Muted Grief

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from grief to joy                 

Carol woke up from the anesthesia in intense pain. A young nurse was standing next to her bed, writing on a chart. Carol pleaded for her help, but nothing happened; for her mouth appeared to be frozen shut.

The nurse turned to her and saw that she was awake.

“Mrs. Jacobs, my name is Tonya. I’ll be your nurse today. Do you know where you are?” she asked.

Carol shook her head.

“You were in some kind of accident and are in the County Hospital. You just came out of surgery. The doctor stitched up your tongue and reset your broken jaw. You will be unable to talk for a while, but you are lucky that they were able to save your tongue. It was almost completely severed,” nurse Tonya explained.

Carol shook her head again. Tears were starting to pool in her confused eyes.

“Do you remember anything about an accident or how this happened to you?” asked Tonya.

Carol started to shake her head no again, but then a faint memory began to emerge. She remembered the kick to her face and the popping sound of her jaw, followed by the taste of blood. She moved her head up and down.

“You do remember what happened?”

Carol nodded. She used her finger and slowly spelled out the letters K-I-C-K on the bed sheet.

“Kick? Someone kicked you? A horse, perhaps?” Tonya guessed.

Carol shook her head no and spelled out the letters H-E-N-R-Y.

“Henry? Is that your husband?”

Carol nodded.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. The two women looked over and saw the Sheriff and his deputy standing there looking stiff and out of place.

“Can I help you, Sheriff? Mrs. Jacobs just came out of surgery,” Tonya explained.

“Nurse, can we please talk with you out in the hall for a moment?” the Sheriff asked. Carol could see nurse Tonya and the two men talking, but couldn’t hear their conversation. Did she just get Henry in big trouble? Would the officers go out and arrest him? Is that really what she should do? Carol began to cry. Her prior anger and resolve had simmered to fear and doubt. She didn’t know what to do.

Nurse Tonya came back in the room, flanked by the officers on either side.

“Mrs. Jacobs, the sheriff needs to talk to you,” she said, and then quickly stepped back.

“Mrs. Jacobs, we are here to regretfully inform you that your husband, Henry Jacobs was found deceased in your home this morning at approximately 6:55 am. He apparently died from a single gunshot wound to the head. The weapon was found at the scene. We know you are unable to talk right now, but with your permission, we want to return later today and talk further. Again, we are sorry for your loss.

Intense pain shot through Carol’s jaw and down to her stomach. She feared she might vomit, which sent her into a panic, since her mouth was wired shut. She felt as if she might explode from the rising pressure of her grief and her inability to fully express her lament. Nurse Tonya quickly injected an extra dose of sedative into her IV and almost immediately Carol faded into a deep sleep.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.                   Isaiah 53:3

Advent Application: Sometimes our grief and sorrow can seem too much to bear. But even in the midst of our suffering, we can take solace in the fact that Jesus knew grief and sorrow as well. He can truly empathize with us. He wasn’t born into the lap of luxury without a care in the world. He knew heartache and hard times. The Bible said he experienced emotions such as grief and sorrow, just like us. He cried with his friends over the death of a loved one. But that is not the end of the story. In Revelation 21:4 we get a glimpse of how the story ends, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Now that’s a happy ending! If you need some extra encouragement I recommend you download a copy of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” pop in your ear buds and sing along, or better yet, go to church and sing Christmas carols at the top of your lungs. Because the “man of sorrow,” Isaiah talks about, is the same guy that we sing about when we sing, “And He shall reign forever and ever!” Hallelujah!

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. It is also called Gaudette (“rejoice!”) Sunday. As a break from the heaviness of Advent’s penitential preparations, this Sunday offers a reprise from our dark longings to offer joy’s glimmer of light. The Latin word Gaudette is grammatically imperative, reminding us that even in the midst of darkness, we are called to rejoice. This is also why we light a pink candle—the color of joy in the penitential season of purple.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Sunrise

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from darkness to light 

There was no time to get Megan into labor and delivery; the baby’s head had crowned in the ER. By the time Dr. Mathews arrived, it only took one push and little Hannah Joy Jacobs was born. She let out a soft, but heart-felt scream as the bright lights of the examination room blinded her newborn eyes. She was handed over to her exhausted, but relieved mother, who counted all her fingers and toes.

