An Email from a Dino Rizzo Fan

I read your blog about Dino Rizzos return to ministry. Unfortunately part of his first message back in ministry was completely about you!   He speaks of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son and how he becomes jealous. When I ran across your blog my first thought was “wow. The prodigal sons older brother actually has a blog”   I’m sorry you feel the way you do and I pray you find and experience Gods grace, mercy, and forgiveness in a real way so that you can return it to people who fall, but are willing to start fresh. It’s by NO MEANS your place to judge the transformation or question Gods redeeming love and restoration on anyone’s life. The hate you spew through your blog …it saddens me to see and I do pray that the same judgement you pass on people doesn’t come back to you. Instead of judging you should rejoice with a fellow Christian who has “returned to the father!” Have a blessed day!

–Brianna Hopkins

So, I’m a jealous older brother or something? Good one. At least you can read, Brianna. You have a BLESSED day, sister. Praise him!

Check out my eBook:

More on the Dino Rizzo affair and resignation: 

Healing Place Pastor Founder Resigns; Affair Cover Up Suspected

Rizzo Resigns As Healing Place Pastor; Rumors Of Affair Surface

Dino Rizzo From Healing Place Church Puts His House Up For Sale

Megachurch Pastor Dino Rizzo Returns to Ministry After Affair

Here’s What People Are Saying About Dino Rizzo’s Affair Cover-Up

If you have more information on this story, please email: mycultlife AT gmail DOT com. All names will be kept confidential.

An Invitation to Host a Call-in Show on the ‘Dr. Pat Show’

I get a lot of very interesting email from readers of this blog but this is by far the most interesting email I’ve received yet. I’ve always strived to stay low-key with this blog and not try to turn this into a platform for me to be someone’s guru or leader. That’s not my style. But I will say this email had me thinking twice. Mostly because she called me a genius. I mean, just read it for yourself. This email has been presented in it’s entirety with the exception of Isla’s phone number which I removed.

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be.

Your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”  – James Allen

Dear Lisa,

I have always said it is both the Lovers and the Dreamers who are the Saviours of the World. I thank you for Being an Emissary of  PRESENCE BLOGGING! You are a Voice, Guide, Teacher and REVEALER illuminating a path to a Miraculous Power. Surely ye have heeded the Call of the Great Ones. What is YOUR RUBY touchstone, I wonder? It is my guess that you made All of THIS cos you DEEPLY WANTED IT SO and you shaped it from the Loveliness that forms in your Beautiful Mind.

Tis Isla here with the Marketing and Production camp of Transformation Talk Radio and syndicated The Dr. Pat Show.  I am just sitting here wondering if you have ever considered having YOUR voice heard over the TERRESTRIAL radio as a show host…(we aren’t BlogTalk) You are the Possessor and Creator of a Great and Wonder-full Ascendancy! Your High Vibration Transmission and passion SPARK you and are asking to be Heralded over N’ across the AM/FM airwaves, I’m sayin’.  J

OK.  Slap my hand or hiney for my boldness but I gush Gratitude daily for this seeming ‘work’ do, Calling forth Gorgeous Genius such as yours to come out of  Internet stages to Come into Fullness and SHINE their Lights BRIGHTLY upon those who are just there….waiting for them in the soul asylum of their very own heart of hearts. I feel you would be most appreciated and tenderlyEmbraced, even on such an intimate Teacher-student platform as ours! I find nothing but pure Heart & Soul stirring God Sap on this Sound Current where both Time and seemingly intangible space converge.  There is an Attuning & Activation of the Imagination here. It is Something of a deep Mystery to me. Call me a radio junkie, or a BIG DORK if you want but I Witness its effects on people when they communicate across this almost holy medium. Mesmerized is a far more polite word. 😉

I bid you invitation, dear world changer to deep enquiry about our seemingly Magic world and Sourcing a Powerful Radio Presence whether hosting a Live weekly call-in show of your own www.transformationtalkradio.com or Global Monthly Syndicated Sponsorship of The Dr. Pat Show www.thedrpatshow.com with 1 Million PLUS listeners aired on over 300 channels worldwide.

Do curiously click-click click and explore our websites and just feel for any Resonance of Agreement and/or Alignment. Creating Positive Shifts in Consciousness is the very foundation for The Dr. Pat Show and Transformation Talk Radio!

