In Which I’m Sappy About My Boyfriend

I have this habit of simultaneously being confessional and sappy. I apologize. Unless you like it, then I don’t apologize. (I’m a people pleaser.)

The boyfriend and I had a heart to heart last night. About a lot of things. For one, I was just frustrated with people–my family has been giving me shit; people on the internet have never ending amounts of shit coming out of their mouth; and I was just tired. One person I was having issues with on the internet was a person I really had come to care about who I felt misinterpreted some things I said and was judging me. It turned into a huge misunderstanding and one of those very uncomfortable conversations you have to have with people. Or you can delete those people–but I liked her!

As I talked to the boyfriend about it, he began to make too much sense–talking about how it’s normal for friends to have disagreements and it’s normal for you to go through stages where you like your friends and then you don’t, or you get irritated by them. I’m not good with “normal” usually, but he was making a hell of a lot of sense. So I apologized to said online friend. I realized he was right and that I definitely overreacted. It’s okay for someone to misinterpret something I said or even disagree with me. Phew.

And then he moved on to something far more difficult for me to handle. It wasn’t “pick on Lisa” night at all. We were just talking–we’ve become quite close and we talk every night before bed. But he started explaining to me how I pressure him about things–like transferring schools mid-degree and moving here (we’re long distance). Yeah, so here’s my confession: I pressure ALL the guys I date to commit within the first month. Don’t ask. I know it’s crazy/dumb/psycho. But you know, everyone has their hangups and I have one (million).

But this is what I like about the guy-instead of waiting 6 months and being fed up with it and then breaking up with me like the last few boyfriends, he’s getting straight down to business within a few weeks of the issue and communicating to me how it makes him feel. This shows me he’s a good communicator and he’s self-aware. But more than anything-that he really cares about me because he’s STILL here. It has definitely scared of plenty of guys before (and I often wonder, Would this be an issue if I were lesbian?) so it most certainly could’ve scared him off as well.

Today I’m thankful to have him in my life–he’s already helped make me a better person but more than all that, he’s teaching me how to be loved (and that is quite hard for me). Hopefully our “chapters” in our stories will continue on and on…I really like this one.

Death and Questions

Someone I just met on Thursday passed away early this week. We’d met through a friend of mine who actually was his best friend. He performed spoken word and I actually cried. His words were emotional and piercing. Later we had pizza and beer together. We all spent the night laughing at each other. I was amazed how talented he was.

I just can’t believe this happened. It happened so suddenly–he was riding his motorcycle and was killed instantly.

They say only the good die young and that must be true.

As sad as his death is, and it’s awful and shitty, I feel like death makes us face really difficult questions about tragedy and love and loss. All last night I was tossing and turning, almost wishing I was somehow still religious, so it’d be an easier pill to swallow. How can we cope with something so awful, so unjust? It was so terrible to hear about his death that I realized this must be one of the reasons we reach out to religion for answers. Religion can give us answers that soothe us, even if they’re cliche. You can tell someone who’s grieving that “He’s in a better place now,” or “He’s celebrating with Jesus,” or “He’s at peace” and usually it helps a religious person cope with such a huge hole.

But when it comes down to it, our cliche answers don’t bring back the dead. They don’t replace the love we lost or the best friend.  Death is a complicated tragedy to deal with.

For religious people, it might help to hear something that’s meant to comfort. But for those of us who are not religious, there’s emotional pain but few answers. There aren’t any real answers as to why someone so talented and so loving would die suddenly. There’s no reason for it. It’s painful to face.

I think that could be the answer why a lot of people don’t always question their beliefs or walk away from a faulty faith. When left alone with our pain, our fears, our loss, how will we cope? Will we be okay? Will we be hopeless without a God to believe in or a pat answer to “solve all our problems?”

The truth is, there’s a lot of hope without belief but there’s also a lot of difficulty in navigating through tough questions. Life isn’t always about answers, it’s about the questions and the path we take to understand them. Sometimes it’s the tough questions and painful events in life that cause us to find strength within ourselves, our families and our communities.

