Mental Illness, Possessed Baby Dolls, and the Church

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I’m going to tell you an embarrassing story. When I was a teenager, in the middle of religious cultic craziness, I thought I’d been given the gift of spiritual discernment. I truly believed that I could discern whether or not people’s toys, specifically baby dolls, were possessed. Parents in my church brought me their children’s dolls so that I could stare into their eyes and tell them if there was a demon inside or not. Yes, I now recognize that this is absolutely nuts. Yikes!! But at the time, it seemed very real.

We had all heard anecdotal stories of people’s experiences with possessed toys. We had heard stories about demons coming out of synthesizers and electronic keyboards.(Because rock music, you know, was from the devil.) The amount of fear involved was ridiculous. No one wanted demons in their houses. People do strange things when they are afraid.

Mental illness often gets put in the same Christianese category as possessed toys. While not on the same level, it’s something that we fear, don’t understand, and want to control. Christians feel like there should be a formula to change it. It feels safer to tell people that it’s the result of sin. It feels more comfortable to categorize it as “spiritual warfare.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there isn’t such a thing as spiritual warfare. I just don’t think it usually looks like we think it does.

I think we give way more credit to fear, anecdotal stories, and just brokenness in the world, and not enough credit to the subtle lies the enemy whispers to us about ourselves, other people, and God. Satan isn’t necessarily behind the cold you caught, the fact that your car broke down, or even your anxiety. But, he definitely loves that you feel hopeless and doubt God’s love for you.

As humans, we are naturally afraid of things we don’t understand.  But when you combine fear with religion, the idea that I have to do something to get results, brokenness and destruction happens.

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Do you know how many people are silently struggling with things like depression and anxiety within our churches but are afraid to say anything? Do you know how many people are told that their mental illness is a result of a “lack of faith” or “bitterness” or some other problem on their part? They aren’t doing enough and that’s why they are broken. People are afraid to speak up and ashamed to seek help or admit they need medication. That’s not okay. No one should have to struggle in secret. No one should be isolated in their pain and afraid of the body of Christ. It’s wrong that the church has made them feel this way.

How did we get here? I believe three things have played a huge part.

  • Religious Christianity

“Religion is the business of appeasing gods.” This sentence from Mike Cosper’s book Recapturing the Wonder has been challenging my thinking for almost a year now. We do that within Christianity. We put our ideas about God in a tiny box. Then we work our hardest to appease our god-in-a-box because we want his approval and blessings. That’s religious Christianity. Formulaic thinking abounds within religious Christianity. We search for a magical guarantee to make our god do what we want.

We can be conservative, religious Christians, or we can be liberal, religious Christians. It’s all about the box. We might have different ideas about God in our box, but if we are focused on doing things to make our god-in-a-box happy, then we are religious.

The real Jesus doesn’t fit in a box. He will always be bigger than our understanding. He will never make sense. And He doesn’t need to be appeased, because He already appeased Himself on the cross. 🙂

  • Lack of Education

The church has been suspicious of psychology for far too long. There is nothing wrong with learning how the human brain tends to work. Just because some of the scientists that made breakthroughs in psychology weren’t Christians doesn’t make their work invalid. Psychology is a beautiful thing. It’s exciting and freeing to understand potential whys behind thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Somehow, Christians often separate the spiritual part of people from the rest of them. I just don’t think that’s an accurate way of doing things. We are complex beings. And our spirituality, that is our ability to connect with God, is interwoven deeply with our story, our beliefs about our self, the way we interact with people, etc.

The church that we currently attend loves psychology. And honestly, the more I have come to understand myself, the healthier I have become spiritually.

  • Fear

Ironically fear is often the motivator behind our religious Christianity and our lack of education. We are afraid of the god we have imagined, so we create a list of religious behaviors to follow. We are afraid of a lack of control, so we try to earn God’s blessings by our actions. People are afraid of psychology, so they don’t get better educated. We are afraid of God and people’s condemnation, so we keep our depression and anxiety to ourselves.

Fear is not from the real Jesus, friends! Do you know what the most repeated command in the Bible is? “Do not be afraid.”  Wow! While fear is a legitimate emotion, it does not need to control us. Fear is not a helpful motivator. And the real Jesus is bigger than our fears.

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Let me just close with some thoughts.

