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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Divorce, Albert Einstein and Stupidity


In a recent day’s reading out of the little devotional book “Our Daily Bread,” there was a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that said, 

          “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity,                                and I am not sure about the former.”

I must admit, I am rather taken by that thought.  I have done plenty of stupid things in my life and have observed others doing pretty stupid things as well.  In addition,  how often have you observed arguments between individuals and just thought how stupid it was to be arguing about whatever it was?  

The classic example, of course, is the children who argue over who rides shotgun and who is crossing the invisible boundary line in the back seat.  But alas and alack, it isn’t only children who act stupidly.  Personally, I might be wrong, but I categorize all the hooplah about the “Blood Moon” and the end of the world talk as an example of stupid (with the exception of course of those who found a way to convince people to buy their materials on the topic and made a fortune from it)!  

I always think the most important verse about the second coming is found in the words of Jesus in Acts 1:7.  In regards to the timing of the end of the world, Jesus says, in my paraphrase:  “It isn’t any of your business.”

Everything else we reflect on should be guided by that simple instruction.l  

Do stupidity and divorce have anything to do with one another?  Sure, lots of times.  Like people who are 50 and divorce their life partner to run off with somebody in their 20’s in the hopes of being young again.  Or individuals who divorce not because of a truly tragic marriage, but simply because they think the grass is greener next door.  Sometimes people get divorced because they don’t appreciate what kind of person their partner really is, and instead choose only to focus on their shortcomings and ignore the strengths that they loved in the first place.  And individuals who throw away decades of investment into a marriage relationship, thinking that it won’t make any difference in their lives, but instead find themselves starting from scratch again in so many ways.  

However, I think the place to find the most stupidity is during the divorce process itself and the aftermath.  Stupidity is present when couples go to the mat fighting over who gets a toaster, or eking out revenge in nasty little ways, such as throwing possessions out into the street.  

I have known individuals who have gotten their divorce, and then suddenly turned into a completely different person, tossing aside the values they held for a lifetime and living a life of reckless abandon.  That reckless abandon usually catches up to them pretty quickly!  

There are others who use the aftermath of the divorce to declare their own personal war - and become obsessed with finding ways to make the life of their ex miserable -  and like the Japanese soldiers discovered in the Pacific Islands - fighting a war that had already ended years before. 

The stupidest thing, in my opinion, is when someone enters into another relationship (or sometimes even another marriage) before the ink has even dried on the divorce decree.  No time for healing, no time for reflection to gain stability or perspective, just jumping into a need based relationship to avoid being alone.  Granted, sometimes those marriages work out, but the successful ones in those circumstances are few and far between.

Divorce is hard enough with adding additional stupidity to it…believe me, there is enough stupidity in it already!  

If you are freshly divorced or in the process, I encourage you to realize you are at risk of making stupid choices because of the emotional upheaval you are in.  Making the time to get some wise advice from Godly people  - who can provide an objective perspective - can save you a ton of heartache down the road.   

Don’t let Einstein’s quote apply to the choices you make during and after your divorce!

By the way, if those folks are right and the world does end, you can send me an email saying you told me so…but you’ll have to use my new heavenly address, though!

Sunday, September 13, 2015



Probably the phrase that best describes the experience of divorce would be that it feels like your whole world is falling apart and you have no control over it at all.  

So many things are at risk:  your future, your finances, your friendships, your living space…the list is very long.  

With so much at risk, though, one discovers an important fact that so many of us take for granted when things are going well in our lives.  

I cannot begin to describe the value of the various relationships of my life to offer encouragement, comfort and support during that terribly trying time.  Family members offered refuge, love, a listening ear, and even financial assistance  - without which I would have had a much harder time.  Good friends encouraged me and stood with me, helping me to see God’s hand at work even in those difficult times.  Knowing that fellow Christians were praying for me helped me keep my focus and priorities.  In it all, I discovered the people I could count on in my time of need, and those, as the saying goes, who were fair weather friends.  The incredible thing is that I ended up amazed at how many great people God had placed in my life.  Family members offered support time and time again.  My mailbox filled with greeting cards of encouragement.  Friends invited me to spent time with them in various venues, such as playing games or eating out together.  Sometimes, when it was just what I needed, it was the willingness of these friends allowing me simply to unload my heavy heart over the phone. 

