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Saturday, October 22, 2011


Four years ago today, our home and all our belongings went up in smoke. That event started a chain of events that changed our life and brought us where we are today. Such a crazy whirl-wind. It's strange to think about, actually...that if our home hadn't burned down, we wouldn't have had to take out a loan against our property and we might still be living in Washington among our family. The constant "what ifs" keep swirling around in my mind. What if I had unplugged the heater before I went shopping that day? What if I had put my wedding ring on before I left? What if I hadn't left at all but had been there to stop it? Or the worst, what if I had left my kids at home with a sitter instead of taking them with me?

If I close my eyes, there are some very vivid memories that flash like movie scenes in my head. As I wrote a year later: "So many memories are coming to me as I type this...so many emotions. My dad crying in the parking lot of Wal-Mart because he was so glad we were alright. Pushing a shopping cart around the store, dazed and trying to think about what I needed for my babies. Leaning against a DVD display, crying my eyes out because I realized that our wedding rings were one of the casualties. Letting my siblings and parents take over as they one by one showed up and filled my cart with things that they payed for out of their own pockets. Going home only to realize that "home" was gone. Getting phone calls from friends who wanted to know how they could help. Holding my babies, afraid to let them out of my sight for fear that something would happen to them, too. That was a dark night. I lay in my husband's arms, unable to sleep, listening to the steady breathing of my children. They had no idea that their entire world just changed. The tears just kept falling...I couldn't stop them. It was all so overwhelming, so shocking."

I was mad at God for a long time after that. To be honest, I've been angry a lot in the past few years for many things. Nothing has turned out the way we thought it would. I wrote not too long ago: "When is life supposed to work? When does the whole "all things work for good" promise actually come into play? For years now we've done what we thought God wanted us to do, followed Him with everything we have, and for what? To get patted on the back and told "well done"? Yeah, that'll put food on the table. I know that God still works miracles. Is it too much to ask that He could work one for us?"

But I've learned something since then. Sometimes miracles happen in tiny steps instead of big bangs. Sometimes they take years to come to fruition, a building and swelling of little moments that one day become something grand. Or even something ordinary and unnoticable to passers-by, yet understood in the hearts of those who notice; every-day miracles that we wake up to and forget are just as extraordinary as the grand ones. Sometimes it takes tearing down to build up. There is no formula for a life of blessings. The rain falls on the just and unjust, time and chance happen to us all, suffering is no respecter of persons.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, and the day I stood looking at the ashes of my life smoldering before me I had no idea that it was the first of many unfair, unhappy events that would make us feel like we lost all control of our lives and leave us standing in unfamiliar territory wondering what was next.

I've learned something else about life. There is a time for every season under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to laugh, and a time to cry. A time to tear down and time to build up. I can complain and be angry about what I perceive as the "bad" things, but that won't make them disappear from my life. They are part of life and we can't change that. Sometimes they serve to bring us to a place where we wouldn't have gone without them. Would I be in Montana now, surrounded by great friends and more beauty than my soul can hold, with hope for the future if my home had never burned down? Would I have ever found this place of peace with life if I hadn't known unrest? Would I be the strong person I am now if I hadn't fallen to my knees, crying in agony a few times, my legs refusing to hold me up any longer? Would I appreciate freedom as much if I didn't know bondage? Would my marriage be as strong as it is now if we hadn't been stripped of everything and forced to face things we were ignoring? Would I be enjoying the moments of pure bliss as much if I didn't know what raw pain felt like? I don't know. Ask me 30 years from now. Hind sight being what it is.....

This journey isn't over yet. I have no idea where we're going from here. I know less now than I thought I did the day I was digging through the still-warm ashes looking for our wedding rings. But I think I'm OK with that. I'm enjoying the journey (most of the time), enjoying looking back and understanding what brought us to where we are now. It sure as hell wasn't much fun getting here, but here we are. Everything beautiful in its time, everything redeemable by the God I follow who makes all things new. Thank God for hindsight....I think it give us hope.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On "Roles"

We keep hearing about women's and men's "roles" and who is and who is not following them correctly. We hear the phrase "Biblical roles" thrown about here and there. But a question keeps forming in the back of my mind:

Why would I want to play a "role" in my life and relationships?

Roles are for actors....people who are handed a script and told "Here is your character, your role in this play; do not stray from the script, ad lib, or get out of character. To do so will ruin the entire play and throw the other actors off. Stay in your role, perform it well, and everyone else will stay in theirs, and all will go well."

Is that how I want to live my life? To be handed a script with my role as "Godly Woman" printed on it for me to follow? A character I must stay in, a role to play? Interacting with other characters whose scripts have been handed them, never knowing who they truly are, but only who their character is?

What if all the people I love stop following their "roles" and start living day by day, finding out who God designed them to be, instead of playing a role given to them by church, tradition, and interpretations of ancient literature? What if life isn't a play, perfectly scripted, with perfect little actors playing their roles, interacting with each other accordingly, and making the time pass?

I am more than a script on a piece of paper...more than a role in a play. I am more than an actor in my life...someone following another's script, pretending to be something I'm really not. When God designed me, He didn't give me a role to play, He gave me a life to live. A life that is full of twists and turns and suprises and consequences, some mine, some not of my own doing. I have a choice in how I live and conduct the relationships in my life. God didn't hand me a script and say "this is your character; play this role". He gave me a life and said "Choose".

Are you playing a role, or living a life?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Was You Once

You...the girl with the waist-length hair, long denim skirt, and downcast eyes. Trying on old clothes in a thrift store because new clothes are too "worldly" and "immodest". I was you once.

You...beautiful girl, hiding behind your walls; walls built to keep the evil world and influences out. Baggy, ugly clothes to hide your shape. Ashamed of the looks cast your way. I was you once.

You...standing there as your mom tells you that this dress or that skirt is unacceptable because it shows your budding womanly form which must be hidden at all costs because of it's danger. Blushing at the critique of your body, casting longing, furtive glances at the other girls your age in the next dressing room having the time of their lives trying on cute, stylish clothing. Wishing you could be them, just for a little while, just to know what it's like to feel normal. I was you once.

You...feeling like a freak show everywhere you go. Being ashamed of your feelings because you're supposed to be a freak show...a "pecular people". Different from "The World". More pleasing to God then the rest of them. Not foolish like those girls in the next dressing room. I was you once.

You...telling yourself that the way you dress is more godly, more pure, that you're better than other girls who dress like the world. Trying to convince yourself that you know better than they and God loves you more for dressing unattractively. Trying to stuff the pain that comes from being ashamed of your beauty and the evil it causes the poor men around you. Trying to tell yourself that this is your lot in life. Trying not to look longingly at the pretty things that you can never wear. Trying not to wonder what it would be like to feel cute for a change. Using pride as a wall to protect your hurting heart. And feeling guilty for it all. I was you once.

You...ashamed of your beauty, afraid of your shapliness, afraid of loosing your purity and taking some man's purity because you didn't dress modestly enough to keep him from noticing you. I was you once.

You...crying to God "why didn't you make me a man?!" because you hate being a woman and having to hide and look ridiculous. Longing for the freedom to dress without wondering if a guy is going to lust after you and if it'll be your fault or not. I was you once.

Anger, fear, shame, guilt, pride, helplessness, hopelessness, insecurity, and confusion, all hidden behind a shapless, ugly jumper and a heart shut off to keep from hurting. I know. I felt it once too.

You...do you know that you're beautiful and that God made you that way? Has anyone told you that being a woman is a wonderful thing, not something to be hidden or ashamed of? Do you know that God loves you for who you are, not for what you wear? Do you know that's it's OK to be pleased with being beautiful? That's it's OK to want to be attractive and desirable? Do you know that you are not responsible for the purity of the male race? That is a burden far too heavy for any woman to bear. I long to take your hand and tell you these things. But I am just a stranger in a thrift store.

You...I look into your eyes for the brief moment they meet mine, and I see so much pain. I hurt with you, the little girl inside that wants to be beautiful, noticed, and desired. The little girl that's been told all these things are evil and your heart is wicked for wanting them. The woman that feels ugly and thinks God wants it that way. And my heart breaks all over again.

You...God hears the cries of your heart. He wants to tell you you're beautiful, that He made you that way, that He's so very fond of you. That bondage to men's rules was never His idea. That nothing you wear or don't wear can make Him love you more or love you less. That, even if you are stuck in that bondage not of your own making for a time, your heart can be free from the lies that put you there.

Beautiful you. I was you once. Sometimes I still am. Because broken hearts can be hidden by both ugly and pretty clothes. And lies once embraced can be hard to let go of. So for just one moment in time, that moment you allow your heart to show through your eyes as you gaze at me, the stranger in the thrift store, let my smile tell you that you're beautiful. And that I understand. And I pray you get a glimpe of God's grace and His love for you in the eyes of a broken-hearted stranger.

