Saturday, December 6, 2008

Odd Space...

Hmm... it is such an odd space I find myself in.

My sister is moved back as of Thursday. And I don't know how I feel about that. Trepidatious? Haven't seen her yet, but we've talked on the phone a few times.

Hmm... My friend told me today that she had heard that someone we know is thinking of starting a church. She talked to him and he said that it had been prophesied over him and that he is thinking about it, but he doesn't have a clear picture yet, and all he is planning right now is maybe starting some meetings once a month starting in January. And Something much akin to hope rose inside and is scaring the crap out of me.

As I was leaving her house, she was talking with her sister and cousin about going to church in the morning. And a part of me is a little jealous of that desire. But.... 

So on the way home, I stopped at the liquor store and got a 6 pack of Guinness Draught. And although I am tempted to get plastered, I will stop at one. My friend want s to go to church and I want a beer....

So why am I hopeful... excited, even, about this person starting a group of meetings? Hmm... well, from what I know of him, he has a ton of integrity and not a lot of ego... great mix for a leader, eh? And the idea of the possibility of a community that I might actually be able to almost trust... yet I am afraid my expectations are too high and I will get pulled in and burned... again. 

What the hell? I don't know what Papa's got cooking, but, please, don't let me get suckered again. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Life and stuff...

Wow, it's been a while since I posted. A lot going on. Sometimes the processing is hard to put into words.

So, I guess to catch you all up, I'll just try a little free-form itemized kind of recap....

My cousin sent me a copy of The Shack, which I have been avoiding because I just get stubborn when anyone tells me I 'should' read something. Takes all the fun out of it for me 'cause now it feels like there are expectations that I will like it as much as they do and want to talk about it... Well, it is a well written book with some powerful things in it and it has pissed me off. Because some of the issues that are in the forefront for me right now... the answers given in this book did not sit well. And I am not sure what to do with that.

My mind and emotions are not getting better as fast as I want them to. I feel like I am going backward. But when I brought that up with my therapist today, she said that I am making good progress. I am delving deeper into the issues. Okay. Delving deeper hurts more - makes it feel like I'm going backward when I'm not. I can see that logically, but it still hurts and I still have moments when I break down and cry - often.

Last Sunday (the 25th), my mom was taken to the hospital and put in ICU. Her throat closed and she couldn't breath. This has happened before. The docs can't figure out the root. She called me on Monday and told me she was in the hospital. I didn't much care (or at least it didn't feel like I did), and that bothers me a little. She went home on Friday, but in the meantime, my sis and I talked on the phone several times and I thought things were going to be good between us. She said she understood that I couldn't go see mom and she was okay with it. She would keep me updated as needed. but then she posted on her blog. Stark reminder for me why I blog under a pseudonym. What she wrote hurt - trust evaporated. Sigh. I did call mom once. She's as manipulative as ever...

I spent my first ever Thanksgiving alone. And it was nice to not have the family pressure.

I realized, while listening to a friend talk about a worship service, at least another part of why that (worship services - church) makes my skin crawl. I still don't trust myself not to be sucked in and deceived again. Ugh. And I am pissed off at preachers in general - the Institutional Church, in general - and the whole religious thing. I'm pissed off that I was used and abused and lied to. Bound in chains of fear from early childhood. I'm pissed that I don't know what the fuck the truth is. And it scares me that I don't know what the fuck the truth is. I'm still afraid that my mom and the IC are right and I'm going to end up having to grovel back. I'm pissed that my mom is telling my molester that she doesn't know why I won't call her or see her.

My heart wants to be lost in Papa - I want to hide  - disappear in Jesus, but I am not sure I even know what that means anymore. 

In a nutshell, I am a scared little girl and I don't know what is expected of me. And I just want a nice dark comfy closet to hide in - to be safe in. And I don't know where to find that.

So, maybe, after this post, it's a good thing I haven't blogged much lately. :-) Sorry for the rawness, but I need to get some of this out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Good Parent, Part II...

Hmm... Ever since I wrote the last post, this has been in my mind. I guess because it is foundational to how I view parents... Here's the thing...

"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing - you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?" Luke 11:10-13 (Message)
This verse has always bothered me. It is supposed to be a statement - an illustration that gives hope - peace - that Papa God will not trick us and play games with us. But it has never had that effect on me. This week, I think I understand why - and why it is hard to trust the idea of a 'good' parent. See, I can imagine my mother (and even, on occasion, my father) playing this kind of trick on me. And finding it uproariously funny and not even noticing that it caused hurt and confusion. They were both, in different ways, practical jokers. Mom, especially, would go to great lengths to set up elaborate and complicated practical jokes all for that moment - the payoff - when the person - the victim - gets had - the look on their face - their reaction. And there is not any consideration of how this might affect them - if it might hurt them. All for the fleeting moment of triumph - gotcha - that is achieved. 

So... I struggle with the concept that Papa God will not lead me on to play a trick on me - and then leave me with no recourse, stranded and alone. Like I said in last week's post, I know He is not like that... but I am not 100% sure - I don't trust it... yet... I am not to the place where the little girl inside trusts that Papa God will not just use her for His own ends, too...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Good Parent...

Hmm... it is time to go to bed, but I feel like I need to record this - and I thought I'd share...

This week has been a little rough - digging - looking deeper. My therapist gave me an assignment a couple of weeks ago to make a timeline of my life and then chart, using color coding, the different types of abuse that I experienced throughout my life. It wasn't easy. The night before I was to see her again (last Sunday night) I finally felt it forming in my mind, so I grabbed paper and pen and.... hmm... what emerged was a new concept to me: layers of abuse. I took each person that was abusive and then separated out what type of abuse - some were physical, others emotional, some both. Then the sexual. Anyway, there were points in my childhood when there were as many (or more) as 8 layers of abuse going on.

This has had me thinking a lot. I found a one-act play I wrote for a college class when I was 19. It's pretty cheesy, but the end - there is a soliloquy by the main character just before she kills herself. I was actually writing about a friend that had killed herself about 15 months before I wrote it. But that last bit - what I had her say - was me - a cry for help. What I wrote all those years ago still rings true. Interesting. As I write, I realize I am finally at the place where I can give myself permission to hurt. I am not embarrassed by what I wrote or what I felt anymore. I see it more clearly as not being a defect but damage that was not my fault. Hmm...

Tonight, I picked my Bible up and read it for the first time in 3 months. Some of you are probably thinking, "so?" Understand, I used to be religious about reading it every day. Had my own schedule worked out - did this for years - and well... But when I moved into my new place and away from family and started working, I quit. It wasn't premeditated. I just forgot. And when I would think about it, there was no desire and only flitting guilt (which for me is amazing). But a friend had shared something with me just after I moved in that actually helped...
"But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There is no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that's it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out in the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 (Message)
What I got from that at that time was - relax, you don't have to spend so much time "studying to be approved."

But tonight, I picked it up and just read where I left off. A chapter in 1 Kings, a chapter in Jeremiah, A chapter in Luke and a chapter in Revelation. What a mix, eh?

I read 1 Kings 19, Jeremiah 1, Luke 11, and Revelation 2. As I was finishing Revelation 2, the old fear and guilt began to rise - you're not doing it right, you're going to be in trouble you're are a bad Christian. Hmm... I actually told a friend the other night that I had no desire to be a 'good Christian.' And I don't. That's all just a religious game of works and brownie points and cliques. Wow, I'm all over the place tonight. :-)

Back to the chapters I read. As I finished reading the 2nd chapter of Revelation, and the fear and crap were there, a question rose up through the filters and the fears and all that crap... It was sparked by part of what was in Luke 11, I think...
"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing - you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?" Luke 11:10-13 (Message)
The question that rose up was actually referencing another passage....
"Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]" Colossians 3:21 (Amplified)
First this verse came to mind, followed by the question: would God do this to His children? Paul admonishes fathers not to do this - would God do this? I have to admit that I can't quantitatively say that He would not. But my heart says that He absolutely would not. But my soul, the little girl, says that He better not or she doesn't want anything to do with Him. And I have to admit that I agree with her. If God is abusive, then He does not deserve to be worshipped or followed. But... my Papa God is not a child abuser. I know this even if I don't fully trust it yet. 

