Forbidden Fruit

I remember when my husband first confessed to me that he had an attraction to another woman. I responded, “Temptation is not a problem. It’s what you do with that temptation.”

At that time, we sought counseling. I allowed him to talk about his feelings openly, acting as a counselor to him myself. I did everything I knew to do to help him fight his feelings for this other woman. However, instead of fighting his feelings, he was feeding them—in the quiet recesses of his mind, thinking about her, dreaming about her.

And that was the genesis of his affair…

We all face temptations. Some are the little things that tempt us: just another bite of dessert when we know we are full, an extra Diet Coke when we know it’s not good for us, staying up too late to watch TV when we know we need to be up early. Then there are the big temptations: the adulterous relationship, a sexual relationship when you aren’t married, addictions.

The truth is, there is nothing wrong with temptation. We all face them—even Jesus. The problem comes when we give in to temptation, allow ourselves to fall into sin rather than resisting temptation.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15

When we choose not to resist temptation, there will be consequences. Maybe the consequences aren’t immediate; maybe they are. But, James 1 tells us that it is a progression: from temptation to sinful actions to death. Perhaps it’s physical death. Maybe death of a relationship. No matter what sin, you will always experience spiritual death—a distance that develops between you and God, an inability to hear His tender voice whispering to your heart as you quench the fire of His Holy Spirit burning within you.

During the last few weeks, I have been fighting the battle of temptation. I have been separated/divorced for almost five years. I have not dated anyone in over 4 ½ years. I am sure that I could have had dates if I wanted, but I chose to ask God not to bring anyone into my life unless he is the one God wants for me until death do we part. I do not want to give my heart away to anyone unless they have an unparalleled passion for Christ and ministry.

And it gets lonely…

Although I know how blessed I am and although I love my life, I still long for that special someone. I’m tired of being alone. I long to share my hopes and dreams with that someone special. I long to walk hand-in-hand through the mall. I long to have him reach over and put his arm around me as we worship together at church. I long to snuggle up next to him on a rainy night as we watch a movie together. I long for the gentle touch, the tender caress, the simple kiss.

Normally, I’m too busy to dwell on it. But, this summer has been different. My children have been away for nearly five weeks, and it has left me with time that I don’t normally have to myself. I’ve also experienced some relationship fractures because not everyone understands my attempts to walk by faith and not by sight. While a little peace and quiet is a good thing, too much leaves me experiencing loneliness.

And what happens? Along comes a man. A really nice man. A really great single dad. He loves life. He’s a hard worker. Responsible. Enjoys working out. Some absolutely great qualities.

But, is he passionate about God? Is he passionate about ministry? Is he seeking God daily? Does he understand my commitment to Christ, my attempts to walk in all the fullness of God? Is he as committed to purity before marriage as I am?

Honestly, I’ve found myself hiding who I truly am because I know the answers to the above questions. I have not let him know about my blog, my writing, my ministry. He’s not seen me overcome with emotion as I lose myself in worship. He doesn’t know about recent radio interview about how God has carried me through this painful experience. He doesn’t know because I know that he will walk away when he discovers who I truly am—and it feels so good to have male companionship!

The temptation has been growing. I’ve found myself thinking about how nice it would be to hold his hand, to have a hug. I find myself wanting it to progress beyond friendship—and yet I don’t. I know that by giving into this temptation, I will be short-changing myself on God’s best for my life. I know that I might find myself compromising on my values, on what I know God has called me to.

And so, I find myself fighting temptation with every ounce of my being. I cry out to God frequently, asking Him to show me the way out. I beg Him to give me strength to keep this at a friendship level, to show who I truly am. I ask Him to let His love and light shine through me so that I can lead this man to a deeper knowledge of the One who is my everything.

Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

How do I defeat the temptation? That has become the pervading question in my mind. Scripture tells me to stand firm lest I fall. It tells me that God always has a way out. My challenge has been to find that way out, and of course I’ve found a few nuggets that might help.

Determine in my heart not to sin. When Daniel was taken captive in Babylon, he was selected for a special assignment: to become one of the wise men of the kingdom. With the privilege came a very rich diet that would have been counter to Daniel’s religious diet regulations. So he determined in his heart that he would not sin (Daniel 1:8).

Job had a similar commitment. In Job 31:1, he said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” It was a determination, a plan, a firm commitment. He chose not to be naïve or self-confident. He recognized that he was as capable of sin as everyone else. But he decided, determined, committed not to fall to temptation.

If we are to defeat temptation in our lives, we must set our minds to walking in purity. We must decide that we will not even flirt with those things that tempt us, that we will draw firm boundaries around our lives allowing plenty of safe space between us and temptation. By setting our minds on the right things and creating margin in our lives, we give ourselves a much greater ability to resist.

Use the Word. Temptation is a normal part of life and even Jesus faced temptation. But, He is the only one who successfully navigated all temptations without failing. Of course, we know that in the face of temptation, he always quoted scripture. As it is written… He began (Matthew 4).

A few nights ago, as I was thinking about this temptation, I grabbed my computer and went straight to BibleGateway.com. I began to google temptation in the scriptures. I was amazed at how few times the word temptation is actually mentioned. I began to look at the stories of the Bible and realized how often people fell to temptation. I was searching for clues on how to fight temptation.

And that’s when it happened. As I turned to scripture to understand temptation, all temptations faded from my mind. Turning to the word, filling my mind with the word…the cure for temptation.

