9 Attributes to Look For if You Suspect You are Being Spiritually Abused

th  “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:30-31 

 We see the Lord’s displeasure being expressed against those who operate an effort to control the people. Consumed with their own ambition, these leaders have convinced the people that their power is divine. Yet in reality, these false prophets are merely wielding their self-imposed influence for personal gain, claiming they speak for God.

Pharisee“From the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (NAS). Jeremiah 6:13-14 

A common characteristic of an abusive religious system is that the real needs of the people are lost in the never-ending quest by the leaders for personal fulfillment and happiness.  

And this has been my story.  Part of it anyway.  You will find my whole story in detail in my first book, ”Climbing Out of the Box, My Journey Out of Sexual and Spiritual Abuse Into Freedom and Healing” 




Some of my spiritual abuse experiences include:

  1. When I needed to go to work to help support my family I was told by the authorities of the church I attended that I needed to forfeit working and stay in the ministry because if I didn’t I would lose all my gifting to ever do ministry again. For years I thought my gifts would not be used again and that I was disobedient because I didn’t obey them. (Until I was shocked when I began to see my same gifts used out there in the market place..aha moment.)

  2. A church that repeatedly told us they basically had the corner on the market of Jesus and they had the fullness of God and His gifts, where other churches did not, and that if we ever had to go elsewhere, we would miss God’s highest.

  3. A pastor who found ministry to be a vehicle for his great gain, lying and manipulating donors to give more and more money. He actually took the offering in decorated trash cans…(not lying).  The wealthy had the high positions in the church.  There was the pastor who had the men of the church build his home for free labor, stating, that as Solomon had to have the temple built before he could help the people, he, too, needed to have his temple before he was free to really be a pastor.

  4. A leader who cornered me in a room alone, threatened me, and yelled because he said I was too “perfect” to minister to women. He said I needed to dress down and quit painting my nails if I wanted women to identify with me.  He also said I needed to project being poor.  I was devastated.

  5. Openly ostracized and lied about to a congregation of people to manipulate me to quit my women’s ministry outside his organization that was reaching hundreds of women. ( I didn’t quit.  I left his church organization that very night.)

  6. Innocently called into a pastor’s office alone and watching him lose his temper at me, yelling with spittle flying, finger pointed in my face, falsely accusing me of talking about him behind his back because I told a sound man I was removed from the worship team and had no idea why.  I sobbed so loudly I couldn’t gain control while he stared me down with contempt until I finally got up and left.

These are all true stories, and I could go on and on but,

…now, many years later I coach so many who relate their own stories of pain and abuse at the mercy of “godly men and women”.  My heart aches for them because I know this is not Jesus.  This is man or woman who wants to control and the power goes to their heads. 

But, this was just the beginning of my story.  Upon leaving these controlling ministries after 25 years of having a church building as home and family,  I went through a 5 year sabbatical where I had an encounter with Jesus such as I never had, after being in church and busy with ministry all those years.  

freedom  It took me many years to be set free from the damage that was done to my spirit and to be able to enter a church building without anxiety and tears. 

 So don’t lose hope in the pain of loss when you know you have to make a change.  Jesus promises to NEVER leave you or forsake you.  Even when you are brave enough to leave and everyone is saying to just overlook the sin.  

When all the control and crutches are gone guess Who is left standing? 

jesus6    Jesus!!  

And oh what a Man He is…never to leave us or forsake us.  He will reveal Himself to you in all truth and lead you to safe places to experience the true love of God in motion, and connect with believers who really care and walk in His love in confidence.

Things to look out for in your place of church community if you suspect spiritual abuse:

  1. Do they say you have to blindly respect and obey them, without having earned it, just because they said so and they are your leader?

  2. Do they demand your allegiance to them as ‘proof’ that you are a follower of Jesus?

  3. Do they use exclusive language: “We are the only church in town really following Jesus.”  “Our theology is the only sound doctrine.”  Everyone else is missing the “deeper” walk.

