answers

A cry for encouragement…

OK friends help me here because I’m struggling.

I know that the enemy is working overtime against me, as I sit here at my children’s soccer games in my wife and her lover’s city of residence… I know that I’m struggling because I have to watch my kids cuddle with my now ex-wife, her lover, and his mother while I sit here, alone in a strange place. Either way, the spam from hell is rolling in. I know it’s lies, but I really need some encouragement. All I have here is discouragement. Even my closest friends and mentors have given up on my stand. I have recently had about five very mature brothers in Christ pretty much tell me that I am not going to be restored. One even told me that the Holy Spirit told him not to pray for restoration for me. I asked God for a sign of encouragement (Covenant Trucks), and He gave me the opposite sign (Payne Trucks) about 18 times in the last two months, and not one Covenant Truck.

Then, today, on the way to the soccer game, I see two Covenant Trucks, one of which is the painted over variety. I feel like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. I don’t want to be double minded. I want to be standing or not standing. The thing is, if I’m not going to be restored, I’m not going to stand just out of obedience and self-sacrifice. Unless God sends an angel into my bedroom to tell me I must stand in lieu of restoration to be a light in these dark times, I want to stop being lonely and miserable.

I’m an educator, and for better or worse, my whole life revolves around data. We don’t use a technique in the classroom unless the numbers back it up. So, here is my struggle. I can’t bring to mind one single testimony of a prodigal wife turning around without seeing her husband move on to someone else and becoming a stander herself or without contracting some terminal illness and coming home to die.

Seriously, if anyone has any data on this please reply here. Is my faithful stand doing a darn thing? Are there any numbers to suggest that women are not consumed with so much pride that they simply don’t come around without some drastically negative stimulus?

Help me out here peeps. I mean maybe I missed something. I did, after all, stop reading Saturday testimonies, from Rejoice Marriage Ministries about six months ago, when I started to realize that roughly .04% of testimonies were about wives actually coming home. A lot of times, I would see a man’s name and get excited, but it would just be something about how he was able to be a testimony or some such thing. It was never, “my wife came home and praise God, we’re restored and happy”. Perhaps men just don’t share testimonies. I can tell you that if God brought my wife home, I’d be shouting it from the mountain tops and glorifying His name in blogs, tweets, podcasts, profile updates, and everything I possibly could.

The thing is it’s been almost two years… I know, some of you have stood for much longer. Maybe you got a promise of restoration. I never did. Maybe you’re good at doing life alone. Maybe you don’t whither when you are are left without companionship for long periods of time. Maybe this wasn’t your one worst nightmare, the thing you told God you could never ever take, coming true. Maybe you’re just a bad ass and you can take severe emotional and spiritual punishment like a champ. I am not that strong, and the Holy Spirit has stopped providing my “strong-stand-juice”. The divorce is final. Everyone I know has stopped praying for my restoration. I can’t name one personal Christian mentor in my real-life circle (not online friends) that is not encouraging me to “move on” (A.k.a. find somebody else and stop being so darn miserable).

Come on peeps. Give me some encouragement. Flood the comments with stories of women who came home to their husbands without seeing their husband move on to someone else or contracting a terminal illness. Don’t bother if all you have to say is that I’m saving my wife from burning in hell (I’m a bit of a Calvinist, so that argument is meaningless), or that my stand is going to make my children better people, or that God is going to bless my obedience in the afterlife and be disappointed in me otherwise. I don’t need guilt. I need encouragement. If the only reasons to stand are negative ones, then what is the point?

I hate my life. I hate waking up. I hate going to bed. I hate eating. I hate silence. I hate music. I hate television. I hate reading. I hate everything I used to love. Hanging out with my kids is even bittersweet. Almost every moment and every conversation reminds me of her and how she was stolen by another man, with whom I am going to have to share those precious children for the rest of my life… I am tired. I am tired of hating everything. I am tired of living a life washed in gray. I am tired of not sleeping. I am tired of being tired. I have told God that I am willing to be willing to give this all to Him. I have asked for His help to let this all go. I have asked for Him to help me love Him so much that He is all I need. I don’t think He meant for me to live this way. So please, no pat answers or Bob Steinbeck quotes about how I need to suck it up for the sake of her soul. Send me some real testimonies. Give me some hard data. Give me some real encouragement that this does happen in the wild. I want to know that real wives do come home.

Someone help me.

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7 out of 18 ain’t bad… well it is bad…

I recently re-read Bob Stienkamp’s devotional entitled “18 Signs that something is happening“. Turns out, I’m currently rocking seven out of 18 to some degree or another. That should be encouraging or uplifting, but it’s not. In fact, I’ve felt like it’s been 11:59 for about two months now, and I’m really starting to run backwards, rather than even crawl forwards.7out18

You feel like giving up. The enemy will make you think nothing is happening and nothing will ever change.

I am certainly here. More than any of these other signs, this one is manifesting itself powerfully in my life. I feel like my hopes and dreams for a better future have shriveled up and died inside me and my heart is becoming harder and more cold and lifeless each day. I am still standing, but it’s like a routine. I’m going through the motions, but on the inside I have retired. I’ve stopped praying for miracles and have started to simply plead for relief from the daily onslaught of fresh attacks. I know that as Christians we have the freedom that comes with not having to fear death, but I fear life. I fear loneliness. I fear years of perpetual pain, rejection, and isolation. I haven’t even seen a Covenant truck in months. I feel like its just over for me, like I missed some turn I was supposed to take and I’ll never leave this valley. So I just need to find a half decent place to settle down here, while my Shepard steps out to tend the rest of the flock.

People are constantly reminding you about your mate’s free will and how you have grounds for divorce.

As my prodigal finds new ways to attack me every month, legally, financially, and through custody challenges, my friends not only remind me that I can sign the divorce paper any day, but also that I can counter sue for fault divorce. After all, they say, she left you for another man, and now she is taking you to the cleaners. After all, I am the wronged party. They want to know why I am continuing to allow her to have the upper hand.

People tell you God wants you to be “happy.” In truth, God is a lot more concerned about your holiness than He is about your happiness. He also cares about your mate’s lost condition.

