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Friday, June 28, 2013

Do you have Biblical Compassion for the Divorced?

Do We Have to Choose?

Does it ever seem to you that Christians often choose between holding to what are perceived as the biblical principles of the righteous ideals God desires or holding to the virtues of compassion and mercy.  You may recall the Gospel accounts of Jesus reproving some of the Jewish leaders for being more concerned about their rules of righteousness than they were about being concerned for the struggling people around them.  It would seem that the balance between standing for righteous principles and being a person of mercy has been a difficult one for sincere religious individuals to manage for many years. 

Divorce is an area in which this dichotomy manifests itself quite frequently.  How does a God fearing Christian stand up for the sanctity of marriage, and yet deal with the reality that many individuals within the church as well as outside it have foundered in the breakwaters of divorce?   I received a note from a friend the other day that included another article in which the writer came down hard on the high ideal of marriage and the unacceptability of divorce in the church.  And let me quickly add, I agree, that divorce should not exist among Christians, and if every individual who claims the name of Christ were always totally obedient to everything God desires of us, we would see divorce disappear from among us.  And, of course, we would also see church splits come to an end, gossip would find no place in our ranks and we would be so caring for one another that no individual would feel pushed aside or unwelcome in the body of Christ.  It is a good thing to stand up for the highest ideals, to believe in the perfection of God’s design.  

But as long as we live in this world, it is a necessary thing to stand for those ideals with a recognition of the fact that the sin and brokenness in this world has left us all scarred and far short of God’s perfection, apart from the mercy of God and the justification purchased on the cross.  

So while holding firm to the sanctity of marriage, we acknowledge with sorrow those many times those vows have been discarded, ignored and shattered by behaviors and attitudes that end in divorce.  But, as Jesus pointed out in the passage above, our sin broken world must be met with mercy and compassion for those whose lives have been devastated by the ravages of fallen creation. 

I guess the point is, I appreciate that there is a need to stand strong for biblical teachings, yet with recognition that biblical teaching includes not merely a list of high standards and lofty ideals, but also the example of compassion and mercy toward individuals whose lives have been shattered, scarred, even misguided as they navigate their way in this fallen world.  Jesus demonstrated it toward prostitutes, tax collectors, outcasts, those declared unclean…countless individuals who longed for a kind word of hope and promise that could lift them out of the mire and give them the second chance they needed.  Jesus offered it not only to those who had yet to follow him, but also to individuals like Peter himself, who time and again needed to learn, grow and be given one more chance. 

If you have been bound up in despair, feeling cast away from God and unworthy of God’s love because of the shortcomings, sins and mistakes of your life, then know that you are exactly the kind of person to whom Jesus himself offered mercy while walking the earth.  Do your best, by the power of God, to pursue the high ideals God establishes for his people, falling upon his mercy and grace when you have fallen short. 

If you are a person who has lost your balance, and have either compromised away the ideals God would call us to follow, or have kept the ideals but run roughshod over people God loves as you held to them, then perhaps today would be a good day to learn the lesson Jesus tried to teach, that God desires mercy, not sacrifice, and thus become a person of mercy as part of your noble ideals.  Because Jesus demonstrated to those of us who would follow, that the world is filled with people desperate to know that the mercy of God extends even to them in their brokenness and despair. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Volume 2 - Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce...are you ready?

Richard has finished the second volume of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce - and Westbow Press is finalizing details, editing and cover art.  Our expectation is that the book will be in our hands by the end of June!  Volume 2 - Spring and Summer - is intended to help you through the divorce process as you are reclaiming your life and learning new patterns of singlehood, parenthood and family.  

We would like to give away the first official copy that lands on our doorstep!!  

How can you win?  Drawing is the day we receive our copy!

Enter to win  Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce Volume 2 - Spring and Summer

1.  Like the Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce facebook page.  
2.  Share the post about the contest on your facebook timeline 

We will be choosing one winner from the facebook page shares!  Hurry, quick...time is running out!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

How YOU can help a Divorced Friend on Father's Day!

Top Ten Father’s Day Tips to Help a Recently Divorced Father

1)            When you see him, say something like, “Hey man, how’s it goin’?  How about those Yankees?”  And then slug him in the arm.  In other words, we guys experience support and emotions differently, and so a different approach can be required.

