Friday, October 7, 2011

Repost: Some Days It's Just a Monster Mash

In an interview with Focus on the Family author Frank Peretti explained his motivation for writing about monsters. As a child he had a medical condition which turned his tongue an oozing black.

As children are often the cruelest beings on the planet, Peretti suffered through taunts of being a “monster”. Choosing the positive aspect of a bad situation, he decided to see monsters as “cool” and himself as special in being associated with them.

This post is in celebration of choosing the positive, and yes, even the humorous aspect of feeling like a freak.

After living in a fundamental cult for twenty plus years, I escaped into what I thought would be stress-free living. I survived hell on earth- now it was time to lay back and relax, right?

That might be right for some. And if you are part of that some, congratulations- you have the good life.

For me and many that I have spoken with, coming out of the cult is the easy part. Living outside of the cult is the true challenge.

For many, the challenge proves too great and they return to the cult, though it be harsh and unforgiving, at least they understand how it functions.

I grew up inside the cult, attended the cult’s school, and after graduation was told that I needed to volunteer my time in return for the all the cult had given me.

When I escaped, and left behind the twisted, haunted laboratory of mind control I discovered that, surprise! I had stunted social skills, an amputated sense of self, and a macabre understanding of what my future would be.

Like Frankenstein, I raged (mentally, at least) at the perverted mind that amputated my sense of self and hijacked my devotion to God to serve her evil empire.

I stomped about for a year, howling with anger at whoever I could. I hated parties; they reminded me of a “get-together” at her house. These often included being yelled at in her bedroom (if you were lucky) and in front of everyone (if you weren’t).

I hated searching for a job. How do you explain away a decade plus that you gave away? How you never finished college because you were too tired to think after forty hours of volunteering, five nights a week of church, and twelve plus hours a week of cleaning on her cleaning crew?

Picasso Honestly, I felt like a Picasso painting walking into a job interview that said, “This is me. My nose is on my chin and my eyes are in my forehead. I don’t know how to make decisions, I think my worth is below minimum wage, and I will never speak up for myself. So, please hire me (if it’s not too inconvenient) I know I’m a freak, just let me scuttle around in the background quietly.”

Here lies the dividing line. Some well meaning but utterly clueless soul might say that I should believe that God was ‘working a good work’ in my life and in the middle of it all and I should praise my way into joy at this knowledge.

This is foolish thinking. God did not and never will plan abuse to ‘work His good work in you’. What is at work here is the fact that humanity has free will and a pastor chose to use her position of leadership to satiate her need for control. She placed herself as a god and will, unless she has the good sense to repent, one day stand in judgment for deeds.

What I do know is that God gives ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning’.

And so for the Frank Peretti moment of deciding to embrace the experience (not the abuse), acknowledge where I am because of it, and take stock of skills I learned in the proverbial fire.

As for where I am:

I spent years wishing to know the joys of marriage, for as Luther said there is nothing more comforting than a marriage.

I met and married a wonderful man a year after leaving the cult. Our paths would not have crossed if I had lived a different life.

What I have learned:

I am resilient, having lived under extreme stress and oppression.

I have empathy for others who have experienced abuse or slavery.

The skills I have acquired:

Endurance in the workplace and a willingness to go the extra mile.

One ex-cult member showed beautiful perspective in dressing up as the pastor for Halloween. Their motivation was she was the scariest character they could think of.

It was a perfect statement. She is scary, she is monstrous, but it is she that is the monster, not me.

I think I will make my statement one Halloween by making a scarecrow that resembles her and hang a sign that reads “This would scare anything”.

Am I making light of the abuse or the fact that a pastor is in dire moral straits?

No. I am doing what many people do with Halloween: Put on a monster mask, confront what you fear, celebrate it for a day and then, move on.
Till next year. Maybe I’ll dress up as the witch she always accused me of being. After all, I know the hat fits and I’ll wear it.

On the other hand, is she brave enough to wear her hat?

Pink on Black Witch Hat pictures by maptitefabrique, mermaiden creations in flickr

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I am reading....

Woman reading on a ladder
photo from geldenkirchen's photostream in Flickr
...Donald Miller. Again. The harsh editorial of women and sexuality was removed from his blog and replaced with an open conversation piece. Much, much more Don Miller-esque style. *Sigh of relief*

My focus, however, is not the sexuality dialogue.

It is the provoking post titled "Being Less Biblical and More Like the Bible".

Don starts by saying:
You’ll never see me roll my eyes more than when I’m reading an old-school Christian book. I say “old school” because these books are changing for the better, and by that I mean they are becoming less “biblical” and more “like the Bible” and by this I mean more honest, truthful and written with less pretense or worldly idealism.
He winds it up with:
Even Christ’s biographers depict Him without sparing us His humanity. He gets angry, He gets annoyed, He is hard to understand (and indeed hard to follow) and while He seems to love the world, He’s as alien as E.T., pointing always toward the heavens rambling about going home. It’s brilliant stuff when you stop reading it to figure out if you’re right or wrong about something. It’s life-changing, actually, the way your life gets changed by a friend over time.

Stunning thought...Don't read the Bible just to prove that you are right and others wrong.

Thanks, Don. Glad you are back.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I am reading....

