Tag Archive | hope

Strong Enough

Who determines if one is strong or not?  No one should determine other’s strengths or weaknesses. We have our own strengths and weaknesses, knowing that God has a plan for us.  Every struggle in your life shapes you into the person you are today.  Be thankful for the hard times; they can only make you stronger…strong enough!  

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13

Many of us have felt great guilt from the brokenness of our past, and present, struggles. We feel, or have felt, that we just have to live under a dark cloud. Through Christ, He became our answer for our brokenness. It was His sacrificial love for us that gives us strength to carry on past our struggles.

For some of us, the healing and restoration from life’s struggles are needed to rightly see God. This kind of healing is available through the power of God who makes us stronger. It may take some time to let those old idols go; but, one may consider the work of the Holy Spirit to heal those wounds—if we let him.

Despite our struggles in life, we can have confidence in knowing that Jesus suffered and died for us.  We can now find restoration and resurrection through him…and all from the hand of God.

We all know that our struggles can wreak havoc within us. They often leave us feeling like we are living in a world of tangled hangers.  Sometimes it’s hard to straighten them out without some kind of help.  While straightening up the “hangers” in our life, they may allow us to find support and comfort from others. Instead of regretting all of our struggles, we should be thankful when God puts others into our lives to help us.

One important question we may have is…does God care that we suffer? Does He enjoy watching us as we fall down? Of course not.

God knows that we suffer.  On our worst day, we are never alone.  Jesus is by our side. Our faith declares that God, our Father, sent His only Son to suffer at the hand of others.  He came into our world to deliver us from evil and give us a future and a hope.

How then does Jesus know about our path of  struggles? Within our faith we have learned how the only Son of the living God encountered real temptations. We know that Jesus overcame those temptations by using His Father’s words…scriptures.  We have read where Jesus suffered at the hands of family and friends. We know that His suffering became worse the closer he got to achieving His goal—to save our souls.

God knows that we are weak and He urges us to pray to Him, dare I say cry out to Him, so that we would be better equipped not to succumb to temptation.  Something happens to us when we take our struggles to the Father. He transforms us, and gives us strength and courage to do things we never thought possible. Even in the midst of our struggles, we can rise up to most challenges.  God would not bring us to our struggles, if He could not bring us through our struggles.  Don’t get off the beaten path, take the path to Jesus… often times the path less traveled.

Finally, I’m reminded of a song by Matthew West, that got him a Grammy award nomination.  It’s called “Strong Enough” and parts of it is as follows:

“You must think I’m strong…
To give me what I’m going through…
Forgive me if I’m wrong; but this looks like more than I can do on my own.

…Maybe that’s the point; to reach the point of giving up.
Cause when I’m finallyat rock bottom.
That’s when I start looking up and reaching out.

Cause I’m broken down to nothing
But I’m still holding on to one thing
You are God and you are strong when
I am weak

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,
and i don’t have to be strong enough

I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up.  I’m not strong enough.
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me.
Lord right now I’m asking you to be…Strong enough.”

God does know that we suffer and that we needed someone to give meaning and hope beyond our suffering. Jesus Christ was sent to enter into our world to deliver us from evil.  He gives us hope when we draw near to Him. Jesus’ suffering lasts beyond the cross to the wonder and glory of the resurrection. He is the Suffering Christ whose grace and mercy has saved us from our struggles today!  He makes us strong enough to carry on.

God’s Valentine Promises to Us

There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine.  His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ.  God is love!

     “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:39

I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial.  I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year.  I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful.  I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me.  Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them?  And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.

After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me.  I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me.  He comforts me.  God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.

God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

His promise doesn’t end there.  You see…I was sexually abused as a child.  I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt.  It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened.  People may condemn me; but, He never does.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17

We all have struggles.  It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles.  There is hope in the very lives we live.  Christ’s love is our hope.

There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..

My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered.  In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today.  He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.

God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!

Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it.  He tells me that He has plans for me.  He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper.  God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me.  He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.

I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”

I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ.  The path can and will lead us to glory.  Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ.  While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world.  God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way.  The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering.  Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”

So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.

As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us.  He is the true lover of our soul.  We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday.  God is near.  God is Love!

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

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.

“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!

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

When Did My Faith Become Real?

