Steadfast Love

Another mystical moment – and no, I don’t live by mystical moments. This experience from early August is what made me re-post The Beast from 2008 a few weeks ago. The Beast was a vision about my own sin nature, this one is a vision about God:

I had what I can only describe as a vision. I was sitting on my deck early on Thursday morning with my cup of tea, Bible, and journal. I was contemplating a couple of profound moments that had impressed themselves upon me the previous evening. One was very simple and ordinary – a smile in the eyes of a friend. The other was a bit less common – an older friend talking about his wife of 61 years, now deceased. His heart came through in his voice, just like my other friend’s heart showed in his eyes, and both moments lingered pleasantly in my mind. As I remembered these two events, I was suddenly swept away.

For a brief moment of eternity I was caught up in a vision. It might have been a second, or an hour. I have tried to describe the experience here, but words cannot even begin to capture it.

God’s Steadfast Love is an ocean of light that I rest in.

I swim in the golden light of God’s Steadfast Love. It soaks into my soul as I breath it in. This Love is not an emotion, it is the Reality that emotion longs to be. As I rest in this ocean of Love I see flashes of my entire life in an instant – images of people I have known exhibiting God’s love. I am astonished at these glimpses of God’s Steadfast Love embedded throughout my life. I had lived each memory without understanding the magnitude or the depth or the quality of what was there, with no idea how profound those moments were. What I see is Real Reality, True Truth, tangible Steadfast Love that comes only from God. It transcends emotion and time and the struggles of this life.

God’s Steadfast Love is an ocean of Light that I rest in.

As I contemplate this experience, the implications become more and more profound. I have lived in the Psalms for many years. I have believed what I read about God’s Steadfast Love for years. But now as those verses come to mind, I feel the truth of them in my very being; it has gone from head knowledge that I read about and believed, to heart knowledge that I have breathed in. In God I live and move and have my being; like a fish breathes and swims in water, I breath and move in God’s Love.

Love is not an emotion – it is not an emotion, but in this vision I felt Love. God’s Love flowing around me and in me and through me. Even though it was my life I was seeing, very little of it was about me. What I saw was the love between friends and the love between spouses, some of them very difficult people to love, and I realize now that love was only possible because of God’s Love flowing through them.

I can suddenly see a stark difference between Love and lust. I know, the difference should be obvious to anyone. But as a child exposed to lust at an early age, it has not been obvious to me. I suspect that as society has become increasingly sexual in nature, I am not the only person who can’t see the clear dividing line and doesn’t realize how confused they are. Lust is an insatiable hunger that takes over and places its own desires above everything else. Lust only gives in order to take what it craves. Not just abuse, but pornography and casual hooking up do violence to love, and even to sex. Two people “in lust” may seem to be giving to each other, but in reality they are taking from each other. And lust is not just about sex, it’s about all kinds of selfish desires.

Love does not take, it gives. Read that again. Love does not take, it gives. It gives what is best for the other person in the long run, not necessarily what either party wants right now.

Look for True Truth. Look for Steadfast Love. Don’t settle for temporary lust. There is so much more, and you will not find it inside yourself. I know myself too well and I have failed too often. This past month I have been tossed back and forth by raging emotions; I feel like I have come through some sort of storm. Fear, anger, grief, hurt, loneliness – with occasional lightning flashes of insight such as this vision of love. There is True Truth and Steadfast Love which can only be found in God’s Word… and that, not what comes from inside me (emotional storms and The Beast), is what has kept me sane and pointed in the right direction, and given me peace and joy that is inexplicable.

I wonder why God shows me these things when all I bring to the table is brokenness. It may be because in my brokenness there is no other way I could understand. It may have been in preparation for the month of emotional chaos that followed. It is great a gift that I have continued to seek God in my turmoil. I pray that you will seek Him too.

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Psalm 144:2 … He [The LORD] is my Steadfast Love…

Acts 17:28 ‘In him we live and move and have our being’

“Steadfast love” occurs 127 times in the book of Psalms. Read it all. One Psalm each day is not too much to handle.

 

©Rebecca A Givens 9/4/17

 

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The Broken Path

Trauma and suffering affect us all. Sometimes it is a single huge event, sometimes it is “death by a thousand cuts.” Whether it is one (or more) gaping wound, or 1000 tiny wounds, we feel pain and weakness as we bleed. These wounds cause scars. Bloody wounds and hardened scars that never completely heal, no matter how we try to cover them up.

Everyone has pain and trauma and scars in this life. Everyone. Even watching someone else suffer hurts and causes second-hand trauma. The question is not “will I get hurt?” You will. The question is “what will I do with my pain; with my bloody wounds and hardened scars that refuse to completely heal?”

