Variations On A Theme


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Many, many years ago, we were given a paper in church that required us to fill out a questionnaire in order to identify the predominant themes in our life. I obediently filled mine out, along with my story of “how I got saved” (pardon my Christianese), and tucked it safely within the back pages of my Bible, where it still lives today. The point of filling it out was to be able to clarify for ourselves our own narrative, so that if we were ever asked to, we could share our testimony. Being extremely shy, I never intended to share my story with anyone. I didn’t even know I had one. The major theme of mine was rejection, although grief, loss and depression ran a tight race behind.

Every loss that I’ve ever experienced has been primarily a result of having been rejected or left behind, whether by my biological father, my spouse, a trusted spiritual leader, or a mentor. I was not one of those children who believed that my parents’ divorce when I was a child was somehow my fault, or that I was in any way to blame. I don’t remember feeling anything but sad, to be honest. Nor did I feel that it was in any way my fault when, years later, my father disappeared suddenly, in the middle of the night, leaving everyone to assume he was either dead, or had somehow fallen off the planet. (Come to find out, he was living a whole new life on the other side of it, complete with a new identity and a new family, but that’s another story for another time). I’ve always had a pretty good grasp on reality for the most part, and I assumed at the time that he had problems of his own, and in all likelihood was running away from himself, more so than from any of us. (Still is, now that I think about it, but that, too, is a story for another time).

My husband also left (more than once) to pursue a life out in the world without us, but that one did feel a lot more personal, I have to say. As did the rather sudden departures of various spiritual leaders and mentors in my life; especially those who swore up and down that they would never, for any reason, put me through the same hell I had already lived through in my past. But, away they went, without warning or cause, leaving a snarled mess of unfinished conversations, broken promises, and heartache behind them.

Abandonment and rejection are not at all the same thing. What my father did was abandonment – he left, I believe, for reasons that were pretty much all about him. What the others did was rejection; they were saying, in effect, that they just didn’t want me. Or at least, they just didn’t want me any more. For whatever reason.

These themes: grief, loss, depression, and rejection are woven throughout the fabric of my life; to pull them out would be to undo the whole. But also woven through this story are the themes of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance, placed lovingly and deliberately by God Himself. He gathers up all of those random, broken pieces and threads, and turns them into a beautiful whole. What’s more, He doesn’t just crumple it up and throw it away, or get tired of us, or turn His back on us. When we bring all of our brokenness to Him – even that which we’ve brought upon ourselves – He welcomes us with open arms. There is absolutely no rejection for those who become His children through faith in Christ.

This is what is known as “healing”. Our personal healing lies in the telling of our testimony; all that we’ve been through, and all that God has delivered us from. Our testimony becomes our ministry, so to speak. God rescues and redeems us from the depths of our sorrow, and strengthens us to go and help other people up and out of theirs. And then – if we’re willing – He uses us, unfinished and imperfect as we are, to weave beautiful new threads of grace and mercy through the lives of others.

I am grateful – so grateful – for all that God has done in my life. For all that He has set me free from, and for all that He has healed me from, and for everything that He has brought me through. I still have a long way to go, and a lot to learn, but I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone on this journey, and that there is hope at the end of it.

“It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell.” – Walt Disney

Happy New Year


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 I wrote the following on Facebook back in November, and wanted to re-post it here today. The fall semester was difficult, and by the time it ended, I didn’t really have the time to sit down and write, and now that the habit is broken, it’s hard to pick it up again. Classes start again in a couple of weeks, and I know I will be writing non-stop straight through to graduation (in 2018), so I’m not really wanting to sit and write for hours on end now. I don’t actually feel like doing much of anything, to be honest; the stress of packing and moving, and going back to school right before the holidays kind of wore me out. Three unexpected deaths in as many months didn’t help, and cast long shadows over shortened days.

