Going Live!!

Today at 5:00 EST/4:00CST at http://www.610wtvn.com, I will be live with Kathy Chiero in The Sitting Room. We will be discussing Life After Adultery. Shock, forgiveness, moving forward… Is it possible? Is there beauty after betrayal? How do we avoid becoming angry and bitter? How do we cling to hope that there are brighter days ahead?

What do I need from you? First, pray that God will speak through me. I don’t want to get in the way of what he has planned. Second, join us live online (or on the radio if you are in Ohio!). If you can’t listen today, I will post a link to the broadcast when it’s available.

Lord Jesus, you amaze me! How does a girl from Oklahoma end up where I am? How do you find me worthy to take these trials, hurts, and pains and create a ministry. My prayer today is simply that I might decrease so that you might increase, that you would let YOUR words flow from my mouth. I only want to be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to you, prepared for every good work. Let my words bring hope and encouragement to those who are hurting. Use me! I am yours!

Sweet Revenge!

This morning in my Bible reading, I came across the absolutely horrific story of dysfunction in David’s family. Not only was David an adulterer who tried to cover his actions with murder, but his children were downright awful at times! (Moral 1 of the story: God is never out of reach of the one who is truly repentant of his/her actions. Moral 2 of the story: You can be one after God’s own heart and still have prodigal children.)

Anyway, right after David repents from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, we find the story of a few of David’s children. I’m going to summarize the events, but you can read the entire account in 2 Samuel 13 at www.biblegateway.com.

As happened in Bible times, David had multiple wives. That made for a very interesting blended family of half-siblings. Amnon, one of David’s sons, fell in love (really, lust) with his half-sister, Tamar. He devised a plan to have his way with her—and it worked. After he forcibly raped her, his lust turned to absolute hatred and he threw her out, humiliated and disgraced.

In biblical times, losing one’s virginity outside of marriage left a woman an absolute disgrace, forever unwanted by any man. Tamar was no longer acceptable as a wife. However, she had another brother—a full-blood brother, Absalom. As a brother should be, Absalom was fiercely protective of his sister. He lovingly brought her into his home to care for her, but his anger toward Amnon burned deep within him.

Finally, Amnon could not handle his anger any longer. He devised a plan—to murder his half-brother in an effort to avenge the crime against his sister. Absalom did just that, and then ran away. And, David was left mourning the loss of both sons.

This story is unbelievably difficult to stomach in so many ways. Rape. Incest. Lust. Murder. Deceit. Everything, in every way, reeks of the most vile dysfunction in a family—a family whose patriarch is known as a man after God’s own heart.

As I read this story this morning, I found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with my own brother this weekend. As he should be, he is fiercely protective of me—his baby sister (I actually only look younger). He has a lot of anger toward my ex-husband for the wrongs he committed against me. He probably could not say one nice thing about my ex-husband, and I don’t think it would be wise for the two of them to be in the same room together—maybe not even the same county.

I’m not even sure how the conversation came up this weekend, but something was said about my ex-husband again pastoring a church. As my brother and I were talking, he said, “You are a better person than I am. If I were you, I would have taken all of those emails you have and sent them to the church long ago. I would have exposed him for what he is.”

You see, at each church my ex-husband has served since our divorce, I somehow learn the reason for our divorce. Without fail, the reasons seem to involve my alleged indiscretions, my decision that I simply no longer loved him, my decision that I wanted to marry someone else, my choice to kick him out. I have yet to hear a story of his three-year long affair or his active dating on an online dating site long before divorce was even mentioned.

While I believe in complete forgiveness, grace, and restoration when one has truly repented and changed their ways, I find it difficult to accept that my ex-husband has truly reached that place in his life. I pray that he does, but I’ve yet to see the fruit.

And, within my possession to this day, I have very detailed correspondence between him and his girlfriend in the final years of our marriage and copies of his online dating profile. The only way I could file for divorce on the biblical basis of infidelity (which was of utmost importance to me) was to produce proof of the adulterous relationship. Therefore, I did produce undeniable evidence, evidence that I continue to hold onto for a variety of reasons undisclosed here.

And, yes, the thought has often crossed my mind that I should send those emails to his church, expose the truth.

But, I have not—and I will not. I have even had others offer to send them for me, and I have refused to let them do it. Oh, yes, it would be sweet to clear my name of the accusations thrown against me. It would be nice to have my reputation cleared. And, honestly, it would feel oh so good to get revenge, to see him suffer a fraction of the pain that I have experienced, to give him a good dose of his own medicine.

