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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Are you ready for God to resurrect your life?


So I received a comments on my facebook page after a recent blog and that led me to writing this blog as we near Easter.  The blog had a catchy title of “Are You Over it Yet?” and if you didn’t read it, you may want to scroll down and do so before finishing this one.  Simply said, many people have very little clue about divorce, believing it is something you should just get over and move on with your life.  Two of the comments mentioned that after a long time married, or after forgiving your ex, there is still a sense that you don’t “get over” it.  I appreciated those comments, because they affirmed the truth of the blog and the book.  I share in the book about a couple of individuals who helped me during my divorce time by pointing out this very fact.  Both of them had been divorced many years before I had known them, and had moved on into full and rich lives, with good marriages and good attitudes.  However, as I struggled with my experience, they encouraged me with the belief that I would get through it and move on, but that one never really gets over a divorce.  And so reading the comments and having those memories I thought, with Easter upon us, the resurrection of Christ can give some good insights into the post divorce process, to go one step further in the discussion of “getting over” a divorce.  

So, back to Easter.  Let’s consider a few key concepts of the resurrection.  In the crucifixion and the events leading up to it, Jesus suffered a great deal of anguish, pain, eventual death  and entombment.  There were plenty around who sought to make sure He stayed dead, even guarding the tomb to prevent a deception.  But on Easter Sunday morning, to everyone’s utter shock and surprise, (or in some cases, their horror and dismay), Jesus came back from the dead in the resurrection, leaving the tomb and grave clothes behind!  This series of events can be a powerful image of what God can do in our lives, even if we go through the experience of divorce.

First, Jesus was tortured, beaten, attacked, mocked, left on His own, and eventually destroyed.  If you've gone through a tough divorce, most of that is something you can relate to in one way or another.  Oh, maybe you didn't die (probably not, you are reading this!), but you sure may have wished you could, and certainly there were things in your life that did:  your marriage, your trust, your love, your hopes…lots of possibilities depending on your experience.  At the very least, life as you knew it died.  And those divorce papers felt like a burial shroud, covering over the years of love, the years of building a life together and the hopes for “happily ever after till death do you part.”  Dead.  And often the next experience is one of cold and empty darkness (hence the cover of the book), much like the cold dark tomb of Christ.  Sure, you may have some around you come with fragrant spices to make things seem better, but death remains death nonetheless.  And there are those who wrap us in grave clothes, stamped with the word “divorced”.  There are those who serve as guards, seeking to make sure we remain in that tomb, some by always identifying us merely as a person “divorced” or who, like our ex perhaps, no longer wants us around at all.  I appreciated Toni’s comment about forgiveness, even though “getting over” the divorce is a different matter…..because isn't that also part of the Easter story?  Did not Jesus on the cross pray God to forgive the people who destroyed Him, too?  And yet that prayer did NOT prevent the death from occurring nor cut short the experience of being laid in a tomb.  Forgiveness IS important, but it doesn't change the fact that you end up divorced…..at least, not most of the time.

But Jesus’ story did not end in the tomb with the people keeping Him locked in.  The power of God cannot be stopped by such trivial human efforts.  Jesus broke free from the grave wrappings, the stone could not withstand the pressure of the glory inside, and Jesus got up from His grave to start life anew, a life of glory and life eternal.  After a divorce, we are faced with choices.  Some people seem to like the tomb….they like getting flowers or spices, they prefer the safety of entombment away from the people outside, and they spend their time dwelling on all the things that got them to the death of their marriage.  But other people stagger out of their tomb, trying to piece together a new life as best they can, always carrying with them the label placed upon them of “divorced” by those who would just as soon they stay in the tomb and not trouble the contented lives of those outside.  And then…