A lot happened in 2016: in the beginning of the year, my story about surviving domestic violence appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine, then my oldest daughter graduated from nursing school in May; in mid-summer I decided to go back to school (a year earlier than planned) and started classes at Keuka College in the Finger Lakes. In September we packed and moved (also a year earlier than planned) and now I feel a bit like a kite bumping along the ground, trying to get the strength and energy to get up and flying again for the next round of challenges.

So, here is the post, once again, with the same heart-felt prayer that God would keep, bless and guide us as we make our way through the days of 2017:

Well, we woke up today to a new President, and it remains to be seen what will happen with our country. I think that people who maybe haven’t really prayed before, or even given thought to where they stand with God, will begin to pray and seek God for His protection and direction. I pray that Donald Trump truly considers God, and seeks His forgiveness and His divine guidance. I pray for national healing, and unity of heart and purpose for all Americans.

I liked Hillary Clinton’s speech this morning; it was gracious and to the point. She also (like all of us) needs God’s forgiveness and guidance, although she may not realize it, or even want it. Regardless, God is as much in control of our world and our universe as He was yesterday, and all of the yesterdays before. He is the God of tomorrow, and all of the tomorrows stretching out into eternity.

He Has A Plan.

And His plan is to redeem and restore us back into fellowship with Him.

Whatever it takes.

But it isn’t over until God says it’s over, and we know (through His Word) that good will ultimately triumph over evil in the end.

This we believe; now help us, God, to order our hearts, minds, and days accordingly. Strengthen us for the days and tasks ahead. Help us to set our faces like flint, as the soldiers and ambassadors You have called us to be, and move forward. Help us to put away superfluous attitudes, activities, relationships, and even possessions.
And help us to trust You- to put our ultimate hope in You, and You alone.

So, as individuals who will (all of us) one day stand before You, and give account for our lives; and together as a nation, we pray in the sovereign and saving name of Your son, Jesus Christ,


Same prayer, same good wishes. Happy New Year everybody. May it be a safe, blessed, and prosperous year for all of us.



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sam_5280It isn’t easy, this constant moving. The unmaking of a home is always a time of intense grieving for me; always moving, but never a settling of heart. None of these places are “home” in the sense that four walls and a roof of your very own are. These are not appliances I picked out and bought; nor, for that matter, are the paint colors on the walls. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful, or that it isn’t nice, it just isn’t mine.

We perch on the edge of our boxes, my daughters and I, clutching rolls of packaging tape and bubble wrap, and wait for the next wave to hit. The stress to hit. There is no opportunity to just . . . rest. Sleep is fitful, and full of odd dreams, in which total strangers are always taking my stuff out the front door, and loading it into trucks. Most of my dreams are about moving, or my marriage, and the home we owned when the girls were small. All are very intense, and vivid, and full of sadness.

There are no days of waking up happy, and worry-free. Hasn’t been, either, for many years. I keep saying that the last ten years have been, for me, just one very long, very bad year, but yesterday I realized that it has been a whole lot more than ten. Somehow, I never thought in a million years that I would be alone this long, or would end up raising two kids on my own. We have moved so many times I can’t remember what the kitchen looks like when I think of going down to make coffee in the morning. I keep reaching for light switches that aren’t there. People who don’t have to move constantly have no idea what it’s like (but they mean well), in much the same way that a therapist who has never personally been through a divorce, or ever been a single mom, cannot really understand what you’re going through, and thus cannot possibly know how to help. They don’t even know what questions to ask, and “interventions” fall to the wayside like poorly aimed arrows, missing the mark by a mile.

I miss my life. The happiest times were when my kids were little, and I was able to be home with them. I’ve heard many women say this, but it’s true. We had a tiny little house, but it was ours, and we painted the rooms, and planted flowers, and made it home. I’ve tried to recreate it, as much as possible wherever we go, but I’m suddenly realizing that I’ve been dragging this same stuff around for almost twenty years now, trying to hang onto a life that’s long gone and over. (An arrow aimed at this would have made at least one session well worth the money). The house is long gone, and the kids are young adults now, and doing well in spite of everything we’ve been through, but I wish – how I wish – with all of my heart – that I could have given them a safe and stable home while they were growing up. I wish I could give it to them now, but it’s too late. Seems too late, anyway.

