Saturday, April 19, 2014

Not What You See

It’s Easter weekend – and for me it is still a conflicting time. The significance of Easter is much deeper than baskets of Cadbury eggs, ham dinners, and annual visits to church. It is the time during which the Good Shepherd was tortured, murdered, buried, and resurrected within three days. He experienced unbelievable abuse, shame, humiliation, betrayal, rejection, and physical heartbreak. He was blamed for doing things He did not do. He died a death for a crime He did not commit.

It is also a time that memories of my past as a SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) survivor starts penetrating my mind. Thoughts of being taught that Satan is God and that the God of the Bible is a weak God. That Satan won the victory when he killed Jesus at the cross, and that Jesus is dead now. Remembering how they mocked the Lord’s Supper and made a mockery out of Christ’s Resurrection. Sometimes saying that Jesus was present at the rituals and approved of them. Their purpose was to control and destroy my life through a systematic dehumanization of my soul.

I have healed a lot and come a very long way in my recovery of abuse, but I still am very anxious when Easter starts to approach and I feel myself starting to go through the motions to just to get through it as quick as possible. I have seen that the power of the Good Shepherd is greater than the power of Satan and I have overcome the spiritual problems and broken the programming of my mind. I am NOT afraid of the Good Shepherd anymore and I am NOT afraid to go to church. But I feel like my soul is still not connecting to what the true meaning of Easter is.

My daughter will be thirty years old on Easter Sunday this year. Thirty years ago she was born on Good Friday. I remember when she was born being so afraid to let her leave my sight for fear she would be taken. I was calling the nurses station all the time wanting to know if she was still there. I am sure they thought I was mentally unstable, but I always remembered being so afraid she would be taken from me. It wasn’t until years later in my healing I realized why I was so afraid. In the cult human sacrifices are performed throughout the Easter holidays. These Satanic ritual killings begin on “Good Friday” and continue through Easter Sunday.

I have been praying a lot as this Easter approaches. What does the Good Shepherd want me to know and feel about Easter. I don’t want to continue to just get by during this holiday and feel nothing. I came across this scripture the other day in my reading and as I read it I really felt it was time to write about my struggle with Easter. Ephesians 5:11-13NLT says: Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them. What happened to me was certainly evil and dark and I am tired of that overshadowing my ability to celebrate Easter.

This week as I was playing for communion at our church’s Maundy Thursday service, I was glad I was playing the piano so I did not have to partake in the communion. I still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and try to think about something else, but this time was different. I felt the Good Shepherd say to me, “trust me. I have healed every foul thing that has ever touched your lips.” I do believe that the Good Shepherd can only heal what we give to him. So, am I willing to give Him my struggle with Easter? Am I willing to let Him remove the stinger that is still there from the trauma I experienced so it can be healed and is no longer painful to look back on?

Healing is being able to take a step forward, no matter how tiny and even if it is only in my heart.

Healing is being able to face some aspect of the past…without completely falling to pieces and being able to realize that some part of my history no matter how big or small no longer has a hold on me.

Healing is having the freedom to fully unleash my creativity and
play music again, write again, talk again, and share again.

Healing is giving myself permission to live life to the fullest and know that I was a victim who dared to survive and I’m now a survivor who dares to thrive.

Healing is being able to see the Good Shepherds love for me even when I don’t deserve it. And being able to see His hand in my life…even during the most awful of experiences.

So here is what the Good Shepherd wants me to do with His help. Take my everyday life; and place it before Him as an offering. I will fix my attention on Him and I will be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:1-2 (paraphrased).  I  think of these words from the song “From the Inside Out’ by Hillsong:  My heart and my soul, I give You control. Consume me from the inside out Lord. Let justice and praise, become my embrace To love you from the inside out. Everlasting Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all face and the cry of my heart is to bring you praise, From the inside out, O my soul cries out….

