It is time.

It is time.
Time to deal with
the pain,
the past,
and let it go.
Forgiveness.
Rejection
is no longer
a fear.
Your confidence
is in your God,
not in man.
His acceptance
is all you need.
It will
quell
those voices
from the past,
those that say
“You are not
worthy.
You do not
deserve this.”

See, you
are His child.
And you deserve
what He says
you deserve.
And that
is good.
Peace.
Joy.
Hope.

But God, don’t You see me?

Yes, child,
I see you.
But not as
you see yourself.
I look at you
through
eyes of
mercy
love
compassion
and forgiveness.

You need to
forgive
yourself.

For what?

For falling short
of your own
expectations.
For failing
in what
you thought
you should
do or be.
See, My plans for you
are not what
you would choose.

What a shock. I thought I had that one figured out. After all, look where I am and how I’m living.

But
that
is
coming
to an end.

Let
Me
Work.

Yield to Me.
Be sensitive
and willing.

Oh, what I have for you, My child! Let Me work it in you. Stop the fighting. Let go of your pride and fear and let Me work. For I am not some vengeful master, but a loving Father. I desire good for you if you will accept it. I don’t wait for you to stumble so I can whack you. I am not your dad – I am your Father.
©1-29-1997

In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.

C.S. Lewis on Christmas

Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus

by C. S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival; guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the marketplace is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest, and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchaser’s become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

Change in the Wind

I’m considering going back to school to get my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve always wanted to do this but the last decade or so has been almost overwhelming, and it was a struggle to merely keep my head above water for a long time. I’m far from fixed, and I have my issues, but I think it’s time to fulfill this dream. It will probably be an online program because I don’t know if I can handle campus chaos, but hey — an achievement is an achievement, no? How we get to where we need to be may not be how we imagined it, but the journey can be fulfilling and satisfying anyway.

(I think the neighbor is rearranging, at 4:30 in the morning….don’t ask me why I’m still awake because I can’t say except to note that my mind won’t shut up again. I keep hearing scraping and moving sounds over on the other side of the wall,)

It’s getting cooler here and fall is definitely in the air. After 3 winters in Florida I have the feeling Missouri is going to kick my backside once again. Hopefully this will be my last year here for a while, if all goes as planned. I’m looking into getting a house with my daughter and her family in another state because they can’t afford what they need on their income, and I need to be around people whether I like it or not. Their family respects my introversion when I choose to be alone in my room or go on a trip by myself, but they also provide me with a sense of belonging and companionship I can’t get when I’m living on my own. Yes, they’re amazingly loud at times, but that’s what headphones are for, right? I stayed with them a bit over the winter and early spring and we did okay….as long as they respect my need for privacy when I shut my door and I give them space when it’s necessary, we should get along fine. Families in other parts of the world make this work all the time. We can do it, too. Multi-generational living has definite advantages. It’s not perfect, but life isn’t either.

God has been good to me. Bumps, bruises, pain, loss….it’s all in His hands and He can make something good from even the worst that happens to us if we allow Him to move in our lives. Yes, I’ve had it rough at times, but other people have gone through much more for longer and they survived. I’m tenacious, determined, and willing to go with the flow to get where I need to be. Hopefully I’ll be an inspiration to someone else who just might need to hear that our past doesn’t dictate our future if we can let go of the pain and stop the negativity that wants to pull us under.

I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress just like everyone else. I have a bit of a different viewpoint than a lot of folks, but that’s part of who I am. I’m not tied to places or belongings, but to my God and what He has for me even when I have no idea what that is or how I’m going to get there. That’s faith. I trust that when He calls me to step out, there will be ground under my feet or He will help me fly. What more do I really need? He’s gotten me this far and He isn’t about to let go now.

Choosing a Simple Life

“7 Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9)

This is my daily prayer. All I need is enough. Any extra I get, I share. Anybody who claims to be a Christian and does otherwise has a serious problem. God doesn’t give us money so we can pad our bank accounts, live in fancy (sometimes multiple) houses, drive expensive cars, or own private jets so we don’t have to be around those in need. When and if God blesses us financially, it’s so we can share with people who are suffering.

If the church did what the church was supposed to do, we wouldn’t need social welfare programs. Greed and materialism have invaded the church, and the “prosperity gospel” goes a long way toward making those who do have money feel better and more worthy than people who struggle to pay their rent and feed their families. Does anybody honestly think that’s what God had in mind? I don’t think so, not for a minute. The next person who tells me I’m struggling financially because I don’t have enough faith to believe God for financial prosperity is going to get smacked upside the head. Sometimes we are poor because being around people with no money gives us an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus in that environment.

