Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 4

And so we come to the final chapter of the Book of Ruth which recounts the tale of the romance of great-grandparents of king David of Israel, the ancestors of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God the Son. In chapter 1 we saw how Naomi brought Ruth, her daughter-in-law, to the Land of Promise after the deaths of both their husbands. The story continued in chapter 2 where we witnessed the meeting of Boaz and Ruth as she and her mother-in-law struggle to make ends-meet. He is kind to her. In chapter 3 Ruth goes to Boaz late at night to ask him to take up their cause and redeem her and her mother-in-law. The story concludes in chapter 4.

The tale of Ruth and Boaz’s love and God’s orchestration was put to verse by John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and of many other poems, books and tracts.

RUTH – CHAP. IV.

And Boaz went up to the city gate,

And after a short space, while there he sate,

The kinsman of whom he had spoke, came by,

To whom he said, Ho, [‹1.6›] such a one, draw nigh,

And sit down here. He came and sat him down.

Then he took ten men, elders of the town,

And caused them to sit down. Then to the man

That was of kin, thus he his speech began,

Naomi, said he, who not long since sojourn’d

Among the Moabites, is now return’d;

And doth intend to sell a piece of ground,

The which Elimelech our brother own’d.

And now to give thee notice, I thought fit,

That if thou pleasest, thou may’st purchase it.

In presence of these men assembled here.

Then if thou wilt redeem it, now declare

Thy mind, but if thou wilt not, then let me,

For thou art next of kin, and I next thee.

Then said the kinsman, I will it redeem.

Boaz reply’d, if good to thee it seem,

To buy it of the hand of Naomi,

Thou also art obliged the same to buy

Of Ruth the Moabitess, wife o’ th’ dead;

On his inheritance to raise up seed.

The kinsman said, I cannot do this thing

Myself, lest I an inconvenience bring

Upon mine own inheritance, what’s mine

By right, therefore I now to thee resign.

Now this in Israel did a custom stand,

Concerning changing and redeeming land;

To put all controversy to an end,

A man pluck’d off his shoe, and gave his friend;

And this in Israel was an evidence,

When e’er they changed an inheritance.

Then said the kinsman unto Boaz, do

Thou take my right. And off he pluck’d his shoe.

Then Boaz to the elders thus did say

And to the people, all of you this day

Appear for me as witnesses, that I

Have bought all of the land of Naomi,

That was Elimelech’s or did belong

Either to Mahlon or to Chilion:

And Ruth the Moabitess, who some time

Was Mahlon’s wife, I’ve purchas’d to be mine,

Still to preserve alive the dead man’s name

On his inheritance, lest that the same

Should in the gate where he inhabited,

Or ‘mongst his brethren be extinguished:

Behold, this day, my witnesses you are.

Then all the people that were present there,

And elders said, We are thy witnesses:

May God this woman thou hast taken bless,

That she, like Rachel, and like Leah be,

Which two did build up Israel’s family:

And thou in Ephratah exalt thy name,

And through the town of Bethl’hem spread thy fame;

And may the seed which God shall give to thee

Of this young woman, full as prosperous be,

As was the house of Pharez heretofore,

(Pharez, whom Tamar unto Judah bore.)

So he took Ruth, and as his wife he knew her,

And God was pleased, when he went in to her

To grant the blessing of conception,

And she accordingly bare him a son.

Then said the woman, Blessed be the Lord!

Bless thou him Naomi, who doth afford

To thee this day a kinsman, which shall be

Famous in Israel; and shall be to thee

As the restorer of thy life again,

And in thy drooping age shall thee sustain:

For that thy daughter-in-law, who loves thee well

And in thy sight doth seven sons excel,

Hath born this child. Then Naomi took the boy

To nurse; and did him in her bosom lay.

