Since reading is truly one of my biggest pleasures I’m going to jump into the books you are reading meme. Sorry, I only have 6 on my table right now. Maybe I should be like some of you and put on in the bathroom but I never get any time in there either.
1. Skin by Ted Dekker – One of my daughters recommended it to me. I usually love Dekker but this one was WAYYYYYYYY too violent. I took it on vacation to read and it did nothing to relax me! But his series Red, Black and White are the greatest as well as Blink
2, Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd. I would die to be able to express myself as this woman does. I would love to sit and talk to her about her journey. I read her novel, Secret Life of Bees a couple of years ago. I liked it and so tried to find other books she had written. I soon found out that she had also written Christian inspirational books as well as her well known novel. The first one I read was amazing – When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions I loved it. It was all about the change our lives go through as women as we age and grow. I then picked up her latest book (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine ) and found that she had left many of what I would consider key traditional beliefs and I could not agree anymore with her. But her earlier stuff is amazing and wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone.
3. For a bit of a heavier read but one with the greatest quotes I am reading and re-reading Orthodoxy by Gilbert Keith Chesterton
4. And of course I have blogged quite a bit about Wayne Jacobsen’s life changing books of “He Loves Me” and “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore.” I feel that in so many ways these two books are like dye is to fabric. The more I immerse myself in their teaching the more I am changed to a different color.
5. Romans in The Message – I’m reading it to learn all about the Grace I have never known.
6. Da Brudderhood of Zeeba Zeeba Eata: A Pearls Before Swine Collection and Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My!: Pearls Before Swine Treasury by Stephan Pastis. Sooo funny. I had to read it a bit before I got it but when I did it does make me laugh out loud sometimes. (another of my kids found it hysterical – so I had to try) You can actually download a cartoon each day - How I start off my day here.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Since reading is truly one of my biggest pleasures I’m going to jump into the books you are reading meme. Sorry, I only have 6 on my table right now. Maybe I should be like some of you and put on in the bathroom but I never get any time in there either.
Reading one of Wayne Jacobsen's articles today was life giving. Every where I look there is grace being revealed to me.
For so long, my lists were not filled with grace. Just the opposite. They were filled with obligation and "ought-to-ness."
Towards the end of the article, "Painting Outside the Lines" he gives some freedoms he believes we have. Listen for the list of grace that differs from what we usually experience when reading other religious literature or what lists we have in our own minds.
It is the freedom to put your relationship with Jesus above anything else.
It is the freedom to obey him and live in the truth of Scripture even if others don't approve.
It is the freedom to engage Christ's body however he calls you--within structures or beyond them.
It is the freedom to love God's people and broken lives in the world without putting people in boxes.
It is the freedom to walk away from abusive religious settings and so-called 'leaders.'
It is the freedom to ask hard questions and not allow your faith in God to be questioned.
It is the freedom to be honest about your struggles without being condemned or accused of rebellion.
It is the freedom to be known for who you really are and not pressured to pretend to be anything more or less.
I love the list but a few of these stood out. I love the one that says we have, "freedom to ask hard questions and not allow your faith in God to be questioned. " I would add that not only do we not allow others to question our faith, but also allow ourselves the freedom to question without feeling like we are abandoning our own faith or worse, feeling like we are going to hell for it.
And then I love the freedom to love others inside the body and outside in the world and not having to put them in boxes. I don't have to change them. I just love them, and somewhere in that, Father will do the rearranging of their lives to bring them into relationship with Him. (notice I did not say that he would change them either - although change is inevitable)
One of my daughters said last night, "Mom, could all this grace really be true?"
If you have other "freedoms" you can think of and want to list, please leave a comment. I'll compile the whole lot in another post if there is enough.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Hmm…..7 random facts about myself. This would be easy except that I am trying to blog anonymously and therefore I need to write 7 random facts about myself that not even my closest (or former closest) friends would not know. So I will try. Thanks for the tag Erin.
1. I am not a pack rat. In fact I would absolutely purge my house of useless items if it were not for Husband. But….I can never get rid of those clothes that I never wear. They sit there, hanging in my closet and taunting me with the fact that at least one item in my house that I actually have total control over, actually controls me. The ones that taunt me the most are those size 6 jeans. Damn them.
2. I cannot multi task. I can only hold one thing in my brain at a time. This is especially hard on my kids and Husband as they have to have my full attention or I just ignore them when they want something. I also miss huge parts of conversations around me if I am concentrating on something else.
3. I love coffee so much that if Juan Valdez showed up at my window (like in Bruce Almighty) I would ride away into the sunset on his mule and have little coffee baron babies with him.
4. I absolutely hate flavored coffees. People are always trying to make them for me and I am always so polite and force them down – but I HATE them and wish I could tell them to just make me black, strong, Colombian coffee. Why do they drink that stuff? Do they just keep it around to torture real coffee drinkers? It is abominable and does not make Juan happy either.
5. I had never read a blog till about 4 months ago.
6. Having my nails done is the one thing that I can do that makes me feel more confident in a social setting.
7. I never read email forwards. I mean never. I hate them. The only time I will read them is if a friend forwards one to me with a personal note.
I have no time today to figure out who has been tagged and who hasn’t. So if you read this blog, consider yourself tagged.
But only 5 of you. ;)
Monday, June 25, 2007
Ok, so this "being out in the world" is turning out to be quite humorous.
During this time that we have gone through leaving our church, my husband has also been in the transition from working for himself to joining a financial firm to be a financial representative.
