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  • Monica 12:11 pm on September 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Heartsick 

    “Thus I must contradict you when you go on to argue that men are completely unable to do without the consolation of the religious illusion, that without it they could not bear the troubles of life and the cruelties of reality…Perhaps those who do not suffer from the neurosis will need no intoxicant to deaden it.” Sigmund Freud

    Sigmund Freud, like many of us, faced human suffering. After losing his nine-year-old daughter he found it difficult to believe that there could be a loving Father that would allow such egregious suffering. His heartsick remedy was a concoction of neuroscience exploration and cocaine. Although we can be appreciative of his psychoanalysis method and the further study it provoked regarding the human mind, we cannot look to Freud for a healthy heartsick remedy.

    As one who has had the “Sprite & Saltine Cracker” days of despair, I can tell you that there is no relief until you tackle your own view of suffering. In my experience, it begins with more questions than answers and requires a level of transparency that feels painfully naked. And, just like in Job’s day, cliché answers given by those standing fully erect breeds only mistrust.

    When Eden was a toddler she had to get a shot. As we walked into the doctor’s office she asked me, “Is it gonna hurt?” My answer back was honest, “yes.” My follow-up, of course, was “but only for a little bit, then you’ll get a sticker and a sucker and it will be all over.”

    I don’t like to suffer. And quite honestly, I’ve never fully mastered it. Has anyone?

    When my heart is deeply troubled, I only know to hang on to the larger story. The story of my heart’s redemption, the sacred purity of my tears, and the end to all pain and suffering.

    “I have told you theses things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus

     
  • Monica 7:34 pm on August 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    To Serve & Protect 

    It is an honorable role to be placed as someone held accountable to serving and protecting a person or a body of people. An honor that requires an intricate balance of power and sacrifice.

    “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton

    Maybe that’s why our Founders drew up documents to balance the distribution of power and then kindly place us all under God. I can only assume they were responding to a history of seeing power exploited and feeling the catastrophic fall out.

    Jesus balanced power by not considering himself the source, but more a conduit or a deliverer of power. He claimed to do absolutely nothing without his Father; yet historically, Jesus is considered to be one of the most powerful humans to have walked. His recorded miracles alongside his lasting impact on the masses after his walk are more talked about than any other historical figure that has lived.

    His followers, Christians, have varying reputations. Some people have had a good experience with them. They’ve been fed by them, clothed by them, and taken in by them when they found themselves down and out. Others have been rejected by them, called names by them, and public humiliated by them. Regardless of their actions, these followers have been commanded to love and to serve people sacrificially with their words and deeds. Christ himself left all Christians a “code” in which to live by.

    Honor isn’t a title on a uniform or a verse on a t-shirt. Honor is a virtue bestowed upon the individual that authentically lives up to the “code” of the title. Our society houses honorable Christians and dishonorable Christians, honorable parents and dishonorable parents, honorable politicians and dishonorable politicians, and lastly honorable policemen (and women) and dishonorable policemen (and women).

    To those courageous individuals who have chosen to serve and protect and live according to a sacrificial “code.” Thank you.

     
    • David Cochran 11:38 pm on August 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Love this reflection. Timely to say the least. Yet always relevant. Love this: “Honor is a virtue bestowed upon the individual that authentically lives up to the ‘code.'”

      As followers of Christ — what a code we’ve been given to follow!

  • Monica 10:43 pm on July 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Bury it by the Tree 

    Grief. Something you treasured or someone, buried.

    When I was fourteen my cousin was killed in a car accident after leaving my house. Even at forty-two, I can still visualize the tree she was buried by that harsh October. Tears still make their way to my eyes as I recall leaving my secret keeper, treasured friend, and part of my family under the foliage of that tree.

    My grief was tangible. The heartache had a name, “death.” And over the years, the sadness and what ifs associated with that grief were talked about plainly with my forever Confidant, Christ.

    If only everything we buried and grieved could be this cut and dry. We’d bury, we’d grieve, then we’d talk to someone, who loved us relentlessly, about it and feel comforted – maybe even hopeful that it had purpose or meaning.

    Abuse is different. Whether it is sexual, physical, or emotional, it is typically much harder to name and infinitely more difficult to bury. And most of my clients, myself included, try to bury it way before we ever name or address it. We are really just burying the way abuse has made us feel.

