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Changes in Your Circumstances

 

If you turn it over and don’t let go of it, you will be upside down—AA Slogan

 

 

Father,

When You want my attention,

You know how to get it.

There are times when I feel

Like You aren’t really there,

Like You don’t really care,

Like my life has little meaning, value or purpose.

Then, through my circumstances,

You shake me to the core, and I am undone.

That’s when You begin your relentless pruning.

At first, I don’t recognize what is going on,

And I cry out, ”Why me, Lord?”

I don’t like what is happening,

And I resist Your efforts to make me

Into the person You intend for me to be.

I want to be your man,

Strong, resourceful, and successful,

But I want it to come easily, with little effort,

But it never does—not for me, anyway.

I chafe, as You prune my immature ways,

With precision and focused determination.

When I recognize what is occurring,

I bow me knee and acknowledge,

That Your hand has been hard on me,

But Your purpose has never wavered.

When You have finished, You seem pleased

With what You have pruned, knowing that

I will become stronger, more fruitful person.

 

I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:1-4)

Jack Watts

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A Vengeful Heart

 

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Father,

As I grit my teeth defiantly,

My anger is so consuming that

Toxic emotions rule my soul.

My fury clouds my judgment,

And the smile on my face has disappeared.

Dark clouds dominate my countenance,

Warning others to stay clear.

I entertain vivid thoughts of being vengeful,

Of making my enemies pay a terrible price

For the injustice they have inflicted on me.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like

The person I see—the person I have become.

I spend my days feeding my anger,

Amusing myself with hostile imaginations that

Race through my mind in a never-ending cycle,

As their repetition supports my bitterness.

I’m consumed by hateful thoughts of retribution,

They dominate my wakeful hours and also my dreams.

 

I know I’m not ready to forgive—not yet.

While my hostile mindset has dominion over me,

I need Your help more than ever, Father.

Move me through this toxic period quickly.

Heal me from desiring merciless revenge.

Teach me to forgive—just as I have been forgiven.

While my anger consumes my consciousness,

Depleting me of love, joy, peace, and kindness;

Keep me from these four injurious things:

From saying harsh words that can never be retrieved;

From wasting hours, feeding my bitter fantasies of reprisal;

From self-defeating behavior that assuages my pain—

And from desiring Evil to be the lot for my wrongdoers

Amen.

Jack Watts

 

This you know, my beloved brethren. But let every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

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Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase—Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

If working the 11 Steps is the key to recovery from religious abuse—or any type of abuse for that matter, developing a different mindset is the key to making your recovery easy instead of being difficult. Like most things in recovery, the choice is yours.

 

For example, if you insist upon understanding why your abuse occurred, your life will be filled with frustration, bitterness, and failure. At some point, some understand why but most never do. God knows; that’s for certain, and He’s in charge of the outcome. If you can accept this, you’re on your way to recovery. If you can’t, you’ll continue to experience heartache, whether you like it or not.

 

You may have read the Bible verse that says, “Yea though He slay me; yet will I trust Him.” To most, this seems like sentimental nonsense or poetic hyperbole. To those of us who are in the process of recovery, however, it’s neither. It’s exactly how we feel. Having our spirit crushed by our abusers, we understand the Phoenix, which rose from the ashes to experience a new, more fulfilling life.

 

This is the attitude each of us needs to have: “Yea though He slay me; yet will I trust Him.” By having it, which comes from renewing your mind, God is free to work in your life. With it, He will produce everything He wants from you. Without it, you will continue to chafe at the bit, producing nothing of value. Your life will amount to no more than what you can produce with wood, hay, and stubble.

 

If you want more, renew your mind. Accept the Lord’s purpose as your own and press forward. If you can do this, your life will begin to exhibit estimable character qualities, which have intrinsic value—just like gold, silver, and precious jewels. If this is what you desire, join me in this prayer for renewal:

 

Father,

The wounds from my abuse run deep,

Creating shame, anger, and an

Overwhelming sense of worthlessness

That enervates every area of my life.

With my mouth, I refuse to admit

That this is how I see myself,

But in the recesses of my soul,

I wonder if my abusers are correct about me.

Maybe my life does have little value, after all,

Precisely like I have been told.

When my abuse occurred, I was as angrier

With You than I was with my abuser.

Being a person with spiritual authority,

I believed he spoke for You,

Which was certainly his clear indication.

In my heartache, it never occurred to me

That Your Son was also abused—just like me—

By hateful, self-serving religious leaders.

You permitted His abuse—just as you permitted mine.

What His abusers meant for evil, hoping to destroy Him,

You meant for good, redeeming Mankind through it.

Without Christ’s abuse, all would be lost.

Thank You for allowing such a tragedy

On my behalf, as well as that of others.

Can You redeem what is left of my life as well?

Can You use my pain and my experience for something

That has value for others as well as for me?

Father, turn my weakness into strength,

And my broken life into one

That is joyful, substantive, and purposeful.

