Come Up Higher!


“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The world we live in today is an angry world, not just a little miffed, but seething, boiling-over, raging ANGRY. It is, of course, perfectly natural to feel this way. Facebook, life’s microcosm, has seen many “Me Too” posts recently. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a movement to bring awareness to the threat of gender-based violence and intimidation faced by the women and girls of the world in general, and to remind us that all around us, every day, there are women who feel unsafe. There is a global epidemic of forced labor and sex trafficking, for adults and children. What else are we faced with socially and personally on a daily basis but domestic violence, rising healthcare costs, greedy corporations, unethical treatment of employees, thieves, liars, cheaters, swindlers, pretenders, violence, hatred, anger, anger, anger!

I was angry as well when I started writing this post. Some things, after all, are just WRONG. However, “Me Too” should be the beginning of a discussion, not just an angry, raised fist.

An old Newsboys song says, “Everybody needs somebody to rely on….are you gonna lend a hand and assist? Everybody needs somebody’s shoulder to cry on…..are you gonna lend a hand, or a fist?” 

The real struggle, after all, is not men against women, black against white, rich against poor, cat people against dog people, left against right, not really. We all have much more in common than we sometimes care to remember. The ultimate puppet master and behind-the-scenes enemy of all of us is evil incarnate, or the devil, Satan, whatever you call him. He is a master manipulator and gold-star pot-stirrer, and we all fall for his games from time to time. For instance, when I’m angry after reading of a family devastated, or a crime committed, I am usually angry with people. This encourages me to have an “us versus them” or even “me versus everybody else” mentality. That kind of thinking is what feeds the mafia, gang warfare, and a Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s ideology. When both sides are bleeding and wounded, who really wins? When the smoke clears, you may find yourself looking, not at an enemy, but at a mirror instead. We all get hurt, but we do not have to be the ones doing the hurting.

So, me too, I have been hurt by others, AND I have hurt others. The only hands I can control are on the end of my own arms. The words I have come out of my own mouth. SO, I can be angry with “them” or you, but if I look at MYSELF, I can make the changes that the world needs to be a better place, for “them”, you, and me too.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-20 NIV
Advertisements

Run On Your Face


“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City

Sometimes in a race, the glorious competitors have inglorious moments. Sometimes the supreme athletes trip and fall. Olympians have bad days too; but what sets a champion apart from every other athlete? Maybe those who win aren’t the most talented or the brightest stars in the sky (take that however you like and you will surely be right). Maybe a winner is simply the one who keeps going? Maybe the champion gets up again, even if he/she has to hobble the rest of the way? Maybe sometimes a race is won by crawling the last stretch. Possibly you can only win if you choose to crawl the last bit. Sometimes, all we can do is crawl, barely moving, injured, heartbroken, weeping, bleeding, shattered both physically and mentally. Help is near, and relief is in sight; but not just yet……not just yet… Right now, it seems too cruel that you would be expected to get up with your hurts so fresh, your humiliation so current, your failure so complete. I have faced this situation numerous times, naturally; we all do, and have, and will. One time, in particular, comes to mind, when I was 22.

I was in the middle of my marriage falling apart, outnumbered and out-gunned by my in-laws on every side. I was a confused, whimpering, cowardly, cringing, craven mess! I was used to someone else taking care of things. I had a toddler to think about; and I wanted someone to just FIX IT. My ex has mental issues that blew us all out of the water right around the time of my birthday. His poor family didn’t know what to do either. At one point our frequent marital spats were blamed, at another point, I was. However, writing truthfully about past hurts is difficult. Honesty doesn’t always allow us to remain solely the victim, good, well-intentioned, and put-upon. Looking back, I know that I was not to blame for the abuse or the mental breakdown. There was a history of “off-ness”. I didn’t always help with my own choices and attitude, though. One thing became apparent over the several years I dealt with my ex’s mental fluctuations: the mind is a mystery even in this day and age. How much of a person’s behavior is choice, or hormones, or mental imbalance? How much of our wits are a result of past choices and their consequences? This is not going to be a post about mental illness. (I am absolutely not qualified to write that post. I am absolutely qualified to tell you about what I went through, however, so I will.)