Everyone has someone for me. They’re sick of watching the slow train wreck that is my life without doing anything to improve my circumstances. I am desperately lonely and worse I have a strong spirit of rejection hanging from my neck like a leech. I don’t want a mate near as much as I want someone to want me, to like me, or just to not hate me and treat me like dirt. My own rebellious heart is telling me that God wants you to be “happy”, during my better moments. During my worse moments, it tells me that God wants me to be “miserable,” so I can be more like Christ, and I despise Him for it.

You can see no way out of specific circumstances, such as financial problems. Remember, God works best when nothing else will.

I’m literally being destroyed. My prodigal is making sure that I am financially beaten down in every way. I can no longer see a means out of the hole that I am in, other than a miracle of God. At one point, I was standing for restoration. I was standing for my wife’s soul. I was standing for the family of our children. I was standing for the Glory of God’s name. Now I’m standing for survival. I’m standing because when it’s all said and done I want to know: Does obedience really bring blessing, or is His Word as fallible as everyone says it is? Is He omnipotent or impotent? I have no other hope left. If God isn’t who He says He is, then I am doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness.

You are tempted to take off your wedding ring.

This is happening a lot more lately… Okay, it’s happening every day. I feel like Frodo, buckling under the weight of it. I cannot stand up under any more legal fees. I do not understand why my wife, my helpmate for so many years wants to destroy me so badly. She left me for another, and I am suffering the consequences. I cannot face this vast army. I no longer have the mental, emotional, or financial capacity to defend myself. If God does not show up now in a big way, I will be financially ruined. I’m not sure I will have a place to live next month. So, do I feel a great desire to proclaim my devotion to a covenant with someone who wants to destroy me? My human nature wants to fight back. My flesh wants to run into the arms of anyone who will love me and tell me it will be okay. I shouldn’t need a woman for that, but my comforter is apparently on vacation this year. So, I find myself wanting to pocket this ring every time I find myself in a room containing available females who might make me feel like a person if they came up and spoke to me.

You mistakenly start to view your local church as a hindrance to restoration. Satan may give you fear over how your returned prodigal would fit in. Your pastor may come out against marriage restoration. The returned spouse and their church relationship is one of the many areas that God can and does heal for restoring families. Right now, you need the love and support of a church family.

Since I began my stand, despite support from my head pastor, my spiritual director, and most of those closest to me, I have at times seen my church as an apostate, seeker sensitive Sunday Show, serving up cool aid Christianity to the myriad adulterous couples seated around me. My spouse said she never felt connected or accepted there when she left me. I have visited the local AOG church in hopes of finding more “spirit filled” believers. I have made friends at a local Mennonite church in hopes of finding a smaller, closer community of believers, but my church is my church. If I cut ties with that community, what do I have left?

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat was able to proclaim a fast for all of Judah. I do not have Judah. I have my church. I have my friends to call on. In a lot of ways, I have found that my church, the body of Christ for me is actually my immediate circle of brothers, mostly from my church, but some not, who hold me up, support me, keep me accountable, and love me through listening and helping with the mundane tasks of my life.

Prayer partners may be removed. There came a time in Charlyne’s stand, near the day of our remarriage and before the Internet, when my wife’s personal prayer partner moved out-of-state. God was telling my wife that she needed to depend on Him, not others.

Everyone has a life, and it seems like everyone’s life has them right now. My strongest prayer partners will stand with me for a season and be removed by tragedy, other interests, bouts with depression, and even trials and temptations. It seems I am constantly reaching out to someone new to stand with me and relying on people from many different parts of my life. Prayer partners burn out. Honestly, I feel like a lot of folks are still praying for me, but many have stopped praying for my prodigal. Despite supporting my stand, they’ve given up on her. Many of them say to “give her over”. They don’t realize that despite the hurt and the pain and daily attacks coming in from her, saying, “give her over” is like telling the spouse of someone with cancer to “just shoot her and put her out of her misery.” They mean well, but… “give her over to her sin and let Satan have her?”

You are tempted to make major changes in your own life. It could be reclaiming your maiden name or changing the door locks on your home for no reason. Whatever you are considering doing, it would say to your prodigal spouse, “It’s over!”

In some ways, I don’t have a choice. I have to move. I have to give up our marital home because I cannot afford to buy my prodigal spouse out of it.

Honestly, I’m ready to sign. I know that is a choice. I’m tired of being hurt with something new every week. Despite what I said above, I’m a little bit ready to “give her over”. I am such a contrary mess. What it all comes down to, is in my selfishness, I want a companion. I want a partner to hold me and tell me it is going to be okay. I want to be loved not hurt. I want to be wanted not hated and despised. I want to be valued and cherished and desired.

You sense a certain uneasiness in your spirit. Where you had once started growing in the Lord as a stander, you now feel something indescribable in your life. Some people confuse God wanting them to intensify their stand with Him, with God wanting them to give up on their stand for a healed home.

How about, I feel spiritually dead. I know that God brings growth and wisdom through pain and suffering. I know that he is looking for my complete surrender. At some point though pruning turns into cutting and eventually destroying. I’ve experienced so much growth over this last year and now it’s turned 180°. Now rather than growing me the pain is killing me. Each day for the last month I’ve become a more hardhearted rebellious and despicable person.

Is that an uneasiness in spirit? I hate my life, and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I’m tired of proclaiming His greatness when He wont be my genie and give me what I want!

I’d like to stop at seven…

I don’t think I can take any more. Honestly, I could totally go for:

Satan sends a counterfeit into your life. Just when things are the bleakest, Mr. Right or Miss Perfect arrives. Some standers make the mistake of thinking, “This must be of God because we are so perfectly suited for each other.” Counterfeits always look better than the real thing.

Of course, that won’t be the card I’ll pull. I’m not even going to say out loud the one that would destroy me. Everything else I’ve ever told God I could never take He has done to me in the space of a year and a half. I really don’t need any more. I can barely convince myself that getting out of bed in the morning is a good idea. Honestly, I cry out to God every morning to give me the strength to get up and face the day because I don’t want to do it any more.

