Soul Menders

Recently, I dreamed I had on a beautiful white satin dress
And I was standing on a small stool.
There were tears, rips, and messy jagged gashes
Torn in the beautiful garment I was wearing.
It looked like I had been in a fight–
Like some terrible violent thing had happened!
But as I stood on the stool, leaning into strong arms
I saw several sets of gentle, competent hands
Equipped with needle and thread
Skillfully repairing the tears in my beautiful garment.

At first, I couldn’t understand what was happening,
But as I woke up, I understood –
God saw me in my weakness and my trouble
And brought me to this place
Because He loved me.
If I didn’t panic,
Didn’t run from the help being offered,
If I stayed with the process,
(even when I thought I could not)–
These loving repairers of my tattered life
Would be the hands of Jesus to help mend my soul.

Dear God,
Help me to be a soul mender
(not one those who make the tears in the first place).
Help me to be one of those who lift up the broken,
Providing mercy for the memories
And a place of safety for those who need to heal.
Help me never take for granted Your grace.
Only You can make us whole.
Thank you for the soul menders in my life.

Teresa Norman Apr 2020

A Heart Divided (Poem)

Lord, I need an undivided heart –
Pieces of mine still lay in the rubble
Of the damage done
By those who came before-
The destroyers,
Abusers,
Molesters,
Bullies,
And monsters
who tortured a little girl
Who, instead of singing songs about a sunrise,
Now cowers from its light.

I know you as a Father-
A loving, gentle Savior
(I’m sure I do-
The evidence of your great faithfulness
Has sustained me this far) …

But a piece of my heart,
(the piece still under the wreckage
In the far corner of my not-quite-outrun past)
Questions if maybe you are a bully….
(Not the kind who does the damage –
Not the kind who cheers on the others,
But the kind who watches and maybe holds their coats…
You don’t speak.
You don’t make them stop.
You stand in silence…)
WHY?

How can my heart be in two places?
I cannot repair it myself. I have tried.
God, I need you.

Teresa Norman 2020

Deer Song (Poem)

Frightened eyes, face with no name.
Hope buried ‘neath the guilt and the shame
Slipping through the darkness now
Wanting to change-not knowing how.

Little girl, now woman grown.
Her restless heart seeks for a home.
She screams so quietly deep inside.
No one can see the tears that she’s cried.

How long, oh God? When will it end?
Her desperate voice cries for a friend.
Will someone ever comprehend
The damage done by selfish men?

Headlights flash in her frightened eyes
As beneath the crushing wheels she dies.
Laid to rest on a country road-
In death she can finally lay down her load.

No more running from wolves that tear,
No more wondering why no one cares.
No more hiding and running scared.
At rest with Jesus, she’s finally there.

Her passing unnoticed, ‘xcept one bloody stain.
Her body for scavengers now feels no pain.
Her mind finally emptied of all of the fear.
So is the ending of the life of a deer.

Teresa Norman 1991

Tamar’s Prayer (Poem)

(Taken from thoughts in II Samuel 13–after Tamar was raped by her brother)

Father, my heart is broken and torn
Sackcloth and ashes are the clothing I’ve worn.
My guilt and my shame are too heavy to bear–
They burden my steps with the weight of despair.

I tried to be good-I tried to obey!
Now used and rejected, I’m sent on my way.
How can I bear it? God, what can I do…..?
(Except to pour out all my grief before you!)

Hear my cry, oh God, give ear unto my prayer!
Incline Your ear to hear, please hear!
Oh God, if You’ve even there…..do You care?

The future is changed now because of the past.
The hope that I had for my life has been dashed.
I cannot look up or accept what I see
Unless You come quickly and give strength to me!

Hear my cry, oh God, give ear unto my prayer!
Incline Your ear to hear, please hear!
Oh God, if You’ve even there…..do You care?

Teresa Norman 1992

The Betrayal (Poem)

The night is dark and stormy, there’s a cold wind in my soul

Seems like I’ve been torn apart and never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests upon my broken heart

Holds me in my silence–Lord, when will the healing start?

 

I cast about in desperate for hope that there might somehow be

Someone who can reach out to break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment? Who can truly comprehend?

(Unless they too have been betrayed by loved one or by friend?)

 

As I cower in desperation and in fear of what shall be,

A picture comes to mind I know that you have given me…

 

I see you hanging on a cross

In agony betrayed,

Naked, torn and bleeding

So that we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with you,

With whom you shared your soul

Was the person who betrayed you—

All my agony you know!

 

Watching friends present a mime of the Passion of Christ years ago, I was struck HARD by the thought that Judas, the betrayer, was one of the 12 disciples Jesus had spent the last three years pouring his life into.  He was one of the guys, probably was treated like the other guys.  He wasn’t some random stranger.  In the words of “Why?” by Michael Card, “Only a friend can betray a friend….a stranger has nothing to gain and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.”  Jesus knows what DV survivors, abuse victims, and all those who have been betrayed by someone they love feel.  (I am a slow learner…..I never realized in my guts until this week, that He hung there naked in front of his abusers.  He knows.

