Life in FOCUS Blog

“Pit Living”

Pit LivingThere are days when we seem to be caught in the fog of life. Dreariness shadows our every move. Directional signals telling us which way to turn in our present situations allude us. So we wander aimlessly and fall head first into the darkness of the pit, the pit of despair.

Walls seem to close in on us. We grope around trying to get our bearings. The surface of the walls feels rough and jagged. One false move and we scrape ourselves. Fear and anxiety begin to engulf us. A beam of light shining from above is the only thing visible. The only way out is to make it to the top. But how?

Have you ever been one of those “pit people”. Maybe you have fallen into that pit so many times that now it has become the norm, a familiar place to dwell. We begin decorating the walls with pictures throwing a bit of color here and there. We decide to move in furniture just to make it cozy. We rename our circumstances as “pit living”. Read more ›

Posted in Betrayal, God's Faithfulness, Grief, Insights, Shame, Spiritual Direction

How Big is God?… How Big is The Mountain?

IMG_0054We live in an era of uncertainty for the future. A sense of security seems lost and life’s problems loom like dark clouds overhead. Media pictures doom and gloom causing us to sink into despair and fear. Are these times any different than the ones found in Scripture?

  • The Israelites facing the Philistines (giants)
  • Moses facing Pharaoh in Egypt
  • Israelites’ fear after scouting out the Promise Land
  • Captivity of the Israelites in Babylon

The circumstances in each story appeared to be impossible to resolve. The future seemed to be uncertain and unknown. Yet the God of the impossible was there all along showing His glory and faithfulness. He wasn’t vacationing on some tropical island. Read more ›

Posted in Insights, Resources, Self-esteem, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , ,

Lord, Are You Still There?

iStock_000005459695XSmallWith her dreams in her hand and hope for the future, Pat walked down the long aisle of her church to marry a Christian man who was well liked. As she gazed into his eyes, a moment of doubt flashed before her. Dismissing it as wedding jitters, she spoke her vows with a smile on her face. After all she was older and much wiser now.

She headed for her new life leaving an excellent job, friends, family, and church to move to another state foreign to her. As they drove up the long driveway, she noted the remoteness of the area. The promise of a house on the lake slowly slipped away.

As she moved her things into his house, she realized how damp, cold and dreary it was. She determined to make it a cheery place. She soon learned there were limitations placed on her by her new spouse. The words, “there’s no money” rang in her ears. When she offered to get a job, she was told that a submissive wife does not work outside the home.

Read more ›

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , , ,

What Color is Your Elephant?

Hope

Wherever I go, I see evidence of God’s most beautiful and unique design in creation in the women I meet. With just words, each woman was designed by God. Actually if you think about it, God was and still is the first HGTV program (House and Garden TV). HGTV is one of my favorite TV programs. It is amazing to me with just a dash of color and certain arrangements something is created from basically nothing.

I admire people who have the gift of seeing the potential in a room or house. I can view the beautiful results but cannot create it myself. The decorators remove the blemishes, cover up flaws, and add flair from their own design.
Read more ›

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Shame, Spiritual Direction

Take Heart, Daughter!

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. Matthew 9:20-22

This woman was clothed in shame from the illness she suffered for twelve years. Year after year she had been considered unclean. This affected any kind of relationship she would have. This had to have caused immense isolation and loneliness.
Read more ›

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Self-esteem, Shame Tagged with: , , ,

Responding Wisely to a FOOL

After identifying our Fool, we may ask ourselves “Now What!” We can once again turn back to the wisdom of scripture to learn how to respond while heading its warning.
Proverbs 24:25: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Wisdom: Over time we can become like the angry person when we continue to be in relationship with them. The longer we stay connected the more entangled we become in their behavior.
Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Wisdom: Physical injury and/or mental damage will occur to the companion of a FOOL. Stay away from the FOOL. We will grow in wisdom if we choose to be a companion with the wise.
Proverbs 19:19 “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”
Wisdom: Don’t keep the FOOL from suffering the consequences of their behavior. If you rescue them, you are enabling their behavior to continue and you will have to rescue them over and over again.
Proverbs 17:12: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.”
Wisdom: Keep your distance from a FOOL otherwise you will experience fierce, frightening actions that are worse than a mama bear fighting for her cubs.
Your FOOL could be your husband/wife, mother, father, sibling, your son/daughter, friend, employee, or your boss. For various reasons you may feel these individuals must remain in your life at some level.
You can begin to see the effect they are having on your life. You know you cannot change them (although you would like to fix them), but you can change how you interact with them.
The first step you can take is to DETACH. You may not be able to physically remove yourself from the FOOL’s presence, but it is important to emotionally detach. Words will still come at you from their angry lips but tell yourself “I’m dealing with a FOOL This is their foolish behavior. Their words are lies.”
Emotionally detaching is not an easy thing to do and will take practice and time for it to happen. When angry darts fly at you, try to remove yourself from the FOOL’s presence. Do something that you consider as self care. One woman went into the bathroom and turned on her radio to listen to music so she could not hear the words.
If the FOOL is at your place of employment, you may have to busy yourself with your job responsibilities. In some cases, you may have to get a new job.
Try not to lash back with angry words. You will only be adding fuel to the fire. Your words will be used against you presently as well as in the future.
Since the FOOL repeats his folly, you can in calm moments develop responses that could be options to relating to the difficult person the next time an incident happens. This will help you not to become so entangled in their behavior.
In summary:

