Friday, May 25, 2018

#Churchtoo

Ephesians 5:13 says, “but their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.”

For years I have been resting and trusting in this verse. For the past nine years, I’ve waited for the issue of spiritual abuse to be exposed. Especially spiritual abuse within the churches. 

For me, all of these issues with Paige Patterson have hit home. I experienced Spiritual abuse first hand by my home church which sits a little over 4 miles from the seminary. In fact, many of the staff members at that church had gone to Southeastern Seminary and several faculty members attended there as well. Not to mention the countless seminary students attending the church. 

The beliefs of Paige Patterson have truly helped me to understand more of what I went through and why. I sat under the leadership of men who had attended that seminary where the belief system was that women were inferior and that abuse was acceptable if it meant leading someone to Jesus. I sat under leadership that told me that I needed to submit more, pray more, read my Bible more, and have more sex because what was happening (the abuse) was my fault.  And because they were my leaders, I did exactly what they said. Even at the expense of feeling like a prostitute. A feeling that I shared with the leaders because I couldn’t understand why I was supposed to be intimate with someone who dishonored me in many ways. 

I was under the leadership of men who threw their weight around and used scripture to control me.  Men who instead of helping me, accused me of adultery because that was easier. Men who told me that God didn’t communicate with me because I didn’t go to seminary and because I was a woman. Men who stood in my home and yelled at my mother telling her to shut up when she tried to speak up at the pastor who was in my face yelling.  A leader who claimed that his yelling was a form of righteous anger making it okay.  Leaders who after threatening me with a letter of discipline if I did not do what they said then followed me to the new church I was attending to tell them that I was an adulterer and liar.  Leaders who told all of those in my circle that I was in a whirlpool of sin and they were no longer to associate with me.  Leaders who sent me a letter saying if I ever stepped foot on the church property again, the police would be called. (That in and of itself is a whole other story.)

I was abandoned, belittled, shamed, and tossed aside. I was made to feel like I had done something wrong. I had no support from the church that I had served in for almost 10 years. A church that I had given so much of my time to faithfully.  I was left feeling rejected and shamed and in the end, made the decision to leave the church altogether.  For me, if this is who God was, if He found the way I was being treated to be acceptable and He viewed me this way...as having no value or worth other than an instrument of leading somebody else to Jesus at the expense of my safety and health…then I didn’t want anything else to do with God or the church. 

Like many others, I have patiently waited for this day to come when God would expose the darkness hidden in so many churches. The darkness of pride. Men who find it necessary to demean women and use the gospel to do so. 

But again, all of this information that has come about regarding Paige Patterson has helped me to better understand the sinfulness of man. To understand why this happened to me and many others. It doesn’t make the hurt go away but it helps to validate the experience we each had and to know it wasn’t our fault. That these men believe these things. That God had given them some kind of priveledge that I was not granted. They were made to believe that God would never speak to me because I was a woman. Because I did not go to seminary. 

When I look back on it now it is completely ridiculous.  It’s completely ridiculous that I ever allowed a man to make me feel such rejection and shame. It’s ridiculous because now I understand scripture. Because now I understand truth. Because now, after living in the dark for so long under the teaching of men that have been taught wrong, God showed me the light.   Because now I know how Jesus viewed women. That Jesus chose the woman at the well to share with her whole town about who He was. That it was at Simon’s house where He praised the woman who sat at His feet and washed them with her tears. That he stood by the woman being accused of adultery and instead of accusing her, pointed the finger back at her accusers. Now I look back and feel sadness for these men because I understand the accountability that now falls upon their shoulders. 

Over the last few years God has revealed countless other women who were a part of that church who were treated the exact same way. I was not alone.  And there are moments when that leaves me feeling relieved because then I know I’m not alone however it creates so much sadness in my heart to think of the countless other women who have had to walk that road like I did.  Someday these men will be held accountable for the harm that they caused. That they had a responsibility as leaders, as godly leaders to defend and protect those being oppressed and instead chose not to.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not one to take revenge. I truly believe that vengeance belongs to God. And in many of my life situations I’ve done my best to react with grace and wait for God to right the wrong that has been done. I believe that time has come. And I believe that someday, if it hasn’t happened already, those men who hurt me and many others, will be held accountable for the choices they made and the way they used their power and scripture to abuse women.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you're honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the Lord. 

