Letting Go: 1 Luke 28-30
1 Luke 28-30 tells us the story of the angel appearing to Mary, saying, “Rejoice” and “Do not be afraid”. Personally, if an angel were to appear to me suddenly, I would be terrified! However, Mary listened intently at the promises of a new son who would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there would be no end; he will be great and will be called Son of the Highest. If an angel appeared to me with great news like a salesman appearing with promises of student loan forgiveness, I would be skeptical, asking “Who are you!” An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit ( Mathew 1:0 ). Joseph had wanted to divorce Mary, but he stayed with her. He didn’t quite understand, but he had faith. Both Mary and Joseph were afraid, but there was the promise of someone great to come.
They received great news at a time in history when things were tough; the received great news at a time when King Herrod was ruling. King Herrod was a dangerous king- disturbed by the news of the Magi; which in turn prompted an angel to appear to Joseph, telling him to take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. King Herrod was going to kill the baby Jesus.
Moving is tough, but much tougher when you’re pregnant! But Mary and Joseph did as the angel commanded into the unknown. As you can see, things were off to a rocky start for the couple, but they did as the angels commanded.
The phrases “Rejoice” and “Don’t not be Afraid!” echo loudly in these verses, because of the upheaval Mary and Joseph must’ve felt- it was surprising news and at the same time it was heavy news….but there was a promise. Promise of a newborn King who would come to earth as a man to face all the battles we face today, so that we may be free. Therefore, we’re not alone in our battles.
When my grandmother was sick, I left everything on a bus to the state of Massachusetts in the middle of winter to see her and spend time with her before she passed on, shortly after I arrived back home. I believe that I was led by something greater than me- and was not afraid of the uncertainty I would face in going on a mid-winters trip with only a light coat.
We are often led by something greater than ourselves, whether it be our own intentions or the calling of a doctor, therapist, or pastor, telling us to move forward- and encourage us. Our peers too encourage us through their own unique ways- some of which we may not fully understand. We are often called to extend our lives into the unknown of new opportunities, and beginnings perhaps. They call us to try new things, to move forward with newfound skills that we may not have had before in our lives to cope. They call us to move into new directions and perceive things from different angels we may previously not seen. At one point in my fight with PTSD I was afraid of crowds and large groups, so my counselors would suggest trying small groups and test the waters from there. I attended a Celebrate Recovery meeting, which was rather small; and through that group I was coaxed into joining a churches Sunday school class which was a larger group. I was still afraid of large crowds and didn’t attend church that often; however, through this larger Sunday school class I was led into a larger congregation. It took time, but I was successful because I had faith in what that counselor had suggested in the beginning. There are many times when we can take small steps and gradually increase our endurance into new horizons; however, there are other times when we are called to leave quickly and suddenly, such as with trauma survivors.
I faced trauma in one city of Oklahoma, a rather small city compared to big metropolises and their suburbs. I had to leave almost everything behind, with the exception of a backpack full of clothes. I settled into a rather large city, where I didn’t know a thing other than to stay at a expensive motel ( there was no room at a rooming house or apartment at the moment I could find ) and have hope. Does that sound familiar? Does it chime with a Christmas story of Mary, Joseph and the babe being born in manger…no room at the inn. They had hope in their humble abode for the night, and to them a babe was born. To them new hope was given. I frantically thumbed through the phone books and hit the streets each day with prayer to God that he alone would provide for me. After exhausting all my options with the limited income, I found a place, the last place I looked at. Called the Rockwall. It was a single room, with the bare necessities to manage, but I kept the faith and had a place. There was a spark of hope in the smallest of places, that would eventually launch me into a small gathering of people, whose pastor would lead me to a larger housing organization. I had a new place, and a forever home through that organization. I never once lost hope in moving from that small city into the unknown.
Sometimes you just have to “go” ….such as our great commission to “go forward into all the nations everywhere, making disciples”….How do we just “go”….it starts with faith. The faith such as when we sit in a seat and expect it to hold us without checking for its firmness. Or by giving more than what we think possible, knowing in faith that God will provide. Mary and Joseph were called to “go” and they had faith that things would be provided, such as the small manger when there was no room at the inn. They were called to leave behind the securities of their own home and into a new chapter of life, not knowing what would come other than the promise of a King who would overcome.