There are several answers to that question. I have tried them all.

You can harden yourself to the pain – building walls around your heart so no one can get in and inflict further damage. I spent most of my life behind such walls, locked in a lonely prison cell where I walled everyone else out and myself in. I lost the ability both to receive and to give love.

You can refuse to feel the pain. I locked mine up into a box inside and tried to forget its existence. But by refusing to feel pain, I also deadened my ability to feel all the good emotions like love and joy.

You can also respond to hurt and pain with anger, lashing out at everyone around you, or directing it inward against yourself. For me anger is easier to deal with than pain. I can do something with anger. I can hit things, I can work out, I can condemn myself and promise to do better. But anger leads to bitterness, and bitterness eats away at me from the inside. Blaming myself (all abuse victims blame themselves) is anger directed inward. It says I deserve this pain, and it leads to depression that can’t heal my pain or make me feel better.

You can drown your sorrows, seeking relief in the forgetfulness of addiction to alcohol or drugs or sex or any number of other things; but this forgetfulness is just another path of self-destruction. Addiction to anything is slavery, and it will devour you in the end.

Each of these things, or even all of them together, are little more than tiny band-aids stuck on gaping wounds. You can have smiley faces and cartoon characters printed on your band-aids, but reality is that you have a bleeding mortal injury with gangrene setting in.

There is another way – a real solution. Something that doesn’t just hide or numb the pain, but actually brings healing.

Oh yes, healing is painful, very painful; pain like cutting away the infection out of an already painful wound. And it is humbling. Humbling my broken self before God Almighty, the all-powerful Creator of the universe. It is submitting myself to the Holy One who loves me with an everlasting steadfast love. It is Steadfast Love that holds me during the healing, that cradles and soothes and calms. He replaces the stone fortress of my heart with a heart of flesh – a heart that feels again, a heart that can receive and give love.

During the past 15 years, God has brought incredible healing in my life. It has been a long, slow, painful process, which I know will not be over until I reach Heaven. Not only were the wounds very deep, there are new wounds inflicted all through life. But God has given me an amazing gift in this healing process – He has given me Himself.

In the process of recognizing my brokenness and giving it to Jesus to heal, I have learned to trust Him. As I have learned to trust Him, our relationship has grown exponentially. The relationship I now have with God I would not trade for anything. I would rather know God the way I know Him now than have had a perfect childhood that knew no abuse, or a perfect marriage that knew no betrayal. Even the pain of my own sins has brought an understanding of God’s grace and mercy that I would never have known otherwise.

God brings healing and has shown me His Love in amazing ways… not because of anything I have done or accomplished or because I bring anything valuable to the table, quite the opposite. I bring nothing but brokenness to Him. I have no other offering for Him. I find it remarkable that the shame and brokenness that I spent my life trying to hide are the very things that God wants me to offer to Him. He gives me visions of His Love because I am broken, not because I am whole. In the hands of the Great Physician, my broken woundedness has become a thing of great blessing and beauty; it is a picture of God’s Steadfast Love.

The path God has for me is a broken path – the path of a wounded heart. But the healing He brings is worth every wound I have suffered.

 

Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.

Luke 5:31-32 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Isaiah 43:1-2 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

For more insight into this topic, read the book of Psalms. And all of Romans 8, then all of Romans. And the rest of the Bible. For insight into suffering, listen to and read anything by Elisabeth Elliot. For trauma recovery read and listen to Dan Allender.

 

©Rebecca A Givens, 08/20/17

The Beast

I wrote this back in 2008, after 6 weeks of almost no sleep. The vision was deeply profound, and I can still feel that inside when I remember it. But God has been so good! I can’t wait to share a more recent experience in the next couple of weeks. Welcome to the mystical side of me.

The Beast

It was a couple of days after my last night on the paper route.  I was still exhausted beyond belief, and I was angry.  There was no particular reason, just that that kind of fatigue does scary things to my state of mind, which, you may recall, was the reason I had to quit that job.  I was getting out of the shower that night and suddenly I saw inside myself.  If I close my eyes I can still see it…