                   Romans 12:17- 19


Disclaimer... This is not just an issue of Southern Baptist churches. Spiritual abuse occurs across multiple denominations from Episcopalian to Southern Baptist. Scripture is used continuously to bully and control individuals. It does not matter your denomination, your race, your gender or what translation of the Bible you use...I believe it occurs because of the sinfulness of man and the power of pride.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pursuit


https://fiercemarriage.com/
About a month ago I stumbled upon this book set on Facebook and decided to order it. For the past 27 days Matthew and I have been working through these books and they are a game changer. 

I’m not typically one to get on and endorse a certain book or form of counseling, however… Matthew and I spent a year in counseling that left us more confused than when we started but these books  and what they are teaching us are doing something that counseling could not. 

If you have been following us for the past year you know we have been struggling. Between a brain injury that has created a new norm in our home and our inability to figure out how to navigate the new norm we had just about lost hope. 

In December, if you came to our vow renewal, you heard Matthew talk about how we like to keep things real. We are two people who are crazy in love with each other but we struggle. Granted our real struggles did not truly begin until after Matthew’s accident but our struggles have been great and oftentimes felt impossible. Our hope in sharing and being transparent has been that of wanting to help others who might be losing hope. We both came from difficult marriages and learned a lot from those marriages. We’ve come to truly appreciate our marriage and what we have and how blessed we are to have it. We want people to know that marriage isn’t easy. Life can make it even more difficult. For us when one of you deals with anxiety and CPTSD from an abusive marriage and the other a brain injury from an accident…you’re almost destined to fail. But that is where these books have come in to play.

I grew up surrounded by a lot of good people and saw a lot of good marriages. However what I have learned from this book in the last month has been life-changing for me.  There was a lot I didn’t see growing up. It has taught me to be more selfless. It has taught me to be a different kind of wife than I was before.   It’s taught me that I can change the atmosphere of my marriage by loving like Jesus. What a concept! 

Matthew and I have not really struggled with typical marriage issues. We’ve been one another’s best friend from the get go, and have never really argued about spending time together, intimacy, or had issues over money. Instead we were hit by an event we had no control over which changed our lives drastically. We’ve had to learn how to relate to each other in a whole new way. It is been a lot of hard work. There has been a lot of tears shed. But imagine my surprise when I began going through this book, which pointed me to Jesus first and my husband second, that changed everything!  Each day the book begins with a new day that points us to Jesus first and then gives us practical advice for marriage, and then a fun, serious or romantic (selfless) challenge for us to complete each day for one another. 

We have enjoyed going through this book so much that we decided to go through it again when we finish because we are continuing to work at making our marriage better. And because each day is a great reminder of the place we hold in the life of the other and the responsibility we have as wife and husband. 

I don’t know where you are in your marriage. I don’t know if everything’s great or if you’re looking at everybody else’s marriage wishing you had one like that.  Either way.... this book opens new doors because it points to Jesus and He is a life-changer! 

I know we still have a ways to go and things to work out.  Things are not perfect but they are progressing. It truly is amazing what can be accomplished when we turn things over and trust God‘s hand instead of our own. 

If you’re interested in purchasing these books please visit this website https://fiercemarriage.com/.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Desires, Dreams And Disappointments

A year ago Matthew and I decided to turn off phones, and put away social media for an entire month. We decided to totally focus on nothing but God, our marriage and working to restore what had been broken. Ephesians 3:20 was the verse God gave us as we were choosing to place our trust in Him and that He could do far more than we were able to ask or think of Him. It was a difficult time. A difficult 30 days. We had people who didn’t understand what we were doing and we had those who totally supported us, who prayed with us, who sent scripture or prayers.  It was a battle but it was a time where our faith (and our marriage) was tested.

It’s been a year since that challenge and I would like to say that everything is better…but they are not. There have been many disappointments but there have also been a lot of happy moments.

That month taught me a lot about my marriage, about myself, and about the people we surround ourselves with. A year later we are still working through challenges. Right now we are, much like last year, are working to trust God through the unknowns. And right now we’re doing a study and going through a book together which is supposed to draw us closer to God which then draws us closer to one another. It hasn’t been easy. I often feel like giving up, but as usual, God shows up.  