So, those are my thoughts tonight. I’m supposed to be writing clinical papers, but can’t concentrate, so it’s off to bed for now, and I’ll try again tomorrow. I am (clearly) overtired and stressed out, and feel way too old for all of this. My thoughts are heavy these days, and don’t lead anywhere healthy. I have one spot in the house – in every house – that’s mine; it’s where my chair, and my desk, and my Bible are. It’s the first thing I set up whenever we move into a place, and that’s where you’ll find me every morning, pen in hand and coffee ready, whether I’ve slept well or not. I am well aware, on the periphery of my mind, that there is much work to do and there are many people to help, especially those who are still caught in the mess of Sozo, and Theophostics, but all of that will have to wait for right now, because this work has to be done first.

See you in the morning, people. Good-night.

A Season of Changes

School is interesting, but it’s an awful lot of work. Not difficult, but time-consuming. It just isn’t possible to keep up with the work and maintain a blog, at least not with all we’re going through. It has been one crisis after another from the first week of classes. When the house flooded back in the summer, and the landlords wouldn’t come and take care of it, a lot of our belongings were ruined because of mold. We got sick, and ended up not being able to sleep there. When I decided not to pay for a house we couldn’t use, they finally showed up, but by then it was too late. Still, nothing was repaired. We waited. After another week or so, we packed, found another place to live, and moved out. Needless to say, I am way behind on these papers for school, and between running back and forth from one house to another and trying to deal with the people we were renting from, I am exhausted. Seems like every time I sit down to study or write, I fall asleep.

And did I mention that the car ended up in the shop in the middle of it all? The week after my daughter’s car broke down, which happened just as we had filled it with boxes to take to the new place. So, we took everything back out of her car, and put it into mine, but then we were down to just one car for a few days. Between the two of us, we spent almost $1000.00 (unplanned) dollars on car repairs.

That being said, blog posts will go one of two ways: they will either be few and far between, or, I will write my way through the next year and a half and use the blog to “flesh out” my ideas and research topics for school. We’ll have to see how it goes, but the second option is more likely, as I have to write in order to think. Under normal circumstances, I would absolutely love being back in school, but with all of the stress and chaos of moving, it’s been anything but fun. Until I can actually own my own home again, this seems to be how it’s going to go.

This will get better, though. We have been through this enough times for me to know that the boxes will get unpacked, one at a time, one day at a time. The sugar bowl will be found, eventually. Things that should probably have been thrown out long ago will finally find their way to the curb. Life will settle back into a fairly predictable routine (my comfort zone) and one day I will wake up and realize, We’re okay.  We may be a bit shaken, and desperately in need of sleep, but we made it, and God is still God, and life is still good. We’re not quite out of the woods on this one, as the previous landlords want money, and things were left (at least as far as I’m concerned) in a way that doesn’t quite sit well with me. I want things resolved, and for there to be peace and understanding, without any hard feelings. They (the people we were renting from) honestly do not seem to realize that it was negligence on their part that resulted in our having to leave the way we did. It’s a difficult situation, and I haven’t fully resolved in my heart how to handle it, although I do not intend to give them any more money. I would also like my security deposit back, especially considering what all of this has cost us.

And so, if you don’t hear from me very often, all of this is why. We’re just down the road a bit, sitting once again in a pile of boxes, but we’re warm, and dry, and working hard. And we have coffee.

And life is good.



