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How To Help Little Ones Celebrate How God Made Their Bodies
I'm happy to welcome Francie Winslow back to the blog. You can learn more from Francie at her website. I was cuddled up with my youngest son on the couch when the well-known cartoon “Blues Clues” popped up on the screen. Along with flashy colors came a classic tune, “Ants Go Marching One by One.” But instead of hearing the normal lyrics that I expected to match that familiar trumpeting song, I heard something much different. As the vibrant wave of colors and happy smiling faces filled the screen, I heard lyrics identifying a parade of families made up of trans-gender, ace, bi and pan sexual, non-binary, gay, and lesbian cartoon characters marching “one by one, hurrah, hurrah” across the screen.  It was a wake up call. How do I begin discipling my toddlers and preschoolers to honor and love others AND to honor and love their good, God-given bodies? How do I start building a healthy, biblical sexual worldview for them even in their youngest years? I realized that the time for sticking my head in the sand has long gone.   We all desire to give our kids a clear and beautiful view of sex and sexuality. But with the way things are changing so quickly in our culture, where do we start? And how young? And if we’re starting these “sex-talks” sooner, what exactly do we say to honor the truth of God’s Word along with our kids’ ages and development?   Things are much more socially complex than ever before, and it can feel overwhelming, almost paralyzing. However, I actually believe that the direction of our culture towards more sexual confusion can become a place of gospel clarity and discipleship opportunity—especially when it comes to talking to our kids about our bodies. Rather than being a book of silence and rules about sexuality, God’s Word is a source of abundant hope, beautiful freedom, and life-giving truth.  The most basic place we start in giving young children a solid foundation about sexuality is celebration. Clarity is the antidote to confusion. And when we celebrate something, we gain a fresh sense of joy, simplicity, and clarity around it. Celebration of the body as God’s good and meaningful gift is the first building block to disciple our kids in a healthy and integrated biblical sexuality, starting as young as preschool.  Here are a few tangible examples of how I celebrate God’s good gift with my very young children.    We celebrate that God calls us His masterpiece. The philosophical worldview that is behind much of the confusion plaguing our children would have us believe that our bodies are meaningless matter, that we have evolved from an accidental bang, and that our bodies exist primarily for self-expression. This worldview demeans and devalues humanity on every level. However, we are invited to know a different reality. Christian theology holds to the belief that we were designed wonderfully and thoughtfully by a Designer who has good plans for our lives. Therefore, our bodies are meaningful masterpieces, meant not for self-expression, but for God-expression. We have to take God at his word and trust that what He said is good is actually GOOD!  God formed male and female in His image and called them GOOD! He was the first to celebrate gender, sexuality, and the body! As they get older, they will be able to understand in more concrete ways how gender and sex are meaningful and point us to a larger Gospel story. But for now, a consistent and joyful celebration lays a strong foundation for more complex conversation later in their development. When I pick up my youngest son from his crib, when I comb my 7 year old daughter's hair, when I help tie my 5 year old son’s shoes, when I stop what I’m doing to hug my pre-teen daughter as she walks into the kitchen, and many other times throughout our week, I use intentional words to speak life and truth over them with phrases like this:  “God made you, and God loves you!” or “You are a meaningful masterpiece!” or “You are a boy, and it’s GOOD that you are a boy!”  “You are a girl, and it’s GOOD that you are a girl!”  We celebrate our bodies in order to solidify the truth that God purposefully, lovingly, and thoughtfully wove them together in the womb, and He sees them and knows them personally. We honor the fact that God calls them a masterpiece, His workmanship, which carries the Greek root meaning of poetry (Epheisians 2:10). All of us—mind, body, and heart—work together to display the rhythm, rhyme, beauty, and wonder of Heaven’s imagination and good purposes! Our children need us to celebrate the truth that they are not meaningless matter, but a meaningful masterpiece, made with love and intention (Psalm 139)!   We celebrate that our bodies reveal God.  We celebrate the fact that God not only made us good, but called us His image bearers. This image bearing gift includes the way we understand God’s love for us, but also how we share God’s love with others. Image bearing glory is not limited to adults. Image bearing is an everyday reality for children, in big and small ways, just as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:3.   