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5 Reasons You Should Watch the Shack

6 Mar

Isn’t The Shack just a made up story? Yes. Is it even based on biblical facts? Yes, in some ways, but I like to think of it as an allegory. Pilgrim’s Progress wasn’t a true story either. But wait, God is a man and not a woman, right? Well, who of us has seen God? These are some of the questions people have about the movie, The Shack based on Wm. Paul Young’s book by the same name. This book and movie have taken a lot of heat, but most of the critics haven’t bothered to read or watch it. If you are one of the skeptics, allow me to share five reasons why you might want to watch The Shack.

1. If You Have Ever Suffered a Huge Loss and Wondered Why

The Shack tries to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Many of us in hard times after a death of a loved one or some other terrible event have asked, “Where is God if he is sovereign?” This movie attempts to answer this question through telling a story about one man broken by a terrible childhood and then a loss in his adult life.

2. If You have Father Issues and Feel You Can’t Trust the Father

Early in The Shack we see Mac’s father beating him with a belt. If you grew up with a narcissistic parent who beat you, put you down or abused you in any way, you might find it very hard to trust God. This is because God’s original plan was for parents to act in the role of God to their children. When we were small and unable to provide for ourselves, we relied on our parents for everything. When they were abusive, it gave us the idea God might be abusive too. Part of the reason for this is that little kids can’t see the abuse. They won’t assume their parent is abusive, they just think they are bad. As children, we absorbed our parents’ sins and now as adults, we still feel unworthy. In the Shack, Papa goes out of the way to make sure Mac knows he is worthy of God’s friendship and love. That word friendship came up several times between Mac and Jesus. It reminded me of one of the least repeated verses in the Bible where Jesus says:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

One of the problems we ACoNs have with our parents is they often won’t release us to be their friends, because they want us to be their servants and slaves for life. Of course it is a form of love to serve our parents–but not when we are adults who are forced to submit to a narcissist abuser.

The Shack reminds us that God is not at all like a narcissistic parent, he is always concerned about what is best for us. In the words of Papa, God says, “I am especially fond of you!” And what is so amazing is that he is especially fond of every person in the world, but it doesn’t take away from the wonder and love he has for each of us as individuals. God is a good parent who loves every one of his children equally, but differently.

3. If You Have Been Afraid of God’s Wrath

In The Shack, Mac asks Papa what about God’s wrath. And Papa says, “What? What are you talking about?” Mac thinks God is vindictive and revengeful toward sinners and Papa reassures him this is not true at all.

If you have not discovered the fact that God’s wrath in Romans 1 is really about God letting people go to their choices and not about revenge, then study up on it. There will be fundamentalists who disagree, but a thorough study of the subject might back up Young’s ideas in The Shack.

This film gives a great example of letting go through the art of storytelling. While it has theological tones, the story itself is well written, well directed and well-acted. People without a religious bone in their body could still enjoy The Shack—because it is a well told story and the heart of this movie is not about religion, but relationship.

4. If You Struggle With Judging or Forgiving Others

It also shows how we can let go and still honor our losses.This movie is not just about losing someone dear, it also carries the message to stop judging others and forgive them–despite the horrible things they have done.

Every abuser was formed most likely by the abuse of their parents going all the way back to Adam and Eve. While judging and forgiving seem to be at odds with each other, the way we can deal with both healthfully is to let go.

In the situation of narcissistic parents, we are healthier for letting go. The burdens we carry don’t have to hinder us and tie us down, God can turn our pain into wisdom as we grow stronger until we learn to fly. In this story, like in many of our lives, there were characters who needed to be forgiven and there were nightmares that came from the darkness that could only be put to rest by looking to Jesus as our brother and friend.

I was particularly touched by one scene with Mac and his father. Once we see our parents’ wounds we can forgive easier and we can realize they didn’t mean to harm us, they were broken by the fall too. How many children’s hearts would be turned back to their fathers if parents only they owned what they had done and asked for forgiveness? Of course, we realize most narcissistic parents will never do this, but we can forgive them even when they don’t say sorry. We are the ones who will heal when we do this.

5. If You Have Trouble Trusting God in Any Way

About ten years ago, I went to a seminar where the speaker asked if Jesus was behind one door and the Father the other, which door we would choose to go through. My answer was the Jesus door because I thought Jesus was the good guy who had saved me from the Father. That night I learned some things starting with the fact that Jesus said he and the Father are one. God’s wrath is letting us go to our own choices. There is no revenge in the Spirit of God. That whatever Jesus would say and do for me is the same as what the Father would say and do for me. I was first in shock, then in awe of God.

The next morning I got up at dawn and looked at this amazing and gorgeous sunrise full of pink and gold. As I stared up at it, I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart that this display was for me. That Abba, Papa, Father–whatever we call God was shining his love on me and I began to weep. I asked him, “Father, can you really be this good?” I will never forget that morning—it was the day that changed everything in my life. I have never had a worry about the future or my salvation since. My feelings were similar while I watched The Shack. I was profoundly touched by God’s love.

The Shack gives us a little God’s eye view of humanity where we can see how God loves every person. One of my friends who went to see it with me said, “I wish I could go and stay at the shack for a long time.” Why? Because to dwell in that shack is to be nurtured and loved unconditionally by God. To get answers from God. I believe The Shack is a little taste of heaven and it will change your heart, but you’ll have to see it for yourself.

NOTE: Some will have theological questions about this, while I am not a theologian, I will share a little of what I have learned from others.

Some Theological Questions About the Shack

God as a Black Woman?

The biggest criticism of The Shack has been its portrayal of a black woman as God the Father. But people who have trouble trusting God as a father might need to see the feminine face of God. God said, “Let us make humankind in our image.” If Eve as Ezer Kenegdo was created in God’s image, then certainly God has a feminine side. Jesus himself said he would like to gather the people in Jerusalem like hen gathers her chicks under her feathers (Matthew 23:37). There is a Bible verse which says, “Even if a mother forgets her nursing child, I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15,16).