Run for your life. Occasionally, even when we set our minds on obedience and fill our minds with scripture, we can still find ourselves in situations where temptation rears its ugly head. Look at Joseph. He was going about his business, living with integrity. That’s when his master’s wife began to tempt to him.

Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.

But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. Genesis 39:6-12

Joseph could have chosen to sleep with her, assuming that no one would ever know. He could have entertained the temptation. Instead, he stayed out of her way as much as possible. When placed in the most difficult situation, he simply fled.

The rest of the story is difficult to swallow: Joseph was still accused. He spent time in prison. His name was smeared. But, he walked with integrity before his God. He knew the truth. And, he knew that in time God would restore him and redeem the situation—which He did. Perhaps you have fled and have been wrongfully accused anyway. Trust me, I understand. But remember that God sees and knows the truth. In the end, He will use it for His glory.

You know, after weeks of working to overcome… after weeks of crying out to God every time a temptation came to mind… after weeks of searching scriptures… after weeks of setting boundaries… Something happened. I cannot explain it, but I know the explanation.

As I was driving to work earlier this week, I was asking God—again—to show me the way out of this temptation. I was telling Him that I want His plan more than I want the immediate gratification of having someone—anyone—now. I was telling Him that I do not want to short-change His plans for my life. In an instant, without any fanfare or even any gentle whispers, a quiet peace came over me. The temptation faded. My mindset changed. I have a new friend, but nothing more. And I am good with that.

Temptation has been defeated…for now.

Through God’s Eyes

“But Mom,” my son muttered as the tears began to run down his cheeks, “Blake has never made a B. Cassie has never made a B. I don’t want to be the only one who has a B on my report card.”

I am beginning to think that I am not going to survive pre-algebra this year. Every evening, my son and I sit down after dinner and begin to work on his homework. He has never struggled in a class, but for some reason he is having a difficult time this year. While many would be satisfied with a B+, he desperately wants that A. I admire his desire for perfection, his drive, his motivation, but I don’t want him so focused on a letter. I want him focused on learning.

And, I certainly don’t want him to get caught in the comparison trap.

Yes, I have three brilliant children. My oldest is a freshman, and no one has yet to make anything less than an A on his or her report cards. My children strive to be the best. They give their all. They are looking to their future. They have goals, and they strive to meet them.

I know my kids are capable of making straight A’s, but my goal is not perfection. My request is that they give 100%…and as long as they are doing their best, I’m happy. But, my middle child has reached a mountain called pre-algebra. It’s not that he isn’t capable. It’s not that it’s too hard. It’s not that he doesn’t understand. For some reason, he’s not being reached in class. He’s coming home completely confused, and we have to teach him step-by-step every evening how to solve the equations. It’s forcing me to go back some 20 years and dust off my algebra skills! And, they don’t have textbooks! So, for a visual learner (and a rusty mom), it’s been a challenge.

And now, nine weeks into school, he’s lost his confidence. He’s staring at a block test that will determine whether he makes an A or a B. And, he’s psyched himself out. He’s failing to look at how far he’s come, how much he’s learned. He’s looking at a grade instead of focusing on the joy of learning and growing. And, he’s focused on what his siblings have achieved and comparing himself to them.

And that’s a dangerous place to be.

As we talked through the tears last night, I reminded him of all the gifts and talents he has. I reminded him that this grade does not have anything to do with his value or his worth. I reminded him that his brother did not even take pre-algebra at his age (it wasn’t offered). I reminded him that his brother struggled to keep an A when he did take it. I reminded him that his uncle (my brother who he idolizes) was not a straight A student but is now a successful dentist. I reminded him that this grade doesn’t even count toward his high school transcript. We talked and we prayed and we talked some more.

But, the sense of failure and fear welling up inside of him has been overwhelming. When I dropped him off at school for his test and drove away, I couldn’t contain my own tears. The pain of watching your child hurt is almost unbearable at times.

I rallied my prayer warriors around him. We pray for his peace. We pray for his ability to recall the information he has so diligently studied. We pray for success. And, I pray for the ability to accept a B if that is what happens.

He will survive. We will survive. And we will learn and grow. After all, failure (if you can call a “B” failure) is a great teacher if we let it be. We must simply adopt God’s perspective, see things from his view.

As I contemplate this situation, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul. Just this morning I was reading the account of his conversion on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9). Saul (as he was known before his conversion) was out persecuting the Christians, standing by approving of the stoning of Stephen. He was actively looking for Christians to kill! And, in an instant, God’s light shone around him. He immediately repented and turned his life over to Christ.

Suddenly, the man who had been murdering Christians was preaching the name of Christ! Of course, the Christians were leery of him. It took the voice of God to reassure them. But, what I found interesting was this phrase:

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16

Don’t you think that Paul could have felt so unworthy of serving God? Don’t you think he could have chosen to live in his past, to wallow in self-pity for his poor choices? Don’t you think God knew all about his past—even before it was his past? Don’t you think God saw him standing by as Stephen was stoned to death?

And yet, Paul was God’s chosen instrument.

How many times do we get caught up in our own insecurities? How long will we choose to live in our less than glorious past? How long will we allow our past to hold us back from a future that God has ordained for us?

I know that after the discovery of my ex-husband’s affair, I struggled immensely with self-esteem. After all, I had given my all to this man, dedicated my life to serving God alongside him…and it wasn’t good enough. I was rejected. I hated the person looking back at me in the mirror every single day. I was having a big pity party!

But God…

God reached down and reminded me that I am his treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6), his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). He reminded me that he didn’t reject me; he chose me! He ordained every day of my life even while I was in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16). I am the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8)!

