Saturday, July 19, 2014

One Small Glimmer of Hope

Living under this is hard.  Awkward.  Awful.  Bewildering.  Confusing.  Depressing.   (ha, I could likely finish the alphabet with descriptions!)  It is just hard. We've got to heal from year of intense stress and several, several traumas at the same time as healing from an awful shock/betrayal of our immediate leadership.  Besides healing from all that, we have to dance the tune our leadership who barely knows us wants us to dance - getting help they think we need although they never sat down with us ever to listen to what we need.

It is just a lot to deal with.  We've found some paths through it perhaps.  We're trying.  But we have to report every two weeks to "Harry" that we have done what he wants us to do, and even that communication brings about two nights of troubled sleep.  His letters verge on threats and bullying.  We've been tense and nervous with him hanging over us.

But we had to connect with our home church.  Hard to get a read on what they were thinking... hard because we've been through a pastor switch and are dealing with someone we don't know.  Hard because Harry is telling us that they are behind the threats and if we do this or that or say this or that they will cut our support.  So we've been tense.  Hard for us to believe that people who have known us for 17 years would be that quick to dump us without ever hearing our side of the story.  But Harry said it was that way..... so we were on edge....

Finally, this last week, our old pastor, thankfully still in the church phoned.  And he didn't sound threatening and condemning.  He asked how we were, and didn't tell us, "I don't believe you!" like Harry did.  He agreed with our choice to get debriefing, something Harry reluctantly agreed to "allow", but told us it was not the help we needed, and we HAD to do the help HE thought we needed.  Our home church pastor thought it was a good thing and supported it.  We invited him to come, please, and visit us.  He's a wise man, and intuitive man, and he will see us and know how we are.  He likely will.

Please pray.  Pray that he comes, and that he meets Harry and Tom, too, and sees and hears and senses what is going on, seeing this leadership for what it is, seeing how they write to and about us, seeing us.  Pray that he comes and he supports us and defends us and gets us some breathing room from those attempting to bully us.

But after we talked to him, he sent us a letter.  He said that it seems that we are operating out of fear, and to remember even though a team has placed expectations on us, we answer only to One.  (Ah, if only he would tell Harry that... I think Harry thinks he has a direct line to God's will for our lives....).  But what a relief...  Because we are.  We are operating out of fear.  Fear of all these threats, of the constant working behind our backs, of hidden communication, and bullying, gag orders, and such like.  In between dealing with that, we are attempting to get the help we need - debriefing, rest, trauma counseling, etc.

If only we had Tom, Dick, and Harry off our backs....  I think I would sit down and cry in sheer relief!

We will.  One day.  But we are trying to take a year sabbatical, and do it without losing our support base, and that means, sadly, that we have to dance to their tune until time proves our character and their actions.

We believe both will be shown in the light soon.

Keep praying.  We're in a very difficult place, but doing better than ever before, even to be this much out of underneath that leadership.  We're looking for new missions to serve with (we have many offers!), but want to take time to rest and heal before we really begin to look.  As we look, we are most concerned with a few questions:
1. How good is their member care?
2. Do they have experience in very difficult situations and do they have an idea of how to respond after trauma?

Because we will continue, and unless there is some wonderful, surprising change, we are still going to be facing traumatic events and deaths regularly, and we need someone to have coffee with us and let us talk it out.... not ignore us and our pain and then blame us when we begin to show signs of stress.

If you feel like commenting, how does your mission do?  Would you recommend it?  Questions I have now as someone with experience are very different than the questions I had as a young "newbie".  One day I may write my questions down so if you are new and looking for a mission to serve with, you know what to be asking and warning signs to be looking for.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Job's Friends

We've been studying Job.  It's been hard for us to sit in church under our pastor.  He knew about what was going to happen for months and hid it from us.  We have no trust in him now.  So it is hard to sit under him.  Life is so confusing now about that.

But we have been studying Job.  And I trust that God is able to speak through His word, so often on a Sunday, I sit simply reading and rereading Job. Reading, trying to make sense of what each man is saying, what they believe about God. how they speak for Him.

Today, I came to the end.  Jobs friends all speak.  Job gets pretty ticked off.  I like the guy.  I mean there are just sometimes that you do know what your heart is....  and if your heart was wrong, you know God would talk to you about it since you are listening, wanting to know.  Job was a man who loved God.  He had a relationship with Him, and he knew it.  He also knew that he had done nothing wrong.  I don't think when Job says this that he states that he never sinned, but simply that he was not continuing in sin despite correction. Simply that he had not turned aside from seeking God and seeking to follow Him.  That there was nothing he was hiding and refusing to ask forgiveness for.