It's funny. My ex-pastor used to say this, "God is not a child abuser." He said it in reference to God making people sick to teach them a lesson or sending hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., to show His displeasure. And you know what? As much as I hate agreeing with my ex-pastor on anything, I agree with this statement. And this brings in one of the other chapters that I read today. It kind of showed me that this was true. I am going to be ornery and not quote where I saw this. It was in 1 Kings 19. I would ask you to read it for yourself and see what you find... I was relieved to find where God wasn't...

I finish with this thought: take a look and the various mythologies from Sumaria to Greece to Rome to Polynesia - where did they find their gods? My Papa God does not behave like the Pagan gods...

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Being a Disappointment

Hmm... It's 2 in the morning and I can't sleep. This has been kind of rolling around n my head for a while, but tonight, it is keeping me awake - at least I think it's what's keeping me awake. "This" is the idea that we have disappointed God.

For me, I have spent my life feeling like I was a perpetual disappointment. This stems, at least in part (okay, probably almost entirely) from the emotional and other abuse as a child. I have always felt that my parents were disappointed in me - and that God was disappointed in me - that I was not living up to my potential. Sigh. How to put this in words - because of what happened to me (in my mind, it has always been more what I did than what happened to me - until recently), I felt that I had ruined my potential. I was raised with the idea that I could be this or that great thing - if I had the dedication to do what it took to accomplish these great things. But I was also told, in subtle ways, from early on that I did not have that drive. So, set up for feeling like a perpetual disappointment.

This has translated into my view of how God sees me. I think it is also something that religion has used to control people's behavior - if you do this or that - or don't do this or that, God will be disappointed in you. This is sick, abusive and messes with people's relationship with Jesus and with Papa God. Here's what has been circling around in my brain tonight...

What is disappointment? What is required for someone to be disappointed? It requires that we do not live up to their expectation of us. It means that they expected us to do A and we did B or C or Z. It is easy to understand how that happens between humans. But God? Hmm... in order for Him to be disappointed in us, wouldn't He have to expect us to do one thing, when we do something else? In order for that to happen, wouldn't it require Him not to know what we are going to do? Let's see if I can get this out in words. I don't think it is possible for God to be disappointed in us because it is not possible for us to do something He does not expect. Hmm... this leads to other thoughts and questions, but I think, for tonight, it is enough to look at the concept that God is never disappointed in us - it would require Him to be something He is incapable of being... caught off guard. 

Anyway, middle of the night thoughts....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Slow Time For Blogging

I just wanted to let you all know I am still here. I am going through a period of internal processing that isn't easy to put into words and separate into individual thoughts. Posting may be pretty sporadic for a while. I will post again - just not sure when and how often in the immediate. Thank you all for your kind words of support, they have helped - continue to help. Hmm... funny how I'm suddenly shy about anting to tell you all what's going on. Ah, well. Basically, now that I am out of the familial environment, the internal issues from the sexual abuse are coming back to the forefront and the little girl wants to come out of the cellar (see posts on survival, awareness & breaking free in April, 2008). And that is going to take a lot of energy, I think. When I am up to it, I will post what's going on, but if there is a gap of time between posts, know that I am not gone - just working... thank you all, again, for your support. You are amazing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New place to go and visit...

I just wanted to let you all know about a new site called Rahab's Kitchen. It is a place to come and sit and have a cup of coffee and just talk - share - encourage each other. Check it out if you want. You'll probably find me popping in out, having a cup of tea and some cookies...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Abusive Love

[EDIT NOTE: I have added to the end of this post at 3:30 my time.]

This one has been difficult to start. I have wrestled with wondering if I am off in dangerous places and if so, why would I want to lead others there with me... but in the end, this is where I am and writing about what I see is the whole point, right? I will state this caveat up front. This is only the churches I have had experience with. I pray there are churches out there that do not do this....

So, what do I mean by "abusive love?" There are so many things that could fit under this heading. But I am going to focus on one thing in particular. I notice it most in the church. In essence, it is using the threat of being out of God's will with if you don't walk in love.

Hmm... I recognize this more and more in the church the more I am removed from it. There is this idea that in order to 'walk in love,' we have to be nice all the time. What do I mean? Okay, it isn't nice to tell someone they have upset you or hurt you. I heard the misuse of this verse - "Love covers... just walk in love" - so much it makes me want to puke. 

Okay. How do I get this from my head into words. Hmm... within the the church culture, there is a theme of 'walking in love' that says you 'love your brothers and sister in Christ' no matter what. You must always forgive and overlook hurts and love covers, it doesn't expose. Hmm... how to convey what I see... Okay, it has been created into this thing that is like a code of silence. It stretches to the place where if you speak up and say,"Hey, that's not right," you are accused of attacking.

Love is a foundational element to the Christian faith. Love is what moves Papa to act. Love is what moved Jesus to act. But I don't think, from my own limited experience, that the church really knows what love means - what it is - what it does. I think they try, as they do with so many things, to use the concept of love to modify people's behavior. And if people behave civilly and are nice to each other, that is all most churches really care about. 

They take it to another level when they tell the people that if they are doing this or not doing that, the are not walking in love. It creates a climate of fear. People become afraid of being accused of not walking in love, so they stuff the pain or anger when someone hurts them. Hmm... there is a woman in the church that I left. She was also a leader. And she was a bossy, controlling type. And her love walk was her pride and joy. Anytime someone did something she didn't like, she would say, "I'm maintaining my love walk. So I'm letting that go." Hmm.. how paradoxical - that walking in love can become all about her and not about others... She was also the love walk police. She would admonish everyone to 'maintain their love walk.' Argh!

I digress. This is an attitude that I see in a general way in the church. And as I said, it is more about behavior modification than building relationships - with each other and with God. 

But if the leadership of that church has an abusive bent...

This is where it can get really twisted. (Like the above isn't bad enough.) An abusive pastor will use a profession of love to disguise their true intent. I think, after a while, they even convince themselves that their lies are truth. The greatest way to mask emotional abuse is to tell someone that you love them. My former pastor says from the pulpit - and makes sure it is in all the church literature - that he loves people. (Don't let me get diverted on the issue of how he loves his female flock...) But his actions belie his words. When the truly desperate come into that church looking for help, they are either turned away or become the pet project. But the congregation says, "yes, we're all about loving people." But they don't. They just talk about how wonderful it is to be about that. And if the pastor is accused of wrongdoing, they exclaim, "He couldn't do that. He loves people." Hmm... 

I was reading a comment on another blog that is devoted to abuse in the church - Because It Matters - and in it, the commenter implied that if a church was not busy doing missions and outreach, it was not really a church and should get over itself. Now the church he was talking about was one that formed from members of another church in which the pastor was caught having sex with a teenage member and those who tried to expose it were kicked out - including the teenager and her father. They then began their own church. They had, apparently, done some outreach type of work at first, but then chose to hold off on that until they were settled with a location and leadership, etc. Doing this meant they were not really a church?

And this brings me to the crux of the matter, I think. The church, as a whole, in my observation, tends to eat its wounded. They are so afraid of appearing imperfect to the 'outside world' that they throw their wounded to the wolves and put up walls to protect the wolves among them. And when you try to talk about it in a public forum, you are accused of being unchristian, heretical, heathen, or anything else they can think of... you are not walking in love because love forgives and love covers.

