A New Voice, A Different Path

Several years ago the enemy viciously attacked our family for the second time. Our son-in-law chose to divorce our daughter after 17 years of marriage. Even though she did not want the divorce and believed they could work on the marriage together, the no-fault divorce laws of our state sided with his desires, not hers.

When someone we love goes through the pain of divorce, every cell of our being wants to help take away the pain. And for Cristine’s it was doubly painful. Not only did she bear the personal trauma and pain of divorce, but as part of a family that stands so strongly for covenant, she also felt shame and failure. In the midst of abandonment and betrayal, she was also grieving her sense of “letting us down.” I remember tearful conversations we had together – both of us admitting to feelings of failure. For her it was the divorce and for us it was the inability to help save a marriage so close to our hearts. The enemy laughed in our faces a good deal during those days.

We wrestled through many conversations and confrontations in those hours – each one of us hurting in a different way and trying hard to understand the other’s hurt. Eventually together we reached a place of surrender to the Lord. For her the journey of healing was beginning and for me it was the realization that this was her life and journey and not mine. Our role was to support her in love and prayer as she walked her own path.

I have always been a fighter, especially when it comes to the enemy’s attacks in our lives. It was hard for me to realize this was not my battle. Everything in me wanted to fight it. I wanted to put the sword in Cristine’s hand and teach her how to wield it. But her journey was not mine. Instead of fighting, she surrendered – surrendered her pain to the Lord’s healing, surrendered her brokenness to His strength, surrendered her hurt to His forgiveness, and surrendered her marriage to the past.

Gradually, step by step, we began to see healing return to her life. It almost seemed to me like feeling returning to a limb that has “gone to sleep.” Life trickled in at first and then began to pulsate within her. The sparkle returned to her eyes and determination set back into her jaw. Joy and laughter that had been gone for so long came easily again. And yet she was not what she used to be. Something had happened on her journey and she was changed in a most beautiful way. She was now soft clay on the Potter’s wheel.

I share all this to say that God is now leading Cristine to share her journey with others. The enemy’s attack on marriage and family has left so many wounded and even crippled on the battlefield. I believe Cristine has been called to help heal a mighty army of wounded warriors who will emerge in the strength and power of the Lord. I can see where my zeal to fight has often been too much for those wounded in the battle for the home. Cristine’s gentle love and compassion speaks to broken hearts in such a powerful way. I know what is flowing from her heart will bless you.

I recommend to you Cristine’s journey that is now being shared in her blog:  https://extraordinaryexchange.blog/

 

What is faith?

When our son-in-law filed for divorce, our grandson asked me one day, “Grandma, do you know we are getting a divorce?” The words tore at my heart. Even at his young age he recognized that divorce is not just about two people. Then he added, “But we don’t know if it’s permanent or not.”

I latched onto those words and began sharing with him about standing in faith. That day we began believing together for his folk’s marriage and for their family.

People told me it was not wise to pray with him that way because if they didn’t get back together, he would lose all faith in God. Some even said it was dangerous to encourage him to believe that way.

I thought a lot about that and I have to admit I drew back for a while because of their words. Then one day when I was with him again, the Lord prompted me to share with him that I was still praying and believing.

When a young child is surrounded by adults who consistently tell him the divorce was, at the very least, a good thing and, from my point of view, at the very worst God’s will, it is hard for him to believe that God even wants to do anything about it.

A few days ago in my quiet time with the Lord I was asking if I should continue talking and praying with him. I certainly didn’t want to discourage him or help him think that God didn’t want to move in the situation. On the other hand, I didn’t want to let go of the faith connection the two of us have shared.

As an answer to my questions, the Lord led me to Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. As I read through the verses, two in particular stood out to me.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise…

After all these years of believing I understood faith, I suddenly realized something new. Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The only way the will of God can come to earth is through those who know Him to speak in agreement with His will. 

Usually we see faith as producing something in our own life and often that is true. But I suddenly realized that faith is much bigger than that. It is simply agreeing with God’s will in every situation, whether we see the result or not. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I believed and prayed and nothing happened so I gave up.”

What does giving up mean? It means agreeing with the enemy’s will for the situation because agreeing with God’s will didn’t produce the anticipated results. It means saying it doesn’t matter what God says about it. So, in essence, people are saying, “If I don’t see it, then my faith is in vain.”

