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Archive for February, 2011


Father,

I’m so grateful for all that you have done,

So honored that you would love me,

And pay attention to my needs.

On my best days, which seem to be rare,

When I am peaceful and tranquil—

When I am confident that You are in charge

And that I need not worry,

I know how blessed I am.

Help me live in this truth each day.

Help me show others that You care

And that You are always available.

Let people see by my actions

The depth of my confidence in You;

Let them see that Your ways are always the best—

That they are always wise and prudent.

Teach me to refrain from boastful arrogance;

And let pride be far from me,

Knowing that this too would be my witness;

Pushing those You care about further away,

Rather than drawing them nearer.

Teach me to be mindful that

Whatever I do, whether positive or negative,

It is a reflection of me but also of You.

Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear; but certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me. (Psalm 16-20)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

Allow me to serve others with gladness—

Without keeping score,

Always giving, never expecting to receive.

Allow me to give of myself,

To give of my talents and of my goods,

To give of my time and of my energy,

To give of my heart and of my soul.

Help me understand the needs of others,

Never criticizing,

Never demeaning,

Never scolding,

Never condemning.

You have been so gracious to me,

Always Loving,

Always forgiving,

Always restoring—

Never chastising me for failure,

Even though I have been wrong

More times than I can remember.

Father, keep a criticizing spirit

Far from my heart and further from my lips.

Allow me to serve others with gladness,

With compassion and tenderness,

Never diminishing their value as the price for my aid.

Let me extend mercy to the brokenhearted,

Just as You have done so often for me.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you; with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to Godl And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:16-17)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

For those who wait patiently for You,

For those who come to You for help,

Rather than taking matters into their own hands,

You promise that they will mount up with wings like an eagle,

That they will run and not grow tired—

That they will walk and never become weary.

In the depth of my despair, in my heartache and rejection,

Your promises seemed so remote, obscure, and meaningless,

That I was certain they were beyond my reach.

I never considered them to be real or tangible.

To me, they were nothing more than sappy, poetic words.

In my pain and heartache, all I wanted was relief,

Which at times was so intense I thought it would never end.

I begged You to answer my prayerful demands,

Which You never did, adding to my distress.

I felt so unloved and abandoned—even by You,

Which magnified my pain tenfold, maybe twenty.

You did answer my prayers, by just saying, “No.”

You loved me enough to prevent me form situations,

Which were clearly not in my best interest to obtain.

In my disquietude and short-sightedness,

I couldn’t understand or fathom Your will, but now I can.

Because I chose Your path instead of my self-destructive way,

You have brought me to higher plateau—

To a place where I am now capable

Of mounting up with wings like an eagle, as promised.

Because You restore the years eaten away by locust,

I feel refreshed—invigorated with resolve,

As I experience increased energy.

As my strength and faith increasingly abound,

I feel empowered to run and not grow weary—

To walk and never faint.

Now, with my vision and joy restored,

I willingly bow my knee and thank You

For caring enough to tell me no.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am you God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10-11)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

The darkness has lifted—

Darkness permitted by You

To refine my character,

Purging each of my foolish ways

And making me more like

The man I’m supposed to be—

The man I’ve always wanted to be,

But have never become—

Not on the inside where it counts.

In the midst of my despair,

When at night I longed for the day,

And in the daytime desired it to be evening,

When sorrows made it difficult to breathe,

You were always there beside me,

Even when I was certain that You were not.

As fear relentlessly rattled my being,

You continued transforming who I would become.

Ever mindful of my frailties and weaknesses,

You purged and pruned and cleansed.

Then, one day, as I waited for the gloom

To overwhelm me once again,

Which had become my daily routine,

But it was gone; vanishing like it had never been there,

Leaving me stronger, more resilient, and far wiser.

My purpose returned to me, along with my smile,

As I embraced life with renewed enthusiasm—

No longer chained to my heartache,

No longer imprisoned by my distress.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

You know how badly I have been mistreated

By those who should have fostered my welfare

But did the exact opposite—instead,

Taking advantage of my trusting nature.

I’ve expressed my outrage and indignation

To You so often that I’ve lost count.

This affront has wounded me to the depth of my soul.

Out of my pain and ire, I know I have hurt others,

Which I have tried to excuse but cannot.

I fear I have become like those who have hurt me,

Injuring the innocent—just as I have been.

Father, I acknowledge that I have done this,

And I fear that I am becoming a hurtful person.

I don’t want to be like my abusers,

But, in all candor, I know that I have been,

Despite my insistence to the contrary.

Forgive me, Father. Heal my wounded heart,

And restore gladness to my troubled soul.

As an act of contrition, I have chosen to abandon

My self-serving ways, which have been so wounding.

Despite my pain, my anger and disquietude,

I choose to stop spreading malice and bitterness.

To sustain my determined resolve, I need

Your strength now, more than ever.

Will You reach down and empower me?

Will You strengthen me to bridle my caustic tongue?

Will You keep my feet from stumbling?

Transform my wandering heart, Lord,

And keep me close to You at all times.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

You are the Master Architect

Engineering the events of my life,

Providing an opportunity for me

To rise to the occasion each minute of the day.

At times, Your guidance seems clear,

While at others, it’s remote, seeming so far away

That I can’t find You no matter how hard I try.

Even when Your presence alludes me,

I know that You are there.

You are always guiding me—

Always present, always vigilant.

As my life becomes increasingly exposed

And people look at me, and occasionally to me,

My life speaks of what You have done—

Of the person You have made me to be—

Not by my words, which seem so inadequate,

And may appear to be petty, trite and shallow,

But by my actions, which are clear for all to see.

Oh, how I loathe the pompously religious

Who extol their virtues, with a heart that never yields.

May I never be like them—like those

Who talk of Your love and guidance,

While seeking an advantage over the unsuspecting.

Let my witness be by my actions,

And not by my mellifluous tongue,

Which I know can be self-serving and serpentine.

Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Ty truth and teach me, for Thou are the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

My heart aches,

And I feel so unworthy

To come before You.

I feel worthless and,

By the contemptuous smirk of others,

I’m certain that I am.

I feel so ashamed of myself,

And nobody is to say,

“It’s okay. God is there for you

No matter what.”

I feel like I need to cringe

And not hold my head up high.

I feel like I need to lurk in the darkness

Rather than boldly embrace the light.

I feel like You don’t love me,

And I wonder, How could You?

I know I don’t love myself

And I probably never will.

And yet, in the depth of my shame,

You are there, always vigilant,

Always available, always telling me,

My child, I know what you’ve done.

I know how badly you feel.

I know that you think your life has no value,

But that’s not how I see you—not at all.

In spite of everything, I love you

Just the way you are.

That’s why I sent My Son.

He took care of your shame

And washed it whiter than snow.

Now, leave the past behind.

Hold your head up high

And walk with Me into the future.

I still have a plan for you—a plan

Filled with hope and promise.

Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Thy face from me, lest I become like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee; Teach me the way in which I should walk; for the Thee I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in Thee. (Psalm 143:7-9)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

Nothing is as I had wanted it,

As I thought it would be,

As I believed I had been promised.

Perhaps my aspirations were nothing more

Than my own wishful thinking,

But the despair from my failure is real.

Nothing could be more real

Than how heartbroken I am,

Knowing my life didn’t have to be this way.

As a youth, when I turned my life,

My will and my purpose,

Over to You for safekeeping,

I believed I would experience abundance,

But that has not been my lot—not even close.

It seems like I have failed

At everything I’ve been called to do,

And when I’ve needed You the most,

It seems like You have been very distant.

My enemies delight at my misfortune.

The pain from their sharp, cutting looks

Is ever before me, stinging and infuriating me,

But also crushing my soul and my spirit,

Derailing my efforts to get back on my feet.

Those I’ve trusted have used and discarded me,

Rejecting me without a backward glance.

Like a fool, I never saw it coming.

As I recoil from my wounds,

I call on Your name, but You are not close;

At least, I don’t feel Your presence.

I didn’t want to fail, Father.

You know that I didn’t—but I have,

And I can’t change the outcome.

Many doors are now closed,

But my life is not yet finished,

And other opportunities will eventuate.

When they do, help me learn

All the lessons I need to know.

I don’t want to ever be in this

Hopeless, tortured place again—

Where life seems to hold no promise.

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou has destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. But as for me, the nearness of my God is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge. That I may tell of all Thy works. (Psalm 73:25-28)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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On February 1, the Huffington Post published an article I wrote about my new book, Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom, published by Simon & Schuster. Because the article was located in the religion section, I didn’t anticipate much of a response, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The response was overwhelming, with many of the respondents indicating how deeply they had been injured by their personal religious experience. Many were very angry, while others were clearly hurt. As I read each comment, I was moved by many.

I was particularly intrigued by one comment that questioned an assumption I had stated in my premise. In the opening paragraph, I wrote, “Millions have experienced religious abuse.” The person’s comment questioned the validity of my sweeping generalization, which is a valid criticism. It should be questioned and deserves a response.

Although there is no empirical data that measures the “walking wounded” of Christendom clearly, a resent study by the Barna Group comes close. I believe it will help validate my assertion.

In a nationwide study of randomly selected adults from August 2009 to February 2010, Barna found this:

Based on past studies of those who avoid Christian churches, one of the driving forces behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church context. In fact, one Barna study among un-churched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.

This group, who were once churchgoers, have distanced themselves so far from religion that they are now considered un-churched people. The next obvious question is this: how large is the number of un-churched people in America? Again, Barna helps answer the question. According to the research, when dependent children are added to the group, the number of un-churched reaches nearly 100 million. That’s nearly one in every three Americans. Of that group, 37% have had negative religious experiences.

While not all negative experiences rise to the level of spiritual abuse, all abused people are a subset of the larger group, which is nearly 40 million people. That equates to every man, woman, and child in the state of California or slightly more than the entire population of Canada. Regardless of how one looks at it, this is a large sections of the population.

Exactly how large the subset of those who have been abused by their religious experience has yet to be determined. The existing data only provides a general answer. More research is obviously needed to answer the question completely. Now that the issue has been raised, I suspect some enterprising graduate student will do the survey research required to answer the question precisely. It would be a great subject for a doctoral dissertation. Regardless, the problem is staggering in its enormity because nearly 40 million people have been so turned off by their “negative experience” that they are now defined as un-churched.

Despite this, the problem isn’t even a blip on the radar for most of the religious establishment, who refuse to acknowledge it as real. For them, once someone leaves the church after a “negative experience,” that person is quickly forgotten in the never-ending quest to evangelize the lost. In essence, they keep their front yard spotless, while completely disregarding the mess in their backyard, hoping that nobody will call attention to it, which I now have.

The concept of leaving the ninety-nine who are safe to go after the one that it lost is a noble biblical concept, but it doesn’t translate into action—not in institutionalized Christianity. To make matters worse, the “one that is lost” equates to nearly 12% of the entire population, which makes the problem extremely large.

The initial response to Recovering from Religious Abuse is a good illustration of how massive the problem of denial is among religious leaders. The Huffington Post, recognizing the problem, ran my article twice—not once, twice. LifeWay, the largest Christian bookstore chain in America, by way of contrast, not only doesn’t stock the book in any of its 130 stores, it doesn’t even have the book in its computer system. To them, the problem isn’t an issue worth their trouble. The same is true of Mardels—another large Christian bookstore chain, while Barnes & Noble has had the forethought to stock the book nationwide.

Pretending that the problem of religious abuse is minor will not make it go away. Secular organizations recognize this and are willing to address it. The religious establishment, however, is in such massive denial that they refuse to do anything to help the millions they have wounded, choosing instead to focus their efforts on the lost. It’s a strategy that has traditionally worked for them but, like the Catholic Church, who finally addressed the problem of pedophile priests, the time of reckoning is at hand.

Jack Watts

Atlanta, GA

P. S. Here is the link to the Barna material: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/362-millions-of-unchurched-adults-are-christians-hurt-by-churches-but-can-be-healed-of-the-pain?q=healing

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I’m praying because I know I should,

Not because I really want to.

I can do things for myself.

I always have—always will.

I don’t need Your help—not really.

“Bring it on,” is my motto.

In my heart, this is how I feel

Nearly all of the time.

I’m not trying to hurt anybody,

But I don’t really trust most people either—

Not even You, Lord, not even You.

As I grit my teeth obstinately,

In my arrogance I believe that I can handle anything.

Then, You allow adversity to have reign over me.

Fighting You every step of the way when this happens,

I refuse to learn the lesson I am being taught.

This attitude is who I am, Father.

At least, it is the way I have become.

Undaunted by my inflexibility,

You increase the pressure upon me,

And I wince at the discomfort,

But I will not yield—not yet.

I still have so much fight left in me.

I cannot submit; I will not submit.

Then, You double the pressure, redoubling it once more.

Finally, when I can stand no more,

I break—just a little and, in my bewildered distress,

I cry out imploringly, “Lord? What have I done?”

As if completely innocent, I ask, “Why is this happening?”

Revealing Your purpose, I begin to realize

How much my world needed shaking.

Finally, coming to the end of my pigheadedness,

I acknowledge what I should have earlier;

“Your will is my will, Lord. Do with me as You please.”

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (I Corinthians 10:11-12)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

As I thoughtfully look about,

Appraising my circumstances,

Which are not what I had desired—

Not at all what I had planned—

I don’t understand where You are leading,

Nor do I understand why I must travel

In isolation, as a solitary figure.

I wanted my life to be so different,

To be easier and more carefree,

But that was not the journey I’ve experienced.

As I see the smiling faces of others—

Those who talk about You as if they

Know You intimately, but do not,

I wonder why their lives appear to be

Free from disappointment and conflict,

While mine has been stressful and difficult.

I wonder if I will ever be filled with joy again?

Father, tell me when will Your pruning hand

Will finish its relentless alterations?

When will I awaken from darkness and despair,

To a bright, sunny day, filled with promise—

Free from sorrow—free from loss?

When will You move in a mighty

Redemptive way, to strengthen me?

When will You say to my enemies,

This is my child—my beloved child—

Whom I will establish him with power.

Let all who wonder know that it is I—

The great ‘I Am’ who has done this work.

Father, I know that You are in charge;

That You have numbered my days

And each of my years are in Your hands.

It is within Your power to change everything—

To allow my life to have far more meaning.

Finish Your transformation quickly,

So that I can withstand the swirling wind

And foreboding clouds that encompass me.

But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father, we are the clay, and Thou our potter; and all of us are the work of Thy hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, neither remember iniquity forever; behold, look now, all of us are Thy people. (Isaiah 64:8-9)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

Thank You for revealing Your will to me.

Now, I understand what I need to do and why.

My spirit had been disquieted for days,

As I’ve wrestled with my decision to proceed.

Deciding to be confrontational has been grueling,

But I’m certain it’s what You would have me do,

Despite my apprehension and desire to be liked.

By stepping out, when I would rather pretend

That the problem doesn’t exist—that it isn’t real—

I will be burning a valued bridge,

Which I have desired to protect at all costs.

But I cannot, nor can I continue

To remain quiet in the security of my self-deception.

I know what I have to do, and I will do it.

But, Father, it’s difficult for me,

And I can’t pretend that it isn’t.

About some things I appear to be so strong,

But not when it comes to confrontation,

Especially when it’s with someone I love.

My fear is that my insides will turn weak and

My resolve will vanish, rendering me useless.

Help me to be bold and confident,

While refraining from saying hurtful things,

Which are within my power and nature to do.

Father, help me guard my tongue,

While remaining straightforward and candid.

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom

Jack Watts


Until now, there has been nothing that addresses the problem of religious abuse, while also offering a solution for the victims. Using an 11-step method, Jack Watts has developed a program to help wounded Christians heal.

Most abused Christian’s lead half-lives, consumed with anger, bitterness, shame, and disillusionment. They question whether the best years of their lives have already passed, hoping they haven’t but suspecting they have. They are prone to depression and acting-out behavior, including over eating, over spending, alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, and promiscuity.

Recovering from Religious Abuse explains how the dynamics of religious abuse works but, more importantly, it details a method for the abused person to identify what has happened, while also providing a path leading to full recovery. The key is for the abused person to recognize that God was not responsible for their abuse. Rather, He still loves them just as much as ever, and they can once again experience love, joy, peace, patience, and serenity—not just occasionally but consistently.

Perhaps someone who would benefit from Recovering from Religious Abuse comes to mind. Maybe this has been your experience, and you want to reconnect with God in a positive, meaningful way. In a very short time—just ninety-one days—you can regain what you’ve lost and become stronger than you ever imagined possible, as you divest yourself of the crippling chains that have imprisoned you since your abusive experience. It’s a program that works.

Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom

Jack Watts

Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781439192689

$21.99; 6×9 Hardcover; 224 pp

Now available at bookstores everywhere. For more information: http://pushingjesus.com/

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Father,

As I observe others calling upon Your name

To fulfill their trivial, meaningless desires—

Those who are never satisfied,

Who always want and demand more,

Like craving spiritual sponges—

I’m amazed at how little they understand.

Mellifluously, they say, “Praise the Lord,”

In a voice that quivers with self-serving solemnity.

In their cunning hearts, they are not seeking You—

But an angle to take advantage of others—

Always searching for a way to obtain their desires,

Without ever paying the legitimate price for them,

While smiling duplicitously, deceiving the foolish.

As I watch and listen, I remember

When I was young, naïve, and shallow—

Unable to discern their deceptive ways.

Their hearts were devious, self-absorbed, and cunning,

Harboring deceit and treachery,

While maintaining a facade of godly humility.

In my innocence and naïveté, I knew no better,

Believing they had been sent by You

And that they had my best interest at heart.

Now, as I reflect upon their actions many years later,

Having weathered their malice and much, much more,

I see the fruitlessness of their scheming.

I look for them, but they cannot be found,

While I smile at the future, regardless of what that might be,

Knowing that looking to You in an honest way

Is the only path to a lifetime of fulfillment.

For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. (II Timothy 3:2-5)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Father,

I don’t just think I’ve been abused,

I know I have been abused.

And You know I’ve been wronged, too.

I’ve told You about it countless times.

Everybody I’ve talked to knows my story.

But now that it’s been a while since it happened,

Everybody seems to have gone on with their lives—

That is, everybody but me.

I’m still stuck in a self-destructive mindset,

Which has not changed appreciably.

It’s infuriating and unfair that I’m the one

Who has to experience so much pain.

They should be the ones to pay, but they haven’t.

I know that by my stubborn refusal to change,

I’m not hurting them—not one bit.

I’m only hurting myself, and I know it.

I can’t live like this any longer, Father.

I don’t want to continue wasting years nursing resentment,

Rehashing my drama endlessly in my mind,

But it’s going to be difficult for me to get back on track.

I’ve drifted farther from You than I ever thought I would.

I didn’t realize how willful I had become,

But I do now. It becomes clearer each day.

That’s why I need You to guide me back home.

I have blamed others for my plight for so long,

That bitterness seems normal—even comfortable,

Which frightens me more than anything.

You’ve promised that I’m still Your child,

And I need You now more than ever.

Help me find my way back to where I belong.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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