Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday devo: Psalm 37 as a picture of the Christian life

I feel like I've written on this before, but if so, well, it's worth writing about again. I was doing my daily "read through the Bible" plan this morning and it included Psalm 37. This morning, I was struck by the different imperative commands sprinkled throughout the text. As I began jotting them down on my kitchen whiteboard, it occurred to me that they form a sort of pathway through the Christian life. Of course, we rarely go straight down this pathway. Often, we end up circling back around to early stops along the way and picking up the trail where we left off. But I like the picture of these being stations along the pathway of the Christian life.

The psalmist starts by exhorting us to do the most basic of things required of a Christian: trust. We so often talk about the starting point of our journey with God as being the time when we put our trust in Christ, so this seems like an apt place to start. But the psalmist does not let us get off so easily. He includes the phrase "and do good." It is not enough to merely have faith without deeds, as James would say. The two go hand in hand.

Next, the psalmist commands us to delight in the Lord. It has been one of the special joys of my own Christian life to watch those who are new to faith. Their exuberance and enthusiasm is contagious and convicting. This is one station I need to circle back to more often.

The psalmist then goes on to tell us that we should commit our way to the Lord. Having trusted and delighted, we need to wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to following him. We need to commit, a word that seems to have lost some of its meaning in our transient world.

Having done so, we are commanded to be still. This may be the hardest one of all. If we've just committed, shouldn't we be moving forward, taking action, doing great things for God? But he calls us to simply be still.  Why? I think the answer comes in the final command: wait.

Twice the psalmist exhorts us to wait. The first time is paired with "be still," as he tells us to "be still and wait patiently." Later, he again says, "wait for the Lord." Having come so far, we can be tempted to forge ahead on our own, to do the thing that seems wise and right to us. But having trusted and delighted and committed and been still, surely we know enough by now to know that our way is not the best way, that God has a better plan than we could ever imagine, and that he will do his thing, in his own time, and that it will be the perfect thing. Wait for him, and see what he does. still...wait. This sounds like a perfect roadmap to peace, if you ask me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mark Sanford, poster boy for the party of second chances?

The NY Times magazine has a feature story up on Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina, now member of the House of Representatives. Sanford, of course, infamously hiked the Appalachian Trail all the way to his mistress's house in Argentina, killing his marriage and, it seemed at the time, his political career. The utter ridiculousness of how Sanford's indiscretion came to light seemed to make the outcome of the story inevitable. The man was finished, at least as far as politics was concerned.

But a funny thing happened on the way to nowhere. Sanford regrouped, stepped back, and started rebuilding. Read the article and judge for yourself whether you think he is genuinely repentant or playing a political angle. Time will tell.

Another famously fallen political figure, my old boss Chuck Colson, is mentioned in the article. When I started working for him more than twenty years after Watergate, I heard from several still skeptical friends and relatives who just were not buying the whole "born again" thing. Time was never enough to tell them anything about Colson they didn't already believe to be true. Opinions are like that, and I guess we're all entitled to one.

A few thoughts on Sanford and the NY Times article.

Thought #1: I'm not surprised that Sanford is resurrecting his political career or the aplomb with which he handled the less than enthusiastic members of his constituency in the article. Nor am I surprised at the comments in the article about current South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. I've had the opportunity to meet them both, briefly, in the same context. While serving as an officer in a community organization, I twice went to the governor's office to attend the signing of an annual proclamation. The first time, Sanford was in the State House. He welcomed our group into his private office, a room just beyond the larger and more public office, where he greeted each of us personally, chatted comfortably, asked questions and showed interest in the reason for our visit, posed for pictures with us, then sat at his desk to sign the proclamation, handing the official pen to the eldest representative of our group. A year later, Nikki Haley kept us waiting in the hallway where she eventually swept out to cheerfully but hurriedly greet us, sign the proclamation with a borrowed pen while leaning on her secretary's desk, and seemed like she would have dashed off without any pictures had not a bold member of the group asked her to pause. I thought then, and I thought again now reading this article, that Sanford possesses a natural ease and charm that makes him a great campaigner, while Haley, whatever other good traits she may have, simply lacks that social grace.

Thought #2: Perhaps a campaign victory rally is not the best place to meet your boyfriend's child from a prior marriage for the first time. This might be particularly true when the prior marriage imploded very publicly, when you were the very public cause of that implosion, and when the child involved was still a child but old enough to know exactly what was happening.