“Is everything okay with her?” she asked.

“She’s a bit small, but from what I can tell with an initial examination, she seems quite healthy. She’s just a little over a month early, but she obviously has a great set of lungs,” the doctor said with a smile.

Megan couldn’t take her eyes off her baby girl. She was perfect, with a head full of dark curly hair, just like her daddy. Megan began to cry as she realized Jim had missed the birth of their daughter and would likely miss more in the divorce. As they wheeled her to her room, the reality of her situation began to sink in. The juxtaposition of joy and sorrow in that moment was just too much for her to handle and her crying turned to uncontrollable sobs.

“Is there anyone we can call for you, Mrs. Jacobs?” asked the nurse who was helping her settle into her hospital room.

“No, but where’s my son? I need to see my son, Justin,” Megan answered, almost in a panic.

“Justin’s fine. He’s been entertaining us with Christmas songs,” the nurse said with a grin.

Just then, there was a knock on the door and in walked the nurse’s aide with Justin.

“Mommy!” Justin shouted as he recognized his mother.

“Hey, little man!” Megan answered, wiping her face dry. “Come over here and meet your baby sister.”

Justin ran over and crawled up in the hospital bed for a closer look.

“What’s her name, mommy?” Justin asked.

“Hannah Joy,” Megan replied.

“Hey, that’s like my song,” Justin shouted and he began to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” 2 Samuel 22:29

Advent Application: How must Mary and Joseph have felt the night they arrived in Bethlehem, only to be told they should have called ahead and made reservations? An angel had told them that Mary was going to give birth to the Messiah, yet they couldn’t even find a decent place for him to be born. They must have faced ridicule and disbelief over the whole virgin birth claim, with family and friends counting the months between their wedding and the due date. Then, after a grueling nine-day journey from Nazareth, Mary’s forced to give birth in a barn. The silent night, interrupted with screams of a young girl giving birth for the first time; no doctors, no midwives, no mother to calm her fear, just a husband who wasn’t sure what to do about all the blood and water. But there came a moment, when peace returned and the only sound that could be heard was the soft cry of a newborn King. In the midst of the darkness, Light was born and heaven exploded with great joy. Today, if you feel you are in the midst of the darkness, throw open the curtains, yes, literally, open all the curtains in your house and allow the light and the Light to invade your world. Joy to the world, the Light has come!

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

The Last Word

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from persecution to justice  

The snow covered gravel crunched softly under the tires of the patrol car as it pulled up next to the house. Leaving the motor running, the sheriff stepped out of the car and made his way through the snow toward the front door. His deputy stayed close behind, trying to follow step in his boss’s tracks.

“You go ‘round back and cover the back door,” the sheriff whispered. “I’ll wait till you get back there before I knock.”

The officers were quite familiar with this house. They had been called out here for a number of domestic disturbances through the years. But this time the call had come from the hospital. Apparently the wife had arrived unconscious at the ER, so they were sent out to notify the husband when he couldn’t be reached by phone.

“Mr. Jacobs, are you home?” the sheriff called out, pounding on the door. A howling beagle stuck his nose through the front curtain to greet them. The officer looked around the place and noticed the fresh tire tracks.

“Mr. Jacobs, this is the sheriff’s department, are you home?” There was still no answer, just the incessant barking.

The sheriff radioed for his deputy to come back to the front of the house. While he waited, he noticed a trail of blood in the snow, which the two of them followed down to the barn.

“Sheriff, look over here,” the deputy shouted, pointing at the broken glass. They pulled their guns and quietly stepped inside the barn. As soon as they entered, they discovered the broken axe and a fair amount of fresh blood on the floor. The two of them looked at each other with suspicion.

“Something’s not right here,” the sheriff said. “You keep looking around here. I’m going back up to the house.

When the sheriff walked around the back of the old farmhouse, the beagle greeted him again, this time from the bedroom window. He peered inside and saw Henry Jacobs lying unconscious on the floor. He shaded his eyes with one hand for a better look and that’s when he spotted the gun lying next to Henry’s body and the dark stain on the carpet beneath him.

