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Archive for August, 2013


How God Answers Prayer

 

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

 

You can’t think your way into a new way of living . . . you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.

—Anonymous

It’s much easier to worry a problem to death than it is to trust God with it, which is why so few operate by faith. People rack their brains about how a problem is going to be solved; and for the life of them, they can’t figure a way out of their dilemma.

It’s common for people to disbelieve God, when they can’t figure out how He is going to solve a problem, based on their common sense reasoning, isn’t it? Does this sound familiar? How often has this happened in your life?

The problem is God doesn’t work in common sense ways—never has, never will. He works in supernatural ways. Because His ways are not our ways, we rack our brains and cannot understand how He operates; but when we look back at his faithfulness over time, we realize He has done what we have asked—but in ways we never anticipated or even considered.

That’s the key. He operates supernaturally and not in “common sense” ways. We need to understand the difference and come to God based on His ways and not our own. If we do, then we will not spend so much time fretting about how God will answer our prayers.

Because we are not divine, we cannot think like God—not really. What we can do, however, is recognize our limitations and not ascribe them to God nature. He is Almighty; we are not. Knowing the difference, and knowing that God is active in our lives, can spare each of us a world of heartache and trouble.

In this sense, being childlike is an essential ingredient of faith. Children have complete confidence in their parents. Once they tell their mom or dad something, they let it go, knowing that their parents will take care of the matter. It’s the same way with God. Once you put a matter in His hands, you can release it. Worrying about it after you’ve given it to Him isn’t a sign of maturity; it’s a sign of immature faith.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Being Purified

 

Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes, and I ask Him to heal my pain.

 

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

—Pablo Picasso

Being pruned by God is a way of life for His children—a way the Scriptures say we should embrace. In my own experience, as someone who wants to be everything God wants me to be, I have prayed, Father, do whatever you want with me. I accept all of it graciously, willingly.

Such prayers seem so noble when we say them—that is, until the Lord actually initiates real change. When that happens—when His pruning process begins, we scream Holy Murder! The pain is often so intense that we’re certain we cannot make it through. We are all for pruning—just as long as it’s not too painful.

But that’s not the way God seems to work in our lives. The Scriptures teach that He is a consuming fire, which is most often associated with judgment, but it can also refer to being purified. To get us where He wants us to be, God burns away everything that prevents us from becoming stronger, more resilient people. By the time He is finished, most feel like they’ve been whittled down to nothing, with little left.

We see this process through our eyes; He sees it through His. To make us stronger, better people, God engineers our circumstances to put us in a position where we have no alternative other than to trust Him. When this happens—and it happens to every child of God—it feels very destructive and, in many ways, it is. That is, until something new emerges, and you become a person with far more estimable character qualities than ever before.

Therefore, let the Lord do with you as He will. He’s going to anyway, regardless of whether you like it or not. When the process is complete, you’ll like what you see—so will others.

And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Being Willing to Make Amends

 

Refer to Step 5: I recognize that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. Therefore, I commit to repairing my relationship with God and making amends with everyone I have wronged along the way.

True repentance means making amends with the person when at all possible.

Lawana Blackwell

Part of repairing your relationship with God is repairing your relationship with those you have offended along the way. This is where the rubber meets the road in recovery—where “walking the walk” really gets tough. It’s easy to repair your relationship with God. He’s always there and always forgiving. It’s His nature, whether you believe it or not.

It’s entirely different with those you have mistreated in life, many of whom are less than forgiving. Some people may not want anything to do with you and your “apology,” which they consider to be disingenuous. They may even treat your attempt at reconciliation contemptuously, which makes your efforts at contrition very difficult. Nevertheless, you have to make an attempt, regardless of the consequences.

Remember, you are only responsible for your part of the problem, not theirs. Since you can’t control the outcome, you don’t have responsibility for the results either. How someone reacts to your apology is their responsibility, not yours. Once you’ve addressed the issue, leave the outcome to God, and trust that He will work in the heart of the other person.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to acknowledge that you regret past behavior, especially to a spouse, parent, or sibling, but it has to be done. There’s no getting around it, no matter how difficult it may be. Besides, it’s one of those things that will nag at you—never giving you rest until you’ve made the effort.

When it’s over, however, and you’ve addressed the problem, it’s an entirely different story. The relief you experience is palpable. A tremendous weight will have been lifted from your shoulders, and your relief will make you feel lighter—literally. It’s like a ball and chain has been removed from your shoulders, which it has, making the entire episode worthwhile.

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Facing Religious Abuse

 

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

 

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.

—Harold J. Smith

When you’ve been wounded by religious abuse—shamed, humiliated, intimidated, and ridiculed, the natural inclination is to retreat into a protective shell. In your heart, you just want to “go away” and never have anything to do with “those people” again. The problem is that God is often thrown in the same group as your abusers. By withdrawing, you have probably also retreated in your relationship with the Lord, which is definitely unwise and self-defeating. Let me ask you:

  • If you are really being honest with yourself, has this been your experience?
  • Not wanting to experience the pain and emotional dysfunction associated with your abuse, have you swept everything, including your relationship with God, under the rug?
  • Have you said to yourself, I don’t want to have anything to do with God ever again?

Although this is the course of action most people follow, it’s a strategy that doesn’t work well—not long-term anyway. To heal—to become the person you were meant to be, you must revisit your abuse, feel the pain once again, release it—forgiving your abusers, and move on. Nothing else will heal you effectively.

Keeping the issue buried deep within you may feel comfortable—like it’s the right thing to do—but it isn’t. What works is reopening the old wound, which will drain the malice. Then, allow the anger, bitterness, and resentment to heal. Repressing painful events doesn’t work in any other area of life, nor it will not work with religious abuse either. To heal, you must face your situation once again. It’s the only way. At first, it will definitely feel uncomfortable; but over time, you’ll realize how necessary this course of action has been.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves. (II Corinthians 4:7)

Jack Watts   Recovery Resources

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Father,

I have wandered so far from You—

From Your ways, from Your leading,

From Your purpose, and from Your love.

At first, it didn’t seem like such a distance,

But, now it does, as I see what has resulted

From the fruitlessness of my wandering.

My departure has brought me to the wilderness

And has wounded my soul more than I imagined.

I know I need to return to You, but now that I see

How great the breach has become between us,

The way back seems long and difficult.

In my reaction to having been wounded,

I have behaved in ways that have not only

Hurt me but also have hurt others as well.

I acknowledge this to You right now.

I’m so sorry for having wronged them,

Which I had no right to do, nor was it my place.

I can see how wayward I have become.

As I begin my long journey back to wholeness,

I know that I need to make amends to those

I have heartlessly wounded along the way.

It never occurred to me that I have

Treated others contemptuously, as I was treated.

Just thinking about this makes me feel ashamed.

Father, I am so, so sorry for my behavior.

Forgive me, and restore me to those I have hurt.

Most of all, restore my relationship with You.

Help me learn from my egregious errors,

So that I never feel the compulsion

To drift so far away from You again.

Real Prayers for Real People with Real Problems

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Father,

I’m not where I want to be—not even close.

I’m not what I want to be,

And I’m not the person I’m capable of being.

Even worse, the gap is widening, not narrowing.

If I’m being honest with myself,

Which I repeatedly try to avoid,

I’m constantly excusing my poor

Behavior and my rebellious attitude.

I don’t like myself—not even a little.

Journal: React to this prayer by writing your own statement. Are your thoughts similar or not? Be specific and candid.

I had a vision for what my life would be—a vision that was quite pretentious, but God’s purpose was different. Becoming who He intended me to be has taken substantial work, and it continues to take work, each and every day of my life. By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness.

Question: Can you say that about yourself? Have you traveled a similar journey, or has your journey been different?

When you take a look at the lives of religious leaders, especially from large churches and ministries, frequently the leaders consider themselves to be the superiors of others. Even if they give lip service to saying they are servants, they don’t really believe it. In their minds and hearts, their thoughts and pronouncements are more important than what others think and have to say.

Journal: The statement above is filled with emotions for those who have suffered religious abuse. Write about what the abuser in your life was like.

To heal, you must abandon your insistence upon retribution. Step 7 is about you and your healing—not about “them.” If you insist on making it about how badly you were wronged, you will make little progress. It’s as simple as that. You must abandon your anger and your need to be right.

Journal: Where are you with self-vindication? Write about it, being as honest and candid as you can possibly be.

I chose to respond in the way that has always worked for me, by bowing my knee and seeking the will of God. I don’t know any other way to live life, and even if I did, I wouldn’t choose an alternative path. For better or worse, it’s who I have become. By abasing myself before the Lord, however, I knew what I was doing. God promises to exalt those who are genuinely humble “at the proper time”—using His timetable for exaltation and not mine.

Question: In your own life, where are you in the restoration process? On a scale of 1-to-10, where would that be?

Recovery Resources

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Fulfillment Will Come—in Its Season

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

 

We bow to the man who kneels.

—Victor Hugo

In recovery, there are frequently long periods of emotional drought—times when you think the sun will never shine on you again and your life will never have value. Having recently gone through such a period, I chose to respond in the way that has always worked for me, by bowing my knee and seeking the will of God.

