I’ve lost some joy, I’ve lost some time
Now it feels like I will lose my mind
Journey long and lost my way
And now it feels like I’m lost, is all I say
Searching here and over there
For what I’ve lost where is it, I don’t know
But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
Though my heart is low I’ll find a way to give You praise
I will find a way to love You more
I’ve lost so much down through the years
It seems that all I find of late is a face so full of tears
I search each dark and empty place
The peace I used to know somehow I have misplaced
Searching here and over there
For the things I’ve lost I don’t have them anymore
But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
Though my heart is low I’ll find a way to give You praise
I will find a way to love You more
One thing I’ve not lost is the will to move ahead
And I kept a faith and trust in You Lord
And I find way down within myself
A love for You, Lord, that overflows
But I know that I can love You more
With every loss and through it all
But I will find a way to lift up my hands
And I will find a way to worship You, Lord
And though my life is broken I’ll find a way to give You praise
My pain is still a reality today. I have put my hands to the plow and honestly moved forward, but like everything in life there is a time to smile and a time to cry. Dates, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and all memorable occasions render times of reflection. I left home at the ripe age of seventeen. I was accepted in the Navy and College at the same time. I had my first child(a son) Demir Deshon Pratt at seventeen part of the reason I was in hot pursuit of success. After completion of boot-camp and a semester of school I went home to get married and set-up my family. Another child was born shortly after my son turned one years old(a daughter named Paris Deshon Pratt). I graduated college and turned down my commission to officer candidate school and went into the fleet. After two campaigns abroad I came home to a sick son who was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia, who died shortly after that. My daughter was left with my then wife who was young and couldn’t deal with the death of our son and being a parent with an absent husband serving his country. Shortly after that my mom past and I was in Beirut and was introduced to what it fells like to take a human life all the while grieving the lost of the Mother that gave me life.
Paris really didn’t get a good chance at life with her mom because she wasn’t exposed to structure anymore. We divorced and my life got more intricate with time due to the demand placed on me by the Navy to serve with honor all around the globe. I would go visit and offer my brief time to attempt to structure my daughters life, but I always was greeted with resistance. Well as time would have it my life went left after exiting the military, not knowing about the hidden scars from nine campaigns I plunged into a dualism existence, serving God and mammon. That behavior landed me into years of not really being stable, drug addiction and riotous behavior led to (Prison). My daughter was left to many types of abuse while living in my home town of Washington D.C. with her mom. She was exposed to the many different effects of a lifestyle her mom could only afford her. Exposure to many men, drug deals and murder and all sorts of dysfunctions that led to her negative behavior. I made one more attempt to right the misfortune of us both and went to get my daughter and afford her a better chance at living, still un- rehabilitated and in sheer delusion that I was in control of my life I brought my daughter to live in my dysfunction of dealing drugs and living a dual life style with my new family and kids. She was jealous and felt neglected although she had structure and siblings to live with that had somewhat of a good model to exude before her. She no longer lived in the ghetto and depraved circumstances, she was in an up scale community, but with a different set of demons still before her eyes.
I had to go serve a Federal obligation for 5 years and she was left with her step mother and siblings, but she couldn’t deal with the boredom and structure living without the iron hand of a man around. She performed so well and achieved academic success beyond any of the other kids, but she wanted to go home to her mom in Washington D.C. where she was neglected and abused. Well today marks the 10 year anniversary of our last talk before she made a fatal choice that would alter her life forever:
Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007
Crack dealer sentenced to life in fatal shooting
Silver Spring woman charged with murder in slaying of District teen
A 23-year-old Silver Spring woman charged in the November 2005 premeditated fatal shooting of a Washington, D.C., teenager in Silver Spring was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Parris Deshon Pratt of the 100 block of Croyden Court was found guilty March 16 of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Phillip Cunningham, 16, who lived in a Washington, D.C., group home.
Pratt shot Cunningham to death because she believed the boy had been ‘‘snitching” to police about her crack cocaine dealing business, Assistant State’s Attorney Peter Feeney wrote in his sentencing recommendation.
The Hon. Nelson W. Rupp Jr., the judge presiding over Pratt’s trial and sentencing, said he was ‘‘struck by the total lack of remorse” Pratt showed when she spoke to the court before her sentencing.
