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.
peace-of-mind-349815_640
(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!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
(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
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
(Image mine)

I Will Have No Part In It

angel-figure-451923_1280

A little over a week from now, a movie will premiere that is reported to be taking the box office by storm. People will spend their money to watch grotesque pornography, in a movie theater with hundreds of other movie goers sitting right next to them.
As one magazine contributor said,

“We Americans get really angry when oil companies spill toxic fuel in our oceans; yet we applaud when Hollywood dumps a tanker of poisonous garbage like Fifty Shades of Grey on our country—with no offer to clean up the damage. We should be outraged!” (J. Lee Grady, CharismaMagazine, 2015)

The pornographic book, Fifty Shades of Grey, and it’s sequels have grossed millions in profit sales, and now our husbands, wives, grandparents, daughters, sons, grandchildren, friends, students…will be treated to the movie.
It was announced this week that they have dropped the rating from NC-17 (No Children Under 17) to R (Children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult), for those parents who don’t think twice about taking their children to watch a man violently and sexually abuse his girlfriend. I have heard a couple of people justify it, by saying, “The girlfriend participated willingly!” -Well that just makes it all better, doesn’t it? (dripping with sarcasm)

I’m as angry as I can be!!
You want to know why? Because according to The National Center for Victims of Crime, it is reported that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys have been sexually abused. Who are they being abused by? Most often by men and women who are involved with or addicted to pornography.

I’m angry, because I’m one of those girls.
The first 14 years of my life, I was sexually abused repeatedly by a man who was addicted to and engrossed in pornography. He read it, watched it, participated in it, and then by force, used me.

I’ve spent the last 28 years of my life, learning how to live with scars. I’ve been learning about forgiveness and redemption through Christ. More recently, God has been telling my story & I’ve been speaking my silence. I’m learning to live free.

Psalm 101: 3 says,
“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.”

It’s a no-brainer for me!!
I will not read one single page of Fifty Shades of Grey. I will not step foot into a theater to watch the movie, and when it is released on DVD, it will not enter our home.
I leave it to God to judge the wicked, but I will have no part in it.

This morning, I felt nudged in this direction.
I can’t stop people from watching this movie. I truly believe that we will see a down-fall over time. In a few years, or even less, we will begin to hear stories about how children, wives, girlfriends where victimized after someone in their life watched this movie. What will we do then?
2014-06-19 09.05.00

There is an organization called Speak Your Silence who is raising awareness and removing the stigma associated with survivors of sexual abuse. By selling orange thread, and using it to sew a zig-zag stitch on an item of clothing, they are getting the word out that there is help and we are not alone! All proceeds (every penny) goes to fund counseling for survivors. Please, please look them up. Buy a kit….better yet, take the amount of money that someone will spend on a movie ticket ($10-$15) and purchase Stitch Kits. Pass them around and ask people to participate in raising awareness and meeting a need.

2014-06-19 11.22.00

Every Word We Speak

Taking responsibility for the words that flow out from our mouths is a necessary skill for grown-ups. I know that we don’t always like to hear this, but it’s truth, especially when we are big boys and big girls.

I spent the majority of my life as a word-spewer. My emotions always led the way, and what came out of my mouth was anything but edifying. I rationalized that I had rights to speak; to be angry, to have an opinion.
If anyone was brave enough to confront me about the words I spoke, 100% of the time, I brushed them off as having misunderstood my intention, or my position. Heaven forbid that I was ever wrong! If I apologized, it was often because I was regretting they were mad, and not sorry for the words I had used to wound.

I was am also a verbal processor. I like to talk. I don’t just like it, it’s is how I work through problems or process a solution. I also like to talk, because I think I have something to contribute. I have good things to say. Right? The problem wasn’t that I liked to talk, the problem was that I didn’t like to listen. When someone talks, but never listens, they become a clanging symbol. After a while what comes out of a blabber-mouth is just noise, and those around me began to dismiss themselves, or tune me out. I didn’t understand that by not shutting my mouth and using my ears, I was couldn’t expect to be listened to.

There are heaps of verses in the Bible, that address our talking and listening issues—and personally cause me to squirm!

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” -Luke 6:45 (ESV)

“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” -Matthew 12:34 (ESV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” -Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

“The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.” -Exodus 14:14 (Holman)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” -James 1:19 (ESV)

“Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” -Proverbs 19:27 (ESV)

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” -Proverbs 21:23 (ESV)

Conflict is never in short supply. It’s a given–If we have humans, we will have differences. In our own houses, with our very own people, we will talk when we should be silent, we will use words that inflict pain, and we will cause damage that we do not want to own. Don’t get me started about people hiding anonymously behind their keyboards on social-media sites.
We live in a messy world…but we are not left without hope, people!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” -Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” -Proverbs 17:27 (ESV)

Our hope lies in our redemption. Jesus made it possible for us to do life differently! With His power, we can act differently, speak differently, listen differently….and eventually, love differently.