My first foray into what it means to go to a conference took quite a twist this weekend. Now remember, I have not been to a world’s conference……ever. But have I been to the best church conferences!!!!!! I have been to women’s conferences, conferences about kingdom finances, conferences for the prophetic, conferences to have more of the Holy Spirit (hope he didn’t mind), intercessors conferences, worship conferences, and Father’s heart conferences. I have even helped host conferences at our CLB.
I have heard the best of the best speak. Bickel, Cain, Frangipane, Joyner, Cooke (my favorite) Arnot, Frost, Clark, Godwin, Vincent, Garlington, Baker and others. I have been prayed over, prophesied over and even had a few things kicked out. I am a conference expert. I should never, ever have a problem with my spiritual life.
So this weekend was a little different. Below are my thoughts.
1. This was the only conference where the name of Jesus was used and there was no offering taken.
2. In one session, I was taking notes as to how Husband was to be compensated. I did this because 1) I like the word compensated and 2) Husband was still so new to this company that I was afraid that even he did not know this information. I almost laughed out loud when I looked down at my notes and realized that when they spoke of “profits”, I could not spell it
3. I realized that even if I did laugh out loud there was probably no one who would get the joke. “Prophet” loss would mean nothing to them. But it was funny to me.
4. My goal is to not let Husband have a trophy wife at 60. Unless she also cleans the kitchen.
5. Working for someone else is not half bad. Especially when they pay for your room by the ocean and have an open bar for dinner.
6. People were kind to us without an agenda. They were just glad to have us in the company.
7. No one asked us our eschatology. Or asked me to fix them. Or asked to fix me.
8. I like conferences where there is no offering.
Anyway, that is my excursion to the other side. I like it. People are real. They too have lives, children, husbands, and futures. I didn’t share the gospel with anyone – it never came up – but I also don’t feel guilty.
That is good.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
While out in blogdom today, many are pondering the really deep meanings of God and the universe (see Brother Maynard’s blog – brilliant stuff) Church Lady here has a simple question:
How do I raise my children outside of the “church?” It has been a few months since we have left and there is not a Sunday School in sight as far as I can tell for a long time to come.
Of course we all know that we (the parents) are responsible for their spiritual training. That was always told to us by our churches. I told this to others – partially to absolve the church when their kids turned out bad. After all, you can only claim responsibility when it looks good for you. When it does not work out to your advantage – bail and let them know it was their responsibility all along.
The only problem I see was that no one ever actually really took responsibility that I know of. We let the Sunday School teachers do their job and “presto” our kids knew all about Jonah and the Whale and Noah and the Arc. (In there was probably some really good spiritual training although, to tell you the truth, I never saw how they could take a story about God wiping out the whole human race – every living thing – and teach it to any child who would not run screaming from the room and never love God again. It worked though if you needed people to be afraid of God to obey him. Hmmmm…….)
Of course Church Lady was always too busy to teach Sunday School. Her gifting was not only not in evangelism but also not in children’s ministry either. There might be something important going on in the service that she would have to help with. Or how could she mentor people the next week without knowing what the Spirit was saying in the service on that previous Sunday. And children seldom knew how important you were. They could not feed that ego in her.
If you were to tell me 4 months ago that my kids would not be going to church during their formative years, I would have thought you had lost your mind. Now I have no idea what to do. It is kind of like wondering if your kids would really be socially hampered if you home schooled. What will un-churched Christian kids look like in 10 years? Will we need to give in and attend a church just for their sakes? I have read on some of your blogs that you have done just that - gone back to church for your kids. How is that working for you?
Meanwhile I need to decide what I will do in the meantime. I never liked the Bible story approach. I think it gives a very disjointed view of the Bible. Maybe I’ll read them the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I liked to use historical fiction to teach history when I home schooled my older kids. It made it more enjoyable for me at least and they seemed to really understand it better. It's too bad that Sponge Bob does not do Bible Studies for kids.
I am understanding now that it is my responsibility. Mostly because there is no passing it off. My mantra that it is the parents’ responsibility has now actually fallen on my shoulders - thus proving that I did not really believe it before.
If you found this webblog and are interested in reading about those of us who are "coming out" of unhealthy churches I want to point you to a woman who is also blogging about this.
Please read Being Martha. She is writing candidly about her situation and I think will have great stories to come.
It still amazes me to have other people in other churches have basically the same experiences. They say the same words and phrases and seem to have suffered the same hurt. I don't think they are repeating what someone else has said though. I think it is really real. That is what makes it amazing to me.
Our next step will be to find the grace to live in this new place. Grace to give our CLB's. Grace to give our own former leaders. Grace to find a way to raise our children as we try to figure out what to do now.
Grace, grace, grace.
Monday, June 18, 2007
I was tagged by Emerging Grace via John Smulo to write 5 things I “dig” about Jesus. While I am way too old to actually use the word “dig” without my teenagers rolling their eyes and sighing, I shall attempt to write the 5 things. (They probably don’t read this very often anyway)
I also purposely decided not to read anyone else's first. Mine are probably not as “spiritual” as others will be. – But in light of coming out of my Church Lady persona, here they are
1. I dig the fact that Jesus’ first recorded miracle was making really good wine. I bet it was an Australian Shiraz.
2. I dig the fact that Jesus could be really mean. When he used the example of the Samaritan being the Jew’s neighbor he was really pushing things. (like the fact that tensions had become so bad between the two groups that just a few years before Jesus was born, some Samaritans had come into the Temple and spread dead men’s bones in it. – not cool for someone who is not supposed to touch dead things.)(for a list of things that fueled the Samaritan/Jewish hatred see the comment section that I added to the end of this blog.)
3. I dig the fact that Jesus was the only one who could have stoned the woman caught in adultery – but he didn’t. And he gave forgave her even before she “got saved” or proved that she was going to be any sort of a “good Christian.”
