When Grief Does Turn Good – Reflection on Tragedy

I cross the street and I’m stepping on the set of a movie as this cannot be real! This has to be a scene being filmed for a new action adventure staring Bruce Willis, not my hometown of Joplin, MO. My mind is numb. My thoughts are processing in slow motion. This is is wild as my brain usually can go in many directions at a time and I work hard to slow my focus to what is most important at that moment. The central thought is, “They are dead.”

This was my life three years ago today at approximately 6:30pm (written on May 22, 2014). I lived in Carl Junction, MO. My parents and niece lived in Joplin, MO where a F5 tornado ripped through the town. Our satellite was out so we had no clue how bad the damage was from the tornado. My wife was receiving text from our youngest daughter about the damage. First, St John’s was destroyed. No way! This upset me greatly as it was my first real job, where my wife and I met, and I knew many people were there as patients and employees – what happened to the people? Next, Home Depot was gone. This cannot be true. My heart is starting to race. How bad was this storm? Then, the text came that Walmart at 15th & Range Line was gone. “That’s only a few blocks from Mom and Dad’s house! We have to go and check on them.”

We park at the Joplin School District Administration building and walk to their house. I’m in shock. At this moment, as I reflect, I can feel my mind and body go numb again. So much has transpired in three years. My dad perished from the tornado, and then my oldest sister died two mornings later from a stress induced heart attack. God is good.

The devastation was huge financially and priceless emotionally. This city is still scarred from the damage and yet healing has happened as businesses and neighborhoods are being rebuilt. This means lives are being rebuilt. God is good.

The community rallied together and we received an outpouring of assistance from those not affected, including people from all around the United States. I’m sure there were probably people from other countries who helped too. People affected helped others as they could too. God is good.
Personally, I went forward starting a new job where I was given so much assistance from new coworkers, who are now like family, processing the loss by grieving, attending the joint memorial service for my dad and sister, and trying to help my mom and the rest of my family recover. Many people were at my side which was very comforting. God is good.

Something was wrong though. Each week would pass and I would reflect upon it thinking it was horrible and next week will get better…but it didn’t. A good friend gave me the card of a Christian counselor. I put it on my desk and told myself I would call and make an appointment if the next week wasn’t any better. This went on for a month. On a Thursday, I started to leave my desk for some reason and, boom, it hit me again. I dropped to my chair and fought with every once of my strength not to break down. When I lifted my head from praying, I saw the counselor’s card and picked up the phone and called. God is good.

It has been three years ago and I’m am not the same man any longer. God is real. Yes, He is more real than anyone or anything else in this life. He is the unseen real. He has healed me of so much with more yet to happen as He is generous and there will always be more healing needed. What has happened is monumental though and, is a miracle! God is good.

I live with an excitement for each day and know what is to come is good. How can I do this? Because…God is good.

If you were hurt in any way from the Joplin tornado (really any tragedy) and are not thriving and better now than before, please get help. See a counselor, talk to your minister, let me know and I will help you however I can. God is real. He wants to help you. If you are hurting from anything and need help, He is real and wants to help you. If you want help from me, let me know and I’ll do anything I can to assist you so you too will know…God is real, He loves you, Jesus’ transformation for you will give you new life – one you cannot begin to dream how good it will be.

Anything that can happen in life to help you start to understand, or grow your understanding that…God is good, is good. This is when grief turns good. It takes time. This is true. If I’ve said once I have said a thousand times, “You get better or you get bitter.” I’m getting better. And I so thankful I’m not allowing the other to happen.

I pray you are learning this too in your journey with Jesus.

Ten Best Reasons Why I’m Not Gay

When our culture is giving easy approval to someone struggling with unwanted Same Sex Attraction (SSA)/homosexual desires and many churches are falling in suit too, I feel it is necessary to give my reasons why I made the choice not to identify myself as gay. I must say this has been a very difficult journey with much confusion, frustration, loneliness, isolation, anger, fear; lacking in any amount of peace as I worked through this mine field of pain and suffering. On the flip side of the journey now – peace is overflowing with many other positives that were non-existent when I was struggling.

