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Friday, August 30, 2013

Taking Meaning from Martin Luther King

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;” 
--Acts 2:17 ESV

This week in Washington, D.C., there was a big celebration to commemorate the date when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the speech referred to as the “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial steps.  I was young in the 60’s, and remember some of the race relation events of the 60’s and 70’s well, but others are more sketchy, including the presentation of his speech.  However, for years I taught a speech class at a community college, and every class had to watch or listen to certain great historical speeches, and read others, and King’s ’63 speech was ALWAYS included.  What surprised (and saddened me) was the number of students who were aware of the speech, but had never read or watched it in its entirety.  They were sadly deprived.

Having grown up in a multiracial community, and always attended schools that were just naturally “integrated,” I had a hard time understanding (and still do, for that matter) those who sought to hard to maintain segregation and discrimination.  Just doesn’t make much sense to me.  I love King’s line about judging an individual, “not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character.”  Actually, there are a number of lines I love.  And I love the dramatic style of presentation.  It is more than just what people call the style of the “black pulpit.”  He had a gift, and when he generates excitement and energy in that speech, raising pitch and volume up and down like a rollercoaster, then when he reaches the peak with, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last,” he doesn’t stand for applause, he doesn’t draw other conclusions, he doesn’t even say, “thank you.”  Instead, he raises the pitch and energy to the peak, and walks away leaving the words ringing in their ears, because he understood it wasn’t the man, it was the message that mattered, and the best way for people to hear the message of that speech was for him to get out of the way.  If you have never watched it through, I highly recommend it.

I didn’t know MLK, Jr., obviously.  I know some things about his life, but I also know there are things that have been sealed away, and that he wasn’t a perfect person.  So I don’t think the man needs to be on a pedestal, but he certainly needs to be appreciated and the message he brought should be valued.  But as I listened to the various politicians and entertainers bring their thoughts (and I didn’t listen to that many completely through), I was struck by what I perceived as the difference.  They spoke about the movement and the dream…which are both important.  And they elevated the man.  But it also felt like there was plenty of ego involved as well….could be my bias.  But I wasn’t so impressed.  I began to wonder why, and came up with what I think made a difference.

King had a dream.  But the dream was not his own.  In all the chatter these days about race relations, I think some core elements have been lost along the way here in America.  

King did NOT create his own message.  He was a man ENTRUSTED with a message.  He was a man called of God as an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When he spoke of issues of justice and love and righteous actions, he spoke out of a context: the context of the scriptures, the context of the church he had grown up attending, the context of the Savior he served and followed.  

It was what he gleaned from those contexts that his message was shaped, for it wasn't merely his message, I believe, it was the message God had revealed to him and entrusted him to proclaim.  Go back to the speech, it is peppered not only with references to United States history, but also with references to a multitude of scriptures.  That was his standard.  That was where he derived his authority.  That was how he learned right from wrong.  As the scripture from Joel quoted in Acts indicates, God is a God of dreams, visions and messages called prophecy.  And the dreams the Spirit of God pours out are dreams of substance, value and truth.

Today, so many leaders derive their authority from their own imaginations and designs.  They speak of a vision that is derived from popular opinion.  Their moral authority has become mired in the morass of relativism.  There is, for them, no ultimate truth, only the truth that gets a hearing, produces fans or gets one elected.  In part, I think this has happened because so many parents since MLK’s day have neglected in raising their children with knowledge of scripture, lacking attendance at church or synagogue.  So what is right, what is good, or the idea that our Creator expects something of us is, for those children, totally arbitrary or personal opinion.  And I believe we are paying the price for it as a nation in a great number of ways.

I so love the scene in “Driving Miss Daisy” where she is invited to synagogue to hear King speak, but leaves waiting outside her “Negro” chauffeur  never considering seriously that he was one of the very people on whose behalf King was speaking!  Truth and popular opinion are rarely the same.  Jesus made very clear that real truth is to be found in scripture.  So, for me, the celebration of Dr. King’s speech is not merely remembering what he said, but also a celebration of the Giver of the message Dr. King proclaimed.  When was the last time YOU spent time searching the scriptures for some truth?