The 11th hour…

I know that His timing is perfect and He’s known for coming in the 11th hour and changing everything in an instant. Well, it feels like 11:59 for me. Something has to give before I do.

Pray for me.

Embracing Gods’ Best

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So, I’ve been struggling lately to embrace God’s best. Somewhere along the line, I made the decision to follow Christ, having no idea what that really meant. No one tells you when you sign up for this gig that this means taking up our cross daily, that we will face many trials, and that a lot of them are going to come into our life as a part of God trying to make us more like Christ. The goal is, of course, being used for the kingdom. Apparently if we have anything in this world that we love more than being used for the kingdom, then God loves us too much to allow that to continue.

Léon Bonnat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I first began this stand, I read and listened to a lot of Charlyne Stienkamp, which allowed me to pin this suffering squarely on “the enemy”, Satan and his minions. I read and listened to a lot of Derek Prince. I learned about generational curses and spiritual warfare. Finally, I began to get turned onto the teaching of Charles Stanley. None of these teachers contradict each other, and they all are very well-grounded scripturally. It was when I began to listen to Stanley, though, that I began to realize that while I may have active curses in my life, while I am facing a spiritual battle, while the enemy is attacking my marriage and my family, God is still sovereign. NONE OF THIS HAS COME INTO MY LIFE WITHOUT HIM ALLOWING IT.

  • My spouse’s adultery – allowed by God.
  • This steamroller of a divorce – allowed by God.
  • My wife’s frequent attempts to take our kids away from me – allowed by God.
  • My current financial distress – allowed by God.
  • Every daily attack that comes in (and I mean daily now) – allowed by God.

Why? Apparently this is somehow making me into the man He wants me to be — the man He can use. To get some context of where this is coming from, perhaps you should listen to these messages:

I know that God brings growth and wisdom through pain and suffering. I know that he is looking for my complete surrender. At some point, though, pruning turns into cutting and eventually destroying. I’ve experienced so much growth over this last year and now it’s turned 180°. Now rather than growing me, I feel that the pain is killing me. Each day, for the last two months I’ve become a more hardhearted rebellious and despicable person. While I was approaching my prodigal spouse and her non-covenant partner with love and forgiveness, now I find myself struggling to even look at them.

Meanwhile, I am beginning to have little tolerance for Christian-Kool-Aid-euphemisms, like “His timing is perfect” or how “He loves me too much to let me say in the situation that I was in: being happy in the world”… That doesn’t feel like love it feels like sadism. I’m so glad that my life is allowed to suck so that I can join in His sufferings become more like Him… or so bitter that I want to jump off a bridge and set myself on fire. Before you arrange an intervention, NO, I AM NOT TURNING MY BACK ON GOD. I’m simply asking some hard questions.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to be obedient and I want to finish strong. I don’t want to become embittered and fall away. Still with every new beating and every new attack, I’m starting to lose my zeal to bring Glory to His name… In fact I feel a little bit like an idiot; the world’s biggest joke, even bringing it up.

I know it’s selfish. I know it’s incredibly self-centered. I know there are so many people in this world that have it so much worse than me. Still, I hate my very life. Honestly, I don’t want to do this anymore. This doesn’t feel like living. It’s like I’m only living a partial existence, walking around half-dead. After all a big piece of me has been ripped away, and I’m just walking around letting the wound hang open and fester. At least the world’s prescription would patch up the hole little bit and stop the bleeding. Additionally, I get to experience a new wound every week thanks to how much my stand angers my prodigal spouse.

When it all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s free will, spiritual warfare, or just the insanity of a broken world. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then nothing happens that is outside of his control. I can whine all I want to, but He is going to do whatever he wants to do anyway. So, pray for me while I try to buckle down, embrace God’s best, and hope that the second coming is scheduled this quarter.

And I know that in all things, God works for the good (from His perspective) of those who love Him (more than His blessings), who have been called according to his purpose, whether it suits them or not. God is in control. I am not.

God bless, let’s be careful out there.

Identity Crisis pt. 2: Dreams, schemes, and recurring themes

Back in June, I posted a poem, called Identity Crisis. I am certainly in a different place now than I was then, but the first stanza still applies to my life to a certain extent:

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know how to act.

Honestly, I don’t know who to be.

Dreams

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Dreams, hopes, aspirations, or one’s calling tend to be one of the primary motivating factors in one’s life. It is our “dreams” that keep us going, that help us get out of bed in the morning, and keep us out of Pilgrim’s slough of despond. As standers, I would guess that most of us, like myself, were cruising along in life near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We were thinking about our career and family goals or perhaps even seeking God about how He intended to use us in a bigger way. Then it hit, like an atomic bomb or category 5 hurricane, wrecking our life and knocking us down to the middle or bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Our one-flesh partner said, “I don’t love you anymore” and went to live with someone else. Maybe they filed for divorce and are even going after the children and their half of all you own. At best we’re now operating somewhere between belonging and esteem, but we’re most likely between safety and belonging. This is true particularly if you face financial difficulties and / or a custody battle.

Maybe it’s wrong or shallow, but I’ve been crying out to God for something with which to replace my dreams. I just feel so despondent. I’m not excited about life anymore. There is so much monotony and the things I used to really look forward to about this time of year are all wrecked and demolished and mired in intrigue and scheming and satanic machinations. I spent more than half of my life wanting to escape reality. The last six years I have loved my life. I have embraced reality, and have for that brief season been very very happy. Now I find nothing but the desire to escape again. I just want some positive goals… something more than survive, hope for restoration, avoid losing my children, and avoid financial ruin.

I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), but I’ve lost sight of the goal. What is the goal? What is my goal? This is so simple yet so elusive. I am trying desperately to, as Paul says in Romans 12 to offer my body as a living sacrifice, so I may be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will… the goal to win the prize…

Schemes

My life is no longer proactive, but rather reactive. I find myself spending every day wondering when the next email or text message is going to come in that I must react to. Not only is the enemy keeping my wife in the far country with another man, but he’s actively using her as a tool to reap further destruction. Daily I face a new scheme to separate me from our children, give me some new legal of financial hoop to jump through, or complain that I have not met some expectation or responsibility that she arbitrarily made up for me to do.

