Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rough Week

If you have some extra prayers, I would like to ask for you to pray for me and my family.  This is hard.  The lawsuit decision is hanging over my head, but I'm not sure my funk is all about that, though. 

The harder issues for me right now are spiritual abuse and how it affects families and marriages - even years after the fact.  This is what I'm dealing with now personally.  Relational issues are tough and combine that with spiritual issues, it's even more challenging.  I'm just going to leave it at that and ask for prayers.  I didn't want to hide this fact because it's a part of the ramifications of spiritual abuse and it needs to be discussed.  Maybe when we get through this hurdle, it would be good to discuss it more at length.  I guess I'm sharing this for two reasons:  one is because we could really use the prayers.  Secondly, to let you know that this is a very normal part of spiritual abuse.  It is confusing and it can come between the most important relationships.  So if you are walking in this part of of your spiritual abuse recovery, I'll be your walking buddy.  You are not alone.

Also weighing heavily on my heart were stories I've read and heard this week.  One story I heard today - from another side of the country -  would make your head spin - sexual abuse involving a very young child that was overlooked by pastor and the typical pattern is that the perpetrator gets all the attention (cover up) and the victim gets basically abandoned and pushed aside.  AAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!   I can't handle this, people.

There are so many of us out there who are going through this.  I was reminded of  Pastor Ken's comment yesterday - that even he struggles with spiritual abuse "remains" some 16 years later.  Yea, this stuff is real and lasting and we'll be working through it for a while.   I'm so thankful for his honesty and vulnerability - keeping it real for us here -  as someone who has walked this path.  

Here is my favorite part of Ken's comments in case you missed it:
As for the guilt, it's a double-bind, really. I was horribly guilty for mistreating my parents, siblings, old-friends who hadn't "seen the light" as I had, etc., (still apologizing to this day!), but also, I was constantly dealing with a nagging guilt for being/seeming less committed to this new, "serious" church that I'd joined, and was gradually giving away more of my life to, piece by piece, friend by friend, dollar by dollar. I felt guilty for being a my families events/parties, etc., and guilty for NOT being at them! Ugh. I'm flash-backing...going to go on a walk and thank God for saving me, once and again and again! 

And I don't know if you need to read the next part, but I think I needed to read it about 22 times today.  Thanks, Ken

 This chapter of your "life-book" is dark, strange, full of surprises, wins and losses. I know it's been pretty dark and challenging and uncertain. But we DO know the end of the book! The great Shepherd personally returns for His flock. Errant teachers are corrected and judged appropriately. Damaged sheep are finally and forever healed, and the world finally sees Jesus, again!

Amen, oh, how I needed to read those words.  And now after reading that for the 23rd time, I will go and put my head in the book of Philippians because a good friend thinks it would be good for me.  Thanks, Michelle.  

Last thought:  Folks, if you do not have people in your life who will lovingly encourage you to stay on the right path.  Please seek them out.  Take a risk and ask if they would do that for you.  I don't think I could do this on my own without friends.

Photo is from Avery Suarez, one of the high school choral students I worked with last year and a great photographer.


  1. "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).

    Julie Anne and company, you have my most sincere prayers.

    1. I've always read that verse quickly in the context of the chapter, but by itself it is so powerful and beautiful - wow, it has touched me. Thank you so much for sharing it, monax.

  2. Praying for the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding to be with you now and always....for it is in the depths of trial and pain I have come to know what this truly means...If Christ is for us, who can stand against us. Remember to lay aside your worries, surrender your care to God, for He cares for you.
    Often I find myself surrendering my cares many times in one day, as I get out of the way, God shows me His mighty care in my life....I am grateful for the hard learned lessons He haas guided me through because truly, the joy of the Lord then IS my strength.
    I love you and am thankful for you friend-now go be kind to yourself. Jesus loves you and I do too.

