Category Archives: God’s grace

Rats. I Just Gotta Let Myself Feel the Pain, ‘Cuz Wherever I Go There I Am.

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The other evening as I was watching the news, they announced that Olivia de Havilland had died, and then later on they announced that Regis Philbin had died as well. While Olivia de Havilland might not be as familiar to many people nowadays as Regis Philbin was, she was very familiar to people my age and older. She played Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind, one of her best known roles, and one for which she received an Oscar nomination. She was 104 when she died.

My point in mentioning these people’s deaths is that when I heard the news of their passing, it hit me rather hard ~ harder than I would have expected ~ and I’ve reached a point with this blog where my first thought when I’m upset about something is to come here and talk about it with you, my followers.

So here I am…

My immediate reaction when I heard the news of de Havilland’s and Philbin’s deaths was to run away. What ran through my mind was that everything was happening way too fast, and I couldn’t control it. And then I reminded myself that I’m not in control anyway, and running away is useless, because regardless of where I go, I’m still with me. Or, wherever I go, there I am, one of my favorite existential statements.

It’s impossible to escape from myself, and it’s also impossible to escape from God,

I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your Presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your Hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night ~ but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You. ~ Psalm 139:7-12, NLT.

Though, now that I think of it, while I might want to escape from myself, I don’t want to get away from God, because God is the only One who truly understands me and wants the best for me. And once I realized that I couldn’t run away from the pain of losing familiar parts of my life, and that I couldn’t control how quickly everything was happening, I started to cry, because I realized I had to let myself feel the pain.

And who wants to do that? It’s so very painful afterall, and no one likes to experience pain.

But then I remembered that Jesus allowed Himself to feel pain. He wept when He learned that Lazarus had died, the shortest verse in the Bible,

Jesus wept. John 11:35, NKJV.

And the cross was the ultimate expression of Jesus feeling pain, because on the cross He bore the sin, pain, and sickness of all mankind forever. In fact, that was why He came to earth and assumed human flesh in the first place,

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days. ~ 1 Peter 1:18-20, NLT.

I love that. God chose Jesus to be my ransom long before the world began. It just boggles my mind that God would plan that far ahead for my salvation, and I love Him for that. That says to me that He was thinking of me for a very long time before I was ever a thought in my parents’ minds, and not only me, but every single human being who ever existed.

And if Jesus can make that choice, can choose to do the hard stuff, even the hardest stuff of all, and experience the excruciating agony of the cross, and even worse, the abandonment of His Father, so that I ~ we ~ can have relationship with Him, well, then I can make the same choice, and allow myself to feel the comparatively small pains of my life.

I thank You, Jesus, and my Father, and Holy Spirit, for giving me that choice, and for giving me the ability and strength to make it!

WOW!! PRAISE GOD FOREVERMORE!!

I Need to Fire the Judge.

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Every once In a while, I mess up really, really bad, and last Saturday (July 11) was one of those times. And when I do I’m incredibly grateful for God’s mercy, and for King David’s ability to encapsulate my feelings in the Psalms. Psalm 51 is a particularly good example,

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. ~ Psalm 51:1-4, NLT.

King David wrote Psalm 51 after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet concerning his sin with Bathsheba and his conspiracy to have her husband murdered on the field of battle (see 2 Samuel, Chapters Eleven and Twelve).

And then I asked God to forgive me, because I so desperately needed His forgiveness.

So what actually happened? What did I do that made me feel such guilt and shame? As it turns out I was playing a new game on my iPad, and while the game itself was relatively harmless, at various points during the game it would offer timed challenges where you could earn extra coins if you could complete a level within a certain amount of time, for example, twenty seconds.

Now, I’ve never done very well with arcade-style games, or timed games of any kind, and I don’t play them as a general rule. They put way too much stress on me and have always been sure-fire triggers for panic attacks and self-abuse. When I downloaded this game there was no indication that it was an arcade game, or that there were any timing issues at all, so I thought I was safe.

Then I started playing it and discovered differently, but the timing challenges didn’t happen very often, and they were doable within the allotted time, so I didn’t worry about them.

