Have We Lost Our Minds?

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The weird and wacky comes not only from the East, but also from the West.  The West Coast, to be specific.  In Redding, California, there is a church called Bethel.  And at this church called Bethel, there is a ministry called SOZO.  And within this ministry called SOZO (Greek for saved, healed, delivered) there is another ministry called Shabar.  (A Hebrew word meaning broken-hearted but which can also mean shattered).

There are six ‘tools’ that are used in SOZO:

  • Father Ladder
  • Four Doors
  • Presenting Jesus
  • The Wall
  • Trigger Mechanisms (Advanced Tool)
  • Divine Editing (Advanced Tool)

These are psycho-therapeutic techniques used by the facilitator (counselor) in a 2-3 hour session for determining the point of the client’s “father wound”, an idea straight out of repressed memory therapy and the inner-healing movement.

For those who have sought help, healing or deliverance through SOZO, but were unable to attain (or maintain) their help, healing and deliverance, there are special (advanced) methods within Shabar both for those who are aware and also for those who are unaware that they have been Shabar-ed.

I swear I’m not making this up.  But someone is.  Two someone’s, in fact:  Dawna DeSilva, the founder and leader of SOZO ministry, and Teresa Liebscher.  They, along with the Bethel SOZO team, are making their money by taking your money for a method of healing and deliverance that is not only nowhere to be found in scripture, but wasn’t found anywhere at all until they thought it up and marketed it.  Which, for those of you who haven’t noticed, is apparently how we do ‘divine’ or special revelation these days.  We download it from the recesses of our minds and imaginations, put it into a book or DVD format, stick a PayPal button on our website, and voila – we’re legit.  (Well, only if and when people hit that little ‘add to cart’ button).

Bill Johnson, and his wife Beni are the senior pastors at Bethel.  (A pastor, also called a shepherd in scripture, is someone who has the responsibility of leading, guiding and protecting the people of his church, especially from wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing;  A.K.A false teachers).  Bethel, which had its start in 1954 in Redding California, was originally an Assemblies of God church, but in 2006, under the leadership of Johnson, it became non-denominational.  It’s a large church, with a large and active healing and deliverance ministry, and an Alabaster Prayer Room where people can go to spend time in prayer, or for an experience called ‘soaking’.

I looked the word soaking up in the concordance to see what the Bible has to say about it, and here is what I found:

Absolutely nothing.

We live in odd times.  We live in an age of self-appointed apostles and self-proclaimed prophets, many of whom have everyone on Facebook hungering and thirsting to claim them as their new BFF.  It’s time to grow up, people.  There’s a lot going on in the world, and too many of us are running house to house and meeting to meeting to find out “what new thing God is doing”.  Except that most of it isn’t new;  we’re borrowing it from metaphysics and mysticism, which has been around a lot longer than we have.  We’re just putting catchy new labels on it, but idolatry by any other name is still idolatry.  We’re not making mature disciples, we’re making flaky ones.

If anyone tells you that they have received special revelation freely from God (and this isn’t, it’s been cobbled together partly from the teachings of Randy Clark, who took his show on the road to Bethel in the 90’s, and partly from ‘deliverance’ ministries in Argentina) and they want you to pay them in order to receive this special revelation from them, think twice before giving them access to your bank account.  And while we’re on this subject, if anyone requires you to sign a release of liability form before they will pray for you, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  Find someone else to pray for you, or do your own praying.  There should be all kinds of red flags and warning bells going off in your head on this one.  Can you see, anywhere in the New Testament, where anyone pulled a bunch of papers and a pen out of their robes before ministering and said “We’re going to set you free, but sign here first”?  I don’t think so.

I guess my primary concern with all of this is its propensity to create and encourage the formation of false memories.  In the secular world of psychology, methods like these were debunked and discredited long ago (well, according to a recent Harvard newsletter I received, not so long ago) but for some reason, the church – especially our local ones, are still doing the kind of counseling that isn’t so much about growth and maturity as it is about ‘healing your inner child’ and digging for whatever image may pop into your mind that would explain your current dysfunctional behavior.  There may well be abuse in your past, and quite a few traumatic memories.  But, by and large, people don’t forget trauma, and the dysfunctional behavior more often than not is due to the stress and pain caused by not being able to forget.  Any memory that you now have, that you didn’t have before your therapy, or before going for prayer (this includes Theophostic prayer, or the use of any other therapeutic technique that defies the laws of both science and common sense) is suspect and should not be taken as a real and legitimate [accurate] memory.  This includes psycho-therapeutic techniques such as writing about your early childhood with your non-dominant hand in order to probe the unconscious, or subconscious mind, to the use of hypnosis, or any other practice that results in an altered state of consciousness.  This happens quite easily after 2-3 hours of prayer or mindless singing (and chanting) of the same mantra, verse, or even worship music.  You alter your brain waves, which is exactly what happens when you are asleep and dreaming.