As my world fell apart - I learned through those experiences that no matter what else was going on that I was truly wealthy.  

I had a great treasure in the form of wonderful family and friends, people who truly cared about me and my children.  

I don’t suppose they realize how it meant to me for even the simplest things that helped me keep going on.   I can never fully repay these friends for what they did for me.  I can only hope I can be as good a friend and support for somebody else.  I guess that is part of the point in writing the Finding God books in the first place, to pass on some of the encouragement I received when I so desperately needed it.  It is rewarding for me that every now and then I hear back from folks telling me that the books have helped them.

Whatever your situation in life, I encourage you to realize the treasure you have in the friends and family members who care for you, however few or many they may be.  If you are in a time where you need that love and support, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask, because you will learn that most of them do want to help you, but simply don’t know how.  Odds are God has placed those people into your lives for a purpose, much as the biblical Queen Esther found that she was in the palace “for such a time as this.”  God provides for His people, but never forget He often works through the people He brings into your life.  If you get to feeling guilty about always seeming to be on the receiving end, remember you can always “pay it forward” as the saying goes, to someone you will know in need, at a future date.

For those of you who served as my treasures 17 years ago, thank you once again.  I don’t know what I would have done without you.  Your support and help has never been forgotten. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life's Play Book

It may just be me, but have you ever watched a good movie or television show involving relationships, and find yourself amazed at how the individuals know exactly what to say and how to say it to make everything work out before the end of the show?  Sometimes I wish I had a team of writers who would know what is going to happen in my life and my relationships and could simply hand me a script with all the right things to say and do to make all my relationships perfect so that everything is happily ever after. 

Real life, though…

Well, real life is messy.  Personal relationships do not follow a script.  People don’t always respond in the ways we might think they are supposed to, and odds are, we don’t always either!  Plans go awry.  People change and can be unpredictable.  Disappointments come.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.  And one of the results is divorce.

That is also why no parenting or marriage book is the last word…because children and spouses don’t always follow a script as easily as the books sometimes imply.  It is better to see them as resources filled with good ideas to try and to adapt as you develop your own personal relationships.  Some ideas will fit and work, some will be dismally useless in your situation.

I see this mentality elsewhere in our society.  I see lots of people, mainly young people, who love to play computer and other video games…I’m sure you know the names of a multitude of them.  What I have noticed is that, very often when they come to a part that is complicated that they cannot figure out, they resort to surfing the internet to find something called “cheat codes” that tells them how to jump ahead without having to figure it out or struggle through it on their own.   People just want answers to the hard challenges we face in life, and we want somebody to just give them to us.  “Give me a script.  Let me look up the codes.  It is all just too complicated!”

The truth is, life is rarely what we anticipate it is going to be.  Becoming an adult is far different from the imaginations of childhood.  Raising children doesn’t always end up with the results we hope for.  Career tracks sometimes get stalled.  Marriages fall apart.  But let us not forget also, that some things turn out much better than expected.  Whether things go well or poorly is not the point, rather, it is that the twists and turns of life rarely follow the scripts we write, and there aren’t often simple codes we can automatically plug in and make everything work.

I have been in plenty of situations that have left me confused or uncertain, and had many times it would have been nice to have a play book I could refer to that would lay out all the options with the best choice highlighted and underlined.  Instead, like everybody else, I have to make the best choices I can with the knowledge that I have, and sometimes those choices might even be mistakes.  Then, after I have made my choice, others will make their choices as well, not following a clear script either, and sometimes that all gets messy and jumbled up.  This is why forgiveness and understanding are so important.  It is also why we need second chances sometimes.  

Let me add though, that there is a script, and overall script that is the plan of God, and a “code book” we can turn to for some overall guidance in life.  

You see, God is always moving things into our lives and working in ways we can’t always see in our limited understanding.  Unlike the actors who have the entire detailed script in hand, with all the props and staging neatly described, we have the outline, and know the end story.  The chapters that make up our lives, we experience much like the individual who watches the move…one scene at a time.  The scriptures provide some structure within which we can operate best if we take the time to search them and follow the directions provided.  

