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Sunday, November 23, 2014

25% of All Women


I was visiting with a friend the other day about that question.  It was a question used in a philosophy class I used to teach, that illustrates faulty logic.  If you answered yes, the implication is that you used to beat your wife.  If your answer was no, then the implication is that not only did you used to beat your wife, but you still are doing that.

None of which is the point of this blog.

 What IS the point? In recent months there have been a number of instances in the news of women whose husbands have beat them - news stories because the husbands have been professional sports players.  

Of all the divorces I have known, I have been most sympathetic to those women who have divorced over this very issue.  I understand that everyone experiences anger at times.  I understand that in a marriage, there can come times when our mates say or do things that frustrate us or anger us.  

To allow that anger to turn in to physical violence against a woman is crossing a very significant line.  

Approximately 14% of abuse occurs to men, I believe we hear less about this abuse because it is so awkward for a man to admit such a thing.  (National Domestic Violence Hotline)

Child abuse falls in the same category (and I am not one who considers corporal punishment as evil, but there are boundaries).  

I heard an interview the other day in which the discussion was whether there was any causal relationship between such physical sports as football or basketball and domestic violence.  The sports personality in the discussion felt that there is a higher degree of physical contact in the sports these days, and stopped just short of suggesting that it may have played into the incidents we have heard so much about lately.  

Perhaps he was right, but I disagree, because I don’t believe any of us have the right to dismiss our irresponsible behavior by explaining it away as caused by some eternal force.  I believe a better view of reality is to admit we are responsible for the choices we make, and when those are poor choices, we need to take long hard looks in the mirror, not find something or someone else to blame.  

In what I have learned of the battered woman cycle, very often the abuser will claim the wife is at fault for infuriating them, while the woman will often convince herself that if she was just a little more perfect or a lot more patient or any number of ways she believes it is HER fault that he raised his fist to her.  

Now, as I said above, I suspect there are very few couples who don’t get frustrated or exasperated at our spouse, but I have yet to find any couple where the beaten woman got that way because she lifted his arm and hit herself.  It was his choice to strike instead of walking away.  I know, I know, somebody out there is saying, “Yes, but what if she just keeps pushing and pushing, and badgering and badgering and really won’t get out of his face?”   I would reply, “Well, she certainly didn’t make things easier.  But he still made the choice to move the encounter to physical violence.”  

This is true whether the abuser is a simple laborer, a husky linebacker, a white jacketed doctor or a ribbon chested soldier.  

I also know that abuse is not always physical, but can be insidiously invisible through emotional manipulation.  I also know that the relationships of divorcing couples can become even more abusive than when they were living under the same roof.  

None of these things come anywhere close to living up to Paul’s call to submit to Christ and to one another, or for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church or as he loves himself, or for a wife to respect her husband.  

Certainly none of these were what God intended when he talked about the two becoming one flesh in marriage.  Sadly enough, abusive relationships are far too often tolerated in our society, and even in our churches.  

Somehow, I don’t think God will be nearly as tolerant when the final accounting comes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

All Around the World!


 I have been to Disneyland (twice I think) and to Disney World (once and once to their MGM park, if that counts), but it wasn't until adulthood that I was first able to visit either one.  One time I even rode the little ride about the small, small world, which may be kind of hokey, but I wanted to see it since I had such vivid memories of that song from my childhood when the song first came out.  (I’m sorry if I got the song stuck in your head…maybe Disney would pay me some advertising fees?)  But it occurs to me that the world has shrunk incredibly since the day the Disney Park opened that ride.  

One evidence to that effect came to me the times I have visited the little report section of the blog, that describes where the people are located who have come to read the blog.  One recent report listed the following locations outside the United States:  

United Kingdom

Other countries that I have noticed include Monte Negro (where someone I actually know resides), India, Zambia, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines and more.  I don’t generally know how or why they run across this blog (apart from the source reports that I don’t generally read anyway), but the fact that you individuals in these other countries find your way to this blog from a small Kansas town is proof that Disney was right:  it IS a small, small world.  

