Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Memory - Three Tenors

This is one of my favorite videos. I love this song and I love how they do it. Besides, I think their accents are cute.


Monday, September 28, 2009

"Bo's Cafe" blog tour

I was quite surprised when I opened my inbox last week and found an email from Bruce McNicol, one of the authors of “Bo’s Café,” asking if I’d be interested in being part of a blog tour for their book which was starting today. I happily agreed which was definitely an act of faith since at that time, I didn’t even have a copy of the book. It was on order but I didn’t receive it until a few days later. When I did receive it, excitedly and expectantly, I immediately began reading. I’ve since finished the book and enjoyed it very much.

“Bo’s Café” is a fictional account of events in the life of Steven Kerner, a high powered business executive, who is struggling in his marriage and in his career. His life changes when he meets a man named Andy and begins to meet with a group of folks at a restaurant called Bo’s Café. Through a developing friendship with Andy and this group, he finds authentic community and a safe place to be open and vulnerable.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading. To be honest, I found the group that met at the café to be irritating and I don’t think that I would enjoy spending time with such a zany group of characters but I loved the fact that they weren’t perfect. They were a group of very flawed individuals who were willing to openly discuss their flaws.

This is in contrast to our religious world, where we’re always very careful to pretend that we have it all together. We never allow others to see who we really are.

Here’s a quote from the book. Lindsey says, “Sometimes at church it feels like the ones who look all cleaned up are the admired ones. If you dare let someone know something wrong about you, it’s like you’re suddenly a second-class citizen, part of the leper group. You know what I mean? Who would dare let anyone in with those stakes.” (Bo’s Café page 214)

People schooled in religion won’t let us see their hurts and their flaws so, when we struggle, we’re left feeling like we’re failures and that God is disappointed with us. “Bo’s Café” gives me hope that even with all of my imperfections, I can still be a source of encouragement to others and that’s it’s best accomplished by letting them see my imperfections and allowing them to help me struggle through them.

There are times when I struggle because I feel like I’m not doing anything. Fortunately, I’ve gotten past the feeling that I need to run out and do something . . . anything! However, I do sometimes feel down when I think about the classes I’m not teaching and about the groups I’m not speaking to.

This book reinforced an important truth that I know but I can’t always see clearly . . . and that’s the importance of one on one relationships. Speaking in front of a group may give me a temporary high but that’s nothing compared to the joy of walking through the twists and turns of life with someone in the unity of relationship.

“Bo’s Café” is a book that will definitely challenge and affect your thinking regarding community and authentic relationships. I believe it will also answer some questions we’ve all had regarding what a grace filled life looks like.

Bruce, John and Bill, I’ve enjoyed your book but I do have a question. In the book, several times you had Andy tell Steven that he wants to protect him. To be honest, the use of the word “protect” made me uncomfortable. It sounded too much like the religious concept of a “covering.”

My question is: Why did you choose the word “protect” to describe Andy’s relationship with Steven and what did you mean by it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Butterfly

From time to time, I hope to add posts written by guest bloggers. Some of my friends don't have blogs of their own but they've got a word to share that I believe needs to be heard so I want my blog to be a place where they can share what's on their heart.

If you haven't already done so, I suggest that you read the poem I recently posted that was written by Brett. I know it'll encourage you on your journey to healing and freedom.

Today's guest blogger is Sandy, a friend who has written a beautiful post describing how even the simplest of things can be a reminder of God's love and grace. I know you'll enjoy what she has to share.

Butterfly

A dear friend of mine recently gave me a really cool gift. When I opened the gift box I found an opaque white butterfly etched within a glass display, resting on a flower also etched within the display. There was a stand included for the display to rest on. I immediately thought to myself, “Wow, how pretty!” Later, when batteries were installed and the power was turned on I really saw something beautifully displayed.

A variety of colors began illuminating and passing through the butterfly. Green. Red. Blue. Pink. Yellow. There were moments when the colors overlapped causing a mixture of colors to cross over the butterfly. The butterfly didn’t move. It just rested on the flower, secure on the firm stand. To me, this is a beautiful picture of the believer’s true identity in Christ.

