November 11, 2011

Spiritual Abuse... is it real?

Spiritual Abuse, Christian Cults and Controlling Ministries 

Above you will see a link that takes you to an article on another website. You can click on it to go read it there, or you can read here what I copied from Charisma News. I just want to make sure I am not in breach of any copyrights or taking credit for what I did not write. This is an article written by Jennifer Leclaire. I wish to thank her for her words of wisdom in dealing with such a sensitive matter. Since she has so clearly written some things I know and feel and wish to share, I will quote her article here: 

Spiritual Abuse, Christian Cults and Controlling Ministries
Jennifer LeClaire 

It’s irresponsible to loosely toss around emotionally charged accusations like “spiritual abuse,” “Christian cults” and “controlling ministries.” I wouldn’t want to stand before Jesus and give account for misspoken words that carry the potential to tear down what He is building. On the other hand, it’s also irresponsible to turn a blind eye to spiritual abuse, Christian cults and controlling ministries. I wouldn’t want to stand before Jesus and give account for supporting ministries that are tearing down what He is building. 

When spiritual leaders are caught in sex abuse scandals, the secular and Christian media alike pen stories that offer the detestable details and dogged denials. But spiritual abuse, cultish churches and controlling ministries are less often exposed than pastors who coerce teenaged boys and unsuspecting church secretaries to have sexual relations. Victims of abusive church authority structures may not even realize what they are enduring until they escape its grip. 

Spiritual abuse is often subtle. Christian cult leaders don’t always operate like Jim Jones. Controlling ministries tend to hide behind the guise of spiritual coverings. And far too many outsiders are not willing to even question the messages and practices of such churches. It takes lovers of truth with spiritual discernment to recognize the sometimes-subtle signs of abusive churches. And it takes courage to confront it. 

What exactly is spiritual abuse? Jeff VanVonderen, co-author of the classic book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, explains it this way: “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority … misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly godly purposes which are really their own.”

Spiritual abuse is hardly a new phenomenon. You can find instances in the Bible of spiritual leaders exploiting people to build their kingdoms. In Jeremiah 8, the Lord called out the abuse of prophets and priests, saying, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious” (v. 11 NIV).  The root problems of people in the “church” were treated superficially. In other words, the pastor put a Band-Aid on the problem so things looked good from the outside but the wound was festering on the inside. The pastor’s prominence was more important than the legitimate needs of the congregation. 

Today, this manifests as spiritual leaders recruiting volunteers to build their ministries while neglecting to minister to the real needs of hurting people. In such cases, churches become like businesses. The pastor is more like a CEO than a spiritual leader. Staff meetings center on marketing initiatives that will bring more people—who will bring more tithes and offerings—into the sanctuary. Church services becomes about external appearances, but the white washed tombs are full of dead men’s bones.

Jesus addressed spiritual abuse in His day. Beyond His warnings about the Pharisees, Jesus also pointed out ravenous wolves. These ravenous wolves look much like anointed prophets, but their motives are dastardly. Today, the spiritually abusive Pharisaical pastor has a long list of rules and demands and little grace for those who don’t rise to the occasion.

Entire books have been written on spiritual abuse. Those books will help you see spiritual abuse for what it is, how you got sucked into the cycle, how to break free from spiritual abuse, and how to recover from spiritual abuse once you’ve escaped its clutches. But for now, I want to leave you with some nuggets from Dave Johnson and VanVonderen’s book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

Power-posturing is a telltale sign of spiritual abuse. Power-posturing leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it. Johnson and VanVonderen say this is necessary because their spiritual authority isn’t real—based on genuine godly character—it is postured.

In practical terms, this might manifest as a leader who likes to remind the congregation that he can excommunicate people or that any anointing you are flowing in comes from the head (him). This leader can never be questioned, and is usually not accountable to anyone. Those around him are usually mere "yes men" who do his bidding in exchange for delegated authority to lord over others.

Performance preoccupation is a sign of spiritual abuse. Johnson and VanVonderen note that obedience and submission are two important words often used in abusive church structures.

Don’t get me wrong. Obedience and submission are important. But spiritual abuse often shames or scares people into obedience and submission. True obedience is a matter of the heart. Spiritual abusers apply undue pressure that is not from God. That pressure is usually applied to get you to do the leader’s will, not God’s will.

