Delight of my Life’s New Look

Introduction:

Whether you’re new to Delight of my Life or have been following since the beginning, I want to introduce to to my new page and invite you to join the conversation.

The goal of my blog is “creating community around an honest journey through the joy and grief of life.”  Blog topics include Child loss and Grief; Attachment Theory in Parenting; Mental Health; Christian Theology and Ministry; Veterinary Medicine; and Community Stories.

Why a blog anyway?

After my daughter Tirzah was stillborn at 40 weeks on August 20, 2014, I began writing “Dear Tirzah” letters. I believe these letters were true communication with her; that she can see me and hear me from Heaven. These letters became a source of healing for my broken heart.

I decided to dedicate a blog to Tirzah, using the meaning of her name, which is “delight of my life.”  I wanted to share my own journey of grief, in order to help other women grieve, and help people understand how to support their friends and family through loss.

Over the past three years of walking this grief journey, I’ve found that *grief expands* and *trauma begets trauma*.  Loosing a child is so life-shattering that it has a ripple effect that goes far beyond only the initial trauma of death. Therefore, my blog has grown to include other topics of trauma, mental health and parenting.

You may find this to be different then other “loss communities” that zero in on the topic of grief. My writing will address many peripheral topics, that will be relevant to many other people as well.

My hope is that my writing and the community formed around this blog will be a blessing and life-giving. I hope that together we will learn how to better listen, better suffer, and each grow in knowing our own story, and therefore where we need kindness, repentance, and freedom.

What can I expect?

My plan is to increase my posting, hopefully to 3 times a week. I hope to have a predictable rhythm to posts: starting with a post on prayer at the beginning of the week, midweek featuring a community story, and on the weekend posting on a main category topic (grief, mental health, theology, etc).

How can I join?

 

You can follow my blog and get my posts in your email! I welcome comments and feedback to my posts!

I want to grow a community section. I eagerly desire your questions, and stories! I have a blog email: catherine@delightofmylife.com. Please submit stories of child loss, grief, trauma, joy, goodness and blessing… anything in your life journey! You can request your post to be anonymous, and I will not post anything without your approval first.

A friend suggested that I have a veterinary category to my blog! Besides a Jesus follower, a wife, mother, and blogger, I am a veterinarian!! I love the idea of writing in this category, because I do love this field, but am not currently working. Please help me keep my passion alive, and submit your pet questions or stories!

A Slap in the Face

Think with me for a moment and imagine… In your life, who have you known to have kind eyes toward you? Whose face and eyes have been a safe place for you?

Looking back over my early life, the safe eyes that I remember are those of my cat, Garfield. Does that strike you as silly… or sad? It is true, and I think it’s true for many of us.

Why are so many people animal-lovers, so lavish with their pets and truly heartbroken when they die? I believe it’s because our animals offer us attunement when perhaps no human does. They look into our eyes without shame or judgment. They know how we’re feeling, perhaps better than any person. In the best and worst of times they offer to us their simple, but whole presence.

Isn’t this what we all desire? What we’re made for? The presence of another who truly sees us and understands our thoughts and feelings.

This universal human need for connection, attunement, and love is by God’s design. It is woven deep into the fabric of our hearts… indeed, studies have shown that we cannot live without the tender love of another person.

Consider newborn babies. Their development shows how radically God has hard-wired our brains for “face to face”. The entire world of a newborn baby is narrowed to facial expressions and eye contact. As a result, they are intensely in tune to the unspoken messages of their care-givers.

In his book, “How to Really Love your Child,” Dr. Ross Campbell writes, “An infant’s eyes begin focusing somewhere around two to four weeks of age. One of the first images that hold an infant’s attention is a human face, but in particular the baby focuses on the eyes… you will notice that the eyes are always moving and seem to be searching for something… Do you know what the baby is looking for? That’s right: the baby is searching for another set of eyes. As early as two months, the baby’s eyes lock on another set of eyes.”

This very basic need is most clearly seen in babies, however, it is a need of every single person regardless of age.

The need for face to face is a God-given design and furthermore, is essential to what it means to be made in the image of God. Our triune God is in essence a God of relationship. We reflect this quality in our life-sustaining need for relationship.