(p.s.  I’ll got some thoughts to share regarding divorce again, soon.  Just feel like this is an important enough event that I want to include it, too.)

TL:dr  Reflections on Martin Luther King’s speech celebration and the source of his message.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What do you know about Egypt?

Blessed are you…

Does it bother anybody else, or is it just me?  With all the upheaval going on in Egypt, it sure seems to me that the coverage (at least here in the U.S.) of the events seems to turn a blind eye to what is happening.  Or at least, an eye limited in scope.  If you do a little research, you can find it reported that there are dozens of Christian churches that were burned, along with orphanages and schools.  And some of the buildings are centuries old edifices.  Where is the outrage??  I do find myself wondering if it were mosques being burnt, and non-Muslims doing it, there would be plenty of outrage.  Like when Hillary went on and on about the “disgusting internet video,” which turned out to be something nobody was even paying attention to until she brought it up.  Or the outrage at that Florida pastor who burned a copy of the Koran, and had so many people upset.  I wonder how many Bibles were burned in those churches.  I wonder if anybody is outraged?  I wonder if THOSE actions are “DISGUSTING,” too?  I mean, orphanages?  Schools?  Really?  And wouldn’t you say that is AT LEAST as bad as an amateur video nobody saw? 

A young woman I met from Vienna with relatives in Iraq told me about the number of Christians who are being targeted and killed in Iraq these days.  Killed in ways so reprehensible she chose not to even describe what was happening.  We know about Abu Grabh, and we know about the soldier on trial for his rampages over in Afghanistan.  But these atrocities are simply ignored.  As they have been for centuries.

Throughout history the Jewish people and the Christians have been misunderstood, misrepresented, made into scapegoats and targeted for attacks of various kinds.  Not that both groups haven’t also made their share of mistakes.  And they are usually not permitted to forget them, either!  But these radicalized Muslim thugs, who even moderate Muslims abhor, seem to be granted a pass or at least their evils are explained away or ignored.   And, by the way, God bless those Muslim moderates who have even taken some of the Christians into their homes to protect them from the attacks!   But back to history.  The Romans cruelly treated both Christians and Muslims.  They loaded their catapults with Jewish slaves when they laid siege to Jewish territories.  Nero burned Christians as torches to light his garden at night.  And those examples are repeated many ways as the story comes down to our modern age.

Some people…and not just the radical Muslims or atheists…would just as soon the Christians and Jewish people were gone, because both are reminders that there is right and wrong, and that there is a God who will hold us all accountable for our deeds.  Some would like to simply be able to do anything and have nobody question their actions.  But it seems to me, that leads only to societies where three young men arbitrarily gun down a foreign jogger just for the sake of thrills…at least, that’s what is being said about that sad situation in Oklahoma

 Nope, when you stand up and declare that there is a right and wrong, and call into question actions and attitudes in society, you aren't always going to be loved.  But you will end up being the conscience of a society.  Although society may fight back and try to convince folks that you are the one who is wrong, outdated and irrelevant.  And there can come a day, even here in the U.S., when those who oppose will actively burn down churches and synagogues, and find that nobody cares.  But Jesus perhaps addressed the issue best in the Sermon on the Mount, when he called blessed those who suffer persecution, because they share the experience of godly people who have gone before, and because their reward in heaven will be great. 

So for my brothers and sisters in Egypt and Iraq, as well as other places around the world where being a follower of the one true God results in persecution and attacks, you have my prayers.  And always remember Jesus had placed you in a special category, and that is a category called, “blessed,” even if it doesn't seem like it now.  For persecution often leads to revival and an outpouring of God’s Spirit on those who are lost.  For the rest of us, perhaps we ought to write our news agencies and politicians and ask WHY, with the exception of NPR, there is such little coverage of and concern for this travesty here in the U.S.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Remembering Great People of Faith

Something Precious

One of the great things about being in ministry is the opportunity to know and call as friends some of the world’s truly great people, people who are kind, generous, wise and sincerely trying to learn how to be better people.  