I write these reasons reflecting back into the time when I struggled and why I did not give in and identify myself as gay. This is from my heart and is not backed by any scientific facts, statistics, etc. That will be a post for another day, but not this day.

My list includes, but is not limited to:

1. I refused to let confusing urges drive my identity.

2. Fear stopped me from “acting out” or “experimenting.”

3. Critical thinking.

4. My faith in God, belief in His Word.

5. My family’s values conflicted with this lifestyle, I would have disappointed them.

6. I liked girls.

7. Homosexual acts were disgusting, I felt dirty after thinking them.

8. Refusal to cave to painful, crushing teasing just to have it stop.

9. Deep inside I could not give up on Jesus’ ability to save and transform me.

10. I got married and did not want to destroy my wife and daughter’s lives by giving in to “urges.”

When I heard anyone discuss homosexuality and flatly state it is was a choice, I would cringe inside. I felt they were saying I was choosing to have these unholy desires and that I wanted to be gay. This was not true. I hated the feelings I had. I had no idea where they came from and certainly did not decide to have them. My heart aches for anyone who is struggling with homosexual feelings and cannot understand them. This truly was a cause of depression, loneliness, isolation, and at the same time the catalyst for putting on masks to cover all this as I certainly did not want anyone to know the “real” me, and hate me. Yes, I really believed I would be hated because almost anyone who talked about homosexuality had so much hate in their words. This, to me, meant they hated me. People say they hate the sin and love the sinner. This is basically impossible for the sinner to hear and believe as the hate, I felt, was lodged at me. The sin was me and I was the sin.

How then did I manage to go decades struggling with these feelings and not act out on them? First, knowing God’s Word clearly spoke to me how it is sin and not acceptable to Him. Second, knowing if He said it is wrong then He had to have some way to help me. God is love. He is real. He would not let me struggle with something that felt like tons of anguish weighing me down forever. I would remember the day in the field behind my home at three years of age when for the first time I knew God was real, in Heaven, all around me, we danced, and He told me we would do great things together. [Note: This is in Part 1 of The Short-The Tall, The Skinny-The All] Yes, these were the most compelling factors that held me back along with basically no opportunity presenting itself. I was a loner with no friends. I’d like to think if a guy would have expressed interest in me I would have said no. Guess it doesn’t matter now. I am very thankful I did not act out as most who struggle with these desires. [NOTE: I am talking about “acting out” on an ongoing basis. There were three times where I did “act out” which I tell about in Part 1 of my story and below.]

When I give the reason of “Critical Thinking” above I certainly do not mean any scientific formula or lab experiment. I stopped to think about what was happening inside myself with these confusing desires. And, what always struck me as strange was, if I got to know a guy I was “jonesin” over, the attraction greatly diminished, or went away totally if I became friends with him, even on a very casual basis. How could this be? If I was truly gay and that was how I was made, then why would the desire fade like this? Yes, I had girls I liked and I would feel that “warm-fuzzy-pukie” titillation and it would go away too, but this was different, I really liked girls. With guys the feeling was more obsessive, desiring something from them that I felt I lacked. Girls didn’t have anything I lacked. Instead, they were an enigma, totally different from me which was a great part of the attraction, smelled good, looked good, walked in ways that made me stare and look like a total dufus, they could be so annoying and yet in ways that drew me to them–basically they drove me crazy, and still do! Today there is one girl who has my undivided focus and she creates all these feelings wrapped up in the most beautiful creature ever to walk the earth!! And, the one who drives me the craziest for lots of reasons and I’d never give her up for a man–that would be CRAZY!

My family was just as dysfunctional as any and we loved each other just as much as any family too. Being the youngest, with my twin sister, of five children there was a lot of fighting. Lots of names were called and I know I called my siblings only names of endearment because I was such a perfect little boy. Not! I learned to have a sharp tongue too and used my speech in ways to protect my feelings from a very young age. I say this but honestly, I don’t remember much of my childhood. [Note: Again, if you want more details on this please read Part 1 referred to above.] So, family values were instilled more from the dinner table, the use of a hair brush on my backside when very young, or laying across on old, backless, pink divan (I loathed that piece of furniture for many reasons with the greatest being the pain from whoopins’ inflicted while upon it…and the color! Think Pepto-Bismol. Yes, it was extremely ugly and I have a stomach ache thinking about it no–please pass the Pepto!) and from church.