The fact is God is Spirit. None of us have seen God. We know throughout the Bible God has manifested as the angel of the Lord in various places (Genesis 22:11–15). And God has manifested as a human even before Jesus was born, when three visitors came to Abraham and at least one of them was God. Even here, maybe the number three has significance (Genesis 18). When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit was manifested as a dove (Matthew 3:16). Paul says Jesus was manifested as a rock for the Children of Israel (I Corinthians 10:4) and he was also the cloud which protected them by day and night (Exodus 13:21).

The Shack portrays God manifested as a black woman, an Asian woman and as a Native American Father. I see no reason why such portrayals would shock anyone who understands how God bends close to the earth to meet each hurting human in the place where we most need God.

Universalism?

Other critics have accused Young of writing about Universalism which states that no one will be lost but all will be saved. I didn’t get this idea from the book or the movie. But it is important to note that God is especially fond of everyone—the question is will we allow God to heal us? Some may not, but it has always been God’s dream to save everyone–he just won’t force anyone.

When Mac asked, “Then are there to be no consequences for sin, Papa says, “Oh there’s always consequences.” Then Papa describes how God gives everyone freedom of choice–if this is true, then God either must win every soul to his way of thinking, or lose some.

I was reminded of two verses:

1. The Wages of Sin is Death (Romans 6:23).

Some say the wages paid by sin is death. This is the law of sowing and reaping. Some call it karma. Jesus taught about the parable of the sower. If there is no sowing, there will be no reaping. We all will reap what we sow.

2. It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Some say sinners can’t follow God unless they are scared into it, but that is not God’s way, that is the enemy’s lie. How do we know this?

God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

The true biblical explanation of God’s wrath is actually letting go (Romans 1:18-32). We would all be wise to notice this passage is about all sin–not just the ones mentioned by the fundamentalist Christians. I believe when God lets go, the Holy Spirit releases people to their own choices.

The poison vine Sarayu warned Mac was deadly when helping him dig up the weeds in the garden of his heart, reminded me of how sin kills us. And if we refuse to allow Sarayu AKA the Holy Spirit to help us clean up those toxic parts in our hearts, we could become damaged and in danger of walking away from God altogether.

Disconnection from God is what is so deadly for all of us humans. This is why God’s enemy puts up so much opposition to The Shack. If people are afraid to watch it because some Christian warns them it’s dangerous, they might miss out on trusting God and having a better relationship with him and that could be a tragedy.

Where the Spirit of God is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Let each person decide for themselves.

MLK and Advice for the ACoN Soul

15 Jan

Being a white girl, living in a white neighborhood and not knowing any people of color, Martin Luther King Jr. was never mentioned in my childhood home. His birthday was never celebrated as a holiday until I was twenty, but I actually never learned anything about him until I was in college and we had peanut soup on the cafeteria menu and someone explained it was in honor of him. By then I was interested in civil rights because I’d begun to have friends of color who explained to me just how hard it is to grow up with racism.

For years, I thought of King as a wonderful man of God who believed in non-violence and had great quotes, but it wasn’t until I discovered the level of narcissistic abuse in my own family that I really began to resonate with King’s sayings. Perhaps only those who have had to fight for their freedom can truly appreciate his statements.

It’s true, he was fighting for civil rights, but Martin Luther King Jr. brings wisdom to the collective human race and he especially speaks to all who have been oppressed. Today, I hold many of his sayings close to my heart because I have found his advice useful for any people who have been mistreated and Adult Children of Narcissists certainly fit into that category. Now, more than ever these words ring true across our nation.

Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent
about things that matter.
-MLK

Anyone who has been marginalized or abused knows this is only too true. When one of my siblings once told me, “We can never live until our parents are dead,” I cried because I didn’t want them to die, but I wanted to live.

There is something about the human soul that despises being silent about the things that matter and yet many of us were taught we had no voice. No matter what kind of abuse you have suffered, finding your voice is a vital step to your recovery.

 

mlk-1000

King, in few words, has undone a lifetime of silence because he gave us permission to say, It’s not okay for people to marginalized me or lie to me and lie about me. It’s not okay to triangulate behind my back and I don’t have to put up with rude behavior–whether it’s calling up my friends to talk about me or writing rude things on my social media wall.

Now, when we have people who are blatantly abusing others whether in private family gatherings or in the media, it’s time to let our voices be heard.

Injustice anywhere
is a threat to justice everywhere.
-MLK

King calls us to accountability for all members of the human race. It doesn’t matter if we share the same skin tone, or gender or social status, when any one is marginalized or harmed, we must take it personally, because the threat is real and we are each called to be our neighbor’s keeper.

Of course there is often opposition when we speak up. Our abusers will often say “Not right now–wait until after dinner or the holidays or until we get a better leader,” but King has given us permission to say how we feel and share what we think with no apologies especially when he said:

The time is always right
to do what is right.
–MLK

King even had some advice that could be used for Flying Monkeys:

He who passively accepts evil
is as much involved in it
as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil
without protesting against it
is really cooperating with it.
-MLK

The ultimate measure of a man
is not where he stands in moments
of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times
of challenge and controversy.
-MLK

I find courage in these quotes, because even now there are people bowing to the powers that be–both within the denomination I grew up in and in our nation, but I cannot and will not forsake the principles of Jesus to please any human no matter who they are. Such a reminder is all the more meaningful when I realize King once stood on such principles and paid dearly for them with his own life.

And this brings us to some of the best advice King ever gave:

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
-MLK

I’ve read about survivors who are bitter about their past abuse and are filled with contempt for their abusers. They have trouble forgiving in part because their abusers won’t say sorry, but they continue to carry the burden of their abusers with them everywhere. I can understand how they got there, but King offers us a higher path when he says:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
-MLK

This gives us permission to let go of the past and lean into the light. Somewhere on this planet there is a survivor playing beautiful music or painting an amazing work of art or writing a fantastic story of hope. Just knowing there are people who have survived much worse than I have endured and they are still carrying on to serve other people gives me hope and joy.

So in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., let us live our lives by speaking of what matters even when it is unpopular. Let us watch out for those who might not look like us, but who in character deserve and resonate with our own cries for freedom and justice for all.

Let us forgive and release those who have meant us harm and let us carry the light of love wherever we go–to work, to school, to church, to the boardroom, to the neighborhood–because we have a choice.