There was a pit, deep and dark and boiling.  Smoke and steam filled the air.  A beast rose up out of the pit; it was enormous and strong, with bulging muscles that reminded me of a bull.  It was dark, reddish black like old blood, with horns and burning red eyes.  I could smell the beast’s heat, feel its lust, and taste the blood it craved.  I heard its heartbeat and its breath, felt my own heart and lungs matching it beat for beat, breath for breath.  The beast was restrained by invisible chains that I felt rather than saw.  It stood there, not fighting the chains, but waiting for me to set it free; free to destroy, to smash, to scream and cry and curse at God.  I wasn’t afraid – I wanted to set it free.  I felt its rage and lust and desire, its hate and anger.  The heat and the blood filled my senses and I wanted to give myself to the beast, let it take me completely.  For I knew this beast – this beast is who I am inside.  As I stood there breathing the beast in, God began to speak to me.  I heard Him and I saw Him through the misty red veil of the vision of my beast within.  God asked me questions, He made me angry.  He pushed me, exerting his authority. He kept me from leaving and I was so angry I wanted to punch Him, to hurt Him; but I couldn’t.  He looked into my eyes, and in His own sad eyes I could see recognition of what He was seeing in me.  He did not turn away; He held me in His gaze and He spoke. “This is not who you are; Becky, this is not you.”  And then I saw my beast slowly sink back into the pit, until it was out of sight.  But still I heard it muttering, whispering and coaxing and tempting from some dark corner of my heart, and I recognized its voice as one I have heard my whole life.  I stood there hearing the voice, still filled with this vision of darkness, with the taste of violence and lust in my mouth; but the vision became veiled and my heart and my lungs began to beat in a different rhythm… a rhythm of life rather than death, with a glimmer of light rather than darkness.

The vision ended; I was once again standing in the bathroom.  Then I was afraid.  Afraid of how much I wanted the beast to be in control, afraid of the violence and lust that I knew was in my heart, afraid of how unafraid I had been.

But as I thought about it I realized that I had not set the beast free.  God had intervened.  At the moment when the beast completely filled my vision, God spoke to me and called me back to Himself.  He reminded me of who He is and who I am.  I am His child, I am not a slave to my sin nature.  I do not belong to Satan, or even to myself, I belong to God.  And He will keep me.

©Rebecca A Givens, 09/2008

This moment

This moment
A tinge of rose on the horizon of dark tree tops,
The sky pale in the east, dark in the west,
Bright stars overhead, a sliver of silver moon.
Birds begin to sing with the joy of a new day.
The trees are still –
waiting,
turning from black to green with each passing second,
reaching for the sky,
growing lighter with each moment.
The rosy fire in the east grows.
Chill air creeps in,
my hands warm around my favorite cup of tea.

I breath it all in
Now the page in The Book is visible;
The Holy Words,
Inspired by my Sovereign Lord,
Written by my heroes;
Words of comfort and inspiration,
of warning and admonition.

Life
Life all around me.
Life in my hands.
Life in my heart.

I breath in the life,
holding it here inside me,
I breath out my thanks to God,
my Lord and Savior,
And walk out into the world.

©Rebecca A Givens, 04/17

Suffering-Rejoicing-Glory in God’s Plan

The thoughts below are from my journal. As they ran through my head, I was filled with a profound joy… Perhaps they are worth sharing.

I was thinking yesterday about my dad’s death. Grief is a strange thing. Daddy’s death does not affect my everyday life. I saw him only a few times each year, and because of his hearing, phone conversations were limited. But somehow his death left a hole; he’s not there where he’s always been. I sat the day of his funeral with my “thank God” list, and filled an entire two column page with things I thank God for, all concerning my dad. Memories of my childhood are comforting, and the visits with extended family at the funeral were wonderful. In the weeks that followed, my mind felt clouded, as if it had to shift somehow to compensate for this new hole in the world; but it was a good clean proper grief full of good memories.

Contrast all this with the grief of divorce these last few years. That clouded mind of grief lasted the better part of a year, and returned with regularity for another year. It would have been easier if he had died, at least then I could have remembered the good times with happiness and consolation. But with divorce, remembering the good times feels like betraying myself to the enemy. It’s like when the abuser of my childhood told a joke and I laughed… I cannot describe the emotions connected with that betrayal of myself; it hurt as much as his betrayal of me. Betrayal is a far harder grief than death.

As I contemplated these things in prayer, I had an amazing revelation.

Jesus, fully man, was betrayed by his closest friends. Then He was forsaken by His Father on the cross.

He was a man. Yes, fully God, but also fully Man, with all the emotions of a man.

He was betrayed by those He came to save, by those He loved. He was tortured. He was abandoned by His Father.

But Jesus knew there was a Purpose and a Plan that was greater than His betrayal and abandonment, and knowing that, He went through it willingly.

I also know there is a Purpose and a Plan, and it is bigger than what I see and feel right now. God the Father will accomplish His greater purpose in me, and it will ultimately be for His Glory and my good. Knowing and trusting that is what will get me through whatever I go through in this life, including betrayal and suffering.

Jesus trusted God His Father, submitted to His Plan, and so willingly suffered betrayal, torture, abandonment, and death. I am called to follow Him in His sufferings. I am called to trust Him, to trust His Plan, whatever it leads me through. Jesus knew the end goal was worth it – an eternity in Heaven with His bride, the church, and I know I am part of that. When I hang on to His Truth, I participate in His suffering, and I rejoice in His Glory.

