Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pastoral "Accountability"

One of the main reasons I left the IC was due to the incredible amount of hypocrisy and double standard I saw amongst the pastors and leaders. I always believed that those who were pastors were "appointed by God" to lead the sheep in a tender loving way, full of honesty, and held to a higher standard. That view changed dramatically as I saw the full extent of the corruption and dishonesty within the church pastorate. I begin to see a pastoral immunity amongst the other pastors that made me sick to my stomach. I'm sure my experience is a bit more extreme than most, in fact in speaking with people who have left the IC I've never heard a story quite as horrific as ours was!

When we went through the beginning throws of being removed from leadership an "area pastor" of the denomination we belonged to came to our town to try to help settle the issues at hand. He accused us of "touching God's anointed", (not the first time this phrase had been hurled at us), and that God would judge us for it. Each side expressed their feelings, and the entire leadership team had completely turned against us - we stood alone. Things I had told others in confidence were spoken publicly, and everyone had been "hurt" by us in one way or another. At the end of the meeting the area pastor told us that neither side had offered an apology. Out of that entire meeting I have to say that is the one thing he said that I feel was led by God. My husband was the only one who admitted to any wrong, and he apologized. He showed more humility than the entire leadership team and pastors. One person on the team apologized, but the pastors gave the "We're sorry if we did anything wrong" apology which we all know is NOT an apology.

Later on my husband corresponded with the area pastoral leader in depth. He showed him e-mails from the pastors who had mistreated us, and to our shock the area pastor supported the other pastor at every turn. I began to see that the supposed "pastoral accountability" I had been led to believe existed for so long was all a farce. That was the moment where my trust in the system was lost forever. We were in a position where we had no one in the Christian community who would stand up for us. It was our word against the pastoral institution - and there was no way in the world we would ever win against it because the pastors word is always "God's word" as we all know. Not only that, but the church we currently attended didn't want to see the evidence of what the leadership had done to us. They said , "We're here for you guys", but when the dust settled from the situation they wanted to charge us counseling fees for any further discussions. We found out that the church we were in the midst of leaving had put pressure on our current pastor and had instructed him in how to deal with us. It was a border line threat honestly, very ugly indeed. The pastor had a young church, and if he had gone against the other pastor's instructions much damage would have been done to that church's reputation, etc. I am sure. Hard to believe that this is the kind of control pastors have on people, isn't it?

It became clear that the powers that be had banded together against us. Some in leadership claimed that they had "been through it" because of us. What?!! They weren't the ones who lost their jobs, community, home, lives....they weren't the ones who had become ostracized from the entire local church community. They had the full support of everyone around them, but it became obvious that they were the victims and we were, of course, the enemy. Any hurt that happened in our lives was due us - it was all God's judgement. There was no way we could have heard from God regarding the decisions we had made! Who decided this? The pastors of course since they're the only ones God speaks to obviously. Those in leadership under them refused to speak to us. There were numerous times, (too many to count), that we tried to reason with them, but to no avail. These people were my friends...I can't begin to describe how hard it was to see them continue on in the system knowing the hurt and pain it would cause them. But I had to let that burden go or it would have eaten me alive.

I've wanted to write this post for a long time. I was held back though because I was still connected to the system, and were I to have told the truth of what really went on I would have received judgement and ridicule. I've asked myself many times, is it ok to tell the truth of what really went on behind closed doors....away from the happy clueless church people? The church instills this fear in you about criticizing leadership. It is the next worse sin besides homosexuality. But what this does is creates a safety net for pastors and clergy in which they become immune to correction and accountability. They all know they have each others backs, no matter what. Nobody will challenge the system most likely, and if they do, guess what?...they're labeled as sinful and disobedient. There is no way you can win against this people!!

We found out later that the pastors of the church who kicked us out had actually gone to other pastors in the area and told their side, how they had been through SO much because of us. We didn't know most of these pastors mind you. So if anyone in their congregations came to them with complaints about the pastors, then guess what the answer would be?? "Well, they did horrible things to the pastors at X church. They're horrible people, it's all them, believe me." Then the lie is perpetuated, on and on.