And yet, I know in my heart that Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who curse you (Matthew 5:43-48). He said that if someone strikes you on one cheek to turn the other cheek as well (Matthew 5:38). He told us to look at others as harassed, helpless sheep in need of a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus changed the model of revenge to one of love and compassion. He told the story of the good Samaritan—the one who was hated and reviled by the Jews and yet was the only one willing to stop and help—and he told us to go and do likewise.

And, therefore, I must choose forgiveness over hatred. I must choose compassion over bitterness. I must choose to pray for blessings instead of curses. I must choose to become a servant of all, just as my Jesus chose to serve even Judas Iscariot as he washed the feet of the disciples.

Yet, I still get my sweet revenge…

How you might ask…

First, I trust God to be my defender. I have asked God to let my righteousness shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6). As I pray that God will protect my reputation, protect me from the slanderous attacks against my character, it seems that he inevitably brings along someone who knows the whole truth, someone willing to stand up for me—without my intervention.

Next, I focus on becoming the woman he created me to be. You see, I know that I am God’s masterpiece, created to do good works that he ordained for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10). I will not allow the hurt and pain my ex-husband caused to define who I am. I will choose to become better and not bitter. I will let God use the trials of this world to refine me and not define me. I will become the most amazing person I can possibly be—and show him exactly what he gave up!

Finally, I will remember that what man intended for evil, God will use for good (Genesis 50: 20). I must remember that when I surrender my life to God, he will work it all together into an amazing mosaic called life—and he promises that it will work for my good (Romans 8:28). I will cling to the promise that these trials and tribulations are brief, momentary, but they are working an eternal glory that far outweighs the pain (2 Corinthians 4:17). I will trust that as I humble myself under his mighty hand and allow him to change me and transform me, he will lift me up at his appointed hour (James 4:10). No pain will ever be wasted; it will all be used for my good and his glory!

While earthly revenge may seem sweet, it only causes immense suffering to all those involved. What suffering would I experience if I chose the worldly path? I might clear my name, but I would hurt my children. I would set a precedent for them that clearly says, “It’s better to get even than to forgive.” It would tell them that everyone in this world is worthy of forgiveness and grace—except their own biological father. It would hurt the church where he serves, those who are trusting him to lead where God is calling. It would hurt the name of Christ to have his children behaving as the world does. It would only extend the circle of damage already caused by our divorce, and I refuse to cause any more damage.

I refuse to live my life shackled by the hatred and bitterness that would cause me to seek revenge. Instead, I choose to let the righteous anger that burns within me—anger for the wrongs done against me and the reputation of Christ—to fuel my passion to encourage those who are beaten down by the pain of adultery and divorce. I choose to let my passion drive me to live a life of complete purity and encourage others to join me. I choose to let the pains of this life compel me to experience all the fullness of God’s grace and power that is available to me.

I choose to let God seek revenge his way, knowing that his way is always best.

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Don’t forget, this Sunday at 5:00 pm EST, I will be a guest on The Sitting Room (610 WTVN) with Kathy Chiero discussing Life after Adultery. Can’t wait to meet in the Sitting Room!

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Check out the awesome new Bible app iniative, seeking to make mobile more inspirational! My friend, Brian, is working to create at least five new Bible apps for your phone. Check it out at www.thebibleappproject.org

When God Interrupts

Several years ago, my normal Christian life was interrupted.

I heard God’s voice calling me out of my comfort zone. He was calling me to develop my faith as never before. He was calling me to a new life, a new adventure. He was calling me into deeper waters.

Truthfully, I had no idea how little I understood this Christian life. After all, I had given my heart to Christ at the age of six and spent the vast majority of my life walking with God, teaching his word, serving him in the church. My kids considered church their second home. We spent at least as much time each week at church or church activities as we did at home. We were happy, content.

But I knew God was wooing me to a new, deeper walk. I knew that my life was going to change. I knew that I would be forever different. Honestly, if I had known then how difficult the journey was going to be, I’m not sure I would have accepted the challenge.

As I watched my life crumble, I ran from God…then he wooed me back. He so quietly and tenderly allowed me to come to grips with the chaos that had replaced my normal, happy life. As the days turned into weeks and the months turned into years, He began to reveal the true condition of my heart: the legalistic attitude, judgmental spirit, works-based mentality. He began to replace those attitudes with a kindness and compassion for others who were hurting. My strict list of rules began to be replaced with a graciousness that could only come from him.

Then, as the new me began to take hold, he began the journey to build my faith—complete with all the trials and tribulations necessary to purify and grow my faith. He began to make promises and stretch me. He began to show just how much I’ve put him in a box—an Americanized, westernized box—and limited his power in my life. He began to give me a longing to see his power poured out in my life, to see him do greater things in me and through me than I ever dreamed possible.

