Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween Sanctions of the New Pastoral Elite

I have nothing against Christians letting their kids trick or treat or have halloween parties. Apparently the progeny of our former pastor have no problem with it either. Now that halloween is sanctioned by the First Family of a World That Shouldn’t Matter, we can add it to the list of contradictions (that we’ve been keeping handy for later use). Their autocratic rules have changed direction one more time. Really, it wouldn’t even matter except that the former rules were often mandated with such authoritarian forboding which basically boils down to a form of intimidation.

It just sorta rankles that the years our kids were growing up halloween was such a big no no at The Former Church, so in order to take our kids trick or treating we had to sneak since it was considered participating in the devil’s holiday. We didn’t really sneak it - we just didn’t advertise - because we figured what overly concerned Christians don’t know wouldn’t hurt them. In an effort to grant kids an alternative to trick or treating, I think the church had parties some years but the costumes had to have a biblical theme. Our kids didnt’ attend since we were so busy sneaking them around our neighborhood because we never had a conviction that the Lord was telling us not to connect with our neighbors. By the way, it was a really great way to mingle with the neighborhood - we handed out candy from our door and we took our kids around to their houses too - and there was no other time of year when that happened so easily without being contrived. And we actually found out who lived around us.

I guess I’m just whining a little that our years of halloween weren’t as free and fun-loving as they could have been without Christian judgment glaring at us from churchland. To the contrary, the New Aristocracy seems to be frolicking in halloween delight! They not only participate in the festivities, they’ve jumped in with both feet decorating their kids and their houses and tweeting prolifically about it - as leaders of the church. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” since they must be making up for all those years they had to dress up like Moses or the Virgin Mary and couldn’t just have a normal trick or treat night like the rest of America.

So my question is, if they keep rewriting all the rules that they were mandating before, what are they mandating now that they will be loosening up on in years to come? How about the undercover doctrine for instance? If they think they have so much authority in peoples’ lives TODAY maybe they should rethink it NOW instead of intruding on peoples’ private lives and misleading them for years with their unhealthy concept of God and all that He stands for. Otherwise, in the end, people who finally get free of them will be ranting about them just like I am ranting now about the intimidations of their tyannical parents.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two Excellent Interviews on The New Apostolic Reformation

Photo Credit C. Peter Wagner via
In case anyone is interested and you haven’t come across these interviews yet, they are definitely worth a listen:

My blogger buddy and friend Freeatlast and I have been listening to a couple interviews on NPR by Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the NAR - the New Apostolic Reformation led by C. Peter Wagner - its mission and possible effect on American politics. One of the online articles opens with:
A new charismatic Christian movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and Jesus’ return is becoming more of a presence in American politics. The leaders are considered apostles and prophets, gifted by God for this role. Several apostles affiliated with the movement helped organize or spoke at Rick Perry’s August prayer rally, The Response.
 Listening gives you even more insight than reading the articles (the articles being only a summary). The first interview is with Rachel Tabachnick, who discusses the growing influence of the NAR in the political world. She has been researching and writing about the apostles for a decade and has her own blog call NARWatch and contributes to another blog called Talk To Action. The second interview is with Peter Wagner himself - his quiet grandfatherly tones leave you wondering how such a nice man came to pick up the idea that he has been appointed by God as Christianity’s modern day Apostle when he actually spent 30 years as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary so it’s not like he hasn’t studied the scriptures. Somewhere along the line he decided his interpretation of scripture contains new revelation. (hmmm- who does that remind you of? Oh ya, Joseph Smith!) He’s been the mentor and leader to certain special prophets in the NAR such as Dutch Sheets, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce and Lou Engle. They have been, and could be still, considered ‘under his authority’. He says they are aligned apostolically. His resume also includes Co-founder of the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs with Ted Haggard. And oh yes, that is part of the discussion in the interview you won’t want to miss.