Thought #3: A friend asked me not long ago why it was that Republicans seem to be so unforgiving of their politicians who have affairs. We talked at the time about how the Republican party has fashioned itself as a party of family values so marital failures seem to cut right at the heart of what we say we're about. As I read this article though, it occurred to me that it's deeper than just that. Reflecting on Sanford's early political career, the writer mentions that a younger Sanford once "castigated" another politician who'd had an affair. When one preaches family values, it is perhaps easy to use the failure of an opponent's family as a political edge. But having done so, a later indiscretion of one's own seems like a much more glaring act of hypocrisy.

Thought #4: As someone who once had to learn how to write in Chuck Colson's 'voice,' the quote from the phone call with Sanford sounds completely wrong in its wording but very true in its sentiment. Chuck was a big believer in using his story to reach out to others who were experiencing a spectacular fall from grace of their own making and encouraging them to look to God and not lose hope. But he was not a big believer in grammatically incorrect phrases like you got to and slang like 'cause.

Thought #5: Chapur does herself and Sanford a good turn by coming across in the article as humble, gracious, and cognizant of having done wrong.

Thought #6: If you're interested, here is a post I wrote for the BreakPoint blog back in 2009 when news of Sanford's affair first broke. Even those of us who worked and wrote for Colson could scarcely imagine back then that the mess Sanford had made of his political career would be anything less than permanent.

Fallout shelter needed

Huffington Post has a good article up by a child of divorce on the immediate and long-term effects: "Part of the problem with divorce, is that it is impossible to accurately predict the fallout."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ecumenical child of divorce

While I was on vacation last week, I finished reading Sir Walter Scott's excellent book The Abbot. Scott is one of those writers who, when I pick up one of his novels after not having read anything by him in some time, I inevitably think to myself, "Why don't I read him more often?" His work is so easy to read and so entertaining for all the right reasons.

The Abbot, if you're not familiar with it, is historical fiction. The overarching historical event is the imprisonment and subsequent, short-lived escape of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, who was Catholic, was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. In Scott's story, a young man who is secretly the child of a Catholic family is planted in the household of a Protestant family of prominence who eventually make him part of Mary's retinue to keep an eye on her, but of course he instead helps Mary effect her ill-fated escape. Throughout the novel, the main character, having had his religious education split between two factions of Christianity, has difficulty forming a solid allegiance to or disavowal of either and seeks alternately the counsel of both Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, leading to some interesting passages on theology.

The discord between Catholicism and Protestantism, of course, consumed much of early English history, with monarchs seated and dethroned on the basis of their brand of Christianity, the result being that those whose religious practice was not in step with the current ruler found themselves worshipping in secret or setting off for distant lands where their views were tolerated or were the norm.

I'm not sure whether to feel encouraged or weary when I think about that history and the parallels I see in modern Western Christianity. On the one hand, I'm strangely and sadly encouraged by the realization that we haven't reached some new level of ridiculousness; nothing, after all, is new under the sun. And, of course, I'm weary when I realize that, lo these many years later, we are still waging the same wars, just sometimes with different names. This or that pastor or leader or writer says something that others disagree with and, instead of reasoned debate or gentle reproof, we unleash a torrent of vitriol. Sigh. I think I have decided on weary.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that we should throw doctrine out the window and all just sing Kumbaya (although it does bring back some rather fond memories of junior high). But it seems to me sometimes that even in Christian circles we spend more time slinging accusations around like mud and valuing snarkiness more than actual Godliness. Can't we leave all that to the politicians?

All this is why the following short passage from The Abbot struck me as so true and sad and fitting.  The setting is the battlefield, where Mary's supporters meet the supporters of the Regent, James Stewart:

"God and the Queen!" resounded from the one party; "God and the King!" thundered from the other; while, in the name of their sovereign, fellow-subjects on both sides shed each other's blood, and, in the name of their Creator, defaced his image.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday devo: A new normal

A few weeks ago I was in a situation where I suddenly realized the person I was talking to thought I had just said the most bizarre thing. I was describing something that seemed perfectly normal to me and I could tell he thought it sounded completely abnormal. Slightly embarrassed, I laughed it off with, "Almost everyone in my family is like that. It doesn't seem odd when it's normal in your family."

I was talking about a physical oddity. But I've seen the same sort of thing happen in families with emotional and behavioral oddities. Like that frog you always heard about in science class as a kid, sitting in a pot of cold water that gradually comes to a boil without the frog having noticed, we become acclimated to the environment around us. Often, the weirdness of our situation doesn't occur to us until we see ourselves through others' eyes.

