Monday, March 02, 2015

Thoughts on Chambers Devotion of March 2

"Rarely, but probably once, He will get us into a corner where He will hurt us with His undeviating questions, and we will realize that we do love Him far more deeply than any profession can ever show" (Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

I had to read Chambers devotion for today a couple of times to get the clear meaning of what he was saying. Memories of the time in my life, my Peter moment, came upon me like a flood. I remember when I had to face the reality of my affection for Christ. It was about a year and a half after the kidnapping. Those days still seem a blur but one thing that I remember clearly was the pain. The wretched rawness of it much like an open wound that burns and throbs was still fresh and it could come upon me at the most inopportune junctures.

During that period, I did question the reality of my love and faith in Christ. Also, I questioned His love for my children, my husband, and me. I remember feeling isolated in those emotions and doubts. So, I tried to stay busy - busy raising my son, Michael. I tried to stay busy in ministry at church both in leading a children's choir and serving in the adult choir. I stayed busy at Michael's school helping a little girl who had reading difficulties. Being busy was my friend.

I had discovered that when I occupied much of my time, I did not have as much time to ponder my attitude toward Jesus or His attitude toward me. Denial of my emotional state was my attempt at keeping whatever sanity I had left protected. Of course, burying one's heart is never a healthy path.

Unexpectedly, a mothers of one my son's friends posed a question to me. She asked if Mark and I would still have chosen to serve Christ and attend seminary if we had known the future meant losing two of our children. To this day, I am surprised by the forceful assurance of my answer. Also, there was no hesitation in my answer. I replied that we had no choice and that loving and serving Jesus was not an option in our lives. I remember telling her that God called us not the other way around.

Later that evening as I related the conversation to Mark, I knew. I knew that despite my doubts and sometimes pitiful faith that Christ was the center of my soul. I knew that regardless the sorrows and my misunderstandings of His care and provision that I was called to trust Him, love Him, and serve Him until my last breath on this earth was completed. I have found that I am occasionally left standing and praying, "Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief."



Friday, February 13, 2015

Why I hide my Pain

Do you remember the story of Christ in the garden praying before He was crucified? He asked his disciples to stay awake with Him, but they could not. Do you remember how many of those closest to Him were at the cross when they crucified Him? All had vanished except for John. Eleven of His closest friends abandoned Him. One sold Him for 30 pieces of silver and Peter denied even knowing Him.

Now, let me tell you how I relate the sorrow of Christ with my sorrow and why I feel that I must wear my facade and allow no one save Christ to see the depth of my pain.

I did not just lose a son. I did not just lose a daughter. I lost all my blood relations except for my son, Michael. My mother was diabolical in what she did.

My sisters abandoned me. I loved my sisters - both of them very much. Patti and mother did not always get along. There were many nights when Patti would be knocking on my bedroom window and crying over a fight she and mother had. I would go unlock the door, and she would pile into my arms and tell me her troubles. I never said,"Go away." or "Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night (or wee hours of the morning)?" Instead, I was there for her - loving her.

After my sister, Sherry, had her first born, mother started making claims that Sherry was a bad mother and that she suspected that Rusty was doing inappropriate things to Sandy. I told my mother that she was way out of line and that she was wrong. I told her that Rusty was a good father and that Sherry loved her daughter. I defended them both adamantly and told her that if she continued with her lies that I would tell Sherry and Rusty what she was saying. Later, mother told me that she did not mean those things and that she was having a hard time emotionally and shouldn't have said them.

I loved my parents and my grandparents. We lived between Murfreesboro and LaVergne, TN. My grandmother stopped by my house one day and started complaining about my parents. My dad's business had gone bankrupt and my parents were experiencing financial difficulties. My parents also did not attend church, which was very important to my grandmother. Grandmother said several things very hateful about my parents - while I tried to defend them. Finally, grandmother told me that if Sandra wasn't her daughter that she would not have anything to do with my parents.

I was stunned. At that point I calmly replied, "Grandma, you need to leave now. I love you and Papa but I also love my parents and I will not allow you to come into my home and say such horrible things." At that point, I walked to the front door and opened it and told her good-bye.

About fifteen minutes later my phone was ringing. (This was before the days of cell phones or caller ID.) My mother was on the phone asking me to tell her about my visit with my grandmother. She informed me that grandmother had stopped at a pay phone and called her and told her that I had told her to leave my house. Grandmother told mother that she might have said some negative things about her and daddy and that when she told me, I made her leave my house. I told my mother it was true and I had asked grandmother to leave if she was going to say unkind things about the people that I loved. My mother told me that grandmother had said she would never do that again.

