At the posting of the seventh chapter of my book, I would encourage you if you are a first time reader to start with Chapter One, and work your way up to date. Some have read random chapters out of sequence resulting in confusion and many questions. The story flows from one chapter to the next and brings clarity as it unveils itself, as in most books. Thank you for reading and commenting!! It is a blessing to know that others are actually being helped and can identify with much of my journey. Happy reading!
THE CIRCUS YEAR
In the middle of this season of my life I further plummeted to the depths of religion by joining up with another church body than the one I was accustomed to. I had a sincere desire to follow God and to know Him deeper through my “serving”. I was driven to find and experience more. I was still climbing that ladder to holiness. I became a member of the “most holy people”-elite members of our church who were much closer to the truth of God’s word than any others in our church or so we thought, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. It started innocently enough. My husband and I, along with some members of our church, wanted more “truth”. So we started up a tape ministry every Friday night to listen to great speakers of the time in the “Word of Faith” movement. We were bonded by the common belief that “If it isn’t in the word, then it isn’t viable for our lives”. And if you weren’t prosperous and healthy then you must be doing something wrong. We figured we had all the answers to the reasons why God works the way He does. We performed prayer vigils outside of hospital rooms for hours. We prayed loudly and arrogantly, like we had the answers that the nurses and doctors didn’t. I am sure we made spectacles of ourselves in the eyes of the medical professionals. I’m embarrassed when I think back to those times. The nurses had to walk around us to get into the room or, embarrassingly ask us to leave the room so they could treat the sick or dying. We justified our behavior by saying that the “world” doesn’t understand the things of God. Nor would they want to belong to anything so outlandish and foolish as I know now. When we didn’t see the prayed-for results we would walk dejectedly away with heavy hearts, convinced the subject of our prayers or their family was missing God in some way. It certainly wasn’t our fault that we didn’t see instant answers to our prayers. It never occurred to me that His ways are not my ways and that maybe we didn’t have all the answers. We judged and condemned and eventually became very discontent with the church body we belonged to. The pastor just wasn’t preaching what we were hearing on these tapes each week. He wasn’t grasping this new truth of “name it and claim it” that we had discovered. I began to judge his sermons as to how much faith he was standing in by the way he interpreted the word.
Then one day a new church came to town and set up shop. It was a Word of Faith church! We were so excited–they taught the same things we heard every week on those tapes. Well, glory be to God, He had mercy on us poor people without a shepherd. We, the tape ministry group, couldn’t believe our good fortune. Everyone was smiling and seeking God as to how to leave our long time positions and move to where God was more active. Spoken Word Fellowship promised to be the place we were longing for. So began the mass exodus of the “Chosen People”. For weeks we had our little groups whispering outside in the foyer of our church as to who would go and who would stay or how we would execute the plan, so as to let our pastor down gently. Slowly and little by little we all got the courage to make the grand escape. True to my nature I was in the middle of it all and right up front.
The church body in which I grew up spiritually was left in the dust as I moved on to the greater revelations, leaving my beloved pastor and wife devastated and hurt as we all left. About a quarter of the church eventually found their way over to join us at our new church. Though I felt guilty, I just knew I heard God’s voice in following this more enlightened group to our “Word” haven. The new pastor promised us great signs and wonders as proof of the “word” that was elevated within their hallowed halls. He would walk up and down the aisle in true televangelist style, with sprayed down hair in pompadour fashion; preaching, rebuking and putting heavy burdens on us so that we would work ourselves into a frenzy and become more acceptable to him, our chosen leader. This only added more fuel to my already overflowing condemnation that I wasn’t doing enough.
Spoken Word fellowship was held in an upper room of an old building. It was obvious to all of us how spiritual that was. We meant in an upper room just like Jesus and his followers at the Last Supper of Jesus before he went to Calvary. It was definitely a sign from God.
At the time I was working with my teaching partner leading Women of Victory. It had grown to a large following. The new pastor told us we could meet in the same building where we conducted church– the upper room. But when he saw that there were more attending our meetings for women than came to his services on Sundays he viewed us quite differently. I became his competition. He began to tell me I needed to prove myself to him. I never did figure out how I was supposed to do that, other than keep on doing what I thought I was called to do. I became so tired of hearing that I had to prove myself that one day I know I heard Gods’ voice in my spirit telling me that I didn’t have to prove myself to any man. I knew at that moment that I only had to prove myself to God and not listen to this man. Little did I know at the time, however, that it was the very beginning of God getting me out of this cultish experience. But I still had a lot to learn.
