Archive for March, 2006


My Final Thoughts on How the Church Should Treat the Divorced

March 29, 2006

They had both been divorced before. Therefore, the odds were better than even that they would get divorced at some time. But marriage is not a statistical relationship, even though fairly consistent statistics can be gleaned from our nation of married people. They have choices and they have decisions and each one of those determines whether their marriage will last, not the decisions of others.

Leon and Patti were determined to make this work. They went to all the marriage workshops the church offered and attended every sermon they could find on marriage and love. They went on regular date nights and their sex life was regular and satisfying. For the first five years of their time together, three of it married, they experienced very little pain from each other. Patti’s first marriage ended because of her violent husband. Leon’s marriage ended because his wife didn’t want just one man in her life and proved it at least monthly. No one blamed either of them for their divorce. What was even stranger was that Leon and Patti had both fought to save their first marriages. Neither of them had willingly signed the final divorce papers for several years. They had waited at least six years to remarry. All of these factors help in assuring subsequent marriages will have a better chance of survival.

But like I said, marriage is not a statistic. The path of life has many wrecks along the side of the road. Just as many of them are sports car models as old jalopies. What I’m saying is that there is no predicting whether a marriage will work by looking at the ethical, moral and family values that the participants have. After five years of marriage, Leon and Patti decided to get a divorce.

Let me be clear why I am telling the story. It is a story of what a church can do for someone who is getting a divorce. This is counterpoint to what I said about Glenn and Traci a few blog entries ago. Needless to say the church was devastated when they announced their intention to divorce. They were fighting constantly and no amount of counseling had helped. Her kids hated Leon (who, by the way, never wanted children), and Leon responded by verbally abusing them on a regular basis. He was demanding with the kids, critical of his wife and in the last year together, rarely at home. He spent many hours at work instead of at home. Patti spent most of her free time doing crafts and joining groups in the church. Leon’s only church involvement outside of Sunday was the men’s bible study, filled mainly with divorced men.

When I found out they were getting a divorce, I met with each of them individually. They were not interested in more counseling. Actually, as a counselor, I have become very jaded toward marriage counseling. To quote Dr. Ed Smith of Theophostic Ministries, “Marriages in our country are not in trouble: People are in trouble, and this is reflecting badly on marriages”. I asked if they would both be willing to have a “divorce” mentor during this time. They agreed, though with much reluctance. The divorce mentor is someone who has been divorced, who has seen the worst that can happen and advises the person on how to act with love and grace during the initial year. They both agreed to have a mentor for a year.

Leon and Patti were both plugged into the church. I asked them to keep coming, no matter what happened. I also asked them to agree to this in writing. Eventually, Leon went to the first service (he was an early riser anyway) and Patti went to the second. Their mentors went over some other things with them. They asked them not to date anyone at all or even to flirt with other people during that year of mentoring. Both Leon and Patti were more than willing to comply. Of course, it was easier to say than to do. We had to confront her on numerous occasions because she would linger long after church talking to specific single men. It wasn’t that we were worried she would strike up another relationship so much as it complicated her life and made it less likely that she would solve her own issues. It is too easy to avoid our own sins and weaknesses by medicating them through other people.

Something happened during that year of mentoring. Leon decided he didn’t want a divorce, even though he didn’t want to move back in with Patti either. It took Patti longer, but she eventually came to the same conclusion. They both reasoned (correctly) that divorce was primarily to facilitate getting married again. They could remain separated for the rest of their lives and get the same legal standing as if they were divorced…except they couldn’t remarry.

Let me cut to the chase. Leon and Patti have been separated for seven years. Her kids have grown up and both moved from the home. Last month, Leon called me to let me know they are moving back together. During the last seven years, they have continued to go the same church together, to be part of mentoring and have even had many hours together in financial planning and prayer.

What made this work was the absolute commitment of the church to treat them both with respect, no matter what decision they made. This problem with divorce is not all that different than other problems we face in the church. How do you love someone and accept them with their problems and failures? You can go to one extreme as the Corinthian church did with the man who was having sex openly with his step-mother. They felt they were liberated and grace-filled by ignoring it. Paul rebukes them in 1 Corinthians 5. We can be thankful for the Corinthians. They were so blatant in their errors that they give us a host of biblical examples to learn from. So, after totally ignoring the sin of this guy, they then shun him and reject him. Paul tells them in 2 Corinthians 2 to rejoin their love to him and stop rejecting him. There is a balance.

