One Year Anniversary – My God is Faithful

One year ago today, I was delivered out of captivity by a mighty God.

Darkness, oppression and hopelessness had become my new “normal” after twelve years of feeding on scriptures presented out of context with an evil motive to manipulate and control (i.e. intimidate).

Imagine my shock when God’s light pierced my world. Squinting at the brilliance of His holiness, I emerged from a deep pit of despair.

Imagine my amazement to find that what I had grown to believe God to be was a complete lie from the pit of hell.

Imagine my relief to re-learn that God’s grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, or love me less, than He already does.

It’s by no accident that this time of year has national historical significance with compelling spiritual parallels.

First of all, this weekend we celebrate Veteran’s Day with those we honor who’ve fought to defend our freedom and lived to tell about it.

Not only did many of my friends and loved ones fight in prayer on my behalf while I was trapped in captivity, but I too fought the war for my soul, and praise God, survived and now live to tell about it.

Another historic occasion that occurred over the 9th and 10th of November was the fall of the Berlin wall. My Facebook friend Brad Sargent shared this with me:

November 9 is considered the “official” beginning of taking down the Berlin Wall, and there is a photo there from November 10th of people WALKING through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, to experience the freedom of the West. It still took time for a complete dismantling to occur, but the way to freedom had been irrevocably opened …

There’s been much dismantling occurring this past 12 months, and I’m quite sure there is more to come…but the way to my freedom, as well, has been irrevocably opened and I look forward to complete healing and restoration in my future.

How fitting it was that last weekend, as I attended a church service with some very special friends, that a woman quoted a scripture that sliced my heart like a razor-sharp knife.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. (Jonah 2:8)

This is a scripture that the cult convinced me to wield as a weapon with which to bludgeon my firstborn son. Since he refused to throw his new bride under the bus (you know, “hate his wife” like Luke 14:26 says he has to do) and come and join the cult with us, he was clearly clinging to a worthless idol (his wife), and forfeiting the “grace” that could be his.

How freeing it was to realize, sitting in that church service last Sunday, that it was really I who was clinging to the worthless idol of Sound Doctrine and the false shepherd that I allowed to become my Holy Spirit. It was I who was forfeiting the grace that could be mine!

Bittersweet.

This is the kind of revelation that hurts and heals at the same time.

What a joy it is to have the Lord continue to undo every scripture wrongly applied in my life.

May I continue to be soft-hearted enough to allow Him to keep showing me more and more of His true goodness and faithfulness in exchange for the lie I believed for so long.

Eleven Month Anniversary – Melt Down

I had a melt-down of sorts a few days ago. A strange mix of emotions that included depression, profound sadness, and a bit of despair. I originally chocked it up to an adrenaline crash after my whirlwind of travel to Dallas and Branson, but I’ve come to realize it really was much more than that.

Today marks my 11 month anniversary of leaving the Christian cult I was trapped in for 12 long years, and as I consider the past months, I am reminded how important anniversary dates can be. In fact, I used to teach veterans and their family members all about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how things in the environment, as well as the anniversary dates of prior traumatic experiences, can trigger in the present, unwanted emotions and memories.

I started thinking back to what was happening in my life around this time of the month in October of last year, and was shocked to remember that it was one of the most stressful experiences I had endured, as the “Tax Oversight Committee” had finally finished their work and ominously commanded my presence in the WinePress offices. Under scrutiny of no less than 5 other people, I filled out the tax forms for the first quarter of 2010. I was bullied and intimidated into filing my own business taxes (I wasn’t allowed to have a CPA review them for me or get any outside advice at all), and on top of that I was not allowed to even keep a copy of the forms I’d filed. My income was right around $1500 a month and my tax liability was adding up to over $50,000 due to the capital gains that were calculated (even though I only received $10 in exchange for my 3.5 million dollar business!).

