God Definitely Has a Sense of Humor!

I think God definitely has a sense of humor!

Got questions.org says, “Perhaps the best indication that God does have a sense of humor is that He created man in His image, and certainly people are able to perceive and express humor.  Having a sense of humor is the ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is comical or funny. According to this definition, then, God must show an ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is comical.”

Humor has its place in the spiritual life. There are many religious people who tend to take themselves way too seriously. Humor is important because it helps us to understand how God views us and the world.

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’.”  ~ Psalm 126:2

Please bear with me because I would like to write about a story within a story. I feel that it will be quite humorous…well at least to me, and a few others.  I also want to make a disclaimer. I’m going to mention an undergarment in this blog; but, I feel that it’s not too offensive.

I was taking my youngest daughter, and a friend, to see Tim Hawkins and John Branyan. These two gentlemen are great Christian comedians. Their acts make for a night of laughter. I love the fact that they incorporate how God has a sense of humor, and give examples of thus.  I laughed so hard, that I literally cried tears of joy.

Prior to the show, the girls and I had gotten some frozen yogurt .  On the way to the church, where the show was to take place, my youngest turned and told her friend that I write a Christian blog.

With all seriousness, my daughter’s friend turned to my daughter and said, “Your mom does something with Christian bras?”

There was a pause, and then I began to laugh.  I had to apologize because I was really not laughing at her; but laughing at what she said.  I loved it! Then I had to expand on what she said.

I told the girls that was a great idea!  I mentioned that my oldest is a college student, and that she had left one of the particular undergarments mentioned at our house–while she was home for the holidays.  I thought for a moment, and then went on to say that maybe I should write a bible verse on the undergarment upon mailing it back to her.

Then we all laughed about it!  What a great idea!

I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all.  I’m obviously not really going to make a line of undergarments with verses on them; but, I may surprise my oldest.

I love the verse in Numbers 6:25.  It says, “…the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;…”  I was thought that would be a great verse to put on the under garment!  She loves the Lord with all of her heart, and has a great sense of humor to boot.  I think she would think it was hilarious!

A week after we went to comedy concert, I was picking my youngest up from play practice, when I saw her friend’s mom.  I wasn’t trying to embarrass her friend; but, I had to recount the conversation that had transpired just a week before.

To my surprise, the mom had a great sense of humor as well.  She followed up by saying maybe I should write a verse of protection on the undergarment. 

Hmmm!  I thought maybe I should write, “God protects us from evil.” ~ 2 Tessalonians 3:3  

LOL!

I’m sorry but I laughed so hard just thinking about it.  That was really funny!   I thought that the mom may be on to something.

Again, I’m not going into making a line of Christian undergarments; but, what a great laugh I have had recounting the story. I have yet to send my oldest her undergarment back; but, I still plan to do within the next couple of weeks.

Tim Hawkins and John Branyan even talk about how people ask them if God has a sense of humor.  They have both said that God definitely has a sense of humor.  You will have to catch their show to find out what they have to say, or check out their websites or videos.  They are definitely funny boys, and use their God given talents to make many laugh.

I’m thankful God made us in His image, and gave us a sense of humor to make our life here on Earth more enjoyable.  His word also states that, “A joyful heart is good medicine,…” ~ Proverbs 17:22.

Why not take advantage of the medicine God speaks of…having a joyful heart?  LOL

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I have often wondered, at various times in my life, if I was made for more than the ways of this world.  As a child I had been sexually abused.  I’ve lived through things that I never would thought I was capable of, and I’m much less afraid than I used to be.  I’ve realized there is a strength within, a reason worth fighting for.  I realized I am fearfully and wonderfully made, by Him, for so much more.

The word ‘fearfully’ means heart-felt interest and respect. The word ‘wonderfully’ means to be unique, and set apart. There is a great love and concern that goes into our uniqueness and being individually created in His image. According to Scripture, we are of great importance!  We all have a purpose.

I’m just an ordinary person with wanting a heart to try and focus on God.  The last couple of years I’ve been desiring to seek His purpose for me so that I may be used for Him. I feel God wants me to grasp the wonder of His love and grace.  To know how real His  involvement in my life is, even when I think He is not near, so that I may do this task that is set before me.

It clearly states in Philippians that God works in us for His pleasure.  The Word of God tells us that we have been given favor from the Lord, it’s our inheritance as a child of God (Psalm 5:12).

I know that I’ve been guilty of not always putting Him first…even before my own family.  At one time, I  placed many on a pedestal above Him; but, no longer.  I now know that I’m indebted to Him, that He has forgiven my debts, and that He has brought me into a new life with Him.  I have become part of His family…the family of God.

