No Record of Wrongs

I’ve been preaching at myself, and thought I’d share my sermon notes.

Topic: Bitterness

How is bitterness defined?
Merriam-Webster.com defines bitterness as:  a deep-seated ill will.

Words related to bitterness: resentment, feud, vendetta, score, hatred, loathing, estrangement, annihilation, conflict, strain, tension, spitefulness, venom…

The very act of reading those words make muscles tense.

Bitterness has the same effect.

It’s a familiar burden that always comes with a price. The cost is joy.

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Bitterness typically begins with justification. I was mistreated and wronged, and I have the right to be angry. I begin to list all the reasons why I should feel angry. I disconnect, isolate, fume, or gossip, and I grab my pen and my record-keeping book.
Now, I don’t actually have a notebook or a yellow pad that I keep record on, because I don’t need paper or pens. I’ve got my memory and it keeps perfect score.

In my mid-thirties, I learned about living with boundaries (better late than never). I found it to be healthy and necessary, and set out to have some. Over time I came to realize that I was sometimes misusing them. It was not ever intentional. I  discovered that when I finally had the power of a boundary, as an amateur, I had the tendency to go to the extreme…erecting barricades to keep my offenders out.

You might also guess that I have a “flight” issue as well.

I would so much rather run away or build a fortress around me, than to ever feel vulnerable or unsafe.

The real deal here is that although I am often a flight risk, with trust issues, I’m also a grown-up who is now safe. A grown-up with options and choices.

It’s been a learning process, of which I’m am still the student.

1 Corinthians 13: 5 says:

“Love does not keep a record of wrongs.”

Instead, Love…

is patient
is kind
rejoices in truth
bears all things
believes
hopes
endures

Reading over these words, I notice that it’s inferring that love requires action. Love always requires an action.
When faced with the offender, to be patient or kind is to actively chose to regard the other over yourself.
To understand there is often a back-story, and they may have spoken or acted out of their own pain.
To rejoice in truth. To seek it out, to speak it, or to be willing to listen to truth.
To believe that all people are worthy of the cross, and a candidate for forgiveness, just like me.
To hope for repentance, connection, and restoration.
To be willing to endure some suffering, because I’m not a featherweight.

It has been said that we find out what is truly inside a person, when they are tipped over or broken.

I do not want to be filled with bitterness, anger, or any of the things related to bitterness.
I am still learning how to love others well, and truly see them through God’s eyes.
I want mercy to flow out of my forgiven heart.
I want grace to spill out of my imperfections.
I want hope to wash over every person I live with, work with, serve with, and meet.
I want love to cover a multitude of sins…because His blood covered mine.
The ultimate example of LOVE went to the Cross, and made it possible for me to LIVE forgiven.

Bitterness cannot reside in a heart of love.

Period.

Side note: There are situations when a boundary must be put up. No one should be abused, harmed, or threatened. That is another conversation that needs to be had with a professional counselor or pastor.

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Your Grace Finds Me

Last week I fell flat on my face. Not the kind of falling that requires a trip to the ER, but rather the kind of falling that requires a trip to the Cross.

I voiced an opinion.
I spoke out of an assumption.
I was wrong and I wanted to be right.
The words on the screen, “Get the log out of your own eye!” caused an immediate reaction on my part of self-righteous indignation. I found myself reacting and justifying my actions. Rising in defense, and believing I was right.

As those words reverberated around inside of me, I found myself falling. The very thing that I was willing to go to the mountain for, had me tumbling head-long down the side, and I fell long and hard!

I laid with the pieces of my very soul splayed out before me; fragmented; scattered…and I found myself in a familiar pit of self-pity and anger.
rain-731313_1920It isn’t surprising that God chose the dark of night, to wake me and say, “I’m not interested in your being right, Sheila. I’m interested in your heart reflecting mine.”
I sat on the side of the bed, feeling the ache. The realization of my wrong doing tasted bitter and I wanted to be sick.

I went downstairs to drink some water. I stood in my dark kitchen and all that had been building up inside of me for most of the last year, come out in tears. It was an ugly cry. It was a good cry. It was repentance, obedience, and surrender.

The sun rose, and I asked for forgiveness.
Vulnerability stinks!
Forgiveness does not.

Grace found me. Love rescued me.

Have you been found? I’d love to hear about your rescue. Please comment below.

