Pastors, Abuse, and the Church

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Yet another mega church pastor was fired last week for inappropriate behavior. This kind of thing is starting to become old news. What in the world is going on? Having spent ten plus years under a spiritually abusive leader myself (although he wasn’t a pastor), I decided to do a little research.

It’s not new. The Abuse of Power and Religion have been best friends since The Fall. Throughout history we see broken people using religion to gain power and control…from corrupt priests in the Tabernacle, to the religious Pharisees who had Jesus crucified, to the Holy Roman Empire prior to the Reformation, to the modern Evangelical American pastors that have been in the news.

It’s not uncommon. I have talked with a shockingly large group of people who have experienced brokenness, abuse of power, or just regular abuse within a church or Christian organization. It crosses denominational lines and exists within conservative and liberal settings. I know of many people who escaped a spiritually abusive situation only to fall into yet another church filled with brokenness. And I know that for every mega pastor who makes the news, many more smaller churches are dealing with the same things. Why does this happen?

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While digging around on the Internet, I came across an article by Dr. Darrell Puls on the American Association of Christian Counselors website. Dr. Puls talked about how, as an Associate Pastor, he was nearly destroyed by his Senior Pastor and ended up resigning in despair. Later he discovered that this Senior Pastor fit the diagnosis of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. After recovering with help from Christian therapists and psychiatrists, Dr. Puls went on to work as a peacemaker through conflict resolution in the faith-community. As he dealt with conflicts, Dr. Puls began to notice a large percentage of them that stood out as different. Familiar with NPD, and because of his own experience, Darrell quickly realized that all of these different conflicts had a NPD pastor in the middle of it all.

After talking with a colleague, Dr. Glenn Ball, who also noticed a similar trend, the two men decided to conduct some research. Embedded in their survey was a validated NPD test instrument. With permission, they were able to test an entire Canadian denomination’s active and retired pastors. They wondered how many narcissistic pastors they would discover.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, between 0-6.2% of the general population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, Dr. Puls and Dr. Ball discovered that 31.2% of the pastors they surveyed met the criteria for full blown NPD. Their shocking findings are published in a book called Let us Prey: The Plague of Narcissistic Pastors and What We Can Do About It.

A similar study conducted in the Netherlands in the early 2000s showed that 90% of the pastors surveyed displayed narcissistic tendencies at the least. Um, this is kind of a problem! And it also makes a lot of sense. Being a pastor is an upfront position with lots of power, praise, and often a total lack of accountability.

So it’s not just your imagination, the research shows us that a significantly above average number of pastors are either narcissistic or have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This explains why so many of the mega pastors get to the place they are and also why they are falling. It also explains the shocking number of tragic church situations I’ve heard about.

Most likely, there has always been a larger number of people with NPD in the pastorate than in the general population. Abuse has been happening within churches throughout history. However, thanks in part to the #metoo and #churchtoo movements, people aren’t staying quiet any more. And that’s a good thing.

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If this is the case, then what can we as the church do?

Some ideas include:

  • Stop defending. Too often I see Christians trying to defend a fallen leader rather than calling sin what it is. I hear things like “It could have been any of us” and “we just need to give grace.” While these things are true, we also need to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” Ephesians 5:11.
  • Stop giving grace to the wrong people. As a Christian community we are far too quick to give grace to a perpetrator while blaming their victims. This needs an about face. We must give grace and love to the victims of abuse while putting the blame and consequences on the offender. God is full of mercy, but He is also a God of justice.
  • Stop staying quiet. Manipulative leaders are great at condemning “gossip” with a broad sweeping brush. My old leader created an entire teaching and system on Only Giving a Good Report  and then The Defilement of Listening to an Evil Report in order to keep people quiet so they wouldn’t connect the dots. Just because you verbalize that something is wrong doesn’t make it gossip. Gossip has to do with the type of information you share, who you share it with, and what your motivation is for sharing it. When abuse of any kind is kept quiet, the only people who benefit are the ones in power.

And then:

  • Start exercising discernment. Just because someone is a charismatic leader and seems legit initially doesn’t make them someone to follow. There was a reason Jesus called false teachers wolves in sheep clothing. It is perfectly acceptable to inspect the fruit of someone who is in charge. If you get red flags, run!
  • Start developing your own relationship with Jesus. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you will know that I am passionate about the difference between a living relationship with Jesus and a religion you follow. Religion is easy to manipulate and control. But when you know Jesus for yourself and the Holy Spirit is whispering to your heart, you will be uncontrollable. 🙂
  • Start understanding the difference between power and authority. The word “authority” gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles especially by manipulative leaders. They try to make you believe that they have biblical authority and therefore you must follow them. But Jesus is the only true Head of the Church. Power is the worldly ability to make people do what you want. But, according to my current healthy church, true biblical authority, like Jesus had, is only available when you live a life so genuine that people just want to follow you. And you can’t fake that!