Jane Austen Regency dress in Cream silk and White Cotton Voile
photo by Bonnie Blue Art in flickr
...not Donald Miller...for the moment. I am rather (still) steamed at a recent blog that, in my humble opinion, is caricaturing females as morally loose, experiencing "slutty" periods and dependant on men to provide the meaning in her life. Commenter Sydney said it best:
WHY is a woman made worthy by her sexuality and man by his character and godliness? This is such a tired and harmful characterization that is used repeatedly by male church leaders.
How can you say that men get to write women’s stories? Does a woman not have a story until she meets a man to write it for her?
 (For more on the story read Elizabeth Esther's post and Rachel Held Evans' awesome reply)

I wish Donald had had the good fortune to read Jane Austen's words in Persuasion before he penned that fateful post:

"...Well, Miss Elliot," (lowering his voice,) "as I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men..."

If your going to gripe promiscuity, Don, both sexes can be slutty and fickle. Not just the girls.

Onto a more interesting topic, I am reading a gripping blog titled "Broken Daughters"
A quote from the post 1995:
little girl with mitt
photo by meg81382 in flickr
"...A woman greets him and by the voice I can tell it’s a nice old lady from our community. She sees me and say “Oh and Lisa is here too! Hello Lisa!” and she looks at me. I look down but she sees it anyway and says “Oh goodness, what happened to Lisa?”. Daddy smiles and says “She was a disobedient brat at the toy store and this is what she got from it.” He sounds really proud when he says it and he pets my head with his hand. The Lady just frowns at me and says “Well it looks really bad, you might have to see a doctor.” and Daddy says “No, she’ll be fine. If she’s repentant, she’ll heal up just fine without a doctor.” They talk a little bit more but not about me and then the Lady leaves..."
Lewis Wells of Commandments of Men blog fame has this insight on some recent *ahem* Bachmann developments:

...Bachmann was asked about being submissive to her husband during the FoxNews Republican candidate debate on August 11th. She's yet to directly answer that question. Anyone in her campaign with any political savvy knows that if she answers that question honestly and directly, she has NO chance to win the election. Hence, you get half-truths, deflections, and rabbit trails about "respect". The fact of the matter is, few of us feel that someone who can't even lead within her own home is qualified to be the Leader of the Free World. As you can see, the "submission" issue is already grinding the honesty and integrity (assuming some exists) right out of her...

And to lighten the mood a bit...a humorous quote by Demetri Martin:
"Whenever I'm on my computer, I don't type 'lol'. I type 'lqtm' - laugh quietly to myself. It's more honest."
I absolutely did NOT laugh quietly to myself while reading Caleb Wilde's post of "Awkward Ringtones at a Funeral":
"...My wife recorded herself yelling, “Mom! Mom! Let me out!” in her mother’s cell phone and then set that as her mom’s cell phone ringtone. Awkward in real life. Extra awkward at a funeral..."
And lastly but certainly not leastly...a song by the group The Civil Wars...not reading but listening.Over. And Over. And Again.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Quivering Daughters' reviewed by Christianity Today

flower girl fun
"Flower girl fun" by stacy benton in flickr
On Thursday my friend Hillary McFarland's book, Quivering Daughters was reviewed by  Gina Dalfonzo on Christianity Today. Dalfonzo says:

Many of us tend to react with righteous indignation when we read stories of women in foreign countries denied higher education, the chance to support themselves, and the freedom to live independently and make their own decisions.

How do we react when women are denied those same freedoms here in America—by some of our fellow Christians?

An excellent review that I definitely recommend reading.

On Thursday Chaplain Mike included and expounded on Dalfonzo's review and in a follow discussion of Bill Gothard on Internet Monk.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tuesday's Links

Commandments of Men celebrated one year on June 11th! Thank you for all you have done, Lewis.
Birthday Cake
photo by will clayton in flickr
A classic quote from Imonk Michael Spencer:
"I am sad to say this, but there is a point at which the relentless God-centeredness of some believers makes them into the adversaries and almost the enemies of much that is good in human life. They become the enemies of normal, especially in the lives of young people, creative people and people who feel that life in this world is good and shouldn’t be devalued by religion."
Eric and Carrie Pazdziora with their friend Jenna Satterthwaite have formed a wonderful band named Thornfield. Beautiful!

And my favorite dude, Garfield....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fresh Perspective: Guest Post by Eric Buckner

Praying hands
photo by Jenniferschwalm in flickr
Being a convert means that I have seen both sides of the coin.

 I have seen how Protestant look at God and now I have seen how Catholics look at God. I'd love to give you examples of how I each.

The first two examples of the religious divide are taken straight from the Mary's Foundation's: The Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet CD that I love and it really changed my perspective on how God is viewed.

Imagine with me please, two different people pass away and go to Heaven, they are both Christian, one being a Catholic and the other a Protestant.

My Story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part Five of life in a Dade City cult)

My story: Can't you see I'm dying (part four)
I could go on and on, for a decade, and not tell every nasty, horrific thing that happened.

Since that is not my purpose in recounting all these incidents, I won’t try.

My purpose is to speak the truth, for as the Bible says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free".

My story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part Four of life in a Dade City cult)

My story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part Three) click here

In 1996, a boy shot himself after having been yelled at by her.

I heard that there was a suicide note- but it was destroyed before the police could find it.

My story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part 3 of life in a Dade City cult)

My Story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part 2) click here

She came to my house at 10:00 that night and told my parents that they had to come to the school for a conference.

In the office, she called me a 'female dog in heat' (a bitch) lusting after the boys and leading them into sin. She said she could see the lust demons coming out of my eyes and that I needed to be whipped to save my soul.

My story: Can't you see I'm dying (Part 2 of life in a Dade City cult)

For Part 1 click here

Time elapsed, and the senior pastor found out that he was dying of cancer. He elected a young man to take the church- believing he was circumventing this woman 'youth' minister from taking power.

There are events and happenings, layers of story that would take me days and hours to recount. If I have the time, I will come back to this part of the story in the second section.

Suffice to say, the woman took control of the church.

My story: Life in a Dade City Cult (Part One)

Church Survivors
I was part of a Tampa/Dade City church for twenty-four years. If I sat at this computer for a year and typed continuously, I couldn't begin to record the horror perpetrated on me and those I love.

At the same time, I have experienced God's amazing deliverance from destructive cult and the amazing concern from those who walked with me as I left behind a spiritually-abusive hell.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


This song is a great response to abuse. We will most likely never know why our abusers are so twisted but we are free of their abuse and it's true...all they'll ever be is mean.

Don Miller had some insightful words Thursday about hurt, pain and the forgiveness process:

... Go through the stages of grief. Let the offense shock you, then let it completely hurt you. Don’t avoid the pain. Sit with it and feel it no matter how unbearable it is. Please know it will end in time. It will get 2% easier every day. Just feel it like a toothache and soon enough it will transition into something bearable.

Then let the offense make you angry. Don’t lash our or you’ll be guilty yourself. Talk about it with trusted friends but confess you’re angry and your emotions aren’t under control. And don’t feel bad for being angry. The last thing you need is anger and shame. Just punch a pillow and make it through. The anger, like the pain, will lessen over time...
Happy Memorial Day my friends!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Foolish Parade

City Employees' parade (LOC)
As I noted in a previous post a friend from the cult escaped by eloping with her boyfriend.

About two weeks later word came that she and her new husband "went back". It was disheartening to say the least.

Now for the rest of the post you have to imagine the "What the...." bubbles (as Lewis at Commandments of Men so adroitly phrased it) above the heads of non-cult members...
illustration by zappa blamma in flickr

On the Sunday after the sad news came (Mother's Day no less) a family member of mine arrived home to find the whole kit and caboodle of remaining cult members parading the "re-claimed" couple outside their(my relative's) house.

I am sure it was labeled as 'Proclaiming God's Victory to the Wicked' and 'Marching to Show God's Strength'...
I, however, prefer Big Bang's theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper's explanation:

Tsk, tsk, my dear cult pastor, it just ain't kosher to treat humans as "positional goods"...even if you are full of poofy-haired villainy.

A dear friend (also an ex-member of said cult) e-mailed me this letter in response to the ridiculous parade:

Hi!!!!I heard about "THE PARADE OF IDIOTS" in front of your [relatives] house...

I have heard [girl's relative] is saying, "THERE IS A LEAK [in the cult] AND HE IS GOING TO FIND IT" funny! "Buddy, It's right under your nose. Your "DNA" is the same."

Regarding the "Parade":Only a very low class of people would stoop that low. Too bad they left before the town officials arrived.I'm so glad they are aware of what type of idiots they really are..."THE COMPOUND" is a big joke with all of them and that the leader is just a "mentally challenged old woman" [think Dick Solomon from Third Rock From the Sun mixed with Gaddafi...transform them/it into a woman and... voila! My ex-cult pastor extraordinaire].

I just want you to know that [another dear friend] and I are very proud of you for just trying to help someone that has been classified as having suicidal tendencies. Isn't "LIFE BETTER THAN DEATH"...If you threaten someone to action did you REALLY WIN???? 


We have heard all that has been said about all of us and WE JUST LAUGH. See, we know the REAL STORY!!! The REAL TRUTH!!!

They do NOT scare us with their little parades.

Actually most people on the street thought that the Jehovah's Witnesses had mounted an assault on San Angela Drive and closed their blinds and locked their doors. TOO FUNNY!!!!


I give you my permission to post this to anyone and everyone, AJ

I am still laughing about the Jehovah's Witnesses' mounted assault...HOOO!

Suggested reading:

Life Happens While You Are Doing Something Else
by Don Miller
...yeah like mounting foolish parades of positional goods....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

And She Walked Back In....But I Hold Onto Hope

thur no walk danger
photo by jc_syzygy in flickr

As it was my greatest joy to say on the April 29th post that a friend had walked away from the cult it is to my deep sorrow to say that I received news that she went back to the cult.

I hold out hope though. She's had a taste of freedom.

I hold out hope because I left the cult behind.

More than that I have a Father who excels at the impossible.

Please remember her in your prayers.

In light of these events I recommend Lewis Well's post of  the only advice I know to give

And on the lighter side...I am "borrowing" this advice from Eric Pazdziora who borrowed it from RT@ Liturgy: "Don't join dangerous cults -- Practice safe sects!"


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Forgive me my nonsense....Post for #Restoreunity

  My post for #restoreunity
Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.
~Robert Frost ~

Living in a cult taught me something of unity. A common need to placate a serially angry leader and a perpetually raging God.

God had to be fed constant streams of ceaseless good works and His 'Mouthpiece' perpetual praise for speaking "his" word.

It took team work to keep God and his mouthpiece placated. A complicated system of double speak, ulcers, and covering for family and friends.

We were in God's refining process...or so we were told. This unified us to bear the refining process one more day.

We were told that we must crucify the flesh by sacrificing personal opinions and restraint in questioning the 'Mouthpiece's' decisions.

I finally found this unity to be utter nonsense.

It wasn't unity at all but rather mindless response to the torturous conditioning of an abuser.

Unity is when a Catholic and Protestant can spiritedly debate at work the role of Mary in the present day church and ride home together in peace.
Unity I have found to be in the accepting smile of my Protestant friends on Wednesday night Bible study as I say I didn't hear the pastor Sunday...I wasn't in their church.

I discovered unity in the in the understanding eyes of a co-worker when I shared my story...turns out she was in an abusive church too.

Unity stretched over five states as the call went from person to person: "She's out of the cult! They eloped!"

Unity, I believe, is to be found in the shared sufferings of the Body of Christ. Maybe suffering keeps me from considering my nonsense as sense.

Would you unite with me in prayer that an abuser will recognize her nonsense for what it is?

Ease the suffering of others by donating here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

And She Walked Away....


photo by andrewrennie in flickr

Thursday afternoon I experienced the best phone call an ex-cult member can receive: a friend escaped the cult.

She and her fiance made a mad dash for the courthouse to be wed (much to the cult pastor's horror I am sure). As she was forced to live in the cult pastor's house since birth I am sure this took might courage and to say the least, cunning planning on she and her fiance's part.

God bless you, friend, wherever you are and fill you to the full brimming of gladness and joy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest Post: Desperately Seeking Validation by Eric Buckner

Lonely in crowd
"Lonely in Crowd" by Camillia Greve

What exactly is the deal with everyone seeking everyone else's approval lately? Why does it seem that I'm left out of the loop with this trend? Is it because I'm getting older? As I look around me, many of those that care the most are at least a decade my elder, so no, that's not the answer. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want you to think that I'm out for no good. Truth be told though, I don't really NEED your approval. If you don't like me for who I am, then you can just kiss me where the good Lord split me. This doesn't mean that I will try to hurt you or anyone else. If you respect me for who I am, "great" I say, but I'm not going to go out of my way to try to make anyone like me for something I'm not.

Being comfortable in oneself is an acquired ability. It is either something that you can develop on your own or its something that can be pressured onto you from others. My apathy was formed by the latter of these two. I was not popular in Elementary school, not really having many friends. I had a horrible self-image and who wants to be around a kid like that? Who wants their child to be around a kid like that? I had a chemical imbalance at this age and I was a true odd ball as far as other kids were concerned. I always had one foot in the fantasy world and one tenuous foot within the realm of reality.

Middle school was even worse for me. I was enrolled into an even larger school, with kids that I hadn't ever met before. They either didn't know about my imbalance or they ridiculed me for the problem. Every day was a constant session in harassment. I became one of the misfits; why not, they didn't have self-esteem either. Its tough to find a bond with someone that doesn't have good self-esteem, not impossible, of course, just tough.

When High school moved around, our family, by the grace of God, moved out to a different school system. This high school had a fifth of the amount of students in its halls. I didn't have a reputation of being an outcast, so I tried to fit in and it felt good, for a little while, about a month or two. Suddenly, I was asking myself, is it worth it to seek their validation? What exactly is in it for me? Their kinship with me just felt superficial, I was a teenager, that's what I had in common with them. I couldn't live the way I wanted and I was unhappy. I had to live all the time in reality and that was confining to me. So I gave up trying to fit in, I was unhappy in trying to be somebody that I'm not. Even if I was only trying a little bit to be someone they wanted, I felt horrible, a fake, a phony.

William Shakespeare said it best, "To thine own self be true", because if you spend your life trying to make everyone else happy, where will you ever find time for yourself? Our lives are only a mere hundred years long, if we're lucky, why do we care about those that don't really care about us? To be honest, there is only one person in this world that I really care about how she feels about me and that's my wife, I have to sleep with her. I love her with all my heart and I know that she cares about me. Everybody else in this world is just one gigantic question mark. I'm sure if I had children, I would care about what they thought of me, but nobody else. I love my family and I love her family, but if someone from either family didn't love me back, it wouldn't kill me. This makes me free from judgment, I just don't care. I don't care if others see me as "a good person" because truth be told, I'm human, just like everybody else.

It is this apathy, this pure absence of caring that I believe makes me either a lovable, a respectful, and/or just a flat out happier person. You must set your priorities straight. Please, for your own good, ask yourselves the following questions. If you want, don't even discuss them, just meditate on them.

Who is it that you TRULY want to respect you?

Can you respect yourself for who you are?

Have you lost contact (or just social intimacy) with those that you honestly NEED their respect?

With Christian Love,

Eric Buckner

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Two Cents of Good Reading for Easter

escape reality
"escape reality" by ghostonstage in flickr

Demythologzing "Radical Christianty"
by Chaplain Mike @ Imonk

The Necessary Non-Hallmark Part of Easter
by Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience

The Cross and the Crucifix
by EE @ Elizabeth Esther

Rethinking Fundamental Literalism
by Lewis Wells @ Commandments of Men

by Eric Pazdziora @ Words and Music by Eric Pazdziora

Repost:The Manipulative Power of Peace by Lewis Wells

Raven's Call by This Year's Girl in Etsy
  Through several weeks Commandments of Men blogger Lewis Wells has and will be sharing the story of courtship and ultimate loss of a daughter of Patriarchy.

Lewis wrote a brilliant post concerning ill-gotten peace and the manipulative effects for The Cult Next Door in July of 2010:

Show of hands...

Who among you has based a decision solely on whether or not you had "peace" about it? (my hand is raised)

Who among you has rationalized or justified a decision solely because "God gave me a peace about it"? (my hand is again raised)

Peace is a beautiful thing. It's to be desired. It's also, against every platitude that's ever been instilled in those of us of the Christian faith, sometimes worth the fight that precedes it. When that very important aspect of the pursuit of peace gets left out of the equation, peace can become a very, very dangerous manipulative tool in the hands of the spiritually abusing. Even those who abuse unwittingly. The idea that peace can be used as a benchmark or plumbline in decision making isn't a biblical one. Disagree? You believe there's biblical evidence for this? Okay then, let's examine some prime biblical figures...

Moses...Oh, umm, wait, we can't use him. He tried to come up with every excuse in the book to avoid God's purposes. He was scared to death of his calling.

Abraham...Hmmm...We'd have to dodge the Ishmael thing and the offering Isaac thing.

Jacob...Doh! The man's name meant "swindler", and was changed to Israel only after spending his entire life swindling and an entire night wrestling with God, for which he was allowed to limp for the rest of his life. He sounds desperate to me.

David...Now we're on to something, err, or not. I forgot about those Psalms where he's pleading with God and his skin is hanging off his bones.


Elijah...Curled up in the fetal position under a broom tree, which is little more than a glorified tumbleweed.


Wait! I've got one! (drumroll)....Jesus!...Jesus, right?!...No?...Gethsemane? You mean when He was is distress and despair, sweating blood, pleading with the Father that if there were any other way? And just think - Christ had the Spirit of God, the Comforter, without measure.
There's an enormous case to be made for obedience in these examples, even if some of it was more eventual than immediate, but little evident peace.

Now, if you're wondering why I consider peace a manipulative tool (the "peace" game, as I call it), allow me to try to explain it. Authoritarian teachers like Bill Gothard, the Vision Forum crowd, and all associated with the Shepherding movement - essentially, any group or system which operates on a hierarchical authority pyramid or structure - have long taught that you make decisions based on being "at peace" with it. They base this belief on the following scripture...

Colossians 3:15: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."

More accurately, this teaching is based on this prooftext from the above scripture: "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." That prooftext, standing alone, looks like clear, "biblical" evidence that we are to use "peace" as a barometer and benchmark in our decision making, i.e., "I have peace, therefore it's the right decision", or, "I don't have peace about this...I must be doing something wrong." Sadly, this passage from Colossians 3 is not even vaguely implying any such thing. If one reads the whole passage, one can clearly see that Paul is speaking on interactions with fellow believers - being loving, forgiving, living in peace, et cetera. It in no way, shape, or form applies to decision making. Unfortunately, this line of thinking has seeped even into mainstream, non-abusive churches, becoming a regular part of the Christianese language.

This is where the "peace" game comes into play. In an authoritarian system, one has to clear decisions and life choices with an authority figure. For those who don't know, I lost my bride, on the threshold of our wedding ceremony, to a patriocentric/hyper-fundamentalist/Christian Islamic family. Her father, and his like-minded cohorts, believe in an authority hierarchy. For women, it's brutal. They MUST be under the authority of a man and in submission. Her father felt it was her obligation to be submissive to him - even in her mid 20s. She ultimately succumbed to the emotional manipulation, abuse, and brainwashing, paralyzed to move forward with her life and plans without his permission and approval. In the final two days of our relationship, she was bombarded with 26 incoming calls from authoritarians, all of whom played the "peace" game on her.

Now, place yourself in her shoes: You've never made independent decisions, you've been indoctrinated with "Submit! Submit! Submit!" your whole life, you've been raised to believe that your dad is God's conduit into your life - and anything God has to say to you will come through him, your family's circle is small and like-minded, and the people in it are trusted because they're what you know, then, a man comes into your life, you fall in love with him, new truths begin to be revealed about all you've known, you then begin to reject what you've known, despite the pain it causes you, and you stand on the threshold of losing everything and everyone you've known in choosing to seek the last minute, these long-trusted friends, who you've always believed and been instructed are "over" you in the spiritual food chain, call you and say, "I'm so scared for you. I think you need to pray about this some more. Rest and pray."

Do you see what they've done there?

In those few words, they've conveyed the message that they disapprove, the urge to pray conveys the message that God disapproves, and in creating a mindset of "What do they see that I'm missing?! Why don't they have peace about this?!", they've very successfully, and very subtly, shifted the true benchmark for any decision that follows away from pleasing God...and focused it solely on making a choice that they demonstrate "peace" with and approval of, because they have usurp God in the mindset. They've made their decision for her, yet in such a way as she never realizes it. They've manipulated their outcome of choice - and God had nothing to do with it. At the same time, they haven't outright told her "No!", and this protects the abusers illusion of "Who, Me?" innocence, and strengthens the belief of the abused that there's been no abuse. Emotional leverage has been created and used with the cunning of a serpent. Pressure, release, repeat as necessary.

This happens every day. In cults, Shepherding movement groups, authoritarian groups, patriarchal/Christian Islamic families, and even in individual relationships.

What happens is, such emotional turmoil and tumult is built up within the abused, being so knocked out of balance, questioning themselves, their own motives, their own godliness, their own worth,"Can this be right?! I can't risk losing everything and end up wrong! I just can't!" Then...defeated submission. The abuser, having persevered, releases the applied pressure and switches to love-bombing and "healing", and with the pressure released, and with such a "loving" environment now created...the illusion of peace. But it's a false peace. Much like a volcano, after years, decades, even centuries of inner turmoil, blows it's top, releasing the pent up pressure, and in the following days, after the tumult of the blast has died down and the damaged has been assessed, the illusion of peace exists on the surface. But underneath...the earth still churns, and pressure is already building once again.

It's enough to make one rethink "God gave me a peace about it."

Look at it this way - if the greatest recorded events in the bible couldn't have transpired until the involved parties had peace about it, the bible wouldn't be very thick. False peace can be an enticing elixir, a beautiful facade, and a restful mirage, especially to a starved, battered, and troubled soul, because it's our habit to put our peace in the wrong place, the easy place, and base it on the wrong things. We reach temporal peace with the perceived outcome of our decisions far too often, instead of finding our peace in an unchanging God and his beautiful, life-giving words, trusting Him to care for us regardless of outcomes. What's right is right, whether we're at peace or in turmoil. Earlier I spoke of Christ in Gethsemane. He did reach a peace, but not with the situation. He found His peace, which would realistically have to be described as a "troubled" peace, in trusting the words and plan of His Father. (Matthew 26:52)

How easily we forget that there's another spiritual force at work on this earth that can create the illusion of peace to steer us in the direction he prefers. A false peace. Ask Ahab. He can tell you all about it, or at least he could if it hadn't killed him. It's also sobering to think of the platform the son of perdition will use to make his grand entrance onto the world stage...a false peace. The great manipulator certainly knows how to use it.

Don't discard or marginalize your emotions, whatever they may be, whether peace or turmoil, but do yourself a favor and measure them by God's word and NEVER by human approval. There are far too many people who are far too willing to subtly make your decisions for you, both well-meaning and not so well meaning. Sometimes the genuine, lasting peace requires turmoil.

Some things to think about. While you're thinking, my hope is you'll find peace in God alone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Repost: Dancing Despite Dade City

print for sale by ThisYearsGirl in etsy

A friend and I recently spoke of the 'conditioning' that sometimes lies subtly dormant in the minds of ex-cult members.

Conditioning being, according to the encyclopedia Britannica:

"Conditioning is a form of learning in which...a given stimulus...becomes increasingly effective in evoking a response... a response occurs with increasing regularity..."

Any questioning of the authority in a Dade City cult elicited sharp and swift consequences. The 'errant' member had 'touched God's anointed mouth piece' according to the cult leader. Public humiliation in church services were the effective tool in 'evoking' a response'.

Who wanted to to be held up as an example of shame in the midst of their peers? Silence was safe; so "a response occurs with increasing regularity" was the silent submission to the cult leader's will.

Now, as we voice loudly and often our dissent with the abusive practices, a 'knee-jerk' conditioning trigger hops in the way of the stretching of our atrophied muscles of speaking aloud wrongs committed.

However, we shan't be stopped in our dance of freedom. We speak the truth, in the faith of God's love, extended even to the flagrant abuser, and dance in the gladness of truth.

We even hope, should God be merciful, that the abuser finds themselves dancing to tune of God-given freedom and mercy.

A fearful, 'conditioned' muscle might put a slight crimp in our joyous bound, but we dance to the words of truth anyway.

Because truly, only by speaking out will the abuse's effectiveness be silenced.

As only by stretching and dancing will the stiff muscle become limber and supple once more.

 11-12 You did it: you changed wild lament
      into whirling dance;
   You ripped off my black mourning band
      and decked me with wildflowers.
   I'm about to burst with song;
      I can't keep quiet about you.
   God, my God,
      I can't thank you enough. (Psalm 30:11, The Message)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"It is an ever-fixed mark..."

Couple by peanutbutterbandit in Etsy

I had to stop reading Commandments of Men at work. Twice I have had to dive into the bathroom while no one was looking to dry my tears.

In the last few weeks Lewis has been sharing his experience of growing in love with a beautiful woman and then losing her to Patriarchy (almost literally) at the alter.

I have no personal experience with the Patriarchal movement but the cult I was enslaved in reads hellishly close to the madness. I understand the paralyzing indecision his bride must have experienced as she struggled between "God's will for her life" as dictated by her family and the beautiful love and life that her groom offered.

Even though I know what her choice will be I find myself hoping, HOPING that the ending has changed. That she will choose the absolute love of her groom. And wiping tears once more as I know she will not.