And then there are those who believe in the power of resurrection.  There are those who ask God to do a work in their lives, to put flesh on the dead bones, to tear off the grave clothes and open the tomb so that they can walk into a new life with Christ.  This happens at two levels for us, the first, of course, is when one chooses to give their lives to Jesus to follow Him in life, and thus receive the gift of eternal life with the promise of heaven.  But it also happens when we allow God to invade the cold, dark spaces of our lives like divorce, and ask Him to bring light and life there by His glorious power.  And just as miraculously as Jesus walked forth from the tomb, God can bring forth something powerful and new beyond the death of your marriage.  I know this myself, I have a new wife and completely different opportunities in my life than I ever expected at the time of my divorce.  And some of them are miraculous.  Like the fact that a woman in Zambia…..a country I've never seen, and a woman I've never met….reads these blogs!  And she isn't the only one!  There are lots of names and countries that keep popping up…and I don’t know most of them…but God does, and God is working not only in my life, but in the lives of people He is touching as He works in mine.

But…  There’s always a catch, isn't there?  Well, sort of.  Here is the “catch.”  First, if you read the Easter stories carefully, you will notice that the resurrected Jesus still had the scars in His hands, feet and side.  That is the notion of not “getting over” your divorce.  God can move you on, God can do great things, you can find a new life and a new joy….but the damage was done, there is no denying the scars, the experience of your divorce has changed you.   Jesus’ wounds didn't hurt like they once did.  They didn't bleed as they had on the cross.  But the scars were there, clear reminders of the crucifixion and the price He paid for our sin.  You, too will come out scarred, but remember, scars exist only from wounds that have healed.  Like Christ’s wounds, their impact remains, but healed they no longer have the power to cause you pain as they once did. Oh, the healing takes time, prayer and forgiveness, and the pain may only go away slowly or twinge now and then, but God can redeem your situation and bring new life, allowing you to leave the cold dark times behind.  Which brings us to the other catch.  You have to walk out of the tomb.  If you really want to know the power of God’s resurrection in your life, and beyond your divorce, you have to refuse to stay wrapped in the garments that bind you and break through the dark stone that would hold you back from tomorrow….no matter who or want wants to keep you trapped inside.  Sometimes that entrapment is well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned) family or friends, sometimes it may be a harassing ex.  Sometimes it can be the bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart, sometimes it can be the unwillingness to let go of the past or turn to the future.  Sometimes it can be the relishing the pain for the comfort others bring while you dwell in self-pity.  There are other things that keep us entombed….you probably already know what they are in your life.

The question is simple:  Are you willing to leave behind the things that entomb you, that you may know the resurrection power of God to bring you new life, new hope, new direction and forgiveness?  The scars may go with you, but you don’t have to sit around picking at the scabs.  Maybe the original question is worded wrong:  maybe it isn't that we “get over” our divorces, maybe it is that we “get past” them…by the power of God.  Hey, Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection Sunday, and, hopefully, Happy Resurrection Life!

TL:dr  Just as the tomb could not hold Jesus, so God’s power can break the power of divorce to hold us back in life from God’s hope and redemption.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Victoria's Secret needs to mind their own business....


So there is a lot going on in the news these days, and though I want to continue the discussion about the children, I don’t want to neglect other opportunities either.  Thought I’d chime in on the whole Victoria’s Secret uproar.  (I always maintain that Victoria either doesn't HAVE any secrets, or that her secret is that if you make underwear fancy colored and charge a whole bunch for it, you can make a fortune!)  

Anyway, if you don’t know what the uproar is, apparently there are some ad campaigns that they have been doing for a line of underwear aimed at girls as young as 12 and 14.  Now granted, girls that young probably need underwear, but the problem is that Victoria makes all her underwear to be suggestive in terms of cut, push and verbiage on it.  So there is a pastor who has decided to call them on it, questioning the marketing of the “sexy” clothing for young girls, and that challenge is getting quite a bit of attention.  I even heard on the news that the company has backed off a bit on the age they claim they are aiming for….although I didn’t hear they were changing anything about the underwear, so has anything really changed? 
I believe this pastor has raised an important issue and there are lots of surrounding issues.  Frankly, with so many performers clothing choices and musical lyrics, and all the media hype in general, you would think that people in America do nothing but eat, drink and sleep sex.  More to the point, though, the message is also starting to come through loud and clear that the worth of a girl is whether or not she is sexy!  Which actually is pretty stupid:  the truth is guys are attracted to girls…it doesn't take much for them to be sexy from our perspective!  What is really difficult to believe in all of this discussion is that I grew up at a time when women the world over were demanding that they be recognized for more than their bodies and be treated as human beings with skills, abilities and opportunities.  Since then, women have moved into careers and leadership positions they had long been denied in the U.S.  But now, it is almost as if the girls are being taught that the notion of using their skills, abilities and brains to reach their goals is entirely wrong….it really is only about your body and being sexy.  How sad. 