Yes, we do need to spend time in prayer alone with God, and there is nothing wrong with listening to worship music, or praying for extended periods of time.  Our days would go better if we did.  But we also worship God with our lives, and too many of us are wasting our time running all over town, and all over the country, after every new trend and teaching that appeals to our emotional needs and desires, and more importantly to our emotional pain and desperation.  The enemy knows this, and when he can’t tempt us into sin, he uses the strategies of deception and distraction, and that is all that these false teachings amount to in the end.

And so, for heaven’s sake – for your own sake – quit soaking, sozo-ing and shabar-ing, and be instead like the Bereans of Acts 17, who sought truth by searching scripture.  And keep your money in the bank.

 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.          Acts 17:11

 

 

 

 

Proof

SAM_3674Here is a theory, in fact, I believe it to be a truth:  the absent parent is the one who holds the power.  I’ve heard it time and time again, from many a client, indirectly from my own children, and thought it many times regarding myself.  No matter what kind of person they were, or how heinous the crimes they may have committed, the parent who leaves is the parent who reigns.  Children hate divorce.  Regardless of the reason for a parent’s absence, they will be deified, glorified and vehemently, if need be, defended.  It may not be fair, it may not even be logical, but missing people leave holes.  Closure is a myth; we absorb the pain of loss and it becomes a part of us.  Scars tell us not only that we ourselves are real, but that what we have been through is real.  It’s proof that we have lived – are living, still – when all else says otherwise.  People leave.  They disappear.  There one minute, and gone the next, whether through death, divorce, or some other reason known only to themselves and God.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of an afternoon, they are suddenly gone, taking hopes and dreams and all of their empty promises with them.  We deal with their absence the way we deal with most of our  unresolved and unhealed trauma – by revisiting the scene of the crime; if not literally, then figuratively, over and over again, in vain and often subconscious attempts to get a different outcome.  We sit in graveyards or parking lots, therapy rooms and waiting rooms.  Waiting.

… always waiting ...

For what, we don’t know and often can’t put into words.  We speak to people who are no longer there.  We dream about them, and have imaginary conversations in our minds with those who have long ago up and left us or shut us out, leaving only ghosts, shadows and tears in their wake.

And a whole lot of pain.

How we deal with the pain is another matter entirely.  I personally prefer pain to be private, at least the deep pain that distorts the body and the face until we’re unrecognizable, even to those who love and care for us.  No, that kind of pain is for deep corners and dark closets.  Therapy rooms, if we’re lucky enough to find someone who is both safe and compassionate, but for most of us, we have to find our own way.  I write my blog in lieu of therapy; the pastoral counselor who made such sincere and heartfelt promises having long since shut and barred her door in a fit of anger;  over what, I still don’t know.

I saw a photo of myself yesterday, and was struck by how bad I look and how much weight I’ve gained since That Horrible Day.  I don’t even recognize the woman in the photo;  she looks sad and tired.  It’s embarrassing and discouraging.  In my head, I have felt that I’ve moved on and am doing okay, but seeing that picture made me realize that I’m stuck.  I’m carrying a lot around with me, and I’m reasonably sure that everyone can see it, at least on the outside.  My friends don’t say anything or even seem to have noticed, but comments and little ‘jokes’ from family sting.  I don’t like photos of myself, and never have.  It’s why you’ll never see a profile picture of me that is actually me, not a flower, or a joke, or a pretty picture of something.  In my lifelong quest to be invisible, this blog is the only thing I have that is really me.  That, and the hundreds of books and other miscellaneous objects I cart around with me from house to house.