When someone is struggling with divorce, not only is it a small world, it can be a very lonely world.  I hope that seeing these countries listed will help point out that though divorce is a lonely experience, it is an experience shared by a great many people from one side of the globe to another.  As near as I can tell, there are very few places, if any, where divorce is not a big deal.  And I don’t believe there are many countries that would like to brag about their divorce rate as if fostering divorce was a great achievement.  I know some countries such as the Philippines do not officially allow divorce, as my friend Glenn Machlan mentioned in a blog a few months ago, so any divorce statistics from there would be skewed.  But it is worth noting that no matter where you are, if divorce has touched your life personally or through individuals in your family, there are others around who understand how hard that can be.

For those of you who happen to read this from outside the United States, I would be interested in hearing anything you might want to share about the experience of divorce or rules about divorce in your country.  You can email me at seasonsofdivorce@gmail.com    And I also want to say for those of you in the throes of divorce or its aftermath, when you feel the stress and heartbreak, recognize that there are other all around the world seeking encouragement in the same blog that you are, others who understand how hard it can be and how much it can hurt.  It may not be a profound blog tonight, or maybe it is more profound than I realize, but I just thought I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize that worldwide community of those whose lives have been touched by the loss of divorce.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How Much Money Will Make You Happy?


So have you heard the report about the divorce settlement that will be appealed because the wife was awarded only one billion dollars?  Really!  I don’t know how anyone could be expected to live on such a paltry sum, do you?  

On the other hand, according to one article I read, the husband ended up keeping the other 8 billion or so.  Do you think she was just being greedy?  Or is he the greedy one by keeping more than half?  Or, maybe both are greedy for keeping that kind of money when so many in the world are starving (which isn't saying that they don’t also support good charities, I don’t know, but even if they do, there is still lots of money left to be fought over).  

Some people will decide one or the other is way out of line, but ultimately, the judges will make the final decision, and the attorneys will stop by the bank with a big smile on their way home.

John D. Rockefeller was once asked asked how much money it takes to make a person happy, shrewdly replied, “just a little bit more.”  Acquisition of money can become an all-consuming drive.  And there often comes a point at which it is hard to tell whether the person has the wealth or the wealth has the person. 

In a time of divorce, greed is but one of the many passions that can come screaming to the surface.  Sometimes the battles aren't really from greed so much as they are from a desire to inflict pain, to seek revenge or to just get even for all the grievances the individuals holds against their spouse.  Sometimes one spouse will fight tooth and nail to get a particular item for no other reason than to keep their ex from having it.  

They plan things for the children in such a way to make sure the other parent is excluded from the activity.  Within the circle of people I know, I cannot even begin to describe the kinds of things I know have been done in the process of divorce.  

This kind of vicious battling that can take place was probably best depicted in the old movie, The War of the Roses,” with Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito.  People will do amazingly mean things in the process of divorce, and some of those things are very, very ugly and nasty.  Other people, cut loose from their marriage bonds, will go out and live as if there’s no tomorrow and no consequences for their wild choices, sowing seeds of personal destruction without a second thought.  

Divorce is truly a sad experience with all sorts of complicating outcomes.  Even in the most amicable divorces individuals experience difficulties they did not anticipate would be part of the process, and often the battleground is in the realms of money, possessions and, sadly, children.

I am a person who likes to go to estate sales and auctions.  My wife likes to say that individuals spend their whole lives gathering things they love, and then when they die, the kids sell it for a quarter in a garage sale!  As I have seen people’s houses emptied and the items sold, it serves as a stark reminder of the fact that life is not made up of money and possessions, even if there are billions of dollars’ worth.  I have heard it said that Jesus taught more about the way we handle money than any other topic.  I haven’t tried to double check that, but it would make sense, as our earthly income is certainly one of the most absorbing issues we have to deal with.  An issue that can make us or break us in many ways.  It seems that the more we grab at to make our lives better, the less we actually end up benefiting as we get caught up in the rat race.  I have always appreciated something one of my professors, Maynard Hatch, used to say:  “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win it, you’re still a rat!”

