Learning from People I Thought I Disagreed with…

About a month ago, I set out on a journey of learning and discovery through reading. You know what I’ve discovered so far? I’m kind of a jerk. Good to know, huh? 😉

When I first started my book proposal a couple of years ago, there were three books somewhat contemporary to mine that totally irritated me. Not that I’d ever read them, mind you. But I knew (or thought I knew) the conclusions the authors came to and I disagreed with them. These women had all become disillusioned with evangelical Christianity and were looking for something different. They had significant followings. It irritated me. Prideful much?

In my last post, I talked about how I bought those books and was looking forward to reading them. Here is what has happened so far!

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I started with Addie Zierman’s When We Were on Fire and was immediately hooked. Addie writes with shockingly brutal honesty. I could hear the subtle cynicism in her voice as she shared about her emotionally charged years in youth group, her disillusionment in Christian college, and her struggle with depression as a young adult. The Church People had Christianese answers that sounded good…but nothing touched the pain or satisfied the searching questions of her heart.

Surprisingly, I didn’t hate Addie’s book. Instead, I loved her. I was captivated by her story, and I needed to know if she ever found the real Jesus. So I immediately bought her second book, Night Driving, and devoured it in a matter of days.

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Addie is incredibly genuine in sharing her doubts, vulnerable about her brokenness. She asks questions for all of us. Points out the flaws in our Christianese…in our formulaic religion. Ironically formulaic for people who claim “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

I gave myself a few days off, and then I picked up Elizabeth Esther’s, Girl at the End of the World. I knew going in that we had similarities in our childhood, growing up in performance based, legalistic, fundamental, patriarchal Christianity. But I didn’t realize how abused she had been, that her grandparents were the founders of the Christian cult, or that she didn’t escape until she was a married mother of three. Grace, I needed to give Elizabeth grace. Seriously, it was amazing that she was even seeking to know God after all the craziness and abuse!

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The fact that Elizabeth and her husband converted to Catholicism kind of threw me for a loop. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense. Isn’t GOD big enough to use anything? She was trying to seek the real God, but kept running into her grandfather’s voice and interpretations of Scripture. She needed something strikingly different…and what is more different than the church she’d been taught was the “whore of Babylon” growing up?

They changed me…these books that I thought I hated. They changed the way I want to write.

I feel like I have a new understanding of my intended audience. If I’m going to reach the broken and searching, it needs to be with hope in an outstretched hand…with grace, and love, and questions instead of answers.

I’m realizing that we are all on our own journey as we try to find God. Thankfully, He’s happy to be found. God knows what we need, knows how to reach us, and how to speak to us individually…how to meet us where we are at. We’ve got to let Him out of our box. And I need to stop judging people before I read their books!

I have one book left, Rachel Held Evan’s, Faith Unraveled. I’ll be honest, I saved it for last because she scares me the most. I know that Rachel is pretty progressive and pretty vocal. But I’m willing to listen to her story, feel her hurt and frustrations, and try to understand where she is coming from. It’s good for me! And who knows, I’ve been wrong twice now…LOL.

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Rediscovering Jesus – Rediscovering the Bible (Part 1)

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When people of other religions become Christians, they leave behind their old religious books, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, etc. and start reading the Bible. It seems obvious. But, how do you leave behind the Bible and then start reading the Bible? How do you locate the truth when it’s supposedly found in the book that was used to tell you lies? How do you unravel lies about the God of Christianity without leaving Christianity altogether?

These are legitimate and difficult questions.

Unfortunately, the Bible can be used to say just about anything. Grab a verse here and a verse there, or just half of a verse, and you can prove whatever you want. It’s especially effective if you use a version with outdated English: full of words no one uses anymore and definitions that have changed over the years.

Not only is this the wrong way to use the Bible, it’s also spiritual abuse. Regrettably, this type of abuse is not uncommon in Christianity. And then we wonder why people are leaving the church with a broken view of God, and want nothing to do with His Word…

Growing up in Bill Gothard’s Institute, I was never taught how to correctly read the Bible. I never thought to consider the context of the verse and passage, the intended audience, and the author’s original intent as they wrote. Any verse could mean whatever anyone wanted it to. As a result, it was easy for spiritual authorities to control those around them because god could say absolutely anything and who were we to disagree?

We were taught to look for rhemas as we read the Bible. Gothard’s definition of rhema (a Greek word for “word”) was a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction. We were supposed to use these words or phrases to guide our lives. It didn’t matter if the word used in the KJV had a different meaning than today, or if the verses were out of context, or if the prophecy was about the nation of Israel or even Jesus Himself. The Bible became like a religious Ouija board. We attempted to use God’s Word to find specific answers to our questions and then claimed that they came from god.

