Archive for November, 2011

“I am broken glass in the dark but when ‘The Son’ shines through………….I am a glistening chandelier”This quote came together as two dear friends talked about their struggles and how the world may see us or even how we may see ourselves. The broken glass in the dark is the past—the mess, the hurts, the damage and how others may see me. God reached for me and I couldn’t deny His irresistible grace and now I am a beautiful daughter of the King. I am truly His handiwork, and I am thankful for where I have been because it has made me who I am now. I am a jewel in my Father’s eyes.

I haven’t always felt this way and, in the past, I have allowed the words of others to break me down. Just like the scriptures say, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” Proverbs 18:21.

Feeling the death of others words was literally killing me inside. “He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps,” Psalm 40:2.

Now, I feel the life of God’s words and Promises. He has been creating in me a new heart. I do know I am far from being done, but I am further than I was yesterday.

Thank you Lord for your saving Grace.

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Breaking the cycle of abuse is the key to moving ahead in life. For this to happen, someone has to make a stand for the truth, which is what Evelyn has done. Although her life has been difficult for an extended period, the following story indicates how far she has come. She wrote to me:

Thanks so much for always sharing your life and your pain and your stories. You are truly an open book. I appreciate everything you share!! Thank you!! I am so thankful I came across you by accident (which we know it’s not).

I pray God will bless everything you put your hands to and that He will always get the Glory. That is how I see my life too, the handiwork of God.

My boys got a phone call from their dad yesterday and a little later, the youngest said, “Mom, I think I know why God let us go through this with our Dad, is so we can be a better Dad.” Powerful and so thankful he sees it. I have always said, that is what I take away from my terrible relationship with my Mom, she has made me want to be a better Mom. God is just so Amazing! I love it when my boys see truth!

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THIS IS MELISSA’S STORY OF RECOVERY, WRITTEN IN HER OWN WORDS.STEP 3:  3. I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.
Week 3 of Recovering from Religious Abuse” has been a challenge for me. At the beginning, I felt this section really did not apply to me or my life. I was somewhat wrong about this, and I have spent more time on this week than the prior two.

It has turned my mind to graffiti which I find to be an interesting. and somewhat unique and beautiful art. Well, some of it is. When I was living in the city, it was everywhere but here in the country I seldom see it. It is, however, here. There is a train track that I have to cross when leaving town and there are always rail cars sitting there. The other day, I noticed remnants of graffiti which, clearly, someone had tried unsuccessfully to remove. I know it has to be sandblasted, and often, remnants remain.

I have been married twice and twice divorced. In working this section of “Recovery From Religious Abuse” something popped up. It is a very old “something” which I have not thought of in years but it came back just as though someone held a cue card before my face.

Both of my ex- husbands made the EXACT same statement to me. It was “No one will ever love you”.

Being a woman today, who is no longer needy, has learned to forgive and to make amends, I was surprised to find this issue resurfaced. “No one will ever love you”. I can actually see the colors of green outlined in blue – graffiti spray painted on the walls of my heart…”No one will ever love you”. Wow! Where DID this come from?

Over the years, I have learned to hate the sin, yet love the sinner. I know that wounded people attract wounded people. I understand and have received God’s healing, so it took me a few days to understand why this came up.

It all began very early – perhaps even at my birth and I have to admit that I have wondered what my life would have been like had I been taught from the very beginning the truth of God’s love. I sang those songs “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” but I was so scared of Him and so confused that I never really understood the “love” part. Had I known the “love of God” rather than the fear I am certain I would have made different choices in life, not to mention the men I married. But I didn’t and that is the past. But then again, it is also the beginning, isn’t it?

In the front of my Bible is a yellow sticky note. Written by my sister are these words “I never knew the love of a Heavenly Daddy, just the fear of an angry God”. I think of my daddy who was such a wonderful man yet wore the cloak of condemnation and fear. Daddies wrap their babies in blankets made from the same fabric as those cloaks. We pass the torch from generation to generation even if it scorches everything it touches.

So this is about love for me. This is about a new understanding that I am truly LOVED by my Heavenly Daddy and that is the one love I have always needed and desired. I have blamed others in my life but honestly, in this situation, I cannot place blame. I have to call it ignorance and ignorance is easy to forgive.

This is also about worth – self worth. It is not about a just a joyful exterior but about a worthwhile woman within.

For the past couple of days, I have been singing the song, .”I have a Heavenly Father Above, with eyes full of mercy and a heart full of love…”

So I am still movin’ forward….Thank you Father….