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

II Corinthians 4:16-18  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

1 Peter 4:12-13  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

©Rebecca A Givens, February 12, 2017

Surviving Grad School: or anything else

Two and one half years ago I found myself needing a career.  My husband of 26 years had left and I had to support myself. I immediately landed a third part-time job at 2nd & Charles, a used book store, which put me on the path to library school.

I am now in my last semester of a Master’s in Library Studies degree.  Before returning to school I had spent the previous 26 years as a housewife, raising and homeschooling my four children, working part time doing background checks, and teaching martial arts (stories for another day).

Since starting school 1 ½ years ago I have finished that divorce, suffered from fatigue related to an illness, worked 2 or 3 part time jobs at a time to support myself and my youngest, tried to help my four children in college, cared for one of those kids who has chronic daily migraines, taken 2-3 classes at a time, and maintained a 4.0 GPA. My father passed away as the current semester started 2 weeks ago. Writing it out in a list like that is overwhelming… but right now I need to remind myself of what I’ve already been through and survived, and even thrived.

I started this semester behind due to the death of my dad. When I got home from Texas I felt so overwhelmed with work and school and the never ending job hunt, in addition to grieving Daddy’s loss and worrying about my mom. It has been a very long two weeks. Yesterday I took some time to ponder all of these things. In an effort to keep moving and get through the last leg, I thought about this journey I’m on and how I have managed up to this point. It occurs to me that my list might be of use to someone else. These are the things that keep me moving and sane.

  1. Accept the fact that you do not have to have a 4.0 GPA.
    1. Read the abstract, intro, and conclusion. Skim everything else for relevant or interesting information.
    2. There is just not time to edit every paper 3 times. Sometimes not even 1 time. Turn it in and move on to the next thing.
  2. Work smarter. I recommend the book, Do More Better by Tim Challies.
    1. Todoist is a great tool. Pick some kind of planning system and stick with it.
    2. Evernote is also a great tool.
  3. Do the next thing.
    1. Plan out the big projects in advance. Look at the big picture, divide it into weekly and daily goals and tasks, and then keep working on the next thing.
    2. Work ahead whenever possible.
    3. Above all, do not wait until the last minute to start something!
  4. Be realistic in my expectations of myself. If you cannot do anything requiring thought after 9:00pm (or before 9:00am), don’t even consider those times for doing homework.
  5. Budget your money, your time, and your energy. I had to learn to budget my energy last semester when I had an overloaded schedule and fatigue. It can be done.
  6. There is not enough time or energy to do everything. My house will not be neat, my meals will not take a lot of time, I will not be able to do everything I want to do. But this season of life will end, keep your eye on the goal.
  7. Remember that it does take time to live life. Kids, parents, laundry, meals, groceries – all that life stuff takes time and has to fit in somewhere.
  8. I must also plan down time for myself. I have a list of things I enjoy that take very little time, planning, or money. Every day I try to work in something from that list. An audio book while I drive, reading something for fun while I eat, crocheting during class, dinner with a friend, a walk or a hike, and occasionally even the ultimate pointless pleasure: watching TV for an hour and playing with my Legos. Write your own list.
  9. Plan time to exercise. I have been very active in martial arts the last 8 or 9 years, and suddenly there was no time for it. But I have learned that if I will plan time to exercise I am more productive afterwards. I do a short stretching routine several times each day, I walk during my lunch break, and plan longer walks or workouts on the shorter work days or days with no class. This is the first thing I tend to cut out when time is short, but I always regret it when I do.
  10. Communicate with professors when conflicts or the unexpected emergencies happen. My professors have all been very understanding when I had even normal trips or life that interfered with class or schoolwork; when Daddy died they were all very considerate about assignments and missed classes. But if they don’t know why you are not in class or why your assignment was late they can’t give you extra time or extra help.
  11. Work on relationships. You need people, even when you are so busy you are overwhelmed.
    1. Family
    2. Friends
    3. Co-workers
    4. Classmates
    5. Teachers and Mentors
  12. Plan time to think and ponder life. I am an introvert, and I need time to sit with my journal and my Bible and a cup of coffee every morning.
  13. Lastly and most importantly, overarching all the things listed above, is my faith in God. I know that I am fulfilling His Purpose for me, and I trust Him to lead me each step. He will give me the strength and the resources to do what He has called me to do. I trust Him no matter what comes in the future, whether good or bad; I have seen Him work for my good even in the midst of terrible circumstances. I would never have chosen this life for myself, but I have never been happier than I am right now. His Plan for me is far better than anything I imagined.
    1. Stay in the Word.
    2. Stay in the church.