Through this method, god told people to move to specific towns, leave their jobs, and marry off their children, etc. It sounds crazy now, but when spiritual leaders are claiming to have found hidden mysteries and new revelations, followers feel the pressure to find them too.

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It makes total sense, after going through this kind of craziness, that people can’t handle the Bible anymore. It was used to control and abuse them. How in the world can it be good or from God? It’s way easier to completely reject something and find a new thing to believe.

Seriously, how in the world do you find the truth when it’s only a foot, or an inch, away from the lie?

I know I’m not the only one who either has, or currently does, struggle with the Bible. The book we call God’s Word can seem so mysterious, so confusing and mystical. If this is you, I absolutely do not blame or condemn you. I get it. I do. But, can I propose something?

What if it’s not the Bible that’s the problem…what if it’s the people who used it? What if the Bible was distorted and abused for their own gain? What if the Bible you think you know is a lie?

You should know that I absolutely believe that the Bible is the infallible (foolproof, reliable, watertight) and inspired Word of God. All of it! I do not pretend to be smart enough to figure out which parts are true and which parts are fake. I realize this is a popular method within progressive Christianity, but the God who breathed it out is way bigger than me, and that attitude kind of scares me (in a good way).

The Bible itself is not the problem.

The problem is, we don’t understand how to read it. We don’t understand what it really is or how to use it.

Part 2 coming tomorrow. 🙂

Making it to Round #2 of American Idol…Sort of. (A Book Update)

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On May 20th, I flew down to Asheville, NC by myself. Then I spent five days by myself at The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (or BRMCWC for short). As a stay-at-home wife and mother-of-two, alone time is pretty scarce. Just being me for five days would have been amazing, but I also made it to The Second Round of American Idol. Sort of…

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That’s the best way to explain what happened. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been talking about writing a book…for some time…okay, maybe three or four years. It’s been a learning and growing process.

Anyway…

Last year I attended a different writers conference, called Speak Up!, here in Michigan. My dreams at Speak Up totally bombed. But because of them, I was able to take a completed book proposal, one sheets, and business cards to North Carolina…completely prepared, with little effort, for what God had planned. Funny how God works sometimes, isn’t it?

It was obvious that God planned this trip. Without me even searching for it, the BRMCWC fell into my lap (along with every penny of the $1150 I needed to pay for the conference, food and lodging, airfare, and even my baggage fees)!

The conference was incredible, even though it rained almost the entire time. I met some wonderful, precious, amazing people who love Jesus and encouraged me! My sister-in-law and I got to spend quality time together and deepen our friendship (which can be hard to do when you live 900 miles apart). I was challenged and stretched by talented authors and others in the writing industry. They gave me concrete steps to take and specific areas to work on.

AND… Three agents expressed interest and took my book proposal. Two publishing companies also requested that I send it to them. What? Woohoo!! (Unlike previous years, I actually sent it in.)

So…now I get to wait and see what happens. Nothing is certain; this is not a guarantee that my book will get published. But it sure is a step in the right direction! Very similar to making it to round #2 of American Idol. I didn’t get cut, but that doesn’t mean I’ll win.

Please continue to pray for me…

  • That I will obediently follow the path that God has so clearly set before me. I feel like I’ve spent the majority of the last 3-4 years fighting God’s leading, resisting, and making excuses. I long to cast off fear of failure and rejection and just run freely after my Savior.
  • That I will listen to the Voice of Truth and refuse to believe the lies of our enemy.
  • That I will boldly pursue the open doors in front of me…such as writing for online group blogs and magazines.

Thanks, friends! ❤

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Coffee and processing at Clouds, the amazing coffee shop at Ridgecrest Conference Center!

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I snuck out between storms to catch these beautiful rain drops and flowers.

“An Impostor Jesus” – The Introduction

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I wish I looked this cool when I write!

Last week, I gave you the first paragraph of my book. In honor of the fact that I am going to The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in less than a week, I have decided to give you more. 🙂 Pray for my journey! Pray that I will listen to the Holy Spirit, that I will be humble and available, that I will be bold and courageous, and that most of all God’s will is accomplished!