When did my faith become real?  I believe receiving faith is never-ending; therefore, my faith becomes more real with each “real” season I experience.  I recently told a friend that my current season of tribulations was like a bad reality TV show, and that I sincerely hoped that it would not be picked up for another season.

All joking aside, one of the worst trials I have ever had to go through was when I was a child.  I was sexually abused.  That terrible season has left many battle wounds and scars that still have not completely healed.

That experience led me to live a life that was not always conducive to spiritual growth.  I lived in fear of others…especially men.  My relational skills were lacking, and thus my communication skills followed suit.  Because I let my anger get the best of me, I became one who began to contribute to the pain of others.  The pain I caused was mainly due to my own selfish idols, and of my own making.

I was like a horse wearing blinders.  I could not see the pain I was causing others because of the pain I harbored inside, or even the pain I was causing myself.

As a result of my past abuse I have carried a backpack full of idols, pain, and fear.  I lack self confidence.  I am a skeptic when it comes to thinking that my Father could give me the grace of forgiveness that I so desire.  Even though I did not wish this abuse on myself, in the back of my mind I always wonder if I deserved it.

My husband, Sam, has explained his take on the situation.  If I had gone into the doctor’s office to get a physical, and several days later I got strep throat…did that mean I wanted to get strep throat?  Of course not, nor did I expect to get it.  Strep throat  causes many to become quite ill.  In fact, I usually get a headache and nausea along with it–making it a triple whammy!   Under the circumstances, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I never asked for the strep throat, and I certainly never asked for the abuse. My friend described the abuse like an illness that was given to me.  I couldn’t help it!  It was given to me.  I was so very young, and the abuser had no right to pin the abuse on me as my fault.  To threaten me with harsh words, and fists to body…warning me to never tell or he would beat me up.  No child deserves to be treated with such disrespect. To be made to feel like scum, and then told that no one will ever want them because they were tainted.

I believed him!

I have always wanted to run in a race; but, definitely lacked the passion to train.  Trust me, I am no runner.  When I was at Baylor University I was on the track team; but, as a javelin thrower.  Running was definitely not my forte.  In fact, one year I did not qualify in the javelin for the Texas Relays, so I had to run the 10K.  It took me an hour and six minutes to run that race.  The man who ran the half marathon passed me up.  BTW…now I would be lucky to walk a 10K.

Now I am remembering that I have this awfully heavy backpack, and I am thinking how do I run with a heavy backpack?  I see the military, or fitness gurus running with heavy loads to train; but, I don’t want to train with a heavy backpack.  I am not a fitness guru, and I definitely don’t want to train with a heavy load.  It would be extremely hard!

So how do I lighten the load in my backpack?  I have carried the load for many years.  I have become quite attached to my many idols, and I don’t know which ones should stay or go.

Then my Heavenly Father suggests to me to give Him my backpack.  I asked Him, “Why do you want my backpack?”

He answered, “Because, I love you, and I want you to run to me. I want you to fix your eyes on Me.  I have made a promise to  carry your heavy burdens, and I want you to run the race that is set before you.”

Okay, so even if I were to give Him my backpack, how would that help me to see Him?  How would that allow me a clearer vision to be able to run to Him?

I know now that I lacked a true passion for recognizing my Father, and his promise that He made to me.  I lacked faith and hope in the words He was telling me to obey.   I must really enjoy my bad reality TV show because that’s where I was headed…back to “seasons gone bad.”

I tried to focus on Him; but, I could not see Him at all.  I only recognized my stepfather, and all of the horrible things he had done and/or told me.  He was no father to me.  He did not protect me, or love me.  I became scared…so much so, that a couple of times during the race I considered suicide as an alternative to facing my fears.  Truth is, my own hindrances of my own  idols were causing  me to lack the faith I needed to run the race…to run the race with patient endurance.

I wanted to hurry up and train for the race my way.  I wanted to be in control.  In the back of my mind I wondered if I could run the race by myself?  Did I really need my Father?  Could I train without any help, because asking for help might mean I was weak?  I certainly did not want to look weak and unworthy to anyone.  I mean my stepfather did say that no one would want someone as worthless as myself.  I wanted to believe I could prove my stepfather wrong.

I learned quickly that training, and running alone, did not seem to be working for me.  Training by myself, I noticed that I seem to fail every time. I was extremely out of shape.