2)           If he has the kids, and you have the ability, offer to take by a good meal over the weekend…it may have been a long time since he had some good home cooking.

3)           You might consider sending him tickets to a ball game for he and the kids….but maybe for Saturday rather than Sunday….less attention on dads and families that way.

4)           You could send him a card….and maybe mention the good qualities you see in him as a father…especially the ones you are seeing post-divorce.  He may be feeling like a failure and need the good word.

5)           He might could use some extra cash…but you may have to do it anonymously.  People are often aware of struggling single moms, but single dads can have it hard, too, with divided finances, maintenance or alimony, sometimes child support….it can really hit guys hard sometimes.

6)           Maybe invite he and his kids to join you for a trip to a local theme park or skiing at the lake…he may not have energy for great ideas himself.  And while out there, let his kids know you think he is a good dad…sometimes they are not told about the good things dad does.

7)           If you know the kids well, you may want to touch base with them to make sure they know it’s Father’s Day, and had opportunity to get cards or gifts.

8)           If he’s a good friend, you might want to consider scheduling late night pizza with him Sunday, or lunch the next day….he may need a place to talk out or debrief after a tough day.

9)           Offer to pick he and the kids up to go to church with you Father’s Day…it can be a tough day to walk in the door alone.

10)         And, as always, one of the greatest gifts you can give is to pray for him, and let him know he is in your prayers.  That is one of the true treasures of Christian friendship.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Top Ten Tips for Father's Day....for the Divorced Dad....

Well, we did some tips for Mother’s Day, how about putting out some ideas for Father’s Day?




Top Ten Father’s Day Tips for Newly Divorced Fathers


1)  Don’t try to make up for all the times you DON’T have with your kids, make this time you DO have a special one.


2)  Teach the kids the importance of Father’s Day by setting an example in the way you treat your own dad on Father’s Day.  You might even choose to make it a multi-generational celebration, because remember, grandparents also suffer time loss in a divorce.


3)  Teach the kids something about YOU, by sharing an activity that is important to you and helping them understand why it is.  


4)  If your ex makes the day difficult, choose to NOT focus on that, but to keep central the importance of time with your children….especially if they don’t reside with you most of the time.  Father’s Day isn’t about her, save that for another time.


5)  Pay attention to your budget.  If your resources are limited, (and even if they aren’t) don’t overcompensate by making the celebration over the top…maintain some degree of normalcy and keep some old traditions.

6)  We guys often aren’t good with expressing emotions, and they can really bubble to the surface in a big way on Father’s Day after divorce.  Be prepared for that…maybe arrange to have a buddy you can touch base with during the day if you struggle.


7)  A challenge to you:  if your ex helped the kids shop or make their cards or anything to make the day better for you…send her a thank you card…she is a rare gal if she does.  Your note may impact for the better, relations with your ex for many years to come.


8)  The break with your spouse complicates lots of relationships.  If your father-in-law was a good friend, consider sending him a Father’s Day card, or make sure your children do so for that grandfather.  (But don’t do it if you have been mean to your ex!  At least not without an apology.)


9)  You may know another guy who is having a tough Father’s Day…maybe because of a divorce himself, or some other reason.  You may want to find a way to include him in your plans and make a difference for HIM, too.  


10)  The Bible honors godly fathers, from Abraham to Job and beyond.  Set a godly example for Father’s Day, make sure you spend part of it with the kids in worship…being an example of faith is the greatest thing a Father can do.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Top Ten Action Tips for Getting Along with Your Ex!



Sending Ricin to Blackmail Hubby Won't Solve Your Problems!

So have you heard about the Texas actress, Shannon Guess Richardson, in Texas who was arrested after sending a ricin-laced letter to the president?  Turns out she and hubby are divorcing, and she was trying to set him up and make him look bad.  Guess she wasn't a very believable actress, huh?  OBVIOUSLY, she didn't read my last post…although, I posted after the letters had been sent.  If she had read and heeded the advice, she wouldn't be in jail now.  A news commentator asked if she was crazy or something, and the answer, of course, is YES!  The emotional upheavals of divorce can make you do crazy things!   So that, combined with the fact that one of my readers, Jason Ratner, made some specific responses/suggestions, caused me to reconsider putting together a list not about the emotional and internal responses of dealing with your ex, but a few practical interactive tips for those times when you are negotiating or trying to get on top of that difficult relationship. 