Changing My Perspective

We were flying high above the clouds when the pilot announced that we would begin our descent into Denver. I had the window seat so, glancing away from my book, watched out the tiny window. I noticed the Denver Airport first. I’ve been inside that airport several times and it is not small. That morning, from my point of view inside the jet, the airport was a speck of white at the end of a very long road.
As we descended further, I noticed the downtown area of Denver with its skyscrapers and maze of interstate roads. We were still thousands of feet in the air so the cars looked like fleas and the skyscrapers appeared as Lego creations.
I love this perspective. I feel like I have a chance to see earth as God must see it, yet far enough away to not be in it. I know this could be argued theoretically, but I think you might understand my point.

From high above, everything looked tiny and, in contrast to the vast landscape, Denver was but a dot on the map.
aircraft-366822_1280The pilot brought the big bird down on the runway and we were soon rushing for the exit. I had twenty minutes to get to my next gate on the other end of the concourse. I walked quickly and was soon frustrated at the throngs of travelers in my path. In desperation, I stopped for a cup of coffee. While people passed by in a fury, I remembered that just twenty minutes earlier, I had been looking down on this airport and it was not nearly as formidable as it now seemed. I found myself anticipating my flight out, where I could again look down on it from a “heavenly” perspective.

What a difference a few thousand feet makes.

Today, this globe we live on feels like a hot-mess! Most days I don’t feel as disturbed as other days. I’m an optimistic girl, with a well-formed ability to pretend I’m fine. I spend a considerable amount of time counting my blessings, and I have many! Yet today, everywhere I look is disaster, tragedy, crisis, disorder, confusion, evil, and pain.
I’m at the stage of my life where I’m doing a lot of thinking about the future. I think they call us the “Sandwich Generation”. We are taking care of our parents while still taking care of our children. I feel concerned for my future grandchildren and what they will be up against in their lives. I don’t want to live in a world that is headed to hell in a hand-basket (that just sounded like something my grandpa would have said forty years ago in a sermon!)

A few nights ago, while the rest of Idaho slept, I woke up and began to wonder how we are going to survive if certain individuals become our next President. My next thoughts were for the children being sold into the sex-slave industry and for babies being murdered by abortion. I feel paralyzed by the enormity of this crisis and even more so when I’m in the dark.

I did what I normally do. I cried and prayed and begged God to rescue them and eventually fell back into a fitful sleep. When I stumbled out of bed a couple of hours later, I whispered into the dark, “Life is so hard!”

I realize I need a different perspective. Is it possible that it’s a heavenly perspective that I’m missing?  If I could just get out of this mess, it would surely feel less daunting, right?

As I drove into my parking space at work this morning, I noticed the bright sun coming through a pine tree. I remarked at the beauty and how good God is to give us such gorgeous autumn mornings. I turned off the ignition and leaned over to grab my purse, noticing a sticky note stuck to the side. Reaching for it, I read what I had written two days ago:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

God is not missing a thing! He isn’t high above on His throne, scratching His head in a quandary.  He isn’t surprised. He sees it all. He sees us all. We aren’t just little blips on His screen or dots on His map.
I haven’t always taken comfort from hearing God assure us that we will have trials and sorrows. I would much rather He said, “I have told you this, because I want you to always be happy and never feel pain. Here on earth, as long as you’re a Christian, life will be a cake-walk.”

Trials and sorrows are the name of the game because we are human. Being held in our sorrow comes with being His child. Trust comes from crossing a thousand reliable bridges and looking back to see that He never failed me along the way. This reassures me that I can walk forward today and into tomorrow, knowing that He is a Faithful God.

The looking back… that’s called “Rearview Mirror Perspective.”

This is the perspective I need.
footbridge-413682_1280I’ve walked through trials and sorrows for a lifetime and, to this day, God has held steady every single time. This gives me the courage to walk forward through the mess and believe that He holds. It gives me comfort to know that He wipes the tears of every suffering child and writes their names on His nail-scarred hands.

“I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD; therefore, I obey your instructions.” – Psalm 119:55

I’m Glad We’ve Got This Figured Out

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“Speak in the hard places. Go where it’s most painful, and write from that place.”

I heard Harmony say those words in the middle of that restaurant, and I knew from where and Whom they came.

God has been speaking those words to me for two years, and I’ve been mostly avoiding Him.

“Child, I want you to speak words from where it’s most painful. I want you to go to the hardest places, because that’s where my grace is.”

When I got back to the house were I was staying, I crawled up onto the bed, and I wept my heart out. Cried out all the tears, and then God and I talked—

God: “You know what I’m asking you to do.”
Sheila: “Yes.”
God: “Are you ready to do it?”
Sheila: “Well, I really would rather talk about recipes and maybe…coffee.”
God: ” I’ve got that covered.”
Sheila: “Yes, You do.”

