Thursday, 28 June 2012

God loves grey days

Dull. Drab. Grey.
Where is the sun? This is Queensland!  I need vivid blue skies and bright sun to warm my world. I'm used to clear horizons and running all day with a light jacket.
But this week is different.
I have to drag myself out of bed for my not-so-early walk. Where are the colours of the sunrise, the shafts of early morning light that brighten my world and form dancing reflections in the little creek? These are the things that make my heart worship everyday. The greens that usually sparkled in countless different shades are all dull greyish green
Walking along the creek, I spy two koalas, high in the gum trees, huddled against the cool day. Then across the creek there is one little head with two pricked ears . A wallaby! I haven't seen one on this tiny reserve for a couple of years. As I stand and watch, he turns and jumps above the long grass so I can see him. He's a large black wallaby with a white tip on his tail. He disappears into the long grass, completely hidden again. The day seems brighter. 
I walk another hundred metres past my local supermarket. My route takes me down a suburban street which skirts the other side of the same reserve that follows the creek. The birds are going crazy. Crows are yelling, parrots are squawking and two galahs are screeching as they fly around in a large circle.
There is always a reason for birds to be so disturbed. I stop, forgetting the demands of the pedometer in my pocket. I watch. What are they concerned about. The galahs are circling the tallest gum tree and there, in the top branches, is an eagle. Too high for me to see clearly, he is about six times larger than the crows. He seems unperturbed by their screaming at him as they swoop past. The only thing that moves is his head. I watch until the parrots settle in a branch above him, the galahs disappear and the crows return to normal behaviour. 
Realising that he isn't going to fly, I head home. What a wonderful walk I had on a grey morning. Then I noticed the wonderful pale pink blossom on a Eucalyptus tree. Somehow the dull background highlighted the pale colour.
Ah, God, I think I'm starting to understand. Today you have spoken in a different way. You're always speaking but sometimes I don't hear because you don't always communicate the same way. You have so many differnt languages. In shine and in rain, in good times and bad your voice is always there. Please tune my ear and train my eye to see it. I want to know you more and more and more.
As the words came out of my mouth He replied. Right there in front of me. A love letter from God!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

I don't want to talk about it.

   Don't talk about it! I don't want to know! Leave me in my little cage of denial!
People, I find, don't want to hear about the on-going results of serious sexual trauma. 
   As a family, we walked the "Sexual Abuse Road." There is no way back, no sidetrack that avoids the bumps and potholes. We found ourselves on a journey we didn't choose or want, but we had no choice. Like it or lump it, this was our life. From that day on, our family would be classed as dysfunctional. Why? Because we were victims of crime.
   The road was rough, painful and difficult. It challenged everything we believed. Anything that wasn't a deeply embedded part of our lives was shaken off and we were left clinging to the Rock called Jesus.
    So I wrote the book, Though the Bud be Bruised, to share our journey and our victories: to show the amazing grace and healing love of our God who led us, via the wilderness, to wholeness. 
   The book also shares the church's struggle when dealing with such issues, especially when the consequences turn to unpleasant psychological outcomes. The unspoken (occasionally even spoken) judgement  implied that, if we had real faith, none of these things would be happening. As a family we made the church untidy. We marred the squeaky clean image that churches try and maintain to make God look good.
   The church's inability to handle our 'dysfunctional family' and the consequences of the abuse, which was perpetrated within the church, was nearly more painful for me than the crime itself.
   However that was years ago. It is all behind me. God, in His grace, used this disaster to reveal himself to me in a greater measure. I am very thankful for the love He showed me then, and continues to pour out on me to this very day.
   But this week I am angry again!
   I approached a Christian radio station asking for an opportunity to speak about my book. When a lovely lady rang to organise an interview, she back peddled upon hearing the topic was sexual abuse. After she consulted with the program director, I was referred away from the morning program to the News and current affairs. Their email asked why I would write a book about such a heavy topic and difficult subject matter. 
   All contact I've had with these people has been highly professional and very polite but it has stirred up my passion. Isn't it time good Christians stopped shying away from such subjects? Let's face the brutal facts. Sexual abuse has happened and is still happening within the church. And not only within those of traditional persuasion. It is equally embedded in 'alive' churches. One in four women and a lower percentage of men who sit in our churches have been victims of sexual abuse. One in four of the girls in our Sunday schools are or will be a victim.
   Ignorance of these facts made our family easy pickings for the enemy. I want parents to be better informed. My aim is to educate them of the dangers, and so expose the evil ways of the enemy. Let's shine a light of truth in the dark.
   Paedophilia is alive and well in churches. Today. Now! How can that be? Because where evil isn't challenged, it thrives! Where there is a discomfort around a topic, we can be sure it is active but camouflaged in our midst. The enemy loves to hide under a veil of false holiness and feigned humility. He is safe there, as long as no one is well enough informed  to recognise him and so expose him.
   Jesus walked amongst those who lived on the seamier side of life. He talked to the woman caught in adultery, called the thief down from the tree, spoke directly to the outcast woman who had been bleeding for years,and sat in the cemetery talking to the madman. Everyone was acceptable to Him, except the pious and hard-hearted religious leaders.
   Is there anyone out there who will open the doors with me and expose the wickedness that is hidden in the darkness of false piety?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Hidden in the darkness