When I grew up the word “gay” meant happy, carefree, and I remember using it when in the first year or two of grade school. One day I used “gay” about something and was told not to say it as it was a bad word. I didn’t know what my classmate could mean so I asked? I was told it meant a guy kisses another guy and does other “stuff” that he should do with girls. I was shocked! Why would a guy do this? It seemed crazy to me. And, I went on being a little boy and didn’t give it much more thought until later in grade school when I was called this. Then, I knew it was a horrible word as it sliced my heart and ripped from my mind any confidence I had about myself. I knew it was “dirty” and “bad” so this meant I was dirty and bad. I had never kissed a guy or done “other stuff” so why was I being called this? Because I wasn’t athletic, scared of the other boys in school so I didn’t hang around them, and very effeminate for a boy. I never liked school and was afraid of going each year for weeks and weeks into the year until I finally started to feel comfortable with the teacher, and maybe some of the other kids in the class. I remember wanting to be liked, accepted, to fit in and I never did so school was miserable. I was miserable and very sad. I say this now and I really don’t think I knew I was so sad. Sadness was my constant companion. He was better than no companion.

At some point in my childhood my older brother would call me “homo” but he really wasn’t calling me this. This word was just the new word that had started to be used by all kids in school. I remember a speech by our dad at dinner, prompted by mom as she did not like this word being used, telling us that the Bible called this an “abomination” and my dad saying it was horrible and that he didn’t want us to call each other this again. Well, this of course reinforced the use of it because dad had now told how us how horrible it was so it had all the more power to crush when used. I don’t remember being upset if my brother called me this as it was not the same–he did not really believe that about me. The kids at school using this was totally different. I hated it and had no way to make it stop! The pain was killer, I admit it. It killed my confidence, self-respect, and caused me to really wonder if it was true? This was excruciatingly painful and even though I wondered, deep down I was mad, really furious, and decided I would not be this word, or any other that meant the same, just because I was called it! That’s it. It was a decision made deep inside me and it was done. Now, I see it was one of the best decisions I made as a very young child.

Girls made me lose any intelligence I had from a very young age! Not that there was an extreme about of it to begin with! I remember playing with a few girls on the playground, because I was scared of the boys and my sister asked me to come and play with her and some of her friends. By accident while swinging around a pole by one hand a girl came from the opposite direction and kissed me. Everyone laughed except the two of us. We were both very embarrassed. I hated being laughed at, but…the kiss? I liked it! Of course, I ran off because I didn’t know what else to do. I still remember that kiss and the girl who kissed me. She is still a dear friend after many years and when we get together for lunch that kiss comes up and we laugh about it. I think of it as one of the reasons that helped me to know I was not gay. Confused about my sexuality because I didn’t fit in with the boys, teased unmercifully with words that crush a boy’s confidence in his gender, attracted to what he could not have–friends with other boys–which caused sexual confusion…yes I had to deal with all these feelings and none of them made me gay and still would not today.

As I grew into adolescence and the hormones kicked in, so did misery at a level that no one should undergo. It came upon me like an avalanche from the top of Mt Everest. I often wished an actual avalanche would have covered me as the pain and suffering would have ended after suffocation or freezing to death. This avalanche only paralyzed and burdened me so that I suppressed feelings and isolated myself even more than ever. The attraction to guys was so intense and I had no idea why? Oh how I truly hated myself. We went to church and this was very conflicting. I really enjoyed to worship through music, learning Bible stories of people who suffered and how God rescued them–as I needed a rescuer desperately! I wanted to believe God loved me. But I also felt this wasn’t true because of my uncontrollable feeling about other boys, and yet, I wanted to believe it so bad as then it would mean I was not gay. So, this drove me to know, yet again at a new stage in my development that something was wrong with me and that God would fix me. I prayed constantly and would not give up. It felt like it would never happen. It was a lifetime. I sit here now rejoicing that I never gave up on Him. Jesus did heal me. What caused this healing to take so long? Me! I was in a stronghold of fear, rejection, and bound by a secret that I knew I could never tell or I’d be despised. I prayed, hoped, existed as I had no idea what else to do?

