Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jesus' Power over the Natural :: Grace to You

Jesus' Power over the Natural :: Grace to You

I just finished listening to a John MacArthur sermon this morning. I have read some of his books and sermons, but I think this may be the first time I have listened to a complete sermon. His delivery is not my favorite "style" to listen to. But I like to listen to a variety of sermons and styles. It's not the style, but the content that matters. A friend sent me this link a few days ago and I finally got around to listening. I know that most people don't feel they have the spare time to commit to listening from beginning to end. But I am so glad I did. He begins by talking about the power that exists in the universe, the power inside one atom (very little matter, mostly energy), the power that holds this extremely heavy ball of ours up in space, keeps it going, etc. And he ends with the power that Jesus displayed on the Sea of Galilee, leaving the disciples in awe of Who He was.

Although Jesus willingly took on a submissive role, He displayed His power and identity as Creator even as He operated in a fleshly body. He commanded nature. He had power over disease. He read men's thoughts. He raised the dead. He was worshiped.

Jesus divested Himself of His glory to come and die for our sins. He not only lowered Himself from the glory He had with the Father, He emptied Himself. Philippians 2 describes Jesus,

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

My son was pointing out to me just this morning that Jesus' sacrifice restored right standing and relationship between God and man. Our sin separated us from a holy God. The covenant was between God and man. The redemption and restoration had to be between God and man. A created Jesus could not have taken the punishment for our sin. God in the likeness of man paid the price as only He could. If we didn't/couldn't pay it, he had to pay it for us.

That conversation reminded me of a sermon I once heard about forgiveness. When a party is wronged and makes the choice to forgive, forgiveness is not free. It costs one or the other. Someone pays the price. That's why forgiveness is hard; because if you forgive and release someone of their debt, you suffer the cost of your own "damages." Either the person who did the damage pays or the person who forgives pays by absorbing the "cost" personally. If you come to my house and break a lamp, I can either demand you restore what was lost or I can simply forgive you. But if I don't require payment from you, I pay to restore what was lost myself. Somebody pays. When it comes to our redemption, God paid Himself.

I copied an excerpt from the end of MacArthur's sermon about Jesus. It was so good. I'm glad I took the time to listen to the whole thing.

...Mark 4:39 says, "He stood up and said, 'Silence.' And instantly not just a calm but a great calm, a total calm. Now if you stop the wind the sea will continue to ripple until the waves have run their course. He said, "Silence." Or as one commentator translates it hush and the sea became as glass. The waves stopped, the wind stopped and it was still. Now folks that's power. That is power. It's impossible to measure the power of the wind that was existing in that kind of a storm because we don't know how far that storm extended, but just in a normal storm there are millions upon millions of units of horsepower generated in a storm through the wind and even more through the rain if that was involved. No one could even measure the power of the earthquake, incredible power, and Jesus stopped it with a word.

You see this is Matthew's message to us. This is the one who can conquer disease. This is the one who can handle nature and later He'll tell us He is the one who controls the demons. He is the one who forgives sin. He is the one who raises the dead. Think about it, beloved, He is the one who lives in your life.

Well, they had seen God, that's plain and simple. And what did they do in reaction, verse 27, the portent. The dictionary says portent means to marvel. Something portentous elicits wonder or marvel, amazement, and it says in 27, "The men marveled saying what kind of man is this? Potapos the Greek word. We don't have any categories for Him is what they're saying. What slot does He fit in? What kind of person is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him?

Now listen to me. Mark in his parallel account says, "They were exceedingly afraid." Mark says when the storm came they were afraid. Mark says when Jesus stopped the storm they were exceedingly afraid. You know what's more fearful than being in a storm? Realizing you're standing in the presence of the living God. That's awesome. What an experience to know that God is in your boat. That was far more terrifying than any storm.

When Job saw God through the circumstances of his life he said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of my ear, but now I've seen you with mine eye and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." When Isaiah saw God he said, "I'm a man of unclean lips." I have a dirty mouth. When Daniel saw God in Daniel 10 we saw a couple of weeks ago, he began to shake and quiver and he fell into a heap into the dirt and his mouth was frozen in dumbness in the presence of God. When Peter saw God in the occasion of the fishing of the sea, he said, "Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh Lord." When the apostle Paul saw God in the form of a resurrected glorious Jesus Christ he fell on his face in the dirt and he was blind.

And you would be so overwhelmed with holiness if you were to stand in His presence. These disciples knew that God was there and the awesomeness of it was terrifying. They were unmasked. The omniscient one could read every thought, knew everything in them. They were in the presence of God.

The next boat trip they took recorded in Matthew brought them to a similar situation and they said when it was over after He stopped another storm it says, Matthew 14:33, "They that were in the boat came," listen, "and worshipped Him saying, 'It is the truth. You are the Son of God.'" The next time if there was any doubt at all it was removed. He was the Son of God. Even the winds and the sea obey Him.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There is a reason...

Yes, there is a reason I chose Breaking the Chains as the title of my book rather than Broken Chains. I recognize that I am in an ongoing process of being set free from the chains of my past -- and perhaps always will be.

In my preface, I referred to my chains as crippling deception. Well, I must confess that while I am no longer crippled by that deception, it is like a chronic illness that comes and goes. When the symptoms are not present, I am free and healthy. When something triggers a "flare up," I am knocked down and scraped up. Sometimes I experience temporary paralysis. And then I remember that Jesus has delivered me and I am free. Again, I get up and walk.

Yesterday was one of those days of paralysis. This morning, I have remembered my freedom in Christ.