I personally don't believe the system is redeemable. The corruption and disease that lies within it has rotted to the point of no return. Does this mean that every person there is beyond redeeming? No. But the hierarchical system will always fail. When someone is set in total authority above everyone else, (and God), they will fail. God never created people to be in this place! Jesus is the only one who has the right to be there. Yet people claim up and down that Jesus is the ultimate authority in their lives, not man. They have convinced themselves that this is the truth. But when it really comes down to it, who will they serve? I realized that I had convinced myself of it as well. It took God yanking me out of the system, allowing me to go through the deepest pain, rejection, and betrayal, to realize it. I honestly think if this hadn't happened I would still be in the system today. I am forever grateful to God for taking me out of it.

Thousands upon thousands are leaving the church daily. According to the George Barna group, (who have polled thousands who have left the IC), the main reason people cite is abuse by pastors and leaders. I believe God is exposing what has been going on for generations. He's not allowing man to take His place any longer. The scales are being removed from people's eyes finally. I'm a rebel, a revolutionary, a history maker. I refuse to partake in a system that is wrought with corruption and injustice. I've left an entire Christian community because I refuse to compromise. As time wears on I find the tiny tentacles of connections I have with the IC evaporating. People can't relate to me, and as time goes on I can't relate to them. My identity continues to morph and I try to find my way in this strange new place. It's a place of uncertainty at times, yet it is a place of incredible freedom and joy as well. I see Jesus grace and love more than ever before. He isn't who I thought He was, who they had made Him out to be. In the midst of all of this I find forgiveness and's a great mystery. I can reach out and love those who crushed me. I can hear their continually hurtful judgmental words toward me and feel peace and freedom.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Birds on the Wires

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Communication With God Beyond Hearing

Last night I saw a great movie called "August Rush" starring Robin Williams. It's about a boy music prodigy who ends up separated from his parents at birth. He has the gift of hearing music in the sounds of every day city life. Somehow he can hear his parents reaching out to him through music, and as it turns out they're both musicians. The boy gets discovered, studies at Julliard and composes a sonnet. He tells people that music is all around us; we just need to listen for it.

Lately I've been thinking more about how people hear God's voice. Growing up in the church I was taught that the main way Christians hear God's voice is through the Bible, and honestly sometimes it was regarded the only way. I've never really heard God's voice speaking to me through the Bible, mainly only through the Psalms. Around the time I had my encounter with Lonnie Frisbee, (see my post called "Like Poop Through A Goose"), the Holy Spirit started speaking to me through different ways. I started hearing God's voice through songs on the radio, seeing Him in pictures, in art, through movies, and in many other ways. I'm an artist, so it makes sense that God would use my "language" to speak to me. But when I shared my experiences with my Christian friends they would cock their heads side ways and look at me like I was, well, a freak. So I quit telling people. They didn't understand, and it made me feel like I might have fallen off the deep end.

We hear from God, but is it possible to see Him as well - through art, movies, visual media and other ways? We were created with 5 senses at least: (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste), and it seems to me that God would want to communicate with us through all of them, not simply through hearing alone. He is God after all!!

When I was in Thailand last summer on a mission's trip I had an experience with touching God that was outside of the normal "hearing God" way. During our daily worship and prayer time one of the girls on the team broke out into a beautiful spontaneous song. Her song was about God being our fruit that comes in all colors and flavors. The end of her song said that we were fresh fruit for others. In Thailand the fruit selection is so amazing and delicious! We were able to eat many fruits we don't have here in the US. It was pretty incredible to have God communicate to us through song, sight, touch, smell and taste all at the same time; talk about a multi-sensory experience with God!

So how does God communicate with you? I would love to hear...

