All posts by barnabas4613

Q &A with John J. Dwyer, author of Shortgrass

The stories of our past, real or imagined, serve as classrooms for today’s traveler. They reveal humanity at its best and at its worst, and as spoken often throughout history, those who fail to learn its lessons are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In the first of a two-part saga, author and historian John J. Dwyer draws from the written and unwritten pages of American history, to weave a story that could parallel today’s headlines.

Q: You are not only an author but a professor of History, what drew you to the subject and how did you become a historian?

A: I was raised by a widowed mother in a home where history and heroes were all around us. Since my younger brother Paul and I did not have a father, nor really any other positive male role model close to our lives, she looked for every way possible to fill in the gap with admirable examples of men who exhibited attributes such as courage, faithfulness, determination, honesty, sacrifice, perseverance, and selflessness that she feared we might miss without a dad. For instance, both the actor John Wayne and the historical figure Davy Crockett that he played in the movie The Alamo could contribute. So could other pioneers, athletes, presidents, war heroes, cowboys, lawmen, etc., as long as they were the sort that exhibited those attributes.

I think it is also in my blood. With a great grandfather named Joseph Jay O’Dwyer, who came to America on a boat by himself at age 17, I have come to realize that I come from a long line, a Celtic culture really, of storytellers. There seems to be an innate sense of wanting to discover an exciting truth, then share it with others, wowing them in the process if at all possible! With that in view, as I look back over my life, I see now why I have been drawn to journalism/writing, theology, and history as my main vocational and avocational pursuits.

Q: Although Shortgrass is a fictional story, you’ve stated that its lessons are timeless and real. What are some of those lessons and how are they pertinent for today’s reader.

A: I think there are many. Keep in mind that on the surface, Shortgrass is a lively story of adventure, romance, action, sports, political intrigue and suspense, a modern Western of sorts, and a historical epic of the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, mass American migration, the Big Band Era, and World War II. Also, numerous famous and colorful characters populate the journey. Shortgrass and its sequel Mustang, which releases early next year, comprise a twelve-year-long Twentieth Century American odyssey of love and war for a clean cut young heartland fellow who sets forth into the world in a time of singular drama, danger, and historical movements.

As far as the lessons conveyed through the story, one is the danger of seeking to impact the world for good, and becoming the one who gets impacted. Put another way, how even the noblest of intentions are fraught with snares and dangers. Lance Roark, the Mennonite farm boy and cowboy protagonist of Shortgrass grows up with an escalating desire not only to leave the hardscrabble Dust Bowl farm in which he feels cooped up, but to go forth and do good for his country and the world. This derives from his heritage of Irish immigrants, American pioneers, and devout, often persecuted Mennonites, all of whom are seeking something better for themselves and to create something better for others. In Lance’s case, he possesses great natural gifts, including working with young people—in particular Comanche Indians—as an athlete—he rises to college football glory—and as an aviator—he becomes good friends with and a mentee of the legendary Charles Lindbergh. And his winsome gentleness wins the heart of the most sought-after woman at his school, who becomes one of the greatest female vocalists of the Big Band Era. Yet, all these accomplishments and associations affect him, almost imperceptibly at first, but gradually, and ultimately very greatly.

Another lesson is how precarious are the freedoms and blessings we possess in our country. As Shortgrass builds to its climactic sequence at the outbreak of World War II for America, we see “behind the curtain” as it were—through Lance’s interactions with friends and even a family member who hold important positions in industry or the government, in a very factual and historically documented fashion—a government that is telling its people one thing, yet acting in a very different fashion, as it tries to maintain power in the midst of the worst economic calamity in U.S. history, a calamity its own policies are unable to solve. This deception and the subsequent actions to mask it, create confusion, division, and ultimately tragic consequences for the nation.

And, Shortgrass depicts, for us, a generation so inclined toward self-seeking, instant gratification, moral compromise, and complaining, what true challenge, danger, and heartbreak—on an immense scale over a period of many years—was faced by an earlier generation of Americans, those who lived through the Great Depression, Dust Bowl, and World War II, the latter which was the most colossal disaster in world history.

Q: You’ve indicated that Shortgrass, and the sequel Mustang, are the closest thing to your own written testament to those that will follow you that you have done. How so?