For some who grew up as I did, the worst thing about growing up there was the control over our lives and the stringent legalism that was imposed on us. I explain that with examples in my book. I didn't like it, but for me, that wasn't the worst part of growing up there. I don't really care all that much that I didn't get to wear what I wanted to, didn't get to participate in many school activities, couldn't go to sporting events or school dances. I cared at the time, but I'm fifty-years-old now and I can choose my own clothes and activities. (The up side to all that is that, as a fifty-year-old woman, I have an actual appreciation for my choices that most would never give a second thought to.) Many people in this world have no freedoms growing up and are horribly abused. I recognize that some of my worst days have been better than a lot of people's best days. And I have never struggled to count my blessings instead of my tears.

The worst part of growing up the way I did, for me, was being taught that I had to reach literal, moral perfection in this life in order to go to heaven. I lived forty-plus years of my life, trying to be a good Christian, without any real hope of ever seeing Jesus. That, to me, is an atrocity that was enacted upon me. I have to say forty-plus years, even though I left there before my forty-fourth birthday, because that false doctrine followed me and haunted my thoughts long after I left there and was exposed to the true gospel and grace. Oh, I found the cross. And it sounded wonderful and beautiful to my ears; the thought that I could go to heaven because of what Jesus did FOR ME as opposed to earning it for myself. But it sounded too good to be true. It sounded almost like a fairytale to me. I couldn't put my complete trust in Jesus to save me because of the horrible, damnable doctrine of perfection that had been deeply embedded into my mind and heart.

Despite my inability to believe I could ever be perfect as Jesus was perfect, I was thankful that He died on the cross to give me a chance. I believed He loved me. But I lived in the constant awareness that I could not be good enough to please Him and I would ultimately disappoint Him in my imperfection. Except for my occasional high moments (which were emotionally driven), I lived a defeated life. I remember thinking that I wouldn't "make it," but maybe I would play a role in someone else's life who would. But because I loved God, and no other life but the Christian life held any appeal for me, I still wanted to live for Him even if I didn't believe I would go to heaven. Since we did not believe in a literal hell, I didn't fear punishment. And as I thought this all through, I remember so many times coming to the conscious conclusion that if this life was all I had, and nothing more than death and non-existence awaited me, I still wanted to live this life for God.

How tragically sad that is to me now.
Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 15:19,
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

I remember sitting with a Christian counselor one afternoon. He said something about one day seeing Jesus in heaven and I began to cry. He looked at me rather confused. I had not really explained to him what I had been taught at that point. And through my tears, I told him that I had never really believed I would ever see Jesus because I was taught from birth that only perfect Christians get to go to heaven and be with the Lord. I believed I would have a resurrection. But that was an extended opportunity to reach perfection. If I came up in the resurrection and still failed to be perfected, overcoming all sin as Jesus did, then I would still not have eternal life. So I had a hope of a resurrection. But the nagging thought in my mind was always, "If I couldn't achieve it in this life, what would make me think it would be achievable then?" I didn't find a lot of comfort in the resurrection. Sometimes I would think that just knowing I had come back from the dead would give me some kind of motivation I didn't have here. But that just didn't seem to make sense to me, either.

All kinds of reasons were given for why someone might reach this perfected status after the resurrection. We were not under a perfected ministry and there would be a perfected ministry in operation at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ. Stuff like that. I remember the question being asked, "Is it possible for the saints to go to perfection if they are not under a perfected ministry or part of a restored church?" I always listened carefully to those questions because perfection was on my mind from a young age. (This was not the case for every young person, I have realized. Many have told me they never thought about it the way I did. My son, however, was just like me. He remembers feeling the weight of the perfection doctrine in elementary school.)

Believing this doctrine had a profoundly negative effect on my life, even in some of my choices. Because I believed that Jesus' sacrifice accomplished nothing in my life other than giving me a chance to be saved, I didn't really think my choices were going to matter much in the final outcome of my life. So I could make selfish and ungodly choices in small areas quite easily, without my conscience really bothering me very much at all. The reason was that I processed it this way: "I'm not going to heaven no matter how many things I do right (or don't do wrong) because I can never be perfect. So this life is all I have. And what difference is it really going to make anyway?" Of course, I now see this thinking as completely self-absorbed. It was all about me and what was in it for me. I wasn't thinking about my opportunities to honor and glorify God through even my smallest choices. And even a few times in serious choices, I justified living for myself more easily because I believed I could not measure up no matter how hard I tried.

This was the crippling effect, upon my life, of being taught perfection. And this teaching is the intermittent, chronic illness that still sometimes plagues me. My imperfection and the fear of making mistakes -- saying things wrong or the wrong way, believing the wrong thing, displeasing God in any way -- can literally put me in the weeds...still.

I post pretty regularly on a message board for people who have come out of the group I was raised in. It's quite a mix of people and opinions. Some have rejected faith in God. Some have embraced a more Universalist view of God. Some don't think it matters that much what you believe theologically and that everyone is in error in some way. Some believe truth is very important, but we don't all agree on what that truth is. Some have come out of the group but still hold to some of the group's doctrines. And the one doctrine that most seem to have the hardest time getting free from is the group's teaching on the Godhead. In fairness to them, they believe that God has shown them in Scripture that it is the correct understanding.

We were taught that Jesus was the Father's first creation and that He never shared equality with God even prior to His earthly existence as a man. He was not eternal. And we were taught that the Trinity was false doctrine. God was the Father or Jehovah. The Son was always "less" than God in every way. And they use many Scriptures to support what they believe, just as Trinitarians have many Scriptures to support their view of the Godhead.

