Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can you help?

I know some of you are either reading or have read Jim Robbin's book "Recover Your Good Heart." Also, I know some of us have ordered a copy and hopefully will be reading it soon. I've received an email from Jim asking a favor of those who have read his book, enjoyed it and think it would be beneficial for others to read. I'd like to pass his request on to you.

He needs help from people who would be willing to write a short blurb/book review and post it on his bookstore page. (There's a place where folks can write "Reviews" towards the bottom of the page.) This way, he can copy the text and paste it into his promotional materials. If you have your own website or blog, you can include that link at the bottom of your review. He will also include your name and link at the end of any reviews he uses.

I know Jim will greatly appreciate any help you can give him. Anyone who plans to read his book in the future might want to keep this information for future reference in case you later decide to write a review.

Hey, Tracy! This is right up your alley. I know you've ordered his book and I love reading your book reviews.

BTW, Jim has posted a really neat book mini-video on his blog which I think you would enjoy. I've posted the link on my sidebar.

Also, if any of you have read Darin Hufford's book "The God's Honest Truth" and enjoyed it, I know Darin would appreciate it if you wrote a review and posted it on Amazon. com. I've been wanting to do one for a while but haven't had a chance so I think I'm going to try to post one soon. To post a review, follow this link.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Where is the still small voice?

I found an excellent blog written by Jim Robbins over at his site, Robbins Writings. Although the focus is on the Christmas season, I believe what he shares is true regarding the frantic lifestyle promoted by the religious system throughout the year. He appropriately calls it "frenzy without fruit." He opens with the following quote taken from the book "The Root of the Righteous" by A. W. Tozer.

" 'The accent in the church today,' says Leonard Ravenhill, the English evangelist, 'is not on devotion, but on commotion.' Externalism has taken over. God now speaks by the wind and the earthquake only; the still small voice can be heard no more. The whole religious machine has become a noisemaker."

I think you'll enjoy what Jim has to say. To read the entire blog, follow this link.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Living in the Seasons

"Fruit has everything to do with seasons and you have to endure the season for fruit to come out." Darin Hufford

When I heard those words, I immediately started thinking about the four different seasons of the year - summer, fall, winter and spring. Right now, in South Carolina, we're experiencing summer. Summer in the Southeast means HOT with thunderstorms and possible hurricanes and tornadoes. Droughts are a part of this season and insects are everywhere.

Next, comes fall. Fall in the Southeast is a wonderful time of year as the days get cooler. The leaves start to change color, die and fall off the trees. I love the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet as I walk in my yard. How beautiful the yard looks covered by a blanket of different colored leaves.

Next, comes winter. Winter is a time of cold temperatures. Even though we don't normally have snow in the Southeast, we tend to stay indoors rather than face the cold. Trees look barren and all we see are naked branches that have been stripped of their leaves. It's a quiet time as most backyard birds and animals stay hidden seeking warmth and only come out occasionally in order to eat.

Spring is a busy time as everything seems to wake up. Trees take on a new beauty as leaves begin to sprout on what was once naked branches. Color is everywhere as flowers start to bloom and grow. Animals that were hidden during winter now are everywhere moving about. The song of birds can be heard throughout the day.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says " To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." The seasons are necessary. The barrenness of winter is necessary to prepare the earth for the activity of spring. The harshness of summer is needed in order to produce fruit. Fall is really a transition time that moves us gently from the harshness of summer to the rest of winter.

As each season is necessary for life to flourish so it is in our lives as believers. We love the spring in our lives when it seems like Father is doing great things and we're actively involved in ministry. However, we despise the winters of rest when it seems like nothing is happening and we're plagued with feelings of loneliness and wondering if God has forgotten us or, worse still, if we've offended him in some way and he's turned his back on us in anger.

As believers, we'll go through a varying cycle of seasons. Some pleasant and exciting and others very painful. For the most part, however, we have no control over what season we're in. We can't change the season. All we can do is stay on the path until the season is over.

