One of the things I have learned through my journey over the last few years is that there are easy days and days that are more difficult ones. The last few days have been some of those more difficult days.

I am still learning that there are conversations which engage and bless my heart and soul, and others that may cause me struggle.

Unfortunately I am still not very good at recognizing ahead of time those that might lead to struggle and then avoiding them.

Recently I engaged in a conversation that has caused me struggle. One of the hardest pieces for me over the past year has been learning to deal with the love I still feel for my last pastor and the people of that church, and having absolutely no outlet to express it since they will not speak with me. In this conversation someone voiced an opinion they hold which left me conflicted. It is their right to hold their opinions, even if I do not agree with them. I do not believe this person had any intention of saying anything that would cause me to struggle, but the truth is it did.

Struggles come in all sorts of forms, and we don’t always know when they are headed our way. We can not always avoid them.

We can however prepare ahead of time to deal with them when they arrive.

In this situation, the root of my struggle is twofold 1) I am left asking what the biblical truth is about a specific subject 2) My heart aches that someone has spoke negatively about someone I care about, even if our relationship is currently broken and unresolved.

For the first issue, the best way to respond is through time in the Bible and in prayer. The Lord knows the truth and he can reveal it to me. He alone defines what truth is. Men may disagree, but the Lord knows how to take multiple scriptures that speak to different sides of an issue and to bring them together to make sense. I could have prepared ahead by spending more time in Scripture before this conversation, and by recognizing this area of uncertainty, however since I did not do that I need to turn to Scripture quickly and not let the questions and uncertainty fester and cause me confusion or distraction.

The second issue is more difficult for me to deal with in my relation to others. On my own, I have spent time mourning the loss of these relationships and allowing the Lord to minister to my heart. Each time this comes up I have to go back to him and allow the Lord to comfort me on a deeper level. I continue to try to reconcile the broken relationships and have to deal with the constant disappointment associated with that. I also have to protect my heart and soul from anger, resentment, and bitterness.

When I speak to others about my story I have faced some very hard conversations and pressure. Over and over again I have been told to have nothing to do with the people from my old church. I have been told to let go of the past and to move forward. I have had to listen to great criticism of others, and have faced a lot of criticism about how I have responded. There are some people I have encountered who hold a great deal of anger and bitterness in their hearts. They get angry about things that are not a part of their story due to resentment and offense they hold in their heart. I have been told to turn my back on others and to not work through the issues. I have been told it is okay to forget them. I have been told I am justified to feel angry, hurt, and to be unkind and unloving toward others.

I just can not agree! No matter what others have done or will do to me I have to choose to follow what the Lord has shown me love, sacrifice, and truth.

The Lord has changed my heart and healed it so deeply that I can not even understand much of what I have been told by others. I do not feel offense or anger. I do still live with the pain of the brokenness and disunity that exists. My heart desires love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Today my heart hurts. I wish the world would be a place where the only conversations I even could engage in would bless my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, life brings struggle, but I know that God can use every single struggle to bless, grow, change, and draw me to be more like him. That is where I want to go!


Sometimes circumstances leave you behind a rock and a hard place, and no option looks or feels good.

That is how it may feel to be authentic and transparent about your life.

You know your past, you know the story, you know the good, the bad, the lame, the extreme, and you know the parts that might live better hidden under a rock. Do you have any of those pieces? Pieces of your story that you are not proud of? Pieces of your story that you may be coming to terms with, but others don’t want you to tell? Do you have pieces of your story that could hurt others, and therefore you are not sure what to do with them?

When my life intertwines with others, then my story becomes our story. My story no longer exists alone.

It is hard to learn to own our story. We may be willing to accept the parts of our story that we feel responsible for, but not those parts that are imposed or inflicted upon us. When our stories involve others it is difficult to know how to own our story, and what to share with others. That is especially true if the story could hurt others.