Most of the time, though, we simply must trust the One who is the stage designer and director, to guide us through life’s winding pathways to the ultimate outcome of eternity with Him.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Opportunities of Being Alone


Years ago, there was a song popular by the rock group Three Dog Night named “One,” and the chorus of that song proclaimed that “one is the loneliest number.”  

Probably loneliness is one of the hardest things to face after a divorce, and it comes in many different forms.  Loneliness can be felt at night when you turn off the last light and hear nothing but emptiness in the house.  Loneliness can be felt when you are caring for a houseful of children and suddenly realize there is no one there to help.  Loneliness can be felt when you go out to eat and see tables filled with couples, or groups of couples…or maybe you are even with a group of couples…but you are there alone.  Loneliness can even be experienced by a glance at an empty seat in the car or at the table, by the smaller loads of laundry or the meals prepared that you realize are way too big for just yourself.  It can be hard when, after years of marriage, you walk up to the ticket box at the theater and respond to the question of, “how many?” by simply saying, “One.”

Even church can be a lonely place.  

Most churches include a lot of individuals who have been widowed, and those who have never yet gotten married, but sitting by yourself because your marriage has fallen apart is an entirely different kind of experience.  A friend of mine liked to remind me during my times of loneliness that there is a huge difference between being lonely and being alone, and that as a Christian, I was never really alone even if I felt very lonely.  He was, of course, right.  It’s just that it didn’t always feel like he was right.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the notion that it is probably best not to get into another serious relationship, until it is okay to be alone, to not be in a relationship.  I have long loved the verse found in Mark 1:35—

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”  (RSV)

Jesus was comfortable being alone.  In fact, there were times he clearly relished it.  He never married (despite fictional accounts in popular movies), and so his life was a life of solitude and friendships, not the life of a married man.  He never seemed to be concerned about whether he would ever find that “perfect girl” or not.  He clearly felt whole living his life single.  

We are most healthy when we are able to feel whole, even if living alone, the kind of wholeness that only comes from a relationship with God. 

Jesus, it seems to me, understood that there are opportunities that come with singleness that do not exist in marriage.  

Let’s consider the idea... Jesus, married.  Let your imagination go for a second...  (and I'll ask ahead of time for forgiveness...).

“What did you say, Jesus?  You have 5000 friends out on a picnic with you, and you didn’t even think to pack the picnic basket?  Do I have to think of everything?”  (Of course, if he WERE married, there would have been a picnic basket…the opposite gender tends not to be as forgetful about those things.)

“Okay, Jesus, I get that you feel called to be at travelling evangelist - but can’t we at least get an RV?”

“Yes dear, I understand that male bonding time is important.  But don’t those disciples have a home to go to once in a while?   I’d like some time with you just for the two of us.”

“Now Jesus, I can’t just have you running all over the place like that.  One morning you’re up way before dawn, wandering who knows where in those mountains and what if a lion attacked?  And you said you were going off to pray, and the next thing I know you are halfway across the lake walking on the water leaving me and kids to take the subway….and it hasn’t even been invented yet!”

I used to go to the all night store at 2:00 in the morning once in a while.  It was quiet there, and the lines were short, and I did not have to explain it to anyone.  Sometimes I ate breakfast food at supper and would change lunch plans at the drop of a hat…because I could.  I didn’t have to worry that my getting up to pray or turning on the lights to read was going to wake up anybody, because I was the only one there.  Being single means you can spend as much time alone with God in the Word and reflection as you want, without worrying that it is robbing time from your marriage partner.  Some of those silly things were part of what made being single okay.  And knowing I wasn’t really alone, made the loneliness more bearable when it hit. 

If you are alone these days, don’t let the loneliness be the only things you experience in this time.  Relish the opportunities that come with the gift of being alone for a while.  Jesus seemed able to do that, you can, too.

Monday, August 24, 2015

To Make Someone Love You


Many people I have met who have gotten divorced, describe it as a failed marriage and struggle with the idea that they are the ones who failed.  I am the first to grant that it is a real possibility that far too many divorces occur because of individuals who don’t try hard enough to work things out.  Although, there is a caveat to that statement, because sometimes it is that only one partner is willing to do the work of making the changes needed for a good marriage, the other either doesn’t care or has decided the their spouse is the only one with problems. 

