Pops Talks Grace

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For those of you who had been following this blog and perhaps were wondering what has transpired over the past several months, here’s an update.

I was served with divorce papers and had 30 days to file an “Answer” with the Court.  There is an interwoven story that I will not attempt to share at this writing, for sake of brevity.  I traveled to the county where the papers were filed, to submit my legal response to my wife’s petition of dissolution.  After many sleepless hours, I realized I could not, would not file an Answer.  I emailed my reasoning to Beth, telling her I still love her, do not want a divorce and would not be appearing in court.  I let her know I am aware that my actions mean that she will get what she is asking for by default.

The main thing I want to share here is what I have learned, in part through this ordeal.  Three months ago I read an excellent book, “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince.  Prior to reading this book, I was still laboring under an oppressive mix of The Old Covenant and The New Covenant.   Read the book to find out what that means, you won’t regret it!

I have, by the grace of God been clean and sober for 19 ½ years.  It took me 19 ¼ years to come to a better understanding and peace with God.  I attend 5 meetings a week and correspond heavily online.  I say this to convey that what I am finding are people who have been wounded in their lives by religious minded believers.  I listen to atheists, agnostics, self-righteous Christians, those who are angry at God and those who feel God is angry with them.  In the past several days my discussions with atheists and agnostics has worn me out.  I feel surly and scattered in my thinking from hearing their reasoning.

I have been doing a programmed Bible reading plan since the beginning of the year.  It has readings from the Old and New Testaments daily.  I regain my equilibrium through these readings and through the prayers, love and fellowship with mature Christians.

I do not, cannot blame Beth for her actions.  I can see where there are faulty conclusions and misunderstandings that have had a terrible outcome.  Beth thought I had expectations of her that really were her way of seeing me and not what I actually thought.  I have had uncharitable and wrong minded thoughts towards her that do not line up with the message of grace that is at the heart of the Good News.  I am just now aware of the wrong I committed due to this lack of grace.  This all sounds complicated because it is and that in itself is contrary to the message of grace!  The Good News is so simple and grace so effortless, it is amazing.

Beth held that many Christians (and for good reason), judged fellow believers and held those judged in contempt.  Beth vocalized an understanding of the love of God being greater than all our sin and greater than the love shown by other Christians.  This ties in with the people I hear talk of the rejection and judgments they feel from Christians and the failure of Christians to walk in love as Jesus commands believers to do.  What I, Beth and others have chosen to do with this travesty is where the rub is.

At some point, believers reject God totally, in part because of the “hypocrisy” or lack of love from Christians.  Some think there are enlightened Christians who know the damage self-righteous Christians do to their own and condemn those self-righteous Christians.  These so called enlightened ones are lacking in the truth of the message of grace also, fomenting division, hatred and superiority.

I have and probably will sin again in the area of self-righteousness.  I have a heightened sense of the grace message, because I need it so much.  The love of God that is shed abroad in the believer’s heart is how and why we can love the seemingly un-loveable.   The grace of God and His forgiveness of our sins is what allows us to forgive others their sins against us.  God making us the righteousness (right standing) of God through Jesus is what allows us to go directly to Him and not be ashamed.

I sincerely love Beth with all my heart and more importantly, with the love God has placed in my heart towards her.  The tragedy here is she believes that I do not know what love is and that I am like the believers who act as Pharisees and “don’t get it”.  The fact is, Beth is not acting out of love towards me, or with the love God has for me, nor forgiving me and recognizing “there is now therefore, no condemnation to those who love the Lord”.  You cannot reject, eject and disrespect a spouse or anyone and claim you have a superior or correct knowledge of what God’s love is.  We are to love as God loves us and rejoice that our sins and other’s sins are forgiven, erased even.  The beauty of this is that God gives us the ability to do and be all that we should be!  Grace requires nothing but belief, accepting what God says is true and receiving what He has done for us.

I am okay.  I am glad for God’s love and the love of many towards me.  It is sad and a terrible witness to have Beth’s and my marriage end.  It is not an end for me or her individually, we continue like all God’s children, to be His workmanship and all we need to do is let God be God and thank Him for all He does for us all.

The irony in this is the rejection, the judgment, the discarding what God has redeemed and Beth believing she is right in doing what she is doing.  I would rather have the end of the marriage than to be in a marriage with someone like myself, who has been blind to what grace truly is.  If we are going to rail against the “hypocrites”, shouldn’t we quit acting like them?