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For more information:

  • This is a link to Dr. Glenn and Dr. Puls’ paper written for the American Association of Christian Counselors.
  • This is a link for the study done in the Netherlands. The full report does need to be purchased.
  • This is an article on signs of a narcissistic pastor from churchleaders.org
  • Let us Prey: The Plague of Narcissistic Pastors and What We Can Do About It by R. Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls
  • The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson

 

 

Thoughts About Obscurity

It started with one word.

Number eight on a list of Ten Traits of a Servant. Obscure.

Google’s dictionary defines obscure as “not discovered or known about.” It’s ironic.

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Every writers’ conference I’ve ever attended holds entire sessions on how to build your platform…how to become known…how to be found. If you want a chance at writing a book, you’d better have a couple thousand followers on at least one social media platform. Put yourself out there. Schedule posts that will keep popping up through out the day. Build your tribe! Find your people!!

Be a servant…be willing to be obscure…not discovered…unknown.

I don’t know if I can be both.

I’ve been wrestling with this for months. The pressure to build a platform has always irked me. But obscurity? How does that work? I want to write a book. Isn’t being an author and being obscure two opposite things? Yet, I resonate with obscurity. I hate the rat race of trying to collect followers.

Two weeks ago, I read this really long but incredibly deep blog post by Timothy Willard called “Have We Lost Our Minds?”

It was like Tim took the disjointed thoughts of my heart and put them into words. He talked about the lost art of thinking and the value that it brings to our lives. He reminded me about how much of our modern lives are made up of reacting, blurting, and doing.

“But the more I surveyed social media, where everyone including (especially?) Christians seems hell-bent on screaming their own point of view towards people, the more I concluded: we don’t care what anyone else thinks or says.

We only care for ourselves.

When we fail to look past our own ideas of how things should be, we cease to be people of vision, we cease to really think.” – Timothy Willard

Tim shared five examples of how the Christian community is failing because of “non-thinking.” One of these examples had to do with the Christian publishing industry. In his opinion, the industry is encouraging shoddy theology because so many of the new authors get published based solely on their online popularity and not because they actually have anything to say. Wow!

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My mind was exploding and I had no idea how to express it. It was time to think. 🙂

My thoughts led me back to “Recapturing the Wonder” by Mike Cosper. Seriously, you all need to read that book!

In a disenchanted universe, where God is absent or distant, building a platform makes sense. No one is going to make anything happen for you except you. Fame is the goal…along with getting your ideas out to the public. Therefore, you do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

But, I want to believe that we live in an enchanted Cosmos, with a Creator who is actively present. I want to believe in a mysterious Spirit who is intentionally working out His will. And if His will for me is obscurity, excellent! If His will is a published book that makes the best seller list, great. And if it’s somewhere in between, then fine!

I’m beginning to recognize gifts that God has given me…gifts that don’t always look like gifts. (You have them too!) My story is a gift, even the broken parts. My personality, as much trouble as it gets me in, is a gift…my ability to see truth and communicate it, my boldness, passion, and intensity. All of that is marred by sin and can absolutely be used wrongly…but it’s also still a gift.

I don’t want to treat myself as a commodity to be sold…spending my time worrying about who likes me, and how many followers I have, and if I can get published. I want to recognize the gifts God has given, and out of gratitude to Jesus, share them with you.

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More than anything, I want this blog and my social media posts to be about Jesus regardless of where that gets me in the publishing industry. I’m willing to serve in obscurity.

So what does that mean? 

I don’t really know. Maybe I will write less…but maybe I will write more. I want to write without the pressure of needing to share something once a week or once a day, but instead because I have something to share. I want to focus less on my social media presence and more on my real life.

It’s still winter in Michigan, the yucky part where Christmas is long past, but spring is a distant dream. We took the kiddos away for 24 crazy hours at Great Wolf Lodge enjoying 84 degrees and bathing suits.

I’ve been working as a Shipt shopper, buying groceries and delivering them while the kids are in school. It’s a fun and fast paced job, but not very Instagram worthy unless you like pictures of shopping cars and sales receipts. Haha!

