Showing posts with label forgiveness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forgiveness. Show all posts

Friday, December 25, 2020

Birth in the manger and the crucifixion on the Cross

PTSD Patrol

Kathie Costos

December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas! While it seems there isn't much to be merry about this year, there is if you look for it.

Maybe you didn't get what you wanted, or you were not able to get what someone else wanted. Maybe you have so many worries that feeling as if you are supposed to be celebrating, seems like torture. How do you celebrate Christmas when it feels like just when you thought this year couldn't get any did?

HOPE! That is what Christmas is supposed to be all about. Listen to the Christmas songs we all grew up with. (Not the funny ones I've been putting up the last few days.) Did you notice that most of them are about hope?

Between the Birth in the manger and the crucifixion on the Cross, Jesus lived a life of awesomeness! We read all about His miracles, but we tend to forget how much He suffered.

He knew what it was like to be hungry.

He knew what it was like to be lonely.

He knew what it was like to feel abandoned.

He knew what it was like to be betrayed.

He knew what it was like to grieve so much He wept.

He knew what it was like to do the right things for the right reasons and be hated for them.

He knew what it was like to be called a liar.

Yet with even more evidence of His suffering, He lived His life serving others, preaching of God's love, performing miracles, giving hope to those who had forgotten what hope in their hearts felt like, and proving to them they were loved!

One of the greatest gifts He gave was teaching them the importance of forgiving.  It was not for the sake of those who hurt Him, or those who hurt you, but more about giving yourself a gift.

Jesus didn't let what others did to Him, stop Him from being true to what He knew was right. He didn't hate those He was willing to die for, even after they betrayed them. He asked His Father to forgive them, because they had no idea what they were doing.

If we hang onto those who hurt us, the wrong done to us, then we rob ourselves of all the good that could replace what is harmful to us. Forgive others and take away the power they retain in your heart. They do don't deserved to remain there. 

Understand that if you are doing the right thing, then it is their problem, not yours. If you did the wrong thing to them, apologize to them. If they accept it, then all is well. If they do not, then it is again their problem. 

If you are having a hard time forgiving, then pray for the strength to do it, because Jesus knows what it is like to be you!

Cross posted from PTSD Patrol

And if you are struggling with PTSD because you did the right thing...know that it is not God's judgement.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

Does it offend you because you did not ask for it?

PTSD Patrol
Kathie Costos
January 31, 2019

When someone offers to pay for something you need, do you allow your pride to reject the offer? Does it offend you because you did not ask for it?

Too many times we do not believe we deserve help, even though we know we need it. If we decide to go-it-alone, we remain where we are, suffering within the darkness we created. It suffocates hope.

The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

We have been conditioned to believe that we need to get right with God in order for Him to hear us, see us suffering and then solve our problems. The truth is, God does hear you, see you and He also knows what you are going through.
read it here

The rest of this post is about how Jesus changed the life of someone who did not ask for it. That man was Saul of Tarsus. He could have rejected the offer, but he made the choice to accept the change he never knew he needed.

If you have been suffering, do not reject the hope that you need but may believe you do not deserve it. Saul did not deserve it, in the eyes of other humans...but Jesus saw more within him.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vietnam Veteran Went Back To Find Buddy, Found Forgiveness

Veteran returns to Vietnam in search for soldier left behind

Cape Cod Times
Adam Lucente
August 15, 2017

Michael Cunningham says loss has weighed on him for 49 years.
HARWICH — An expended M16 round, bomb fragments and helicopter scraps sit in Michael Cunningham’s Harwich home. They constitute small pieces of his memories fighting in Vietnam — memories that are with him today.
Cunningham, 67, served as a rifleman in the Army’s 1st Battalion, 46th Regiment, 198th Light Infantry Brigade in 1968 during the Vietnam War. On July 29 of that year, his unit was on a mission in the Que Son Valley when a helicopter arrived with supplies. Wanting to be “first in the chow line,” he went up the hill so he could unload the helicopter and get some hot food.
What happened next would haunt him for decades.
“The enemy planted a 500-pound bomb on the hill,” said Cunningham, and the bomb exploded. “It brought down the chopper and buried alive a whole bunch of guys.”
Three men were killed and a dozen wounded in the explosion, according to Cunningham. But 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Jerry Auxier, of West Virginia, was unaccounted for.

“We looked all night long. The colonel ordered that we had to leave someone behind. It’s not the most pleasant thing,” he said. “It’s been on my mind the past 49 years.”

Two men among the witnesses were in the militia responsible for the bomb, including the man who detonated it. Cunningham walked right up to them. He gave the man who set off the bomb his 198th Light Infantry Brigade hat. The man put it on and gave Cunningham his hat. 
“They thought I was gonna punch the guy, but it was the total opposite. He was taken advantage of just like me,” Cunningham said. “There were no hard feelings. And I could see in his eyes he felt the same.”read more here

Monday, March 16, 2015

Combat Isn't the Same As Understanding What It Does

What Trauma Does Is Easier To Understand Than Trauma Itself
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 16, 2015

Understanding PTSD is not the same as being there when the trauma happened.