Are we willing to let “go” what we’ve been holding onto for so long, are we willing to “go” into new horizons? For when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we are letting “go” of all the past hurt and hang up, and are willing to breathe anew in everlasting hope….may Christ truly be born into our hearts this day as we say “yes” ….come into my life and restore me. AMEN
What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Eating, Football, Long Weekend, Shopping, History, or Family? Thanksgiving is much more than any of this. True thanksgiving is not just a day for food, football, and family. It’s not just a holiday every fourth Thursday in November. For God’s people, everyday ought to be Thanksgiving Day! Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday. It is simply a day set aside to express our thanks to God. Of course most know the story of the pilgrims and how they and the Indians of the area had a Thanksgiving feast in 1621 – long before Washington’s proclamation.
"Thanks" is a word we probably don’t say often enough. And being thankful is an attitude we probably don’t have enough. Unfortunately, when Thanksgiving is over we typically move from being thankful to being materialistic when the Christmas shopping season arrives. Thanks means to have gratitude for something, thanks is an expression of love for something received. What have we recieved, what have we given?
Thanksgiving brings to my mind a two words, the first being JOY. “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” Psalm 100:1 We don’t have problems shouting at a football game, but how about when we overcome obstacles and challenges in our daily lives, can we celebrate with joy that we are survivors?
The second word is thankfulness. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4 How can we be thankful during difficult times? When our world is falling apart, when bad things happen to good people, when evil seems to be gaining ground? Its easy to fall into discouragement, and despair; however no one knows what tomorrow or the next minute may will bring. The only thing we can do is live in the moment, however scary or encouraging that may be. How can we be thankful during difficult times? By realizing that through the support of other survivors who have been where we may have been, we may find hope that we CAN overcome…knowing that we’re not alone. We prefer to live in a calm and peaceful place; however we have to have storms in order to have green grass. What that means, is that it’s going to rain a torrent at some point; but that torrent brings nourishment to the soil and produces the grass, the beautiful plants, and the life of water to our thirst.
Many are going to be with families or friends at thanksgiving, and that brings me to the following points…Situations may cause Dispair, but our fellowship with others and God can bring hope. Situations may cause Heartbreak, but the comfort of others who can relate and God can be a heart fixer. Situations may cause sorrow, but with others we are never alone and God promises never to leave us alone. Fellowship…The Greek word for fellowship, “koinonia”, comes from a root meaning common or shared. So fellowship means common participation in something either by giving what you have to the other person or receiving what he or she has.
So this thanksgiving, let us be thankful for what others have given us, what we have given to others….for what God has given to us, and for the hope of life in what Christ did for us. AMEN and Happy Thanksgiving!
( 1 Peter 5:7 ) "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."
When we were infants, and we had a need, we cried out to someone to pick us up and nurture us, whether it be a lack of milk in the bottle, gunk in the diaper, or just a need for security after the loud thunderstorm. Chances were, someone was going to collect us from the confines of the crib and care for us. When we were young children roaming through the toy aisle of the department store, and had a sudden yearning for a certain toy; we quickly and without ceasing, ran to our guardians and jumped with glee and excitement- and in need for that toy. It was in hopes that our fatherly or motherly figures would ease our cravings for that toy, collect it from our hands and buy it for us. Thus, we felt better. As young adults, coming to our homes or shelters from the end of a hard day at counselling, group therapy, or excersize; we come with the expectation that some sort of food and relief will be waiting for us, in whatever form that may be. In all three of these aspects given, there was a need and it was given to the reliance upon something or someone, for the comfort of and perhaps, nourishment.
Dealing with the after effects of any kind of trauma can unravel a persons sense of well-being, security, sense of identity, and place in life; especially when it comes to how severe that trauma was. PTSD used to be referred to as "shell shock" syndrome in the military, and young troops would often come home from the war front afraid of loud noises, and fast movements- similar to what they had seen on the battlefront. It affected their sense of identity because they weren't the same as what they were before they went to war. Their whole lives and sense of security and mental health had changed. They had to seek out crisis services, medication management in many cases, mental health treatment, individual therapy, or group therapy; people who cared. Often times, these young servicemen and women gave their lives to the care of inpatient treatment and rehab centers, because they simply couldn't manage on their own. This isn't a bad thing; and today, the the same thing occurs, under the term "PTSD" or Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder.