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Day 28 Love Makes Sacrifices

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I would like to hear from someone who is working The Love Dare while they are actively married or in a committed relationship.  I would like to hear how they feel when they come across all the areas they need to improve on.  I don’t think that the people who have successful marriages would use this book or would be failing in so many areas.  I for one, feel terrible that I have failed so miserably on so many levels.

I received a timely message from someone I respect a great deal.  Their life journey is familiar to me, their hardships, their beliefs and pain.  What I really want to be able to share is their victory.  I am reminded to let go completely, that my best efforts got me where I am.  God wants to carry the load; He is the source of all solution, comfort and love.  It’s hard for me to admit, “It’s over”, period!  I am to clean my house and “get out of the basement” of my dysfunctional thoughts.  This person found “True Love” and is enjoying the life God promises to His followers.  I am very happy for them; it does the heart good to hear of God’s healing and restoration!

We are by nature and maturity level, selfish and self-centered, at least I am.  The less emotionally mature we are the more we are like the kid who doesn’t get his way and let’s everyone know how unhappy he is.  We are the first to think how hard life is, how difficult we have it and usually the last to know when those closest to us are having difficulty.  When my wife complained, I knew something was wrong but I usually categorized it as “her way of seeing things”.  Whatever, how lazy is that?  I wanted her to know when I was having it tough, and when she wouldn’t respond, I’d feel sorry for myself.

Some self-help or support groups caution against being too “other” oriented.  I really think that is impossible, given the basic self-interest that is ingrained in all of us.  The most selfless person ever to walk the earth was Jesus.  His example is to be a model for our life.  We are to sacrifice our life for others, put them first, especially our spouse.  He taught us that the evidence of love is found in seeing a need in others, then doing all we can to satisfy it.

What is amazing is the following statements Jesus made to His disciples, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me”  Matthew 25:35-36  The disciples were confused by these statements and Jesus explained that when you did these thing to the least of these, my brothers, you did them to Me.  Still applies today, The Love Dare uses these examples of needs and applies them to marriage.  See page 137 for the examples.

What amazes me about this whole process is the simplicity of it, but it requires the stripping of our pride and egos and making way for God in our hearts.  It is His love that is put in our hearts for others; it is His grace that gives us the strength to do His will.  His will is to love others as He loves us and to tell them the Good News, that God has made it possible to be right with Him and enjoy eternal life and happiness.  He paid the price; all we have to do is accept what He has provided for us.  It is all God given, God driven, God forgiven, and we just need to get out of our own way to have abundant life!

I have reviewed the notes from my two other times through this book.  What is I see is that I have gained insight into my “stuff”.  I’m embarrassed by my own notes; sometimes, they are filled with pride and false conclusions and plain BS.  I would greatly rejoice, if someday I went through this book and was able to proclaim, “Yes, I’m doing this, yes I did that and yes it is great!”

 

 

 

Day 24 Love vs. Lust

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I like to think about Adam and Eve.  Here we have the perfect man and the perfect woman, made from Gods’ own hands.  No sin, no pain, no hardships and they walked and fellowshipped with God in the cool of the day, in the perfect place!  But this was not good enough for them!

It is said, that Lucifer was actually one of Gods’ most beautiful creations, until pride and wanting Gods’ job got him and his followers kicked out of heaven.  He can disguise himself as an angel of light and it is this beguiling creature that deceived Eve.  She saw the fruit was good, Satan got her heart involved and she acted on her desire for the forbidden fruit.  Adam came along and not wanting to lose his wife, he chose her over God.  To me it is Adams fault that mankind fell from Gods’ grace and sin entered the world.

From the eyes, to the heart, to action is the fulfillment of lust.  Most think of lust as having to do with sex, but it includes things, power and renown.  Being an addictive personality, I have struggled with sexual addiction.  This area of my personality defects is the hardest for me to own up to.  As I have aged, sexual addiction has not been the problem it was as I was growing up.

I am alone now and I look at women and have had occasion to lust, but mostly it is because I am lonely and miss the comfort of being married (see, that is a lie I’ve told myself, I lust because I sin)! My mind, when I am in my more lucid states, quickly dismisses my lusting after another woman.  Like any problem areas, if I drank or used drugs I would multiply my problems tenfold.  My first marriage was dealt a severe blow when I in my drunken mind set, stated I needed another woman.  I pursued another woman and found a woman willing to partake in a relationship with me, knowing I was married.  This makes me a recovering adulterer.

