I am a Christian and I have PTSD

I am a Christian. Jesus became my Lord and Savior back in 2008. I love the LORD. He has blessed my life in more ways than I can count. I have a deeply personal, and ever growing relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. My faith is far stronger and more complete than it has ever been. I know that it will grow stronger and fuller still every day. I trust the LORD with my life, my heart, and all the darkest parts of me. I do not doubt His love for me. I find peace and security in the knowledge that I am His beloved daughter. I know with all my soul that Jesus died for all my sins, and when I die I get to spend eternity with my triune God.

 And I have PTSD.

What that means is that I cannot go anywhere by myself currently. I have to have someone go with me to the store, to the doctor, and even to Church. I have to take medication to control my night terrors. I am unable to travel with my husband to visit his family because I cannot handle an airport much less a plane. When I meet you for the first time, no matter the amount of time I spend with you, when you walk away I will not remember what you look like. It takes me a long time to remember people’s faces, and sometimes I never do. I will recognize you when I see you, but if you are not in my sight I couldn’t describe you. Sometimes a smell, a sound, a person can trigger me into hallucinating my abuse right then and there. I can’t look at tightie whities, not even on the TV. There are many other ways I can tell you how this affects my life, but I think you get the idea.

So why am I telling you this? Jesus says that His strength is shown through my weakness. This is part of my testimony. As I have been walking through this disorder with the Lord I have come to a very frustrating, and ultimately painful, realization …many well meaning Christians believe these two facts cannot coexist in my life. I have been told if only I had more faith, or if my relationship with Jesus were stronger, or that if I work hard enough I can overcome/defeat/move past/beat my PTSD. Essentially that somehow my PTSD is a sign that my relationship with the LORD is somehow deficient. Or worse yet some are convinced that the LORD has promised to ‘fix’ my PTSD while I am alive here on earth. And since I am not ‘fixed’ I am somehow not enough of ‘fill in the blank’ (trusting, loving, faithful, believing, devoted, etc.).

I have no doubt that other Christians who suffer from depression, bipolar-ism, or even some physical ailment are treated the same way. I know that when I talk about my PTSD some people are uncomfortable. I am told I shouldn’t talk about it, or that I just need to forget it. Like somehow my suffering should be kept a secret, or very private at the very least. Some people actually believe that if you become a Christian your life will be perfectly fixed and blessed and filled with rainbows. They completely over look the fact that they worship a man who was brutally flogged and publicly murdered.

These last two years have been incredibly hard for me. For a while I bought into the belief that if I were somehow just more that the LORD would take away my PTSD. That my PTSD was a testament of how I was failing at being a good, strong Christian woman. I should be ashamed of having this disorder. I should I hide it away, not talk about, and generally act as if it weren’t there. Who is that helping though? It certainly wasn’t helping me.

I get that it can make people uncomfortable, and what God has been showing me is that this is really how the Church is failing those who are suffering. God calls us to weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn. As Christians we shouldn’t shy away from those who are suffering, but we should get down into the pit with those people and help carry them through it. The Bible repeatedly tells us to gather together, to live life, and help those around us. But how many people are suffering alone, in silence, because their suffering makes us uncomfortable?

And I am done. I am done feeling embarrassed. I am done feeling ashamed. I am done keeping silent. My silence won’t reach into the lives of other people who are suffering from PTSD to help them. My silence will not lead other people to Jesus.

My faith isn’t a cure for PTSD. A relationship with Jesus is not some magical genie wishing star of goodness that will make life painless. What my faith does give me is comfort. I do not have to go through this alone. My faith gives me peace in knowing that my mess cannot affect my position in God’s family. My faith frees me of being responsible for my salvation. My redemption does not hinge on my abilities or my deficiencies. My faith means that I can curl up into a ball and cry, knowing that Lord catches each tear and holds me until I am done. My faith gives me a deeper and untouchable joy …even in my darkest moments …because I know I am loved. I know that one day it will be made perfect when I see my Savior face to face.

And I am finally becoming okay with that. So, yes, I am a Christian and I have PTSD. I struggle with simple day to day tasks, but God still loves me. I am no longer looking and praying for a way to fix this or make it go away. Instead I am praying for the strength to talk about the struggle, to reach the lives of those who do not yet believe. My PTSD does make me weak, it makes me fragile. But God is strong. When I am falling apart His light and love shines through all the cracked places. And if non-believers never see the cracks or the rubble of my life, they will also never see the love and light of Christ shining through.
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Give God the Glory: The Mars Hill Controversy

Dear World, and to my Christian brothers and sisters found within it,

My name is Lael Barwood, and almost all of you have no idea who I am.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  I attend the Downtown location, and have been a regular attender for over two years.  This letter is about the maelstrom involving my Church.  I have heard it called an attack, justice, a comeuppance, hateful, loving, brutal, slanderous, and the list could go on and on.  I will assume you get the picture.  In all of this I have found a different word: gift.  The entire mess on all sides has been a series of unexpected blessings and divine intimacy.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble” (Psalm 107:2)

In the Bible Paul starts out several of his books with a sort of list of ‘credentials’.  So let me follow his lead and do that here.  I am not some casual attendee of Mars Hill Church.  Pastor Phil Smidt conducted my pre-marital counseling. Both he and his wife taught me invaluable lessons during the Preparing for Marriage classes.  They shared their lives with us, even the not so pretty parts, so that I could have a more holy and Christ honoring marriage.  Pastor Tim Gaydos married me.  I sat beneath his teaching for nearly two years.  From him I have been enormously blessed to witness what it means to be on fire for Jesus.  I was a part of Pastor Bill Clem’s flock when he served at Ballard.  From him I learned the kind compassion of the Father’s heart.  My husband and I have received counsel from Pastor Joel Brown on many difficult issues involving my husband’s daughter.  The Holy Spirit has used his calm strength to point to the balm of the cross.  My soul has found solace beneath the worshipful songs sung by Pastor Cam Huxford.  Ghost Ship has a way of stirring the Holy Spirit in my heart to lift my hands even as tears roll down my cheeks.  I have struggled through a Redemption Group led by Pastor Mike Wilkerson.  He taught me that there is neither shame nor condemnation now that I am in Christ Jesus.  A lesson I often have to remind myself of.  I have learned to be both bold and courageous for Christ through Pastor Sutton Turner as he goes on mission trips across oceans.  When I have spoken with him personally I am always reminded to stand firm for the cause of the Word.  Through my conversations with Pastor Dave Bruskas, and listening to his sermons, I am coming to understand the strength and love of the Father.  That my will and my words and my works mean nothing because only the will, words, and works of the LORD last forever.  Pastor Mark Driscoll is a man I have spoken to a handful of times and only for minutes at most.  Through him I have learned what humility, repentance, and endurance looks like.  My husband is a Community Group leader.  I Co-lead a Women’s Mid-Week Study.  I have served on the Connect Desk at the Downtown Church for almost as long as I have been attending it.