As I thought of this today, I was reminded of Jesus' words to his followers: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Really, Jesus? Love? That's it? That seems so, well, normal. So ordinary. How on earth is that going to send out a signal that we're your followers?

But of course, it's not normal at all. Normal is discord, and jealousy, and self-centeredness. Normal is greed, and gossip, and exploitation. Normal is sin.  Love, meanwhile, is so essentially a divine quality that the apostle John proclaimed that "God is love."

This is not to say that people who follow Christ have the love thing figured out. We're human (read, "normal"). And often we act in perfectly normal ways. But when we can get love right, really right, it has a powerful effect, shining a light not on us but on the one we are following.

And if get love right often enough and for long enough, who knows -- maybe it will start to feel normal to us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Korean Child of Divorce

I've been waiting for this for so long, it almost didn't seem real anymore. Until I arrived home from a trip on Friday and found a package waiting for me. Four new copies of Child of Divorce, Child of God -- in Korean! The cover is beautiful, even if I have no idea what it says.

If you or someone you know reads Korean and would be blessed by this book, it is available from IVP Korea. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday devo: The scandal of worship

Every year about this time, I pull out my DVD of Jesus Christ Superstar. Watching it has become an Easter tradition for me. I prefer the stylized, artful presentation of the last days of Jesus to the blood and gore versions that have become popular in recent years. And, yes, I realize that there is a good deal of theological fallacy in the screenplay. After all, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice are not exactly Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the scene that takes place on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Jesus' crucifixion, the Sunday we just celebrated here in 2014.  My brother's family were staying with me this weekend and over breakfast, I explained to my three-year-old nephew that this was the Sunday that Jesus came to Jerusalem and that when he got to Sunday school this morning he would be given a palm branch to wave, just like the ones that people waved and threw down in front of Jesus' donkey so many years ago.

In the movie version that I have, the one from 2000, instead of palm branches the people are carrying signs, the sort of signs that you see at rallies and protests, featuring a picture of Jesus and the words "Jesus Rules." They carry Jesus into the city on their shoulders, like a rock star, or a superstar. Their exuberance and celebration is over the top, unseemly in a way, for someone who is supposed to be a religious leader.  It's scandalous, and part of me always feels just a tiny hint of sympathy for the Pharisees who are looking on this spectacle and feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

That small twinge of sympathy is always followed by a dose of conviction. Not because I felt sympathetic, but because my worship of Jesus rarely if ever rises to the level of scandalous.  I would happily stand at the side of the road and politely wave a palm branch. But would I lift the Savior onto my shoulders, parade him around, while holding a giant sign that proclaims my adoration?  Of course, neither of these are happening in a literal sense in my life in 2014. But I fear that too often I let my faith become polite, never rising to anything close to exuberance or scandal.

I'm not saying that I feel the need to jump around and shout. But I am saying that occasionally my beliefs, my lifestyle, my faith should strike someone as a little extreme. As in, "Sure, you're religious, but do you have to take it that far? Can't you just reel it back in a little and be politely, nondescriptly spiritual, without all this Jesus stuff?"

Actually, no, I can't. Because the truth is, in both a literal and figurative sense, Jesus rules. Hosanna.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday devo: A How-To Guide for Transitions

We all experience transitions in life, right? Maybe it's a job change or a move to a new place. A wedding, a divorce, a death, a break-up. A new baby, a new boss, a new pet. Every four years, we have the chance to elect a new president for our country and when that happens transition teams are set up to make the hand off from one leader to the next smooth and seamless.

Children of divorce experience lots of transition. One parent moving out, moving to a new house, a new school, a new stepparent, new stepsiblings, and the constant back and forth transition of visitation or shared custody. If the transition itself is handled well, the road forward is a whole lot smoother.

The Bible gives one of the greatest examples of transition at the end of Deuteronomy. After wandering the desert for forty years, the Israelites had finally arrived at the cusp of the Promised Land. Moses was going to stay behind, climb a mountain, watch his people enter their new home, and then transition from this life to the next. But his wasn't the only transition. The people, these thousands upon thousands of tired, excited, human people, were about to experience multiple transitions at once. They were leaving a life of nomadism and embarking on a life of settlement and all the war and hardship that come with settling in a land that others have already made a home in. On top of all that, their beloved leader who had been the only leader most of them had ever known was about to leave them while some other guy took his place. Handling that hand off badly could have spelled disaster for the people. But instead here's what happened.