Colors pass through my life. Sometimes things change rapidly and/or there are many things happening all at the same time so many colors are moving through my life all at the same time. These “colors” can be seen as emotions, circumstances, people effecting my life, etc.; anything that might hinder my view. With the state our economy is in right now, I think a lot of folks are experiencing a lot of different “colors” in their lives.

I see the stand as the Rock of Ages, the batteries as His Life within me supplying the power, and the flower as the beauty of His grace. When I think of the butterfly resting despite all the different “colors” passing through, it brings comfort to me, and a reminder that who I am and what I have as a child of the living God is what is real, what is true. Emotions, circumstances, people, etc., are but passing entities. I can feel the emotions and then let them go, I can deal with people and circumstances the best I can, but most importantly I hold on the truth that His grace is more than sufficient for me regardless of what life brings, and that I am a butterfly continuing to learn true rest in His amazing Grace!

Sandy

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Surviving Spiritual Abuse

I just added on my sidebar the links to two videos on the topic, "Surviving Spiritual Abuse." The speaker is Dr. Stephen Arterburn, author of "Toxic Faith." Dr. Arterburn answers a series of questions related to what is spiritual abuse and how to be free from its affects.

These are great resources for anyone who has been victimized by spiritual abuse. If this applies to you or someone you know, I suggest checking out these videos. You can also view them by following this link and this link.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heavenly Deception - previous post

A few days ago, I posted a poem written by brettact2. The poem is a description of his journey from spiritual abuse to freedom in Christ. I’m sure many who have been victimized by spiritual abuse can relate to the hurt and the struggles that he describes.

Brett has graciously agreed to make himself available to dialogue with anyone who would like to share their thoughts and their questions. So, if you’ve been touched by the raw honesty of his poem, feel free to add your comments.

Freedom is available to you and I know Brett would love to hear your story and encourage you on your journey to freedom.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Heavenly Deception

The following poem was posted on The Free Believers Network forum. The author who calls himself brettact2 wrote this poem describing his journey out of “a one true church personality cult 30 years ago.”

Because of my experience with spiritual abuse, this poem touched me deeply and I believe anyone who has been victimized will be able to relate to what was said. I asked Brett if I could post it here because it clearly describes the confusion and guilt that we experience as our eyes are opened. I believe understanding our emotions and knowing that it’s okay will help in the healing of those who are still struggling.

May you be encouraged as you read Brett’s words.

Heavenly Deception

There is so much Lord,
That is claimed in Your name,
For which we are ashamed.

Truth whispered from ear to ear;
Prized, hidden, cloaked,
Disguised from the world;
For we are one of the chosen few,
Initiates into the mysteries of time,
And the world laughs at us.

The works of man feel soo good-
Discipline, love, acceptance,
Unity in uniformity,
Common belief,
With no grief, no pain-
We’re anesthetized,
So we believe everyone else is insane
Living in vain,
While we're mindless -
Drugged out, washed out,
Unable to know our feelings & doubts,
Because we know Truth,
We're in the Family,
We're his 'children'
And must express the reality thereof;
Perfectly loyal, without fear, doubt,
Or equivocation.
Just claim emancipation,
As we sink deeper,
And deeper,
Thru mere participation,
Into mindless submission,
Performing the deception,
Ordained of god,
To advance the Work,
Amongst all these clods.
Heavenly Deception -
In the name of Truth.

We sit back,
Having it all pat,
Swallowing Satan's con:
Surface religion.
Tired of his standard brands,
We searched for truth, peace & love.
He offered us suitable facsimiles,
(Empty & hollow,
The only level deception survives at)
Just prior to our reality confrontation;
Plucked out of the rat race,
Placed into Satan's deceptive grace.

But then the moment comes,
The true moment of truth,
When we see
From the simple gut level values of our conscious,
That what the group speaks,
To its members
And the world,
Don't match.
The moment of confrontation -
When we find politics preempts truth.

"God, what do I do?
This group teaches the truth,
The fruits are good,
But God,
This is hypocrisy,
Help me Lord!
I want to believe!
I want to belong!
I want to serve You,
I want to do what is right!
Help me God,
Show me how to reconcile the two,
Maybe this…
Or maybe that…
But it doesn't fit!
It just doesn't fit.

