When Life Falls Apart

 

choose to believe“Is any of this real? Does God really exist? If He does, is He really good? Does He really love me?” I sat at my desk, mind reeling, stomach in knots, staring at my phone, the recent call playing in my head.

Have you been here? I have, more than once. The place of heartbreak, disbelief, doubt, questions… It’s not fun. It hurts. It’s hard!

I was a couple of years out of the cult, had been on my own for about six months, was going to college, and working as a live-in nanny for a challenging family. It had been a hard six months. I did not love my job, at all. Suddenly, I discovered my dream job working with troubled teens! God brought it into my life in a way that HAD to be Him. I applied and got an interview; it was all going so perfectly! God was going to bless my hard work and faithfulness by giving me the job of my dreams! (Or so I thought.) But, then the phone call came…they hired someone else.

I thought I had a strong faith, until the bottom fell out. Now I was questioning, doubting, struggling with my beliefs…

Guess what? That was twelve years ago when I was a young (less mature) college student, but I just had a similar struggle this morning! (And there have been plenty in-between!) Doubt happens. This world hurts.

I don’t know what you are feeling today or what has happened to you. Maybe its the death of a loved one too soon, cancer or other illness, someone you love is still making bad choices, prayers that have gone unanswered for years… Or maybe you are just looking at the mess this world is in and feeling discouraged and drained.

Is God really real? Is He really good? What do we do with our questions and doubts?

I honestly don’t have any perfect answers, just my own experiences and the beliefs I cling to despite my doubt.

I think we embrace the doubt and we ask the questions. Don’t feel guilt or shame for doubting. If God is real, then He is big enough to handle them. And if He is good, then He will love us anyway and understand our struggling humanity. We wrestle through our emptiness and look at what the Bible says and the evidence around us. We remember the things God has done in us and others over the years and the prayers He has answered. I like to find someone who I know will speak truth to me, someone who will love me and not judge or condemn, someone who’s faith is stronger than mine at the moment, and I ask them to encourage me. But…

Ultimately, I just have to choose to believe.

Every time life falls apart… when I don’t get the job, when my babies died, when my prayers don’t get answered, when the childhood friend I’ve loved and prayed for forever still doesn’t love Jesus, when my husband and I are fighting or when he disappoints me, when people hurt me, when death happens… I have to choose to believe.

I choose to believe in the God I know exists even when I can’t feel Him. I believe in His goodness, and sovereignty (that He never loses control), and love for me. I believe that He has a plan and that nothing can stop Him. I believe that Jesus is always the answer. I hold on with determination even when I can’t feel Him. And so far, every time, He has come through, and met me, and held me. This strengthens my faith for the next time.

Where are you on the journey? Are you struggling? Doubting? Questioning? Determinedly holding on? Choosing faith? Trusting? Can you feel Him holding you?

I really didn’t want to write this blog this morning. I was a mess and I didn’t have anything to say. Then Jesus came, just in time, and now I get to write in humility and vulnerability. 🙂 I might be passionate, but I am not perfect. Not by a long shot! But I believe in the God who is!

 

 

Three Ways to Win a Man’s Heart (and help him feel loved and respected)

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DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be anything other than a sister, wife, mother, and teacher. These are not hard and fast rules, just observations and suggestions that have repeatedly worked for me, if I’m willing to put aside myself and do them.

Ladies, is there a man in your life that you wish you had a better relationship with? It could be your husband, boyfriend, fiance, brother, son, step-son, or maybe just that really tough kid in your Sunday School class… I want to share three suggestions, keys if you will, that will win your man’s heart by making them feel loved and respected. These suggestions are not easy. They take humility, grace, forgiveness, and letting go of control on our part. But, they are worth it!

Start by praying and asking Jesus for His strength and grace, because you cannot do this alone and you don’t have to! If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then you have His very Spirit living inside of you, able to give you everything you need! (Phil. 4:13) Okay, here we go.

#1: Accept him

So easy to say, and so hard to do! Let’s face it girls, we are often much better at trying to change our men than we are at accepting them. 😦 But, as I’ve found in my marriage over the last 8.5 years, nagging and complaining get me nowhere. In fact, I swear it just makes my husband more stubborn. Not what I’m trying to accomplish at all!

Are you willing to just accept the men and boys in your life? Give them grace (the same grace that God gives you) and let them feel that grace? Are you willing to close your mouth and let God be the one that changes their heart? Can you look at them and see their gifts, their potential, their sin, and their flaws and just accept them? I have found that acceptance makes a man feel safe and able to let down his guard. And, when I stop trying to be the “holy spirit”, my husband is better able to hear the real Holy Spirit, the only One who can change him from the inside out!

