Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Stench of Legalism

I have not written much about spiritual abuse lately. I have been concentrating on trying to win my battle with prostate cancer. I made a blog about my experience of having tomo radiation for the past 37 days.

I was just on Facebook in another friend's account debating a YWAMmer preaching
hell, fire and brimstone with a big dose of legalism vs. living the message of love in
1 Corinthians 13. I did not know this person with whom I was debating, but I certainly recognized the familiar spirit!

There will be a lot of “Christians” going to bed tonight with a head full of biblical doctrine, dos and don'ts who will be using their “ministry” to force the yolk of legalism, hell fire and damnation upon the lost, yet with a heart void of grace & love. I think it is time the Church preaches 1 Corinthians 13 but more importantly, LIVES it.

I know that if my only examples of Christianity were the leadership (not all of them) the 12 years I was in YWAM, I would have walked away from Christ when I left YWAM as well (as I know some did). I know the leaders were not a reflection of His character though. There were a lot of great sermons there, but a complete lack of servant hood.

And who showed most, the character and love of Christ when I had my cancer surgery? The fundamentalist/legalistic brother of mine who feels like only his little church has a corner on Truth, but only wrote a short note before surgery to say they were praying for me and never inquired as to how I was doing or called me after surgery or through radiation? No! My gay brother & his partner who came to care for me the two weeks surrounding my surgery! I will take the love shown through a Believer who may not have it all together (and who does?) over suffocating legalism ANY day!

I would MUCH rather see the Gospel lived out than hear the words coming from one who does not practice it! Anyone can say "God loves you, etc", but to SHOW the love & servant heart of God takes sacrifice and a relationship with Him. I pray I can show more & more of this attribute of the Saviour.

I heard this week, from a former person in leadership at YWAM Honolulu while I was there. It was one I did not know very well, but whom I had not experienced any abuse from. I shared what I had gone through & where I was at now, still healing from over a decade ago of over a decade of ugly spiritual abuse.

I experienced more healing with his words which also shared a broken view of leadership at YWAM while I was there as well as a lack of grace. He had also shared things that had gone on in his life after YWAM in Christian community, failures & decisions people did not agree with & so turned their backs on him. Again, so often the Church will “love” us if we do, say and are like we perceive who they want us to be. Praise Jesus, He accepts us right where we're at.

Our conversation began when I posted that I was going to watch the DVD on Lonnie Frisbee:
Lonnie Frisbee, The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. It shared how if it were not for Lonnie Frisbee, there would probably be no Calvary Chapel or Vineyard denominations but due to Lonnie's struggles, they have wiped him out of their history.

Unfortunately, I think how Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard treated Lonnie is all too typical of the Church. I think that a lot of spiritual leaders don't realize they too live in glass houses as they throw stones of condemnation at those who are not like them and struggle with sins they evidently feel the blood of Christ can not cover. It makes those who struggle with sin (and that includes ALL of us) feel that we are not wanted by God, much less His church.

I liked how Lonnie was heard saying to Christians, “Take your free will back!” I felt the 12 years I was in YWAM I gave up my priceless gift of free will to the leaders. Man tries all too often to try & force us to wear the yolk of sinless perfection and legalism while God can and does use us right where we're at, in spite of our weakness, frailty and shortcomings. God's yolk is light while man's is crushing.

The longer I have been away from YWAM there is even a stronger stench to legalism. The one who has not experienced much grace himself shows little grace towards others...

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Song for Me

Photo of me as a Child

After re-connecting with my friend Caleb Shepard I met at YWAM Honolulu, who is also from Idaho I directed him to my blog as he was at the YWAM base during the last, most abusive days with me. He is an author, playwright, professional musician, artist, and Martial arts instructor. Caleb has a ministry called
Men of Valor Ministries and Echoes of Heaven. He is based in Knoxville, TN with his lovely wife Kathryn and three children.

He wrote a song for me reflecting on spiritual abuse entitled Show Me You (Click on title to play).

Today on Facebook, he wrote:

This song "Show Me You" was written for my friend Joel W. Carlson who is one of the most beautiful jewels in the Kingdom of God. I have seen him endure countless unjustified injustices and yet still overflows with the creativity and love that only reveals the nature of God. Love you Joey.

I am humbled and blessed by his words, but feel unworthy of them. I am honored to call Caleb, a kind and humble man my friend and brother.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hawaiian Blue Ginger

Watercolour 9 3/4" x 7 3/4"
© 2009 J. Carlson  USD $500.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I've Learned to Truly Live

I had a dear friend, Carter while I was going through the last of the abuse at YWAM Honolulu who came from Idaho, like me. Back then, he was in his early 20s, but amazed me, at his age, how much he reflected the true character of Jesus and spiritually mature he was. He was truly a Godsend! He gave me hope that there were Christians who truly lived a godly life and had character. He was full of compassion and kindness to me when I needed it most.

I tried to contact this friend at the last address I knew, but my letters were not getting though. He had moved. I prayed that God would bring him to me, and God was faithful after not knowing his whereabouts for over ten years.

He was asked to leave the YWAM Honolulu base due to false accusations (but eventually allowed to stay). He had some very difficult experiences growing up which God used in his life to give him a heart for those hurting and assist them in the healing process.

When we spoke of others who had been abused at YWAM, he said:

"My anger rises every time I saw and continue to see those broken and wounded with no one to help and no one to lift them up. I hate watching burdens getting piled on the broken and weary by those who should be helping.'