Until…

Until I reached the upper levels. Once there I ran into a timed challenge that I could not beat no matter what I tried, at which point I absolutely fell apart. It drove me into a panic attack, and I started hitting myself ~ something I haven’t done in many months. In fact, it’s been almost exactly one year, because I wrote a post about God healing me of the self-abuse on July 16, 2019 (Go To Forgiveness, Go Right To Forgiveness. Don’t Pass Through Guilt, Don’t Go To Condemnation.), and interestingly enough He healed me of it in the context of playing a computer game.

So I had a panic attack and started hitting myself. Looking back, I feel a lot of shame about that, because I feel like I should have known better. I should have known better!! The problem is, when I get into situations like that, I can’t see the panic attack and subsequent self-abuse coming. I’m just blithely playing along, trying to complete the time challenge ~ and failing.

I guess that should have been my clue, that I kept failing at it, because I hadn’t failed at any of the other challenges, and I failed at this one every single time I tried. I should have stopped after two or three successive failed attempts, but somehow I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see that necessity, so I kept on trying until it was too late and I had reached the point of no return. It was at that point that my face was sweating and I was calling myself bad names, and after that was when I started hitting myself.

Once the self-abuse started, I kind woke up and realized what was happening, and all the rage at myself drained out of me. But I still couldn’t forgive myself. Not yet. Because, like I said earlier, I should have known. I should have KNOWN!!

I’ve always had the hardest time forgiving myself. I can forgive anyone, ANYONE, but not myself. Well, and my sister…

But even she’s easier to forgive than I am. But I’ve come to realize that in making that determination about myself, I’m really saying that I know more about me than God does ~ and that’s simply not true. And I’ve already come to understand that I would make a rotten God (or god; I Would Make a Terrible God).

McT and I talked about this situation during my phone-appointment last Tuesday, and we decided that what’s really going on is that I have a mean internal judge ~ probably all three parents internalized ~ both biological parents and my stepdad ~ who won’t let me accept that I’m human and therefore imperfect, and liable to make mistakes. When I was a kid being abused in the cult, if I made a mistake someone died, and it’s quite difficult to break that connection in my mind.

So McT and I decided that I need to fire the judge. What I really need to do is ask God to break the connection in my mind between the mistakes I was forced to make in the cult and the people who died as a result of those mistakes ~ because the mistakes were unavoidable. I had no control over them. They were forced on me by the people conducting the rituals.

My parents fostered that perfectionism at home as well. I can remember times when I would spill a glass of milk at the dinner table, and my mother would accuse me of doing it on purpose if I didn’t act abjectly remorseful.

Then there was the time after I left college when I decided to enroll in a local secretarial school. I completed the program there with the highest score anyone had ever gotten at that school ~ 99.2% overall ~ and when I told my stepdad about it, all he could say was, “Why didn’t you get 100%?” I was crushed after he said that. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, like no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.

Now, I certainly don’t want to dwell on the past, but these particular events were times that, in essence, branded me. They left scars that only God can heal ~ and I believe He will do just that, just as He’s healed me of all the other things people have done to me. I believe He can and will break the connections between what happened to me in the cult and the consequences of those things, so I’m no longer trapped into doing things I don’t want to do ~ like hitting myself, because God didn’t want me to be abused in a satanic cult in the first place!

You are not to sacrifice any of your children in the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. ~ Leviticus 18:21, CSB.

“The people of Judah have sinned before my very eyes,” says the LORD. “They have set up their abominable idols right in the Temple that bears my name, defiling it. They have built pagan shrines at Topheth, the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they burn their sons and daughters in the fire. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!” ~ Jeremiah 7:30-31, NLT.

It’s comforting to me to know that God didn’t want me to be abused in the cult, that it never crossed His mind! Knowing that has really helped me in my healing process, especially with regard to some of the lies Harry told me ~ for example, that he had to abuse me because God hated me. It’s so easy to forgive him for telling me that, because I know he was seriously deceived himself when he said it.

