Today I start a different kind of journey, one that will in part be put on film, one I am reluctant to start, and one that will give me a different kind of Christmas. Today I start the journey home, from Wichita Kansas to where I grew up, Johnson City Tennessee. I have told my story across the country in various forms of media. I even wrote a book about it, The Keystone Kid, it is one many find unique because I am a male survivor of physical and sexual abuse. I am now 49 years old, going on 50 and the truth is, as I approach a half a century of life, the abuse I encountered as a child still affects me. I have come to the conclusion it likely will until the day I die.
My Journey I start on today is rather unique; it is unique for various reasons. One is it is going to be a different kind of Christmas for me, yep, Christmas has always been an important day for me. I never really knew Christmas as a child, at least not that I can remember with good thoughts. There is even a photo of me holding a BB gun in one of my MySpace photo albums taken at my grandmothers on Christmas. I don’t recall that photo ever being made. I have an occasional memory of visiting different people at Christmas. I recall a time I got a pedal fire truck as a small child, but that is about it. I swore as I became older, my family would never know what it is like to not have a good Christmas. God has allowed me to keep that promise to myself but this Christmas will be different. As a result of my trip to Tennessee, I won’t return and celebrate Christmas with my wife, daughter, son and son in law until after Christmas, likely the first of the year. My wife and son will be visiting me, in some ways, enduring the need I have in my life this Christmas. That says something about their love because for them, this Christmas will have emotions they will have to deal with, it will have conflict they have to deal with, it will have life they will have to deal with that thankfully they have never experienced, other than falling in love with one who was abused, and one who was adopted into my family they deserve none of this, they are just ongoing casualties of abuse that we never think about. It will involve them giving, living, and being with me so I can do something I need to do which brings me to another reason this Christmas will be different.
This Christmas, my mother, who was one of those who physically, emotionally, and yes, sexually abused me, is in the hospital dying of cancer. She is in stage 4 now of this disease, it is likely her last Christmas and while our relationship hasn’t been good over the years, I am confronted with something in my own life, involving my faith that I simply have to do. I have to let her know that I forgive her for the harm, wrong, and shame she brought on my life.
I know that within many circles, there will be many who question my actions. There will be Christians who say, I should have forgiven her a long time ago. To those I would say; I have already forgiven to the measure of which God has allowed me to forgive. I just need to let her know, face to face. The act of forgiving face to face, of communicating face to face is something lost in many Christian circles. I will not compromise the need to do this. To the Christian or fellow human who would say; “It’s going to be alright.” “Or God will work things out for you,” Or anything of that nature, I would say, please don’t be so glib in your comment. You may not see it as glib, but I assure you, many of us who have experienced abuse do. Words sometimes mean so little, actions, such as a hug, a tear, or even, “I Love You,” can mean so much. This really is a situation, that unless you have walked in another’s shoes, you have no idea. You have no idea of how you perpetuate the hurting and difficulty in another person’s life when you say something like that in a glib way. I simply ask, try to understand, try to support, and try to pray that God would do what God wants in my life, in this situation. I ask, pray that Christ would be lifted up and shown to be the lover, care giver, mighty counselor that he is.
There are also likely those who have been abused who would be appalled that I would offer forgiveness to one who abused me. I am not saying that all can, or even should do this. For me to forgive though is giving credit and respect to the one who ultimately gave me, and showed me life and love, the person of Jesus Christ who as my leader and forgiver, has given me many times over a purpose and reason to live. It was ultimately his act of love for me that I realized love is possible. Now as a husband, father, and one who has many friends across the globe, I realize, it has all come about because of my Savior, Jesus Christ. So to those who don’t understand how I can do this, I simply state, I will not, I can not, allow my abusers to continue to have control of me, of my life, my dreams, and my emotions. I realize there are times that my life will all be affected as a result of the abuse, but it won’t control me. I also find liberation in forgiveness, liberation is one of those things I desperately need, and desire in my life. In a life of never knowing a father, a loving mother like many, or a family like others, I have found all of these things in my relationship with God.
There is another reason I have to make this journey; I have to make it because I have come to realize my mother had to have had a difficult journey of life. I hear stories now of her in the hospital, I hear of her emotions and mannerisms. I hear of her bitterness, hurt, and desire to give up on life. I could in no way consider myself better than her or even equal to her if I didn’t want more for her, if I didn’t want her to find some measure of joy and forgiveness in her own life. The Bible makes it clear, for me to be forgiven, I have to forgive, for me to be loved, I have to love, for me to find healing, I have to offer healing. Jesus complicates things sometimes, he reminds me, it is easy to do these things for my friends, or those I love and am loved by. The challenge in finding the entirety my faith has to offer me though is from doing something else Jesus and others in the Bible tell me to do, that is offer forgiveness and love to even my enemies, those who have hated me, and those who have done me wrong. I have been on this journey once before in my life, with the man who murdered my Aunt Ruth who was one who took me in and help provide for me in a time of need. I had a chance to confront the man who murdered her face to face. I offered him forgiveness; I offered him a chance to receive Christ. He wanted none of those things though, but I was the one who took the high ground and did what my faith commanded me to do. I learned a lesson from that experience, I know the Holy Spirit of God finds a way to give strength and courage in times one needs it if they trust him. I am trusting God on this journey I am on.