You don't have to have been in combat to understand what it did to far too many. The other good part of this is, you don't have to before you can help them. The truth is, they don't understand you either.

How can they understand someone who spends their time on Facebook looking at pictures of what someone had for dinner or watching the latest reality TV show while they were risking their lives in Afghanistan? How can you understand watching bombs blow up friends or worrying about it all the time for a year when you were here?

The trick is, you can understand what the experience did even if you can't understand the experience itself.

A friend of mine wanted to know what to say to a veteran she was talking to when he told her that there is no way she'd ever understand him because she was never in the military. I told her, quite simply, she didn't have to go to understand what it is like to be human and experience the aftermath of a traumatic event. Then I told her what I usually say. "You can't understand my life story either, but you can understand what it did to me.

It happens a lot when I get into conversations with veterans but one veteran stands out in my memory right now. We had talked a few times before the game of who had it worse got started. He didn't want to hear me say I understood because he knew I wasn't a veteran. I started out with asking him if he ever heard about trauma caused by different causes. He said none of them were worse than the hell he went through. I told him he was probably right but that didn't mean no one could understand what it did to him.

See, the first time I almost died, someone did it to me. I was only 4, escaped the watchful eye of my older brother, headed to the top of a slide at a drive-in movie (yes I'm that old) and got scared. Going up was easy. It wasn't until I got to the top without my brother that I knew I made a mistake. I didn't know what to do. If I laid down, shut my eyes I might have made it but at 4, didn't even think of that. The kid behind me was tired for waiting so he gave me a shove. Trouble is, the shove was too hard and sent me over the side.

I landed on cement, head first. To this day I get teased by folks saying "Oh so that's what's wrong with you." But they don't really know. They don't know what it was like for my brother finding me, thinking I was dead carrying me back to the car. They didn't know what it was like for my family when I opened my eyes or what it was like in the hospital for a week.
They didn't know what it was like to suddenly have to see a speech therapist, had memory problems or what it was like to go from daredevil to being terrified of heights.

Well, the veteran finally understood I knew what TBI was even though when I was young, they didn't know much about what happens to the brain after something like that.

We ended up comparing notes on how it hit us, had some laughs over it and then we moved onto the other contest. He challenge me on PTSD.

I told him straight out "I don't have PTSD but would have if I wasn't so weird."

He was confused. After hearing the story of the slide, he must have assumed my life after that was normal. It was far from just getting my brain to make peace with the rewiring job that just happened.

My Dad (Korean War) was also a violent alcoholic until I was 13. The only time he hurt me, it was an accident. He was destroying the living room, not knowing I was there when he picked up the chair, threw it across the room and hit me in the head. It was the last day he drank. He ended up joining AA. All those years of what can cause PTSD, didn't. It did change me but it didn't destroy me.

Then there was a car accident that I shouldn't have survived, health issues and oh, my ex husband really should have caused it because he came home from work one night and tried to kill me. Then he stalked me for over a year. To this day I thank God my brothers made sure I knew how to fight because I fought back and saved my own life.

More health issues and the loss of far too many family members, including my husband's nephew. He was also a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and committed suicide many years after I'd been helping other veterans go for help.  I couldn't help him.

One of the reasons why when I do a suicide article now it is still like a dagger to my heart.

Then there is what my family went through when PTSD was worse for my husband, but don't be sad since things are so much better now and we've been married for 30 years.

Then I told the veteran, I didn't expect him to understand what my life was like, but he could understand what it did to me.

He got the point, then he wanted to know what I did to fix it.

"Fix it?" as if there was some kind of magic trick I could pull off. There was nothing magical about it but there an abundance of spiritual about all of it.

I had to forgive. Forgive the people who did something to me as much as I had to forgive myself. Human nature demands we damn ourselves finding causes for what happened. By the time I had to, I was already conditioned to do it.

Start with faith and what Jesus did on the Cross.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34

Jesus spent His entire life talking about forgiveness.

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Sure I had to rationalize God being able to forgive me because I believed in Christ and what He said, but how could I forgive myself? After all there had to be something wrong with me for all this to happen to me, especially what other people did to me. It had to be my fault. Right?

Then it dawned on me that I forgave the people how hurt me on purpose more easily than I forgave myself.

Dumb, I know, but true.

I still deal with some of it like when someone comes up behind me, I jump. I cringe every time I hear car brakes squeal. The list goes on but I am no longer a victim of things that happened. I am a survivor of them and far too stubborn to let those times win.

I refuse to let the trauma destroy me afterwards when it didn't destroy me when it all happened.

If you are a veteran, don't have to either.

PTSD doesn't have to defeat you after you defied it. Don't let it define your life even though it has been able to define who you are today, it doesn't have the power to determine who you are tomorrow.

Talk to someone. You don't have to tell your family or friends everything that happened in combat, but share with them that you are hurting and what you're going through today.

I came from a big extended family. Remember the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and the everyone knowing everything about everyone? Well, that was what my family was like. While I knew they loved me and we talked everything to death, they gave lousy advice most of the time, but they listened until I didn't need to talk anymore.

