A message to my daughter…

Holly T. Ashley

And maybe yours too…

There are some things that I never taught you, some things that are so very important to the rest of your life.

Oh, I taught you Biblical precepts of being holy and that God commands us to walk worthy of the calling of a Disciple of Christ, but did I really teach you the way that God commands a mother to instruct her child?

“Train up a child in the way that they should go and even when they are old, they will not depart” (Proverbs 22:6).

I think back to rebuking you for the choices you made. The friends that you chose. The decisions that you made… as any good, God fearing woman should.

But did I ever teach you how to choose the man you would marry?

Did I instill upon you how precious you are and how beautifully and wonderfully you were made?…

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What domestic abuse victims need from the church

Matthew 22: 36-40, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I was born into an abusive home. My father was a drunk and when drunk, he was violent. In the aftermath of our successfully escaping from him, my mother, unable to deal with all she’d been through, became an emotional abuser herself. I married into a family where emotional abuse and manipulation was the norm. I know abuse firsthand. I can testify as to the depths of its pain; moreover, I can testify, as an abuse survivor, to the overall failure of the church when it comes to understanding abuse or handling well those who have suffered abuse.

Statistics say that one out of four women experience domestic abuse of some form in their lifetime. Men are victims of domestic abuse far more than most people realize. When those who have suffered are members of the Lord’s church, God’s people have an obligation to help them. When, for whatever reason, we shy away from this obligation, either through ignorance or willful refusal to get involved, we lay waste to the Gospel we claim to believe. Christians are called to defend the oppressed yet when domestic violence is involved so few do.

What abuse victims need from their fellow Christians is pretty simple and straightforward. We need you to be Jesus to us. Christians are called to be His representative and “love your neighbor as yourself.” To fail in this is to fail in serving Christ.

Some Christians do care and want to help but have no idea where to begin. Domestic violence is terrifying and unnerving for the family involved and for those who are trying to help. But victims of abuse still need help. If God has put them in your path, perhaps He’s calling you to be His hands to them. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some things that Christian victims of domestic abuse need from their fellow believers:

The Pure Gospel
The church long ago got away from the pure gospel. We water it down, mix it up and serve it with a side of fun. No wonder it doesn’t save. It can’t save. It’s poison. We need preachers who are dedicated to the truth of God’s Word who are willing to stand up and preach that truth without changing it one iota. It is useless to save someone from a hellish life here only to help them find their spot in hell in eternity.

For someone to listen to her
If a woman came to you and confided to you that her husband was abusing her, would you listen? Most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to hearing such things but listening is actually the first step towards helping abuse victims. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward and say, “I’m being abused.” If someone comes to you with a story of abuse, sit down with her and listen. Ask her questions. Believe her. She has far more to lose from confiding in you than most could imagine. Yes, some people lie about being abused and you have to be aware of that but remember it’s not the norm; far more women lie about not being abused when they are being abused because they are afraid of their abusers. So listen.

Someone to pray for her
After listening to her, pray with her. Pray specifically for her needs. Then continue to pray for her and let her know you are praying. Put feet to your prayers. Do what you can to meet her needs for often we are the answer to our own prayers.

Someone to care and to help
Do you know what keeps a lot of abused women and children with their abusers? The lack of money to leave. If a woman is trying to get herself and her children to safety, don’t spend time telling her why she’s wrong, what you think about her decision, or trying to talk her out of it. She knows what it’s like to live in abuse and you don’t. Do what you can to help her. Offer her a room to stay for a while, help her find a job or find a way to work from home, help her with her children, offer the use of a car and so on. Even if she stays with her abuser, chances are great that she and her children need something or maybe a lot of things. Financial abuse often accompanies other types of abuse. Instead of lecturing, get busy serving and help them.

An advocate
Leaving an abuser is dangerous. Staying in an abusive marriage is also dangerous.An abused wife needs an advocate, someone who will stand up for her, help her find the help she needs, help her to navigate the legal system should she choose to leave.

