Esquire Theme by Matthew Buchanan
Social icons by Tim van Damme

09

Jan

Update on “Reflecting on Reconciliation”

A while back, I wrote about my regrets about my part in a rather (now) humorous drama that was leaving/getting booted from a prophetic ministry. I wanted to give a slight update of sorts, as since that time I have had the blessing of re-building friendships that had been lost during that season with a few others who have now left the ministry. There are still a notable few that I still have no contact with (who may or may not be on the ministry team anymore, but this does give me hope that reconciliation is possible. It may not happen now, or the near future, or ever…but it is possible!).

In regards to the head of the ministry, I still couldn’t care less about burning that bridge. I am convinced more than ever that he is more a danger to people than anything. He certainly has done quite a bit of harm in the last few months. Furthermore, he is convinced I am an apostate, beyond any help, and he sees no wrong-doing in his actions. God bless him. But I am not angry with him…really, I think he has completely deceived himself into believing his false gospel. So, he is just a much of a victim of his wrongdoing, in a way.

In my previous post I had said I still felt pain when thinking about a particular right-hand man to the head of the ministry, who had said to my husband and many others that I was demon-possessed or demon-oppressed. I had known this particular person for many years…. infact, he had once been my youth pastor, so I guess I had this idea he knew me better than that. And I still hold that, while I was angry and hurt in the aftermath, I was not crazy, or demon-anything. Anyway, I no longer feel hurt when thinking about this individual, which I think is a good sign. In fact, if anything, I can now remember the good memories of my time at the ministry a little easier. I suspect this person still thinks I have major issues, and while I am sad that may hinder any reconciliation between he and his wife, it doesn’t make me angry or hurt. Also, I have been enjoying listening to some of his messages online. I think now we may disagree on a very few (and nothing major!) theological topics, but overall, I can say without a doubt that he preaches the full gospel. I think he has a very bright future ahead of him, and I often pray for him, his family, and his ministry.

Anyway, I just wanted to follow up to say, yes, reconciliation is possible. Healing is too.

30

Apr

Reflecting on Reconciliation

If you aren’t just stumbling on my blog for the first time today, you’ve probably read some of my posts regarding The Ministry: the issues there, the awful way my family was released, my own angry response, as well as a few funny stories. It’s been a couple years now since we left. Actually, it’s almost been two years to the day!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to work through my anger and pain from that whole mess. I have searched myself, and I truly feel I have forgiven everyone whose actions (or lack thereof) hurt me. Well, almost; if I am completely honest, I think I might still be working on completely forgiving one particular person, who told many people (including my husband, who knew better) that I was demon-possessed, or at the very least, demon-oppressed (I might need to  do a series on how to speak “prophetic” or “Pentecostal”, as the language is similar). Sigh. I certainly was not in my best shape when we got the boot from the ministry, but demon-possessed or demon-oppressed I most certainly was not. I have spoken the forgiveness out loud, prayed to God, and released it again and again in regards to this particular person. But, when I think about him, I still feel a twinge of pain. Maybe the forgiveness is complete, but the healing is not. The head of the ministry also said some similarly awful things about me, including in reference to a situation for which he originally praised me, but perhaps because I had come to expect that from him, it didn’t affect me nearly as much.

I have been wondering recently what reconciliation would look like in this situation, especially since I really burned all my bridges there. And to be sure, some of them I think should have been burned. See, while I have forgiven them, I do still think the leadership of the ministry is doing more harm than good, not just to the public who attends the meetings, but even more so to the members of the ministry team. I just don’t think I am required, nor is it desired by God, to be reconciled to those who are still actively hurting people. Forgive? Yes, absolutely. Restore relationship with them? No, probably not.

Now, to be sure, I think that they sincerely believe they are helping people, and they are not actively trying to harm people. However, significant issues in the leadership structure are thwarting the good they could be doing. Or at the very least, the harm they are doing outweighs any of the good. Others before me have tried to point out these very issues, only to end up in the same boat that I now find myself. Even so, I wish I had gone out in a blaze of glory, pointing out the issues, even in the face of their complete denial. I think things would have been even messier and more difficult at the time. But I still should have done it. 