A: Through the years, people have often told me that they can “see” me in my books, that is, my perspectives, opinions, attitudes, or that they can almost hear my voice telling the story. Others have been able to see this more clearly than I have. I guess I’ve been too close to the forest to see the trees, as they say. This time, with Shortgrass and its sequel Mustang, despite their comprising a fictional American adventure odyssey that takes place in a different era than ours, and despite my not explicitly declaring those elements that form a “testament” of sorts, I believe the characters, story, events, and themes, as they unwind through a twelve-year saga that takes place in multiple countries over the course of two books, truly summarize so many of the convictions, questions, and observations I have after a somewhat lengthy life. For example, they depict what I have learned (thus far) about love and loss, history and heroes, conflictedness and unanswered questions, God and America, and life itself. They deal with inexplicable tragedy, the glee and hope of youth with everything in the world to live for, bad things happening to good people, God often silently yet decisively directing events for His own purposes, when and how and with whom is often least expected.

Also, the capricious nature of worldly pleasure and glory, the ambiguous nature of so many well intended efforts, and the inescapable reality that despite the best of intentions, we are all human, we are all flawed. None of us shall escape the sometimes grievous consequences, to some extent, of a marred, fallen world with resident evil.

And the great responsibility incumbent in leadership, whether of a family or a nation. How greatly the peace and happiness of those under a leader’s influence can be affected for good or bad by that.

Finally, how such sources as the Scriptures and wise parents can guide us toward so much that is good and preserve us from so much that is hurtful, but how we so inconsistently pay heed to these exemplars and even when we do, we may face great challenge and trial, even as part of God’s plan for our good and His glory. “Now we see through a glass darkly…”

Shortgrass and Mustang, though, are historical novels filled with the action, adventure, romance, and intrigue I earlier mentioned, not philosophical tracts. These themes will not necessarily be readily apparent to many readers. And some of them may be so only upon reflection, as with many of the lessons of life itself. But rest assured, they are there.

Q: What can readers expect in the upcoming release of Mustang?

A: The literary ride of their lives. Shortgrass has been compared to Herman Wouk’s classic The Winds of War, which covered the pre-World War II years, up through Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. Mustang has been compared to his sequel, War and Remembrance, which covers the war years. Mustang takes place entirely during World War II, largely in the cockpits of Flying Fortress bombers and Mustang fighter planes fighting the Nazis in the bloody skies over Europe. I spent years researching both this historical era and the unique and crucial military campaign that it involves, and I am confident it will be unlike anything anyone has read before. And it is absolutely unpredictable, as were the real events. I say that having read everything available in the genre myself, both fiction and non-fiction. Plus, those who have already read Shortgrass are going to be very vested and involved in the lives of Lance Roark the protagonist and his friends by the time they begin reading Mustang. I will also say that some of the events, themes, and messages I intended to convey when I began Lance’s long journey through Shortgrass and Mustang remain as I initially intended, but some changed dramatically as I came to better know him, his friends, and the historic events they were part of and helped make.

Q: What makes you different from other authors of historical fiction? How is your work unique?

A: Unfortunately for me, my work probably contains sufficient elements to offend or at least challenge just about everybody. I have always written from a providential Christian worldview, featuring the notion that no matter what happens, God has redemptive and uplifting purposes for His people, of which He has chosen some but passed over others, not because I desired it that way, but because that is how He has clearly explained to us in His Scriptures He has done it. So, not everyone is going to be happy with a literary universe of that sort. Yet, these are imperfect people in my books, with questions that sometimes don’t get answered, dilemmas and choices that frequently defy easy answers or even any answers, and disappointments and even tragedies that remain mysteries inexplicable in this life. Plus, though my literary universe possesses overarching standards of right and wrong, my “good” characters are not always good, and my “bad” characters are not necessarily one-dimensional villains constructed in accord with society’s current trends and mores. So, as in life, but not necessarily some Christian-inspired literary universes, my readers will hopefully depart my books moved and even inspired, but also with things to contemplate or reflect upon, things that are not all formulaically packaged and all tidied up for them by the final page.

Q: What would you say to today’s generation to convince them of the value of history?