You may think it is all the media’s fault.  But I have known mothers of young teens who took their girls to Victoria’s Secret to buy clothing on a regular basis, and taught them that if they can attract guys with suggestive clothing, that is a good thing.  No, I mean CHRISTIAN mothers, believe it or not.  Really!  But there are so many other mixed messages out there, aren't there?  We supposedly want to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy, and yet entice girls to wear clothes that encourage boys to pay attention to the girls’ behinds?  What message does the suggestive clothing really advertise?

I remember being pretty impressed in the last few years to learn that some modeling agencies are finally putting on the cover of magazines women who have actually eaten in the last decade!  The impact there could be you don’t have to be super skinny as a girl to be attractive.  (In fact, as near as I can tell, these stretchy blouses girls wear that accentuate their bellies sure don’t seem to worry about skinny as the goal!)  But even that misses the point, doesn't it?

Let me go to a different angle.  There are some television shows on these days that enter the supposedly (nationally) private world of various women.  Many of these women are very beautiful, physically fit and could be models.  If the volume was down on the television, you’d think they were really something.  But if you have the volume up, when they open their mouths you quickly discover they are anything but beautiful.  Every time I see some of them (always while passing through, I have NO desire to watch any of that junk) it always make me grateful for the woman who is married to me.  In her I find beauty beyond mere physical appearance (which is also fine with me, by the way).  I find a woman who is honest and trustworthy.  I find a woman who is caring and thoughtful.  I find a woman who loves God and seeks to help others.  (I could go on, but the internet can only hold a certain amount of information.)   How did they use to say it, “pretty is as pretty does?”
Isn't THAT what the Bible teaches is to be valued in a person, male or female?  Isn't it character and inner beauty that lasts?  Despite all the botox, liposuction, stretching, implanting, lifting and all the other things individuals have done to pretend like they are still 15, bodies will age, body parts still sag and hairlines recede.  The Bible called those kinds of things (like a grey head) honorable, not something to be avoided at all costs!  So coming back around to our 12-14 year old girls.  As I recall, most kids that age, and probably especially girls tend to already struggle with self acceptance and body image while they and their friends are all changing at rapidly different and uncertain rates.  Do we really want to urge them to focus on body image even more?  Is sexy really the goal?  Don’t get me wrong, I believe God ordained the sexual relationships between men and women and that taking care of one’s body while making oneself reasonably attractive to the opposite sex aren't bad things…to a point.  But honestly, is there anything more attractive than a woman (or man) of godly character?  A person who reflects the best of everything a human being can be, a person whose life mimics the life of Christ and the love of God?  Somebody else can have the implants and all the lies that go with them.  Our obsession with exterior beauty has been in existence for a long time, even beauty contests go back in American for nearly one hundred years.  When the day comes that people look back on United States history of this period, I suspect our culture will be known as the one that valued only appearances and possessions, the external fluff of clothes, makeup, hair, houses…you know the list.  But real values have been all too often forgotten and abandoned. 

Girls, you are worth more than you are being told by those who tell you that you have to be beautiful, but mean only your physical body.  People who sell that idea remind me of a movie title I once saw (though I never saw the movie).  The title?  “Clueless!”  Guys, don’t be suckered in…..you might end up with a real housewife that you wish you’d left in Atlanta!

TL:dr  True beauty isn't dependent on Victoria’s Secret!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Are you over it yet?

Congratulations on your divorce?@!?

