Saturday, July 13, 2013

Learning to Listen

I'm back again -- at least for the moment.

I suppose I'm a woman of clarity who only prefers to jot things down when things are clear, mess-free, and I'm sure of where I'm supposed to be going. I guess it's ironic that this blog would be titled "beauty.n.mess."

Since my last posting, so many things have transpired. I earned my masters degree in teaching, joined a Mennonite church, changed teaching jobs at least five times, and settled into a demanding, but satisfying teaching position at a charter school in an urban area.

If there has been any spiritual progression in my life, I imagine it's been the type that is not outwardly evident to those around me. Having come from a spiritual background that values outward appearances, I'm trying to detox and deprogram from this type of thinking and I'm seeking to walk on.

Having been involved with Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) for so long, my husband and I feel inextricably linked to the fate of that ministry riddled by controversy and scandal. I don't need to hyperlink here and there, just google it.

How does an individual learn to think for themselves after having been subject to "group think" for so long? What is the nature of spiritual abuse?

After going through so many negative experiences surrounding organized religion, how does a person learn to trust again?

How can so many leaders I trusted be accused of such blatant, horrible abuses?

How do I continue to love my close friends still a part of SGM while walking away from those things I reject?

What do I believe about the allegations and what do I reject?

Why do I care?

These are questions, along with many more, that I am now exploring. For me, the process is grueling, confusing, jarring, messy, unsettling, and highly personal.

I don't know how much I'll be able to blog about this detox process. I am an introvert by nature and, after hearing many conflicting voices, prefer to listen for that still, small voice even if I can't readily hear it.

Oh Lord, teach me to listen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Red Flags

I pulled these from the Free Believers Network post on January 20th. These are questions all church-attending believers should ask. I wish I had long, long ago. I'm grateful that I now belong to a faith community that embraces freedom in Christ!‎

1. Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks?
2. Do they use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers?
3. Is your spiritual leader intolerant of questions or critical inquiry?
4. Is your spiritual leader the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation?
5. Do they have unreasonable fears about the outside world such as evil conspiracies or persecutions?
6. Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are "evil" or "defiling"?
7. Is leaving your group to join another church equal to leaving God?
8. Does the surrounding community view your church as a cult?
9. Do they consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned?
10. Do the goals of your spiritual leader seem to supersede any personal goals or individual interests?
11. Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion?
12. Do former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances?
If you answered "yes" to three or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to eight or more, your church is more than likely a full-blown authoritarian cult.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No Pedestals

I read this in Matthew 23 today and found it so very helpful ~

Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do . No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them -- Christ.
Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. Matthew 23:8-12 The Message 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Real Christianity (Part 2)


My heart was touched through you and my faith was strengthened. Yes, children have faith and I still believe they are more capable of understanding what Jesus Christ lived and died for than are many adults. Sometimes it is difficult for them to maintain that faith into adulthood when people turn their eyes and hearts away from the face of a child's poverty. Children do not listen to words so much as they listen to faces hands and hearts. To a child, a voice that says, "I care," no matter what the words, and a heart, hands, and eyes that show that caring are more the gospel of the Jesus Christ they know than any words of doctrine.
Perhaps I presume too much. I only know that, as a child, I knew Christ. I knew and understood who He was even before I knew you. I believed then and continue to believe that He sent you and the people working with you to show me that through Him I made a difference, that He loved me and would care for me through those who believed in Him. Perhaps He sends me to you now with this letter to show you that through Him you truly do make a difference in the hearts, minds, and souls of the people you touch. For this one, at the very least, your caring was not in vain.
When I saw the piece about CAP on television last night, a lot of memories came rushing back, memories that might not have been so good were it not for the work you have been doing. It's been close to twenty years now, but I will never forget the man who looked down with caring and love in the face of a child's poverty, any more than I can forget the man who lived and died for us, whose love moved you to touch a child's life, to clothe me and give me food to eat. Your path is a good one and as you know, our paths are no more sacred than the manner of our walking. May you always walk in a sacred manner.
Peace be with you, Father.
Carmen (one of the least of His little ones)
For more info. click here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

SGM "Wikileaks" Timeline

So you don't want to read over 600 pages of documents in order to understand what has been going on with Sovereign Grace Ministries? Can't get a handle on "what the big deal" is all about? Here is an easy-to-read, visual summary in the form of a timeline. View it in timeline, flipbook, list, or map format. I recommend the flipbook format. Read, discern, pray, think for yourself, and form your own conclusions.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Real Christianity (Part 1)

Admittedly, it's been a long season of disillusionment and confusion about what following Jesus should really look like in my life. What is God's will? Is it simply believing the "right" doctrines and following all the "right" methods that other people tell us we should? Is is following a set of prescribed political beliefs and voting the "right" way? Parenting our children a certain way? Schooling our children a certain way?

I've been trying to read with my sons a bit this summer. Though our times can be disjointed and irregular, I'm reading an old book with them entitled God Can Move Mountains by Father Ralph W. Beiting. Father Beiting is the founder of the Christian Appalachian Project and this little book attempts to explain the work of this organization operated in the "hollers" of poverty-stricken, eastern Kentucky. Reading this book has been my meager little attempt to show my boys - and myself - some of the fruits and effects of "real" Christianity.

You can learn more about this organization at:

It's a bit lengthy, but I want to share a letter written by a woman who was cared for by CAP many years ago. As I read this letter, I became keenly aware of the familiar nudge of the Spirit bringing light to my questions about "real" Christianity.

Dear Father Beiting,
I very highly doubt that you remember me, for many years have passed since I saw you last, and I was only one of the many children who came to St. Paul's in McKee, Kentucky. I couldn't have been more than six or seven at the time, but I never forgot you. 
You looked down at me with your kindness and caring when I was a small girl. Somehow in my young mind I knew that though I was one of many poor children in that area, I was not just another child to you. My name was Carmen, Abner then, Scott now. There were five of us children and my mother. My father was almost never around. We tried to scratch a living out of the hillside five mile out of Sand Gap, but I know that there were times we wouldn't have made it if not for the caring and help of the people of St. Paul's. I assume that was all a part of the Christian Appalachian Project then, but as a child I wasn't aware of it.
I remember a lot. I remember a Sister Mary Jo and a car full of food when we had none. I remember a brown crib bed with a teddy bear on the headboard and my mother telling me Sister had brought it for me. She was surprised when I mentioned it years later. She had that bed still, but had thought me too young to have remembered where it came from. Nevertheless, I did remember.
I remember the giving and the people who gave. You people made an impression on me and I believe myself to be a better person for having known you and having experienced the kindness of your works. If you ever get discouraged and wonder if what you are doing really helps the people you're trying to reach, I stand as an example that such caring and help touches more than the bellies and hands of children.
(to be continued) 

Messes Are Not Bad

Here are some provoking thoughts from pastors and counselors David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen in their book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

Churches are messy simply because of the fact that they are relationship systems made up of many different kinds of people. If you start to say things out loud in a system where the "can't-talk" rule has reigned, more of the mess will be evident. And you will get the blame. But the truth never causes the mess, it just exposes it. In fact, messes aren't "bad." They serve a very important purpose.
In 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, Paul says to a very contentious Corinthian church: "For in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions among you."
There must be factions and divisions? What about peace at all costs? What good thing could ever come from divisions in the church? Paul answers: "In order that those who are approved may have become evident among you: (v. 19). Only in the midst of division will you be able to tell who genuinely cares about God and His ways from the heart.
...messes can be good.