One last thought. My husband shared this quote with me some years ago and it's one of my favorites so I wanted to share it with you:

"May God be to you like warm socks on your feet, straight out of the dryer"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus and Feminism

Recently I did a face book post that went something like this. "Jesus was the biggest feminist that lived." I got a range of responses from religious IC going Christians who tried to pigeon hole me into saying what issues of modern feminist Jesus wouldn't agree with to people outside of the IC who couldn't say amen enough. It seems as though I had hit a "hot button", no, more like a land mine, without realizing what I was doing. After leaving the IC I began to realize for the first time that Jesus was in the business of taking women out of their oppressed societal roles and giving them freedom and equality with men. It blew me away...I couldn't believe that after being raised in the church for 35 years I hadn't seen it before. This was yet another unspoken rule of the system - women submit to men, follow them, do as they tell you, and know that their word is the ultimate truth and authority. The idea of mutual submission was never a part of my life in the IC.

Jesus was constantly liberating women: The Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well. Not only was she a woman, but she was Samaritan - considered to be the lowest minority to the Jews and they refused to even speak to Samaritans. But Jesus spoke to her and she chose to follow Him then spread her salvation story all around town. Many consider her the first evangelist. The woman caught in adultery is another. This woman had been oppressed by the religious leaders, (I can relate to her on many levels and her story brings me freedom.) Jesus comes out and tells her that He doesn't judge her. The story of Mary and Martha is another. Jesus actually encourages the sisters to sit and learn from Him, putting them in a student role. He brings them out of the house wife role, how amazing is that? In those days women didn't learn under rabbis, (unless you were very wealthy, which was rare.) These examples show that Jesus was radical in His feminism for that day! When I realized how revolutionary Jesus was in His treatment of women the thought came to me -

Why is the church even more oppressive of women than the world 2000+ years later??

Why is it that modern feminism emerged from the secular world not the church. If feminism like Jesus was a proponent of had started in the church would we have abortion?? Could it be that in abdicating our role in liberating women we inadvertently caused the deaths of millions of lives? I think this is very possible. Then we picket abortion clinics in protest...

I can't tell you how many times I was told by a male church leader or pastor that my ideas, thoughts, impressions, etc. "needed to wait", "I'll pray about that sister", "thanks for the advice, but we don't need to do that now", etc., etc. It was as if what I had to say didn't matter - that I didn't matter. The only women who were listened to and respected seemed to be those with scales for skin,...and they were usually pastors but seemed to be more like men in their thinking and actions. I wasn't one of those, never have been honestly. Even so I got right in there with the pastors and shared my opinions, (still do in blog land and am rarely treated as an equal by male pastors, big surprise), only to be poo poo'd. All of this to say, where did this treatment of women in the church come from anyway? Why have there been so few women pastors over the ages and why do they have to act like men in that role?

Maybe it's been here from the beginning...remember how the disciples didn't believe Mary when she told them that she had seen Jesus? They had to actually enter the tomb and from the way his grave clothes lay could tell that he had risen. They needed proof - they couldn't simply take Mary at her word and trust her...why?...because she was a woman? Not to put men down, and please don't misunderstand me, but it seems that women responded to Jesus very differently from men. Mary washed Jesus feet with her tears and the disciples were disgusted. But Jesus saw that she was actually prophesying His death. She could see something the disciples were blind to.

Could it be that women's ability to have faith is the thing that has caused them to be oppressed by men in the church? Could the inherent differences between men and women be the root of the issue?

I believe this is the main reason women don't have a voice in the church. In fact, I thought about doing a blog like this for a while but kept putting it off because I didn't think anyone would be interested in hearing what I had to say. For so many years I've been conditioned into believing that my voice didn't matter, wasn't important, etc. I'm finding that there are very few blogs written by women who have left the IC. Most of them are by men, generally men who were pastors or leaders, and they have large followings. Of course they would, duh?! (Don't mind my sarcasm, please.)