4. I dig the fact that as of tomorrow, when one of my daughters turns 18 and moves out to live life the way she thinks she wants to live (think punk, rock, pierced poster child) it that Jesus will be sitting on the right hand of the Father interceding for her. I love the fact that he will be ready at any chance she gives him to show his love to her no matter what she does and that he will send goodness and mercy to follow after her all her days.
5. I dig the fact that Jesus thinks I am funny. The other day when someone told me that they get up really, really early to find time with Jesus, I told them that they did not have to get up that early because Jesus meets me after I’ve had a couple cups of coffee (much later in the morning) and they could just come by then and not have to get up so early. They didn’t think it was that funny but I think Jesus “digs” my humor.
I tag Erin
And Best Friend - you can forward it to me and I will post it anonymously.
I tried to get people who have not been tagged before - sorry if I got someone twice.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
So last night was a very quiet night for me.
My husband was out of town, my grown children were all busy with either being “out” or working and I was uncharacteristically at home alone with my younger children. Only a month or two ago I would have had at least one or two young people or couples at my house from church. We were almost never alone. Because of church, our home was always full.
Last night was very disconcerting to me. I felt as though I was slowly becoming invisible. Almost like in the Back to the Future movie where the images of his brother and sister were disappearing off his photograph.
I realized that I had not made a friend outside of church for the last 20 years. (I had always said to myself that my job was to train up people who would go out into the world. I was not an evangelistically gifted person so I was there to train up disciples who would.) (Oh My God, did I ever really say that?) (I need to add that to my confession.) Church had always provided me with friendships. I realized that I did not know how to make friends – at all – in the real world. I felt very lonely and afraid.
I was talking to my best friend today. We laughed at how Church Lady – that is how she has always referred to my more "religious side" (that is why she is my best friend)– could actually go to Barnes and Noble’s and join a book club. Church Lady had never done anything like that. Who would I be without my Church Lady persona? Before this, Church Lady was very busy being a Leader. Everyone looked at Church Lady and knew that she was important because of whatever she was leading at that time. Now I am disappearing. The book club at Barnes and Noble’s won’t know that I am Church Lady unless I tell them – and I am certainly not going to tell them. But who am I then?
It is scary. I have no idea who I really am. I can tell you about my kids, my husband, what I do, but to tell you who I am – I have never had to tell anyone that. In the church, they just always told them what I did and that let them know how they needed to relate to me. How can I ask a person outside the church for coffee? Won’t they think that is weird? How do they do it?
I was a Leader. I was Church Lady. Now I am not. Period. Disappearing. Scary.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I just read something that has overthrown my world for the moment. I was reading again on LifeStream’s BodyLife’s articles and decided I would start at the bottom and work my way up. The first/last one on their list was one entitled, “To Trust or Not to Trust.” The main point of his article is that trust only belongs to Jesus. That nowhere in scripture were we told to put our trust in another person or a church body. Not the church. Not a leader. No one. Just Jesus.
I have wrestled with this for two days. I thought church life and life with other believers was all about trusting each other. Even in our last meeting with our leaders the words were spoken, “If you don’t trust us, I don’t see how you can stay.”
Trust was everything. People who have actually talked to us since we left have said, “But we trusted you.” It has been said that we “broke trust.” I feel that others that I have trusted have betrayed me. (Betrayal can only happen when you have trusted someone.) Trust, when broken could never be restored in my mind. It was like a broken glass. You could glue it together again but it would always be cracked and scarred. Can you see how this idea of trusting each other was woven completely into my relationships? I did not see this as unhealthy at all. Yet the fruit of it was and is terribly unhealthy.
What if my hurt (in what happened here at my CLB) was actually caused by this whole idea of trusting in something and someone that never was to be trusted in the first place? What if I realized that my trust needed to be placed ONLY in Jesus? Would I have been so hurt? If this were taught to a congregation, would there be so much abuse of authority? I don't think so.
I looked in scripture today to see if Wayne had missed something. I looked up every verse that had the word trust in it. Then I looked up the different words used for trust in the Greek and searched them all out. I can’t find it. It is not there. We are to trust God, Jesus, and Scripture. That is it.
Jesus says that he would not entrust himself to men (Jn. 2:24, 25). Paul told the Bereans (Acts 17:11)that they were more noble than the Thessalonians because they basically only trusted Paul to a point. They went to Scripture to see if what he said was true.
The only place that I can remotely find trust towards others is in 1 Cor 13:7 where love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. The word for hopes is the word translated in some other places as trust. So it does say it there. But does that mean we are to foolishly put ourselves in a position where we never question and are devastated when someone does not do what we expected them to do? I don't think that this is what was meant.
I talked to my daughter about this and she was amazed at my black and white world. To her she feels like she never really trusts someone completely. Her point is that every man and every institution will eventually let you down. People are not perfect therefore how can you have total trust in someone?
Why was trust such a big deal to me?
When I look at it I realize that only trust in God is able to be fulfilled. And even my trust in Him has been shaken when he does not do what I think a loving Father should do. Maybe trust goes much father than people living up to my expectations of them. Maybe if I can “entrust” everyone to the Father and even “entrust” the Father to himself I can be free of the bondage that trust has put on me. That way, trust is not a controlling thing but a way to give God and others freedom to be in relationship to each other and to me.
Maybe I should do like 1 Corinthians 13 says. Maybe I should hope or trust all things and leave the results of that up to God. Maybe it is accomplished in the trust that I place in God. But also at the same time it gives people the freedom to be human in whatever choices they make (and give God the freedom to be God in the way he chooses). If they let me down, there is a bigger picture of a God who loves me and provides me with an ability to love others.