First, Moses gave the people a pep talk. In Deuteronomy 31:1-6, he tells them that he's leaving them, but assures them that God is with them, that they have a great new leader, and that they'll be victorious in their new mission.  Then, he calls Joshua to the platform and, in front of all the people, he tells Joshua that he is the new leader, that he will lead the people to success, and that God will be with him.  It's a real "rah! rah!" moment.

But then something interesting happens. God calls Moses and Joshua aside and has a little chat with them, out of earshot of the people. In verses 16-21, God tells it like it is: Before Moses is cold in his grave, the people will be worshipping other gods, they will fall into chaos, and God will rain down punishment on them. Sounds rather harsh -- but then again, God wasn't being a naysayer; he simply knew the future.

Here's what I love about this story. Moses, the beloved leader, gives the motivational speeches out in public, for all the Israelites to hear. Then, in private, behind the closed doors of a pillar of cloud and a tabernacle, Joshua, the new leader, gets the real story. The people are left encouraged, Joshua is teed up to have a great start with them, and then he is given a reality check by the one person who could see the future.

Too often, transitions include one of these elements but not the other. Either we're all trombones and marching bands, or we're all gloom and doom and steel yourself for the worst.  This story shows how to achieve a happy medium. Yes, let's have some encouragement and motivation to get everyone on board and ready to face the future. And yes, let's have some honest conversation about the challenges ahead. But let's do both in the right way, at the right time, and with the right people present. How we handle the transition can make all the difference.

Friday, April 04, 2014

'Til Death Do Us Part

This article on Gwyneth Paltrow's choice of words regarding her divorce from Chris Martin struck me as interesting for two reasons.

First, the author starts out sounding like she is all for the idea of a kinder, gentler divorce, especially because as a child of divorce herself, she struggles with feeling like her family is broken. But then by the end of the article, she reveals that she is troubled by the thought that one could enter marriage with the idea that it is a transitory relationship.
But without even the intention to make it for the long haul, won’t relationships end even earlier? To me, adding an escape clause to the highest level of commitment would only weaken it.
Good point.

The other interesting thing I found in this article was how worldview played into the conscious uncoupling concept. The article has a link to a post on Paltrow's web site by Habib Sadeghi, in which "he mentions how mating for life was easier when life was shorter. Since cavemen lived till their early 30s, they could stay together till death do them part, no problem."

Of course, if one holds a slightly different worldview, say one that involves guys like Methuselah and Noah trudging along through life for 969 and 950 years respectively, a paltry 50 or 60 years of marriage should seem like a real piece of cake.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Finding the right one...

...even if it's the second time around. Diane Paddison is an author and founder of a nonprofit that encourages women in their faith, career, and relationships. In her book Work, Love, Pray, she was refreshingly candid about the failure of her first marriage. Having gotten a second chance at love, in this article on her blog, she talks about how to make a wise decision when it comes to relationships and marriage.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Without a Trace

It's been a rough year for country star Trace Adkins, so perhaps this is no surprise. One does though wonder if he and his wife of 16 years are going to be finding new meaning in the words of his song, "You're Gonna Miss This."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday devo: Shadows of death, sunbeams of heaven

I know, this is a blog about divorce, not death. But in the book, I tell the story of a child of divorce who described his parents' divorce as being like a death that never ended.  And truly, divorce is the death of a marriage and of many hopes and dreams for the couple, their children, their families, and their friends.

So, during this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter, it seems appropriate to talk about death, especially on a blog about divorce.

Last week, I was meditating on the twenty-third Psalm, the one so often read at funerals or printed on the little memorial cards handed out at funerals.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Excuse the Shakespearean English, but I learned these verses as a very young girl in the King James Version and they just don't sound right to my ears in other translations.

Maybe it's the inundation of social media; maybe it's the fact that I (and most of my friends) are on the other side of the hill; maybe it's just coincidence or heightened perception -- but it seems like there is an awful lot of death, and walks through valleys of shadows of death, all around me.

And yet, when I thought of these words last week, it occurred to me that this could easily be what is referred to as a Messianic psalm -- a psalm about Jesus, as much as it is about the writer or about us the readers.