A: Mainly, that if we don’t learn the right lessons from history, the wrong ones will damage us worse than learning no lessons at all. We need to learn whom from history we should emulate and whom we should not. For instance, telling our children that a villain is a hero, putting that person on or in our money, calendars, and movies, then exhorting our children to emulate him or her, is a dangerous thing to do.

www.JohnJDwyer.com

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Lessons from a World War II American Odyssey

The stories of our past, real or imagined, serve as classrooms for today’s traveler. They reveal humanity at its best and at its worst, and as spoken often throughout history, those who fail to learn its lessons are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In the first of a two-part saga, author and historian John J. Dwyer draws from the written and unwritten pages of American history, to weave a story that could parallel today’s headlines.

Dwyer’s Shortgrass (Tiree Press, May 2017) offers a realism that differs from your typical historical novel revealing the grit and determination that defined “The Greatest Generation.” The story’s characters embody the many real life heroes that traveled similar paths during those turbulent times of world conflict and human survival and the lessons taught reveal something of the author himself.

“While the story is set in a different era, Shortgrass, and its sequel, Mustang, are the closest thing to my own written testament to those who come after me. They depict what I have learned about love and loss, history and heroes, inner conflict and unanswered questions, God and man – life itself,” offers Dwyer. “Although a work of fiction, the history and the lessons it teaches us are timeless and real.”

The adventurous journey of a Mennonite farm boy, Lance Roark, begins in the drought-ravaged Dust Bowl of Oklahoma where his battle for survival would prepare him for college gridiron glory. As war clouds gather across the seas, he is smitten with teenaged Chickasaw cowgirl and stunt flyer Sadie Stanton. He later finds love with Mary Katherine Murchison, a beautiful oil heiress and singing star of the Big Band Era.

He eventually enters the dangerous world of America First, the Lindbergh-led organization opposing Roosevelt’s drive toward American involvement in the War. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, his lifelong commitment never to raise his hand against another human soul brings him to his own crisis of conscience. He is faced with the decision whether or not to accept command of a B-17 Flying Fortress in which he would witness, and inflict, mass slaughter in Nazi occupied Europe amidst history’s most fearsome war.

“John Dwyer writes as he thinks: lucidly, dynamically, engagingly. Wherever John takes you, you’ll be glad you went. And you will want to go again.”

Reg Grant,
Senior Professor and Chair of Media Arts & Worship
Dallas Theological Seminary

John J. Dwyer earned his Master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and his undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Since 2006, he has been adjunct professor of history and ethics at Southern Nazarene University. He is former history chair at Coram Deo Academy, near Dallas, Texas. John is the author of the The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War, the historical novels Stonewall and Robert E. Lee, the novel When Bluebonnets Come and the recently released, The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People. John is also the former editor and publisher of the Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage newspaper and also worked as a radio announcer and play-by-play football and basketball announcer for several radio stations, winning the coveted position of sports director for the University of Oklahoma’s 100,000 watt KGOU-FM radio station.

www.johnjdwyer.com

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Overcoming Fear to Fight Abuse

Q&A with Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts Shannon M. Deitz
As a sexual abuse survivor I know first hand the pain that abuse brings, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected. We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public. This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.          Shannon M. Deitz

What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years?

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year. Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed so it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened. The stigma of shame and displaced guilt often keep the victim quiet and fearful.
However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

These crimes continue to remain high in numbers because it is such a difficult and uncomfortable subject. We must pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault.

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house’s party to find a line of his ‘brothers’ waiting to ‘rape’ a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn’t participate, he also didn’t do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, yet the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation.
*statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help
What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors will hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.

What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past.

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry aids the long-term recovery of survivors of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, and public awareness services. Our faith-based care alleviates suffering and helps restore confidence and self-worth.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a friend said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the “I Have a Voice” YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos. From one male viewer:

I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video “I Have a Voice – Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness”.

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying “it’s not right” (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. ~ James, TX
Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him and Redeemed. She was recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.

For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit her website:

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

This may be used with permission and credit attributed to Shannon M. Deitz, Hopeful Hearts Ministry 2017.