He loves me, even though he can’t always trust me. He pursued Peter even when Peter broke his trust (In fact he did not trust Peter from the outset – even predicted his failure). Maybe the passage where he is sitting with Peter by the shore really shows us what 1 Corinthians 13 means. He does not pull back emotionally when I am not trustworthy. Therefore he gives me what I need to do the same with others.
Right? Am I missing something else that you can think of?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
This is an addendum on my post The Tyranny of Being Nice. I was reading one of Wayne Jacobsen’s BodyLife articles today. He has one entitled, “Why Settle for Anything Less.” (Please read it. And the one after it. And the rest of the ones in the list ;) (Did you notice I learned how to do the linky thing? I'm so proud!!)
Jesus is talking to Peter after Peter had denied him. He asks him if he loves (agape) him. Peter cannot answer with that strong a word. He tells Jesus he likes him as a friend. Jesus keeps pushing Peter. Finally Jesus comes down to Peter’s word for friend and Peter, seemingly heartbroken says to Jesus. Jesus, you know all. You know I love (like) you.
Was Jesus being nice? Or was Jesus being kind? Nice would not have made Peter uncomfortable. Nice would have avoided the topic. Nice would have not put Peter’s failures on display for the other disciples. Nice usually does not do anything except put up a false front. Nice usually does not address the person or persons that are in the situation, (Usually though, nice will tell everyone else what the person did. I have found that nice gossips a lot!) Jesus was not being nice.
But did Peter need to have this issue resolved? Did the other disciples need to see that Jesus and Peter worked through this issue? Yes! Therefore Jesus was kind in addressing it. He did not care that it made Peter uncomfortable. (or the other disciples who had also run off) Jesus had a point to make. Peter I take you at where you are. I am OK with friendship. I will cook you breakfast and sit with you like before. I will ask the hard questions. I will meet you where you are able to meet me.
Wayne Jacobsen says this:
I am convinced that we understand little of this incredible love. Yes, it forgives wrongs suffered, but not without honoring truth. Jesus could in one moment confront the false spirituality of the Pharisees at the same time he invited the prostitute into his kingdom.
So much that travels as love in the body of Christ today is simply trying to be nice even at the expense of dishonesty. We'll smile and feign love in someone's presence and take the freedom to tear them down in a conversation with someone else. God's love doesn't live in denial. It can take situations as they really are and transform them by his glory. (emphasis mine)
The amazing thing is when Jesus deals with betrayal he does not hold back his love. He confronts the betrayal but it is done purely out of a heart of love. He holds back nothing yet still deals with the issue.
God’s love does not live in denial. But God still loves. And God still moves and acts.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Why do I blog anonymously?
This question was asked the other day on my Person Formerly Known as Your Leader. She said, “If this is a confession, why is it anonymous?”
I answered her in a vague but unsatisfying paragraph or two but the question has really been bugging me. I have left. They cannot do anything more than dislike me or my opinions that I hold more than they do now. So why do I still not want to go on record as saying that all this is wrong?
Let me just talk for a while, maybe I’ll figure something out in the writing.
Our leaving is still very fresh. It was only in the middle of March that I started to really look at some things in Scripture. Up to that point I was not questioning anything except some behavior that I thought was just fleshly. Even then, I was still under the impression that God had to deal with that in my leaders.
During the month of March and into April I became convinced that we were in a very toxic church. BUT I still didn’t believe that we (my husband and myself) could really be right about it. It was like there were two halves of my brain. One that understood that we were in a bad situation, the other half still didn’t want to believe or leave and was afraid that I was missing something. I tried over and over to convince my husband that somehow we were the ones who were “maybe” deceived. If I did not keep the list up (the facts of what all was really, really wrong) in front of me, I would fall back into thinking that we might somehow be in the wrong. . I would swing between total conviction and anger at them at how awful it all was, to defending them, all in an afternoon. Some days I wanted to take out a full page add in the local paper and some days I was trying my hardest to find any flaw in my husband’s attitude or thinking. This drove my husband crazy. At one point, late one night he said to me. “Honey, you remind me of a woman who has an abusive husband. He beats her every week. She knows he should not hurt her, but when she is confronted with his abuse by anyone else, she makes excuses that somehow she is the one in the wrong.” He said, “Someday you will have to admit that we are not the ones who are wrong here.”
I remember crying that night because I knew he was right. I had protected these people for so long, had made excuses for their behavior and had actually aided them for so long that I could not get my mind around the fact that I was not somehow in the wrong and had no right to say that they were wrong. But why did I still feel like it was wrong to stand up and say stop? Why does that feeling still linger. Why do I blog anonymously?
It was not until we actually looked at them in the eye and told them that we were leaving, told them that we were not afraid of loosing our destinies, told them that we were not afraid of all the bad things happening to us, told them that we were not afraid that our kids would run off to heathenville and ruin their lives, that I could stand up and say to them, “No you are wrong.” That was a very freeing moment.
But even that is still new to me. If I am honest with myself, I think I am still afraid. It was never ok to question the leaders in public. It was never ok to appear disloyal. It was never ok to “touch God’s anointed.” I’m still wrestling through these if not mentally than emotionally.
I know if those from my CLB (church left behind) ever found this webblog they would say it shows my deception because I do not use my own name. Yet if I did, they would say it shows my deception to publicly expose them. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t with them. But that is nothing new.
There is something in me though that says that it would not be wise to publish with my name or my church’s name. Most all blogs that I have read are not “outing” their church or using their own names. They must have reasons too.
Anyway, I would really like to know what you all think. How much is it up to God to expose these churches and how much responsibility do we have? Those of you who blog about this kind of thing, are you using your own names? Those who are reading this, - I would love your take on it too. Am I being wise or living under fear? I don’t promise I will do anything yet about it. Just want to think more and have more imput.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Yesterday I was on Emerging Grace’s blog (http://emerginggrace.blogspot.com/) (sorry, I don’t know how to do the link thing- can anyone help?) and found a wonderful article about being “nice” in the midst of church leaders being……um….well….. not nice.
This has sparked a conversation in my head and between my husband and myself on how to talk to people who are coming to us and asking questions. Most of the time, after they leave, he will tell me that I was too “nice.” He wants them to know the truth and has no qualms about laying it out in its totality. I do not want to be mean and it sounds so mean to tell people what these people really did and said. Good people, godly people do not do what we are saying they did.
Here is what Heidi Renee wrote as a comment to Emerging Grace’s post:
Heidi Renee said...
I always wonder where this concept of "nice" came from? Can you imagine Jesus saying "Be ye nice to one another?" No, me either. He did say "be kind" though.
I think there is a mammoth difference between Nice & Kind - nice is patronizing, never courageous and doesn't want to rock the boat - even when it's called for and you are dealing with a-holes...
Kind knows that telling your daughter that outfit looks "nice" even when it is horrible isn't truly kind, and some courage is needed to be kind enough to say so.
Nice can't handle conflict, kindness can. The kingdom is dying because of nice-ness - we have filled out pews with people who put up with abuse from a-holes in power and the kind people are being trounced on, because they've confused kind with nice.
I believe forgiveness happens when we are able to tell the truth - it sets us free. Deciding that you are done with giving that person the power to hurt you again and laying down the power to seek revenge is where I am able to begin to find healing and begin the forgiveness process. I forgive for me, not for them.
Great post Grace - got me thinking this morning! :)
This has been so freeing in my head this morning. I am called to be Kind – Not Nice. I can be kind and tell the whole ugly truth. Kindness even demands the truth. That is also why I hated conflict. I can’t be in conflict and be “nice.” I can, though, and be kind.
I have lived under the tyranny of nice. Freedom comes in living under the grace of kindness.
I love this. This will change my life!
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
An Anonymous comment on the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader blog says this:
Having been the perpetrator as well as the recipient of what you have so perfectly described, I now am stuck at where to go from here. I know repentance is the first step.
How can one even begin to make restitution or amends?
I can only tell you what I have done so far. The first thing I did was become absolutely sure that what I believed I could back up in Scripture. I read the New Testament through 3 times and found every verse that dealt with leadership. I researched the Greek to see what the words meant. I became convinced that there was no hierarchy or “lording it over” those in the body. I studied other areas of tithing, covering, apostolic government, church structure (or lack thereof) and gifts.
I then repented. I spent lots and lots of time with the Father, trying to figure out just what kept me blinded by the system. I confessed to my children whom I had taught and lead into things that I had never even researched. I wrote out my confession – which you have read. I have also gone to those I felt I had hurt the worst that would speak to me and asked their forgiveness. I am also praying to be put in contact with others whom I would love to speak.
I have then been studying as much as possible to figure out just what I do believe and how I should act. Wayne Jacobsen at Life Stream has been invaluable. His message of grace has been so refreshing.
As far as making restitution - Ahhh, that is the hard part. I wish I had stolen money so I could pay it back in double. That would be easier. There is no restitution that I can think of for treating someone so badly. I can only ask forgiveness. The restitution I can give is to never act in an un-graceful way to anyone else. I won’t be perfect at that one either but at least I’ll be more aware.
I wondered if I should wade into our church body, person by person and try to “rescue” them. Trust me, if they will come and talk to me, I will try to rescue them. But if they don’t then I don’t think it is the time for them. Many people tried with me before I “got it” and all it did was make me mad. For some reason, I did not want to be “rescued.” (How I wish I had listened.)
I think in a very big way, this blog is a “restitution” of sorts. If I can help anyone else walk through what I have been through, that would be so good. If I can cause anyone else to heal a bit easier, then it will have been worth it.
Thanks to all of you who have taken time to comment. I am honored to have you read and wrestle through this with me.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
So, a question for those of you who have left your churches….Do you dream about it?
Almost every night I dream that somehow I am running into the leaders of our CLB. It might be them, it might be one of their children but, so far, always one of their family. I am usually trying to explain something to them or ask them what happened. I will plead passionately for them to stop their behavior. I will explain to their kids that I still want a relationship with them. I will be angry and rebuke them for their blindness. It differs greatly each dream. Sometimes I am sad, other times really angry.
The frequency of these dreams are puzzling to me. I usually remember at least one dream per night. Isn’t that weird? I don’t feel bound by their church or their lives anymore. At least during the day I don’t. I am relieved that I am out. I am truly glad to be gone. I don’t even wish to run into them because I know I would never say the things in my dreams because they would not hear it.
Anyway, for those of you who have left - When do the dreams stop?
Sunday, June 3, 2007
I’ve had to change Bible translations. - Again.
See, you need to understand that this is a very big deal for me. I was raised in fundamental Christianity. We NEVER used anything but the KJV. Ever. “It was good enough for Paul, it is good enough for us.” (I actually heard this from a pulpit in my parents church once) (Yes, they meant the apostle Paul) (The guy before all the English guys)
So, in coming out of my fundamental roots,26 years ago I switched to a brand new NIV Bible and warded off the fears that I was certainly going to hell. (and wrapped it in brown paper when I visited my parents church) This Bible I carried with me through out all the questioning years and new theology years. I marked it up with how gifts still exist and operate, how there could be another ending to the world than I had been taught and about how to lead and operate a Kingdom church. My NIV talked about grace and mercy but pretty much, like Wayne Jacobsen says, it took Old Testament law, slapped New Testament titles on it and called it grace.
Now I find that I cannot read my NIV without still hearing the New Testament Law that I believed only a few months ago.
So the other day I started reading Romans in the Message. WOW. Did anyone ever see the grace that is in that book? I kept reading a part in the Message and then going over to the NIV to see if they were really telling the truth. They were. It just sounded so different to me that I could see the writings in a whole knew light. It amazes me. I am dumbstruck to see what I have been missing.
Listen to this from Romans 5: All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.
Guys, there is Grace woven all through this Good News that we speak of. (I know I’m a little slow but this is so wonderful to me right now!)
So I am switching to The Message. Just to write that seems like a “coming out.” In the religious sense – not the gender confusion sense.
Maybe I should stage a parade. The banners would read – GOOD NEWS -
GRACE HERE - GOD LOVES ME - NO LAW -
NO CONDEMNATION IN JESUS, REALLY!!
Friday, June 1, 2007
We have met with a few other families that we had shunned when they left to ask their forgiveness. We asked forgiveness for our part in their leaving and our part in not keeping an open friendship with them. They were so gracious to us, to me. Not one of them was prideful. Not one of them thought that their “rightness” was a thing to be proud of. They all loved the people and leaders in the CLB. Had they always walked in this grace and never said anything bitter or spiteful about the church? Probably not. But they were full of grace when we met with them. We fell into a family of believers who really loved us and wanted whatever God wanted for us. No one pressured us to join their thing. Each of them gave us wide berth to find what God had for us. It was truly amazing.
By the way, all of them saw the same problems with the CLB that we had come to see. We had no idea though. We were given various reasons by the leadership of why these people had left. As we met with these families though, the reasons they said they gave for leaving were not the ones we had heard. They were the very same reasons we had left.
The very first time after we had left our CLB that I went to Wal-Mart I had an incredible revelation.
As I looked at the people there from my town I realized that if I met anyone that had gone to my church and had left it I could be myself for the first time ever. I did not have to “represent CLB or the leaders” in my greeting to them. I was free to actually represent myself and Jesus directly if I encountered any of them. This was amazing. Before, I had thought that if I ran into anyone who had left us that I needed to at least be reserved because of what they had done to the church. Now I suddenly didn’t care.
I also realized that if I ran into anyone from a different church in our town that I could be genuinely glad for them. I did not have to feel sorry that they went to their church and not to ours. I could see them for the first time as my brothers and sisters in the body. The whole body. Suddenly the Church was very big to me. Without having walls around me, defining what “church” was, I was given a very big gift of the Church. She was something I could embrace for the very first time. I did not care if she were perfect, had the perfect teachings, had perfect worship, had perfect government or had the very best leaders. I could just love her.
The last thing I realized was something that still puzzles me. I looked at people who were probably non-Christians. I somehow felt that I was also one of them. I felt “among them” for the first time. I, also, did not go to a specific church. I, also, was free on Sunday mornings. I was walking among them as one of them. Like I said, I don’t really understand this one at all. The only thing I can think is that without the walls of a “church” around me I was let out into their world and for the first time, I could feel a bit of who they were. I loved this feeling. I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to hear their stories. I wanted to play with their kids. I was not irritated at being kept in line at the checkout. I wanted to be among them.
Also, I did not have to get them to come to my church. I was free just to have a relationship with them that had no motivation to it other than to show them that I loved them and therefore that Jesus wanted a relationship with them too. After a lifetime of “having to share the gospel with someone and get them to come to my church” I was free.
Wow. A Church without walls.
A Former Leader without walls. I like this.
Wayne Jensen at Lifestream.org is my hero!!I have never read anything like he has written before. His grace-filled message of God’s love and walking out of traditional church life is amazing. I could have never done this journey, walked this way, without his teachings. Yes, I would have walked out of our church. Yes, God would have been able to teach me if I only had Him. But Wayne has planted sign posts that give you hope as you walk out into what may seem heresy.
Read everything on his website. Order all his books or download them. I started with his short novel, “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church,” Watched his first videos, Read his book, "He Loves Me." He gives me so much hope and perspective. We can do this!!
I have other hero's too. They are listed on the side of this blog as websites and blogs that you must read. Emerging Grace and Heidi at Live with Desire are two women that I read every blog they have posted. I am amazed at how our stories are so alike. They have given me hope that if they can walk out of their CLB's and see the Father's healing then so can I.
Robbymac and his Detox articles were soooooo helpful.
I have tried to weed out the bitter websites. While these were good to read in some respects, they did not help me as much as these people.
I love Naked Pastor. Some day I will buy him a beer.
I'll add more as we go on.
Bob suggests that, at some point in time, "the system" was working for us; while we may be questioning it now, there was a time when we were getting some kind of perks or rewards from it. Bob suggests that until we, as individuals and groups, honestly deal with the areas of our lives that made us enjoy the system at one point - and repent or receive healing in those areas - we will only replicate the same dysfunctional patterns and attitudes in whatever structured or destructured group we ended up joining or creating. Robert C. Girard
This is a response to what I have read in The People Formerly Known as Series. It is a repentance. I know than many of the other writers have used the Polemic “we” but I can’t do that yet. This is personal, a confession from my heart to all of you.
I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader.
I was the supporting cast in our church. I was not one of the “Main” leaders. I was never paid to lead. I had “leadership roles.” I (along with my husband) was viewed as one of the supporting pillars in our community of believers. I tried not to be one of the front leaders. I simply took the vision of the church, supported it, taught it, explained it, fought for it and promised loyalty to it. For almost 20 years my husband and I have been in this role and just recently we have come to see many things we never would have thought possible.
