Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Road Trips, Writer's Block, and the Road to Recovery: The Testing of Your Faith Produces Steadfastness

How long has it been since you have been on a great adventure? My cousins are on their way here for a visit. They have just started an amazing opportunity of traveling the United States (U.S.) for a year! I feel moving is relatively stressful. Sorting through stuff, deciding what gets donated, thrown out, or packed up, and fitting everything into a moving trailer or truck. That is where their new season in life began. Yesterday, they got everything out of their residence and into their travel vehicle. Now, they are on the road and on the lookout for a motorhome to call their household for the next 12 months. What a magnificent time in their lives! It is going to be hard for me to not hitch a ride with them and join them on their venture!


I am so excited they are coming for a visit with me! Usually, I am the one who goes to see others but this time, I am receiving the great blessing of someone coming to spend time with me! Yay!!!

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say yet the words or thoughts just get trapped in your mind? I finally have a moment to sit down and write and I am all blocked up! Nothing is flowing nicely or easily.

Nope...I’ve got nothing.

The day before yesterday (Monday) I was working on a health assignment for university and I came across something which I found to be interesting, and had never heard of before then. Have you ever had a difficult relationship in your life? Perhaps it was with a boss, neighbor, co-worker, family member, etc. Regardless of the situation, alcoholism, addiction, abuse, etc., I found these steps to be insightful and a piece to the confusing puzzle of how to manage such a relationship. They are from “Using Al-Anon’s Steps in Our Personal Lives” at http://www.al-anon.org/TheSteps/. Further, there is a podcast to go with each one. They include:
Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over [alcohol, drugs, abuse] –that our lives had become unmanageable.” ...how...Step One help[s] overcome the impacts of a loved one’s [drinking, addiction, abuse].

Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Step 4: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 7: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

There is strength in Jesus no matter what the challenge may be that is causing struggle (Philippians 4:13).

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
(James 1:2-6. ESV.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Love, Abuse, and Stockholm Syndrome

Is love important?
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1 John 4:7-21. ESV.)

I was reading an article, yesterday, about a girl who had been kidnapped as a preteen, was held captive, sexually abused, etc. for numerous years and at one point seemingly loved her abusers. But, how could that be? Is it too difficult to understand? I think not. Secularly, the term “Stockholm syndrome” is used. There are many articles on the subject if one searches it on Google Scholar. As Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist describes it,
On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun carrying criminals entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, one prison escapee named Jan-Erik Olsson announced to the terrified bank employees “The party has just begun!” The two bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th .

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue. The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees. Clearly, the hostages had “bonded” emotionally with their captors.
(Carver, Joseph M. Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist. “Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser”. Christian Social Network. 2007. http://www.christiansocialnetwork.net/uploads/2/3/8/0/2380803/love_and_stockholm_syndrome_-_the_mystery_of_loving_an_abuser.pdf
But why? Carver goes on to explain,
In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation. The “Stockholm Syndrome” reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual. In fact, it is often encouraged in crime situations as it improves the chances for survival of the hostages.
It is for survival. The article goes on to say more but my question in this post is about “love”.

Is love important? Yes. God’s word says so. Further, in an effort to survive a horrible situation, those who are abused, threatened, held hostage, coerced, violated, neglected, oppressed, controlled, manipulated, etc. see their captor/abuser as loving them just to survive. Therefore, I feel love is very essential.

But does the offender actually love those he/she hurts? God’s word says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And, what about the one who says with his/her lips, ‘I love you,’ but whose actions show differently? Is God there? The girl I mentioned above, who was kidnapped, reported her captors/abusers as crying and apologizing on various occasions yet they continued harming her. Were these tearful amends just empty words? Love cannot be feigned. The truth always comes out.
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.(1 John 2:9-11. ESV.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Who Are You, O man, to Answer Back to God?

There is never a time when I do not feel like praising God and Jesus. There are times, however, when I am questioning, impatient, agitated, and dare I say, even annoyed...not in worshipping or honoring God but rather in understanding and accepting His will for my life. Does that sound blasphemous, ungrateful, or rebellious? It is hard for me to process why believers suffer at the hands of unbelievers or even individuals characteristic of Saul who feel they are upholding God’s law...legalistic. Am I being too harsh? My intention is not to point fingers and/or offend. It is mainly to preach to myself and sort through the challenges of this world.

A couple passages come to mind, here.
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.(2 Timothy 2:20-21. ESV.)

19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— (Romans 9:19-23. ESV.)
And,
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39. ESV.)
Why not save the whole lot and call it a day? I do not wish to sound flippant and perhaps I fall into the same category as Job and the one to whom God replies, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” Please, forgive me, Lord, for my questioning and frustration.

Who am I to be ungrateful? God has and continues to provide for me and my family. We are never hungry, never without a roof over our heads. We are closer to family. I have my children with me. I am never apart from them. We have our health and even luxury items that are beyond necessity. So, why in the world would I grumble and complain?
I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. 2 I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. 3 Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked? 4 Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees? 5 Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man’s years, 6 that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, 7 although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand? (Job 10:1-7. ESV.)
Of course, we all know God’s answer. He begins with,
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! (Job 38:2-5. ESV.)
And, makes his point known from Job 38 through 41. Though it is a lot to repost, here, I highly recommend looking it up and giving it a read!

Who am I to EVER question God and His will? I was created to bring Him glory. My life is a testament to Him and His awesome power and majesty. Even through things I do not understand, God's grace and mercy can be seen. May a refection of Jesus always be visible when others look at me. Amen.

(Photo information.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

For Not All Have Faith

I need to be spending more time in God’s word. I can feel it when I am not. Things get out of focus and I have to recalibrate, get realigned. I haven’t even written much lately, other than school papers, because I have been so out of sorts.

