Satan Doesn’t Play Fair

Gentle Reader,

In fact, he loves to hit us when we’re down.

Satan doesn’t want to just knock us to the ground, you see. He wants to drive us into it. He wants to break our spirits. Coat our minds in lies. Wound our hearts so every beat is unbearably painful. He finds our vulnerable places and grinds his heel into them, laughing as we writhe.

This has been my experience across several weeks. I am simply worn out. Two surgeries, six weeks apart, have done a number on my body. Yes, I am healing, but it’s not a quick healing. It’s not an easy healing. I’m battling insomnia. I can’t seem to get caught up on anything at work. I’m on the “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle of pain and exhaustion.

Makes me crabby. Also heightens my sense of anxiety.

So the stupid Devil has been punching me. He whispers negativity into my soul. Tempts me to despair.

He doesn’t play fair.

Thankfully, God doesn’t play fair, either.

That’s the beautiful thing about being a believer: We who have trusted Christ have the very Spirit of the Living Lord dwelling inside of us. He comes in and makes Himself right at home. Just think about that for a second. God, who made all of creation just by speaking. God, who knows the names of all the stars. God, who exists entirely outside of time and so knows the end from the beginning. God, who got up and walked out of the tomb unaided.

He lives inside of you and me.

Talk about stacking the odds! That old Serpent doesn’t stand a chance. He can keep on punching and kicking. He can get a few licks in. But the nanosecond we cry out, even whisper, for help, he’s done for. The Spirit blasts him out of the scene. The Spirit pours out comfort, guidance and strength upon us so that we can get up and move forward, hand tucked safely in His.

Perhaps you’ve got the taste of dirt in your mouth today, as I do. Perhaps your face is streaked with sweat and tears. Perhaps you’re bloodied and bruised, the shield of your faith knocked to one side. You’re feeling weak, lost, helpless. Dear one, ask. Ask God for help.

He will grant it and then some.

Grace and peace along the way.

Somebody Knows

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Gentle Reader,

In my devotional reading today I came across a line from the song “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” written by Henry Thacker Burleigh. Growing up my parents would often sing the first line when I or my brother was throwing a fit. I had no idea that the lyrics were so rich and deep.

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down

Oh, yes, Lord!

Sometimes I’m almost to the ground,

Oh, yes, Lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

Now you may think that I don’t know,

Oh, yes, Lord!

But I’ve had my troubles here below.

Oh, yes, Lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

One day when I was walkin’ along

Oh, yes, Lord!

The sky opened up and love came down

Oh, yes, Lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

What makes old Satan hate me so?

Oh, yes, Lord!

He had me once and had to let me go

Oh, yes, Lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

I never shall forget that day,

Oh, yes, Lord!

When Jesus washed my sins away

Oh, yes, Lord!

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

Take heart, my friend.

Somebody knows.

Grace and peace along the way.

50 Shades of Something Else Entirely

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Gentle Reader,

I realize that I’m a couple of weeks late to the party, but I do like to make a dramatic entrance.

There is a plethora of articles and information out there that go into great detail as to why 50 Shades of Grey is nothing more than an attempt to glamourize (and thinly at that) an abusive relationship. Some of the loudest voices actually come from within the BDSM community itself, which I find incredibly telling. Priscilla Shirer discussed the series at length with author Dana Gresh and clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery over two episodes on The Chat (you can find part one here). And of course there are quips galore, the best of which has been floating around Twitter (I am unclear as to the original source):

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is romantic only because the guy is a billionaire. If he was living in a trailer it would be a “Criminal Minds” episode.

How true. Although I dispute that it’s romantic at all.

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of reasons as to why you should avoid 50 Shades. (Except that it began as Twilight fan-fiction. Please do dwell on that for a bit). It’s been done and by people far better versed on the topic than I. A simple Google search will lead you to that conclusion.

I have something else to tell you.

