forgiveness

When the Church Fails Us {Forgive}

One of the most harmful things we as Christians can do, is to invalidate someone else’s religious experience, especially those that have been life altering for someone else. We need to remember that the Bible is a guide – it’s a helper, but it is not a replacement for God. We each experience God in our own way. Sometimes we are challenged by other Christians to examine our own beliefs, and that is a good thing. It can strengthen our faith, if we let it, and make us more open to new ideas.

Many Christians have left churches that were too political, too judgemental, too liberal in beliefs, and too harsh and stodgy in their beliefs. We are tearing the Kingdom of God down, rather than building it up. Each of us has, at one time or another had a part in this, even those of us who have left churches for these very reasons. It’s time to examine the log in our own eyes, before we look to the splinters in our brothers and sisters eyes.

Ask yourself today, how am I sharing God’s love and mercy with others? Am I acting justly, extending mercy and walking humbly with my God or do I need to ask God to forgive me and help me change my ways?

It’s a daily process and a daily choice we must all make. There is no “one way” to experience Christ. This is why God made each of us special and unique. We all bring something awesome to the table. We need to learn to recognize and utilize our God-given gifts for the greater good of humanity, so that instead of tearing others down, we can bring out the best in each other. This honors God.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:2 (The Message)

When we are hurt by other Christians (and it will happen), we can remember that this is not what God has intended for us, and we can pray for our debtors, instead of becoming angry and seeking revenge. Many times, I’ve wanted to put my debtors on blast on the internet, and many times I have refrained. Unfortunately, sometimes I have gone ahead and said terrible things, but I have always regretted them. I have always known that what I did was sin, and it may have led another Christian to sin. I can assure you, this is not  good feeling. Don’t do it.

God asks us to love each other, even our enemies. This is hard, especially when you’ve been betrayed by someone you trusted, like a Pastor, Priest, Bishop, Deacon, or anyone else working within the church. Many of us tend to place our religious leaders and fellow Christians in a whole different category, elevated above the rest of the world, and this is so dangerous for us to do. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes from time to time. I agree that as Christians we should hold our clergy to a higher standard, but with that, we also need to remember to pray for their spiritual welfare more often and to provide for their needs, as they provide for ours on a daily or weekly basis. Spiritual leaders can enter into burnout fairly quickly, and are tempted in the same or similar ways as you and I are, yet they’re more publicly recognized. Stop and take a moment to consider how difficult that must be, especially in the midst of a personal storm.

It is hard for those of us who have felt betrayed to reach out and love, or even trust again, but it is important that we try. I’ve been on both sides of a rich and loving Christian experience, and I have to say, I’d rather be in the midst of a storm with helpers, than go through another storm alone.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

***Update 03/12/14: This is something I’m needing to re-read myself, as I’ve just encountered a week of bullying and harassment from a church member. I know it’s hard, brothers and sisters, but we must forgive each other. We know not what we do when we harm another.

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benice
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Gone too young {Suicide}

beniceA few weeks ago, my very young cousin, Andrew* took his own life. While Andrew was only 23, in some ways, he was much older. Andrews mother was at war with cancer for most of his life. She aggressively fought many battles against cancer, and a few years ago, she lost the war. This loss hit Andrew very hard. I too know the pain of losing someone close to you (though it was not my mother) and I can empathize with Andrew. The death of a loved one can bring you to dire straits and it is very, very hard to move on without them.

Andrew’s suicide brought out more emotions in me than I was prepared to deal with. The news of his suicide hit me square in the heart. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut and I was struggling to stand upright. My heart has been heavy for weeks. You see, I had my own bout with suicide attempts as a teenager and as a young wife. Each time I woke up, I was very angry that I was still alive. How dare someone force me to live a life I never wanted?

I understand now.

Suicide is a selfish, self-centered permanent end to a temporary problem. It leaves behind hundreds of mourning loved ones who have no answers, but carry the heavy load of blame and guilt.

“What if I had just said…”

“He called me once for help and I should’ve…”

“I thought something was off, but I ….”

And more. There is so much more that each of the survivors carry. Guilt they may never speak of, for fear that it may be true. But, it isn’t true. This is a choice that Andrew made for himself, and that is something that we all need to remember. Andrew knew that this is what he wanted, even if he didn’t understand the consequences when he pulled the trigger on that gun.

That may sound harsh to you, but remember, I’ve been on the side that Andrew has been on. I understand the basics of the journey to the point where suicide seems to be the only option, and I remember precisely the amount of selfishness and anger necessary to shut out the rest of the world and develop a “damn the world” attitude. I remember pulling my own trigger of sorts, and I remember feeling relief when I fell asleep, thinking it was all over. I understand how Andrew got to that point, and I even understand to a point, why he felt it was the only way. This isn’t a popular viewpoint amongst my family right now, but it’s still a valid one, especially for my own healing. I was very, very lucky. I’m still here. I failed. I wish Andrew had failed, too. I wish he had never known the kind of pain that drives someone to thoughts of suicide in the first place. I wish he and I had known each other better. Maybe I could’ve spoken Life to him? (There I go…survivor’s guilt.)