It’s been an amazing journey, one that I plan to continue for the rest of my life. I want to tap into all the power that is available to me, the power that resurrected Christ from the dead, the same power that is at work in me (Ephesians 3:20-22).

The more I write about this journey, the more I hear from others whose lives have been interrupted by God. Many have suffered the pain of adultery and divorce. Others have experienced unexpected calls to adopt or move to the mission field. Whatever the pain, whatever the interruption, God is raising up a generation that is willing to move out of the comfort zone into the realm of the unknown, where Jesus is (from the lyrics of Voice of Truth).

Best-selling author and fellow Oklahoma Baptist University alum Jen Hatmaker also experienced God’s interruption to her life. Her interruption was not the life-altering pain of divorce thrust upon her. Her interruption came simply through a holy discontent, a feeling that something was not quite right. As she uttered a simple prayer, “God, raise up in me a holy passion,” God began to chip away at her life-long traditions, her life-long methods of living the Christian life.

When we open ourselves up to God and earnestly pray a prayer such as Jen’s, we need to be prepared for the work God will do in us. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to surrender to the journey he has laid out for us. We must realize that our lives will be turned upside down, that we may be asked to do some wild and crazy things that make absolutely no logical sense.

And, we must be prepared to go completely against the flow of the American life. Instead of upward mobility, we must be looking to serve others (Matthew 20:26). Whoever wants to serve Christ must be willing to serve the outcasts, the downtrodden, the poor of this world (Matthew 25:45). You must let your heart be broken for the injustices that break God’s heart. You must reach a place where you are willing to walk in complete obedience no matter how outrageous that thing he is asking you to do.

Jen’s journey starts in the comfort of serving the saved and blessing the blessed. She was a busy author and speaker, flying around the country ministering in the comfort of American churches. God began the process of revealing his plan—to break her heart for the least of these. He began to soften her heart for the homeless, those in extreme poverty, those who didn’t even have the basic necessities. He began to move her from the comfortable pews to the homeless shelters. He began to show her what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ.

As Jen and her husband embarked on this journey, they began to realize just how little they actually lived the gospel. God led them to start a new kind of church, a missional church with the mindset of serving.

Interrupted is the story of the journey, the many steps God used to reveal his purpose, his plan. It’s the story of walking by faith, of following God even when it doesn’t make sense. It’s the story of stepping out of the boat and walking on water. It’s the story of letting God out of the neat little Americanized box you’ve held him in for way too long.

Are you looking to go deeper in your walk with God? Are you looking for more in your relationship with Christ? Are you looking for God’s full power and grace poured out on your life? If so, pick up a copy of Jen’s revised book Interrupted. But, make sure you are ready to be challenged, to move out of your comfort zone, to go all in with God.

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Take a look at http://sittingroomradio.com/

The Sitting Room is a radio show hosted by Kathy Chiero on 610 WTVN in Columbus, Ohio. Kathy hosts the show where she tackles such tough topics as gay Christians, atheists and the Christian response, debt, and many more. August 31, the topic will be Life after Adultery. I am excited to announce that I will be one of the guests on the show that day!

I look forward to meeting with you in the Sitting Room!

 

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And, here’s my latest from Crosswalk.com  http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-does-it-mean-to-walk-by-faith.html

The Summer that Wasn’t

Today is the first day of school.

This morning, my kids got up, got themselves ready, and went out the door to catch the bus (even though Mom was planning to take them…not sure how I feel about that!). My precious daughter is starting fifth grade…her last year as an elementary student. My middle child is smack dab in the middle of middle school…how appropriate. My oldest walked through the doors of high school for the first time…how did that happen? They are growing up so quickly, and I’m not sure where the days have gone.

My home has gone from diapers and bottles and learning to read to basketball and card games and algebra. We’ve gone from a fairly quiet little home where everyone plays with their toys to the home where all the teenage boys hang out. There’s rarely a quiet moment and certainly never a dull moment.

Over the weekend, one of the neighbors and his son had gone fishing. They brought their catch of catfish to the house last night, and we had a big fish fry! Before I knew it, I had eight people gathered around my table (two adults and 6 kids) playing a rambunctious card game called Squares. The noise was almost overwhelming at some points! But, the laughter and smiles made it all worthwhile. It was a great way to end our summer.

