Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

I did my daily quick news review this morning to the horrible realization that it has happened again; Trump has said something even more ridiculous and outlandish than the previous thing he said that I was hoping he could not top.  Yesterday his bombshell was a hint that perhaps, just maybe, gun owners should take things into their own hands and make sure Clinton does not infringe on the Second Amendment.  This was of course quickly discounted by supporters as a misinterpretation, but in Trump’s own words “ya know..”

The realization I have come to over the last few weeks is that this is a golden opportunity as a parent to discuss some really crucial issues about character, responsibility and accountability with our children.  This to me is the silver lining in this freak show that is a Trump candidacy.

While people go around claiming things are misinterpreted or that is was a mistake, I use it as an opportunity to explain to my teenagers that as you rise in level or responsibility (or responsibility you hope to gain by, say being elected President of the United States), you must become less and less ambiguous in what you say, because words have impact.  At certain levels you cannot hide behind, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  If a CEO made a comment at a company meeting that “Sales are good, but sometimes they start to slide and it that happens, then, you know, maybe I need to make some decisions”, expecting that some people will not speculate about those “decisions” being something that the CEO did not mean or would not contemplate is a very, very poor response.  The simple solution is to be clear.  The CEO could say, “we will need to determine how long we can proceed at the lower sales rate before we need to make decisions about plant closings and staff reductions”.  Is that a great message?   No.  But it is clear.  In a similar manner, I expect Presidential candidates to not give fill in the blank responses.  Trump could have avoided controversy by instead saying, “if you do not want your Second Amendment rights endangered, then do not vote for Clinton”.  Instead he chose, to say something which could be implied and then denied with a wink and nod, when more sinister implications were drawn.  It was a deliberate choice and it is important to show our children how and why these seemingly small choices have large implications.

A key ability that we all need to develop is a really solid “BS meter”.  To do this involves a lot of work, and this election cycle is offering a real world example to use to teach our kids why it is worth the effort.  It is very easy to be lemmings or sheep and get led down the path to the cliff or slaughter by a smooth talking con man (or woman).  To have your BS meter working you need to learn enough about  a lot of things to actually be able to make a decision yourself on the merits of an idea.  In this case understanding the limits of presidential authority, the checks and balances of the government, what is and is not in the Constitution, what impact the Supreme Court can have and when they get involved and when they do not, knowing how to do your own research to fact check something “many people” have told someone, and being able to think logically and factually versus emotionally are just some of the skills and knowledge one needs.  The implications of not doing this in a presidential election are staggering and educating our children on this is a great opportunity.

So I attempt to have conversations where we calm down and just walk through the real issues.  We strip away the emotion of moving to Canada if someone gets elected and instead talk about what might be a better response and what we can do instead to improve our system rather than take the easy way out and just give up.  We get to talk about why not voting really is a poor option and the value of living in a land where you get to vote and contrast that with areas of the world where people literally die for that opportunity.  We get to talk about why words matter and why saying someone “just” did or said something is letting people off too easily at times and how to gauge when that time really is.  We get to look at why a President does matter in an era when we are being spoon fed BS about why they are no different than a Queen in England or an Emperor in Japan.  A disengaged citizenry is exactly what dictators love to prey on.  They reach for the fear of what we might lose, or what might be done to us and expand than into a monster that is hard to ignore.  Let’s take the time to educate our children about how to turn on the light, open the closet door and see that the boogeyman really does not exist and to see the importance in being smart enough to see what really is there.  The issues we face every day and in the election are real and serious.  The people that will lead us when we deal with them should be the same.  Knowing how to use your BS meter to ferret them out is a skill our children will need for a lifetime.

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One of the gifts that is often overlooked that we need to thank God for is memory.

I have long been one to emphasize experience over things in vacations or other events.  If given a choice between two options such as going to a concert or buying some new clothes, I will always choose the concert.  Things that are truly needs, obviously come first, but if both the items above are wants, the experience wins every time.  A big part of this for me is that I can revisit the joy of the experience time and again, view it from different angles and perspectives and even get new insights thanks to the gift of memory.