Unspoken rules are common in instances of spiritual abuse. In abusive spiritual systems, Johnson and VanVonderen offer, people’s lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken.

“Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches of families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don’t find out that they’re there until you break them,” Johnson and VanVonderen write. It often seems these “rules” hold more power than scripture.

The “Can’t Talk” rule is seen where spiritual abuse is present. Johnson and VanVonderen explain that the “can’t talk” rule blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence.

If you voice a problem you become the problem. If you question why the church no longer picks up the poor kids in the ministry van but has shifted its focus to more affluent neighborhoods, you are removed from your role as a volunteer driver. Others see your fate and decide they'd better not rock the boat. It's a form of intimidation.

Lack of balance and extremism is often present where spiritual abuse lives. This manifests as an unbalanced approach to living out the truth of the Christian life. Johnson and VanVonderen explain that in these systems it is more important to act according to the word of a leader who has “a word” for you than to act according to what you know to be true from Scripture, or simply from your spiritual-growth history.
The truth is prophetic words don’t carry the same weight as Scripture, and you can hear from God for yourself. When you rely on other people to tell you what God is saying, you open the door to control and manipulation.

It’s not possible to fully expose the inner workings of spiritual abuse, Christian cults and controlling churches in a single article. My goal is to raise awareness of a troubling issue and get you thinking—not to send you on a witch hunt for spiritual abusers.

If you think you are part of a spiritually abusive cult-like or controlling church, ask the Lord to break any deception off your mind and show you the truth. The truth could be that you are in a healthy church and you just need to die to self. But it could be that you are in an abusive system and you need to break free. If your heart is purely seeking the truth, the Holy Spirit will surely guide you there (John 16:13).

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Heart of the Prophetic. You can e-mail Jennifer at jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here.

November 05, 2011

When

WHEN

When this life becomes too much, and I can't live it on my own.....
Lord, you give me strength to make your glory known.

When I feel I've had enough, and I can't take it anymore...
Lord, you lift me up and remind me I am yours.

When I'm tired and alone, and no one seems to care...
Lord, you show to me that you are always here.

When others beat me down, saying I'm not good enough...
Lord, you make it known that together we are tough.

When I question "Why?" or get mad at what you do...
Lord, you gently say "Trust that I love you."

When life seems to make no sense and I can't find my way...
Lord, you light my steps and give me guidance for each day.

When the pain and hurt is deep and doesn't want to heal...
Lord, you give compassion and all my pain you feel.

When I've given all I have and done all that I can do...
Lord, you take my broken life and make it just like new.

When I reach the end of my life and my purpose here is done...
Lord, you'll fold me in your arms and say "my child, welcome home!"

Tracy Bergsma

The Heart of the Matter

I know I opened a can of worms in my previous post titled Freedom of Worship and Lifestyle but I'd really like to get to the heart of the matter.  I talked about how I now realize that I was in a cult... but there is so much more I wish to share about this topic.  Please bear with me as I unload my emotions, thoughts, and experiences here and try to make sense of it all.  Try to understand that I am not knocking my FAITH or my belief in GOD, just the practices and procedures I was convinced to believe and follow all my life, and tried to force on others also.

You see, there is a very special word called GRACE.  It is hard to explain, other than a dictionary definition, but it is much easier to point out in action (or lack of grace [ungrace, if you will] in action).  I have experienced a lot of grace in my life, and I have experienced a lot of ungrace too!  I will talk more about grace and its definition and examples in another post, but suffice it to say that God shows us grace like no one else can.  This is because He cares about our hearts!

God's primary concern is our heart of hearts.  He cares about our dreams and goals, our fears and failures, our laughter and tears, our hopes, ambitions, hurts, longings-- the essence of all that we are!  Unlike any one or any thing in this life.... God wants us for our heart, our truest self.  Sure He wants our obedience, sacrifice, morality,  praise, worship, contentment, thanks, self-esteem, etc, etc.  All these are good, important even, but NOT the heart of what God is after!  God wants our hearts--our true being, our innermost secret self.  THIS is God's primary concern and reason for all He has done and is doing.   It really seems too good to be true!  It's so hard to allow ourselves to believe it... to trust Him.