  4. Do they shame people, without grace, if they fail to live up to the church’s expectations?

  5. Do they quote scriptures about “not touching God’s anointed” when referring to themselves? Yet they often confront sin in others, particularly ones who bring up legitimate biblical issues. Or they have their circle of influence take on this task, silencing their critics.

  6. Do they cultivate a dependence on one leader or leaders for spiritual insights? Personal discipleship isn’t encouraged. Often the Bible gets pushed away to the fringes unless the main leader is teaching it. And if you have an insight from God they have to approve it before you can share.

  7. Do they demand blind service from their followers, but live prestigious, privileged lives.They live aloof from their followers and justify their material extravagance as God’s favor and approval on their ministry. Unlike Jesus’ instructions to take the last seat, they often take the first seat at events and court others to grant them privileges. They typically chase after wealth–at any cost, and often at the expense of the very people they shepherd.

  8. Do they hold to outward performance but reject authentic spirituality. And place burdens on followers to act a certain way, dress an acceptable way, and have an acceptable lifestyle, but they often demonstrate licentiousness, greed, and uncontrolled addictions behind closed doors.

  9. Use exclusivity for your blind allegiance to them. Followers close to the leader or leaders feel like lucky insiders. And, of course, this meant they are more spiritual than the rest of the congregation.  Did you ever feel like you are exempt from the “click” of popular people in the community of believers?  Everyone else is on the outside, though they long to be in that inner circle.

We are all one body in His church. 

hands  You are the church!  

We need safe places to gather together and grow together and share Him together.  Don’t settle for less, and be brave enough to change if the Holy Spirit is showing you that something is just not right.  In fact, run!!  

The longer I stayed out of my ‘loyalty’, the move abused I was in the end.  You cannot fix it!!   Run!

  There is healing and restoration from this horrible sin for both the ones who have abused and the victims of their abuse.    Remember we are all an important part of His body.  We ALL have gifts, callings and talents He wants to use.  We were never meant to sit in a pew looking at the backs of heads while listening to one man  teach, without using our own gifts too!!  No one is more important than the other.

Be set free today!!   

Call me if you need help with this issue and you find yourself sunk deep into spiritual abuse and feel like you can’t get out.  Go to the home page from this blog and send me a message.  Or please comment below.


Confronting the Elephant in the Room

elephant in the room Because I am an advocate that  stands up for those who have  been victims of childhood  abuse and….

 Because I am a healed  survivor of my own past of  childhood abuse….

I once again feel the need to speak up on behalf of that group of people that even the church tries to shush up…because the disclosure is so uncomfortable for them…so it is easier to sweep it under the rug and pretend we don’t know these things are happening every day.

When are we going to start confronting the elephant in the room that most will ignore and pretend it is not there?

Silencing victims by saying that this shouldn’t be talked about, or should remain within families, says to a victim that this is something to be ashamed of.

 That they are in fact damaged goods.

woman-praying-clipart-LcKdoepEi When these crimes are called out and discussed in a public forum, the offender alone should bear both the responsibility and the shame. These matters need to be discussed not only for prevention, but also for healing.

 Victims need to be heard. They need to be believed. They need to know that what happened was not their fault. We bear witness to their suffering when we give them a voice.

 The only way we can ever hope to stop abuse is if we are willing to talk about it and admit that it happens.  We need to allow them to speak out!  To be transparent without fear of reprisal or shame or embarrassment. We also need to acknowledge that the Christian community is not exempt from this horror.   But it is not something that is often spoke about or expose within the church gatherings.

 I believe this will change.

 As Ann Voscamp so adequately puts it, “Because People of the Church are to be those who stand up so safe places open up, who lead by always going lower, who expose and confront abuse everywhere they find it, so the hope of the Gospel can be of use anywhere it goes.

Because People of the Cross are to be witnesses for the suffering, and responders to the victims, and testifiers of Truth, no matter the cost, no matter the risk, because Christ is The Truth — and where there isn’t Truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever hide or cover-up the Truth?”