I thank God for His healing power in my life, and for His goodness to me!!

Ideas Flitting In and Out

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I’ve tried to think of a good title for this post, and I finally came up with the above offering. I thought of My Brain Has Flown the Coup or possibly, I Have No Idea. Or Is It Ideas? Or maybe, Depression Is a Mack Truck and I’ve Been Mowed Down.

That last should tell you something about my state of mind, and it’s also the main reason why I haven’t posted in almost a month (my last published post was on May 14th ~ Of Life and Death, and Life Again). The main reason I’m so depressed seems to be because of the death of Ravi Zacharias, but I don’t really understand why that would be so. I know where he is, and I know that I will get to meet him in person one day, as well as, and even more importantly and marvelously, the fact that I’ll be able to meet Jesus and greet Him face to face ~ always my fondest and deepest desire.

But for some reason I just can’t seem to shake this deep funk of a depression that I’ve fallen into, and it started when I heard the news that Ravi Zacharias was dying, and then that he had died.

It feels like I’ve fallen ~ or been pushed or thrown ~ to the bottom of a deep, deep, waterless well, from which there is no exit. And if I cry out for help the only answer I get is the echoes of my own shrieks and cries. The darkness is so thick that I can’t see my hand in front of my face, but if I feel for the walls, my fingers touch slimy stones up as high as I can reach. I feel like I’m about four years old, and I’m terrified. Someone has thrown me down here somehow, and abandoned me here, and I don’t know why.

What did I do wrong?? 

What did I do wrong??

What I’ve just described has all the earmarks of a memory, and I wish, oh how I WISH, I didn’t have to be alone while it’s coming up!! I know God is with me. He’s always with me, but it would be so much easier if there were a physical, trustworthy person here. I haven’t seen McT in person ~ in his office ~ since the quarantine began in March. I’ve had phone appointments with him, and I’ve so appreciated his willingness to do that, but there are times when you just need a physical presence. He does read these blog posts, however, so I know he’ll find out what’s going on soon enough.

In light of what just surfaced, and from what I’ve come to understand about Ravi’s position in my life, if I can word it that way, vis à vis him being one of only two or three positive male role models that I’ve ever had in my life, maybe this depression has been about feeling abandoned when he died. While I know that Ravi didn’t abandon me, I think his death triggered this memory, and the abandonment contained therein.

I don’t understand how people can be so cruel! What could a four year old child possibly have done that would have warranted being treated like that?!?!

I forgive them. I forgive them. I forgive them. I forgive them! I FORGIVE THEM!!!

I forgive them, and I ask God to forgive them. I pray that God forgives them.

Now I just feel inexpressibly sad. Sad for the little girl that was me, who had to live through such hell. I used to hate her, but now I love her soooSOOO MUCH!! She was so incredibly brave and courageous! I’m crying now at how valiant and lionhearted she was throughout the years of her existence. If it hadn’t been for her the rest of us would never have made it. That was Catherine Belinda for you! I celebrate you, Catherine Belinda, and I thank God that He created you!! I thank God that He created you first!!

God is good. God is good ALL the time, and I love Him so!!

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT.

Feeling the Divide

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Earlier today I discovered that someone had used my debit card to steal $139 from my checking account using a website in Toronto, which meant that there was also a $1.11 credit card issuer cross-border fee, because the charge was made in a foreign country. The website was one I had used before, but the last time was over a year ago, so I knew this $140.11 wasn’t mine. So I immediately called my bank and disputed it, which meant I had to cancel the debit card and get a new one.

The lady on the phone told me it would take about ten days for the new card to arrive, as well as ten days for the $140.11 to be restored to my checking account, at which point I told her that I needed the card today, because I had to buy new batteries for my TV remote. The last batteries I bought only lasted one month.

Harrumph!! Lousy batteries!! And I can’t take them back to the store where I purchased them because I don’t have the receipt.

Arrgh!! Rats!!

