Archive by Author | ehairs

“A Champion” by Brian Ford

A Champion isn’t someone that always comes in first,
A Champion isn’t someone that is the best,
A Champion isn’t someone that tells how good he or she is,
A Champion isn’t someone that has to be a champion.

A Champion is somone that has the heart to come in first,
A Champion is someone that tries his or her hardest to become the best,
A Champion is someone that shows, not tells, how good he or she is,
A Champion is someone who is already a champion,
because he or she has already accomplished their goals.

A Champion is someone that strives to become
better, stronger, faster, harder to beat.

Yes, alot of you can say you are a winner,
but are you a champion?

Shalom: A Greater Kind of Peace

Who would like Shalom? <with hand raised high, while saying, “I do. I do.”>

In the Bible, the Hebrew word “Shalom” means peace.

Shalom is no ordinary peace.  Shalom is a greater, more complete peace.  It is the ultimate peace!  My Pastor Tom Gibbs describes Shalom as a “wholeness within all of the world”.  I love that thought.  A peaceful, wholeness within all the world to share His Light.

The Hebrew word “Shalav” means to be at rest.

To me, Shalom is a greater kind of peace…a peaceful rest that can only come from my Father in Heaven.

As Pastor Tim Keller says, “Shalom is like a fabric that has been interwoven together and is beautiful.”  I can picture this beautiful fabric that is quite intricate with lots of details.

I found a needlepoint work of art at Goodwill.  Someone had donated it; but inside the mounted frame, and delicately woven into the fabric, was the word Shalom.   Someone spent a lot of time working on this beautiful piece of art.  BTW, I gave this piece of art to my daughter, Erica Hairston from which the blog “Teach Me To Walk” was written.  She has a beautiful peace about her, and I thought she would love it.  I had thought of writing about Shalom back in April, and after finding this beautiful piece of art…I felt I had to share these thoughts.

Relationships, like this piece of art, are delicate.  We have many pieces of fabric that are interwoven together.  Sometimes the fabric becomes unraveled…much like our brokenness within our lives.  The fabric then must  become “re” woven so that we as Christians will be able to bring about witness for Him.

We all seem to long for Shalom at some point in our lives.  We want to live in Shalom and search for it; but, the place has already been created by God.  It is called Heaven.  Here on Earth there is no lasting place, or city to dwell in; but there is one city that can last (and it has yet to come).

How do we seek this place of Shalom?  We have to engage in the practice of loving our neighbor.  Love should be our action…after all, it was His action.

I’m the worst at becoming judgmental of others especially when I think they have wronged me.  The truth is…I’m not in charge of justice; but, I am in charge of my actions.  God is in charge of justice; but, His justice is different from what mine looks like.  God’s justice is love…in action.  Being able to forgive, be thankful, not moan for what I think I may deserve.  Not becoming an “idol” worshiper of my own desires.

I’m reminded of the Christian band Luminate.  They have a song called “Shine“.  The lyrics go as follows:

“And though it starts with one, There will be a million candles.
There will be millions more, Singing with the tongues of angels.
The Light of Heaven falling down, Spreading love to the darkest places.
I want to strike a match, and watch it bring salvation.

Shine, Love is an action.
Shine, Oh it starts with a passion.
We want to be a heart that’s pure
So all will see that we are Yours…
Shine.”

In order to spread His love, by shining His Light, we may have to meet the needs of others through sacrificial love.  We should try to make a difference in other’s lives, besides our own.  In fact, we are not our own…we are His.  If we don’t love the least of these, then we do not love Him.  In the Bible it states, “He who is kind to the poor…loves Me!”

God is for us.  He has walked in our shoes.  He knows how to identify with us as poor, broken, and oppressed.  After all, He was born in a manger, died on a cross, and buried in a tomb.  He knows exactly what’s it is like to suffer the consequences of others.  I’m reminded daily that my sins pinned Him on the cross.  I was one of the many who stood in the crowd and did nothing to show love to my neighbor as he died a heinous death.

By His death on the cross, He has vindicated our sins, and we have been saved by His grace.  With such grace, we are able to find Shalom and live the life of Shalav that He has intended for us to live.

God’s justice for us was shown through His love in action.  It was His promise of  Shalom.  He tells us not to worry.  He gives us Shalav…a place to rest. In fact, He asks us to rest upon His yoke.  It’s not just for me to rest but for all who are weary and burdened.  God gives us a peaceful rest, isn’t that awesome!  We are to take advantage of that rest, so that we will become better equipped to shine His Light for others to know of His salvation.

Yes, we all get worn out from our daily living, and that’s why we need to take a break.  We may need to renew our faith; like the wings of eagles. We must soar with great passion from within ourselves, and the community of the church, to be able to turn this passion into an action.

The good news is that we have been forgiven and there is a future for us…a future in Heaven.  We are reminded of this future when we worship with our church community.  As a community we become that fabric that has become “re” woven together so that we can become a community of believers that bring about the fruits of His Spirit. We will begin to proclaim the reality that the love we show was His action taken when He died on the cross.

Slowly, we can begin to make a difference…striking His match.  The journey He took for us will begin to shine through us, and we will begin to let His Light be seen throughout many dark places.

The whole earth is full of His glory!  Let His love be the action that obtains Shalom: a greater kind of peace that dwells within us for the whole earth to see!

Shalom, and may you go in peace by making a difference…by shining His Light in dark places when all other lights go out!

Are You a Question? Be an Exclamation!

This past weekend I went to Waco, Texas to visit my oldest at Baylor University.  We went to visit her church, Antioch.  The Senior Leader, Jimmy Seibert, asked the congregation this crucial and “radical” question, “Do you go around wearing a question mark, or an exclamation?”

Pastor Seibert says too many of us go around wearing a question mark. He says we spend a lot of time wondering… “Who is God?  Who am I?  Where am I going?”

It’s true!  I often wonder these things myself.  I wonder who I am in relation to God.  I wonder who or what does the relationship involve, where is the relationship going to take me, and how will I get what I want?

Guess what?  God has a plan for me.  Instead of worrying about being a broken person, and rather am I worthy of His grace, I need to focus on being transformed from the inside out.

In Psalms it says not to worry because at the end of the day…God is in control! When I doubt myself and I question God, then I am putting something or someone else before Him.  I lack concentration.  In essence, it’s like I become ADD in looking for Him.  [No knock to ADD because I truly have it.]

So who is God?

I loved what Pastor Seibert said, “Who’s the final authority?  Let it be Jesus…because in the end it will be Him anyway.