Whether you are divorced or not, perhaps hearing about this couple battling over billions of dollars in their divorce could help you examine your own life to see what it is YOU value enough that you would go to battle for it.  The Bible is pretty clear that there are only a few things worth giving your life to, and earthly possessions do not make the list. 

Do the things you give your life to make the list?  

Perhaps the following quote might help you sort out your answer to that question: 

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

-----Matthew 16:25

Wednesday, November 12, 2014



                                                          Believe in Love Again
 (Click on the words "Believe in Love Again" to be directed to You Tube to view the video)

One of my favorite responses I have ever gotten to my books is from a couple who, upon reading the first volume of the Seasons of Divorce book, decided they didn’t want a divorce and would go back to make their marriage work.  

That is not the normal response I get, but that was certainly one of the most touching.  

There is a story I once heard at a wedding, that I had included in our wedding when my wife and I got married ten years ago.  The story is of a couple’s marriage over the years, through happy and hard times, told with a narrative of anniversary celebrations, in which they always don their wedding garb, recite the vows again and have a picture taken.  Over the course of the story, various words from the vows strike them differently because of their life experience at the time.  One year “sickness and health” stands out, another year it is “richer or poorer,” until they come toward the end of life and recite “till death do you part.”  It is a very moving recitation, though I am not going to repeat it all here.

Down through the years I have seen far too many people step into divorce and not really consider the consequence, both in terms of what divorce really means, and in terms of what they are throwing away in the years of marriage.  

If there were only some way that we were all required first to consider very carefully all the angles before a filing can be done, it might change many divorces, though certainly not all. 

In regard to this topic, I happen to have a wife who is pretty internet savvy, and loves to find fun and interesting tidbits out in the world wide web, and she recently shared a pretty cool piece she found on “You Tube,” which is what this whole blog is introducing for you.  

So I invite you to join me and go watch a little video that might bring some hope and fresh meaning into your marriage relationship.  Click on the words "Believe in Love Again" below the picture at the top of the blog.  It will take you to You Tube to view the video.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Power of Healing


Time flies when you are having fun.  

Time waits for no man.  

Time is of the essence.  

Time is money.  

One of my favorites was on one of my high school teacher’s desk, which said, “Time is passing.  Are you?”  

Of course, there is the favorite of many, Time heals all wounds.  Or, as one of the Kooky Plaks I used to have said, “Time wounds all heels.”

Time can do a lot of things.  And there are lots of views about time, but do you think time actually heals all wounds?  I’m not so sure.  I do think the intensity of the pain from a traumatic event tends to diminish over time, but diminishing is a not the same thing as healing.  

I also think that one’s focus on a painful event will also diminish as time moves on and new experiences and opportunities take center stage.  But again, that is not the same thing as healing.  Finally, the new perspective about an event that one gains by being able to look back on it from the distance of time makes a difference in the impact of that event, but again, that is still not the same as healing.

The wounds of divorce can run deep, as do the wounds from abuse, molestation, war combat, abandonment, rape or any of the truly traumatic events of life.  What can we count on time to do?  

It would be nice to say that as time passes things get easier, but that is not always the case.  

Speaking from the context of divorce, there are many differences that time makes.  Some of them are good, some not so good.  Financially things can get better, because usually you will be paying fewer attorney fees (and hopefully eventually none), and issues like child support checks and maintenance (alimony) go by the wayside.  Emotionally things generally improve, depression and mood swings start to dissolve as you begin to stabilize into a new life situation and have fewer entangling issues to stir things up.  In terms of the perspective time gives, that also is an improving thing, because you can begin to see life and marriage through different lenses, and maybe even realize that how things were wasn’t such a great relationship after all.  Time mercifully shifts your focus away from the pain of the divorce, because there are new life choices to be made and bills to be paid, and the encounters with the court and your ex become fewer and fewer.  And so it is very true that the passing of time does make a difference.

