Married to Your Best Friend…

It’s my fault. If I planned better, I would actually schedule a massage with one of my favorite female therapists. But, I usually wait until I’m in desperate pain and then I get whoever happens to be available the morning of my chiropractic appointment.

That’s how I ended up, face down, talking with my young male masseuse about relationships and his new girlfriend. After finding out I was married, he wanted to know for how long. At the time it was just over eight years. I will never forget his response.

“Wow!! (pause) You must be one of those people who is really into commitment!”

Yup! That’d be me…one of those commitment freaks.

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My wonderful and incredibly opposite husband and I are in our tenth year of marriage. After nearly a decade together, I feel like I can say a few things about married life.

Every relationship has its own unique flavor. My brother and his beautiful wife led the way in our family as classic romantics. They sat close together, gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, and whispered sweet nothings. My father, who enjoys his children’s relationships almost as much as his own, would watch them with a sappy smile on his face. Then Josh and I came along. We preferred chasing each other through the house with water guns, or frosting, or rolled kitchen towels complete with screams and giggles. I’m pretty sure my dad thought we were nuts. On our wedding day, we chose to have cheesecake instead of traditional cake just because we wanted to avoid the whole “cake cutting” situation and the mess that was inevitable. 🙂

I married my best friend, you guys, and we have worked hard for almost a decade to maintain our best-friend-status. Some years were easier than others. The baby season was the hardest, but we conquered it…hormones, dirty diapers, sleep deprivation and all.

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Please join me for a peak into our marriage. This is shared with permission. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago Josh got sick. We have totally different sick styles. Typically when I catch a germ, it’s such a light case Josh won’t believe that I’m sick. When Josh gets sick, he almost dies.  I don’t do well when Josh is sick. I’m usually a strong, no-nonsense woman who can take whatever life throws at me.  But my husband is my rock, my support, my comrade, and when he’s practically dying, I sort of fall apart.

As I try to take care of my poor husband, I start to realize how much I love him…like LOVE him. You married people will understand this better than my single readers. Emotions and lovey feelings tend to come and go once you are married for a while. The commitment of love should stay, but the butterflies aren’t always there.

For the rest of the week, I continued to feel these super strong emotions as he recovered and I kept trying to show him how much I loved him…but he just didn’t seem to get it. (Love language differences and all.) At least he didn’t respond with reciprocal love like I wanted.

Finally we reached the last straw.

It was Josh’s day off and I knew he wanted to take a nap and I was hoping we could nap together. But he just came in and said, “I’m taking a nap” and didn’t invite me. My overly-emotional brain freaked out and felt super sad, and I wanted to go pout in the basement until he came and found me (Sound familiar, ladies?), but I knew that wouldn’t work because, duh, I’ve been married for almost a decade, and it never works. So instead I went and mowed the lawn.

I never mow the lawn. We have a push mower but a really tiny lawn so it’s not a big deal, it’s just always something Josh does. My thought was, “Maybe if I go mow the lawn (something he needed to do that day), he will get it and feel how much I love him and love me back!”

I was even nice and started on the side of the house away from our bedroom where he was napping.

My poor, tired, still-recovering husband slept all through the lawn mowing. He literally came out just as I was finishing the last 3 or 4 strips. I am pushing the lawn mower, now in the rain, and he is staring at me with a confused smile on his face. “What are you doing?”

“Trying not to pout.” It came out kind of grumpy. He shook his head and walked away.

I finished up and took the mower back to the shed where he was puttering on some stuff. “What’s going on?” he asked.

I don’t normally cry. But there we were, me blubbering about how much I love him, and him shaking his head and smiling at me and wiping the tears off my face. Next thing I know we are hugging, and I’m sniffling, and he’s laughing, and we are friends again.

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In the weeks following this, I started thinking about our relationship and wondering what it is that makes us best friends. I think these six things definitely help.

