Category Archives: Addiction

Redeeming the Scars

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God’s passion is to weave glory out of broken shards
of past sexual abuse,
an affair,
financial disaster,
a divorce,
death,
or any other experience of powerlessness or sin.

Everything hinges on the past.

“The scars of sin and death can’t be erased, but they can become the weather-beaten marks of character that bring depth and intrigue to what would have been merely a beautiful but ordinary vase.  God’s passion is to weave glory out of broken shards of past sexual abuse, an affair, financial disaster, a divorce, death, or any other experience of powerlessness or sin…
What was yesterday?  The loss of a job, victimization, bottomless grief, pointless sacrifice that brought little good?  Was it deep struggle, intense drama and terror that eventually brought us to our knees and to the face of God?  Everything hinges on the past.  We will project the past into every new moment and either repeat our past themes of victimization or marvel at the work of God in redeeming us in spite of our questions and doubt.”
~Dan Allender, The Healing Path

Everything hinges on the past.

If I’m beginning to repeat myself, please be patient.
It takes awhile for some things to sink in.
Especially if you’ve been living in shame-bound systems for fifty years…

We will project the past into every new moment and
EITHER
Repeat our past themes of victimization
OR
Marvel at the work of God in redeeming us

Oh, I have spent so many years allowing the theme of abuse to be projected into every moment of my life.
I desire to move forward. I really do.

However, before I can, I must allow the deeper work of healing to wash over me, to cleanse me through and through. Jesus prayed for us to be sanctified in the truth. His word is the Truth. Paul reminded the church that Christ died “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”

I want to see the work of redemption in my story.  I desire to see the Truth of the Word working in my life.  I press forward recognizing betrayals can be redeemed through faith, powerlessness can be infused with hope, and ambivalence can be turned to bold love.  These are the great gifts of redemption and restoration: Faith, Hope, and Love.

Many scars have formed over the years.  I pray they will not be as numerous as the freckles… but, honestly,… there could be more.

This path of healing I am choosing to take may be a long one, so…

“I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”   ~Chris Cleave, Little Bee

Staying On Course

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The healing path is not a jaunt in the park. It is a life-rattling, heart-revealing journey that takes us through danger, harm, heartache … The healing path is glorious, but the only way we will stay on course and resist the temptation to flee to safer ground is by comprehending more deeply the assaults and losses we will face on our journey … ~Dan Allender

Resisting the temptation to flee to safer ground…

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s the point at which we decide if we really want to be healed.

Does the pain run too deep? Are the ramifications too wide-spread?
Is it possible to truly see the heartache you’ve caused without losing your mind?

To take responsibility for all you’ve caused, through selfish ambition, or loneliness…
Whatever the reason you chose your way, it caused heartache.
For you. For those you love. Maybe, even, for generations to come.
We can’t know how our loved ones will work through their pain.

We each have choices to make when we’ve been hurt. Will you choose to protect yourself? What form of defense mechanism works best to ward off shame? A drink here… an accusation there… a little bit of sugar… a wholelotta control… The choices for repression are about as numerous as the ramifications from your sin.

Denial, blame, control.
Phariseeism, alcoholism, workaholism.
Acting out, drug addiction, isolation.

The list goes on and on …
And the cycle continues …

Will you flee the path of healing, or will you stay on course?
The former might be arrogance or fear; the latter takes humility.

Will you puff up, or bow low?

I’ve been reading Lamentations and James. Both give a picture of grief and repentance that leads to godliness. I’ve had enough of the world’s wisdom. I am tired of lighting my own path and drinking from broken cisterns. I truly want to remain on the path of healing, no matter the cost.

I must face the shame…

“God sets Himself against the proud, but He shows favor to the humble.”
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and He will flee from you.

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites.
Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done.
Let there be sorrow and deep grief.
Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.

When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him,
He will lift you up and give you honor.

James 4:4-10

It seems a bit harsh in today’s world of “easy believism” and “seeker friendly” teaching to talk of sin, adulterers, and hypocrites. Most people run away from such words, feeling it’s condemnation. I don’t see it that way. As difficult as it is to admit, that is what we must deal with every day of our time on earth. Do we love this place more than we love God’s way?

When I see I have chosen to love the world more than God, by choosing a safer path than the one which leads to healing, I need to repent.

And then, times of refreshing may come…

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.
~Acts 3:19

The Healing Path

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“Each day we either live for God or for other gods. In each moment of hardship we fear either God or man. When we choose to worship gods and fear men our lives will suffer an emptiness and turmoil that is not much different than trying to fill our bellies with dirt. At first we may feel full, but in short order our violation of God’s plan will lead to torment…

But God will not let his children wander in the realm of death without giving them some kind of wake-up call.

Relationship with God requires leaving, letting go (of other gods), in order to pursue his promises. He calls his followers on a journey that takes them beyond the limits of their sight. Hosea tells us that God will woo us to the desert in order to win us back to himself…

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me “my husband”; you will no longer call me “my master” ~Hosea 2:14-16

And what is the desert? It is the opposite of Eden, the garden green with luxury and life. The desert is brown, rocky, and desolate. It is not exactly the most romantic spot to renew a broken marriage between God and his bride. So why would God take his beloved to the desert in order to restore her? Because only there can he reveal to her the magnitude of his love…

The healing path must pass through the desert or else our healing will be the product of our own will and wisdom. It is in the silence in the desert that we hear our dependence on noise. It is in the poverty of the desert that we see clearly our attachments to the trinkets and baubles we cling to for security and pleasure. The desert shatters the soul’s arrogance and leaves body and soul crying out in thirst and hunger. In the desert, we trust God or we die.

God not only leads us through the desert, but he calls us to walk through the valley as the sun sets and shadows spread across the land. To get to the table set for us by God we are called to walk through danger. Any valley is dangerous terrain. Not only can rocks roll down on us unexpectedly, be we are surrounded by higher ground on which an enemy can perch and rain down assault. No military tactician would willingly send his troops marching through a valley; it is a place of death. And if one must march through a valley , the worst possible time to do so is at sunset when shadows distort and make it impossible to pick out enemies hiding in wait.

Why would God have us walk through danger to get to him? Again, because valleys strip us of the presumption of independence; danger draws us to a greater dependence on the only one who can provide and protect. The desert brings us to our knees with craving; the valley calls us to cling to the hem of the one who leads us to safety. The psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4)

God is with us. His rod and staff and his sure vision, steady balance, and infinite knowledge of the terrain will guide us as we walk through the shadowlands. But don’t be fooled: His leading does not always guide us out of harm’s way. Rather, God often leads us directly into the hottest and most perilous point of the battle…

The healing path is not a jaunt in the park. It is a life-rattling, heart-revealing journey that takes us through danger, harm, heartache — and ultimately to new trust, profound hope, and a love that can’t be scorched by assault or destroyed by loss. The healing path is glorious, but the only way we will stay on course and resist the temptation to flee to safer ground is by comprehending more deeply the assaults and losses we will face on our journey. In the desert and valley we will pass through the dangers of betrayal, powerlessness, and ambivalence. These three realities will pull faith, hope, and love right out from under us if we are not ready for them.”   ~Dan Allender, Ph.D., The Healing Path

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff will comfort me.”

Rescue Us All

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Do not love the world or the things in the world… the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

You want to take a headlong dive into destruction?

Sow seeds of destruction and reap the devastation.

I sure wish I didn’t know what that looks like.  I sure wish I had continued to walk the path of righteousness, even when the lust of the flesh appeared better than my temporary circumstances.  I sure wish I had seen the devastation before I went sowing lustful seeds.

The real problem: I did see.

I had read The Word.

I knew what it said about the rewards of sowing to the wind.  You will reap the whirlwind.  You WILL.

And now… on this side of the whirlwind…?  Not much remains of my former life.

Only by His grace do I still live.  I’ve contemplated suicide quite a lot over the past five years.  And, again, this past weekend.

You see, I have known my spiritual gifts are teaching and prophecy.  And I spent much of my life teaching, speaking forth The Truth of God’s Word.  Then, the hard tests of faith became so. much. harder.  I closed the Book.  I told myself I knew enough of what it said… the pit of depression had become so dark, I wouldn’t see the light right beside me… on the nightstand.

Either I forgot the warnings, or didn’t think they’d truly happen to me.

And now, another stands on the precipice… and he’s closing his eyes!

The questions haunt me once again:

What did I do?

Where did it start?

Why can’t he hear?

Who is this precious baby?

Where did he go?

Why God?

WHY?

My heart cries out to a deaf ear…

No.

No.

NO!

HE is NOT deaf.  He hears.  He has spoken.

Will he listen?

Oh, God, please don’t let him close The Book.  Don’t let him forget what he’s learned.  Speak boldly to his heart and mind.  Don’t let him turn away!!  Hold him fast.  Let him stand on the Rock.  Don’t let him sink into the muck of sin, the mire of filth.

Please, God,

Rescue my son!

Rescue us ALL.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life,
is not from the Father, but is from the world.
The world is passing away, and also its lusts;
but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

~I John 2:15-17

Hug Him, Please.

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Oh, this is a sad day…

So many memories. He made me laugh and cry and praise my Lord all in the space of a couple minutes of visiting. I enjoyed Big Lang on a daily basis. Some days were better than others, but each encounter was memorable.

It was new for both of us. He’d never known a “you-so-white-suburban-child” and I’d never trusted a past convict with my life.  He let me know I could call him night or day and he’d be there to help.  He’s the one who told me I was “livin’ in the ‘hood.”  No, not South Dallas, but the ‘hood, nonetheless.  He learned that some people had never stepped foot in a liquor store (that would’ve been me) and I learned that some people had never known safety, or freedom from fear.

Goodness.
Now,

He’s gone.

And, he left without me knowing…

I saw him last Thanksgiving, but I’d moved away from the complex. We didn’t see one another on a regular basis. Today, I saw on Facebook that the movie in which he has a role is coming out this summer, “Seasons of Gray.” I went to my site to read about him, and then clicked on his site to see if he’d posted anything new.

“Roderick Lang passed away on Friday, December 14th, 2012…”

It had only been three weeks since I’d seen him. Oh, how I wish I’d called him back the last time I saw his number in my missed calls list. It wasn’t a good day for me. It might not have been a good day for him . . . Oh, please, dear Lord, don’t let that be the day!

He taught me so much in the short space of time I knew him. He struggled, day in and day out, with his past. But, he knew his God and had enormous faith in the promise of new life in Jesus. On his worst days I wouldn’t see him . . .  but most days he was outside, three doors down, sitting on his back patio. And oh, so happy to get to visit for a few minutes! He’d share a funny memory, a joke, or a tall tale just to hear me laugh. He said I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and he just wanted to help lift it a bit.  He had no fear of letting me know my dog looked like she was on drugs and needed a good grooming!  He’d come to the back door, knock, and ask me to join him for coffee on the patio.  Oh, so many memories…

Oh, Jesus.

Thank you.

Thank you for letting me meet Rod.

Thank you for letting him be my friend.

Please, hug him for me.

A huge bear hug.  He’s such a big man…

Please…

Big Lang
Roderick Earl Lang
Rod

Thank you, Jesus, for letting him rest in Your peace.
For eternity.

Big Lang on the set

Every Dark Corner

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He can change us in a moment from lost to redeemed…from old to new. And yet,…
…it takes a lifetime process of being changed from glory to glory until we see His face.

When Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, he fell down and cried out, “I am undone!” He was a prophet chosen by God. He was a man of dust, chosen to be God’s spokesperson.  Yet, in his moment of realization, when Isaiah saw the train of God’s robe and the majesty of the throne-room, he came apart at the seams! Then, he declared how unworthy he was to speak for God, “for I am a man of unclean lips.”

Out of the mouth come the things of the heart.

I wonder if the closer we get to His glory,
the more we see how unworthy we are to be there.
And the irony of it, we may be getting closer,
but we’re feeling further and further away.

He is so far removed from what we can imagine.
His perfection and holiness cannot be obtained and yet,
He wants us to be in His presence.

He wants us to fellowship with Him.

So…
He made a way,
through His Son
for every. last. nook. and. cranny. of our sinful heart
to be covered by His blood…

Even that last dark corner we aren’t sure He saw…
He did.

He saw it.

He understood it.

He covered it.

The Grace of Catastrophe

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After seeing my favorite opera on the Big Screen yesterday,  “Les Miserables,” I have been singing Fantine’s song and thinking of Jean Valjean’s choices in life.  I read Les Miserables while taking a Humanities course in college.  I fell in love with Jean Valjean, if it’s possible to love a fictitious character.  He is a type of Christ, being willing to step into our mess and carry us through to life (think sewer scene here).  So many fantastic metaphors in that story!  No wonder, outside of the Bible, we’re told Les Miserables is the next favorite story of God’s redemptive power. 

It brought to mind this article I’d bookmarked months ago.  What happens when life becomes messy?  Does grace cover catastrophe?  Oh, yes!  Read on, if you need some insight. THIS is what we can learn, if willing, through the messiness of life:

Life in the Midst of Mess

Jan Winebrenner

What We Really Believe

A. W. Tozer wrote, “The difference between a great Christian life and any other kind lies in the quality of our religious concepts . . . i.e., what we think of God, what we believe about Him.”

Nothing so challenges us to examine what we believe about God like catastrophe.

That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. . . . Often only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.

We face difficulty, and we have to ask:
Do we really believe God is strong and faithful?
We face pain and illness, and we wonder:
Is He as good as I’ve always been told to believe?

Death comes, and weeping, and we ask: Is heaven a reality? Is prayer effective? Does God really hear? The struggles and disasters of our lives prompt us to ask these questions, and dozens more. Every tragedy, every crisis, offers us this:

It can be a means of grace—an instrument used by God by which we can cease floating passively on all manner of external attractions. It is by the grace of catastrophe that people sometimes come to themselves and see what is before them as if for the first time. Catastrophe can, like a mighty wind, blow away the abstracting veils of theory and ideology and enable our own sovereign seeing.  ~Eugene Peterson

It is the testimony of the ancients, as well as contemporary saints, that the greatest lessons of faith have been learned against the backdrop of suffering. The theology we say we believe takes root in soil watered by tears and bears fruit in lives characterized by peace and righteousness, lives that delight in the person of God Himself.

The “grace of catastrophe” comes through in places where our theology is tested, our faith forged, our knowledge of God made personal and practical, and our love for Him impassioned.

On the Brink

John Piper wrote, “Every moment in every circumstance we stand on the brink between the lure of idolatry and the delight of seeing and knowing God.”

Our stance is never more precarious than when we are in pain
—any kind of pain.
The voice of God whispers in our souls, “Love Me, worship Me, trust Me.”

But His soft words are hard to hear over the raucous voices in our culture and in our own hearts—voices that shout at us to berate God, to ignore Him and move on in search of other comforts, if there be any—any that don’t wear off after a few minutes or hours.

Still, Jesus calls us to come close, to cuddle in His love and rest in the certainty of His goodness and His sovereign power. He invites us to take comfort in all that He has promised to be to us—savior, friend, healer, lover.

This is the challenge we face with each day as we step out into life.

Will we seek God and take our refuge in Him
when our path is littered with broken dreams?
Or will we turn elsewhere?

We have only these two options when catastrophe strikes. If we choose God, then catastrophe becomes for us a special grace-gift, ushering us into the place where we can experience God in ways we never before imagined. We find ourselves poised on the brink of life’s greatest discovery:

that God is the ultimate presence in the universe, and that knowing Him, interacting with Him, by faith, is more satisfying, more exhilarating than anything the human heart ever hoped for or imagined.

(Go here to read more…)

A Season of Funk

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Who’s to say when the season ends?
God.
Who’s to say when the crying stops?
God.
Who’s to say when it’s time to move on?
God.

Not you.
Not me.

God.

You may give a “buck up” message to help someone “get past” their crud.
But, unless you’ve walked their path (and no one has the exact same path),
You have no idea the length of time it will take for them to be able to “move on”.

And, believe it or not, some people are created to grieve.
You might not like that, but it’s biblical.
Some people are given hurt after hurt after hurt to be an example of the reality of a sinful world.

You can’t know who that person is…and it’s way too easy to say, “Get over it!”

God determines the seasons of our lives.
WE are to be compassionate in whatever season we find others…

Mourn with those who mourn.
Rejoice with those who rejoice.

YOU are not God.
I am not God.

He determines the times and the seasons…
…the epochs of our lives.

Love covers a multitude of sins…even self-pity…
Be gentle, compassionate, forgiving…let the fruit of kindness be ever on your lips.

Grace, people.

The Best We Could

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He did the best he could with what he knew.
I remember when I first came to that realization about my dad.

In many ways he came from a privileged home, and yet, dysfunctional. One brother (my uncle) declares their mom was crazy. The sister says their dad was an alcoholic. My dad? He doesn’t talk much about his life as a kid, except for the terrorizing antics (from my perspective) with crickets and neighborhood girls. He does say he had a good childhood (I think that’s the privileged part speaking) and rarely remembers his dad being drunk, “Well, sure. There were times he spoke with a slur…” Mom, one of those neighborhood girls, recollects a mean lady living in Dad’s home. She doesn’t have many kind words for dear old grandma — aforementioned crazy lady. So, yeah. Dysfunctional fits the bill.

The short temper and sharp tongue make more sense when I remember “from whence he came.” Not that he had an excuse for his bad behavior, but, at least I caught a glimpse into his life. And in that picture, I realized how much better life was in our home than the one in which he was raised.

So, why didn’t that “ah-ha” moment translate into discernment for my marriage?

Instead of empathizing, over time, I grew complacent. I became frustrated with his constant countering. At times, his dismissiveness broke my heart. Yet, he was living a better life than the one in which he was raised. Of course he had “leftovers” from childhood… who doesn’t?

None of us come out of childhood unscathed. Some of us might paint a rosy picture, but, if we’re honest we’ll admit, we didn’t live long on this earth without suffering the effects of this sinful world. Many times those “effects” literally come at us from our parents. The sins of the fathers (and the mothers) truly are being visited upon the children.

I wish I had been more understanding. I needed to see how empathy was not something he understood. He was raised in a neglectful home. His parents weren’t old enough to be having children. Kids raising kids. Of course he didn’t learn unconditional love. Their motto: “Turn on anyone who turns on you.” Dog eat dog? YES! As one daughter explains, quoting Forest Gump, “Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

When life became unbearable for us, I did my dysfunctional thing. I went inward.

He did his dysfunctional thing and moved outward.

Neither of us moved toward the other, as we had been taught to do.

We moved to our “default” settings… And, now… years later… we’re divorced…

I sure wish I would’ve heard Lora when she tried to tell me why he wasn’t able to meet my needs.
But then, why did I expect it from him? And, why did I marry into the pain I thought I had escaped?
Also, why couldn’t I meet his needs? Did he marry into the same kind of pain he had hoped to escape?

It felt comfortable. The pain was comfortable.
I was used to being questioned… and the butt of jokes.
He was used to rescuing and caring for hurting people.
The results of masochism.
Sigh.

Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Try me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me…

We did the best we could?
Maybe…

What if we had chosen to do the best HE could…?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Yes. It is true.
But, sometimes, even as Christians, we take the easy way out.