In the aftermath and weeks immediately following our leaving the ministry, I have to admit, I reacted poorly out of my pain and anger. I did things and said things that I wish I had not. In my remorse, I did text the head of the ministry to truly apologize for what I had done wrong and offered to come in and meet in person if he felt it was necessary. He never responded. (And, as a note, I never received an apology from him, although I suspect he still thinks he did nothing wrong throughout that whole affair.) Regardless, his lack of response to my text seems to be a clear message that he desires no further reconciliation. Granted, that was two years ago. But given that, and the question of whether reconciliation is possible or desirable at this point, I don’t know that I can or should make any further attempts at contact. 

More than anything else, I regret cutting off contact with the other team members, especially those I had counted as particular friends. For a variety of reasons, I unfriended all of them on Facebook and never called them. Partly it was because I “knew” they would all drop me as a friend (it was sort of an unwritten rule that team members were not good friends, if friends at all, with people who left the team on bad terms or with those who had issues with the ministry’s leadership). I also found out some of them said some untrue things about me to the head of the ministry, which was particularly painful and confusing. More than any of that however, was the sheer fact that I didn’t want them funneling information about my current activities, whereabouts, or anything about my life to the man who claimed to be my spiritual father and then so easily abandoned me. 

Granted, theses friends of mine never sought me out either— via phone call, email, or trying to stop by my house to talk to me. But, I can’t blame them, as I first initiated it by the big social media write-off. 

I have thought about contacting them, to apologize and try to re-initiate some sort of friendship. Actually, I haven’t just thought about it; I’ve prayed about it considerably. I am still not sure that I should— at least not yet. I just don’t know how it would be received. Not that the possibility of being rejected is what is keeping me from contacting them (because really, I totally deserve that, given that I essentially did that to them)…but I don’t want to cause more pain, if it is unnecessary. Is contacting them the right thing and in their interests, or would I just be doing it to make myself feel better? Given the very high risk of rejection I perceive in this situation, I don’t think I want to do this out of a desire to make myself feel better. Frankly, it makes me uneasy. But I do suspect any contact at this point in time would just cause them more pain and not be received in a fashion to allow for healing on any side. 

I just don’t know. Maybe it just needs more time.

But— Rebecca, Heather, Alison, and Lori, if you somehow stumbled upon my blog via my Provoketive author page (because I know some members of the ministry have been reading my Provoketive magazine posts), let me publicly say I am so very sorry. I think about all of you frequently and pray for you often.

21

Feb

Spiritual Abuse and Losing Yourself

I am an introvert. As I am a woman of extremes, it should come to no surprise that carries into my personality traits. I am about as introverted as one can be, which is hilarious when set against my husband, the world’s most extroverted man.

While silent outwardly, inwardly I am like a three-ring circus. I am telling you, it is cray-cray in there. A lot of it is my creative forces flowing through me, stories being imagined and developed, worlds born and destroyed by a single thought.

Just as often it is quiet, contemplative, self-aware thought. I live in my head, so trust me, I know what goes on in there. I may not be exceptionally good at talking about how I feel, but I am fantastic at discerning my own emotions and motives. Well. Or I was.

Being at the ministry changed me. And not in good ways. The last few years I was a shell of a person, and that person was not one that I particularly liked. I was very unhappy. Probably the unhappiest I have ever been, and that is saying a lot, given the severe depression I battled in junior high and high school. I was suicidal many times during that season of depression in my youth, and even so, it was not as awful as my last couple years at the ministry. I think I took on the more acceptable form of suicidal thinking for Christians: I secretly hoped I’d get deathly ill or, on a really bad day, I day-dreamed about getting struck by a car or dying in some random accident.

To try to deal with all this pain in an organization that told me to deny my emotions, I learned to lie to myself. I became adept at turning a blind eye to the doubts and pain that constantly crept into my inner thoughts. I shushed them, I pretended they weren’t there, or I pretended they were something else.

It became difficult to make decisions, because eventually I was unable to discern my own opinions. I think this made leaving the ministry that much more difficult, and it is perhaps a miracle that I even did.

After we finally escaped, it had gotten to the point that my own feelings were alien to me. When I felt “off”, I couldn’t tell: was I sad? Was I angry? Frustrated? Anxious? I honestly couldn’t tell.

I think, perhaps because I am an introvert and so inwardly focused, this was the worst effect from the spiritual abuse I incurred at the ministry. It was like I had lost myself. I lived inwardly, but no longer recognized anything in there. My mind and emotions were a foreign land.

It has gotten better. In the beginning, I would feel something, and although I could not recognize the emotion, I would allow myself to feel it without denying it was there or stuffing it down further into the abyss. I would sit in it, not to wallow in negative emotions, but simply to know it was okay to feel. Even if it was uncomfortable.

Since then, I have gotten to know myself again. It isn’t perfect— last week was a tumble of emotions that I could not figure out. I still have no idea if I was sad, anxious, or disappointed. And, if it was any of those, I have no idea what the cause was. But, for the most part, I no longer feel like a stranger trespassing in my own body.

24

Jan

I Think You’re Crazy or, alternatively, More Uses for a BA in Psych

There was a point when multiple members of the team all gravitated to the same theme song for the ministry: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. If you aren’t singing along with me right now, google the lyrics and check them out. When multiple people on a ministry team independently pinpoint that song as the defining lyrics for the team, you know you’ve got problems. Deep down inside, most of us seemed to recognize that you had to be a little bit insane to continue on with a group like this. And, by golly, the people who came to the meetings for ministry were all sorts of crazy.

I’ve heard that prophetic ministries in general tend to draw the weird and flaky. I’ve never been to another prophetic ministry except for this one, so I don’t have personal experience to back that claim up. I can, however, verify that if you look up “prophetic ministries” on the internet, you will find all sorts of crazy, flaky, whacked out weirdness. Harry* was well aware of this, and tried to spin us as the non-weird, non-flaky prophetic ministry that doesn’t act all weird and overly spiritual (although, he frequently did act all weird and overly spiritual).

Like is drawn to like, in most cases, so if a ministry is drawing only flaky people, one might surmise that the ministry is flaky too. And by “one” I mean “me.” Now granted, ministries should be there to help and minister to people, hence the name ministry. As such, a ministry might draw the broken and hurt to it, not because the ministry itself is broken and hurt, but because it heals the broken and binds up the wounded. Similarly, a ministry that draws the mentally ill may be there to heal them of their mental illness. This, however, was not the case at Harry’s ministry.

Most of the team and leadership spent their time avoiding what were dubbed “the crazies”. Ushers were directed to keep them to the back of the room and away from the cameras. Harry had armor bearers, which were really glorified bible carriers and body guards, to keep the crazies away. We even jokingly came up with a color coded sticker system that we could use to “mark” the crazies as they came in the door.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Harry felt called to the leaders. That is, the important people: rich businessmen, mega-church pastors, politicians, and the like. He’d minister to the others, but he saw his main calling as something bigger and he didn’t want to waste his time on the crazies, because according to him that wasn’t his calling. Except Harry’s ministry doesn’t seem to draw a lot of rich businessmen, mega-church pastors, and important politicians. It does some. He’s ministered to a millionaire or billionaire or two (who make promises of some day donating lots of money), senators, and some larger church pastors and ministers.

The majority of the people that come through the doors at Harry’s public ministry meetings every week are broken and needy people, the lower or middle class, a high percentage of whom are neurotic, flaky and/or weird, and some who definitely are in need of some serious therapy or medication. When one member of the leadership team said to Harry, “We need less crazy and more normal people with money”,  Harry clearly agreed. I have been to other ministries and churches, and believe me, this ministry draws a significantly higher percentage of the crazies than most other places, with the possibly exception one other sort of prophetic ministry nearby. Basically, the crazies seemed to shuffle themselves between  Harry’s ministry and that other one. I sincerely hope they were receiving some actual ministry and healing at the other place, but if they kept bouncing back over to us, I suspect that they were not.

I listed some of my of my favorites from the “crazy file” before. Here are a couple more:

We had one fellow who apparently felt he with very lithe and graceful, and would “dance in the spirit” during worship, doing full jumps and kicks. He nearly round house kicked Harry’s wife one night. Now, I have no problem with people dancing in worship. But this was a bit like the those auditions on American Idol where the person comes in convinced they are the best thing the judges will ever see, and they end up being tone deaf.

We had another woman who was sure that she had a photo that captured the image of an actual angel in the background. Let me say I am open to the possibility that people may see actual angels. Angels certainly appeared to people frequently in the Bible. Do I think angels show up hiding photos like some episode of Ghost Hunter? Ehh…. Probably not. I personally saw this photo, and I still have no idea how she got an angel out of that. 

An Epiphany

At one point I found myself sitting in a meeting, wondering why only crazy people came to our meetings. Then I wondered, if only crazy people come to our meetings, does this mean that I too am crazy?  Have you ever gone to a 24-hour grocery store at 3 am and wondered to yourself what kind of weirdos shop this late at night, only to realize that you yourself were one of those weirdos shopping at 3 am in the morning? Yeah, me neither….

*The head of the ministry and my former boss.  Names have been changed.

20

Jan

Millionaire Matchmaker & Bathroom Power Plays

My former boss, the prophet, felt that his calling was to leaders in ministry, government, and the marketplace. As such, he occasionally “ministered” (I have my own thoughts on what ACTUALLY went down in those ministry meetings, but I’ll save that for another post) to wealthy individuals. And by wealthy, I mean wealthy: multimillionaires. 

Each time, it played out the same way: Wealthy Man would somehow meet my boss. Wealthy Man would then get a “word from the Lord” from my boss; if the word panned out, Wealthy Man usually didn’t give squat to the ministry. As a result, my boss would get angry and often stop taken calls or answering emails. He once asked me to craft a form letter to use in these situations about how there is supposed to be an “exchange between prophets and kings” (apparently my boss felt he was of the Old Testament prophet variety).

Often Wealthy Man would come back to my boss sometime later wanting another word from the Lord, suggesting he would give to the ministry once the next big deal worked out. My boss would minister to him again, and of course the promised money would never materialize. It was like two enablers in a relationship.

My boss did manage to create a more lasting relationship with one multimillionaire, who apparently used to own one of the largest and most lavish homes in Minnesota. We’ll call him “Mr.A”. 

Mr.A seemed like your typical hockey jock Minnesotan who made it big as an entrepreneurial, using his charm and, using DiSC Profile speak, his “High I” to make it big. I don’t think I ever had an unkind word from Mr.A, but I tended to live in fear of his phone calls or office visits. This really had more to do with my boss than Mr.A, however.

While my boss felt his true calling was with church, government, and business leaders, he did actually minister and meet with people of all walks of life. If I can say anything positive about him, it is that he did not refuse to minister to someone based on job or lack there off, size of paycheck, gender, race, age, or you name it. That being said, he definitely treated those with money and power differently. They were always ushered to the front row during public ministry meetings and had long private meetings with him afterwards. 

In particular, whenever Mr.A called the office I was always afraid I would somehow answer the phone in a way that my boss felt was unprofessional. Or, if Mr.A called and I couldn’t get a hold of my boss immediately, I was afraid he’d ream me out because he missed an important call. Meetings at the office were even more stressful; I had to make sure that there wasn’t a single hair out of place, dust on a plant leaf, or a tiny piece of paper on the floor. Any tiny imperfection was magnified on days that we had Mr.A, or any other wealthy businessman, in the office.

One particular day, Mr.A and his wife were coming to meet with my boss at the office. It was a Wednesday, which was filming day: the day my boss would shoot a bunch of footage to air on our cable access TV program (*rolls eyes*). He tended to be pretty short on those days as well, so the combination of a meeting with Mr.A + filming day = potential disaster. 

The ministry was located in a warehouse with the main office in the front and double doors leading back into an open 2-story warehouse that was slapped up with a little paint and velvet draping. Filming was done back in the warehouse, which had it’s difficulties. Because of the acoustics and the cement floor, even the most minute sound would get picked up on the audio. Worst of all, the only bathrooms in the place happened to be back in the warehouse, so if you had to use them, you had three choices: wait it out, try to catch a break between shoots, or if you were really desperate and could not wait a moment longer, you took your shoes off and snuck back, hoping you didn’t get caught. Flushing was obviously not an option. 

The day Mr.A came to visit, my boss gave me some extremely particular instructions for when he arrived, including, I kid you not, implicit directions to refuse Mr.A access to the bathroom during the filming. UM, WHAT?

This did not sit well with me. Because, sometimes ya gotta go when ya gotta go, you know? And I knew that applied to multimillionaires just as much as it did to little assistants like me. I also knew that there was no way on God’s green earth that Mr.A would take kindly to me telling him he could not use the bathroom. Them’s fighting words.

Folks, this is not the kind of power I seek in life: telling rich guys they can’t use the commode.

I earnestly prayed to God that Mr.A would have an empty bladder that afternoon. Alas, he did not. Shortly after he arrived, he informed me he was going to use the restroom. At my bosses’ direction, I actually blocked the door with my body and refused to let him through. Granted, I did this with a really apologetic tone, letting him know it was at my boss’s instruction. I’m sure the look on my face betrayed my utter mortification at the situation. 

Mr.A then told me he was going to leave because he couldn’t wait any longer. This is when the “Ah, Crap!” Alarm went off in my head. I had two options: let Mr. A leave and do nothing or go back and tell my boss, before Mr. A left. Both had there issues.

If I let Mr.A leave, a couple things would likely happen:

1. My boss would be angry that I didn’t tell him that Mr.A was going to leave before it happened and he could stop him.

2. If Mr.A left, he probably wouldn’t come back… and my boss would be mad at me again.

However, if I did go back to tell my boss that Mr.A was going to leave because I refused him use pf the little boy’s room, my boss may freak out because I interrupted his filming.

In the end, I went with the money. I asked Mr.A to please wait a moment while I went to talk to my boss, taking my shoes off and trying so very ungracefully to tip-toe back to the make-shift studio. Of course, my boss saw me, stopped filming and called me back. Apparently I had made the right choice: he thanked me, stopped filming to let Mr.A use the restroom, and then had Mr.A back during the filming for the rest of the afternoon. It was all pretty ridiculous, and I strongly suspect it was some weird power play on my boss’s part. 

Hmm… maybe I should add this to my resume: Potty-trains multimillionaires.

16

Jan

One Use for a BA in Psych

When I graduated with a BA in Psychology, you can bet I didn’t think I’d use it by being a prophet’s personal assistant. I also didn’t think I’d use it processing (read: boring data entry) background investigations for a certain Government entity, but use it I did, if only for my own amusement while perusing said background investigations. Seriously, what kind of person applies for a government job, knowing there is a very detailed federal background investigation, and then lies about being a felon, thinking they won’t get caught? Or who has a meeting at their home with their background investigator in front of a photo of their father with Osama Bin Laden? Yes, people, the fine folks applying to work for our federal government. But, back to my job as an assistant….

Given the “fringe” nature of the ministry itself, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the crazy people that called the office. But, somehow, I would occasionally get caught off guard. I was the first line of defense for wielding off crazy, and mostly that involved referring said crazy person back to their pastor or a counselor. Someone, anyone but my boss, really. And that was a good thing— he was not a person who should be counseling the crazy, and he was thankfully well aware of that fact.  

Some highlights:

"Chip", a guy who thought that the government had kidnapped him and embedded microchips on his body. I assume he was seeking help from a prophet because he thought he would tell him where the chips were? I’m not sure, but the powers above me eventually told him not to come back to our meetings. 

A woman who was convinced that her pastor was causing people at her church to die by using witchcraft, because apparently a few people in their congregation had died that year. I don’t remember exactly what she felt was evidence of witchcraft, but I vaguely remember it being something super-basic that is typically seen in Charismatic churches, and not even speaking in tongues, which I guess freaks a lot of people out (and I hear some Christians like to claim speaking in tongues is witchcraft or the devil’s language, which is funny on a few levels to me). I sent her a nice email suggesting she seek out counseling, at the request of my boss. And not pastoral counseling, psychiatric counseling.

My favorites weren’t the full-blown crazy though, they were the ones that seemed normal, but then the crazy jumped out unexpectedly. One such woman called from a suburb near our ministry, wanting directions. Since I didn’t know the exact directions to the ministry from every single suburb near us, I asked her to hold for a moment while I looked at our map. She totally freaked out at this, and said, “No, I didn’t call to have someone look up a map for me. You mean to say that you don’t know how to get to your ministry from here?” I tried repeatedly to tell her I just needed to glance at the map to make sure I had the correct directions from her suburb (since um, I don’t live there), but she flipped out, and actually started yelling at me for needing to look at a map. Then she demanded to speak to someone who could give actual directions. “I don’t want someone to look at a map, I want DIRECTIONS!”. 

I ended up passing her off to someone else, who incidentally also had to look at a map to give her directions. Hah. I should have put her on hold, looked at the map, then answered the phone in a slightly different voice. I wonder if she would have noticed it was still me. 

This woman ended up coming to the ministry meeting the following day, and somehow my boss ended up speaking with her. He actually took her to task for yelling at me over the phone and told her that if she did it again, she wasn’t welcome back. I have to say, for all the crap that went down at the ministry and some actions that would suggest otherwise, I do think that my boss really did care and want the best for me. The problem is that God’s best for me wasn’t what he wanted it to be. In the end, we both reacted poorly out of our emotions. My leaving the ministry could have gone professionally—- amicably even. Alas…. that’s not how it went down.

A week later, Crazy Map-less Directions Lady called our office to set up a phone appointment with my boss. She was very cordial this time, mentioning that there was some “big misunderstanding” regarding how she spoke to our receptionist the week before (not realizing of course that I was the person who answered the phone that day, and not our usual receptionist). I wanted to say that, no, in fact, there was no misunderstanding, but I just let it slide. She never was rude over the phone to me again, so apparently her conversation with my boss had an effect.

The ‘C’ Word

My latest post in Provoketive Magazine, just published today, wasn’t actually a post I wanted to write. It may be a bit too lengthy, it raises questions to which I don’t have answers, and it gets personal. A little too personal, if you ask me. 

While I have tended to write about my experience with that ministry frequently on his blog, I don’t think I’ve ever really confronted the “is it or isn’t it” question that I raise in this article. For one thing, it’s embarrassing… how did I manage to get caught up in that for 8 years? Secondly, I don’t want to be defined by my experience there. But, the thing is, I did spend 8 years there. That’s almost a quarter of my life. Naturally, a lot of my stories are going to be from there.

A teaser:

There’s a  four-letter word getting thrown around a lot lately. It’s a word I’ve heard used flippantly, jokingly, and disparagingly. Admittedly, sometimes it seems like the most accurate, albeit inflammatory, word to use. Often this word is spoken, perhaps rightly so, by broken and hurting people out of pain and frustration. It’s a word that was used by a commenter on my previous post in Provoketive Magazine, Slap On a Little Lipstick, You’ll Be Fine. If I am being completely honest, it’s a word I’ve used, sometimes quickly out of anger, and a lot more cautiously after great deliberation.

That’s right, I am talking about the ‘C’ word: Cult.

Here’s a link to the whole dang thing: http://provoketive.com/2012/01/16/the-c-word/

I would like to say, while many of my humorous stories from my time at the ministry are negative, I do have positive memories. I will try to share some of those… maybe even later tonight. 

17

Aug

Games We Play, Google Edition

Alright, remember when we all used to play that fun game, where we “Googled” ourselves to find out what crazy double lives we led? I remember some college friends Googled themselves and, much to their amusement and delight, found out they led very interesting double lives as Olympic swimmers, Austrian physicists & Swedish folk musicians. I led a very interesting double life as…myself. There were no other me’s when I was in college. In fact, to this day I am apparently the only one to ever exist with my maiden name on the interwebs.

After I was married, I thought maybe I’d have more comic gold show up on Google. But, no, as it turns out, I was still the only me. Up until recently, that is, when another young lady married into our now mutual name. Unfortunately for this poor alternate me, who apparently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my information is the only thing that pops up when you Google our name, with the exception of a funeral notice for one of her relatives.

