Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Twelve

  The newspaper article read that Pastor Chase's arrest was the result of a two year investigation regarding a sexual incident involving a minor.  We were astounded.  Even if, to us, the man had seemed a monster, there were certainly plenty of people who liked and admired him.

   The response from Crossway, though typical, was sickening.  Pastor Gavin had been interviewed.  There was no suggestion of sorrow expressed about the victim.  No words of hope for Chase's proven innocence.  Only; "From my understanding, this did not take place at any of the Crossway campuses, and so Crossway Community Church is not implicated here in any way..."

  Protect the brand at all cost.

  Pastor Chase was put on leave,  pled "not guilty" and his trial actually starts today, August 15*.  So, I guess we will see soon enough how well Crossway is able to continue to keep up appearances.

  I remember, right after Daniel was fired, going to the pastor's office at Eastside Church where he and his wife had made time to sit down with us and hear what had happened.  While Abe and Stephanie watched our children at home, Daniel and I poured out our story, all that had happened since coming to Illinois.  The dear pastor and his wife sat and listened.  And then, with tears streaming down his own cheeks, he looked at us and said, "Daniel and Christina, it is important that you know that what these men did to you was wrong.  Even if you were guilty of all that they have accused you of,  how they have treated you was wrong."

  As he said this, something inside of me burst.  Floodgates were released again and I sobbed great heaving sobs.  There had been so many attempts by others to justify these pastors' actions, and so often we had found ourselves having to defend our pain, and so to just hear someone say straight out, "They were wrong," broke me.  Justice matters to a victim of any kind of abuse.  So, it's probably true that my sympathies lie more with Pastor's Chase's victim than with Pastor Chase.  But we will let his jury make a conviction.  For us, at least, that chapter of abuse is over.

  Happily, this was noticeable in our own family unit.  With his father home, and the daily stress removed from his life, my son had stopped digging into his bellybutton.  Now, just three months later, he never touches it.   And since he has stopped, his sister has as well.  Though, we had to teach him new things about churches.  He was asking why we never went back to his Daddy's office or the nursery and toys that were there.  It's hard to break things down for an almost three year old. I'm afraid the concepts had to become pretty basic.

  "We don't go to that church, anymore, Buddy, because the people there were mean to Daddy.  Now we
My son and daughter
go to a church where the people are kind."

  "It's a bad church?" my son would ask, "And we don't go to the bad church?"

  "That's right, Darling.  God gave us a new church to go to, and it's a good church."

  "Oh.  Okay.  I don't want to go to the bad church anymore."

  There are worse concepts to learn.  This way, he will know that just because a church is a "Church" doesn't mean that it is automatically good.  Discernment is still required.  There are some folks who have never had the opportunity to learn such a lesson. 

  It was still painful to continue to live on in a community where lies had been told about us.  And finding media work in a rural farming area was challenging.  So, we began selling off or giving away almost everything we had in preparation for moving to a more urban area.  Our plan was to go home and stay with family while we searched for work, tried to keep making our mortgage payment, and planned for getting on our feet again. 

  This was a time of reflection, in some ways.  A time of asking God, "What was this all about now?  I need some reminders..." and a time of Him revealing to us the hidden treasures He had given during this dark season.  Yes, the people were there:  Abe, Stephanie, Natalie and Harry.  The pastor of Eastside church, and that entire church family.  But, what else had He given us?

  Daniel and I came away from this experience with a determination to not ever stand by the sidelines when someone is in pain.  To the best of our ability, we want to make sure that we don't ever just "say the right words", but we follow them up with action of some kind.  Even if it is just sending a gift card or a kind note in the mail.  There was a lady who did that.  She didn't know me that well.  I had met her at MOPS, and let her know when I wouldn't be attending any more.  She was an acquaintance on Facebook.  That's really about it.  But after the article about Pastor Chase came out in the paper, she sent us a card, with a gift card to a restaurant inside.  And she offered to help, even if it was just bringing by eggs or beef, since she was a farming lady.  This gesture meant so much, especially when there was so much silence from others whom might have been said to have a better claim to give. 

  I want to be like her and reach out to the stranger.  I want to keep fighting that Religious Spirit, no matter how hard it becomes, because that spirit is the antithesis of Spiritual Freedom.  I want to be more like Jesus--more willing to call a white-washed tomb a white-washed tomb, if that is what it is, while loving those who don't appear perfect.

  These are gems, friends.  Gems beyond measure.  But God had one more for me that was like His smile and wink at the end of a rainy day.

  One of the messages our pastor at Eastside had shared, involved him telling the story of how God had given him a gem.  It was miraculous and beautiful, a love note from a Father to His son.  That part is his
Not the gem, but an example of Peridot.
story, not mine.  But the last night we were in Freeport, we spent some time with this pastor and his family and I asked to see the gem.  Somehow, in the telling of the story, I had imagined the little stone to be orange or topaz.  So I was surprised when he brought it to the table and it was a soft, light green.  It was smaller than my pinky fingernail, and shaped like an uncut heart.

  "Why do you think it's green?" I asked the pastor.

  "I don't know," he answered, smiling, "Why do you think it's green?"

  "I'm not sure," I said, "It looks like Peridot.  That's my birthstone."

  "It's mine, too," he said, "My birthday is in August also."

  "It's beautiful," I said, and handed it back to him.  But I felt like I knew why it was green.  It was a little joke between the Lord and I:  a smile shared between us.

  "I told you I had hidden treasures to share with you," He whispered to my heart.

  There was one other gift the Lord gave me, before we left.  Our last Sunday in Freeport, we had the opportunity to pray for the city at our little Eastside Church.  In light of everything that had happened, I think the temptation would have been to "shake the dust from our feet" and get out of Dodge.  But I
Valley of Dry Bones by:
wanted to pray for this city (which tells you that God did quite a work of healing before we ever left!).