Some of us have stories where we are hurt, disillusioned, and victimized. Church and spiritual abuse typically occurs at the hands of leaders, and many people feel it is wrong to speak against leaders or to say anything that might damage their reputation. However, not being allowed to share our stories can leave us in silence, shame, and bondage. Those things are not healthy, and they keep us from being authentic and transparent. They keep us from growing and having healthy, mature, and authentic faith lives.

Sharing our stories does not need to be a black and white issue. There are some guidelines that can help in knowing when, where, and what to share.

1) Own your story: Are you willing to accept your story for what it is? This includes being realistic about what happened, and not denying it. Accepting it means being able to state facts about what happened with little to no shaping of your own perspectives and agendas. It also means taking responsibility for your part of the story and accepting things you did wrong. In my story I had to accept my sin, my failures, my false theologies and beliefs, and my poor communication and relationships.

2) Check your heart: If you are going to share your story, take time to ask why. If you are only telling your story because you need to work through issues, then choose an audience who will help you do that. This will typically be people you see face-to-face, and I believe it is best done in community and relationships and not just in a counselor’s office. A time may come to share your story (or elements of it) to a larger audience like a bible study, a church group, in a written newsletter/article, on a blog, or in a book. Knowing the condition of your heart and why you are sharing are critical when you start to speak beyond those who are closest and most intimate with you. If you are not sharing for the right purposes, then please stop and take your heart to the Lord to have it changed.

3) Guard your words: When our stories intertwine with others, anything we say can reflect poorly on others involved. Checking our heart is the first step of guarding our words, but even if our intentions and purposes of sharing are correct, we still need to be very careful that our words are shaped in a way to redeem, build up, strengthen, give life, and encourage. Our words can hurt and destroy. Take time and make very determined effort to speak words that will bring life, hope, and healing. You do not need to tell everything to express your story, and if you are testifying about what God has done your focus will be his work, and not the deeds of other humans and how they might have failed you/God/others.

4) Seek to bring God glory: What better purpose is there in sharing our story than to bring glory to God? This actually might be the only reason to share our story beyond our closest circle, but our stories are also a work in progress and always changing. If all we do is seeking to glorify God and to bring him glory then our words, our purposes, our heart will all be focused on that. We will not have room in our heart or mouths to speak things that lash out, destroy, or bring malicious damage to others.

5) Give grace: Give others and yourself a great deal of grace. Even in the best of situations there is room for things to be misspoken, misunderstood, or shared with a perspective others do not share. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to correct and change things in your story if needed to clarify so others have the correct understanding. Be open when others are critical about you sharing, and allow them to speak their disapproval. It might be that their disapproval will change if voiced, or there could be room for compromise. Also, give grace to yourself. Sharing your story may open the door for shame, guilt, criticism, anger, frustration, or denial to surface. Take the time to feel what comes up, and to walk into the painful and difficult parts of the journey. Be realistic that you are a broken person who needs a savior, and even with all the Lord has done in your life up until now, there is still more that needs to be done.

If it is time for you to share our story and the situation is correct, then share it with a heart to glorify God. Speak with boldness, grace, and love.

Tell of how the Lord has brought you through, opened your heart/eyes, and how he is writing you a new story. You do not need to live in silence, shame, guilt, or secrecy. Be honest, be transparent, be authentic and real. Your story is your own, all of it! Sharing your story and confessing things might be the door that opens your life up to the freedom that only Christ can bring.

There is an old hymn where the chorus says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

The hymn comes from Psalm 84:11-12. Verse 12 reads, “O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

Are you trusting and obeying? Or are you obeying and then trusting?

There is a difference!

Placing obedience before trust means we are living to try to please God through our actions, we are trying to “earn” our salvation and our identity in Christ. That just isn’t possible. It was already given to us as a gift and it is ours. We can’t earn it when we already own it. We just need to learn to walk in it.

If we do not start with trusting God, especially with trusting what he says about who we are and where our identity comes from we end up trusting in our own abilities, resources, skills, mindset, etc.

