Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

National Divorce Day?

Did you know that “national divorce day” is the first working Monday of the year? Divorce attorneys report the highest incidents of divorce filings occur on that day.

Once the papers are signed, they can now go on with their lives. It’s easily accomplished with a small, very small printed newspaper article declaring publicly a divorce granted and legally filed in the county courthouse. The “I do” has effectively turned into “I don’t.” Their homes are separate; their children have two beds and two dressers.

In this couple’s mind, it is the end of arguments, trying to get along, counseling and late night, knockdown, drag out, heated disagreements. It is the end of trying to make decisions together. It is the end of needing to consider the other in any and every decision. They also think it’s the end of hurtful, emotionally charged words and sarcasm. And no more ridiculous faces of disgust to look at.

But it’s not over! It’s never over as long as the two shall live. The kids will go back and forth and it will take an inordinate amount of communication. The lack of attention to detail and facts concerning any relational connection will still be present. There will still be the unkind words and demeaning facial expressions. Anger will be present and it will cause further heated discussions over kids, over activities or weekends and over money.

Still present will be the emotional upheavals, tears and ongoing loss. Holidays will be especially difficult and extended family will suffer as well. 

Then, just imagine bringing new dating relationships into this mix. It is a scheduling nightmare day in and day out. Children crying and saying, “I want to go to mommy’s house.” Parents crying and trying to bring some kind of new normal to their children. More counseling. More doctor visits because of more stress. More stress because at the end of the day it’s all up to you. There is no longer a spouse to lean on and to share the load. Your life is so totally different you barely recognize it. 

You’re single again. What does that even mean, look like, feel like? You’re not 19 or 20 years old. Wow, how life has drastically changed!

No wonder God stated in His word how much He hated divorce (Malachi 2:15, 16). He knew how destructive it would be. He knew how difficult and hard on a family it would be. And He knew the brokenness involved in each and every divorce. Being alone again is no dream-filled panacea. Not every relationship can be repaired or even should be, however; it sure is worth trying and praying toward that end.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Promises for the New Year – 2022

Mary, my wife, and I spent some time away evaluating our year, giving thanks to God and then taking an extended time of dreaming toward the future. Why? We have so much to be thankful for, we want to learn from our mistakes and we know that we always have a future and a hope through our relationship with our heavenly Father and the love we share for each another. 

We realize that magnitude, intensity and nature of our problems do not matter as long as we have our faith and trust in God intact. We also realize that God has a redemptive purpose behind every life difficulty and He then uses situations to develop character in each of us. As character is built so is grace, patience and honesty.

It’s an exercise of letting go of the prior year with each and every blessing or problem we faced behind us and embracing a brand-new year, a fresh start, a new beginning. One thing we love to do is find scripture that helps us in our faith and gives us hope for the year forthcoming. 

We thought we would share some of those hope-filled, life-giving scriptures for your new year. You can pray, memorize or just regularly read over them for a faith building exercise. 

With that, we bless you and give God thanks for you in this brand-new year 2022!

And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great. (Job 8: 7)

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. (Psalm 65: 11)

The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31: 8)

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 7: 13)

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29: 11)

Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. (Habakkuk 1: 5)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4: 6)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1: 17)

Certainly there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23: 18)

A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam. He turned the intended curse into a blessing because the LORD your God loves you. (Deuteronomy 23: 5)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90: 12)

May He send you help from the sanctuary, And support you from Zion! (Psalm 20: 2) May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (Psalm 20: 4)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Supersize Me!

I have never purchased one of those “supersized” meals. I find the portions of a regular value meal sufficient. But I have experienced a supersized dream or two–dreams that were way beyond me.

Dreams beyond our capability, our strength and our intellect are good. It means that we can’t fulfill them in our own strength. If we could, then just do it, why dream about it?

My wife and I had a supersized dream to pay our thirty-year mortgage off in ten years. My income wasn’t sufficient to triple our mortgage payment, but every month we put some extra cash on the principle and every once in a while we had small windfalls to deposit as well. Our dream was realized in twelve years.

I had a supersized dream to start a business on the side of my main career in order to help my children with college costs. After twelve years of college attended by my three children, the side business began to dry up. The dream was fulfilled and I was able to help them financially.

After ten years of social work and then fourteen years of family and marriage counseling, I had a supersized dream to travel around the world and give personal oversight, counsel and support to godly leaders and leadership teams. I have lived in that dream now for twenty one years.

What super-sized dream is next? I am not sure, but this I am sure of, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20)”

Dream on and ask God to supersize it!!

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Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Let Freedom Ring!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the home of the Liberty Bell. It is encased in glass and resides near Independence Hall. It was the abolitionists who named the bell. Prior to the 1830’s it was known as The Old Statehouse Bell. The name was changed as America began the fight against slavery.