Every man must decide
whether he will walk in the light
of creative altruism or in the
darkness of destructive selfishness.
-MLK

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse–Remember to Release

30 Dec

So this last year you discovered you were in a narcissistic relationship or even raised by a narcissistic parent. You’ve probably also discovered the narcissist will never see it, will never agree with you about this and of course will never change. Bottom line the narcissist is not interested in your happiness.

Realizing this probably brought a sense of peace because now you no longer need to jump through hoops to play a game you can never win. You’ve survived the holidays with a good friend and a couple of pets, but now what? It’s time to

RELEASE:

re·lease
rəˈlēs/
verb
 
1. Allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free. 
“the prisoners would be released” to set free, let go/out, allow to leave, liberate, set at liberty

2. Allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely

It’s the end of the year–time to remember and release. It’s time to clean out the closets and give back everything you don’t need. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need more guilt trips, shame or arguments about who I am and what I believe or how I choose to live my own life.

So where is the line for narc returns? Where in the world do we give all this crap back? Not to a store. Not to a friend or spouse, and certainly not to the narc.

Of course we are speaking of all the non-material junk dumped on us by critical, judgmental and narcissistic people. It’s not like taking a sweater the wrong size back to the store. At first it seems there is nowhere to take it, so we hold it all inside wondering how to absorb the pain. But you get to decide how this story ends.

Remember how those twin towers fell on 911? They imploded because they could only hold so much stress. People implode differently, we can only hold in so much heartbreak and stress and if we don’t figure out how to let go, we will eventually crash. Many have paid with their health, but narcissistic relationships are not worth trading for your health, so it’s time to remember and release.

You can call up the narcissist and demand an apology, but if you are dealing with a bonafide narc, they won’t say sorry. You probably know that will never happen.

You can play the victim and whine to your friends and spouse (whining and telling your messy story are two completely different things). You can feel like a victim, but then you’d be giving the narcissist even more power to ruin your life. Maya Angelou wrote, “Don’t whine, whining just lets a brute know there’s a victim in the neighborhood.”

Sharing your messy story will help you get your power back because it heals you and those who listen. You can also journal. It’s fun to release our stories—through writing and art. A couple years ago, I took an art journaling course from Brené Brown that was really fun and healing. This opened me up to taking more art classes online and I have found profound healing through making and releasing art. Telling our stories heals us, but it also heals others. It’s good for all of us to know we are not alone.

You can defend yourself and try to correct all the lies the narcissist has spread about you to friends and family, but the truth is it’s not you, but the narc. And your true friends already know the truth and the others won’t care.

Sophia Owl, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/22403369-sophia-owl?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

My favorite Art I made in 2016–A reminder! Prints and cards available here

You could also join the narcissist in beating yourself up and giving shame messages to yourself, but ouch, why even go there? Shame never comes from Jesus.

We remember and release. It’s a lot like catch and release if you like fishing. Don’t be scared of what you will find in the past. If you invite Jesus into the past, He will sort through this mess with you. If you don’t do religious stuff, you can still go through the spiritual practice of remember and release.

Maybe it’s been awhile since you cleaned out your closets, if so, you might need to go all way back to 1999. But no matter how far back you go, remember and release will help you make room for a better new year.

You can write a letter to the narc and tell them how much they hurt you and mail it in a bonfire. Remember the narc doesn’t care how you feel so this part of release is important, but don’t mail it to your narcissistic parents or ex-lover. This is just so you can acknowledge what happened and forgive yourself for letting them do this to you.

Whether you tell your story, journal or make art, if you are a Christian, Jesus is different from the narcs and He cares about people who are abused, so He is leading you away from the narcs. Some Christians will say give it to Jesus, and that sounds nice, but to date no one has actually shown me what that looks like. A friend suggested we invite Jesus into the mess and that seems much more feasible to me. Jesus is knocking on the New Year’s door of your heart and he is asking to come in, we don’t have tidy up our hearts for him—he already knows all of our secrets and he loves us anyway.

If you are not religious, you can still find gratitude for your journey with different signs along the way where the universe or karma was bringing you to a better place. Someone is watching out for you despite the pain. Open your eyes to this new and healing journey.

Remember and release has nothing to do with forgetting. As a matter of fact when we journal, make art or tell our stories, it helps us to remember and release our pain so the healing can continue.

After you clean out the closet of your heart from all the junk the narcissist dumped on you, chances are there will be a big empty hole left where the hopes and dreams you had once resided. That’s okay, it just leaves more room for new people and better dreams.

It’s time to start dreaming now how to make 2017 a better year. What have you always dreamed of doing? What will help you live a better story? It is only through releasing that we begin to live a more whole-hearted story.

I plan to RELEASE:

The Narcissists to play their own games
and eat their own word salad without my help–I’m so outta here!
Release the Flying Monkeys to their illusions
Release my own expectations of other people
Release all guilt and shame trips
Release weight
Release fear

And let’s not just release negative things:

I plan to
Release BOOKS I am writing
Release ART I am making
Release LOVE!

What are you going to release?
Please feel free to share in the comments.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
-Mary Oliver

 

 

 

Giving Women Wings

17 Nov

Girlfriends we are in a war. Not the kind you read about in the news feed, but a private and personal war. It’s an attack on woman-kind. And the enemy is not cut and dried like one sports team against the other where the color of the uniform informs. It’s a war of men against woman–but not all men. It’s hidden abuse behind closed doors with men who view women as less than themselves. The battle is real for a mother who can’t sleep at night because the man she married and the father of her child is an abusive narcissist.

In a world where people are fighting over whether it’s PC to wear safety pins, God calls Women and there are true Ezer Kenegdos who are rising and making a difference with their hands and feet. I’d like to introduce you to a ministry called, “Give Her Wings.” Their goal is to help women get on their feet and find their wings.

Many times women are shamed by the church and accused of being codependent, but the truth is many victims of narcissistic abuse are stuck in a trauma bond. This means they have been abused to the point they can’t find themselves anymore. These women are in a fight for survival and any little crumb of kindness thrown at them by the narcissist–while it might seem like nourishment to to them—is actually a part of the poison. These lies are part of the abuse cycle to reel women in with kindness and then berate them with abuse. Such treatment could wear down the strongest of women if she is gas-lighted on a daily basis.