Oh, I know that isn't the reputation church people always have out there in the world, and it certainly is not the image often portrayed in movies.  Some people think they are judgmental, self-righteous, things like that, and indeed, there are people like that involved in churches….just as there are people like that outside the churches.  It is not a function of church, it is a function of human nature inside or outside the church.  Still, even in spite of individuals we may not care for, every church I have ever been part of has included some pretty special people whose caring, counsel and encouragement have meant a great deal to me and to many others.  I think it is important to remember these things, as sometimes it is far too easy to focus on the things that trouble us, instead of those we appreciate and value. 

Recently I was at the memorial service for one of those great people of faith.  (I am so privileged to have known and to know so many.)  She wasn’t someone that most people in the world will have ever heard of, but the people whose lives she touched won’t forget her.  And, she was one of many saints who were there for me when my marriage fell apart and divorce came my way.  Her service made me think of this verse in Psalms: 

Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones.” 
                                                                                          Psalm 116:15  NASB    

There is something special about knowing these kind of people, and having them as personal friends.  And there is something special in heaven when they depart this earth to be welcomed into glory. 

Anyway, my friend used to have a lot of fun little pithy sayings that she would hang on to and quote as wisdom to help her through life, and to use to encourage others.  When I was leaving the service, one of the family members gave me a little booklet my friend had made that was a collection of her little sayings.  Thumbing through it the other day, it was as if I could hear her saying many of them.  She picked them up here and there, and used them to supplement the guidance she found in the scripture.  By now, perhaps you are thinking of some of those special people in your life.  I hope you are, anyway.  I thought maybe I’d take a few of her gems and pass them along to you.  Enjoy. 

“The dreams you dream can be fulfilled, if when you dream you also build.”

“Never let yesterday use up today.”

“Patience is a bitter plant, but it bears sweet fruit.”

“It takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.”

“If you can’t see the bright side, then polish the dull side!”

“Do not fear tomorrow.  God is already there!”

“Reach up as far as you can and God will reach down the rest of the way.”

“It’s always too soon to quit.”

Well, there are many more, but you get the idea.   Thanks Dorrene, (as well as all my other precious saint friends) for all you have meant in my life…see you in glory.  

I wonder, what will your children find you have left as the tidbits of YOUR life?  You might consider pulling together some of your favorite helpful wisdom for them.  Who knows, they might end up on somebody’s blog, too! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Reason to Laugh

Stop and Laugh With Me
(you may want to bear with me in this…there is eventually a point!)

(This cartoon copyrights owned by PEANUTS Worldwide LLC)

Somebody once asked why I chose to use a devotional format for my books.  And there are lots of reasons, but one of the main one is that I have used devotional guides myself of one sort or another for over 30 years, and have found that time to stop, reflect and listen to be invaluable in my life.  Lately, I have included in my routines reading through some old copies of Guideposts I have picked up in thrift stores here and there, and had a particularly funny story told by Mark Collins in the 2011 edition.  With my own retelling, the story goes like this:

A man was visiting a loved one dying in the hospital, and as they visited was reminded that so many times that loved one had told the man that when he thought about dying, he had always wanted to die in his sleep like his great grandfather.  He did NOT want to die screaming and squirming and scared like all the people who were in the back of his great grandfather’s stagecoach when he drove it over the cliff! 

Or how about some old lame ones?  Like the man who told his friend that there was something wrong, because everywhere he looked, he was always seeing spots.  His friend asked if he had seen the doctor.  “No, just spots!”

Or the man who DID go to the doctor because of a pain in his arm.  When the doctor asked him what was the matter, he replied as he raised his elbow to shoulder level, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.”  And the doctor, of course said, “Then don’t do that.”

Okay, how about a couple of my favorites, then. 

Like the one about the blonde woman (sorry blondes, I tried to rewrite it, but it just doesn’t work as well) who hopped onto the Paris-bound plane in New York, and plopped right down in a First Class seat.  The flight was full, and as the attendants were checking people’s seating, she was advised that her ticket was for coach and she would have to move to a different seat.  The lady replied, “I’m blonde, I’m going to Paris, and I’m going to sit in first class. 