And to those still walking in their victimhood:

10440802_696494227073693_7724385406213002777_n Our wounds from childhood  abuse bring messages with  them…they have a common  theme of “your worthless, you  have no value, you are a  flawed person, no one will  love you, you are ugly” ….

 And when those wounds were delivered to you with such pain, they felt true. 

They pierced your heart. 

So, you accepted the message as fact.  You embraced the worthless verdict on yourself. 

The vows of silence we made as children act like a deep seated agreement with the messages of our wounds.  Because it was all about survival.   There was nothing else that could penetrate that agreement with our pain.  The vows we made acted like a kind of covenant with the messages that came with our deep wounds. 

light and darkness And it is a deep hole of darkness.

 We know that the word tells us where 2 or 3  agree on a matter it shall be done.  This can  work in the negative as well.  When we, as  victims of our past, set ourselves in agreement  with the enemy that there is something wrong  with us, we begin to live in exactly that place.

Those childhood vows are very dangerous things.  They change the course of our life.  

We have to renounce the messages as lies ….it is the way to unlock the door to Jesus.  Agreements lock the door from the inside.  Renouncing the agreements unlocks the door to Him….

birdcage to Jesus…

 He will move into those  heavily veiled places within  our soul and be there with us  in that place of pain and  abuse…..and deliver us and  heal us from the past.  I don’t know how He does it.  But I can attest to the fact that He does.

Because he did for me!  

(If you want to read my story of being a child victim of incest, you can find my memoir “Climbing Out of the Box.” on Amazon.) 

To you precious abuse survivors reading this:

Never forget that there is hope for healing. Although life after trauma is messy and working through the pain is difficult, it is absolutely worth the fight.

May you rest in the hope of a God who cradles his wounded children in his arms as his own body is wracked with tears for the suffering you have endured.

And He will heal you to the point that the past will not affect your future.

38477_137112636323023_6691527_n He will feed His flock like a shepherd:  He will gather the lambs in His arms,  He will carry them in His bosom and  will gently lead those that have their  young. Is. 40:11

 Jesus I give myself to you.  I give my  life to you.  I surrender me…totally  and completely.   Forgive all my  hurtful ways.  Forgive my self-  protecting ways and all of my chasing after other comforters.  Come and be my savior, healer, my love……

(If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and haven’t worked through the steps to healing please contact me for coaching on my home page above or leave a comment here.)

Church and Fast Food…What Do They Have in Common?

drive thru We are so fast paced in our country.  And we have incorporated this into our relationship with God.  We are a fast food nation.

We want instantaneous answers, overnight transformation, speedy growth.  We want drive up and drive through service.

But God desires to speak to us daily through His word.  He wants to have direct conversation with us.  When we only rely upon others to feed us on Sunday mornings, we are relying upon the processed word; what we are being fed by someone else…not the pure word that God speaks directly to us.  It is great to share the word with others and hear their insights, but if that is all you rely on and don’t commune with Him yourself and listen to His voice for yourself, you are eating processed foods, spiritually, and it is not enough to sustain you or show you how to walk in the Kingdom every day.

Now, physically speaking,  the healthiest natural organic foods are whole foods… not processed foods.  

organic-vegetables2Our bodies need choice fruit and vegetables straight from the vine.  Processed foods make the body sick.  They lack vital nutrients and contain impure additives and dyes that have no value to our bodies. Though filling, they are toxic and do nothing but promote disease.

It takes work to go get good, healthy food.  The planning and cooking and just the overall inconvenience of having to take the time to eat it.  It is so much easier to run by the drive through and eat something that tastes good and fills us up, but is killing our healthy cells.  We can deny it for a while, but when we get physically sick we either let our addiction for fast food kill us or change our ways.

In the same way, it takes time and persistence to walk with Jesus every day and to pursue Him with all your heart.  Going to a building on one day a week and thinking that is enough for true Kingdom living is deceiving ourselves.