   Like Ezekiel, prophesying to the valley of dry bones, I was able to ask for God's blessing on that place.  In Freeport, where last year the mortality rate exceeded the birth rate, I prayed for "Life" to come.  I thanked God for the wonderful heritage of giving and incredible generosity, that long ago, the man who ferried people across the river at no charge had bequeathed.  And I asked God to waken the apathetic.  To raise up fathers for the fatherless.

  That's not me being ultra cool or awesomely spiritual.  That's God giving me a gift:  the opportunity to pray for my enemies and love on those who cursed me.  I don't have that in my own strength, for sure.  God is good.

And what He did for me, He can do for you;  for those of you who have walked in similar shoes and been wounded by the ones who were supposed to help bring healing.   I'm not trying to get preachy, but this is why I wrote this, for those who have gone before and have been wounded with spiritual abuse.

What happened to you was wrong.  They shouldn't have done it.  God was crying with you when they did it.  But God is so big, that He is able to do the impossible.  He can make your wounded heart stop bleeding.  He can make even the scars glow with beauty.  And He will heal you.  It's His promise.

*Correction:  I looked over the newspaper article again and it said it was a "pre-trial conference" and it took place on August 12th.  My mistake. 

 This is the last post of "The Jeremiah Burden".  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.  Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Eleven

  Daniel and I believe that God sent us to Freeport to deliver His message, and we did.  It wasn't a pleasant message to deliver.  Nobody wants to bring a word of warning about God's judgment.  Hey, the Bible says "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news", right?  The news God had us bring wasn't all that "good", but then neither was Jeremiah's.  From what I recall, that rather depressed prophet wrote an entire book (Lamentations) about how sad he was to be the one to deliver God's message of promised woe to the children of Israel.

  Now you might say,  "Um, you're kinda setting yourselves up high with this whole prophet business, aren't you?"

  No, I don't think so.  See, I don't think titles mean that much.  What is a prophet, really?  Someone who brings what God is saying to someone else.  Who does God need for that role?  As a well known prophet has said, "He just needs someone who's foolish enough to believe Him".  In the Old Testament, God used a jackass, so I don't think that calling ourselves the ones God used in this situation, is setting ourselves up all that high.  We aren't perfect people, but we do have a staunch belief in the incredibly beautiful Holiness of God and in His desire to make His church holy.

  You might also say, "So, you think the reason God took you to Freeport and had you buy a home that you might lose, and had you and your family go through all that hell was just so you could deliver a message???"

Stoning of Stephen by
  Yes, yes I do.  Messages really matter to God.  I mean, there was Stephen who got stoned for his message.  John the Baptist got beheaded for his message.   And this one time, God even sent His Son...oh wait, you probably know that story.  When you think what happened to us in light of these guys from the New Testament, we don't really have it that bad.

 In January, God had given Daniel James 1 to memorize.  It starts out:
     " Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..."

  Here's one thing I know and appreciate about God:   He doesn't waste nothin'!  So all this stuff that these men did, it's going to be like Joseph, getting betrayed by his brothers.  Joseph ended up saying, "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."  That is what Daniel and I believe about our own situation.  Yeah, it sucked.  It wasn't cool to go through.  We are still suffering from the consequences of what those men did.  But somewhere here in the midst of the mess, God is going to show up and then it's going to be...awesome.  Because God is awesome.

  A few days after Daniel's meeting with the elders, we got a call from Chase.  We would be receiving our vacation pay after all.  Oh good.  We wouldn't have to report Crossway to the Labor Board.

  I wish I could say that the meeting with the elders solved everything.  I can't.  We still don't know whether Crossway will count all the unreceived receipts as our income or not.  It didn't solve the financial challenge of trying to feed our children and make our mortgage payment after being fired on the spot.  And dear old Ned was still making trouble. 

  Yes, I'm afraid Ned connected with several of Daniel's vendors.  He now had access to Daniel's email addresses, and wrote to several of the people who Daniel had established solid business relationships with over the months and/or years.  He told them they wouldn't be doing business with "Daniel Morrison" any longer, that Daniel had been fired from Ned's organization, accused Daniel of trying to steal from the church through these vendors, and that all future communications should be relayed to Ned, himself.  Unused to such brash and unprofessional interactions, some of these vendors found a way to connect with Daniel personally to find out from him what was going on.  It was frustrating to have the lying shoved in to our business world as well.  As appropriate, Daniel apologized for Ned, apologized that these vendors had been involved at all, and explained what had happened.  Ugh. 
A Stranger Came to Town by:
  One of the hardest parts about this whole business was the "good people" who stood by while everything went down.  I've mentioned before that Crossway has many wonderful folks who attend and know nothing about "the man behind the curtain".  But I am referring more to the people who actually met us while we were there.  The ones we seemed to connect with in one way or another, but who turned their backs and refused to "see" when it became clear that the church was on one side and had put us on the other.  Truth is, it just never sounds good to have been fired from a church.  I mean, how much of a reprobate must you be, right?

  It's possible that some of these people we thought we had made connections with, went to Pastor Gavin.  If so, they likely swallowed his explanation whole.  (Hey, the man is incredibly likable--even experiencing his lying firsthand, I still find myself wanting to believe he means what he says.)  Or maybe, like George Washington discovered when he first came to take over his army, they just "weren't willing to cut across old relationships" for the strangers in town.

  In contrast, our dear friends Abe and Stephanie, were having a hard time with what had happened.  Stephanie was still volunteering weekly in the Crossway office.  She and Abe had missed the Sunday after we had been fired.  But when she went into the office on Monday morning, she asked if anything had been said in service about "Daniel Morrison getting fired".

  The secretary looked at her with some surprise.  "No, nothing was said."

  "Why not?" Stephanie asked.  "I mean, we tithe at this church.  My husband and I feel that hirings and firings matter and that the church body should be kept informed about it when it happens."

  The secretary shrugged.  "Oh, well.  No one really knew them, anyway," she said.

 Good Pastor Jonas, a man with an obvious passion for the unsaved, was one of the few who extended a sincere welcome when we first arrived.  We ran into him at our friend Nick's wedding.

  "How's it going?" he asked Daniel.