Was visiting with a friend the other day about our divorces, and the fact that so often people really don’t have a clue.  Actually, have had this conversation multiple times since I started blogging.  That individual indicated he had actually received some cards from well intentioned friends who congratulated him on the divorce.  He and I agreed it isn't really something you feel ought to be congratulated….it is more about loss, failure, disappointment and the shattering of life.  Even if you are finally out of an awful situation, there is still a great deal of grief and hurt over it all…it just isn't a good thing to experience. 

Another piece of this whole thing is that folks here in the United States really don’t get grief, and even more so when it is the grief of divorce.  After a death, all too often people expect the grieving widow or child to be better a few weeks later, to be moving on in life within a few months at most.  But those of you who have been through it know that time frames like that are not realistic.  In fact, times frames are always artificial constructs, because everybody is different and processes grief in their own time and way.  But divorce, well, that grief can be never ending, because the complications of the aftermath can drag on a very long time, and be refreshed as new issues arise year by year.  In fact, I had a woman ask me today when things finally get settled.  After asking whether or not there were children and learning there were, I passed along a comment a friend had given to me:  “It never really ends until one of you dies.”  That is why I use the phrase “divorced to” instead of “divorced from;” the entanglements just continue to pop up when you think they should be over.

I continue to find it stunning how different the reactions are I meet as I discuss the book, between people who have been divorced (or worked closely with someone who was) and those who have no experience of divorce.  The congratulations cards is a pretty good illustration.  People who deal with divorcing folks or who have been there; meet the book with a real understanding and sense of gratefulness that a new help is available.  Others think, “it’s a nice idea, good luck with that.”  But somehow I suspect that the core issue is the same as with grief at death:  people who haven’t been there think it should be no big deal and one should get over it quickly.  The truth is, the scars are for a lifetime, the hurts heal slowly and things can just be hard to deal with time and time again. 

Having said those things, let me raise another thought.  I have kind of moved us into a discussion of children, at least for a while.  If the process of grieving and healing is difficult for adults going through divorce, and takes a lifetime for them, how much harder would you suppose it might be for children who have much less maturity and much fewer life skill experiences to deal with their parents’ divorce?  Sure they adapt to the changes, but that doesn't mean it is easy, or good, or that they are healed inside.  It means they survive.  In fact, if you know very many children of divorce, you observe that survival skills are the one thing they hone best.  Maybe that’s a good thing, because survival skills come in handy in life.  But the kids I know in divorce learn the survival skills of becoming hard for self-preservation and learning to manipulate situations; not particularly great skills to have.  No, adults and children both need time to heal, patience and understanding by those who care for them and acknowledgement that they have been changed as they face the tragedy of divorce.  I guess a key question is whether or not you are willing to be the kind of person who grants that care and understanding, providing safe space for those struggling with divorce in your world. 

By the way, thanks for the responses to my questions given so far.  I am still collecting input on the following issues:

1)    If you have been a child of divorce, are there things you wish you could tell your parents about what helped or what made it harder?
2)   If you are a parent, are there things you wish you could tell your children that you have avoided lest it create more problems?  Things that you really wish they understood?
3)   If you are either, and have experienced something that really helped or was a good idea, would you be willing to share it?
All names will be kept confidential, and don’t even have to be submitted.  If you are a child from divorce, it might be helpful if you gave your current age range (teens, 20’s, etc).

TL:dr  The grief of divorce is NOT short lived….neither for the adults involved nor the children.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Impact the Next Generation!

chance to voice your thoughts.....

I remember one time sitting down with a mother and her children as she told her kids that she and daddy were getting divorced.  The kids expressions varied because their ages varied, but it is not a sight you want to see.  But it is a sight seen far too many times in our world today.  Professionals always told us that the kids of divorce were resilient and would bounce back, that they would be fine.  Now it is known that resilient or not, divorce of parents impacts the children for the rest of their lives.  Lower school performance, more risk of substance abuse, higher risk of divorce and more.  Might look into that some more another day, but have a couple of thoughts I wanted to share today. 