Lord, why aren't you answering me?
Can You?
Maybe they don't reconcile -
But they've got to -
What they preach and write is so true -
I've put so much into this organization -
They can't be hypocrites,
Can they?…
Why not?
Why do they have to be different from other men?
Why can't money, power & fame
Get to them,
Making religion one big game?
God!!
Help me!!!
I don't want to think these thoughts,
I don't want to believe this to be true,
I want to believe in You,
I want to do Your work,
And they're doing it.
God!
Help me!!
I can't figure this out!
Its driving me mad!
Help me!!!

Then more information came pouring in,
Confusing me more,
Friends desperately bombarding me with questions and facts;
The dilemma worsens;
I can't hold on,
But I must,
They are God's chosen,
The true church,
The only way to eternal life.

"I just want peace Lord,
I don't want anything new in my life;
I just want to sit home.
Leave me alone everyone,
I'm busy hanging on to the truth;
Please, don't change anything in my world,
I'm just barely in it now.
Oh Lord, I can't wait till the day I die'
Thoughtless death,
Sweet death,
Please come to me."

But it didn't.
Instead, You sent a message,
You reminded me of our first meeting,
How You convicted me to search for the Truth,
Showed me to judge honestly.


Thank You Lord,
For renewing my faith in You to see me through.
Be with me as I study YOUR Word,
Let me not take sides,
Nor make artificial standards to measure by,
But seek the Truth,
Which shall make me free;
If I am free
I am free totally.

There is so much Lord,
That's destroying people in these cults;
Use me to help them,
To help pluck them out of the fire somehow,
As You have plucked me,
Saved me from deception's misery.
Come Lord Jesus,
To save us all from ourselves.
Come.


Brett

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Living Word

"Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee."

This Old Testament scripture has been used to promote the practice of scripture memorization. That might have been helpful under the Old Covenant since believers didn't have daily access to the scriptures. The only time they got to hear them read is when they went to the synagogue on the sabbath.

Today, however, we live under a new covenant. We no longer need to go to a building in order to hear the word of God read because he now lives in us. Jesus is the Word of God and, when he comes to live in us, he sets us free from sin. As we become more aware of his life in us, our tendency to sin diminishes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Honest Look at Friendships

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships and relationships and I’ve come to believe there’s a difference between the two.

On Facebook, we have a long list of people that we call friends yet we probably never communicate with the vast majority of them. A few days ago, someone posted their status on my home page and I thought, “Who are they???” Then, I realized that person is one of my “friends”. Obviously, it isn’t much of a friendship since I have no idea who she is.

I believe "friend" is a word that’s been cheapened through overuse. We tend to toss that word around casually and call people friends that we hardly ever talk to. I believe the reason for that is because we have a desire to belong and to be accepted. In our introvert promoting society, we tend to look at having many friends as defining our worth. As a result, introverts are made to feel like there’s something wrong with us because we tend to have few friends.

Proverbs 18:24 says “A man of many friends may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Friendships are meant to be deep. Friendship is a heart connection between two people that can’t be broken and the connection goes both ways. I believe a true friendship is mutual with both people working to develop and maintain it.

If only one person is making the effort, the relationship is one-sided and is not a real friendship in my opinion. That’s not to say, however, that we need to end those relationships. I believe one-sided relationships can have great value since they tend to keep us other people focused rather than ME focused. However, we need to understand that there is a difference between a friendship and a one-sided relationship. This is important to know in order to avoid being hurt or hurting others.

The problem with confusing a one sided relationship with a true friendship is that we begin to have expectations of the other person that they cannot or will not fill. Instead of accepting the relationship for what it is, we struggle to make it what we want it to be and we tend to develop a needs based relationship where we want the other person to meet our needs. The result is hurt and anger as we try to manipulate the other person to fit into the box we’ve created for them.

Jesus said that friends lay down their lives for each other and Proverbs says that a friend is close, sometimes closer than family members.

True friendship can only exist with a few people. I believe it’s impossible to have that depth of friendship with a lot of people. Developing friendships require time, thought and effort and, if we try to expand our friendships to include everyone we come in contact with, the results will be superficial relationships and a lot of frustration as we fail to live up to our promises.

Relationships are important and I value those people who have passed through my life, enriched it and then continued passing through. Others, however, have stayed to develop a heart connection and these are the friendships that I treasure.

To read more about friendships, check out this post by David Backus and one of my older post.