  3. Hi Julie, I have been reading your blog for the past couple of weeks. There's so much I can relate to, such as today's post where you wrote about spiritual abuse affecting families and relationships even years later. I'm also the victim of an abusive church - I lost my wife and my children their mother. Coming out of a spiritually abusive church often is like entering into a thick mental fog and confusion. Things can be presented as so black and white while in a spiritual abusive church, it can be difficult to relate to the shades of gray when outside of it. Some never are able to cope with this, and keep re-entering the hellish nightmare, either by allowing themselves to be victimized by another group, or by becoming an abuser themselves. Or, they simply have a mental breakdown and do things one never dreamed possible. I've grown weary of people who tell me just to "get over it." Losing a family member in this manner is not something you just "get over." You are haunted everyday by the wounds you see, in yourself, and those around you.

    You will be in our prayers, Julie. Please keep us in yours.

    1. Dear Matthias,

      My heart is heavy for my friend, Julie Anne, and now for you and your family. Jesus said to "weep with those who weep" and I find myself doing so now. I will be praying for you and your family. Jesus was called a 'Man of Sorrows'...He certainly sympathizes with our burdens. My prayer will be that you will cast all your care upon Him because He cares for you.

      Man of sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came
      ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah! what a Savior!

      Much love in Christ to you,


    2. Matthias: No, you don't just get over that kind of pain. I haven't lost my family, but you have lost yours and yet you still have something within you to reach out and share your story here and pray for me. I most certainly will be praying for you and I also would like to invite my readers to keep you and your family in their prayers, too.

      Thank you for commenting, Matthias.

      ~Julie Anne

    3. It's heartbreaking to know that families are broken apart because of spiritual abuse. When I was young, my brother (who is 12 years older than I) got caught up in The Way (cult) movement in the 70s and was a rabid follower (he's now foursquare... I think). He alienated my widowed mother, sisters and myself because of its "teachings" and used it as justification to take things that were my father's that should have gone to my sisters and myself, because we're "going to hell anyway." It came to a point I just couldn't stand to be around him, he treated us so badly. The last time I saw him was in 2008, and the visit was very uncomfortable and strained (and I wouldn't have dealt with him at all if I didn't need copies of the family heirloom photos that he nabbed just before my mother's funeral 10 years prior). I realized long ago that he was a stranger that I just happened to share DNA with, because of his indoctrination. I hear about him from my sisters occasionally, and he is a lonely, bitter, angry man (who has now been divorced 3 times; he broke up with his last wife - a Russian bride - after dumping a pot of hot coffee on her in an argument).

  4. Hugs, hon, hugs. Always go back to the basics of your faith when the road is rocky.
    I love the way 22 year old Charitie Bancroft (cannot believe she was that young!) summed up those basics in 1863. She entitled it “The Advocate”, we sing it as “Before the Throne of God Above.”

    You can trust YOUR Advocate for your eternal salvation, everything else takes a back seat to that. This isn’t our home and it feels downright inhospitable at times. He knows this, and He is pleading on your behalf.

    Before the throne of God above
    I have a strong and perfect plea,
    A great high Priest whose Name is Love,
    Who ever lives and pleads for me.
    My name is graven on His hands,
    My name is written on His heart.
    I know that while in heaven He stands
    No tongue can bid me thence depart,
    No tongue can bid me thence depart.

    When Satan tempts me to despair
    And tells me of the guilt within,
    Upward I look and see Him there
    Who made an end to all my sin.
    Because the sinless Savior died
    My sinful soul is counted free,
    For God, the Just, is satisfied
    To look on Him and pardon me,
    To look on Him and pardon me.

    Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
    My perfect, spotless righteousness,
    The great unchangeable I AM,
    The King of glory and of grace.
    One with Himself, I cannot die,
    My soul is purchased by His blood.
    My life is hid with Christ on high,
    With Christ, my Savior and my God!

    One with Himself, I cannot die,
    My soul is purchased by His blood.
    My life is hid with Christ on high,
    With Christ, my Savior and my God!

