The Church, Satan, and Abuse

Sermon preached on Sep. 2, 2018

http://www.mediafire.com/file/bwg9jinbeejx7xq/Sermon_20180902_copy.m4a/file

Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace,  and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.  Pray for me, that the power to speak may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20 MEV

 

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Depression, Worship, and Liturgy

This past week I participated in a Twitter dialog with several people regarding: #abuse, #depression, #trauma, #mentalhealth. I so appreciated the other people who endured one or more of the situations, and who shared their insights, questions, concerns, and especially their care for one another.

I commented that I had to step away because the discussion was becoming a trigger for me regarding depression. Another commented that maybe a better word to use is reflection. As I thought about (reflected) that, I see a distinction between the two: trigger is not something I can control. It happens, there is a reaction. Reflection is something I can do to think about what happened.

Today as I was reflecting on that and the triggers, I also thought about how as a Christian, is there something long term that can help put all of the experiences (the trauma as well as the triggers afterward) into perspective? So I will try to explain what has been my life and at times my only consolation.

The Liturgical Life

For me, I have spent my entire 69 years (except one year) within a (Lutheran) liturgical church environment. Thus, while my parents didn’t worship, they made sure us boys were there or our grandparents took us. I had all three liturgies memorized before I started school (Divine service, Matins, and Vespers). When I dated my future wife, she belonged to a church within same church body. It has been part of our relationship for 51 years.

Some might see a problem commenting that it becomes “just routine,” no thinking or engagement necessary. For me, that has never been an issue. In fact, just the opposite. Regardless of the year, circumstances, challenges, devastation, the constancy of the liturgy was a welcome relief. The liturgy invites me to speak and sing with others; it became a way to be part of something that was not affected by my personal challenges. 

In the worst times, I would be there, not speaking or singing, but I was part of a group expressing and sharing (speaking and singing) the Christian faith in the fullness and breadth of life itself. To be in their presence was reassuring, comforting. Eventually I could join in again. Not because someone demanded it, but because the invitation throughout was a call to me to be part of the church, the broken, messy, church. And at that time I was really broken, messy.

The Christian and Lament

When I was recovering from my complete breakdown I had friends who encouraged me to go to a contemporary worship service, to “cheer me up.” They said that the liturgy and hymns were too “dry, stale, even depressing.” I attended a few months, but in reality, the “cheer me up music” lasted only a day or so. I went back to a liturgical service. And I was at home.

I realized that the hymnal provided the liturgical framework and the hymns that addressed all aspects of the Christian life. Yes, days of rejoicing (Easter!!), but it also encompassed days of repentance (Ash Wednesday) and days of mourning. 

Here is one example of a hymn that reached to the very depths of what I was experiencing.

“Lord Jesus, Think on Me”

by Synesius of Cyrene, c. 375-430
Translated by Allen W. Chatfield, 1808-1896

1. Lord Jesus, think on me And purge away my sin;
From earth-born passions set me free And make me pure within.

2. Lord Jesus, think on me With many a care opprest;
Let me Thy loving servant be And taste Thy promised rest.

3. Lord Jesus, think on me Amid the battle’s strife;
In all my pain and misery Be Thou my Health and Life.

4. Lord Jesus, think on me Nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity Point Thou the heavenly way.

5. Lord Jesus, think on me When floods the tempest high;
When on doth rush the enemy, O Savior, be Thou nigh!

6. Lord Jesus, think on me That, when the flood is past,
I may the eternal brightness see And share Thy joy at last.

7. Lord Jesus, think on me That I may sing above
To Father, Spirit, and to Thee The strains of praise and love.

Notice how the hymn writer from the early 5th century captured what I was enduring in the 21st century. This is not a musty, soon to be forgotten “happy song” but a deeply reverent, powerful, and encouraging hymn for the broken. 

Even the melody reinforces this. Here is a beautiful a cappella (shortened) version: 

https://youtu.be/NqQ1IPOIZwA

I have more to write about the relationship between depression, etc. and worship. This at least gives you a sense of how I appreciate the sometimes somber, sometimes, heavy sense of life and how worship expresses that for me.

Our prayers continue

When Winning Isn’t

Part 1

My father died in 1991. We had never been close. A family friend who had known my father from 1931 to 1991 said in 1993, “Your father was a hard man.” I knew that from a lifetime living with my father.

From my earliest recollections of my father, I never would describe our relationship in loving terms. I was in my early 20’s before he ever quietly said, “I love you.” Not much ever said after that. He was indeed a hard man. I respected him. But I have many memories of his volatile outbursts of anger. Thankfully, he never hit us boys. But fear was our common response to his anger.