When she could not get the lady to move, she went up and got help.  The head steward came and said, “Ma’am, I’ve been informed you are in the wrong seat.  What seems to be the problem?”  She replied, “There’s no problem.  You see, I’m blonde, I’m going to Paris and I’m going to sit in first class.”  Unable to get a change, no matter who talked to her, and yet unable to depart until the seating problem was rectified, they finally brought in the captain.  They explained the situation to him, including her stubbornness, and so he went back to her seat, identified her as the lady in question, then leaned over and whispered into her ear.  She instantly hopped up and ran back to her seat back in the coach section at the back of the plane.  Mystified, the crew gathered around the captain and asked, “What did you say to her that got her to move?”  He smiled, and replied, “I simply told her that first class wasn’t going to Paris.”

Then there is the one about the braggart who claimed to be a great bear hunter, especially of grizzlies.  He had bragged all the way up to the remote cabin as he and his friends headed out on their hunting trip.  They, of course, mocked his arrogance, and it was clear to him they didn’t believe him.  And so, as they arrived, he bragged to them, “I tell you what, you guys go unpack everything, and I will do all the KP all week if I can’t get a bear before you are unpacked.”  Sounding like a sure thing, they took the bet. 

So the man disappeared out the door, and they started unpacking.  They weren’t very far along in the process when they suddenly heard the front door open, and saw the man rush in and hide behind the door.  A few seconds later, an angry grizzly came bounding into the cabin.  The man suddenly jumped from behind the door, and as he headed out to the porch, they heard him say, “You guys get this one skinned and I’ll be back with another in 15 minutes.”

I particularly enjoy Far Side and Peanuts cartoons.  A couple of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, as I recall them, are when Linus is walking around proclaiming how much he loves mankind, over and over again.  The ridiculous statement is challenged by one of the other kids, and Linus replies, I “LOVE mankind.  It’s people I can’t stand.”  And the other, also involving Linus, has him walking into the room all spruced up and looking fine, showing off his new clothes.  As he leaves the room, Lucy (I think) yells after him, “Hey, you forgot to polish the back of your shoes.”  And Linus replies, “I didn’t forget.  I only care what impression I make when I walk into the room.  I don’t care what they think when I leave!”  I think Charles Schulz is one of the great writers of our age, I really do. 

Why have I put all this out here?  Because one of the really tough areas of divorce, as well as a challenge we experience when we are dealing with times of high stress, is the great tension that exists internally.  In divorce, that tension is often accompanied by an overwhelming sadness.  

I lost a dear aunt who passed away recently, one of my prayer partner aunts.  During the times of my divorce, one of her wise words to me was to find something each day that can bring a smile to my face.  She knew scriptures such as these: 

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”---Proverbs 17:22 ESV
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”---
Job 8:21  ESV
In the midst of the heartache and struggles, something that brings a smile is, indeed, good medicine.  And it is a very promising thing to hear that laughter will one day return.  If you are a person struggling these days for whatever reasons, perhaps this blog will have brought a little laughter…or maybe a groan…to lift your spirits just a bit.  I encourage you to supplement it with additional items of your own that bring laughter and joy to your world.  God knows that there are plenty of things to bring you down!

TL:dr  Sharing some humor with the advice that laughter is a good antidote to heaviness of heart. 

BTW:  Right now, we have a special offer on both volumes of Finding God at our website:  findinggoddevotionals

Saturday, August 10, 2013

...and the winner is?

Dear Old Dad!

So it was time to do the drawing for the free copy of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce   VOLUME 2, now that it is completed and out.  So we gathered up the names of the people who entered the drawing by liking the facebook page and then sharing a post about Volume 2.  Then we printed the names onto papers for a drawing.  Last time we had the pastor do the drawing, but I decided this time, that probably the person most excited about the books even being written is my Dad, and so we had Dad do the drawing.  Before I tell you who won the drawing, let me tell you a bit about Dad.

We live in the same town as my dad, having moved down a few years back to help out and to be able to dedicate some time to writing.  Dad was married to my mom for over 60 years, having gotten married just after World War II, and married till mom passed away last fall, a great achievement in this day and age.  Dad served in the army during that war, involved in the invasions of Sicily, Italy and Southern France, all making way for the D-day invasion across the channel.  He was at Dachau the day after it was liberated, and was involved with the famous and difficult battle of Monte Cassino.  In fact, in the last couple of years, he was awarded a Bronze Star having led a rescue of around 30 injured New Zealand soldiers during that battle.  Originally he was put in for a higher decoration, but records were destroyed when HQ was hit, and the other records burned in a fire in St. Louis, so his award recommendation had been long lost.  Then word of his actions got back to the current officers of the battalion, and they took on the project to make amends for the long missing records, and he received a bronze star as a result. 

However, if you talked to Dad, he wouldn't tell you that was the most important thing in his life.  It was just what had to be done or else those guys would have died.   And when you talk to him about World War II, he has a hard time believing he was able to do some of the things they had to do, sleeping in the rain, marching clear across Europe…  But then he realizes he was only a young kid, back 70 years ago when he was serving.  Now, at nearly 93, reflecting on his life, he knows what they did then was important, but he more values the six decade long marriage, and having raised a family, and having worked hard as a successful photographer for several decades.  (I learned photography from him, including the shots on the covers of my books…as did my sister, who did my photo on the books.)  Having grown up during and survived the Great Depression and Dust Bowl on a Kansas farm, he has learned how to face most any challenge, and is a real can do sort of person.  In spite of the physical limitations of age, he still keeps a vegetable garden growing, loves to cook and can, and always has one project or another going around his house. 

But what means the most to him has been his involvement in church and his commitment to Christ.  He has served his church teaching Sunday School and as a Deacon, as well as many other roles.  Even today, he has a greeting card ministry, and sends encouragements to those who are in grief, are ill, or celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.   His faith and his commitment to, not only believing in God, but actively serving Him, are core values he has sought to pass on to his children, grandchildren, family and friends.  His example in all these things have helped shape who I am, and what I have written.  And it seemed only fitting that we include him in our celebration of the new book, and so, thanks Dad, for everything.  With that, let’s show the pictures and announce the winner of our free signed copy of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce  Vol. 2:  Spring and Summer—Seasons of Renewal and Warmth.   AND THE WINNER IS……

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fallen Humanity - and the Grace We Need

Monsters or Men? 

So there are a few names that are popping up a lot in the news these days:  Major Nidal Hasan from the infamous Fort Hood shootings, and Ariel Castro along with his victim Michelle Knight.   When you read the headlines or hear the news, do you ever wonder what is wrong with people these days?  

The headline that really caught my attention was the one that described Ariel Castro as a “monster”.  In his statement, Castro described himself as sick, and denied culpability for his disgusting behaviors.  And Hasan seems to have no regrets for the lives he has taken or the injuries he has inflicted.  Are these mere flukes of a society gone awry?  Or is there something more?  Contrast those two individuals with Ms. Knight who has responded in extremely difficult circumstances with dignity, grace and even forgiveness, while acknowledging that the evil she and her comrades experienced at the hands of Castro must be punished.  How can people be SO different from one another?

There are those who describe Castro, a twisted fluke of nature.  I would argue that he demonstrates the reality of human nature at its worst.  On a recent flight back from Phoenix, I happened to visit with a young woman from Europe, who had moved there some years ago from Iraq, and still apparently has family and friends in Iraq.  In the course of our discussion, she commented that Christians were now being killed in Iraq in frightening numbers, and she started to describe what was happening, but then stopped herself and said, “No, I won’t tell you how they are killing them.  It is just too awful.”  Too awful for words.  

Some years ago I was in Mexico City, and visiting with some refugees from El Salvador primarily, and as I listened to their stories, I was impacted by the kinds of atrocities being done by one group of humans to another down there.  I, too, heard things I will not describe to you, but I will mention that one individual said his family had all been “machine gunned” at the dad’s law office, and their bodies tossed over a cliff along with thousands of others.  He said his relatives (nor those of other victims) could not go retrieve the bodies for burial, because if they did try to claim a body, they would be “machine gunned” as well, and join their family members in the pit. 

I just returned from another trip to Arizona, and happened to stop in one of the wild west towns of New Mexico.  In that community, there was a news report back in the 1800’s, that it had been an unusual week, because nobody had been shot there.  So what we are hearing is nothing new.  In fact, you can go back throughout history and find incredibly awful things people have done to others, sometimes in the name of country, sometimes in the name of religion (sadly, including Christianity), and sometimes just out of pure greed or power hunger.  Some of the ways the ancient Assyrians treated their captives would turn your stomach…they were ruthless and evil. 

On the other hand, you can go back through history and find individuals whose deeds are more reflective of Ms. Knight, individuals whose behavior was exemplary, and who inspire us to greater things.  In my studies of the rabbinic teachings, they explain that every individual is born with the “inclination to good’ and the “inclination to evil,” and that the goal of life is to follow the good inclination, and hopefully have the scales tipped in that direction upon one’s return to our Maker.  

Christian teaching differs, though, from that concept.  While we would agree that there are the two directions pulling at us and beckoning us to deeds of good or evil, we also agree with Paul that though we might DESIRE to do good, the reality is that we all end up doing things that are evil, or at least fall short of the perfection of God, despite our best intentions.  That is due to the power of sin in our world and in our lives, resulting from the Fall by which all humanity is tainted.  Both Romans and Psalms, which it quotes, acknowledge that there are none righteous, but that all have gone astray.  What we see in Castro is the manifestation of that unrighteousness with, apparently, nothing to hold it in check. 

What we see in Hassan (and I would argue we have seen many times by people doing evil deeds in the name of whatever religion, including Christianity), is the deception we often experience, in which Satan appears as an “angel of light” leading us into deeds which in our deception we THINK are pleasing to God, but are actually the trickery of Satan to lead us to evil.   It is easy for us to sit and look at these kind of people, and acknowledge how awful they are, but believe we are not like them.  And most of us aren’t, at least in some ways.  I have never shot anybody, let alone attacked a whole fort full of soldiers who were my comrades in arms.  I have never kidnapped and held captive young girls, and abused them as Castro is charged with doing.  And probably you haven’t either.  But I know there are things I have done that I shouldn’t have, and later regretted.  I know that are things I wish I had done, but turned away from in selfishness or lack of compassion.  I bet you could name some of those kinds of things in your own life, as well. 

Sin may not find expression in the same form in our lives as it did in Hassan or Castro.  But it has found expression in ways that fits US, sadly enough.  It is for this reason God’s call to us is to repent, to turn away from those things, and to turn to Him for forgiveness and help in conquering the evils of our lives.  We may not have done what those two individuals did, but we also have not been everything God designed us to be, or fulfilled the highest standards he has established.  Which is why I find it so interesting when church folks want to condemn divorced individuals as terrible sinners worse than themselves.  I don’t know about you, but I am utterly dependent on and thankful for the mercy and grace God extends to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Without it, who knows which of us could have been the next Hassan or Castro?  As the old saying puts it:  “but for the grace of God, there go I.”

TL:dr  Castro and Hassan evidence for us the fallen nature of humanity, and our desperate need for the forgiveness of Christ.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Subculture of Divorce in the Church

Divorce and Secret Societies


In Jesus’ day, there were definite rules as to who could and could not be out in public crowds.  Those with diseases such as the leprosy often mentioned, knew that they had to keep their distance, because they were not welcome in their condition.  Others may have cautiously ventured out, knowing that if they were discovered, they would be in trouble.  That was like the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of his garment.  These individuals were filled with shame, and afraid people might discover their secret and then reject them.  There are individuals who experience the same kind of thing in our churches today, who know to keep their mouths shut, lest they be looked down upon by others.  One such group is Christians who have suffered the experience of divorce. Whether or not they were the ones who initiated it, and whether or not there were scriptural grounds for the divorce, many divorced Christians have learned to be very careful about who they tell of their divorce.  


My wife and I have discussed a phenomenon in relation to this that we both have experienced.  In the course of conversation, one of us may mention that we are divorced, or in our second marriage, or the books are being discussed, and sometimes we get a very interesting response.  Once we mention being divorced, other individuals in the conversation may suddenly change their demeanor and inform us that they, too, have been divorced.  And I have noticed that if the person has been divorced more than once, they are really slow to admit to that.  Somehow, once they hear that we have been divorced, they feel it is safe to share their experiences.  It is as if there is a secret society within the churches that is bound together by the struggles, devastation and shame of a failed marriage, who know that not everyone in a congregation will extend grace to them.  Some will reject them or view them as second class.  This phenomenom results in a subculture of divorced Christians.


In this subculture, there is an awareness that many people will not understand the divorce process,  even if they try to be understanding.   There is also an understanding when in conversation they with another person who has been divorced, they can make a simple reference to a type of struggle and the listener quickly relates without explanation.  These conversations are always carefully initiated  in regards to who they are discussing the topic with.  As my wife points out, the shame can be very strong…even many years after the fact.  Indeed, I know some who were divorced so long ago, they just don’t bother to bring the topic up, because they are tired of feeling like they have to explain, to defend, to relive an event that was ages ago in another period of their lives from which they have long since moved on.  


But in sharing the experience with another who has admitted their struggle, there is a degree of comfort, a bit of assurance and a sense of hope, a common identity.  As if to say, “I know, it was awful, but God has brought me through it, too.  Yes, I too, know the forgiving and restoring power of God in my life, even if I don’t feel comfortable sharing it out loud.”  Now surely this isn’t the only area where people experience this kind of kindred spirits in their journeys toward wholeness.  Is there not a degree of comraderie that holds the 12 step groups of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous together?  Neither of these categories of folks are very keen on sharing that they have these struggles, especially if it is an experience from which they are not yet free.  And there are other areas of life failing that Christians would just as soon keep to themselves, because of the embarrassment and scars they have experienced.  Maybe those who have come out of the world of prostitution, or those who experienced sexual abuse as children, or those who once were incarcerated; as an example of just a few.  I have known people like these, and they, too, are hesitant to openly admit their devastating experiences, failings and weaknesses, because they know that to admit these sins or failings may lead to judgment and rejection by their fellow Christians.  


With these other areas, there often comes a time when they have been delivered from these things which bind them, and then they are often willing and able to stand before their brothers and sisters to share how God set them free, and how their life has changes subsequently.  But the divorced person may never feel the freedom to do the same kind of sharing.  Why?  Hard to say.  We may love to rejoice in the deliverance of people by God from the hold of sins and scars, and to celebrate the healing God can bring to those whose lives have been filled with brokenness and suffering.  But somehow we aren’t always quite so sure what to do with marriages that have failed, and think we need to figure out who is to blame more than we need to figure out how to minister to the need.  Theologically, we hold firm to the sanctity of marriage, and somehow have come to believe that God could have, or should have, kept the marriage together if only the person had prayed more, believed more, been more obedient, or some other such notion.  And, indeed, if both partners were totally committed and obedient to God 100% of the time, the marriage would have held.  But as far as I know, there aren’t any perfect Christians like that walking around…we are all caught in the real life of this world.  


On an ongoing basis individuals choose each day whether to succumb to sins and temptations.  However, unlike gossip, lust, angers, “white lies,” or judgmental attitudesa marriage is shattered by divorce one time, it isn’t a recurring practice.  It is a one time event that impacts the rest of your life, the life of your family, your friends, and the lives of your children.  Even though people who struggle with other sins time and again may be accepted and forgiven, sometimes a person who experienced that gavel drop one time, may not always experience the same kind of acceptance or grace.  EXCEPT, in the secret society, the subculture of Christians who have been through divorce.  There you can find people who know that God is able to forgive, heal and bring hope, even after the most devastating of divorce experiences.  I hope someday we can get beyond the subculture, and find a way for our churches to stand with those whose marriages have been shattered and offer them the encouragement and support they may desperately need.  I have heard a few stories here and there, and they are always told by people grateful that somebody cared.  With as many divorces as occur in our world, maybe someday there will be more stories like that.  And when that support and encouragement comes, perhaps we will also discover more stories of broken marriages healed and restored, as well as stories of those who have found God still has a place for them in the Kingdom, even though they are divorced.