Taste and See that the Lord Is Good

by Shelly Beach
© 2017

strangelemons-Pixabay

When I was a kid, my dad used to bring home unusual food for our family to try: cherimoyas, dandelion greens, sassafras, fiddleheads, jackfruit, jicama, grasshoppers, various assorted animal meats and organs, smelt, lutefisk, and I’ll end the list there.

Taking that first taste took a bit of courage for me. Often the food looked distasteful and  unpalatable. My dad seemed to think it a mark of moral character to force us to try something new that would expand our palate and our experience. And he also wanted us to understand that judging by what we see can often be misleading.

The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Life serves up both the bitter and the sweet. We’ve all faced distasteful, horrible experiences. You know, things that make us want to cover our mouths and cry “No!” like toddlers being asked to eat parsnips. Something unwanted stares back at us from the table, when we’d much rather down  our favorite foods.

bread-Pixabay

When something unwanted is placed before us, God asks us to trust Him, and like children we often clamp our mouths shut.

We don’t want to.

It’s too hard, too terrible, too painful, too frightening.

And the truth is that terrible, hard, painful, and frightening things are often unsavory and hard.

But the greatest truth is that nothing is sweeter than God’s goodness and love for us.

When we trust God in the terrible and the hard, we “taste” His goodness, His faithfulness, His perfect peace, His incomparable presence.

But tasting God’s love and care for us requires several things of us:

  • Trusting God implicitly because of who He is. This requires acting on our will and commitment to God’s Word, not our emotions. Trusting God is also a learning process.
  • Looking at life from God’s perspective. Circumstances are temporal realities with eternal implications. Conversely, God is an eternal being who works for our good in our temporal circumstances. What we see now is superficial. God is at work in the whole of eternity to work out even dire temporary circumstances for our good.

Are you facing the terrible, the hard, the frightening, the disastrous, the overwhelming? Taste God’s goodness. Trust who He is. Look at life from His perspective, and trust Him to be at work for your good.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!”  Psalm 34:1-3 ESV

Trusting When You Can’t See

I was angry at God but afraid to say so.

Wouldn’t my anger be a betrayal? Would it send a message that I wasn’t trusting God?

My very dear friend had lost her baby in the final month of pregnancy. In an added twist of grief, she carried the baby for days before she was induced to deliver her dead child. Weeks later her husband caught a flu bug that took his life. His spleen had been removed when he was younger, and his body lacked the ability to fight the infection.

My friend’s world spun out of control.

Reeling with grief, she ran…from God. From friends. I didn’t see or hear from her for over thirty-five years. Every time I thought about her, my heart broke. The last time I’d seen her, she’d been lost and distant. For decades I asked God how this could make sense, and I prayed for her son and daughter, toddlers who had played with my children nearly every day.

God was in control. I just couldn’t see it.

He never left my friend’s side. He took her home to family, to a good church. She poured her life into knowing God, into her son and daughter. God brought her a new husband. Her children became involved in Christian ministry and married wonderful spouses. God gave my friend a new husband, who has blessed her life for 25 years.

Right when I needed it most, God pulled back the curtain.

I love that God can and does use anything–asses, stones, fish and bread, even Facebook. One of my Facebook friends who I’ve known for several years has connections to a tiny town in Michigan…and his mother’s name is the same as my friend’s…and his first name is the same as that toddler who played with my kids.

Not only has God led me back to my friend, but I already know her son.

Love-fest reunion scheduled for later this week. Public not invited.

God didn’t owe me answers, but I’m ever so grateful for this one. He can be trusted when we can’t see. He is always working in ways we cannot see.

 

Suicide Prevention: Life in My Brown Robe

Blog by Shelly Beach

© 2017

Sunday, September 10th marked World Suicide Prevention Day

While I never attempted suicide, I have struggled with depression and several periods of life when I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I’ve never written or spoken much about these battles, but perhaps my story can help someone gain perspective on their own depression.

I experienced a childhood sexual assault when I was around ten years old. I never told anyone what happened because of overwhelming fear and shame. I was in trauma therapy for weeks before I even remembered the experience. My most profound experience of abuse occurred when I was 19 and assaulted by a serial rapist. I experienced a number of symptoms of PTSD but did not receive counseling or treatment.

I was married within a year of my assault. Sex was awkward and triggering. Within six months of our wedding, I was pregnant. For the two years following the birth of our first child, I slowly became frozen. The slow onset of depression can be difficult to name when everything in life seems to be “fine”: a wonderful husband, a new baby, supportive family.