  1. We communicate, eventually. After nine years of trying to be telepathic, I have come to the conclusion that Josh cannot read my mind. He doesn’t get hints, even ones that I think are obvious. He needs me to spell it out for him. We try hard to be honest with each other and we take time to talk.
  2. We serve each other. While we do have his/hers chores at our house, we are (usually) willing to jump in and help the other one out. We also take care of each other…for instance, it is pretty normal for us to give shoulder rubs/back massages at least once a week.
  3. We laugh together and at ourselves. Although becoming parents has tempered our rambunctious frosting fights a bit, we still have regular times of laughter and teasing. We enjoy humor and messing around with each other.
  4. We have never gone to bed angry. There have been times when we went to bed still not seeing eye to eye on an issue, but we have never gone to bed actually angry with each other. Not once. We have tried, but someone always wakes the other person up and makes them talk. As a result, we forgive and don’t hold grudges.
  5. We do life together. Josh has been a youth pastor for most of our marriage. I have been a youth leader with him for all of that time. Even when the kiddos were babies, we packed them up and they played on the floor of the youth room. We are in ministry, not just him. Although we have separate hobbies, we make sure that our relationship has the priority. We schedule dates every month, and try to get a night away together (or home if the kiddos are with grandparents) at least once each season.
  6. We have a bedtime routine. People laugh at this one, but I think it’s one of the main reasons for our closeness. Literally, almost every night we do the same thing. After the kiddos are in bed, we watch Netflix or CBS online together and eat ice cream. Then we brush our teeth together and go to bed. Bedtime together is our opportunity to talk, laugh, and pray. The only times in our nine years of marriage that we haven’t gone to bed together is when someone is gone or sick.

 

I don’t want you to read this and think we are perfect. Far from it. I could write many more posts about our fights, misunderstandings, and stupidities. Marriage has the potential to be a beautiful, wonderful thing! My hope is that this post will encourage you in your own marriage, to be real, to seek friendship, and to keep fighting. It’s worth it!

But We Need Jesus (A Book Update)

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I’m sitting here at my favorite hipster coffee shop, feeling the vibe…feeling creative and artsy, and hoping to be inspired. I’m praying that I can explain what I’m thinking in a way that will make sense. 🙂

Friends, there are so many confused and broken people in this world! And we who call ourselves Christians have the answer for them…we have the good news about Jesus…the best news, the most amazing news! BUT…

It has to be more than just information.

Because logically, it doesn’t totally make sense. Intellectually, it’s kind of offensive. Culturally, it’s becoming irrelevant.

Words can’t convince people. Arguments can’t convince people.

But a life changed, overwhelming love and grace, total faith in something we cannot explain…things like that, proof of the Spirit of Jesus living inside of us…these are the things that make people wonder and think, even if they still question and doubt.

I’ve had three conversations in the past few weeks that are sticking with me in ways I didn’t expect.

  1. I was thanked for being kind by a person who has recently had Christians say terrible things to them because of something they are dealing with.
  2. I shared the good news of Jesus with a teen and listened as they prayed, trusting Jesus as their Savior, witnessed tears and smiles as they became a new creation.
  3. I listened, asked questions, and then shared my beliefs about Jesus with someone who believes in God but finds the Bible difficult to take literally.

These are my favorite conversations, my favorite types of experiences. They make me crave more. It’s amazing!

Confession time: I have been allowing doubts and fears to stop me from following God. I have allowed people’s opinions of me and my abilities to stop me from obeying Jesus. Ever since the agent I was working with turned me down, I haven’t even looked at my book proposal. It’s been three months. I let people shape my identity instead of Jesus.

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But these conversations the past few weeks…they are reminding me that I have a story to share. I have a passion and a message. His name is Jesus.

I don’t need to be perfect to share this message of love and hope, I just need to be willing. I will never have it all together, but that’s okay! I’m not supposed to…after all the message isn’t about me, it’s about my Savior who does the forgiving and saving, and shows the grace and love. I need Him just as much as anyone else!!

My heart for the lost world is for them to meet Jesus.

My heart for Christians is for them to actually meet Jesus and be able to share Him with the world.