The Dr. Pat Show is Now on the cusp of our 10th year and on a MISSION to enter states of Flow and grow, Ushering in more Groundbreaking Newness for 2014. I Love her!  Why? Cos she  dares others to take that quantum JUMP UP into fully Living out their deepest Message of Meaning and Rising.  I am Awed every day at Dr. Pat’s creative business ingenuity and it just keeps getting better. Dr. Pat Baccili is an Inspirational leader! Give her a Google!

I hope this little email of mine will excite you and draw you to a dazzling New Place of Heightened Inner Vision and collective Birthing of a more Radiant and Loving World. I will also add that we are expansive and certainly not expensive!!  Here is my telephone number: xxxxxxxxxx.  My wish right now is your Receptivity to an Exploratory and Evolutionary conversation. Please feel free to ring me at any time or quickly reply to this email message to make some. I am also available via Skype. A brief chat about you and where you are at this place in Time and how we can best help support, bless and expand you and your most Big Bang work is my Heartfelt quest.  Unified states of Enlightened Being!

Reverence,

Isla

Isla Tula-Celestún, Regional Marketing & Production Director
The Dr. Pat Show & Transformation Talk Radio

“Your Broadcast Community for Positive Change”
The Dr. Pat Show – Talk Radio to Thrive By!
Voted #1 For 5 Years Running Favorite Network and most listened to time!

Conversations with Friends: On Dreams and “Settling”

Colours

Recently, a friend and I were talking about creativity and dreams. She mentioned the idea that it might be “settling” (a term we use to use) if we didn’t accomplish our dreams. While we were once taught that it was failure not to live our dreams, life just isn’t that predictable and God won’t magically make it happen. Also, sometimes unpredictable things happen in life and we can’t do anything about that. Regardless of whether we are living our “dreams” or living a different dream, we’re not settling. We’re living a beautiful life. My conversation with her inspired this (I did make some minor edits before posting it here to remove any identifying elements). 

On Dreams and “Settling”

We once were taught that if you dream it, God will provide it. The simple fact of the matter is that’s a horribly wrong way of thinking. Not a single thing will happen unless we make it happen and work our asses off until we can’t work anymore. We get ideas and dreams and goals and we should go for them…but sometimes they change (we change our minds or other times we’re given different opportunities). We have to be flexible because sometimes we’ll find that we’re really great at something we didn’t think we would be and we enjoy it. For example, I set out to be a writer and now I’m a blogger who has other opportunities in front of me. I still want to write a book but I’m going to definitely try my hand at other creative ventures because it makes me feel alive.

I get rejected all the time with writing. All writers do. Sometimes I’m deeply discouraged when my writing is rejected but that doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. I think that if you set out to achieve your dreams in any way, you definitely won’t be settling if they don’t happen the way you wanted them to. Life isn’t predictable and neither are our dreams. The world is a competitive place for creative people and things don’t always work out as planned. If I spent all my life trying to write and publish and “failed”, I wouldn’t consider it a failure. I would consider it brave that I tried.

(On a related note: A lot of my readers have children and sometimes talk to me about it being increasingly difficult to try to live their dreams. In many ways, it’s much tougher but not impossible. I know what it’s like to have to support yourself and try to be creative when you’re exhausted. It’s not easy to do but try to step back and think of little ways you can be creative. Maybe it’s something you dream about while the kids are little and can start working towards slowly when they’re a little older. Maybe you won’t get the chance until your kids move out of the house. That doesn’t mean you’re “settling” or any less creative. It just means that you’re a mom or dad right now, and as you know that’s a pretty incredible feeling. Enjoy it, but don’t be afraid to dream.)

What’s Different Here

Many religious bloggers try to tell you what to do and what to believe. I’m not religious, so I’m not interested in bossing people around.

I’ve spent a lot of time observing other people’s opinions on the subject of spiritual abuse and I have one thing to say: quite a few of them have the same belief system that I left behind.

Why is it that few people have taken to open up their minds to discard the negative, harmful beliefs that once enslaved us? Religious legalism and intellectual blindness is what entrapped us–made us continually subject to abuse. Of course, there are other components like mental coercion, violence, brainwashing tactics. But, the only way I’ve found to truly free myself of all those elements is to sort of empty out my mind from all the religious bullshit and start over with a clean slate. I started later to pick apart each element of belief slowly and thoughtfully, looking at it curiously and wondering why “they” taught me specific things. What did it do to benefit them? What did it do to oppress me? Or, was it helpful to me?

