Believer’s Meeting

9:00 am, Sunday morning eyes close, hearts open– cue the perfect opening song, chosen because it’s upbeat, uplifting, and it gets the blood pumping. Energy surges. Those who practice loudly in their cars are ready to join in corporate Praise and Worship of Jesus, right?

Except, “I” and “me” are used far more often than His name.

It’s all about You, Jesus and how much You have done for me, how much I have been changed, how much You love me, how You’ve made a way for me…”

Song one finishes. Cue songs 2 and 3, in similar keys and subject so they can flow into each other smoothly. Hearts and minds are focused on all Jesus has done for “me“.

Cue song 4 for the offering, something catchy and convicting to encourage Believers to give to God freely…

Song 5 helps transition right into the sermon, getting hearts and minds prepared to receive the Word of the Lord and the Preacher’s sermon.

The sermon is deep, convicting, full of Truth and equipping Believers to make it through another week until it can all start over again.

A closing song extending the sermon message, inviting people to let down their personal guard so they can receive personal ministry to help them overcome the things holding them back, keeping them from fully embracing Jesus, God’s healing and deliverance…

And… we’re done.

It’s a set, a church service proven to be a smooth and embraceable formula that the majority of American Church models follow now.

What’s the fruit? Happy people, a love for deep, powerful music, a new determined focus to meet the challenges and difficulties of a week focused around “me”.

Mid-week, there used to be Wednesday night Believer’s Meetings to help get us past the dragging down of our spirits, and re-focus in putting Jesus first and foremost in hearts and minds. It seems many churches have instead poured their entire focus on that Sunday morning gathering. Which is fine, Wednesday night sometimes just adds into another thing that keeps us busy and exhausted.

Which songs in church help equip Believers in how to treat others? How many prepare Believers for interacting with those hurting, abused, or abusive outside of the Church bubble?

What church service songs encourage us to help rescue others from the spiritual muck and mire that acts like quicksand, holding and pulling people farther from freedom through Jesus.

We hear the words “help the dying and lost” so often, we’ve gotten numb to their meaning and impact.

The world that has not embraced the Salvation, Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus– it’s not a friendly, warm place. There are people who hate Christians, hate everything about God. Are we ever prepared to walk in the empowerment of God to not only deal with people that hate us, but also show them Jesus?

We lack transformative power, most often, because I believe we are stuck in a “me me me” rut.

Me filters everything– how does this song minister to me? How does this affect me?

All fingers are pointed at me. I’ve recently been confronted with my own boundaries of keeping the ugliness of the world out of my perception and eyesight-hearing range.

Choosing what I allow my understanding to be exposed to is a luxury.

The hurting, lost and spiritually dying don’t have that luxury. They don’t have Jesus, the necessity for us all, to protect them, to shield them, to deliver them from the cold, dark world of animosity towards all God has created– which includes them.

I had forgotten where I had come from. But– God reminded me. How can I not go back and help others ? Did Jesus rescue me so that I could become cold-hearted towards others who need Him to rescue them as well?

Jesus told us to go, share the Good News with the world that hates Him, and by proxy– hates us. Share the Good News that they don’t have to serve hatred any longer, they can have His free gift of Eternal Salvation. Before meeting Jesus, after allowing Jesus to give freedom is like night and day. It’s like shackles and freedom, caged and free, oppressed and… free.

Free.

No price.

No bondage.

No entrapment.

Free.

Mind-blowing, am I right? The human mind cannot even fathom what that means, and so many reject it because it sounds far-fetched and unbelievable.

We need God to empower us to demonstrate that reality of Jesus.

Where does the neat and tidy American church service infuse that empowerment?

We will never find that power on our own, within ourselves, to reach out to a torture victim. Because they do exist– in America.

How can we help rescue someone’s mind who has been trapped in human slavery– because, again, that exists inside of America.

Jesus left Heaven to be born as a human to walk with us, so He could rescue us– heart, mind and soul. Not just our soul. Not just physical and heart healing.

Our minds.

Our emotions.

He came to set the captives free.

Where are we most held captive?

In our minds.

How can we ever be ready to help people get free from the ugly hatred of the world if we stay focused on “what Jesus has done for me? Those trapped don’t care what He has done for me. They need Him to help them, and they need us to stand in the gap while He sets them free.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17 (NASB)

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Wound’s Protector— The Scar

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have scars on my scalp from a “friendly” domesticated adolescent cougar “playing” with my head as his chew toy. I’m thinking about that today because they hurt. Kinda bad.

So that got me to thinking– if my physical scars hurt so badly at times, what about those deep emotional scars? Sure I’ve gone through all those rituals of forgiveness, repentance for my part in some things, and trust in God for healing. And He has healed me– so much! (I’ve even felt Him heal my esophagus as I praised Him through singing– what an amazing, warm, wonderful feeling that was!) I wouldn’t be married again if God had not done major surgery on my mind and my heart. We just celebrated 20 awe-inspiring years!