Dealing with your children when struggling with your ex is tricky at best.  There are so many times you bite your tongue, times you wish you HADN’T bit your tongue, times you know they are being manipulated and times you know they ought to know the truth, but to tell the truth would sound like bashing your ex and end up creating OTHER problems.  Or maybe none of those is your experience……maybe they are the experience of YOUR EX!  Not good.  I don’t suppose there is one of us who has been divorced who hasn't missed a cue here or there, or wondered if what we did or did not do was helpful or not.  Truth is, it is hard to know.  And you may never know.  But there are some things you can know, let’s touch on some of those today, okay?

In one of the recent radio interviews, the interviewer told of a family situation she had seen in which a mother drove her children five hours to a pick up point, even though she had been advised well in advance he would not be able to meet her until a couple of days later!  She used it as a chance to show the kids her dad didn't care about them.  It’s obvious SOMEBODY didn't care about them very much….but I don’t think it was the dad!  At least, not that time. 

I know of other situations where parents have offered to give their children all of the child support money if they would move to their home, parents who have intentionally made arrangements for the children to be away for a special trip on the ex’s Father/Mother’s Days or the child’s birthday, parents who tell the kids all sorts of lies about the other parent, or worst of all, parents who manage to create the same impressions so subtly the kids don’t even know they are being manipulated.  The sad truth of divorce is that all too often, the children get used as weapons, spies or sources of income.  And we wonder WHY there are adverse effects in the lives of the children? (I wonder if they will ever decide to call it child abuse and arrest the offending parent?  Trouble is, how would you know which parent to believe?)
Something I think is even more sad is that I have seen children mistreated in these ways but because of confused loyalties or the skilled deception, the children will side with the abusing parent and shut the other parent out of their lives.  The expectation is that when the child grows up he/she will begin to see things from an adult perspective, and realize the truth.  It’s a nice idea… doesn't always happen.  Unfortunately, I have seen that, too.  But I also know times when it does work out.  Again, no way to predict, and that is part of what makes it so hard. 

Well, there is much to discuss in this area, and so think we’ll spread it out over several blogs….although maybe over a period of time.  However, as I put this together, I am working on a couple of things, and would welcome some ideas/feedback in specific ways that I will use in various ways to help address these issues so that maybe some children will be spared the difficulties, and parents learn to be more effective.  I certainly don’t claim to have all this figured out perfectly myself!  Perhaps by sharing some ideas and experiences, together we can help.

So here is what I would like to hear from any of you with first hand experience: 
1)    If you have been a child of divorce, are there things you wish you could tell your parents about what helped or what made it harder?
2)   If you are a parent, are there things you wish you could tell your children that you have avoided lest it create more problems?  Things that you really wish they understood?
3)   If you are either, and have experienced something that really helped or was a good idea, would you be willing to share it?
All names will be kept confidential, and don’t even have to be submitted.  If you are a child from divorce, it might be helpful if you gave your current age range (teens, 20’s, etc).

You can send it as an email to seasonsofdivorce@gmail.com or submit it through the contact form on the website:  findinggoddevotionals.com  Thanks!

TL:dr  Take the time to read it, you might be able to help.

Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

What Has Happened to Sainthood?

So yesterday in our worship time, a woman of Irish descent took some time to share with us that St. Patrick’s Day is about more than just green clothing and beer.  She shared some of the story of that great Christian who has come to be known as St. Patrick.  She told of his capture and slavery, she told of his escape, and then of his return to Ireland to share the Gospel with those who had once mistreated him.  And she shared the story (maybe a legend, probably with truth in it) about how St. Patrick used the shamrock as a visual image to teach the doctrine of the Trinity, petals representing Father, Son and Spirit united into a single shamrock.  Pretty cool story, huh?  Actually, if you have never read any church history to learn about what Patrick did, it is well worth reading.

So, I am neither Irish, nor Catholic, and don’t really wear green all that often.  Although, in the right sunshine, my sideburns have a reddish tint to them.  That’s about as close as I get.  But I got to thinking.  The man known as St. Patrick was really quite a phenomenal Christian, and his actions proved it, thus he is remembered as St. Patrick.  And St. Valentine was also quite a church leader, with his legendary commitment to the power of love.  And St. Nicholas did wonderful things, with his secret generosity towards people in need.  Each one was a committed Christian whose actions were exemplary and long remembered for their impact on the people they loved.  And each one is associated with holidays we celebrate now, centuries later.  But I have a question.  So how did their saintly actions get so obfuscated over the course of celebrating the holidays that the influence of Christ can rarely be discerned? 