Yet everyone judged him based on outward appearances.  Everyone.  His wife, his friends, his servants, the town.  He had no one to stand with him.  It was only his word against the obvious, and no one was listening to him anyway.

I felt for the poor man.

Different friends told him again and again that he was a sinner.  Look, it is obvious.  You are clearly messed up, and even worse, you are refusing to admit your sin.  God should squish you like a bug.

Seems I've heard the same thing from missions leaders and pastors.

God was silent.  Funny, we seem to know what that is like, too.  He was silent.  He let the raging of men go on; He let idiots speak for Him.  He answered them all not one word.  He let poor Job wiggle and squirm in the agony of his suffering and did nothing.

Seemed like He wasn't even paying attention.

But He was.

To every word.

And in the end, He speaks.  To Job.  He tells Job who He is.  He shows him His wisdom.  He never speaks to the suffering or to the "answers" Job's friends give.  He speaks to Job and tells Job of His wisdom, His ownership, His design of the world and His absolute domination.  Job is silent.  He regrets speaking.  And God keeps on.  Finally, Job speaks again.  He marvels at God and remembers that all He does is right.  And He rests in moving from a place of hearing about God to seeing Him.  And he is silent, but a peaceful silence.

Then God speaks again.

He speaks to those who crushed Job's spirit when they should have been comforters.  To those who blamed Job when they should have been encouragers.  I was interested to see that He never once corrects them for how they treated Job.  He didn't.  Go read it yourself if you have doubts.  I had expected He would.  I wanted Him to.  Uh, uh, He just doesn't.  Instead He judges how they spoke about Him.  About His character.

It seems that how people treat God is more important that how they treat others.

Perhaps it is because all falls into place if you have a proper understanding of God.  Perhaps.  I am only guessing.

But God corrects them for their wrong speech about Him.  Then, He does something which makes my bruised heart smile.  He tells them that in order for Him to accept them, they have to take an offering and go to Job and ask him to pray for them.

I have to admit that I giggled.

God never corrects them for speaking evil of His servant Job, who even God does not speak evil of.... but He sure makes it clear to them who had a relationship with Him.  They eat humble pie, and without a word, God defends His own.

But God knew more.

As fun as it is to imagine what the three friends went through to have to ask Job to pray for them and sacrifice on their behalf, and as fun as it is to imagine the justification Job would have felt at God's words and the humbleness of his formerly judgmental friends in front of him, God was aiming at something else, as well.

He was aiming at relationships.

God knew what we all know, but at times try to ignore.  That we function best with whole relationships.  That true, deep hurt can cause deep pain, and deep pain can cause wounds.  Wounds can fester and become infected.  And that infection is deadly.  God placed Job in a position where he could chose forgiveness or refuse it.  And Job chose to forgive.

Interestingly, it was when Job chose to bless with forgiveness
 instead of holding onto a justified complaint that God blessed Job.

A lot for us to think about.  I am not sure that if Job sat on that ash heap covered in sores with a silent God and had told his friends that he forgave them their wrong words and would offer a sacrifice for them that it would have any effect.  Some people push forgiveness as a thing which has to be done at the first possible opportunity.  Yet what I see here if forgiveness at the right time.  When God speaks.  When it was time.

I know in my life, there will be a time when forgiveness is asked of me - if not by people, by God for people.  God has been clear that this time will come.  The time will come, and I have asked God to prepare me for that time.  It may be that those who exalt themselves with wisdom now will be humbled and ask for that forgiveness.  It may not be.  What they do or do not do will have little bearing on what God will ask of me. In time, there will be discussions of forgiveness.  I have committed to God that when the time comes, I will forgive.  In His strength.

So when discussions come up about forgiveness, I listen.  This is not easy, and I will need all the help I can get.  

Thankfully, God is a God who leads gently, and when it is time, He will tell me.

I hope I have the strength of Job to pray for forgiveness for my accusers.  I don't have it today.  But small steps at a time.  Today, I prayed for wisdom for our accusers.  It is a small step.

One small step at a time.

Sometimes, You Give In

I wish I could snap my fingers and be out of this situation.  It is so confusing and odd that we hardly know what is going on.  We're dealing with leaders in ministry who have been talking and planning behind our back for months, and who are now controlling our lives without ever sitting down with us and listening.  It is just so odd.

As an American, the thoughts of "no taxation without representation" come to mind and I giggle at the thought of a Boston Tea Party.  But this is serious, so no, we will not be soaking the harbor with the headquarter's tea or paperwork.  Yet the sentiment is there.  Is it right to treat adults in this fashion and to adamantly insist on your opinion without ever listening to them?

The answers may be no.  The situation may call for the emotions of the wild Boston Tea Party.

But what does God want?  That is the quiet answer we seek.

 Just because God is not IN something does not mean He is not using it in our lives.  We do not, for a moment, believe that the situation that we are in is God's will for how people should be treated.  We do, however, believe we are in God's will in the situation, and that He is using this situation in our lives for good and He will bring good out of it.  So the question is not so much is this right, but what does God want in the situation?

I told a friend today that we feel backed into a corner.  That there are only two options for us right now with a harsh, bull-nosed leadership who refuse to listen.  We can fight or we can give in.  We don't believe fighting is the right step at this moment.

(We may believe there will come a time to fight this type of control/authoritarian system, but that time is not now.  If we ever do fight, it will only be when that fight is not about defending ourselves, but when we have been justified, and it will be about how the system injures the wounded.)

That means the only step is giving in.  That is what I told my friend today. We can give in and dance to their tune.  It is not the direction of healing that those who know us and have mentored us think is the best one, but it may be what we need to do for a season to appease those who demand without listening or seeing.  I told my friend, though, that while we may give in, we only give in to a point.  We can give in and do the type of counseling that they request, but we will not give in to the point that we think what they think.  We will not give in to the point that we accept their evaluation of us as our identity.  I will not give in to the point that I accept a man who barely knows me sitting there and calling me "damaged".  There are limits.

I have been learning over the years not to take the words of the accuser, but listen to the words of the Redeemer.  To hear what He says about me.  I am His.  Redeemed. Healed. Made New.  Loved.  And even if the words of the accuser come from the lips of the director of a mission, I will not listen.

I've just been given more chance to practice.

My friend also said not to let people who do not know me create my identity, but to be careful to listen to those who do know me and allow them the opportunity to talk.  I'm working on that.

But my identity is defined by Christ, and no one else.

So we go on, seeking God's wisdom in a very awkward situation.  Waiting.  It is clear we will not stay with this mission, but it is also clear that we can not leave well at this precise time, so we are in an in-between time, neither here nor here.  In the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Waiting for the Tumble Cycle to Stop

Hi.  Still here.  Still doing well, interestingly, despite the circumstances.  Busy.  Very busy.  My oldest graduated.  I'm not ready for this.  Not ready to let him leave.  He's ready.  Prepared.  Trained.  Well respected, hard worker, gets along with people.  Won all sorts of awards and recommendations of his teachers for his character.  Loved by his peers.  Ready.  We've done a good job with him.  He's ready.  I'm just not.  I love this kid.  He's the one who made me a mom.  Love him to bits.  He's my friend besides being my son.  We talk.  We think things over.  We observe the world together and learn from it.  We laugh.  We just like each other.  Now he is leaving.  And my heart will break.  I'm not ready for this.

My next son has graduated from that stage where I think all children should be given away.  :)  That awful age from 14-15.  Now he's turning into an enjoyable person again.  We talk.  We laugh.  We enjoy each other.  I plan to thoroughly enjoy his next two years!  The third one - well, he's entering those awful years.  I plan on holding my breath, sticking to my guns, and reminding myself that this too will end.  We will survive.

We're doing well.  Except when our mission fusses.  They are not happy that we want to go to debriefing.  They say, "well, that might be nice, but it is not what we want for you and will not give you the help we think you need."  We feel like sticking out tongues out at them and blowing a raspberry.  They don't know us.  They don't even live near us.  They are so ignorant on what people need that they let people go through some awful crisises and never even asked afterwards if they are doing ok or if they would like to talk.  I will not let such people tell me what they think we need.

They want me to get help, psych help, to learn how to talk to people without offending them.  Because they say, "your words produce an emotional response in people."  Ok.  So?  Are emotions inherently bad?  I wrote many things that the mission used precisely because they were emotional and caught people's attention.  But if I produce an emotion they don't like.... then I need psychiatric help?  Or how about they talk to people I work with, people I have worked with now for almost ten years.  People who would tell them that one reason they like me is that I have the ability to get along with anyone, with any team, to coperate well.  People who would tell them that they call me in to be with difficult patients or families because I have a way of comforting and calming down a situation and being tactful.  Or call in the parents of the boy I work with who want me full time because "when she works, he comes home with a smile on his face!"  Or another school who is trying (unsuccessfully) to recruit me for a new student they have.  Why?  "Because you are so good with dealing with people!"  I do know how to talk to people without offending them and do not need psych help.

But they control our money for now.  And they are threatening us with it.  Sigh.

So for now, we have to dance to their tune to a degree.  It is sad.  We deal with threats and bullying.  That is basically what it is.  It is the words the counselor used to describe it when he saw their letters.  He advised us that we get out and do it quickly!  But he acknowledged that it is complicated to do until the finances are settled.  He shook his head and said that this is abuse, and it deeply upset him.

However, for now, they want regular letters.  What help we are getting, what struggles we are having, what challenges there are, names of counselors and when we talked to them, etc.  So we write.  I did not live my entire life among "Christianeze" not to know what they want to hear.  For me, it is a step back.... back to the dishonestly of a "perfect" life, but we do it under temporary duress.  I don't tell them that our biggest struggle is dealing with the threats and pushing from those in authority over us.  I don't tell them that we are doing fine until he recieve one of their scolding letters again.  I don't tell them that we can not sleep for two nights from the stress of those letters.  I do not tell them what it is like to have a mission who did not care for you during or after a crisis now object to your attempts to get help to recover.  To tell you that we don't think your symptoms have anything to do with undealt with stress, but are personal sin problems.  We are reading Job recently, and it strikes me that they are much like Job's comforters.  "All this is because of your sin which you refuse to deal with."  I'm not saying that we are sinless.  I'm not saying that Satan is out to test us or that God has something to prove with us.  I'm just saying that when you don't deal with sever wounds from severe trauma, you can end up with wounded people.  And wounded people hurt people. Not because they want to.  Not because they are inherently evil. Because they are wounded.

We are called to bind wounds, not kick the wounded.

So I write them nice letters now.  Things they want to hear.  While we wait, pray, and wait some more.  God is working.  Change is coming.  But we are not going to change ahead of God's leading.  We will take our time and pray and search.  In the meantime, we have to dance their tune.

Yet Job was proved right one day, and his "comforters" silenced.  Perhaps God will one day raise our heads here on earth, be our glory and show His favor on us here in the presence of those who have spoken evil of us.  Perhaps He won't.  But He knows our hearts that are before Him.  And we will continue to believe Him.  He has not thrown us away.  He has not judged us without compassion.  He is not in the actions of some of His people.  So we hold on to Him right now and trust.

Does that mean I am close to God now?  Not sure.  I hold on to Him.  With confusion.  But even in that confusion, I know He is the only stable thing.  So I hold on.  I let Him see my questions and my pain.  I don't demand answers now.  I don't know if I could even handle them at this moment.  All of this is so confusing, so bewildering.  We've had people that were our close friends, people whose houses we could walk into without knocking for ten years turn their back on us, suddenly never phone, never say hi, nothing.  It's bewildering.  My trust, which was always fragile, is numbed.  I stand puzzled in front of God.  How and why can His people be behind such pain and such harshness with us?  How can people turn their backs when we are near as if they never saw us?  I'm numb with a bewildering confusion.  I have nothing to trust.  People I trusted with all my heart disappeared overnight and became my accusers.  Others who were solid friends just stopped being there.  With no explanation.  People I would have sworn up two sides of Sunday would always be there.  They're not. I don't even have the emotional energy to process it all.

But I know God is good.  I know His way is right. And I know the end of the story.  I know that with a certain sureness. So I wait in quietness.  I've given up trying to battle against what happens.  I rest my life into the arms of a God I know, but whose path I can not understand.  I am more silent.  I think less.  I simply am.  This too will end, and God will be there in the end.  He will one day make all things right.  Today is not that day.  Today calls for a simple quietness and a trust.  I can't stop trusting God; what would I have then?  Nothing.  So I trust, out of habit, out of quiet desperation, out of the quiet knowledge that He still is, and that He has been there through awful things before.

And, as my husband says, interesting things are happening, and as we step more and more out of the way and don't fight, more and more God will bring to light the behaviors of a few people, and they will be seen for who they really are.  Not all battles are ours to fight.  So we rest in the middle of the storm, trust God, and wait it out.

But we are here.  We are doing well.  We are just on the "tumble" setting in the dryer, and I do not know how long the cycle is.