I celebrate everyday because the Good Shepherd has freed me from my past, but on this Easter (Resurrection Day) I will celebrate because I know He will truly raised me from the dead!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taking Off the Masks-There Is Hope

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin”. (Canadian novelist Andre Berthiaume)

Growing up I was sad and lonely most of the time. I really didn’t have anyone to comfort me so I wore many masks that hid my feelings behind lies. With my masks I was able to function, but deep inside I felt empty and like parts of me were missing. Nobody could hear my cries in the night or see the pain I was feeling for I designed my masks to be laughing all the time, perfect all the time, and smiling all the time. My life felt like I was going through the motions like a robot, programmed by someone else. I did take pride in being able to hide my own emotions. Pretending was an art that became second nature to me. I gave everyone the impression that I was secure. All was sunny and self-controlled with me. Confidence was my name and coolness was my game.

I am not the type of person that is an open book and broadcasts my deepest path and insecurities to the world. This would make me look vulnerable and being vulnerable is weak. I did not want to be pitied or perceived as a weak person. No one was every going to look inside my soul, and see my deepest desires, regrets, and insecurities. I trusted no one. I did not want others to see the pain I hid inside me. I did not want them to suspect the dark horrid thoughts that pounced on me when I least expected it. I did not want them to know how insecure I was and at times wanting to be gone from this world and all the pain go with it.

Day by day I felt I was dying a very slow death. The pain of uncovering old wounds was mentally and emotionally traumatizing. I felt like all the oxygen had left the room and I truly could not breathe. I had disappeared a long time ago and my masks were what the world saw. I had disconnected from myself in order to survive and had convinced myself that nothing would ever erase the ugliness left behind. The surface of my mask was smooth but beneath laid lies, confusion, fear, and loneliness. I would start to panic at any thoughts I may have that my weaknesses may be exposed. Underneath my masks were my wounds and as long as I kept my masks on, those wounds were controlling me. Everything was crashing down around me and taking my masks off would mean admitting that I was NOT okay.

I didn’t like hiding and playing those superficial phony games I had learned in my childhood. I wanted to stop playing them and be genuine, but I needed help. Along in my life came love and understanding from people I had never met before. Would I be able to trust that hand reaching out to me to wipe my tears? Could I trust their kind, gentle, and encouraging spirits? I didn’t know what would be under all my masks and if I would even be underneath them? I wasn’t so sure I wanted others to see my TRUE self and to be honest, I didn’t want to see it either. If people thought less of me and laughed that would just kill me and I was afraid that deep down I was nothing and they would see that and reject me. I was a trembling child within with a parade of masks that told you everything is really nothing and nothing is everything. Those people’s unfailing love for me started to strip my masks away. I kept struggling every day to keep my masks in place, but eventually they no longer fit my face. I started feeling like the Good Shepherd was breathing life into me. He is the only one that could break down the masks I had hid and trembled behind for so many years. He is the only one that could release me from my world of panic, and my lonely prison.

The possibility of freedom to be ourselves and take our masks off are always going to be beat out by the likelihood of rejection. Other people cannot make that guarantee to us because they are human and flawed just like we are. The only safe place is the Good Shepherd. He is the only one who accepts us truly as we are and He just wants us to be in a relationship with Him. When I could finally trust enough to know that I was welcome in His arms it freed me from unrealistic standards and empowered me to start taking my masks off and start living a life of truth!

There was a cost for the masks I wore. I was unable to express myself and show my real feelings. I did not know how to lovingly nurture my children without abusive words and actions. And it prevented me from experiencing closeness with others and with the Good Shepherd.

I did a minimum of 18 years of hard labor for a crime I did not commit. But during that time of therapy and much prayer I learned that no one can alter my inner core (my center of purity, wholeness, and beauty). I am the only one who has the power with the Good Shepherd’s help to take my masks off and begin again. And I do believe, now, that I am worthy enough to begin again!