Give Her Wings is making a difference one woman, one family at a time. We know narcs rarely change. When these women wait for their abusers to change, it erodes their self-worth and damages their children who are growing up with fighting in the home. The only solution to such horrible abuse is to go no contact, but because so many Christians are ignorant about narcissistic abuse, these women often fall through the cracks because they feel ashamed to ask for help.

This is where Give Her Wings not only offers financial support, but spiritual and emotional support to help women remember who they were created to be in order to regain their wings of independence. Here is some of their philosophy in their own words:

“We do not encourage our mamas to look back at their old life with their abusive ex-husbands; we do not link them to those men. That is over and done with. We encourage them to move forward and press on to the new life Jesus is giving them. And we do everything we can to help with that.” -David

“We love our mamas, we do not try to help anyone “reconcile” with an abuser, knowing that this is impossible. We meet vulnerability with even more dignity and we give mercy right where they are and where we are.” –Megan

I was recently honored when Give Her Wings purchased some of my art and I decided to look into their platform and I was amazed what a small group of people can do when they serve one woman at a time. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

Ezer Angel, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23882013-ezer-kenegdo-angel

Prints and Pillows Available Here

I’ve thought a lot about women–how God created us as Ezer Kenegdos to reflect Herself–the feminine side of God. That God Herself also is called Ezer several times when the crisis is great and people need a lifesaver. The women (and men) at Give Her Wings are acting as true lifesavers, true Ezer Kenegdos helping God restore women by helping them rediscover their original Ezer glory and freedom in their Creator. This is the way to healing—to know who created us and who we were meant to be–I believe this is the only way any of us can find our true healing.

So I was just playing around with my paper and glue and this angel showed up to remind me we can all be Ezer Kenegdos–we can all be lifesavers who come alongside–this is who we were designed to be. When I am painting, I never know how the art will emerge. As I prayed for this ministry called Give Her Wings, I was reminded of so many ways we can all be angels to give other women wings and I added a few ideas at the bottom.

As Christmas approaches Give Her Wings has raised gifts for twenty two mothers and over forty children this Christmas. That’s amazing, but they continue to work all year round to free women from the chains of abuse. Their website and facebook page offer articles to help women support others and realize what narcissism is so they can get on with their lives and fly.

Bravo to Give Her Wings! I can’t imagine a more powerful work! Let’s follow the example of Give Her Wings and look for opportunities to serve the women and children around us.

PS If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to before the end of the year, I highly recommend Give Her Wings.

Don’t forget to check out their links:

About Give Her Wings

Give Her Wings Website

Give Her Wings on Facebook

A Great Article About Trauma Bonds

Ezer Kenegdo Rising

11 Nov

In the beginning God created Man, but he was not all that–because even though God created Man with perfection, something was missing–Man wasn’t whole. We know this because God looked at him and said, “It’s not good for Man to be alone.”

So God put Man to sleep and took a rib out of him to form Woman. This rib was to remind Man that Woman was not a separate entity, but an actual part of him. Man recognized this when he saw her and declared, “She is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!” This caused Man to love and care for Woman’s body and soul as much as his own.

But God didn’t create Woman to be an extension of Man. Woman was designed with a mind of her own to test and strengthen Man though the experiences of life. When God named Woman, She declared her an “Ezer Kenegdo” which means, the “Lifesaver who comes alongside.” God Herself is called Ezer just a few times in the Bible and every time, God is referenced as coming through to save the day when everything looks hopeless and lost.

Woman, as the crowning act of creation, was given a God-like role to serve and provide hope and love to save Man’s life. Of course this was not a one way transaction–Man would be blessed by the experience to love Woman and she would be blessed by the experience of loving Man. As long as they continued to serve each other, they would enjoy a beautiful symbiotic relationship of equality where neither controlled, nor manipulated the other. For a while this worked and all was well in Paradise.

Ezer Kenegdo Rising, Cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/493033330/ezer-kenegdo-rising-print-boho-home?ref=shop_home_active_1
Then one day Man decided to do his thing while Woman did hers. Instead of working together, Woman ended up vulnerable and alone and deceived by a charmer. This resulted in Man choosing to protect self and before they knew it, they discovered they were both naked and ashamed. Instead of Man owning his junk and Woman owning hers, they blamed each other, the charmer and ultimately God.

God hadn’t changed. She was the same. She called for Man and Woman and found them both hiding in the bushes trying on fig leaves as if God couldn’t see through Her own creation. God had created this beautiful unity between two versatile parts who were two, yet one, but now their unity was broken and it grieved Her.

It was time to tell them the truth. Because they had fractured their unity, the struggle was harsh. Man was stronger and he would lord over Woman. Woman would now pine for their lost intimacy and use all sorts of manipulation to get Man’s love back. Their own insecurities and shame began to block the connection between them.

Man figured if one Woman could save his life, perhaps he could become immortal if he had more Women. Woman, heartbroken sought ways to manipulate Man to regain her status. Woman’s plans backfired. Man’s love of power grew greater than Man’s love for Woman and their connection faded.

This broken pattern has been passed down from our first parents to us today. Woman, who was once the crowning act of creation and created in the shape of God Herself, was altered by her own scheming and manipulations. Man used his power over Woman and downgraded her title to “help-mate.” He now expected her to carry his water bucket and quench his thirst–only to thrown Woman into the ditch whenever he was in a bad mood.

No one has seen God except what humans have seen in the face of the God/Man Jesus. Yet Man is only half of the image of God because Male and Female were both made in God’s image. We have seen the masculine face of God in Jesus, but the feminine face is more obscure. God could have just as easily come to us as a Woman, but perhaps God came as a Man because Man had stolen all the power from Woman.

In order to meet broken humans where they were. God had to manifest Herself/Himself as a Man to lead because Woman, the Ezer Kenegdo–the one who was meant to be a lifesaver for Man, was now broken down and infertile by Man’s desire to rule over her. So God entered human history as a Man in order to lead both sexes back to health and equality. Thus it would be said “In Christ there are no males or females.”

