Sunday, 5 June 2016

Time For Healing Begins...

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. 
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
Matthew 12:20 (New Living Translation)

I returned back to Ontario in the Fall of '93. My parents were renting a home in Alexandria ON and I moved in with them. The little town is quiet and peaceful and the people are very nice. There are a few churches in the little town but no Pentecostal church. The church that my brother and sister-in-law were attending was called Alexandria Alliance. Again; beautiful people, beautiful spirit of worship, and all the while I am still confused and to a big degree, running scared. Comfortable and yet not comfortable. A part of me is scared of going to hell because I am not attending a UPC church and the other part of me is confused because, while I am sitting and worshiping with these sincere folks, I just don't see what my indoctrination has told me; that these people are not saved.

I was settling in very nicely, when my brother decided to start a Southern Gospel trio. This trio would consist of my brother ~Dan, his wife ~Sylvie, and myself ~Paula. We were known simply as; The Ryan Trio. We sang in our local church, traveled to sing at other local churches, went a few times down East to the Marin-times, and eventually, with the help and encouragement of our parents, produced a cassette. All this was good for me, the practices, the traveling, meeting new people; singing became my outlet. I can tell you this; even when the wick of your candle is but a mere flicker, God in His good grace can still use you for His ultimate purpose and glory.

Through a series of events my parents and I started attending a UPC church in Cornwall ON. Again the people were very nice and we settled in nicely. And for now the hell bound feelings were gone but the feelings of not being able to live up to standard still plagued my mind. Soon after my brother and his wife started attending with us and I can assure you my mum was a happy camper so to speak. All her children were back "in the church". This was very important for my mum.

As a side note; may I share here, that I find it very sad the needless tears that have been shed by parents, especially mums, who live with the UPC indoctrination that their kids are hell bound simply because they do not attend a UPC church. They may well be attending another church and on fire for the Lord, but because they are not attending a UPC church, they are hell bound. I can remember many occasions when some of my mum's sisters would come up to visit. They would be sitting around the table talking, reminiscing of days gone by, when soon the tears would begin to flow. They would get talking of their "unsaved children" and how they pleaded with the Lord to save them. What that really meant was; bring them back into the "right church" a UPC church so they would not be lost for all eternity. I remember this one occasion when one of the sisters got to telling of when they moved into this little town in New Brunswick, that there were no UPC churches around but felt that her children should go to Sunday School. She had no car and the only church within walking distance for the children was a Baptist church. And so the children started attending Sunday school at the little Baptist church down the road. Though these children grew up to love and serve the Lord, one even becoming a minister, this was not the point, in the eyes of the UPC, these children were unsaved and hell bound. The tears were streaming down my aunt's face as she made her way up the stairs declaring as she went; "If I had it to do all over again; I would keep my children home, I would not send them to another church". How sad for my aunts and my mum; to shed needless tears, for hearts to break, all because the UPC church had established in them a fear for their children's salvation based on the mere fact that they weren't in "the church".

I quickly became friends with another single lady from the church and the two of us decided that we would travel down to St John NB for the Singles Retreat. We arrived in St. John and we met up with a lot of people that we both knew. I was still nervous being around crowds and keep in mind, I am still functioning in that "shut down" mode. Not allowing people to get too close and only being around those with whom I felt "safe".

The evening services were filled with high energy, the worship was awesome, and the altar times were powerful. But to me, I felt like I was the person looking in. I felt like there was this high fence that went on forever with no opening in sight. So no matter how much I wanted to be on the other side of that fence I couldn't find an entry point in.

The day sessions were also amazing and I especially enjoyed the teachings of Sis. Ruth Ann Kerr. In this one particular session, towards the end, she gave us each a blank piece of paper with the following instructions. We were to draw on this piece of paper how we saw ourselves. We were not to put our names on them and we were to hand them back to her at the end of the next secession. Well here is a description of what I drew on how I saw myself...

In the lower right hand corner of the paper I drew a heart that was broken. I then drew a chain with a lock around that heart, to which I placed that chained broken heart into a box with yet another lock. In the upper left hand corner of the paper, as small as I could, I wrote the name, GOD. While the rest of the paper contained the word; CHRISTIAN written all over it in various sizes.

At the end of the second secession, when the papers were being handed in, I held onto mine. Somehow I felt that I needed to hand this to Sis Kerr myself and I didn't care that she would know the person behind the drawing. I guess in a way, it was a cry for help. I handed the paper to her and she took one look and then said the following words to me that I will never forget. Taking me by the hand, she looked at me and said; "I know just what you are going through, and the miracle in all of this is, that you are still here. I know of too many who would have taken their lives, but you are still here. That night when the altar call was given, Sis Kerr came down off the platform and walked me to the altar. Did all the pain and memories go away in that one night? No. But the healing process had begun. And I can assure you in the days to come, there would be set backs. But God continued to be faithful, even with the walls that I had built all around me.

Returning back home in Ontario the Trio was scheduled to sing at a little country church. During the concert I happen to notice a young man, who seemed to be on fire for the Lord. I loved his worship and his enthusiasm for the Lord. After the concert he came and spoke with me and a short time after that he called upon me to go out for coffee and I agreed. The encounter was very pleasant and it seemed things might be looking good in my favor, though I was still keeping my heart closed off to any emotional attachments.

It was the month of November and the Trio was asked to sing at a dinner held by the Business Men's Christian Fellowship. Once there I was asked to share my testimony of how God had healed my body as a child, ( you can find this back in my second post titled; This Is My Story; From Birth to Five Years) as well I was then asked if I would pray with those who wanted prayer at the end of the service. Remember;  though you may be scarred from the battle, God can and will use you for His purpose and glory.

Now I must tell you that when I arrived at the restaurant where this event was being held, my brother was waiting for me outside. When I did arrive he wanted to let me know that the young man I met was there with his two children and that the young boy, about 5 years old, had been in a fire and was completely disfigured. His little face, head, arms, hands, legs,feet, and back were scarred for a fire he had been in when he was 17 months old. I sat with the family that night and I guess from so many years being in hospital myself, I was not frightened away by the sight of this little boy. Matter a fact I fell in love with this little boy and his sister. And when I saw the interactions with their dad, my thought process was, if this man can love a little boy who once was physically perfect but who now is badly scarred, then I know he can love me...or so I thought.

We started dating and things were going really well. I really loved his kids and soon we were talking marriage. We became engaged on my birthday and began planing a wedding for October 11, 1996. This was also exciting for me as October the 11th was my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Our wedding plans were going to include my parents renewing their wedding vows. All was going great and I was happy. But one thing was still not yet known, my hidden secrets of pain. And I was still very broken and very insecure about myself.

It wasn't very long and things began to change. My fiance was becoming more and more controlling and possessive. He was also becoming emotionally abusive as well. When the Trio would go out to sing and if anyone, especially a man, came up to me after to shake my hand or to talk, I would get questioned later on my actions. There is a lot that I could say here but suffice it to say; that besides the emotional abuse, he was putting pressure on my to cross lines I was not yet ready to cross. My brother tried talking to him, my dad tried talking to him, but in his mind a marriage was 90/10, he being the 90.

There were many red flags going off but I was ignoring them. I felt like a failure. To break this engagement would mean, not one broken engagement, but three. I felt like there was something wrong with me, that for some reason I could not make a relationship work. So in spite of all the red flags I continued in the relationship knowing it wasn't going to improve. All the while not saying a whole lot to anyone of what was happening.

