Saturday, April 4, 2009

Virtual Book Tour

I recently received a very interesting email. It was sent to me by Dr. Margaret W. Jones, a psychologist and author, who has just written and published a book entitled “Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches.”

Margaret was arranging a virtual book tour and wanted to include my blog Forgetting the Former Things as one of her stops. A virtual book tour as she described it is “when an author visits websites, blogs and forums, instead of bookstores, cafes and universities that a real brick-and-mortar book tour would include. During each stop of the virtual book tour, an author ‘visits’ a different website, blog or forum. At each stop the author may: be interviewed, post an original article or essay (guest post), have their book reviewed, answer questions from the blog’s readers or any combination of the above.”

Thinking this might be a good experience as well as another way of promoting awareness of spiritual abuse, I agreed. As it turned out, Forgetting the Former Things will be the first stop on Margaret’s tour and her visit will occur on Monday, April 13. I’m excited about this so mark your calendars and join us there on that date. She has agreed to write a guest post and will be available for comments and questions.

She has sent me a copy of her book which I'm now in the process of reading. She has a raw style of writing that is keeping me captivated. She’s very open and honest as to what she experienced as well as her emotional reactions. The book describes her experience of sexual abuse as a child and the spiritual abuse she received while a member of a religious organization. Attempting to present a fair picture of the events of spiritual abuse, she had asked those involved in the abuse to share from their perspective. They all refused.

I haven’t spoken to her yet but I hope to in a day or so but I believe what she experienced is more common than we care to admit. I’ve seen the gossiping, the scapegoating, the shunning and the betrayal she describes while I was involved in an abusive church. My experiences were not as heart wrenching as hers but I know these things happen.

I hope to write more about her book after I’ve finished reading it. If you would like to know more about Margaret and her book, check out her website at http://www.notofmymaking.com/.

I hope you’ll stop by Forgetting the Former Things on April 13 and hear her share her story in her own words. Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have for her.

I’m looking forward to her visit. Maybe we can all grow in understanding how devastating this type of abuse is to the victims and to their families.

An amazing story of God's love and grace

Darin Hufford posted the following letter on his website. I think those of us who have been victims of spiritual abuse can relate to Shannon's story.


Dear Darin,

Last spring I heard you on The God Journey podcast and was very drawn to what you were saying about God's love and how we have a twisted view of it. I wrote down your website and checked it out a few days later. As I have listened to the podcasts and read your blogs, my heart is constantly resonating with what is being said. You have spoken what my heart has been crying out for all these years when I felt trapped by religion. So often I am agreeing out loud with you, Amy, Kim and Brian - I get so excited to hear the words I have thought or dared to wonder in the confines of religion(under the fear that I was in rebellion!).

My journey to freedom began in early 2005, when my husband Daniel and I walked away from a "truth-filled, spirit-led church" that had been like a family to us for 13 years. What seemed to begin as a church where God's Spirit was teaching us His truth, evolved into a highly authoritarian, abusive, legalistic church. Often we were told from the pulpit that we were to never question those in leadership over us- if they were wrong, God would deal with them, but it was not our job. Questioning was considered rebellion and a threat to our so called unity. At times we were told those stories of past members who had a spirit of rebellion and left the church - they were no longer under the covering God gave to us through the leadership and now their lives were full of destruction. When I had thoughts of leaving, I quickly pushed them away for the fear of God's wrath on my life. Deep inside I felt very empty, cold and distant from God. I had to pretend that I wanted to be there and felt so much pressure to conform and keep unity with the body. I felt like Rose in the Titanic...screaming inside of how trapped I felt and there was no way out. (God used that movie to speak to me in a powerful way during that time and I can see it even more clearly now! Jack(God) came to my rescue...). A few months before we left, I would be sitting in church longing to instead be walking at my favorite spot where I felt a closeness to God as I would pour my heart out to Him. I sensed God speaking to my heart that He wanted a simple, intimate walk with me without all of the rules and teachings. Just Him and I walking hand in hand by the lake. He kept drawing me to that place in my mind and the word "simple" stuck in my head.

So when my husband Daniel started questioning the newest teaching of being required to keep a physical Sabbath in preparation for the tribulation, he was called out in front of the congregation (including our children)as being in rebellion to God's truth. That was the last Sunday we attended, as Daniel refused to go back and subject our family to the abuse. I really struggled with this - they tried very hard to convince me that he was rebellious and I needed to go against his wishes and bring the children to church. We couldn't dare leave the covering. Thankfully my best friend Dianne(who didn't attend our church), lovingly told me what they were telling me to do was wrong and to listen to Daniel. This was HARD! I was so scared!!

Not long after we left, our daughter Rylea went to summer camp. I remember being terrified that she was going to die. I had such fear that since we were no longer under the covering, God would punish us by taking her life or injuring her. I felt such relief when she returned home safely.

The 3 years after we left, I was empty and confused, not knowing which way was up. What did I really believe about God? I knew that He was real...in 1997 He gave me a glimpse of His love for me in such an intimate way. His love washed over me and engulfed me and I drank it up. But quickly I lost grasp of it...in time the legalism choked it out of my heart. Since then I had been longing to feel His love again. I knew I didn't like the God our church spoke of. He never seemed happy with me and He had such high expectations that I couldn't attain. He required that I obey, no matter what. He wanted me to spend countless hours praying and reading a Bible that felt so cold and empty. I would read it, only to come away feeling condemned and unloved. I cried out over and over for Him to change my heart so that His "Word" would come alive to me. What kind of Christian was I if I couldn't read the Bible?? But nothing would change - it was dry as a bone.

So...I completely stopped reading it. I essentially gave up! I couldn't do it anymore. It felt like heresy, but I was at the end of my self.

I truly came to the end of all I knew about God and threw my hands up. I asked Him to show me who He really is...clear out all of the junk in my head and start over. Fill my head with the REAL truth of who He is.

One day after feeling so very lost and empty, I just cried on Daniel's shoulder telling him I didn't know what to do. He started telling me about a website called Factnet that was giving him insight and encouragement, and suggested I check it out. As I read about people's experiences in abusive churches and cults, I suddenly felt validated and no longer alone. I could see what we experienced was not uncommon - this amazed me! After all...our church claimed to be one of the few with the truth - set apart by God. But I soon realized, many men have taught the same things - it was nothing new. And there was a trail of wounded hearts not just from our church, but from all around the world.

This began my search for the wounded. I soon found Plain Truth Ministries where I read about God's amazing grace and how He loves us unconditionally. I learned about legalism and characteristics of a cult. I was in denial at first, but soon realized our church was a cult.

I then found recommendations for books on spiritual abuse and cults - "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse", "Bad News Religion" and "Twisted Scriptures" were a few of the books that blew it wide open.One night last spring, I was reading and article in Plain Truth magazine titled " The Shepherd's Call". My heart melted as I read it...tears poured down my face...someone had put into words EXACTLY what I was feeling. For the first time in years I felt hope welling up in my heart! I was so drawn to the God this author spoke of. At the end of the article the author's website was listed - thegodjourney.com . This is how Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings made their way into my life. I soon started listening to their podcasts and just drank it up. They felt like old trusted friends who had been through much of what I had experienced, down the road a bit farther...pointing me to Father's love.

Soon I read The Shack and followed it with He Loves Me. I can't explain it, but as I read both books, God began to give me new eyes to see Him with. His beauty, so breathtaking, so overwhelming! By the time I was done with He Loves Me, I was a different person. The fear I had of God had been swept out and I was clearly able to see His great love for ME!!!!! As His love is revealed to me, my trust in Him has blossomed. As Wayne says, " I'm learning to live LOVED!" For the first time in my life I am experiencing TRUE FREEDOM as I live in God's grace and sweet love. His Good News is finally Good News - I always wondered why it never actually seemed very good! My heart always longed for something more. God is my dream come true! He is more than I ever dreamed or imagined!I am finding such joy and peace in a simple, childlike walk with Him.

That's where you come in...when I heard you on the god journey, my heart leapt within me! You spoke words of life and even more freedom. The love series has unraveled many twisted lies that I believed of God. I have discovered I am not crazy and others have thought and questioned the same things as me! Through FBN and thegodjourney, God is laying a true foundation of who He really is.

Darin, it's really hard to express how God has used you in His great rescue of my heart. I'm so very thankful for the freedom you have shamelessly spoken into my life. Thank you just seems so small...my heart OVERFLOWS with love and overwhelming gratitude. You have helped to set this captive FREE and I will FOREVER be grateful.

a fellow free believer,
Shannon Brown


this song spoke to my heart in the middle of the journey to freedom~

BREAKTHROUGH by Michelle Tumes

Love, love will make the distance
It's song riding through the moors
Of all that's lost
Hope, the flag that leads the mission
Flying over rain and foe
To rescue me from harm
I see my love, see my love
With might to save
Scale the walls of yesterday
Break through
Be my joy, be my joy
Charge this path and
Storm the tower of my heart
For only you can break through
To me
Love, the banquet for the famished
Its song rising through these halls
To fill my heart
Hope the banner in the anguish
Writing words of faith
Erasing thoughts of a darkened soul
I see my love, see my love
With might to save
Scale the walls of yesterday
Break through
See my joy, see my joy
Charge this path and
Storm the tower of my heart
For only you can break through
Let the choir sing
Listen to the angels
Fill the chapel
Singing adulation
Let the bells ring


by Shannon Brown