Just an average guy who loves Jesus Christ, my wife, and my kids. I'm working out my life's journey, and hoping to help as many dads as possible along the way.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Singular Vision for the Divorced Parent

  Ever wonder what would happen if you suddenly, tragically lost the sight in one of your eyes?  It would be horrible, right?  You would look at the whole world differently, literally.  There would be much adjustment necessary, but you would make those adjustments.  You might think that you wouldn't be able to see as well.  However, I want to challenge you that through your remaining eye, you would see more clearly than ever.  Your vision would be much more focused and intentional. You would be very aware at all times of exactly what you're seeing, and where you're going.  Much better way of dealing with the loss of that one eye, rather than spend the rest of your life lamenting your loss, and how much worse your life will be without it, right?  Besides, eye patches are kinda cool, in a pirate sorta way!
     I would venture to say that we have the same choice when we find ourselves divorced, and dealing with the loss of a spouse.  Yes, we have lost something vital and precious, but our family, our children still desperately need us to lead them with passion.  We still have to have vision for our lives, and for our family.  Proverbs 29:18 says, "Without vision, the people perish..."  Replace "the people" with your family. Without vision, your family will perish.  Yes, it's THAT important to maintain a clear sense of the direction that God is leading you in. 
     Is your family vision going to change now that you're divorced?  Maybe, maybe not.  It is different for each family.  What's important is that you desperately seek the Lord, asking Him for direction for this chapter of your life.  He may give you a completely different direction in life, or he may tell you to hold the course.  In some ways, it will have to change, because there are things you can't pursue as a single person that would require a spouse to fulfill the vision.  For me, our family mission statement did not change when my wife and I separated 2 years ago, eventually divorcing, but my vision for what God is calling me to did change. 
     Let me explain, and hopefully the example of my life and my family will give you a bit of insight as to where I'm coming from, and where I'm going with this.  Our family mission statement was: "Love God, Love others, the rest is just details!"  That is still the mission statement that myself, my daughters, and my son live by.  It is based on the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments according to Christ - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."  And in my family, we go by the story of the Good Samaritan when considering who our neighbor is.  That has not changed.  However, my vision for what God is calling me to has changed drastically.  Over the past 6 months, I have felt God strongly leading me down a path of discipling, and ministering to single fathers.  With a cumulative total of 9 years of being a single father to 3 children, and making many mistakes, and learning much along the way, I feel absolutely certain that He wants to use my life to minister to others who find themselves in the same boat and need encouragement, support, and solidarity.  That is entirely different than the vision I had when I was married, but in many ways, I feel as though this chapter of my life will be much more powerful than before.  I'm not "kind of" sure about what He wants me to do.  I'm crystal clear that this is my calling, my "Chazown" (the Hebrew word for vision).
     What about you?  I would strongly encourage you not to give up hope!  Just because you are missing something you thought would always be there, does not mean that all is lost.  Don't make the mistake I did at first, wandering aimlessly for years, wondering just what exactly life was all about anymore, simply reacting to life as it happened around me.  Press in close to your heavenly Father, seek him desperately, as though your next breath depended on it.  He will comfort you, He will guide you, He will give you direction, and He will give you peace that passes all understanding.  But most importantly, He will give you a vision for your life, and for your family, a vision that will give you hope again, and something to live for, to live by, and to look forward to with excitement every day!  Your children are looking to you today for passionate leadership. Now is the time!  What is your "Chazown?"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You are a Masterpiece!

So today, our pastor was preaching a message entitled, "Masterpiece."  As he was talking, my mind went off on a God-tangent, and I began contemplating just what it means for us to be a true Masterpiece.  I think the first place to look is scripture, and I believe Psalm 139:13-16 is a great place to start.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:13-16

This scripture fascinates me.  This tells me that each and every human being is God's masterpiece, that the very essence of the creation of life is divine and sacred.  Many people would disagree with me, saying, "It's really no big deal  It's just plain science, and there are billions of us already here on this earth.  What's so special about it?"  And that, to me, is tragic.  There is an inherent magic and mystery about the creation of a human being.  And I'm not really talking about the initial act, although that God-designed union is beautiful in and of itself.  What has me in awe and amazement today is the thought that the same Creator of the massive universe, consisting of millions of stars, planets, and galaxies, considers those wonders to pale in comparison to his Masterpiece, you and I.  That the formation of the heavens, of our beautiful earth, complete with the Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon, and every living thing are ranked but a distant second to his most beautiful creation, you and I.  Our society and our culture has become so desensitized to what it really means for a human life to be formed, that we rarely give it a second thought.  Those of us who are parents are sometimes an exception to that, as I am sure there are many of us who have wondered in overwhelmed amazement at the beauty that is our newborn child as it sleeps in our arms.  However, in general, I think that in the insane pace of modern life, and even due to the sheer numbers of us that are here on this planet, somewhere, somehow, the sacredness and beauty, and divinity of the design of human life gets lost along the way.  This scripture in Psalm 139 caused me to think about how each of us is so amazingly unique - the way our eyes are set, the shape of our nose, our smile, the length of our fingers, even the shape of our kneecaps are all determined by a loving creator, an artist, who begins the process of creating each of us with the finished product in mind.  And to think that as He is guiding the building of each cell in our mother's womb, the creation of each gene, the formation of our unique and specific DNA, that He isn't doing it just once, twice, or even hundreds of times.  No, the amazing reality is that God is performing this astounding, miraculous creation process, millions of times over, all at the same time.  What an amazing artist, constantly conducting a glorious symphony of life.
He already knows exactly, precisely, how He wants each of us.  It's not simple science.  Our God is not a God who simply set the world in motion, created processes, and then sat back and watches it all in motion.  Oh no, according to the Psalmist, and what I believe to be true, is that our heavenly Father is lovingly involved in every detail, in the miracle of all life, of all living things.  Truth is, our every breath is a testimony of His artistry and His divine design.  And then the most miraculous part is that, just when you think He's done, in each of us He places an eternal, immortal soul, made in His very image.  Is it any wonder that He stepped back and said, "It is good."?    
I pray that you would take a moment or two and ponder what I've said here.  Let it soak in.  Let Him bring back the wonder, the awe, the mystery of what it means to be human, created in His image, for His purpose, His masterpiece.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Christmas Miracle

So I've been meaning to share a story with you all for a while now, but just haven't made the time.  A couple of months ago, a guest speaker at our church was sharing a message about living a generous life, and giving freely.  He wrote a book about it called "The Blessed Life."  God was really speaking to my heart about this, and I was having kind of an internal conversation with Him about it.  I was struggling, because I LOVE being generous and giving to others, yet my life is a daily struggle financially.  During the message, I was reminded of a season of life a few years ago, when God was really using my wife and I to give to others in abundance.  We gave freely and sacrificially of our money, our time, and our energy to others.  And we were tremendously blessed as a result of it.  Yet somehow it slipped away.  Our marriage grew rocky, and we eventually divorced.  However, when I look back, one of the times I miss the most are those times where we were making a difference in others' lives.  There was Kenny the homeless guy I became friends with, Jessica the quadriplegic that my wife befriended, Don the blind and deaf man who we befriended, Merle and Glenda the homeless couple that needed help - all of the people really stretched us in one way or another, but God used that to show us that life is not all about us and our little world and our problems.  Rather, fulfillment in God is found in focusing our lives on serving each other and serving Him by serving others in need.
So as I was listening to this message, I was asking God to take me again to a place in my life where I can serve others freely, and yet I was doubting/questioning how much I really had to offer, especially financially.  I was thinking "God, I really want to be able to give generously like this guy does, and I love his stories about how people call him and give him things all the time, but honestly, no one is going to just call me up and say 'Hi, I want to give you a gift.'"  Guess what?  NO LIE - Less than a minute after finishing that thought/prayer, my phone rang.  The voice of someone I'd never met said, "Jason, I want to give you a gift."  I was stunned.  Did that just actually happen to me?  It was surreal.  And the circumstances leading up to the gift were just as amazing.
So here's my story.  I hope that someone reads this, and that it will profoundly affect them.  Here's what God is doing in my heart and life today.  So I have been wanting to sell my daughters' bunk beds recently.  I really needed the extra room in my small 1 bedroom apt - we had 4 beds in one room (counting the bunk beds as 2) and it was super tight.  They have taken over my bed and I sleep on the couch on the weekends they're with me.  Plus I really needed the extra money for Christmas presents for my daughters and my son.  It's been a VERY tight year, having gone through a divorce, and working 2 jobs just to make ends meet. 
However, things took a different turn this weekend.  After procrastinating for weeks, I finally put the bunk beds on Craigslist.  Within a couple of hours, I got a dozen emails wanting the beds.  But to be fair, I contacted the first person who emailed me, a single mom.  She bought the beds from me, good deal for both of us.  Her bro-in-law came by to pick them up, super nice guy.  So the next day, I went to church.  There was a guest speaker there, talking about giving generously.  He was talking about giving over and above the tithe.  I was thinking, God, I'd like to do that, but I don't know how I can. The message really moved me to tears, hearing about how God blessed this guy, and how he gave it all away, even to the point of giving away everything he owned, and God gave him an airplane.  I thought, God, I want to give like that, but I can't even provide for my family.  I can't even get by on what I make.  How can I do this?  I thought, Okay, God, here's the deal... I'll tithe and give an offering off of what I made from the bunk beds and from what little I made at my part time job this weekend.  That's all I have faith for right now.  I don't have enough faith to tithe off my full paycheck.  God, if you want me to do THAT you're going to have to give me the faith to do that.  Please give me the faith, but then thought to myself, Those were good stories, but no one is going to call ME out of the blue and say "I have something I want to give you."  Less than a minute later, my phone rang, and a random stranger said, "I have something I want to give you."  Blew me away.  Come to find out, the single mom I sold the bunk beds to - her sister was in Hobby Lobby yesterday shopping, and someone came up to her, and said God told them to give her $100.  She then prayed about what to do with it, and God told her to give it to me.  So she did, and I was absolutely blown away.  I really needed Christmas money.  Not to mention, that I didn't think we were gonna get Christmas bonuses at work and not only did we get bonuses, we got far more than I ever imagined we would get.  So we are going to have a great Christmas at the Stover home this year. :)  And I get to give away a loveseat and air mattress to another single mom who deserves it!  God is SO good!