After becoming a young man three incidents happened with other guys and each time I wanted to die as the guilt, shame, dirtiness, filthiness, and feelings I could not even give words to came. I hated these feelings and they were not worth the minuscule in comparison of physical pleasure. So, I set in my heart these acts could not happen again. I did not care how strong the desires or urges. They were wrong or else they would not have created such intense damaging and destructive emotions. I prayed and prayed for God to bring me a wife. I wanted to be a family man and become a dad someday. This would change me. I held out and God answered my prayer. He gave me a wife and two daughters all in one package! This answer to my continued prayer was greater than any way I could have imagined!! I was happy for the first time in my life. And, I had three more reasons to hold out for God’s healing, His transformation to change the desires of my heart as I knew I’d lose these people if they knew my deep dark secret. So, I kept it longer. I kept it so long and wore so many masks that this secret became my best friend when sadness left me after getting married. Problem was, sadness doesn’t leave and stay gone. No, he wanted to come back as he wanted my heart and mind and…I let him back in.

Yes, these are my reasons that I clung to to keep me from going insane and making a decision that I believe would have killed me, becoming gay. I did not know then that a horrific tragedy would come into my life years in the future that God would use to bring me the healing I longed for–more than oxygen. I just knew I was not gay and He would save me from this, someday. That was enough. I struggled greatly and failed sinning in so many ways with this beast inside me. Yet, I did not succumb and Jesus was with me the whole time loving and protecting me. His promises are always stronger than the greatest grade of steel and more valuable the purest of gold, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5. And, He never did and He never will! I hesitate to use the word “never” as it is the word most likely to bite me in the backside.. except with God. God is always good for His Word.

Can Your Life Really Change? More How Jesus Transformed Me And Can Do The Same For You

My story’s beginning is not a time of my life I would ever want to re-live. And yet, I am very thankful for my life then. I am not ashamed of anything in my life. I am not proud of the choices I made either as they were sin. I am forgiven of them and walk in freedom. What I share next in my life is Jesus truly moving in very mighty ways. On a day-to-day basis, it was very negligible. Yet, it was happening!

A key Scripture that I sense we (Jesus and I) practiced was during this season of my life was, “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalms 5:3, NLT

Another Scripture that is a powerhouse in driving me to never give up on God is, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20, NLT

So, here is more of my story…

After we started attending a different because of the prompting of our youngest daughter. With a group of men from this church I attended a Promise Keepers event in Kansas City and this shook me to the core of my being, I surrendered.  But, I kept my dark secret as I correctly sensed if I came clean I would be rejected.  I was very loved by this time at our church and very involved.  I was a deacon, very active in drama ministry, men’s ministry, started an encouragement/prayer ministry, and loved doing everything I could with the youth – both high school and junior high. I even taught some children and adult classes too. This is proof that God will empower us and allow us to work with Him even when we have deep secrets.

Now, I must tell you from the time I graduated college until I married, and then once later when out of the country with a small group of guys I worked with, there were three times I acted out on my SSA desires.  All three times the other man initiated the very inappropriate behavior.  I rationalized away the seriousness of these acts as I only responded. Each time, I made it stop before much happened because I became VERY scared!  With one of the men it happened over a few months, becoming more and more dangerous. I allowed little to happen because he was married.  He moved out of the state with his wife and I was very glad.  As I look back, I know God shielded me. I did sin for what I allowed.  Even sin can teach us as each time I would analyze what happened and know it was wrong. There was little enjoyment when there was so much guilt and shame, more secrets. It was not worth the minuscule physical pleasure.

After Promise Keepers I became involved in an accountability group with several guys. This stuck with three of us.  We met for over five years and…I kept my secret the whole time.  Almost every time we met I was determined to tell them but I would cave due to fear.