The whole congregation laughed, but it’s true.  HIS GRACE ALONE SAVED US!

For by grace you have been saved… ~ Ephesians 2:8

Like Saul/Paul, we are blind in our own chaos.  Fear is not spoken from the Lord. We don’t suffer apart from God.  He suffers with us! God wants us to see and understand that concept.  He wants us to know that within our own broken lives we are a treasure.  We are God’s treasure!

You see, God reveals within us our question mark that is so easy for us to wear and often worn; BUT, if we allow Him,  He will change it into an exclamation…an exclamation for Him.

Who am I?

I am His beloved!  I am adopted and loved by God! Yes, we all have family problems.  Some of us have our fair share; but, when we are adopted by God we move from one family into another family.  We move into the family of God.

Sometimes we act like we are not adopted; but, through Jesus we become “joint heirs” to the family of God.  We have a great inheritance!  Christ is the One who has vested great interest in us, and died for us so that we could live.

We are born again and made new in His image.  We are no longer chained to the past…to our family mistakes.  So stop walking around with a limp, and get into the real spirit. Start with walking from a place of victory—walking with Christ Jesus!

Where am I going?

I am free of my past.  My past, heinous secrets were getting me nowhere; but, through Christ, I’m free!  God brings about a conviction within me to confess my very sinful nature, and then be able to “move on” through the love of God. Satan brings about condemnation.  There is no condemnation in Christ who strengthens me—just forgiveness!

Now, I seem to be moving  at a snail’s pace; but, I’ve begun to inch forward since learning this revelation.  His desire for me is to know Him and to glorify Him.  I find it funny that he knows us more than we want to know Him.  He does know the desires of our heart. He makes a point of this.

After beginning to understand some of these questions, I should live  life with a new purpose.  My purpose should be to know Him with all my heart and all my soul.  My desire is to know and understand Him.  Through His grace and love becomes the reality of my faith and hope; thus, learning I have  received His grace despite my past.  I know that I have not received grace on my terms; but, His.  He loved me and showed me grace before I was born.

I should no longer wear a question mark.  I am not my own; but I am free to glorify Him.  He will lead me in the way I should go.  I should follow Him with exclamation.

Don’t be a question mark; but, be an exclamation…an exclamation for Christ!

“…and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ ” ~ Romans 15:20-1

Grace Should Arrive Within a Generous Community

Recently I began to think about what a generous community of believers should look like?

I thought that maybe their mission statement might say:

    We, as a community of believers, feel that kindness and love should be shown toward others with special attention being given to mercy, truth, faith and hope. Because we all fall short, there will be times that members will need to be treated, and respected, with special attention. Grace will only arrive from within a generous community from which attention is given to the ‘needy”.  Grace will also arrive when His characteristics flow abundantly within and begin to pour out from the community.  No one should be left behind; thus, making a difference in others.

The RUF Pastor at my church, Mike Novak, said, “Community begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus was so passionate about community that He was willing to be severed from His community of believers so that He could be in community with us.”

Knowing that Christ was the most generous community member, we can begin to acknowledge that because He gave up His own life–we can now live abundantly through His grace which was made sufficient for us!

So why don’t we show grace and encourage each other within the community more often?  Is there a limit to how much one should be encouraged?  Should you only be generous because we are told in the Bible to be generous?  Should generosity and servitude come out of the hearts who have been adopted by Him?  It’s definitely something to ponder.

It’s time that communities get caught up with the freedom of the new testament covenant.  Let Grace Arrive!  Grace does not depend on whether or not one is adequate to show it, or be shown it; but to put someone else forward, or to lift them up.  Being a servant of grace does not always mean thinking about self; but, really thinking about how to encourage someone else.  Maybe rather than treating others like they are a part of the “projects”, lets make them feel as if they are part of the “community”.

Recently, as I was preparing for the worship service, and the “Order of Worship” had a quote from Tim Keller:

     “Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus; that they want to ‘get to know Jesus better.’  You will never be able to do it by yourself.  You must be deeply involved in the church, in the Christian community, with strong relationships of love, and accountability.  Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know Him and grow into His likeness”

Pastor Mike said that a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior is the key to building great communities within the body of Christ.

The community of the church can be a great resource for helping build relationships.  This common act of community allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging each other…essentially making a difference in each other’s lives.  It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving.  That’s the way the community should roll!

Maybe within our church communities a little more time could be spent on improving personal relationships…and not just with each other; but with God, Himself. Think about what’s more important…balancing His truth and grace in personal relationships to be more like Him, or deciding to build a personal relationship with yourself, and only for yourself.  I know which one I prefer. I have a passion, and desire, to be more like Him with my growing faith and the help of accountability from my community

Because we don’t live in a perfect world, let’s step back and analyze some potential problems that may arise when commonality is not included in the community.

What if there were some believers in the community who had been sheltered, or may have not “experienced” certain situations?  What if they were not accepting of another’s brokenness?  For the one who is dealing with the pain of brokenness, they may feel as though they are being judged.  They may feel abandoned, and not included.  In most cases, the broken person desires to know that His grace is real, and merely wants to be accepted within the community despite their heinous secret—or past mistakes. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the community may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the believer that is needing the help; but, these are very rare instances.

Grace and truth is a “must have”, and is needed to be made  known to all believers within the community, so that the healing of the brokenness  may begin.  Pastor Mike talked about how community is built around honesty and His grace.  We all need His grace…all day, every day.  “By loving others with discernment, we can achieve the ultimate loving community.”

Grace is not for the elite; but for everyone!

I feel that we often need help from others to make sense of what is going on within our inner-selves, and to help us break out of patterns of sin and brokenness…to be held in some type of accountability.  Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.

Having an actual community that will share (or is able to share) their experience(s) of how they believe and experience the hope and love of God’s grace is what is needed for a “close” community. Belonging to a group that understands one’s particular needs, lifting each other up in prayer, and holding each other accountable, is vital to making a difference in each other’s lives…becoming more like the image of Christ.

I desire to bond together with a community of believers, and to have an intimate relationship with Him.  God intends for us to live a life that is authentic, and that life includes Him.  Pastor Mike also said that community is designed around the Gospel.

FYI: Brandon Eggar (another pastor), once told me that, “The Gospel are God’s words that are God breathed.”  I loved that analogy! I envision  His words coming to life, and me feeling alive.

Going back to topic…did God design us to want to be with others in a community? I say, “Yes, He did!  I, personally, have an inner longing, in my heart, to want to belong to such a group.  Pastor Mike also emphasized this same feeling in his sermon the other day.