  • Spirituality is very abstract. Sometimes we need concrete help before we can deal with abstract spiritual things. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. If I’m in the middle of a panic attack, frantically praying or trying to quote the Bible is not nearly as helpful as taking deep breaths, using some grounding techniques, and speaking truth to myself. Once I’m in a better place, I can take a look at what triggered me and go from there.
  • Because we are complicated, spiritual beings, many parts of us are intertwined and affected by other parts. Are there lies that we are believing about ourselves, God, and others that might be adding to our depression or anxiety? It’s very possible. However, we need to help our brains get to a place where we can logically deal with those lies.
  • If you are struggling with a mental illness, it’s not your fault. We live in a world broken by sin, and one of the things that is affected is our brains. They are complex organs, and sometimes they get sick. The best thing you can do for yourself is to reach out and look for help. You are not less spiritual because you go to therapy or are on medication. It’s okay! Those are good things. God is not disappointed and He doesn’t condemn you.

I know that the church’s attitude towards mental illness has often been more hurtful than helpful. But the church is made up of individuals. The church culture towards mental illness can change as more and more of us develop a healthy attitude and understanding. I have hope! 🙂

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Clickbait, Disagreement, and Choosing What is Right

 

This week I got into an online discussion over on Jefferson Bethke’s (author of Jesus>Religion and It’s Not What You Think) Facebook page. He posted an article called “9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus” and asked what we thought.

I thought it was a stupid clickbait title with a clickbait image. (Definition of clickbait – content on the internet of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular website.) But I perused the article anyway. I didn’t get further than their supposed nine sins: fear, apathy, gluttony, worry, flattery, comfort, consumerism, patriotism, and lying, before I started feeling frustrated. Sure, some of those things can be considered “sins” and all of them can be bad for you, but really? Guilt and shame anyone?

I posted a comment expressing my feelings. Jefferson Bethke agreed! (I was a little excited about that.) Surprisingly, that comment quickly became the most popular, but then the disagreement started.

I was told that “you are deceived when you don’t know the scriptures.” and “You need to know Jesus, the Character of God, and your views will change. Otherwise you will suckle milk and look like you do for a very very very long time.” Nice. Thanks. Did you read my comment?

The personal disagreement didn’t bother me. I like a good, healthy discussion. But what did bother me was all the other comments on the post. People struggling with anxiety disorders feeling judged and condemned. “Christians” saying pretty mean things to each other… Lots of comments that didn’t sound like Jesus coming from people who claim His name.

As I sat and processed, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a year ago. So here it is, with some tweeks because I can’t help myself.

Why do we choose to do right…to stop sinning?

Is it because we are afraid of making God angry or disappointed? Are we trying to keep God happy? Is it so that we will look good to other people? Are we trying to maintain a “good testimony” so that people will think we are “godly”?

Or maybe we don’t worry about it, because you know, grace! Doesn’t that mean we can do whatever we want and still be forgiven?

I find there are often two camps within Christianity: the rule-followers and the no-rulers. The rule-followers call the no-rulers “worldly” and “licentious” (which is a big word that just means they don’t follow the rules). The no-rulers call the rule-followers “close minded” and “legalistic”. Yada yada. You get the point.

I’m pretty sure that they are both wrong.

Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm in it. And do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus wants us to be free. He died to set us free. Free from rules, and free from sin.

We shouldn’t be living under a yoke of slavery to rules trying to make God happy with us and avoid His judgment. He already put His wrath and the judgment for sin on His Son, Jesus Christ. Once we trust that Jesus took the punishment for our sin, we have access to a relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally!

But neither do we have to live under a yoke of slavery to sin. We don’t have to be controlled by our habits and addictions any longer. When Jesus died, He set us free from the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to follow Him.

Why do I chose to do what is right? Mostly because I love Jesus and also because I don’t like the consequences that come when I choose sin and live for myself.

This article and the online debate that it generated once again reminded me that rules and standards cannot overcome our sin nature. Only Jesus can set us free, only by the power of His death and resurrection.

If your version of Christianity is about anything or anyone other than Jesus, then it’s wrong.

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If you think you are making God happy with your rule following, you aren’t. If you care more about yourself and your good/fun life than you care about Jesus and developing a relationship with Him, then you are missing the point.

When our “Christianity” stops being about Jesus, His amazing grace, and our ability to know God through Jesus, it ceases to be true Christianity.

I’m finishing with a beautiful prayer from the apostle Paul. This is why we chose to do the right thing…not because someone showed us a list of 9 sins to avoid, but because of JESUS!

