Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What I've learned from my divorce

A year ago my life crumbled to pieces all around me.  For several years I had been trying to deal with my husband’s pornography addiction, his emotional abuse, and his anger issues.  I had gotten to the point that I didn’t want to be anywhere near him.  There were times I was genuinely afraid for my safety and the safety of my daughter.  Then came evidence of a possible affair – another woman’s bra and condoms in his work bag.  He denied having an affair.  However, he had also lied about so many things that I had no idea what the truth really was.  I moved out. 

Everything that I once held dear was gone - my home, my marriage, my security, and my financial stability.  I prayed and I prayed and I sought the Lord.  I had no idea what to do.  I sensed God’s presence and I surrendered to this unwelcomed turn in my life. 

After a period of months and many failed counseling sessions, I filed for divorce. Things got really ugly.  His story was, “I didn’t do anything wrong. She’s the one who filed for divorce.”  He told all kinds of lies about me in our community and in our church. He tried to ruin my reputation.  As I prayed, I sensed God was telling me that it was all going to be OK as long as I trusted Him.  I struggled because I never wanted to be divorced.  God challenged me again and again to trust Him.  Did I really want His will for my life or did I just want my own way.  I know the Bible says that God hates divorce, but what He was showing me was a love that was so deep I couldn't get my mind around it.  I did everything I knew to do to save our marriage, but I felt now that God was telling me that it was OK to move on. 

I wasn’t excited about the journey I was on, but I began to understand God’s plan in all of it.  God will never leave us where we are, in our comfort zone, in our complacency.  Those He loves, He disciplines, He challenges. I began to sense that He loved me so much that He allowed these awful circumstances in my life to mold me, to shape me into His image.  I began to sense that He had a greater purpose for my pain, one that was not obvious to me at the time.  I began to see that He was going to use these difficulties for my good and His glory.

I ended up back in our home with my daughter and my husband moved out.  However, that also meant I was responsible for the mortgage and that hit my finances really hard.  One Saturday night in the middle of March, I was packing my things for church the next morning and I was getting ready to write a check for my offering.  I had $300 in my checkbook and that needed to last me another 2 weeks until the end of the month.  I prayed and I felt the Lord telling me to write the offering check for $200.  Well, I argued with the Lord and reminded Him that I still had bills to pay this month and there was no way I could pay everything on $100.  He gently told me again, "write the check for $200."  So I did.  The next day at church, a woman stopped me and said, "God told me I needed to give this to you."  I could see that in her hand was some money.  I told her I couldn’t possibly take that from her.  She replied, "I have to give to you.  I have to be obedient to the Lord."  I thanked her and we hugged and I put it in my pocket.  When I got home and started to change clothes, I remembered the money in my pocket.  I pulled it out and it was $200.  I cried.  God was continuing to confirm in my heart that He was going to take care of me.

I needed to sell my home and there was a lot of work that needed done. I worked hard at it.  My family and people from my church came and helped me.  Finally, it was ready to put up for sale.  I prayed that the Lord would sell it quickly. It sold in less than three weeks.  I started packing.  I was able to push the closing date back into May, but that was the best I could do.  I had nowhere to go.  I started looking at homes and I picked out a double-wide that I could put in a retirement community nearby.  I felt like I could afford this and I would be close to my parents.  As I inquired about the timeline to get in, I was told it would take three months.  What was I going to do in the meantime?

I prayed a lot.  I started looking for an apartment where I could go for a couple months, but I couldn’t find one that was in an area where I could still commute to work and have my dog (actually my daughter’s dog).  A very good friend of mine, stepped up and said – "Why don’t you just use the basement in my house for a couple months."  One more time God provided above and beyond what I was looking for.  Her home was in a great location for me and she permitted me to have my dog.  So May 6th I moved out of my home.  My furniture went in Mom and Dad’s garage. A lot of my boxes went to my friend’s house and my brother stored the rest.  I didn’t have to find money for storage or for rent.  My church family rallied behind me and helped me move.  (I believe the body of Christ is so important and that being involved in a local church is a necessity for a believer.)

