Muscle Speaks

This is a piece I wrote almost five years ago on my previous blog. It still deeply resonates with my heart, and I feel is worth posting again…

There is something gloriously magnificent about a man’s shoulders. Broad. Strong. Commanding authority. Declaring protection. Exuding sexual appeal. Weight bearer. Place where plough rests. Cushion for a lover’s weary head. Shoulders extend into arms. Arms made of muscles that can protect. Protect or destroy. Hold or hurt. Arms that extend to hands. Hands that can grasp with firm assurance. Hands that can caress tenderly. Hands that can kill viciously. A man’s muscle and arms pulse with the very rhythm of his heart. Heart belief flows through veins and arteries causing arms and hands to release either life or death. They are the very extension of his essence, his core – who he is. Size matters not. For a heart aflame on a mission cannot be held back by lack of strength. For strength by it’s very definition is the state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor; moral power or courage. When push comes to shove, literally, a man will protect that which he holds dear to his heart no matter the size of his muscles. Heart shines brilliantly bright with courage and bravery when needed.

Gentle is muscle that whispers. Tender is strength that caresses. Violence is muscle that draws blood. Muscle speaks. It has a language. A language that everyone understands. A language that men love to show and show off. Flaunting muscles, they speak silently to each other, commanding respect or issuing a warning. Muscle is a sword. A sword to either use against injustice or add to it. Muscle is a powerful thing. So too is the power of choice. Rippling muscles have a ripple effect. Hand print on someone for a moment can leave an imprint for a lifetime.

Muscle is the barrier, the shield, between light and dark. I yearn to see the men in our beautiful country using their muscle as an almighty shield. An impenetrable shield against those who penetrate our women and children with heinous, ungodly desire. A shield that is a roar. A roar against darkness. A roar that shakes a nation. A roar that challenges the roar of evil. A roar from hearts that are tired of seeing our nation’s women and children sacrificed to the abominable appetites of greed, power and evil.

Men, you are an answer. Men, we need your strength. We as women are outraged at how we, our sisters and our daughters are being violated. We have risen up strong, brave, resilient and fearless. We are roaring loudly. Oh valiant men, won’t you arise and roar with us? Won’t those of you who are already roaring, roar louder? The sound of our voices together is more powerful than apart. We long for you to stand with us, in front of us, and take your rightful place as protector. We need your valiance. We need you to shield. We need you to shout with holy outrage. When the lion roars the pride feels safe. We need you to proclaim with fiery hearts, ‘No more! Not on my watch!’ We need you to put action to word. We need you to arise. We need you to go to war. Not with violence, but by being real men. Men whose muscles shelter and shield. Men whose muscles speak love. Men of moral integrity. Men who respect. Men who protect. Men who father the fatherless. Men who defend the widows and single moms. A wall is not a wall unless there are bricks. Oh men, will you take your rightful place and be a brick in the protective wall around us?

Our society has a hole in their heart the size of their father. Physical and spiritual orphans. Only the broken ones break others. Will you give the love and fathering that you never received to the fatherless ones? Will you be a part of breaking the cycle of perpetuated abuse?

Rape is not just an act, it is a culture. The word ‘rape’ has become an adjective in everyday conversation. Every time that happens, or when every ‘rape’ joke or joke that demeans women is uttered, fuel is blown onto the fire of that rape culture. So too is overlooking any act of abuse you see. Speaking to any woman with disrespect is as well. Or laying a hand on a woman out of violence. Or not standing up for women, in whatever way. What you say matters. How you act matters. How you treat your wife and children matters. How you protect them matters. How you raise your children matters. How absent or present you are in your childrens’ lives matters. Let me say it again – how you treat women matters. How your muscle speaks, echoes.

The men who are raping, maiming, killing, and destroying will listen if righteous men arise. Like challenges like. Righteous men standing up against unrighteous men. Righteous muscle challenging unrighteous muscle. With holy outrage. Holy outrage is very different to the rage we see filling up the pages in the newspaper and the homes and streets of our land. Avenging injustice with blood is not the answer. True outrage evokes you to actually be the change you want to see.

Oh men, do you not understand how glorious you are? Do you not understand the greatness you carry? Do you understand the power of your muscle? The mighty power of your roar?

I say to you men – I believe in you. I believe there is greatness in you. I believe you are an answer – the sleeping giant to protect our land from the demons. Will you answer the call to be an answer?

