Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why I'll Never Work for A Christian Organization Again (and the #1 reason might surprise you)

When our son was 18 or 19 years old he got hired at Disneyland.  It seemed like the perfect job for him, given his talents and personality.  However, after about six months on the job I received a phone call from my son.  "Mom", he said, "if I don't quit this job I'm going to grow to hate Disneyland, and I don't want to do that."

I've come to understand just how wise our son is.

I've worked for, in, and around Christian churches and organizations my whole adult life.  In fact, my love for the Christian workplace was cemented when I was a 15-year-old counselor at a church summer camp.

The time has come, however, to say that I'll never again work for a faith-based organization.  My heart can't stand another disappointment.

I've also worked in the secular field - mostly Theatre and Education - and my husband has worked exclusively for secular companies, so we have a pretty clear and well-rounded view of how differently businesses are run in the two arenas.  Here are some major Christian workplace hurdles:

In the Christian workplace gossip is tolerated and even encouraged as a means of keeping an eye on the employees.  Both the Old and New Testaments are riddled with scriptures giving clear warnings against gossip.  There simply is no place for it in The Church.  But, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil" and leaders and pastors lean heavily on gossip to let them know who might be giving the wrong appearance.  A music pastor once let me go because one or two people came to him to tell him I said or thought things I never said or thought.  I saw a pastor once fire a young single woman because someone told someone else that they saw a man in her apartment.  No need for facts - there was the APPEARANCE of evil.

When I posted a plea for prayer on my Facebook page, I was called into my boss's office and reprimanded because a number of people had called her to find out what was wrong with me and/or my family.  She was livid that my personal life had filtered in to the workplace.  I looked at her and said, "I would hope that you told those people to call me.  After all, talking about me when I'm not in the room is gossip."  She said nothing and shrugged her shoulders.  SHRUGGED HER SHOULDERS!

Speaking of a lack of sympathy when it comes to family needs, this brings me to another challenge in the Christian workplace - the blatant hypocrisy in the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality.

The same music pastor who made wild accusations against me also claimed that my "heart wasn't in the right place" when I accepted a role in a play.  Theatre, you see, is evil.  Imagine my surprise when I was working one night at the theatre and the pastor and his wife were first in line.  It turns out they had been season ticket holders for a while, but we had not been there on the same night until that moment.  So, it's not okay for me to be in a play, but you can pay money to see said play?  Hmmmm....

Our children have chosen paths of rebellion and that has forced us to leave churches and has caused us to lose many "friends".  When a "good child" is stricken with cancer or some other life-threatening illness, the whole congregation surrounds the grieving family with love, support, and chicken casseroles, but a rebellious child clearly indicates sin or moral failure, so no casserole for you!

I got a call one day at my most recent faith-based place of employment in which I received very hard news regarding one of our children.  I began to cry.  My boss feigned sympathy and told me to take a couple of days off.  A week or so later I was called into her office for a review in which I was chastised and written up for "not being in control of your emotions".  I was reprimanded for my tears and told to "leave your personal life at the door".  However, once a week a couple of friends of the ministry came in to pray with my boss.  I could hear most of those prayers from my office and they always started with, "what can we pray about in regards to your family?"  I heard them pray for her family's needs on a weekly basis.  When her family suffered a serious loss, the vice-president of the company flew 2,000 miles to comfort them.  But for me?  No prayers.

Christian workplace leaders believe that God has put them in authority over their employees.  The first part of Romans 13 admonishes believers;  "All of you must obey those who rule over you."  Of course that same chapter goes on to tell us how to love one another, but leaders pridefully focus on that first verse and use it as a way of enforcing the because-I-said-so leadership model.

I've worked for organizations that promote the "Lead Like Jesus" leadership model.  According to their website their "proven methodology is based on the model of Jesus, focusing on heart-centered, transformative leadership that equips leaders to effectively impact their own spheres of influence."  I've read the books and explored the curriculum, but regardless of a company's claim, I've yet to actually work for a "Lead Like Jesus" leader.