Her neighbours too, gave him a name, for why,

This son, say they, is born to Naomi:

They called him Obed, from whose loins did spring

Jesse, the sire of David, Israel’s king.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 3

On Monday, we read chapter 1 of the Book of Ruth. The story follows the meeting of Ruth and Boaz, the great-grandparents of king David of Israel and the ancestors of Jesus Christ. In chapter 1 we read about how Ruth came to the Land of Israel while in chapter 2 we witnessed the meeting of Boaz and Ruth. The love story continues in chapter 3 as we read John Bunyan’s versification of the story of these star-crossed lovers (these terms I use quite loosely).

RUTH – CHAP. III.

Then Naomi said, Shall I not, my daughter,

Seek rest for thee, that thou do well hereafter?

And is not Boaz, with whose maids thou wast,

One of the nearest kinsmen that thou hast?

Behold, this night he in his threshing floor

Is winnowing Barley, wash thyself therefore,

Anoint thee, put thy clothes on, and get down

Unto the floor; but make not thyself known,

Till he hath eat and drank, and shall prepare

To lie him down; then take good notice where

He goes about to take his night’s repose,

And go thou in there, and lift up the clothes

From off his feet, and likewise lay thee down,

And what thou hast to do he will make known.

And she made answer, Whatsoever thou

Hast me commanded, will I gladly do.

And down unto the floor she hasted, and

Forthwith fulfilled her mother-in-law’s command.

So now when Boaz had his heart refresh’d,

With meat and drink, he laid him down to rest,

Near to the heap of corn; she softly came,

Uncover’d’s feet, and lay down by the same.

And, lo! at midnight, as he turn’d him round,

He was afraid, for at his feet he found

A woman lay. Who art thou? then said he.

I am thine handmaid Ruth, replied she,

Over thine handmaid therefore spread thy skirt,

I pray, because thou a near kinsman art.

Blessed be thou, said he, because thou hast

Made manifest more kindness at the last,

Than at the first, in that thou did’st, my daughter,

No young men, whether poor or rich, go after.

And now, my daughter, be not thou afraid,

I will do to thee all that thou hast said:

For all the city of my people knows,

Thou art a woman truly virtuous;

And now though I am kin and undoubtedly,

Yet there is one that’s nearer kin than I.

Tarry this night, and when ’tis morning light,

If he will like a kinsman, do thee right,

We’ll let him, but if not, I myself will,

As the Lord lives; till morning lie thou still.

And till the morning at his feet she lay,

And then arose about the break of day;

And he gave her a charge, not to declare

That there had any womankind been there.

He also said, bring here thy veil, and hold

To me; she did, and thereinto he told

Six measures full of barley, and did lay

It on her, and she hasted thence away.

And when unto her mother-in-law she came,

Art thou, said she, my daughter come again?

Then what the man had done she told, and said,

He these six measures full of barley laid

Upon me, for said he, This I bestow,

Lest to thy mother thou should’st empty go.

Then, said she, sit still daughter, till thou see

What the event of this intrigue will be;

For till the man this day hath made an end,

No satisfaction will on him attend.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 2

We’re reading John Bunyan’s versification of the Book of Ruth found in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. In chapter 1 we saw Naomi and Ruth leave Moab upon hearing that the drought in Israel ended. Naomi took Ruth, her daughter-in-law, with her to Israel after much protest on Naomi’s side. Both their husbands and Naomi’s other son died in Moab. Naomi, now called Mara due to the bitterness she experienced in life, encouraged her daughter-in-law to glean some wheat from the fields to put food on their table. And so the story continues…

In Chapter 1 we saw the The story of Ruth’s introduction into Israelite society continues.

RUTH – CHAP. II.

There was a man of kin to Naomi,

One that was of her husband’s family,

His name was Boaz, and his wealth was great.

And Ruth, the Moabitess, did intreat

Her Mother’s leave, that she might go, and gather

Some ears of corn, where she should most find favour:

Go, daughter, go, said she. She went and came

Near to the reapers, to glean after them:

And lo, it was her hap to light among

The reapers, which to Boaz did belong.