The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—which is for His glory.  We have become adopted into God’s family. We must learn that it is not what we’ve done to deserve to be a part of His family; but, what He did for us.  Christ’s death is the reason for our acceptance–by God, and through God. He promises to never abandon us, or let us go!

In searching for our true identities within a community, we want to know if we are of equal value as any other human within the group. Despite our weaknesses, or brokenness, we all desire and need to understand that we are valued as a person.  Sometimes we don’t value ourselves; but if some value is felt by others…we may become strong enough to help build meaningful relationships with others…helping each other…and all for God’s glory.

We are all unique, and each one brings a different gift to the table.  In fact, we all probably want to be a blessing to the community, and have different gifts to offer.  Therefore,  by sharing our gifts and working together, we can become His body, or community, that represents the very image of God.

Pastor Mike says community is like a team sport.  No one should be left behind.  He said, “What one does could affect the fruits of others.  In essence, the community becomes as strong as there weakest link. Helping others should be the focus of the community.”

For people like me, because of the “hidden secrets” within our community, I may think that others do not have problems, and that they have it “all together”.  I found that often times the ones that are struggling–try to become more hidden, or withdraw, from the community because they also fear that their secrets may be “found out”.

There is truth to making individuals feel safe in a community…through restoration.  Sometimes sharing our “secrets” can be a little scary.  But, being safe doesn’t always have to mean to feel safe to fail; it can also mean to feel safe to succeed.  I think most of us want to be encouraged.  The Biblical truth is that it should be okay to feel safe within a community to succeed or fail.  The important thing is to focus on Him, and to remember who is the judge.

Brokenness doesn’t always have to mean weakness either; but, being able to show strength in our weakness by God’s cleansing power, and to know His truth.  That’s where encouragement from the community can be such a blessing.  That’s where the healing can begin. Knowing that the only thing that can wash my sins away is the cleansing blood of The Lamb.

It’s also important to learn the process of helping each other by praying for one another.   “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20

As I close, I am reminded of the three common designs that Pastor Mike said were needed to build a great community: a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior.  Without the design and foundation of these building blocks, the structure of the community has the potential  to be demolished.  Keep in mind though that renovations can always take place.

Let us encourage one another, be balanced in His truth and grace, and the building of believers will be strong and stand strong…because His love endures forever! If we share our gifts with other believers, then grace should arrive within our generous community.  None will be needy, nor left behind, and it will thrive!

“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  ~ Acts 4:32


 

Teach Me to Walk

My oldest daughter, Erica Hairston, is expanding her very own spiritual journey with our Heavenly Father.  It has been a blessing to watch her mature and grow spiritually, and all aspects of her life as well.  I often stand in awe of her.  She has a beautiful spirit about her, and tries to be a friend to all…especially to those in need.  She is a people magnet!  Erica’s gift from God attracts people to her…in which she is better able to share the Good News.

My other children, Jess and John, are just beginning their own journey making a difference in their own way to further His kingdom.  I’m so very proud of them all; each with their own unique God-given talents that they share with others on a daily basis…especially with me.  What a blessing to be called “Momma“.

I’m actually going to focus on Erica for this blog because of a recent event.

Here is a brief synopsis of Erica.  From an early age she  has  thrived on “being in the thick of things”.  She has a lot of energy, and knows how to harness it and channel it to work for herself, and others, and in a good way.  Erica has been in sports most of her life, and has proven to be a great leader on the softball field and mission field.  She earned  the title of best athlete at her middle school, and earned first team all district honors in softball for her high school team a couple of years.  Erica has made lots of friends, loves life, and truly cares for people.

Yes, she has faults.  I know I painted her better than Mary Poppins; but, she does have special God-given talents.  Plus, we already know that we are all sinners and fall short.

Erica has a mission, and it’s to further His Kingdom.  She puts her on twist on the way she furthers His kingdom with a  flair that only Erica can do.

This past year, Erica attended Baylor University.  She has made a network of amazing Christian friends, and it has literally pumped her up for Jesus!  They are a well oiled “tight knit” group ready to fight in God’s army.

Recently, in one of Erica’s quiet time, God revealed to her some of her strengths and weaknesses.  She told me that God had revealed to her–that He was going to teach her how to walk.  He was going to teach her His way, and it would be better than she has ever walked before.  They would start over and take it from the beginning.  Even though her spiritual walk is strong; He was going to make her walk stronger than it has ever been before, and all for His glory.

I work at a summer camp now, and it’s very hard to get a hold of me.  My cell doesn’t have service unless I stand on top of the zip-line on one foot.  Ok, that is a little exaggeration…but not much.

Erica finally got a hold of me to tell me what God had revealed to her; then, she casually added that something unexpected happened a couple of days later.

I thought, “I wonder what unexpected event?”

I knew she had gone to Minnesota to spend some time with one of her future roommate; and then she said, “By the way, I got to go jet skiing and tubing for the first time.”

I thought, “Awesome!”

Erica also told me that she went water skiing, and that the skis were too loose, and she had trouble getting up; therefore, she tightened the skis. The problem was the next time she was getting pulled out of the water (because she is strong) she was pushing harder with one leg, and the ski was under water slightly.  This is not a good thing while trying to ski on top of water.

I’m thinking this is all really cool!

Then, her next words were words that would pain any parent’s heart, and my very soul writhed with pain for her. Erica had an accident.  The iliofemoral ligament (the strongest ligament in the body, had detached from her hip, and will be having surgery on Tuesday.

BTW…prayers would be good now.  Prayers for the doctor and healing would be great; especially since she is a Packer fan and a Cowboy’s doctor will be performing the surgery.  She may have to change her allegiance after the surgery; but, she should see how it turns out first-hahahaha!

My eyes began tearing up as she told me what had happened.  I was trying not let her hear the pain in my voice; but, I’m not the best at hiding my emotions.

I immediately asked if she had a life jacket on, and she said, “Yes, she did”.  I was somewhat relieved.  I was happy that she had thought of safety first, and that it helped her to keep a float while writhing in pain waiting in the cold water.

Erica went on to tell me of the events that followed, and she felt certain that she would have drowned (because of the severity of the pain) if not for the life jacket she was wearing, and the other “Life Jacket” that covered her with strength and comfort.

A boat drove by and said they would call the sheriff to get help.  Those blessed people also drove around the lake to help clear it so that the waves would not continue to make her move so much…and cause her pain.