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Suicide Watch

It’s time we talk about suicide. It’s time we hold space for the ones wrestling thoughts of wanting to leave this earth. It’s time we reach out to those we love and ask if they’re contemplating it.

It’s just time.

Too many are losing the battle to not do so.

I have never intimately struggled with mental illness, and am therefore very aware that my words need to be read with that in mind. I do, however, feel that I’ve felt enough of a desperate need for relief from life to talk about it. I have never known a life without some form of trauma, physical suffering or hardship.

September will be eighteen years since signs of my rare, genetic illness (with many co-morbid conditions) caused me to go from being a healthy mid teen to bed bound in a matter of months. I’m still mostly house bound now and the symptoms are brutally unrelenting, even dangerous at times. There is no break. There hasn’t been a break. For almost two decades.

Many who have what I have commit suicide. The suffering is that unbearable.

We are not built to suffer endlessly. We are not meant to wear ‘making it’ like permanent make up without even a slither of relief – to never hang brave up on a hook for awhile and ‘just be’ without the heaviness of everything.

Transcendence lead me to a crossroads the other week. It gave me a glimpse into the heart of being human I had seen before many times, but hadn’t felt with such width and breadth. It was touching the deep – laying the fibres of my soul hands on the threads of hallowed truth.

It was holy ground.

On a night where my pain levels soared to astounding heights, and exhaustion close to collapse was ever present with other harrowing symptoms, through uncontrollable sobs I heard myself saying, “Abba, you’re not enough.”

It shocked me to my core because it felt like truth.

And then I wondered that if perhaps my incredible boyfriend wasn’t in my life, if I’d now start to contemplate suicide. And that scared me. And awed me. All at the same time.

I was finally close to ‘there.’

Jesus and I have always been very real. We are deeply in love and that provides the most beautiful ground to be honest. I am besotted with Him. And He with me. But it’s a mature kind of love. The type where you’ve walked such a long road that there’s a straight shooting, no bulldust policy of unbreakable trust and precious, sacred friendship.

His enveloping, tangible presence has always been the fuel to get me through the intensity of physical torture. And here I was thinking that now I needed more.

Somehow there was no shame in that admittance, just sweet relief. But I can imagine that outside the safety of freedom’s ground, there would be immense stigma and risk with owning such a truth.

We are so conditioned into thinking that the source of Life hasn’t made us with an inherent NEED for human connection in the form of being real, admitting it’s too much, receiving comfort, support, care, and to be physically hugged and held etc, that we’ve started shaming those who love God but simply cannot endure anymore. As if Christians can’t ever feel just completely done.

We need each other. This is not weakness. This is being human. Profoundly human.

We are love. Made from love. Formed by Love to be love. To be the extension of Love. Love with skin on. Is it no wonder that we need each other.

Sometimes resurrection power is simply sitting with someone who needs to breathe in the oxygen of ‘the space to just be’ contained in your tank – to revive in the real.

Sometimes people don’t need a prayer, but a hug. Our arms are powerful weapons that infuse grace to carry on. Our arms are healing. Our gentle compassion is mighty.

Sometimes courage is knowing that you are not immune to feeling something you never thought you ever would. Sometimes it is managing that feeling with honesty, self awareness and reaching out while you wait in agony for the dawn of your new day.

Despair is not my constant companion, but it’s been there in the dull background for more than half my life because hashtag incurable, untreatable illness and trusting for healing – a devastating combo. For many, despair is the fire breathing dragon holding them ransom every waking moment. Perhaps we need to offer our swords to be taught how they need us to wield them effectively as we fight with them.

I don’t feel abandoned by God anymore, but I did for many years. I get it. I have felt abandoned by the church. I get it. I have felt those with deliverance and healing miniseries give up on my case. I get it. I have had damaging theology put on me. I get it. I have been labeled. I get it.

For those sitting in darkness today.. I hug your heart. I know it is unbearable. I hear you. I see you.

Just like I hate it when people diminish or negate the validity or severity of my physical health, I won’t diminish your mental health. You are not less than or a failure of a person. You are not less than or a failure of a Christian.

Oh may we have eyes to see and ears to hear the signs of those around us making plans to put a full stop to their life. May we be safe places to turn those dots into commas. May we reach out with bold empathy. May we be willing to learn what it is they need.

Love always comes through. And most of the time He does it through people.

You could be the reason someone doesn’t want to take their life. You could be the reason someone wants to live. You could be hope with skin on.