Behold, now Boaz came from Bethlehem

Unto his reapers, and saluted them,

And they bless’d him again: and he enquired

Of him that was set over them he hired,

From whence the damsel was, and was inform’d

She was the Moabitess that return’d

With Naomi: and she did ask, said he,

That here amongst the reapers she might be,

And that she might have liberty to glean

Among the sheaves. And she all day hath been,

Ev’n from the morning until now, with us,

That she hath stay’d a little in the house.

Then Boaz said to Ruth, observe, my daughter,

That thou go not from hence, or follow after

The reapers of another field, but where

My maidens are, see that thou tarry there:

Observe what field they reap, and go thou there,

Have I not charged the young men to forbear

To touch thee? And when thou dost thirst, approach

And drink of what the youths have set abroach. [‹1.4›]

Then she fell on her face, and to the ground

She bow’d herself, and said, Why have I found

Such favour in thine eyes; that thou, to me

Who am a stranger, should so courteous be?

And Boaz said, it hath been fully shewn

To me, what to thy mother-in-law thou’st done,

Since of thine husband thou hast been bereft:

How thou thy father and thy mother left,

And thine own native land; to come unto

A land which thou before didst never know:

The Lord, the God of Israel, the defence

Whom now thou’st chosen, be thy recompence.

Then said she, let me in thy sight, my lord,

Find favour in that thou dost thus afford

Me comfort, and since thou so kind to me

Dost speak, though I thereof unworthy be.

And Boaz said, at meal time come thou near,

Eat of the bread, and dip i’ th’ vinegar.

And by the reapers she sat down to meat,

He gave her parched corn, and she did eat,

And was suffic’d; and left, and rose to glean:

And Boaz gave command to the young men,

Let her come in among the sheaves, said he,

To glean, and let her not reproached be.

Let fall some handfuls also purposely,

And let her take them without injury.

So she till even glean’d , and then beat out

Her barley, being an ephah [‹1.5›] or thereabout.

She took it up, and to the city went,

And to her mother-in-law did it present:

And what she had reserv’d to her she gave,

When she had took what she design’d to have.

Then unto her, her mother-in-law did say,

In what field hast thou been to glean to-day?

And where hast thou been working? Blest be he,

That thus hath taken cognizance of thee.

She told with whom, and furthermore did say,

The man’s name’s Boaz, where I wrought to-day.

And Naomi replied, may he be blest,

Even of the Lord, whose kindness manifest

Unto the living and the dead hath been:

The man’s our kinsman, yea, the next of kin.

And Ruth, the Moabitess, said, he gave

Me likewise a commandment not to leave,

Or to depart from following his young men,

Until they had brought all his harvest in.

And Naomi said unto Ruth, my daughter,

‘Tis good that thou observe to follow after

His maidens, that they meet thee not elsewhere.

So she to Boaz’s maidens still kept near,

Till barley and wheat harvest both, she saw

Were done, and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

Poetry: Ruth, Chapter 1

The author of this poem is John Bunyan (1628-1688), an English Protestant minister and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. He versified the Book of Ruth in the Bible just for the fun of it. The Book of Ruth tells the story of king David’s great-grandmother who followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to the Land of Israel after the deaths of their husbands. I am tempted to summarise the story, but you will have to either read the account in the Bible or the narrative poem presented here. So, here is Chapter 1.

CHAP. I.

In ancient times, e’er Israel knew the way

Of kingly power, when judges bore the sway:

A certain man of Bethlehem Juda fled,

By reason of a famine that o’erspread

The land, into the land of Moab, where

He and his wife, and sons, sojourners were.

His name Elimelech, his eldest son

Was called Mahlon, t’other Chilion,

His wife was Naomi, Ephrathites they were:

They went to Moab and continued there:

Where of her husband Naomi was bereft,

And only she and her two sons were left:

Who took them wives of Moab in their youth.

