Tag Archive | love

Lenten Special

I would like to have the Lenten Special, please.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:25-26

The season of Lent precedes Easter, which is known as the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  Lent is a 40 day period prior to Easter day.

Traditionally people “give up” certain things during the Lent period.  Usually a person will “give up” something they really like.  It usually is a habit of some sort, and it really depends on the person.  I really have a sweet tooth; but, have to have something salty to get the sweet taste out of my mouth…hahahaha!

Lent is not about a deprivation of our selfish habits…the ones we mostly partake for our personal gratification. Lent is a season of self-examination. During this period of self-examination we are called as Christians to examine how we “nourish” our bodies…as members of the body of Christ.  It’s about how we nourish our hearts.  It’s about how we focus on Jesus, who gives us strength.

My pastor said, “It’s like a spiritual test of where your heart is.  Your heart is where your treasure is.  Is it focused on “me” [self], or is it focused on Jesus?”

It’s human nature to want to focus on ourselves.  I’m extremely guilty of this.  In fact, I tend to focus on things that I may have regretted doing wrong or I may focus on good things that I feel have gone unnoticed.  Either way, my focus is on “me”, and not Him.  I focus on things that don’t give me true life.

There are also some who may focus on the things I’ve done wrong, and are really good at pointing them out to me, and sometimes to others.  It’s not like I live in a box.  I know I’m a sinner!  Most of the time, I actually regret doing a lot of the things I do.  But, something that I tend to forget, and need constant reminding of, is that there is no condemnation in Christ!  Only others, or my miserable self, may accuse of past, or present things.

Lent can also be a time to be a part of community; to be a part of others–who have a commonality of fixing their eyes on Jesus.

That’s really the goal isn’t it?  To fix our eyes on Jesus.  To understand that this beautiful gift from God, His only Son, is not just for ourselves but to be shared with others…with no strings attached.

Lent is a time to extend ourselves to others.  Extending not to just those who are impoverished, but, those that are older in age, those that may need comforting (for whatever reason), and to the sick and weary.   We should extend ourselves to those in our broken world; to be His messengers of love and mercy.  Our extension of ourselves should bear the very image of God.

Giving of oneself can be tough; but, there is a high return on the satisfaction odometer. Giving of oneself can be like a ripple effect.  Those that take His Light out into the world of others–do so because they take delight in this action, not because it’s “dutiful”.  It becomes a celebration that ripples out into the world.

I know that there is a lot more to Lent.  I could write pages on Lent.  Lent is not only about self-examination, it’s a plethora of  practicality of sorts.  Some of it’s about focusing on our faults; some of it’s about repenting;  some of it’s about extending ourselves to others; but, it’s mainly about keeping our eye on the prize of Christ Jesus.  He is the Author & Creator–the Finisher of the story of our lives.

During this season, what will you be serving up for your Lenten Special?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not from ourselves, it is a gift of God…”  Ephesians 2:8


Adopted by God

Even though I was far from being an orphan as a child, I understood loneliness at times.  I was an only child…for real.  I was abused by my step father.  I alienated myself from others.

As an adult, I have experienced loneliness. I have alienated myself  in a very different way.  I imagined I was what my pastor describes as being “spiritually  orphaned“. But something has changed over the last couple of years. I’ve been adopted…adopted by God.

There was a time that the only father I knew about was one I was trying to forget about.  With the help of a few spiritual leaders at my church and counseling, I began to learn otherwise. I learned that God is my true Father.  I understand that He is my Father.  He chose me.  He had plans for me, even before I was born.  God adopted me to be a part of His family.

Because of my past, even my present, I have carried a lot of shame and guilt.  It has laid heavy in my heart.  I tried to keep it suppressed; but, thankfully things are different now.

There is a song called, “You Love Me Anyway” by Sidewalk Prophets.  It reminds me of how I feel I acted toward Jesus for all of my life.  Part of the song is as follows:

“I am the thorn in your crown; but, You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from Your brow; but, You love me anyway.
I am the nail in Your wrist; but, You love me anyway.
I am Judas’ kiss; but, You love me anyway.

See now I am the [wo] man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life!

It’s like nothing in life
That I’ve ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me.”

You see, my sins pinned His exposed and naked body on the cross. Despite what I did to Him, He sought me out in the crowd and said, I love you anyway.  I delight in you.  I have adopted you for my own.  You are mine.”

I’m so glad to know that I am loved.  I’m not afraid to follow Jesus, or be with Him. In fact, I look forward to the day I will spend eternity with Him.  I’m secure in knowing that Jesus loves me.  He has adopted me for His very own.  He understands my fears.  He forgives me of my sins.  He gives me strength.

It’s people who don’t understand.  It goes back to the disconnectedness I have mentioned before.  It’s people who choose to disconnect.  Yes, there are some other circumstances; but, people make time for what they want to do. I know, because I’m a human being who does that very thing…chooses to do what I want to do.

I think that God would like for us to slow down and be a community…to try and reconnect with one another.  Last fall I had a friend from middle school who reconnected with me, and it was great seeing her.  To share our different journeys with each other.  We shared so much, and it meant so much to me to be able to catch up with her.  I have to admit that I have also connected with several through Facebook as well.  It’s been great reconnecting with so many.

It seems so many have trouble reconnecting.  Maybe something happened within the relationship.  Sometimes things may have happened intentional, maybe on accident without knowing, or maybe time just slipped away.  It’s not easy to reconnect.  It takes time and energy.   There are some who encourage you to do one thing, and then same people hold it against you for doing the very thing they encouraged you to do.  It’s so frustrating, and talk about disconnecting.

There is another type of reconnecting…a reconnecting with God.  God desires us to connect with Him. If God had not given me the strength and courage to depend on Him, then I think I would have ceased to exist. It’s because of Him that I’m capable of so much more.  I’ve been made new.

God chose me to be a part of His family. God adopted me. I don’t mind being in a single family relationship with God.  A community would be nice; but if some can’t accept me for me then there is no reason to be a part of community.  Jesus loves me anyway…no matter what secrets I may have from my past, or the person I am now.  He chose me.  I’m adopted by God.  He is the best head of family anyone could ever want.  Praise His glorious name!

…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from…strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace,…For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…~ Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-19

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

“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!

Shalom: A Greater Kind of Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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!

Strength to Carry On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why do people misuse their power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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