On the other hand, time can never heal the sense of loss that one experiences, as you no longer have the opportunity to share together about the memories of your children’s young life, and no one to fill in the blanks or help you remember details.  Time can never give back the years spent in a relationship that may have been doomed from the start, though you may have tried and tried to make it work over the years.  Time will bring perspective about your failed marriage, but it will not change the fact that the marriage failed.  Sometimes one spouse plays mind games with the children, resulting in hurtful relationships that extend for years.  Even scheduling for time with your children for holidays serves as a reminder of the ongoing complications of divorce.  

There are things that time does not heal.

Time plays an important role in healing, but doesn’t bring healing itself.  Just as a physical wound will heal over time as long as it is properly cared for, and will fester and grow worse if not treated right, so the wounds in our hearts can experience healing or festering, depending on the care we provide.  

Nursing of grudges and hurts, rehearsing over and again slights suffered and dwelling on the memories of mistreatment lead to the festering of grudges and bitterness, poisoning our personality and our relationships.  Allowing time to instead provide some perspective and perhaps some distance from the intensity of the struggle is a step in the direction toward healing, especially if you utilize the time to learn the art of forgiveness. 

But the deepest healing comes when we lay our hearts open before God, with all the hurts, all the resentments, and those terrible things that plague our memories, and invite God to guide us in the right direction and provide the healing we cannot achieve on our own.  Psalm 147:3 specifically assigns this role to God, where it says that, 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

Healing doesn’t mean your life hasn’t changed or been affected.  Nor does it mean you no longer remember.  But it means that the wounds no longer have the power they once did, and that the direction of their influence is toward less impact, rather than growing into bigger issues.  

Remember, even Jesus had scars to show the disciples from the wounds he suffered.  But those scars did not prevent him from entering into life in its fullest sense, nor need they prevent us either.  And, by the way, thanks for “taking the TIME” to read my little blog today.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Politics and Divorce - and Making Choices


How do you make decisions?  Sometimes it can be very hard.  There is lots of advice out there giving lots of suggested methods, they can become very confusing.  I wanted to raise just a few thoughts in general about this, in part because it is so much a part of divorce, and in part because of something I saw on the television recently. 

In the process of divorce, there are lots and lots of choices that have to be made, many of which are not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.  I remember times I would have liked the choices to be between issues that were black and white, but it seemed that there were an infinite number of grays instead.  
Some people make their choices based purely on self-interest.  

Others make their choices based on inflicting pain and taking vengeance.  

Some make choices based on what they think would be pleasing to God, what they think is “right,” or what they think will be most effective.  

And still others make their choices based on how the decision will affect their children.  In the process of divorce, probably most people experience a bit of all of these.

If you will bear with me, I’d like to illustrate this issue of choices from a topic current in the U.S. right now.  Recently, as this year’s election cycle was gearing up, I heard a clip from a statement President Obama made, I think this statement was made in response to a question regarding how he felt about Democrats who were distancing themselves from him in their election run.  In this election cycle, they are having to decide whether they want to align themselves with President Obama and the things he has stood for, or whether to distinguish themselves from him as having a different set of values or agenda.  And in a political race, those are the kinds of choices candidates have to make.  After acknowledging that these individuals are allies who are with him in what they vote for, he ended his comment by saying, “I tell them — I said, you do what you need to do to win.”  

When I heard that, I thought, “And that is exactly what is wrong with our political leadership these days, whether Republican, Independent, Tea Party and Democrat…any one of the groups could have made that same statement, because that is often how the candidates approach their elections.   

Now, do you recognize what that philosophy is?  It is what is known as, “The ends justify the means.”  The idea is, that if you end goal is a good thing, then it doesn't matter how you get there, all that matters is that you DO get there. 

It doesn't matter how many people you hurt or destroy, it doesn't matter whether you are honest or a liar, nothing matters except that you accomplish the end goal.  It is actually one of the most reprehensible codes of ethics around.  And it is one that far too many political candidates adhere to.  Instead of standing for something noble, the goal is to win an election, because they believe you can’t accomplish anything if you don’t win.  