Silence Is the Enemy (Rape)

Nikolas Kristof writes about ending the silence associated with talking about sexual violence.   A report this week from Free Burma Rangers breaks the silence on the recent gang rape of a 12 year old girl in Shan State, Burma–part of the continuing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Burma Army. 

Rape is one of the oldest weapons used to terrorize women and children and whole communities.  A google search on “rape, why women stay silent” turned up this article about women in DR Congo.  

Last year, the UN recognized rape as a weapon of war-something victims have recognized for centuries (see article from Human Rights Watch).  It’s almost exactly a year later….has anything changed? More words from the UN-good words, but, maybe I haven’t looked hard enough to find it, but have any of the regimes using this weapon been made accountable for their actions/inactions?  Are they being prosecuted?  Is it being stopped?  How do we make it stop being OK to rape?

Rape as A Weapon of War (video)

Responding to rape in Congo….. this five minute video clip shows how women are helping each other.  Another video clip by CNN, tells more.  

Heal Africa is working to help rebuild lives and communities.  Harper McConnell, US Development Director of Heal Africa, has written a three part series on the response to rape in DR Congo.  (click here)

Article on response to rape in Chin area of Burma…(click here)

“Not Rape” (a tough read)

For any man, woman, husband, wife,  teenager, sister, parent, brother, teacher, pastor, friend….please click on the link here to the instructive but tough read on what the writer calls “Not Rape“.  Unfortunately, this experience is too common, too untouchable, and too often, those who experience it are blamed for causing it and have nowhere to go.  It’s not written as guy bashing, but as someone’s story, and worth acknowledging.  It happens to people of faith as well as those who claim no faith.  It’s a human thing gone wrong.  The gift of sexuality misused….abuse of power….

Facts and Figures on Violence Against Women

Today is the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.” For a minute, let’s imagine a world where at least one out of three women and girls were not subject to being “beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetimes, usually by someone they know”.  Violence against women is reported by the UN’s Say No to Violence Against Women” campaign to be “perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today“.  (The following paragraphs are taken from their report)

Statistics paint a horrifying picture of the social and health consequences of violence against women. For women aged 15 to 44 years, violence is a major cause of death and disability [2]. In a 1994 study based on World Bank data about ten selected risk factors facing women in this age group, rape and domestic violence rated higher than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria [3]…. 

Domestic and intimate partner violence includes physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.

In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 percent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 percent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 percent of women report incidents of domestic violence [7]. An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 percent in the United Kingdom, and 22 percent in the United States [8].

Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from gun violence, beatings and burns, among numerous other forms of abuse [10]. A study conducted in São Paulo, Brazil, reported that 13 percent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 percent were committed by the victims’ partners [11]. According to a UNIFEM report on violence against women in Afghanistan, out of 1,327 incidents of violence against women collected between January 2003 and June 2005, 36 women had been killed — in 16 cases (44.4 percent) by their intimate partners [12].

According to the Secretary-General’s In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, by 2006 89 States had some form of legislative prohibition on domestic violence, including 60 States with specific domestic violence laws, and a growing number of countries had instituted national plans of action to end violence against women…

Limited availability of services, stigma and fear prevent women from seeking assistance and redress. This has been confirmed by a study published by the WHO in 2005: on the basis of data collected from 24,000 women in 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted NGOs, shelters or the police for help [13].”

 

Crisis in Congo-link to a letter to Senators

A google search of “crisis in Congo” returned 2,120,000 hits.  It’s not like the world doesn’t know there’s a problem, a big problem.  Harper McConnell, of Heal Africa, explained that while many international organizations have pulled out of Congo, they are still working in the midst of the conflict.  Their web site tells of the ongoing life changing and life saving work they do.  

Several  ACTION STEPS that we can take are listed on their web site, along with the following explanation: “Through much of the media, the unrest is presented as a tribal conflict, but it is a conflict rooted in control for resources. Resources such as coltan (in latops and cell phones), diamonds, gold, tantalum, minerals which drive the global economy. It is the people of DR Congo who are suffering for the extraction of these minerals which are sold to multinational companies. Write your senator using this letter to tell them to support Senate Bill 3058 and enforce multinationals to follow strict extraction and purchasing guidelines. ”  (There’s also a link to a letter to write to companies using coltan to check their sources, a link to a petition to print out and gather signatures on, and a donation link).  