I wondered do I really  to need the “Author and Finisher” of my faith to help me train for this race?  Does He really know what path to take to get to the finish line?  Would He really be the only One who would be able to keep me from “jumping the gun” at the start of the race, and would certainly keep me from facing disqualification?  Would He do this for me just because He loved me?

I had to really dig deep inside to see what I really desired.  Did I want to continue carrying my heavy backpack, or give it freely to Him? My faith was lacking; but, He told me, “Come ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  He was telling me to cast my burdens upon Him, and He in turn would help me cross the finish line so that I could rest.  I definitely need rest.  I look horrible!

With His help, I found the faith, hope, and strength to go the distance…even when I could not always see the finish line. I knew that I would be able to reach the prize–which had already been fulfilled by Him.  I knew that He would give me rest.

I have decided that my faith in Him should not be just wishful thinking, but having a true passion; a trusting confidence that His promise of grace is for me–despite my past secrets, my present idols, or my future mistakes.  Through faith, God’s grace gives me freedom to be me—broken and scarred.

So when did my faith become real?  Every time I step out the door and experience various seasons.  Just putting one foot in front of the other, and walking out the door.  Now that’s having real faith to me!

 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”  ~ Hebrews 11:1

Where is My Love? Where is my Hope?

The question arises, how can a “faithful” Christian have such depressed thoughts that they may consider hurting themselves?  Even worse, what if they actually take their own life?  Could it be an alternative to facing their fears of rejection (broken trust), shame & guilt from some heinous secret, or a feeling of worthlessness and disgrace?

The Bible does say in Romans that we all sin and we all fall short.  We are human living in a fallen world.  But, knowing that we were sinners, God sent His son to be pinned and die on the cross for our sins.  Christ took our desperation and turned into something great to live for.

Granted most people, at least one time in their life, have probably had thoughts of ending it all (suicide).  The amount one dwells on suicide, or letting it consume their being, plays an important part in the level of depression one may be experiencing.  We live in a valley of shadow and death; but, within that valley there is life.

Christians are definitely not immune to trials.  Being a Christian does not solve all problems; but, it does assure one thing—His forgiveness of all our sins. This is great news!  Also, a lot of people think that Christians are “exempt” from the worst of these things.

HELLO!  So not true!  The devil works overtime to put Christians in a head lock that is impossible to get out of…on their own. Look at Job, Paul, and Moses…they were in some “real” messes that they became desperate enough to want to die.

You may be thinking, “What kept those ‘men of the Bible’ from doing the ‘unthinkable’?” It was love for  Him! It was hope in Him!

God intends for us to live a life that He desires for us…a life that includes Him.  God promised us a life of hope, love, grace, and mercy; but, He never promised a life where bad things would never happen to good people.

The truth is that the more we “live” our lives for Him, and through Him, the more the evil one tries to breakdown the life of His body in us; thus, trying to destroy us.  Because God gave us the freedom to choose, the evil one uses it to his advantage.  Satan tries to convince that harming each other, or to telling lies to disgrace…is the way of this world.  Sadly, many fall for his trap, and cause much pain for others…including myself.

The “world” can have two different meanings: 1) the world (biosphere) we live in, and 2) the struggles that we experience while living in this world.  Sadness and depression is a natural part of life.  God gave us these emotions (as well as many others) as a way of dealing with the brokenness of the world we live in.  It is the degree that we carry these emotions that can be detrimental to self, or others. Sometimes the reactions of our emotions may be due to an early childhood type of abuse; therefore, it is a way of coping.  The problem is as adults those same coping mechanisms don’t work the same way as they did with the child.

The key, in overcoming severe depression, is community…with others. Community can be within a group of church members, or within a support group outside of church.  Both can be vital in the healing and recovering process of the oppressed and depressed.  Research shows that a committed community, to those that are inflicted with brokenness, can become a vital part in the healing process.

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. Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.

The devil does not want hope or love to be found.  He will do everything in his power to divert the attention from Him to the lies of desperation that make us feel worthless (which pleases him the evil one).  He seemingly causes a feeling of overwhelming disgrace that begins abounding in once joyful hearts.  Depression can often become more agonizing than physical pain.

The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—for His glory.  We have become adopted into God’s family. We 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. He promises to never let us go.