” I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

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…

To Be “Like Jesus”

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Staff training week is almost over at camp. I’m not there full time yet, but I’ve been working on the health clinic and getting it ready for summer almost every day.

Summer camp is like a bubble and an incubator at the same time. Everything is stronger and more vibrant, both the good and the bad. You live with this giant family all summer. People’s flaws, and idiosyncrasies, and annoying habits are in your face constantly, and they drive you crazy. You learn to give grace, forgive, and let things go. But, your flaws, idiosyncrasies, and annoying habits are also in other people’s faces constantly, so you learn humility, how to apologize, and that maybe you aren’t always right.

It’s too hard to do by yourself, so you learn to lean on each other and ask for prayer and help. You learn what it means to rely on the Holy Spirit for power and wisdom, and God becomes real as He fills you in unexplainable ways. You get to watch God use you and it feels absolutely amazing!

I recently wrote in my journal, “I’m taking a break from doing church stuff all the time (my husband is an associate pastor), to go and be the church this summer.” Working with other Christians for a common purpose, growing together, building relationships, serving, pouring yourself out…that’s summer camp! What if that was also normal life as a Christian?

I was sitting on my porch early Saturday morning with my Bible, journal, and a cup of coffee, thinking about this last week…about how amazing it felt to pour into others and watch God work through me. It’s exhausting, and sometimes incredibly frustrating, but ultimately it’s awesome! I got to thinking about Jesus and what His life on Earth looked like. And then it hit me…what if this is what the Bible means when it talks about “being like Jesus”?

Usually when I hear about how we need to “be like Jesus” a list of do’s and don’t’s follows. But what if it’s actually totally different? What if it’s not about attaining perfection (something we already have in Christ) or performing correctly…what if it’s about loving Jesus and loving people…what if it’s about pouring our life out for others…building relationships…serving…loving? Thinking about this made me cry! Then I remembered the verse in 1 Corinthians where Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” I looked it up.

It’s in 1 Corinthians 11, the first verse. So, I backed up into chapter 10 to see what Paul was talking about. Guess what?? It’s about doing everything to glorify God and reach others with the gospel! Look at these beautiful words:

“So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to the Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1

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I’m sure that you could make this legalistic if you wanted to…turn it into a list of things you have to DO. But that’s not what it’s supposed to be about! It’s about doing everything with the purpose of loving God and bringing Him glory, and then loving others so that they can find true salvation and a relationship with Jesus! And THAT, I believe, is where we start to find joy, peace, and life that is really LIFE.

I don’t know about you, but when I stop focusing on making myself happy, and I ask God to give me His eyes and heart for others…when I surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to flow through me…when I live my life seeking to help others find Jesus…that is when I taste a tiny bit of heaven. My heart is full to overflowing, and I laugh and cry, and know that this is who I was meant to be. What if that’s what it means to “be like Jesus”?

Unexpected Grace

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Reblogged from last year with some new pictures!

I was a couple of hours early, despite the fact that I had gotten lost on the way. The dirt road slowly crunched under the tires of my red ’91 Ford Probe. Turning the corner, I took my first look at the place I would call home for the summer…an open grassy field, a cluster of cement block cabins painted “army barracks beige”, an old farm house, and some tall trees. It wasn’t much to look at, but this humble little summer camp would end up changing my life.

Disillusioned with legalism and starting to realize I may have been brainwashed, I still showed up at PRBC in my ankle length skirts, waist length hair, and a long list of standards and beliefs. I came to camp thinking I was going to be sharing Jesus with children. I had no idea that I would find grace, freedom, and “normal” people who loved God with a passion I didn’t know was possible.

Since I was two hours early, I helped the full time staff set up the staff lounge for our training week. I look back with a smile and a shake of my head, wondering what they must have thought of me. They were so gracious and kind, so non-judgmental!

Staff training! I get nostalgic remembering the old, white, plastic tables set up in a U shape in the musty, slightly drafty staff lounge. We sat there for hours each day learning everything we needed to kno, our Nalgene bottles on the tables, twirling chewed pens in our fingers, flies buzzing in the window screens. They were some of the best days of my life!

Here I was, thrown together with all these “normal” young adults, sticking out like a sore thumb, and they just accepted me. They might have asked some questions, but they never rejected me or made me feel like I was different or not “part of the group”. Acceptance was not something we (the people in my “cult”) were good at. We could judge and condemn and alienate with the best of them, but graceful acceptance was a foreign concept. It felt incredible!