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Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace Q&A with author Nan Self

“Forgiveness is the gift of grace from the heart of Jesus. He carried your sins to the cross and bore the pain of those sins so that you might be pardoned from their binding power and consequences. Through His grace, you receive a release from sin that you have not earned or deserved. In order to receive this gift, you need to accept His forgiving grace.”

Nan Self

The title of the book indicates that there is a connection between forgiveness and grace. Can you explain that connection?

Our sin is what keeps us from enjoying a relationship with God. You could say that each of us offended Him through our disobedience. He chose to forgive us and restore our relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. Forgiveness is the gift of grace from the heart of Jesus. He carried our sins to the Cross and bore the pain of those sins so that we might be pardoned from their binding power and consequences. Through His grace, we receive a release from sin that we have not earned or deserved. It is a gift, and in order to receive this gift, we need to accept His forgiving grace.

There are many people that may not understand the importance of forgiveness. Why is it such a big deal?

Forgiveness is the key to healthy relationships with God and with each other. Our failure to accept the grace of forgiveness for our own lives and then give that very same gift to others prevents us from experiencing a vibrant relationship with God and with other people. When we don’t forgive, we can become prisoners of unforgiveness, judgment, and bitterness. We may be physically alive, but we are held captive by our past and unable to walk in the freedom that Jesus died to give us.

You’ve dedicated a chapter to “bitter-root judgment”. What is it and what does it have to do with forgiveness?

The Scripture refers to a “root of bitterness” in the book of Hebrews. We are warned to watch out for it, to be sure that we do not lose our grip on grace and allow bitterness to overtake us. Bitterness poisons us and can ruin every relationship we have. It is the result of judgments we have made of others especially the judgments we have made against our parents. When we judge one or both parents, we set in motion a bitter-root judgment and an expectation that we will do the same thing that we have judged them for. It is vitally important to uproot our bitter-root judgments by confessing them and repenting of them so that we can be set free to honor our parents and live a long life. Deuteronomy 5:16

You describe unforgiveness as a prison. What does it mean to be a captive and what is the first step to making space for grace?
A captive is someone who is taken by an enemy and put into prison. Unforgiveness, refusing to forgive your offender, is an enemy because it is a sin and a bondage. When a person will not forgive, they go into the prison of unforgiveness. This prison isolates and separates them from others because they are holding onto the offenses of another person from their present or their past.
God requires everyone to forgive. It is not an option. Some of the consequences of unforgiveness are fear, anger, bitterness, resentment and rage. A few of the gifts of forgiveness are love, gratefulness, joy, mercy, and faith. Forgiveness brings peace, freedom and healing.
Our first step to making space for grace occurs when anyone offends us. God offers us the grace to forgive them. We have a choice to make as soon as the offense occurs. We can choose forgiveness or unforgiveness. If we choose to forgive the offender and release their offenses to God, then we have extended God’s grace to them. That is the first step to making space for grace. We are free and they are freely released. We received the gift of God’s forgiving grace from Him and we share that grace with them.
If we do not choose to forgive the offender, then the first step to make space for grace is to confess our sin of unforgiveness and repent of it.

When did you create the steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships?

The steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships are really a compilation of years of my personal journey of walking in forgiveness, teaching and counseling. After teaching on a variety of different subjects related to forgiveness for many years, I realized that I had a list of steps that fit together.

Briefly describe the steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships with others.

a) No matter how big or small your relationship wound, God is always waiting for you in expectation and patience. All you have to do is say His name and He is there with you. He heals your wounds and meets your needs.

b) Allow yourself to experience any feelings surrounding the offense toward you. Take an honest look at how the offense has impacted your soul and spirit.

c) Give yourself permission to grieve over the offenses. Release your wounded feelings to God.

d) Extend grace to yourself and give yourself time to heal.

e) Allow grace to bring you to a place where you confess, repent, and release yourself
and your sins to God. Ask God to forgive your sin of unforgiveness.

f) Receive God’s forgiveness by faith for yourself and others.

g) Pray for yourself. Ask God to show you what your needs are. Ask Him to meet them.

h) Choose to actively forget the offense as the wound heals. If the memory of the wound tries to come back to your mind, refuse it and verbally choose forgiveness.

You state that the prison of unforgiveness and the prison of passivity are similar, yet very different at the same time. How so?