Maybe that is how God Himself feels when we choose religion or works over His divine and unending love.
Thank you, Lewis, for your willingness to bare your heart-break so that others may be made aware of dangerous beliefs and practices. I pray that the God of all comfort stays close by your side.

"I found her innocence beautiful. Also, it became very clear to me that she didn't care who I was, who I knew, what I did for a living, or how many (ignorant) people would want my autograph. I can't put into words how attracted to her that made me, as that was something I'd always wanted...
"...On the day she was to fly here (for our soon upcoming ceremony), her last words to me were "Love you. See you soon." Two hours later, her grandfather called me and said, "She's not coming, and doing so on MY strong advice." He proceeded to say several extremely hurtful, intrusive, meddlesome, and ignorant things, telling me the various ways I was responsible for the situation. It was a good old fashioned Christian "eff U" coming from a good old fashioned Christian a-hole. He made it clear that if I made the venture across the continent to get her, "You'll be met with unfriendly faces if you do it!" Unless they'd hired some serious muscle, I wasn't worried about facing the whole lot of those fools. The reason I didn't go was that I knew it'd be pointless. They'd have her hidden somewhere. And, sure enough, a week later, I was able to locate her (and I won't disclose how). She was in another state, holed up with another group of patriarchal imbiblers and religious fools, being reindoctrinated but convinced, by them, that she was "waiting to hear from God about the situation."

Lewis, your love for your lost bride is stunningly beautiful and I see in it shades of Christ's love for His church.

I wish I could quote this sonnet to the young lady:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever love

God bless you, Lewis

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Two Cents of Good Reading

by heavenly_angellourdes in photobucket 

"Christians are addicted to “answers.” For some reason, we think the ultimate favor we can do for the world is to explain the ways of God.

I humbly disagree."
~Chaplain Mike at Imonk~

"What is hindering your thinking? What preconceived ideas do you have that are keeping you from learning? What if someone revealed a truth in scripture that completely rocked your world? Could you be complacent and not even know it? Does he have to earn your respect before you even begin to approach the scriptures he teaches?"
~Serena Woods at Grace is for Sinners~

"The Crucifix is at once both jarring and profound. You are forced to acknowledge the brutality of crucifixion–it is not a pleasant, polite, docile image. It is shocking. It is almost…garish. It made me ask myself: why? Why the crucifixion? Why such a brutal, seemingly needless end to life?

The only power that overcomes the reality of suffering, injustice and evil in this world is love. Only love conquers death."

"In the hands of a sinner, God is a dangerous weapon."
~Hillary at Quivering Daughters~

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catty Wisdom

Did you ever hear this scripture:
 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3, King James Version)
wielded to say your pastor was the only one speaking God's truth?

Cherry-picked phrases are dangerous.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Two Cents: should the walls come tumbling down?

photo by erykag
                              Mending Wall
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
~Robert Frost~

“for whatever reasons, men continue to need marked boundaries, even when they find it difficult to justify their existence.”~George Montiero~

who makes the lambs fight? by Serena Woods

Repenting of a Political Mindset by Chaplain Mike @ Imonk

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cracked about the head

image by RoseKeller in photobucket
Heaven have mercy on us all - Presbyterians and Pagans alike - for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
~Herman Melville~

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For Ash Wednesday

My prayer for Ash Wednesday:

 1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
         According to Your lovingkindness;
         According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
         Blot out my transgressions.
 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
         And cleanse me from my sin.
 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
         And my sin is always before me.
 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
         And done this evil in Your sight—
         That You may be found just when You speak,
         And blameless when You judge.
 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
         And in sin my mother conceived me.
 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
         And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
         Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
         That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
 9 Hide Your face from my sins,
         And blot out all my iniquities.
 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
         And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
         And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
         And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
         And sinners shall be converted to You.
 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
         The God of my salvation,
         And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
 15 O Lord, open my lips,
         And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
         You do not delight in burnt offering.
 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
         A broken and a contrite heart—
         These, O God, You will not despise.
 18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
         Build the walls of Jerusalem.
 19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
         With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
         Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar. (Psalm 51, New King James Version)

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Two Cents: Have you heard about the jailbreak?

"But it comes down to this: If I am the one in control, then I am in a prison of my own making.
I have come to this place in my life: I either want to let go of my life and let God be in total control, or I want to be in total control myself. Splitting the duties just doesn’t work. “Balance” is not the way. (That is another essay for another day. Just know that the “B” word is not welcome with me.) I can try to earn my way into God’s good graces by doing all of the good and prudent things that Christians are supposed to do, or I can have God’s good Grace simply by receiving it."
~Jail Break~
Internet Monk
“Since when have you not had permission to live any way you like? Even in the prison of legalism, you are free to act and think and do anything you want. It just comes heaped with guilt. And guilt is not a way God speaks to us. Guilt comes from doing something you think you are not supposed to do, whether that goes against tradition or against what you have always been told is wrong or it goes against what religious teachers tell you is wrong. Guilt is based in fear, and fear is not of God. Fear is based on the thought of punishment. And if we are really and truly totally forgiven, then there is no more punishment ahead.”
~Monkshank Redemption~
Internet Monk
"Grace gives you your dignity back. Your dignity is rooted in the identity of Jesus. Jesus came FIRST. He’s not a plan B. He’s not an afterthought. He’s not a result of God saying, ‘Fine. I’ll do this.’ God wanted to ‘do this’. So He created us.