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Literally my first week of camp, Freddie’s Friends, a week of camp for the Challenged.

Summer camp challenged me, stretched me, and strengthened me. I had a lot of firsts: listened to Contemporary Christian music (rock beats were bad), watched a PG-13 movie (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), made friends with boys, and decided to go to college.

I had been given a false definition of grace during my teen years. We were taught that grace was the desire and power to do God’s will. My summer at camp taught me that grace was something God gave me because He wanted to, even though I didn’t deserve it.

As I realized that God wasn’t waiting for me to perform before He blessed me, I let go of silly rules and found freedom. I clapped and swayed to contemporary praise music and discovered a worship that I didn’t know existed. Believing in people’s acceptance of me, I let my crazy side come out and participated in skits and planned pranks. Boys became my friends as we hung out, talked, and even flirted. I bought a couple of pairs of capris (gasp!). I experienced freedom!

Before camp ended, another girl and I went to the mall and got our cartilages pierced. Upper ear piercings were looked down on in my old circle. I wanted mine pierced to remind myself of what I had learned, so I would remember not to judge others and that I was free. (Ironically, I was literally chased through Cedar Point after camp by a “friend” who felt the need to confront me about the worldliness of my decision.)

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Second summer at camp. Look! I’m wearing shorts!!!

I would never have imagined it that first summer, but that little camp has been a consistent part of my life for the last 14 years. I eventually met my husband at camp (a long and funny story), got engaged to him while working at camp, had both of my children at camp, and last summer returned to work full time as the health officer

I’m going back to camp again this summer (my kiddos can’t wait). In fact, staff training starts this week! I don’t know what will happen to my blogging over the summer. I want to keep it up, but we will see. If I go dark for a while, you will know why. 🙂 Please pray for me, that I will find many, many opportunities to share the beautiful message of Jesus, encourage people to KNOW Him, and have a wonderful summer in the process!

 

Embracing Our Sin

Oh wow, guys. I am a truly awful person!

That’s not how this blog post was supposed to start. I had my post finished, scheduled to publish tomorrow at 7am, and was talking with my husband before bed. I decided to read it to him. And guess what? He wasn’t a fan. Hubby decided to make a few critiques and we got in a nice little argument. And then I got stubborn, and irrational, and trashed my post (which WordPress fortunately saved for me anyway.) We continued to fight while getting ready for bed, and then enjoyed some stubborn silence in the dark. I was doing a great job making excuses for my actions, words and attitude. Then it hit me: this was a great introduction to the point I was trying to get across in my article! I rolled my eyes at God’s humor, practiced embracing my sin, hugged and apologized to my husband, and got out of bed to tweek this blog post.

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The truth is, all of us are a sinful mess. There is nothing that we do, apart from Jesus, that isn’t affected somehow by sin. So glad I could be your example! Ug!

It is incredibly painful, to come to that place where you look at your own heart and life, and realize there is nothing good inside of you, that all of it is tainted by sin. Even worse, there is nothing we can do about it. It goes against our natural pride to admit it, to accept it.

If you are like me, we tend to justify and excuse our sin. “My husband was being rude and inconsiderate, so he deserved what he got.” That’s just a taste of what was going through my head… Agh! It sounds so much worse in writing. But it’s true, we want our issues to be someone else’s fault, we want to feel vindicated, and we want to pretend it’s not wrong.

Or, we like to cover up our problems with a good coat of pretend perfection. I didn’t have to tell you about what a jerk I was tonight. I could have just smiled and said nice Jesus things in this post. I could have made you feel bad about yourself, but made you think I had it all together. We do this. We try to fake out the people around us. We even try to fake out God. Guess what? It doesn’t work!

What if we stopped making excuses, stopped pretending, and just embraced our sin?

What do I mean by embracing our sin? I DON’T mean that we just accept our sin, and live in it, and make excuses for it. I DO mean that we become honest about our mess, with ourselves, with others, and with God. Why?

Because Jesus is the most beautiful when we are the most broken. We cannot fully appreciate Him when we are trying to be perfect on our own or when we are attempting to justify our sin. When we see our desperate need, then our salvation comes alive! Because there in the wreckage, Jesus meets us and offers us forgiveness, life, and a relationship with Him.

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I love these words from my friend, Richard. “I was broken, broken down to the reality of how much I needed a savior. I was just as bad as the most vile person imaginable. Like Jesus says “looking at a brother with hatred, is the same to God as murder”. Strangely, I found hope in that thought. It was like I could quit “trying” to be good. So I surrendered.