First, let’s be quite clear about the fact that this is pornography. Women who would (justifiably) flip out if their husbands or boyfriends indulged in the consumption of illicit material are absolutely kidding themselves (or outright lying) if they insist that 50 Shades is “just” a love story. This series has sold well because of the graphic descriptions of sex. (And the descriptions can’t even be that good; more than a few reviewers have said that E.L. James’ writing is awful). If you read the books or see the movie, at least be honest about what it is that you’re putting into your mind.

Second, the major thematic element in the 50 Shades series is control, not love. I have not read the books (nor will I) but I have had enough exposure to them to know. I’ve read plenty of quotes. I’ve cataloged dozens of copies of each one for the library. I know that Mr. Must-be-Ironically-Named Christian Grey stalks, grooms and abuses Anastasia I-Checked-My-Brain-at-the-Door Steele (she has GOT to be the single-dumbest female character ever written). I know that he uses his past as an excuse for his present behavior. I know that he uses power – financial, physical, emotional – to manipulate this woman he so “loves.”

There’s nothing sexy or romantic about it. The fact that anyone thinks otherwise is quite literally beyond my understanding.

But maybe the people who enjoy these books (and the movie that the actors themselves found to be horrid) were never stalked, groomed or abused.

I was.

Too young and naive to understand, too convinced of my own complete lack of self-worth, I never found the words to discuss what happened to me as it was happening. Not with my parents or other trusted adults, at any rate. My friends were aware of some things, but they were also too young and too naive. Many of these people are still in my life and I love them to pieces, but their advice at the time simply wasn’t helpful. How could it be? We had no experience of these things.

There is nothing but horror to be felt when your boyfriend pretends to shoot himself during a phone conversation because he loves you “so much.” Nothing but confusion when he screams at you in front of others because you achieved something while he wasted his time and somehow that’s your fault. Nothing but pain when he calls you terrible names. Nothing but frustration when he starts dictating your clothing choices. Nothing but an undefinable emotion when you tell him that you’re afraid he’ll hit you – and he does. Nothing but terror after you break up with him and he shows up at your workplace, outside your classroom doors, uninvited at friend’s houses when you’re there, follows you home night after night and sits in the street for long stretches, staring.

And yet you think all of these awful feelings are somehow love, because he’s sunk his hooks so deep into your mind that you no longer know what’s up or down, right or wrong. When you try to confront him about something, he cries. Or refuses to speak. Because you’ve hurt him. Because you don’t understand how deep his devotion to you goes. How dare you question him?

I’m still afraid to run across this guy and it’s been more than 11 years since the last incident. I don’t want to be afraid. I’m a grown woman with a good life and an ever-growing sense of self. By the grace of God, I’m strong. I’ve dealt with some genuinely difficult stuff. Yet the handful of times I’ve run into him… The ice crawls up my spine in the thinking about them.

Real love is not about control, my friend. Relationships are not based in one partner dominating the other. Ladies, there is something fundamentally flawed in your thinking if you are attracted to Mr. Grey, if you think he’s so dreamy and you want a guy just like him. There are plenty of Mr. Grey’s in the world – and they are evil. They will manipulate you. Gaslight you. Abuse you. They will cut you until all of your beautiful sparkle, all of your unique life, is drained out through the veins of identity and value.

That’s not love. That’s not romance.

It’s 50 Shades of something else entirely.

Darling, precious women – you are worth SO MUCH MORE. In fact, the God of all creation has such passionate love for you that He sacrificed His own life so you could be with Him. So you could be made whole. He wants nothing more than to bring you out of darkness and into the light of His wholly perfect love. He wants you to have healthy relationships where you are cherished. Highly esteemed. Where you can grow and flourish. Where your gifts and talents are appreciated, your strengths admired. Where your weaknesses are acknowledged but never used against you.

God will never push you into the dirt and He doesn’t want you to be with anyone who will.

Mr. Grey belongs in the trash.

Don’t climb in there with him.

Grace and peace along the way.