The video linked here shows another report done by the Pulitzer Center on Coltan and the Congo:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OWj1ZGn4uM 


Newly Elected Head of Karen National Union

Naw Zipporah Sein, a long time leader of the Karen Women’s Organization, and former Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was elected head of the Karen National Union (KNU) last week.  The YouTube video linked below shows an interview done in July of 2007, discussing the situation in her country and the ways she has been involved in advocacy for many many years.   She is a leader who tries to bring unity, who “reaches across the aisle,” and who serves her people with integrity….. may God bless her, give her wisdom, and protect her.  (The last person who had this job was assassinated in February of 2008).  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsxb58XzGi4

Child sexual abuse

Warning, I’m angry!  Heard another story this week of yet another young woman trying to deal with the memories of abuse suffered at the hands of people she should have been able to trust as a child.  (There are too many stories, and yes, I know it’s not just women telling them).

A long time ago, I watched a friend’s child have to testify in court against her step dad for his crimes against her humanity.  I will never forget.  As a naive Christian (I’m still a Christian, but hopefully less naive about the reality of evil and of people making really sucky choices and doing awful things to each other all over the world), I was left appropriately speechless.  Pat answers, platitudes, and cliches come up pretty coldly empty at that point.  What do you say in the face of evil?  

The only hope I could find in that moment grew into the poem below….    

The Betrayal

 

The night is dark and stormy

There’s a cold wind in my soul

Seems like I’ve been torn apart

And never will be whole.

The suffocating weight that rests

Upon my broken heart

Holds me in my silence–
Lord, when will the healing start?

 

I cast about in frantic hope

That there might somehow be

Someone who can reach out

To break these chains and set me free.

But who can know the torment?

Who can really comprehend

Unless they too have been betrayed

By loved one or by friend?

 

As I cower in desperation

And in fear of what shall be,

A picture comes to mind

I know that you have given me…

I see you hanging on a cross

In agony betrayed,

Naked, torn and bleeding

So that we can be saved.

The one who lived and walked with you,

With whom you shared your soul

Was the person who betrayed you—

All my agony you know!

 

 

(Please do not misunderstand my point….I am not in any way trying to trivialize the suffering, grief, betrayal, rejection and incredible damages done by people who do this stuff!  I am only trying to say it’s OK to be really honest with the rage, anger, pain, betrayal and that, since God knows what you’re thinking anyway, talk to Him about it.  Jesus also was betrayed by someone He had shared life with.  Don’t let the abusers win, and destroy you.  Your life is worth more than that!)

 

“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality….Take the mercy, accept the help.”  (Hebrews 4:15-16 The Message). 

UN Classifies Rape As A Weapon of War….

The following article from the BBC news on June 20th took my breath away.  My first thought, I will admit, was “is the place run by men?”  (Yes, I realize that is a biased, unfair, sexist, ignorant and politically incorrect and insensitive statement, but come on!  Women have known this for years!)  The fact that it has to be stated, now, after years of hearing about rape camps in Serbia, the continuing brutal atrocities in eastern Congo, the SPDC’s use of rape to terrorize the ethnic minorities in Burma, and many other situations around the world where rape has been used for centuries (and in this century!) to terrorize and control communities, I’m amazed, apalled, and out of adjectives that it has now become clear to the UN. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7464462.stm

The following report published by the SWAN (Shan Women’s Action Network) documents the use of rape by the SPDC in Burma.  The experience is also similar for the other ethnic minorities in Burma.  An excerpt from executive summary of this report (linked below) states:

The report gives clear evidence that rape is officially condoned as a ‘weapon of war’ against the civilian populations in Shan State. There appears to be a concerted strategy by the Burmese army troops to rape Shan women as part of their anti-insurgency activities. The incidents detailed were committed by soldiers from 52 different battalions. 83% of the rapes were committed by officers, usually in front of their own troops. The rapes involved extreme brutality and often torture such as beating, mutilation and suffocation. 25% of the rapes resulted in death, in some incidences with bodies being deliberately displayed to local communities. 61% were gang-rapes; women were raped within military bases, and in some cases women were detained and raped repeatedly for periods of up to 4 months. Out of the total 173 documented incidents, in only one case was a perpetrator punished by his commanding officer. More commonly, the complainants were fined, detained, tortured or even killed by the military.”  http://www.shanwomen.org/pdf/Licence_to_Rape.pdf 

Heal Africa works to repair the lives and bodies of women suffering brutal rapes in the Congo. The documentation of the nightmare going on there is endless.  Heal Africa is part of the good news in a very dark place.   www.healafrica.org

In the NY Times on June 15th, Nicholas Kristoff puts it like this, “First, mass rape is very effective militarily. From the viewpoint of a militia, getting into a firefight is risky, so it’s preferable to terrorize civilians sympathetic to a rival group and drive them away, depriving the rivals of support.

Second, mass rape attracts less international scrutiny than piles of bodies do, because the issue is indelicate and the victims are usually too ashamed to speak up.” (link below)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/opinion/15kristof.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

I don’t mean to seem ungrateful.  This is a major step!  Admitting rape happens, and happens a lot, and shouldn’t happen is all good!  Thank you, UN, for finally making it official.   Now, can you do anything about it?