Tearing Off the Mask

Moving from a life of shame to a life of walking in freedom with Jesus Christ.

Testimony July 4, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 6:01 pm
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This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.   For there are three that testify:  the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   1 John 5:6-12

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:  “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and he authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.   They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  Revelation 12: 10-12

These were the verses we focused on at our last Bible study.  I admit that I am not spiritually mature enough to appreciate the depth of these passages.  Our leader asked us a difficult question, however.  What is your testimony?  I immediately thought of my “being saved” story as my testimony, but he questioned us further.  What is your testimony of what God is doing in your life today?   I was stumped.  Kind of pathetic that I’m such a mess that I had no idea what he is doing in my life right now.    I’ve been pondering it all weekend, and I keep feeling this pressing on my heart: “this is My church”.  Yes.  My Lord is teaching me what it is to be a part of His church–a REAL family.  I had no idea what a healthy family or what a healthy church family looked like.  To me, church was a building that you hated going to, but you went anyway.  You pretended to be way better than you really were.  You left before you got stuck talking to anyone, and fellowship was a foreign word…a foreign concept.  Now, when I’m at my lowest and highest, I seek the church.  These people know me more intimately than any other human ever has, and they still want to be around me.  They still love me, help me, guide me, hold me accountable, and laugh with me.  As a teenager, I hated spending time with my biological family.  Not real unusual for a teenager, I know.  When it was my birthday, I got to spend it with whomever I wanted.  When I was a younger child, it was with friends; as I got older, it was with friends or a boyfriend.  As an adult, it was with my husband.  On a day when I could choose anyone, I never ever chose my pastor, Sunday school teacher, elder, or anyone who was a “good” member of the church.  This past Friday, it was my 35th birthday.  I chose to spend the evening with my church family at home where we had “house church”.  This is a beautiful illustration–not of me, but of my church family.  I see Christ in them, and I long to be around them.  We ate together, worshiped together, studied together, prayed together, and worshiped some more.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing me your love through Your people.  Unlovable Beloved.

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Happy 35th Birthday to Me! July 1, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 8:15 am
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Really, nobody cares about your birthday after a certain age.  (I’m thinking 10-ish or so.)  But, I thought a little photo celebration was appropriate since I’m a photo freak.  My favorite is the picture of me sleeping in the back window of our 1977 Caprice Classic as we made our way halfway across the country to Washington state.  

 

I Came from a Normal Family (of course) June 29, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 11:35 am
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Me and my dad in Chinatown (Seattle) when I was 5 (he was 29). I was so proud of those shoes because they were exactly like his shoes (except mine were velcro–I was stylin’ like that).

Yes, our family was normal…isn’t everyone’s?  For years I believed our family was normal because we were surrounded by like-minded people who had the same types of lives and beliefs as we did.  We did normal family stuff like vacations, working on the garden together, taking turns with the dishes, sibling fights, chores, going to the library, etc.  I knew that we were a part of an abnormal church, but we were prepped for this.  The teachers at our schools told countless stories about Christian martyrs and how people will make fun of us for being a part of the Netherlands Reformed Church and School.  We quickly learned to be proud of our “persecution” and felt vindicated by it.  “The world will take the easy way out.  They do not like our religion because they want to belong to something that tells them what they want to hear,” was a common mantra by our Catechism instructors and teachers.  Truthfully, I happen to agree with that statement.  We live in a world that proudly says “well, the Bible may say that, but I don’t agree.”  Picking and choosing what Biblical truths to live by has become commonplace, and our culture is overwhelmingly unwilling to blindly follow God’s commands and desires (myself included).  Today, I pray that God grants me the willingness to give up–to stop trying to rip the stearing wheel from His hands for fear of being out of control.  Thanks for driving, Jesus.  You are so much better at it than I am.  I love you.