Her future roommate, Elizabeth Papetti, and another girl, Kristen Pool, dove out of the boat into the water, and each of the girls got on Erica’s side  to help support her until emergency service arrived.  I am thankful to God for all of their support to help their friend…their sister in Christ.

She told me about the air life that came; but, that an ambulance was actually able to get to where they were.  Erica said that placing her on the backboard was an excruciating pain that she will never forget.

My heart was hurting so bad!  A parent never wants their child to suffer such pain.  I wanted to be able to take it away, and there is nothing I can do.  Then I realized I can pray, and that’s one of the best things I could do for her.

All of the sudden Erica’s voice, despite being a little pain stricken, became more upbeat.  She said, “Momma.  I got to talk to the people in the ambulance about Jesus.”

My whole body became engulfed with a beautiful warm, spirit filled feeling.

Then Erica said, “Momma.  I’m going to have to learn to walk again.”

The realization of her accident came rushing over me again.  I felt sick to my stomach.

Then Erica said, “Don’t worry, Momma.  I have faith.  Plus remember, I told you what God had revealed to me that He was going to teach me how to walk.”

Ok…now, I really need a tissue.  This beautiful, sweet child of mine finds the beauty in her own pain.  What a testimony!  It’s true!  He is going to teach her how to walk in His truth and way.  How awesome is that?

Erica has made it back to Texas, and has a great support group of friends with her.  As a mom, it’s so hard not to want to know how everything is going.  How I wish I could take her pain away, and be with her.

Erica reassured me she was in the great hands with her friends, and of the best hands in the Father of the Heavens and Earth.  I have no control in th situation.  Not controlling the situation is a big leap of faith for me.  Since my mini-stroke in May, I have had to learn to let some things go, and not worry so much.  It’s definitely a test of faith for me, and being able to put my trust in Him…despite my weaknesses.

I truly can’t do much for her while I’m at camp, or any place for that matter; but, I can definitely pray.

I listen to K-LOVE Christian radio quite often.  Their link is also on this web page.  As I got off of the phone with Erica, I was reminded of a Jeremy Camp song that I really like.  It’s called, “Walk by Faith”, and a part of the song is below.

“Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do.” 

Those words are so true!

As my pastor, Tom Gibbs, has told me many times…even if I can’t see and I may be in a season of brokenness, God will teach me to do His will.

God will help me with my many fears that follow me from my past to present shame and guilt of abuse.  I must not listen to the lies.  I am His beloved.  He has made me new.  And the most important thing…His grace covers all I do…just like Jeremy’s song says.

If one looks closely…one can always find beauty from within their pain, or brokenness.

Tom has also told me, “You have to draw near, be patient, and listen to what God is trying to tell you.”

I suppose if I can continue to do those things then beauty will be able to spring forth from the pain that has built up over the years.

My new prayer for myself is for the Lord to teach me to walk…walk in His way of truth, and not my way of lies.  Praise His glorious name!

 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your steadfast love toward me;…”     ~Psalm 86:11-13a

I MUST NOT BELIEVE THE LIES!

I have been recuperating from some unexpected surgery while visiting another country.  I haven’t really been up to thinking much…just sleeping.  But during one of my waking moments, I began to reminiscence about J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series that I have read over the last few years.  Though fictional, the Harry Potter series has touched me in many different ways.  I enjoyed going to see the last movie with my family.  I chuckled when my oldest growing up with the Harry Potter series said that her childhood was officially over…I chuckled because I thought the same thing about myself…hahahahaha!

Thinking,  it occurred to me about how verbal abuse can overwhelm my mind with lies.

I began thinking about how Voldemort and Harry shared many series of thoughts; very little were good, and most were bad.  I thought about how Voldemort desperately wanted Harry to think that he was evil and responsible for much of other’s pain. Voldemort tried to fill Harry’s mind with horrible thoughts and lies.  Some of those lies took control of Harry’s mind… at times filling him with great despair.

Then I remembered how Dumbledore asked Snape to train Harry in the magical art of “occlumency”.  This was an effort to keep Harry’s mind from being penetrated and influenced by the dark lord (our Satan).

Although occlumency is fictional in the series, it has some useful parallel points to the way I should change my way of thinking.

Occlumency is the act of magically closing one’s mind against LegilimencyLegilimency is the act of magically navigating through a person’s mind and ‘twisting’ one’s findings to make them feel shameful.

     ~ Severus Snape said to Harry Potter (on the difficulty of learning Occlumency): “I told you to empty yourself of emotion! … Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily — weak people, in other words — they stand no chance against his [satan] powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!

Now with the above vision in my mind, and since I have seen the movies and read the books, I can begin to understand how verbal abuse has the potential to harm me. I know that many times I think I can deal with these sorts of intrusions on my mind and emotions.  I think to myself…I’m older.  I’m not a kid.  I know the difference between truths and lies; BUT…unfortunately, I don’t believe I truly have the power to deal with such abuse alone.

The reason why I know I can’t do this alone is, like Harry, I depend on “love” to carry me.  The problem is the love I expect to carry me is my own or sometimes “false” love from others, rather than His abounding love.  My kind of love is not what will “fix” the situation. Only His love that is able to fully cover me–will be the kind of love that will be able to truly carry me.

Because I’ve been verbally abused in the past, and hurtful untruths have been told to me, I have often believed what had been said to me…or the person I should become.  I absorbed the lies!  They seemed to be have said in a most forceful way, and they were retained in my memory…as if they settled deep within my mind…crossing over many layers of my memories.  The lies eventually overwhelm my truthful memories and have left me with a memory of guilt and shame that has filled me with the feeling of being a disgrace.

This is an example of how I have let verbal abuse damage my soul.

So what happens if my memories are filled with lies; with vicious destructive untruths that demeans me? Sometimes I think…I know that these lies are not true; but, other times I obsess over the lies and begin to believe them.  The lies literally make me sick!

I love what my counselor, Clifton Fuller says, “If someone says your stupid…your IQ does not go down; unfortunately, if they say you are smart…your IQ does not go up either”.

Indeed I know many things spoken to me are lies. Even knowing some are lies, they still bother me. My memory, in context to the way I think, provides me with the only perspective I have of myself and how I deal with the outside world.  I also tend to connect those lies to my spirit within.

When I think about myself, my thought processes automatically refers to my memory.  My memory may become filled with the concept that I am a guilty, shameful person who is a disgrace to others…no matter how untrue it may be.  It won’t matter–because that is what is left behind in the layers of my mind.  My thoughts have become distorted, and my conclusions about myself reflect the negative, ugly lies embedded in my mind. No matter how much I try to deny the lies, they become a part of how I see and think about myself. My thoughts are no longer realistic.