It would be so easy to live in my past, the rejection and pain. I could choose to let it color the rest of my life. But, I made a conscious decision five years ago that my past would not define me. I made the decision to let God use the past to mold me into his image, to let the pain and trials work something beautiful into my life. I consciously decided that I would not be an angry, bitter ex-wife, always looking for a way to get even. Instead, I made the decision to thrive!

It’s only because I know that I am God’s specially chosen daughter that I can put the past behind me. It’s only by taking God’s perspective that I have the vision to move forward. It’s only by surrendering every heart ache and pain, every regret and sin, even every accolade and accomplishment to him that I am useful for his kingdom. It’s by letting go of everything in my past and trusting him to use it for my good (Romans 8:28) that suddenly he can redeem my past, use it for his glory.

Later, after years of ministry, Paul would write to the church at Ephesus.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

I am God’s handiwork, his masterpiece. You are God’s handiwork, his masterpiece. Long ago he chose us to fulfill a purpose. Long ago, he planned good works for me…and for you. He has prepared the path for us to accomplish all that he created us to be and do. Will you let go of your past? Will you trust him to redeem your regrets, your failures, your sins, your accomplishments? Will you allow him to lead you into the purpose he has for you?

After all, he chose you!

A Call to Repentance

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

I am an American. We are one country under God. Our nation was founded by great men, who had a vision for a country where we could freely worship. They risked their lives for something bigger than themselves. Many gave their all so that I could live in freedom.

We are a nation of strength and independence. We are a place of wealth and prosperity. At our very border in New York, Lady Liberty beckons for the tired, poor, huddled masses to come to the land of freedom, and land that offers hope for a brighter future.

I have always been proud to wear the American flag, to celebrate this country and the freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy. I am proud to be a part of the greatest nation on the earth.

But today, my heart breaks.

You see, as a child I remember saying prayers as a kindergarten class. But, that’s no longer allowed. I remember being asked to say the opening prayer before the high school football games. But today, schools are threatened with lawsuits for uttering prayers of protection in public.

Just this week, my daughter was relating to me the events of her day. Surprisingly, the Gideons came to her school and offered a New Testament to each child. No one was forced to take the book, but of course my daughter gladly accepted the gift. At some point during the day, she (and several others) had their Bibles out reading in their spare time. They were ordered to put them away because they might get in trouble.

I went ballistic! I told my daughter that she as long as it is free time and she is not breaking any rules, she has a right to read her Bible—and that I would fight with everything within me to keep that right for her!

My point is, we as a nation are turning as far away from “one nation under God” as we possibly can. The foundations of our culture are eroding away. Whether it is the importance of the church in our society, or the fear of offending someone who has a different belief system, or the erosion of simple morals, our country has undergone a radical shift even in my lifetime. In the name of tolerance, we have become incredibly intolerant.

But that’s not all. As I mentioned before, we have stood in the world as a beacon of economic success, of independence, as a place where one could become self-sufficient—all things that are actually contrary to God’s word. Our pride and arrogance seem to be the light that we are giving off, not a love for those less fortunate.

Today, we are a nation divided.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. Matthew 12:25

I, personally, have never seen a time where we have had such intense division. My parents have said that the division now is even deeper than in the days of desegregation. And, rather than attempting to come together and find common ground, each side simply stands its ground demonizing its opponents. For a country that was founded upon the belief that all sides have freedom to speak their mind, that we can learn from those with differing opinions if we will keep an open mind, we have fallen hard.

It’s election season. That means that for roughly the next month we will be listening to political candidates say horrible, awful, ugly things about their opponents. We will see each person painted in the worst possible light. Facts will be taken and twisted to make it seem that someone is not what they say they are.

And I hate it…

What do I want in a political candidate? Integrity. Honesty. Character. Commitment to the greater good of our country over any ideological belief. A willingness to listen to the viewpoints of others and seek common ground. A desire to put aside political titles, to recognize the value in all humanity, even those with differing opinions.

I don’t know where you stand politically. Honestly, I don’t really care. I love you all the same, even if our beliefs are different. But, I fear for the future of our nation. My heart breaks as we seem to be traveling further from the foundation of our great nation. I fear that our pride, our arrogance, our division will cause us to self-destruct. I fear that my children and grandchildren will not have the privilege of growing up with the same blessings I have. I fear that we are but a short step away from some major changes in our country—changes that will forever alter our course.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

Why, you might ask, am I on this subject rather than my normal ones of divorce, raising children, walking in faith? Because I just read The Mystery of the Shemitah by Jonathan Cahn, and my mind won’t stop running. Cahn is a Messianic Rabbi and author of the best-selling The Harbinger. His life has been dedicated to the study of scriptures. As a Jew, he understands the Old Testament commands and promises. As a Christian, he understands the importance of following the example set by Christ.

In this book, Cahn examines the ancient Jewish Shemitah. You see, just as the Jews were commanded to practice a weekly Sabbath of rest, they were also commanded to let the land rest every seventh year. There was to be no planting, no harvesting. They were simply instructed to depend upon God’s provision for them, to trust him to take care of their needs. Observing the Shemitah was an act of worship, to rid themselves of the pride that could lead to their fall, to remind them that every blessing is from above.

Cahn walks the reader through the Shemitah and how it applies to us as Americans. His explanation of events throughout history and how they are tied to the Shemitah is eye-opening—really mind-boggling! To read his account, to take a walk into the history of America and the nation of Israel, gives a completely new understanding of the sovereignty of God.