One of the things I needed to do at the community where I was going to move was pick out a lot to put my double-wide on.  I picked out one that I thought looked pretty good.  The next week they called and said, "Bad news – you can’t have the lot you chose."  They asked me to come in again and talk.  The Lord and I had one of those hard conversations – you know one where you say stuff even though you know you are wrong.  I said something like, “Lord, what are you doing to me?  You know I need a larger lot because of my dog.  That lot was perfect.”  He reminded me that I needed to trust Him.  And I told Him I did.  When I went into the sales office, I met with the owner and he showed me a lot that was much nicer than the one I picked out.  It had more space and some other advantages that I hadn’t even seen.  Again, God was showing me that He loves me and that He’s going to take care of me.  I went home repenting for my attitude and praising God for His goodness to me.

I lived at my friend’s house for three months.  July 8th, my house was finally done enough that I could start to move in.  One more time, my church family came to my rescue and helped me move.  We moved everything in and I started the unpacking process.  My new home is amazing and totally a gift from God. 

There were numerous other things that happened along the way where God just continually provided everything I needed.  It is impossible to write about them all.

It was sometime in July when I got the call from my lawyer that my husband had finally signed the divorce papers.  They just had to work out some of the final details.

Did I struggle – yes! 

One of the hardest days was when my husband brought his girlfriend to an event we were having at church on a Sunday night (the end of July).  I had known that this woman existed, but seeing her with him really hurt.  But, it was also a blessing in disguise.  I had to face that whether the divorce was final or not, my marriage really was over.  I had to completely take my hands off of it and give it to the Lord.  As I let go, that’s when the Lord was able to fill me with His peace and joy.  It was a real turning point for me in this whole process.  You see, we have to completely empty ourselves.  When we aren’t holding on to anything, then, and only then, will He fill us up with His Spirit.  He had been faithful through my whole journey – even though I was still holding out on Him.  I wanted to hold on to my anger.  I wanted to hold on to my rights.  I had to let go of everything and trust Him with it all.  Forgiveness is a hard thing.  I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  If it did, I might repeat the same mistakes again and again.  Forgiveness means remembering without anger. 

I am a new person today.  I am so different in many ways than the woman I was last year.  I am more in love with Jesus than I have ever been in my life. 

I am still waiting on the final divorce papers, but I am OK with that.  The Lord has given me such a peace, I can’t begin to tell you how different my heart is.  In John chapter 5 there is a story about the man who tries to get into the pool to be healed and he can’t get in fast enough.  Jesus asks him one question – “do you want to be made well?”  Jesus will heal us, if we want to be healed.  We have to decide if that’s what we want.  We have to be willing to say to the Lord, “whatever it takes!” 

Do I wish my marriage hadn't ended - yes. I wish I could look forward to celebrating a 60th wedding anniversary like my parents did earlier this year.  I wish my daughter didn't have to go through all the pain that she has endured.

But I would never go back. What I have gained through this process far outweighs any pain I have experienced. The joy of knowing my Savior deeply and intimately is worth more than any material blessing. He has shown me His strength  through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has shown me that He is all I need. He has shown me that what man intends for harm, He will use for my good and His glory.

I have seen God's faithfulness.  I have seen Him provide exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.  He has been more than I could have ever asked or imagined. His faithfulness has changed me. 
 

What else have I learned?
  • I’ve learned to trust the Lord and His plans for my life – He never lets me down.
  • I’ve learned that everything in this life is temporary and I should enjoy each moment of each day and I should live with my eyes on eternity.  I’m just an alien passing through this world.
  • I’ve learned that feelings, people, and even relationships can be gone in a moment.
  • I’ve learned that hurt and pain can be great teachers – if I allow them to be.
  • I’ve learned that sharing my heart and my hurt can not only help someone else, it can continue to bring healing to me.
  • I’ve learned that God is faithful.  He never lets me alone for even a moment.
  • I saw that God didn’t abandon me in my hour of need and neither did God’s people.
  • I’ve learned to focus on being kinder to others.
  • I’ve learned that not everyone who claims to know Jesus really does.
  • I’ve learned how important truth and honesty are in a relationship – not just with another person, but also with God.
  • I’ve learned it doesn’t matter what other people think about me – it only matters what God thinks.
  • I’ve learned how much I love to pray and sit in God’s presence.
  • I’ve learned how desperately I need to fix my eyes on Jesus.
  • I’ve learned that distractions come in a variety of packages and some of them look really good for the moment.
  • I am continuing to learn to tune out the distractions and tune into the Spirit.
  • I’m learning that when I walk with God, a lot of things won’t fit into my plans – and that I need to surrender my plans and my planning.  When I already have my mind set on my way -  I can’t hear His voice.
  •  It’s when I have completely emptied myself and surrendered my will, that God can fill me with His peace and His joy
 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Basing My Life On The Facts Not The Feelings

Sometimes, I feel tired.