I know the risk of being misunderstood in sharing all this is pretty big, but to hold back for fear of that would be to let the silence of those suffering in the torment of suicidal thoughts win.

As I write all this, I am in horrific pain, the kind where everything aches and burns. And of course, there are other ‘delightful’ symptoms because why not. But oh how I want to live. And oh how I hope beyond hope for change, for healing. But… I will always be so grateful for that moment I fleetingly danced with suicidal thoughts because you, dear reader in the death grip of hopelessness, are an astounding, magnificent miracle. And you need to know that. Like really.

You are still here. And I want you to stay. And more than that, I want you to not feel alone. Teach me what you need.

Church?

It’s been 2 years since I’ve been a member of a church. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Weekly anxiety and wrestling each Sunday afternoon over whether I should go or not is a thing of the past, and sweet relief of making peace with my belief system about church has blanketed my heart instead with a soothing, enveloping hug.

You see, when you’re a Christian facing unrelenting, intense situations that go on beyond the acceptable valley of death/trial time limit without any sign of relief, often the last place that feels safe is the church.

That is not bashing it, it just is what it is. A deeply saddening fact about a truly beautiful thing originated by Love Itself to be an utterly glorious epitome of love with skin – a wondrous mobilisation of kindness. A powerful army of compassion and realness. And yes, many are indeed like that. And many aren’t.

When your life is non-stop bullets flying everywhere, the last thing you can spare is energy on things that suck the life out of you.

From that perspective, it’s pretty exhausting to have to put emotional armour on to go to church in the first place, let alone have a conversation with someone who doesn’t do real, and worse still, has a prophetic word for you that’s so far from accurate, it leaves you feeling rather misunderstood and deflated and wondering why the heck you decided to brave going.

There seems to be a trend amongst a lot of Christians whereby an assumption of where you’re at in your life journey, particularly your spiritual one, results in a form of very subtle shaming that is packaged in aforementioned well meaning words. I’m not sure where the authority to police the decisions of its church members with a 20 questions kind of attitude came from, but I personally think it can sometimes border on spiritual bullying and if not that, then a definite attempt at control.

Taking a moment to check in with yourself and with God before sharing something you feel for someone can go a long way, and could in many cases prevent unnecessary pain.

Boldness without a healthy level of self awareness can be destructive. Talk to me, not at me. Ya feel me?

Oh religion is alive and well as the root of all these things, and knowing that does make it easier to deal with when one encounters it, but that doesn’t make you feel any less not okay with it or less emotionally violated.

That said, I won’t ever give up on the glory that is the church. When grace is manning the helm of its soul, it is a mighty and magnificent thing.

When people are real and masks are scarce, it is the purest form of heaven’s comfort. For that is what community is – unadulterated, undiluted connection where you earn a right to speak into my life in proportion to how deeply you are walking through life with me.

Where sensitivity is exercised and giving a damn is effortless because the only agenda is simply just to love. Where arms embrace and listen more than talk. Where breath is given and not taken.

This is why the state of current church culture cannot ever turn to bitterness for me. I have too much hope for its redemption and blossoming. It is from that belief I have written all this, as much as it may seem otherwise. I just think it’s time we got brutally honest and addressed why many are leaving or yearning for something more authentic.

Truth spoken with frank bluntness doesn’t make it destructive angry fire. Holy roars. And loudly at that.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we saw each conversation as one of learning about the other person and partaking in the joy and the sorrow of their life without even a hint of anything else? To just be with them; to hold space for what they need?

I’m sure many would think it ironic that I’m dating a pastor. A wild, untamed, long haired man who hates the stench of religion just as much as I do. He’s a picture to me of what a church leader should be. For that I am so extremely grateful. He gives me even more hope in this area.

The whole point of this post is to say this…

If you are a Christian struggling with your relationship with the church, give yourself the time and space to work out where you’re at, free from the ridiculous pressures that come from phrases like “stay/get plugged in” etc.

Let yourself sit in a spiritual hyperbaric chamber and let the air of pure grace lift the heaviness of religious expectation off your entire being, and allow oxygen to infuse your veins again so that you can finally be the fullness of what you were always designed to be – free.

If that means a break, then do that. If it means erratic attendance, then do that. Whether it’s a few months or a couple years, when you finally feel home somewhere, you’ll know, because the indication of finding home is that you actually want to be there.

Last year was the hardest year of my life, and I’m not sure I would’ve survived as well as I did had I been a full fledged member of a church. It was a priceless gift to give myself the freedom to do the church thing on my terms.

