Sunday, December 31, 2017

Out of the shadow of death comes hope

This is the Eve of a New Year. I hope it can be the the beginning of the year you stop feeling so much pain and begin to rejoice for all the love you still have within you.

Strange idea since right now you may be feeling as if love left you a long time ago, but I can assure you, it is all still there. It is trapped behind a wall of pain and bad memories.

The truth is, it was love that caused you to put your life on the line in the first place. 

What did you think it was? Courage? You could have done other things if that was all there was to it. You needed courage to do your job but you needed love to even want to do it.

I have a confession that isn't easy to open up about. As a Chaplain, it is hard to admit that I am struggling with hope right now. Don't worry because I've been in this spiritual place many times before.

Maybe it is good to be reminded of what it is like to be in darkness from time to time and that way, I stay more connected to the very souls I am here to help.

I was searching my site to find some words of wisdom for myself. Oh, I've been known to do that a time or two.

When I read it, I decided to share it because it actually helped lift me up a bit. I know that right now, I couldn't write anything better.

So, here is a repost of something I wrote back in 2014.

Out of the shadow of death comes hope
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 6, 2014

There is plenty of time to talk about veterans suffering, families suffering, instead of healing and living better lives. With only so many hours in a day, we have to make times to talk about what is hopeful as well.

There is a beautiful line by David Rossi on Criminal Minds (Joe Mantegna) "Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we're going."

When you are wounded and your skin is cut, you expect to stop bleeding and see your scars to heal. If you have a broken bone, after your skin has healed, the bone will heal but the scar remains. No one can see it but you can still feel it. So why not when your soul is wounded? Why wouldn't you assume that the scar you can only feel inside your body would heal as well as what is outside of your body?

Combat changed you. It changes everyone. For some it is because you have a great strength within you to feel things more deeply. That strength also allowed you to feel more pain. It does not mean you are stuck the feeling it. PTSD is part of change and you can change again. Your life is determined by you and what you do to heal. Everything you need to heal is already inside of you.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is great if you go to church but you don't have to. Most of the veterans I know believe in God and Christ, but they do not attend church. When you consider Christ prayed more outside than inside, praying where you are when you want to is not that unusual.

How do you pray if you believe He judged you? How do you ask for help when you think He did it to you as some sort of cosmic judgment to teach you a lesson? Well, if that is the way you think then it wouldn't make much sense.

Try it this way. He put that tug into your soul to join the military so that you could save others. You did it because He gave you everything you needed to do what you had to. That also includes healing.

Why did you want to risk your life for total strangers? Endure countless hardships and sacrifices? Was it for glory? No, most veterans don't want to be called "hero" and even most Medal of Honor recipients take no credit for what they did. By the way, many of them are talking openly about their own battles with PTSD. It wasn't for the money because when you break down how many hours you put in, especially when deployed, you'd probably make more working less dangerous jobs. It wasn't for personal security because any day could have been your last day. It was because you were created to be what you were. Remember God created a warrior before He created mankind. The Archangel Michael.

Michael is an obvious identity for a tattoo, as this is the most powerful of angels. Maureen Tilley, professor of theology at Fordham University.
The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describes a war in heaven in which Michael, being stronger, defeats Satan:

"...there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven." After the conflict, Satan is thrown to earth along with the fallen angels, where he ("that ancient serpent called the devil") still tries to "lead the whole world astray".

Separately, in the Epistle of Jude 1:9 Michael is specifically referred to as an "archangel" when he again confronts Satan:

What is going on inside of you is a battle between good and evil but not the way you may think. It is a fight between what is "good" about you that caused you so much pain and what you may think is "evil" about you and it is a spiritual battle you can win.

One other thing you need to know right here and right now is a very simple fact. Evil people do not grieve for someone else. They do not feel guilty about surviving and they do not feel pain the way you are. It is what is good within you that grieves.

You can find peace and change for the better.
Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart." Peter 1:22

This is the kind of love that you have within you.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away"
1 Corinthians 13:4

There is a Greek word for this, katharos
"Sixth beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). The Greek word καθαρος translated pure, literally means: "free from the admixture or adhesion of any thing that soils, adulterates or corrupts,"F1 hence, "clean, pure." The lexiconsicographers define the term as: "pure or clean," i.e. "unsoiled or unalloyed."F2 Some believe this verse has reference to "the moral blamelessness of the inner life, the center of which is the heart."F3 Others believe Jesus is referring to one who is "clean, pure, in a spiritual sense, from the pollution and guilt of sin."

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
You did not "want" for yourself more than you "wanted" for others or you wouldn't have joined the military prepared to sacrifice and endure hardships for their sake.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The valley of the shadow of death is a place you can leave. The shadow of war does not have to follow you for the rest of your life and you don't have to forget about it in order to heal from it.

The "house of the Lord" is the body your soul lives in.  He knew you before you came into this body of yours.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart" Jeremiah 1

Everything was already in your soul when you were sent to this earth. When given a choice which path to take, you decided to serve others. Your courage was there just as much as your compassion was there. Many times soldiers in battle still manage to reach out an arm for a buddy, shed a tear, offer a prayer or a kind word. That requires goodness within you so strong that even the horrors of war cannot defeat it.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

War caused the pain you felt but you refused to allow it to stop you. You still risked your life no matter how much turmoil you were experiencing.

Begin to heal by looking at yourself the way you were before military life, before training, before combat and remember what love was in John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Being willing to die for the sake of someone else, came from love and that has always been within you.  Forgive yourself for what you feel you need to be forgiven for and forgive anyone you need to. This is how you start to change again and heal.

Then you can help someone else heal as well. Right now, get stronger so you can be there for them.
Gloria Estefan
Why be afraid if I'm not alone

Though life is never easy the rest is unknown

Up to now for me it's been hands against stone
Spent each and every moment
Searching for what to believe

Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now

It's shining on me

Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

Starting again is part of the plan

And I'll be so much stronger holding your hand

Step by step I'll make it through I know I can
It may not make it easier but I have felt you
Near all the way

Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now

And it's shining on me (I see the light, I see the light)

See the light (I see the light)
Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

I stand on the rock of your love

(Forever and ever) 

Can't nobody stop me from watching
(Forever, and ever) I stand on the rock of your love
Love is all it takes, no matter what we face

coming out of the dark

I see the light, I feel love shinning on me (shining, shining)

Shining on me
Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You're sharing, you're sharing with me, sharing with me, sharing with me

Coming out of the dark

Making it into the light

Your love shining on me, shining on me, shining on me
Coming out of the dark
I see the light, I see the light (I see the light)
Shining, shining, shining on me
(Shining, shining)
Coming out of the dark
I see the light now
Yes I see the light (shining, shining)

Written by Gloria M. Estefan, Emilio Jr. Estefan, Jon Secada • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Foreign Imported Productions and Publishing

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