Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Preface: I am returning to divorce related topics. I hope that this post is the first in a two or three part series. (I sound like your preacher, don’t I?) I want to first state that this post has been by far the most difficult for me to write. I think that is so because this is something that I have not yet overcome. Perhaps, we can work through this together.

Rejection: the Hatred of the World We are approaching the anniversary of my engagement. On March 3, 2003 (the night before my birthday, because he was too excited to wait) my now ex-husband asked me to go for a walk around my college campus. I had given two tours of the campus that day and was tired of walking around it. So, true to form, I responded, “If I am going to walk around this campus again, there had better be a ring in your pocket.” We walked to a statue that is the landmark of campus and he proposed to me. I was completely surprised. I was unbelievably excited. I was rather overwhelmed.

Throughout my life I had had the privilege of watching great marriages progress- namely that of my parents. I saw how important their relationship was to one another, how much they cared for each other. I experienced their efforts at making their relationship successful, even when it was difficult. Occasionally I heard my Mother say what a “good man” my father is, and sometimes heard Daddy refer to my mother as “his treasure”. The night of March 3, 2003, I was overwhelmed that I had found someone who saw in me the potential to have a relationship like that of my parent’s. I was someone’s treasure.

I think that is one of the primary reasons we search for a mate. We long for someone to love and cherish us not because they have to or are supposed to like our parents, but because they choose to. We want to captivate another person in such a way that they pick us out of the 6.7 billion people on the planet as their beloved. The moment that happens, all the years of insecurity disappear. The questions of a lifetime are suddenly answered – I am enough, I am desirable, I am loved…

Conversely, the moment that same person tells you they want a divorce, that lifetime of feelings immediately returns and is exponentially multiplied. That same person who but a brief time ago declared that we were the “one for them” out of the 6.7 billion people on the planet has suddenly changed their mind. Ultimate rejection.

Have you ever heard of someone named Mark Hamill? Maybe Carl Douglas? What about Margaret Hamilton? Not ringing any bells, are they? Mark Hamill stared as Luke Skywalker in Starwars. Carl Douglas is slightly famous for the song Kung Foo Fighting which should immediately conjure an image of a stuffed chipmunk kicking and punching as it sings the song. Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. The only thing these have in common is the fact that they each produced an act of celebrity but the rest of their career was not all that noteworthy. It must be terribly disappointing to play one of the greatest characters in one of the best known movies but go onto little else. We jokingly refer to it as their fifteen minutes of fame, but what rejection they must have experienced.

Think about another celebrity: Jesus. Jesus is decidedly one of the most well known people to have ever walked the planet. Today, no one would consider him to have only had “fifteen minutes of fame.” After all, his name and reputation have lasted some 2,000 years. It might be better to compare the celebrity of Jesus to that of struggling artists. He is better known and appreciated for his work after his life than he was during his life. This is true because during the life of Jesus, he was rarely celebrated, rarely desired or treasured.

The one moment of human exaltation Jesus experienced was the day he entered Jerusalem in preparation for Passover. The story taken from Matthew 21 describes:

“Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, ‘Hosanna to David's son!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in God's name!’ ‘Hosanna in highest heaven!’ As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, ‘What's going on here? Who is this?’ The parade crowd answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.’”

We know this event now as Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. In modern terms, one week the city was throwing an impromptu parade in His honor and the next week the same city was executing Him. Talk about fifteen minutes of fame. Talk about rejection.

I often think of my marriage as fifteen minutes of fame. It certainly didn’t last much longer than fifteen minutes. Nor was I note worthy to him for much longer than that. The divorce left me completely rejected. In essence, the one person (out of those 6.7 billion) who was supposed to treasure me for the rest of my life rejected me. Over the past couple of years, my journal entries show my obvious preoccupation with the theme of rejection as they are riddled with verses concerning the concept. Some of the verses are:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Isaiah 53:3

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’”
Matthew 21:42

The most fitting of scriptures seems to be from Jesus’ address to the disciples as they expressed their concerns about rejection. John15:18 says “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” As shown in the stories of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and later his brutal and humiliating execution, Jesus was no stranger to rejection. That is the key. In the preface, I stated that we could perhaps work through this together. The pronoun “we”, of coarse was figurative as I was referring to me and whoever happens to read this post that has experienced the same feelings. But, maybe, the “we” should refer to me and Jesus. After all, who better is there to walk with than someone who has experienced the same rejection?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scratch Spin

Last night, my three year old daughter and I were watching the men’s figure skating competition at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Wearing socks, she decided to test her skills as a figure skater on our hardwood floors. She watched carefully as the skaters performed their routines, paying particular attention to the jumps, then she attempted to recreate each element. She watched as Yevgeny Plushenko performed what I now know is called a “Scratch Spin.” This spin begins with one leg and both arms extended, as the skater brings their arms and free leg closer to their body, the speed of the spin accelerates. Plushenko finished his spin and now the attention was to be turned to the toddler. The toddler spun and spun. The toddler got dizzier and dizzier. The toddler fell down. She looked up at me with her eyes still making circles and asked “why doesn’t he get dizzy and fall down?” I answered that “he finds a focal point and looks at it every time he makes a turn. Keeping your eyes on a solid object will help you focus as you spin.” In the skating world it is called “spotting”.