No amount of rules or structure will yield our hearts to God.  The most severe religious regulations, the greatest personal sacrifices, the best appearance of spirituality does not ensure our hearts are God's.  In the Bible (Isaiah 29:13) God says about His chosen nation, Israel, "their hearts are far from me."  This is the Creator's lament--even though His people were rigidly and intentionally following the laws and performing their duties, their hearts were not in what they were doing.  Their innermost self did not belong to God.  It was just a legalistic adherence to the practices that were expected.  They performed faithfully, but without heart.  If God gets our hearts and we are madly, deeply, truly, trustingly in love with HIM, then all the other things will fall into place.  Who else could care for us and our deepest needs and desires like the One who made us?

Here is where the legalism, abuse and cults come in... grabbing the deep need and desire of our hearts to be at one with our Creator/Savior, to be accepted.  If we just get more involved in church, give more money (or time), sacrifice more of the personal pleasures from our life, dress more simply and modestly, drink less alcohol (or none at all), evangelize more, keep our kids out of the public schools.... on and on the list goes.... then, maybe we will find favor with God and He will love us and accept us and bless us.  It becomes a matter of outward conformity instead of the inward transformation of the heart.

God wants the heart first!  He knows that when my heart is bound with His and I am secure in His love and grace, my outward life will reflect my innermost being.  Cults, religious groups, legalistic organizations focus on the outward appearance and use it to judge what is in my heart.
  • God says "do not get drunk" (Ephesians 5:18), focusing on the need for moderation and the dangers of excess (Proverbs 20:1, 23:20, Isaiah 5:11).  However, legalists and certain religious cults will say "Don't drink alcohol at all!  Any alcohol is sin!"  Their focus is on the idea that it can lead to sin, so just avoid it completely.  
  • God's Word says "let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another" (Hebrews 10:25).  The religious cult will say this means to never miss a church service or meeting, as that is a sign of ungodliness and means you are a weak Christian. 
  • God's Word says "it is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name" (Psalm 92:1), "praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre" (Psalm 33:2), also "let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp" (Psalm 149:3) and again "praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals" (Psalm 150:3-5).  Actually, all through the Psalms God's people are encouraged to praise with voice, instruments, dance.  Yet the conservative religious groups will say that "only the good old hymns of the faith are acceptable and if the music styling does not follow the "proper biblical rules of music" then it is wrong! Dancing is always erotic and sinful, so no dancing is ever acceptable!"  Also they hold that certain instruments (like drums and bass guitars) are worldly and of the devil and cannot bring God glory.
There are so many more examples that can be given, but I think you see what I'm getting at.  Yes, God does have rules!  His rules are for our good, and He has our heart and its relationship with Him at the core of every rule.  The cults and abusers have our outward performance and conformity at the core of all their rules and enforcements.  I will touch more on this subject, in more detail, when I post about grace in the future.

I just want to share with you that I now understand the difference between God wanting my heart and seeking an intensely personal relationship with me at the core of my being; and man wanting my adherence, submission and conformity to a set of standards (rules) in order to possibly receive the "gift" they are offering, if I achieve well enough to merit it. 

This is the heart of the matter!  God offers to me freely and generously what no one else (or no thing) can ever give me.... it's up to me to reach for it and take it.  Do I trust Him with my heart?

November 04, 2011

Radically Free... what does that mean?

WOW!  I really wonder what it does mean... to be free, that is--radically free!  I don't know what it looks like or how it feels.  I believe I've had glimpses of it in my life, but I don't think I have ever truly experienced actual freedom.  This is my journey to that promise of abundant life that Jesus made.  I want the liberty that is found only in the Truth.  But sometimes the truth hurts!

The Webster's Dictionary defines radical as drastic or sweeping; extreme; favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes.  Free is defined as not imprisoned or enslaved; at liberty; not controlled by the obligation or the will of another.  So radical freedom (in my opinion and understanding) is therefore an extreme, revolutionary change to freedom and liberty.  To such an extreme that no person or thing has control over me. Truth, God's truth, THE Truth is supposed to set us free.

It is a scary journey.  The mystery of finding freedom in truth is that we have deceived ourselves for so long, we don't really want the truth.  It is hard to look at the facts, as they really are... to look at myself, truly look at the real me... and want to face the truth that is there.  Once faced, it requires action.  I must do something about the truth that I see.  Either I must continue in the truth, often alone and against the flow, or I must change the truth to fit what I want to keep believing and doing.  (Which then changes the "truth" into a lie.)