After this happened, Woman began to get her power back because of the God/Man Jesus.

Woman, who had slept with men to gain back her love, now found her value restored through the God/Man Jesus.

Woman, who had demons in her soul, was now set free by the God/Man Jesus.

Woman, who was once forced outside the temple, was now beckoned inside by the God/Man Jesus.

Woman, long shut out of educational pursuits and status by Man, was now being restored by sitting at the feet of the God/Man Jesus.

Woman who was once shut out and overwhelmed with grief, was healed and restored by the God/Man Jesus. And so out of gratitude, Woman spent all she had to show her appreciation by washing the feet of the God/Man Jesus.

And God, knowing what had been stolen from Woman by Man’s greed and desire to lord it over Woman, gave Woman the greatest tasks of all–to carry the God/Man Jesus in her body, to nurture the God/Man Jesus’s human mind and body and to be the first person to announce to the world that the God/Man Jesus had accomplished His mission when He arose from the grave.

Yet even with such proof and the fact that both Man and Woman were created in God’s image, Man still assumes God is male and Man continues to deny Woman her status as the Ezer Kenegdo. Man continues to use Woman and exalt himself above her, but Woman will not be subjected to Man for eternity. Man has taken very little thought of the feminine face of God, but what a surprise he will have when he looks into the eyes of the Ezer, the God whose image Woman bears.

Meanwhile Woman is rising!  Thanks to Man, Woman had nowhere else to go but up. And thanks to the God/Man Jesus, Woman is being restored to her original glory of Ezer Kenegdo.

Have you seen Ezer Kenegdo?

Ezer Kenegdo is rising as the brightest star of kindness and grace shining against the darkest night of oppression and misogyny.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising as a comforter who sponges the fevered brow of society’s many diseases even as she wipes away her own tears.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising as the baker of the Bread and pourer of the Wine–even while she is told to stand at the back of the line.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising even as she continues to endure her shame and pain because Man is often too vile to recognize the image of the most high God within her.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising as she risks her own life to call out truth and demand justice for those who are marginalized.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising as she leads the way in love for all people and points out where human judgments fall far short of God’s grace.

Ezer Kenegdo has been beaten and bruised and give her own crown of thorns, but because of the love of the God/Man Jesus, Ezer Kenegdo is carrying the cross too heavy for past centuries, but today she is finding her identity and worth through the face of the God/Man Jesus. Ezer Kenegdo rises higher than ever because now she knows her joy will come in the morning, when the dawn breaks in the garden on that final resurrection day.

Ezer Kenegdo is rising. Trained eyes can see her in Woman now, but she will finally be seen in all her glory when she is standing next to the God who formed Woman in Her image.

But  until then, Man, who has failed to recognize the feminine face of God, is shocked to hear Ezer/God’s voice crying out, “Man, Man, why are you persecuting Me?”

How to Survive Spiritual Abuse

5 Nov

In my early twenties, I was part of a Christian music ministry and for nine months we sang at a different church every night. We were told to respect the authority of our leaders because they were set in place by God. One day at training camp, I was slapped in the face for leaving a three hour meeting to run to the bathroom. Some might wonder why I allowed someone to treat me this way, but I was conditioned to accept this spiritual and physical abuse because I was belted until the day I left home at nineteen.

As we traveled slowly across America singing cheerfully, the interpersonal relationships were fun and not so fun at times. Our leader turned out to be a control freak who got mad because we went to McDonald’s for breakfast, so he forced us sit in circle on the floor and demanded that every one of us say we respected him.

Knowing he was abusive and knowing we had done nothing wrong, I refused to say I respected him. This made him more angry so we sat for hours until it was time to leave for the next church. Since he couldn’t force me to say I respected him, he told me to sit in the audience that night instead of singing in the concert. As I sat among strangers trying to hold back the tears, I felt very alone, but God had already provided a gift to encourage me.

After the concert, my host family for the night was a middle aged couple who immediately noticed my red eyes and tear streaked face and threw their arms around me. They were a married couple who were both counselors. When we got to their home, they pulled out a delicious chocolate cake and said, “Let’s talk.”

There is a unique intimacy between strangers which allowed me to be free to tell my story because I knew I would never see them again. I stayed up half the night telling them about my childhood and what was going on in the group. The tools given to me that night have stayed with me through many encounters with abusive people.

1. Never Trust Any One Who Claims to be the Voice of God
The myth of a church leader speaking for God, has done untold damage to millions. Cult leaders often ask people to forgo their conscience to obey their rules as if God has spoken through them. No person is capable of looking inside human hearts and no one will ever be as gracious as God.

If God wanted a person to be his spokesman, Jesus would have told us, but like Brian Zahnd says, “Jesus is what God has to say.” Jesus and his life and teachings is our only safeguard. If someone claims to speak for God and they don’t match up to what Jesus taught, there is no light in them.

Spiritual abuse is the violation of our trust in God
by someone who claims to speak for Him.

2. Recognize the Limits of Their Power Over You
When an abusive leader discovers he/she can no longer control through manipulation and coercion, they will frame dissenters as the scapegoat so others will attack them too. This eventually breaks down relationships and causes schisms within the group.

You might gain some progress by breaking through barriers and befriending those who are trying to shut you out, but if this doesn’t work, look for new family and friends who are open to healthier ways of thinking and living.

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…
Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground,
carrying it downriver to someplace better.
–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Humans can fire you or exclude you, but they have no real power over your life in the long run. Trust God, stay loyal to him and he will eventually come through for you. No matter what someone does to you, God will ultimately have the last say. It’s easy to feel alone, but greater is He who is within you, than he who is in the world.

3. Realize It’s Okay to be Angry
Beware the Pharisees and flying monkeys who will try to shame you for being angry. Anger in response to poor treatment simply means you have had to confront evil. Whether it’s because of rude behavior or lies or someone trying tarnish your good name, there will be times you feel angry when confronted with injustice and that is really okay as long as you don’t harm anyone with your anger.

God never condones the violation of a person’s freedom–whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual abuse. Jesus got angry when he overturned the tables in the temple to drive out those who stood between the people and God. But his anger was not vengeful or destructive. The Bible reminds us to not to sin in our anger and to not to go to bed angry. It’s important to vent and find a plan to deal with our anger in a constructive manner.

