Feel Like Your Life is in the Gutter?


monterey ca

Ever question the choices you make?

Do you wonder why you act the way you do? Or react in certain ways? Do you find yourself in the middle of a road rage moment, a fight with your spouse or yelling at your best friend and question how you got there?

Like, what just happened?

I’m discovering that most of us have. And while it’s bewildering to experience those situations, it’s even more surprising to learn what causes them. Not just that we’re sinful creatures or lacking self-control, although those certainly explain a lot.

The underlying secret is imprints.

So, what’s an imprint you say? I’m glad you asked. An imprint is an impression or a groove in your soul created by prolonged or traumatic experiences in childhood. Especially during those “formative” years.

Imagine pushing your hand into wet cement.

After it dries, the cement hardens with your hand print forever imprinted in it. Or think about cars (or wagons in the old days) driving through mud on the the same road. Eventually the traffic forms a rut.

Our impressionable young lives take on imprints.

All parents do the best they can with what they have. Some do better or worse than others. But let’s say you had a parent who showed great affection and enthusiasm only when you did well in sports or brought home good grades. You subconsciously become a performer for love and attention.

Or suppose you suffered some kind of abuse, lost a parent or sibling, survived cancer or saw your father beat your mother. Perhaps your parents were addicted to drugs, sex or alcohol. To survive trauma and constantly stressful situations, children adapt the way they relate to compensate for something they can’t handle.

Imprints.

The rough part is that if we don’t know this (few people do) and never deal with whatever issues caused these impressions on us, we will act and react in the same unhealthy ways as adults without even being aware of it. And we’ll hurt ourselves and others including our children in the process.

This is why I’m so thankful for  a book I mentioned a few months ago called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. They set out to figure out why, when they both loved each other, they couldn’t seem to make their marriage work.

But this book isn’t only for married couples.

Everyone can benefit. I read a lot of various books, but no book has helped me like this one in dealing with the bottom line issues of my soul. (Okay, besides the Bible.) I’ve been to counseling over the years. I talk a lot about my feelings and questions, and I thought I’d figured most of it out.

Now I understand the depth of the even the little things.

Why I react the way I do in certain situations. How I think about other people and why. The way I use anger as a defense, and an explanation for why I can suddenly explode in rage at times when I’m a generally optimistic, happy person. Why I’m afraid to speak truthfully to some people, and why saying “no” used to be so difficult.

I can’t tell you all of it here.

Go to www.howwelove.com and take the quiz. Find out your “love style.” Order the book on their website. Read it alone, with a spouse, a friend or in a group and work through the workbook in the back. Take your time. Cry, pray and keep pressing through it. God will use it to reveal your pain and bring you healing and freedom.

You will not be sorry.

Disclaimer: I did not receive anything for this. I don’t get paid anything for promoting or if you buy the book. The authors have never heard of me. These opinions are based on my own gratitude and excitement. I wish I could offer a money back guarantee.

What’s your style…if you feel courageous enough to share?

 

Is This Your Year of Freedom?


We’re continuing our series on becoming free…

I recognize women who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of their past sexual abuse, domestic violence or a spouse’s sexual addiction. Denying the lie they are living and the part they play. It’s excruciatingly painful to face the truth head on. To acknowledge the depth of dysfunction, and the stuck place we can’t seem to get out of. But the cost down the road, if we don’t, is so much greater than our current pain. Europe 228

I wish I could tell them.

These women see the consequences of their broken lives in themselves and in their children and are in despair, but they are afraid to look at the truth. How they got there and why they stay. They are lost in a hurting, hopeless world. I know.

I was one of them.

I believe the woman in the Bible, the one at the well, was one too. But when Jesus sought her out and spoke truth to her, she glimpsed a glimmer of hope.

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’” (John 4:19-20)

She believed he was a prophet. Maybe he could untangle the mess that was her life.

Was she ready for that?