A Wing and a Prayer


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SAM_4077Somewhere along towards the end of July I applied to graduate school, never really thinking for a moment that I would get in. I didn’t hear an audible voice from God. The bush out by the front door didn’t burst into flames. I didn’t get a handwritten letter delivered by a dove with the words “It’s Time. Apply Now” in glowing, golden script. My plan has been to wait and apply to grad school next year, when my youngest daughter graduates from her college. However, one sleepless night in the dead heat of summer, I sat at the computer and applied to school. A few days later, an advisor from the school called me and said that even though it was well past the deadline, they would waive the application fee if I could get all of the required forms and letters of recommendation in as quickly as possible. There was only one spot in the MSW program left for this fall.

So I thought, “Well, why not? If they’re willing to waive the fee, I  have absolutely nothing to lose by trying”. And so I did, running all over town trying to find transcripts, health forms and letters of recommendation, and everything else that needed to be in so that the director of the program could evaluate it and make a decision. There was only the smallest glimmer of hope that I might be accepted, but I sent as much as I was able to pull together, reasonably sure I would be rejected because I didn’t meet all of the requirements.

Then I waited.

This past Monday morning (only five days before the first class) I got an email saying I had been accepted into the program, even without having met all of the necessary requirements. I then spent all of Monday and the early part of Tuesday morning frantically trying to find the money needed to keep my car on the road, but I finally ran out of both time and ideas. In the end I spent over two-hundred dollars of the rent money, just so I would have a way to get to classes and doctor’s appointments. It was that, or get a ride home from the DMV.

More stress.

And so, early this morning, I grabbed a notebook and a large cup of coffee and headed West on the thruway. Hundreds of cows and cornfields later, I turned onto the campus of the college on the lake, and found myself sitting through an entire day of Writing for Professionals (a class I would have very much enjoyed, had I not been so tired). The rest of the classes will meet here in Syracuse, so I won’t have to drive all the way out to the school every week, but at least the transportation problem is solved. I’m not sure I have the physical strength or energy for this (health problems hijacked much of my summer) but this is one of the those times to “set my face like flint” and go forward, ready or not. The time is going to go by anyway, and I won’t ever feel ready enough, so the thing to do is to go and make the most of what time and energy I have. Each day has more than enough worries of its own, so the focus needs to be on what can be done today.

I believe God has a plan, and I believe it’s time to do this. I have to trust that He will make the way straight before me, even though I can only see the next couple of steps at the moment.

But first I have an eight page essay to write, and so blogging will have to come after schoolwork, for now at least.

Good-night everyone.

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” 

Exodus 23:20


Honing Your Vision


With all that’s going on the world, it’s good to take a moment and reflect on why having a purpose in life is so important. Without a vision and a plan, it’s all too easy to wander and waste time, and from the looks of it, we don’t have a lot of time to waste. The things that are happening at home and abroad speak to the fact that the world as we know it is quickly coming to an end.

These world events are going to separate those who are serious about their faith from those who just want to avoid the Highway to Hell. To say that we love God, but refuse to live His principles out in our daily lives is to take the Lord’s name in vain. (Many believe that this phrase refers to cursing, or swearing, but what it is actually…

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Happy Birthday to Me


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The house is quiet. There’s nobody here except me and a lone summer house fly. Last Wednesday was my birthday, and it came and went fairly quickly, as birthdays are wont to do. Nothing particularly wonderful or magical happened. Nobody rode up the driveway on a white horse. No miracles happened. After waiting all year for it, the day ended with a sort of quiet fizzle, and I woke up the next morning with life pretty much the same as it was the day before. And can I just say (because every divorced woman knows it) that the other side of the bed seems to stretch into infinity like a vast and empty wasteland, especially when we’re depressed or lonely. Not having someone to do life with hits hard on birthdays and holidays.

Can I get an Amen? Anybody?

I had the sobering realization the other day that some of my houseplants have lasted longer than my marriage did.

A long time ago I starting using my birthday the way most people use New Years’ Day, for reflection and setting new goals. It’s a day to stop and survey the stunning gap between where I am and where I want to be. Consequently, it’s also the time of year that I struggle the most with discouragement and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. This latest birthday has been really difficult for some reason, probably because there were so many things I had wanted to do by this age. At this point I feel like I’m running a race I can’t win, mostly because I’m just too tired.

The Fourth of July is also always a long and lonely day for me. I have cried pretty much all weekend. The harsh and painful reality is that there is no husband grilling hamburgers out on the deck this weekend. We’re not having a picnic, or going to the beach. We’re not all going to the parade, or the fireworks together. The only thing I want in all the world is to spend the day with my kids, but since the divorce they are always with their dad, usually on vacation somewhere fun and sunny. Today they’re up in Old Forge, one of my favorite places to go in the summer. We camped there a lot when I was growing up, and I want to go back someday and smell the pine trees, walk through the woods, and go in all of the little shops. It’s a place I associate with happy family memories of campsites and candy, souvenirs and sandals.

There’s a wicked little imp who dances around my pillow every night, singing “You’re nothing but a failure … you’ll always be a failure … no one will ever want you … even God can’t help you … it’s too late! it’s all too late!” It’s the last thing I hear every night, and the first thing I hear every morning. It’s like being poked and prodded with a tiny little pitchfork all night.

I wake up exhausted every day.

The last fifteen years haven’t gone at all the way I hoped. Most of my friends who were divorced around the same time I was have all remarried, and now they have new homes and families of their own. I never, ever, intended to raise two girls all by myself, and it never occurred to me that I would be alone this long. I had thought that I would be done with school; that I would own my own home, and that my counseling center would be up and running by now. It feels sometimes like it’s too late for all of my hopes and dreams, and I have a hard time most days hoping and dreaming for anything anymore. A lot of my prayers have gone unanswered. I don’t question God’s authority, but sometimes I just want to know why?

I ran into an old friend this afternoon in the drugstore. We met about thirty years ago in a campus ministry group, and as we talked about all we have been through, and where life has brought us, we kept coming back to the fact that no matter how hard and harsh life can be, God is still ultimately in control. Even when we can’t see it, He is guiding and directing us. He has led and kept us through it all, and we have to believe He will continue to do so, because if we don’t, there’s really no reason to go any farther. There would be no reason not to quit.

Christians often like to pick what we call our “life verse”; a portion of Scripture that has personal meaning for us, and seems to sum up what we feel our individual life with God is all about. Mine is Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not count myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This is what brings me back every time. So, tired or not, there will be no quitting today. I haven’t come this far to give up now, even though it may look to everyone else like I haven’t accomplished anything yet, and quite possibly never will. I know better than anybody that I have stumbled and fallen many times, but as far as I’m concerned, every day is a new opportunity to start again. One more time.

Sometimes I have to write my way back to a right way of thinking.

Happy Fourth of July everybody. Have a safe and blessed holiday.

Even If


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This hasn’t been a good month for blogging. A recent surgery left me with some unexpected complications; my daughter came home from college, depositing the entire contents of her dorm room into my living room, and there’s nowhere to put it all away until fall. It can’t go in the basement because it floods down there when it rains. The power in the house keeps going out, and the drains don’t work well. I saw the landlords at the grocery store when I was buying Draino and told them things were okay over here only to come home to find the lights flashing and the clocks blinking. The beautiful trees that gave us privacy got quite a haircut, and the branches are littering the yard. (The line crew had to cut many of them down, and they’re sending a chipper on Monday to clean it all up). The driver’s side mirror of my car is still in the trunk (I accidentally knocked it off when I pulled up to buy a coffee last year) and the muffler is loud enough to make conversation difficult when driving.

Stress is high and the funds are low; too low, in fact, to meet the needs of the moment: medical bills, car repairs, household items and household bills. The priority is, as always, paying the rent. But rest is also a priority. So is healing. And quiet, which is hard to come by lately. I’m frustrated because I had hoped I would be feeling a lot better by now, but it’s taking awhile. Days are filled with doctor’s appointments and medical tests, and I’m pushing to get it all behind me so I can move on. Writing and studying have taken a backseat to taking care of the crisis of the day. I’m still concerned about the problems in the churches but can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write about it. Seems like every time I sit down I fall asleep lately.

