Bad Fruit

The newspaper reporter looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.

“I had some encounters with those Sound Doctrine folks, and I’m really troubled, how did you ever get mixed up with those people?”

I’ve been thinking about that ever since he asked. Of course my initial answer was they acted normal when I first met them. They were friendly, and really seemed to have a genuine love for God. They extended grace and mercy and did not overreact to things. That’s a pretty normal picture I’ve found for cults…”love bombing” is one term I’ve heard that describes the typical initiation of new members into the group. It took quite a long time before things actually started getting weird, and the change was very subtle over the years.

But there’s something else I believe I am seeing that attracted me, based on the wounding and vulnerability I brought with me.

Because I’d made a vow when I was nineteen that “I’d never let anyone use me again”, I became “the user” in an attempt to shield myself from any more pain. That vow led me on a journey of gaining more and more control over everything in my life, especially my relationships.

Since I used work as my drug of choice to escape the pain in my life, I was always successful even when it risked the health of those same relationships. And so I became the breadwinner in all my relationships, retaining control and the upper hand.

As a result of this unhealthy way of living my life, born out of my own wounding and wrong response to it, I believe way down deep I longed for a relationship where I would be taken care of, cherished, nourished, and led in a healthy way. So the leadership I initially saw lived and preached in Sound Doctrine filled a void in my heart and then drew me in as a result of that innate vulnerability.

As that leadership grew into extreme control and abuse over time, the fruit of my unhealthy vow ripened.

Matthew 7:1-2 says: Do not judge lest you be judged. For the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

I judged (condemned) the man in my life who used and lied to me at age nineteen, setting myself up for the enemy to have the right to measure back to me the same thing I vowed to never let happen in my life. Actually pretty amazing isn’t it? I vowed that no one would ever use me again and these people in twelve years used me up and spit me out…got my business, my car, my house, and hundreds of thousands of dollars leaving me destitute…WOW!

So, how did I get mixed up with a group of complete control freaks who have brought incredible destruction to scores of people and families over the last 35 years in the name of God? I’ll tell you how.

By allowing the pain in my life to go unattended, ignoring the healing Jesus offered…that’s how. I can’t blame anyone but myself. And as I take responsibility for the tragedy of the last twelve years, I can continue to heal and move forward in restoration.

He will restore what the locusts have eaten…and I will learn to deal with my pain in a healthy way so I don’t have to reap anymore bad fruit!

Learning to Love Well

We’re studying the chapter entitled “Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult” this week and I am amazed at how God has answered my prayer to show me where I’m at on my journey to emotional health. I love the examples given in this chapter that give a true picture of what it looks like if we are emotionally immature in contrast with what real maturity looks like:

Emotional Infants

    Look for others to take care of them
    Have great difficulty entering into the world of others
    Are driven by need for instant gratification
    Use others as objects to meet their needs

Emotional Children

    Are content and happy as long as they receive what they want
    Unravel quickly from stress, disappointments, trials
    Interpret disagreements as personal offenses
    Are easily hurt
    Complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, become sarcastic when they don’t get their way
    Have great difficulty calmly discussing their needs and wants in a mature, loving way

Emotional Adolescents

    Tend to often be defensive
    Are threatened and alarmed by criticism
    Keep score of what they give so they can ask for something later in return
    Deal with conflict poorly, often blaming, appeasing, going to a third party, pouting, or ignoring the issue entirely
    Become preoccupied with themselves
    Have great difficulty truly listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs
    Are critical and judgmental

Emotional Adults

    Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer…clearly, directly, honestly
    Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings
    Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial
    Respect others without having to change them
    Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect
    Appreciate people for who they are…the good, bad, and ugly…not for what they give back
    Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others
    Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves
    Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that considers the perspectives of others

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – pgs 178 & 179

When Pastor Ross first preached on this topic last week, I felt like it would be hard for me to judge where I am at since I am not married, or working in an office with co-workers, or living with a room mate, etc., etc. I asked the Lord to put me in some situations where it might be obvious where I am at emotionally…and boy, did He ever answer my prayer!

Many times over the last week I have found myself in conversations with others getting critical and judgmental about the topic of conversation. And as you may have picked up on a few of my posts, I have definitely been preoccupied with myself and my future….that surely doesn’t help me truly listen to others pain and disappointments because I am too wrapped up in my own! I thought back to my tendency to avoid conflict with others and not wanting to rock the boat. Then the Lord reminded me how so many times when I was married I would blame and pout when I didn’t get my way.

Well alrighty then…I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m an emotional teenager! But praise God He is helping me to learn what it is going to look like to be emotionally healthy, and praise God that I have so many others who desire the same emotionally healthy spirituality walking along side me, and a whole church committed to it!

I look forward to learning how to love well. That’s a long way from where I’ve been for the last twelve years, and I praise God for that.

Bouncing Around

I seem to vacillate between anger and depression / reflection / loneliness these days.

As I reviewed the seven stages of grieving, I can see that I had worked through to acceptance and hope at one point…but as I wait in the confusing in-between, not knowing what God’s plan is for me with work or a place to settle down, I seem to bounce back down to stages three and four.

1. shock and denial
2. pain and guilt
3. anger and bargaining
4. depression, reflection, loneliness
5. the upward turn
6. reconstruction and working through
7. acceptance and hope

It still makes me angry when I think of what was done to me and more importantly the way other young girls had their innocence stolen at the hands of one of the “beloved pastors” of Sound Doctrine.

I forgive them over and over, but to watch them defend a pedophile and leave other young girls in harms way simply makes my blood boil. Losing WinePress is one thing, but knowing it employs people who use and abuse others in such heinous ways causes me incredible angst.

However, I am learning a lot through Bible Study Fellowship as I grow in my understanding of the whole counsel of God in context. I then become angry at myself for not being a better Berean and knowing my Bible better. Had I joined Bible Study Fellowship many years ago in my early years as a Christian, I never would have been drawn into such heretical doctrine. I would’ve seen clearly how often Scriptures were being used out of context to make a point and I would quickly have fled from the evil that was being portrayed as holiness.

So I cannot only feel anger for my abusers, I feel as much for my own lack of diligence and love for God’s word.

But then there’s the depression, reflection and loneliness that overcomes me at times when I confront the fact that I have to start my life all over again with nothing but my faith. I praise God that the loneliness doesn’t last long, since I have good friends locally and on Facebook who love me and support me on this journey. And as I continue to rebuild my broken family relationships that brings me much joy as well.

And then there’s my relationship with Jesus that just seems to grow every day. He is so considerate…gently moving me back on track when I veer off. My emotionally charged reactions to the many injustices I see have landed me in a few ditches along the way, but he just keeps picking me up and sending me back on my journey of healing.

So while I may be bouncing around a lot, it doesn’t take long for the Lord to encourage me and remind me that He is at work.

Those times of reflection help me to see all that God has worked in my heart over the last 5 months and remember all the miracles He has performed just to prove to me that I really can trust Him.

It’s hard to stay angry or depressed for long with such loving and merciful God on the throne.

From the Inside Out

We sang a worship song today called From the Inside Out.

It went right along with what the Lord has been speaking to me this week. I continue to struggle with trusting the Lord to provide and make clear how I am to support myself, and He takes me to Matthew 6:25-34 and reminds me not to be anxious about tomorrow.

When I left the cult I gladly threw out all my clothes and began restocking my empty closet finding all the best consignment shops on the Plateau. I think, in an attempt to redefine myself with attire I like (instead of dressing like everyone else or how others expect me to), I began changing myself from the outside.

But God has a different take than me…

Do not be anxious then, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’
“For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Vs 31-34

Rather than focusing on change from the outside in, I give Him control and choose to allow Him to consume me from the inside out.

I choose to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, knowing that He will take care of me.

And as I travel on this journey He will teach me to embrace justice and praise so I might learn to love Him from the inside out.

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out
“From the Inside Out” – Hillsong United

Neurotic

I’ve been reading a book I published back in 1998 entitled “Wounded Workers – Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church” by Kirk Farnsworth. If you’ve read the original post for this blog where I go through the 12 years of abuse, I mention a WinePress author who challenged the doctrine that I’d swallowed…well, that was Kirk!

As I read his book anew, it’s no wonder he tried to reason with me…he could see the writing on the wall just from reading a few of Tim Williams’ writings!

In chapter 3 “Uncovering the Neurotic Organization” I was floored at his description…

In sum, this president drew attention to himself and drew others to himself. He would show off in public and be compassionate in private. His warmth and generosity, however, were self-serving. Both praise and lack of praise were used as a control device. He picked subordinates who would be his friends…who would agree with him and not challenge his impulsive decisions. Criticism was seen as insubordination, and all communication was tightly controlled. When he felt threatened, he could abuse as easily as he could charm. His friendships did not run deep.