I have a feeling I indirectly brought this on myself. I’m having a very difficult time making it to church on Sundays. I think I’ve mentioned before that I would make an excellent hermit (I Would Make a Great Hermit), and my hermiting desires are making it extremely difficult for me to do what I know is God’s will and get myself to church every Sunday,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another ~ and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV.

I’ve become aware that I’m not requiring enough of myself ~ especially in the area of church attendance. It was kind of like a revelation, and once I understood the problem, I could no longer ignore it. I could no longer skip church on Sundays just because I didn’t feel like going, even if they did live-stream the services ~ which they’d been doing for the last couple of months. I’d been using the fact that they were live-streaming the services as my excuse for not going. As long as I could watch the live-streamed service it was okay if I didn’t attend the service in person. I knew in my heart that I was lying to myself with that excuse, but at least I was hearing the Word being preached.

And then God showed me that I wasn’t requiring enough of myself, and that I had to start going to church again. It was no longer enough to watch the live-streamed service on my computer.

Rats!!

like staying home! I don’t want to leave my apartment!!

I made it to church for one Sunday after that revelation, but no more after that. After that first Sunday I knew I should continue going, but I just didn’t want to. I could feel myself making a conscious decision to not go ~ to disobey God and His Word,

To go against what you are told is like the sin of witchcraft. Not to obey is like the sin of worshiping false gods. You have turned away from the Word of the Lord. So He has turned away from you being king. ~ 1 Samuel 15:23, NLV (New Life Version).

I knew I was being disobedient, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving my apartment to go to church, so I stayed home, and asked God to forgive me for not going. Basically I used His grace as a convenient crutch, or should I say I abused His grace, something I’m not proud of.

And then the money was stolen from my checking account.

That sequence of events made an immediate connection in my mind. I don’t think God was punishing me for my disobedience, but I think it’s possible that my rebellion might have opened the door for the devil to gain a foothold. So I picked myself up and repented, truly this time.

And no matter how much I don’t want to go, I’ll make myself go to church!

As this whole thing evolved this afternoon and evening, I’ve felt extremely disappointed in myself, and I’ve had a hard time believing that God will protect me from the consequences of my behavior. I know He’s forgiven me, because His Word says He has, but actions have consequences, and I deserve to bear the brunt of those actions. I deserve the consequences. I don’t want them, but I deserve them, and that’s what I’m struggling with now. That and feeling like God is disappointed in me. That right there is very hard for me to deal with. I hate thinking that God could be disappointed in me!

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

Those Wretched Intrusions!

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I want to talk about something that every survivor of child abuse, and especially every survivor of childhood sexual abuse struggles with, and that is flashbacks. Anyone who has PTSD wrestles with flashbacks. Soldiers who’ve come back from battle often have PTSD, and one of the symptoms of PTSD is flashbacks.

My dictionary defines a flashback as: a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past, typically as the result of psychological trauma. 

I have flashbacks on a daily basis. For me ~ and I think they’re different for each person because each person is a unique individual ~ they are distinctly sexual, and very distressing and disconcerting. Basically they consist of body parts having sex, and everytime they happen I feel like a wave of filth has just washed through my mind. When it happens I feel compelled to shake my head in an effort to jiggle it out of my head to make it go away. Doing that doesn’t work very well, but I can’t just do nothing. I also say to myself, “I cast that thought down in the Name of Jesus,” which I got from a passage in 2 Corinthians,

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ASV (American Standard Version).

Over the years my main way of dealing with them has been to spend time reading my Bible, plus I listen to the Bible on tape while I sleep. I figure exposing myself to God’s Word in every possible way has to help because the Bible talks about the Word having a cleansing affect,

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. ~ Ephesians 5:25-26, NLT. 

The Bible also speaks of being successful if you keep God’s Word before you all the time,

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. ~ Joshua 1:8, NIV.

And aside from all that, I just love God’s Word. It’s been my favorite book in the whole world for many years.

However, I find it painfully interesting that since I started working on this post the flashbacks have gotten worse ~ more vivid, more frequent, and more intrusive ~ than they’ve ever been. It’s almost like the devil knows, or my mind knows, that in bringing the problem out into the open its days are numbered.