Someone to point her in the right direction
You are in a fog when you live in abuse. It’s difficult to get through the day let alone make all of the decisions you have to make. You’re constantly afraid and don’t know who to turn to or even who you can trust. If you have children, it’s even worse. There’s nothing–nothing at all–more painful for a mother than to watch, hear, or see your children being hurt–be it physical or not–and being unable to do anything to stop it. You aren’t sure who will believe you, or who will be willing to get involved. So many aren’t. Remember this and get involved. If she turns to you, do what you can to help her to make good decisions.

Someone who will let her make her own decisions while offering guidance as needed
With all that said, it’s also important to let the victim learn to make their own decisions. She must move from victim to survivor and learn to discern truth from lie. She has to learn to trust again and that includes trusting in herself. She’s been lied to by her abuser, told she was worthless, that her opinions didn’t matter. You know what? After hearing it over and over, she started to believe it. She’s been told she can’t do anything and she feels helpless. Help her to grow and learn to believe in herself. Help her learn to discern truth from lie. Help her to find the information she desperately needs and offer your guidance when asked for it but, through it all, help her see the importance of making decisions about her life herself.

Abuse victims have suffered much from their abuser. Don’t add to that hurt by seeing and refusing to help. Get involved. Do something. Anything. Just be determined to honor God through your efforts and He’ll give you the opportunity to serve and to glorify Him as you do.

Some Facts on Emotional Manipulators

Meeting the needs of the abused in the church

I remember talking to a pastor who told me that “IF” I was telling the truth about my husband that my life was “a mixed up mess”. He went on to order me to get rid of my children’s pets and make other “recommendations” that sounded more like orders as to what and how I should go about doing in order to make things better. I appreciate the man’s ability to preach. I didn’t appreciate the way he handled my coming to him for guidance. Honestly, it hurt. It was invasive. And, in the end, it wasn’t helpful.

What should a pastor do when a Christian sister shares that she’s being abused? He should believe her. I was telling the truth; most women who make claims of abuse in their marriage to the church are telling the truth. That’s the first thing pastors, elders, other church leaders, and Christians in general need to remember. We’ve got nothing to gain by lying but a whole lot to lose by telling the truth.

Ordering me to get rid of my children’s pets was just wrong. Yes, I know that they cost money but it isn’t that much. They need their pets. Having them has helped them to heal and to cope. Other women have been ordered to stay with her abuser, to leave him, or to make some other decision she wasn’t ready or able to make. If your sister in Christ comes to you in need of help, it’s a terrible time to start ordering her around. Ask her questions, let her know you are there for her, listen, suggest, recommend perhaps, but don’t order her to do something she isn’t ready or able to do.

A pastor can make sure that the gospel he is preaching is the pure Gospel with the power to save, rather than the social gospel that saves no on. It will do you or her no eternal good if you help her here and now but don’t offer her the truth that can truly set her free.

Address domestic abuse from the pulpit. Pastors should let abusers know that the church is not a safe place for them but is a safe place for his victim.

Announce from the pulpit, through a sign in the ladies’ room, or in Sunday school classes, that it is safe for abuse victims to confide in the church leaders. Tell them that they will be believed, and that, whatever the church can do to help, it will do.

Pastors should familiarize themselves about domestic abuse, then encourage his elders and his congregation to do the same. The reason for this isn’t to focus his ministry strictly on domestic abuse–the focus of the church is to be Christ Himself–but to enable the church to recognize abuse and to know how to help its victims.

Address practical issues and needs that Christian women in abusive relationships face. They are often told “Leave” but given no help to do so or they’re told “Stay and suffer for Christ” when that is against what Scripture actually teaches; Even Jesus Himself fled from danger when His time had not yet come. There’s many things that need to be addressed that often aren’t.

I remember reading about a church that had a ministry set up to help the single moms with car repairs. Another church that I knew of made it a point to paint and fix up houses for the elderly. The church I grew up in had what they called a clothes closet where church members in need could go find clothes for free. These programs are great but wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on top of those, individual Christians just looked for a need, found a need, and did what they could to fill it? Sure it happens sometimes, but encourage it to happen when it’s known that a sister in Christ has been abused. When it comes to those who have suffered under domestic abuse, the wife’s needs and the needs of her children are many but the church, even a small one, could do much to meet them. Call her up and check on her, pray for her specifically, offer to run errands for her, watch her children for a while, accompany her to her lawyer’s office, listen to her and offer advice where you can, give her $10.00 for gas, take her a meal, offer her a place to stay, include her and her children in a family outing or gathering, etc.