But my husband Dan and I call the years after our first child was born the years of “the brown robe.” I seldom dressed, unless it was necessary for me to leave the house. When I was home, I sat in a chair and stared at the television or wandered the house in a fog.

I didn’t have the words to identify depression. I didn’t know that the birth of a child could trigger depression after sexual abuse. I simply fell into deep guilt-driven depression over my lack of ability to be a “good” wife and mother.

Right about this time, Dan and I moved to a small farming community. He worked as a school administrator. I taught English. Community life was wonderful. Our friends were wonderful. We lived in a large country farmhouse with charm and character (and a few bats).

But I was deeply, deeply depressed. I was suffering from horrible migraines and had been put on new medications that I later learned could contribute to depression. But for hours at a time I fixated on how better off my family would be if I would be gone, that I was a failure as a mother and wife. I knew I was too cowardly to actually follow through, but I devised various plans for taking my life.

All this time, I never considered telling someone, asking for help, talking to my doctor. I simply saw myself as a failure. I didn’t understand that my depression was result of multiple untreated traumas, and what I was experiencing as common to many women.

I eventually went off my beta blocker medication, and my suicidal thoughts and depression faded. I began to study trauma and PTSD and understand what had happened. The shame and guilt lifted, and I found appropriate treatment.

Does this mean I never ever struggle with depression? No. My multiple sclerosis is also a contributor to depression, so I need to be pro-active.

So what can you do? I can tell you what helps me.

I monitor my self-talk. When it slips into negative thinking, I correct it with the truth–about who I really am.

I get out of the house. No matter how I may feel, I make time to see Christian friends who hold me accountable and speak life into me.

I listen to uplifting music. For me that’s a lot of Christian music, but it’s also beautiful music, fun music, and contemplative music.

I know my trauma triggers and manage my responses. For instance, I know that I can only manage a certain amount of grief regarding abuse. People naturally share their stories with me, but

I take anti-depressants when needed. This has actually been quite helpful since receiving my MS diagnosis. I don’t tolerate sunlight well and am susceptible to depression. A low dose of anti-depressant has contributed to my overall health.

I exercise. Moving elevates my mood and breaks the patterns of my circular thinking. And exercise always makes me feel productive and generates impetus for me to do the next proactive thing for the day.

Most importantly, I pray. I am a conqueror through the power of Jesus Christ, and I access the power of the Spirit through prayer and time in the Word of God.

What about you? Have you struggled with suicide and depression? What has given you hope?

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Online chat also available at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

The Our First Calling: Be Like Jesus

Blog by Shelly Beach
Author, Speaker,
& Consultant © 2017

Award-winning author of
The Silent Seduction of
Self-Talk, Love Letters
from the Edge, Precious
Lord, Take My Hand,
Hallie’s
Heart & other fiction & nonfiction titles

We’re imperfect people. All of us. Definitely me, and yes, you too. 

Even the most godly Christian you’ve ever known is an imperfect sinner. And if they’re honest, they can humbly point out their flaws because they know them well and do battle with them on a regular basis.

But we can’t be complacent about our gossiping tongue, bitter spirit, unforgiving heart, angry outbursts, private moments with porn, potty mouths, condescension toward (spouse, children, siblings, boss, MIL, you know who). Not at least if we claim to love God.

As Christians, our first calling is to become more like Jesus.

This is a lifetime calling. As long as we’re still on earth, we’re going to be working on “the sin[s] that so easily besets us.” You know…the moment when you say or do the things you regret the next instant. But as followers as disciples of Jesus, we should all desire to become like Him. This means intentionally assessing our motives, priorities, attitudes, and actions on a regular basis.

Accountability is a necessary, bittersweet part of growing.

Our love for God should compel us to please Him. He has made us complete in Christ, but we to become more like Him as the Spirit of God transforms us. This is a lifelong process. Unfortunately, we don’t go from sinners to perfect people the moment we receive Christ, even though positionally in the spiritual realm, God sees us as sinless and complete because He sees Jesus’ righteousness in place of our sin.

Instead, we grow as we learn more about God’s love for us. The more we know Him, the more we love Him and release the rights we have falsely believed we had to rule life our way. We begin to substitute His will for ours, which is the essence of Jesus’ heart. His every breath, word, motive, and act were to glorify the Father.

Doing “good things” has nothing to do with a moral checklist.

We measure “good things” by arbitrary preferences or personal and cultural biases. Or we do good things to bolster our pride, gain value in others’ eyes fit in, or for other self-serving reasons.

God defines doing good things as doing the things Jesus would do and being conformed to His character. Paul said, “This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him” (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

As believers, we all are works in process. God is on our side and wants to build our character so we become more like Jesus, not so we live from a list of dos and don’ts.

We become like Jesus as our minds are transformed and renewed. 

Transformation is more than following a list of dos and don’ts. It’s learning to live by the fruit of the Spirit–fruit that grows naturally from the spiritual nutrients that flow through our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We lost much of the divine image of God when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. Jesus restored it on the cross, and our calling is to show the world God’s goodness reflected in Jesus as we bear His image.

What a humbling partnership and blessed calling. Amazing grace…

 

Raising Stalker-Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe From Abuse

Raising Stalker Savvy Kids: How to Keep Kids Safe from Abuse

By Guest blogger Dawn Damon, award-winning author of
When the Woman Abused Was Me

 

In June of this year, 51-year-old Wisconsin school bus driver was charged and jailed after keeping a 15-year-old girl on his bus, pressuring her to come home with him, and forcing unwanted physical contact with her. He was charged with child enticement, child abduction, and stalking.

This case and others like it are far too prevalent. We can bewail culture, poor parenting, the government, schools, the media, political parties, or the high school teacher who gave us that grade we didn’t deserve, but the truth is that predators exist, and most of them are good at hiding their predatory nature. So as parents and caretakers, we must do all we can do to raise safety savvy, stalker-savvy kids.

We want to keep our children safe.We hope and pray that bus drivers, coaches, teachers, friends, friends’ siblings, and our child’s friends’ parents don’t present a threat to our kids. But the truth is that no parent or caregiver can assure their child 100% safety in the world, just as we can’t assure them they’ll never be in a car accident or get cancer.

 

The world is a scary place. According to the FBI, in 2016, 465,676 children were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 2017). And since many missing children are never reported, there is no way to determine the true number. Then consider the additional one in five girls and one in twenty boys who become victims of sexual assault.

So what can we do to protect the children we love and care for from abuse?

First, it’s important to understand that no parent or caretaker, no matter how well-intentioned, loving, and responsible, can ensure that their child will never be harmed by someone. It is simply impossible to protect children from every possible scenario that exists. But the following guidelines can help you make the world a safer place for the children you love.

  • Begin early. Talk about sexual safety when your children are small. Teach young children the names of their body parts and that certain parts are private.
  • Teach privacy. Be sure your children know that certain parts of the body should not be seen or touched by others. Stay with your child for medical exams.
  • Teach your child to say ‘no.’ Children should learn to listen to their instincts. If they feel uncomfortable about touch, they should say ‘no.’ Let them know they can and should say no to adults who cross boundaries or make them feel awkward. Then reinforce it when you are with them.
  • Teach your child to tell. Children need to know that perpetrators try to trick kids. Roleplay different ways someone might lure them. Teach them that abusers lie and ask children to keep secrets. Teach them to expect to be told that terrible things will happen if they tell an adult. Let your child know you will protect them, and that telling is the best and right thing. Explain that telling is the only way to protect themselves and others and for the perpetrator to get needed help.
  • Assure them they won’t get in trouble. Experiencing abuse is never a child’s fault. Make sure they understand they won’t be punished if they tell you, and telling when someone is someone else is courageous. Be a safe place for your child.
  • Make time. Be available to talk about everyday life with your kids—school, sports, friends. What’s happening? Who do they spend time with? What are those people like? Listen to your child’s concerns as a regular part of your day.
  • Use your life. Give illustrations of safe conduct from your life or the lives of those you know. Or provide examples from the media. Talk about safety as the topic naturally comes up.

Warning Signs:  Children are often reluctant to talk about sexual abuse, even when asked directly, and understandably so. Be alert to changes in behavior, such as personality changes, anger, grades dropping, regression (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, etc.), new fears, clinginess, acting out, nightmares/sleeping problems, or self-harm.

Most importantly, know that whether you are educating a child or responding to a child’s tragic story of abuse, your calm, loving, reassuring attitude will lay a foundation for healing, hope, resilience, and a sense of safety in an uncertain world.

#resilience #childabuse #childabusesafetytips #parenting #safetysavvykids #childpredators

 

Dawn Damon is the award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused and the recently released When the Woman Abused Was You. She is an

author, national speaker, radio host, and pastor. Her first book won multiple awards for excellence and is used by educators, community outreaches, therapists, and prisons across the country. You can find her at dawnscottdamon.com.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Choice to Heal

Childhood Sexual Abuse:

The Choice to Heal

By Dawn Damon, author of When the Woman Abused Was You:
A Guide to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

(material adapted from When the Woman Abused Was You)

 

Some women live for decades unaware of their abusive past. Others who were abused as children live in the shadows of shame, afraid to confront the monsters of the past. Still other women let their abuse define them.

But there is another choice: the choice to heal. The choice to heal can be difficult, yet it is the only choice that brings healing and new life.

So what things hold us back from making the choice to heal?

Potholes on the Road to Recovery

  • Fear: We are afraid we will slip into an emotional “hole” and never get out again. Or we’re afraid to give up our old coping mechanisms or to be seen as “weak.” Or we may fear going crazy, losing a relationship, or facing the truth or allowing ourselves to feel. No matter the fear, denial is destructive. Ignoring a wound only brings festering. Commit to honestly looking at your past and grieving your losses.
  • Pride: We’re unwilling to admit we have a problem. We’re not one of “them.” We don’t want to be identified as weak or a sexual abuse survivor. Everyone else has a problem. We default to control and manipulation, and we are afraid to trust people.
  • Negative Attitude: We develop a victim mindset. We stake a claim for what we believe we deserve and build a case for ourselves. But our attitude is our choice and the basis of self-control. We can refuse to think like a victim by refuting “thought saboteurs.”
  • Thought Saboteurs: anger, apathy, blame, criticism, depression, dishonesty, fear, guardedness, hatred, indifference, intolerance, irresponsibility, jealousy, mistrust, pessimism, pride, resentment, revenge, sadness, self-pity, shame, skepticism, suspicion, and a victim mentality.

Self Evaluation

Are you struggling with pain from your past? With childhood abuse? Is it time to take steps toward healing? Pray through the areas above and ask God to help you face your fears and recognize pride, negative attitudes, and thought saboteurs. You’ve taken your first steps toward healing, and your life will never be the same.

Thistles: Pulling Out the “Pricklies” in Our Lives

Thistles: Pulling Out the Prickly Sins in Our Lives

By Shelly Beach

© 2017 Shelly Beach

Recently I’ve come to enjoy pulling weeds. I’d like to think that this is an indication of growth in character, rather than old age. Luckily, our half-acre yard gives me lots of opportunities to weed, but usually the sun, heat, and humidity discourage me from spending more than a few minutes outside in the summer, due to my health.

On good days I work on one small area near the rose bushes, the garden bench I bought in memory of my mom, or in the back yard flower bed (more weeds than flowers, unfortunately). I enjoy pulling out weeds that come easily, room and all, with one quick tug the most. I don’t mind digging or yanking a bit. I expect a bit of a challenge, but I hate pain, and I certainly don’t choose it for a leisure activity.

I hate thistles the most.

They are prickly, ugly, and grow into monstrosities that are almost impossible to grip without being pierced—even if you’re wearing gloves. For this reason, thistles have been the last weeds in our yard I’ve attacked.

 

Tending the Garden

Many of us have a regular devotional life. We pray, read the Bible, pray, and even do so on a regular basis. It can be easy to focus on sins that have more shallow roots–the ones that don’t ask us to truly change or look deeply at our motives.

For instance, may drop five dollars in the offering plate but not want to honestly consider sacrificial giving to God.

We may say we forgive a friend but be unwilling to lay down the bitterness in our heart.

Or perhaps we fence off areas of our lives and justify behavior we know contradicts the Word of God, because we want to do what we want. These areas are usually deeply rooted in attitudes and motives that say

Thistles grow in all of our lives,
prickly, ugly sins we don’t want God or anyone to touch. 

Weeding Thistles

Weeding thistles takes more work and commitment than pulling out the weeds that have weaker root systems and  no protective thorns. The job requires special weed killer, thicker gloves, running the risk of drawing a little blood, and/or the effort of digging down to the roots of the weed.

Pulling out the thistles in my spiritual life has meant committing to honest self-examination and prayer, shifting my focus from other people to myself, focusing on God, and asking Him to change me. It’s meant constantly evaluating my motives and attitudes, and listening to God’s Word and Spirit for direction and correction.

Are negative attitudes, preoccupations, resentments, bitterness, anger, or ungodly behaviors choking your spiritual growth? Ask God to show you where the thistles have taken root in your life. Then pray and seek godly counsel about how best to uproot them.