Most of it wasn’t helpful to me. It usually was a way of thinking that harmed me and oppressed me and didn’t allow me to be the unique individual I am.

What is it about leaving one church/cult that makes people want to start another religious movement? I’ve observed a lot of people on multiple online venues who’ve left cults like mine. Most of them have taken the role of “shepherd” and kinda try to pastor people. I really despise the role of pastor, so these people tend to annoy me more than anything.

What I’ve found is that a blogging platform can truly transform someone into nearly a televangelist type of fame, if that’s what you choose to gain from it. Yesterday, I was talking to a writers group and someone suggested I go on a lecture tour, talking about the ills of cults and how to inform parents. I told them I wanted nothing to do with the lecture circuit. I don’t want to be a spiritual guru, a guide for others to follow. And I don’t want to get paid for doing something like a pastor does.

I think each one of you is smart enough to figure out your own post-cult journey and I personally don’t want to force my beliefs onto you. I think the legalistic religious personalities of former cult members is sort of silly and dishonest with themselves. It’s just as ugly as what I left behind and I don’t want anything to do with it. I’m happy enough on my own, meshing together a path that leads many places–none of them more “right” than the other.

Losing Friends

A few years ago, when I first moved back to the LA area, I got another job in another office, but this time my boss was Jewish and he was not a big fan of Christians and their “killing a living thing to celebrate the birth of Jesus”, aka Christmas. It was great. I had just started my blog and he loved talking with me about fundamentalists. When I had my first radio interview, he was so accommodating, let me take time off to do the interview and even set me up in an office.

Around that time, I was a new blogger and very similar to a new mother, I wanted to coddle my blog and be with it every minute of the day. I had to feed it daily so it got big and strong and I had to clean out the spam-germs so it stayed disease-free. ha! Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away with my metaphor here. My point is I woke up early to blog nearly every morning and then I blogged daily at lunch. When I wasn’t blogging, I was working on my manuscript, but the blog was a writing exercise for the manuscript so they complimented each other.

I got a little burned out after year one of that schedule and then my second year I decided to slow down, maybe write daily for 3 months and then take a month off and repeat the pattern. I was flexible with myself and forced myself to rest. I also had anxiety so nearly every day I would log on to my email and see a new “You need to get saved” or “Are you saved?” or “I’m praying for you to get saved” email and I’ll be honest–I spent most of that year in tears. Over the course of time, and with the support of a lot of great non-religious friends and some very nice religious family members, I realized that the issue I needed to just brush it off. All of it and all of them. Sometimes that meant losing old friends, like the other day. I won’t go into it too much but someone who used to say she loved me and I was her hero went bat-shit hostile on me the other day. I personally think it was my lack of religion (and lack of respect for pseudo-intellectual fundamentalists) that did her in, but it might have to do with the fact that her dad believes pharma companies planted AIDS in the world and I just think that’s a bit insane.

Even when I act tough or hide it with humor, losing friends hurts. Even when I know they are stupid or weren’t that supportive of me in the first place (or when I know it was bound to happen).

Have you lost friends or family members? How did you cope? Or are you coping now? If you need to talk, email me at mycultlife@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Forgiveness

A few months ago, someone shared with me that my blog was missing a section. He shared that some people might find it helpful to see how I’d recovered from this group. What spiritual journey had I taken? he asked. How had I dealt with depression? How had I forgiven? He said you guys would want to know.

I didn’t want to push any of my personal beliefs onto anyone or “preach,” so I haven’t written about this until now. I realize that sharing my own journey doesn’t mean I’m pushing my beliefs onto you, nor does it mean I want you to agree with me. In fact, sharing my journey is perhaps the most vulnerable thing I could do. I don’t trust all my readers. Some, inevitably, are out to get me. Others of you are deeply wounded, like I am and have been for years. We need to stand together and know that we can get through this together. I need this to be a safe place, and so do you.

I’d like to share with you some valuable lessons I’ve learned, from my heart, and some resources that have helped me. Perhaps they’ll offer you some guidance, like they have to me. Perhaps it will just be nice to see that we’re all getting “there,” wherever that may be.