Friday, July 29, 2011

On Women and "Protection"

There’s something troubling me about a teaching going around. I’ll probably be preaching to the choir here but on the chance that someone reads this who has swallowed said teaching, I need to give them a dose of reality.

The teaching goes something like this: Girls need protection, physical and spiritual. That’s why they need to stay home under their father’s protection until they can be safely entrusted to their husband’s protection. The extent to which this is fleshed out is different from family to family, but that’s the jist of the teaching.

So what about it? This idea of women needing “protection” is being used to keep them from going to college, getting jobs, and going on missionary trips, among other things. They are told that they are gullible, weak-minded, easily led, and not to be trusted on their own because they are easily deceived and taken advantage of. They need a strong man to come between them and the world.

Besides the fact that I see absolutely no scriptural backing for this idea, I can’t help but think that whoever came up with it doesn’t live in the real world.

I've heard so many use this as an excuse for why a woman shouldn't go off to college. Because then she'll be "alone" and without protection. What if her car breaks down? What if she has to go shopping in a bad part of town? What if something goes wrong and Daddy isn't there to rescue her? Or a shady mechanic tries to rip her off?

My husband's a trucker. I'm "alone" from about Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon every week during the summer. I have to fend for myself and three kids. I sleep alone, a gun nearby, knowing there may come a night I'll have to use it (and trust me, I can use it better than most men I know). I have to make all the decisions on how to run my house alone. I have to be mature and interact with the world around me (including men and atheists *gasp*) alone. I have to be discerning all by myself, able to judge right and wrong, wise and foolish. If I break down on the side of the road, my husband isn't there to "protect" or rescue me. I have to deal with it as if I were single. I have to be strong and capable and mature and independent every single day. My husband leaves every week depending on me to be all these things and more. If I had an emergency, it could be 12+ hours before my husband could get to me. He didn't need a girl who needed to be coddled, needed someone to make decisions for her, needed to be "led" and guided in daily interactions like a child. He needed a mature woman who could handle an imperfect life. And it's a darn good thing that I didn't spend my growing up years thinking I needed a man to handle my life or come between me and the big bad world. I had to learn how to be a functioning part of society and take care of myself and others. My family's well-being depends on this.

I know girls who weren’t allowed to go grocery shopping, in a safe small town, without their dad or big brother for “protection”. They weren’t allowed to go anywhere without a man, for that matter. Their view of the Big Bad Men in the world they needed to be protected from has grown into a paranoia. They’re scared of their own shadows. They think all men are out to rape them or take advantage of them. And they truly believe they are gullible, weak, and cannot handle life on their own, because that's the line they've been fed all their lives. It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As my friend, Christi, said in comment to this idea:

"This is exactly what patriarchy wants us to believe, that women are weak-minded things incapable of avoiding dangerous situation. I lived alone ...and I never found myself in a compromising position. And how would a predator know whether a woman lived at home with her parents, or with her husband, or lived "alone" (with roommates)?

And while we're talking about this, why don't people realize that homemakers are some of the most "alone" and vulnerable women out there? You seem to not realize that married young women have to do the exact same things that young women who are away at college have to do, and more. I have to go out and do my shopping alone, just like a college girl would (though I imagine that college girls get to carpool together). What's more, I'm even at home alone. I'm pretty sure that I'd really be better protected on a college campus since I'm alone during the day (and night, since my husband works until 11 PM) and have often had to interact with strange men, sometimes even inside my house, while my husband is at work. Apartment maintenance men, internet guy, phone guy, UPS man, door-to-door salesmen, etc. Oh, and it's usually my job to take our car in for repairs and oil changes. Car repairmen are actually pretty nice, or maybe it depends on where you go (which again, is simply a matter of making an intelligence choice).

I mean no disrespect to my husband when I say this but, he's really not here a lot to protect me because he's busy working a full-time job in addition to being a full-time student. My marriage license doesn't really afford me any more physical protection than I had when I was single."

You see, it is complete folly to train up a person to be completely dependent on another person. You have no idea what their life is going to be like. No idea what skills they’re going to need to provide for themselves or the people they love. No idea if they will get married, then widowed. Or even if they will marry at all. To raise a girl with the belief that she is weak and needs a man to be her mediator in life is to cripple her for life. To render her ineffective to do anything for herself or for the God that she's supposed to be "glorifying".

I know girls my age who are single and still at home with their parents, being told that they need to be "protected" and watched over until they get married and all that jazz. But guess what? I'm married and I'm still on my own. Age and marital status aren't the magic keys to a perfect life. They are just used as excuses for controlling the lives of these girls. Real life doesn't look anything like what the Patriarchy crowd are trying to say it does. Their view is way too narrow. Ask a soldier's wife. Or a trucker's wife. Or any woman who is married or single and has to be a mature adult and deal with the world on her own. Whose husband and children and lives depend on it.

I love it when my husband is home and able to take care of things so I don't have to. I love being cared for and knowing that I don't have to do everything by myself. I love feeling loved and protected by my man, just as much as he loves me caring for him. I love sleeping peacefully at night, knowing he's right there and I don't have to be so alert. But I also love knowing that should he not be there, I can still take care of myself and my children.

One last thought. You know that popular verse in Proverbs 31 that says "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies."??? Go look up the Hebrew word translated "virtuous". It's most often used in the OT to describe might, strength, fighting men of valor, army men, efficiency, wealth, strength and force. It is translated all these ways: army 56 times, man of valour 37 times, host 29 times, forces 14 times, valiant 13 times, strength 12 times, power 9 times, substance 8 times, might 6 times, strong 5 times, and a few miscellaneous words. Gives you a rather different picture of what a "Proverbs 31 woman" looks like, doesn't it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

On Being "Gracious"

It seems that some people don't like my personal writing method. Apparently I'm not "gracious" enough. I'm too raw, too blunt, not "diplomatic" enough for the delicate eyes of some of my readers. I need to balance truth with a bit more grace. I have to wonder...what, exactly, is their definition of "gracious"? Because as far as I can see, I haven't maliciously attacked anyone. I haven't called names or imputed nasty motives. Mostly I just rip apart pet teachings and ideas. I take white-washed lies and expose them for the filth they are. (Oh, am I allowed to say "filth"? Or is that not gracious enough?) To these folks, "ungracious" actually means "saying anything against accepted religious leaders" and "finding fault with someone's teachings" and perhaps "rocking the boat".

I suppose Jesus could've been more gracious when He drove the money-changers out of the temple with a whip He made with his own hands. I suppose He should've use more diplomacy when calling out the Pharisees and using such ungracious name as "brood of vipers" and "blind guides, fools", "serpents", "murderers", and "white-washed tombs". I think that Paul could've been a bit more understanding and nice when writing the book of 1 Corinthians. He did use some harsh language in that one. Now that I think about it, telling the Galations he wished the religious leaders would mutilate themselves was a bit much. Stephen probably should've used some other words toward the Pharisees than "stiff-necked and uncircumcised" to get his point across. But I suppose he realized that a little too late. And can I just mention that John the Baptist wouldn't know diplomacy if it smacked him in the face?

You see, sometimes exposing ugliness is ugly. You cannot make it pretty or smooth it over with flowery words. You can't polish crap. In the end, it's still crap. Stating that a teaching or a book or an entire seminar is twisting the gospel of Jesus and causing all sorts of damage to the hearts and souls of people is not being ungracious. It's just exposing lies and darkness, which isn't a pretty sight and not for the faint-hearted. It's doing exactly what Jesus, his apostles, the prophets, and all the people of God in the Bible were called to do. If you can't take that, then go find some fluffy bunnies and rainbows and butterflies website to read.

Some of us have more important things to do than make ourselves and others feel good all the time. There's too much at stake here to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the pain, the darkness, and the ugliness. To try to brush it over with pretty pastels and nice pictures. People's lives and souls are at stake here, and I will not try to make that pretty just to keep from offending the sensibilities of people who can't take the reality of the dark side of life and religious addiction. If that makes me ungracious, then so be it. Just count me in with the many people throughout history who weren't afraid to tell it like it is. (Though thankfully I'm not in danger of being stoned, beheaded, or torn apart by lions like most of them were.)

People are being spiritually slaughtered, the Name of Jesus is being dragged through the mud and used to enslave souls, "christians" are pretending none of this happening and attacking others who say it is, and I'm beyond caring whether people think I'm being "gracious" enough. I don't have time for that. I'm too busy pulling people out of the ugliness to spend time making the ugliness sound better than it is so people aren't offended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Announcing "Recovering Grace"

There's a new website on the block, folks. Launched by adult graduates of ATI, and people who were followers of Bill Gothard and his teachings, I am so happy to introduce Recovering Grace ~ A Gothard Generation Shines Light On The Teachings of IBLP and ATI.

