Friday, July 01, 2011

When You Leave a Cult...

I guess it has been 5 years since we left, it's so hard to believe.  We live in a different country, have added  another child to our family, and we are different people.  Some of the people we left behind think we're different too but they don't see it as a good thing...

  It's easy sometimes to forget how your experiences shape your thinking and everything you do.  On some days I feel that we are so much freer and happier, and on others, well, I'm still just trying to survive.  Though I don't often comment anymore on the blog SGM Survivors, I have always followed it and speak up now and again, especially if I think my words can somehow be an encouragement to someone else who is leaving (or contemplating it).   I think it's good to remember where you've come from, so I'm remembering.  And I'm thankful.

I don't regret our time in SGM.  We met some amazing people, learned theological perspectives that were new to us, and in the end we crashed and found that God's grace was there to rescue us from the rock bottom. We learned to never trust in the charisma of men, not to be fooled by fine-sounding arguments, not to believe false-humility.  We learned through it all who we really are in Christ, and to NEVER let any human being dictate to us who we are or should be.  I think we learned that freedom is the right and privelege of every single son of God; spiritual, intellectual, and emotional freedom. It's  something that no one can take from us but we can be persuaded and deceived into giving it up. It's something I will never give up again by God's grace. 

And there are some marks left from  all that we went through.  I'm still cynical and suspicious of churches and leaders.  I can't bear even the slightest insinuation of male chauvenism.  I will bolt like a frightened animal at the first sign of someone wanting to put me in a cage or control me.  I don't trust people, or should I say, religious people.  And legalism?  Not on my watch. 

I think as time goes on I grow and heal, but I'm sure I am forever changed in some way.  Life is like that.  Today I re-read the letter I wrote to Aaron a few months after we left the church.  I read it once or twice a year probably to remember.  I smile when I think of all the wonderful people God used to help us and  love us during a time of such confusion and bitterness.    I told my husband I was moving out and leaving the kids behind.  I was afraid I would become abusive toward them because I was breaking down, depressed, suicidal.  I spent my days in bed crying and escaping the house alone whenever possible.  The people we left behind didn't know us because we had spent all our energy trying to be who we were supposed to be, we didn't know each other anymore, or ourselves. 

All I knew was that I didn't fit the roles I had embraced as  "biblical".  I was a failure as a wife and a mother, the very essence of who I was supposed to be as a woman  ( as I was told) and I was miserable being chained to those roles, confined and suppressed for lack of male anatomy.  And every time my mind dared to ponder even the edges of my feelings about it all the guilt would come crashing in on my head in powerful waves, I could feel the sickening weight of condemnation in my stomach.  Because I had been well-taught and I knew that to think these things was evil and proud. How well I remember the feelings of condemnation!  I used to think it was a mark of holiness and humility and worried if I didn't feel it for a moment!   I was addicted to guilt but it was killing me as surely as any drug. 

Aaron and I had lost any sense true intimacy and connection.  All that seemed to hold us together after leaving was the common misery we found ourselves in.  Thank God for the gift of wonderful friends  who had left or were leaving at the same time, we talked for hours and hours processing everything in detail in a way I'm sure anyone from the outside would not have understood.    We were warned about the dangers of anger and bitterness and unforgiveness by many but it was in the freedom of true friendship that we were able to let it all out and deal with it without fear of judgement.  And then there were a few pastors from other places that loved us and prayed for us and helped us to know that not all leaders are power-hungry controllers.  Not all pastors teach and train people to submit to all their wishes and worship them.  Some just love people.  It's true, they are out there. 

Over time, our marriage became a marriage again. As we learned how to be ourselves (instead of trying to be the perfect husband/father and perfect wife/mother) I guess we discovered again that we like each other, the real versions.  When you take the performance requirements out of your marriage, there is room for love again.  There is room to make mistakes and laugh and move on.  And kicking your pastors out of your bedroom doesn't hurt either. Ha.  You see, at first we didn't know how to do anything on our own we were so used to having every detail dictated to us.  How to discipline  your kids, how to submit to your husband, how to control I mean lead your wife, what to say if someone says this or that, how to pray, what to read, how your sex life should be, and on and on....there are always special meetingsto "help" you do everything and anything in your life.  

But we started to figure it out together, the way God intended I think.  We became a team, unified, best friends.  You can't be best friends with someone who is not your equal but we discovered that we were equal and we needed each other.  I wasn't just a slave anymore (gasp).  I'm not saying that Aaron was to blame here, I was just as brainwashed as he was.  I don't think either of us fit in to this pattern and acted contrary to it all the time but we felt so terrible when we fell outside the roles we were taught.