Our need for face to face is reflective of our need for God himself. We were designed to be face to face with our Creator.

“Shining like the Sun: A Biblical Theology of Meeting God Face to Face”  by (my own brother) David Wenkel is a book that exposits this point.

The book’s thesis is this: “Those who meet God face to face are changed. The face is the essence of a person… that reflects the person’s relationship to God.”

This book goes through God’s progressive revelation of His face and presence beginning in Genesis and ending with the person of Jesus and the full consummation in the New Heaven and New Earth.

I found this to be an enlightening and enriching way of viewing the Biblical narrative. It provided a unified story frame that is applicable and transformative to my own relationship with God.

God’s design and purpose in all of history is relationship with each one of us. The focal point is an intimate relationship of unity, and surrounding that are desire, delight, and love… *for us*!!

The following sections are questions that came up for me as I read David’s book.

What does God experience when he looks into our face?

“So God created man in his own image… and God blessed them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” ~ Genesis 1:27,28

When I read these words I have a sense of the sacred, holiness of this moment: God looked into Adam’s face and Eve’s face and he *delighted* in them… He was in awe of his own creation.

We were made for someone to look at us and be delighted.

However, there is a tension, or obstacle here… Evil has come into the picture and through sin has marred and thieved our goodness, beauty and glory. Instead, we are as a leper: sin-sick through and through… and yet, our need for love remains.

Into this impossible tension= our need for life-giving, life-sustaining love… and our total unloveliness (indeed, total depravity) comes a miraculous, stunningly scandalous rescue.

God turned His face away from Jesus so that He would not have to turn away from us. Jesus’s death on the cross means the removal of all sin, stain and shame—for those who receive Him. The total sum of our soul-sickness- past, present and future- was transferred from us to Jesus. He bore our sin, and paid for it with his death, and then he rose from the grave- conquering Evil, sin, and death! *For us*!!

Jesus said, “It is finished!” and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  With the just satisfaction of God’s wrath, He now looks at his own with the same eyes of love he has toward His Son: “This is {Catherine} in whom I am well pleased.”  {Call upon the name of the Lord, and insert your own name!!}

This is the Gospel= we are loved when we are most unlovable. God’s face is toward us. His eyes are locked on us in love.

 “Let me see your face. It is lovely.”   (Songs 2)

Because of Jesus, this is now God’s voice to his own: Desire. Delight. Love. *For us*!!

Why are we changed from “face to face” encounters?

When Ryan and I were in premarital counseling, this one point was engraved deeply in my mind: “The feeling of being listened to is the *same feeling* as feeling loved… A person will feel loved in proportion to the extent they feel seen and heard.” 

Seeing and listening is the essence of love.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is described as “love”… AND the first name he was given was “El Roi”… The God who Sees.

This is an earth-shattering truth. Let that reverberate in your mind and body: We are changed by face to face encounters because this is the purest channel of love.

And HOW are we changed?

We are changed BY love TO love. We are able to love because we’ve been loved.

 “We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

This is the pattern.

Ryan’s experience with his counselor, Joel Murphy, is a wonderful example. My husband is a changed man. He is wise beyond what I could have imagined in loving Jeremiah and I with tenderness, grace and truth. I credit his change and growth to his time *face to face* with Joel. Ryan has received love and is able to give love. This is a visible example of the invisible experience we were made to have with God. We can *only give to others what we have first received.*

How do we respond? What is God calling us to?

First, those who know the love of God in their hearts are called to be face of Christ to others. We must not only share the Gospel of God’s grace with our words, but also with our eyes and our face. Otherwise our words are empty and void.

We must realize this: Our face communicates either judgment or blessing to those we interact with.

Are we actually anti-gospel with our eyes and our face?

The good news of Jesus is that we can draw near to God, finding mercy, in our time of need; this means that when we are most “unlovely”, we can look at God, not fearing condemnation… but finding kindness, forgiveness, and welcome… *For us*

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. ~ Romans 15:7

And yet, we punish, judge and shame another just with our *eyes alone*.

Think of your spouse… your children… those you interact with each day… Do your eyes show delight or distain? … Or worse still, do you not see at all? Do you withdraw your eyes and your presence… through escape to the TV, internet, video games… a thousand ways we find to disconnect from what face to face relationship asks of us.