Yes, love does cover. But it does not enable. Here's how I see the concept of love covering: it is when someone falls into a mud puddle and asks for help - wants out of the puddle but can't get out on their own. Love reaches out a hand and helps them out of the mud and takes it's cloak and covers them up until they can get cleaned up to cover the shame of being covered with mud in public. What love is not is throwing a cloak over and covering up someone who jumps into the mud puddle and splashes around and grabs passersby and pulls them in. Love covers, it doesn't expose? My pastor, when I confronted him with what he was doing, actually said that God would not expose sin that way. Really? Ask Ananias and Sapphira. Ask King David. I think, sometimes, love must expose.

Until the church learns to love those within its four walls - especially the ones it has wounded, it has no business taking a false love to the world. It is like a form of love (a cardboard caricature, if you will) that denies the power of God's real love. Those outside the church  smell the fake a mile away - and run. 

So I guess I have this question for the church - I'm calling the church out: what is more important - your image or the people that are wounded in your midst? Is it okay to wound and leaving bleeding by the side of the road, covering up the actions of the wounders, for the sake of appearances?

And by the way, as to your image... this behavior of eating your wounded is visible from the outside and it has done more to damage to the church's image than anything else I can think of.

[I would like to add that I believe there is an example of a church who gets this. Kathy Escobar at the Refuge in Denver gets it. And pays a heavy price sometimes for living it. My hat is off to you, Kathy. And my prayers for your strength and peace and grace to carry you through till you are done.]

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New post coming, I promise.....

This past month has been a little nuts - I haven't had the energy to even think, much. Hence the scant posts. But there is one brewing about the abuse of love that I hope to get written in the next few days, so stayed tuned.... =D

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Wolf...

Hmm... this is something that was brought to my attention a few weeks ago. And it is pissing me off. And the Institutional Church wonders why people are leaving - why people don't trust them. 

As I have mentioned in a few of my posts, my former pastor turned out to be a sexual predator. Ugly. Messy. Painful. My best friend nearly destroyed. As I may or may not have mentioned before, the first pastor I was under (ages 0-4) was also a sexual predator. After I left the church a year and a half ago, I attended (casually) a local mega-church (wanting anonymity) and the senior pastor resigned then confessed to having an affair. Now this.

If you want to know the details, you can read about them here. In a nutshell, he is seducing women and extorting money from people in the name of God. Understand that this man is someone I know personally. I have taken him to dinner - given him money - regarded him as a man of God - looked up to him. Then the warning signs started - about the time I left the church. I have attended one of the meetings of this 'cult.' And it is a cult. And I am so pissed and so sad and so tired of this crap. I personally know some of the people he has 'taken advantage of.' They were friends (some still are, just not as close as we once were). And I see the carnage these men leave behind - broken lives. Damage that takes years to mend - if ever. And I feel the urge to inflict physical harm. I don't really want to and I would not act on it. But I have to say, there is not much that makes me more angry than this kind of shit. I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust a minister again. (Sorry, if you are one, but...)

And I know some of the people that are still involved with this cult. And they will not hear. And I guess I just needed to vent a little. Thanks for listening. 

(I have some other things brewing for posts... once I adjust to the new work schedule. ;-) )

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In My New Place...

Well, tonight is my sixth night in my new apartment. The numb is beginning to wear off. And I find myself crying tonight. 

I have finished the second day of my new job - training. The last couple of days have been rough. I have been physically wiped out - muscles so tired I could barely walk. Struggled to make it through the first day of training. Today was a little better. Have been waiting for my turn in the laundry room for 3 1/2 hours. Little things can be overwhelming when you are tired and hurting. 

I have been kind of on auto-pilot the last week or so - survival mode. Tonight, I am experiencing one of the deepest wounds of the abuse. I am feeling very alone and abandoned. And I am feeling guilty for that. I should be grateful that I am not living on the street. And I am. But where I live does not alter the wounds and their nature.

I'm not even sure I know how to put into words how it feels. There is a pain that runs so deep it is hard to even pin down and describe. If I let my guard down or something happens that pokes a hole in that guard, I begin to cry from my very toes. And I can't explain what is wrong. It just hurts. I don't trust that people, even my closest friend, will not just walk away - I'm not even sure that God doesn't sometimes orchestrate shifting people away from me for some purpose that is supposed to be for my greater good. And I am afraid - I have finally allowed someone inside the wall and I am afraid that they will leave - or God will lead them away - and I will be alone again.

And I know this is not rational. I am sorry for the rawness of this post. If you wanted to know what abuse does to someone, here you go. ;-) I would love to say that this will pass, but I can't because I don't know that it will. It hasn't so far in the 30+ years that I have been feeling it. 

I don't know how to trust. I am afraid to trust. Do I trust Papa God? Not completely. More than I used to? Maybe, a little. So what do I do? I don't know. Keep moving forward - hoping that the direction I am moving is forward. He tells me, "Relax and trust Me." I don't know how. I'm trying. I trying....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Last Moving Update (I hope)

Well, I am sitting in my new apartment. The last 2 days seem like a bit of a whirlwind. Everything is moved. There's a lot of unpacking and organizing to do (ha), but everything I own is now in this place and no one else is. 

I don't think it has really hit me yet. I have 3 days to unpack & organize before I start my new job. It honestly doesn't quite feel real yet. When it is more settled, maybe I will be, too. ;-)

That's all for now. Just wanted to let you all know. THANK YOU for your prayers and concern. They mean a lot to me. =D

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Moving... 2nd to last update ;-)


I was approved for the apartment today. I go in in the morning to sign the lease and do a walk through inspection. Big sigh of relief.

Seriously, thank you all for your prayers and thoughts. {{{{{HUG}}}}} to you all!!!!

I will only be without internet for a night. Yay! Down tomorrow - back up Thursday after noon. And THAT is a miracle (for any of you that have ever dealt with cable companies...) 

You know, this is exciting, but it is also scary. I have taken a leap of faith and there is no net to catch me anymore. Well, no natural net. :-) I have spent so many years believing that I couldn't really do this. But here I am - I drove my family nuts and maybe it was a little unfair, but I didn't give them any info more than was absolutely dragged out of me during the process. I needed NOT to have their input or I would not have been able to get through this. Now it is done (mostly) and they are a little surprised, I think. A little annoyed, maybe. And that's okay. I am now going to live my life - really live, not just exist and get by and stay out of everyone else's way. I am not going to have to justify to someone else what I choose to buy or not buy - do or not do.

Most importantly... I will be able to RELAX!

And God has proven Himself. I don't know whether it was His design or my stuff that caused it to be so close to the wire. And that is a question I would like answered, at some point. It will help for future reference. But I got the one I asked for - and every attempt I made to have a back-up plan was blocked or stymied. I can feel myself starting to relax. Still a lot of things to do in the next few days, but I HAVE MY OWN PLACE!!!!! THANK YOU, PAPA! =D

Anyway, enough rambling. See you on the other side of the move.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Update Number 2...

Well, I got a job today. One that pays enough to live on. YAY! 

But I have 6 days left to be completely removed from this place and moved... and I don't have a place to move to yet. But I applied for one yesterday. I want this one. It is just great in all the ways that are important to me. They had to do a credit check, employment check (sheesh) and a criminal background check before they can approve me - and there is another that has applied for this one.... Papa? This one please?

It has gotten so hard to rent. I remember the first time I got my own place (a long time ago), there were no checks. Not BS. Just this is available, here's what it costs. Like it? Yes, I'll take it - here's the money. Okay, sign here. Done. Sigh. 

I hope to hear tomorrow that I have it. I have inexplicable hope....

Thank you all for your support and prayers. MWUAH!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Moving... Continued...

[EDIT UPDATE: Concerning the dust up with Calvinists... the primary one I got sideways with and I have made up - agreed to disagree - apologies given and accepted (on both sides - I got a little snarky... ;-) ) I am grateful that it turned this way.]