Is this what my life is to be about, Lord? Am I to live in a constant state of reaction to negative situations? How long can I keep this up? Not long without Your strength. I need my daily bread, Lord. I need you to show up and help me. I’m being beaten into the floor over here. HELP ME!

Recurring Themes

So, I find myself mired in recurring themes, or as the Bible would call them, curses. My dad committed suicide when I was in elementary school, and I grew up with challenge after challenge. Even Christmas, a magical time for many children was bittersweet and somewhat empty. By the time I was getting beyond that, I received the gift of a step-father who wanted nothing to do with me and caused me to live in constant fear and rejection until I left home at 18.

Now I get to feel those feelings of rejection and inadequacy surrounding the Holidays all over again from my one-flesh partner, who has essentially said, “I wish you were dead”. I also get to watch my children struggle to understand what is going on. One of my favorite pastors to watch on Youtube, Derek Prince, describes this phenomenon both here and in his book, Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose, as:

a long, evil arm stretched out from the past. It rests upon you with a dark, oppressive force that inhibits the full expression of your personality. You never feel completely free to be yourself. You sense that you have potential within you that is never fully developed. You always expect more of yourself than you are able to achieve. Or again, that long, evil arm may have the effect of tripping you up as you walk. Your way seems clear before you, but from time to time you stumble—yet you cannot see what it was you stumbled over. For some uncanny reason, the moments at which you stumble are those when you are within reach of attaining some long-sought goal. Yet your goal eludes you.

What to do?

So the solution is both simple and miserably difficult at the same time. Seeking a stronger relationship with God, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him will ultimately:

  1. become a goal to focus on and cause me to thirst for more.
  2. strengthen me to face many trials.
  3. give me hope and increase my faith.
  4. give me confidence and power to rebuke the spirits of fear, despair, and heaviness.
  5. help me to trust God to take away the curse.

Great! We solved the problem. Problem solved! WRONG!

It’s not so easy to cultivate a stronger relationship with God, seeking Him, waiting on Him, and trying to spend more time with Him in prayer, reading the Word, and just sitting in His presence. It takes time and strength and discipline and perseverance. I’ve also found that no matter how often I ask, He won’t just give me warm squishy feelings for Him. I would love to be able to wake up with that “I’m in love” feeling again. It would be even better from God, who will never leave me nor forsake me. Unfortunately, a thirst for God requires cultivation. He won’t just give me a thirst for Him.

Instead, I wake up feeling rejected and empty. I go to do a job that I really love, working with people I really love, while being constantly haunted by empty the feeling that I am ultimately rejected by the one person for whom I care more than any other in the world. Meanwhile, I spend my day in fear of the next text message or the next email and what it will mean I have to do, face, or fight. That’s the enemy’s plan. Keep me focused on the circumstances… keep me reacting… keep me in despair and fear.

Fighting Back

So, I imagine that I can choose to fight back or give up. The enemy wants me to give up, and as attractive as that looks right now, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. So, how do I fight back? I feel like I spend nearly all of my spare time, listening to or reading the Bible, listening to audio and video sermons, and praying through. I quote scriptures to the enemy, I proclaim scriptures to my empty house, and I remind God of his promises in scripture. I fast and pray. Still I struggle. What must I do?

I guess I need to crucify my flesh. I need to give up on searching for any fulfillment outside of Him, and I need to give up on the distractions that come my way. I need to make the hard decisions that it’s not okay to spend an inordinate amount of time playing video games, watching movies, practicing martial arts or thinking about any things that do not edify me. I need to force myself to open my mail. I need to reach out to the people who will really pray for me and let them know that I am not a spiritual giant. I am struggling. I am drowning. I need to be lifted up. I need to be ministered to. Maybe I need to fast and pray for God to open my heart, reveal Himself more, and help me to hear and know Him, rather than fasting for a laundry list of needs.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I just need to relax, trust, and obey. All I know is this is getting more heavy by the day, and I need more of Him.

Why does my prodigal seem fine?

Some rights reserved by Another Pint Please...

Some rights reserved by Another Pint Please…

Does it ever seem like Job 33:14-22 is happening to you but not your prodigal? My prodigal seems so happy, and I am suffering terribly. How can he / she not feel any of this pain? A fellow stander said to me recently, “I think the most confusing part of it is how one person in the marriage can feel all the pain of separation but the other one seems to feel nothing. It seems like if you are ONE flesh…..it’d be equal pain.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way.

Yes, there are a lot of testimonies online of returned prodigals that testify to the idea that they do feel pain and conviction but are simply hiding it.

That’s nice to hear, but it doesn’t really answer the question. After all, many of us standers are trying to hide a good portion of our pain for our children or what have you. Still it’s hard to hide real heart pain and even harder to hide 30 some pounds of weight loss.

Leave & cleave / Sever & suffer

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

I left home. I moved four hours away. I intertwined my life with my spouse’s family, neighbors, hometown events, annual family vacation, and favorite restaurants; “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Now she is gone… and I’m still here with no “claim” to anything that has been my life for nearly 16 years… She can come and go as she pleases and still “fit in” because blood is thicker than water as they say. Meanwhile, I’m stuck in limbo. My job is here. My friends are here. My church is here. My kids are here… My wife is not. This is the case with many of us. We have not only lost our spouse but much of our day to day life experience. Meanwhile, the prodigal has replaced that experience with sin. We are left with void. Yes, we have God to fill that void, but it’s hard to go on vacation with God or take Him out to eat.

Sin feels good & this one is legal…

Our prodigals also have something to distract them, to fill the void. Sin feels really good. That’s why we sin. They have a non covenant partner to keep them busy, going on dates. They have a little false fantasy life and no real consequences yet. The sin is the prodigal’s, but so far all of the pain and consequences have managed to be shifted to the stander and, quite often, the kids. This is how the pain can be distributed unequally. Also, our legal system tends to favor the prodigal, rather than the stander, so you’re not likely to get any “justice” like victims of most other sins can hope for. You are left entirely to rely upon God. This is a good time to pray scriptures, like Hosea 2:6-7. Pray that God would stop your spouse from being fulfilled by his or her life of sin. Pray that it would be increasingly more empty and meaningless.