If you've been hurt, angered, or confused by the teachings of Gothard, please give this site a look. Even if you love Gothard and don't know what the hullaballoo is all about, come give us try. It's written by former Gothard students, to anyone in or out of ATI/IBLP. There will be new articles often, so bookmark this site.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stand Up

All the lonely people cryin'
It could change if we just get started
Lift the darkness, light a fire
For the silent and the broken-hearted.....

For all of you that have helped to light a fire....to shine a light in a dark place of bondage and pain and brokenness: thank you. You are a voice for those who have no voice. So many tears, yet we've begun to see so much healing and freedom.

Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up,
Won't you stand up, you girls and boys;
Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up,
Won't you stand up and use your voice.

You have stood and said "No more!" You have been so brave, telling your stories, speaking of things ugly and unspeakable. Standing, speaking out, using your voice.

There's a comfort, there's a healing,
High above the pain and sorrow
Change is comin', can you feel it?
Calling us into a new tomorrow.

And you whose voices have been shut up, listen and let us speak for you. What is happening to you is wrong. You don't have to suffer at the hands of others. We will speak up for you, stand up for you, fight for you, until your voice is silenced no longer and you can freely add yours to ours.

When the walls fall all around you
When your hope has turned to dust
Let the sound of love surround you
Beat like a heart in each of us.

We were you once. Our walls fell down, our hope vanished. But someone was brave enough to reach down and pull us out of the rubble. Someone was strong enough to speak the truth about our worth. Someone was fierce enough to condemn the oppressors. Someone loved enough to rescue us, tell us we were worth it, tell us we were beautiful and loved.

Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up,
Won't you stand up, you girls and boys?
Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up,
Won't you stand up and use your voice.

And now we stand with them. We stand for spiritual and physical freedom. We stand against those who would take that from us and the ones we love. We stand together and we will not shut up our voices. As long as there are people who think it is their right to take away the rights of others, we will not be silent. We will continue to reach down and remember the One, and the ones, who pulled us out of the rubble of our lives. Who cared enough about people they maybe didn't even know, to speak up and stand up.

Won't you stand up, stand up, stand up,
Won't you stand up and use your voice?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Friday Link Love

I've been reading some great stuff this week and wanted to share. Maybe I'll do this every Friday, maybe not. I'm non-committal. ;) So here ya go, folks. A little bit of this, that, and something else. These links are speaking to me where I'm at right now.

~*~ Blogger Incongruous Circumspection writes a great commentary on an article by Ladies Against Feminism on women in the workforce.

~*~ Here's a good, thought-provoking article by iMonk, entitled "Why I'm Not a Young Earth Creationist".

~*~ Blogger Jeromy Johnson writes about Christianity and Patriotism, in "Jesus Wore Red, White, and Blue".

~*~ A blog on Grace-Based Parenting was shared with me this week, called "Dare to Disciple". Especially encouraging to me was this article on What Do Other's Think?

~*~ A really good perspective on the decline of "American Christianity", by one of my favorite authors, Gregory Boyd. Here's another great one on The Heresy Of Failing To Love.

~*~ This article, What Is A Cult?, has been going around and is certainly worth considering.

~*~ And Brenda King offers a really good review of the Pearls book, To Train Up A Child.

Enjoy your weekend, folks! I think we're going to head out into the gorgeous Montana wilderness and go camping. I sure love where we live. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We're Alright

I was talking to a friend from my childhood the other day. She was on vacation in my state and wanted to come visit me. We chatted non-stop while our kids played. It was good catching up. We both grew up with simalar beliefs and lifestyles and both have come out of that. We talked about old times and crazy parents and legalistic beliefs and who we were then and who we are now. We could've talked for another 8 hours.

As she was leaving, she hugged me and said "It's good for me to see people from way-back-when, to see where they are now. We're alright, you know? After everything is said and done, we're all OK. We have good lives, people we love and who love us. We have our demons and struggles like everyone else, but in the end....we're all alright."

I thought for a while about what she said and I realized she was right. If I step back and look at the big picture, I see many people, broken, all in different stages of healing, all living our lives as best we can, all searching and growing and loving and crying and laughing. We are just like everyone else in the world, regardless of where we came from. And we are alright.

Sometimes I get caught up in seeing through a narrow lense; seeing only one small part of an issue in my life or someone else's. I get so intent on such little things that need fixing that they become huge and cloud everything else. Sometimes I need to step back and realize that I'm looking at such a small part of who I am and where I'm at. I need a bigger perspective. My friend gave me one that day.

We're alright. Not perfect, not "arrived", maybe not where we'd like to be, maybe some more broken than others. But we're on a journey, each of us with a goal and dream in mind. And we'll get there. And as long as we never stop moving forward, never stop dreaming, never give up, we'll be alright.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Letter to a Family Considering Joining ATI (Guest Post)

The following is an excellent letter, written by a personal friend of mine. It was a response to a man on a message board ("H") asking for info on ATI (Gothard's homeschooling institute) from people who had been involved. Robin shared her letter with an online group we are both part of, and she has given permission for me to share it with you all. I am honored to do so. Her beautiful heart clearly shows through this letter. We once knew each other as fellow Gothard-girls. We now know each other as fellow Jesus-followers and freedom-lovers. May these words reach the people who need to hear them the most.



H, to really get to the bottom of the criticisms, I STRONGLY recommend you read "A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life".
Google the book and you will find it. Amazon has it.

I was in ATI for about 12 years, from age 10-22, very involved, lots of mission trips, Russia, Singapore, Character First, Children's Institutes and so forth. And I never rebelled, I was not one of those who hated the program and fought it while I was in it. I threw my heart and soul into being a good example for my siblings and embracing the standards and trying to live as I was taught. My family left the program in 2002, when I was 22, primarily because they could no longer afford the $600 annual fee. Since then, I have been soul-searching, searching the Scriptures, and re-examining what I was taught. It has been a long, complicated sifting process. To this day, my wonderful, godly husband of nearly 3 years, who grew up in a fabulous Christian family but NOT in ATI, cannot believe some of the things I grew up believing, or the culture my young life was based in.

It is especially now at age 31, looking back, that I see the very subtle dangers and heresies that I (and my family) fell for. Part of the danger is in the teaching, part is Mr. Gothard himself, part is in the culture... I truly believe, now, that it is a very dangerous organization. I would STRONGLY caution you to do your homework and be very careful! It is so easy to get sucked in, a bit at a time. It truly is like a cult.

To answer your question about the dress code, at least when I went to the conferences back in the '90's, the dress code was laid-out, specific, and strict for the "Apprenticeship Students". (ATI-speak for teenagers, since "teenagers" is an unBiblical concept, lol) In ATI, "Apprenticeship Students" were ages 12-marriage. Even if a someone was 25 and unmarried, they were still pretty much treated like a teenager or child, and not as an adult, until they are married. At the conferences, the "adults" could dress as they wished, but modest dress (basically the same as what the apprenticeship students had to wear, but it could be other colors than navy and white) was STRONGLY encouraged. So in a way, it is more of a "behavioral norm" than a stated command. Of course, in an authoritarian culture which emphasizes the "Principle of Authority" there is really little difference between a suggestion and a command, when it comes from an authority figure. If you don't conform, you are being "rebellious". And the ATI leadership and Bill Gothard himself are definitely considered to be authorities over all the families in ATI.

I spent years doing my utmost to fit in on the outside and have the high standards that I was taught to strive for, and on the inside feeling like a failure because I just couldn't measure up. No matter how hard I tried, I could never keep all of Mr. Gothard's lists. Most ex-ATI people I talk to describe the exact same feeling. It is not an organization that teaches grace or spiritual growth through Christ's working in us and changing us from the inside out. Instead we are taught to strive and work and make commitments and vows and work hard to become pleasing to the Lord. It was such an eye-opening epiphany for me, literally brought tears to my eyes and changed me forever, when I realized what God's grace truly means. I think the chapter of A Matter of Basic Principles, the chapter called "The Definition of Grace" is the most important chapter in the book. Bill Gothard literally has a teaching, a letter he sent out to all the ATI families in the early 2000's, where he teaches in essence that grace is "the desire and power to do God's will". So, God's grace is about our works??? That is heresy. Grace is God's unmerited favor. Grace is realizing that God IS pleased with me, no matter what I do, simply because I am His child and He loves me. Works have nothing to do with grace. I don't have to strive and strain to earn His favor. Read the book of Galatians (I seriously think Bill's Bible is somehow missing that book...) we are not saved by grace and then sanctified by works. No, we are saved by grace AND sanctified by grace! The changes in our lives, the fruits of THE SPIRIT (not the fruits of our striving and working!) and our godly Character are produced by the Spirit working His will in our lives as we walk in Faith, following His individual leading in our lives, not by us outwardly conforming to Bill's endless lists on "Seven Steps to This" and "Ten Principles for That".