We have a tendency, however, to try to run from the season when it gets hard. When feelings of loneliness overwhelm us, we call everyone we know and try to find ways to keep busy rather than face the loneliness. The reality is that when we run from the season, we don't really stop it. We may cover up the emotions but somewhere down the road, we'll go through that season again. When we refuse to allow Jesus to lead us through the season, we never learn the lessons from that season.

However, when we've endured the season and it's finished, we need to take the lessons from that season into the next season. For example, as I've shared before, I spent three and a half years in an abusive church. It was a very painful time in my life and, even after I left, the pain remained for some time. I believe one of the keys to my healing was the fact that I accepted that season in my life with all of its pain. It was not something I consciously set out to do but, as I followed Jesus, he led me on a path through the pain and I took the lessons learned during that season into the next season.

We all want to see godly fruit produced in our lives yet, in order to produce the type of fruit that is eternal, we have to endure the season. Seasons of loneliness and lack will come to prepare us for the exciting seasons of much fruit and activity. Jesus described these seasons of fruitfulness in John 15:4-5 when he said, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Great website

In a comment on another blog, AmyC said she was reading a book entitled Recover Your Good Heart. For many years in religion, I heard that believers have a sinful heart that can't be trusted. Somehow, that never seemed right so when I read books like Waking the Dead and The God's Honest Truth, I was thrilled to find out the truth.

At the new birth, we were given a new heart and a new spirit. This new heart is good because God lives in our heart. We're now new creations; all things have become new. Our hearts are new and they are now trustworthy so we can look into our hearts and allow them to guide us. The problem is that our minds are so clouded over with religious tradition that we can't always recognize the voice of our heart.

However, as we grow and become established in grace, we'll be able to tell the difference between the voice of tradition and the voice of our heart. As we learn and grow, we'll be able to recognize and follow our hearts more consistently. That's why I believe it's critical that we soak ourselves in this message of grace. We need to hear this message so that the voice of grace is louder than the lies we've been told while in religion.

This is an area where I want to grow and to learn more so this morning I went online to see if I could find more information about this book. I found the author's website, Robbins Writings, and had a chance to look it over. I was really excited by what Jim Robbins had to say so I ordered his book.

I highly recommend his website and I hope you'll check it out. I know you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Day At A Time

Let me introduce you to Melanie, another friend who has just started her own blog. I've only read her first posting but what an amazing story she shares about life on the treadmill of religious performance.

Even though I haven't had a chance to read her other posts, I have read some of her original writings and have been greatly impressed by her abilities as an author. Her writings come from a heart that has been transformed by God. I think you'll enjoy what she has to say as she shares with us the lessons she's learning on this journey to know Father more intimately

Can you teach too much grace?

Lydia Joy has posted a phenomenal blog answering this question. If you try to speak about grace to other believers, it won't be long before you'll hear them say that teaching too much grace will give people a license to sin. This post which is really a message delivered by Ryan Rufus will reveal the errors regarding that statement and will prove that grace is actually Father's method to free us from sin.

Some excerpts to whet your appetite are:

"What teaches us to say no to sin? Is it the law? No. Is it restraint? No, it's the grace of God that teaches us to say no to sin."

"The grace of God teaches us to live near to God every moment of every day, and to have boldness to come into His presence every day and to come face to face with God. People that live near to God, don't find it so easy to give in to sin. The closer you are to God the less you want to sin."

"People under grace grow in their love for Jesus."

I suggest that you go right over and check this blog post out. I believe you'll be glad that you did.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The motives of the heart

I recently listened to Love Rejoices in the Truth, part of Darin Hufford's first Love Series. This series is the teaching that is the basis for his book The God's Honest Truth.

In it, Darin tells the story of a young man who was part of the church he pastored at one time. This young man had drifted away and gotten involved in sin. When Darin spoke to the young man’s father, the man assured him that this was a temporary glitch in his son’s life and that his son would return so he wasn’t worried. Darin explained that this father could speak this way because he knew his son’s heart and knew that really wasn’t who he was. Instead of focusing on behavior he was was looking at his son's heart and he saw only good there. That story perfectly describes what Father has been teaching me.