The two are similar structures because they are both prisons. We place ourselves in the prison of unforgiveness when we are unwilling to forgive. We can release ourselves from the prison the moment we offer forgiveness to those who offended us. The prison of passivity is different because we become incarcerated over a period of time through our unwillingness to make choices and act on them. We become passive and stuck. To be set free from the prison of passivity stand against passivity in yourself. Accept responsibility for making decisions. Each decision that you make and act on removes a bar from the prison of passivity. Coming out of the prison structure of passivity is a deliberate process that requires diligence and perseverance. Freedom from the prison of passivity is a gradual process while freedom from the prison of unforgiveness can happen quickly. If you choose to forgive someone, you make space for God’s grace in your heart and you are released from the prison of unforgiveness.

Even though you had personally practiced the principles of forgiveness for years, you found that there had been a “missing ingredient” that prevented you from consistently walking in forgiveness. What was the “missing ingredient”?

Placing my faith in God was the missing ingredient that kept me from consistently walking in forgiveness. For years, I realized that I had tried to leave the dark place of my sin and my past, which I thought I had taken care of through confession and repentance. I kept going through the steps of forgiveness, but I still felt as though I was dragging my past with me. I never realized that in order to leave the past, I had to have faith in God and His provision for freedom in my future. I told God that I was ready to leave my past behind me. As I put my faith in Him, I felt as if a very powerful, heavy weight had been lifted from my spirit. I was no longer in bondage to the past. My struggle to find what I was missing was over.

To read more about Nan visit www.ForgivenessByGrace.com

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Faith, Fear and Fighting Abuse

Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Shannon Deitz, abuse survivor and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry.

Recently speaking at Baylor University Chapel Deitz specifically addressed sexual assault and date rape. Shannon comments “In helping survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and being able to speak about it allows a deeper level of healing.” Through Hopeful Hearts, survivors receive compassionate support from a trusted peer and are able to realize that the abuse they have endured does not define them as a person. As a result, they are able to rise above victimization, embrace their full potential, and thrive.
“Both sexual assault and child abuse are so devastating that most of us don’t even want to think about them being present in our society. This makes it extremely difficult for any victim of assault or abuse to feel comfortable enough to speak out, which is exactly what they need to be able to do. Be it a child, a teenager or an adult, anyone who has been abused needs to be able to speak about what has been done to them without question or judgment.,” comments Dietz. With this in mind, Hopeful Hearts Ministry started the “I Have a Voice” abuse awareness project where survivors share their personal stories of abuse (domestic, sexual, incest, rape, neglect, emotional and verbal) through intensely personal and honest YouTube videos. The nine videos have been viewed more than 5,000 times and show the power of giving a VOICE to survivors that was once kept hidden, and not only aides in their personal healing, but shows others they are not alone and there is reason for hope.

Five years later, Hopeful Hearts Ministry has outgrown its facility and the number of survivors from all of over the world receiving peer support, Christian counseling, and attending the programs it offers has grown exponentially. The organization receives at least two to three calls a week from new survivors seeking healing support. “It’s a catch 22 with the growth of our organization,” said Deitz. “On the one hand, I would rather be out of this business because there are no more survivors to help. But until then, I will continue to do what it takes to offer the programs and services needed to help survivors thrive in this life.”
Hopeful Hearts has served over 350 abuse survivors on four continents with individual and group peer support sessions. 90% of these individuals are female; and 75% have survived sexual abuse. Deitz has participated in over 60 public advocacy opportunities for abuse survivors.
With firsthand experience, Deitz understands the pain and stigma of being a survivor of sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. She sees the month of April as an opportunity to encourage other survivors to speak up and speak out, knowing that it is a crucial step towards healing. “The shame, despair and inability to cope with the painful events can lead to depression as well as dangerous behavior, as survivors tend to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain.” comments Deitz. “My goal is to help others see their worth and become the best they can be.” Through the power of her own testimony, she helps people see that they no longer have to live as a victim. They can begin a journey of healing because they are not defined by their past and they have immense value.