So it is all about winning. 

Hence we see distorted facts, candidates whose stance changes with the winds of opinion, and a government filled with politicians but devoid of true statesmen.  Because all they care about is winning, and they will sell their souls to do it.

How about those of you who have gone through (or are going through) a divorce?  Do the ends justify the means for you?  Does all sense of principle fly out the window so that you can get what you want in the divorce process?  Have you allowed the hostile process of divorce to make you sell your soul for the hope of winning in court?

I have known far too many who have been willing to lie about assets, to manipulate court orders and interpretations, to use children as pawns and spies, to suddenly start living their lives in ways they NEVER would have before, and blame it all on the emotional upheaval of divorce.  They are selling their souls, betraying their character, and damaging themselves far more than they damage their ex or whoever they are seeking to send their rage against. 

If you are a person who stands for something, then you need to stand for that something no matter what life brings your way.  If you claim the name of Christian, then you need to take seriously the charge of scripture about the kind of person you need to be, and the choices you make in life, even when in the midst of a divorce.  (Or, if you happen to be a politician and a Christian, even in you campaign…to compromise even there means you are choosing winning an election over winning the approval of God.)

If you are facing hard choices in your life, whether related to an election, a divorce, a career, a new location…whatever, I believe that the best thing you can do in making a decision is to FIRST decide the basis out of which you will make your decisions.  If you make that basis that you are going to be a person of integrity, no matter the cost, you will have already made the hardest decision, and that decision can guide all the rest. 

Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  

Not to argue with Shakespeare, but for many people, this statement hinges on the definition of true and what is meant by “to thine own self.”  I think his intent was what is ultimately true about yourself, the most noble part of who you are.  If you are true to the best of your character, or in Christian terms, true to the person God created you to be, then he is right, you will naturally not be false to any other person.  To be less is to diminish yourself.  So go vote this week, and as you do, let that serve as a reminder to reflect on how you go about making choices in your life.

As you make your choices, I encourage you to make choices that enlarge your character and enhance your integrity.  Let others choose the way of smallness.  Regardless of the apparent results, such as winning or losing an election, the ultimate results are that you will always be the real winner in the game of life, even if you lose lesser things along the way. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marriage, Happiness and the World Series


You know that song?  It goes on to say your life should show it…it’s kind of a dumb song, but in the olden days, we were a captive audience when they made us sing it at camp and other places. 

They just didn't say marriage in the words of the song.  

I just read a book by a friend, which I would highly recommend, called, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome by Nancy Anderson.  

It’s a short, but very good book full of tips to help strengthen marriages.  You can check it out on her website at  www.ronandnancyanderson.com and the book is available in soft cover and ebook formats.  Very practical ideas.  

Anyway, in her book, she mentions a tough time in her marriage when she complained to her parents that she wasn't happy in her marriage.  Being wise parents, they challenged the notion that “being happy” is the purpose or basis of why one stays in a marriage.  I thought that was a pretty good comment, given the transitory nature of feeling happy.  I know I am always pretty happy when I get on a roller coaster….but just as I cross the top of the biggest hill, my happiness seems to stay on the hill as I zoom down the side with OTHER emotions!  

Nancy goes on to say that as she searched through the scriptures, she found that, indeed, God doesn't have in there a promise guaranteeing happiness.  But you and I both know a lot of marriages end because one partner or the other, or both, declare that they just aren't happy in their marriage anymore.  How do YOU respond to that?

What was interesting for me was that, shortly after reading her book, I happened to be at the church of a friend of mine, and the pastor was challenging people in their relationship with God, and said something like God’s desire was for us to be happy, not to be struggling in life.  

But I had just read my friend’s book, and found myself questioning his assertion.  

To make matters worse, I realized that in some modern translations, the word, “blessed” gets translated as “happy” in places like the Beattitudes:  “Happy are those who…”  

Is God’s goal for our lives for us to be happy?  