I had a recent health scare, and while the biopsies came back negative, it did make me think Good Lord, I need to do something about all of this.  Looking at that photo made me realize that I’m not as in control of my life as I’d like to think I am.  I feel as hopeless and helpless over this area as many of the people (clients) who have sat in front of me do.  I owe it to them to figure it out.  I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but I have to at least try.  I have a lot to lose.

PAIN

Pain has an element of blank;

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there was

A time when it was not.

It has no future but itself,

Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.

– Emily Dickenson

 

The Healing House

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It’s a difficult thing, this healing from misguided therapy.  And lonely.  There are no awards.  You don’t get a coffee mug, or a T-shirt saying “I survived False Memory Syndrome.”  Or, for that matter, one saying “I survived bad psychotherapy”.

I have studied everything I can get hold of, and my brain feels stretched and tired.  I’m discouraged.  I feel I have so much to ‘unlearn’ that it’s not even funny.  So much of what I’ve been taught in this long journey as a Christian, and, I’m ashamed to say, so much of what I’ve believed and taught myself, is not even scriptural.  (Meaning, it can’t be found in the Bible).  It wasn’t until I had the space, time, and opportunity this past year to actually unpack everything, and look at each and every book and teaching I’ve collected over the years, and consider honestly where and who it all came from.  Because of crisis, because of having to leave an abusive situation and raise two kids on my own, while working and going back to school, I just kept “doing” without stopping.  The only times I had to think were the times I spent walking, and talking to God, and trying to process everything that was going on.

But I never really unpacked all of these boxes until we got to this house.  We never had the room, and I never had the time.

A couple of years ago, a co-worker asked me to come and be a counselor at her new place of ministry in the city.  It wasn’t long before she asked me to teach the group Healing for Damaged Emotions, based on the book (and workbook) by David A. Seamands.  The book is based on the popular notion that we all need healing from our past hurts and damaged emotions – that our inner child is controlling us because we have ‘unhealed memories’ that, through a process delineated throughout Seamand’s books, we can be now be healed, and so move on to living victorious Christian lives.  How the church survived without this enlightened teaching for over two thousand years, I don’t know.  What I hadn’t realized was how much of his teaching is based more on Eastern Mysticism than on biblical truth.  It was an obscure reference in one of his books to his ‘ashram retreats’ that caught my attention.  Not surprisingly, Seamand’s was raised in India, and his beliefs are more in line with other ‘Christian mystics’ who are also known proponents of cataphatic prayer* and methods of inner healing derived from the early synthesis of the teachings of Agnes Sanford and Carl Jung.  Somehow, and without our noticing, these teachings have crept into the church to the point where we have an entire ‘recovery’ movement based on healing our wounded emotions and healing our inner child.  We have sin-specific groups that are based not on fellowship and spiritual growth, but rather on our particular areas of woundedness and our identity as a victim.  Self-love is the new mantra of the church, but it’s bad theology.

I taught this myself, and now regret it, using Seamand’s diagram of the rings of a tree, showing how an injury from way back in our past influences our behavior today.  While I don’t dispute the notion that past injury can still affect us in the area of our current thoughts and behavior, the biblical standard of sanctification is pushed aside as a means of wholeness, and a self-absorbed victim mentality now presides over the throne room of our minds.  The idea that the root of our problems is low self-esteem, as Seamand’s teaches, is as egregious as the idea set forth in The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee: that the root of all of our problems is the fact that we are believing lies about ourselves.  The two teachings, taken together, result in a self-focused, lie-based theology rather than a God-focused, sin-based theology.

I think we’ve fallen far, and I know many, myself included, who have fallen hard.  We are wounded, not so much by our memories, but by the constant refrain that the only way to achieve a victorious Christian life is to heal all of our old wounded emotions.  The problem of course is that our emotions are going to, in all likelihood, be wounded again tomorrow.  Unless you find someway to cauterize those nerve endings, they’re going to get hurt, time and again, for as long as you live on this earth.  It becomes a never-ending process of self-absorption and introspection.

Does that mean we should never seek to be healed from past hurts?  No.  Nor am I a proponent of abdicating therapy, or counseling.  There is a time and a place to find a safe, wise person to talk to who can help or offer a different perspective, but it should lead to growth, wisdom and maturity, not stress, confusion and sickness of mind and heart.  It shouldn’t cost you your relationships, your job, your health, all of your resources or your education.  What I am saying is that we need to be careful.  Be very, very careful about jumping onto a bandwagon without first seeing it clearly for what it is.