You may say "Well, of course I will not pressure my kids to live up to ALL those lists and standards! We will just take the good and leave out the rest!" but if you say that, then you don't understand the peer pressure that exists in such a group. You may have more lax or realistic standards at home, but when your kids go to the seminars or on the mission trips, you won't be there to provide balance. My parents had no idea of some of the teachings I swallowed on some of those trips. They certainly would not have agreed with everything I was taught, or with how I felt so much pressure to conform. Going to the "Young Ladies Counseling Seminar" and teaching at over 13 Children's Institutes, I saw over and over that those who didn't conform, were shunned. The girls who wore skirts barely to their knees instead of halfway to their ankles? Shunned, generally. Those who wore just a bit too much makeup? Or who talked a lot about secular movies or "worldly" music or wore fashionable but barely-acceptable-by-ATI-standards shoes? Or who enjoyed hanging around the guys and talking and laughing with them and maybe even (gasp!) flirting a little? Those of us who were striving to be godly (I say this tongue in cheek because now I am ashamed of this) shunned them. I didn't want others to see me talking to the "rebels", because they might think I was a rebel and shun me too. I still remember when I was at a C.I. and a new guy sat down at one of the pianos during a break in our training and played some ragtime music. He was very talented, and it was very fun, good music. Not Rock music, ragtime. But those of us who were more experienced with the ATI culture kind of snickered among ourselves and talked about how long it would take for those in charge to go shut him down. Sure enough, he didn't even finish the song before one of the leaders was telling him that that music was "unacceptable" and to stop playing it. Now I see how petty and judgmental and UNGODLY it all was, but at the time we were so self-righteous and sure of ourselves.

I know it is tempting, I understand why people (such as my parents, whom I love and respect) are sucked into it. It would be wonderful in a way if the Christian life was based on a set of formulas, which, properly applied, would guarantee success in life, happy relationships, and kids who turn out great. Especially when you have a lot of kids. I am the oldest of 10 kids and am a home-school graduate. I think home-schooling is wonderful and plan to home educate my own kids someday. But not in ATI. And Christianity is NOT based on a set of formulas, as Bill seems to think. (I love calling him that now, after so many years of the hallowed "Mr. Gothard".) Christianity is a relationship with the living Christ, and no set of standards or list of principles will substitute for that or even really help that. They only distract from that real relationship.

In ATI, children are in essence trained to be hypocrites, since so much focus is placed on dress standards, music, and so many outward peripheral issues which are NOT specifically spelled out in Scripture and therefore are not essential to living the Christian life. There is also a tendency for people in ATI to alienate themselves and their families from the rest of the body of Christ. ATI teaches to seek out "like-minded friends". What this boils down to is breaking fellowship with anyone who does not agree with ATI's view of things, usually minor issues not spelled out in Scripture. That family lets their kids listen to Christian contemporary music and their daughters wear jeans and T-shirts? They aren't like-minded! Never mind that they love the Lord and are passionate about serving Him and they are raising wonderful kids... ATI teachings and culture breed fear that if you let your kids hang around with their kids, your kids will rebel. So if that family will not change to suit you, if they won't change their music and start wearing long skirts and commit to courtship instead of dating (which by the way, CAN be done in a God-honoring way...), then you'd better stop being friends with them. Now I seriously believe that it is HEALTHY to have friends who believe differently than I do... talking with them, questioning why they believe what they believe, finding out how different people think, questioning my own beliefs, examining Scripture together to find out what it says on various issues, is a BIG part of how we mature spiritually! If everyone around us believes the same (or if we end up swallowing the subtle seeds of "we are better than the rest of those so-called worldly Christians out there who don't look and act like us" that are sown widely throughout the ATI culture) then even as we outwardly conform, our true inner spiritual growth will stagnate! That is what happened to me! I look forward to my kids someday asking me the hard questions... "Mommy, why do we believe this? Johnny's family doesn't believe that!" That is a teaching moment! That is how learning happens! If we can't defend our beliefs to our own kids, then why do we believe them ourselves? Do we really want to raise kids who obey blindly and don't ask questions? Really?

ATI acts like rebellion and worldliness and sin is some kind of disease, and if you isolate your kids from the germs of it, they won't get "sick". The truth is, rebellion and sin is in ALL our hearts, we all have a sin nature, and it doesn't need any outward example for someone to fall into sin.

Actually, the very culture of ATI breeds rebellion, though it's hushed up... because any family that starts to question and has kids that rebel will be shunned by the "faithful" (I am not kidding... it really is like a cult!) When questioning authority is discouraged, and mindless conforming to a rather arbitrary set of standards is what is taught, then of course there will be those who see through the hypocrisy and reject it!

My own family is a perfect example... I towed the line and did my best to be a good example to all my younger siblings. But one of my brothers, being a very smart kid, couldn't see what was wrong with listening to Christian Contemporary music. The words were honoring the Lord, many songs were straight from Scripture, and the music was more fun and interesting than the boring dusty old hymns we were encouraged to listen to. He is just not the type to enjoy classical music. You will notice, if you look up the verses used to defend ATI's position on music, that most of them are quite a stretch... Bill has a tendency to throw lots of Scripture references at you at every seminar you go to, so many references that few people actually take the time to go look them all up and read them in context. If you do, you will see that MANY of them are taken WAY out of context or sometimes even are actually saying the opposite of what he is trying to make them say! Bill talks a lot about "Biblical Principles". That is ATI-speak for ATI teachings that are rather tenuously taken from Scripture. Many are simply based on Bible stories (of which the main point of the story may have been simply historical in nature... not all stories in Scripture are meant to teach doctrine) or isolated passages that were actually talking about something else. Bill acts like he has found out secret hidden truths that no one else has found from over 2,000 years of studying the Bible... and in some ways he has... because the teachings ARE NOT really from Scripture! I could pull isolated passages and stories out of Scripture too and make them say whatever I want, and throw in some personal stories of people who were "blessed" by following my "principles" too if I wanted to! The prophet Isaiah walked around naked for a year, from village to village in Israel, to share a specific message on repentance with God's people. If I taught the Bible like Bill Gothard does, then I could build a whole teaching about how the proper way to witness to people is totally nude! LOL.

Anyway, about my brother. He started listening to CCM on the sly. My parents found out and made a HUGE deal out of it, that he was rebelling and so forth. If he'd had a good enough relationship with my parents, he could have simply asked them about the music standards and had a respectful, frank discussion about it. But in a culture of "Chain of Command" where unquestioning obedience is the standard which is taught, there isn't much room for that. Also, my parents were continually criticizing my brother for how he did his hair, the clothes he wore (he wanted to wear T-shirts, my parents and ATI culture taught that only collared shirts are acceptable in public) and so forth. The message he got, was that all these "standards" were more important to my parents than he was as a person. He grew to think they loved the standards and ATI more than they loved him. And they weren't (at that time) really even open to discussing the standards.

Which by the way, are NOT in Scripture... nowhere in Scripture does it say men have to have their hair trimmed around their ears and can only wear it in a "conservative" parted-on-the-side 1950's style, or that men should wear collared shirts, and the rest! Why do we even focus on such stupid things? But in ATI, a LOT of focus is given to such things! You will learn that there is literally NO area of life about which Bill doesn't have a teaching! Including what kind of toys your kids should play with, your health care, your leisure time, music, business plans, how to bake bread, clothing styles, keeping the O.T. dietary laws, circumcision (don't even get me started on that one...), sex between a husband and wife, social dancing, acceptable ways for young men and young women to talk to each other (pretty much try to avoid talking to the opposite gender unless you have jumped through all kinds of hoops and are practically engaged already... forget about having opposite gender friends!) all kinds of things! Eventually, my brother totally rebelled and not just against ATI, he threw the whole package out... Christianity and the Bible too. He made some really bad decisions and ended up spending some time in jail. In spite of the fact that my parents sheltered him as ATI taught and he was homeschooled from preschool to the day he more or less ran away from home and joined the party scene. I believe that having healthy, open, respectful and loving relationships with our kids, and setting a good example to them of Christ's love and grace, is a much better way to raise kids who will love the Lord, rather than focusing on conforming to and teaching a set of principles. Remember, it says in Scripture that we will be known as His disciples by our love for one another... it doesn't say "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye all listen to melodious music and wear conservative clothing and live by the 7 Basic Principles".