I am writing these stories to emphasize the fact that I loved my crazy family. I defended them from each other. I stood by them. Yet, NONE of them defended Mark and me when mother started saying horrible lies about us. Sherry who had run away from home twice as an older teen and again in her twenties without telling anyone where she was because (as Sherry told me) our parents were nuts, abandoned me. Patti who used to come to me crying about mother and my grandmother who told me that she did not want to have anything to do with her own daughter.... ALL of these people climbed on board the crazy ship with my mother and did nothing to help me when my mother brainwashed and stole my children.

When mother started making the accusations, I tried talking to my father and his response to me was, "Debbie, I have gone too far and there is no turning back for me now." I had NO idea that his going to far was accusing nearly every official in Murfreesboro as being in the satanic cult or that he had made plans to kidnap my children.

Instead of my sisters, my grandparents and my father telling mother to close her mouth and tell me what she was saying.... they abandoned me. Patti even lied in court for my mother and then confessed to the lie and the judge told her to get out of his courtroom. These people who I loved and still love did nothing except abandon me and probably helped my parents.

But, these people were my family and they were loved by me. And, I lost ALL of them. I did not just lose two of my children, I lost everyone that I loved because none of them defended me. None of them told me what mother and daddy were doing.

Can you imagine my pain? Can you even begin to think that you could endure me if I walked around and let friends or church members or neighbors really see the depth of sorrow that is in my heart? I think not. I believe like the disciples, they would abandon me and leave me hanging alone on my cross.

What does my sorrow look like? My sorrow is darker than the darkest black of the deepest cave. My sorrow has evil, hideous yet familiar faces waiting to tear into my flesh and rip out my heart. My sorrow contains more pain than the burning of flesh that I experienced when I was 8 years old. My sorrow cannot be endured by anyone save Christ.

So, I go to Him. I cry out to Him and He provides me with enough strength to face one more day. He provides me with enough sanity to live and believe that His return will rescue me from this tortured life I live. He gives me enough strength to try to walk among the breathing and pretend that goodness dwells in the land of the living. Yet, I am truly a shell and only exist because of His strength. Jesus daily picks up my sorrow and carries it. And, I know without any doubt that if I ever tried to let another living mortal carry that pain instead of allowing Christ to bear it, I would stop breathing.

No, I will continue to wear my facade and try to live in this world with the knowledge that He will not abandon me and that His love is the only strength on which I can truly count.  

God has provided me with friends but they only know me through the strength that Christ has provided. The few times I have tried to allow Mark to see this pain, he turns me off. He cannot bear it and he lost his children along with me. But, he didn't lose everyone.

Most of us only have one Jonathan (as to David) or John (as to Jesus) in our lives. If you have that one than count yourself blessed. I have one friend who comes close to truly seeing and knowing the agony of soul. And, she has never judged me or left me or pushed me away. But, even with her, I do not allow her to truly know all.

God has given me others who reach out in comfort, prayers, and support but I know that they would not  be capable of handling the totality of my agony. I am not ignorant to the fact the God does have His church here for a purpose but the church is not Christ. So, I will trust that the amount of pain that Christ lets others see, it is the amount they might can comprehend.

I hesitate to say that I will not hide my pain because those who have seen a portion of my pain usually do not begin to understand it. Often, they try to minimize it and this sorrow cannot nor should it be marginalized. My children are worth all this sorrow. The lost of all those that I loved is worth all the agony. After 25 years of allowing Jesus to keep a record of my tears, I will not give this task to another.




Monday, February 02, 2015

Memories and Poems

On occasion folks have inquired how I am able to continue and to live a relatively normal life. Of course, I am not sure exactly what normal is and I don't think that Mark and I have lived a normal life; however, we have prevailed with the help of the Father.

Today, I am sick most likely with the flu. I am sure that most Christians have experienced severe attacks from Satan when your body and health are compromised. Unfortunately, I am not immune from this type of spiritual warfare. So, this morning I continued  reading in Ezekiel (11 - 13). Such a lovely place to read when feeling ill and  melancholy. Not. I read today's devotion from "My Utmost for His Highest" and heard myself murmur, "I don't know what I just read."