Speaking of which, I am off to bed. I just wanted to check in and leave a note in the midst of this present storm, and hopefully things will right themselves soon. But even if they don’t, I will say along with Habakkuk:

“I WILL rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation,  even if:

The fig tree does not blossom,

The vines do not bear fruit,

The olive crop fails,

The crops in the field fail,

The flock be cut off from the fold, or

The herd be cut off from the stalls.”

(From the six-fold Consecration of Habakkuk 3:17-19)


The Prison Epistles (Re-post)


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4098718595_9e7f57455d_mIn most of his letters to the early church, Paul begins with doctrine and ends with the practical application of doctrine in the lives of believers. Paul stated that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. The Greek word apostolos means to be a delegate;  one sent with the full power of attorney. It means to act in the place of another, the sender remaining behind to back up the one sent. In the case of Christians, it means that God sends us to do what he Himself would do in our place. We are to represent Him in the world.

Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church in Ephesus, sometime around 60 A.D. He was under guard in rental quarters in Rome (see Acts 28:30) and the letter was delivered to the church by Tychicus. At the time, Ephesus was the leading center of the Roman Empire; Paul stayed there for three years on his third missionary journey. At that time it was the capital city of the province of Asia.

There are two categories of knowledge: pure, or theoretical knowledge (doctrine) and applied knowledge, which is the practical application of theoretical knowledge. For example, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the first three chapters deal with doctrine (the calling of the church) and chapters 4-5 deal with application (the conduct of the church). This letter was addressed to the saints living in Ephesus. The Greek word for saint is hagiois, or “the Holy ones”; those who are set apart for God’s own use. It is the essence of what it means to live as a Christian and to be a follower, or disciple of Jesus Christ.

Paul taught that the Jewish and gentile believers are one in Christ, to be demonstrated by love for one another. He encouraged them to love both God and their fellow saints in Christ. Agape is the Greek word for love as a noun; agapao is the verb form. Paul uses both forms in his letters; agape being the love of God (as in “God is love: and agapeo as being in how that love is expressed through the lives of the saints. There is also a third Greek word for love: phileo, which is the love felt in relationships between people (as in friendship) but here Paul is primarily dealing with the application of doctrine, the foundation of which is the love of God in us and through us.  Paul’s focus was on maintaining unity within the church.

This letter begins and ends with love;  it was most likely a ‘circular letter’ meaning that while it was written to the saints in Ephesus, it was most likely passed around to the other churches as encouragement to love each other, and as a reminder to establish churches that were not based on rules and structure alone, but churches where the love of God was to be manifested to the people through the lives of the saints.

Fast forward about two thousand years.  Paul is under house arrest, somewhere on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse.  Tychicus is sitting with him;  the two men are having coffee and Paul is listening intently to the report of the churches.  He is disturbed by something that Tychicus is saying:  “There is a teaching going around in Syracuse, Paul, that in order to love others you must first love yourself, as though it is doctrine.  The people have focused on this, and their activities seem to include reading a lot on self-love, and attending groups to learn how to love themselves.”  Tychicus sits in silence as the Paul lowers his head into his hands, and sits silently.  After a time of deep thought, he lifts his head and says “Please bring me my pen.”  Pouring another cup of coffee for himself and his guest, he sits down and begins writing.  “To the Church in East Syracuse . . . to the Church in Fayetteville . . . to the Church in the Valley . . .”

This is a reprint of an old blog post from November of 2012; a period of deep grief and reflection for me. I have spent this snowy afternoon looking over old writing, beginning with the very first post in the spring of 2010. I liked this one in particular, however, so I am re-posting it today. I’m still working on the next article in the Sozo/ deliverance and inner healing series, and may or may not get it finished in the next couple of days. Writing has been immensely therapeutic for me, as it has been for as long as I can remember. I have my journals going all the way back to elementary school, along with a copy of my very first ‘book’, written when I was somewhere around ten years old. I found old articles today that I had written years ago, and an early copy of my testimony. Interesting reading.

I’m heading out now to brave the wind and snow and see if there are any Sunday papers left. Not likely after the games this weekend, but will come back to writing the next post in the series when I get back home.

Have a blessed and peaceful day, people.

You must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. ~ Philippians 2:12b – 13

Syncretism: Where the Odd and Unholy Come Together


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graveHere’s a new one for you: Grave-soaking, also known as grave-sucking. Closely related to the sport of mantle-grabbing, the idea is that the dearly departed leave behind whatever anointing they carried while alive in the box they’re buried in when deceased, free for the taking. Takers can either sit, stand, kneel or lie in front of, or on the grave of, those who are no longer sitting, standing, kneeling or lying and summon the vibes of saints whose bodies are six feet under. It’s a new and disturbingly creepy trend that some of your friends and fellow pew-warmers are engaging in.

Bethel Church, in Redding, California, the same church delivering the dubious ministry of Sozo (along with gold dust, diamonds and bird feathers) has long been known for a host of unholy behaviors and associations, but this one steals the show. Once you’re all cleaned up and cleaned out from Sozoing and Shabaring, you can embark on a church-endorsed field trip of grave-soaking (a.k.a. grave-sucking). A quick internet search pulls up disturbing images of the people from the church – leaders and youth included – draped over headstones or lying prone on slabs inscribed with the names of prominent, long-dead Christians.

As a result of all of the bad press Bethel has received due to the photos and videos on the internet, Beni Johnson (her birth name is Brenda) took to her Facebook page to make the following statement: “I am not what they call a grave-sucker. Just so you know. That’s creepy.” And yet, that’s Beni herself in the photo above, lying on the grave of C.S. Lewis. To give you an idea of the mindset of those perpetuating the practice, John Crowder (a Bethel associate, whose ministry is endorsed by the Johnsons) was taped while kneeling at the grave site of Alexander Dowie. Looking into the camera, he stated:

And we’ve just come to the grave today to release to you an impartation of  healing revival; of city-building, restoration, city-taking anointing, master-building anointing, and so we just rip it right out of the ground; we just suck it right off his dead bones, in Jesus’ name, and loose it to you; a healing-revival-glory-master-building-apostolic anointing glory …

If this sounds to you like the confusing mess that it is, it’s simply a reflection of the New Apostolic Reformation and Third Wave movement that has been propagated by those who have declared themselves to be the new apostles and prophets of the end-time generation. People who flock to these movements are found on the Elijah List, in the Healing Rooms, and trying to work their way up the Seven Mountain Mandate. Think this can’t happen in your church? That surely your leaders are so rooted and grounded in scripture that they would see right through all of this? If your church is utilizing Sozo materials in their ‘Freedom and Deliverance Ministries’ then know that it has already happened – the lion is no longer at the door, but is roaming freely up and down the aisles, and in and out of our classrooms. The Bible is clear: Satan doesn’t appear to us with a pitchfork and horns, otherwise we would recognize him for who he is, but he appears instead as an angel of light, promising blessings, healing, and untold wealth and prosperity to those who are desperate, vulnerable, needy or blind. And the shepherds (the pastors, deacons and elders of the church) have a God-given mandate to protect the people entrusted to their care.