  "I'm in the middle of the worst work experience I've ever had in my life," Daniel replied.

  Pastor Jonas looked surprised.  "Oh?" he asked.  "We'll have to get together and talk about it."

  We heard nothing more from him, but after being fired, we did end up seeing him again, at Eastside church.  He was visiting, for he and the pastor of Eastside would work together when they could.  Pastor Jonas "saw" Daniel, gave him a tight nod, and then would not acknowledge him or speak to either of us for the duration of the time we were all together there at the service.

  For our friend Harry, this interaction, or lack of it, on the part of Pastor Jonas was especially hard.

  "I'm having a hard time with it," Harry confessed.  "I've always kind of admired Pastor Jonas.  But I asked him about Crossway and how they 'seemed to be getting rid of a few people'.  Pastor Jonas told me, 'Yeah, we've had to let people go who were not able to get on board with where God's going and now the church is healthier than it's ever been'.  And I don't buy it.  I know you guys.  I've hung out with you and I've gotten to know your hearts.  I'm just having a really hard time with this."

  Ironically, (since Crossway was now "healthier than it had ever been") it was just a day or so later that we got a message from Stephanie.

  "Daniel and Christina.  You guys need to go online and google 'Pastor Chase Bowler' and the 'Freeport Standard Newspaper'."

  We did as she said, and our jaws dropped.

  The headline read:  "Freeport Pastor Accused of Felony Sex Abuse".

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Twelve:

 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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Ten

"So...what is the word God gave you for the elders?"  I asked, staring at Daniel in (I admit) shock.

"It's straight from the book of Jeremiah," he said, looking down at his open Bible.  "It's funny, I came up here and just opened right up to this.  Jeremiah the prophet is actually talking to the elders of Israel.  Pretty wild, huh?"

"Yeah," I agreed, "So, what's he say?" 

The Lone Prophet:
  The sections Daniel read to me were from Jeremiah 18-22.  The gist of it was Jeremiah 18:7-11,

"'The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.  And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight... then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it...‘Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.'”

and Jeremiah 22:3 and 5. 

  "Thus says the Lord: 'Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place...But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself,' says the Lord, 'that this house shall become a desolation.'"

  "You're going to read all that to the elders?" I asked.

  "Yeah, I am.  I think this is why God brought us out here.  We know now that this church has been operating in this kind of corruption for years now.  God has a word to give them.  If they repent, like the verses say, than He will relent against judgment.  Otherwise...He's tearing down their house.  It's pretty basic."

  "I just...wonder how they'll take it.  I mean, they might feel it's kinda brazen for you to tell them all that."

  "Don't forget, Babe, that word we were given at church about speaking to a stiff-necked and rebellious people.  That verse said all we have to do is be obedient and bring the word.  Whether they listen or not is not our problem."

Meeting by
  The meeting took place at Tim Shoeman's house.  Three elders and Daniel.  In length, it went about two hours long.  My husband sat down with them and told them he was there because God had given him a word for them.  

  Daniel said, "If He hadn't given me a word, I wouldn't be here.  I have nothing left unsaid to tell you."

  "First," Tim said.  "We'd like to hear your story."

  "From what point?" Daniel asked.

 "Let's start with your authority issues back in Colorado," said Tim.

Authority issues, huh?  This was a big thank you to Pastor Marv.

  "Authority issues?"  said Daniel.  "I hadn't heard of any authority issues that I had there.  Unless you mean the fact that I discovered Pastor Marv was counseling women one on one after hours and informed Pastor Dean about it.  I figured that was pretty obviously a problem.  When my wife and I were Youth Pastors back in California, we used to teach Junior Highers to walk more circumspectly than that."

  The elders' faces were like stone.  But they did sit and listen as Daniel relayed the events of the past five months since we had moved to Freeport.  When he was done telling them the story they had asked to hear, they said:

  "We'd like an opportunity to respond if you are open to hearing from us."

  Daniel said, "No.  I'm not interested."

The elders weren't pleased with this answer.  All we had ever gotten out of Crossway was talk, talk, more talk.  Apparently, they found it hard to understand that talk and no action only meant more for us to forgive later.   But they insisted on responding, so apparently asking had just been a formality.

Tim said, "I'm just so overcome with emotion.  I have a hard time processing what you have told us.  We really didn't know what was going on--we don't keep up on a daily basis with what is going on.  Pastor Gavin forgot to let us know about your firing when it happened.  We didn't get included in the email that went out, so we didn't even know until very recently that you had been fired."

This coming from the man who had been informed as we went of a great deal of the injustices we had gone through.  The man who had counseled us "to wait patiently".
Ship Steering Wheel:

Daniel said, "You guys are the elders.  You make the calls that shape this organization.  If you don't stay informed with what the men and women whom you put in place are doing, then the importance of the character of who you put in power is all that more crucial."

The three men proceeded to cross-examine Daniel on how he could have done a "better job".  And they brought up the receipts.

One of the men asked, "Why don't you go in and work with Pastor Chase on this?"

Daniel responded:  "I was fired on the spot.  That was their decision.  Normally, these kinds of things are taken care of during the two weeks where you are given a two week notice.  There is no reason why I should spend my unpaid time working further with them on receipts.  And, I do not trust Pastor Chase."

Tim asked, "Would it work to have you interact with someone like the Crossway Accountant or someone you do trust?"

Daniel said, "What is the point?  It all goes back to Chase.  He has used the receipts I have turned in as an opportunity to say he doesn't approve of the charges and has promised that it will be considered my income at the end of the year.  He will disapprove of the receipts as I turn them in.  And most of these receipts pertain to the time period when Chase wasn't even my supervisor so his post disapproval is irrelevant.  What is the point of me trying to work further with him?  Chase has proven that he will use any information he has to hurt me and my family."

At this point, the elders acquiesced and stopped hammering the receipt need altogether.

"Is there anything we can do for you?" Tim asked.

Sure, step in anywhere.  Now you know the full story so you already know our needs, our frustrations, all the really don't need to ask this question, do you?  Feel free to make a move wherever you'd like...

