The Church and its Bride

No, I didn’t lose my GPS again. I’m not looking for directions to a particular building or talking about a particular denomination. The bible doesn’t talk about these particularly it just refers to the church as its bride.

I think of the woman who is in expectation of her groom. She runs around making preparations to spend the rest of her life with the love of her life. Her groom is the one that makes her feel butterflies in her stomach and sing love songs in the morning.

So who is this bride?

In Revelation 21:2 the bible tells us that the apostle John had a revelation, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This scripture says that the New Jerusalem will be the prepared bride for her husband. Do we see the parallel of the believers in waiting for the return of our Lord?

We are the New Jerusalem beloved. But are we the eager bride preparing for the coming of the Lord, or are we like the parable of the virgins, who thought that his groom was never coming and ran out of oil.

We are living in crucial moments. God’s perfect plan has called us to be here for a time like this. Are we doing our part? Are we focused on the kingdom of God or are we focused on our own selfish needs? Do we trust God to provide ALL of our needs and like he says seek him first?

Come back on Wednesday as we discuss what the expectation is from us to be ready for the groom.

Until then

Be blessed

clip_image002 This book certainly held my interest straight through to the very emotional ending. Mary Anne Benedetto

With the ever-constant presence of her closest friend, Aimee, Desiree slowly makes her way to God and learns the greatness of His power and love. Cynthia

A very engaging story about faith, love, and friendship, and the trials and tribulations that life can bring you. Jersey Gina

Working the Mission Field

What a blessing we find in those who dedicate their lives to the work of the kingdom. In a way we are all called to the mission field. Our field may be different and that’s why we don’t consider ourselves missionaries. It is our duty as Christians to sow the seed of the Gospel in our workplace, with our family and friends, with the works of our ministries, with our neighbors and the cashier at grocery store.

With that said, I admire those who leave family and friends, move away to just work for the kingdom. Those who leave their commodities and sleep on the floor, and have very little to eat just to help needy communities and dedicate their lives to the mission field. They truly fulfill the scripture that reads Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” They see first hand the pain and suffering for those in need. They love with the love of Christ every single day of their live. They are an example of what Christ-like life is.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Let’s stay alert to what our individual mission fields are and fulfill them eagerly. Also let’s help as much as possible those who have sacrificed everything for the cause of the Kingdom.

Until then, be blessed.

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In Growth Lessons, I was reminded of this beautiful truth: Our walk with the Lord is a process of growing up into the image of Christ. P. Yates

I would recommend this book for anyone who would like some common sense and light added to their life. C. Cunningham

Great for meditations and daily devotions. N. Thames

The Economy Frenzy

Well, this is the beginning of the year and what do we hear, we went halfway over the fiscal cliff. Can I be honest with you? I am not concerned. Yes, I just got my first paycheck of 2013 and has less money than the one before. Yes, I have a lot of debt and expenses to pay. Why I am not concerned? First of all, as it says in Psalm 54:4 “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” God is my provider and I assume responsibility for the debt that I have. This was not something that the government made me do, I got into that debt. I was fiscally irresponsible and my mistakes have consequences. I disobeyed to the instruction on Proverbs 22:26 “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts” So if I have to tighten up, I will do so knowing that my Heavenly Father will provide for my needs. My wants will have to wait.

As I say that, we just watched with glee how much was spent just a few weeks ago. Christmas has moved from a spiritual celebration to a worldly, expensive one.

My 9-5 is very close to a shopping mall. My office has a window that looks directly onto the road in front of the mall. I would stare with amaze at how crowded that road was. Leaving work was painful during that time because the traffic was insane. I’m not against celebrations and presents. At the same time I know that people stretch themselves for the wrong reasons during this season, struggling in the aftermath.

Black Friday was just as eventful and successful as days prior. There were people camping in front of stores since Tuesday to buy a television. That’s beyond my comprehension. It all comes down to stewardship. Are you being a good steward of everything the Lord has given you? When I say everything that means your time, your resources, His Money…because it’s his, your body.