I am rambling...just reflecting...just throwing it out there that it's a hard thing to do to leave any religous/controlling culture, but it can be done!  You can survive it, you can overcome it, you can be happy and free.  Not always happy, not perfectly happy, but you can feel whatever you want, whenever you want.  Yes, you can have your very own feelings and thoughts and words again.  And when you do that, you'll find you start encouraging your husband/wife, children, friends, everyone, to be free too!   And you can read your old good-bye letters and suicide notes and be glad you pushed forward and moved on to greener pastures. There is only one true Shepherd and he won't lead you him.

Monday, June 06, 2011

My Ministry Bio

Julie Morris is a dearly loved son of God. Joint heir with Christ, seated with him at the right hand of God, blessed with every spiritual blessing, perfectly 100% righteous and holy, royal priest, called to do the work of Christ with the mind and Spirit of Christ in her, minister of life, reconciliation, and the new covenant, chosen by God, partaker of the divine nature,  and  comes highly recommended by her Father who is extremely pleased with her.   

Contact me if you'd like to have me come speak at your special event.  Ha!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Legalism, Lust, Porn, and Adultery

I'm tired so tired of all the smoke screens in churchianity.  All the fakeness. ALL.  Can't we just talk about life and be real?  Can we just stop pretending we're perfect people living in a perfect world?  Please? 

I'm 34 years old I think, and I've been married for over 15 years of that time.  To a man.  A normal man with issues from his past and childhood, stuff he has to deal with just like anyone else.  I'm a woman, formerly quite naive and stupid with no understanding of what it's like to be a man though having many other kinds of issues to deal with myself.  This is what I like to call 'life'.  Or more accurately, life in the fallen world which is only temporary.

Over the years, I've watched many marriages fall apart due to adultery etc...I've seen couples work hard to put up shiny happy images of their relationship for years only to find out they had all kinds of stuff going on in reality.  They never asked anyone for help, never admitted they were having trouble.  I know what that's like!  We've had our share of stuff to deal with, stuff that's normal if we'd only stop hiding it from each other.  Everyone thinks their problems are so much worse than anyone else's because everyone is LYING.  Yes, they're LYING.  I'm not saying there aren't any happy couple, but what I'm saying is that the truly happy couple are not perfectly happy and they will be honest with you about their problems.  Yes, HONEST.  What an idea, revolutionary!  (As a side note, I find it quite funny and refreshing that some of the people we thought were the most screwed up because they let everything out there now seem to be happy and are still together!)

If you ask me about problems in my marriage I'll tell you.  Send me an email and see.  Ask me anything, yes, anything.  You might not like what you hear but I don't mind sharing with anyone who would like to know.  You wives out there, did you know that many times your husband is told not to be honest with you about lust, porn, or any sexual struggles they might have?  That gets filed away under "she doesn't need  to know, just share it with another man" .  What a bunch of crap!  The best thing Aaron ever did for our marriage was to tell me everything he was dealing with, everything. 

And the best thing we can do now is not ever hide any of those problems from others but be honest about reality, because what's reality for us is reality for so many other people.  And here's the biggest secret:  once you stop hiding it the power is gone.  Once you realize that shame and guilt are the lie, the power of whatever  'sin' you fight against so pitifully just kind of melts away in the light of truth. 

This is a rant.  I'm sick of the self-righteous fake holiness air hovering over the spiritual people who claim or pretend not to ever deal with these kinds of things.  These are the very people who usually end up on the news caught doing the very things they vowed to have no interest in.   Haven't we gotten the message yet?  Have all the teaching and rules and regulations about what to look at, listen to, touch, or get near worked?  Or have they turned people into obsessive compulsive slaves to anything that will destroy their lives and families? 

Let's stop with the scarlet letter on people too, as if we were immune to any sin or temptation.  Let's view people according to the gospel, as washed clean and carrying the life of Christ in them.  And let's treat them as God treats them, not as their sins deserve.  Because it won't be long until you might be needing a little mercy yourself, and you won't find that in the law you used to whack somebody over the head with.

P.S. I love you all and I want you to be happy and free. No condemnation even to you fakers out there, I know you're scared out of your wits...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why the Rainbow Is the Perfect Symbol For the Gay Community! (says this christian...)

I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with the Bible story of Noah and the ark, but I assume most people are.  It's a pretty common story for children to grow up hearing, at least it used to be.  God sent a worldwide flood to destroy the earth and every living creature except Noah and his family and the animals he brought with him by God's instruction (and presumably the all the fish survived the flood as well).   Anyway, when the flood was finally over and the water receded enough for Noah to leave the ark, God gave us a sign of his promise never to judge the whole earth by flood ever again-- rainbows.  You can read the Biblical account beginning in Genesis 6. 