The Good Shepherd never wore masks. He never hid is true self from people or from His father. He furrowed his brow at the Pharisees, smiled warmly at little children, looked with pity on the crowds, lashed out at the money changers and wept at the death of Lazarus. He even pleaded with His father in the garden and cried out in pain on the cross.

The Good Shepherd empowers us to do absolutely everything, and even our next breath is a gift from Him! He has made you and me in His own image, so we are valuable for who we are and not what we do. He loves us completely and unconditionally; you can neither earn no lose His love. Don’t be afraid to be honest with Him, He understands our emotions. In this messy life we know that our life depends on Him so may we all be honest enough to take our masks off.

The Good Shepherd did for me what I could never do myself. He stripped away my mask and He will do it for you. So here I am – missing skin and all.
Can you let the Good Shepherd take your masks and allow your pain to end? I know you can do it, because I did. I gave my masks to Him and now He gives me strength to walk the path I must walk in this life. He loves you very much and He is always there to help you!

To paraphrase the apostle Paul: “The Good Shepherd’s grace; it's all you and I need. His strength truly comes into its own in my weakness." And once I realized that; once I let go and trusted that He knows me far better than I know myself, I could quit focusing on my imperfections and begin appreciating the gift. It became a case of the Good Shepherd’s strength moving in on my weakness. That’s why I can be so sure that every detail in my life can and will be worked into something good. My limitations that cut me down (abuse, accidents, & opposition) I just let Him take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become in Him!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Opposite Is True

Have you ever been so tired, worn out, broken down, frustrated, hopeless and discouraged that you feel like you can’t even make it through the day and dread facing tomorrow? Do you feel like you are completely spent and totally done? Discouragement and disappointment both come our way to throw us off track and make us want to give up. Both of these things work hand in hand and Satan will use it against us all the time. Discouragement wants to knock us down and shut us up! It wants to keep is down so that we will not shine our light of truth in a dark world full of deceit and lies.

I have struggled to write in this blog for a couple of weeks because honestly I have felt very discouraged. Some of my life’s circumstances left me feeling very vulnerable which gave Satan a opportunity to creep alongside of me and say, “See the Good Shepherd is not interested in you. He really doesn’t care.” Then the discouragement came bringing its companion fear. Since fear is the opposite of faith and hope, it is designed to discourage the soul and deflate the spirit. The enemy of my soul had deflated me.

Now I am deflated, disappointed, and feel like I just want to quit. My situations are starting to seem Unmanageable, Unreasonable, Unbearable, and Unfair. Inside I feel myself saying “Good Shepherd, I just can’t take it any more. When I am frustrated, annoyed, or even angry my inner voice starts shouting so loud that it confuses my logical mind. My logical mind knows Satan’s target is my mind and his weapons are lies and a subtle use of misinformation, but in my discouragement I forget he is a crafty enemy and he knows just what it takes to destroy my hopes, happiness and my need for the Good Shepherd. He was strangling my faith and my joy was diminishing.

I remember reading a story where Satan once held a sale and offered all the tools of his trade to anyone who would pay the price.  They were spread out on the table and each one was labeled – hatred, malice, envy, gossip, and lust – all the weapons that everyone knows so well.  However, off to one side lay a harmless looking instrument labeled DISCOURAGEMENT.  It was old and worn looking but was priced far above the rest.  When Satan was asked why this was, he replied, “Because I can use this one so much more easily than the others.  No one knows that it belongs to me, so with it I can open doors that are bolted tightly against the others.  Once I get inside, I can use any tool that suits me best.”

There are several accounts in the Bible were Satan used his tool of discouragement very effectively. There are many sad stories about people who lost heart and gave up. David made a decision based upon emotional discouragement. He was down and out. He felt that he was about to be killed. There's no indication in the Bible that God would allow Saul to kill him. But the young man who killed the giant now found a giant within his own heart. Worry and anxiety flooded his soul. He felt helpless and hopeless. 1 Samuel 23:14(NLT) David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him. 1 Samuel 27:1(NLT) But David kept thinking to himself, “Someday Saul is going to get me. The best thing I can do is escape to the Philistines. Then Saul will stop hunting for me in the Israelite territory, and I will finally be safe.”