Interestingly, Israel has just entered the next year of the Shemitah. After reading Cahn’s book, I’m on the edge of my seat, wondering what type of major event is going to happen in the next year. While I have no idea what the future holds, I do know one thing: If we as Christians and Americans do not humble ourselves and pray and turn from our wicked ways, the future may not be very bright. There may be a humbling of the prideful, a fall of the arrogant. It’s hard to believe that America could ever cease to be, but how many nations have fallen over the course of history? Every. Single. One.

God always gives warning. He calls his people to repent. He raises up a remnant of faithful ones to carry on his work. I have written often about how I believe God is creating a remnant of believers with faith to move mountains, getting rid of the Americanized, westernized brand of Christianity that boxes him in. I believe with all my heart that as we move forward, we will see God in all his glory. I believe we will see his power and might displayed in mighty ways for all the world to see. I believe that he will call us as Christians to do even greater things than those we read about in scripture (John 1:50). While the future of America may be questionable, our future as Christians is in good hands.

The question becomes this: Will you heed his call? Will you turn over every part of your life to him? Will you trust him with your family, your finances, your future? Will you allow him to penetrate every inch of your heart with his light and his love? Will you commit to walking before him with clean hands and a pure heart? Will you seek him with all your heart because you know he promises to be found?

My God is faithful, and he will never let you down. Give your all to him.

 

Raising Boys in Purity

Being a single mom is tough. It means carrying the entire load on your own shoulders. There’s no one to help make decisions, no one to share the burdens of raising kids. It is non-stop activity, trying to juggle the schedules of multiple children and figuring out how to get everyone where they need to be.

But, the biggest challenge I face today is raising boys in purity in this impure world.

I am quickly learning that the teenage years are difficult. They are filled with challenges—and temptations. Magazines in the locker rooms. Surfing the internet. Carrying a smart phone with virtually no accountability.

And, my boys—while they would love to have someone to talk to about these temptations—are stuck with me. No man to confide in. No man to look to as an example of how to conduct himself. No man to ask questions. Only Mom.

My boys desperately want to be the men God created them to be. They are especially sensitive to the effects of pornography, and they want to avoid the mistakes that they have seen play out in our lives. My marriage ended after nearly 17 years following unrepentant adultery. Throughout the years of our marriage, there were multiple signs that pornography was a problem. However, I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the extent of the problem. I was often told that it was “just the way men are,” and my belief that we should avoid even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3) was naively unrealistic.

Following my divorce, I was introduced to the book Every Young Man’s Battle. I read it with plans to take my boys through it; however, I was struck with how my ideas of sexual purity had strayed from God’s plan. I began to realize just how much pornography and sexual immorality had impacted my life and my marriage. I began to understand how pornography causes women to become objects to fulfill lustful desires rather than gifts to be treasured.  I renewed my commitment to the highest levels of purity and determined to lead my children to a healthy view of sexuality.

Knowing that my boys are now teenagers—an age where sexual innuendos are common-place and I can no longer control their environments—I have come to realize that I must find ways to be intentional in teaching them to preserve their purity. It is a battle that they must learn to fight now. By giving them the proper view of sexuality from an early age and arming them with the knowledge that purity is possible through Christ, I hope that I can prepare them for a lifetime of pleasing God with purity of mind and body.

Model purity. Married or not, we as Christian parents must take purity seriously. We must set the example for our children and for the world around us. We are not to blend into our sex-saturated society; instead, our lives should stand in stark contrast.

Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children….But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable… Ephesians 5:1, 3

As a single parent, I find myself in a situation where I have the opportunity to model purity in dating for my children. I have determined that I will approach the single life very carefully. I have chosen not to date, but rather I am seeking God’s will, asking that He not bring any man into my life except the one He plans for my future. I am very cautious never to put myself into a position that could give the appearance of impropriety. I seek to live my life in such a way that there is not even a hint of sexual immorality. I pray that my children will choose to imitate me as I seek to imitate Christ.

My children know that Christ impacts every decision I make. We carefully read reviews of movies to determine their content before we view them. We are very limited in our television viewing. We all share a computer—and even all passwords—so there are no secrets. My life is an open book for my kids. I want to live my life in such a way that I have nothing to hide.

Talk. Talking is a tough one sometimes. Sexuality is not something that my boys want to talk about—especially with their mother. Despite the discomfort, I attempt to turn conversations that direction as much as possible.

When confronted with a situation of infidelity, I attempt to broach the subject with them. I point out men who like Facebook pages of scantily clad women and tell my children that I could never consider those men as potential dates. I want them to understand that a woman worth dating will not want to date them if they are filling their mind with inappropriate images.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18

Recently, there was a story on the news of a man who kidnapped and murdered a young girl. My oldest was burning with righteous anger toward the murderer. As he struggled with his anger and tried to grasp how anyone could commit such a heinous crime, I pointed out the link between pornography and violence, especially against women. I told of the studies I have read that have linked pornography to changes in the brain that cause men to view women as objects rather than valued individuals. I talked about how viewing those images causes our conscience to be seared, and we lose any sense of right and wrong.

At this age, my boys may think that looking at pretty women is harmless. However, I want them to understand that the way they look at and view women today will impact their future relationships. I want them to treat all women the way they want men to treat their little sister.

Love. While I am a firm believer in the importance of suffering consequences for our poor choices, there are moments that call for grace, mercy, and forgiveness. As much as I long for my children to be completely pure, I am certain that the day will come when I am faced with a confession. I pray that I will be able to extend mercy, to express compassion, and to remember that I, too, fall short of God’s standards.