The Christian workplace is a good strong breeding ground in which to raise up sturdy Pharisees.  I've never heard more judgmental condemnation about people we don't even know than I do at a church or faith-based job site.
- "I refuse to watch 'Good Morning America' because they're all gay."
- "Robin Williams isn't making God laugh now because he's in hell.  He sealed his fate when he committed suicide."
- "If my son lived with his girlfriend they wouldn't be welcome in my home - it's just that simple."
- "Addicts will always be addicts.  I don't want them anywhere near my church."
That's just a tiny sampling of the ugly comments I've been subjected to at work.

These same people will turn on the Christianese-speak in a snap.
- "God really showed up in that circumstance."
- "I prayed for cooler weather and God sent a breeze at just that moment."
- "God has really blessed my family and He's blessed our office."
- "I don't understand, but I completely trust God's sovereignty in this difficult situation."
I struggle with seeing authenticity in these people.  When I go to work, will I get Mr. Critical or Mr. Spiritual?

Perhaps we need to dismantle the whole "Christian Workplace" philosophy and acknowledge the fact that as long as there are human people involved, there will always be mistakes, misunderstandings, and people who screw things up.  For me, I assume that because you say you believe certain things you will live accordingly.  But, when I do mess up (as we all do), I expect you to forgive me and vise-versa.  Silly me.

Perhaps the most difficult thing about leaving a job at a Christian church or organization is the loss of relationship.  I spent years building what I'd hoped would be life-long friendships and relationships but the minute I was fired, laid off, or left of my own accord the relationships were over.  I tried keeping in touch - making dates for coffee or lunch, but the invitations were never extended to me and eventually, I stopped making the effort.

This last job was especially difficult in regards to lost relationships.  I believed the people in my office (as well as the organization across the hall) were friends. But once I was fired I didn't exist.  I was even removed from the mailing list of a Christian Women's organization that was led by my former boss.  Who does that?  I LOVED the families we served and worked with, but I've not heard from one single person.  It's hard.

On the other hand, my husband still has friends he made at jobs he long since left or from which he was fired.  I've watched most recently as our daughter has gone through a bit of a crisis and who has rallied around her?  All her work friends - even those from the job she left many months ago.

When we were in the midst of incredible darkness it wasn't The Church family who stood by us.  No! It was my theatre family!  The Church, in fact, shunned us, blamed us, and closed the door on us in our time of incredible need.

This brings me to my number one reason for never EVER wanting to work for a Christian organization again.  I, like our son, still love Disneyland...uh...The Church, and I don't want to become so incredibly bitter that I never want to visit again.  You see, right now that's about all I can do - visit, but I hope to one day once again feel that I belong.  I still love my brothers and sisters in Christ and I ache for restored relationship.

After all, we'll be spending eternity together.  Right?

Monday, September 29, 2014


I've always known I have a gift.  If I were a non-believer I might consider myself a psychic.  But I'm a Christ-follower and I know I have the gift of prophecy.  

My husband wonders if maybe it's a curse.  He says people just don't know what to do with me. I'm having a hard time finding my place in the family of God.

I remember the first time I became acutely aware of this gift.  I was around nine or ten years old.  My family was one of several families invited to a party at the home of Carolyn and John - a particularly beautiful and fabulous couple who'd led a charmed life.  John had been a record setting basketball player for the USC Trojans and then the New York Nicks.  His career had been side-lined when he was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma.  Aggressive treatment had saved his life.  Although he never returned to professional ball, the book about his life led to a vibrant ministry.

Their beautiful idyllic home was about 1/4 of a mile off the road and completely surrounded by trees. At one point during the party I remember sitting on the lawn and mindlessly picking at the grass.  Carolyn saw me, came up to me and gently chastised me.  "Please don't pick the grass.  I work hard to keep this beautiful".  

The word "fire" immediately popped into my head.  I remember thinking, "Carolyn would be very sad if her home burned down."  I started praying for John, Carolyn, and their kids.  "Lord, I pray that if anything happens to this home You would keep this family safe.  If this house burns down, help them escape."

Two weeks later that house burned to the ground.