As I thought of faith as agreeing with God’s will, immediately another scripture sprang to mind.  Without faith it is impossible to please God. Why is that? Perhaps because if we are not agreeing with God’s will, we are agreeing against it.

So faith is simply agreeing with God’s will and not wavering no matter what. Circumstances do not change God’s will. Time passing does not change God’s will. People’s opinions do not change God’s will. Emotions do not change God’s will.

Jesus said it best in the Garden of Gethsemane, “…not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Crossroads

It is interesting what happens as one grows older. I’m not talking about hair growing out of your ears or that funny creaking sound your knees make when you climb stairs. I’m referring to something a bit more philosophical. In fact, getting more philosophical is one of the things that happen as one grows older.

Aging gives a perspective that just isn’t possible from the vantage point of lesser years. Patterns in lives begin to emerge, consequences of lifestyles become more apparent, and what really matters comes into greater focus. If somewhere in my future there is a quiet moment in a rocking chair, I will take time to ponder all of this. In the meantime, though, amidst the hustle of life that seems to increase day-by-day, I simply take a few moments now and then to reflect on these things.

I think back forty years to the voices telling me I was foolish to waste my time believing for my husband and our marriage. They said I was young and had my whole life ahead of me. Move on, they said.  It is taking too long and you’ve seen no change. At the time, from my young vantage point, their words made me wonder if indeed my life would just drift away as I waited. I found myself at a crossroads and I could have taken either path; giving up or standing strong.

Now, forty years later, I see how misguided their counsel was. Years of standing turned into years of healing and then into years of life-producing ministry together as husband and wife. It was not a quick process. Over the years our broken family, our wounded children turned into a powerful legacy of strong Christian parents and Godly grandchildren.  It takes time for God to build a lasting work.

What I learned as I stood has never left my heart. It was not just about our marriage. There were thousands and thousands of couples around the world that God wanted to reach with His truth. That crossroads was not just about me, not just about us. It was a choice that determined what would happen to lives far beyond my comprehension.

I’ve watched others through the years making choices based on what was good for the moment. I’ve watched others make choices that required a life-time of sacrifice. And through it all I am beginning to see that character is what matters in the end. Quick answers and easy solutions never bring lasting character development. Character is formed when we allow God to excavate the depths of our heart. I’ve begun to believe that circumstances are simply what God uses to get to those depths if we let Him. To us, circumstances are the main focus. To Him, I believe, they are simply the magnifying glass that reveals what is in our heart.

Through the years, those that I’ve watched make choices to get out of circumstances have had to make those same choices again and again. Saving oneself seems to never reach the depth of character development God is seeking. Saving oneself usually involves blaming someone else.

The people I have observed making decisions that allow God to search the depths of their heart, are the people I see emerging as gold from the refiner’s fire. It is hard today to find people with depth of character, people who have made decisions that didn’t necessarily benefit themselves at the time, but served a greater good.  When you meet them you know they have been with God.

So if today you are at that same crossroads where I found myself so many years ago, think ahead forty years, if you can, and picture what your decision is going to produce. Can you give God time to work deeply within your heart? No matter what someone else has said or done, no matter how dark the circumstances, can you let God focus on you right now? Can you get gut-level honest with God and totally transparent before Him? Because, you see, this is not about your marriage. It is about your character. Whatever the future may hold, who you are will always be in the center of it for you. Which road will you take?

Has God Really Said?

In the Garden of Eden the enemy got his foot in the door by asking the woman, “Has God really said…?” That question put enough doubt in her mind to allow him to chip away even more at truth. Eventually he convinced her that God was lying to them. Slyly he made truth the lie and the lie truth. And just as slyly, he convinced her the lie was what she believed. Because she didn’t stand strong on what God had said, she eventually agreed with the enemy.

Through the centuries his tactics have not changed. Because our focus is marriage, we see the Church consistently falling into his trap in this area. Just ask any average Christian about divorce and remarriage and you will hear what he or she believes. Very seldom will you hear what God says.

The enemy has asked the Church over and over again, “Has God really said…?” until few today know what He really has said. On so many topics Christians know what they believe. They state their beliefs with great conviction and object to those who challenge them. They quote others who believe the same as they do as if sheer numbers confirm the truth of their words.

Now the enemy has escalated his battle to a higher level. He not only has encouraged many to believe what they feel is truth, but has now convinced them that it is hate speech to not agree with what they believe. What they believe is truth and anyone who challenges their truth has to be unloving and hateful. Their truth is their only absolute and is only subject to change as they “expand” their interpretation of it.