I share a bit of my journey that began in a Religious Studies class here: http://www.mycultlife.com/?p=332. What I learned over the next few years from my professor, Dr. Campagna-Pinto, was to become invaluable to me.

In Dr. CP’s classes, there were such meaningful convicting lessons, such as: “To create change you can’t have hatred in your heart. You have to re-humanize the people who torture you.”

We read A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I studied the chapter, I Have No Hatred in My Heart, and learned such truths as “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

What I’d become was an outcast to Master’s Commission and to Our Savior’s Church. They no longer accepted me, as most cults no longer accept outsiders, because I chose to leave their “authority” and “promised land.”

My perpetrator never showed remorse. I had to live with that.

It was a difficult thing for me to face. My perpetrator never showed remorse. Nor did he ever plan to. In fact, his own son said that he looked at people like me as less than nothing.

Although he had never shown remorse, my perpetrator had committed crimes against humanity. Crimes of abuse. Crimes of manipulation for power and reputation. Several years of anger and grieving took me to the place where I’m beginning to feel sorry for my perpetrator. And I’m very thankful I’m not him.

At the same time I studied the South African Apartheid, I learned that there are different ways to think about forgiveness. I read The Sunflower: On the Possiblities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. Simon tells the story of a dying Nazi soldier asking him forgiveness for his crimes against Jews. The dying soldier even told the horrific story of shoving Jews into a building and setting it on fire. His orders were to shoot anyone who tried to jump from the building. He shot.

After studying the Holocaust, and the amount of death and atrocity that Jewish people went through, I learned that forgiveness is a complex thing. Like Simon discusses in his book, there’s much more to forgiveness than a simplistic, “You’re forgiven.”

Through my studies, and through the years, I have come to believe that there’s a striking flaw in Christianity when it comes to forgiveness. Forgiveness in Christianity is simple: Jesus died on the cross to forgive you and I of our sins. Therefore, when you and I sin, we can “wash away our sins by the blood of Jesus.”

Right?

No. People need to be held accountable. They need to be responsible for their actions.

Thus the flaw in the Christian belief of forgiveness. When something devastating happens to a person, or a group of people, can you expect them to just “wash it away?” No. There are stages of grief that are normal and natural. I learned that Judaism takes seriously the act of forgiveness. During Yom Kippur they pray and fast, asking for forgiveness.

I began to respect Judaism for what I interpreted as a more realistic answer to the “forgiveness problem.” I knew that I had been wronged deeply. Not as deeply or as terribly as the Jews in Germany during the Holocaust, but I’d been wronged nonetheless.

I began to realize that I also felt forgiveness was a complex, serious matter and it was okay if I didn’t instantly grant forgiveness to someone.

In fact, it was more than okay.

It was perhaps responsible.

Well this is awkward

I’M BACK!
Remember being a pre-teen, unsure and awkward? That’s how I feel about blogging. I want to blog. In fact I think about it daily. I just don’t want to blog about cults…daily. I can’t even tell you how things spun out of control here, but I’m reining in my blog and taking it back to happy places. Places I want to go.
INTERRUPTING LLAMA: (h/t to the Amazing Mr. Morck for the image)
I “quit” blogging about a month ago after a pretty severe panic attack mixed with paranoia. RELATED NOTE: I was not murdered during this time. The day after I “quit” I sat down to the SITS GIRLS forums and poured out my heart. Yet, no one really understood because blogging is a bit of a “pave the way as you go” kind of job.
So for the time being, I’m going to try to settle in to blog right here. No new blog name (yet?). No mystery identities. No “niche” only posts. Why do all that? I’ve realized most of you like me for the outlandish, offensive asshole that I am anyway. That’s why you follow me or add me on Facebook. And for those of you who want to see the “softer side” of Lisa, that might happen here, too.
Here’s to a new start! I guess I’m a little early…it’s not quite 2013 yet. Just consider me an early bloomer.

Rape Victim: Who Me?

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

I sat on the couch across from my therapist during one session in 2005. She worked out of the California State University, Bakersfield campus Counseling Center and she was free, which was in my budget at the time.

I’d decided to see her after being referred to her by two professors: one professor witnessed me break down in front of a lecture class of over 100 students during my Freshman year when he asked me why I was attending college. He had no idea that for me, I was attending college fresh from a cult where I was brainwashed and taught that I was less of a human being because I was a woman. After my sob-fest in Freshman Shakespeare class, my professor kindly suggested I see a therapist. I took him up on his suggestion, and am happy I did.

