Hope


I grew up in the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches. Overall, their beliefs are very similar, and by the time I left the care of my parents and church I had a good start to a foundation. I had only been a believer for two years when I stepped out my own, not realizing there were dangers that lay ahead.

In college, I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Covenant Church, and a non-denominational church. I also studied Religion, and was exposed to a large range of belief systems. When Christianity was discussed, it was often in negative light or a very weak manner. After college, I served with a ministry in the south (Bible Belt) and then went overseas with Youth With a Mission. I returned to the states to look for a solid church home for several years before settling into a non-denominational church. Twelve years later, I was abused.

Since that time I have received counsel from leaders of many different churches, worked with counselors with different belief systems, attended several different churches, and I have been exposed to a very large number of books, sermons, web sites, conferences, etc. They do not all share the same viewpoints and beliefs.

I am a theological mess!

The mixture of things I was exposed to has broadened my mind and stretched me, but it holds many dangers.

I have been exposed to so many varying teachings and beliefs, that sometimes I don’t know what to believe.

Sometimes things I read or hear sound really good, and then I start to realize that it is misleading or shortsighted in some way. It leaves me wondering how often I read or listen to things and do not realize it is distorted or off target. It isn’t that these writers and speakers intend to mislead, because I am sure they firmly believe what they share, but unless we know the whole truth, the parts can mix us up or may not make sense.

Not long ago I learned that a very well-known pastor I have read and listened to believes the Bible is a product of humans, and not inspired and created by God. He used to look to the Bible for truth, but now he just accepts that certain things will remain a mystery. The news shocked me and made me wonder why I did not know this about him. It made me realize that I do not know much about the beliefs of those I have listened to and read.

Not knowing about those speaking into my life has left me in a very dangerous position where I can be mislead and deceived.

I have been taught many conflicting things.

Sometimes I don’t know what to believe, but there one thing of which I am absolutely certain.

The Lord is greater than any theology or belief I hold. He can fix any mixed up belief, deceit, misleading, or shortsighted understanding I hold.

After all, he is God!

I have a testimony. It is something I should share….because sharing it brings glory to God.

I have been reflecting a lot lately on how to share my testimony and how to do my part in making sure it is focused on God and his work instead of on what has changed in me.

My testimony, like most, is about change. I was this….God touched my life….I am now this.

So, how did that change happen? What caused the change in my life? I think this is what many testimonies are missing. We explain that God changed us which is inspiring, but neglect to tell how so others can experience that change too. How did we get to the point that allowed that to happen? Were we just in the right place at the right time because we choose to go to a church service? Were we at the end of our ropes and crying out in despair? Had we tried everything else first and this was the last option? Did someone cross your path and rescue you? Did you read or study something?

The church I was attending last year taught me about God. The pastor is a very good preacher going through a specific passage of a book every week and teaching what it says. I learned a lot about those passages we were introduced to, and in that way it affected my life. I am extremely thankful for that and the gift it was in my life. While I was taught about God, something was missing. I was not introduced to God. I love that church and pastor and would defend them if I ever needed to, but when I most needed to be taken to God they were not there for me. They told me about God, but outside of one person they did not share with me in prayer, and no one ever opened up Scripture to show me who God was or what he was doing in my life. They looked for outward fruit in my life showing my faith in Christ, but I was not led to a relationship with a Lord and Savior that changed my heart.

I was presented things on the outside and asked to change from the outside in. I was not led into a relationship where the Holy Spirit was released into my life to change my heart, mind, and perspective from the inside out. Too many churches do not understand that this is where change happens. Outward conformity doesn’t lead to change. God leads us to change from the inside. Too many churches are teaching about God, but not leading people to relationship with God. They are teaching a message that can lead people to feel condemnation, shame, guilt, compliance, and comformity. There are messages being shared that do not bring freedom and are not really a message of good news and hope. Often this is because the message has been changed to be about us instead of about the Lord.

I have a testimony.

It is something I should share.

It is something I want to share.

It is something I am excited to share.

Not because it is about me and anything I did.

Not because I am now changed and different.

I have a testimony to share because I believe it brings glory to God.

I have a testimony to share because I believe it changes the world, one life at a time.

I have a testimony to share because I believe that what I have found is so valuable I want to share it with others.