 

The bell weighs 2,080 pounds and is made of a mixture of bronze, copper, tin, silver and lead. However, the bell on display in Philadelphia is not the original bell as the original one cracked on its first test ring in 1752. It is said that the bell was then melted down and a second one was cast.

 

In its earlier days, the bell rang to summon lawmakers and Philadelphians to meetings. A second crack occurred around 1846. There was an attempt to repair it but, unfortunately, the repair ended up making the crack even worse. The bell could no longer be used.

 

The bell bears these words, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto the Inhabitants thereof.” The final sound from the Liberty Bell was when it was last struck seven times on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The Philadelphia mayor did so to spell out the word “Liberty.”

 

Liberty, what an important word. A one-ton bell was created to remind us of its importance for all Americans. It meant freedom from despotic government control, freedom from foreign government control and freedom from restriction, captivity and confinement. (Dictionary.com) The Liberty Bell, preserved for all to still see today, stands as a permanent reminder of a nation created to stand for liberty and freedom.

 

And where do we find those two words in our rich, Scripture-filled American history? Isaiah the prophet penned and Jesus read one day in the temple the following, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.”

 

Jesus went into the temple, opened the scrolls, read these scriptures and closed the scrolls. It was a word spoken to the world for the generations to follow. Jesus Christ has come to proclaim liberty and to set all mankind free. Quite honestly, no government can do what He can in our lives. Do you personally know this Anointed One? If you do, let freedom ring and tell everyone you know!

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents, Women

Parents, Phones and Distractions

Statistics of children becoming injured has decreased steadily since 1970, thanks to safer play areas, safer play equipment and closer supervision. Those statistics are, however, changing and injuries have increased from 12 to 17% since 2007.1 What happened in 2007 that could possibly begin an injury increase in children? The answer is distraction by smart phone use. 

Emergency-room doctors see a growing trend of hand-held devices as the explanation for a child’s injury rates to increase. All the while, users do not consider themselves distracted while they are checking their email or responding to a text message.2 The numbers of growing injuries to children with distracted parents looking down at phones has increased exponentially.

An 11-year-old child was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool, “unresponsive.” “The department of Children and Families concluded that ‘the death was a direct result’ of inadequate supervision.” The child’s mother was distracted and “twittering” as the child drowned.3 Parents are being charged with “reckless endangerment of a child” due to the increased number of accidents and injuries as a result of increased screen time rather than properly caring for and interacting with their children.

Your child is begging for you to watch him make the basket or see her hit the ball. It’s how they receive your affirmation and approval. It’s how they are complimented for accomplishing a feat. If you as the parent are so distracted by your phone, it will not be long until you unknowingly send the message to your child that your interaction with your phone friend is far more important than they are.

When your child is requiring your attention, put your phone away and give them your undivided eye and ear contact. It will let them know they are the most important thing to you at that time. They will continue with the conversation and be ecstatic about your interaction. 

Cell phones today are decreasing relational and personal face-to-face connection. We are quickly losing conversations that bring life or instruction. I have repeatedly witnessed moms and dads glued to their phones while their child is desperately crying out for a need or to have a simple question answered. 

Before you realize it, your child will be graduating from high school and be off to college. Soon your daughter will be walking down the aisle and you’ll wonder where all of those childhood years disappeared to. Do not raise your child in such a way that one day you regret the times your child felt like they were second place to a hand-held device.

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children…take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Message)

1-3: Wall Street Journal article, The Perils of Texting While Parenting, by Ben Worthen, 2012

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Does Money and Marriage Mix?

Recently I came across a survey initiated by Fidelity Financial of 1,700 couples.* The purpose of the survey was to discover money matters and how well married couples are agreeing with their financial picture. Surprisingly, 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about their finances at least once per month. That’s good news. 

However, one in five couples revealed that money is their greatest relationship challenge. And, two in five shared how they argue about money with their spouse occasionally. One in four stated they are all too often frustrated with their spouse’s money habits but choose to not confront it in order to maintain peace.

So, what were some of those highlighted disagreements?

  • Over 50% disagree about how much savings is needed. 
  • Forty percent disagree about the level of risk to take with investments.
  • Thirty four percent disagree about who is the “spender” and who is the “saver.”
  • One third disagreed about their families next large expenditure.

The most challenging stat from this survey for me came when it was revealed that only 50% of couples make financial decisions jointly with their husband or wife. I simply cannot imagine making money decisions without consulting one another, without honoring the other and without a prayerful process of discloser and input. Disagreement about finances is so often at the center of spousal disagreement and disagreement is a powerful weapon that eventually hurts both parties, not to mention also affecting the children.