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***

“I’ve been brainwashed. The unexpected thought tugged at my mind. We were a sleepy bunch of teen girls, dragged from our beds after midnight to be lectured by an adult chaperone. Clumped together on a couple of ratty old couches, we yawned and tried to listen. I was all too aware that my alarm was going off in less than six hours. Prayer meeting started at 6:30am and if you cared at all about giving off a spiritual vibe, you would be there. Which meant getting up even earlier to shower, and blow dry and curl your hair, because for some reason curly hair was also a sign of spirituality.

Mrs. W droned on and on about cliques, and friendship, and I felt myself drifting off. Then she said it, the real reason this meeting had been called.

“It just grieved my heart, to look out the window today and see you all playing in the snow. I couldn’t tell who the boys were and who the girls were since you were all wearing snow pants.” Her voice dripped of judgmental disappointment.

Yes, at this winter youth retreat, we were all wearing snow pants to play in the snow. Shock! Horror! What?

In previous years, most of us, at least the “godly” ones, had worn skirts or culottes over our snow pants.

How do I explain culottes? They are kind of like gauchos only much, much uglier. The first ones I wore as a young teen were homemade and looked like an intensely gathered skirt with a waistband. However, unlike a skirt, if you grabbed the voluminous sides and pulled, voila, there were two sections of fabric, one for each leg. Over the years, our culottes eventually shrank down to a slightly larger version of the more familiar gaucho. We wore them when a skirt was a health hazard, such as swimming, horseback riding, or downhill skiing. However, it should be noted that downhill skiing in culottes, even skinnier ones, feels a bit like skiing with two flags attached to your legs flapping wildly in the wind.

The ridiculousness of it all began to sink in. We had been dragged from our warm beds in the middle of the night to be lectured about modesty and femininity because we had failed to put another layer of clothing over top of our already poofy snow pants.

I rested my head on the shoulder of the girl next to me and stared skeptically at the woman lecturing us. An increasingly familiar feeling of rebellion crept over me. I had always been a “good girl”, one of the “godly” ones, but that was about to change. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t rock music, or blue jeans, or college that was turning me into a rebel (like we’d been warned about). It was Jesus.

If you are at all familiar with TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” show and have seen the Duggar family, then you have an idea of how I grew up. Only, don’t think of the “stylish” Duggars we all know now. Do me a favor and Google the 2004 version of the Duggar family. Yup, that was me: long hair, awkward bangs, homemade jumpers and all.

My siblings and I were homeschooled before homeschooling was a thing. We were educated at home back in the day when kids like us were afraid of the yellow school bus (there were occasional conflicts with a local school district). Back when grocery store clerks had to scrape their chins off the floor when we told them why we weren’t in school. “Is that even legal?” was a commonly heard question.

Obviously, not all homeschoolers are Duggar-ish. How did I end up at a youth retreat getting lectured about snow pants at midnight? The short answer is that my parents joined a cult…

I’m skipping this section because you can read it on my blog. Just follow the link above.

“Once I “got out” I chose to close the door on my past. After being chased through Cedar Point by a former friend so that they could yell at me about my new cartilage piercing, I just needed to be done. We were no longer attending the cultic church, so I moved on and started college. (I might have still worn homemade jumpers and had waist-length hair my first year, but hey, it was a step in the right direction.) I told new friends that I had been homeschooled in a conservative Christian home and that was all. My husband didn’t even learn the truth about my past until we had been married for over five years.

A few years ago, I started to get connected with former ATI students and people who had been influenced by Bill Gothard’s teachings. Many of them were no longer Christians. Having been burned by the version of Christianity they experienced, they wanted nothing to do with God, Jesus, or church. I didn’t blame them, but it made me wonder. Why was I still a Christian? Why hadn’t I run away? I started to go back and process for the first time in over a decade. As I worked my way through memories and former ways of thinking, I came to a simple conclusion. I met Jesus. He became so real to me, even while I was in the cult, that I couldn’t leave Him behind. I left the legalism and lies, but I couldn’t leave Jesus. After all, He was the one who showed me I’d been brainwashed.

One afternoon, after an online interaction with some of my former “cult-mates”, I found myself in my basement doing laundry and talking to Jesus. It broke my heart to hear from people who had such misconceptions of God and who didn’t want to give Jesus another chance. I got it, but I hurt for them. Sitting on my basement floor, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I whispered “I just want to represent You well.” And the Holy Spirit whispered back to my heart, “Write. Tell your story.” So, here I am.

It’s not just people raised in a Christian cult who are walking out on the church and Christianity. Many “normal” people raised in good, “normal” churches are leaving their former faith as well. Recognizing this growing trend, I started to wonder if there was a common thread. What if people across the board are leaving the religion and tradition of Christianity because they have never met Jesus? I think this common thread is what makes my rather extreme story universal.