I am involved in a ministry that does unique and different things, one of those is challenging those who have been hurt to find faith in Jesus, to find a way they can fellowship with others and learn about their faith teachings, even though the church, even though many Christians may have hurt them in the past. The ministry I am in is a faith based ministry. I am totally dependent on the gifts and contributions of others to do these things. Some have been critical of this work because they don’t understand, or know of the value it has had on the lives of others. While some are building up treasures on earth that show a materialistic aspect of accomplishment, The work of The Virtual Pew often has lives that have been changed and helped. While one has earthly value, I happen to believe the other has Heavenly value. In this journey for example, the actual cost is around $800, I needed an additional $500 to make it, and sure enough, it and more came in. I will need additional income to support me in this ministry as the year goes on. I now draw a salary of $1,000 a month from my church, I need about $500 more a month to meet my financial obligations, and that don’t include the additional needs the ministry of The Virtual Pew has in helping others with their needs and our expenses, but you know what? I have found that God works in those ways to. If God works in all ways, and in all things, I know God will work out the situation with my mother and me.
God has already started opening doors for this journey I am on. There are others in Tennessee that I will spend time with, relatives who experienced many of the same paths, many of the same hardships. Relatives whom I hope can open up to the sharing of story as I try to document this via film. My hope is that God will open up doors to make this project into something that can help others. I would love for a high quality Hollywood style production, but I won’t have it, I will have two cameras, and hopefully other people who will help document this. I know there will be a total cost of around $5,000 - $10,000 for this project if I have to pay for everything. Of course I know some will support the effort, by either donation of time, and/or money. I know they will because this epidemic of abuse has affected far more people than we can even begin to realize. If I have learned anything from presenting my story over the years, is that the epidemic of abuse is not unique to those outside of the church, the truth is it has impacted and infiltrated many within the church, it is one of the reasons many who have been associated with groups of faith, are now so reluctant to accept communities or people of faith. I have one thing to share with each of you, regarding my faith as I close.
A number of years ago, one of the primary issues I had was in my question of where was God during all of the moments and times of abuse. I had that question answered in a satisfactory way by a wonderful therapist. Jesus was right there beside me, crying and hurting all the time. You see I have come to this belief that not all things are ordained and caused by God. With everything that is good, we sometimes have to accept some things that are bad. My belief in the creation of humanity here is such a belief. You see, I don’t believe God desires for a child to be sexually abused, I don’t believe God has it in his heart to have someone die of cancer. I don’t believe God would have a father killed by a drunk driver. There are many things I don’t believe God desires, but those horrible things still happen. I believe there has to be an answer to this, one I can’t fully explain, but one I believe. You see, I believe God loves humanity so much that he created us to make decisions, of our own free will if you will. In those decisions, each of us, within the acts of our hands, feet, words, actions, has the ability to do something good, or do something stupid. In that understanding of God’s creation, in believing He created me to make up my mind as to the things I do, in that he didn’t create me to be a robot, that bad things happen to good people, and that good things sometimes happen to bad people, I have come to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly as not being from God, but as a consequence of people making their own decisions, even stupid ones. You see life is more complicated than we sometimes think, I can accept that, it is the extremist on both ends of the spectrum that have a hard time, but then again, I just reckon, God made me different and I am grateful to know, in regards to some of these things, there are others who would stand beside me in agreement.
Well, it is likely you won’t hear from me as much over the next couple of weeks. I plan to be doing a lot of video, doing a lot of praying, spending as much time as possible with my mother and others who lived my life alongside me. I plan to be doing a lot of praying and questioning. I don’t know what the next two weeks will bring me, I wish I did but I don’t. I will likely hurt, cry, laugh, and question again and again my life over the next weeks. I don’t know what all life has to offer over the next weeks, I do know there is one constant though, that is that Jesus Christ is real, and his love, forgiveness, and mighty counsel is still available. I am grateful I won’t be on this journey alone, I don’t know if I could do that. I know the prayers of others will sustain me, I know the journey likely won’t end over the next few weeks, I know I have a wife and a son who will be there with me, and a church who will be praying for me, and an online community who will be there as well. I appreciate that, I appreciate that Christians and non Christians will be on the journey with me in spirit, but more importantly, I am most grateful that Jesus will once again, be there with me, by my side, giving the love I so desperately need and seek each and every day, each and every moment.
This video kind of illustrates my journey. It is new and I think you will like it. Just click on the video, if the video don't appear, click on the following link:
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