Today, however, I’m struggling today to accept that summer is actually over already. Normally, the return of school is a return to sanity—albeit a frenetic sanity. We have a schedule. We have a routine. We replace some of the chaos with some semblance of order. Gone are the days of sleeping in and staying up late (not that working moms get that pleasure). Gone are the lazy days of running around the neighborhood. Gone are the days of late night basketball in the driveway. Gone are the days of kids calling me throughout my work day, peppering me with questions: How do I make enchiladas? Where is such-n-such? What time will you be home? Will you stop and buy ___ on your way home? Can someone come over and play?

We return to packing lunches and preparing for the next morning. We return to daily showers (yep, we still fight that battle with some of my kids). We return to school all day followed by soccer practice and basketball games and Wednesday church activities every night of the week. We return to non-stop activity that causes us to simply fall into bed at night, collapsing from sheer exhaustion.

But, I’m not ready this year.

I seem to be referring to this summer as the summer that was not. My kids spent a large portion of the summer with their dad for the first time ever. I found myself alone, in an unusually quiet house for five weeks. Despite the anxiety leading to that time, I survived—and actually enjoyed some solitude. My kids, however, missed out on five weeks with their friends. They, too, feel as if their summer was not complete.

In addition to being separated for a large portion of the summer, our vacation was canceled. I had planned a week off work as soon as they returned from their dad’s. We were going to spend our days hanging out together at the lake, fishing every morning and night, playing in the water all day. We were going to spend our days enjoying the boat and the water toys. We were going to simply enjoy being together without the interruptions of technology.

Instead, we’ve spent the last week and a half recovering from an unexpected surgery. No running the neighborhood with our friends. No basketball. Confined to the house. More technology than we cared to see. More movies and video games than anyone should watch or play. Fortunately, we have good friends who enjoy hanging out and supporting even when we can’t do anything active.

But today, the carefree days are over.

As I reflect on the summer and my precious kids—growing up all too quickly—I find myself praying special prayers for them as they return to school. Life is precious. I have been granted about 18 years with these little ones here under my protective shadow, 18 years of being able to mold them into the people God created them to be, 18 years to give them roots and wings. I’ve been given 18 years to lead them down the path toward adulthood. I’ve been given 18 years to teach them to walk with their Savior. I’ve been given 18 years to pour my life into them.

And, those years are passing all too quickly.

Sure. I will—Lord willing—have many more than 18 years. But, I know that my level of influence is dropping in their lives as they begin to seek freedom and independence, as they increasingly try to discover who they are apart from me. It’s a blessing to watch them grow and assert their independence, but sometimes I realize just how fleeting the days are.

So, today I pour out my heart to the Father for my children and this new school year.

For Blake, my oldest son, my gentle giant. I love how you still enjoy hugs from your mom! I love how you look for opportunities to make others laugh. I love that wry smile that sneaks across your face, revealing that single dimple in your cheek. I love how you are happy to be you, to be friends with anyone. You don’t see physical imperfections in people. You simply look beyond skin color and birth defects, and you make friends with those that others might choose to ignore. You are far less concerned with popularity and looks, and far more concerned with living your life the way God would have you to. Yes, you enjoy picking on your siblings and creating a little chaos here and there. But, I see your heart! And it is so BIG! And your leadership potential is beyond BIG! All of the kids flock to our house because of you! You have no idea how much ability you have planted inside of you!

For you, my precious son, I ask that God shows you the beauty deep within your soul. I pray that he gives you an amazing sense of confidence, an ability to recognize that greater is he that is in you than he that is in this world! I pray that you would see and know that you have great power working in you, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 3:20-22)! I pray that you would know that nothing can stop you and your dreams if you fully submit them to your Savior. I ask God to show you that when you give your first and your best to him, he will bless you with the best. I pray that the spiritual hunger that has begun to take root in your heart would grow and blossom until the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. I pray that you would tower over your peers spiritually as you do physically, that your faith would grow so wide and deep and high that you know mountains are going to shake in your presence!

To my little powerhouse, my invisible middle child, my Cole. I love your laugh! It is so incredibly contagious, and I absolutely love how you have no control of your laughter once you get started! You are passionate about life, and your enthusiasm has no boundaries. What you lack in physical stature, you more than make up in personality. And, don’t worry, I believe one day soon you will grow physically! You have never shied away from a challenge. You live your life with gusto, never letting fear deter you (It’s kinda scawry, but I can do it!). You have such an amazing way with people. I don’t think you will ever have an enemy! Your heart is so tender, compassionate, and kind, and you make me proud! What a joy it has been to be your mom these 12 years, and I can’t wait to watch you grow into your personality!