It was one week to the wedding when I got the usual 4am phone call from my fiance. Again it was a lot of the same old things, a lot of badgering. He wanted more children and we had been to both my doctor and his and they both said that because of my Spina Bifida, becoming pregnant would be risky to, not just the baby's life, but also mine. I was not willing to take that risk and this became an issue between us. By the time I got off the phone I had told him that I was going to talk to my parents.

I got my mum and we went into my dad's bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed and told them what was happening. The room was dark but soon I felt something warm running down my arm and it wasn't just my tears. My mum turned the light on and I was having a nose bleed, and this wasn't the first time for this. My nerves were finished. Not only was I having nose bleeds but when I would comb or brush my hair, my hair was falling out. When I got done talking to my parents they told me that they would support me in whatever decision I would make. I remember my dad saying that; you don't marry someone to change them, you marry them to love and grow with them.

I called my fiance back and asked him to come down to the house and I told him to leave the children at home. When he arrived we initially went downstairs of my parents home. As we sat downstairs I told him that I had three fears about going ahead with the idea of marriage to him. The following were the three fears along with his answers:

-Fear number 1; That before the ink was dry he would eventually have me cut off from my family and friends. He kept silent.

-Fear number 2; That before the ink was dry he would require of me to give up what I enjoyed the most, singing. Once again he kept silent.

-Fear number 3; I feared what life would really be like living with him. To this he spoke and asked me if I thought I could find any better.

Well...we joined my parents, my brother and his wife upstairs and that is when I let him know that everything was off and just how much he owed my folks, as up to this point he had not offered a cent. Where I had made all the arrangements up to that point I figured it was only right that he notify the necessary people to let them know things were off. What was very interesting in the week following the break up was when I went to the post office. To my surprise a wedding reply was in the mail. At this point to my knowledge all the replies had come in. When I got home and opened it, with my mum by my side, there was a note telling me that I had done the right thing. They said that God had answered their prayers. They said that this man had ruined one lady's life and he had no respect for his mother, even though he called himself a "Christian". To this day I have no idea who sent me that note.

Well as you can imagine all of this only added to the internal pain that I was keeping inside. If I was feeling inadequate or like a failure before this, I was really feeling it now. On top of the break up; I was admitted to the hospital to have a tubal. Where my doctor had advised against pregnancy; I decided just to go ahead with surgery. I thought I was ready for this as I had known ever since I was about six years old that I could not have children of my own, that my option in life was to adopt, and I had no problems with that. But when it came right down to it I was not ready. For a few years after surgery I didn't do so well at baby dedications, I usually got up and walked out.

I built my walls thinker and higher around me. Though I continued to serve the Lord I felt so far away from Him. I cried a lot. And every now and then I could feel myself "slipping" as I called it. Like a hole was going to swallow me up. I remember visiting with a friend, she was sick and lying in her bed. On her wall she had this mural of a dirt road going through the forest and it looked like it went on forever. Sometimes that's how I felt, like I was going down and endless dirt road. I felt like my candle was almost spent. God's Word says: " He (God) will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle". Something just kept me going back to Him. Sometimes I felt like Job, I just wanted to die. I would pray asking the Lord to take me home with Him. As many times as the thought would cross my mind to throw in the towel, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. But there would come a point when it would be close...

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:3,4

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Short Stint in Ontario And One More Year In Quebec...

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: 
for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; 
he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Deuteronomy 31:6

In 1991 my dad became sick and had to give up working as Superintendent for the buildings where we were living. The doctors had found spots of cancer in his hip and so growing concerns about his health ensued. He had surgery, though we almost lost him, but things started to improve. My brother and his wife by now were living in Alexandria Ontario and so the decision was made that my folks would move to Ontario. I decided to go with them. 

My brother found a little place in the small village of Lancaster Ontario, not too far from the Ontario/Quebec border. It was a very nice, two bedroom apartment, that was set above a Tea Room. It was hard at first living in a small village; everything and everybody went to bed at 8pm. But all too soon we got use to it and settled in very nicely.

The people of the village were very nice folks and very friendly, something we were not use to after living in the city. We maintained our friends in Montreal and we also traveled back and forth on Sunday's to go to church. Overall; life was good and things were going along smoothly...until...

My mum was scheduled to have a colonoscopy. The day before she was to start the cleansing process, she had confided in me that she was passing blood whenever she went to the washroom. The next morning, I woke up very early with this feeling that I should tell my mum to not go through with the cleansing process. So I got up, went to the washroom, and then went into my mum's bedroom to wake her and tell her what I felt. Thankfully she listened to me. I went back to bed but this was not the end.

We got up around ten am, we had breakfast, and then my mum went off to the washroom. My dad had just went outside for his morning walk and to get his morning paper when all hell broke loose. My mum had just stepped out of the bathroom when she collapsed to the floor. I yelled for my dad and he came back up the stairs and we managed to get mum into her bed and then I called 911. My mum had lost a fair amount of blood and things weren't looking very good.

The ambulance came, I called my siblings, my dad went with my mum in the ambulance, and I followed with the car. I remember praying and asking God not to take my mum. There are big age gaps between my siblings and I and so I reasoned that they had had mum for more years than I. I was not ready to let my mum go. Interestingly; after I was born my mum use to pray and ask God to let her live long enough to see me become a young adult and able to take care of my self. Well I may have been a young adult and able to take care of myself but, I was nowhere near ready to let my mum go.

We arrived at the hospital and soon my siblings were all there. They got my mum stable but she wasn't out of the woods. Her blood levels had dropped so low the doctors were amazed that she was still living. I, along with my nephew, went to the cafeteria to get a drink and a snack. Just as we were approaching the vending machine, the ER called a code blue. In my heart of hearts I just knew this was for my mum, but I kept calm for the sake of my young nephew, and continued to get him his drink. 

We got back to the room and sure enough the code blue was for my mum but they had gotten the situation under control. But we were still not out of the woods. By the end of the day they would move my mum up to ICU and she would have her third round of blood. They had told us that evening that the next 48 hours would determine if she would make it or not. That night as I lay in bed again I prayed, and prayed that God would not take my mama home. I begged with Him that if He would just let her live I would do my best to do better in living for Him. Well; all praise and glory to God, He brought my mama through and she got better. She spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, but she was on the mend and soon she was back home. God is good and I did try to live up to the promise I made.

Shortly after this I decided to move back into Montreal. I really hadn't felt that my time in Montreal was finished. I still felt that God wanted me back in Montreal, so one of the lady's from the church asked if I wanted to share an apartment with her and so I did.

After a few months living back in Montreal I met a young man from our apartment building and we started seeing each other. He wasn't a Christian and I like this for two reasons; one, it meant that we could really only be friends and two, the church folks couldn't rush us to the altar. It was fun getting to know Randy as a friend and it wasn't long when he started coming to church. 

One Sunday Randy had had a rough day. When he showed up at the apartment just as we were getting ready for church, he was drunk and high. We invited him in and with some encouragement, he agreed to come with us to church. That night God got a hold of Randy's life and when the altar call was given he went up and gave his life to the Lord. What really surprised him...when he walked back to his pew, he was completely sober. He KNEW God had done something exceptional in his life. 