What stops us from getting to this point?

Why are we so reluctant to face our sin?

Maybe our sin is what’s stopping us from dealing with our sin. Maybe we are too prideful to want to admit it, and too selfish to want to stop it. Maybe we are too self-absorbed to realize that what would truly satisfy the cravings of our heart is a genuine relationship with the God who created us.

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I want to learn to embrace my sin.

It’s pretty easy to look inside my heart and see that I am broken (as I so clearly demonstrated for you tonight). I’m FAR from perfect, more of a royal mess actually! So, what do I do about it? I could look at my sinful heart and become depressed or discouraged (that’s really pride). Or I could start making excuses and try to ignore my mess (pride again). But, I want Jesus!

I want to embrace my sinful state (yup, that’s who I am) and fling myself at Jesus.

One day Jesus was talking with some religious leaders who thought there were pretty good. An obviously sinful woman came in and was scandalously loving on Jesus, crying over his feet and anointing him with expensive ointment. The religious leaders were horrified, but Jesus had this to say, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

It’s not like any of us only “sins a little”, but sometimes we think that’s true. And as a result, our love for Jesus is small. Seeing our sin, the very depths of the yuck in our heart, the secret things we struggle with, the thoughts, motives, etc…and realizing how lost we are…accepting and embracing that as truth…well, that makes us love Jesus MORE! I don’t know about you, but I want MORE!!!

I am going to stop pretending, stop making rules, stop justifying, stop making excuses, and just ask the Holy Spirit to show me the truth about my sin. And then when I see it, and am horrified, I am going to run to Jesus: to the cross where He died in my place, and to the empty grave proving His power over sin and death. I’m going to throw myself on Him and His mercy, believing that I am forgiven, that despite what I see, God seems me blameless through Jesus. I am going to LOVE Him, and keep getting to know Him because I CAN!!!

 

 

 

Is God Your Heavenly Vending Machine? (Pt 1)

 

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We say we believe God is all-powerful and that He has the ability to intervene on our behalf. But what about when He doesn’t? I had a mini “crisis of faith” this week that has made me reevaluate what I believe about God, His promises, and how to get what I want.

It started before I got sick. A couple we knew in Bible College lost their healthy, newborn son to unforeseen complications, after two miscarriages, while on the mission field. Then a wonderful, sweet, loving woman, who was also a pastor’s wife, suddenly died. Really, God? So I was already questioning, already doubting, and then I got sick.

I hadn’t been this sick in over 20 years, not since I was a kid! It dragged on and on!! I was supposed to have a lovely day to work on my book proposal while my mother-in-law watched the kiddos. She still watched my children, but I laid on the couch while they were gone and tried not to die. I was supposed to go with my husband (a youth pastor) and the teens to an exciting conference this weekend while my parents kept the kids. They went without me. My parents still kept the kids, and I laid on the couch. I couldn’t even keep my thoughts straight, let alone write a coherent sentence. I’d prayed for healing, lots of people were praying, and I was still sick. Sick and filled with doubts.

We have all been there. Something falls apart, or a prayer doesn’t get answered, or a tragedy happens, and we start wondering: Is God really real? Is He really in control? Is He really good? Am I believing a lie?

My feverish brain had four days to wrestle with these questions in-between naps and excessive amounts of Netflix.

vendingmachine_lead1We see a “good” outcome we want, and we know that God could do it. There are plenty of examples of miracles in the Bible, and we hear modern-day stories. We know our desires are possible too. How do we get God to agree? Cooperate? How do we “twist His arm”? Which combination of buttons do we push on His vending machine?

You don’t talk like that? Me either, at least not out loud, but that’s how we act!

We don’t understand God, we can’t! He is way too big. So, we tend to create a version of God that we can understand, a god made in our own image. We can manipulate people, why not God? I see this happening in at least three ways.

  1. We Create Formulas.

I was raised under the shadow of the king of formulas. If you can get your hands on any of Bill Gothard’s materials, you will see 3 steps to this and 5 steps to that, always promising blessing and success. A perfect example is the book Gothard wrote called “The Power of Crying Out”. He basically shows verses (mostly out of context of course) where people “called out” or “cried out”. Then he turns around and promises that if we pray loudly God hears us and will respond better than if we pray quietly. What?