  • Identify the FOOL in your life
  • Seek God’s wisdom in dealing with and responding to your FOOL
  • Detach or physically distance yourself from the FOOL
  • Pray for your FOOL that they will allow God to work in their heart and renew their mind so their behavior changes.
  • Forgive your FOOL

Paula Silva

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , ,

Can a FOOL Be an Abuser?

An abuser may be male or female from any culture or from any racial or socio-economic background. They may appear normal, charming, or religious. They may be the usher, the elder, or even the pastor at your church. Abusers come from all walks of life. Each abuser though does exhibit certain common traits. These traits are found in the Word of God as we look at the word, FOOL.
Let’s look at some passages of scripture and note the traits.
Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Trait: A Fool thinks he is always right.
Proverbs 28:26: “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
Trait: A Fool trusts in himself alone, but may profess he is trusting God.
Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Trait: A Fool vents his anger without concern for how it affects their partner.
Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Trait: A Fool despises accountability for his actions and is offended when consequences are given.
Proverbs 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”
Trait: A Fool is opinionated and does not desire to understand someone’s point of view.
Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
Trait: A Fool exhibits a destructive pattern of behavior that repeats itself over and over again.
Proverbs 15:14: “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.”
Trait: A Fool’s consistent destructive behavior feeds his need for control and power.
Proverbs 29:9: “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”

Trait: A Fool is not interested in resolving conflict and will not listen to reason.
Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Trait: A Fool in relationships causes others to suffer with his destructive behavior injuring body, soul, and mind.
Psalm 73:6-8: “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment . . . They scoff and speak with malice; they threaten oppression.”
Trait: A Fool is mocking and threatening, violent in some form, and is malicious in their relationships.
Fools can be compared to rough sandpaper that does not beautify anything it scrapes up against. Instead it creates deep gouges that mares the original beauty of the object.
Take time to think through these scripture passages and identify those that are Fools/Abusers in your life. Knowing what you are dealing with is the first step to relational wisdom.
Paula Silva

 

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Insights, Spiritual Direction Tagged with: , ,

What Would Jesus Do?

What a novel idea! Set aside the church’s self-prescribed “principles and practices”, and search the living Word to find out what Jesus would do. Here are some things Jesus would not do:

Overlook, dismiss, or hide abuse

When a church or family ignores spousal abuse, it enables the abuse to continue and flourish, and allows the abuser to perpetuate his criminal behavior. For many churches, it is easier to pretend everything is okay than to admit failures and dysfunctions within the congregation.

“If another believer sins, rebuke him . . .” (Luke 17:3 NLT) Jesus would expose the sin, offer grace and forgiveness to the sinner, and allow him to experience the consequences of his sin.

Make blind or unwise assessments

Even though she had a black eye from the beating by her husband, the pastor told her “your husband isn’t a wife beater.” He suggested that she submit to the elders of the church as they worked out this problem with her husband—who was the pastor’s close friend and largest financial contributor of the church.

Jesus would say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He would show the abuser the truth about his own wickedness, offer him the choice to repent, and then walk with him on the path to restoration and healing.

Place more value on the sanctity of marriage than the safety of women and children and the sanctity of life

Women who are battered should not have to choose between safety and the support of their church. However, many times they are reprimanded for leaving an abusive husband and coerced into quick forgiveness and reconciliation before the abuser has truly changed his behavior.

Excerpt from What Would Jesus Do? 1998 FOCUS Newsletter

Copyright FOCUS Ministries, Inc.