My wife and I suffered from the marriage money mix. I thought she was a “spender” and she thought I was a “tight wad.” We accepted those terms as who we were or how we saw one another, but in time and with better discernment discovered that we were both wrong. We desperately needed each other’s view of finance, but we also desperately needed to find agreement.

I was wrong as I discovered that my wife was not a spender but rather a “giver.” She discovered that I was not a tight wad as much as I was saving for our future dreams, an “investor.” We discovered that we were both right and when we found agreement, we found peace in the mix of our money matters. We discovered that we each needed the others input and view of finance.

Do not allow financial disagreement to spread in your marriage. Get on a livable, agreeable budget. Discover the needs that you are each trying to meet in the midst of your disagreement. Pray about your finances together. If necessary, seek counsel and do not keep putting it off.

When we kick the financial disagreement can down the road we will discover mistrust entering into the equation. Where there is a lack of trust, there will be a deeper marital issue to deal with.

There are 2,350 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue of finance. Apparently God knew we needed extra counsel in this area of our lives. Here are just two of those amazing verses:

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

*From the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, 9.13.21

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

An Appropriate Use of Social Media

Yes, I am on social media and, yes, I have often thought of removing myself. I especially find it difficult in election years and quite honestly, I tire of the bickering, name calling and strongly opinionated responses that people write. I have rarely “unfriended” someone, but am often tempted to do more of it.

Further, when the largest corporations in the world (social media outlets) and their owners are regularly testifying (justifying really) about their practices in Washington, DC and when they can dictate what “hate speech” is or is not, there are even more reasons to leave them behind.

Today I am forced to think about what I believe to be truth, recognizing that some individual who does not hold my values works for one of these giants and deems me unfit to offer that truth on their social media platform. It’s a new day and one that I would have never seen coming.

Here are a few reasons that I think are unacceptable practices when using social media.

  • To use a social platform to destroy, attack or assassinate another human being.
  • To continually exalt only yourself.
  • To spread gossip.
  • To only post partisan politics and never post the good from “the other side” or the wrong from your side.
  • To not speak honorably toward those who think and see things differently than you do.
  • To be involved in any form of speech that you would not use face-to-face with someone.
  • To make sweeping characterizations of a specific group of people you do not agree with.
  • To write or make inferences that are hurtful or harmful to another individual or group.
  • To speak critical heart judgments of persons you do not personally know or have not heard their side in the matter.
  • To pass something on to others that you cannot verify as truth.
  • To assume you know and everyone else is clueless.
  • To write something that could affect your employment or future employment.
  • To divulge any form of confidentiality.
  • To be unwilling to post a retraction when you need to.
  • To be unwilling to apologize to your readers when you are wrong about something you’ve written.
  • To become angry and to respond in anger when criticized by a reader.

I have made some of these mistakes and have been thankful when someone lovingly lends correction. Save yourself some future issues and police your social media use. Remember, whatever seeds you sow you will also reap.

Consider this very wise advice from a man named Paul:

And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them…So never grieve the Spirit…or take for granted his holy influence in your life. Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another…. 

(Ephesians 4: 29 – 32 TPT)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun

How to Know You’re Aging Well

I love getting older. I am no longer in my mid-sixties, but have crossed that line. People initiate conversation with “older” people. That’s nice. Older individuals can get away with more because, well…they’re older. When I do something stupid, there seems to be more grace offered since I am older. 

But with age comes wisdom. The book of Proverbs states, “…the gray hair of experience is the spender of the old.” (20:29) Splendor sure sounds positive! Here are four observations that I have made about life at this age. I hope they give you something to look forward to.

  1. You will recognize a greater level of self-awareness. The older I become, the less I obsess about myself (disappearing hair, style, shaving, etc.) and find more joy in being other-centered. 
  2. You require less control. I find that I more readily admit that I don’t know something and feel okay about it. I am no longer proving myself to others.
  3. We walk in a deeper level of trust with God and realize we don’t always need to know what He’s up to or why He’s taking so long with His answer. I am more settled, more relaxed and more able to wait with a deeper level of patience.
  4. We recognize the need for a greater level of separation or detachment. We work, rest and play smarter. Detachment is no longer avoiding something that I should be doing. Detaching is recognized as healthy.

There you have it; four simple observations. Oh, and one more verse from wise King Solomon, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.” (16:31)

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part One)

Couples in the U.S. are waiting longer to marry and living together in an attempt to try it out.  These reactions are simply due to anxiety brought on by the number of marriages that are failing.  One in four marriages is ending in divorce, which is better than one in two, but not where we desire it to be.  Let me put it in a different framework:  what if one in four planes that took off crashed; how quick would you be to board one?