This was THE biggest hurdle for me and the doctrine I struggled with the most after leaving. But I now see in Scripture that Jesus, as God's Son, shares the nature of God. And I do not believe He is a created being. God is very clear in Scripture that we are not to worship men or angels; only God. And we are to worship Jesus. John 1 says in the clearest words possible that the Word WAS God and the Word was WITH God. Another very convincing Scripture for me is Colossians 2:9,
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.

My book is about my life; it is not a book on theology. But I do touch on this subject in the book. Before I could even begin to consider the Trinity, I had to be convinced of Christ's deity. I was taught so strongly against the Trinity that I experienced fear and anxiety in even considering it. I was afraid I was displeasing God. (I struggle with the fear of God getting mad at me, for some reason. And this fear is extremely incapacitating at times.)

Yesterday I posted (on the ex-gac message board) some of the reasons I had become convinced of the deity of Christ and that I now believe it is serious error to reduce Him to a created being. I received some harsh criticism (it felt harsh to me -- it may not have been intended as harsh). And I crumbled a bit here in the privacy of my home. There were tears off and on throughout the day. (I hate offending people with my words.) I was rebuked for defining a cult by what a group believes and warned in pretty strong terms that what I was saying/doing was wrong (by someone who has also left the group, but continues to hold to that view of the Godhead). The reprimand triggered fear in me. I was plagued by thoughts of "Who do I think I am? Why do I think it's my role to say these things? I am nobody. I am not a Bible scholar." (My fears are always tied to my fear of making a mistake or doing something wrong that cannot be undone.) The problem is, I feel like God IS asking me to say these things. And I'm caught between a rock and a hard place because I do not want to displease Him - either way. But I am often plagued by self-doubt in my ability to know I am saying and doing the right things.

I had several conversations with my son throughout the day and I told him how fearful I was. He asked, "Have you repented for being afraid?" I hung up the phone and asked God to forgive me for allowing fear and anxiety to grip my heart. I told Him I needed Him to take it from me. And I felt His calming presence immediately.

I feel stronger this morning than I did yesterday, but still I feel the inner struggle to find God's will. So I went to my friends's (Todd Edwards) blog this morning. (I have a permanent link to his blog, Nothing to Boast, on mine.) He was raised under the same teachings I was and God has used him to speak truth into my life on many occasions. I read many things that helped me this morning. (Thanks, Todd, if you're reading.) I found Colossians 2:9-10. And then I read this:

If you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, then you are in Christ, then you are complete, there is nothing to add. There are no additional steps or levels to achieve. John 8:36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

The narrow gate is a turnstile and if you try to go through with anything else besides your spiritual clothes (Christians are clothed in the Righteousness of Christ), then you will not go through the turnstile and you will be on the wide road of false religion. False religion includes those who think they are in Christ yet they are trying to hold on to their sin and go through the gate. It includes those who think they are in Christ, yet are trying to take their works of righteousness with them through the gate. The gate is only big enough for us to go through with the Righteousness of Christ.


I will make mistakes. I am not perfect. I won't always say everything perfectly. But there is grace for my shortcomings. God is sovereign over all and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Please say a prayer for me that I will be bold in Christ and will stand for Him with enduring faith till I come to the end of my journey.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Breaking the Chains: Preface

This editing stage of my book has been a challenge for me, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. I imagined an editor having a certain number of pages or words in his head and wanting me to cut portions of the book just to make it fit into his idea of an appropriate length. I thought I would be pressed to cut parts that were important to me. It hasn't been anything like that. A good editor just helps you say the same thing in slightly fewer words. And I have the final word on every suggested change. So the actual edit has not been grueling at all. But the waiting is driving me nuts because I'm not doing anything except when I get edited chapters for my review.

Unfortunately, my editor has had some unexpected distractions to come up and, of course, he has more on his plate than just my one book. So it's taking a bit longer than he initially estimated. But I like his work, I like him, and I am trying to be patient. Meanwhile, a lot of people are asking me "How much longer?" He seems confident that we'll have a book in print by the end of August.

I mentioned on my blog a while back that I had contemplated sharing the preface in advance. And then I didn't. I wasn't sure if that was a good decision or if I was just being impatient. Tonight I asked my editor what he thought and he said it was a good idea; especially since we are so close to publishing. Therefore, I decided to go ahead and post the preface online.

To read it, go to the book's Web site and click on "preface" at:
Breaking the Chains.

Pizzamamma returns...

I started making pizza for Danny and his friends while he was still in high school. My first screen name on AOL was Pizzamamma (back when it was "scary" to think of putting your real name out there). I don't make pizza nearly as often as I used to, but I got to make it for Cheryl and the kids Thursday night. Food is one of the ways I enjoy nurturing my loved ones (as well as myself). The above is topped with Italian sausage, chopped mushrooms, onions and jalapeno peppers. It was delicious, but my favorite pizza is still Pie in the Sky thin crust. I have never been able to figure out how to make a great thin crust.

My niece, Nikki, was giving out hugs to Andrew and Joshua.

My niece, Lexi, and youngest nephew, Jackson.


Andrew plays well alone and reminds me of how Danny was at his age. I am realizing more and more just how easy Danny was as a kid. I only remember one major defiant episode (at four). In hindsight, it's hard to believe that but it's really true.
The boys love to climb up into the recliner with me. I keep my laptop next to this chair and this is where I do my writing. The computer has almost totally replaced the TV in my life...except when Lost is on.

This morning we are having French Toast and Mini Wheats.

I have had the boys since Tuesday evening. Andrew just walked over and asked me, "Do you remember my mommy and daddy?"

Grandma Shari: "I do!"