I also would grant that one spouse sincerely praying and seeking God can often be the instrument of God’s change in the other spouse that brings healing and hope to a marriage.  But I would ask you, the reader, to also grant that sometimes that other spouse simply has no interest in making the marriage work or making in changes in themselves, even to the point of walking out.  In such cases, for a marriage to be God honoring, that disinterested spouse has to have a heart change for anything of substance to begin. 

This whole scenario reminds me of the time Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, and in tears weeping when he saw it, stating that so often he had wanted to draw the residents to himself, but they had refused.  

If Jesus himself could not “make” somebody love him who didn’t want to, why do we think that we should have been able to do so with a spouse whose heart has left the marriage?  

God can soften hearts, but it seems he also allows us to refuse to listen, and some choose exactly that.  If you sincerely tried, and put forth the effort to attempt to save your marriage or to help it become what a marriage should be, but it still failed, perhaps you need to grant yourself some grace.  On the other hand, if you are considering divorce, and haven’t really tried to change, or tried to talk it out, or spent time in counseling with your pastor or counselor…then maybe you are walking too early.

I find that the individuals who best handle the tragedy of divorce are those who can look back and confidently state that they really tried:  they gave it years of effort, they pursued counseling, they accepted that it wasn’t going to be perfect, they prayed, and they gave time and opportunity for God to work.  If, after having done those things in such a way that the conscience is clear with God, then when the gavel falls, one can walk away knowing that they gave it their best shot.  And the truth is, our best shot is all we can do in a lot of areas in life, because none of us are perfect, the fallen world in which we live has infected us all.

Did you honestly try?  Were the reasons you separated substantial and not trivial matters?  Did you spend time looking in the mirror, and work on areas God showed you there?  Solid answers to those questions lead to a more peaceful heart post divorce.  At least, it has for me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Secret to Life


Now and again I visit with individuals whose lives are touched by divorce.  Whether due to the end of their own marriages or their children or parents, they find they are impacted by divorce in some surprising and unexpected ways.  

A recent conversation related to someone who had just experienced a family event - a reunion or Thanksgiving - the first after a divorce and the comment was that the event felt odd with the spouse missing, having always had them there in the past.  It just didn’t “feel right.”  

My response was something along the lines of, “That’s right, it isn’t the same.  And it never will be again.  Neither will Christmas or Thanksgiving or birthdays or Mother’s Day.  That chapter is now over, never to be as it once was again.” 

This is most especially true if there are children caught in the middle of the divorce.  As the teenage child opens the Christmas present, there is not the spouse at your side with whom you can recall that morning when they were young and the wonder as they opened their presents from Santa…the shared memory is gone.  Maybe your tradition was to celebrate two Thanksgivings, for instance, one with each set of grandparents.  But now, you are no longer welcome at one of those homes.  It can even be as simple as a recipe that you are never quite able to make as well as your ex did.  It could be that the woman is now handling car maintenance issues she never had to deal with before, or the man has to balance the checkbook that his wife so long managed for them.  I won’t keep illustrating, because if it is part of your life, you have plenty of illustrations yourself.

Over time, you adjust to the changes, and sometimes individuals are thrilled that the changes have come after hard years, but not without recognizing there is loss.  

The story doesn’t end here however.  

As I intimated above, after divorce a multitude of changes come that highlight the loss of someone’s involvement.  However, with the loss also comes a plethora of opportunities.  

Since things will never again be just as they once were, you have the opportunity to create what they are GOING to be, and since you are starting many things over in life on your own, you get to design them in fresh ways that are meaningful for you.  

I encourage you to not let the grief of the loss so dominate your thinking that you miss the chance to make something special of what is left.  You can choose which things to keep and what new ideas to add.  Instead of an artificial Christmas tree you might cut a real one.  Instead of grilling out for Father’s or Mother’s Day, you might use the day to try a new restaurant.  

You get the idea.

The big secret is, nothing was going to be the same anyway, really.  

Things are always changing. Life is elusive.  We only have each moment.  