It’s not just my old cult leader who does this! I’ve read formulaic thinking on blogs, and in books, and heard it from the mouths of Christians across the range of Evangelicalism.

I have seen people take Bible stories and turn them into formulas. So-and-so did x, y, and got z, therefore, if we also do x, and y, we will get our z. Sorry, it would be nice, but I don’t think it works this way! God is not a vending machine! We cannot enter A5 and B10 and get a Snickers bar and bag of Doritos every time.

  1. We Claim “Promises”

Ever heard this verse used as a promise for physical healing? It’s pretty popular. “By His stripes we are healed.” It amazes me how many people use this verse and are clueless about the context. First of all, it’s not even a whole verse; it’s a phrase at the end of one. Read the whole thing and see if you can figure out the context and whether or not it’s appropriate to say it promises physical healing.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see that this verse is a prophecy about the coming Savior and how we would be rescued by his death. Jesus’ wounds healed us, but it wasn’t a physical healing, it was a supernatural, spiritual one!

How about this? “We walk by faith and not by sight.” People use this verse to claim physical healing. You know what I’m going to say: Context! The verse comes from 2 Corinthians 5, ironically a chapter about heaven and one day being with Christ. It is not talking about getting physically healed either! Here is verse 7, sandwiched between verses 6 and 8 for context sake.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)

Claiming “promises” like these (even if they WERE in context) and others, is still at their root a formulaic approach. We are still trying to find a way to guarantee a specific outcome, to push the right buttons.

  1. We Take the Blame (or put it on others):

“I guess I didn’t have enough faith.”

“We didn’t have enough faith.”

“Their faith was lacking.”

These are all real responses that I have heard from people when their prayers weren’t answered the way they hoped. Right. Because there is a specific amount of faith that will twist God’s arm and make Him give us what we want. I don’t think so. It’s formulaic thinking again!

Where do we get this idea that our lack of faith is to blame? From the Bible. There are tons of verses talking about having faith, and asking for things in faith. Here are just two of them.

“He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:6-7

If these were the only verses I read, then I could easily believe that I am at fault because of my lack of faith. However, when I take a closer look, I realize that James is talking about asking God for wisdom (vs 5). The specific promise is that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us. And while it is important to have faith as we pray, what is the object of our faith? Our ability to move a mulberry tree (or a mountain), or the God that made it? There are no verses that (used in context) guarantee any and every outcome based on our faith.

So, what does God actually promise us?

Stay tuned! Part 2 is coming tomorrow…

God is Not Disappointed In You (Revised)

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This was the first post I ever wrote on this blog. Even though it was originally less than 300 words long and probably not my best work, it still gets traffic. People often search “is God disappointed in me” and find their way to my blog. Feeling like God is disappointed in us is very common! Today I am re-posting it with some revisions and new thoughts because I need to hear it again, and maybe you do too!


Have you ever found yourself avoiding God because you could feel His disappointment?

I do! Back in my cultic days, I used to feel like I needed to perform all the time so that God would be happy with me and like me more. If I failed, forgot to pray, didn’t read my Bible, fell back into old habits, chose to be selfish, etc. then I “knew” God was disappointed in me, so I avoided Him. These feelings still creep in from time to time.

Maybe you can relate.

Here is our problem! Too often, we create a God “in our own image” instead of remembering that we were made in His! We can easily picture our parents, teacher, friends, spouse, children, etc being disappointed in us, so why not God? It just makes sense to us. We don’t understand God; He is too big, too different, for us to “get”. And as a result, we tend to create an image of Him based on what we do understand. Well, I have news for you!

God is never disappointed in us. God doesn’t get disappointed!

Don’t agree? Let me explain. I’ve searched the Bible to find God’s disappointment and I can’t! I found instances where God felt  angry about sin and sad about sin, but never disappointed. Why?

I believe disappointment is a purely human emotion. In order to feel disappointment, you have to have higher expectations for someone than they can, or choose to meet. God doesn’t have higher expectations than we can meet. He knows everything about us, including the absolute depths of our mess, and He chooses to love us right there in the middle of it. Nothing surprises Him! He knows about the secret sin that you can’t seem to get rid of. He knows about the anger and hurt you hold inside. He knows the things you hope no one ever finds out. And even though He knows, He loves us! He is not disappointed!

I don’t know about you, but I find that freeing!

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.

