and our souls have been regenerated, your man will still sin. When they do, –

that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes

Wives, are we hesitant to expose the ignominious blemish? Do we rush to our brothers, husbands, fathers, to cover it with our costliest robes? Or do we grumble about it on Facebook? Complain to our friends? Manage to get in a snark through some backhanded compliment? “After 20 years, the hubs finally bought me some roses! Way to go hon!”

The undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man is felt so keenly by the husband himself, yet the disagreeable wife sets up a neon arrow pointing to it. The agreeable wife rushes to cover with her costliest robe.

Love covers a multitude of sins. As far as possible, wives, overlook insults and injuries, and be ready to forgive him. It’s hard. Injustices and insults pile up and our natural flesh will want to rebel. (Genesis 3:16). Resist this.

love covers

It is easy to get married. It is hard to make a marriage. One difference you can make, wives, is determining which path you’ll take on behalf of your husband: rush to expose? Or rush to cover?

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12, KJV) – Barnes Notes says: First hides, does not expose, and then forgives and forgets all sins.

Women, what say you? Can you do it?


Nautical Trivia

Trivia #1: In old mariner lingo an unlucky sailor is called “a Jonah”.

Trivia #2: Wikipedia says the ‘coffee chain Starbucks was named after Starbuck, not due to any affinity for coffee, but because the name “Pequod” was first rejected by one of the co-founders’.

Trivia #3: Starbuck was an important name in whaling being a prominent whaling family from Nantucket. Starbuck Island in the South Pacific is named for this family.

Trivia #4: from American Whaling:

The stench of processing whales was so strong a whale ship could be smelled over the horizon before it could be seen. Crewmen on American whaleships came from all over the globe. Their work was hard, dirty, smelly, dangerous, lonely, and poorly paid, but some still liked it better than their prospects ashore.