Let me get specific on the range of anti-gospel interactions we have. There are two main categories: First, there are direct actions, and secondly, there are covert ways of withdrawing or withholding love. Both communicate a “conditional love”… instead of love and welcome to the unlovely, there is love available only when the other has earned our regard.

First, there is physical “defacing”- this is the action of slapping across a child’s face, or any person’s face for that matter. Any physical violence to a child’s face or head, no matter how light the force is *child abuse*, and is deeply damaging to a child’s heart. It is an acting out of a desire that most parents will not voice or consciously think: a heart-desire to remove the child’s face from existence. How many people were punished this way as children?

One person I know received blows to his face by both parents throughout his childhood. As an adult he seems to be confident, assured of himself and successful.  But in his private thoughts he struggles to believe that anyone would want to be his friend or enjoy his presence. In his heart he believes that he is unlovable, unworthy, and not good enough. He feels that he is only desirable through performance.

His experience of *conditional love* I believe is a common struggle. Most people have learned a *works-based acceptance* through the actions of their parents, which has been indelibly etched into their hearts.  The actions may be less violent then hitting… but may be a hardness in the eyes or a cold facial expression that communicates anger and judgment.

We may be completely unaware of these mannerisms until we take notice to examine what our eyes and face are doing in our relationships. And because we are not able to see our own face, we must open ourselves up to feedback from those who can see our face.

My four year old prophet-son said to me yesterday, “Mom, I don’t like the look on your face.”  I replied, “I’m so sorry, Jeremiah. Tell me what you see in my face.”  And he said, “You look mean.”  The vulnerability we both had in this moment opened up an invaluable opportunity to connect and repair… for repentance and forgiveness.

There are also covert ways in which we withdraw our eyes, face and presence. Consider the message that banishing a child to a “timeout” communicates: “When you misbehave, you are no longer acceptable to be in my presence. You cannot be face to face with me until you earn it by good behavior.”

For this reason, Ryan and I have been intentional about conducting our discipline of Jeremiah always within the context of relationship. However, I had another very revealing moment just the other day when Jeremiah was shining a flashlight in my eyes, after several requests that he would not do this, I stood up, and said in a huff, “I’m going in another room!” Jeremiah replied, “Don’t leave me!” Again, in that moment, my heart was unveiled by my little Prophet.

Conclusion

Have you experienced what your heart was made for: Have you had a face-to- face encounter with God?

We all need this- if you’ve never had it before, or have been walking with the Lord for many years- we need to be face-to face with God continually.  Like the prodigal, we need to come home every single day.

And like the prodigal, you must come to God with your presence, your heart, and your voice. The promise of welcome, grace and forgiveness is not for those who stand far off… but for those who draw near and actually *talk to God*. To all who *come*, His arms are wide open… and his eyes are full of kindness.

“…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance…” ~ Romans 2:4

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9-10, 13

And then…

Can we search our hearts and ask Jesus to show us how we have been anti-Gospel in our eyes and in our faces toward those nearest to us- our children, our spouses and our closest family?

Can we ask God to give us new eyes… seeing eyes… full of light… and love… grace and mercy… kindness… welcome.

Have you found safety in the eyes of the Living God?

and

Are your eyes a safe place?

 

Listening to our children

RECAP:

The last post covered the reality that we do (mostly unwittingly) harm our own children. I emphasized the responsibility of knowing your own story and woundedness so you can begin to see where you are living out of brokenness that will impact your children. And then secondly, how we really do need the wisdom and insight from others to point us to see truths about ourselves that we truly are powerless to see on our own.

LISTENING TO OUR CHILDREN:

When it comes to the reality of harming our children, there is a second responsibility we as parents have: *Listening to our children*.  If you are thinking “okay, I got that one!”, let me suggest that it’s not as easy as it sounds!  Sure, we can listen to our children as they talk about school, or friends, or even being bullied on the bus… being involved makes us feel like “good parents”!  But what if your child is telling you: “Your anxiety (or anger) consumes our home. I often feel like it’s swallowing up my whole childhood. I don’t feel safe and happy at home.” 