Andrew: "You do?"

We all have our moments of seeing our parents in ourselves. I even recognized a few Grandma Annalea genes this week. John will say to me every now and then, "That laugh sounded just like your dad." In almost every way I aspire to be my mother as a grandma. Danny adored his Grandma Jane. But she used to say, "Shame on you," and I occasionally find myself restraining my impulse to say it. Only once this week did I slip and say, "You are hurting Grandma Shari's feelings." (I don't want them to be insensitive to the feelings of others, but neither do I ever want them to feel responsible for other people's emotions - I'm not sure one can ever perfectly walk the middle of that road.) The things I think about as a grandma that I never thought about as a mother would make a very long list.

I think I was a decent mother, but I'm a better grandma. I was two months shy of being 19 when Danny was born. So I was just winging it. As I studied childhood development at Lipscomb, I realized that I did a lot of things right by accident - not because I knew. I just did what seemed right to me and it worked out. Where I really failed horribly was nutrition. I let Danny choose what he wanted to eat far too much. I was a bit lazy. And back in those days, we had a steady diet of tacos and eating out. One of my friends teased me for years about how I regularly forgot to bring a snack for Danny in the nursery at church. She would intentionally bring extra for him.

I'm so thankful I had my mom back in those early days. She was and is my role model as a grandma. She always wanted to keep Danny, even on short notice. I don't remember many times when she turned me down if I asked her. I was still a kid myself. And I remember how much it always hurt my feelings when I would talk about having another baby and Mom would say, "Shari, you're cut out for one." It felt to me like she was saying I wasn't a very good mother. But now when I have both boys for several days (or when I watch Rebecca taking care of them), I understand better what she meant. She was actually right. One child was best for me and my circumstances. And I was very blessed to have the one I had!

In spite of not having a large family of my own, I have been blessed with many nieces and nephews because both of my brothers have had big families. One has four kids and the other has five. My nieces and nephews were my practice grandchildren. I have been close to most of them as they have grown up and I love them as much as if they were my grandchildren (which is a lot). I was Aunt Shari for so long, I still felt like Aunt Shari to Joshua for months after he was born. Now I have to remember that I am Nikki's Aunt Shari and not her Grandma Shari when talking to her.

I'm still not that great at the nutrition thing. But I try harder. I once told Rebecca (who is very nutrition conscious) that Danny didn't eat by the pediatrician rule book and he lived. She said, "But he has IBS." I said, "Good point."

I hope that's the worst thing I did to him (but I kind of doubt it).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A work in progress...

BREAKING THE CHAINS WEB SITE

I started working on a Web page for my book today. It's very basic at this point. I have no skills or experience in Web design. So I'm telling myself that I can always have someone give it a professional makeover down the road. But right now I just need to have a place other than my blog for updates and information about the book.

I have only created a Home Page so far. I plan to add a few more pages to the site as time permits and I may publish a few excerpts from the book. But I haven't even figured out exactly what I want on the site yet. I can only be so creative while distracted by two little munchkins wanting to sit on my lap eating Mini Wheats (and all sorts of other things).

I have Joshua and Andrew until Saturday. And tomorrow Cheryl, Jackson, Karlie, Lexi and Nikki are all coming out for a two night slumber party. So Camp Howerton will be rockin'! I have loaded up on goodies and we'll be feasting tomorrow on homemade pizza. The boys are excited about getting to play with Nikki.

Well, the Mini Wheats are flying. Time to read a book, brush teeth and get these little boys tucked into their beds. I just wanted to let you know that there is a "baby" Web page in its infancy now. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Truth Matters

A settlement was recently consummated between Christian Gospel Temple and one of the victims who filed suit last year. A friend of mine who also grew up in CGT, Jennifer Meier-Beita, was interviewed again last night on the Channel Five News.

Jennifer recently created a website where she could publish documentation showing that the victims who filed lawsuits last year were telling the truth. Although a settlement agreement for an undisclosed dollar amount was reached through mediation about six weeks ago, when Channel Five reached the current pastor of CGT (Steve Farmer) by phone, "he would not comment on the case settled out of court and still denied any wrong doing by the church or its members."

This past January, I began writing a book about my life growing up in CGT** and my deliverance out of the group I once believed was "the true church." I was born and raised in this church. I moved from California to Tennessee in 1993, along with hundreds of others, because our pastor told us it was God's will for our congregation to relocate to this specific area of the country. I wasn't convinced that God was requiring the move, but I didn't want to stay in California without all of my lifelong friends. So I moved.

It wasn't the first time our church had moved and it was only one of many attempts by our pastor to relocate our entire congregation. Within a couple of years after moving to Tennessee, our pastor then tried to convince us to move back to California. He said that it had been God's will to move, but now it was God's will to go back. God had changed His mind. There had been other times when my pastor's reasoning and explanations of God's behavior raised a red flag for me. But I convinced myself to remain with this group of people until I finally recognized that I had to leave in 2003.

There were many disappointments and disheartening events in the years following our move to Tennessee. I began to see a lot of cracks in the things I had been taught. My confidence in church leadership was devastated by the revelation that our pastor's brother was an alleged pedophile. I became aware that the first known incident of sexual abuse committed by this man had occurred in the early sixties. Equally disturbing was the discovery that my pastor knew and swept it under the rug. He did not share the information with the rest of the family or members of the congregation. Not only did he keep the molestation a secret, he allowed his brother to sit next to him on the platform as our "unofficial" assistant pastor for years. It has been alleged by his three granddaughters that he went on to sexually abuse them. The further abuse was avoidable and preventable, had the pastor not covered up this problem. I have been told by family members that the alleged pedophile had told his brother and other men in authority long ago that he had "a problem" after coming home from WWII. He needed help. And there was none. I don't know if that claim is true, but I do know from multiple witnesses that the man who stands accused of the extreme abuse of his granddaughters has made private confessions while professing public innocence. It's a horrible situation.