I moved out of the apartment I was sharing and got my own place. As the months progressed Randy and I got more serious and became engaged. Life was looking up, or so I thought. Randy was changing and soon he was becoming more and more controlling. Styles of clothing that I liked, the old fashion styles, he didn't want me to wear. Certain decor of my own apartment that I liked, he didn't like. I remember one day after working, walking into my apartment and as I looked around it just hit me, none of it was me, my personality, it was all Randy and his personality. I could not take it anymore, the questioning if someone talked to me. If I was five minutes later getting home, I would be questioned. I decided it was time we needed to talk. Funny he was almost relieved and so...agreeable. We parted and for a short time remained friends.

I had some things in his apartment and one afternoon went over to get them. When I got there, there was no one home. I still had a key to his place so I let myself in. I was shocked by what I found, in his anger he had caused some damage to his apartment. I got what was mine and I left. It was frightening to see so much rage and what it can do. But the worst I think was when I found out that while Randy was engaged to me, he was seeing my good friend. 

My emotional being was hurt yet again. I felt like a total failure. I began to feel that maybe there was something wrong with me. Why couldn't I find someone to love me simply for me? Why did I seem to attract the ones who wanted to control? I never saw this behavior at home. My dad always respected my mum. But the rejection just added to the brokenness inside. I wanted to give up but I continued to press on. 

My rent was coming up for renewal but I decided that it was time to move on. And so by this time my parents had moved into Alexandria Ontario. They offered my a place with them so I made the move. I come.

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because i know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives   

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Life in Montreal Quebec...

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. 
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, 
to give you a future and a hope".
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)


Well I moved to Montreal Quebec right after graduating Bible College. The interesting part about this move though is; I never wanted to live in Montreal. For me Montreal was memories of eighteen years of doctor visits, long hospital stays, and the many hours driving just to get there. Yet here I was.

My parents were living in an apartment building in Dollard Des Ormeaux and my dad, though retired, was working as a janitor looking after four buildings. My mum took care of collecting rent. They had a three bedroom apartment, so I moved in with them. 

On the night of graduation from Bible College; I became engaged to Joseph. We were happy, or so I thought. We got along well and he knew of my personal testimony of God's healing of my physical body. What he did not know was the deeper secret that I was doing my best to hide from the world. But when we became engaged things began to change.

Joseph was a long haul trucker and so he was usually on the road for a week at a time. Sometimes two weeks would go by before I'd see him again. My parents like him, my family liked him, but he was beginning to change. 

One Wednesday evening when I was at church, unbeknownst to me, Joseph showed up at home. I guess when he found out I wasn't there he left. But that Saturday he dropped by again. We went out to a local restaurant for a bite and coffee. He was quiet, stand offish. I knew he was upset. Finally he asked me why I wasn't waiting at the apartment for him on the Wednesday evening he had stopped by. I told him that I did not know that he was going to be stopping by and after all, it was mid-week Bible Study service. He informed me that, in the future, I needed to remain at the house, in case he were to drop by. He would expect to see me there. This was just the beginning of what his future expectations of me were. 

As time passed, Joseph, became more and more possessive, even controlling. He belittled my time at Bible College, saying it was a waste of time as "they" hadn't taught me how to be a "proper" wife. He informed me one evening that the Bible was clear that a wife was "under law" to her husband, she was to "obey" him in "everything" he said. 

On a visit in May back home in New Brunswick, Joseph and I had made plans to spend a Saturday afternoon visiting with his grand-parents then head into Fredericton NB for supper then on to a Youth Rally. He was to pick me up at the house where I was staying for 1pm. Some friends and I went out on the lake for a boat ride with one of the girl's father. When I arrived back at the house around noon, Joseph was there waiting and he was upset. I quickly changed and left with Joseph. We didn't drive very far when he informed me that we were not going to go visit with his grand-parents. In fact he had been talking with a "wise" man from the church and he had a question for me which was to determine if I was going to be an "obedient" wife. Here was that question (keeping in mind that the couple are church going Christians):

You are married with a couple of children. Husband(Joseph) comes home one evening tells you(me) to call the babysitter, we are going down to the local bar. What are you(me) going to do?  

I didn't have to think; my first answer was, he'd be going alone. Joseph says; but you're married you have to do as your husband tells you. So I say; well I might drive you down, but I would stay in the car. Again he gets belittling my Bible College education and puts me down saying I wasted my time and theirs as they did not teach me right. Finally I said; NO! I would not go with him and if he got drunk and couldn't find his way home, that maybe I would go down and get him, but once we got home he'd have to find his own way into the house and his bed would be on the couch. This answer did not go over very well and I was given an ultimatum; I could drive around with him or he would take me back to the house, where I was staying, and could go with the girls to church. I told him that was a no brainier; I was going to church. Needless to say, according to him and my answer to his question above, I was deemed to be an unruly wife. In the end we broke the engagement as Joseph felt that if he was going to marry, he wanted to marry someone who wasn't scared. Yes; you read correctly. Hearing this just added to the inner pain that was smoldering just below the surface.

I returned back to Montreal and settled into my job and as well started a Nurses Assistant course. This course was so much fun and I got to meet a lot of people. One night the teacher gave us an assignment. We were looking at the aged and the change between living in ones own home and the transitioning to a Retirement Home or Nursing Home. She was wanting us to see just how much a person looses when they make this journey. 

For the sake of time; what the teacher got us to do was to write down on a piece of paper ten people and things that were important to us. Then once this was done we slowly eliminated things and people till we had but one thing or person remaining. When this was achieved the teacher then asked the question; "Now look at what you have left and how many have something worth living for"? Only two hands went up; mine and another girl's. The teacher was so surprised and asked us what could we possibly have that was worth living for? And our answers?? GOD. The other girl was a Christian just like me, the only difference, she was PAOC or Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and I was UPC or United Pentecostal Church.

We quickly became friends and one night I gave her a lift home after one of our classes. As we made our way to her home she asked me what made us so different. To be honest I really didn't have an answer for her. We had had many conversations and there was so much that we believed that were common. So finally I looked at her and said; for starters a big difference was our outward dress code, secondly there were places and things she could do and go that were a no no for the UPC. But I told her that in the end I guess the biggest difference was how our denominations viewed the Biblical truth of the Godhead. She asked me to explain; however I thought I would take this opportunity and ask her to explain what she believed. Well as you might guess, when she was done, I was just as confused over our differences as she was. Because when she got done, what she believed was no different than what I believed. Having this conversation made those nagging questions from the past come to the surface, but I knew that I dare not question, and so I kept quiet.

I continued to work and attend church. During this time I would describe myself as the walking dead. I was alive by outward appearance but inwardly I was emotionless. My life on the inside was broken and I had no sense of feeling. Where once I could walk into a room and detect when someone else may be hurting and in need of a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on; now I didn't care let alone respond. I had shut down. My only outlet was singing.

On my mother's side I come from a family who was musically inclined and had amazing God given talent for singing. I have fond memories growing up of gathering around the piano in the livingroom with my mother and singing the old hymns and choruses. So when it came to church, towards the end of the service when they would have a time of prayer around the front, I would go and stand off to the corner by the organist and sing during what was called the altar service. Soon the church got a drum set and then that became my outlet during the service. 