I met with her once a week, on Thursdays. I went through about half her box of Kleenex and left with a runny nose and puffy, red eyes. One hour a week was enough to bring up enough pain to bring me into hysterical fits of crying. Sometimes I couldn’t even talk about my memories or pain.

Sitting across from her one day, she went to her desk and she pulled up the Counseling Center website. She gave me links to the resources to Cults that I have listed on this website. It was only the second time I’d ever heard anyone tell me that they thought my ministry experience sounded like a cult. I was shocked. I was horrified. I felt cheated. If this was true, then how could I have been so stupid? What about those people I loved? There was no way they’d run a cult!

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

Years prior, a good friend of the family from our home church in Taft, CA had come to visit me on a motorcycle road trip through Texas. He stopped in our church in Austin and took me to lunch. He visited the offices of Master’s Commission there. When he went home, he told my parents, “I think the place Lisa is in is a cult.” This coming from a life-long church member and deacon shocked my parents and me.

The next thing my therapist told me was even more shocking, though. As if notifying me that she thought I’d been in a cult wasn’t shocking enough, she then told me, “I’ve counseled many, many rape victims and you sound exactly like a rape victim. You have many of the same symptoms. I don’t know if it’s possible to get spiritually or mentally raped, but that’s exactly what I think has happened.”

Christian Fundamentalism


During my first few years of undergraduate education, I decided to minor in Religious Studies. The majority of this decision came from my desire to reconcile my religious past as a reverend into my current questions surrounding that time of my life. So much of how people treated me after I left the church I’d worked for for years was not Christlike, and I wanted to better learn of the history of Christianity so as to properly senthesize what happened to me.

In 2005, I enrolled in a general education class that fulfilled a requirement to graduate. My professor was new to Bakersfield, and had formerly lived in San Francisco and attended Harvard for his Ph.D. He was far more liberal than most people in Bakersfield and was an avid supporter of gay rights. He taught us not to believe what he believed, but to be good students, to work hard, and to be open minded beyond what we may have been raised to believe. It was in this environment that I flourished and grew. My religious experiences with Christianity began to make sense for the first time since I left the cult, and I began to learn the history of Chrisitianity (both good and bad).

One class session, we watched the movie Saved with Mandy Moore. The way the “Christians” treated those who were outsiders in high school made me feel very similar to how the “Christians” I had worked with for several years were currently treating me. I started tearing up in my desk, so thankful that the lights were out and that people were focused on taking notes, and not on me.

When I left the class, I couldn’t help but break down and cry. I was in the hallway, sitting on a wooden bench when Dr. Campagna-Pinto, my professor, walked up to me to ask me if I was okay. I told him briefly about my experience with the fundamentalist cult I was part of and how several years of my life history seemed to be negated now. I explained to him how painful it was to lose hundreds of friends and what I considered “family.”

From that day on, Dr. Campagna-Pinto would meet me in the hallway when I’d be sitting on a wooden bench with tears in my eyes. He’d take the time to listen to me, and he’d take the time to explain that not all Christians are like the ones I’d had the experience of meeting. He’d also tell me that Christianity had a rich history, contrary to what the fundamentalists believed and taught.

As I learned more about Christianity in his classes over the years, I understood that Christian fundamentalism was truly very different than the historical, scholarly perspective of Christianity. Christianity was a religion that had a history of good and bad, but I was able to see the good in Christians for the first time in years.

I walked away from my classes seeing religion in a different light. I had a greater understanding of humanity in general, and a greater appreciation for religious communities worldwide. I sought to better myself by being open minded, which was difficult after being a close-minded Christian fundamentalist for years. I attempted to consider life as a journey on a path that I pave myself, rather than a road that’s already been carved out before me. And I tried (and still try) to earnestly see the good in humanity, and have hope that human beings can and will do the right thing–even when things in our future and history look bleak.

I continue to be gracious with myself, because the harder I am on myself, the more I fall back into fundamentalist thinking and guilt. I also continue to study and seek knowledge from a variety of secular sources, because I trust my own judgement and trust that my heart and mind are good things, rather than evil things.

My journey is only just beginning and like the Chinese proverb says, “The journey is the reward.”

Enjoy the journey and enjoy the questions.