The church needs to stop reacting with knee-jerk inefficiency and realize that some things just are going to happen, and our role is to teach, train and love. We cannot always prevent. For instance, this insistence of the church on never teaching children about birth control is about as ridiculous an approach as I have ever heard. The argument is that if we teach our children about birth control it is giving them license to have sex. I taught all my kids about the dangers of sex outside of marriage long before I taught them about birth control. But, I also recognize that they are sexual beings and need to have all the facts. And, they know I would hold them accountable.

The same thing is true of divorce. We need to be close enough to the people who attend our church to help them when divorce begins to be talked about. Just to take the “no divorce is ever God’s will” approach is to say that one size fits all. There are situations where divorce is going to happen regardless of what we say. Paul even recognizes this in 1 Corinthians 7. His answer: “Let them leave”. And for people who come to churches already divorced, what good does it do to punish them further by laying restrictions upon them that we don’t lay upon others. We have no idea who in our churches are molesters, liars, thieves, gossips, drunkards, swindlers etc. How do we find out? We find out by watching their lives and treating them in case by case situations.

I have a friend who attends our church who has been divorced. I have known him for several years now. In no way does he strike me as a man who takes his commitments lightly. I know another man who has been married for 29 years. Yet, as I have watched his life for the last few years, I realize I could not trust him to remove lint from my eyebrow. He is untrustworthy, even though he has never had a divorce. This is my last word on this. No two divorces are alike, and we should refrain from making any evaluations of divorced people until we know them for awhile.


That’s the Spirit!

March 23, 2006

I like to see people who take the Bible seriously.

Here is what I mean.


Christian response to divorce, part 3

March 21, 2006

What have we learned so far? Simply that the church is not doing a great job at holding marriages together and that the Scriptures do not have a lot to say on the subject of divorce. But the most revealing statement on divorce is one the Bible fails to make: The Bible never calls Divorce a sin.

You can search until the cows come crashing through the door, and you will not find divorce called a sin. But I will say this: Divorce is often the result of many sins, some too hidden to see and some too numerous to count. And, divorce can often lead to sin.

There are some who divorce so they can “legally” have sex with others. This fits in that same category of sin as those who have abortions as a means of birth control. It certainly isn’t that common and most of us (I hope) would see both of those decisions as sinful and self-absorbed. Certainly anyone who divorces their partner because they don’t want to love them any more is sinning. The decision not to love is the greatest sin of all (if it is possible to rate sins…this one has the most consequences). I remember hearing Ravi Zacharias saying that he received an invitation to a wedding where they promised to “love each other until our love runs cold”. As a response, he sent paper plates as a wedding gift. Appropriate. As believers in Jesus, we are not told we have the “option” to love our spouse.

In Matthew 19, however, we do have an interesting problem. When asked why Moses commanded marriage, Jesus says:

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mt 19:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

As I showed last time, this is not a blanket statement about all divorce. It was dealing with the tendency of some Jewish men to divorce their wives in order to have “legal” sex with another woman. They were dumping their wives willy-nilly, without any thought that they were doing wrong. The Sermon on the Mount also tells us that looking upon a woman with lust is committing adultery with her. Adultery is an attitude of the heart, and not brought about by a legal decree. If someone divorces to try out sex with others, they are the same as the people who lust after other women without divorcing. Jesus is saying that divorce brought about by the callous planning of a husband to get another woman is just wrong. Notice in this passage it does not mention women. So does that mean if a woman divorces her husband this doesn’t apply to her? The reason that Jesus doesn’t mention women here is because women didn’t have the same options of divorce in his day. What this tells us is that this teaching on divorce was tailored specifically for this kind of situation and not for every divorce imaginable.

Sin causes divorce. Violence tears away at the covenant. Infidelity shows that someone has already left the covenant. Abandonment is unarguable: If they will not stay, we cannot make them. This is especially true now in America where “no-fault” divorces can be filed and the partner can say nothing of it. Lying breaks marriages. Lovelessness breaks marriages. Both of these are sins. Alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, bitterness, rage, abuse all are sins that ruin marriages. However, that doesn’ t mean that everyone is guilty of sin in a divorce.