One of the man's granddaughters is my sister-in-law, Cheryl. We have been very close for years and I have dedicated my book to her. She has been sharing this painful journey with me for the last ten years. She has poured her heart out to me again and again. She has shared with me the details of many private conversations in which disturbing things were said to her by the current pastor and his wife (as well as others). In some cases, she knew she was being lied to. She often felt there was a blatant attempt to manipulate her into saying and doing certain things she did not want to do. Her confidence in the integrity of CGT leadership was shattered many years ago. But the revealing comments and behaviors leading to her disillusionment were mostly private. In private conversations, the reality and extent of the covering up was made clear to her. She told me that she said to someone just yesterday, "The information in the deposition is not new for me. I have known about lies for years. There was just no way to convince people. It's in black and white now, and there are still people who won't look at the truth. But for those who will, it must be obvious now why we had to do what we've done. The truth needed to come out. The lies needed to stop."

I'm sure it must have been assumed that her loyalty would be to the family image when certain details were shared with her. It was not. What mattered to Cheryl was the truth. It was revealed to Cheryl early on in this ordeal that the current pastor has known about the first incident of abuse (committed by her grandfather)since 1967. Not only did the former pastor, Cornelius Mears, conceal the abuse. The current pastor, Steve Farmer, concealed it as well. Cheryl has said to me many times, "I'm sure Steve made sure my grandfather never had access to HIS children. But no information was shared with my parents that might have afforded protection for us."

There have been other abuses through the years that have been swept under the rug and never dealt with appropriately. At one point, my sister-in-law pointed out that the church could bear responsibility for further abuse (because this had been pointed out to Cheryl by a psychologist she was seeing). The current pastor's wife later informed her, "Oh, by the way, we checked with a lawyer. That can't happen. The church cannot be held liable." Try to put yourself into the shoes of a victim hearing that response. To say it showed indifference, insensitivity and a lack of compassion toward victims is, in my opinion, to state the obvious.

I spent the afternoon with my sister-in-law and her mother yesterday. Once again (as I have on so many other occasions), I saw the pain and anguish of a mother who was robbed of the ability to protect her own daughters. Knowing she could have protected them if only information had been shared, she has carried guilt and shame for not having protected them; guilt and shame that does not belong to her. I have witnessed her tears and her anger many, many times. She expressed to me yesterday that she knows she has to forgive, but it is so hard to get there; especially when there is no repentance or acknowledgment of wrong doing.

Adding to her personal turmoil is the fact that her husband has maintained a relationship with his parents. In his heart, he believes he has taken a stand. Of course he loves his daughters and feels outrage over their abuse. But his actions demonstrate internal conflict between still loving his elderly parents and feeling angry with them over the abuse. His mother did not inflict any physical abuse, but she has blamed victims for talking. (She told a reporter that their claims were a load of baloney.) While his daughters have longed for their dad to openly support them in a more visible way, they have demanded nothing from him. That kind of support has to come willingly. Their family has already been ripped apart emotionally by all of this. They don't want to make life any harder for their mother than it already is. But this has resulted in even more pain for them as victims because people in CGT have thrown this apparent "conflicted support" up to Cheryl and her sister, suggesting that she is a hypocrite for taking a stand against the leadership of CGT while continuing to love her father in spite of his perceived divided loyalty. (I am not revealing anything that isn't commonly known. Many questions have been asked about this situation and it's very much out in the open.) I have sat with my sister-in-law in tears over how hard it is to deal with having that aspect used against her as a weapon by those who seek to diminish her credibility and sincerity -- all the while claiming they feel compassion for the victims and insisting that CGT wants to be transparent.

To anyone who spent time in CGT, the dishonesty demonstrated in the deposition on Jennifer's website is glaring. I know there have to be people in CGT who are appalled and horribly disillusioned. The unanswered question is whether or not they will demand accountability from their pastor. The truth is out there now. He claims no wrong doing, yet he settled the case under seal and a blatant lack of transparency is revealed in his deposition. When does the truth become relevant? If not now, when?

I have many times thought about trying to write a book. I knew I had a book in me, but I doubted I would ever get around to writing it. And even if I did, what would I do with it? Who would be interested in reading it? This past January, I felt inspired to begin writing and just see if I produced anything worthwhile. Once I got started, the book materialized quickly. The memories came; the words and emotions flowed out of me. I prayed many times that God would throw up road blocks if He didn't want me to publish my journey. But if my story could help someone else, I told Him I was willing to suffer the condemnation and rejection that would come along with openly sharing my life's story. It has already been suggested that my book is a bunch of lies and it's not even in print yet. I know I will be called a liar because the truth is embarrassing to many. I fully anticipate that some of the same people who are excusing Steve's lack of integrity under oath will accuse me of lying when they KNOW I am telling the truth. I'm prepared for that.

The book is not an expose' of CGT; it's a memoir of my life. I lived the things I wrote. And I know that every person who was there with me will know in their heart of hearts that I have told nothing but the truth if they even bother to read it.

I decided to write about this today because Jennifer offered to post links on her website to my blog and the future website of my book. I accepted her offer and have gotten a lot of hits coming from her website already. News stories these days are a collection of soundbites and only a snapshot of a complete story. I wanted to share a little bit of my perspective on what is happening so that readers would understand the significance of the settlement. I want people to know that all of this is -- and has always been -- about the truth prevailing over deception.

