23 October 2013

Before You Give Advice, Think About How Well It Would Work For You

I haven't kept it a secret that I've been going through a divorce this year. It's been stressful and painful, and has cost a LOT of money.

Through it all, my least favorite people to deal with have been my fellow Christians.

Think about that. Aren't we supposed to be salt and light? Aren't we supposed to be helping each other lighten burdens and proving comfort? Then why don't we?

I'm not talking about the Christian brothers who know me well. It's the ones who sort of know me; but weren't close enough for me to let them in on things until after the die was cast.

The people who saw the pain my 12 year marriage put me through; who saw what I'd done to keep it working; who prayed for me and with me, thought it was probably best. The people who didn't were a galactic pain in my butt.

The moment I came public with my divorce, these Christians were right there "trying" to be helpful and failing drastically.

"You need to FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE!" Thank you very much. That never occurred to me. Why didn't anybody tell me that 5 years ago? Never thought of that one. Would have made all the difference.

"YOU NEED TO PRAY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE!" Thank you very much. That never occurred to me Why didn't anybody tell me that 5 years ago? Never thought of that one. Would have made all the difference.

My least favorite bits of advice dealt with Fireproof and The Love Dare. You people do know Fireproof is fiction, right? That it's not even based on a true story? And "The Love Dare" is merchandising based on the movie (or the movie is based on the merchandise) and again is not guaranteed. Plus, yes, I did.

Something else I came to loathe was "Well, I just prayed for God to fix my marriage, and He did!" Yeah, that's helpful. I prayed for him to fix mine, and he didn't.

One of the people who gave me some of this recent valuable advice turned out to be going through his own divorce. I seriously toyed with feeding some of it back to him. "You should PRAY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE! I bet that never occurred to you, so do it NOW! You should watch FIREPROOF! I see that Love Dare copy on your desk. READ IT UNTIL IT WORKS!"

But I decided not to. I decided to be merciful to him. I told him I'd pray for him, and I'm sorry to hear that it's happening to him.

In a perfect world, there would be no divorce. We don't live in that world.

On the bright side, it appears God did answer my prayers; just not the way I expected. But I can't go public with that yet. 

23 June 2013

Fireproof Review Rewritten

I originally saw "Fireproof" as a pre-screening in 2008. I wrote a review of it. Recently, I looked at my original post, and realized it's crap. I've matured as a writer in the last 5 years. It rambled on too much and gave too many irrelevant details.

The rewritten post is on my main blog, The Stand Up Philosopher.

I also updated it in light of my ex-wife's pending divorce (I call it hers because I sure didn't want it). And I call her ex because, why not? Might as well get use to it. All that's left is a legal definition.

19 May 2013

Job- An Alternate Timeline?

Job came up in my church small group today. I've done quite a bit of study on Job. I once took a "Wisdom Literature" class at a non-accredited Bible college that required reading Job in several translations. Yes, I'm a Bible college dropout.

I've never attempted to compare myself to Job. Job was innocent; I seem to have worked pretty hard to get into the trouble I do. For instance, my wife is in the process of divorcing me.

So Job starts out with the "Sons of God" presenting themselves before the throne. Satan is among them. God points out his servant Job. Satan says it would be really easy for Job to curse God. God gives Satan permission. In Chapter 2, Satan ups the ante, and God goes along with it.

In Chapter 3, Job's three friends come from an apparent distance to mourn with him. It says they sat there quietly for 7 days. Then in Chapter 4, Job opens his mouth and wails about how it would have been better had he never been born.

Most of the book is Job's friends' attempts to tell Job "Now, you just wait a minute here!" They each take an attempt, and Job responds, and it escalates. Finally, them and Job run out of things to say, and Elihu opens his verbose mouth (can somebody please shut Elihu up?) and rambles on for 5 chapters.

Then God shows up, and takes Job on a "tour" of exactly where he fits into the grand scheme of things. Job attempts in Chapter 40 to admit he's talking out of turn, but God continues on the tour of majesty. Job repents. God restores Job double what he once had.

It's a great book.

But I've always been left wondering something.

What if Job's friends, rather than start rebuking him after Chapters 4 and 5, tried something different?

What if one of them just gave Job a hug, and told him "It's cool, Job. We'll get you through this"?

The problem with suffering and advice is, most of us are Job's friends. Hey, don't knock them. They traveled far to sit with him in mourning. Those are pretty good friends. They didn't start arguing with him until Job wailed that he should never have been born. Then they tried to defend against his thinking. And Job got defensive, and it escalated. But they were trying to be faithful to what they understood about God.

I notice when I'm in suffering, sometimes other believers become my enemies. Sure, they think they're defending God. They think they're helping. But they're not.

When I lost my job in 2010, somebody at church actually asked me "You know you can find jobs in the paper, right?" It took all my willpower not to sarcastically reply (pardon my French) "No shit! I'm in my late 30's, and nobody ever told me THERE ARE JOBS IN THE NEWSPAPER!"

