Divorce Has Ruinous Consequences That Remarriage Cannot Heal

Over half of the marriages in America end in divorce. Divorce is hellish. Getting remarried cannot help this.

 

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Linda Waite of the University of Illinois-Chicago says: “Losing a marriage or becoming widowed or divorced is extremely stressful. It’s financially, sometimes, ruinous. It’s socially extremely difficult. What’s interesting is if people have done this and remarried, we still see, in their health, the scars or marks — the damage that was done by this event. Divorced people have more chronic conditions, more mobility limitations, rate their health as poorer than people like them in age, race, gender, education who’ve been married once and are still married.”

For the research, data, etc., see the CNN report here.

Solitude & Silence

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(My shadow, in my backyard)
Thomas Merton wrote: “Someone has to try to keep his head clear of static and preserve the interior solitude and silence that are essential for independent thought.” (Faith and Violence)

I am approaching thirty years of increasing solitude and silence. I try not to judge my life by output, but I would say that relevant, creative life-output is in direct proportion to increasing solitude and silence (S&S). S&S are the wellspring of creativity. S&S situate a person in the interior desert from which righteous introspection happen. S&S provide the environment for authentic self-evaluation that, with God’s assistance, produce genuine inner transformation. And such inner transformation is what it’s all about, as opposed to the hypocrisy of the external extreme makeover.

In times of S&S we get to breathe clean air once more, clear our senses, clarify our purposes. It was said of Gandhi that he took one day a week off to accomplish two things: 1) rest his vocal chords; and 2) collect his thoughts.

S&S do not require literal desert places, though they are nice and quite helpful. This is because true S&S are conditions of the heart, and can be found whereve one is physically. I know this personally to be true, having taken many hours a week in solitude and silence over a period of thirty years. S&S are the twin trees planted in the oasis of the soul that draws from the river of God.

Contemplatives like Merton attest that S&S is different from “R&R” in the sense that S&S are to be the foundational background that hums unceasingly, and out of which true discernment grows. Personally I think a lot of people need a real vacation after their physical vacation. S&S can provide this daily.

Our world does not value S&S. Busyness is valued, and of busyness there is no end. Busyness’s operative is: to be busy. Always. Hence, the massive irrelevancy of the “busy life,” which is a life that is to be always “filled up” with “things to do.”

One day in the early 1980s I was walking across the campus of Michigan State University feeling lost in regard to my doctoral dissertation (Northwestern U.). I saw a friend who was an MSU professor. “How are you today?” he asked. “I’m struggling with my dissertation. I don’t know what to do and where to go with it. I can’t see the forest for the trees.” His immediate counsel to me was: “Take two weeks away from it. Then, come back.” Initially this seemed ridiculous, a break I could not afford to take. Yet something also seemed right, especially coming from this scholar and friend. So I took two weeks off. I did not attend to the dissertation. Yet, in the absence of directly working on it, thoughts began to bubble up inside me. I wrote them in my journal. The game plan was being given to me in the silence and abstinence.

In the same way solitude and silence are God-gifts to bring healing, well-being, joy, perspective, creativity, strength, and hope. Out of them come relevant telic activity. The psalmist never counseled us to “Be busy, and know that I am God.”

Lael Arrington & Rick Davis – Their Excellent Talk Show

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(The River Raisin)

Thanks to Rick Davis and Lael Arrington for their radio talk show The Things That Matter Most. They have compiled a feast of audio interviews, to include things like:

What Spiritual Knowledge Can Do for You – Dallas Willard

The Lost Gnostic Gospel of Judas – Bart Ehrman and Darrell Bock

Beyond Death: Evidence for Immortality – Gary Habermas

Understanding the Muslim Next Door – Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Pastor Turned Atheist Talks to Atheist Turned Pastor – Dave Schmelzer and John Loftus

A Dispassionate and Respectful Discussion about Evolution’s “Flaws” – Paul Nelson and Karl Giberson

Darwin Day: Can You Believe in Evolution and Still be A Christian? – Karl Giberson and Paul Nelson

What is Evil (or Good) and Where Does It Come From? Part I – Michael Shermer and Ben Wiker

What is Evil (or Good) and Where Does It Come From? Part II – Michael Shermer and Ben Wiker

What Does it Take to Believe in God? – Bill Craig

“God the Failed Hypothesis” Part 2 – Victor Stenger and Hugh Ross

How Can We Know What Is True? – J.P. Moreland

Lead Guitarist from Nu-metal band KORN Finds Jesus – Brian “Head” Welch

VeggieTales Creator Offers Evidence for the Reality of God – Phil Vischer

…and A LOT MORE (Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris, Os Guinness, Ravi Zacharias, Paul Maier, A.J. Jacobs, Alister McGrath, Michael Behe, Erwin McManus, John Eldredge, Francis Collins, and so on…).

Escaping the Empty Self

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The “Wheelers” are the married couple in “Revolutionary Road” played by Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet. Outwardly they appear as the perfect couple. How could they have any problems, since they are “the Wheelers?” Ahhh… little do others know that, in their individual selves as in their marriage, they’ve got nothing. Nothingness defines their lives. Inwardly they are empty. This is significant because they have fulfilled the “American Dream” in what may go down as the most economically prosperous place and time in all of history. The film shows that, if there’s not a whole lot more to life than the American Dream we’re all in a lot of trouble.