Nowhere is memory more valuable than in our families.  As a blended family this can be a double edged sword as some memories of the “before time” can cause friction and tension where before they used to cause joy and pleasure.  For example, old traditions, some no longer practical, others perhaps “lost” because of an agreement with your spouse to compromise and just do something new, can cause issues especially if they are brought up by the children.  Suddenly the old dynamics of the earlier days, of sides, come up.  It might be a place that was regularly visited that has value to some but has little pull to the other “side” or to an activity undertaken as specific milestones in life that were fun for some but that seem stupid and silly to the other “side”.  How we look at memories can determine how this proceeds in a blended family.  Just as with any gift, it is not always only a good thing.  A new toy may be sheer joy and pleasure for the kids but a major irritant to one parent who cannot stand the noise or the mess it makes.  Similarly, if we choose to keep bringing up these old memories and lamenting over what once was and then starting to frame the new family as the barrier that exists in making it happen again, we are only headed for bad things.  Instead, I find that celebrating those memories for what they were, experiences at a place in time in a certain family configuration and just enjoying them in quiet times is what is best about them.  I do think this only works if you are making new memories, which comes back full circle to my focus on experiences over things.  I would imagine a life in which you stopped making new memories as a blended family and only lamented those things you used to do before you blended could very easily lead to heartache and sadness.

My own personal memory sink right now has to do with Marcia.  I wrote several months back about her decision to move out.  Since then contact with her has really been non-existent.  I reach out to her with an e-mail or text when I feel compelled to let her know something, to parent from afar if I really analyze what it is, and this results in at best a token acknowledgement such as “OK” but more often is just greeted with radio silence.  My decision, and only time will tell if it is “right”, is to let her live her life as an adult and not force myself into it, though as a parent there is some pain in a child just tuning you out of their life as if they flipped a switch.  It’s as if Marcia walked out of the house right after Thanksgiving, and much like we do when we leave the house every morning for work, looked over at the switch labeled “Dad” and flipped it to Off and then closed the door and drove away.  I have no idea if there was more to it than that (for my sanity I do think at times I have to believe there was) but in the end that’s what it feels like, an afterthought in her life on the way on to the cool things of the rest of the day.  So when I get to those points I choose to unpack a memory or two.  Perhaps it is something simple like a conversation we had, even are argument we had in her last couple years in the house, and see the good in it and her struggle to define herself in a world that she was railing against, or perhaps it was those older memories when I was her hero and we were doing something fun and exciting.  This is the gift of a memory.  It can change our perspective.  Depending on your mind though, it can be a danger.  I do not struggle with it often, and it is so rare that it is very easy for me to walk away from that cliff edge of resentment of why things are not the same, but I know of others who have this torment sometimes on a weekly basis.  These are the people who struggle to heal and move on and make the best of their blended family instead of focusing on them as the cause of why.  By the grace of God this is not a problem for me, but if it is for you, I cannot stress how crucial it is to get yourself some help or you will be heading down the trail to tension and strife that may lead you to another divorce.  When you unpack those one sided memories do not let them begin to rub you the wrong way and create judgements and barriers that can be difficult to erase.

Moving back to the true gift of memories.  The road continues on and the kids keep getting older.  Sure the big experiences build some great memories, but just as every gift from our loving Father, it is more important to appreciate the little facets of it.  Those memories that exist in the everyday, that spring forth just from the minimal effort involved in letting life unfold.  I believe I am more appreciative of it because of what has happened with Marcia leaving and those things that no longer happen.  It makes little difference if those things are negative or positive, what matters is that it has brought more to the forefront that we are closer to more of this than less, this nearness of getting to the point of the never more.

Shortly we will no longer have the sounds of a group of girls standing around the island in the kitchen and being loud and probably laughing at something I find utterly stupid.  The boys at the computer debating the best way to do something in their game at hand or talking about a video will be a thing of the past.  The house will not be quiet in the morning for about twenty minutes after I wake up and then start to echo with thumps and thwaps of footsteps or drawers or doors being moved as they all wake up and begin getting ready for school, it will just remain quiet.  We get a taste of “empty nest” on our weekends and for now my wife and I mainly view it as wonderful, but the prudent analyzer in me understands that part of this joy comes with knowing that it will end in a few days and they’ll start coming back, however one day they will head out and we’ll have no idea when they will be back and I know that will be less joyful.  This is when we need to look to the gift.