#2 Approve of him

My younger brother and I spent most of our childhood in competition, fighting to see who was the best. As a teenager, I was challenged by my pastor to build a relationship with him. Whew! It was a process… I started noticing how much my brother wanted my approval. When I told him how talented/strong/capable he was, he would glow, and it would bring us closer together. I struggled at first because he was a cocky, teenage boy who didn’t seem like he needed any more compliments. But, in reality, he was insecure, and the cockiness was often a cover. When he felt my approval, and became secure in my good opinion of him, my annoying little brother became significantly less annoying!

Will you choose to approve of your man? Tell him you approve of him! Can’t think of anything to compliment him on? Here are some starters. “Wow, you are so good at…” (Be creative!), “You look really nice today”, “I’m so proud of…”, “You handled_______really well!” Girls, you can do it! Don’t make excuses, or justify, or start being critical. Ask God for strength and try it. We are way too negative too often. Let’s encourage. Let’s approve.

Also, on a side note. Listening is a way of approving. You say guys don’t talk? Here’s something I’ve noticed. Men and boys will often test your listening skills with a “stupid” topic. You will think, why is he telling me about this? Maybe he is testing you. When I would actively listen to my brother’s dumb conversation, it often turned into something serious that he really wanted to talk about. The same is true of my husband…only I am often guilty of shutting down his “‘stupid” topics and never getting to the real stuff. 😦 Yup, I need to work on all this too!

#3 Need him

It’s easy to want to be a tough girl. Sometimes it can be hard to admit we need anything. Our men want to be needed! Even my 3 year old loves it when I need him. He pushes open doors, carries things, helps me check out groceries, etc. When I call, “Titus, I need you! Can you help Mama?”, he comes running. He gets taller, puffs out his chest, and flexes his muscles. 🙂 It’s the way God designed him.

Your men want to be needed, love to be needed. It makes them feel strong, brave, and manly. Are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you willing to stop being so tough? Admit that you need them? Let go of your pride?

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Here is a perfect scenario to put all three suggestions into practice. You are struggling to open something. “____________, can you come help me open this? I’m not strong enough.” They come in. Open jar or whatever. “Wow! Look at you! That’s amazing. You’re so strong! Thanks for helping me.”

You can do it, girls! Accepting, approving, and needing will make your men feel loved and respected. You will win their hearts. It is worth it. Ask God to help you! I’d love to hear stories about what happens in your relationships.

 

What the Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard and IBLP Means to Me

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Yesterday a lawsuit was refiled against IBLP (The Institute in Basic Life Principles) and now includes Bill Gothard. It was originally filed on behalf of 5 women who claimed sexual abuse. The new lawsuit includes 10 women and the charges are more severe. You can read the whole story here at the Washington Post, or google Bill Gothard and read it on a number of other news sites.

There will be Christians who use this story to cry “persecution” and there will be people who are mad at how Christians are taking other “Christians” to court. People will stand up for Bill Gothard and claim that this is all slander invented for the purpose of destroying a “man of God”.

I am someone who has a bit of an inside perspective since I was homeschooled for seven years in Gothard’s ATI program and was involved in his “ministry” until I was 22. I attended his seminars, went to a church heavily influenced by his teachings, and spent a year taking online classes from his “college” including two classes where we took apart his Basic and Advanced Seminars and found Scripture to back up his points. (Which I couldn’t do and which ended up being the beginning of my doubts about everything.) I even, regrettably, helped to teach children’s programs while their parents attended Bill’s Seminars.

I now believe that not only are Bill Gothard’s teachings twisted and dangerous, not only were they created with ulterior motives, but they have also influenced, either directly or indirectly, a huge percentage of evangelical churches and Christians. Gothard’s teachings have destroyed families, encouraged abuse, supported legalism, and created a false view of God (among other things). I would go so far as to say that Gothard made up an impostor Jesus based on his own personal goals and ideas.

With all that said, how do I feel about the lawsuit? I am NOT gleeful that all of this is being paraded in front of the world; I DON”T feel satisfied revenge for all the damage done to me and people I love. BUT…

I am very excited that both Bill and his organization are being shown for what they truly are. I hope the organization known as IBLP goes down in smoke and rubble and is completely discredited. And I hope that Bill Gothard is shown to be who he truly is and not who he has pretended to be. I long for people who are still trapped in this system of beliefs to be set free. I hope that people who have been influenced by Gothard and his teachings will have their eyes opened to the lies, twisted Scriptures, and false beliefs about God.