Through a series of events I did end up going and speaking to my pastor about what had happened in Bible School. I will be forever grateful for the pastor I had, he believed in me, and encouraged me to keep pressing on in my walk with God. And the most important; he prayed for me that God would bring about healing of ALL my damaged emotions. Would it happen then? No; that would come later on in God's timing. 

I settled into my life's routine of; going to work, night school, and baby sitting. And though I struggled at times with the haunting memories of my past, I kept my promise to the Lord. Often times in prayer I would say to Him; "If I never feel Your Presence again this side of heaven, I will keep serving You". Did I ever want to give up? Many times. Did I ever say enough is enough? Many times? Did I struggle with God's love for me? Constantly. Did I struggle with how others perceived me, real or not? Yes. Did I struggle with low self esteem? You bet ya. Did I ever think that life would be better off without me? Yes. So why would I keep pressing on when I felt so alone and hurting? I believe it goes back to those very early days when I was a small child, in and out of hospital. I saw my mum constantly in prayer. I would hear her by my hospital bedside, I would hear her just outside my bedroom door at home, the singing around the piano in the livingroom, and the many mornings of praying just before sending me off to school. Prayer - talking to God, no matter the circumstances, mum had taught me to press on. And so, while I would describe myself during this time as someone walking around feeling dead on the inside, no emotions to express or share, the alternative was not something I entertained. It simply was not an option. So leaning on the promise of God that;  "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you"(Hebrews 13:5)  I continued to walk on in faith that things would change and life would begin to heal. This would happen but not for many more years yet to come.

Farther Along
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.

Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bible School Days...

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1
United Pentecostal Bible Institute 

I started attending Bible College in the Fall of 1986. I'll never forget some wise words a minister said to me upon entering the college. He said; "Paula, Bible School will either make you or break you". By the time my stay was done, three years later, I would come to add to this phrase; "Bible School will either make you, break you, or ruin you if you let it".

Through certain events that I had laid out before God in prayer I felt certain this was the will and plan for my life. I always had a deep love for the things of God and His Word, so to me this was going to be exciting. There were just somethings I naively figured would be common to all, but would soon find out that, would not be the case.

My parents loaded up the car and we headed off for, what I thought, would be the most exciting time of my life, and for the most part it was. We arrived at the college and I was directed to my room. I was fortunate to be rooming with my cousin Karen that year. After all the hugs and the goodbyes were given, I began to settle in to Bible school life. It wasn't long when I met and made a new BFF ~ Marcia. As the weeks progressed I began to question the will of God. I was beginning to feel unsure whether I really should be there. This happened directly after an altercation with the lady's assistant dean. Nothing major; just what a group of us girls thought was funny, she did not think so. 

One Saturday evening when I came home from being over town I went looking for Marcia, I needed someone to talk too. I couldn't find Marcia so I went looking for another girl, Denise. I was told that these girls, along with some others, were over at the chapel praying. I decided I would join them.

When I arrived at the chapel, which was right next door to the school, the girls were already engaged in prayer. I slipped into the back pew, but after a few minutes I knew I needed to get alone with God, so I went downstairs to the prayer room. Now this part of my story is important because it would come back to mind later on in my third year. I was in the prayer room when I was joined by four other girls. As we continued to pray the Lord spoke through one of the girls and I felt it was directed at me. I had been asking God to show me if I had truly heard from Him and was in His Will by being at school. This is what was spoken that night (to the best of my memory); God confirmed that I was in His Will, but this is the most important part, He also said that there would be rocky roads and valley ahead, but as long as I kept my hand in His He would see me through. I left that prayer meeting refreshed in my spirit and confident in the Lord.

I met my first serious boyfriend that year ~ Ted. He was amazing and we got along fine. We enjoyed each other's company. I made a lot of friends and today I continue to cherish some of those friendships. Everything was going fine until... It was after Christmas, sometime in January 1987, we were given the opportunity to choose what topics we wanted to debate for our debating class. It came down to three hot topics; Divorce and Remarriage, Abortion, and Interracial Marriages. We were advised by the teacher not to take our opinions outside of the classroom. But one person.. 

I have a bi-racial nephew ~ Vincent. At the time he was just a little guy of 7 and he had it in his mind, that when he grew up, he was going to go to Bible college just like his aunt. Well up until this debating class I had many girls come to our room and see the picture of Vince on my dresser and never once was there a comment made. But this one student, after being instructed not to take our opinions outside the classroom, decided he wanted to see what people really thought of interracial relationships. I was shocked at some of the opinions that some people had. Not too mention that now some of the girls would come to our room, pick up the photo of Vince, and ask if he was adopted. When I would tell them no, he was our flesh and blood, attitudes started changing towards me. My boyfriend at the time, Ted, broke up with me when he found out that my nephew was of our flesh and blood. When my opinions did not match up with some of the others, I was told that I was being prejudice against my own race. There were many hurtful words spoken and I began to question the Lord again about my being at school. 

School would be coming to an end in April and I was considering quitting. I began to pray and ask God what I should do. I had so many folks looking up to me from my home church in Edmundston and the there was the old, wanting to making people happy feeling. Wanting to please...especially my mother. I felt like I was loosing a battle I could not win, and in the end, went back in the Fall of 1987 and started my second year.

My cousin Karen and I decided to room again with each other. Everything went smoothly our second year. There was a good group of young adults there and the Spirit of God was strong. We had good chapel times and even just good social times around the school. My two memories that stick out though were the following...

The first memory is of this one night, a bunch of us girls decided we were going to sneak out and connect with some of the guys and head over town for coffee. One of the girls had a small hatchback, so she parked her car on the other side of the chapel. It was sometime after midnight and about 12 or 13 of us snuck out the back door of the girls dorm and we made our way to the car. A small pillow was placed between the front bucket seats so there was three in the front, five in the back seat, and the rest of us were packed in the trunk. (yeah not the safest idea) We made our way down to the boys dorm where some of the guys were waiting and a couple of the girls that were in the back seat got in with them. We were making our way up Smyth Street when one of the girls had said that when a bunch of kids had done this the year before some of the staff were waiting at the coffee shop at the top of the hill, so right there, the driver pulled a 180 and we went for another spot. It may have been a dangerous stunt then but we often laugh about it now. 

The second is another fun memory. It was a Monday morning. In the early hours we were awaken to the sound of a big bang. Most of the girls rushed out to see what was going on. And for some of the girls...well they had a much harder time getting out. It seemed that, sometime during the night, some girls decided to play some pranks. So here's what things looked like that morning; some doors had garbage bags taped over them, others were tied using pantyhose to tie around the door knob then tied around the railing just outside their doors, while others had some big plants set in front of them. And what was the big bang? There was this one girl who had a part-time job on Monday mornings. She was up and trying to be ever so quiet. But someone had managed to rig up an old wooden dutch shoe, so that when the door was opened the shoe swung back and hit the door. Well needless to say....everyone was up and wide awake. Overall, second year was a good year. To write about everything, would take longer than what I have, and so we'll now move on to my third and final year, which would turn out to be the most trying... 

