Out of Control?


Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Pexels.com

A number of years ago, I lived in Nevada where snow fell for the better part of the year. Many days, the roads were still covered in ice and snow, even with plows clearing them on a regular basis.

On days like that, I rarely went out. But on this one particular day, I had no choice so I piled my four kids in our old Bronco, set my four-wheel drive, and ventured out despite my longing to avoid the trip into town.

We lived outside Reno, in a little valley at the foot of the Sierras so whenever it snowed, the storm would swirl around in our valley as if it were trapped by the surrounding mountains and hills.

Getting out was hard enough, but going down the slippery hill, onto the highway, and into town proved challenging at best. Especially when the snow blew in blizzard, white-out conditions.

As it did on this particular day. (Did I mention I would have rather been at home with a cup of tea and a good book?)

Whenever we made the twenty to thirty minute journey into town (depending on what part of Reno we needed to arrive at), it seemed like a longish drive. But on snowy days, the are-we-there-yet question played every few minutes in what felt like a never-ending trek of epic proportions.

We made it down the hill, onto the highway, and the road was remarkably clear of traffic. (Those smart other people!) But it was not clear of snow and ice.

I drove clutching the steering wheel while reassuring my youngsters that all was good. “You all have your seat belts on, right? Mommy’s just double-checking.”

That’s when I glimpsed a flash of red up ahead of me through the blinding snow. The brake lights of a slowing, or stopped(?) car. I tapped my brakes lightly, but in an instant, the car spun out of control.

Kind of in slow motion.

But within a few seconds we were headed the wrong way on the highway.

I’m thrilled to say that we didn’t crash. Simply landed with a bump and poof of snow in the center divider. While we were shaken up, I was able to carefully navigate us into the right direction and off the highway. Thank you, Jesus! (I say that a lot.) I decided to take the longer, street route the remainder of the way into town. Yeah.

Here’s the thing.

For those few minutes, the scariest part was feeling like I was completely out of control. My car was turning and sliding and no amount of driving-in-snow protocol helped.

I was helpless, powerless, and sensed danger all around.

I think that’s how most of the world feels these days. Between the virus, job losses, the election, violence in our streets, and even friends and family turning against us on social media, we can spin out of control and land facing the wrong direction.

Isn’t that what we fear most? Being out of control?

Don’t we want to know what’s happening all the time and have a handle on it? Our family, our job, our finances, our spouse, kids, friends, and the outcome of this election?

But what if we don’t? What do we do then? How do we handle life when we feel like we’ve lost control?

It’s been a slow road, but I’m learning to trust the God that IS in control. He sees all, has already been where we’re going, and knows what’s up ahead. I may not know, but if he does and I trust him then no matter what happens, I can be at rest.

Even when I’m out of control.

What if God knows everything about this virus, the election, the violence, and what my spouse, kids or friends feel and think? What if he’s using every single good and bad thing to bring something good, or better for us or someone else? What if we trusted that what we can see is only part of the bigger picture and plan?

I could tell a multitude of stories of all the times I questioned what was happening from injury, sickness, death to job loss, financial struggles and misunderstandings with family or friends. I have plenty of material.

I know this from my sixty years of life. God is good. He is faithful. I can trust him with everything and when I do, my heart is at peace even in the midst of messy spin-outs. It took practice to learn, and I’m still in process, but I know my God, and he loves us.

Getting to know him is the first step. Getting to know him intimately (nothing weird, just up close and personal), is the next. First we try talking to him and trusting him with something, and then we can trust him with the next thing and the next. Anyone who would give their child so that we could be close to him must love us an awfully lot.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” I John 4:9

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

Hawaii

Today, when you feel out of control, maybe try talking to the God who loves you and is in control. You may find a new sense of peace to give up your control and leave everything in his very capable hands.

I have. I hope you can too.

What’s Your Story?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegLast week I shared about the anti-trafficking organization, Children of the Night, that confused; okay let’s be real, infuriated me, with its funding starting and continuing from Hefner’s Playboy empire. I shared the email I sent and the response from Lois Lee explaining briefly Hefner’s role in her business.

And I wrestled all week with it even in the wake of the horrendous violence happening in our country.