Just like my divorce. I've been married 12 years. And other Christians, who just find out, come in with "You have to fight for your marriage!" I want to ask "Oh, really? Where were you 5 years ago? That advice would have made all the difference. Why did nobody else share with me this sacred advice?" It's as if I haven't been fighting, and praying, and seeking counsel, and reading books like "Love and Respect", "Sacred Marriage", and other big named and lesser names tomes. Nope, just bouncing around like a ping pong ball in a clothes dryer. Never even occurred to me to pray, you'd think based on the advice of most evangelical Christians.

Others advise me to get "The Love Dare" and run it. Like I haven't already. You do know Fireproof was just a movie, right? And even at that, not based on a true story?

Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep". Would the story of Job have come out differently if his friends, rather than challenging his rant, decided to weep with him?

07 May 2013

Not Sure Where To Go With This Blog

I've never felt qualified to write this blog, even from the day I started it sometime in 2005. The best I can think of is a "what not to do".

Now that my wife and I are scheduled to meet with a "divorce mediator" (and not the kind that tries to talk you out of it), I'm not sure where to go with this blog. Her mind is pretty much set, and short of God showing up in her dreams and talking her out of it, I'm pretty sure the die has been cast. How I'm supposed to drive with her in a car all the way to Princeton, NJ knowing it's for an appointment she set to begin the end of our marriage is something I haven't figured out yet.

It's occurred to me that I have long since stopped listening to Christian "spiritual" leaders who seem to have it all figured out. Those are usually the ones that fall the hardest.

I've never claimed to have it "all figured out". I never want to be viewed that way. I am not our deliverer. I need Him as badly as you do.

So I don't think I'm going to kill the blog. I have no idea if I'll ever get married again or not, but the topic is relevant no matter what I do.

One thing I promise you will not get here is cliched 21st century American churchianity. Our God is perfect, but we are not.

There was a time when I thought I wanted to be an elder in a church. That time has passed. So I'm not that torn up about losing that possibility. Somebody else can handle the petty church politics and "PowerPoint is from the Devil!" stuff elders and pastors have to deal with. It won't be me. But the loss of that possibility crossed my mind as I've seen this point approaching.

Hopefully I'll figure out something to do with the blog.

The original concept came from the question "What exactly does it mean to live a Christian life?" Does that really mean not watching TV and never getting mad? Spending almost every free hour at church functions?

24 March 2013

What Are They Thinking?- When A Church Tries To Get You Back

My wife and I have left a couple churches over the last 10 years. The first church is the one I came to Christ in, and we stayed with them for eight years, long after we stopped feeling like we belonged there. The second church we stopped going to because I had to move to Virginia to work, and my wife didn't feel like "part of the family".

The first church, I was ready to lead us away, but for some reason my wife felt like she should keep going there. During the decline of our being part of that church, she stopped going entirely. She went during the week to work on the church pantry, throwing out all the expired food that was brought in (another "What The Heck Are They Thinking?" topic). I only went to church when I had to run the computer or sound board. Otherwise I didn't bother going. I would slip in the back, do what I had to do, and leave.

I found it odd that other members of the church would tell us they hadn't seen us in months and they "missed us". Right. You have our phone numbers. If you missed us so much, why haven't you called? We haven't called you because we know you invited everybody else but us to your childrens' last two birthdays and we can take a hint.

Inevitably, a church will go through the rolls to see who hasn't been to church in a while. They they "reach out" to you in a method that one wonders if the church isn't on some drugs they didn't share while you worshipped with them. You'll get a postcard that says something like "We missed you! Why don't you come to our Christmas program! It'll be fun!"

And that's what I want to ask about. When you leave a church because you don't feel like you belong there, what missing part of the brain prevents pastors, elders, and secretaries from thinking "Maybe they don't feel like valued parts of the family anymore? Is treating them the same way we would treat seekers from the community really the best way to do it?"

Somehow, I doubt most churches ever spend that much brainpower on the subject. They just continue on with whatever they're doing. "I don't know what's wrong with them. We invited them to see our Christmas program. How rude for not coming!"

To all the pastors, elders, church secretaries, and anybody else who wonders why people left your church and won't come back, why don't you try this:

"Hi! We haven't seen you in a while. Why doesn't your family come over for dinner? We'd love to see you again. No, you don't have to bring anything. We've got it". I would respond to that. I'll show up for food. But when I leave a church because we've long since been passed over for friendship and fellowship by the rest of the members, I don't give a sheep dropping about your Christmas or VBS program.

06 January 2013

Does Every Detail In Scripture Have To "Apply To Us Today"?

In my small group, we finished off a study of Ephesians. My group leader asked us what we thought about Paul asking people not to pray that he be let out of prison.

I responded by setting the context. I said that Paul asked in Acts, as a Roman citizen, to appeal his case to Caesar. Caesar at that point was Nero. I talked about how Paul must have laid the Gospel onto Nero at least as hard as he did on the leaders in Judea.

Then my group leader asked "So how does that apply to us today?"

I opened my mouth to ask "Does it have to?" before I shut it down.

I didn't shut it down because I thought I was wrong. I often do quiet down in small group (those who know me may have a hard time believing it) because I realize not everyone has the same perspective I do. And I have a lifetime of study ahead of me.

The study then turned to "God's will for our lives", where I also kept quiet. Partly because that wasn't the forum for my thoughts, partly because I'd run my mouth enough in that small group session, and partly because I've already shared what I think about "God's will for MOST of our lives" in there.

So back to the main question that launched this post: does every last piece of Scripture have to "apply to us today"? I think a bunch of it does. But I don't think all of it does. I think parts of it are meant for us to say "Wow! I can't believe God did that!" without us also asking "So, like, when is God going to do that for me?" Otherwise, I have a long list of people who need their teeth broken in their mouths.

18 November 2012

A Man Spending Time With His Friends Is Good For A Marriage

I came across a blog post today referencing an article on "bromances", a term I am not fond of. I do not engage in such things. I hang out with the guys. I do have some close friends, and spending time with them is certainly beneficial. Two of my best friends are Navy buddies. We served together, and 14 years later are still in touch (I'm old enough to have retired from the military.) I went to see Skyfall with a friend yesterday. With my reading about game lately, it was interesting to note that Bond is masculine. He has a leather face and a permanent scowl. No "metro-sexual" here.
When I was younger, I always hated watching good friends get married, because almost inevitably, their wives would choke off our friendships. One of my friends had a wife who let us get together to drink beer and go to computer shows (not at the same time, but that could be fun). She was rare.
As I read that short blog post, I was reminded of one of my Kindle highlights, so I went to retrive it and write about it. From the book "What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Sex":
"Time with the guys will improve sex with your wife." A recent study found that a man's testosterone level decreases when he's in a romantic relationship but increases when he spends time with other guys.' A few hours hanging out with the guys will increase your desire for your wife. God made us so that time with other men makes us long for the woman we love. Explain this to your wife the next time she protests when you want to play basketball with the guys.

So ladies, if you want your man to be a better husband, let him go out and do things with his friends. It's better for both of you.

I'm in a situation now where, as a geographic bachelor, I get to spend as much time with friends as time allows. Back in New Jersey, I had very few friends because New Jersey is an insular society that is almost impossible to penetrate if you didn't go to high school there.

17 November 2012

Female Hysterics

Here's a video from Aaron Cleary. He mostly directs his talks to younger men coming of age in a world about to get hit with hyperinflation and decline. A world where a college degree is approximately worthless (except in subjects that actually require hard work). A world where women don't value men.

In this video he talks about hysterics. When a woman flips out for no apparent reason, and everything you try to do to make the situation better only makes her worse. I wish I'd had this video 12 years ago.

I've never understood why women act like this. I've also never understood why they get away with it. This kind of behavior is not acceptable for adults. Is it just because they're "Daddy's Little Angel" and are simply never corrected?

Having been there myself, I totally understand why an insecure young man, afraid he'll never get another date again, will put up with it. Or an insecure young husband will put up with it. 

The "Leading" of a Christian Wife

This is obviously meant to be satirical. Still, ladies, can you spot this kind of thinking in your own hearts? Men, do you notice this in your wives?

I can. I've seen it in my wife, and in many of my friends' wives.

By the way, here is an excerpt from "Love and Respect" (referenced in that article) that I have underlined, boxed in, circled, and highlighted almost to the point where I can't read it anymore. From the middle of page 233:

What I see happening in some marriages is that the wife believes or appears to believe that she does not sin. In many other marriages, the only sin that a wife will readily admit to is her negative reaction to her husband's failure to be loving or for losing patience with the children. Beyond these areas, women do not see themselves as sinning, even though they readily admit bad habits and wrong attitudes. They write these off to chemical imbalances, hormonal problems, or dysfunction due to family of origin. 
I made the mistake when I was younger of putting women on pedestals. Women often are beautiful and have soft voices and it was easy to assume angelic or pure qualities of them. I learned this is wrong. Women are capable of having hearts as dark and cold as men's. In some ways, women are capable of being far more cruel and manipulative than men.

This is not meant to be a bad thing. It's meant to be an honest thing. I've done a lot of reading over the last year or so into a subject called "game". Most bloggers in this genre focus solely on the aspect of picking up girls. Others, like Vox Day, write about the socio/sexual aspects of male/female relations. I've tried for the last several months to think of how to add my unique voice to this subject, especially in regards to the topic of this blog of Christian Family Life.