    1. Oh, this is one of my favorites and I actually have the words memorized. Thanks, OM :)

  5. Thank you for your honesty, Julie Anne. Praying for you, for your family, for your marriage. Please consider Luke 10. Julie Anne as Martha has to worry about being a wife and mother, cooking, home-schooling, child-rearing, keeping house, monitoring blog comments, nasty barbs, lawyers, and a court decision that will affect her life. Julie Anne as Mary has to do one thing, to sit at the Lord's feet and love Him, and let Him love her.

    Be Mary. Rest.

    We'll pray.

    1. P.S. The photograph is stunning.

    2. Thank you, Jamie. Those are good words. And I'll pass along your comment to Avery.

  6. Julie Anne -

    First - consider yourself hugged.

    You have been an inspiration and a safe haven for me. I know you understand what that means. :-)

    I am praying for you and your family.
    May the Peace of Christ fill your home and your spirit.
    My biggest prayer for you is that through this you will walk into a freedom greater than any you have yet known.

    You are on my mind often - thank you for your honesty, courage and generosity.

    Lastly - consider yourself hugged again.


    1. Thanks for the hugs and sweet words, Jeannette :)

  7. Professor MoriartyJuly 20, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    Where can a person get a mini biography on Pastor O'Neal? Background, education, where he has worked etc.

    1. I believe his background is the Marine Corps. He left the Corps to go to seminary, but he did not finish. He was hired by Beaverton Grace Bible Church.

    2. You are correct, Dr. Watson. Cool name, btw.

  8. I just wonder...

    Was it worth it? If you were so concerned about the safety of others, couldn't you have just reported the matter to the authorities and maybe posted one or two reviews and moved on?

    1. @ Anonymous 4:52 AM.

      "Was it worth it?" That's an intriguing question. I cannot answer that for Julie Anne, but I can say that I am glad she began her blog. As a result of her not simply moving on, I have been helped by the issues she raises and the insights she shares.

      About the implied suggestion that she should have merely made a report and done a few reviews and called it a day, it would be nice if our responsibilities as those following Christ ended with a few simple actions. But if we are as interdependent on one another in the Body of Christ as the Scriptures suggest, is it possible that maybe what you're suggesting simply isn't enough ... though it might satisfy the person's conscience, did it meet a standard of ongoing compassion?

    2. As a bystander, I'd like to field this question for Julie Anne. She can correct me where I'm wrong.

      I would guess that she started the blog mostly in frustration because her Google reviews were removed. She was determined to make her comment.

      Then, something else happened. Others began reaching out to her with their own experiences and showed their depth of pain. When someone has been hurt on such a deep level, it can be a comfort to be validated. This doesn't mean wallowing in self-pity. If you haven't gone through something like this, it's hard to imagine how you end up questioning yourself on multiple levels. Hearing that it happened to someone else and the issue isn't you can promote healing.

      Yes, Julie Anne could have made her one blog post and moved on. She chose not to, thank goodness, because she's given voice to many who had lost theirs. This blog has provided a community of sorts to wounded people and encouragers.

      Whether it was worth it is a question Julie Anne will have to answer. I don't think she would have chosen the spotlight, but it was thrust upon her by one who brought a lawsuit because he couldn't remove her blog posts like he did her Internet reviews. She has said repeatedly that she will not be silenced by threats and intimidation, and that's exactly what the one who brought the suit is trying to do.

    3. Might I suggest to Anonymous “I just wonder...if you...couldn’t...have just...moved on?” that you respectfully read through this blog to have your questions answered. JA just confessed how crushed she was, and now you want to weigh her down even more with questions that have already been thoroughly answered throughout the pages of this blog?

