Warning About the Dark Side:
From Driving to Flying
My friend Jeff Tideman once took me for a ride in his Cessna 172, and for most of the trip – except take off and landing – I was the pilot. It was scary – and exhilarating!
When I took the controls the plane became wobbly and unstable at first. Every adjustment sent us off balance, pitching forward or back or rolling sideways. When you drive a car, you’re not used to the horizon bobbing up and down above and below your dashboard, tilting crazily to the right and left.
This was incredibly disorienting. Because when you drive, you can only do four things: Go faster or slower, and turn left or right. One axis of rotation.
But when you fly an airplane, you can do eight things: you can go faster or slower; you can yaw (turn left or right); you can pitch (tilt forward or backward); and you can roll (to the left or the right). Three axes of rotation.
Going from one axis of rotation to three is exponentially more complex!
Everything I did had the opposite effect of what I expected. Then I’d pull some other lever… which would only make the problem WORSE. Jeff’s little Cessna could be a burning pyre of twisted wreckage in literally 30 seconds if I lost control – which would be soooo easy to do. The instantaneous instability made me feel very insecure.
The one thing that saved us was Jeff’s steady hand. He knew exactly what he was doing. (In fact Jeff even built airplanes!)
Well… when you go from “I’m just going to live my life by sight and instruments” to asking the head office what God would like you to do today about your bad employee or your sales problem or the fight you’re having with your spouse… you have suddenly introduced more dimensions to the equation.
It means there are more ways to crash. More ways to get it wrong, and faster.
But… it’s also the only way to fly.
Cars don’t fly. If you want to fly, you need an airplane.
So: If you’re going to hear… then commit yourself to hearing as keenly as possible. Because a person who makes major decisions and hears wrong much of the time can be pretty dangerous. Making a big decision based on a bad memo can have big consequences.
While I believe (and have seen) that anyone of any religious belief…or no religious belief at all… can GET memos…it has been my experience that there can be a very real dark side to memos. And I feel it’s my duty to warn you about it.
In the late 90s a huge men’s movement sprang up called “Promise Keepers.” Colorado football coach Bill McCartney held some events and men started flocking to them, and pretty soon they were filling stadiums. I went to several and they were great.
In 1997 they held a giant Promise Keeper’s meetup in the Mall in Washington DC. Hundreds of thousands of men descended on the city in buses from all over the nation.
I’ll never forget on the last day of the meeting Bill got up and announced, “God told me to make all Promise Keepers meetings free from now on, so that everybody can come!”
Cheers went up from the crowd.
I distinctly remember thinking: Bill, are you sure that was from God? People don’t value what they don’t pay for. Besides, most people can afford to come to these things.
It cost about $70 to come to a Promise Keepers event, which not only paid for the stadium, speakers, musicians and administration, but also covered bottled water and a sack lunch. This seemed a perfectly reasonable fee for food and an entire day of activity. They could have easily publicized the availability of scholarships for guys who couldn’t afford it. Most could surely ask a friend to help if they really wanted to go and couldn’t.
So then Promise Keepers made their events free. Immediately the entire organization collapsed into a financial tailspin. Now they were dependent on a few major donors (hundreds of thousands of people times $70 is a lot of dinero!) and paltry margins of selling books and music. Within months, one of the biggest men’s movements of the decade was over. Promise Keepers vanished without a trace.
I don’t know whether Bill’s memo was a malevolent voice or a bad burrito. I don’t know if Bill acted on a sudden impulse or deliberated over it for months. But there’s nothing you could say to convince me it was the actual Head Office who told him that. It was one of the most tragic leadership decisions I’ve ever seen. I don’t know any of the people involved in this, but my guess is that this was a hasty decision that was not properly vetted.
One time Vivian Hearn suddenly started telling me, out of the blue: “Perry you need to re-examine your org chart.” She was talking about my company but she was also talking about the positioning of numerous other people in my life. She insisted: “You’re going to be making some major changes very soon and you need to listen to the head office very carefully and examine every position.”
At the same time, one or two other prophetic people independently started telling me the same thing. Not long after that, a couple of unusual problems popped up. So I took a personal retreat for a weekend for the express purpose of re-thinking how I wanted to run my team.
Four days later I got on the phone with a key staff member in my company. I asked him, “Are these recent issues just symptoms of the particular moment we’re in, or is there a bigger problem here?” He said, “It’s a bigger problem. I no longer have the interest or inclination to do this job anymore. I want to start doing something else.”
I had been thinking the same thing because of those memos. I had been nervous that this would be a contentious conversation, so I was elated when the two of us painlessly agreed, in the space of about two minutes, that it was time to start looking for his replacement. He had been a fixture in the company, so I would have never given a moment’s thought to actually replacing him, had Vivian not bent my ear about it.
Things can go wrong with memos. Pitfalls to watch out for:
- You get a memo about making a major change, and you act rashly without a second or third confirmation from somewhere else.