The people of today may live elsewhere tomorrow.  The toddler will one day be an adult with children of his own.  

Life is always changing, and it is a foolish thing to spend our lives trying to recapture a past that is past, when the secret of life is learning how to embrace the today and tomorrow that are coming our way.  

Whether due to a divorce or simply the course of life, embrace change as an opportunity God offers we can use to explore a new adventure in life.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Healing for the Abused


My wife recently got back from an international Christian conference in South Africa (which partly explains why the blogs have been sporadic of late!).   She has shared about the fellow believers she met from around the globe and the ministries she learned about through contact with them.  

Those ministries are something dear to my own heart, because I believe all too often that, at least our churches in the United States, become so consumed with our own little spheres that we fail to see the way God is moving or the needs that exist globally.  

God’s heart and work IS global.

My wife told me of divorce ministries she learned about that exist in Johannesburg and Australia, which reminded me that the struggles of divorce are also not merely an issue in North America, but are also global.  

Blogger gives me statistical data that confirms this statement.  On any given day I can look and see that where my readers are - and readers of this blog encircle the globe.  

In the world of divorce, none of us is really truly alone in our struggle…there are brothers and sisters wherever we are who share the same concerns.

One of the South African ministries my wife told me about breaks my heart, especially as a man.  It seems that in a certain area, women who come to report having been physically assaulted and abused by the men in their lives are able to make their police report, but then were left without any safe place to go afterwards.  

A woman of vision established a home to shelter these women and help them heal and to get on their feet.  Much like our battered women shelters in the United States  - these shelters give women the opportunity to heal and recover.

Unfortunately, this woman was called of God to serve in a different ministry for a few years, and then when it was complete, returned to find that the shelter had been stripped of all of its contents and even some of the structure damaged, because the person in charge had been terribly neglectful in their oversight.

What troubles me is that there is even a need for such a place in our world.  Men who choose to take their anger out physically on women are such a blight in our world, and such a garbage example of what masculinity is all about, that it sickens me every time I hear about it.  The abuse of men by their partners is also as sickening as well.  

Unfortunately, I have heard about it too many times in my life.  I wish I could say that these things only happen due to drunken and out of control men whose lives are such a mess but he truth is that even within churches this kind of behavior exists.   

It is not unknown that individuals who practice some of this kind of horrific behavior toward women and young girls served, currently serve or have been considered to serve in church leadership, both lay and pastoral.  I have no opposition to preventing leadership opportunities for these individuals and have done so in the past.   

 A number of years ago, I have been told there was a survey done by a woman’s magazine, seeking to learn what the primary concerns were for women around the world.  They expected to hear about lack of opportunity, concerns for the future of their children or things along that lines.  Instead, they discovered that a huge concern of women around the globe relates to the fear of abuse by the men in their lives.  

Actually, I should probably say the “males” in their lives, because I don’t believe that males who act that way are any way indicative of true manhood.   

I am sorry, women, that there are those of my gender who think they have the right to treat you that way.  And I am pleased when I hear of laws and efforts to help turn that tide.  And I am pleased at places like that shelter in South Africa - that seeks to be an effective refuge for women who have suffered this abuse.   

Frankly, this is one of the reasons I believe that, as long as the world is as sinful as it is, God knows there must be a place for divorce.  

I have known women crippled for life as they chose to stay in marriages and suffer time and again.  We hear news reports of women killed by their abusers.

I think God knew what he was doing when he made provision for divorce in the Bible, and though it isn’t spelled out precisely, I think God’s heart and compassion are with those who suffer in such marriages and desperately need to find a way out.  

Somehow, I am always reminded of the way Jesus responded to the woman taken in adultery.  A group of angry and self-righteous men were standing ready to bludgeon her to death with stones, and Jesus forced them to take a long hard look at themselves first.  (Point of thought - if she was caught in the act, why there wasn’t a man down there to be stoned along with her…?)

Ladies, pray for the men in your lives and in our world.  They need God.  They need the transforming power of God to swallow their pride, admit their wrongdoing and truly repent of their eggregious behavior.  Pray for our sisters who suffer and are so often trapped in such horrible and abusive circumstances.  

I will be praying, too, and do what I can to make a difference as opportunity arises.