The counterfeit church

counterfeitMany things that God shows me and teaches me, I don’t openly share. I hold them close – just for me.

Today, I thought was one of those times…but when we were done, he told me to share it with you.

It’s no secret that I have a difficult time lining up scripture with the way we do church today. I’ve taught that message from the pulpit more than once.

Today, what He said just pounded my heart.

Here it is….

There has and always will be a war around the idea of church. In it’s purest form, the church is unstoppable. It’s the wild, provocative, battle hungry bride of Christ.

SATAN HATES THAT PICTURE.

His strategic plan is to disarm, dismantle and strip it of all authority in the world. He’s done a good job.

His plan is to create a counterfeit version of what was intended. A church that looks just close enough to the real deal that it isn’t recognized or easily identified as false.

He wants his version to grow – become powerful in it’s own way -but never walk in the full power God intended.

When those who hunger for the real church rise, they become quickly marked to be snuffed out. Quieted, stopped and forced into submission.

They are told to be quiet. They are told, that’s just not how we do it. They are told they are too much, too weird, or too “out there”.

The interesting thing is, those who are up-front in church, those who are groomed in the church, rarely become forerunners of his actual church.

It’s usually the ones who find Him in secret. The underdogs, the less-polished, the ones who aren’t religiously groomed. They don’t follow people – they’ve learned to only follow Him. This makes them a terrible threat to the counterfeit church.

They are viewed as uncontrollable, wild, unpredictable, loose cannons and ones that you just aren’t sure about. These men and women are different from the rest. They stand out.

Not always in the most comfortable ways.

They often feel like outcasts.

Outsiders of the “in crowd” at church.

They view the happenings in the counterfeit church and don’t understand them.

They don’t relish traditions of man.

They relish the ever-changing, wild, ferocious power of His presence.

When the rare occasion of the demonic appears, they are the ones who remain unafraid and unmoved. For they know the spiritual realms well. They walk in discernment. They confidently run towards the fire instead of away from it.

They don’t understand the purpose of life groups or homegroups where it’s more about a social club and a few bible verses and prayer requests, rather than a group who gathers together with a hunger and expectation for a life-changing encounter with God.

These men and women are often loners in the counterfeit church, but they tend to find eachother. They can sniff eachother out. For they carry the presence of Him. And for those who can see it, they quickly recognize it.

In the words of Francis Chan, if you were going to go into a cemetery and try to raise someone back to life, who would you bring with you?

(Crazy scenario, but this is what the church is supposed to be doing spiritually)

I can promise you it wouldn’t be the counterfeit church.

It would be the crazy lady who walks the streets of her city worshiping and praying day and night (who you think is totally NUTS). It would be the firecracker prayer warrior who prays with such intensity that you feel super uncomfortable when they pray. Because it’s just TOO MUCH.

It would be the few men and woman you have encountered who carry a presence that’s different.

In actuality, the gospel – the message – is an active war for  wounded souls.

Those who are in His captive audience recognize the battle they are in every day. They may not do things the way they have always been done; they may make others uncomfortable at times when they talk about their love affair with Jesus and the time they passionately spend with Him.

The way they love those who the church would often turn their back on may make you uneasy. The way their presence changes a room may cause you to feel uncomfortable.

Although they are not always understood or welcomed inside the church, ironically these men and women are craved by the world.

The words they speak that the church finds so uncomfortable, the world finds comforting. The presence they carry that rattles the church, is hungered by the world.

In many ways, it’s the story of Jesus all over again.

Hated by the religious institution.

Loved by the world.

Here’s why:

Jesus did not bring peace into the religious establishment. He brought peace into hurting souls.

And there isn’t anyway to do that without it getting messy.

Counterfeit churches don’t like things that are messy or uncontrollable.

Jesus had to cast out demons.

He had to heal the sick.

He had to jump into a stoning situation with a woman who had committed adultery.

Messy.

Sadly, the very place that should have embraced that, fought it.

And still does today.

Having that said, I love church. I am for churches  – BUT I BELIEVE WE CAN DO BETTER.

My hope is that you would seek Him for yourself. That you would passionately run after him instead of  the idea of what church should be.

I can promise you – HE IS SO MUCH BETTER.

Anna

The days leaders don’t talk about

days-leaders-dont-talk-aboutWhen I first started this blog, I promised to keep it honest. I vowed that I would be real and transparent about the ins and outs of what goes on in my head on this journey of being a Jesus follower.

Today, I’m going to be super real with you.

You’re getting an intense look inside.

People who follow Jesus (authentically) are often viewed as a pillar of strength. It’s like they become this model of who you want to be like. I get it. There are many people in my life that I’ve seen that way.

Well, I’m about to wreck that image.

Like completely dismantle it.

I want this post to be encouraging. I want this post to be super awe inspiring and awesome (what blogger doesn’t?) And, yet, all that is coming out of me today is a pretty raw look at the days that you don’t read about in blogs.

So, just get ready. I’ve given you fair warning.

There are days I feel less than.

There are days I don’t feel like I’m enough.

There are days I feel scared.

There are days I feel like I’m failing at everything.

There are days I seriously wonder,

WHY THE HECK DID GOD CHOOSE ME?

Sometimes I want to give up.

Sometimes I want to hide under the covers and not come back out.

Sometimes I fear that people will leave, people will disappoint and all of it will amount to nothing.

There are times my heart gets tired. My head gets full. My arms get weak. And I want to lay down and pass the baton to someone else. Give it to someone stronger. Someone like the leaders that I look up to.

I am not perfect. But I really want to be and that is hard. I am not made of steel. But I want to be and that lands me in a pool of tears more than I care to admit. I am not always able to love the best. But I long to, and that weighs heavy on my heart. I am not always able to shake off words that rattle me. But, I really, really wish I could and that makes for some tough days. I’m not always confident and that totally and completely SUCKS.

These moments don’t happen often, but they do happen.

I’ve learned God’s grace here…

in this ugly, messy place.

I’ve learned to cherish my weak spots.

I’ve learned to embrace them and press into them.

This has become the mantra of my heart:

I can stand up and keep fighting because He is stronger than my weak and feeble heart.

I can choose to continue to love because He is the only stable lover of my heart.

He is and always will be my constant.

He is and always will be the only true lover of my soul.

He is and always will be my loudest cheerleader in the room.

He has and always will have the only key to my heart.

IT’S FROM THIS PLACE AND ONLY THIS PLACE THAT I PICK UP MY SWORD AND CONTINUE TO MARCH ON.

True strength isn’t built on mountaintops.

True warrior strength is built in the trenches. It’s formed in the battleground. It’s in the dark, lonely hours when you just don’t think you can anymore. True strength is made in the crushing, refining hours when the ache is deep, the pain intense and the battle cry sounds more like a desperate scream for help.