My church had a conference this past fall about the family.  Skip Ryan was the speaker. He said that the family becomes a place where we learn the purpose of our lives.  It becomes the first place where we learn of who we are.  He was referring of being a part of God’s family.  The key to all we are and to be understood is within the family.

Of course, we learn a lot from our biological families as well.  I’m thankful to have met a man that I married and began a family with.  I have been blessed in many ways; but, especially with my three  children.  They are all three very unique with many God-given qualities and talents.  They have taught me so much about life, and how very thankful I am for the opportunity to be called, “Mom”.

I’m thankful that I’m a part of the family of God, as well as my own family.  We are joint heirs with Jesus. Admittedly, I’m not always close to either families; but, I’m thankful to be a part of both.

Within our families each of us has been given a unique and individual purpose that cannot fail if we will cast off fear and stop listening to the lies of failure, doom and gloom and all the negativity that the devil has been beating us up with. Regardless of our past and our shortcomings!  Why? Because it is God ordained – that’s why. And besides that, Romans 11:29 tells us: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” He’s given this to us and He will never take it back.

There is no difference who you are.  Grace is for everyone in the family.

One thing that I’ve learned is that within our families, there is hope!  Jesus is our hope!  Jesus is God’s gift to sinners!  The plans and purposes of God are set in motion for a reason…to give us a future and a hope, so that we can be a blessing to our families, or others.

Despite the complexity of families, we should invest time in her members…not taking for granted how much time God has fashioned us to be individuals that have been created for His purpose.  We are all unique and bring a different gift to the family. God would not go to the trouble of creating us, if He did not have a purpose for the family. We have been fearfully and wonderfully made to be individuals within the family of God to do His purpose.  Praise His wonderful name!

For you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!” ~ Psalm 139: 13-17

Celebrate Christ in Christmas Everyday!

What does it mean to celebrate Christ in Christmas? We can’t remain in “faith” and stay on the sideline of our life. IT’S TIME TO GET INTO THE GAME! Don’t be a bench warmer! Come to Jesus!  Be one who takes His Light into the world with delight (and not because of duty)…for all to celebrate!

Don’t resist celebrating! Celebrate the Light of the World even when all other  lights have gone out, and you remain sitting in the dark. You are never alone! Celebrate no matter what, or where you are.  Enjoy celebrating Christ in Christmas everyday! ♥

God has party plans for us! He wants us to party like a rock star–for Christ!  Celebrate the new you through Christ everlasting!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~ 2Corinthians 5:17

P.S. Thanks for reminding me to celebrate the real reason for the season…and you know who you are.  God bless you!

Compassion Changed My Life. Thank You, Pastor!

I realize this blog is a little long; but, it’s important to raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a regular basis–by offering prayer and at times showing them some appreciation. In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to dedicate this blog to those who have given their time to tend their flocks.  I know that my pastor’s compassion helped me to change my life.  I was sexually abused as a child, and I had a lot of baggage.  My pastor helped me to understand how to leave my past abuse behind while becoming more passionate for Christ.

So how can we show our appreciation to our spiritual leaders?  Well, most pastors put a significant amount of their time into preparing sermons.  I think one of the best ways to give encouragement to them is by being faithful participants in the congregation.

Many pastors pour their heart out, using God’s words, into a sermon to tell us the truth of His grace and love for us.  These words spoken, allow us to understand the faith & hope we can have through Him so that we can live and have a passion for Him.

It seems to me that the life of a pastor might be one of the loneliest professions one could pick. It has the makings of a very tough, demanding – and lonely – occupation.

Frustrating?  Some of the times, yes.  Rewarding? Most times, yes.  Spiritually fulfilling? I am most certain yes, and on many different levels.

To spend one’s “everyday” life to further the kingdom of God must be a great profession indeed.

We all have days where nothing seems to go right. Maybe days of immense stress with any number of things that could be contributing to a “bad day.” Maybe you’re having a “season” of bad days.

When that happens, it’s not uncommon for us to talk the situation over with a spouse, family member, friend, or peer. Those conversations can be a great relief.  Maybe you might come up with some solutions that you had not considered.

Your pastor has probably had some of those same “bad” days; but, unlike the rest of us, they often don’t have the luxury of a sounding board.

Think about it.  Most of us have jobs where we are faced with “performance” appraisals once, maybe twice a year.   Pastors are continually being critiqued on a weekly basis. I’m sure there is someone sitting in the pews, on any given Sunday, who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn’t to their liking, or that the service just wasn’t “good” enough.

It’s almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to them. Who are they going to discuss their concerns with about the fact that no matter what they do…somebody seems to be unhappy?