When I discovered pornography on the internet, I spent too much time exploring it.  How much is too much time?  For me, any time at all.  It was disturbing to see a beautiful act objectified and looking not much different than barnyard scenes.  It affected how I viewed women and most damaging, how I viewed my wife.

I have known my wife for 17 plus years.  Part of what enables me to quickly address my lust is my desire for my wife.  I had no idea that I would grow to appreciate what we have shared together more and more, as the years went on.  As an added bonus, when I started looking at the principles in the Love Dare book, that intimacy grew.

This subject matter is very embarrassing for me and I have had great shame over this part of my life.  I know there are men and women who have struggled in this area, and though we have asked and received forgiveness, we continue to live in shame from our past violations in the sex realm.  I witnessed a young woman get up in front of her family, peers, and a room full of strangers and admit to sexual promiscuity and prostitution to pay for drugs.  She grew up in “a good” home of Christians and went to church for much of her life.  She was on the mission field when she started her decline.  When she sang with the choir, she smiled constantly and she seemed so sweet, then she testified of what got her in to the program she is currently in.  That program is Minnesota Teen Challenge

“Lust is in opposition to love, it means to set your heart and passions on something forbidden.  And for a believer it is the first step out of fellowship with the Lord and with others…  Lust always breeds more lust…Lust will make you dissatisfied with your husband or wife.  It breeds anger, numbs hearts, and destroys marriages.  Rather than fullness, it leads to emptiness.”   It’s time to expose lust for what it really is—-a misguided thirst for satisfaction that only God can fulfill….When your eyes and heart are on Him, your actions will lead you to lasting joy, not endless cycles of regret and condemnation.”  From The Love Dare

Today’s Dare instructs us to END IT NOW.  Identify every object of lust in our life and remove it.  And replace it with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with His perfect love.

Although I am separated from my wife, this book has been very helpful exposing the lies I have told myself and I have learned much.  I know I love my wife and I know without a doubt it is her I desire and am lonely for.  I pray for restoration and healing, not just for my marriage but yours also.  If you are not married I pray for your success in relationships and that you would experience all God has in store for you.  If you suffer from addictions, you are not alone there are many people out here to help.

Day 23 Love Always Protects

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I remember what I thought marriage would be like.  I knew I did not want it to be like the marriage my mother had with my step-dad.  Their marriage like our home, was a battleground.  Violence was the norm along with frustration and an overwhelming sense of anxiety.

I carried on in the downward spiral of this environment to my first bottoming out experiences, when I was 24.  By that time I was married, had a daughter, graduated from college and still lived and felt like I was going to hell.  I was six feet away from walking in front of a tractor-trailer on US A1A in the Florida Keys.  Instead I cried out to a God I had tried not to believe in, that I was done fighting Him, I quit rebelling.

An immediate peace came over me and lifted me up.  I continued to get higher and higher, pure euphoria, the illusive state that drug users seek.  I had previous spiritual awakenings that were short-lived.  As soon as I got back to my old gang, the old life was close behind.  This time I kept on this upward surge and was so high on what Jesus did for me that I wanted to share this wonderful gift with everyone back home.

ALL my family and friends were blown away.  My then wife wanted to leave me.  She was in California with my daughter and her folks, and after talking to me and our friends, determined that I went totally nuts and she didn’t want anything to do with me, or it.  I told her that if she wanted the old Stan back, then she should leave.  I knew if I continued to live the way I was I would be dead and I felt alive for the first time in my life.

She stayed around for 13 more years.  I decided 2 years before the end of my first marriage, that I wanted to go back to using drugs and alcohol.  Now I was nuts!  All the good we built up, the growth of our family, two more children, the spiritual growth, new friends, respectability, and financial success was wiped out in that short period of time.  My wife could not, would not compete with my live-in mistress, alcohol and my insanity.

She divorced me.  I hit my second all-time bottom and crawled to recovery.  No miraculous interventions, no grand deliverance this time around, just raw, excruciating pain and years of slow recovery while feeling like an outcast from the church.  Two years into my recovery I met my current wife.

