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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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“As I watched my father’s mistress put her suitcases in his car, an animal rage came over me. I felt I could tear her apart with my hands.” Yagmur, tall and elegant with perfectly styled blond hair, spoke evenly to the audience in the church, but the pain of that childhood memory was evident. “That day I made a decision to hate my father for the rest of my life.”

Yagmur’s mother was also angry, and took out her anger in the form of physical abuse toward her daughter. “As a young girl, I had scars and bruises all over my body from my mother’s beatings. I hated my father for his unfaithfulness. And I hated my mother for her helplessness.”

“Every day my mother told me I was ugly and stupid,” Yagmur continued. “Faith comes through hearing. And I started to believe in what I was hearing.” Escaping to her room and pulling the blankets over her head, Yagmur would dream of being a beautiful princess in a long, sparkling gown. And she would imagine her mother and father smiling at her, proudly. She longed for their love.

Immediately after college, she married a charming and passionate young man, desperate to escape the abuse and pain of her home life. But soon another nightmare began. Her husband began beating her too, accusing her of unfaithfulness, demanding to know why she was a few minutes late coming home from work.

Then one day her husband held a knife to her throat, insisting that she jump out of an eighth-story window. Yagmur clung to his ankles, sobbing and pleading for her life until he let her go.

In desperation, Yagmur fled to the U.S. to start a new life. But when her second husband’s drug abuse got out of control, she found herself becoming more and more hopeless, wanting to end her life. “There is hatred and pain everywhere I go,” she thought in despair. “I can’t escape.”

Eventually Yagmur found a job working for a Christian company. Wanting to impress the boss, she joined the early-morning Bible study at the office. They were reading the story of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman. Yagmur couldn’t help blurting out, “Why did he forgive her? She was not worthy to be forgiven!”

“None of us are worthy,” a co-worker explained. “But Jesus forgives us because he loves us. Even if that woman had been the only person on the earth, Jesus still would have come to earth for her and died in her place, because he loves her.”

“I was that unworthy woman,” she recalled. All the shame of her childhood, the memories of being called ugly and stupid, the feeling of being worthless, the abuse of her marriages, the abandonment and emptiness and thoughts of suicide – it all culminated one day in a desperate cry in the office restroom. “Help me, God! Have mercy! I need You!” As she dried her eyes and walked to her desk, she wondered if He even heard her.

Before she could even get back to work, Yagmur’s boss called her urgently to his office. “I’ve never done this before,” he explained hesitantly. “But I feel Jesus prompting me strongly that I need to tell you something. He says that He has heard your prayer in the bathroom. He saw you when you were a little girl. He’s been with you all this time. And He loves you and forgives you.”

Yagmur crumpled to the carpet, weeping. “Do you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” Her boss was asking kindly. “YES! YES! YES!” She sobbed. Finally she had found the love she had been searching for.

Eventually Yagmur was able to forgive her father and mother for all the pain they caused her for so many years. And today Yagmur has a ministry of bringing hope and healing to girls and women around the world, through TV programming and radio broadcasts. “You are loved. You are valued. You are beautiful,” she tells them. “God has a plan for your future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” She knows it is true – she is living proof.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1b (NRSV)

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“NOOOOO!!!!” The happy hum of preschoolers enjoying their snacks is instantly shattered by three-year-old Thomas’ screams of rage.
“I don’t WANT you to put the straw in my juice! I can do it MYSELF!!!” Crossing his arms, Thomas glares at me. “I’m MAD at you!”

It’s going to be a long day. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is more than I bargained for when I agreed to sub for the three-year-old preschool class today.

All day long, Thomas throws screaming fits when something is not exactly to his liking. “But I don’t WANT to color the T!” “I don’t WANT to sit next to Samuel!” “He’s touching MY crayon!” “NOOOOOO!!!!!” I’ve never seen a preschooler put in time out or sent to the principal’s office so many times in one day.

“Thomas’ family just moved to the area,” the other preschool teacher explains to me in a whisper. “His dad’s in the military and gone a lot. Plus his mom just had a new baby. He’s mad at the world right now.”

My heart goes out to this angry little boy, but I don’t know how to handle his fits of rage. So I start to ignore Thomas. When Allison needs help with her letter T worksheet, I gladly show her what to do. When Gregory wants me to read to him, I pull him onto my lap and cheerfully start “Curious George at the Dentist.” But I avoid even looking at Thomas, afraid that the smallest thing might set him off.
Almost done, I sigh with relief at the end of the day. We are letting the kids run off some energy in the gym before their parents pick them up. Like clockwork, after a few minutes Thomas plops down in the middle of the gym and screams, for no apparent reason. None of the other kids seem concerned.