When John and Carolyn shared the harrowing experience with the church family, I remember them telling how Carolyn had heard the baby crying and she got up to check on him.  As she walked down the hall to his room she saw the glowing embers of a fire.  When she got to the baby's room, he was sound asleep - not crying at all.  She believed God had awakened her.

This was back in the day before GPS and cell signals and because the house was so far off the road it took some time for the fire department to find the fire.  By the time they arrived, the house was fully involved and could not be saved.

I tried going back to the church I loved and an evil spirit warned me that I should go.

I was walking down the hall of church and I caught a flicker of light on the wall.  I turned to look and two red eyes jumped off the wall, came right up close to my face, looked menacingly into my eyes, then floated very quickly down the hall.  I smiled and thought, "wow satan, you really don't want me here."  

Within a few months I was forced to leave, as I detailed in my previous blog post.

It happens all the time - I "see" something and then I know how to pray.  I've seen spirits too.  Not just in Africa where you expect it, but in the eyes of my ex-husband, hovering above the bedroom doors in my home, jumping out of a painting on my wall, in the hallway at church, sitting on my couch…everywhere.

A little over a year ago our small group leader invited a "surprise" guest to my home.  I told my husband I was pretty sure the surprise would be a professed prophet, which did not please him as he doesn't do well being publicly put on the spot regarding religious things.  Sure enough, we spent that evening entertaining all the members of our small group, and the female prophet who identified the spirits living in my home.  That fact didn't surprise me as I believe good and bad lurk all around us.

After dinner, the seer went around the room and prophesied over each person.  Our small group leader is a teacher and Bible study author.  However, it was the woman sitting next to her on the couch for whom the prophetic words "teacher" and "bible study leader" were given.  At that moment, I saw a spirit walk into my home through the open patio door and sit between the two women.  I immediately silently prayed and asked God what that was.  "It's the spirit of jealousy".

I can't explain exactly what the spirit looked like or how I recognized it.  It just…was.

Whether it's seeing spirits, sensing a family member is in trouble, knowing where to find my run-away child, or simply knowing how to pray and for whom, I know I have a gift.  Like all spiritual gifts, it's supposed to be used for the edification of The Body of Christ.

The problem, however, is no one knows what to do with me.  My children have (mostly) learned to listen to me because my intuition is freaky, but I've most definitely been shunned by the very people who should be the most accepting. 

This is what I know for sure; "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2.  It's definitely a challenge to keep loving the very people who've condemned, judged, despised, and broken my family, but I DO love them and that's why what they say matters to me.  

So, is my gift a curse?  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Being Shunned

Hollywood producer, Robert Evans writes in his autobiography (The Kid Stays in the Picture) about surviving Hollywood’s worst gossip, lies, and character attacks.  He was able to just brush off what people said about him, apparently subscribing to the adage, “what people think about me is none of my business”.  Besides, he was no saint.  It took, however, just one horrible egregious lie by actress Sharon Stone to cause him to have a heart attack. The sexy star falsely accused Evans of murder.

Words matter. Anyone who says, “They’re just words – ignore them” has never suffered true character assassination by a cruel person wielding the ax of gossip and lies.

Over the course of the past few months I’ve suffered numerous anxiety attacks.  Once I left a partially filled cart in the grocery store, and another time I carried my unstamped (and therefore unsent) packages out of the post office.  No, I haven’t been accused of murder, but I HAVE been accused of putting a hit out on a former friend.  A HIT!!

The accusation has been affirmed and confirmed.  This woman has made a myriad of crazy allegations against me over the years.  She once accused me of threatening her entire family, so this isn’t new.  I have confronted her about her allegations and gossip.  She sat across a table from me, pointed her finger in my face, and told me she had proof that I was “weak”, a “victim-wannabe” and then added,  “I have no choice but to assume you’re jealous of me.”

But putting a hit out on her?  She has insisted that her informant was a “reliable source”.

Now on one hand, I finally understand all the strange things that have been going on whenever I showed up at the church in which she is a leader and teacher.  Her husband denied me communion, she herself snubbed, shunned, and walked away from me whenever I got close enough to say hello.  One day she even stood with her arms folded behind me during a church service while I sat innocently in my seat listening to the sermon.  I don’t think her eyes ever left me.  Finally, I became so uncomfortable that I left.