I’ve been silently processing for two weeks. Saying “Yes” and coming up with nothing, until 3:00 am, this morning.

“Tell me about redemption.”

Those very words—at 3:00 am. I sat up in bed, and stared into the dark.

I immediately remembered Kelly, a writer who was sitting across from me two weeks ago, in Texas. She asked, “Sheila, what do you write about?” I answered without pause “I write about redemption, mostly.”

I’m aware that sleep is over for the night, and I slip quietly out of our bedroom. As I start down our stairs, I can hear Nikki’s radio playing the 10th Avenue North song, “Worn”. I stop in my tracks because at that very moment, I hear these words:

“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn.”

So, in case you were wondering, let’s get this straight….

My name is Sheila, and I write about redemption, mostly. I write from hard places, because the occupants of planet earth are worn out. Someone out there needs to know that Redemption wins. I will go where God’s soothing grace runs deep, and I will tell them about Redemption, because…well, that’s my story, and because God said so. Stay tuned.

“I call on your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, You came when I called; You told me, ‘Do not fear.’  LORD, You took up my case. You redeemed my life.” 
-Lamentations 3: 55-58 (NLT)

With Tables Between Us

I stepped into line, as the hostess led our group to a back room. The room filled, as did the long wood benches, pulled up to long wood tables. Women from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, California, Illinois, Georgia ….single women, divorced women, married women, old, young, blonde, brunette, short, tall…women.
Originally, there would be thirty-five of us at this meet-up in the middle of Texas wine country. So very Texan, so very humid.
As the evening progressed, thirty-five additional women from every corner of this nation, would gather around the tables…seventy of us, in all. Women coming together with a common goal; laying eyes on each other for the first time, yet feeling as if we were gathering with our dearest of friends.
how-to-hang-outdoor-party-lightsThe chatter around the tables was nearly deafening in that stone-walled room at The Salt Lick- Texas BBQ. Six months previously these women had met online, now they were face to face, and emotions were high. It was exciting to finally put faces with names, and it was a bit terrifying to put faces with names.
We are just grown-up girls, hoping that they will like us, now that we’ve met. Hoping we fit, and they don’t regret having made this trip. Worried that we will talk too much, or maybe not enough. A hot-mess of self-evaluation and sizing up our place in these surroundings.
I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten well between flights, and it was now after 8:00 pm. I could feel myself fading with a mix of exhaustion, low blood sugar levels, and over-excitement. I sat there guzzling one cold glass of iced tea after another, pleading with God to put a rush on the Brisket!

That was about the moment when Shae from Kentucky, walked up and said, “Sheila, would you be willing to stand and pray for our meal?”
I began a quiet dialog with God, offering my willingness to pray on behalf of the seventy, if He would give me the physical strength to actually stand up, on my own two feet.
I recall my opening line:  “Jesus, here we are, finally together in real life and I’m grateful…”
I have no idea what came out of my mouth after those words. I’m hopeful it made sense.

The evening drew on. The food met our needs. The chatter continued. With tables between us, we told stories— stories of who we love, where we live, and what our lives are about. I saw tears running down cheeks, and women embracing each other in solidarity. It was such a girl-thing!

This was communion. The breaking of bread and expressions of gratitude. The telling of stories; grasping hands, embracing, and offering to walk together. Communion and community. “Yes, I live in Iowa, and you live in Idaho, but I hear you, I see you, and I’m willing to walk with you.” “I’m from Texas- I’ll text you, and pray over your life.”
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I’m very aware that this was an unusual experience, yet I came away from it all, knowing again that I am called to gather people around tables and offer hope, to extend grace. Feeding the soul while feeding the body.

“When evening came, Jesus was sitting at the table with the Twelve.”
– Matthew 26:20

My time in Texas included many tables. I sat across from Angie from Ohio at breakfast– we talked about our children and honey ricotta with waffles. I sat across from Kelly from Virginia, and Kelly from Alabama for lunch, and we talked about what we write about. I sat across a table from Erin from Tennessee, and Aubrey from Georgia, and we talked about God’s faithfulness. I sat across from Brenna from Idaho, and we talked about Idaho. I sat across from Kimberly from Tennessee, and we drank coffee and talked about grace. I sat across from Terri from Texas while she ate Gingerbread pancakes and I ate biscuits with eggs, and we talked about our having courage to tell our stories.

I imagine that anyone reading this can admit that right now, our lives are so full of chaos and uncertainty. Every glance at a TV right now involves war, refugees, financial ruin, family crisis, and accusations of every sort. It’s not pretty.