It is not enough!

The collective body of Christ is sick from eating processed foods, spiritually speaking.  They have been doing it so long that they do not know how to eat and drink freely from Him…to meditate with Jesus, to spend time with just Him.  They think just going to a church institution will be enough.  But then they wonder why they go back to a defeated, mundane life the rest of the week.  

drive through churchWe eat fast food on Sundays and then wonder why we are starving and miserable the rest of the week.  Yet any minute of the day He is standing there waiting for you to listen to His whispers in your heart.

It takes an investment in time, deliberate focus and purpose to eat well.  As it is with our body and natural food, so it is with our spirit and spiritual food.

The pursuit to find any formula that can be applied to produce His righteousness and provide me with New Testament church life or even grow my trust, is foolish.

It will fail, time and time again, until in the end we come to realize that this reality only comes through a growing friendship with Him.  The more I know Him and the more I see His hand at work the more free I will be to trust Him and live in His kingdom.

Any time we choose to follow someone else’s formula for success, or an agenda no matter how well intentioned, we will end up living by our own limited wisdom.

The invitation to this Kingdom is to follow a person.

Jesus doesn’t give us the way; He is The Way.

He doesn’t have life; He is The Life. 

He doesn’t just speak truth; He is The Truth itself.

Everything about His kingdom begins and ends in Him and we experience that through a growing friendship with Him.

To grow in this life, I am continually cultivating my relationship with Him.  I intentionally spend time with Him as I grow in my awareness of His working throughout my day.  I have a running conversation with Him about everything in my life and express my desire to follow His will at every turn.

I try to saturate myself in the word to learn how He thinks and acts.  And it is important to join in what God is showing others by what I read and listen to, and the conversations I have with others I gather with on this journey.

This means letting go of the lies of shame and the demands for performance that drive us from him and find our security in His devotion and love for us and let that transform us.

For me, it has been great freedom to realize that I never had the power or wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, and how losing confidence in my flesh actually freed me to live more dependent on Him and more grateful for His working. 

What a joy to wake up in the uncertain adventure of life and not be distressed at what might happen today, because He is with me!  I can’t explain how wonderful that freedom is.

How could fast food Christianity ever produce this?

The pattern in everything is this:

The greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain—things you must force yourself to do when you don’t feel like it—while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are as inviting as a big old feather bed and down comforters.

God, in great mercy, is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly realities, that there is great reward for those who struggle through and persevere (Hebrews 10:32–35).

He is reminding us almost everywhere to walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Each struggle to overcome becomes a gigantic flag to us saying, “Look ahead, past the struggle itself, past the temptation of the puny, vapor joys to the great, sustained, substantial Joy set before you!”

See your Father pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end. (Matthew 24:13). 

Transpose it from reluctance to a reminder that God is calling you not to indulgence but endurance.

Then lay this weight aside and run with faith the race he has set before you.  God will meet you with the grace you need (2 Corinthians 9:8).

jesus and meAnd the thing is: This light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

We are All a Mess..And the Creatures of the Forest

forest-animals-3I want to tell you a story. 

The names have been changed to protect the guilty.  For they have already been forgiven.  

We read about each other’s journeys, memoirs and daily exploits.  We picture others lives as victorious and grand. 

Why, because many of us share only those parts of ourselves we want people to know about, right?   Many of us are learning to be more transparent and vulnerable and thank God for that!!  It is only as others see those parts of our lives that we keep hidden that they can identify with us and it gives them hope as we find our way.  The truth is:


A beautiful mess…

We all have a story.

Oh, yes, we are all growing and maturing if our walk is with the One who loves us the most. But when it comes to outward appearances we are all quite private, mostly, and we are all too embarrassed to allow others in…especially when it involves our offspring straying from what we think and sometimes KNOW they should not be doing.     When we look at others lives we tend to look at the children, who are many times all grown up, and we are aghast that they live real lives, with really bad choices sometimes.

