053 | Two Mouths; One Voice

Welcome to episode 53 of The Grace Cafe Podcast! That pesky flu virus I told you about last week has exited our home but some of its side effects are lingering. Namely, Susan is still without a voice. There’s a lot of whispering going on around here and note-writing on Susan’s part. Needless to say, our conversations have been a little one-sided.

But that didn’t stop her from joining me in the high-tech podcast studio for this episode. Hence the title, Two Mouths; One Voice. Susan joins me via notes and whispers as we talk about how the Holy Spirit guides us further and further into the gospel and a clearer understanding of what really matters. We reflect on our own experiences and how the Holy Spirit most often transforms our thinking and understanding slowly over time. Our love for others will lack to the degree that “Jesus Christ and him crucified” gets lost in our tribal doctrine.


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052 | Rethinking Formal Church Membership

Hello friends and welcome to episode 52 of The Grace Cafe Podcast. The flu bug has hit our house pretty hard and we were unable to record a fresh episode for you so I (Mike) reached over to my recently launched UnSunday Show and grabbed an episode from there to share with you. This episode centers around formal church membership and asks some honest questions about what formal church membership is, why it’s there, and who benefits. If The UnSunday Show is something that tweaks you, it can be found in any podcast app or on-line HERE.

Here’s Mike’s blog post with the links referenced in this episode:


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051 | Finding the Freedom to be Authentic

“While the church served its purpose, I probably was asleep for many years. And now I’m waking up to living.” –Allison Stanley

Welcome to episode 51 of The Grace Cafe Podcast! Not to be confused with Area 51. Well, there may be a few similarities. This episode is a conversation between Susan and two of our friends, Allison Stanley and Nora Shaw. Allison has been on our show twice before, in episodes 10 and 11 and Nora joined Susan on the previous episode, 50. 

The theme of freedom in last week’s episode continues in this episode as the conversation turns toward losing our own authenticity as a result of needing approval from others. The freedom to be ourselves, which is ours in Christ, is lost when we find ourselves in an environment where we compromise who we really are in order to fit in. We hide parts of our true selves for fear of losing the approval of others. This is nowhere more evident than in religious settings where the emphasis is on sameness based on one person’s or one group’s theology or doctrine.

But many of us are finding the freedom to be who we really are regardless of the opinions of others. We’re learning that fitting in is a poor substitute for belonging and true freedom is the result of being who we really are without pretense or seeking the approval of others at the expense of being who we really are. We’ve traded our authenticity for approval long enough.


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050 | Finding Freedom Apart From Religion: A Conversation With Nora Shaw

Welcome to episode 50 of The Grace Cafe Podcast. This episode captures Susan’s conversation with her friend Nora Shaw. Nora talks of her journey into the freedom of the gospel and some of the ways organized religion inhibits that freedom. Religion forces us to fit in while never really belonging because we can’t be our true selves there. The freedom Jesus and the New Testament writers talk about is a freedom apart from performance, religious or otherwise. Breaking away from what binds us, while sometimes painful and difficult to do, is the first step to finding the freedom to be truly free. The freedom to be yourself that comes only through Jesus, apart from religion.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35–36)


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049 | Recovering From Spiritual Abuse

Welcome to episode 49 of the Grace Cafe Podcast! Let’s talk about picking up the pieces and rebuilding your life and identity following spiritual abuse. You’ve suffered such loss at the hands of an abuser, someone you trusted but who ended up weaponizing your story against you, resulting in so much loss. Loss of friends. Loss of reputation. Loss of family relationships. Loss of confidence. Loss of identity. Loss of hope.

What now? How do you start to rebuild following spiritual abuse at the hands of an abuser you once trusted but who, for their own narcissistic reasons, turned on you, painting themselves as a victim and you as some sort of evil person? What do you do when friends and family believe the false stories being spun about you by an abuser and shun you, while embracing unquestionably, the twisted version spun by your abuser?

Let’s talk about it.

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048 | The Intentional Brutality of Spiritual Abuse

Welcome to episode 48 of The Grace Cafe Podcast. Let’s continue our conversation about spiritual abuse. Like abusers in other forms of abuse, spiritual abusers act with intentionality and purpose. They are skilled and accomplished in silencing their victims using tools such as shaming, shunning, bullying, power posturing, lying, and gossiping, to name a few. Spiritual abusers cannot be reasoned with. Once a victim of spiritual abuse speaks up, their character will be assassinated and they will find themselves being shunned by those empathetic with the abuser as he or she spins the truth in such a way as to cast themselves in a good light, while trashing the reputation of the victim(s). 

Victims of spiritual abuse will hear over and over again that the abuser and those in the abuser’s close circle, are disappointed in them. As a result, they begin to think there is something wrong with them and they can easily develop a wrong view of God as they start to believe he is disappointed in them also. While spiritual abuse leaves no physical scars, the scars it does leave are deep-seated ones that can cripple an individual for years and make recovery a long and tedious process.

In this episode, we interact with a listener who reached out to us about their own experiences with spiritual abuse. We also, mention and recommend the following helpful books:

We hope you find encouragement in this episode!

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047 | A Conversation About Spiritual Abuse

Welcome to episode 47 of the Grace Cafe Podcast. Let’s talk about spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse leaves no physical marks. It’s a silent abuse that usually happens behind closed doors or in settings where no one else sees it occurring, or only the select few leaders witness it but don’t see it for what it is, spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse makes its victims think there is something wrong with them when in reality, there is something wrong with the abuser. But the abuser is skilled at spinning a situation in such a way that paints them as the victim and the true victim as a troublemaker not to be believed. Let’s talk about it.

Important links we mention in the episode:

Need help? Here’s some good news:

-Thanks for listening. If you like the Grace Cafe Podcast, share it with someone. Give us a review in iTunes (Apple Podcasts) or on your iPhone app.

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046 | Humility, Jesus, and Top-Down Authority in the Church

Welcome to episode 46 of The Grace Cafe Podcast. Let’s talk about humility. Humility is an ingredient that’s missing in abusive top-down authority environments where misinformed leaders believe it is their job to manipulate others through the use of punishments and rewards; punishments for failing to comply and rewards for compliance. In top-down authority environments, power flows down while money flows up and those at the top work feverishly to keep that power by convincing those at or near the bottom that they are God’s spokesperson, are “called” by God to a position of authority, and because of their self-proclaimed authority, must be submitted to without question. 

This is a setting void of humility and ripe for all kinds of abuse. As one who came, not to be served but to serve, Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, leaving them an example of how to serve one another. Jesus assumed the posture of a servant in washing the disciple’s feet. But within institutional Christianity, there is more concern for power posturing to guilt others into blind conformity and submission. In speaking of power and top-down authority, Jesus said, “it shall not be so among you” but power-hungry leaders have turned a deaf ear to those words.

After recording this episode, we came across this powerful article dealing with many of the same topics we broach in this episode:

Then the story broke via The Houston Chronicle of 700 victims of Southern Baptist sexual abuse over a 20 year span:

This is the legacy of top-down authority where no top-down authority should exist. The ones deemed weakest are the ones who suffer the most. Join us as we talk about humility and the 21st century church.