My relationship with Abba hasn’t waned at all. My prophetic ability is still accurate. My writing was and is the reflection of a soul finding herself and her Jesus in ways I never thought possible. It’s expanded me beyond my wildest imaginations.

Maybe I’ll be a part of a church congregation again. I hope that will be the case. (I miss corporate worship more than words can say.) But if it is, it will be so very different. And slow. And real. And honest.

Pain

When my pain levels peak to unbearable heights beyond what my high pain threshold can take, I remind myself that it is a gift.

My pain. Is a gift.

Yes, a gift.

For my muscles are holding my skeleton together. Preventing possible/inevitable surgeries that would cause even greater pain.

And trauma. And complications. And suffering. And and and.

So when my skin burns all over and my muscles ache more than usual to the point of uncontrollable sobs, I allow myself to feel the weight of how I cannot remember the last time I wasn’t in pain, and I thank my muscles for gifting me an alternative. For doing a truly kickass, sterling job. A job they weren’t designed to do. But doing it nonetheless.

That is the magic of the human body. It adapts.

And so my heart will adapt to this pain. And surrender to the lessons and messages in the pain.

Transcendence never comes from wrestling, from fighting.

It is in the gentleness of solitude that grace is found for the unbearable. It is in the return to stillness that tears are turned to glory.

Pain is always an invitation to go deeper. Hear the call. Respond. Let surrender envelop you and lead you to greater depths of being.

Tears

Today I watched a documentary called Unrest. In my bed. Where I spend most of my time. It was like watching myself. And hearing myself.

I cried a lot.

Grieving tears. Because sometimes something that is your reality only really hits home when you see it played out before you on a screen, even if some of the symptoms are a little different.

Triumphant tears. Because suicide hasn’t had its way with me like so many others enduring the same unimaginable suffering.

Devastating tears. Because there are so many unable to move or talk, lying like the living dead. Unfathomable.

Grateful tears. Because I have a selfless caregiver mama who never stops serving to make my life easier. Because I have the most amazing man who is always there, who always declares healing over me, but doesn’t *need* me to healed because I am enough just as I am.

Just tears. Because I don’t cry often enough. Because holding space for yourself to feel is really important.

Honestly, I get tired of hearing how strong I am. I’m over being strong. Maybe you are too. Maybe you need a good cry. Maybe you need to celebrate how ridiculously incredible you are for getting through what you have, what you still are facing.

Brave is real. Brave is authenticity. Brave is grateful. Gratitude is the reason devastation can’t build deep roots of anger or frustration.

If you get an opportunity to watch Unrest, then please do. It is a profoundly powerful masterpiece that will make you feel grateful beyond words for your health, or whatever level of health you have.

Talking is a gift. Walking is a gift. Taking part in life is a gift. Being able to be fully you is a gift. Please don’t take it for granted. And please don’t let frustration swallow you whole if you don’t have the measure you want right now. You may be living someone else’s promised land.

Be here now. Be grateful.

In The Tomb

For many years. No, scratch that. For the last two decades. Easter has made me sad. Not exactly something a Christian should admit, hey? But it’s the truth.

I just felt like my life was stuck in the tomb of Saturday night. That resurrection Sunday would never come. That death was wrapped tightly around my body. Clinging relentlessly. Haunting heartlessly. With no conclusion in sight.

The darkness of symptoms screaming in the silence of being on hold without music. So much so that you wonder if the phone is faulty or you really have even a slither of hope that your waiting could end.

Easter Saturday. In the tomb. Is agonizing.

And many of us live there. For many years. For different reasons. And we don’t talk about it in the church. Because isn’t that being faithless? Or being ungrateful for what Jesus did? Or just plain offensive?

No, my friends. It is realness in all it’s messy rawness.

It is arms wide open in hope while tears stream down your face. It is belief in the finished work despite the ache because the very DNA of your soul residing in that cave knows it wasn’t made for that place. It is finding peace in the stillness of emptiness. It is resting in darkness when devastation surrounds. It is weeping over loss too great to fully comprehend this side of heaven as you trust for a better day. It is embracing love in the painful claustrophobia of never never land.

Easter Saturday is laying all at the feet of catastrophic ending and letting your ability end so that transcendence can have it’s beautiful way at the break of dawn.

The dawn that brings with it a new lens to replace the one shattered in the tomb. When tragedy strikes you can’t do life the same afterwards. From glory to glory we see.