I wonder if she was trying to change the subject, or if she was trying to prove how “good” she was by telling him what she knew about religion. Often, when the Lord whispers some truth about our lives that we aren’t sure we want to deal with, we focus on a past or future circumstance – well, it was like this… – or another person’s issues instead. Maybe we bring up someone else as a comparison to alleviate our shame, or to evaluate how good we are based on how bad they are.

And how many times do we respond based on what we think God (or someone else) expects?

Or maybe this woman wished she could have a relationship with God, but because someone told her there was only one way and one place, she felt excluded. Besides, the shame she felt was enough to make her exclude herself from any kind of worship. Don’t we often deny ourselves from connecting with God?

How could he want someone like me?

Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’”

The truth is, Jesus is happy to have us come to him any time, place and way, if our hearts are sincerely directed towards him.

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’” (verse 25)

This woman clung to what she knew. Someday Jesus was going to come and explain everything. That was her hope. I can imagine her wistfully looking towards the mountain, picturing how Jesus would make everything in her life right again.

Someday.

Can you imagine her astonishment when Jesus said,

‘I who speak to you am he.’?”

The same shame-filled woman, who had earlier avoided the crowd, now went eagerly to find them. She couldn’t wait DSC_0020 (2)to share how simply being in the presence of Jesus had transformed her life.

And God has the same for us.

When we worship, when we take in his words spoken to us through the Bible, when we engage with Jesus, he transforms our life. No matter what it looks like. No matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.

So, what if this is the year we face our life? What if this year we let him transform us?

Water Anyone?


We continue our series on deliverance from spiritual bondage

In our trouble, there is hope.145 (2)

Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms. And he finds ways to draw us to himself so we will want to seek what he has for us.

Like the woman we’ve been reading about. First, Jesus spoke to her when others wouldn’t have done so. Next, he offered he something she needed. Water.

Something so simple, but with such depth.

The woman was invited to find out more. And she needed something. So she asked

Where can you get this living water?” (Verse 11)

She wanted to understand who it was that dared speak to her. Her curiosity led her to ask if he was greater than the only thing she knew who had authority, which was Jacob, the patriarch of the Jews. But Jesus is greater than she understood, and what he offered her was more than she could imagine.

Bigger than her expectations.

His offer ignited hope.

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him, will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (verse 13-14)

Initially, I think the woman was simply looking for a practical way to avoid facing the daily shame of going to draw water in public. Maybe she was tired of trying to go there in the heat of the day to evade the crowd.

She didn’t realize that Jesus had so much more for her. Not just a quick fix for the symptoms of her life, but a change of heart, and life with a new beginning.

Nevertheless, she was hooked, and wanted whatever he had.

The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this living water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”(verse 15)

And because she asked, Jesus gave.

He began by revealing the reality of her current life to her. He gave her the chance to confess, repent and allow Him to exchange the brokenness of her life for something new.

Jesus did this by asking her to call her husband. She answered she didn’t have one. She told him part of the truth; he told her the rest of it.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true.”(verse 17-18)

No condemnation. No judgment.

Jesus simply spoke the truth in love and left it to her to decide what she wanted to do with it. He knew her heart was tired and ashamed, that she longed for something better, but first she had to look at the truth of what her life had become.

Why do we hear the truth spoken in love by God or a dear friend or family member as judgment?

Most of us have been spoken to with that self-righteous finger-pointing attitude. And we’ve have spoken with that accusing tone too. Haven’t we?

But that isn’t Jesus’ heart towards us.

That is Satan’s voice. The wolf after sheep, the prowling lion looking to devour. He is the accuser and condemner who entices us into something, offering it as the answer, the valuable thing, the only way out and then turning on us when we are trapped by it, jabbing us with a jagged finger of judgment.

Is it any wonder we point at others desperately seeking escape?

But God offers us truth as a way out.

It may be painful and feels counter intuitive. But it is where we begin to break free. And Satan loses his grip one clawing finger at a time.

What is the reality of your life? Are you ready to ask Jesus to help you with it?

What Is Your Darkest Fact of Life?


Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.                            Oswald Chambers

For most of my previously married years, I saw my marriage as the biggest problem with my life. It’s true, it wasn’t good. I longed to be free from the daily stress of emotional and sexual abuse. But while marriage was a nightmare, it wasn’t my main problem.