Trust in the Lord. Seek the kingdom of God first. He will supply your needs and instead of agonizing over the world’s economy, agonize over what else you can do to further the kingdom of God.

Be blessed.

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In Growth Lessons, I was reminded of this beautiful truth: Our walk with the Lord is a process of growing up into the image of Christ. P. Yates

I would recommend this book for anyone who would like some common sense and light added to their life. C. Cunningham

Great for meditations and daily devotions. N. Thames

Putting Thanksgiving into Action

This year we will not be talking about the turkey, the history of this holiday or the thousands of things we are thankful about. The reality is that this year I want to encourage others to put their true attitude of gratitude to action.

We sit together as families and tell each other how grateful we are of the things we have, the love and company of those near us and just bask in the thought of the gratitude. How about this year you make a decision to be the force behind someone else’s gratitude? Why not share those blessings with others?

So here are some ideas to do just that:

  • Invite over for dinner those who are away from their families. I used to do that for the longest time. Every one I knew that didn’t have a place to go, were invited to my house. The only reason I stopped doing it was because I don’t have the space to host anymore. It was such a rewarding experience.
  • Cook a meal for a family in need. If you know someone in your neighborhood who has lost their job, have a family member sick or have struggling, take them a plate or a few plates. You very well know that after two days you’re going to hate turkey anyway. You’ll have less leftovers and you’ll have made someone’s day.
  • Remember those who have lost everything-It doesn’t matter how big or small your donation is for those recovering from the damages of Hurricane Sandy, any little bit helps. Even if it’s not money, blood donations are also very welcome.
  • Donate your time and talent. You may not have resources. but you can spend some of your day with someone who needs it. I had a friend who use to spend two hours on these kind of holidays going a children’s hospice. She’s a divorced mom and her children are with their father on Thanksgiving. As a mother she understands that when you have a sick child you don’t want to leave them alone. So she spends Thanksgiving mornings there giving parents an opportunity to go home to take a shower or go get something to eat and then in the afternoon she goes to celebrate with her family.

These are just a few examples of way to give back to others. I am sure you can come up with other ideas as well. What am I going to do to put my gratitude in action?

  • I’m actually cooking healthy desserts for the place where I’m going to be reuniting with family and friends. I’m grateful that God had shown me a better way to relate to food. I know that as I reunite with some that have not seen me for a while I will be able to witness to them.
  • I’m donating 50% of all my sales for both of my books Growth Lessons and The Road Home from today until Friday to the Red Cross to help the relief of Hurricane Sandy. (You can help me with that)
  • I’m joining an initiative of authors in the South that are donating books to libraries in New York and New Jersey, for those who lost the books due to the hurricane Sandy.

Please be safe and to all a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Creating Believable Characters

By Suzanne Williams

There are three keys to creating believable characters, characters a reader desires to know more about and cares for. The first key is emotion. A character’s emotions create a reader’s emotions. The second key is creditability. How true to life is that character, and can the reader identify with him or her on a personal level? The third key is what I call the “male or female factor,” and I will explain that in a moment.

The character’s emotions are what draw readers into a story. In the following paragraphs, the main character, an Irishman named Michael, for multiple reasons cannot consummate his marriage with his wife. One evening, he kisses her and it sends him over the edge.

“Hands shaking, senses convulsing, Michael collapsed against a tree. What had happened?”

“His head spun, and the moment repeated itself, the sweetness of her mouth, the supple feel of her skin. He squeezed his eyes shut and floated helplessly skyward and back to earth on a swollen wave of sensation. He would have her; he would touch her again.”

“His eyes flew open at the vivid image of thirst and yearning quivering before him. She returned his feelings at last. But for his escape, they wouldn’t have stopped.”

Michael’s emotions come into the story through the use of powerful words like “shaking, convulsing, sweetness, supple, floated [and] swollen.” Now, make note that the only terms used to indicate any body parts were “mouth,” “skin,” and “eyes,” harmless enough terms, so it is the choice of adjectives that let you know he’s struggling and exactly how he feels about her.