‘‘It’s not going to happen again if I have anything to do with it,” Rupp said before delivering his sentence.
Before the sentencing, Pratt apologized for getting herself into the situation that led to Cunningham’s death and asked for forgiveness from the boy’s family. But she said she felt her life was in danger at the time of the shooting and that she was the ‘‘sacrificial lamb.” She said it was the witness who testified against her that fired the bullet that killed Cunningham. She admitted to shooting Cunningham twice in self-defense.
According to the sentencing recommendation, it was Pratt’s DNA, not that of the witness, which was found on the gun.
‘‘If my back is against the wall, I do the best that I can,” she said before her sentencing. She said she was ‘‘totally out of my character” and abusing drugs when the shooting occurred.
According to defense testimony before her sentencing, Pratt was physically and sexually abused as a child, and abusing the drug PCP by age 14. Several of Pratt’s family and friends testified before her sentencing that she was misunderstood and a product of her upbringing.
But Rupp said it shocked the ‘‘conscience of the court” to see Pratt’s family claiming ties after defense testimony stated that she had been living on the streets, and ordered family and friends, who were weeping when Pratt was sentenced to life without parole, out of the courtroom.
‘‘If there was a way to charge the family … they’d be charged,” Rupp said.
Pratt was charged with first-degree murder and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony three days after the shooting. According to the sentencing recommendation, a witness to the Nov. 17, 2005, slaying came forward and told police that Pratt lured Cunningham into her car and drove Cunningham and the witness to the 9200 block of Manchester Road, where she shot him in the head three times.
Pratt fired two shots at Cunningham after asking him to take a walk down a driveway on Manchester Road, according to the sentencing recommendation. As Pratt and the witness began driving away, Pratt noticed Cunningham was still moving. She backed up the car, and shot Cunningham in the head a third time.
Pratt then drove to Wheaton after the shooting to sell crack cocaine, according to the sentencing recommendation.
At the time of his death, Cunningham was enrolled as a sophomore at Calvin Coolidge High School in the District. Erica Cunningham, the 24-year-old sister of Phillip Cunningham, said Thursday her brother was a typical teen who was just ‘‘starting to get it together.” Cunningham also had three other brothers, all wards of the Washington, D.C., foster care system.
Pratt also received a sentence of 20 years for the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime, and five years for the possession of a regulated firearm by a prohibited person, to be served consecutively.
After the sentencing, public defender Alan Drew said he would appeal the sentencing and pursue a three-judge review panel.
I have a story of pain and triumphs just like we all do. I am not ashamed at being transparent about my struggles, failure, and challenges for without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Praise God for His grace. I am fighting so many different fronts for myself and my kids. I have another son doing life for the same thing here in California, so you see this is a another part of the “WHY” to Second Chance Alliance. I have real life experience to offer to our communities and families abroad,. My wife has her own story to tell as well. Please pray my strength today. Thanks for your time in reading this blog and for your pondering to assist us in our cause, if you never viewed it click the insignia below.
The Message (MSG)
7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
The autumn season we are now entering is one of cornfields ripe for harvest, of the cheerful song of those who reap the crops, and of gathered and securely stored grain. So allow me to draw your attention to the sermon of the fields. This is its solemn message; “You must die in order to live.” You must refuse to consider your own comfort and well-being. You must be crucified, not only to your desires and habits that are obviously sinful but also to many others that may appear to be innocent and right. If you desire to save others, you must be buried in darkness and solitude.”
My heart fails me as I listen. But when the words are from Jesus, may I remind myself that it is my great privilege to enter into “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10) and I am therefore in great company. May I also remind myself that all the suffering is designed to make me a vessel suitable for His use. And may I remember that His Calvary blossomed into abundant fruitfulness, and so will mine.
Pain leads to plenty, and death to life–it is the law of the Kingdom! Do we call it dying when a bud blossoms into a flower? Finding, following, keeping, struggling, is He sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, Answer, “Yes.”
How do you deal with conflict? People handle it all sorts of different ways. Some seek to just avoid it by either running away from it or by appeasing their enemies. Some go to the opposite extreme and almost seem to welcome it if not instigate it themselves. Then there are those who will not back down from their core issues of belief, yet will also seek to find common ground in which compromise can be made and the issues resolved. While that introduction could be a good introduction to a political speech since the major political parties and candidates differ so much on the issues related to dealing with those that hate America and seek our harm, our interest this morning is dealing with conflict in the church.