Then there’s this role of counselor.  We often speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. Things said, and seen, can weigh heavily on their heart.  All along pondering how to deal with such difficult situations. Yet, where can they go when they are feeling emotionally drained themselves?  Where can they go to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation?  That could be a whole separate blog; but, at this time I want to share what one of my pastors did for me.

As a child I had been sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of 7-15…becoming most intense from age 9 and on.  I had no idea of how much the abuse really affected me.  The following is an excerpt from my site “About Grace Desired”:

     “My husband, Sam Hairston, had researched and found a church that taught reformed doctrine.  We had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church for over a year. I have never been one to stand out at church.  I have pretty much been a back row worshiper.  I obviously lacked passion for His truth–because there was definitely a lack of knowledge.

As time went on, and due to the good leadership at the church, I began to understand more of the Bible–the truth of His Word.  The senior pastor, Tom Gibbs, has a vision and a passion for furthering His kingdom by being compassionate toward His people.  The church has a vision and passion as well.  Together, the community of the whole church has a passion for wanting to further His kingdom within our city and beyond.  For the first time, since I was in high school, I had begun to love a church.

At church it was spoken that the broken (being me) could be energized by the “grace of God”.  Week after week, I began to hear that Jesus was for the brokenhearted.  Tom preached, and I heard that Jesus could be my champion, and that I could be made new like the “Oaks of Righteousness“.  I also heard that God took delight in me.  I thought, who me?  I am a broken and scarred sinner who is full of shame, guilt, fear, and contempt.  How can that possibly be?  I was a skeptic!

At the time, Pastor Tom Gibbs, and his wife Tara, believed something else.  They had noticed the back row worshiper and her family.  I was told that they had prayed for us prior to their time spent with me.  I suppose they wanted us to become the front row family.

Anyway,  they began to play an integral part in my life.  They dedicated much of their time trying to help me see that His grace and love is the reality of my faith & hope; thus, I would learn that I have really received His grace for my past secrets.  They helped me to begin to understand that my shame, guilt, fear, along with my contempt, were unnecessary–because Christ took all of that away when He was nailed to the cross. The path was becoming clearer.  I was to begin my journey learning that God desired me for who I was…even if I was broken.

I began to realize that God was actually “wining and dining” me.  God longed for my attention.  I began to feel God’s love, and it was the kind of love that I subconsciously craved for years and did not know it.  Many, many months went by, and little did we know that a volcanic eruption (in epic proportion) would follow after the completion of the workbook.  It was very painful to recall the memories I had suppressed.  I began to have nightmares.  I had no idea of  the emotions that were surfacing to the top (like the beach ball). These were emotions that I had harbored within my very soul for years.

My “season” of confusion, self-hatred, and fear became too complex… even to the point of  a deep despair.  I began to become so frustrated that I cut myself a couple of different times.  Of course I never really wanted to die; but, that I just wanted to get the horrible shame, guilt, and fear out of my body.  

My “season” of emotions turned into “seasons” gone bad; kind of like a really bad reality TV show.

I believe God puts people into our lives for a reason. I definitely believe God brought the Gibbs’ into my life for a reason.”

Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts – and it’s got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they’re human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses, just like us. They get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!

So while Pastor Appreciation Month is a great thing, remember it’s important to support them all year long with prayers and words of encouragement. If last week’s sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support spiritual leaders by becoming more involved with the church.

If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God – and to His ordained servants.  I’m thankful that my pastor showed compassion and saw more in me, than I saw in me.  He saw that God was not finished with me yet.  Through his compassion he helped me to leave my past abuse behind and helped me to become more passionate for Him.  Thank you, Pastor!

My prayer for spiritual leaders would be: “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” ~Philippians 1:2

In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to thank the rest of the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.  They are as follows: Tom Gibbs, Senior Pastor; Brandon Eggar, Associate Pastor; Victor Martinez, Assistant Pastor; Michael Novak, RUF Pastor; Brent Watkins, Music Ministry (BTW he also has his own jazz band “South Texas Jazz); Bekah McNeel, Children’s Director; Matt Beham, Youth Director (who has spent countless hours with my kids); Harriet Peavy, Office Administrator; Sarah Gill, Assistant Administrator.  I would also like to thank the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses for their countless hours of service.  There are so many others that play an integral part behind the scenes, and God bless you all for your time and efforts to further His kingdom.

Stop…in the Name of Love!

Domestic Violence is an abuse like no other. This type of abuse affects all involved. If there is violence in the home, the whole family is involved.  In honor of those who have suffered from domestic violence, my plea is stop…in the name of love

There are many people who can’t deal with the reality of their behaviors. They distort the truth to serve their self. There are a few who have no concern for others well-being, and will do whatever it takes to manipulate the situation.