I feel a responsibility, as someone who has failed at multiple suicide attempts, to speak the truth – to speak life to anyone who has been on either side of “the ledge” and to offer some wisdom and strength. You can’t make someone listen to you. If they have it in their heads that this is what they’re going to do, nothing you say or do will pull them down. They have to pull themselves down. You can wait patiently for them on the sidelines, remind them of their responsibilities and blessings here on earth, and you can speak Love to them, but you cannot decide for them whether or not they will in fact “jump”. You also have to decide whether or not you’re going to take that chance, knowing that they may jump no matter what you say. They have to decide whether or not to listen. You don’t decide that for them, no matter how loudly you scream, or how much you love them.

For those who are on that ledge, fight. Get angry. Yell at the walls, yell at the wind. Punch a pillow and yell at that. Tell the universe how much it sucks and how much you hurt. Act a little (or a lot) crazy and do what I did. Go in the bathroom, shut and lock the door, and yell at the walls about how much you hurt, how unfair life is, and how nothing works out for you. Tell the walls to go fuck themselves. Say it again, and picture the person you’re really mad at. Start yelling at the image of that person. Yell until you can’t yell anymore. And then just start crying. You’re going to need to cry, a lot. And that’s OK! Remember, you’re alone in that bathroom, the door is closed, and you need this. You have to get this anger out, or it will consume you. You cannot get on that ledge. You cannot take that bottle of pills in your cabinet. You cannot pick up that gun. In fact, flush those pills down the toilet. NOW. It doesn’t matter if they’re not yours. Get rid of them. NOW. Throw them out a window, in the trash, in the hall. Get them out of your sight. If it’s a gun, get rid of it, right now. A knife/razor/whatever you’re using to hurt yourself – get rid of it NOW. And keep yelling. If you have to go in that bathroom every day and yell, do it. Don’t come out until you’re weak from crying and yelling. If you have roommates or children, I’ve found that whisper yelling works just as well, though you’ll need a large glass of water afterwards.

It’s not silly. It’s life. And whatever is hurting you, it has to come out. You may not know the words to use, but I’ve found that by simply yelling every word, every insult imaginable, I’ve found my voice and I’ve discovered over time the words to use. I’ve also discovered that I’m not really alone in that bathroom after all. Jesus has been there with me all along, with His arms around me, loving me in the middle of my “hate sessions”. He’s listened, and He’s healed me. He’s offered me His strength, and His comfort. And when others have thought I was nuts, Jesus knew the truth all along and He brought me through that. I was never alone in the bathroom, and I pray you know that Truth, too. You are never alone.

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Had I completed suicide at 16, I never would’ve had this wedding

militarylife

Had I completed suicide at 23, I never would’ve survived military life and lived to tell about it. It was hard, but I found strength in surviving it.

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Had I completed suicide at any age, my daughters would not exist. They impact the world (not just mine!) in many positive ways, spreading sunshine and happiness wherever they go.

Everyone needs a safe place to unload their pain. For some, it’s therapy. Honestly, I had so much therapy before I was even ready for it, that I learned too early on how to manipulate it and use therapy to my advantage to gain sympathy for issues I never had, so that I could cover up the serious stuff I was really going through. I used therapy to mask my true pain. This is a truth both sides need to know about. Therapy isn’t for everyone, even Christian therapy. I manipulated that too, even as an adult. It took about a year and a half of those bathroom “hate sessions” for me to even figure out what was going on in my own life. Once I faced the truth and stared it down, I was able to move on. But I had to make that choice for myself. I chose to do it for several reasons, some of which are noble and some of which aren’t. But the point is, I made the choice and I’m now looking forward to a life of more choices, rather than having ended my own life and my ability to choose for myself what I will and will not accept.

I will not accept negativity. I may come off as a hard ass to some, but I’ve fought a hard battle and wanted to die more times than anyone except Jesus knows about. I’ve won this war, and I’m going to continue winning every battle. I’m here to stay. I’m here to offer you some of that strength I had to beg, borrow and bleed for. Take it. And know that you are more than whatever battle you’re fighting today. You are so completely worth the effort your friends, family, teachers, loved ones put into you. You’re worth the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, too. You are so much more than you ever thought. I hope someday you punch the devil in the nose and steal that strength back from him, so you can see it, too.

*Andrew was not his real name, but for privacy of the family, I have changed his name.

Internet Accountability

Can you post your entire internet browsing history online at this time? Can you post it to your Facebook, even if your Pastor, boss, parents, partner, kids and other family members are friends of yours? Can you say that you are honestly proud of the sites that you have visited recently? And finally, can you say that the sites you’ve visited lately have improved your quality of life in some way?

These are the hard questions we need to ask ourselves, no matter what age we are. If we feel the need to hide things, why? Are we ashamed of what we are doing? Do we not want someone to find out?

When I am under stress, I am tempted to go places and do things I should not do. I am tempted to spend money I do not have, and I am tempted to look at pictures and people I do not need to be associating with. To combat this, I’ve found that by giving my spouse access to every account I have, I am no longer tempted to do stupid things.

We all have sins and temptations that we struggle with. On a daily basis, I’m struggling with greed, gluttony and envy. I also struggle with discontentment and I become discouraged easily. I don’t have to live this way, and neither do you!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

 

Browsing History

This is my browsing history for 2/3/14

 

God sees my struggles, and He sees yours, too. The most powerful scripture I have read lately is this:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

The word of the cross is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. We are not alone. We are not fighting battles in our own strength.

Wherever you are, whatever battle you are fighting…God be with you. In Jesus’  Name. Amen.