Those of us operating in the American mindset think we have everything all figured out. We put things in neatly labeled boxes, organized by category, decorated prettily with descriptions, definitions and diagnosis.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we take a box out of the organized line-up, sort through it and realize it really isn’t the way we believed it to be?

What if emotional pain is not always as explained? What if it’s the manifestation of pain from emotional scarring?

The tough thing about emotional scars is no one can see them. Only the person who lived the experience can feel and remember.

Incidentally– that’s exactly the experience of Christianity. Only the person who has experienced Divine interactions can feel them and experience their reality. That does not invalidate that person or experience, just like it does not invalidate one who has emotional scars. The experiences did happen, they did have an impact on the person they happened to. Jesus did Save the Christian, His actions and the Holy Spirit interactions continuously impact the Believer, though it’s deeply personal.

Do emotions exist? Do memories represent past experiences? Does pain from emotional wounds and scars ever manifest in our reactions, responses, emotions and beliefs?

I think maybe the “professionals” are really just guessing– and maybe they have guessed wrong in some things.

Maybe we look at mental health the wrong way. I don’t think PHD’s have all the answers because I don’t think they have been asking the right questions– many times they are just masking the symptoms, not getting to the core and root of what they diagnose– not looking for a healing solution.

Only God has all the answers, only God knows all things, sees all things and understands the “why” of all things. He has promised in His Word that we can call all to Him and He will answer us– He’ll show us great things we don’t know. Do we believe that?

I think I do. Sometimes. When we step away from the bindings of what has been explained to us with human understanding, and seek Divine understanding, God will show us, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to empower us.

How much of that have we stepped out in faith to embrace?

We cling to our diagnosis, definitions and descriptions as though those have life for us. The One Who holds all knowledge is life. My desire is to cling to Him.

I fall short.

Do my emotional scars manifest sadness through their pain? Anger? A desire to be comforted? A lack of trust in others?

I honestly think maybe they do. Maybe that’s part of their intended function as God has designed them to protect where we once were wounded.

Suppression

With all the recent scandals from Hollywood and politicians, I’m again thinking about my own past of sexual abuse, and different reactions I’ve experienced about how I do/don’t do things.

First, I’ll share some of my background.

I was molested by my dad as a young girl. That in and of itself is still a humiliating experience for me. I’m still emotionally sensitive at times and in different situations. It’s just the first abusive situation I experienced, but it’s the foundation of abuse in my history, so it’s my focus today.

Bringing it up now and admitting my emotions can still be affected by the memories– at times, the nightmares– does not mean I’m not healed, that I haven’t forgiven him or that I am stuck in the past. These are some of the reactions I can count on getting nearly every time I mention it.

No matter the reasoning behind my dad’s actions against me– it still happened.

So, when I see and hear things people say to others, it frustrates me. Things like– “Pick up the broken pieces, and move on.”

Well– start where in picking them up? To me, this is like telling a person with 2 broken legs to just stand up and walk away.

Everything about me was broken. I say was, because God picked up my broken pieces, and He helped me move forward– towards Him.

But, you know who didn’t? People. The Body of Christ didn’t. Once when I asked for special counseling from a Pastor’s wife, she blamed me for causing problems with my reactions to having been hurt!

Much of my life I have fought to be heard. Most of my childhood I struggled with being seen and learning how to fit in. All of my victim-hood I’ve fought to survive.

You won’t believe the attacks of my mind, my heart and my body that I experienced as a result of what was done TO me. I fought to get away. I tried to run away. I tried to make it stop by taking my own life away from it– physically– forever. Thankfully God intervened and had Compassion for me.

These were my wrong reactions and thought-processes growing up– I cut because I was numb and that made me feel something. I starved myself because I deserved to be punished because I must have been an awful person for that to have happened to me. I clung too tightly to guys I just wanted to love me– I just wanted to be loved and valued. I thought if I removed myself, I would no longer cause problems for my dad– because he told me that.

My mom did all she could to protect me and handle an impossibly difficult situation. She sent me where she knew I would be safe during the summer years of my childhood– to her parents. I don’t know what they knew, I only know I was told to never ever talk to anyone about things. You see– I didn’t even know that my mom knew. I thought I was completely alone, and had to fend for myself all alone. But, she was looking out for me.

Pick up the pieces and move on…

When you’re self-perception has been damaged through the mental abuse of someone else that should be trusted to protect and build you up– how do you move forward? Where is forward? Which way is up? Because everything I knew was filtered through that experience and how others reacted to me.

It’s by the Grace of God and my mom that I survived my childhood years.

I am not hanging onto what happened. Talking about it doesn’t mean I’m hanging on to it. Hopefully talking about it will extend a lifeline to someone else who may need someone to look out for and reach out to them.

God has brought me through it, to the other side. I don’t need pity of the stuff of feeling sorry for me, or counseling.

My purpose for writing this is– those “encouraging” sayings do not help real people with real needs.

Picking up the broken pieces for me, at that time, meant the equivalent of picking them up and then walking barefoot through more broken, sharp pieces. I saw no clear path, until God in His Mercy reached out to me and pulled me out of it.

He had to carry me, because I was far too broken to walk on my own.

For those who are broken– you can Trust God. I promise! His ways are gentle and kind– and always perfect.

For those who are unbroken observers– Please– Allow God to work through you to reach out and help the broken with more than cute sayings that often feel more like salt poured into open wounds than healing balm.

Pray at all times, without ceasing, giving thanks to God above for one another. Especially those that you just don’t understand. Don’t turn a cold shoulder, don’t be short or abrupt– that helps no one, but instead often feels like condemnation poured-out on those who might be crushed under the weight of it. God is not in that.

Love is Patient. Love is Kind. Love does not dishonor others. Love is not self-seeking– Love does not prefer its own opinion over the needs of others.

What I Wish Some Understood About Sexual Abuse Survivors

We live in a world full of people with as many backgrounds as there are people. No two are completely alike. In this mix, there are abusers, abuse survivors and the unaware.

The category I fit into is abuse survivor. I was molested as a child, harassed as a teen and young adult, and raped as an adult by someone I believed I could trust.

It’s been quite a few years since it all happened to me, and it surprises me to see how it still affects my thinking of myself. 

So, I’m going to address some of those things that I’ve learned, and some of the attitudes I’ve dealt with.

1) Rape and sexual harassment is never funny to a survivor. It’s never a light topic, it’s not something to be joked about. Words do matter— they conjure up memories— sometimes traumatic ones with deep emotions attached.

2) No, we can’t just get over it. Something was stolen from us, trust was violated, our spirit has been bruised. Healing over time happens but, often invisible to the natural eye, emotional scars remain. 

3) We grieve over the robbery of our innocence. 

4) Our body was attacked, and our bodies react to that— often through eating disorders, or even gaining weight in an attempt to self-protect. Stop the body shaming, they probably have some history of sexual abuse! 

5) We are often more sensitive to criticism because many of us have an unconscious belief there must be something wrong with us for someone to hurt us so badly.

As a Christian I rely on God to be my Comfort and my Strength, but sometimes I wish I could rely on my brothers and sisters in Christ more. Relationships aren’t often easy for me to form because I still, even after so many years of God restoring what the locusts had eaten, I still have trust cautions. 

All I hope to get across through this post is to encourage others to become aware. Be kind and sensitive. Hold back on criticisms. 

Scars– Survivor’s Thick Skin

I have scars.

Some are easily seen. Like the one on my hand where I got stitches from grabbing a knife out of a distressed friend’s hand. He was threatening self-harm.

Tonka The Mountain Lion

Some are hidden. I have scars in my scalp from an attack by a playful young mountain lion my aunt kept and adopted from a hunting trip. When my fingers locate the indented bite marks my hair now hides, it seems as though the scars remember the trauma– the pain. All that blood… I can still almost taste the metallic flavor as it as  gushed out of the fresh wounds, covering my face. The rush of fear– I had no idea how to get away from Tonka cougar’s implanted teeth in my scalp. The tears. The shock as my aunt just stood there, watching, with what I remember as being a curious and possibly slightly amused look on her face. Her husband grabbed a towel and somehow got my head out of Tonka’s clenched jaw. I don’t remember being separated from my new “friend’s” grasp. I vaguely remember being in the ER, having my head bandaged. The rest is hidden in my memory, deep beneath those still sensitive-to-touch scars.

There is a Proverb that says– “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6) I’m not sure I can apply this one to what happened with Tonka.

Then there are inner scars that no one person see. The ones that form over our emotions. The ones that guard our hearts. They cover our memories, stretching over wounds as a protective layer. They remind us to avoid people and situations that cause us pain. They encourage research into preventative measures. They might even be what makes us want to build up protective walls– to keep similar pain out.

Maybe they are the walls…

I have hidden scars. From an abusive childhood. From people who called themselves my friends, but never really followed through. From a devastating first marriage.

I have other scars I call regrets. Wow did I do stupid things! I had no self worth. I was beat down by the words of my dad on a regular basis, convinced what he said about me was how everyone saw me. Worthless. Good for nothing. In the way. Why was I even born?

I am thankful that God swooped down and rescued me the times I almost gave in and gave up.