I think of the woman caught in adultery, shamed and humiliated before the crowd. She must have been horrified—of her own actions and of being thrust in front of a crowd with her sins out in the open. She was vulnerable and scared. Christ, in His mercy and compassion, looked deep within her soul to see what the crowd could not see. They saw her actions; Christ saw her heart.

But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” …when they heard it, they began to go out one by one…and He was left alone, and the woman… John 8:7, 9

I don’t want to be the judgmental parent, standing over my children with stones, punishing them for mistakes that have caused them tremendous anguish. I don’t want to respond with anger and frustration when they fall short of God’s standard. I know that I haven’t walked this journey perfectly, and I want to remember how God pursued me relentlessly, forgave me generously, and loved me unconditionally—even in my sin. I want to extend the same mercy and grace to my children that my Heavenly Father has extended to me.

Protect. I frequently check my boys’ phones to see if there’s anything suspicious. We don’t have paid television service in our home so we are limited in what we view. My computer is the only one in the household. But, I know that it’s not enough.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

I trust my children, but if there is some type of boundary I can put in place that will help them make wise decisions, it is worth the cost, whatever it may be. We have restrictions on all of our phones that prevent certain apps from being downloaded. Only websites that are approved by me are available to be viewed. Facebook is not allowed on the phones. A browser that filters and sends accountability reports to me has been installed.

While it may seem like I am going overboard, there is no price too high. I want to set my children up for a lifetime of healthy relationships and a proper view of sexuality.

Pray, pray, pray. The longer I walk this Christian life, the less I understand prayer—and the more confidence I have that God answers the prayers of His servants.

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. 1 John 5:14-15

We know that God’s will for our children is to walk in purity. Therefore, according to this scripture, if we make it a matter of prayer, He will hear and answer.

Over the past year, I have made a conscious effort to pray intently for my children. I set timers on my phone throughout the day as a reminder to pray for my kids. I keep Stormie O’Martian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent in my car and use it as a starting point for my prayers. I have seen more changes in my children—more spiritual hunger and attention to God’s voice—than at any other time in my kids’ lives. While I may not do many things right, one thing I can do is pray that God will mold the hearts of my children.

We are just entering the teenage years in my house. I have many years and tears, many days of raging hormones still to come. My daily prayer is, “Lord, parent through me. These are your children. Supernaturally flow through me to lead these children to purity.” I don’t know what the coming years hold, but I know that my Savior is faithful to teach me as I teach my children.

 

Redneck Princess

I am a Redneck Princess.

Let me tell you a little about myself and my family. My Grandpa was born in 1911. He was the oldest of seven boys (bless my great grandmother’s heart). Because he was the oldest, he was basically the ranch foreman—responsible for looking out for all of his younger brothers and making sure everyone got their farm chores finished. It was a vital role for a poor farm family. Everyone had to do their part or they went hungry.

My grandfather was blessed with the opportunity to go to college. He earned a degree in math education and became a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. He eventually went on to earn a Master’s degree in school administration and was a principal for many years. That’s how he supported my grandmother and my dad.

In addition to teaching, my grandpa continued to farm—and my dad was his labor. The money he earned farming and selling insurance was his investment money. He made some very wise decisions with his money.

Dad is the only surviving child. He didn’t have all those brothers and sisters to help him on the farm. But, he continued to help my grandpa well into my childhood. I remember taking two weeks every May, and all six of us would stay in this little two room farmhouse. Dad would work the fields all day. I remember vividly riding the big red tractor with my daddy! Great memories of together time…

Eventually, Grandpa retired from farming. However, farm life was deeply instilled in my dad. Our lives bear the imprint of that upbringing. We grew up with a huge garden (I had never eaten store bought green beans until college). My mom canned produce all summer. We had the best homemade jelly (chigger plum jelly…mmmm).

We also had a very outdoorsy kind of life. I was my Dad’s little fishing buddy for years. Our vacations were spent at the lake, water-skiing and fishing. I can still remember sitting out in the boat in the middle of the lake as the sun set beyond the horizon. I would find myself moved by the beauty of God’s creation surrounding me. We would quietly begin to sing the old hymns that were burned deep within my soul. For me, the lake is the perfect place to worship God, the creative Creator.

Although I never went, my dad taught my brother to hunt from the time he was a small child (forgive me if you are against hunting…it’s a religious activity here in Oklahoma). Every weekend during deer season, my dad and brother would load up and head out. Those times together forged a strong bond between them. And, it also helped ensure that my brother stayed out of trouble. When other teens were getting into trouble on the weekends, he was out in the woods with our dad.

Now, I must tell you that somewhere along the way I lost that part of me. When I was married, my husband wanted no part of the outdoors, so I kind of just gave it up. I chose to put my upbringing behind me because he wasn’t interested, and I changed myself to enjoy whatever he enjoyed (OU football and movies). While I enjoyed those things too, I truly gave up a huge part of myself, sacrificing who God created me to be to support him in his endeavors.

As my marriage began to unravel, I traveled down to the farm to stay with my then 97-year-old grandpa. He was still amazingly spry at the time, and there was NO place he loved more than his farm. I loaded up my kids and my grandpa, and we drove out to the land. I started all three 4-wheelers, and the kids and I took off flying across the pastures. As the wind whipped through my hair and I saw the unbelievable joy on my kids’ faces, I suddenly came face-to-face with the truth: I did not know who I was any more. I made a decision that day to rediscover who I am, who God created me to be.