My day continued and I decided that a shower was the thing that would invigorate me. Wrong. The shower nearly did me in. That's when my mind began to think on my sisters. Sisters that I loved and thought loved me. That's when my thoughts went to my oldest son, Bobby. I nearly gave in to my feelings of remorse but instead I heard myself say, "No, God. I am done. I can't deal with the sadness today. Take this away from me because I have no prayers left to cry."

I continued trying to half dry my hair when God spoke through another memory. - a better memory. As a little girl I got sick often. During some of those times, my mother would come into my room and put a cool cloth on my forehead. She also read me this poem.

Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Let's face it, I would rather one of my sisters or Christi and Bobby call me but for now I'll take a memory that isn't dealing with my mother's destructive plans. The fact is this, I have never stopped loving my family. While they continue to spurn me, I continue to pray for them. And, today.... I'll remember poems.

Be Blessed,
Debbie

Friday, January 23, 2015

A few thoughts on the Teachings of Marcus Borg

A friend posted on the death of Marcus Borg yesterday. She called him an inspirational and thinking theologian. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the theological thoughts of Marcus Borg.
I really have issues with his take on the events surrounding the birth of Christ. When speaking of the miracles concerning the birth of Christ Borg wrote:
"To be candid, I do not think that any of this happened. Of course, there is some historical memory in the stories. Jesus was born. He really lived. He was Jewish. His parents’ names were Mary and Joseph. They lived in Nazareth, a very small peasant village, perhaps as small as a few hundred. But I do not think that there was an annunciation by an angel to Mary, or a virginal conception, or a special star, or wisemen from the East visiting the infant Jesus, or angels filling the night with glory as they sang to shepherds.
Yet I am not a “debunker” of these stories. I do not dismiss them as “fables” or “fabrications” or “falsehoods.” Many in the modern world do see the two options as “it happened this way” or “it didn’t” – and if it didn’t, then we are dealing with delusions and deceptions. A few years ago, a television special on these stories posed the question that way: are they “fact or fable”?
There is a third option. Namely, the Christmas stories with their miraculous elements were not intended to be “factual” in the sense of reporting what actually happened. Rather, they are early Christian testimony, written roughly a hundred years after Jesus’s birth. They testify to the significance that Jesus had come to have in their lives and experience and thought. The stories are parabolic, metaphorical narratives that can be true without being factual" (From Dr. Borg’s blog on Patheos:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marcusborg/).
Seems like many brilliant people cannot believe in the miraculous. They want to explain it away but still call themselves Christian theologians. Yet, the very creation of the earth was a miracle. Scientist cannot explain it. They try and they fail. A finite being cannot create something out of nothing. If you prefer to think it all began with a Big Bang, a lingering and sobering question still remains. Where did the elements come from that produced the bang? The cosmos had to have a beginning and the beginner of it (the creator), had to be one of superior intellect and with the ability to create out of nothing, which seems to suggest that the miraculous was involved.
Borg and others in his camp want to take this amazing fact away from God - God can do anything He desires to do. Man cannot begin to understand the mind or the workings of the Father. Yes, I have many questions. I want to know how God operates in the miraculous. But, for now I have to trust and wait.
1 Corinthians 13:12 sums up my attitude on many issues.
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known" (NASB).

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Look of Success

When the men came to Him (Jesus), they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’ ” (Luke 7: 20, NASB).

The Look of Success

Success when doing the kingdom's work does not always appear as success with mortal finite eyes. A popular false doctrine proclaims that when we are following God's direction, His blessings will be evident. However, that is not often the case with the one who has sacrificed his or her life to seeking and doing the will of the Father.

John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Christ and yet, his earthly reward was prison and beheading. The world would not proclaim execution as success. In fact, many of our current popular Bible teachers and pastors would probably be telling John that he missed the mark. "John, if you were following God's direction and listening to His spirit, you would not find yourself in such a mess. Obviously, you went off on your own because God would have blessed you and your efforts."

However, the purpose of John's life was not to promote himself to a larger ministry, a bigger house and a newer car. His purpose was to point folks to Jesus. His question was not based on John's believing that he had missed the mark, but was an inquiry, "Are you Jesus, my cousin, the one?"

This question was not for John's ease of mind. John wanted to tell his followers either, "Yes, Jesus is the one." Or, "No, look for another." His concern was for his followers.

What great joy must have enveloped his heart and soul when the response from Christ  was, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Luke 7: 22, NASB).

John died knowing that the Messiah, of whom He taught, had arrived in the flesh. John never assumed that he was commissioned to elevate himself. His life was to help prepare hearts to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.

