Sorry for the late notice but the phone number for the Friday Noon Telemeeting has changed.  The new number for the Telemeeting is 641.715.3818.  Please join us today for the noon Telemeeting at the new number.


Friday Lunch Telemeeting
Time: 12:00PM – 1:00PM (CST)
Location: Telemeeting Call In Center
Call In Phone Number: 641-715-3818

The astounding popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien and his writings–magnified many times over by the success of the “Lord of the Rings” films–has ensured that Tolkien’s fantasy world of moral meaning stands as one of the great literary achievements of our times.

In some sense, Tolkien was a man born out of time. A philologist at heart, Tolkien was most at home in the world of ancient ages, even as he witnessed the barbarism and horrors of the 20th century. Celebrated as a popular author, he was an eloquent witness to permanent truths. His popularity on university campuses, extending from his own day right up to the present, is a powerful indication of the fact that Tolkien’s writings reach the hearts of the young, and those looking for answers.

Even as Tolkien is celebrated as an author and literary figure, some of his most important messages were communicated by means of letters, and some of the most important letters were written to his sons.

Tolkien married his wife Edith in 1916, and the marriage was blessed with four children. Of the four, three were boys. John was born in 1917, Michael in 1920, and Christopher in 1924. Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ only daughter, was born in 1929.

Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent, not only a hallmark of literary quality, but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.

In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.

“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism of human progress, the 20th century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.

“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.

Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not remain untroubled by sexual attraction for long. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, for Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”

As any reader of Tolkien’s works understands, Tolkien was a romantic at heart. He celebrated the fact that “in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition [is] still strong,” though he recognized that “the times are inimical to it.” Even so, as a concerned father, Tolkien warned Michael to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray, fooled by “the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex.”

Beyond this, Tolkien demonstrated a profound understanding of male sexuality and the need for boundaries and restraint. Even as he was often criticized for having an overly negative understanding of male sexuality, Tolkien presented an honest assessment of the sex drive in a fallen world. He argued that men are not naturally monogamous. “Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.” In his own times, Tolkien had seen the binding power of cultural custom and moral tradition recede into the historical memory. With the “sexual revolution” already visible on the horizon, Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man. “Each of us could healthfully beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process,” Tolkien admonished his son. Nevertheless, the joys and satisfactions of monogamous marriage provide the only true context for sexuality without shame. Furthermore, Tolkien was confident that Christianity’s understanding of sex and marriage pointed to eternal, as well as temporal pleasures.

Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him–as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”

Tolkien traced unhappiness in marriage, especially on the part of the husband, to the Church’s failure to teach these truths and to speak of marriage honestly. Those who see marriage as nothing more than the arena of ecstatic and romantic love will be disappointed, Tolkien understood. “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along.”

With these words, Tolkien advised his middle son that marriage is an objective reality that is honorable in the eyes of God. Thus, marriage defines its own satisfactions. The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows.

In a letter to his friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien advised: “Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance–in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure . . . .” In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.

With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien’s most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary “because man does not live on sex alone.” Temperance and restraint represent “the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession,” Pearce expands.

Explicit references to sexuality are virtually missing from Tolkien’s published works, allegories, fables, and stories. Nevertheless, sex is always in the background as part of the moral landscape. Joseph Pearce understands this clearly, arguing that Tolkien’s literary characters “are certainly not sexless in the sense of being asexual but, on the contrary, are archetypically and stereotypically sexual.” Pearce makes this claim, notwithstanding the fact that there is no sexual activity or overt sexual enticement found in Tolkien’s tales.

How is this possible? In a profound employment of the moral spirit, Tolkien presented his characters in terms of honor and virtue, with heroic men demonstrating classical masculine virtues and the heroines appearing as women of honor, valor, and purity.

Nevertheless, we would be hard pressed to understand Tolkien’s understanding of sex, marriage, and family if we did not have considerable access into the realities of Tolkien’s family and his role as both husband and father. Tolkien’s letters, especially those written to his three sons, show the loving concern of a devoted father, as well as the rare literary gift Tolkien both possessed and employed with such power.