Third year started with some changes but nothing too drastic. It was rather interesting for me to say the least; I had my nephew and older sister in first year, and my niece and brother-in-law in second. Who would have thought back in 1967 that one day I'd be going to school with my older sister who was 19 years older that me. I bet ya she didn't see it There was one big change though and that was to the spirituality of the school. Spiritually speaking, the school seemed to be on a decline. The Presence of God seemed to be a long way off. Now that doesn't mean He left, but the school was under attack. What that would look like no one could say. But there would be repercussions in the long term for so many people. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV); For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The Easy-to-Read Version of this verse says it like this; Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. There was a spiritual war that was being waged between God and the devil for the ruin of the student body. And like any war that is fought, sadly there would be some casualties. What I did not anticipate is that I would be one of the many casualties.

The Fall months were progressing and everyone was settling into the routine. Being that you were studying the Scriptures I found myself full of questions but not getting too many answers. What I was seeing in Scripture was not adding up to what I was being taught. And when I would ask questions it seemed that most of the time the teachers were trying to evade my question or would say that I was not reading the Scriptures properly. A lot of what I was beginning to question was the UPC dogma or "belief system". I soon learned that there were just some questions you didn't ask and so I formed like a mental box that I stored up all my questions in with the hopes that maybe some day I'd get some clear answers too.

We were approaching Christmas, and I was looking forward to going home for the holidays, when my world came to a crashing halt. The lady's dean was away, most of the girls were away on weekend passes to visit family or on ministry in some local church, so it was just a few of us and the lady's assistant dean. I will not go into detail but will say that on this particular weekend I was sexually assaulted. I was devastated, confused, and totally blind sited. I never thought that something of this nature would ever, could ever, happen within the walls of a Bible college. I remember having a shower one evening and crying out to God and asking Him "WHY"? Why did this happen again. Had I not done everything that was expected of me? Had I not dotted all my I's and crossed my T's when it came to following all the "rules" that were required of me. Had I not done all the He (God) had required of me? So why did this happen? My mind went back to my first year and that prayer meeting and I recalled what the Lord had said about going through valleys and walking upon rocky roads. I again cried out to Him letting Him know that He said valleys and rocky roads, He said nothing of a deep dark dungeon. 

As the days progressed it was soon time for the Christmas break. I went home, and though I never once said anything to my parents, my mom had a feeling that something was wrong. It was hard attending church, a lot of the folks there were "huggy" type people. Again; they saw a change in me but most figured it was because graduation was just months away and I was trying to figure out what I was going to to. I was also dating and we had started talking about marriage, so that was on my plate as well. Christmas break came to an end and I was on a bus heading back to school. In a way I felt trapped. I couldn't say anything, because then I'd have to say what was really going on, and that just couldn't happen. My mum already knew about my childhood molestation, and she never wanted me to go to Bible School, so I just felt I couldn't say anything.

Once back at school we had some police officers come to the school. Apparently there had been a couple of attempted sexual assaults happen down by the bridge, so it was suggested that if any of us girls had to go out after six in the evening to go out in groups. Same with walking to church on Sunday mornings or evening. The boys from the school were encouraged to walk along side of us too. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians that; "the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one". Sometimes even when we consider doing something stupid, and I was about to do something stupid, as I rationalized in my mind that it couldn't be any worse than what had happened within the walls of a religious school, God will still organize the situation so that in the end His protection is upon you.

It was a Monday evening and it was shortly after six pm. Everyone was settling in to do homework or just sitting around playing games, when I decided I was going to head out. It wasn't that I didn't care, I just figured that if anything happened while out for a walk that it couldn't be any worse and maybe, just maybe I could then be able to talk about it and not the other and too, maybe I could go home. I headed out and got maybe half way down the walk way when Sis Munn, the ladys dean, called to me and asked me where I was going. I told her I was going for a walk and no one was wanting to go with me, so I was going alone. She suggested I go back in and have a cup of hot tea and talk with her. I attempted the same again a couple of days later but this time just as I got half way again the phone rang and one of the girls called after me saying it was my mum on the phone. God's hand was protecting me. I didn't see it that way at the time, but somebody was praying and God was looking out for me.

Right about now you are no doubt wondering if I finally told anyone and the answer is no. Even when the principle of the school came to me on two separate occasions to ask me if there was anything wrong, the second time letting me know that there was a drop in my marks, not enough to fail, just enough that I dropped from the honor roll, no I did not even tell then. My answer was always the same; I was fine. But there were changes in me and I guess some people took notice; I wasn't out going, I wasn't participating in church services like I use too, and I just hung back and didn't get too involved with anything or anyone. There was a total personality change. I went from being an out going person to a quiet withdrawn person. In chapel, on Fridays when the whole student body would gather for chapel sometime the song leader would request to sing the chorus; Bind Us Together Lord, I hated this song. Why? Because when ever this song would be sung the leader would suggest that if there were those who maybe offended someone that week to go to that person and make things right. The one who had hurt me would use this time to whisper in my ear to make sure to keep silent. I got to the point that whenever this song was suggested I would head down to the safety of the girls washroom till the song was over. 

I had three months to get through and I kept silent. I would sometimes cry myself to sleep, wishing that God would just take me while I slept. I was growing angry every day and sometimes that anger would slip out and I'd felt bad. But I kept silent. I was shutting down. I was building an invisible wall around my heart one that would soon be so thick and so tall that not even God could get through, or so I thought. However; I do remember one Sunday evening as I knelt down at my pew; I told the Lord then, that if I never felt His Presence in my life again, I would still continue to serve Him. I mean really what was the alternative.

I graduated from Bible College in April 1989. It was suppose to be the happiest time of my life. My family was all there, friends, cousins, but I was angry. Matter a fact I did tell my cousin Karen, that while this was suppose to be the happiest time of my life, I just wanted to knock people out. The day after graduation I left New Brunswick and I never looked back. I moved to Montreal Quebec where I started a new life, but the new life would still be haunted by the deep dark secrets I was carrying, and it wouldn't be long before those secrets would rear their ugly heads.

When you go through deep waters, 
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. 
Isaiah 43:2-3  

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Looking Back Over Eighteen Years...

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” 
― Yvonne Woon

This week's post will simply be a time of looking back over the past eighteen years of my life. Not all of my eighteen years were rough, there were some happy moments a long the way. My parents were the best and life really was great. My dad was a hard worker who loved his family, though that was not always shown emotionally, as he was raised under a different way than some dad's are today. My mum on the other hand was a very emotional person who came from a family who shared and expressed their feelings, though both my parents loved the Lord, my mum was the spiritual leader in our home. Though I think my dad could have been if it had not been the view of the UPC church that he was considered unsaved. But when I think back on this way of UPC thinking you could say it worked in our favor as kids...

I have made mention to the UPC lists of do's and don't's. I think by the time you hit the teen years you pretty much got an idea of what is expected of you. But if you're anything like me some times the do's and don't's just don't make sense. And when something doesn't make sense and you question it and that person really doesn't have a good answer, that's when the "fear of the rapture" card comes out. But just so you don't think I am way out to lunch in what I am writing I will copy an overview of some of the UPC rules as found in their most updated 2016 UPC Manuel that anyone can download from off the internet. Remember these are just an overview...

~Every UPC licensed minister must read and agreed to the Articles of Faith. This is a requirement to be licensed and is attested to in their license application.

~In addition, ministers are required to sign an affirmation every two years that they embrace and believe the Fundamental Doctrine of the Articles of Faith.

~Besides requiring that ministers adhere to the Articles of Faith, it may come as a surprise to some UPC church members that they, too, may also be expected to abide by these beliefs. This is specified in the UPC ministerial manual, under the section on local church government that may be used by any church wishing to adopt it for their by-laws. Article II, Section 1:1 states that "Anyone believing in and accepting the Apostolic doctrine as set forth in our Articles of Faith is eligible to become a member."