Through the years of school, I did relatively well, consistently an honor student. My father never said a word of appreciation or congratulations. In sports I was far from a good athlete, but did well enough. Not a word from my father. That pattern continued through college, Naval service, commissioning, graduating from Naval Postgraduate School, and early selection to LCDR.

In 1961 I began learning to play guitar. My father had a 1934 Montgomery Ward guitar but never played it. That was my first guitar. Finger action was so bad that my fingers bled consistently for the first few months of playing. But I stuck it out. My father passively supported my attempt at playing.

Two brothers, my mother’s age, were superb guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin players. They began to invite me to sit in with them. I learned much about music and complementary styles blending with all instruments, and each session was a joy. My father and mother would drive me there every week. He seemed to enjoy, but he never said a word.

The lack of acknowledgement was discouraging, but I grew to expect nothing. By 1971 my wife and I began our moves as adults as I found work away from that part of the state. But each year we would drive home and get together with the two brothers, and often others joined us. It was always a highlight, and my parents were always there.

My father never said a word about whether he enjoyed it, but his expressions seemed to indicate he did.

Then 1983

In 1982 I entered seminary. My time was consumed with seminary studies, part time job, and raising two boys entering their teens, one of whom was beginning to cause major problems for us. Meaning, I had little time to keep up with my guitar playing, much to my dismay because I loved playing. I missed it.

In 1983 we went back home at the end of summer Hebrew. So we managed to contact the brothers and set a date to play. My parents also came. After an hour of playing, my lack of practice over the previous two years was evident, certainly to me and the brothers. But nothing was said, we were enjoying and reminiscing, and I was able to keep up with all of it. We still had fun.

That was when my father made his only comment ever on my playing. “Boy, you really are rusty, aren’t you?”

I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. For 33 years he had never said a positive word about anything I had done, especially my guitar playing. And now in one night he mentions my failure to play well in front of about 15 people, close friends. I swore that I would never let that happen again. For the next 8 years (until he died) I wasn’t going to risk another public humiliation. Hence I never played guitar in front of him. I wasn’t going to let him “win” this.

And I became the hard man.

So who won?

My father never mentioned my lack of playing again. Years after he died, my mother said he noticed that I never played. I began to tell my mother… and she stopped me, saying that she knew exactly when I stopped playing because she had heard my father as well. She cried that night (I didn’t know that).

So who won? Certainly not me. In the short run, I “won” because I never faced his public disapproval again. But my mother did not win because she loved my playing and missed it. And my father did not win, because he did like my playing but he could never say the words.

Part 2

From 1983 to 1989, our older son was getting into further trouble: drugs, stealing, etc. By spring 1988 we had asked him to leave the house (he had just turned 18). He was then arrested, and he spiraled out of control.
In 1989 my father and I began to have an uneasy but unspoken truce; we spoke politely, but nothing serious. My parents came to visit that summer. They had taken a day to travel to a larger city in that area to shop, etc. When they came home, my father was very different. They had seen and met our older son in that city.

In previous years, he had made comments about how disruptive teenagers could be. One time when I was about 11 years old, we had seen teenagers causing a few problems, but nothing out of hand. My father commented, “If you ever see kids acting that way, you can definitely blame the parents.” That assessment hung over my head when we adopted the boys in 1978. As it got worse, my memories of that comment intensified, causing me guilt and shame.

I had never seen my father shook up, raging anger, yes, but never this way. He spoke first: “I never realized how bad it has been for you these past years. I am so sorry.” And he had tears in his eyes, something I had never seen. He apologized, which I also had never experienced.

They visited two years later for our younger son’s high school graduation. They usually stayed two days because the altitude affected his breathing. But after two days he talked to my mother then asked me if they could stay another day or two because they enjoyed our time. We gladly agreed. And we did have a good time.

Three weeks later my father died. I am so thankful that our last time together was not clouded by all the distance, lack of words, lack of showing affection. When they left, he hugged me seriously and thanked me and said he loved me. How could I not also say the same thing? That’s all I wanted.

Who won then?

I think finally we all did: my father, my mother, me.
My only regret is that I didn’t play guitar for him and my mother. But we did mend a rift that had festered for 42 years. For that we all won.

I learned to say many things to my sons. No matter how bad our older son got, sometimes behind prison bars, I always, always told him I loved him. So also with our younger son when he deployed and was in combat, the last words he heard from me were “I love you.” So also my words to his wife and our grandchildren. There is no doubt that such will be the last words they hear me say: “I love you.”

And we all win!

I am sorry

Over the past five months I have offered prayers for those who had been sexually abused in the MSU/USAG/USOC scandals. My intent was to daily remember them before God.

Yet, I was just made aware that I had spelled the abuser’s last name incorrectly during that entire time. I have since corrected that error. I ask those who were affected for your forgiveness.

Prayer for Survivors —Part 9

As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.

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Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word.

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Day 124 Whitney Burns #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we lift up Whitney today as she lives in light of but beyond the trauma of abuse. Bring healing, hope, & growth. In the dark days reassure her of Your love. Bless her family as well as they provide care & support. IJN Amen

Day 125 Isabell Hutchins #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray for Isabell in all her needs, challenges, hurts. Bring grace to her in all relationships, strengthen her when she is weakest, love her when she might feel unlovable. May she speak & respond w/grace influenced by Your Word. IJN. Amen

Day 126 Meaghan Ashcraft #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors God, You invite us to bring our prayers before You. Today we ask for Your special love, support, mercy on Meaghan. Whatever is of greatest concern bring help and healing to her. Reassure her of Your love. Bless her family. IJN Amen

Day 127 Natalie Woodland #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors LordGod, grant Your blessings for Natalie as she copes w/ & grows through the abuse. Give her wise counselors, strong friends, intentional caregivers to supply all that she needs. Reaffirm Your love for in Jesus. IJN Amen

Day 128 Jillian Swinehart #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look w/favor on Jillian. You know her needs, hurts, desires. Grant her wisdom, strength, & mercy as she continues face the past, even more as she looks to the future. Heal her heart & grant her grace for all situations. IJN Amen

Day 129 Allison Chauvette #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, as Allison moves forward in life, grant her healing, strength, wisdom, & hope. Raise up people who can understand, care for, & speak into her life words of truth, courage, & love in Jesus. We pray for her family as well. IJN Amen

Day 130 Anna Dayton #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your mercy be evident to Anna. Strengthen her for each task & challenge. Be her Rock in all situations. Teach her even more about true love, true life, true friendship. Guide her steps, teach her Your ways in Jesus. IJN Amen

Our prayers continue
Psalm for the broken but not destroyed

Prayers for Survivors — Part 8

As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.

==============

Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word. 

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Day 108 Lauren Michalak #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Yourname. You invite us to pray for those in need. Today we pray for Lauren & her many needs. Altho we don’t know them You do. May You strengthen, comfort her, & guide her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 109 Vanasia Bradley #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving God, we bring Vanasia before Your throne of mercy. In the midst of her coping/healing grant her strength, courage, and focus. Bless her & her family w/love in all her needs. Give wisdom to those helping & loving her. IJN Amen

Day 110 Breanne Rata #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your blessings rest upon Breanne today. Surround her w/people who can support, love, and guide her. Give her wisdom as she moves forward. Strengthen her to meet all challenges w/grace and compassion. IJN Amen

Day 111 Erin McCann #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Look w/favor on Erin. You have given her voice to speak about & against abuse. Heal & protect her. Help her family stand strong w/her. May they all know love, compassion, & joy. Whatever her hurts, bring wholeness. IJN Amen

Day 112 Catherine Hannum #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today Catherine needs Your love and reassurance. Strengthen, comfort, & encourage her. Raise up people to speak words of hope. We pray for her family as well, and their many needs, for wisdom, & strength. IJN Amen

Day 113 Victim 170 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we turn to You in behalf of Victim 170. You know her needs, hurts, concerns, challenges. You can more than meet them because of Your great love. Surround her w/people of love and compassion. Bless her family as they walk w/her. IJN Amen

Day 114 Jessica Chedler Rodriquez #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving God, may You bless, comfort, & heal Jessica. While time passes some issues remain. Bring this to closure for her. Give her family strength, compassion, & encouragement. Whatever he needs may You more than meet them. IJN Amen

Day 115 Victim 138 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look with favor upon Victim 138. Whatever her needs & her family’s needs, may You more than meet them. Protect her from further attacks, and from indifference by others. Heal, strengthen, & comfort her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 116 Morgan Margraves #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we approach Your throne of mercy in behalf of Morgan. Grant her comfort, healing, strength. Enable her to grow in knowledge thru all that she has endured. Raise up people to love, encourage, & protect her. IJN Amen

Day 117 Victim 127 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts are touched by the needs, hopes, fears, and joys of Victim 127. Grant her full healing, live in peace, and strive for that which is good. Encourage, comfort, sustain her by raising up people to walk alongside her. IJN Amen