Daniel said, "My vacation pay is illegally being withheld and I will have to report Crossway to the Labor Board.  That's not fun for anybody and I'd rather not have to do that, so if you guys can get me my vacation pay, that would be helpful."

One of the elders said, "The email you sent us sounded very self-righteous and I don't think it helped your cause.

"I didn't write that email to help my cause," Daniel answered.  "I wrote that email to communicate truth.  I'm not here to plead my cause.  I'm here because God gave me a word for you."

Isaiah 53:
  He pulled out his Bible and shared the sections from Jeremiah which are written out above. Then,  Daniel closed the Book and looked at the three men.

  "I believe that God is in the process of tearing down your house, " he said, "and it didn't start with Pastor Ken.  It started before Ken."


 They wanted to pray for Daniel.  Daniel explained he really would prefer not to be prayed for by them.

Prayer involves impartation.  Why would we want to receive anything you have?  We don't want to become anything like you men.  Dear God, I hope we never do any of the things you people are doing!

Tim was understanding about this but one of the other elders seemed to be rather offended. 

  "What?" the man said.

  "I can respect that," interrupted Tim.

Then to Daniel he said,  "I know this may sound crazy but the Network is so much better today than how it used to be.

And does that somehow justify today's situation, Tim?  How bad does it have to be before the problems are addressed as problems?

And the meeting was over.

Link to The Jeremiah Burden,  Part Eleven:

   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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Nine

Bound Hands by:
You might say, "That whole 'no unemployment business' was probably something you should have been aware of" and Daniel and I would heartily agree with you.  However, we were not the only employees at Crossway who were in the dark on this.  Two others, who were still employed there (and would still talk to us), expressed their shock (for themselves as well as for us).

  "Dude, WHAT is going on?" came one distressed text message before Daniel's phone was shut off and he lost all his contact information, both church and personal.   From what we later heard, any distraught people who were concerned about what had happened (Say, Daniel's young interns or the volunteers on his team), were directed to keep quiet and go to Pastor Gavin if they needed to know more.  One friend told us that when she called the church office and demanded to talk to someone she was informed that Gavin was on vacation.  He had apparently left the scene completely, some time after the firing meeting.  Pastor Chase Bowler was the man in charge.  He was certainly quite active on our email and now calling us on my phone, continuing to threaten about the receipts.

  "Daniel," I said.  "Maybe we should go to the elders and let them know what went down?"

  "Babe, I have been in communication with one of the elders, Tim Shoeman, through this whole idiotic mess.  The elders are the ones who chose Chase and Gavin.  They know these men and they want these men in charge.  There is absolutely no reason for me to go to the elders."

  "Well," I tried again.  "Everyone seems to think Chase is such a great guy.  They can't know him, really, unless they're really that low and dirty that they want someone around who will do their dirty work for them.  I mean, even a non-Christian organization cares about the law.  We could report Crossway to the Labor Board.  They can't withhold our vacation pay!"

  Chase had sent over an email, forwarded from Ned, listing out a few items that still needed to be returned to the church.  Daniel returned the email, explaining that some of the items listed could be found in the closet outside of his former office.  In addition, Daniel informed them of an entire shoot's worth of gear that still needed to be returned, but we hadn't yet had the chance.  These things had been stored in our basement since there wasn't a lot of room at the office. 

  Pastor Chase seemed to feel that he and Ned had egg on their face.  To discover that Daniel knew much more about the church gear and where it was stored at, and was willing to also reveal other items that they hadn't known about, seemed to make him even more angry.  A very nasty email was sent to us, insinuating that Daniel intended theft, saying, "This really calls into question whether you ever intended to return any of this gear!"

Stealing Tony Stark's heart by:
  Daniel didn't bother answering this.  And when he had the time, he packed up his car with the items and headed over to the church to offload it all, whether they were aware or not. 

   These items included our computer.  When Daniel had first been hired with Crossway, he had requested to be able to use his own computer for much of the video work.  This was a top of the line PC that had many state of the art software apps added to it, which Crossway had no budget to purchase at the time.  He'd gotten an "Okay" and this computer had been humming away for almost two years, pumping out sermon opener after sermon opener.  It had also never received any IT service, as a result of the fact that Ned would never answer any requests to fix IT issues that Daniel put in.  Recently, the computer had begun to under perform.  A few bugs were cropping up here and there.

  Daniel mentioned this problem to Gavin in one of their many meetings.  Gavin had said, "We need to remedy this: Absolutely, let's get your computer taken care of!"  Knowing that Ned would never deal with it, Daniel took some of his own budget money and had the computer rebuilt with outside Tech assistance.

  Even though it had originally been ours, Chase insisted that since it was rebuilt on the church's dime, and he had not approved of the expense, it now belonged to Crossway.   At one time, the software on that computer had been worth over $6,000 of our own money that we had invested.  But, it had been rebuilt on Crossway's money, and the software technicality didn't seem to be something we could legally fight, since it diminishes in value as time goes on.  So our computer went in the car with everything else and to the church it went.

  So far, I had kept all this latest business off of my Facebook page.  I had received a message from Pastor Dean, telling me I should not be posting my frustration about the church on Facebook. "I just want to encourage you not to use social media to make your hurts public..."  I didn't necessarily care what Pastor Dean thought, but I DID care a great deal about my own motives and trying to act in a Christ-like manner. So, I went to Jesus about it.
Silence by:

  "Lord, you know what is going on better than anyone.  Religious people are telling me to keep mum.  I don't want to, but I will do what You say.  Father, if You're okay with me posting about this injustice on Facebook, You let me know.  I will wait on you."

  That following Sunday, Daniel and I went to Eastside church.  We received two words there, again from people who did not know all that we were facing.  The first was a Bible verse from Ezekiel 2:3-7, where God was speaking to the prophet:  

  "He said, “Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, ‘This is the Message of God, the Master.’ They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels."

  Well, that seemed appropriate.   Then, during the worship, Natalie came up to me with her iphone and Bible app.  She handed it over to me to see.  