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.  J.G. Kennedy

*Cataphatic prayer is prayer that “honors and reverences images and feelings and goes through them to God.  This form of prayer also has an ancient and well-attested history in the world of religions.  Any sort of prayer that highlights the mediation of creation can be called cataphatic.  So, praying before icons, or images of saints; the mediation of sacraments and sacramentals; prayer out in creation – all of these are cataphatic forms of prayer.” (From Seeing is Believing, by Dr. Greg Boyd).  This book, like many others written by popular Christian authors, promotes the use of imagery and visualization in order to experience God and achieve inner healing.  God specifically forbids this, however, and likens it to the process of divination.

 

 

When Pigs Fly

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About a month ago, in the quiet upstate town of New Hartford, New York, in a church once begun in earnest, two brothers were attacked by their parents and several other members of the congregation. One of the boys has died, the younger suffered serious injuries. The boys were called into a ‘counseling session’ after church on a Sunday, but that session didn’t end until the next day, on Monday. They were questioned and physically attacked for hours because they wouldn’t confess and ask forgiveness for the things they were accused of.

It’s important to ask how such a horrific thing could happen.

I became a Christian at a youth event at Grace Assembly of God in Syracuse, N.Y.  (I believe it was in 1979, but it could have been 1978, making me about 13 or 14 years old.) Anyway, we went there for a while, but then started going to Nedrow Assembly of God, a small church in the valley because it was closer to home. We were there until I graduated from high school, but by the time we left to go back to Grace Assembly, I was a mess. At the time, ‘deliverance ministry’ was the New Big Thing, fueled largely by people like Bob Larson and Mike Warnke, and books such as Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare (Impact Christian Book Books, 1973) by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, which is actually still in print. Much has been written on the Deliverance Movement of the 70’s. It spawned a generation of false teaching and led to everything from the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, to Satanic Ritual Abuse and the False Memory saga, and more recently to the calling out of ‘Jezebels’ in the Church and Neil T. Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker.

Anyway, I don’t know how it all came about, but one evening my parents drove me to the youth leader’s house, for what I believed was supposed to be some kind of prayer meeting. I don’t think I had any real understanding of what was going to happen there, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it. All I remember about this particular meeting (if I’m remembering correctly) was that there were quite a few people in the youth leader’s living room, including my pastor and his wife from our previous church. I believe I sat in a chair in the middle of the room, which seemed dark to me for some reason. The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation: some people throw up when the demons come out.

Sit tight for a minute, because it’s occurring to me as I write this that an entire church thought I was demon-possessed.

Well.

Moving right along:

I came across two different books this week, in two different stores. Both books were written by Charles H. Kraft, a retired seminary professor and former missionary. Both were books on healing and deliverance, and spiritual warfare.

There is so much wrong teaching in these books that I don’t even know where to start.

The first was Two Hours to Freedom; A Simple and Effective Model for Healing and Deliverance (Chosen Books, 2010). In a section on Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) Kraft states that he has prayed for deliverance for “hundreds of people” whose demonization was evidenced by the fact that they had “inners” (separate identities, or personalities on the inside of them) also known as “alters”, or “inner children”. The author describes a process whereby he takes clients back to their experience in the womb, and leads them, month by month, through their experiences in utero, specifically looking for areas where they may have hurtful memories or damaged emotions. From before they were born. Those who are uncomfortable with re-experiencing the ‘re-birthing process’ are deemed to be under the influence of demonic resistance, whom Kraft confronts and tries to elicit information from. (I personally consider the resistance to be a sign that there’s a shred of mental health left in there somewhere – in the client). He then progresses through the client’s elementary years, their adolescent and young adult years, and so on, inviting Jesus into each memory, using a method that can only be described as a type of Christian channeling, and guided imagery to ‘heal’ the memories, whether they are factual or not.

Seriously.

The other book, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen Books, 2015) was at Wegman’s. I ran in to pick up some thyroid medicine and a birthday card, and, lo and behold, there it was on the Christian book rack, only a few hours after finding the first book.

The beginning of the book states that it is actually a compilation of all of Kraft’s best work over the years (he has been doing this, I believe, since the 1980’s) but the information on Dissociative Identity Disorder he gives in chapter 11 is taken from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980). The majority of the people who pick this book up and toss it into their shopping carts along with their milk and toilet paper are not going to know that we are now on the 5th edition of the DSM (as of October 2013). DID is still included as an actual disorder, although it was vigorously petitioned against by many in the mental health field. The term Multiple Personality Disorder, however, is no longer used. Kraft is apparently unaware of this, as he writes how he leads each ‘alter’ (personality) into right standing with Jesus, and when each one is finally at peace with God, he knows that “his work is done”. He also states that those in deliverance ministry need to learn how to distinguish between demonization and MPD/DID, again, apparently unaware that there is no such thing, and therefore no need to distinguish between the two.

In another section on false memories, Kraft says that he isn’t bothered at all by the fact that the memories conjured up during a prayer session may not be true, or that some people may have been falsely accused of sexually abusing someone, stating that it is far worse to not forgive those who actually did commit sins against you than it is to make things up. Well, try to tell that to the people whose lives are destroyed by being falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit. And to the clients whose lives are ruined because they now have traumatic ‘memories’ and images in their heads of things that never happened in the first place, and the actual memories they do have of real events, however benign, are now tarnished.

I cannot imagine what the younger brother from the church in New Hartford is thinking and feeling. My heart goes out to him; I wish I could help him somehow. The images and memories of that horrible day will be with him forever. I wasn’t trying to compare my experience with his in any way, but was trying to show how out of hand things can get, and how much serious damage spiritual leaders can do. Even well-meaning people who sincerely believe they are doing the right thing can cause a lifetime of damage. I don’t remember much of the ‘prayer meeting’ in the valley, mostly because it was quite a long time ago and an awful lot has happened since then. But the New Hartford story has had me thinking about it quite a bit lately. What a horrible way to mess with a kid’s mind.

I wish we had never gone to the church in the valley. I worry that I will hurt people I care about by writing that. I wish so many things. That I had never experienced the dark side of what we call ‘church’. I am not writing this to dishonor, or disparage anyone, including Charles Kraft. That is not my intent. But this deliverance thing, the way the church is currently doing it, is false teaching – it has absolutely no scriptural ground to stand on – and it is false teaching that we need to be delivered from. My intent is to help people who are berating themselves for not doing it right, or wondering why their session didn’t work, or why they haven’t been delivered yet, in spite of hours of prayer, and searching for demons, or trying to heal their ‘inner child’. Relax. If you’re reading this, you are in all probability an adult, and you need to find an adult way of dealing with your hurts from the past. Stop looking for Jesus in your memories. He’s right where he’s been ever since he stormed the gates of Hell and took the keys. He’s on his throne at the right hand of God, praying and interceding for you. You don’t have inner children, or an inner child in you. You do have the Holy Spirit, and God did deliver you, on the cross. Now, go put your armor on and walk it out.

That is how Christians are supposed to do spiritual warfare.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.   – Galatians 5:1

Midnight Musings

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We had an event at church tonight, a fall festival in the parking lot.  There were bounce houses, games, cotton candy, and face painting.  Kids and colored wigs everywhere.

And underneath the costumes, and coats, and scarves, there was an awful lot of pain.

I heard stories of loss, and profound disappointment.  Stories for which there are no easy answers, when even offering to pray for someone sounds trite and condescending.  I think sometimes the reason we offer to pray for people is to make an uncomfortable conversation more palatable;  it makes us feel better, as though we’ve done something to help when, in truth, there is nothing that can be done.

This doesn’t fit our culturally sanitized version of Christianity.  I can think of five people right off the top of my head who would be so upset with me for even writing something like that.  We’re supposed to pray with power, and authority, and fix everything and everyone with scriptures, and platitudes, and hollow-sounding affirmations that fall on deaf ears and broken hearts.

Sometimes all you can do is just say how very sorry you are.  And leave it at that.  Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing to say, at all.  I know that when going through the worst of it, people would pray, meaning to help, wanting to do something, and it did nothing for me.  Things that helped?  Something to drink, hot or cold, depending on the day.  Space to be quiet.  Freedom to not talk.  A place to rest.  Sometimes a walk, even if I didn’t feel like talking.  I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t usually listening, either;  I was feeling the warmth of the sun, or the heat of the mug, or the softness of a blanket.  But that’s it.  When you’re grieving, people’s voices seem so far away.  They’re comforting, because it means you’re not alone, but the expectation to hold up your end of a conversation is physically exhausting.  Short, simple questions work best.  Not a lot of them.

My own, constant prayer on a bad day is “Dear God, please hold my heart together.  I can’t do this anymore.  I certainly can’t do this today.”

If we have kids, we do it for them.  I don’t know what people do who don’t have any.  I really don’t know.  I know I wouldn’t be here.

But tonight, dear God, please hold their hearts together.  The people who, for whatever reason, opened their hearts to me tonight.  Help them and hold them.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  – Ephesians 6:10

My Odyssey

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  1. 640px-Departure_of_Ulysses_from_the_Land_of_the_PheaciansSo, I turned fifty in June.  I had to walk away from the blog for a bit (except for the post on July 4th) because there were too many other things that required my attention, and while a blog post may read easily, it definitely isn’t quick and easy to write.  A lot has happened in the past couple of months, not the least of which was leaving the church that I’ve been a member of since my divorce in 2003.  I have gone back to the one I belonged to before, the church my daughters grew up in.  It was not an easy decision, but I believe it’s the right one for this time and this season.  I have thought long and hard about it over the last year.  I wanted to be absolutely sure that I’m not just running away.

Because sometimes there is a fine line between leaving and running away.

I am well aware that I am doing a bit of both, but I do believe that this is the assignment God has called me to for this season.  People keep asking if I’m “happier there” but to me, that’s irrelevant.  It’s the wrong question, the right one being: is this where I’m supposed to be?  As Christians, I believe we should go where we’re called, and where we’re needed.  We don’t come and go because we like the worship, or we like the people, or all of the perks and amenities offered as a result of membership.  The church is not a club, and the building is not a clubhouse.  I wasn’t ‘unhappy’ at the other church;  the only problem I ever had wasn’t with the church itself, it was the occasional breach of confidentiality by my pastoral counselor, who also attends that church.  If it weren’t for that I would have been quite happy there.  Time and again, she made it abundantly clear that I was neither welcomed, nor wanted.

Sometimes the giants in the land are the people we would least expect.

I keep forgetting, now that I’m back, that for everyone else, more than ten years have passed.  For me, it’s just been one very long, very bad year.  I find that I have to keep making small mental adjustments as people are talking to me.  They have no idea what I’ve been through since I left, and for the most part, they don’t need to.  But I keep wondering, what in the world happened to my life while I was in therapy?  Where did my life go?

I feel like I just woke up, and have discovered that I’m not who I was when I left.  Time will tell if this is a good thing, or a bad thing.  (Or, more likely, maybe I wasn’t who I really am while I was there.)

I am now in the process of reassembling my life, very carefully and very slowly, one piece, one person at a time.  It’s like sifting and sorting through the remains of a disaster, trying to find what’s worth salvaging, and what needs to be repaired or replaced.  I have long thought that the divorce hit me like a plane hitting one of the towers on 911, but what happened after the divorce, what happened in the end, with my counselor, was like having a tsunami hit in the exact same location, while everything in my life was still destroyed by the first crisis, and the air was still thick with smoke and falling debris.  And now, the waves;  of grief, regret, and shame, from having ever trusted anyone so completely and so stupidly.

I have been reading Homer since early spring, and feel somewhat akin to Odysseus, who, having experienced multitudinous adventures, returned home ten years after the Trojan War, only to find that nothing was as it was when he left.  I also had a Mentor on my journey, but instead of pointing the way home, she directed me away from home, as is common in long-term therapy.  My life became smaller and smaller, until there was almost nothing left.  I lost myself.

Or like Dickens’ Miss Pross, who, after the last fatal scene with the seething Madame Defarge, climbed into Jerry Crunchers’ carriage, having been rendered completely and permanently deaf in the struggle of her life.

“I feel,” said Miss Pross, “as if there had been a flash and a crash, and that crash was the last thing I should ever hear in this life.”

All I’ve had to go by for the last four years is a pillar and a cloud;  the Word of God and the inward leading of the Holy Spirit.  But that’s pretty much it.