I hope that’s true!! I would dearly love to be free of this cursed plague!!

So I submit my mind to God, and to the purifying blood of Christ my Lord in the hope of freedom and eternal life!

Thank You Jesus for Your cleansing blood!! I love You so!!

The Continuing Saga of the Monster’s Death

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It’s been five or six days since Harry’s death, and I’ve had some time to cogitate on what that means for me. You wouldn’t think there’d be any meaning at all when someone dies who had pretty much no relationship with me, but he had a hugely destructive influence on my childhood, so regardless of whether there was any current relationship, it’s going to mean something to me when he dies. The problem is to figure out what that is.

The first conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m taking too much responsibility on myself for whether Harry accepted the gift of God’s grace. While Jesus commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature, ultimately the responsibility for making the seeds of the Gospel bear fruit is God’s problem,

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. ~ Mark 16:14-15, NKJV.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. ~ Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV.

I love this passage from Isaiah. It says so many things to me. It tells me that God’s Word is alive, and that God will always make His Word bear fruit. It also says that God always keeps His promises ~ that He can always be depended upon to do what He says He’ll do, and He’ll always be faithful to keep His Word. In addition it says that God loves His Word ~ at least it says that to me. He loves it enough, and cares about it enough, that He will work to protect it and make sure it comes to fruition anytime it’s spoken.

So if I’m worried that I should be doing more to make sure that Harry makes it into Heaven, I’m worrying way too much. If nothing else, the decision was made the moment he died. Once he’s gone, there’s nothing more any human being can do to influence Harry’s decision, or God’s judgment about Harry’s destination. Plus a friend reminded me a couple of days ago that when someone ends up in Hell, they’re there because that’s where they want to be.

I guess I have a hard time believing anyone would actually want to be in Hell, because I know a little of what Hell is like, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

All that aside, I’m feeling bereft. I never had what most people would call a father. Certainly Harry wasn’t a father to me, and I never felt loved by my stepdad either. He tried, but I think maybe the damage done by the time he came around was so extensive that he couldn’t get beyond it to relate to me as he would to any “normal” person.

So, as I said, I feel bereft, regardless of the fact that Harry wasn’t in my life, and hadn’t been since he left when he and my mother got divorced when I was ten. It’s strange, because he was never a father to me, yet now that he’s gone, I miss him like he was, though what I’m missing may be the hope that he would become a father to me.

I’ve been hunting for a surrogate father my whole life, and everytime I thought I’d found one, something would happen and he’d go away. I finally gave up looking. I can sort of see why it’s not good to trust in an earthly substitute, but sometimes you need a pair of physical ears to talk to, and a pair of physical arms to give you a hug, and sometimes you need them to be male ears and arms ~ and I could never find that, not anywhere. It turned out to be impossible.

As I was talking with McT about this today, he got me thinking about the few times I saw Harry after the divorce. I can probably count them on one hand. There were two before my stepdad adopted my sister and me so we’d have his last name. Then there was a gap of twenty years or more, until I was about thirty-three. I hadn’t had any memories yet, and my Aunt Priscilla, Harry’s sister, suggested I visit him in West Virginia where he lived with his second wife. I hadn’t seen him in at least twenty years, and the first thing he did after I got there was take me out and buy me five pairs of underwear.

At the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about that gift, but it didn’t feel as truly weird, perverted, and inappropriate as it has since come to feel. When I told McT about it today, immediately his face got all scrunched up, and he said that it was a really inappropriate gift for a father to give his daughter.

I stayed with Harry and Elizabeth for a week, and all I remember about that time, aside from the underwear gift, was that Harry and Elizabeth argued a lot, and it was all about me. All these years I thought it was because she was jealous of me, but as McT and I were talking about it today, it came to me that they were arguing because she was telling him that his underwear gift was bizarre and wrong, and he was arguing back because he couldn’t understand what she was saying. To him, giving your daughter underwear was a perfectly natural thing to do.

EEeeewwwww!!!!