The same is true of other Christian holidays, too.  Easter with its rabbits and chocolate bunnies.  Oh, by the way, there was something about a resurrection, too wasn't there?  Or All Saint’s Day which has been completely overwhelmed by the celebration of All Hallow’s Eve….Halloween.  Even the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday is not nearly as famous or revered as the raucous celebrations of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday.  Have you ever wondered what happened?  I have.

Somehow, I suspect, there are spiritual forces at work.  I believe that there really are spiritual beings at odds with the work of God, and that when these holidays are established that could beckon people to Christ, or remember the work and message of His followers, those forces do their best to provide distractions, so that coloring Easter eggs (which I love to do, btw) becomes more important than attending a resurrection sunrise service.  Or Christmas becomes about red velvet suits and football more than communion by candlelight remembering a stable born Savior. 

Well, I hope you had a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  But more than that, I hope you remembered to celebrate the reason he is remembered, for bringing a message of hope and salvation to a people once lost in religions of darkness.  And THAT, my friends, is no blarney!

TL:dr  Too often we allow our celebrations of Christ to lose Christ in the shuffle.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mary and Martha in a techno savvy world

“Oh, I wish I were an Apple IPad……”

(sung to the tune of "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog."

So have you ever wished you were a computer or a cell phone?  That’s a question that I probably better explain.  And the explanation needs to begin with a word about myself.  I’m not a techno-geek.  I hate doing internet searches.  Friends tell me that I just need to learn how to refine my searches, and that with practice, I’ll gain that skill.  They also tell me coffee is an acquired taste, but if I just don’t like coffee, why would I want to bother to “acquire the taste?”  I don’t like doing those searches.  And I could care less what the latest techno-toy is, or whether my cell phone can take pictures or receive emails.  So that gives you a bit of a notion of where I am coming from.  Except I should add that I do realize the value these things can have.  For instance, I recently learned through email from a friend in Wisconsin that a college friend in Texas just lost his dad, as she had found out on Facebook.  So there are uses.  Okay, so that is the intro that gets you on the same page with me, so here is the story.
Was visiting with a friend the other day, and he was telling me about how much time his wife spends on her new iphone with internet social media and games and texting and…..well, you get the idea.  I was reminded of that conversation yesterday when I walked by the grocery store to see a young woman sitting on the bench outside with her nose buried in her cell phone texting away at lightning speed.  Sometimes, if you want to communicate with this kind of person, the only way to do so is by text, facebook, email, twitter, something.  In fact, I have found with the teenage daughter in the house it is easier to get her to answer a text message than to answer the phone if I call…..even though the call would be much quicker! 

My friend was struggling, it seemed, with the amount of time his wife spent on her gadgets, and he was concerned about other things that WEREN’T getting done, and, I suspect she wasn’t spending much time with him.  Now I know that these gadgets isn’t all there is to it.  Like any marriage, there are always issues that arise.  But somehow, I almost got the feeling he wished he were a cell phone or computer, so that she’d pay as much attention to him as she does to that appliance.  It is the same old story that wives have complained about for years concerning their husbands and football, or television, or their jobs.  But, somehow my friend just seemed to be wishing it was him she was spending her time with and holding close, instead of that phone.

I have had moments like that with people in my life.  AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, I’ve probably created moments like that for them, as well!  When a television show, a football game, a text message, or a facebook posting gets more attention than the family members around you whom you love, you are walking in dangerous territory.  (In fact, if you are reading this and should be out with your kids, or off with your spouse, stop reading now and get over there!)

In Luke 10, there is the story of Mary and Martha, in which Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him teach, while Martha is running around in the kitchen making sure there is a good meal as any decent hostess would do.  And Jesus tells Martha that Mary has made a good choice.  Or consider Mark 4’s parable of the Soils, where some of the soil represents people who hear God’s word, but get caught up with all the cares and concerns of living in this world.  In both cases, the point is that there are things in this world that can easily distract us from what is really important, and what is really urgent.  And as I watch technology advance, I think those things that distract are multiplying exponentially! 