ATI is is a HOTBED of spousal and child abuse, too. I have seen it so many times. In ATI, men are taught that they are the ultimate authority in their homes, and the whole umbrella of authority/chain of command teaching is emphasized over and over, starting in the Basic Seminar. It sounds good on the surface, but actually it isn't Biblical. Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. My relationship with Christ does not need to go through my father or my husband, or my pastor, or Bill. In Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Greek... yes, children are directed to obey their parents, adult children are directed to honor their parents (note the difference between the two), wives and husbands are to honor and love and submit to one another in the fear of God...but that is not the same as a military-style "chain of command". And nowhere do we see the idea of an "umbrella of authority" in Scripture. But in the ATI world, if a man chooses to be hyper-controlling or verbally abusive, there is no recourse at all for his wife and children. They are directed to simply keep submitting and obeying him, and not to talk about the family's problems with others, lest they damage their testimony. This culture runs VERY deep in ATI. Of the longtime ATI families who were friends of ours in the program, roughly half are now divorced, and well over half have had some or most of their kids completely rebel and even reject Christianity. There are so many long-time ATI families I know, where it came out after many, many years, that behind closed doors the husband was verbally and emotionally tearing his wife and kids to shreds on a daily basis, then putting on a suit and a smile and being accepted as a great leader in the ATI community. Hypocrisy is easy when "spirituality" is gauged by outward conformation to a list of standards. The only kind of abuse ATI believes merits any attention, is physical abuse. This is more a part of the culture than actual teaching, though I am pretty sure I have heard it in from-the-stage teachings at various conferences. If a woman comes to someone and says that her husband is abusing or mistreating her, she is encouraged to forgive him, go back to him, and keep submitting and praying for him. I actually heard my own parents counseling women in that situation, to do so. Nothing else. I know of women who were abused for over 20 years, whose sons grew up to have HORRIBLE attitudes toward women because of what they saw at home, whose daughters grew up thinking such actions were normal and that women have no choice but to be doormats. If the man doesn't actually strike his wife (or if he doesn't do it very often, and he "repents" afterward), then the counselors in ATI scoff at the idea that he is abusing her, and instead she is accused of being "rebellious". Never mind that verbal and emotional abuse can be far more devastating than physical bruises. I have a ministry now to abused women, and I can tell you, emotional abuse is REAL. Of course, ATI's official teachings say men should be respectful and "listen to the cautions of their wives" and so forth, but listen to those lessons carefully... if he doesn't listen to her and treat her respectfully and lovingly, there is nothing she can do about it. She has no recourse, and he has no accountability. I'm not saying that ATI will turn a good man into an abuser, but instead that this kind of system tends to attract men with abusive tendencies. So hanging around with all those wonderful ATI families may not be as "safe" as it seems, and that wonderful-seeming, respectful, sharply dressed ATI young man who wants to court your daughter could be something very different from what he appears, after the wedding day. I saw THAT happen several times too. Like I said, hypocrisy is easy in a system like ATI.

I know there are a lot of people in ATI who really sincerely love the Lord. Probably most of the people in ATI. I know they have a lot of great-seeming materials and programs. But sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, as one who grew up in the program, I would avoid all of it like the plague. I do not plan to use ANY ATI materials in my own home when I have kids. Because the subtle heresies and culture and false teachings are scattered far and wide throughout all of it. Well, I amend my first statement. I might use some ATI materials as a way of teaching my kids about false teachers and how subtle they can be, but I would give them a Basic Seminar Textbook and have them actually look up ALL the verses and study them in context, and see where Bill is twisting Scripture, and how false teachers work. Yes, false teachers. I know this may come as a shock, but now I do not even believe that Bill is truly saved. It makes me sad. I know that many, many true Christians have embraced ATI, but it would not be the first time that true Christians were fooled into following a hypocrite. And if mere numbers of followers showed that God was blessing an organization, then that would tend to lend credibility to all kinds of cults and false teachings out there... Islam? Mormonism? I could go on. The main reason I don't think Bill is truly saved, that I think he is a dangerous wolf in sheep's clothing, is his emphasis on works and his heresy about (basically) denying God's grace, teaching that we have to work for God's favor. In ATI-speak they talk all the time about being people who are "striving to please the Lord". Think about that. Deeply. Striving? To please our Heavenly Father who loves us and gave His Son for us while we were yet sinners? How can we possibly earn His favor? All our righteousness is as filthy rags. The works that we do, grow out of our love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for us, and His working in our lives. They are the RESULT of God's grace (favor), not an attempt to earn it.

I apologize for going on here and writing a book (LOL!), I didn't set out to write such a long response, but I am really concerned and passionate about this. Like I said, I spent 12 of my 31 years of life in this organization, embracing it and trying to follow all the teachings to the best of my ability, and now as an adult looking back I have GRAVE concerns about it. I have been reading emails on here for quite a while and wanting to respond or tell my story, but I didn't know where to start. Thank you, H, for sending the message that motivated me to get all this out here for discussion. It has been healing to write down all these things which have been in my head for several years. It is almost, in a way, like a chance to go back in time to where my parents were when I was 9 years old and they met this wonderful family with sharply dressed, respectful children, who raved about this amazing teacher Bill Gothard, and got my parents to go with them to a Basic Seminar, thus starting the process of being sucked in. (By the way, we later found out that that very man was abusing his wife and children, and now he and his wife are separated, have been for nearly 10 years, and several of their kids have rejected the faith. Look at the fruit...) It has been healing to be able to say to you what I wish someone would have said to my own parents, all those years ago. I will pray for you and your wife to have wisdom and discernment as you seek God's best for your family.

Love in Christ,
Robin (McKerracher) Ganstrom

P.S. Once again, PLEASE read the book A Matter of Basic Principles. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Rest of the Truth About Motherhood

"Motherhood is wonderful."

"Being a mom is so fulfilling!"

"I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone in the world!"

"Being a stay at home mom is the best/easiest/most fulfilling job there is."

"Motherhood is the highest calling a woman can have."

I think we've all heard these statements and others like them. But how many times have we heard other mothers say these sorts of things:

"Sometimes I think all I do is wipe snotty noses and poopy butts."

"I feel like I'm losing my mind."

"I don't really know who I am anymore."

"I am so tired of being the nanny, cook, and housekeeper!"

"Some days, I want to lock myself in my room and cry."

"I can't even pee by myself!!"

"I'm so scared that I'm going to mess this up."

"I can't do this anymore."

I think that we, as women, have done each other a disservice. We've painted the picture of motherhood with pastels and left out the dark, ugly colors. When we were younger, before having kids, other women told us all the wonderful parts about being a mom and we got the impression that that's all there was. When life showed us that that was only half of the picture, we felt like something must be wrong with us. Like we weren't doing it right. But instead of accepting this as part of the equation, we just kept perpetuating the one-sided perspective that was handed down to us. And the myth of pastel-painted motherhood just kept on going.

Nobody told me I'd go crazy for lack of sleep. Or I'd feel overworked and left out and forgotten. Or that there'd be days I don't want my kids and wish they'd just go away. Or that I'd turn into someone I don't even know. No one talked about how scary it is to be responsible for the life of another human being. How my house would never be clean. How hard being a mom is. How tedious and painful and depressing life can get. All I ever heard was sunshine and roses and high calllings. And if there was anything bad, it was masked in humor and dismissed.

We feel like if we complain, we are selfish brats. That if we even think "what about me?!" we're self-centered and need to gain perspective. We are afraid of even asking other women "is it normal to feel this way?" for fear that what we believe about ourselves will be voiced and proven true: that there is something wrong with us, that we are a bad mother. Or we feel guilty because so many women desire to be mothers and can't and look how much we've been blessed. We feel like we must be missing something because having kids isn't the sunshine trail that other women said it would be. That other women sit around and talk about. Our Facebook statuses are supposed to be all about how wonderful our husband is and how amazing it is to have beautiful kids and how we just adore our life. And we just keep painting in pastels and roses while the darkness builds in our souls because we are ashamed to let those bold, dark colors show on our canvas. Because every other woman's canvases are only pastel and light.

Ladies, we need to be honest with each other. We need to stop giving an unbalanced view of motherhood; stop passing on the myth that motherhood is all rainbows and tell the rest of the truth: that sometimes, often, stormclouds are part of the picture. And they can be nasty. We need to release each other to be sincere, open, and honest with our feelings and struggles about motherhood by being honest ourselves.

So let me be the first. Motherhood sometimes sucks. Really, it does. Sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking. I wish for my life back. I wish for my body back. I wish for unlimited time with my husband back. Sometimes I scream at my kids and stomp my feet because one of them smeared poop all over the wall, one wiped spit all over the coffee table, one is pitching a fit, and everyone is crying. Sometimes I can't do anything but cry because I'm so tired and so lonely for adult interaction and so fed up with poop and I haven't eaten anything all day or slept in months or had a shower in days. Sometime I'm jealous of my husband who leaves for work for days and who isn't enslaved to school schedules and meal times and poopy diapers and laundry. I feel like I've lost myself and my life is in shambles and I must be doing everything wrong. And I desperately need to know that there isn't something wrong with only me. That other young mothers go through this too, and they survive and I'll survive. That I'm not the only mother in the world who's put my hands over my ears and yelled "Go away and leave me alone!!" I need someone to tell me "Yes, this sometimes sucks and it's hard when your kids are little. Yes, it's worth it. Yes, I've often felt that way. You're not the only one. You can do this."