Memory will allow us to look back on all these trivial happenings, some that occurred more frequently than others, and recall.  We’ll recall them playing on the floor with the pets, being upset about some slight or other of the day, or the prayers we prayed for them each and every day.  The thousands of prayers lifted up to help them find their way.  When they all move away the home will not be empty.  There was a poem in the late 60’s by Bob Benson titled “Laughter in the Walls” and it fits well in what I’ve been talking about especially towards the end, when he says, “Every corner, every room, every nick in the coffee table will be crowded with memories”.  He goes on to list his particular memories, general enough for everyone to find something, as a commercial poet would be wont to do, but I will replace them with our own memories.  Our Creator gave us this wonderful gift, and I pray that all of us find the best ways to use it, rather than the hurtful ways it can be turned towards.  The goal for me is always good.  Thank you Father for this wonderful gift and for the wisdom to use it wisely.  To be able to say thanks for the memories and to enjoy the laughter in the walls.

Many Christians, my wife included, view the book for Ecclesiastes from a less than joyful viewpoint.  It has been said that it is depressing and it is hard, but as I have learned more about the Bible over the years I have never really had this viewpoint.  The book was written by Solomon, whom the Bible tells us is a great man of wisdom.  I think we can all agree that we avoid, or skim over something written by a great man of wisdom with peril.  Every day we make choices, but I’d like to point out something counterintuitive to those of you who feel this book of the Bible has little to offer in the way of encouragement by pointing out a little nugget buried in there that can make all the difference in the world in your marriage, if applied.

Before we get to the nugget, let’s first set the stage.  Our lives are full of challenges and difficulties at times.  No one escapes these for their entire life.  We may go for years coasting along in bliss and contentment only to have something smack of off our pedestal.  Suddenly our perfect life is not so perfect anymore.  It is at these times when we struggle most and our values, our faith, if we have it, is tested.  As we assist in counseling people who are going through or have gone through divorce we see the all too common result in our culture of these times. The choice is to leave, to break up the family because it will be better.  Is that really the right choice?

Have you ever felt your spouse was not there, spending their time working or buried in hobbies that take them out of the home and away from you?  Maybe they focus on friends and not your family.  Perhaps there has been hardship:  financial, medical or spiritual.  These storms of life bring with them sadness and test our resolve.  It has become too common that the decision reached is to throw in the towel and walk away.

This is where the book of Ecclesiates applies to our trials in marriage.  The NIV translation lists verse 9:9 as “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun–all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”  At first blush, and through the lens of this being a depressing book, it reads pretty harshly, though as a piece of wisdom it holds all the hope needed to understand that God has provided us this life and expects us to enjoy it, even through the trials.  Certainly this is a choice we make, but if we take our hardships and things that drive us mad and look for creative ways to find some fun way to deal with them, suddenly our wife and our marriage are a source of power and not a drain.  If we look at what is viewed as a more literal translation of the Bible, the NASB, this verse reads: “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun ; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”

Suddenly the moroseness and depressing language is not really there, is it?  This translation removes the burden of digging for the real point Solomon was making and makes it front and center.  God intends you to enjoy life with your wife no matter what occurs.  It is our reward for all the difficulties.  So you, as always, have a choice.  Do you throw it away when it gets hard, feeling that your marriage or your wife are the source of your misery, or do you follow the instruction of one of the wisest men who ever lived and cling to your wife and labor with her while enjoying things together, even through the bad times?  If you change your perspective, not only can a book of the Bible that gets a bad rap as just a lament of misery suddenly offer some of the best hope in your life, but you can turn around your whole view on life and make your family a bastion against the storms and weather them together, rather than apart.

It’s done.  We’re married.  I’ll let my wedding toast tell you all how I feel.  Thanks for everyone who’s been following along.  Stay tuned for more posts, but for now I’ll be off the air for ten days while we head out on our honeymoon!  🙂

Today I married the woman of my dreams.  When we first met I was drawn to her wonderful smile and confident spirit.  I came to learn that she was caring, loyal, and sweet — and can also break into uncontrolled fits of giggling.  Our love quickly blossomed to the point where we knew we wanted to spend our lives together.

I feel extremely honored and blessed to have Nicole as my wife.  With her, I know we will face the many twists and turns, joys and sorrow of life as a strong partnership just as God intended when He created the covenant of marriage.  Our journey through life to finally meet had its challenges, but in the end God brought us together and we could not be happier.

I want to thank all of you who are gathered here to share in our special day;  our parents, brothers and sisters, children, friends, and extended family new and old.   Nicole and I can feel your love and well wishes surround us and we cannot thank you enough for that.