The scripture that has struck me the most, during bible study each morning with my children, are James 2:10 and Deuteronomy 32:4.
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10. ESV.)

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4. ESV.)

I would be lying if I said I do not struggle, sometimes, with these scripture passages. I am sure it is prideful of me to say I work really hard to live “upright”. To not intentionally hurt others, to not lie, cheat, or steal. To treat my family right and with love. To treat my friends and all I meet with respect, understanding, and love. To share Jesus with others. To walk in the spirit rather than the flesh and live out the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Only to find when I mess up along the way it negates everything. How frustrating! But, that is EXACTLY why when God looks at me He, thankfully, does not see me. He sees His precious Son who took away ALL of my sin. I am not saved because of my own efforts or behavior. It is because of Jesus and His grace and as a result I have the Holy Spirit and fruit. Not the other way around! See, I have to preach to myself, often!

Which, now, brings me to Deuteronomy 32:4. “Everything He does is just and fair.” Say what?! EVERYTHING! I can name some stuff I feel is not either of those…this thorn in my flesh for one! How on God’s green earth is THAT “just” and “fair”? I have suffered greatly because of it! And, why? I am a child of God! I am His! This “messenger of satan to harass me” (2 Corinthians 12:7) is not! How is that right? I am at His mercy…which He gives me, every day! And grace. And forgiveness. When I am angry and sad and struggling with hatred toward the thorn in my flesh, God’s grace is sufficient. When I reach out to others who either do not understand or do not seem to care, God reminds me I need Him alone.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than in man (Psalm 118:8).
Always! I am to serve and love and trust in God, alone. I notice when I need that reminder the most, He removes all deep relationships from my life. At first I feel alone but then I realize, He’s showing me once again because I have forgotten…or am being stubborn.
I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
NOT man.

If I do not preach to myself, regularly, I begin to listen to my negative self-talk. And that does not do me any good, at all! I must immerse myself in the word of God and talk to Him regularly. No, I am not talking to myself, though I am sure that is how it appears, sometimes, as I am driving down the road chit chatting with God…thanking Him for the precious little lambs He has entrusted to me and praying for their souls and safety, each day. I am thankful I may approach the throne of grace, anytime, because of Jesus.

1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. ESV.)

(Photo information: Bing Public Domain.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Going to Battle With the Enemy by Teresa Tysinger

Right at this very moment, the enemy is pushing at me from several directions. It would be so easy to let the lies of my unworthiness, less-than-ness, failures, and shortcomings take residence in my heart. Strange enough, I’m not surprised by today’s attack. Do you know how to sense the enemy on the move?

Here are some tell-tale signs I need to buckle up and strap on some armor…all of which are current circumstances for me:
...Please click here to continue reading!

The above post is by my fellow writer and FUMC youth group attendee, back in the day! I can relate to what she is saying, here, and thought I would share it with you incase you can, too! Thank you Teresa, for your encouragement!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Darkness has once again captured the attention of American citizens. But from where did this darkness come and how did it grow into something that cost lives? Who knew the 26 year old gunman and how would they have described his character leading up to the moment he took lives? Someone knew him. Perhaps the internet had heard of his plan. Do you pay attention to people around you as you go about your day? Do you believe and assist people when they speak of concern they have regarding the character of another? Yes, we are not to gossip, but don’t forget, we are also called to be wise.

7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” (Job 1:7. ESV.)

My children and I are trained in self-defense. Does that mean we would win every fight or situation in which we might be placed? No. But it does mean God gave us knowledge so we would have a plan. We would know how to assess the situation and we have a supply of “tools” at our disposal. I highly recommend everyone learn how to protect themselves. I feel we can only take responsibility for ourselves. It is my opinion we cannot control various elements and therefore have to have knowledge of what to do to combat it should we come up against it. Aside from God, Himself, who else can we depend on for help and protection?

Things happen.
8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8. ESV.)
We are to trust in God and be wise! God’s word is chock full of verses regarding wisdom. Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear…I am not a doctor and, though I am finishing up my bachelor’s degree and have a goal of attending law school, I am not yet an attorney, etc. I am simply, me. But, ladies, I do want to encourage you!

God’s power does not work apart from the personal faith of those being guarded, but through their faith (1 Peter 7, 9, 21; 5:9; 2 Peter 1:1, 5; and commonly in the New Testament). (Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. 1994. Pg 792.)
Here, I believe he is speaking about our salvation but the key point I wish to show you is, “God’s power does not work apart from the personal faith of those being guarded but through their faith.”
make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (2 Peter 1:5. ESV.)
Someone once told me, “We are called to be faithful and God takes care of all the rest.” I believe that to be true! He provides…and, to me, that takes a multitude of shapes. How does God supply what we need when we need it? I have seen His provisions through Him bringing people into my life at the perfect time to bring about His will. Let me point to the bible instead of my own life…Saul meant to kill David. And how did David find out about this? His friend, the son of Saul, told him. Did David hang out and say, “I can just sit here and chill.” No! He fled and hid. And, at the right time, God delivered Saul straight into David’s hands, MORE THAN ONCE! (1 Samuel).

How did David know Saul’s intention was dangerous? Someone, Jonathan, told him! Likewise, I feel it is our responsibility to be like Jonathan and alert others to danger. I understand, it is so much easier to “mind our own business” and not get involved. It is not unreasonable to think someone else will step up to assist. But, chances are, they are thinking the same thing about you. I get it, it is hard to think the worst about another person and force yourself to consider how he/she might be so disturbed, desperate, or perhaps just plain evil to harm or kill others. Pay attention! Take note of “red flags” you might notice. Stay safe. Be wise! Report suspicious, concerning, or alarming behavior or deeds. It could save the lives of others.

11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:11. ESV.)

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