Jennifer mentioned in her interview that the leaders of CGT have tried to rewrite history; our history. That is true. If there had not been such an effort to conceal the truth while maintaining a desire for transparency, I don't know if I would have felt as compelled to tell my story. But there has been so much deception, I began to feel deeply convicted that it was not right to allow a dishonest misrepresentation of the past to be handed down to another generation.

When I began feeling the inspiration to write back in January, I had no idea of the events that would transpire over the next seven months. I had no idea that I would complete the book in such a short time. I didn't even know if I would finish writing the book once I started. And I certainly didn't know that the pastor would lie under oath or be publicly exposed. The reality of these events coinciding with the impending release of my book comes as a surprise. But from the day I began to write, I felt like timing was an important element of the book's message and that God had ordained the timing.

There have been other unexpected events. Prior to last November, I had never known anyone with a background in publishing. But God put a very dear couple in my life through our trip to Israel. I shared the first few chapters (as I began writing) with them and they offered to help guide me through the steps of self-publishing. They introduced me to my editor. Prior to last November, I had never met Charlie Daniels or his wife, Hazel. But they also accompanied us to Israel in November and we became fast friends. Charlie accepted my invitation to write the foreword to my book. Having Charlie write my foreward is a great honor for me, an unknown author.

Friends of mine recently handed me a check for $1,000.00, explaining to me they felt God had put it on their heart to give me that specific amount toward the cost of producing my book. Fearing I would decline their offer, they explained that they have an account they call their "God money." It represents offerings they deposit and then use to bless others as God leads them. So this was not money from their personal funds; it was money already designated for God and God's purposes. Since they believed God told them to invest this amount in the book, they really hoped I would not refuse it. I had just gotten an email from the editor informing me that he could edit and typeset my book for $1,000.00. That was not a mere coincidence to me. When they handed me the check and told me why they were giving it to me, I began to cry. I told them that even though it's been a very hard couple of years for John's business, we do have resources to draw from in order to finance the production of the book. But their gift was much more than a financial help. It was a significant confirmation to me that God was with me in this endeavor. I have alluded to this confirmation in other posts, but have not felt to elaborate on it until this morning. The friends who blessed me with this investment in my book prefer to remain anonymous at this time.

This has turned into a very lengthy post, but I haven't posted anything since last Wednesday. So maybe you won't mind the time you have spent reading (if you still are). I know that people from CGT read my blog. There are various ways to know this. To those readers, I want to say something personal. I love you and I always have loved you. Exposing the truth has not been solely for the vindication of victims. If you will embrace the truth God has revealed and respond appropriately, the truth will greatly benefit your lives and the future of your children. I believe with all my heart that God has brought this exposure. Please open your hearts to the truth. Please care about the truth. And if you read my book, I ask you to please do so with an open and an honest heart. I am not your enemy. And I have not written this book to hurt you. I have written it as my testimony of deliverance. I am proclaiming the Gospel of God's grace to everyone who will read my story. There are no lies in my book. There is transparency.

**Christian Gospel Temple changed its name to New Life Fellowship in March 2013.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I've decided...

I settled on Breaking the Chains for the title of my book quite a while back. There is a strong connection for me between my testimony and a particular Steven Curtis Chapman song, which led me to that title.

Around the time I was really starting to see the cracks in my former church (not just inconsistencies and scandals, but their teachings), I began listening to Steven Curtis Chapman a lot. His song, "Remember Your Chains" became a particular favorite. It became more and more meaningful to me as I broke away from my former beliefs and found the truth of the Gospel and the Cross. It has become my theme song in a sense; particularly the second verse and chorus...

There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger's pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was the shame
The wings of forgiveness can take us to heights never seen
But the wisest ones, they will never lose sight of where they were set free
Love set them free

So remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone


One of the frequent criticisms I have endured since leaving CGT concerns my inability to go away quietly. I have been asked more times than I can count why I could not just forget about them and go on with my new life. If I'm so happy, why do I have to reflect on the past? Why do I feel compelled to speak about or against the beliefs and practices of that church? I have been viewed as a betrayer of friends and nothing more than an "angry, disgruntled ex-member." That label could not be further from the truth. Yet I have often struggled myself with the question of why I could not just let go and never think about that place again. Why could I not just let them be? Why do I continue to look back?

Well, the second and third verse of "Remember Your Chains" answers that question for me. When I hear it, I know God has had a purpose in keeping those memories alive. I believe I am supposed to remember what God has delivered me from. God uses all of our lives in various ways, as sign posts to others. I believe I have a unique and individual God-given assignment to point people to the Cross. We all do, of course, as believers. But I realize that I have a mission to fulfill to a select group of people; those who have been deceived and abused by a false gospel. Not just the people in the group I was affiliated with, but all people who have been in spiritual bondage.

When I was first trying to decide on my book's title, I couldn't get "Remember Your Chains" out of my head. My first working title was, "The Prison that Once Held Me" -- inspired by the line that ends, "before the love of God broke through." But that sounded kind of dark. I was bouncing ideas off of Danny one day, telling him how strongly I identified my testimony with that song, and he said, "How about Breaking the Chains?" I liked it and so has everyone else. But I wanted a subtitle that clarified what my chains were for someone who did not know me or my testimony and had not read the book yet.