No condemnation, ever. When we chose to believe that Jesus Christ paid for our sins by His death on the cross, our sins are gone. (Psalms 103:8-18) God doesn’t see them anymore and there is no condemnation. (John 3:18) He is not disappointed in us. He delights in us! God  wants us to enjoy the freedom we have been given to know Him and be His child! Yes, there is a need for confession and repentance (1 John 1:9) but we can seek God for forgiveness and strength and help, confident of His love, knowing we will never face His disappointment.

You want more? Read the whole chapter of Romans 8. It’s beautiful! And refreshing! And amazing! Here is another snippet.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

If God will never be disappointed in you, what does that mean to you?

It reminds me that I can come to Him without fear or shame, no matter what state I am in! And, that is a wonderful thing because I need Him!

An Honest Confession – I’m Afraid of Failure!

This is just an honest update about me and this book that I am supposedly writing. I’m going to give some background, be honest, tell you what happened yesterday, and ask you for prayer!

I never set out to write a book, or even have a blog for that matter. It all started about two and a half years ago with the website called Recovering Grace. Yes, I had spent ten plus years in a cult (I didn’t call it that back then), but I had tried to put it all behind me. It wasn’t something I talked about. Even my husband didn’t know most of the stories or the ways the teachings had affected me. Then Recovering Grace happened.

IMG_3567Recovering Grace is a website run by former ATI (Advanced Training Institute) students. ATI is the homeschool program created by Bill Gothard, creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. The Duggars use this curriculum (which if you dig deep explains a lot of their behaviors and beliefs),and so did my family. If you Google Bill Gothard right now, you will find that he, and IBLP, are being sued for sexual misconduct by 18 plaintiffs (which is the very tip of the ice berg since one of the plaintiffs was his driver for a few years and says he witnessed over 150 young ladies being harassed). You get the picture.

Two and a half years ago, Recovering Grace started publishing stories about women who were sexually harassed. Once they published these, the wheel started turning; people came forward from the 1970s and gave them hard copy information alleging financial and sexual misconduct, manipulation, intimidation, slander, etc. I started remembering, dissecting, processing.  After joiningg a Facebook community of former ATI students, I encountered many people who wanted nothing to do with Jesus or God because of the “Christianity” they experienced. It completely broke my heart! I realized that I was one of a few former ATI students who still considered themselves a Christian, who still had a relationship with Jesus.

I spent time in soul searching and introspection. As I thought about the lies we were taught about God and Jesus, I started to realize that the same lies are subtly present in much of Modern Western Christianity. Jesus found me in the middle of the legalism and lies, and showed me how to know Him. That is my desperate desire for the world…to actually KNOW God because of His Son, Jesus.

That was the beginning of this whole crazy journey. God wants me to write a book. He has made that abundantly clear over the past few years. But I don’t want to, and I have been dragging my feet. Mostly because I am afraid.

Look at what God has done!

  • As all of this went down, God confirmed that I was supposed to write, even having another woman say out of the blue, “Maybe you need to write a book”.
  • I started my blog, despite having reservations.
  • The speaker for  our spring Ladies Day at church not only confirmed my calling, but gave me the next step, the Speak Up Conference which just happened to be in Grand Rapids.
  • I won a full scholarship to the 2014 conference!
  • At the conference I shared my One Page (kind of like an introduction to your book idea) with a publisher and an agent and they were both interested. This does not happen!
  • After the conference, I freaked out and although I continued to occasionally blog, I ignored the whole book idea.
  • God did not let me get away. I continued to run into people who reminded me that He wanted me to write a book. I had plenty of excuses.
  • Over a year later, I revised my One Page and sent it to another agent (referred to me by a writer friend). She loved it and wanted to work with me. This does not happen either!
  • The Speak Up Conference this summer “just happens” to be on the only weekend that would work (since I’m working as the health officer at camp again) and they are willing to give me a significant discount.
  • I found an awesome cabin that I can get for cheap, on a lake, to go and focus on writing since I’m supposed to get my full Book Proposal done before the conference this summer.
  • BUT, I’m freaking out!! And freezing and wanting to run away…

All of this brings me to yesterday. We had a guest speaker at church. The minute he opened his mouth I realized that God was speaking to me, including a pounding heart and tingles going down my spine.

“If you’re on mission, just do what you’re supposed to do.”

Then he asked four questions, questions that originally came from Jesus.