- Prophetic people trying to manipulate and control you, because they hear well and you don’t and they think it’s their job to tell you what to do. That is never a good sign.
- Some people put their words in God’s mouth… instead of God’s words in their mouth. (Think about that for a minute.) That’s a heavy bite to chew on.
- Prophetic people operating appropriately give their words provisionally, with humility. They will almost always say something like “You need to check this out with the head office and with other people” or “hold this with an open hand.” Beware of people who do not convey this attitude and seem like they’re trying to control you.
- A good memo can provoke such a powerful sense of intimacy and safe vulnerability that it can be a place for less-than-appropriate male-female relationships to form. Please avoid prophetic people you sense have bad boundaries.
- Any time you start to feel like you’re there to feed the prophet’s ego, or appease their insecurities, or if they make you feel as though their words come with an “IOU,” that is a sign you need to disengage.
- Prophetic words don’t “trump” everything else. They’re no substitute for good administrators or accountants or scientists or teachers. An organization with lots of prophets and no administrators is a tilt-a-whirl.
- Memos can absolutely come from the dark side, and there is a dark side. Stay away from mediums, astrologers and fortune tellers.
Ultimately this is about truth. And I don’t believe that truth is a memo, or a creed, or even a religion.Truth is a person. That person is LOVE. My experience with that person is Jesus. I believe that the fullest human expression of love was Jesus, love incarnate.
And love is the highest truth.
You can argue about how Jesus’s followers have perverted his message of love for the last 20 centuries, but you can’t deny that he was love. He loved so much he was willing to die to prove it. You simply can’t dispute that. He WAS love.
And for those of us who follow him, he IS and always will be Love.
And I firmly believe the further you stray from love, the further you stray from truth. They are inseparable. And the world needs more of both now more than ever.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to call yourself a Christian to follow LOVE. You don’t have to go to church to follow love. You don’t have to recite a creed or perform a ritual to follow love.
You can start with this: “God is Love.”
I have a client named Chris who might get a PTSD reaction if someone tries to drag him into a religious belief system. Yet he’ll still assure you the best part of his day is when he walks his dog to a park bench by a pond and meditates on Love with a capital “L”.
I seek my memos from people who are disciples of Jesus. His favorite disciple said, “Every spirit which testifies that Jesus came to earth in the flesh and is the son of God, giving Him the credit, is of God.”
Avoid mediums. Many are there to put themselves in the spotlight, and not bring honor to God. Shopping for psychics, mediums astrologers is like fishing in the open ocean in a canoe. A squall can come out of nowhere and wipe you out.
“Oh, great. I just read this inspiring book about tapping into divine inspiration… and now Perry’s giving me a pitch for Jesus. Awww, I really should have seen this coming. Reminds me of my smug sanctimonious Bible-thumper brother in law. The one who cheated on my sister for six years. I wish I could throw that bastard through a plate glass window.
“Yeah… thanks but no thanks.”
Boy do I ever get that. My dad was a pastor at a large church, and both of my parents were humiliated in front of 2,000 people because my mom had bipolar disorder. Dad had taken my mom to a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist prescribed medication, which worked. But the church leaders accused her of “rebellion” and “sin.” Then they demoted my dad from his job because psychiatrists were off-limits.
It was our family’s trip to hell and back. I will never forget what it was like to experience those dark days while all that was swirling around us.1
My co-author of this book, John Fancher, says: “I personally think Christians should take a few hundred years off from saying “Jesus” and just BE Jesus. And shut up about it. That’s the St. Francis in me.” George McDonald said, “It’s better to have not known about Him than to learn Him wrong.”
I’ve taken multiple trips through the religious hypocrisy smorgasbord buffet, and wolfed down second, third and fourth helpings, with dessert. I’ve seen the most nightmarish and sublime faces of faith communities. (The same people my dad struggled with took very good care of us when he was dying of cancer three years later.) So if this chapter is making you queasy – if you’ve been on the receiving end of religious hypocrisy and control – I can assure you, I’ve had to sort a lot of bitterness towards so-called religious people. If you’ve been hurt, I propose that you issue the following request to the head office. Start by saying:
I’m not interested in my idea of the head office, I’m asking to hear from the actual head office.
(All people at all stages of growth who belong to any belief system, or none at all, can make that request.)
Show me where and when people showed me a fake Jesus. And show me what the real Jesus looks like.
Start there. See where that request takes you.
And… very important: Remember all the stories about forgiveness? Like Bonnie Kim screaming at God about her client on the 405 expressway, or the guy who forgave the person at 9:20am and his lawsuit got settled at 9:24am? Everyone I’ve ever known who was abused by religion has needed to forgive. The story of my mom and dad and his pastor boss is a story of forgiveness.
It’s a big world out there, and there is no lack of not only prophets of every maturity level from good and mediocre to bad… but also psychics, mediums, oracles, seers, energy healers, etc. If you listen to all of them, that’s like climbing into a Cessna 172, taking off and then twisting every lever you can think of. Please exercise great caution about the prophetic, because careful curation is essential.