  "I just think this is for you," she said softly.  It was Acts 16:37:
Paul of Tarsus by:
   "But Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.”

  That was good enough for me.  I had my answer.  I went home after church and pulled up Facebook.

   My new status read:   "So, we were fired on the spot with no unemployment, and they're withholding our last check and vacation pay.  But if I say anything about it here, I'm "out of line"Well, let it be known, Christina Morrison is OKAY with being out of line in this organization!

  Once again, there was flood of outrage from our family and friends.  People were expressing anger that a church would be so corrupt and that pastors could be so heartless.  For Crossway, which values appearances above all, perhaps this was an awkward time.  It's hard to know for sure. 

  Although he still did not wish to speak to them in person, Daniel decided to send an email to the elders.  He told them pretty straight, referencing Bible in every line.  He told the elders that their hands were filthy.  That this whole business was laid at their feet.  The responsibility for the evils that had been perpetrated against us and others were on them and they would have to answer to God for it.  Needless to say, it was a strongly worded email. 

  A day or so later, Daniel received an email back from Tim Shoeman.  The elder asked if Daniel would come to speak to him, and two other elders who were open to hearing "what God had to say". 

 I remember asking Daniel once more, "Are you sure you're not supposed to go talk to them?"

  "I'm telling you, I have nothing to say to those men.  I already said it in the email," he answered.  But being Daniel, he went upstairs for some quiet time and talked to God about it.  About 30 minutes later, I went to check on him.  He was sitting on our bed, reading the Bible and his face was calm and at peace.  

  "I guess I will be going in to talk to them, Babe.  God just gave me a word for them."

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Ten:

 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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Eight

   The next weekend was our friend Nick's wedding.  Daniel and I were Nick's videographers for the big day  It had already been one exhausting week.  Daniel had been receiving a lot of pressure to finish the next sermon opener, so he had been focusing all of his time on that in order to get it done.

Watching the wedding guests:  Daniel pulls a crazy face.
Then, he'd gotten a message from Pastor Chase at the end of the work-week.  It was a demanding email regarding the receipts that Daniel was late getting to Accounting.
     He had slipped behind, because of the way leadership always made a priority of the latest emergency.  There had been no time for the day-to-day details.  He emailed Chase back immediately.
  "I apologize.  I have been focusing on the sermon opener because I understood that to be the priority.  I will now move all my focus to the receipts to make sure they are done."

Chase emailed him back, his malice seeming to steam through the computer screen: "It's not EITHER/OR--it's BOTH!!!!" 

Then, Chase forwarded Daniel's email to Gavin, CCing all with a message attached with something to the effect of :  "SEE, Gavin???  Look at this response!"

  At the same time, Daniel was receiving requests from Pastor Cody to turn all website design and maintenance control over to Ned.  Daniel politely refused.

  "In light of the fact that I have not been fired and all web stuff is still in my jurisdiction and is still listed under my contract, why would I do that?  It's my job.  As far as I know, I haven't been fired, unless you know something otherwise," Daniel emailed. 

  Cody fired back:  "I haven't seen your contract.  Why don't you send me a copy so I have a better idea of what your job actually entails."

  Daniel's response:  "No offense, but as one employee to another, that's a pretty inappropriate request.  No, I will not send you a copy of my contract."

  Cody tried a little religious posturing, "You know, I've always seen my work as a ministry rather than a job."

  Daniel responded:  "I have never been invited to minister here."

  Cody said, "Do you really need an invitation to minister?  I minister every day.  Life is ministry."

  Daniel gave up.

  He did his best to shrug it all off and concentrate on filming the wedding.  All the pastors were in attendance, so there were cold shoulders here and there, but we hung out with the other wedding vendors and celebrated our friends' wedding despite them.  Most folks were cordial to our faces.  However, I did receive the suggestion there to "Share more photos of the children on Facebook."

  My Facebook statuses had become more reflective recently of the turmoil we were enduring.  Although, mostly I kept to quotes from movies or famous people, I pulled a lot from Braveheart and once wrote down one from Star Wars:  "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."  I thought I was really holding myself back.  I knew I had at least one "Friend" on Facebook was reporting my statuses to the pastors, but if they only knew what I wanted to write and didn't!  They were vastly under-appreciating my self-control.

      So I saw this comment at the wedding as a thinly veiled suggestion to "Go back to just being a sweet little mom.  Stop being so serious.  Just keep quiet on all this stuff with the church."  I have to admit, these sorts of suggestions tend to just fire me up more. 

  When Daniel went back to work the following week, another meeting was set immediately with Pastors Gavin and Chase.  Daniel had been working non-stop throughout the day on the receipts, but he hadn't nearly finished.  He left his work on his desk and walked down to Gavin's office.

  He was fired on the spot.  There was no two week's notice.  No concern or consideration about the fact that we had moved to the Midwest at the organization's request and were in the process of buying a house in this area.  There was no compassion at all.  The reason listed for this firing was "insubordination."  No examples were listed.  Of course, there was no record of warnings given, as none had ever been given.  There was no more mention of taking a few weeks to think everything over in order to make sure that we all "had God's heart on the matter".  No more mention of "coming up with a plan".  The pretense was over.  Daniel was told that this was a mutual decision and to "have his desk cleared out by the end of the day."  We had been five months in the Midwest and were now out of a job.

Base Jump by gregmks:
  It was an incredibly awkward and absurd situation.  There were several interns that Daniel had working in his office at the time, as he was still training them, while working himself.  He had to go back to his office and let these youths know, "Hey, guys.  I've just been fired, so I'll be clearing stuff out and heading home."

  By the end of the day, Daniel's email access had been completely cut off.  Ned had been busy.   It actually made sense now why Ned had started some of the IT fixes that were so desperately needed.  Daniel had thought maybe one of his complaints about the IT issues had been heard.  But now it was clear:  Ned's reign of sabotage was coming to an end and he would shortly be taking over all aspects of media and technology.  Hence, the IT concerns would shortly be something that concerned him.  Thus they had finally made it to his priority list.