I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader
All this time I worked as your leader. I was at one time or another, your small group leader, your counselor, and your ministry head (nursery, new member development, etc). I helped at various times on the worship team, the prayer team, the nursery, the elder board, the college ministry team, the hospitality team, and I’m sure a host of other teams and positions.
I am the Person Formerly Known as Your Leader
Because of all this, I need to repent and ask your forgiveness. I was wrong. I thought wrong things. I believed wrong things. I modeled wrong things. I taught wrong things. I was wrong. I have sinned against you and the others and against my grace loving, mercy giving, all powerful, all loving God.
- I repent for teaching and modeling that the “covering” of our church, my leadership, and our network would keep you from going into rebellion or deception.
- I took your private confidences and passed them on to the other leaders regardless of my telling you that I wouldn’t. I told myself that this was an accepted practice to gain wisdom in dealing with your situation. Now I see it was probably mostly to garner, in some twisted way, the favor of my leaders, to show my loyalty and to gain a better placement of myself in their leadership system.
- I taught, modeled and practiced tithing. I taught you that if you didn’t tithe, bad things would happen to you and/or your finances. Now I understand the fallacy of this. It is a fear tactic – and it is not of God.
- I did not stand up and speak up when I heard and saw something wrong being taught, lived, or modeled. In this way, you, as people who respected me had neither voice nor protection. There were many times I should have spoken up gently/humbly to correct other leaders around me. I wrongly felt that it was up to God to correct and deal with them. That it was not my “place” to correct “God’s Anointed.”
- I wanted to be seen by leaders as loyal and mostly I wanted to be in what I perceived as one of the “inner circles of friendship.” I bought their friendship with flattering words, serving them unconditionally, not making waves, not challenging them and being disloyal to what I sometimes knew was wrong. I was a religious whore.
- I taught you that with leaders, you did not have the right to expect friendship or any sort of loyalty back. I told you that you should become what I had become, completely a servant. They owed you and me nothing. I have learned to watch out for “friendships” where I am the servant only. I have learned my “servanthood” was nothing more than trying to manipulate myself into prominence.
- I taught that the church was an Army and that we therefore needed Generals and Sergeants to lead us. (I of course saw myself as the sergeant – not the head but certainly one of the right arms of the head.) Again, I did not read my Bible.
- I taught you to despise other churches in our city. I taught you that they were not as enlightened as us, did not have as much of the Holy Spirit as us, could not worship as we did, did not recognize the leadership in our church and come under their apostolic leadership, and so many other things. I hinted at their pastors “weaknesses.” I judged their programs, people, leaders and lives as unfit for the true expression of the Kingdom of God and taught you to do the same. It is true that I did see many legitimate problems, and I still do but I had pulled back and decided I was done with the all but the select body of Christ in our area and encouraged you to also “not waste your time.”
- I practiced and taught you “shunning.” This is the practice of not associating with those who have left our body. I taught you to look the other way in the grocery store. To ignore their emails and be succinct and distant when they called you. I taught you that you could be contaminated by a perceived friendship with them, and instilled in you the fear that was in me, that I would be seen as disloyal.
- I taught you that when people left our body, they left their destiny. I thought that the only way they were to fulfill what God had for them was through our particular church.
- I encouraged you in total obedience to our leaders and total submission of ministry to their vision. I often referred to the church as being in the leaders’ “boat.” We were to totally get in this “boat” and leave it up to God and the leaders where and how to navigate this life. We were not to question this boat leader’s vision or direction as they were “hearing from God”. If you wanted to minister it had to be under their direct “umbrella.”
My pride, arrogance, manipulation and disregard for the scripture are detestable to me. In that I was your leader, role model, and teacher makes it doubly serious. I know of nothing else than to remove myself.
I am not beating myself up as to the point where I imagine that I did nothing right. There were many of you that I loved unconditionally. We showed hospitality, we modeled a good marriage, an open and honest life and when I needed to, I have asked your forgiveness. But the scope and magnitude which I see my own heart today is detestable to me.
So today, I ask your forgiveness. I know many of you were not directly under my leadership. So why do I ask your forgiveness? This is why. - Maybe in reading my “confession” you will come to realize that those in leadership above you who have inflicted so many hurts will someday come to realize what they have done. Maybe your prayers for them will result in them walking out of their own deception. Maybe the grace that you show to them will be a signpost for them to follow. Maybe in not hating them you will be able to love and pray for their blinders to fall off.From my heart to you, I am so sorry, please forgive me. And please forgive those who also have been your leaders.
A Person Formerly Known As Your Leader
I was going to write a blog that would explain our leaving our CLB. I thought that I would go through in sequence and explain all that happened to us. Frankly, the thought of that leaves me ill. I really don’t want to rehash the past few months. So let me give you a little in a vague way. If you want to know more please leave a post with your email address and I will give much more detail. I know it helped me to read other’s blogs about the details of their leaving. It made me realize that what happened to me was what had happened to them. It made me realize that I could survive too. It gave me encouragement that I was not crazy.
We served in our church for almost 20 years. There were problems along the way. Once we almost left but we felt that God had directly called us here and he had not released us. We stepped out of eldership at that time. That was about 8 years ago. We stayed. This was not as hard for me as it was for my husband. He could see major problems and, other than trusting God to fix them, he felt helpless. Still we stayed and supported.