All around us are humans who are in conflict with one another, claiming that there is just no hope. They are blaming anyone but themselves, and not understanding why what they’ve said and done has caused so much pain. They spew from the overflow of their hearts; wreaking havoc with violent words and hostile attitudes….and turn around in the next breath and wonder why they are alone, or no one understands them.

If I do the same thing over and over, I will get the same result. If I want to see healing in my relationships, if I want to give grace, if I want to learn to listen, even when it’s the hardest thing ever, I must determine how I need to change. Did you catch that?

How I need to change. 

I am not the boss of you. I can’t change you. But I am the boss of me. I am 100% responsible for every word that leaves my lips. I must claim ownership for my choices of words and attitudes, because the Bible tells me so, and also because it matters for eternity!

I stop in my tracks and everything comes into clear perspective for me, when I think about years from now, when not only am I known as Duane’s Wife; Ashley, Alex, and Nichole’s Momma, Bob & Sue’s Daughter, Aunt Sheila, Sister, Friend…but I will also be Mother-in Law Sheila, Grandma Sheila, Great Grandma Taylor, and Great-Aunt Sheila. People with my blood flowing through their veins, will sit around tables with old pictures, and what will I be remembered for? How will I be known?

That right there is where the rubber meets the road for me. Every choice I make to speak love, extend grace, and forgive, will determine the future for those who will come behind. Every time I chose to say “Please forgive me for _________” and change my poor behavior, even though it hurts, I will remember that it hurts so much less, than destroying what God had intended to be good.

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering…” Ephesians 5:2 (ESV)

Autumn’s Grace Twenty One: Grapefruit & Grace

It happened at Walgreen’s.

A fairly young man was in line in front of me. He was checking out the tabloids and magazines beside us. He picked up one, with an unflattering picture of Julia Roberts; turned to me and said, “Isn’t it sad that they have to make her look so awful, just because they are lying about her?” Then he points to a picture of another celebrity, who quite obviously had been photo-shopped, to be an unrealistic version of herself, and said, “Then look at this…with her they go to extremes, telling us, ‘This is beautiful.'”
As he laid the magazine back in the rack, he said, “Women are beautiful, just the way God made ’em.”

I’ve continued to ponder the encounter, and it’s hitting a nerve. I think it’s worth talking about.

This is a touchy place for most women and girls. We find it hard to think of ourselves as truly beautiful. We default to blaming it on Hollywood, and how beauty is defined by the media and the top fashion designers of our culture, and we know we will never attain it.

sunset-401541_640

Many of us are also carrying around messages from our youth, that formed our identity, and our perception of beauty.

At the age of 10, I hadn’t thought of myself as fat, but when family member motioned towards me, as I walked across the living room and said, “Sheila’s getting chubby!”, I formed an opinion about myself and how men measure a woman’s body.

The truth was, I was not fat, and I believe that while it isn’t something that should have been voiced out loud, it was voiced with little or any understanding as to how those words would effect a young girl.

Growing up in a strict, legalistic church denomination, any attempts to be make ourselves attractive, were labeled as prideful and sinful, and preached heavily against. I grew up with what are called, “Standards”.
Verses from the Bible were frequently taken out of context to fit the sermon theme, and I grew up being taught the plain-er a woman was, the more godly she was.

We had a black book of rules (The Manual) that said the women and girls must never cut or trim their hair, but rather wear it up in a bun, or younger girls could wear it very long. It was common for the younger girls to have their hair grow past the waist.
Hem-lengths were measured, and pants on females were the biggest NO-NO. We could not wear makeup. Jewelry, open-toed shoes and hair accessories were considered “worldly adornment”.

Then there were the messages:

“Beauty is as beauty does.”

“Beauty is only skin deep.”

It’s not hard to take all of that, and come to a clear conclusion as to why I had such a distorted understanding of true beauty.

You see, what the grown-ups didn’t realize, was that while they were constantly “warning” us about the perils of eye-shadow, necklaces, and skirt lengths, they were communicating completely different messages. Such as….

“How you look, is the most important thing.”

“As long as you make the outside look right, no one will pay attention to the inside.”

These church messages were not that much different than those of  Hollywood. Opposite sides were focused on the same issue– our appearances.

We can all agree that what we see in a magazine, or Hollywood is far from realistic. We hear about celebrities on a weekly basis, who from all appearances, have it all- yet the beauty, fame, and wealth are not enough to mask their despair.

My experiences growing up legalistic, turned me into record-keeping critic. If I had to measure up, so must everyone else.