I don’t know any other way to live life, and even if I did, I wouldn’t choose it to be my alternative path. For better or worse, it’s who I have become. By bowing myself before the Lord, however, I knew what I was doing. God promises to exalt those who are genuinely humble “at the proper time”—using His timetable for exaltation and not mine.

Such a time came, when I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies at The YMCA to honor the life of a man who was dying of cancer. It was a difficult assignment because of all of the emotion, which filled the room, along with the 120 people—all of whom were paying their tribute and their respect to the man.

Obviously, the event was about him and not about me. When it was over, however, I received the following email from the director of the YMCA, which said:

So often I wait to make sure when I send an email of gratitude, making sure it says just the ”right thing,” but then that just means I don’t send it soon enough. So, this email is coming to you rough and filled with emotion. You were AMAZING today! I can’t thank you enough for being my partner in crime and also my support during this wonderful event to honor our friend! I know in my heart that he was touched—as was everyone else in the room. When I walked past him in to the Y this morning, he was barely shuffling along, but when he left he was a man who was 10 feet tall—WOW! He told me he’d see me tomorrow for work!

We don’t tell folks enough what they mean to us, but know that I value and treasure the years we have known each other; and I LOVE that you come in my office to say hello or just show off in your “wife beater” shirt. You’re a special man and, thankfully, I get to call you my friend! I appreciate you!

Receiving this was the “first fruit” of coming out of the wilderness for me, and I was humbled and grateful. I have not become who I am by leading a soft, conflict-free life—not by a long shot. It’s because of how I’ve reacted to my problems—most of which I have brought on myself by through poor choices. Bowing my knee is what has made me who I am. It has also made me a man of substance—not a man who has compromised or settled for a mediocre life. I couldn’t do that, and neither should you.

Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 45:6b)

Jack Watts   My Story

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Scrupulous Honesty

Refer to Step 7: I will make a detailed, written account of my abusive experiences, as well as my subsequent behavior. I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m able.

 

Chase after truth like hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails.

—Clarence Darrow

 

As you begin to write about your experiences, your state of mind will be your most important asset or your greatest liability, either helping you or hindering you greatly. Obviously, you want it to help and not hurt.

Therefore, you need to recognize that this is not a time for vindication or for heaping blame upon others. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. To heal, you must abandon your insistence upon retribution. Step 7 is about you and your healing—not about “them.” If you insist on making it about how badly you were wronged, you will make little progress. It’s as simple as that. You must abandon your anger and your obsession with being right.

Instead of vindication, this is a time to embrace your wounds—a time to acknowledge precisely who you are. Covering the truth with a blanket of self-righteousness never works in life, and it certainly will not work in recovery either. Avoid it at all costs, making a conscious choice to be the precise opposite. Be candid. Be transparent. Be proactively forthright.

In an effort to be self-protective, many wounded people try to fool themselves and others, constructing elaborate façades that bear little resemblance to the truth. They project an image, which is false, and try to make themselves and others believe it. Their façade becomes their reality.

Living a lie isn’t taking good care of yourself. If you want to heal, you must abandon denial and embrace the truth. It’s the only way. You have to be who you say you are, regardless of what that may be. Stop pretending to be somebody you are not. It never works, and it makes you look hypocritical.

Allow God’s healing touch to reach down and pick you up. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve fallen. In fact, the Scriptures teach that the person who has been forgiven much is more capable of love than the one who has been forgiven little. All that is required is honesty—scrupulous honesty. With it, all things are possible. Without it, you’ll continue to languish, unfulfilled and unloved—even by yourself.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:6-7)

Jack Watts   Resources

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SOME OF YOU LKE TO READ MY FICTIONAL WORK. HERE IS THE BEGINNING OF MY LATEST.

CHAPTER 1

Dark Eyes That Could Penetrate a Person’s Soul

It was a magnificent, warm evening in New York City as I left the Hilton on the Avenue of the Americas in late June 1993—the kind pictured on brochures to show the city’s charm. Although nearly midnight, the streets were bustling with thousands who came and went amid a cacophony of laughter, shouts, engines, and distant sirens.

I’ve always loved the sounds and sights of New York, nearly as much as the city’s vibrancy. My name is Jack Houston; and I was reared in Wellesley, Massachusetts—not far from the Big Apple by plane or by train. Although my name might not suggest it, I’m Irish and proud of it. I’m the middle boy with one younger sister and the only sibling who moved away from the Boston area. Although I left decades ago to live in Atlanta, I still root for the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins—in that order. If you’re from the Bay State, you’ll understand. If not, you probably can’t understand the depth of loyalty New Englanders feel toward our pro teams.

I’ve lost my accent—for the most part—except when I’m driving. If someone cuts me off, I tell the guy what I think of him in my native tongue—Bostonian. Sometimes, I’ll let him know he’s number one with the finger God gave me to convey that message. That part of my personality has never changed, but I would never flip off a woman. My mom, who we called Midge, because of her diminutive stature, taught me well. She was a master at telling people they were number one with her crooked, arthritic middle finger. She flipped off men and women alike, but she always told me it was wrong for a man to flip off a woman. So, I never have—not once. I wouldn’t even consider it.

During my business trip in ’93, I was with my best friend Pete Chalmette, a Cajun from Bayou Bijoux in the Mississippi Delta—not far from Napoleonville, Louisiana. His parish was mostly swamp, and the folks down there liked to joke that the population of gators and snakes exceeded that of humans. The high school football team was nicknamed the Moccasins, but they were more commonly referred to as the Mosquitoes because of their swarming defense. The first time Pete mentioned the Mosquitoes, I thought the nickname was humorously appropriate—a fitting tribute to what life must have been like on the Bayou.

Like many from “The Swamp,” Pete could spin a mesmerizing tale. I loved to listen, never tiring of the way he talked—mostly English garnished with a little Cajun, which folks down there called pidgin-French. Pete always cussed in Cajun—much to my delight. He was a short, dark-complexioned guy who could talk about football for hours, especially about his alma mater, LSU—Geaux Tigers!

Having become a born-again Christian less than ten years earlier, Pete was serious about his Christianity, making a determined effort to practice what he preached. Earlier in life, he had been a hard-drinking guy—a young man you never wanted to mess with after he had more than three drinks or a couple of tokes. As a college student, he sold drugs to pay for his schooling—with little care about the devastating impact his product had on its recipients. That was the addict’s problem—not his. He took no responsibility for the lives his drugs destroyed. What drug dealer ever does?

All of that changed the day he invited Christ to come into his life. His transformation was dramatic and lasting—much to the relief of his mother and girlfriend, who grieved and fretted about his behavior, terrified he would end up in prison, which was a pretty fair bet.

By the time Pete and I met, he was a first-rate human being, bearing little resemblance to the guy he had been a decade earlier. He worked on one bad habit after the other in his relentless quest to improve his character. He was successful in most areas, but one made virtually no progress—his cussing. He tried valiantly to curtail his profanity but with little success. One reason was largely responsible for Pete’s inability to curb his vice—Alvin Dettler Carter.

Pete’s boss and mine, Carter was the Senior Vice President at Ludlow Randolph Publishers in Orlando, one of the largest producers of Christian literature in America. Dett, which is pronounced like being in debt, was what everybody called him; and he loved it, thinking it provided him with an advantage in negotiations. He hated his given name, Alvin, which was what Pete and I liked to call him, especially when he wasn’t present.

Dett was the same age as Pete and five years my junior. Although Dett had no formal education beyond high school, it wasn’t his lack of erudition that made accepting his leadership so challenging. It was his character—or should I say, lack of character. Although charming and engaging, Dett was not the person he appeared to be. His warmth and compassion were nothing but a façade, masking his true purpose, which was to use and manipulate people, especially his clients and subordinates.

Consistently feigning altruism, Dett was the most self-serving person I have ever me. He was handsome and charming—the kind of guy you loved to trust. Possessing a winning smile and superior listening skills, he was little over six feet and winsome. Trim and well groomed, he had dark eyes and a warm look that could penetrate a person’s soul effortlessly. His cheeks were a little pudgy. When he had food in his mouth, he had a slight resemblance to a chipmunk. Pete and I used to mimic “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” mocking our boss, laughing each time we did. Obviously, Dett brought out the worst, most childish aspects in our personalities.

Unlike Pete and me, Dett was never profane. He wouldn’t even consider it. Instead, he loved to recite mellifluous prayers with those who came to see him, especially authors and ministry leaders—people who were notable. His prayers seemed so authentic they made him appear to be genuine and upright—a completely trustworthy man. Because his entire demeanor encouraged people to pour out their hearts, they did just that, becoming eager to reveal their deepest, most intimate secrets, misgivings, moral lapses, and personal failures.

When they did, they felt relieved. For them, it was like a remorseful Catholic going to Confession. Being candid with Dett lifted a tremendous burden of guilt from their shoulders. When they left their seemingly sacred meeting with Dett, like penitents receiving absolution, they felt better about themselves and about what had been troubling them.

As they drove away from their meeting, with a serene smile to perk up their countenances, they were blissfully unaware they had just taken a huge bite from a forbidden fruit—a delicacy that would act like poison in their souls. To a person, they would live to regret being candid with Alvin Dettler Carter.

Why they chose to reveal their hearts to him was simple. They needed a wise, godly friend—someone to share their burden of guilt and remorse, and Dett seemed like he had been divinely appointed to fulfill this task.