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

Advent Application: Have the evil deeds of Henry Jacobs finally brought his life to a tragic end? There were plenty of people who hated Henry and had motive to kill him, but perhaps no one hated Henry more than he did himself. Would the sheriff be investigating a murder or a suicide? At the time Jesus was born, the powerful Herod the Great was on the throne. But Herod lived in fear and paranoia. Even as powerful as he was, he spent his life in a constant state of suspicion. He was suspicious of everyone, including a tiny baby boy who was rumored to have been born King of the Jews. Because of the evil in Herod’s heart, he decreed that all baby boys were to be killed. Yet, God had the last word in this matter. He protected the baby Jesus and according to the 1st Century historian, Josephus, Herod the Great died an excruciating death with a disease he called “Herod’s Evil.” If you have faced persecution from evil people in your life, take heart. God will have the last word. That’s why the Apostle Paul can tell us in Romans 12 to bless those who persecute us. In verse 19 he says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge: I will repay,’ says the Lord.” So we can rest in the assurance that God has our back. Christ can relate to our persecution because he too was persecuted; yet he lived in perfect peace. And we can too.

I once heard someone explain that when you tell someone, “God bless you,” you’re actually asking God to interrupt their lives. So spend a moment right now and pray for your persecutors. That’s the best way to bless them and that’s the way to God having the last word.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Moving Past

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from past abuse to forgiveness  

Jim floored it as he drove his dad’s pickup past the old barn, sending snow and gravel flying. As he came to the end of the drive he didn’t even slow down when he pulled onto the highway. Who cared if he wrecked his old man’s precious truck? His dad certainly didn’t care about him. Jim figured he’d be more upset about his banged up truck than his dead son.

Jim pulled his phone from his pocket to check on his mom. He noticed his wife had called but didn’t leave a message. Typical Megan. She probably just called to pick another fight, but that would have to wait. His mom was in the hospital with who-knows-what kind of injuries, caused by her husband of almost 40 years. He tried calling her, but there was no answer.

Jim’s ears turned red and his blood-shot eyes dripped bitter tears as he imagined the fury his mom had endured the night before. He knew all too well: the calloused fist in the face, the venomous name-calling, and then there was the incident on his 16th birthday. Jim hadn’t thought about that in years, but he couldn’t seem to stop it from coming to the surface.

His dad hadn’t shown up for Jim’s birthday dinner that night and his mom was upset. Jim was hurt, but not that surprised. He headed to the barn loft to soothe his rejection as usual, but when he reached the top of the stairs and stepped into the loft, he was greeted by a direct hit in the face with his dad’s manure shovel. From there it was all a blur, but he did recall his dad telling him he knew what he and his buddies had done to that girl the night before and that his punishment was gonna fit the crime. Jim was gonna get a taste of his own medicine. The next thing Jim remembers from that night was waking up in the barn loft alone with his pants around his ankles. He spent the rest of that evening at the loft, confused and in pain, trying to figure out what had happened. Actually, he had spent the rest of his life trying to figure out what had happened. He and his dad never spoke of the incident again. Sometimes he wondered if it had just been a bad dream, but he knew that was just wishful thinking.

Jim wiped the fog off the windshield and the tears off his face with his sleeve. Even after all these years, the memories of his past abuse were just as painful, maybe more. He was a mess; he couldn’t face his mom like this, nor could he deal with his angry wife. He drove past the hospital and his house and headed to Lucy’s.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”              Matthew 5:4

Advent Application: As hard as Jim tried to bury his past, the memories of past abuse continued to haunt him. His way of coping with this has been through denial and addictive behaviors to help soothe his pain. But it seems this time, he’s at least allowing the memories to take their course and he’s starting the process of grieving and mourning over his past. If he finds a safe way to process this, God will have the opportunity to bring him comfort and peace. Imagine how Joseph must have first reacted to the news that his soon-to-be wife was pregnant. I imagine he felt betrayed and hurt. But God comforted him and reassured him that all of this was in His plan. Joseph was able to find peace and proceed with the marriage and become the earthly father of Jesus. What pain from your past still haunts you? Pray for God to reveal any hurt and bitterness in your heart, and then find a safe place, such as Celebrate Recovery, to find true and lasting healing.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Urgent Peace

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from chaos to peace

As the ambulance made a sharp right toward the hospital, Megan was in the middle of a major contraction. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she squeezed the sides of the gurney with white knuckles. She flashed a forced smile at her young son sitting beside her. Justin looked as if he was going to cry any second.

