Written Jan 2015: When I was 17 I was assaulted and strangled. That was more than 25 years ago. And although much healing has happened since, I still cannot stand the feeling of something against my neck. I have tried, but I cannot wear turtlenecks or scarves that wrap around my neck. Not that they are tight, but just feeling something there makes me feel like I am choking and I am forever pulling at it in order to breathe. So, I have accepted that I just won’t wear the scarves or turtlenecks. God reminded me this week that “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a) And I realized – I have been robbed. Robbed of the freedom to wear whatever I want. That sounds a little silly, but I started to wonder – where else have I been robbed? When I was growing up my family attended a church that was alive: hands raised in worship, amens during the message. It was vibrant. And then some people started coming to the church. People not from our community. People who spoke in tongues. Uninterpreted tongues. They pushed their way into leadership and split the church – completely destroying it. Once this was accomplished, they were gone. The church never recovered. Since then I have always been sceptical of tongues – knowing that not all are the genuine article. And because of this experience, because of the fear that the experience or the gift may not be genuine, I have never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit or the gift of tongues. Should I simply accept this as my lot as well? No scarves, no baptism. C’est la vie. I don’t think so. The second half of that verse says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Is the scarfless/baptismless life the abundant one that Jesus came to give me? No. How many ways has the thief robbed us? What experiences have we had that keep us from living the abundant life or enjoying our church family or living in joy? What about that one that was so needy before – does that keep you from opening up to others in case you end up with another? What about that preacher’s wife that was so shallow – does that keep you from embracing all of them? What about our life situations? That diagnosis or the news that your child is doomed. Should we simply accept what is thrown at us and adapt to life with the new darts impaling us? Should we lay down in defeat and struggle through in mediocrity until we see the Lord in the next life? Absolutely not! We may not know God’s plan, but we know our God! Nothing is impossible with Him! We are told to live and to fight! Ephesians 6:10-17 lays it out plainly for us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Of course, the fight is easier when you are not alone. It is time to set up triage, and help each other. Bring the darts and the wounds to the Healer to be removed and healed. And then it is time to get up off the ground, to take back what has been taken from us, and to recognize the thief for who he is and what he has done. God is trustworthy beyond measure. It is to Him alone that we surrender. Then, take up the full armor, and know that the armies of God are with us. It is time to stand!