We all will face giants. Sometimes the biggest ones are inside.

I take a huge amount of comfort from Paul. He said, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)

He pretty much admitted that in his heart he had places that were totally weak. I love that. BECAUSE IT MAKES ME NOT FEEL SO DARN CRAZY.

I believe Paul learned to identify with the trenches. He learned to master them. Not that he overcame being weak, but he mastered the art of pressing into weakness and responding well.

There will always be let downs. There will always be situations and people that hurt. But, I can’t walk in fear or shame of that. I refuse.

Because the moment I do, darkness wins. The moment I refuse to back down out of shame or fear, I’ve already surrendered.

Every intense battle of the heart and mind that you face, is a direct attack against your calling. Against the you that you were designed to be.

I am designed to speak.

I am designed to love and love well.

I am designed to confront darkness head on with a passionate fire of the Holy Spirit.

I am designed to lead.

I am designed to be painfully vulnerable.

(There’s more but we’ll stop there)🙂

Every single time I feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me, it’s because I was hit in one of the areas God has strategically called me to walk in. EVERY SINGLE FREAKING TIME.

So, friends, I am sharing from an honest place. I’ve learned how to battle and believe there is tremendous strength when we open up and admit our weakness. Honesty shakes off shame. Transparency wrecks the ability for darkness to win.

You have a fierce calling on your life. You have a tremendous amount of work to do for the Kingdom that only you are designed to do.

You will face giants. You will get knocked down. You will battle insecurity and fear and confront and expose a ton of weak areas. BUT THEY WILL NOT WIN.

You are not alone.

You are not going to lose.

You are not going to give up.

You are going to keep marching on.

Not because you are super human – but because all the power of heaven lives and rests inside of you.

Marching on.

Anna

If you’ve been hurt by the church…

church hurt pic2I receive lots of emails from people who love the idea of following Jesus and being a light to their surroundings.

But, so many are paralyzed by a common theme: they are deeply wounded from experiences inside church.

For some of you, this is shocking. You’re like, what’s wrong with church? Mine is great!

Sadly, you may be one of the few who feels that way.

Let me explain:

I grew up in church.

And when I say that, I don’t mean one particular building or denomination. I have been actively involved in various non-denominationals, Methodist, Baptist, Apostolic – there’s been a wide variety.

I come at this topic from (what I consider to be) a pretty well rounded perspective.

I wish I could say I have warm fuzzies about each of those experiences. I wish I could tell you everyone was kind, forgiving, loving and acted like Jesus. I wish I could say I didn’t bear my own set of scars.

But I can’t.

Now, before you completely lump this blog into the anti-church category, hear me: I also had many WONDERFUL church experiences. So many that have shaped who I am today. I am tremendously thankful for being raised in church and for all of the people who fed my spiritual journey.

However, as with anything, a few severely painful experiences can outweigh a pot of good ones.

But, Anna, don’t you work at a church? Aren’t you in ministry?

Yep.

I am and I do.

BUT….

I know what it’s like to be judged before you even get a chance to show anyone who you are.

I know what it feels like to walk into a room and the talking immediately stops.

I know what it’s like to have something you’ve done discussed everywhere other than with you.

I know what it’s like to share the calling God has placed on your life and it be rejected because it doesn’t “fit the mold”.

I know what it’s like to serve (tirelessly) and not be appreciated.

I know what it’s like to have Bible verses used as a weapon against you.

I know what it’s like to be at your lowest and be shamed for being there.

I know what it’s like to be told you’re not enough.

I know what it’s like to have your “friends” quickly turn on you.

I know what it’s like to listen to people talk (A LOT) about how spiritual they are and then act nothing like Jesus.

I know ALL of this because of my experiences inside of church.

Am I surprised not many in my generation want to be involved inside of their local church?

Nope. Not at all.

I was one of them.

There was one experience that made me swear I’d never set foot inside a church again. It was (and still is) one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve lived through (and yes, I used the word trauma. I don’t use that word lightly).

In my lowest moment – like absolute lowest –  I confided in people who I believed were my friends inside church. People who I had prayed with, lived life with and invested much of myself into. 

But because we disagreed on one interpretation of scripture (divorce) I was excommunicated. Like, for real. I was even written a letter from the church explaining that I was no longer allowed to be a member. And (of course) that they were praying for me.

There was much that drove me to divorce (I won’t get into that here. It’s not a story that I share) but, let me just say I was nearly 85 lbs and on loads of antidepressants. I didn’t want to divorce; but I had to.

Without getting into the details of  my marriage ending and my life completely turning upside down, I can share with you that what that church did to me (on top of other unpleasant church experiences) put the nail in the coffin.

I.WAS.DONE.

I didn’t attend any church for a while after that. A LONG WHILE.

But, that didn’t halt my relationship with Jesus.

He continued to pursue me.

He continued to call me.

And He ALONE is the one who eventually healed me.

Through that process I fell hard core in love with the word of God.

I read it for myself. I allowed the Holy Spirit to teach me, to mold me and to shape the call that He had on my life. It was baptism by fire (if you will) for ministry.

(FYI: I’m not against traditional seminary or other various forms of ministry training. My journey didn’t look like the norm, but if you read scripture, His ways don’t always fit the norm)😉

He eventually led me to venture back inside church walls.

IT TERRIFIED ME.

But, by the grace of God, we landed in a pretty safe one. Hallelujah.

One where God brought powerful men and woman to breathe life into the calling God had placed in me. I treasure their relationships to this day and know that I would not be walking the way I am without them (you know who you are!)

I was given the opportunity to serve in leadership and exercise the giftings God had given me. But, most importantly I was able to be used in the lives of those there.

And, well, here I am today.

Writing and speaking without fear of people, yielding only to the word of God and the Holy Spirit.

People, it’s a freaking miracle.

I’m legitimately a walking miracle.

If you have been wounded by the church or by people inside the church, I am so sorry.

I AM SO DEEPLY SORRY.

The church, as a whole, should do better. But, friends, I love the church. I champion the church and believe it can rise to be what it was intended to be.

This is exactly why you’re needed there.

When you feel discouraged and want to run as fast as you can out those doors, remember there is someone who knows better than any of us what it feels like to be on the outside of a religious organization: Jesus.

HE LIVED IT.

He didn’t fit the religious format (one that was more about controlling people out of fear rather than setting them free).

He followed the Holy Spirit. With love, humility, grace, mercy and integrity. He honored those in authority while loving the ones who needed him the most.

If you know Jesus, if you have the Holy Spirit, now is your time to rise up.

You may not be listened to at first. You may be looked over. You may be put on the outside, heck you may be persecuted just like Jesus was by the religious in his day. But friends hear me, you are not alone.