I just finished rereading Faithquake by Doug Herman. Doug was a pastor when his wife was diagnosed with HIV. Later his daughter also contracted HIV and he and their son Josh lost wife/mother and daughter/sister within a short time period. The HIV came through a blood transfusion, through blood donated by someone who was participating in homosexual partnerships. The illness, journey, and loss of his family shook his faith and left him questioning things he had never looked at before.

There were times Doug wanted to give up.

There were times Doug was unsure about what he believed.

There were times when Doug was shaken.

“Quitting seems all too common today. Look at the divorce and suicide rates. Obviously many people are not content with their lives.  The actions range from dramatic to insignificant, but they are indicative of people who do not follow through.  And tempting though it was to give it all up during our Faithquake, Evon and I decided to stand.  For us that meant enduring the thoughtless a reactions of people.  It meant to we would continually seek medications and treatments in conjunction with our prayers for healing.  We had decided to stay and in our faith, continuing to seek god and worship him as Lord even though we didn’t understand him.  We could easily have given up, and though we were greatly tempted at times to do so, we stood instead.  Above all, in our efforts to stay, we had to fight another enormous temptation: spiritual anemia.”

“Anemia is a condition of the blood where a deficiency of hemoglobin accompanied by reduced red blood cell counts causes of weakness and breathlessness.  Anemia is expressed physically in decreased power, vigor, and vitality.  Spiritual anemia has parallel symptoms.  They are even more serious than the physical ones because they are soul-deep – of eternal significance.  This spiritually anemic person lacks the power, enthusiasm, and endurance of soul required not only to endure a Faithquake but to rebuild after having one.” (p70-71)

“If, in the face of crisis, you and I are anemic in the spiritual sense, we need a transfusion.  This must come from one who has already encountered the disease of sin and subdued it.  We need the blood of and overcomer-Jesus Christ.” (p73)

“When we experience a shaking in life, we feel it emotionally and struggle with that intellectually.  But spiritually we can survive intact when we live our lives in God’s presence.  This is the deep, inner communion with God where spiritual truths are found and strengthened.  It is here that we abide in the presence of Christ.  It is here that we cannot be shaken.  Sad to say, we often allow our spiritual security to find its foundation in elements other than Christ himself.  We may have all the training and heritage of Christianity, but we have never personally anchored our soul onto this immovable rock.  This is a situation I found myself in when we discovered that Evon was HIV positive.  I had been taught about Christ.  I knew him as savior and lord but not yet as Rock.  Thus, I was shaken.” (p88)

Doug chose to stand, stay, and believe. So should we!

Do you believe in Christ as Lord and Savior? Have you anchored your life to him as the rock that provides you stability in the storms of life?

The most impactful book I have read recently was War of Words by Paul David Tripp. As I have been at a place of significant recovery, have confessed and overcome sin, and have a deep desire to live a very different life than I have for the last five years it taught me a lot about how to communicate, and God’s desire to have us communicate words of redemption whenever we share with others.

I recently have been thinking about my journey and how to tell my story so that I am speaking truth, but also words of redemption that do not hurt others and that glorify God. This is a difficult thing in the face of pain and abuse, but I am coming to believe it is very important for some of the survivors of spiritual abuse to tell a story of hope, healing, and redemption instead of only sharing stories of the hurt, pain, abuse, and brokenness. Those things are a part of all of the stories, but for those of us that have found healing and hope we need to share with others how that occurred, and loudly proclaim God’s sovereign ways so that others too can find healing and hope.

Also, there are courageous people who want to help those who have been hurt, abused, disillusioned, and are on the path to walk away from the church or are unwilling to even try a church. I commend these people because they are willing to walk into messy and difficult relationships. I also believe these people need support as few of them have walked the journey of being hurt, lost, or disillusioned themselves. They need to hear the survival and recovery stories of others. They need to gain insight from those who have been in the quicksand and found a way out. They need to know how to communicate and what to communicate to help those who so desperately are seeking and needing help.

I met with a pastor this week who wants to talk and pray through how we can form a ministry to these lost, hurt, and disillusioned people. I am so grateful for his courageous heart. I pray God will use me in this way not only to help the victims, but also to train and educate those who want to minister to them. I hope this pastor and I will be able to work together on this because the Pacific Northwest has a lot of spiritually hurting and needy people and I believe God wants to change that and needs some of us to take a risk to walk into the messy and broken lives of others to show them hope.