When working with a character’s emotions, consider what the purpose of the scene is and how you feel when you read it. If you’re emotional, often the reader will be as well. And here’s something to think about. When creating emotion in a scene, I tend to go where I am uncomfortable. I have found that playing it safe leads to a boring scene.

This thought leads me to credibility. Credibility is that factor that makes a character a real person. In the same scene above, Michael, a twenty-year-old male, has fallen in love with his wife. His problem is he didn’t realize it was easier when she wasn’t returning his feelings. Now that she is, he sees the struggle in himself.

Thinking like a young man of that age and all the factors that led up to this moment are what made me write the scene as I did. I wanted him to have the same battle with his flesh that a man that age would have in the same situation.

Credibility comes into play in many other ways and with many other scenarios. Author Peter Levell once told me, “Never have two cowboys sharing a cinnamon role in a café.” I have never forgotten that advice because it holds to credibility. Two cowboys are not going to do something of that nature, and even if I write such a scene, the reader won’t believe it. I once read a western where the hero was dashing off to catch a criminal with a sandwich in his hand. Uhm. I don’t think so.

CINNAMONROLL

Now, this leads me to point number three – the “male and female factor.” I am opposed to males who speak and think like females. I’m sorry, but a man in love with his wife doesn’t want to hold her hand. He is a man, so he’ll think like a man and have the desires of a man. Similarly, a female isn’t going to deal with the same situation in the same way. When Michael’s wife approaches him later in this scene, she hasn’t a clue why he’s acting that way.

“She’d watched Michael for days, memorized his every movement, his mannerisms, until they were as familiar as her own. She saw how he tilted his head when he teased her, how the muscles in his neck flexed when he was upset. She heard him say he loved her, felt it in his gestures, and knew it when he didn’t speak. Yet to have him flee sent her spinning.”

“Isn’t this what he wanted? He wanted her to love him. Now that she did, he backed away?”*

Notice, how female she’s being. She’s spent time watching him, noticing all the funny little twitches or habits he has. What wife hasn’t done that? I could make you list of my husband’s quirks. Also note, it wasn’t enough that he’d told her he loved her, she expected more from him. This is decidedly female, and even more so when she is clueless as to why he’d run off in the first place.

I challenge the idea that the characters must be devoid of thoughts and feelings and a couple cannot show they care for each other (within Christian guidelines) without it becoming taboo. This type of writing leads me back to the “vase of flowers” concept where children are conceived by some mythical moment and not because the husband wanted to be with his wife. In this same vein, I have read some fabulous stories full of emotion and real-life characters that barely had kissing in them, and yet I knew how the man felt about her and how she felt about him.

Stories are all about words, and an author’s choice and placement of those words are what gives the characters life on the page. And that life is what keeps me reading and makes me relive certain story scenes again and again after I close the book. It is also what keeps me writing – that knowledge that these people could have existed and would have behaved like that. And I like think it is that certain thing which keeps readers returning to my books.

(Unedited story excerpts are from Love & Redemption by Suzanne D. Williams to be released March 1, 2013.)

Suzanne-640Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.

To learn more about what she’s doing visit http://suzanne-williams-photography.blogspot.com/ or link with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/suzannedwilliamsauthor.

From Honeymooner to Survivor

Today at The Rising Muse we have the story of author and breast cancer survivor Katherine Bown. Katherine found out that out that she had breast cancer during her honeymoon. Let’s read her story:

In December 2008 I got married when my life was great; I had a brilliant job as a Marketing Communications Manager, I ran website, I had a busy social life – basically I thrived off being under pressure.

Ten days later on my honeymoon I found a lump on my breast, then got diagnosed with an aggressive (grade 3) tumor ( breast cancer). I then spent the 1st year of my marriage going through 18 weeks of chemotherapy and 3 weeks radiotherapy.