Most families have an unspoken code (that children pick up on even before language develops), that such honesty and truth is unacceptable… They know that with such truth their parents would become completely unglued, and the whole family system would collapse. Since children depend on their caregivers for survival, they would rather loose their voice and keep their family intact.

If you want a family culture where your children can freely speak their thoughts and feelings, and be seen and heard (not just when it makes you feel good, but ALSO when you feel like you might actually become unglued!) it will take an immense amount of intention (and probably outside support!!)

Your children will start by observing your communication, honesty, and ability to repair in your marriages. Is that a scary thought? ;o)  If they see that “negative” thoughts and feelings are met with defensive attack  (instead of listening curiosity) they will assume that their thoughts and feelings will be met with the same.

Curiousity is a key concept here. *Listen with curiousity*  If you child ventures out to share a negative emotion (in any context), for example, they express anxiety about the families finances, if you immediately try to take away their anxiety and say “Oh honey, you don’t need to feel anxious, that’s for mom and dad to take care of… blah blah blah”, the child won’t feel heard, or validated, or safe in sharing. A *curious* response could be as simple as, “I’m so glad you shared with me that you feel that way, tell me more about that feeling. When does that feeling come over you? Where do you feel that anxiety in your body?”

This is a resource that Ryan and I really enjoy using: “Comfort Circle for the Listener”

https://www.howwelove.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/ComfortCircleGuideForTheListener.pdf

NEXT post, I’ll get to categories of actually how we harm our children.

 

 

Once upon a time…

“Your life is a story.” I feel like the idea of “life story” has become very popular in our culture lately… I seem to run across the idea of “story” everywhere I turn.

I think that culture has latched onto it because it’s *true*… It resonates with us.

However, pop-culture maybe missing a major piece: our life as “story” necessitates an Author… and the Author has author-ity over the story and characters He is writing. Of course what I’m getting at is this: God, who is Elohim “Strong Creator”, is Author and Authority…

This also has the implication that your story is not yours only. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  Therefore, if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, YOU and your *life story* were bought at a price… Your story is not your own… it belongs to God, FOR the Kingdom of God and HIS glory.

This means that God not only authored YOU but wrote into your story all the particularities of the street you grew up on, your mother, your father… your childhood abuse… and all the trauma in your young life (although God is NOT the author of Sin- your sin or the sin done against you… this is a mystery, an apparent contradiction that is not explained)- And you have been finding ways of escape- But not through God your Savior.

Trauma and abuse is a part of *each person’s story*. You can’t live in a fallen world where sin and evil reign and be exempt. Evil doesn’t give free passes. Evil has worked to harm you and evil has worked *through you* to work harm in the lives of others.  I feel that often we want to leave the idea of “sin” and personally being a “sinner” as nebulous ideas that we accent to, because it’s essential to “being a Christian”. But have you really wrestled with the anger (hatred) and lust (adultery/ idolatry) in your life story? How did you as a young child metabolize the anger and lust of your primary caregivers? We can’t think that our parents were “sinners needing a Savior”, but that somehow their personal sin didn’t cause harm in our young hearts. Unless your parents were “pre-fall Adam and Eve” and your home was the “garden of Eden” your parents perpetrated harm in your life. The intricacies of that harm, how it became woven into your heart, mind and body, and how Evil came in and whispered lies that you hold so deeply as *truth* (about who you are, who your parents are, who God is etc), and also offered ways of escape and promises of life apart from God… are ALL *key* to your story.

Have you buried your story like the man in the parable of the talents??

 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, … so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25)

Or have you brought your story into the light before God- for healing, for redemption- and for multiplication of God’s rescue in the lives of others?

You can stop pretending that this life is normal and good- it’s *not*. But you can bring Heaven to earth. Let your life shine- Christ IN you and through you- He is Savior, Redeemer, the One who frees captives, heals the lame, gives sight to the blind.

If you deny (oh you might have the correct “Sunday school answers”, but deny by the way you live or what you *don’t ever say*) that you were ever lost and needed a Savior, or broken, sick and lame, blind… bound as a slave in strong chains (even to your own self-righteousness, ie perception/mask of “goodness”)- then you are denying Jesus in your life- His rescue of you- you are burying your talent (ie gift of Salvation) at risk of being the modern day “church of Laodicea”:

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~ REVELATION 3

I hope you see here in the last verse of this passage, there is a *FEAST*… but this feast is only for beggars… and for the sick and broken made well through Christ.