Sometimes, I feel that I’m spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m failing to meet the expectations of others.

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done.

Sometimes, I feel inadequate for the tasks that lay in front of me.

Sometimes, I feel discouraged.

Sometimes, I feel depressed.

However…

I know that God’s approval matters more than the approval of others.

I know that He equips those whom He calls.

I know that I am adequate and can do all things through Him who gives me strength, even when I’m tired.

know I am redeemed.

I know I am forgiven.

I know I am strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

know that moving forward in faith is the only right choice.

I know that I must live by what I know to be true - the unchanging truth of the Scripture.

know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.  ~ 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT

I know!

Do you?

I am sure!

Are you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Response to the Orlando Shooting

Several people have asked me for my opinion or response to the Orlando Nightclub shooting.

First and foremost, my response is one of horror and outrage.  This is the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.  As Christians, we shouldn’t just pretend it didn’t happen.  We shouldn’t just ignore these people.  We should not be silent.  Silence infers that we think they got what they deserved.  God forbid that anyone claiming to represent Jesus ever think that.  No one deserves this. 

Is it possible to condemn the actions of the shooter without condoning the lifestyle of the victims?  Absolutely!

Was Jesus able to eat and celebrate with “sinners and tax collectors” without condoning their actions which broke the law?  Absolutely!  (Mark 2:15)

Jesus was able to see past actions and lifestyles that were contradictory to Scripture and see the intrinsic worth of every human life.  This mass killing is not an issue of sexual orientation.  This is not an issue of radical Islam.  This is an issue of sin and brokenness.  This is a result of evil that is running rampant in the world.  This is a loss of 50 intrinsically valuable human lives.  It doesn’t matter if the victims were LBGTQ or a group of Christian pastors. Every single life on this planet is absolutely precious.  Every life lost is a tragedy.

As a Christian, I should “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)  I should not let political, religious, or sexual issues stop me from mourning with these families.  If I can’t do that, then there is a problem in my heart.

This is an opportunity to show the world the love of Jesus.  It’s time to lay down our condemnation and judgment towards a segment of society that we typically disagree with and mourn with them.  Let’s not be angry at them.  Let’s be angry for them.

Christians have an opportunity to show love and compassion to two groups of people who desperately need to see the Savior; the LBGTQ and Islamic communities.  It’s time to reach out a hand and care for these hurting people.  It’s what Jesus would have done.

I welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How are we treating each other?

Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the armor of God.  It is intended for Christians to defend themselves against the enemy.  The enemy, Satan, is described as a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. God did not leave us defenseless.  We have the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of His righteousness, and so on.  The only offensive weapon in the list is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Why is it that some Christians wield the sword against each other?

Some of the most vicious criticisms I have received in the last year have not come from non-believers, but from other Christians.  I am reminded that Jesus suffered the worst persecution from the “religious” people of His day.  He was more accepted by those who were not even religious.  I am feeling that today.  My non-Christian friends treat me better and encourage me more than some of my “Christian” friends.  Why is that?  Aren’t we supposed to be united in purpose?  Aren’t we to be of one hope and one faith?  Don’t we have the same goal?
Let’s stop being petty.  Let’s stop finding fault with each other over things that just don’t matter.  Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  The world is watching our behavior.  We need to be salt and light.  We need to treat each other well and take care of each other.  We need to have something they would want.   
Perhaps we need to remember what Paul taught in Philippians 2:3-4.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Let’s assume the best in each other.  Let’s build one another up.  We are in a war and we are to be fighting side by side against our adversary – not fighting each other over things that really don’t matter.
Ultimately, we all answer to our Father for how we treat each other. Every believer should remember that our Father places far more importance on our showing love than He does on our being “right” on every issue.
1 John 4:20-21 "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister."
We can have disagreements.  We can have discussions.  However, there is a way to do that and it’s much different than the way most Christians do it.  We can even agree to disagree – as long as what we are disagreeing on isn’t spelled out in Scripture. (Which is almost never the case.)
Ghandi is credited with saying “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
What would the world be like if all the Christians actually treated one another with love and respect?  Wouldn’t the world take notice and think – “wow, they’re different.”