Not everyone is so blessed to find a woman as God centered and overflowing with love as Nicole.  Nicole I thank you for choosing to share your love with me.  I will love you forever with all my heart, mind and soul.

The title of this post is a quote from Leonardo da Vinci. I had heard it several times in my life but came across it most recently about two months ago. The difference between the previous times and this time in my state of receiving was that this was the first time I saw this quote and processed it while divorced. In an earlier post (Complicated Experiences), I had pointed out that our perspective in life changes as we gain more experience. I had focused on looking back in that process, but that impact also affects our forward momentum.

As we moved forward as a newly divorced family, and as we now progress in both households as blended families, it is the things we cannot buy, the things only available to us through our interactions and the grace of God that we are truly wealthy.

In this process God has shown me that the time I take to really listen to what my children are going through can produce more value than anything I can have them involved in.  The impact of not being able to afford or to have the time to take them to as many structured activities as they participated in before the divorce has allowed me to experience this.  It has also shown the children that they can have a good time in new situations.  My fiancée’s children have had this experience for a longer time, but her ex still seems to focus on the trappings of only taking them places and buying things.  Her children seem no worse for wear in not being showered with material things at all costs.

The same can be said for my time with my fiancée.  Once again, in the past I would have typically focused on dates that kept us busy such as the theater, a sporting event (she loves baseball), or dinner out.  Instead I find that the loveliest most memorable moments with her in most cases are those times when we just sit at home and talk or just cuddle together in each other’s company and do not say anything.

In helping with the DivorceCare groups or creating this blog, I need to devote my labor to writing or preparing and spending time at the church to help others learn and benefit from my experience.  When someone says that one of these avenues has improved their outlook on their life, week or just their day, that is a wonderful reward.    Christian values teach us to serve one another as we can, and this all takes labor.  Whenever you feel that you cannot afford to do something of value, remember the quote and do good works, spend time with you family, go the extra mile in helping someone at work.  All these things just take labor, but God rewards us in so many ways that we could never buy with money.

I was going to write on another topic today, but I will do that tomorrow, unless of course I have another today.  I was checking out some other blogs I read this morning and I came across a post in one of them, The Single Mother Diaries, about luck.  The post was well written, as they always are, but I walked away from it with a different thought running through my head.  What she called luck, I realized I would call God’s influence.   Some others would call it karma, or use many other names for describing this phenomenon in our lives.

What am I talking about?  The best way for me to describe it is to walk through the process of how I met my fiancée.

For more people than not, the online dating sites are a bust.  I know of at least five people personally who have tried them and failed miserably.  For my fiancée and me, we were both in various states of feeling the same thing, though my experience was significantly shorter than hers.  We both learned about this in getting to know each other.

As we live our lives we make choices, and as we reflect on our lives we try to put the pieces in a sequence that makes sense to us.  If I gave you the pieces of my life and asked you to assemble the puzzle in a way that made sense to you, it is almost a guarantee that what would emerge would be different than what my finished puzzle would look like.  As we gain more life experience, we usually find that as we take apart the puzzle, add the new pieces from the additional life lived, and reassemble it, the result changes as well (cool idea for a business model if you could pull it off, progressive morphing puzzles, hmm….) .  At times this may not be true, but in my experience it is.  The “stuff” that makes the morphing happen is what I am talking about in the title of this post.  Let me go back to the story of the confluence in the vast universe of me and my fiancée.

We met through a dating site, but we found out as we talked that both of us were basically done with the process when we checked in that week.  We had almost missed each other, but yet hadn’t.  Why? The blogger who inspired this post would have called it luck.  She is not a believer, I think, from reading her posts, but I’m not sure.  As a believer, I do believe in luck as well.  As I reflect on it though, I believe in luck for inconsequential things.  As I play a board game with my children, the cards that come up, the way the die lands, the results of the game are all the “luck of the draw”.  They are influenced by how someone shuffled the cards, how many times I shook the die in my hand (but not so much about me blowing on it, though I still do that for some reason.  Maybe I just like a clean die), or something else, but I do not believe there is some greater power at play here.