I say all of this to show that I am not unaffected by everything that is going on.  I am in the midst of it.  This is not just my Church, this is my Family.  These are not just men who teach the Word, they are my Pastors.  I am not blindly consuming each service, but I am there to serve the needs of the sheep as best as I can.  I am not immune.  My ears are not deaf.  The above paragraph is not to discount your grievances, but merely to show you that I am involved in my Church.  I actually do not want to discount, deny, nor discredit you at all …on either side of this argument.  What I want to do is thank you all.

You see I am currently suffering from an intense round of PTSD.  For those of you who have been hurt and betrayed in this I can understand where you are coming from.  A little over ten years ago I was engaged to a man who is no longer a part of my life.  I was in a car accident and I had to rely on this man to take me to the doctors, to help me bathe, to get my meds, to help me clean my house, to help me cook, and to drive me to my Physical Therapists.  I loved this man and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  What no one knew is that for six months after the car accident that man raped me daily, repeatedly, and involved me in other humiliating sexual acts.  I lived in torment for over a year with him, being sexually assaulted for another year after the six months of rape.  So I know what it is like to be betrayed.  I know what it is like to be hurt.  And I know what it is like to be damaged for years because of those things.  Like I said, I do not want to discount, discredit, nor deny any of the pain or suffering you have endured.   Trust me, I know how crappy that feels.

I want to thank you.  All of you.  Every last person who has been involved, or who has involved themselves in this mess with Mars Hill and its Pastors.  I have learned so much over these last few months.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

The ‘you’ in this is not a person.  The ‘you’ in this is not a group of people.  The ‘you’ in this is not a website or a Facebook group.  The ‘you’ in this is not even the man who tormented me all those years ago.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

The enemy of God meant to crush me, to destroy me over a decade ago.  The enemy of God is still working today to crush and destroy the children of God.  As chaos as erupted outside of Mars Hill Church and within Mars Hill Church God has been faithful to save my life through it.  The Lord has been faithful to bless me as He carries me through this valley of suffering with PTSD.  And I want to share that with you.

Through this I have learned how not to be bitter against the man who abused me.  I always thought I had forgiven him, but in watching this maelstrom around Pastor Mark I realized that my forgiveness was not complete.  I blamed the man who abused me for many things in my life.  Everything about me changed.  I now deal with people much differently.  I have put on weight to keep myself unattractive and to give me license to continue thinking myself disgusting.  I held on to all the ways he wronged me so tightly sometimes that I am surprised my fingers did not break.  I have such good, right, and justified reasons to hate this man.  I have every good, right, and justified reason to see this man suffer consequences.  He wronged me in ways I can’t describe.  I am right to be angry.  I have a right to demand justice against him!  But God …stepped in.

But God.  Those are two of my favorite words.  But God would not leave me here like this.  He used this entire mess to reach out to me, to speak to me.  But God had me listen to a sermon by Pastor Matt Chandler.  It is an amazing sermon.  Here is a section of what he said that has replayed over and over in my head these last few months.

“First, their versions of the conflict will almost always be different, and no one really wants to own anything. Everyone thinks the other person is at fault. If you start asking questions, it gets almost cartoonish. Not to make light of this scenario at all, but if the other person is 90 percent to blame and my 10 percent was how I responded to what they did, there is a common belief that I don’t have to own my 10 percent because they’re 90 percent to blame.

No, you’ve still sinned. You’ve sinned against God and against them. “Well, that sin was only a response to their sin.” It’s still sin. It’s not like God is going, “You know what? I totally get that. In fact, what I would have done…” No. In fact, God has already given us the example of what he would have done, which is initiate and forgive, engage and reconcile. Those of us who have been forgiven, how consistently do we walk in gratitude for the grace we’ve been shown by the King of glory? Not as often as we should, I can tell you that. We’re quick to forget, quick to presume upon the Lord for his grace and forgiveness, God help us.” – Pastor Matt Chandler

I am not to blame for any of the sin committed against me by that man.  But I have sinned in response to that hurt, that betrayal, and that soul shattering moment.  Whether or not that man is a Christian or will ever be a Christian is not a matter for me to consider.  God is very clear about how I am to respond.  God holds me accountable for my reactions, for He gave me His example of His perfect reaction to my own hurt, betrayal, and rebellion.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God,  who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

 

This doesn’t just go for that man, or Pastor Mark, or Pastor Dave, or your next door neighbor, or your spouse, or your best friend, or your parent.  It goes for everyone. How am I supposed to implore anyone on behalf of Christ if I do not rely upon His perfect justice?  How can I praise Him through His cleansing blood if I hold the sins of others so closely to my heart?  They are not my sins.  Jesus bought every sin ever committed on the Cross.  They all belong to Him.  As my wonderful friend Lee Brown told me a few Sunday’s ago….when I cling to the sins committed against me I am actually stealing them from Jesus.  He purchased them with His blood.  Or do I not believe that?  And if I don’t believe that …why am I worshiping Him?  I have to believe it.  Belief in His cleansing blood is the only reason for joy!

Next, I am the ‘cut and run’ sort of person.  If you had hurt me or betrayed me, or someone I care about, I simply cut you out of my life.  I had no time for it.  But God (see aren’t those beautiful words?) made me a new creation:

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

“By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” ( 2 Peter 1:4)

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10)

If it had not been for Jesus I would not be at Mars Hill Church right now.  The moment drama hit the fan I would have left because it is more convenient for me.  I would have given up on friendships and saved my heart the trouble of caring. But in Christ I am new!  In CHRIST I can forgive the man who tormented me.  I can pray for him.  I do pray for him.  I no longer wish him ill.  I do not dwell on him and what he has done to me.  Instead I painfully walk through the wreckage with Jesus and watch HIM heal and make new!!  You all, every last one of you, have helped me learn this.  I have watched you respond and I have seen all those responses to my own situation.  And God has shown Himself to me through it and in it.  Mars Hill is not Pastor Mark Discoll.  Mars Hill is not the Executive Elders.  Mars Hill is a body of believers.  Mars Hill is a church who loves Jesus.  Mars Hill is Jesus’ bride.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

Every Christian is a part of that bride.  It does not matter what church you attend, if Jesus knows you …you are part of my family.  The man who abused me could be a part of that bride.  And after all the Jesus has done for me …Jesus has done for all of you.  Who am I to shame you?  Who am I to discount your feelings?  Jesus knows them better than I do.  And I trust His judgment and His justice.  It came at the Cross and we will all fall to one side of that Cross.