1)           In all your communications, stick to specific issues dispassionately…don’t chase rabbits or explanations and go into long self defenses.

2)          A friend’s wise advice to me was to put things into a win-win situation, where I sought what I needed by also offering what my ex needed in exchange.  (Having a good support group of wise friends can be very helpful!)

3)          Document everything…time of meeting, topic discussed, inappropriate actions suffered, keep hard copies or duplicate files of every email sent and received or text messages, and, if possible, also every voice mail.  In addition, you should document agreements not kept and court orders not honored.  Make copies of any checks written/received and consider registered mail for items sent.

4)          Develop a tough skin, don’t let the person get to you…they know your buttons and will push them.  Time to rewire!  Remain calm and direct, save your venting for afterwards with a friend or out in the wilderness where you can shout or cry to your heart’s content.

5)          Be clear, firm and insistent on specifics, in a timely fashion.  For instance, let her know several weeks ahead that you expect to be with the children on Father’s Day/Mother's Day and will pick them up at a certain time.  If there are objections, sometimes a simple, “nonetheless, I expect to pick them up at that time,” can go a long way. 

6)          Sometimes a copy of the court orders can be helpful.  In the scenario just mentioned, you can send a copy of the relevant documentation with the appropriate passage highlighted.

7)          When the other person responds well, express appreciation, and even find a way to reciprocate to help reinforce the kind of relationship you are seeking to develop.

8)          When the other person makes demands that ARE within appropriate bounds, respond in a positive way, such as, “yes, of course you can pick the children up at 7:00…it is important for the kids to have time with you, too.”

9)          In cases of high emotions, it may be best to set boundaries in terms of communications, sticking only to letters, emails and voice mails rather than direct interactions, lest you fuel the emotional firestorm between you.

10)       With a particularly abusive or invasive ex, it is a good idea to always arrange any necessary meetings or child drop offs at neutral locations, and bring a witness with you….they may be less likely to cause problems publicly.

And if nothing else works, there do seem to be some extreme cases, in which you may need to move to another town and simply start a new life as the only way to be away from the issues of dealing with your ex as often as you do.  Bottom line, it just is NOT an easy thing to deal with, and each situation is different.  Pick up tips from others who have dealt with it in the past, and hang on…for this, too, will pass!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top Ten Tips For Coping with a Troublesome Ex


In a conversation with a woman the other day, she indicated that she had been divorced a long time, and what she needed was my next book.  When I told her it was at the publishers, and explained some of the topics in it, like hope and rebuilding, she told me that what she needed was a book specifically about how to deal with a troublesome ex.  Don’t know that I care to write a book like that (although it IS discussed in places in both volumes), but thought I could at least throw some thoughts into the blog, because I bet she isn’t the only one, right?

I have heard and had lots of ideas in this area.  Sometimes it seems like a better legal arrangement ought to be that when a couple divorces, one HAS to move to another country.  Some folks actually say they are better friends AFTER their divorce than they were during their marriage!  Other individuals think in terms of acquiring hit men.  I don’t know that I will have all the answers, in fact, I can guarantee you by experience that I do NOT.  But I can throw out some thoughts that might be helpful.  And I think I will put most of it in a top ten list format, with a few preliminary comments.

The comments are simple.  First, it is what it is…divorce is messy, and you just have to deal with the realities it creates the best way you can.  You may think it would be easier to not have your ex involved with your children’s lives, and you may be right.  However, I have known several where that is the case, and those parents were heartbroken at the pain their children experienced with the absent parent, so it is a mixed blessing at best.  Dealing with an ex is, of course, the most difficult when the children are minors and the resulting entanglements ongoing, so if you are in that situation, realize that it will reduce as the children mature. 