  On the same day, a prettily worded email was sent out to the local staff at Crossway.  It was from Pastor Gavin.  It covered the "totally mutual decision of Daniel Morrison to no longer be employed at Crossway".

tap dancer by
  Why, of course it was mutual decision.   Of course, we wanted to be stuck in rural Illinois, with a mortgage payment on our newly bought home and no way of paying it off.  Of course, we wanted to be fired from a church and ostracized within the very community that was firing us.  Why, what a delightful decision all around!  We were tap-dancing and playing jazzy numbers at the very thought of the months ahead.  Oh, Pastor Gavin.  What a kidder.

  That evening, I wrote down the most directly accusatory status I had yet.  On Facebook, I posted a status to the effect of:  "That moment when the church fires you and then sends out an email to everyone saying what a great thing this is for everyone involved and makes it all sound pretty and okay."

  The response was immediate from our friends in Colorado and California: shock waves came rolling in, anger expressed at the treachery, sadness for our plight, and prayers for us in this terrible season.  Our friends Abe and Stephanie were horrified, grieving for us and trying desperately to help us in some way.  Our friends at Eastside Church were there, too, sickened but not entirely surprised about what had happened.  They had watched it happen before. 

  For now that we had been fired, we began to learn that we were not alone.  Crossway Community Church has a distinct pattern.  A former Youth Pastor, abused and trampled on until he could abide it no more and found a way out.  A former Worship Pastor who'd left, in pain from the cruelty he had experienced.  Often in the creative or newer fields of the church, name after name began coming to the forefront of others who had suffered much the way we had. 

  We had been told that every receipt Daniel had failed to get turned in, would count as our own personal income at the end of the year.  But being cut off from his email, made reconciling the receipts practically impossible.  The last check, which was our legally due vacation pay was withheld.  Which meant there was no way for us to pay our mortgage payment due the following week.  Actually, were it not for the incredible generosity of a dear friend who covered the payment in full for us we wouldn't have made that payment.  It had been a very long winter and we were still learning the ropes about living with winter gas payments.  Bills were paid but we weren't in a great spot financially.  The one hope we had regarding future grocery bills and our house payment was to file for unemployment.  It took three trips to the town of Rockford to discover that in Illinois, non-profits are not required to pay in to unemployment.  Crossway certainly hadn't.  We were sunk.

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Nine:

 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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Seven

Chains of Sin by KingPaton:
  The Religious thing is one mean taskmaster.  First, it binds up, rather than loosening chains.  Second, it works really well with Condemnation and Guilt.  So the poor person who's caught in the cycle of Religion is bound themselves and yet constantly feels guilty for not being bound up more.   I guess Matthew 23:4-7 sums it up best:  
     “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help... They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’"

 You gotta feel bad for folks who walk in that lifestyle!  Really, that isn't how Jesus lived.  That isn't a life of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!" 

Jesus was incredibly free; ripping on the hypocrites one moment, playing with children the next.  One minute he's messing with his friends' minds by overloading their boat with fish, the next He's weeping over a sinful city that didn't receive Him.  He didn't care about what the religious thought.  He did what His Father said.  Ah, man.  I want to be free like Him.  

  Do you know, every time I push the "Publish" button on this blog, I still have to push aside Religious lies?  Guilt tries to creep in.  I start worrying over my motives.  I have to consciously remind myself that I am writing because the Lord told me, "It's time, Christina. I want you to put your story down."  
My sweet daughter
  So, here we go again...

  I met with Joan Shoeman in April.  So much had transpired since we set the date, that, to be honest, I was dreading meeting with her. 

 I didn't bring the church situation up at all, but kept to lighter subjects.  Finally, since I wasn't saying anything, Joan said, "So, how are you feeling about things with Crossway now?  Are you doing better?"

  "I think I feel a new resolve," I answered.  "I have a better understanding now of the situation we're up against and the kind of men we're dealing with."

  She didn't like the last part of my comment, but I kept going:  "We're looking for other jobs for Daniel.  We will be leaving, so although I've loved this house, I've laid it on the altar, so too speak, and am okay with losing it."

  "Well, if you're not interested in building with us, than of course, you should find where you want to be," Joan said, a little shortly.

  "It is not that we didn't want to.  We felt called here by the Lord and we were really excited about that calling.  But over and over it has been made abundantly clear that we are not wanted at Crossway.  I've actually been attending a different church for a month now."

Joan hadn't known this and asked where I was attending, pursing her lips when I told her where.  She again mentioned how important it was to be patient and let God do things in His timing.

  "Yes," I answered.  "I know that is what you and Tim advised us.  But then I remembered something else God showed me long ago. He told me, 'I would never call you to stay in a place of abuse.' This experience with Crossway has been incredibly painful to me and my family.  And although we have tried to communicate that, and I think we've done well expressing it, no one seems to care."

Joan shrugged this off.  "You know, you really need to try to put yourself in other people's shoes.  Try to see how it is for the people who have been here a long time."

I nodded.  "Yes, I understand.  I've actually been asking God what it is that we have been facing here, because I have been so puzzled about how my fellow Christians can justify their actions.  I happened to be reading about George Washington when he took over the Continental Army.  He was shocked at the terrible condition it was in.  He found that the officials and underlings both had come from the same small towns.  They had eaten together, raised kids together, drunk beer together.  So when there were violations, the officers would not correct the men.  The book said, 'they wouldn't cut across old relationships in order to enforce discipline'."

  For the first time, Joan seemed to be really listening.

  "I can walk in others' shoes," I continued.  "I understand how it would be hard to grow up here and have long-standing relationships.  You've prayed together with these people, gone on mission trips with them, seen them through good and bad times.  When a new person arrives, your tendency is to stand by your old friends.   And it's hard to correct them when they're out of line.  However, I also remember having issues in my own family where I had to draw boundaries.  It was very painful to me, because I love my family.  But I did it because it was the right thing to do."

  "Is there something I can pray for you about?" Joan asked.  