“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17)

So I will not turn my back on Mars Hill.  I will not turn my back on Pastor Mark.  I will not turn my back on any of you.  I pray for you daily.  My heart is heavy for hurts I know all too well.  I do not dismiss them.  I lay them at the nail scarred feet of my Savior.  For you are my family.  God does not quit on His family, and so neither will I.  Pastor James MacDonald has an awesome sermon that spoke to me about all of this.  It is Part 1 in his How to Have Peace of Mind sermon series. In the sermon he asks a few questions that have stuck with me these last few months.  Is this dispute, this argument, this sin I am wrestling with something I will need to talk to Jesus about in heaven?  In heaven will it still matter?  When I am face to face with my Lord and Savior …do I need to point out someone and say that we need to have a sit down?  If not then I need to forgive and let it go.  You are my family, and how we are supposed to treat our family has gotten so messed up, but Jesus made it abundantly clear.  In eternity there are only two sides.

There are only two sides in any situation I will ever get into.  There is no “Mars Hill side”.  There is no “anti-Mars Hill” side.  There is no them against us.  There is no him against him.  There is no me against you.  Whatever situation you can imagine there is still only two sides.  You are either on the side for Christ, or you are on the side against Christ.  And if you are on Team Jesus  then you have only one purpose in life: to give the glory to God.  That is the only question I should ask myself.  Is my reaction to my abuser giving glory to God?  Is my reaction to my abuser pointing people to Jesus?  Is my reaction to this maelstrom around my Church giving glory to God?  Are your actions and words giving glory to God?  If I am not glorifying God and pointing people to Jesus …it doesn’t matter what sin has been committed against me …it doesn’t excuse my sin in return.  Sin is sin.  Either I am on Team Jesus or I am not.  And this entire situation has been a huge blessing in showing me how to be on Team Jesus!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23)

“’All thinks are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Lastly, my Pastor—Mark Driscoll—gave a wonderful sermon just a few weeks back about conflict.  Whatever conflict I find myself in at the end is Jesus made much of?  Or is the devil dancing?  Thank you world for bringing me this intimacy and look into how God wants me to live and treat others.  God does use all things for His good.  And I want to give you my gratitude for this blessing.

Sincerely and with a grateful heart,

Christ’s beloved servant,

Lael Barwood

Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Jesus introduces me to New Year Resolutions

I’m not the sort of person who makes New Year Resolutions.  I know there are a billion things in my life that I would love to resolve and work on, but I have never really set out the beginning of a new year with some personal goal in mind.  So to be perfectly honest I am not the person who should be giving advice on how to do that, or what to do, or even share countless success stories.  I have a very strong resolve when it comes to others, even strangers, but I have very little resolve when it comes to myself.  I would love to say it is because I am humble and selfless … now that would be awesome.  It would, however, throw out my self-proclaimed humbleness right out the window.  No, my reason is dark.  I try to make light of it often without really getting to the heart of the issue.  Even now I have had to delete several sentences.  I want to sarcastically refer to this as a ‘gift’.  But that’s wrong.  My Pastor, Mark Driscoll, has been going through the book of Malachi these last few weeks, and one of the condemnations of God against rebellious Israel is that they call bad things good and good things bad.  This really hit home for me, and I feel the desperate need to sin in this fashion.  I want to hide my sin in sarcasm, but truly it is a heart issue I have with the LORD.  In my heart I know I am accusing Him of allowing me to be given this ‘gift’.  But what does all of this have to do with New Year Resolutions and why I don’t make them?  I don’t make resolutions for myself because I don’t consider myself.

I don’t mean that flippantly, or humbly.  I don’t value myself.  I don’t find myself worthy of that sort of attention or intention or interest.  I am learning that this is a reverse form of pride because it is still about me, all about me.  It is about how I see myself, rather than how God sees me.  This is a very deep rooted sin my heart and soul. It is a sin I have to work on, but it is painful.  Those who know me know some of why I am like this, but those of you who don’t know …someone hurt me.  Before I knew Jesus I was involved with a man who abused me.  The first night he raped me I was ashamed and in so much pain.  The very next night the same thing happened, and the shame went deeper.  Then went the third night, the fourth night, the tenth night, the twenty-fifth night.  I once told people he raped, abused, and tortured me for six months.  Daily.  I didn’t see an end in sight.  But one night I ended up screaming so loud and I shattered.  I went away.  I can’t really tell you where I went because I don’t really know.  I felt like a zombie.  Something happened that night when I broke that scared him …and after that he no longer raped me with sexual intercourse.

Last year I started this process of healing.  Of walking through this with the LORD, and he is showing me things I didn’t remember, things I didn’t want to see or remember.  I didn’t break up with this man or escape this man that night.  He continued to be my boyfriend/fiancée/master/abuser for a good year and a half.  He made me do things I didn’t want to do.  And as I look back at those moments I realized I lost value in myself.  I no longer cared what happened to me physically.  I simply couldn’t care because I had no escape.  There was no end.  I hated everything about myself because there was no part of me that didn’t hurt, that didn’t feel defiled, and that didn’t feel disgusting.

When I gave myself to Jesus, and fell on my face behind His righteousness …I didn’t open that door for Him.  I had so forgotten myself that I didn’t realize there was a door there for Him to open.  My life was so riddled with obvious sin of paganism and copious amounts of sexual immorality that it was my focus to drastically change and turn my back on all that.  It has been four years of challenges and struggles to let go of all of these things.  And I by no means have it perfected yet.  This year, however …2014 … is the start of my fifth year as a Christian.  And as I read Facebook posts and internet articles about resolutions …God has knocked the wind out of me as I realized all that I am writing to you.