Death begetting more death.

Kind of like my impression of a pornography enterprise funding an organization rescuing those trafficked into prostitution.

But what kept coming back to me, in a gently convicting kind of way, in spite of my justified, righteous anger, was that I didn’t know this woman’s story. That I needed to pray for, not persecute, her.

I didn’t know why she chose to battle sex-trafficking to begin with. Was she exploited, abused, molested herself? Had she been a victim of sexual predators? I had no idea why she felt that Hefner and his Playboy enterprise was her only option for funding. Or how that relationship came about in the first place.

Jesus reminded me that I didn’t know her story.

We’ve all made choices, good and bad. I’ve made my fair share of terrible ones. Many of which developed out of my own background. When we’re confused and looking for answers, we’ll try whatever seems like the best option at the time, no matter what it is.

Sometimes the worst option looks really good in light of our experiences.

Just as I knew I needed to address concern for what seemed like a hypocritical use of funds to rescue children being exploited by the very same group funding the exploitation, I became convinced that I needed to reach out to Lois Lee and ask,

“What’s your story?”

Because Jesus cares about our story. He cares about how and why we landed where we did, making the choices we did. And more importantly, he forgives them all because of his love and compassion for us. No wrong can ever make him turn away from us.

She responded immediately.

Her email told me the basics of who she is—a doctor, a lawyer, an academic, a Catholic. I won’t share the email because now it’s a personal matter, no longer a letter to an unknown company. She gave me very little detail of what led her to begin except to say she’d been persecuted for her position in wanting to help young women in prostitution. She spoke highly of Hefner, even sounding as if he had been a dear friend.

I thanked her for sharing. I continue to pray for her to be blessed, healed, and loved by Jesus.

And I want to ask you, “what’s your story?” What led you to this place you are in today? What’s your life all about? Do you know Jesus like he knows you?

He cares about every moment of your story. So do I. Without judgment. His grace is enough for all of us—even the worst parts of our story.

And I know he started our story, has a better plot for it, and will keep writing it into something beautiful if we let him. So…

“What’s your story?”

Are You Angry at God?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegMaybe you’ve never really thought about that question. Or maybe you shake your fist at him daily. Perhaps you’ve had a loss or tragedy occur in your life, and you can’t reconcile the idea that a loving, all powerful God could allow something so horrific.

You’re not alone.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t at one time or in a lifetime question where God was when ________ happened. I certainly have.

As a matter of fact, for six years I was angry at God and didn’t even realize it. You see, I loved Jesus and believed God was good so I never considered that I could be harboring anger towards him. I believed he was in control in a good (well, mostly good) way and had brought me into a better place than I’d previously been in.

And he had.

But when God had spoken through someone that “turn around time” was coming for my life, I believed God meant that my failing marriage and business, my soon to be foreclosed on home and my hurting children would all suddenly turn around and come out rosy – you know, butterflies and unicorns stuff.

But it didn’t.

We lost our business and home, were forced to file for bankruptcy and ended up divorced with kids that had suffered far more than I ever thought possible.

What the heck?

So, six years later, to the exact day, when that someone who had spoken those promise-filled words showed up at my now different church (in a different state) speaking promises to people, I found myself perturbed. Conflicted. Angry.

I knew our pastor to be full of integrity and completely trustworthy so I wrestled with what I felt had been lies spoken to me years earlier. Later, after a strategically orchestrated meeting (only God made that happen, but that’s a different story), I drove away, parked my car in a remote location and let God have it.

Screaming, crying and recognizing my anger at him for the first time.

Until he whispered in my heart, “Didn’t your life turn around?”

Well…uh…yes. I guess it did. Because up until that point, I had accepted behaviors in my marriage that never should have been allowed. All that tragedy caused me to decide that I wanted a different life. As a result, I made new choices, and my life completely changed.

What I believed God meant and what he said were two different things. My perspective was shallow and off. We both wanted better for me, but he saw big picture and I saw immediate. He had change in my heart while I looked for change in circumstances. He set my course on a new, amazing life that would never have come if I had gotten what I asked for.

I realized I had to forgive God.