There becomes a point where it’s almost impossible for me to think about myself without bringing the lies within my memory to the surface.  In essence, I believe that I am those things.  I tend to act upon those lies; which may bring some of them true…which makes the damage even worse…which causes a vicious cycle!

I feel my spirit has become violated.  My spirit (or feeling of strong emotion) stems from within. I want to be good, and deserving of His grace.  It is a feeling of fulfillment, and my life calling to be worthy of His grace.  When my spirit finds itself immersed in a negative view of myself; then, I become that guilty shameful person full of disgrace.

The lies are like darts penetrating my thin skin taking root deep in my soul.  The roots take form as depression.  I literally let the verbal abuse make me sick!

Yes, I’m a sinner.  I deserve to be corrected, and I must be taught that  I can’t control everything…especially the way I think I should control things.  I should not be so co-dependent on others; but, I do think that there are a few that could be confidants.  The problem is that I need to be able to discern what others say…to be able to learn and to discern between the lies and truths.

There have been a few that have tried to convince me that I’m a disgrace…that I’m not worthy of His grace.  There have also been those that have tried to convince me not to believe the lies I have been told so many times over the years.

The One who has consistently been by my side…is the One I should listen to always.  Jesus is for the brokenhearted, and He would never feed me lies.  Jesus, Himself, knows how lies can hurt.  In fact, my lies pinned Him on the cross.

Despite who I am, or who I may want to become…I must not believe the lies!  My counselor has really helped me to envision myself  putting on the full armor of God.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;” ~Ephesians 6:10-16

Harry was successful at extinguishing the flaming darts of the evil one.  I, with Jesus‘ help, can also extinguish the flaming darts.  I definitely need lots of practice, and to stay focused.  Thank goodness for His words that tell me how to equip myself for battle.

Praise Him for His love and mercy!

 

“I Can’t Carry It! But, I Can Carry You!”

Toward the end of Tolkien’s book “The Return of the King, Frodo says,

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep that have taken hold.

Because of my past sexual abuse, I have a few things from my past that the hurts go rather deep.  I’ve thought…could they ever really mend?

My pastor, Tom Gibbs, once told me that, “By giving into the fear of darkness, it will only compound the pain and evil of what has already happened.  By you keeping things hidden it will gain power over you.  Remember, that God is Light and there is no darkness in Him.”

The hope in my brokenness is through the Light of Jesus; because through His Light all darkness shall go away.

My pastor also told me that I had been standing–waiting in the dark.

I have ignored the Light for many years.  While I had been waiting in the dark, I remembered that there was a light that had been behind the “door of my heart”.  I had been longing and hoping for the Light of Jesus to be shed on me.

Come to find out–Jesus’ Light had been there the whole time.  I just needed to turn around, truly see Him, and let Him into the dark places of my heart.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  ~Psalm 34:18

Looking back, I suppose Jesus allowed the memories of my past abuse to resurface because it needed to be dealt with.  Maybe the Lord was reopening these wounds, so that I could truly forgive my self, and others.

For years I felt intense anger, and had tried to ignore my emotions.  I was angry at my stepfather for the sexual abuse he had committed. I was angry about the memories that I had been left  to deal with.  I also felt guilty about being angry.

After studying Psalms, and learning about God’s emotions, I began to learn about my own emotions.  It helped to see some examples of how God felt about certain things; therefore, I was better able to understand, and was able to let some anger go as well.

It has been a slow process; but, I have made some progress.

I’m not going to lie,  opening wounds, is a lot of my own fault!  No one makes me hold onto the past.  The last few years I have been searching as to why I have harbored so much pain deep within.  I don’t want to pick at my wounds keeping them fresh; but, sometimes I find myself doing just that. While keeping them open, it has caused pain for myself, and others. It’s a vicious cycle that had potential to consume me.

In my desperation to find out answers of why others could not understand me…I began hurting them.  I hurt the very ones I cared about.  I might verbally be abusive, and this only compounded the feelings of guilt that I already felt. I began to feel that I was not worthy.  I felt that I was a mistake, or a disgrace, to all that were around me.  Once again the cycle was in place and continuing to gain force.

Sometimes, I couldn’t stand myself  for what I had done; thus, on occasion I hurt myself.  I felt that if I hurt myself–there would be some restitution for hurting others verbally.  However, most did not know that I had sought restitution…within myself.

I began isolating myself.  I thought that  isolating my self from others–would “save” them from me.  In my mind this is how I thought I should “handle” this type of situation. But, in isolating my self, it caused much pain of feeling abandoned…even if I was the cause of my own abandonment.

I have a friend Joey who recently told me that, “the one who abuses is usually the one holding onto their own personal wounds. They never really heal because they keep picking at the scabs, re-opening the hurts of the past and keeping them fresh. Then they lash out at whoever is closest to them, because the ones that originally caused the hurt are usually long gone. The wounding then becomes transferred to another victim. It becomes a vicious cycle unless the abused can short-circuit the circle of pain; thus, the need for a professional counselor to help me.  His name is Jesus and I thank Him every day!”

These were some words to mull over.  These were strong words of wisdom.

I began to continue picking at my wounds–keeping them fresh and open.  I felt few seemed to understand me. I felt others didn’t believe that there was great suffering in my past.  I felt I had to defend myself to others so they could understand. I felt since they had not experienced that kind of abuse…that they may feel how that could have happened. I also felt worse when some didn’t want to understand my past at all…to be discarded.  I felt they were extremely insensitive.  I let these feelings cause great confusion within me.

Now, pondering what my friend said…I realized that Jesus is the best counselor.  My pastor and I had also talked about how the Lord had given me His Holy Spirit–to be my counselor/comforter.  He had been with me always, even when others were absent.  He walks with me right now!

I definitely need to hold onto this truth, even when my way seems very dark.  I know that there will be brighter days!

Knowing this I began to feel safe enough to take steps forward toward healing, and understanding Him.  I have learned that I could trust, and not all would judge me—no matter my mistakes. I was beginning to understand that I was not a misfit.

I tend to see things in night or day.  I am a perfectionist about some things and lack concern about other things.  My pastor told me that Jesus was less interested in me being perfect than in me knowing His mercy and grace.  The very mercy and grace that covers all of my mistakes.

Through great wisdom of many, I have begun to replace my thoughts of guilt with thoughts of His joy, truth, and grace.

Finally I am beginning to feel that I am loved, valued, and treasured.