I know someone whose father gave her a red bra for her sixteenth birthday, which I always thought was really wrong. It’s strange how I couldn’t see that Harry’s gift of underwear to me was just as strange until I saw McT’s reaction. I guess I was too close to it to be able to see how weird it was, but now I get it really well!

Like I said above, EEeeeeewwwwww!!! Now it gives me the creeps! Back then it made me feel a little strange, but I had no idea why, because I’d had no memory of being abused by anyone, much less by Harry. In fact, I had no memory at all of the first ten years of my life. Those years were a huge blank for me. Since then God has been filling in the void with substance, though sometimes I’ve found myself wishing those years had stayed empty, because not knowing at times feels better than knowing.

And interestingly, it was after I got home from that visit that I had my first abuse memories, and they were perfectly awful ~ and I was in a therapy appointment with McT when they came out.

The only other meeting with Harry that I remember was a short one. I don’t remember when it happened, except that it was about thirty years ago ~ in the nineties, I think. The only thing I remember about it was that it ended in a fist-bump. Fist-bumps have only been popular in the last two or three years, and when he gave me one thirty years ago, I perceived it as him rejecting me and pushing me away. It felt incredibly off-putting. Now, I think, it’s supposed to be sign that someone is cool. Maybe that’s how he meant it, I don’t know, but that’s not how I took it. So maybe I misread his signal to me in that instance. Maybe I need to ask for his forgiveness.

So now I’m left with what to do with all I’ve discovered, and the first thing I know I must do is forgive. Always forgive. Forgiving has become foundational to who I am, and it’s not hard to forgive Harry, or anyone else who’s hurt me. The only one I have a problem forgiving is myself, though that’s getting easier as well, thank God.

This has been a really long post, I know, but this is a difficult topic, so I hope everyone will read the whole thing all the way through. Mostly, I want to give glory to God for helping me to think everything through with the proper insight, and for helping me to see Harry through the eyes of Jesus ~ as God sees him.

I know Jesus loves Harry as much as He loves me, or anyone else, so I have no right to hold unforgiveness or hatred against him, so I choose to bless him, and I wish peace and healing towards him.

I hope and pray he accepted God’s gift of salvation before he died! Glory to God for the cross!!

Christmas Without Christ Is Just mas: A Reprise

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I originally published a post with this title on December 25 of last year, but it’s important that people know the real meaning of Christmas, so I decided to reprise the title but rewrite most of the body. I don’t know if this time around is any better, but I said what needed to be said.

What that means is, if you remove the word Christ from the word Christmas, all you have left is mas, which isn’t even a word.

In other word, Christmas without Christ is just another day.

That is to say, Christmas without Christ is meaningless, and yet more and more, people as well as businesses and institutions are attempting to do that very thing: remove Christ from Christmas and turn it into something it was never intended to be. It makes me feel very sad that it’s happening, because, in doing that, people are missing out on the greatest blessing they could possibly imagine, if they would only receive it.

And all they have to do is acknowledge that Jesus, God’s amazing gift, is the real reason we celebrate Christmas. All you have to do is look at the word “Christmas” to see the truth of that. The word has nine letters, and “Christ” comprises two-thirds of them.

For all the joy that Christmas is supposed to bring when its true meaning and purpose are understood, and when Jesus is placed at the center of the celebration, every year at Christmas I go through hell, because I feel disjointed and fragmented and out of sorts ~ anything and everything but joyful.

And why, if Christmas is supposed to be so joyful and happy, is it so difficult for so many people, and for so many families? Because the holidays are characteristically the hardest time of year for many people. When people have to gather with their families, typically they experience more depression, especially if they were already struggling with it.

I don’t think there’s a family in existence that doesn’t have problems, so any family member with issues who comes to a Christmas celebration with their problem-laden family will be disappointed if they expect a time free of conflict.

I have some idea of why I have so many problems with the holidays, but I’m not sure if what I know is everything about why, and even if it is, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to deal with them better. The way I’ve dealt with it in the past is to do a whole lot of avoiding and escaping, but it never really worked very well.