    We pray and will ourselves to stop feeling those companion feelings of fear, anger, and sadness. Bury. Dig, like mad, and bury. Our heartache, the happenings of our story, should automatically be buried as well, right? If we can’t feel the abuse aren’t we over it? The storybook closed? Healed?

    Unfortunately, we haven’t been designed to respond like that. “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt” (John Green).

    To bury pain, you have to know your story. Whether through writing, support group, or one-on-one friendship – the story gets a name and an audience.

    Buried by the tree that Jesus hung on is my deepest pain of treasured innocence stolen, my sensitive heart that harbored cruel words and put downs, and my unmet ideals in this world.

    Buried. Grieved. Walked away loved and free.

    “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NLT).

     

     

     
  • Monica 10:40 pm on May 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Unlikely Songs 

    Anyone out there remember Rich Mullins? If I had to guess his personality profile, I’d place him as a Melancholy. Not sure that Nashville knew what to do with a Melancholy singer/songwriter for the Faith. The late Rich was a far cry from the 90’s upbeat gospel songs.

    I loved Rich Mullins. He got us music lovers asking questions. Like why do we hide our hurting hearts behind cheesy smiles and Christian sayings? Do we hurt less because we are Christians? No, our hope doesn’t diminish human misery or pain. Let’s be honest, sometimes we might be tempted to hurt even more because we have misplaced expectations that life with Jesus is a life without hurts.

    Although Rich pioneered authentically painful lyrics to a culture that had adopted a Jesus equals happy mentality, he didn’t pioneer the idea that followers of God experience pain and suffering and write about it.

    “I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
        Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
    When I told my story, you responded;
        train me well in your deep wisdom.
    Help me understand these things inside and out
        so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
    My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
        build me up again by your Word.
    Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
        grace me with your clear revelation.
    I choose the true road to Somewhere,
        I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
    I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
        God, don’t let me down!
    I’ll run the course you lay out for me
        if you’ll just show me how.”

    Psalm 119:25-32, MSG

    Right now I could write one grateful, thankful song after another, but I have not been promised to feel this way tomorrow or the next day. And quite honestly, like many of my closest friends right now, it only takes a phone call or a “discovery” to be brought to my knees. I know.

    When I was younger I offered a huge smile and a happy song to my friends in pain. I wish I could take them all back. There’s a Proverb that agrees with me.

    But now I’m older and I’ve learned to sing an unlikely song in our circles, the song of honesty. God can handle our emotions, Jesus revealed that. If we walk closely, we can also handle those around us having emotions – the full spectrum. And we don’t have to lie and tell each other that Jesus never intended for us to hurt, so the enemy is badgering or causing grief again.

    Let’s acknowledge the harshness of each other’s reality sometimes and encourage the truth. Sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we recommended and sometimes we question our circumstances or those around us, but we all know that God is God and we are not. So we hurt, hold each other, and remind ourselves that if nothing good is born on earth from our pain, that our souls are born again.

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  • Monica 4:59 pm on May 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Professional Sweethearts 

    Yesterday I had an interesting thing happen. Our Admin was out and one of the other professors at OKWU asked if I would inform her of the copies that he was needing. I promptly got up from my desk and said, “I’ll do it, what do you need?”

    He stepped back appearing to be flabbergasted. “Oh no, I could never ask you to do that.”

    What?! This kind of thing never happens to me in an office environment. I have a theme of experiences of being exploited for being “too nice” or “too sweet.” Being a graduate of distinction, an author, or founder of a non.profit has typically not mattered. The sweet girl gets placed politely on the bottom rung of the respect ladder (at least that’s what I’ve witnessed until now).

    And honestly, most times, I have let it roll off like a duck because I can’t say that I care too much. When older, more seasoned professional women would try to make me do silly, humiliating things to make themselves feel better, I usually acknowledged in my own head what was happening and labeled it a “chink” in their professional armor.

    But when other sweet, sweet women tell me their stories…it’s then worth blogging about, and at least asking the question, “why?”

    Like why, when my friend who graduated summa cum laude, owned her own PR business, and traveled around the states with several athletic teams sits at the front desk to cover a lunch or an absence, is she treated like she’s ignorant?

    Soapbox Moment: Sweet, kind women are NOT less intelligent than those who use harshness and bullying to claw their way up to the throne of queen bee.

    Values are values. Beliefs are beliefs. Professionals are professionals.