There are many ways to meet needs both locally and overseas, and we should be doing that.
I just get so overwhelmed by being one small person on a big round globe with catastrophic issues. That awareness often feels paralyzing. I feel like I can’t fix the disaster this world is in, and I’m overwhelmed by the complexity of it all,
But I can do this—I can prepare a meal, and I can feed hungry souls a plateful of the hope that lies within me. I will open my eyes and ears to what is going on, and then play my one note well. If enough of us do this, the impact could be far-reaching.
silverware-350393_1280Go!
Grab some plates and forks.
Send a group text to some people.
Toss a salad…slice the bread…pour cold water and lemon wedges into tall glasses.
Open your front door.
Gather around a kitchen table, a picnic table or a coffee table, and let words flow from grateful lips.
Go!
Do it!
Then Repeat.

*Random thoughts taken from “Savor” by Shauna Neiquist (Copyright 2015)
*Stock Images from Pixabay.com

We Have This Hope


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I struggle with remembering just how old I was, the night I sat in that blue padded church pew and completely hit rock bottom. I know I was older than 14.

I do recall what had triggered this melting of me.

There was a man preaching to the parents in our little congregation.

He spoke this blanket statement: “Statistics prove that children who are abused, will become abusers.”

I felt the pain hit my stomach, as if the person sitting next to me had just reached over and punched me right in my middle.

I began to cry, and I could not stop. I didn’t hear another word…only the sound of my inner voice screaming, “I WILL NEVER HURT A CHILD!”

The sermon ended a while later and someone prayed in closing. I didn’t move. I sat there stiff as a board and tears dripped off my chin. My friends asked if I needed something; one stayed beside me. Older ladies wondered what could be wrong. Some stared; some ignored. I just sat there without uttering a word. At one point, someone placed a wad of rolled up tissues in my hand and I cried.

I cry when I’m angry.

After what seemed like an hour or so, an older man walked up behind me, laid his heavy hand on my shoulder, and prayed that God would help me forgive. As he ended his prayer, he patted my shoulder and said, “Daughter, you’ve just gotta get over this.” Then he walked away.
I stood up, grabbed my Bible and purse and silently walked out. I got in our car and we drove home. Not a word was spoken about it. Ever.

For years, when this memory surfaced, I would whisper into the air, “I just need someone to tell me they can see how bad this hurts.”

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I don’t write these words today to blame or point fingers at the people in my story. I’ve come to terms and made peace with them.
I write these words today, because there are many who need to hear that they are not alone in their pain; that someone sees them.
I SEE YOU

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and incest and I see you.

I see you when you are trying to hold it all together…all deep inside yourself, because it doesn’t feel safe to tell anyone.
I see you when statistics are given, and you are supposed to be what the numbers say you are and you’re not.
I see you when it feels like the Church says “Come just as you are…but don’t say too much.”
I see you when they remind you that it happened a long time ago, but they have no idea that in the dark last night the memories showed up in your nightmares.
I see you when you finally feel courageous enough to tell your story, and one by one people walk right on out of your life, because they can’t deal with your mess or it means something has to change, and they can’t.
I see you when you’ve forgiven your abuser, but forgiveness doesn’t take the consequences away- and sometimes no one notices the consequences you are left with.
I see you when you the act of forgiving feels as impossible as throwing a lasso around the moon.

After fourteen years “my cat was out of the bag” and those around me spent a lot of energy stuffing the cat back into the bag, and shaming me into more silence- all under the guise of protecting my reputation as an abused girl. As an adult, I’ve come to understand the shame and discomfort they too were feeling. Seldom do we really know how to act when others are suffering this pain. It’s easiest and tidiest to shove it under the rug and move onto happy days.

A few weeks ago, I read several articles regarding a family where sexual molestation occurred. I’m limited to only knowing what I’ve read, and understand that I don’t know the whole story.
I feel deep sadness for the family- the ones who were violated and the violator.

It was as I scrolled down to read comments, when I felt that same gut-punch that is all too familiar, and tears fell.

I cry when I’m angry.

It’s been difficult to summon the courage to finally speak to what this feels like, and how I wish it were different, yet I can’t seem to shake the sense that I must. We need to see each other. We need to hear each other stories. We need to stay.
I am part of the Church- a body of people who have been charged with the responsibility to restore with gentleness, to be watchful and guard our hearts, and to bear up those who are suffering. This is the law of Christ.

“Brothers [and sisters], if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
-Galations 6:1-2 ESV

There are many who have learned from a very early age that their skin is not their very own property, but is actually used for someone else’s curiosities and desires. According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, there are the 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys to whom sexual abuse happened in their childhood, was their childhood, or is currently their childhood. It’s easy to say that it’s everywhere we turn!