I want you to so believe and experience Jesus that He completely changes your life. I want you to understand your salvation so well that it is effortless for you to share it with others. I want you to be at a place where you could sit in front of an entire coffee shop of people and talk about Jesus in such a real and compelling way that they would listen even if they didn’t believe…

Christian brothers and sisters, I want you to believe the truth about who you are in Christ with your heart, not just your mind. I want it to be life and not just knowledge. Not rules, not standards, not religion, but LIFE. Because we need the real Jesus. And this world needs the real Jesus. We are dying without Him.

And so, I am going to pursue this whole book thing again…until God clearly closes the door or until He flings it open. Please pray for me! Especially that I will believe the truth about myself. who I am in Christ, and not allow my identity to be shaped by people and their opinions of me.

 

Breaking the Silence

Have you ever had one of those seasons of life where it feels like everything is imploding at once? Where just putting one foot in front of the other seems like too much? 

That was this summer.

I usually write about what is on my heart…what I’m thinking about, going through, etc. But I couldn’t. So I just didn’t write anything. For a long time.

Well this is me picking up the hammer, smashing the glass of silence, and being honest.

Camp: It’s been 14 years since I first set foot on my favorite camp. It’s a small place, nothing grand, but as I’ve said before, it holds my heart. So many of the monumental moments of my life are centered around that place. I found grace and freedom my first summer at camp, met my husband while working there, and both of my children were born while we were there as interns. But even though I love my little camp, this summer was really hard. I made a lot of mistakes, struggled with some relationships, and left the summer feeling emotionally and physically drained. Working at summer camp is never easy, but this year was just exceptionally tough on me.

This is not to say it was all bad. There were some wonderful highlights, moments with campers, friendships with staff, watching God work…

Book: After a great Speak Up Conference where it seemed like God was flinging open the door for my book, I got an email from the agent I’ve been working with, telling me that her agency isn’t interested in working with me after all. They have some concerns about my book proposal and don’t feel they can move forward. This was super confusing to me because the agent was the one who helped me write the book proposal in the first place. Since this news came during a time at camp where I was already emotionally spent, I totally lacked the energy to deal with it. I didn’t even reply to her email (real mature, I know), and instead just closed the lid on writing.

I still don’t know what I am going to do. I have publishing houses who expressed interest in seeing my proposal, but with the recent feedback from the agent, I’m not even sure I want to send it in. Not to mention, I’m feeling a little disillusioned with the Christian writing/speaking sphere lately…all this push to be “spectacular”. I don’t want to be spectacular. I just want to be real, and honest, and rebellious. And while I’m ranting, you should know that I’m NEVER wearing a blazer. (Sorry if you are reading this as a speaker/writer who wears blazers…I’m sure they look fantastic on you!)

Church: Some of you know that I am married to an associate pastor (mostly he focuses on youth and children’s ministry). Church ministry is not easy, you guys! Sometimes I think being a pastor and pastor’s wife is one of the most stressful and loneliest jobs on the planet. Our church is growing right now, which is a wonderful thing! But as we switch to two services this fall, and as my husband’s youth group has grown from 9 to 50+ kids over the past four years, it’s also a lot of work!

This summer was one of those times when we had to reevaluate our calling. (Something I think people in ministry should do rather frequently.) We had gut level, honest conversations, and we began to pray for God to either revive our passion or show us the next step.

It’s very clear that Jesus is currently reviving us! God is doing some awesome things in our church right now and we are super excited to be a part of them.

Why are we so afraid to be real? I know I’m not the only one who had a less-than-stellar summer.

You know what? Even though this summer pretty much sucked sometimes, God never stopped being God. Jesus never lost control. And, the Holy Spirit never left my side. Even when I didn’t understand what was going on, They never changed! The biggest lesson I learned? Sometimes we just have to hold onto His promises and run blind.

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Ever Read One of Those Books?