Some people tend to hide their problems very well. They live an emotionally empty life creating situations to serve their own needs. Some want to come across as “good” people, yet behind closed doors they may become hurtful to others. But those on the outside don’t always see what’s going on behind closed doors; thus, causing further problems leading to some confusion.

After a while it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what’s being distorted.  Those who suffer begin to doubt their reality and question whether or not they are crazy, or whether the other person is really right about what they say. Due to my past sexual abuse, I could also be one to distort reality…especially if I thought I might be abandoned, or become vulnerable.

The truth is…they, as well as myself, are not always right!

Some people don’t exhibit the volatile extreme emotions.  They are calm and quiet for the most post part.  They “seem” unmoved by the feelings of others…even if they really care about others. This also “seems” that they may not be fulfilled by the relationships within their lives. This may leave them with the feeling of being empty: thus, trying to fill their lives with behaviors that are not always acceptable. Others exude extreme emotions; wearing them on their sleeves when they are easily upset.  I fall into the later category.

Most behaviors originate from an extreme emotion triggered by fear, or lack of confidence. I know that with my own fears of abandonment, I can easily hurt the very people I care about.  I have  periods of remorse, deep regret, and shame for my extreme behaviors.  Most people, who hurt others, usually feel some type of remorse…of course there are those who do not seem to show any. Sometimes this period of remorse is called the “Honeymoon” period.

This period often has the feeling that there may be hope, and encouragement.  Then during other periods, there may be extreme agitation, that is often intensified by the lack of self confidence, or fear of not having expectations met.  Sometimes people come across as not being empathetic…especially toward another. The perception is that there is no real problem; thus, there is no need to work on any relationships.

Domestic violence is an often “smoothed over” in families today, and Christian families are not immune to its “flaming darts”. The warning signs can be hidden or disregarded.

In Proverbs 26 it says, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’…The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body…Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, … A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Many may regret  hanging on, or trying to stay in a relationship, especially when it may be debilitating. The reality is that abuse hurts, no matter who you are, or how old you are. It destroys you from the inside out, and cuts away at how you believe in yourself…your very core.  There is a realization that one may face that there is no escape from the abuse without giving up a huge part of one’s life. Some put up with attacks before retreating to safety. Alcohol/substance abuse can elevate attacks.  There comes a time when too long is…way too long.

When a relationship gets really bad, they can drain us. And while we all want to be faithful within our relationships, we can really get ourselves in a bind by “sticking” with a harmful situation too long. We begin not to have enough strength left to help ourselves…much less our family.  We may become ill, or very irritable from lack of sleep.  Anxiety takes over eventually leading to despair if help is not received. When faced with domestic violence, many seek guidance and solace within their faith.

People have a desire to be faithful within relationships. But it is really important to be realistic about our own strength.  The problem is that leaving is hard. The thought of the ending of a dream as a reality is painful.  Being faithful can be tiring. In fact, one may not have enough strength to leave…if it comes down to it. Repeated “fight and flight” responses to self, or another, is tiring, and might need some extra reserves just to make it through the day. Decisions that are best made for the relationship can be quite painful and draining as well.

For the abused they often feel abandoned by God. Christians often feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships because they don’t understand the scripture where it talks about submissiveness.  Sometimes a church leader may strongly encourage the victim not to give up on the abuser; thus, they feel the need to remain in the relationship for fear of breaking covenant.  One seriously has to look ahead to the message that is trying to be conveyed.

The message is clear.  The victim got into the situation because of desiring to be loved.  Instead of looking for love from people; Love must be looked for in God–the One who loves us unconditionally.  God is love!  Put your trust and love in God.  He will never fail!

…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God .”  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Love comforts us!  The Lord sympathizes with us.  He knows what it was like to suffer needlessly at the hands of others.  Because of this, we are allowed to “…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”  ~ Hebrews 4:16

Abused people are usually able to find strength in their faith and/or community. If they are comfortable doing so, they may talk to their religious leaders about their situations.  If asked by the victim, spiritual support should be given.  Be encouraging to one another.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

As a religious community, it is important to have some knowledge on domestic violence issues.  Pastors could use the pulpit as a way to educate the congregation of such issues.  It’s important not to offer poor advice for a member’s situation. Sometimes advising to stay with an abuser to keep the family intact at all costs may cause more, or unnecessary, damage to the relationship(s) and sometimes safety problems.  It is good advice from religious community to suggest seeking couples counseling  from a trained professional.