The letter Tolkien wrote Michael in the year 1941–with the world exploding in war and civilization coming apart at its seams–is a model of fatherly concern, counsel, and instruction. We should be grateful that this letter is now accessible to the larger world, and to the rest of us.

From the vantage point of the 21st century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns.

Writing to Christopher, his youngest son, Tolkien explained this well. “We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us). But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Thanks to these letters, we have more than an inkling of what Tolkien meant.

Trust has to be a living, breathing entity in order for any relationship to survive. It isn’t an emotion, but a learned behavior that we gain from past experiences. Whether you’ve been stolen from, lied to, misled, or cheated on, there are different levels of losing trust, some more devastating than others.

1. Learn to really trust yourself: If you don’t trust yourself – your ability to have good judgment and make good choices – how can you trust someone else? Once your trust has been violated, your defenses start working overtime to protect yourself. Pay closer attention to your instincts and work on building trust in yourself.

2. Grieve: When a loved one dies, the natural grieving process tends to come in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These five stages can also occur when you lose trust in someone. Don’t fight any of these stages. You’ll usually get through all of them – with time. Forgiveness can also be added as the sixth stage in regards to trust.

3. Stop labeling yourself the victim: If you’ve been betrayed, you are the victim of your circumstance. But there’s a difference between being a victim and living with a “victim mentality.” Some people choose to wallow in the sting of betrayal while others make a real effort to overcome it. If you choose to wallow in pity, you’ll stifle your ability to heal because you’ll end up angry and blaming everyone else for something you actually have more control over than you think. If you can find it in your heart to forgive, then you’ll be able to release anger and hurt.

4. You didn’t lose “everything”: When we’re severely betrayed, such as being cheated on in a relationship, we tend to feel like we’ve lost everything that means anything to us. Once trust is lost, what’s left? Instead of looking at the situation from this hopeless angle, look at everything you still have and be thankful for all of the good in your life. Seeing the positive side of things doesn’t mean you’re ignoring what happened. Instead, it’s a healthy way to work through the experience to allow room for positive growth and forgiveness.

5. Keep your expectations high: Avoid the same types of where your trust was violated. But it’s also important to recognize that just because you’ve been violated before doesn’t mean it will happen again. If you fall into this mentality, not only will you sell yourself short, but you may also throw away the possibility of a new, healthy relationship. Losing trust in someone can have a devastating effect on your relationship, as well as your sense of self-worth, but building trust again is possible. It takes a willingness to work on both yourself and your betrayer, but it’s more than possible. And when trust in a relationship is regained, it is truly healing.

“One error a trust-breaker makes when attempting to rebuild trust with another, is refusing to take full ownership for what they did.” – Karen Wells

by applyingmybeliefs

Gen 15:5-6 – And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  ESV

Abram, later called Abraham, was called righteous by God because he believed God’s promise.  God kept His promise to Abram, in that he became the single point ancestor of the Ishmaelites (Forerunner to the Arabs of today) and the Israelites (Hebrews or Jews).  Later in scripture we see that Abraham was called by God “friend.” (James 2:23), the only person directly called that.  The blessings; the two great nations, the material wealth and the personal friendship with God Almighty came to Abraham because he believed God.

In Christian recovery we are asked to believe God.  Not believe in God, for even the demons believe in God, however at one point in time, they didn’t believe God, they believed a lie.  To believe God is to have faith that what He says He will do will happen.  It is having a 100% certainty that His promises to us will come to pass.

Do you believe God, or are you reserving some parts of your life for yourself, so that you can control them.  Do you know that when any of us does that we shut Him out of being able to bless us in ways we can’t imagine.  It seems from scripture that God works this way because He wants us to be able to say that we chose Him and not that we are His puppets, which are things that He created and made to follow Him.

Although some people are more curious than others, it’s very common to have lots of questions about the marital affair, especially initially. If you have little interest in the facts, so be it. However, if you need to know what happened, ask. Although the details may be uncomfortable to hear, just knowing your spouse is willing to “come clean” helps people recover. As the unfaithful spouse, you might feel tremendous remorse and guilt, and prefer avoiding the details entirely, but experience shows that this is a formula for disaster. Sweeping negative feelings and lingering questions under the carpet makes genuine healing unlikely. Once there is closure on what actually happened, there is typically a need to know why it happened. Betrayed spouses often believe that unless they get to the bottom of things, it could happen again. Unfortunately, since the reasons people stray can be quite complex, the “whys” aren’t always crystal clear. No one “forces” anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage. Were you satisfying a need to feel attractive? Are you having a mid-life crisis? Did you grow up in a family where infidelity was a way of life? Do you have a sexual addiction? It’s equally important to explore whether your marriage is significantly lacking. Although no marriage is perfect, sometimes people feel so unhappy, they look to others for a stronger emotional or physical connection. They complain of feeling taken for granted, unloved, resentful, or ignored. Sometimes there is a lack of intimacy or sexuality in the marriage. If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes. If open communication is a problem, consider seeking help from a qualified marital therapist or taking a communication skill-building class. There are many available through religious organizations, community colleges and mental health settings. By Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W.

“Guilt and no guilt: these were the worst things. The only thing worse than the guilt was the fear of getting caught.” – Elin Hilderbrand

by applyingmybeliefs

1 Sam 17:4 – And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.   ESV

Goliath was a true physical giant, his strength was such that the tip of his spear was six hundred shekels, about eighteen pounds twelve ounces.  He was probably between nine feet six and eleven feet, depending on how one measures a cubit.  Although he lived with the ancient enemy of Israel, the Philistines, he was most likely from the tribe of giants called Anaks.  In this scripture (read 1 Sam 17:4-58 for the full story) Goliath came out and taunted the Israelites as he was to do for 40 continuous days.  It was common practice for enemies to send their champion into a one-on-one fight with the victor’s side winning the war.  This avoided the very dangerous reality that both sides could get wiped out, making them easy targets for a third enemy.

We all know the story, the young boy, David, goes out and kills the giant Goliath under God’s protection, and the Israelites win the war.  This story, while it is an actual historical event, is also symbolic for humanity, if they care to listen.  It is one person, plus God, defeating something that cannot be overcome any other way.

This is a great figurative story for us in recovery.  The giant is something big that we have to fight and that we know we cannot defeat with our own resources and power.  If we have anything in our lives that determines how our day goes, where we spend our time or money or how we think, feel and choose, then we have a giant.  God could be our giant, but we all know that if He were, we would never have got into recovery in the first place.  No, our giants are the compulsions or addictions that we struggle with; they could also be our challenges trusting or being intimate with a spouse after a betrayal.  Whatever they are, they can only be defeated with God’s help.

by Shaunti Feldhahn

The fallout from the Ashley Madison leak shows us that there is a critical sexual disconnect between men and women.

Most women are completely dumbfounded at the Ashley Madison scandal, asking, How could it be so easy for so many men – including godly, Christian men – to visit such a site?

Most men are completely chilled at the Ashley Madison scandal: thinking, There but for the grace of God go I.

There’s something more important here than the Ashley Madison issue itself: a vast disconnect between men and women on modern sex-related issues that affect nearly all men and boys every single day – but which many women aren’t even aware of. While actual infidelity affects only a small percentage of marriages, the factors creating online temptation impact everyone. And we women don’t always understand why.

Our men are vulnerable in ways most of us never realized. Our sons have a target on their backs. They need our support, prayer and awareness as they stand against the temptations of this culture – or as they work to heal their lives and marriages from poor choices.

After years of research and multiple nationally-representative surveys to investigate the inner lives of men and boys for For Women Only and Through A Man’s Eyes, I now believe if we women understood just five key things, it would change how Christian men handle temptation. Just to be clear: men are 100% responsible for their choices. But that doesn’t mean we women have to sit helplessly while our men are out there facing temptation alone.