For reasons most troubled people comprehend, the need for a trusted confidant is essential. Life can be stressful and difficult, grinding people down, robbing them of their joy, leaving them drained and defeated, producing debilitating, desperate fears. When this happens, even the strongest, most confident person becomes tentative and apprehensive, revealing insecurities in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Dett’s special gift was detecting insecurities and weaknesses in others. When he was on his game, no veneer of “having it all together” was effective at camouflaging a person’s troubled heart. Debt had a discerning spirit—a gift he used to manipulate and exploit others, rather than to serve them. Nevertheless, he acted as if he was being helpful. Once Dett discovered a person’s flaw or closely held secret, he would encourage that person to disclose every troubling detail about what was troubling them.

Feeling safe, men and women alike would expose their souls, certain they were confiding in a trustworthy, compassionate listener—a genuine Christian. Dett would empathize with them consolingly, indicating he had been through something similar, regardless of what it happened to be. Occasionally, he would create wild, lurid tales, having no basis in reality; while at other times shamelessly exaggerate the truth. I marveled at his ability to keep his stories straight, which neither Pete nor I ever could. There would be just too much to remember, but that was never a problem for Dett. Instead, it was a challenge, and he was always up to the task.

Having such an understanding way about him was one of Dett’s most distinguishable characteristics. Nevertheless, while he promised confidentiality with his lips, in his cunning heart, he was calculating how to use the information to further his ambitions—all at the expense of the unsuspecting supplicant.

For Dett, penetrating the weakened boundaries of another’s soul was recreational sport—like jogging. He did it routinely, wounding many in the process. Outwardly, his supportiveness was so absolute it bordered on being sycophantic. Inwardly, he was a coiled serpent, planning to strike at his victim’s most vulnerable spot—all to further his personal and corporate aspirations.

For those of us who were around Dett—who witnessed his emotional rape of another’s soul—we chose profanity as the way to vent our indignation. Although childish and ineffective, it was an act of defiance we found surprisingly cathartic. It was also our only option.

When we watched people leave Dett’s office, we could tell when he had hit his mark. Dett’s smile became syrupy, even a little sycophantic. He would actually rub his hands together, reminiscent of how Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, after achieving some ignoble goal. Most were incapable of recognizing how disingenuous Dett actually was, but not Pete and me. Because we saw him in operation routinely, we knew exactly what was happening. Coupled with his covetous smirk, Dett would use obsequious gesticulations to mask his glee at having trapped another fly in his destructive web of intrigue and manipulation.

As we watched the charade, either Pete or I would say reproachfully, “Dett has that ‘F.F. look’ about him, doesn’t he?”

“He sure does,” the other would respond, reminiscent of a liturgical response. With that, we would laugh reproachfully. By the way, an “F.F. look” is a “freshly ‘you-know-what’ look;” and at Ludlow Randolph, Dett sported his grin of victory as often as a newlywed groom on a prolonged honeymoon.

CHAPTER 2

A Casserole in the Refrigerator

We witnessed Dett in action regularly, and his behavior never ceased to be offensive. His manipulations were so blatant and provocative our sense of fairness was continually being assaulted. Regardless of how upset he made us, we were helpless to alter the outcome, which pleased Dett. Being an affront us added to his joy.

Being so powerless was galling. It was like watching a movie when the hero and heroine were about to walk into a room where Dracula was hungrily lurking—ready to pounce on his hapless victims. We knew what was about to happen, but there was nothing we could do to prevent the vampire from ravaging his prey—not and maintain our livelihood.

Neither of us could afford to lose our jobs—not with kids to feed. That’s why having each other’s encouragement and support was so important. It helped us maintain our equilibrium as well as our sanity. Working for a guy like Dett didn’t help my problem with profanity—that’s for sure. If anything, my cussing was worse than Pete’s. Being reared Irish-Catholic from the suburbs of Boston, where profanity is proudly considered to be an art form; I swore as much as I did when I was in high school.

Pete and I meshed at Ludlow Randolph, becoming fast friends immediately. There were others who worked with us in our department as well. We were a tight bunch of guys, each sharing numerous experiences while working for Dett—experiences, which were interesting but often disturbing.

One guy joined the team toward the end of my tenure at Ludlow Randolph. His name was Jeremiah Doucette. Jeremiah, who Pete nicknamed Acy, as in Acy—Doucy, was younger and had recently married a bright, pretty, and vivacious young lady. Being open, honest, and friendly. Pete and I liked Acy immediately.

He was a handsome, gregarious guy, who was already losing his hair, while still in his mid-twenties. Acy grew up on the mission field. He spent his entire youth abroad with his parents and twin sisters. All three siblings had significant family of origin issues, originating from Pastor Doucette’s obsession with reaching “the lost.” His outward passion to help others was so consuming, Pastor Doucette paid little attention to his wife and three children. Focusing on the needs of those who were without Christ, at the expense of his family, Pastor Doucette pursued his obsession relentlessly, almost compulsively. Because his children didn’t seem to be as important to the pastor as his calling, Acy and his sisters resented their father’s obvious inattentiveness.

Being less important than strangers hurt the Doucette children’s sense of self-worth, while producing acrimony, which they aimed at their father. Because of the role they were expected to play in his ministry, however, they were forced to suppress their feelings and to control their outward behavior. Reared in this rigidly authoritarian fashion, where outward conformity was required, they had no choice but to conform.

Among other things, they were forbidden to be honest and forthright about their feelings—not to anyone, especially to those in their father’s congregation. Instead, they were tasked with maintaining the appearance of familial perfection. They are also expected to maintain the illusion that their family represented an excellent example of what Christ intended a family to be. To accomplish this, they routinely wore plastic smiles of contentment, which they knew were fake, even if their disingenuousness fooled others.

Their mandate was to act the part of being a flawless example of what Christ wanted a family to be. They did this despite what was really happening at home, behind the closed doors of the parsonage. Rigidly admonished to maintain the illusion of perfection, their home life was close to the exact opposite of what they portrayed it to be. Dutifully, the young children did precisely as their father instructed, despite the rebelliousness that had begun to smolder just below the surface in their young, troubled hearts.

Being consumed with the never-ending needs of the lost, while being an absentee parent, is frequently a problem for missionary families—one their kids come to understand well. Missionary kids are expected to sacrifice their wants and needs for the greater good, while never experiencing a normal upbringing. That this was their duty was relentlessly ground into them, and they were scolded when they didn’t live up to their father’s unrealistic expectations. Maintaining this fantasy, the Doucette children’s formative years were filled with repressed, simmering hostility.

They obeyed their father’s rules outwardly, although it became increasingly difficult to do so. That they were being sacrificed for the sake of their father’s ministry, while being emotionally deprived, was easier to accept when they were young and voiceless. As they matured, their rebellious spirit began to manifest itself in ways that were not always pretty. By their mid-teens, the pent up hostility had begun to surface, exposing the darker side of each.

Predictably, Pastor Doucette’s entire house of cards eventually collapsed, leaving familial waste that was anything but a model of what Christ desired. When Pastor Doucette became aware of the gravity of the dysfunction, it was too late. There was no salvaging the situation. He had lost his children—all three of them—and his wife had become a dithering shell of what she had once been.

As early as the time her children reached school age, Mrs. Doucette realized what was happening and tried to alter the dynamics of their family, but her husband paid no heed to her complaints, rigidly demanding conformity from her and their children instead. Despite her valiant efforts to create a harmonious environment, it never materialized. Knowing what the future would hold for her children, as well as for her, broke her spirit.

Once a strong, capable woman, Mrs. Doucette’s countenance and mental capacity atrophied appreciably on the mission field. Her vision of what life would be like serving the Lord wasn’t her reality, nor even a close approximation. She wasn’t her husband’s partner, either in life or in the ministry. She never had been. She was little more than a useful appendage—someone to cook, clean, mind the kids, and satisfy his frequent carnal urges.

She worked hard to fulfill each role dutifully. With little fulfillment, however, she became less willing to participate. Eventually succumbing to depression, she maintained the same superficial smile as her kids, but there was nothing behind it. Instead of becoming defiant on the inside like her three children, Mrs. Doucette simply gave up. Being set in his ways, she knew her husband would never change. Seeing nothing positive on the horizon, she abandoned any further attempt to communicate her concerns. Her husband never listened anyway, and the backlash from confronting him ceased to be worth the effort.

Loathing the lot in life she was forced to endure, she eventually lost the will to live. Having fought depression valiantly for several years, she finally abandoned the effort. When she did, she sank into a black hole of despair. Once there, even routine grooming, like brushing her teeth and washing her hair, became difficult chores, as her will to continue living vanished. Believing she had failed her husband and her children, she convinced herself they would be better off without her. That’s when she made the decision to exit this world, which was freeing and liberating. She actually became cheerful for nearly a month.

Heartened that she had turned the corner in her struggle with melancholia, her family became encouraged, but they misunderstood what was happening. Their conclusion was the exact opposite of what was actually was going on with her, which is an easy mistake to make, especially for family members who look for hopeful signs from a depressed loved one. Unfortunately, people make this mistake routinely.