And, the truth is that I have farmer blood coursing through my veins. I recognize it every morning when I wake up before the sun comes up without an alarm (oh how I wish I could sleep past 5:30 just on weekends!). I see it as I find myself reduced to tears as the sun sets over the lake. I find it as my mouth begins to water, anticipating the savory taste of home-grown fruits and vegetables. I know it when there’s a fresh catch of fish frying. It is a part of who I am.

However, I also have a very feminine side. I can’t stand to see an animal shot (but I am mourning the last package of deer meat). My idea of camping must involve air conditioning and indoor plumbing. I love to fish as long as someone else baits my hook and takes the fish off. And, a broken nail is a call for emergency medical treatment.

There is a true battle that wages within me. There’s the part that battles to be a redneck, while my fierce princess alter-ego begs to be at the forefront.

But, I’m a single mom…

What does that have to do with anything, you might ask? I am a single mom of two boys. One of my boys is passionate about hunting and fishing; that farmer blood is obviously genetic. He carefully studies the hunting seasons, and he can tell you when opening day is for deer, turkey, and dove. If there is a season, he is ready to go! And, he loves to eat his wild game! One day, he came home from the neighbor’s house as I was finishing dinner. I asked him if he was ready to eat, and he informed me that he had already eaten squirrel with the neighbor. Squirrel is a rodent. Rodents are meant to be killed…but not eaten. You see my princess side coming out?

Anyway, my Cole is a passionate outdoorsman. Since dove season opened September 1, he has pointed out every single dove in the county. He can spot one a mile away! There is no father in the house to take him to do these outdoor activities. Normally, my dad, brother, sister, and brother-in-law are great about taking my boys out. But, this weekend they weren’t available…and Cole was desperate to go dove hunting.

Super single mom to the rescue!

If I were still married, I would have pushed it to the side and told his dad to go with him. However, that was not an option. So, I took up the challenge to take my boy hunting (with the supervision of the neighbor and his teenage son).

Saturday morning, I got up and showered and fixed my hair. I went to the nail salon because my nails were an absolute mess! (You should see them…hot pink with sparkles!) With freshly manicured hands and pedicured toes, I threw on my new camo shirt, my camo boots (with hot pink trim). I put my hair in a hot pink ponytail holder and carefully put my camo (with hot pink) hat on my head. Then, we loaded up the ammo and guns and made the two hour drive to the farm.

Redneck princess on the grounds!

We drove around the land looking for the perfect location. Between the boys and the neighbor, they decided on the old home place (where my dad and grandparents had lived). We stopped and began to pack the ammo in bags. With guns loaded and safety reminders stated, the two boys began the trek across the plowed ground. As the neighbor and I kept a careful eye on them, shots began to pierce the stillness of the evening. We could see the absolute joy and excitement in their faces as birds began to fall from the sky.

I didn’t hunt (although I carried my pistol in case I should encounter a rattler—I think I could handle killing a rattlesnake). But, I was there with my son. I had the joy of watching him drop his first dove. I had the joy of interacting with him in his favorite place. I had the joy of watching him grow from a young boy to a confident young man. I heard the excitement in his voice as he knew that he was killing his own food. Lets’ face it…men were created as conquerors, hunters, providers. He was conquering his prey and providing food for his family. He was on cloud 9!

While I have never been that interested in hunting, I am so thankful that I went—and I have determined to go hunting more. I’m not excited about sitting out in a deer stand when it is twenty degrees outside, patiently waiting for a deer to happen by. I’m not excited about shooting an animal as exquisite as the deer. But I am excited about entering my son’s world. I am excited about sharing with him in his passion. I am excited about stepping into his world, nurturing his passions, allowing that redneck blood to keep flowing to the next generation.

But you better believe that I’ll have my nails done first!

My position as single mom has placed me in a situation where I am far more willing to stretch myself, to try new things outside my comfort zone. It forces me to interact with my kids in activities that I have never cared about. Their passions are not the same as mine. But, I don’t want to make the mistake of allowing these days to pass me by without entering their worlds. I want to be the mom who steps in, actively participates, encourages and nurtures their pursuits.

I guess it’s now time to hit the basketball court with my oldest. Just hope I don’t break a nail…

To Reconcile…Or Not (Part 2)

As I said, I am going to attempt to dive a little deeper into this topic. I have written and rewritten this post multiple times in the last few days. To be honest, I’ve gone from downright angry to attempting to be firm yet gracious. I only hope that comes across in my words.

Since I began writing about my divorce, I have been repeatedly faced with criticisms about choosing divorce. I have been told that if I remarry, I will be living in adultery and therefore condemned to hell. I have been told that the only option is to stand in the gap for my now ex-husband as long as it takes until he repents. I have been told that because I made a covenant before God and man to this individual, it holds until death do we part—regardless of the circumstances surrounding our divorce.

I have several problems with this particular viewpoint, however.

  1. It heaps guilt and shame upon those of us who, for whatever reason, have experienced the hurt, pain, and shame of divorce. Always remember that Satan comes to shame, blame, and condemn; the Holy Spirit comes to lovingly convict and correct.
  2. This interpretation of scripture is only one view. Holding to this view and forcing it upon everyone is forcing man-made religion upon people and discounting the personal relationship that we are afforded with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.
  3. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. We win others into the Kingdom by the love we show, not be forcing a questionable and judgmental doctrine upon others.
  4. It is hard enough for us as divorced individuals to muster the courage to walk through the doors of a church alone; if we experience condemnation and shame, it is a sure way to get us to turn our backs on the one thing—Jesus Christ—who can heal us, put us back together, and use our painful circumstances for our good and his glory.

