Monday, November 22, 2010

Unfriending My Abuser

I've found that there are certain patterns that are true in all forms of abuse so, although the main topic of this post is sexual abuse, I think it would also be helpful for those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse.  Go here to read this post.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Book Review

This review was posted online regarding Barbara Orlowski's book "Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness."

This was an excellent review and I believe it gives a good overview regarding the information presented in the book.  As the reviewer has said, Dr. Orlowski's book would be an excellent resource for church leaders as well as for those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse.  A copy of her book may be ordered through her website: http://www.churchexiters.com/  

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Good to Be Seen

As a followup to the first podcast I did with Darin Hufford and Aimee Dassele while I was in Arizona last weekend, we also did one entitled "It's Good to Be Seen." That has now been posted and, in it, we talked about how many people who suffer abuse have learned to cope with it by rationalizing the abuser's actions away until they've convinced themselves that they're really not being abused. It was a great conversation which I think you'll enjoy.

To listen to it, go here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Discussing Spiritual Abuse

I recorded a couple of podcasts with Darin Hufford during my recent visit with him and his family. How exciting it was to be in the recording room and to see what goes on behind the scene of the “Into the Wild” podcast. I had never realized how much prep work is necessary even before the actual recording starts so I now have a greater appreciation for all of the time and effort that Darin puts into recording and posting two podcasts a week.

Darin has just posted the first of these podcasts, “Spiritual Abuse – An Interview with Aida Calder.” I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Predators on the pulpit – Part 1: “Covering the nakedness”

Chris over at The Bereans has written a very informative post on the dangers of the false teaching that says loyal followers are to "cover the nakedness" of their leaders by hiding their sins and, if necessary, even taking the fall for them.  I know many of us who have been in spiritually abusive churches have heard this lie and seen its hurtful consequences.  I believe Chris' post is insightful and it's one that the church needs to read so I'm linking to it here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

MY JOURNEY OUT OF OZ – THE EXODUS

My friend, Windblown, has continued the story of her journey out of spiritual abuse into freedom and she has graciously allowed me to post it. Here she describes her exit from the abusive group. To read her previous posts, go here and here. Windblown's daughter who had also been part of this cult also shares her story for, as windblown told me, her story is also windblown's story. This is an amazing story of God's redemption and restoration.


MY JOURNEY OUT OF OZ – THE EXODUS

OR

”THERE’S NO PLACE

LIKE HOME”

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?

Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.

Dorothy: I have?

Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?

Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~“I stepped out of the door, locked it behind me. I left in a borrowed car, with only my clothes and books. No home, no family, no future (that I could see.)

But as I stepped out, it was as if I was lifted on “eagles wings” and taken forth into my new life.

I felt as if I had been “flung” into the air, and the very Hand of God caught me and has never let go of me.”~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wind was at my back, my future ahead of me~~I WAS FREE!

Prisons aren’t always high walls and bars. Some prisons are only in our minds.

I didn’t know it then, but this was the beginning of my “windblown” life.

Driving down the highway I felt strangely calm and at peace. The fact that I had no idea where I would live was not a pressing issue at that moment. A friend who had a missions group offered to let me stay there for 2 weeks until I left for a scheduled month-long trip to another country where we did missions work.

The church was still intact at this point, although everything was being shaken and about to implode.

I was still on staff, but since my main function was as “intercessor/armor-bearer/traveling companion” for the pastor, my “job” was pretty much gone. But, all I felt was “peace.”

~~~~~REUNITED-RECONCILED-RESTORED~~~~~~

Several pastors and leaders had told me that I should try to contact my daughter whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 7 years. I told them that I had to forsake my family because of my loyalty to my church and my family was not agreement with our views and beliefs. Plus, my daughter, according to my beliefs at the time, had broken “covenant” with us by leaving the church–a very grievous action.

One person said to me, “ Would you have stood by your daughter if she had committed a crime?” (Thinking of mothers of even the worst criminals that I had seen on TV who stood by their children, I knew that a mother’s love never stops and always believes.)

I answered, “Of course. But I needed to be loyal to my pastor. “

The person said, “What about loyalty to your own daughter?”

The power of those words hit my heart like a hammer, shattering the lie into millions of pieces, like broken glass, falling around my feet.

How could I have been so blind?

How could I ever think she would forgive me and welcome me back into her life, after my treatment of her?

I knew that I had to try to get in touch with her before I left the country.

As I was walking from my car, to the house where I was staying, I remember praying,

“Lord, I will contact my daughter, but I don’t know when and I don’t know how.”

Fear gripped me as I thought about her hanging up on me or telling me to leave her alone. Besides, I didn’t have her address or phone number.

When I reached the top of the stairs going to my room, a phone in the room down the hall was ringing. I usually just ignored it, since it wasn’t mine, but I started walking toward the room, and listened as the answering machine took the call.

It was my granddaughter on the answering machine, saying,” Do you know where my grandma is, my dad and aunt are worried about her and we don’t know where to find her.”

I could hardly believe my ears~~it hadn’t even been 5 minutes since I prayed! How did she get this number and why would she call here?

I picked up the phone, told my granddaughter what was going on and asked for my daughter’s phone number.

I dialed her number, it only rang once and there she was.

I said, “It’s mom.”

She said, “Oh mom, when can I see you?”

I said, “I’ll be right there.”

We made plans where we would meet and within an hour we were hugging and crying!

~~~AMAZING GRACE~~~HOW SWEET THE SOUND~~~

I know how the Prodigal Son must have felt when his father RAN to meet him on the road, held him and welcomed him back to the family, after all the years of squandering his inheritance.

I had squandered my most precious jewels for a deception and a lie.

But now I was HOME!!!

windblown1

~~~~~~~~~~

My Daughter’s Story

~~THE MASTER WEAVER~~

THE HOMECOMING

Separated by the powers of darkness, 1997 proved to be the darkest valley of my life. In this year, over the period of one night, I would be amputated from every relationship in my world, including my Mother (with the exception of my husband and Good Samaritan.) Resident in this cocoon of grief, turmoil and raw despairing of life, I believed that my Mother and I would be reunited. Though the bond suffered an agonizing blow that appeared dead, time would mature this faith until the powers of resurrection delivered her to my heart 7 years later.

There was a guest bedroom in our first home and there was a note on the table beside the bed. The note read, “Welcome Home MOM.” Though she did not know it, He had prepared a safe place for her to reside. She would not arrive in time to see this room, but another room awaited her in our present home.

One evening in May of 2004, my husband and I were relaxing after dinner at our kitchen table. As we spoke, the Sovereign Presence of the Almighty filled our kitchen. It was as if time stood still. I said, ” God is doing something right now….with Mom.” I felt like God ushered himself through our kitchen.

It was the very next day, my telephone rang and my mother was on the other end ~ freed by the King of the Exodus. In an instant, the forces of restoration were moving at lightning speed to forever weave the ties that He created long ago.

Truly, let NOT man put asunder that which HE has JOINED together.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. We made it ~ to the Glory of our King.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Join us now in rejoicing in this wonderful modern-day story of redemption and restoration.

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Corrie ten Boom

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Heidi's story

Heidi Venie was Darin Hufford's special guest on the Into the Wild podcast.  Heidi and her husband, Daniel, were on staff at a church in Alaska as worship leaders for many years.  In a series of three podcasts, Heidi shares her story of her experiences in a spiritually abusive church.  As in all cases of abuse, it's a story of heart break and betrayal but I think those of us who have experienced spiritual abuse will be able to relate to her experiences.

You can listen to Heidi tell her story here and here and here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New resources

I just added some additional resources on my sidebar. I'll be adding more from time to time and I hope you'll find these resources helpful as you sort through the issues related to your experiences with spiritual abuse.  Please feel free to add your comments to any of my posts.  I want to hear from you.  Hopefully we can encourage one another.

Friday, August 27, 2010

OUT OF THE DEPTHS

My friend, Windblown1, has once again allowed me to post more of her story. I've posted it here just as she wrote it in her journal. I'm sure those of you who have been victimized in an abusive church will be able to relate to the emotions she's expressed. I hope her writings will bring comfort and hope to those who are still hurting.


~~Musings From Inside The Walls~~8/31/95~~

I wrote this in my journal during a very difficult time in my life. There was lots of turmoil and the Lord was teaching me how to live in the reality of "Christ in me the hope of glory." I was more concerned with pleasing people than being open and honest.

Today, I have much more revelation and understanding of "living" from that deep place. It is such a place of rest and peace. It is a place of "living loved" and living in the awareness of His presence all the time.

OUT OF THE DEPTHS

Deep calls unto deep in my spirit.

This longing deep, deep within me.

To be heard, to be understood, to be listened to and not judged.

Oh, the joy of having a relationship like that with someone.

My heart longs to know You, Lord, to hear you speak to me.

You have called me to be one who knows You and Your voice.

The trials of my life harden my heart to You,

And muffle my hearing and ability to sense your nearness.

How can I stay in that place of openness to You?

What would you say to me if we were walking together

And I was able to open up and express the depths of my heart to you?

How would You answer the cry of my spirit?

“My child, My beloved child, your heart is shrunken by lack of love and caring in your life.

I long for you to know that you are filled with my Love and Life.

You shall always have things in this life that distract from My communion with you,

but keep coming to Me, I can and will help you sort out and bring light on all that concerns you.

Do you remember all those years when you heard My call, when I drew you by My Love?

Do you remember the first words I spoke to you, calling you one who knows Me and My voice?

For many years you have not walked in that place of hearing and knowing Me.

You listen and strive to please man and you have shut off the flow of My Voice to you.

But I am bringing you back into communion with Me. That is from where your strength and life will come.

The depression, the loss of your “self” is because you allowed things to interrupt our communion together.

In My teachings, I call My people friends, I speak of intimate relationship, but very few have the revelation of Me and My amazing Gift, to actually live in that place with Me.

My people are very religious, talking about scripture but never finding the entrance to that Life about which the scripture speaks.

I want you to know Me experientially, not just read about Me or hear others tell you what I am like.

You don’t like your life presently but if you yield to Me and allow me to speak to you, you will someday look at this as a most fruitful time.

You live too close to the surface.

As in the sea, the waves roar and crash, rage and foam near the surface, but out in the depths, way, way down–all is still and tranquil.

This is where I would have you live. In the depths of your being.

That is where I dwell, that is where you will find Me.

That is where you will hear the still, small voice.

If you learn to stay there, nothing will be able to move you.

I am taking you deeper.”

Windblown1

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shackles

When you’ve been held captive by spiritual abuse, you may feel like you’ll never be free but don’t despair, freedom is possible. God has taken off your shackles and you’re now free to dance with Him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Heavenly Deception - previous post

My previous post was a poem written by brettact2. The poem is a description of his journey from spiritual abuse to freedom in Christ. I’m sure many who have been victimized by spiritual abuse can relate to the hurt and the struggles that he describes.

Brett has graciously agreed to make himself available to dialogue with anyone who would like to share their thoughts and their questions. So, if you’ve been touched by the raw honesty of his poem, feel free to add your comments.

Freedom is available to you and I know Brett would love to hear your story and encourage you on your journey to freedom. I'm going to link this post to my Forgetting the Former Things blog where I first posted this because Brett added a comment in which he asked some thought provoking questions as well as sharing more about his journey so, after reading his poem, I suggest you read his additional comments. Feel free to respond.

Heavenly Deception

The following poem was posted on The Free Believers Network forum. The author who calls himself brettact2 wrote this poem describing his journey out of "a one true church personality cult 30 years ago."

Because of my experience with spiritual abuse, this poem touched me deeply and I believe anyone who has been victimized will be able to relate to what was said. I asked Brett if I could post it here because it clearly describes the confusion and guilt that we experience as our eyes are opened. I believe understanding our emotions and knowing that it’s okay will help in the healing of those who are still struggling.

May you be encouraged as you read Brett’s words.

Heavenly Deception

There is so much Lord,
That is claimed in Your name,
For which we are ashamed.

Truth whispered from ear to ear;
Prized, hidden, cloaked,
Disguised from the world;
For we are one of the chosen few,
Initiates into the mysteries of time,
And the world laughs at us.

The works of man feel soo good-
Discipline, love, acceptance,
Unity in uniformity,
Common belief,
With no grief, no pain-
We’re anesthetized,
So we believe everyone else is insane
Living in vain,
While we're mindless -
Drugged out, washed out,
Unable to know our feelings & doubts,
Because we know Truth,
We're in the Family,
We're his 'children'
And must express the reality thereof;
Perfectly loyal, without fear, doubt,
Or equivocation.
Just claim emancipation,
As we sink deeper,
And deeper,
Thru mere participation,
Into mindless submission,
Performing the deception,
Ordained of god,
To advance the Work,
Amongst all these clods.
Heavenly Deception -
In the name of Truth.

We sit back,
Having it all pat,
Swallowing Satan's con:
Surface religion.
Tired of his standard brands,
We searched for truth, peace & love.
He offered us suitable facsimiles,
(Empty & hollow,
The only level deception survives at)
Just prior to our reality confrontation;
Plucked out of the rat race,
Placed into Satan's deceptive grace.

But then the moment comes,
The true moment of truth,
When we see
From the simple gut level values of our conscious,
That what the group speaks,
To its members
And the world,
Don't match.
The moment of confrontation -
When we find politics preempts truth.

"God, what do I do?
This group teaches the truth,
The fruits are good,
But God,
This is hypocrisy,
Help me Lord!
I want to believe!
I want to belong!
I want to serve You,
I want to do what is right!
Help me God,
Show me how to reconcile the two,
Maybe this…
Or maybe that…
But it doesn't fit!
It just doesn't fit.

Lord, why aren't you answering me?
Can You?
Maybe they don't reconcile -
But they've got to -
What they preach and write is so true -
I've put so much into this organization -
They can't be hypocrites,
Can they?…
Why not?
Why do they have to be different from other men?
Why can't money, power & fame
Get to them,
Making religion one big game?
God!!
Help me!!!
I don't want to think these thoughts,
I don't want to believe this to be true,
I want to believe in You,
I want to do Your work,
And they're doing it.
God!
Help me!!
I can't figure this out!
Its driving me mad!
Help me!!!

Then more information came pouring in,
Confusing me more,
Friends desperately bombarding me with questions and facts;
The dilemma worsens;
I can't hold on,
But I must,
They are God's chosen,
The true church,
The only way to eternal life.

"I just want peace Lord,
I don't want anything new in my life;
I just want to sit home.
Leave me alone everyone,
I'm busy hanging on to the truth;
Please, don't change anything in my world,
I'm just barely in it now.
Oh Lord, I can't wait till the day I die'
Thoughtless death,
Sweet death,
Please come to me."

But it didn't.
Instead, You sent a message,
You reminded me of our first meeting,
How You convicted me to search for the Truth,
Showed me to judge honestly.


Thank You Lord,
For renewing my faith in You to see me through.
Be with me as I study YOUR Word,
Let me not take sides,
Nor make artificial standards to measure by,
But seek the Truth,
Which shall make me free;
If I am free
I am free totally.

There is so much Lord,
That's destroying people in these cults;
Use me to help them,
To help pluck them out of the fire somehow,
As You have plucked me,
Saved me from deception's misery.
Come Lord Jesus,
To save us all from ourselves.
Come.

Brett

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spiritual Abuse Recovery

Recently, I was made aware of a new book that has been published and released. The author is Dr. Barb Orlowski and the title is "Spiritual Abuse Recovery: Dynamic Research on Finding a Place of Wholeness." The book is the result of Dr. Orlowski's research to understand "how Christians have gone from the devastating experience of spiritual abuse at their local church to a condition of spiritual restoration."

In the process of researching this topic, Dr. Orlowski has gathered data from interviews with those who have experienced spiritual abuse and have gone through the process of recovery. Although I haven't read this book yet, through my correspondence with Dr. Orlowski, I've come to appreciate her desire to see people set free and made whole.

Paul warned the Ephesian church that wolves impersonating sheep would come among the flock and deceive them. This has proven to be true as countless thousands of sincere believers have been victimized by abusive church leaders using a distorted interpretation of the Bible to hold people in bondage. Having a sincere desire to serve God, these believers are led to believe that their love for God is demonstrated by unquestioning obedience to their church leaders.

Spiritual abuse is the misuse of power and authority and, in abusive systems, followers become nothing more than slaves who are there to fulfill their leaders whims and desires. Some eventually grow tired of the control and constant abuse and leave the group. However, even though they've left, the journey to wholeness has just begun and it can be a long and painful one. During this time, the person needs to know that they're not alone in what they're experiencing and that wholeness is possible. I believe Barb's book can be a welcome resource as they navigate through the often turbulent process of healing.

To learn more about this book, check out her website.

Karen's story - part 2

As I explained in a previous post, my friend Karen, sent me several private messages sharing her story. She had been a victim of spiritual abuse and has learned much as a result of having gone through that experience. I believe her story would be an encouragement to other so I asked her if I could post it here. Because of the length of the messages, I've decided to post them as a series, so here's part 2 of Karen's story.

"That’s the theoretical stuff. Now I want to talk about my own personal reactions and down-to-earth lessons. I am far from “healed,” so if some of these sound jaded or cynical, they probably are….

If you meet someone who hears from God all the time and presents themselves as spiritually sensitive or godly, run like hell. Especially if they want to “mentor you.” They’re either compensating for something and hiding some deep insecurities or they’re on a power trip which can be very subtle. A person can really exalt oneself and feed off the good feelings of “doing ministry” and become bad news without realizing it.

Be alert for addictive behavior like immersion in christian music, always seeking “more” from God, activities and mannerisms that make people appear as other than human or real--unapproachable, distant because they’re so into Jesus that they have no time or space for you. Ya can’t love God and not love those around you.

If you can’t talk about or question the unspoken cultural rules, mannerisms, or mass opinions, get out.

Trust your gut. If you’re feeling something that you can’t verbalize that makes you uncomfortable, listen and don’t dismiss it even if you can’t describe what you are uncomfortable about. Clarity on that will come later. If you’re feeling repressed, you are being repressed.

Don’t be surprised if your best friends suddenly ignore your existence.

If you have to go someplace to find God or God’s anointing, healing, or whatever, chances are it’s just another human activity and full of emotionalism and hype. Do yourself a favor and stay home.

Look out for dishonor and disrespect meted out to people who do not conform. Look for uniformity touted as “unity.”

If someone starts talking about “touch not God’s anointed”, get out.

Often there will be a brief time in a new group where there is more freedom than you’ve ever seen in a congregation. Watch for leadership to start talking about training people to operate in their gifts, or requesting that you go to a select group of people (an inner circle of “elders” or “more experienced people”) before being allowed to speak, or the beginnings of teachings about Jezebel spirits or spiritual authority. All or some of these indicators mean that the fun is over: someone feels threatened and needs to be controlling. When that happens, you may as well leave, because the initial freedom that drew you will never be allowed to return. It is classic bait and switch, and you will be left to jump hoops without ever getting to your destination of freedom of expression within the body. And you will be shut down.

Intellectualism may not foster spirituality, but neither does emotionalism.

Bondage is often disguised as freedom."

Karen's story

From time to time, I'll be posting with the author's permission emails or private messages that I've received. Some of these people have shared their story with me and I feel that others can relate to what they've written and would be encouraged to read about their experiences.

My friend, Karen, has been a victim of spiritual abuse and is still working through the process of healing. As part of this processing, she recently sent me several lengthy messages expressing her thoughts. She has graciously agreed to allow me to post excerpts from her story. Because of the length of the messages, I'll be sharing her thoughts in two separate postings.

Since spiritual abuse can appear in many forms, I know many of you will be able to relate to her experiences. Her story is important and by sharing it here, I hope many of you will be encouraged as you continue your journey to wholeness.

Thank you, Karen, for letting me share your story. Here are excerpts from the messages she sent me:

"To begin with, no spirituality can be healthy if it spawns a dysfunctional subculture.

Are certain personality types drawn to this sort of thing? Are people so threatened that they have to build a rigid structure around them so they can feel secure?

It struck me that their whole view of reality was almost like a fantasy role playing game.

A performance trap, but with the additional poison of the Garden of Eden temptation: “You shall be as God”--and people grasped at personal power and a sense of significance that they lacked in their daily lives. What I really found weird was traveling with these people to a conference: we were in the car for a few hours, but nobody talked! The p&w music played and everyone was having their special god time, and that couldn’t be interrupted. Even on the way home, nobody wanted to talk about what they experienced or heard at the conference. This is true in the Church services too…. It was just individuals seeking their touch from God, no sense of corporate interaction. It occurred to me that these were all God addicts trying to get their next “hit” of the warm fuzzies and were willing to do what it took to “get the anointing” or get high on Jesus. And the sharp demarcation between the spiritual and physical world ensured that mundane existence didn’t have anything to do with God, unless there were some “divine appointments” in which you could escape for a while into that “other world.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pigs in the Pulpit

Written by J. Michael Wittman, "Pigs in the Pulpit" is the story of his family's journey to freedom after years in what he describes as a cult-like group. As I've said in previous posts, spiritual abuse is a subject that has been swept under the rug by the institutional church. No one wants to talk about it. Well, J. Michael Wittman is talking about it and I admire his candor.

As long as it remains a hidden topic, multitudes of sincere believers will be hurt and victimized. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I'm passionate about seeing the captives set free so I'm thankful for books like this one that are exposing the truth about spiritual abuse.

This is a captivating story of how the author and his family were ensnared in abusive systems for over 17 years. He describes his initial experience of "love bombing" and how that led to allegiance to two different groups and leaders that were controlling and abusive. In the early stages, there was "a systematic tearing down of my will, my conscience and my character, so that I would be more susceptible to being controlled."

Those who haven't been involved in these types of groups wonder why anyone would stay. However, one of the characteristics of mind control is that people find it difficult to leave even after they begin to see what's happening. The tentacles of mind control are strong and not easily broken. The author clearly describes the struggle he and his family went through before they finally were able to break free.

Even after leaving, however, the road to healing and normalcy is often long and difficult. In my opinion, the last chapter of the book is one of the best. In it, the author gives ten suggestions that will aid in the transition to normalcy. Even though I've been outside of an abusive group for many years, I found his suggestions helpful.

Reading this book was painful at times since I could relate to the author's pain and humiliation. However, in my opinion, he's done a wonderful job of describing the horrors of what he endured. Until people are willing to speak out, others will continue to be victimized. and I'm glad he's chosen to tell his story.

Although the story was riveting, it was sometimes difficult to wade through the many unimportant descriptive details. However, I still believe it's an excellent resource for anyone struggling to break free from an oppressive religious system.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"My Journey Out of Oz"- Freedom From A Spiritually Abusive Church

My friend, Windblown1, has agreed to let me share her story of God’s amazing grace as he set her free after spending almost 30 years in a spiritually abusive church. Here’s her story in her own words.


~~~FREE~~~
My STORY



Six years ago, May 2004:
I had made my decision to leave, through MUCH turmoil and fear.
I was alone in the house, trying to get my mind to focus on the practical issues of my decision.
In an overwhelming rush of emotion, an explosion of pent up anger, frustration, fear and disillusionment burst forth from me and I began to SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREEEEEEEEEEEEAM--on and on for a very long time. If someone had been in the house at the time, they would have taken me to the emergency room for treatment.
But I was alone~~~~
I fell to the floor by my bed and from deep in my spirit I began to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He restores my soul.”
Peace began to come~~
When I got up from the floor, I was ready to take the step that would lead me to life “outside the walls.”
MY JOURNEY OUT OF OZ
I call it “My Journey Out of OZ” because after I was out, and the curtain began to be pulled back, I was to realize that the “Power” that I so feared and submitted to, was only in my mind. A false illusion taught and nurtured by a system that thrives on power, manipulation and control.
But at that time, I only saw the works of one person, our pastor.
It would be a long time before I would realize that the whole system was rotten.
The journey began some 31 years ago.
A farm wife with 3 children who loved to garden, can food, and take care of her home.
A woman who married right out of high school.
A woman who had a DEEP hunger for God in her soul.
A woman searching for the missing piece to herself, for wholeness.
I had gotten involved in New Age, filled myself with the teachings in my search for Truth. I was not raised in a Christian home, but in those days I think we all thought we were Christians because we were Americans.
One day my friend, who was on this spiritual quest with me, told me she had met someone who taught Bible studies and this woman was willing to teach us.
We were so excited, finally we were going to find Truth!
We started the Bible study with 4 ladies in a kitchen. The woman teaching us was an excellent teacher and filled with the power of God. I never had known anyone who knew the Bible like she did and taught with such authority. ( I question this now, but then, to a “babe” in Christ, so hungry, like a baby bird, I hung on her every word.) Plus, she would pray for us and there was such “power” that we were just astonished!
People began to hear about what was happening, such excitement. Before long we outgrew the home Bible studies and started meeting in a church.
The Bible study group grew larger than the congregation of the church where we were meeting.
Our teacher said that God told her to start a church--- so we started meeting in a home on Sunday mornings. Over 80 people gathered together as a charismatic church. Very quickly we outgrew the home and rented a building.
When we outgrew the rented building, we were finally able to buy a building, which everyone worked together to remodel and make into our home church.
Eventually we grew to around 450 people (in a very small community) had a Bible school, a pre-school through high school academic school, plus a daycare.
We believed we were the exemplary model of a New Testament church!
I GAVE IT ALL~~~~FOR THE SAKE OF THE “CALL.”
About eight years after the church began, my husband of 28 years, who was opposed to my involvement with the group, divorced me to marry another woman.
We had three children, one of them a son, who was married and the other two lived with me at home. My daughter was about 22 and my other son was a young teenager.
I had never held a job outside our home, having married directly out of high school.
Life as I had known it was over.
I began to do the only thing I knew how to do, which was clean houses. The pastor hired me to clean the church and I struggled to find myself in this new life that I had been thrown into.
The thing that helped me the most at this scary, but in some ways, exhilarating time of my life, was the Lord and being a part of such a strong and supportive church family. I felt surrounded, loved and cushioned from the problems of adjustment that I faced.
The pastor began to take an interest in me and began to ask me to go with her on trips and gave me a job as secretary of the academic school. I had no former experience, was allowed to learn “on the job.”
God was truly taking care of me.
Little did I know that I was a “prime” candidate for the message that was in the charismatic/Pentecostal. Prophetic words were a part of our lives~~we believed God still speaks today and we “lived” for the “word of the Lord” to flow through people to us~~especially the “prophets” who spoke to our church on a regular basis.
Our pastor was a prophetess, everyone hung on her every word and believed she truly heard from God for her “flock.” Of course we were encouraged to “hear” for ourselves, but all revelations and directions we might receive from the Lord had to be given to her to be “judged” before acted upon.
Many time she would say, “I don’t witness to that” and that would settle it. There was a fear that if we went against her council, we were in great danger of being “out of God’s will.”
It was in this climate that I began to build my new life. It was filled with hope and destiny. God had brought one chapter of my life to fruition to begin a life that was to equip me to fulfill my “DESTINY.”
I was told through a prophetic word from the pastor that I had fulfilled my role as “mother” and God wanted to take me to the next stage of my “DESTINY.”
She said I was not to “abandon” my children, but my focus was to be what God wanted to do in my life NOW.
Not too long after this was spoken, she had a “dream” and she saw a puzzle (the puzzle was her) and there was a hole and God put a piece in that hole and it was me.
Because of that “vision”, the prophetic words and because I agreed with it, I moved into her house, leaving my young teenage son with my daughter.
Destiny was calling me~~~~~
She said that I was to be her “intercessor” and traveling companion/personal assistant. (In reality I was more like a servant, doing any and all jobs that needed to be done around the ministry. I never knew what I would be doing from day to day, which kept me in a state of vulnerability, because if I didn’t “do” something I should have “known” to do, I was chastised by a tongue lashing or by being totally ignored and dismissed.)
In later years, I did become more of an assistant/traveling companion to her, and she trusted me.
This was “heady” stuff for me---I believed I was her “Elisha” and when I had been trained, drained and perfected, I would “receive” the “double portion” of her anointing.
This is where the story gets bizarre and very difficult to write. The reason is that there are so many layers of circumstance, and some VERY weird “spiritual” factors that made up my life for the next 15 years.
My daughter has chronicled many of the things that we experienced in great detail.
She joined the church about two years after I did. She was in her early 20’s and never been exposed to any kind of spiritual training. She felt the drawing of the Lord, though, and gave her heart to Him. She did and still does love Him with all her heart.
The pastor took an immediate interest in her and made her the church administrator. My daughter experienced some troubling situations almost from the beginning, which included control and belittling, and she quit in less than a week. We all experienced an almost suffocating heaviness and anxiety, so my daughter, fearing she had stepped out of God’s will went back.
She was there about thirteen years and became the pastor’s “right hand” man, the assistant pastor, being groomed to become pastor when the pastor left to fulfill her “apostolic” call. (Of course, she could never release any authority to anyone. All people on staff had LOTS of responsibility without any authority. Everything had to go through her. Even when she was traveling out of state or out of the country, the phone and email were ALWAYS the first things that were set up or gained access to.
In about her eleventh year my daughter met a man that the pastor approved of and they got married. Thus began a war of loyalty for my daughter between the pastor and her husband. Crisis after crisis. Crazy, bizarre situations that were impossible for my daughter to deal with. She had been taught “total” obedience to pastor, now her husband saw the control and was not putting up with it. Long story short, he took my daughter and they left town and never came back.
For over seven years I did not speak to my daughter or see her. She had two miscarriages, and I did not call or send her a card. I said to the pastor, “ I would like to send L. some yellow roses to let her know that I am thinking of her” and she said, “Do it and you are “OUT OF HERE.”
I didn’t do it!
Fear is a strong motivator, the need for security and a place of ministry, proved to be even stronger than my love for my daughter.
Of course, I had been told that she was “the enemy” married to the son of “satan.” I grieved that she had “broken covenant” and was now an “infidel” to us.
The years after my daughter left were in many ways “the best of times and the worst of times.” In some ways for me, because I had proven my loyalty to her, we became more like friends and sisters at times. She confided in me all her anxiety with “spiritual warfare,” trying to “grow” the church and keep people in their “places.”
We all had a “spiritual place” that we had to occupy or she would know “by the spirit” and we would be railed upon for sometimes hours at a time or “put outside the camp” until we became cleansed and were back in our “place.”
One of the greatest fears was not being in our “place.” Of course, one could never know what that meant, only SHE could discern it. It was usually better to stay close to her, then you could monitor her moods and “spiritual” insights. When I was allowed to visit my younger son or other family members, I would always be sent out of the house to get” that spirit” off of me and get back into my place before I could be in her good graces again. I couldn’t even bring gifts that my son gave me into the house because of the “family” spirit attached to them. Many times I threw his gifts away or carried them around in the trunk of my car.
Because of that “curse,” my daughter and I had to get rid of everything from our past. Furniture, jewelry, anything and everything from my mother and life. I even threw away diamond rings because of the “warfare” that surrounded them.
When my daughter went on her honeymoon, after 3 days all hell broke loose because “she (my daughter) should have “known” by the “spirit” that she was needed at the church. When she did return, she was not spoken to and the ushers sat her in a pew with the other members, like she wasn’t even recognized. CRAZY, CRAZY stuff. All designed to manipulate people into submission.
I ran away three times in the beginning, and the last time, I thought the “heavy hand “ of God was on me so strong that I couldn’t breathe for a week. I thought I had “left” God’s perfect will and that life for me was over.
At the end of the week, after my lying on the floor and repenting and confessing my rebellion to God, she said God had opened the “place” back up, so I could come back.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of some of the things we experienced in the name of God, under the mantle of the charismatic/Pentecostal “covering.”
She was our ”apostle.” She was exalted by prophets and apostles that we were in fellowship with. She was given an honorary doctorate. So she became Dr. not just pastor/ apostle.
One prophetess told us that we were to honor her by bringing gifts to the altar, because the prophetess heard the Lord say that our pastor was going to marry.
So for a couple of weeks, people came with lavish, beautifully wrapped gifts of lingerie, perfumes, clothing and jewelry and put them on the altar.
Of course, she has never married, and still nobody wants to question the prophetic abuse that is so prevalent in the apostolic/prophetic camp.
I believe it is no better than spiritual “witchcraft” and fortunetelling.
We had prophets come and have us line up and declare our loyalty and allegiance to her. I am talking of over 400 people~~ good, honest, God believing people.
After the church imploded, many of these same leaders said they knew there was control but knew it wouldn’t do any good to confront it.
So for almost 30 years, I lived and breathed these teachings and ways.
Towards the end, I was beginning to be separated by being sent to Poland for several months at a time. etc. She seemed to know that things were shifting with me because she got very insecure and the last 3 years with her were “hell on earth.”
Things began to unravel at the church. The leadership actually started talking (something that is absolutely forbidden--”touch not mine anointed”)
And we all began to whisper, the “emperor has no clothes!”
Truth began to replace the lies, speaking our hearts began to replace the silence that protected the corruption.
A shaking began to take place that ended up removing almost all the leadership and most of the people. All that remained was the money given in good faith to build our “new, bigger and better building” for our Regional ministry. Plus, all the land and buildings owned by the church, purchased by a loyal, trusting congregation.
The people who are still there, have all that remains. They just went through the 2nd split recently and I believe there are only about 25 people left to carry out the “amazing destiny” that was prophesied over the place. But some diehards still think that if you have enough “faith” you cannot fail.
But the foundation is rotten and it is only a matter of time until it all disappears back into the earth (man) from which it was formed.

 
~~~ON EAGLES WINGS~~
Back to where I began this history of my journey.
I am ready to walk out the door. I even had a “vision” of a door opened for me to walk through.
I read these words in a devotional the night before I was to leave:
“So go forth today in great faith, My child. There are rivers which you must cross. As you dip your foot in the waters that would hinder you from obeying my will, behold, the waters will part and you shall cross over on dry ground to safety, to new land, to new experiences.
Begin to move NOW! And you shall rejoice at the great and might victory which shall surely be thine.”
I wrote in my journal:
“Today I step through a new door. The chapter is finished, the book has been completed.
Today, a fresh page, a new beginning.
Volume two of the “Saga of the Servant of the Most High God.”
I stepped out of the door, locked it behind me. I left in a borrowed car, with only my clothes and books. No home, no family, no future (that I could see.)
But as I stepped out, it was as if I was lifted by “eagles wings” and taken forth into my new life.
I felt as if I had been “flung” into the air and the very Hand of God caught me and has never let go of me.
I have abundance in all things. My relationship with my daughter and family has been restored. My daughter opened her home and arms to me and treats me with such honor and love. God is healing us all~~ Little by little.
I have much more to write about the process of the renewing of my mind from the “religion” and much more to say about His “Amazing Grace.”
I will probably spend the rest of my years digesting and dissecting all that happened in our lives.
But for now, all I can say is ~~Thank You~~ To My Faithful God!!

Written in my journal May 15, 2004:
“Let the rejoicing begin~~
The birds are singing,
The leaves of the trees are waving,
The brooks are bubbling.
The whole earth is filled with the Glory,
Filling the atmosphere with praise.
To the Creator,
To the One who is over all~~
Oh, how I worship You,
Your majesty!!
Open my eyes to see more of You,
May my life be a mirror of Your Life.

June 16, 2004
The prison doors have been flung open~~WIDE
Run, Run to the place of refuge
Provided by the Lord.
Feel the wind in your face
The warmth of the sun on your head.
The weight of the shackles are gone
The restrictions of the freedom of my feet are released.
FREE, FREE
The most beautiful word
FREE, FREE
Jesus set us free!
I will run and not be weary
I will leap and rejoice!
Like the calves let out of their stalls
This is the hour that the Sun of Righteousness arises
With healing in his wings
Because I fear His name~~~


windblown1

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Helpful facts about cults

Cults are full of the weak, weird and emotionally unstable.

Not true. Many cult members are very intelligent, attractive and skilled. The reality is that all sorts of people are involved in cults. One of the few common denominators is that they were often recruited at a low point in their life — more about that later.

Regarding "love bombing."

Beware of "instant friends." Remember true friendships develop over time.

These facts are taken from "How Cults Work." To read the entire article, follow this
link.

Sin and shame part 2: The solution

In an earlier post, I discussed the fact that it’s our shame and not sin that causes a separation between us and God. To get the background, you might want to read that post before reading this one. The comments were really good so I think it would be helpful to read them as well.

Although there had been a barrier, God in his love and mercy, has provided a solution and that solution is the cross. Jesus bore our sins on the cross but more importantly . . . he bore our shame. Shame and sin were nailed to the cross so there’s no longer any separation between God and us. Now, we can enjoy unbroken fellowship with him.

Since I’ve grown in the security of God’s love, I no longer spend a lot of time worrying about sin. To be honest, I rarely think about it. This actually concerned me more than the actual sin itself. However, I’ve since come to understand that an over concern with sin is a shame based behavior that Jesus dealt with on the cross. Because shame has been removed, sin should no longer be the focus of our attention. Now that I’m free, my attention can be focused on God and his love.

When I blow it, I don’t have to run from him in shame. Instead, I can go to him confident that I’m loved and accepted. Love (God) is patient. He understands our humanness and that at times, we may even be stubborn and want our own way. Yet, he still loves us.

As I’m learning to live more deeply in his love, God’s healing those broken places in my life that have caused me to sin. Now, I can stop beating myself over the head when I miss it. Instead . . . I can accept my humanness and live free from shame knowing that I’m fully loved and accepted by God.

Sin and shame part 1: Why are you hiding?

For years, I believed that sin caused a separation between God and me. I was taught that God is righteous and holy and can’t bear to look on sin so when I sin, he turns away from me. In order to be restored to a right relationship with him, I had to repent and ask for his forgiveness. Then, I could live in his forgiveness until the next time I sinned and then the process began again.

Recently, my understanding of this has changed. In the garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned by eating the fruit God had told them not to eat, he didn’t turn away from them. Instead, he came looking for them as he had always done. However, now instead of greeting him, they hid from him. When they didn’t immediately come to him, he called out to them and they finally responded. They told him that they had hidden because they were naked. Shame because of their naked condition had caused them to hide from God.

This story and many others show us that God never turns away from us even when we sin. However, because of shame, we turn away from him. So, it’s obvious that shame, not sin is what causes this separation.

In the story of the loving father and his prodigal son, the father saw his son coming home when he was a long way off. He didn’t wait for his son to come to him and ask his forgiveness. Instead, before the boy could say a word, he ran to him, hugged him and kissed him. He immediately restored him fully as a son with all of the rights and privileges of a son because, in his eyes, there had never been a separation. The separation only existed in his son’s heart.

Jesus also told a story about a shepherd who left his 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep. He didn't wait for the sheep to come to him with its head hanging down in shame. Instead, he went looking for it until he found it. Then, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and carried it home.

Religion has taught us that because of his holiness, fellowship with God is broken until we've repented. This tradition has caused a lot of insecurity and fear because we're never quite sure if we've offended him. We've been told that we're out from under his umbrella of protection until we repent. So, if we don't quickly repent, all sorts of terrible things can happen to us and our family.

This picture of an easily offended God is in my opinion despicable. The description of love given by the apostle Paul says that love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love is not easily offended. Since God is love, then it stands to reason that he's not easily offended either.

Mind Control

I found this article posted on Cultwatch describing the mind control that is used by abusive groups. My desire is to see people free from the ravages of spiritual abuse and I believe this article will inform and perhaps lead some to take steps towards their freedom.

To read the article, follow this link.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Results of a leadership vacuum

I’m involved in several online groups and forums. Some are moderated and some aren’t. Because of recent events on a couple of these groups, I’ve begun to think about leadership and the need for it.

I know that for many of us who are no longer involved in a local church, the thought of leadership brings back some very unpleasant memories. So, before I start sharing my thoughts, let me say that I do NOT agree with the pastoral form of leadership that is used in most institutional churches today. I don’t believe this was the biblical form used by the early church nor was it set in place by the first apostles. Rather than strengthening the church, I believe this form of leadership actually hinders its growth and maturing.

That being said, I think leadership is necessary but should be fluid. The style used will vary and change with the circumstances and I believe the day will come when members of the church will have grown to the point that they will be able to lead themselves. However, if anyone has recently been involved in any online groups, I’m sure you’re aware that many who participate have not developed in self-control and their behavior can become destructive to themselves and to others. For that reason, leadership is still necessary.

However, let me say that I believe the micro-manager style of leadership is NEVER acceptable. A good leader in my opinion should maintain a loose grip over the group and may at times almost seem to disappear into the background. Yet, he will emerge if necessary to deal with issues and to encourage. Then, he will return into the background.

On unmoderated forums, the leader is so far in the background that he almost never emerges and has little influence over how the group functions. That works just fine if the members have matured and are led by love. This style of leadership becomes a problem, however, when the members of the group are not living free and are being controlled by impure motives. In these groups where there is a vacuum in leadership, leadership will ALWAYS emerge. People who are gifted as leaders will naturally begin to move forward and I believe that’s a God ordained flow.

In all of the online groups I’m involved with, I’ve seen this happen. I get excited when I see natural leaders begin to come forward to love and encourage the others. In these healthy groups, it’s not just one person but leadership may move and flow from one person to another to another until the entire group is involved in encouraging and moving the group forward. This is very similar to the V-formation in which geese fly. The geese continually rotate so that each goose take a turn flying in the lead position.

In online groups, the problem usually arises when the group has grown large. Over time, in unmoderated groups, there will eventually arise someone whose natural gift of leadership is tainted by impure motives. They will begin to draw around them an alliance of weaker individuals who will protect and support them. If, at that point the person who has actual authority over the group doesn’t step forward and re-instate order, the group is headed for a takeover. Then, when the takeover is complete, the new leader will rule with an arm of steel to silence anyone who attempts to question them.

We tend to think that spiritual abuse can only take place in an institutional church. However, we need to be aware that spiritual abuse exists outside of the institutional church. It exists whenever a leader forces his own agenda on the group at the expense of the other members. Abusive leaders can infiltrate a home group as well as an online group.

Although the primary purpose of this blog is to share about the life of grace, a secondary purpose is to inform and to encourage those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse. If you believe you’ve been a victim of spiritual abuse, please refer to the resources on my sidebar and don’t be ashamed. There is help and there is freedom available.

Performance Based Acceptance - my story

Although I’d been a believer for a number of years, I knew my life didn’t measure up to what I believed it should as a christian and, to be honest, I didn’t see that anyone else around me was doing any better. Toward the end of 1997, my desire to know God more intimately increased and I began praying what I’ve since come to realize is a dangerous prayer. I told him daily, several times a day, that I wanted to know him. Well, he took me at my word but, if I had known what was ahead, I don’t know that I would have prayed that prayer.

A few months later, he led me to a church that later became abusive. I stayed there over three years and those were the most difficult three years of my life but it was there that God began the process of setting me free from the need for people's approval.

As with all spiritually abusive leaders, the pastor of that church preferred new and inexperienced believers. Since I had been a believer for over 20 years, it was obvious that I was being pushed aside in preference to the younger believers. I even once told him that I felt like I wasn’t wanted there. Of course, he denied it but I knew it was true. The young and inexperienced were definitely preferred over those of us who were more mature and seasoned in our faith.

I struggled to gain this pastor’s approval and I remember thinking that there was nothing I could do to please him. For someone who thrived on the approval of others, that was tortuous. I hated it there and decided to leave several times but each time, God made it very clear that he wanted me to stay. It was only years later that I understood why it was important for me to stay. He wasn’t punishing me as I thought at the time but he was setting me free in ways that I couldn’t even imagine at the time.

After I left, I found Wayne Jacobsen’s Lifestream website and later Darin Hufford’s Free Believers Network. I devoured their teachings and, as a result, I finally understood the bondage I had been in and how God had been setting me free through what he allowed me to experience.

I also learned that I have a Father who loves me too much to let me stay in bondage. My freedom began with a lot of pain as I struggled to make sense of why he put me in an abusive church. Now, I look back on those days and think that knowing what I know now, if I had to do it over again, I would. I sure wouldn’t enjoy the suffering I went through but sometimes to effect a cure, a surgeon has to cut out the sick parts and that’s always painful. However, when the healing is complete, the results are worth it.

For me, this was the start of a very exciting journey and it has been a journey. I haven’t arrived yet and, at times, I still find myself reveling in the praise of man and looking for it. I still struggle at times when family members give me patronizing looks that seem to say that they’re being patient with me but I’ve also learned to laugh at myself when I act like my elevator doesn’t go up all the way.

I’m learning that it’s okay to be me. God created me and gave me my unique personality and he’s pleased with me just the way I am. If there’s any changing to be done, he’ll do it in his own time and in his own way. I’m not supposed to get stressed about it and spend a lot of effort trying to change what I view as faults. I just need to spend my time getting to know him and, through that relationship, he will change what needs to be changed in me.

"Not of My Making" Virtual Book Tour blog

Haunted by the Ghosts of Spiritual Abuse

First I want to thank Aida for allowing me to visit and post to her blog. I pray that I am worthy and will not disappoint her and her readers.

I think it is fitting that this tour should start the day after Easter. Seven years ago I was forced out of my church during the latter part of Lent. Full recovery from my wounds took six years. It was a long, painful struggle and now, the day after Easter, this post is a kind of resurrection or rebirth for me. I have found my voice.

Still, there are small things that trigger sadness, grief and fear. Writing this post has been one of those small things. Last week I read through some of Aida’s more recent posts but what caught my eye was the quote from Isaiah 43: 18 -19. “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.” My stomach churned. Was I dwelling on the past refusing to move on? I have been accused of that by my former church mates and a couple of reviewers. But then I turn to my favorite quote from Elie Wiesel’s Night:

And yet, there has been a change in our behavior. First of all, we express ourselves. I force myself to share the secret that consumes me. I try to make the ghosts within me speak. Does that mean that the wound has healed over? It still burns. I cannot speak of it. But I can speak – that’s the change …

By telling my story I am moving on. I also know from psychological research into memory, that I cannot will myself to forget without it having negative consequences for my mental health. For years I repressed the memory of the sexual assault by my Uncle Frank who I adored. Not able to bear the pain of his betrayal and being too young to understand what had happened to me, I repressed the memory. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t even write about it in my journal. In the end I paid a price for keeping this secret. I became depressed, anxious and suicidal.

I was fortunate to get competent professional help and overcame my depression. I married, had children and earn my doctorate. Part of my recovery involved returning to church. I chose Unitarian Universalism because I believed members to be more tolerant than in other denominations. Things went well for a number of years until in 1993 I shared my qualms about calling a lesbian as our minister. I was shunned and blacklisted making it difficult for me to become a full participating member of other congregations near my home. This struggle eventually culminated in my being forced out of a Lutheran Church when they condemned my husband and me for ending the placement of our 16 year old Sudanese foster son. Members of my church refused to believe he had stolen a camera and was physically threatening. They encouraged and even condoned our foster son’s leaving our house when he was grounded. For the full story I encourage you to read, Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches.

I am certain that God does not expect or want us to forget abuse and other evil things. Instead we are to speak out against them and seek ways to prevent further abuse. So what are the former things Isaiah is referring to? I asked my priest, Fr. Lance at All Saints Anglican. He told me that this passage refers to the covenant between God and the Jews and is also a Messianic prophecy about John the Baptist and Jesus and the New Covenant. God makes all things new and the past is “forgotten” as we accept God.

So this passage isn’t commanding me and others like me to forget the abuse and not speak of it. God wants us to stop worshipping idols and follow his commandments. For a period of my life I wasn’t doing that. I left Christianity and replaced faith with science, rational thought and humanism. I denied man’s sinfulness and need for God’s saving grace. My move back to Christianity was slow and gradual and is one of the reasons I was forced out of a Unitarian Universalist church. Now I think God was trying to speak to me but I was slow to get it.

At first I thought the problem was a specific congregation, next I thought it was a denomination, finally I realized the problem is in all faiths, all congregations. People sin. Part of that is a tendency to bully and ostracized people who don’t agree with us or who we perceive are not like us. If we believe that since we are true Christians we are above all, we leave ourselves open to sin. Just as democracy requires eternal vigilance, so must we be mindful of our tendency to vie for status and power at the expense of others. I hope you will read Not of My Making and after having done so will consider what you can do to discourage bullying in your schools, churches and workplaces. The book is available at: http://www.pluckpress.com/ or Amazon.com.

Thank you for taking your time to read this post. I am available today, April 13th, to take your comments and questions. May God’s peace be with you.

Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D.

A well kept secret

I was talking to a friend at work today and somehow the conversation turned to the subject of spiritual abuse. As we spoke, I shared information with her and told her about my posts regarding spiritual abuse as well as my personal experiences in an abusive church.

She was shocked! Totally ignorant regarding this subject, she asked questions hoping to gain understanding. Her reaction confirmed what I’ve known for some time.

Spiritual abuse is a well kept secret that the church has swept under the rug. Rarely, if ever, is it addressed by the leadership. Yet, thousands of believers are being victimized today. People are still being held in captivity and new captives are being taken. Although these captives are brothers and sisters, there is no cry of outrage. For the most part, the institution ignores the problem.

Spiritual abuse is founded on the traditions that are the lifeblood of the institutional church. The primary tradition that enables spiritual abuse to continue is the clergy/laity distinction which places one person above the others. Although abusive churches carry this tradition to an extreme, if it were to be exposed for the lie that it is, it would have a ripple effect that would have serious consequences for all institutional forms of religion.

The primary goal of all institutions is the furtherance and growth of the institution. The mindset is that the institution is to be protected at all costs. The result is that people are left unprotected and are sacrificed in order to make sure that the institution continues to thrive and gain strength.

One of the lies that has kept people silent has been the teaching that it’s a sin to get angry. The truth is that Jesus was angry enough to use a whip in the temple when he saw the innocent being victimized by a heartless system. I believe as children of God with the nature of God, we also need to get angry when we see the innocent being victimized by spiritual abuse or any other man made tradition.

As I search the web, I’m excited to see that the silence is being broken and that people are speaking out. There’s a cry of outrage that is being raised up. Blogs and websites have been started to inform and encourage those who have been victimized. Many who have been silent about the hurt and abuse they’ve experienced are finding out that they’re not alone. It’s not hopeless. Others have been abused and moved past it to a place of freedom.

In an attempt to provide information to help those who have been victimized, I have a list of resources regarding spiritual in my sidebar. Also, for easier reference, I will be adding a special section giving links to my posts on spiritual abuse. My hope is that this will be a helpful tool for all who need this information.

After I wrote the first draft of this post, I read Darin Hufford’s latest post regarding "Anger Management." As usual, Darin has great insight which I believe the church needs to hear. After reading what he had to say, I added to my post a few additional thoughts regarding anger that his comments inspired. I think you’ll be encouraged by what Darin has to say. To read his post, follow this link.

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke

Leadership in abusive churches

In my previous post, I discussed the danger of the clergy/laity distinction as promoted by the religious system. As I thought about it later, I realized that this tradition is the foundation of abusive systems. Expose and destroy this lie and the abusive system has nothing on which to stand and it will crumble.

Although all institutional churches have a clergy group that is separate and distinct from other believers, in an abusive system, this distinction is carried to an extreme. The leader takes on godlike proportions and is to be followed with unquestioned obedience.

Submission is a favorite topic in these groups. This was true in the abusive church I was involved in. The pastor’s insecurities weren’t noticeable at first but later, as they became more obvious, he began to speak more and more about submission. He taught that we were supposed to give him unquestioned obedience. If it turned out he was wrong, God would deal with him about it but our responsibility was to obey without question.

This gave us an easy way out since we didn’t have to think or take responsibility for our actions. This hindered us, however, because it prevented us from developing our own relationship with God. After all, why should we? We had the man of God to tell us what to think and what to do. We didn’t need to have our own relationship with God. That would only cause us confusion since we might hear God tell us something different than what the pastor said. Since the pastor was always right, of course, we had to have heard wrong.

In abusive systems, pastors love to be called “the man (or sometimes, the woman) of God.” This title separates him or her from the rest of the people because it’s assumed that he has a special relationship with God that’s unavailable to others.

Scriptures are mis-quoted and taken out of context. I remember the pastor standing up front as he quoted “King of kings and Lord of lords.” As he said, “King” and “Lord”, he would point to himself. Then, when he said, “kings” and “lords”, he would point to us to emphasize that he was king and lord over us.

When there is any indication that someone might have a differing opinion, those leaders are quick to remind their followers of the danger of touching God’s anointed. We were told that leadership had a special anointing and that God would punish anyone who spoke against them or criticized what they did. Because of this anointing, they were answerable to no one but God and could not be held accountable for their behavior.

The basis of this teaching is found in the Old Testament verse, Psalm 105:15 which says, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

Notice that “anointed ones” is plural. When we put aside our traditions and look at this verse in context, it’s obvious that the anointed ones being spoken about are ALL of God’s people and not a select few. It’s obvious that the warning was given to the enemies of his people and not to his people.

The truth is there in NO special anointing on leadership. Insecure leaders maintain control and protect their position by twisting scriptures for their own personal benefit and this is only one of the many scriptures that they twist.

God doesn’t require unquestioned obedience even in our relationship with him. We’re free to ask questions and seek clarification when we don’t understand or agree.

God has invited us into a relationship with himself in which he treats us with respect and as adults. Although we’re his children, he doesn’t treat us as children. He allows us the freedom to make our own decisions. We’re responsible for the decisions we make and for our actions and we shouldn’t turn this responsibility over to anyone else.

The good news is that Jesus has removed the barrier between God and man and he has become the only mediator we need. In abusive systems, this beautiful loving relationship with God is replaced by total submission to a man and, in essence, he replaces Jesus as our mediator. By submitting unquestioningly to man’s authority, the barrier is put back up. Total freedom will come only as believers understand that the clergy/laity distinction is a man made tradition. As we learn to accept the love and grace that God so freely offers, we will live in that freedom that Jesus came to give us.

Exposing the lies

I just started reading “Judgment in St. Peter’s” by Aaron Nathan Rotsstein.

The story revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a Jesuit priest. The major part of the story is set in Rome and centers around the actions of high ranking members of the Jesuit order.

I’m enjoying the book but I find myself growing angry at the religious system whose main motivation is the acquiring of wealth and power. Although the characters in the book are Roman Catholic, Protestants have also developed their own religious traditions. Theirs tend to be more subtle so, in my opinion, they are actually more dangerous since they are more difficult to notice.
The hierarchical system of religion is clearly portrayed in this book and, as I read it, I got angrier and angrier. I’m amazed at how gullible we’ve been to accept the lie that some believers are worthy of greater power and prestige than others. Humility has been re-defined to mean total, unquestioning obedience even to your own hurt. Yet, the scriptures are clear in saying that no believer is to lord it over another.

In one scene, the priest is asking advice from his superior. Although the situation is a personal matter that should only require a personal decision, as a priest, he’s not free to make his own decision. His superior gives his decision and he doesn’t agree. However, when he attempts to voice his opinion, he’s quickly silenced and forced to acquiesce. It amazed me that even though he obviously knew what he wanted to do, he couldn’t make the decision on his own but instead, had to ask his superior. Since it was purely a personal matter, in a non-religious environment, he would have been free to do what he thought best.

Religion has robbed us of the freedom to make decisions on many matters that are purely personal. For example, what to do with our money. We’re told the first 10 % goes to the system and some of the rest to various projects promoted by the group. We’ve been robbed of the freedom to decide where to give and how much.

Fear and distrust are controlling factors in the religious system. Members are afraid they might anger God so it seems safer to put a man in between us and God. The system promotes this fear to its advantage by encouraging its members to believe they’re dumb sheep who are easily led astray and need a human shepherd to lead them.

Reading this book has stirred up a lot of anger and passion in me. I’m tired of seeing people beaten down by a system that puts itself above the people. People essentially become pawns to be used to promote the system. While I understand some groups may not be as extreme as others, this is still true to some extent throughout the religious system.

We’re all equal before God so we need to rise above the man made hierarchical clergy/laity distinction. At the new birth, we were given a new heart which contains the life of God. In our heart has been placed all wisdom and understanding and we need to trust ourselves to make good decisions. Of course, there may be times when we misunderstand and make the wrong decision but we need to then trust that God loves us and will use it for our good.

Since it replaces a relationship with God with obedience to a man, I believe the clergy/laity distinction is a tradition that has held the church back perhaps more than any other tradition. As this tradition is exposed for the dangerous lie that it is, I believe we’ll see more and more believers experiencing more of God’s love and grace.

Darin Hufford has written a powerful post that clearly exposes many deceptions that have held the church in bondage. To read about the freedom we have in Christ, follow this link. To read more about our new heart, you might want to check out Jim Robbins' excellent book, "Recover Your Good Heart."

As we become free, we won’t just stop there. We’ll have a growing desire to see others set free too and we’ll look for opportunities to rescue those who have been left wounded and dying by religion. I believe the following video provides a picture of our calling to rescue the wounded and dying.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Healthy and unhealthy churches

Each year, there is a Sunday set aside to pray for the persecuted church. I believe this is important. I believe we need to remember and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because they know Christ.

However, I believe we also need to remember that many of our brothers and sisters are being held captive in abusive churches. Some of us have personally experienced spiritual abuse or we know someone who has. This is a major problem that is swept under the rug since the institutional church just doesn’t talk about it. However, Father knows and he cares and he’s stirring many to begin speaking out for those who can’t speak for themselves. I’m thankful for the many blogs and websites that are committed to sharing resources that are helpful for those who have been victimized by spiritual abuse.

What Really Matters is one of these sites. It’s an excellent resource for those wanting more information regarding this subject and I highly recommend it. I also recommend reading the post contrasting the characteristics of a healthy and an unhealthy church.

Growing in the hard places

Several weeks ago, we had a lengthy string of comments posted regarding one of Free Spirit's posts. It began when I made the comment that Father had sent me to an abusive church. Free Spirit questioned whether that was really him sending me since she didn't believe that matched his character. I was going to add another comment but, when I started writing, it got longer and longer so I decided to post my own blog about it instead.

I don't know if this will answer her question, but I hope maybe it'll shed some light on the subject of suffering. Ouch!! That's a painful topic and I don't even like to think about it but, unfortunately, it's a fact of life. We will have times of suffering - sometimes because of our own poor decisions and sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control.

As I've shared before, I spent three and a half years in what later became an abusive church. Because of a number of circumstances that preceded my going there, I'm convinced that Father sent me there. I won't go into details now although I may at a future date. For now, I want to go in a different direction.

Although my time at that church was painful, it was actually one of the best times of my life. Before going any further, I know that some of you who read this post won't be able to relate to the positive aspects that I'll be sharing. Please don't read any condemnation into it. What I'll be sharing is only my experience. I know the horror of yours may far outweigh any positive benefits or you may feel that there weren't any positive benefits. Either way, I hope what I share will be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.

I've begun to think of my time there as the boot camp of my Christian life because it was there that I began to grow up as a believer. The pastor of that group taught me many things on which Father continues to build my life and what I believe today.

That pastor was the person who taught me how to think outside of the box. He taught me to question what I was told and this has resulted in a major change in how I view what I was taught in the system. Because of his teachings, I've been able to recognize the religious mindsets that had become part of my life. His out of the box thinking encouraged me to examine new thoughts and ideas rather than immediately shutting them out when they didn't fit my preconceived framework of beliefs.

My natural personality is fearful and hesitant. I don't go into new situations easily and, up until that time, I would always take the easier less stressful route. I don't like to make waves and I'll gladly go along to avoid a conflict. I'm not one to leave the safety of the boat to walk on water - with or without Jesus. All that has changed because of my time in that group. I'm now a totally different person who is much more willing to take risks rather than stay in the safety of the boat. I'm learning to enjoy the adventure rather than wanting only safety.

Staying at that church was totally out of character for me. I knew the pastor wasn't accepted by the larger Christian community and neither was the group. In the natural, I tend to be a people pleaser but I see Father setting me free from the bondage of the desire to please people. I'm now learning to live in the freedom of who I am even if people get angry and offended. Despite my natural tendencies to bail out when things got rough, I stayed in that group.

My time there was really the turning point in my journey. Prior to that, I had been deeply immersed in religion and pretty much accepted what I was told. I was satisfied with the system and it was the center of my life. However, in that group, the seeds of change had been planted that would later sprout and grow. Today, the changes that I'm seeing have surprised even me. I remember Wayne Jacobsen saying that he had now become the person he would not have allowed in his office a number of years ago. I can really relate to that statement.

As I look at where I am today, I'm excited about the person I've become and am becoming. Knowing what I now know about that group, if I had to do it again, I'd do it. I've come to the place where I no longer despise my time there since it was part of my journey to the freedom that I'm experiencing today. This freedom as well as the joy and peace of knowing who I am has made the hardship of those days well worth the pain. As I think about my experience, I'm reminded of Paul's declaration.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A study of spiritual abuse - "The Crucible"

I’m reading “The Crucible” for the first time. This play written by Arthur Miller in the early 1950’s is today considered a classic. Set in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, it describes the events that occurred which later became known as the Salem witch trials.

This was an era of insecurity. Fear of the unknown was rampant and, as a result, over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned as witches. Nineteen of these were convicted and hung as witches and, at least, five more died in prison. All of this was done in the name of purifying and protecting the church from satanic influences. Although this was extreme behavior, it had the same characteristics of all other forms of spiritual abuse with fear being a major tactic. Since those in spiritually abusive systems don’t understand the nature and grace of God, they are subject to delusions and superstition which results in fear.

During the witch hunts, fear was widespread. Being ignorant of God’s nature and not understanding the scriptures, there was excessive fear of the devil and the supernatural. The people didn’t understand that Jesus had already defeated the devil so that they no longer needed to fear him. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ victory was complete in every way.

As families increased, the need for land also increased. As a result, there was much fighting over land and lawsuits were common. When the trials began, greedy farmers used this opportunity to accuse other villagers so that they could take their property.

Internal jealousies is another characteristic of spiritually abusive groups. The members compete for favors and the system of rewards and punishment used by the leadership encourages competition.

Colonial Salem was a highly religious community organized as a theocracy. The church was involved in every aspect of life and could administer capital punishment in spiritual matters. The minister was considered equal to God and was not to be questioned in spiritual matters.

The minister of Salem was a man named Samuel Parrish. His sermons had a strong emphasis on hell and he used his pulpit to push his own agenda. As a result, he was disliked by the villagers and there was constant friction between him and them.

When his daughter became ill with an unknown illness, he grew anxious and began to seek out the cause. At first, he was opposed to the idea of witchcraft causing her illness but he soon wholeheartedly accepted this as the answer. Because of his insecurities, his desire to protect himself and his ministry became obsessive. Not wanting his reputation tarnished, he allowed the witch trials to continue and made no attempt to calm the people. As the trials continued, he did everything possible to prevent the truth from coming out. He and other leaders were more concerned about protecting their own interests than they were in seeing that justice was done or that the people were protected.

This is common with leaders of spiritually abusive groups. These groups are all led by insecure leaders. Protecting themselves is their primary concern and the people under their care become something to use and then discard when they are no longer useful. Instead of being an avenue for teaching and encouragement, sermons become a tool to push their agenda and to keep the people under tight control.

Behavior in Salem was tightly controlled. Dancing was forbidden so when the girls were discovered dancing in the woods, the witch hunts began as they sought to protect themselves. People were expected to be in church every Sunday and to be able to recite by heart The Ten Commandments. Those who failed in doing this were considered suspect.

In spiritually abusive groups, conformity is expected. The people are expected to follow without question the rules dictated by the leadership. Individuality and creativity are considered forms of rebellion and all free thinking is to be suppressed.

“The Crucible” is a powerful and haunting portrayal of the pain caused by spiritual abuse. Although the events that occurred in Salem are extreme, all forms of spiritual abuse are harmful and destructive. People are victimized and families are torn apart.

A lack of understanding of Father’s nature causes people to allow themselves to be abused. That’s why I believe it’s critical for these hurting people to hear the message of grace and love. I’m excited about the increasing amount of resources available to assist and encourage those who have been victimized. Healing is possible so I want to encourage anyone who has been victimized to check out the resources listed in my sidebar and begin a journey to freedom.