Jeff left his wife for another woman and did this while his wife was 8 months pregnant with their fourth child. Was she a “sinner” because he divorced her? Would she be held guilty if she married again. Bob molested his 7-year old son. His wife caught him and pressed charges. In all of the court trials, Bob would not admit abusing his son. He never repented. In the courtroom, he accused his wife of being a “cold fish” as part of his rationale for unloving behavior. He then claimed after being found guilty of molestation that his wife’s “religious abuse” drove him to it. Are we to believe that she was an equal partner in the charade that their marriage became? Joe came home one time to find out that his wife had packed up and left. Their 16-year old son reported that mom claimed it was because Dad worked too much. Joe found out a week later that she had moved in with her lesbian lover. She wouldn’t allow him to tell their son, and filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences”. To this day, the son believes that the dad was the reason the divorce happened.

All of these people, and hundreds of others that I personally know were the victims of someone else’s sin. Yet each of them also had to give up positions of leadership they held in the church because they were now part of the pariah group called “the divorced.”

I was at a convention some years ago where we were deciding on how divorce should affect the license of a pastor. An old friend of mine got up and spoke and eloquently painted the picture that every instance of divorce needs to be handled differently. He was in tears (as we all were) by the time he sat down. On the flight home, I was seated beside him on the plane. We talked about our years together when he had been a professor in seminary and I was one of his students. We talked about his wife’s death from a short illness and his son’s suicide as a result of losing his mother. I could tell in the conversation he had worked through a lot of the pain. Then he told me of meeting a wonderful woman who was bringing such incredible joy to his life. He went on and on about her qualities and her devotion to the Lord. He never thought he would love another woman again, but….well, loneliness is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Then he paused. “But, I can no longer be a pastor if I want to be with her. You see Mike, she’s divorced.” Thoughts of the Prince of Wales giving up the British throne in the 1930’s came to mind; British law states that the heir to the throne cannot marry a divorcee. The woman my friend was marrying had been together for two years with her first husband and endured his physical abuse and alcoholism. That had been some thirty years in the past. Now she had met this lovely man and they wanted to share their love with one another in a covenant relationship. The church loved them both. But once they loved each other they were part of that shunned group because of her divorce.

When did divorce become a sin? Why have we, in our striving to categorize people, lumped all divorcees into the same category? I think it stems from our desire to get a slot to fit all of life into, neat little convenient slots so we’ll know how to think in advance without ever thinking in real time. Or some variation on that theme.

What is so wrong with treating every divorce uniquely? What is wrong with doing what Jesus did in the above passage and treat contemporary problems as they show up instead of looking for “one size of divorce fits all”? Marriage is not spandex.

Here are five rules I propose for treating the divorced among us. I believe these fit the 2006 church and the culture around us without being legalistic:

1. Those who get a divorce should be allowed time to heal and shouldn’t be pressured to be involved in regular ministry for the first year of that healing process.
2. The children of divorcees should be “adopted” by the congregation and opportunities should be taken to listen to their anger and fears.
3. Both parties of the divorce should be encouraged to stay in the church if possible (perhaps attending different services). They then should be asked to get involved in post-divorced recovery and prayer.
4. Husbands should be encouraged to submit their finances to a mentor in the church who will help them go above in beyond in providing for their family. In divorce, most men’s expendable income goes up and the woman’s expendable income goes down. Usually by about the same percentage. The church can aid in the equitable distribution of funds.
5. If the divorce cannot be prevented (and sometimes it cannot), the church can have a time when the family is prayed for and where all church members are encouraged to help in the practical necessities of life.

Next time, I want to talk about what the church can be doing to help heal the hurts of divorce and how to prevent more divorces from happening.


Divorced Christians and the Church – Studying the Relationship – Part 2

March 14, 2006

For all the discussion, fuss and bother about divorced people in the church, you would think that the Bible itself is full of instructions about divorce. Surprisingly, there is not much contained in the Bible which is helpful for today’s church. The Old Testament certainly doesn’t help us much. Its pronouncements about divorce tell us things like that a priest shouldn’t marry a divorced woman (Lev. 21:7) or a prostitute. Yet, I find it interesting that God tells a Prophet (Hosea) to marry a prostitute and remarry her even after she went back to prostitution. I’m not sure then how to view the prohibition against marrying a divorced woman. Even God makes exceptions (don’t say that too loud or everyone will want one).

