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?

How Can I Have Joy When My Life Stinks?


It depends on where your focus is.

Every year, right after school lets out for the summer, our church hosts a week long day camp called VBS. Or as we VBS 011affectionately call it “vibs.” In most parts, Vacation Bible School is a well known event among church goers. Children gather for a few hours and participate in Bible stories, crafts and maybe learning a few songs about Jesus loving us.

At our church, we believe that kids relate to fun so we make VBS hugely fun with an entire morning and afternoon production, sports games, crafts, special events — a climbing wall, bounce houses and a petting zoo (to name a few).

The kids are in age/gender teams and create banners, team cheers and close friendships. They spray water guns and fly down a zip line. Stories are acted out on stage in front of them and discussed during team time with their adult leaders and teen assistants.

It’s a week of special treats like the snack bar, snow cones and ice cream. Songs are sung with dancing and hand motions in an outdoor amphitheater with the words displayed on huge banners. A dance team worships the Lord, encouraging the kids to learn the moves and dance along. Bible Buddies, or B Buds, act out the verses for the day which all fit with the theme for the week.

Today is the our day and will end with an amazing barbeque and final production to give the parents a glimpse of what their children have experienced all week – the reason they are all smiles, dirt and good tiredness.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Did I mention that approximately two hundred volunteers donate their time, often their vacation time from work, to help make this event a success? From that first year I stepped into the role of “team leader,” I couldn’t imagine not helping with VBS.

But last year, I became ill and as we got closer to the event, I realized that my acting role that year was not going to happen. Others stepped in for me at the last minute, and I traveled out of state for some rest. I watched my husband and daughters perform online via live streaming. I missed it. And this year, while I’m better, I’ve still been sick.

I didn’t think I had the physical strength to participate.

And I didn’t have the energy to care. I decided I would stay home and pray. People asked what I would be doing.

Nothing this year,” I’d answer.

But one day a few weeks back, a friend made a simple request. The man directing traffic was desperately in need of help. Since my husband and I had been in charge of traffic a few years ago, my friend wondered if I would consider helping out at all. Even for a day or two. I didn’t think it would work, but I agreed to pray about it. After all, it would only be a couple of hours in the morning.

I said yes.

The traffic director said I made his day. Imagine that. Something so simple brought such joy to him. Monday I arrived in the fog with excitement stirring in my heart. I greeted cars and directed them to the appropriate places. God gave me the energy to run around even when an unexpected situation arose that required way more than I thought I had to give.

After I finished, I watched my daughter sing and dance, kissed my two grand kids and went home to rest. Tuesday I woke with a migraine, but since I felt better standing rather than lying down, I took some pain medication and headed off to VBS again. Within an hour, my head wasn’t threatening to explode anymore. During the singing and dancing, I held my grand daughter.

And so it continued. A few hours of  chatting with friends, welcoming strangers, and participating in song and dance with my grand children in the morning, and then I’ve rested in the afternoon.

It seems like I haven’t done anything much.

But something has happened to my heart. Each day as I’ve worshiped the Lord, waved to parents, cheered for my daughter, watched my son with his team and snuggled my grand kids, I’ve been infused with joy. Overflowing, tears pouring down my cheeks joy.

Nothing in my circumstances has changed. I’m still sick. Our finances are tight. My husband is battling with job issues. We still don’t know what to do about mold, and our landlord has raised our rent, but not made needed repairs. My son sprained his knee and got hit in the chin with a baseball. Life kind of stinks. As do the lives of many of the people I’ve been serving with this week. Illness, injuries, and tough life challenges abound.

But my focus changed this week.

What I see is different. A smile goes a long way to cheer someone. We are in this together, joined by Jesus and our trials. My daughter’s face radiates the joy of the Lord as she belts out worship songs and dances on stage in front of hundreds of kids and adults. Our son rejoiced when one of his friends accepted the Lord. I wake and go through my day with the lines from songs echoing in my head. Words like:

I know You love me. You are for me, not against me …You only think good thoughts about me.

Or

Take me. This is all I can bring. (this little bit of sick, weakness) I feel alive. I come alive. I am alive…

It’s ended up being a great week. I’m no more tired than usual, but my heart is far less heavy. And I’ve found that having joy in the midst of life’s difficulties all depends on our focus.

To check out our VBS FUN visit www.coastlands.org and find us on Facebook.

 

What Does Your Spirit Long For?


I’m captivated by a song.

Initially I heard it on the Christian radio stations I listen to, Air1 and K-Love. The chorus haunted me and each time I heard it, another part of the lyrics would grab my heart and call out to my spirit. It so perfectly portrays where I am at in my life right now, learning to trust Jesus more intimately and fully as he draws me into bigger, deeper places of life, love and considering others.