The other thing I would highlight is that dealing with an ex is, unfortunately, a good test of your faith and commitment to the Lord.  There are so many scriptures that apply which seem so good in theory, but you get to learn they are not so easy to put into practice.  If you are struggling with an ex, I encourage you especially to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 where topics are addressed such as forgiveness (6:14), being treated poorly (5:11-12), revenge (5:38-40), responding to evildoers (5:44, 7:12) and focusing on your own actions (7:1-5).   You learn how hard Paul’s advice is to never return evil for evil, but good instead (Romans 12), and as you grow in your understanding of God’s love for us and through us, understand the depth of living out God’s love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.  Perhaps reading something like Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place can help you as you struggle with injustice.

With that as my introduction, how about the top ten suggestions:

1)  Technically, you should probably feel complimented…after all, it means you and your life are so much more interesting than your ex’s that he/she simply won’t move on!

2)  Don’t let yourself sink to their level or become hard and bitter.  A friend of mine once said that the trouble with getting into a spitting match with a skunk is you both end up smelling like skunks.  Just stick to the facts, avoid counterattacks and unnecessary       explanations and defensiveness.

3)    Set appropriate boundaries, and don’t be afraid to stand up for them.  Enabling poor behavior benefits no one.  Sometimes you can state or write your desires in a clear and non-confrontational manner with good results, but not always. 

4)  Pray for them!  Maybe not the prayers you FEEL like praying, but prayers you can imagine Jesus praying.  Prayers like, “God, help him/her submit to You. Help her/him realize how what they do affects the kids.”

5)  The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a good guide to use….treat others (your ex) the way you want them to treat you.  (Not how they ARE treating you, but the way you WANT them to treat you.)  You are setting an example, maybe they will pick up on it (but I wouldn't bet on it if I were you).  More importantly set an example for your children or others who are watching you as an example of a person of faith.  

6)  If worst comes to worst, you COULD go back to court to seek some assistance, if you can afford it.  If the ex doesn't

 make court ordered payments or schedules, or if     there is continual harassment, there are possible legal courses of action such as contempt of court charges or restraining orders. The trouble often is, though, that     even though you may be able to obtain court decrees, enforcement is often another matter.  Ultimately,there will be the court of heaven and the judgment there will be inescapable. 

7)  Return good for evil (Romans 12:14-21).  Even if your ex shortchanges you financially, or robs you of time with your children on their birthday or Father’s/Mother’s     Day, YOU still seek to do what is right, what is good, what OUGHT to be done. You will be able to look yourself in the mirror when you are doing your best to live pleasing to God, even if others are not. 

8)  If you have children, always remember this is their father or mother.  If nothing else, your ex gave you these children you love.  AND, the ex remains their father or mother, and so don’t do things that undermine that reality.  Try to be careful what you say or do in front of them.

9)  Perhaps most of all, when dealing with that troublesome  ex, you can be thankful that at least you don’t have to deal with him/her all the time, since you no longer    share a home.  After the divorce, though an ex can create a great deal of stress and havoc, you still can go home to your own space and your own friends without him/her around. 

10)  Notice:  none of these are really about that troublesome ex….because you often have no useful influence over that person.  All you control are YOUR behaviors and          attitudes, you don’t control theirs.  Remember, if the two of you got along well, holding the same values and priorities, you probably would still be married….it’s because you DON’T that you are now dealing with them as an EX…don’t expect them to adopt your point of view NOW!  The good news is, you also will only have to answer for your own choices…they will have to answer for theirs. 

Well, there’s a list.  Maybe it will help.  At least it can offer some food for thought. 

TL:dr  Dealing with an ex can be very difficult, but tips about the kind of person you are and how you respond can make a difference.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tapping into the Strength of God in Difficult Circumstances

 Where Do You Get Strength to Endure?

(Note:  I write this specifically of divorce, but many of the things I describe apply to life situations such as a loss of job, death of a loved one or facing any of a multitude of life’s extreme difficulties, so feel free to apply the principles to whatever challenges YOU face.)