Friday, May 20, 2016

Authority

Authority is a principle that’s known to most people.  Some people appreciate it because they understand that without any authority in our lives, things would be chaos.  Yet others, detest the idea of anyone having authority over them.

Authority is seen all through Scripture.  It is an attribute of God.  It is a part of His nature. He has authority over everything and everyone.


I was reading through the book of Matthew this week and thinking this week about the authority of Jesus.  Jesus continually demonstrated His authority.  Matthew 7:28-29 comes right after Jesus has preached the Sermon on the Mount.  “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."

Jesus taught with authority.  In the culture of that day, most of the teachers quoted other people.  Jesus didn’t quote anyone. He just spoke the truth and did it with authority.

In Matthew 8 we find the story about Jesus calming the storm.  You remember the story.  The storm was raging and the disciples were afraid. Jesus was asleep and they went and woke Him up.  Jesus then rebuked the winds and the waves and it immediately got calm.  The disciples were amazed that the even the winds and the waves obeyed Him.

That chapter goes on to tell the story about Jesus driving the demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. In this story, the demons recognized Jesus and obeyed Him.
In Matthew 9 we see Jesus healing the paralytic man.  In this story, Jesus shows His power over sickness and disease.

Then He calls Matthew to follow Him.


As I thought through these passages, I came up with these ideas.  If I really believe Jesus had authority over the wind, the waves, the demons, and sickness, how could I not follow Him?

This is not a “have to” follow Him.  This is - “WOW! God chose me to follow Him!”  This is - I “get to” follow Him.  What is there to be afraid of?  Everything is under His authority.  He created it all.  He’s in control of it all.

And He calls me to follow Him, just like He called Matthew. So what are my choices?  I have the freewill to choose to get up and follow, or to refuse and go my own way.  But I must choose.

 
I choose to get up and get moving and follow Jesus.  There’s more to having a relationship with Jesus than just praying a prayer.  There’s more to it than just studying His Word.  Although both of those things are important, I’m saying there’s more.  There’s obedience and action.

If you continue to read through Matthew you find that Jesus calls 12 disciples. Then in Matthew 10, He tells them that He is sending them out like sheep among wolves.  He is cautioning them about the world in which He is sending them into.  This is true today as I go out as a disciple of Jesus. The world wants to tear me apart. Sometimes it is even people in my own family that come against me. But what choice do I have – I either follow, or I turn my back on Jesus.

My decision - I simply have to follow Jesus – it’s all I want to do.  I trust Him completely. I believe everything He has promised me.

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that many people will turn their backs on their faith, but he that endures to the end will be saved.  It’s all going to be worth it.  It might not be easy, but the rewards will be amazing.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Soul Searching

I’ve spent the last month doing some real soul searching.  I was wrestling with God about continuing on in my current job.  I want more than anything to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.  At age 55, I am still wrestling with where is He leading me?  Am I where I am supposed to be?  I am finding that this is really a lifelong pursuit of God and seeking to stay in the center of His plan for my life.

How can I know that I am doing what I am called to do?

The first thing to consider is, am I walking with God?  Am I seeking to grow in my relationship with God? Am I spending time in the Word and in prayer?  Am I seeking to know Him and not just seeking to know about Him?  Am I taking advantage of opportunities in my church for Bible study and growth? 
Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I need to be willing to surrender my will to God’s will.  I need to be committed to doing whatever it is that He desires for me to do.  I can’t try to manipulate God.  I can’t tell God what my plans are and just expect Him to put His stamp of approval on them.  Jesus died for me, I should be willing to live for Him.  When I surrender my will to His, He will direct my steps.
Romans 12:1-2  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I need to be willing to be obedient to what I already know to be God’s will.  God reveals a lot of what His plan for our lives is through His Word.  Do I know His Word?  Am I living obediently to all I know? If I don’t obey what I already know to be true, why would He want to reveal any more of His plan for my life?  Obedience is a key beginning step.
Another key step is to seek the input of godly advisors in my life.  I need to seek out men and women who I know have a close walk with the Lord.  People I know will give me sound Biblical and godly advice.  I am trying to surround myself with five people who are living in close obedience to the Lord.  Then when they give me advice, I need to listen! 
Proverbs 11:14  “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”
I have been created to fulfill a specific role in this world. (And not just me - you were, too.) There is no one else who can achieve completely what God has created me to do. God has gifted me to perform some specific ministry/ good works which I alone was created to do. 
Ephesians 2:10  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I need to pay attention to how God has gifted me.  His plan for me will most likely be related to the gifts He has already given me. 
1 Peter 4:10  “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I need to be quiet and listen to God’s Spirit.  I need to pray and I need to lay my heart out before the Lord, but then I simply need to shut up and listen.  I need to pay attention to what God might be saying to me.  I need to ask the Lord some key questions and then be still.