   Victims of sexual abuse? They are everywhere. How can this be? Why does this disgusting crime continue to escalate in our society and why doesn't God do something about it?
    God's plan is for every child to be guarded and protected. His plan to protect children from sexual abuse is the same plan He uses to stop kids drowning in swimming pools, or burning their hand on the stove.
   Yes! It is parents. God's plan is that every child be guarded by a family, and that unit is responsible for the safety, protection and training of each little person that is born.
   But our children aren't born into a perfect world. Parents fail! And kids suffer, often times  at the hands of their own parents. Other times they are left defenceless at the hands of others because, in the darkness, mums and dads don't see the danger.
   Darkness! A lack of light! Although this disgusting crime usually takes place under the cover of night, the real camouflage is self-gratification, denial, lies, greed, selfishness. Lets name it for it really is. Evil. Sin.
   The same motivators which drive the perpetrator, also hide the evidence from the child's protectors. Denial and ignorance prevent the recognition of signs of abuse. Selfishness and the desire to 'not upset the apple cart' can cause the carer to turn a blind eye. Exposing the sin and bringing it to the light has catastrophic effects. Relationships are lost, loved  ones go into the hands of the police. Their security, both, financial and relational are under threat. Sub-consciously a decision is made to pretend it isn't happening and then a child is sentenced to a life of torment. 
   This decision is often justified by the carers own childhood experiences. 'Well, I survived, so he/she will just have to suck it up and live with it for the sake of the rest of the family'.
The sin, by its very nature, is hidden. It is shrouded by silence. Although, in his own mind,he has justified his actions as being harmless, the perpetrator never speaks of it and he silences his victim. 'This is our special secret! If you ever speak of this it will kill Mrs P'... or 'I will kill you.'
   So where is God in this mess?
   His heart is so broken, He sent Jesus. Yes, Jesus carried the pain of the victim on the cross. Bloodied, broken, exposed, he hung in public view. We know the soldiers mocked Him and made fun of Him. I'm sure, in that sin-filled, dark, evil environment, He would have been sexually abused amongst everything else He suffered.
   God made man with a free will. He will never violate that. So, unable to stop abuse, pain and sin, He instead gave His Son so we can be healed. Whilst hanging on the cross, He illustrated the way to wholeness. 'Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing?'
   He showed us that it is possible to forgive the unforgivable.
   He also is ready to forgive, heal and restore parents who have been negligent. And He is waiting to forgive the perpetrator, remove the veil from his eyes and restore his seared conscience.
   I hate sexual abuse! It is a vile, disgusting, painful blot on our society, but God is bigger. He can restore, heal, renew and make whole. In the meantime, His body, the church is called to wrap His arms around every hurting victim and pour the balm of His unconditional love over every hurting soul.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The take over

   They march in, one after the other, forming a line in military precision. Row after row of them, disappearing into the distance. They are taking over. I am powerless to stop them and unable to defeat their great numbers.
   I decide to take drastic measures and find that I can prevent their entry, for a length of time. The strategy is simple. Don't open the gate. But gates are gates for a reason. They must be opened to allow traffic to flow from both directions and once opened... they all march in . Some of these invaders are very welcome. I've been waiting on them and am keen to entertain them. But in order to find them I have to scan every face, eagerly grabbing those friendly or intriguing ones and pulling them aside. Unconcerned, the others continue to enter, looking neither left or right. They settle, taking up permanent residence until they are either rehoused or face the firing squad!
   I could commit mass murder, but they look at me with that hint of secrecy, or is it guile? There is a glance that suggests I should dance with them for a while, let them entertain me briefly and, uncertain, I lower my loaded gun. Part of my brain tells me I can live without them; the other part argues, 'But what if I need them one day?'
   So I demand to see their entry papers. They can't just march in here without and invitation! How dare they? I'll show them who is boss. Unperturbed, they flash their credentials at me. Every paper has a familiar signature on the bottom - mine! So now it appears I have found the problem. It is I!
   Self awareness births a brutal streak. I march to the back of the line and open fire. Ruthlessly I annihilate twenty at a time. Impassioned, my statistician records progress. 683, 663, 645, 632.
   Oh, no. I hear myself promising to look at this one later, or telling that one to wait. I close my eyes and destroy fifty in one hit! I wait. Silence. Not a word of objection. Getting braver I try again. Fifty more and another fifty! Yay. 482. I'm on a roll. Bang, bang! 282
   But again I feel uncertain. These residents are newer. What if I've missed something? What if I lose an opportunity? I start to scan faces and assign a few to temporary housing. I knock one here and there. I'm sure some of them have run up from the back of the line. Surely I've seen them before!
   Tired, I check with the statistician. Only 200 left. I can manage two hundred. That's okay. I'll fix the rest tomorrow. 
But the next day is busy and so my computer remains inert. 
I just opened the gate and....oh, no! There are 375 emails in my inbox again!