    4. Well dude, she did that.....and they took the reviews down.

    5. Well said, monax. Well said.

    6. Monax, your reply reminded me of Psalm 34:18. Here is a portion of this beautiful Psalm:

      15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
      And His ears are open to their cry.
      16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
      To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

      17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
      And delivers them out of all their troubles.
      18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
      And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

      19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
      But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
      20 He guards all his bones;
      Not one of them is broken.
      21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
      And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
      22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
      And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

    7. Thank you, Holly, you nailed it beautifully.

      Also, I want to say that there are still quite a few former members who read this blog, many of whom are afraid to post here even anonymously (I know this to be a fact they have told me). The fear they are experiencing even after leaving the church is still part of the spiritual abuse. They are afraid of what their former pastor might do, who he might sue next, etc. There is an obvious pattern, is there not?

      Reading the stories of others and their abuse is how I came to the realization that what I experienced was in fact spiritual abuse. You can equate it to a child who gets beaten by a parent. Beatings is their norm, they don't know anything different. If they later read a story that someone got arrested for child abuse for beating their child, it might click for them that, "whoa, that's what has been going on with me and although I knew deep down something wasn't quite right, now I know I was abused". Something clicked.

      God created our brain in such an amazing way that it uses defense mechanisms to protect us from understanding all that we have gone through until such a time as we are ready to understand. If we were to fully comprehend what happened to some of us and the lasting ramifications, it might be too much to bear. Sharing one story at a time might help something to click for someone. This is what happened to me on another spiritual abuse site. It's a process.

      I would not have chosen the spotlight and especially wouldn't have chosen the pictures the media chooses to put with the articles ;) What's up with that?! lol

      But I am glad for the spotlight in the fact that people have come from all over and have identified with spiritual abuse. I hope they continue to read and are able to recover from what they experienced.

    8. Just Wondering...

      To clarify the question...

      Was the activity prior to starting your blog worth it. You started the blog as a result of Chuck's retaliation. I am referring to everything that you wrote that brought on the retalliation from Chuck. Not the blog.

    9. The case is not over yet and I am not 100% sure how I will feel when it is over. Actually, I'm not even convinced "it" will be over when the case is over. But since you are asking me today, I will answer overwhelmingly YES, it was worth it.

      I see little difference between the Google reviews and the blog, except this forum is clearly more interactive in the comments. In both I shared my experiences and discussed practices, behaviors, etc, that I believe are extra-biblical, legalistic and/or go against what the Bible defines as role of a pastor/elder. I also referenced and quoted info from spiritual abuse websites just as is done here.

    10. What brought on the retaliation from Chuck is that he was challenged. His pride cannot handle being questioned. If anyone questions him, his pattern is to discredit and publicly shame that person and bury or erase internet feedback. When he couldn't erase her blog posts, he filed suit.

      What brought on the retaliation from Chuck? In my opinion, one word: PRIDE.

    11. 56 years a Baptist, mostly SBCJuly 20, 2012 at 9:57 AM

      There are boils on the body of Christ, infections of terrible toxicity that, if not lanced and excised, will continue to spread their poison, the poison of false teaching and the placing of false burdens on the members of the body. Jesus said his burden is light, but a certain pastor has made the burden heavy for many.

      Scripture teaches us that we have to beware of the wolves who come into a local part of the body and inject their infection of false teaching and false burdens. What Julie Anne has done it to identify one such and to bring the disinfectant of exposure of those false teachings and false burdens. Were that there members and elders of that church who could see the evil the pastor has wrought and lance and excise that boil. Perhaps Julie Anne's on-line reviews and blog will provide the surgeon's tools necessary for those poor souls to rise up and excise.

    12. You are so right, Jess. The original Google review I said something to the effect of "everything will go well with you if you don't ask questions". I believe the moment he senses someone challenging him, they become a threat to his perceived position of authority. I also think that he thought I would take the blog down once he posted about the lawsuit or I received the subpoena.

      It's all about the image, too (which is pride). MacArthur has had oodles of websites devoted to him calling him a false teacher yada yada, and he doesn't sue. My former pastor is special.

    13. Look, I get it. It is not fun to hear criticism. Wise, mature people learn that if they listen to it, they might grow from it. After careful consideration, I don't always agree with criticism of me--but I usually do, even if it makes me wince.

      You don't learn anything if all you do is come out swinging.

    14. You're right, Jess. I think criticism is helpful. I think as Christians, we need to be willing to listen to our critics. Iron sharpening iron is good. I may have to share a recent personal experience of how someone challenged me and as a result, I have changed my stubborn mind on the issue. :)

  9. Anonymous July 20, 2012 4:52 AM

    While you may or may not agree with Julie Anne's methods, there is no clear Scriptural admonition that is categorically against what she has done. The same cannot be said for Pastor O'Neal, sadly. We are in grave danger when we put personal preferences on an equal footing with the Word of God.

    "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?" I Cor 6:1-4

    1. Oneal is convinced that 1 cor 6 is not relevant. He might be wrong as a chicken at the KFC drive through but that is for him and God to work out.

    2. Yes, but he's going through the drive-through in a van full of other chickens.

    3. What's wrong with KFC chicken?

  10. Julie Anne, might be a good idea to take a weekend off from the blog, just give yourself a couple of days to decompress. We will still be here when you come back.

    Keep your chin up. Your family is in my thoughts!

    1. Buff, I wanted to suggest the same thing, but I didn't want to convey that anything was wrong with her blogging. You said it beautifully--that we'll still be here and will be praying for her if she wants or needs to unplug for a bit.

    2. You know, Buff and Jamie, I suggested this very thing to her privately about six weeks ago, how we all need our Sabbath rests. But this is what I came away with: this Kingdom work JA is doing here on the blog can be absolutely spiritually refreshing; soul restoring too; it may Be the very place God has called her to rest. I trust these thoughts are somewhat in line with Arce's comment below.

  11. In my opinion, Julie Anne gets a great deal of comfort and encouragement by writing her posts and comment replies, as well as from those of us who comment here. But should she choose to take a hiatus, we will all still check in and be available to care and encourage.

    1. True....I just know sometimes I have to take a break from reading news reports because there's just too much out there some days.

    2. Arce - That is so true. I do get an incredible amount of comfort and encouragement here. I think a lot of what I write about is "finished" business. Yesterday's pain was "unfinished" and it's going to take some time. I was highly emotional and figured, I'm just going to say it like it is. This stuff is real, it hurts, and I'm not going to paint a picture that my life is perfect, rosy, when in fact there are real hurdles I am facing.

      Buff: There are times I put things on hold and then come back to them because it is too much as you said. I'm glad that most of the time I have a sense of those boundaries because some of this stuff can be so overwhelming. I feel things deeply and connect with so many of these stories.

      But the positive side is that it gives me more fuel for writing. Just as I can express my emotions when I'm at the piano, the same occurs when I write. It's therapeutic for me and perhaps for others as they identify. It makes sense, though, because I am drawn to Psalms as David cries out to God with such strong emotions and monax's verse he quoted above in Hebrews was so powerfully rich for me:

      Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).

      Some of us who are dealing with spiritual abuse are in a figurative prison. It occurred to me when reading it that what we do here is minister to those locked in the prison of spiritual abuse and we connect with them and help them along the way. So, so beautiful.

    3. Ok friends. Let me communicate something personal with you. When I first got sucked into this heavenly blog a couple months ago I mentioned that I was adopted at birth into a Christian family. Well that was 43 years ago, and only this Spring did I decided to write to the court house in Jackson County Missouri [the county I was adopted out of] to see if I couldn’t get my social history, get to know something more about my ethnicity and my biological parents. Two weeks ago I got a reply.

      All that I knew of my mother up until this Summer was that she played the piano. To me this meant she was a gifted pianist.

      As a child I studied piano too. Hated the study of it, so I don't 'read' music. However, I sure enjoy letting loose and pouring my heart and soul across the piano keys.