One more thing - the interview touches on 40 days of light over DC as something these folks are involved in so i looked it up and found this from

John Benefiel, Cindy Jacobs, and others will be returning to DC this fall for forty days of prayer through something called “DC 40: Forty Days of Light Over D.C” through which they will lay spiritual “seige” to the city and the nation in general -
The organizers say this about it: 
The purpose of this siege is to change the atmosphere over the city of Washington D.C. through our worship, preparing the way for our legislators to function on a different playing field as we release 40 days of light over the city.
I know they think they mean well - but spiritual siege? Just saying - these types are serious in their agenda to change what it means to be a Christian. Maybe those who beg to differ should stage a different kind of “Occupy” protest to distinguish true believers of the original gospel from those who take great liberty to rewrite scripture and appoint themselves as Apostles of our faith.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Faith Component

There's been a lively discussion on CityBusinessChurch blog called Let us have this debate again and after reading through for days and considering both sides (as much as I can since I'm already a believer in Christ), I wrote out my own conclusion to what this type of discussion ultimately brings me to.  So thought to copy it here so I can refer to it in the future if needed.  That's one of the reasons I like having a blog - it's a great place to record and save your thoughts.  Anyway, here is my comment:

Detox Church Group said:
July 22nd, 2011 at 1:14 pm
As for chiming in - this type of discussion ultimately takes me to the faith component to any belief system. I believe that Jayjacque touched on it earlier. Anyway, it would take as much faith for me to become an atheist as it does to remain a believer in Christ’s deity.
For some background - I’ve been in relationship with who I perceive as the Spirit of Jesus since my senior year of high school. I came to that by a series of events unique to my life, arranged by something that knew what was going on with me at the time. If I wrote about those events it may not mean anything to the reader, but the way my life unfolded in a series of days - weeks - revealed to me that the Lord is personally “acquainted with all my ways” as the Psalmist David mentions in Psalm 139.

Call me delusional, a complete loon for fabricating a lifetime bond in my mind, but if it takes faith to believe one way or other, I’d rather use my energy to believe in a Someone who actually assists me through life. The alternative is to believe I’m on my own as a random sack of DNA with no consequence beyond my breath - a few years muddled through on this earth.

Whether it be by the answers (results) to prayers I’ve prayed or the sense of calm I feel by the thought of his presence, the spirit of Christ has been a consistent guide throughout the progress of my life. The Bible has been a key, but not the only one, to my connection with God. It has conveyed God’s attributes, good or bad, even if raising questions due to the barbaric account of OT Jewish history. We have to consider that man has progressed from primitive ways and even if we aren’t completely able to cohabit the earth without war and pillage to this date, we’ve come a long way. It’s a war of good vs evil within us all that remains our struggle. Because we’ve changed over time we aren’t locked into patterning our lives according to the ways of the people who lived during the times the various books in the Bible were written - both old and new testament. I choose to believe that God understands that and would like us to use wisdom and discernment in how we live out our faith according to the times we live in. Could it be that he dealt in barbaric ways with a barbaric people because that is the only way they knew to that date?

I have to admit whether the Bible is historically accurate to the word or not doesn’t seem to diminish how it helps me on a personal level. Even though I read through the OT occasionally when I feel like it, I don’t usually turn to it for comfort and strength, especially after years in an authoritarian church that patterned itself after the OT (giving new meaning to loony if you ask me). But Psalms, Proverbs, Eccl, even the book of Job speak to me - all written before Christ and I turn to many NT texts that were all written because Jesus Christ lived. But I also turn to secular, non-biblical texts for encouragement. Movies and music also give me a shot in the arm when I need it.

If I were to approach God on a purely intellectual level (laughable considering how little I know!), the barbaric accounts would certainly give me more of a pause, but since my approach to him is beyond the cranial, I guess I trust in his intelligence and love even though the writings he gave us were in the limitation of the timeframe they were penned. Since I also come to him by my spirit which may sound a bit loonish, I guess there’s a need to know I’m more than my head. If we aren’t merely physical beings and we exhibit spiritual qualities, maybe that’s not so crazy. Try as we may, nourishment to the mind and body can’t always satisfy what is spirit within us, although that is only noticeable over time when one discovers something missing within. It’s the faith component that helps us know we possess on unseen essence of spirit. We see the result of our spirit in our ability to be generous, extend kindness, choose to love, all of which require that we think beyond ourselves to the needs of others. God too is an unseen essence of spirit. He has been likened to the wind - we see its evidence in the trees blowing and in the study of meterology, etc. We may not see him but we see the evidence of his benevolence all around us. One person may interpret that evidence as only man’s doing; but another may see it as the hand of God influencing mankind. Either way, there is a faith component contributing to the belief.