When I finished treatment I went back to work but I wasn’t the same person as I previously was, I lasted a year at work and then I took VR – pretty much to search for ‘my purpose in life’ (I’d literally scour the net for ideas; going to change my job, looking at doing charity treks, how I could raise breast cancer awareness, fundraising – pretty much I did anything I could to change my life and give meaning to why the cancer didn’t take me!)

Cancer was a big surprise to me. There’s no history of breast cancer or any cancer in my family whatsoever. I was the first person to go through this journey.

It took 5 months of soul-searching when a friend suggested I set up my own marketing consultancy which I did and has been going great for a year.

I always wanted to write a book, but never knew what kind of book to write. A few months I finally figured it out. I could use my life experience to help family and friends of breast cancer sufferers; explaining in ‘my language’ all of the medical terms, how the breast cancer patient will react in certain situations, the side affects of treatment, how they can help along the way.

I have found my purpose in life, I want to help Mums, Sisters, Best Friend’s, Husbands and caretakers of those dealing with breast cancer. I want to share how important they are to those of us, whom they love, and have been diagnosed with breast cancer, after all I’ve got 1st hand experience at it!

Wow, Katherine! What a story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

If you want to read more about Katherine’s journey and would like more to get her book ‘Your Guide Through Her Breast Cancer Journey’

Her book is on Amazon for just $0.99 and the profits from her sales until 12/31/12 will go towards Breast Cancer Care. I think we can all spare to help.

 

 

 

More about Katherine BownKatherine Formosa Bown

Katherine was born Cardiff, South Wales, UK. She has worked in the marketing field for over 15 years. She was diagnosed at 33 years old with Stage 1, Grade 3 breast cancer in February 2009, after finding a lump in her breast while on honeymoon. She had 18 weeks of FEC chemotherapy, 3 weeks of Radiotherapy and is currently still taking Tamoxifen.Since completing treatment, she has given a lot of her time to supporting and fundraising for cancer research and breast cancer charities. Connect with Katherine on Twitter or Facebook

Meet Jim Doe and Jane Smith

By Anonymous Author

Two young people are especially on my heart right now, and I’d like to introduce them to you, in a roundabout way. I pray you’ll understand my reasons for writing like this, but I know their stories aren’t over so I want to protect them as best I can.

Jim Doe and Jane Smith are in-laws – Jim’s brother married Jane’s sister. They had never met one another before their siblings wed.

Meet Jim Doe. He is 23 and was raised in a single parent home. His life was turbulent growing up, but his mother and brother loved him dearly. They moved frequently, and because his mother had to work to support the family, he spent much time with babysitters.

One was discovered to be selling drugs from her home – and this was a babysitter recommended by her pastor – the cousin of the pastor’s wife. When he was three years old, his new step-grandmother took over their care. From outward appearances, she seemed to dote on the boys– but within a couple of years, it was discovered she had been abusing both boys. She put pennies in Jim’s mouth and put duct tape over it, telling him if he cried or called out, he would swallow a penny and choke to death. She also beat the boys with an electric cord from a lamp she ripped from the wall. And she told them that if their mother ever left their stepfather, it would be to kill them. She said their mother would take them somewhere to kill them, then hide their bodies and go back to the stepfather to have “real children” with him. Jim’s mother discovered the abuse, tried to stop it, and after counseling with instructions to “submit” to her husband (and his mother) at all costs, she fled – getting the children away from all of them – and away from the abuse – permanently.

His mother tried to build a good life for her children, but she made many stupid and selfish mistakes. The family was active in church and the children were raised with much prayer, if not always good direction. They had minimal support from extended family. After Jim finished the 4thgrade, his mother decided to homeschool him. For the first two years, Jim thrived with the set-up. He learned at a rapid pace and grew to love learning and reading. He absorbed library books by the dozens, and his studies moved quickly. But then he got involved with some kids from church who led him onto a path he should have never taken. About the same time, he was introduced to music by Eminem that promoted disrespect, anger, hatred. They moved once again, and Jim entered public high school, but after a year or so, asked for homeschool studies again. His mother resumed teaching him, and he eventually passed final exams and graduated high school. But by this point, he was out of control. He worked random jobs to support himself, and had a good work ethic – but when work was over for the day, he just would not settle down. He even attended college for a year – and loved every moment of it, but did not stick with it.