For some of us, many years ago we spoke something called vows that went like this: For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health…till death (not murder) do us part.  Never did we ever imagine having to face such issues.  But, truth be told, we will face these things as some of us already have.  

We all marry into brokenness.  There is no perfect marriage because there is no perfect person in marriage.  If you found the right person in marriage, you found an imperfect person.  And not only are they imperfect; you’re imperfect as well.  

Do you know why we take pictures at weddings?  Because it’s the last time you’ll see anything close to perfection.  Even some of the clothes are rented at a wedding.  Erma Bombeck said, “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”

Here’s the good news for those of us who are married and those of us who are not: marriage has a 100% chance of being absolutely fantastic, whole and awesome if we will commit to following Jesus and following biblical principles for marriage relationships.

Exodus 34:14 – Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

I love that.  God is jealous over you; it’s a positive thing; it’s a righteous love.  We too can become jealous as we bond with a life mate.  To be jealous is to be intolerant of rivalry, like God we become jealous because we love.  In God’s jealousy He protects, He guards His children from the foreign god, from idolatry.  As husband and wife, we guard, we protect against a foreign intruder into our marriage.  One of those foreign intruders is an affair.

An affair happens when one takes the most sacred expressions in marriage and gives them to another.  So you can have an affair without sex by giving what belongs only to your spouse to someone else.  Before this happens, however, there are numerous other issues going on.  It is like the warning lights on the dash of your car.  You can ignore them for only so long.  And while ignoring them, the problem usually grows worse.

Today, affairs are starting anywhere there is close proximity and working relationships.  Facebook is a huge source of marital failures as people find “first loves” in a desire to feel a feeling they once felt.  You can be involved in an affair simply through your computer and never meet face-to-face.

We are all potential vow breakers.  If we think it can’t happen to us we can become sloppy and less guarded, not alert to the enemy’s schemes. To those of you who have been tempted and who gave in to that temptation, this message is not spoken to condemn you in any way.  We serve a redemptive God and He forgives.

Dr Gail Saltz psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital said this concerning affairs, “Many people convince themselves so long as there is not sex it is not an affair, but it is.  It has to do with secrecy, deception and betrayal and the emotional energy you are putting into the other person vs. your partner.  The most difficult thing to recover from is not sex, but the breaking of trust.  Those involved in an emotional affair are often in denial.  They do not think they’re having an affair at all.  The denial keeps them guilt-free and they tell themselves, ‘It’s just a friendship.’”

But one in two emotional affairs becomes a full-blown sexual affair states Dr. Saltz.

How do you know you’re in an emotional affair?  Dr Saltz shares ten warning signs:

  1. When your meetings are kept secret from your spouse.
  2. When you say and do things with someone you would never do in front of your spouse or you would feel guilty if your spouse happened to show up.
  3. When you make it a point to arrange private talk time with this person.
  4. When you share things with them that you do not share with your partner.
  5. When you avoid telling your partner how much time you may be spending with this person.
  6. When you are stating things about your marriage that you should not be telling another, opening a window to your heart and unmet emotional needs.
  7. When you begin discussing your marital dissatisfactions.
  8. When you tell this person more about your day than you do your partner.
  9. When you “ready your appearance” in anticipation of seeing this person.
  10. When there is sexual attraction spoken or unspoken between you.

Even if there is no actual touching, these are signs of an emotional affair.  The emotional high that the sexual attraction, the secrecy, the feelings provide actually becomes addictive and will perpetuate the relationship.  

To guard against ever having an emotional affair or to act in a preventative manner, live your life the opposite of the above ten warning signs. Secondly, set boundaries for your marriage relationship just like a dating couple sets sexual boundaries.  As a couple, what are you comfortable with and what are you not comfortable with (e.g., phone calls, meeting for lunch, driving in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex)?

Next week I will share part two of Affairproofing Your Marriage.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Worry Will Steal Your Rest

There is a thief among us. It will rob us of peace, of joy and of sleep. We weren’t created to carry stressors which lead to worry that ages us prematurely. Worry wrinkles the skin, darkens the eyes and hunches over the shoulders.

 

To worry is to be in a constant attempt to figure out or manipulate the future. It is self-torment and the heavier the worry becomes, the more effort it takes to move forward. To be in a state of worry inhibits rest.

 

I heard someone once say when we live life out of rest, we release God to work on our behalf. But when we live in a lifestyle of carrying our own load, God rests. He will allow us to stumble and fall with worry.

 

One evening for devotions, my wife and I read this verse out of Isaiah, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Wow, we stopped and asked God to give us the grace to live in that very place, a worry-free place of peace and undisturbed rest.

 

Do you desire to dwell there too?

 

Ask Him, just as we did.

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