This “amazing grace” that God has given us should lead to a life of dedication to Him…allowing us to fight the ongoing battle against the world of sins. God uses the trials of our life to help become more aware of Him, and to have a desire to be more like Christ.

God sometimes uses difficult trials to discipline.  In the fight against the evil one, hope is vital. We must listen and draw near to Him.  We must be encouraged that this is His sign of His love.

We are reminded that we don’t just struggle against our own idols, or sins; but, against “spiritual forces of evil” in the idol “world” of sin.  We must learn to put on the full armor of God.  We must wear it every day and always.  This will provide protection from the devil’s “fiery darts.  We also must “pray just to make it through the day”.

We live with many emotions.  We live with groaning hearts.  We live with rejoicing hearts.

Where is my love?  Where is my hope?  It lies within my faith knowing that there is a Lord, Jesus Christ, who sanctified me with His loving grace–by dying on the cross.

This is the day that the Lord hath made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it! ~Psalm 188:24

Light at the End of the Tunnel

One afternoon I began to reflect about the circumstances that have happened to me over the last couple of years, and how I have come to place where I am now.  I thought about the many ups and downs, and the many turns I have taken to get here.  How I should be 

Even in my darkest night, He has shown me His Light at the end of the tunnel.

Had Christ been trying to reveal His Light to my heart?  Have I been blind to His attempts to shine on me?  If I would slow down and take time to remember all of His gracious acts, my confidence in Him would be strengthened and my passion to know Him would be greater.  I need to draw near to Him so that I can better understand Him and His amazing grace.

Because of my childhood abuse, I have often longed for an exclusive relationship with others.  I want to be intimate– not like a sexual intimacy—but to share my thoughts, ideas, concerns, and to grow with others learning about the Kingdom of Christ.

With that being said, I understand that no human could ever fulfill the job description of being my exclusive other in a relationship. My expectations have been formed in my mind.  It’s really no one’s privilege to be in an exclusive relationship…except for God.

Frankly after the sexual abuse that I experienced from my step father, I had no desire to have an exclusive relationship–especially with a Father whom I really did not know much about.  What if He would be like my step father?  I only imagined that His anger was much worse than my step father.  I was frightened.

Then I thought about the love of God.  I had never thought about being intimate with God.  I began to look at Him in a different Light.   When I began to think about the things that I recently learned, and had read, I found that God was quite stimulating.

I never really thought about God “wining and dining” me.  That He truly considers me to be His bride.  I knew that He would love me and protect me like no other.  I never thought about God having exclusive rights of me. As an added learning bonus, I was excited to read about being given a special name on a white rock that only I will know that that it’s He who is calling me.  How cool is that?  Very intimate indeed!

In lots of ways I still behave like a child; for instance, I can be too needy for some—desiring more attention than deserved.  I also believed in such a way as to have child-like faith.   I thought there would be someone to love me unconditionally (here on Earth) and protect me from the evil–like I had experienced as a child.  I passionately wanted this  love to happen to “me”, and more importantly–for “me”.

I had not realized that my thoughts had become all about “me”…my own desires, selfishness, and of course – my pride.  All these things had become my idols.  I always thought that idols were people, or material things.   I never really thought about my emotions as being idols.

Although I have been/felt betrayed, abandoned, and even mocked; I had not realized that I was letting the load of shame and guilt take control of me.  They were becoming and being made my idols.  I was in a whirlpool of idolatry.  I know that others have alluded to this many times, but it is hard to get a stubborn person to look into the mirror to actually see them as they are—broken and scarred sinner.

I found out I had a lot of anger that had  become deeply rooted inside of me.  My anger varied from different things, to certain people, and even to my God.  The poison that built up inside of me was festering and being shown as contempt for self, and others.  It even brought me to the point of considering suicide as a choice rather than honestly facing my fears and anger.

Jesus does comfort all who mourn!  He bared all of my sins and iniquities on the cross, so I could live.  I have no right to take that away from Him.  Only He decides when it is right for me to meet Him in Heaven.

I have learned that people are human, and I should not expect more from them; to be all “healing, loving, and protecting” to me.  But, I do think God sends those that surround us as confidants, or “attendants” on His behalf.  They are placed in my life to help me understand the wisdom that has been bestowed before me.

