Gaslighting & the Unraveling…

A promise made is a promise to be kept.
And God knows I’d rather forget.

It has been a few weeks since June 8… that fateful day in the present situation with attempting to expose an offender, and challenge the way the case was handled. Soon after that day, and after my ‘apology blog’, I pulled down the blogs I had written that opened up the crazy can of worms… or snakes… that led to that day in the first place.

I pulled all the blogs after discovering my apology was not warranted. I wrote it in sincerity, having been made to believe that I was wrong about the offender’s repentance and the way in which his public ‘confession’ came about. But I also wrote it in absolute confusion because the evidence I had didn’t line up with what I was made to believe. And I pulled them because I needed time to process the shock factor at discovering I had been tripped and gas-lighted.

I have yet to fully understand all the motives behind that day, but I made a promise to tell the truth that I know, after a bit of rest.

On June 4 an apology was posted by the man who sexually assaulted one young woman, and made sexually explicit phone calls to many others. I was told that it was a coached apology, written by a group of men – and that this information came from the leader I previously called into questions, who had been part of that process. On June 7, I called that out because of the incredible damage it was doing to the victims. The leader who knew about the sexual assault, and did nothing to protect other vulnerable individuals, had played a role in this ‘apology’, and had asked one of the leaders I was working with if it would ‘help’ if the abuser apologized. And then, as the attacks and poop-flinging ensued, he watched the destruction and attacks without the integrity to step in and intervene, but instead ‘liked’ abusive comments… on the bogus ‘confession’. (A pastor involved told me that he ‘is not repentant, but wants to be’.) Shortly after calling this out, a comment was posted attacking me. It was so vile and abusive it left me shocked. (And it takes a lot to shock me.)

In the wee hours of June 8, having spent a sleepless night processing what it all meant, another message came in…  I had spent the night struggling with the abusive comment, and the fact that this leader who works with sexual abuse victims would think such an apology was a good idea, (and then stand back and watch the destruction… as though that was ‘helping’), without the honour to stop it and admit what had been done.

And then I read the message that came in from one of the leaders I had worked with and trusted, “Trudy the misinformation coming from your public posts is staggering. It is truth with assigned motives that are very faulty. I also know about the editing. And why it was edited...” (There is a bigger piece to this that I am not free to tell, but will say that this leader did not agree with a half-baked confession, and if his advice had been taken, things would have shaken out very differently.)

I read it. Numb. Shock.

First, I understood ‘it is truth’ as meaning that the confession was true and sincere, and ‘with assigned motives’ as meaning that I was assigning faulty motives to the confession. And in that moment, I was a young teen, waiting to be excommunicated again. The allegations were not true, back then; I had not sinned the sins I was accused of. And in that moment, I was hurled into full blow flashback and PTSD. (It was not the first time in this experience of attempting to confront the abuser and bring an end to the abuse and hold leaders accountable that this happened. A previous time was when I was told that the leader (who appears to be) protecting the abuser, rates the man at a ‘3 out of 10’ for risk and/or perversion “because he gets no sexual pleasure from what he does”. Wait… Wha…?  I can’t even go there…)

In 27 years of working through my past, I recall a total of 6 … maybe 7 extreme PTSD/flashbacks. At least 3 have occurred in the past 3 months of dealing with this scenario and attempting to work with leaders, while watching as sexual abuse is downplayed, victims are re-victimized, and I am gaslighted. It is not an easy thing to deal with high level abuse. And hearing things like rating an offender a ‘3 out of 10’ because ‘he gets no sexual gratification from his crimes’ was horrifying on so many levels. That means many, if not most, child molesters are not a big deal because many touch the child without any form of penetration. This, again, effectively makes it all about the offender. God forbid we look too closely at the hell it brings into a child’s life.

By June 9 two things happened. I was informed that, in fact, what I had written in my status updates was truth. It was a group effort apology, and was intended to calm the chaos. (I am no longer convinced I was ‘off’ in what I assigned to it. It was to protect the offender, as I understand/see it, by calming the chaos. And such apologies always serve only to further victimize the victims and make the offender look good. It’s wicked, in my opinion and is often mentioned by victims as being one of the most damaging things in they have suffered in religious context related to the handling of abuse they suffered. “Let your yay be yay…” Don’t say an apology that isn’t true. That’s not appropriate. And if the man *wants* to be repentant, for heaven’s sake, help him face the consequences and stop lying to himself so he *can* be repentant!)

The other thing that happened by June 9, is that several people (unrelated to each other, and still unknown to each other) called me to tell me to watch my back. One said the leader close to the abuser had said I’m a Jezebel (more than once, over a period of months since January). And another said the leader called me a matriarchal woman and called one of the victims is a matriarchal witch. They commented on his hatred for Jezebel and his determination to destroy ‘Jezebel’. (Based on this, they were concerned that the leader was assigning his hatred for Jezebel to me, since that is who/what I represent to him.) Rather than ‘throw me’ or upset me, it brought clarity and understanding, and helped put all the ‘crazy’ in context.

I draw a line in the sand. I stand against abuse, and this is spiritual abuse to which I will not subject myself, and against which I will take a firm stand, not only for my sake but also for the sake of every woman and man subjected to this kind of abuse while Christian leaders rise up to protect each other. Until full ownership is taken (by him) for this abuse, and other abusive behaviours (by this leader), I am taking a firm stand to endorse nothing and partner with nothing in ministry that involves this leader. And ownership includes acknowledging the careless handling of the situation, disregarding those who approached him before me (at least 5 godly men and women – info that was forwarded to me via someone the leader’s wife shared it with), and apologizing for the name-calling and spiritual abuse.

I am choosing a path of forgiveness, but not a path of silence. And forgiveness also does not mean I won’t have firm boundaries, because forgiveness does not include letting abuse go unchallenged. And if we cannot hold each other accountable as leaders for abusive behaviours and putting others at risk then shame on us all. If we fear the blood-bath at our feet, when it involves leaders and ministries, and don’t recognize that the bloodbath has been going on for victims for many generations, with no one to intervene for them…. If we protect leaders and/or from consequences for abuse, and don’t protect victims from such individuals., then we have failed…. and God have mercy on us all.