“I can hear,” said Miss Pross, seeing that he spoke to her, “nothing. O, my good man, there was first a great crash, and then a great stillness, and that stillness seems to be fixed and unchangeable, never to be broken any more as long as my life lasts.” *

If I let myself think of all that I’ve lost – over twenty thousand dollars to my pastoral counselor, all for nothing, in the end;  time with my daughters, my family, and my friends; my health, home, jobs, graduate school – l get bogged down in sorrow and can’t function.  The memories I don’t have are the ones I didn’t make, because life happened while I was in counseling, and I feel like I missed it all.  Everyone else kept living;  I didn’t.  My life ended the day my counseling did, in a fit of rage and anger.   So, the best thing to do seems to be to try not to think about all of it, and distract myself by working hard and keeping busy.  And yes, leaving my church is part of that.

Let the healing begin.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;  he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid;  do not be discouraged.”         Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

* A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It’ll Be Okay

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As I wrote last year, I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.  It is far too painful;  if I close my eyes, I can still hear the shrieks and squeals of my daughters as they ran through the dark with their sparklers;  can still see the looks on their faces as the fireworks exploded in the night sky.  I can still feel the sweet, sticky little arms gripping my neck, and my hands, as they watched the parade in Manlius, waiting excitedly for their uncle to pass by in the fire truck.  Waiting to run out as the candy was thrown, before running back to our spot on the side of the road.  I tried, a couple of times, to go to the parade and fireworks without them, but it was disastrous, so now I usually just stay home.  It just hurts too much.  I miss them horribly.  I miss all of our traditions.  The family-ness of it all.

Happier times.

Happier times.

And when I do, I feel akin to those parents who have lost their children through some great tragedy.  Except that mine are perfectly fine.  Now young adults, they’re on a beach in Virginia this week, getting sunburned and hot as they wait to go to dinner with their father, and later to watch fireworks by the side of the ocean.  It’s the yearly family vacation……without me.  And it has been this way every year, since the divorce.

Because of a mix-up and a miscommunication, my pastoral counselor could not come to court that day, to be in the courtroom with me as I gave my testimony.  I knew I couldn’t do it without her, so we (or rather, our lawyers) agreed to settle in the hallway outside the courtroom.  She moved into a beautiful new home that day, and I lost mine.  Life happens.

I feel guilty as I grieve, because the reality is that my kids are fine.  It’s me who isn’t.  Not only that, but they will be home tomorrow, so I’m trying to keep busy today, cleaning and getting ready for them, otherwise my head is full of courtroom and counseling sessions.  (In truth, I haven’t done a single, blessed thing all day except cry.)  I am aware that those parents who have lost their children forever would gladly give up every holiday just to have their children alive and well, whether they could be together or not.  So, it feels like illegitimate grief, although that doesn’t make it any less painful.

As I write this, Jeff and Sheri Easter are singing “It’ll be Okay” in the background, on Daystar.

And I believe it will.  I believe that somehow, someway, some day, God will make it all okay in the end.  I have to believe this.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

A Contemplative Night

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1396744041183Lots of thoughts and feelings tonight.  Seemed like every demon in Hell was ready and waiting before I even swung my feet over the edge of the bed this morning.  (Okay, ‘swung’ might not be the most accurate word – there’s not much swinging going on over here.  Crawled is a bit more like it.)  Anyway, I had to distract myself all morning to keep from sinking into sadness.  Some time in the Word, with a cup pot of coffee, and then some time getting group notes and files in order, and eventually I felt better.

And then, in a notebook, in the middle of notes on European history, I found several journal pages from the beginning of the end of my marriage.  (When I say the beginning of the end, I mean long after it actually ended;  it just took a few years for the reality to hit.  Shock does that to a person.)

Notes on how my husband, after having been gone for a couple of years, verbally attacked me in a pet store of all places, in front of the salespeople and our daughters, who were little at the time.  How I began to realize that I had outgrown him while he was gone, not just spiritually, but emotionally, and that there really was no marriage left, and hadn’t been for sometime.  How the manager had come to confront him, and help me.  How completely and utterly humiliating it all was.

More notes.