Well, I haven't moved yet. ARGH!!!

I haven't found a place yet - hope to tomorrow. Still job hunting - just uploaded my resume to several posts on Craig's List. 11 days and counting till I need to out of where I am. Sigh....

And in the middle of this, I made the mistake of getting involved in a bit of an argument with some Calvinists. Understand, until this year, I didn't even know what a Calvinist was... but what I have read and understand of the doctrine I cannot agree with. I came to the realization that even trying to have a Scripture debate where they present verses that back up their position then I do the same is an exercise in futility. We do not see the verses in the same light. Verses that, to me, clearly explain my position also, to them, clearly explain theirs. There is no fruitful means of furthering discussion in this that I can see. I actually found myself falling under a cloud of religious oppression the last few days - took me a bit to recognize what was up.

So.... I decided to post a song that says a lot of what I feel, sometimes, especially when dealing with people's harshness in promoting their beliefs or doctrines as being the only possible correct ones. (I probably do that, too, sometimes - sigh.) Most of the people in this exchange were not harsh, but....

I'm posting the lyrics first, then the video, because the style makes it hard, sometimes, to understand what they are saying - and it is important to understand what they are saying. ;-)
I just know Jesus is the Way
I just know Jesus is the Truth
I just know Jesus is the Life
I just know Jesus is my God

What makes you different from one another?
Why do you argue about who you follow?
There is no man that you belong to
There's only one God that can claim you

I don't care if you speak in tongues
I don't care if you're into submersion
What does it matter if you wear a liturgical robe
Or prophesy and say that God said so

I just know Jesus is the Way
I just know Jesus is the Truth
I just know Jesus is the Life
I just know Jesus is my God

Do you serve your name or do you serve mankind?
Would you feel the same if they took down your sign?
Could you sit next to me if I was Baptist or Presbyterian?
Or do I need to be a Charismatic or Episcopalian?

I don't care if you drink grape juice or if it's wine
And I don't care if you get out of church on time
What does it matter if you praise God with music in your church?
Or you burn you dead or bury them six feet in the dirt?

I just know Jesus is the Way
I just know Jesus is the Truth
I just know Jesus is the Life
I just know Jesus is my God

I don't care if you clap your hands
I don't care if you get out in the isle and dance
What's it matter if someone lets out a hallelujah shout?
have we forgotten what praising Yahweh is all about?

(Disciple - I Just Know)

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hey, I am still here. Just wanted to let you all know I may not post much for the next couple of weeks. I have to be out of where I am living in 2 weeks and I still need to get approved for where I am moving to... and find a job that pays enough to live on... and continue to deal with the emotional fallout from coming to terms with past abuse.... and I am a little fried, a little tired, and a little scared. Prayers would be appreciated. ;-) 

I will still check in on y'all fairly often - leaving comments here and there, but I may not have the emotional energy to post much for a little bit. Plus, in the process of moving, I may not have internet access for a bit.....

Here's a couple (or three) of my current favorites....

Pretty Amazing Grace - Neil Diamond

Wherever God Shines His Light - Van Morrison & Cliff Richards
(Couldn't find a live video...)


Kyrie - Mr. Mister
(Kyrie Eleison = "Lord Have Mercy" in Latin)


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Something to check out...

Tyler Dawn posted something yesterday that I think is worth a read. It is called It's Time To Declare Your Independence. Check it out.... :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

By Request...

This post is done by the request of a fellow blogger and friend, Tracy, over at The Best Parts. She asked me to write about the difference between knowing Jesus and just knowing about Jesus - from my own experience. So, here goes.... (Sorry, this is a long one, so get your cup of coffee and pull up your chair.)

To really paint the picture of what my relationship with Jesus means to me, I will have to go through some history of how I came to know Him and what He has walked me through...

Hmm... I grew up knowing about Jesus. I grew up in a pentecostal church - Assemblies of God, to be precise. I can't remember when I didn't know Jesus loved me. When I was 2 years old, I laid hands on a family member and asked Jesus to heal them. And He did. When I was 3, I stood on a chair behind the pulpit on Sunday morning and sang my favorite hymn (at the time) - Onward Christian Soldiers (pronounced shouljiers). Wonderful. Great. Well, yes. But... at home, my instruction on what love was... was, well, interesting. 

My mother, the Sunday school teacher/church pianist... well... This is hard to put in words. It would be easier if I didn't care about her, but I do. So, blunt... she is a narcissist. Once, while coloring in my coloring book on the kitchen floor, I accidently got out of the lines... and out of the pages... onto the floor. I was made to scrub the floor until I was exhausted and crying. I was 2 years old. Part of my potty training was making me clean my own diapers. I was 3 years old. The following is a quote from my baby book:
"At 2 years 10 months, she can go all day without an accident. But 3/4 of the time is either lazy or stubborn. Even whippings with a belt don't help."
Another quote...
"5 months old. Her grandmothers spoil her rotten. She sometimes cries when I put her down."
Spoiled rotten - lazy - stubborn. These are terms I grew up with. I think, through my whole baby book, I am referred to by name once.

Understand, even as I type this, I am not really sure that it is that big of a deal. There is a part of me that says, "So what?" Well... there are some other things that happened when I was around 2 years old, but they are shadowy - the memory is elusive. 

But as I grew up, my father was also a deacon in the church - a board member. He spent a year at seminary - sometimes was the substitute preacher for the church my uncle pastored. As I got older - 3 years old up, most of my interactions with my dad involved him angry with me for doing something to upset his peace. The times he called me stupid, though few, are etched in the 4 year old memory. They are still there, now, clear as day.

There were fun times with mom, mostly when there was nothing else for her to do. That may sound harsh, but it is how I am beginning to see it. Through all this, I am getting taught, at church, a very legalistic version of who God is. But I knew Jesus loved me. I wasn't sure what that meant in the big scheme of things, but...

Whatever happened when I was little reared its head and I came face to face with the understanding of the difference between good and evil. I was angry and had the opportunity to take that anger out on a neighborhood cat. I remember holding the cat (I was 6 years old) and thinking, "I am going to do to this cat what was done to me." In that moment, I clearly - for the first time - understood that some things were evil not because I would get in trouble if I got caught, but because they were just evil and it felt wrong. I let the cat go. I was scared. There was also a sense of relief that I had not done what I had thought about doing. But I was frightened that I had even contemplated it. Even then, Jesus was in me. I didn't understand all the mechanics of how that worked. It just worked. It was Him warning me not to do what I was thinking. Thank God!

Then, when I was 7, I became a big sister. And an older cousin began molesting me. He molested me regularly for the next 5 years. During this time, there was also a baby-sitter and others. I also took care of my little sister a lot. It's funny, I don't remember a lot of this, but a relative recently told me she remembers staying with us and being shocked that I was the one getting my sister up, changed, dressed, fed. My mom liked to sleep in... I don't think I can really put in words what this period of my life was like. But I will try.

The teaching I received at church - and the things I heard discussed around the home by various relatives - made it clear to me that one of the biggest sins on God's 'don't do' list was sex. I had no concept of the idea that this was something that people actually did under normal circumstances. I just knew that it was wrong to do it and it felt wrong when he did it. And I was convinced that I was severed from God. When I was 7 years old, I dreamt that I went to hell.

I can remember altar calls at Sunday night services to receive the baptism of the Holy spirit. I didn't understand all the mechanics, but at 7 and 8 years old, I understood that you could not receive this unless you were saved. I would go to the altar and beg God to fill me. Then I would know I was okay. I can remember crying at the altar more than once - sometimes for as long as half an hour. The altar ladies would bring me tissue and encourage me to just left Him speak through me. I am at a loss for words on this. The fear they would see how bad I was. The desperation of wanting to be okay with God. Then, my grandma died unexpectedly. I knew God could raise her. I asked Him to. But I was afraid to talk to anyone about it. The chasm between me and the rest of the church world was already huge. Hmm... not just the church world. 

During this time, a song came out (I'm going to date myself here) by Simon and Garfunkle - Bridge Over Troubled Water. This song became one of my favorites. I still cry when I here it. I'm going to post the lyrics so you will know what I'm talking about when I say that Jesus comforted me through this song...
When you're weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I'm on your side, Oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water,
I will lay me down.

When you're down and out, when you're on the street,
When evening falls so hard I will comfort you.
I'll take your part, Oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silver girl, sail on by.
Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine, Oh, if you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
The third verse didn't really speak to me fully until last fall...

I can remember, when I was 9 years old, I would lay in bed, afraid of the dark - afraid that the demons were going to get me. I would pretend that my bed was floating on the ocean - a safe place - and sing this song to myself until I fell asleep. By this time, I was thoroughly messed up and not able to receive comfort through the church. Hmm.. I couldn't talk about what I had done (I viewed it as that and still have trouble with the concept that I am not at fault). 

God is not limited in the ways He can talk to us. At this time, a play came out on Broadway called 'Jesus Christ, Superstar.' I was given the soundtrack by an aunt. I listened to it to the point that I still think I could sing along with the whole thing. During this time, this was the only Gospel that was getting in... and the church condemned it. ;-) But it made Jesus into a real person for me - someone I could relate to - understand. I was 9 and 10 and 11 years old. And I liked Him. I wanted to know Him. But there was this thing in the way.

Also during this time, we were taught about the rapture. If you didn't grow up in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, all I can say is look it up. ;-) I was convinced that I was going to be left behind. This was another underlying fear among all the others. Finally, the molestation stopped when I was 12. Then, a couple of years later, there was a guest speaker - an evangelist - at our church and he talked about selling out for Christ. I told Jesus that I would do that. I had no idea what that really meant, but at least now I believed I was okay with Him (and I was).

Now, you may think that this part of my life would have been the hardest. It was not.

After this, I tried very hard to put everything that had happened behind me. I threw myself into church. I was elected leader of the youth group. I carried my Bible to school and doodled pictures of Jesus in my spare time (at school). I had always been a exemplary student - not straight As, but close. My dad was a deacon/board member. My mom was the pianist/organist. I was an assistant Sunday School teacher. 

Then our church fell apart. Messily. Angrily. Harshly. And my family was right in the middle of it. For more details on this, you can read the "Survival, Awareness & Breaking Free" series in the My Story portion of my blog. (Scroll to the bottom - the posts are listed in reverse order.) I was hurt. I was disgusted. I walked away from church and all to do with it. My whole family did.

I realize I am covering ground I've already covered in the above mentioned posts, so I will try to cut to the chase, as it were. ;-)

Bluntly, if all I had had was head knowledge of who Jesus was and what some preacher/Sunday school teacher had said about Him, I would probably not have survived into adult hood. And I most certainly would not have survived my 20s or these past 2 years. You see, when you are 22 years old and every time you turn out the light and go to bed, the demonic faces are there to harass and frighten and drive you mad, it takes the Real Jesus entering into that room and keeping them at bay. I spent many nights lying in bed in the dark and asking Jesus to just hold my hand. I would hold out my hand and... He would take it and hold it. And angels would stand around my bed. And I would go to sleep. And the next night, the demons and then Jesus.

During this time, I was a mess. I was drinking and doing drugs and out of control. (Though I never had sex - that was a door I could not open.) I knew I was not living the way I was supposed to. I 'knew' God was mad at me. But Jesus... He was always there. And the Holy Spirit. Hmm... as I type this, I am tearing up. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are so real to me - so valuable to me - so a part of my life and who I am and why I am alive. So is the Father (Papa God ;-) ), but I was still afraid of Him at this point.

Then there was an accident that should have killed me - but didn't. And I started changing course 'back to God.' I remember, when I was 25, a close friend who had gotten married and moved away, was in town. She called me and asked if she could bring her husband over to talk to me. He had started getting into Satanism and she wondered if I could help. It's funny, as I think about it now. This was a friend that I used to party with. But she called me when there was a spiritual crisis in her life. Why? The only thing I can figure is that although I hated religion, I loved Jesus and would talk if asked. 

Anyway, they came over and I just started talking to Him about the power of God (it was the promise of power that had attracted him - he had been abused cruelly as a child). My little sister was there that night. After talking about God's power and peace for an hour or so, they left, and my sister told me she wanted what I was talking about. You see, relationship - talking from the place of knowing Him, not knowing about Him - gets people's attention. *Smiling* My sister became acquainted with Jesus that night.

Fast forward another decade and I have finally decided to go back to church. Although I am no longer going to this church (and hope God never asks me to again), He did direct me to this church. I threw myself into it. I kind of have that personality. If I know it is the right thing - I will give it everything. I eventually got promoted to the position of leader. All through the time that I began volunteering in the office of this church, I could feel there was something wrong, but I was so used to thinking that anything wrong in a situation was my fault, I just kept hiding them away.

During this time is when my relationship with the Father developed. Papa. I still remember the night that I was just sitting at my desk, praying... and I heard a voice - audible, behind me, say, "Daughter, I love you." There was no one else in the room - just Him and me. I actually looked over my shoulder. ;-) 

I began to pray a lot more. Although I was no longer afraid of God - I was still afraid of 'getting it wrong.' Over time, I actually began to have actual conversations with Him. Relationship.

Then a couple of years ago, someone who was to become my best friend, returned to the church after being gone for several years. Her marriage was in a shambles - her husband was abusive. She came back to the pastor that had married them to seek counseling for her marriage. What she got was a predator that took advantage of her weak position and well... 

I watched this unfold and if I had not had a relationship with God, I would have not had a clue what to do, but it would have probably been the wrong thing. Through this, I talked to God about things every day. He assured me that it was okay to be friends with her - He took the opportunity to show me what being a friend really means - willing to sacrifice. He brought me to the place where I had to choose what He wanted me to do, which could cost me my position in the church and even my membership in that church, or play it safe....

Understand, this church was my family. I had been pouring myself into it for 6 1/2 years. But because I knew Him, I trusted Him enough to know that it would be far better to do what He asked and risk everything else, than hold onto what I had at the church and risk the relationship with Him. To do what He asked required me to go against the religion I had been taught and stand by someone who appeared to be in the wrong. In the end, I witnessed for myself that he was chasing her - relentlessly and with purpose, not the other way around. 

His wife found out (she knew, but he just got too obvious about it, threatening appearances). So my friend was thrown out and shunned. I was told to stop talking to her and help in the cover up, i.e., lie to other leaders and to the congregation. I asked God if I could please leave now, as there was no way I was going to do these things. He said, "No." Three and a half weeks later, I was praying before going into the church office, and I just laid it out honestly with Him - if He wanted me to continue going to this church, He would need to help me with my attitude, because I had no respect for the leadership and could not even stand to sit and listen to the pastor preach. I remember it clearly. He said, "It's okay. You're released. You can go." YAY!!!

That day, I walked into the church and was immediately called into the pastor's office. I was reprimanded for not obeying their 'requests' not to talk to my friend and other leaders. The calm and peace of God was on me. I was released. I told the pastor that I was glad he brought that up because I had decided to step down from leadership and leave the church. He and his wife spent 2 1/2 hours trying to scare me out of it. But God had given me clear release and I wasn't moved by their fear. Later, there were times when I would freak out a little, but God always brought me back to a place where I knew I was doing what He said.

Over the past year and a half, He has walked me into therapy, which helped me begin to get to the root of things - my parents treatment of me growing up - the religious hypocrisy and legalism I was raised in. This past year, He has walked me through a lot of deep waters. The road to healing leads through the past - looking at what happened - honestly - facing it and dealing with it. This hurts like hell. It is scary and everything in my 45 year old world has been shaken. Religion did not stand that shaking. My family's history and appearances did not stand that shaking. There are nights I would go to bed and just shake. Remembering can be hell. Seeing the truth - that your mother is not capable (or maybe just not willing) to empathize with you - never has been. In the last year and a half, I have had a near complete paradigm shift on both family and church.

Through all this, Jesus - the Holy Spirit - Papa God - never wavered. They have continued to lead me, encourage me, show me they love me - even like me! And after 45 years of bondage to a family and religious system that abused me, I am taking my first bold steps into real freedom. Hmm... I am getting my own apartment this month. I am not inviting my family to visit - well, especially not my mom. She has chosen to show sympathy for the one who molested me and not to me. Our most recent conversation (a few days ago) she had to bring up how he calls her often and is doing well and her tone expressed how much this pleased her. So...

I could never have gotten to this place merely on head knowledge of who God - Jesus - the Holy spirit - are. My relationship with God is not as good as I would like. I still have a good deal of trust issues. ;-) But it is better than it has ever been and deepening all the time. 

So essentially, I guess I am encouraging you to develop a relationship with God on your own. Don't rely on what people have told you about Him and think that that is enough. It will not be enough when the crises come. Know Him for yourself. Where that leads can feel very scary, but it is so worth it!

"O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8 (Amplified)

"And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, (Father!) Father!" Galatians 4:6 (Amplified)

(And I will take a real relationship with the One who will really help me, 
over all the theology ever written.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ponderings on the nature of spiritual abuse

Several people have posted articles in their blogs about spiritual abuse. I have been thinking about a lot of things in this area lately - have read some news articles that make me want to knock people up side their heads and ask them what they are thinking. (Example) But in the end, I think many people are completely ignorant of even the idea - the concept - of spiritual abuse. So, what does spiritual abuse look like? How can it be recognized for what it is? 

At first, I thought I would describe what abuse is, in general. Then follow up with what spiritual abuse is. All very ship shape and Bristol fashion. Then I thought, Bah! I'm just going to write from the heart - about what I have experienced and seen - and let you decide if you can recognize spiritual abuse from that. I think that abuse, in its many forms, is in essence all about control - about the need to control someone else to feed your own needs. Spiritual abuse is no exception. 

Hmm... abuse has been around since the beginning. In thinking about it, all abuse is spiritual in nature because it is an attempt to control the very essence of who someone is - their inner self - their real self - their spirit. It is when someone makes the judgment that someone is less valuable than they are and then communicates that judgment to them in some way. It is demeaning someone in order to elevate yourself. I could easily get diverted here, but I want to address spiritual abuse in the church (or home) or maybe, more accurately, religious abuse. 

I think this (religious abuse) is basically misrepresenting God in order to control someone's behavior - get them to follow you, do what you want. Hmm... I think, in a very real sense, some of the church's methods of evangelism are spiritually abusive - at least in the church I grew up in. How is telling someone what a terrible person they are not abusive?

Anyway, back to inside the church. Hmm... to teach people that God has a standard of conduct in thought, word and action, that He measures us all by and that we must strive to measure up to this or we might 'slide backwards and become heathen reprobates who hate God' is abusive. Well, they might not put it exactly like that, but it is the underlying thought - fear - programming. The truth is, I can't blame anyone who does not want to serve a god like that. I don't want to serve a god like that. Thank God, I don't. :-)

I think spiritual abuse is anything that gets in the way of our ability to have a real relationship with Jesus and our Father. There are, then, many levels of spiritual abuse. Many are not deliberate or premeditated. But some are. So, in my opinion, it is spiritual abuse when...
  • ... you are attacked and or chastised for honestly questioning.
  • ... you are made to feel inferior to the leadership of a church/ministry.
  • ... you are told that you have to follow a list of rules to be saved/make it to heaven/be favored of God and man.
  • ... you are told that you must go through a church/ministry leader in order to receive from God
  • ... you are told what you can and cannot watch/read/eat/listen to/like.
  • ... you are told that if you don't give in the offering regularly, you are not a real Christian.
  • ... you are told you need to clean yourself up before God will accept you.
  • ... you are told that anger is a sin.
  • ... you are required to do anything that you have objected to.
  • ... you are told that God wants you to have sex with the pastor/minister - that it is His will.
  • ... you are told that if you leave this church/ministry, you will be vulnerable to deception and attack.
  • ... you are told who you can and cannot be friends with.
  • ... you are told who you can and cannot marry.
  • ... you are expected to lie and cover up the misconduct of the pastors/ministry leaders against your own conscience.
  • ... you are told you have to beat righteousness into your children.
  • ... you are physically hurt in any way.
  • ... you are told that you have to submit to abuse because God's laws are more important that your safety.
  • ... you are made to feel guilty for not measuring up to the church's standards.
  • ... you are told to shun friends who have left the church.
Well, that's the beginning of a list. I think you get the idea. Fear and greed and pride are at the heart of spiritual abuse (as all abuse). Hmm... I feel like there is more to this, but it is not coming, so I will post this for now and welcome your comments and thoughts and additions to the list.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Still here ...

Wow. I have been meaning to post for days. I have several things floating around, wanting to be written. ;-) 

But this week has been unusually busy. Spent several hours yesterday taking aptitude and competency tests. Yay. More than half way through the test that is designed to establish what your values and likes and dislikes are - yours - I realized that I was (as I have always done) answering the questions according to what I thought was what I should think - feel - like - dislike... Argh! I have a meeting in the morning with the Vocational Rehab counselor (not the same one I blogged about a couple months ago - they assigned me a new one). I have not finished my 'homework' because I don't know what the hell I want to do. Bleah! Actually, I think I do, but I don't know how to get ahold of it and articulate it yet...

Went to a series of 'revival' meeting (Sunday thru Wednesday nights) at a local church that is not high on my list of churches I want to be involved with - - - didn't really want to - felt compelled to . . . but it was profitable... a lot to talk about there... 

I will be moving within the next 3-4 weeks (I hope not longer!) And I really don't know what the hell is going to happen next... I hope I will still be able to get online...

Hopefully, I will be able to sit down and coherently put my thoughts together tomorrow night - maybe on the meetings I went to...

Thanks for your patience. :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Is Truth?

When Jesus was in the court of Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Him if he was a king. Jesus' response included the statement that He came to the world to be a witness to the truth and that those who cared for truth would know His voice. To this, Pilate said, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38) Or, to quote from Jesus Christ Superstar, 

"But what is truth?
 Is truth unchanging law?
 We both have truths.
 Are mine the same as yours?"
This is a very good question. Especially in light of what Jesus said in John 8:31-32 (Message)...
"Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth and the truth will free you.""
This is, to me, a very personal issue. It is at the heart of walking out of abuse into freedom. Two years ago, I began praying for freedom. At that time, I didn't even know what was wrong with me. I just knew that I wasn't satisfied with the way things were. I knew there was more. I knew I was not operating from a place of understanding and freedom. I knew I was messed up inside. I didn't know all the reasons why. But I wanted free. *Smiling* Be careful what you pray for.

Not long after I began praying that prayer, my whole world began to shake. In the span of six months, everything I thought I knew about church and following God was challenged and shaken and left lying in a pile of rubble. Through this, there is one thing that never moved. God. I clung to Him, even when it seemed like where He was taking me was insane. *Smiling* I am not out of that maelstrom even now. 

One thing I have learned is that you can have a set of facts and land no where near the truth. I think the crux of this lies in that you cannot discern what is in someone's heart and what kind of journey they have been on just by looking at a set of external facts about them. To do so is, in fact, dangerous.