One afternoon, before the teens arrived home from school, Pastor Doucette walked into the living room of the parsonage and found his wife of nineteen years hanging from the central beam. Rushing to her, he realized she had been dead for quite some time. Horrified by what he witnessed, the pastor’s knees gave way, and he fell to the floor sobbing and writhing in agony. Finding it hard to breathe, his hands shook violently, and his stomach heaved. Racing outside, he barely made it to the shrubs before vomiting.

Returning to her as soon as he was able to regain a modicum of composure, he saw a note pinned to her dress. Opening it, he read her final words:

There’s a casserole in the refrigerator for dinner, and the freezer has enough meals to last until spring.

That was it—nothing else. No explanation, no regrets, and no farewell for either him or their children. There was no warmth to the note, which was as disturbing as it was surprising. Pastor Doucette reread it in his mind a thousand times. It haunted him, especially when he would awaken in the middle of the night. He never came to terms with what it said, nor what it didn’t say. Its coldness crushed him. He never recovered—not completely. How could he?

As he thought about it, her last act had been similar to the role she played each day of her life, providing for the physical needs of her husband and children—nothing more. Since her life was devoid of emotion, she chose for her parting to be emotionless as well. As repressed as her life had been for years, she exited this world defiantly, or at least as defiantly as she was capable of being.

Her death completely burst the bubble of familial perfection her husband had cultivated and conveyed. As a result, Pastor Doucette’s ministry faltered, crumbled, disintegrated, and finally ceased to exist. With no alternative, he and his children left Europe to return to the states, leaving Mrs. Doucette behind in the ground. They never even ate the meals she had laboriously prepared before her death.

Once back in the states, Pastor Doucette taught evangelism at a small Bible college in Western Kentucky, where he finished the job of raising his children as a widower. At first, the three Doucette children, having lost their mom the way they did, blamed themselves, which is what teens typically do. Once they began talking among themselves, however, their perspective changed. They blamed their father for their loss, abandoning any semblance of respect they once held for him. By so doing, without realizing it, they lost a second parent as well.

Their smoldering, repressed anger became deeply entrenched, never healing, producing bitterness toward Christianity in all three. But they never rejected Christ—not completely. Many wounded believers do, but they had been taught better. They knew Christ was the Son of God. In spite of their anger, they maintained firm convictions about the validity of the Gospel.

Nevertheless, because of their bitterness and long repressed anger, beneath the surface all three became emotionally crippled. Neither girl fared as well in life as Acy. He was able to keep things together much better than his sisters, both of whom were institutionalized numerous times for drug abuse and alcoholism. Their addictions made their adult life more miserable than their childhood.

Acy looked like he had escaped his dysfunctional childhood, but he hadn’t. His issues were there, camouflaged just beneath his youthful charm and talent. In many ways, he was a remarkable young man. Despite spending his entire youth on the mission field, Acy spoke English without an accent. Living most of his formative years in French-speaking countries, he was bilingual, which the ladies in New Orleans loved when he matriculated at Tulane University for his freshman year after graduating high school. In fact, he actually considered French to be his native tongue. He even calculated math in his head in French, translating his thoughts into English before giving the answer. This might have been an handicap for others, but Acy was so smart he could still come up with the answer faster than most, including Pete and me. Extremely talented, we recognized immediately Acy had potential for great things at Ludlow Randolph—perhaps beyond.

CHAPTER 3

You Tried to Feel Her Up

Although I worked for Dett for two years as a full-time consultant, I left Ludlow Randolph three years before my trip to New Your in ‘93 to pursue my career of being an independent consultant, working for various Christian ministries. Like Pete, I loathed working for Dett and had difficulty concealing my antipathy. My disdain started subtlety but intensified as I witnessed his dark side more frequently. Keeping my mouth shut, when I witnessed injustice, was never my strong suit. It still isn’t. The more I watched Dett in action, the less I was able to remain silent. Remaining quiet made me feel like an accomplice, and it definitely wasn’t in my nature to continue playing games like that.

Realizing I saw through his dark purposes made me Dett’s enemy. Narcissists are like that. If you don’t accept to their version of reality, which is always twisted, there is something wrong with you. It’s never them. They are never a fault; it’s always you.

Because I would not be his partner in mischief, Dett finally made the decision to terminate me. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, when that fateful day arrived—as I knew it would—I was completely prepared and didn’t miss a beat. Having developed a client base from people I had met while at Ludlow Randolph, I had everything in place to continue my career independently.

Because we continued to work for many of the same clients and because of our long-standing friendship, Pete and I maintained regular contact after I left Ludlow Randolph—Acy too. Pete and I talked on the phone nearly every day. For him, I was a sounding board—someone he could speak with candidly, with no holds barred. It was the same for me.

It’s funny because most people thought we were lucky to work with Christian ministries. Almost daily, someone would tell one of us how fortunate we were. They envied us because we travelled across America, helping ministries achieve their lofty goals. In theory, I understood why we were envied. Sometimes our jobs did have noble components, but when it came to the nuts and bolts of working with Christian ministries, there was a world of difference between appearance and reality. In fact, they were polar opposites.

That’s why Pete and I felt it necessary to talk to each other routinely. It was essential for our emotional survival. By talking about what was really happening, as versus what was portrayed to the public as real, we learned to maintain our equilibrium in a subculture filled with Christian leaders who appeared to be enlightened, God-fearing servants but who were, in fact, anything but. Similar to Acy’s upbringing, perception and reality were worlds apart, and few could tell the difference. Working on the inside, we saw rampant deceit, manipulation, and an absence of ethical behavior at a level and frequency few would imagine. Because each self-serving act was accompanied by seemingly altruistic purposes, it was difficult to recognize it for what it really was—the carnal culture of ministry in America.

A great example of the difference was what happened to me that night in 93, when Pete and I were in New York. We were in the city for the eightieth birthday party of Jack Smithson, the founder and president of Cherished Life Ministries. Jack developed a wonderful program to bring impoverished kids from the city ghettos in the Northeast to the pristine, bucolic surroundings of the majestic Adirondacks. While there, Cherished Life taught these kids how to swim while at the same time witnessing to them about how Christ could transform their lives—if allowed. During each summer, they instilled hope into neglected, impoverished children by the thousands.

Jack Smithson was a regal, distinguished older gentleman—handsome, with a full head of silvery white hair. His demeanor had been energetic and full of life since he returned from World War II with the intent of saving people rather than shooting them. He always had a broad, inviting smile that made even his worst detractors like him. Because his health had been failing for several years, his eightieth birthday party became a celebration of his nearly fifty-year ministry. Everybody came. It was a Who’s Who of the evangelical Christian community at the Hilton that night in New York.

Pete and I, who were relative nobodies among the luminaries, were placed at a table about half a football field away from the head table. Dett and the president of Ludlow Randolph, Benny Lessner, were seated with Jake at the head table—along with many other dignitaries. It was an affair to remember.

Before the large gathering was seated, there was an hour-long, alcohol-free reception. I said hello to Benny and his wife—as well as to Dett, who was always outwardly friendly. In fact, he continued to send business my way occasionally after he terminated me. The celebration was very long and quite involved. When it was over, Pete said, “Be sure to go by and say hello to Benny before we leave.”

“I already talked to him, Pete,” I replied.

“I know; but just do it again, okay?” After a short pause, he added, “It’s important.”

Looking at him quizzically, I replied, “Sure—if you think I should. I’ll do it right away.” With that, I made my way through the milling crowd and found Benny talking to a New York Congressman.

When they finished, I walked up and spoke to Benny again for a few minutes. He seemed puzzled and a little annoyed, which made the conversation awkward and disjointed. Excusing myself soon thereafter, I walked through the thinning crowd until I found Pete. He and I were staying at a much less expensive hotel in Newark. Since Pete had a rental car charged to Ludlow Randolph, I drove with him to save a little money. These are the kinds of corners you cut whenever possible, if you want to survive while developing your own business.

Before returning to Newark, we passed through Times Square—just like two yokels from down on the farm. We didn’t care; it was a lot of fun. About 11:30 p.m., we headed out of the city. As we entered the Lincoln Tunnel, I turned to Pete and said, “Why did you insist I go back and talk to Benny?”

Pete just shrugged his shoulders.

“It was uncomfortable for both of us, Pete. I don’t know why, but it was,” I added.

“I know it was, Jack; but believe me, it was important. Trust me on this,” Pete said candidly, but with a little more emphasis in his delivery than I would have expected.

His response piqued my curiosity; and I looked at him as he drove, wondering what was really going on. I didn’t say anything for a minute as we both listened to an old Eagles song on the radio. Driving deeper into the tunnel, however, the static became unpleasant; so I turned off the radio. After I did, I asked curiously, “What is this all about, Pete?”

“Nothing,” he said dismissively.

“Bull!” I replied. As I stared at him intensely, I added, “That’s not true, Pete. I want to know. What’s going on?” By now, I had a hint of irritation in my voice that let him know I wouldn’t drop the subject without an answer.

Because of my persistence, he finally acquiesced. “When you spoke to Benny the first time at the reception, he said your demeanor was ‘a little unusual—a little peculiar.’ That’s all,” Pete explained in an effort to terminate the conversation before I asked any more question. But I wasn’t about to let that happen.

“What?” I said, obviously confused. “I have no idea what you’re talking about or what’s going on.” After a few awkward seconds—with the tension increasing, I said, “Pete, tell me what this is all about. Just spit it out!”
Nodding in compliance, he replied, “Alright, Jack. You’ve got a right to know, and I guess I’m the one who has to tell you.”

Taking a deep breath, Pete began, “It’s because of the way you left the company—the thing with Crystal Moss. That’s what it’s about.”

“What in the world are you talking about?” I replied—completely confused, as my bewilderment mounted.

“Why do you think Ludlow Randolph let you go, Jack?” Pete asked in a lame attempt at Socratic questioning.

“Because Dett phased me out just like we knew he would,” I answered. “That and his realization I wasn’t going to continue keeping quiet about his deviousness; that’s why I left. You know that.”

“You think that’s the real reason?” he questioned. After a long moment, he asked, “What about Crystal Moss?”

Genuinely confused, I replied, “What does Crystal Moss have to do with this?”

“A lot,” he replied. “Benny and Dett don’t see your dismissal the same way you do—not even close. They say you were fired because of what happened with Crystal. That’s their version.”

It felt like two conversations were transpiring at the same time, and I was totally lost. “Pete, I’m confused. Just tell me exactly what you mean.”

He replied a little sheepishly, “They’re telling everybody they got rid of you because you put your hand up Crystal Moss’ skirt. They said you tried to feel her up in her office one day. That offended her and told Dett. He took it to Benny; and Benny said, ‘Get rid of him right away.’”

“What!” I exploded as I tried to comprehend the magnitude of what had just been said. “They fired me for groping Crystal—for trying to put my hand up her skirt? You’re kidding, right?”

Pete just shook his head and repeated, “No, I’m not kidding, Jack. She said you were inappropriate. When she told Dett, he went straight to Benny with it, and they fired you three days later.”

I was stunned. What he said was so unexpected I couldn’t begin to fathom it. As the reality of the situation began to sink in, however, my rage and indignation became consuming. Letting my emotions get the better of me, I bellowed—at the top of my lungs, “That’s the biggest bunch of bull I’ve ever heard. It’s a lie—a damn lie!” The window was open, and I could hear my words reverberate back off the tunnel walls—despite the heavy traffic. My agitation made me extremely loud.

Continuing, I said, “I never did anything like that. Nothing like that ever happened—not even close—I promise it didn’t.” I barely knew Crystal, and there had never been anything between us. After a brief silence, I asked, “Do you think she really said that?”

“I know she said it, Jack.”

When he responded like that—so decisively, my rage evaporated, being replaced by despair. I felt deflated. I sat back in complete defeat—exhausted by what I had heard and by the implications. Pete glanced at me with compassion. He knew this revelation had wounded me to the core.

A few minutes later, by the time we emerged from the tunnel, I regained my composure enough to pronounce, “I won’t stand for this, Pete—no way. The hell with them—all of them; I’m not going to allow them get away with this.”

After that, neither of us spoke again for quite a while. My head was spinning—as hundreds of thoughts passed through my mind. Turning to Pete, I finally broke the silence and asked, “How did you find out?”

“Dett told me a long time ago,” he said. “A year ago—maybe more. Everybody at Ludlow Randolph knows about it; and Dett told some of the ministries you’re working for. That’s why the ministry in South Florida isn’t your client any more. Dett had a little talk with them. I’m sure of it.”

Indignantly, I asked, “Why didn’t you say something to me before this?”

“I knew it wasn’t true, Jack; and your business has really been prospering.” He added, “I didn’t want this to be a distraction to what you have been accomplishing.”

“But everybody at Ludlow Randolph thinks I did it, right?”

Pete nodded affirmatively and said, “Yeah, they do.”

When he acknowledged this, a chill passed through my body, as I realized all of my old friends now believed this false report. I said, “Since I’ve never tried to defend myself and have kept silent, they assume it’s true, don’t they?”

Pete hadn’t thought about this, which made him wince. It forced him to question the wisdom of his prolonged silence. In his simplicity, he thought he had done me a favor by not telling me what had been going on behind my back. Now, I had challenged his assumption, forcing him to reevaluate his decision. He said, “All this happened three years ago, Jack. Maybe you should just let it go.”

“No way,” I said in a manner that left no doubt the issue would be addressed. “If you were falsely accused of something like this, would you just let it go?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” he agreed.

“Neither will I. You can bet on it.”

CHAPTER 4

 

Her Hair Was Blond—Except for the Roots

After we reached our hotel in New Jersey and walked to our separate rooms, I began to reconstruct the events of my dismissal three years earlier. Dett had called me on a Thursday evening, telling me he and another executive from the company, Brandon Wolfe, needed to meet with me at the downtown Marriott in Atlanta at 7:30 a.m. the following morning. Because I worked out of my home, meeting at a restaurant was common—even on short notice. However, I had just spent two days at the home office with Dett, so an urgent meeting this quickly was unusual—especially since the two of them had to fly from Orlando to attend. I began to suspect what was about to happen.

Upon arrival the following morning, we ordered coffee. After talking pleasantries for ten minutes, Dett became serious. “Jack,” he announced, “we’ve made a decision. We will not require your services any longer. We’re moving in another direction.”

Because I knew this day was coming, I wasn’t surprised, angry, or in the least bit upset. After Dett made his announcement, we talked amiably for several minutes before I left. Brandon barely spoke a word but, throughout the entire meeting, his expression was somber, almost morose. I assumed it was because he was sad to see me leave or uncomfortable about being a part of the firing process, but I was mistaken. As I thought about it, sitting in my hotel room three years later, I realized his expression wasn’t out of concern for me at all. Instead, it was masked contempt—perhaps even loathing. Revisiting the meeting in my mind, which I was destined to do a repeatedly, was infuriating. The more I thought about it, the bitterer I became. It didn’t just seem unfair; it was unfair.

During my exit interview, Crystal Moss’ name was never mentioned—not once. I would have been surprised if it had. Neither Dett nor Brandon gave me the slightest indication my release was for any reason other than what they had indicated—a change in direction. Because I was a full-time consultant and not an employee, they weren’t required to document grounds for my dismissal either. They had every right to release me without cause or notice, which is exactly what they did.

As I pondered the events from my enlightened perspective three years later, I couldn’t shake my anger. Nor could I stop thinking about it, especially when I would awaken in the middle of the night, which I did repeatedly for quite a while.

I didn’t want justice; I wanted revenge. I felt used, abused, and discarded—like odious garbage. Reliving events over and over would keep me awake for several hours each night, as my anger increased rather than diminished. I had all kinds of vengeful thoughts, which churned my emotions, keeping me awake for long periods before I would eventually fall asleep again. In the morning I was exhausted and had difficulty focusing on the day’s activities. Knowing I had been treated unfairly produced disquietude that became debilitating and exhausting.

The more I thought about my situation, the more I recognized how this was a perfect opportunity for Dett to exercise his gifted dark side, destroying my character in the process. For him, it was high drama—a successful sporting event that brought pleasure to his twisted soul. The prize was my termination and character assassination, which he considered my just punishment for opposing him. Best of all, I was as clueless about what had happened as a targeted victim from an old episode of Mission Impossible. He made me look like a buffoon, which was galling and embittering.

Crystal was at the heart of it all—or in this case, a little lower. At the time I was fired, both Dett and Crystal were married—but not to each other. He was a major corporate executive; and she was a fairly cute, short, mid-level administrative assistant. Her hair was blond—except for the roots; and she wore her skirts short, revealing thighs, which were much too heavy for such a revealing look. The thing I remembered most about her, however, other than her twangy Tennessee accent and slightly buckteeth, was her perfume. It was strong, pungent, and offensive. Once, when she gave Dett a hug, he had her smell on him for the remainder of the day.

Candidly, I had trouble being in the same room with her for very long—let alone touch her in any way. Her perfume made me sneeze. To me, she wasn’t attractive. She actually reminded me of the type of woman Bill Clinton always liked—someone who would choose Waffle House for a restaurant and Conway Twitty for a jukebox selection.

About the time I allegedly put my hand up Crystal’s skirt, Dett’s conflict with me became so acute it affected our ability to work together. To try and force my resignation, he was petty, cruel, and vindictive. During sales meetings, for instance, everybody would be booked to stay at the Marriott—except for me. He would put me at the Budgetel four blocks away just to belittle and humiliate me, hoping it would drive me away. I was forced to walk back and forth for the meetings.

Divorced, I had two children to support, so I had to maintain a smile and endured his efforts to humiliate me. I did it for the sake of my kids, picturing how vulnerable they were in my mind as I walked back and forth, regardless of the weather conditions. It was difficult. Making my life miserable brought him joy.

Everything in me wanted to beat the crap out of Dett, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I was forced to laugh it off, as if it was no big deal, but it was. Dett’s purpose was to hurt my feeling, which he did repeatedly. He hoped I would snap and act out, but I never did. Often, I felt like crying, but I couldn’t. Guys can’t do that.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing for me to admit this, but it’s true. Guys are often forced to play this cavalier role in our society, especially when they are subjugated to mean-spirited, spiteful bosses like Dett. It nearly kills them on the inside, but they do it to take care of their families. Is it any wonder why so many choose to escape their degradation through alcohol, promiscuity, or both? Wives never seem to understand how difficult situations like this can be for their husbands. Because wives are rarely as supportive as needed, their husbands turn to booze or another woman for comfort. Both are effective—a one-day reprieve from the pain—a day off from the pressure. It works for a while—sometimes a long while—until alcoholism and adultery become a greater problem than the original one, which inevitably happens.

Dett’s vindictiveness, which brought him deep satisfaction, negatively impacted my self-worth—just as he knew it would. Being constantly humiliated ground my confidence down to practically nothing. If I had valued my sanity and serenity, I would have left earlier, but I couldn’t afford to miss a paycheck. Too many people were dependant on me, and I couldn’t let them down. Every time I considered quitting in anger, I would see the smiling faces of my two daughters looking up at me, knowing I would be there to provide for them.

Because I knew Dett’s mistreatment would continue until I left, I began developing plans to create my own business, independent of Ludlow Randolph. That’s why I was able to play it cool, when I was terminated. I had planned for it. I’m sure Dett had hoped I would fall apart, but I didn’t. I refused to give him the satisfaction of thinking he could crush my soul.

Being fired wasn’t what bothered me. What did bother me was knowing that nobody in authority at Ludlow Randolph was willing to confront Dett’s inappropriate behavior. This was something I never anticipated, when I began working for a Christian publisher. Nobody ever does. Like me, anybody who gets involved with the industry believes “Christian businesses” are above petty vindictiveness. Unfortunately, they soon discovered an entirely different reality,.

Ludlow Randolph was Christian in name only, although senior management would vehemently maintain that its purpose was to glorify God. The corporate culture reminded me of a dysfunctional family more than anything else—one that was as out of sync as Acy’s missionary family.

There was always an emotional price to be paid for the check I received twice a month. Benny Lessner, Ludlow Randolph’s owner, liked operating this way. His leadership style was to pit one man against another, or one division against another, ensuring that each would strive to outdo the other in the never-ending effort to maximize the bottom line. Ludlow Randolph produced Christian material, including leadership books, based on operating successful businesses on Christian principles. Most of the leadership material espoused the high value of teamwork and a win-win work ethic—none of which occurred at Ludlow Randolph. Although the work environment appeared ethical and wholesome to an outside observer—just like Acy’s family did, on the inside, it was entirely different. It was like working in a pit of hissing demons.

In this hostile work environment, which championed mean-spiritedness, Dett thrived. I knew he was capable of being devious, but I never considered he would use Crystal to destroy me. Stooping to this level of scheming just didn’t occur to me. Not being malicious by nature, I was at a disadvantage in dealing with Dett and Crystal. I could never put myself in their place to think like they did, and it cost me.

Although Dett wanted to dismiss me for quite some time, he couldn’t. Benny liked me and wanted to groom me for the company long-term—just like he was doing with my friends, Pete and Acy. But the accusation by Crystal Moss changed everything. Benny no longer looked upon me favorably—quite the opposite. That’s why Pete insisted I talk to him a second time at Jack Smithson’s birthday celebration. Pete hoped I could repair the relationship. He considered it damage control, but it was a fool’s errand.

Not knowing what was really happening, while feeling awkward, I stumbled badly during our brief conversation. Now, that all made sense. Benny’s coolness made sense, too, but this story has more to it than my discharge—much, much more.

After Dett successfully dismissed me, he deserted his wife and daughter within a few months, obtaining a divorce shortly thereafter. Because the break up came out of the blue, his wife was heartbroken—as was their young daughter. Coincidentally, Crystal did precisely the same thing to her husband, dumping him at practically at the same time. She just up and left him, citing irreconcilable differences.

Shortly thereafter, Crystal moved in with Dett. They lived together for several years but never married. Apparently, neither was willing to trust the other enough to make a permanent commitment, which certainly wasn’t surprising to me, especially now that I knew the circumstances.

Reflecting on what really happened, I concluded somebody must have had a hand up Crystal’s skirt; but it certainly wasn’t me. Realizing that Dett’s daughter and former wife were more badly hurt than I was made me feel ashamed for indulging in my self-pity, but that’s exactly what I did. Most abused people do—at least for a while.

Nevertheless, both Crystal and Dett continued to work for Ludlow Randolph—never missing a beat or a paycheck. Neither was ever challenged about their perfectly executed plan to have me terminated, destroying my reputation in the process. Their scheme was successful—a perfect surgical strike—and like their clandestine sex, being deliciously wicked, it must have been deeply fulfilling for both of them.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The convention for the Christian Booksellers Association was held in Atlanta six weeks after I learned about being falsely accused. As the president of Ludlow Randolph, Benny Lessner was certain to be present. I was committed to finding him and exposing Dett’s scheme—as well as Crystal’s complicity in it. Benny was a Christian. Because what they did broke at least two of the Ten Commandments, I convinced myself Benny would never allow Dett to get away with their false witness against me.

The convention was huge, and I was concerned I would never find Benny. But when I walked onto the exhibit floor the opening day, Benny was nearly the first person I saw. He was engaged in a conversation, so I waited for him to become available—just like I had in New York. This time, however, I wasn’t sheepish about approaching him. Sensing this, Benny ended his conversation quickly and turned to me.

With a puzzled look, he said, “Hi, Jack. How are you doing?”

“I’m doing well, Benny. How about you?”

“I’m fine,” he answered crisply. “What can I do for you?”

This was my moment, and I knew it. Seizing my opportunity, I said, “I‘ve just learned the real reason I was terminated three years ago.” Looking Benny squarely in the eye, I said, “I never touched Crystal Moss—let alone put my hand up her dress. It didn’t happen, Benny. There is zero truth to this fabrication.”

He just looked at me, focusing his full attention upon what I had to say. As he stared, I was nervous but resolute. Although I hated confrontations like this, avoiding them at all costs, I was determined and held my ground. I added, “When Dett and Brandon met with me, they never said one word about Crystal’s accusation—not one. I finally heard about it a couple of weeks ago.”

Since he made no comment but continued listening, I proceeded, “It didn’t happen, Benny—nothing even close to it happened. None of it is true. I want you to know the truth. I came here today specifically to talk to you. My goal was to tell you straight to your face—man to man—so you could see for yourself that I’m telling you the truth.”

Benny nodded in a nonplussed way. I had no idea what he was thinking, but I was already past the point of no return, so I pressed forward, laying down my ace of spades. “Don’t you think it’s a little odd this accusation came from Crystal just a few months before she left her husband and started shacking up with Dett? Think about it, Benny. Dett left his wife at practically the same time, didn’t he? Isn’t the coincidence of this whole thing pretty peculiar?”

He didn’t respond, but he did wince—just a little—and I saw it. If we had been playing poker, I would have doubled my bet. Far past being timid, I pressed my advantage. “Dett wanted to fire me, but he knew you liked me.” After a moment to let that sink in, I added, “He had to find a way to bring me down in your eyes, and he found it. But it’s a lie, Benny—every word of it.”

After hearing me out, Benny nodded in an understanding way. He had begun to view things from my perspective. I was sure of it. I could see he was measuring my words, giving great weight to each.

Looking at him, I concluded, “I’m leaving this in your hands, Benny. I’m not retaining a lawyer or anything like that, but I do need your help to right this wrong. Dett and Crystal have made me appear to be sexually inappropriate, destroying my reputation with everybody at Ludlow Randolph and with some of the ministries. It’s not true—none of it—and it’s not fair. I’m appealing to you, as the president of the company and as a brother in Christ, to right this wrong.”

As I was finishing my appeal, Dett saw the intensity of our conversation from about five display booths away. Sensing danger, he practically sprinted to us, insinuating himself between Benny and me immediately. I just stood there as Dett tried to make pleasantries—his eyes darting back and forth between Benny’s and mine. He knew something was amiss, which made him visibly nervous. I didn’t say a word, but my mannerisms were as defiant as a boxer immediately before a fight. I looked at my nemesis, Alvin Dettler Carter, menacingly.

This tense moment only lasted a second or two; but it felt like much longer. It made all three of us uncomfortable. Finally, Benny said, “Thanks for saying hello, Jack. We’ll talk about this later. I promise we will. Now I need to get to a meeting, okay?”

“Sure, Benny,” I said. After that, we shook hands, and I walked away confidently. I knew Benny would deal with the matter, and I would be vindicated. Undoubtedly, Dett would get fired, which is exactly what he deserved. Best of all, I would stop chafing at the bit and be able to sleep through the night, free from the bitterness that robbed me of sleep.

That’s what you would expect to happen, isn’t it, especially at a Christian publishing organization, which promotes God’s Kingdom by selling millions of Bibles?

Well, that’s not what happened. I waited several weeks before I called Benny. I wanted to give him every opportunity to address the matter at the office—as he promised he would. When I finally called, he wouldn’t take any of my repeated calls. Neither would anyone else at Ludlow Randolph—except for Pete, Acy, and the corporate attorney. The company had closed ranks, shunning me. It was obvious they were unwilling to address Dett’s unethical behavior, which both Pete and Acy verified in subsequent conversations.

Benny didn’t keep his word. He broke his promise and considered it prudent business to do so. From a financial perspective, perhaps it was—but not from a moral, ethical standpoint. There is never a right way to do a wrong thing, regardless of the consequences. Benny knew this, but he chose the expedient path, ignoring my plea for justice.