Not only are our bodies marked with God’s own loving image, they are filled with God’s powerful Spirit! The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples, or dwelling places of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)! In this way, we can be sure that God wants to live in us and move through us in everyday moments with His powerful love. If they’re old enough to enjoy a white board moment or a chat at the table with a paper napkin, an easy way to break this down is to draw a stick figure of a person. Put a big crown and heart in the chest space, reminding us that Jesus’ love lives in us. Then, talk through each part of the body and how our bodies are meant to show God’s love to the world!   For example, I might say things like this:  “Our whole bodies were meant to know God’s love and show God’s love!   Our eyes can know God’s love as we notice a beautiful sunset and see God’s awesome creativity.  Our eyes can show God’s love as we look with soft eyes of compassion at a hurting friend.  Our mouths can know God’s love as we read Bible stories!  Our mouths can show God’s love as we share encouraging words with our friends.  Our hands can know God’s love as we hold our parent’s hand and feel safety and comfort. Our hands can show God’s love as we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbor.  Our arms can know God’s love as we wave them and dance in joy and worship. Our arms can show God’s love as we hug our brother after an argument.  You can know God’s love, and show God’s love, with your body! You are a powerful image bearer, head to toe!“ The possibilities are endless as we continue to discuss all the ways our bodies can be a part of experiencing God’s love and sharing God’s love. It can even be a fun discovery as a family to notice and discuss at dinner about how you are learning this at school, at work, and at home.    We celebrate God’s handiwork in nature.  Romans 1:20 says that we know what God is like by noticing the things He created. This includes our bodies! But it also includes the beauty and glory of nature right outside our back doors. When we’re outside, I specifically look for parts of nature that reveal God’s glorious, fruitful ways, and we celebrate those wonders. We can see God’s fruitful handiwork in the changing seasons. We can see God’s mighty power in the tall mountains. We are amazed at the way that salmon, whales, monarch butterflies, sea turtles, and other animals base their migration cycles on reproduction. We see right in our back yard that God designed reproductive sexuality to be a beautiful part of flowers multiplying and spreading beauty. We take note of how the transfer of pollen (male) from the anther of a flower to a stigma (female) brings about fertilization, which then produces seeds and fruit. God loves reproduction, sexuality, fruitfulness, and growth!  These lessons can grow and adapt with their ages, but examples of God’s magnificent, divine designs are all around us!  A simple way to start with the youngest family members is simply: “Wow! Look at God’s wonderful, fruitful world! He’s an amazing Creator!”   We celebrate the ways Jesus lived and loved, in His body. Jesus came in a body, and through his life showed us how to live and love in our bodies (Colossians 2:9). Jesus modeled perfect love in all the ways he received love and gave love in everyday moments and through great sacrifice. With His words He spoke hope. With His tears He showed compassion. With His hands, He washed His friends’ feet. He even gave His own body for us on the cross, the ultimate act of love so that we could know God’s love personally. Just like Jesus, our bodies have meaning and power to communicate love and life and hope. That’s worth celebrating!   As you read Bible stories with your kids, point out how practical and embodied Jesus' love often was. It wasn’t a wishful, illusive sort of love. It was a love lived out through family, community, relationships, and time spent together with those whose lives intersected His. It was a tangible and expressive love, as God lived in Jesus and moved through Jesus to literally change the world!  Celebrating our good and meaningful bodies is a key to help build a solid foundation of sexual discipleship for our kids. As they encounter cultural messages from TV, entertainment, media, and education implying that their gender is meaningless, their body is a mistake, or their sexuality is only about “self expression,” they will have a better understanding of freedom-bringing Truth to stand on. They will begin to realize that human beings, boys and girls, are the crown of God’s creation. And through this posture of wonder, honor, and celebration, our children will be able to celebrate that they and their peers are indeed a marvelous, meaningful masterpiece. That they are image bearers, divinely designed for holy, powerful God-expression in and through their bodies.    Learn how to give your kids a biblical view of sexuality by joining other moms in an online book study through Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality. New groups begin in June 2022! Hear from the book's author Hillary Morgan Ferrer in Java #404: How to Help Your Kids Talk About Sex from a Christian Worldview      
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What To Wear in the Bedroom?