I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within churches and denominations. But all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other. This has been true from the earliest days of the church. The Apostle Paul, who planted the church in Corinth, wrote what we call 1 Corinthians to the believers there principally because of internal conflict in the church. By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the tension was largely between Paul and his church. Even in a healthy church, such as the one in Philippi, conflict was a problem. Thus Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:2-3). Two prominent women in the Philippian congregation, people who had been Paul’s co-workers in ministry, were stuck in some sort of conflict such that they needed help from Paul and others to try and get along. When I was a young Christian, I used to think that the solution to the ills of the contemporary church was to “get back to the early church.” If we could only believe and do as the first believers believed and did, we’d be on the right track. But the more I have studied the early church, the more I have come to recognize the manifold problems that plagued the first Christians. Among these, conflict played a central role. Perhaps one of the most discouraging things about studying church history, from the first century onward, is to see just how often Christians have been mired in disputes and strife. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we have actually put to death fellow Christians whose theological convictions didn’t measure up to our personal standards. Not a happy story, not at all. This was not what Jesus intended, to be sure. In his so-called “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Do you enjoy conflict? I can’t say that I do. When disagreement surfaces, especially in the church, my instinctive response is usually “uh-oh.”
“Relational conflict is what the Bible calls sin,” reads a discipling manual I came across recently. That says it pretty straight, doesn’t it? But there’s a basic problem with this take on things: It’s not true. While, of course, sin does breed some conflicts, others grow out of nothing more sinister than differences in experience or personality or even spiritual gifts.
Not all conflict is bad. Much tension is life-giving–inviting us to grow, learn, or develop intimacy. Churches that habitually run from conflict (and there are lots of them) don’t just miss out on these growth opportunities; they end up sick.
Chances are, in your church you’ve witnessed some of the crippling consequences of conflict avoidance firsthand.
Making lowest-common-denominator decisions
As one church launched a comprehensive planning process, a member rose and addressed the planning consultant: “One thing you need to know about this church is that we are very careful to not offend anyone.” Translation: “Don’t you dare rock the boat! We don’t want to make any decision that anyone doesn’t like.”
Down this path lies paralysis. Doing nothing until everyone likes it gives the most negative members of the congregation veto power. It insures that new and exciting changes will be rare, and it practically guarantees that many of the most passionate, outreach-oriented members of your congregation will leave. Why? Because by empowering those slowest to embrace change, you are disempowering your most creative leaders. Many of them will find another church that supports them in pursuing the vision for ministry God has given them.
No church can keep everybody happy. Some people are going to leave. But you can choose which group you will lose–your most entrepreneurial, visionary leaders, or those most fearful of change.
One Detroit pastor got this right. During a time of vision work that released great energy in the congregation, one member–a major giver–announced that if the church installed theater lighting in the sanctuary for a proposed ministry, he would leave. The pastor’s answer: “We’ll hate to see you go, but we can’t hold up the rest of the congregation for one person.” That church is well on its way to getting unstuck.
Settling for shallow relationships
Conflict is essential to developing intimacy. Until people have gone through conflict together and come out on the other side, the relationship is untested. Working through differences constructively forges deep bonds of trust.
In the life cycle of a small group, for example, the first stage of group life is the honeymoon. This is followed by a conflict stage through which the group must pass to reach the third stage–community. If a group spends too long at the honeymoon stage–staying at the level of pleasant, superficial acquaintance–a wise group leader will intentionally surface conflict so the group can move ahead on the path toward mature community.
In the same way, the strongest marriages are those where the partners have fought their way through many tough issues to achieve a hard-won mutual trust. These husbands and wives know that more challenges will come, but that doesn’t scare them. They know they can work through them together and be the stronger for it because they’ve done it before.
Sinking into irrelevance
The pace of change in our culture is faster than ever and getting faster. This means that although the gospel never changes, our ministry forms must constantly change to connect with a rapidly changing society. The only alternative is cultural irrelevance.