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:3-4)

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Take consolation

Throughout the Bible, marriage is an example of God and the human race, Christ and the church. Jesus suffered in ways we can’t imagine to take away our sin so we could be in a relationship with Him. Yet, people everywhere are just living their life, enjoying the pleasures of sin without realizing the hurt they cause Him by rejecting Him. Honestly, that’s how I’d been living before I got the wake up call of separation and divorce. Most of us would have to admit the same, I think. Now, we are living the ultimate example of Christ and the prodigal church right now.

Again, this isn’t very encouraging. I know that my life is serving as an example to others, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I really don’t enjoy folks telling me how others are watching my walk. Honestly, I’d rather have my wife back than be an example of Christ’s sufferings. Also, the enemy comes at me with doubt. What if she never comes home? What kind of example am I then? Hey everybody, look at me! I’m an example of how sometimes God lets us hanging… Again, that’s the enemy trying to steal my faith and my hope, but it’s there nonetheless. Meanwhile, our prodigals don’t know they are the ones really missing out on a deep, fulfilling relationship with God because they are deceived by the pleasures of sin. Also, as we’ve read earlier, there’s NO peace for Prodigals. I have to believe that, or I may lose faith. He is seeking them and longing to show them a real relationship. This is how we testify to our sphere of influence what God’s love is really like.

Remember, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God. Further, in the end of the story, victory is only guaranteed to those who overcome (Revelation 2, Revelation 3). The key is to overcome. If we don’t overcome, we are overcome (Derek Prince). That brings me the the passages I despise above all others:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:6-11)

I really don’t like those.

Adultery, Truth, Convenience, and making God Fun Size

Some rights reserved by dnguy3n

Some rights reserved by dnguy3n

Okay, I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am on a very intimate journey with God as a “Stander“, one who refuses to move on, even though his or her spouse has believed the world’s opinion about marriage and divorce. I’ve shared a lot of scripture here. I’ve shared a lot of prayer. I’ve shared some of my deepest pain.

I have not shared a lot of personal testimony (how God is working specifically in my life). Frankly, I assume that most of you would immediately tune me out if I started sharing what God has been doing in my life since my wife left for the far country. Why? Popular Christianity has diminished God so much that we do not believe that He is who He is. As a result, anything or anyone that speaks against that illusion is marginalized as a little crazy. I know this because that is how I had always felt. Charismatics, Pentecostals, and the like always came off as a bit cult-ish to me. I wanted nothing to do with that mess. Then, my wife left. I decided to wait on God to bring her back. Then He started speaking to me and intervening in my life. How do I share this with others without being labeled as a crazy person?

This Sunday, one of our pastors gave a sermon on the true nature of God, with a focus on how we’ve diminished God, and it occurred to me that this is not only the key to denying truth in our lives to avoid its inconvenience, but also how we can deny the supernatural in our lives. My argument is that both lead to apostasy and set us up beautifully to become servants of the enemy, rather than of the God we profess to know and love.

 

The Truth

If you profess to be a Christian, the truth is not relative. The Word of God is the truth. It does not make suggestions. It was inspired by the being that created all things, that holds all things… That’s scary stuff. It should be very very sobering, particularly if you live like most of us do in the USA.

Incidentally, our culture has programmed us to not see any real awe in anything. So, we put God in a little fun-size package and go on with our life not following the truth and asking Him to bless us in our self-centered pursuit of happiness. After all, our happiness is the most important goal of our whole life…

With this diminishment of GOD, then we experience a decay of TRUTH. For God is truth, true truth, the source of all truth and without God, truth cannot remain. We exchange the truths that would provide the norms for human life for the prevailing lies that are convenient. (Brian Rice)

I agree with Brian Rice, that we get more “truth” today from pop culture than we do from the Bible. We’re practically marinated in it. No wonder so many of our prodigal spouses have said that God wants them to be happy, so they left to pursue happiness with someone else. We have countless pop culture gurus to thank for the pervasive believe that our feelings are paramount and that we can live without sacrifice, self-denial, or discomfort. We just need to focus on what makes us happy. Thanks a lot, Oprah!

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:31-32

So, we see that truth is intertwined with obedience, obedience to the Word of God, or Christ’s teaching. Further, Jesus connected truth and obedience to our relationship with Him. This is not a doctrine of works, but merely a statement on the reality one will live in if he or she is truly saved.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

Notice, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God. I spent much of my adult life saying Lord, Lord, every Sunday and failing to do the will of God daily or even weekly. Now my very family is broken and my spouse has been seduced by the enemy. In the middle of this wreckage, God stepped in and reminded me of a few things:

  1. He is real and so much bigger than all of my circumstances.
  2. He bought me with a price.
  3. I’m wasting that gift by not living into it.
  4. He never promised I wouldn’t suffer.

Then I started reading this Bible. The Word of God, after all, is full of inconvenient truth for both standers and prodigals.

11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

In other words, just because your prodigal spouse left before carrying out your affair doesn’t mean that it isn’t wrong. It also provides a sobering warning to us.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

In other words, most of us standers are not innocent of this sin that we hate so much.

In fact the Word of God tends, by and large, to move us out of the flesh and into the spirit. It instructs us to move away from a focus on self and into a focus on others. If my goal is to fulfill my own happiness, then I am focused on self. I am against God at that point. If my view of God is appropriate, then how can I be against God without feeling a little uncomfortable?

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:16-26)

So, the acts of the flesh are pretty much what our popular culture tells us leads to happiness. Seriously. Turn on the TV or radio. Listen to some popular music. I remember preachers trying to tell me when I was a kid that Rock music killed house plants so it was destroying my soul. It turns out that it was actually the accumulation of repetitive messages about how to live my life that was killing my soul. The tune to which it was set was largely irrelevant.

Oddly, up until recently, I have found the fruit of the Spirit almost impossible to attain, even in small amounts. Incidentally, what was missing in my equation was the Spirit. Yes, I was saved. Yes I’ve been baptized. Unfortunately, my denial of God’s supernatural power left me unable to embrace the Spirit.