In another place, the priest may only marry a virgin. Hopefully, an honest one we would assume. The priest’s daughter, if she gets divorced can eat the food given to the priest. Here are some other teachings on divorce in the Old Testament. A man can’t divorce a woman that he has raped and subsequently married (Deuteronomy). Several times we are told that a man can’t divorce his wife and then remarry her later. She is to be given a “certificate of divorce” (see Deuteronomy 24:3). This is very important to understand and helps form Jesus’ position on divorce in one of his two teachings on the subject. Why is this prohibition important? Most scholars point to a practice in the early days of Israel’s formation, when men were divorcing their wives for any and all reasons. In essence, they did it when they didn’t like their wife’s cooking, her hairdo, her attitude or maybe their sex life. This left women in the precarious position of going back to their families, and if they would not take them back, into a life of prostitution. Prostitution was one of the only professions that a woman could take up if she was not married or supported by her father. They had no welfare system. It was “die” or “become a hooker”. Many women were desperate then when their ex-husbands came to them and asked if they were willing to come back (hopefully with a better attitude).

Moses put a stop to this by having men issue a “certificate of divorce”. Once this was done, the husband could not remarry his wife. This was to cut down on the flagrant use of divorce as a tool of manipulation. It was not meant to be a provision in Jewish law that was used very often. The ground for divorce, according to Deut. 24 was “something indecent” that the husband finds in his wife. The rabbis of Jesus’ day came to interpret this to mean anything that the husband does not like about his wife. Divorce started to skyrocket at the turn of the millennium because of this interpretation. Jesus sought to put a stop to this by saying that indecency really applies to adultery and not to frivolous things like disagreeing with your husband’s opinions.

The other teaching on divorce in the Old Testament is the most helpful and profound. But it actually teaches something different than what most people think. In Malachi 2 it says that “God hates divorce”. How many times have I heard Christians chastised and excoriated by this verse, taking it to mean that God also is not fond of those getting a divorce. In order to understand what he is saying, let’s look at the context of the book. The book of Malachi is all about covenant relationships. A covenant relationship is where two people promise to act a particular way regardless of how the other person acts. Malachi talks about the breaking of these covenants, especially the covenant between God and His people Israel. As an example of this covenant-breaking, God mentions the relationship between a husband and a wife:

Malachi 2:13-16 (NIV)13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands.14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.15 Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Men were praying to God and asking why the blessing had left their families. The answer is found in v. 14. They had broken faith with the wife of their youth. The implication is two-fold. First, many of them were looking for younger women to replace the women they had married when they were young. It is an old saying, but somewhat accurate: “Women marry men and hope they will change and men marry women and hope they never will”. Both opinions are inaccurate.

The second way they broke faith was through violence. Look at v. 16, that oft-quoted verse. God hates divorce, but he also hate’s a man covering himself with violence. Violent people also break the covenant of marriage. Nowhere does God say that a marriage is still spiritually together if violence or adultery are present. God never counsels anyone to get a divorce, but violence and adultery have broken the covenant already. Divorce is an external recognition of this.

When Jesus talks to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:4-9 about divorce, he is pulling upon the prohibitions in Deuteronomy 24 and the regrets of God in Malachi 2:

Matthew 19:3-9 (NIV)3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Divorce comes about by the hardness of hearts. Men and women are both capable of pulling back from love and living with a hard heart. In v. 7 the Pharisees interpreted this to mean that a man is required to divorce his wife. Jesus clarifies in v. 8 saying they were permitted to divorce because their hearts were hard. There are many marriages where there is no love left, where affairs are common and violence is increasing. Their covenant is dead. Moses and Jesus permit the divorce in these circumstances. But that is not really the point, is it?

The point is that it is the actions that lead up to divorce that are the problem. We often treat the problem as the divorce itself. In future blog entries I want to focus on how we can help both married couples and divorcees in rebuilding their broken worlds. But in essence, we must understand the real teaching of the Bible on Divorce. It comes down to four essentials truths:

  1. A marriage is a covenant.
  2. Covenants are broken by violence, neglect and betrayal.
  3. A divorce is simply a recognition of the broken covenant.
  4. It is all very sad, and God hates what happens to us leading up to and including a divorce.

I added the word “neglect” in the second truth, because we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 7 that some spouses will not stay with their partners and should not be forced to do so. We will look at that passage later, especially as it relates to the church’s ministry to the divorced.