The name of one was Orpah, t’other Ruth:

And there they died ere twice five years were gone;

And Naomi was wholly left alone.

Then she arose, and her step-daughters with her,

To leave the land of Moab altogether:

For she had heard the Lord had visited

Her native country, with increase of bread,

Wherefore the land of Moab she forsook,

And to her native place her course she took,

Her daughters with her: whom she did desire,

That to their mother’s house they would retire.

The Lord, said she, be kind to you again,

As you to me, and to the dead have been.

God grant you each may be with husbands blest,

And in the enjoyment of them both find rest,

Then she embraced them, and there withal,

Down from their cheeks, the tears began to fall.

They wept aloud, and said, Most surely we

Unto thy people will return with thee.

But Naomi replied, Wherefore will ye,

My daughters, thus resolve to go with me?

Are there yet any more sons in my womb,

That may your husbands be in time to come?

Return again, my daughters, go your way,

For I’m too old to marry: should I say

I’ve hope? Should I this night conceive a son?

Would either of you stay till he is grown?

Would you so long without an husband [‹1.3›] live?

Nay, nay, my daughters, for it doth me grieve

Exceedingly, even for your sakes, that I

Do under this so great affliction lie.

And here they wept again. And Orpah kiss’d

Her mother, But Ruth would be not dismiss’d

But clave unto her: unto whom she spake

And said, Behold, thy sister is gone back,

With her own gods, and people to abide,

Go thou along with her. But Ruth replied,

Intreat me not to leave thee, or return:

For where thou goest, I’ll go, where thou sojourn,

I’ll sojourn also. And what people’s thine,

And who thy God, the same shall both be mine.

Where thou shalt die, there will I die likewise,

And I’ll be buried where thy body lies.

The Lord do so to me, and more, if I

Do leave thee, or forsake thee till I die.

And when she saw the purpose of her heart,

She left off to desire her to depart.

So they two travelled along together

To Bethlehem, and when they were come thither,

Behold! the people were surprised, and cried,

What, is this Naomi? But she replied,

Oh! call me Mara, and not Naomi;

For I have been afflicted bitterly.

I went out from you full, but now I come,

As it hath pleased God, quite empty home:

Why then call ye me Naomi? Since I

Have been afflicted so exceedingly.

So Naomi return’d, and Ruth together,

Who had come from the land of Moab with her:

And unto Bethlem Judah did they come,

Just as the Barley Harvest was begun.

The Fight

Samson squeezing two pillars in a Philistine Temple

Samson bringing the house down

And now a story I shall write;
It shall be about a fight:
In Israel a man there was
With arms of steel, heart of brass
Battle-hardened stripes had he
Many sprung from trickery.
Hair as long as he was tall,
His weapon once a donkey’s jaw.
What fame he held
As he Philistines felled;
In vengeance and passion
They died in like fashion.
That is, until a woman he met.
To win her love he made a misstep,
Confiding in her where lies his strength.
So her people him to naught did rend;
For she shaved his locks of dread
And he to the Philistines was fed.
The Spirit of God from him departed
Until his faith anew was started.
His gauged out eyes deterred him not
As a servant boy led him to a spot
Between two columns he rested his arms
He prayed, the Philistines stayed unalarmed,
Then he squeezed the two columns
Turning a jovial moment solemn.
Thus, in the end, he won the fight
A man’s strength lies not in his might,
Neither in his passion nor in fashion
But being the Lord’s dearest possession.

Book Review – Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament

Have you ever read a book that was better the second time round? Well, that’ what it felt like reading Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament church (Autumn House ® Publishing). Jack J. Blanco picks up the Biblical narrative just before the ascension of Christ in Acts 1 and follows the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire during the time of the apostles. He retells the events St. Luke recorded in the Book of Acts using simple English and little melodrama. 

