Alleluia

Happy Sunday! I know it’s not Easter Sunday but this song kept popping into my head this morning. Actually, to be honest it was “praise the Lord for ibuprofen, alleluia!” (I hurt my shoulder doing Pilates) but nevertheless my earworm prompted me to look for the real song on youtube – et voila: this rousing rendition.

I just have one niggle about this video, regarding the picture of Jesus used as a background: why does ‘Jesus’ so often look like a Northern European celebrity doing a shampoo ad? He looks like he’s just about to toss his hair, turn to the camera and, with a smug smile, tell us what brand he’s using. Why do people insist on depicting Jesus this way?

I ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW AM FOUND; WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE

I LOVE the story from the gospel of John of the healing of the man who was blind from birth. The unnamed man has such a simplicity and purity of spirit, even when faced with the ‘important’ men and their clever questioning. I’m quite certain Jesus loved this about him too! But what struck me in listening to this story are the words at the very beginning:

As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him…”

John 9:1-3 (WEB)

Jesus’ words, often overlooked because of the rest of the amazing story, are vitally important. We can add nothing to our salvation, nor can we take it away. Even if we follow all the ‘rules’ and worship God, it doesn’t mean our lives will be ok (often rendered as ‘blessed’ but I would question this definition of ‘blessed’ – post on this subject to follow). If we don’t follow the rules, it doesn’t mean our lives will be miserable. This is false teaching, although one that is easy to fall into. I fell into this trap myself a few years ago, thinking that if I did everything ‘right’ then life would be ok. Hurrah! No more bad stuff! God quickly and sharply brought me out of that one.

We latch onto ‘if only I can do it right’ because we’re scared and we want to be in control. Some people spend their whole lives trying to discover what ‘the rules’ are because they think if they follow the rules, everything will be ok, which really means ‘if I follow the rules, I’ll stay in control’. Life is scary. It is not under our control and we can’t do anything to make it under our control. Only yesterday my dear son told me of the death of a boy at school who was only a year older than him. The young man had been fit and healthy until September last year. Now he’s gone. I pray for his family.

Conversely, the most difficult lesson to learn for me (as for many people who have been abused) was that I didn’t do anything to cause any of it. I am not a freak. I am not ‘different’ in some indefinable way. I was not destined for abuse. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with me. God has been gently, carefully and lovingly bringing me out of that one.

God did not and does not cause the bad stuff, although He did allow it to happen. That God allows abuse and evil is a difficult doctrine to swallow, but when we love God, when we become part of His family, God can and does use our suffering for His glory – and it is a truly awesome thing to be a vessel for the glory of God. If I have known what it is to be unloved, to believe myself horrible and worthless and unlovable, how much more is the effect when I realise that not only am I lovable, but that I am loved by the Creator of the universe? And when I do see how much He loves me, what can I do but offer my life, my whole self in return?

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been brought to your knees in despair by your own sin, or whether it has been the sins of others, or a combination of the two: when you’re at your lowest is when God can bless you the most.

Less me = more God:

“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

Hallelujah: Hebrew for YIPPEE!**

**It’s not really, literally ‘yippee’, of course. Literally, ‘hallelujah’ means ‘praise God!

There’s a Spirit in the Air

There’s a spirit in the air

Telling Christians everywhere

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world…

When believers break the bread

When a hungry child is fed:

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.

~ from ‘There’s a Spirit in the Air’ by Brian Wren, a lovely hymn I grew up singing. I am deliberately recalling good memories as EMDR leaves one bombarded with memories for days (weeks, even) after a session, and they’re often the ugliest kind :-/

Anyway, there are only a handful of videos of this joyful song on youtube. Despite its being embedded in my subconscious it’s obviously not as well-known as I’d thought, so I share it now for you to enjoy 😀

Wholly Holy

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the holy spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend,
And if you lack for knowledge
He’ll ne’er refuse to lend

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

A song from the days of slavery.

EMDR stirs up memories and I often find random memories appearing in my mind. It also stirs up dreams. By act of will I can attempt to ignore the memories during the day, but when they attack at night I often wake up anxious and uneasy. Praise God for His healing balm. Praise God for His holiness in all the ugliness. He gives me strength in my weakness. May the glory and honour always be His, forever and ever.

‘Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.’

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

Reblog: What the Book of Job Really Means

Excellent post from Tim Fall about the book of Job.

I remember a well-meaning friend saying to me, when I was talking about the horribleness that I was experiencing at that time, if I had read about Job. I looked at him, frowned, and asked if Job had read about me.