I don’t want to make a resolution.  It feels uncomfortable.  And that bothers me.  I don’t like knowing that I think so little of me.  And my lack of self-value affects all my relationships.  I don’t let people close, but I hunger for friendship.  I want to reach out, but when I look at my own metaphorical hand I see something twisted and dead.  And all of this is a lie.  It is a lie that the enemy has told me.  And I didn’t know how to fix that hand.  So I just focused on learning more.  In my learning through Mars Hill, each Community Group I have been to, the Women’s Mid-week Studies, and my friendships I found myself finding this door, and having to confront it.  And I don’t want to open it.  I don’t want to walk through it with Jesus.  I want to take an alternative route.  So I began to make up a list of all the reasons New Year Resolutions are stupid.

First, they are nearly impossible to keep with.  Second, I change and make improvements because of my relationship with Jesus and not because the planet earth has made one more revolution around the sun.  As a pagan the new year came at the end of October and it was all about the renewing of life.  But I am no longer a pagan so that was a notch against a New Year Resolution.  Then following that vein of thought our culture isn’t about renewing life, it is about renewing self.  How will I make myself a better version of me than last year?  So after combining all of this with all of what I shared earlier I nearly talked myself out of it.  Then the Holy Spirit happened.

I was showering and a soft voice inside me told me I was clean.  At first I was like, “Yeah duh.  Soap will do that to you.”  But the Holy Spirit didn’t allow me to be so dismissive of this profound statement.  I am clean.  For some reason I stopped and closed my eyes.  I just let the water fall over me.  As I stood there with my eyes closed (I know this will sound weird) I felt the blood of Christ washing over me rather than the water.  At first all I could do was sink to my knees and cry.  Then I heard His voice tell me to wash myself with the blood.  So I did.  I washed every inch of me without opening my eyes.  I have never felt this clean.  I thought when I opened my eyes the feeling would vanish.  It didn’t.  That statement stuck with me … Wash myself with the blood.  I thought I had.

But that is my default thinking.  I understood it as skin deep.  I had washed myself with the blood.  I had wept.  My skin actually still feels slightly raw.  The Holy Spirit kept at me.  He kept telling me to wash myself with the blood.  To be honest I started to get frustrated.  So I did the only ‘logical’ thing to do.  I began to argue with the Holy Spirit.

They are impossible to keep.  “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).  When I began on the arguments of the silliness of New Year keeping, that it was simply another night devoted to people getting drunk He spoke again.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.  (Genesis 1:14-19)

God created the years, the orbit of the earth.  We were meant to keep time, to count the years.  He designed them for us.  So why do I take such a thing so lightly?  But like with everything else we tarnished and corrupted this gift.  But I stubbornly continued to argue.  New Year Resolutions in this culture are all about us, self-improvement, self-worship. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Wash yourself in the blood of Christ” Then it hit me.  The LORD, the maker of the Heavens and the earth, the God of Jacob, the God of Isaac, and the God of Joseph, YAHWEH has shown up to wash me.  I don’t know what I was trying to confine Him to the world’s definitions of resolutions and times.  YAHWEH has come to open the door.  I have begun to do the only thing that is right.  I have begun to understand the only correct response.  I surrendered.  I surrender all to you my LORD, my King, my God, my Savior, my Friend, my Creator.

So today, the first day of the New Year, I have not made a resolution.  I have not found obedience.  I have found a New Year Supplication.  A New Year Submission.  A New Year of surrender and slavery to the Master of all things, the King of kings, and the LORD of lords.  I have found a New Year of Love.  I am beginning to understand that this door inside of me isn’t even my door.  I belong to my LORD.  I have no right to keep it closed.  I have no right to throw my sin on what He, YAHWEH, is cleaning.

What does that mean?  It means that this year I yield myself to Christ, to the will of my Father.  I want and need Him to wash me with the blood.  And what bothers me is I know I will screw this up.  He knows I will screw this up, how I will screw this up, and when I will screw this up.  I am really not in control of anything.  I am not in the driver’s seat.  I am not the co-pilot.  I am a passenger.  This year I want this.  I beg the LORD to invade me.  I know this means more changes for me.  Changes I have tried to make on my own by my own will.  This year I want nothing to do with my will, and everything to do with His will.  His might.  His power.  Nothing is impossible with my God.  This year, starting today, I want to hold onto this truth.  I want to let go of lies.

So why am I sharing this with you?  Because since that first night he raped me I have been in hiding.  Even when I became saved, and became such a radically new creature I was given a new name, I have still been hiding.  I don’t want to hide any more.  I can’t do the things that the LORD wants me to do, and be the things the LORD wants me to be if I hide.  Today I need to read and write the truth of the LORD.  This is how the LORD sees me.  This is how the LORD sees you.  And I know this has been a long post …but please stop considering yourself …and consider what God has to say about you.

I am saved by His grace! It is a gift! It has nothing to do with my performance!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)

 

I have been born again by the Holy Spirit if I believe in Jesus!

Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.‘” (John 3:5-6)

 

I am altogether new IN HIM!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

 

Because of this I am righteous and holy, and He has renewed the spirit of my mind!

and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

 

I no longer have to hide.  Darkness has no place in me!

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

 

I am God’s instrument to shine HIS light for you!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

 

For God chose me, me of all people, to proclaim HIS glory!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

 

IN Christ I am an heir to the Kingdom of God!

“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ” (Romans 8:17)

 

I did not choose Jesus.  God chose me to be a bearer of His fruit!

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)

 

In fact, god made me from the beginning of time to do HIS good works!

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

 

I have a heavenly calling!

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,” (Hebrews 3:1)

 

I am reconciled in Christ and Christ has given me a message of reconciliation!

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Who am I before God?

Today I had the honor and gift of being able to sit in the comfort of my home while listening to some awesome Bible preaching and teaching.  My Church set up the Resurgence Conference for free online streaming.  I was giddy this morning for what I would learn.  I was overwhelmed at the sight of so many Jesus loving individuals packed into my church …singing ….praying ….learning …living …and worshipping together.  It was an awesome sight to see the pews packed.  It actually brought tears to my eyes …because I want to see that every Sunday.  And today was a Tuesday.  A day generally not packed full of church goers.  I was in awe of my God blessing me with a sight I always want to see.  It truly was amazing!