I do not know where things stand with this whole situation, as far as what other leaders are doing with it. But I do know I am taking a stand against abuse, and I stand firm on the evidence and the account I have given of this situation.

If you have questions, send me an email. If it’s out of curiosity with no higher purpose, I’m not interested in engaging. If it’s to destroy people – whether ‘them’ or me – I’m not interested. If it’s for the sake of truth and for the good of your community, the actors involved here or some positive end, I’m more than willing to interact.

as always

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

The bride’s train… White boots… Gangrene… and dead children

Her white gown flowed with grace and beauty. She was stunning. The bride. She stood at some distance from me, and I watched. Who was she? What was that glow? I couldn’t see her eyes clearly, but I had no doubt they sparkled with joy. Her ruby lips, full and sweet carried the kiss of love for her Bridegroom.

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I, a stranger, watched from the fence line of my property. I didn’t know the bride or her groom, but when everyone talks about the most amazing wedding of all time – even greater than Prince Charles and Lady Diana, or their children’s weddings. The greatest wedding ever. That’s what the rumour was, when I heard it. So, from my place, my yard, I watched it unfold. She moved closer, the bride, on her path toward the groom, where he stood waiting to make her his. His eyes… Oh his eyes….

My heart skipped a beat, and a tear slipped down my face. Such love! I wondered what it would be like… But I pushed that thought back. Not me. Not in my world. Such love has no room in the rejected ones. My mind slipped back in time. I could hear my father beating her, the woman who had carried and birthed me. I was three then. I heard her, the woman who gave birth to me, curse me, curse my siblings, call us things… things so dark that I felt like a whore. I was still three then. I turned again to the bride, to the groom, trying to grasp this love…  But, no, that love was not my destiny. I would always be one of the rejected ones, the unlovables. Best to not dream…

I could see her eyes now… the sparkle. Another tear … and then another. Oh, if only I could be part of that wedding! There were crowds and crowds on the other side of the fence, all wearing white. It was breathtaking…

But, I … I was one of the castaway ones.

And then, as the bride moved closer, the most amazing thing happened.  She turned, in her glory, and her eyes looked right into mine. She raised her hand, gesturing for me to come join the wedding. I looked at my overall denim jumper, my gardening gloves covered in dirt, weeds still hanging from my hand. I looked at my weedy garden. And I shook my head, looking down, ashamed. She moved closer. I could smell the sweet perfume and hear her voice singing. The bride was singing to me, still beckoning.

I looked at the crowd. The white, in stark contrast with my rubber boots, covered in mud. They sang. The words. Why were they praising the groom, but also singing my name? Why was the bride beckoning? I looked around as if to find someone to pinch me and wake me. Surely this had to be a dream… a vision. I was nobody. Worthless. But the singing continued. They were all inviting me to join the wedding march. “Come just as you are”, they sang.

The bride pointed to the groom. He stood there, holding a white dress, for me. There was water for me to wash myself. Overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do. I crawled over that old fence and ran to the Groom. Having washed, and dressed in white, I joined the crowd. The words of the song formed on my lips, and I sang. From my heart, I sang of the wonderful groom. And when I met them, the people on the other side of the fence, the bride and I sang the praises of the groom, and the names of those we met. Some joined. Some didn’t. All was well.

We were dressed, we were fed, we had every need met. I hardly thought of the past, the beatings, the name-calling, the rapes and abuse I had suffered. My new life was good. Too good to be true. But it was true. No one shook my body, calling my name to wake up. Reality. Truth. I knew love and care for the first time, in the wedding march.

One day I surveyed the train of the bride’s veil with great curiosity. It was long. So long, in fact, I couldn’t see the end of it. And then I saw it. A movement, as if there was struggle under the train, for as far as I could see, the bulges and movement continued. The bridesmaids carried the train, seemingly without questioning the thing I saw. Did they not see it? Maybe it was nothing. But it troubled me.

I ran for a groomsman – because the bride had said if ever we need something, anything at all, we should go to the groomsmen. They would help. And if it required a bridesmaid, the groomsmen would know which ones were equipped to help. The groomsman looked at the commotion I pointed to, and calmly responded, “There is no struggle. That’s nothing. Keep singing.”

His voice rose louder, and the people around sang louder too. The commotion under the train continued. I squeezed between the bridesmaids and reached for the train, trying to look under it. But, to my shock, one of the groomsman slapped my hand and then motioned for me to sing. I tried to sing. I wanted to sing, but something told me I had to see under the train. I lagged behind, trying to hide in the fringe crowd. From there, I would slip in and see what was under the train. I could see the writhing, and I would not quit until I knew what it was about.

I whispered to a sweet looking bridesmaid, and asked her what is under the train. She shushed me, urged me to focus on the wedding, on the groom, and keep singing. Seeing I would not stop, she explained. To look under the train would leave me deceived. I must not. I dare not. There was nothing under the train, she assured me. These imaginations had been presented by other deceived ones who wanted to destroy the bride, the groomsmen and the bridesmaid. She was only trying to protect me, she said. Her voice was sweet, consoling, reassuring.

I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I would imagine such things?

A man and a woman walked toward the train, carrying something. But what? The bridesmaids lifted the train, and I watched as they flung the large ‘package’ under the train. Their hands were red… Was that blood? I shuddered. No. This imagination, it needed to stop. I was going insane. I sang louder, more enthusiastically.

But it happened again. Another one tossed under the train of her robe. And another. And another.

I sang louder. And louder. And louder.

But the words… the words fell flat.

We sang of how the groom had given his mansion for us…

And then I heard the scream. Bloodcurdling, life-stopping scream.

A few in the audience mimicked it as if to make me believe it was part of the song. But I knew. I knew… I remembered that scream… It was my scream. I had screamed in the night. A child. A teen. A young woman. And the train had suffocated me. I would not, I could not hold back.

I ran, full force between the bridesmaids holding the train and grabbed it, trying to wrestle it from the bridesmaids. But they would not let me near it. They pushed me back.