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Insights

New Light on a Common DV Perspective

I have been pondering something. Whenever we educate the church about domestic violence, we often note that there is a high possibility that 1 in 4 women in their congregation have or will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let’s look at this from a different perspective. If we say there are 1 in 4 women victims, that could indicate that there are 1 in 4 men in the congregation who are perpetrators.

This could be generalized so we don’t leave out males who are victims of domestic violence. We could say 1 in 4 people in the congregation will be or are victims of domestic violence and 1 in 4 are perpetrators.

Would we look at domestic violence differently in our congregations if we viewed it in terms of possible perpetrators? Would the church more readily enact responses of accountability for those who perpetrate abuse?

Paula Silva

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Training Tagged with: , , , ,

A Plea to Pastors

Dear Pastor,

Since 1995, FOCUS Ministries, Inc. has been reaching out to women who are struggling in abusive and dysfunctional relationships.

Most of them belong to churches like yours.  They sit in the pews on Sunday morning alongside their abusive husband.  Perhaps you are unaware that behind the smiles and handshakes is a secret that is steadily destroying the entire family.

Statistics show that one in every four women in each church community are being abused by their partner or they have been at some time in the past.  One in every four—count them!  How many does that make in your congregation?

If you are skeptical about this statistic being true in your church, please consider the following reasons why you may be unaware:

1. Women may be hesitant to come to you with their story if you have not addressed the problem of domestic violence publicly from your pulpit.  When was the last time you took a strong stand against violence (verbal, emotional & physical) from the pulpit?

2. When they finally get up the courage to tell someone, women need to know their pastor will believe them, will maintain confidentiality, and will be willing to help.  How approachable, trustworthy, and safe are you?

3. The abuser may be one of your staff, deacons, Sunday School teachers, or your biggest tither.  Are you willing to confront someone you respect and trust about their abusive behavior?

4. You may have missed the warning signs that should alert you to suspect domestic violence.  Do you know the classic profile of an abuser and a victim?  How skilled are you in determining who is telling the truth?

5. Many Christian women who are being abused remain silent because they have been told by their pastors to pray harder, be more submissive, cook their husband’s favorite meals, keep a clean house, and develop more patience and understanding in order to make their husband happy.  Are you guilty of giving well-meaning advice without knowing what is really going on behind closed doors?

6. Many women will only share part of their story to see how you will react. You will only see the tip of the iceberg.  When someone comes to you with a relationship problem, how deeply do you probe?   How seriously do you take her concern?

7. You may be so focused on a particular ministry in your church (overseas missions, evangelism, prison ministry) that you don’t notice the needs in your own church family.  Is your church unbalanced in its outreach?

8. You may be avoiding the obvious need because of legal and personal risks of getting involved.  How far are you willing to go to help someone in crisis?

9. You did not receive training in seminary on how to deal with domestic violence, and you think annual marriage conferences will take care of the problem.  Are you willing to learn new skills for dealing with domestic violence that will not work in regular marriage counseling?

10. You may not want to know what is really going on because issues of abuse are hard to deal with, and you don’t want to be perceived as being soft on divorce if you advise someone to leave an abusive marriage.

Since the beginning of FOCUS Ministries, we have offered our services and literature, free of charge, to pastors and churches who want to learn more about domestic violence.  Very few have accepted our offer to supply their churches with literature or lead a workshop on domestic violence.

Has your church invited local ministries (crisis pregnancy centers, food and clothing ministries, etc.) and missionaries to speak to your congregation?  Are you supporting them financially?  I commend you for this.  These are all good outreaches which need to be supported by the local church.

Unfortunately, many families are suffering in silence because the plague of domestic violence is being ignored, and ministries like ours who want to help are struggling financially because the Christian community does not see the need to partner with us.

What will it take for you, as a pastor, to take this problem seriously?  Sadly, many people don’t get involved until domestic violence affects someone they love—a daughter, mother, friend, neighbor.  We are confident the problem is already pervasive in your congregation, whether you are aware of it or not.  Since someone you love is being affected, won’t you take action now?  Here are the tools you will need:

Education

Domestic violence has many facets which cannot be compared to difficulties in typical marriages.  The method of counseling is entirely different.  If you do not understand the mindset of an abuser, you will not be able to help his victim effectively.  In fact, you may put her in greater danger.

If you are not aware of the dynamics of domestic violence, make it a priority to learn.  We are available for speaking engagements, to present workshops, or work with you one-on-one to help make you and your church more aware.  We provide training for support group leaders if someone in your church wants to facilitate one, and our Pastor’s Guide to Domestic Violence is an invaluable resource for pastors and lay counselors.