When I finally realized what was happening, I was hurt more than anything else. Having been falsely accused, convicted in absentia, condemned, and discarded with the trash, hurt me deeply. It was so unfair. I didn’t deserve my fate, and I wondered why God would allow such a miscarriage of justice to happen. Initially, it made me think He didn’t care, which added to my wounds, increasing my self-pity.

In my attempt to have the situation rectified, I made an appeal to a Christian brother to address an egregious wrong suffered while in his employment. This certainly seemed like the appropriate thing to do, but it didn’t work. At first, I was frustrated, which soon turned to bitterness. I was angry with everything concerning Christianity; but just like Acy and his sisters, I was powerless to do anything about it. All I could do was continue to chafe, and that’s what I did. I chafed a lot.

CHAPTER 5

 

It Was Never Personal; It Was Business

Benny Lessner was one of the most powerful leaders in evangelical Christianity. My situation was a hindrance to his grand calling, which was to maximize his evangelical business interests—regardless of what it required to accomplish his mandate. He didn’t want the boat rocked at Ludlow Randolph, so he swept my situation under the rug—just like he brushed aside numerous other situations over the years—instances that required principled leadership from him.

When doing the right thing interfered with profitability, financial considerations always took precedence. Benny would deny this; but his actions consistently contradicted his Christian testimony, which was essentially a sham. Decades later, I’m sure Benny still believes he did the right thing—that is, if he even remembers the incident or who I am. You see, I wasn’t that important. I was a minor player, a peon, someone who got in the way of his grand design to create a giant Christian conglomerate, anchored by his publishing company.

In his mind, building his personal empire was God’s plan and purpose for his life, and Benny fooled himself into believing he was serving the Lord by doing so. This was easy for him. Most of us can talk ourselves into believing anything, and Benny was certainly no exception.

Anybody who interfered with his purpose was removed by whatever means necessary—whether ethically or unethically. It didn’t matter which, just as long as the end result furthered Benny’s grandiose ambitions. It’s also what made Dett more valuable to him than Pete, Acy, or I. Benny could count on Dett to do the unscrupulous work in exactly the same way Vito Corleone counted on Luca Brasi to “take care of business” in The Godfather.

Correcting my situation would have been a minor detour—a slight bump in the road, but Benny would never deviate from his divine mandate—not even a little. He preferred to do the right thing; but if doing the right thing hindered his obsession with what God’s grandiose calling—even in the slightest way—doing the right thing ceased to be important. For Benny, like Vito Corleone, it was never personal. It was always business, and Benny could be just as ruthless, although never in a violent way. That’s where Benny drew the line.

If Benny was the only Christian leader who behaved this way, it would be one thing, but he wasn’t. Among the elites of evangelicalism, such unethical behavior was common. In fact, for many, it was routine. When doing the right thing for the right reason at the right time interfered with any of their extravagant visions, Heaven help those who got in the way.

That’s what happened to me. I got in the way. It wasn’t personal; it was business. At least, to Benny it was business. In the great scheme of things, that it was personal to me was insignificant. I wasn’t important, but I also wasn’t alone. Similar things happened to many others.

Because Benny—like the other leaders of evangelicalism—was working for God, they believed they were justified in doing whatever was necessary to accomplish the task before them. This being their overarching worldview, rather than the New Testament ethic they universally espoused, is it any wonder I was never vindicated? Of course it wasn’t. Because so many leaders operate with this mindset, millions have been wounded—all in the name of God.

It wasn’t in Benny’s value system to simply do the right thing—just because it was right. He probably never even considered doing so. Where my situation was concerned, he said that he would, but that was just to placate me and to prevent a scene, which he definitely didn’t desire.

As for me, I lacked the wisdom to understand what was actually happening. I was as clueless as I could possibly be, which is never what God intends for a grown man or woman to be. I was also unaware that Benny’s value system was shared by so many of the lords and ladies of evangelicalism. Where they were concerned, I also lacked insight and discernment. I actually believed what these luminaries wrote about themselves in their brochures. I mistakenly thought it was the true report.

Because of my naïveté, I put myself in a position to be exploited, and that’s exactly what happened. They used my innocence to their advantage—just like they did with so many others. Believing Benny and the leadership team at Ludlow Randolph were who they said they were, rather than who I witnessed them to be, made me vulnerable and expendable when my presence no longer served their purposes.

Knowing what I know now, I would never allow such abuse to adversely impact me again, but at the time, I lacked the wisdom and discernment necessary to protect myself. Like many believers, I was gullible—even though it never occurred to me that I was.

As I went through the grieving process from my experience, I discarded my naïveté, replacing it with godly wisdom that has served me well ever since.

Having gone through this episode and come through it stronger, I now realize how limited Benny really was—just like Pastor Doucette. Both were blinded by self-exalting ambition. Thinking they were working for the Lord, building His Kingdom and not their own, provided them with the excuse they required to treat others the way they did. My wounding—just like the Doucette children’s—was because we got in the way of “God’s will.”  Our purpose was to serve those with a higher calling than ours and nothing else. We were there to help and not to question, to enhance and never to diminish the lofty ambitions of our masters. To go against either Benny or Pastor Doucette was seen by them as going against God Himself, which justified them in crushing us.

When he was in his sixties, Ludlow Randolph published a book about how God had favored Benny’s dramatic climb to the top. It focused on his business practices and Christian ethics, which were lauded to the world as extraordinary. When Pete and I heard about the project, we joked that the book was not biographical at all. Instead, it was a work of fiction—an attempt by a character resembling Shylock, from The Merchant of Venice, to look praiseworthy. To those on the outside, Benny looked noble and altruistic, but not to those of us who got in his way, we knew better. The only difference between Shylock and Benny was the latter routinely obtained his pound of flesh. Praised as a great Christian, Benny was far more Machiavellian than Christ-like.

After being stonewalled at Ludlow Randolph for several months about Crystal-gate, as I came to call it, I became weary of beating my head against the wall and eventually dropped the matter entirely. Nevertheless, I learned numerous lessons from it. I didn’t gain wisdom immediately—that’s for sure—but I did as time passed. I became far wiser and more circumspect. When the incident first occurred, I was obviously too wounded and upset to understand anything. At the time, all I could do was to emote. Feeling the pain from having been wronged, I nursed my anger for quite a while, feeling completely justified in doing so.

I didn’t deserve what happened. The false witness, followed by the character assassination that ensued, hurt me deeply, but my discomfort didn’t concern Benny. My reputation and career were expendable—acceptable collateral damage. Exposing what happened might adversely impact the reputation of the company, and Benny would never allow that to happen—not for anything. Correcting Dett’s wrongdoing was never an option. Glossing over it and hiding it was more than an option; it was Ludlow Randolph’s standard operating procedure. To Benny, the perception of being seen as righteous was more important than actually doing the right thing.

The results of my mistreatment adversely impacted me for years. I’m sure there are still people who believe I groped Dett’s slattern two decades ago. Just thinking about it continues to gall me. Nevertheless, I knew I had to let it go, which I have done, at least for the most part. My anger and bitterness were consuming me, eating me up on the inside. Staying angry and unforgiving was like saying; “I’ll get even with you by hurting me.”

I couldn’t continue moving forward by remaining stuck in the past. That’s a strategy that doesn’t work, nor does it make you the kind of person others want to be around. When you are consumed by resentment, especially when it’s justified, your wounded-ness shows.

You become a joy sponge, sucking the life out of everything. I didn’t want to live like that, so I finally had let it all go and move on. At first, it was hard, especially because it seemed so unfair. Why should I be the one whose life was filled with pain and not them? Why should all of the negative consequences fall on me and not on Dett, Crystal, or Benny? I even blamed God for my situation but, in my heart, I knew He was never the author of sin.

Letting go of my entitled sense of victimization was the most difficult part. I couldn’t discard it all at once; but I did over time. Instead of allowing anger, frustration and outrage to settle, becoming unshakeable—exercising all-consuming dominion over me—I released these debilitating emotions. I had to. Having no other choice, I forgave them all. It was the only option that would restore my sanity and allow me to sleep through the night.

But that’s not all I achieved from this experience and others I’ve yet to describe. I wanted to learn from what had happened as well. So, I began asking myself many hard questions—questions about what was really happening at Ludlow Randolph, as well as with the otherChristian ministries I served. I didn’t get the answers all at once. In fact, discovering the truth was a process that has continued to be an essential part of my life for a quarter of a century and more.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dett meant my dismissal for evil. Crystal too. With Benny’s support, Dett’s ruthless scheme was successful. Best of all, it was accomplished with no negative consequences for Benny, the company, or for Dett. Because he used the incident to solidify his affair with Crystal, by divorcing his wife, his scheme was a complete success. By getting rid of her Redneck husband, Crystal also upgraded her situation, if being with Dett can be considered an upgrade.

To my nemesis, Alvin Dettler Carter, I had been completely vanquished, and he smiled with satisfaction at his victory. God, on the other hand, used my defeat to create something beneficial—not something destructive. He used the experience for my growth and for the elucidation of others. At first, I didn’t believe that was possible, but experience has shown that I have been mistaken. That’s exactly what has happened. God had a purpose for it—all of it. I’m not guessing about this, as you will come to see. It’s actually what this story is all about.

Jack Watts

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Self-Important Spiritual Superiority

Refer to Step 4: I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself. He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

 

I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.

