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Archive for February, 2009


Words are more powerful than most people can comprehend. No matter how hard you try, you can never retract hurtful words spoken in the heat of the moment. Once they leave your mouth, those words can never be retrieved. As an adult, most people can remember hurtful words that were maliciously spoken to them when they were children decades earlier. They make indelible imprints on our minds–on our hearts. The wounds they cause can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, apologies can’t erase them from our memories. The Scriptures tell us that no man can “tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Several years ago, a survey asked mothers to keep a daily record of how many times they made negative and positive comments to their children. The results were startling. The mothers documented that they made critical remarks ten times more often than encouraging words.

Statistics reveal that in an average household, children hear “no” or are told they “can’t do” something more than 148,000 times by the time they are eighteen years old. One particular school did its own three-year survey and discovered that the teachers were negative with their students 75 percent of the time. The study determined that it took four positive statements from a teacher to offset the effects of one negative statement.

The power of words is incredible. If you want to make a positive impact, use your words to encourage someone today. Use them to help heal a broken relationship or to be merciful to a wounded person–a person in need.

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Here is a questionnaire to determine the level of spiritual abuse you have experienced. How many “Yes” answers do you have? Let me know. I’ll post the results.

1. If you have stopped going to church, did you do so because you were offended?
2. If you still go to church, do you simply go through the motions?
3. Do you believe God condemned you for leaving church?
4. Do you believe most Christians are hypocrites?
5. Has a church leader ever offended you personally?
6. Do you feel unworthy to pray?
7. Have you ever been verbally abused by a leader in the church?
Have you ever been sexually abused by someone in the church?
Have you ever been financially abused by someone who used religion to gain your trust?
Have you ever been emotionally abused by a religious experience?
8. Do religious people make you feel ashamed of who you are?
9. Have you felt used by a religious leader?
10. Do you believe religious people are condemning?
11. When you think of God, do you feel angry?
12. If you wanted to reach out to God, would you feel unworthy to do so?
13. Do you feel like there is more to life than you’re experiencing?
14. If it were possible, would you like to feel closer to God?
15. Do you feel like life has no meaning?
16. Do you ever wonder if you have a drinking problem?
17. Do you use prescription drugs to calm your nerves?
18. Do you have a problem with pornography?
19. Do you have trouble believing God loves you?
20. Do you have trouble loving yourself?

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Guest Editorial


I totally agree with this comment. My reflection today has been on how God weighs our heart. I feel the weight He uses measures how much we love our enemies and how much we forgive those who are in sore need of this grace.

I do not feel part of my church because no one is at all interested in who I am – I am just someone to nod too so who really cares. In the same way, when I reach out and try to operate at a deeper level, I feel shunned and the rules that we don’t talk about that kind of thing here act like a gag.

By the way – I suffer from obesity and am well aware of this disgrace in the eyes of others. It is how much we truely love each other that counts with God and to deeply love means to deeply forgive each other our shortcomings as prisoners of our flesh and this world. When we do the light of heaven shines and reflects something of God’s own countenace on those we can freely give this love to. How I long to bring this light to others and how hard it is to shine when there are so many throwing stones at the glass in an affort to extinguish this light I have in my heart and soul. Like Jesus I am happy to despise the shame – I so wish more of my brothers and sisters in Christ were willing to do the same.

It’s hard to be a light in a dark place. The surrounding darkness can be scary. Imagine if others around me shed this same light – it would be marvelous and so like Christmas I would find it hard to contain my joy.

Blessings from Dianne Porter

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Like the politically correct crowd, church people have their own set of sub-culture terms and rules. Throwing styro-foam away may be a faux pas in political correctness, but the rules for religious people are numerous and often unforgiving.

Take Julie Smith for example. She was married for twenty years to a physician who became involved in abusing prescription drugs. He became so strung out that he had to be institutionalized for several years, which led to a divorce. The couple had one son.