“Mommy’s gonna be fine, sweetheart.” Megan said with a grimace. She felt the ambulance slow down to a stop. “Are we there?” she asked.

“Not quite,” the driver explained. “There seems to be a stalled car blocking the emergency entrance. We are going to have to go around to the south entrance. Hang on; we should be there in a couple of minutes.”

A security guard had pulled up next to the stalled car and noticed a woman asleep behind the wheel. He knocked on her window, but when she didn’t respond, he radioed for assistance. Two emergency workers came running out of the hospital pushing an empty gurney.

“Her driver’s license says her name is Carol Ann Jacobs. She’s 64-years-old,” the security guard reported, still rummaging through her purse. “She appears to be in pretty bad shape. Her face looks bruised and there’s blood dripping from her mouth. I just came on duty, so I don’t know how long her car has been sitting out here.”

“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the emergency worker replied. They quickly checked her vitals and placed her on the gurney. As they wheeled her into the entrance of the ER, the ambulance carrying Megan and Justin was just pulling up.

The small county hospital was not used to two emergencies at once. They were short staffed to begin with, not to mention in the middle of a shift change with no doctors currently on site. There was much confusion as to who was to help whom. As they wheeled Carol through the door, a nurse running with an empty wheelchair bumped into the back of the EMT and scraped the back of his Achilles’ heel, sending him tripping to the floor. He, in turn, had to quickly crawl out of the way to avoid getting run over by the gurney carrying Megan who was now in full blown transitional labor and screaming profanities down the corridor. In all the confusion, 3-year-old Justin became separated from his mom and was still outside, crying in distress on the snowy sidewalk. Finally, Dr. Mathews arrived in the ER and took charge, and as quickly as the chaos ensued, the unit became peaceful once again. As the two women received medical attention, Justin sat in the corner of the quiet waiting room while a young nurse’s aide helped him find the hidden pictures in an old Children’s Digest.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”                                    John 14:27

Advent Application: Our peaceful lives can be invaded by total chaos unexpectedly. A sudden altercation, an accident, the death of the loved one can send our world spiraling out of control. But just as Dr. Mathews was able to come in and restore peace to the ER, Christ wants to do the same thing in our lives. Whatever is threatening your peace or creating havoc in your world, talk to God about it and see how he can bring peace in the midst of your storm. Commit to becoming a peacemaker; seek reconciliation with someone who has disturbed your peaceful world.

To read the story from beginning, click here.

Anger Mismanagement

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free 

…from anger to serenity

Jim groaned in shame when he finally woke from his long winter’s drunken stupor. His blood-shot eyes blinked out a groggy Morse code as he noticed movement next to him, a barn rat sniffing around a puddle of vomit. He grabbed the empty whiskey bottle and threw it at the curious rodent, but the extra exertion triggered a pounding headache, causing him to heave up a second puddle. He groaned again as he attempted to stand to his feet.

He looked out the loft door and squinted as the sun reflected brightly off the thick layer of snow covering the family farm. The beauty of it was lost on him. All he could think about was his regret. He kicked some loose hay over the puddles of vomit, and instinctively gathered his porn stash and hid it back in the rafters.

As he dragged his heavy feet toward the ladder, the frigid air frosted his bad hangover breath into a dense cloud of shame. Jim couldn’t feel any worse about himself or his situation. He reached his frozen fingers into his jeans pocket to retrieve his car keys, but when he stepped outside, he couldn’t find his car. Perhaps the snow was deeper than he thought and his little car was totally buried, but then he realized, no, his car was really gone.