The more I've thought about this the more I realize that if women in the church could find their voice and become who God had called them to be we would be a powerful beautiful force to be reckoned with. If we can shake off all of the crap that men have put on us, that we have put on ourselves, that the institution of church has put on us, and see ourselves not as women - but as children of God with every right and privilege men have, we would be a sight to behold. As I continue on my journey of freedom I ask myself this question, "Who are you in God's eyes? If Jesus walked in the room today, who would He say you are?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Sunday's Coming" (Be prepared to LOL)

One of my friends posted this on facebook and I had to share it with you all. It is especially for the person who coined the phrase, "song and lecture club." It's brilliant. I especially love the Rob Bellish segment. One of the comments a person posted on the site its from said that this is one of the reasons that people laugh at Christians, so true.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I came across this excellent article by the Barna Group which is a re-cap of the book George Barna wrote "Revolution", as well as other books about organic church. He states that around 20 million people who he calls "revolutionaries" have left organized religion and that this movement is rapidly growing. He outlines the reasons for leaving, and likens this movement to a spiritual renissance. Have any of you read this book? I'd love to hear comments regarding it...and I plan to pick up a copy soon!

Better than a Hallelujah - Amy Grant

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reclaimed Treasures

For Mother's Day my amazing husband finished the pond he's been working on for a week now. I must admit I am spoiled when it comes to having a beautiful garden, since he loves working on it and I love sitting back and enjoying the stunning beauty he creates all around us. This pond would have cost us around $1600 for supplies alone, but almost all of it was given to us for free! Most of the materials were cast offs that people didn't want for whatever reason. The wood is all reclaimed redwood from a foundation remodel down the street. The pond liner, pump and system belonged to a friend who didn't need them anymore, and the rocks, (which were turned into a waterfall), were in a pile of green waste give away. It's hard for us to believe that nobody wanted these precious items.
As I was sitting on the chair over looking the pond and listening to the musical trickle of water down the rocks I began to realize how much this pond mirrors my own life. All of these cast off pieces of nothing that the world didn't want were priceless treasures to those in need of them. When they were all joined together to create this amazingly beautiful little corner of our world they suddenly became incredibly necessary to us. Now I can't imagine our front yard without this pond. When I open the front door the sound of water rushes into my ears and I let out a deep sigh of gratitude. Peace, hope, rest, life, rejuvenation...these are all words that come to mind when I sit in this chair soaking up the sounds of life and nature.
It's hard to believe that God really loves me sometimes...even the junky cast off parts too - especially those. He finds the broken, worn, used bits of me the most necessary parts, so he can show me that it's not me doing the work in my life, but him. This work is much more than beauty rising from the ashes; it's the actual ashes themselves being turned into beauty. I can't wrap my head around this concept, this mystery. But before I know it I find myself letting it all go and then I see the beauty he creates and it leaves me speechless.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Black Sheep

Lately through direct or indirect promptings several in the IC have felt it was their duty to present me with the analogy of "the church", i.e. the IC as a "family." The logic behind their argument is that we're all part of the family of God. Every believer is a part of who we are, and we are commanded thus to love one another. Not only are we to love our brothers and sisters, but this love means that we are to interact with the other members of the family in our acceptance of them since God has orchestrated this family - we are inextricably intertwined. The people who came to me with this revelation didn't come out and say these exact words, but the insinuation was there.

After much though and reflection my response to them, which I may or may not tell them directly...(that is yet to be decided), is this hypothetical story:

Let's say you had a side to your family which was different from the other sides of your family. I know most can relate to this, as many of us have some challenging family dynamics...let's face it. So, this side of the family had decided that they didn't like you for whatever reason. In order to turn the rest of the family members against you they had shut you out of the family. They did this by excluding you from family get togethers, dinners, etc. (You knew this because they would do things like calling the wrong number - your number - to invite another family member to dinner. You didn't get invited.) They then sent you a letter in the mail saying that it was "time for you to take a break from the family." They didn't even bother to call you. Close cousins quit talking to you, calling you, even acknowledging you. One day you were called to a meeting with the parents and grandparents of the family. You were told that you were "rebellious" and needed to repent. After apologizing for doing things you didn't realize you were doing the shunning continued. Your own parents quit talking to you. Your brother was then told, "Your reputation will be severely effected if you continue to hang around your sister." So in fear he quit coming over and calling. Then the members of the family started turning on one another. Some moved away and were never heard from again. Others stayed in town, but wanted nothing to do with anyone else in the family. The stress of the family dysfunction had a serious toll on your marriage and life. You finally had enough of it and decided it was time to make a break from the family.