My purpose in this blog is to chronicle my journey toward being radically free; offering, perhaps, some connection of spirit, some part of my story that resonates with you.  This is with the hope of helping you to seek your own radical freedom.  I do not know how this journey will end, nor what kind of adventures I will face on the journey..... but I'm excited about it!

Is this radical thinking?  You bet!!!  And I intend to live radically free from here on.  It will be a process.  No change, however small, happens overnight.  With radical changes.... there is a lot of unlearning to do, before the new "free" way can be learned.  There is also a lot of hurt that must be uncovered and dealt with.  Digging for truth will make us question: Who am I?  Why am I the person I am? Why do I believe what I do? Is there another way, a better way?  What is my purpose in this life?  How can I change, or should I change? Why does it hurt so much to look at me as I really am, faults and all?  If I can't control my environment, how do I get free and stay free?

Freedom starts with truth.  In the Bible, Jesus declared that "I [Jesus] am the way, the TRUTH, and the life" (John 14:6), and He told the Jews "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32).  Jesus is the Living Word of God, the truth, and in Him is radical freedom.  "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)  

If you wish to be radically free, then start by seeking the truth.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and in Him alone is complete, extreme, drastic, sweeping liberty!  This freedom will not be completely realized in this life, on this earth... but there is great peace and freedom in understanding the truth and working toward an eternity of being Radically Free!

October 24, 2011

Rules -- Inhibiting or Enhancing our Freedom?

This post is a copy and paste from a friend's blog.  I am including the link as proper credit to her.  Please feel free to check out her blog.  The message is one that resonates very deeply with me.  Since she did such a wonderful job of expressing it, I asked her permission to use it rather than reiterate it myself.  So... happy reading! :)

My Corner of the Universe: Shoulda Woulda Coulda  (Thank you Jenni!)


Shoulda Woulda Coulda

"Miss, can I please drink the leftover juice?"
"I'm not sure that's such a smart idea.  There's a lot of juice, and it might make you sick."
"It's okay, Miss.  I can handle it."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Miss."

I can still remember this day.  An 8th grade student, eyes shining bright, was standing at my desk, pleading to drink the juice left over from a class activity. The jar of pickle juice gleamed like swamp water. He thought it was a great idea.  I was unconvinced.  Even though there was no rule forbidding it, and even though I knew he was capable, I still didn't think that pickle juice would make a good "second breakfast."  In the end, I relented. He drank the juice. Later, he ran out of class as his stomach relinquished its hold on the very vinegary solution.

Just because we can do something doesn't mean we always should.  But just because we shouldn't do something doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.

I look back at that incident and think about all the different ways I could have reacted to it.  I could have told the student no.  I could have poured the pickle juice into the bushes to guarantee that no one else would attempt such a feat. I could have added "No drinking pickle juice" to my list of classroom rules.  Better yet, I could have expanded that rule to include all types of vinegar-based substances or all substances of more than three ounces or anything that started with the letter P.

Often times it seems that we convince ourselves that rules will protect us from everything and that the best solution to a possible difficulty is just a list of rules forbidding an activity or anything associated with it.  If it's not wise to see an R-rated movie, then it would be best not to see any movies at all.  Or to shop in stores that display movie posters. Or to talk about movies.   If being drunk and losing control of one's body, thus endangering oneself and others, is not wise, then it would be best not to drink any alcohol at all. Or anything that might look like alcohol. Or to be anywhere where alcohol is served.

But what do you do when you encounter a situation for which there is no rule yet? Or what if you are around other people who have different rules? Does that mean these other people are ignorant or unspiritual? Should we teach them our rules or do we need to learn theirs? Who's got the best answer?

And therein lies the problem.  Directives clearly laid down by God make perfect sense.  There are logical consequences to breaking those rules, and we can be sure that God has our best in mind. However, once we traipse into the realm of man-made rules, we are sure to find mistakes.  People, however well-intentioned, are prone to error.  We can't even pretend to have God's perspective on things. Circumstances change, cultures change, and often we find that our well-intentioned rules are now a hindrance.  In a religious setting, these rules become a sort of anti-testimony, pushing people away from the One who loves them more than they can understand instead of drawing them to Him.  There are so many people who need to see God's love, and they're not going to if they keep getting hung up in our rules about how we dress, what music we listen to, how many earrings we can wear, and how much money we must give to the church.