Discouragement says “the world is not fair” and leaves out “the Good Shepherd is good”. It leads to doubting and talks a lot of non-sense. It destroys faith and it leads to complaining, murmuring, and a life of sour grapes and total defeat. Satan was using discouragement to crush my heart’s hope in the Good Shepherd. My eyes were not fixed on Him and I was letting the choices of others drag me down. I had forgotten that He  sees everything and His perspective is the only one I can really trust! I was forgetting the opposite is true: 
When Satan says “your witness is a joke. No one even notices or cares” (really means) “You are like a blinding light in peoples faces. How can I possible get you to turn that off?”
“Okay, so you’ve impacted a handful of people, but that’s it”. (really means) “The Good Shepherd is using you to take apart some of my greatest strongholds and I have to stop you!”

Galatians 6:9(NLT) says: So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. But sometimes I do get tired of doing what is right and I do feel like giving up! But quitting can never be an option. If we lay our weapons down, we just become an easier target for Satan. He will keep attacking until he has robbed us of our faith to believe in the goodness of the Good Shepherd. By listening to Satan’s lies and becoming discouraged are we putting ourselves on the side of Satan against the Good Shepherd? When we give into discouragement are we telling the Good Shepherd we do not believe in His word?

When I am discouraged the Good Shepherd cannot use me, because He uses people of faith. In my discouragement I am saying “it just can’t be done” and that is the exact opposite of saying “I know the Good Shepherd can do it because he has said…” He needs me to get back up, stand straight, and face the enemy. He wants me to rise up and know who He is! He wants me to know that this season will pass and His joy will come in the morning. He wants me to shake the dust off and get back to work! When a sculptor is trying to sculpt a masterpiece, the first time the hammer hits the chisel everything is not going to fall off into a beautiful sculpture. The Good Shepherd it still chipping away at me and that is the way life is.

What form of discouragement are you struggling with? What depressing conclusions does Satan keep trying to form in your brain? We need to remember what a consistent liar he is. To understand what is really going on, you must learn to turn everything he says around…the opposite is true.

At the end of my life all that will matter is I pleased the Good Shepherd when I was here on earth. All He really cares about is how I respond to Him in my soul. Did I sincerely want Him to have his way with me. Did I make him feel honored, exalted, and blessed by the way my soul treated Him?
Satan is going to constantly tell me that really pleasing the Good Shepherd is a difficult thing that requires much straining and striving to achieve. But the truth is the Good Shepherd places great success well within the reach of every soul He created. All He requests is that we fully submit to Him in life

I want to keep my eyes on the Good Shepherd and Him alone. I want to listen to His voice, seek His heart, and follow His indistinct encouragement in all things. Remember you are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race the Good Shepherd has set before you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hollow Words and Twisted Scriptures

In the world I grew up in the pastor and his family always had to be perfect. I was raised to put my best face forward and pretend all was well. I was taught to respect the authority of the Bible as the inspired word of God. I was part of a Bible quizzing program in which other church teams would compete against each other over our knowledge of the scriptures. I would study the Bible constantly, often memorizing lengthy passages or even entire books.

So why would I even dare to question when I am told over and over the scriptures say I was a vile sinner that deserved to go to hell. Was I really an abomination to God? Scriptures were twisted and used like a stick to beat me down. Scriptures like: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive” and “if you resist, you will receive damnation”! (Hebrews 13:7KJV). “For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resistith the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”(Romans 13:2KJV)

There was no tolerance for questions, sharing concerns or thoughts.. They were God’s servants; who was I to question? To question or disobey meant you were questioning and disobeying God. To question their authority meant you were questioning the authority of God. “Don’t question” was a powerful rule growing up. If you question decisions or standards of leadership you were ostracized and humiliated. Their viewpoints of the scripture were considered unquestionable truth. They were the only ones who “heard” what God was saying; apparently God couldn’t speak to me directly, he had to go through “others”.