If God is opening your eyes, maybe for the first time, that you are spiritually lost and broken and need rescue, then His invitation of “Come!!” is to you!!

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:17

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~ Luke 4

Forgiveness is War: Part 3

“Forgiveness is a war for your heart, for the person who has done you harm, and for the Gospel. Often forgiveness is messier than the original harm. Will you give it time?” (DA)

INTRO:

This my 3rd and final blog on Forgiveness! I’ll try to make it brief because I’ve covered a lot of ground already. This blog series has been a commentary on Dan Allender’s you-tube video: “Unpacking the Confusion of Forgiveness”. He offers a view of forgiveness that is a *journey* , NOT an event that is something we DO, and “boom” it’s over and we move on with life. (Jesus said to forgive 77 X 7- this indicates the on-going nature!!)

FIRST STEP:

The first step, (discussed in detail in my first blog), is “Naming the wound.” “You can’t forgive what you have not named. Most often the harm is far deeper that what you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the harm done to your mind, body and heart?” (DA)

SECOND STEP:

The second step, is knowing and experiencing afresh God’s forgiveness toward you. Forgiveness is always a derivative gift. We can only forgive because we have been forgiven. We must see that *we* have an immeasurable, infinite debt that we owe to God for our sin against Him. This is a debt that we can never pay- it demands our eternal payment in an eternal hell. BUT, Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh come to Earth as a man, took our debt upon himself and paid it with HIS own death on the cross. In becoming our substitute, He allowed for our debt to be cancelled before God. For all those who accept this free gift of salvation, we stand as free and an innocent before God.

In forgiving another person, we are called to do what Jesus did for us. We are called to cancel the debt of another’s harm against us. And thus, to no longer seek to make them pay. In this sense, forgiveness is never a minimization of the harm done to us. It is never a “sweeping under the rug.” It is a full acknowledgement that the harm done to you was *great* and could never be paid back in 10,000 lifetimes, but as Jesus did, in a sense, you absorb the reality of the harm, and yet cancel the debt… proclaiming that this person no longer owes you.

THIRD STEP:

Now, we come to the third step. This is what Dan calls “Stepping into the war.” This is a war between Good and Evil… Wherever there has been harm, Evil will come into the picture to seduce your heart with bitterness, with accusations, with a sense of power that is almost impossible to give up. Will you wrestle with the part of your heart that doesn’t want to forgive? “You enjoy holding power, anger… you have become bitter, but it has been *full* for your heart… that is the problem.”

This step takes the nature of the Gospel a step further than “canceling the debt”… The Gospel is about joy, and life… and invitation to a *Feast*… Jesus not only cancels our debt of sin on the Cross, but he invites us into the Kingdom of God as brothers and sisters… God adopts us as sons and daughters into his family.

Taking this analogy to our own process of forgiveness, God is therefore calling us to a heart that wants to bless the one who harmed us. Dan describes the idea of “Turn the other cheek” as NOT passivity and NOT submission to abuse. It is a defiant stand against Evil. “It is as if you’re saying: You harmed me. You think you have power, but I’m not going to run from you…  you can see that your first efforts to control me didn’t work. I’m not going to fight or flee. I’ll stand now to serve you… which is to conquer you.”

Dan also clarifies this “blessing” and “serving” as not a “pleasant sweetness”… He uses a cancer analogy. When someone has cancer, the way to “bless” them is to *burn, poison, and cut them with knives” (aka radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery). Therefore, loving someone who has been abusive toward you means *not allowing the harm to continue*. You must be more MORE committed to *the person than to the relationship*. This means setting up boundaries that the person will likely experience as painful (and may include legal action.).

True love will never leave someone the same, unchanged. Loving someone *in truth* will either turn their hearts more toward hardness, self-defensive and self-righteousness, or it will soften their hearts toward repentance, grace, and God.

Addendum: (I posted this as a reply to a comment, but thought it deserved to be in the thick of the post!)