The world is in DESPERATE need of legitimate Jesus followers to rise up.

Ones who walk in humility and carry a servant’s heart.

Ones who rely solely on the Holy Spirit and not their own strength.

Ones who are courageous enough to go against the grain and live like the actual Christians of the Bible.

Ones who care more about the intricacies of their heart than of their outward appearance.

Ones who allow Jesus to refine their integrity one inch of their heart/mind at a time.

Ones who rely desperately on HIM for every ounce of peace and wisdom.

Ones who know they are NOTHING without Him.

Ones who see what Jesus did and are crazy enough to believe we actually CAN do even greater things than he did (it’s in the Bible) through the power of His spirit working through us.

THIS IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS

THIS IS WHAT THE CHURCH NEEDS

Both are craving it.

Remember, God is the one who anoints, calls, equips and moves through us. (There isn’t any other biblical argument)

 

It’s never been about us. It’s always been about Him.

We get to just be the vessel he uses.

It’s time to rise up.

Hugs,

Anna

Fighting for deep, intimate friendship

friendship1First of all, it’s been a bit since I’ve written anything here. Let me say, we just moved. IT’S BEEN A LITTLE CRAY CRAY. MOMMA IS LOOSING HER MIND.

In the midst of all of my crazy I’ve started to write my next book (because I’m a freaking lunatic). It’s a killer. And I say that because IT IS WRECKING ME.

I’m writing about relationships; friendships to be exact. Intimate, deep friendships.

What I’m finding is that when I use the phrase “intimate friendship” my Christian peeps immediately think of an accountability partner. YUCK.

Before you throw stones, hear me out.

We were designed for intimacy.

Yes, we were designed for intimacy with a spouse. But, we were also designed for intimacy with someone of our same gender (again, PLEASE. Don’t freak out)

It’s biblical. Moses/Aaron, David/Jonathan, Naomi/Ruth, Jesus/John – just a few examples of crazy, deep intimate friendships.

I’ve found that in many Christian circles we are taught that we can/should only experience deep intimacy inside of marriage. Which is true sexually, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally and even physically (without it becoming sexual) I can’t find a biblical stance for that.

In fact, I find a strong counter argument.

Jesus and John LOVED eachother. Moses and Aaron kissed eachother – intensely and repeatedly (don’t shoot me, that’s what the text says).

This is something that is pure. God-designed. And something WE ALL CRAVE.

Why else do we reject it so much? Because we want it so badly, that we’re terrified we might get a taste of it and it will be ripped away.

I remember when one of my best friends and I first met. I was TERRIFIED. I knew it was real. I knew it had the potential to be everything my soul craved. And it scared the hell out of me.

I wanted to run.

Really fast.

As fast as I could.

I couldn’t handle the idea of another heartbreak. Especially not one with someone like her. Someone who I could tell it could be SO GOOD WITH.

Well, that journey has turned into the makings of a deep journey between me and the Lord in figuring out how to push through my fears of rejection and fighting for the gold that is God-designed: intimacy within friendship.

Where there are no walls.

NO pretenses.

And absolutely everything is out there.

WOW.

It’s real and it’s what we need.

When we’re young we need the love of a mother and father. When we grow up we need those two roles filled again. They just look different.

One is met through our spouse and the other is meant to be met through an intimate friendship.

No matter how much these needs were met or not met within your childhood, the needs still remain as an adult.

The role my dad played in my life has shifted – much of those needs are now met by my husband. The role my mom played in my life has shifted also – there is a need for a friend to fill that nurturing role for me.

One that my husband just can’t be.

Because he’s a dude.

When we put the pressure of the both of those roles onto one person (ie: a spouse) we will become very frustrated. Because they aren’t designed or capable of fulfilling both roles.

And this is where we cross into the accountability thing. Somehow we’ve known this was a need, but we didn’t want to call it intimacy, so we labeled it “accountability”.

Do you know what that word actually means? It basically means a willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions .

An accountant is simply one who knows all of your stuff. They know where all of your interests are and they know how to guard them and agree to partner with you in taking responsibility for them.

But, we’ve turned it into this awkward confession time, where I don’t really know you intimately, but I’m supposed to dump all of my garbage onto you and listen to you tell me how to deal with the garbage and then you’re job is to make sure I keep taking my trash out.

THAT DOESN’T SOUND FUN.

What if, instead it looked like this: I’m going to push through my insecurities and fears and let you see me. ALL OF ME. And I’m inviting you to do the same. Let’s both put it all out there. Let’s choose to love what we both really are and guard the areas we are not strong in, instead of hiding them from eachother. Let’s know ALL OF IT. And let’s fight this thing together.

When you’re known and you feel loved in that place, it’s empowering. Like CRAZY empowering.

When I feel like this, I feel like I can TAKE ON THE WORLD.

But, when I live in fear of being known, I live insecure. I live in hiding. I live in isolation. And that place can become comfortable. Normal even. Almost so normal that leaving it is TERRIFYING.

But, as I march onward, I am meeting my Father’s eyes. Almost as if he’s saying, I’M FOR THIS. I DESIGNED THIS. YOU NEED THIS.

I was sitting on my couch the other night with my now intimate friend – and I needed to talk about something that was terrifying. I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t want her to see. I wanted to run and hide. And I even tried to. But, she pressed on.

The Holy Spirit continued to urge me to open up and be exposed.

I felt like I was going to throw up.

Over and over again.

But, instead, I opened my mouth and laid my insecurity out there.

ALL OF IT.

That moment was incredibly freeing. Not only for me, but it opened the door for her to do the same. And, within a moment, all guards were down and we were being known, seen and loved. Just as we were.

THERE IS STRENGTH HERE PEOPLE.

I am not perfect at this, but the deeper I dig, the more determined I am to fight for this.

To fight for the intimacy that I was created for. Because, when we live from that place we may just step into the most authentic version of ourselves.

When I am living in freedom here, I love better, I wife better, I parent better, I minister better –  it takes time. LOTS OF TIME TO BUILD THAT LEVEL OF TRUST.

But, it’s so worth the investment.

Just like intimacy with a spouse, this level of friendship intimacy isn’t to be given to just anyone.

But, God wants it. He designed it. He champions it.

We weren’t meant to live alone.

Anna

I was a MESS (and had to preach a sermon)

brokenSo, it’s been a hard week.

Actually, hard doesn’t quite describe it.

I’ve been through some stuff. Years ago, I was a medicated wreck. I was broken. I was (in many ways) ALL FREAKING DONE. But God invaded my life 10 years ago. And he healed me.

In a severely powerful way.

I’ve not been the same since.

Like seriously.

I’M NEW.

Over the past 5 years or so I’ve really seen that healing solidify. And have been amazed at how different I am.