Witness: Acts through Revelation

Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament Church

Witness was written to help theology students understand the New Testament by placing the events and the letters in chronological order. To this end, he discarded with chapter and verse numbering; instead he concluded each section with Scripture references. Furthermore, he included major Christian doctrines leaving out those portions of Scripture that impeded the flow of the narrative and tended to confuse readers. I did not notice these gaps nor did they offend me because I knew that the work was intended for one’s reading pleasure and clarification. Sometimes too much information bogs you down.

The author intended the book to be a simplified, flowing version of the Bible narrative which I believe he succeeded in creating. The letters Sts. Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude wrote to their respective audiences were placed in chronological order. Jack Blanco vividly describes the shipwreck Sts. Paul and Luke experienced on the shores of the island of Malta (Acts 25,26). Portions from St. Paul’s letters were used to complete the narrative since the Book of Acts does not contain all the details of St. Paul’s imprisonment.

It was with great eagerness that I turned to the final chapters of Witness to see how Jack Blanco would simply the Book of Revelation. I was impressed with how he maintained the use of simple language. I was, however, disappointed by the portions of Scripture he left out in his paraphrasing of Revelation 1. He handled the description of Revelation chapters 10-14, 19-22 well, I think. I noticed that Witness does not include the time prophecies reminding the reader of its purpose to inform.

Overall, it was a good read. Witness answered some questions I had as it placed events and letters in context. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a plain explanation of the New Testament without the possibility of getting sidetracked by or lost in the complexity.

Below you can compare the rendering of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 by Witness (WIT), The Message (MSG) and the No Greater Love (NGL). All three books are paraphrases of the Bible.

WIT: You need to think of us as servants who have been entrusted with the secret things of God. What is expected of servants? They must be faithful to their master. It doesn’t matter what you think of me or what a human court decides about me. I don’t even make decisions about myself. I let God do that. Even though I don’t know of anything that I’m doing wrong that doesn’t justify me before God. That’s why I leave everything about myself in the Lord’s hands. He’s the One who reads motives and brings everything to light. In time we will each receive praise from God, not from someone else.
NGL: So Appollos and I should be looked upon as Christ’s servants who distribute God’s blessings by explaining God’s secrets. Now the most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to. What about me? Have I been a good servant? Well, I don’t worry over what you think about this, or what anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but even that isn’t final proof. It is the Lord Himself who must examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, he will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord’s work. At that time God will give each one whatever praise is coming to him.
MSG: Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. So don’t go ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dream of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will anyone of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.

Winds of Change: Days 188-192

Reader be warned: This post contains mature subject matter.

On the porn front

Nudity, art, beauty & truth

These past few days were emotionally taxing because of my revelation in my previous Winds of Change post. In that post, I confessed to looking for photos that involved innocent nudity in an aesthetically pleasing way–not the pornographic trash I craved in the past. The searches I performed upset my moral compass and were filled with a lot of ambiguity because I learned that you can look at pictures of naked (preferably NOT frontal nudity) without lust or being driven by lust. My intentions were sound, I believe, but what I did was filled with a lot of ambiguity which made it difficult to judge where I was in the great continuum of grey areas and morality.

Let me explain. One of my triggers for looking at pornography or reading things involving sexuality was, and is, stress. (You can read my list of triggers here.) For the past couple of weeks, I was under a lot of stress. In the course of time, I found that when I am stressed pictures of waterfalls, lakes, seas, beaches, swimming holes and people swimming at these places calm me down. That is why I searched for those pictures. With the affirmation I got from my accountability partner that the nudes I liked in the 10 Flickr Favourites post, I searched for such pictures to my hearts content averting my eyes when I saw stuff I hate to see. The kind of joy and excitement I experienced was the same as when a moderator on a Christian porn recovery forum showed me that shaving one’s pubic is morally neutral.

But, the ferocity with which I conducted those searches made me question my motives and made me uncomfortable. Hence my resolve to not Google stuff with the terms “nude” and “naked” and their derivatives. There is a verse that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 KJV.