I have written down many versions of a similar theme. But this is the one my editor likes best and, therefore, the one I will go with:

BREAKING THE CHAINS
Overcoming the spiritual abuse of a false gospel

My next step is going to be creating a website to promote and sell the book. I am working toward the goal of having it published and available by the end of August or early September. This is my first experience writing a book and working with a professional editor. I don't know exactly how long the process might potentially drag out. But I want to get it just right and if that takes a couple of extra weeks, so be it. I will keep you posted on my progress. And hopefully soon I will have a website at sharihowerton.com. I bought the domain this morning, but it is just "parked" at godaddy until I can decide on a web host.

Monday, July 13, 2009

National Bone Marrow Donor Registry

BE THE MATCH!

Please join the cause. One day, one of your loved ones just may be in need of this gift. I already know that one of my loved ones is going to need a donor in the future. It's so easy to register. Please visit the site and educate yourself about the need for marrow donors! Someone's life may be saved by your generosity.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fun in the Sun!



After having a bit of a melancholy day on Wednesday, I decided to spend Thursday at Danny and Rebecca's, hanging out with them, Joshua and Andrew. It was a good decision. We had a fun, laid back, laughter filled day. Just what I needed. We went to "Pie in the Sky" (my favorite pizza), ran some errands, then came back and hooked up the Slip 'n Slide for the kids. They even got to skip their naps in honor of my visit. (I'm sure there was a price to be paid for that after I was long gone.)


I have a great life because of the people in my life. These are definitely three of those people!

I wrote the acknowledgments for my book this past week and the dedication. I enjoyed writing the acknowledgments and am so eager to share them, it's hard to wait. I once considered posting my preface onto my blog just to give an intro into what the book is about. But I never have. After writing the acknowledgments, I was so eager to say my thank yous that I considered posting that as well. But I should probably wait.

The editing process is maddening for me at times because I am on someone else's time schedule. But I really like my editor. We are getting to know each other through this process. (He's getting to know me more, of course.) I want to be patient. I know he has a life. He had some unexpected things come up toward the end of the week, so he could not devote the whole day Friday to my editing. He will do that Tuesday now, instead. He sent me a couple more chapters to review last night and said he may have it completely edited (the first time through) by the end of this week. Of course, then he will go back and read my answers to his questions and my changes. So we won't be done. But I'm hoping the book will be in print by the end of August. And that certainly seems possible.

I'm still having a hard time deciding whether to print hard covers or paperbacks. I really want it in hard cover, but doing both is not a wise decision at this point. It needs to be one or the other so I don't have to design both a cover and a book jacket. I need to explore the online publishing site and see just how much of a price difference there is between the two. I'm sure that when I see the difference, I will wind up going with the paperback for now. I want to keep the price down for readers. But hard cover books are just so much nicer and hold up better.

I recently discovered that someone I know wrote a children's book called The Town of Ill. The author is Tim Todd. I don't know Tim that well, but I was so proud for him when I saw his accomplishment. I linked the title to its page on Amazon.com just in case you want to check it out. Congratulations, Tim!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Comparing the computer industry with the auto industry...

I got the following in an email. I have no idea if it's factual, but it is funny.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on.

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated ...

'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon..'

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just love this part ):

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash........
Twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' warning light.

I love the next one!

7. The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back to work...

I have had out of town company for the last two and a half weeks and we also went away for the holiday weekend. My editor was away for the July 4th holiday as well, but today he was back at work and sent me seven chapters to review. The first five I had already looked at once and sent back to him. The last two were fresh and he had many questions for me. I have spent the whole day reading and responding and explaining certain things in greater detail. I have now reread and edited most of these chapters so many times that I feel like I could almost recite the book. Well, not quite. But you get the point.

Some chapters were painful to write and every time I review them, I relive those painful experiences. I keep thinking that, at some point, I won't cry anymore when I reread them. But that has not happened yet. My editor asked me (in the margin) today why I was being vague about certain details. Tears ran down my cheeks as I typed the details that I didn't include in the book so that my editor could understand my desire not to hurt, humiliate or villify people by including them. I asked for his opinion about whether they are necessary details. I don't have his answer yet.

As I reflected today on my desire to avoid embarrasing or hurting certain people in my life, I couldn't help but think about the harsh opinion of me they hold and have expressed, their skewed perception of the heart they have never known. And although the pain is not gone -- and may never be -- I am reminded I must accept that I cannot control how anyone else views or misjudges me. In the midst of the disappointment and heartbreak, there is peace in acceptance. I relinquish to God what I cannot control. And that has been something really big to come out of this writing process.

Danny says he has watched me grow in the grace of God as I have written this book. I know I am learning to rest and find comfort in GOD'S acceptance and love, which is enabling me to increasingly let go of my need for the love and acceptance of others. I feel like this is something God has been teaching me now for an awfully long time.

I am still a work in progress, but I am thankful for the lessons God is teaching me through my struggles. I know the pain is not without purpose.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4 Weekend - Reunion Concert

As most of you know, John performed in a reunion concert with his band from the seventies, Perpetual Motion, Saturday night. It was great. To make it even better, we had many family members and friends come out to hear him. In addition to John's family, my family from Mt. Carmel, Illinois were there. Danny and Brett drove from Nashville to Evansville. Even our friends, Karen and Ricky, made the drive. This made the night even more special!

I have numerous video clips of the band performing, which I am in the process of loading on YouTube. Loading video on YouTube is, however, a slow process! And the process becomes even slower if I lose my wireless connection in the middle of an upload and have to start all over! Check back later for additions to this post.

After doing a lot of their original music, the guys responded to a request from the audience for Rocky Mountain Way. (Terri wanted to hear it, so I yelled out the request.) The band had not rehearsed this song together, but they were good sports and decided to wing it for us. The last time these guys even played together as a group was fifteen years ago. They only had three days to rehearse because some of them no longer live in Evansville. Mike Geiser came all the way from Rhode Island. Jon Roman and Michael Gillim both came from Florida.