While in treatment, Julie became a Christian, as did the son. When the doctor came out of the treatment center, he rejoined Julie and their child. Julie tried to join the church she was attending, which was in a wealthy suburb of Nashville, but was refused because she was living with a man to whom she was not married. Julie was offended and now wants nothing to do with that church.

The church leaders maintained the purity of the congregation, but they estranged a hurting young Christian to do so. Instead of reaching out as Christ would have done, the religious leaders chose to shun a baby Christian in need, justifying it with “Religious Speak,” which exonerated them of any wrongdoing.

What do you think? Did they do the right thing or not?

As I see it, the church lost a perfect opportunity to help a struggling family stabalize. Because the incident was public, many others knew of it, which made the church look like a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. This was a lose-lose-lose situation, if I’ve ever seen one. Julie and her family lost. The church lost, and those who knew about it lost. Because of “Religious Speak,” however, those from the church felt justified and can’t see all the harm they’ve done. This is how religious abuse occurs, and it’s why millions have left the church.

The problem isn’t whether the church leadership was correct in refusing to grant membership before the woman remarried her former-husband, which she intended to do when she was certain he could maintain his sobriety. It’s much more significant than that.

Here it is: The leaders of the church believe they are “OK with God” based on faith at salvation, and then living obediently day to day, year after year. In their minds, they come to believe that God would have nothing to reproach them for as they live their lives. Julie, on the other hand, has fallen badly. Although the church leadership acknowledged she was a Christian, they believed she was living in a pattern of unrepentant sinfulness that justified excluding her from membership. This means that her lifestyle is more sinful than others. If you are going to point a condemning finger, you have to be prepared to have it pointed back at you. Self-righteous people never see this. It’s why they are self-righteous.

If that were true, the senior pastor should be excluded from membership because he is obese—an obvious glutton. In Christianity, however, gluttony gets a pass, perhaps because there are so many pastors who are grossly overweight.

Here’s the point. We are not only saved by grace but we also walk by grace each day of our lives. Not one thing any of us ever does is completely pure. All of our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags to God, but He loves each of us in spite of it. For any of us to think we are better than another is an error—the same error Satan believed which resulted in him being condemned.

Julie should have been allowed membership and all the help she needed to restore her broken family to health. That’s what the church is for, isn’t it? Instead, she has been forced to do it on her own—just like the rest of us. Is it any wonder why 100 million people believe the church is irrelevant?

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Christians are quick to condemn the intolerance of political correctness. The politically correct crowd, who currently enjoy an unprecedented power position in America, condemn biblical Christianity for being intolerant without recognizing the intolerance of their position. Unfortunately, being in the power position does not make humility and acceptance easier. It makes it harder–much harder.

Christians see the difference and routinely castigate the political correctness crowd for it. Within the church community, however, Christians are highly intolerant of those who do not measure up–to those who are still caught in destructive lifestyles by self-defeating behavior. Christian leaders, who were saved by grace, routinely brow-beat the rank and file with legalism. Although they readily admit that they could do nothing to earn their salvation, they disregard it routinely and march to a legalistic tune that leads to destruction as surely as the lemming jumping off a ledge to swim the pacific Ocean.

It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s so destructive that millions need to recover from the religious abuse it causes. To Christian leaders, however, the maintain their legalistic positions, justifying it by “Religious Speak,” which will be defined tomorrow.

(More Tomorrow)

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STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I forgive my abusers.

Environmentalists inform us that everything we do leaves an imprint on the earth, either positively or negatively—either friendly or unfriendly. It’s the same with our relationships. We are either friendly or unfriendly to the people we love and to ourselves. The Scriptures teach that the “sins of the fathers” are passed down through the generations adversely impacting children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The tentacles of self-defeating behavior sink deep into the fabric of those we love, and our offspring become just like us in ways we wish they wouldn’t. Liars beget deceitful children; those who have problems with substance abuse are much more likely to have children with the same issues; and people with low self-esteem produce like-minded children who become equally defeated in thought and deed.

This is where the value of STEP 9 really becomes apparent. Because you’ve been honest about who you are—warts and all, you are now prepared to break the cycle of self-defeating behavior for yourself and for those who follow after you. God wants to heal your pain and transform it into something positive for every person in your sphere of influence.

Through your honest inventory, you have broken the cords of your emotional chains and are now ready to have God make some core changes in your character—changes that will leave a positive imprint on your offspring. You can begin to lay claim to a brighter future for yourself, for your children, and for your children’s children.

Those who are in your genetic pool will either be blessed or cursed by your life just as surely as they will be by your carbon imprint. Your impact upon others is also substantial and equally important. It’s why healing the pain from your abuse is so critical.

God has the power to make permanent changes in who you are, and He’s anxious to do so. By being honest and admitting your culpability rather than continuing to live in denial, you can wipe the slate clean and create a new beginning. You can clean your emotional pool of all pollutants and become a blessing to yourself and to everyone you touch for several generations to come. This is where the fruit of your recovery bears substantive results—where God turns your painful experience into something of value. It’s why STEP 9 is so important.

The second part of STEP 9 is the most difficult piece of your recovery process—no doubt about it; but it must be done. For you to become everything you are capable of being—everything God ever intended you to be, you must forgive those who have abused you. There’s no getting around it. When you do, you’ll release yourself to experience the full life your Heavenly Father desires for you. That’s a promise—a Divine promise.

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In our society, political correctness has become the religion of the people, and the unforgivable sin is intolerance. You can believe whatever you want, just as long as you accept the validity of whatever others choose to believe as well. God accepts all avenues to Him as equally valid, whether it’s wishy-washy Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Post-modern political correctness. Scriptural Christianity, however, is unacceptable because it’s ignorant, backward, and intolerant of the validity of other legitimate ways to God. The disdain for a biblical worldview is so profound that those who are politically correct ridicule it and hold it in open, hostile contempt.

To say that you believe the Scriptures are inerrant is to say you are an obscurantic fool. Not wanting to invite unwanted criticism into their lives, most Christian people simply keep their beliefs to themselves, speaking in code to one another. In essence, Christians, who once were in the majority in America, are now a sub-culture.

For the most part, Christians have come to accept this role as their lot in life, justifying it by saying to one another that we are in the End Times. It makes it easier to endure the relentless emotional and intellectual pogrom inflicted by the American Civil Religion, which is political correctness.

(More Tomorrow)

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Announcement!


Part of the purpose for this blog has been to write a book based on the entries. I have just finished 91 Days to recovery from Religious Abuse, and it’s with my literary agent at the William Morris Agency.

I’ll be continuing to write at least three or four entries per week for the forceable future.

I thought you would like to know this.

Jack

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Recovery becomes a way of life for people in Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups. In some ways, it may become your experience as well. As you spend time during the following weeks working each STEP, you will learn how valuable this soul-searching process can be. As you gently open your life, exposing your wounds and your sorrows, you’ll begin to experience peace and contentment, perhaps for the first time in many years.

You’ll be on the road to a more rewarding life than you’ve ever lived—a life where wisdom and sound judgment rule rather than wishful thinking. At the same time, there will be setbacks—times when you regress to rebellious thoughts and attitudes. Your behavior may be equally poor. When this occurs, stop as quickly as you recognize what is happening.

Look at the “11 STEPS to Recovery from Religious Abuse” and determine where you are falling short. Figure out the problem, and work the appropriate STEP again. Ask a friend to help you, if needed. Repeat this process as often as necessary until you get back on track. It’s OK to work it dozens of times if necessary. Don’t give up regardless of what happens, and don’t allow yourself to think all your progress has evaporated. It hasn’t. It’s just a setback.

Be gentle with yourself when you regress, realizing it can happen to anybody. It’s like stumbling. When you fall down, you get back up, brush yourself off, and move forward. You don’t say, “I’ve fallen down, and I’ll never get up again.” It’s the same with recovering from an abusive situation. When you fall, get up and continue your journey. In recovery, look for progress rather than perfection. By working on your recovery a little each day, progress is inevitable. It will occur; you can count on it.

You are a work in progress; you’re not perfect. Neither is anyone else. Dwell on the progress being made—not where you still fall short. As the months and years pass, you’ll be amazed by the progress you’ve made. Your feet will become firmly planted—strong and stable; and in whatever you do, you’ll prosper.

SCRIPTURE: . . . I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3a, New American Standard Bible)

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Putting your relationship with God in order is the most important part of recovery. It’s the key to all others. Until you are on solid footing with God, little progress can be accomplished, and your behavior will not change substantially. At best, you will learn to talk the talk. You may fool others, but your insides will still be hollow and disquieted—precisely like those who have abused you. In order to become the vibrant person you were created to be, you must reconnect with God. It’s simple to do, but it’s not easy.

When your vertical relationship has been solidified, it’s time to focus on your horizontal relationships—your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. That’s what STEP 7 is all about. It’s where your recovery takes a turn from being focused inwardly to being focused outwardly. Even though this step entails spelling out your personal experience in substantial detail, it’s when you begin to turn your attention from yourself toward others.

For many, this part of recovery may be very difficult. Often, people prefer to “let sleeping dogs lie,” refusing to dredge up the past. They believe this course of “inaction” is wise, but it isn’t. They’re just fooling themselves—exalting their fears and ascribing wisdom to them.

If the “dogs” had been sleeping, there wouldn’t be debilitating emotional pain or self-defeating behavior, would there? Since anger, guilt, shame, and many other toxic emotions keep the lives of abused people in perpetual turmoil, the dogs have been anything but sleeping.

You will not recover without taking an accurate moral inventory. You have to face your past. There’s no way to get around it.

As you prepare for this week, make a commitment to be completely forthright about the abuse you’ve experienced, as well as your subsequent behavior. Without scrupulous honesty, most of the value of STEP 7 will be lost. If you are determined to be honest, much of the pain from your past will fade and soon become a distant memory.

In recovery, there is a saying: “You are only as sick as your secrets.”

Like so many pithy statements, it’s surprisingly accurate. STEP 7 is your opportunity to expose your conduct to the light—to God. It can be difficult—no doubt about it. At the same time, it’s freeing. Currently, you may have the weight of the world on your shoulders, producing significant apprehension. It may make you want to quit, or at least put off STEP 7 for a while—a long while.

Resist this urge at all costs. Be courageous and move forward. The reward is worth it—guaranteed.

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STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I forgive my abusers.

READING: Recognizing the purpose in your painful, abusive experience may be very difficult, but it’s there, awaiting discovery. You simply have to search for it—like you would a misplaced piece of valuable jewelry. Like the lost jewelry, it should never be far from your mind; and when you find it, your relief and joy will be just as rewarding. You have found something of significant value—something to treasure.

For me, each tumultuous, life-altering event seemed random for a long time; but it all began to come together when I learned to be fully attuned to life. That happened when I stopped living on the borders of consciousness, medicating my pain and my problems, rather than facing them. That’s why sobriety has been so important for me. I used alcohol to medicate my pain, which it did, but it also clouded my judgment, as well as my perception of reality.

I needed to think soberly; and when I mastered the steps to make that a reality, the patterns emerged—slowly, to be sure, but inevitably. I began to understand the purpose behind each difficult situation. I finally “got” the lesson I was supposed to learn. Without sobriety, I never would have been able to discern my distorted perspective on life from the truth. I had to abandon my self-defeating behavior just like you.

When I did, truth began to enlighten me, providing the freedom to cast aside my debilitating manacles. Without the shackles, I was free to embrace a life of proactive forthrightness—a life full of love, joy, and peace. These estimible character qualities are what I exchanged for resentment and an unforgiving heart. By nurturing my bitterness, I thought I was punishing my abusers, but I was only punishing myself, spinning my wheels purposlessly for years.

God wants to free you from your debilitating past just like He did with me. All you have to do is ask. When you do, He will be free to change your attitude, change your behavior, and change your heart.