There is so much madness that goes on behind the scenes.  Verbal and emotional abuse can cause much anxiety within the victim and possibly family members.  There are many horror stories of physical and sexual abuse that tags along with the previous mentioned abuses.  For some there is no way out…except by death: either being the victim of someone’s abuse, or suicide to get out.  It’s important to become educated on signs of domestic violence, and what to do.  I pray that the religious community will get involved, and that be one of the first things to do.  Even if only praying, and acting as encouragement, is all the religious community can do…that would be a blessed start and most welcomed.

Stop in the name of Love!  Stop the madness of abuse.  Become educated.   Learn of God’s unconditional love that He has for the brokenhearted.  Learn how He will renew and restore  broken hearts.  He gives strength to the weak, and rest to the weary.  Seek Him and He will open the door to healing.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  ~ 2Corinthians 4:16-18

Begin With the End. Begin With Him!

I, personally, have a hard time focusing.  Not only do I have ADD, I have trouble concentrating on what’s important at hand.  I’m not exactly the best at seeing the “big” picture.

I teach school and we have been participating in Stephen Covey‘s program: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.  The first two habits talk about being proactive, and begin with the end in mind.  One must start with a clear purpose in mind of where they might want to end up.  I thought about this idea, and this is what I decided.

HHHMMM!!!!  Begin with the end.  Begin with Him!  I should focus on the cross.

My purpose in life should be knowing Christ, and building a relationship with Him.  Now, I have a bad habit of focusing on my self.  I tend to deal with things that pretty much-well…include me.  I don’t focus on the big picture–which should be Christ.  I begin to day dream and get caught up in “self”; thus, losing sight of Jesus.

Part of my problem is my lack of organization.  Other problems may include idol time, and lack of passion to set the goal of learning His word (which should be a high priority).  I want things to come easily.  I don’t necessarily want to put out the effort.  I tend to look for shortcuts.  Not that doing these things, or wanting them, are always bad; but when I begin not to see the necessity of the cross…then my faithfulness has become quite superficial.  I need to stop taking the easy way.  Sometimes the “road less traveled” may be lonely, but necessary.  My pastor, Tom Gibbs, has made emphasis about these shortcuts before.

Covey talks about being proactive versus reactive.  Proactive is when you define a clear purpose of what you are working toward…with the end in sight.  Reactive is when people live in the past, or can’t get out of the present.  Their purpose is kind of minimal.  They may remember the old way, and  seem to get stuck on only dealing with that type of situation.  They really don’t look to the future, and what could happen in the long run if they focused.

My pastor, Tom Gibbs, says that we are called to be active in our faith.  Even when we continue with the shortcut, Christ is taking the hard way to draw near to us.  He is our champion!  He is our Savior!  It’s right to give Him thanks and praise–at all times.

Sometimes I think I test the sincerity of God.  Is He really for me?  Does He really have my best interest?  I tend to do all of the talking. It’s a one way relationship between God and myself.  I lose focus of His plan for me, and I just look ahead to my plan.  Instead of talking all of the time, I should be listening to what God has to say.  He does have some skills–hahahaha!

Part of being able to focus sometimes means I might need a “time out”.  This past summer my pastor took a Sabbatical.  Now, I haven’t actually talked to him in person, but he has told the congregation how great it was to renew his relationship with the Lord, his wife, and kids.

I consistently need to be renewed if I am to press on in this life.  How can I expect to build a relationship with God, or any other person, if I don’t take a break.  In this case, taking a break to become renewed in Christ may mean taking a break from the ways of the world.  I may need to meditate and pray more on His words.  I will need to do my best to really listen to Him.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13

There are different ways to become renewed.  Physical activity is a great way to become renewed.  Eating right and exercising will give me strength and the energy I need to focus.  With better focus, I could deepen my thoughts in my mind on His words.  With the commitment of focusing on Him, it would touch the very core of my spirit.  I would draw nearer to Him understanding that His grace and mercy is for not just for me…but for everyone.   With having a renewed spirit, I might be able to begin to build relationships with others.

Building relationships means that I will have to build trust.  When I build trust with another person, it gives me hope.  I know that there is hope in Jesus.  He is forever faithful to me.  Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, I will be able to be more faithful to Him and to all that He commands of me.

I will say that a big obstacle of my focusing on His faithfulness, is meditating on His words.  I’m a pretty decent prayer warrior; but the meditating on His words is tough for me to focus on.  That’s where coming together as a community of believers to worship is great for people like me.  The service at my church is like a “full meal deal”.  There is so much going on, and it touches  all aspects of a great worship service.  We have meditation, prayers, music, greetings of peace, the sermon, communion, and a benediction.  It just goes on and on–in a good way.  My needs are definitely met, and I feel quite full of the Spirit when I leave.

Drawing near to Him, and being able to draw on all my resources of renewal, allows me to become uplifted.  Being uplifted allows me to focus on Him without being distracted.  Therefore, focusing would allow me to concentrate not only the uniqueness of myself, but others; thus possibly making a difference in how I see the big picture.