 We are all part of a family; some with young kids and some with grown kids and grand kids and some who are elderly and tend to live their lives through their offspring. 

We can’t control them all, can we?   If you have tried to control them, how is that working for you?

After giving them an upbringing the best we knew with what we had in that season of our lives it is now our job to then let go, and let them find their way with occasional counsel from us—but only if they want it!

Actually, if you are like me you have discovered that you can’t control anyone or “fix” anyone at all—even our children.   It is a walk of surrender, trust, and waiting on God to see Him move in those we love.

This is why I am quite amused by the sitcom Parenthood.   It is a combination of stories of a family and extended family of each child, grandchild, and the parents;  all living their own lives– but intertwining those lives back to the a original family of mom and dad.  It follows their ups and downs and daily drama and how they all relate.   I know our lives are like this in real life.  In our family, when we all get together we all talk at the same time, just like in the sitcom, and there is always drama, and somehow it all makes sense. 

So, rather haltingly, because I have not written this way before, I  have put together a story, using false names, to relate what I have seen in the struggles of so many that I coach.

Let me introduce you to the Squirrel family; squirrels-family

Mr. Squirrel, Mrs. Squirrel, and their delightful children; Hector, Missy, and JoJo.   Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel found God when they were very young and vowed that their family would serve God all their days and that they would not have kids like those worldly animals outside the Church of the Forest.  Their kids would be different.squirrels

Every Sunday the Squirrel family all scampered off to the little church in the forest, to fellowship. .  Hector, Missy, and JoJo were raised in the Church of the Forest’s nursery, and then Youth church of the forest, and then they graduated to where the adult animals gathered, Big Squirrel Church.   

The squirrels made really sure they always sat among their kind, meaning all the other squirrels, so as not to allow their children to be influenced by those questionable Raccoon and Rat families.   

This is how the Squirrel children were raised and they were not allowed to even talk to the ones on the outside of their forest circle, lest they be tainted by the world…in fact, they were tree schooled so they would not have to be out in the world at all.

One day teen age Hector said he was tired of going to that boring forest church.   He wanted to go to the annual “Nut Gathering Concert” by Herman and the Blue Jays that Sunday.  blue jay

What?  “How could he desert us and join those heathen”, said mom and dad Squirrel.  “He surely knows better!”

Soon Missy and JoJo, following Hectors lead, began to want to do other things more interesting to them on Sundays as well.   They became fashion conscious and began to wear questionable furry things over their little heads that made their ears stand out, and they revealed a little too much in Mr. Squirrels eyes.  

They painted their little faces, and wore fashionable acorn hats.  Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel were horrified, and tried to put up boundaries, and banned them to their rooms at night. 

But Missy and JoJo would sneak out and join the wild ones of the forest and saw many tempting and delightful things that were expressly forbidden in their home.  They felt so grown up.

They even went to see forbidden movies in the forest amphitheater after hours, like, “Dirty Weasel”.

Mom and Dad became aware that their control in the lives of the baby squirrels was slipping.   The children began to run the forest with questionable characters, such as Mickey, the Ferret, who claimed that God wasn’t real and influenced them to join him smoking berry joints.   Ferret

And then there were the horrid frog brothers, Castor, and Juice!  They loved to hang out and jump around intoxicated on the spirits of mushrooms and were totally indecent creatures.  They were the bad boys of the forest, and everyone knows that girls have a soft spot for the bad boys.   The squirrel kids thought they were so cool, and soon, they defied Mom and Dad Squirrel to join their friends in swinging from trees and eating tainted nuts and flies, supplied by Mickey, the Ferret.  frogs

Pure rebellion!

Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel wondered where they went wrong.  They lost sleep.  They prayed.  They fasted.  They beat themselves up. They withdrew from their friends out of shame and failure.

“How could we not see this coming?  Didn’t we pray enough?  Where did we miss it?”  They cried.

They felt shame and didn’t want to share with others what was happening to their perfect little family. 