My son, picking dandelions
  I looked over at my son.  "Yes.  Thank you.  You can pray for my children.  Daniel and I have tried to keep things from them, but my son is very sensitive and this season has affected him greatly."  

  I started to weep as I said this.  My son looked up from his craft and said in a mournful voice, "Mommy's sad."

  "No, no, Buddy.  Mommy's okay," I said, wiping my tears away quickly.  

  "I have to take make a call because I'm going to be late to another appointment, but I'll finish up and come back to pray for you," Joan said.  

 If someone offers to pray for you, the normal reaction, I think, is to be appreciative that someone cares to do so.  But I had time to think as Joan talked on the phone.  I realized I didn't want her to pray for me.  I didn't trust how she would pray and prayer is a powerful thing.  I wasn't trying to hurt her, but when she came back, I stood up to meet her.

  "I so appreciate you wanting to pray for me, Joan.  I'm not trying to offend you.  But I am in a very fragile place right now.  My family has been betrayed and hurt.  I am going to ask that you not pray for me, though again, please understand I am not trying to offend in any way."

  Joan was floored.  "You don't want me to pray for you?"  

  "Prayer is such an intimate thing," I tried to explain.  "And right now, my family and I are having a hard time trusting.  I'm sure you understand.  There's already been a lot of talk taking place behind closed doors about us.  Though I am okay with you sharing this conversation with your husband, I would ask that you keep it to yourselves."

   Around this time, Pastor Marv and his wife Kay arrived from Colorado to visit.  Of course, they were from this region and so were in the approved crowd.  Even though Marv had managed to pull the Colorado campus away from the Network, it seemed he was still very admired and respected.  Perhaps more so, now.  There was a get-together with the campus pastors and him.  I admit, I wondered with suspicion what exactly would be said there.  

  It's important to note that Daniel had received absolutely no "disciplinary write-ups", no "written warnings".  Although he did not agree with many of the media decisions being made by the pastors, and he would share his concerns (the lords of the manor must be warned if there's a drop-off ahead), he would still do everything asked of him.  However, he knew he was considered a liability by the pastors.  Chase Bowler had entered Daniel's office and berated him publicly in front of the volunteers Daniel was trying to train up, and every unpleasant comment card about video or media by any audience member at any campus was used as another subtle whip.  Still, the only actual reproof was the one already mentioned:  Daniel was considered "disrespectful".  Perhaps this had something to do with the time that he had closed a meeting (involving Gavin and Chase) with prayer on his own initiative.  Early on at Crossway, Daniel had been disturbed with the fact that in pastoral meetings, behind closed doors, no one ever prayed.  So, once, he had. 

  Then there was yet another meeting with Daniel and Pastors Gavin and Chase.  In this meeting, the tone had strangely changed.  Both pastors were taking copious notes anytime Daniel said anything.  Pastor Gavin had on his "friendly face".

"We want to work with you, Daniel.  We want to patch it up."

Daniel's response was grave:  "Not trying to offend here, but I don't trust either of you.  You have systematically taken all my job responsibilities away and all I'm left to do is wonder when you're going to actually fire me."

Pastor Gavin was still friendly.  "Well, how can we help make it work?"

Daniel tried to explain once again.  "The problem I have is that you aren't willing to actually do anything required to patch it up.  You will say everything that is right and appropriate but you have never actually dealt with anything that I have told you about.  Let's just make it impersonal for a moment.  You don't really want a media director.  You want a video lackey.  Every time I have acted in my role as a media director, I have been seen as 'insubordinate'.  My job description says (x,y,z).  To the best of my ability, that is what I have been doing here."
Gavin:  "You keep referring to your job description.  Why do you keep referring to that?"

Daniel:  "Because my job description is the only contractual basis for our working relationship."

Gavin:  "Well, let's redefine this job description so that it works for everyone.

Daniel:  "I'm not interested in redefining it.  This is what I was hired to do.  My contract stipulates that it is not to be changed unless both parties agree to it.  You folks have already violated that numerous times already."

Gavin:  "So, it sounds like this isn't going to work."

Daniel:  "No, it doesn't."

Gavin:  "Well, then it sounds like we know where things are going.  Let's wait a few weeks, see how things go, not do anything too fast, make sure we're not overstepping God, and then we'll make a plan of action for moving forward."

The meeting was over.

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Eight

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.

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.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Five

  At first, it seemed things might actually improve.  Daniel was told an assistant would be hired to handle the administrative side of things to free up his time.  His budget was increased to help make up
for the full time video technician that he no longer had.  Daniel had been told to take days off (there had been one stretch there of a straight three weeks with no days off) and so he began to.  We even got together with Tim and Joan Shoeman, and outlined our situation as clearly as we could.  They both agreed that Daniel's work situation had been horrendous.  But Tim said, "It's actually much better than it used to be," and their best advice was:  "Wait.  Be patient.  Change takes time."

  Pastor Dean had now left, meaning that Daniel only had three bosses to interact with.  Taking Dean's place temporarily over the finances was Pastor Chase Bowler, the former missionary.  Pastor Chase didn't seem to like the fact that Daniel's budget had been increased, and that now there were set days that he would not be at the church office.  Pastor Gavin had decreed that video requests would need to be approved first by Pastor Cody before being passed on to Daniel.  This demand was apparently seen as excessive by some.  After all, everyone in the network was overworked.  Who'd  this new video guy think he was, anyway?

   I am surmising here somewhat, of course.  I do not know what the pastors of the Network were
thinking.  I can only interpret based on their interactions with us, the snide remarks that began at this time, and the outright undermining of Daniel's job responsibilities by Pastor Chase.   The pressure on our family increased.  As much as we tried to keep the stress from our children, the situation was affecting my two year old son.  He'd developed a nervous habit of digging in his belly-button with a finger.  He was doing it so much that his little belly-button would get red and sore.  His sister, my 1 year old, figured that this was the thing to do, so she had started doing it also.  One warm day in spring, I took the two of them outside to pick dandelions.  The passing tractors were treated to the sight of two toddlers, both with shirts up, digging in their belly-buttons with a finger.  It would have been funny, if it hadn't made me cry so much.