Since the beginning, though, God has said and His words still stand. They are not altered for convenience or by trends or cultural bias. His word does not change when it seems too difficult to obey. He does not modify what He has said when society relaxes its standards. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Hebrews 13:8] He is the Word made flesh. His love for us took Him to the cross to atone for our sins, but never once allowed Him to excuse them.

Regarding marriage, the enemy is asking, “Has God really said…?’ Has He really said He hates divorce? Has He really said that marriage between a man and a woman is the earthly reflection of His relationship with the Church? Has He really said that remarriage while your spouse is still alive is adultery? Or has what man believes and says changed what God believes and says?

The Church cannot stand strong against the enemy’s attack on marriages because the words believed and spoken by so many are not what God says.

When we alter the truth about marriage as God created it, we lose the ability to stand for truth as God has spoken it.

Generation after generation has grown up in a Church that has believed lies regarding what God says about marriage. Now when the truth is spoken it is considered harsh, legalistic, and hateful. Is that any different than the world’s reaction to truth?

It is time to live marriage as God designed it and to honor His covenant even when it is tough to do so. The enemy has destroyed one marriage after another because so many believe it is God’s will to end it. As long as the Church clings to opinions and beliefs instead of the Word of God, our marriages are going to remain easy targets. It is time to wake up, Church. Love, Marilyn

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

Honoring Others When We Are Dishonored

This past weekend our daughter, Cristine, served as a guardian on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. If you aren’t familiar with Honor Flights, they are a wonderful way our country has chosen to honor military veterans. The veterans are flown free of charge to our nation’s capitol and honored with a dinner and ceremonies at the war memorials in D.C. Cristine was blessed to assist two veterans from Vietnam.

The trip began with a bus ride from Fort Collins to the Denver airport. She said that all along the way policemen, firemen, and others stood at the major crossroads saluting the veterans as they traveled by. That was just the beginning of an amazing two days in which gratitude and honor were poured out upon the men and women who served our nation so faithfully.

Cristine and I cried together as she shared the events of the two days. Years ago as a Navy nurse I cared for many returning injured from Vietnam. I remember the dishonor many of them suffered in our country at that time and it was such a blessing to hear of the honor poured out on them now.

Another thing brought tears to my eyes as well. Three years ago the abandonment and betrayal that led to divorce had crushed our daughter’s tender heart. Since then she has received counsel and has placed her life in the Lord’s hands completely. It has blessed me to watch the Lord heal and restore her wounded heart. It has been a joy to see life and vision return to her. Now it is an even greater blessing to see her move beyond her own needs and focus on the lives of others.

Her life is making a difference for others. She has reached out to so many other wounded people, bringing them hope and joy in the Lord. Does she have moments of loneliness? I’m sure she does, but she chooses to reach out and not focus within. She has always been a giving person, but the crisis of her own life has brought a new depth of tenderness and love to her caring.

We have choices in life when we are dishonored, when we are mistreated, and when we are wounded by others. Only Jesus can truly heal the depth of hurt within us. We can’t just put on a happy face and determine to have a better day.

Part of healing is forgiving, part of it is resting in His arms. And a huge part of it is determining what we will do with our lives. Scripture tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” [Proverbs 23:7]

What we allow ourselves to dwell upon determines our direction.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” The enemy’s goal is to bring us to a standstill. He wants our hurt and pain to drag us down and keep us from moving forward in God’s plan for our life.

We must be the ones who determine what we will allow our thoughts to dwell on. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things..”

When we have been wounded by the enemy’s attack on our marriage, there are a lot of things we can choose to think about. Whichever ones we choose will determine how we live our life. “Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” [Deuteronomy 30:19] Love, Marilyn

Truly Believe

From time to time I like to read the Word in the Amplified version. Its deeper explanation of words and phrases helps to draw my attention to things I miss or become accustomed to reading normally.

This week I am reading John in the Amplified version and one thing has stuck me again and again. Every time it says they believed in Jesus, in parentheses it says they “adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Him

It made me think of how many people say they believe in Jesus. Does that mean they adhere to Him, rely on Him, and trust in Him? Jesus said, “…all things are possible to him who believes.” So to paraphrase, “all things are possible to him who adheres to Me, trusts in Me, and relies on Me. 