Why can’t I just enjoy Christmas for what it is without all the turmoil and confusion? And “for what it is” means celebrating it as Jesus’ birthday as God incarnate, and God’s Gift of salvation to humanity. I’m beyond exhausted with all the confusion and inner tumult and chaos I go through every year. I just want it to be OVER WITH!!

Thankfully, gratefully, God has been healing me in the last couple of years so that the tortuous, tormenting depression I used to struggle with is no longer such a huge problem for me. 

I don’t want to do what other people do around the holidays. You know, race around like a maniac, trying to find the most expensive gifts for all my friends, because the best way to celebrate Christmas is to spend as much money on each person as possible.

Nope! Not going to happen!

Jesus will always be the reason for Christmas for me, because Christmas is still meaningless without Christ. It’s still just another day as far as I’m concerned, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. ~ Isaiah 7:14, KJV.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6, NKJV.

THIS is what Christmas is all about, and I’m so grateful to God for His amazing Gift, and for His Word with the prophesies that foretold of the coming of Jesus Christ, His one and only Son.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ~ Luke 2:14, KJV.

A Hidden Bit of Divinity

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Have you ever had the experience of reading through a passage of Scripture, and coming to a verse you’ve read many times, but this time God shows you something in the verse that makes you feel like you’d never seen the verse before? I had that experience recently when I read John 17:5,

And now, Father, glorify Me at Your side with the glory I had with You before the world was created. ~ John 17:5, NET.

I like the way the New Living Translation puts it,

Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. ~ John 17:5, NLT.

There are a number of places, especially in the Gospel of John, where Jesus declares Himself to be the Son of God, and/or to be equal with God, and John 17:5 is a clear statement of Jesus’ divinity. I’d never seen it before, but there it is. And now, everytime I read it, I get excited, because I understand what He’s saying there. John 17 is what many people call Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer to the Father before He went to the Cross. While most people think of Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 as being the Lord’s Prayer,

Therefore, you should pray like this: our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as Holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ~ Matthew 6:9-13, CSB.

I think of John 17 as being the Lord’s Prayer more than Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. The passages in Matthew and Luke are important because they’re where Jesus gave us a roadmap on how to pray to the Father. But to me John 17 is more literally the Lord’s Prayer because that’s where Jesus spoke directly to God, and He spent the whole chapter doing so.

There is so much rich meat in this chapter!

I won’t talk about all of it here because there’s so much, but there is one little tidbit I want to mention.

In the second verse Jesus says that God gave Him authority over all flesh,

When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.” ~ John 17:1-2, ESV.

In context, the authority over all flesh is referring to the fact that God gave Jesus the authority to give eternal life to everyone that God had given to Him. But I think it could also be said that the authority referenced here could be authority over other things.

For instance, when I read that God had given Jesus authority over all flesh, the very first thing that popped into my mind was that it was no wonder healing came so easily to Him. God gave Him authority over all flesh, so all He had to do was exercise that authority for healing to happen.

I think we can have little hidden bits of divinity as we go about our everyday lives. For me these bits of divinity are unexpected encounters with God ~ moments where I happen on a beautiful bit of scenery that takes my breath away, or when I read a particularly lovely poem or portion of prose, or when I hear an especially joy-filled piece of music. I call these times bits of divinity because they’re unanticipated, and because they make me think of God when they happen. It’s like God gives me a little gift out of the blue, a little bit of beauty that just pops up seemingly out of nowhere. And the only response I can give Him in return is to praise Him.

Another hidden bit of divinity might be when we help someone in need,

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! ~ Hebrews 13:2, NLT.

How cool it would be to know that you actually helped an angel when you thought you were helping a human being.

That would be pleasing to God, and there’s nothing better than that!

In Which I Begin to Deal With the Hard Stuff

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I’ve begun to realize that I only talk about surface stuff when I go to therapy, which feels like a waste of resources (McT’s time and my money). I’ve been seeing someone for therapy off and on, mostly on, for about forty years. Some of the therapists were fairly decent, some of them were not so good. Some of them were perfectly AWFUL, and maybe two or three of them were spectacularly good. All of them were Christians, except for the first one I ever saw, because I didn’t have a hand in choosing him, plus I wasn’t a Christian yet, so having a Christian therapist wasn’t important to me.