Years passed. His mother remarried and life settled for her. Jim eventually ended up in a serious relationship with an older woman. About 18 months into the relationship, he told someone that his girl had tried to stab him – with a 3-foot sword. At that point, all the signs of domestic abuse became apparent to his family. But there was nothing they could do. A couple of months later, his girl went on another tirade and he hopped into their car to get away from her. There wasn’t enough gas in the car to get very far, so he turned around, determined to make things work. When he arrived back home, the police were there. The vehicle was in his girl’s name only, and she had called the police to report it stolen.

He spent 110 days in jail. For the first 30-45 days, he was convinced that he still loved his girl and that they could make things work. He never admitted that she hit him, but a deputy told his mother that the girl had sure worked him over good. When his mother visited him in jail, he was covered with cuts and scrapes all over his face and head, and he had a bruise the size of a baseball bat on his arm, where he’d deflected some of the blows. But he refused to report her. Because he’d returned the car, the charges were dropped down to two misdemeanors, and he was released on a two-year probation – with orders to pay thousands of dollars in fines, take three specific evaluations and if they required classes, to take those as part of the probation. He was also ordered to see his probation officer once a month and perform 120 hours of community service. He was placed under a “no contact” order with the girl – and she was told she could not contact him either. He is currently in month four of his two-year probation. He lived with his mom and stepdad for awhile, but could not abide by their rules. He now lives on the streets, occasionally stopping by their house to take a shower or eat a meal. Some days he berates his mom for her poor parenting skills, other days he’s respectful and grateful.

Meet Jane Smith. She is 24. She was raised in a two-parent environment. Her parents recently celebrated their 30thanniversary. She has three siblings and lived in the same town all her life. The family is Catholic, but they are not active in church. Her parents work hard to provide for the family, and all of the children began working as soon as they were old enough. Last year, Jane decided she wanted to go to college, and began exploring her options. But then she met a young man – three years her junior – and fell in love. She dropped her plans to attend college, and her life became absorbed with taking care of this man. But soon, her family realized things were not quite right. She was caught stealing things from family and friends. She lived in her car for a time – the family never sure if her fellow was with her or not. Then one day, her sister discovered her bruised and beaten. She dismissed her sister’s concern, and avoided family for months. She now excuses the abuse, saying it happens to everyone.

Apparently this was Jane’s new norm.

A few weeks ago, Jane was arrested and charged with shoplifting. In lieu of bail, they released her wearing an ankle bracelet while she waits for a court date. Her parents took her home, with her promises that she was a changed woman and things would work out great. Before they even got home, her tune changed, and she ranted and raved about how sorry her parents were, and how she was an adult and could make decisions on her own. How much she loved her boyfriend – the one she was arrested with, the one who continued to abuse her. Once they reached home, her mother ran to the grocery store, her father began preparing the house for their daughter’s extended stay. But when the mother returned from the store, the daughter was gone. She disappeared for days, and last week, was arrested in another county.

What is it with kids this age? These are only two examples of many, many young people who are in similar situations.

Where have we, as a world, as a generation, as parents – failed these kids?

But is it more than that?

Some place the blame firmly on the parents. Others on broken homes. Others place it on religion. Or lack of religion. So many other avenues to place blame. But these two examples show it must be more than that. Why this specific age group of kids? What is it about these kids that make them feel they are not worthy of something better? That they are only worth abuse? Why do they feel it’s okay for someone to beat them? Hurt them? Abuse them?