A small hand reached out from under the train. I tried to grab it, but the bridesmaid stomped on the hand, and quickly it disappeared.

The bridesmaid called over a groomsman and soon others gathered around me, and gave me a row for creating such havoc in the wedding party. Had I no awareness that the groom wanted my attention? Did I not know that he would take care of these things? Why was I so intent on destroying the groomsmen and the bridesmaids? Did I not know that these men and women were forgiven? Had I learned nothing?

The small hand slipped out again.. and then another… and another… and another. And feet, as bodies tried to crawl out. I saw them, moving, blood-covered, flesh grown wild with disease and gangrene covering limbs.

Shocked, I gasped. Then vomited.

How…?  “My God! My God!” I wept. I looked at the groom. The groom this wedding march had pointed to and told me to worship… Our eyes met. I watched as his body doubled and he vomited, and he wept. And I knew…

Without a thought, I dove under the train. Dead bodies. More diseased bodies. Bones from ages past. Some delusional ones holding bibles, trying frantically to find some word to heal them of their disease. Others, cursing the groom and shaking their fists at him, lifting middle fingers high toward the heavens. Fingers bleeding from being stomped on.

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Men in what robes dove under, raped the corpses, the dying… even the infants. Women in white robes joined in, forcing objects into their little bodies, or forcing the little and dying ones to bring sexual pleasure to their own bodies, before kicking them and leaving them to bleed. As those in white exited they stood tall, and told those near them they had done things that displeased the groom. The crowd wept, and patted them on the back for their honesty, and washed the blood and diseased flesh off of them, and reminded them that the groom had forgiven. And together they sang.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, with everything in me, “These children are dying!! These women are dying!! These men are dying!! They carry the disease of the men and women who have raped and beaten them!”

A boot landed in my face. A white boot. A lead groomsmen. It left me reeling. Surely he doesn’t know what is going on here? I grabbed his hand and tried to show him the devastation. He nodded. “What you see here,” he said, “isn’t the fault of those who raped them. These are the ones who cannot forgive. They don’t know the groom. That’s the problem.”

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He seemed to speak from a place of truth. So I started to sing. I sang under the train to those dying. As I sang, their flesh fell off their bones. Why, when I was singing the life-giving words that had brought me hope… The words the groomsmen had taught me… the words they said were the groom’s words… Why was the flesh falling from their bones? I was baffled.

The men and women who had raped and beaten the wounded ones, pointed at me. “You are angry. You are bitter! You won’t forgive!” they shouted. “Stop blaming us! We are forgiven! You need healing! We are suffering for the groom here! Can’t you see what you are doing?” And as they shouted the crowd gathered around them and sang, patting them on the back.

I looked at the dying child in my arms. Clearly these people were not going to help these wounded ones. I ran to the groom. I yelled. I screamed. I wept.

“Why?!!! Why are they dying? Why can’t they just forgive those who infect them with this flesh-eating disease? Why? I am singing! I am praising you! It’s supposed to heal them!”

The groom looked at me, tears running down His face. “As they have done it to the least of these… the most vulnerable among them, they have done it to me. If they have disregarded them, they have disregarded me. Come with me…”

He led me back to the dead and dying and eyes were opened. There I saw the groom, nearly naked, dressed in nothing but rags, and taking on the flesh-eating disease and other illness. He was healing them. He reached out, without shame or reserve, and touched the bones which held no flesh. And suddenly there was flesh. His hand bore the scar, having taken on their diseased flesh. He knelt down, breathed deep into the face of a dead child, and suddenly there was life. He took the hand of a cripple, and he danced with joy. He kissed the eyes of the blind and they saw. The heart that stopped beating, he laid his hands on and in one instant it started beating.

Then he stood and walked into the crowd and shouted. “I called you to be like Me! I confronted religious spirits. I healed the broken hearted. I acknowledged pain. I let the prostitute weep on my feet. I walked among the diseased, the lepers, the untouchables and unlovables. I never condemned them for speaking out. I never condemned those who spoke truth. I confronted half-truths and deception. And I healed the contrite sinner who held nothing back. I was not popular! I was hated, not protected by religious institutions. I called you to be like Me!”

He paused. He did not praise me, and he did not shame me. He pointed to the bodies, diseased and dying and commanded, “acknowledge their pain and let me heal them!” And then he walked deeper into the audience and began stripping the robes that had been handed out in his name, but without his blessing. There, the flesh-eating disease was carefully hidden, gangrene setting in.

“The truth… The truth will make you free. I AM Truth. Live my Life and Love among them,” he said, again pointing to the wounded ones.

He moved forward and lifted the train, exposing the bride’s feet. They were mottled, a sign of poor circulation and pending death. Gangrene was setting in. The groom fell to the ground and wept. “My bride! My beautiful bride! I gave everything I have for you!”

He turned to the groomsmen and bridesmaids. “I called you to protect her! I called you to guard her, not to destroy her by hiding diseases under her train! Pointing under the train he shouted, “This will destroy my bride if you do not rise up! Rise up! Stand for truth. I came to confront religious arrogance. I came to heal the broken-hearted. I came to set the captives free. You have not only neglected them, but added to their broken-heartedness and led them into deeper bondage. You will give account.”

And the people kept singing.  A few touched up the bride’s makeup. But the train could never again hide the dying children, the diseased women and men, young boys and girls who had long lay under it. It could never again hide the dead bodies, the stench of which had stained the inside of the train.

And the groom, he stayed there on the ground. He did not dance and sing. He wept for the wounded ones even as he wiped the tears. He held them, as he sat there in sackcloth, and he healed them. He gave them each a white robe as he healed them. Most joined him in the ruins. Others went to the groomsmen, the bridesmaids and the crowds and kept pointing to the groom, directing the crowds away from the din and noise. They even spoke to the men and women who raped and beat the unlovables, and pointed them to the groom.

Because the groom…  The groom will heal all who humbly accept truth.