I am certain that my student (and his classmates) learned more from discussing the relative merits of drinking pickle juice and watching the consequences thereof than they would have from a hard-and-fast "no drinking juice that starts with P" rule. After all, if he had consumed the same quantity of pear juice or peach juice or even pineapple juice, he probably would have been fine.  Less pickle juice probably would have been fine, too.  Rather than regulating every possible situation, why not allow people to use their brains and Bibles to learn what God wants them to do?  No, people won't always get it right.  Neither will you.  Nor will I. But that's what grace is for.  God gave us the opportunity to choose so we could choose to love and serve Him, and we would do well to give that same opportunity to those around us.

Freedom of Worship and Lifestyle

My past is a checkered history of  religious fanaticism and cult-like practices.  I do believe that many people in my past were sincere in their beliefs and practices, and I know that my actions and attitudes toward others were sincere (albeit misguided)... but that does not make it right or healthy!  I have been deeply scarred by the cultish practices of some of my childhood churches.  Even in my adult life I have gotten involved in business (commercial) practices that are cults!  I guess,  in some ways it is an easy jump from one to the other.  But it was also the beginning of an inner spiritual awakening for me.

I have dear friends who have experienced first-hand the emotional and spiritual turmoil of religious (spiritual) abuse from a church that I would label a cult!  Some of the churches I was involved in during my childhood and adolescence were also cult-like, if not outright cults.  I wish to express my regret for being offensive, self-righteous, judgmental, arrogant, and generally without grace and love in my dealings with others and I ask your forgiveness if I have done this to you.  Be aware that my heart was indeed sincere in wanting what I was taught (and believed) to be the best thing for me and you, however my presentation and deliverance of such sincerity and truth was marred and muddled by my own misunderstandings and lack of grace.  I am truly sorry, please forgive me.

I know many will scold me or be angry that I am labeling certain things in my past as cults, but I'm looking at the facts!  Given my personal experience, and that of many others I know, the facts point to my prior religious/business connections as cults.  It is not my goal to hurt or shame or offend anyone,  but I am seeking out the truth.  Truth of what I've been taught to believe compared with actual practice of those beliefs, and critiqued by the truth of the very Scriptures these beliefs and practices are supposedly based on.

The truth is concrete!  It never changes, but my understanding of those truths and my practical application of them is now coming into maturity.  Now I have freedom to think for myself, to search out a matter, to ask questions without fear of being condemned by those who claimed to love me and want God's best for me.  I can read the Bible for myself, and study its meaning in context with the culture and language in which it was written, thereby understanding more clearly its application to my life and culture today.  The foundation of what I have always believed, the nuggets of moral absolutes and eternal truths, have not changed.  How I practice these beliefs in my life and present these truths to my children and others has most definitely changed, and I hope will continue to change!  I no longer yield my mind and heart to others to control.  I do not unthinkingly, unquestioningly submit to or obey every command presented by a religious leader or organization.  God gave me a strong mind and spirit and I intend to use it.  The Holy Spirit is present in my life to lead and to guide and to make known His truth to me.  Jesus, the Living Truth, is my foundation and my authority, and I have direct personal access to Him.

So how do you know if you are in a cult or not?  What if your group or organization is cult-like, but not an outright cult?  Let's take a look at some of the signs of a cult:
      http://www.howcultswork.com/
Cults have many faces.  Various types of cults exist, but they use similar methods.  Some types of cults are religious, commercial (such as mlm and pyramid sales), self help & counselling, and political (think Hitler's Nazis).  Although their purposes may vary, the ultimate goals are the same: power, through mind control and behavior control. Deception, fear & intimidation, relationship control, information control, time control, pressure selling, etc... these are all marks of a cult.  In all cults, mind control is used and its major techniques are as follows:
  • Exclusivity is used as a threat, it controls your behavior through fear   (Be very suspicious of any group that claims to be better than all the others. A religious group may say that other groups following the same religion are OK, but we are the ones who have a better grasp of the truth and we are superior to the rest. This is often just a subtle version of exclusivity.) 
  • Guilt, Character Assassination and Breaking Sessions
      Guilt will be used to control you.  Maybe the reason you're not making money is because you're not "with the programme".  It's always your fault, you are always wrong, and so you must try harder! You will also be made to feel very guilty for disobeying any of the cult's written or unwritten rules.   
       