A recent conversation with another loved one opened my eyes to other possibilities. At the time when this age group of kids were at the most impressionable age – during their formative years – there were several major events going on nationally. Bill Clinton was president, and his personal actions – making headlines and newscasts for years – revealed a man with no morals, no values, no conscience. And he got away with it in the highest office of our land. An office that prior to his election had been revered and dreamed about by young children for generations. That dream was gone. In other news during those same years, the O.J. Simpson trial kept everyone glued to their TV sets for weeks on end. He, too, because of his celebrity, appears to have gotten away with murder.

Did those events cause one age group of young children to lose their way in this world?

I’ve heard people say that people like Jim and Jane are worthless.

Every time I hear a comment like that, it infuriates me. It makes me want to shout: “NO THEY ARE NOT” from every rooftop in town. No one is worthless – I don’t care what they’ve done, who they are. No one. Author Lori Roeleveld wrote an excellent post on this very subject a few weeks ago – you’ll want to check it out, because it shares my heart precisely.

What hope does this generation of young people have?

We cling to hope, and we must PRAY. We must pray fervently for each and every young person we know, because God’s not finished with them yet. Their stories are indeed still being written. I trust He knows the outcome, and will use these two in some special way that will impact lives.

How can I know that? How can I say that?

Look at the examples provided in the Bible:

Moses stuttered.

David’s armor didn’t fit.

John Mark deserted Paul.

Timothy had ulcers.

Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.

Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.

Jacob was a liar.

David had an affair.

Solomon was too rich.

Abraham was too old.

David was too young.

Peter was afraid of death.

Lazarus was dead.

John was self-righteous.

Naomi was a widow.

Paul was a persecutor of the church.

Moses was a murderer.

Jonah ran from God’s will.

Miriam was a gossip.

Gideon and Thomas both doubted.

Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.

Elijah was burned out.

Martha was a worry-wart.

Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?

So did Peter, Paul – well, lots of folks did.

If you have a loved one who is not living the life they were meant to live, DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM. And don’t stop praying.

Their stories aren’t over yet. God is still working.

My Story of Hope

By Gina Cook

My name is Gina and what an honor to share my story with you. My prayer is that somewhere along the line of my story, you will feel hope and strength. They same time flies when you are having fun. I would like to say time has flown because my life has been a blast, full of laughter and health, yet looking back it is hard to believe that 7 years ago my life drastically changed and will forever be changed because of that moment where time stood still and life seemed hopeless.
Breast Cancer is no respector of persons, it doesn’t care who you are, where you came from, what color, what age or that you really don’t have time for this horrible disease. But here I was at the age of 31 years old and a mother of two young girls and a few days before my youngest daughter Dakota’s first Birthday, I was daignosed with Stage Three Breast Cancer with the tumor being over 3 Centimeters in size. I remember feeling as if I could not breathe and the sting of death was at my door. The Words “You have Cancer, and it isn’t good” was spoken by the Doctor.
My life that seemed so young and fresh with so much ahead, suddenly seemed dark and hopeless. And here in that moment, a new me emerged. I was a fighter and was not ready to leave this world. I was not ready to leave my daughters and my family behind. My purpose on Earth was not fulfilled and I was ready to put my boxing gloves on and fight this horrible Cancer. My brother in law bought me some red boxing gloves and had all my family sign them for me, and I was ready to fight.

