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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Jesus Addresses the Cycle of Abuse

I love it when people ask me questions regarding the Bible and theology. It forces me into research mode and I am always blessed by what I learn. Today, I was asked about Matthew chapter 18. Indeed, it is intense!

Quick Review: In chapter 18, Matthew tells the story of the disciples arguing about who is the greatest and Jesus calling them out. He pulls aside a child and uses said child as an object lesson. 

whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Then Jesus amps it up a bit and issues a warning to those who would cause a child to sin. 

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Just in case it wasn’t clear how serious Jesus is about this topic, He ties it up with, 

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.


My first question was, “Why does Jesus transition from ‘the least of these’ to ‘cutting off your foot is better than sinning with it’?” As any good theologian would, I looked to see if the other Gospel writers recorded these words. Sure enough, versions of this story are also recorded in Mark and Luke. Do they all follow the same pattern and include all parts of this teaching?

Mark is close. Most of the pieces are there but an additional story (if they are not against us, they are for us) is sandwiched in between. 

Luke includes only the first part in a grouping of stories. He also includes the “if they are not against us, they are for us” teaching.

The one thing all three Gospel reports have in common is the timing of this teaching. This conversation happened when they stopped for a breather in Capernaum.  A very significant event had occurred just a few days before. While Peter, James, and John were hanging out with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, the other disciples tried – unsuccessfully – to provide deliverance for a man who had been strongly demonized since he was a young boy.

You can imagine, after years of effective ministry, the disciples were confused when they could not cast out the spirit. Then Jesus showed up with Peter, James, and John and did what they could not. It is not a surprise that this incident led to a discussion about who is the greatest.

Recognizing that the intense teaching in Matthew 18 follows on the heels of this deliverance story brought me to a new revelation. Taken as a whole, I believe Jesus is specifically addressing abuse here. Possibly child abuse, but likely abuse against any of His children.

For those of you familiar with deliverance work, how many children have you encountered (or even heard of) who were this severely demonized without having been a victim of some form of abuse? I know of none. And, whether the disciples realized it or not, I don’t think this detail was lost on Jesus. I think His heart was broken over one who had been tormented at such a young age.

While the disciples were busy worrying about who was the greatest, Jesus was mourning the reality of abuse in this world.

The crux of the Cycle of Abuse is power and control.

Jesus addressed this cycle brilliantly. He turned the abuse cycle on its head by using a child to illustrate how status is achieved in the kingdom of Heaven. Whereas the Cycle of Abuse makes others “low” in order to make the abuser feel powerful, Kingdom Power is gained when we make ourselves “low”.

Just in case current or potential abusers are tempted to minimize this teaching, Jesus ups the ante. If they continue causing harm, they should be forcefully stopped (drowning with a millstone around one’s neck), or the body part that causes them to “stumble” should be cut off. 

I am not suggesting that we go out and starting drowning abusers or cutting of body parts. Indeed, our job is to find the power to forgive them (release them from our own judgement and trust God to follow through with His discipline).

I am suggesting that God is not ignoring the abuse so many have suffered. Through Jesus words, He acknowledged it must happen in this world but did not condone it, “Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

Jesus did not, nor does He now, take abuse lightly.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ms. Bossy-Pants

This blog originated as a Facebook Live post.

I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 12. A familiar chapter for many of us, though possibly not as familiar as chapter 13. In this chapter, Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts and how they work together. He calls the Church the body of Christ and asserts that every member of the body is important.

As a counselor, my thoughts on spiritual gifts soon turned to thoughts on personality traits. While many of our personality traits are shaped by our early environment, we are born with many of them in our DNA. Anyone who has raised (or even been around) siblings can attest to how different they are from birth. For example, I have a brother who was given up for adoption at birth. We reunited with him when I was in my early 20s and, though he had never before met the rest of the family, we shared many family traits. His wife even wrote a poem about how it was so clear that some of his traits (physical and personality) were a result of shared DNA.