I pray this in Christ’s Precious Name,

 

Refer to STEP 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

 

If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

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From the Inside Out

 

Refer to Step 6: I abandon my desire to spread hatred because of my pain and anger, and chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

 

 

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.

—Henri-Fredric Amiel

When you’ve been abused, when you’ve been verbally maligned, when you’ve had your character assaulted by someone you trust, the most natural thing in the world is to recoil. Then, you want to strike back. You want vindication. You want to set the record straight. You want everybody to know the truth. You want someone to listen to how badly you’ve been abused.

For those of us in recovery from religious abuse, we know these feelings well. It’s difficult for us to escape them—even for a short period. Unfortunately, the abusive people are usually in the power position, and any attempt at justification falls on deaf ears, making the abused person seem like a disgruntled malcontent.

Although it’s hard—really hard—to survive emotionally, you need to renew your mind by seeking the Kingdom of God first, allowing God to set the record straight—in His time, not in your time.

From your perspective, this seems particularly unfair but, if you seek God’s perspective diligently, it will come and so will your vindication. For most of us, instant gratification isn’t fast enough. From God’s perspective, building you from the inside out is far more important than proving that you were right to the world.

If you understand this and accept it, this part of renewing your mind will be complete, and you will be well on your road to recovery.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Jack Watts

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Father,

In my pain and anguish,

When my heart was broken,

And I thought darkness would overwhelm me,

I felt so lost and alone, but I wasn’t.

Despite my anxiety, You were there,

Diligently working in my heart,

Stripping me of my pretense,

Pruning me from all of my arrogance,

Revealing each of my self-serving ways,

Which had made my life a wasteland.

For so long, I had no concern or awareness

About anything You desired for my life.

My only care was relief for my tormented soul,

But Your concern went far deeper than my pain.

I thought my agony was endless—

That I would never smile at the future—

But I was completely mistaken.

Out of my desperate neediness,

I revealed the desires of my heart to You,

Asking You repeatedly to grant my wishes,

But You never would, which still perplexes me.

I doubt You even considered validating my desire.

Accepting this has been very difficult for me;

But what I have gained through my loss,

Has been far greater than I ever imagined.

Out of the painful void, You have raised me up,

Placing my feet on solid, immovable ground,

Strengthening me with power in the inner man.

Now, I am no longer fearful, apprehensive, or timid.

Instead of fretful trepidation filling my days,

My mind has been renewed producing

Calmness, immovable strength, and sanity.

All of this is because You have changed my heart—

Transforming my perspective completely.

Without Your loving, consistent care,

I would never have learned life’s lessons.

Instead, I would have been destined

To repeat my mistakes endlessly,

Like an unreasoning animal

And not like a man—a child of the King.

Jack Watts   Real Prayers

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Refer to STEP 4: . . . God understands your wounded-ness . . . .

If you’ve been scolded out of the church, you probably think God doesn’t want you back. That’s more than likely the message you received when you were hounded out—either stated or implied. The subtle—or not so subtle—message is this: The church would be better off without you. The church is for good people . . . people who don’t ask questions . . . people who don’t rock the boat.

Am I right? That’s probably the message you received or, at least, the message you internalized as true.

If so, here’s some really good news for you. It isn’t true, and God definitely wants you back. His love for you has neither ceased nor diminished, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn’t matter what you may or may not have done. God loved you then, and He loves you now. Nothing can change that, and nobody controls whom God loves either.

He loves you, period!

Perhaps that’s why you’re reading this right now. Intuitively, you know it’s true. Or, maybe you believe God doesn’t love you because you don’t love yourself.

“How could anybody love me,” you might ask? “I’ve done some horrible things.” I don’t know what you’ve done, but it doesn’t matter.

Here’s some more good news. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. God loves you anyway. You may not believe it, but it’s true. That’s what grace is all about.

He wants you back; He wants a relationship with you—regardless of what you’ve been told or what you feel. There is a way out. There is a way up, and it’s available to you right now.

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Refer to STEP 6: Made a commitment to turn away from my pride and refused to become just like those who abused me.

When you’ve been abused by someone is a position of authority, you experience many thoughts and emotions. One of them is what I call “the spirit of self-vindication.” Because you’ve been wronged, there is an inevitable desire to retaliate. You want to “set the record straight.”

You say to yourself—or to anyone who will listen, “I’m not going to let them get away with this. I’m going to . . .” and then you proceed to explain how you are going to even the score.

This is where things get tricky. Whether you are right or not is only half of the issue. Your motive has to be correct as well. If it isn’t, then you are in danger of becoming exactly like those who abused you in the first place. That’s what the spirit of self-vindication produces—another layer of self-righteousness.

When you act upon it, you are taking matters into your own hands. You try to force an outcome, and that rarely works. It feels great, but the satisfaction is short lived. The fruit from it is bitter, and you’re either forced to make amends or justify your poor behavior from then on.

Only the very brace will apologize and make amends. Most choose to rationalize their retaliation as just, reaping a hard heart in the process. Being vengeful only works in movies and cartoons, but you knew that, didn’t you?

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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