It helped as much as any psychologist could but even with them on my side, I had to see a psychologist when stress was getting to me years later. Between living with PTSD and working with veterans for so long, I needed help. Again, I talked, she listened until I didn't need to talk anymore.

My family and friends were able to understand the human part of me even if they couldn't understand what it was like to survive all the stuff I went through. They didn't have to. Your family and friends don't have to either.

Anyway, the veteran in the first part of this story ended up feeling worse for me than for himself. Not because of what I went through but because he judged me. I told him I was used to it and so was he. Folks were judging him one way or another as well. Either they thought he should be tougher or they thought he should have been a wreck. No one is ever right all the time and that is the beauty of being human.

We learn from each other, we share what we have in common and can stand side by side with folks from different past experiences. Give people a chance to understand what they can and you may be surprised by how much they can connect to you today even they were not where you were.

I never stop being amazed by how much others do understand. PTSD cannot be cured but you can heal.  You can live a better life and what you can't "fix" you can adapt to.  You are not stuck right where you are today anymore than I was stuck forever on that damn slide or on the ground below it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Have you forgiven yet?

Have you forgiven yet?
De-tour Combat PTSD Survivor's Guide
Kathie Costos
July 21, 2013

Some people may tell you "get over it" or forget about it. Totally wrong and unrealistic advice because you are not supposed to forget about it or get over it the way they think you can.

Picture a huge wall. You are standing on the side with a huge dark cloud over your head. On the other side of the wall there is sunshine, green grass, shady trees and wildflowers. You know what you could be living in but that wall is in your way. You try to climb it, but you slip and fall. You try to break it down but it is just built too strongly and withstands anything you try to do. That wall has been built on pain, regrets, hardships and heartaches.

On your side you see hopelessness, friends walking away as you push your family away. You convince yourself you are perfectly fine on your own and don't want anyone in your life anyway. After all, they'll never understand you anyway.

There are still moments when you feel the loneliness. Looking over the wall you see people your age with their families. Holding hands with their spouse. Picking their kids up with a smile on their face and you want what they have. You want to feel love again. To know what it is like to have someone touch your hand and you don't want them to let go. No one is on your side of the wall. Or at least that is the way it seems.

They were there all along. You just didn't notice. Too many other things were taking place. Things were done to you that were bad. You may have done bad things. So what do you do now? Do you stay on that dark side of the wall or do you find a way over to the other side? Are you really happy there in the dark?
read more here

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Veterans deserve the truth no matter how unpopular it is

Veterans deserve the truth no matter how unpopular it is
Wounded Times Blog
Kathie Costos
June 27, 2013

How many lives have to be lost before we start asking where all the money is going? When did we just decide no one was responsible for anything? Here are two videos you need to listen to.

Iraq veteran talks about coming home and feeling like a train wreck. He ends this part by talking about when he took his gun, chambered the round and stuck the barrel in his mouth.

He begins talking about how he had the gun in his mouth when his wife walked in. Had she not entered the room when she did, he wouldn't have lived to tell his story.

Paul learned how to know that he was not only forgiven but was able to forgive himself.

We can always say dumb things when we are confronted by someone in so much pain. It is an automatic response to try to fix them. Not because we think we have all the answers, but it is just too hard to see them hurting so much and standing there in silence doesn't seem to be an option. Our silence is what they need sometimes. Just to be there and listen to them helps them heal. Our silence other times ends up harming them more because when they can't find the words, we have to be their voice.

After I was speaking at a Point Man conference I was enjoying the music. I grabbed my camera and shot this video back in 2010. (It is one of the reasons why I decided to go to school to learn how to shoot videos.) As you can see the footage is all over the place. I didn't plan on filming what Paul had to say. I was just standing at the back of the church trying to get some audio of the band that played before him. I was holding the camera, for some reason, didn't think of shutting it off when Paul began to tell his story. When he was done, I told him I filmed him and gave him the option of taking the tape, destroying it or allowing me to put it up on YouTube. It didn't take him long to decide. He said "Put it up because I am tired of losing my guys."

What is important is what he had to say almost three years ago. It is all still going on right now. Paul talked about how Point Man helped him not just heal but inspired him to help others.

It seems as if the groups popping up all over the country, sending out fundraising letters and being sponsored by companies on TV along with an endless supply of corporations sponsoring their events have a lot to answer for, but no one is asking them any questions. The numbers of attempted suicides, like Paul on the brink, should have clued people in a long time ago that when groups talk about the "problem" and show heart tugging images on TV, they never manage to actually say what they are doing about it. I am tired of giving them publicity, even bad publicity, so I won't mention them here but I have a feeling you know exactly what group I am referring to. Most of you have sent enough emails complaining about them. The number of successful suicides reaching a record high after all the money spent with the DOD and the VA "addressing" it and "raising awareness" should have been a clue they are not being held accountable either. Then we also have the high record of calls to suicide prevention at the same time all these numbers are turing bad.