The particular incident I wanted to relate was a quite memorable encounter with my brother-in-law, whom I was staying with at the time. He and his wife took me and my toddler into their home. There is always a lot of friction when someone does this. The negative bits of everyone’s personalities often “outshine” the positives because of the inevitable stress of living with someone else who is unfamiliar and doesn’t have the same priorities or worries as everyone else. I recall sleeping a lot, which did not endear me to my in-laws, let me tell you. I was depressed (did I mention my toddler and I were newly released from a battered women’s shelter?), and I was also newly pregnant. I suspected at the time, but felt so overwhelmed already that I was avoiding actually dealing with the possibility. The queasiness coupled with the stress of the situation took 15 lbs off of my weight. I don’t recommend using that particular diet plan, to be honest. 🙂

One day, tired of my complaining and crying, and no doubt longing for his home to be his own again, he confronted me. He laid out some steps I should take to start picking up the pieces of my life and take care of my daughter. I continued to whine and cry and bemoan my fate, when finally he lost patience with me and threw away the paper he had been writing on for me. He basically said “Fine then, don’t listen to me! I’m done trying to help you!” Well, it hurt a lot, and for a moment I decided he was just a hateful person and didn’t understand why none of it was my fault, and the constantly rehearsed stream of why-mes started up in my head….BUT suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have to like what he was saying for it to be right. I realized I had no other options and that he WAS actually taking his time to try and help me. Even after I had this begin to dawn on me, it was actually physically painful for me to get up, go to the garbage, take out the paper, and walk back to him and ask me to help me. My shredded pride was a tough thing to choke back while I was still so hurt and angry. My wounded emotions screamed as I did it, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY.

No, of course, there were a lot of rocky patches as I used my own wobbly decision-making abilities and determination to struggle up the long hill toward self-sufficiency. Many nights I cried myself to sleep, and it was several years before I could finally break free from my rocky marriage; but it was a start. I faced down my own pride and hurt feelings more times than I care to remember, and still do, and will, gosh darn it, though I hate to even type that!

Sometimes, moving forward means we can’t just sit forever in one cushy hospital bed, or hidey hole, or friend’s house, or relative’s home and nurse your wounds forever. Sooner or later, we must all stand back up, even if we have to crawl for awhile first. Crawl, if you must. Weep if you must. Fear if you feel fear, but do not ever give in!

“You whom I [the Lord] have taken from the ends of the earth and have called from the corners of it, and said to you, You are My servant—I have chosen you and not cast you off [even though you are exiled].

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Behold, all they who are enraged and inflamed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; they who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek those who contend with you but shall not find them; they who war against you shall be as nothing, as nothing at all.

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!” ~ Isaiah 41:9-13 Amplified Version

Dreams Lost, Dreams Found


“Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.” Winnie the Pooh

I am currently in the process of hunting. What I’m looking for is old friends I have lost touch with, friends which I owe a debt of gratitude, news, or connection. Some friends were lost over time, through no fault of anyone; other connections were lost as a result of problems within the relationship. I hope to one day enjoy the experience of happy reunions with all of them, God willing. What I have come to understand, however, is that sometimes you have to confront in order for changes to be made. I have been faced with this task in the past, and on more than one occasion I have been the one confronted. Let me tell you that a truthful scolding from someone that loves you can really hurt, but it is absolutely necessary in order for us to grow.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

I have seen many times in airports and bus terminal, the infectious joy of reunions. They are fairly similar across the board: the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the tears. I love watching these happy scenes. I think there is something in all of us that longs for these kinds of experiences. We are not meant to live our lives alone and isolated. Even Adam, the very first man, eventually had his fill of solitude.

“We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.” Leo F. Buscaglia

Maybe there are those you long to see again. Maybe you have been parted by time, place, situation, or even confrontation. Might I urge you today to begin thinking about what it would be like to have a joyous reunion with this person? What if you could forget the old hurts, lay down the grudges, forgive, and look past the parts of them that make you unhappy?

Now, for any of you who have read past blog entries, you will know that I have some history with spousal abuse. I DO NOT advocate a reunion that would be unwise or unsafe in any way. Sometimes goodbye is the healthiest word we can say to someone.

BUT for those other people in your life that should be taking part in your joys and sorrows and life events, take a little time and consider if maybe it is time to start building some bridges again. The weight of unforgiveness is too heavy to drag around the rest of your life. Be free, and be reunited to people who will enrich your life as you once enriched theirs.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5 : 14-19

Overcoming Fear…


“Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small.” – Ruth Gendler (artist, author, and teacher)

What is fear, really? When I was little, I would lie, petrified, under my covers, absolutely certain that the vampire outside my window, the witch in my closet, and the mummy under my bed were going to band together and do away with me. When I would use the restroom at the grocery store, the dimly buzzing and flickering florescent lights reminded me of many scary movies I had inadvertently seen as a child. I would picture the Elephant Man (a frightening specter for a small child) shuffling along to stand in front of my stall door and wait for me. I often held my feet up to hide. When it was time to exit, I had to take my courage in both hands and rush for the door. This kind of fear of imaginary monsters and ghouls plagued me as I grew up. I would feel the weight of it pressing on my chest after I woke from a nightmare, afraid to move, afraid to go back to sleep.

When I was older, I became aware of the evil in the world and things lost a bit of their sunny, golden glow. Monsters came in the shape of people. Right before I entered my 20’s, I invited fear into my life on a personal level. I lived with it, slept beside it, and did it’s laundry. Far more unsettling than a monster on T.V. or in a bad dream, domestic violence can give its victims scars that are long to heal, and fear that never truly goes away.

A long  8 years, I was married to my ex. Occasionally, I am still haunted by the things that happened, even after I have been free for so many years and now re-married. I spoke, recently, to a friend who has similar ghouls haunting her from time to time. Many, like us, have experienced this. Many have overcome it and rebuilt their lives. Many more, however, are imprisoned by these bars that other people fail to see. For all of those, everywhere, in every country, who have faced down this monster, I want to say’ Never give up! You cannot know what your life can be like, what dreams can be born anew inside of you, the things you love, the people that make you happy that you now never see. There is hope as long as there is life!

My Prison

It is Spring, the birds are singing, the sun is warm upon the earth, and life is stirring beneath the ground. It must be beautiful. But the walls of my prison close in around me, shutting me off from the light and beauty. There is no warmth left in the sun for me.

It is Summer, the rivers are flowing, the children are playing, there is laughter and sunburn and days at the beach. It must be beautiful. But the walls of my prison close in around me, shutting me off from the freedom and heady joy of the season. I am left with the marks of ugly purple bruises on my body and in my soul. The sun’s rays cannot reach me.

It is Autumn, the trees are blushing from gold, to rust, to scarlet, the smell of rain is in the air and the air is crisp and pure. It must be beautiful. But the walls of my prison close in around me, barring me from the rich earthiness of the season as I wait for winter to overtake me. The sun’s light is almost gone now.

It is Winter, the crystal flowers on windows and leaves sparkle in the morning sun. It is a diamond world and the trees are painted with frozen mists like treasure dust. It must be beautiful. But the walls of my prison close in around me and the winter’s chill creeps into my bones. There is no comfort from the sun, all is dull and grey.

NOW I AM FREE!!

It is Spring and I can delight in the budding life around me as I experience my own rebirth. The trees are pricking with buds and the earth is pierced with a million tiny tips of green. The sun’s warmth caresses me as I stand with upturned face. It IS beautiful! The walls of my prison have crumbled all about me, allowing me to feel the warmth in the sun and see the wonders around me.

It is Summer and the intoxicating heat vapors rise and the shade feels so good. I hold a cold drink in my hand and laugh at the skinny dippers at the beach. I scratch my sunburned skin and revel in the freedom from ugly purple bruises, on my body and in my soul. I am free and it is beautiful! The remnants of my prison walls steam with the heat vapors from the gorgeous, gorgeous sun.

It is Autumn, and the air is crisp and earthy, the trees are like a giant’s bouquet, and all the little and big creatures scurry and stamp about to horde their provisions for the coming months. It IS beautiful! The walls of my prison lie in ruins all about me as I laugh and watch the world changing once again. I have no fear of privation, I am free.

It is Winter, the frost flowers glow from the sun rising behind them. The lawns twinkle and sparkle and the trees are all painted silver. The pond is frozen over, the children waddle about like fat penguins bundled against the cold. It IS beautiful!The walls of my prison disappear and are forgotten under a cleansing blanket of snow. I know tomorrow will be even better than today for I have hope and the taste of freedom is like nothing else. I am FREE!!   ~  Copyright  J. Nekut

Fear is a prison. Sometimes the bars are invisible, sometimes not. Whatever you give yourself over to can control your entire life. Do you want to give up the chance for freedom? Maybe it will go away? Maybe they will change? Fear is not a kind master, and you will end up paying with your life.

Although not everyone’s experience will be the same, many of those who have suffered abuse have similar experiences of shame, guilt, confusion, fear, and a feeling of hopelessness. Men, women and children, over the world have experienced the monster of abuse up close and personal. Some never live to tell the tale. If you are one of these precious souls, I urge you to get help. If you know someone who deals with this, do whatever you can to help them. Peace is priceless, and there IS another way to live! Things can be different, you can be FREE!!

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation. ” Psalm 91

In Defence of a Little Violence


I know what you’re thinking. Violence is wrong. In most cases, I would agree with you. The world is already brimming with violence. The news is full of sordid stories of greed, lust, wars, famine, want and oppression; all forms of violence seem to be glorified in our culture, and I mean the HUMAN culture. SO much violence, so much terror exists in the world, that sometimes we just want to retreat into a little, dark hidey-hole and shut it all out.

OK, so, we’ve done that. Here we are in our little, dark hidey-hole. We’ve shut out the world, and everyone we think will do us any harm. What’s going on in the world outside while we’re stowed away? If we took a peek through our spiked walls, across the moat full of crocodiles, and over the tops of the trees of the remote forest we’ve selected, we will see a dense cloud of dust, and hear the barely discernible clash of weapons, and the cries of pain and battle. We’ve done a good job insulating ourselves from the outside world. BUT, nothing positive has been accomplished. In fact, our side has lost yet another warrior for the cause of peace and justice.

Sometimes, a few of us manage to stay out of hiding, but we might just as well be for all the good we do. Mediocrity is not a word that should be used to describe who you are. You were not meant to be a sideline, a victim, or an afterthought.

You were created to be a WARRIOR!

At times, the best course when facing a senseless evil is violence. (This is the part where you really have to be paying attention.) I’m not advocating anarchy, or threatening a public official or stalking a celebrity. The world suffers from this canker enough already. I’m not advocating any kind of public demonstration with signs where people stand around and say “It must stop” or “It must start”. All I am saying…..is give ACTION a chance. If you grab up your friend when they’re hurting and hold them in a hug so fierce that they feel Jesus pouring through you; or get in your angsty teen’s face and tell them with strong words how amazing and irreplaceable and loved and appreciated they are; or you cook and bake for the family you know that has just lost their father or mother; or you take a troubled kid (we all know these) under your wing and teach them how to be the kind of person who makes this world a better place; you are taking a violent step into this world of woes.

You get involved. You take a stand. You stand in the gap.

You invest in someone else, and you do it ON PURPOSE.

“Frightening” is a word that only begins to describe the lives of some of the people around you, next door, behind you in church, or even in front of you while they check your groceries out at the store. We need to get out eyes off of ourselves and turn them outward to the people around us and do the right thing. Demonstrating is usually spurred by feelings that something is very wrong and must be changed. Thinking something is wrong is not the end, however, but only the beginning. Don’t be discouraged! You stepping in for someone may make all the difference.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5