I personally have been dealing with the struggle of PTSD; not through war, however. Trauma and PTSD can happen through any number of factors; witnessing a bad accident or seeing a violent attack are just a few examples. I have been dealing with the effects PTSD for close to 17 years. To begin right after the trauma, I tried holding everything in and it had nowhere to go except out eventually, much like the shaking of a soda pop bottle when it eventually builds up enough pressure that it blows. I realized through several suicide attempts that I had to seek treatment, because someone cares. Someone has been where I have been, and is willing to sit down with me and relate, and share their experiences with me, as I share my experiences with them through therapy in groups and individual settings.
1 Peter 5:7 tells us to "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." God loves us, and created us in his image, so that we may live and enjoy freedom. We are all children of God, much like the infant that needs someone to nurture it. We are always learning, and growing, and changing. When we go to God, or our Higher Power, we are going to One that is greater than us; that has the strength to carry us through our burdens, and see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we allow ourselves into the warm embrace of counsellors, therapists, and doctors; we are allowing ourselves into the hands and arms of God or a Higher Power here on earth to help transform us into someone greater. It may not happen overnight, just as you don't go from grade one to twelve overnight; or from a follower of God or a Higher Power to a leader overnight. But you become transformed through wellness groups, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs for example; into a stronger person. You will always remember the trauma, you may always have some effects of the PTSD such as nightmares, or flashbacks; however, they will gradually become less and less of a burden to you.
Never give up hope, through God or a Higher Power, all things are possible; even those things we feel or think impossible. It is possible to recover from PTSD and live a life of fullness; although it may take time, never give up hope. PTSD is not a death sentence, the trauma-in whatever degree it may have been- although unchangeable now; does not mean that YOU are unchangeable. Keep believing!
( 2 Timothy 1:7 ) For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.
Like a soldier, we are in a war we can only win if we fight to the end. Like an athlete, we must train for a new way of life and follow the steps to recovery. This may mean stepping into new programs such as day treatment, group or individual therapy to overcome the hurdles that stand in the track before us to that finish line. Like a farmer, we must do our work in every season and then wait patiently until we see growth. It takes time to regain strength from the trauma of abuse, hurt, neglect, pain, and torment caused to us. But if we stop working in the treatment, if we stop working toward the goals set before us; we may lose everything we have fought, trained, ad worked hard for.
Recovery, or regaining strength from the trauma is a process. There will be times when we grow weary, and want to throw in the towel. We will experience pain, fear, and a host of other emotions. We will win some battles, but lose others in the war to achieve a sense of wholeness. We may get discouraged at times when we can't see any progress, even though we have been working hard. But if we perservere through it all, we can maintain the ground we have gained.
When we were born, we were born not with a spirit of fear; yes, we may have had physical fear, such as when the loud thunderstorm cracked and pierced the air as were settling into a nice long slumber. But we were not born with a spirit of fear, however; it was the evil of this world that caused us to gain fear....the hurts, the humilities , the sufferings, the torments, the abuses, the neglects. Those were the physical things; and although nothing can turn back the hands of time on those troubling things; we can regain a sense of balance in the spirit of the One that is greater than us, that can provide us with comfort. We can regain a sense of well being in the uplifting of the power of the God, the love of God, and of sound mind through Him when he eases our Spirit. We can regain a sense of well being in the uplifting of this power through the community of other believers, and support systems that are eager to help produce a revolution in our lives. It is through the support of programs such as PSR ( psychosocial-rehabilitation ) groups or PACT ( Program of Assertive Community Treatment ) groups that we are able to regain balance. It is through individual therapies, and group therapies that we are able to cross those hurdles with ease. Dont be afraid, for God has not given us a Spirit of fear. Reach out for help, it's not too late! Your pains-no matter how deep, the abuse, accident, or wartime terror that led to PTSD; it was not your fault.
When we are able to jump pass those hurdles on the track toward the finish line, which is endless, because there is so much life that lays before us; we are able to look beyond into new horizons, with renewed hope and endurance. Just as a runner gains a second wind as he runs, we too gain that second wind, and are able to go well beyond what we ever thought possible. And then we can look back with a trophy or medal of achievement, which is that power, love and sound mind...we too, the become advocates, for new beginnings in the lives of others. Advocates for healing, and change; the change just as we saw in our lives. AMEN
Psalm 55:22 ( Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved )
Sounds simple right, just cast your burdens upon the Lord and he will sustain you; but what happens when we're in the middle of a crisis and the whole world seems to be collapsing around you. What happens when the flashbacks seem so intense that you feel like cutting, or drinking; what happens when the nightmares and terrors persist and you feel like giving up and taking a handful of pills?