You should be angry. You must not be bitter.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.
It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.
So use that anger. You write it. You paint it.
You dance it. You march it. You vote it.
You do everything about it. You talk it.
Never stop talking it.
–Maya Angelou

4. Give Yourself Time and Space Away From Toxic People to Heal
Sometimes you need space and distance from toxic people to restore your soul. If you find toxic people at church, take a break from your local church or go to a different class. If you feel sick when you walk through the door, find a safer church. This goes for social media too. If arguing with strangers makes you sick, stay away from those groups. Block toxic people from your page. Let your life be filled with opportunities to serve others, but don’t allow others to shame and control you.

The Twenty Third Psalm is a great comfort to many people. One of my favorite verses came to life during one of my darkest times. Some people in my family were angry because I didn’t join them in excluding someone. To this day we barely talk. During this time, God provided a smorgasbord of better understanding about His character. One day I was reading the twenty-third Psalm and I realized this reality in my spiritual life:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
-Psalm 23:5

My soul was fed and my mind opened up to many good things and I experienced great peace despite a huge family split. I longed to share my new insights to all of them, but they were more interested in punishing me for not doing what they wanted, than learning anything new. During this time, I literally was given a spiritual banquet—one which any of them could also have experienced, but they refused to partake of it.

5. Stay Connected to God
I have heard from a lot of people who have put up with lots of crap in the name of God. When spiritually abusive leaders lead, it’s important to not let them rob our joy. A few years ago, my husband and I once again had to deal with an abusive leader. We were targeted by a pastor who didn’t like my skits for the youth or my husband’s music. To keep us from doing anything he didn’t agree with, he lied about us. When we found out and tried to speak the truth, he got even more angry and tried to disfellowship us without giving the members any reason. Before it was over, we became very discouraged.

Spirit of God is Liberty, CherilynClough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15989067-hummingbird-liberty?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and Accessories Available Here

One day we were walking on the beach and I began to cry, I wondered what would happen if we were disfellowshipped. My husband took my hand and said, “They might take our names out of human books, but no one can take our names out of God’s book of life.”

Something shifted for me that day. Our membership was never taken because there were no grounds for it, but the weird thing was we no longer cared about positions in church or membership to the point it would control what we believe and how we serve.

When it comes to abusive leaders, church structure is irrelevant because they will twist the rules to meet their agendas, but let them play their games. We know where to place our faith and it’s not a denomination, but in Jesus himself.

This world is full of beautiful scenes, loving people and animals, intoxicating flowers and delicious fruit. God graces our views with warm sunshine and inspiring mountains and warm fires—all mere sentiments of his great love for each of us. Look at the reminders in nature all around you. Soak in God’s promises of unconditional love. Abusive leaders will come and go, but God’s government is not based on policies or control, but on freedom. His love is steadfast and will remain so forever.

The Hidden Elephant of Narcissism

9 Sep

There’s a phrase, the elephant in the living room,
which purports to describe what it’s like
to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser.
People outside such relationships will sometimes ask,
“How could you let such a business go on for so many years?
Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?”
And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation
to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth:
“I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in.
I didn’t know it was an elephant;
I thought it was part of the furniture.”
-Stephen King

The Persuader came after me twice when I was seventeen. Once was for not cleaning the kitchen fast enough and the second time for running away because my parents wouldn’t let me go to school.

I recently wrote a book review for a book by Shannon Thomas titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. I found her book compelling because she uses the term “hidden abuse.”  I hadn’t heard that term before but I really like it. I like it because for most of our lives those of us who grew up with narcissism in our families struggled with invisible bruises and scars. Like the elephant hiding in the room, we couldn’t always see it for what it was, but we felt it. And we aren’t alone.

The neighbors didn’t see it. The pastor didn’t see it. The teachers didn’t see it. The grandparents didn’t see it. Aunts and uncles didn’t see it. Because the abuse was hidden. It was hidden behind closed doors. Shame poured on like syrup on pancakes if we didn’t go along. It was hidden in the dark corner of the house and the darkest corner of our souls where so many times we couldn’t even see it ourselves. Sometimes it was hidden where nobody could see it except for God.

And the question for many of us is, “Where was God?” We can take comfort in the fact “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And Jesus says, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17).

I personally have no desire for vengeance or revenge. I believe such feelings are harmful, but I don’t blame people for having these feelings. It’s easier for me to release resentment because holding a grudge has never been my style. And part of the reason for this is I often didn’t realize how much I was affected by this hidden abuse. I justified my feelings. I rationalized my abusers’ behavior. It was so hidden sometimes I couldn’t even see it.

People have asked me why, thirty years after the fact, I feel a need to write this memoir. Because of hidden abuse. Because the abuse of thirty years ago has left welts on my soul that never seem to heal and it wasn’t until I read Shannon Thomas’s book that I understood why. It’s the secret. The cover up. The denial that I joined in to save my own mind at times. And it would be great to say it’s all water under the bridge, but it’s still not over. When your parents lie and talk about you and try to turn everyone away from you, you know it’s not over.

What bothers me the most, is the lack of honesty. When dealing with right talkers, they see every conversation as a game to win. It seems some want to win by a technicality where they don’t speak an actual lie, but they live one. Or they use that old trick of all politicians and say they don’t remember. They figure if they can just forget an incident I can too. And if we all forget it, it never happened. The problem comes because I am still reeling from the effects of the past and now dealing with the lies repeated to me.

Honest Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

Prints and Accessories Available Here

Not every lie sounds like a lie. Sometimes lies are simply a piece or part of the truth. Sometimes lies are told in silence through facial expressions which fail to reveal the heart. Sometimes lies are told by telling a part of the truth and omitting significant details.

Sometimes lies are told with vague words and lack of commitment as some do when they say your outfit is weird or unique or interesting when they really mean it’s ugly. Or when they ignore the rest of the truth and speak only enough of the truth to entice the listener to accept their words as the end of the conversation when in reality so much more has happened and needs to be discussed.

I think the worst lies are those said to appease the conscience. When some says I love you, but they can’t stand you enough to call you once a year or share what is going on in their own life because they merely call you to say they called you or to get information to carry back to the narc.

