Strongholds. If you think of them like a high-security prison, the four walls surrounding the person encased within would be fear, shame, powerlessness, and hopelessness. If you would have asked me last month what the biggest, most fortified walls in my strongholds are, I would have easily said fear and powerlessness. I don't make it much of a secret that I battle fear, and powerlessness is like a first cousin working to keep me subservient to fear. They held me in such tight bondage for more than thirty years that I now actively fight them when I see their evidence in my life. I don't do this perfectly, and sometimes I hesitate to step into battle with it. But most of the time, they don't win. Shame, on the other hand, stood silently by. It is still a suppressing force around me, but it went about its work much more quietly than fear. Much more stealthily than powerlessness. It hid in the shadows, casting its tentacles in subtle ways I dismissed and overlooked because the fight with fear was more prominent. Perhaps you easily see shame all around you, or perhaps, like me, its presence is more subdued. In either case, as speaker and author Christine Caine says, it's not the life God has for us. Keep reading to see my review of her book Unashamed: Drop Your Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny.
My heart sank as I sat across a coffee shop table listening to a friend talk about her latest experience with church. Another set of flawed humans casting judgment based on another set of human traditions, and my friend was found wanting. In my travels all over America, I've seen a lot. Words casually used in one state are curse words in another. Different places have different rules for dancing, drinking, and playing card games. Even blue jeans or simple pants can cause a stir. While many Christians will readily admit that these kinds of topics are not critical elements of salvation, we can't blindly ignore them altogether. They cause problems among us, so we must wrestle with what the Bible says.
I have skeletons. I don't specifically talk about a lot of them, but it's not because they are hidden away in the proverbial closet. When God brings a lady to me that would benefit from hearing part of my story, I openly share those moments when life sucker punched me or I chose to act in a way that wasn't God's best. This is not something that came easily to me, and truthfully I still hesitate before I confess my failures and shortcomings. No one likes to look foolish. None of us wants to be thought of as less than. And I certainly don't jump at the chance to admit how out of control I sometimes get. So, what is the point of sharing? And how can we do so in a manner that glorifies God even when the choices we made do not?
Does God answer prayer? Most of us don't struggle with that question too much. Hmmm. Maybe we don't struggle with that question quite enough. Most of my life, I've heard well-meaning Christians spout that God answers prayers in one of three ways: Yes, no, or not yet. That sounds good. It even sounds logical. But, is it biblical? And how much should this really matter to us anyway?
Nine years, nine months, and five days. That’s how long my husband logged in as an active-duty airman before his medical retirement. Nine years, nine months, and five days of all the uncertainty and fluctuations that military life brings. And then a fresh uncertainty took hold: Medical Retirement. We could move wherever we wanted to move, but we would have to do it ourselves or pay someone to do it. We could pick whatever job we wanted to go after, at least as soon as our DD Form 214 was in hand. Military service and medical retirement gave my husband an advantage in the hiring process for federal jobs, but did we really want to stay tied to the Department of Defense? Health insurance. Survivor benefits. Life insurance. Commissary and exchange privileges. GI Bill benefits. We had so many new rules to learn. Job-search strategies. Resume writing. Interview protocols. Salary negotiation. My husband had so many new skills to gain. When retirement looms, where do you start?
I try to have lunch or coffee with two or three different friends every month. I love these quiet times together, catching up on each other's lives without the distractions of responsibility around us. At one of these lunches recently, I sat down with a friend and mentor. As we quietly talked, she told me the revelation God had shown her. It was one of those earth-shattering, mind-changing realizations that take your breath away for a moment as you see the pervasiveness of a tiny lie you'd grabbed hold of. And in that moment, I realized how I too had grabbed hold of this lie and let it invade my life. I suspect you might also find this lie hiding out in your heart and mind. When I asked, this friend graciously agreed to write it out so that I could share it with you. I wanted you to hear it in her words without any commentary I might add. I pray that all of us would cease hiding in the baggage.
A balanced life. It's a common mantra in our world today, with books, television shows and psychologists all proclaiming that we must find balance. Work-Life balance. Family time and personal time balance. Physical, spiritual, and emotional balance. And while I understand the precepts and the health that so many are trying to promote, I always struggled a bit within their spouted parameters. While what they say sounds good, is it truly what God wants for me? Is balance biblical?
This month marks the two-year point. In June 2015, we moved from Virginia to our current home in North Carolina. Since I married my husband in 1996, we've moved a lot. Two and a half years in one house is about our limit before we're packing up and changing residences. I can't tell you how many times we started the school year by learning our address, or how many times I looked at whichever kid was in the ten-to-thirteen-year range and asking them if they knew our home phone number. Thank goodness for cell phones where your number doesn't change with every move! For the first time in my marriage, after two years in the same place, we are not facing the chore of packing up our entire house. No, instead we are facing the much bigger task of watching our oldest pack up everything she owns and moving across the country without us.
How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don't you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears. I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family. What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family. If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
In my book The Warrior's Bride, I shared quite a bit about the health problems my husband endures. Chronic pain, back issues, migraines, leg cramps, and more are a regular part of our lives. I used to wonder what I was supposed to do with that. Were the physical struggles a test? A character building process? Would God heal him, or lead us to the doctor with the right procedure to make things better? And what does it say about our faith if nothing changes? What does it say about God if things get worse?