A human anatomy book for artists I ordered arrived on Friday and I spent some time browsing through it. It had plates of male and female nude models to be used by the student to identify muscle groups, fat deposits and bones. And, yes, I studied those photos seeking to identify the bones, muscles groups and fat deposits I learned about. My chest tightened as I studied the figures. And I wondered whether art students had the same nervous response during their first figure drawing class. (Anyone care to answer?)

When I listened to a sermon on Saturday, I decided that I’m content with sculpting trees and animals. I like studying the form and shape of trees. They are beautiful specimens. And I am sure that God will direct me as to when I am ready to sculpt human figures if ever. I just don’t want to deal with the ambiguity of studying the human figure in the midst of the stress I am experiencing now.

Maybe I am lying to myself? Maybe I’m in denial? Maybe I’m still using porn and I’m just coming up with all sorts of rationalisations to allow me to look and secretly lust after people? In all honesty, I don’t know and I don’t want to know. If I am doing these things for those reasons, then the truth would crush me and send me into the worst kind of depression that will be VERY difficult to get out of. For a long time I believed the worst about myself which fuelled my addictions to pornography and masturbation. When I decided to have a better opinion about myself and my motives, my attitude changed and my circumstances changed too. Ultimately, God will prove me right or wrong. God is my judge. And I know that I cannot deal with the ambiguity of nudity in art at this point in time, so I will just put it on ice. Whether I get to sculpt the Bible scenes and my master piece I want, only time will tell. The most important thing to me is to sculpt.

By the way, I had a wet dream on Sunday morning.

Winds of Change: Days 140-142

Solo Retreat: The Real Makoya

Sunlight. Wind. Water. Plants. Trees. Flowers. Bees. Wasps. Frogs. Dog. Cold. Warm. Hot. Blinding. Joy. Peace. Quiet. Close. Intimate. Free. Dream. Reality. Treasure. Self. God. These are just a couple of words to summarise the weekend of my dreams. Yes, you heard me correctly: weekend of my dreams. I won’t treat you to my backstory, but suffice it to say that I always dreamt of going away in nature on my own.

On Friday, my parents dropped me off at the mountain cottage I rented for the weekend. The cottage is situated at the foot of the mountain and is the last of a series of cottages on a farm. There is a master bedroom that opens up onto a patio which has two sunbathing beds, a small rectangular table with four chairs, another (larger) round table without any chairs, a brick BBQ, a dip pool and an outdoor shower. The patio is completely private. The outdoor shower is located on the side of the cottage and has a view of the valley. The cottage has a master bedroom and two loft rooms one with two beds and the other with one bed. I slept in the master bedroom. There is only one bathroom with two entrance doors: one joins the master bedroom while the other joins the front of the house. The bathroom has a shower, a toilet, a bath, a basin, and rails and hooks for towels. The cottage also had a fully equipped, open plan kitchen with a small dining area and lounge. There was a fireplace too.

Most of the time I was outside on the patio either reading or soaking up the sun nude. Yes, I was naked outside and I didn’t feel any sense of shame, fear, or guilt. The patio was completely private. The mountain was my backyard and no one could see me from any direction as long as I stayed on the patio or close to it. There I sunbathed, skinny dipped, walked around and showered naked. I was free to do it without having to fear arrest or misinterpretation. It wasn’t some counterfeit or fantasy I concocted in my head. It was the real makoya (as they say in Africa), the real deal. I wasn’t naked all the time. My periods of nudity and being clothed were balanced. (Although I was more nude than clothed since I slept that way. I was not naked unnecessarily though.)

I really wanted to photograph the stars on Saturday night but the wind was incredibly strong and would’ve knocked the tripod over. I got very little sleep Friday night because I remembered all the horror movies I had watched during the course of my life. It was pitch black dark outside on Friday night and awfully cold too. Clouds covered the mountain and an icy cold wind blew throughout the night. The wind was warmer on Saturday night though. Daytime was hot although the sun seemed harsher on Sunday morning than on Saturday. I think it’s because I sunbathed such a lot on Sunday.