Who better than Jesus knows what it is like to walk through the deep, dark valley gloomed over with shadows of death? And if ever anyone had reason to fear evil in that moment, it was Jesus, knowing as he did that he was about to wear the mantle of humanity's sin in all of its wretchedness and depravity while hanging on a device of torture, on public display, while insults were hurled at him. Somehow after wrestling with this coming reality in Gethsemane, he found comfort.

He ate a meal in the presence of an enemy, one who would betray him to his death for a price. During his short earthly life, goodness and mercy followed Jesus around like the most devoted of his disciples.

And, the good news for Jesus, the good news for all of us who look forward to an Easter Sunday after Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the good news for everyone who has ever or will ever trudge through a valley filled with shadows of death, is that Jesus walked straight through the shadow and came out on the other side to live in the sun-drenched house of the Lord forever.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday devo: God in the Rearview Mirror

I had intended to write the Monday devo last night or early this morning, having a topic in mind; but that topic will wait for another week. My procrastination has paid off, which writers are always hoping will happen but rarely does.

As I left work today, I had a little car trouble -- the kind of trouble that requires a trip to a mechanic, quickly, with as little mileage between trouble and mechanic as possible. I called my mechanic brother (who, sadly, lives in another state; how did I let that happen?) who has started replying to my car questions with a knowing "yeah." As in, "Yeah, your car is at that stage of its barely useful life where these things are bound to happen. Get used to it." Great.

To top it all off, I couldn't just drop the car at the shop and hitch a ride home with a co-worker. I'm scheduled to be on the road tomorrow for work. Talk about crummy timing. The plan originally was for me to drive my own car, but now, at 5:30 on a Monday (of course) my assistant and I were scrambling to call the repair shop (open until 6:00, whew!) and the car rental place (also open until 6:00, and with a car available, whew again!). Kind soul that she is, my assistant followed me to the shop and then dropped me at the car rental place.

My thought process through all of this was decidedly grumpy. Of all the bad luck, something like this has to happen the night before a business trip, adding complication to an already irritating situation. (And, bonus, I left both pairs of sunglasses in my car at the shop, so I had to stop at Target on my way home and buy a new pair.)

But as I drove home, enjoying new car smell and XM radio (guess I don't have to bring any cassette tapes with me tomorrow), suddenly I realized this was actually the best possible scenario.

I always have the option of renting a car for these work trips. I just usually choose to drive my own car because it's familiar and comfortable and less hassle. And since I'm leaving early and not expecting to make it back before the rental place closes at 6:00, I had to reserve it for two nights -- which means the repair shop has two full days to keep my car while I have a rental that is paid for by work. Talk about perfect timing.

In the book, I wrote about a time when Moses was up on the mountain with God. Moses was discouraged and God decided to cheer him up by letting Moses see Him. Only not face to face. No, God put Moses into a hole in a rock and then walked past in such a way that Moses only got to see His back. That was about all the glory anyone could take, at least if they wanted to live to tell about it.  I talked in the book about how some Jewish rabbis of yore had speculated that this was a metaphor of sorts, that seeing God's back might be a way of saying that Moses got to see where God had just been. And then I talked about how we so often experience God this way. We don't know what He's about to do. We rarely figure out what He's up to in the midst of our daily circumstances. But sometimes, we get to see it all in hindsight, smack our foreheads with our palms, and say, "Okay, now I get it!"

In other words, like I did today, sometime we see God in the rearview mirror.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Love, Hawaiian Style

I posted a few weeks ago about a recent episode of Hawaii Five-O that featured Danny, a.k.a. Danno, learning that his parents are about to divorce and then talking about his own divorce with his young daughter.

The story line continued this week with Danny and daughter conspiring to get his parents to reconcile. What child of divorce hasn't fantasized that story line?  (Blame it on The Parent Trap if you want.)

As a total side note, not that I can picture Melanie Griffiths playing James Caan's wife, but wouldn't it have been kind of fun if they'd been able to get Danno's real life dad to play his on-screen dad? Just a thought.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Forgiving the was-band

Kristin Armstrong, ex-wife of cycler Lance Armstrong, speaks about parenting children of divorce in the midst of crisis, something the Armstrong family knows a little about.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What not to do as a divorced parent

The further down in this article I read, the worse I felt for these kids. Watching your parents duke it out over ridiculous amounts of money is bad enough; seeing it splashed on the news is worse; dealing with the drama described here is...well, sad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Little People, Big Marriage Problems

The stars of "Little People, Big World" are attempting a trial separation. Putting your family through the rigors of reality TV has been a tough gig for more families than the Roloffs. Here's hoping they can work things out and find a way to keep this 26 year marriage together.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday devo: A shelter from the dogs of night

For the last few years I have volunteered as a guardian ad litem for kids in foster care. As you might guess, many of them come from homes scarred by divorce. The situations are as unique as the individuals involved, but the kids who keep you awake at night, long after the cases are closed, are the ones dealing with physical abuse.