•What is my next step in my job?
•What is my next step in my ministry?
•What is my next step for my marriage?
•What is my next step for my education?
•What is my next step for my finances?
I need to spend time meditating on these kinds of questions.  I need to listen and allow God to speak to me.  Then I need to write down what He speaks to my heart - I can’t trust my memory!  What an amazing experience as His Spirit guides my thoughts and words.  I long for those times when He speaks to me like that!
John 10:27  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
I need to listen to the Spirit, but I also need to listen to my heart. 
Psalm 37:4-5 "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."
As I am walking with the Lord, He will actually allow me to do things that I love to do.  When I am close to Him, He shapes my desires so that I desire the things that He has already called me to do. 
For example, I never knew that I liked to speak to groups of people about my faith.  As I sought Him, He opened the doors for me to speak at a women’s retreat.  I never knew I could have that much fun!  Then pretty soon I got another opportunity and then another and then another.  His plan is amazing and exciting!  I have the most fun in life when I am doing His will.  All that is because He is changing me and my heart to want to do the things for which He created me.
God often shows His plan for my life by lining up circumstances in obvious ways. And, He also shows me what is not His will for me in the same way.  He’s a master of opening and closing doors.  This is not to say that every open door is definitely God’s plan for me, but it does help give me some basic direction.
Does all of this mean it is easy to discern God’s will for me?  Not always.  But it does give me somewhere to start?  These principles help guide me in my pursuit to do and to be exactly what He wants me to do and to be.  As I seek Him with my whole heart, I will find Him.
More information on my ministry at carolhorner.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A fresh look at the garden

Easter was different for me this year.  I know it was a couple of weeks ago, but I am still thinking through some things I was studying that week.  Really thinking through what my sin cost Jesus.

I read through the account of the events preceding the crucifixion and this year my attention was caught on the garden.  Specifically from Mark 14. 

In Mark 14:34 Jesus says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus is so sad, upset, etc. that he felt like He was going to die.  Yes, He knows He is going to die on the cross.  But, right here, in the garden, at that moment, He felt so much agony that He felt like He was dying. 

It goes on in verse 35 and tells us that He fell to the ground.  He collapsed under the weight of this burden and there He prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 

Jesus was a real human person. He was saying here that His soul is killing Him and then He took a couple of steps and fell on His face and asked His Father to take this away from Him.

In verse 36 He says, "Daddy, all things are possible for You, take this cup from me."  He's saying "I know You can do anything.  Can't you find another way to do this?"  Jesus was so upset that He was sweating great drops of blood (Luke 22:44)  The gospels tell us that Jesus made this request of His Father three times.

I’m imagining my own child saying, "Mom, I feel like I’m dying right now. Come on.  You can do anything. Don’t make me go through with this. Take this away from me."  I’m picturing her screaming out to me three times to help her, to not make her go through with this.  What would that have done to my heart?

But Jesus also says, not My will, but Yours be done.

So what was God’s will?  Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him.”  (Isaiah 53 is a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.)

Jesus is begging God and says "not My will but Yours be done."  And God the Father looks down on His Son and says, "it is My will to crush You. You are going to be that guilt offering." 

God sees Jesus crying out for Him. He sees Him sweating great drops of blood. He sees Him in agony.  He hears Him begging for another way. But it is God’s will to crush Him, so that He can save me (and you).  God looked at us and loved us so much, He crushed His own Son.  He allowed Him to beaten and crucified for me. 

And Jesus willing went through with the plan. The plan that had been in place since the creation of the world. 

So, how can my response be anything other than praise?  How can I want anything or anyone else?  

Everything is about the cross.... my salvation, my joy, my rest, my peace, my security.