When I read or hear stories about children being used in this way, it causes me to feel many emotions, not the least being anger. Yet, when I read or hear responses to these stories and reports it can leave me feeling discouraged that we will really ever do this responding well.

Because victims of sexual abuse are everywhere we turn, the Church has multiple opportunities to offer grace and hope to hurting people; to live as citizens who reflect the Good News about Jesus (Philippians 1:27). What I’ve been noticing is that the Church is the very first to shush and shame. It’s an untidy topic that we don’t know how to respond to, so we cover it with careless statements.

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WHAT WE HEAR

Below are ten statements that I have heard regarding me or another person:

“I’m sure if we shook everyone’s family tree, we’d find something!”

“You really just have to let the past be in the past.”

“I thought the Bible says we aren’t supposed to judge others?”

“Are they just trying to ruin his (the abuser’s) life?”

“That’s sad for those girls, but it happened a long time ago!”

“These days, girls dress so inappropriately, what do they expect?”

“If girls don’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t look like hookers!”

“Well, at least you never got pregnant.”

“God must have thought you could handle it.”

“Some people just need to forgive and forget.”

I’ve had it with these righteous platitudes and ridiculous statements, and I’m calling on us to please stop saying them. Please.
With God’s help I have managed to let many things go in one ear and out the other, without them taking up much space in my mind or heart, but I’m willing to take this one for the team.

IT’S MESSY & MY HEALING ISN’T ON A SCHEDULE

I understand that it’s challenging to know what to say. I get that this is the most taboo subject on the planet and no one is comfortable talking about it. I understand that you feel like you should bring forgiveness into it, and believe me, forgiveness played the leading role in my healing—yet it took me twenty years from the day I chose to forgive to be able to move forward living within that forgiveness. To meet every single painful memory with grace took time and processing. It took years to learn and establish healthy boundaries, so that I could establish that I would not allow anyone to abuse me- ever. It is a daily process of replacing shame with value; lies with Truth. The journey of healing from abuse can’t be scheduled. Period.

Forgiveness became a possibility for me, when in compassion, a beloved counselor took the time to journey with me through understanding and application, and when my beloved signed up to walk beside me and hold my heart.

WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE TO US

I’m going to attempt to respond from the perspective I have as a survivor, to what the above ten statements really sound like. My hope is that by shining light on each one, you may hear them from the perspective of someone who lived far too long believing the abuse was her fault, and that she needed to keep secrets to keep standing. All the while she was breaking under the weight of her shame.

“I’m sure if we shook everyone’s family tree, we’d find something!”
“Your abuse is no big deal. It happens all the time.”
“We don’t know how to deal with what might fall out, so it would be a good idea to not shake the trees!”

“You really just have to let the past be in the past.”
“There are a lot of bad things that happened in your past, but its uncomfortable for me, when you bring it into the present, so please don’t talk about it.”

“I thought the Bible says we aren’t supposed to judge others?”
“It’s hard for me to imagine that ________ is capable of doing _________, so I think you should keep that quiet.”

“Are they just trying to ruin his (the abuser’s) life?”
“We are more concerned about keeping __________’s secret, then we are about what he/she did to you.”

“That’s sad for those girls, but it happened a long time ago!”
“It’s all very sad, but shouldn’t they be over it by now?”

“These days, girls dress so inappropriately, what do they expect?”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Boys can not be responsible for their actions.”

“If girls don’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t look like hookers!”
“Boys can’t help themselves. It’s the girl’s responsibility to keep the boys from satisfying their urges.”

“Well, at least you never got pregnant.”
“Getting pregnant is all we are concerned about, because it’s really the only “result” that outwardly shows, and could embarrass the family.
“If you didn’t get pregnant, no harm, no foul. 

“God must have thought you could handle it.”
“You should feel special that God chose you to be abused.”

“Some people just need to forgive and forget.”
“We again can’t handle the truth. This is a messy subject, so it would make it easier for us if you would just let it go.”

You can bet your boots that I could write an entire book strictly devoted to my response to every single on of those statements. I’ll spare you. Instead, I’ll just let those soak for a bit. Please tell me you can imagine how carelessly spoken words can inflict further pain? If we are going to respond well to those who are suffering, we need to understand their perspective…

What I’ve come to understand about humans is we are just so very human. We don’t say the right words because we can’t relate. Maybe we don’t want to be say nothing, so we fill the void with words that seem helpful, yet can break the broken even more.
Chances are misspoken words and insensitive reactions have punched you in the gut a time or two.