It seems that the Word is telling us that to believe in Jesus does not mean believing in what He did for us or can do for us now. It seems the Word is saying that believing in Him means abandoning our lives to total involvement with Him.

It means adhering, sticking to Him no matter what.  It means trusting Him with our whole heart not just when we see answers to prayer, but when we are waiting for them as well. And it means relying on Him, not just for the desires of our heart, but for every moment of every day.

Through the years I have always been amazed by people who tell me they stood for a while and then God released them. I have always wondered what God released them from. Was it their vow to Him? Was it waiting? Was it believing? What was it that He told them they didn’t need to do any longer?

Believing in Jesus brings us to a place of total submersion in Him. It is not about believing until we get something or see something. It is about adhering to, trusting  in, and relying on Him for the rest of our days on this earth and then for all eternity with Him.

Standing for our marriage gives us a wonderful opportunity to learn to believe. It is not about what we want or when we want it. It is about adhering, trusting, and relying as we fall deeper and deeper in love with Jesus.  Love, Marilyn

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

Check out Don’t Sit While You Stand

Faith on the Ocean

My husband and I just returned from a week-long cruise with Covenant Keepers, Inc, an amazing ministry to those who choose not to accept divorce as the answer to marital problems. It was a wonderful week, renewing old friendships and making new ones. The sea was refreshing, the fellowship was wonderful, and the rest and relaxation were welcome.

The thing I loved best about it, though, was to be surrounded by so many people of faith. Listening to stories of hardships and victories blessed me to the point of tears many times. These are amazing people! In a day and age when so many want to be “happy”, their life to be self-fulfilling, and want nothing to interfere with their ease it is quite a phenomenon to encounter people willing to sacrifice to remain faithful.

These are folks whose spouses do not want their marriage. They may have divorced them or chosen not to live with them, but in every case their spouse has rejected the marriage. These Covenant Keepers have decided to do just that. They are keeping their marriage covenant. They made a vow to God and to their spouse to remain faithful until death and they are holding faithfully to that vow.

It is refreshingly wonderful to be with people with that level of integrity. The Body of Christ needs the infusion of faith that their stand brings in the midst of divorce and remarriage at every turn. Yet so many of them face persecution from their own church and family. Few today understand marriage covenant (until death do us part) and most look at marriage as a contract (I will only be faithful only if you do your part).

Jesus is a powerful example of faithfulness in the face of unfaithfulness. He loves unconditionally and never leaves us or forsakes us, no matter how faithful or unfaithful we are to Him from day to day. Ephesians 5 compares marriage between a husband and a wife to the relationship of Christ and the Church. We can all be thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we disappoint Him. He is a covenant-making and a covenant-keeping God. And He is our example as a spouse when we marry.

Every day in ministry we see miracles as marriages that everyone called dead are restored and thriving by the power of the Lord! And every day we see those who give up on each other and decide to divorce. Everything in us longs to see the day when the followers of Christ on this earth are known for our faithful, unconditional love for one another! We long to see the world marvel when they “see how they love one another” and to hunger for the overcoming power that makes forgiveness and healing possible in every marriage!

For today we rejoice that there is a growing army of those who stand faithful to their marriage vows no matter what. May they be a sign and a wonder to this generation that has little idea of what marriage is supposed to be. Thank you, Covenant Keepers, for letting your light shine in the darkness! Love, Marilyn

“…when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

Father’s Day

Today we are embarking on the Covenant Keeper’s cruise. We are looking forward to all God has planned for all of us in the next few days. For us personally it is a wonderful way to celebrate Father’s Day.

We never cease to be blessed by God’s generational plan for families. So many today are making decisions that satisfy their own needs, but fail to realize how those decisions affect the next generation.

Divorce comes against so many of the plans and purposes of God for family, but perhaps its biggest casualty is the relationship of children with their fathers. We read a statistic years ago that men who do not receive custody of their children seldom continue relationship with them.

There are two schools of thought on this. Some feel that when a man decides to leave his wife and reject his family, it is best he does not continue in relationship with the children. Others feel that the relationship with their father is so important that, even though flawed, it is better than no relationship at all. There is also the situation where the mother makes the decision to leave and takes the children with her, keeping the father from relationship with his children.

Whatever the outcome, we know the enemy works hard to remove the father from his proper role in the family. Fathers are so important to the maturing of their children, to the development of their identity and purpose in life. We know there are many single moms doing a wonderful job raising their children alone and yet we know that even they recognize that they cannot take the place of a father.