The lure of mysticism is subtle. Syncretism is that odd mix of the holy and the profane that we are seeing with ever-increasing frequency in our church services. Syncretism, as defined by Webster, is simply this: “the combination of different forms of belief or practice” and to syncretize is particularly telling: “to attempt to unite and harmonize, especially without critical examination or logical unity.” It appears to be a politically correct form of Christianity, not just in America, but one that has spread rapidly around the world. Celebrity Christians are selling ideas such as ‘contemplative prayer’ and the ‘breaking of soul-ties and generational curses’ to a people who are more interested in having an emotional experience with God than a solid, biblically accurate relationship with Him. The idea of soul ties and generational curses, along with the perpetual quest for inner healing are nothing more than New Age, occultic, and mystical teachings that have infiltrated the church to such a degree that people are signing up for (and paying for) counseling sessions and classes without batting an eye. Combining any false teaching with the Word of God is absolutely forbidden in scripture, which clearly commands that we are not to take away from or add to the written Word. When we do, we end up with a confused and unhealthy church; one that is both deceived and diseased, and we are left with nothing but a chimera for a God. We’re a group of people who can decree, declare, and rebuke everything right down to the consequences of our own foolish choices, but who can’t walk straight when the fog-and-light-show ends.

Bill Johnson, Beni’s husband, and the senior pastor at Bethel, believes that:

There are anointings, mantles, revelations, and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.

Nothing in scripture supports this.  The anointing of God is not just lying around unclaimed, waiting for us to soak it up at will. We don’t serve a hapless God who is sitting in the heavens wringing His hands, bemoaning the fact that we’re all down here stumbling over years of unclaimed anointings and mantles.  Spiritual growth is not a Christian version of an Easter-egg hunt. We develop insight and spiritual maturity by spending time in the Word, not by laying on the graves of those who have already left the earth. If the normative Christian life were to include going back to suck the glory out of dead bones, wouldn’t the letters to the churches have been the logical place for the New Testament writers to tell us so?  Instead, we’re told to learn from the heroes of the faith, and to emulate their faith, but we’re not told to try to dredge the rewards of their faithfulness for ourselves by lying on their graves. 1AA4

Sunbathing on grave sites didn’t originate with the large church on the West Coast, however; Benny Hinn has been known to try to suck the leftover anointing out of the graves of Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson. The practice stems from the idea of transferable anointings, or mantles (a teaching made popular in the Word of Faith and Latter Rain movements of the last century), hence the term mantle-grabbing. These aren’t teachings you will find within the pages of scripture, however. What you will find is that necromancy is absolutely forbidden by God. In the Old testament (see Deuteronomy 18:10) those who practice it are called an abomination to God. This includes any form of communicating with the dead, whether it’s channeling, praying to a dead saint, calling up your beloved grandmother, or grave-soaking. Nor will you find that any mantle or anointing was ever transferred from a dead person to a live person in scripture. In fact, the only time a mantle or anointing is transferred from one person to another is through relationship, as in the case of Elijah and Elisha, so the next time you find yourself cozying up to a skeleton, you might want to stop and consider the health and depth of your relationship with your fragile friend. And while you’re down there, you might want to stop and think about the health and depth of your relationships and associations in general.

grave-sucking-2 So shake off those mold spores and grow up.  You’re not supposed to smell like a cemetery.  You’re not supposed to sprout gold dust and feathers; to bark, foam at the mouth, roll on the floor, or shake and laugh hysterically, or participate in any of the other mindless activities associated with hyper-charismania. You don’t need to lay on the ground and try to work yourself into a trance by singing the same verse of a song over and over until your geese bump and your flesh tingles. (There’s actually a name for this unholy practice; it’s known as “carpet-time”). Read the New Testament carefully and you will find that not only is self-control listed as a Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:23) but in almost all of the letters to the churches we’re encouraged to control both our minds and our bodies. Christians are people who should be known for our resemblance to Christ. We’re not supposed to be known as people who post “selfies” of odd behaviors that nobody naming the name of Christ should be engaged in, but rather, we’re exhorted to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting the people of God.

2nd year BSSM students at the grave site of Evan Roberts.

2nd year BSSM students at the grave site of Evan Roberts.

“For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasant and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and will wander off into man-made fictions.”  – 2 Timothy 4:3,4 (Amplified)

“Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them. For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret. But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear, there is light. Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light. Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.” 

– Ephesians 5:11-17 (Amplified)