      Ok. Well, I found out two weeks ago that not only did my biological mother study the piano, she was 17, 5'4" and 96 lbs (which surprises me because I'm a pretty big boy), and she was a Christian and wanted me placed into a protestant family. My bio father was Catholic and Irish. Now I know.

      With respect to that, allow me to direct you to my favorite piano concerto. Prior to my court house reply, I though of my birth mother when I watch Hélène Grimaud play:

      Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto II (c), op. 18 (Hélène Grimaud; Claudio Abbado, 22/08/2008)

    4. monax, that is absolutely beautiful. How does she memorize that?! She is quite amazing.

      43 years is a long time to wait to find info about your birth parents. I'm glad you were able to get this information and hope you got the answers you were looking for. Thank you for sharing.

    5. Yes, beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. In my opinion, Julie should repent of her slanderous ways. That is something worth praying about. If she continues in her sin, she will no doubt suffer as she and her family are now.

    1. Anon - I haven't made any false statements, so there's no slander. But you can still pray for me :) All families go through stuff, mine is no different.

    2. Anonymous, please use a name if you're going to level such a rebuke!


    3. Furthermore,

      'For to you [that is, to Julie Anne] it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake' (Phil 1:29; see also 1 Peter 1:6-7).


      'the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom 8:18).


    4. Purify the Body, boot O'NealJuly 20, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      It is my opinion that there was no defamation by the defendants and that Julie Anne and the other defendants will win. The pastor has stood in the pulpit and defamed members of the church, so he has a lot of gall suing people for telling the truth about him and his behavior. He is a bully and apparently a stalker, showing up a people's homes after they have left his church with recording devices. What a creep. Perhaps people should dress up as Pastor Chucky for Halloween.

      Someone earlier said that that pastor and church are a boil on the body of Christ -- that's right. That boil is infectious as MRSA and pollutes everything that comes in contact with it. Isolation is the best treatment to protect others from being harmed by the disease.

    5. Purify - those are strong words and it makes me think you might have been part of the church. Did you attend the church?

    6. No, but I have followed this discussion and am familiar with the church and the complaints of several people. I am also familiar with the shunning process and the "public calling out of sin", even of those who have left, and that was probably their worst sin!!!

  13. I was reading that same passage last week that monax posted. The part about "Remember . . . those who are mistreated . . ." resonated with me as well and I also thought about posting it! It is so timely!

    Being mistreated by spiritual abuse continues to be the experience of all too many in the Body of Christ.

    It is important to continue to raise the awareness about it, to reach out to those who are hurting, and to seek solutions.

    Spiritual abuse takes its toll on married couples as well as on singles.

    Comfort continues to be a place available through the open arms of Jesus and the caring community of God's people through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Continued Love and Prayers across the miles!

  14. I understand your dilemma. My relationship with my siblings and mom was strained before the spiritual abuse and then during it became exceedingly worse. My abusive pastors constantly bashed my family and isolated me from them with their "confirmations" of the lack of "love" that my family had for me. After the abuse we got close for a time until my mom started judging me for being in that abusive atmosphere in the first place. Then my own parents went through eerily similar circumstances at their own church and then they became the spiritually abused as well. You would think that that experience would have drawn us closer but it drove a bigger wedge between us instead. It seemed to me, based on the lies that came from my mom about me, that her pastors had also poisoned the relationship between us with their seeds of judgment and isolation. So now, we only talk on birthdays, specifically hers. Spiritual abuse killed our relationship and made a strained relationship break. So I understand your heartache and I will indeed pray.

    1. Malinda,

      I've read some of the stories over on your blog, and even this, what you write above, breaks my heart.

      What can be done to help deliver people from such churches?

  15. Prayers for you Julie Ann. Thank you for your vulnerability with this. May He hold you in His arms and bring overwhelming peace to your soul. God bless!


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