Fathers are held to a very high standard by God. They are the spiritual head of their family and are given clear instructions by God’s Word of their role in the life of their children. A man who realizes the depth of his role as father will endeavor to walk closely with the Lord to draw strength and wisdom for the enormous task he has been given.

Children who lack a godly influence from their fathers face more challenges in life. Our prayer for years has been that the Church would recognize the void in the lives of fatherless children and that godly men would step up to mentor and encourage them. Too often people are simply trying to find someone to replace the previous spouse. That only adds more problems to the mix and usually does not address the real issue.

So today, we celebrate God’s plan for fathers. Whatever your personal situation is, we pray for the influence of a man of God in the lives of your children. Whether you face the challenges of joint custody or are raising your children alone, whether your spouse is not a good influence in the lives of your children, or whether you are kept from being part of their lives, God is able to bless your children because He is Father! Keep your heart open to His intervention in their lives. And if you are a father, may today be a special day of blessing for you!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day, Divorce, and Honor

Over the past two years the realities of divorce have once again become glaringly apparent to us on so many levels. This Mother’s Day reminded us of what happens every Christmas and birthday for our daughter.

Children learning to honor their parents is another casualty of divorce. Instead of working together as God designed parents to do, when one spouse leaves and enters into a new relationship, mutual honor between parents is lost.

It is a father’s role to teach his children to honor their mother (and visa versa). With divorce our grandchildren’s father moved on to another relationship and rejected any honor or blessing of their mother. It is not just that he does not teach them to honor her. It is worse. They are taught to dishonor her.

It is subtle in many ways, but when special occasions arise it becomes very apparent. We know the boys love her, but they lack the support of being shown how to express their love. We encourage them to make cards and to do other things to bless her, but Dad’s example is sometimes louder than our words.

We thank the Lord that our daughter has allowed God to deal with her heart. On Christmas, Father’s Day, and her husband’s birthday she helps the boys buy cards and gifts for him. We have watched her walk through really tough situations, but always speaking words of honor to her boys regarding their father.

She and her husband have shared custody and so she only sees her boys half the time. The other woman gets them as often as their mother does. This Mother’s Day our daughter bought a card for her and thanked her for caring for her boys. She asked her boys to write a blessing in it as well and then give it to her. I cried when I heard about it.

My heart aches for her to receive the honor she gives, yet I know that love and honor given to others are always returned to us by the Lord. I need to trust Him just as she has. This Mother’s Day our daughter has once again reminded us that surrendering to the Lord and walking in forgiveness is a powerful way to live. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Love, Marilyn

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44

 

Without Love

This week I was reminded once again that taking a strong covenant stand requires great love. It all began last Christmas when it seemed that our daughter’s temporarily away husband might end up being alone for Christmas. We told her he was welcome to join our family if that was okay with her and if he wanted to.

As it turned out he had other plans, but the incident brought out heated reaction from many who heard we had been willing to invite him. We understand this reaction as this has been a journey of frequent forgiveness for us. It would be so easy to take up an offense for our daughter and, on many occasions, I have. Every time, though, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of my hardening heart and has always brought me to a place of forgiveness and love. Michael and I truly love him and pray for the day when their family will be reunited and healed.

This week in talking with a friend, we were reminded again of how bitter one can become against the spouse who wounds our child. Our friend was angry, bitter and had nothing good to say about his daughter’s “ex”. He begrudged him any good thing and wanted him to suffer for being an unfaithful spouse and divorcing his wife. We realized this man’s words and actions are totally devoid of love and forgiveness. Without love a covenant stand just becomes harsh and legalistic.

1 Corinthians 13 is a challenge to all of us who stand firmly for a marriage covenant.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (My preaching is harsh and irritating.) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (Standing in faith without love is useless.)  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (No matter how much I give up or suffer, without love it is empty.)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (Not walking in love can make me proud of being the better person.) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (Love compels me to turn to Jesus, not the ears of another when I have been wronged.) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (Love keeps me from getting even and empowers me to forgive.)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (What I know and what I understand will change, but God’s love is constant.) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. (Children see their own needs first. The mature can place the needs of others first.)  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (God is working strongly on my behalf even though I cannot always see it.)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (True agape love can only come from God. It far surpasses our human ability to love and is the kind of love that transforms hearts, my own being the first one that is changed.) Love, Marilyn