Probably depends on your definition of happy, and whether you are referring to continuous happiness here on earth, or ultimate happiness for all eternity.  Before I continue, let me refer to another quote about happiness that you probably know.

Add to that what I consider to be the wisdom of the U.S. Declaration of Independence when it mentions the unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  

Not happiness, notice, but the pursuit of it.  Kind of interesting, don’t you think?  

The founding fathers did not assume that life and liberty would mean that we would be happy 24/7; but they did assume it would provide us opportunities to pursue things that make us happy.  In the same vein, I really don’t remember ever hearing the word “happy” as part of the promise in the wedding vows.  “I, Froderick, take you, Elsie, to have and to hold, so that I will be happy every moment of every day of my life, and promise to make you happy every moment of every day over your life.”  I’m thinking that isn't how they go.

I have two responses I’d like to suggest.  The first that the scripture promises something different than happiness, it speaks instead of God giving us joy.  Many have pointed out that there is a huge difference between happiness and joy, describing happiness as a fleeting emotion based upon circumstances whereas joy springs from an inner confidence and relationship with God, regardless of the circumstances.  Hence Paul could write from a Roman prison, “Rejoice in the Lord, always,” (Philippians 4:4) or James 1:2 suggests that we “consider it all joy when we meet various trials,” clearly not the same as what most of us experience happiness to be.  

As I write, I am watching the World Series.  The fans in blue were very, very happy when their hitter got onto first base.  Their happiness diminished when the inning ended scoreless for them, and completely disappeared as the first Giant landed his foot on home plate.  And now they are happy again, from a RBI double that brought their first score.  And now they’re not happy at all because their batter got hit on the leg by the pitch.  

Happiness is just very fickle.  

Joy endures, because joy has its source in God, while happiness has its source in our response to the events of our lives.  In fact, Jesus explicitly says that he desires his joy will be ours and that our joy that will be full (John 15:11).  It seems to me that the implication is we should never settle for mere happiness, when we can know something far deeper in our lives.

The second point I want to make after noting that happiness comes and goes, is that there are other things that are more lasting that I think make better goals.  For instance, I've noticed that the runners of the races in the Olympics don’t look particularly happy at much of any time during the race.  They generally seem pretty intense, pretty stressed and incredibly focused…until they cross the finish line in first place.  Only AFTER their achievement do they experience the happiness of their accomplishment.  Take a look when that gold medal is placed around their necks, their smiles are almost too big to fit on their faces!  

So maybe our lives are meant to be like that, too.  When we take on the great challenges of life, when we put forth our best effort, when we see that hard things through to the finish, only then can we expect real happiness to set in, happiness from the fulfillment of having accomplished something significant.  At least, that’s what I have seen on the faces of couples celebrating a 50th anniversary, even though it wasn't on their faces every day leading up to it.  

There is something to be said in taking a long view in our desire for happiness.  When you have lived your life the way you know God designed you to be, and have been faithful to him and to your wedding vows there is a fulfillment of purpose that no fleeting earthly happiness could ever be worth even comparing to it. 

Somehow, I think we need to give ourselves to something bigger than mere happiness.  We need to give ourselves to making a difference in the lives of others.  Or to accomplish something that really matters.  Most of all, to be fulfilled in accomplishing the very things we were meant to accomplish, the things for which God designed us, the chief of which is living in right relationship with him.  

I think Nancy’s parents were right.  

For the married partners who want to get out merely because they are not as happy as they wish they were, they are forfeiting their opportunity for fulfilling joy of being able to look back upon a lifetime of ups and downs, trials and celebrations as they kept faithful to their marriage vows through it all, knowing it was worth every struggle they ever faced.  My first marriage didn't make that, but with God’s help, that will be the story of my current marriage, struggles and all!

I’d like to close by quoting the Serenity Prayer….the ENTIRE Serenity Prayer as written by its author, Reinhold Niebuhr, including the second half which is often ignored.  Maybe it will offer a new perspective on happiness for you.

“GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change, 

Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference. 

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace. 

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is, 
not as I would have it. 

Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will; 

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.