When I learned of my husband’s adultery, I offered forgiveness. However, that forgiveness was rejected as he continued in his hard-heartedness, continued in his relationship with the other woman. While I was fighting to keep my marriage together, he was choosing to live in unrepentant sexual immorality. I learned that it only takes one person to walk away from a marriage; however, it takes two people, fully committed to God and to working through issues, to keep a marriage together. In my case, I could not save my marriage alone.

It took me a year, many amazing Christian advisors and counselors, and many tears and agonizing prayers to walk away. When you enter marriage with a forever mindset… When you never thought or uttered the word divorce… When you gave your all to a marriage only to be rejected… When you never wanted anything more than to have a marriage that goes the distance… When you longed to be like your grandparents who were married for 72 years… There is no way to express how difficult it is to hear God whispering, “It’s ok to walk away.”

But, I did hear those words.

In that instant, I was free! In that instant, I knew that I had done everything I could do. In that instant, I knew that God had given me the freedom to walk away, that he had set me free from the covenant.

Over the years, I have struggled with guilt and shame. What if I had prayed more? What if I had stayed longer? What if I’d had more faith? The truth is, only God knows. My personal opinion is that God knew my husband was not going to repent and therefore he set me free. He came so that we might know the truth and the truth would set us free (John 8:32). He does not want us to live our lives in bondage, and I was in a place of bondage.

Now is where it gets sticky.

I believe with all my heart that God set me free from my marriage. If God set me free, no one has the right to tell me that I am bound to my husband until one of us dies. However, there is a mindset that would say divorce is never allowed for a Christian. But, it is only one interpretation of scripture.

There are black and white issues in scripture. Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Love God. Love others. Show mercy. Give generously. There are no exceptions to these commands.

Then there are gray areas, areas in which even the experts cannot reach complete agreement. It is completely clear that God’s perfect plan was one man and woman for life. However, he gave an exception in the case of sexual immorality. Paul gave an exception in the case of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Moses permitted a certificate of divorce. Was it ever God’s preferred, perfect will? Never! But, God recognizes that we live in a fallen world where hearts can become hardened toward him. Therefore, he gave exceptions.

Briefly, I am going to provide some reading material for you.

I found this article on Crosswalk.com, and it resonated so well with me!

This link was sent to me by a reader encouraging me to stand on the permanence of my marriage, purporting that I must remain faithful to my now ex-husband.

This article provides an overview of the different views of marriage and divorce and gives some examples of when divorce may be allowed.

Here’s an interesting article about God’s own divorce from the northern kingdom of Israel.

Another article from Crosswalk.com that discusses biblical reasons for divorce.

These articles represent some vastly different views on marriage and divorce as it relates to the Christian. But, let me start by pointing out one similarity: Each article is written by a student of scripture, one who has studied deeply and has a much greater understanding than I do. And therein lies my biggest issue: Even the scholars cannot agree on the interpretation of scripture on this subject. Any time there is a gray area in scripture, I believe God would call us to extend a significant amount of grace and mercy rather than cast judgment and try to force others to accept our interpretation of scripture.

While we all agree that God’s perfect design was for a lifetime commitment, we live in a fallen world. Unfortunately, sin abounds. Many of us did not want our divorce, but we were not given an option in the situation. Our spouses abandoned us—some physically, some emotionally. We might have been victims of abuse (it doesn’t have to be physical abuse). Some were married to non-Christians who chose to walk away (the Bible addresses that one, too).

If you come to me and say, “I believe God is calling me to stand in the gap in prayer for my now ex-husband,” I am going to rejoice with you! I will stand beside you and encourage you every step of the way. I will be on my knees in prayer for you, your spouse each and every day. I will offer you every word of encouragement that I possibly can.

However, if you come to me and tell me that I need to be standing in the gap for my ex-husband, praying for reconciliation, I will call Pharisee. To try to take one interpretation of scripture and put it on me discounts my walk with Christ, all of the time I have spent on my knees in prayer seeking him. It discounts everything that he has spoken directly to my soul through scripture, through his people, through my own relationship with him. It sets me back in my walk, in my journey, as I have struggled through overcoming the guilt and condemnation already heaped upon me by the Accuser of the Brethren and by fellow Christians.

To insist that there is only one right interpretation of these scriptures—whether it is praying for reconciliation or the divorce is allowed interpretation—is the height of pride and arrogance. It reeks of Pharisaism. You see, the Pharisees were known for taking the scriptures, putting their interpretation on them, and holding everyone to their man-made rules for following scripture. They put themselves in the place of God—judging everyone by their outward actions, their adherence to their interpretation of scripture. While they were looking at outward appearance, only God has the right or the ability to look within and judge our hearts.

Let’s go just a step further. What did Jesus have to say about the religious leaders who stood in judgment over the people? He said they were like white-washed sepulchers, clean on the outside but dead on the inside. “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8). People who try to hold you to a specific interpretation of scripture in a gray area are clinging to a man-made tradition rather than to God.

And yet, how did Jesus respond to sinners? To the woman caught in adultery, he refused to condemn her. Instead, in his grace and mercy, he set her free and told her to go and sin no more (John 8). His best friends were the sinners and tax collectors—the lowest of the low. He spent his time with the outcasts, the downtrodden. It was the prostitutes who lavished him with love because they understood the depth of his forgiveness. It was the sick who flocked to him, knowing they needed his healing. It was the dead that he raised back to new life.