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Proverbs 31:8  
“Open your mouth for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

Matthew 25:40-45

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 12: 20 
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory

 

Praying for the courage of many to rise up. We are losing too many victims to atheism, pain and depression. Dare to do what Jesus would do. Confront predators. Walk gently with the broken hearted. Settle for nothing less that truth. And invite all to Jesus.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

 

On Questioning Faith & God Because of University?

“Be careful in the Master Peace and Conflict Studies,” the woman said, most sincerely, “a few of my friends did it and came out questioning their faith.”
“Too late,” I said, “I already question…” And I was amazed how vulnerable it felt to say those words out loud, but paused a moment, because it is true, and then continued with explaining. “Given the work I do, and the horrendous things I hear and see in Christian communities, I’ve been questioning my faith for a good six years. Daily… It’s inevitable…. I’ve often said, ‘If it wasn’t for God I’d be an atheist.'”
I don’t know her well, the woman who spoke those words when we bumped into each other downtown. I even had to think twice about her name when we parted ways, and would have been clueless if her friend hadn’t walked by and called it out before we parted ways.
Truth is, I do question God. Not His existence. Not even His goodness. But God Himself, and how things are what they are with the suffering of little ones on the streets, being trafficked… and in His house… the molestation. No, there’s not a fragment of a doubt in my mind that He exists, and is good… But these questions about His household run deep, so I question. My faith has been taxed heavily, and I have questioned for years. And I hope I continue. Because there are a few simple ‘hard truths’ I cling to for dear life, but with everything I know of life and crime, in church and on the streets, I fear that by the time I stop questioning, I will have come to the wrong conclusion. So I question, and God listens. Sometimes He answers in ways I can cling to, sometimes He just listens. At least for a while.
It is not possible to know what I know, of darkness hidden in religious communities, of hatred (by some) for those who desperately want truth on all levels (not only convincing doctrine)… Of leaders so insecure in their calling that they write off and attempt to silence anyone who speaks into that hidden darkness…. No, these things are not possible for me (and for many others in the trenches) without questioning both God and faith, in some way. I’m sure there’s some easy religious answer to explain everything, and make it all look nice again, but I can’t do that, can’t go there. A few Bible verses, lengthy prayers or one hundred or even a thousand ‘Hail Mary’s’ just doesn’t make the hard reality go away, or even more bearable. Nor does booting out a few demons heal every inner trauma. Those solutions work much like masking tape on a wet surface. It sticks until it doesn’t. And when it no longer sticks, there is a need for deep, compassionate care. (For the sake of everyone who feels a sense of obligation to burn their candle at both ends until they suffer burnout, let me add… ‘Compassion with boundaries’, because Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout are real… and knowing when to step back is critical. Also, it may not be the hard stories that wear you down. Be aware of personal stress triggers, and set boundaries accordingly.)
Anywhere else I can reconcile wickedness, but not among the Jesus people. It violates every part of what He came to be and do. Especially when hidden and then protected under a guise of forgiveness, while the naked victims stand by, beaten with stripes they never deserved, just for admitting to pain. I can even reconcile wickedness happening among Jesus people, because of human struggle and scars of unhealed wounds, but when there is an agenda to hide or mask over without deep acknowledgement of the suffering it has caused, and care given accordingly… Not that.
So, yes, I question. And, yes, I have walked through more than one faith crisis in my six years of ministry. The one thing that has helped me refocus, is speaking truth over others, because there is truth that I cannot ‘unknow’ even if I wanted to, and that truth is the love of Jesus, and when spoken it has power. I fall hard on it’s simplicity. And in moments of hopelessness, I have grasped it with slippery fingers. Still that love remained, and remains still. I have grasped it when grief at what I see ‘among His’ washes over me, defying that grace-filled love, realizing it’s all I have…
Now, having nearly completed my first term, I find it fascinating that rather than causing me to question God, and the things He allows in this messy world, it has affirmed my faith. It has helped tremendously to take a step back from being so close to trauma in religious communities, and take a break from the harshness of it to study. It has been a good thing and a God thing.
That said, I know my journey well enough to know I will continue to question and wrestle as long as I work with victims and offenders of sexual violence. I wish at moments that I had suffered nothing of abuse in religious community… that I had heard none of it… that I was innocent of knowing the cover-ups… All so that I could walk in innocent, intoxicating-ly sweet love relationship with Jesus, oblivious to the messiness of crime and wickedness in church. The tired heart of six years of investing, at times thanked, at times cursed, struggles, but it is a rare and selfish moment that cries for this innocence.
Instead, I will continue to do what God has called me to do, pressing into His heart for answers when I question, wonder or wrestle. Because it is in those moments I realize how imperfect, inadequate and human I am, and how much it is His love that carries me. And that, alone, makes every question a faith-building one.
Love,
~ T ~

 © Trudy Metzger

Generous Love, Defined Boundaries & Lines in the Sand

To love without discrimination is to love generously. To love without boundaries lacks wisdom and discernment; it is not in the best interest of the giver or the recipient. To love generously, with healthy boundaries is to love wisely and to love well, in the best interest of everyone. Even Jesus exemplified love with boundaries, driving some out of the temple, when they perverted His Father’s house. It was not the same ‘presentation’ of love He offered the 10 lepers. Both were love.

In situations of molestation in religious settings I see, repeatedly, this lack of discernment at play. Parents and leaders of victims extend forgiveness most lavishly–as though it is somehow theirs to give–and then open the doors wide for the offender to remain part of their lives. This is done without boundaries or accountability, subjecting victims to unnecessary trauma, and other family and church members to huge risk. Sometimes even resulting in repeated victimizations.

This behaviour reveals the ignorance surrounding sexual violence. Few crimes with the potential to forever alter the mind, identity and life of the victim, could be committed where those responsible for protecting and caring for that victim would knowingly subject their children to risk of re-victimization.

When someone murders or attempts to murder  a family member, the murderer is not invited to come and go freely and unsupervised. Oddly, with a crime that has the potential to make the mind go mad from trauma, the same discernment is often not applied, and victims are forced to face their offenders with no regard to either risk or trauma.