Last week, I reached into a bowl of grapefruit on my kitchen counter, choosing what looked to be delicious and beautiful. It was bright orange, with a hint of pink. As soon as I grasped it, I could tell that the outside did not reflect what was going on inside. It looked perfect, until I applied minimal pressure, then all the rotten-ness that was going on inside, became quite noticeable.

We left that church when I was sixteen…and for the first time, encountered Grace.

“Oh, the Love that drew Salvation’s plan, Oh, the grace that brought it down to man, Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span, At Calvary.
Mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me, there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.” (William R Newell, 1895)

Grace that comes unearned and undeserved, the Ultimate Gift from the Cross . Grace, never about how perfect I look, for those keeping score. Grace for my record-keeping.

God’s gift of grace, once accepted, is capable of cleaning out heart-rot.  His Power, changing us from the inside out, and removing the focus off rule-keeping and striving to please.

He shines His light into the dark corners of a rotten soul, and healing occurs. Peace, Joy, Love… flows from a heart filled with light.

The Fruit of His Spirit creates beauty within a woman, changing lives around her. The Fruit of His Spirit consistently brings the focus back to the heart.

raspberries-215858_640

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Photos from pixabay.com

Autumn’s Grace Eighteen & Nineteen: At the Table

This morning thirty one women gathered around tables with me, in the Fireside Room. We are in the process of trading the chaos of how we feel, for the truth of who we are.
We are beloved. We are redeemed. We are not identified by our storms of shame, disappointment, fear, regret….

For me, the beauty of this experience is in the togetherness at the tables.
candlelight gardenImage from pixabay.com

Anyone who knows me well, knows how passionate I feel about women doing life together. Through my personal life experiences, for years, the enemy kept me alone and isolated in my shame. When I opened my heart to do life with others, I began to discover that I was not alone. That fact changed my life!

This morning, as the women began to gather around tables, I felt God stilling me, and for a few moments, I caught a glimpse of this grace, in action.

We are women coming together; each one with different stories. We gather as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, friends…some are widows; divorced; single, and some are newlyweds. A few have ongoing physical issues, and many are carrying deep emotional pain. Some have been carrying the weight of pain for years, and still some have the hardest days ahead.

The prevailing common denominator is that life is difficult for all of us, for different reasons, and in countless different ways. The grace is that we don’t have to do it alone.

Later on today, I encountered a women who is in the darkest night of her life. She feels alone, and hope seems completely out of reach. After talking to God with her, I invited her to come next week, and find her place at a table. She plans to come.

Each woman coming with her story, finding space and grace around a table of others, like her. Finding that she is not alone. Finding hope to stand and keep going for another week. Finding Christ at the table.

The ministry at the table…the gathering, the nurturing…I like this. More to come.

Autumn’s Grace Seventeen: When Knees Are Feeble and Hearts Are Anxious

We all know them. We see them.

The Stumbling, the Weak, the Fearful, the Rejected….

What do we do about them?

I sometimes find myself sitting across tables, or on couches with those who are fearful and exhausted. Life has dealt them a hard blow. Injustice has been done. Pain has been inflicted. People have been mean. Most are filled with anxiety, and there is a glaring lack of joy.
Maybe as you read this, you are identifying with that crowd. Life hurts. It hurts all the more, when we go at it alone.

There are so many who are just that…alone.

Isaiah 35: 3-4 says…..Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!”

I recently read a quote that grabbed me….
home

It doesn’t take hardly two seconds to find someone around us who is dying on the inside. We go to school and church with them. We work with them. We stand in lines with them. We even sometimes live with them. They are in a crowd, yet all alone.

What would it mean for them to have someone come alongside and say, “I’m going that direction, I’ll walk with you.”

Isn’t that the point? We are all going home. Why wouldn’t we walk together?

As I stood at my kitchen sink this morning, thinking about a recent encounter with a friend who is hurting, I had the thought that I wish life didn’t hurt so much for them. I have some friends that are going through the fight of their lives, and except for a miracle, there isn’t much hope. I know of others who are suffering in countless ways. I know some who have been deeply rejected. I want to do something….and I can. I can walk with them. I can point them in the direction of Jesus. I can speak hope and words of encouragement.

As we walk together, we can point out the ruts to avoid or a boulder to walk around. We can take hands and pull them up steep trails. We can speak encouragement when storms come. We can celebrate with joy when the sun shines again. We can lead them to quiet places of rest, and offer cups of cold water.

Walking together, doesn’t mean the road will never be rough, it just means that we aren’t alone. It means when your hands are weak, your knees are feeble, or your heart is anxious, I can say, “Be strong. Fear not!”…WE will get through this.

“Jesus, open my eyes today, to anyone walking alone.”

Autumn’s Grace Sixteen: Why Do You Weep?

I’ve recently read two stories about two women I’ve never met.