I mostly read Restoring Your Sexuality Back To Biblical Foundations which I finished by the way. I started on Revive Us Again! on Sunday, although I had read the introduction on Friday night. On Saturday, I also read a sermon on the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) just to break with the theme. I was in heaven.

As the sun was setting on Saturday afternoon and as I spoke to the Lord while looking over the valley, I couldn’t help but sing this song:

It really captures the essence of the weekend.

I learned a lot of things this weekend about myself and about God, but mostly about God. No amount of words can express what it feels like to have your dream realised: to commune with God in nature; not hear any city sounds; not worry about offending people with your nudity, breaking the moral law, or being arrested; hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees and plants; see bees, wasps, butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds fertilise plants; feel the wind caress your body, the sun bathe your body in light and warmth; hear only nature’s voice while reading your Bible and pondering life’s complexities. I almost cried for the joy of it all.

My next Solo Retreat will be in 2016. But, I think it will be earlier than that, but definitely not this year. I can’t wait!

Edit: I should add that I was afraid that someone might drop by unannounced to see how I was. I wondered what course of action I would take just in case it was a woman: should I cover up? How do I go about it? What do I say? The only one who saw me naked was the dog and it didn’t bother him one bit.

At night I walked around the house naked (not all the time) with the lights on. I made sure to stay away from the lounge where the owners could see me when naked inside the house. One wouldn’t want to push one’s luck.

Winds of Change: Days 99-104

Bible Conference

As you all know, I attended a Bible Conference this weekend. The conference ran from Friday evening to Monday night. There were morning and evening plenary sessions, two afternoons of community outreach (during which we went door-to-door knocking giving out a “newspaper” with my church’s doctrines, DVDs on health and Bible prophecy and two other items), and break out sessions the Sunday and Monday mornings. The break out sessions I attended were on evangelism. The messages were inspiring and really made you do introspection.

Convicted?

During one of the plenary sessions I was felt convicted to give up the outdoor nudity activities I planned on doing at my solo retreat in January next year. This soon led me to question and doubt the moments I spend naked when alone at home which doesn’t happen often. I surrendered these to Christ saying, “Thy will be done and not mine.” And hoped that that would be the end of it. But boy was I wrong!

You see, I don’t want anything to be wrong with being nude in the privacy and solitude of my own home.  I spoke to my accountability partner about this and he basically said it’s between me and God, but personally he doesn’t see anything wrong with being naked in your own home as long as your intentions are pure. (Right now my mind is racing. I don’t know where to begin with what I want to say, but let’s start here.)

Background Information

Nocturnal masturbation

I wasn’t actually planning on sharing this with you, but you need background information . . . During the initial stages of the previous abstinence period (May-July 2012) during which I abstained from masturbation, I contacted Fred Stoeker, one of the authors of the Every Man series. I told him of my dilemma with masturbating in my sleep. You see, I began fighting masturbation during the 10th grade. As time passed, I gradually weaned myself off from masturbating during the day, by God’s grace. When I returned from a stint of missionary service in Korea, I had problems giving up masturbating at night. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and do it–sometimes using my clothes and other stuff. When I began the previous abstinence “run” I didn’t want to masturbate at night anymore. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I reached out to Fred Stoeker for help. He said that I was stressing too much about the whole thing, that I should leave it in God’s hands and not worry about the matter anymore. I did this and it worked.

Pubing

Now during this time I signed up to the Fred Stoeker Message Board where I dealt with another issue of mine: the shaving of pubic hair. Because I was introduced to porn and masturbation at an early age–just as I began developing secondary sexual characteristics, i.e. pubic hair, deepening of voice, etc.–I associated these with my insatiable desire for  solo sex. In frustration one day, I cut my pubic hair with a pair of nail scissors thinking that doing so will solve my problem. I was 13 years old at that time. Well, it didn’t. Then when I lived with my uncle and his family, his son-in-law reintroduced me to the concept of pubic hair shaving. I took to it immediately. During my time in Korea, I bought a couple of beard trimmers (not all at once) and kept my hair short on a regular basis. I liked the “clean” look. But, the practice had a lot of baggage attached to it.