But then this week happened…

I was confronted by a chapter of my life that I hadn’t looked at in a while. In a LONG WHILE. And , friends (we are friends aren’t we??) it gripped me.

In a billion different ways, my heart was paralyzed.

Unable to think. Everything was fuzzy. My brain raced a million different directions.

My heart ached.

Deeply.

Intensely.

Ached.

The thing is, I know this ache. Really well. We are old familiar friends.

And because I recognized it, it terrified me.

Because I remember what it has the capability of doing to me. I’ve lived that story. And I don’t want to go back. EVER.

I was faced with two options:

Run and hide.

Or press into it.

To be honest with you, I’ve fluctuated between the two. But, I keep choosing to press back in.

And here’s why:

Although I know the pain very well in this place, I know HIM in this place.

I know what He can do with my pain.

I know that story.

I love that story.

I would give my life for that story.

So, as much as it killed me, I chose to press into every stinking layer of this thing and learn to breath in it with Him.

It’s been agonizing.

It’s been terrifying.

But, I trust Him.

Because, I know what is waiting for me on the other side. As much as this pains me, I know if I let him clean this area of my heart out, He will heal it. And on the other side is gold.

I have gold in so many other places of my heart. Priceless, valuable, cherishable gold. Gold that was once not. But now is.

I want gold here.

And I’m not stopping until He’s done.

I trust Him.

I choose Him.

Of course as luck (or God’s perfect design) would have it, I was scheduled to preach Sunday.

GAHHHH.

For those of you who know me, you know I always teach from a very transparent place. But, this was taking that vulnerability to an ENTIRELY NEW LEVEL.

All last week when I should have been preparing, I was on the floor in my office listening to worship music begging God to heal me.

Not even thinking about my sermon.

I walked the sanctuary when no one was there DECLARING HIS GOODNESS OVER ME. Because I couldn’t do anything else.

I had to stay in that place.

Or else I would sink.

And sometimes I did sink.

But, he was quick to grab my shaky hand and pull me onward. I knew the breakthrough would come. I knew it would. It just wasn’t there yet.

And, then came Sunday…

Mind you, I hadn’t slept much. I hadn’t eaten much. I was IN THE MIDDLE OF FREAKING HEART SURGERY WITH GOD.

And from my mud pit, I bled out of me what he was teaching me.

Here’s an excerpt of my message:

Again, I wasn’t walking in a healed place just yet. But, he was faithfully, steadily at work.

A friend of mine was processing with me and said, “you haven’t cried about this yet, have you?” Now, my husband and everyone who knows me will quickly tell you, Anna doesn’t cry much.

It’s true.

10 years ago I felt like all of my tears came out. There just haven’t been much since. But, as she said those words I felt the swell grow in the back of my throat.

I just couldn’t cry yet.

But, I knew I needed to.

Yesterday, I was driving in the car (kids were screaming, baby was throwing stuff, I had a million things I was trying to do – you get the picture) The ache resurfaced.

I felt the pain and was like, Sweet Jesus you have to do something. I can’t stay in this place!

I dropped the kids off at summer camp and immediately a song came on the radio I had never heard.

It was “Be my rescue“, by Nicole Nordeman and the first lines were:

Sunlit shoreline

Where I was baptized

This time dark skies

Leave me capsized

That did it.

The words couldn’t have been chosen more perfectly.

This is the same place I was “baptized” (figuratively speaking) 10 years ago.

And when I look back on that time, it’s now a sunlit shoreline. The pain isn’t there anymore. I’m healed. I’m free.

But, this time…it’s a new wound. A very old, deeply infected wound. And although I know these waters of pain with the Lord…the skies are dark.

And in every possible way, I felt capsized.

The next part said,

This is the river where I went under

This is the river where I come up new

As I was driving, ENDLESS TEARS were flowing out of me.

The ache was so deep. As I wiped my sunglasses from the sopping wet, I felt the relief starting to come.

I felt HIM taking the ache…

I was going under. Fully surrendering Him to take this and make something beautiful from it.

No matter my history. No matter how many times I’ve failed. No matter how much I’ve walked in fear. I surrendered.

The chorus went,

Oh, oh God, be my rescue

Oh, oh God, be my rescue

And save me from myself

Save me from myself

Oh, oh God be my rescue tonight

It became my heart’s cry.

I sat there weeping, literally clutching my chest with my hand. As if to remind my soul that it would be okay. That it would be healed. That it can trust Him here.

The Bible talks a lot about speaking to your soul. David did it often. I understand now why….I had to force my spirit to be louder than my soul.

Because my soul knows how to run and hide. It knows how to be alone. It knows how to wall off and shut everything out.

It’s darn good at it.

But, my spirit knows better. It understands there’s a better way. It knows the freedom that comes from letting him in and allowing him to press, to mold, to make new.

When the song ended, I literally found it on my phone on youtube (sorry data usage) and played it on repeat 4 times. I wept the entire way home.

When I got home, I parked and sat for a while.

I recognized this place too…

Instead of the ache, there was relief.

I knew this place.

It meant I had done it.

I had exchanged the pain for the beginning of his beauty.

The healing process isn’t complete yet, but we are making major strides. The last two nights I’ve slept great and the anxiety has been at bay.

Halleluja.

THIS IS THE GOSPEL I KNOW.

IT’S THE ONE I WANT TO FOLLOW.

THE ONE I WOULD LAY MY LIFE DOWN FOR.

IT’S THAT GOOD.

In the words of Nicole Nordeman,

Watching the old me

Slowly sinking

Hope is rising up

I can feel the rush

I’m alive and I’m breathing

Hugs,

Anna

I witnessed to a pastor.

witnessed to a pastor

I was dying.

DYING in my seat.

This was a while ago and I can’t even remember the guy’s name, but he was a pastor. Who graduated from Bible college and all that.

And he literally filled the room with something that he claimed was the gospel, but was FAR from it.

He seemed arrogant.

REALLY arrogant.

He bragged about “saving people” (as though that were actually possible for us to do. Don’t even get me started)

During his message he did this thing where he would say something and then take a dramatic pause to drive the point home.

In one of those long, awkward pauses, he literally LOCKED EYES WITH ME, as though he were saying, Aren’t you getting it? I’m awesome and you’re terrible. You filthy sinner you.

And then closed the message with a harsh dose of, how many people have you saved lately?

GREAT.

That’s how I felt.

Just simply FANTASTIC after that message.

Sure made me want to grab the next person I saw and strong arm them into a prayer to go to heaven. (that’s me being sarcastic btw)

Gross.

I was mad.

REALLY REALLY MAD.

I grabbed my stuff and was like, I am outta here.

But, then the Holy Spirit stopped me.