I finally had a great job with a small Internet company and our financial life was turning around slowly.  We had become grandparents of two amazing grandsons who I practically worshiped.  These were the children I never got to have.

Life was good in so many ways, other than my deep dark secret.  I was in and out of porn and, as far as I knew, no one was aware.  It was dragging me down, hard and fast.  I stayed strong in studying the Bible, was an avid reader of Christian non-fiction books (“self-help” is what my wife called them), and yet I still persisted in the porn/masturbation/lusting after men.

The owner of the Internet company I was working for decided to move his business to Orlando, Florida.  He offered to move all his employees too by presenting to us a move package that included purchasing our homes, six months wages for our wives as they looked for jobs, and many other perks.  I did not want to move but I didn’t want to be unemployed again!  While making this decision, I finally caved and told my secret to the two accountability buddies.  It was a huge relief to share this secret and get it outside my body! One was really cool and understanding. He offered to help in prayer and holding me accountable to stay away from the porn.   The other guy was verbally supportive but almost immediately he was different around me.  This confirmed my suspicions on telling my secret and how people would react.  This was approximately three months before we moved to Florida.  I prayed and prayed truly believing this move was the best for us.

We moved, got settled, and lived happily ever after.  No!  The first six months in Florida my wife was one very pissed off woman!  I had taken her away from her two daughters, now three grandchildren, her family, her home.  I kept loving her as I knew it was the right move for us.  We found an amazing church within a couple of months. We were loved on by so many people who truly helped to save our marriage.

I had some setbacks with the porn so I sought out three guys to meet with and told them I had been deep into porn – not saying the particulars while they presumed it was women, and this helped me to break this awful stronghold.  Now really, Christ through them and in me receives all the glory!

We lived there for approximately four years and I became very bored with my life.  I had a fantastic job, we lived in sunny Florida, had a great townhouse, friends, and church, yet I was very dissatisfied.  I started taking professional acting classes and improv classes–actually considering pursuing acting as a real career.  I did tons of dramas at church with much praise and encouragement. Several people were suggesting that I should seek opportunities to grow this talent in one or more of the many theaters, shows, etc. in Orlando as it has tons of opportunities.

At the same time my Bible study and “self-help” reading had greatly increased too.  I prayed much, asking God what He wanted me to do.  A sage older man at church one Sunday suggested, “go to seminary.”  About the same time, another man I had really grown to respect was encouraging me to go on for formal theological studies too.  So, after considering three different universities, Regent University in Virginia Beach was suggested as an option.  I really liked the school’s website.  It really “felt’ right after much prayer so I decided to do it.  Other factors in this decision included: Regent was the only seminary I could find with an online program, it did not have “Christian” in the name (I still do not know why this was important and believe I’ll understand as time passes), and I did not have to take Greek or Hebrew as I barely could manage English!  Yes, these were very deep spiritual decisions.  I am being precocious and yet I know deep down that these were valid and He led me to this amazing school for many, many reasons!

In seminary I shared my secret three more times, each as an act of obedience to what Christ wanted me to do.  The first was at His command via a course syllabus. Yes, God speaks in many ways. The second two times were more profound and as a result of surrender and answering His call to, “follow me.”  Because of these acts of obedience, the sin in my life was falling away and this greatly aided in hearing and understanding Him!  We must choose to be holy (set apart, not perfect), follow scripture, and as we journey the relationship with Jesus grows so deep – I want this for everyone!

I had a preaching class where I was to deliver a sermon on campus in which the scripture I was using for it was the woman with the hemorrhage in Luke chapter 8.  The semester was progressing and I needed to work on this sermon. One day while in the shower, I asked Jesus how to finish the sermon I was to deliver and I clearly heard Him say, “tell your story.”  My instant answer was, “NO!” Then, I knew in my soul I could not tell Him this. So, I prayed, “I will do what You ask and I will need Your courage to do this as even the idea of this scares me to death!” It is amazing how I find He can talk to me while in the shower as my defenses are greatly down – must be something true about being naked before God!  I know what is more true is being naked before Him in our souls as we share secrets and bare all to Him. What happens then? Freedom like no else can give, comes!!