Girls, we need each other. We need each other to be real. We need to stop telling one-sided stories and own up to our fears and failures. We need to stop feeling like we don't measure up as mothers because we don't always like being a mom. We need to encourage each other and love each other enough to tell it like it is. I'm guilty. I find myself trying to dress up my kids and my life and look like I have it all together when I know I will be around other people. I catch myself only telling the good parts like I'm trying to impress someone. I'm afraid of admitting my convoluted, confused, unsettled, stormy thoughts. I want to look like the other moms I see who seem to glow and float along gracefully though their mommyhood.

Motherhood is wonderful. But sometimes it's not. It can be amazing and joyful. But sometimes it's awful and sorrowful. Sometimes it's lonely, isolating, and hard. It's beautiful and fun. And sometimes not. It's messy and full of poop and snot and spit-up. But it's also full of color and love and excitement. You're not always, every minute of the day going to enjoy it. You may even hate it at times. You'll miss long showers and peeing by yourself and eating hot food. And that's OK. We need to stop trying to be super-moms and just be normal, human, and imperfect. We need to admit our fears so that other women will feel free to admit theirs and maybe those fears once spoken won't seem so scary and insurmountable. Those tears we cry in secret need to be cried in the open so they can be wiped away by understanding, laughter, comradery, and grace. And maybe, just maybe, the hard things won't be so hard, the ugly things won't seem so ugly, the storm clouds so ominous, and the dark colors will be allowed to mix with the pastels to form an exquisite picture of life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Confessions of a Free-Spirited Mom

I threw out my "biblical parenting" books a long time ago. When my first baby was born a high-needs child, I threw in the towel, at least in practice. I didn't care if that meant that my baby was manipulating me, going to be spoiled, or in control of our family. As long I got some sleep and was able to take a shower, and my baby was happy, that was all that mattered. Unfortunately, I didn't get rid of all the roots of such teachings, or the inner guilt that I was doing something wrong by not following them, until my second baby was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, when she was 2. The regret that I lived with knowing I had punished my precious daughter for behaviors she couldn't control, all in the name of "biblical parenting" was too much to bear. I now break all the rules that were ever laid down in those stupid books.

There's nothing wrong with child-centered parenting. Why did we ever believe there was? Parenting isn't about the parents, it's about the child. No parent should ever try to force their child to fit into a mold that someone else has designated for them. Children are just little people, and people are all so wildly, amazingly unique. God designed us that way. I think He likes diversity. And I think it took having 3 kids who are out-of-the-box kids to finally put the nail in the coffin of "biblical parenting" ideals. (Personally, I think that all kids would be "out-of-the-box" kids if their parents would just let them. But that's another topic. ;))

I've been "accused" of attachment parenting. (Really? What kind of an "accusation" is that? Is that all ya got?) The more experience I gain at this mothering thing, the more my style of parenting is becoming more natural, more AP-like, if you want to put a label on it. It just fits me and my children. We are more at peace with each other and I'm not trying so hard to fit a style of parenting that causes strife and unhappiness in my family. Contrary to popular conservative belief, co-sleeping didn't ruin my kids' sleep patterns for life, breastfeeding on demand and child-led weaning didn't lessen my "authority" (whatever that means), and baby-wearing didn't make my kids turn into demanding brats. Responding to my child's cries, every time, didn't make them "in control" of me. Instead, it made my kids secure in the knowledge that I loved them, was FOR them, and would take care of their needs. Pretty much every terrible thing that those parenting books said would happen if I didn't follow them, never happened. My babies weren't taught to unnaturally sit still on a blanket so I could get stuff done. Instead, I wore them, or let them get in my way, under my feet, often having to stop what I was doing to chase them around. So what? Having kids is inconvenient. You get used to it.

You should see my home now. It's a mess. Always. Even after I work all day to clean it, it never stays that way. I let my girls draw hop-scotch numbers in the squares on the kitchen floor. I talk to and reason with my 4-yr-old when she doesn't want to do what I ask. When she asks me "why", I tell her why. I have never said "because I say so". That's a stupid cop-out and insulting to the intellegence of a child. I have said, "obey me now, and I will explain it to you afterwards". Sometimes I don't even punish them for disobedience, but instead let natural consequences take their course (as long as it won't kill them) and have a good lesson/talk afterwards. I try to teach them that choices have consequences, so make good choices. I don't punish them for telling me what they think or how they feel. Instead, I try to show them the polite and appropriate way to express those things. (Ex: screaming "No, I don't want to!!" when told to do something isn't appropriate. Quietly telling me afterwards that you didn't want to or didn't like it is fine. I don't expect you to like everything I tell you to do.) I don't feel guilty in the least for not spanking or punishing my kids when others think I should. Or letting them get away with things that others think I shouldn't. I am my children's mother, not anyone else. I will choose which battles to fight and which ones aren't worth it. I feel no need to constantly prove to my kids that I am their "authority" and they are mere children.

I wrote this before, and I think it bears repeating:

Guess what? The Bible never prescribes a parenting method. It just doesn't. So anyone that claims to know "The Biblical Parenting Method"(TM) is full of it. Parenting is a very personal, very individual thing that the Bible really doesn't talk much about. It is multi-faceted and complex and even changes from child to child within the same family. The only principles of parenting that the apostles ever addressed was summed up in two sentences: "Do not discourage and provoke your children to wrath" and "raise them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord". That's it, folks. He didn't lay out 10 steps of how to do those two things....I think he left that up to us, to use discernment and wisdom and love and knowledge of our children to figure out the best way to "raise them up" and nurture them.

I also think that everything we need to know about parenting, we can get from looking at how God "parents" us. And from following the "one-another" scriptures in regards to our kids. They are people too, after all, and I fail to see how "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other" doesn't also apply to how we interact with our children. There are no Bible laws that say your kid must obey immediately every single time with a smile on their face. Do you obey God that way every time He asks you to? And isn't God still good and merciful when we complain and stomp our feet? How many times has God extended mercy to you when you didn't obey Him instantly and cheerfully? I'd venture to say more times then most people extend mercy to their own children. So why in the world do we think we should expect more of an immature child then we are able to do ourselves??? If God is loving and gentle and merciful and abounding in loving kindness and patience toward us, how can we not extend that to our children? Don't judge another parent because they are doing things differently than you. Until you have to raise their unique children, you don't know their story and you have no right to tell them they're doing it wrong. And do not feel guilty if others seem to condemn you for your parenting choices. If you are confident that you're doing the best you can to love and raise your kids in the way that THEY need you to, forget others' condemnation. They are not the score-card on your parenting.

This parenting thing is messy.....messy, beautiful, fun, exhasting, nerve-wracking, unpredictable, exciting, fulfilling, wonderful, scary, and so blessed. Don't try to make it something it's not (i.e., perfect and convenient). Don't force yourself to live up to others' standards. This isn't about them. It's about you and your precious children.

I laugh about the whole thing now....now that I feel like I finally know what I'm doing (most of the time...except when I don't), now that I'm not at odds with my kids all the time, now that I'm true to myself and in tune with my kids, now that grace is my default setting, now that I'm not out to prove I'm the boss to my children, now that I'm not out to impress people with perfectly behaved kids, now that I don't care what people think about me or my parenting. It's so freeing.

A funny thing happened when I let go of unrealistic expectations for my kids: I let go of unrealistic expectations for myself. And that has made all the difference in the world.

My out-of-the-box kiddos

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Which I Rant About Religious Pet-Peeves

I've been doing lots of reading and researching this past week. Plus it's been raining which makes me feel all melancholy and thoughtful. Plus my husband started trucking again this week so I'm lonely and single-moming it. All of which seem to enhance those little irritations and pet-peeves of mine. Plus several of them were triggered this week, resulting in a not-so-subtle brain twitch, that seems to be causing random and intermittent exclamations of "GAAAHHHH!!!!". So in no particular order, here are some mini-rants for your enjoyment (or not):

1. The Shepherd Breaking the Lamb's Leg Analogy

I'm really tired of this one. If you've been anywhere near a conservative church, you've probably heard it a few times. The story goes that shepherds would break the leg of a wandering lamb, then carry the lamb around on their shoulders while it healed. Thus the lamb would wander no more, but following the Shepherd everywhere devotedly until death do them part. And then this is applied to God and how He treats us, since the Lord is my Shepherd and all that jazz. Besides the inconvenience of having to carry a lamb around for weeks (what if you have 10 wandering lambs at the same time?), and having an entire heard of sheep co-dependant on you for the rest of their lives, and the possible historical inaccuracy of the illustration, I'm having trouble seeing how this applies to God and us at all. Sure, David did famously say "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" and poetically made an analogy between his own profession and his relationship with God. But I don't think you can apply it as far as some people want to. I mean, the Shepherd analogy is beautiful to a point but shepherds do lots of things that really don't apply to our relationship with God. (Artificial insemination, anyone?) I really think we should resist getting all analogy-happy and taking things farther then God did. Our theology tends to suffer when we do. Besides all that, where do people get the idea that God forcibly breaks people to get them to follow Him unquestioningly? I thought He bound the broken and healed the wounded? I thought He asks, seeks, and knocks, desiring us to give Him our hearts willingly? I thought it was His kindness that leads us to repentance? I thought that He draws us to Himself with His grace, love, and mercy? Where in scripture does anyone get the idea that God is sitting up there, with an attitude of "You don't want to follow Me? Well, fine, see how you like this trial! And I'll throw in a natural disaster, just for kicks"? Preachers need to stop using this false analogy and misrepresenting God.