He was my Comforter. He was my  Rescuer. My Protector. In later years He also became my Shield.

He brought people, one at a time, into my life. He worked through them to help me. He helped me find the path to trust and healing.

My list of traumatic life experiences is longer than many people’s. I hate that so much! Not because I would ever want anyone to experience more. Because each situation where the scars have sealed-off painful memories, is horrible.

I have fought a tremendous uphill battle just to be normal. I fought to have a healthy mind. I’m fighting to have a healthy body.

I have hated my life for most of my existence. Except where God made the changes that delivered me from being bitter, hate-filled and angry. I love that He has healed and transformed me to the me I am now. Believe me– I was beyond  repair. Consumed by anger for my dad. Filled with hatred for my neglectful, abusive, rapist-coward of an ex-husband.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real. I look at who I was before I allowed Him to walk with me, and I feel a sense of shock that He didn’t just have me removed from the face of the earth.

He healed me. He revealed a deeper love for me than anyone had ever shown to me.

All I ever really wanted was to be loved, to be welcomed– to be wanted.

God has given that to me.

The scars remind me.

One of my scars is sadness. You can’t walk through all I have and not still be affected in some ways by it all. God healing me does not erase those circumstances or all of the emotions still attached. I was still robbed of a healthy relationship with my dad. I remember the horrible words he said to me, how he hurt me in so many ways– physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually.

It all still happened.

It all no longer defines who I am.

Jesus has scars. Crucified on a cross. Nails the size of small railroad stakes pounded into His wrists and feet. Scars on His scalp from the crown of thorns. Scars on His back as His flesh was ripped apart by a whip called the “cat of nine tails.” He endured that for me. His scars remind me that His love and compassion are so deep, He willingly went through everything He did for me. I couldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have been able to look at my abusers and say to God the Father, “Father. Forgive them, for they know not what they have done.”
Jesus did that.

His scars remind me.

Dark Reflection: Looking At The Painful Past

I hate looking at my past. I hate remembering. I have set out so many times to write “my story”, but something always blocks me.

I think it might be “this” me hating the “old” me.

I don’t want to look at it through my memories.

Why would you?

Today my youngest was playing with a rubber band, joking about shooting it at me. Even something as silly and simple as that reminds me, like a scar reminds us of a painful wound.

What is the big deal about shooting a rubber band, right? If you could look into my memory, and “feel” with my emotions, you’d know. You might even hate it, too.

You’d see the man who molested me, aiming then shooting a rubber band at my butt as I laid on the couch watching tv. You’d feel the sudden surge of rage consume what might have been a semi-peaceful moment. You’d watch my leg shoot out, my foot connect to the back of his knee as he walked by. Full rage force. Knocking him off his balance.

The rest of that day is a black hole.

One thing I really want people to understand is that I don’t live in my past. I don’t need advice on how to forgive or heal. I have overcome tremendous odds, and I only have God to thank. My experience has often been that those who hear what I’ve been through assume I need their help, that I’m asking for help or advice.

I share my story because it’s God’s testimony of Him transforming an ugly duckling into a swan– the traumatically-challenged, nearly bitter woman into a trusting Christian.

If this encourages you, I’ve accomplished what I never used to believe I could. If it hits home, I am deeply sorry.

Please feel free to use the comments section to tell how God helped you heal or overcome a troubled, painful past. We all need to hear more about what God is doing to heal the broken-hearted; to set the captive free, transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

Exposed

I hate my past.

broken_terra_cotta_flower_pot-419x600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hate the parts of my personal story that involve my past. I don’t like who I was, I don’t like what I lived through. I abhor my reactions and choices. I despise where I had no choice or that I had no one to help me, to comfort me, or just talk with.

Yeah, I hate my past.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get my book written. I hate reliving it. I hate thinking about it. I hate how when I am in a group of people and I just want to fit into the conversation, I feel compelled to share my experiences so I can identify with others. And I hate how vulnerable and

exposed

I often feel when I tell something deeply personal.

Who really wants to hear about the horror experiences of my childhood and teens, and for what reasons do they want to hear about them?

Who cares? About me?

I loathe feeling like other people think I’m competing in storytelling. I hate how it just feels normal to me that I have gone through so many things, and then I see that look of shock on the face of someone I’ve opened up to- then I realize, my life has been anything but normal.

It’s like a thorn in my side.

The parts I don’t hate about my past are when God shines through, as a warm, magnanimous Light, as if He has given my heart the most loving hug.

Healing me, bringing completeness to my injured, abused soul.

Exposure reveals the miracles and even the heart of God throughout my life.

Hating my past has helped me to love and appreciate God. Living my life, I’ve learned there is no one more trustworthy and faithful than God.