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Sunday, February 28, 2016


FROZEN…                                                          IN EMOTIONAL PARALYSIS!

There can be moments in life when one is so overwhelmed with the stresses of life that one can end up so discouraged, so uncertain, so fearful or so weak as to end up feelings paralyzed, unable to move forward emotionally or any other way.  Daily tasks become more than can be managed.  Emotional responses can move to numbness or to the opposite extreme over emotionality.  Thoughts can become confused and cause one to not be able to think clearly about anything.  Social relationships suffer as one withdraws from, or overly taxes friends and family.  And the end result is an inner sense of failure, uselessness, hopelessness and despair.  This experience is a common thread of many different conditions:  shock, grief, depression and can be the result of many different causes, including the suffering of divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even physical causes such as chemical imbalances of the brain or the over exhaustion.  It is as if one is suddenly suffering a paralysis of one’s being, rather than paralysis of the body.  What to do?

Let me suggest that a “one size fits all” approach is not realistic; it is important to learn about oneself enough to know what is helpful and what is not.  But I thought I might present a list of options that could be worth considering when you are struggling with those feelings that prevent you from being able to accomplish the things you would like in your life.

  1. Take care of yourself physically, even if you don’t feel like it.  Eat well.  Get some exercise.  Soak up some sunshine.  Take time to laugh or find joy, whether from a cartoon or a lovely flower.  If your “paralysis” leaves you spending too much time sleeping in bed, focus on taking some small step to reverse the trend, even if it is only extending your time up and around by a few minutes more each day.
  2. Recognize the transitory nature of your emotions, perhaps by remembering other times in your life that were hard, but which are now behind you.  Taking time to recognize that the area of life with which you struggle is but one aspect of the whole of your being.  Acknowledge that God is bigger than any struggle you face, and remind yourself of his promises to see you through whatever comes your way.  I always enjoy remembering the story of the man whose favorite part of the Bible was the phrase, “And it came to pass,” because it meant that whatever it was only came to pass, not had come to stay!
  3. If you are like me, in those times there can be an awareness of how much there is to get done and how little of it you are accomplishing.  If that is your experience, then I encourage you to not focus on everything, but to look for one thing.  That is, don’t try to do everything, instead find some one thing you can do today and let that be enough for the moment.   After that one, then select another.  But one at a time is enough.  Baby steps.  Celebrating what you CAN do rather than despairing of what you don’t.  
  4. Grant yourself some grace and some time.  It’s okay to not always be on top of your game.  It’s okay if some things don’t get done as efficiently as you would like.  It’s okay sometimes to feel more like weeping than laughing or singing.  We don’t recover from devastating experiences instantly, sometimes it just takes time; it’s okay not to rush it.
  5. Avoid overly cocooning or withdrawing.  Keep contact with at least one person with whom you can share your struggle, whether with a friend, pastor or counselor; don’t assume you have to go through it all alone.
  6. Make time and opportunity for God to speak and help, even if you cannot feel his presence.  Read some scripture regularly.  Spend time in prayer and listening for God’s voice.  Keep some kind of contact with others whose faith you respect.  Make time for worship, either privately or, preferably, with others of like mind.  
  7. Make time to focus on what IS going right in your life.  Perhaps consider making a list of them.  Include past blessings and experiences.  Remember those who love you.  Perhaps your health, your home, your country, your faith should be included on your list.
  8. Choose to not give up.  Hard though it may seem, see your experience through, trusting that better days may be just ahead.  Instead of letting the struggle defeat you, let it strengthen you instead.  
  9. Choose to take advantage of the resources that are around you, because only you can reach out for the things you need, whether medication, social interaction or a walk in the park.
  10. Choose to not let everything be about you.  There are others, perhaps nearby, who are also struggling in life.  Find a way to be an instrument of encouragement and support for somebody else.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen or nursing home.  Send cards to the sick or grieving.  Take a batch of cookies to a lonely friend or a single mother (or father).   

Emotional paralysis is a difficult thing to experience.  But it is not the end of life’s story.  There is more life to come, more joy to experience, more love to know, more hope ahead.  No matter what the cause, see it through.  You will be glad you did.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I Love You.... but You Drive Me Crazy


May I ask you some personal questions?  

Do you roll to toilet paper off the top front of the holder, or the bottom from the back?  What about your toothpaste, do you carefully roll the tube toward the spout, or squeeze it? 