If it takes faith to believe in ourselves alone or to believe in a creator who loves us and cares what happens to us, I figure I may as well employ that faith on the side of who I believe to be God. Furthermore, if a gift of eternal life is offered with stipulations (through, as the story goes, the acceptance of Jesus as God’s son who gave his life on earth in exchange for our ultimate separation from God), I’d rather err on the side of believing it’s true. If I were to die and find out it is indeed true, I’d be happy I fought to keep my faith in Jesus intact. If I were to choose to not accept the gift with its stipulations and then die and find out that Jesus turned out to be just another guy with no power to save, what harm did it do me to believe it in earthly life? It helped me through all the rough times, gave me joy and security in the knowledge I am loved. Sure, I’d be stunned and disappointed but maybe not if it turned out the last breath I took was indeed the end of me. What if I chose to not accept the gift and when I die it turns out to be what I should have done? Then it would be a fatal error. Not saying I believe only from fear, but it does come into play ever so slightly as I’m choosing one side or the other.

I guess we can conclude it is a gamble. I suppose none of will have ABSOLUTE proof till we each take our last breath. Meanwhile, we each have the component of faith in whatever it is we choose to believe.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Payment for Services Rendered

While cleaning my window blinds this afternoon (by myself because I can't afford to have a housekeeping service) a new thought occurred to me about why the church across town allows their pastor leaders to live a lifestyle of the Up-and-Coming Elite in good conscience. Till now, when they cross my mind, I've been perplexed, wondering how they can justify the senior pastor family freely accessing the money provided by the weekly tithes and endless extra offerings to use as their personal expense accounts.

Since I'm cleaning, I can't help but wonder if each member of the family employs a housekeeper (one for each household). If not that, then they at least have a volunteer come once a week so they are getting free housecleaning - no harm in that other than for the poor schmuck who then has to go home and clean her own house, again for free. It's been said that the senior pastor household has their grocery shopping done for them (eyeroll). The younger set loves to shop, we know that. Maybe not for groceries, but there is plenty of evidence that clothes shopping is a favorite pastime.

The question always begs to be asked: What do the faithful tithers think of the fact that the money they give to run the ministry is used to keep their pastors in expensive houses, cars and clothes when other fastidious ministers can't afford luxuries with the allowances given to them by their churches.

As I mused, a little light flickered on. I realized the tithers justify it as paying their pastors for services rendered. They think they are giving in obedience to God's word - or what they think they know to be God's word but all they are really doing is paying for something they want their pastors to do for them.

Their tithe:
1)pays for a bi-weekly commentary on the Bible (is it so they don't have to study it themselves?); 2)pays for a false sense of security as in a covering (if you are under the leader's canopy then Satan can't get to you as easily);
3)pays for their pastors to look successful so Christianity is attractive to non-believers, especially to those with money and position.

Much like Prince William and his new bride appear beautiful and dignified, the royal pastor clan must have an allure of importance and presence everywhere they go. The faithful tithers are paying for this assurance. They are paying to feel like they are important by association. I really have no bone to pick with them for doing so, other than this church claims tax exempt status as a 501 3 C non-profit organization. Seems like that fact alone could warrent that the money be used in ways to profit others beyond the pastor family.

As I pondered this, I couldn't help but remember what I had read in the Gospel of Mark earlier in the day about the rich young man who wanted to inherit eternal life. It paints such a different picture than my musings of pastoral affluence. Here's what I read:

The Rich and the Kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (19) You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! (25) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel (30) will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (31) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

If Jesus wanted us to live like kings wouldn't he have said so? Instead he emphasizes how a rich lifestyle is in conflict with living for God. Of course, then I remember that those who believe in the prosperity doctrine use these same verses (29 and 30) as text to validate their position on the accumulation of earthly possessions - when in fact the text says if you sacrifice for God it will be made up to you somehow but not without earthly troubles. I think the key word there is 'sacrifice' and you certainly don't see a lot of that going on in prosperity gospel circles.

Oh well, at least my mini revelation helps me see why the faithful tithers keep giving to the black hole across town, and why the pastor leaders can sleep at night.

While I slave away vacuuming wood window blinds, I think it could be worse - I could be cleaning 2 houses instead of just one. (If I ever do that it will be for my parents who could use the help.) So today, I'm counting my blessings once again that I am free from the old world. Yes, I still think about it, processing the affects of being in there way too long. Even so, I'd rather be doing this than be in that orbit of delusion paying someone else to do and be something that I should have been doing and being for myself all along.

And I can't help but lament that I used to be there doing what they do. The old saying is so utterly true, "But for the grace of God, go I". Or how about "Once I was blind but now I see."?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cash Machines for Christ

The caption under this twitter pic reads:

Things I love about (insert name of church here): ATM in the Lobby of Church!