Day 118 Victim 142 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we trust that You have Victim 142 in Your loving care. All that she has been thru, You have seen, & You raise up people to care for & love. Continue to heal her. Grant her strength, confidence, & passion as she speaks & lives forward. IJN Amen

Day 119 Victim 162 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for this victim of sexual abuse. Altho unnamed, she is known to You. Grant a special measure of Your mercy, compassion, & love. Bring people alongside her to help, encourage, & comfort her. IJN Amen

Day 120 Victim 186 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious God, our hearts ache with the abuse that so many have endured. May You continue to bless Victim 186 in the healing process. On the difficult days give her strength, comfort, & encouragement. Raise up people to walk w/her. IJN Amen

Day 121 Victim 185 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may You bless Victim 185 in all ways necessary. When she is weak, be her strength; when hurting, be her healer; when discouraged, be her encouragement; when needing a friend, may she know You are a perfect friend. IJN Amen

Day 122 Victim 73 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, pray for Victim 73. Where there are hurts bring healing. When comfort is needed equip people to do so. Most importantly bring the good news of Jesus Christ, who took all sins upon Himself & gives life, hope, & love. IJN Amen

Day 123 Victim 165 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we bring another unnamed, but well known person to You for all Your help in her life. Whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual may You more than satisfy them. Grant her strength, wisdom, compassion, & joy in life. IJN Amen

Our prayers continue
Psalm for the broken but not destroyed

Prayers for Survivors — Part 7

As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.

==============

Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word. 

Day 95 Taylor Livingston #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord Jesus, grant Your mercy & blessing on Taylor. Bring healing, help, strength, & comfort. In all of her work & activities may You be evident, guiding each step. Raise up people to care for her each day. IJN Amen

Day 96 Victim 163 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, while we do not know her name, You know her fully, her needs, her hurts, her desires. Grant her healing of mind, body, and soul. May she not be defined by what happened to her, but how she is growing, responding. Grant her love. IJN Amen

Day 97 Victim 183 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, a person unknown to us has faced known predators. Sustain her in healing & recovery. Grant her friends who show her kindness, listen to her, & walk w/her. May she always be welcomed in Your name & places. IJN Amen.

Day 98 Presley Allison #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, we pray for Presley in all her needs. Where there is hurt, comfort her; where challenges, strengthen her. Grant her a clear vision as she moves forward. Open opportunities for her to serve, grow, and lead. IJN Amen

Day 99 Kamerin Moore #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Faithful God, may she see Your hand guiding her, may she know Your love in Jesus. Grant her peace that passes understanding, strength from You, & a loving heart as she grows & serves regardless of circumstances. IJN Amen

Day 100 Krista Wakeman #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, may You loving and healing touch be upon Krista. On the difficult days be her Rock. Grant her days of recovery, strength, patience, and love. Surround her & her family with people who can love, comfort, & encourage. IJN Amen

Day 101 Samantha Daniels #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today our prayers are focused on Samantha. You know all her needs, weaknesses, strengths, & areas in which she needs special help. Raise up the right people to care for, encourage, & comfort her. Grant her peace and strength. IJN Amen

Day 102 Victim 159 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for Victim 159. Nameless to us, You know here well. Grant her mercy in all phases of her life. May her voice be strong, her courage sufficient. May You continue to bless her w/those who encourage & comfort. IJN Amen

Day 103 Alliree Gingerich #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your blessing be upon Alliree today & each day. You know the places of hurt, concern, & fear. Bring her peace, hope, strength in all areas of her life. Bring into her life people of love, hope, & encouragement. IJN Amen

Day 104 Megan Farnsworth #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for all who have been abused. Today we pray for Megan and her needs. Whatever the situation, bless her work, activities, and healing. Raise up people to walk with and encourage Megan. IJN Amen

Day 105 Kourtney Weidner #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, may You continue to strengthen Kourtney each day. In loneliness be her Rock, in sadness bring gladness, in despair, bring hope & joy. May she be loved, comforted, & encouraged by those around her. IJN Amen

Day 106 A. N. #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, You know the needs for A. N., her hurts, concerns about the future, her need for love. May You more than meet them. Raise up people to care for and minister to her. Bless her family as well as they live in light of all she has been thru. IJN Amen

Day 107 Charla Burill #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious God, look with favor upon Charla in the days/years ahead. Guide her, provide people to love & care for her. Heal the wounds, comfort her & reassure her of Your love in Jesus. Bless her family as well. IJN Amen

Our prayers continue