I wonder if other me is concerned about her Google results. Like, perhaps, future employers may think she’s the manager/executive assistant at an eponymous prophetic ministry in Minneapolis, MN. (Yeah, that spiritually abusive ministry I was apart of before? Well, here’s letting the cat out of the bag— it’s led by a self-proclaimed prophet. Any red flags go up? Hah hah hah! Sorry, inside joke). I hope she gets a kick out of that one.

In that search, my interview question regarding violas to a certain member of OneRepublic would show up, as well as my membership at a stringed instrument site, where my attempts to locate a specific luthier (someone who makes and repairs stringed instruments, for those of you not into stringed instrument geek-speak) in MN are documented.

Other me would also see an obituary for my husband’s paternal grandmother…who is presumably also her relative by marriage (Weird trivia: everyone with my maiden name is related, and oddly enough, everyone with my married last name is related. I can’t get away from the uncommon last names, apparently).

After that, it’s basically random websites that collect names and a dozen or so other links regarding the aforementioned eponymous ministry.

So, on Google, I’m a violist who’s stalking a luthier while apart of a crazy ministry. Yeah, that kind of sums up the last decade. I did finally track down that luthier, by the way. But that is another story.

Anyway, I kind of hope other me will start to show up more in Google searches, so I can say that I’m a flying trapeze artist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, or something ridiculous like that. I wonder what the heck she thinks if she ever Googles herself and comes up me….. like, “Crap! How can I convince my potential new employers that this weirdo is NOT me?”

Hah.

06

Aug

Aphorism THIS.

Given that I tend to be a woman of few words, and those (usually) very carefully chosen, one might think I was fond of aphorisms and pithy statements. I mean, all that meaning and emotion smashed into a tiny, compact little saying? A veritable treasure trove of wisdom!

Or not.

Actually, I can’t stand them. At first glance, they seem like wisdom:

  • A man is known by the company he keeps. (If this is true, how is Jesus known?)
  • Any port in a storm. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve encountered some ports that would have caused much more damage than simply weathering the storm).
  • Crime does not pay. (It can, if you don’t get caught).
  • Live every day as if it were your last. (If I did that, it probably would be my last day).
  • Opportunity never knocks twice. (Recent experience with my husband turning down one job opportunity only to have it offered again— and then accepting it—- proves this one may not always be accurate).

I’ll admit, I have occasionally been guilty of employing these seeming truths. In fact, most of them do contain some truth… but often with an equal measure of untruth. Life is just too complex and paradoxical to fit neatly into such simplistic phrases.

One particular “truism” that’s been grating on me lately is the following:

The greater the sorrow, the greater the joy”.

It’s such a bittersweet, yet comforting thought, really: If I go through extreme pain and sorrow in life, it means I will have greater joy and happiness in life. It puts life in a neat little “yin-yang” or karma box, where the bad will be equaled or counter-balanced by the good. 

Oh, if only life were that….balanced. In reality, some people encounter sorrow after sorrow, with very little joy- if any. Other people go through life experiencing very great joy without ever really experiencing an equal measure of sorrow. And yet other people go through life imagining every sorrow that could ever happen to them, living in deep fear and never experiencing the joy around them.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just splitting hairs. Regardless, there is some truth, and here is where I think it lies: If you numb yourself so that you will not feel sorrow, or anger, or pain, you will also be unable to feel happiness or joy. Numbness is, after all, devoid of feeling or sensation. So, to feel true joy, you have to be willing to feel sorrow as well.

During the last few years at The Ministry, I was pretty much a shell of myself. In order to survive, if you can even call it that, I buried every feeling of distrust, anger, depression, etc. deep in side of me. Being The Vault, I was not only gifted at keeping other people’s secrets, but I was also quite gifted at keeping my own thoughts and feelings a secret from everyone…including myself. Now, it really is difficult to completely numb oneself, as the feelings we deny end up fermenting like rotten fish (lutefisk, anyone?) inside of us. Eventually that lid is going to pop off, and whew! Watch out for the stench.