I struggle so much as a pastor with people who look at the divorced among us and want to make sweeping value judgments against them. They are looked upon by many Christians as “covenant failures” and thus should not be allowed any position of respect, leadership or teaching in the church. At the very least, the attitude of many is that they didn’t do enough to prevent the breaking up of something sacred. Most divorcees already fight with the sense of loss and failure anyways, so it is not difficult to convince them that they are losers. They wear a proverbial capital “L” on their foreheads for years and don’t even try to be involved in church life as a result. Is this what Jesus wants for his family? I doubt it.

So what can we do about it? First, we need to recognize that divorce leaves scars and that as a healing community, we must help those scars to heal. We certainly don’t need to make them worse.

Glenn and Tracy were members of our church and leaders as well. One day, my Associate pastor told me that Glenn was being charged with assaulting his wife. I went down to the police station to counsel with him and saw the most bedraggled man I have witnessed in pastoral ministry. He admitted that he pushed Tracy down and she hit her head on a chair and started to bleed. He spent the weekend in jail. By the time Sunday came, most of the church knew about the situation and were firmly on Tracy’s side. Many church members had told Tracy that she had grounds to divorce Glenn. However, none of them knew what I knew: That Glenn had gotten angry at Tracy because he caught her in bed with the next-door neighbor. Tracy had not told anyone that. Glenn was certainly wrong in his angry tirade, but the church and Tracy were wrong in how they treated him. In the days to come, Glenn would not allow me to instruct the church about Tracy’s involvement in this debacle. I did tell people to stop making life harder on the two of them. It didn’t work. They ended up divorcing about six months later and most of the church came and comforted Tracy.

It was one of the biggest mistakes I was ever involved in. There is so much more we could have done. Next time, I will tell you about when we did it right about three years later.

SPECIAL NOTE: My blog service has had problems with leaving comments. This should now be fixed. Feel free to comment as you see fit.


Divorced Christians and the Church – Studying the Relationship, Part 1

March 8, 2006

My wife opened up the folder for our leadership retreat and stared at the names. She and I were counselors in the church as well as pastors and we knew every single person invited to this weekend’s events. I was putting the final touches on my first interactive lecture and she was bored. So she read the roster of names through several times. At the end she made a pithy observation.

“Dear, we and the Friesens are the only couples here this weekend that haven’t been divorced”. I scoffed at this and grabbed the paper to read it myself. As I scanned the list, I tried to find other exceptions besides the four of us.

I couldn’t.

The assembly of people we were a part of then was made up of relatively new Christians and I theorized that this is why there was such a high incidence of divorce among us. I continued to believe that until George Barna came out with his statistics on the subject a couple of years ago. Here is an excerpt from that study titled, “Christians Have the Same Incidence of Divorce”:

Although many Christian churches attempt to dissuade congregants from getting a divorce, the research confirmed a finding identified by Barna a decade ago (and further confirmed through tracking studies conducted each year since): born again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians.
Among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.

The study goes on to say that Christians have the same rate of multiple-divorcees (those who have divorced more than once), and that the rate of divorce was almost the same before they became Christians as afterward. It also stated that Catholics have a lower rate of divorce than Protestants, and that conservative Christians (those who believe that divorce is a sin) have a higher rate of divorce than their liberal counterparts. Pentecostals have the highest divorce rate…and I am at a loss to explain that.

What does this tell us? The church is swarming with divorced people, and the more Evangelicals teach that people are sinning if they divorce, the more divorced people Evangelicals must minister to among them. That tells me that the way we are teaching and acting towards the divorced is not only inadequate; it also lacks the blessing of God.

We have no statistics of divorce before the late 1700s in society in general. But anecdotally, the news remains consistent. Ancient writings suggest that one out of every five Jewish marriages ended in divorce in the centuries leading up to the appearance of Jesus. In Greek homes, the number was one in three marriages, and Roman homes up to the time of Nero it was one in four. The early church therefore had to have many, many divorced people. What confuses me at times is the almost total lack of instruction in the New Testament concerning how the divorced were to be treated. I have a theory on that, but we’ll visit that issue in a moment.

Each of these societies (Hebrew, Greek and Roman) hit a peak of financial prosperity within 300 years of each other. It seems that when a society gets affluent, divorce increases. When financial crisis hits, divorce rates go down. Perhaps this is because people are afraid to go it “on their own” when they cannot predict the source of their next meal. America has had three significant periods of increase in relation to divorce. Each time (Late 1700s, late 1800s, late 1960s to early 70s) as the divorce rate increased significantly, the economy was also booming. At the same time, the National debt ballooned and illegitimacy went through the roof. There is something about prosperity that makes people do and say crazy things.

What is unusual about American Christianity is that until the last two decades, the divorce rate among Christians here has always been significantly lower than the population at large – no matter what was happening with the economy. Obviously, something has changed and the current church in America has yet to figure it out. This series I will be blogging on concerns how the church views and treats the divorced among us. The next entry will talk about how we ought to view those who have had divorces.

So why does the New Testament say so little about how we are to treat the divorced in our churches? No one really asks that question very much, but it is one of the most pertinent to our contemporary situation. The entire New Testament, with its 27 books, deals with the subject of divorce exactly three times (not including the parallel passages in each Gospel). Only one of those times was in the teachings of Paul where we would expect to find it the most (since he wrote to Greek and Roman Christians where the divorce rate was high). There are only three logical possibilities why this is:

  1. We are not to treat divorce as a problem. I find this hard to believe, since it results in so much agony for so many people.
  2. What has been written is so clear that we don’t need anything else on the subject. I cannot accept this since the little we do have on divorce has been debated for centuries without arriving at universally held conclusions.
  3. We are to treat the divorced in our midst the same as anyone else. This seems to make the most sense and forms the basis for the rest of these blog entries.

A Wave of the Hand to DTS friends

March 6, 2006

This last week I spent many enjoyable hours with missionaries in training at Montana’s YWAM training base. This group of 40 students and the capable and loving staff made me felt very honored and comfortable. We learned about hearing God’s voice and how this applied to intimacy and changing the world through prayer.

One of the students prayed before I left that I wouldn’t have anyone beside me on the airplane that wanted to talk and use up my emotional energy. I was in total agreement with that sentiment. However, they also added that if God had someone particular in mind for me to minister to, then the first prayer could be cancelled.

It was cancelled.

On the plane I was sitting beside a lady about 60 years old who looked like she wanted to talk. Not being rude, at the right time I put on my headphones and started to listen to Neil Diamond (now, I just polarized all those reading this. In the words of Bob in “What about Bob?” the world is divided into those who love Neil Diamond and those who hate him…I am in the former category: Have grace on me). I also took out my Ipaq and Bluetooth keyboard and began typing up some notes for Communion service on Sunday. I also did some more work on my book. At one point, my keyboard ran out of juice. So from that point on, I just listened to the music. Then, even though I had just charged it up, the PDA ran out of power. That left me sitting beside the lady.

She immediately asked me if I like typing on such a small keyboard. Actually, my Think Outside keyboard has regular sized keys and folds out to an incredibly compact size (using alt function keys to a greater degree for numbers). Being a certified geek, I explained this to her. Then she asked me if I was a writer. I told her it was one of the things I do for a living. That is when she told me she would love to be a writer. I inwardly cringed, waiting for the inevitable question concerning how she could break into the writing field. She didn’t. She just told me that she would love to be able to write down some of her feelings about what is happening with her.

So i bit the bait. I asked what was happening in her life. She told me that her husband of 35 years had just died and this was her first trip to see grandkids since his death. I knew instantly that God had placed me there to help her in grief. I asked her to describe her husband to me. I shared in 35 minutes of the most incredible description of a man whose wife was totally in love with him to the last day. What a gift she gave me. As I listened to this, I yearned to be home with my own wife and tell her how much she meant to me.

At the very end of the flight, which went too quickly, she turned to me and said: “You are an answer to prayer”. “How is that?” I asked. “I asked God to send another believer in Jesus to sit beside me.” “How did you know” I asked. “I can feel God’s presence in you as you listened.”

God loves to bring his Community together at those times when our burdens are too great. I lifted her burden to the cross and she lifted the tiredness I felt. I literally sprang into the airport with a new burst of enthusiasm.

To the DTS: Thanks for holding me and my family up in prayer. It means so much to me. Thank you also to Becky for telling me about Nickel Creek. They are now on my list of favorite new bands. I mean it. To those with whom I did Theophostic: Feel free to contact me and give me an idea of what Holy Spirit is saying as you get ready for outreach. I appreciate it.

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