For you, my dear son, I ask the Lord to take your power and to make you meek so that you might inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). I pray that you would learn to seek the Holy Spirit every single day so that you might live a spirit-controlled life. I pray that you would learn to love and accept yourself exactly as God made you, knowing that his way is best and he makes no mistakes. I pray you would look within and find the amazing gifts and talents God has planted in you and commit to using them for the glory of God, the furthering of his kingdom. I pray that you would take that inconquerable spirit, that passion that burns bright, and channel it into seeking your Savior and serving him whole-heartedly. I pray that you would spread your contagious joy everywhere you go, every day you live.

To my baby girl, my encourager, my star of the show, my Cassie. What is there to say about the little lady who steals hearts everywhere she goes, who steals the show every chance she gets? You are the girl who has known exactly what she wanted from the time she was born… and you don’t take no for an answer! You have such persistence! Even as I sit here typing, you have a microphone in hand, singing your heart out as if you are on the stage of America’s Got Talent! There’s no doubt God has great plans for you! From your striped socks to your outlandish sense of style, you make a statement wherever you go. But, you are so much more. You have a faith that makes adults jealous. You have the innate ability to know when someone needs encouragement, and you are quick to give it. And, you have a deep desire to see your friends come to Christ. What a blessing you are! I learn so much from you.

For you, my angel, I ask my Savior to take your talents and develop them so that they might be used for his glory all the days of your life. I pray that you would never lose that child-like faith, but instead that he might continue to grow your faith so that you might be an example to the world—your stage. I pray that he would use you to impact your circle, showing your friends the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, drawing your friends into the kingdom. I pray you would always use your words to lift others up, to encourage as God leads you. I ask the Father to keep your heart sensitive to his leading and obedient to that still small voice that prompts you to give of yourself for the good of others. May God use you in mighty ways in his kingdom!

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The summer wasn’t a total loss for my kids. Their grandparents made their summer by giving them this little lady (on the right, shown with her sister who is now with my brother and his family). I suppose I’ll forgive my parents since Sadie brings such joy to my kids!

Expect the Unexpected

I started 2014 with such joy and excitement. There was an amazing anticipation that this year was going to be incredible! God very clearly gave me Joshua 3:5 as my verse for the year:

Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”

God clearly gave me the word that he is faithful to fulfill all his promises, and he gave me this incredible sense of anticipation. He has told me that the time of fulfillment for his promises is near.

And yet, I am learning to expect the unexpected.

My sense of excitement began to fade when my dad was diagnosed with cancer (fortunately, it’s a very treatable form of cancer). Then, we have had some family issues to contend with. My promise from God vanished. My kids were forced to spend over half of their summer away from me—something neither they nor I wanted or were prepared for. Temptation to settle for less than God’s best weighs heavily on my mind as I find myself weary from waiting.

Even today, as I sit here typing, I am in the surgery waiting room at Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Yes, my son—my first-born, my gentle giant, my comedian—is in the hands of a surgeon. It’s a small thing, but it’s never easy to place your child in the hands of another, no matter how skilled. Fortunately, he and I both know that he is actually in the hands of the Great Physician. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

As humans, I think it is the unexpected that gets us every time. I know I, personally, routinely try to tell God how to get from point A to point B. It would be so much easier if he would just listen to me! But instead, he wants to take me from point A to point B by way of points C, D, E, and Z! How frustrating it is sometimes! But, I am beginning to understand his point: the unexpected forces me to release control and learn to trust him.

I recently read Joshua 24 as I read through my Bible again. The Israelites have taken possession of the Promised Land, and Joshua is leading the people to renew their covenant with God. He reminds them about all of the unexpected things they experienced, good and bad. (Click here to read the chapter in its entirety at www.biblegateway.com.)

As Joshua recounts the amazing journey God has taken them on, he reminds them of the unexpected events. The ten plagues that decimated Egypt but left Israel untouched… Being trapped at the Red Sea until he caused the waters to part and then brought them crashing down on the Egyptians… The years of wandering in the wilderness where God provided manna, quail, water from the rock…

He reminds the people how they came into the land and the residents fought against them and God fought for them, decimating their enemies. He reminds them of how their obedience to walk around Jericho as God commanded caused the walls to crumble unexpectedly. He reminds them how Balak tried to pay Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam could only bless them. If you remember, Balaam’s donkey even talked (Numbers 22). Talk about unexpected!

The Israelites had experienced so many unexpected events, and God had used them to teach faith and trust. He used the unexpected to teach the Israelites to expect God to step in and save them at just the right moment. He used the unexpected to teach them not to worry but to know that God is in control even when it seems life is spiraling wildly out of control. He used the unexpected to bring the Israelites to a place where they were able to put aside everything to experience YHWH.

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.”

Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!”

“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.”