What I took away from today amazes me more.  It isn’t something I have really thought of.  All the Pastors who spoke today touched on it spoke into this feeling inside of me, but it was brought home by Pastor Greg Laurie.  Is who I am when I am all alone with God the same person I am when I am around others?  The answer is no.  I am not the same person I am around my family that I am around my Community Group.  I am not the same person I am around my Community Group that I am every Sunday at my Church.  I am not any of those people when I am with only my husband.  And I am still not that person in any of those situations then when I am alone with just God.  I’m just not.  Oh sure I could give you a list of reasons and excuses to “sanatize” my choices.  But I am not going to.

As Pastor Crawford Loritts spoke of today I need to move away from that dissection and set my feet to the path of what I am going to do about it.  How can the awesome and redeeming power of the Gospel shine it’s light through me if I keep putting Yahweh’s lamp beneath a bucket?  So I am going to start with today.  By God’s sense of time this is the beginning of my Wednesday.  And I was blessed with spending the beginning of my Wednesday listening to the teaching and preaching of my Pastor Mark and Pastor Crawford a second time through with my husband.  It was a good start to my day and I find myself at peace with what the dawn will bring me.  And trust me when I say that very rarely is the case.

So who am I when I am alone with God?  At first I thought it was that I am more confident when I am alone with God than when I am around other people.  Because I often feel a mile behind everyone else, completely out of place, and the only platypus among a flock of swans.  I’m not even the same species.  So as I allowed myself to sink into this self-professed confidence before the LORD I quickly come to realize I am not all that confident.  I question myself before and around others, and even when it is just me and no one else can witness my pride …it isn’t displayed in confidence.  It is displayed in second guessing myself, doubting myself, condemning myself, beating myself up …and staying completely focused on myself rather than focusing on the very real and obvious fact that I am an infant in my faith before a timeless LORD who knew all of my sin before He laid the foundations of the world.  That’s intimidating.  It is also so completely loving and humbling that He went ahead and made me anyway just the way I am.  I can’t really wrap my mind around it.

If the last paragraph didn’t give the answer away I’ll say it plainly.  When I am alone before God I am a mess.  I realize that in most of my online social media stuffs that I am involved with I always mention that I am broken, but I don’t think I act that part out.  I keep it hidden because it makes me vulnerable and real and imperfect.  Granted I know everyone knows I am not perfect …but this is a whole other level of imperfection.  I am broken because I am a sinner …yes …but the shattered pieces of me go much deeper than what I allow anyone to really see on any sort of consistent level.  I know we are all broken from the start, when we are being knit in our mother’s womb.  I know that, and I don’t want to try and play the ‘who is more broken’ game with anyone.  I am just saying, and letting you know that my soul … my very core …is shattered to countless pieces in Jesus’ dust pan.  I know I have only allowed Him the briefest moments of times to begin gluing my pieces back together.  I know that every day that passes more of His glue will bind me together with the stickiness of the Holy Ghost.  Just run with that analogy, bypass its flaws.

I am in pain.  In an obvious way physically.  I have told some about the constant level and degree of pain that I live in.  When doctors ask about a pain level between 1 and 10 …I live normally at a 7.  When I sleep it jumps up to an 8 due to the fact I am asleep.  So generally I don’t sleep well.  It isn’t restive.  Every moment of every day I am in pain.  It isn’t a discomfort.  It isn’t bothersome or annoying.  It isn’t mild.  It is burning, stabbing, real pain.  And if you look at me it is doubtful you will see that pain.  It might show up briefly in a wince, but generally people don’t realize how much I hurt.  I don’t want you to know.  I go to great, exhaustive lengths so you don’t know.  I hurt.  All the time.  Even when I am smiling, laughing, singing, and lifting my hands to worship LORD …I am in pain.

The fact I am in pain is not the problem.  It is just how can you see the redeeming power of God for this pain, through this pain, and because of this pain … if you don’t even know I am in pain in the first place?  Hiding this thorn isn’t allowing the light of the Gospel to shine through those gaps and cracks.  Don’t worry I am not about to start whining around everyone, nor am I going to constantly complain.  I just know I need to start exploring the ways of shining the light of Christ through the lens of this agony rather than covering it up.  I know I will need to pray about this a lot, and actually talk with the LORD about this …rather than just at Him because of it.  He had the solution in an eternity before today.

My physical pain was the easy answer.  It is the low hanging fruit.  A piece higher up has to do with intimacy.  Oh I tell people I suck at it because I have absolutely no idea what it looks like and I have never really had living examples of it around me.  The part that people don’t know is that I still have PTSD.  The LORD has redeemed some shallower areas of this, but I haven’t really begun to explore the deeper side of the PTSD pool.  I’ll hug people hello, because that is a greeting.  But a strange man, or a man I am only acquainted with, better not come up to me and touch my arm.  If that happens no one will know it…..but inside I am freaking out.  And it doesn’t always have to be a man.  Touch, in general, I am not very good at.  Being married has exposed this problem in so many ways.

It is so obvious when it is between me and God that when I go out of town with my mom …and we share a bed to sleep in …I will sleep on the edge, corner of that bed so as not to touch her in my sleep.  I get on the verge of anxiety attacks if while we are laying there and the outsides of our arms touch very lightly.  Comfort be damned.  And that’s my mom.  I don’t think anyone realizes that every Sunday at my Church is a miracle of God because if it were any other space, any other place, I would be uncomfortable and looking for my way out.  And I would never go back, much less volunteer eagerly and willingly to associate with random people.  Every Sunday is a miracle in my bucket sheltered world that I can go to Church for hours, being around strangers, and feel at ease and protected while I am in God’s house.  I am in God’s house with God’s people enjoying God’s company learning God’s word.  If you take God out of that I would never go back a second time.  Trust me on this.  But how would you know this.  How can I portray that in a way that isn’t all about me, but about all of His light shining through those shattered parts of me?  And I don’t have an answer for that.  I will pray about that.  I know the LORD has the answer already.

So I am in physical pain, in PTSD to the point where I close my eyes if a commercial or image comes up involving tidy whites.  What else?  I hunger for His word, I hear His commanding voice, and I tend to ignore Him.  I won’t do this in front of others.  Before others I keep up appearances.  I listen to God, I do what He tells me to do, and I portray a somewhat sedated, rebellious, obedience.  Before other’s I choose Him.  But when it is just me and God hanging out …most of the time I will choose myself.  When I am alone with God I sit there in complete disbelief …confused …horrified shocked awe …at how shattered I have become.  I am overwhelmed by my mess.  I am at a loss over the loss the LORD and I look at in the parts of me that have become nothing more than a fine powder …dust.  And yeah, some of that is my sin …but some of that is just bits of me.  Bits of me I lost.  Core elements of me that just don’t work any more ….and so I don’t know how to function as me any more.  I know that the LORD has it all and that I am a new creation …but how does that new created me work, function, and exist?