When we are dealing with the effects of PTSD and trauma, it is important to realize that nothing of the abuse was our fault. If you witnessed bloodshed and violence on the battlefront, you weren't responsible, you were a hero protecting the values of freedom. If you witnessed a death, it it was not your fault, it was their time to go and things happen for a reason beyond our control. If you witnessed a crime, it wasn't your fault, you were an innocent bystander.
PTSD is a disorder that some people develop after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event; whether that be war, sexual assault, crime, physical violence, a death, natural disaster, or an accident. It's natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Anyone can develop PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, about seven or eight of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
There is help available for trauma and PTSD survivors.
Just like young children, when we saw a scary shape or figure at Halloween, or at any point in the year; we ran to our gaurdians, and most likely they protected and guarded us. When we were a child and had a scrape or a cut after a fall, we may have shed several tears and ran to our guardians, who in turn eased our pain and treated the wound; and we felt better and went about our playful routines. As an adult, when we get sick with a debilitating cold or flu, we go to the doctor, who will most often give us something to treat the symptoms and help us to feel better. When we had an accident or terrible fall and broke a wrist, for example, we went to the emergency room; where we were put through a battery of xrays and other tests to determine how best to set the break. In all these examples, neither the guardian nor the doctor would let us leave without feeling at least somewhat better.
There is help available for trauma and PTSD survivors.
There are local counselling agencies available whose desire is to help bring the wounded soldiers heart, or battered victims mind, or shocked, mourning and bereaved persons life back into balance. There are treatments available such as EMDR ( Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ), PHP ( Partial Hospitalization Program ), IT ( Individual Therapy ), and group therapies for example to help bring back a sense of stability. Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you, you can go to a Higher Power for all your needs, and he or she will sustain you if you only believe and have faith. No, you can't physically see your Higher Power, just as you can't see the wind; but you know it exists. We know that therapists, physchologist, and physchiatrists exist to help us through the burden of PTSD; and althouh we may not see change happen overnight in our growth and stability, we know that these people will do all they can to sustain us through their gifts and talents of education and enrichment in the field.
It will take time to overcome the trauma, but our providers, and those who really care about our well being and recovery which may include friends, family, and support systems; will do all they can to never let us be moved from the unique and beautiful creation as a whole we were born to be. Our core was untarnished and unblemished; it was only through the effects of this world, that that happened. And our core can be beautified again.
Reach out in a crisis if you need to, you're not alone. 1-800-273-TALK ( 8255 )- The National Suicide Prevention Line
www.nami.org - National Alliance Mental Illness
911- emergency services
Call your doctor or counsellor
www.mhanational.org- Mental Health America
Galatians 6:9 ( And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. )
I visited my mother and father during the wet summer season of 2019, when many fields of northern Missouri were flooded and overtaken by the mighty Missouri River. Many farmers lost their crops that they had worked so hard for, as they were inundated by flood waters and washed away with the sweeping current of the river. From what I had heard on the news, further north into the plains of Iowa and Nebraska, much was the same story; crops were flooded and washed away. Farmers had worked so hard and in just a short period of time, things turned to disaster. Over the years, this same thing has taken place time and time again; and yet, the farmers remained to maintain the ground year in and year out. Some years a wonderful harvest was reaped, and some years, a terrible tragedy of a flood struck the plains and wiped out the crops in what seemed like an instant over all the work they have put in those years.
Why did the farmers remain? Why did they not move to higher ground and more stability in securing a harvest? Surely they were exhausted by planting seed, seeing it grow and then seeing it wash away with the mighty Missouri or Mississippi! Why did they not give up?
The answer, this was their land; and they had faith in each new year, in each new crop that they planted- that something was going to come of it. Yes, they could've given up; however, they worked so hard to secure and maintain the land that they call their own. This land was their homestead, and they were determined to rebuild and never give up. They might have grown "impatient" of the floodwaters, and wondering when they could resume work; but they teamed together with other farmers and neighbors to build dams and barricades. They teamed together with others to provide saftey nets and shelters from the storms; they teamed together with others to help in the rebuilding process after the waters had gone down. They didn't give up. They may have grow physically weary, but internally, they were determined not to let the weather hold them down from living. They banded together.