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I’ve come before You so many times,

To tell You about my life—

About my woes, my heartaches and my failures.

I have come to tell You who I really am—sort of.

I want You to know me, but only from my perspective,

Which certainly is not be an accurate picture.

I know that. That’s why I tell You

About myself in bits and pieces.

But now that my situation has become

Too much for me to bear—too much to shoulder;

I’m forced to be completely honest and forthright.

Until now, my admissions have been begrudging.

I’ve refused to consider that more was needed—

That a complete cleansing of my soul was required.

As I continue on my journey to recovery,

I want to unburden myself from all my shame,

All my guilt, and everything that has enslaved me.

Doing so, however, seems like such a daunting task.

There’s so much there. I know it, and so do You.

Father, that’s why I need Your guidance.

Only You can help me be completely forthright

With myself as well as with others in my life.

As I begin to journal my unvarnished inventory,

Provide me courage to be thorough and transparent.

Give me the grit and determination I need get it all out,

As well as the discipline necessary to be thorough and complete.

As I begin this process, my insides are churning,

Because I’ve loved the darkness rather than the light,

Even though I pretend to others that I do not.

Father, without Your help, I can’t change a thing.

I know that but, with You empowering and guiding me,

I’ll do my best to be strong, courageous, and thorough.

Now, with Your help, let’s begin.

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;” and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)

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This is a story that is so relevant. My heart aches for her.

Jack, like the girl in this story, I was molested also from ages 6-to-11, but I forgave my stepdad—with the Lords help. He lived in CA, and in 07 he moved here to be around his kids. But died of liver cancer May 08; he was 56.

Someone might think, “Man, that’s hard to forgive someone of molesting you;” but not when you have the Lord on your side, it’s possible. Like others, all those feelings and everything that other woman says in her story, that’s me also. Even though I have forgiven my daddy, I still have flashbacks and have thoughts about it and what happened.

It’s hard being a person that’s been molested cuz you see all your church family be close to the Lord, but no matter how I try, I cant do that cuz when I was growing up, I didnt have a good relationship with my dad. So, its hard for me to trust the Lord.

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I want to control the outcome

Of events that impact my life.

You know that the desire of my heart

Is for You to orchestrate circumstances,

Which will allow me to have my own way.

When that doesn’t happen,

Which seems to occur far too often,

I become sulky, peevish, and petulant.

I resent that You will not make Your will conform to mine,

Even though that might not be the best thing for me.

When I behave like a child, I think like one as well,

But I don’t realize how juvenile I have become.

It never occurs to me until after my fretful emotions

Have run the gambit and I am spent—

Emotionally exhausted from dictating to You.

At the end of it all—like always—

I become contrite and sorrowful,

Realizing that You are God, and I am not.

Forgive me for my waywardness, and restore

A sense of humility and compliance to me.

Teach me to focus on my role,

Which is doing the next right thing,

Regardless of what that might be

Rather than the things I can control—

Which is clearly Your domain.

I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; not with Thy anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23-24)

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You know how badly I have been abused.

I’ve reluctantly told You about being molested,

But I feel so ashamed and unworthy

To come before you about what has happened.

I don’t want anyone to know my dark secret,

Which I have guarded and protected from the light.

Now that it has been a while since my molestation,

Everybody else seems to have progressed

With their lives—everybody except for me.

I remain stuck in my debilitating mindset,

Which has not changed appreciably,

Despite the passage of so much time.

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

Who continues to experience so much pain.

My abuser—who used and then discarded me—

Should be the ones to pay, but he haven’t.

I’m the one that continues to languish,

Unable to move forward with my life—

Unable to experience peace, love, and joy.

I know my bitter resentment is not hurting him.

I’m only hurting myself and those around me.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair at all,

But I can no longer live like this.

I don’t want to waste my future harboring resentment,

Rehashing my drama repeatedly in my mind,

But it’s going to be difficult to move forward.

My life is a mess, and I know how far I have drifted.

I didn’t realize how willful I had become,

But now I do. It becomes clearer to me each day.

I have blamed my abuser for so long,

That bitterness seems normal—even comfortable,

Which frightens me for what my life will become.

Show me how to find my way back to You.