And the same individuals who will cry out against alcohol, after a loved one is hit by a drunk driver and in a coma, or worse–dead–speak with casual distance when a victim of molestation lives in emotional, psychological or spiritual coma. And unlike the grief displayed for the crash victim, where prayers are offered and all steps are taken to give that individual the best care possible, the victim of molestation is told to snap out of it, get over it and move on. Or maybe “it was so long ago…” All this to “love” the offender and extend grace.

It is necessary in the life of the believer to love generously. But love cannot be defined by ‘equal rights’ for offenders as fo victims; for criminals as for children. To neatly fold love and pack it in a well-labelled and narrow box, is not love. It is an agenda.

To love well, is to love in the best interest of all, particularly those whom God has placed in our direct care. Not selfishly, but graciously. And  that love includes drawing a line in the sand, when it comes to protecting the innocent ones, and setting up firm boundaries that come with cost and consequence to the offender(s) and criminal(s), not to the victims.

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Yes, love acts in the best interest of all. And if boundaries prevent the offender(s) from re-victimizing former victims, or finding new ones, then those boundaries are love, and that love is a gift we should not withhold.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

Curse from Religious Cult Brings Blessing

Today I received an email saying I am being cursed by a religious cult because of my upcoming memoir, Between 2 Gods. If their intent is to unnerve me, shut me up, or scare me away, it won’t work. To the contrary, I felt, suddenly, peaceful. The past day or two I’ve been restless. Nothing I could put my finger on, but a gnawing feeling that started getting under my skin. I’ve been here before, a thousand times and more, and, eventually, I always figure out what it is, or it goes away with time. While it’s here I try to be in tune to my feelings and not let them take over, and focus, instead, on the ‘quiet knowing’ that God has my back.

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When the email came in, it put a bounce in my step. It reminded me why I do what I do: to penetrate the darkness with light and hope. For a religious cult to be this threatened by what ‘Between 2 Gods’ will bring to the light, thrills me! It means the darkness is threatened and losing power. It also means that, by going to such an extent as to gather and curse me, the enemy also ‘shows his face’. That opens all kinds of wonderful doors and opportunities, not the least of which is people within that cult seeing it for what it is, and finding freedom. That’s one reason it doesn’t frighten me.

The other reason is because I’ve seen the enemy up close, in my darker days. One incident, which I share in my memoir, I experienced darkness so intimately that it made me shiver for years. Coincidentally, I shared that story a few weeks ago with a group of women in Michigan and told them how, to this day, that scene makes me tremble, to recall and tell it. It doesn’t ‘frighten’ me, but the emotional flashback to that day remains strong, the memory of staring the enemy in the eye.

What I didn’t have then, that I have now, is faith in Jesus Christ, and His power. A little black curse falls flat in His presence–and, yes, the biggest curse, in His presence, is but a shriveled and powerless worm. It isn’t my own strength that gives me courage to face curses; it is Christ in me. He has filled me so full of love, courage and hope, that even for those who curse me, I feel nothing but compassion. And given a chance, I’d sit with these folks and tell them Jesus loves them.

It’s only 22 days now, until my memoir is released. Only a few proofreaders, editors and publishing staff have read it, and already the darkness is threatened. On Amazon it has been on the Bestsellers list every day since the pre-order opened, which tells me people are reaching for hope, longing to be heard… and some are just plain old curious. And that’s cool too, because God can work with it.

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So, to those in cults, cursing me: go ahead, hold your little curse gatherings and witchcraft rituals, if that’s what makes you feel powerful. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea, for your own sake, but there’s no power over me. None. The blood of Jesus stands between me and any evil thing you can wish upon me. In fact, I will begin to pray blessing over you, and ask the Father to bring confusion to your gatherings, and turn your curses inside-out, upside-down and backwards, so that they come back to you, in the form of a desperate desire to know God in intimate relationship, and reach for His blessing. I pray you will one day be on fire for His Kingdom, exposing the very evil you now worship in His name, and that you will be a great force fighting the things I am about to expose.

As for me… my Jesus has my back… I am at peace… I am loved… I am blessed!

To my friends and fellow warriors, who also fight this darkness in religious settings: we are at war. The area of sexual abuse and molestation has gone relatively unchecked and given the enemy power in the church, like few other things. The warfare and attacks that result from exposing it are a powerful indication that these things are not pleasing to God. The resistance has little to do with those who cover it up for the sake of their own religious pride and arrogance. It is a much bigger battle. God, through Jesus, brings light and hope; the enemy brings destruction, bondage, secrecy and tragedy. And the light is far more of a threat to the enemy than it will ever be to one pastor, or a thousand, who stand behind pulpits hiding sins, thinking it is about his image and reputation. It’s not.

Friends, today we have a voice, like never before, and we need to use that voice. There is a cry from the children–those who are now grown up, and those still being molested–for us to be the hands, the voice and the heart of Jesus. Let’s be Jesus to them.

Please pray for those resisting truth, spreading curses and holding these children captive. Pray for yourself and for me, for courage and boldness. Most of all, pray for the children… the vulnerable, stripped, voiceless children… Yes, pray for them!

Love
~ T ~

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© Trudy Metzger

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Losing Religion & Finding Community

“You know you’re supposed to do it? How long will you fight it?” He looked deep into my soul. At least as deep as I would let him, and then a bit deeper, as my defenses broke. Just as quickly I did the only thing I know how to do when I’m too vulnerable, when my soul is bared, and I would rather hide and retreat; I laughed.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it though, I promise,” I said, still laughing. His challenge, urging me to start a group/meeting for the broken and hurting, came at the end of a lengthy conversation about the brokenness of people. Particularly in churches.

Having suffered much, he has wearied of how Christians present as ‘Happy, Happy, Happy’ all the time. Because, with few exceptions, that’s what nice church people do. And say. And are. Happy, victorious, healed, and ‘fine’ Christians.

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If you don’t agree, try it sometime. Go to church and when asked how you are, if you’re not in a good place, be real. When they say, “Good morning! How are you?!” with a big smile, and warm handshake, respond with transparency. Don’t bother to smile, or say “I’m fine, thank you.” Forget about social graces for just a moment. Look them in the eye. Look longer, and deeper than is comfortable. Pause awkwardly before saying a word. They’ll squirm and you’ll want to run for dear life. But don’t let go of that hand because, odds are, you’ll both turn and run, if you release them.