Rest In Peace George James. Your courage, your words and your talent were a gift to all of us. We will all miss you. <3

The Kind Ones

I think the greatest misconception about those of us who speak OUT against cults and abusive leaders is that we are not kind. People suggest we are full of hatred and bitterness.

It’s not so.

I know fewer people who are kinder than those of us who silently give our time and energy fighting causes like this. Yes, we may have a rough exterior but that’s because we get bullied constantly. Underneath that tough facade, there’s a kindhearted person who’s committed to making changes in the world and committed to making the world GOOD.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my life it’s this: Sometimes those who APPEAR good (ahem, preachers) are all bad. Judge everyone, and doubt everything but consider the voices who speak up against injustice. We might just be the kind ones.

Online Harassment: Or, A Haters Gonna Hate

Why you hating on me??

We’ve all seen it happen before and since I started this blog, I realized that I opened myself up to be targeted by psychopathic, jealous trolls. The Internet brings out the worst in people, and people forget their manners and say things they would have never have said face-to-face. However, here’s my advice and tips on avoiding online harassment. Not to mention, some assurance that I won’t tolerate any type of harassment on this site (directed toward YOU or ME or any writer or contributor here).

I realize that I’m writing on a very personal matter here: religion. Not to mention, I’m openly discussing my experiences with ministry groups and public figures here. I’m the first and only blog that I know of to bring to the public the experiences people have faced in an abusive relationship with these prominent Christian ministries, and name them. Yes, it sounds egotistical, but I’m leading the way. Therefore, as a “whistle blower” of sorts, I take a pretty hard hit. I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve wanted to shut down this site. I haven’t told my readers all the stories, all the emails, all the text messages. And, I won’t.

Although I won’t publicly disclose them here, I keep track of them. Why? When you put yourself in a vulnerable position as a spokesperson for a group of victims, you can’t turn a blind eye to the harassment. They may be harmless threats, or just jealous retributive emails, but I take each one seriously. I record IP addresses, email address and the identities of those I know.

I keep a log of particular “stalkers” and “trolls” so that in the event their harassment turns to violence, there will be a paper trail and a report. I also think it’s important to share this with you, my readers, because I feel a sense of safety here. I feel like you all “have my back.” I’ve also contacted a lawyer regarding several issues related to recent online harassment I’ve received and it’s being dealt with. It may be the Internet, but there are still laws against blackmail and harassment.

See, it’s my first time “around the block” so to speak. My blog is new–about six months old. The amount of attention it’s garnered is something I never imagined it bringing in July when I started it. The evenings after work have been filled with me teaching myself technical aspects of running a website, forum, etc.; learning how to be a professional and reliable journalist; online etiquette and blogger-to-blogger “rules; and overall just running like a gazelle to keep up with the pace at which this entire project is growing.

It’s fun. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and would love to develop this into more of a group “voice” with stories, resources, etc. made available to my readers. Mine is just one story. My voice is just one voice. Writing has brought me so much happiness and liberty in my life. I feel healthy. I feel good. I hope each of you partakes in that same joy and knows that a troll is just a troll. Deep down, they’re just a hater. They’re filled with unhappiness and jealousy so deep that they try to derail my efforts and your efforts of making ourselves better here.

Call me naive, but I’m going to pretend they don’t exist. Because honestly, someone that low in life isn’t even worth a minute of our time.

So, together, let’s all say it: DFTT “Don’t Feed The Trolls!” =)

Do You Think It’s Easy?

To do what I’ve done?

To come against former friends, pastors, and people who I considered family and call them cult leaders and cult members is not easy. In fact, I questioned myself. I’ve had people call me crazy. I’ve had people unfriend me on facebook and in real life. I’ve been cussed out, harrassed, and belittled.

It’s EMBARRASSING for me to put all my personal business on the Internet. I’d much rather forget this ever happened and move on. Trust me.

The worst part about it, is I’ve felt alienated by literally everyone except my family and my best friend over the years. No one stood by my side and said, “Hey Lisa, we’ll give statements with you,” or “We agree with you.”