He told me to write the pastor a check.

I about fell over.

I was like, WHAT?!? I am not giving anything to that man’s ministry. He is TERRIBLE!!!

The Lord told me again to give him a check (with a specific amount that I was pretty uncomfortable with I might add)

I grumbled and muttered as I shuffled my stuff (mommas always carry a ton of stuff. It’s pretty convenient when you’re trying to look busy but are actually just having a wrestling match with God inside your head. Am I crazy???? *sigh*)

I was totally avoiding what I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me to do.

Eventually, I caved.

He always wins.

I was like, FINE.

Then God said this,

When you give him the check, you’re going to ask if you can pray for him. And then you’re going to tell him about Todd White.

I grinned.

Of course.

For those who don’t know Todd White’s message it’s all about teaching the gospel, or should I say, LIVING the gospel. Which is QUITE DIFFERENT than shoving a sinner’s prayer down someone’s throat. It’s actually living like Jesus…ahhh so good.

So, I waited until no one was talking to him and I approached him.

It’s amazing how quickly my tone changed. As soon as I knew that THIS person was who I WAS SUPPOSED TO SHARE THE LOVE OF JESUS WITH THAT DAY, everything changed.

Boy, that’ll preach.

Anyway, so this person who I was flaming irritated with 10 minutes ago, I was pouring love out to like crazy in the middle of this church hallway.

I then asked if I could pray for him.

He seemed annoyed like, Who me? I don’t need prayer, sweetie. I’m perfect, remember?

Normal Anna would have bristled at that attitude instantly. But, I’m not kidding you, Jesus was POURING out of me.

It literally did not bother me.

Not a bit.

So, I asked again.

Reluctantly, he agreed.

And, people, I PRAYED.

Like prophetically and stuff.

It was SO NOT ME.

It was SOOOO JESUS.

Afterwards, he became kinda rigid and just walked away.

Didn’t say thank you or anything.

But then, I knew it was time to deliver the Todd White message (yay!!)

So, I stopped him and gave him the check. Along with the check was a note telling him about Todd White.

Again, not thankful.

Not even nice.

BUT, that SO wasn’t the point.

I was humbled that day.

Deeply. Humbled.

Somehow the idea seemed easier to go into a strip club and minister than it did for me to love on that pastor.

And that gripped me.

Like a dagger to the heart.

Sweet pastor if you happen to read this, please forgive me for being critical. Please forgive me for judging and viewing you differently than any other human. I’m a mess. We’re ALL a living mess.

What the Lord showed me that day is that He wants to reach that pastor just as much as he does the women I met in the strip club.

(If that totally messes with your theology, I’m sorry, but not sorry. Because, listen, we are ALL in need of Jesus. Strippers, pastors, moms, dads, you name it. We are ALL a wreck without him. My diatribe is now done) :)

Jesus LOVES him.

He wants to completely wreck him with freedom.

He wants him to know how GOOD the gospel actually is.

If we’re going to see change happen in the body, it won’t start with you (or me) criticizing or slandering pastors (although at times you might very well want to).

We have to walk like Jesus.

Even to those in leadership who we don’t agree with.

Even to those we perceive are failing.

In a recent blog, by Carlos Rodriguez called, The 47 Most Important Resolutions For Christian Millennials, the top three on his list are:

  1. End the prosperity gospel.
  2. Stop criticizing those in the prosperity gospel. (Or anybody else in the Body of Christ.)
  3. Figure out how to do 1 and 2 at the same time, honorably.

Although, the pastor I encountered wasn’t preaching the prosperity gospel, he was preaching the wear-yourself-out-trying-to-get-people-to-pray-a-sinner’s-prayer-and-God-will-like-you-gospel, the same message applies.

(Great article btw)

I was praying recently and the whole thing came back to my memory.

I sat down and cried.

A LOT.

I repented for my judgy attitude.

I began to pray for that pastor.

And for every church who has been taught a similar message.

If you have a pastor who you are mad at or have been wounded by, PLEASE pray for them.

Pray, pray, pray.

My heart is broken for the church. For the one that doesn’t know anything other than religion. The one that thinks God is keeping score and is constantly looking for perfect behavior. The one that believes our value is based on how many people we “save”.

Oh church, sweet church.

He is SO much better.

God loves you. He is for you. He isn’t keeping score. He is righteous because he knows you aren’t. Your value to Him is SO MUCH MORE than your good “works”. He wants you to live in freedom. To live filled with the Holy Spirit, so your life preaches his gospel of love, mercy and freedom. It’s intoxicating. It’s why those in the Bible who really got to know him, couldn’t say no.

This is the love He has for everyone. From strippers to pastors. And we are called to walk in that love just the same.

Hugs,

Anna

Learning to love my ex

my exIf you knew me 10 years ago when we divorced, you wouldn’t think me and my ex would ever be caught dead in the same room.

And if we were, it would be tense and extremely uncomfortable. You probably would have felt the need to pick sides (or find the nearest exit as fast as humanly possible)

Our divorce was complex and had many layers.

Ones that included multiple attorneys, grilling depositions and years of court hearings.

If you knew me then, you would be surprised that just last week the two of us had coffee. That I smiled when I greeted him. That we talked about our daughter, while respecting and hearing the other’s point of view.

You would be shocked that we text nicely. YES NICELY. With friendly emojis and all that.

And you might totally fall over to hear that I actually consider him my friend.

WHY would this be so shocking?

Here’s some background…

When we divorced, I was determined it was ALL HIS FAULT. He was convinced it was my fault. 

I aired all his dirty laundry.

Like ALL of it.

I gossiped.

A LOT.

I told anyone who would listen how I believed he had wronged me. I wrote letters. I composed emails (you all know how I am with words. Yikes) Good Lord, I practically waved a flag with his face on it promoting my perceived injustice.

It was ugly.

But, I believed I was justified. I believed the hurt validated the response. Maybe in some ways it did. But, as I later learned, it only drove my anger deeper.

(Which did me no favors in the whole healing process, I might add)

When every hurt that has happened to you becomes a constant thread in your conversation, thoughts and decision making  – it is no longer a part of your story – it has become your ENTIRE STORY.

And, that’s not a pretty book.

Nor is it the gospel.

I was engaged to Zac (current husband) when I realized just how ugly my book had become. And it wrecked me.

In the very best way.

I was broken into a million pieces.

I was desperate for an encounter with God.

I wanted to be the me I was created to be.

I knew that girl was still in there.

Somewhere.

She just needed to be let out.

She needed to be set free.

So, on my floor in a very small apartment all by myself I sat with my Bible and a journal. I cried. I CRIED.

God met me there.

I finally saw the simplicity of the gospel:

Jesus came to heal me.

Jesus came to set me free.