When the awkward is about all you can handle, still looking them in the eye and holding their hand, which they, by now, are most likely trying to wriggle free, say, “I’m really not doing well. It’s been a hard week, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it. It feels like hell!”

If they ask “May I pray for you?” say, “Sure, if it makes you feel better, but it would mean more if you helped clean my house. With the time I’ve spent caring for my dying mother (or whatever hardship you’re going through), even basics are neglected. My bathrooms, especially, could use a good cleaning.”

If they have stopped smiling, and don’t simply mumble, “God will provide”, before apologizing that they need to run, then consider yourself in a good place. If that person says, “When can I come clean your bathrooms?”, know this, you are in an exceptional place. If they acknowledge your suffering and share how much they struggled with anger, loneliness and feeling as though God abandoned them, after some great tragedy, they are extraordinary. Most have excused themselves by now.

We withdraw because we fear people’s pain and suffering. But, as my friend pointed out over coffee that day, suffering is an opportunity to connect. It is the single universal experience all humans share. Every person on earth suffers. Some experience joy. Some success. Some happiness. But everyone suffers. Eventually.

Why, then, are we so uncomfortable with suffering? Here, my friend pointed out, it is our faulty view of God that rams a stick in the spokes of our bicycle at most in opportune moments; our ‘vendor machine’ view of God, if I pop in a prayer, out should come a miracle, an answer, a solution. And the world should be made right and perfect and wonderful.

But we do. And it doesn’t. Our prayers rise. And our miracles fall with a splat. Our faith gives way to questioning. Eventually it grows tired and we wonder… Does God care or even listen? And, as Christians scamper away from our broken pains, we conclude He doesn’t. Because they don’t. And suddenly God makes no sense. He should have done something. But didn’t. He let us down. And answers don’t match the questions.

There, with props yanked out… faith and religion having failed us… abandoned by the God of religious obligations, we are finally free to meet the true God. He sees us in that gutter, filthy, weary and faithless. And He doesn’t run. Or fix. Or pray it all away. No. He gets down on His knees and crawls into the gutter with us. Unkempt. Looking worn and haggard, bloodstained and naked–His garments having been stripped by the religious rulers who despised Him too. And suddenly we are understood. Nothing is fixed. Nothing has changed, circumstantially, but we feel hope. Because that’s what happens when someone enters our pain, offering only love.

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That is what community was meant to be. And it is the community we hope to create, a place where the broken Jesus is welcome, and imperfect people are loved.

If you are local to Elmira, Ontario, and have suffered spiritual abuse or feel misunderstood and long for a safe place, a community where the broken are valued, and all are invited to contribute, regardless of class, race or gender, send an email to info@generationsunleashed.com for more info.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in you.”  The Kingdom of God is not some distant goal we strive for, it dwells within us.  (Luke 17:21) Everyone of us was made with a ‘Kingdom purpose’. And that is not a religious statement. It is an invitation to love, as Jesus did, and offer others an encounter with divine grace, regardless of circumstance. Together we advance the Kingdom of God, by loving our neighbour.

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(Written for the Elmira Independent, September 4, 2014. Ending has been revised.)

 

© Trudy Metzger

 

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Musings of a Weary Warrior

In a recent post, wherein I revealed what dreadful secrets lie buried in my cultural background, I made the comment that sometime soon I would need to think about posting a blog about all the things I love about my Mennonite heritage. And a host of things floated through my mind, of what I might, and ought to share.

Since then I have heard quiet murmurings, here and there, some spoken, some written, that my blog seems to exist mostly to express my hate for my cultural heritage. (Thank God I prayed for a thick skin and a tender heart, else I might well be standing beside Pontius Pilate washing my hands of the truth I know, hoping that some other fair judge will fight for it.)

So the sweetness of that intended blog, and the romantic musings of one enthralled by an idyllic setting, known to the more fortunate in that culture, and shared with me through stories and observation, will be less so than originally intended.

Not because I don’t believe it exists. I do. And I have been so fortunate as to have experienced it, and known it through visiting some of my dear friends, like the Weavers, whom I have written about in the past. And others.

But, unfortunately the romance is tainted by fatigue, and simply not having any desire to convince anyone of anything right now. Not the beauty and serenity that I saw in a few homes–including my time with Peter and Rita Steckle, at Lakeview–nor the evil that lurks in many other homes, hidden behind the pretences of ‘all is well’.

No. I don’t wish to defend either truth in my writing. Because it occurred to me, as I contemplated the accusations against me–of being hateful towards Mennonites–that neither truth needs a defense. Each truth stands unwavering, with or without my support, my applause, or my proclamation. And each truth is very well known by those who live in it. And those who most furiously rise to defend the ‘good’, and declare me the enemy, are most likely to know better of the hidden things than any one else. Because if there is one thing I cannot be fairly accused of, it is hate.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not upset by it. Discouraged? Barely. Exhausted? For a time, yes. Because I feel as though I shovel constantly, and still the heap never grows smaller. I recall, as a young girl, who was more a tomboy than a lady, how I loved to spend time in the barn with the animals. Their warmth in the winter was kinder than the smells they produced, and I endured one, for the other. I loved the animals. But the manure pile seemed never to shrink, no matter how much we shovelled.

That, quite frankly, is how I feel in all of this. I love my cultural background. I love the people there. And I love how some are sold out for Jesus. But, more and more, I feel as though the manure pile grows faster than I can shovel it. And it’s not the abuse I’m speaking of. I have yet to find one victim, who is in the Mennonite culture and interacting with me, who does not serve as my cheerleader. I get many messages from those dear, wounded souls, who have not been heard. Those who have been silenced by leaders for wanting to be free. Those who have tried to establish some help for their own, only to discover they will be shut down by those same leaders. Those who have been told, “We don’t want them (the abuse victims) here’, and ‘it’s not our problem. Those who have been told not to speak of it outside of their families. And those who have cried out and been told, “you don’t need help”, and then are counselled to read their Bibles and pray more.