The reason I avoid talking about what I call the hard stuff is because it’s painful, and therefore difficult to talk about.

When I was little and multiple, and being abused in the cult, they would program us by repeating the medical words of sexual body parts over and over again to make certain alters come out and take off their clothes and lay down and wait to be raped. 

So now, even though I’m no longer multiple, whenever I hear any of those words, I feel an incredible amount of anxiety inside, and I can’t say them myself, nor can I write them. If I try to write them I have to scribble them out so you can’t see what was written there. If I were to let the word stay visible the anxiety would be so great that it feels like I’d be annihilated by it. It feels like I’d blow up.

Some of the words are worse than others, and some are just plain impossible.

So the upshot of it is that I need to work on those issues. I’ve tried to work on them before, but it never goes very far. After talking about it for a few sessions I usually end up backing off my resolve and going back to talking about the easy stuff again. But I don’t want to be in bondage forever, so I can’t do that anymore.

Part of me is afraid to talk about it simply because I don’t know what it would be like to be free of the problem. Kind of silly, I know, but there it is.

And part of dealing with the hard stuff is taking showers. I took one this morning.

Wonders may never cease.

It’s probably been about six months since my last shower, I’m ashamed to say, but try as I might, I just couldn’t make myself do it before now.

Taking showers has been a problem of long standing for me. The very first abuse memory I ever had was of Harry forcing me to have oral sex with him in the shower when I was about two years old. I got so confused and frightened that I lost control of my bowels and pooped on the shower floor. Of course, that enraged him, so he picked it up and threw it at me, and then he forced me to eat it. Then he dragged me into the bedroom and raped me.

So, needless to say, showers are a huge problem for me, and baths are even worse, but God is good, and I’m hoping and praying that He will intervene and help me with this problem just as He’s done with all my other issues.

And that, as they say, is that.

As Far As the East Is From the West

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I was driving to a friend’s house the other night (about 3 a.m. on May 28th), and listening to the radio as I was driving. I forget if it was a song, or something the DJ said, but whatever it was, it got me thinking about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west”, which is a phrase used in Psalm 103,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV.

So then I started thinking of all these questions: can you reach the east if you start in the west? Can you reach the west if you start in the east? I mean, you can reach the North Pole if you start from the South Pole, and vice versa, so why can’t you reach the east from the west? The problem is, there is no East Pole, nor is there a West Pole to use as starting points, as there is with the North and the South Poles.

So maybe being able to physically travel from west to east, or from east to west, isn’t the point of the idea.

What is the point, then?

When I asked myself that question, I started thinking about the images that come to mind when I think about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west…”. Things like the infinitude of God’s love, and the limitless quality of His mercy. Most particularly, however, the image that comes to mind is that of Christ on the cross with His arms stretched out from east to west. It says in the Book of John,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ John 15:13, NKJV.

Jesus Christ’s whole purpose for stepping down from the Majesty on High and coming to earth was to go to the cross and take humanity’s place, to take the punishment for our sin. That’s how much God loved us, that He would plan, with His Son and the Holy Spirit, from the foundation of the world, to deal with the problem of sin by sending Jesus to earth to take our place and assume our punishment. And a terrible punishment it was, because our sin was terrible. It still is, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take care of all of it for all time.

To me, this is beauty personified.

Oh my! When I think of that I’m left speechless! I am a sinful person. I’m full of pride, and I make mistakes all the time, every day. One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 7,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

I can so well relate to the Apostle Paul here! The preceding verses describe my day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute existence. Romans 7 portrays it so well,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. ~ Romans 7:19, NLT.

It’s almost as if God was watching me when He told Paul to write that passage of Scripture! And yet, He loves me and wants me, regardless of my sinfulness.

I thank God for that everyday and in every way.