I was thinking more about how hard it really is to love someone in *truth*… I think we come up with all these reasons why it’s best to sweep things under the rug, “to keep the peace” (but like Jeremiah said, it’s the false prophets who declare “peace, peace when there is no peace”), but really it’s for our own benefit in the moment- to keep our anxiety and shame down… Oh anxiety is so powerful a controller in our lives!! But what really serves the other person is truth and the opportunity to repent and change for the better… I feel like so often we don’t give God the chance to work the unexpected in others.. Proverbs says that the “wounds of a friend” are good… but how often do we really wound each other for good? Are we then being “friends” as the Bible calls us to be?

FOR FURTHER READING:

Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love” is THE best book on Forgivenesss. The last section of the book details this “blessing”: “Loving an Evil Person: Siege Warfare”; “Loving a Fool: Guerilla Warfare”; “Loving a normal sinner: Athletic Competition”; and finally “Bold Love: A sword in the Heart of Death.” 

 

 

 

What a prostitution survivor taught me about joy ~ by Jay Stringer

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part One

By Jay Stringer · November 5, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

For the next two weeks, we’re featuring an article from Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09) who works as both a licensed mental health counselor and an ordained minister. Here, Jay writes about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic, and about what the people there—including a prostitution survivortaught him about trauma, addiction, healing, and, somehow, joy. This post originally appeared in The Other Journal.

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-1/

 

I hope you take the time to read the full article, both parts. It’s *so* good!! But here are some salient excerpts: 

Without exception, each client had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some type of chemical dependency diagnosis for cocaine, heroin, alcohol, or meth at some point in their life. For the first time that I can recall, addiction made sense. My paradigm for drug users shifted from a posture of condemnation to a hybrid of relief and lament that they found a substance capable of giving them a brief intermission from all the brutality they had undergone. Those who are traumatized do not choose drugs because they want to be rebellious teenagers or irresponsible adults; they are choosing a chemical that is powerful enough to address the powers of evil that have been unleashed against them and within them. How is it that we have become so judgmental of drug use and so blind to their trauma? **The tragedy, far more than the drug use, is the trauma. Woe to us who forget this.** ….

The angel of the Lord finds Hagar here in this unexpected place and asks her the best questions any friend, spouse, therapist, or pastor could ever ask someone about their life: Where do you come from? Where are you going? The voice of God is curious, and the ears of God incline to hear her trauma…

Hagar is so moved by this encounter and blessing that she is compelled to say, “El Roi,” meaning “the God who sees me.” This is remarkable. It is a stranger, a foreigner, who is the first person to name God in the Scriptures. Although her knowledge of Yahweh is exceedingly limited, Hagar recognizes that this God is concerned with her trauma and will move with compassion toward her.

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part Two

By Jay Stringer · November 12, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

In part one of this article, Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09), began writing about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic:

“The absurdity and oddness I observed in these men and women were, I realized, not only characteristics of their trauma. They were also estranged because they did not have the access, ability, or desire to bow to our modern idols of capitalism, denial, and power. These gods allow most of us to maneuver our lives away from pain as we settle for surrogate sources of comfort. In spending time with this population, I began to get a sense of something out of a Twilight Zone episode—I began to think that maybe we, the stable ones, are actually the most troubled.”

 

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-2/

Again, some salient excerpts:

One Friday afternoon, I was covering the front desk after our receptionist went home sick when the most unusual woman came through the doors. Her walk, her clothes, and her face—they were all ancient in a futuristic, Star Wars sort of way. She leaned her arms over the reception counter and carefully examined my face for a good ten or fifteen seconds as she chewed gum with the tenacity of an iconic 1980s aerobic instructor.

She stopped chewing and said, “You must be new here. I don’t believe our eyes have met.”

I nodded with a smile and said, “You are correct. This is my third week. What can I do for you?”

She glanced at the clock. “Well I know you are about to close for the weekend. I just need to know where my party is and I will be on my way.”

I told her I had no idea what she was talking about. She looked at me with a bit of irritation. “Oh, of course you don’t know yet—but the city of Seattle throws me a party every Friday night.”

At this point, I was thinking almost exclusively about the appropriate clinical diagnosis for the woman. My internal dialogue went something like this: “Schizophrenia? Possibly, but not enough disorganization. Narcissistic personality disorder? More than likely—who in the world says something like that?”