2. Modesty and Shame

This could be a whole entire post by itself. Why do Christians reduce women to objects and men to base animals? Do we really think so little of men that we believe they cannot be responsible for themselves? That they can't be expected to choose righteousness and purity when a curvy body and pretty face walks into their view? And the women....how many of us grew up afraid of our own beauty, with eating disorders, or fear of men because we were taught that our bodies were somehow shameful and men were sex-crazed animals? How unfair it is that we take ordinary girls and force them to bear the weight of all men's purity on their shoulders! And the shame of all men's sins. If I never hear the word "defraud" in this context again it'll still be too soon. Girls, we are beautiful. God designed us that way. Guys like us. God designed guys to like us. We have boobs and cleavage and legs and butts. Don't flaunt them for the purpose of distraction, but don't fear them either. Don't be ashamed of being pretty. You are not responsible for what men think when they look at you. Someone's going to argue with me on that one but I don't care and I won't qualify it or take it back. Every good man I know declares the same thing. Even if a woman walked in front of them naked, they are still the only ones responsible for their thoughts. My husband says that any man that blames a woman for his lack of self-control is no man at all.

3. Parenting Wars

Guess what? The Bible never prescribes a parenting method. It just doesn't. So anyone that claims to know "The Biblical Parenting Method"(TM) is full of it. Parenting is a very personal, very individual thing that the Bible really doesn't talk much about. It is multi-faceted and complex and even changes from child to child within the same family. The only principles of parenting that the apostles ever addressed was summed up in two sentences: "Do not discourage and provoke your children to wrath" and "raise them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord". That's it, folks. He didn't lay out 10 steps of how to do those two things....I think he left that up to us, to use discernment and wisdom and love and knowledge of our children to figure out the best way to "raise them up" and nurture them. I also think that everything we need to know about parenting, we can get from looking at how God "parents" us. And from following the "one-another" scriptures in regards to our kids. They are people too, after all, and I fail to see how "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other" doesn't also apply to how we interact with our children. There are no Bible laws that say your kid must obey immediately every single time with a smile on their face. Do you obey God that way every time He asks you to? And isn't God still good and merciful when we complain and stomp our feet? How many times has God extended mercy to you when you didn't obey Him instantly and cheerfully? I'd venture to say more times then most people extend mercy to their own children. So why in the world do we think we should expect more of an immature child then we are able to do ourselves??? If God is loving and gentle and merciful and abounding in loving kindness and patience toward us, how can we not extend that to our children? Don't judge another parent because they are doing things differently than you. Until you have to raise their unique children, you don't know their story and you have no right to tell them they're doing it wrong. And do not feel guilty if others seem to condemn you for your parenting choices. If you are confident that you're doing the best you can to love and raise your kids in the way that THEY need you to, forget others' condemnation. They are not the scorecard on your parenting.

4. End Times Paranoia

Besides the fact that I'm a Preterist and don't believe in "End Times", even if I did, the extreme paranoia and second-guessing that goes on everytime some natural (or unnatural) disaster happens would still drive me crazy. I hate to break it to ya, but earthquakes, volcanoes, economic failures, wars, terrible world leaders, and every other Bad Thing has been happening, over and over again, since the beginning of time. Go Google "10 worst earthquakes" and you'll find historical proof that some of the worst earthquakes happened a very long time ago. The world didn't end then and I highly doubt it's going to end now. There is nothing new under the sun. I really wish people would stop sitting around wondering when Jesus is going to come take them out of this mess we've made and start putting their energy into fixing the mess. One of the last things that Jesus prayed about His disciples before He died was "I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one". So stop praying "Come, Lord Jesus and save us out of this wicked world" and start praying instead that He would give you the strength to change the world you live in. This attitude could make all the difference. And even if I'm wrong, and Jesus is coming back to whisk us all away, at least I won't have wasted any time worrying about it.

5. Stating that God is Judging Someone Because Bad Things are Happening to Them

This really irks me. Who are we to judge someone in their troubles? A wise man once said "Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it yet he will not find...for I considered all this in my heart so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all; One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean....the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...but time and chance happen to them all." (from Eccl. 9) You cannot know whether someone deserved love or hatred, blessing or cursing, just by what you see them going through. Other world religions teach this...some call it Karma, among other things. But our God is merciful and often doesn't give us what we do deserve and gives us what we don't deserve. That's called grace. You obviously haven't received everything you've deserved. Don't play God by assuming others are getting their just due.

6.Stupid Worship Songs

Being a musician, sometimes I sit in church and cringe. "I really want to worship You, My Lord!" After singing that ad nauseam, you'll start to wonder if it has any meaning at all. "Great are you, Lord, Great are you Lord, great are you Lord....." YES, wonderful, the Lord is great. We get it. Can we move on now? And can you songwriters please dig into your creative side a little more and come up with a harmony that's more than 1-4-5?? Oooo, you added a minor 6? Yay for you. Ever heard of the circle of fifths? Nope, didn't think so. :P Also, just because a song is played on the Christian radio station, doesn't mean it makes a good corporate worship song. There's nothing more awkward then watching a congregation trying to follow a guitarist who's jammin' and singing a song that should've been a solo. Tenors who are also worship leaders, please remember: not everyone is a tenor. Have a little heart. And I'll leave with one last, helpful word for all worship leaders to commit to memory: tessitura, my friends. Tessitura. ;)

I'm sure there's more but that enough ranting for the time being. I feel loads better now. :) Feel free to disregard all of this and go on your merry way. Peace, y'all!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Redeemed, How I Love To Proclaim It

I've been thinking about redemption lately. The act of God taking something that is wrong and making it right again. Taking what was originally beautiful but made ugly, and making it beautiful again. And I realized, this has been the theme of my life.

I look back on my childhood and grieve for the little girl that didn't want to be a little girl because nobody really thought much of little girls other then that they were cute. I didn't want to be cute...I wanted to be smart and adult and I wanted people to pay attention to my words and thoughts. To notice me. I wish I could go back and tell her just how much she would miss being a little girl; just how precious and loved she was even though she didn't notice.

I look back on my teen years and I hurt for the young lady that was so confused and alone and whose heart was ignored, stuffed, and trampled on. That self-inflicted so many needless heart-wounds, just trying to fit in and be acceptable. Who bent over backwards trying please and just ended up broken anyways. I wish I could go back and tell her to forget the conflicting voices of men and follow God from the very beginning. That her heart wasn't "evil" or "rebellious" and her desires weren't "fleshly". That she needed to find out what was true about herself from God alone, not men.

I look back on the budding young woman, flushed with the newness of love. Conflicted, torn between where she thought God was leading her and what everyone else was saying. Confused because what she'd always thought to be true was turning out to be a man-made paradigm, built from fear and not of God. Being drawn to a man who showed her, for the first time, what unconditional love really meant. I would like to go back and tell her to cling to him and never let go. To forget the years of trying to please others who could not be pleased and to follow God. To not waste those years, with their tumultuous emotions and struggles, and to claim the life she wanted and knew was right.

I look back on the woman who was a new bride, who adored her man and thought he was perfect and just wanted to be the perfect wife for him. Who read untold number of books and tried ridiculous things all in the name of "being a godly wife". Who, when her wonderful man fell from the pedestal she put him on (thus proving he was human after all), almost completely lost herself trying to get him back up there (where he really didn't belong and didn't want to be anyways). Because all the books said if that happened it was her fault for not being good enough. I wish I could go back and tell her that no one is perfect and all those books were crap and should've been burned or used as toilet paper. That her false castle needed to come down so a better, real, more lasting one could be built.