When we sin, we have all of hell trying to get us to believe that we haveruined everything. However, sin illuminates the need for Jesus. Hell wants you to believe that you’re only good enough if you’re good enough. God is trying to get you to see that He created you to need Him, therefore, without grace you are never going to be good enough. It’s not about your failure, it’s about the way this whole thin
g is set up. We’re useless without Him. Would you want it any other way?"
~getting your dignity back~
Serena Woods
"It’s so easy to miss this. Sometimes we even seem to want to miss this. Maybe we prefer things to be more complicated. Maybe we want to feel like we get some reward for our good works. Maybe we want to feel superior to all those sinners who don’t know how to lead a holy life. Maybe we think it isn’t fair that sinners get the same deal as righteous people. But then that’s probably how we felt about salvation before we first received Christ. That’s how we feel when we don’t like the Gospel."
~Just As You Received Christ...~
Eric Pazdziora

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lake {Me} Superior

I am going to start this post by apologizing:This post is the apex of four thought processes train wrecking. Please excuse the messy thought and sentence structure as well as gratuitous allusions.

To start or rather to understand any of this rambling please watch the following clip. The section of 1:30-2:15 is relevant to my point:

The fact is I don’t live in Lake Male Superior. (Though a disturbing amount of men do- see here)

I live in Lake Me Superior (Just call me pond “J”)

Who came up with all the rules in Lake Me Superior? I did. I was influenced by parents, Bible reading and cult living (HA! You thought I was going to say good living didn’t you? Oh come on-just admit it :)

The point is: I made up my rules based on views handed to me by fallible parents and a skewed understanding of God)

Now no diving to conclusions. You might get hurt. I haven’t added a diving board to Lake Me.

There are moral absolutes. Ten of ‘em in Exodus. I haven't kept all of them all of the time-have you?

There AREN’T, however, me absolutes. Me absolutes used to say that all women who wore pants were sinning. Add a little makeup to that if you will you ungodly huzzy!

My absolute authority on this: A cult pastor. (Funny that it was okay though to steal people’s life savings. Just don’t wear pants and make up while you do it!)

My point: I am fallible. I do not make the rules. I am not (SNICKER!) a judgment stone. I list more toward the natural disaster zone.

Serena Woods describes it brilliantly:

People sit on their throne of judgement with their scepter of wisdom petting their bobble head lion of Judah and consider the shortcomings of others in order to determine their eternal position. The disease of the religious insider is the complacent familiarity with the profound evidence, turning the sovereign power of God (which should scare the skin off of us) into pathetic beliefs based on ‘vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations.’ They would much rather serve a god who sits on their mantel, over seeing their living room lives with stoic approval. They don’t hear God speaking any more, their ‘minds have been darkened’, so they feel compelled to speak for Him.
I can quote because I am guilty. I have been a god with stoic approval for rule-abiders. As long as they wore skirts.

No more stoic allowed here and I am crushing my bobble-head doll.

The fact is that worshipping at the temple of my goodness (usefulness, godliness) is so much easier than working on my relationship with God

Relationships are hard. They are great one morning and boom the next morning it is a cat of a different color.

There is hurt, pain, and misunderstanding. And tomorrow there will just be more of the same.

Relationships require staying. If you stay through tomorrow's pain there might be next week's reconciliation.

Joy and laughter.

So here cometh the apex of my thought train wreck:

I realized I am not going to change the world with my blog. I am not even going to alert people to a destructive church in Dade City.

More often than not I find myself praying for the twisted person that abused my spirituality for her own gain. I pray she find peace.

I still struggle. I still have days of anger and nights of repenting for hatred.

But I pray. And breath. As Ann Voskamp said:

Just breathe.

And I think of it again, how it really is, the very name of God, YHWH, “is the sound of breathing.

The holiest name in the world, the Name of Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.”

I will breathe my prayers for healing and hope.

I am not going to read my google analytics and tie my self-worth to it. Thanks Jon!

This is all part of me walking away from the pain of the Cult Next Door (Experience not blog).

And totally unrelated topic :)...I heard in various places that Rob Bell is writing that the whole world is going to heaven and that Ann Voskamp has a book about what?!?! (See Elizabeth Esther's humorous explanation.)

Their influence has lead commenter KatR to hilarious determination:

I’m going to write a book where I claim that God lets non-Christians into heaven. And then has metaphorical sex with them. It’s going to be called “Love Wins A Thousand Gifts”. Please make sure that John Piper knows immediately, cause it’s all about the benjamins, baby.
SNICKER!!!! Thank you Elizabeth and KatR for putting things into perspective.

Might I humbly say that we should rejoice that a sister in Christ has allowed others to worship with her?
Or that a pastor is willing to explore John 3:16? Why does hell have to be the sell point?
 16-18"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (John 3:16, The Message)

Ride on Rob Bell and Ann Voskamp.

Very respectfully: Maybe some other folks need to come out of Lake {ME} Superior?

I am putting my accusatory finger to rest and sing along with Anna Nalick:


Why not take a moment and share at Elizabeth Esther's Blog party?