Saturday, June 30, 2012
The Value of Feedback
Got a few emails from blog readers recently, and wanted to share some things that struck me as I read over them. And, by the way, it is always good to hear feedback from you readers…..both encouragement and suggestions are always appreciated.
Anyway, there were four emails in particular that caused me to reflect. One was from a young fellow in ministry, who is happily married. In his case, he didn’t feel the need to connect with this blog, because it wasn’t relevant for his life. I am very pleased that is the case, it implies his marriage is sound and things are going well…..and that is always good.
The second email was from a pastor who has long been retired, and his comment was that in reading through the posts, he has learned a lot about what it must be like to have to go through a divorce. That made him appreciate the many faithful years he and his wife have had in marriage, and all the things he was spared by not having experienced divorce. But, interestingly enough, he also observed parallels between the divorce experience and other life experiences of separations, losses and fresh starts, and applied what he read to those situations.
The third email was from the wife of a pastor who has been in ministry many years. They, too, are happily married and have been for many years. She tells me that reading the blog has given her an awareness about these things that will impact her interactions with people divorcing, that she anticipates being more sensitive, more patient……other things.
All of that is kind of the point of the whole thing. If you are not divorced or connected with someone who is divorcing, then much of this may not apply to your life at all. On the other hand, like the second person, it may help you appreciate what you DO have in your life, and there may be lessons that apply in other areas of your life. OR…..and this is my favorite……if you are not directly impacted with divorce, the blog and book may help you understand better the great struggle that divorcing people often experience. These may give you tools and sensitivity to be an effective friend and support for struggling friends. Additionally, it gives you something you can refer your friends to for their own participation or benefit……encourage them to download the book (still working out details on the paper copy…will let you know), or send them the link to the blog. They don’t have to be alone.
And then, there is the fourth email. It was from a woman who is a widow. She has found that much of the material in the book and on the blog can easily be adapted to the experiences she has had in her widowhood. Perhaps you, too, have areas in your life that can be enhanced and enriched through these contacts. Well, whatever your track you fit into, thanks for reading!
TL:DR People have found varying usefulness to the things shared in the blog, whether divorced or not. It all depends on one’s perspective.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
God all around us
Know right now, I am NOT an ornithologist. Not even a bird watcher. Not really. But I do notice them. Remember that old song, “May the Bluebird of Happiness Fly Up Your Nose,”……..no, better not go there. Nonetheless, while the wife and I were down at the lake, we were wandering toward the shore from the cabin, and happened across a bluebird that appeared to me to be rather young, which may account for what we noticed. Didn’t look like the bluebirds I have seen before…..but it never turned to face us, so I didn’t get a front view. It was puttering around on the ground about 5 yards from us…..not sure what it was looking for, but it was just kind of wandering around there. My wife commented, and I agreed, that it was about the brightest blue she had ever seen in a bluebird. It really was. Almost iridescent…..and the bluebird probably doesn’t even know what that word means! Kind of a cool serendipity sort of moment. We stood and watched it until it finally flew away. Really striking.
One of my favorite quotes was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It goes like this:
“Earth's crammed with heaven,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
That bird was a good example. All around us, every day, there are sights, sounds and moments of wonder and beauty, if we will stop to look and take off our shoes, instead of gorging ourselves with the blackberries. That was a pretty cool moment for me, probably for us, but definitely for me. I also got a kick out of the little fish that would come and eat what we had stirred up on the rocks by the shore with our feet…..even getting within an inch of my toes to get to whatever it was as they flitted around in the water. Fish are fast, you know that? Well, hope you have some moments today. I plan on doing so.
TL:DR A chance encounter with a beautiful bluebird reminds us that there are special touches of God all around us if we look to see them.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
So my cousin looked at me a couple of weeks ago and said (though these may not be his exact words): “You look awful, like you have just had it. You need a break, and I KNOW I need a break. So when your help gets here for that weekend, you guys need to come with us and we’ll all go to the lake cabin for the weekend and do NOTHING!” (Every once in a while I get opportunities for something special like this…..other times I have to find other ways to relax.)