I know there have been many prayers for me,  some like “Lord, keep Beth from lying to her self.  Pray that she will begin to see Your truth—Your Light.  Prayers like, “May You be a beacon of Light for her in dark places, when all her other lights go out.”

Right before Jesus died on the cross he said, “Into Your hands, Father, I commit my spirit”.

I need to commit my spirit to Him. I should no longer be powerless or broken from my past guilt. Through Jesus, I have the same power to resurrect myself from my pit of darkness, brokenness, and despair.  I should no longer feel guilt over my past.

Physically, on Earth, God could not carry my guilt; but, He told me to release it, let Him carry me, and finally be rid of it.

One of my favorite parts from “The Return of the King”, is when Samwise and Frodo are at the bottom of Mt. Doom.  Samwise begins talking to Frodo about the ring and says, “I can’t carry it for you! But I can carry you! Come on!”

The ring had caused open wounds around Frodo’s neck because of the weight of the ring.  Frodo needed to get rid of the ring; therefore, Samwise carries Frodo up Mt. Doom.  Eventually, Frodo was able to throw the ring into the fires…where it was destroyed.

God is telling me that He will carry me.  God would not have brought me to the abuse, and then back to the memories of it, or healing of it, if He could not bring me through it. His eyes are fixed on me.  Like the “refiner’s fire”, God begins to purify me of my past guilt, so that I can be made new in His Light.

Praise Him for His great strength, and Light!

Hidden Shame

Sometimes I had put up walls and hid–not to keep people out; but, to see who cared enough to break them down.

“Shame is a feeling deep within our being that makes us want to hide.”

I had hidden shame. It was such shame that stemmed from the feeling of being exposed (in my case I was exposed), being made visible, and examined by another who was rather critical of me.  Because of this feeling, I wanted to be invisible.

Experiencing this type of shame, my eyes began to turn inward–becoming an enormous self-judging problem.  I saw myself as a failure.  I felt as if I was a mistake, which made many mistakes.

As a child, I tried hard not to make mistakes.  I felt I needed to meet the expectations of others, or what I thought others wanted. I feared that others would reject me if I did not meet their expectations.

I equated some of my feelings of shame to the abandonment and isolation that I experienced from those important to me.  I apparently took this to be that I was not valued enough–to be taken care of.

As a child I was dependent on others.  Being valued was important to me.  When that support was missing, I am sure I began to unconsciously think I was unworthy–disconnecting within my world more and more.

At times my shame felt proportionate with the situation.  Sometimes, I was able to laugh off the small instances, and move on; other times, I just wanted to hide.  There are times I still just want hide.  It’s like when I hid behind my hands.  It gave me a sense of not being exposed.

Sometimes in my sense of hiding, or going away, is where the thought of suicide came into play.  I began to self-devalue myself, and self-hate.  Why not? Others have thought that about me…or so “I thought”.

The anxiety that I experienced as a child was often due to the fear of punishment.  My thoughts would be when would my step father come again?  What have I done to deserve this?  Will I ever be good enough to warrant praise?  I thought I must be very bad to be so punished.  I would often feel guilty for upsetting him enough to do such things.  I would associate feelings of guilt with being punished.  Even today, I may apologize for something that I did not do (although I do lots of things that need apologizing for).

I felt completely alone as a child.  I was alone.  I was the only child.  Within the solitude of isolation is where I began to think I was unlovable and even invisible—that I was a big mistake.

In essence, I began to lose myself within my self.  I tended to “magnify” how I thought others were viewing me.  I may had the feeling of disgust for not living up to other’s expectations.  I wanted to be needed, be perfect, and to be loved and accepted by others.  When my expectations were eluded, or thought to not be met, I felt isolated…even when it is my own self doing.  I still do this at times.

I know that some of the unresolved, unspoken, and repetitive shame I experienced as a child has caused pain throughout my whole life. My shame has been rooted into my heart in a negative way. I let those negative messages fester over the years.  It became a part of my everyday life.  I had become what I thought I was—a mistake.  I was lost in the darkness, not attempting to see any light.

Over the last couple of years I have begun to let the Lord use my shame to make positive changes in my life.  Jesus began to open the door to my heart.  This was the door that I have kept closed for most of my life.  He has slowly opened that door allowing me to look back at the shame of the sexual abuse that I endured.

I have leaned heavily on that door–keeping it shut for many, many years.  It is not that I had forgotten about what happened, but I chose to place it in a part of my heart that I did not want to see, or open.  It was nice and dark over in that corner—trying to be invisible.  I did not want to look; but, Jesus has taken my hand, and He has begun to slowly open that door.

Once He opened the door the memories of abuse came flooding back. I could see the various acts that had happened to me as a child, and I was scared.

While standing at the door I have noticed that there was a light behind me, but not really thinking much about it.

What was Jesus trying to show me about my past?

All of a sudden, I thought about how I felt when I was pinned down by my stepfather.  How I felt completely powerless, naked, and exposed!  I was angry!

Then Jesus pointed out to me how His naked, exposed body had been nailed to the cross, and He, too, was completely powerless.

And uh yes…what’s your point?  I am thinking about me, Lord, not you.

Then I began to think about those who were near me, and did not take up for me.  The time the “friend” was in the chicken shack while her uncle did the unthinkable.  How there was no investigation about how I got all those bruises?  Why didn’t the doctor pursue what he had original thought—that I might be pregnant?  There was no investigation.  Others sat back and did nothing!

Then Jesus pointed out to me that He, too, had friends and family who stood by and did nothing to help.

I had never thought about it in this way.  Yes, I know the story, but had I never really thought about how abandoned Jesus must of felt.  I was only thinking of “me” and how I felt.

It is true!  Jesus, the King of Kings, was nailed on the cross, and not one person tried to help Him while He suffered.  And who did He suffer on the cross for?  He suffered for all those who were watching in the crowd.

In essence, I was in the crowd.  I was the one who shamed Christ.  I pinned him down with my sins.  I was the one who caused His suffering and the exposing of His naked body.  Jesus took my shame.  He did it all for me.

Jesus could have saved Himself, but He made the greatest sacrifice so I could live.  Jesus despised the shame so much that He endured the cross taking on all of my hidden shame and guilt that I pinned Him down with and gave me grace.  The grace that I had so desired is now the grace that I have received.  Thank you for His love and grace that has given me hope to stop hiding my shame!