“Should we call on the forest therapist, Harry, the buck?”  They asked each other.  buck

They decided to just pray– but they just couldn’t stop giving their kids ultimatums and demands to straighten up and fly right because that was all they could think of doing!  They felt so out of control. 

But Hector, Missy, and JoJo ignored their pleas and just kept growing up and doing their own thing, rebelling against authority with the rebels of the forest. 

One day, Missy met Rastus the Raccoon and fell instantly in love.   Mrs. Squirrel was beside herself as to how Mr. Squirrel would react when he found out his daughter was in love with an outsider.  raccoon

The Raccoons were not like the Squirrels and she knew the rest of the church family would gossip and talk about how they, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, could possibly tolerate a raccoon in their family.  And for that matter they wondered what else was hidden in the Squirrel family that the animals at the Church of the Forest didn’t know about. 

And, oh my, what would people think?    The whole forest knew the Squirrel family were the most upright in the forest!!

Next JoJo met Squirmy, the hot little rat who ruled the ratunderworld of the subculture of the forest.  He loved to mock the system of religion in the forest and had his own ideas of how he wanted his life to go and JoJo found him fascinating.   They defied JoJo’s childhood teachings and warnings and soon they found out they were going to have a little squirrel-rat in the spring—outside marriage. 

The horror.

Mrs. Squirrel fainted.

Now, Hector, was out swinging one day and he noticed this hot little fox, Francesca, sitting on a log.  She was petite and feminine but lived on the other side of the creek.   She was everything he was taught to not become involved with.  And she was very promiscuous….and had a really bad reputation among the creatures of the forest and she smoked berry joints and drank tainted mushroom water.   But Hector was smitten and he began dating her at the Pine Needle Bar every night.  Soon they were in love and eloped before Mr. And Mrs. Squirrel even knew about the relationship.  fox

Mr. Squirrel drank a mushroom brew when he found out and was out of it for days.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel became very discouraged.  Was all their years of teaching and protecting and controlling in vain?  They were now judged and condemned by the church creatures instead of supported and prayed for.  They were so embarrassed by their children’s choices they stopped going to the gatherings all together. 

But when they were ostracized by most of the animals in their church (whose kids were not grown yet, or they had no kids) and found themselves alone, they finally began to look to God for answers.  God taught them that all their children had been taught the right way to live.  Now, they had to let them go to learn on their own.  Even if that meant they would fail. 

The word said they would eventually come back to their roots of learning right from wrong.  But even if it was not in the parents timing, God would bring them back.   They discovered if they tried to fix their children the result would be that they only pulled away more.  So, they defied what the gossips were saying and began loving their children and their families and accepted them into the fold.  The revelation that they could love, even if they didn’t agree with some of the things their children did, actually made the kids all want to be around them more.

It was love in the end that brought them all back together.  Oh, there is plenty of drama, and always some crisis or another, but Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel found that since they couldn’t fix their kids, that God did a much better job.

And you know what, Squirmy, Rastus, and Francesca, ended up wanting more information about God…and one day showed up at the Church of the Forest with their spouses leading the way. 

The moral of this story?

It says in Isaiah 54:13 Amp.

“And all your children shall be disciples [taught by the Lord and obedient to His will], and great shall be the peace and undisturbed composure of your children.

I know there are so many whose children are still out there living lives that do not line up with where they should be. 

And it scares us. 

And it hurts our pride. 

It somehow reflects on us in our own minds.

So, we suffer alone.  This is not good. 

We need each other!!

Jesus promises us that as we lean into Him and trust Him that He will do His work in our offspring and He gives us peace in the meantime.  Even though our children are a part of who we are, there comes a time to let go and trust that whatever they are doing, and wherever they go, that He will keep them and move in their hearts.

Thus says the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord; and [your children] shall return from the enemy’s land.  And there is hope for your future, says the Lord; your children shall come back to their own country.Jer. 31:16-17 Amp  christ-with-animals