Small stuff is no longer sweated. Gratitude deepens. Moments are treasured more. Connection becomes everything. What matters most suddenly becomes clear. Boldness to pursue dreams awakens with fire. And grace takes over in a way you didn’t think was possible.

Resurrection life doesn’t always come like we expect. But it does come. It always comes. And when it does, it stays. The layers of its understanding coming in waves. Waves that lead to greater levels of being. A being fully you in the effortless radiance of who Love is revealed through you.

Love with skin on came. Love with skin on bore it all. Love with skin on felt it all. Love with skin on died a horrific, incomprehensible death. Love with skin on rose. Love with skin on conquered ALL.

Love has got you. Love adores your skin. Your skin that was made to reveal Love. Like stained glass windows of sheer, radiant magnificence you are. Though you feel cracked and dim, Love is shining and child, you are glowing. By no enabling of your own. Just because you are you. This is being. Being in love through being in Love. Oh precious, continual, sweet fellowship with the Trinity.

This is what the exquisite agony of the cross accomplished. This is the beauty of Calvary.

Happy Easter, dear readers.

Dear Dad

This post is purely for me. It was written spur of the moment, completely unfiltered and raw. (Trigger warnings for abuse and rape survivors and empaths.)

Dear Dad.

It’s been 22 years today since you breathed your last breath. That day was the greatest relief of my life.

I remember people telling me they were sorry for my loss. I remember feeling puzzled by their words because I was just relieved. A ten year old relieved little girl. I knew you were capable of killing me. And you were finally gone.

Every year the relief has gotten stronger. This year, that relief has finally sunk deep into the marrow of my bones. Into the cells that have frustratingly held onto the memory of what your hands and body did. It’s the first anniversary of your death where I don’t live in the property where everything happened. It’s like my body has finally realised it’s safe to let go.

I wish it hadn’t taken me such a long time to work through the devastation you left me with, but it has. You see, I’m a feeler and I underestimated how deep the damage had gone.

About a decade ago, I went to where you are buried. I told you that I forgave you. That I would choose to forgive you every time the pain took my breath away. I put a stone on your grave because the Jews don’t do flowers. It was my way of extending undeserved love in the face of utter tragedy.

I remember the day you died. A shriveled up man, bed bound and unconscious from the disease that took your life that night. That had taken the strength of your arms and legs. The very legs that took my innocence, over and over and over again. The very arms that threw me against the wall and hit me till I couldn’t breathe. Your eyes were closed. The same eyes that never ever acknowledged my presence. You couldn’t speak. The same voice that never spoke directly to me except that one time you told us a bedtime story and I desperately hoped you’d hug me afterwards but instead you just walked out the room. Your voice that only screamed and shouted. Now silent. Your sturdy, black belt karate strength reduced to complete weakness.

And I told you that I loved you. I didn’t know all of what you’d done. It was locked away in a file in my brain, just waiting for a time it was safe to remember.

Somehow I’m still glad my last words to you were of love. There was a forgiveness in that sentence that even I couldn’t grasp the significance of yet. You were simply a very broken man with many wounds.

That night Mom told us you went to heaven, and a peace I have never experienced before tangibly enveloped me. I had read about this peace that passes all understating in my bible, but no one had ever explained to me what that meant. But I finally understood it that night. It’s never left me. That sweet, precious, all encompassing peace.

God has always been my Dad. I needed Him from so very young that He was already my everything by the time you left this earth.

The day you died I wasn’t fatherless. I was free.

And I am so grateful. That you’re gone. And that I’m still single.

One of the first decisions I made when I started having flashbacks over a decade ago was to not allow the man I end up marrying to pay for your sins. I finally feel like he won’t. I finally feel free. From you. From your hands. From your body. I finally feel ready. To let someone in. Really let them in.

But the best part is that even if I stay single, I am my greatest love and bestie because I know the love of my Jesus. No one fights for me like He does. No one fights for me like I do.

I’m on the other side of devastation now because hell hath no fury like a woman who is relentlessly determined to find soul freedom’s land. I’m dwelling there now. And I think I turned out pretty well despite it all. I really like who I am, faults and all.

Honestly Dad, I’m not sure you loved me, but I love me and that is enough.

Happy 22 years in heaven. Maybe we’ll chat one day up there. Maybe you’ll say you’re sorry. Maybe we won’t. Maybe you won’t.

I just know that today you’re finally flying free from my body. And THAT is everything.