Now, I know that sounds super neat and packaged. And as we all know, rarely is anything in life that easy.

Well, it wasn’t easy.

It took time.

A LOT OF TIME.

But, most of that time included these two things: blind faith and stupid obedience.

Reading the Bible.

Having faith to believe it.

And stupid obedience to do what it said.

That was my rhythm.

Over and over again.

I read verses on forgiveness (that were stinking hard). I chose to believe them. I chose to obey them.

I read verses on loving those who hurt me (that were EVEN FREAKING HARDER). But, I chose to believe them. I chose to obey them.

That simple pattern is what set me free.

Seriously Anna? You can’t love your ex! That’s just weird.

Well, yeah. It is weird. But, if it wasn’t a little strange and out there, it probably wouldn’t be God🙂

My steps to loving him started in prayer. I devoted every morning to praying for him and his new wife. EVERY MORNING.

Mind you, this was during some of the most tense, painful years of our history. IT WAS HARD.

But, that’s what scripture and the Holy Spirit told me to do. So, I blindly did it. And eventually it became easier.

I don’t know if any of my prayers made an impact on them. I like to think that they did. But, more so than that, they made a dramatic impact on me.

On my heart.

On my perspective.

With each prayer, my heart softened. With each word, I began to see them the way God did.

Gradually, as my heart began to heal during these prayers, I saw the part I had played in our divorce. My own sin was exposed. And it broke me.

This led to me apologizing to him for my part in our divorce.

This led to me choosing to smile and be kind when I saw them.

This led to me to the decision that I would choose to love them and pray for them,

no matter how they treated me.

It was humbling. But, oh so freeing.

And it all started from one tiny baby step of faith and obedience.

I don’t know what God has done on my ex’s end. I can’t speak to that.

But, what I can speak to is what God has done on my end. And I know for certain, that had I not chosen to walk in love (even when it was painful) that we would not be here today.

Does it take two?

Absolutely. But, I am one of those two.

I can’t make any person be nice to me. Or hear me. Or believe me.

But, I can control my responses to them.

I can take ownership of the temperature of my heart.

Only I can guard my heart and keep it from becoming bitter (which can happen any day of the week, people. It’s is a constant job!)

When we fully surrender to the Holy Spirit in this area, we make room for him to work wonders.

Hugs,

Anna

Is rape forgivable?

rape2

A few years ago, I received a phone call from someone who got my number from a friend. She was at a point in her life where everything seemed to be falling apart. Marriage issues, kid issues – just stuff.

But, as I listened to her, the Holy Spirit told me to take the conversation another direction. He told me to ask her about what happened to her when she was 14. He gave me that specific age and told me to focus in on an event that happened that year.

I waited for a pause.

I then asked her, what happened when you were 14?

You could have heard a pin drop on the other end.

She slowly said she hadn’t talked about that year since it happened. Like at all.

I gently asked again, what happened?

I could hear her voice shake as she recounted a horrific event where she had been kidnapped and held captive while she was sexually assaulted – repeatedly for days.

Tears are stinging my eyes as I am writing this because I can still feel the pain in her voice as she talked for the first time about it…she was still broken. Still so wounded. The damage was affecting her every day life.

But, the Holy Spirit wanted to heal her.

It was time.

She and I spent time a lot of time together that year. There were many tears. There was a lot of anger. But, friends, there was a LOT of Jesus.

I watched this strong, amazing woman blossom into a killer for the Kingdom of Heaven. If you could only see her now….burning holes in her livingroom floor in prayer, praying over her children, sharing her story with young girls, impacting the world around her. She’s amazing.

But it isn’t her.

Everything amazing you see in her is Jesus.

Like ALL OF IT.

This story is my point of reference when I think about rape. This is where my mind goes. It pierces my soul because I’ve seen firsthand the long term damage it brings.

But, while meeting this friend, I was confronted with questions like:

Anna, what about verses that say, “you must forgive*”  and “love your enemies and those who despitefully use you?*” Seriously this CAN’T APPLY TO RAPE?!?  

*Matt 6:14-15 and Matt 5:44

I will tell you what I told my sweet friend.

Rape is horrifying.

Rape is ruthless.

Rape is violent.

Rape is demonic.

Rape is one of THE WORST forms of assault.

I hate that it happens. I hate what it does to it’s victims. I hate it. ALL of it.

And, so does God.

God doesn’t excuse the rapist’s behavior. No matter if the judicial system defends them or not. God sees. God hears. And believe me, sisters and brothers, HE IS A JUST GOD.

One thing that has been very misunderstood inside of church is forgiveness. (WOW. I could write a book on it. Oh wait I already did Forgiveness is not an Option)🙂

Forgiveness has been so watered down. So legalized and so distorted that it’s almost unrecognizable.

One character trait (of God) that has helped me understand so much of scripture is His primary goal in sending Jesus: to heal you (Isaiah 61)

That’s it. No strings attached, no clauses. Just to heal you. To make right everything that this messy world has made wrong. It’s just that beautiful.

He is the most patient, gentle, loving healer I’ve ever met.

He is in it for the long haul.

He’s in it for restoration.

He won’t stop until you’re better than you were before those wrongs ever happened.

I’m trying to become like Him in this way….it’s difficult because our world isn’t set up like that. Everything is quick and harsh. Everything is categorized and put into a box with a label on it.

BUT HE’S NOT LIKE THAT.

AT ALL.

When you look at scripture through that lens, with that God motive behind it, it starts to make a whole lot more sense.

Especially with forgiveness.

When He tells us to forgive, it isn’t because he wants us to say that we’re now suddenly okay with what that person did. Nor is it about us “forgetting” what happened. (In fact scripture teaches very much the opposite)

He desires our freedom. Remember, his motive is our healing.

Forgiveness allows us to open our hand and release that event. So that we are no longer tied to it. So that we no longer have to relive it. When we are no longer attached, He can begin to heal us.

Those painful events, whether rape or something else, are toxic. It’s like holding a bag of poison inside your hand. It will rot and decay everything around it. Eventually the decay will spread from your hand to your entire body. Eventually it will cause your system to break down.

God loves us.

He doesn’t want that horrific event to steal your joy, your peace, your wholeness or the life He has planned for you.

He wants us healed.

He wants us free from what happened.

When we forgive, we are simply placing that toxic event into His hands. We choose to let go of the outcome. We trust Him to be the judge, whether on this side of heaven or the other. He trust Him to deal with our offender.

And we release them and the event to Him.

Isaiah talks about this exchange beautifully:

(Jesus will bring)…comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:2-3

I’ve lived this passage.

I’ve watched others live this also.

It’s real.

I believe this exchange is one of the most powerful things that happens earth.