No.

In fact, when I’ve asked people their stories or to stand with me, they’ve doubted me, called me crazy, or told me I was wrong. They’ve questioned my motives, told me I was acting out of line, or just made me feel really stupid. And I am really stupid–the bottom line is, I can’t change any one and I certainly can’t change an entire ideology (cult or not). I can’t change a person who leads thousands of people and indoctrinates them week after week.

But, in the back of my mind, I see my high school teacher, John Kopp’s poster on the wall: “Stand up for what is right, even if you’re standing alone.”

See, in the words of one of my good friends, whom I’ll call “E”, no one was our advocate when we were there. No one told us that it was a cult. No one helped us see that it was wrong, or find a way out. No one spoke up for us. No one knew. It’s our responsibility to speak up now that we know what went on there–the amount of abuse and hurt we went through–so that young people after us and staff after us don’t have to suffer the mental and spiritual abuse we did. We need to give the silent a voice. They don’t know they need it yet, but one day they might.

I feel like I’m doing the right thing. You might not agree, but I ask that if you do, you please email me your personal statement at mycultlife@gmail.com.

You Can’t Please Everyone, So You’ve Got to Please Yourself…

Years ago, when I left the cult, the words of one song stayed with me and played over and over. The song might have been something my dad or mom told me about, as they often have a good way of referring to song lyrics to tell me why things worked out the way they did or to make me feel better. Either way, these few lines seemed really profound:

But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

I spent so many years pleasing the pastors and directors of the ministry school I was in. I did anything they asked. I worked in the office for over forty hours a week, came to their home and nannied their children, washed their dishes, scrubbed their toilets, folded their laundry, and stayed up all night with their infants when they were sick with earaches, etc. I wore baggy jeans so guys “wouldn’t stumble,” wore an undershirt to cover up any remote chance of cleavage showing, and monitored any dress or shirt or skirt I wore to make sure it wasn’t too tight or form-fitting. I sacrificed my dreams of being a missionary, to the pastors dreams of me being an Administrative girl and a pastors wife. I took their children to tennis practice, homeschooled them, made them snacks, and watched cartoons with them. I grocery shopped for the pastors.

When I left that cult, I was lost and confused. How was I supposed to live and operate my own life now after it had been controlled for several years, right down to the smallest decision? Was I capable of making decisions on my own without “checking in with someone else?” Did I have to pray about everything and check my heart and my motives over everything, as I’d learned in the cult?

In other words, did I have to be manipulated by the guilt even though I was free from it?

The answer I found within myself on my own journey was….NO. The bottom line is that life comes down to it being about YOU. Of course, we’re a community of human beings, so we have to be fair and just to one another. But what I’m saying is that no one can make decisions for you, or dictate your life. You are smart, and capable. And the bottom line is you can’t please everyone. You can’t please those pastors: I know when I left, I didn’t. They would have people spy on my myspace and facebook and report back to them about how I was doing. Since I wasn’t living in their group, running by their dictates, they were unhappy. But, I decided that I was the one who had to take responsibility for my own life, actions, and thoughts and I was not going to please everyone.

In fact, I was going to piss a lot of people off. And I have pissed a lot of people off.

But, my journey is not your journey. You have to please yourself. And you have to realize that “it’s alright now…you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.” Forge your own path, your own beliefs and your own ethics. Don’t let them be dictated to you. And when people come against you for how you’ve changed or what they don’t like about you, just tell yourself that, “it’s alright now…you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.” And if that doesn’t help, realize that remember that there is good in the world and there is good in your soul. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, “Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!”


 

 

 

Ricky Nelson–Garden Party

 

Too Type-A or Innovative?

The innovation is going to come, and that is good for everybody. --- Hilary Rosen

I’ve been trying really hard not to go too type-A on my life. I was never that way, but then in the cult I was forced to read all these annoying business books, carry a Franklin Covey planner (back when we carried paper around), and be on time. I always failed. I was never neat, on time or organized and I never had a goal that didn’t revolve around someone else’s life. So I find it strange that my laid-back self has turned into a type-A nazi. I think it might be temporary just like my visit into whoredom was, but we’ll see.

