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:
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!

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!