Dear servants of God, your success is not based on worldly wealth or fame. It is based on one simple truth. Have you fulfilled the mission of pointing others to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus? Sometimes, there will be material success involved but other times success is not evident in that way. Your purpose is to promote Jesus not self. Sometimes, success in the kingdom will cost you all you hold dear even to the point of your life.

Be Blessed,
Debbie

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Today's thoughts...

Jeremiah 39:18 (ESV):

"For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the Lord.”

Despite the brevity of this verse,  it holds some significant meaning for us. First, Jeremiah said these words to  Ebed-melech the Ethiopian because this man trusted in the words of the prophet. God's chosen people and their kings had rejected the message. Unfortunately for them, they would surely suffer the consequence of abandoning God and his instructions. Yet, an Ethiopian's faith and trust in the man sent from God would save him. Most of us, like the Ethiopian are adopted into the family of God.

Secondly, this message should help define our behavior today. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Despite the injustice and the immoral behavior that is rampant in our nation, we are called to speak the truth of the scripture and to trust Christ. A watered down message has no power to overcome sin.

This may mean that we get dropped into a cistern and sink deep into the mud. But, we are called to passionately maintain and keep our faith. We are still called to speak the truth of God's words.

Remember, the truth is not only for you but for those who hear and heed it. An important point to notice here, Jeremiah, who was imprisoned and punished, kept saying the truth of the message. We want this short verse to be his reward; yet, this word was for an Ethiopian who had heard the message and trusted God.

Be of good cheer, you may be ridiculed and feel stuck in deep mud, but you are called to speak the truth of scripture. The calling to do this task not to simply save and bless yourself but to bless the listeners. Be resolved today to continue to preach the truth with your words and actions. Remember, your faith and trust in God has already saved you. You no longer face eternal damnation. Now, it is time to put on your spiritual armor and march into battle and bravely defend and live the gospel of Christ. Our task is not to kill the unbeliever but to point him to Christ so that he may be saved.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Surrender of the Will

"'My determination is to be my utmost for His Highest.' To get there is a question of will, not of debate nor of reasoning, but a surrender of will, an absolute and irrevocable surrender on that point" (January 1, Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).

Yesterday's reading set the tone of this lovely daily devotion book. It also spoke to this rather broken heart of mine. The "surrender of will" is such a difficult thing to do. We are taught from earliest education to strive, to succeed, to think on our own. Then we come to the teaching of scripture and the apostle Paul tells us to surrender with complete abandonment to God. Surrendering to God can become an insurmountable task for those of us who have struggled. Trusting God is a difficult occupation when parents, family and people claiming to know Christ have wounded one deeply.

Much of our understanding for God develops from the people we come in contact with that claim to know Him. When these people prove to be impostors, those blasted wolves in sheep's clothing, they damage the entire body of Christ. In order for us to understand the intended relationship with God, He is often portrayed as Father. Yet, when one's earthly father has failed miserably in his duty and love as a father, this analogy is hard to understand, let alone accept.

This is the situation with which I battle. I have often felt like I was peering into the window of a neighbor's home where the father and mother truly love their children. Therefore, I have often described my relationship with God as His forgotten stepchild. Not as one who is truly His daughter or the recipient of His selfless love, but close enough to see a father's love poured out on His true children. Trusting God with my will is a challenge for me on occasions since I have rarely felt invited to the inner circle of His home and hearth.  When those who should have cherished you such as one’s parents, grandparents and sisters, have damaged your heart the picture of God as Father and Christ as Brother can be rather offensive and hurtful.

Yet, I long to have a Father who loves me and embraces me with the gentleness of a sweet summer's eve. I desire to lazily sit on the porch swing with Him and hear His direction and know that His advice comes to me because I am His beloved daughter and not an unwanted stepchild.

My heart's cry this year is to keep myself above the trappings and the pain of this world. I intend to trust God as Holy and Loving. To be an ambassador for Christ that draws people to Him and to not act as a repellant is my deep desire. Like Paul, I do not want to ever be ashamed but to continue to submit my stubborn will to Christ's will. True examples of this totality of God-living are hard to find in this world. My prayer is that I can be one of His children choosing to live my life with no thought of my will but only of His with a compete trust in Him.

I want to end my ramblings with a quote from Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) who explained complete trust with the following statement:

"Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them... Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations."

Be Blessed,
Debbie