Jim let out a blood curdling, profanity-laden rant that reverberated across the snowy hollow. He kicked the snow in a tantrum and found a small rusted ax lying on the ground. He picked it up and headed toward anything breakable. With ears redder than his mom’s pickled beets, he released his rage out on anything that got in his way. He headed into the barn and chopped large gashes in one of the wood troughs. When the ax handle finally broke off, he threw it at the frosted window, shattering it into a thousand sparkling shards. He walked over to the ladder and pulled a loose rung off and threw it across the barn. If only he could tear this shameful place down, piece by piece. As he reached for a second one, he found his mother’s note.

When Jim realized that his mom had had to drive herself to the hospital in his car after being beaten by his old man, his rage melted into grief. He stuffed the note in his pocket and headed up toward the house. It was time to confront his father. But his resolve began to wane with every step he took. He just couldn’t face his dad. He hated being reminded of the hurt and abuse he had suffered from his father as well. So as he hesitated next to his dad’s pickup, he peered inside the driver’s door and saw that the keys were in the ignition. He jumped in and headed toward the hospital instead.

Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil. Psalm 37:8

Advent Application: Jim’s temper has been a source of great pain for him. When he gets out-of-control, his rage destroys everything in his path, including the people closest to him. His wife and son have both suffered from his hateful fury. If he doesn’t get help, he will end up doing irreparable damage to all his closest relationships. Yesterday was the second Sunday of Advent where we focused on Peace. Jesus is our Prince of Peace. He taught us to be Peacemakers.  But if we can’t get a handle on our anger, we can’t ever find true peace and serenity. If you struggle with anger, I encourage you to memorize the Serenity Prayer and recite it everyday. It’s a wonderful spiritual resource.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Expectant Light

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from fear to peace  

Megan woke up before dawn confused and cold. It took her a moment to remember she had slept in her son’s room, but it only took a split second to realize the bed was soaked.

“Oh, Justin, wake up, you’ve wet the bed,” Megan said, sitting up as quickly as her pregnant belly would allow. Justin rubbed his confused eyes awake.

“I’m sorry, mommy,” Justin explained.

Megan quickly pulled back the covers, sending a shiver over them both.

“Oh, no! It’s me,” Megan said in a panic. She struggled out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. As she was about to get out of her wet clothes, she felt a contraction starting. She sat down on the toilet seat, grabbed hold of the bathroom sink next to her, and yelled across the house for her husband.

“Jim, my water broke! Call the doctor.” But there was no answer. “Jim, are you here, I need some help, please!” But the only response that came back was the frightened voice of her little boy. Justin came running down the hall to the bathroom.

“Mommy, are you okay? Where’s daddy?”

“Mommy’s okay, Justin. I’m gonna have a baby. Your daddy must not be here. I guess he went into work early,” Megan explained. “Justin, mommy’s gonna need your help. Can you be a big boy and help me?”

“Yes, mommy,” he answered tearfully.

“Okay, I need you to go get my cell phone out of my purse and bring it to me. Can you do that for me, please?” Megan felt another contraction coming on and braced herself against the sink.

Justin ran and fetched the phone. Megan called Jim but he didn’t answer, so she dialed 911 for an ambulance.

“Mommy, I’m scared.” Justin said.

“Don’t be afraid, Justin,” Megan said, flipping on the bathroom light. “We’re gonna be fine. I just need to grab a few things and then you and I are gonna ride an ambulance to the hospital. Won’t that be fun?”

Megan looked out the bathroom window. Sunlight was starting to slowly invade the snowy landscape. She could hear the siren in the distance. Help was on the way.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?                         Psalm 27:1

Advent Application: Fear can strike even the most courageous person. Megan and Justin felt alone and afraid that cold winter night. We’ve all had fearful nights like that. But then the Light comes and we find that we are able to see things from a different perspective, and eventually our fear begins to subside and transform into a state of peace. We are then able to function and start making clear-minded decisions. Mary and Joseph must have also experienced great fear as they traveled to Bethlehem, but as Light was born on that dark night, they were able to see how much God loved and protected them. My prayer for you is that the Light will come into your life and bring you peace in the midst of your fear. I encourage you to commit to memorizing Psalm 27:1 as a way of bringing the Light into your dark fear.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Hard Climb to Peace

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from denial to acceptance  

By Doesthisonecount?