“All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.” (Joshua 24:14-24)

The unexpected—mostly difficult unexpected—circumstances seem to be thrown at me day after day this year, but I am actually finding  peace. I am learning to put away worry and trust that God has a final product in mind. I can’t see that product yet, but I must trust that he does. He has plans to prosper me and to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I can’t experience the abundant life he came to give me (John 10:10) if I am constantly fretting and worrying over circumstances. I refuse to let worry steal my joy, steal my abundance. I will choose—along with the Israelites—to serve the Lord, to trust him with this life.

I am choosing today to put away all idols: worry, fear, pride. I am choosing today to turn my eyes straight to him, to focus every ounce of attention to him. I am choosing to let the unexpected circumstances of this life teach me to let go of any control I think I might have and trust that the God of the universe is in control. I am choosing to trust that God is faithful to his word and will keep his promises to me. I am choosing to destroy all idols in my life and turn my heart fully to him.

Have you chosen to serve an idol—maybe the idol of worry or fear? Are you allowing the unexpected to control your life? Is it time to simply let go—throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet to follow the path God is calling you to? Are you willing to choose this day whom you will serve: the gods of this world or YHWH, the God of the universe?

But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Looking for Mr. Right

Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “…Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.”

So the servant took an oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham. He swore to follow Abraham’s instructions…. and he traveled to distant Aram-naharaim.

“O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”

Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor and his wife, Milcah. Rebekah was very beautiful and old enough to be married, but she was still a virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again.

Running over to her, the servant said, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.”

“Yes, my lord,” she answered, “have a drink.” And she quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and gave him a drink. When she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough to drink.” So she quickly emptied her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw water for all his camels.

The servant watched her in silence, wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission. Genesis 24 (selected verses)

It is well known that we women love a good romance! God created us that way, with an innate drive to love and be loved. Perhaps that is why I have always loved the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

I remember as a little girl—maybe six years old—hearing this story in Sunday School. I was hooked! I wanted to read it over and over. My parents helped me find it in my Bible, and I began to dive in. I was amazed how interconnected familiar Bible stories were. I read about Isaac and Rebekah. Then, I continued with the stories of their children, Jacob and Esau. Suddenly, I was thrust into the story of Leah and Rachel.

And that is where my love for scripture began.

Over the last two years, I’ve read my Bible cover to cover about four times. As I started at Genesis again this year, I came to this beloved story. Again, my heart was captured by this beautiful story of God’s sovereignty bringing Isaac and Rebekah together.

As a single-again woman, I’ve written many times about how I long for God to bring that right man along. As of August, I will have been single for five years—and quite honestly, it’s getting really old. I am blessed with an amazing and full life, but there is still a longing for that special someone. It’s the little things I long for: sharing my hopes and dreams as we lie down at the end of a long day, the arm around my waist as we worship together at church, walking hand in hand, having someone to curl up next to as we settle in to watch a movie. I simply miss companionship, touch, tenderness.

I know that God has told me that He is preparing someone special for me, but after a while you begin to cry out, “How much longer, God?” I know that I don’t want to short-change His work in my life by jumping into a relationship before I am ready—or before he is ready. But, the days seem to grow longer and lonelier.

As I read through this familiar story once again, I was struck by some interesting aspects that I had not seen before.

Abraham had a plan. Abraham, as always, had a very clear view of what was important when it came to finding a wife for his son. He knew that Isaac was chosen by God, the son of a promise. For Isaac to fulfill all that God had planned for him, Abraham knew that he needed the right wife—one who would love and support Isaac and follow YHWH whole-heartedly. Abraham made the requirements clear: she must be from his homeland, not a Canaanite who would lead Isaac to worship false gods.

How does this requirement apply to us? As Christians, we should not be looking for a spouse among unbelievers. If we are serious about our walk with Christ, about living out God’s purpose to its fullest extent, we must make sure that we are focused on the spiritual aspect of our relationships. I have found that when I surround myself with people who are truly seeking to walk in all the fullness of Christ, they draw me closer to Him, strengthen my Christian walk. But, when I’m surrounded by those who are marginal or unbelievers altogether, they pull me down.

It is essential that your closest and most influential relationships must be those who will draw you closer to God—or they will pull you away. Committed to purity? You better make sure anyone you date has that same commitment or you will face a much stronger temptation. Committed to ministry? Make sure that anyone you date has the same passion for sharing Christ or he/she will not understand when you are on call 24/7. Simply longing to walk closer to God? If you are dating someone who is not at least equal with you spiritually, you will find yourself hiding that aspect of your life. You will create space between you and God to eliminate space between you and your date.