I’m up early, working before work. If that’s not type-A enough, I don’t know what is. On top of that, last week I found myself sending people Excel spreadsheets to help with me a project. On Saturday I bought filing folders and labels with a plan to file all my 2013 tax receipts, just in case I’m audited. (It happens.) Of course some of this type-A-ness might not be cult related, it might be related to work, where I’ve found my niche of sorts and am constantly having to be well-organized and on time. I was forced to change in order to keep my job because you really can’t be all laissez-faire about company timelines.

But now that I’ve started blogging and love it, I’ve started other websites and other projects. In order to not get bored, I allow myself to dream and try to be innovative. There’s also a small part of me coming back that wants to help people, and I think I’ve found my other calling. Two of them really. Editing and teaching writing. Right now I’m working on figuring that all out, but it makes me extremely happy to find something I’m good at and love. Going hand-in-hand with that, I applied to an MFA program in creative writing and will apply to another one. If all goes well, Fall 2014 I might be enrolled in a program; however, I was so late on one deadline that I’m thinking of pushing it back to Fall 2015 just so I can apply for financial aid. Grad school is extremely expensive.

So at 6 am, I was up this morning, telling myself to go back to sleep until 6:45 but I couldn’t. I was excited and wanted to work on this new forum I’m creating that I’m keeping on the down-low for now. In the past month I’ve experimented with designs, different paid services and I’m deciding between two things right now. I’m ready to launch it but I haven’t found the perfect solution. It’s fun, being a type-A. Although I wonder if I’m really actually a type-A or if I’m just too easily influenced by others perceptions and others labels of me. I have a friend who sometimes projects on to me what someone else in his life was, so he’s labeled me a type-A inadvertently. If I were to define myself, I would call myself innovative and creative. I just have a lot of creative energy and action, which I didn’t have before I started blogging. There’s a lot more to it than just blogging–I started treatment for depression, as well, and after four or five years of treatment I’m feeling so much better. My entire life feels different. Is there a cure for depression? I don’t think so, but I do think there can be an improved quality of life.

Letters to Nowhere: Tim Dilena, Dino Rizzo, Winkie Pratney

Two weeks ago, I sent the following letter to good friends and ministry partners of the pastor of Our Savior’s Church to see if they’d be able to speak with their friend to stop the abuse going on.

Not only did I NOT get a response from these pastors, one of them actually forwarded the letters to the pastor of Our Savior’s Church, who then read the letters to his staff. How awful, but totally expected.

Dear Dino, Tim and Winkie,
I’m writing on behalf of myself and many others who have been deeply hurt by the controlling pastoring that is taking place there, and the illegal employment issues that are taking place there.

I worked for Pastor Daniel Jones for a year as his wife’s personal assistant, which meant I nannied the children and homeschooled their son, as well as cleaned the house, cooked, ran errands, and was involved with the Women’s ministry and Master’s Commission. I was on staff with Master’s Commission 3D for years and was Nathan Davies’ right-hand girl (one of Daniel’s pastors at OSC and the Executive Director of Master’s Commission)–his Executive Assistant while he was Vice President of the Master’s Commission International Network. Nathan Davies is no longer the VP of the Master’s Commission International Network.

I’m attaching a letter that I sent to Daniel Jones, Nathan Davies, and Tim Wilson (who took over for Nathan for one year as MC Director). As you can see from the letter, OSC and MC3D are in serious trouble. They are abusing young people as slaves of the church and paying them less than 40 cents an hour! My story isn’t the only statement out there. I’ve gathered dozens more, and have collected numerous emails.

I have NEVER received an apology letter, phone call or any other sort of communication from Daniel, Nathan or Chris, as of the date of this email in regards to this letter I’m attaching and the issues I’ve addressed in said letter. I have used names in my blog, and I stand by that decision because I know that every fact I’ve shared on there is 100% verifiable by multiple sources, and I have given the aforementioned pastors plenty of chances to seek out dialogue with me. All three have denied the opportunity, ignored my peaceful outreach, and therefore, have shown great disrespect to me.