This is how I was taught to be dishonest as a child. To prevaricate and rationalize our position to soothe conscience and say the least I could, so as to not to be caught in a lie. It might seem like a white lie, but such subtle techniques destroy relationships and families. And it helps us confuse God with our parents which is just another lie.

As I think about my life and where I long to be, it’s always, always in that place of honesty where faces are true and we can look into each other’s eyes and not hide a thing. I crave emotional honesty. I soak up spiritual honesty where our stories are messy, but we can tell the truth about our dirty secrets anyway.

A huge part of the pain of this hidden abuse continues because of the secrets we have had to endure and the fact we can’t mention the past long enough to heal because it might offend the narc. So yeah, thirty years later and we still don’t talk about it. I am reminded of an episode of the Judds where Ashley told her sister about her memoir. Wynonna was upset and said, “Why did you have to do that?” And Ashley replied, “Because you and mom wouldn’t listen any other way.”

My heart ached for Ashley. She gets it because she has lived through hidden abuse. Sometimes people don’t respect us and probably won’t respect us–even when we write the memoir, but we must respect ourselves because our stories matter and God himself does not ask us to hide in the dark.

Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
And memories–good and bad,
Can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.
-Cherilyn Clough

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book Review

6 Aug

It’s not the load that breaks us down–heaven knows if we could see it all at once we might just shift our hips and find a better way to carry it–no, it’s the shrapnel of life that keeps turning up in our relationships or the gloom we feel when we’re alone due to the painful reality of a heart being torn out and left bleeding on the couch.

It’s not so much the shape of the matter as the absence of love–like a hole left behind when one piece of scripture is wantonly ripped from the Bible and taken out of context. It’s not the big things that tear us up, it’s a million little rocks in the soup of life that ruin our meals. It’s not the actual mass of the load as much as it is the way a thousand little things stick to our back like ornery burrs on a dog’s coat.

This is why recovery can’t happen all at once or even as fast as we hoped. Have you ever sat in slivers and had to get help in taking each piece out one at a time? That’s basically what recovery from abuse looks like. There ain’t no hurrying what cannot be hurried.

For those who are on this survivor’s journey, you’ve probably discovered healing is a continuous process. Now that we’re awake, we’re always learning new ways to heal and deal with in life. So what can we say to our friends who ask if we are over it yet? The first thing I want them to know is this is still me with a few scars. Like the skin horse in the Velveteen Rabbit, I’ve survived some rough handling, but I’m still here and I am myself now more than ever. I’ve also just read a new book that can help lighten the load.

Healing from Hidden Abuse Book, Shannon Thomas

The book is titled Healing from Hidden Abuse and I’d like to tell you a little about it. The author is a Christian counselor named Shannon Thomas. Her writing style is comforting. Thomas understands what it means to be abused, (I won’t give away her story here) and that might be why this book seems like a like a conversation with a good friend.

At the beginning of the book, Thomas reminds us that abusive people are everywhere—at work, at church, in the family, etc. It’s not enough to get safe from our abuser, because part of our healing is learning how to recognize unsafe people and maintain our boundaries to avoid future abuse.

In the last three years since I learned about narcissism, I’ve read at least a dozen books about abuse and I can tell you this is one of the best. Healing from Hidden Abuse especially hits the mark for ACoNs and those who have dealt with the hidden abuse of narcissism.

The first part of the book is very validating. For many of us who grew up with abuse, it’s been hard to recognize and name this abuse because what we lived through seemed normal to us at the time. I appreciate the way Thomas defines the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse. She says people can be emotionally abusive due to drug addictions, alcohol, etc. yet still have empathy for other people, whereas psychological abusers will abuse others because they get some sort of thrill from it.

Regardless of why such abuse happens, one of the most puzzling things for a survivor is the secrecy and clandestine nature of the abuse. When no one else sees what we’ve gone through or the abuser questions us like we are the abuser, it sometimes makes us question ourselves. If this is happening to you, this book will help you realize this is a form of gaslighting.

One of the most healing truths I discovered in this book is that our good points—resilience, empathy, and compassion actually made us targets for psychological abusers who were looking for people like us so they could milk us dry. I have often thought it was a flaw of mine that caused the abuse, but reading this book, I discovered it was not my flaws, but my strengths that allowed me to be targeted by the abuser. If you are the type of person who likes to make lemonade out of lemons, this is truly a book for you. There is nothing wrong with making lemonade–but we need to learn who is safe to share it with.

This book is easy to read, yet it packs a lot of information. I found myself marking the book and going back to re-read pages again. Sometimes I wondered if I would end up marking the entire book. It’s not only a validating resource, but it is also a great reference to have when issues or situations flare up again.

The first section examines patterns of psychological abuse. This book grew out of an online survey as a research project. If demographics are not your thing, just skip that chapter because it basically just affirms why the rest of the book is necessary and why Thomas’s six stages of healing actually work.

Thomas explains many terms we use in recovery community such as flying monkeys, hoovering, smear campaigns, love bombing, etc. I’ve written blogs on many of these topics before, but I found Thomas’s in descriptions informative and fascinating. I learned a few things here and I am sure you will too.

My favorite part was the recovery section. Thomas reminds us that the word survivor means to carry on despite hardships and to outlast and persevere. She points out the goal of surviving is to remain functional and what last half of the book is about.

This book is packed full of practical suggestion to help you overcome the emotional pain in your life. One of my favorite tips for those who are struggling with no contact is to put a photo collage of all the good things in your life on your phone. This is a reminder of what is going well in your life and why you need to protect your heath and the relationships that matter to you and not waste your time arguing and being emotionally attacked by your abuser.

This book describes in detail six steps of healing from psychological abuse. These are solid and easy steps to understand and follow. And it also includes understanding the ways we have contributed to our own abuse. Yes, we are responsible for the ways we have allowed other people to treat us, but this is not a shame walk, it’s a freedom walk. It’s a place to learn how to avoid landmines in the future.

When I read Thomas’s six stages of healing, I recognized these different stages in my own journey. I am sure you will too.