I couldn’t for the longest time recognize my deliverance in such a confusing relationship.  I was too slow to grasp that my preconceived notions of what my next wife would be like were way off.   She is younger than me, she’s smarter than me, she had 3 children, she is an extrovert and has way more energy than me.  I let stupid jealousies plague my thinking and was not as gracious with her past as she was with mine.  I believe now, God put us together for healing and to bless us with the goodness of His mercy and love.

I am not lost to the irony that my first marriage ended due to craziness from “wet” drinking and now my second marriage may be over, due to the craziness of the “dry” drunk.  Crazy thinking is crazy thinking, doesn’t matter how it comes around.  Enter bottom number three, (I have grieved the loss of loved ones, but these bottoms are worse because they are self-inflicted).

I did not protect my own thinking, my spirituality, my physical and mental health.  Do you think I protected my wife, our marriage, of course not.  This chapter in the Love Dare book talks about the things we need to protect our marriage from, and is a start.  If you have addictions, get into a program.  If you don’t know how harmful some relationships are to your marriage, get your pastors or counselors perspective.  Too often we want to hang on to harmful influences because they make us feel good or flatter our egos.

Be proactive, guard against “stinking thinking”, take care of your total self, and then take care of your spouse.  Protect the gift God has given you and enjoy a marriage as it should be.

Day 22 Love is Faithful

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I am not Hosea and my wife is not a prostitute.

In the Old Testament there is a book called Hosea.  Hosea was told by God to marry a prostitute. He obeyed God.  Hosea and his wife had 3 children together.  It was just a matter of time that his wife wanted back in her old lifestyle.  Hosea was heart broken and shamed through this abandonment.  More time passed and God told Hosea to find his wife and reconcile their marriage.  By this time his wife had reached the bottom and had to be purchased of the slave block.

The lesson that we are to learn from this is how great God’s love is for us.  There are references all over  the Bible about how the children of Israel “went whoring after other Gods.”  We are to realize that we too have turned our backs on God, rejecting His love, yet He waits for our return. The time away from God and refusing his love always ends up with us paying a price for our unfaithfulness, while we are pursuing our lusts. How long does it take for you to recover from knowing you have disappointed God?

A man shared in an AA meeting how ashamed he was that he had a “slip”.  He got drunk a few times after being sober for 10 years and it took him 2 years to get over the shame.  Alcohol is the seductress that many of us are confronted with.  He told of how he went to a “Round Up” which is a very large meeting and they had everyone stand.  The longest to the shortest time of sobriety was called out and people sat when they heard their time.  He said he knew people there and they knew how long he had been sober.  Then his time passed, people stared at him and after quite some time, they called out 1 day, and he was able to sit.  To me that exercise is very shaming, I guess they had something else in mind.

My wife and I both know that if we were to have sexual relationships with someone else, that our relationship would be irreparably damaged. This time of separation is really a dangerous time, there are temptations everywhere and a seemingly sliding scale of morality heightens the danger.  There are those who give really bad advice.  Like, “you have your needs, get them met, but make sure she knows that is all you’re doing.  My AA sponsor says, “you have to keep from thinking about your wife, consider it over, but don’t get involved with another woman”.

Gods example for rejected love is to remain faithful.  I will know when the time is here to move on, but for now I will remain faithful and continue to work on the areas of my life that need work.

The Love Dare book speaks briefly about how our marriages can be a battlefield and our spouse become our enemy.  Jesus says we are to love our enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.  We are to be known by our love, people should know we are disciples of Christ by our love for one another.  What is great about this is we are to simply release the love God has placed in our heart.

This book is not the answer to every difficulty there is in relationships.  If we can learn to love and act the way outlined in this book, it would be great.  Some of us have addictions that need to be dealt with on a daily basis, some of us need to get our attention back to where it belongs. We need to stop listening to people who are anti-marriage, anti-reconciliation, those whose first word of advice is to divorce the blankety blank!


Day 21 Love is Satisfied in God

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This chapter in the Love Dare opens with stating how important it is to accept Jesus, not just to gain right standing with God, but as the driving force in all our relationships.  “You may have realized that nothing in your toolbox of talents and resources could repair the damage that sin leaves, and that Jesus is the only one that can supply what you have been missing”.  I admit That I need God every single day. He alone can satisfy when all else fails.

My mindset going into the reading was such (if you have been following this post you already know that I am separated from my wife), that even though I recognized as truth that my focus and priority should be on God. I felt like the authors were saying, “things are not going to change in your marriage, so put your focus on your relationship with God”.  Of course they are not saying there will be no change, and it is true, God will never disappoint.