I’ve been reading a book this summer at camp that has totally wrecked me. It’s called Jesus Centered Life: The Life You Didn’t Think was Possible with the Jesus You Never Knew by Rick Lawrence. If you want a deeper, more real relationship with Jesus apart from the religion and “should’s” so often associated with Christianity, please grab a copy of this book. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to let the quotes speak for themselves.

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My heart resonates with the message of this book! It’s not that the writing is so fantastic, it’s that the message is a real Jesus, wild, unchained, passionate, everything we ever wanted.

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This is what I say all the time to people…why are you so consumed with doing good, Christian things? If they say, “Because it’s right” then I keep asking questions. I truly believe that a real and tangible relationship with Jesus will change us from the inside out. We won’t have to worry about “doing right things” because they will automatically flow out of our love for Jesus and out of His life in us.

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This prayer cut me to the heart, exposed all the other things I am pursuing, and left the one desire that is stronger than everything else. I just want Jesus!

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Can you pray this with me? Have you discovered a God who is so real, and so incredibly good, that you can give Him everything? Surrender is where the beauty happens. The beauty of brokenness. And the true joy of surrender…

I’ve only gotten through half of this book, and it has destroyed me…it has awakened such longing for Jesus, such desire. There is nothing else I want in the world, as much as I want Him. And I am willing to do and to lose whatever it takes to experience more of Him, to know more of His heart, to be with Him where He is…

The Next Step (A Book Update and Blog Hop)

Blog-Hop-ButtonWow! What a week! I went from drowning in piles of meds during our special needs week at camp straight to the Speak Up! conference for writers and speakers. The days were crazy and the nights weren’t much better. If I wasn’t having nightmares about miscounting medications, I was dreaming that I couldn’t find the publisher I was supposed to meet with because they turned all the lights off.

Despite my sleep deprived state, or possibly because of it, I was able to meet with five editors and agents from different publishing houses. Every one of them has asked for my book proposal! This is pretty unusual and exciting…but, just because I send it to them doesn’t mean that their company will actually want to publish my book. Still, it was total confirmation that I am on the right track and that God is the one opening the doors for me.

I will be emailing the agent I have been working with on Monday to let her know of the interest. Most likely she will agree to sign a contract with me, and we will start sending my book proposal to the interested companies. It takes a few weeks to a few months to find out if a publishing company is actually interested in my  book (If they aren’t interested I will hear sooner). Then, if I get a contract from a publishing house, it will be about a year before my book is actually in print. So, lots of waiting ahead of me, but that’s okay. I am just so happy to have confirmation and a next step. It’s been quite the journey since I first thought God might possibly be asking me to write a book. 🙂

Camp Fun! (Clockwise from bottom left: Me and one of my favorite campers, new hammock and Chacos, and fun on the golf cart.)

New and old friends at Speak Up! (From the left: Jen Ferguson, Cindy Bultema, Carol Kent)

 

 

 

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I Got it Done! (Book Update)

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I got away this past weekend to a little “prayer cabin” on a lake to finish my book proposal for “Impostor Jesus”. I was unplugged, and by myself for three days. There was no wifi at the cabin and barely any cell service. When I called or texted anyone, I had to stand on top of the picnic table on the deck. But it was wonderful!

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One of the many places I spent time writing.

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Loved this screened in porch! Did some writing and journaling, enjoyed drinking coffee, or just sitting and thinking.

And I’m not sure which was better, the sunset…

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Or the mist rising off the lake the next morning!

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There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it, but thanks to multiple hikes, some ice cream, encouragement from my family, and a ton of help from the Holy Spirit, my book proposal for “Impostor Jesus” is finished! Whew!!

Now for some serious editing and then I will send it to my agent for some more editing. I am planning on attending the Speak  Up Conference in July and plan to take a finished book proposal with me. And then…? Who knows? It’s up to God! But, I will have been obedient and done my part. 🙂

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for and encouraged me the past few years!

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My  natural “unplugged” look, wahoo!

There is one more way that you can help me. If you would be willing to share with me (it might be put into the book proposal) why you would recommend my blog/writing, or how reading it has benefited your life, that would be amazing!! You can send me a message here through the “Contact” link or you can contact me via Facebook. Thanks!!