However, in some circumstances, due to my beliefs, I think there is something else.  I call it God’s influence.  That day I was signing on to close my account.  She knew her account was going to expire soon and just was checking out of “curiosity”.  So what?  Isn’t that luck?  Well maybe.  Before that we had both been married and then divorced at different times and in different places.  I have just moved from another state a short time back.  During my rocky last few years of marriage, being in that state connected me with a marriage counselor who helped me understand things about myself and how I handled my marriage, and the dynamics of the marriage itself that made me able to process the eventual divorce that resulted in a way that allowed me to be ready to be on a dating site at the same time as my future fiancée was.  Prior to that I was in another state and lost my job which led me to a church that had a pastor that delivered a set of sermons that were so impactful that I wrote her a lengthy message when we moved about her influence on my life and how she changed my view on many things in the church and helped me see God more clearly.  That influence created changes in me that are things that my fiancée says is why she fell in love with me.  These things I do not call luck.

As you look back and start to pull everything I’ve covered together, at each point when I assembled the puzzle I could see certain things.  As those influences built, the puzzle I was left with was different than the one I had assembled a year before, five years before, ten years before, etc.  Learning this truth is a big portion of what has increased my faith in God over the years.  As I was closed off to His influence when I was younger I find it hard to look back on those years and find pieces that fit well into the puzzle, yet miraculously from the point a few years prior to when I lost my job when I was drawn back to the church from having stepped away for a few years during and after college, I can trace these paths with great clarity.

I think it is important to understand that God only does so much, and that’s why I refer to it as “influence” and not “shape” or “mold”.  It is up to us to take what is given and act on it.  The more we walk in the path God taught us to follow the more the choices line up and the results turn out in grand ways.  Why did both my fiancée and I choose to respond to each other’s messages even though, as we learned in conversation later, we had both become so jaded and frustrated with the caliber of individuals we were finding on the sites that we had both decided to let our subscriptions to the sites lapse when they ended?  I believe it is because God had taught us to trust others and give them a chance.  If we had a more wordly view of only focusing on the commonly held belief that “everyone’s” profile and online communication is 50% false, one or both of us would have likely ignored each other and the connection would not have been made.  If I had not been seeking God’s guidance after I lost my job, I would not have been in the church those Sundays and the influence of God to guide the pastor to deliver the sermons she did would have been lost for me.  If I had not been understanding that God does not want us to have a hard heart and believe ourselves infallible or beyond reproach I would not have understood what I did from the marriage counselor He led us to.  A side note, this counselor was not a Christian counselor, so I do not feel that only believers can be used by God.  In trying to understand the morphing puzzle, it is beneficial to stop here.  When I assembled the puzzle the summer after counseling, I saw that God had helped me understand my flaws to improve and salvage my marriage.  As I assemble the puzzle now, I see that it was more to prepare me for the new godly woman he had planned for me to meet, as my ex does not value what I learned from the counselor the same way and so it did not help as I thought it would.  The puzzle was good and clear in both cases, yet it changed as more pieces were revealed.

So I think everyone can look back on their life, assemble the puzzle and see some “stuff” that was random, but maybe was not, that caused them to get to where they are.  You will each call it by a name, such as luck, God, karma, or something else.  I think what you believe will determine what you call it and how you handle it.  I prefer to believe that God influences the world in ways we cannot always  understand, and that only by living our lives in ways he would like us to, can we truly then make the right choices to get us to where He ultimately wants us to be.  As we move away from God, we make choices about the influences He has made that take us down different paths that may not fit into our life puzzle and show us in hindsight that at those times we really were lost.

So the next time you get a quiet moment, take some time to assemble your current life puzzle.  See if all the pieces fit, and if they do not, see if you can identify those pieces as belonging to a time when you had gone astray from good solid beliefs.  I think it’s a lot of fun to see the changes in your puzzle as life goes on.  The interesting thing is that even at the times when my marriage was difficult or the world was throwing me challenges I did not understand that I was still comfortable with my puzzle when I was comfortable with my relationship with God.  It is glorious to see that each time the result of the puzzle has gotten better.  I pray that each and every one of you reading this has the same experience and that if you have not that something you read today will help change your choices in how you relate to God.  If even one person reading this makes a decision to give God a chance, I will have done my job.

May God bless your life and give you glorious puzzle pieces with which to work as you go forward.

I contend that the process of healing during and after a divorce is the most difficult thing a person can go through. Death has a finality to it where our loved one passes on and we move through the grieving process, and periodically think of them on special occasions perhaps, but it does not linger longer than we allow. Loss of a job has a solution of finding other means of income, whether it be a new job, career or some more entrepreneurial option. Serious, chronic health issues may ebb and flow, and are probably the only thing I can think of that compete with divorce.