Nowadays we still have rainbows in the sky after it rains, and many groups and organizations have adopted rainbows as a symbol, including the gay community.  You might see a rainbow bumper sticker or flag or t-shirt, probably even tattoos I"m guessing.  You can find all sorts of info online regarding the history of the use of the rainbow to represent gay pride, I found a couple including this short blurb.  I think perhaps some religious people might feel that the gay community has essentially hijacked God's special sign to us and are offended or upset, concerned about the precious promise  the rainbow represents is being denigrated somehow.  But I think God is very pleased to have his sign of the gospel being paraded all over the earth by the very people who seem to bear the brunt of so much judgement and condemnation!

Sign of the gospel?  How did I come to that conclusion?  Well, actually the whole story of the ark is a picture of Jesus and how he carried us safely through God's wrath and judgement for sin.  When we are in Christ, we are never judged by God, can never be judged or punished for our sin, in fact our sin is all swept away in the mighty flood of God's wrath poured out on Jesus at the Cross.  The rainbow comes after the storm of his wrath as a sign to all generations that his judgement is OVER, as in FINISHED!  Think I'm stretching this too far, reading too much into it? There is a small reference in 1 Peter to baptism being like the ark...but one of  the best passages ever is this one:

"To me this is like the days of Noah,

when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.

So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,

never to rebuke you again.

Though the mountains be shaken

and the hills be removed,

yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken

nor my covenant of peace be removed,"

says the LORD, who has compassion on you. " (Isaiah 54:9-10)

Is this not the main clause of the New Covenant???  He promises never to be angry with us or rebuke us, it's his promise of peace, NO JUDGEMENT!!!!  I can't think of  many  more groups of people in the world that need to hear this message more than the gay community, and especially from  true Christians who love and don't condemn.  God is not counting men's sins against them!  It's rainbow time!

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

I'm Not A Serious Christian.

It's funny how in today's online world  how we can be aware of people and places we would have long forgotten otherwise.   I have links to much of my past, casual links, but almost daily reminders of where I've been.  There are people I've known almost my whole life, leaders I admired as a child or teen, the truly serious Christians.  They are passionate, radical, and outspoken.  They are generally well-liked in their circles.  I like them too.  But sometimes I think "how tired they must be!".  I can't imagine being a serious Christian for 20, 30, or more years, I know I couldn't do it and besides that, I have absolutely no desire to.  I only tried my hand at it for 20 years or so, of course I started very young, but even for a young person it was tiring. 

Today I'm a Christian still, but more because I can't stop being one (if your definition of  a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus, that he is God, that he came in the flesh, lived and died to give us eternal life for free).  I can't stop believing in Jesus, it comes natural to me these days, pretty easy, simple and uncomplicated.  Some people hate this kind of faith, they don't think it's good enough or something.  They want to condemn me, mock me, or just dismiss me altogether.  That's ok.   I've traded in my serious Christianity for something much more joyful and restful.   I feel free.  This flesh is not perfect and never will be but my spirit is alive with Jesus, completely righteous, completely FREE.  I wish everyone would be free!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Love, Marriage (15 years!), and Other Stuff

Wow, I guess I haven't written here for a long time! I've been busy, never forgetting about the good news but not having as much time to really write (uninterrupted that is). Looks like we'll be starting to have church soon and I'll keep everyone posted about that. It will be my Dad and Aaron taking care of worship and preaching/teaching for the most part, and I'll be figuring out something for children. Doesn't that sound really well organized? To be honest I'm pretty nervous about organizing anything, being part of 'church' in the formal sense but I'm also excited and so ready for fellowship and sharing good news, seeing people get free. I HATE seeing people suffering in fear and bondage and condemnation, HATE it. I want everybody to be happy! Not perfect, just happy--together!

Aaron and I got to go for a week long vacation to Mexico a month or two ago, all alone. He won the trip in a contest at work while I was still pregnant with Amilia, and it was so nice to be alone together just relaxing. When we got back home with Amilia (the other three stayed with their grandparents in Delaware for a few more weeks) I flew out to Toronto with her to visit my sister Kelly and her husband Mike and got to meet my nephew Fenn who had recently had surgery. He's doing well and is very very cute and personable. And cuddly too. We had a lot of fun together eating take-out Indian, battling each other on Super Mario Bros., going for walks etc...and I even got to see an old friend of mine that we once shared a house with way back in Fredericton. She's as crazy fun as ever, we had such a good time staying up way past our bedtime! Well that's the nutshell version of my summer so far! I've also been busy trying to get our health and nutrition in line so we all can feel better and have more energy and have been blogging about that on a different blog.

But the thing that's been on mind the most lately is relationships, you know, love and marriage stuff. In three days it will be our 15th anniversary. In one way it feels like some kind of accomplishment, in another way it seems that I've only just begun to get a glimpse of what unity in marriage really is. (And when I say 'marriage' I'm not talking about a legal contract or technicalities, I'm talking a true union of love, though we do happen to be legally married haha, can of worms now opened.)