We are settling into our new church family…learning to be “normal” Christians instead of being in ministry…learning how to have a relationship with God that has nothing to do with taking care of anyone else. We are slowly healing and growing, and it’s good.

That’s a glimpse of my real life. I want to value and enjoy it. I want to follow the Spirit wherever He leads. And I want to share my questions, frustrations, and God ponderings with you. Because you are also valued and loved. Thanks for being here. 🙂

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A Peek Inside My Heart

Welcome to a peek inside my heart… A random collection of my current thoughts and experiences. 

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A year ago I was in the middle of the darkest season I’ve ever gone through. It was bitter, and painful, and long. It felt like the Valley of the Shadow of Death that David talks about in Psalm 23. There were times that I just wanted to die. It completely broke me.

I’ll be honest, healing takes time. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing good, and sometimes it still hurts. Last week, memories were coming back in a flood. I stood there in church during worship fighting back tears…just one person among hundreds…feeling so alone.

“Your brokenness was a gift.”

I heard the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper…five words in the core of my heart. And as I recognized the truth, the feelings of pain, loss, and despair slowly melted away…

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me” Psalm 23:4.

Jesus WAS with me! I feel like I walked through fire but didn’t get burned. Instead, I got melted. Which is a good thing! 🙂

Good gifts came from my melted brokenness.

I had six sessions with a fabulous therapist who is also a Jesus follower. After our first day, where I just poured out my heart, she spoke these words. “You have been hurt.” Sometimes we just need people who will acknowledge our pain. God used her to start my healing journey.

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I found a book called, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Seriously, every Christian should read this book! It put my experiences as a teen and young adult with Bill Gothard and IBLP into perspective while opening my eyes to more prevalent issues. Any of us are capable of abusing others when we lose sight of (or never experience) a life of grace in Christ.

I am less sure of myself and more willing to listen to others. Which brings me to my next step of learning and discovery…

When I first started the (lengthly) process of writing Impostor Jesus, there were three popular memoirs that irritated me. These authors all came from conservative evangelical Christian backgrounds but became disillusioned and left. They have large followings. I was frustrated because I went through “more extreme” circumstances and I still believed in an evangelical version of Jesus. How dare they lead people astray?! Prideful much?

Then I got melted and things changed. I’m realizing that there is a huge number of people who are angry and disillusioned with the evangelical church, and they have legitimate reasons. Their stories have value. Their hurts need to be validated.

I bought those three memoirs on Amazon and I’m looking forward to reading them. Not as someone trying to pick apart theology or judge beliefs, but as someone feeling their pain.

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Which brings me to my book.

I’m still planning on writing Impostor Jesus, but it’s changing. I’m realizing that my extreme experience in legalism is simply part of a larger problem. The modern Christian church is too often just a religious system instead of a group of people who love and follow Christ. We’ve lost sight of the real Jesus. If He showed up, I’m afraid we’d miss Him. Instead of being disciples, we would be the Pharisees…upset because God doesn’t fit our idea of who He is supposed to be.

It’s time for another revival, for another awakening. The church has been overhauled multiple times in the course of history. Let’s do it again!

Let’s Be Honest…

2016 was not my favorite year. And from what I see on social media, I’m not alone in that feeling. I came across this great meme a while back on Facebook:

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This image pretty much sums it up for me! Yikes! That’s not to say that there weren’t great moments and fabulous people in my life, because there were. I have many blessings that I am grateful for…but it was still a hard year.

I’m normally a pretty optimistic, positive, hopeful person. And I normally look forward to a new year with excitement, anticipation, and a sense of adventure. However, on New Year’s Eve, as I enjoyed some quiet after my kiddos were in bed and while my hubby was still out partying with the youth group, I realized that I’m struggling to look forward to 2017. The clock striking midnight wasn’t going to magically erase the hard things that would be following me into the next year. 

I know that a lot of you understand what I’m talking about. Most of us carry around heaviness and burdens. (Some of us just hide them better than others.) We live in a broken world and it hurts! Life isn’t peaches and cream, there isn’t always a “happily ever after”, and the prayers we pray through tears don’t always get answered in the way we want.

That said, we still have hope. Praise Jesus!

My husband and I are almost finished with an incredible book called “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken. We love and hate this book at the same time. It is challenging our beliefs and stretching our faith. (If you haven’t read it, you should make it a goal for your new year.)