He had pushed me one day, quite hard, in our bedroom, and then, after staring at me and hesitating for a moment, pushed me again, and I flew all the way across the room and hit the dresser.  (This ended up being a hospital visit, with one of the discs in the center of my back protruding visibly through my t-shirt) and how, somehow, that particular day, it finally occurred to me that he wasn’t ‘out of control’ he was in fact very much in control.  Something about the way he hesitated before pushing me the second time.  That day – that very day, I realized that abusive people are not ‘mentally ill’.  They are masters of not only self-control, but of deception.  That it is easier for them to charm the oil out of a snake than it is for them to tell the truth.  For so many years I had made excuses for him:  I had made him angry, he was mentally ill, he had childhood issues (who doesn’t?) but I never called it what it was.  I never saw it for what it was, until that exact moment, on that exact day.  All because he stopped to think about it. Truly mentally ill people don’t do that.  Abusive people do.  If he hadn’t hesitated, I wouldn’t have seen it.

The nice thing about getting older is that you get (hopefully) more clear-headed.  You become more firm in your convictions, right or wrong, so watch yourself, but you get stronger.  You become free.  I know that I do not want any more abusive people in my life, and certainly not in my heart.  I do not want any more ‘friends’ who get angry if I don’t do what they feel I should do, never mind the fact that I am more than capable of hearing from God for myself, thank you, and I also do not want any more people who wear their psychiatric labels like a suit of armor, protecting and absolving them from any moral responsibility in the wars they wage against other people.  It’s not that they can’t control their anger, it’s that they choose not to.

Why so transparent tonight, about such personal issues?  Because the walls of my heart are all trampled down tonight, and in this brief space of time, before they go up again tomorrow, I need to put all of this somewhere before I go to sleep.  Somewhere where maybe it can help someone, who is tonight where I was all those few years ago.  And all I can tell you is, God Himself delivered me.  That if you trust Him, He will make a way out;  He surrounds us with His legions of angels, He goes both before and behind us, and leads us through, and out the other side.  I am not completely through yet, but can definitely see sunlight somewhere up ahead.

So, I am sad and worn out tonight, but oh, so thankful for all that God has delivered me from.  So very thankful.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. ~ Romans 8:28

 If we remain in His love, God will redeem every circumstance for His glory.

Worried Sick

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Coming down with pneumonia was not in my plans for this week.  My immune system has tanked again;  it seems that stress is bad for your health, financial stress in particular.  I had to make a choice between paying the rent and paying my daughter’s spring tuition; they are roughly the same amount of money.  If I don’t pay her tuition, she can’t go online and see her grades, and there is a hold on her account, meaning she can’t register for her fall classes next week.  If I pay the tuition, but not the rent, she won’t have a place to come home to at the end of the month.

Running away is not an option, and appears to be the realm of ex-husbands, ex-fathers and irritated pastoral counselors.  But not mothers.  We don’t bail, jump ship, or disappear.  Mothers get a cup of coffee, a Bible, and get alone with God to see what He has to say about the situation.  About us, in our situation.  And what He has to say is “Persevere … remain steadfast … trust, and see the salvation of your God.”  In other words, don’t jump.

So, I paid the rent.  Not all of it, but at least enough to cover April.  I haven’t said anything to my daughter, because I want her to be able to concentrate on her grades, and studying for final exams.  I don’t have a clue what to do next, or what is going to happen now.  The money is gone, and there’s no getting it back.  I’m not even sure I did the right thing;  paying bills lately is akin to shooting arrows at a target while wearing a blindfold.

Every time the phone rings, or I see that there is a phone message, I think it’s the landlords saying we have to go, or National Grid saying they’re shutting off the utilities, or the school, demanding payment.  I try not to answer phone calls unless I’m sure of who it is.  I have a hard time looking at my bank accounts without feeling sick, nervous, or nauseated.  I have so much apprehension about going to the mailbox that some days I just don’t.  There is rarely anything good in there. Most of it is anxiety-provoking demands for money that I don’t have.

I am the queen of avoidance.

When my daughter came home for Easter last week, her acceptance for nursing school came in the mail, and she was so excited.  I am so proud of her, and didn’t say a word about the fact that I don’t know how we’re going to pay even for this semester that hasn’t ended yet.  She can’t just suddenly stop in the middle of her junior year of college. Those who are unfamiliar with the dynamics of domestic violence say that I should just ‘make’ her father pay for her schooling.  Well, wouldn’t that be lovely.

So here we stand.  I don’t know how it will all work out, I just have to believe that it will.  Pneumonia isn’t fun, but it will clear up.  I have a modicum of faith.

But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.  James 1:4

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