Because of my size tumor and it being in three out of fifteen lymph nodes they removed from my arm, I began chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. Immediately I began three heavy and hard months of Chemotherapy. Throwing up , so weak that I had to hold on to to anything in sight to make it to my destination. As if the throwing up and exhaustion isn’t enough then you lose your hair. What was once long and brown thick hair went to a short cut and then a week later fell out on my pillow as if to say “I’m leaving you too”..For at those moments when you are lying in your bed trying to sleep, you feel alone , alone with the thoughts of “How will I survive this?” Though family and friends surrounded me through this fight, I was still alone with my thoughts . No one could really know what I was thinking or feeling.
There are so many days it would take all my energy to get out of the bed. I would pray for God to give me the strength so my oldest daughter Macayla , who was six at the time, could see me look normal when she came home from school. The masked smile and “Mommy is fine, just tired” hurt as much as the multiple surgeries that I had including a Masectomy. I didn’t want my girls to lose their mom. I want to see them get ready for prom, celebrate Birthdays and holidays and see them get married one day. Yet through all these feelings, my heart still had a song.
I will forever remember that moment when my oldest daughter Macayla was running in the front yard. it was a beautiful day and she was chasing Butterflies that were all out in our front yard. I sat on the couch that was in front of the glass window and watched her. The words began to come to me and I walked slowly to the stairs. I grasped the stair rail and held on tight with both hands . One step at a time, I kept repeating the words in my head so I could remember it “My butterfly, you fly so high. You fly for me. Everything I am not know, you seem to be. My Butterfly take on the wind, fly so high, but come back again. Thank you for letting me see, myself through you. Your everything to me.”. I made it up the stairs and went into my closet. Knelt down on the floor and with my paper and pen birthed the song out of it’s cocoon “My Butterfly”.
For that moment she was flying for me but I began to see myself emerge from the cocoon and able to fly. Not physically but spiritually. I felt “HOPE”. I began to check my calendar off every day and what would be closer to my chemo and radiation treatments to come to end. My chemo treatments went on for over a year followed by radiation, more surgeries and after cancer treatments. On the weeks I did not have chemo, I would go for short walks with the girls, go to the mall for an hour if just to show my girls I could do it. I enjoyed every minute and second before the dreaded chemo stepped up to the box on my calendar.
I loved being around family and singing with my mom, sister and my brother Kevin who played the drums. It was very rare I would miss a church service. I didn’t want to quit singing because it got me through the pain. I began to write more songs and the healing process began. Soon the day came when I would see that all the fighting, pushing, and determination to beat this would come and I would hear the words “You are Cancer Free”. “Free” How appropriate those words were to me. I made it!!
Then there was my wonderful mom whom I don’t think I could have recovered as quickly, she would stay up at night with me, and rock my youngest daughter Dakota to sleep when I was too sick. My mom was my rock!! Through this I have met amazing people, made bonds that can never be broken and have continued fighting this battle for others. I have confidence like I never have before, I am empowered to bring Joy and life to others. I am involved as a volunteer with Long Leaf Hospice and am an avid Fan of running, and now a Zumba fitness instructor. My story is for everyone to see that though the disease is ugly , there is hope on the horizon, a sunset over the mountain that you climb and along the way I pray you feel the hands of God. For remember when you only saw the footprints, He was carrying you.
I want to dedicate this to my daughters Macayla and Dakota who are my Butterflies and will carry on the legacy of giving back and inspire others. They dance for me and continue to amaze me every day!
Hope lives !!

Gina Cook
For booking Gina Cook as your guest speaker/singer at your event contact her on facebook or at gcookn@att.net. myspace/ginacookmusic
Gina’s picture courtesy of “Dawn and Company Portrait”

Thanks Gina for your bravery and sharing with us

Spiritual Abuse

I wrote this post last year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and thought it was worth reminding ourselves that this does exist and it’s something we should be aware of.  Be blessed!

Researching information for this month’s articles I ran into something, that yes, I’ve seen but it had not clicked in my mind when I thought about abuse and it’s the term “spiritual abuse” in a relationship. This relates to when a spouse uses God to control or manipulate the other spouse with the Word of God or an alleged spiritual gift or “power”

These abusers use their spouses faith and a legalistic vision of the Word of God to manipulate, control and undermine their spouses. With this behavior the enforced their authority and the victim submits to avoid consequences not only with their perpetrator but with their higher power, as they believe this is coming from God himself.

The fact that the victims are being abused will make them be more submitted as they think that they must be doing something wrong, as they continue to be criticized or chastised by their abuser. On the other hand this can hinder their faith as they would have trouble understanding why God would allow them to live in such conditions, when it’s not God, it’s the other person’s free will that is attacking them.