Please hear this:

No matter what has happened to you….

God sees you.

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HE STAYS

God sees you. God sees you and He doesn’t run away.
He doesn’t need you to utter a word.
He doesn’t need you to be quiet.
He doesn’t need you to be perfect.
He doesn’t need you to be fixed, or healed, or well, or over it.
He sees you, and He responds with what He will do in response to your suffering. Right in the middle of your deep and your dark, in all of your ugliest mess, He responds with His love.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
-Jeremiah 31:3 ESV

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
-Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

“Don’t panic, I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I am your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I, your God have a firm grip on you, and I’m not letting go.
-Isaiah 41: 10-12 MSG

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
-Isaiah 43: 1-3 NLT

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” Isaiah 43: 4 NIV

I have found Jesus in the middle of my deepest pain. When the voices of shame and condemnation roar, I run to Him for refuge. I’ve discovered that His voice never shames. He is the safest place.

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WHAT MATTERS MOST

You do.

You who read the same articles and comments; feeling the same twist in your gut that I did.
You who has never admitted your shame to another living soul.
You who sits in padded pews and chairs and is dying from the inside out.
You who lives in a pit of despair and never sees a way out.
You who feels like no one would ever understand.
You who fills the void with everything you can eat, buy, hoard…
You who believes that you will never be worthy of love.

There is hope.
His name is Jesus.
He died on a cross for your pain and for your shame. He says that you matter enough to Him that He died for your healing.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
-Isaiah 53:5

In her article @ truewoman.com Dawn Wilson states, “Satan doesn’t care how we react to the sinfulness of sexual abuse…as long as we don’t turn to Jesus. The enemy knows when we find our identity, security, and dignity in Christ, we can live in victory.” *

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FOR THE CHURCH

I’m really quite fond of you.
The Church has not always been a safe place for me, but in my adult years, I’ve come to find that there is refuge within her walls. Nearly two years ago, I was invited to share my story with my church family, and I’ve found grace around every corner.
There are so many who need that same grace. I know, because I see them. It comes with being one of them…most often an immediate recognition.
The suffering are walking through our doors; sitting in our chairs and they are begging to be seen.
They are not asking for Christian platitudes to smooth over their suffering, they are looking for hope.
We need to be ready with resources to offer counsel, rescue, and restoration.
GOOD NEWS: We have the answer!

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

1. Show grace in your responses, be gentle and encourage restoration. It’s the way of Jesus.

2. Listen without words. When they have come to the end of their words, simply ask if you can pray for them.
Example: “Jesus, ______ has just shared some very painful things that have happened. Thank you for bringing us together today, so that I can pray for her/him. I’m asking that as _________ works through this, that she/he will feel God’s love through me.”

3. If you need to respond on Social Media, become a hope-filled comment-or. There is plenty of judgement to go around. Offer hope, and you just might be the change someone is looking for. If truth needs to be spoken, bathe it in love.

4. Understand that professional help is most likely necessary. Don’t get trapped believing it’s up to you to fix anything. Be ready to give helpful resources. There are many resources for sexual abuse victims, so after listening, offer to help them find someone to talk to, or a place of rescue.

5. No matter how ugly the pain is, the person is valuable and worth everything to Jesus. In gentleness, represent the Good News of the Gospel: that the Cross makes redemption possible.

6. Be patient. God makes all things beautiful in His time, not ours.

I RECOMMEND

The organization: Speak Your Silence. They are doing good work! You can click on the highlight, and choose “Counseling”.

The book: Wounded Heart: Hope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse is a great resource to have on hand. I would recommend having a copy to share.

* Taken from “Sexual Abuse: Trusting God With My Past Hurts, Dawn Wilson, http://www.truewoman.com

All photos taken from pixabay.com, magdeline.com, or my personal gallery.

The Cross Is Enough

Today is the day Christians remember the Cross. We remember the price Jesus paid to redeem our lives, by dying on that cross. We believe the Cross is enough.
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“He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

By His wounds we are healed.
By His wounds we are healed.
By His wounds I am healed.

I’ve grown up in the church, hearing those words. I’ve lived hearing because of the price Jesus paid, I can be healed. It’s just taken over forty years to really believe it. To believe it enough to live as one who has been healed.
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I’ve always viewed myself as broken or damaged. And in my mind I saw myself as useless.
I believed it when I heard preachers and teachers say, “God will pick up the broken pieces and put you back together.” and I’ve imagined a pot that is full of cracks. It kinda looks like the beautiful pot it once was, yet it can’t do what it was meant to do, because of the cracks. That was me. Put back together, yet not useful. It’s just plain ol’ pitiful.