I look back on the tired new mother who thought she had it all figured out....until the babies came. That thought she must somehow get her children to fit the description in the child-training books. And when they didn't, somehow believed that she was a failure and her kids would grow up to be brats and heathens. All the striving to "do it right", the pressure to mold her kids "right", and the feelings of failure when they all just didn't fit the mold. I wish I could go offer her a hand, let her know that her children weren't meant to fit anyone's idea of The Perfect Child. That she was a great mom and the best thing she ever did was give up on know-it-all parenting books (and being a know-it-all parent).

I wonder if the older me will look back on the now me and wish she could tell me not to worry, that it's all going to be OK.That God really does take everything in our lives and weave a beautiful tapestry from it.

Because even as I look back and wish that things could've been different, I can see God's fingerprints all over my life. I can see things that I thought were ugly then, used by Him to make something beautiful now. I can see the shaping, the directing, the love and mercy that surrounded me even though I had no idea it was there. I don't believe for a moment that God "caused" bad things to happen in my life. But I would be blind if I couldn't see how He took those things and turned them around, redeeming them, making them beautiful again. What was intended for evil, God grabbed a hold of, turned it inside-out, and unleashed it for good. I keep wanting to go grab something else from my past and run to Him with it, like a little child, holding my hands open before Him, eagerly asking "This too, God? Can you redeem this too?"

I am amazed. And sometimes, honestly, angry still. Because part of me wonders....did those things really need to happen? Did I really need to suffer that? Couldn't God, if He was really all-powerful, have made my life good without the evil? I don't know. Would I be the person I am today if anything about my past was different? I don't know that either.

But this I know: Redemption. This is about so much more than salvation. This about our lives. This....is everything.

A wise man once said that there was a time and place for every purpose under heaven....the good and the bad. That God makes everything beautiful in its time. I hang on to that with everything I have. I look back and I see it, I look forward and I hope for it. And for now, in the in-between time, I proclaim it. And I marvel.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy-
His child and forever I am.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I've been accused lately of being "anti-everything". While I think that is an unfair assessment, it did cause me to pause and think. Am I portraying, on this blog and other forums, and in real life, a person who is known by what she is against? I am the type to take up a Cause and fight for all I'm worth. It's just who I am. But am I also fighting for something or just always against something? By definition, standing for something is standing against many other somethings. But I'm starting to think that how we fight and how we define our beliefs, whether for or against, is more important then I initially thought.

I don't like being thought of as a person who is only against something, some belief or lifestyle or mindset. To me, that's starting to sound really negative. I'd also like to be known as a person who stands for something, some belief or lifestyle or ideal. So I thought about the ways I would define my beliefs, and I came up with this list:

Anti- "biblical" courtship; against "biblical patriarchy" and Quiverfull doctrines; anti-abortion; anti-mainstream medicine; anti-immunizations; anti-circumcision; anti-legalism; anti-American Nationalism; anti-neutered foods and chemical living; anti-politically correct diet; anti-GMO crops and foods; against authoritative, punitive parenting; anti-modern-day prophets; against following the Mosaic Law; anti-Futuristic eschatology; anti-big government; anti-institutional childhood education; anti-unnatural, invasive childbirth....

Aaaaand I could go on. But I won't because that list is rather painful to read. I think it paints a picture of a person who is always up-in-arms about something. A picture that really isn't true of me, who I am, and what I believe. So let's turn it around, shall we?

I am pro-dating with boundaries and in agape love; pro- Biblical equality and Biblical headship; pro-having children; pro-life; pro-holistic medicine; pro-natural immunity; pro-intact men; pro-grace; pro-Kingdom of God all over the world; pro-organic, sustainable living; pro-whole foods diet; pro-natural, God-given, sustainable crops and foods; pro-peaceful, grace-filled, God-imitating parenting; pro-scriptural and individual revelation; pro- Law of Liberty; pro-Preterist eschatology; pro-Libertarian self-government; pro-homeschooling and life-learning; pro-natural childbirth.....

....get the picture? Is it just me, or does that second list paint a little different picture than the first? While the first list is just as true as the second (and, really, there cannot be one without the other), it is incomplete without the second. It is only one side of the coin, one half of who I am. Presenting that one half without the other is imbalanced and can cause misunderstanding, I think. I also think that focusing entirely on the negative can cause an unbalanced perspective of life.

I don't mind being known by what I am against. But I would also like to be known by what I am for. I write against damaging beliefs a lot, and that probably won't change anytime soon. But I am going to try to balance it more by writing about what I am for. Because I am just as passionately for as many things as I am passionately against. There is a time to speak out against evil, and a time to speak out for good. I pray that God would give me the discernment to know which is which. (And perhaps the discernment to know when to keep my mouth shut, but that's a different topic.....;) )

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Sometimes the bathwater is so toxic that it kills the baby.

Sometimes what little meat is even on the bones is so tough that it isn't worth trying to eat.

Sometimes what small amount of good there is is so clouded and hidden in the bad that you can't even find it to hang onto. And the bad is too big to just throw out.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

A spoonful of dog crap in a batch of brownies infects the entire batch.

But if you feel like trying to eat the good parts of the brownies and spitting out the dog crap, be my guest. But don't get mad at me for not joining you.

I'm going to find a new recipe for my brownies.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Emotional Purity and Courtship, A Conclusion

My heart is pretty full right now. When I posted my first post on this subject, I had no idea it would go where it did. And the stories just keep pouring in! For some of you, it was just nice to know that you aren't alone in your struggles. For others, it confirmed what you've always thought on the matter. And for many, it's left you thinking "Now what?"

I have been cautioned not to "jump from one ditch into the other" but I think that is a false dichotomy. There's a very wide road between those two ditches. Just because I decry the problems with courtship, doesn't mean that I think promiscuity to be the answer. The casual dating that our parents were trying to get away from has it's own set of damaging behaviors and issues. What we need to do is find a balance. How do we conduct our relationships in a way that honors God, honors the other person, and honors ourselves? That allows God to be God and lead in our lives, write our love stories?

I am not going to give you another formula. I don't think one exists, actually. But the scripture is full of teachings on how to interact as children of God. Every principle we need to have God-honoring relationships are outlined in the Bible. These have been called the "one-another" verses. I challenge each of you to get a concordance and look up the phrase "one-another" and see how many instructions there are in the New Testament regarding our interactions with each other. These verses will become your standard for how you conduct all your relationships, regardless of what those relationships are. They are the fleshing out of what it means to love God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself. The reason we follow these verses, the very crux of the issue, is summed up in Jesus' words "By this will all men know that You are my disciples, if you love one another".

Any relationship in your life will be God-honoring if these one-another verses are the standard under which you operate. Marriage, dating, parent-child, friend, and sibling relationships should all be conducted with these teachings in mind. Because, when all is said and done, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God, and every other relationship we have is secondary to this.

Consider verses like these:

"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Eph. 4:1-3

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:12-17

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Phil. 2:1-4

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Rom. 12:9-16

If this is the standard under which we are supposed to operate our relationships, how much more should we use this standard in our dating relationships? In our marriages? With the people who we are most intimate with?

One-anothering....it's what being children of God is all about.

If this seems rather vague and general to you....good! It's supposed to be. Because intertwined within following the one-another verses, is God writing your own story. Making it personal, individual, specific. I think He just likes to be creative in how He shows His glory and love to men. If you don't believe me, read your Bible. A fiery furnace. A lion's den. Talking bushes and donkeys. Healing blindness with spit and mud. Manna from heaven. Your story of God's grace and love toward you is no different. Let him be God and don't try to make formulas to control His working in your life.

This might seem scary, this stepping out in faith. Because it requires acting upon something that we can't see the end of or know where we might be taken in the mean time. What I said earlier bears repeating here: "...formula is the opposite of faith. Formula says "I will follow a God that I've put neatly in a box, to give me the desired results". Faith says "I will follow You even when I can't see where I'm going, even when the world is collapsing around me". Formula says "I will not risk, I will be in control of my future". Faith says "I will risk everything, I will trust Whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway." Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We build neat little formulas and say "THIS will keep me safe!" Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail."

Any system or teaching that promises a safe, packaged life is promising more than what Christ promised His followers. Actually, it would be promising the opposite. Jesus, in no unspecific terms, told his disciples that if they followed Him, their lives would be anything but safe. If He was trying to teach a prosperity gospel, He failed epically. He promised torture, tribulation, hatred from others, abandonment, ridicule, and all kinds of fun things. But He also promised abundant life, blessings, and intimacy with the God-who-is-love. He never promised ease and safety, but He did promise it would be worth it. I am very suspect of any teaching that promises the opposite of what Jesus Himself promised.

So love much. Risk sometimes. Step out and ask a girl you admire for a coffee date. Invest in other people. Give, expecting nothing in return. Bear one another's burdens. Love one another. Tell your story. Be honest, sincere, and genuine. Give abundant grace. Go talk to him. Be friendly. Be kind and compassionate. Abide in Him. Follow our crazy God. Live well. Live Jesus.