The Apostolic movement came into contact with our church leadership. Soon we had speakers coming in from this group. Most all of them were wonderful men with a wonderful message. But within the messages was this apostolic order. This ordered people in rank. One over another. Soon there were titles. These were never demanded – just expected. My husband could see that this was not the Fathers heart for his church.
I actually thought he was making a big deal about nothing. I went to scripture to prove him wrong. I couldn’t. I read the New Testament through 3 times that week. I researched in the Greek, every verse that dealt with leadership or headship. I was amazed at the lack of “being over” and the contunity of being under or alongside.
I then started reading everything I could get my hands on about this particular Apostolic movement. Most of the books were good. Some were absoulutely scary. The dismissal of scripture was alarming. One even hinted at the ability of these new apostles being able to come up with new doctrine as did the early apostles.
I then researched online to find anything. I started with The Battered Sheep website. I felt so guilty for even clicking onto such a site. It felt like religious porn. But the more I read, the more I could see parts – not all – of our church. Especially the one article about what they would say about you if you were to leave. It was like they had visited our church. So I read more.
When we met with our leaders for a final attempt to get them to see the error or this hierarchy I was totally alongside my husband. We were totally on the same page. God was gracious to us in that way. I have read of many husbands and wives who were split apart on these decisions.
The meeting did not go well. We were informed that we were not on the same leadership level as them. They would not discuss anything with us. They were totally closed to what we had to say. We left in peace but did not know what to do. We could not stay and help them anymore. We did not have a word from God that we could leave. We were stuck.
We spent the next month fasting, praying and getting counsel. God actually showed up in a worship time and told my husband that it was time to go. He felt God say, “Ok, you can go now.” We waited for counsel to confirm and received it.
“Going” did not go as planned. We wished to tell each of our friends face to face. We were going to meet with our pastors and then tell everyone else in that order. That, through the work of the enemy and the hasty decisions of our pastors, did not happen. Word got out that we were leaving, emails went out, calls went out not to speak to us, and a meeting was planned for the whole church a few hours after we were to meet with the pastoral staff.
We were told that we were in deep deception. That “bad things” would probably happen to us if we left. That we could not leave with their blessing and many other things. We stood our ground, tried to be gracious, tried not to deal with character issues.
That night the church gathered without us and it was decreed that we were in deception. That the church could come and talk to us but only if they dealt with our deception. Our friends were devastated. Because we had tried so hard not to spread division, because we had never spoken to anyone about our problems, because we were not given the opportunity to tell them individually, they were completely confused and angry. It was disseminated that we had lived a lie in front of them – that somehow we had been unfaithful to them.
Only a very few have come to talk to us. No one was told that they couldn’t come, it is just the culture of the church that when someone leaves they have “broken covenant” with you and therefore you should not put your self in danger by having a relationship with them.
Therefore, we have left. If you need more detail, please leave a comment. The rest of the blogs will deal with the day to day of walking out of our CLB.
My heart is to let you know in this post all the wonderful things we learned and experienced while we were in our CLB. It would be wrong to start with all that is wrong. It would be wrong because, in so many ways, our body here gave us life. I will list them in bullet points as strengths.
- We were taught that we have a very big God, a very big Jesus and a very big Holy Spirit. They are each distinct and yet each very much the same. God is loving, kind, full of grace and mercy. He is not mad at you. We were made to be loved by Him - not just to love him or serve him. Jesus is amazing, someone to be loved and worshiped. He loves us unconditionally and has given us the example of how to live. The Holy Spirit is Jesus in us. He is able to be heard, understood and experienced. We live and move and have our being in all three.
- We were taught that God is doing a mighty work in the earth today. He is not finished with his bride. He is bringing her to maturity to be pure and spotless. There is a great harvest ahead. We need to ready the Church for this harvest.
- We were introduced to many, many men and women of God from all over the world. They filled our pulpits, ate with us and were in covenant with us. We learned to appreciate the gifting in each one, no matter if we had the same gifting or not.
- We were taught to look at the world. We saw a need, tried to find a man or woman who had a vision for their country and situation and come behind their vision. Our focus was continually drawn outside our body.
- We were taught to give generously. I have never seen a church who gave away as much money as our church did.
- We were taught to raise our children with the expectation that at a young age, they were to become disciples of Jesus and not just another youth group.- We were taught not to have our own agenda when it came to our lives, our worship, or even our services. God was allowed to "wreck" our plans with what seemed to be His plan. If the Holy Spirit seemed to say something, we quickly obeyed.
- We were taught to worship. We became practiced at being at His feet, dancing before him, weeping, shouting and corporately bringing a sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving and worship before him.
- We were taught that our worship before him did not end with Sunday morning but was to be lived out daily in our lives. Our jobs were designed by Him to bring his presence into the world. We were to use the gifts given to the believers to prosper in the workplace, all the while loving those around us.
- We were taught to pray through the night accompanied by praise and thanksgiving. We were taught that God is anxious to answer our prayers and heard them. We did not have to beg Him to act.
- We were taught that we were important in the scheme of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. That what we did as "little people" was significant.
- We were taught to speak good things over our lives. That as we spoke these things, the faith involved in speaking would be translated into being and action.
In leaving our church and ultimately the institutional church as a whole, I read many of those who had gone on before me. They gave me such courage and comfort during this process.
I wanted also to be a voice for those who were leaving or being forced to leave. I wanted them to be able to compare thier stories with mine both for their own sanity and thier comfort.
Therefore this blog will attempt to place sign posts of my (our) day to day journey into what I hope will be the very heart of God. I have no idea where this journey will end or even take me. I only know that I have been called to go down this road.
I have a husband who is with me as well as some grown children, small children and a few faithful friends.
I welcome any and all who wish to read and interact with me through this wonderful, grace filled journey.