The dividing line of what pushes divorce over the top, is in all the above mentioned cases, there are supporting structures in place to help you. Family embraces you wholeheartedly in most cases to comfort and support. Church groups and other non-religious aligned entities exist to assist. Today, failing marriages and divorce does not really have that. Ask anyone who has gone through the process and you will find a variation on the theme, but it is nearly universal. Family and friends do not know what to do with you, and stay out of squabbles because it is “none of their business”. More amazingly many churches and groups seem to be taking the same stance. In the rush to keep the coffers full, and therefore the seats occupied, the very institutions that should be holding us accountable have started to coddle us just as the rest of society does.

Those of us with kids see it every day. Everyone is a winner. Everyone needs to get a trophy, ribbon or trinket so they feel special. Guess what? If everyone is special, then no one is. Teachers are no longer allowed to discipline in any way for fear of hurting some poor child’s feelings and incurring the wrath of a parent who may arrive with an attorney in tow to beat down the system again. When I was a kid my parents need to sign permission slips for me to go on a field trip so that if I injured myself doing something stupid it would properly be deemed my responsibility and not the school’s. Today I need to sign forms to watch a Revolutionary War educational film because it contains scenes of violence and war and I need to sign a form that the same book I read as a child for a book report is not somehow psychologically damaging to my child (i.e. giving them a nightmare) and that if it somehow does happen I do not go back and sue the school for having the book available. If you look really deep down in yourself you can begin to see that you truly feel that we have gone too far as well.

The arguments about the divorce rate are everywhere. I have seen some reports saying it is as high as 54%, and some saying the true number is 41%. I have seen discussions talking about the actual rate compared over time being constant since 1955 and therefore not an issue that is getting worse. I don’t care what the real rate is, it’s too high. My contention is that it is undoubtedly more socially and, dishearteningly, more religiously acceptable. Churches refuse to take a stand and when they do they do it at the wrong place. I heard from one woman who was told specifically by her Bible study group that she was no longer welcome as it was a married woman’s group and now that she was divorced she might encourage others in the group to want to leave their marriages. So because of the fear of “catching” a divorce, a support structure this woman had relied on for over fifteen years was no longer available. The pastor of this church supported the decision and went so far as to indicate that the congregation really did not know what to do with her. She felt so abandoned she looked for another church home. Is this how the church should take a stand? By ostracizing someone who needs support rather than holding her husband accountable for his choice to leave because his marriage was no longer as fun as it was in the beginning?

Where are the church leaders and the church body at large, holding people accountable for their marriages? I don’t mean the lip service we hear in sermons talking about how we must stay married, we must love and respect one another (though respect does not make it into many sermons, they just think love is enough) and that divorce is bad. The coddling of issues in society has now made it perfectly OK to get divorced for any reason. Bored with your spouse? Trade them in for a new one. Frustrated that dinner is not on the table or that your husband does not make as much money as your neighbor? Get divorced! Living with your girlfriend because your wife won’t have sex with you? Hell, that’s perfectly OK! Get divorced and make it official! Marriages end for the stupidest of reasons and the church stands back and does nothing because they fear more defections from their congregations and therefore less income. When it becomes known that adultery is occurring in a marriage, why does the pastor not pick up the phone, visit the office or contact the guilty party and seriously call them out for their choices? Why do family and friends look the other way? Even more offensive, when a couple is drifting apart for superficial reasons, like boredom, fatigue, or my favorite cop out “irreconcilable differences” why does no one push back? Yes, people I’m talking about full out guilt here. This is not “I don’t like Jose Canseco so I’m going to trade him for an Andre Dawson card” or “I don’t like blue so can I have your pink Barbie swimsuit for my doll” yet it has now become totally acceptable to just not care as we see terrible choices unfolding. Yes, relationship and especially marriage is hard. It’s meant to be. That’s how we grow. But in the world of “me, me, no god dammit ME!” our friends let us, no ENCOURAGE us, to sit around and lament the fact that we no longer feel fulfilled, comfortable, happy in our marriage. You should walk away, after all that couple in Hollywood was just married three weeks and they did the same. Why should you not do that to? Does anyone ask what are YOU doing to make that happen? Does your spouse know that you feel this way? Like it or not, we choose how we feel about something. It has become all the vogue these days to say things like “He makes me unhappy”. Sorry, but the reality is you choose to be unhappy with what occurs, he’s just doing something,but not causing your unhappiness. You are doing that yourself. Are your friends and church making you understand your responsibility? If not, why not? If you have friends who hold you accountable, cherish them, thank them every chance you get for being brutally honest when needed, and give them the same in return.