In her newest release, Redeemed (Hopeful Hearts Ministry October 2016), Deitz shares the struggles she has faced, including how she worked to overcome sexual intimacy issues, and abusive behaviors that carried over into parenting. Redeemed reveals the self-destructive behavior Shannon was led into because of the shame of rape and guilt of self-imposed inexcusable sin during her formative years. Deitz, in a gripping and riveting read, unfolds this truth through the continuation of her journey in accepting love, intimacy, worthiness, and forgiveness. Redeemed portrays Shannon’s ever strengthening love story with God as she struggles to accept the good gifts He has waiting for her, and the courage it takes to trust God and others, when her spirit has been so deeply wounded by sins of her past.
“Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected,” explains Deitz. “We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public.” This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.”

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

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Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace

Forgiveness is often spoken of, attempted by many, occasionally understood. Nan Brown Self unlocks the secret to experiencing and practicing this fundamental key to walking in freedom from our past offenses in her newly released book Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace (Brown Books Publishing Group, March 2017).

Nan has a passion for applying the teachings of Scripture to everyday life and has taught on the subject of forgiveness for over thirty-five years. But it was her own exhaustion and load of emotional baggage carried far too long that brought her to the foot of the Cross. “Why do you continually bring your burdens of unforgiveness but never leave them there,” she sensed the Lord saying. In seeking to answer His question, she found fresh perspective on one of the most fundamental teachings of Scripture and more importantly, experienced the grace of forgiveness that left her “past” where it belonged ­ at the Cross with Jesus.

Lana Bateman, president and director of Philippian Ministries states, “Nan Brown Self has given us a treasured gift in her book, Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace. She helps us understand how the grace of forgiveness brings peace and harmony to our souls. Open your heart now to God¹s amazing love as you learn to make space for the grace of forgiveness. It can set you free!”

Now everyone has the opportunity to truly understand and experience this same grace of forgiveness through Nan’s latest work. Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace is profoundly practical. With biblical insight, Nan helps the reader identify the roots of unforgiveness, experience healing of old wounds, begin the journey of restoring relationships, and maintain their walk in peace and freedom. Each chapter concludes with practical questions, a worksheet, and a prayer, making it ideal for study groups or private devotionals. Drawing from her personal encounter with the grace of forgiveness and the immutable truth of God’s Word, Nan charts the course to freedom from our past grievances and offers a prescription to maintaining that freedom on a daily basis.
“Forgiveness is the gift of grace from the heart of Jesus,” states Self. “He carried your sins to the cross and bore the pain of those sins so that you might be pardoned from their binding power and consequences. Through His grace, you receive a release from sin that you have not earned or deserved. In order to receive this gift, you need to accept His forgiving grace.”

From the moment I picked up Nan Brown Self’s book, Forgiveness: Making Space For Grace, something wonderful began to occur. I became keenly aware of the power of forgiveness and how much God wants us to be free of the guilt and shame of the past. If you need to forgive someone, including yourself, this book offers real hope, help and healing!

– Babbie Mason, award-winning singer, songwriter and author

www.ForgivenessByGrace.com

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If I Had a Parenting Do Over Q&A with Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee understands the joy and the challenges of parenting and offers practical help to parents who would rather learn from someone else’s firsthand experiences in hopes of circumventing their own parenting mess-ups.

  • The title of this book is so perfect! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a DO-OVER, especially in an area as important as raising our kids. Tell us the back story on why you decided to write about this 20/20 look-back at parenting and the changes you’d make?

It was an amalgamation of several elements. First, my own kids, now 19, 21 and 23 were now out of the house, in college and making decisions on their own. As my wife and I watched this we couldn’t help but look back at our own parenting and ask, “Did we equip them for this?” Or “Could we have done this better?” At the same time, the nature of my job put me intermingling with parents almost weekly at my parent workshops or interaction on our website helping parents. In these interactions I began hearing the same regrets over and over again. A lot of, “I wish I had done this…” So I began a little experiment of sorts. At times I created a venue where parents were given the opportunity to share past regrets. It’s not something that happens often. But when it does, when a parent shares, “As I look back on all my years of parenting, the one thing I’d change is…” That always captivated parents. Parents want 20/20 hindsight! So, I decided to embark on a journey to not only share my own thoughts, but look for the common denominators that most parents seemed to wish they could “DO OVER.”