Well, I just got back from that weekend. He was right. Really right. Oh, we didn’t do exactly nothing…..but we did seriously break our routines, get away from the responsibilities and just take some time to relax and rejuvenate. You know, that isn’t exactly a new idea. Scripture says that God started it way back when, and folks have recognized the importance of rest pretty much ever since. And it becomes especially important in times of high stress, and when there are a multitude of demands on your time.
If you are in the midst of a divorce, or are a single parent after a divorce just trying to manage, then you KNOW that the stresses can be very real and very overwhelming. And if you are in process, it is so easy to obsess or get consumed with all the decisions and hassles that you don’t make time for rejuvenation for yourself. It is just as important for you to make that time to rest. I am not here talking about the notion of the Sabbath rest set apart for the worship of God. That, too, is important. But part of the instructions given for the Sabbath rest include not doing work…..ceasing from labor, or, as we say it today, having a day off! There are many of us who are pretty good at making sure the worship part of Sabbath is maintained, but have completely lost track of the importance of the rest from labor, too. In fact, many good Christian folks attend worship, and then fill the rest of the day with one project after another, never really taking seriously the command to rest.
Well, I’m back home now. Swam in the lake a couple of times. We all went out for a quiet meal that lasted a couple of hours. Wandered through a couple of flea markets. Read a few chapters in a book, and some articles in a magazine. Watched an old Clint Eastwood movie. Of course, there were some chores. The cabin required a bit of maintenance. Meals had to be prepared and the dishes had to be done (although I didn’t participate in the dishes part this time). But none of my normal work related activities made any progress. I even resisted the temptation to write up something for this blog! And it felt good. Work, of course, awaits now that I am back. But for a few days, work simply was excluded from my life.
So, how about you? Are you needing some real rest time these days? Maybe for you it is an evening at the movies. Maybe it is a weekend getaway like mine. Maybe it is an afternoon nap, or a picnic with friends. But whatever way you use to cease from your labors and rest, it is more than just a nice thought. It really does make a difference. The family laundry will be waiting for you when you get back. The lawn really won’t mind if it is one more day before it gets mowed (though the neighbors might grouse a bit). And your boss really doesn’t own you 24/7. Or, if he does, then you have gotten your priorities out of whack because you care more about your boss than you do yourself!
Those are my thoughts. But I’m quitting, now, cause there are still a couple of hours left in the weekend, and I think I may just stretch out, lay down and call it a day!
TL:DR I got away for a weekend of R&R, something important to include in in life, for me and for people struggling in divorce fallout.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Real Aftermath of Divorce
Is it just me, or do others of us who have been divorced find it disturbing how lightly divorce is treated in the media and
Hollywood? To watch movies and shows on television and
to hear reports of celebrity divorces, one would think divorce is no big deal. And, I guess, for some people, maybe it
isn’t. Somehow, though, for anyone who
has truly and deeply loved their spouse, I suspect it is a bigger deal than
those reports would suggest.
Apart from the movies “War of the Roses” and “Hope Floats” and to some degree “What Women Want” and “When Harry Met Sally,” the image presented is that ex’s just get along wonderfully, are happier all the time and both agree life is much better now that their mistake is over. Rarely are there signs of emotional distress. The kids always come out much better off, the divorce was no big deal and the former couple are better friends now than they ever were married. In some cases the divorce is even a laughable event.
Contrast that with the news reports of instances where, in the midst of a divorce or the aftermath, an individual murders the children and the ex, then commits suicide. Children are kidnapped by the estranged parent who is no longer allowed to see his or her children. Custody and property court battles go on and on and on. You might remember Alec Baldwin’s rant on the phone at his “spoiled brat” teenage daughter……exposing a bit of the inner turmoil that former family experiences because of divorce.