—Leo Tolstoy

In recovery, especially after having experienced religious abuse, we learn to view service to others differently. When you take a look at the lives of religious leaders, especially from large churches and ministries, frequently the leaders consider themselves to be the superiors of others. Even if they give lip service to saying they are servants, they don’t really demonstrate it. In their minds and hearts, their thoughts and pronouncements are more important than what others think and say.

The reason for this isn’t based on their leadership position within the organization but on having a closer walk with God than those they have been called to serve. In a strange twist of irony, their initial skill set of serving others changes, and they become de facto gods within their ecclesiastical fiefdoms. As such, they are definitely treated as superior beings—as people who know more and are more in tune with God. In their own eyes, this makes them more important.

This causes problems. Those around them rarely hold them accountable, choosing instead to become “yes men” to the religious leader. The lords of religion love this and, within a short period, embrace a sense of infallibility about their purpose and their ministry. Believing they are God’s Divinely Chosen Vessel to carry an important message to the world, men and women like this stop serving others. Instead, they expect to be served, which they are by those who exalt them. Sadly, this perversion of the Gospel happens all the time, and those who speak out against what is happening are discarded, suffering religious abuse for speaking the truth.

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28)

Jack Watts   Recovery Resources

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Becoming the Person You Want to Be

Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

 

 

The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.

—Albert Ellis

When I was first subjected to religious abuse, I was hurt, angry, and confused. My life became purposeless for a long time. When I realized that wallowing in self-pity wasn’t making my life better or more manageable, I knew I needed to make some changes.

I would never become the person I was created to be by nurturing bitterness, and nobody was going to help me. I had to help myself. That’s when I stopped my downward slide and started working to recover what I had lost. Realizing God was not the problem but the solution, I looked to Him, and the words He spoke, as my source of courage and inspiration. I looked to Him for hope—for a way out of my emotional pit. I had to rethink nearly every aspect of my life, changing practically everything.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the daunting task, which had been set before me, resenting all that needed to be done. After a while, however, I chose to embrace my journey instead. This has proven to be a wise decision.

When I was much younger, I had a vision for what my life would be—a vision that was quite pretentious, but God’s purpose was different. Becoming who He intended for me to be has taken substantial work, and it continues to take work, each and every day of my life.

By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness. I worked out a new lifetime purpose—a more realistic one. Now that I’ve lived it for many years, I can’t imagine I was created for anything else. My life is filled with the peace and contentment I always desired but was never able to achieve. Reflecting back, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

Jack Watts   Resources

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My life Is Shipwrecked

Father,

I’m not where I want to be—not even close.

I’m not what I want to be, thought I would be,

Or the person I am capable of being.

Even worse, the gap is widening—not narrowing.

If I’m being honest with myself,

Which I repeatedly try to avoid,

I’m constantly excuse my poor behavior

And my negative attitude that is rebellious to You.

I don’t like what I have become—not even a little.

I’m a pathetic substitute for what

I should be—for what I want to become.

Nearly everyone who knows me well

Recognizes that my life is shipwrecked.

It may look acceptable to casual observers,

But to those who know me, they recognize

The truth and shake their heads in dismay.

Why shouldn’t they? I can’t fault them;

I don’t like what I see either.

My relationship with You has disintegrated,

Even though I pretend that it hasn’t.

This is who I am—who I have become.

I want to admit my faults, which are many, to You.

I am no longer willing to pretend—to deceive myself.

I have traveled the wrong road for so long,

I’m not certain I can ever follow the correct path again.

This scares me so much hat I have been unwilling

To face the truth about myself, choosing instead

To hide my face from You in shame.

I know I can’t change on my own.

Without Your help, I have no chance at all.

Will You hold my hand and touch my heart?

Will You be there for me and not abandon me?

Without You, I can never make it on my own.

Jack Watts   Resources

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Father,

Believing that whining and demanding

Will gain Your favor rather than genuine humility,

They come before You with hearts

That are petulant and peevish, lacking gratitude.

I understand their perspective completely,

Having spent decades of my life

Coming before You in precisely

The same self-serving, self-centered way—

Never understanding, never acknowledging

That You know what is best for me.

Question: Could this be you? Is this what your prayer life is like? If so, admit it to God, and ask Him to change your heart.

If you want to be a whole person—valuable to yourself and to others—you must renew your mind and reject what your abuser has said about you. Don’t internalize it but, if you already have, make a commitment to renew your mind immediately. The way to do this is simple: accept that God loves you and desires your recovery.

Question: Have you internalized what your abusers have said about you? If so, know that it will take time and consistency to renew your mind to think differently.

 

For your recovery to work the way it should, you must accept the responsibility for your actions and not take the easy way out by blaming Satan for them. It simply doesn’t work, and in most cases, it isn’t true. When a problem manifests itself, you must always look for your part in it, and the sooner the better. If you’re being honest, you’ll usually find it. If you’ve been foolish, admit it. Don’t deflect; don’t rationalize; and don’t project your problems onto another.

Question: How often have you done this? Is rationalization a part of your life? If so, admit it, and ask God to reveal how extensive the problem really is.

Most muddle through life existing in a languid state of mediocrity. Some try positive thinking, meditation, or a myriad of other ways to improve themselves, occasionally going to great expenditures of time and resources to do so. Occasionally, it is helpful, but little of it gets to the core of what really changes a person—at least not fundamental character change. To achieve that, you have to go before the Lord and allow Him to reveal you to yourself. If you don’t go willingly, He will do it for you—guaranteed.

Journal: Write a paragraph or two about who you really are on the inside. Be thorough and completely candid.

In an attempt to be palatable to everyone—to get them “saved,” Christians have watered-down Christ’s teachings to be the preferred way among equals—not the only way. In America, God’s blessings are equated to materialism and not the rich character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. In order to be attractive to the unsaved, marginal church leaders—those more intent on creating large churches than strong churches, have diluted Christ’s words.

Question: Have you watered down what you know to be true? If so, admit it to God, and ask Him to give you the strength of character to be true to your beliefs.

Jack Watts   Recovery Resources

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Character Counts

Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

—Mark Twain

Several years ago, in Cheshire England, a couple of twelve-year-old schoolboys were disciplined for “refusing to pray to Allah” as part of their school’s religious education program. A spokesman for the Cheshire County Council said, “Educating children in the beliefs of different faiths is part of Cheshire’s diversity curriculum.”

Because of separation of church and state, this scenario couldn’t be replicated in the America—not precisely. The acceptance of every belief system being equal, however, flourishes in our nation. In fact, it’s a core belief in our cultural belief system.

Christianity has become tolerant and accepting as well. In an attempt to be palatable to everyone—to get them “saved,” Christians have watered-down Christ’s teachings to be the preferred way among equals—not the only way. In America, God’s blessings are equated to materialism and not the rich character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. In order to be attractive to the unsaved, marginal church leaders—those more intent on creating large churches than strong churches, have diluted Christ’s words.

If you think I’m exaggerating, just ask any young Christian under twenty-five if Christ is the only way to God. Three-out-of-four will either hedge or deny it out rightly. Christianity isn’t loosing the cultural war; we’ve lost it. Our churches are filled with weak, materialistic, sappy people—not robust men and women—those who will not bend their knees for anyone other than the Lord.

Good for these two young boys who had the strength of character to stand up for what they believed. Their defiance made the headlines worldwide. When it happened, I’m sure they were unpopular with their classmates. Fidelity may cost you everything but, without it, you really don’t have anything anyway.

Jesus said to them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Refining Your Character

 

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

 

A spiritually optimistic point of view holds that the universe is woven out of a fabric of love. Everything that is happening is ultimately for the good, if we’re willing to face it head-on and use our adversities for soul growth.

—Joan Borysenko

If you ask someone if they want to be a better person, the answer will always be yes. Nearly everybody wants to be a new and improved version of himself or herself. The problem is people generally lack the tools to get from point A to point B. Consequently, most muddle through life in a languid state of mediocrity.

Some try positive thinking, meditation, or a myriad of other ways to improve themselves, occasionally going to great expenditures of time and resources to do so. Some of it is helpful, but little of it gets to the core of what really changes a person—at least not fundamental character change.

To achieve that, you have to go before the Lord and allow Him to reveal you to yourself. If you don’t go willingly, He will do it for you. Trust me about that; I know from experience.

When that happens, you become undone. It’s like you are standing naked, with the essence of your being exposed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. He understands your thoughts and can discern the intentions of your heart, taking your vulnerability far past your comfort zone, revealing the huge gap between Himself and the wretch you recognize yourself to be.

In the aftermath of such an experience, at first it’s difficult to regain your equilibrium. Seeing yourself as you really are—instead of who you project yourself to be—is unnerving, humbling, and ultimately transformational. You start to ask yourself questions, and often you don’t like the answers. Having had such an experience, I asked myself the following:

  • What do I need to do to become the person I was created to be?
  • How can I put the needs of others before my own—and not just say that I do?
  • What areas of my thinking need to change?
  • What beliefs do I have that hold me back?
  • What grandiose expectations hinder my personal growth?
  • What attitudes do I hold that are self-serving?
  • What specific behavior needs to change to get me from point A to point B?

As I moved forward, with my mind and heart renewed, I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to become a better person.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Jack Watts   Transformational Resources

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