The guys in the band, from left to right, are:
Michael Gillim (guitar), John Howerton (guitar), Tim Simpson (drums), Steve Fritz (guitar), Michael Geiser (bass guitar), Scott Dill (keyboards). The guys refer to this "version" of the band as PM 3 because there were three incarnations of Perpetual Motion. John was a member of PM 2 (a four piece) and PM 3 (a six piece).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rock and Roll Fourth of July!

I am sitting here with my rock star hubby and our good friend, Mikey. This weekend is the second fifteen year reunion of their seventies band, Perpetual Motion. John plays lead guitar. Mike plays bass. These two guys have been buddies for more than thirty years and played in several bands together. We were just laughing about the fact that they are fifty-five year old men now. I wish you could see them clowning around. Neither one of them seems fifty-five to me. Especially together.

They were joking about the fact that their drummer is on oxygen. Not that it's funny! He's had some heart problems and a bout of pneumonia. But John's brother saw him and told him to just wear the oxygen while he plays if he needs to. John and Mike were picturing that and cracking up at the visual. John said if Tim has to use his oxygen during the concert, he (John) is going to walk up to the mic and say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, have I told you about my most recent colonoscopy?" They are cracking me up.

I've been listening to John and Mike rehearse upstairs this week and I know the music is going to be great. They sound so good. I will take pictures and hopefully there will be some video I can put on YouTube.

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. I just wish Eric and Ann were still here!

I've had so much on my mind lately. I am now in the process of the final book edit. I'm actually enjoying the process and learning so much. The editor sends me each chapter with his suggestions and in the margins he asks me questions that come to his mind as he's reading. Several times he has deepened my own insight into certain events with nothing more than a very insightful question. I have the final word on every edit and I can accept or reject his suggestions. But it's different than I was expecting. He is not telling me what to say or cutting out parts of my story, he's just helping me to say it better in some places and often in fewer words. I enjoy the conversational aspect in the margins most of all. When he occasionally strikes a sentence or two and says, "I don't think this really adds anything," I don't even blink. I just type a little "Okay" in the margin. He's good and I trust his advice.

However, even though the editing process has not been painful, I am having to start over from the beginning and relive all of this stuff yet again. There is a lot of emotion. Sometimes I just feel heavy. Today has been one of those days. So I am really looking forward to getting away.

I'm so thankful for the life God has given me. I hope and pray that someday I am completely free from my baggage. The chains are broken, but sometimes it feels like I still carry them around with me. Most of the time they feel gone. But there are days I know they are not. Much of the time (much more than a few years ago), I feel strong. On days like today, I feel a bit fragile and weak. Sometimes I imagine that the personal attacks coming at me don't really bother me anymore. But then I have a day when I know I'm not quite as strong as I think I am. It still hurts. I think God wants to remind me on days like today to rest in HIS strength and not try to have a strength of my own.

Tonight I am feeling thankful for my husband, my son and daughter-in-law, my extended family and the wealth of close friends who are always there for me any time I need them. I am looking forward to escaping this weekend for some lighthearted fun, great music and spending time with people I love. (Perhaps some Turoni's pizza and Donut Bank donuts, too!)

I can't wait to share pictures from this weekend! Happy July Fourth! Be safe and enjoy your family and friends. I plan to do the same.

From Today's Tennessean:

"True Christians Should Prepare for Difficulty in Coming Years"

It's time to prepare for hard times, my friends. And, if you're a Bible-believing, Christ-following Christian, I'm convinced the coming years will be particularly troublesome.

I say "Bible-believing, Christ-following Christian" because our corrupt culture and compromised churches have all but stripped the biblical definition of the word "Christian" from today's collective conscience so that it has lost much of its scriptural meaning.

The enemies of Christ have clearly risen to great power in this country and are, as I write, busy endeavoring to finish off what remains of the church as we know it for the purpose of replacing it with a god and religion more suitable for global government.

Making matters worse, with hate crimes legislation now awaiting Senate approval, it's looking more and more like faithful Christians could soon be viewed as enemies of the state for no other reason than having believed, proclaimed and obeyed the Word of God.

I believe Christians will again and again be called upon to choose whom we will serve in the coming days in ways that will bring more persecution and suffering than we are accustomed to, requiring a spiritual farsightedness and desire for the eternal things of God over the temporal rewards of this world. Ironically, this will do more to grow and mature the church than any program or strategy manufactured and promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention and its leadership.

We need to be ready. We need to be willing. And we need to be empowered, not by the mere passion of patriotic zeal, but by the Holy Spirit of God and His Word. It is not us against them — it is an angry and rebellious world against God, and we would do well to remember that when the devil comes knocking at our door demanding more tolerance, diversity and unity.

Home churches and Bible studies are already being raided in various parts of the country for such things as alleged zoning violations, in spite of the First Amendment's provision for "the free exercise of religion" and "peaceable assembly."

When our Constitution and Bill of Rights are eventually discarded altogether to appease and advance the global community, there will be no going back to the way things were here in the United States. There will only be the Word of God to edify, encourage, inspire and sustain each of us through the hard times ahead.

Best we get into His Word now more earnestly and take it to heart in preparation for a time when Bibles are no longer allowed or even legal, than get caught spiritually ignorant and scripturally unarmed when temptation and tribulation come.


Paul Proctor is a free-lance writer who lives in Franklin.

(Janet, thanks for calling my attention to this article.)