 

The Hottest Levels in Hell June 25, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 11:00 pm
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 If you’ve ever read “Dante’s Inferno“, you are familiar with the phrase levels in hell.  I had never heard of Dante’s Inferno until I was a junior in high school, but I was all too familiar with levels in hell at a fairly young age.  The parochial school I attended had Bible class each day and Chapel each Wednesday.  Mr. Van Tol*, my junior high Bible teacher, was good as far as teachers go.  Looking back, my instinct is that he was (and is) a good man, but he had some really messed up theology and passed his religious dysfunction on to his students.  One of the most prominent memories I have of Mr. Van Tol are his words: “There are levels in hell, and the hottest levels in hell are for Netherlands Reformed boys and girls…because you know the truth, but you won’t listen.”  Just another affirmation that I was damned to eternity in hell…a neverending existence of agony and gnashing of teeth.  If I ever bump into Mr. Van Tol again, I think I will ask him if he still feels this way.  Maybe–20+ years later–he has experienced grace as I have.  If he has not, I think I will share my story with him…I will tell him this:

By the time I was 17, I had developed an eating disorder that, over the years, bounced back and forth among anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating.  Misery, depression, and hopelessness plagued me.  Even though I felt damned to hell, I prayed often and went through spurts of Bible reading with the hopes of being miraculously saved by God.  The hope was faint as I was convinced that I was too evil to be saved, and I kept trying to fix myself up, so God would find me worthy of saving.  The depression hit an all-time low, and I spoke to my 12-step sponsor.  “Have you given it to God?” he asked.  Of course, the phrase “let go and let God” is thrown around quite a bit in 12-step circles, so I this was not an unforeseen statement.  “I’ve tried,” I said, “but I just can’t seem to stop holding onto whatever it is that’s hurting me.”  He responded, “Go home.  Get on your knees, and ask Him to take it from you.”  I did.  I went home and physically got onto my knees.  I wept and begged God to take it from me since I couldn’t seem to give it away completely.  Suddenly, I felt a physical load lifted from my body, and calmness overcame me along with a fullness and warmth.  I felt these thoughts pressed vividly into my mind: “He is not who I thought He was!”  My image of God was transformed from a God of wrath, damnation, and scorn to a God of grace, love, and compassion.  The next realization that overcame me still brings tears into my eyes: “And He wants me.”  There was no reason for me to have this revelation–not a book or a conversation that caused me to change my view of the Lord.  I know now that it was the Holy Spirit who revealed the true God to me. 

John 14: 16-17, 26-27   But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Grace.  Yup.  It really does exist. 

 

 

 

 

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of people in this blog.

 

Orphan now Daughter June 22, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 12:35 pm
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This isn’t me, but I found it online today.  Amazing.  It gives me hope.

http://journeytobeloved.blogspot.com/2011/06/cardboard-testimony-orphan-now-daughter.html

Cardboard Testimony- Orphan now Daughter

  
From the time I was born, fallen man has fought to convince me that I was worthless. 
An Orphan. 
Alone. 
Abandoned. 
No one there to fight for me.
For the longest time I believed every word.
My daddy committed suicide while I was in the room, when I was 3.
My Step-Dad drank and beat me, told me that I was no good.
My grandmother tore me down with words dripping with poison, and stripped me of all self-worth.
My mommy killed herself by the bottle when I was 14.
But when Love took me in His arms and tenderly wooed me, when He whispered that I was no orphan, that I was His…
I believed for the first time that I was created for a purpose. I was created to be loved, and to love.
I was created to be His Daughter.
 

Grif June 21, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 7:47 pm
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I was born into a church that was commonly called “The Hat Church” by people in our community.  Another term used to describe members of my church was “grifs”.  The church was a Dutch Reformed Church that my mother grew up in.  My father grew up in a different Reformed church, but became a member of my mother’s church as a part of their marriage agreement.  If I had to choose just one word to describe the church,  it would be “legalistic”.  If I had to choose just one word that depicted the opposite of the church, it would be “grace”.  Women were required to wear a head-covering during worship as well as long skirts/dresses.  Women were not allowed to wear earrings or make-up, as those things were considered vanity.  Men were to keep their hair short, and only men were able to attend or vote at congregational meetings.  Secular music, televisions, internet (which came years later), movies, dancing, and even drums were considered evil and were outlawed by the church leaders.  (I’d like to insert a picture into your mind here…imagine, if you would, a 7th-grade school band without percussion.  Yes.  That was us.) 