There were a lot of special speakers brought into our meetings at the circus church. There was one guy who said he could see the demons, who looked like gorillas, lurking in the four corners of the room just waiting to pounce if we got in the “flesh”. At the time I wondered, since I live in my flesh how could I get out of it. I tried with all my might to see these gorillas. I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t sneaking up on me, since I was still “in the flesh”. Everyone else looked pretty fleshy too, so I didn’t understand what I had to do to keep these gorilla demons away from me. I also noticed that this man terrified the children in the harsh ways he spoke to them and threatened them with the hand of the almighty God falling on them if they made noise in his services. Great impression for the children to have of God, wasn’t it? Again, I felt God reminding me that children flocked to Jesus everywhere he went. Children adored Jesus and loved sitting all over Him and loving on Him and laughing with Him. Never in all the history we have of Jesus were children afraid of or not drawn to Him. The bible clearly tells of his incredible love for them by His actions towards them. Was this visiting preacher really a representative of Christ, I wondered at the time?
Our tithes and offering services were quite interesting as well. There would be loud music and lots of shouting and “praising” when that time to give came around in the service. Big trash cans were brought out to the front of the church as a sign of faith for lots of money to come in. We then marched around the building, soldier style, filing by the cans and dropping in our monies. The wealthier members had the preeminent places at the front of the lines as an example to us of how we could be prosperous if we were spiritual enough by giving large sums of money. We were heading for prosperity from God! No room for the poor. Nor was the money offered to the poor, but was for building up the “church”, and as I suspect now, the pastor.
Things really began to break down for me the night we had another special speaker that wanted to pray an “anointing” for all the ministries in the room. My partner and I were excited to receive prayer and since we were part of the group with a “special ministry” we were anxious to get this special anointing from God. Many times these various characters would “transfer their anointing” to us. But I never felt a bit differently when they would do these transference prayers. So on this night we made our way to the front of the room and had hands laid on us by our spiritual fathers. We both fell over backwards, spectacularly, I must say, under the “anointing”. But looking back at it now, I think I fell because I knew it was expected and it really looked more spiritual to the audience and I was caught up in the hype. I was influenced by the power of suggestion. Plus, the guy praying pushed me, I am sure of it. I thought I was supposed to fall and not embarrass him for his lack of power. I see now that this whole thing had nothing to do with God. It was about control and power over people. This was unlike my Jesus who is so kind, gentle, and not obtrusive.
While my friend and I lay on the floor, I felt a rushing wind blowing over us. I thought “how appropriate, we are in the upper room and the Holy Ghost is blowing over us just like at the day of Pentecost”. At the same time the door to the room we were in blew open and slammed into the wall with a horrifying crash. There was no one there. At this point, I was freaking out. The next thing I knew there were fast, heavy footsteps running towards me where I lay on the floor. My partner and I both raised our heads and looked up and to the left at exactly the same time just as a tall man from out of no where ran right toward us, leapt over our heads and headed for the window. He jumped head first out the window and fell two stories to the street below. Everyone just sat there stunned and not sure what to do. I lay on the floor in a state of disbelief.
The church had a prayer person who was called the intercessor. Her job was to pray consistently for the church and all associated with it. She was revered as the one closest to God within our ranks. It was thought she had an inroad with Him. When this man ran through the service and jumped out the window she jumped up dramatically and ran down the stairs to the street. When she saw the man on the pavement she ran to him and threw herself on top of him, in true Elijah form, praying out loudly in another language. Meanwhile, someone had called an ambulance and when they arrived the EMT’s couldn’t get her off the injured man to tend to him. I can only imagine what they were thinking. It was embarrassing. I didn’t go outside to join the crowd for fear someone would know I was with that group. The paramedics had to physically remove the intercessor from the man and he was carted away to the hospital. We never saw him again.
My only awkward conclusion to this episode was, “What in the world am I doing in this Looney bin”. It was explained to us later that we had gotten so full of the Holy Spirit while praying that we just witnessed a full display of the demons making a spectacle of themselves (it must have been the gorilla guys).
Soon after that incident there was another tragic occurrence within the confines of this Word church. The lowly and meek piano player with a husband and two small children deserted her family and ran off with the big burly worship leader. They left the state, not be seen again. This same worship leader had been calling me at 8:00 a.m. in the mornings wanting to come over for coffee. I had to repeatedly tell him my husband wasn’t home and it wasn’t appropriate. I tried to tell the pastor that this guy wasn’t sincere or trustworthy but he had such a beautiful singing voice the pastor felt he was called of God and I had to be wrong. Wonder what God thought when he ran away with the piano playing mama?
After a year of this weirdness, the church folded due to an offering theft and everyone left. I, being the loyal (sometimes to my own destruction) one, stayed until the bitter end. The pastor, instead of being appreciative of my faithfulness to him, turned on me and threatened to destroy my name in our town. He declared his whole demise was my fault. In retrospect I suppose I became the target because there was no one else left to blame. Our former church had a new pastor and we were all invited back by this new and very diplomatic shepherd. We limped back like the prodigal sons and daughters that we were, done with eating with pigs and with our tails between our legs. We humbly received the invitation to rejoin our former church, vowing we had all learned our lessons. I sobbed the loudest at our gracious reinstatement to our original church home. I don’t know about everyone else at that time but I know my troubles were just beginning.