I sometimes think I knew the answer, or answers, so I try to forge ahead.  And as a lot of my friends have babies and toddlers …my actions remind me of the baby who tries to craw for the first time…but still can’t figure out how to get their knees beneath them.  I would like to say I am a toddler learning how to run …but more often than not I am the babe who still needs to learn how to support and control my own head.  Because I don’t do that very well.  I don’t take every thought captive to the LORD.  I don’t pray on my knees as often as I should.  I don’t read my Bible as often as I should.  I don’t focus on all things that are true, good, and holy from the LORD.  I fill my head with crap, false gospels preached in TV series, or movies, or games, or books, or ect….and if I don’t control my head how can I possibly guard my heart?

Before God I am broken.  The puppet strings of the world have been cut …but that is still the habitual way, the normative way, I know how to move.  I exist beside the LORD looking at the shattered mess of me in horror ….and I don’t know what to do.  I know Jesus is where I need to start.  Jesus is my start, my middle, my end, my energy, my reason, my salvation, my joy, my motivation, my prize, my portion, and my support.  Just to name a few.  Before others I know I put on the front and face of this is who I am, this is my personality, this is where I am from, and this is what I do.  When it is just God and me …I feel less defined and more like a blob.  I am undefined as I set myself to the task of knowing deep in my core …in the spaces inbetween all the shattered pieces of me …who the LORD says I am and how He defines me.  I am learning those truths in the Bible, in the teaching of the Gospel, in the testimonies of the people around me …and I know it is true in my head.  I need it to sink and cement itself in the empty spaces between the pieces of me.  I need to sit, and think on it.  I need to take the time to sit with Jesus at His feet to chew on His words.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense.  I hope I’m not writing in circles, because I am good at that.  I just wanted to get these thoughts down.  Because good men of God spoke into my life today.  The LORD spoke to me through them.  He made me who I am before Him …and I need to allow His glory, His light, His redemptive power, and His grace to shine through my mess.  He doesn’t want me to sweep it all under a rug or the bucket just because others come around.  That doesn’t glorify God.  It glorifies me.  I’m broken.  I’m a mess.  Jesus is the neat and perfect one.  And only Yahweh can shine light through the murkiness of His followers.  It doesn’t make logical sense.  It seems foolish and folly.  But the world in its wisdom does not know God.  We can’t shine a light through dirt and murkiness.  That is a miracle.  Only the power of the LORD can do that.  Because He is that awesome.  And only HE is that good!

Eternal Manna

Last night I was feeling the tempting, and sinful pull of my various distractions.  I was feeling frustrated and despondent.  I wanted to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill.  I want to get out of the rut of depending on sleeping pills to sleep.  So my mind was coming up with all sorts of ways to ‘pass the time’ until I felt tired.  The passing of time is mostly just me escaping my life until my life is suitable and agreeable again … i.e. until I can go to sleep.  In the middle of one of my distractions I wasn’t feeling any better, any more sleepy and tired.  So I closed my eyes and prayed for help.  And in that moment I realized I just wanted Jesus.  So I went to the book of John and began to read.  Jesus helped soothe my mind by chapter 5 and I slept beautifully, soundly.

So when I got up this morning I felt well rested.  Rather than get up immediately I just spent some time talking with God.  I opened up the book of John to read chapter 6.  There is a section in this chapter that I have always struggled with.  So I can easily imagine the struggles the people who heard Jesus say these things had.  But as I read the passage this morning the Holy Spirit opened my heart and my mind … and I finally got it.  I finally understood what Jesus was saying.  So I want to write it down, to remember.  Who knows, it might help others who have struggled with this same passage.  Or you could completely disagree with me and the Holy Spirit can be working some other thoughts in your heart and mind.  Either way, considering the words of Jesus is never time ill spent.  So here is the handful of verses in John 6:25-59

                “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of god?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered hem, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now I did not grow up as a devote Jew, but I still know that cannibalism is bad.  But the crowd of Jewish people who heard this had Scripture to guide them.  There are several places in the Old Testament where God gives commands not do eat the flesh of man.  God also gives a command never to eat meat that still has life’s blood in it.  That’s not to say we can’t eat rare steaks.  But we can’t eat meat that still has living blood in it, like eating the meat off of a living animal.  The Lord expressly forbids the drinking of blood, or the consumption of life’s blood in any way.  So if I, a dumb gentile, has stumbled through this teaching of Jesus …how much more did the Jews there stumble?  The disciples themselves say that this is a hard word to understand.

Then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the beginning of John’s book.  John calls Jesus the Word of God.  Jesus is the living, breathing, incarnate Word of God.  Jesus himself says the only reason He lives is because of the Father.  Jesus emphatically and repeatedly says He is here to do the will of the Father.  His actions, His words, and His life are nothing more than the reflected will of God.  Which brings me back to Genesis, where the Lord says we are created in His image, to be His image bearers.  God the Father does not have a human form or body.  He is wholly spirit.  And if Jesus perfectly reflects that, He is not teaching about flesh and worldly things.  He is teaching about spirit things.

So how, and why, do I spiritually feed on Jesus’ flesh?  Jesus knew He was going to go to the cross.  He knew he would be beaten, scourged, and crucified.  His body, His flesh, would atone for every sin that everything and everyone has ever committed against God since the beginning of time until the end of time.  John the baptizer calls Jesus God’s atoning Lamb.  Jesus is a burnt offering to the LORD.  The perfect sacrifice.  Jesus repeatedly says this is the reason He came.  This is the very reason for His flesh.  This is the very reason He took on human form.  The only reason Jesus needed to have flesh for us to feast on is to atone for our trespasses.  So when he taught, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  He was not telling me to actually eat his flesh, He was telling me to spiritually feast on the only reason He had flesh.  I am to spiritually consume, daily, His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross.  I will get to why I know He tells me to do this daily in a moment.  I want to talk through the drinking of His blood.