God wanted to set me free from so much more than a broken marriage.

My life had been dictated by guilt, fear, shame, pride, and wrong perceptions of God, myself and others. Those were the things entangling me and causing me pain.

How did I get there?

Compromise. 

While some compromise (sharing and rearranging ideas in order to come to an acceptable solution) is good,  another definition of compromise is

to expose or make vulnerable to danger, suspicion, scandal, etc.; jeopardize     (dictionary.com)

As a molested child, my life was compromised. And I learned from then on to continue life in compromise, allowing things I didn’t want, to dictate how I lived each day. I accepted a lower standard that was not safe or good.

Living in compromise clouds our vision of who God is.259

I made choices that led to destruction even while I was seeking God, because I didn’t understand God. My perceptions were based on an emotional filter that hung over my life like gauze, clouding what I saw, and giving me an entirely different view without any clarity. Like being in a house of mirrors, my thinking and emotions were distorted. Thus everything in the world around me was as well.

Compromise makes God become to us only what we think we need based on what we think we want.

We can’t see what we truly need that is actually something better than what we want. And our growth is stunted when we seek God on our own terms. It leaves us frustrated with God, thinking that He doesn’t hear us, or purposely won’t answer.

We may believe He is harsh or angry with us.

In this stuck place, we can’t move ahead, but keep returning to the same places over and over wondering why nothing changes for us.

Ironically, it is only as we step out in faith and obey God that we see the truth. Only then can He can lead us into areas of growth and healing. God is faithful to care for us regardless of our circumstances, but in the beginning all we can see is the life we’ve created, surrounding us like a dungeon wall. There seems to be no escape.

God longs to free us. He always has a way out.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at a story from the Bible that moves my heart. Every time I read it. And I continue to receive healing from a new perspective of it every time. We see from this story in John, chapter four, the great love and escape God has for us.

The story of the woman at the well in Samaria shows the process of how God untangles us from the entrapment of our choices, reveals the truth of who He is, and enables us to share our experience with others to set them free as well.

This is a story of the deepest love and compassion of Christ for the most shamed of women. It is a story of the faithfulness of God, the forgiveness of Christ and the joy of new life.

If we want to see the truth about God, then we first must be willing to see the truth about our lives.

Are we willing?

Jesus was returning to Galilee and “…had to go through Samaria,” it says in the fourth verse of John 4. I want to point out that He could have skirted around Samaria as most Jews would have done at that time. The Samaritans were not a highly thought of people. Maybe that is why Jesus had to go there. For the sake of the banished woman and the outcasts of the town.

His great love compelled him to go into places others wouldn’t.

What place are you in that you need Jesus to visit? He will if you ask him. It doesn’t matter where…

A drug house? Jail? The local bar? Isolation in your home? The hospital? An affair? Mental illness, alcoholism or a food addiction?

Maybe it is a secret area no one knows about. A stash of candy or pornography. Or perhaps it’s something outwardly “acceptable,” but you know deep down it might be an issue – like a television program or social media site you can’t walk away from. Anything that dictates our thoughts, time, energy or money is a stuck place of compromise and skewed perspective.

Next week we’ll continue, but for now, let’s ask ourselves to be honest. And let’s ask Jesus to open our eyes to him and the truth that will set us free.

He promises that “…the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32b

 

Religion vs. Relationship – Which Do You Have?


I’ve read a lot about religion lately.IMG_3527

The other day I remembered an orange button that adorned my leather purse when I was about sixteen. It claimed something like this:

Jesus is about relationship, not religion.

I recall when I saw it in a gift shop at youth camp, the concept grabbed my heart. It encompassed what I had been learning as a youth reading my Bible. Primarily the book of John, which I felt portrayed Jesus’ love for me the best because it was written by Jesus’ best friend on earth. I longed to spend time with my new friend and live in a way that made him proud of me. I didn’t get that his life for mine really meant just that. His blood covered over my sin. There was nothing I had do about it except accept it and be grateful.

