Tag Archive | truth

“The Crownless Again Shall Be King”

There is a  poem that I love that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the “Lord of the Rings”.  My favorite line is the last line, “The crownless again shall be king.”  

Of course, the king Tolkien was talking about in his book was the Ranger Strider who later becomes King Aragorn.  There is much symbolism made in Tolkien’s books that refer to Christianity.  I love it!  Today, I’m going to share my twist of this last line of the poem.

We know that Christ touched many lives (figuratively and literally). I think most people thought that there was nothing special about Him. I have often thought about how Christ did not much look like a King during His reign on Earth; in fact, he probably had similarities to that of a ranger.

Through God‘s words, the Gospel in the Holy Bible, we know that Christ is the truth we should all seek.  We also know that while He lived on Earth… few really “knew” Him.  Of the few that knew Him…some  betrayed Him.  In fact He suffered greatly at their hands.  In the end, He wore a crown of thorns.

Why was Christ crucified?

The Apostle Paul explains very well for us. Paul says that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . We are now justified by his blood.”; thus the crucifixion began.  Christ endured many painful experiences for us so we could live our lives…the lives we often choose for our self.

As humans, we often choose the life we want to live for ourselves.  Although, there are times that we experience pain as a result of those that choose to live their life for them self; such as, physically, spiritually, verbally, emotionally abusing others. This is not always the case; but, it does happen more than we care to know…often times go unnoticed by our self, or others.

…Anyway, in dealing with our painful experiences we must understand that a deep healing can take place, if we allow it. We must desire for this deep healing to take place.  We can not begin to understand how this deep healing works, unless we understand His grace and mercy…of dying for us.

We must learn, and try to understand, that there is hope in healing, and His hope leads to freedom.  Freedom will come when we have faith to trust in Him.  Truth is our hope is found in Christ; but, lack of faith can stand in the way of our passion to heal. Like our doubt, faith must be learned.

How do we learn to have faith? 

Having faith is learning His truth.  Ultimately the truth is that it is not within our power to heal ourselves. We will fail alone–every one of us. That is why we need the “Author and Finisher” of our faith.  The One who is able to keep us from falling. Christ can lift us up.  As Casting Crowns song “Who Am I” says, “He lifts me up not because of who I am or what I’ve done; but, because of who He is…the One who cares to know my pain.”

Christ endured great pain on the cross.  He died for our sins so that we could live.  Christ fulfilled what we could not do.

If the Gospel brings about true freedom, then His message brings us hope.  Not just for today, but for the future of His Kingdom.  One of my Pastors told me that, “God’s grace gives us freedom from despair and pride.”  Truth is, that we can have hope to “carry on”, if we let His grace free us of our idols of our sinful nature…or from our past of painful experiences.

I want to share  parts of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s poem.  It is as follows:

“…Not all those who wander are lost;

…A light from the shadows shall spring;

…The crownless again shall be king.”

Again, the only crown Jesus wore was a crown of thorns.  But through the Gospel we find hope.  We learn that the truth of God’s mercy, grace, and justice sets us free.  Knowing all of these things, we should be able to have faith that His Kingdom is very real.  He has Risen!  Yes, the Lord has risen indeed!  He is risen in a kingdom where the crownless again shall be King…of all Kings.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  ~ Galatians 2:20

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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

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.

Grace Should Arrive Within a Generous Community

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

I thought that maybe their mission statement might say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is not for the elite; but for everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Teach Me to Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought, “I wonder what unexpected event?”

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

I thought, “Awesome!”

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

I’m thinking this is all really cool!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those words are so true!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I 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!

A Beautiful Kind of Broken

Over the years, I tried to mend my wounded heart by myself; unfortunately, I did not seek help in the most appropriate way.  I have learned that I can’t be, nor anyone else can be my savior; thus, often resulting in feeling rejected which created a low self-esteem…leading to despair…because in my mind, I could not be fixed or saved.  Therefore, I must come to the conclusion (on my own & my own time) that no one can “fix” me; except, for Jesus.

My Pastor, Tom Gibbs, once told me that I must learn to let Jesus love me, and I must love Him in return.  If I don’t do this…it will be impossible for Him to pull my weeds and replace them with flowers.  I have really come far despite my abuse and lack of knowing a lot about the Good News; but, I can cultivate a bigger garden if I let Him help me, and others are willing to continue to mentor me.

I will say that learning to relate to God as a new creation is a difficult concept for me. I want to attempt to hide my very being from Him. I am ashamed of my past.  I feel guilty.  I don’t feel safe. The safety issue brings several things to my mind…how could He let all this abuse happen (past and present)?  What kind of sick dad sends His only Son to be killed?  That is no way to protect, or make someone feel safe.  Because of my past…these thoughts have crept up in the back of my mind.  How can I feel safe knowing that He will take care of me…when these things have happened?

The Biblical truth is that I can feel safe with Him.  I am safe to succeed or fail.  I also understood that there is truth to making individuals feel safe in church, or community.  Through communities the restoration for my brokenness can take place.  For people like me, I may think that others do not have problems that they have it all together because of the hiddenness within our community.  Often times the ones that are struggling–try to become more hidden, or withdraw, from the community because of fear that their secrets might be “found out”.  I finally understand that.  First, I was told to tell my secrets, and now…don’t tell them except to one who claims he can’t help.  So what is the point?  I am so confused!  Telling my secrets only brought more pain with no outlet to deal with them.