It has never been my wish or desire to fight against a culture. My heart, my goal, my passion and my desire have been to help people within their culture. Not to remove them and ‘fix them’, but to walk them through to healing within that culture. But the resistance is strong from some. And when all else fails, and the truth gets too dangerously close, we human beings have a habit of resorting to judging motive, regardless what lies we must conjure up to do so.

So my words are less sweet than intended, because I am not one to slather on pretences or niceties to tickle the ears and polish image–neither mine nor yours. I am forthright, yet try always to be gentle. I love deeply and compassionately. But flattery I try to avoid.

But I will say this. There are some, even in leadership, who represent God well, and reflect Him well, with a heart that is true. My prayer is that they will see…. truly see… the plight of the countless victims. My prayer is that they will open doors for true healing, without judgement and the hypocrisy of ‘secrets’ that force the victims of abuse to carry shame.

Other leaders have buried themselves in their own sin and shame so long, that their only agenda is to keep the hidden thing down, at any cost, and always with a religious guise. To you I say, May God have mercy on your souls and devilish conniving.

And to every victim of abuse, who has never had a safe place to go, I simply say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry you have not been heard. I’m sorry you are forced to carry in secret, your burden of pain and shame. I’m sorry that you have been made to feel guilty for disclosing what your fathers, brothers, uncles, friends and even leaders have done. I’m sorry that you have not been believed. And I pray that someone, somewhere will offer you a heart that is true. A heart that will listen, acknowledge your grief, and not judge you for the crimes committed against you. I pray that someone will exemplify Jesus in your life, and thereby lead you to Him for that ultimate healing.

One day, maybe soon, I intend to write that post that tells of all the wonderful things I know and love about my Mennonite heritage…. but for today, suffice it to say that I wouldn’t get my hands this ‘bloody’ for anything but love. If I wanted revenge, there are countless damaging ways to get it, and they would include  court cases, lawsuits and vile public exposure, not ministry, and certainly not the painful truth intertwined with forgiveness, whether publicly or privately.

The Apostle Paul exposed sexual immorality–incest being one of them–in the Corinthian church. He did so publicly, having published the letter in a book more read than any other. He was forthright. I presume he, too, was accused of many things. And a few nights ago I spent some time reading the writings of Menno Simons. It stood out to me how much of his writing was responses to attacks. One might expect these things, I suppose, and if they can publicly respond to those accusations, I will do likewise.

…these are the musings of a weary warrior. But to my adversaries, don’t get your hopes up… I’m not going to lay down and die, or abandon my passion.

© Trudy Metzger

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Happy Birthday to Me, From Dad

Shortly after that visit, Dad’s leg was amputated, just below the knee.  They had transferred him to London Ontario for the surgery. And, because of his weak heart, they could not put him out for the procedure. Again his strong, stubborn, German blood served him well.He seemed none the worse for the wear, when I visited him following the procedure. I’ll spare the details, but he enthusiastically described every sound, every little thing he felt during that procedure. His only regret was that the doctors wouldn’t let him watch. I understood his intrigue, having watched a small procedure on my hip some years earlier, while the doctor kept muttering, “You don’t have to watch.”  To which I replied, “But I want to!”

He told me never to worry about my health. Never to fear or worry, but always to trust God with my health and my life, as was his goal. Little did he realize what lay ahead of him, and little did I realize what lay ahead for me and how fitting his advice would be.

Dad went through rehab and bounced back quickly, learning to walk again and reclaiming his independence and making it possible for him to return home.  As winter approached, my baby-belly grew, and my trips to see him died down. Our contact returned to ‘normal’.

The following April I gave birth to our third son, Kordan Timothy Steven, completing our family of five. Life was busy. All consuming.

Spring gave way to summer, and summer to fall. Then in October, 2002, the phone rang, one Saturday afternoon. It was Dad, calling to ‘talk’. He was struggling. Afraid. Worried that God could not find it in His heart to forgive a man like himself, with all the evil things he had done. What if there was just not enough grace? Would he end up in hell, after all?

The fear was triggered by the notion that one must suffer in this life, or have it coming in the next. I had heard this teaching in childhood, but had long forgotten it. He had recovered too quickly from the amputation, he feared. Almost no pain, no suffering. Just a quick surgery and a painless recovery. He was certain this meant he was doomed. His good friend, a saint in Dad’s mind, had also had an amputation and suffered agonizingly. It all fit together to support some warped theology he had learned and embraced.

“Dad, suffering or not suffering has nothing to do with salvation,” I said. But he wasn’t so sure, so I began asking him questions.

“Do you believe in Jesus as your Saviour?” I asked. He said he did. “Have you asked Him to forgive your sins?” He said he had. “Do you believe that Jesus is the Way to heaven?” He answered affirmatively. “Dad, then you are saved. Don’t give the enemy power over you. When he tempts you to fear, tell him the truth. Tell him what you just told me, that you have repented, that you have been forgiven and that he has no right to you.”

Dad sounded tired, sad. We chatted a while longer, then he thanked me for my time and we hung up.

It felt good. Dad, who always had all the answers, who knew his Bible inside out–however religious his past interpretations had been–called me for encouragement. I, the non-Mennonite rebel, had hope to offer him at his lowest point. I felt honoured that he trusted me with his struggle, and allowed me to speak truth into his experience.

The following month, November 23, 2002, I turned 33. It was late evening when the phone rang again. It was Dad, just calling to wish me a happy birthday. He called just to say he remembered me. That he thought of me… of the day I was born and brought into his life. It had taken him 33 years, but I finally felt that I was held in my father’s heart.

It was the first time in my life that Dad had remembered my birthday, or put in the effort to call me and tell me. And it would be the last.

© Trudy Metzger

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More Adventures in Amish Country: Of Dresses & Jeans, and Good Food & Fellowship (Part 3)

After we visited the water buffalo farm, Nate and Juanita suggested I have dinner at Rosemary’s. I agreed, on one condition. I would need to figure out how to work things out with Nicole, who was still at her friend’s house. Their family was going to leave for an evening social gathering, and Nicole needed to be picked up.