I graduated seminary in May 2010 not having a clue what to do with this master’s degree, deeply in debt to student loans with more freedom that I really understood and, with so much more to come!!

I prayed, fasted, asking key people to pray for me as to what God wanted with me.  My brother had lost his job and was starting a MAT program to be a teacher.  I had looked into this program when we moved back to Missouri from Florida in 2008 but I had two years left of my theology degree and did not want to tackle two programs of study at one time.  Teaching is why I started my theology degree so I took my search to a deeper level with a three-day fast and a trip to IHOP (International House of Prayer) in Kansas City to spend the third day of my fast in their prayer room for almost eight hours of persistent prayer, seeking God’s direction.  During this time I had two Scriptures speak to me that were pointedly about teaching and once I clearly heard, “teach.”  So, I enrolled in the same program with my brother and started pursuing a teaching certificate and another master’s degree.

In May 2011 my world, along with almost everyone else in my community, turned upside down.  A F5 tornado took out 30% of our city and with it my dad perished.  He was missing all night and the next morning God led my son-by-marriage and I right to him.  Prior to the tornado I had interviewed for a few teaching positions and had not had a contract offered to me, so I had started talking to a software company about a position doing support.  I felt like I was going backward as this was the same type of work I had done when I started seminary and was so very dissatisfied.  This company offered me a job so I accepted, thinking I would keep looking for a teaching contract.

After the tornado I knew I could not handle a teaching position.  You see, after my dad was killed and we found him, the next morning my oldest sister died of a stress-induced heart attack from losing our dad.  My family was truly devastated. This pain was almost unbearable, or so I thought. I did not know what was to come though.

I went approximately a month and then started seeing a Christian counselor.  This helped me to deal with the loss but also started me on a journey to the root of my SSA.

Our hearts contain almost an endless number of rooms.  There are rooms with great treasures like: integrity, strength, honesty, courage, confidence, and many other jewels.  There are rooms that have been vacated and need to be cleaned, redecorated, furnished, and used again.  And, there are rooms of great hurt, brokenness, despair, and tragedy.   We found the room that contained pain like no human should go through.  You see, I was molested when I was three years old.  This was revealed through much, much prayer – miraculous prayer – constant feeding on God’s word, His tender sweet voice, and a plethora of other ways He gently encouraged me to follow Him in this journey.

Before starting counseling I completed information about my life, I held nothing back. One item I shared was a flash memory from my early childhood. I had no idea what it meant or even if it was me. This was the only piece of evidence we had to lead us to my room of extreme brokenness. Jesus went before me, met me there, and brought me healing.  This is a story, a very powerful story, for a different post.  Just let me say, we can be in more than one place at a time through inner-healing prayer, or what some would call healing memories prayer.  This prayer was the incubator allowing me to face this tragic event. Jesus come into this room with me and my three-year-old self who had been locked in there alone, terrified, hurt beyond words, betrayed, lied to, used, and left behind by many, but worst of all–by me!!

Honestly, when reflecting upon my life it is a miracle that I am alive now.   My counselor told me this once, sharing that most people with this brokenness turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. in such extremes that their lives are usually short.  God is, and has been, so merciful to me!  He loves me like no other and this is true of you also.  He is love.  I John 4:8.

I am now a man with more wholeness and healing than I could ever have hoped for with much more to come as my Lord and Savior is so generous to me. I know we are not done yet.  Proof of this is that I recently celebrated one year of freedom from masturbation. Previously I had almost two years of freedom in this.  I have been free of porn for almost ten years now.  I see a man who is attractive as a child of God and possibly a brother in Christ and do not have lust in my heart as I did for so very, very long.  My marriage is growing and thriving with no secrets.  Those closest to me know my story and still love me.  Most have more respect and see the courage and might of a warrior of Christ–He truly has transformed me into this warrior!