But there was another aunt and uncle in the family who lived in a close town who seemed different from the rest. They saw what was going on in the dysfunctional family and said it was wrong and unjust. Although you were unsure and distrusting of them, in time your guard came down. This part of the family was different, you were sure of it. They welcomed you with open arms. "Family" became wonderful again. You poured your life into the family - you gave them everything you had and sacrificed your all for them. Things seemed perfect as they should be until one day when they decided it was time for you to leave the fold. They cast you out of the family in a very cruel and unkind way. Then you had discovered that they had stolen from you. With most who steal lies became apparent, and lies emerge to cover those lies...what a tangled web we weave. This part of the family had a name to protect, so they not only turned any remaining family members against you, but they also attempted to turn the entire town against you. They even attempted to run you out of town. As a result, your remaining cousins turned against you and were bought off. Others refused to speak to you, even after repeated attempts.

You went to distant family members who refused to face the truth of what was really happening, and who wouldn't tell the truth to the rest of the family. These members were too powerful, and you felt the distant family was afraid of what they might do to them if they were to expose the truth to the whole family. So they played their part in the saga. They didn't want to know the full truth of what was happening. You finally started to stand up for yourself - you gathered together all of your strength, and you refused to be a door mat. You tried to get back what they had stolen. The distant cousins requested that you stop doing this. They told you that it wasn't your place to get back what had been stolen from you. They told you that you chose to let the things the aunt and uncle had done hurt you, that you could have done things better. They remained friends with this side of the family despite what they had done to your life. You stayed friends with this family as long as you could. But it began to tear you apart. You realized that if you didn't leave you would be destroyed.

Tell me this: Would you remain in a family that treated you this way? Would you run to them with open arms and heart after they had attempted to destroy your life?

This family may be a family by blood, but it isn't a family of the heart. Just because we are born into the same family doesn't mean we have to be in relationship with every member of that family. We can love from a distance.

The end of the story is better than the beginning:

In desperation you moved out of town far away from that entire side of the family. None of the people you had dealt with regarding the situation called you. It was as if you had never existed. One day by pure accident you stumbled upon a part of the family you never knew about. They were kind and true. They too had been effected by various family members, so they knew what you had been through. They weren't perfect, but you knew you had finally found a part of the family that you could grow to love. This family functioned with mutual respect. No one was seen as greater or less than, and there were no harsh unreasonable rules. They loved without demanding in return.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I was a cog in the wheel,
a chain in the machine,
which ran smoothly -
well greased and perfectly timed.

The monotony of function
and form grew old,

I broke

into tiny shards of glass
that cut and bled.

You've taken me from castles to brothels,
where the streets have no name...
to the quiet and stillness
of solitude

and silence.

I've seen the prince
and the starving child
where bombs grew silently
and greed engulfed pavement.

This place is cold,
I feel worn by those walls...
you drained the life from the veins
and ate the days of youth.

My soul is unfolding
in the shadows,
gasping for breath,
amidst your ashes.

The shore is calling,
with gentle waves alive with hope
sliding quietly
into dreams of desire...

I'm being reborn into the sea,
churned in the depths,
In a metamorphosis
of the soul.

my feet feel the moist sand


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sustainable Gardening

God has always spoken to me in unusual ways - through pictures, songs, art, dreams, etc. In fact, it has been only the rare exception for me to read a scripture and feel him speaking directly to me through it. Since I've left the IC I hear him speak to me more through scripture than ever before ironically! This has been another one of those unexpected surprises, a bonus if you would, of leaving the IC. The other day he spoke to me though a vision which hasn't happened in quite a while.