Today, as I was trying to read the final chapters of the text that was due for tonight’s class, the same toddler was demanding my attention. She was hungry. There was laundry to wash, turn over and fold. The dishes were piling up in the sink. Sheets needed to be changed. There were articles to be summarized and posted. We were late to story-time at the library. There were e-mails to be returned. We had church, choir and Mission Friends. The phone was ringing, things were breaking and the toddler was still hungry. As any mother knows... no, correction… as any modern person knows, life is hectic. It often seems as though life is spinning out of control. The more we do to fix this, the tighter our arms and legs are pulled to our bodies forcing the speed of that spin to accelerate.

When I get stressed, my first reaction is to start making lists. I immediately try to create control out of things that cannot be controlled. The stress level is directly proportional to the length of a given to-do list. At the bottom of today’s list was written, “finish blog post”. I had already begun a different post, but I think (and pray) that God had different intentions. After I had put the toddler down for a nap, washed the dishes and finished my class work, I began thinking about my post. I have been re-reading one of my favorite books of the Bible lately and happened upon the following in Isaiah 26:1-4: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal.” God is our Rock eternal – He is our solid focal point on which to fix our gaze.

As I considered God as the focal point preventing me from dizziness, I was randomly reminded that today is Ash Wednesday. Today is the start of Lent. Lent is traditionally a time of self-reflection and repentance so that we may prepare for Easter and more clearly focus on our Savior and the sacrifice He made for us. Not surprisingly, all that spinning is sin. Anything that distracts our eyes away from God is sinful. During the season of Lent consider refocusing on, or “spotting” on our Savior. I pray that God shows us our sin. I pray that as we recognize our sin he will forgive us of it. I pray that we allow Him to be the solid focal point on which we fix our gaze; He will prove to be the balance to our spinning world.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance that may guide the way to better spotting God. Pay particular attention to verses 7-15.

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You're the One I've violated, and you've seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls.
Then you'll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!

Side note: I realize that this particular post does not deal specifically with divorce or the ramifications thereof. However, I really felt as though God wanted me to write on this topic today, so I am prayerful that it will minister to someone.

Passage copied from The Message.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dealing with the Depression

Manchester, Georgia is a quaint little town of a little less than 4,000 people. It was founded in 1909 as a railroad community. The railroad is a hard way of life for many families; many families don’t endure. As such, the community and our church have seen a great deal of divorce.

My father has served as Minister of Music at First Baptist Manchester since 2004. My mother is the director of the library at West Georgia Technical College in nearby LaGrange. The move to Manchester was a difficult one in some aspects and positive in others. Daddy had briefly left full time ministry and was returning to the service to which God had called him. Mother was getting a promotion. But the move also meant giving up on dreams. For several years, we wondered why God had allowed the turn of events that brought Mother and Daddy to Manchester

When my ex-husband asked for a divorce, my daughter and I moved to Manchester to be with my parents. Not knowing what the response would be, I was astonished at the outpouring of concern and love that we received. Many within the community, Daddy’s church and Mother’s library offered their prayers and devotions. Parents of divorced children reached out in support of Mother and Daddy. Through the disabling depression of those first few months, the reason God had moved our family to this area became evident. God brought us to a community that has been deeply effected by the ills of divorce. God brought us to the support that can only be provided from those who have traveled this road before.

As the weeks went by, I received encouraging words from every direction. There were days when I could actually feel the power of the prayers that were being said for us. Several people shared pages copied from their personal devotions they felt would be inspirational. As time permits, I hope to pass these along.

I have been blessed to know several God-seeking, God-fearing people throughout my life. The first devotion I want to share was passed on to me by one of these people. Johnnie Freeman worked part time as a library assistant with mother and serves her church as a lay minister. Mrs. Freeman is truly a woman of God – a prayer warrior. Over the course of the summer immediately following my separation, she shared many copied pages of inspiration. The following comes from Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts. Read as though you can hear God say these words to you. The entire piece is supported by scripture (as noted in the parentheses and brackets), so in essence God has said these words to you.

The Art of Committal
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

O my child, lay your heart in My hand, and let Me heal it. Yet, let Me gather up your tears, for they are precious to Me (Psalm 56:8). You have not been suffering alone, but I Myself have been near you all along the way. My heart has felt all that you have felt. You do not have a high priest who is not able to sympathize with your suffering, but one who experienced every grief and human emotion common to all people. In the midst of these painful experiences, He did not sin. Therefore, He is one who is able to help you (Hebrews 2:18).

He is one, who having walked the same path Himself, is able to teach you how, in the midst of these human experiences of hurts, frustrations, loneliness and heartache, you may rise above the natural tendencies to fall into the sins of self-pity, self-reproach, depression of spirit, resentment and the like [Hebrews 4: 14-16].