It was truly the most bizarre experience I’d ever experienced in my life, and all the while I was being manipulated into taking responsibility for tax liabilities that were not even mine to assume.  And all in the Name of God.  Every move I made was condemned, criticized, and demonized by the very people who I now know to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. One man for years had covered up his own sexual perversion and sick attraction to and vile abuse of little girls, and another who knowingly covered up his crimes. Not only are these men the “spiritual leaders” of Sound Doctrine, but those who manage what continues to be deceitfully promoted as a “Christian Publisher”, WinePress Publishing.

How kind and merciful it was for God to allow me to discover the full extent of the evil and wickedness that reigned in the midst of Sound Doctrine a little at a time. It was shortly after I left that I found out what was done to me with the supposed “sale” of my business to the cult was completely fraudulent and a gross violation of spiritual authority, but then it was five months after I left before I found out about Malcolm Fraser being a pedophile.  I honestly don’t know if I could have emotionally handled learning all of it at one time, so God had to spoon feed the revelation of the extent of the abuse and profound evil over a period of time.

So, should I be surprised at my recent emotional roller-coaster, mostly downward? I think not. When I consider the level of stress and trauma I endured last year at this time, along with the ongoing grieving God is having me work through, and the amazing restoration that God is continuing to work in my life, it’s clearly remarkable that I haven’t been in worse shape than I am. In fact, it is astonishing that I’m not, after all I’ve been through, locked away in a mental hospital.

My God has taken a horridly abusive and traumatic experience and turned it around to glorify His name in countless ways. Not only does He continue to encourage others as I walk through my healing journey with Him, but  I heard only yesterday that one young man who was trapped by the cult for the last six years finally escaped just a month ago, so I can only praise Him that one more captive has been set free.  The exciting part is that this young man was one for whom my friend Cindy Scinto consistently received visions from the Lord about and was urged by Him to fast and pray for him to break free from the horrific abuse he was under in Sound Doctrine.

I continue to pray for the rest of those in bondage, especially my own grandchildren, one of whom is also a victim of the sick pedophile Malcolm Fraser. I pray that they soon will have their spiritual eyes opened and have the courage to walk away from the insanity before it’s too late.

Ten Month Anniversary – You Can See It In My Eyes

Today marks 10 months since God opened my eyes to the deception I’d lived under for 12 long years.

It has been an amazing journey of having literally every scripture that I’d been taught out of context righted in my heart and mind.

The biggest delusion I believed in Sound Doctrine was that my salvation was at risk, and that there was more I had to do to earn it, namely whatever Tim Williams determined was God’s will for my life.

Believing this allowed him the ability to manipulate and control my entire life based on fear.

A close second was that unity with the brethren means you never question any decision or action taken by “the man of God”.

Believing this allowed the leadership in Sound Doctrine to do as they pleased without any consequence on their part.

As I sat in church yesterday and listened as Pastor Ross shared scriptures on unity in the body, it was so refreshing to hear the scripture being preached IN CONTEXT and in a way that builds up believers rather than tearing them down.

And this morning I opened my devotional, Jesus Calling, and I am reminded again that He is always available to me…that once I have trusted Him as Savior, He never distances Himself from me…any distance I feel is just that, a feeling, not to be confused with reality.

Looking back at who I became in those 12 years is sobering. I went from a strong, successful, business owner to one who allowed my emotions to be influenced by a master manipulator, all in the Name of God, leaving me second guessing God’s voice, His plan for my life, and His will for me.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Below you can see the reality of how I was robbed of the joy of my salvation by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How easily I was deceived because the wolf quoted so many scriptures and “seemed” so godly. But scripture is clear that Satan masquerades as an angel of light…and wasn’t it the Father of Lies who used scripture to tempt Jesus? How true it is that if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!  You can see it in my eyes…the depth of the darkness I believed was enormous.

I am eternally grateful for a faithful God who, ten months ago today, opened my darkened eyes so I could see, gave me the courage to admit that I had been duped, and has since been restoring all that the locusts had eaten.

Nine Month Anniversary – No Risk, No Reward

It was the day I decided to fast from Facebook for a week. My youngest son showed up later in the afternoon and proved to be a wonderful distraction from the withdrawal symptoms I experienced. He mentioned something that really stuck with me…how people go on trips and spend their whole time taking pictures and posting to Facebook instead of just experiencing the beauty and actually being “in” the moment.

That really got me to thinking about how much I miss in my relationships when I am busy taking pictures and posting them with some witty comment. I also had to ask myself how much I really appreciate the moment I am in, the person I am with, the conversation I am having, whether in person or on the phone…or am I thinking in the back of my mind, Ooooohhhh, that would be great to post!

This is so good for me to ponder…especially today. It’s been exactly nine months since I walked away from the most abusive and degrading “church” experience of my life. It takes nine months to grow and birth a baby, so I asked the Lord this morning what it is that has been growing inside me for these last nine months, and is now ready to be “born” in my life.

I felt Him impress upon my heart the word “relationship.”

Before the cult I struggled with being a workaholic, and valuing things over people. After my successful stint (by the world’s standards) in network marketing, I realized all along I had it all backwards. Instead of loving people and using things, I’d been using people and loving things.

Then during my 12 years in the cult I found myself keeping most everyone at arm’s length. Of course, as it turned out, this was a serious defense mechanism to attempt to keep from getting hurt, although they did a pretty good job of destroying me emotionally and spiritually over those years.

So here I am today, learning how to be a real friend to some pretty amazing people. Learning how to be a Mom to my boys and a Yiayia (Greek for Grandma) to my grandkids. Learning how to value the moment I am in with the person in front of me. Loving people instead of judging them or using them. Letting them in rather than pushing them away.

Thinking back on a sermon from a few weeks ago when Pastor Roger preached on No Risk, No Reward, I realized there’s a risk here, because I’ve been so trashed in the past, I could get hurt again, and probably will, since people aren’t perfect. I had to think that through and ask myself some hard questions. Do I want to open myself up to the chance of more pain, more devastation, and more emotional upheaval? Well, no, not really. Who would answer yes to that? But the more I pondered and asked God to work in my heart, the easier it was for me to take a step forward. I have determined that the reward is worth the risk. The reward of having true friendships, authentic relationships…without walking on eggshells or always wondering what the other person is really thinking but being too afraid to ask.

I wondered how all of this translated over to my relationship with the Lord, since I’ve been making a point to spend extra time with Him during my Facebook fast. As I watched the last nine months in movie form before my eyes, I saw how much I risked in being willing to trust Him after all that I’d endured. But with that risk came reward…the restoration and renewal that He has worked so far, and is continuing to work, is an amazing work of a loving Father.

So yes, what is being birthed in my life is a new desire to be “in the moment” with people…to be present, not distracted by social media or other enticements. To risk allowing people into my heart so that, through these rich life experiences, He can teach me to go deep with Him.

It’s an amazing parallel there, what He works in our relationships He also works in our relationship to Him.

Wow. What a good God.

Your Great Name

I sat through 3 church services this weekend. One Saturday night and 2 on Sunday morning. I was recruiting volunteers for the Enumclaw Street Fair coming up this weekend and we had some slots to fill in the schedule so I wanted to get my church involved.

As I walked to church the bright sunshine warmed my face. It just felt good.

I am really beginning to feel at home at The Summit, and am developing some wonderful relationships there. It didn’t really hit me until talking about it with my friend last week, that building new friendships is an important piece of my healing.

If I just stay in my little circle of friends who also escaped the cult, then conversation always tends to drift to that subject, and it’s just too much looking back. I can see how God needed to move my best friend out of the area so I would make a journey into the unknown of other people’s lives.

When someone from the church texted me this morning and almost apologetically said that “sitting through 3 services is a ton of work” I had to praise God for the way I felt. It was an honor to get to sit through 3 sessions of worship that touched my heart in a way that is hard to describe. One of the songs, Your Great Name, has been camped out in my brain ever since the first service and just continues to minister to me.

Your Great Name (click here to hear my favorite version)

Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of Your Great Name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of Your Great Name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of Your Great Name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of Your Great Name

Chorus
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and man you are high and lifted up;
that all the world will praise Your Great Name

Verse 2
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your Great Name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your Great Name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of Your Great Name
Sick are healed, and the dead are raised. At the sound of Your Great Name

Chorus
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb; that was slain for us
Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up
that all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name.

Redeemer, my Healer; Lord Almighty
Defender; my Savior;  you are my King
Redeemer; my Healer; Lord Almighty
Defender; my Savior; you are my King

Jesus, the Name of Jesus, you are high and lifted up;
that all the world will praise your Great Name.
Savior, Son of God and man; you are high and lifted up;
all the world will praise Your Great Name.
Your Great Name. Your Great Name

I guess it struck me because I am all those things…

The weak who has found strength, the hungry soul who has received grace, the fatherless who has found my rest, the sick who has been healed and the dead who has been raised.

And He, too, is all those things…

Redeemer, Healer, Defender, and Savior.

What was a life trashed by deception and hate has now been redeemed, healed, defended…with love and mercy.

Sitting through 3 services this weekend wasn’t a chore in the least. It was filled with a profound peace and was something I treasure as a blessing from God.

Freedom

Really good sermon today on FREEDOM. In light of the 4th of July, Pastor Ross asked the pointed question…why do we get so excited about physical, political and financial freedom, setting off fireworks and all manner of pyrotechnics, yet the freedom we have been given as believers in Christ is rather ho-hum in comparison?

He made the statement that freedom is not free…it always has a cost. I thought about the cost for me…the price I paid to walk away from what I had given my life and my heart and everything I owned to for 12 years. Walking away from all of that was extremely costly, but the resulting freedom was completely worth it.

I looked up freedom and definition number 5 really jumped off the page at me.

free·dom

[free-duhm]  Show IPA

noun

5.personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery

Being a believer in Christ sets us free from:

  • Sin (Romans 6:18)
  • The Law (Galatians 2:4)
  • Death (Romans 6:21-22, Romans 8:21)

As Pastor Ross elaborated on being set free from the law, I found myself so thankful for the truth of that statement. For 12 years I tried living up to every part of the scripture and continually failed. It got to the point where there was no joy, no hope, and absolutely no fireworks in my heart for what God had done for me. I had become a slave, in bondage to the law, when, in reality, I had already been set free from it.

The statement was also made that “liberty is not free…it produces responsibility.” The freedom I gained in 1986 carried with it the responsibility to learn what scripture says, discover more fully what God had done for me through the atoning sacrifice of His only Son, and grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Word, learning to rightly divide it.

Last night, when a new acquaintance asked me why I never joined Bible Study Fellowship or another program like that when I first came to Christ I really had to think about that. I realized that less than 6 months after accepting the Lord, Chuck and I were thrust into full time ministry when Point Man Ministries was given to him.

At that point it was a 501(C)3 with no activity after the founder  went home to be with Jesus. We were to take it from nothing and develop into an international ministry with outposts (outreaches in churches ministering to Vietnam Veterans and their wives) all across the country. I immediately dived in to help Chuck develop the infrastructure, the ministry administration, the veteran wives ministry, and a host of other tasks. I went from being a babe in Christ to teaching veterans and their loved ones about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how wounds become our idols. I was on the fast track to burn out, and it came many years down the road, without me even realizing it.

That must be why scripture admonishes us not to lay hands on too quickly. I never took the responsibility of my new found freedom in Christ to heart and so became vulnerable down the road when bondage came knocking at my door.

How thankful I am to be able to look back and see those vulnerabilities and weaknesses and understand how I ended up in slavery. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I believe the more I can learn from my mistakes and blunders, sins and failures, and learn the truth of the Word, in context and in all its fullness, I can truly begin to see clearly through the glasses of true freedom in Christ and embrace the responsibility that comes with it.

Feeling very grateful right now to be free.