This was tweeted by one of the pastor types at the former vortex church we attended.

Need I say more?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Red Flag Warnings

Too bad the red flags we came across over the years in our former church worlds didn't have more obvious indicators that something was wrong. Take this red flag across the path for instance. How nice it would have been to see a big red flag over the threshhold of the vortex sanctuary. Or how about "Danger! You are listening to an imposter!" on the big media screens strobing behind the pastor king while he rants about unity (i.e. cloning himself so we'd all be on the same page.) It would've been great to see a huge fire truck complete with clanging bell and horn resounding in the parking lot when everyone showed up for prayer on Saturday night! Why not a strapping fireman with a bull horn warning "Step away from the door!" so we would have chosen to go somewhere fun with our families to actually help BUILD a stronger relationship instead of yet another night in a windowless sanctum?

Oh well, even though the flags didn't flash obvious danger signals, the good news is we eventually got the message. Even though we still cringe when we wonder how many red flags did we need to see before we knew to get the heck out of there?! (a life-long lament to be sure)

An anonomous person dropped by the other day and left a compelling comment on my Spiritual Temperature and A New Surrender post that I'd like to highlight in its own post. By way of collecting testimonies like this, those of us out here (who are now outside the camp so to speak Hebrews 13:12-14) can keep record of this surprising 'new' (for some of us it's new!) movement that is indeed coming into its own, a new move of God if we dare to say. Many of us are fed up with what Christian Culture has become to us and have decided we no longer have to live within its confines if it's in one of the abusive environments. We no longer desire to follow a wrong gospel. We've seen numerous red flags that all added up and now realize it is the Lord himself removing us from the danger zone! He called us out to RESCUE OUR FAITH! We are finding that God is still with us and moving in our midst despite the threats the old world tried to contain us with, telling us God would remove his blessing from us if we ventured outside 'the covering' (gag). (Side note: Their version of covering completely COVERED US UP! The only COVERING we need is Jesus. It goes without saying that we can find joy in healthy relationships and friendships, but they don't cover us!)

And here we are, actually blessing one another with encouragement and support! Talk about a church without walls! I'm not talking about Paula White who desecrated the concept by naming her church that, using it to garner wages to jump in the pipeline of the rich and famous! To the contrary, wouldn't you say that phrase describes the church on the internet?! So glad to finally take the cult out of culture if you get my drift. I'm so grateful to find other brothers and sisters on various blogs who have stumbled on to the truth of God's love and that HE needs no walls to keep his church going. HE is without limitation! It's enough to make the abusive church leaders weep and gnash their teeth because it's so beyond their control! They just can't stop it!

Anyway, to the topic at hand which is our new friend's comment. Sounds like he or she has abandoned ship or is about to... thank GOD either way! A hardy congratulations he is free from that particular 'pipeline'! Please say a prayer for this person to find a new job, a thriving livelihood and true fulfillment on this side of heaven, because it sounds like he had to sacrifice his job to leave. Many of us know the feeling. It WILL get better, I hope he can grab onto that and rebuild his hope. So here goes:

"Thank you for creating this blog. It's very comforting to read in the internet many stories from former members of abusive churches share their own testimonies.

I was in a word of faith movement and I left the group just recently because the red flags I am experiencing is already too intense to ignore. I was looking for a refuge from the abusive atmosphere in my family only to be trapped in a spiritual group wherein the system is also abusive. I bought into the lie that "the cause" is the most important mission of a christian. I gave in to the false promise that you have to be in the "right pipeline" if you want to experience the fullness of God's blessings and I obeyed out of fear that you have to be in the "right boat" to ride the big wave otherwise you will be left behind. Charismatic preachers name call those christians who don't want to submit to a human shepherd loose cannons, spiritual dwarfs or rebels. It's difficult to leave cause I sincerely considered them a family, however, the system for me has already done subtle yet serious havoc in my life. I left my job for the faith that I am exchanging it for a "far greater and more important work for the advancement of the kingdom" only to realize when I was already involved deeper that there are aspects significant to the system that my conviction can no longer tolerate. My growing disillusionment is getting more difficult to deny so I deliberately decided to take my own exodus. I am now jobless, really hurting and somewhat feel paranoid. Words can't describe the pain I feel inside. Even praying to God seems blank, I have lost all desire to go to church and even my motivation to live has been really affected. But despite of the pain, I am doing my best to get all the strength I can muster to bounce bank. No matter how hard the process i am going through right now,i still hold on to have faith in a benevolent and gracious God."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Travel Stats Continue

Just a quick update on the travel itinerary of the Young Pastoral Elite. In the last month they've crossed the sea to attend ministry related functions having to do with Hillsong. Opportunity has presented itself on the coattails of the enviably popular cousin who is included in the speaker lineup for the Hillsong conferences. I guess they aren't too proud to tag along with their infamous Cosmopolitan Cousin. (How can they stand the subtle gloating and attitude of specialness??)