The other day I was thinking about my journey, where I've come from, where I'm going, etc. I wasn't even in deep intercession or prayer...just meditating on life. I saw a picture in my mind of a group of people partying outside. They seemed carefree and happy - dancing, drinking, laughing. Then I saw a fence and on the other side of the fence there was a large garden. There were people working hard tending the garden. They were digging, planting and watering. Then I saw something I didn't expect. I saw a few people from the "party" side along the fence reaching under it and picking some of the crop. I felt God saying to me that the party side was the IC - the people who were part of the religious system. Those in the garden were the people who had left - you could call them "organic" church. The people picking the plants along the fence line are those who are trying out and tasting the fruit of the organic church. I felt like God impressed on me that those of us who have left are in the process of investing, working, and tending the work of God.

Gardening is hard work. It can take years to get a garden fully functional. I know this because my husband is a serious gardener. Since we bought our house a year ago he's been turning our back yard into an amazing vegetable garden. I've been astounded at all of the work that goes into growing a garden. He starts with compost - lots and lots of it. He adds horse poo to the compost. It took me a while to get used to this step. It's messy and well, it stinks...a lot! But, it is essential to a really to a really rocking garden. Then he had to built raised beds for the veggies because our soil is composed of sandy rocky dirt which isn't really conducive to gardening, at all. He then put the composted soil along with other very dark organic soil into the raised beds. Meanwhile he had been growing the veggie starts from seeds. This took a lot of care because we've had a few freezing nights this spring. He lost all of our tomatoes once and had to start over from scratch with them. He finally planted the starts in the soil. Since they took root it's been pretty easy to keep them healthy, except for the occasional cat who decides the raised beds are a perfect litter box, or the pests who like the green leaves. Our goal is to have all of our veggies growing in the garden - to have a sustainable garden. My husband tells me it will take about three years for this to be possible. Yeah, gardening is hard work.

It would be so much easier to be enjoying the party over the fence, wouldn't it? But what happens when the famine comes? What resources are these people going to have to survive on? I felt like God was showing me that those of us who are working the soil are investing in something that may take a while to see fully. What we're investing in will be long lasting and sustainable.

What is God showing you through this? I would love to hear...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Can "Normal" Be Okay?

Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., Bono...these names represent some of the greatest Christian leaders and activists of our time. When we hear their names we think of extraordinary talents and above average charisma and giftings. These are some of the people I have looked up to with great reverence and awe throughout my life. I've only seen one of these people in person, Bono in concert, but they all seem bigger than life in my mind.

Since I've fallen down the rabbit hole I've begun to see something within organized religion and within myself. I like to call it the "do do" complex. We're encouraged to be "doing something big for God" at all times. The message we get is that you must be involved in ministry, a cause, a mission, etc., etc. to be following Jesus. You must be doing something ginormously big for the kingdom and if you're not, well, then you must be either lazy or in rebellion, (or "taking a break" since we all need one of those every five years or so.) I found that while in the church whenever I wasn't doing the above do do's I felt a tremendous sense of guilt. This guilt produced anxiety, striving, and ultimately huge feelings of guilt. This led me to seeking out ministry at all times - it didn't even matter what kind of ministry it was. If it was "for God" I was golden. It was even better if people noticed and poured on the acilades. But now that I'm out of the four walls and not going to church five times a week, attending mid week Bible studies, ministries, etc. it's dawning on me that maybe being "normal" is okay! By "normal" I mean maybe it's perfectly ok for me to be just a white middle class housewife and mother who loves Jesus and isn't spear heading hurculean mountian moving ministries or missions.

Since this realization has sunk in I've felt a tremendous sense of relief and peace in my life. In fact, this revelation is in part why I started this blog in the first place. I finally came to the place where I felt comfortable in my own spiritual skin. I saw that the every day thoughts and feelings I had were worth something big to God. I didn't have to be a literary genious to share my thoughts and feelings with the world. Normal is okay. I still have my heros, (everybody needs a hero), but I've come to a place where normal is not only acceptable but its perfection. I'm finding that the more I relax into who God created me to be the more I see my worth in His eyes. The expectations that the church laid on my for years are melting away and my identity is coming into focus.

If you don't mind me asking, who are you? No really, who are you aside from the expectations you have placed on yourself, aside from the expectations others have placed on you, and the percieved expectations God has put on you? What would your "normal" look like?