Sometimes I feel almost as girlishly emotional and idealistic as I did at 18 walking down the aisle barefoot in my vintage dress, wreath of wildflower on my head. I still want to be loved and treasured far above any other woman by the same man, still dream of him being intoxicated by my beauty. I still daydream about him, and still get tingly at the thought of his touch.

Most days my main goal is to get him to myself for a few moments at the end of the day, not always an easy task with 4 kids to take care of. When I cook or clean, it's with him in mind, though I certainly am not the best housekeeper! When I wash dark clothes I put in lots of his socks because he hates it when he runs out of socks for work, and socks, or laundry in general, are not my strong point (I have a huge overflowing basket of unmatched socks ALWAYS). No matter what I'm thinking about, he's going to hear about it. We can still talk each other's ears off whether about our run-of-the-mill day or intense theological debates. We can still get on each other's nerves regularly, and we can still make the other cry though thankfully we don't fight as much as we used to!

Aaron is my best friend in the world. I can't imagine anything without him. He's the only man I've ever been with, the only man I need to be with. No one can make me feel as terrible as he can if he wants to (or unintentionally) but no one can make me feel so happy and loved either. I don't know if there are many people in today's world willing to risk the former in order to experience the latter, but I think many people are missing out on something amazing. We are one, we are so different but we are truly one. So many flaws in both of us, and we know each other's flaws very well. As we get older I think and hope we are learning to protect each other's weaknesses instead of selfishly exploit them or criticize them.

Coming into grace has been wonderful, really wonderful. I would go so far to say that it saved our marriage, getting out of legalistic religion. But, grace didn't make us perfect. We deal with many of the same issues we always have, maybe always will. But when we know that God loves us because he loves us, we can love each other 'just because'. Loving someone feels good, it is good. Of course it hurts sometimes, but it's worth it, I swear.

I write all of this even while being dissatisfied with some things, wanting more and yet, all the rest is still true. When will we make peace with the imperfection of our flesh? See it as so temporary, as so insignificant? The irony lies in the fact that until we believe we're ok exactly the way we are, in Christ, we will continue to fight an impossible uphill battle toward growth and maturity and change. We can only change when we know we are loved exactly as we are even if we never change, because then we are freed from shame and fear and feelings of unworthiness and we are able to truly love back.

So I hope you know, Aaron , that I think you're the sexiest man on the planet and  I love you more than ever, you're the only one for me.  Thanks for being with me for so long and hope you stick with me much longer.  Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Bunch of Rubbish or Jesus?

"Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." Philippians 3:2-14 (The Message)

I could write my own version of this. While I don't think I was very successful at living up to all my self-righteous standards as a legalist, I did try. And I do think that others viewed me as spiritual, godly, etc... So here's my take on the pedigree I've torn up and thrown in the garbage in exchange for the far more glorious life of enjoying intimacy with Jesus:

Born into a Christian family, attended church since a baby, passionately sang worship and praise to God as far back as I can remember, prayed for lost souls with many tears, shared what I thought was the gospel with many, fasted, kept a spiritual/prayer journal, served faithfully and sacrificially in the church, served others by providing free childcare, cooking meals, etc.., tithed and gave money beyond the 10%, read many many spiritual books, read and studied the Bible, confessed sins regularly to God and others, was sorry when I made a mistake or wasn't consistent in my spiritual disciplines and committed to being more faithful, tried to be humble and submissive to my husband, submitted willingly and joyfully to 'spiritual authority', was very careful about what I listened to, read, or watched in the way of media to make sure it was glorifying to God, worked at trying to grow in all the fruits of the Spirit, acknowledged weakness and failures and sought God sincerely to help me change and do/be more like Jesus.


They gained me NOTHING! In fact, the more I did the more self-righteous I became. This self-righteousness alternatingly gave me the high of success and the low of condemnation and failure. And I was addicted to this cycle, couldn't feel godly or spiritual without it.

But I've given it all up and am more than satified with Jesus Christ who has given me his perfect righteousness and completely unearned! I don't need any of those things any more to make me righteous, more holy, more pleasing to God, even more mature. What I need, is initimacy with Jesus. End of story.

You see, all those things can be done on my own. And while I was doing them on my own, 'letting' God help me a little if he would, rather then deepening my intimacy with him I was actally distancing myself from him, cutting myself off from grace and nullifying faith. It makes me wonder...who was more distant from the Father, the prodigal or the older son? The prodigal seemed to have a better understanding of his father's character and love than his older and supposedly more faithful brother.
I've been the older brother but I don't want to be suspicious of my father anymore. I don't want to work for him as a slave, not revelling in his love or enjoying the benefits of sonship.

As for my list of good (more like dead) works, it becomes of no use to me anymore. Everything I was ever trying to gain I've found in Jesus.