    Regardless of what job I’m doing, my disposition is a mandate and guided by my belief system. I worship and proclaim a God that is counter to our culture and deems love a force that supersedes all other forces here on earth. He also defined it as patient, kind, gentle, not lacking self-control, and dismissing offenses (even those that take place in the office).

    Now, obviously, I don’t get this right every single day, but when I do, should I have a lower glass ceiling professionally because of my nature?

    Abandoning the disposition for respect could be a temptation against the faith, but ultimately, it just might be a form of persecution for those who proclaim the return of Christ. He did say “when you face trials” not “if.”

    Let’s be mindful of our beliefs and start asking ourselves what we believe about these qualities professionally.

     
  • Monica 8:09 pm on March 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Hurting with Virtue 

    We all hurt. And, even more disappointing, we all hurt. You can’t go through the human experience without being hurt and hurting others.

    Just last night I was remembering something that I had forgotten for decades that I needed to ask for forgiveness. When I was in sixth grade I had a sweet relationship with a sixth grade boy. We both loved sports and we decided to declare each other boyfriend/girlfriend. He was a good kid. Unfortunately, I was a hurting kid. The fear of his rejection took hold and I broke up with him in grandiose fashion. Looking back, it was mean. The root of my meanness was fear – an overwhelming fear of being hurt.

    I got hurt anyway. There is no great wall you can build around the human heart to keep hurt from creeping in. Our only defense is to learn how best to live with hurt.

    Like all tough life questions, I look to Jesus for answers. Hurt is not unique. He lived with multiple hurts – hurts of homelessness, hurts of betrayal, hurts of mistrust. Each recorded hurt, Jesus seemed to handle them through conversations with his Father. I assume that his conversations allowed him to express his grief and sorrow, but also allowed him to get wisdom on handling his perpetrator with love and grace. Maybe he asked his Dad to speak the same message he spoke to Joshua or to Jeremiah, a message of defense. Or maybe Jesus recited the truth of Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

    Regardless of what private conversations between Jesus and the Father took place, the results are recorded – hurting with virtue. He modeled how to hurt with complete and utter dignity. He modeled something so contrary to our human instinct. We want to strike back or explain ourselves, yet we only grapple with more hurt, more mud to be slung when we engage this way.

    We don’t enter the place of rest or the promised land by fighting our own battles. On the contrary, the harder we fight and the more we demoralize our opponents, the farther and farther we get from our defender. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14, NIV).

     

     

     

     
  • Monica 5:30 am on February 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Our Purchased Stories 

    This past weekend TrueStories, a storytelling ministry bridging people closer to Jesus, asked me to facilitate one of their Saturday retreats. I did, and like any of these types of events that I’ve been involved in, Jesus enlightened or brought out something in my own heart or life to consider.

    The women were all ORU chaplains, about fifty of them. All of them came prepared to make a story rope. A story rope is a trademarked idea that uses pieces of fabric to tell a person’s story – highlighted events that stand out to the individual.

    I made my story rope about three years ago. It has always been a mystery to me. First of all, my behavior as I made the rope was interesting. I found myself eating through it. In hindsight, withholding food or doing emotional eating is part of my story, so even the process was bringing out things about my life that I hadn’t even identified yet. Then, the fact that I used a bright red ribbon as the base for all of the other fabric (or symbolized life events) to be tied on. Why not a neutral? That’s my typical decorating sense. I start with a cream or white palate and go from there.

    But the morning of this retreat, as I drove the hour to get there, I reflected on the red. Why red? Jesus’ blood. My favorite color. Hmm…why red? Then my eyes started to water and clarity made way to a thought – Jesus bought my story. If I believe that I’m not my own and that I was bought with a price, then that must mean that my story belongs to Him.

    A little bit of fear mixed in with some relief hit me as I thought about sharing my story. The real story. The parts of victimization, and yet, also the undesirables where I acted less than my reputation. I doubt very seriously that King David was too thrilled about his adultery being an echoing story throughout thousands of years. But what if it hadn’t been told? Would we know how merciful God is to his kids and how we all have the opportunity to be men and women after his heart even after agregious rebellion to His goodness?

    Our stories matter. The real ones. And the crafted stories that make us look like small gods must disappoint Jesus. Because it is in the real stories that God is the hero, not us. Like when King David threw himself on the mercy seat in the temple and God forgave him and loved him. It’s in our real stories that bridges are built from man to God and from man to man. Connections go from pop-ons to welded joints when we tell the truths in our stories.