Recently, I had a discussion with someone about a friend of mine. This particular person was making judgments about my friend’s motivation. Knowing this friend’s heart, I knew that what was said was not true so I shared from my perspective as a friend. Thinking about it later, I realized how important it is to know someone’s heart. It’s easy to make judgements regarding a person’s motivations based on their behavior but unless we know the persons heart, we’ll probably be wrong. Things aren’t always the way they seem and we can assume wrong motivations when the motives are pure and good.

This can also work in the opposite direction when we assume good motives when the heart is filled with evil intent. As I thought about this, I thought of the time I spent in an abusive church. I remember talking to the pastor and seeing how warm his eyes were as they filled with love and concern for me and how gentle was his voice. That lasted until the day that I sent him an email questioning something that had been done in the church under his authority. Then, I saw a drastic change in his behavior. He called me to discuss the email and instead of a gentle voice, I felt like I had heard the hissing of a snake. It became clearer and clearer to me that the warm eyes and gentle voice masked a heart that was filled with wrong motivations.

I believe this explains, at least in part, our skewed perception of God. We look at the God of the OT and see a God who seems to delight in evil and yet part of the 1st Corinthians scripture that Darin uses as the basis of the love series says that love doesn’t delight in evil. So, if God is love, then his motivation can’t just be to whack people when we get him mad at us. Somehow, his motivation has to be tied in with love.

I haven’t figured it all out yet and maybe I never will but I’m seeing more and more the importance of knowing Father’s heart because until we do we'll continue to see him as a big angry God who's always looking for a reason to whack us. Yet, the truth is that things aren’t always what they seem and what may look like anger is really his love being displayed in order to bring healing and correction.

I want to know the truth. I want to know my Father's heart. I want to be so convinced that he loves me that no matter what I see, I'll not misjudge his character. I want to know that what may appear to be judgement is actually the actions of a loving Father bringing correction to a daughter that he loves.

Discerning religious addiction

I've taken a break from posting about spiritual abuse but, I imagine, I'll be returning to that topic from time to time as I have something to share. I've been amazed to see how widespread this cancer is and the number of people who have been and are currently being victimized by it. I've also been re-reading "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen and, on page 190-191, have come across a list that is helpful in discerning religious addiction.

Regarding religious addiction, the authors state, "Working to earn the approval of God and others is spiritual mood-altering. The state of being dependent on a spiritually mood-altering system is called religious addiction."

Explaining the use of the list, the authors stated, "In their book, Toxic Faith, Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton offer the following test as a tool in order to discern religious addiction. How would you answer their questions?

1. Has your family complained that you are always going to a church meeting, rather than spending time with them?

2. Do you feel extreme guilt for being out of church just one Sunday?

3. Do you sense that God is looking at what you do, and if you don't do enough He might turn on you or not bless you?

4. Are you giving money because you believe God will make you wealthy if you do?

5. Have you ever been involved with a minister sexually?

6. Is it hard for you to make decisions without consulting your minister? even small ones?

7. Do you ever have thoughts of God wanting you to destroy yourself or others in order to go and live with Him?

8. Do you believe you are still being punished for something you did as a child?

9. Do you feel if you work a little harder, God will finally forgive you?

10. Has anyone ever told you a minister was manipulating your thoughts and feelings?"

Spiritual abuse is subtle at first and may barely be noticed but it will increase over time. At that point, it will be noticeable to others. Family and friends are valuable because they become aware of unhealthy indicators which the victim doesn't see. Healing is possible but for that to occur the victim must first realize they are being spiritually abused. This list is a good tool to use in working through that process.