Christ shall be the focus of my renewal of my mind. I will be proactive with my faithfulness for Him by drawing near to Him. I will build trust in my relationship with God by becoming a better listener. I should begin with the end. I should begin with Him…keeping my eyes focused on the cross.  Amen!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

I Am More Than a Broken Girl. I’ve Survived.

I was sexually abused growing up as a child; BUT, I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I’m a child of God; therefore, I’m not who I used to be!

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son,but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”  This text was originally written in Hebrew.  There have been many different translations, and much interpretation; but, in this case discipline was meant to teach or guide, and it was not supposed to be used as a punishment.

I was often “disciplined” by my step father; but, looking back…it was definitely a punishment and not really a “teaching” moment.  His way of disciplining varied from speaking harsh words that I was worthless, to physically hitting me, and he often sexually degraded me.  I never really knew which form of discipline I would be receiving; therefore, I was constantly on edge.

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).

Child sexual abuse is the use of sexual behavior in a way to control the behaviors, or actions, of a child.  Sexual abuse acted upon a child can have lasting effects that can carry through to adulthood.  One of the main reasons is that the victim keeps the abuse quiet, and does not tell anyone.  In a child’s mind, if there are no witnesses…who is going to believe them?

Sexual abuse can be quite confusing to a child especially when the one who is doing the abusing is supposed to be doing the loving and protecting.  It’s a harsh reality and confusing when this takes place.

Looking back, I would say that no one really knew I was being abused.  I had bruises, and when others asked me about them…I would just say that I got them playing sports…or I fell down.  I feared being found out which could lead to more potential pain.

My step father had ways to keep me quiet.  He told me I was worthless, that I was tainted, and that no one would want me.  This caused a great fear of  abandonment within me that I still have trouble with today–when I get depressed.  Many feelings have remained with me stuck in the back of my mind.  It is a sick situation–fearing that no one will want me, like me, or that I will have a spouse to take care of me.  It’s a horrible feeling!

My step father said he would beat me up if I told anyone, and since he already hit me…I did not tell anyone.  I seriously did not give out the gory details until my pastor and his wife recommended a book called “The Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender.

It has been three years this month (October) since I began that life changing journey.  I was afraid, even as old as I was, to tell my heinous secrets from my past.  I was living in darkness hoping no one would find out.  The problem was that my secret was beginning to take root inside of me and weeds were beginning to grow.  I was letting the darkness consume me.  The lies I had heard for most of my life were turning me into a sad, broken girl.

I know I have mentioned this before; but 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 Urban Dictionary has two definitions for a broken girl.  A broken girl (lower case) is a girl that has tattoos that show or unconventional piercings. The bigger, or more of them, the more broken she is.  A Broken Girl (capital letters) is a term the redwings use to describe a girl who… is not reputable to tell any of your friends about at all and no one would want to know about.

To me, I felt as if I was the broken girl defined.  I had been told I was worthless.  I felt as if I were a disgrace.  I felt misunderstood.  There are days I still feel like this…of course from my own doing.  On occasion I have a little help from others; but, for the most part…it’s just the lies of my past.

Matthew West has an amazing album out.  He took stories from other people’s lives and he wrote songs about them.  His album, and tour, is called “Story of  Your Life”.  He did a great job writing theses songs about various experiences, and tied them to how God loves us.  Some stories were of praises, and some not.   There is one particular song that he wrote about a broken girl, and it was very real to me.  The good news is that he talks about the Good News.  Matthew talks about how God is Love… figuratively and literally in this song. He says that Love sees us differently.  Love sees beauty, and He can’t be taken away from the broken girl.  Matthew’s words struck a chord with me, and here are part of the lyrics of a “Broken Girl”:

Look what he’s done to you
It isn’t fair
Your light was bright and new
But he didn’t care
He took the heart of a little girl
And made it grow up too fast

Now words like “innocence”
Don’t mean a thing
You hear the music play
But you can’t sing
Those pictures in your mind
Keep you locked up inside your past

This is a song for the broken girl
The one pushed aside by the cold, cold world
You are
Hear me when I say
You’re not the worthless they made you feel
There is a Love they can never steal away
And you don’t have to stay the broken girl

Those damaged goods you see
In your reflection
Love sees them differently
Love sees perfection
A beautiful display
Of healing on the way tonight
Tonight

Like Matthew, I want to reiterate that God is Love.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7

God loves those who are crushed in spirit.  One of my homework assignments when I first met with the Gibbs’ at their home, was to find verses where it said that God loved me.  I found out that I was His Beloved.  I learned lots of things that I had never known.  No one had really taken an interest in me spiritually since I was 16…this was 30 years later.  A lot had happened over those years.  A heart became hardened.  Roots of bitterness were taking over.