 

 

 

 

I Need Your Help! (Book Update)

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“Reporter Table” by koratmember from freedigitalphotos.net

It’s your turn to write to me! 🙂

As I have been creating my Book Proposal for Impostor Jesus I’m realizing that the information I want to share will be much more powerful if I have more that just one voice (mine) sharing it. It’s one thing to believe that I have found common lies and themes between my cultic upbringing and Evangelical Christianity as a whole, but I need to hear what other people have to say.

How you can help:

  1. Answer any or all of the three questions below, whatever pertains to you. You can answer them in a comment on this post, send me an email through the “Contact” page, or send me a message on my Facebook page.
  2. Share this post or the questions on my Facebook page with your friends and family and ask them to take the time to write me.
  3. Invite me to come and share my story with your group (I live in the Grand Rapids, MI area) so that I can chat with them about these same questions. I am not picky about what kind of group it is. It could be a singles group, college group, Bible study group, small group, mom’s group, or maybe we just meet some of your friends for coffee.

The broader the spectrum of people I can talk to, the better! I am hoping this gets shared far and wide! I look forward to sifting through all of the stories and thoughts to see what kinds of themes come out. I might even give you a peek at some of them sometime soon!

The Three Questions:

  1. Have you felt frustrated, disillusioned, “burned”, or disappointed by Christians or the Christian church? Did it cause you to leave Christianity or the church? What happened?
  2. What do you see as some main problems within the Evangelical Church as a whole? What lies are Christians believing?
  3. If you consider yourself an active, growing Christian, why are you choosing to pursue this lifestyle?

Thank you to all of you who decide to share your story and thoughts with me!

Some Simple Theology

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The past few days I have had some interesting conversations, read some unique articles, and come to a few conclusions. Friends, we are an obsessive culture! Currently it feels like we are obsessed with intellectuals…the way we view intellectuals, wanting people to think that we are intellectuals, etc. We value knowledge, and ideas, and information. These things are not a problem in themselves; however, when we feel that we as mere, created humans have figured out God…that is a problem!

People have created complex, often contradictory, theology, each sure that they have figured out how to explain Christianity and the God behind it. Covenant vs Dispensation, Calvinist vs Armenian, Theistic Evolution vs 6-Day Creation, etc. I listen to it all,think about how I once let a “wise”man lead me (Gothard), and then look at my Bible. (This is a long passage because I have a serious problem with showing you just one verse to make my point…it’s called context!)

1 Corinthians 1:20-25  “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”        

What if we are making everything too complex with all of our intellectual theology? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t search for answers or try to understand God as much as we can. But, when we come to the place where we feel like “we have the answers” and “they don’t”, then we have become foolish. I see truth in a variety of different theories about God and Christianity. Would you like to know my simple theological beliefs? Here they are:

  1. If it makes God seem bigger, then it is probably right. If it makes God seem smaller or more understandable, then it is probably wrong.

Maybe this sounds overly simple, but I believe in a God who in infinitely bigger, more powerful, more amazing, more unbelievable, wiser, crazier, and just MORE than I can ever imagine or understand. This is my problem with Theistic Evolution…so you are saying that God isn’t big enough to just speak everything into existence? He had to use a process that man “discovered” scientifically, that they can’t actually prove? And the only One who was there, and says He spoke it, is wrong…because created humans (who don’t want to believe in God) say so? Sorry, it just doesn’t add up in my mind.