My parents were members of the congregation, however, they were not “saved”.  By that, I mean that they recognized the importance of the triune God, but they had not accepted the gift of salvation.  My brother and I attended the parochial school , and I imagine that my parents hoped that the school would teach us all the ins and outs of our faith since they were ill-equiped.  We did not talk about God at home.  We prayed before and after meals.  My father read the Bible (King James Version, of course), and we said memorized prayers before bed.  We went to church twice on Sundays and attended Sunday School and catechism classes.  We did all of these things, but Jesus was not a member of our family. 

When I was in the 6th grade, my parents purchased a small television set and hid it.  When there was an exciting sporting event or interesting investigative news program on the television, the TV was taken from its hiding place.  My brother and I were sworn to secrecy.  We were never to tell anyone that we owned a television. 

My grandparents were devout in the legalistic faith.  They did not own a television, and my grandfather was quite preachy and never hid his disappointment of his children or grandchildren if they were failing to walk in a way that was acceptable to the church.  My brother and I were coached on not telling my grandparents that we had a TV…but if they happened to ask, don’t lie.  “Just say that the TV is just for news and sports, but only if they ask.”  It was a legalistic loophole.  We hid who we were without blatantly lying.  Being alone with my grandparents was nerve-wracking as I was afraid that they would pump me for information on our life at home, and that I would be forced to expose our secrets.  The television wasn’t the only secret we held.  We didn’t have any bodies buried under the basement or anything, so it was nothing real big.  It was just everything little.  We were to hide the fact that we sometimes vacationed over a Sunday, and my mother even bought some bread and cheese from a grocery store on a Sunday.  “I’ll never forgive myself for this,” I heard her say.  We would go to friends’ homes on Saturday nights, and my parents would get good and liquered up…but we always made it to Sunday morning service where we were dressed in our very best, appearing as any good Dutch Reformed family would. 

We were all going to hell.  I knew that I was hell-bound from the time I knew what hell was.  I knew that Jesus died for “His people”, but that probably did not include me.  The church embraced predestination with ferocity.  Sit and wait for God to convert you from a dirty wretched sinner to a dirty wretched saved sinner.  But you will more than likely go to hell because most people do and because you deserve it.  So, fill your pew, but live life to the fullest because it doesn’t really matter anyway.   

I believed that for 29 years.  I had accepted my fate of  spending eternity in hell.  And then there was an event in my life that can only be described as a spiritual awakening. 

There is grace after all.

 

Unloveable June 17, 2011

Filed under: July 2011,June 2011,Uncategorized — tearingoffthemask @ 1:20 pm
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I never felt like my mother liked me very much.  Sounds like a typical child, doesn’t it?  “You’re mom’s favorite, and she hates me!”  But, I really do believe my mom and I got started on the wrong foot.  First of all, she nearly died from childbirth.  After surviving to become my momma, she had the pleasure of dealing with a colicky baby.  When I ask Mom what I was like as a child, she usually says somthing to the effect of  “You bawled all the time.”  Even though I was there, I don’t remember any of this.  In fact, my first memories of my mom are vague–little snippets here and there.  We’d bring a coffee cake to my dad’s workplace for his coworkers.  I’d follow her around in her garden and help pull weeds.  I’d brush her hair, placing my plastic barrettes haphazardly in her mane.  Of these early times, I don’t remember a lot of negative events…just negative feelings.  Once, a friend of my mother’s offered me an orange colored jolly rancher.  “No thank you,” I replied.  “I don’t like that kind.”  My mother seemed embarrassed, and she snapped at me.  “You do, too!”  I knew instantly that I had done something wrong.  Even though I did not have the language to express the thought, I knew…the truth is not acceptable.   I spent my entire life wondering if my answer was “right” or if I was going to get into trouble for thinking what I thought.  This began the life of lies.  I lied when it was silly to lie.  Well, isn’t it always silly to lie?  Of course.  But, we all know there are things that seem logical for children to lie about: breaking something, cutting someone’s hair, writing on the walls, hurting a sibling.  I started lying about everything because I didn’t know if anything was acceptable.  It was a constant game of guessing what I “should” say…what I “should” feel…who I “should” be.