Even when I did start to admit that I had been and was angry and depressed at what had happened, I still denied myself the freedom to actually feel it. It was more of an intellectual exercise. I think I was afraid of what would happen if I did let myself feel it— especially the anger. Maybe I speak only for myself, but I think that it is common for Christians to think being angry is a sin. Let me assure you, it isn’t. It can however lead us to sin, if we don’t confront it head on.

I may have waited a little too long to uncork the anger lid, as I did say and do things I regret. Let’s not mince words: I was angry AND I sinned. Fortunately, where there is true repentance, there is forgiveness, and I have been able to let go and move on. And now I feel joy again. The kind of joy where you find yourself smiling for no reason. The kind of joy where you feel like dancing to your iPod down the middle of a crowded street. I haven’t actually done that, mind you, but I have been tempted.

Do I feel more joy now, because I have felt great anger and sorrow? No…but I do feel. And that, at this point, is better than fighting to remain numb.

07

May

The Vault

Alias: The Vault.

I realized the other day that anyone who doesn’t know much of my back story may wonder what’s up with my rather odd moniker. This is especially true, as it hardly relates to the title of this blog. So, gather round, and listen to my epic tale of how I became known as “The Vault”.

Mmm, yeah…it’s not actually that exciting. But for those of you who are still reading, here goes:

I got the nickname “The Vault” at the ministry where I did time in my 20’s. Yeah, THAT one. I tend to be rather quiet on the outside…a woman of few words, if you will. This is partially because I am an introvert and partially because I am incredibly socially awkward. It’s like a circus inside my head, but most of the dialogue that goes on in there stays in there. My inner monologue consists mostly of myself cracking jokes about whatever is happening. Every now and again, something will slip through my “filter”. Sometimes it’s really funny. Other times, it’s really funny….but only to me. Then…awkward silence. Crickets chirping.

I have a sense of humor that goes from wacky to dry to downright sardonic in mere seconds, so, sometimes people don’t know I’m joking. Or they think my jokes are stupid. Or they don’t know I’m joking and they think I’m stupid. Sometimes it’s just all in my head. The end result of any of those is: awkwardness. As a result, I tend to have a lot of inside jokes with myself.

Because I keep my thoughts to myself, somehow this encourages other people to tell me their inner thoughts. Perhaps they feel the need to fill the silence. Maybe they like the sound of their own voice. Or, maybe I really am just a good listener. Sometimes I think it’s all three. As a consequence, I have heard a lot of people’s problems and secrets. I’m like the closet where everyone parks their skeletons.

Generally, I’m an excellent keeper of secrets. Information goes in, and it gets locked away somewhere in the recesses of my mind. There is no pressing or burning need to tell the secret to someone else. Really, I’m a rather private person; I don’t particularly like to tell everyone else my own deep, dark secrets (oh the irony that I am stating this on a personal blog….). Fortunately that seems to carry over to the secrets I am carrying for other people.

When I was working as a personal assistant to Harry, the head and founder of The Ministry, I was the keeper of very personal secrets regarding him, his family, The Ministry, all the team members, other pastors and ministers around the world, and so on. Information went in, and it did not come out. This, combined with my own reticent nature in general, led a couple of the guys on the team to dub me “The Vault”.

Unfortunately, the very thing that made me excellent at my job became an issue at the end. Harry said I was “uncommunicative” and “didn’t know how to talk”. This is of course coming from the same person who just stopped paying me when the ministry could no longer afford my salary, without coming to talk with my about it. It was two to three months later when his wife, Betsy, finally came up and apologized to me in passing, saying only, “We will pay you when we can.” Later, when we gave a sizeable donation to the ministry, Harry and Betsy assumed, without talking to us, that that meant I was saying they didn’t have to ever worry about paying me again. We didn’t find that out until about 6 months later, when they had booted us from the team. Yeah, I’m the one with the communication problem.

But I digress.

Anyway, I took the twitter name “AliasTheVault” some time ago, with the intention of spilling all my secrets (140 characters at a time, of course) as a way to vent about everything. The Vault has been breached! Of course, I’ve tried my best to keep everything anonymous, so I guess it’s not really a total breach. Maybe more of a small leak….