      Character Assassination  is used to help create the guilt in you. Character Assassination is a type of false reasoning used by people and groups who have no real arguments. The technical name for Character Assassination is "The Ad hominem Fallacy". This is how it works. Imagine if you will a conversation between two men, Ford and Arthur: 
      "One plus one equals three", says Ford. 
      "No I don't think so. You see, when I have one thing and I have another thing, then I have two things not three", replies Arthur. 
      "I see your point, but what you must realize is that one plus one when calculated in relation to this complex number domain, which I just invented, and then squared by the sum of the ninth tangent in the sequence of the Fibonacci series results in three!", stated Ford triumphantly. 
      Ok, Ford is wrong, but that is not the point. The point is that Ford tried to answer Arthur's reasoning with more reasoning of his own. This is the healthy way people and groups debate subjects. 
      Now lets see what would have happened if Ford had used Character Assassination:
      "Arthur I have been a mathematician longer than you. How dare you disagree with me! You are obviously a very smug and prideful person. I think you are disagreeing with me because you are jealous of me, and to be honest with you Arthur your rebellion has really hurt me and a lot of other people too", stated with Ford's face intimidatingly close to Arthur's. 
      Here Ford didn't answer Arthur's argument, instead he attacked his character. If you are not aware of how Character Assassination works then it is a powerful way to exert control over you. 
       
      Breaking sessions are when one, two or more cult members and leaders attack the character of another person, sometimes for hours on end. Some cults will not stop these sessions until their victim is crying uncontrollably. Cult members are usually very fearful of disobeying or disagreeing in any way with their leadership.
There is way more here than I can cover in this one post.  But do some research, ask yourself some hard questions, give yourself honest answers, figure out if you are involved in a cult or not.  Here is another good website with lots of information that may help: http://rickross.com/warningsigns.html
This one has been put up by Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist.  Let me outline for you what he says are "Ten signs of a safe group/leader":
  • A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  • A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  • A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  • A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  • A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  • A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  • A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  • A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  • A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  • A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. 
I found all of this to be extremely interesting and helpful food for thought, as I continue to seek freedom in my life and mind.  Yes, there are absolutes.  Yes, I make mistakes and sometimes suffer from other's mistakes, as well as cause others to suffer from my mistakes.  Yes, I have rights... moral, ethical, spiritual, legal, etc... and so do others!  My rights end when they harm the rights of others and impose my goals, desires, interests, and pleasures onto someone else.  So, in all this searching, thinking, learning, attempting to understand and grasp for radical freedom... what I'm trying to figure out is the TRUTH, disentangled from the agendas and cult-like control others have held over me.  This is frequently extremely difficult, and often full of painful emotions, but it is a necessary part of my journey to freedom.

I know I still have a long way to go, but I am well on the road and enjoying my journey!

October 21, 2011

My way vs. God's way

Here are some thoughts as to possibly why our prayers are sometimes not answered the way we want:

I ask God to take away my habit... God says, "It is not for me to take away, but for you to give up... with my strength."

I ask God to give me happiness... God says,"I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you."

I ask God to spare me pain... God says,"Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me."

I ask God to make my spirit grow... God says,"No, you must grow on your own, but I will prune you to keep you faithful."

I ask God for all things that I might enjoy life... God says,"No, I gave you life so that you may enjoy all things."

I ask God to help me love others, as much as He loves me... God says, "Ah, finally you have the right idea!"

Hello... checking in!

Well, I can see it has been a year since I last posted.  Ummmm.... too long, and no excuses!!!  But I do have good news:  I have several posts in the works and lots of ideas for many more.  So stay tuned! :)

As for the update on my health--I think most (if not all) of my current blog followers are also friends on facebook.  As such, you were updated through my notes on my facebook site.  But for the sake of any new people who happen upon here, I will attach those update notes here.

Praise to God

by Tracy Bergsma on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 at 15:59

I was just mixing up some brownies to bake for my kids to eat and this song sprang out of my heart! Then I stopped to really "listen" to the words I was singing:

The trusting heart to Jesus clings, nor any ill forbodes,
But at the cross of Calv'ry sings Praise God for lifted loads!

The passing days bring many cares "Fear not" I hear Him say.
And when my fears are turned to prayers, the burdens slip away.

He tells me of my Father's love and never slumb'ring eye.
My everlasting King above will all my needs supply.

When to the throne of grace I flee, I find the promise true:
The mighty hands upholding me will bear my burdens too.