Forgive the one who forgives? Yep. That’s right. And thankfully, his grace and love for us it so great that he doesn’t hold our anger at him against us. He took care of me and my kids and blessed us incredibly during those six years that I was angry at him and didn’t know it. He knew it and waited for exactly the right time and orchestrated my circumstances perfectly to gently speak to me.

I cried, told him I was so, so sorry and our relationship grew deeper that night. I’ll never forget that night. Sometimes I share that story and it helps other people too.

As a matter of fact, I wrote a book, Rachel’s Son, about a young woman who felt that same anger when her only son was murdered. It took her many years and a path of destruction in her life until she could face her hurt and anger and finally forgive the Forgiver.

You can get the kindle version FREE on Amazon right now through tomorrow, March 3. And, the print version is more than half off. This is what one woman said:

“…I just finished reading Rachel’s son and it has changed my life. It was a gripping book. Couldn’t put it down but the most amazing thing has happened. When u got to the end…I sobbed.” (omitted words to avoid spoiler!)

It might be something that helps you handle anger with God, even if you don’t know you have any. I pray it will bless you.

The Effects of Pornography on Our Children


My latest novel, A Deadly Silence, soon to release, tackles the subject of pornography, sexual addiction and its potential for leading to domestic violence.

This deadly force lurks in darkness and silence. Only by speaking about it, can we find hope, healing and redemption. Families are being destroyed, and while we might focus on the spouse of the addict or the person struggling with the addiction, our children reap dire consequences as well.

This letter reveals how much our children suffer.  First seen and re-posted from Faithit.

I want to let you know first of all that I love you and forgive you for what this has done in my life. I also wanted to let you know exactly what your porn use has done to my life. You may think that this affects only you, or even your and mom’s relationships. But it has had a profound impact on me and all of my siblings as well.

I found your porn on the computer somewhere around the age of 12 or so, just when I was starting to become a young woman. First of all, it seemed very hypocritical to me that you were trying to teach me the value of what to let into my mind in terms of movies, yet here you were entertaining your mind with this junk on a regular basis. Your talks to me about being careful with what I watched meant virtually nothing.

Because of pornography, I was aware that mom was not the only woman you were looking at. I became acutely aware of your wandering eye when we were out and about. This taught me that all men have a wandering eye and can’t be trusted. I learned to distrust and even dislike men for the way they perceived women in this way.

As far as modesty goes, you tried to talk with me about how my dress affects those around me and how I should value myself for what I am on the inside. Your actions however told me that I would only ever truly be beautiful and accepted if I looked like the women on magazine covers or in porn. Your talks with me meant nothing and in fact, just made me angry.

As I grew older, I only had this message reinforced by the culture we live in. That beauty is something that can only be achieved if you look like “them”. I also learned to trust you less and less as what you told me didn’t line up with what you did. I wondered more and more if I would ever find a man who would accept me and love me for me and not just a pretty face.

When I had friends over, I wondered how you perceived them. Did you see them as my friends, or did you see them as a pretty face in one of your fantasies? No girl should ever have to wonder that about the man who is supposed to be protecting her and other women in her life.

I did meet a man. One of the first things I asked him about was his struggle with pornography. I’m thankful to God that it is something that hasn’t had a grip on his life. We still have had struggles because of the deep-rooted distrust in my heart for men. Yes, your porn watching has affected my relationship with my husband years later.

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: Porn didn’t just affect your life; it affected everyone around you in ways I don’t think you can ever realize. It still affects me to this day as I realize the hold that it has on our society. I dread the day when I have to talk with my sweet little boy about pornography and its far-reaching greedy hands. When I tell him about how pornography, like most sins, affects far more than just us.

Like, I said, I have forgiven you. I am so thankful for the work that God has done in my life in this area. It is an area that I still struggle with from time to time, but I am thankful for God’s grace and also my husband’s. I do pray that you are past this and that the many men who struggle with this will have their eyes opened.

*This has been posted anonymously due to the nature of the topic.*

Look for A Deadly Silence coming soon!