When I’ve personally walked through forgiving painful events, my prayer goes something like this:

Father, they hurt me when they did _________. It made me feel________!!! But, I trust you. I choose to forgive them. I want to be free from what happened. Please heal what they did to me. Please heal me and set my heart free

This prayer sometimes only takes me once. Sometimes, I have to say it multiple times throughout the day, depending on the gravity of what happened. Every time I remember the event, I say that prayer.

Friends, it is LIFE CHANGING. It moves that person or event out of my heart and mind, and places the most loving, kind, healing presence in it’s place instead.

It’s powerful.

Okay, Anna, but what about loving that person. Seriously? You can’t love a rapist.

My friend and I walked through this. It was a slow journey. But, this is where we landed: she prayed for them.

It was painful.

It was extremely difficult.

But, she forced her lips to do it.

She didn’t do it for those people.

She did it for the Lord.

And it set her heart free.

Man – I can’t even contain what’s going on inside my heart as I’m writing this….

If we, the church, could grasp this. If we could really understand this. If we could really live like this. We could then maybe impart this to the hurting world around us.

What a different church we would become.

In Love,

Anna

 

Your young will prophesy

young will prohesyThis post may be a bit exposing for me. For those who know me, none of what I’m about to say will surprise you. But, for those who may not know me or are in the process of getting to know me – well, let’s just say you’ll know me really well after this post.

You may shout and scream AMEN after reading this.

You may scratch your head and think I’m weird.

You may not know what to EVEN do with this.

All of that’s okay.

I love you. He loves you. And we’re in this thing together.

So, here it goes…

The Lord is doing something…in churches, in bedrooms, in closets, in retails stores. Like, He’s waking up His church. I’m struggling with the right words to use, but something is shifting spiritually. I can feel it. I’ve sensed it for a while now, and just kept quietly going about my business. But, what happened this week got my attention.

I am a mom. I’m also a preacher (eh – something like that – I don’t know what to call myself these days. Can I just say I’m a crazy Jesus lover? That sounds better) That being said, it’s no secret I can be what some may call a little fiery.

So, those two combined can be interesting.

I love my kids. Like CRAZY.

One of my faults is that I put a TON of pressure on myself as a parent. It’s something God has been working on with me for a while, and we still have a ways to go.

I am my hardest critic in the mom department. And I will be the FIRST to give you the rundown of every single failure (I know this isn’t good. God and I are working on it).

One of the things I’m known for (especially after we’ve had a hard day and I feel like I’ve completely blown it) is that I will go in the girls’ room and pray over them while they are sleeping (this is where the crazy Jesus lover piece comes in)

During those nights, God has given me some of the most amazing prophetic words to speak over them. Those prayer moments are some of the sweetest times between me and my girls…and they aren’t even awake; but I treasure them.

All that being said, my kids really have no idea how I pray over them because they are asleep when I’m usually doing it.

BUT, one of the things the Holy Spirit led me to pray over my two middle ones years ago, was that the prophetic gifting the Lord has given me would be given to them in a double portion.

I remember thinking it was kinda crazy to pray (like how much of that gift does one person actually need? Lol) But, I went with it. He had me pray that numerous times over them.

All of this leads to what happened this week.

So, I’m tucking the two of them in bed and I just felt like the Lord wanted me to pray in the spirit over them (okay, if that sentence freaks you out, it’s ok. Not everyone is comfortable with that, and I totally get it. I don’t think everyone has to speak in tongues and I don’t think you’re less of a Christian if you don’t. BUT, I also believe it’s super powerful and something that has totally transformed my prayer life. Can we still be friends?)🙂

So, I’m praying over them quietly while stroking their hair when one of mine pops out of bed and says she HAS to pray in the spirit or she would burst.

I sat back and was like…okay, then.

So, I let her go for it.

And, people – I kid you not, she EXPLODED with the spirit of God. She sat up, laid her hands on her sister and began to pray intensely in the spirit over her.

(We don’t go to a church where this is shown. We don’t really do this in our home in front of them either. This is not something she has seen to my knowledge)

It caught me off guard, BUT, I know how to hear the Lord and I kept in tune with him the entire time. And, while she was praying I felt like He gave me the interpretation of what she had prayed.

I calmly sat back and explained what I felt the Lord wanted to say to her sister. And in the middle of what I was saying, my daughter (the now spirit filled prayer warrior) interrupts me and FINISHES WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY.

What?!?

My 7 year old daughter was prophesying and saying the EXACT same things the Lord was telling me while we were praying.

I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence.

What amazed me through the entire experience was how effortless and pure it was. There were no hidden motives or agendas. No one was getting all worked up and trying to manifest some experience. It was just….gentle and peaceful. It was beautiful. Yet, extremely powerful.

There is purity in a child that you and I don’t have.

We simply don’t have it.

And when that purity collides with the power of the Holy Spirit (the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, fell on the believers in the book of Acts, cast out demons and healed the sick) it is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before.

A good friend of mine recently attended one of Todd White’s power and love conferences (SO JEALOUS). When she came back she had so many amazing things to tell me about, but one thing she said that stood out to me was about a 7 year old boy at the conference. This sweet little boy was (apparently) filled with the Holy Spirit. He was going around laying hands on the sick and they were all being healed. Like over and over.

WHAT?!

My heart swelled when she told me that story.

Because after my own little encounter with my prophesying daughter, I knew the innocence and the power that the spirit can release in willing vessels. Especially in ones that aren’t hindered by the same things that grown-ups are.

(Like, What will people think? Am I crazy? Does this stuff really happen? What if I pray and it doesn’t work?)

Children don’t think that way.

And I have to believe that is why scripture says, In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams Acts 2:17

I love Jesus. And I believe the Holy Spirit is the most powerful thing on earth. I also believe I am compelled to scream (through writing or teaching or whatever God has me do) about how much we need the Holy Spirit.

Especially in the church. Especially in this culture. Especially in the generation we are in.

We can’t be afraid of it.

We can’t ignore it.

We can’t grieve it.

The tide is changing. We must pick up our weapons and fight darkness. Sometimes it’s a lonely fight. Sometimes you may feel like you’re all alone. But, believe me sisters and brothers, you’re not alone.

God is raising up His church…it just may not be the kind you are used to. It may not be the seasoned pastor who lays hands on the sick and sees them healed. It may be a 7 year old child.

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. Matt 18:3 (MSG)

Hugs,

Anna

He hit me

domestic violence3

I don’t want to write this.

Like AT ALL.

But, for the past few weeks, the Lord has been waking me up at night churning in me to write about this.

Because He’s in love with us.

He’s in love with me.

He’s in love with you.

And this is something I can’t be quiet about.