I chose instead to be playful with my incredulity and asked, “Now why would a whole city throw you a party?”

Delighted, she stood straight up with a strong and playful dignity and proclaimed, “Well, I used to be a heroin whore, but now I’m clean, I’m sober, and I’m beautiful. Every weekend the city throws me a party to celebrate my life. You should come; it’s the best dancing in the city.”

I googled clean and sober parties in Seattle, and sure enough they existed. I wrote the address of her party on a card and she thanked me, spun around, and danced out of the clinic…

After declining another dance party invitation, I retrieved Stacey’s chart to write a progress note from our session. When I opened her file, chills ran through my body. I had read her file before. This was the woman who was sold into prostitution by her mother on her ninth birthday and had remained in that life for over fifteen years.

Stacey’s life and presence remain completely astonishing to me because I’ve come to recognize that she understands more about the nature of trauma, addiction, and healing than I could ever hope to learn. She knows that her lifetime of trauma and decades of addiction were not grounds for condemnation or alienation; she knows that they were the very events that formed her beauty and invited her to dance in the delight of God…

The mission many churches faithfully commit to year after year is one of service to a broken and hurting world. The complexity of this mission is that it often sets us up to believe that brokenness and sin reside mostly out there in the world and not in us. The result is a patronizing engagement with the people we make the focus of our mission or outreach. We refuse to see ourselves as the sick ones, and we therefore live as if we need no physician. A litmus test for whether or not your ministry falls into this trap is to discern whether you understand yourself to be more troubled and in need of the gospel than those you serve…

Christianity is fundamentally a faith in the trauma and resurrection of Jesus. The powers of evil believed their weapons of torture could defeat God, but paradoxically it is the trauma and death of Jesus that liberates the world. If we want to reveal the story of Jesus, we will be asked to confront the traumas that surround us…

But there are other seasons in which the trauma we confront is of our own doingthe recognition that our control has fractured the relationships with our spouse and children; the reality that we have hated ourselves for decades and it now contaminates everything, from our eating to our buying and the very theologies we embrace; of a gender that is responsible for so much of the degradation and violation of women…

The wonder and wisdom of the gospel is that God’s trauma addresses both these story lines. The atonement Jesus procures for us is the announcement that we are sinners who struggle with lust and anger but also the good news that this sin is {no longer} grounds for separation {because Jesus was our substitute in bearing God’s wrath for us, in our place} ; it is the very soil in which the work of redemption will grow forth.

 

Not Quite White

Below is an excerpt from an article in World Magazine, I think is very interesting, because it’s a topic I’ve never really heard discussed before. I found it quite shocking that in the early 1900s, more than 8000 poor white women were sterilized in an intentional government effort to wipe out a group of Americans. (below is the link to the full article)

Poor whites need Jesus and justice too

Religion | Evangelicals tend to focus on urban minorities instead of the largest percentage of Americans living under the poverty line

“If you want to hear crickets in a room full of educated, missionally minded, culture-shaping evangelicals, ask this question: “What are you doing to serve the needs of poor white people?”

A recent seminary graduate, who is white, asked me what he needed to do to prepare to plant a church in a small lower-class town that is 76 percent black and 21 percent white. He was rightly cautious after reading in Aliens in the Promised Land about Rev. Lance Lewis’ call for a moratorium on white evangelicals planting churches in black areas because of evangelicalism’s cultural obtuseness and patriarchal disposition toward ethnic minorities. Since most black communities in the South are already saturated with churches, I asked this young man why he was not interested in planting a church among the lower-class whites in his county. His response: “It had not occurred to me to plant a church among lower-class whites.”…

“Today it seems that “the least of these” includes more than 19 million poor whites who are just the wrong color for gospel ministry and mission. As educated evangelicals turn a blind eye to 41 percent of the nation’s poor, are they more driven by a white messianic narrative than by an indiscriminate love for neighbor?”

http://www.worldmag.com/2015/03/poor_whites_need_jesus_and_justice_too

Blog title comes from a book referenced in the article… “Not quite white: White trash and the boundaries of whiteness.” ~ Matt Wray