So, as is my practice when I hear a song I like, I grabbed my guitar, found the live version on YouTube, looked up the lyrics and copied them down with the chords. Fortunately, it fits in my singing range (barely) so I didn’t have to transpose the key. Yes, I own a capo, but would rather not use it if possible. The past two days, I’ve been playing it and learning the words. Strains of it circle in my head like the seagulls near my home.

It keeps my mind on Jesus.

The cool thing about this song is how it is affecting people’s lives. I’ve heard a rumor that it is considered the number one worship song in the world right now. One of the comments I happened to see online was written by a woman who said she is Muslim, but loves the song.

That doesn’t surprise me.

We were designed by God to have an intimate relationship with him. He longs for us like we long for those we love. And we have a place in our spirit that cries out for him. No matter where we search to find him whether in art, science, books, religion, other gods, nature, etc. it is God our spirits pant after like a deer after water. (That simile is in the Bible. I didn’t make it up.)

However, another comment disturbed me.

This was written by a man, someone who follows Jesus, who said this is an awful song.  His reason? It doesn’t specifically say God or Jesus in the written lyrics. True enough. It speaks of Savior, God’s sovereignty, Spirit, but alas, no Jesus. Maybe because it is talking to him. Like in a personal conversation with someone you love.

That comment made think about how many of us don’t realize the depth of God’s love for us. Or maybe, like me earlier in my life, the idea of intimacy with Jesus seemed creepy – because my experience told me that intimacy was a bad, scary thing. Perhaps, it’s because we can only imagine God as a far away disciplinarian who waves a stick or points a finger at our wrongness. Or possibly, we simply haven’t considered the idea that there is a creator of all this beauty around us who wants to share it with us because he made us too and loves us deeply.

Whatever the reason, it seems this song is offering an alternative.

I hope you will listen and be blessed. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find something you didn’t know your spirit was looking for. Being a guitarist, this is my favorite version. Enjoy.

I’d love to know what you think. About the song, this post or even what instrument you play 🙂

Stop the Abuse


I’ve never re-posted a blog post before.

But this post encouraged me and reminded me of the past I left behind. It also gave me something to think about in terms of my current relationships and whether I am living in a healthy way. I felt it valuable enough to pass on.

Thank you to Diana for allowing me to re-post. If you’d rather read the post on Diana’s blog (where you can see her great graphics) click here.

3 Ways to Stop Worshiping the Abuser

November 5, 2013 By

I remember a story my mom always used to tell me.  She said,” Diana, how do you boil a frog?” I said, ” I don’t know.” She said, “A little at a time.”

You see when we put the frog in the water it was cold water. It wasn’t hot, no reason to jump out.  That’s what an abusive relationship starts out as – a cold pot of water. Then, after a time, the abuser lights the stove.  His behavior starts to change.  This may be accentuated with alcohol or drugs. Then the water starts to boil, as his actions become more and more controlling.  First he doesn’t want you to see your friends. Then he cuts you off from the family for some reason or another.  Then he won’t let you work.  Then he takes away the car, and the money.  And the water is so hot by then you can’t even imagine getting out.  So you don’t even try.

By this time, you are afraid when the sun goes down. You are constantly on edge trying to please “His Highness”. Anything to avoid a fight.  Especially when you have small children.  He says he wants the house clean and dinner ready by the time he gets home.  So you do exactly as you are told.  You tell yourself to “be the good wife” and not rock the boat.  You pick up after the kids all day, have the house clean, and a great dinner – but then he doesn’t come home. Until after 2am.  You pace around all night, scream at the kids because you are so angry, and finally get them to sleep.  You try calling his phone – but he turns it off.  So you wait.  Your whole world revolves around what he does and how you can please him.  He has become your God.  You would do anything for him.  As he walks all over you and squashes you like a bug.

Welcome to Abusive Relationship Training 101  This is not normal.  This is not healthy.  This is not a pattern you want to teach your children.  Real love doesn’t look like this.

Here are some ideas on how to start to change YOUR MIND.  What HE does is not the focus of this article.

We cannot control what the Abuser does,

but WE CAN CONTROL OUR REACTION TO IT!

worship (verb)

  1.  to honor or respect (someone or something) as a god
  2. to show respect and love for God or for a god especially by praying, having religious services, etc.
  3. to love or honor (someone or something) very much or too much

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

3 Ways to Stop Worshiping the Abuser:

1.  Admit that you have put him on a pedestal

Yes, we did. We think we are trying to keep the peace, but in all reality there is no peace.  A relationship like this thrives on chaos and confusion.  The fights become more frequent and more intense as the relationship goes on.  The first step in changing this picture is to stop worshiping the ground he walks on.  He is not God.