The Supernatural

Some rights reserved by Werner Kunz

Some rights reserved by Werner Kunz

God is either omnipotent or impotent. God is either God, or He is not. We have watered Him down so much. Where is the supernatural in Christianity today? We’ve given it over to the snake handlers and acrobats who do back flips during worship and “flop around like a piece of bacon” (Bill Scott) when the healer forces them to swoon. If you speak of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit as thought they’re alive and active in your life, speaking to you and intervening, people assume that you’re starting to get just a little too radical and should consider finding another church (and some new friends) at best or consider admitting yourself to a local psychiatric facility at worst.

This brings us back to the truth, the Bible, which is either the Word of God or a collection of nice stories. Do you believe the new testament? The existence and prevalence of evil spirits in the new testament is not presented as metaphor or as a reality that is dealt with there, at that time, never to resurface again. It is merely a fact of life. This should concern us, as believers, but it does not. Our cultural coating of Teflon, that Brian Rice notes keeps us from comprehending the reality of God’s greatness, also convinces us that such things all had medical and psychological explanations. It’s all science. There is nothing going on in the spiritual realm, you see. Those people were just backward and primitive. So, is the Bible truth, or is it sort of true once you take out all the primitive supernatural stuff? At that point, how compelling is it?

Fellow standers, how many of us have had a spouse who suddenly went from being a man or woman of God, who was devoted and loving to a completely different person, almost overnight, with no logical explanation? My wife’s Christmas card to me told me that I was her “superhero”. Three months later, she informed me that she never loved me the entirety of our 10 years of marriage. She was suddenly cold and distant and a bit haunted. That is the work of of evil in the heavenly realms, or it’s a sudden onset of insanity. Either way, there is little doubt in my mind that the kingdom of Satan is not behind it. If you’re a stander and you’ve never read the testimony of a returned prodigal, then stop right now and read one of all of these. They will change your view considerably:

This is a spiritual battle. All of life is. Once you professed Christ, you joined the war. You can say you are a pacifist, but you’ll still be attacked. We have been both warned and equipped.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:19)

Again, this is either the Word of God or a collection of nice stories. Jesus was either for real when he was talking about that stuff, or he wasn’t who he said he was. Would the God of the universe, incarnate, make stuff up for the primitives or dumb it down? Like it or not, this stuff is real. Every day, you are in a spiritual battle for your very soul, and often that of your loved ones. You had better put on your armor and work on your Kung Fu because Kansas just went bye bye.

Apostasy

Apostasy is not a word you hear often anymore. “Apostasy in Christianity refers to the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian” (Wikipedia). In practice, it commonly refers to falling away from the truth. So, an apostate is someone who has once believed and then rejected the truth of God. There’s that whole truth thing again. Apostasy, then, is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against truth. What truth? There’s actually a formal code of primary and secondary essentials, primary non-essentials, etc. The bottom line is, the Word of God is the truth. If you profess to be a Christian, then the truth is not relative. It’s right there. Think it’s okay to leave your spouse for someone you like better. Keep going to church every Sunday and doing devotions with your kids at night, but you are still in rebellion against God.

Remember, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God. Further, in the end of the story, victory is only guaranteed to those who overcome (Revelation 2, Revelation 3). The key is to overcome. If we don’t overcome, we are overcome (Derek Prince). There is no middle ground. There is a very real spiritual war going on. Whose side are you on?

That’s all I’ve got…

Love, Faith, Fear, and the Eraser

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭18‬ NIV)

Some rights reserved by KristinNador

Some rights reserved by KristinNador

I’ve noted before, on this blog, that God does not save us from the fire, but stands with us in it. The question is, will we get burned, and how does one quantify the burn? Todd White raises an interesting and frightening point when he says, “if it’s about you, you will get eaten and you will get burned” (Todd White). That’s frightening. I am in a divorce, one of the most painful ordeals of anyone’s life and am expected to make Godly and wise decisions concerning my children in the midst of that ordeal. Every day, I question, how much of my reactions, thoughts, and feelings are about me and how many are about God and my kids? Then, the enemy is constantly involved, framing the messages of my spouse in such a way to make me look selfish and unreasonable if I disagree at all. How much truth and how much manipulation exists in those arguments? How do I know when to die to self and when to stand against something? What am I supposed to do? It’s difficult to think clearly in the heat of battle. That still small voice is hard enough to discern when one is at peace.

Today, it really sunk in that my family is going to the beach in three days with a counterfeit in my place. That is EVIL and no one is standing up against it. I want to just scream at them all! It feels so wrong and unjust and unfair and every one just seems to wish I would “go away” or “disappear” so they could get on with their lives and pretend nothing happened. It so much more difficult to die to self when those around you actually wish you where dead. That’s not pessimism or depression. That’s just an observation. My wife, my in laws, and my neighbor’s lives would be made much more convenient if they could simply erase me from the picture. Then, the little fantasy that everything is okay, and nothing is amiss would have no interruptions. Unfortunately, I am here, asking for things like being able to see our children on a pretty regular basis, to have a say in where they’ll live and where they’ll go to school.

So, I ask Him to give me my daily bread, equipping me for each battle as it comes up. I cry out to Him daily and do my best to trust Him to care for me and speak on my behalf.

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause. (Psalm 25:1-3)

Struggling to Stand?

from conversations with God and fellow standers.

Bill, intercessory prayer warrior, musician, and writer.

Designed for Bill, intercessory prayer warrior, musician, and writer. Copyright Bill Scott 2014. Check out his web site.

Standing for marriage restoration is hard. We’re people who are mourning the death of our most significant human relationship, yet no one has died. We’re people who have been rejected by the one person to whom we exposed our nakedness and vulnerability. We’re people who have been called to love while often being actively attacked and hurt by the person we love more than any other. The enemy is not content to attack our spouse alone. He desires to see us fall as well, and we struggle a lot with thoughts of despair and hopelessness. We ask questions like,

Do I really believe that with enough faith, a prayer will come to pass?

Does God even care about my situation?

Am I crazy?

Am I wrong; is it perhaps God’s will that my spouse find happiness with this other person?

Does God even have any power or authority in this situation?