Also in the practical issues camp maybe deal with questions abused women might have such as “What do I tell my children about their father? How do I help them heal if I do leave? How can I take care of them if I stay? How truthful am I to be with others, his family, my family, the church?”. These kinds of questions are important and no pastor that I know of is addressing them. The church is, thankfully, becoming more aware of the issue of domestic abuse but we’re really only in the beginning stages of addressing it.

Many women who would leave, who have the biblical right to do so, don’t do so because they cannot afford to do so. Leaving an abusive man is hard, and often the expense falls on the wife. Do you have some place she could stay? Does a member of the church have an extra room? A vacation home? Can you help her to get set up in a new place? Does anyone have furniture they don’t need? Extra kitchen ware? Does anyone have a car she can use? Or a car that they would be willing to sell on the cheap? Or even give to her? A garden that is overproducing? Extra clothes? Would you be willing to buy her an outfit for her to wear interviews? What about teaching her to plant a garden, to sew,  to can, or do other things that will help her get set up in a new home? Can you help her move? Do you have a job you could offer her? Are you able to teach her a skill that she could turn into a home business? No, you can’t do everything, and your church can’t do everything, but there’s a lot that could be done.

Her children have been through a lot. Maybe she wants to work from home to be with them or to not incure the expense of daycare. She still needs a way to provide for them. Do you know how to write a business plan? Show her. Do you have a skill that you could teach her that she could then use to make money? Teach her. Do you have a job you could hire her for that she can work from home? Offer it.

Does she need training to get a job? Help her to figure out how to get it. Does she need somewhere safe for her children to stay while she is in school or working? Someone could watch her children for free or watch them in exchange for something she does for them (cooking? cleaning? errands?) just until she can get on her feet.

There are programs that provide sewing machines to poor women overseas, or goats to the family so that they can then start supporting themselves. The items might be different here but if they could do it there, we can do something like that here.

Anything your church can do to demonstrate the love of Christ that she and her children so desperately need to experience would be a blessing to them beyond your imagination. Pray, then serve.

 

Hierarchy

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

There are many things about narcissism that seem to make no sense. Unless you can see the thinking patterns of the narcissist, the acting patterns may look random and confusing. You find yourself asking, “What in the world is this now?”

I don’t think I have ever met a self-employed narcissist. I suppose they might be out there, but most of them seem to work for companies or organizations. (Of course, a narcissist could own a company and consider himself self-employed, but I am referring to someone who actually works by himself.)  It would seem that they would like to work by themselves; after all, no one else will ever measure up. But narcissists don’t like working by themselves—because they actually would have to do the work.

No, the narcissist secretly loves the hierarchy of an organization or a business. They like structures they can…

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Sandbagging

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

Sometimes you might be surprised to hear a narcissist put himself/herself down. The popular definition of narcissism has something to do with bragging almost constantly, so we don’t usually expect narcissists to speak negatively about themselves or their abilities. However, that person you suspect is a narcissist may well lower himself in comparison to others at times. This can be confusing.

Why would a narcissist talk down about himself? Such an action, so out of sync with expected behavior, must have a purpose. Yes, and we call it “sandbagging.”

Sandbagging is a term used in competitive sports and games. Gamblers use the term to define the action of a player who suggests he has a low hand by only matching or passing, then raising when the pot is larger (also called “slow-play”). In racing, the term refers to someone who deliberately runs a slower qualifying…

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To my abused sisters~a letter

Dear sweet hurting sister,

I know your tears. Down in the deepest part of me, I understand your pain. I’m so sorry for the life you’ve been forced to lead. And though the one who should have loved you most of all has sought to destroy you, I want you to know that your life hasn’t been wasted, that there’s still hope, and that you life has a purpose outside of the endless mind-bending pain.