I’ve been hearing new, fresh words from God. He is revealing to me that He does better work, than what I’ve imagined all this time! He didn’t pick up the shards of my life, fumbling around with glue, hoping that I will resemble my former self, yet full of gaps and cracks

He’s the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He does better work than that.

He does not leave me broken, and He doesn’t want me to resemble the mess I used to be. When He says He is up to doing new things, He isn’t talking about leaving me as I am.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 49:19 (ESV)

We may have scars, yet those will not render us useless. Jesus used his scars to remind his disciples of who He was, and what He had done for them.
My scars do not indicate that I’m still broken, they indicate healing. When I see them now, I remember WHO my Healer is.

I’m a little concerned about how often I hear healed people talk about how broken they are. I do believe that at a point, we are broken, but when God heals us, He does not leave us broken, useless, and stuck.

So if it’s true—if His death on the cross means that through and by Him, I am healed, am I living as one who has been healed, or am I still dwelling in the pit of despair; stuck and trapped?

This requires an answer.

John 10:10….”I (Jesus) came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (ESV)

John 8:35….”So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (NIV)

Galations 5:1….”For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (ESV)

1 Peter 2:24…”He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (NLT)

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This means:
I’m free…no chains, bars, walls, dungeons, pits. I’m not bound…to anything. I’m not a slave…to anyone. I don’t have to live fearful, discontented, lost, hopeless, depressed, oppressed, shamed….

I don’t have to try harder, worry more, do more, be more.
Jesus did it all. The Cross was enough.

“Child, stop fighting a fight that’s already been won. You are redeemed!” – Jesus.

The cross changes everything. The struggle is over. The blood was shed. The price is paid. We are healed.

If you have gotten to the end of these words, and you are thinking, “Well isn’t that nice for her!”, but you don’t believe that the cross was not enough for you, please reach out to someone you trust, and ask the questions you have.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever (that’s us) believes in Him, will not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

When God Makes A Path

On Monday, I had to drive into the downtown area of our capital city, which I’m fairly familiar with.

I knew the general area that I needed to go, yet wasn’t exactly confident about which road to take. I set my GPS, and ventured out.
As I neared my destination, I realized the road I had thought I would take, was a one-way road, going in the wrong direction. I listened to my GPS, and ended up taking roads I hadn’t ever been on. The unfamiliarity of my surroundings was unsettling, and I spoke out in frustration to the empty car, “I don’t know this road!” As I was saying those words, Janice, my GPS, was giving clear directions, and she and I eventually arrived, safe and sound. I love her!

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This is exactly how I’ve gone though my life. I say that I love adventures, yet I need it to make sense and have a clear understanding about where I’m going. It is also best if there is never any level of discomfort, or I feel tempted to turn around and just go home!

God’s word for me for this year, is STEP. When January 2015 rolled around, and it was abundantly clear that STEP was my word, I didn’t realize that in just a couple of weeks, God would challenge my hesitancy to walk out into the unknown, by faith. He doesn’t wait around to get started on the new lesson, that’s for sure! Obviously, my cozy comfort isn’t His main concern!

For the first thirty years of life, I could have been identified as
“Sheila, The One Who Flees”.
Flee means to run away from a place or situation of danger.
Because I viewed life in general as something to be feared, I ran for cover, daily. Fear defined everything. When things got hard, awkward, or complicated , I ran away. I usually ran back to what was comfortable or presumably safe.

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One year turned into ten, and I finally learned how to stand still and confident, in the face of difficult circumstances. Initially, it was terrifying– foreign! I’ve written often about Exodus 14:14- “The LORD, your God is fighting for you! So be still!”
This place of being still was learning to not turn around and run back for cover, yet stand firm, believing that God was faithful and capable. Eventually, this is the place where I discovered when I turn around and look upon the life I’ve already lived, I can see that never once did I step across a bridge, to have it go out. I never fell into the raging river, underneath me. Every single bridge has held, because the Bridge Builder knows what He’s doing. Because of that, I can trust Him.

That place of being still has been healing. The reflection on my past life has revealed God’s mercy to me, over and over. it’s been such a hard, redemptive journey, and I actually thought I would just dwell there. Standing still, never realizing that this wasn’t my Promised Land.

2015 rolled in, and so did my word, STEP. I’m currently studying in the Bible about the Children of Israel.
They are up against The Red Sea, with no way across, or so they think, and Pharaoh’s Army is coming for them. They are whining and pleading with Moses that they want to GO BACK to Egypt.