What IS important?  Your relationship with God, and your relationship with your family and friends right there with you.  Not that important things don’t happen through technology contacts, but, as I like to say, don’t merely have “virtual relationships,” make sure the “real relationships” with those around you are given the priority they deserve.  Let me give you a quick example to close.  We were at dinner with a friend the other night.   My cell phone rang.  I pulled it out, saw it was not my dad (who could call for emergencies), so silenced it and put it away.  The call could be returned later, our friend who was with us needed my full attention then.  Dad used  say in business, “the customer standing in front of you is more important that the one on the phone who may come in later to buy something.”  Don’t ever let the people you love wish they could be your computer (or tv, or football game or job), because you aren’t paying sufficient attention to them.  The email, text message or blogpost will still be there when you get done spending time with the ones you love.  Sorry to be so longwinded….but I think it is an important issue in today’s relationships.

TL:dr  Healthy priorities means we don’t let technology or life trappings crowd out time with those we love.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Divorce: Is it really a failure?

Launched to Fail

Did you see that movie, “Failure to Launch”?  Where the parents have a son who refuses to grow up enough to move out and live a responsible life?  Well, had a conversation with a friend the other day that perhaps reverses that thought just a bit.  We were talking about divorce, and the sense of failure that is part of the process.  So, is failure the key word, do you think?  And in what ways? 
I’d say there is an assumption that first must acknowledged before you can define divorce as a failure.  That assumption is that marriage is to be a lifelong commitment.  Without that, it isn't necessarily a failure.  I remember running across information that some people like Margaret Meade actually thought in life individuals ought to have three marital partners for the different stages of life.  One spouse for the time of life when physical pleasure is primary, another for the child rearing phase of life, and another for companionship in the latter years.  Obviously, a different image than marriage “till death do you part.”  In the Christian tradition, the intention clearly IS “till death do you part.”  And so, the notion of moving from one marriage partner to the next cannot be defined as fulfilling the purpose and ideal of marriage.  Therefore, fail is a word that applies, at least in some senses.  Let’s explore it a bit, might find interesting emerges.

If you believe, as I do, that the intent of marriage is for life, then when you experience divorce, as I have, then, indeed, you have come out of a “failed” marriage.  What marriage was intended to be, what you have vowed and committed yourself to did not materialize…..it failed to fulfill the goal.  But does something failing equate to being a failure?  And if something failed, does that mean the participants failed, or were failures?  Maybe, but maybe not.  At least, in some senses.  My friend felt clearly that failure was an appropriate term.  I have some other thoughts.  And maybe everything isn’t on a pass/fail grading scale…..at least in some sense.   I better explain.
If a baseball player gives his very best all season long, maybe even breaking some records along the way, but his team does not win the championship, is he a failure?  Or for that matter, is the team a failure?  While acknowledging that the ultimate goal is to win the championship games, I think most of us would not impute failure to one member of the team, when we are aware it takes more than one person to make that team succeed.  And, we are also aware that sometimes coaches and managers with all honesty will admit that a season wasn't about winning and losing, but experience and growing.  So while it failed to reach the ultimate goal, the season may not have been a complete failure. 

In that analogy, I would suggest that “failed” can be used to describe a marriage ending in divorce, but the term failure probably ought not to be applied wholesale to the individuals involved, nor to the marriage as a whole.  Just as it takes two people to make a marriage work, it also takes two people for it to fail.  Perhaps one is more at fault than another, but neither one should accept the entire blame and responsibility for the divorce.  In addition, the vows failed to come to full goal, but there were certainly things of value that came from the marriage----children, experience, wisdom, growth---things that would mitigate usage of the word “failure” to the marriage as a whole. 