Again, I remind you if you believe you have been or are currently being victimized by spiritual abuse or know someone who has, I've listed various resources in my sidebar. Please check those out. To read my previous posts on spiritual abuse, follow these links:

Spiritual Abuse
How to recognize spiritual abuse: part 1
Spiritual Abuse video
When you can't leave (Spiritual abuse: part 2)
A Safe Place to Heal

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Christian The Lion - in the wild

For you animal lovers, this video is a bit of a tear jerker that you will love. It was posted in a forum discussion about what it means to live in the wild and then a friend, an animal lover, sent it to me.

When we think of "wild", we often think of savage or vicious, out of control. A much better definition is occurring, growing or living in a natural state. It's being who or what we were created to be. For a Free Believer, it also means being free to love without any limitations.

As Free Believers, we've made the decision to follow Jesus out into the wild. Instead of following a bunch of man made rules, we've decided to be led by the Spirit. Others may not understand but once we've tasted that freedom, it's imperative that we not allow ourselves to be caged again.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." - John 3:8

Christian The Lion

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Got a Name - Jim Croce

For some reason, this song was going through my head today. I wasn't sure if it was a Joel thing but I decided to check it out on YouTube. (If you don't know what I mean by a Joel thing, follow this link.) Anyway back to the song. I knew it was by Jim Croce but I didn't even know the name of the song until I found it and listened to it.

What an amazing song! The lyrics spoke perfectly to me about this journey I'm on to know my Father's heart. I'm not going to post all of the lyrics because I believe he sings clearly enough to understand him but the part at the end after the interlude really stood out. I believe those words wonderfully catch and describe the essence of what it means to be a Free Believer so I'm going to post them here.

And I'm gonna go there free . . .

Like a fool I am and I'll always be
I've got a dream; I've got a dream
They can change their mind but they can't change me
I've got a dream; I've got a dream

Oh, I know I can share it if you want me to
If you're goin' my way, I'll go with you

Movin' me down the highway
Movin' me down the highway
Movin' helps so life won't pass me by

Movin' me down the highway
Movin' me down the highway
Movin' helps so life won't . . . pass me by

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Lord's Supper

Amy Chiaramonte has posted an excellent blog about the Lord's Supper. I believe what she has shared will help to correct the false teachings and traditions that have sprung up around this simple meal of fellowship.

She starts off by saying, "Lately, I've been blessed to have participated in several BBQ/Pool Parties with friends this Summer. These gatherings, with my closest friends, I've left with a smile in my heart. I've been thinking about these get-togethers, and have realized that our sharing of hamburgers, chips, soda and even a couple brewskies are closer to what Jesus meant as sharing the Lord's Supper than what Institutional Churches do with a tiny wafer cracker and a miniature cup of grape juice."

To read her entire blog, follow this link.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Being who we are

Recently, I was re-reading parts of Jim Palmer's book "Wide Open Spaces" and on page 55, I found this little gem.

"I also observed that all elements of nature fulfill their rightful place by simply being what they are. Trees don't aspire to be fish. They don't even aspire to be better trees. God was saying to me I could experience my rightful place in creation by simply being who he made me to be. This is another one of the most significant discoveries I've come to concerning life in God: life is not about becoming something I'm currently not, but instead being at every moment who I already fully am."

It really is simple yet religion has so infected this new life in Christ that what was meant to be so simple that even a child could do it now has become complex and extremely difficult to live up to.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Perfect People Here

I've heard Darin Hufford say many times that he had come to accept his humanness; he had come to accept that he was going to make mistakes. When I heard him say that, I knew I had just been given a major key to freedom.

I tend to be a perfectionist. I like things done right and, of course, that means being done my way. When things don't go as I had hoped, I can often feel my stress level rising. Unfortunately, as we journey through this life, we'll experience many disappointments. Sometimes, the biggest disappointment is in ourselves.

As I've grown older and looked in the mirror, I see a different person than I saw a number of years ago. I have to face the reality that I'll never see some of my dreams come to pass. It might just be the way things are or it might be due to poor decisions I've made in the past. It's a big disappointment to see dreams go unfulfilled but, when it's due to poor decisions on my part, the hurt and disappointment are greater as I'm face with the "what if's". Accepting that I'm far from perfect and that I've made and will continue to make mistakes, sometimes really dumb ones, has been difficult since I like to put up a good front to the world.