“…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,…”  ~ Hebrews 12:2

Strength to Carry On

I have been thinking, and trying to pinpoint, on how to express myself on the particular topic of strength. Some kinds of strength are good.  After all, it is a reflection of God Himself, and He said this is a good thing.  But, I think some strength, if misused, can be hurtful.  It does not have to necessarily have to be physical strength (like tackling someone to the ground); it can be as little as a look of disapproval.

Certain strengths have the potential to become an intimidating misuse of power over another person. I think it is important to know, that if gone unnoticed, strength could get out of hand and end up hurting others (like a form of bullying).  My disclaimer is that I have taken part, and we probably all have taken part in a misuse of power some time or another.  I myself can be rather dominating and/or manipulating.  It is a control thing.  It’s the power within me thinking that I can fix things on my own…instead of truly turning things over to God.  I have finally realized that can become a misuse of power that I frequent.

I think that it is God’s desire for us to use our positive strength to lead our families; like the Sanctus Real song says, “To stand up for them when they can’t”.  To be a wall…a somewhat pillar of strength.  God’s own characteristics include strength & tenderness; respect & forgiveness through His grace & mercy.  Only God can be the true judge of our life.

If we are truly made in God’s image, then we must have a desire to gain those characteristics—to be strong and loving.

There is nothing wrong with being physically strong, if one acts in an appropriate manner.  I guess I am trying to say that maybe a better strength to “workout” for–would be the strength that comes from the heart.  Reading the Bible, worshiping, taking part in a community are all great ways to strengthen your heart.

Strength looks different for different people.  It could be a silent strength, verbal strength, strong- heroic type strength, being protective and gentle for the abused, or even having the strength to be humble.

In Genesis, we find out that Eve was very manipulative.  Granted, she probably could not have wrestled Adam into eating the apple; instead, she used her verbal strength and tempted him in this way.  Although, Adam had been informed of this particular tree prior to Eve being created;  he chose to remain silent, or passive.  Adam could have spoken up and said something to warn Eve about not eating from this tree.  Eve obviously did not understand the importance of not eating the apple from the tree.  She insisted, to Adam, that the serpent was telling the truth…so they ate from the tree, and we know the rest of the story.

Eve using her verbal strength to tempt Adam led to his passiveness…which led to other problems; for instance, violence followed once they began procreating.  This violence started between brothers and definitely became a misuse of power and strength.  I believe many have seen this kind of power misused at some point in their life. This type of strength does not discriminate!

I also believe that we have the capability to misuse our own strength of power at times.  We are all sinners!  An extreme misuse of this strong power can be destructive for all involved.

So why do people misuse their power?

Maybe their “good” strength was ignored, or shamed, by someone.  Maybe their insecurities lead to their downfall.  Maybe wanting the other person to change encouraged manipulation of others…which is a misuse of power.

I am guilty of this sin.  My idol of controlling outcomes of others is one of my gross misuses of power.

God was proud of Jesus.  He claimed Him as His son, and said He loved Him. Affirmation is really important!  Although men and women like different kinds of affirmation, that does not mean to ignore each other because of the differences.  We all feel that we don’t measure up.  We are all insecure at one time or another—made vulnerable.  For some, the vulnerability might come from past abuse; belittling could be happening presently. Finally, some are scared of what the future has in store for them.  Will I be made fun of because of my lack of _?_ (fill in your own blank).

Abuse is a type of strength that is blatantly misused.  It comes in many forms.  It could be words spoken, or not.  It could mean being aggressive physically, or passive emotionally (not being protected).  It could be getting fired for something that one did not do—maybe simply because you’re too old.  It can also come as sexual abuse.  This type of abuse can have many levels of abuse: from harsh words spoken to the extreme of being beaten, or even worse things that I don’t really care to mention.

Sometimes rather than being a strong leader, we give in to our fears and insecurities.  Sometimes, we are just plain jealous of other’s strengths. I know this all too well.  Sometimes, I am more concerned about what people think of me, rather than worrying about how I am alienating God.  I also get caught up in wanting something that I really don’t need and may want to coerce someone out of it…or want them to give it to me.  It doesn’t have to be a material object; it could be as much as wanting protection, love, and respect.

When a person lashes out physically, or verbally, they feel as if they have some kind of strength (or power); but, in essence, it is not genuine strength.  It is hurtful, and it might be considered bullying.  Again, this could stem from their own insecurity or weakness.

This is not always true; but, some may have a deep rooted insecurity that they may not even be aware of within themselves. I will say nothing really justifies bullying, or being manipulative of others.  It is very hurtful to those that are on the receiving side.

Loving accountability must take place to help achieve the goal of healing from misused strength.  This can be done through community; such as with a church, some peers, or a strong group of friends.  Loving accountability must also take place to help one not to misuse their “weak” strength.  Both types of accountability need love and encouragement.

I will say that pointing out the misuse of power of another will usually not help.  Often times, it will make things worse.  Learning to love boldly would be most helpful in this situation.  Dan Allender uses an example of telling a story/example so that another  may see their misuse in character.  It’s like a mirror; thus, one could see the reflection of their action. This may allow them to see how they are truly behaving.

The act of “loving boldly” does not always work. One may have a change of the symptom, but not of the heart.  To love someone boldly takes some practice.  For one thing, the mirror would have to be turned one self first before reflecting the mirror on the other person.

Good strength, or power, can lead to good things.  Just look what Christ did for us so that we could live.  It took great strength, courage, and forgiveness to be able to do what He did.  I could never really fathom what He did at all. It was the greatest heroic act that has ever taken place.

Knowing that there is freedom in Christ, the heart will need to go under a complete restoration.  One might begin with being less self-centered.  I struggle with this quite often as well with many other idols.  I may think that it is all about me.  How I am feeling? I may not always take into consideration how the other person may be feeling, or what pain I may be causing to them.

One thing that needs to take place for restoration to occur may be admitting that a change needs to take place…especially in one’s heart. If you can’t admit your weaknesses, it will be almost impossible for restoration to take place. Blaming others will not make a change in the heart.

Now some may say that the other is too sensitive. Of course there may be times when one can be too sensitive.  If others continually make others feel that they are too sensitive; then, it’s possible that the weakness of the one pointing out may hurt others.

Now a misuse of power can take place within one self.  One can blame them self or have a self loathing of self due to guilt and shame.  All of this can lead up to the misuse of power within one self, and will usually get worse.

There will be times that one may tell their self that another person may be the problem, and that the other person needs to get the help. This could be an excuse which seems to cover the true problem…maybe the problem is within them.  Literally, the misuse of power can’t be seen by the person abusing it.