Now the following is an overview of the UPC Articles Of  Faith (the do's and don't's)...

~The UPC stipulates that baptism is a requirement for salvation. They teach that a person's sins are washed away in baptism and therefore it is essential that one be properly baptized. Therefore, baptism must be by full water immersion and in the name of Jesus or one's baptism is invalid and they are unsaved.

~The UPC teaches that one must be filled with the Holy Ghost, with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (a language that is not known by the believer), in order to be saved. In other words, if a believer has not spoken in tongues, God's Spirit is not in them, and they are therefore lost. 

~Their fundamental doctrine of full salvation is such: "repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance." (It is interesting to note that the mention of remission of sins was not part of the original fundamental doctrine statement in 1945, but was added in 1973.)

Concerning standards, they believe in Godly living, in which their views on what constitutes such consist of the following:

~The UPC wholeheartedly disapproves of its people indulging in any activities which are not conducive to good Christianity and Godly living, such as theaters, dances, mixed bathing, women cutting their hair, make-up, amusements, and unwholesome radio programs and music. Furthermore, because of the display of all these evils on television, the UPC disapproves of any of its people having television sets in their homes. We admonish all of our people to refrain from any of these practices in the interest of spiritual progress and the soon coming of the Lord for His church." (What I find interesting is that, I know many young UPC ministers and their families along with some folks in their congregations today who take part in a lot of the above mentioned and who also have TV's in their homes. Doesn't this create hypocrisy??)

Under a section entitled 'Public School Activities' it is stated that:

~The UPC disapproves of school students attending shows, dances, dancing classes, theatres, engaging in school activities against their religious scruples, and wearing gymnasium clothes which immodestly expose the body.

~The UPC disapproves of school students being forced to take co-educational classes which involve boys and girls being mixed together in swimming, calisthenics, baseball, and other mixed athletics while clothed in ungodly attire which immodestly exposes the body.

Now the following "rules" of, what is referred to as the "standards" or "holiness" teachings, are not found in the Articles Of Faith, however every minister is aware of them and teach them in their churches, while others may be added by the individual pastor. Some ministers teach that your salvation is at stake if you do not abide by these rules. (This was the case when I, and so many others I know of, were growing up) For instance;

~There is an issue of sleeve length. Most would probably teach that a sleeveless shirt would be wrong to wear, without mandating how long the sleeve should be. Another may mandate sleeves be no shorter than the elbow, with others stipulating they must be to the wrist.

~Shorts are normally taught against for both sexes. Some allow culottes on women, while others forbid them. Gauchos and Capri are usually disallowed. Pants are not to be worn by women and men should not go shirtless.

~Facial hair on men in many churches is discouraged and their hair should be short while a woman is never to cut or trim her hair. Long hair is translated to mean uncut hair in I Corinthians 11. Some teach a woman's spirituality and/or salvation hinges on whether or not she abides by this teaching. Others teach a woman has special power in her long, uncut hair. There are ministers who mandate that women wear their hair up.

~Women are to wear dresses or skirts. Some require a set length, while others advise it should be at least to the knee. Pantyhose may or may not be required.

~There are ministers who teach against all jewelry, while others will allow a pin, ring or watch. Others claim you'll be lost if you wear a wedding ring. 

~Radio used to be spoken against. However, for years the UPC has been broadcasting a radio program. Movies are not allowed. Televisions should not be owned, however limited use of video was approved. (Yet if you want your license as a minister in the UPC, you are asked if you have a television in your home. If you answer 'yes', even if it is only for video purposes, your application will be denied at General Headquarters in Missouri.) There is a resolution that will be presented to the ministers at the 2013 General Conference in the fall that seeks to remove the mention of television from their manual.

~Video use is "strictly limited to those areas in which motion picture cameras and projectors are traditionally permitted to be used; namely, in taking of pictures of family, friends, and church activities, and the viewing of educational, religious, or inspirational films which are consistent with wholesome Christian principles. The UPC further resolves their strong opposition to viewing of all worldly motion pictures and video films as are being shown commercially in theaters and on television for entertainment purposes for the ungodly masses, and the use of them in any form for God's people. The UPC further resolves that all video receivers be so altered as to be unable to receive television channels. The UPC further resolves that none of its ministers use video in any way except as herein provided.

~The UPC passed position papers against organized sports and the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The King James Version is accepted as the "most accurate translation of the Scriptures to be used in our churches and among our people." (Interestingly yet again, I know of UPC ministers and congregation families, who have their children signed up in organized sports, as well I have heard UPC ministers use other translations of the Bible when they have been preaching) 

I would like to reiterate that all the above mentioned "unspoken rules" are taught by some ministers, that your "salvation is at stake" if you do not abide by these rules. When I was a kid growing up UPC, if I wanted to go to the fair with my friends, I would be told that if I wanted to I could go, but...if I did go and the rapture happened, the Lord would not go looking for me in those fair grounds to take me out. This reasoning would be said for every thing that was considered "of the world".

Concluding with some interesting facts about the UPC under its present leadership ~ David Bernard;

~Since David Bernard became General Superintendent in 2010, there has been a continual push for "Apostolic Identity" in reinforcing UPC positions on holiness. In one of the 2009 issues of Forward Magazine, their official ministerial publication, there was an article about speaking against the manual, as well as an article by Bernard on the necessity of women having uncut hair.

So this was my world growing up. These were the "standard" that I had to adhere to or my salvation would be questioned. Remember me saying earlier, that in the eyes of the UPC my father was considered "unsaved". Well at least with this thinking we got to have a TV in our home. Interestingly though, when Baseball or Hockey season came around, I can remember the pastor and his wife coming around and sitting in the livingroom to watch the games with my parents.  

I'd like to share with you a story form when I was about 16. Remember the "rapture trump card"? Well I was staying at a pastor's home in Middlesex NB. Their son and family were also visiting. I was sleeping on the couch. There was a patio door that looked out over the back bush area of the home. On this particular night I was awaken to a flash of light. I lay there frozen in panic listening to see if I could hear any thunder. I couldn't hear anything. Another blaze of light went across the sky lighting up the whole backyard. I got so scarred. I panicked. I began to fear the worse, that the rapture took place and I was left behind. I remembered preachers saying that children under 12 would automatically go to heaven so I made my way into the livingroom to see if the baby was still on the sofa. I was relieved to find the baby still there. So I went back to bed, but let me tell you I couldn't wait to get to church the next day. This was my life, a constant fear of the rapture and especially during New Years Eve services. While most of the folks were rejoicing and praying the old year out and the new year in, I would be begging God not to come that night, to give me another year to get "things" right.

Please understand; I don't blame my parents. I'm sure stuff like this, there would be those who would blame their parents, but I don't. As I said once before, my mum was the one who carried out the teaching of us kids. She was my rock during all those trips to Montreal for doctor visits and hospital stays. I was very close to my mum. What you have to understand is, she was teaching us what she was being told. What she herself was taught as a teen growing up. So if I "blame" anyone, it is the rigid, judgmental, religious, dogma of the United Pentecostal Church. I had very good parents. But when a person is raised all their lives under a strict code and your taught not to question just "do", then it's hard to see and believe any differently. I would be considered a third generation Pentecostal, so it was in our blood so to speak.