Rejection is an emotion that I struggle with and, of course in this world, there are many opportunities to experience rejection. Learning to live free of others' expectations is difficult. While it may seem like an "other focused" trait, in actuality, it's very "self-focused" as I worry about what others are thinking about me. It's all about me . . . me . . . me.

Accepting my humanness has been a major turning point for me. Admitting that I'm human and prone to make mistakes is setting me free from a performance based cycle that is impossible to maintain. No matter how careful I am, I'll still make mistakes. It's a given.

Yet, I'm learning to accept that and, at times, I can even laugh about the silly mistakes I make and then just go on without having to wade through a lot of guilt. If the mistake seems to be major, I'm learning to trust that Father will walk with me through the consequences. I can then choose to not let guilt and condemnation rob me of my peace.

We have a tendency to put high expectations on ourselves and to allow others to also do it. I believe that until we can allow ourselves freedom to make mistakes, we won't grow properly. Part of the growth process involves being willing to step out and explore new territories. Doing this, however, means that we'll often be faced with the unexpected. We won't always know what surprise is lurking around the corner. These unexpected situations may require quick decisions which could result in any number of mistakes . . . some with possibly serious consequences.

My tendency has been to hold back hesitant about moving into new territory, afraid that I might make a mistake and maybe look foolish. For most of my life, fear has been a major part of it. However, as I've journeyed forward into life as a free believer, I've noticed a major change taking place in me. No longer do I want to sit on the sidelines doing only what's safe.

I want to follow Jesus into the new adventure he has planned for each day. More than likely, at some point, it'll be a roller coaster ride with some twists and turns but I'm learning that he's holding on to me so despite my feelings of insecurity, I'm safe. I may make mistakes. Actually, there's no maybe; it's a definite. I will make mistakes but I know that Father will be right there enabling me to walk through the consequences and, in the process, my relationship with him will deepen. As a result, I'll experience a strengthening in our relationship that will hold me steady during the next storm.

Below are some links to related posts that you might find helpful.

Authentic Spirituality
Permission to be human
Following Jesus
Leaving a Place of Safety and Risking Failure

While writing the post, this song came to mind so I thought I'd add it here.

Part 2 has been posted

Part 2 of Darin's blog has been posted on his website. If you haven't read part 1, you need to read that first. Part 2 is more of a teaching blog but, as usual, Darin exposes another religious tradition that has robbed the church of its life. As I explained in my post regarding part 1, this is an absolutely phenomenal blog. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hold onto your seats

Darin Hufford has just posted part 1 of a blog that is absolutely phenomenal. In his introduction, he said "This is a little different from anything I've done in the past. There is a part 2 to this that I'll be posting soon. Brace yourselves! . . ." That's good advice because it'll keep you on the edge of your seat.

Whether you're familiar with Darin's teachings or have never heard of him, I believe you'll find this post to be an incredibly creative piece of writing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Loving animals

Amy has recently posted an inspiring blog about her dog Bear who suddenly died. Amy, as always, shares her heart in a beautiful way. I know she wouldn't mind me revealing that she is the friend I spoke about in one of my previous blogs who described the reaction of people in her home group as "they looked at her as if she had lobsters crawling out of her ears."

If you haven't has a chance to check out her blog, I recommend going there and seeing what she has to say. I know you'll be encouraged.

Also, I have a link on my sidebar to The Animal Rescue Site. This is a website devoted to informing the public about the needs of abandoned and neglected animals. I firmly believe that Father has made us stewards of the earth which means caring for the animals with which we share this world. Unfortunately, sin has so marred us that we've often neglected our responsibility to his creation and, at times, we've even abused it. As a result, animals have suffered needlessly.