    My story isn’t as glamorous or as noble as I’d like it to be for public hearing, but my story has been purchased. It was purchased April 3rd in 2004. It was purchased by my Lord Jesus Christ after he gently guided me from the fetal position to his real story. His story was costly. And if I’m reading it correctly, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, NIV).

     
  • Monica 3:19 am on February 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    People & Places 

    Eleven women. A common thread. All together at a special place. Yet not one Facebook post. Why?

    Sacred ground.

    As I recover from the weekend of late nights that ran into the morning hours, my heart is still deeply connected to a group of women – a thread that runs deep. As each of us walked through the threshold of Creekside, our elaborate retreat site, the lift-off hugs and giggles created that sense of coming home. At Creekside, we all have stories. We are special people at a special place.

    Most of us have done something in our life that has garnered attention from others, but the attention we get with one another satisfies a deep longing of a woman’s heart – an eternal sisterhood.

    I never want to forget being camped out in luxury around the fire pit and underneath the stars. Or forget the hard laughs or musical melodies being busted out with hand motions. Don’t even want to forget the tough revelations about life and our faith in a fallen world.

    I want to hand the legacy off to my daughter and entrust her with the memories. And I want to hope that someday she is as blessed as I am to say that her most rewarding appearances were in a special place where she was made to feel special.

     
  • Monica 3:10 am on December 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Authentic Gospel 

    How many gospels can you name? The prosperity gospel, the health and wellness gospel, the radical gospel, the…(fill in the blank according to the movement) gospel. And each of these gospels can be summed up as a few blind men going in to touch a portion of an elephant. One touches the ear so his description is according to his touch, where as others touch the trunk or the tail. Each of the touches reveals a unique aspect of the elephant but never gives you the full perception of the enormous creature.

    We see in part, but someday those who dare to trust and follow their unseen Creator, will see Him in his glorious fullness. Not as a gospel, but as the greatest example of authenticity that the world has ever known. There is no falseness, no misperception, no manipulation in his demeanor or in his stride. He is, in fact, perfectly himself.

    The beauty of the story of Jesus is that he walked so close to his Father that he never responded to the world around him without consulting him. For those of you who love patterns, the pattern is based on trust not behavior reproduction. Jesus trusted his Father and also trusted himself in the hearing of his Father. He knew the difference between a whim and an instruction.

    The rich man needed to get rid of his money – roadblock for him. Yet, Peter opened the mouth of a fish to find money. The first miracle was water to wine, yet John the Baptist wouldn’t have touched it. Some of the healing done by Jesus happened instantly, yet for others it required an act or specific requirement.

    Do you follow a gospel, a story about Christ, or do you follow Christ? There’s a difference. I’ve been both.

    To know Him is to love Him, to trust Him, to trust that you know Him.

     
    • Rhonda 3:26 am on December 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great words Monica. Thank you for sharing. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could walk (earthly) as close to our Heavenly Father as Jesus did?

    • Monica 5:56 pm on December 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you Rhonda. I think that is suppose to be our goal. Humbling, isn’t it?

    • Sarah 3:45 am on February 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Monica, how beautiful – “..to trust Him is to trust that you know Him. Yes! Just had one of those ‘ohh I love that’ moments xx

  • Monica 5:40 pm on November 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Sunrise 

    If you’ve made it through a cold, dark night, you appreciate the hope of the sunrise. This kind of appreciation can’t be bought, it can’t be acquired, and it can’t be taught. You simply have to hunker down through the darkness and wait it out.

    Many people would consider Mother Teresa a symbolic figure of light for the people of world, but she too, had to contend with the dark night. In 1957, she wrote:

    “In the darkness . . . Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me?  The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one. The one — you have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer . . . Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.  Love — the word — it brings nothing.  I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

    As Christians, many of us wonder why we would ever have a dark night. But God did not promise an avoidance of darkness, He promised the hope of the sunrise. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, NIV).

    The endurance of our predecessors is frightening and inspiring. Frightening because they are men and women who had been raped, had their children murdered, lost everything financially, rejected publicly…dark night after dark night after dark night; but inspiring because they waited for the sunrise.

    Like many of you, I know dark nights, but today the sun has risen and the beauty of the multi-colored leaves blowing off the trees is not unappreciated. Right after the horrendous September 11, 2001 came September 12, 2001. That day was gorgeous in most parts of America. The sun in New York especially shined incredibly bright. The city, like us, had not been forgotten by God.

     
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