SCRIPTURE: Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (New Living Translation)

PRAYER: Father, I do want to be free from the past and from all the pain it causes. Please heal me from any lingering shame, anger, and bitterness. Please come in and make any changes necessary to make my healing real and permanent.

ACTION STEP: Ask God to make these changes and then be patient. He knows when to make changes in your life and what changes to make. Your responsibility is to ask for the change. God’s responsibility is to make them when He sees fit to do so.

REFLECTIONS ON CHANGE: For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (New Living Translation)

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STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

“You did not choose Me but I chose you . . . ” John 15:16 (New American Standard Bible)

Once you are no longer angry with God nor blame Him for your abuse, you will begin to see life more clearly—from a healthier, more accurate perspective. Then, when you least expect it, it will happen. It will probably just pass through your mind like a zephyr—like a gentle breeze of illumination which penetrates your soul.

Intuitively, you’ll know it is the Holy Spirit renewing your mind and your heart, providing wisdom. Everything will finally come together. When this occurs, and it will, you’ll be undone. Instantly, you’ll realize precisely how much God loves you; and this realization will be overwhelming.

From that precise moment, everything inside you will change, and you’ll never be the same again—not if you live to be ninety. You will become aware of your value to God and what it cost Him to make you His own. You’ll know—perhaps for the first time—the depth of God’s love and how safe you are in the hands of the Master. At that moment, nothing else will matter. Neither self-fulfillment nor material comforts will seem important. That’s when wisdom—God’s wisdom—will enter your heart, and you will be changed from the inside out. It’s your Mount of Transfiguration—the place where you cannot sing “Amazing Grace” without weeping from heartfelt gratitude, knowing that the “wretch” from the song is you.

Suddenly, everything will become clear; and you’ll know your life still has purpose—still has value. This moment may not last long, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve seen reality—if only for an instant—the way God sees it; and nothing will ever be the same again. The purpose for your recovery will start to come together. You’ll look at your past differently—with more clarity.

Your abusers had a purpose—to use you, to exploit every fiber of your being and, when they were through, to discard you as someone no longer worth their time or trouble. For a while, maybe even for years, your lifestyle validated their assessment—as you pursued self-defeating behavior. But now that your eyes have been opened, those days are over and need never return.

What your abuser used to destroy you, God has used to rebuild you—from the inside out. When this reality dawns on you, when you understand it at the core of your being, you will begin to fathom God’s love—a love that cannot be shaken nor diminished. Once you understand this, like the phoenix, you will rise out of the ashes—out of your doldrums—to newness of life. You will be a better person than ever before, and you’ll be thankful. It’s been worth it—all of it, including your abusive experience.

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Step 10: I believe that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

If a man is going to do anything worth while, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense.
–Oswald Chambers—

READING: Going through an abusive situation is never something a person plans or invites into his or her life. When it happens, it’s always considered a detour—an unexpected bump in the road. It’s surprising and definitely unwanted.

At the same time, there are no accidents with God. Everything has a purpose, including situations we consider undesirable—even abusive situations. If we learn to go with the flow—to believe God is still in charge and has a positive plan for our lives, we are on the right track.

It’s normal to go through a myriad of emotions after being abused, including every stage of grief but, at the other end, we must come to the point where we are willing to risk it all again. We must learn that God still has us in the palm of His hand and nothing can separate us from His love. Nothing can thwart His purpose.

God is keen on the idea of us being everything He wants us to be, and developing rich character qualities in us like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness is always the end result He desires. Knowing God is with you, regardless of the situation, makes trusting Him your wisest option, even after your abusive experience.

SCRIPTURE: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (New American Standard Bible)
PRAYER: Father, enable me to believe that You still have a positive plan for my life—a plan for good things and not bad.

ACTION STEP: Try to find and talk to others who have been through religious abuse. There are millions of them. Knowing what others are facing, or have faced, can greatly aid your recovery. You are not alone—not even close.

REFLECTION ON GOD’S WAYS:
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:7-9 (New Living Translation)

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