The Old Testament was taught to the Jews from birth.  They knew that the Lord required blood as the payment of sin.  God said in the garden of Eden that sin would lead to death.  And God repeatedly teaches that life is in the blood.  So the only way to cover the death created by our sin is to cover it in life, to cover it with blood.  The life in the blood would wash away the stain of death.  And as I mentioned above Jesus is the perfect, sinless, spotless sacrifice.  Therefore His blood is perfect and everlasting.  Jesus calls himself the living sacrifice, which means He lives through His sacrifice.  His blood will never stop flowing, because only death can stop blood from flowing.  Jesus’ blood covers my sin.  I must continually wash myself with His blood.  The body of Christ covers my body on the outside, my flesh, in His righteousness.  The blood of Christ covers me inside, for my own blood is inside me.  His skin is my skin.  His blood is my blood.  I cannot live without either my skin or my blood.  I cannot hope to live eternally without Jesus’ skin and Jesus’ blood.

So why daily?  Because Jesus teaches me this by comparing Himself to manna.  When God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, they had no food to eat.  They feared they would starve to death.  So they cried out to the Lord and God provided.  God gives them manna from heaven.  It dusts everything around them.  The Jews were to gather it to make bread.  Good commands them to only gather as much as they need for the day.  When a few of the Jews try to gather more than what they needed that day …the manna rotted.  God was teaching the Jews how to depend on Him daily for the very basic necessity of food.  The Lord will provide.  Yet all those Jews who ate this life giving bread in the wilderness still died.  None of them are still walking around today.  That’s because the manna was a gift of bread and life.  It was not an everlasting gift of bread that would lead to an everlasting gift of life.  Manna would rot after only a day.  The Jews could not depend on manna to live.  They needed to depend on the LORD.

That is why Jesus taught, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Manna was never living.  It was a powder like substance that could be molded by human hands and turned into bread.  Eternal things are of God.  We cannot create eternal things.  We cannot alter, mold, or shape eternal things.  We are not little gods.  Jesus is saying that the Father is living, eternal, undying.  Jesus lives as the Father lives because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.  That is why we do not know where He was buried.  Jesus isn’t there any more.  Jesus is the true manna from heaven, the ever living, ever eternal manna.  And just as the Jews at the manna to live in the wilderness … I must daily consume Jesus’ atonement for me in the wilderness of this world.

I know this might be a ‘no duh’ moment for some of you.  While these are things I have known, I have never really connected them to this very hard word.  I couldn’t see past the cannibalism I thought Jesus was calling these people to do.  This was one of those passages where I thought Jesus to be a little mean by giving such a hard word to the people.  But these were supposed to be godly Jews, who went to Synagogue every week.  They were to memorize the Old Testament.  These should have been things they knew.  They just didn’t have proper teachers.  Then there is the fact that Jesus is the perfect teacher.  He does not wish me to be a parrot of facts.  He does not want me to simply remember that  1+1 = 2.   He wants me to know why, and how that addition works so that I can apply the same idea to  2+2 to come up with the answer of 4.

So this was my ah-ha moment.  I no longer stumble over this piece of Scripture.  For that I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit took the time to teach me this morning.  And I find myself content, and at peace.  In this moment I feel completely loved by the LORD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  And I am so grateful that They take the time to come spend a morning with me for a little Bible study.  I am no one doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.  But to God I am His daughter, and Jesus has time for all His children, and there is never a place the Holy Spirit cannot go or find.  Which makes me perfectly special to the LORD.  And that is a miracle I would like to never get over.

My Struggle

There are 17 days left until I walk down an aisle and vow before the LORD and all my friends and family that Jeremy is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.  We just recently got our Engagement Photos back.  They are beautifully done.  Steve does amazing work.  I would love them completely if I weren’t in them.  I can’t stand to look at myself.  And I knew this was becoming a problem as I debated on simply starving myself for the next 17 days, or eating and just throwing it all up.  I have never done either before, and it shocked me that I considered doing it now.

There are many reasons for this.  And every last one of them is Fear of Man issues.  The people who are around me all the time already know what I look like.  But there are going to be people at the wedding who have never met me before.  There are people on Facebook who I know decades ago, and that I haven’t seen since.  I fear the judgment.  I am embarrassed by the common assumptions.  And to be perfectly honest I completely hate how I look.  I am ashamed of it, even though I know Jesus took that shame away from me.

I was never the skinny girl growing up.  But neither was I fat.  I simply had curves.  I generally fit into a size 12 or 14 as I grew up.  Then once I was out of school I actually got into the best shape I had ever been in and fit into a size 8.  I was a size 8 when I met Jay.  I can’t tell you if I felt healthier than ever or more beautiful, because I honestly don’t remember.

I ran in to some of the girls from my swim team a short time into what happened to me.  I had put on a good amount of weight by then.  I remember the looks I got.  I know what looks I get now.  I don’t like those looks.  And I really hate the assumptions people make when they see anyone over weight.  I am not trying to justify how I look.  I am trying to work through it.  And hopefully, maybe, somewhere along this path I might give comfort to someone else who knows what this feels like.  Even if it isn’t the same situation; the end resulting feelings are the same.

What I am about to talk about is very honest, raw, and might make some people uncomfortable.  So I will write it in italics, so if you are unable to read it all…you can scroll down to find the place where I stop talking about what happened to me.

In 2001 I was with a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  He was sweet, caring, and understood me, even my hard to understand parts.  That year my appendix ruptured, and I spent several days in the hospital.  When they released me they advised me against having sex for a week due to the surgery, and the fact that I had a lot of my innards moved around.  Jay lasted three days; he was used to us having sex one, sometimes two, times a day.  He begged me to at least try, that I wouldn’t know if it would actually hurt until I tried.  That if I truly loved him I would try.  He promised he would stop if I told him it hurt.  I believed him.  So we tried to have sex.  I told him to stop because it hurt.  He didn’t.  I begged him to stop; he said it wouldn’t take much longer.  He raped me that night, rolled over, and went to sleep.  I cried most of that night, lying on my side.  In the morning he apologized, and promised nothing like that would happen again.  I believed him; after all I wasn’t planning on having any more abdomen surgery so this wouldn’t be an issue again.

That Sunday I was a passenger in my mom’s car when she came to visit.  She made a left turn and a car plowed into my side of the car.  I was the only one injured.  My kneecap was crushed, and I pinched three nerves in my lower back.  I couldn’t walk.  I was in so much pain.  I didn’t want to move at all.  Needless to say the last thing I wanted to do was have sex.  Not only was I not in the mood from being so physically injured, the pain that sex would cause was undeniable.  Jay, again, lasted only 3 days.  I can’t tell you how many times he raped me.  I can’t tell you how many times I was sexually assaulted in various ways.  He made me cyber with guys on the computer to ‘help get me in the mood’.