Looked at another way, the Bible is a collection of facts about God and some of the people through history that have either followed Him or fought him. Some people never see it as more than that - a set of facts that must be laid out and followed - religiously... and if that is all you ever see it as, you are missing the Truth... 

I have found that this applies to more than just spiritual things. I spent about 44 years believing certain things about my family and myself and the church and God - things I was taught growing up. Over the last two years, I have had the layers of cover pulled back on things - a little hear, a little there - revealing truth. Ouch! The truth can hurt. But it is worth the pain.

Until I came to the realization of the truth that my mother is incapable of really loving me and empathizing with me, I would forever be trying to get compassion from a stone - seeking help in healing from wounds that were made deeper by the one I sought help from. I didn't see this until last year. When I saw it, it shook me. Seriously. I would sometimes just lie in bed and shake. My entire family paradigm has been forever altered. It hurt like hell to come to the place of accepting that both of my parents abused me - and continue to do so - and that my family, in general, is more critical than loving, and is not good for my mental health. That hurts. The picture of who my family was growing up has been shaken and left lying in a pile of rubble, too. But it is truth. And it is freeing me to break away and live.

I have found that many in church settings are not interested in Truth if it shakes the status quo of their little church group. That may sound harsh, but I have been there myself. It is neither easy nor fun to have the veil pulled back and see the hypocrisy and sham behind so many pulpits - behind entire movements. But to stay in a place of insular false security within an imagined fortress called a church is dangerous. Everything I was taught concerning the church growing up has been shaken, too. 

Hmm... sometimes, as you begin to see the truth, you get angry. And that is not a bad thing. I am angry at the abuses I have seen and am seeing. I am angry at those who use the covering of the institution to use and abuse the children of God. I am angry at those who use the cover of the church to get wealthy on the backs of the naive poor. I am angry at those who practice witchcraft* using the Bible. I am angry at those who tell victims to just buck up and get over it or bear their cross like a good little soldier. I am angry at those in the congregation that would rather ignore abuse and maintain their little perch in the status quo than confront evil when they see it. It makes me want to vomit. 

I think, maybe, that those who are dogmatic usually are operating with facts and not truth. And they are more likely to be afraid of having their interpretation of those facts challenged. Do I have all the answers? No... but I know that God is faithful and He has called me His daughter and His friend. I have a lot of truth yet to learn, but at least I have gotten to the place where I am less afraid of it. Yes, it can devastate, but what is left after the devastation is far better than what was before. Freedom......

* Witchcraft: The attempt to manipulate and control someone else's mind and/or will.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

One After-effect Of Abuse...

There are many lingering effects of abuse. Abuse messes with our entire perception of the world. It messes with our entire perception of ourselves. This week, I unexpectedly came face-to-face with one of those effects...

I have known for years that we all have our perceptions of how God is toward us colored by the way we were treated by our parents. Children who are abused can really get a warped sense of how God views them. As I have said in other posts, I grew up thinking that God was perpetually mad at me - that I was never measuring up to His expectations and that he really only tolerated me - loved me - because He had bound Himself to do so. There was a period - from around 7 years old to around 14 years old, that I actually thought he hated me. Why? Because of what was done to me. You see, at the time,  I viewed what was done to me as 'what I did.' I still struggle with that.

In the last few years, I have come to a place where I knew that God loved me, but there was still a battle - a feeling like I was always disappointing Him. He actually had to come out and audibly say to me that He loved me for it to begin to sink in. But I thought I had a handle on that issue - not done working on it, but at least recognizing it as an issue. Then He went and did something this week that has really messed with me... 

What did He do? To those who were not abused, it may seem strange - silly even. My friend's response when I told her was, 'Of course He does!" My aunt was surprised, when I told her, that I didn't already know this. It seems that to many, this is not an issue - it is a given. But to me, it never even occurred to me that He might...

Here's what He did. There is a follow blogger - a brother *smiles* - who goes by abmo and writes at the blog "Windblown Hope." He posted a blog titled "My discernment will kick your discernment's ass." I left a comment - we commented back and forth. He said that God loved me, and more than that He liked me. It didn't really sink in at this time. Then a couple comment exchanges later, abmo posted this comment:
"Hi Katherine,

Sometimes my mind will wonder around and then settle on somebody and that is the person I'm praying for. At the moment, that person is you. And all I'm getting from our Father is that He likes you a lot. I'll pray that this will become a anchor in your life.

God bless"
I just began to cry. God likes me? Why? This messed with me. It is still messing with me. I have asked Him several times over the last few days - why do You like me? I am realizing that I have never really thought - or expected - anyone to like me. I wanted them to, but I didn't think they did. I have mostly thought that at best - the really nice people would just tolerate me to be, well, nice. I realize this is somewhat insulting to the people who do like me. It is not meant to be. It is just where I have always been. It never occurred to me that anyone would genuinely like me. It never crossed my mind that God actually liked me. 

This is causing some fundamental shifts deep in me. I have only begun to think about it - talk to Papa about it. You like me? Really? Why?

Is this something other abuse victims have dealt/are dealing with? In talking with my aunt - my friend, it seems to have never crossed their minds that God wouldn't like them. Hmm... 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So... who do you follow?

Hmm... I've spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks reading a lot of different blogs - a very broad spectrum of religious beliefs. I've seen a lot of anger and humor and making fun of 'the other ones.' And I've also seen some serious and thoughtful attempts at dialogue and understanding. All this has been rolling around in my subconscious, I guess. Today, it started coalescing. I realized that we are still very concerned about who is on whose side. And the question followed... So... who do you follow?

Here is what I see right now. There are many many different denominations within 'Christianity.' Although I know that both Protestants and Catholics would disagree with me, I view Catholics as one of many Christian denominations. So how many denominations are there? I'm not sure... There's the Catholics, the Coptics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Lutherans, the Anglicans & Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Calvinists, the Anabaptists & Mennonites & Brethren, the Baptists, the Congregationalists, the Piests & those of the Holiness Movement, the Pentecostals, the Charismatics, the Restorationists, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)... whew, and that's just some of the main umbrella groups. There are literally dozens of subgroups under nearly all of these. YIKES!

Now, it seems that each group thinks they have the low down on the Truth. Some will allow that the others have some truth and are 'brothers and sisters,' but they really aren't sure... Hmm... and they all look at each other suspiciously - afraid that they might become contaminated by association - or feel the need to try and scare or bully one another into agreement. And when asked what religion they are, they give their denomination. So this brings me back to the question... who do you follow?

Hmm... I will start my answer by saying whom I do not follow. I do not follow Peter. I do not follow Paul. I do not follow Benedict XVI. I do not follow John the Beloved. I do not follow Constantine. I do not follow St. Augustine. I do not follow Martin Luther. I do not follow the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. I do not follow John Knox. I do not follow John Wesley. I do not follow John Calvin. I do not follow Peter Chelcicky. I do not follow John Smyth nor Jonathan Edwards. I do not follow John Wyclif. I do not follow Philipp Jakob Spener nor Phoebe Palmer. I do not follow Alexander Mack. I do not follow William J. Seymour. I do not follow Dennis Bennett. I do not follow Thomas Campbell. I do not follow George Fox. I do not follow Amy Semple-MacPherson. I do not follow Oral Roberts. I do not follow Kenneth Hagin. I do not follow James Dobson. I do not follow Todd Bentley nor Chuck Pierce nor Dutch Sheets...

Hmm... I know this is a long list. Sorry. Have I sufficiently stepped on everyone's toes? That's really not my purpose. But if your hackles rose a little when you read a familiar name and you thought, 'Hey! Don't bring my guy into this!'... well... who do you follow? I used to follow my denomination - then I began to be caught up in following Kenneth Hagin. For the record, I think many of these people would be appalled at the way people have begun to follow them - like they are what is important. But I can't speak for all...