The first half of the book is the author’s story of being a missionary/relief worker in Somaliland for six years. Nothing goes well, he fails in every attempt, there are no new believers at the end of his years of sacrifice, and the believers who were there before him have been murdered. Despite Nik’s best efforts, he hasn’t put a dent in the overwhelming humanitarian disaster that exists. Finally, his son unexpectedly dies. Talk about a crisis of faith…

But, the story doesn’t end there. In the second half of the book we find Nik traveling around the world discovering personal stories of Christians living in persecution. His own faith is restored as he sees the faith of these believers and hears stories of how God is incredibly real to them despite terrible situations.

That’s kind of how I feel.

I’ve faced some hard times this year. I’ve felt defeated, confused, alone, frustrated, and empty… But, in those broken places, I have also experienced God’s grace free and undeserved. I have been humbled in a good way, and as a result, I have seen Jesus more clearly.

I don’t know how your 2016 went, but I do know that we can face 2017, despite everything, with confidence. We can have hope because we have a Savior who is bigger than our circumstances, who meets us in our pain, and who loves us unconditionally. We can trust Him even when we can’t trust anything or anyone else. He’s got this and He’s got us. And that’s enough.

 

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Rejecting Perfection…We are All Broken!

It was a beautiful spring day, the warm sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze blowing, and the grass was turning green. I was winding my way down a familiar road, feeling each curve, radio playing, singing along. All of the sudden, I realized with a jolt that I was WAY too close to the road’s edge. The cold winter and spring rains had produced wheel-swallowing-potholes in this particular stretch. Breath caught, heart stopped, I knew that I couldn’t correct in time.

“Whump!” My front wheel fell into a small canyon.

“Bam!” My tire blew.

A sinking feeling filled my stomach.  I was going to have to call my employer (I worked as a nanny) and admit that I had broken her car for the second time in a week!

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It is never easy to admit when we break something, and even harder to admit that we ourselves are broken.

But the truth is, we are all broken. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

Let’s keep being honest. It’s easier to hide, cover up, and fake it,  isn’t it? We feel guilty about being broken. We feel alone. Surely no one else is as screwed up as we are! We don’t think anyone would understand. It doesn’t help that the church often seems to say, “You’re broken, so get it together! Fix yourself! Look better! Or at least pretend.” Somehow as a Christian community we have created two categories of sins, “acceptable” and “unacceptable”. I’m sure that you can immediately think of sin to put in each category. What happens when your sin is thrown in the “unacceptable” pile? We get good at hiding.

We feel like God is disappointed in us (as though He could possibly be shocked by our true selves). We push Him away too.

I’m done with this ridiculous pretend perfection! DONE!

The whole world has been broken by sin, people included. We are all sinners. And each of us has empty, lonely parts, that we try to satisfy in unhealthy ways. I don’t care if you struggle with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, same sex attraction, anger, gossip, a porn addiction, cutting, or anything else. We are all broken and there is only one solution. We need Jesus. The REAL Jesus!

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We need the guy who let prostitutes wash his feet, rescued an adulteress from being stoned, chose traitors to be his followers, and said that He came to seek and save the lost. We need the Jesus who was holding children one minute and tearing up the temple with a whip the next. We need the One who says He is the exact image of the invisible God to bring us into the presence of His Father and heal us.

Contrary to the lies in our heads, our mess doesn’t shock God. He already knows. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves; He knows we can’t! He wants to fix us, but we have to let Him. We need to admit our brokenness and give Him all the pieces.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

What if we just stopped pretending? What if we decided to be real and honest, honest with ourselves, with God, and with each other?

I’ll start. I was ridiculously grumpy last night for no reason. My poor husband was trying to help, but I was so ornery and moody and stubborn that nothing worked. I get stuck in my stubbornness, not unlike my four-year-old, and as a result, I did not eat the scrumptious ice cream my husband bought or enjoy the shoulder rub he offered. Instead I went to bed miserable. I am not the perfect wife (shocker, right?) and I am definitely not the perfect mother. I have issues, some of which I am currently working through in counseling. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s beautiful. Brokenness is beautiful.

It was the broken people that Jesus spent the most time with: the ones who knew and admitted that they were a mess and recognized how much they needed Him. The guys who thought they were “perfect”? Well, they were usually getting rebuked or left scratching their heads in confusion.

None of us have it all together and the sooner we accept and admit that, the sooner we can find healing and life in the amazing person called Jesus Christ. I’m in, pick 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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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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Taking Back the Bedroom – Six Suggestions for Awesome Married Sex

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[The first thing you should know is that I am writing this as a married Christian woman who believes that God designed sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife. Secondly, I am not a counselor or therapist, but I have unofficially “counseled” many women in this area. I am incredibly passionate about fantastic sex and healthy marriages.]