Jeremiah 23:16 says “This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” But if this is your husband or boyfriend, how can you tell?

  • Study the Word yourself.
  • If your spirit says something is not right, it probably isn’t. Look it up before you agree to do something.
  • Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for clear direction.
  • Read the Word in context and not singling out scriptures. Sometimes just reading a few more sentences can bring clarity to the context.
  • In doubt, research. Sometimes just reading different versions of the same scripture will bring clarity to our notions.
  • Talk to other Christians (be careful about this one, you don’t want someone who is misguided as well)

If you want to identify a potential spiritual abuser, read Matthew 23:1-39 ESV Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long”

Be safe!

Related articles

International Day of Non-Violence

Yesterday was the International Day of Non-Violence against woman. It was chosen to be celebrated every year on October 2nd in honor to Mohandas Gandhi. I think it is of no coincidence that it’s the same month where we are making conscience and awareness of domestic violence issues.

The Secretary General for the United Nations said the following in his message regarding the day of non-violence, “I have made prevention a key priority in the five-year action agenda of the United Nations. But prevention means more than separating warring parties and cooling tensions. Fundamentally tackling the roots of conflict and intolerance will take a culture of non-violence and peace.”

This statement resonated with me in a great manner. In regards to violence, no matter which kind it’s more about prevention than reaction. In terms of domestic violence is knowing the signs early in a relationship to remove yourself before you become at risk.

Another way of prevention is the acknowledgement of anger tendencies within yourself and seeking help to avoid becoming an abuser.

Let’s talk about some of those early signs.

WARNING SIGNS

Many of the signs women are taught to interpret as caring, attentive, and romantic are actually early warning signs for future abuse. Some examples include:
INTRUSION:Constantly asking you where you are going, who you are with, etc.

ISOLATION: Insists that you spend all or most of your time together, cutting you off from friends and family.

POSSESSION AND JEALOUSY:  Accuses you of flirting/having sexual relationships with others; monitors your clothing/make-up.
NEED FOR CONTROL: Displays extreme anger when things do not go his way; attempts to make all of your decisions.

UNKNOWN PASTS / NO RESPECT FOR WOMEN: Secretive about past relationships; refers to women with negative remarks, etc.

MORE WARNING SIGNS

1. Was or is abused by a parent.
2. Grew up in a home where an adult was abused by another adult.
3. Gets very serious with boyfriends/girlfriends very quickly – saying “I love you” very early in the relationship, wanting to move in together or get engaged after only a few months, or pressuring partner for a serious commitment.
4. Comes on very strong, is extremely charming and an overly smooth talker.
5. Is extremely jealous.
6. Isolates partner from support systems – wants partner all to themselves, and tries to keep partner from friends, family or outside activities.
7. Attempts to control what partner wears, what she/he does or who she/he sees.
8. Is abusive toward other people, especially mother or sisters if he is a male.
9. Blames others for one’s own misbehavior or failures.
10. Has unrealistic expectations, like expecting partner to meet all of ones needs and be the perfect partner.
11. Is overly sensitive – acts ‘hurt’ when not getting one’s way, takes offense when others disagree with an opinion, gets very upset at small inconveniences that are just a normal part of life.
12. Has been cruel to animals in the past.
13. Has abused children.
14. Has hit a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past.
15. Has threatened violence, even if it wasn’t a serious threat.
16. Calls partner names, puts him/her down or curses at him/her.
17. Is extremely moody, and switches quickly from being very nice to exploding in anger.
18. If a male, believes women are inferior to men and should obey them.
19. Is intimidating, for example using threatening body language, punching walls or breaking objects.
20. Holds partner against his/her will to keep him/her from walking away or leaving the room.

The Road Home Cover (1)If you want to share your survivor story with us (even anonymously) please send us an email at therisingmuse@gmail.com If your story is chosen to be featured you will receive a copy of my new book The Road Home.  If you are currently enduring these situations and need prayer, do not hesitate to send us an email and we’ll pray for you.

Be blessed and be safe