My point is, as I think about my religious experiences, I have very often heard people say, "Well, I follow Kenneth Hagin's teachings," or "I am a Calvinist," or... on and on... I follow - a person or denomination... Hmm... Paul had something to say about this.
"I have a serious concern to bring up wth you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.
     I bring this up because some from Chloe's family brought a most disturbing report to my attention - that you're fighting among yourselves! I'll tell you exactly what I was told: You're all picking sides, going around saying, "I'm on Paul's side," or "I'm for Apollos," or "Peter is my man," or "I'm in the Messiah group."
     I ask you, "Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul's name?" I was not involved with any of your baptisms - except for Crispus and Gaius - and on getting this report, I'm sure glad I wasn't. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas's family, but as far as I can recall, that's it.)
     God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him. And He didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center - Christ on the Cross - be trivialized into mere words." 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (Message)
Now, I know that the Protestant movement was born out of abuses within the Catholic church - that a lot of splits were because of abuses. I am not here to debate the validity of the causes that were behind the formation of the various groups. I'm just wondering if, instead of focusing all of our attention on where we disagree and thumping our chests and saying, "I'm right and you're wrong!" - maybe would could look at what we have in common. 

All of the denominations I listed up there - along with their subgroups - no matter which one you belong to, if you believe that Jesus came to save the world and you take that promise and say that you believe He can do so and want that to include you, well... then you are my brother or sister - you're part of my family, no matter what else you might believe. 

That doesn't mean we have to always get along and spend lots of time together. That's just silly. But maybe it means we could respect each other enough to take a breath and listen instead of pointing the finger and accusing and calling names and mocking. That might make the framework which allows abuse to shrink a lot.

A lot of what I used to believe and think and cling to has been stripped away the last year or so. And all I am left with is Christ and His death and His Life - Papa God who will not leave me alone - the Holy Spirit who does not give up on me. Who do I follow? There really is only one choice left to me if I want to live. 

Maybe it is a Utopian ideal - but... just my thoughts today.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

But The Teaching Is So Good...

A friend has said this recently, after returning to the church I left: "I know he made some mistakes, but I have to go there. The teaching is so good." This makes me cry. It is a wedge pushing that friend and I apart. I don't want to hear what he is preaching and she doesn't want to hear that he is dangerous. It is a huge ugly elephant in the room with us that overshadows any other attempts at conversation.

Now I understand that my friend is very sick (physically) and the preacher teaches on healing. I don't have a problem with teaching healing. I believe that God heals. He's healed me more than once. :-) It isn't about that. It is about the subtle twisting of Scriptures - it is about the slipping of the strychnine into that nice, pure refreshing looking water. It is about using the Bible and promises of what you can get if you do things just so to control people for your own purposes.

Now, this friend knows what 'mistakes' this pastor made (predatory mistakes). But it appears that she is so afraid that if she gets away from this teaching, she will get worse, physically - be unprotected... she seems afraid. She seems to be still under his spell. This makes me angry and sad at the same time.

In this context, I decided to watch an installment of his TV program the other night. I haven't watched (or heard) him preach since I left 15 months ago. By the end of the 28 minute segment, I was actually cussing at him. Hmm... a strong reaction. So I thought I would share some of what he said...

He was in the middle of a series on the importance of the local church. He has taught series on this before... many times. Most of what he said was said in angry tones - almost yelling at times - with a condescending "what is the matter with you people, why aren't you getting this" attitude. He often had the attitude that if you disagreed with him, you were simply being stupid. He would occasionally make a disparaging statement about those who had left or were going to a church that did not teach what he taught and smirk - aren't we the smart ones...

So what did he actually say? His beginning text was Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (KJV)

He then said, "There's power in the local church." He emphasized this several times. Then he said, "If you need healing, it's in the local church. In James it says, if any are sick among you, call for the elders of the church." He then smirked and said, "Of course, it helps if the leaders believe in it." The congregation laughed - right on cue. He followed with that by saying that if the church you're in doesn't believe in healing, you might want to find one that does.

Now he goes off into why it is imperative that you be in a local church. What he said here is where I first felt the urge to cuss. He said, "It is not enough to simply go to church and sit there. You have to plug in." Now, after 7 years of attending this church, I know what he means by 'plug in.' Join the H.E.L.P.S. team and do whatever we tell you to do. I am not coming from the point of view of what they call a 'pew warmer.' I was in leadership - had about 10 people in my departments that I was responsible for training and overseeing. 

Hmm... that brings a few tears. They are wonderful people - dedicated - worked so hard. The privilege of watching some of them come out of their self-conscious shells and begin to have confidence in themselves and their ability to help. Damn, I miss some of them and I wish I could tell them to run as far from him as they can.

Now he does something that I have come to recognize as a classic shock tactic. He stops in mid-sentence and looks at the congregation and says, in a very imperious tone, "Do you love Jesus?" They respond loudly, "Yes!" He says, "Do you really love Jesus?" Again, they respond, "Yes." He says, angrily, "John said that if you loved Him, you would follow His commands." He then holds up his Bible and points to the text in Hebrews and says, "If you loved Jesus, you would obey this command." The implication is that if you are not 'plugged in' to your local church (preferably HIS), you don't love Jesus.

He then goes into how important the local church is again - on the theme of the church being the only place where you can tap into God's power. He used the analogy of a wall in a building. The power is available, but unless you 'plug in' to it, it does you no good. So, if you are not, 'plugged in' to the local church, the power is not available to you and it is your own fault if nothing works for you.

The next thing he said that stuck out to me was, "Where would you rather be - in your local church where you are surrounded by people who love you and will protect you or out 'there' where there is nothing but demons and people who hate you?" I cussed again. In 7 years here, I was not surrounded by people who loved and protected me - I was surrounded by people who tolerated and discarded me - scolded me and used me and in the end abused me. But do you see how this works to build a sense of isolation between the congregation and the outside world? If you are not here, in the safe, warm comfort of this local church, you will be in the cold, dark, dangerous world where everyone will be out to get you. Yikes!

Then he talked about the damage that is done to the local body when a member just walks away - unplugs. I have heard him talk about this before. He talked about it the day I sat in his office for 2 1/2 hours explaining to him that I was walking away. 'Don't you dare walk away or you will be responsible for your brothers and sisters missing out on what they should have had if you were where you belonged.'

Then he actually touched on the idea that - whoa! - maybe you were hurt by a local church. His advice? "If you have been hurt by a church, get healed!" This was said with a very flippant and annoyed tone - a tone that said 'get over it!'

So, in this particular installment, there was probably a larger dose than usual of strychnine. Instead of 10 - 15%, it was maybe 50-60%. But the sad thing is, the congregation was listening intently (the camera would pan to them periodically). I saw some old friends. And I heard the amens and the cheers. Yes, cheers, for what he said. 

So, thinking about how enthusiastically the congregation was listening to this and thinking about what my friend said about the teaching being sooo good, maybe it isn't strychnine - maybe it is some form of mind control drug. Whatever it is, if you keep listening to it, the spell this man weaves becomes stronger and stronger. I was under it at one time. It is scary what you will accept when you are there. I wish I could share with you exactly what he has done (and quite possibly is still doing) - for legal reasons, I can't. But this friend knows what he has done and to whom. And she still feels that his teaching is more important than that.

And therein lies the biggest problem I have encountered. People who believe that the 'message' - the 'image of the organization' - or even (sadly) 'what I am getting out of it' - is more important than a few incidents where a few people got hurt. What's the big deal, anyway? Just maintain the status quo - people come, people go...

Meanwhile, those who were used and discarded - left bleeding on the side of the road - very nearly did not survive. And no one in the 'local church' cared enough to inquire - to help. No, the message is not 'sooo good' - it is very, very bad...