Here are the Six Stages of Healing

  1. Despair: The realization that life has become unmanageable.
  2. Education: Learning the specific methods of psychological abuse.
  3. Awakening: Awareness that other people have had similar experiences and recovery is possible.
  4. Boundaries: Implementing emotional and/or physical distance with an abuser.
  5. Restoration: Living purposefully to restore what was lost during the abuse.
  6. Maintenance: Returning to earlier stages to heal at a deeper level and maintaining recovery from abuse.

The book gives in depth tips for getting through these stages. If I’d had this book years ago, it would’ve taken the shame away of being scapegoated by my abusers and fast forwarded my healing, but I am grateful to be one of the first to read it now.

I recommend this book to anyone who has suffered any form of abuse and for those who have friends or family in abusive situations. This book is full of tools and wisdom to change lives. Reading it has filled me with clarity and peace.

Restoration from Narcissistic Abuse

29 Jul

When I was eleven, I had a tabby cat I loved dearly. When we moved, I had to start school late and to make it worse I had to take the fifth grade for a second time due to all of our moving. I was worried I’d never have any friends. But one thing cheered me, I had a little cat to sleep with me and sometimes she even put her paws up next to my cheek. I went to school for two months before we had to move again.

On this moving day, my cat couldn’t find her litter box because it was lost in the hurry of moving before the landlord got there. My dad hated cat messes and he went into a rage and rubbed the cat’s face in her poop. She scratched him so he threw her against the brick fireplace wall. The cat yowled in pain and ran out the open door. With tears streaming down my face and scared to say very much lest my father belt me, I went outside and called for my cat for the next two hours, but she never came back. My parents packed the car and left while I crooked my head out the back window to look for any signs of my precious kitty while we drove away, but I never saw her again.

For adults on the run, one cat was a just a small loss, but for an eleven year old girl who had very few friends, it was devastating. This happened in winter and a few flakes of snow fell while we left. I cried and cried because I was worried about my kitty, I knew she was hurt and I feared she might die or starve.

This was one of the most traumatic moments of my life, but when you live in a family that’s on the run and hiding, there’s no time to discuss how you feel, so you just stuff it—usually with food. I cried and cried and my mom gave me some peanut M and Ms (my future drug of abuse.) I was holding a large table lamp, but my body had to move so I started to rock back and forth in the car.  That’s when my mom turned around and said, “Stop that, what are you? Retarded?” I tried to sit still, but like much of my childhood, I couldn’t stop rocking due to the things that happened.

For almost forty years after I lost that tabby cat, I’ve always had a cat, but never a tabby. When we went to the humane society to get a cat three years ago, my husband insisted on a half Maine Coon tabby kitten. I didn’t want her. I thought she was ugly, but he really liked her, so I agreed to take the little sprite and figured it would be his cat since we already had a black cat I loved dearly.

Can you imagine? I thought she was ugly? But only for five minutes, because I am a cat lover after all. Oh my word! She has stolen my heart like no cat I’ve ever had before! She sticks with me all day and all night long. Sleeps beside me with her paws around my arm and her face next to mine. She is the only cat who has ever slept as close to me with her paws on my cheek like that little tabby forty years ago. She sits at my feet while I write or wash dishes or paint. She is the most affectionate, smart and crazy cat I’ve ever had.  Here is a painting I made of her.

Kitteh Coon, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518170-kitteh-coon?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and cards available here

One day I said to my husband, “I wonder why I’ve never liked a tabby cat before, then all of the pain came back to me. Once again, I felt like that helpless eleven year old girl watching her father throw her pet and friend against the brick wall. Then I remembered all the shame that came when I was discouraged from talking or mourning about it. I literally started to rock back and forth just like I did as a child when I remembered this loss.

To be fair, my dad is an old man now who has been known to make a hot water bottle for a stray cat on a cold winter night. But this blog is not about him, it is about me and my healing from the past. If my parents were healthy, they would recognize it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize to your grown children so you can have an authentic relationship with them.

When we are traumatized we either remember it very well or we block it out. I have always remembered this happened, but I tried to forget the details. And one way I dealt with it was to never have another tabby cat. This way I could forget about my painful loss as a child. My plan to avoid dark tabbys was mostly subconscious, but deep down inside my heart I think I always knew. How can we make up such losses that seem to follow us like dark riders for the rest of our lives?

Today I was reading a new book titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. The author Shannon Thomas is a Christian therapist who has written the best book I have ever read on healing from narcissistic abuse. This emotional moment came up for me today because I was reading through the healing part of her book where Shannon explains how we can find ways to give ourselves some of what we’ve lost.

We’ll never get our missing childhoods back, but we can find some restoration in things that have meaning for us. For me, this started when I got this tabby cat. And even as I read Shannon’s book, I realized my Father in heaven was working to restore this broken piece of my heart. My husband picked out this kitten five months before I realized what narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve always felt like that knowledge was a gift from God and now I realize God was even leading in which cat my husband chose for me.

What sort of losses have you suffered?

How are you finding ways to bring restoration back into your life?

How Do We Love?

14 Jun

How do we love?
Do we love with picket signs and judgment?
Or with silence and shunning for the people
who look, speak, think, live and believe differently than us?

How do we love?
Do we protect ourselves with weapons made of metal
or use hate-filled words of steel
to threaten those who see things differently?

How can we love?
When we wore colors for Paris and Umpqua,
yet shudder to wear a rainbow for a fallen child of God?

Did we love Umpqua
because we have all gone to class?
Did we love Paris
because it was the city of light?

Do we see Pulse as different
because we imagine we are right?
And believe angels left these at the door?
So we feel less need to mourn
figuring they got what they were looking for?

How can we love?
When most of our lives we have been building walls
between us and those we think unclean?
Where do we start on the bridge between? 

Where is our love?
Love that has failed over and over and over again?
When will we learn to admit we are sinners too?

How does He love?
The one whose blood was shed for all?
The one who mourns and sits with the hurting?
The one whose name we bear
while we try to put a distance
between ourselves and other sinners?
Are we not separating ourselves from him in the process?

Love Birds, CherilynClough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/20754218-love-never-fails

Prints and Accessories Available Here:
http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/20754218-love-never-fails