It is not easy. Not only is it not easy, but in the natural, in the flesh, it is impossible. But the same grace I promised to the apostle Paul to help him bear his affliction, the same grace I will give to you (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You may bring the whole of your burden to Me. I will help you as the days go by, and as the trials come and go; and as the learning process continues, I will teach you the spiritual secrets of the art of committal [Matthew 11: 28-30, Psalm 55:22, Nahum 1:7].

For in complete and repeated committal lies the key to victories that can be thus more easily won, less painfully achieved, and more quickly gained, so the valleys become less deep and less dark and more quickly passed through.

“Man is born,” it is written, “to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). This is true as surely as rain falls and snow is cold. But it is equally true, and gloriously so, that I have promised to deliver you out of all your troubles [Psalm 34: 4-6 and 17-19].

So will you now take the first step in this committal and give Me your heart?
Make it as tangible a transaction as possible, and visualize your own hand laying the physical organ of your heart in My hands. Say to Me, “Take this, Loving Master and Wonderful Lord, and do with it as pleases You.”

Verses found in the passage:

Psalm 56:8 “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” NKJV

Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” NKJV

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” NKJV

2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” NKJV

Matthew 11: 28- 30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." NIV

Psalm 55:22 "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” NIV

Nahum 1:7 “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” NIV

Psalm 34:4-6 “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” NIV

Psalm 34:17-19 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” NIV

*Verses in parentheses are original to the text and are copied from the New King James Version. Verses in brackets are added by the editor and are copied from the New International Version.

Passage from Come Away My Love by Frances J. Roberts, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Happiness. One word that everyone wants but no one seems to actually possess. It seems that the entire human race is on a quest for happiness similar to that of the Holy Grail. And in true Holy Grail fashion, we will stop at little to achieve that happiness.

The day my ex asked me for a divorce, this was the only reason he could give to explain his unfaithfulness – he just wasn’t happy. Not only was he not happy during the last months, but he had apparently been unhappy for the entire relationship. He was completely unconcerned with the conditions his desire for happiness would thrust upon his loving and concerned family.

Now, almost two years later, I sit at my computer in a comfortable house. I watch my beautiful, healthy and intelligent daughter play with a plethora of toys. I have a closet full of clothes, jewelry box with some really nice pieces (some not so nice pieces). A car in the drive and a swing set in the back yard. I have traveled the nation and the world. I have friends and family who deeply care for me… but something is missing. Something still causes me to want more.

It is a deep lack of happiness.

In the light of events like the recent earthquakes in Haiti, this desire for happiness is sincerely called into question. When I compare my material wealth, my physical health and general well-being to that of suffering people all over the world, a great sense of guilt comes over me. I feel as though I don’t deserve any more than what I already have. Who am I to desire more than I have, when there are people on this planet who do not know where their next meal will come from? How un-Christ-like of me to want something as children in Haiti are literally searching for their parents.

This is where most devotionals would consider verses like Psalm 118:24 which says “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And, while this is true, God did make the day and we should rejoice and be glad in the blessing He has bestowed on us, this verse doesn’t exactly cut to the core of our desire for happiness. This is compounded when you consider that the same Psalmist who told us to rejoice in the day also wrote “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed” in Psalm 20:4.

It is my belief, that our loving Lord, has a great desire for us to be happy. Why else would Eden have been so perfectly wonderful? Here are these two presumably beautiful people walking around a garden that, in my mind at least, is spa-like: serene, lush and perfectly happy. Enter the serpent. The serpent seems to be like one of those seventh grade girls who always had the best of everything. But, as soon as someone else was “going with” the star football player, she had to create some way to ruin that relationship. The serpent was the original unhappy seventh grader. The serpent was the original unhappy spouse. Seeing a happiness that he could not possess, the serpent set out to destroy it.

That is exactly what he has been doing ever since. For many years (the exact length of time is debatable), the devil has employed as many techniques as possible to prevent God’s children from experiencing the happiness that our Lord has in store for us. The latest technique is the weapon of divorce. It attacks from every angle: the family, the individual and most importantly, the soul.

The soul is what is the most vulnerable to the Devil’s attacks. The partner is left with a great void within their soul that can only be described as unhappiness. Those feelings of rejection, failure, defeat, anger, ugliness, disappointment, guilt (this list is endless) come from that void. In the midst of the divorce, it seems that humans are responsible for these feelings. We blame our ex-spouse or ourselves and then turn to God and beg for answers as to why.

The serpent has struck again. Unable to enjoy happiness of his own, he has taken happiness from mankind. He is successful. And, every time we allow those feelings of unhappiness to consume our thinking, the devil wins another battle. That is what the devil wants; he wants to keep our eyes off the glory of God.

It is only when we find the strength through God to fight the devil that we will truly find happiness. A friend’s Facebook status recently read: “Contentment is found in the LORD'S PRESENCE. We will be fully satisfied, when we get to the point where God is first thing on our minds when we wake up in the morning.”

Then and only then, will we fill that void with the happiness that we long for.

*This quote is used with permission from Ruby Stringer.