Until all of us get a clue on the lack of accountability from everyone claiming to be "doing" something, none of this will ever be any better for them.

Other groups can come and go but Point Man has been doing the work of healing the "moral injury" that has been in the news lately and working with families since 1984. They started with Vietnam veterans before average people heard about PTSD. What we do doesn't cost a lot of money. How much does it cost to give someone your time, answer an email, say a prayer or take them out for a cup of coffee? Sure we have to pay for Bibles and materials if we have groups. In my case, I attend so many events that I travel with a supply of Bibles because I know I'll be talking to someone in need of these special Bibles written for veterans.

They are suffering but too many huge groups are gaining from their pain instead of investing in their healing. I am tired of it. I was tired of it when I was writing my book, which I know you may be tired of hearing about so I won't write the title this time. I am tired of turing on the TV and hearing about everything but the truth on how things got so messed up for our veterans when we have known about all of this for this long. Most of all I am tired of one more Mom asking why her son or her daughter decided to die instead of staying here. I used to be able to tell them that things were changing but that was years ago. Now I don't know what to say other than try to comfort them while they blame themselves for something that was not their fault.

Not doing anything after you read their stories is part of the problem because everyone will keep getting away with all of this unless we demand accountability all the way around. Don't the veterans deserve at least that from us?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Iraq veteran talks about healing PTSD

Point Man Ministries Part One
Iraq Vet talks about PTSD and his work with Point Man Ministries and how he didn't want to live.
Point Man Ministries Part Two
Part two, Iraq vet talks about PTSD and his work with Point Man Ministries and how he put the gun in his mouth

Monday, April 22, 2013

Do you think you are evil because of PTSD?

Do you think you are evil because of PTSD?
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
April 22, 2013

I hear it all the time. Veterans thinking PTSD is some kind of punishment from God. They start to believe they are evil because of the flashbacks and nightmares centered around what happened during combat. The things they see stay with them. That is why I wrote the title of THE WARRIOR SAW, SUICIDES AFTER WAR. With the bombings in Boston, many said they saw things no one should ever have to see. Most of them were veterans. Seeing what man can do to others hits hard. It was not just seeing the evil that happened, but what came afterwards that was loving, kind and compassionate as total strangers rush to help the wounded.

Two people decided to do evil but hundreds decided to do good.

When men and women are involved in combat they tend to focus on only the bad around them but even during war, there are acts of kindness and compassion surrounding them and when people are able to hang onto what is good surrounded by what they view as evil, there is evidence of God. It is hard to see Him when they see so much horror but He is always there.

Many believe because they are being haunted, it is punishment and then they do things based on that belief. They push people away, afraid to let them get too close or judge themselves to no longer be worthy of being loved. They cannot see the goodness that still remains within them.

PTSD Is Not God's Judgment but is it your's

There are questions that have to be asked of them usually centered around things they have forgotten. Ask them why they wanted to join the military and usually it is about someone else. They wanted to serve the country. They wanted to help the others serving. They wanted to give back. Is there anything evil or selfish in any of those answers? No. They forget that part. Ask them what they want to do once they heal and usually the answer is they want to help others heal too. Anything evil in that? No. Ask them if they grieve. Usually the answer is centered around other people they grieve for and not for themselves. Anything evil in that? No.

How do they go from being so unselfish to believing they are evil? They are judging themselves with focusing only on what was wrong, what they did wrong and the wrong done to others. No one showed them what they were unable to see. Once they see they grieve because they still have goodness within them, they begin to heal. They heal faster when they can forgive their enemies and even faster when they can forgive themselves.
Learning to Forgive Yourself, by Jean Lawrence on WebMD explored forgiving.
"I think people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things," says Joretta L. Marshall, PhD, a United Methodist minister and professor of pastoral care at the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. "We think we ought to forgive ourselves for being human and making human mistakes. People don't have to forgive themselves for being who they are -- gay or lesbian, or having some kind of handicap. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving."
Forgiving yourself isn't a slogging, long-term, "good day/bad day" type of thing, Marshall says. "At some point," she says, "you reach a turning point. Something shifts. You feel less burdened, you have more energy. You live longer, you have better health."

"We all screw up sometime," Hartman says. "Forgiving ourselves is as close as we come to a system reset button."

There is no trick to healing them. It is not magic. It is not anything I can do for them. It is what is already inside of them to heal. They just have to find the connections again and that has to start with helping them to see the goodness that still lived through everything they faced.

It is not up to us to dismiss what they feel they need forgiveness for but it is up to us to help them find it. It is not up to us to judge what they have done but to help them find peace. This is not about one group or denomination among Christians. It is not about one faith over another. I am a Christian, so that is what my work is based on but no matter what faith they have or lack, they are addressed as other humans based on what they already believe. My job is to help them rediscover everything they were born with and help them get past the pain by reminding them that evil people do not grieve for others or regret anything they did.

