Monday, June 28, 2010

If Hurt by the Church, part one

This is the first part of a series published in my weekly newsletter Gracelets. If you wish to subscribe to the newsletter, simply email me at

If the Church Hurt You,
Let the Church Heal You (Part One)
By William T "Bill" Faris, MPC"

"I finally figured out what is wrong with the church," I once heard a Bible teacher say. "It's people. If it wasn't for people, the church would be perfect". .

Welcome to the (Dysfunctional) Family

The Bible makes it clear that the church is the family of God. The language of family abounds in Scripture. Fellow believers are referred to as "brothers" and "sisters" which, together, make up "the household of faith". This is one thing that I have always loved about being a believer. Over a lifetime, I have truly found "family" in the Body of Christ.

Like other households in human society, however, a given church will include its own unique set of social dysfunctions. Some of these quirks show up in ways that are rather humorous. Other times we find ourselves face-to-face with the fact that some of our brothers and sisters are capable of delivering some very deep wounds.

Some Categories of Church Hurt

Some church wounds are social in nature. We can feel shunned, bullied, misunderstood, ignored, or manipulated by our family members at various times. This is not always intentional, but that doesn't mean it is not painful.

Other church wounds are more intimate. These include the betrayal of trust, abandonment, false accusation, and the violation of personal and even sexual boundaries.

Some of the deepest wounds have to do with the brokenness of church leadership. Because we tend to place very high expectations on leaders, it is not uncommon for us to feel let down by them. But when leaders manipulate their followers, take advantage of their weaknesses, "fleece" the flock financially, fall morally, or otherwise violate the faith placed in them; very high levels of pain, grief and anger result.

Often enough, church members take sides in a leadership crisis and the resulting division of loyalties can end long friendships, split congregations and sidetrack - or even totally undermine -- the faith of weaker believers.
"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Galatians 5:15).

Church Treacherous?

As a veteran of church family life and a church leader, I have both dished out and received my fair share of pain, dysfunction, mistakes, wounds and bruises. Nevertheless, I remain as committed as ever to the Body of Christ and continue to believe it to be one of the potentially richest environments for transformation, wholeness, healthy socialization, service, justice, truth and maturity on earth. Why? Because I have learned that - inasmuch as the church can hurt you - the church can heal you, too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Of Prisons and Escapes

The link to the website profiles 10 remarkable escapes from various prisons throughout the world, including the only successful flight from Alcatraz and the only successful escape from a prison camp during the Vietnam war.

One man escaped from his confines by helicopter - on three different occasions!

One famous criminal (recently portrayed by Johnny Depp) used a fake gun made out of soap to bluff his way out of his captivity.

The common thread in all these stories was the unwillingness of the various prisoners to accept their confinement. What kind of imagination did it take for these men to overcome the seemingly impossible barriers of walls, barbed wire, armed guards, harsh conditions and chains in order to be free again? To be sure, these escapees may not have been the biggest, strongest, best educated or most experienced prisoners in their place of incarceration. But they did share the common conviction that it is better to be free than it is to remain otherwise and were willing to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Are you in a prison today? Is it a prison of debt? Depression? Reversal? Sickness? Spiritual crisis? Rejection? Inferiority? Fear or despair? Have you accepted your confinement as irreversible? These men did not. They took the risks that were required in order to find their freedom. Are you willing to do the same?

The mission statement of Jesus, as quoted in Luke chapter 4 (From the prophecy of Isaiah) includes the words: "...He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners". Will we choose the familiarity of our prison bonds or will we allow our sanctified imaginations to devise escape plans that will loosen us to become all that God has imagined for us to be from before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1: 4, 5) thanks to our adoption as His son or daughter.

Illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini is famous for claiming that "no prison can hold me, no hand or leg irons or steel locks can shackle me. No ropes or chains can keep me from my freedom". I wonder: have you gotten in touch with your inner Houdini?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bye, Bye T-Bird

"Down the road in the rain and snow
The man and his machine would go
Oh the secrets that old car would know
Sometimes I hear him sayin'...
Don't gimme no Buick
Son you must take my word
If there's a God in heaven
He's got a [...Silver...] Thunderbird
You can keep your Eldorados
And the foreign car's absurd
Me I wanna go down
In a [...Silver...] Thunderbird

Marc Cohn - "Silver Thunderbird" (thanks, Janiece Hudgins!)

Well, my 'bird wasn't silver. It was gloriously red and white. Still looked great in her paint after 10 years of time spent with the Faris Family (minus a small chip here or there).

Said goodbye to the T-bird today, heading from L.A. to Chicago. The new owner promises he will treat her well and attend to the growing list of things that need some attention. At fifty years old, who doesn't have such a list?

Parting with the 'Bird made me sob. Privately. Gushing out 10 years of memories.

Our Chris's wedding. Chris William's wedding. Johathan Knaup's wedding. Amy (Knaup) Noble's wedding. Andrew driving it to Saint Margarets. Me picking up Andrew, JeanneAnn and Matthew at Saint Margarets. Picking up Robin from the Hospital for her first ride home in nearly three months. Taking Robin to physical therapy. Taking JeanneAnn to the coast for a milkshake at Ruby's right on the bluff. Steve Lendzion and I driving her home to Orange County from Sacramento (where I bought her) - through the Central Valley, up the Grapevine (overheating, but not quitting) and on home even though the generator bearing went out in Costa Mesa.

Thumbs up. People walking up and having their friend take their picture standing next to my car. T-Bird shows. Awards. Repairs. Lots of them. Cruising to Silverado Canyon, cruising to San Clemente, cruising with my sister-in-law's relatives from England. Cruising through Live Oak Canyon - right past Cook's Corner - and turning Harley owner's heads. Cruising to Laguna. Cruising to Fuddrucker's with Tony and Patty Sweet to display her at the casual car show there. Cruising with my neighbor, John, (and his sweet red '63 Sports Roadster - T-Bird twins on the California roads)! Showing her at the little car show we had at Crown Valley Vineyard one year.

Memories? I got a boatload...

So, goodbye, T-bird. You made me smile. You made me cry. Isn't that just like a woman?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Organizing Your Interior World Around Christ

"For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1: 16).

Organizing our lives, beginning with our interior world, around our anxieties is our natural "go to" - our default mode. Doing so leads to a life of resistance, avoidance and fear-based functioning. Organizing our lives around Jesus Christ as our Center gives us a very different interior state - a very different starting place from which to approach the challenges and opportunities we face. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14: 17).

I have experienced this difference and yet I find that it still requires significant mental and spiritual discipline on my part to remain organized around Christ inside. When I am frightened by disturbing future projections or bogged down in past regrets, I can be thrown off a Christ-centered orientation and put some fear, regret, anxiety or depressing rumination on the throne. It's not that Jesus is absent from my interior world. I can still worship, pray, acknowledge Him in one hundred different ways, but He is no longer ruling within, that is, I am not organizing myself around Him. It makes me sad sometimes to see how quickly I revert.

The good news is that God has given us the gifts of prayer, worship, humility, reflection, His Word, natural beauty, and other tools of mental and spiritual discipline to help us refocus our center around Jesus. When we employ these things, we have fresh revelation of the excellence of Jesus and we also see more clearly our error in organizing around our anxious thoughts and feelings and basing our projected future and present assessment of ourselves on that point-of-view. Exalting Jesus with as the Center and organizing our state of mind, our future projections and our past perceptions around Him as Lord properly orients us to a future that can't help but extend the Kingdom of God within and without.

As the title of a book I once owned puts it: "He is the still point in the turning world".