I didn’t have my car, which meant Nate and Juanita would need to drive several roads the wrong direction to get her. That wasn’t a problem, they said. This left one little issue.

“Nicole only has jeans to wear,” I said. “Is that going to offend anyone?”

Nate assured me that no one would worry much about it, and she was welcome to come that way. That arranged, I called Nicole to see if she wanted to join us.

A drawn out ‘Okay…. I guess’ was the answer, so we picked her up and returned to the farm.  I introduced Nicole to the people I knew and some introduced themselves. Rosemary introduced her to some of her granddaughters. When I introduced her to David Wagler, he chuckled and said, “And I’m the Grandpa here.” Nicole found that humorous.

Peter and Naomi, and Lester and Tina returned in the evening with their families as well. Peter and Tina, who married into the Wagler/Gascho family, both come from my Low-German speaking background and teach their children Low German. It is the cutest thing to observe little girls in their Amish attire, talking in my mother-tongue. I couldn’t capture their language, but I did manage to sneak a few shots of them, without getting caught.

Nate and Juanita posed for a short photography session as well, in front of the buggy. I could just picture them, travelling around the country side as a sweet Amish couple. Well, I could almost picture it….

The smell of ‘schnibbled grumbara’–which I don’t know how to spell, but is the Pennsylvania Dutch for cut potatoes–mixed with ham, filled the house. One whiff of that, and I was very glad they had asked me to stay.

One thing about the Amish and Mennonites… they know how to serve up a good meal to a crowd. By the time dinner was ready there were people everywhere. It was fun and fascinating.

Simon, whom I had met earlier, and his family came, giving me opportunity to meet his wife, Kathleen. She was sweet and a pleasant conversationalist. I told her that her sister Elizabeth and Simon’s brother, Ivan, who are married, live in my area and attend my youngest brother’s church, but that I have not met them yet.

Ruth and Robert, Titus’s wife and oldest son, who had been resting earlier in the day when I was there, came over. Ruth has beautiful blue eyes, and a great sense of humour. We talked for a long while about raising boys with ADHD. Both of her sons have it to one degree or another, and three of our children have a version of it. She shared how it plays into their school work, and that medication seems to be helping, but with some side effects, like fatigue.

I shared how, while our children’s ADHD is very manageable, it has challenges. One son is on medication during school, because he cannot tame his brain to study. When his teacher first suggested it, I cringed. I don’t like medication. But one trip to the psychiatrist changed my mind and it has paid off. His marks have gone from mostly ‘C’ grades, to mostly ‘A’ and a few ‘B’ grades. He is our quietest, tamest son, but his mind is hyperactive.

The psychiatrist said it always passes from a parent to the child. And since it clearly isn’t through my husband Tim, that only leaves me. Something that isn’t too surprising for those who know me. (No wonder Brother Paul Zehr, my teacher when I was about eleven, asked, “Trudy, do you have ants in your pants?” I couldn’t stop giggling!) When the doctor said this, three years ago, it actually helped me make sense of years gone by and why I remember some things (visually) in graphic detail, while I could never remember where I put my keys or school books etc. Anything with ‘system’ I retain and know where to find. Anything for which I have no system…. Well, good luck ever finding it.

Ruth and I compared stories and chatted until dinner was ready. I have a feeling if we were next door neighbours, we would have a very close friendship. She seems the kind of woman I would connect with at a heart level in relationship.

Dinner was as delicious as it smelled. Fresh corn, potatoes with ham, fresh bread and the most delicious deep red tomatoes I had ever eaten. What a meal! And that was followed with dessert. Blueberry pie, brownies, peach cobbler (I think that’s what it was called) and fresh peaches with blueberries. Such a meal!

After dinner on the back deck, while adults continued conversing, the children started with games. There were shrieks and shouts of delight as a giant black garbage bag of colourful light-weight plastic balls were tossed in the air, to rain down on the yard full of children. It was just a few at first, and then the other children caught on. A flurry of activity and the yard was suddenly full of children, scrambling about, throwing these balls at each other. I worried they might get hurt, until I got my hands on one. There was literally no weight.

Nate was a good sports, getting in there and chasing the children, and being chased. It turned out to be Nate against the world of children out there, and the world of children against Nate. It was soon evident that Nate is no longer in his twenties. He dragged himself onto the deck, huffing, panting and sweating, as the children continued to bombard him.

Next it was Juanita’s turn. Thomas and Robert, having established a solid relationship with her, were determined to draw her in. And they did. It wasn’t long before Juanita had the fence and small shed as her dugout, and it was her against the gang of children. Nicole joined in as well,  jeans and all, engaged in the flurry of activity.

The time came to go. We said good-bye, thanking our host and hostess. Tina gave me a bag of beautiful deep red tomatoes before leaving. And as we got to the door, Peter asked if I’m sure we won’t stay for coffee. He had just poured some steaming cups of black energy. It was tempting but it was already almost 8:00pm and I still had one more friend, my cousin Helen, to meet for coffee before starting the ninety minute trek home to Elmira. Regretfully, I declined.

Nicole, who had been hesitant to go, fell in love with the children, the people and the culture. As we left, she said, “They were all very nice! They didn’t even seem to notice I was wearing jeans.”

I was thinking to myself, Oh, they noticed. But I said nothing. That kind of innocence is best preserved.

She added, “Because they accept me in jeans, just the way I am, I wouldn’t mind wearing a skirt next time to go see them.”

There is something in us, as humans, that desires to be loved and accepted, just as we are. We went into a culture very different from ours and received that from them, and offered the same to them.

The rich heritage, the community, the fellowship…. The beautiful culture…

I am not so naive as to believe that nothing bubbles below the surface… that volcanoes don’t form below the beauty of what we see. Every culture has strengths and weaknesses. Still, to find myself in the peace and simplicity of the Amish is a touch of heaven. I don’t have to deal with the volcanoes that brew, from time to time so I will indulge in the memories of a pleasant visit to Amish country, knowing that one day I will return, God willing, to see my friends there again.

© Trudy Metzger

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