This little boy needs a lot of love, I realize with a pang. He needs consequences too, but if I only give him attention when he does something wrong, isn’t that just reinforcing his bad behavior?

I don’t really want to do it. But I know I need to. I walk over to him and force myself to smile.

“Thomas, would you like me to swing you around?” He looks up, surprised, and agrees hesitantly. I pick him up, and he quickly wraps his legs around my waist and holds tightly to my neck.

“Ready?” I ask. He nods. As I start spinning around, I’m surprised by a sound I haven’t heard all day. I stop and look at Thomas. He’s actually giggling!

“Want to do it again?” He grins. Once more I spin around, slowly at first, then faster and faster, until we’re both dizzy and laughing. Amazing. Thomas isn’t throwing fits. And I’m actually enjoying myself!

As the preschoolers gather their coats and backpacks for the carpool line, I think of another friend in my life who sometimes acts like Thomas. Deeply wounded by life’s hurts and disappointments, she reacts in anger, verbally attacking anyone who comes near. Recently I’ve started to avoid contact with her completely. To keep from being hurt, I’ve been withdrawing from the relationship.

But aren’t there times when I, too, react out of pain and anger, hurting those around me? Yet the Heavenly Father always takes an interest in me. Not because I’m always acting lovable. But because He loves me unconditionally. Right then I decide to make an effort to reach out to my friend. Because I’ve been forgiven, I can forgive. Because I’ve been given grace, I can extend grace. Because I am loved, I can love.

Do you know someone who is throwing a tantrum at life’s injustice? Do you have a friend who’s been hurt deeply and is lashing out in pain? Though the temptation is to back away from someone like that, consider how you can reach out to that person this week. Even a screaming fit of rage is no match for forgiving, grace-filled, unconditional love.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
Psalm 86:15 (NIV)

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“You’re worthless! You’re stupid! You’ll never amount to anything!”

The clanking of heavy chains punctuated the harsh taunts as Gloria dragged Pastor Steve around the room of our East Asia Fresh Start seminar. Her sagging shoulders and pained expression revealed that this was more than just a role-play. Squirming in my seat, I cringed as the scenario was played out before me.

It had started with a question. “Who has hurt you the most in your life?” Pastor Steve had asked Gloria.

“My father,” she had responded without hesitation. “He is always criticizing me, always telling me I’m not good enough.” Though Gloria said she had forgiven him, it was clear that she was still affected by his negative opinion of her.

“I’m going to represent your father,” Pastor Steve had then explained. “I want you to wrap this chain around me and drag me around the room.” With a slightly skeptical look, Gloria agreed. But quickly the painful reality of what this represented became apparent. Gloria’s normally cheerful face clouded as Pastor Steve voiced the negative comments and criticism of her father. Soon she was in tears, as were most of the others in the room.

After what seemed an eternity, Pastor Steve told her she could stop. “Do you want to keep dragging your father around with you?” he asked her gently. “Do you want to keep defining yourself by his opinion of you?” Gloria shook her head emphatically.

“Are you ready to forgive your father and let him go?” She threw down the chains she’d been holding as if they were poisonous snakes. “Yes! I want to forgive him.”

At Pastor Steve’s encouragement, Gloria prayed aloud, voice quavering with emotion. “God, I forgive my father for rejecting me, for criticizing me, for judging me. I don’t want to carry this bitterness anymore! I let it go right now!”

“Now do you want to hear what your Heavenly Father thinks about you?” asked Pastor Steve softly. “He says that you are beautiful. He says that you are precious. He says you are valuable. He says He has good plans for you. He says you are His beloved daughter, in whom He is well pleased! You have the best Papa! He loves you so much!” Tears rolled down Gloria’s cheeks as the truth of the words began to take effect.

“I have the best Papa! I have the best Papa!” A smile broke out as she repeated the words over and over. “I have the best Papa!”

What about you? Are you dragging around someone that you haven’t forgiven? Is that person’s opinion of you drowning out what God says about you? You can’t fully receive the truth of who your Heavenly Father says you are until you FORGIVE the one who has hurt you, RELEASE the person and the effects to God, and allow Him to heal those deep wounds in your heart. Let go of bitterness and unforgiveness today and receive the love and acceptance that your Papa has for you! You have the best Papa anyone could ever have!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love…”
“…and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Jeremiah 31:3a (NRSV), Deuteronomy 33:27a (NKJV)

Going Vertical!
MJ

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“That will never work,” Hanna declared decisively. Before her husband Jeremy could even finish the explanation of his newest dream for their business, practical Hanna proceeded to expound upon why it was a foolish plan.

“Could you just listen to my idea?” Jeremy pleaded, looking crushed. “But I know it won’t work,” she said simply. “You always have crazy plans, and you don’t think about the potential problems. That’s what I’m here for.”

Sharp-tongued and critical, Hanna was constantly berating her husband, squelching his excitement with her “realism.” Where Jeremy was all enthusiasm and passion, Hanna seemed to be all prickles and spines.

But below the surface of Hanna’s “porcupine personality” were deep hurts. Rejected by her mother for not being as pretty as her sister, she’d always felt unwanted, unloved, and not valued. It was hard for her to believe that anyone could really care about her. The pain of childhood wounds that had never healed caused her to bristle when anyone got too close, unknowingly sabotaging her relationships.

Hanna came to mind this weekend as I chatted with a woman who calls herself a “Cat Whisperer.” She’s a volunteer “foster parent” for abandoned and traumatized animals from the SPCA. Many of the cats who come to her are aggressive, hissing and clawing when she brings them food or tries to pet them.

“I have to ask myself, ‘Why did this cat scratch me? Is it scared? Does it feel threatened?” the “Cat Whisperer” explained. “Then I have to get down on his level and show him that I’m not going to hurt him.” Eventually she builds trust with the skittish felines, overcoming their fear through gentle persistence.

In the case of my friend Hanna, the persistent love and affirmation of friends began to break down the walls of defense around her heart. She was finally able to identify those deep childhood wounds, and to forgive those who had hurt her. The prickles and spines began to fade away, and a softer side was revealed – more of the true Hanna, gentle and loving and compassionate.

Are you a “porcupine person”? Have past wounds made you prickly and spiny? Like those traumatized and abandoned cats, do you claw and scratch people who get too close? Stop and think about why you are responding this way, and ask the Lord to help you identify those wounds that need to be healed. He’s a true “Heart Whisperer” and He’s whispering His love to you right now!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

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When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a famous actress, singer, ballerina, gymnast, writer, or painter. I longed to be on the stage, performing before adoring crowds. More than anything, I wanted to be a star.

I got a taste of fame when I moved to a small town in East Asia. In a city with just a handful of foreigners, a white girl standing in line at the post office was equivalent to a celebrity appearance. Strangers in the park asked to take pictures with me. A grandmother sitting next to me on the bus wanted to know if I had a boyfriend, then tried to set me up with her grandson. Giggling high school girls shyly asked, “What’s your name?” then ran away, embarrassed, before I could answer. And many people just stared, whispering, “wai guo ren! wai guo ren!” (foreigner! foreigner!) to each other as I walked past.

Reveling in the attention, I would play it up to the crowds, waving and smiling to the gawking old ladies, patiently talking to the students whose parents wanted them to practice their English. It was humorous to watch the double-takes that resulted from seeing a blue-eyed, curly-haired, freckled American among the massive crowds of Asian faces. Once a teenage boy plowed his bicycle into a tree because he was craning his neck for another look at the local sensation! (He wasn’t hurt, apparently, and his buddies thought it was hilarious.)

And then one of my life-long dreams became a reality – I got to be on TV! They needed some foreigners to be part of a New Year’s special program and I jumped at the chance. The makeup, the costumes, the live audience, the applause… I soaked it all in. I was finally a star.

But after months and years of having my every move scrutinized, I started to long for a day when I could just blend into the crowd. The whispers and comments and questions started to irritate me. I began to avoid anyone who approached me with requests for photos. The only escape into anonymity was on the coldest days of the harsh northeast winters. With a hat pulled low on my head, a scarf wrapped around my nose and mouth, and my head bent down into the wind – no one could tell that I was a foreigner!

Fame. It’s what I thought I wanted. But now that I had a taste of it, I discovered it wasn’t all that I thought it would be.

Why wasn’t I satisfied? Though I thought fame was what I wanted, I was really seeking the attention and admiration that went with it. But getting stared at in the street or being photographed by strangers didn’t satisfy my need for significance.

Fame won’t fill that void. Admiration and attention from others won’t fill it. But if I am secure in knowing WHO I am and WHOSE I am – a beloved daughter of the King, free and forgiven, destined for great things that He has prepared in advance for me to do – then it doesn’t matter if the crowds adore me or not!

What do you want? And will you be satisfied when you get it? Take an honest look at the motivation behind what you’re seeking. And ask the Lord to fill those needs with His perfection. Because nothing else will satisfy the way His love satisfies.

Going Vertical!
MJ

Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

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