Maybe for shallow people, or self-centered people, divorce is no big deal. But for the children….at least all the children of divorce I have ever known….and that is a lot……it is ALWAYS a big deal. For those who really had committed their lives to the one they loved, and given their all, it IS a big deal. And though I have known of an occasional situation where the former couple end up being better friends than they seemed to when they were married (I really do!), those situations are far and few between in comparison to what seems to be the norm.
So, is it just that we haven’t learned how to manage a divorce in a healthy manner? Or is it that divorce itself is such an unhealthy experience that it simply brings its poison with it. You can decide. I do know there are times when a marriage situation is so unhealthy that divorce seems like the only option. And, if both parties are not willing to seriously examine themselves and do the work to make the changes necessary to make the marriage work, then divorce may end up being the only way one of the spouses can maintain sanity and safety. I have known of such marriages…..but even for those, divorce is still the second best option……dealing with one’s own problems and putting forth the effort to make a marriage work is still a better option.
Well, enough of that. Just imagine, though, how many problems and how much hurt would be avoided in our world…..or in your family and friendships…..if there were no divorces. I made my own personal protest when I ceased buying a product I had bought for years, after that product was advertised with a commercial that made light of divorce. I called to express my displeasure at the commercial, and have not bought the product in the 10+ years since!
It’s just too bad divorce is part of our world, and that it is considered a joke by far too many people.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
A Reflection on Father's Day
So, it is Father’s Day. We went to church Saturday night with friends, a really good evening, both because of the friends, and because of a good time with God at worship. Of course, the theme for the evening had to do with Father’s and Father’s Day. For a great number of men in
today will be filled with heartache and memories that are a mixture of joy and
pain…because divorce, the loss of a spouse or the death of a father changes
everything. And, those same things also
make the day hard for a great number of children this year and widows this
year, as well.
Of course, this blog is most concerned with those whose lives are torn with divorce. Father’s Day…..and every other holiday……is never the same after a divorce. Schedules of two different homes have to be considered, some ex-wives are very inconsiderate on Father’s Day, kids may end up being with their dad at the expense of seeing their maternal grandfathers…..or choose between honoring dad or step-dad……it just gets messy. (Because of this, by the way, the book contains a section at the back with special devotionals for holidays, because they can be tough to get through.)
And sometimes you have to remember that, even though it may feel otherwise, the divorce is from your spouse, not your kids. It just takes extra effort to keep the divorce from infecting the relationships with your kids. For any of you who experience Father’s Day as a tough time due to divorce, my prayer is for your peace. As you decide how to spend the day, I encourage you with two thoughts.
First, make sure you honor YOUR fathers today.....both your earthly father and your Heavenly Father. Let your dad know you love him….or, if he has passed away……dedicate some time to remembering some special things about your dad….whether or not he was a “good” dad. Remember, also, to honor your Heavenly Father. Worship Him, and let God know just how much you appreciate being part of HIS family!
Secondly, do the best you can to be the kind of father that pleases God with your own children today. If you don’t get to be with them, pray for them. If they are kept from you, practice the forgiveness God seeks from us. If they forget you (and your ex doesn’t remind them it is Father’s Day), don’t YOU forget THEM! Let them know you are proud to be their Father. And, if somehow your children have been poisoned against you (justly or unjustly), place them at the altar of God, trusting that He will be for them the Father you cannot right now.
And, if you are a person whose family is intact and Father’s Day is great, then take time to look around to notice those for whom it might be difficult. Perhaps you can help lift that dad’s spirit, or encourage those children whose dad is not around. Hopefully your pastor is wise enough to realize that not everybody is celebrating this day with joy….for some it includes not only the joys of fatherhood, but the bittersweet memories of the breaking of family bonds through divorce.
God is good, and as our Heavenly Father, sets the example of what we fathers seek to be. Sometimes, though, it is hard to live up to that example. However, regardless of the external circumstances that impact your Father’s Day, your own commitment to follow the example God sets, and to do your best to be the kind of dad he desires can make this day well worth celebrating! After all, nobody has a better dad than those of us who cry out, “Abba! Father!” to our Creator, right? With God as our Father, there is always a lot to celebrate if we really stop and think about it.
Whatever your situation, have a Happy Father’s Day today!
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Devotional sneak peek....
It’s hot and dry here. Could surely use some rain. On the other hand, if it rains, the grass grows and needs to be mowed, and the weeds grow needing to be pulled………..still, would like to see some rain. Speaking of which, did you hear about the guy from
West Texas who had never seen a
rainstorm, until the day a big thunderhead moved in and dropped rain for an
hour. The poor guy fainted dead away,
and they say they had to pour three buckets of sand on him to finally wake him up!
Thought today, as I was out watching my wife’s dog jump and play, that I’d post on the blog one of the meditations from the book, one that I particularly like. Maybe it’ll give you a little lift today. So here it is:
Day 101 2 Timothy 4:9-18
I was sitting at the computer one day, and my Siamese cat was sleeping on the bed. Now, let me first lay to rest any nasty rumors. I also own a beagle, and my wife has a dog and another cat. So I’m neither a cat person, nor a dog person…..maybe just incapable of making a decision one way or the other. Anyway, now that I have laid that inane tidbit to rest, let’s go back to my computer and cat. After sitting there a few moments, the cat got up and jumped into my lap, expecting me to pet him. Of course, I obliged for a few moments, and then turned back to writing. The cat was not impressed (they never really are, you know). The cat turned and rubbed his head against my chest, and then nestled up closely insisting that I wasn’t done scratching his fur until he decided I was done when he’d had enough. Of course, again, as the obedient house guest I am, I stroked his fur until he was content to go back to his own domain, part of which he allowed me to occupy a bit longer. And suddenly I was struck by something about cats in general that I think divorcing people can benefit from emulating.
My cat had the courage to come over to me, express his need for caring, and did not give up until his need was met. Sometimes when we are struggling in divorce, we need to have the courage to express to those who care about us, that we are in need of something. In other words, to just ask for help. Or for love. Or whatever assistance we need. In today’s passage, even Paul asked for help! I remember a friend who was so struggling that she realized in the middle of the day that she hadn’t fed her toddlers that day, and yet didn’t feel she had the strength to do so. Instead, she called another family member and asked if they would mind coming over and making something for the toddlers to eat. Of course they were willing, because sometimes those who care for us want to help and want to be supportive, but don’t know exactly how. A request like that gives them the opportunity to express their concern in appropriate ways. Or I remember a time when I was sorting through some of our more sentimental things, and was concerned I might not divide them with the fairness I desired, so I called a good friend and asked if she would be willing to come over and help me sort through those things. She did, and I felt much more confident about how that task went. It helped ease my conscience. And sometimes it may be simply telling a good friend, “you know, I could sure use a hug today.” I realize there is a danger in this, because I also knew a person who was so needy, that he just wore out his friends. I probably did, too. In fact, I know I did. And I thank God so much for those friends who were willing to give of themselves so generously when I needed them most. Perhaps the trick is not to put the entire load upon one person if you need something. But, as a friend of mine reminded me once, “if you believe that it is more blessed to give than receive, then if you don’t let me give of myself, then you are robbing me of a blessing!!” Don’t let those who care for you get cheated out of a blessing just because you are hesitant to ask for help.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Life returns...to normal!
So, today, we delivered our Serbian high school exchange student to the airport so that he could return to his native country of
Montenegro. We took our student from Kazakhstan to the
airport a couple of weeks ago. They have
lived with us since last August while attending high school for a year
here. Our house is back to our form of
normal. Now, if you are a person who
doesn’t know where those countries are, then perhaps you should get an exchange
student from there yourself……..we didn’t know where they were either!