One last question. 

Have you ever been in an argument with a family member about which one of these ways is correct, or an argument over a similar issue?

One of the phrases we hear a lot in relationships is that opposites attract, and it can be observed in many a marriage relationship.  One person is an early bird, while the other is a night owl.  One loves to go to travel and to go to social events, while the other is a homebody.  One operates carefully with a budget in a very thrifty manner, while the other can’t keep money in his wallet.  One is outgoing and bubbly, the other is reticent and shy.  One is very talkative, and the other a “man of few words.”  One is a shouter and thrower when angry, and the other quietly withdraws until able to calm herself down instead.  Do any of those sound familiar?  I could illustrate from lots of couples I know, and which characteristics are those of the male and which those of the female varies.

Kind of interesting, isn’t it, that so often we choose people who are polar opposites from ourselves in many ways.  Sometimes I wonder if all the dating sites, where we list what characteristics are in important to us in potential spouse, take into account this attraction of opposites.  I also wonder how many people go into divorce court because they have a hard time with these opposite characteristics that had once so attracted them.  

Personally, I think sometimes God designed that attraction on purpose.  For instance, the person who is careless with money may end up in bankruptcy court or worse, if their habits weren’t tempered by a partner who brings balance back toward the budget.  On the other hand, the person obsessed with the budget may learn how to lighten up and enjoy life a little more.  An introvert will develop more new friends when partnered with an extrovert, and the extrovert may learn the value of solitude and quiet.  I think God uses these polar opposites to help strengthen us in the areas of life where we are not as gifted - through the tempering process that comes from negotiation and compromise in a marriage.  At least, it will for those willing to negotiate, compromise and grow, for those who recognize that “my way” and “the right way” are not necessarily the same things.  As far as I can tell, toilet paper comes off the roll effectively whichever side it is pulled from!  The trouble is, all too often many of us are unwilling to see the validity of a different way of doing things.

The idea for this blog came when I was reading a book that made reference to Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians about different gifts and functions among people, then illustrated it by referring to Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”  The writer noted that Felix is an organized neatnik and Oscar a discombobulated slob, but then the writer pulls another scripture as a proof text and admonishes the slobs to learn organization skills from the Felixes of the world!   Hmmm.  In every portayal of that play I have ever seen, it seems to me there were plenty of things Felix needed to learn from Oscar, too, right?  I’m guessing the writer of that book I was reading is a Felix, and the kind of Felix who is unable to see the value of the Oscar types in the world.  

I don’t have a major point in all this, except to challenge you to consider the people around you in life, especially those who “drive you nuts” because they do things in a different manner than you.  

As you think of those people and those characteristics, could you possibly consider that perhaps God has placed them into your life so that YOU could learn a different way, too---not merely for you to show them your way?  

Or maybe just for you to learn it’s okay for people to do some things in different ways.  At least when it comes to toilet paper and toothpaste!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Letter To God


Valentine’s Day!  The day we celebrate what the fairy tales call, “true love’s kiss.”  But when struggling through the anguish and trauma that is part of divorce and post divorce as well, Valentine’s Day often feels like anything BUT celebration!  

It is a day that reminds you of betrayal, of loss, of being alone, or “shipwrecked love.”  (Although, for some, it can be a reminder of the deception that can come into our lives claiming to be love, but which are, in fact, something far short of true love.)  True love does exist, and true love is real, and true love can be found, experienced, cherished…if you look in the right places

At our church service last night, we were reminded of the fact that people, all people, are fallible and if we are expecting perfection - will disappoint us at one time or another.

However, God is the one who can truly fill our heart’s desire for love, to be totally and completely and unconditionally loved, and to be able to give our love completely to one who desires that love in return.  We reminded ourselves of a few verses along those lines:

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 ESV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16  ESV

Divorced, married, still single or widowed, God’s love for you is absolute and beyond compare (read Ephesians 3:17-19 to get an idea of HOW absolute).  