  1. See the Bible for what it is: not a book of mystic wisdom, but the story of God and the people He created.

As I said previously in “Bill Gothard’s Bible”, I was raised to see the Bible as this mysterious, mystical book that I could open to any place, on any particular day, and gain a “rehma” for my daily life. Talk about yanking verses out of context! What I have discovered is that the Bible is actually God’s story of the world He created and the people He loved, lost, and redeemed. It is a beautiful story of passionate love, sacrifice, mercy, and grace. The Bible teaches us about who we are and who the God is who made us and loves us. But, we can’t write off parts we don’t like or understand, because they are ALL important! We need the Old Testament to understand how huge, holy, just, and perfect this God is who crazily enough decided to become a person and die for the sins of the world. Without seeing the holy, scary, fiery LORD, we cannot truly appreciate Jesus, the Savior and Servant King in the New Testament. I could say so much more, but that would be another blog post. 🙂

  1. Read the Bible book by book taking into account the type of literature each book is, who the author was, who they were writing to, the culture surrounding it, and what the author was trying to say.

If it is a history book, then I read it like history (Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, etc). If it is a book of prophecy to the nation of Israel, then I read it like prophecy (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc), some of which has been fulfilled and some of which is still to come. Does this make sense? Here’s the biggest problem I see when it comes to the Bible and modern Christians: they don’t read it and are therefore unfamiliar with it. As a result, we become vulnerable to lies and teachers who take Scriptures out of context. We don’t know what the Bible really says, or how to read it, and so we don’t know how to filter what people tell us.

I really don’t think that Christianity is about being or looking like an intellectual. It’s not about having the right apologetics so that you can defend your beliefs against people who don’t agree with you. I think it’s more about being childlike, having faith, knowing the Bible, and believing in a God who is WAY TOO big to understand or fit into any box that we can make.

I Thought I Understood the Bible, Then I Went to Israel!

Touring Israel was never on my bucket list. However, it has always been on my husband’s! Which is why, a year ago, we packed our suitcases, left the kiddos with grandparents, endured a twelve hour flight (with little to no sleep), and spent eight, amazing, life-changing days in the nation of Israel.

I don’t know why I was never interested in going to Israel. Maybe it’s because the tour info packets make it seem so mystical. Or because they say corny things like, “Walk in the footsteps of Jesus” or “Have your life changed in the Holy Land”. Perhaps it’s because I thought as an American, Evangelical, Bible schooled Christian, that I was plenty familiar with the Bible. Everyone tells you that Israel will change your life and that you will never read the Bible the same again. I’m the first to admit I was a skeptic. It’s just a place, right?

It IS just a place. But it was also a place that continues to change me and continues to bring the Bible to Life! Go figure! I discovered how much I don’t know, and how much I had wrong!

I didn’t know I would see prophecies being fulfilled before my eyes.

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A sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea from our 11th floor balcony. Natenya, Israel

Do you see the skycranes in the top left corner of this picture? They are everywhere in Tel Aviv, and Natenya, and in-between. Why? Because people are building, building, building. They can hardly keep up with the amount of housing needed by Jews who are coming back to Israel from all over the world! We sat on our balcony enjoying the sunrise and our strong instant coffee, and I read my husband Isaiah 54.

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more that the children of her who is married, says the LORD. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen our stakes.” Isaiah 54:1-2

This was just the first day! Our Israeli tour guide pointed out prophesies coming true almost every day of our trip!

I didn’t know that Jesus wasn’t a “carpenter” and didn’t get laid in a wooden manger.

As Americans, we hear the word “carpenter” and think wood. Problem is, there really isn’t much wood or trees in Israel. (Which would explain why they got their cedar from Lebanon all the time in the Old Testament.) There are a lot of rocks! Both ancient and modern homes are often made of rock.  Most likely, Jesus was actually a stone mason. And that manger you picture in your head or have seen in a Nativity; it was probably also made out of stone. It didn’t take too long before I started feeling like an outsider looking in! Why have we put so much of our own culture in our version of Bible stories?

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A stone manger and bowl. Tel Megido

I didn’t know the Sea of Galilee was so SMALL!

The first time we saw the Sea of Galilee was at night. Our hotel was next to the water. It was dark, but we could see lights from the other side. Both my husband and I were shocked at how small it seemed. We are from Michigan and are used to the Great Lakes. The Sea of Galilee seemed so tiny in comparison!

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The Sea of Galiee from the top of Mt. Arbel.