The Animal Rescue Site is an organization that is committed to caring for the needs of these neglected and abused animals. If you're interested, check it out. Also, take a few minutes each day to click on the purple box. If you do, the clicks will be counted and sponsors have agreed to provide funding in exchange for advertising space based on the number tallied. I believe this is a small way that we can give back to our environment as well as steward the earth that Father has given into our hands.

Dallas area resource for the spiritually abused

Wendy Duncan posted a comment on my blog entitled "My sidebar" and shared that there is support group that meets monthly in the Dallas area for victims of spiritual abuse. If you are interested or know of anyone who is, check out her website.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Everything I Do, I Do It For You - Bryan Adams

I've heard it proclaimed from various pulpits, "It's not about you!" That sounds so very humble but it's always bothered me. It was about us. Jesus didn't need to die for himself. He did it for us. That's the gospel. He loved us so much that he died so that the separation between God and man could be removed. Everything he did, he did for us.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Safe Place to Heal

A friend of mine wrote an excellent blog post about the need for a safe haven in every part of the church. When I read what she wrote, some thoughts came to mind that I'd like to share here.

We all know people who are struggling and hurting. They may have been victimized by someone else as in the case of spiritual abuse or their struggles may have been caused by their own poor decisions. Whatever the cause, they may need a safe place where they can heal.

The track record of the institution has not always been good. One of my friends has told me how she shared her struggles in a home group and, as she put it, they looked at her as if lobsters were crawling out of her ears. After experiences like that, we learn pretty quick that it's best not to share too openly so instead, we share the safe "sins" like, "I don't read my Bible enough" or we might even get bold and share that we got angry when we had to wait too long at a traffic light.

The issues that are hurting us and causing us to lose sleep are never brought up for discussion. Instead, they are continually pushed down where given the right set of circumstances, they can erupt spewing hurt and leaving devastation all around us. I believe that institutions are really not the best place for individuals to experience healing. I believe healing is best accomplished in a relationship where the hurting person is befriended and can experience the comfort of travelling with someone who will support and encourage them in their journey to wholeness.

The hurting need a shelter where they can feel loved and sheltered while being healed. I know there are many of us who want to be a safe place for the hurting so it's important that we understand what are the characteristics of a safe haven.

I believe a listening heart is one of the most important characteristics. While it's good to provide a listening ear, I think it's critical that we develop listening hearts. When we listen with our hearts, we hear the words that are not even spoken; we hear the cry that is not even uttered. Some who are hurting will try to hide their hurt and emotions from the world. When we listen with our hearts, however, we look beyond the smile and see the hurting heart.

Others may act out of anger or bitterness. During the time of my healing, I expressed uncharacteristic anger. I'm normally not an angry person but that emotion came out strong. Emotions that had been repressed began to come out and, when they did, they came out in a flood.

In the natural, before a wound can heal, the infection has to come out. The discharge may be unpleasant to see and unpleasant to deal with but, unless it comes out, the wound will not properly heal. Wounds of the heart are similar to physical wounds. Anger and bitterness may be discharged and we have to allow the wounded to freely express their hurt. It may be unpleasant but this is a vital step in their healing.

Healing is a process and it's never a short, quick process. In the case of a physical wound, it may look terrible and yet the healing process has already begun below the skin surface where it can't be seen. The same is true with a wounded heart. Things may look messy and nasty for a while but that's part of the healing process and shouldn't be rushed. The ugliness that we're seeing is not the real person. It's the infection that has built up around the wounded heart. During this time, the heart must be gently massaged with the love of God since this is the only medicine that will heal it.

I believe as we become more firmly established in Father's love that he will bring more of his hurting children to us. That's why I started blogging and that's why I added an email address to my profile. I want to be available to encourage and, if necessary, walk with someone as they journey toward wholeness.

My desire is to share the life and freedom that Father has given me so that others can be set free. I'm excited to see all of the other blogs and websites that are proclaiming this message of freedom in Christ. My hope is that they would multiply. The hurting and wounded need to hear that Father's love is not based on what they do but it's based solely on what he has already done.