A 29 year old woman named Brittany Maynard from Oregon is planning to die on November 1st. She has terminal brain cancer, and doesn’t want to suffer with the effects of dying from the horrible disease. She is planning to crawl into her bed, surrounded by loved ones, and swallow a pill that a doctor has prescribed to her. That pill will end her life.

Another story someone shared with me recently, is about an anonymous woman, who published a letter to her unborn child, who she plans to abort this Friday (October 17th).

I am not planning to write today, about my moral beliefs on Physician Assisted Suicide or Abortion, other than to state for those who may not know me, that I strongly and with deep conviction, disagree with both.

Last night, sometime around 2:30 am, I woke up and almost immediately began to think about this baby whose life will end tomorrow, unless his/her mother changes her mind. I laid in the dark and began to feel so much pain in my heart, that it physically hurt. I did what I do, when I don’t feel like I can do anything else…I prayed. I talked to God about this anonymous woman, wherever she was, to change her mind, and find loving support from someone who can help her.

As I was praying, the phrase, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” popped into my mind. I said it over and over a few times, remembering that somewhere in the Bible- Book of John, The Resurrected Jesus asks those questions of Mary of Magdalene.
He had been crucified, and she was at His tomb, grieving over the loss of her friend, Jesus, when He appears to her and asks her about her tears. She doesn’t recognize Him, and assumes He is the gardener or care-taker. She asks Him to tell her where they had taken the body.
But then Jesus speaks her name, “Mary” and she knows His voice. She responds with “Rabbi!” (meaning “Teacher”)

I laid there in my bed, thinking over that encounter Mary had with Jesus. When He asked her those two questions, “Why are you weeping?” and “Who are you looking for?” I wonder if in her mind she wanted to blurt out, “I’m came here looking for Jesus! I need some hope!”?

I think that would be my response, as I think about Brittany and Anonymous.

To decide to take someone’s life, whether it’s your own, or someone else’s, you would have to feel hopeless at your very core (in addition to some other things).

I believe God knows where Brittany Maynard is, and He knows where Anonymous is. He has both of their addresses. He knows more about their stories than any living person does. He can speak their names…and my HOPE is, that they will recognize His voice.

“Jesus, there are some women in this world, who are hopeless. One is so hopeless that she is choosing to take her own life. The other hopeless one plans to take the life of her unborn baby. They need hope! They need to encounter You! Please hold out Your hand, and speak their names.”

Hand-F450

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. -Romans 15:13

A open letter Kara Tippets wrote to Brittany Maynard: Dear Brittany-Why We Don’t Have To Be So Afraid Of Dying and Suffering That We Chose Suicide

An open letter Matt Walsh wrote to Anonymous: Dear Woman Who’s Getting An Abortion Tomorrow

Autumn’s Grace Fifteen: Cooling Down

This morning, marked our first day at work with the new printer. Because seven out of the eight people I work with are females, it’s been assumed that the printer is also a girl. This morning, I have proof…
2014-10-15 11.51.09

I had been just finished a large printing job, and heard a fan come on. I looked at the screen and read, “Cooling Down. Wait for a while.”

I love that!! I need one of these screens on my forehead! Sometimes it would send out this message, because I’m in my forties, and I have random tendencies to overheat, if you know what I’m talking about. Other times it would send out this message, because I need to calm down, chill out, or be quiet.

It’s good for us to get quiet. To get away for awhile, and if needed, cool off. When possible, taking a break from life’s pressures, can restore health to our minds and bodies. Waiting quietly before God, restores peace to my circumstances.

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

Autumn’s Grace Eleven – Fourteen: Gimme A Break!

We all know the jingle to the Kit Kat Candy Bar Commercial!

“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar!”

kitkat-flickr-exame-300x225

Early this morning, realizing that I’m four days behind in my writing challenge, and contemplating if I would continue to write, or throw in the towel, I thought about how much I needed to keep going. I also see how desperately I need to give myself a break, when I don’t meet my own expectations.

I really love to write. I do this mostly because  it keeps me from being hospitalized for insanity is therapeutic for me. I feel like I have a few things to say, but I also process through life, by writing about my ordeals and experiences. The fact that anyone relates or responds to anything I say, is an added bonus.

If I can’t be kind to myself, and admit that getting behind just sometimes happens, than I have issues (no comment).

With that stated, I am going to count this tiny little post as four days worth of blogging. I know that’s pathetic, but I’m actually hoping that someone will read this, and find encouragement for their own “thing”.

If your a day late and a dollar short, give yourself a break.
If you planned to do better or be better…step back and exhale, because you are enough.
If you have missed a deadline, and you’re tempted to give up, draw a line in the sand, and start over.

If you are anywhere near a candy counter, for goodness gracious, buy yourself a Kit Kat bar!