I had to make some changes, and quick.   Tom also told me that I must learn to let Jesus love me, and I must love Him in return.  If I don’t do this…it will be impossible for Him to pull my weeds and replace them with flowers.  I have really come far despite my abuse and lack of knowing a lot about the Good News; but, I can cultivate a bigger garden if I let God help me.

I will say that I did question God, in the beginning of my journey, why I had to be naked and exposed?  No child should have to experience this kind of pain alone.  God revealed to me that I was not alone.   He was with me.  Christ suffered with me, and for me. The difference when Christ suffered for me was that I was in the crowd.  I was the one of the ones 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. The truth is that Christ suffered for me, He showed me grace, and now he gives me hope.

I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I have lived through things I never would thought I was capable of, and it was all because of Christ.  His Love has helped me to discover that I’m worth fighting for, and He has given me strength to survive. Christ is healing me, pulling my weeds out to make a beautiful garden.  I am a child of God.  I’m not who I used to be.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Grace To You…and Me, Too.

I  have a page on Facebook for Grace Desired.  There are many who come and share their feelings or prayer requests on Grace Desired. My intent is not to point this person out.  I feel much the same way at times.  The point is to know that we are His Beloved and saved by His grace.

This was a post I got this morning  from one of my friends of Grace Desired (on Facebook).  The comment was:

       “It was someone who promised ‘Grace’ that abused me worst! …. grace2u! from ‘Grace Early’! Would love to receive grace but I only find condemnation!”

My heart hurts for my friend.  I’m totally empathetic and sympathetic toward how they feel. I totally understand how they feel.  I’m not a counselor; but, this was my response and prayer to my friend  this morning before going to work:

There is no condemnation through Christ…only people condemn. The  Good News is that Christ walked amongst us wearing sandals (as a human); but, He was no ordinary human.  I’m sorry that you feel condemned. I can’t say that others have not made me feel that way as well. Sometimes I, myself, have caused such feelings–even within myself. I’m not saying that you have caused that; but, I know my own behaviors. There are lots of people, including Christians (which I am), who condemn others…or falsely accuse…without knowing the whole story or being empathetic toward other’s pain. We are human! God never promised that bad things would not happen to good people. He said that He would forgive us and give us rest. Our “true”rest will not come until the day of Heaven. I am definitely lifting you up in prayer, as well as many others who visit this page. God is for us…the brokenhearted. I realize that many are against us. I know that feeling all to well…even now as I write; but, the One true Father is for us. God Loves Us! You have to believe that You are His Beloved…because that is true! Anything else…are lies from the deceiver. A lot of Christians, and I’m a Christian, don’t know how to deal with other’s pain. There are a few people who are gifted in dealing with other’s pain. In fact, once the love of Christ takes over you…you have great potential to be one of those people who can care and lift others up to Him. I know you are discouraged; but, have faith. You are a survivor, and this brokenness will also come to pass. AGAIN, we will never be fully rested until the day of Christ, and we go to Heaven. AND, Amen for His grace & mercy, and a chance to be able to rest in Him! Have a blessed day! ♥ Beth

Break Free! Break Free From the Chains!

Many of us understand what bondage feels like.  We feel like chains may be wrapped around multiple times constricting us with each action we make.  I, personally, want to break free from the chains, and to live a life filled with God’s grace.

I realize that many of us have different battlegrounds; but, the thing we have in common is the overwhelming feeling of being held hostage within our own chains. I often wonder how am I ever going to be released from the chains in my life?  These so-called chains that  hold me back.  Most of the time it’s my own idols holding me hostage; but, on occasion–it’s someone else’s idols holding me hostage…and that’s another blog.

Being aware of my own guilty feelings (from my past sexual abuse), I began to look inward to myself for help, instead of outward toward Him.  I have worn many chains since the actual abuses have taken place. I have meticulously layered the chains of guilt, shame, perfectionism, and “pleasing others” around my neck until they have utterly weighed me down.  I felt as if I were suffocating me.  I was suffocating!

There are times, I have claimed freedom in Christ; only to let my past fears, and sometimes present, sneak in and take control–again. I forget that I’ve been saved by His grace.  Instead I seek the wrong kind of hope, and I wait in the dark for help.  I tend to put faith in myself.  I tend to think that I will be able to break free from the chains on my own rather than putting my hope in God to help me break free from the chains.

I fear I am part of a commonality with other struggling Christians. I don’t always know who I am with Christ, nor do I fully understand what it means to be a child of God.  And why not?  In Romans it says that the Spirit Himself bore witness with my spirit to be a child of God.  Ok, then why don’t I sense the feeling of being that child?  Could it be the chains I’m wearing?