Today’s reading in our devotional is from Psalm 37:4-5. It talks about delighting yourself in God and God giving you the desires of your heart. These past two years have been incredibly difficult. My hearts desire has been to have my husband back. To wish away an accident that feels as if it took him from me. To undo the hurt and damage that it has caused.  But I’m slowly realizing that maybe God has something different in store.  

“What does it mean to “delight yourself in the Lord?” How exactly will “He give you the desires of your heart?” The first part is more intuitive: delighting in the Lord simply means loving Him more than anything or anyone. The second question isn’t as easy to answer, but let’s try. 

When we delight ourselves in God, He occupies His correct place in our lives as King, Savior, and Provider. Absolutely nothing matters more than He does, and when that’s the case, we only want what God wants. His sovereign desires overtake our fleshly desires- they’re instilled deep in our hearts and radiate outward into tangible action. God’s act of giving us the desires of our hearts involves Him graciously redefining what we care about as He transforms our hearts from the inside out. Then, as our will aligns with His will, our desires are fulfilled. 

Pursuing the dreams and desires God has placed in your heart as a married couple can be a beautiful journey of learning how to trust God. When we rest in the knowledge that He is more than able to do far more than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) our vision is big but our burden is light. He will never disappoint. We need only stay the course and walk and live securely in Him, all the while trusting in His divine plan more than our own.” 

-Selena Frederick
Wife in Pursuit

This time last year I was praying and asking God to teach me how to know Him in a new way. To trust Him to do things that I never thought possible. To become my everything. And this morning as I read from the (excerpt) devotion above, my heart was convicted all over again.  

Sometimes God allows bad things to happen so that we can find and experience Him in ways that we never thought possible. That in our brokenheartedness we get to know Him in ways we never thought possible.  It’s also the realization that sometimes we don’t realize how much we need Him until we have been broken or crushed.  But God knows. He knows just what we need, and even though it might hurt, He’s willing to allow what needs to be done in order for us to truly have the desires of our heart.


Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 

- Psalm 37:4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 

- Psalm 34:18



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lose my worries in Your love

Last night with face to the floor and tears streaming down my face I spent half an hour crying out to God. Searching for Him in the darkness and asking for Him to reveal Himself in ways I’ve never experienced. I had reached a place of total brokenness with the realization that there is nothing I need but Him. His perfect love. His perfect peace. His comfort. His arms. 

As I sat on the bathroom floor I prayed for His presence. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill me completely. That there would be nothing left of me. That He would strip every piece of me away and replace it with His love, His grace and His peace. This morning as I was sitting at my desk at work I texted my daughter. Moments later she responded to my text  and then followed it up with this text with another song I needed to hear. 




Here in the presence
Elevation Worship

 Here I Lay My burdens down 
Lose my worries in Your love 
Casting every care on You 
I have carried them enough

We are not alone 
Here within His love 
Emmanuel 
He is still with us

When the world becomes too much 
Near The Cross I will remain 
Until every fear is stilled 
At The Mention Of Your Name

Tired of running, running 
Be still and know He's in control 
Here in the presence of the Lord

 Pour out your heart before Him 
Open your arms He'll hold you now 
Here in the presence of the Lord


What an amazing morning! God could not have shown up in any bigger way than through my daughter. He totally made Himself known to me and for the first time in a long time, I feel like He heard my cry.

Sometimes we pray and ask God for something specific and we don’t always get an answer. Or sometimes we can’t hear His voice through the chaos. And then other times, like this morning, He makes His presence known and let’s you know He hears your cry. 

There is nothing greater than knowing you are in the center of God’s will for your life. There is peace in the darkest valleys when you know He is with you. I’ve been missing that. Had somehow wandered away but each day I am learning all over again how to walk in those valleys and to trust His hand and voice to guide me.  

Whatever His plan, whatever darkness may come, we can always have hope. We can know that He will never leave us and will always be there to guide us through the valley.

 When you go through deep waters, 
I will be with you. 
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. 
When you walk through the fire of oppression, 
you will not be burned up; 
the Ffames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Faith Crisis

Almost two months ago, I declared to my husband that I was finished with God and all this religion bologna.  I was angry and hurt and for me, God was the reason for all my pain.  