Think of me as the Samaritan woman at the well, in John chapter four. I met this amazing, radical, mind-blowing man named Jesus. He changed my life, and I want you to meet Him too. It is my prayer that as you read this book and hear some crazy stories, you will consider lies you might be believing, and question your own view of God and Christianity. By the end, I pray you will be able to say with the people of Samaria, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42.”

I hope you enjoyed that sneak peak! Thank you for your prayers as I take the next scary but exciting step forward. 🙂

When God Opens a Door (A Book Update)

“I’ve been brainwashed. The unexpected thought poked at my mind. We were a sleepy bunch of teen girls, dragged from our beds after midnight to be lectured by an adult chaperone. Clumped together on a couple of ratty old couches, we yawed and tried to listen. I was all too aware that my alarm was going off in less than six hours. Prayer meeting started at 6:30 am and if you cared at all about giving off a spiritual vibe, you would be there. Which meant getting up even earlier to shower, and blow dry and curl your hair, because for some reason curly hair was also a sign of spirituality.”

This is the opening paragraph of the introduction to my book, An Impostor Jesus that I am writing. That I am writing… It’s strange to say that. It’s been such a process!

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Even though humanly, logically, if you know me personally, the timing doesn’t make any sense right now…

God is flinging open the door!

  • God provided $1,100 for me to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina in a couple of weeks!! Seriously! I’m still in shock.
  • This is a pretty intense conference: five days, tons of writers, agents, editors, etc. I know it’s the next step but I’m a bit terrified.
  • Not only did God provide money, I also get to go with my sweet sister-in-law! In fact, she is the one who suggested it and sent me her extra copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide 2017. Which is where I found the name Steve Laube…
  • Steve Laube is a highly recognized agent in the industry (he represented Jennie Allen), he is the author of The Christian Writers Market Guide, and he will be attending the BRMCWC. After reading his agency description in the Market Guide, I’m going to do my best to connect with him. Because you know, why not? Go big! I might be insane…
  • Mr. Laube wants three chapters in a book proposal, which meant that I had to write another chapter before the conference…which just happened to be the hardest chapter of the whole book…
  • But, it’s done! Chapter 2 is done. (Intro + 1+2 = 3, for those of you wondering at my math skills) All I can say is that it was God because even though I had scads of papers covered with scribbles, thoughts, and organization clouds, none of it made any sense. Until, it did. I seriously got the whole chapter written in three coffee shop sittings!
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Writing and latte art…does it get any better?

God’s timing is so crazy.

This last almost-year has been so hard…incredibly difficult…and yet…

  • God has used it to break and humble me. I can see this reflected in my writing, and it’s a great place to be when you are trying to tell people about the real Jesus.
  • I have more passion than ever for the call and purpose that God has put on my life.
  • I’ve spent so much time resisting the idea of writing a book, but now I am embracing it. God has made it SO CLEAR that this is what He is calling me to do. I’ll be honest, it terrifies me, but as a good friend said recently, “God’s not asking you to gather 50,000 Facebook followers, or be a famous public speaker, He’s just asking you to write this book. So, write the book!”
  • Words, and thoughts, and ideas are pouring out of my mind lately. I feel like I actually know where this is going, and I can see it happening. It’s really exciting! I know that it’s Jesus!

Want to know what you can do?

  1. Pray for me! I need so much prayer!!! Pray for the upcoming conference, for the contacts that I will make, for safety traveling, and that God will clearly show me the next step…
  2. Follow my blog. I know it sounds silly and I don’t usually talk about it, but publishing companies look at this sort of thing. They want to know how big of a “platform” you have. There is a place on the side bar where you can sign up with your email address. This will send you an email every time I write a new post, and it will make it seem like my blog is more popular. 😉
  3. Like my Facebook page. You can find a link in my sidebar. Again, another platform thing…but numbers are important to publishers.
  4. Share my blog or Facebook page on social media. Numbers again, but also getting the word out. 🙂 Thanks, friends!

I’ll close with the last paragraph of the introduction to An Impostor Jesus…it’s the absolute cry of my heart both for my book and my blog.

“Think of me as the Samaritan woman at the well, in John chapter four. I met this amazing, radical, mind-blowing man named Jesus. He changed my life, and I want you to meet Him too. It is my prayer that as you read this book and hear a few bizarre stories, you will consider the lies you might be believing, and question your view of God and Christianity. By the end, I pray you will be able to say with the people of Samaria, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42”