whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

I shouldn’t be alive. September 25, 2010

I’ve been fairly open about my childhood experiences and past traumas among friends, family, and church family, but not so much online. I don’t think it is wise to put too much about yourself out there for the whole world to have access to. But the more I learn about child development for my master’s degree and the deeper I dig into different types of research, the more apparent it becomes that my past experiences will play a part in my destiny.

Without airing the gory details, I will let you know that I was neglected and abused as a child. Some of that abuse was sexual, and it happened more than once and came from more than one adult. I have always had vivid memories of parts of that abuse; God has mercifully allowed my subconscious to block the rest of it. I went through most of my life overcompensating for the feelings of powerlessness, fear, abandonment, and helplessness that stemmed from those experiences. I “learned” that being alive meant being in constant danger on some level and that I was on my own. Later I would learn that, too, was a lie. Praise God that He had His hand on me from an early age and had instilled in me a love for Jesus and His Word practically from the time I learned to talk– otherwise you’d likely be reading the blog of a staunch atheist.

People with a past like mine are several times more likely to commit suicide, have 30 or more sexual partners, be drug addicts or alcoholics, and be abusers themselves. If I’m doing my reading right, the “post traumatic stress” sexual abuse victims experience can parallel what war veterans experience. As I look at these statistics of what is “normal” for someone with my experiences, I become more convinced that there is only one reason I am alive. One reason I have an ounce of compassion in me. One reason I am able to rise above all the (insert choice word here) I have gone through in my almost 30 years. And that reason is JESUS. God’s love and grace.

I think that it would be easy, and even expected, for me to use all the trauma of my past as a REASON not to believe in a loving, protecting God. I bet some people would expect it and maybe even think I had a right to it. But you know what? God didn’t MAKE those people do those things to me. Did He allow it? Yes. For only reasons He knows and perhaps has yet to reveal. But, as I live, I trust Him. I can’t always explain it. But I do.

I have had personal, close encounters with the living God that are undeniable. Beyond and through what I consider to be the total truth of the Scriptures, I have personally experienced peace that is totally and completely illogical in the face of my past. I choose to forgive the people who molested and hurt me, even though there are days I would rather not. I am not living in denial of the things that have happened to me. I am forced to deal with that reality nearly every day. The only explanation for my being alive and my being effective in any sort of way is because the power of God is in me through the Holy Spirit.

I still have problems. I still struggle with this stuff. There have been times that all I can do is scream bloody murder because I can’t handle “it,” whatever “it” is. I may always wrestle that demon of depression, but after each match it stays down for the count a little longer. Studies show that I may always have overactive fear responses and not handle stress as well as a “normal” person, which can lead to chronic health problems (anyone who knows me can see that is true). But I know that ultimately, I win. Because God wins. And I’m not talking “end times” here, although that’s obviously true. But I mean in the here and now– in whatever length of years God chooses to give me on this hunk of dirt we call earth. I have to cling to this– that He has a purpose beyond what I can understand for all the awful things I have experienced in my life. That He will use me in someone’s life– yours– to point the way to Him.

How the traumas I experienced will play out in my destiny… I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I know I have a choice in the matter though, at least as far as my attitude and response. What Satan intended for evil, God can use for good. I can allow the memories and facts to weigh me down and render me useless. Or I can use them to help myself and others.

I’m gonna have to go with the latter.

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three things to talk about January 31, 2010

Filed under: discipleship,faith,grace,relationship with God,salvation — Ash @ 1:34 am

I wrote this blog more than a year ago and just ran across it among my “draft” posts. What do you think? Please be kind… these were/are honest struggles… not a “church-trashing, Christian-bashing” session.

Bear with me on this… I’m really processing through some questions and thoughts right now. Things I’ve been thinking about and mulling over for a long time, and things that have recently been stirred again.

1. No one in the New Testament ever prayed a “sinner’s prayer”.

Is the “sinner’s prayer” a tradition of man?

“Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men. … You revoke God’s word by your tradition” (Mark 7:8,13a, HCSB).

So… is the “sinner’s prayer” a religious tool to try to show God our sincerity? Did we come up with it some time in the past so we could “systematize” repentance and keep track of who is on which side? Was the “sinner’s prayer” a 20th-century human device meant to help institutions keep track of converts at huge gatherings? Do we (Christians) have people (sinners) pray it so we can feel like we have a “for sure” mark next to their names on our “Project Convert” list and not have to worry about them anymore? I don’t mean to sound so cynical… I don’t like sounding cynical…

Can we safely say that repentance (changing one’s direction in life) is an ongoing process that takes place as one grows as a disciple of Jesus? Or does it have to be a one-time, cut-and-dry, clearly-marked-on-the-calendar event?

Is it just easier to have a prayer to pray rather than encourage a longer contemplation of the costs of being a disciple of Christ?

27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
29 “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,
30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
(Luke 14:27-30, NASB)

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
25 “For whoever wishes to save his life [Or soul ] will lose it; but whoever loses his life [Or soul ] for My sake will find it.
26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26, NASB)

2. Instead, baptism seems to be the way New Testament believers identified themselves as Christ-followers.

I don’t believe that Jesus taught baptism secures salvation for a person. It seems to me that He was more concerned with discipleship and that we believe Him (really trust Him and take Him at His word, not just “believe in” Him) and follow Him in fruitful relationship:

11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
12 “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
13 “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they [Lit who believe ] believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance [Or steadfastness].
(Luke 8:11-15, NASB)

From what I can tell, once Jesus had returned to heaven, people conversed with Jesus’ disciples and lived around them day-to-day, and decided to follow Christ because of the disciples’ words and actions (they were known by their love for one another). Those who believed were then baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Jesus commanded. Again, can we safely say that repentance (changing one’s direction in life) is an ongoing process that takes place as one grows as a disciple of Jesus? Or does it have to be a one-time, cut-and-dry, clearly-marked-on-the-calendar event?

Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether he was telling the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him or telling a miracle-hungry crowd near Capernaum that to do the work of God was, yes, to believe on him (John 6:28-29), he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.

I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that’s the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God’s grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God’s moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.

If Jesus is to be believed, inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey, not just at its inception. [emphasis added]

Mediocrity and hypocrisy characterize the lives of many avowed Christians, at least in part because of our default answer to the salvation question. Anyone can, and most Americans do, “believe” in Jesus rather than some alternative savior. Anyone can, and many Americans sometimes do, say a prayer asking Jesus to save them. But not many embark on a life fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbor, the moral practice of God’s will, and radical, costly discipleship.

(David P. Gushee, “Jesus and the Sinner’s Prayer,” Christianity Today online, March 2007)

If we believe “inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey,” does this mean we believe we can “lose” our salvation? Or, more importantly: within the context of relationship, is “eternal security of salvation” even an issue? (As in, would a father tell his beloved daughter she was disowned if she came home after being in another state for a long time?) I’d venture to say no.

3. God didn’t make up religion. People did.

Doing something for or giving something to a deity in order to get something/avoid something is religious. If you want rain, you do this for that god. If you are grateful to the god, you give this much. If you want the god to not be angry, you give this much. You never know how much is enough, however.

God (the One True God, YHWH) made the move to us first and doesn’t work that way. He asks us to completely trust Him within relationship. This is not religious. The implications of the relationship—forgiveness, love, peace, eternal life, the filling of the Spirit, the way we live as a result—are not religious. If the implications of the relationship become a means to an end, it is religion, not relationship. If doing or not doing/having/being something (or the ANXIETY of doing or not doing/having/being something) becomes a focal point, that is religion, not relationship.

Do you think that is accurate?

Am I just thinking too hard?

 

fire and water January 8, 2009

Filed under: faith,grace,relationship with God,testing — Ash @ 11:49 am

Okay, I’m not sure what it is, but I am just really bad at keeping up with this blog! I am going to try to be better, folks.

One thing I find challenging is knowing how much to “put out there,” y’know? How much do I really want a random stranger to know about me and my life? How much is too much? How much is too little? Am I prideful to think that people will actually benefit from my random musings?

Anywho.

I’m attempting the 1st and 15th Scripture Memory Challenge along with a couple thousand others over at the Living Proof Ministries blog (Beth Moore). In an effort to help me not only memorize and meditate, but also remind me to DO it, perhaps I can blog about the verse(s) I choose.

For January 1 I chose:

Zechariah 13:9 (NIV)

This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The LORD is our God.”

I chose this verse because I have really felt like I’m going through some “refining and testing” fires lately. Nothing big; in fact, most of it has been almost undetectable. Which I find interesting, because normally I take notice of the more catastrophic things in my life as refining and testing. The fires have come more in the form of my own nature, insecurities, issues, and hang-ups.

I also get excited about the first verse of this chapter:

Zechariah 13:1 (NIV)

On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Can we say messianic prophecy?!! Water sounds a little more soothing than fire…

So… this year I am praying that the fires will purify and the waters will cleanse. It doesn’t sound particularly fun, but I want God to see Jesus in me. And if that means a bit of pain and discomfort, then I must trust He knows how much this “gold” can take.

“Real gold fears no fire.”

 

God’s colorful grace October 31, 2008

Filed under: faith,grace,love,relationship with God — Ash @ 3:45 pm

1 Peter 4:10:

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (ESV)

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (NASB)

“God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” (NLT)

“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (KJV)

“Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” (HCSB)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)

I am not a major fan of the NIV, but I really love the imagery of us “administering” God’s grace. It makes me think of us as doctors or nurses, applying medicine to wounds… others’ wounds and our own…

And I love that God’s grace is “varied”. I’m rolling around some thoughts: does this mean that God’s grace can look different in different situations? Obviously there are some things about His grace that will always be the same– it will always be only from Him, it will always be unmerited, it will always be loving, it will always be available, it will always be unlimited. And we will always have to have our faith conduit hooked up to God in order to “administer” grace ourselves.

I know I’ve needed God’s grace– straight from Him, and extended to me from others.

SO… does this mean that our spiritual gifts are avenues by which we extend God’s grace to others? Obviously the Spirit pours out gifts on us in and because of His grace. Definitely spiritual gifts are necessary for the building of the church, for the health of the church, and for the effectiveness of the church (remember– church is people, not a place). I wonder if God wires each of us individually with certain gift combinations so that we can have different ways of partnering with God to bring spiritual health to one another, too. Varied ways of extending God’s grace.

If we go with the doctor/nurse imagery, this could mean that in some cases when we apply God’s grace to another person, it will be like soothing aloe on a sunburn. Other times it might have the sting of disinfecting a wound. Other times it might be like tying on a tourniquet.

Surely God’s grace is colorful and not just black or white?