Jim not only found his old stash of porn in the rafters of the old barn, but he also found a half bottle of his old man’s favorite whisky. He spent the evening wallowing in his crazy cycle of pain and self-medication. His good friend Jack Daniels helped deaden his intense shame.

After a couple hours, he finally drifted off to sleep, only to be startled awake by the barn door slamming shut. He rolled over and attempted to get up to see if the door had come unlatched, but every time he lifted his head, the dizziness sent him back down. Finally, the whirling overpowered his remaining faculties and he forgot why he was trying to stand up in the first place, so he surrendered to a deep sleep.

Carol had finally made her way into the barn. She, too, was dizzy after being on the receiving end of her husband’s right kick. She had lost a lot of blood from her mouth and she feared her jaw might be broken. She attempted to call out to her son, but was unable to form a single word. Every time she tried to speak, she would nearly faint from pain. She could taste the blood in her mouth and feel the open gash on her tongue.

After several failed attempts to get Jim’s attention, she tried climbing the ladder to the loft. But she was in such pain and so weak, she couldn’t hoist her heavy frame past the lowest rung. Carol sat down on an old milking stool, tears streaming down her face. Years of repressed pain, frustration and fear finally came flooding out and fell onto the dirty floor.

When she finally came to the point of resolving her painful situation, realizing she had to move forward with her life, a sense of peace and calm seemed to sweep over her. She remembered that she had Jim’s extra set of car keys in her purse, just in case he lost his, or got himself in trouble. She rummaged through her purse and found them.  She also grabbed a piece of scratch paper and a ballpoint pen and wrote a short note that said, “Jim, your father has hit me for the last time. I’ve taken your car to the hospital. Mom.” She stuck it on a nail protruding from the ladder and made her way to his car.

Jim’s clunker of a car seemed as drunk as its owner, not wanting to rouse from her winter’s nap. But finally, on the third attempt, the old gal turned over and began to gasp to life. The wind whipped the falling snow into a swirling dervish as Carol calmly headed to town for help.

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”                                                                              Hebrews 13:6

Advent Application: At some point in our lives, we have to face our fears. We have to get out of our denial and accept our struggle. It’s only then that we can begin to grieve, the kind of grief that can lead us to recovery and true peace of mind. Carol had finally come to that place in her life. She had spent many years downplaying the physical and emotional abuse at the hand of her husband, but finally, she came to her senses. She admitted it was indeed abuse and she didn’t have to take it any more. And for the first time in a long time, her resolve to move forward would bring her closer to peace with herself, and peace with her situation.

What is your situation, your struggle? It may indeed be abuse, (past or present), or perhaps it’s your own destructive habit or addiction. The first step in moving toward true peace of mind and freedom is to get out of denial and admit your life is unmanageable and out-of-control. I urge you to take that first step today. Go online to www.celebraterecovery.com. Click on “Groupfinder” where you will find a directory of all the meetings in your area. Just as Mary and Joseph had to make the difficult journey to Bethlehem before bringing the Prince of Peace into the world, we must all make the difficult decision to begin our journey to recovery. And it’s in that difficult journey where we will finally reach a place of peace.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Broken Hope

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from present abuse to safety

Photo by Belfasteddie

Carol noticed Henry’s face turning an all-too familiar shade of red as he downed his sixth or seventh beer. Hoping to avoid a confrontation, she stood up to make a quiet exit, but her skirt accidently caught the corner of the tray table, sending dirty dishes and crumpled beer cans across the family room floor.

As she quickly dropped to her knees to clean up the mess, Henry’s foot greeted her abruptly in the face, slamming against her jaw. She heard a loud pop and then saw the blood right before passing out. Henry appeared oblivious of the fact she had been hurt or had passed out and continued ranting venom in her direction. He stumbled his way back to his bedroom, pounding his fist against the wall, before slamming the door shut behind him.

Outside, the old farmhouse appeared almost “Rockwellien” in the falling snow that cold winter night. But inside, in front of the static glow of the TV, Carol lie motionless in the midst of the broken and dirty dishes.