Trusting the Lord isn’t about earning our place. It isn’t about offering a sacrifice. It isn’t about performing and doing all the right things.

Trusting is about accepting, receiving, embracing, and believing.

Most of us are living this out backwards. We are living out the obedience before the trust. How would it affect your life if you switched and started living out of trust, a trust that then leads you to obedience?

I have been reflecting on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the Biblical support for both. My heart conviction is that because I have been forgiven by the Lord I understand forgiveness. I have been reconciled to him. As he has changed and altered my life and heart I am now able and called to give forgiveness to others, offer them grace, and work toward reconciliation. With the Lord at the center of the relationship I truly believe forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible but necessary between two believers. Many I talk to do not share this same conviction though. They feel it is okay to say “enough is enough” and walk away from a relationship. They feel it is okay to create boundaries that keep the others at bay. While I am a strong support of discipline, boundaries, and accountability I believe these are only successful when done in love and with a heart of teaching others rather than building walls.

Steve Cornell has posted a good Biblically based article on Forgiveness and Reconciliation at his blog. Check it out for the full article, but here are two lists he posts: Actions the offender needs to take, and Guidelines for the offended.

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

For those who are hesitant to reconcile: Ten Guidelines to consider

It is common for those who have been seriously hurt to feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it is important to open yourself to the possibility of restoration. Remember, Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through the ten guidelines on the next pages.

1.     Be honest about your motives
2.     Be humble in your attitude
3.     Be prayerful about the situation
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem
5.     Be honest with the offender
6.     Be objective about your hesitancy
7.     Be clear about the guidelines for restoration
8.     Be realistic about the process
9.     Be mindful of God’s control
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes

One of the most powerful things I have seen through my recovery is the power of the voice of survivors. When others tell their story, show their determination to recover, and share their hope and successes with others it builds momentum. This is exactly why support groups exist. They have learned that life is so much easier when we do not walk it alone. God designed us this way! He made us want and need others and one of the tricks the enemy uses through abuse and trauma is to isolate, separate, and discourage us.

Hearing the recovery stories of others is powerful. It can leave us feeling that recovery truly is possible and there can be a different future. It reminds us that while the abuse and trauma may be a part of our past it doesn’t need to define us and determine our future.

This week I have been listening to the stories from:

These stories give me courage and hope. They inspire me and remind me that the future is different as we walk with God and choose to believe. They show me that it is okay to trust again and that I do not have to live separated, alone, or lost.

Last night I publically stepped on board with a new ministry that is starting near my home. I have been in discussions with the leadership for a couple months and they know my story but they still believe in me and believe that God has changed my life and made me a new creation. Thanks to the stories of others and the unconditional love, grace, and mercy of the Lord Almighty I am able to take new steps and move forward too. My heart is full of hope, joy, and life today. It feels so good to know that the future can and will be different!

One of the struggles I continue to go through hits me every Sunday morning. I have grown up in the church, and going to church on Sunday morning has been a part of my life constantly and consistently. Not being a part of a church and having a place to call home is extremely difficult. My heart aches because I want a family and a home. I want a place to belong. I want to be known and to know others. There are a lot of places I could go to church (and I have been over the last few months), but going to church and being connected and a part of the life of the church are different.

The church I was removed from last May was only about 60 people so we knew the names and faces of everyone. I was known, not well as people were not that interested in really connecting and having community but they knew my name and some basic factual things about me. The church I have attended the most over the last few months and have tried to make some connections in is about 900 people. I feel lost, I go in alone, and many weeks no one even is able to call me by name.

I know others struggle with this too. I have heard and talked to a lot of people who ask questions such as: Am I ready to go back to church? Do I even want to be a part of the churches that are out there or am I done with organized religion? If I do try a church, what kind should I try and how do I walk through all the maze of making that decision and finding the courage to actually visit? How do I trust again? Should I just attend services or should I actually get involved? Do I need to just receive so I can heal, and if so will others be willing to allow that and help me in it? Is it safe? How do I know who to trust? What is the right timing?

