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Archive for April, 2011


Refer to 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.

Only God can turn a mess into a message.

—Unknown

Learning to come to God as Almighty—rather than just as a Friend and Comforter—has empowering qualities that most abused people have either forgotten or have never learned. When you come to Him, asking what His will is for your life, you are asking Him a direct question. No longer content to languish is your despair and your depression, coming to God as Almighty tells Him you are ready to do whatever He wants you to do—to be whatever He wants you to be.

It means that you have reached a point in your recovery when you want to be of service to others. It’s a mark in your recovery when you’re healthy enough to help someone rather than simply focusing on yourself. It means your intentions are to serve others.

You’ve come to trust Him again, knowing that your abuse came from misguided men and women and not from God. Knowing that abusive people like these cause much more harm than good, you have also come to realize that your experience can have value in helping other wounded people to heal.

Can God trust you with what you have learned? Can He count on you to be faithful in helping others who have been wounded—just like you have been helped? Can He count on you to point others to Him and not exploit them as you were exploited?

Only you know the answer to this; but if you are faithful with your part, you can’t imagine the reward that awaits you. You’re sense of self-worth, which has taken a hit ever since your abuse, will make you feel more worthwhile than you’ve ever felt before—guaranteed.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs. And he touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

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

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

—Thomas Paine

The Scriptures teach us to “count it all joy” when we experience difficult “trials” in our lives. When you read this for the first time, however, it seems like it must be a typo. In your mind you say, Surely, God doesn’t expect me to count it all joy that I’ve lost my job, my house, my child, or my health, does He? As difficult to accept as it seems, that’s exactly what He wants you to do—to count it all joy. Just because you can’t see a way out of your circumstance doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and He already knows the outcome. From His perspective, it’s already a done deal, and all He is waiting for is for you to fall in line. The way to do this is by putting everything in His hands—especially the outcome, which you have no control over anyway. Look to Him; thank Him for your circumstance; and fall in step. When you do, numerous character qualities will be enhanced in you.

Everybody has trials. Everybody has disappointments. Everybody has failures. It’s what you do with it that counts.

If you chafe, becoming bitter and petulant, you will have failed to mature in an area where you need to become an adult. This means you will need to repeat the exercise—like a student who is required to retake a failed course. The choice is yours: you can either demonstrate wisdom, by counting it all joy, or you can go through the experience again.

As for me, I’ve gone through many trials with mixed results. Like most, I’ve chafed more often than I should have, which has meant I’ve had to repeat several painful experiences. Now, when they come my way, I accept this chorus as true:

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say

Lord blessed be Your name.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

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

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

—Thomas Paine

The Scriptures teach us to “count it all joy” when we experience difficult “trials” in our lives. When you read this for the first time, it seems like it must be a typo. In your mind you say, Surely, God doesn’t expect me to count it all joy that I’ve lost my job, my house, my child, or my health, does He?

As difficult to accept as it seems, that’s exactly what He wants you to do—to count it all joy. Just because you can’t see a way out of your circumstance doesn’t mean there isn’t one. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and He knows the outcome.

From His perspective, it’s already a done deal, and all He is waiting for is for you to fall in line. The way to fall in line is by putting everything in His hands—especially the outcome, which you have no control over anyway. Look to Him; thank Him for your circumstance; and fall in step. When you do, numerous character qualities within you will be enhanced. Everybody has trials. Everybody has disappointments. Everybody has failures. It’s what you do with them that counts.

If you chafe, becoming bitter and petulant, you will have failed to grow in an area where you need to mature. This means you will need to repeat the exercise—like a student who needs to retake a failed course. The choice is yours: you can either demonstrate wisdom, by counting it all joy, or you can go through it again.

As for me, I’ve gone through many trials with mixed results. Like most, I’ve chafed more than I should have, which has meant I’ve had to repeat my failures numerous times. Now, when they come my way, I choose to repeat this chorus:

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say

Lord blessed be Your name.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s well for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

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Have I experienced religious abuse? If so, how significant has it been?

The following questions will help you determine for yourself.

After reading each question, simply mark the appropriate number on the ten-point scale. Try not to spend too much time on any question. Choose the first response that comes to your mind. Your “gut reaction” is usually the best.

Even if your abuse has been significant, there’s hope for you. You can overcome the wounding you’ve experienced to become everything you’re capable of being. Here are the questions:

1. I have stopped going to church because someone in the ministry wounded me.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

2. Although mistreated by someone in the ministry, I still go to church, but I simply go through the motions.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

3. I believe God is displeased with me for leaving my church.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

4. I believe most Christians are hypocrites.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

5. Yes, a church leader has abused me.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

6. I feel unworthy to pray.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

7. I have been verbally abused by someone in the ministry.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

8. I have been sexually abused by someone in the ministry.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

9. I have been financially abused by someone in the ministry.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

10. I have been emotionally abused by a religious experience.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

11. I feel a sense of shame around religious people.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

12. I feel used by religious people.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

13. I believe religious people condemn me.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0 Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

14. I am angry with God.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

15. I feel unworthy to reach out to God.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

16. There is more to life than I’m experiencing.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

17. I would like to feel closer to God, but I don’t believe it’s possible.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

18. Life has no meaning.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

19. Sometimes I wonder if I have a drinking problem.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

20. Sometimes I wonder if I abuse prescription drugs.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

21. Sometimes I wonder if I have a problem with pornography.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

22. Sometimes I don’t believe God loves me.

10_______9_______8______7______6______5______4______3______2_______1_______0

Strongly Agree Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree

Now that you’ve finished, add your total score.

• • • •

If you check 7 or higher on any question, Recovering from Religious Abuse can help you. If your total score is between 101 and 129, this book may be for you. If you score 130 or above, you definitely need Recovering from Religious Abuse. If you score above 150, your need for Recovering from Religious Abuse is significant.

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As many as 40 million people have abandoned Christianity because of an unpleasant experience—much of it because of religious abuse, but what constitutes abuse? Here is the definition I use in Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom, recently published by Simon & Schuster:

Religious abuse is the mistreatment of a person by someone in a position of spiritual authority, resulting in diminishing that person’s sense of wellbeing and growth—both spiritually and emotionally.

Religious abuse is the use of spiritual authority, by words or actions, to manipulate someone for personal gain or to achieve a personal agenda, thereby harming that person’s walk with God.

Religious abuse can also be defined as any misuse of Scripture, which harms a person’s relationship with God—like the damage resulting from cult involvement.

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When asked what mistakes he has made in the first two-and-one-half years of his Presidency, a startled Obama couldn’t come up with an answer, which seemed to surprise many but certainly not me. The reason he didn’t have an answer is simple: He doesn’t believe he has made any mistakes.

What’s more important than his answer is the reason behind it.

He’s a narcissist, and narcissists don’t believe they ever make mistakes—not specific ones anyway. From the perspective of a narcissist, when something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault—not theirs.

Before you dismiss this as anti-Obama rhetoric, let me point out that George W. Bush couldn’t answer the question either—for the same reason. He, too, has a problem with narcissism.

Because of similar responses by Obama and Bush 43, especially after two terms of Clinton, whose narcissism had an aggressive sexual component to it, I have done some reflecting about the Presidents during my adulthood, based on whether or not any of the rest of them have had narcissistic tendencies. Here is what I have concluded:

  • Nixon was not only narcissistic, but paranoid as well, which proved to be a disastrous combination for our nation.
  • Ford, who was not elected by the people, was genuine and forthright, as well as dull and unexciting, displaying no such tendencies.
  • Carter still thinks his administration was successful, which those of us who lived through it, recognize as ridiculous. He is unable to come to the truth because it’s not in a the nature of a narcissist to do so.
  • Reagan was quick to admit when he was wrong and extremely adept at self-deprecating humor, which the fragile ego of a narcissist would never permit.
  • Bush 41 lacked the leadership skills of his predecessor, but he seemed like a pretty normal guy, as did most veterans of World War II.
  • As previously mentioned, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all display various degrees of narcissism.

Looking back to earlier generations, Teddy Roosevelt is the only other obvious narcissist in the past century. Perhaps there were others, but my point is that we seem to elect chief executives that either have narcissistic tendencies or full-blown narcissistic personality disorders, which says more about the voters than it does about the Presidents.

As our nation ramps up for the next presidential election, voters need to spend greater effort measuring the contenders, adding a narcissistic criterion to the list of items that should disqualify a candidate. Below, I have listed the nine indicators of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If a candidate displays five or more, withhold your support. Remember, a narcissist is always charismatic but never a good leader.

A narcissist:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, exaggerating achievements and talents, and expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, or beauty.

3. Believes that he of she is uniquely “special” and can only be understood by people of similar stature.

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement and has unreasonable expectations of automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, taking advantage of others, especially underlings.

7. Lacks empathy. It’s all about them, and a narcissist  is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

While most politicians exhibit some of these characteristics, to be a narcissist, one has to meet at least five of these criteria. Sadly, we have had close to twenty continuous years of narcissism in the White House. In my humble opinion, “Enough is enough.”

At bare minimum, we need someone who can admit when he or she is wrong. If you have ever been married to someone who can’t admit being wrong, you know how dysfunctional the family becomes. Perhaps you’ve had a boss like that—one who makes the workplace unnecessarily difficult. It’s the same for a President. Because we have had so many of them, is it any wonder why our nation is so dysfunctional?

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Father,

I feel so broken and despondent.

My body writhes in despair,

Consumed with pain and anguish,

And I have a sense of hopelessness

That I fear will overwhelm me.

When will it ever end?

I go about without purpose,

Without understanding—devoid of joy,

Which once was mine in abundance.

My grief is ever before me,

Reminding me of my loss,

Robbing me of sleep,

Diminishing my countenance,

Telling me that I have failed.

Others placate me by saying,

“It’s all for a purpose.”

My friends who want to “fix me”

And lift the sorrow from my heart.

But they can’t; it doesn’t help—

Nor does it ease my pain—not even a little.

I can pretend to comprehend my plight—

To understand the lessons I’m being taught,

But I don’t—not even close.

My heart is broken, perhaps beyond repair,

And I fear that it will never change,

And I will never laugh as before.

In my despair and hopelessness,

I cry to You, begging for relief.

You hear, but You don’t answer.

I beseech, moan, and whine,

But You allow my pain to continue,

Each day—long into the night.

Rescue me my Lord, quickly.

Put Your healing hand upon me,

And make me whole once again.

Teach me my lessons so that

I need never repeat them.

Take that which is broken in me

And mend it so that it will

Be whole, and more resilient than ever.

Strengthen me so that I may

Bless Your name with gladness.

Make my sadness become a distant memory.

My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:17-23)

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