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.

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.



(top photo credit:

Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction, Counseling and the Church

At the recent Exodus International Freedom Conference, a gentleman from a large metropolitan area who runs a ministry center for people who seek healing from various forms of sexual brokenness and struggle asked a very good question. Due to time constraints at the workshop, I did not have time to answer him as fully as I would have liked, so I am posting a more complete answer here.
This minister essentially said that, due to the current political and social buzz surrounding issues related to homosexuality, he has a very difficult time finding counselors in his area who will work with people who come to them declaring that they are seeking healing from homosexuality as one of their counseling goals.
This very question was the inspiration and purpose of our workshop. I for one agree with the removal of homosexuality from the DSM as a psychological diagnosis; it’s not a psychological issue, it’s a spiritual one. And I would issue caution going to a counselor to discuss “Unwanted Same-sex attraction”, even though that “diagnosis” is still listed in the DSM-IV. Reason being that the suggested treatment is not to help someone work through issues and seek a change in orientation. Rather, accepted treatment of unwanted same-sex attraction to help the person accept their homosexuality and learn to embrace and celebrate who they were created to be. That approach will (hopefully) be contrary to the teaching being received in church and discipleship and will, therefore, be counterproductive to the person seeking help. Those working within the counseling and church communities need to be on the same page, working toward the same goals, which should be the goals set forth by the person seeking help and wholeness.
So, to answer his question, I teach that it is the role of a counselor, whether they are biblical or secular in their worldview, to deal mainly with a client’s emotional and psychological struggles. There are myriad issues facing someone who struggles with unwanted same-sex attraction; sometimes it’s the impact of traumatic events early in life. Sometimes a client needs to sort through issues concerning emotional entanglement, overcoming a “victim mentality” or other misconception of self, or an issue of addiction to either people or chemicals. Notice that these are all issues that are separate from sexual orientation itself; many people in unhealthy heterosexual relationships deal with the same issues and move from one unhealthy heterosexual relationship to the next, never correcting their core issues and beliefs concerning themselves and God. It is the role of a counselor to help someone learn new ways of relating to themselves and to others, to work through and heal past wounds.
It would fall under the role of the church (discipleship and accountability partners specifically) to walk alongside someone struggling with homosexuality to teach them how to apply what they are learning with their counselor in a biblically correct manner. Counselors can teach behavior modification and cognitive therapy techniques to help a person see why they’ve made the choices they’ve made and how they can begin to make new, healthier choices. But it is only through intense discipleship and time in the Word can one be transformed through the renewing of their mind (Romans 12). And it is only through the renewing of the mind, the breaking down of strongholds, the revealing of lies believed and the replacement of them with Truth that can bring true peace and healing in Christ. What is beautiful and complex about both the design of humanity and the grace of God is that, as a person sorts through emotional and psychological issues and becomes healthy and balanced in those areas, believing spiritual truth and allowing it to soak to the heart becomes easier as well. Working in all areas, a little bit at a time but all at the same time, allows for continual healing and consistent work towards the goal of conformity to the image of Christ.
So if you are searching for a counselor to help deal with issues related to unwanted same-sex attraction and you do not have an Exodus ministry or counselor in your area (You can find out if you do here), find a counselor you trust to help you identify and improve upon counseling related issues and find someone in your local church you trust who will walk through the spiritual implications of your struggles. Humans are complex beings, and matters of identity and relationship impact us wholly, mind, body and spirit. Surround yourself with competent people who can help you find healing and wholeness in all of those areas.

Close Friends or Entangled Hearts?

The following is a critical review of the article cited below.

Dykas, Ellen. “Close Friends or Entangled Hearts? Joys and Dangers in Woman-to-Woman Friendships.” Journal of Biblical Counseling 21, no. 1 (2006): 24-28.

The subjects of codependency and female relationships have been thrust to the forefront of Christian discussion in recent years. With the cultural acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, women who struggle with unhealthy relationships now have society’s approval to follow their desires to their natural, fleshly ends. Such unhealthy—and when we are honest and biblical in description, sinful—relationships do not occur overnight. They are the culmination of weeks, months, and even years of compromises and concessions in standards and integrity. Author Ellen Dykas points out that “lesbianism simply adds touch and sexual involvement to an already present idolatrous heart entanglement” (24). Dykas’s work addresses the recognition and correction of one of the foundational stumbling blocks encountered by those seeking healthy interaction between women: creating an idol of the heart out of a friendship.

Dykas begins her work with a personal story about the desire for heart-to-heart connections with other people. She points out that God created people to desire connections and relationships. Personal connections are how we relate to one another and how we relate to God. A problem arises when people begin desiring relationships with one another more than a relationship with God; relationships that were once healthy quickly become “a dark counterfeit” (24). The focus of this article is answering the question, “What is a ‘godly friendship’ for women?” (24).

The answer to this question is sought by first giving an example of what a godly friendship is not. Dykas shows how women “are drawn to care, to initiate nurture, concern, and emotional intimacy with others” (24) and how this natural tendency can draw them into entangling relationships. Dykas says most previous attention has been given to women making their families the objects of their idolatry. Today the focus has shifted more to “how women get entangled in people worship with other women” (24).