What am I doing wrong that this continues?

God, do you at least care about my children??

I believe, and am reminded by everyone that God will take care of me. That is the pat answer we often get from Christian friends who don’t want to commit to anything that may or may not happen. God will take care of me. That might mean He will bring my spouse back, but to most people that means he’ll keep me alive and fed until someone else comes along and I settle for a life with that person.

Meanwhile, I know he has answered prayers that I have prayed. Lately, he’s been answering prayers in a spectacular and very specific way. Of course, he’s answering them all, except that one. I do believe that we should pray audaciously in his will, which we can learn through the scriptures. In my case, that means praying for a fully restored marriage. I wish that with enough faith, I could “name it and claim it”, like some kind of charismatic Bible sorcerer. Unfortunately, faith does not make me Gandalf or Belgarath. I cannot short change myself, though, I am an adopted son of the God of the Universe. Will he not take care of me? Will he not answer me when I pray according to his will?

I have to believe him. I have to believe his word. I know he’s a lot more worried about my holiness than he is about my happiness… Despite what the song says, happiness is not the truth. The truth is the truth. Happiness is a feeling. My wife is pursuing happiness. That’s why she’s in rebellion against God and destroying her family… I have to do what I know is right. I’m not saying this does not hurt, and I’m not saying that it does not suck. I am saying that God doesn’t spare us from the fire… He stands in it with us, when we obey. Unfortunately, the alternative is to give up on God, and I’m not prepared to do that. I was sharing these ideas with some fellow standers, and one of them said:

I think we shortchange God when we think He doesn’t take our desires and happiness into consideration. I’m not talking prosperity Gospel. He does want our holiness, but He made our human natures and, I believe, places many of the desires of our hearts in there. Obviously not the ones that go against His word and will, but seriously, who among us would have picked this route for our lives? I have heard specifically from Him that He’s using the love He put back into my heart for my husband as the motivation for me to continue to press into Him as hard as I am. I’m not pursuing Him just to get my husband back, but we all know we would probably not be pressing as hard and as urgently if there weren’t the pain and urgency. I’m not using Him…He’s using me, as it should be. I don’t believe He sets us up on wild goose chases, and He knows no matter how holy we become, we will still be disappointed if He does not bring the restoration He’s placed in our hearts. He would disabuse us of our belief that our marriages would be restored if they weren’t going to be. He would change our hearts and ease our pain. His love is flawless. I believe that if He meant for us to live single the rest of our lives, He’d enable us to be content in that and to even desire that. As a wavering (I don’t know if I can smoosh the God I have experienced back into the Church I’ve been a part of all my life) Catholic, believe me, I know MANY Sisters who were called to live that single consecrated lifestyle and they are ecstatic and fulfilled in it. If we believe He can and will change the desires of our spouse’s hearts, why would He not do that with us if restoration was not His intention? He’s not cruel. He is the epitome of the perfect Father. If you were your own child, would you not figure out a way to change your child’s belief about something you knew wasn’t going to happen? And that’s us, with no omniscience, or omnipresence or all the powers of the universe at our fingertips or perfect love. He absolutely is using this to perfect us in many ways, but He uses the surly cashier at the grocery to do that and everything else we come upon everyday. He’s asking us to have radical faith to the point that we’re viewed as delusional and desperate and cuckoo. That’s when He’s working big things in people’s lives. I know I’m not desperate. I could easily walk away from this and find another man, but then, I’d have to find another God who is not the One True God, and that’s what I’m not really willing to do (@TitusWoman13).

God made me. I’ve just been re-hashing that idea in my devotions this week. God made my human nature and the desires of my heart. It is not ungodly to desire reconciliation with my covenant spouse. I have to face the fact, though, that it isn’t entirely right to desire that reconciliation more than my relationship with God. Admittedly, in my heart of hearts, I would give up all the spiritual growth I’ve experienced in the last few months and all the lives I’ve touched for the better, just to have my wife back. That is my selfish sin-nature, though. It shouldn’t be an “either / or”… God desires a “both / and” for us… so I feel that I have to get to the point where I’m seeking God for God and not for God to bring my wife back so that she can be my God again.

Meanwhile, I have to believe. I have to believe in his plan. I feel called to stick with this. I feel called to do what I am doing. Unfortunately, the alternative is to give up on God, and I’m not prepared to do that. My friend, Bill, had one of these candid conversations with God, and he received the word, “do you want to fulfill a need or the plan?” I may be able to deaden my pain a little by pursuing my flesh, but I’ve essentially said, God can’t do this. What else then can he not do? Heal a sick loved one? Protect my children from harm? God is either omnipotent, as the Word says, or he’s impotent. I think a lot depends on the box we put him in or don’t put him in.

Communication questions…

smsWe live in a world of communication. We text. We tweet. We call. We post. I am a communicator. I am an extrovert. I need to talk about everything with everyone. Now I find myself in one of the most communication-barren places in my life. God does not text, tweet, or call. My spouse has separated and distanced herself from me. I must rely on other forms of communication in the most difficult trial of my life. What am I to do? Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers right now, but maybe this will minister to you nonetheless…

Standing Orders, Special Instructions, & Signs…

Thoughts on communicating with God.

mark10

standing orders

A Sunday or so ago at church, our Pastor talked about standing orders vs. special instructions. The basic gist is that God has given us his standing orders, the stuff we’re supposed to do all of the time without asking, in the Bible. If we’re doing those faithfully, then comes the special instructions. I mentioned yesterday that, I am only following the standing orders found in 1 Corinthians,  Malachi,  Mark, Luke, and so on. I have not received any special instructions. I don’t feel like God has promised me anything. I wish that he would would speak to me. I had a fellow stander tweet me recently that I would not believe all of the things he’s seen and heard directly from God regarding his stand. That’s awesome! Praise God! Right now, I’ll settle for a truck sighting. I know that I’m on the right path. I know that I’m doing God’s will. I’ve received blessing upon blessing and tons of affirmation that I am on the right path. Nonetheless, I would love to get any word at all that God intends to restore my marriage. I have this sneaking dread that I’m going to be called to a life of loneliness, pain, and celibacy. I’m trying to surrender that to him, but it scares me to death! I love my wife, and I hate being alone!