Because of this, I knew what was expected of me, and because of my personality, I wanted to please and make people happy, especially my mum. I also wanted to keep God happy. So when graduation came around I had the choice of going off to Nursing School or make my way to Bible College.

The year before High School graduation I was in one of my doctor visits and he was asking me if I had put any thought into what I would like to do after graduation. I told him I was thinking Nursing School. This didn't surprise my doctor, after all, eighteen years of hospital visits, many doctors and nurses, it would be the obvious choice. But my doctor was concerned of the many hours a nurse spends on her feet so he suggested I not become a nurse but a doctor. When I calculated up all the years of schooling I'd have to take, and I didn't like school at the best of times, that was just waaaaay too much. lol So I started to consider Bible College. But again I was met with some opposition. My mum had her reasons for not wanting me to go. My pastor at the time felt like I would not be able to keep up with the demands of Bible College. What was I to do??

The Summer of '85, we were at Family Camp at Harvey NB. I was over visiting with my uncle, my mum's brother, uncle Ray Priest. He was asking me if I had any thoughts on what I'd like to do after graduation. I told him that I was thinking I'd like to go to Bible College but that mum was against the idea and so was my pastor. My uncle looked at me and said; "Paula, when you were born the doctors did not expect you to live. They did not expect you to walk or run and do all the things that most kids do. God gave you a determination to prove to the medical world, that with God all things are possible. Now what you need to do is, to allow that same God given determination, to prove to the ministry that you can over come that too".

My mind was made up and through a course of events that happened over the following year, I believed that going to Bible college was what God had in mind for me. My mum was happy, my family was happy, and my pastor and church family were happy. Everyone was happy and I was on my way...

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, 
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future, 
And life is worth the living, 
Just because He lives!   

Monday, 28 March 2016

Sr High (10-12) And Growing Up UPC

Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you 
the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalm 37:4-5

I got through my Jr high years with only having to repeat grade eight. I had to have corrective surgery, which we thought wouldn't interrupt my schooling  so we had the surgery scheduled for the March break but in the end, I ended up missing several weeks of school which set me back. This coupled with my mum having her first heart attack, my nephew who was in our care at the time, and someone had to stay home and tend to him and keep the house while my mum recuperated. 

I was looking forward to Sr High. I knew there would be at least four other girls from my church who would also be attending the same school and so I was hoping that these years would be a little different from the previous years. But things didn't turn out that way. Two of the girls were French and hung out with the French crowd the other two, well we just didn't come together. We ran in different circles so to speak. There were still the other Christians from my Jr High but I was still not encouraged to befriend them. Now some of them even shared in some of my classes. They would talk to me but I made sure not to get too close. Always having it tucked in the back of my mind that they weren't truly Christians. They weren't saved. 

Not much had changed; my challenges now were still centered around my "religion" and defending the standards. Some of which I was still questioning. We had no Youth group so I had very little youth fellowship. I began to take note that the PAOC in St Jacques NB had a huge Youth Group that met on Friday night. Now; they could have had ten youth and it would have been bigger that my church, but then again like I said, we didn't have a Youth Group. But these folks had a BIG Youth Group. I so wanted a Youth Group. With all that had happened in my life, with all the secret pain that I was carrying inside, with all the confusion and even anger just tucked below the surface, I loved the Lord with every fiber of my being. Even, as I stated before, even if that love was there out of fear, I loved God. And I just wanted some fellowship with my peers.

 As stated in my previous blog/post there was a Pentecostal Assemblies not far from my home twon of Edmundston. It had a huge Youth group and it also had a larger congregation than our. But my point is that at the time, they had a youth group and my church didn't.

A revival hit the PAOC church both within it's adults as well as it's young people. People were getting saved. The Holy Spirit was moving, people were even getting healed. I couldn't understand it. How was it possible? Sometime during lunch breaks or library breaks I would see the other Christian kids reading their Bible. They always looked so happy. I'd have the odd conversation with them but that would leave me confused. There was nothing in their conversations that didn't make it look like they were serving Jesus.

A friend of mine who was getting married used the PAOC church to hold her ceremony in. While I was there waiting for everything to get started I decided to take a walk around. As I made my way looking around the different Sunday School classrooms, I found myself becoming more confused as all the sayings and posters were all very much the same sayings and posters that hung on the walls of my churches classrooms. I went up stairs to the Sanctuary and made my way to the front. Looking around and making sure no one saw me, I walked over to their remembrance table and took a look at their Bible. Again I was met with more questions as to my surprise, their Bible was no different than the one which lied on our remembrance table at my church.

Confused I decided to get ready one day and head over to my pastors house. I had some questions and I was hoping for some answers. When I got there my pastor was home and some tea was brewing. After the idle chit chat I got into why I was there. I explained my confusion and began to question why I wasn't allowed to hang out with these other Christian kids whom I had more in common with than the few non Christian friends that I did hang out with? I asked how come I couldn't attend their Youth services seeing as we didn't have any? I asked why were these folks considered unsaved when everything about them; their walk, their lifestyle,everything I saw when at the church for the wedding, told me they were saved? I then asked the question; why was this church experiencing a revival with people getting saved and other people receiving healings? Did I get an answer? Yes I did. But again it would leave me with more confusion. I was told by my pastor that these people did not serve the same God they we served. That they served a different God and the Holy Spirit was a different Holy Spirit too than ours. I was told that no matter how much they look like they are saved, until they come to know the "truth" as we knew it, they were not saved and were bound for hell.

I did not understand. By the end of that afternoon, I got the clear understanding that there were just some questions I was not to ask. Even if it was questions about my own churches beliefs, it was cut and dry, this is what you believe because it's the Bible and no more questions that go contrary to those belief standards. And so; on life went as I blindly followed what was expected of me. But still the confusion hung just below the surface and so did everything else.

I graduated from High School even with missing some time due to surgery again. Though I was missing a couple of credits to having my actual diploma, I really was tired of high school and just still dealing with some of the tauntings and questions about my church and it's restrictive and sometimes weird beliefs. Some of the arguments when debating certain topics like; "you wont go to a baseball game, but you'll sit around and watch it on TV"? You wont go to the movies but you'll sit down and watch a video"? If Jesus turned the water into just grape juice, wouldn't Matthew have said that? Why would Jesus turn water into wine if it really wasn't? I finally, because I didn't understand it, I just got to the point where I would just say, "that's what my church believes". If my church said it was this way than that's they way it was.

There are so many stories running through my head. During this time my brother had come back to the Lord, though again he was not attending a UPC church. Friends would come over to visit and my mum and they would get talking. On the one hand my mum would say, "well; at least he's off the streets and I don't have to worry". But by the end of the day when she would be saying her prayers at night, I would hear her crying out to God to save her son. A few times when we were in Montreal I would go to church with my brother, again I would be left with confusion, as these folks looked saved to me.

This one time, my whole family were out eating at a restaurant. It was a Sunday afternoon. We had all attended a UPC church that morning and I had plan, that when my brother met us later that afternoon at the restaurant, I was going to go to church with him. As we were finishing up our meal and getting ready to go our separate ways, I was asked by a family member if I would be in church later. I responded with that I was going to go to church with my brother. Without hesitation this family member told me that I was going to go to hell because I was going to a non UPC church. And this would not be the first time I would here this. Between this and the "rapture" trump card. My life was governed by fear. My life was constantly trying to please the system, God, my family, and in the end my mother. It was just an never ending cycle. But as crazy as it all was; God was still in the fore front. Though there were times when I wanted to just wanted to run from it all, there was just something...maybe Someone who wouldn't let me go.