Nowhere in the Bible is it promised that God’s people are going to all be rich, in perfect health, and gloriously happy. It does say that we will be persecuted, tortured, and even killed because of our beliefs. It says men will revile us and persecute us. The Beatitudes even say “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

How does that jive with the prosperity gospel? It doesn’t, because the prosperity gospel isn’t biblical. It’s metaphysical and part of the New Thought movement. I challenge anybody who doesn’t agree with me to find a verse in the Bible that tells me God wants me to be rich, live in a gated community where I don’t have any contact with poor people or people in need, and totally avoid the uncomfortable reality of poverty (both physical and spiritual), all the while telling people how favored I am.

No thanks. I will take my simple lifestyle any day.

You Are Enough.

Those of us who experienced abuse in childhood or marriage – whether verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, or any combination thereof – often struggle with feelings of inadequacy, self-criticism, self-hatred, doubt, fear, and even self-condemnation. We need to remember that Jesus bled and died for us, too. He was with us through those times, holding us up with His hand, because He loves us. He knows how we struggle to reconcile the concept of a loving, caring Father with the examples we were exposed to. He is aware of how it skewed our thinking and caused us to struggle more than others with seeing Him as One who accepts us as we are, not the way someone else thinks we should be. He hears our cries in the darkness, is fully cognizant of our tormented minds, and stands with us as we battle the forces that would cause us to get so mired down by the treatment we endured that we would even give up on our hopes and dreams. His will for us is victory, confidence, and the assurance we are His chosen children – not in spite of, but sometimes even because of our scars. We are fighters. We survived sometimes hellish circumstances, things we never told anyone else, and we came out on the other side with a tenacity and a strength known only by those who endure this kind of hardship.

What you have been through has made you especially capable and competent at ministering to others in pain. You know what it’s like to be afraid to speak loudly, to draw attention to yourself, to be an individual, and you can see it in others. The compassion engendered by your experiences was given to you for a reason. It’s not just there for you to acknowledge, but it’s been given to you so that you can minister to others who are going through or have been through similar circumstances. Someone who has never been abused can feel sorry for what a survivor is struggling with, but they just don’t know how it feels. You know because you’ve been there. You recognize the downturned gaze, the self-deprecation, the avoidance of personal talk, the attempts to be invisible; they are as familiar to you as your own skin. I can recognize an abused woman or child a mile away. It shouts the story in how they walk, carry themselves, talk, and even dress. The scramble to pacify, the constant need for reassurance that they’re good enough, the reluctance to speak about what they’re enduring is like red graffiti on a white wall. Because you’ve been there, you see what others don’t. You get them. This gives you an unique opportunity to minister to them from experience, not just what you’ve been taught in a class, read in a book, or heard second-hand.

We often look at the struggles in our lives and ask God, “Why is this happening to me?” The question itself isn’t as important as the reason behind asking it. We can have one of two attitudes when posing this query:

  • Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How can a loving God allow anyone to endure such trauma?
  • How is this trial preparing me for my calling? What can I learn from it? How can I apply the strength I gained coming through this experience to benefit the kingdom of God?

How we look at living as a human being in a world full of sin affects our response to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, being finite often leaves us seeing only our immediate situation; it’s like viewing a quilt from the point of view of a single piece of fabric or listening to a symphony from the third violist’s chair. We can’t see our lives like God sees them. We simply aren’t created with that capability. This is where faith comes in. We have to choose to trust Him to lead us through what will shape us into the person He intended us to be. Sometimes this means walking in darkness, trusting Him to guide us. It may require us to lay down things we want to do or be in order to receive His best for us, even if we don’t understand it at the time. For abuse survivors, this kind of trust can be really difficult. Victimization can lead to a whole mess of thought processes capable of interfering with letting go of what we think is good and right. We may fear more than just the loss of control, and justifiably so; vulnerability has betrayed us in the past, and we are leery of yielding that kind of power to anyone else, even God. In fact, it may take us much longer to learn to put our confidence in His desire for our good. This explains, in a way, why the faith of those who have suffered abuse may be much stronger; for us to get to the point where we can yield our will and desire for self-protection to someone else requires a decision not reached without much internal conflict, and one that will not be easily challenged or abandoned. I may at times doubt my ability to do what God has called me to do, but I am never dubious about His love for me. In fact, it has been the only thing I had to hold on to more than once. In the middle of everything I’ve been through, He has been the constant I could rely on – even when I was so mired in misery I wondered if I should just give in. This knowledge has been my anchor, my rock, my confidence when everything else was falling to pieces around me. I am sure of this: no matter what I’m going through, I am never alone. I may not be happy, healthy, wealthy, or successful in the eyes of the world, but God has a plan for me that will bring Him glory no matter how weak or frail I am, or how many times I fall.

No matter what anybody else tells you, what and who you are is exactly what and who you were created to be. You may have made mistakes, or fallen, or rebelled….but God knew all that when He created you, and He loves you anyway. Don’t let those lies imprison you. Remember, He knew you before He laid the foundations of the world, and He would not have you be anyone but who you are. Never forget that.

©2018