 

Philosopher J.P. Moreland, in The Lost Virtue of Happiness, writes: “Since the 1960s, for the first time in history a culture – ours – has been filled with what have been called empty selves. The empty self is now an epidemic in America (and in much of Western cultuyre). According to Philip Cushman, “The empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists… [The empty self] experiences a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning… a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.” (Moreland, 17-18)

 

Moreland gives four traits of the empty self.

 

1. The empty self is inordinately individualistic. Healthy individualism is a good thing. “But the empty self that populates American culture is a self-contained individual who defines his own life goals, values, and interests as though he were a human atom, isolated from others with little need or responsibility to live for the concerns of his broader community…. But as psychologist Martin Seligman warns, ‘The self is a very poor site for finding meaning’.” (Moreland, 18-19)

 

2. The empty self is infantile. “The infantile part of the empty self needs instant gratification, comfort, and soothing. The infantile person is controlled by cravings and constantly seeks to be filled with and made whole by food, entertainment, and consumer goods. Such a person is preoccupied with sex, physical appearance, and body image. He or she tends to live by feelings or experiences…. [P]ain, endurance, hard work and delayed gratification are anathema. Pleasure is all that matters, and it had better be immediate. Boredom is the greatest evil; amusement the greatest good.” (Moreland, 19-20)

 

3. The empty self is narcissistic. “Narcissism is an inordinate and exclusive sense of self-infatuation in which the individual is preoccupied with his or her self-interest and personal fulfillment… Self-denial is out of the question.” (Moreland, 20)

 

4. The empty self is passive. “The couch potato is the role model for the empty self… From watching television to listening to sermons, our primary agenda is to be amused and entertained.” (Moreland, 21)

 

True happiness, on the other hand, comes from “squandering ourselves for a purpose.” Here Moreland draws on Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.

 

Moreland has written a great chapter that’s worth the price of his book on happiness. This is important because “The Wheelers” have been fruitful and multiplied. They are everywhere. American culture is now full-blown Wheeler-istic. Revolutionary Road is brilliant in depicting this. Moreland’s work explains it, and shows us the way out.

Jesus – the Hope of the World

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(Chickadee, on my backyard deck)

I’ve been reading a lot of Dallas Willard and J.P. Moreland stuff recently. Willard, in addition to being a Jesus-follower and great author, is a brilliant philosopher who teaches at the University of Southern California. Today I came across this story about Willard.

He was speaking with USC professors and graduate students on the subject of “The University and the Brilliance of Jesus.” After Willard’s talk a humanities professor said, “I’m confused. You, one of the world’s prominent philosophers, believe in Jesus Christ as the hope of the world?”

To which Willard responded, “Who else did you have in mind?”

Hummingbirds, and Dallas Willard On the Bible

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Two weeks ago I and others got to spend 4 days with philosopher J.P. Moreland. He spoke out of his books Kingdom Triangle and The Lost Virtue of Happiness. Kingdom Triangle expresses three things that have been on my heart for many years. A balanced, full life in Christ will: “recover the Christian mind, renovate the soul, and restore the Spirit’s power.” J.P. is a brilliant and excellent communicator, an example of someone who is able to take deep truths and make them understandable to the average person.

J.P.’s presentation on Romans 12:1-2 is the best I have ever heard on this text. It contained echoes of his mentor, Dallas Willard, especially Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, “Spiritual Life: The Body’s Fulfillment” (ch. 6) and “St Paul’s Psychology of Redemption – The Example” (ch. 7).

I am still thinking deeply about all of this stuff. It has, I believe, impacted me in a way that has not happened for a while.

This morning I am sitting on our back porch. We have 3 1/2 acres of trees and lawn on a river. There’s a large, old pine tree adjacent to our back deck. I’ve got 4 bird feeders, a corn squirrel feeder, and a hummingbird feeder hanging from this tree. The hummingbird that has claimed my feeder comes every few minutes to feed. Chickadees arrive with their young babies begging for food. The same goes for a downy woodpecker family. I regularly see nuthatches, cardinals, redpolls, sparrows, grackles, starlings, robins, a baltimore oriole, even an occasional hawk.

I read my devotional literature, soaking in God’s creation and his presence, with me. I read a quote from Dallas Willard on the Bible from A Faith and Culture Devotional. Willard writes:

“On its human side, I assume that [the Bible] was produced and preserved by competent human beings who were at least as intelligent and devout as we are today. I assume that they were quite capable of accurately interpreting their own experience and of objectively presenting what they heard and experienced in the language of their historical community, which we today can understand with due diligence.

On the divine side, I assume that God has been willing and competent to arrange for the Bible, including its record of Jesus, to emerge and be preserved in ways that will secure his purposes for it among human beings worldwide. Those who actually believe in God will be untroubled by this. I assume that he did not and would not leave his message to humankind in a form that can only be understood by a handful of late-twentieth-century professional scholars, who cannot even agree among themselves on the theories that they assume to determine what the message is.

The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through his church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourished that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading – that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or a mindless orthodoxy – is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom.” (pp. 78-79)

I finish typing this. There’s the hummingbird again. He hovers, maneuvers, flies backwards, sips the sugar water mixture, moves three feet from my face and stares at me, then bullets away.

Pray for Christians in Iraq

I am saddened by today’s CNN report of another Christian church bombing in Iraq. This was “the seventh Christian house of worship in the country to be bombed in three days.”

“Many of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians have fled the country after targeted attacks by extremists. In October, more than a thousand Iraqi families fled Mosul after they were reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists, who apparently ordered them to convert to Islam or face possible death. At least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul in the first two weeks of October.”