That is the mission of Point Man International Ministries. It isn't expensive. Taking time and talking to veterans doesn't cost more than some books and coffee usually. Done in small groups, over the phone or thru emails, veterans have been healing since 1984 but this "moral injury" has been reported going back the the days when King David wrote about it in Psalms. You won't see huge fundraisers since most of us operate out of our pockets and don't have a clue how to raise money. Most of us are supported by generous churches valuing the work we do. It takes time, patience, compassion and love. We wouldn't do this work for "evil" people simply because it wouldn't work on the selfish. Selfish people do not care what God thinks of them. Loving people do.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eat, pray, love, forgive, heal

Eat, pray, love, forgive, heal
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
March 31, 2013
Easter morning
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew:26
Christ knew what was supposed to happen and that it would be for the sake of others. He was doing it out of love as He had said before that dark night.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15)

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

The time had come where He knew His life would be surrendered but even in those moments, He had the choice to turn around, walk away and live. He made the choice of His own freewill to do as God wanted Him to do.

After His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, He looked at the people standing there, some mocking him and some believing the end was a failure as He was dying. Yet even in those moments His thought were for others.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

He knew what it felt like to be abandoned by God as God had to sit back and watch the suffering of His Son so others would know how to live, love and forgive as well as be forgiven.
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).(Matthew 26)

The followers of Christ felt as if they were wrong. They lost Jesus and questioned what it all meant because they couldn't understand that while they saw it all as a failure, the life of Christ was all about sacrifice and love. It was not until Sunday when they began to understand what it was all about and their grief was healing as the began to look at all of it a different way.

We all need to do the same. Our bodies need food to live, but we are not just flesh and bones. We need to pray so our souls can stay connected to God and gain the strength to go through our own struggles in life. We love. To love your children is easier than to love someone when they hurt you so you need to forgive them. It is harder when you believe you are the one that hurt someone else, so you need to also forgive yourself as Christ forgave the people who though they were right standing by the cross as He was dying.

You can heal your body but to heal what others cannot see, you need to look at things differently. Roll the stone away from your own eyes and see how much you are loved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Surviving sadness at Christmas

Surviving sadness at Christmas
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
December 20, 2012

When Christmas comes the images we see are of happy families, gathering together to open gifts and eat huge meals. We see them going shopping, wrapping gifts, writing out addresses on cards to people to let them know they are thinking of them in this season of "love" and all is right with the world. If you think that is what Christmas is then you won't want to read anymore of this. For too many families, Christmas is not a happy time.

Fifty years ago, I went to see Santa just like every other kid in America. I was thinking about toys because that was what my Mom told me he gave. I didn't ask him for the miracle my family needed. I don't remember what I asked him for, but I bet I asked him for a baby doll since that is what is sitting next to me in the next picture. It was 1962.
This is what Christmas looked like for me and my two brothers. My oldest brother Nick is sitting on the sofa and Warren is on the floor with me. If you think we didn't look too happy, we weren't. Our family was not what most families were but at age of 3 I didn't know that. To me, it was the only "normal" I knew.

We didn't have much money but my Mom did the best she could to buy us what we wanted, what she thought would make us happy even if it was just for a little while. She knew our lives were hard. My Dad was an angry alcoholic at that time. I didn't know other Dads were not like that until I got older and had more friends.

Nick was sweet and smart. He was my hero. He was always there, watching over me. Considering I was always getting into some kind of trouble, he had his hands full. I kept wondering who would be watching over him when I could hear him crying in our room. Three of us had to share the bedroom since we didn't have enough money to buy a house. We lived in an apartment in my uncle's house.

I thought if we had enough money, then we'd be happy and my Dad wouldn't be so mad all the time. I was wrong. By the time my parents bought their first house, my Dad had become violent. He beat my brother Nick most of the time and broke things around the house when he got an argument with my Mom. By then I knew that the way we lived was far from "normal" and I wanted what everyone else had.

In the summer of 1963 my family went to a drive-in movie. One of the things we did together that was a happy time. My Mom made bags of popcorn and we put on our pajamas, piled into the station wagon with our pillows and had our adventure.

When my Mom went to buy sodas, my Dad stayed in the car and my brothers took me to the play ground areas. I wasn't allowed to go into the big kids area by myself. One night, I got away from them, headed to the huge slide, climbed to the top and suddenly I realized it was terrifying without my brother Nick. I froze at the top, clinging to the hand rails. The kid behind me was yelling at me to go, but I couldn't. He pushed me hard on my right side and I went over the left side of the slide. I fell head first onto the concrete. Nick found me laying on the ground and thought I was dead.

Long story short, after the hospital stay, my scull was cracked and I had what we now know as traumatic brain injury. I couldn't talk right anymore but no one connected the changes I went through to the accident.

Things at home were better for a long time. My Dad wasn't drinking much and I wasn't waking up in the middle of the night crying because of the fights. Then it all started again. By Christmas, I wanted peace back so I bashed my head against the wall over and over to try and crack it again thinking my Dad would stop hating and start loving again.

Growing up I looked like everyone else but did not live like everyone else. My Dad stopped drinking when I was 13. He never drank after that. He had a lot of heart attacks and strokes but said he wasn't going to put his family through that again. He passed away at 58. My brother Warren died in his 40's, Nick died at 56 and my Mom passed away at 85.