Singing I go along life's road, praising the Lord, praising the Lord.
Singing I go along life's road, for Jesus has lifted my load.

~~Eliza E. Hewitt, 1851-1920~~

God is SO good, and His peace is amazing! I know HE put this song in my heart and made me mindful of its truth.
This is even more precious to me in light of recent circumstances and trials. Some of you know what I'm talking about. I only wish to praise the Lord and give Him all the glory, whatever the outcome.

Thank you for your prayers!

by Tracy Bergsma on Friday, 29 October 2010 at 17:13

Well, for everyone who has been praying for me, and is wondering about today.... everything went well!

I had my biopsy and am now home, but did have excessive bleeding which concerned the doctor and nurse somewhat. It took a while to get the bleeding stopped and I had to have my dressing changed a second time. The doctor said he didn't see any reason for concern, as it appeared to be just a cyst... but he still did the biopsy, taking two samples. The results will be sent to my family physician within 5-7 days and I should hear from him what the results are. But it seems to be a pretty good prognosis.

Thank you all so much for you prayers, cyber hugs, words of encouragement and just being there for me. I really appreciate it all and it has helped me through a very trying time. God bless each of you. I will let you know when I get the official diagnosis from my doctor.

Love, Tracy

Health update!

by Tracy Bergsma on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 09:20
Dear friends,

I have been remiss in keeping you informed about my health situation! Please forgive me.

I have talked with my Doctor last week and the biopsy is negative for cancer.... Praise the Lord! He then referred me to a specialist who could give a second opinion and also decide how to further proceed with these "growths". So I had one cyst aspirated (drained) while in the specialist's office and he is recommending surgery to remove the benign tumour. This should be happening before Christmas, but I do not yet have a date for the surgery. I would appreciate your continued prayers for this, as it is actual surgery under general anesthetic. It will, however, be a day surgery and I will be sent home the same day.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support and encouragement! God is good... ALL the time! :)

Love, Tracy

Update to my update! ;)

by Tracy Bergsma on Thursday, 25 November 2010 at 11:05
The specialist called me yesterday. My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, December 8, 2010. I must arrive at the hospital for 8:00am and then be directed through all the necessary procedures accordingly. I will be sent home later the same day, but will be given general anesthesia for the surgery. I'm sure all will go well. I thank God that it is not cancer, but I must still deal with the inconvenience of the surgery and healing afterward. Thank you for your continued prayers!

Surgery done and life moves on!

by Tracy Bergsma on Sunday, 12 December 2010 at 20:45

Well, hello my faithful readers and encouragers! I am FINALLY writing once again to let you know how things have gone with my health concerns and recovery.

I had my surgery on Wednesday, December 8th, at the Lakeridge Health Centre here in Oshawa. All went well, and I came home in the late afternoon of the same day. I've had a few days of rest (boredom is more like it) and a few doses of Tylenol 3 with codeine. I have not felt much discomfort but a little tenderness. I have not used any medication (not even regular Tylenol) since Friday. Of course, being who I am.... I have pushed myself a little too much too soon and today (Sunday) I am feeling quite tired and uncomfortable.


I praise God that I have no cancer and apparently the lump has been successfully removed. I still wait to have a follow-up with the specialist who performed the surgery and I will know more details then. It was definitely not a picnic... but I have survived and am well! :) Thank God for friends and family who have been praying for me. I am very thankful to Richard (my significant other) for taking the time off work and driving 2-1/2 hours to spend a long, boring day with me at the hospital and making sure that I was fine. It must be love!!!! ;-D (he he he)


So although I'm still healing and recuperating somewhat.... for the most part the whole ordeal is now behind me and life continues to roll! Isn't there an old saying "no rest for the wicked".... well I guess I am very wicked! Hahahaha

I will probably share more personal detail and emotion about the whole thing on my blog in the next couple of days. So any who are interested can follow my blog at http://radicallyfreeyou.blogspot.com/ and I will try to be more regular with my posts there. I do have much to share, just not often much time to think it through and write it down. I will work harder at this.

Again I thank each of you who have faithfully prayed for me, encouraged me, and offered your comfort and wisdom as I have traversed these trying times.


God Bless!
Tracy

So this pretty much sums up my health issue that was referred to in my earlier post.  Now I am married, moved, and adapting to a new life.  But more on that in another post!