Bathe it in prayer. Abraham was firmly convinced that God would take care of finding the right woman for his son Isaac. Despite the fear on behalf of the servant, he remained in a state of prayer as he set out on his mission. Even as he was praying, Rebekah came along.

Over the last few years, I have come to realize just how powerful prayer is. I’m not sure I ever really believed in or truly grasped the power that is available to us until now. As I find myself in a perpetual state of prayer—whispering short prayers throughout my day—I am constantly amazed at how heaven and earth seem to move in response to my prayers.

From very early on in this journey, I committed to praying for my future spouse. I don’t just pray that God will bring him to me, but I pray extensively for every area of his life. I pray for his walk and his talk. I pray for his job and his finances. I pray for sexual purity and freedom from anything that keeps him in bondage. I pray that he would turn from sin and walk blamelessly before God. And I pray that God would direct his heart and steps toward me.

I have seen glimpses of how God is using my prayers to prepare me, to prepare him, to bring us together. Perhaps I will never see the full extent of what my prayers have done this side of heaven, but I am convinced that our marriage will be one that brings glory to God. It will be a marriage that was born in heaven from the prayers of one committed to walking in accordance with God’s plan.

Focus on God while you wait. I think what struck me most about this entire chapter was a simple little phrase in verse 63:

Meanwhile, Isaac, whose home was in the Negev, had returned from Beer-lahai-roi. One evening as he was walking and meditating in the fields, he looked up and saw the camels coming. And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother. Genesis 24:62-67

While Abraham and his servant were out looking for this amazing woman that God was preparing for Isaac, Isaac was simply going about his daily life. He wasn’t stressed about finding that special someone. He was just walking through the fields, doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing on any ordinary day. But, I love that he was meditating. His focus was not on his future. His focus was not on the cares of this world. His focus was on God.

Isaac was more concerned about walking according to God’s plan for his life than about finding a wife. He was focused on living his life according to the commands he had been given. He was consumed with filling his mind with God’s words to him and trusting God with the outcome.

Isn’t that what we should all be doing? Going about our daily lives, focusing on God’s call, and trusting Him for the outcome? Ultimately, it’s all in His hands. If we are doing what He calls us to do, don’t we trust Him enough to handle all the details?

I’ve gone through the days of looking at every man without a ring, wondering if he might be the one God has for me. I’ve been terrified to turn anyone down just in case he might be God’s gift to me. I’ve sacrificed my walk with God to go out with men who were not passionate about God and ministry just because I thought, “Perhaps with time he will fall in love with God.”

Honestly, I’m tired of being alone. But, I’ve come to a place of peace (most days) where I trust that God is working behind the scenes to do things I can’t see or comprehend. I’ve reached a place where I know that I must only be with someone who is passionate about God and ministry. I know that I have prayed extensively for years and that God has heard my pleas. Now, I must go about my daily business focusing all my attention on God—and trusting that He is in control.

Lord Jesus, You know that I am lonely. You know that I have spent the last five years, moving closer to you. You know that I am trying to daily walk in all the fullness of Christ, focusing my time and attention on you. I know that you have heard my prayers, that you see my loneliness. I know that you have said that it is not good for man to be alone. I know that you have given me a promise—a promise that there is a man who will love you fully and completely and love me as Christ loved the church. Give me strength to stay focused on you, to avoid those who would turn my attention away from you. Give me endurance to continue running this race, trusting you with the outcome. I am so thankful that you see my journey—my future—and you know the best path to get me there. Help me to rest in you as I travel into my future. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

DQ Dena

Several years ago, our church started a karate school. It’s an amazing ministry which seeks to bring people from the community in to learn karate, and in the process they are exposed to the gospel. I encourage you to look up ABKA Karate and Sensei Denny Holzbauer to learn more, but that’s not my purpose today.

I want to tell you the story of my personal karate experience.

You see, when the ABKA started at our church, my son wanted to take karate. However, because of his age at the time, he was required to have a parent take the class with him.

And that’s how I became a karate student.

I can hear your laughter now. If you are thinking that I don’t seem like the karate chopping, board breaking, kata performing type, YOU WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY, 100% CORRECT.

But, I am a child-loving, out-of-your-comfort-zone, follow your dreams kind of mama. So, I purchased my gi (that’s a white karate uniform for those of you wondering), tied on my white belt, and proceeded to learn the various kicks and punches with my kids.

Soon, a tournament presented itself. My kids wanted to participate, but they were scared. So, in an effort to set the example, I signed up for the tournament. That’s where I earned my first fighting name: P Cubed. In case you are wondering, I was the only participant with pink, pedicured toenails—thus I became P3 for the Pink Pedicured Princess. I am certain my name struck fear into the hearts of my competitors!