I've had some years when there was plenty of money to buy gifts and send boxes of Christmas cards out just as I've had years when there was not enough money to pay bills. When most people went to the malls and checked sales, I avoided them.

If you are having a hard time this Christmas, know you are not alone. Here is some advice for surviving sadness at Christmas.

First remember that just because we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, it is not the day he was born and it is not the day the wise men showed up with gifts. Joseph and Mary didn't buy Jesus gifts. They gave Him love. He was born into poverty and spent His three years preaching living as a homeless man depending on the kindness of strangers while giving gifts far beyond the tangible. He gave healing, hope and compassion that lasted well beyond a day. He didn't celebrate Christmas but He did celebrate life even though He knew how His life would end and when.

Some want to pretend that the way Christ was crucified was not the way His time on earth was supposed to end. They are missing the real powerful reality of He knew exactly how much He was going to suffer and exactly how many people would turn against Him but he still healed the sick, made the blind see, preached about loving and compassion even though He knew none of that would be there for Him in the end. John was the only friend staying by His side when the rest abandoned Him. His last words were about forgiving.

Christmas shouldn't be about buying gifts or regretting we don't have any to give. It should be about what true love is and what we give that cannot be bought, broken or worn out. It is about giving real love.

There was a time when I thought people really cared about me when my mailbox was full of cards and people showing they were thinking of me. Much like growing up was different than how it seemed, so were these empty thoughts. When I sent out a lot of cards, I got a lot back. The last few years have been financially hard and there hasn't been extra money for cards or stamps. This year I received a total of 5 cards. That made me stop and think about how foolish I had been thinking the world would fall apart if I didn't buy stuff for other people.

They don't care any more or less of me than they would otherwise. Most of the people I know don't really know me, what I do, how I feel, what I need or what I want out of life any more than I know them. Just as it was when I was a kid, normal for one family is not normal for others. Stop thinking that this one day means more than any other day.

Christ should live in our hearts, our deeds, our giving what we have to those in need in great and small ways as long as it is done with love. When you give anything, expect nothing back other than the feeling you get inside doing it. Don't think that you will matter more or less to the people in your life who do really care about you. If you have pain, share it because someone out there will know exactly what you're talking about and feeling just as alone as you do while no one else will understand. Let them know you do understand and give them a gift that will help the rest of their lives.

My gift to you is forgiveness. You didn't deserve to be treated the way you were in your life anymore than I did as a child. You are not responsible for what other people do anymore than I was. Let go of what happened in your own lives by making peace with it and forgive people who harmed you as well as yourself. You are not just some name in an address book that gets pulled out once a year with a check box indicating you sent them a card last year. The people in your life are in your life everyday. The friends you have were strangers at one time, so if you ran out of friends, there is a stranger today that can be your friend tomorrow. What you think is "normal" for everyone else is not really what it seems so stop thinking everyone else is happy, surrounded by love and an abundance of all they want.

I looked like every other kid 50 years ago and asked Santa for what all girls my age asked for but I needed a lot more than he could deliver. What I got sustained me through every heartache and hardship. I got hope that tomorrow will be better than this day and if not, then yesterday didn't destroy me. I survived it then and can do it again today. So can you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mary Setterholm on a wave of forgiveness

A wave of forgiveness
Steve Lopez
July 19, 2009

It's another beautiful day in paradise and I'm out on the ocean, riding waves with a former national surfing champion and onetime prostitute who's about to join a seminary.

Go ahead, try to name one other state where I could have written that sentence.

"Terrific!" yells Mary Setterholm, my instructor, who forgives my every wipeout and cheers when I finally ride a wave all the way to shore.

Setterholm, who now runs a Santa Monica surfing school, won the U.S. Women's title in 1972, at age 17. And you're not going to believe where her trophy is:

On Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's desk.

Where do I even begin?

Perhaps with the e-mail from Ann Hayman, a minister at Brentwood Presbyterian, who remembered that I once wrote about a skid row prostitute who lived in a Porta-Potty but later turned her life around. Hayman, who worked with prostitutes for 28 years, had someone she wanted me to meet.

So I drove to Brentwood to meet Hayman and Setterholm. Over coffee -- and the next day at the beach -- Setterholm spun a tale both tragic and triumphant:

As a young child, Setterholm told me, she was physically and sexually abused repeatedly by a baby-sitter, and then beginning in seventh grade, she was molested for years by a now-deceased priest from her Catholic church in Westwood. When her family moved to the Huntington Beach area, Setterholm found herself drawn to the sea. There was honesty and security in the rhythm of the waves, but the ride to the shore was fraught with danger.
read more here
A wave of forgiveness

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Can you forgive when they have PTSD?

Chaplain Kathie

When Jesus talking about forgiving, it was not for the sake of the person that hurt you, but for your own sake He wanted you to forgive. Sometimes it seems impossible to forgive when you've been hurt, mistreated, abused and even after you've gone through traumatic events caused by someone else. Yet when you look at this passage in the Bible, nothing could be unforgivable.