When Sara Maree Matley uncovers a box of questionable material while unpacking after their family moves, she’s forced to examine the ideal life she’s fought so hard to portray as perfect. Surely her successful, popular husband, Brad, can’t be the owner of the contents. But when Brad’s behavior continues to digress, and Sara deals with her own past, life unravels, and Sara must make one of the hardest choices she’s ever faced.

 

Flip It


Where Are You Looking

I read something recently that challenged me to consider how I see my position in life.

God tells us Jesus died to make us victorious, healed and free. So let’s flip our way of seeing how we approach life!

 

 

You are not a sick person fighting to be well; you are a well person fighting sickness.

You are not an addict fighting to be free; you are a free person fighting addiction.

You are not a defeated person fighting for victory; you are a victorious person fighting defeat.

(I’d gladly credit the author if there had been one listed. If that’s you – let us know.)

The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?

 

Letting Go of Expectations


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Far back, as long ago as I can remember, I believed perfection was the key.

I remember spilling a bottle of milk on the kitchen floor as I attempted to “help” my mom with the groceries. As a devastated three-year-old, an expectation formed in my soul and proved itself over and over in my life that if I could do everything right, say the right things, act in a certain way, all the wrongs in my life would be miraculously fixed.

No more bad stuff. If I could just get it right.

So my disappointments ran pretty high. Since no one is perfect, and I certainly wasn’t, my sense of achievement topped the charts too. Driving myself to accomplish more each day, and in a more perfect way, a failure to measure up left me spiraling down into a depressed state.

But not for long.

Because that wasn’t allowed in my perfect world. Especially as a Christian. Someone who believed in God, shouldn’t feel fear, anger, frustration, sorrow or exhaustion. Right? Only joy and gladness were granted space in my mental box of “rightness.”

My false beliefs bled into other areas of life.

I not only expected myself to get things right, but couldn’t understand why other people messed up too. Eventually, I learned to have grace for them, but not for myself. And if others did things wrong that affected me? Well, that was unacceptable.

Recently, I’ve seen myself from a better viewpoint – God’s.

He’s been showing me the places I expect so much from myself and reassuring me that he loves me for me, not for what I can do right or better or even at all. He’s been helping me rest in his perfection so I can let go of mine.

I’ve had a few opportunities to practice.

Relationships are great for that. Whether it’s family, friends or work situations, God gives us places to work out what he’s freeing in our hearts. I love that he is so kind and caring to point out our “stuff” and lead us into new ways of coping.

He’s teaching me to let go.

In his loving kindness, God’s gently told me that I wasn’t hurt in my past because I did something wrong or didn’t do something right. He’s said that I can’t fix my past by controlling my present or future. I can’t keep bad things from happening by making everything right or perfect.

Instead, I’m learning to expect from Him, not me.

Jesus is perfect. He loves me. He promises that because I’ve believed in him and accepted his dying for me, his righteousness covers me. In everything. Past, present and future. No matter what I do or don’t do right, I’m still covered, loved and delighted in.

That’s good news.

And it frees me to be me. The good stuff, the flaws, the sorrow and joy mingling together. I can rest in that place of freedom. I can choose to rest there. Every day there are places of choice.

You can choose too.

“It is for freedom that Christ sets us free.”  Galatians 5:1

 

What Are You Afraid Of?


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The scene above may be humorous, but fear is nothing to joke about.

God wired us with a healthy sense of fear to protect us from danger. But when fear dictates our lives, we can become trapped in patterns that destroy us.

Here are a few things I’ve been learning about fear lately:

  • Fear steals our identity
  • Fear makes us question our God given attributes and desires
  • Fear leads us to question another person’s motives
  • Fear causes us to judge others
  • Fear makes us assign conclusions about people or situations that aren’t accurate
  • Fear causes us to assume we know what someone’s intentions towards us are
  • Fear says lying will protect us – it keeps us from speaking the truth
  • Fear leads us to read God’s word inaccurately
  • Fear causes conflict within us
  • Fear keeps us from seeing another person’s pain
  • Fear of losing something makes us compete with others
  • Fear makes us cling to only one way of thinking
  • Fear causes us to lash out if someone has another opinion or perspective than us
  • Fear paralyzes us
  • Fear leads us to close ourselves off from others
  • Fear keeps us ineffective in our lives
  • Fear prevents us from being fully engaged in life

Maybe that’s why God tells us not to be afraid; that he didn’t give us a spirit of fear.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18

God is love and he loves us. We don’t NEED to be afraid when we believe he loves us and will take care of us. He knows all and has everything under control. So if we surrender to him, we can rest there and live in freedom.