On the other hand, what kind of a person makes this kind of crazy accusation?

As soon as I confirmed the truth of the situation, I contacted a pastor at the church who knows my history with this woman.  I was looking for counsel on how to deal with this new accusation.  The pastor told me to “keep your mouth shut and let God be your defender”.

Listen, I’ve written ad nauseam about the damage this woman and her friends have caused my family.  We don’t deserve this!  If saying those words out loud makes me a “victim-wannabe” then so be it! 

The fact that this woman and her friends are Christians is relevant ONLY in that when there is conflict, we are supposed to confront one another in love and for the purpose of reconciliation (Matthew 18).  It is NOT okay – EVER – to spread gossip or to LIE.

 I’ve always followed the Biblical steps of confrontation and reconciliation.  I remember one man defending his own slams against me by turning the tables and making accusations against me.  When I denied his claims, he called me a liar.  The truth is, I’ve never seen the steps in Matthew 18 actually work.  I don’t believe people want reconciliation and restoration, but rather they just want to be right. 

The attacks from this woman and her friends have done life-altering damage to my family and me.  I lost so much – a job, a best friend, an entire church family, and my kids lost their faith.  I do NOT blame The Church for the bad choices or for the dark path my kids took.  I do, however, believe that we ALL do things we wish we hadn’t done when we are in deep never-ending pain.

Like us, our kids lost every friend they had when we were originally kicked out of this woman’s church, AND they watched as their mother was knocked down and beat up again and again by our family “friends”.  They watched me seek restoration with these Christian friends (many times), only to be told that because I worked for The Theatre, I was a danger to their reputation.  It was devastating for ALL of us. 

Are we victims?  NO!!  We’re survivors.  But here’s a fact: For every action there’s a reaction.  My kids walked away from The Church, from God, and from their faith because of how we as a family were treated.  The ugliness towards us has NEVER ended and no matter how deep my faith is nothing can change the fact that my kids have seen (and are seeing) so much ugly.

These people caused deep unnecessary pain and we suffered.  We truly felt as if one day we were out riding our bicycles on a beautiful warm day when out of nowhere a semi-truck deliberately ran us over.  And then, to add insult to injury, we were blamed for riding our bikes – for being human. 

You know, when a Christian mom and dad lose a child to disease or sudden accident that family is embraced, loved and never forgotten.   But, I’ve had people stop me at church to tell me my kids “deserved to be kicked out of church”, and will “never be saved”.  Ummm….so, if (according to you) my kids are dead in Christ, where is your compassion?  Where are your prayers and friendship?  Why am I shunned? 

Some of you have expressed a great deal of impatience with me.  “Move on.” “Let it go.” “Ignore these people.”   I move on and the gossip follows me!  I’m tired of you telling me that I’M a bad witness.  Just by telling our story?  You have no problem talking about the evils of the Westboro Baptist Church, or denouncing the Sudanese for sentencing a Christian woman to death for her beliefs.  But, I share our story of abuse in the name of religion and I’M a bad witness.  Is there no one who sees that as hypocritical?

Am I still bemoaning something that happened years ago?  No!!  I’m frustrated that YEARS LATER these people continue to rip at my family and no one will defend, affirm, or protect us!

The Barna group has written books about how The Church has driven away an entire generation of young people.  David Kinneman wrote (or co-wrote) “You Lost Me” and “UnChristian” and preachers teach the truths from these books in churches all over the country.  Another book detailing the disconnect between what we say and what we do is “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns.  And yet I DARE to tell our story – to put names and faces on the anecdotes we read in books, and I’m shamed.

Because you profess to be a Christian, you have a responsibility to me just as I have to you.  I firmly believe that if ONE person had stood up with courage and told the truth years ago, we would not be in this scary place today.  This woman and her friends have been allowed to terrorize my family, and no one speaks up.

Perhaps I’ve misread the Bible.  Perhaps the God of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love is not real at all.  Perhaps He IS a judgmental, condemning, hate-filled being who really does not want me in His kingdom – just as you don’t want me in your church.  

Perhaps.  But I KNOW who Jesus is, and guess what? He loves my family.  It is HIS desire that we spend eternity with Him.  I will CONTINUE to be a Christ-follower because I know the Son of God.  I know his character, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his miraculous works, and his unconditional love.

Robert Evans wrote a check to Sharon Stone for $250,000.  That check is hers if she can corroborate one word of her heinous story.  I’ll make the same offer - $250,000 to this woman who has made this horrendous accusation against me if she can prove I put a hit out on her!   Come see me, and bring your “reliable source”.  The money is yours – unless I first spend it all on therapy and anti-anxiety meds.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Heart

A guilty heart grows a forest of hate; fertilized by truth's silence.

     --Elizabeth Stoeckel
       January 1, 2014

I Resolve to Defend and Affirm

In 2nd Samuel, chapter 13, we read the tragic story of David's daughter, Tamar - a beautiful young girl.  One of her brothers (Amnon), fell in love with Tamar. The Bible says that Amnon was "frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her."

A friend of his suggested that he pretend to be sick and then ask for Tamar to bring him bread and care for him. Amnon did exactly that, and when his sister was close and tenderly caring for him, he grabbed her and raped her. Tamar begged him to not do this "wicked" thing, but Amnon defiled his sister.

After the rape, Amnon looked at Tamar who was lying next to him and the Bible said he "hated" her. Wow! Amnon had allowed the sexual fantasy to take over his thought life to the point that his thoughts finally gave way to action. But as is so often the case, the very thing he thought he wanted, became something to be scorned. A guilty heart grows a hateful forest! Amnon pushed Tamar out of his bed and told his servants to bolt the door so he would never have to look at her again.

Tamar had been wearing the ornamented robe worn by the virgin daughters of the king. When she left Amnon's room, she tore the robe, put ashes on her forehead, and ran weeping through the halls. Her brother, Absalom saw her and said, (vs. 20) "Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." The verse ends with these tragic words, "and Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman."

We never hear from Tamar again.

Sometimes it seems the easiest thing to do is to quietly sweep sin under the rug. We know of abuse, or neglect, and we turn a blind eye. This happens all the time in society, and just as often in church families. We don't want to make waves. We tell ourselves it's better to not ruin the reputation of a CEO, church deacon, teacher, or pastor, so we ignore the weeping woman running through the halls. We tell the offended to "be quiet now".

Of course abuse doesn't have to be in the form of sexual battery to be abuse. Gossip, lying, stealing, and manipulation are all offenses that are too often kept quiet, but the victims of these evils are still victims. Tamar's pain was never affirmed, and no one came to her defense, and so she lived the rest of her days a "desolate woman".

I know a young man who was sexually assaulted by a trusted mentor. For a period of time the incident was ignored and swept under the rug. The young man suffered in silence. Then one day a courageous pastor affirmed the young man's pain and promised to defend him, even if it meant personal loss to the pastor. There was public scrutiny and eventually a trial. The offender went to prison, and today the young man is emotionally healthy and serving the Lord. He had someone who affirmed his pain and came to his defense. Without the brave pastor who walked with him, that young man might today be living in desolation.

Make 2014 the year that we speak light and truth!  Defend someone today! If you know an innocent person who has been the victim of an assault of any kind—whether it is physical or emotional (gossip, judgmental words, etc…)—be brave enough to affirm their sadness, and then defend them if necessary. Do you know a "Tamar"—someone whose pain has been hushed in order to save the reputation of her abuser? Run to her (or him) today.  Your affirmation could save that person from a life of desolation.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Speak Up!

Don't you just love the heart of a mother?  We will do anything to defend and support our kids.  When they make bad decisions, we give them advice (even when we know it won't be heeded), and then we give them a soft place to land when they stumble.  When they are wronged - we will fight for them!

I talked with a mom last night whose daughter recently dealt with a sexual harassment situation at work.  What advice would a mom give her daughter in that situation?  That's an obviously simple answer - FIGHT.  Of course we want our daughters to stand up for themselves, to speak out, to defend their own honor.

Not only does a young woman in that difficult situation deserve to fight for her dignity, but it's in the man's best interest for his victim to stand up to him and to stop him.  He's traveling down a dangerous road - one that could land him in jail.  

All of us are the sons or daughters of somebody, and if any of you find yourself being harassed in ANY way - whether it's at work, at home, in church, or in the neighborhood - you deserve more.  You MUST stand up for yourself.  You MUST preserve your dignity.  No one should be able to take your dignity and reputation without your permission!

I've been harassed for years by a small group of mean people.  In the past few months a brand new accusation against me has surfaced.  I've been told to keep my mouth shut and "let God be your defender".  

Can you IMAGINE my friend giving that advice to her daughter?  Can you imagine any mother telling her daughter to keep her mouth shut and just let the abuse continue?  

I am somebody's daughter.  I am a daughter of The King of kings!  I have a voice, and I deserve the opportunity to use it.

I believe that if the devil has a garden, he grows the choking weeds of gossip, lies, judgment, condemnation, harassment, and hatred.  He uses silence as his fertilizer.  When we silence truth, the void will be filled with a cacophony of lies. 

Speak.  SPEAK UP!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Bride?

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."  Ephesians 5:25-27 

The Church is called "The Bride of Christ", a "city on a hill", and "salt and light".  In fact in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his listeners, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."  We, The Church, cannot be hidden.

I have many unchurched, dechurched (they used to attend church), or unchristian friends.  They tell me the reason they don't go to church is simple; they see the way we treat one another (gossip, judge, lie, manipulate, etc…), and they want nothing to do with that environment.  Christians say, "Don't look to me, I'm only human.  Look to God."  But people ARE looking to us.

Imagine going to a wedding.  You are a guest of the groom, and you've never met the bride.  You love the groom and you respect and trust him.

The groom stands at the alter, awaiting his wife-to-be.  His groomsmen stand in support.  The bridesmaids wear matching purple gowns, adorned with gold cord and rhinestones; each one more beautiful than the next.  Their smiles outshine the sun's rays pouring in through stained glass church windows.  "This", you think, "is what Jesus envisioned when he called us 'The Bride'."

The music swells.  The groom's intended appears at the end of the flower-lined aisle.  

You're surprised.  No, you're shocked.  Her dress is tattered, her makeup is smeared, her unkempt hair has not been brushed in a month, and she's staggering and stammering.  She stops to flirt with every male guest in the room.  She even stops to touch a man - whose wife tugs on his arm.  Who is this woman?

Your friend never takes his eyes off the dirty, haggard bride.  He loves her.  He clearly thinks she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.  

It's tough to not be unnerved by the woman's inappropriate behavior, but you trust the groom.  And so, you relax.

After the wedding, the new husband invites all his friends to come to his home.  "Come," he says, "you’re all welcome."  But his wife doesn't receive you into their home with acceptance.  She criticizes your clothes, your friends, the gift you brought to the wedding, how you spend your free time…even your work.  She drinks too much, flirts with every man she sees, judges her neighbors, and keeps a dirty house.  

Her husband loves her still.

I believe The Church was designed by God to be looked at and to be seen.  We are to be an example and reflection of who Jesus is.  We're a "city on a hill", the "light of the world"…the bride!  It's as if God expected all eyes to be on us.  He expected the world’s eyes to turn toward us.

People are watching us.  And, how will they know we are Christians?  It's very simple really.  John 13:35 gives us the easy answer: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  We can be so cruel to one another.  We, The Bride, mistreat the friends of The Groom.  But people are watching us, and I believe God designed it that way.  

In the scenario I've painted here, it's painfully obvious to see why the groom's friends stop going to his house.  They love him, they even miss him, but they just can't be around the bride.  She mistreats the friends AND the man she married.  His house is not a place of warmth and acceptance, love and joy.  It's a place of judgment, condemnation, jealousy, and pride.  

Christ will present us to God spotless and blameless, but how will we present Christ to the world?  We’re being watched, and they’ll know we’re his disciples if we love one another.