But meanwhile, back at the home front, the people who are invariably funding these 'ministry missions' are scraping by, paycheck to paycheck, actually working for a living (concept). Some of them losing houses, some having to pay huge tax bills. I wonder what the travel itinerary of the typical ordinary parishioner looks like? Sad to say, most of them are too busy working or, if they do travel beyond their allotted vacation time, it's for an unglamorous work trip.

To those who don't see the error of using funds from a 501 3 c organization (i.e. with tax exempt status) for global galavanting, my ranting may sound like jealousy. If my friends and I were to entertain jealous thoughts, our feelings immediately give way to outrage. We are appalled that this church does not see that what they are doing is any different than what a former Boise Mayor spent jail time over which was using government money to take his employees on nice trips. What's even more incredulous is the people don't see the correlation and think this is all ok!

This is not a jealous rant, this is a reality check. But in the spirit of a true reality check, I must admit life is unfair and justice is painfully slow going. Year after year we watch the church across town revel in their delusion that they are highly blessed of God because they go on so many trips (which include shopping sprees to Harrods and I'm sure the hottest boutique in Paris). How could it not be a blessing from God when they are ushered into the presence of what they deem as greatness or walk the floors where Royals walk?

But in reality, what IS happening? All of the above is funded with the money that hard-working ordinary Americans tithe to the church every week to keep the church afloat, for the work of the ministry. I doubt they designate their offerings to fund global treks to the latest Megachurch conference with a little shopping thrown in.

Why do the people continue to pay the tithe? Is it they are waiting for God to bless them like he seems to be blessing their leaders? They've been taught, by their leaders, that blessing begins at the 'top' and trickles down. Nevermind the scriptures about leadership being 'the servant of all' or 'the first shall be last, the last shall be first'. That hardly factors in - besides, it would interupt the wonderful cashflow.

If only God would remove the scales from the eyes of the people so they can see the truth for what it is - that they are the ones enabling the dysfunction. The Pastoral Elite will continue to travel on the dime of their church as long as the funds are available to be used at their discretion and pave the way for such glorious living.

Doesn't scripture infer that God will recognize those who gave a drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing and shelter to the poor, taking care of widows and orphans and even prisoners? Do you think he will be interested in the travel itinerary of the rich and famous then? Just wondering...

Yes, God will ask the Pastoral Elite to give an account one day, just as he will ask us all to give an account. But, human nature being what it is, we commoners sure wish they'd have to give an account before then. Can we hope for justice on this side of heaven? I hope God will forgive any wrong motive on our part and consider that a prayer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Travel Stats of the Young Pastoral Elite

Another year has rolled around and we can't help but notice that the travel pattern of the young pastoral elite across town hasn't diminished during the winter months. Lest you think we are obsessively checking their twitters on a daily basis, weeks may pass without a thought in their direction. Then one day we think to check in and - lo and behold -they've taken 4 trips in a 1-month period!

2/14 Hawaii
2/25 Palm Springs
3/5 - 3/7 NYC
3/7 - On to DC
3/15 -Los Angeles

While their pastors criss cross the United States on a week-to-month basis, do the families that have lost, or could be about to lose, their homes at vortex church ever ask where DO their leaders get the money to travel so much?? (They lost their homes because of bad advice given by the senior pastor who elevated a scammer guy into leadership who scammed these families out of money taken from the equity in their homes. He is now a wanted man in 4 different states - CO, ID, UT, TX!) (BTW, why didn't the pastors all lose their houses too??)

Isn't the congregation at all curious to know whether their tithes and offerings are funding big fluff that masquerades as "ministry"? If they are too afraid to ask, we certainly aren't. But when we pose this question we are branded as jealous with a bitterness problem. I wouldn't say we are jealous, but we are definitely perplexed that God himself is allowing this to continue as if he has bestowed a great blessing upon them.