I had just sat through another Sunday sermon listening to a pastor go on and on about how we should read the Bible, be a part of a community of believers, go to church and pray daily.  I had spent the past two years doing these things fervently but to no avail was anything happening.  My life and marriage was crumbling around me and I was done!

That afternoon I shared with my husband that I could no longer put my “trust” in this “God stuff.”  I could no longer trust that some great purpose existed in all the pain I was experiencing.  Instead I professed all the religion stuff as nonsense and vowed to figure out on my own what came next in my life.

But God had other plans.  Funny how He works that way.

It all started with one line from a song we happened to sing that morning in the church service when I decided I was done with church.  We sang the song Remember and for whatever reason…I could not get the line “All through the struggle, and darkest days, I’ll remember the empty grave.”  Those words played on repeat in my head.  The more I attempted to push them away, the stronger I could hear them.  Frustration set deep within.  And then two days after that sermon, one of my closest friends sent a text suggesting we do a study on fear and anxiety together.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her just yet that I was done with this religion stuff and ignored her text.  But two days later, after days of that song ringing through my head and on Valentines Day, I sent her a text that simply said, “I’m in.”   Even in this moment, I’m uncertain as to why I agreed.  I just remember picking up my phone and typing the words. 

Two days after Valentine’s Day, my husband and I set out on different “vacations.”  It was the first time ever we took separate trips.  Even against the advice of our counselor who had told us months before that she did not recommend such action in the state in which our marriage stood, we did it anyway.  And what a mess we created.  By the time I returned home, I felt completely broken, hopeless and even more distant.  I was certain our marriage had finally seen its last days.  

Ten days from the day we had set out on our “vacations,” the study began.  A few days prior to beginning this study, as a last ditch effort, I asked my husband if we would do the study with me and he agreed.  I need to add that this wasn’t your normal Bible study.  This particular study is one in which you are given a passage daily and pretty much break it down into your observation and application of the passage.  So each day we were looking at a passage of scripture and really meditating on what it had to say.  The first few days I struggled to read the passage and even more to put pen to paper.  As for my husband, he didn’t even do the first couple of days.  I was discouraged.  I felt like I was wasting my time.  But as the week came to a close, my heart was beginning to soften and my husband had completed the weeks worth of passages. 

Over the course of the last six weeks, our marriage has been tested.  But God has pursued us both.  Over the course of the last six weeks, we have wanted to give up, but God has shown up. We have seen Him through a passage of scripture we were given in the study deal with us right in that moment and then realize God knew in that moment we would need the reminder. And we have been totally overwhelmed by His sovereignty as the passages from our study lined up directly with a book by Max Lucado we are reading together. God has not left us alone to figure this out but instead made Himself known, reminding us that He is holding us in His hands and close to His heart.   

Today is the final day of this study and what a whirlwind the last six weeks have been.  Through the enormous stressors of trying to move, completing school work and caring for my family, life has been a ridiculous roller coaster.  Emotions have been high, anxiety deep and patience tested.  But we have prevailed.  The last six weeks have been a transformation of sorts.  God has clearly been working in my heart and the heart of my husband.  Priorities have shifted.  Attitudes and hearts have softened. Forgiveness and grace extended. The realization that we have been given a “thorn in the flesh” so that we learn the sufficiency of God’s grace has brought humility.  We together have grown closer to one another and closer to God because we do not have all the answers. 

Today our last passage for this study was Proverbs 3:5-8.  It is one of the very first passages (Proverbs 3:5-6) that I had my kids memorize when they were little.  It holds such a place of significance in my life and could not have revealed God to me in any greater way this morning as I read it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

                         Proverbs 3:5-6

There is a worship song my daughter introduced to me months ago that I have listened to countless times over the course of the last few months.  It is called Reckless Love.  And the chorus says…

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights til I'm found, leaves the 99 
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, you give yourself away 
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, Reckless Love of God

And that is exactly where I am.  Found!  He chased me down, and as the tears stream down my face while I type these words, I know I couldn’t earn or even deserve His love but I am so incredibly thankful for His reckless love and the way He has fought for me and my marriage!