I have discovered that I have much insecurity.  I do not always understand what is being taught.  Not wanting to acknowledge that I really need help, I blow up in a fit of anger.  In essence, I hurt those that I really care about, and really need.  There is no excuse for my behavior.  I can only ask for forgiveness.

Again, I have been thinking about the different pieces of the puzzle that others have been trying to teach me.  They have patiently tried to help me piece it together. Once the puzzle is together, I should realize that Jesus is the best, or exclusive, gift I could ever dream of receiving.  He is, and should be, my all!  He is on the side of the brokenhearted!  He is my champion–my knight in shining armor.

True brokenness will lead me to Him, and help me to break free from my idolatry of shame; the shame I have carried from my past into my present.  I learn to be repentant, and not let my pride always get in my way. I shall have faith that He will lead me to the Light at the end of the tunnel.  He passionately desires this for me…to learn to find my way toward Him.

Christ is my everlasting Light,  and the darkness of my past shall be no more.  I see the Light at the end of the tunnel.

Two Unlikely Friends

I have worked at a summer camp for many years. In fact, this summer will be my 30th year to work at the camp. There is a beautiful place called Church Mountain that the campers and counselors hike up to every Sunday. The camp director, and good friend, Nan Manning tells a story about two unlikely friends. She begins the story something like the following…

“Just up the road from my cabin is the corral. Next to it is a field with two horses in it. From a distance each horse looks like any other horse. But, when you walk by the field going up to the corral, you will notice something quite amazing. Looking into the eyes of one of the horses they will disclose that he is blind. They have a milky looking film over them; thus, the name given…Milky Way. The camp owners have decided not to have Milky Way ‘put down’ and they have made a good home for him.

This alone is truly amazing!

If you stand nearby the field and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell ringing in the distance. Looking around to see where the sound is coming from, you will see that it comes from a great horse, Vindicator, for whom all the campers want the honor of riding.
Along with the other horses, Vindicator is let loose in the field to rest at the end of the day’s activities. The small bell attached to Vindicator’s collar allows his blind friend knows where he is, so that he can follow him to the food and be able to eat.

As I was watching these two friends, l noticed that Vindicator, the one with the bell, is always looking behind for his unlikely blind friend Milky Way. Vindicator is making sure that Milky Way hears the bell and is able to follow him. Milky Way does respond to Vindicator’s bell by walking slowly toward him…trusting that he will not lead him astray.

After eating, Vindicator returns to the barn for the evening to rest. He is always looking over his shoulder for his friend Milky Way to make sure he is following him.”

Like the camp owner of the horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect…or because we are broken. He watches over us and brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need. Sometimes we are blind like Milky Way and need to be guided by the bell of those who God has put into our lives to lead us. Other times, we are like Vindicator able to guide others and help them get to a point where they might not have made without the proper guidance.

Every one of us has the power to make a difference by reaching out to other. We should take a vested interest in the care of others. We need to get involved and be a part of another person’s world. We all have challenges and struggles. We all have some kind of brokenness and pain that we have experienced at some time or another. The biggest lesson we have to learn is that our choices can hurt or help others; therefore, learning to recognize those who may be blind may be difficult. Yet, don’t give up. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; but, the good news is that our weaknesses are sufficient through His strength. There are some who are gifted and are able to recognize when others are broken.

We must all think, “What can we do to help others overcome their brokenness, and reach their potential?” Making a difference may be being able to bring out someone’s weakness and help them turn it into strength. The strength is not to be advantageous for one’s self; but, to be advantageous in furthering His kingdom while helping others.

Establishing good relationships with others is a great start in helping others. Although we may not always “see” these relationships, it’s nice to know that they may be near. Sometimes it’s the hope that gives us faith in what we don’t see.

I have a friend who sends me surprise notes telling me how much I mean to her. That random act of kindness goes a long way with me. It’s like the “Golden Rule” that they remind of us so much at the camp, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”.
Let’s try to “Do unto others” and make a difference by listening out for each other’s bells. We really don’t know what kind of brokenness that another person is experiencing. Your bell may be the only bell they can hear and may follow.

So look over your shoulder, and try not to leave anyone behind. You may be an unlikely friend that someone is following to His pasture.

…Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… ~Matthew 11:28

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