We live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Sex is talked about everywhere. Except for in the church. If we as Christians believe that sexuality is part of God’s design for us as humans, and that God created intimacy as a special part of the marriage relationship, shouldn’t married Christians be having the best sex?

But we aren’t, because sex has been a taboo subject for far too long. As Christians begin to have conversations and ask questions, this is starting to change. I believe this is healthy and beneficial! God was the one who designed sex in the first place. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Let’s be honest and open. Let’s have amazing, God honoring sex! Let’s take back the bedroom!

I am not an expert, but I want to join the conversation with six suggestions that helped me and some of my friends.

  1. Check Your Attitude 

Do you believe that sex is a beautiful, exciting, fun experience that God designed specifically for a man and woman to enjoy in marriage? Do you struggle with the sentence I just wrote? What about it bothers you?

We all come into marriage with sexual baggage. Maybe you were raised in a family where sex was made to seem dirty or wrong, or maybe it just wasn’t talked about. You might have been exposed to or were/are involved in porn. Maybe you were sexually abused. Our experiences shape our attitude toward sex. A negative attitude can destroy our sexual intimacy. Ask God to help you to see sex like He sees it; ask Him to change your attitude and heal the broken parts inside of you. Maybe you need to talk with a counselor. That’s okay!

  1. Let Go of Guilt

Does sex make you feel guilty? Sometimes that guilt comes from a family or culture that told you sex was dirty or wrong. Sometimes it comes from sexual experiences you had before you were married either with your spouse or someone else. When we feel guilt connected to sex, especially as women, it will destroy the fun. Negative emotions ruin our drive. Even a random negative thought can kill the mood. Good news, Jesus forgave all of our sins when he died on the cross, past, present, and future! He said we are separated from our sin as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) God has completely forgiven us, but sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Ask God to take away your guilt, bring you peace, and show you truth. Again, seeing a counselor might be a good option if you have sexual trauma in your past.

  1. Get Educated

This is one of the biggest problems that I have found among Christian women. Fortunately there are a lot of great books available. I found a website that lists a bunch of them along with reviews. My favorite book to pass out, especially to pretty “innocent” girls is an oldy but goody, “The Act of Marriage” by Tim and Beverley LeHay. And I haven’t read it personally yet, but “The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex” by Sheila Wray Gregoire has some pretty rave reviews.

Books are good, but a real person to talk to is even better. I realize that it takes vulnerability to ask someone for help with sex, but if you can find a more experienced woman (that you think has great sex) to answer your questions, it’s worth it! And most of us are happy to talk about it.

  1. Have Realistic Expectations

Maybe you’ve figured this out already, but real life isn’t like the movies! Movie sex is a great example. For instance, actors that “wake up” in the “morning” and instantly make-out. Eww! I have two words: Morning Breath! It just doesn’t happen.

Realistically, it takes time to build a great sexual relationship. If you go into your wedding night as two virgins, expect your first sexual interaction to be about a C, if you’re lucky. The good news is, practice makes better! There will be times as a couple that you will have amazing sex, and other times that you will look at each other and say, “Well, that was awkward.” But when you are married, and are friends as well as lovers, the pressure to perform isn’t as strong. After all, there is always tomorrow. After eight years of marriage, my husband and I have WAY better sex than we ever had on our honeymoon, or even first year together for that matter!

  1. Communicate

Your spouse cannot read your mind. If you like something, you need to tell them. If something is weird to you, tell them. If you want something different, you got it, tell them! I realize that sex can be awkward to talk about, but if you want great married sex, you need to communicate. My husband and I have been open about talking since the very beginning thanks to some excellent pre-marital counseling. I know that this is a vital part of our, “ahem”, adventurous sex life. Which brings me to number six.

  1. Be Creative and Have Fun

I know I titled this, “Taking Back the Bedroom”, but don’t limit yourself to the bedroom. Be creative. Try new places, new positions, and new techniques. Be bold. Be adventurous. Be fun. Make time for each other. Surprise each other. Text each other suggestive messages. Nap together. Shower together. Snuggle together. You never know what might happen… Enjoy the beautiful gift that God has given you.

I’m sure you noticed that of these six suggestions, five of them had nothing to do with actual sex. Unlike what our culture tells us, I believe that healthy sex is way more than just the physical act. What do you think? What are you struggling with? Which of these six suggestions stuck out to you the most? Do you have other suggestions to make? I’d love to hear from you!