“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?… Didn’t we tell you this would happen, while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”
-Exodus 14: 10-13 (NLT)

They believed it would be easier to return as slaves, than to deal with yet another insurmountable obstacle-The Red Sea! Yet Moses answers, “BE STILL!”

“But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Exodus 14:13-14 (NLT)


Then God says, “MOVE IT!”

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

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The Israelites: “We want to GO BACK!”
Moses: “God is fighting for you, BE STILL!”
God: “MOVE IT, and WALK through the middle of the sea on dry ground!”
(Believing God, Beth Moore, 2004)

Sheila: “God it would feel better to just go back. I’m tired of sand in my shoes, and this desert heat is…sweaty!”

God: “MOVE IT! I’ve got a Promise Land for you, but I will not force you to go!”

Sheila: But, I really like how You have been having me just be still. I like standing here, because I’m tired. This feels good to stop and be still. I’d rather watch You do Your thing!”

God: “I have so much more for you, Sheila, but you have to participate!”

Sheila: “Can’t You just move that mountain for me? You are God, after all.”

God: “I will make a path, but you must take the path.”

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-all images from pixabay.com

Shine!

“Shine, make ’em wonder what ya got….”

Those seven words simply landed kersplat on my morning!
I’m in a short season of serving as a taxi driver for my two oldest, who both find themselves with car issues.
Driving; sipping my coffee; minding my business; Air1 Radio filling the waves, and there it is—

“Shine, make ’em wonder what ya got….”
Morning light
(Image mine)

I began to sing along to this 2000 hit song by the Newsboys, and the message landed heavy.

“Just shine.”

When darkness feels overwhelming- shine!
When they don’t want to hear truth- shine!
When the intent is to return evil for good- shine!
When they say you’re crazy- shine!
When they speak lies- shine!
When they choose their pit of darkness- shine!

“The Light shines on the darkness, and the darkness cannot extinguish it.”
– John 1:5 ESV

We know the darkness that surrounds us.
Last week, while trying to watch a family show on Hulu, a sudden preview came on for an inappropriate movie being released, and my anger boiled.
I haven’t been able to scroll though anything on social media this week, without the images of orange-clad men, refusing to deny Christ, being led down the beach to their deaths, and my stomach heaves at the sight.
Often, the darkness is closer to where we live. I don’t need to make a list of all the turmoil, grief, illness, abuse, and crisis that makes up our days.
The dark…it feels oppressing…inescapable. The despair can overtake a person, when we ask, “Is this is all I get?” or “Is this what it’s come to?” …and no one answers back.
I’ve lived right there.
My pit-dwelling days were dark and deep, and hope was elusive. I remember listening to life being lived all around me, and thinking that the dark was my destiny. It must be the place I was meant to live out my life, and so I made depression my duty, and the pit was my dwelling.
Year after year. January. February. March…. dark days, months, years, interspersed with a few sunny days, here and there, and then back into the dark. Cycling on repeat.
I would grab hold of as much sunshine as I could, to try to sustain me for the long road ahead, but there was never enough to last. Never enough. I justified and victimized myself into believing that no one, including God, could help me out. I saw every good thing He gave, as a gift to someone else- but never for me.
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(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

Coming out of the darkness was excruciating! When you’ve lived in a deep pit for that long, coming out into the bright light is painful. I felt so tempted on a daily basis, to turn around and run head-long back to my familiar pit. The pain it took to extend my hand for help, while excruciating, was life-saving for me. Everything had to change, or I wouldn’t survive.
It was a process. It was a miracle.

No matter if the darkness around us is evil or oppression, it is maintained by the Roaring Lion: who seeks to keep us isolated and alone. He wants to keep us bound and gagged in the dark. He prowls and schemes against us to, to overtake us, and consume.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
-1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Yet dear one, we have hope. We always hope!

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the Light of the World. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the Light that leads to Life.”
-John 8:12 NLT

Shining is not inaction, and as Children of the Day, we shine for a reason! We have a purpose!
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(Image mine)

Light provides warmth…..fire.
Light exposes truth…..spotlight.
Light causes growth…..furnace.
Light illuminates a path….lantern.
Light warns of danger ahead….lighthouse.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
-Matthew 5:14-16

We are called to Shine His Light in the darkness…and for His Glory! Shine for the hearts gone cold, the wanderers who are lost, the deceived who have believed lie after lie, those suffering alone in the dark; those who feel small; the fearful—
JUST SHINE!

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
-2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT
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(Image mine)