Tonight I was reading Psalm 59 and thought of these kids and all the kids out there -- foster kids, children of divorce, kids with married parents -- who face abuse. David repeats a refrain about the perpetrators, those who "come at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets." You get the picture.

But as David often does, he refocuses his attention, away from peril and toward the God who can rescue him from peril. "For you, O God, are my place of safety." "But as for me, I will sing about your power, I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress." Yes, there is distress. There are snarling dogs on the loose. But there is a safe harbor, a place where love wins, a place where joy becomes a possibility.

These are words that I hope for every child, every adult, who fears for their safety at the hands of another.  And I love that the header to the psalm says that it is "to be sung to the tune 'Do Not Destroy!'" How perfect is that?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Paperback writer

Child of Divorce, Child of God is available as an e-book, but it is officially out of print in paperback. There are some copies available from used booksellers on Amazon.  If you want a brand, spanking new copy, straight from the author (that's me), go to Amazon and search the "used and new" sellers for a seller called "littleponci." You'll order and pay through Amazon and then Amazon will email me with your address and I'll ship your order directly to you.  Easy-peasy.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

There's an app for that

Anything that helps divorced parents have less conflict is a good thing. Check out this article about an app that helps make the financial side of divorce with children a little easier and less acrimonious.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

College-bound child of divorce

There's been a lot of chatter the last week or so about the case in New Jersey of a girl suing her parents for child support and college costs, among other things. This article discusses some of the state laws that affect parents when it comes to paying for college. Rules vary from state to state, but in some states where parents generally have the right to tell the kids that they're on their own when it comes to paying for college, divorced parents may find themselves footing the bill.

When I took Family Law last year, this topic generated some interesting discussion. Basically, the idea is that divorced, noncustodial parents statistically tend to drift away from their kids and not provide for them to the same extent that married or custodial parents do. Requiring noncustodial parents to pay for college is seen as a way of remedying that situation and leveling the playing field for those kids.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scientific child of divorce

The folks over at Scientific American paint a fairly rosy picture for children of divorce in this article. Interestingly, while they included Judith Wallerstein's The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, they do not mention Elizabeth Marquardt's Between Two Worlds which looks at some of the subtler long-term effects of divorce in kids who otherwise appear just fine.  Still, if you're looking for some good news, the SA article may be just the thing for you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Falling and getting back up again

Mark 14 recounts the familiar story of Jesus predicting that Peter will deny knowing him three times before the rooster crows -- in other words, before dawn.  Peter's fervent promise to stand by Jesus is usually what stands out to me when I read this story. Of course, we know the truth. Jesus was right. All heck broke loose when a bunch of armed guards showed up to arrest Jesus. His followers who had promised to die by his side ran for their lives, leaving Jesus to face the soldiers and priests on his own. Peter lurked nearby but denied any affiliation with Jesus when confronted by those in the crowd.

What struck me as I read this passage today, though, was something different. Back in verse 27, Jesus begins by telling the disciples that they will all desert him. But then in verse 28 he says, "But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there."

These words seem like a foretaste of grace and forgiveness. Jesus has just informed his closest friends that they will abandon him in his hour of greatest need. But then he turns around and tells them that he'll be waiting for them at a pre-arranged meeting spot.  No scolding or shaming, no guilt trips. Just a simple, "Yep, you're going to turn your back on me, and then we'll meet up later."  Clean slate. And the sure knowledge that even though they are going to abandon him for awhile, they'll be back by his side before long.

Yes, Jesus could see their future failures. But he was also aware of -- and careful to tell them about -- their future obedience and his future grace.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A friend in the neighborhood

I am convinced it is no coincidence that Mister Rogers--the sweater-wearing, singing, owner of a secret puppet wonderland--thrived on television during the late 60s and 70s. At a time when divorce rates were skyrocketing and children were reeling, who better to spend a little time with each day than someone who told you that you were special, that you were listened to, that your feelings mattered.