When a congregation’s leaders commit to cultural relevance, this pushes many of us beyond our comfort zones. Christians passionate about reaching the unchurched will often clash with those more concerned with their own comfort. Between “what I feel most comfortable with” and “the most effective way to fulfill our mission” often stretches a wide chasm.
Pat Kiefert, president of Church Innovations Institute, describes a congregational study done at Emory University by Nancy Ammerman:
It concluded that every congregation that successfully adapted and flourished in a changing community had a substantial church fight. Those that chose to avoid conflict at all costs failed to flourish. No exceptions. (Net Results, January 1996).
Pretending differences don’t exist
A committee member complained to her pastor about a long-standing committee policy that was causing problems. But when the committee discussed the policy at its next meeting, she kept quiet, insecure about expressing disagreement. So, the other committee members still don’t know about the problem and ministry suffers.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, as one person sharpens the wits of another” (NRSV). When people sidestep working through differences, the iron never gets very sharp, working relationships remain strained, and the group tends to make poor decisions. In a healthy church, people know how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Being complacent about complacency
I was having breakfast with several members of a church council who were considering launching a strategic planning initiative in their church. At the end of the meal, one man asked, “How can we convince our people we need this when they are so content with the way things are?” I knew this was a church that prized keeping the peace above almost everything else, so I suspect my answer shocked them. “One of the most important responsibilities of church leadership,” I said, “is to create tension. And you do that by making your people highly conscious of the gap between the way the church is and how God wants it to be. Make your people so aware of the something more that God is calling them to be that they can no longer be content with the way things are.”
In a complacent church, it is the job of the leaders to increase frustration, to introduce conflict.
Avoiding the hard work of correcting sin
Conflict-avoiding churches often empower the most divisive members to wreak havoc. Other members may quietly complain about the bullies, but rarely do they acknowledge that such people are committing a grievous sin and that the church is morally responsible to discipline them.
Why are we so slow to confront people who are damaging the church? Well, we know it’s going to hurt, and most of us don’t enjoy inflicting pain. And we may not relish the prospect of arousing the offender’s anger. But perhaps a deeper reason is that the New Testament instructions for correcting one another are designed to be lived out in the context of intimate community, and most of our churches today have much more the flavor of institution than of community. Spiritual correction doesn’t work all that well outside of intimate relationship, no matter how well-intended.
But, in spite of the challenges, for the church to be healthy, we must find ways to give and receive accountability.
To be healthy, your church needs conflict.
* Every church has defining moments when it must choose between being true to its mission and pleasing people. Obeying God must always trump trying to keep everybody happy.
* The church cannot fulfill its destiny apart from becoming an intimate community, and successfully working through conflict, again and again, is essential to community-building.
* All progress requires change, and all change brings some level of conflict. Working through the conflicts that come with constantly updating ministry will always be part of the ongoing cost of making your church’s ministries culturally relevant.
* No ministry team can thrive while sweeping important differences under the rug. To draw out the best in people, the church must offer safe places where all know that differing perspectives are not only tolerated, but truly valued.
* When a church is complacent, the leaders are responsible to “disturb the peace” by spotlighting the gap between what is and what needs to be until the members become so uncomfortable that they feel compelled to change.
* Finally, when conflict is fueled by sin, the church must respond graciously and firmly, speaking the truth in love, to restore the one who is sinning and to protect and heal the church from the sin’s destructive impact.
One translation of Acts 4:32 says that all the believers in the Jerusalem church “all felt the same way about everything” (CEV). Really? I wonder if that translation team bothered to read the next chapter of Acts, or the one after that. The New Testament church consisted not of a bunch of ditto-heads, but of diverse people who cared–and disagreed–passionately. No, what Acts 4:32 really says is that the believers were “of one heart and soul” (NRSV). Their love for each other and their shared purpose inspired them to work through potentially explosive disagreements while respecting each others’ differences, coming up with creative win-win solutions that embodied kingdom values. (See, for example, Acts 6 and 15.)
Such conflict is not the enemy. In fact, it is an absolutely essential element in the day-to-day rhythm of life in every healthy church.
May your church be blessed with many life-giving conflicts–and the grace to grow through every one of them.