  1. What are you afraid of? Failure, rejection, change, success, basically everything!
  2. What do you want God to do? This question scares the crap out of me. If I actually allow myself to dream, I’d say, I want God to use this book to push people to evaluate their Christianity, to make them question their beliefs, to see lies, and to start seeking for the real God, the God who is only more than we can ever imagine. I want people to realize that if they are feeling discontent and disillusioned with their version of Christianity, maybe they too have found an impostor and not the real Jesus. I want God to use my book to bring people to a real relationship with Him!
  3. What are your excuses? (Do you want to get well?) I have plenty! Trust me! Including not having time, being the mother of small children, not being wise enough or good enough or etc.
  4. Who do you say God is? If God is really who I say I believe He is, then I just need to shut up and get to work. It’s one thing to believe in my head and another to believe with my heart.

Ok, this brings me to the end of a very long blog post (389 words over my normal limit). Friends, I need you to pray for me! Pray that my faith will be stronger than my fear. Pray that I will stop making excuses. Pray that I will be obedient! I’m going to be starting a prayer team. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know on Facebook or by contacting me here. I’m closing with a final thought from the speaker-sent-from-God. 🙂

“God doesn’t measure success; He measures obedience.” Thank goodness!!!!!

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What if God is more like TobyMac?

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You know that God you doubt/hate/are mad at/are scared of/etc? What if he doesn’t really exist?

Last week I was talking with an older, wiser friend, and one of the things she said stuck with me. It went something like this, “Too often we make God into our image instead of remembering that we were made in His.” I can’t stop thinking about it! I don’t expect non-Christians to have an accurate view of God, but those of us who call ourselves Christians should have it right…Right?

One Christmas, soon after I married my husband, my father-in-law was trying to figure out how to make a poster on Microsoft Publisher. I ended up helping him. We inserted an elephant and a bunch of ants from Clip-Art. Then he explained to me that God was the elephant and we were the ants getting stepped on. Ouch! But, if we are honest, I think many people share this view of God: a distant God, an uncaring God, a God who punishes us…

I used to think that God was angry a lot of the time. I used to think He liked me better when I was being “good” and following the rules. I used to think He was disappointed in me when I messed up.

My version of God was cut and dry, black and white, understandable. He fit in my box.

I also used to think that rock music was evil, and that anything with a beat was from the devil. Instrumental hymns or classical music with no drums were the only types of music that “godly” people should listen to. Yeah… Confession: Today I was totally rocking out to TobyMac’s “Feel It” in my living room. Freedom is amazing!!

Love came crashin’ in, Never gonna be the same again, Yeah, You came crashing in, You wrecked me, You wrecked me!

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Okay, here’s the deal. What if we are totally off on our view of God? What if we have made Him into our image? What if in our modern Western love of knowledge and intellectualism, we have put the Creator of the Universe into a box that we can understand. What if we think He’s like an instrumental hymn played on the piano (Nothing against hymns! This is for comparison purposes.), but He is really TobyMac? What if the god we have created for ourselves in our own image doesn’t exist? This is good news for people who were burned by Christians or the church and thought that was God!

I believe that God is bigger, and crazier, and more terrifying, and more wonderful, and stronger, and more full of love and grace and passion and emotion and depth, and more radical, and scarier, and wiser, and more incredible and mind blowing, and just MORE than we can ever imagine or comprehend. Even when we are trying to think outside the box, He is going to be MORE!

In our attempts at intellectualism, we pin God down and try to make Him human-like and something we can understand and dissect. We turn Him into big words and concepts. Or we stop trying to understand and just ignore Him, choosing to focus on what we can see and taste and touch. But God says that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and His weakness is stronger than our strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

I don’t know about you, but I’m throwing away my calm, understandable, “instrumental” version of god, and reaching out for the radical, wild, incomprehensible, crazy “TobyMac” version that I believe exists! I want the real God to blow apart the box I have built to try and contain Him. Something deep inside of me longs for More, for Someone I was made to know. I was created in His image. You were created in His image! And guess what? He has promised over and over that if we seek for Him, we will find Him.

I’m not throwing away the Bible, because I believe that God wrote it and it’s one of the best ways to discover what He is like. But I am looking for a fresh understanding. I’m going to question and search and stop believing just because someone told me. If a thought or theology or mindset makes God seem smaller or more predictable or more containable, I’m going to doubt it. This isn’t supposed to be a religion! I’m supposed to be the daughter of the King of Kings. I wanna get to know my Dad, my Creator, my Savior, my Friend! For myself!

What about you? Is your god in a box? Do you long for more? Will you join me in looking for the real God?