“Memos” is no different than sourcing any other kind of power or talent. The average employee, the average accountant, the average marketing manager, the average baseball coach is frankly not all that good. There’s a reason why lawyers have bar associations, doctors have to come from good schools and plumbers and electricians need certifications. Because there is no world standard for certifying prophetic people, you must take great care.
“Is the memo really from the Head Office? Or is it coming from some “other” office?”
That is a very important question. Not trivial. Can’t skip over this one.
I have one relative who suffered severe migraine headaches and slammed with depression every time she made love to her husband. (In other words, one of the two was miserable all the time.) Those migraines suddenly and dramatically disappeared after a prayer counseling session revealed that her grandfather had committed himself to Masonry. After the power of Masonry was broken, she was set free from some terrible reactions and feelings. It had been a portal to negativity in her life was shut tight.
I have another relative who was tormented for years with addictive behaviors including cocaine addiction and a string of toxic relationships including a physically abusive first husband, which ended after a prayer session broke the power of Wicca. Several other family members had been deeply involved.
Some forces in the spiritual world are malevolent, so when I’m requesting memos from the head office, the way that I make sure I’m dealing with the head office is by going through Jesus – the man who split time in half, BC and AD.
Here’s a story I tell in my “Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion” email series at www.coffeehousetheology.com:
His followers were disappointed that He didn’t overthrow the Romans and declare himself King, like the Messiah was supposed to do. So they abandoned Him.
The ancient Romans perfected what was possibly the most cruel form of torture ever devised by man: Crucifixion. They would drive spikes into their victim’s ankles and wrists, smashing his nerves. He would hang there in blinding sheets of pain, slowly suffocating and dehydrating for days, until he finally expired.
Not only that, vultures would come and start taking chunks of flesh before the victim was even dead. If any of us ever witnessed a crucifixion, we’d be seeing a psychiatrist for months just to deal with our own trauma.
All this was highly calculated. Crucifixion meant: Rome is 100% in charge, ladies and gentlemen. And if any of you EVER forget this one fact, this is what will happen to you.
Jesus was whipped and beaten, literally beyond recognition, then nailed to a cross between two common criminals.
One of these criminals was cursing and shouting at Him in a fit of rage: ‘HEY! If you’re the KING, why don’t you get yourself down from there! And US, TOO!!!’
The other guy went along with this… for a little while.
But he saw that Jesus wasn’t hurling insults at his torturers. Instead He was asking God to forgive them (?!).
He sobered up. He said to the other criminal, ‘Hey dude, you and I are here because we deserve it. But this man Jesus has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said to Jesus, ‘Remember me when you take charge of your Kingdom.’
Jesus simply replied, ‘Today you’ll be with me in Paradise.’
Stop the camera.
What you have here, in this brief conversation, is a snapshot of the entire world.
You have two criminals who have gotten themselves into a horrendous, awful mess. And you have the Son of God, who has not only chosen to live with us in our world of pain and suffering, but has personally taken all of it upon his own shoulders.
Even though he is completely innocent.
One thief refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions. He’s unwilling to admit that he created the very mess that he’s in.
He lives in denial until the bitter end. He grits his teeth and dies in his sin.
The other thief comes clean. He recognizes that Jesus possesses divine authority. He admits his guilt. He is required to do nothing, other than to let go of his pride.
He asks for forgiveness.
Jesus’ pardon doesn’t make the cross or the agony go away. But finally the struggle ceases and this man crosses the Great Divide. The intense pain dissolves and he steps into a New World, designed by God Himself — with renewed body and soul.
That’s a picture of the entire world, right there.
You and I are in this mess together, and we’ve all contributed to it.
We’ve all rejected God in some way or another, we’ve all committed some kind of crime, and we all experience suffering.
The situation is what it is.
So we have a simple choice: Accept the fact that God has suffered with us — or mock him and be furious because the suffering exists in the first place.
Which way do you want it?
Readers of this book are all over the place as far as religious faith goes. You may have reservations about Jesus, and that’s OK. If you’d like to explore this much more deeply, go to www.perrymarshall.com/spirituality and register for the email series, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
But for now, I’d like to focus on one of the most beautiful passages from the book of John chapter 1:
The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Every bit of this is beautiful, in fact it’s sublime poetry. But I want to focus on the highlighted part: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
No darkness is more powerful than Christ. If you are a follower of Christ, you have the keys to the kingdom. All you have to do is say, “God, I want to be a Christ follower.” And then start reading the book of John.
If you’re not sure about Christ, then do this: just say, “God, whoever you are, I don’t want my idea of God, I want the real, ultimate, most powerful God, the way God IS. Even if the way God is seems strange to me. God, if you’re real… show me.”
Read the book of John and listen to how it speaks to you. Especially to your intuitive, creative side.
In this document I am imparting to you, and inviting you into, my connection with the head office. I want you to have that too. I want everyone to have it.
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