Guest Post: Give Her Wings Book Review


As many of you know, I serve with a ministry called Give Her Wings, whose mission is to “raise gifts and money for mothers who have left abusive situations… to give these brave ladies a chance to get on their feet . . . to breathe . .. to heal their broken wings and fly free again.”

Megan Cox is the director of Give Her Wings, and is herself a survivor of domestic abuse. She tells her story and provides insight into the experiences of domestic and spiritual abuse in her book Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse.

I recently asked several friends in different areas of ministry to read Megan’s book and write a review for us that gave their response to the book and how they could see it being used in their particular ministry. 

The following is the response I received from Sarah Mitchell. Sarah and I attended seminary together and served alongside one another in a variety of ways during that time. Sarah has served overseas and is currently serving in the (more than) full time role of wife to Chris and mother to their three preschoolers. The Mitchell’s live in Salem, VA, where Chris is the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church.
A dear friend of mine knows how much I love to read and how I used to like to write…well, I still like to write, I think, but I haven’t in forever (something about 3 kids 4 and under!). Anyway, I digress already! So, Bekah asked me to read a new book, knowing that the book would be a helpful resource as a pastor’s wife in a local church.

Naturally I was excited to get to read a book that was both hot-off-the-press and a potentially useful resource. Little did I know how helpful this little beautifully written book would be over the last couple of months. A lady I know is currently struggling with the decision to stay in or leave an abusive relationship. Aside from praying through Scripture with her, which is, of course, the richest resource on the planet and applicable in every situation, I was clueless how to help her when she asked me for counsel and prayer, but that VERY SAME WEEK I received this book in the mail. The Lord’s timing is so utterly perfect and He obviously knew that I would need Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse by Megan D. Cox to give me a glimpse behind the curtain of someone who is struggling in a situation of abuse and to provide a practical guide for me as I walk this journey with my friend!

Things with my friend are complicated and fragile and I feel totally inadequate as her confidant and life-line, but God has very definitively crossed our paths and I know that obedience looks like helping her in whatever way I can. As I began to read Give Her Wings, I instantly loved Megan’s ability to share her personal story, truth from God’s Word, and practical advice both for the victim of abuse and the ones seeking to help her. Towards the beginning of the book, Cox writes some of the most life-giving words to encourage victims of abuse to come out of their situation into freedom. She says, “A seed must first die and be buried, then life comes…I was made to be free. That thought right there is the new life peeking out” (6). LIFE, and life more abundantly is what Christ offers to all of us and it is what we, those who are believers and ambassadors of the gospel have to offer others. Cox reminds her readers of that purpose over and over again throughout the book.

Complicated. Messy. Scary. Ugly. Dark. Those are words that describe the life victims of abuse long to leave behind. As encouragers, we offer the hope of life after abuse but it often requires personal sacrifice. To me one of the most profound statements Megan makes for those seeking to be helpers to victims is this: “There really is something to our lives being messy…Look into the life of one person you knows God and you will find a bit of chaos somewhere along the way…What unintentionally separated the wheat from the tares in my life was the fact that some people decided to get into our mess and get all muddied up” (45). I have a choice to make…I can run and hide and leave my new friend to fend for herself or I can hang in there, push up my sleeves, get on my knees, and really just be a friend. I know what Jesus did for those who had messy lives, He reached into their messes and just loved them. Cox calls us to do the same.

If those of us who are in full-time ministry or are involved in ministry at any level are at all tuned into what’s going on in the lives of those whom God has surrounded us, then we will likely run across people who need us to get into their messy lives and help. And Megan Cox doesn’t mean fix them or their situation. No. In fact she will tell us that we can’t fix it and that fixing it isn’t ultimately the point. The point, according to Cox, is to love them well. We need to be available, loyal, truthful, and pointers to the One who made them and loves them. Cox writes, “Tell her [the victim] that God does not wish anyone to be abused. She needs to know this right away…If she understand that Jesus cares about the pain and loves her, the seeds are planted for her to be able to separate an abusive husband from the true God who loves her” (90).

I definitely found Megan’s book to be a useful tool for those who are counseling women who are victims of abuse or as a healing balm for those who have been or are involved in an abusive relationship. It’s a brilliant diamond hewn out of the rough grit of her personal experience leaving behind a life of abuse and straining toward the abundant life the Lord had planned for her. It’s a unique resource because Megan artfully weaves excerpts from her own journey in and around and through scripturally anchored advice and how-to’s. I highly recommend and urge those who are in women’s ministry or in church leadership in any capacity to read Give Her Wings. It is a must-have resource for the Church as we seek to demonstrate Christ-like love toward the hurting and the broken and the ones being put back together piece by beautiful piece.