Clarification

When you understand that an abuser feels justified by scripture to “keep his wife in line” because he is the head of the house, you must clarify your sermon on the husband’s role to explain about “servant leadership,” as well as defining specific actions that are considered abusive.  You should remind men that scripture does not give them permission to punish or discipline their wives, even if they are not submissive.  God is the one who disciplines his “adult” children.

When you teach about submission, don’t stop short by just instructing wives to submit to their husbands.  Husbands are to submit to their wives; children are to submit to their parents; employees are to submit to their employers; and we are all to submit to God (Eph. 5:21-32)

Explain Jesus’ style of servant leadership which had nothing to do with external control or coercion.  He did not use His power to control and demand, but to   invite, nurture, and serve.

Are you aware that many good Christian men in your congregation view woman as “second-class” or “less than” men.  They may not openly admit to this attitude, but listen closely to their jokes and occasional references to the belief that men are superior to women and are entitled to certain advantages and rights.  Be careful in your sermons to clearly define the man’s role and responsibility in the home and at church which should be modeled after Christ’s example of humility, servanthood, compassion, forgiveness, and long-suffering.  Remind them of the scriptures which indicate men are not spiritually superior to women (Gal. 3:28; 1 Peter 3:7).

If you harbor a secret attitude of superiority, ask God to reveal truth from His Word and for a teachable spirit.

Compassion

Compassion will move you beyond good intentions to love in action.  Ask God to give you the compassion of Christ as you shepherd His people.

Courage

Getting involved in domestic violence is very risky and messy.  Many people shrink back because they are afraid of personal attack.  If you have the courage to get involved, you may be threatened by a lawsuit or by bodily harm to you and your family.  If God has called you to defend the defenseless, just as Jesus would do, are you willing to lay your life on the line for someone else?  Steve Dresselhaus, a missionary pastor in Mexico (who has been threatened with guns, machetes, and other weapons for helping victims of domestic violence) wrote, “My church needs to know that serving Christ is an action lifestyle, not an academic one.”  Ask God for the courage it takes to go the distance.

Wisdom

You will need to rely on wisdom from above to discern the truth about a violent situation.  Most abusers are very clever and charming.  They will try to convince you their wife has a mental problem and needs help.  They know how to use religious words and tears to convince you they have repented and changed.  You will need discernment when a victim denies being abused in order to protect her husband, and wisdom to know how to proceed without putting her in greater danger.

Self-Sacrifice

One pastor so accurately observed, “We in America, with our love for comfort, have done a pretty good job of focusing on the promises, the blessings, the wealth, and the perks of being Christians.” Will you give up your level of comfort to meet this great need instead of waiting for others to do it?

Toughness

The abuser also needs your help.  He is caught up in a cycle that needs to be broken, and he needs support and accountability to change his mindset about power and control.  Are you tough enough to encounter rage and hostility from someone who may not want to change?

Tenderness

The victim doesn’t need you to take over control of her life.  She already has a controlling spouse who has convinced her she is not capable of making decisions on her own.  She needs tender compassion and respect from someone who will present her with options so she can make choices and regain her dignity and self-worth.

Integrity

When you promise confidentiality, you must keep it!  Don’t make the mistake of sharing your conversation with the victim’s abuser, even if he is a friend or serves on your board.  When you promise to help someone, follow through.  Don’t place strings on your help, and don’t bail out when the going gets tough.  Guard yourself from getting emotionally or sexually involved with someone who is looking to you for strength.

Spiritual Direction

Providing help and safety is your second priority.  The first priority is to help them find their hope in God, not in the church or the legal system.  Help them put their pursuit of God before their pursuit of a better marriage.  Ask God to help you put the safety of women and children above your desire to preserve the marriage at all costs.

Resources

Refuge requires resources.  The church needs to provide safety and financial help for victims of domestic violence. Don’t depend on government-sponsored agencies to do what the church should be doing.  Generously support Christian-based domestic violence ministries prayerfully and financially.  We desperately need your help!

Refocus

Love in action is no less important than evangelism.  Is your church off-balance in its priority?  Will you allow God to refocus your direction?

Our plea to pastors and churches is that you get as involved in saving lives as you are in saving souls! 

© 2004 FOCUS Ministries, Inc.,  www.focusministries1.org

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Church Response, Domestic Violence, Effects of Abuse, Insights, Spiritual Direction
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