This may be difficult as many victims have an idealized picture of what the relationship looks like.  Victims tend to idolize the “honeymoon phase” and ignore the “big blow out” phase.  We lie to ourselves.  If we told ourselves the truth, then we would have to DO something. This was one of the hardest things for me.  I knew how to live as the victim.  If I stayed the victim, then in my mind,  I always had someone to blame.

Taking back my thoughts was step one of my healing.  I didn’t have to worship him.  It was not my job to change him.  He was not who I thought he was, and that was the truth.  And I was not myself either.

2. Admit that even though he thinks he is GOD, he is not.

Another step to healing was to admit to myself that my thoughts could be different from his.  And I didn’t have to prove them to anyone.  I have my own thoughts and feelings. God gave them to ME when He made me.  The Abuser was great at telling me how I should feel, what I should look like, what I should do.  I gave my power away.  I gave my thoughts and dreams away to him.

No more.  I gave myself permission to think differently. Just because he said something, didn’t mean it was true.  I  gave myself permission to seek out my own truth, and ‘own’ my own feelings.  And I didn’t even have to tell him.  Talk about freedom!

One of the things I learned to say after years of therapy/spiritual counsel was, “I am sorry YOU feel that way.”  That helped me divide my feelings from that of my abuser.  It was liberating, it was awesome, and he hated it.  Be prepared at this point for the fights to increase.  Any sign of ‘unsubmission’ may irritate the abuser more.  Be prepared to walk away.  Have an action plan, and a safe house to go to at this stage.

3. Develop your own Spiritual Plan of Action and Worship

The last step that I did to de-throne the “king” was to develop healthy relationships with other people.  I chose to go to therapy and seek Spiritual Counsel.  I asked the abuser to go with me.  He did for a time, until he got thrown out of the office!  Yep, more than one counselor, and more than one time.  Then we started to go to church.  We would go together until we met with the Pastor.  I have had 3 different Pastors from 3 different churches tell me that I needed to leave.  That the abuser was not interested in change.  I left the abuser 7 different times in 8 years.  The last time was Oct 2004, and I haven’t gone back.  My kids and I got out, and with the help of the local YWCA Shelter, we started our new life.  I am not a frog, and neither are my children!

Now I am not a counselor, although I have been a patient.  I am not a Pastor, although I have been a follower for many years now. Having other people in my life that taught me about who GOD really was opened my eyes to who I had been worshiping all these years – the abuser!

 

5 Ways to Enhance Your Marriage


God and internet dating brought us together…

But staying together and living out the happily-ever-after requires a purposeful choice to nurture our marriage. The past three and a half years have afforded us with ample opportunity to grow in and through our marriage. Some of the ways we have learned to enhance our marriage are:

  1. Pray together. This is something we have recently started doing on a daily basis and it has drawn us together, alleviated conflicts and created such a sweet intimacy. Each morning we start the day asking God to direct our day and at night before we go to sleep, we pray for each other.
  2. Take time to be with each other. Besides taking time to pray, we find that having a weekly date night keeps our relationship fresh and alive. Couples need time to simply be with each other enjoying each other’s company, talking, laughing and being friends. This is not a time to talk about the kids, but a time to connect and remember why we wanted to be married in the first place. Brendan and I still send Skype messages to each other throughout the day whether he’s away at the office or downstairs working. It reminds us of our dating via Skype and keeps us connected. We also set aside an hour each week to read and discuss a book on marriage. We recently attended The Marriage Course and are currently reading Love and War.
  3. Have fun. We have found that the best way to reignite the spark in our marriage is to have a good time together. This may be on a date night playing pool, or enjoying a game of Sudoku together or even having a good tickle fight. Laughing together  releases tension and resets our attitude toward life and toward each other. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. We’ve found it to be the best.
  4. Think the best about each other. Often it’s easy to assume our spouse is thinking or meaning something by their words that they aren’t which leads to misunderstandings and disagreements. We are learning to assume the best rather than the worst. If in doubt, ask kindly. Most often what we felt hurt or offended by was a whispered lie to our heart from the enemy of our soul.
  5. Make love well and often. When God created us, he created male and female in his image and said man and wife should cleave to each other. That physical union wasn’t only to pro-create or bring pleasure (although aren’t we glad it does?); it was intended as a melding of two spirits, souls and bodies into one. To intimately share ourselves with our spouse in the way God designed is actually an act of worship and a renewed pledge to our spouse. In addition, it slams the devil (who seeks to divide and destroy us) in the face with a “take that!”

Brendan and I still have much to learn about each other and about marriage, but every day we are more in love and grateful for this incredible life together. The more regularly we apply these tools to our relationship, the more we grow as individuals and as a couple. We’re thankful God brought us together through an online dating site from two continents apart, but we are even more appreciative of the methods he’s given us to keep our marriage alive and exciting. Give it a try! Your marriage is worth it.

What are some ways you enhance your marriage? Have you read any good marriage books lately? What type of fun do you enjoy together?