God walks the dark hills
The ways, the by ways
He walks through the billows
Of life's troubled sea
He walks through the cold dark night
The shadows of midnight
God walks the dark hills
Just to guide you and me
God walks the dark hills
To guide my footsteps
He walks everywhere
By night and by day
He walks in the silence
On down the highway
God walks the dark hills
To show me the way


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Junior High Years (7-8) and Growing Up UPC...

"I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: 
I am like a broken vessel" 
Psalm 31:12

 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good 
in order to bring about this present result...
Genesis 50:20

I finished up my six years of elementary by the "seat of my pants" as the old saying goes. During a Parent/Teacher meeting it was suggested to my mum that maybe they should hold me back a year. I was passing, just barely mind you, and my teacher felt it was due. in part. to all the bullying that I was experiencing. Most of my teachers said that I could have been an A student, but because of the stress of the weekly tauntings, my grade levels were mostly B's and C's. However; in the end it was decided upon that I would enter Junior High (7), and if need be, could repeat grade 7. 

Grade seven started out a little rough. Paul Dube, my nemesis from my elementary years, tried to start up the bullying once again. But this time it was brought to a quick end. I had very few friends and the one friend I did have, well we had very little in common. While I was the church going kid who wasn't involved in the party life and all that entails, she was the party girl who got into a fair amount of heartache. But when she wasn't parting we were the closest of friends. I guess you could say she was my BFF.

Most days at school were fine no major complaints. The teachers for the most part were nicer and my grades were improving. My challenges were mainly standing up for my faith and what I believed in. The bullying had pretty much come to an end and we were all getting along. The challenges that I was beginning to face were not coming from the school but secrets that I was carrying that no one knew of. Questions about my "faith", about God, and the biggest question of all, "WHY"

The story of Joseph from the Bible has some similarities to mine. When Joseph says of his family that, what they meant for evil God had turned it around for good, this would be a reflection of my own life and the secret pain that I was going through. The only difference I would not be able to see the good until years later down the road.

Because of the sensitivity of the following subject and out of respect for family members I will only make reference to the happenings in my life during this time. Most everyone who reads this can figure out what the necessary words mean. I will not go into detail or mention names, but you will get the picture.   

I was eleven and a half when the molestation started by an extended family member. This went on until I was about thirteen. This was something that I could not understand. So many times I had heard preachers say that as God's children He would protect us from evil. I could not understand why God had allowed this and why He didn't protect me from this evil. You may be wondering right now; didn't she tell anyone? The answer to your question is; no. This person was very well known, was very well liked, and did a lot to help family and friends. So as a young child I felt that if I told, no one would really believe me because he was so nice. But there did come a point, after the death of this person, that I did tell my mum and thank God she believed me. But for the duration of the abuse I suffered in silence.

During this stage of growing into teen years, for any young girl, the new experience of taking note of the opposite sex is of big interest. Also is the awareness of body image. It was after a junior youth camp and I was at home, I had received a letter from a boy I met at camp. A family member was visiting and we had just gotten into an argument. When they entered the dinning room where I was sitting answering the boys letter the old saying of; sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me, is not true. Words do hurt and they're lasting effects can last, sometimes, a lifetime. When asked what I was doing the response to my answer, that I was responding to a letter from this boy, was cruel. Let me say here that because my immediate family never once made me feel to be "different" from anyone else, after what this person said I knew just how different I was. I was told to wake up to my reality; that no man was every going to love me because I was scared, because I had a colostomy, and because I could not have children. The bullying I took in my elementary years was nothing compared to this hurt and from a family member...

At church we were experiencing a revival. Many folks were coming in and it just seemed like that most of the young couples that were coming in were all expecting babies. One night after coming home from church I ran upstairs and shut myself in the bathroom. This would be the first time that I ever got angry with God, and boy did I let Him know. And just for the record here, let me say that if you are angry at God, it's OK, He can handle it, just read the book of Job. So I was in the bathroom and I let God know just how angry I was. I asked Him why He chose me to be created in the way that He did. I asked Him, out of the four of us kids, why He couldn't have dumped something on to one of my other siblings. I never did get my answer right then.

I believe I told you about my BFF from junior high, the non Christian, well in my junior high school there were five other Christians; three were from the Pentecostal Assemblies, one was an Anglican, and one was a Baptist. Here's what I could never figure out, I had more in common with the five other Christians than I had with my non Christian friend. Yet time and again; I was discouraged from hanging out with these five Christians. And why? Though they, in every way, looked and acted Christ like, I was told that they were unsaved, that they didn't have the "truth" like we did.

More and more I had questions about the things that was being taught at my church. More and more I was confused by the messages of how Christ died for everyone, but when I would point out certain types of sinners, then God's love was limited. I myself often struggled with the unseen UPC bar code. Just when I thought I got things right, the unseen bar code was raised a little higher, and I would realize I had to work harder still. Most of my time spent at the altar was crying and begging God not to come till I could figure out how to get it right.

One of the many "fear tactics" that was used in my home was the "rapture" card. When I wanted to do something or go with my friends some where it was always the same, "well Paula; if you want to do that, or go there, or wear that, and the Lord was to return, He's not going to go there to get you, or if you're wearing that, He's not going to take you up in the rapture.

My dad; was a good man. He followed the UPC rules as best as anyone could. He just had, well two problems; he had a constant battle with cigarettes and he didn't speak in "tongues" as required for salvation, according to UPC dogma. I had a very hard time with this. And when you live with the constant notion that, unless your dad gets his game on, even though he's doing everything else right, your dad is going to hell, it's tough on a kid/teen. I got to the point where I couldn't take it any more and I just wanted out.   

There was this bridge in Edmundston, I use to cross it every time I went down to the park. You could either cross the upper bridge or you could go down a hill and under the bridge over like a dame. Well many a times as I said, I would cross over this bridge to head down to the park. With every thing going on around me and all the hurt and confusion building up inside of me; from issues at school to the secret of the molestation that I was carrying, to the religious dogma that was so judgmental and condemning, I had made up my mind at fifteen that I was going to end it all. I got on my bike this one day, never even said anything to my mum, (and she passed away not ever knowing that I ever had thoughts of suicide) and headed out for the bridge. I can tell you, the Lord had other plans for me that day. I stopped in the middle of the bridge. As I stood there, I looked down, and there was this BIG old rock. I thought to myself, how did that get there. How come I never saw that rock there before. I then started to think that if I did jump there was no way of avoiding that rock and that would cause some serious pain. For as many times as I have spent in a hospital, I don't like pain. I decided that I wasn't going to do it and I got back on my bike and went down to the park where I swung for awhile on the swings.

I will never understand the workings of the Lord or how at the right moment He changes things up and what the enemy thought he could scheme up to end a life, God steps in and says, not today your not. These were lonely confusing years. But some how through it all I still maintained a hope and a love for God, even if that love was based in fear.

You were there when it all came down on me
And I was blinded by my fear
And I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments
You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story's always gone

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Through all of it