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During my tour of service I could not imagine seeing something like this take place, let alone me taking part in it. My horror experienced while serving has given me issues of depression and coupled with my life horrific experiences while separated from service has made me passionate about others who endure these attacks from the enemy of our soul. My wife and I are preparing ourselves for this type of work. With her almost completion of her studies in psychology and us both getting certified for drug and alcohol counselors, we will have the anointing and life experience to get us through to be affective in shock absorbing our clients pain.
If you want enemies, excel others; if you want friends, let others excel you.
CHARLES CALEB COLTON, Lacon
At 21, Jacinda considered her male coworkers in the Navy to be her brothers. That was before she awoke in a drunken haze, bleeding from being anally raped after a party at the barracks.
She couldn’t find her shirt; so she wrapped a blanket around herself and walked directly across the street to the military police. They told Jacinda she shouldn’t have been drinking among so many men, and that she should chalk up the consequences to poor judgment and go home. The military police also intimidated her with threats of imprisonment if her report were judged to be false.
Frightened, Jacinda lied about her injuries when she went to the infirmary.
That was 15 years ago. Today, Jacinda says, “I’m unable to maintain relationships. I don’t trust men. I have no children. I also have OCD behaviors, such as checking and rechecking locked doors. I pull out my hair sometimes, one strand at a time. I chew my nails to the bone, and I suffer from panic attacks and generalized anxiety.”
It took many years and four denials before the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) finally granted Jacinda resources to help treat her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Jacinda says she doesn’t regret her military service, but she wouldn’t do it again.
Jacinda’s story is far from unique. In 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that, while the number of military sexual assaults reported the previous year totaled around 3,000, the actual number of rapes was likelier to be 19,000. And as the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War demonstrated, military sexual assault (MST) is a veritable epidemic across the armed forces.
TakePart spoke to a handful of survivors about their personal experiences with MST. Their names have all been changed.
Jessica Hinves (her real name) came from a military family. Joining the Air Force at age 24 seemed a natural choice. She was in her room at an Air Force base when an airman she knew broke in through the bathroom and raped her. She went to the hospital, hoping desperately that no one at work would find out.
Hinves failed to receive the privacy she wanted. A girl in the next room found out that Hinves had requested a forensic kit (rape kit) and promptly told Hinves’s supervisor. Hinves was terrified.
She tells TakePart of the man who raped her: “I knew the type of guy he appeared to be. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. He just didn’t seem capable of something like this. I feared I would be ostracized. I needed others to do some of my duties as a jet mechanic. I feared no one would work with me for fear that I would get them in trouble. Sexual harassment was a common thing and accepted throughout my squadron. I knew people would be leery of me and afraid that I might report them as well.”
Treatment proved to be difficult. She tells TakePart, “I thought I was going crazy after this happened. I wanted to be institutionalized to get a handle on my life again, but the only place available had all males on the floor and wouldn’t allow me to lock my door at night. I couldn’t bear it; so I was put in an outpatient facility with combat vets. I was relieved to know someone else was going through what I was, and I wasn’t going crazy. I was sleeping with knives and had weapons hid in my locker at work, in my house, and in my car. I couldn’t sleep because of the dreams. I couldn’t go out of my house for fear of what people were capable of.”
Now 31, Hinves says, “I regret I didn’t know rape was a hazard to military service.… I loved the military. I wish this never happened so I could still be doing what I loved.”
Sienna was 31 when she joined the Navy. She hoped to secure an education and to travel the world. She invited a coworker, who had recently returned from a yearlong deployment, out for beers with her friends. She drank a couple of beers, but he drank far more, and ended up vomiting in the parking lot. She offered to let him crash on her couch.
“He came into my room after I went to bed,” she tells TakePart. “I said no repeatedly and did fight him off. I thought it was over, but after I fell asleep he came back in my room. He pinned me while I was asleep.” She awoke to find the man on top of her, raping her.
Sienna didn’t report the rape: She would have been required to admit that she’d driven a vehicle after having a few beers. She feared being charged with an alcohol-related incident. She also felt that as a female mechanic, it would have ruined her career.
Her PTSD began with sleep problems and progressed to crippling panic attacks. She eventually left work for two months to seek psychiatric help. She also sought treatment in a military PTSD program.
Today, she’s a 40-year-old college student studying to be a trauma counselor. She tells TakePart, “Everything that happened to me has made me stronger. My experiences will help me help others.”