When she finally came to, she slowly got up and made her way to the bathroom to access the damage to her face. As she passed the bedroom, she prayed that Henry was passed out in his drunken state and wouldn’t come after her a second time. She tried to clean up the blood on her swollen jaw and rinse her bloody mouth with warm water but the pain was too excruciating. She quietly grabbed her coat and purse and snuck out into the snowy night, making her way down the path toward the barn.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.                Psalm 9:9

Advent Application: When Christ came to us as a baby in a manger, the God of the universe entrusted his vulnerable son to the care of loving parents. God sees all of his children as worthy of love and care. If you are in danger, I pray you find a safe refuge in Him and his church.

Domestic violence and abuse is a sad reality in so many homes. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you are being abused, physically, verbally or sexually, I encourage you to seek help. There are many resources online that can guide you toward safety. Also, contact your pastor or other trusted professional for spiritual and emotional support. The Bible has much to say about those who hurt and oppress those who are supposed to be under their care and protection. If you are guilty of abuse, I encourage you to repent and seek professional help immediately. While there’s still HOPE.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Hoping for an Escape

Advent 2012: Setting Captives Free

…from addiction to freedom

Jim made a pillow from a stack of old feed sacks and settled in to try and get a little sleep, but it didn’t look promising. With the prospect of losing everything he’d worked so hard to achieve, his mind simply wouldn’t shut down. He stared up at the skeleton of rafters holding up the rusted metal roof and began to take a painful look at his situation.

The barn loft held a significant place in Jim’s life. This is where he had gone as a boy to be by himself. It was his hideout, an escape from his problems, which mainly centered on his dad’s violent temper. Time alone in the loft became a way of dealing with the frequent verbal and physical abuse at home.

This was also where he discovered his dad’s girly magazines hidden in the rafters. He remembered that day like it was yesterday. He could still recall those alluring images. Time alone with these magazines became the way he coped with his fear and pain. It became his escape.

But then things got out of control. Time in the loft was no longer just an escape, but a necessity. Eventually, the magazines got old and served only to fuel greater curiosity. Soon he was shoplifting hardcore magazines and videos and inviting his buddies to join him in the loft. Then one night, the day before his 16th birthday, everything changed. That was the night his best friend lured his younger sister to the loft.

Jim felt great shame just thinking about that night and all the sordid nights that followed, but he felt powerless to do anything about it. The memories of his past actions haunted him with nauseating flashbacks, which, in turn, triggered other shameful acts, in a futile attempt to cope with his intense shame. It had become a vicious cycle of addiction.

Jim had hoped that once he got married, his problem would stop, but it didn’t. Instead, it only made it more difficult for him to be intimate with his wife. When she caught him on the computer the first time, she chalked it up to men-will-be-men. But when she kept catching him night after night, and saw the stuff he was watching was not just “innocent” soft porn, she finally realized her husband had a serious problem. It was when Jim refused to seek professional help that Megan threatened divorce.

Jim wiped the tears off his unshaven face and sat up. He shook his head, trying to re-bury the painful memories he had just dug up, and then noticed something flapping back and forth high above his head on one of the rafters. He climbed up the precarious stack of bales to get a closer look and was shocked to discover some of his old stash of magazines.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!                                           Romans 7:24-25

Advent Application: Just as Joseph and Mary found a barn to escape the elements, Jim found the barn as an escape from the abuse of his father. But that’s where the similarities end. For while Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world in a barn, Jim gave birth to a shameful addiction that has haunted him his entire life. But “Thanks be to God,” through the Baby born in a barn, Jim has the opportunity to no longer be condemned to a life of slavery to sin. The same is true for us! Thanks be to God, we can be free from the law of sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord and our rescuer!

Just as addictions and bad habits begin with one activity repeated over and over again, it stands to reason that the same principle would work in regard to good habits. Make a commitment to continue reading this or some other Advent devotional every day through Christmas, then keep repeating this good habit until it becomes not only an occasional “escape” but a daily spiritual necessity.

To read this story from the beginning, click here.