I’ve been asking God to tell me what I’m afraid of. If we ask, he’ll tell us. And he’ll tell us what to do about it. I’m learning a lot about myself and the places I’ve been trapped.

He’ll also reassure us that he’s right there. Like a kid jumping into a pool into his daddy’s waiting arms. That’s us with God.

That’s a good place to be.

Are You in Chains?


woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

“I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains…”                                    Nahum 1:13

Say what?

This verse from the old testament prophet spoke of the ancient oppression of the Assyrians. The Lord promised his people that their freedom would come from his hand. So what does that have to do with us today?

We can be chained by pain from our past. Wounds caused by the actions of others whom we still haven’t forgiven or poor choices we made and their consequences, but often our bondage comes in the form of patterns we’ve developed to cope with daily life.

I love what author, Mary DeMuth, wrote in her devotional Jesus Every Day. Her words grabbed me with their simple truth.

“…the chains and yokes have become terribly familiar to me, like companions I nurture instead of anomalies I should shun. They are my normal. And so without even knowing it, I walk around shackled, and I can’t even see where they’re cutting my soul anymore.”

We all have those places that we don’t even recognize.

They can cause us to:

  • Get stuck in unhealthy ways of relating
  • Excuse our destructive behaviors
  • React unreasonably to the words or actions of others
  • Over react in common situations
  • Become isolated or suspicious of others
  • Feel haunted by our past

God wants to free us.

He uses his word, his presence and other people to do so. Connecting with a trusted, wise leader or good friend who will speak truth to us even if it hurts can reveal those hidden places of bondage and start us on a road to freedom.

Unfortunately, that can be scary.

We don’t like to be nudged outside our comfort zone. And as Mary writes in her “Chains” devotion Day 179, we like what has become normal for us because it’s how we navigate our lives.

“It’s like a comfortable blanket.”

The thing is, we might think those chained areas are secure, but they keep us from the abundant life God has for us. They keep us from good, healthy relationships with people who love us. They rob us by making our world very, very small.

So, I’m asking God to reveal those places to me that need to be freed up and changed. I’m trusting God can and will do it.

Will you join me?

 

 

Can You Admit the Truth?


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This weekend’s service at my church began a new series titled Life, Money, Hope: God’s Way Works. I’m excited about this series because I’ve found that the Bible really does have the answers to every situation in our lives.

God knew what we would need to navigate life.

He didn’t randomly throw things together and then wonder how to make it all function. From the beginning to the end, intentionality marks the history of creation. All we have to do is be willing to ask God what to do in a situation, and he will point us to his word (the Bible) with the answers.

One of our pastors, Kyle Jackson, who taught us this weekend, gave us some clues about our financial lives and the hopelessness most of us feel or have gone through in the area of money. He offered four reasons we can get off track, and then showed us where God’s word gives us great instruction for living in peace and abundance.

So, how do we move forward in life?

The first, and I believe most important, point he made which aims not only at our finances but every area of life is that we need to…

“Admit the reality of where we really are.”

The Bible tells us that the truth will set us free, but often we hide from the truth because we’re ashamed, guilty, embarrassed or confused. I know there were times in my life when I didn’t want to face the truth because it meant I would have to deal with unpleasant or downright hard situations that may cause pain to me and/or someone else.

Pastor Kyle reminded us that pride is what keeps us acting like things are good when they’re not. But when we are honest and admit the truth about our mistakes, we get a second (or third +) chance to do something different for a different result.

Isn’t that what we want in all of our life?

If you want to take your life forward into hope, healing and redemption, I recommend this new series. Here’s the link for this weekend at Next Level Church where many of us are moving ahead in our lives. I invite you to come join us online or in person if you are in our area.

What is an area you’ve admitted the truth and found it freed you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or in a email laurabennet14@gmail.com