Laura is absolutely right. No matter how much one might end up with, it can never take away the deep and lasting sorrows. But having gone through those sorrows and surviving and still loving God brings about a faith of a different kind – a spiritual maturity maybe? It means you’re not dependent on life being good to thank God for His blessings. You know that God is always good. God is always. God is.

I’m struggling right now. Had my EMDR session this morning and it was a bit like being hit by a tidal wave. It’s inexpressible, frankly. But I do know that God is good, and that God has always been good, even through every sad or bad or mad or terrible experience. God was never remote and distant – He was with me. I know that. And my sorrow, my sorrows, *all* of our sorrows, He shares. He gives us beauty for ashes. This is why we mourn on Good Friday and celebrate come Easter Sunday. Hallelujah!

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

I can’t say I know all about the Book of Job, but I think I know a bit about it and here’s one thing I know:

The Book of Job reveals God’s grace.

Some will dispute this, saying the book instead reveals a cruel God who uses Job as a pawn in a game played between God and Satan. Here’s how they might characterize the opening scenes: God asks Satan where he’s been lately, Satan says he’s been out cruising through the world here and there, and God asks if Satan has happened upon Job.

Satan Before the Lord, Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765) (Wikimedia) Satan Before the Lord,
Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765)
(Wikimedia)

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8.)

Job is described as a man who cared for his…

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EMDR, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Illness

My doctor psychologist lady tells me I’m holding back. She tells me I’m ‘blocking’: I am not letting the EMDR process move forward at anything other than a snail’s pace. Which is ok, she says, but I only have 18 sessions and then I have to go back on the waiting list if I need it again. So if I want to be seeing real improvements I have to allow her in, as it were… No, I don’t have to allow her in. I have to allow me out – the me that stays hidden, locked inside the vault. This tomb was created so that I could survive. If I hadn’t, I would have lost my sanity or, worse, lost my children.

It is the existence of the vault that causes the PTSD, because occasionally the vault is shaken, and occasionally, outside of my control, one of the terrible things hidden inside escapes and wreaks havoc, even if only temporarily. It happens often enough that they give it a name and call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is quite a polite-sounding name for what happens when your own head screams danger! danger! danger! because the man walking by looks vaguely like your ex-husband, or emergency! emergency! emergency! when you hear a certain type of sound that sounds a bit like something far worse. Mind you, I’m very good at hiding it. Abuse teaches you to hide your thoughts and feelings because they make you more vulnerable, so you become a master of disguise.

I think PTSD occurs because human beings are wired for survival. It took me time to figure that out. I thought I was weak and that that’s why it affected only some people. I don’t now. PTSD occurs when you have to push your emotions down in a hostile, sometimes life-threatening situation, in order to think rationally and clearly – in order to survive. It’s a great survival technique. The trouble is that you then have to be able to process the memories of those terrible events, because that’s what the brain does every night as you sleep, but if you’ve had to push it down far enough, and if you’ve had to push it down over and over and over in order to survive and continue to survive… well, then you end up with PTSD, because we’re not made for intense and unrelenting distress.

The past two days I have been giving what the psychologist said a lot of thought. She’s right and I know she’s right. I have talked it through with my dear Frank. I have talked, in less detail of course, with each of my children. It occurred to me that if I was diagnosed with a different kind of serious illness, I would allow myself the time and space for the treatment to work, and I would explain to the children what was happening (because they’re all old enough to understand) so that we could muddle through together because that’s what families do. So why had it not really occurred to me to do this for EMDR? Why did I think that my treatment and its effects were not ‘worthy’ enough to be given consideration?

I don’t think the fault lies solely within me. I don’t think it’s just me wanting to push through and just get on with it, because, as St. Teresa of Avila says in The Interior Castle, ‘getting on with it’ is just common sense. No, I think that our culture looks upon mental illness and its treatment with cynicism. Sufferers are often perceived as weak-minded or morally deficient, as malingerers or somehow less human. Our culture subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) degrades those with mental illness. They become objects of fear, scorn or pity, as if they’re no longer worthy of the same respect and dignity as someone with a ‘physical’ illness. Yet even Jesus experienced mental anguish:

‘In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient. When he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him…’

Hebrews 5:7-9 (GNT)

Mental illness is a physical illness. If my brain doesn’t work properly because the neurons got screwed up by too much adrenaline, or if the brain’s hormones are too high or too low, how is that not physical? Who in this world can look into my malfunctioning brain and know what I am thinking or feeling? No one. Yet still the fear within ourselves makes us view the mentally ill at arms’ length. In the 21st century that is nothing short of a disgrace.

I read an excellent post from Ann Voskamp today. She could have written it just for me at this exact time. Praise God for His provision! How can I be anything but thankful for today? Here’s an excerpt. I pray it blesses you as it did me:

Dear Thriver

I once held a bird in my hand.

No one else could see it, but I felt it. I felt it’s heart thumping hard and afraid.

It happens– there are ways to look fine on the outside…. and no one knows what you’ve really survived.

But honestly? You didn’t just survive, so let’s toss that myth right at the outset.

The way you keep walking? You may be wounded. You may be hurting. You may be limping. You may feel alone and overwhelmed and an unspoken broken — but you’re no victim. And you’re not just a survivor. You’re a Thriver.

You may bleed but you rise.

Yeah, it may not feel like it — but you are seen… how you just keep keeping your chin up and living brave through the hurt and how you keep taking one step out of bed and another step through the door — and how you keep scaling mountains by relentlessly taking steps forward.

But I wanted you to know — your wounds are seen and it’s okay… 

To read more click here, it will open in a new tab.

Lent Day Two: Captivating

He calls and He calls and despite the hustle and bustle and busyness, despite the tug and sway and grasping of the world, despite the instinct to tunnel deep under the ground, to hide in the cool, moist dark, despite even myself, I come. No, I not only come, I run as if my life depended on it. Because it’s Him. When I sometimes have thoughts – you know – doubts, wondering if I can follow God through the storms, I always end up back in the same place, with the same result:

The question is not ‘how can I?‘,

but ‘how can I not?’

My husband said to me the other day, when I told him how broken and screwed up I was, and how I felt useless and as if life had passed me by, he said to me that what made me special was that I had been deep into the abyss… and although battered and damaged, I came out again. I survived; I didn’t become part of the abyss myself. My core remained intact. He’s right. But, of course, this was not done in my own strength. When I say, or when I write the words ‘only by grace’ I mean

only

by

grace.

And when I say ‘only by grace’, what I mean is

only

with

Christ.

That’s why I’m not dead, or sunk in evil or panic or anger or despair. I’m damaged, yes! And bruised and battered and thrown about by the storm. But I’m still here.

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

…for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 42:7,11 (NIVUK)

Reblog: When Women Speak, Men Ought to Listen (a guest post for Tim Fall’s blog)

This happens in all arenas, from school to the workplace. Church should be different from the world, not the same. I sat through a service recently and at the end the minister said we were going to watch a video about how God uses ordinary people. The youtube video was about eight to ten biblical characters. It was very slick, as many of these videos are, but it had two flaws, as I saw it: 1. Each person was an ordinary person, yes, but not one of them was called to ordinary things. We don’t remember Joshua’s mate Bob who was perhaps a bit clumsy so he was given the job of counting the sheep, we just remember Joshua. And 2: They were all male! The minister might as well have said you’re no good to God unless you’re male and are called to do something extraordinary. It’s often not even deliberate, but patriarchy (as in ‘men are implicitly better than women’) is alive and well even in denominations where women are allowed to be ordained.
My own opinion on this subject is this: if God has called you to do xyz, then do xyz. If God has not called you to do xyz, then don’t do it. God used unexpected people all the time throughout the bible, young and old, male and female, Jew and gentile, slave and free. Am I called to be submissive to my husband? Yes. Am I to serve my husband? Yes. Is he to submit to me? Yes. Is he, in imitating Christ, to serve me? Yes. Does that not cancel out any complementarian/egalitarian argument? Imho, yes.

I’ve spent my whole life feeling somehow ‘less than’ because of abuse. I felt ‘less than’ because I was female and because I was physically smaller. In my abuse-warped head, might equalled right. Jesus set me free from that destructive thinking and I’m not about to let anyone shackle me again (hallelujah!), nor my special needs son (his innocence and simplicity make him more Christ-like than the rest of us would care to admit) nor my wonderful daughters.
On the other hand, I would also like to see a cultural shift so that instead of denoting traditional women’s roles as ‘less than’, the traditional female roles of nurturing and organising are revered and valued for what they are. Sometimes these receive lip service, but often it is no more than that.

Excellent post!

Laura Droege's blog

Good morning, everyone! 

I’m honored to be writing for Tim Fall‘s blog today. It’s about my struggle with the complementarian doctrine in my new church and how it affects the worship service. But it’s also about my struggle to find a voice, my voice. For so many years, I believed that what I thought didn’t matter, that my gifts didn’t matter, that my opinions, no matter how intelligent or informed, didn’t matter. None of these were worth anything.

Why? Because I wasn’t a man. 

A week ago, I decided to confront the issue. In public. In church. In front of people who would disagree–strongly–with my beliefs. Here’s the story:

The Sunday school hour had just ended, and I sat in the church pew, seething.

After a year-and-a-half of searching, my family has landed in a conservative Presbyterian church. I like it—mostly. No church is perfect. But on this particular…

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