Couples disappoint each other all the time.  We place unrealistic expectations on each other, forgetting that we are after all only human.  We make mistakes that have painful consequences.  God on the other hand knows everything we have done.   Every disappointment or wrong we inflict on our loved ones is an affront to God also.

He knows all I’ve done, all I’ll ever do and He promises that if I ask forgiveness, He is faithful and just to forgive my sins.  Furthermore, He promises to put the sins out of mind, His mind, to remember them no more, as far as east is from west!  Can you say the same, I can’t, but how much better would our relationships be if we could do this.

If we continue to hold our view of our mate through the lens of hurts and disappointments, there is no hope for healing or for building on the good and leaving the ugly behind.  I think that is why it is so important to see ourselves as God sees us.  He died for my sins, my wife’s sins, your sins.   We are washed clean and have right standing with Him, if we accept this forgiveness.   I will never stop disappointing, nor will anyone else.  Will we be able to forgive and celebrate what God has given us or will we hold on to our hurts and undo all we have had together?

When God made Adam he saw that Adam was lonely.  Adam walked with God in paradise, the splendor of an earth that we only get a glimpse of, yet he was lonely.  God said, “It is not good for man to be alone”, so he made woman to complete what we need.  Adam chose to follow Eve rather than keeping his focus on God, we know what happened.  I wonder if Adam had kept his focus on God, would Eve’s being deceived by Satan been forgiven?

I know the pain I feel will go away, I’ve grieved loss before.  I know that whatever happens in my marriage, God is with me.  I know should this marriage end, life will go on.  I know that by admitting my weakness and need for God, that He gives me His strength.  I just need to relax in these facts.  I am so glad that God does not see me as others see me and how I have viewed my own flaws.  He sees a work in progress, I need to cooperate with His work.

I see that marriage is a gift.  It is a compliment to my life, not its completion.  It is not up to my wife or anyone else to keep me happy, satisfied or entertained.  My place in a marriage first and foremost is to love my wife with the love that God would give her through me.  The lesson today was, no matter where your spouse is in loving you or if they want what you have to give, the main thing is God loves us, God accepts us and He knows it is not good for us to be alone.  I am open and ready to receive what God has in store for me, I am looking forward to it!

What is the Love Dare?

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I feel like I have misrepresented “The Love Dare”.  The book is an excellent journey of 40 days/dares to enrich your marriage.  It presumes being able to speak to your spouse and to directly exercise the “dares”. What you will read in this journey of mine through the book, is a different approach.

This is my third time through the book and at the close of this year I will have spent 1/3 of it going through this book.  As I go through each day, I’ve entered my experience with the dare in the space provided at the end of the chapter.  Now I have a notebook to record my progress or challenge at the end of each day and of also what I share in this blog.

I am frustrated that I cannot directly apply the dares, sometimes to the point of just giving up.  I am honoring my wifes wishes that I do not contact her in any manner.  It is quite possible that I will not get the chance to demonstrate the work God has done, is doing in my life right now, to her.  But I am still motivated to deal with the problems in my life that resulted in the breakdown of my marriage.  So what you may see in some of my posts is more in the form of  “a fearless and honest moral inventory” (Step 4 AA).

The dares in the book are really quite simple.  From, “don’t say anything negative to your spouse today and greet your spouse with a smile and don’t say anything negative to her today.”  Some require work like writing lists of all the positive things you love about your spouse and a separate list of the things you don’t like about your spouse.  I encourage you with all the serious I can muster, to be totally honest and pray that God would give you insight into the matters of your heart and the muddled mess of your perceptions (in case you’re like me).

From the back cover of  “The Love Dare”:

Unconditional Love is eagerly promised at weddings, but rarely practiced in real life.  As a result, romantic hopes are often replaced with disappointment in the home.  But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

The Love Dare is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love.  Whether your marriage is hanging by a thread or healthy and strong, The Love Dare is a journey you need to take.  It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS.

1 Corinthians 13: 7-8

Please buy a copy of this book and work it.  There is a movie that features The Love Dare, it’s called “Fireproof Your Marriage”.

Feel free to share your experience in the reply section of the posts or email me if it is something you’d rather not have made public @ sbedgewater@gmail.com

Thank you to all who read my blog and God bless you richly!

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