 

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Getting ready to ride a “Jesus boat”!

This is the lake that Jesus calmed when He said, “Peace, be still!” What??!!

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Sunrise with some fishermen over the Sea of Galilee.

I didn’t know I would fall in love with Jerusalem.

Israel is not a mystical, magical place. It’s not going to magically make anything happen in your life. It’s just a country, an awesome country, a special country, but just an ordinary place. Jerusalem, the Old City, and the Western Wall, they might be magical. 🙂

I enjoyed being in Galilee. Floating in the Dead Sea was pretty incredible, but Jerusalem… Jerusalem stole my heart! If my children hadn’t been home in the U.S.A., I might have stayed forever. We arrived in Jerusalem in time for dinner at our hotel. Then our guide invited us on a walk through the Old City to the Western Wall. It was the Sabbath. We walked along the city wall, over cobble stones, and down dimly lit streets. Music, singing, and soft Hebrew words filled my ears. Our guide led us to an over look, and there it was.

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The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) on a Sabbath night.

We spent three days soaking up Jerusalem culture. It was incredible! Here are some highlights.

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Mt. of Olives, overlooking a cemetery, the temple mount, and the dome of the rock.

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The Old City wall with me showing the scale.

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Religious Jewish women praying in the Western Wall tunnels.

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Camel ride!

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The Old City of Jerusalem

I didn’t know that I would LONG to go back!

I, the one who didn’t want to go in the first place, want so badly to go back to Israel and learn even more about the culture and land of the Bible. I love being able to read God’s Word and think, “I’ve been there” and have a mental image of what it looks like. I love having a better understanding of who Jesus was as a Jewish rabbi. I love what has happened to my heart regarding the Jewish people…I found myself identifying with the religious Jews because of my legalistic, ritualistic past. God poured His love into my heart as I walked through the Jewish Quarter of the city. I want to go back!

Guess what? We ARE going back! And you can come with us!! My husband (who is a pastor) and I are leading a trip to Israel next year, February 18-28, 2017. It will be an 11 day trip through Galilee, down to the Dead Sea, and finally ending in Jerusalem. We will stuff ourselves with information and Israeli food and it will be amazing!

The trip costs $4173 and includes all airfare (from Grand Rapids, MI, but that can be changed), hotels, breakfasts and dinners, taxes, tips, etc. The only things you will have to pay for once you are in Israel is your lunches and souvenirs. We will be traveling with Imagine Tours & Travel. You can check them out at www.ittworld.com. For more information, please contact me. We would love to send you a brochure!

 

How My Parents Joined a Cult

Every time I tell my story, people ask the same questions. “What about your parents? How did they get involved? What do they think about Bill Gothard and IBLP now? How do they feel about you writing publically about all of this?” Well, here are some answers! I have talked with each of my parents separately and together to get these answers, and they have approved this blog post.

An Introduction to Bill Gothard:

64804_458336314496_4891626_nMy parents were first-generation Christians. They began their relationship with Jesus in college and got involved in a wonderful Christian campus ministry. The campus minister was instrumental in their spiritual growth. Unfortunately, He was also a supporter of Bill Gothard and took students to Gothard’s Basic Seminar every year. The community of Christians at college was alive and vibrant. Students were serious about growing in Christ and my parents absolutely loved it!

After they graduated and left the campus ministry, my parents struggled to find a church with the same passion for Jesus. In every church they went to, the people seemed fake, like church was just something they did on Sunday, but their relationship with God didn’t really matter.

Homeschooling with Bill Gothard:

Some of their closest friends from college, a couple who was a few years ahead of them in marriage and children, decided to homeschool. This was back in the 80s when No One was homeschooling! It appealed to my parents and they decided to homeschool as well. Their friends started to use Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Gothard promised that ATI was an exceptional homeschooling program that would automatically make your family and children succeed. You also had to be approved to join the program, have your life in order, commit to various standards, pay a yearly fee, and promise not to share, or even show, any of the curriculum to anyone who was not “ATI”.