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Why I Am (& Always Will Be) Pro-Life


10 week fetus

Here in Tennessee, abortion is once again the debate of the day. With Amendment One on the ballot today, the last few weeks have seen a dramatic spike in television ads, conversations, debates, and the return of the same old arguments both for and against abortion in general. I’ve heard the typical arguments: “God gives life. We must protect babies who cannot protect themselves. Abortion is murder.”  and, “It’s a woman’s body and it’s her right alone to choose how to deal with it. A child who will be neglected or unloved shouldn’t be brought into this world. If a woman is raped, it’s simply inhumane to expect her to carry a reminder of the horrific event.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. To both sides.

There are philosophical and rational reasons to be pro-life. I appreciate bio-ethicist Scott Klusendorf’s argument of simplifying the debate to one question: “What is the unborn?” It removes the religious element altogether and places the discussion on a philosophical level.

But in all of the level headed discussion that’s possible, this debate quickly digresses into emotional and experiential arguments. People tell me that I don’t know what it’s like to be in the position of being pregnant and being unable or unwilling to care for the child. I’ve never been raped and don’t know what I would do if I was in the position of dealing with the aftermath of both rape and pregnancy. And those people are right. My personal experience doesn’t lend me the opportunity to speak from that perspective.

However, my experience allows me to speak about abortion from a very different but still VERY personal perspective; some of my favorite people in this world were born out of the circumstances described above, and I refuse to believe my life would be better without them.

When I hear people say that babies who will be born to people who will neglect or abuse them should be aborted, I hear them say that this world would be a better place if my three sisters and several of my best friends weren’t here.

When I hear people say that babies who are the products of rape shouldn’t exist, I think of my ministry friend Ronnie Hill, and I think about the work that wouldn’t be done if his mom had decided to abort him after she was raped as a teen.

When I hear people say that women who aren’t ready to have babies are better off when they delay parenting until they’re in a better position to parent, I think of my friends and women I have counseled, who made that decision 15 or 20 years ago, and still weep with grief over the loss they never realized they would experience.

I’m sure that the suicide rate of people who grow up in abusive environments is higher than in those raised in better childhood situations, but if we’re going to argue for choice, shouldn’t that person have the choice to end their life rather than the choice be made for them?

I am well aware that my parents (and all foster parents) are the exception and not the rule to caring for kids, and I know that countless children do live horrific lives of abuse and neglect, with no known way of escape.

But I also know that there is love and care beyond the two people who gave birth to those children. As I mentioned above, there are three incredible women who are my sisters who had really crappy birth parents, people completely incapable of caring for them. And the only reason I have those three sisters is because their crappy, drug addicted, abusive, neglectful mothers didn’t have abortions when that would have been the easy and even understandable option.

So why am I pro-life? I could give you a theological explanation and spout a lot of Bible verses. I could lay out a debate full of philosophical laws and rhetorical devices. But today, I have friends and family who have spent weeks hearing tv ads and talking heads say that they shouldn’t be here, and I want to be pro-sisters. And pro-friends.

I want them to know that they are loved. And valued. And wanted. I want them to know that I am pro-them.

Sisters

 

(top photo credit: http://imgarcade.com/1/human-fetus-at-12-weeks/)

Shifting Views: Moral Absolutes or Political Debate?


I don’t normally pull my family into my blog posts, but I’m proud of my dad for how he recently spoke up, in a reasonable and wise manner, in an article for our local paper when many conservative (political and religious) are apparently becoming more and more unwilling to do so.

Dialogue dies when one side quits speaking. Don’t abandon civil discourse on ANY issue. Even if you never win a debate or convert someone to your way of thinking, the art of agreeing to disagree is becoming a lost art, and that’s a shame.

Here’s an excerpt of the article for which my dad was willing to be interviewed:

“Bill Mason, pastor of Morris Hill Baptist Church, said he opposes same-sex marriage, but the issue has become so politically charged it’s difficult to debate rationally.

“It really has become a political issue. It’s not a church issue anymore; it’s been taken out of that realm,” Mason said.

He said opinions are changing because people are approaching same-sex marriage as a civil rights question instead of a religious or moral one.