What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? To love God and to love your neighbor (Matthew 22. And, BTW, this statement was in response to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him.)

How about the Old Testament? What about the scripture that says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God“ (Micah 6:8).

So…what is the answer?

  1. Love God with all your heart. If you are doing your best to walk closely to Him, the Holy Spirit will guide you on the path he has for you. No one can determine that path in the gray areas except you in communion with the Spirit. Perhaps he will lead you to stand in the gap for your wayward spouse/ex-spouse. If so, stand strong in faith! Perhaps, however, he will set you free as he did for me. Hold your head high, knowing that you are approved by God even when others try to convince you that their way is right.
  2. Love your neighbor. There will be those who continue to try to turn you to a particular interpretation of scripture. While you should be strong, you can do so with love and not condemnation. I have been the object of insults because I disagreed with the stance others took. I try to never stoop to the level of hurling insults. I always try to take the high road. But, this road sometimes means a firm, strong stand (as I said, I have been accused of pride and anger).
  3. Always, always, always err on the side of grace and mercy. I have been in a church service when the pastor referred to “divorced people.” I felt myself horrified and humiliated. I remember thinking—even saying—that if my faith had not been so strong, if I had been someone going through divorce looking for love and acceptance and help, I would have never, never, never stepped back into a church building. We as Christians tend to be known more for what we are against than being known for our love. We are guilty of keeping others away from Christ by our religious talk and our judgmental attitudes. I don’t want to be guilty of scaring others away. Jesus said others will know we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:34-35). I want my love for others to draw people to Christ.
  4. Never let anyone heap guilt and condemnation upon you. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He comes to steal your peace. He comes to throw guilt and condemnation upon you. He wants you to suffer, to think that you will never be able to be used for God’s kingdom again because of your divorce (or whatever is in your past). However, the Holy Spirit never condemns, never throws guilt at you. The Holy Spirit comes to convict, to show you the error of your ways, to draw you back to himself. If you are suffering guilt and condemnation, it is not from God. If you are walking with him, doing your best to live in obedience, your sins have been thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

While I am not angry with anyone who tries to convince me that I must cling to the hope of reconciliation, I refuse to accept that there is anyone who can say with 100% certainty that he/she has the correct interpretation of these scripture. I have made the decision that I have the Holy Spirit living within me. He is here to direct me, to guide me, to lead me into all truth. I stand today knowing that he has led me to this place where I am free from my ex-husband. Why this path is the one he chose, I may never fully understand. But, I know I stand redeemed in the eyes of my Savior.

And, I live for an audience of The One. His opinion of me is the only one that matters.

Just a few quick thoughts…

Hi, Friends!

I usually post mid-week. However, my plans have changed this week. Let me give you a quick update on what’s going on around here in Oklahoma.

First, if you have emailed me or commented on a post, please be patient! Let me assure you that I have read each comment and email, I have cried with you, I have prayed over you. And, I will respond as soon as I can. Between particularly busy work weeks, three kids with orthodontic/post-op/strep throat appointments, and an unusually high volume of emails and comments, I am simply running way behind. You all are precious to me! The way you open your hearts to me, pour out your hurts and concerns, ask for my opinion… I am absolutely blown away. My heart breaks for you, it rejoices with you. I long to be able to sit with each of you, wrap my arms around you as you weep over broken hearts and broken relationships. I rejoice with those who have found their way back to peace, to those who have the joy of seeing God’s redeeming power. My heart is full…

Second, here is a link to my most recent article at Crosswalk. It has obviously struck a chord with many. I hope that you can see how God chooses us for trials because of the work he has for us, because of the perfecting of our faith that he wants to accomplish in us. I will never forget the day I came to understand that I was chosen for this assignment. Somehow, it completely changed my mindset and put me on the road toward healing. While God doesn’t want any of us to experience the pain and hurt of divorce, he does allow it…and he allows it so that we can be changed into his image.

Finally, as I said, I have received an overwhelming number of emails/comments about my recent post on “To Reconcile…Or Not.” While most have been overwhelmingly positive… While I have had so many people tell me how much comfort they found in my words…. While many have told me that they are at peace in their circumstances for the first time in many years… I have also had my share of stones hurled at me. It is often covered in love and concern for me, but it is a judgmental and critical spirit that holds to one specific interpretation of difficult scriptures. I would really like to take some time to dive more deeply into this topic. I have been accused of being blinded by pride and anger. While I know I am not perfect by any means, while I know that pride is something I must fight, I will stand and firmly defend myself from these attacks because I know the battle I have fought to overcome guilt and condemnation. It’s a fierce battle that is not easily won, and I refuse to let anyone steal my peace, joy, and hope.

Anger? I initially said no, I’m not angry. But, to be honest, I am. I have a fierce and righteous anger welling up inside of me. It is burning deep within as I am faced with critical spirits and judgmental attitudes. I am angry that my fellow Christians who have suffered unbelievable hurt and pain at the hands of a spouse would also face more hurt and pain at the hands of Christians. Granted, these individuals mean well. But, we must always be careful when we believe that our way is the only right way.

With that said, I would like to take some time to put together another post on some of the interpretations of scriptures dealing with divorce. However, it will take me some time (hopefully not more than a couple of days…if no more children drop to strep throat…). I will give you one quick hint: where there is a gray area in scripture (and there are multiple interpretations of these passages), I will always err on the side of grace and mercy and love.

Until I can get back with you, be blessed. Know that someone cares. Know that you are in my prayers. Know that just as God promises to be close to the broken-hearted, I am close to you in my spirit.