My plan to encourage my children did work, however. When the next tournament rolled around, my kids were ready to participate. We tied on our orange belts (impressed, eh?), loaded up the car, and made the trek across the state.

The rules were simple: if you land a kick or punch in the appropriate area of the body, you score a point. The highest point total at the end of the match would win and advance to the next round. However, the face is off-limits at the orange belt level.

I drew a bye for my first round, but soon it was my turn to spar. I stepped into the ring with my competitor, and the fight began. I threw a right punch to the head—but she moved, and I landed it square on her right eye (off-limits). The ref stopped the fight to issue me a warning. One more shot to the face, and I would be disqualified from the competition.

Again, we stepped into the ring. Again, I threw a punch. Again, she moved. Again, I landed it square on her right eye—giving her quite a shiner. And I was disqualified. A great big DQ went up next to my name.

And that is how I earned my new name: DQ Dena.

Although that competition ended my karate career, I still use my name to keep my kids in control. The threat of unleashing DQ Dena on them will usually snap them right into line. It’s true. DQ Dena strikes fear into the hearts of my children—fear of total and complete humiliation in front of their friends.

Whatever it takes…

While I love to laugh about my karate experience and my disqualification, there’s another area of life in which I have struggled with feelings of being disqualified. You see, when I was ten years old, I felt God calling me to full-time ministry. I surrendered in that moment, and I knew that my life was on a path to serving God. I didn’t know specifics, but I knew that God would reveal his plans to me.

As a freshman in college, I remember sitting in church one evening and having an overwhelming sense that I was supposed to be a pastor’s wife. It was a thought that simply wouldn’t go away. I prayed that God would either confirm what I was sensing or take it away. Again and again, God confirmed that His plan was for me to serve as a pastor’s wife.

After nearly 17 years as a pastor’s wife, my marriage fell apart. Suddenly, I had lost most everything of importance—including my ministry. You see, I was raised in a denomination where divorce disqualifies you from ministry—regardless of the reasons for your divorce. My usefulness to God was over.

I struggled with reconciling God’s call on my life with my divorce. Why would a divorce—especially as a result of adultery which was biblical grounds for divorce—disqualify me from being used by God? Had I been relegated to a second class Christian? No pastor would marry a divorced woman, so I could never be a pastor’s wife again. Where did I fit in the grand scheme of God’s kingdom? Did I have to settle for living the rest of my life as a single woman, never to marry again if I wanted to serve God?

And that’s when I ran across Romans 11:29:

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Romans 11:29

Those words ran through my mind night and day. God’s will and His call are irrevocable. If that is true, there is still a calling on my life. But how do I reconcile Romans 11:29 with scriptures that indicate leaders must be the “husband of just one wife” (Titus 1:6, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; )? Does that scripture apply to me? Does it only apply to those serving as leaders in the church? Why would God apply it only to men and not to women as well? So many questions, and yet so few answers.

I know there are people who will rise up against me and say that I have been disqualified from ministry because of my divorce, especially if I remarry one day. However, I am learning that what man may consider as a disqualification from ministry, God can actually use to qualify me for ministry.

How can God qualify someone through divorce? Or addiction? Or adultery? Or _(fill in the blank)_? God has used this time of pain to purify my heart. He has used it to wipe away the pride that caused me to believe I was better than others. He has cleansed me of my judgmental attitude toward those whose lives were not as “perfect” as mine. I have come to a place of understanding that even I need God’s forgiveness because—in  and of myself—I am capable of great sin. I have experienced the love of a God who pursues the one sheep who walks away, the God who is faithful even when I am faithless. I have been the prodigal son and the prideful older son. I have experienced the grace of God and no longer need to prove that I am worthy. I walked through the fire and found my faith strengthened and purified. I have met the Great I Am—the One who meets my every need exactly when I need it.

Today, I know my Savior personally, intimately, experientially. He has walked me through the painful trials and tribulations of life, and I can say with absolute certainty that He is faithful!

While I still can’t answer all of the questions, I know that God has again planted a seed of ministry in my heart. Dreams of writing and speaking that had been pushed deep down into my sub-conscious mind have been brought to the surface, the passion burning brighter than ever. Doors of ministry seem to be flying open at every turn—opportunities that I have in no way pursued through any means except prayer. With every heartbeat, my passion grows, my dreams seem larger and closer, and the vision grows clearer.

Has divorce disqualified me from ministry? Only God can call, and only God can qualify. And, perhaps it is through the trials and tribulations of this life that He qualifies those He calls.

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(Click here for some commentary on the phrase “husband of just one wife” from BibleGateway.com)