There was no uncertainty, no unanswered questions, no gray areas, and no doubts. The Leaders/Pastors were right, and others were wrong. They were spiritual, and others were not. They were thoroughly committed to Jesus, and others were not. To disagree with him was to disagree with God. They were, of course, the final judge and jury of what the Bible says, and they rationalized and defended their behavior under the disguise of shepherding.
The Bible gave them a certain level of spiritual authority, and they abused and misused it, going well beyond what the scriptures allowed.

Everyone was so busy telling me what I could not do they failed to tell me what the Good Shepherd COULD do. I cannot begin to tell you how much mental and emotional anguish was caused by being told what to believe, how to think, and how to speak. I felt like my soul had plummeted into the depth of hell. I was NEVER going to trust God again or what the Bible had to say. How could I ever trust a pastor again? All Pastors were just “men of God” who would cause me to stumble and lose out on eternal life. I remember thinking to myself, “so this is what it feels like to not know what you believe anymore”. I had no confidence in my own ability to discern truth from error which added to my distorted perception of God and I wondered how I was every supposed to have a relationship with Him.

The Bible had become a book that made no sense to me and had become an emotional trigger. For the longest time I could not even open a Bible. All the grace had been sucked out of any faith I might have had. I was beat down and confused. I didn’t know which scriptures were false and which were true, or if any of them were true at all. My trust had been shattered and I desperately needed someone to listen to me with compassion. Not only did I need to overcome the abuse , but I need to be reconnected with the Good Shepherd because my spiritual truth had been warped by those who twisted scripture and fed me many lies. Sometimes I would silently scream “will the REAL Good Shepherd please stand up?” There was just so much chaos and confusion.

When it was recommended that I start seeing a licensed Christian therapist who is also an ordained pastor, I remember being so scared I would physically start shaking. It took a lot of trust on my part to agree to this but when I look back on this I know it was the Good Shepherd taking care of me. I had to begin to confront and dismantle the rules that had governed me for so long. I was beginning to trust my therapist because he provided me a safe and confidential setting to do that in. Sometimes it seemed like untwisting the scriptures was like that big ball of tangled Christmas lights that you pull out for the holidays. It looks so tangled and twisted it seems to take forever to unravel and at times you just want to throw it down and give up. The only way I knew how to have a relationship with God was based on fear and performance. I really didn’t know what grace and unconditional acceptance was until I met my best friend (who is a pastors wife) and others who were willing to show me who the Good Shepherd really is. They helped me learn how to trust again, think for myself, and question when things didn’t seem right. They kept gently reminding me it was not the Good Shepherd who had violated me it was people.

It has taken me years to rebuild my life and my faith in the Good Shepherd. Even after asking Him into my heart, the thought of reading the Bible or listening to anyone read scriptures churned my stomach. With lots of encouragement I continued to work on that tangled and twisted ball and eventually found myself wanting to know more about what the Bible really said. I was learning that I did not have to jump through spiritual-performance hoops to earn the Good Shepherds approval. That is something I already have for free because of His death on the cross. It started to feel like I was a dry sponge soaking up the truth of His word for the very first time. Even though those twisted words and scriptures left me scarred mentally and emotional I was beginning to trust again and started uncovering hope for my recovery and becoming whole. I was learning that my identity IS in the Good Shepherd.

Many who have had similar experiences as me often end up becoming Atheists or Agnostics. Or they become so bitter they have no hope that there is a God (who I call the Good Shepherd) that loves and cares for them. I am heartbroken for these people. They have been hurt so badly that they have given up on this whole “God Thing”.  Please don’t let what others have told you about the scriptures or the Good Shepherd stop you from finding out who He truly is and what His Word truly says. Read the scriptures for yourself and let Him reveal His truth to you.

It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it. (Titus 1:7-9MSG)