But I grew up in an age of religion. Big time.

Right and wrong were about being right, and therefore someone else being wrong. Being right meant someone else had to be wrong. Good guys and bad guys. Church goers and “heathens.” Oh, I knew what the Bible said about grace and all that, but it also had plenty to say about not sinning. I took that to mean that the less I sinned, the more right I was. Which naturally meant other people who sinned more than me were wrong. Wasn’t that the standard?

No, that’s just plain dangerous thinking.

Does that mean I learned not to sin? Nope. I was pretty messed up and did a lot of foolish things based on my messed up perspective and my rebellion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it right. Fighting to be right left me frustrated and hurt others as well as myself. Until I learned the simplicity of repentance. That coming clean about my stuff, all of it, with complete honesty to Jesus and those I hurt is the only way to freedom. But that’s not religion.

When God created people, he wasn’t starting a religion.

He wanted a relationship with us. And each other in the same way he, in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), enjoys relationship in heaven. He is love, therefore he longs for us to love him and others. He even tells us that those are the greatest commandments. Makes sense that if we recognize his love for us and love him in return, he will give us the ability to love everyone he created.

His ultimate showing of his love was to come to us, giving himself up as a sacrifice to make a way for us to still be in relationship with him even when we choose to sin – to cut him and others off. Because let’s be honest; we’ve all had thoughts of wanting to do harm to someone at some point in our lives even if we haven’t actually followed through with it. And at some point, haven’t we all decided that our ways or plans were better than God’s?

On that basis, we need God’s love and forgiveness in order to have a right kind of relationship with him and with others.

The problem with religion, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or Mormonism (name any you want here), is they are all man’s way of trying to get to God when God already made a way for us to be in a relationship with him through Jesus. Even as Christians or followers of Christ, we can cling to our particular denomination and its traditions rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

But we don’t need to figure out a way to make ourselves right.

God did that for us. So all of our rituals whether they be worshiping a particular way or bowing down the right number of times or wearing a specific outfit do nothing to create a relationship with the creator of us and our world. We miss the point if we focus on those things. We miss loving God and each other. Especially when we insist that our way is the right way. Jesus said that he is the way. He is the truth. He is how we live rightly loving one another. And he is the only one who gave the ultimate example and lived again to prove it.

If we chose a relationship over religion, how would that change the way we live?

 

What is Forgiveness?


Whether we are trapped in addiction or in a relationship with someone who is, God can shed light on the places of darkness and has a DSC_0035plan to rescue us from disaster. It is His delight to do so.

His rescue comes through forgiveness.

Jesus offers it to us. He asks us to extend it to others. But, we have to be willing to give up what we hold onto: our sin and/or the sin of others against us.

Without forgiveness, there can never be restoration for us.

God wants to bestow on us every good thing He can imagine for us. That comes with forgiveness—His forgiveness for us, and ours for others and ourselves.

God’s forgiveness is immediate, but ours can be a process.

Jesus died on the cross to forgive every sin we could ever commit. Because He has already forgiven us, He simply waits for us to acknowledge where we’re off and accept His offer. That forgiveness is immediate, but when it comes to us forgiving others and ourselves, it can take time to work through.

Thank goodness, God is patient and leads us.

First, God makes us aware of what needs forgiving. When Jesus reveals our waywardness, we should feel sorrow (not shame) for what we’ve done to hurt ourselves and others. When we hurt, God is also grieved. The Bible says that

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

2 Corinthians 7:10

This means when we are willing to look at what we have done that is different from what God intended for our good, we’ll be brokenhearted. The full weight of our actions will be a revelation to us in a way that makes us grieve for the pain we’ve caused ourselves, others and God. Our heart fills with a sincere willingness to accept any consequences. We experience gratitude for the forgiveness offered.

That is godly sorrow leading to repentance.

That kind of sorrow brings us to our knees in front of our Lord, who then reaches down and lifts us up in love, saving us from what has trapped us. We are then able to move on in life with no more regret, knowing that Jesus has seen, forgiven and restored us. Then He’s able to lead us into the good things He originally planned for us.

Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, is when we promise to be good to avoid trouble—sorry we’re caught, but more concerned about not getting caught in the future or dodging consequences. That kind of “sorrow” only leads to more destruction and shame, never to a place of freedom.

God is thorough. Forgiveness is specific, not general.

God points out details of situations in order to free us entirely of sin. It is the same if we ask for and accept forgiveness, or when we forgive someone else. Forgiveness doesn’t come with a careless blanket statement of “whatever I’ve ever done.” We must be willing to honestly and specifically admit what we have done.

When God showed me what I did to become stuck in unhealthy relationships, as well as what others had done to me, each denied, ignored, hidden, minimized, or never dealt with incident needed forgiveness. As long as there was denial, minimizing or excuses, I not DSC_0047able to receive or grant the forgiveness that would restore me. But I knew if I asked God to show me the truth about myself and my past, He would free me from the pain that enslaved me.

There were many such situations, and it took a few years to process them, ask for forgiveness and forgive those who had hurt me. It was worth the struggle.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more of what that process looked like for me.

What have you experienced regarding forgiveness?

Living with an Addict


Addiction comes in many forms.

Typically, when we say “addiction” we think of alcohol, drugs or maybe gambling. But we can have addictions to shopping, eating, not eating, reading, television, gaming, Facebook, checking emails, surfing the internet, magazines, exercise, pornography, sports, scrap-booking or sex. Anything that grabs our attention, pulls us into a place of needing it, and dictates our thoughts or actions has created an addiction. The ‘something’ we feel we must have; we can’t go without, shapes our lives and the lives of those we live with.

For decades I was shaped by the patterns of living with someone addicted to sex.

Over the following weeks, I will share what I learned through my experiences. I hope to help and encourage anyone feeling despair over your circumstances–either because you live with an addict or battle with addiction in some area. Most of us do to some extent at some point of our life. Recognizing patterns and symptoms can alert us to get the help we need. Honestly evaluating our particular situation is the first step in breaking free from the bondage of addiction.

While many patterns relate universally to any addiction (and some by themselves simply show a lack of growth in character or maturity), I’m relating the following patterns primarily with sexual addictions. Someone who is addicted to sex probably:

  1. Needs to be in control. The women in his fantasies do exactly what he wants and enjoy his power; therefore, he expects everyone in his life to submit to his desires. Sex makes him feel powerful and in control. He may use anger or violence to control his family, and may not acknowledge their needs or feelings since he has no control over those areas.
  2. Lacks respect for women. The degradation of women due pornography and prostitution causes the focus of a woman’s value to be on her ability to perform sexually or contribute materially. This can be particularly devastating for women choosing to stay home to raise children. That job consumes her time and energy without financial profit, and can leave her feeling worthless, especially if she can’t fulfill her husband’s sexual fantasies.
  3. Is self-absorbed. In a healthy relationship, each person desires to meet the needs of their spouse whenever possible, but an addict focuses entirely on meeting the desires of self regardless of how valid or pressing others’ situations may be. Family needs may be ignored. Someone addicted to sex can fulfill their needs almost anytime, anywhere because much of the stimulation and satisfaction comes from mental images. This constant, instant gratification makes it nearly impossible to put another person’s needs first.
  4. Uses manipulation. In order to get his way or keep his behavior hidden, the addict will often use whatever means necessary no matter what it costs. He may be kind and understanding one minute, making promises or begging forgiveness, then angry and violent the next. He may use guilt, self-pity or even whining to manipulate his family. In her book, The Dance of Anger, Dr. Harriet Lerner states, “If women are constantly made to feel guilty, they remain ‘in their place’ and are ineffective.”

To be continued…

It may be a grueling process to redefine who you are apart from the impact of these patterns, or to allow yourself to be extricated from a life of addiction, but there is hope.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Galatians 5:1

 
Have you experienced any of these patterns either as an addict or living with one?
 

If you need help or would like prayer, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message at laurabennet14@gmail.com