My fellow detoxer, Non-Celebrity Christian, has been asking another question lately: Why do pastors WANT to travel and get away so much? This is a question for even the Good pastor on our side of town. Do they become restless staying in town with those who support them financially, spiritually and emotionally? The same people who faithfully mind the store while they are away I might add. Is it just too boring to stay in town tending a flock who needs you? Yawn. I am a Global Christian and the world is mine for the taking. Is that it?

This leads us to the next question: Just what is a pastor? The young pastoral elite may fit the definition of the kewl and to-be-envied jetset rat-pack of Christianity today, but I doubt it has alot to do with compassion and tending a flock. When do they have time to take care? I think they've all developed a spiritual hypertention disorder and they are so drunk on their growing numbers that they can't help think they do no wrong. They mistake God's tolerance as His blessing.

Meanwhile, those of us desperate to know that God still loves us and has a plan for our lives other than being minions to pastor-kings, are left wondering if God is really that interested in his reputation anymore. That is my honest and heartfelt question for Him that I hope he someday answers.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spiritual Temperature and A New Surrender

Journaling again on my spiritual temperature, assessing where I think I stand since leaving the authoritarian style church we left in 2005. Here it is 2011, six years later.

This year I'm finding a new freedom in reading the Bible on a daily basis. Not that I wasn't reading God's word in previous years but because I was determined not to open the book out of christian expectation or legalism, it was no longer an every day obligation like it once was. That was so I knew in my heart when I did reach for His pages it was because I wanted to hear from God, touch base with his thoughts and hear them clearly without the authoritarian voice of the former pastor(s) echoing in my mind. The Lord has been faithful to lead me gently in these last few years giving me lots of space and what feels like His understanding. The Holy Spirit has spoken, convicted me kindly when I needed it, reassured me every time I needed it, just like always throughout my years as a christian.

Daily reading because I'm eager and hungry for 'the new and living way' is becoming a profound joy like it was when I first asked Jesus into my heart. I'm not reading verociously, but taking bite-sized portions to ponder in both the Old Testament and New. I have my own little schedule that I'm surprised I stick to without a group to keep me on track. When I miss a day I'm not uptight about it in the least and I just read a double portion the next day if time allows. It's very personal and not about the corporate setting at all.

Prayer is also an area I needed to relax in so my approach has been the same.

Worship in song has long been personal to me but it too has been redone - still being redone. Let's just say it has been nice to sit quietly before the Lord in my right mind singing thoughtful songs to him without the need to sing each song 10 times to bring God into the room. There is no frenzy left in me. I could write a book on how I feel about that.

I'm still gun-shy about getting involved at a church. I'm ok with attending but my approach has been the same as with bible reading, prayer and worship. Since we left the old church my husband and I have felt it important that I take time to develop my art in the years I have left and work towards certain goals. After years of giving my art second place to the church (actually 3rd after my family) I'm still a little afraid God may ask me to set it aside again to help out at church, which would not only diffuse my focus but set me on a completely different path. There's a reason we've called church a vortex...

That being said, the Holy Spirit brought me to a place of surrender a week or so ago where I actually said to him I would do that (help in a church) if it was his will. It's been more than 6 years since I've been able to say that. Talk about a long surrender. But having done that I have a peace that I'm where I need to be with my art and that he is the Lord of it since I've given him the opportunity to be Lord all along. In the end I only want to serve him with it and hope that the fruit of it is to bring his essence to those my art can touch.

At this point I think I'm to continue pursuing my art outside the church where I feel it's more needed and valued. The church doesn't seem too interested anyway. The only way I could share my heart inside the walls of christian culture is if I could be open and honest about what I've been through, what led us to our exodus from a cult-like church and what I'm feeling now. Church christians don't seem to really want to hear about that even if internet christians do ;-) If Art is a reflection of Life, it will have no depth of substance if we can't be real about life.

Even the whole process of surrender has had to be redone in my life because it was twisted in the old world. Dying to self helped you stay flexible so you could easily be at the eck and call of the pastor who was constantly changing course. If you just died to self then you didn't find yourself so frustrated at the fact he enjoyed changing plans at whim or pitting people who worked for him against each other.

I am crucified with Christ has been or is being restored to its rightful meaning now, so I can have a new sense of trust in the process of surrender. If I'm still a little worried about being trapped again, a peacful trust outshines the fear when I remember Jesus has been with me on this journey and he isn't into jerking me off the path he's been leading me on. He's brought me this far not to send me backward.

So, I think the whole surrender thing is about being willing to be a light for Jesus wherever he leads and making sure my heart is his in everyway. I'm free to come and go. It makes the most sense.