For those of you who like to pray, you may want to pray for the two of them. I have been told that all these months with my sense of humor is bound to have left them scarred for life! Need an illustration? Well, it isn’t a big one, but when I learned how small a country
is, and that it is the result of multiple splits over many years of what once
had been Yugoslavia,
I told our student to make sure he let me know whether he ended up in Monte or
Negro if the country splits again! The
boys became like family, because, just like everybody else in my family, my
puns and plays on words met with the same roll of the eyes and “ha, ha, ha,
very funny” that everybody else in the family has been giving me for years!
They came to our home in a total surprise…..it was a very sudden and last minute opportunity. And it turned out to be quite a year. Voices….. sometimes very LOUD voices….skyping at all hours of the day or night. A Muslim student sharing a room with a Serbian Orthodox student in the home of a Baptist minister. Lots of very interesting conversations!
What does this have to do with divorce, or with the book? Nothing really. Except maybe to share the comment we received from the boys when they left, how they so appreciated feeling so much a part of our family. In other words, now some 12 years out of divorce, life has gone on, my family has permutated in many ways, and yet has become the kind of family that total strangers like those boys found to be a good home to be in. Divorce is NOT the end of the story. In lots and lots of ways, and some of those ways can be pretty good.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Hey, really appreciate the kind words and support on the book from all of you who have posted and emailed. I am pretty optimistic that the Spring/Summer volume will be completed before too long. If you have any friends who need to know more, feel free to share the email address: email@example.com and I will be glad to answer questions. More later!
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Some have asked why I have written this book. Lots of reasons, but one of them is this. I remember times as a pastor trying to help parishioners who were going through divorce. Some of the things I tried were probably helpful, but I really had no idea of the devastation and extreme emotional stress they were experiencing until I ended up divorced myself! After that, I was asked to write a letter to a man I hadn’t met who was struggling with a divorce. My letter meant a lot to him, he told me later, and I realized how desperately this group of Christians (and not yet Christians, too!) need encouragement and hope. And I realized that my own situation gave me a unique perspective God could use to help others facing the same tragedy of divorce. Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce is the outcome of these experiences. I have already shared several of the devotions with friends in divorce, and received feedback from them of the encouragement they provided. I am hopeful this devotional book will provide that same encouragement for others in the same situation
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Wow! It has finally happened. For quite some time now, I have had a dream of putting together the devotional book Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce. Divorce can be one of the toughest experiences a person can go through, and the stresses it creates can be tremendous. All too often these days we hear of a divorced spouse finding their way into the house of their ex, or kidnapping the children, and it all ending up in tragic deaths through murder and suicide. Divorce can literally be so hard that people would rather die!
In my experience, the church has not done too good of a job at helping people caught up in this struggle. In fact, all too often, all these folks hear from the people at church is that divorce is wrong, and that if they were right with God they wouldn’t have these problems, along with lots of other condemning and, frankly, pretty self righteous comments. At a time when a person most needs the kind of love a church can offer, ostracism and rejection is the experience instead. Or, perhaps even worse, the awkwardness of silence, as nobody quite knows what to say or do as a marriage dissolves before their eyes.
It is my hope that this devotional book will be something to fill that void, and to let divorcing folks know that God DOES care, and that God CAN help, and that God WILL speak to them. It has taken me literally years to pull together the things I have learned and get them down in writing. I am thrilled that it is finally down and available for folks who desperately need to know God’s care for their lives through the stormy time of divorce. I hope that this resource can be something Christian pastors and friends can use to help their struggling friends.
This first volume…..Fall and Winter…..deals with the times of devastation as the divorce process begins and things become difficult and uncertain. The second volume…..which is nearing completion now……deals with Spring and Summer, the times when one starts to put life back together after the marriage is over, and begins to find new paths for life.
I look forward to hearing the ways God uses these words to help people in need of a kind word from God in a stressful time of life.