Surrendering and/or confessing your misused strength to Christ is essential.  It is important to acknowledge what you have done to hurt others, and it is important to ask God for forgiveness; but, it must be sincere.

When talking with another be genuine, and give many details.  This allows the other person to know that one is truly sorry.  Being humble is good when it’s sincere.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Luke).

Let God love and forgive those that misused strength.  His grace and mercy should be all consuming. One must accept the fact that God can use a restored heart to further His Kingdom, despite one’s weaknesses–past or present or even future.

Again, responsibility and accountability should take place.  This is one of the first steps to restoration of misused strength.  It is not just enough to say sorry; but, to truly understand why.  To tell the other that one is sorry, and act upon it, is a great strength.  Those that take responsibility will take their consequence and learn from it to become a restored person.

Now understand that restoration may not always occur; but, when one realizes their sinful nature, the process can begin to take place.  One must learn to put off “your old self” so that one can “put on the new self.  To know that we are created to be like God”. (Ephesians)

God wants to bring true healing; but, it can’t happen without humility.  If one continues down the wrong path they might become self-destructive, or may be the root of someone else becoming self-destructive.  Being humble does not mean to let others run all over them; but, to just stop misusing the strength that God has given.

One must become totally broken and surrender to Him.  God is for the brokenhearted and He will make the heart new.  We are sufficient in His grace, and He finds strengths in our weaknesses; thus, we will be given strength to carry on.  The kind of strength to carry on restoration due to grace, love, and humility.

“…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

We will have the strength to carry on…with the Son, and through the Son. Power will be given to the weak, and make us strong!

Hope: Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

I was thinking about Hebrews 12.  Since I had been abused by my stepfather, I sometimes associated the verses in this chapter with my Earthly father.  I realize there is no comparison between My Father in Heaven and my stepfather; but, I also realize both had the potential to discipline me.  Remembering my past, I decided I would compare a coach to My Father (only in this case).

I thought about how my coach used to discipline me.  I got the jest of what was said in the chapter, but I let my anger cloud my thoughts of what I truly needed to understand.  I suppose the writer of Hebrews is stating that discipline is not always pleasant, but if I train hard (with my “coach”) then I can become stronger-bringing about great joy.

I am hopeful that this new found joy will lead me to great worship, or intimacy, with Him.  I am being made new in the Light of my darkness.

Although the “coach” may be a good analogy, God does not want me to think of Him as a coach…but as the true Father.  There are hopes, fears, and angers in memories of a father. Though God is not like my stepfather I suppose He instills hopes, fears, and anger as well—but on a different scale.  I understand the thought behind this verse, but I will have to switch gears on my thinking.  I still like my “coach” analogy, but I suppose I should think of it as a different approach and not in context of that verse.

I am a “Lord of the Rings” nut!  I love these books, including the “Hobbit”.  There is so much said about life underlying in these beautiful books.

Anyway, I was thinking about when Gandalf falls in the mines of Moria, and the looks on the faces of the Frodo and the companions as he is most certainly meeting his doom.  The expression on their faces was not a look due to loss of love for a coach, or a guide, but a different kind of love—perhaps for a dear loved one–perhaps like a father.  Their faces told so much.

I was also thinking about Denethor, in the “Return of the King“…not as a father, but as a comparison to myself.  Denethor was overwhelmed by the forces of depression that Sauron inflicted on him.  I, too, let the Evil One do the same with me.  Like I have said before, I let the evil one tell me that I am worthless and that life is meaningless.  My mind is like the palantir, a place of deception.  The evil one uses it to show me only what he wants me to see—that I am worthless.  This allows me to live in despair rather than the goodness of great joy and light.  Like Denethor, I continue to battle the great forces of evil, but when the battle is really at hand—I want to flee.

Denethor was blind to so many things: hope, courage, and love.  He grieved so much about the passing of his son Boromir dying that he could not fix his eyes on anything positive.  Gandalf says something like, “Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt…”

I am like that with my hurts from my past.  Instead of fixing my eyes on Jesus, I dwell in my past.  This leads to great despair.

To make problems worse, Denethor sends Faramir out to do his job. The job which Denethor should be doing himself—to battle against evil one.  When Faramir comes back to his father, and he is thought to be mortally wounded; it is only then that Denethor begins to regret what he has been doing—that he was only thinking of himself.

This last loss breaks Denothor’s spirit.  He thinks only of suicide.  He has no hope.  But in reality there is hope, but he is too blind to see this.  In his fit of insanity he has his soldiers build a pyre for him to be placed upon.  He feels that he deserves this kind of death because he has been dishonorable.

I kind of understand this feeling.  I have felt that same fit of insanity, and shamefulness.  It is hard to get out of this state when it seems that everything is spiraling, and who would come to save you.

But like Christ to me, Gandalf does come to try and save Denethor.  Gandalf rebukes Denethor.  He tells Denethor, “Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death…And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.”

Gandalf was trying to tell Denethor that he did not have this right to kill himself; but, Denethor does not listen.  In the end, we  know what happens to Denethor…he chose death over joy.

Thus later after Denethor’s death, the conversation between Gandalf and Pippin and Pippin says, “I did not think it would end this way.”

Gandalf replies, “End?  No, the journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path, one that we all must take.  The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”

Pippin says, “What?  Gandalf?  See what?”

Gandalf replies, “White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

You see, there is hope amidst the darkness.  How wonderful is that?  I am trying so hard to hold onto this thought.  I must pray for strength.  I am still in the beginning stages, and will continue on my grand journey.  I am going to continue to submerge myself into His healing waters–into His word, and prayer.

My friend, Jeff Judson, once told me, that he didn’t see it as a curtain between life and death, but a curtain between our current false perceptions and truth as God made it. “So when we actually lean into our problems, face them head on with the power of the Holy Spirit, they turn out to be just curtains of rain.  They are opaque and seemingly solid, but when we walk through them into the arms of Christ, they are just a curtain of water, and our delusions are washed away with the water of the spirit as we step through the curtain”.

He asked me, “Who would want to live in a fake world of lies and distortions?  So why do we choose to do just that in our daily lives?”

With knowing this I should never feel threatened by the forces of darkness that surround me.  Jesus was declared the victor over evil, and there is hope.  That is not to say that I won’t have bad days; but, it is nice to know that I can be free of that bondage.

It’s like the side view mirror on a car that says…”Hope: objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.  The object of my desire is hope, and it’s closer than I think.

“…and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” and  “When you were dead in your sins and in the circumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”                                                 ~  Colossians 2:10, 13-15

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