Such presidents, in effect, define the organization they lead. They do more than correct this and change that. They do more than refocus the vision and mission, rebuild the infrastructure, and restructure the financial base. They redefine the personality of the entire organization. More specifically, their personality redefines the personality of the organization. This is not at all unusual in Christian organizations…even those that claim to be founded on biblical principles and to be focused on being Christ-centered in all that they do. It is more than a little disconcerting how frequently these organizations seem to be totally dominated by the human personality at the top.

Wounded Workers – page 54

This is exactly what has happened to WinePress…it has become a neurotic organization and Mr. Williams has done a superb job of redefining its personality. But the WinePress website boldly declares how much they claim to be Christ-centered!

Someone said the other day, “WinePress was a great idea that simply got hijacked.” I would have to agree…what was once an organization that served and helped authors and treated them with care and respect is now reduced to a neurotic organization that bites the hand that feeds it.

Perspective

Roger Petersohn’s sermon on Sunday really touched me. It was all about perspective, and how our focus needs to be on God and enjoying our relationship with Him, rather than on our “to do” and “do not do” lists.

It reminded me of how much my focus was always on my “do not do” list for the last 12 years…the cult had me so zeroed in on my sins and focusing on everything I’ve done wrong or am doing wrong, that my perspective was so far from objective it wasn’t funny. Then, of course, there’s the fact that whatever you focus on is what you’ll increase in your life.  No wonder I made no progress in my longing for righteousness…all I had my eyes on was my sin (my “do not do” list).

Changing my perspective to be focused on the Lord and my relationship with Him has been so refreshing and productive! It’s no wonder that I am growing, once again, and regaining a proper point of view. When I looked up the word perspective in the World English Dictionary, the first two definitions really hit home:

perspective  (pəˈspɛktɪv)
— n
  1. a way of regarding situations, facts, etc., and judging their relative importance.
  2. the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity.

What’s important is loving God, not being so overly consumed with my sin, and all the hoops I think I need to jump through to make sure God keeps loving me. There’s nothing I could do or not do to make Him love me anymore than He does right now. Understanding that one thing should cause a wave of gratefulness to wash over me and motivate me to zero in my thoughts and affections on the loving God I serve.

Help us, O Lord, to judge the relative importance of our “to do” and “do not do” lists…help us have the ability to see clearly and objectively Your great love for us…and to focus on our relationship with You, the lover of our souls. May all that we do, or don’t do, be birthed out of love for You, and You alone.

Undo What I’ve Become

Driving to meet with an author this morning, I heard this chorus on the radio. I remembered back to a time when I was still in the cult and I sang this song as a prayer to God. Little did I know how He would answer that prayer.

Turn me around, pick me up, undo what I’ve become   /   Bring me back to the place of forgiveness and grace   /   I need You, I need Your help, I can’t do this myself   /   You’re the only one who can undo what I’ve become

At the time I had pretty much been demonized to the rest of the “church” so I was very isolated. I felt as though there was no hope for me since I had been unable to repent acceptably. About a year earlier, Tim had called the body to meet at WinePress and he proceeded to call us out one by one (excluding his sons and Malcolm, of course) telling us that if we did not repent, we were going to hell.

Shortly after this event, I’d done something that made Tim Williams mad. If my memory serves me, the rebellion I displayed was that I called Malcolm and asked permission to work on a Saturday after I’d been told not to. So there I was in the middle of Grocery Outlet when I got a call from Tim Williams asking why I asked to work when I’d been told not to…he proceeded to chew me out on my cell phone and that conversation ended in Tim praying God’s judgment upon me.

From that point on, everything seemed to go downhill…I was pretty much booted out of WinePress, not allowed to invite other “church” members over for dinner, and was not allowed to verbally communicate with anyone. It was pretty much as close to being disfellowshipped as possible without actually being so.

I remember hearing this song on the radio and was bewildered with what I had become…a Christian with no joy or hope of heaven…alone…numb.

Now I can look back and see that God did exactly that…he turned me around, picked me up, and undid what I’d become….He brought me back to the place of forgiveness and grace…

Instead of leaving me in that barren land that was full of hate and judgment, He delivered me out of captivity and back to Himself.

I can only praise God for His faithfulness to answer my prayer, even though I expected the answer to look completely different.

Praise God His ways are not my ways!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8