But, he said, the pendulum of tolerance has swung in the other direction, and reasonable people who are against gay marriage are drowned out by extreme anti-gay views.

“The other problem is, people are afraid to say anything against it. … It’s a complicated issue, and I think the church has been betrayed by these hatemongers. I think it’s still a sin,” Mason said. “The tolerance issue has got to go both ways. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Members of several religious and social groups contacted by the Times Free Press on Friday and Saturday said they were opposed to same-sex marriage but declined to comment for this article.”

For the entire article, go here.

What do you think? Are views on same-sex marriage changing because the debate has shifted realms, from religious to political? How can the issue still be addressed from a moral perspective with both truth AND love?

A Cry For Justice: Domestic Abuse and the Church


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A blog site addressing domestic abuse and the response of the church has picked up my series of posts about boundaries and healthy relationships.

If you have experienced domestic abuse of any form (physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological), you will find a safe haven of support there.

If you work in the church, I would encourage you to check out their posts and learn more about domestic abuse and how we can be a voice of support for women who are suffering in silence.

As always, there are points on which I would engage them in further discussion concerning the strength of their arguments against those with whom they disagree, but I appreciate and support their courage for talking about an issue that has been kept covered up in the church for much too long.

The church should be a safe haven for the hurting, and place to seek the Christ who cleans our wounds and heals our messy hearts. The ultimate goal of A Cry for Justice is to both offer support for those facing abuse and equipping for those in ministry to provide support in the church for them.

Check out their work and join the conversation!

How Do We Establish Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?


Boundaries define who you are and who you are not.

Boundaries often provide unhealthy individuals guidelines for change.

So how do we evaluate progress in setting boundaries?

Here are 17 questions you can ask yourself. In some of these areas you may find you are strong, and in some areas you may need to work toward developing and strengthening for protecting your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

  1. Am I able to say no to an unhealthy request?
  2. Am I able to understand that my happiness does not depend on other people?
  3. Do I find myself continually involved with people who end up hurting me?
  4. Can I choose individuals whom I can trust?
  5. Do I consider my opinion to be as important as others?
  6. Do people take or use things of mine without my permission?
  7. Can I ask other people for what I want or need, or do I fear making these request?
  8. Do I go along with other individuals, rather than voicing my desires?
  9. Do I feel proud of being an individual with unique qualities?
  10. Do I really believe I was created in God’s image?
  11. Have I found the balance between helping others and meeting my own needs?
  12. Am I able to determine what I think and what I believe?
  13. Am I able to make effective decisions?
  14. Am I able to get out of a relationship that continues to hurt me?
  15. Am I able to stay out of other people’s problems?
  16. Can I separate my own feelings and thoughts from others?
  17. Do I grasp that I am not responsible for other people’s behaviors and feelings?

Developing healthy boundaries may be a new venture for you and is likely to be a challenge. The checklist we just covered hopefully will help you become aware of some areas in your life in which you need to establish or strengthen boundaries that are needed in your life.

Don’t become discouraged–you can develop skills that will help you honor and protect what belongs to God. Developing these skills will have a huge impact on your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

So I say to each of you, God bless you as you continue toward improving your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Scripture offers safety –you are safe in the cleft of the rock which is God.

The Psalmist uses the imagery of protection in the word rock, in fact it is referred to 24 times.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliver: My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge—He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2, MSG

References

Cloud, H. &  Townsend, J. (1995). Safe People: How to find relationship that are good for you
    and avoid those that aren’t. Michigan: Zondervan.
Hawkins, D.,(2007). Dealing with the crazy makers in your life; Setting boundaries on unhealthy relationships. Oregon:  Harvest House Publishers.
Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publisher, 2004. Print
The Message. Colorado: NavPress, 2006. Print

Why Establish Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?


Why do we need healthy boundaries?

You cannot break free from unhealthy individuals while standing in their presence. You will need healthy boundaries, because without healthy boundaries it will almost be impossible to maintain your physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is very important to stay alert, to develop a heightened sense of awareness, similar to Homeland Security. Your homeland is your body, your mind, and your spiritual health. The number one tactic of the enemy, using unhealthy people, is to catch you off guard– to catch you unaware.

If you become fascinated or intrigued by the unhealthy aggressive and manipulative behavior, you are vulnerable.  Breaking free from these attractions will require you to become more observant, to listen, not just hearing, but listening to what the unhealthy are saying. It will require discernment, prayer, educating yourself through God’s word and accountability to an individual who is spiritually grounded in the Word.