Now, there are legitimate issues that cannot be resolved and the Bible allows for divorce in certain situations, but my concern is that the very people we look to to help us have increasingly been failing in demanding that for lesser situations that we do not simply throw in the towel. And then if we try to keep our marriage together but our spouse chose to leave we get no support from these people to heal. Instead there is a form of confusion. You are now single, tainted and a large number of people treat you as a social leper. No longer invited or supported.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find these people, and I fear it may not be because they are simply being quiet for fear of being marginalized in their own right, but that instead it is because less of us really feel that it is our duty to hold people to a higher standard. God expects us as Christians to shine as a light in the world, yet how many put a lampshade on ourselves and shine in a tiny light around ourselves afraid to let the world see? I was recently encouraged to go see the film “Courageous”. I had read about the film and saw it was about being a solid father and not abandoning your kids. I thought, “I’ve not done that. This movie has little value for me.” I was not going to go, but my girlfriend really wanted to see it as she had heard the same recommendations from church associates as I had. Out of love for her, I chose to attend. I was glad I did as I learned a few things I could improve in my life. Take the lampshade off and let your family and the world see what you stand for. Sadly the message in the general populace is more clear.

In 1957, the Ten Commandments was released and it was the highest box office of that year. Its adjusted gross makes it the fifth highest ever. If that film were released today, it would maybe make a few million as Courageous has. A significant cause of this was summed up well in the film. One can argue about the specific presentation, if it was too heavy handed and dramatized, if it was all too nicely tied up with a ribbon as we demand all our entertainment to be today. The film says men have stopped being courageous and teaching their families about the importance of God. Look back at the papers in 1957. They were full of glowing reviews of the film. Today it is made fun of as “Bible thumping” and such. Therefore a religious film is something to be made fun of in the press at large today.

Taken with a broader view, the cause is that it has become acceptable in our society to place God in a corner and take our lampshade and walk over and shine our light only there once in a while. We can’t talk about God at work, at school, and because of that pressure anywhere else. And sadly what this has turned into is that we can’t talk about God in church. The largest divorce support group in my area takes place in a church but is not remotely based on God in anyway. It’s now called the Power of One and just adds to the debate that all we need is ourselves and maybe a relationship with God. They say they do this to be inclusive, but in doing so they continue to add to the public debate that it is OK to marginalize God and place him in a corner. After all, if this huge church does it, it’s OK, right? We complain of the dumbing down of America. I sadly look at the dumbing down of God. Too many congregations make it easy to participate. They do not hold their members accountable. They do not demand a certain level of conduct of their members. And in the topic I write about in this blog, the substance of failed marriage and divorce, in many cases they do nothing to discourage this situation. And then they do nothing to fix the problem, educate the individual and make them a better disciple of God so that they can make themselves a better spouse in the future. I had a great DivorceCare leader who challenged us in this way. But the church body as a whole should press to make it known that not working on a marriage is not a Godly way to live.

I challenge you to really listen to your pastor’s sermons the next few weeks. Do they hold you accountable to do better, or are they just making you feel good about how you act? If they do not challenge you I suggest you begin seeking another church. In your own life, resolve to be more courageous and challenge your friends and family when you see them embarking on a poor path of choices. We are a community and “it’s not my business” is just a way for us to happily go on and look the other way. It is much more difficult to be persistent and point out how their choices are impacting them and their families. Good friends will understand and appreciate the honesty. Take a look at Jesus’ example. He did not go pounding on everyone’s door demanding to be heard, but when he saw a poor choice he educated the individual about it. He spoke in public but did not advertise on YouTube or in the local paper to boost his own ego, his reputation as a truth teller drew people to him. I’m not suggesting you get in someone’s face, just that you state facts as you see them. If a friend continues down a poor path, then when consequences arrive, they will most likely remember your counsel previously and return to you. Continuing to provide the truth, even though not easy, may eventually cause them to right their direction. Just as with Jesus at times they may move away from you because your message is uncomfortable, but in the long run many will see that it is a good message and will return. Find church leaders and a church body that does the same thing for its membership and help it grow and you will be doing your part to provide a supportive environment in the world and avoid the continued spread of irresponsibility in the world in the name of God.