Another place one could use the word, “failed” might be that one failed to select a spouse with whom to be able to spend an entire lifetime.  Although, I still struggle with over using the word fail in these things.  I truly believe that those of us who are divorced think if we knew then what we know now, we might have chosen differently, but we didn’t know it then, and for many of us, we did make the best choice we knew how to make at the time, and did so with prayerful seeking of God’s guidance.  Would you be willing to say that God failed to guide us effectively?  A quick answer many would give is that we simply didn’t listen or discern well enough.  But, could it also not be possible that we did follow appropriately, and that things changed over time, or subsequent choices created an environment in which one or both well intentioned partners no longer was willing to follow through.  That does NOT negate the fact that God originally led you to that person, does it?  I think not.  And maybe God led you to that person for more reasons than just “till death do you part,” (although I still think it is the proper goal and commitment).  So what could be those reasons?

I would suggest that God often uses thing that seem like failure to accomplish his purposes.  Think particularly of Joseph dragged to prison in Egypt, which eventually produced the deliverance of his family from starvation.  Or think of a Messiah killed on a cross in the prime of life and at the height of His ministry.  Apparent failures, but “failures” that were entwined in the plans of God to accomplish God’s great purposes.  Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine, had done hundreds and hundreds of experiments that did NOT produce a polio vaccine prior to the precious discovery.  I have heard that he was once asked how he felt about all those failed experiments, and his response was that not one was a failure, but that each had taught him something and prepared him for the steps that eventually led to the discovery of the vaccine.  Could it not be that, in the midst of a failed marriage, God managed to teach you things that can make a profound difference, even something that can be turned into phenomenal success?  Don’t we always hear how important it is to learn from our mistakes, to learn from our experiences in life? 

Anyway, you can decide whatever you want about the whole failure/failed verbiage in regard to divorce.  I know that it certainly feels like failure in many, many ways.  But I also know, that God can uses failures to accomplish great things, and my hope is that you and I will allow God to do so in and through our lives. 

TL:dr  Describing divorce as failure misses opportunities for insight

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Diligent about the details

Doing the Hard Stuff

Hey sorry I haven’t posted anything lately.  Been kind of swamped.  I help take care of my dad….he’s in his 90’s, and had kind of a rough week, including an overnight in the hospital.  Anyway, he’s back home doing fine, but it got me to thinking the other day.  That and the fact that Volume 2 of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce has been virtually done for a while, EXCEPT the tedious detail stuff that can drive you nuts.  It was these two things combined that gave me some thoughts I wanted to briefly pass on today.

With dad, it is one thing to make sure he gets to the hospital for care when it’s needed, and to be there for him while he is in.  But that is really the easy part.  The hard part is all the detail stuff surrounding it.  Rearranging his appointment schedule to adapt for the stay.  Or changing out the pill boxes and incorporating the new meds, as well as helping administer the meds of the ones that are difficult to handle.  And all the changes in meds can be so confusing, even for me.  Since they are only temporary prescriptions, it’s easier to help do them myself…but that is a lot of detail work to remember. 

Same way with the book.  Yes, the bulk of it was done.  It was the boring and time consuming tedium that was left of marking breaks where they go, and putting in the little editorial changes I have accumulated, or adjusting the scripts and fonts to be the way I want them for when I send it in.  It is virtually ready to go, although I may do one more quick run through for any leftover alterations I might want to make.

The point?  Well, isn’t life kind of like that.  If you want your marriage to work, then you may need to be diligent to do the detail work, the little things that keep things going.  It’s true of our jobs, our gardens, our homes, those awful tax forms, even working through all the paperwork required by the courts during divorce.  If you don’t develop the characteristic of sticking to things, then you would never accomplish anything.  Sometimes the work is fun, sometimes it is interesting, and sometimes…well, sometimes you just have to do it anyway.  Afterwards, you can rejoice at a job well done.  Imagine what would have happened if Jesus had decided to quit halfway through, or only done part of what it took for our salvation.  I’m glad He didn’t, aren’t you?  And I’m glad I stuck with the tedium to get these books going.  Have already had some very good comments, so I know it has helped some people already.  But not without the effort of doing the tedium.  Is there tedious tasks awaiting your hand today?

TL:dr  Things worth doing sometimes require us to do even the boring stuff.