That's one of the things Ive often noticed about living on the plains of Oklahoma, is that when disaster strikes, help is always there to bring the community back into breath. Noone gives up, noone grows weary; they band together for a common good.
When we need help from our internal disasters such as trauma, depression, or anxiety; it is important to know that we are not alone. There are other people around us who have been where we have been, and whose desire is to help us through those rough times. There are other people such as counsellors, therapists, case managers, doctors, pyschiatrists, pyschologists, physicians; whose desire is to help build the dams and barricades against the flood waters and torrents of our lives. Friends, acquantances, pastors; they are all there too. The important thing is that we do not grow weary of doing good. Doing good does not mean being an angel, it means carrying the values of such as forgiveness and compassion in our daily lives when others seek to harm or destroy us. It means to show the spirit of our Higher Power when faced with cirucmstances that we don't understand or are out of our grip. It means to show common love to our brothers and sisters of the one most High, knowing that by doing so, in due season- when we maintain this attitude- we will overcome the torrents faced before us, if we dont give up.
We, as trauma and PTSD survivors know, that it's not an easy road; but we weren't gauranteed tomorrow, however. We are only gifted with this day, and if we have to take care of the floods that stand before us, we have to take it a day at a time. That begins with the most important thing, ourselves; so seek out those agencies or other survivors who yearn to help you through the tough waters. Seek out the self-care such as eating and sleeping well in whatever form that may be; if that means going to others. Once again, there are others who have been where we have been. Jesus fought our battles, so that we may be free, so that we may not grow weary, for in due season, we will overcome, if we do not give up! Remember, as a trauma or PTSD survivor, you're not alone!
Luke 2:11 "The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem."
When we think about Christmas, the first symbol we often think about is naturally the Christmas Tree. A Christmas Tree perhaps decorated in garlands of red, green and white; with ornamental balls hanging from the branches magnifying the strands of lights which twinkle and flash. Yet, in my mind, I am also reminded of the first Christmas tree which was not pre-lit or artificial; it was a tree that had one light on it, the light of the world. It was the original Christmas tree that set us free, yes, the cross. The cross will always be my “Christmas tree” because it reminds me of Christ, who came to this earth for the purpose of giving His life upon that tree.
Luke 2:11 tells us that “The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem.” The angel told the shepherds that they would find a baby. The angel didn’t say “God is giving you a baby”; no, the message was, “I am giving you a Savior”. The whole reason for Christmas is that we all needed a Savior, not a baby. The gift God gave the world was not just a simple baby born in a manger, but a Savior who would come to fix the broken lives of the people God loves. Lives are broken because of sin, but repaired because of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
We are like ornaments around the original Christmas tree, everyone of us has been a broken ornament as some time. A precious ornament of Gods creation, yet broken because of sin. Rejoice this Christmas because of Christ on the original Christmas Tree we are no longer broken.
There are doctors, physicians, case managers, counselors and therapists- and our own friends, just to name a few- who have come before us to lay a bridge across the canyon that separates us from trauma and PTSD, depression and anxiety, and a multitude of other diagnosis’s. We are not defined by our diagnosis, we are rather defined by that beautiful creation, the beautiful ornament that we are. It was the trauma and anxiety that locked us up for months and years, it is the symbol of the bridge that we can look at through these workers, who can bring us back to a sense of life. It is through programs that promote stability an independence such as group rehabilitations and support groups; that we are able to cross the canyon of vast uncertainty into new possibilities. It is through peer support mentors and recovery support specialists- people who have been in similar shoes as ours, whose desire is to bring about a sense of encouragement and revitalization to our lives; through their identity as a survivor just as we are.
We are not simply someone with the name we’ve been given, but rather like a beautiful ornament that clings to the tree, clings to hope, clings to the cross, clings to Christ Jesus- who came as a human baby, just like us over two thousand years ago. Then gave his life upon the Christmas tree ( the cross ) so that we may have rebirth; and that cross ( tree ) is what bridges us across the canyon. So no matter what you may be going through, know that there is always hope, and that you’re never alone. AMEN