Luke 23:34

(New International Version)
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing

Jesus forgave in his last moments on the cross. He preached of how important it was to forgive. It is something we all struggle with. How do you forgive someone after they have hurt you? How do you forgive someone after they caused you pain and suffering? How do you forgive someone when they have taken all the love you had to give and appeared to have taken it for granted or thrown it all away? This is one of the hardest parts of living with and loving someone with PTSD. If we do not understand it, understand what they are going through, we are the ones carrying around a lot of pain.

"They don't know what they are doing" when they have PTSD. They have no idea how much they are hurting you emotionally. They do not do what they do or say what they say on purpose. They think differently, process what we say to them differently and most of the time, mistrust us. Paranoia has them thinking everyone is out to get them or hurt them. They can change from very caring people into ambivalent, detached emotionally from people they loved. This is part of their protection, pushing people away, trying to not feel pain from the "next shoe dropping" or the next person they care about leaving them behind, or the ultimate abandonment of death. Some believe that if they refuse to let anyone get close to them, they will avoid more pain. Some feel they don't deserve anyone caring about them. Some, will have these two thoughts blended.

They can appear to be totally selfish, out of character for them. They seem to only care about what they want, what they need and to hell with everyone else. This comes from their own sense of worthlessness, as strange as that sounds.

Filling the parts inside of them where love used to live, they spend money on extravagances when there is not enough money to pay bills. Some normally very careful and responsible with money, no longer act rationally.

The list that comes with PTSD is almost endless. What is left behind are very hurt and confused family members and friends. We get angry but beneath that anger is a lot of pain. How could they do that to me? How could they treat me so badly? What did I do to deserve their hatred? All these questions and so much more flood through us as we search for the answers. What did we do wrong? We can turn that anger combined with pain and seek revenge. We make them leave the house, file for divorce or end all contact with them. If they end up homeless, it's their fault. If they end up in jail, it's their fault. If they drink themselves to death, it's their fault. Yet if we know what PTSD is, what it is doing to them, we can understand them, forgive them and find forgiveness for ourselves.

There is a video I want you to watch. It's one of the longest ones I put together. It was also one of the first so that I could explain what PTSD is and what family members face.

When you watch it, notice your own life in it. I can guarantee you that either whatever you're going through either I have lived it as well or have had contact with someone that went through something as bad. There is a remarkable thing that happens when we know what PTSD is. We end up helping the people that caused the pain we have inside. The way we react to them changes the outcome. We either help make PTSD stronger inside of them or we help them to heal. The choice is our's to make.

Even when families have fallen apart because they didn't know what PTSD was, relationships have been rebuilt in some cases. When that does not happen, or knowledge comes too late, there is at least our own emotional healing because we can understand them and why they did what they did, said what they said and treated us the way they did. We stop asking why and stop blaming ourselves. One more thing is that we finally understand that we did the best we could with what we knew at the time. Forgiving them at the very least, takes the weight out of our own soul.

Please watch this video and find a reason to forgive them. Then you can forgive yourself.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The healing power of forgiveness

The healing power of forgiveness
San Diego Union Tribune - United States

Science measures physical as well as mental benefits
By Sandi Dolbee

August 16, 2008

Paul Livingston doesn't look like a victim. At 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, he is taller than Michael Jordan and big enough to play offensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers. But 36 years ago, when he was only 6 years old, he became prey for a pedophile custodian at a Catholic school in Orange County.

Last summer, his lawsuit was one of more than 500 claims in a record $660 million settlement with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Then, in May, he took another step toward healing: During a weeklong program at a private institute near Napa, Livingston forgave his now-dead abuser.

“When I first heard 'forgiveness,' I could not imagine forgiving someone for doing such heinous acts to children. I thought it would be letting him off the hook,” says Livingston, who lives in San Diego. “Boy, have I been taught a lesson in life. Forgiveness is not about letting them off the hook. It's about continuing on with our journey. It frees up our soul, in a way. You let go of the anger.”

He says he can feel the difference. His acid reflux is gone. He's stopped yelling at his daughter. Livingston has discovered what science has been saying for years: Forgiveness is good for you. Literally.
click above for more

When Jesus told us to forgive, it was for us, not the person who harmed us.

Friday, April 18, 2008

PTSD: Not a judgement from God

The first warrior created by God was the Archangel Michael. Even from the beginning, God knew that freewill would allow angel to turn against angel.

From the beginning of nations, man turned against man and made war. Throughout the Bible warriors fought the battles and dealt with the consequences of them. If you read Judges and Kings, you will see the affects of what we now call PTSD within many of the pages. Ancient Hebrews would have to "cleanse" themselves before returning home after combat. This was a time to cleanse their spirits and minds as well as their bodies.

King David was a warrior as well as a gentle soul and this is clear within his writings and songs.

Then we have Constantine the Great, yet another warrior who conquered territory at the same time he spread Christianity throughout nations.

History has recorded the ravages on the humans who survived wars and will continue to record them until man makes war against man no more. Each civilization had their own way of addressing the hidden wounds. Native American Indians have cleansing rituals and sweat lodges. Each warrior had to deal with reconnecting the body with their mind and spirit.