I’m asking you to read this letter and please do the following:

  1. Respond accordingly
  2. Talk to Daniel about the spiritual abuse.
  3. Encourage him that the ball is in his court to make amends with those he’s abused.
  4. Know that you are now partly responsible for the information I’m presenting to you.

Also, I’m aware that in some ways, you all are either good friends, mentors, or ministry partners with Daniel Jones. Because of this relationship, I feel I should hold each one of you responsible for what I’m sending you.

Now that you’ve read my letter, my blog (www.mycultlife.com) and the comments fellow ministers, church members, and MC staff members and students have left on the blog, I’m holding you responsible for what you’ve seen and heard in this email and in the others that are to come. I don’t feel this is too harsh a responsibility to ask a friend or ministry partner who does close ministry work with another pastor. If you would not like this responsibility, or if I have misplaced it on you, please notify me by email.

If you knew that spiritual abuse was taking place in a close friend’s church and remained silent, I’d be shocked. I’m very sure that none of you would overlook this. Hopefully, as friends, you can approach him in a way that he will receive. Otherwise, I will take further action.

I’d like a response to this email within a week. Please acknowledge that you received the email by July 30th, 2010.

With Respect,
Lisa

The Feminist Mormon Housewives

While everyone is obsessing with mommy bloggers who cook organic roasted squash for their babies, I’m over here watching and reading (for years now), the Feminist Mormon Housewives. I don’t remember where I first heard of them, but I joined their secret Facebook group and slowly started learning that they were just like me, except they decided to stay in the church and change it from the inside. For this, I applaud them. They are a brave group of women. Many of their experiences with doctrine have been similar to mine and their questions have been similar to the ones I raised.

“Why do we have modesty doctrines and guidelines?”

“What if a woman doesn’t want to raise children? Is she less of a woman?”

“Is a woman’s only role to bear children? Why not?”

“What is this patriarchal world we’re all living in and how did it get this controlling?”

As a young woman, I was drawn to Mormonism. Quite a few times, I almost made the leap and converted, but something held me back. Perhaps it was my parents’ voice saying, “No, they’re a cult.” (I don’t consider them a cult anymore than I would consider Evangelical Christianity as a whole a cult. Mainstream Mormonism is vastly different than Fundamentalist Mormonism, which is the most restrictive, and I’ll be honest, cult is a harsh term. Patriarchal religion is maybe the safest term for Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity, though it might not capture the complexities quite as well as a term like cult. And yes, both movements do have cult-like traits.)

Despite my parents not wanting me to join the Mormon church, I went to every Mormon dance I could in high school with my Mormon friends. I went to “Seminary” with them on a weekday before school. I sang with my Honor Choir in a Mormon church. I even dated young Mormon boys.

When I first entered Master’s Commission the appeal was simple: they based Master’s Commission’s rules on the Mormon missionary movement. No dating, limited communication with family and friends from back home, strict dress code, and a focus on purity, relationship with Christ, and evangelizing. Okay, okay…maybe Mormon missionaries do cult-like rituals when they sign up for the mission field.

Regardless, the new Mormon feminism is fascinating. There are thousands of women who are questioning the oppressive traditions of their church, wearing pants to church, and thinking like, well…feminists. I can’t explain how complex it all is without giving away some very private conversations and people’s identities, so for now I’ll let you explore if you’re interested.

Here’s their new campaign, called I’m a Mormon feminist where they feature stories of women: http://mormonfeminist.org/

Here’s their blog, which began in 2004. You can learn quite a bit about them here: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FeministMormonHousewives

Or read this piece in the Boston Globe: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/04/05/women-hope-for-mormon-spring/kSchzSqQDRRKAQtvfi8hhL/story.html

Here in Salon magazine: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/20/the_rise_of_the_mormon_feminist_housewife/