It lasted for six months.  For six months I was raped, abused, tormented, and tortured.  All by the man who helped me bathe because I couldn’t do it myself.  By the man who took me to all my doctors appointments because I had no one else.  The man who picked up my prescriptions.  My physical therapist couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  It took me six months before I was strong enough to tell him to stop.

A month in I knew it wouldn’t stop.  So I did the only thing I could, I gained weight.  Food was the only aspect of my life I had control over.  He had to help me with everything else.  So I ate.  I was unable to walk or move so gaining weight was easy.  I thought if I made myself big enough, unattractive enough, he would leave me alone.  It also helped me look on the outside as I felt on the inside.  Worthless, ugly, disgusting, and completely unlovable.  If I couldn’t stand to look at me, how could he?

After I escaped that relationship I was completely broken.  I was a robot, void of soul and emotions.  I did what I was supposed to to pay rent.  I went through the motions, but I wasn’t at all in my body for five years.  In those five years I didn’t want anyone near me.  I didn’t want anyone touching me. I didn’t want anyone close to me.  The weight seemed to do that.  People looked at me differently.  They kept their distance.  So I didn’t try to correct this problem, I made it worse.  If I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin, how could anyone else stand to be near my skin?

Five years later I was brutally woken up when a strange man touched me.  I had a complete melt down that involved scratching most of the skin off my arm where I was touched.  I finally had to tell someone what had happened to me.  No one knew.  Not my mother.  Not my father.  Not my best friend.  Granted I lost most of my friends due to the fact for the last six years I secluded myself away into my own little world where people on the outside simply didn’t exist.

I saw a rape counselor.  I went to group sessions.  I learned that I would always feel broken.  That my soul would always be shredded.  That he stole something from me that I would never get back.  I believed all of this because that is exactly how I felt.  Despite trying to get better mentally and emotionally … I kept the weight on.  Despite having a membership to a gym and access to a pool.  I didn’t want to lose the weight.  By that time it was my security blanket.  It kept people at bay.  No one could hurt me again; no man would rape me again, as long as I continued to look as I looked.  I was safe.  No one would get close to someone who looked like me.

This lasted a year before I went to Massage School.  I wanted to learn how to touch people again, and to be touched again.  It was impossibly hard for me to go through.  I never told anyone at the school how I wanted to vomit every time someone touched me.  I don’t think anyone could understand how it made me feel powerful that I could touch something and elicit a response … even if it was simply relaxing … and not have to give any response of my own.  I learned how not to engage in touch, how to keep my bubble up.  Massage School taught me how to be a wonderful massage therapist…but I warped some of that teaching into how to further keep me emotionally separated from my body.

I told myself, then, that I was ready to lose weight. I was ready to shed this shell of protection.  But the truth is … I wasn’t.  I didn’t want intimacy. I didn’t want people close to me.  I used their judgments and their looks as weapons, reasons, to keep myself locked away from all the hurt people cause.  I wanted physical touch, but I didn’t want to feel anything about it. I didn’t want it to mean anything.  And I found a comfortable way, a known way, to do that.  My lifestyle fit my needs perfectly.

Then along came a man who turned my world upside down.  Somehow he managed to become more important than my fears, more important than my doubts, and more important than my self-loathing.  My desire to know Jeremy came with a twist I didn’t expect.  Jeremy introduced me to Jesus.  Everything changed.  Everything is still changing.  Some things I still struggle with.  My weight is one of them.

For the first time I wanted to connect with someone on an emotional, intimate level.  I began to earnestly want to lose weight.  Life has a way of interrupting that.  I got cancer.  Then after I got cancer I injured myself at work in a way that left me unable to walk for 2 years.  An injury I am still dealing with and one that has left me with only the pool to work out in.  Needless to say up until recently I haven’t been able to lose weight.  I did have a lot of time to get to know the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now Jeremy and I are getting married, and I haven’t lost the weight I wanted to.  I am nowhere near the size 8 I was before what happened.  I still can’t stand to look at myself.  I am terrified of what people will think.  I am embarrassed by the judgmental looks I get when we go out.  I hate my body.  Steve took beautiful pictures of us.  Pictures of my future husband and myself; and I can’t even stand to look at myself.  I want to stab the part with me, scratch out my face, and just keep the part with Jeremy.

I am struggling, bad, with seeing myself as God sees me, as His daughter.  My wedding dress is beautiful, but I cry because of the size.  I cry because people will see the fat shape I morphed myself into to keep me safe.  How can anyone see me, when I can’t even see myself in my reflection?

I know this is my own pride and vanity.  I know it is my own sin.  I am praying and begging the Holy Spirit for help in this.  Because I know I can’t change how I see myself on my own.  I try to repent by telling myself how God sees me.  But I only feel stupid in saying it.  I feel like I am lying to myself, which I know is a lie.  But this doesn’t make it any easier.  I want to be able to look at those beautiful pictures and not want to cry.  I want to be able to look at my wedding photos and not feel horrific shame at how I look.  I want to feel only love and excitement over those pictures.  But I don’t know how to get there.

I need help.  I need prayer.  I am not sure if anyone around me realizes how deeply this goes.  How strongly it affects me.  It is a big deal to me.  I don’t want to get an eating disorder.  I don’t want to break every mirror I come across.  I don’t want to burn my beautiful engagement photos or my wedding photos.  I am struggling, bad.  And I hate writing all of this.  I want to be able to say I am comfortable and confident in my skin.  But I am not.  I am disgusted and ashamed.

I know I am going to the pool, and I am losing weight.  I know it will happen eventually.  But I don’t want my self-image to depend on my weight.  I don’t want to teach that to my children.  I don’t want to feel like this between now and then.  And I don’t want to hate my wedding day because everyone is looking at me … seeing me … and all my fat.

So please, pray for me, over these next 17 days.  I really need help for the Holy Spirit to really dig out these lies, to pluck out my own eyes so I can see myself with God’s eyes.  I know it will probably take more than 17 days; but maybe it will be a little less severe.  Our LORD can do miracles.  I just … I need a lot of help, encouragement, and support.  And rather than hiding this as I normally do … I am taking the chance of exposing myself.  May it help you, as much as it will help me.  I know all women have body image issues.

LORD, Abba Father, Brother Jesus, Holy Ghost … please help me.

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