Unfortunately, telling past secrets doesn’t get rid of the pain …it actually just opens the door (which is not understood by most) to help begin the process of healing. When left undone, it causes much more pain and anxiety.  So what’s wrong with learning the process of helping others?  That is what I want to learn how to do, so that I can use this brokenness as a gift to help others.  Unfortunately, I have been discarded as “too needy” and not worthwhile to nurture to bring out such a gift.

There are lots of beautiful broken Christians that are at battle with a real war inside of them.  I know that I did not originally want to reveal my past with a select few for fear of rejection, and not feeling safe enough to be forgiven when my sins of my past were exposed.  I almost felt that because I screwed up with trusting some that the lesson I learned is not to confess my sinful past, or abuse, because now I no longer feel safe.  I keep telling myself that it would have been best to have kept things hidden; although, hiding would not have changed any of the abuse, then or now.

I feel this safety issue is a very sensitive topic.  Is there a question that some may take advantage of this thing called grace?  Should one be walked through the healing process of confessing, being forgiven, and eventually being restored?  Could there be a difference between immaturity (lack of understanding Him) and someone’s sinful nature of worshiping idols?  Or is it a combination?  Should they be forgiven or just discounted as a failure to abide by certain rules or time frames?

Being safe doesn’t always mean to feel safe to fail.  It can also mean to feel safe to succeed.  I want to be encouraged to be the Bride of Christ, to be His Beloved, to be that Oak of Righteousness like I have heard in some sermons.  There is a difference between righteousness and holiness. If I understand correctly, we become righteous when we accept Jesus into our heart as our Savior because of His death on the cross.  Grace enables us to pursue holiness, once we are made righteous, by seeking His Godly character & applying it to our lives.

I must tell you that most individuals who have been abused have a hard time trusting anyone, especially Christians.  There are some who would be quick to judge the abused without knowing the whole story…my story (or anybody else’s story for that matter). That was why a support system was needed to be in place, to help me learn to trust.  Yes, I know I have a hard time breaking away from dependency of others; but think about it…I have had to depend on myself for years (since I was a child), and look where that has gotten me.

Why can’t some dependency be considered for wanting to truly understand His love?  The support system should be built out of love & compassion; not out of pity for the abused to be labeled as a project to be worked on.  Especially, if the project goes awry it could cause the building of the structure to be idled.  A safe and stable place should be built for the broken and for them not to worry about performance expectations…or trying to be healed sooner because of someone else’s time frame.

Remember, the abused person is trying to heal, and for this reason one should step back & say it is not about me…it is about the child of God who carries this pain.  No one really wants to be sick!  I never wanted this pain of abuse, or the memories of it that often triggers horrible feelings within my soul.  Far from it!  I never desired to be taken advantage by a perverted man who was supposed to love and protect me…be my trusted parent.

I needed to get to a place where I could trust God and feel safe–because of what had been done to me in the past, and even what is happening now.  I also needed to trust God with what I had done.  People who have been abused have lost their identity, and often need to be validated by those who believe in them.  It’s important to talk these things out, in my case the abuse, to be able to remove my wrong perception of the present and what might happen in the future.  Yes, specialized counselors (such as mine…Clifton Fuller) are great for this; but, humor me to read on.

Abused victims, or survivors, don’t necessarily know who they are.  Over the years I took on different identities as a form of protection.  Many worked for me as a child; but now it is a problem as an adult. Sometimes there are those who can & will victimize the abused.  They will plague them with chores, verbally abusive words, until they are completely sleep deprived from over exhaustion and utterly worn out.  This allows the victim to become more easily moldable into a certain state of mind by the abuser.  Does that make sense?  This is when the victim “freezes up” during certain situations, and does not respond or handle the current situation with finesse.  I know this tactic all too much.  I have continued to live in this state of confusion for most of my life.

In searching for my true identity (in the image of God), I needed to know that I was of equal value as any other human.  My brokenness may come across as being “too needy” or “desperate” for some; but in actuality, I needed to understand my value as a person–which I don’t always see in myself.  For this reason as well, I feel that God might use me in other’s lives to learn how to build meaningful relationships with certain kinds of broken people like me.

In essence, my survival thus far, should be a blessing to others, and build  confidence that His Kingdom can be furthered by understanding the certain kind of brokenness found within me.  Those survival strategies that I learned as a child could be used as gifts to help reach others.  By recognizing their strategies, or walls they built up, I might be able to be help some of them; unfortunately, I am still unlocking some of those gifts to be able to be helpful.  It would be easier to unlock those gifts with encouragement.

In losing my identity, I also lost the true identity and nature of God.  In a sense, I am a child (a new creation), and I need to start over with the faith process.  I may need to have the basics of faith told to me more than once.  I will need to have Grace explained in depth.  I will need to understand God’s characteristics on an intimate level.  Truth is that because of my abuse, even though others may find it hard to believe, I can trust that I am in a safe place and I will not be rejected for my past, or sins.

We are all unique, and each one brings a different gift to the table.  In fact, I want to be a blessing to the community as well, and not be treated like a project.  I don’t want others to feel they have to help me because God would want them to help me; but, to help me because they have a real compassion to help me for who I am…and not knowing of what or who I could become in His Kingdom later.

I need to stop hiding behind my mask and become a beautiful kind of broken.

I shall heal your broken heart with My words of love. My truth shall prevail over all your trials and tribulations. I see your fears and sorrows; your struggles, your pain and suffering, and I shall not abandon you in your hour of need. My mighty right hand is already stretched out to heal and give peace and abundant life. I am at work. I am Jehovah – I AM THAT I AM.”

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