However, those of you who have been divorced know very deeply how it feels to have your love rejected and not returned.  This Valentine’s Day, I would invite you to do what we did last night, and make sure that YOU are not guilty of rejecting or treating lightly the deep love God has for you.  I invite you to write God a love letter within the following framework:

My Dearest Loving Savior,

All My Love, 

There is nothing more precious than receiving a love letter from someone you love deeply.  And no one loves you more deeply than God.  Perhaps in the course of your life you have rejected his love, and cast aside the sacrifice he made on your behalf.  This could be a great day to turn to him and say “yes” to opening yourself up to an eternal relationship with the One who loves you most.  Maybe you are a person who has taken God’s love for granted, and though he has kept on giving and giving, you have only kept on taking and taking without stopping to say “thank you” or “I love you, too.”  Maybe you have forgotten how much he loves you, or haven’t bothered to explore how deep that love really is.  Or maybe you do know he loves you, but you don’t act like it!  Another verse we considered last night was 1 John 4:11--  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (ESV)  

Does your life reflect God’s love to others, or something less?

No matter what else you are doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I invite you celebrate it with the One whose love surpasses anything else you can ever experience.  Write the love letter.  Read it to God.  And take some time to read his love letters to you, found in the Bible…perhaps start with 1 John.  If you do these things, it may be the best Valentine’s Day you ever had, no matter what else is going on in your life!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Struggling with Life Lessons from God?

1 + 1 = 2

Do you remember learning that little arithmetic lesson?  At the time, learning all those addition problems seemed so hard.  In those early stages of mathematics, addition seemed difficult enough, none of us imagined that one day we would have to move beyond that to division, decimals, quadrilateral equations, cosines and derivatives!  But 1+1 was an important basic lesson upon which all the rest of mathematics was dependent.  And looking back on all the different kinds of lessons I’ve learned in my life, 1+1 seems so simple in comparison!  

In the course of your life, have you ever wondered what it is God is trying to teach you, what the lessons are you need to learn?  Even people who don’t believe in God still talk about the lessons they have learned in life, through the school of hard knocks or the voice of experience.  Perhaps you feel like you are at a point in life at which you are having to learn some lessons you’d rather not learn…or at the least, learn some other way!  This may especially be true if you are somewhere in the process of finding your way through the treacherous waters of divorce, no matter how you came to be there.

I once asked a wise friend what I could learn out of my first marriage to help me do better were I to marry again.  He simply said, “Nothing.”  I realized he was teaching me a lesson even then, which was that every marriage I unique and any woman I might someday marry would also be unique, and I needed to treat both accordingly.  At least, that’s what I got out of it.  

What are you learning?

One big thing I learned going through my divorce was, that I NEVER want to experience THAT again!  I also learned that it isn’t the quick little solve all that the $79 divorce package ads, or Hollywood portrayals of it, would have you believe.  I learned how easily the best of intentions can be twisted, misunderstood and create consequences far from what was intended.  But this blog isn’t about what I learned; it is more about tips to help readers who are struggling with life’s lessons.  So let’s move on to that topic.

There are those people who look at everything that comes into their lives as sent from God for the purpose of teaching them lessons.  


There are some things, though, that I’m not convinced God sends our way, even though one could argue that he at least allows them to come.  

Somehow I think that thinking they all come to teach us lessons seems a little egocentric. 

Maybe they come because God is wanting to teach somebody else something as they observe our lives.  

Maybe they come because warm humid air met with cold air and created a hurricane or tornado through natural processes in an area nearby where we happen to live, i.e. things occur that are just part of the way the world is.  

Surely there are times when God is trying to get our attention and trying to teach us the things we need to learn, but perhaps sometimes things just happen, too.  

Regardless, though, I do believe that no matter how things come to occur in our lives, whether they are part of God’s “perfect” will or not, God will use everything in our life for our benefit if we are open to God’s voice.  Even awful things that happen to us can be used of God for something good, although we may not always be able to see it right away.

I would suggest that it is important to develop a habit of listening for God to speak, especially through the scriptures, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.  

I would also suggest it can be a mistake to decide in advance what it is God might be using the situation to show us, and open instead to the possibility that his purposes might be bigger or other than we imagine.  It can also be very useful, as we deal with hard times, to learn from the experiences of others by seeking their advice or reading their stories, as a tool for us to discover God’s meaning for our own time.  And I would make another observation.  Many of the lessons I have learned in my life, I often only realized in retrospect what the true learnings had actually been.  Things that seem so powerful and important in the moment have paled over time, while more subtle insights or character traits emerged long after the forging event had passed.

So what are you supposed to be learning in the midst of your divorce?  I think the most important thing to learn is a simple concept, but a hard one to apply:  that God is worthy of our trust, even in the most difficult of situations.  Master that lesson, and everything else will come in its own time.