Paul has much to say about mind control and the devastation that occurs when we live according to the desires of the flesh. He must have known something about unhealthy and unsafe people.

But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It is rotten through and through. Get rid of it!  And then take on an entirely new way of life—–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduced His character in you. What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretenses. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we are connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you are lying to yourself. Ephesians 4: 20-25, MSG

Believe it or not, you can set boundaries and still be a loving individual. In fact, setting boundaries is a loving act. Imagine what it would be like if we had no boundaries.

What if we said yes to every request that came along?

There are legitimate boundaries. Legitimate boundaries are those we have for protection. We have the responsibility to protect our emotions, for controlling our behavior, our attitudes and our Christian beliefs.

Individuals who are relentless and persistent, those unhealthy individuals who have a hard time understanding the word “no,” will often be upset with our boundaries. Boundaries protect your time, your love, your energy, your emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Remember there is only so much of you to go around, and you alone are responsible for how you disperse each of these areas of your time, your love and your energy.

I love what John Bradshaw said in his book titled, Homecoming. It is never too late to have a healthy childhood. By that he means that, through new healthier boundaries, we can care for the child within us—raising him or her in healthier ways, to mature into the man or woman God created us to be. Boundaries help us learn and maintain our identity in Christ and keep us from placing others in the position of idols in our lives.

So how do we maintain our own identity in Christ and still serve and love one another well? We will look at some hard questions to ask ourselves in our last post.

Identifying Goats, Part Three


8. “Goats” have a negative versus positive attitude. Their glass is half empty.

From the old TV program Hee Haw:
Gloom despair and agony on me deep dark depression excessive misery. If weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all.

Gloom despair and agony on me.  The theme song for some people’s lives. They have allowed this tape to play over and over again in their head until it’s all they see or believe.  They desperately need you to manage their lives, to make them happy, to fix their problems, to be miserable when they are miserable—-they need you, without qualification or reservation—- over and over again. Sensing their need and not wanting them to be miserable, we rush to their side. We cannot fail to be influenced, whether for better or worse, by the people we choose to be a part of our lives. If constant drama and trauma and pain are a part of a friend’s life, and they expect you to experience each one with them without seeking a way to break the pattern, you will become exhausted and your own attitude and spiritual well-being will be affected.
Good company builds up our hearts.

Good company encourages us to step outside the box.

Good company is not threatened by our success.

In reality, healthy individuals help us to progress toward Christlikeness.

As you spend time with individuals, deciding whether or not the relationship will be good for you, you have to remember it takes time, objectiveness, seeking counsel from your friends who are spiritually grounded, to determine the health of a relationship. Sometimes it even means you may lose the relationship.

Take inventory of your relationships:

  1. Am I more loving since entering into this relationship or becoming more detached from family and friends?
  2. Am I more honest, or am I becoming compliant?
  3. Am I more forgiving or more idealistic, overlooking faults and concerns?
  4. Am I maturing or regressing?
  5. Whose needs are being met?

9. Unsafe people gossip instead of protecting your confidentiality.

There is nothing more painful or hurtful than having our most trusted information betrayed by someone to whom we had entrusted ourselves. In my counseling practice I have seen individuals who are incredibly wounded because someone violated their confidentiality or trust. The wounds are deep, often leaving permanent scars.

A gadabout gossip cannot be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity will not violate a confidence.” Proverbs 11:13, MSG
Mean people spread mean gossip, their words smart and burn.” Proverbs 16:28, MSG

10.Unhealthy people are highly self-centered and self-obsessed.

They have an “ I versus We” perspective on life.

They see or hear no one else.

They are bad listeners and give little no consideration to what others have to say.

They are inconsiderate and have little compassion.

They will cut off conversations and bring the focus back on themselves.

It becomes their earnest desire to be seen and heard more than anyone else, making them oblivious to the opinions, suggestions, and advice of others.

Any conversation they participate in either pertains to them or eventually turns back to them.

They view others as a means to get what they want.

They have a tunnel vision which starts from and leads back to them.

They are driven by the fear of losing control.

Last, they tend to be moody and unpredictable.

They may be nice one minute and the next minute explosive.

The ten characteristics described in the previous posts are just a few of the unhealthy types of people we encounter on a daily basis. Whether or not we choose to enter into, or continue in, relationships with people who live within these patterns is a determining factor in our own mental, spiritual, and even physical health. In our next post, we will look at why healthy boundaries in relationships are so important to our own health.