  • In your book If I Had a Parenting Do-Over, you mention a parenting poll you conducted and the eye-opening results. Please tell us about this?

It was intriguing. I asked parents one simple question:

If you could go back in time and change one

parenting practice, what would you DO OVER?

It was fascinating, because out of all the hundreds of responses I received, I began noticing one overwhelming response. It was, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.” I had answers all over the board, but well over a third of the answers were regrets that they didn’t spend enough time simply hanging out with their kids and bonding. The answer came in many forms.

“More time in conversation, and less time in front of the TV.”

“With a do-over, I’d jump in the ocean with them more instead of sitting on the sand watching them play.”

Few of the parents expressed regrets about “boundaries.” I didn’t hear a lot of people saying, “I wish we would have been more strict.” “I wish I would have had more rules.” And maybe that’s because of the crowd I surveyed. Because honestly, I was asking parents who were coming to our website for help, attending our workshops… so these were mostly Christian parents in the church who had been at the parenting thing for a while, if not empty nesters already. But less than 2% polled wish they had applied more boundaries. They just wished they’d gotten to know their kids better and built a relationship that opened the door to continual conversations.

  • I think of all the chapter titles in your book If I Had a Parenting Do-Over many of us are going to be drawn to “Let it Go”. Many parents seem to struggle with this and if we don’t then somehow we might feel like we aren’t good parents. Why is that and what prompted you to include this as a chapter focus?

Because teenagers are a pain! You can always spot a parent of a teenager. They look tired and beaten down. Ask a parent of a teenager which is more difficult, parenting toddlers or teens! They’ll tell you. Parenting toddlers might be physically exhausting, but parenting teenagers is emotionally exhausting. They know everything! And they’ll disagree with you at every interaction. “I like your pants.” “Actually, they’re not pants, they’re jeggings!” And if you try to tell them what to do, they’ll resist at every opportunity. “I need you to pick up that stack of dirty laundry in your room.” “Why do you care. It’s my room!”

This is where all parents struggle. We all have responses we’d like to give to this little punk who just told us “it’s my room” …even though they’ve never even considered pitching in on a single house payment.” So I spend an entire chapter helping parents not get entangled in “the drama.”

“Put on your coat!” “I don’t need a coat. It’s not even cold outside. Just saying!”

We need to learn how to let it go. After all, in most of these situations natural consequences teach far more than any of our lectures. Let the kid freeze for a day. They’ll remember their coat tomorrow without you even reminding them.

  • What happens when we don’t notice things our kids are getting into (even though we might notice other kids’ behavior and think that those parents totally missed it)? How can parents keep up and not let their kids fly “under the radar”?

I’ll be honest. Most parents, myself included, have very little idea what’s going on in the world of our kids. Parents often react to that statement. But the older our kids get, the more we realize it. Most of our kids have a device in their pocket that can access every type of media imaginable. And most parents have no clue what their kids our accessing. Most parents have no idea what music their kids listen to, the Netflix show they’re streaming, and the interactions they are having on social media. In my parent workshops I often give a quick tour of the top 10 songs at any given time, and parents are always shocked. Think about this for a second. I’m not even exposing deep dark secrets. I’m just showing parents what any parent with access to Google can find out at any moment. I’m just letting them listen to the lyrics of the newest Drake song they just heard while shopping with their kids at Wal-Mart. I’m just showing them a clip of the newest Ariana Grande video, the girl their kids grew up watching on Nickelodeon. I’m just showing them what their kids can click on from the SnapChat app, which is by far THE most popular communication tool kids use today. If their kids don’t have it, for sure their kids friends have it.

Parents need to simply put their own phones down, turn their own screens off, slide their bills aside… and take notice of their kid. I spend an entire chapter talking about what this looks like. Not putting a nannycam in their kids’ bedrooms or installing the newest spy software. Notice them.

Believe it or not, your kids want you in their lives. Shaunti Feldhahn surveyed about 3,000 teens asking them about their parents’ involvement in their lives. Almost all of them (94%) said that if they could wave a magic wand, the perfect situation would be one in which their kids worked to be involved with them. Not spying on them or acting like a parole officer checking to see if they finished their chores… but in their life. That “bonding” thing again.

For more information please visit www.TheSource4Parents.com

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