The summary case study given in the article gives a clear and thorough example of how a relationship that appears godly and positive can quickly become an entanglement of hearts. The behavior exhibited by the two women in the story has become frighteningly common within ministry, and while this specific behavior is the focus of this article, Dykas accurately points out that “idolatry is not active in only one kind of person, but in all human hearts” (25). After describing a clear example of a heart entanglement, Dykas moves on to discuss what the Bible says about such relationships. She points out that these types of relationships are addictive and easy to fall into because they often begin in innocent and even religious ways.

The second section of the article poses questions for the woman who may be wondering if she is involved in an entangled friendship. While there are questions to ask and Scriptures to read, Dykas does a good job of reminding the reader that it is an active communication with God that will ultimately begin to reveal entanglements and idolatry in the heart. After asking several difficult questions, Dykas realizes that the reader/counselee may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and she wisely points out that the purpose of such questions of accountability is not condemnation but restoration. She stresses that “the entanglement of an idolatrous friendship is sinful bondage and God wants to destroy it, cleanse you, and bring redemption to bear” (26).

Dykas presents a firm concept of an entangled relationship, and then quickly moves to discussing the characteristics of a healthy relationship. Much like she posed questions that would expose entanglement in the previous section, Dykas gives qualities supported by Scripture that show how women will behave toward one another when they are involved in healthy, godly relationships. The qualities discussed address the relationship between two women, the relationship each woman has with God, and the relationships each woman has with the other people in each of their lives. The theme of this list brings the reader to understand that a relationship, when healthy, moves each woman to a greater knowledge of and intimacy with Christ.

Sequentially Dykas has moved from the character of an entangled friendship, to the character of a healthy friendship, to step-by-step instructions of how to end unhealthy friendships and finally shows the reader how to enter into and maintain relationships that are both healthy and godly. As with all sin “that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), the steps for breaking free of this particular sin are: confession, repentance and accountability, open communication concerning the sin, trusting in God for forgiveness and redemption, and growth and discipleship through biblical study (27).

Dykas concludes the article by giving “five stepping stones that help in understanding God’s view for friendship” (27). These steps include intense Bible study, honest identification of sin, godly interaction with others, daily reflection and examination of the heart, and consideration of Jesus as the model for interaction with others. In conclusion, Dykas ends with this powerful statement which is the key to becoming victorious over any sin: “A deep-hearted, fervent love for others will only flow from hearts that have been purified by obedience to the truth” (28)! By confronting the why questions instead of simply examining the what questions of behavior, Dykas reinforces this foundational issue; all sin is a heart matter, and when our focus is Christ and not the things of this world, entangling sin of all types will lose power over the souls of man.

This is a well thought-out, solidly written article that gives clear biblical instruction concerning the whys and the hows of both godly and sinful relationships. While the article is geared specifically towards relationships between women, the biblical principles are given in a way that they can be shared in the correction of any ungodly relationship between people of either gender. The strength of this article is the logical progression and presentation of the author’s ideas.

By first setting up the idolatrous relationship, Dykas allows the reader to bring to mind a specific relationship in her life. Whether that relationship is a personal one or the relationship of a client, family member, or friend, by giving the problem first, Dykas gives the reader the opportunity to put a personal face to the issue. No longer is this simply an article in a journal, but it now has a personal quality for anyone who is facing this issue. Giving the problem first draws in the reader and encourages her to continue reading. As she continues to read, she will find the solution and the steps to ultimate healing and redemption. Those steps are addressed in the following order: here is the current situation, here is the ultimate resolution to the problem, and here are the steps to follow to get from point A to point B.

While Dykas gives many insightful personal observations, it is her use of biblical writing that supports all thoughts and opinions on specific Scripture. This is a quality piece because the author is not simply giving personal insights and advice but is instead showing that Scripture is the solution to the problem. It is quite easy to argue with a counselor who is giving personal anecdotes. It is much more difficult to argue with Scripture, and Dykas adamantly encourages the reader to use Scripture when dealing with sins of the heart. This is particularly clear in two separate points made in the article. The first is a point made in the discussion concerning moving out of entanglement and into holiness. Many people desire to keep a friendship that has been previously sinful. The thought can be, “But this person really is my friend, and God made me to have friends and to love other people!” But Dykas points out that while God redeems us individually when we have become entangled in sin, “this is not a promise that an idolatrous relationship with be transformed this side of heaven” (27). This is a concept many people have a difficult time grasping, and it is encouraging to know that the reality of idolatrous relationships is being addressed by biblical counselors today.

The second point that is particularly important in the current culture is to use biblical vocabulary when discussing issues with people. Our culture has given everything a psychological label and made all behavior and thoughts somehow the fault of our upbringing or environment. True healing can only begin to occur when someone realizes that they have a sin of idolatry and not an issue of codependency. Healing, redemption, and restoration cannot begin until someone recognizes and acknowledges behavior as sin, and changing one’s vocabulary is often the first step in that process.

This article is well-written, and can be used as a clearly planned starting point for anyone addressing the issue of idolatrous entanglements. If women can get their relationships with Christ back to a healthy standing, sins of the heart can often be prevented from becoming painful sins of action. While this article focuses specifically on relationships between women, the true theme is the relationships women have with Jesus. The steps to healthy relationships given by Dykas have nothing to do with restoring the sinful relationship; in fact, she clearly points out that sometimes that is simply not God’s plan. The focus, rather, is the relationship each woman has with Christ. When the focus is placed on Him and relationships with Christ are restored, our relationships with one another will be taken care of by Him.