A friend is also stepping out to do this with victims of Professional Misconduct and Professional Sexual Misconduct (PSM). She has been a victim of both PSM with a counselor, but he was also a mentor and clergy which resulted in great spiritual abuse too. If you are interested or in need of help with this area you might check out her recent radio interview at http://www.heartshealing.com/radio_interview .

If you have a story to tell, are able to tell it in a redemptive way that brings hope and healing to others I hope you will share your story and be a voice for those who are struggling to find that same path out of their personal hell.

One of the areas I still struggle with in my recovery and healing is missing those I love so deeply and am no longer allowed to have relationship with. Others have made decisions about my life in a manner that control my ability to have open and free relationships which is hard. I don’t think that is God’s heart at all. He so desires for us to share in rich relationships, forgive and reconcile, and to love others no matter how hard. He never gives up on us and he doesn’t want us to give up on others.

This weekend has been an incredible time of healing and new steps forward for me. I am learning how to let my past die and be buried with Christ, and to open up myself to brand new opportunities. I am taking big steps forward in faith, surrender, and opening myself up to God in ways I have never been willing to before. It is exciting, hopeful, and yet scary also. I miss having people in my life to share times like this with. Some of my new friends would care, but not truly understand. I wish others who have known where I was could see me today. That wish does not come from a heart that wants to show off, put down others, or cause any pain. I just am so excited about the healing and hope God has given to me and I want to proclaim it and share it. I want God to be glorified! I want others to find the healing and hope that I have because after 4-1/2 years walking the hell I lived in spiritual confusion and pain I want to help others out of the confusion and disillusionment.

I was just listening to a version of The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman and there was a part of the song where it said, “You will not share your glory with another.” I guess that is what God is teaching me this morning. This is about him, all about him and about his glory. My recovery and healing is not in any way due to man, and no part of it is due to me! I am healed. I have new life. I am living testimony of a God who loves, saves, heals, gives hope, and restores. No pastor, church, leader, ministry, or person can have that glory. It ALL goes to the Lord Almighty, my Lord, Savior, King, and High Priest. How thankful I am to be able to give him all of that glory

This year has been a time of change, growth, and has included some pain, however today my heart is filled with such gratitude. I am happy, healthy, and hopeful for the future, not because of circumstances in my life but because of a God that I know is in charge, loves me, and will never fail me. Today I have assurance that God is real, that he is a part of my life, and that I will be a survivor with a future and a hope.

Today I am thankful for friends and family, for faith, for work, for church and community, and for hope. I am thankful for online friends I may never meet who have touched my life, given me hope, encouraged and sharpened me, challenged me, and cared for me when I needed it. I am thankful for the hope I see in many of you as you walk through your own journeys and for the incredible courage you show. You are an inspiration and a joy to me. You warm my heart and show me God. The heart you have shown, the willingness to hope and try, and the desire to learn and grow brings light to my life.

Thank you, to my friends who share this journey and brighten my life.
You are a blessing to me!

magnificentHave you seen the Narnia movie Prince Caspian? In that movie Peter Pevensie travels to Narnia and after saving one of the dwarfs, Trumpkin, he introduces himself. He doesn’t just say Peter, or Peter Pevensie but instead he introduces himself as High King Peter the Magnificent.

How do you introduce yourself? Do you just say your first name, or do you communicate something more? Are you expressing something you might not even be aware of? How do you really feel about yourself and how is that expressed to others?

A few years ago a dear friend of mine was attending Toastmasters, a group that helps you learn public speaking skills. Through that group and some counseling she was attending she created a document that answered the question “Who am I?”

I can start to answer that question, but how would you answer it?
I am Sherie, a tender-hearted and passionate woman who loves God with all her heart and seeks to live in a way that honors others and shows them genuine and authentic love, true Christian love. I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, aunt, niece, cousin, neighbor, co-worker, leader, mentor, and volunteer. I am dedicated, loyal, committed and a person of integrity and character. I am a survivor of spiritual abuse and spiritual rape. I am a grandchild of divorce and alcoholism. I am a preachers kid. I am a college graduate. I am a lover of adventure. I am a musician, a life-long learner, a photographer, and a people lover. I am beautiful, chosen, special, anointed, empowered, gifted, and blessed. I am a daughter of the King!

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