This is an attitude all who claim to know Christ should have! I directed Carter to my blog and suggested that as an author and professional musician, he might want to write a song about those who are spiritually abused. By the next morning, God had given him a song I hope to share on this blog at a later time.

Today, he had written a poem on the same topic he said I could share here:

I Truly Live
Carter L. Shepard

I’m more than a survivor,
I’ve truly learned to live.
I am more than a conqueror,
For now I truly believe.
I am more than healed of blindness,
For I now truly see.
I am healed of more than being lame,
I now run tirelessly.
I’ve been healed of more than deafness,
For now I truly hear.
My mind has been more than renewed,
My vision is now completely clear.
I’ve been more than just healed my Lord,
You’ve taught me how to heal.
My soul has been more than restored,
For I now truly feel.
I am more than freed from slavery,
I’ve learned to truly serve.
The glorious gift you gave me God,
Is more than I deserve.
You’ve healed more than my broken heart,
I’ve learned to truly love.
You’ve more than simply raised me up,
Like an eagle I now soar above.
I’ve been more than forgiven,
You’ve taught me to forgive.
I’m now more than just redeemed,
Jesus now I truly live.

©Copyright 2009 Carter L Shepard and Men of Valor Ministries

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hawaiian Red Ginger

13 3/4" x 17 3/4" (35 cm x 43 cm)

Watercolour USD $950.
© 2009 J. Carlson

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Solitary Paradise

20 3/4” x 16.5” or 53 x 43 cm. It is selling for $1,350 and is watercolour. © 2008 J. Carlson

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

When Life is Broken

Ducklings at the Honolulu zoo

Often as I walk down Manoa road from where I live in the back of Manoa valley I see a little dog that has been there for years. I recently noticed as I was walking by that as he used his front paws to pull himself along, his hind legs were paralyzed. I noticed people would stop and give affection to & pet this little dog.

Not long after that, I noticed another man, not a block from the other who was walking two dogs. One of them had one of his front legs missing, so it hopped along to keep up with the other dog & his master. Both people who owned these disabled dogs loved them enough not to have them put down, but still saw value and companionship in them.

It made me think of how precious we all are in God’s eyes. Even those who may not be lovely in the eyes of others and might otherwise be cast off are still loved and cherished by God.

Last week, as I was walking to Lyon Arboretum, I walked across a bridge over a small stream where I always see several ducks lounging in the water or along its banks. This time, I saw a lone, young duckling which was about two weeks old.

There was an elderly woman in a robe with curlers and a scarf on her head at the top of the embankment. She was throwing bread crumbs down to the duckling. When I first started talking to her, she was a bit aloof, but soon warmed up to me. She told me that she counted 13 ducklings after they first hatched, but once they hatched the mother quickly abandoned them.

Mongooses were brought to Hawai'i to try & control the rat problem only to discover that rats are nocturnal while mongooses are active during the day. This meant that rats were not the main source of food for the mongooses but instead became small birds. More than likely, most of the small ducklings that had disappeared were a snack for the mongooses. The elderly woman told me she had seen a mongoose grab a live bird in her yard and run off with it.

The elderly woman caring for the young duckling abandoned by its mother reminded me of how in a perfect world a child’s parents should be caring for him or her. A person in spiritual authority should be one who encourages their flock in the ways of God & should also be a good example. When we are void of godly parental or spiritual examples in our lives, God often brings encouragement from other sources in His perfect timing.

Yesterday, I was given the diagnosis of prostate cancer. I don’t think it has sunk in & I kind of feel numb about it. I shared this news with several people who I felt would care about what I am going through.

It is funny how you never know how people might react to this news (including myself). Of course many Christian friends told me they are praying for me and shared bible verses with me. I know they mean well, and I know God is in this even if I don’t know where. My father died of leukemia 6 years ago and had been a pastor who loved & served God. He was the same man at home as he was behind the pulpit. I always thought that in times of tragedy one would feel God’s comforting presence in the midst of the pain. This was not the case in my father’s illness & death.

Many people prayed for my father for healing, yet healing never came & he succumbed to the disease. Another acquaintance of mine died of cancer recently that had an army of prayer support. When people say they are praying for me, it is of little comfort because of this track record. I do not know where this road will lead. All I can do is try & commit it to God & take one day at a time. I think it is important to be real and not put on a mask that every day is a Jesus day.

My brother in Chicago offered to fly me there & have treatment but there are no facilities there my insurance would cover. Other friends have told me to let them know if there is anything they can do. I have no family living in Hawai’i.

A friend who does not claim to be a Christian, but is like a brother to me lives in Canada and offered to drop everything and fly to Honolulu & be with me should I opt for surgery or just need support. We first became pen pals while he was living in Brazil over ten years ago. Part of his e-mail address is “fiel”. Fiel is Portuguese for “faithful”. He has proven to be a faithful friend and shown unconditional love so many times over the years. He has literally been a godsend in my life.

I also got a call from a lesbian acquaintance of mine who said she would be here for me no matter what I need. She offered to pick me up & take me to appointments & be with me in the doctor’s office if I wanted her to be. She also said that if she did not hear from me, she would be calling back anyway and that I am not to be a lone ranger in this. This is commitment, putting actions to their words.

I also heard from a friend (who I shared my illness with yesterday) today who said, “I kept feeling anxious about not having any travel plans to a warm destination for my spring break, so I went ahead and booked a flight on United to San Diego…” If only all I had to feel anxious about was where to take a vacation…

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep". Romans 12:15