For many, once they survive all the traumatic events of war, they rise either thanking God for watching over them or believing that God abandoned them. Some blame God for taking their friend's life, while others will blame themselves thinking their friend deserved to live more than they did. They can feel as if they should have done more to save the life of their friend. This is called survivor's guilt. They also blame themselves when innocents are killed, especially children. This is a human condition and not isolated one nation from another. Each participant in the traumas of battle also battle the God of their faith.

While it is not a Christian condition, this is to address the Christian connection between God and the warrior and the wishes of Christ.

Thou shall not kill, reverberates in the minds of the warriors, yet war is not murder and as stated. Wars have been since the beginning of time. Going to war is not murder. God knows what is in the hearts and minds of all people and He judges accordingly. We, as Christians, also have Christ on our side as sinners, since He said that no one sin was any worse than another and all men fall short of leading a sinless life. Yet we look at the life of Christ, His wish for peace and to put swords away but we forget about the Centurion He regarded with compassion.

It was during a time when the Romans were occupying the territories of the Jewish people. Christ lived His entire life knowing how His life would end, yet when a Roman Centurion came to Him to save the life of a servant He loved, Christ responded with compassion according to the man's heart. The Centurion was not a Jew, did not pray to the same God, yet he had faith that Christ could save the life of his beloved servant.
Christ healed the servant.
Matthew 8
5And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

How can we ever doubt the mercy and compassion of Christ for a warrior after this? This Roman was part of the authority that not only treated God's chosen people with terror, but would be part of the same authority that would nail Him to the cross. In His compassion, Christ's final words were "Forgive them for they know not what they do." How can any of us ever doubt that we are forgiven? Christ also told the people there is no greater act of love than to be willing to lay down your life for your friends and yet that is exactly what the men and women in the military are willing to do. It is not up to them where they go, how long or how far they go.

They are under the authority of the Constitution and are under the service of the powers provided by it. They serve under the President but they do not serve the President. They serve the Constitution and take an oath to protect and defend it. If a President chooses to ignore the consequences of his orders, again it is not the fault of the warrior but the fault of the person in the office.

While we argue over Iraq, the same people also participate in the combat of Afghanistan, yet no one argues over Afghanistan. A warrior acts the same way no matter where they are and are willing to lay down their lives for their friends, suffer wounds of the body and the mind and the spirit and then wage battle within themselves after they survived the horrifying events they were placed into.

God did not take the life of their friend but God did open His arms to take them home. God did not abandon them for judging them guilty of killing, but looked down on them and said this day is not the day He takes them home. We must help all of them to see and understand this.

When the three parts of humanity are addressed and helped to heal, there is a greater depth of healing.

Guilt is not their's because they did not make the choice to wage war, but only decided to serve the nation. As with all humans exposed to trauma, they are not the cause of the trauma but they are wounded by it.

How can humans endure such horrific acts and not be expected to be affected by them? They can't. No one walks away from it untouched or unchanged. The rate of PTSD for any traumatic event is one out of three but the key word is "event" and with soldiers, they are exposed to multiple traumatic events in combat, usually on a daily basis. They are deprived rest and sleep, food and creature comforts the rest of us take for granted. As we go to bed each night, they are usually awake listening to the sounds of the night. While we decide what to wear to go to work today, they are in the same uniform they have been in for days. The things they do to keep alive in battle, is carried back with them and too many cannot break out of them to live as a normal citizen again. Redeployments are the worst for them because they are allowed to return to "normal" life only to be sent back months later. The adrenaline begins to rush through them again and again. As the cycle of traumatic events repeats, the rate of risk for PTSD increases by 50% yet we wonder why there are so many with PTSD.

These are normal humans exposed to abnormal events. War is not part of normal life. Yet things happen to them and around them that they cannot forget or get over. Sometimes it is something that was done to them and other times it was done by them. If they feel they truly are guilty of doing something on purpose, then they need to ask for forgiveness from God for their own sake. Otherwise, guilt will eat away at them. Any human who feels guilty needs to ask for forgiveness so they can get past it and not carry it around with them. On the other hand, carrying around hatred does just as much harm. They need to forgive as well.

How can they do this after what they've been through? With the help of us and their spiritual leader. They need a religious person, no matter if it's a simple friend who understands, an ordained person or a Chaplain. They also need psychological help from a professional who can help them deal with and minimize the damage done within their brain. Often this is a mixture of talk therapy and medications. They need someone outside the clinical world to care about them. If it is their family, then the family needs support. Often it is another warrior who has walked in their boots who can offer the best kind of support provided they have listening skills.

This is going to get so huge that there is a greater growing need for everyone to become involved in the healing of these men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of us. Set aside the action they were involved with and find peace with the fact they did not decide where to go or how long they would be gone. They only decided they wanted to serve.

Understand that God did not abandon them but so far, it looks as if the rest of us did. They are not the first generation abandoned but God willing they will be the last we abandon.

Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington