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Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Divorced Women Wish Pastors Knew

What Divorced Women 
Wish Pastors Knew

Tonight I have the pleasure of sharing a blog from a good friend who has written two books.  Janice R. Love has written One Plus One Equals Ten:  A First Lady's Survival Guide for Stepmoms and her newest book Divorced and Highly Favored will be released in May of this year.  Her blog for today provides some really wonderful insights that I wanted to share with you.  You can learn more about Janice and find out about her books at: www.janicerlove.com  Enjoy.  

The church expends a lot of energy focusing on families and building ministries to strengthen the family unit. But what about single individuals, particularly divorced women who come to church every Sunday sometimes feeling forgotten and invisible? Being single is nothing new, the Bible contains many stories of those who are single. The apostle Paul comes to mind as he encourages singles that they can better serve God by being remaining unmarried. Single women are not forgotten in the Bible, as God uses several single women to help us gain vital wisdom. Take a look at Luke 10:38 - 42 where we are introduced to single sisters Mary and Martha who were some of Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus enjoyed visiting their home. We know that Lazarus was their brother, but no husbands are mentioned.  

What about the Samaritan woman at the well?  In John 4:4-42 we learn that she had been divorced five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. After meeting Jesus, this woman who was considered by many to be a sinner, was responsible for the salvation of a whole town. Just as this divorced woman's needs had gone unmet until she met Jesus, today’s churches must not forget that divorced women are members of the church with special needs that often go unmet. Women are sitting silently in the pews hoping to be ministered to where they are. Denise George wrote a book entitled “What Women Wish Pastors Knew” which helps churches to understand the hopes, hurts, needs, and dreams of women in the church. I decided to focus on divorced women and their needs.  Here are 5 things, divorced women wish pastor’s knew.  

  1. I am okay with being single. I have learned to be content in my new status and feel complete in Christ.  I do not come to church because I am looking for a new husband. I come to church to worship and be ministered to. I understand that not everyone is called to be married.
  2. I still have the same gifts and talents I had before I got divorced. I recognize the gifts God gave me to use in his service. I can still teach Sunday school or lead a ministry.  I want to feel like I am a part of the church ministry. I want to participate in ministries where I feel empowered to use my God given gifts. I want to be a blessing to others.  
  3. I don’t know where I fit it in – While I was married I was included. Families are often recognized within the church. As a single person, I don’t feel comfortable hanging out with married couples any longer. The single ministry is not a good fit for me. I want to feel like I am a part of something. I want to participate in church activities but am seldom asked.  
  4. I look nice for me. I am finally taking care of myself and am confident in who I am. I have changed my hair, my makeup or my wardrobe to celebrate the new me. My new self-confidence makes me more attractive, but I am not trying to draw attention to myself.  
  5. I want to be ministered to as a single person. I often feel left out and don’t like feeling like a second class citizen. I would like to be encouraged through sermons and bible teaching. Think about me when you make a big deal about married couples and families. Remember I am a part of the church too.
Please take the time to share these thoughts with your pastor or church leaders so that divorced women can feel at home in God's house and use their gifts to serve. I am sure there are additional thoughts that can be added to my list. What would you add to my list? Please feel free to share your thoughts.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Troublesome Thunderstorms in Our Lives - Suffering and Temptation


Do you know how to finish that little quote?  It is a quote from the poet Longfellow, and it says, “Into each life a little rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.”  You can probably guess why I thought of that; it’s April and here in Kansas, that means thunderstorms and tornadoes.  Maybe the fact that this was written on tax day here in the U.S. makes it especially relevant!

I was recently discussing Jesus’ saying found in Matthew 5:45:  “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.”  He also makes the same kind of comment about the sun.  When you are not in a time of drought, forecasts about rainy weather are often seen as gloomy, ruining weekend picnic plans or days working in the yard.  The blue skies and sunshine are what we long for, because they make our days so bright and cheery.  Longfellow’s use of the rain image clearly fits into this mold.  Jesus also seems to be presenting the sun versus the rain as contrasting images, so one draws the conclusion that the rain is the gloomy day and sunshine is the joyful day.  

But what if that isn’t correct?  

We have to remember that much of the land of Israel was rocky desert, and the crops grown there were very dependent on the critical seasonal rains for their survival.  It was the sun that scorches the earth and shrivels the plants.  Now granted, crops need sunshine to grow as well, but from everything I hear, our friends out in California would gladly trade a week of sunshine for a week of refreshing rains and mountain blizzards.  It’s all in one’s perspective isn’t it?  Perspective often flows out of circumstance.

I am thinking life might also be the same way.  

That is, we refer to the difficult times in our lives as the evil days with darkness and gloom.  Give consideration to the thought that those “rainy days” are actually the nourishing times of our lives.  Dark days are the days essential for the growth God seeks us to know.  

These threatening and troubling storms in our lives are the bearers of God’s blessings, more than the easy and prosperous times.  

Romans 5 and 1 Peter 1 certainly seem to suggest that is the case.  What we often interpret as storms may actually be refreshing rains upon the droughts of our inner lives, and we simply may not realize it until after the rains has moved on and left our hearts bursting with the blossoms of God’s grace.  

Sometimes it is all a matter of perspective.  From personal experience you can trust me, when times are hard, I know it is hard to keep a heavenly perspective!

Odds are good that somebody reading this can relate to the sense of wrestling with life’s storms and experiencing them as darkness and trouble rather than agents God will use to shape us.  Not that we need to make ourselves martyrs and long for extra suffering and hardship.  

We do need to remember that not all storms are destructive….many bring refreshment and growth.

Today's devotional from, “Our Daily Bread,” by Anne Cetas, takes God’s promise to provide a way of escape out of temptations and contrasts that with the fact that with suffering, sometimes the only way is to go through it, because escape from the suffering is not always an option provided.  She points out that it was also not an option Jesus could take, as his prayer in the Garden demonstrates.  Then she ends with a couple of pithy thoughts, and today I’d like to end by quoting them for you:

“ When life seems too much to bear, that's when we throw ourselves on God's mercy, and He holds us.....With God behind you and his arms beneath you, you can face whatever lies ahead."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Difficult Anniversary - Remembering and Rejoicing


Leon Crooks
November 21, 1919 - April 12, 2014

Anniversaries are important.  We most often think of anniversaries in relation to marriage, but there are others that we note and experience in life.  

We have just come out of the Passover and Easter seasons, the former is the anniversary of the rescue and establishment of Israel as God’s people, the latter the anniversary of the victory of redemption and the establishment of God’s people in Christ.  

Today I am remembering my father, especially, as it is the one year “anniversary” of his leaving this world and entrance into the heavenly realms with Christ.  It is a day of mixed emotions for me, as I know he was ready and longing to move on from this earth, but it is always so hard to say goodbye.  (Or, I guess, it is legitimate to say instead, see you later.) 

Not all anniversaries are joyful ones.  In the holiday sections of my books, there are special devotions for anniversaries, because anniversaries can be particularly hard after a divorce.  For some, the day that was their wedding anniversary is the difficult day to get through…especially the first time it rolls around.  For others, there is sadness when they remember the anniversary of the day the divorce was filed or finalized.  Some may focus on the anniversary of the day a spouse moved out. 

There are some who have suffered much in their marriages, and the anniversaries related to divorce may be as mixed as my anniversary of dad’s death.  On the one hand, they experience the loss, sorrow and sadness of a marriage broken, with the once uttered promises ringing hollow in their ears.  But they may also experience the anniversary as the day that life was started over, the beginning of a second chance that has delivered them out of their own Egyptian bondage and led them to places they never dreamed could be.

Anniversaries are milestones, important days of remembrance.  Every husband who has ever forgotten his marriage anniversary can attest how important it is because they probably witnessed the resulting disappointment of their wives.

Are there anniversaries in your life that need to be remembered?  

Maybe the anniversary of your commitment to Christ as your Savior.  Perhaps your anniversary reflects on something you have left behind, as the Alcoholics Anonymous members mark anniversaries by years of sobriety, years they have left behind their debilitating habit.  You may have an upcoming anniversary to celebrate, or one to mourn.  

I know that for me, that first wedding anniversary after my divorce was a troubling day, but a day I had to face and begin to lay the past to rest.  Anniversaries remind us of where we have been, but perhaps more importantly, remind us of how far we have come.  God never leaves us stuck in our past; he always invites us forward to new achievements, new opportunities to establish new anniversaries in our lives. 

While life brings some things that are wonderful and exciting, it also brings things that can be troubling and difficult.  It is important to not be so overwhelmed with the hardships that one cannot see the good things in life, some of which even come out of those very hardships.  I hope that some of your anniversaries are celebrations of joy.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Resurrected Life


(The Missing Candy)

I like Holy Week, and all the special services that go with it, especially services that reflect the mood of the Passion Week.

I like the candy.  At least, some of it.  It was a little disappointing this year, I couldn’t find any of those multi-colored oblong hard shell candy eggs with the white stuff inside.  I’ve had some of those around every Easter for as far back as I can remember.

Of course, most of all I love the story of the resurrection and the promise of new life that goes with it.  After the crucifixion, with the few days in the dark tomb, Jesus burst forth from the grave, boldly proclaiming victory over death demonstrating that even what seems like the end to us here has no power over Christ.  

On Easter morning all the pain and sorrow of the Passion was overwhelmed by the glory and wonder of an empty tomb and a risen Savior.  Though the wounds were still visible, they were no longer symbols of suffering by symbols of hope and new life, the power to produce pain had succumbed to the resurrection power of God.

For many people who experience divorce, the resurrection story can be a powerful paradigm of the things God has done and can do in their lives as well.  Often before a divorce, one or both partners suffers many hurts and attacks, some physical and some not…just as did Jesus.  The experience of divorce has much in common with the experience of death.  There is great loss and much mourning.  A relationship comes to an end, even if ex-spouses continue to maintain cordial contact, the marriage has suffered a tragic end.  The time can feel as oppressive and dark as a tomb.  But that is not the end of the story.  

For many, life post divorce shares some degree of similarity with resurrection.  Of course it means starting a new kind of life after years of marriage.  But I have often heard individuals mention areas of their lives that they find “resurrected” once on their own…hobbies and interests they had long since forgotten, in some cases a renewed sense of self and of one’s value before God, and for some it is like a second chance, a do-over in which they make new choices perhaps with a new partner and discover a life that they always thought should be, but had never known.  

In some cases, the individual may end up in a new relationship in which they experience love like they had never known before.  For others, they have a chance to change the course of their lives, perhaps in a new location or a new career.  Most of all though, as time passes and the door of divorce’s tomb begins to roll away, one eventually learns that there is, as a friend of mine once mentioned to me, “life after divorce.”  The wounds are still there, mostly in one’s heart and memory - but as time passes and the new life emerges, their power gradually diminishes as a fresh hope begins to grow.

Happy Easter to you!  May you encounter new life and resurrection at every turn.