Our personality traits are not inherently good or bad. We know that God created and shaped us as individuals and we are all important. There are bad habits and unhealthy choices and patterns but not a bad personality. As with so many other things, it is all in how it is used. Our personality can be used for amazing Godly things or that same personality can wound, divide, and bring all kinds of destruction into the world.  

Let’s be still for a moment and reflect on the fact that, whether we like who we are right now or not, we are valuable. What God has placed in you is valuable. What God has placed in me is valuable. Sometimes, we need to be still and just take a moment to remember that we are created with purpose and we are gifted with blessing.

 I recently attended a writers’ conference where I was blessed to learn from the lead editor of The Upper Room, a devotional magazine. She used the word didactic. Isn’t that a fun word? She said, “I am a teacher and therefore I am quite didactic.”

My initial thought was, “I'm going to have to go home and look that word up I don't even know what it means.” 

She continued, “That means that I come across as bossy”

I know what that word means! She spoke about how our bossiness can show up in our writing. Now, if one is a personable speaker, one might be able to get with a little bossiness.  When we write, however, bossiness can work against us. It creates a divide between author and reader that does not necessarily need to be there. She warned us to be wary of the use of the word “you”.
Now, I know that I am bossy. Anyone who has known me for long knows that I can be bossy. I decided I had better go through my latest manuscript and check for “you”. The first section of the manuscript is on Grace. It is all about helping people see how important it is that we love one another and are willing to share the burdens of those in our community. How we must walk with people through their failures. This chapter was designed to bring us together – and it was full of “you”. 

Ugh! I campaign against the “us vs them” mentality and yet I had used language that created a similar divide – in my chapter on Grace! 

As I mentioned before, I am a bossy person. If I see a child misbehaving, I am likely to discipline them. Yes, someone else's child. (In my defense, I try not to do it in an obvious way but more like, “I see that you're hitting little Susie let's come over here and play with blocks instead.”) I use the excuse that I was a teacher for so long. In truth, I would probably do the same thing even if I had never been a teacher. This is part of the personality God knit together in me. If I walk into a room and no one is directing traffic, I default into a traffic director. It's innate in me.

And while it is a character trait that I sometimes need to reign in, it is also a valuable part of who I am. I'm learning that my bossiness is not something to cause shame. I shouldn't have to say, “I'm a horrible person because I'm a bossy person.” Granted, if I'm bossing people around to get my own way that's not healthy or helpful. If my bossiness results in others not being heard or if it strong-arms people into doing things they do not want to do, it needs to be called out and reigned in. 

But somebody has to direct traffic, right? 

We need bossy people in the world! We need individuals who can get us all moving in the same direction. Individuals who are willing to step out and say, “I need you to get up and take care of xyz.” 

I understand that not everyone reading this is a Ms. Bossy-pants (or Mr. Bossy-pants). As Paul explained to the Corinthians, we all represent different parts of the body and we need to celebrate those differences. Each of us are treasured in the kingdom of God. 

As with my bossiness, we each have traits that need to be reined in from time to time, but let’s not allow that knowledge to paralyze us. It is nearly impossible to steer a ship that is not moving. Let’s move forward with authenticity and confidence in who God created us to be. If we have grace for ourselves and one another, He will be faithful to steer us.

Postscript: About a week after I released this video on Facebook, I ministered at a women’s retreat. I shared my struggle with being a Ms. Bossy-pants with a few of the ladies. On the last evening, I felt led to pray over one of the attendees from the front. It was one of those times when authority just flows and you know that God is behind the blessing He has asked you to impart. As I prepared to leave the property, one of the ladies I had shared with earlier stopped me and said, “I saw Ms. Bossy-pants tonight. She is powerful. Please don’t keep her locked up.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

End of Year 2013

It is hard to believe 2013 is almost complete.  We are in the midst of the beautiful Christmas season and preparing for the breath of newness we are offered as we treasure the memories of the past year and prepare to create new ones.

2013 has been a year full of transition, as you all already know.  From graduate student to Family Life Pastor to an attempt to start a counseling ministry at Bluewater.  I feel that all areas have been blessed.  I successfully graduated and began seeing clients outside of the academic umbrella.  The Family Life ministry position was passed off to Sauni Wickstrom who has already expanded it far beyond my borders.  And I just recently found out that Bluewater Mission is going to keep me on as the Counseling Ministries Pastor.  I will continue to see individual clients and we will jumpstart seven different groups under the umbrella of Deepwater Counseling in early 2014.

I was blessed (through frequent flyer miles and some hotel help from my niece Meg) to attend the 2013 ISSTD Conference (  It was an intense 6 day adventure.  The first 3 days I received training from ASCH (American Society of Clinical Hypnosis,  I have already contacted certain members of my small group from that training for consultation purposes.  The entire conference was rich and I will listen again to the trainings online.  Probably the largest benefit, though, was the personal resources.  Other than a doctoral student, the individuals in my small group carried years of trauma experience.  Such a treasure to have them to call on!

A quick note on the hypnosis training.  It was in clinical hypnosis, not stage hypnosis.  There are many differences.  I help people dial down pain and anxiety.  I do not make them cluck like a chicken!

I hope all is well with you and yours.  I love it when your updates come in!  Please continue to pray for me and Deepwater Counseling in 2014. 

In fact, prayers for Bluewater Mission, in general are much appreciated.  In addition to officially kicking off Deepwater Counseling (where I see clients on a donation basis), Bluewater is set to open our justice restaurant, Seed, in late January or early February.  There are still many details to come together, but we excited to launch this venture. For those of you who do not know.  Seed will be a "farm to table" restaurant and will serve as a venue to develop job skills (and start a resume) for some of our trafficked survivors, people recovering from addictions, and others who may need a similar jump start into the work force.  There are so many exciting things happening!!

If, by chance, you would like to make a lovely, tax deductible, year end donation to help support these ministries, please feel free to stop by and go to the "Contact" page.  There is a link there to donate.  You can specify your donation toward a particular ministry or just keep it simple and make a general donation.

Merry Christmas and may your New Year be full of blessing!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prayer For Our Leaders

It is no secret to those who know me well that current politics rub me the wrong way.  I do not believe all good Christians are Republican (or that Obama is the equivalent of the anti-christ) nor do I believe that Democrats have the recipe for solving all the problems of our nation.  I liked Bush.  I like Obama.  Please don't let those last two comments cause your head to explode. 

God and I have been chatting a bit lately about how to pray for our leaders and our country.  The first convicting thing God brought to mind was Jesus teaching that when we pray, we are not to do it from a place of arrogance, but from a place of brokenness and humility.  (Luke 18:11)  I do not want to be a Pharisee on a street corner.

Below, you will find a prayer written from my heart.  Even as I type it, my heart cries out in brokenness and hope.  I share it because I think prayers like this might make a difference.  My words aren't magic.  Your's are probably better.  But maybe - if God's children cry out to Him in humility, we will see changes in a system that sometimes seems too far gone to fix.  I told God that I plan to put aside time at least once a week to cry out, in the attitude demonstrated below.  I don't know for how long - maybe for as long as I am a living American - maybe until I feel a prompting elsewhere.  Feel free to join me.  Maybe my words will strike a chord with you.  Maybe God will impress on you completely different ones.

Father God,
As one broken and fallen, I cry out to You for our leaders and our country.  In my own heart, I have seen fear and desire for security overrun the place where faith should be.  I have made decisions based on how I felt the world would perceive me instead of on my identity established in You.  It is Your grace that has kept me afloat.  You bless me with whispers of faith when fear looms near.  You carry me when my strength to stand is used up in futile worry and search for acclaim.

I pray God, that this same grace be extended to my leaders.  From my pastors and teachers on up to the President of the United States.  Father, would you also whisper words of faith to them as they fight - on a larger level than I - the temptation to "sell out" in order to gain or maintain position or power.  As they combat voices of deceit, please bless them with wisdom.    Give them strength to stand, even when financial backers threaten to remove support.  Teach them how to see themselves through Your eyes.  Lead them on a path that would remove the blinders of this world and allow them to see what You see.

As I strive to replace the fear that taints the walls of my mind, my home, and my church with faith, I pray that somehow you will allow that to be reflected in the walls of our government buildings.  Please take my feeble attempts to conquer fear (and my striving for security) as an intercession. 

We are broken, Father.  Come make us whole.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Taipei Trip

If you read the post, "JapanTrip", this is part 2.  We spent the 1st half of the week in Tokyo and the 2nd half of the week in Taipei.

Pete and Esther Hsu left Bluewater Mission for Taipei almost a year ago.  Pete was offered a job there and Esther started teaching English as a 2nd language some time after they arrived.  On the site, Esther has been starting a Sozo ministry.  It has gone through a few different stages.  Currently, Esther and Heather (the pastor's wife) lead Sozo sessions, as the need arises.  Our mission in Taipei was to equip those around Esther and Pete with some Sozo training and help lay a foundation for inner healing in general.  Because the training went for a day and a half, we were only able to do 3 ministry sessions outside of the teaching time.  Still, this made for very full days on Friday and Saturday.  Sunday we had time to attend church and then head for the airport, but little else.

Our time in Taipei was quite different than our time in Tokyo.  We still started each day with a "power breakfast" at McDonalds.  Those were times for us to get started on the same page and share (sometimes discover) what we felt God was saying to us individually.  The first thing we noticed was that, spiritually, Taipei felt much lighter than Japan.  The oppression was no where near as heavy.

This was the first time that I have taught with an interpreter.  That was an experience!  I hadn't realized how difficult it is to keep your train of thought when you are stopping every sentence or so for the translator.  After the first hour or so, we seemed to get into a groove and it seemed easier to keep the flow.  Thankfully, I had an interpreter who was familiar with Sozo and inner healing lingo.  There were a few times when my choice of wording gave her cause to pause.  I still chuckle when I think of the "sexual sin" teaching.  She looked at me and said, "Sexual sin . . . . how can I translate that?"  She said something in Chinese and then looked at me and said, "There, that sounds better."  LOL  I knew that I was breaking all kinds of cultural taboos with that part of the teaching!  It needed to be done, though, and the class took it all in stride.  Some of them even nodding as I talked about intimacy attachments.

We did not make it through all the slides I had prepared, but I think I left their brains (and hopefully spirits) quite full.  We stopped often to do breakout groups and practice the things I was teaching.  My heart soared as I saw them practicing their new skills on each other.

The first night that we were in Taipei, I had dreamed about unforgiveness, bitterness and division.  After talking with Monika at one of our power breakfasts, I realized that God had been revealing that those were "familiar" spirits over the region.  I felt the division pretty strongly and observed it manifesting in a variety of ways in just a few hours.  With that in mind, we started off Saturday by circling up with Pete, Esther, Jeff (the pastor), Heather (his wife), and Hsin-yi (our interpreter).  We made a symbolic show of unity before we did anything else.  As we went out to greet our class for a 2nd day, I decided we needed to do something with them to make a prophetic show of unity - not just doing something together, but incorporating our entire self into something - mind, body, and spirit.  I taught them sign language to a simple song and then I had them scream.  I gave them an example of how to do a releasing yell and then had them do one with me.  Esther later said that she had been surprised at my scream - she had never heard anything so loud come out of a human before.  hehe  I was surprised at how willingly the class participated.  Maybe my loud yell had left them a bit fearful of what would happen if they did not obey!  :-)  Having physically released our stress and any other "stuff" we may have been carrying, we worshiped together.  We did the sign language song first and then Pete led us in the rest of worship.  It was beautiful. 

Friday night, I gave an example of how to read into one's gift mix by looking at them and asking God.  They got to practice that on one another on Saturday morning.  Esther kicked off ministry time Saturday afternoon by giving a few prophetic words.  She's still got it!  Monika then stepped in and spoke over the crowd.  We then prayed impartation and release.

I don't have as many personal ministry stories in Taipei because we spent most of our time ministering in a group setting instead of one on one.  Our class had between 15-20 people in attendance.  Some of them had to come and go because of work.  They work a lot in Taipei.

Other fun notes about Taipei:
*Heather and I had a great conversation about dissociation and how it manifests.
*We spent Thursday night in a hotel as we needed some time to rest from Tokyo and prepare for the teaching time in Taipei.  (I also needed to finish my reading so I could do my online test!)  The hotel clerk informed us, as we checked in, that they were full and therefore "had to" give us a suite.  Wow!  It was huge and beautiful.  It was doubly nice because neither one of us had the energy to actually leave the room.  I took care of my homework and uploaded the first half of our pictures onto facebook.  Monika spent a little time catching up with Bill and her family.  Then we skipped dinner and both fell asleep between 6-7pm.  We were tired!
*We had a little adventure as we took the train into Taipei (we had stayed in Taoyuen) and then took a cab to meet Esther at her friends apartment.  We learned that we would be staying there while her friends went on a weekend outing.  It was huge!  Three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  As we were talking about this later, I realized that our living arrangements reflected the work we had to do in each area.  In Tokyo, our space was small and focused - so was our mission.  In Taipei, our space was large and open.  Our training there seemed much more open.  We were giving people tools to use within themselves or in their ministry.  It was less focused on one or two specific goals and more like putting what we had out there and letting people take what they wished.  I am not sure how well that comparison communicates, but it makes a lot of sense in my head.  :-)
*We did one personal ministry session after the Saturday afternoon training session.  Then, around 7pm, we went out to dinner with Pete and Esther.  They took us out to something called "hot pot."  It was yummy.  I was limited on my choice of broth because of the whole "no sea food" thing, but ended up with this tasty Mongolian spice broth.  It would have been a fun experience all on its own, but when combined with the release of knowing our ministry time it created a night I will never forget.  We laughed so hard during that dinner that Esther wondered if they had spiked my soup!  There is a picture in my facebook album where you can see Esther, Monika and I laughing by the ice cream container.  That stuff was frozen solid!!  Monika suggested taking the huge container over to the table and hovering it over our hot pot.  hehe
*Sunday morning was an adventure, in and of itself.  Heather came to pick us up and take us to church.  We loaded everything into the back and closed the hatch.  We then heard, to our horror, the locks latch.  The car was running and Heather's 4-year old daughter who has Down's Syndrome was locked in the car.  We prayed as we tried to find a way to communicate to Amelia how to push the button to open the window.  Before long, a neighbor called 1-1-9 (like 911 here) and we watched as an ambulance and fire truck pulled up.  They were getting ready to break out the window when another neighbor came out with a phone number for a locksmith.  All this time, I am standing next to the window reading books, singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle - doing anything I can think of to keep Amelia's attention so that she doesn't accidentally walk around and knock the car into gear.  The locksmith showed up and tried to use a "slim jim" type of device, but it didn't work.  So, he picked the lock.  :-)  We were so happy!!  It seemed a miracle that I, pretty much a stranger, had been able to keep Amelia's attention.  Also, the guy who pursued the locksmith talked to Monika and asked her if we were missionaries.  He shared that he was a Christian.  The entire neighborhood came out to see the commotion.  I am not sure how God will use that incident, but I am sure He will.

After the drama, we made it to church (only a half hour late) and got to be a part of the 2nd half of worship.  It was beautiful.  Pete led.  (I always love it when Pete leads worship!)  As if the worship was not enough, we got to hear the testimony of one of the men who is leaving the church to spend some time in Canada.  He had been at the Sozo training, but I hadn't had a chance to learn his story.  I heard it Sunday morning - and it was powerful!  I am impressed at how he is confident in following God through his pain and recovery process and how he is already dreaming with God for his return.  At the end, the entire church gathered around him to pray over him and send him off.  We got to hear testimony from one of the young kids who is living his life as kind of a missionary outreach in Taipei.  He is a young evangelist!  The entire service was like a family reunion with people sharing what God was doing and worshiping together.  It was beautiful.

This week seems like a blur.  It is hard to believe that in 7 days, Monika and I were in 3 countries, led 15 ministry sessions, 11 hours of teaching, numerous prayer walks, 21 hours in the air, 8 hours in airports, and met many people who grabbed ahold of our hearts.  Whew!  When do we get to do it again?  :-)