So for every woman who wants to understand and support her man (or her son), here are five key facts:

Fact 1: Due to how their brain wiring interprets attractive sights, men in this culture are constantly being sexually stimulated.

Although we can’t get into the brain science here (see this article for more), the bottom line is that a straight man can’t not be sexually stimulated when he catches sight of the female body in the spandex shorts or the low-cut top. Even if he doesn’t want that pleasurable stimulation, it just happens. If he wants to honor his wife (and God) in his thought life, he instantly has to choose whether to shut down that stimulation by looking away or thinking about something else. A few minutes later he will have to make that choice again. And again.

Fact 2: Visual-sexual stimulation salves a man’s hidden vulnerabilities.

Men have far more self-doubt than women realize. Pleasurable stimulation hits men right where it hurts, and makes them feel better. One man told me, “A guy might be feeling like a failure at work but being intimate with his wife — or with pornography, which is the counterfeit — makes him feel like he does measure up. It is a salve that goes very deep.” When a man is intimate with his wife, he experiences true comfort and care. When he turns to porn he avoids intimacy; it is the counterfeit solace of the alcoholic’s bottle. And it is terribly ironic that his counterfeit indulgence triggers his wife’s own vulnerability – her worry that she is not enough for him.

Fact 3. The visual and emotional temptation looms large.

In today’s culture, a man’s physical responses and emotional vulnerabilities combine to create a perfect storm of temptation. Even if he fights it well (which most men in the church do try to do), it looms large. This is how my husband, Jeff, describes the struggle:

It is almost as if we are all former alcoholics and there is a bottle in front of us with an empty shot glass saying, “Just this once. It’s been such a hard day.”

As guys, we are all sitting there, looking at that bottle – and if we’re feeling particularly vulnerable, we’re saying ‘God help me.’ And it has nothing to do with our wives. It has everything to do with a man feeling like a failure and this is that one drink that he thinks will make him feel better tonight.

Many men won’t have had that thought about alcohol, but most of us have had it about porn. It is everywhere. And it turns men into cowards. So if we are honest, every man knows that if we’re not extremely careful, that is where we could go.

Fact 4: Some men fight it successfully — and others fall.

While many millions of men make those careful choices every day, others grow weary of the struggle. They give in. They secretly look at what is always just a click away. Many, especially in the church, know it is wrong and are ashamed. The hard truth is that porn reels in men who would have never set out to devastate their wives and families. Pornographic images are like a gateway drug to videos, chat rooms, and, for some, Ashley Madison. Men can find themselves in the grip of addiction. And since Christian men usually are ashamed of and hide the first step into temptation, the rest of the progression also stays hidden – and the men stay trapped.

Fact 5. A wife’s support can make a difference – if he chooses to let it.

One reason I’m passionate about encouraging women and men to understand each other: we don’t have to be helpless in the face of confusing (or scary) issues. Although a man or boy’s ultimate actions are fully his responsibility, there’s a lot a wife can do to support her husband or son, if he chooses to accept it. First, show your husband it is safe for him to talk to about these struggles with you. If a wife shows that she wants to understand (“What makes things more difficult for you?”), that she won’t freak out, and that she’s willing to help (“Absolutely, we can block those problematic cable channels”) most men will open up and share over time. And if a wife shows her husband that she does desire him sexually, that she cares for him in that way, closeness usually grows. Neither are a guarantee, but I’ve seen both lead to breakthroughs and much more intimacy.

I’d venture to guess that the enemy of our souls wanted to use the Ashley Madison hack to steal, kill and destroy many marriages, and to put fear into many others. But there’s something about bringing hidden things to light that God uses to set people free. For all of us as women, let’s use this unique moment to step out in maturity, face down our own fears and insecurities, and stand with our men – and our sons – so they know they don’t have to face the darkness alone.