I was reminded of this recently as I watched the documentary "Mister Rogers and Me" on PBS.  In one of the opening bits, Wagner tells the story he recounts in his blog here, about Mister Rogers asking about his parents' divorce.  The story is just as any kid who grew up watching the show would imagine: Mister Rogers talking about something no one else wants to talk about with kids, giving the kid permission to express what he's feeling, and then letting it all end with a comforting and mood-changing song that says 'even in the midst of sad things, at least we still have each other.'

No wonder we all loved him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Child of television divorce

I don't watch Parenthood, but this article caught my eye.  Apparently, one of the families on the show is going through a divorce and a recent episode captured the kids' perspective of being caught in the middle while mom and dad are going their separate ways.  The article is worth a read, whether you watch the show or not.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Divorce, Hawaiian style

Last week's episode of Hawaii Five-O featured a two-generation story of divorce. Melanie Griffith plays Danno's mom. (Which leads me to wonder, when did Melanie Griffith get old enough to play the mother of a police detective? How time flies.) Danno is expecting his parents to come for a visit, but his mother arrives alone and announces that she is leaving his father.

Later in the episode, Danno talks with his daughter and his mom about his own divorce and how hard it was to tell his daughter that he and her mother were not going to be married anymore. His daughter tells Danno that she remembers that night well and remembers that he then went into his own room and she could hear him crying.

The episode is an interesting twist on a familiar theme. Instead of a character's impending divorce dredging up memories of his parents' divorce, here the parents' impending divorce is bringing back a flood of memories and emotions about his own divorce -- and about his feelings of failure and disappointment as a father.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Monday devo: Intentional loss

This week's sermon at church was on Mark 8:35, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."  The pastor followed this with a call to service, to give up one's time and comfort so that others can experience God's grace through our acts.

This verse reminds me of the words of Jim Elliott, who literally gave his life for the sake of the Gospel: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Jesus was crucified, many of his disciples gave their lives in martyrdom, and even Jim Elliott was murdered on the mission field.  In our comfortable, suburban, SUV and latte filled world, we are unlikely to be asked to die for our faith. But these words still ring true in our reality. We are called on quite often to sacrifice our desires, our time, our comfort, our idea of how things should work, our plans and hopes and dreams, so that others can know Jesus or understand a little more about God or see grace in our eyes and our hands.

When these moments of calling occur, we have a choice. We can surrender, giving up our selves and our lives for someone else. When we choose this, we so often find that we are the winners. We gain the joy of seeing someone else come closer to God, the joy of knowing we have done something good, the joy of having a purpose and a role to fill. Or, we can hold tightly to our ways and our desires, carefully protecting the world we have worked so hard to create for ourselves. But when we choose this option, we often find that, rather than gaining something, we have lost something of tremendous value. We lose the opportunity to experience joy, but we also often lose so much more. In our rush to protect our lives, we find that life becomes empty, hollow, without purpose. What were we working so hard to protect? And why does it seem further off than ever?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

If I seem a little crazy...

...this may be why! By the time I was in the 6th grade, I'd been to six different schools (not counting preschool) and lived in five different states.

Oh, and thanks very much to my brother who sent this article to me. What exactly is he implying?

Kidding aside, as much as I changed schools early on, my parents tried to make the transitions a little easier on me by sending me to Christian schools that all used roughly the same curriculum with minor variations.  I may have been the new kid, but gosh darn it, I'd used the same reading and math books all the other kids had the previous school year. A small thing, perhaps, but it helped. And, from the article linked above, it seems any small help may be a big thing for the transient child.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The face of love

I'm such a sucker for stories like this one, where life takes an unexpected, horrifying turn and love shines through. 

They stand in such stark contrast to an interview I remember watching years ago, one of those Barbara Walters specials, with John and Bo Derek. For those too young to remember, Bo was the star of the movie "10" that famously included a scene of her in blond cornrow braids jogging in a swimsuit. During the interview, perhaps sensing that John was infatuated rather than in love, Walters asked him whether he would stay with Bo if she were disfigured in a car accident and got the response she must have sensed was coming: "No."  I was a teenager at the time of the interview and still remember the look of embarrassment and pain on Bo's face. John Derek has since died and, happily, Bo seems to have found a steadier love in John Corbett. Here's John C. telling the story of their first date.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Some lines are not meant to be blurred

Blurring the lines between people who are your spouse and people who are not is not a great recipe for longevity in marriage, as Mr. and Mrs. Robin Thicke are apparently learning.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday devo: Protecting what's really important

This morning I'm reading Mark 7:1-23, one of the many passages where Jesus chastises the "Pharisees and teachers of religious law." He did this a lot, calling them out for their hypocrisy and the way they liked to burden the people with made up rules that may have been intended for good originally but had come to be more important than the good they were supposed to accomplish.  As Jesus put it in verse 8, "For you ignore God's specific laws and substitute your own traditions."

Last week, I read a conversation (for lack of a better word) on the internet. A group of Christians were skewering another Christian because he took a different view than they did on an issue. And not a moral issue, but rather a political issue. In their minds, it seemed, to take any position other than their own was a sin. "Why don't your disciples follow our age-old customs? For they eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony." (Mark 7:5)

While I'm bothered still by the conversation I read, I'm challenged this week to think about the things -- ideas, traditions, etc. -- that I work so hard to protect that have little real value.  What burdens am I imposing on those around me because I think they should act or think a certain way when really, like the Pharisees, I'm simply imposing my own made up rules? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Fun

Head on over to the Child of Divorce, Child of God facebook page for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Speaking of sweet songs

I'm loving this season of American Idol. I had stopped watching, in part because the judges had become so snarky and childish, but with Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. in the judges' seats this season I tuned in and now I'm hooked. Besides both being fantastic musicians who are being respectful, honest, and encouraging with the contestants, Keith has such a sweet manner and Harry is hilarious and not bad on the eyes.

So last week, they aired just a clip of a song by one of the young hopefuls Sam Woolf, an original that he said he wrote when his mother left.  I found the full song on his YouTube page. The lyrics are sometimes a little hard to follow in the performance, but the melody is very nice. If you're a fan, tune in to American Idol because he made the cut last week and will be back to perform another day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sweet song

OK, I admit it. I'm a convert to country music.  I grew up on Madonna and Def Leppard, but somewhere along the way pop music took a turn -- and, yes, I got older. The techno vibes and oversexed lyrics just became too much.

When my youngest brother moved in with me for a few years awhile back, he brought with him a love for country music that I tolerated at first, and then found myself drawn into.  This has as much to do with a migration of country music as it does with a migration of pop.  Country music today feels like it has more in common with the pop music of my youth than what passes for pop today. With Keith Urban on American Idol and Blake Shelton on The Voice, I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking this way.

All that to say, I'm a late adopter of the country music bandwagon. So, while this is an old song, it was new to me when I heard it recently.  The words of this song were so sweet and reminded me of things I've heard many children of divorce say about their own journey into parenthood.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday devo: Pity and anger

As promised, this is a new feature. I hope to publish a short piece every Monday, writing about something I've been reading in the Bible.  Because what better way to start Monday than to start it with God.

Last night, I was reading these words in the first chapter of the gospel of Mark: "A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. 'If you want to, you can make me well again,' he said. Moved with pity, Jesus touched him. 'I want to,' he said. 'Be healed.' Instantly the leprosy disappeared--the man was healed." (Mark 1:40-42).

Next to the phrase "moved with pity" was an asterisk that led me to a note at the bottom of the page that read "Some manuscripts read 'moved with anger.'"

I find it so interesting that these two words would be used in this situation. Pity denotes sorrow and compassion, and certainly we often feel sorrow for and compassion on those who are suffering.  "I'm so sorry for your loss." "I'm sorry this happened to you."

But anger is also a common and natural reaction to suffering. If we know who caused the suffering, we feel angry at them. Other times we feel angry at God, at fate, at the universe, at life. Things were supposed to be different and someone or something is to blame.  If we want to sound spiritual, we might call it righteous indignation. Anger.

Whether our reaction to suffering is pity or anger would seem to depend on our perspective. Are we focused on the person who is suffering? Pity that poor person. Are we focused on the cause of the suffering? How dare that person/thing cause this kind of suffering.

As he so often did, my guess is that Jesus managed to capture both sides at once in perfect balance -- pity for the sufferer, anger at the thing that causes suffering to be part of our world. 

A reminder to me as I start this week to not overlook the real plight of people in my righteous indignation and to remember in the face of suffering that this is not the way things are supposed to be.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blog reboot

Hello friends! After another long hiatus, I hope to be back and posting regularly. I hope you'll join the conversation. In addition to the material that has been on this blog in the past, there will be some new features. I'm excited to be back and sharing this journey with you.