Last Sunday my pastor Tom Gibbs said, “We tend to resist being a Christian!”  He said, “We have no excuse for knowing the God that we try so hard to suppress.  We practice the lies of idolatry by suppressing His truth.  Our idolatry is our way of manipulating the world around us.  We are committed to our idols when we feel threatened.  In essence, we practice a lie; thus, suppressing God even more.”

Tom is right!  Instead of looking inward to myself for help in breaking free from the chains; I should be looking to Christ–who has the answer of truth and grace to set me free.

The first step to breaking free from my chains is to resolve my personal and spiritual conflict by genuinely repenting, and then totally submitting myself to God. I should follow the KISS example: Keep It Short & Simple.  I need to stop with my self-serving tendencies, and stop hiding behind my mask.  I tend to want to masquerade that I’m obedient even when I’m not dependent on His Spirit.

I am thankful that we are taught about the kingdom of God; but, we also need to understand the kingdom of darkness.  Satan‘s wickedness lies in Heavenly places.  That’s why there is a need for discernment…to be able to know that some things are just lies.  Lies that chain us down.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood; but, the forces of Satan’s darkness.

We must understand that the battle is for our minds.  The battle is whether or not we will believe the lies or will become transformed…made new with Christ. We must understand that God does not lie!  God is truth and grace.  Satan does lie!  He is wicked and full of darkness.

In the Bible, Paul wrote that he was free from bondage. He expressed that he had confidence that his freedom was real. In Corinthians he said that, “I will not be enslaved by anything.” Paul said this following up to those who had been sanctified (saved by His grace) and justified in Christ (because of His death), but were continuing to be held in bondage by their old idols.

Being a good disciple, like Paul, means being a good counselor as well.  The two are intermingled.  Discipleship counseling is where two or more people meet in the presence of God.  Together, they learn how God’s truth and Word can help break them free from the chains of idolatry; thus, being able to conform to the image of God as one begins to learn to walk by faith.

The other day a particular song came to mind by Wilson Phillips.  The song was “Hold On”, and some of the lyrics are as follows:

“I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind, mmm
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?…

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin’ your worries pass you by
Don’t you think it’s worth your time
To change your mind?

I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free, break from the chains…”

Tom said another thing that really stuck with me.  He said, “We should be humble and faithful disciples of Christ.  It’s a matter of the heart so that we are actively doing what God has called us to do.”  He said, “Our performance vindicates our dependence on God.”

I realize that my support system does not always include Christ.  I had, and have, not cast my anxiety and fears on Christ, and I am anything but dependent upon Him.

My chains have brought me nothing but darkness; but, in my darkness God has helped me to see His Light.  I can’t, nor anybody else, set me free.  Only Christ can set me. I can’t bind up my broken heart; but, God can.  God is my “chain breaker”.

In order for me to break free, I must have a true knowledge that I am a child of God.  Where am I going to learn that?  From His Words in the Bible.  If I really know God, then my behavior will change radically.  My biggest deterrent mentally and spiritually is me not understanding His true freedom.

Tom mentioned about John Newton’s analogy… having a good “spectacle for the scripture”.  I must delve into His words so that I can have a good relationship with Him.  I must focus on Him.  I need to begin to live more by faith and begin renewing my mind.  Knowing God in terms of “heart matters” will be a sign of maturity; thus, it will help me become a step closer to the freedom in Christ without wearing chains.

Living and growing in Christ may mean I will encounter different  and new chains to wear.  But, I must remember that I have been made new.  I have been called to do what He wants me to do, and that is not to be bound  with the chains of fear from my past. Grace is not just about obedience; but learning to be dependent on His Spirit.  This kind of obedience can only happen in and through His grace.

For freedom Christ has set us free; ‘stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’.”~ Galatians 5:1

This bondage breaking power that Paul talks about is available to me.  I’m not really comfortable with the pain I cause for myself, or others.  I am the one to blame most of the time.  It’s time to make a change, and break free…break free from the chains.

“Beauty is Everywhere” by Jessica Hairston

Beauty is where your heart takes you;

where you can enjoy life.

Beauty is where your heart can help, or be helped.

It is the kindness inside you that you know you have.

It’s also where you can meet new friends;

places you feel safe and loved are too, beautiful.

Beauty is friendships that you have that are honest and true.

Beauty is something the blind can see and the deaf can hear.

Beauty is anywhere you can live and love.

Beauty is anywhere you can fall and anywhere you can rise.

Beauty is when your love is abundant

and fears aren’t there.

Beauty is everywhere!

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