I had someone ask a question recently that, as time as passed, I realize is actually a pretty good question.  To get to the point of the article (and the title), you are going to have to bear with a bit of explanation first.  The individual was discussing my book, Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce, and asked me why I decided to write it as a devotional book.  In case you haven’t seen it yet, Finding God is laid out as a daily devotional, with scripture readings and special readings for holidays, and the devotionals are divided into four “seasons” related to the divorce experience.   The first volume has Autumn and Winter, when things are falling apart and look very bleak in the process of divorce, and the second volume (at the publishers now) is Spring and Summer, when hope starts to come back and you start to discover how to live your life in this new reality.  The devotional has scriptures from almost every book in the Bible, the topics cover everything from dealing with attorneys to depression to finances to children’s schedules….all the stuff that goes with divorce.  So the individual actually had looked over a copy of the book, and yet asked why I wrote in devotional format.  I realize there is actually an important answer or two to that, and those answers could also be helpful for lots of other areas of our lives, so I will share the answers as my stepping stone into today’s topic.

My first answer was that it was, in part, because I like devotional books myself, and am kind of a devotional junkie.  Then I added something about how so much of the supporting help out there is in the form of a once a week setting, and you are left on your own the rest of the week.  And I think I mentioned that Christians often face not only the feelings of stress and failure in the divorce, but also can find ostracism from other Christians and maybe even wonder if God still cares.  As a result, many divorcing Christians end up leaving their church, and some even abandon God.  And so the purpose of the book is to provide something that can walk with the person day by day as they go through the struggle, and help them discover the scriptures that assure them of God’s role in their lives, hopefully helping them keep on track.  But the core answer to the question is actually none of those things, and yet all of those things.  The core answer is this:  Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce is written in devotional book format because divorce is a tough and confusing experience, sometimes even devastating, and is thus the perfect time to learn how to experience God’s help and guidance and an important time to lean on God.  In fact, I believe it is critical that we build that connection, because the temptations and the choices are many, while the process is emotionally and physically draining, that it can really lead a person to do very foolish or destructive things.  It is a critical time to make the wisest choices possible, realizing, of course that we all make mistakes as we struggle.

So my belief and purpose in this regard is to provide some reflections that can help readers tap into the resource that God is in our lives.  Many places in the Bible God invites us to come before Him to find strength and help, to look to Him for guidance and correction, to know that God is with us in all the trials of life and desires we look to Him for the meeting of ours life’s needs, to let Him be a refuge and protector for us, to confess our shortcomings and sins that we may know His forgiveness and mercy…and every one of those concerns are often desperately needed by individuals wrestling with divorce…especially those whose divorce is a result of an abandoning spouse.  In some cases, the situation can become so overwhelming as to create despair and the episodes of suicide and rage we so often tragically see in the news.  God can help us navigate the treacherous waters that dash against our lives, and keep us from crashing against the rocks.  But we must trust.  And we must be open to God’s voice.  And we must be diligent to seek Him.

Too many times I have known of individuals who end up divorced (whether their choice or not) and lose their faith in God.  They may even turn away from the church, (and quite possibly turned away from the church) and some who even abandon the ministry to which they were called.  I have personally known and seen good church and Christian leaders end up knocked so off balance that they fall away or fall apart in bitterness, disappointment or depression.  Many question the place of God in the midst of their turmoil.  And though many find their way back into church…often a different church…many do not. 

I believe the best prevention, the best restoration, the best source of strength and wisdom in the midst of this upheaval is tapping into the help of God.  To do so requires our attention to what God has taught, it requires time before Him, and it helps to hear the encouragements of others who have faced similar struggles.  Many of the scriptures in my devotionals are scriptures God used to give me strength when I  was the one who so desperately needed it.  I include passages that have offered me hope when I felt no hope, or called me to see beyond the circumstances to the God who dwells above the circumstances and can carry us through them.  The writings I have included are not so much to tell the reader how to think or explain everything I have learned about God, as they are to help the readers who are searching for their own answers and want some outside perspective to help guide their search.  I believe God’s heart is broken each time a marriage falls apart, but then breaks even further when the divorcing person allows the experience to turn him/her AWAY from God instead of TOWARD Him.  God has much to offer those who struggle, as scriptures describe God as being near the brokenhearted, the outcast, the weak, the fearful.  I want to encourage each reader to let God speak to you in the hard times of your life.  And my hope is that my book or my writings can help you experience His touch in some particular way that may be the very way God seeks to touch your life just now.  Your own strength can only carry you so far.  God’s strength in us will carry us through to victory!

TL:dr: Let the strength of God be your source for the endurance of your difficulties.