Maybe God is communicating with me. I did figure out the whole standing thing pretty quickly. I did find Rejoice Ministries in less than a month after my wife left home. I have been blessed financially. I did find Stephanie’s testimony. Often what I read or hear in devotionals and daily and weekly podcasts lines up perfectly with what my spouse is doing or saying or with what I’m going through. Is this coincidence or God speaking? I do know that my spouse seems very happy without me. She seems to be on top of the world and feeling no regret or conviction at all. The new Christian friends she’s surrounded herself with seem blind or indifferent to what is happening. From my limited view on this side of the mountain, everything looks very bleak. This holiday weekend was excruciating, and I cannot imagine the Summer, when I shall have tons of time to myself, often parenting alone. Oddly, this morning’s devotional from Charlyne, was about letting God wipe away your tears. Again, God hit me this morning right where I needed it.Here is the closing scripture from today’s devotional.

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:1-6)

I am continually comforted, cared for, and blessed. Why do I doubt? Why to I beg for a sign? How many have I missed? How many am I ignoring or dismissing? I pray that Charlyne is right that, “[I] will be weeping tears of joy at God’s perfect timing when the Lord brings [my] spouse back from the enemy’s prison camp” (Charlyne Steinkamp). I would love to have that promise confirmed, but I will continue to stand nonetheless. I long for the day when “everyone will be saying, Look at what the Lord has done for you, your beloved spouse and your family. To God be the glory!” (Charlyne Steinkamp).

Will my actions speak louder?

Thoughts on communicating with her.

What do I say to her? At church, we’ve been talking about forgiveness and how we need to take the first step in reconciling relationships. I fell at a loss as to what to say. My spouse knows where I stand. She knows I am not signing Divorce papers. She knows that I am here, hanging on. Is there anything else I should say to her? It seems like I am just to pray and stand and work on my walk.

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).

It’s hard for me to simply stand. I want to communicate with my mouth, but I feel that my actions must speak for me, which is much much harder when all of our interactions are awkward and often tense. I want to send cards and flowers and letters, but I find myself fighting those urges. I think all the flowers on earth will make little difference when I find myself being untruthful about little insignificant things just because I’m in fight or flight mode and my sin nature takes over. I feel like I spend every private moment in prayer and scripture. How can I still lie about whether or not I read a text message?

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15, 23-25)

Oh God, let me crucify this sinful nature so that I can communicate what I wish to communicate. In the name of Jesus, help me!

Pray for me friends. Pray for my wife. Pray for our kids. I’m praying for you. Tweet me if you want me to do so by name.

Soil, Jet-Lagged Toddlers, and Staying the course.

Farmer practices tractor use in field session

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Getting a Jet-lagged almost-3-year-old to bed is not fun. Going to bed alone is even less fun. I have been convicted of my countenance lately. I must be confident in my Lord, at peace with my situation, and give others hope when they view my walk. My heart feels like crawling in a hole. I’m tired a lot.

Occasionally I have to review the facts of my life:

  1. God is definitely speaking to me.
  2. I have complete faith that he can move this mountain.
  3. I will be obedient and I will not quit.
  4. My circumstances look bleak, but God is in control.
  5. I serve the God of Psalm 18.

In Charlyne Cares this morning, Kim, from Nebraska, shared thoughts on soil preparation and our spouse’s hearts. I live in a world surrounded and informed by farming. I found her metaphor not only apt but also emotionally powerful for me.

A hard heart can be a tough heart, but nothing is impossible for God. When you pray for your loved one, the Lord hears and goes to work, breaking up that compacted ground so that the seed of truth can be sown there. Our prayers are like that tiller, turning the soil of the compacted heart, letting the light of God shine through once again.

I’m facing a circumstance where I’m praying for a heart that is as hard as diamond, compacted over years of denying forgiveness and of my foolish selfishness, laziness, and distraction. What can I do to get beyond that hard heart? As Kim says, “We can pray – and pray again”. Today, I put together a shorter scripture prayer to pray in the morning, when I get a chance during the day, and while I’m driving. I am praying without ceasing as much as it is in my power to do so.

Lord, today, in Jesus name, I pray for my spouse and for every prodigal who is away from you. Awesome God, open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in You (Acts26:18). Help my spouse to come to ___ senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken ___ captive to do his will (2 timothy 2:22-26). Remove from my spouse ___ heart of stone and give ___ a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26) and fill ___ with Godly sorrow that brings repentance, leads to salvation and leaves no regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). Send her a personal Damascus road experience soon, God. I believe that nothing is too hard for you you. Forgive me of my sins and lead me to repentance so that I will be ready. Then, go and bring my spouse home quickly, Lord.
In Jesus name,
Amen

This prayer is already writing itself on my heart and I am inserting it in my quiet moments. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay the course and keep my chin up with my eyes focused on God without praying constantly. Jesus give me peace. Jesus give me strength. I have taken great solace in Stephanie’s testimony, which sounds so much like it could have been written by my wife in the future. I am reading it again and again. I am crying out for insight and understanding. I am praying and praying  and praying. Did I mention that I am praying? I wish my prayers felt like the prayers of a “prayer warrior”, but often they’re a jumbled mess. That’s okay because the “Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). I do try to:

  • Ask for his will so I may obey.
  • Ask forgiveness daily for what I’m doing that could put a rift in our relationship. Sometimes I know. Sometimes he shows.
  • Pray scriptures for the softening of my wife’s heart and the freeing of her mind.
  • Pray scriptures of spiritual protection around myself, my children, my fellow standers, and my wife.
  • Pray for God’s people to cross my spouse’s path and deliver wisdom.
  • Pray for her Damascus road experience.
  • Pray for more faith and help with my unbelief.

Sometimes I don’t know what to pray, and I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over. Then I open my note app of choice and look at the prayers I’ve copied and pasted from various sources. Here are some great sources for prayers when you are running dry:

If you’re praying for me, I appreciate it. Pray for my faith and strength. Pray that I may not be downcast before others. Pray that I will let my light shine brightly and trust God to bring my wife home to him and to me.