Every Sunday morning as I think of going to church and trying to decide where to go I mourn for the loss in my life. It is a weekly reminder of the loss, grief, pain, and confusion in my life. It is a weekly reminder that others are in churches where they are celebrating, connecting, being known, and sharing in community and I deeply want that in my life. It is a weekly reminder that those who hurt me, rejected me, and abandoned me are still gathering and sharing together but I am not allowed to share with them in that. When I go to a church and they offer communion it is a reminder that I am in broken relationship with others and despite all I have tried and the humility and repentance I have expressed trying to reconcile the others continue to leave things broken…and that leaves me not knowing how to approach God’s table and share openly in relationship with him or fellow believers.

I feel like Sunday should be a day to celebrate, worship, walk in unity, and share in grace but deep inside I still mourn and suffer. I know this isn’t what God wants, neither my suffering nor the brokenness with others. Every week I take steps forward to move past the pain, the grief, and the loss but it is a process and it takes time. Until I one again am a part of a community where I find grace, mercy, love, hope, and am known for who I am there will continue to be a part where I mourn on Sunday’s. I am so thankful though that in the midst of that mourning I can stand before God knowing that I am walking faithfully and with righteousness now. I am growing deeply in my walk with him. I am making relationships and building community with others. I am moving forward and not letting my past define me and keep me in bondage. I am believing in the one true God who brings me hope, promise, love, and accepts me just as I am but challenges me to be so much more.

So, I do mourn on Sunday but I am learning that even in the midst of mourning I can find hope, peace, and the promises of walking with God.

I desire to see people have a restored heart toward God, church, and being a part of close relationships. I want to see people overcome their obstacles, hurts, wounds, and fears. I desire to see lives healed and transformed. I want a lot of things for others, but I accept the reality that I can only walk alongside others and they have to reach a point of being ready, willing, and waiting before God does the real work in their lives. I love it when God allows me to be present to see that change!

Paul David Trip in Whiter Than Snow provides a great prayer about having this ready, willing, and waiting heart attitude.

Lord, I think I can honestly say I am ready, willing, and waiting.
Ready, willing, and waiting to see my sin as You see it.
Ready, willing, and waiting to acknowledge that I am my biggest problem. 
Ready, willing, and waiting to run from wrong.
Ready, willing, and waiting to seek Your help.
Ready, willing, and waiting for my mind to be clear.
Ready, willing, and waiting for my heart to be clean.
Ready, willing, and waiting to acknowledge what You see.
Ready, willing, and waiting to rest in Your compassion.
Ready, willing, and waiting to hide in Your unfailing love.
I am ready, willing, and waiting to be washed by You.
Ready, willing, and waiting to admit that I acted against You. 
Ready, willing, and waiting to prove that You are right and just.
Ready, willing, and waiting to confess that my problem is from birth.
Ready, willing, and waiting to examine within.
I am ready, willing, and waiting to be whiter than snow.
Ready, willing, and waiting to hear joy and gladness.
Ready, willing, and waiting for brokenness to give way to joy.
Ready, willing, and waiting to have a steadfast heart.
Ready, willing, and waiting to celebrate Your grace once more.
I am ready, willing, and waiting to teach others Your ways.
Ready, willing, and waiting to help them turn back to You.
Ready, willing, and waiting to have You save the me from me.
Ready, willing, and waiting to sing songs of Your righteousness.
I am ready, willing, and waiting to declare Your praise. 
Ready, willing, and waiting to bring the sacrifice of a broken heart.
Ready, willing, and waiting to see Your people prosper.
Ready, willing, and waiting to see You worshiped as Your due.
But, I am also
Ready, willing, and waiting to be protected by Your love.
Ready, willing, and waiting to be held by Your grace.
Ready, willing, and waiting to be hidden in Your mercy.
Ready, willing, and waiting to be defended by Your power.
Because I know that I won’t always be ready, willing, and waiting.

Next Page »