I have freedom!  I love my heart!  I give all credit for this to God and how He pursued me so gently, wanting to bless me with salvation from my sin and truly give me a life no one else can give–an eternal, full, life now–with Heaven yet to come!  And, I want this for you too.  So, I share my story, our story–meaning Jesus and mine–as I am nothing without Him.  I share my life so the world will see how REAL, ALIVE, LOVING, and KIND our Heavenly Father is and how Jesus truly saves and redeems us from our sin to give us a life we could never grasp on our own.

I pray you know exactly what I feel and have this freedom.  If you do not, I offer here through this blog to be another person in your life to walk with you showing you freedom is available for you also, as God is so very generous and will assist you to have freedom too.  You will have much, much hard work to do with Him. It will cost you everything. The reward will be priceless!

This blog is for us. Who am I talking about? I am reaching out to anyone who wants freedom. I want you to consider the cost. I have paid all. Do I have more to pay? Yes, there will always be more to pay as freedom is a lived out reality trusting Jesus, doing whatever He asks, when He asks. We will love and minister to each other as we journey together, with Jesus. We have found each other here for a reason and if you want freedom like you see in my life, it can happen. If you have the freedom I describe, or better, then I want to journey with you as we need to band together. This is an arduous journey and we cannot do it alone. If you lack freedom then this blog can be for you if you are willing to tell your secrets, surrender, and let Jesus into the rooms of your heart that harbor brokenness, allowing Him to heal you in miraculous ways. I’ll share how Jesus and I worked together to be real in future posts. If you think any of this story is amazing…just wait as there is so much more to tell you. His love never stops amazing me!

 

Where My SSA Struggle Began and How It Can Relate To Your Story

This is my story. I live with a Biblical worldview so I want to share a couple of Scriptures that I feel are powerful when I consider all that Jesus has done in my life.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11, NKJV

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” NKJV

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2, NKJV


My life has been a struggle. There have been seasons of less struggle, more recently; and there have been seasons where I didn’t think I’d survive. Most of the time I wanted to be anyone but myself! I am very thankful that we (Jesus and I) pushed through to know FREEDOM! My life now is amazing and I would not trade it for anyone else’s life.  This is the result of many factors with the greatest being falling madly in love with Jesus so that anything necessary to know Him more, I did. It starts with surrender.

So, here goes…

One of my favorite authors is Brennan Manning. Of all his books, my favorite is The Ragamuffin Gospel. I love this book so much that I have taken on “Ragamuffin” as my middle name. So, let me introduce myself. I am Carey Ragamuffin Oster. I am a ragamuffin. By birth my name is Carey Ray Oster. My story starts like everyone’s, at the beginning. My beginning is my first real memory in life.

Jumping down from the fence, I look back at my house to make sure no one is watching me from our house. I feel so free out in the open! Today the sun is shining and the sky is a cloudless, perfect blue that is very compelling. I stare at is so hard I have tears in my eyes. Is there anything more beautiful?

No one is looking so I tear off running as fast as my little legs will take me. I am in a hay-field which will be baled soon. I’m running through the grass that is almost as tall as me. This assists in pretending I am in the jungle. I must slow down and crouch as there are lions in this jungle and I don’t want eating me today. Really, any day as I’d be a lion-nugget no bigger than I am. Suddenly, I stop and stand up with the house far behind me. The wind picks up around me causing the grass to sway to and fro. I stretch out my arms to my sides and turn slowly in circles. Stopping, I look up into the sky and know I am not alone. God is up there past the sky. He is smiling at me now. He is real. He loves me. I love Him too. We’re going to do great, mighty things together some day. Inside, I am so content.

This is a memory that I have held tightly in my mind my whole life. It comes to mind often–especially when I am lonely, hurting, rejected, and feeling like no one loves me, which is most of my childhood. This is something I intuit as I have very few memories of my childhood. I gave this little thought, having few memories, until in seminary when I am reading a book that states this is very common for adults who have suffered a traumatic childhood event, or their whole childhood was traumatic. This caused me to wonder about my first years of life, but not for long. I had a dark secret I was keeping locked inside. This secret requires almost one hundred percent of my mental energy each day leaving nothing to allow me to delve into what this could mean? Other than books I’m reading in my classes, I have no other resources to help me, and this secret is consuming me. Keep on reading!

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