  It now became clear that Ned and Pastor Chase worked very well together.  Ned held a unique position of control in the Network.  In a land where (shockingly) there was still an incredible amount of ignorance regarding technology and the internet, the shut-down of one campus's computer system meant chaos for that campus's pastor.  And if Ned didn't like the way he had been treated at one time or another, he might find it "challenging" to get that particular campus back online again.  So to prevent this kind of thing, Ned was courted by the campus pastors, and to his face at least, they treated him with the utmost respect.  His computer knowledge, also, was considered vast and superior (which it likely was, in their neighborhood).  And so, this middling to sub-par technology man with a chip on his shoulder against Daniel, had been given the control to make life hell for any campus pastor he chose.  And now that the responsibilities were to be handed off to Daniel, if anything slipped, Ned managed to make it "that new video guy's" fault, rather than his own.  But in spite of all this, we had learned that Ned was not the issue, really.  Ned served Chase.  Pastor Chase empowered Ned every step of the way.  The real Oz behind the curtain in all of these dealings, was the former missionary turned pastor.  One meeting that Daniel had with Chase illuminated this very clearly.

  "Can we admit that you are under-mining my job here?"  Daniel asked the man.

  "Yep," Chase answered.  "And I will continue to go to Ned to get what I want done.  Because he does exactly what I ask."

  In desperation, Daniel again went to Pastor Gavin.

  "We'll sit down and have a talk together, you, me and Chase," was Gavin's response, "I really don't believe that Pastor Chase intends to undermine you."

  "He admitted that he did," was Daniel's answer.  "And I don't really think you intend to do anything."

  It was shortly after this, that the elders (including Tim Shoeman whom we had kept aware of all that was transpiring with Ned and Chase and Gavin) rubber-stamped Pastors Gavin and Chase as the men to fill the roles of New Lead Pastor and New Executive Pastor "for an interim".

  And there were other discoveries.   I had joined a local exercise group and one of the women there was rather informed on the inner workings of Crossway.  Closely connected with one of the elders, she told me that Pastor Ken's infidelity of the summer before was not his first slide into sexual immorality.  Apparently, he had been found in an "emotional affair" in the past and the discovery had been brought to the elders.  At that time, they had basically given him a "hand-slapping", but the issue had not been brought to the church body and there had been no real consequences.  (We later had this information confirmed by a local pastor).  This was bad enough to learn, but on top of it, this same lady told me that when Ken's recent issue had been brought before the elders, they did not want to remove him then, either.  The only reason that Pastor Ken had been removed at all was because one man, Ken's former mentor and a pastor of another church, stepped in and said, "You cannot allow him to continue pastoring.  He must be removed."

  A few days after this revelation, something happened at the office with a young friend of ours who we had worked with both in Colorado and here in Freeport.  Nick was Pastor Dean's son and he had moved out to the Freeport area shortly before we ourselves had, to work with Karl Barker, the Worship Pastor.  Nick had met a lovely young woman in Freeport, was shortly to be married and was preparing to move out of the state with his new bride.  In preparation of this event, he was getting things in order and had alerted the staff to his last day of work. 

  On this day, Daniel came home, more frustrated than I had seen him in many days.  "This place is such a crock!   I can't believe Chase Bowler!"

 Apparently, there was a facet of the employee contract that involved a  health benefit payment that could be utilized in any way that the employee chose.  A simple receipt with the amount stipulated in the employee contract, would mean that the church would cover it.  But in Nick's case, he had brought in his receipt only to discover that Chase Bowler was refusing to abide by the church's written policy.

  "Monetarily, it's not that big an amount, Babe.  But it's just the fact, that this is in the employee contract, so it doesn't matter if Chase doesn't agree with it.  Yet, he's okay with reneging, which is illegal.  But he doesn't care.  These are the kind of men we're dealing with.  They are completely lawless."

  "Will Nick take it to court?" I asked.

  "No.  He got upset at Chase, I guess, and told him straight up that it was illegal, and you know what Chase said?  He told him, 'The only reason you ever got this job in the first place was because your dad worked here'!"

  "I can't believe he said that!  It's not true, is it?"

  "No, it's not!  Nick knows his stuff.  Heck, he's the only one who can run the audio here!  But the point is, Babe, I think we've got to resign ourselves to leaving.  Chase doesn't like me and he's getting more power in the network.  He's completely lawless.  I've got to start looking for another job.  I'm sorry about the house.  They've pretty much screwed us there.  I hope we can sell it.  But we're not staying here under Chase Bowler."

  "What about Pastor Gavin?  Do you think he knows?"

  "Gavin says all the right words and gives the power to Chase.  He doesn't want to look bad, so they play a sort of good cop/bad cop thing with everyone.  As far as I'm concerned, Chase and Gavin are hand in hand on everything."

 It was around this time that something clicked inside of me.  I was living in this beautiful dream house, watching my husband come home miserable every day.  Pastor Gavin would not meet my eyes when I passed him in church, but would look away.  Joan Shoeman was no longer warm when she greeted me.  Something subtle had taken place, some people had been talking behind closed doors.  There was an almost palpable feeling of being watched and judged on every side.  Forgiving the men in power was not only a daily ritual but it was becoming harder and harder to do.

  The advice of Tim and Joan Shoeman to "just be patient" had sounded wise at the time.  But Tim was one of the very elders who had rubber-stamped Chase as the new Executive Pastor, and any "wisdom" he had to offer now was suspect.  It was at this time I remembered something another wise person in my life had told me long ago:  "God does not expect you to stay in a place of abuse."  In a kind of of desperate rebellion against the religious spirit that was so prevalent in Freeport, I died my hair brilliant shades of blue and purple and attended my last service at Crossway Community Church.  It didn't matter that my husband worked there.  I would not attend or take my children there one more Sunday.

Link to The Jeremiah Burden, Part Six:

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.