If you ask my parents now, they will tell you that they wish they’d paid more attention to the red flags. But, their trusted friends believed Gothard, so they thought it must be okay. Plus, my parents were pretty new Christians and they didn’t have the Biblical background to see through the lies and out-of-context Scripture. They thought they could weed out the bad and keep the good.

We joined ATI when I was twelve. Before ATI we were just an average homeschooling family. My mother liked to garden, and sew, and make bread. My siblings and I devoured books, played outside, did chores, and went to homeschool group outings. We went to a regular church in town and looked relatively normal (for the 1980s and early 90s). After joining ATI, things began to quickly change.

Joining the Cultic-Church:

IMG_3984Our Family, Christmas 1998

When I was fourteen, we left our regular church and started driving an hour and a half twice a week to a new church. It was made up of conservative, homeschooling, Gothard following, mostly large families. At the heyday, we had families coming from as far as two hours away, even some from Canada. The church promoted a safe environment for teens, protection from the world, like-minded fellowship, and deep spiritual teachings. Sundays were an entire day of church with a lunch and fellowship time in-between two two-plus hour services. There was no Sunday School, Children’s Church, or nursery. There was lots of singing, testimonies, prayer, and long sermons. My parents saw people who were actually “living out” their Christianity for the first time since college and were excited. Once again, they thought they could weed out the bad and just enjoy the good.

Unfortunately, even more than the ATI program, this cultic church was damaging for my brother and me. Adults have an easier time picking and choosing what they believe. As teens, we bought it all, hook, line, and sinker. It didn’t help that we went to special teen events where we were “indoctrinated” even further. There were red flags at this church as well, especially as my dad got involved in leadership. It took us seven years to leave.

More About My Family:

My family was never “Gothardites” like some people I knew. They always saw Bill Gothard as just a man and didn’t agree with everything he said, especially my dad. My parents both had genuine relationships with Jesus before Gothard and ATI, and continued those relationships while we were in the program (cult). We were a “fringe” family. We didn’t make the yearly pilgrimage to Knoxville, TN (a huge mega conference just for ATI families); I think we went twice. My parents didn’t send us to training centers (where most of the abuse happened) or let us go overseas with groups of ATI students. My dad was a public school teacher for crying out loud, so he was almost considered a traitor. In fact, I credit my father and his skepticism with protecting me from getting further involved than I did.

My parents are wonderful people! They were just deceived by a manipulative con artist with amazing promises of success. Unfortunately, Gothard’s program and teachings seemed to appeal to mentally unstable, abusive type people, and many former ATI students experienced horrible abuse in the name of Gothard. This was not my family! We were just a nice, homeschooling family who lived a sheltered, old-fashioned life.

What My Parents Think Now:

188910_10150138743979497_913088_nRegret. This is the word I hear most often when we talk about Gothard, ATI, and the “crazy church”. My parents regret their choices. They regret not noticing or listening to the red flags they saw along the way. They are sorry for the damage that was done to their children. They regret not listening to cautions from others and from their own hearts.

How They “Got Out”:

Since we were always a fringe family, getting away from Gothard’s teachings just kind of slowly happened for my parents over the past ten or twelve years. Then, when everything started coming out two years ago, first girls and women accusing Gothard of sexual harassment and abuse, and then learning about all the misconduct in the 1970s, it just solidified everything for them. They realized that all the cautions and hesitations they had had in the past were validated.

How They Feel About My Blog:

My blog and the book I am writing reminds my parents of the choices they made and makes them feel regret, and that is hard. However, they assure me that they are supportive of what I am doing. They are glad that I can use this venue to work out the damage I experienced and help others in the process.

I have had to remind my parents multiple times, especially my mom, that I am not mad at them. I am not upset. I don’t blame them for the choices they made. I have come to the place where I embrace my life. There were a lot of wonderful moments, friendships, and memories within the craziness of it all. Besides, without my past, I wouldn’t have a story to tell, or a blog to write, and I wouldn’t have the passion behind my search for truth instead of tradition.