Friday, August 9, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Six

   One more thing on hair.  I have dyed my hair streaks of purple or blue in the past and it hasn't meant defiance.  I just like it.  I think it's attractive and fun.  I didn't plan on shocking or horrifying the good people of the Midwest (although that did seem to be the result).  For me, it was an attitude change.   When I first arrived in Freeport, I wanted people to like me, like us.  With the hair color, I was making the statement; "I don't care any longer what you think.  I will be who I am."
     Although I let the blue go, I continued to dye my hair light shades of purple the entire time we were in Freeport.  And God whispered something neat to my heart about it, too.  He said, "I chose the purple for you.  In this time of rejection on every side, I wanted you to remember that I have crowned you with royalty."  Which just sounds like Jesus, doesn't it?  

 Another point I wish to clarify:  there are many wonderful people who attend Crossway Community Church and have absolutely no idea what is going on behind the scenes.  There's a religious mindset which contributes to this: a simple adoration of anyone bearing the title of "Pastor" for the sake of the title.  A Pastor is a man first.  The role is his calling.  If the man operates in holiness (which is to be hoped for), that is simply him relying on God, which we all ought to do.  No one can be holy (perfect, innocent, sinless) in their own strength.  The Bible is pretty clear: "Everyone has fallen and come short of the glory of God." 

Broken heart by Zindy:
  What I discovered through our experience in Freeport, was the problem with abuse when it comes from spiritual leadership:  You're walking around with a big wound.  If people come near you, you might complain about the wound or how you got it.  To talk about such things is not looked on as appropriate in religious circles.  For some reason, religious people seem to think the church brand must be "protected at all costs!" and so they do not wish to listen to your pain or be bled on, simply by hanging around with you.  So, it can be difficult, if you have been spiritually abused to find any outlet for your pain.  And if you can't find an outlet, the wound may fester, rather than begin to heal. 

  I knew I needed to go somewhere else for church.  But I was terrified about trying to find one that would be safe for me in my condition.  I knew I was a mess.  I knew I was "bleeding" on other people.  I didn't want to. But I seriously needed to find healing somewhere.  And God was leading me.  He led me right to the one place that He had wanted to connect us with since sending us to Freeport.  He led me to Eastside Church. This was the next treasure in our journey.

  I was sobbing as I drove in to the parking lot.  I was scared spitless.  We'd been so hated on, so despised at Crossway, and I was afraid, truly afraid of more rejection.

  Eastside Church didn't have a "perfect" look.  It was located on "the wrong side of town".  When I walked in to the lobby, the carpet was a bit worn.  But "perfect appearances" were stomach-turning to me at this stage in our story, so none of these things were a deterrent in the least.  The pastor introduced himself.  I managed to smile and shake his hand without breaking down.  This was good.  I checked out the nursery.  My children were excited to try out the new toys and the nursery attendants were smiling and friendly.  Nothing scary here.  We can still proceed with caution.  I seated myself near the back and waited for service to start.  And when it did, I broke.

finding time to fly a kite.
  This beautiful group of people, in the heart of a determinedly religious and traditional Midwest, are not concerned about traditions or religion.  They're not trying to keep up appearances.  They probably don't even care if you like them or not.  The incredibly awesome thing about them is that they just get together to spend time with Jesus and each other.  I couldn't remember when the last time was that I had attended a praise and worship service that went on and on and on, lingering in God's presence, waiting for Him to show up and then abiding there with Him, as long as He wanted.  The worship band wasn't flawless.  There were a few off notes here and there.  But I couldn't have cared less.  I lifted my hands and bawled.  And no one seemed to mind or shun me for it.  I think I wept through the whole praise service and when it was over, I felt as though inside, in my wound, some of the bleeding had stopped.  And, when one of the ushers walked by with the offering plates after the service, he smiled at me and said in a South African drawl, "I like your hair."  Ha.  I'd found my church.

  Eastside was having a prayer meeting that week, in the evening, and I told Daniel he needed to go with me.  He was doubtful.  There weren't many evenings off for him and understandably, he wasn't sure he wanted to spend a free one at another church.  But he went with me.  It was a time of prayer and prophetic impartation, of healing.  If you're not into the prophetic in this day and age, that's okay.  Once again, I'm just sharing my story.  Daniel and I really needed to hear from God and God told us some stuff through people who had no knowledge of our situation.  I remember one thing someone prayed went something like this,  "There has been a back-stabbing, a ravaging, even a violating of your name and who you are, from those you had trusted but God says His favor is on you, wherever you go."  Like me, Daniel wept and cried and received healing and strength to go back in and face another day.

  At Eastside, we met Harry and Natalie Owen.  Harry was the South African usher who had
commented on my hair.  I met Natalie the second week I attended.  The church was having a "family fellowship" get-together, kind of like a pot-luck lunch.  After Daniel was done at Crossway, I had called him and asked him to meet me there.  A gal with pink hair came over to introduce herself.  She was one of the pastors of the church, the youth pastor.  Did I mention her hair was pink?  And that she was a pastor?  This is not something you find everyday in the Midwest.  Obviously, we were kindred spirits.

  I think God brought us Natalie and Harry and Eastside Church, because He really didn't want us to grow bitter against His church.  The experience of meeting Harry, Natalie, and all of the people that made up Eastside was the exact opposite of what we had experienced at Crossway.  They seemed to be sincerely happy to get to know us.  They wanted to hang out.  They came over to our home and spent time with us, many times.  Harry mowed our lawn.  Natalie would text me during the week just to check in and see how I was doing.  They grieved with us.  They laughed with us.  They loved us, in word and in deed.  Their love helped keep our hearts from growing bitter.

  And we needed their love.  It's hard to really encompass all that went down here.  There were so many things that happened, but listing out the snide emails, the many meetings filled with animosity, or the public slights seems petty.  I'm trying to just hit on the main things, the overall experience.  Those who have been through it will understand.  

Easter Sunday, our last Sunday at Crossway.
  Now, I felt reprieved by not attending Crossway any longer, but Daniel was still facing the gauntlet daily.  No administrative assistant for Daniel had been hired.  Ned was ignoring every IT request that Daniel put out to him, although he was again taking over the video edits on various media requests.  Pastor Gavin was no longer attempting to be gracious.   Pastor Chase's animosity towards my husband was openly expressed on several occasions, and he seemed to encourage others to do the same.  And pressure had just been increased on the church as Karl Barker, the Worship Pastor, had announced he and his family felt called somewhere else.  

  Karl and Daniel had gotten along together well, sympathizing with each other and trying to encourage their teams to work together.  Worship and technology, in Crossway's past, had not managed this well, but under Daniel's guidance, the tech team was beginning to see the worship team as the ones they were to serve, and when things fluctuated (as they do, in worship), to be ready on an instant's notice, to move with the worship leader, rather than fighting against him.  

  In preparation for the changes about to come, Karl and Nick met with Pastors Gavin and Chase, and Karl asked Daniel to sit in on the meeting.  Nick was leaving after all, and still no one else knew how to operate the audio system.  At first, the meeting seemed to be only a gripe session as the two pastors ripped into Nick and Karl for not having trained up non-paid volunteers for these positions.  Now, it was apparent that someone would have to be hired, and they were not pleased.  Nick had actually attempted to garner volunteers for this role, but no one had turned up, yet this was seen as Nick's fault and they had no trouble letting him know it.  Finally, by the end of the meeting, it was decided: they would have to hire.  Karl was in charge of getting someone for this position.  A few days later, Karl ecstatically shared with Daniel his news:  he had found a professional who was willing to come in and do the sound for a nominal fee.  It was an amazing solution to the problem!

  Karl let Pastor Gavin and Chase in on the news, but Chase nixed it immediately.  He didn't want to hire for sound.  In frustration, Karl reminded him that the decision had already been made in the meeting--didn't he remember?  "No," was Chase's answer.  He did not.  Seeing these emails come through, and remembering clearly how the meeting had gone down, Daniel got involved.  He cc'd everyone and broke the previous meeting down in email form, refreshing everyone's memory clearly about the events that had transpired that led to the decision to hire for sound.  The next thing Daniel knew, he was called into a meeting with Pastor Gavin and severely reprimanded for  "not being respectful to a pastor".

  One result of all of these meetings, was that Daniel began dedicating serious amounts of time to training up people in his own video team.  Since that point had been clearly stated a number of times and Karl and Nick had been berated for not doing it more, this was obviously a priority for the church.  So, although he had already been devoting some of his time to training volunteers, Daniel stepped it up.    Now, in addition to the work load he already carried, Daniel was training five people a week in the various video and editing programs, as well as on Sunday during live events.

  But even though Daniel attempted consistently tried modify his own goals for the media according to what Chase and Gavin demanded, this was just not seen as enough. 

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Seven:

To be continued...unless mentioned, all names have been changed except my husband's and my own.  I write for healing and for others wounded on similar journeys.

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