Even in the midst of man-made cruelties, there are things we can learn. One of those things is just how strong and resilient we are. You are so strong, dear one, do you know that? Do you see your own strength? You get back up every single time he knocks you down. Sure, it might take you a while after the most brutal of attacks, but you never give up—do you? By the grace of God, you get back up and you try again. And again. Again and again. 

Through beatings and negligence, your abuser can attempt to destroy your body. Through harsh unrelenting words, he can attempt to kill your spirit. But that’s all he can do. He cannot touch your spirit. He cannot destroy your hope in God. He cannot eradicate your mother’s love—or your love for your family, your friends, or even for yourself. Not if you don’t let him.

You mustn’t let him. Don’t ever let him tell you who you are. Don’t absorb his message. Never let him define you. This man isn’t worthy of winning, of being able to destroy you. He’s your enemy—remember that. No matter how many times he has professed that he loves you, he doesn’t. No matter how kind he can seem at times, he isn’t kind. He’s the opposite of kind. He hates you. He has sought to destroy you. Never forget that. And never, ever, let him win.

The most important thing to learn in this man-made war zone you’ve been forced to live in is the goodness and the greatness of your Lord. He never fails. He is faithful and true. He is good, always and in all ways, no matter what. He loves His own with an everlasting love. He’s the perfect Husband, the mightiest and gentlest Father, imaginable. Run to Him. Cling to Him. Obey Him and serve Him. He’s so very worthy. Even in your pain, He is worthy. He loves you. He cares for you. And He hates what your abuser is doing to you. 

Pray. Pray every single day. Pray every single hour. Abide in prayer. Pray without ceasing. Pray to know Him better and to love Him more. Pray for God’s mercy, His wisdom, and His grace to be poured out on you and on your children. Pray that you might grow in Christ-likeness. Pray for provision, for strength, for the ability to make a better tomorrow. Pray for Him to deal with your abuser. No matter what this man has told you, God is most definitely not on his side.

Pray specifically. Ask God for what you need. Pray for your next meal, for the ability to fix your car, for gifts for your children. Pray to know how to make a better life, and for the ability to run far away to safety. Pray that your children may see His goodness even as you abide in the land of darkness. Ask Him for more of Himself—His presence is by far the best present He could ever give you.

Read His Word. Immerse yourself in His truth. The Bible is the only real Truth and that on which all other truths must rest. Read it. Believe it. Memorize portions of it. Build your life on it. Let it sink in and change you. Reading His Word and praying in belief are the very best investments you can make for your future, for yourself and for your children. But that’s not why you should read—you should read because He Is.

God loves you. Not the mushy love some churches like to proclaim but with a love that’s even better than that. He loves you securely. He loves you everlastingly. He loved you enough to send His Son to die for you. There’s nothing changeable, nothing mushy, about His love. Just as He never changes, His love never changes either.

You may have some good times with your abuser. You may have them still. Do not believe them. Unless you’ve seen the fruits of true repentance in his life, he’s setting you up to use you again. He will hurt you again. He will lie to you, take advantage of you, and seek to destroy you again. His kindness is a lie. Everything about him is a lie. No matter how many times he tells you he is changing, he probably isn’t. Most abusers never change; their hearts are simply too hardened against God. 

You may want to give up. Don’t. There’s no good that ever comes from not trying one more time. Your abuser may threaten you, may lie to you, may seek to destroy you. Fight anyway. Fight for yourself. Fight for your children. Fight for your future. Do whatever it takes to keep standing one more day.

If you can, leave. Through his abuse, he has broken your marriage vows. You are not bound to him. In the most basic of ways, he has abandoned you. Divorcing him isn’t what will break your marriage. He broke your marriage. Divorcing him simply acknowledges what he has done.

He may try to prevent you from leaving. He may try to make you come back. Don’t listen to him. Don’t feel sorry for him. Ignore his tears. Harden yourself to his pleas. Protect yourself from his threats. Use the law if you have to. You deserve so much better. Your children deserve better. Do all that you can to get to a point where “better” defines your life.

Meanwhile, I’m praying for you.

A sister who understands~