So, when I joined Fred Stoeker’s Message Board the issue arose and one of the moderators helped me. I told him everything I just told you including how many times I promised not to trim my pubic hair: that I would only trim it when I’m married one day, let my wife trim it and not me, that I bought and threw away numerous body hair trimmers, that I kept one of them vowing to only use it when I’m married, etc. He told me that in the greater scheme of things, it’s no big deal, that I was inventing man-made rules which made my burden even heavier. There were times when I would cry on the bathroom floor because of this insane desire to trim my pubic hair. I found it erotic.

Arguments were flung to and fro in my mind as I debated the sanctity of the practice. Egyptians used shave the pubes. The practice was particularly popular among Egyptian prostitutes. God gave man pubic hair–surely it wasn’t His intention that we shave that area? And yet we shave our beards, moustaches, leg hair, back hair and other areas of our bodies? Muslims obey al-Fitra which demands that they shave their pubes at least every 40 days. When the moderator said that it doesn’t matter, I immediately had peace. But then I started to worry: what will my parents think of me shaving my pubic hair? Won’t they laugh at me? But my mom and sister trim? My dad trims my mom’s hair when he’s here at home. My dad used to trim his own but his belly got in the way over the years. So, I decided to speak to them about my practice casually, jokingly at first but then I began to inquire about their practices. Now, I have no problem with shaving my pubic hair. I used to trim it with a nose hair trimmer but it drew unwanted attention. Now I shave.

Personal Nudity Concerns

I’m hoping that my personal nudity time will follow the same route. This situation reminds me a lot about the pubic hair situation I just described. I honestly don’t think that God has a problem with us walking around naked in the comfort of our own homes as long as we’re not visible from the outside and we don’t break the gender barrier, i.e. the separation of men and women when naked. But, my worry is what will my fellow church members think of me and my practice? Will they condemn me? Will they disfellowship me? Will I lose their respect? Last year I asked some church members on an unofficial forum and they didn’t have any problem with it as long as I keep to myself and not expose my naked self to others. 

When I was in Korea I used to visit jjimjilbang and mokgyotang (Korean spas and public bathhouses) for the thrill at first, but later I sought the establishments out for relaxation. For the record, nothing sexual happens at Korean public bathhouses. Many missionaries from my church visited such places in their locales. Of course, during that period in my life, I was still tightly in the grip of pornography and masturbation so I was always on the look out for sexual stuff–not that I wanted to participate. That was before I learned that nudity isn’t always sexual. And it definitely wasn’t in Korean public bathhouses.

So, I don’t understand why I have a problem with it. I guess I’m just looking for approval from family members and church members. I also tend to feel guilty very easily even when I’m not responsible for stuff. Personal, private nudity like pubic hair shaving, photography, sculpting, card making, and other art stuff, is very dear to my heart because it’s a form of self-expression. I value self-expression.

By the way, I had a wet dream yesterday (day 103) and today (day 104).

Precious

This poem was written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.

A splash of water on my face
the beginnings of that which I can’t contain
trickling down to the base of my spine,
down my arms that are intertwined.
Like rocks falling on roofs of tin
so hard the drops pelt my environment;
cover I seek but no place to hide
in the downpour I must abide.
The overcast sky our joys belies
as the rain merciless summer fries;
Engulfed in loud, horrendous ululation
as the Lord brings peace to a war torn nation
caught in the worst of droughts
making even the strongest doubt
God’s existence; was it not His prescription
that keeled this land in desperation?
But, true to His word,
as I’ve been assured,
He ever will be;
yet three and a half years
felt like eternity!

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