Do you need to change what you wear in the bedroom? Like me, maybe you choose your sleepwear based on comfort and not to entice. I much prefer Life is Good to Victoria Secret in the bedroom, but we will save that conversation for another day. Even though I sometimes write and speak on spicing up sex in marriage, this blog is about a different kind of “bedroom clothes.” “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV). A few years ago, I read these verses and started praying, Lord, help me to treat other people like this… to be compassionate, kind, gentle, forgiving, and loving. I really thought the Lord would convict me to make cookies for my neighbor. Instead, the conviction from the Holy Spirit came from a whole different angle. “Juli, love your husband.”    A woman may be willing to sell all of her earthly goods and move to Africa to serve the Lord, but she can’t quite muster the strength to love her husband sexually.   Overall, I am pretty loving toward my husband. However, I don’t always love him in the way he would most like to receive love, specifically within our sexual relationship. Honestly, there are times that I would rather love him in every other way. I’m willing to make his favorite dinner and listen patiently about struggles at work, but in this one area, I am naturally selfish, unforgiving, and insensitive.  I’ve learned over the years that many other wives have similar struggles. A woman may be willing to sell all of her earthly goods and move to Africa to serve the Lord, but she can’t quite muster the strength to love her husband sexually. The sexual relationship, in many marriages, is the most tangible and difficult way to show love.  I’ve rarely met a couple who hasn’t encountered some conflict in the bedroom. Any number of serious roadblocks (issues from the past, physical ailments, differing levels of desire, body image issues, and pornography to name a few) keep them from enjoying the gift of sexual intimacy. While sexy lingerie may spice up the bedroom, that’s only a superficial fix. The real wardrobe change I’ve needed (and I think most women would agree) is to change the “wardrobe” of my heart.  The passage from Colossians I referred to not only tells us what to “put on” but also what to take off. Take a look: "Put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world… now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.  Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him" (Colossians 3:5-11 NLT). What a practical passage—if only we would be willing to apply it! So, what are we supposed to take off and put on? And what would that look like in the bedroom?   Take off... Sexual immorality, impurity, and lust – I don’t want to have sexual thoughts about anyone else except my husband.   Evil Desires – Evil desires come out of my selfish heart. This might look like punishing my husband by withholding love or affection when I don’t get my way. God, please show me the hidden evil desires that can lurk beneath my words and actions.  Greed – God, I live in a culture that always demands more. More comfort, more beauty, more pleasure. I know this has crept into my thinking. Please help me be content with what you have given me and Mike to enjoy in our marriage.  Anger, rage, and malicious behavior – While I don’t have a bad temper, I can stew and withdraw from my husband when I’m angry. God, please teach me how to address my anger in the right way and never to let it simmer into rage—even silent rage. Slander and dirty language – Lord, you say that my words can bring life or death. Do I ever say things about my husband to others that would dishonor him?  Please keep me from words that dishonor Him or you. Loving your husband in this way also means courageously confronting him if he brings sinful patterns into your marriage. You don’t simply turn a blind eye to pornography, raging, and other forms of “evil desires” in which your husband may be engaging. You simply can’t move forward in true intimacy without addressing attitudes and actions that sabotage trust. Yet, God calls us to confront with an invitation to repentance and godliness rather than an attitude of self-righteous blaming.    My commitment as a follower of God isn’t suspended when I step over the threshold of the bedroom door.   Put on… Compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness.  Rather than go through the list of what each of these character qualities would look like in my marriage, let me ask you a question that Gary Thomas has written about. If you looked only at your intimacy with your husband, would someone be able to tell that you are a follower of Christ? Do your actions toward your husband, specifically concerning sex, demonstrate the character and love of God?  We are often told, explicitly or implicitly, “It’s your body… it’s your right” when it comes to sexuality. This is true. Women need to know we have a voice. We can’t say “yes” to intimacy until we also have the voice to say “no.”  Yet I am also reminded of the call to discipleship. My body is not my own; I was purchased by the blood of Jesus. I am to honor God with my body – including my sexuality. My commitment as a follower of God isn’t suspended when I step over the threshold of the bedroom door. May God’s love and character be represented in all areas of my life, including intimacy. If you really want to know how to rekindle passion in your marriage, start by looking at what you are wearing. Which list for Colossians best describes your bedroom wardrobe? Is it time for a change?   What's the Next Step? Join us at Reclaim 2022! 🙌 Register Now at Early Bird Rates 🙌 October 14-15 You will learn the difference between having sex and building intimacy.  You will be challenged to address violations of trust that make sex feel too vulnerable.  You will be encouraged to pursue intimacy, even through the busy years of parenting and difficult life circumstances.  You will see the beauty of navigating what seem to be incompatibilities in your sexual relationship.