So (deep breath) here it goes…

Many years ago (I won’t get into how long ago – you might think I’m old)😉 I was in a relationship with a guy I was crazy about. He was everything I wanted. Except….he had a temper. And at times would become violent.

The outbursts weren’t horrible at first (well, maybe they were but I was too young to understand what was happening at the time). Each time they became more and more violent. More scary. More threatening. More damaging – emotionally and physically.

But, I loved him.

And I believed he loved me.

Round and round we went until I eventually left him.

It’s been a LONG time.

I’ve healed. I’ve forgiven. I’ve chosen to love. I’ve moved on.

But, two years ago when I was pregnant with my youngest, I struggled with low blood sugar and one morning I passed out.

I was in the bathroom when it happened. Apparently, I hit the corner of the sink and wall on the way down. My face was pretty beat up.

When I came to, I was disoriented.

I didn’t know where I was. All I felt was the cold tile on my face and the swelling pain in my body.

I hadn’t felt that way since….

I started to shake and scream and cry hysterically.

Zac rushed in, picked me up and frantically called the doctor.

While he was getting ice packs and talking to the nurse on the phone, I sat motionless on the couch. He kept trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t talk…

I was quiet for a long time.

Eventually, he took me to the hospital to have the baby checked out and make sure everything was okay.

I remained pretty quiet.

But, random tears continued to fall throughout the day…

I wish I could explain to you what I was feeling. I wish I could’ve explained it to Zac. The feelings that returned in that moment on the floor were hell – one that nearly shattered me so many years ago.

(And, please don’t email me and ask me who it was, how old I was, etc. I’ve forgiven them and I love them. I decided long ago that I would not damage their reputation or air their dirty laundry. So please don’t ask)🙂

BUT, I share this part of my life to lay the groundwork for this blog…

Over the years, God has brought many women into my life who have dealt with abuse. Many specifically who are married to men who are violent.

I hate this.

I hate that this happens.

I hate telling you that this happens in church.

In Christian families.

But it does.

One particular woman called me in hysterics after her husband violently attacked her children. But, I was her second phone call.

Her first call was to her pastor.

His recommendation was for them to come together for marriage counseling (with him) to focus on “restoration”. (All while her husband is going crazy beating her child in the background) No mention of safety. No mention to call the police.

Nothing.

She ran and ended up on the other end of the phone with me.

I walked her through calling the police and following the appropriate steps to gaining safety for herself and her children.

But, sadly that pastor’s reaction isn’t unusual.

Again, I don’t like writing this, because I love pastors. I love churches. But, this….this is something that is killing us.

And it’s breaking our Father’s heart.

The thing is, these pastors and churches, sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. They believe God hates divorce. And he does. But, they value the marriage as a greater priority than the people inside of the marriage.

And when domestic violence is involved, it is so dangerous.

I love you church.

I love you men and women.

But we can do better.

I once read a book called, Refuge A Pathway Out of Domestic Violence by Donald Stewart. He’s a veteran police officer and a Jesus lover. (FANTASTIC book btw) He shares countless accounts of domestic violence in the church and exposes a great need for understanding and protection for these women.

He challenges the idea that many pastors hold to which is: divorce is only biblical when there has been marital unfaithfulness or abandonment.

He takes a strong biblical stance that domestic violence is biblical abandonment.

I agree with him.

But, this isn’t an invitation for a theological debate. That is not the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to open your eyes to the women around you who may be living in a cycle of domestic violence.

They may be afraid to ask for help. They may have been told God wants them to stay. They may believe this is all God has for them and their children.

One of the women I walked through domestic violence wrote this after feeling abandoned by her church for not returning to her husband. She writes to her husband,

To the Abuser:

Why did we leave?  Most of the time you are a “normal” guy.  There are even times we have a lot of fun and laugh.  So it isn’t because you are awful all the time.  You are not always that monster. Maybe 10% of the time you are an abuser.  And at first look that doesn’t seem like a lot.  And for awhile I was even wondering if I could live with the 10%.  Should I throw away the 90% for the 10?  Did the 10% justify leaving??? But then I realized that after the 10% was over for you, the tears and the blood were not dry yet.  The painful words are still lingering. We were still in fear. In fear of the next time, wondering when and what would set off the next barrage. And I realized that your 10% became our 100%. And that is enough to leave over.

I cry when I read this.

I cry because it’s so real.

It’s terrifying.

It’s demonic.

And it’s not at all what God desires for his daughters.

He never intended us to live in a prison cell of fear.

Because He’s GOOD.

Sweet sisters, God is GOOD. SO SO GOOD. He’s such a good Father. Would any good father regulate his children into living like this? Afraid of being hit. Afraid of watching your kids be hit, be locked outside at night or threatened with knives and other weapons if they ever tried to leave?

NO.

He wouldn’t.

He doesn’t.

He protects. He guards. He heals. He loves. He provides rest. He provides safety.

Because He’s GOOD.

This is an outcry to challenge the church to walk like Jesus. Just read the gospels. Watch Jesus’ character. What do you believe he would tell an abused, beat up woman seeking safety from her abusive husband?

I will say it again.

He’s a GOOD FATHER.

AN AWESOME FATHER.

I’ve walked with these women. I’ve sat in attorney’s offices with them while they shake trying to tell their story. I’ve been on the phone with them while they cry. I’ve looked in the eyes of children whose parents left them with black eyes and shattered trust.

But, I’ve also watched these women run to Jesus.

I’ve watched him transform a frail, broken shell of a woman into a strong mighty warrior for the Kingdom of God. I’ve watched it happen. And it’s AWESOME.

I know Jesus.

I’ve seen Him heal, restore and free these women and children.

All that being said, do I believe God can restore a damaged marriage? Yes. Do I believe he can restore one that included violence? Yes. But, not with the victims remaining in the home.

Restoration can happen if and only if the abuser seeks professional help (long term) and there is a strong network of professionals involved that walk them through that process. And even then, it’s something that should be handled very cautiously.

(If you or someone you know is in living in fear, please contact the police. File a report and ask them to refer to you a shelter for battered women and children. It isn’t something to be ashamed of. It happens to the poor, to the wealthy, to the Christian, to the non-Christian alike. It is part of the broken world we live in)

I love you. I champion you. I champion your story. And I pray that we ALL can open our eyes to those around us who may need us to help them find their voice.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8

Hugs (and kinda teary eyes),

Anna

PS: I mentioned earlier, please don’t use this as a forum for theological debate. Any comment you write could be read by a woman living in a dangerous situation. These situations are real. Please use sensitivity and understand that your words could be the difference between her life and death.

PSS: A quick edit here: verbal and emotional/mental abuse can be equally as damaging if not worse. The internal scars can last much longer than a physical mark. If you are reading this and that is your situation, please know that everything I stated above applies to this kind of abuse also.