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Week 2 Step 1 “Healing from Religious Abuse”“I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be”.I lived in an abusive marriage for years. It was extreme. One Wednesday evening, I attended a church I had never been to before. My children went to their classes – I went to the women’s group. While there, a very inquisitive woman started asking me questions, one of which was “Where is your husband?”Normally, I am a private person when it comes to my personal life, but for some reason, I felt safe there. I was, after all, in a church…No one knew me. No one knew my husband. And, I was reaching out for help.

I explained that I was living in abuse so severe, I feared for my life. I went on to tell her I was contemplating divorce. She appeared to be understanding and sympathetic.

Often, abused women find it difficult to confess their abuse, particularly Godly women. There is a shame, yet a fierce resolve that we will hold on and believe God to heal our spouse and our family. Also, we were a successful couple, highly respected in our community and NO ONE knew my secret.

Within a few moments of confiding my situation to this one person, I found myself found in the center of a group of women, their hands clasped thus forming a tight circle around me. They were praying out loud about the very personal information I had shared “in confidence”. I was totally humiliated. The end result of this “prayer conference” was this: “If you give up on your marriage, you are giving up on God. To divorce your husband, is to lose your faith”.

As I think of this long ago situation, I realize more than ever how many times “religion” has impacted me emotionally. When I left that church, I was defeated and almost in a panic. Guilt flooded over and through me. While part of me understood that these women could never really understand the danger in which I was living, I kept thinking “What if?”

Thankfully, I received the correct Godly counsel, and was able to escape my abuser. I also received help I needed to overcome and I became a true survivor of spousal abuse. I did not, however, deal with the issue of spiritual abuse.

In my progress of working through” Healing from Religious Abuse”, I have been forced to acknowledge the profound NEGATIVE impact religion has had on my life, and while my life may not be shipwrecked , I do confess that it is not where I want it to be.

There was a time where I had the most amazing relationship with my Heavenly Daddy. He talked with me and told me things that I could not have otherwise known. I then stepped off into an ungodly relationship and again took upon myself that old robe of condemnation and guilt, wrapping myself up in that ragged old garment and carrying it around as a child carries a security blanket. I have had such a distorted view of salvation, grace and God’s forgiveness.

Forgiven and loved? I know I am. I also know I have been damaged, and my life is not where I want it to be in large part because I have misunderstood God due to religious teachings.

A diet of fear, condemnation and hell fire has disabled me from becoming what God created me to be. I am, however, going to a new place now of renewal and understanding. More than ever, I know why I have been running away from religion and some religious people.

I needed to understand and am embracing the process of knowing this is okay, it is part of my healing and that sometimes it is necessary to run.

It is not too late for me. I am encouraged.

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Having been used, abused, and discarded,

By those who insisted they spoke in Your name,

But most assuredly did not,

My self-worth has suffered significantly.

Having internalized this shaming charge,

Which my abusers have levied against me,

I have acted in ways contrary to my beliefs,

Which You have set forth in Your Word,

And reside deeply within the core of my being.

Having tried to run from You for so long,

I now see how flawed my judgment has been.

Returning to You has required me to renew my mind

By looking at life from an entirely different perspective.

Thank You for enlightening me with wisdom,

For revealing to me that You have good things

Planned for me and not for the calamity I dread.

At times, I still have trouble believing You, Lord,

Trusting that the validating purpose You have

Planted within me is real and will come to fruition.

The stinging indictment of my abusers

Has found fertile ground in my soul,

And continues to resonate, telling me that

I am a person without value—without worth.

When I begin to internalize this message,

Flood me with Your love, Your truth, and Your Word.

Let my heart believe You when You say,

You are my child—loved and valued.

And I most assuredly have a purpose for your life.

Whenever you have doubts, come to Me,

And I will remind you of your value to Me.

The seers will be ashamed and the diviners will be embarrassed. Indeed, they will all cover their mouths because there is no answer from God. On the other hand I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:7-8)

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In Melissa’s own words, this is how she feels about herself, as she begins her journey to healing:

I am not an alcoholic. Nor am I a drug addict. God restored my soul, which changed my life. It taught me a lot about forgiveness, making amends, wounded people, wrong relationships and the “whys” of so many choices I have made in life. It was wonderful, and I have held tight to those teachings. God healed me in so many ways, and for this experience, I am a better person today.

There was, however, one subject that was never addressed and that was religious abuse.

So many people talk of living in God’s grace and for some, it appears to be quite simple. Frankly, I don’t know that many people who truly live their lives in the freedom of grace. For me, it is difficult. I want to run in grace and cast off these thick vines of condemnation and confusion, which I was spoon fed all of my life, but it is not that easy. When the two are stirred together, how can grace be tasted for what it really is? Condemnation has a strong and bitter flavor that overtakes the taste of sweetness.

The first time I viewed Jack’s book online, I thought it did not apply to me. But later, I found myself angry and filled with rebellion because of an event that was scheduled at a Southern Baptist Church. I was surprised at my reaction. I was furious and wondering why people wanted to shove religion at a non-religious event. These emotions were unlike me, and I was filled with guilt once again. I took another look at the 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom. At this second look, I started to cry.

This Introductory week has brought many emotions forward in me and a lot of hurt is resurfacing. This is a good thing, but like the process of soul restoration, it is not easy.

A couple of years ago, while in a very dark place in my life, I sent a facebook message to a pastor friend of mine. It was one sentence. “Have you ever felt disappointment in God?” It was very difficult for me to ask that question and, even when I typed those words, I felt like a terrible sinner. He responded with one word – “No.” We have never communicated since.

My mom used to say, “Shame on you,” when I did something wrong. When I received that short response from this pastor, shame is exactly what I felt. I was devastated and convinced that in asking that question, I had sinned beyond repair. Just to experience disappointment in God must be the worst question – the worst thought a person could have. As I stated, it was difficult to even ask such a question, but I was seeking help. When I look back, I believe that was the point where I started slip sliding away.

I am—and I believe God created me to be—a joyful, happy person. I have walked through sorrow and sadness, stood at the casket of my precious sister and other loved ones. My family has experienced terrible, unthinkable loss, and I am here to say that God truly HAS carried us through the deep. I remember the words of our pastor who said, “I have never seen a family walk through such terrible tragedy with this amazing strength”. This is true, and I know the strength was not ours, but God’s, yet there have been times I have not felt so strong. There have been times I have wanted to fall on my face and literally RAGE at God. This is honesty. This is truth, and the bottom line is “if I did rage, I would no longer be an example of faith to others”.
This is a long way of making a statement which is: I am not really always what I seem, and if you really knew me, you would know that I am stirred with spiritual conflict and confusion.

Many times, I have quoted this verse:

“ I would have lost heart had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord here in the land of the living.” Psalms 27:13

I love this verse, yet I confess I have felt disappointment in God and wanted to lose heart. I confess that condemnation and shame still sit right at home within me. I also confess that I have a wrong self image and fail to see the goodness in me.

Help me Father God as I walk through this process of healing. And help me, I pray, to accept my “rightful place as a favored child”. Please clear the contradictions in my life for I want and need to live in fullness of grace. Simply grace. In Jesus Name.

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This is Melissa’s story—her journey to health. I am posting a series by Melissa, who is using Recovering from Religious Abuse: 30 Days to Spiritual Freedom. This is the first post.—Jack Watts—Becky W. told me I was going to hell. I do not remember the circumstances , but even today, I remember how my face stung as though she had slapped me.I was sixteen. I was accustomed to knowing I was hell bound, but I was not accustomed to being told this by one of my peers.At the tender age of four, I was in a car with a friend when her dad stopped at the liquor store. I knew even then, that I was going to hell for being at the devil’s establishment. I reached my small hand up and pressed the lock on the door then slumped into the floorboard in terror. I was afraid my daddy would see me there. I was scared beyond words and can still feel that guilt all these many years later.

I knew all about hell.

When I was seven years old, I got saved. Now I would not go to hell, UNLESS I lied, danced, drank, disobeyed my parents, had sex, played with cards and on and on and on. It seemed such a long list of “do not’s” that eventually I realized I would just go to hell anyway, so why put in the work to try stay out? It was impossible.

Today, I realize those people who led me to believed I was hell bound only said so because that is what they believed God wanted them to do. They had to scare me into Heaven to try to keep me out of hell. This was their earthly job—their obligation to God so they could escape the eternal burning fire of hell.

A few years ago, I purchased a one of a kind shirt. I loved it. One day, while doing laundry, I was distracted prior to hanging it to dry . When I returned, I noticed a red stain across the back. I had accidentally laid it on top of a red blouse. I tried everything to remove that stain but nothing worked. I still have the shirt and recently found myself trying again, after all this time, to remove that ugly red stain that has rendered the shirt useless.

So it is with my life. I am now beginning this new journey of “finding God to be everything I ever dreamed him to be.” I am reaching out toward hope and healing, believing it is possible regardless of age or the years that have flown away with the thought of hell lingering like a stain on the horizon.

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