I want, more than anything, for people to find the real God, and the real Jesus who is not full of “49 Commands” (a Gothard teaching), but grace and love and mercy. I want them to discover the God who created us for a relationship with Himself and did whatever it took to make that relationship possible, including murdering His own Son… The God who doesn’t love us more when we follow the rules, but who knows the depths of our sin and selfishness and loves us anyway… A God who does not operate in formulas and steps, or give secret, hidden messages (like Bill claimed multiple times), but who is so amazing we can never understand Him, and so simple that a child can believe.

There you go, my thoughts on the lawsuit. What do you think?

 

Here are some more links if you want more information:

For truth about all things IBLP/ATI/Gothard check out Recovering Grace. They have some great Facebook support/recovery groups for ATI Students, ATI Parents, and a new one that was just started for anyone influenced by IBLP.

If you want to read the whole lawsuit, you can find it at Homeschoolers Anonymous. Just a warning though, it is graphic.

 

 

A Rant About Christianity (and Jesus)

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I read a young man’s deconversion story today, and it broke me. Yup, you read that right, his deconversion, as in the story of how he decided that God wasn’t real and walked away from his beliefs. I’ve felt a lot of emotions since this morning…frustration, anger, sorrow.

Do you  want to know why he walked away and chose to stop believing? A lot of it came down to the fact that when his life fell apart, the Christians he knew had plenty of judgement and quick answers, but not a lot of love. And the people who took him in, and loved him, and cared for him, and accepted him, were agnostics.

There is so much going through my head right now…

What would Jesus have done if this young man came to him? Would He have judged him and told him that he was being punished? Would He have given him pat answers and expected him to get back up on his feet? Nope.  I’m pretty sure He would have held him and cried. And maybe Jesus would have talked about how much He hates the mess this broken world is in, and how He can’t wait to fix it. And probably Jesus wouldn’t have said much at all…He would have just been there.

Christianity is broken, peoples; the church is broken. Millennials are walking away from their beliefs every day and I honestly can’t say I blame them.

They are tired of empty tradition, and rules, and religion.

They are sick of condemnation, and judgement, and hypocrites.

So they leave.

Big, fancy church buildings with talented bands, dynamic speakers, and smoke machines can’t keep them either. Because Millennials see past all that. It looks like fake, and Millennials hate fake. They want honesty, authenticity, genuineness…

I sat at Starbucks today with my peppermint hot cocoa, trying not to cry in public, and jotted down thoughts, as fast as they came. Here are some of them…

How Did We Get Here? Maybe too many years of tradition, doing what has always been done. Maybe not enough people who actually know what the Bible says for themselves, so they are easily swayed by teachers/preachers. (That’s what happened with my family and Bill Gothard.) Maybe getting caught up in looking and being different (standards) instead of being caught up with the One who will make us different. Maybe fixating on building a large following (mega-church) instead of fixating on Jesus. I don’t know…I think there are a lot of reasons that Christianity is what it is today. But, there is hope! Because the church is made up of individual people, and if those people begin to love, get to know, and follow Jesus, the church can change! It will change because Jesus will change us!

What Do We Do Now?

  • Examine our hearts. Start with salvation…are we trusting in Jesus and His death alone to save us, or are we trusting in our works, our prayer, that moment we went forward, the time we raised our hand…where is your trust? Where is your faith? (John 3:16-18)
  • Get to know Jesus. Read the Bible for ourselves, not because it makes us more spiritual or to get more brownie points with God, but because we want to know who this God is and who we are as His children. Pray! Not a dry monologue, but a sincere conversation. It might be awkward at first, but it becomes amazing! Coming right to God, as His child, is one of our special privileges. 🙂
  • Honestly, everything else will naturally flow out of these first things. We will be loving, grace filled people because we will see God’s amazing grace and love towards us. We will have joy because we will have experienced God’s Presence. Etc.
  • Jesus will work on us and help us to let go of selfishness, sin, and addictions. Not because we have to in order to earn something from Him, but because He loves us and wants us to be free.

It’s happening. I believe it. God is changing His people and His church. More and more people are finding a real relationship with Jesus instead of a dead religion. Jefferson Bethke (I put a link to his site on his name) is a great example, with his books “Jesus>Religion” and “It’s Not What You Think”. People want what he has to say. They are hungry for more, as his large following evidences.

What Do I Want? More than anything else, I just want the real Jesus to be known! I want people to find a genuine, satisfying, incredible relationship with Him. I want people who called themselves Christians to become obsessed with Jesus in a whole new way. I want Christians to be known for their love. I want them to love sinners and skeptics and haters in a way that makes people think they are crazy. Because that’s how much Jesus loves us. I want people to find freedom, joy, and abundant life because of Jesus.

Thanks for reading my rant! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts.