Saturday, November 17, 2012

Buyers Are Liars

"Buyers are liars." I feel like I hear that phrase almost every day at work. But I just don't get it. The idea is that when one goes out to make purchases or simply to browse for furniture, he will lie to either get you off his back or to get what he wants out of you.  And I really do see this a lot. But wouldn't this be a glimpse of who this man is rather than just a label placed on a man simply because he is buying something?

The guy who lies while buying furniture or checking into financing is the same guy who will lie to his child's school teacher or to the grocery store clerk or to his parents or spouse. He's not lying because he's buying. He's lying because he thinks no one in his life is worth telling the truth to. He's lying because he sees no value in honesty. He's lying because his world only revolves around himself. And, simply put... he's lying because he is a liar.

If I sound fed up, it's because I am. A customer walked in today to make a payment on his financing. While taking his payment, he indicated to me that his address had not changed. Before he left, he explained to me that the items he is financing with us needed some repair. As a part of our agreement, we provide repairs for our customers, so in completing the proper form for a technician to come out to his place, he said, "Oh, yeah... I do have a different address now. I keep forgetting that I moved." Liar. His world revolves around himself. He tells the truth only when it benefits himself. He's a liar. Not because he's a buyer. But because he's a liar. Plain and Simple.

\end rant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giving 100 Hours to Celebrate 100 Years

I just wanted to take a minute to point out one of the great retailers in our area. I am employed through RAC Acceptance which has a contract serving The RoomPlace. The location I work at is inside the southside location, near Greenwood.

In 1912, Sam Berman began selling furniture door-to-door. As time marched on, he opened one store after another. To date, there are over 20 locations throughout Illinois and Indiana. The RoomPlace was voted as one of the top 100 retailers in the United States by Furniture Today in 2011.

In celebration of 100 years of service, Mr. Robert Moore (General Manager of the southside location) and his team are volunteering 100 hours of their time -off the clock!!!- serving at downtown Indianapolis' Wheeler Mission Ministries.

In this day of self-centered motives, it's nice to see businesses giving to others in order to celebrate success.

My hat goes off to you. I feel blessed to be partnered with such a great group of people.

Monday, October 22, 2012


You said open your eyes and
I said I don't like surprises
You said surprise you're up to your knees in the water and don't have a life vest
I know, I know, I know
But don't worry I've got it figured out
You said jump in the boat man
I said no you reach your hand
You said the storms that will come will be more than enough and alone you can not win
You know, You know, You know
With out hope you'll only sink not swim

And the current here is stronger now than I remember and I'm crying for you to help, Please save me.

You said whatever happens
Don't get caught in the rapids
Hold on I’m over the edge and I’m reaching for help cause I
Im caught in the deep end
I know, I know, I know
What you said but I’m in over my head
You said that I’m not alone here
I said throw me a rope then
I've had more then enough of the rain and the cold and I wanna give up and
I know, I know, I know
With out hope I'll only sink not swim

When I feel like I am drifting away
Sinking down, the sands are shifting today
I'm about to loose my way
You Anchor, Anchor me down
Looking out the skies are turning to grey
All around the tide is pulling away
Just about to loose my way
You Anchor, Anchor me down
~Satellites & Sirens

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Failing Formulas

We hear lots of testimonials. Stories of rags to riches in business,  anecdotes of financial failures to success, testimonies of spiritual conversions from a life of destructive behavior toward healthy living,.... I think my story (so far) might fall under the category of "failing formulas."

Sounds bland enough. But, in my world, it's huge.

For 23 years I lived as though there was a formula for everything: "If you do A-B-C, the result will be X-Y-Z." If I followed the steps of 1-2-3, I'd have a successful education. If I do exactly these things, my marriage will be perfect. If I operate by a specific code of principles, my children will turn out right.  So I worked.  I obeyed the steps. I believed in the formulas. And I watched as others followed the same rules. But the principles failed me. The steps weren't infallible.  Heartache came regardless. And I watched as the formulas failed others.

In the following years, I gradually took a back seat to catch my breath and try to figure out the problem. I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to blame God. After all, the formulas I was taught... the principles I believed in... the code of conduct I followed... they were from Him. Weren't they? They were the rules I was taught at church. They were the thou shalt's and shall not's I thought I saw in the Bible. Weren't they direct promises from God? So... did He fail me? Or did the church fail me? Or was I simply misled? I'd operated under the principles of A-B-C. But X-Y-Z didn't happen. Why not? Maybe God didn't fail me. Maybe I just didn't try hard enough. Is that it? These were the questions that floated around in my head for some time. Years actually.

Then one day I learned a phenomenal concept: It's not about me at all. I spent years focusing on myself and how I could please God enough to gain some reward. I lived so long thinking that His pleasure or displeasure in  me was measured by a positive or negative outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking so little of myself that I was trying, trying, trying to follow a formula to get somewhere with God. I know it sounds like a paradox: focused on myself and yet thinking so little of myself. But the crux of the matter is this: I'd misunderstood God. I didn't realize that He was the only  doer that mattered. Furthermore, I didn't realize that His doing is what made me already complete. So all I needed to do was to BE. God made the world. He created mankind. He did His thing. And He continues to do His thing. He doesn't need me. But He welcomes me to fall into step with what He's already doing. He wants me to just be.

I can easily wrap my mind around a 5-step process toward success. Just tell me what to do. Give me a formula.   I can follow a religious structure. I can do church. I did that for years. I can do a style of clothing. I did it for years. I can do a brand of speech. All the right words and ism's... Again, I did it for years. I can do a formula in hopes of promised success. That's how I think. It makes so much sense to me.

Aren't many of us like this? We want to control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We follow neat little formulas while saying, "this will keep me safe." It's taken me years to embrace that God is already doing His thing. And to trust that God is God and that He is the Doer and that all I have to do is to be. Yeah, this is tough. And liberating. And exciting. And scary. It takes an awful lot of faith. And letting go. Just to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I read this quote on facebook a few times recently and so now I have it on a post-it note on my desk at work to remind me what matters. I have no idea who to contribute this to. I suppose google would tell me if I looked it up....

"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation,
because your character is what you really are
while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Serving Leader

So I just finished reading a fantastic book called The Serving Leader. This is unlike any business book I've read to date. The writer labels the technique of a servant leader as a paradox.  It's an anti dog-eat-dog culture. A servant leader is not concerned about his own persona of excellence and he habitually gives credit to others. The servant leader realizes that he qualifies to be first by putting other people first. He protects his own value by giving it all away.

I started working with this new company a little over a month ago called RAC Acceptance. The atmosphere I have experienced with them is one that has been completely foreign to me. It's energizing and positive and the management displays a sincere desire to see their employees thrive and succeed. I've been impressed although I haven't been able to quite put my finger on the driving force behind the unique personality of this business. Since the first day of my hire, I've made it known that I am gunning for a promotion toward managing my own site at the first available opportunity. I know this sounds like a "fat chance" situation (for anytime soon) since I only joined the company 6 weeks ago, but I do believe it is attainable. Soon. My district manager has been kind enough to come up with a developement plan for me in order to guide me toward my goal of management. And one of his assignments was to read The Serving Leader which he describes as the mascot book of RAC Acceptance. As I read the book, pieces mentally fell into place as I began to understand the guiding principles of my wonderful employer/s.

It's been humbling for me to rearrange the furniture in my brain so that I could comprehend this upside-down stradegy toward success. Typically, a management system portrait will demonstrate a pyramid with the big boss-man on top and the diligent little worker bees on the bottom. However, the authors of this Servant-Leader system draws an entirely different picture. The method taught here is "upending the pyramid". Turn the thing upside down as you check your ego at the door. The basic outline is as such:
  • Upend the pyramid. Always remember that you qualify to be first as your put other people first. You are in charge principally to charge-up others. *I am not in charge so much as I am committed to whatever causes my followers to get charged.* Charge others up. Again, get your ego out of the way so that you can build up others. This builds self-esteem in others which invests in their personal growth, resulting in success. This causes genuine, confident teamwork. And love.
  • Raise the bar.  Be picky. Choose and stick with high standards. Continually raise the bar in order to raise the expectations for performance. The biblical account of Jesus Christ and His 12 apostles is used to illustrate this point. Jesus had tons of followers, but He took a handful (12) to completely invest in, teach, and prepare them to do the same with others. To serve many, you first serve the few.  And it's about removing the obstacles of followers. Educating them. Executives and managers must become better teachers in order to drive the success of their employees. The more you teach people to not need you, the greater your value. Woah... I'm still thinking about that one. I'm removing my career hat for a minute and donning my mommy hat: "Teach them to not need me?" Hmmm... Okay, back on topic: To protect your value, you must give it away. "If you want to hang onto your value, give everything away that you have." And it's about the multiplication of excellence. Human nature is to try to live up to what is expected of you. "What kind of service is it to deny a person the challenge to become really terrific?... the best way to reach down to someone is to give them a challenging reason to reach up."
This must be done in balance, though. I know of an organization who takes pride in setting unattainable goals in order to force their employees to try hard enough that, although they didn't quite reach the company standard, they [allegedly] did better than they would have if given a slightly lower goal. The justification for this was "if I ask you to write 10 accounts and you only write 7 because it is impossible to write 10, this is wonderful because if I only ask you to write 7, you will probably only write 5 because it is human nature to operate this way." This defeating mentality really beats up the employees and keeps the morale at a low.
 "The best way to reach down to someone is to give them a challenging reason to reach up." Once again, I have to switch hats.... What if we treated each other this way in our everyday lives as well? What if the businessman treated the beggar this way? What if I treat my children this way? What if our church treated the needy this way? What if the government treated the under-educated, under-motivated this way? I wonder...? Okay, back on topic again.
  • Blaze the trail. Get to know the organization (or your family or your community -or whatever your object of focus might be) by making it your focal point of prayer. Yes, that's what I said. Prayer. A challenge given in the book is to pray daily for the focal organization. By targeting that organization with prayer, it will be natural to know every breath of the organization. Investigate its finer ins and outs. Get to know the company intimately.
  • Build on strengths. We've taken "personality" tests for work and "love-language" tests for our relationships and the "strengths" tests for ministry endeavors. These tests all show us one thing: We each have our own individual set of strengths and weaenesses. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others (and ourselves), focus on the strengths. Use the strengths to build on. And, in so doing, we need to adopt a fresh set of eyes. You can't build on strengths if all you see is weakness.

"Lone Star" is an oxymoron. If a star is alone, it can't shine.

  • Run to great purpose. I'm noting this last although it is illustrated as the foundation of the servant leader method. (Refer to the upended pyramid.) This is the glue that holds the entire system together. Serving leaders articulate a purpose so compelling that people are willing to run toward it. The story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament is used to illustrate how a senior executive encouraged his people toward greatness in order to complete the daunting task of rebuilding the walls and gates of the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah knew the solution to his great purpose would require everyone's best strength. He brought everyone together one day after receiving his command and provided the people with a purpose and a challenge to restore Jerusalem to its former glory. He divided the work among families according to where they lived along the destroyed walls and then he "upended" the pyramid by investing in them, helping them to succeded at their great task. Soon, critics came out, threatening the workers. But Nehemiah offered physical and spiritual protection to keep them safe and successful. Nehemiah's work ended up a huge success because his workers ran with great purpose and this purpose had completely captured their hearts.
No, purpose isn't the final point. It's the first point. The purpose has to be bigger than the people involved... Self-interest is what drives most corporations. But it isn't really the answer that delivers and it isn't the answer that truly satisfies.

Like I said, I'm rearranging the furniture in my brain right now. I attended an assistant managers meeting last month -my first one- and the quesstion was asked, "What drives you? What motivates you?" My answer was "The potential to succeed, move up the ladder, and bring home more money." But now I realize I was looking at this thing upside down. Typical board room answers: "to get a promotion" and "to get a bigger salary" and " to win the boss's job"... those are empty, self-interest answers. The great purpose, though... This pulls the entire serving leader technique into focus: "Making a difference in others is the whole point in our lives. It is the great purpose that gives us everything we need to run the best race we can. In addition, my faith keeps me in mind of the fact that my life doesn't belong to me. My living needs to serve a purpose bigger than myself."
  1. bring great purpose to the table.
  2. turn your leadership into service to your workers.
  3. hold high expectations.
  4. make sure your team has what it needs in training and resources and clear running ground.
  5. maximize the strengths your have.
"Live [your purpose] out very personally, or set priciples in motion at a large corporate level. let it bring deep private meaning to your life and to your family, or let it produce great public value... Or, better yet, do both."

In conclusion, serving leadership requires deep humility and a willingness to pour yourself into the life of others. Allow yourself to be nurtured for a great purpose by something bigger than yourself. Also to note: We all have mistakes in our past. We all have those skeletons. But what we do with them is the issue. We are each faced with 3 choices:
  1. Pretend that everything is okay. This requires putting on a front for people. Acting. Or, simply making excuses for our meaningless lives. This is how you become a smaller person. Just remember that this choice causes you to be justified in your own mind, but useless to anyone else.
  2. Destroy yourself with lament and self-incrimination. (Boy, I've been there. And recently!) Thinking that you've wasted too much time and that there is no way to get back on track. No second chances. I believe this might be the common fundamental, crippling struggle for many of us.
  3. Ask to be forgiven. Own up to your mistakes. Then seize your future with all you've got.
Again, I say this was a great read! I have so many books on my "to read" list. So when I first checked this one out, I thought I'd rather be reading a book on say,... parenting. But now that I've read it, well... I kinda think I did. And relationships. And true christianity. And community. And loving others. And teamwork. And business management.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Commitments Payoff

Check this out. My friend, Ryan wrote: Who wouldn’t want God’s best? But if you break it down, the practical steps to achieving this goal are manipulative. I’m convinced, looking back, that a number of the commitments I made during my time with IBLP were in direct response to this question. I may not have completely agreed with the proposed commitment, but when faced with the “don’t you want God’s best for your life” question, the only logical answer was, “of course.” What I failed to ask, however, was who was determining what constituted God’s best? And by what criteria was he deciding that? Read on for his story... God's Best: The "Commitments" Payoff

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Stilts Are Too Short

I LIVED FOR YEARS under the teaching of a Bill Gothard, drinking in his false definition of grace, which brought me to the belief that to maintain favor with God, I needed to live by a particular set of “standards”.  Rather than learning to understand the heart of God (as in other relationships) we were taught to live a separated and sanctified life through numbered, step by step principles.  In 1996, I began, with baby steps, to question the validity of this teaching. As time went by, I realized more and more the many fallacies that had been shaping my understanding of God. To gain a sampling of how I used to think, read this passage from Ephesians 2 from my prior perspective: “For by ‘the desire and the power to do God’s will’ you have been saved through faith,…” Now read it from my present-day perspective (and the teaching true to the text): “For by ‘unmerited favor’ you have been saved through faith,…” (and the passage continues with “… and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”) In my mind, salvation had become a matter of behavior rather than simply God’s free gift.  Up to that point, my understanding of sanctification was based upon a list of standards that could promote me to God’s favor rather than what GOD had already done for me. This philosophy led me to a place of disillusionment, frustration, and almost a feeling of spiritual death.
Imagine living on figurative stilts day after day in order to reach favor with God. When the stilts became wobbly, I feared God’s discipline or disappointment in me. When the stilts were stable and progressively getting taller, I became comfortable in my relationship with God while looking down at the others around me who had not yet figured out how to reach this high. I learned to depend on the stability of my tall, impressive stilts rather than naked trust on the simple favor of a Heavenly Father.
During these past 15 years, my understanding of God has been progressing slowly.  This year, though, I’ve found myself aggressively attacking the lies I’d previously bought into in order to gain healing and to grow my relationship with God. I’ve read, researched, and studied everything I can get my hands on in order to understand what grace really is and how the truth of it can transform my perception of sanctification and purpose.
THEN CAME LAST WEEK. A sensation of conflict began to hover over me like an oppressive cloud. A reoccurring burden of guilt that I had worked for years to either forget or make up for has reared its ugly head at me as though it were all new again. This weight is over an incident that happened over 14 years ago. Someone I love was hurt -possibly damaged for life- because I made a wrong decision. I can give a thousand excuses as to why it ultimately wasn’t my fault, but the fact remains… I was guilty. I’ve done my best to “make it right” and I have continually tried to figure out how to erase the painful memories and to make up for what happened. For years, I’d been figuratively building my personal Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) to reach that place where I can FEEL better and the weight of guilt can be lifted from me. But the focus on grace that my life has kind-of opened my entire life, clear and barefaced before me. And it took me back to that dark place of regret all over again. It’s almost like a deep cut that had almost, kind-of scarred over. But now that I am faced with the truth of GRACE, the scab has been peeled off –along with a whole additional layer of skin! And it hurts! My heart was LITERALLY HURTING. I was faced with the final realization that I have to quit building this tower to a place of FEELING better and trying, trying, TRYING to make it right. And when I say “make it right”, I don’t mean apologize. I already did that. I mean,… reverse time almost. Make it as though it never happened.

There's a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered
And the shame she can't hide

She says, "How did I get here?
I'm not who I once was.
And I'm crippled by the fear
That I've fallen too far to love"

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling
That it's not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she's rehearsed all the lines
And so she'll try to do better
But then she's too weak to try

But don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.

This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,

And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.
(10th Avenue North)

SO THEN I REALIZED: God already did that! It took me a few days, but it occurred to me that I spent all these years trying to make up for or erase this terrible thing, the awful memory of who I once was and the devastating choices I made… but God has already erased it. He made it as though it never happened. I’ve been hanging on to this thing, unable to acknowledge that God is bigger. He is larger than ANYthing I have done. His grace is all-sufficient. And the more I try to make penance for my guilt, the guiltier I will feel because there is no way my stilts will ever be that tall! I can build and build and work and work and try and try but I will never get my tower tall enough to reach a not-guilty verdict. Like many times before, I had taken my eyes off God and His grace and placed it on myself and my little hamster wheel of spinning round and round but staying in the same guilt-filled rut. My husband told me last week as I explained to him my pain, “Donna, all I know is that you sound like a self-martyr. God already told you He is enough. You’ve learned how His grace can work in the other areas of your life. But you’re trying to take the weight of this one thing that you’ll never be able to get over without just LETTING GO of it.” The problem with this is that I have this tiny little haunting thought in the back of my mind: God’s well of grace SURELY must have a bottom to it. If we cash in too many checks, sooner or later, one is going to bounce, right?” I guess after all that I’ve been discovering lately, I felt like this one dark room in my life was just a little too much and I might overdraw on grace somehow. ???
I'd like to end this post with a clip from Les Miserables.
If you're not so sure why I'm in love with the reality of grace,
Come take a look...

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing


For another great article on GRACE,
please check out Wendy's blog at:


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Control Freaks and Mean People: Where Do They Come From?

Mark 4:35-41 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.  But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!?”

So, in the middle of a fierce storm, the disciples were overcome with fear. As is common with us when we’re afraid, they began to doubt the character of Jesus. They questioned him with, “do you not care?”
I know there’ve been times during my own storms when I’ve wondered if God’s eyes could be closed. And it’s during those moments that you can turn into a control freak with feelings like, “DO something about this… fix it!” We grab onto some kind of component we can control (kids, housekeeping, diet,…) and we become irritable and mean as we become more and more insecure. The fangs come out. The growling begins.
Jesus held an incredible track record. He’d already healed the sick, cast out demons, and taught some amazing truths. (See Matthew 4:23, 8:3, 13; 8:16) But fear dulls our memory. How quickly we forget the love and power of our King Jesus.
I read somewhere one day that when fear consumes us, then safety becomes our god.  That really hit home with me.  And as I thought about it further, I realized that not only that, but our personality is tainted with timidity and a lack of confidence or irritation, grumpiness, and bursts of anger.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Faith versus Formulas

"God doesn't seem to like formulas. Because formula is the opposite of faith. Formula says "I will follow a God that I've put neatly in a box, to give me the desired results". Faith says "I will follow You even when I can't see where I'm going, even when the world is collapsing around me". Formula says "I will not risk, I will be in control of my future". Faith says "I will risk everything, I will trust Whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway." Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We build neat little formulas and say "THIS will keep me safe!" Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail."

Monday, June 27, 2011

When you come out of a bad situation, don’t be a mere survivor. Hit that negative thing where it hurts. Squeeze something good out of it. (Start a foundation. Be a mentor. Love another victim. Educate others against it.) Force that painful circumstance to face a dynamic end. This is key in healing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reality and Parenting.

FANTASTIC excerpt on child rearing (!) taken from


There are already scores of books on parenting, many of them quite good. I’ve read several of them and have learned much. I really do believe in gospel-powered parenting and shepherding my child’s heart. I want conversations like this:

Me: What’s the matter son?
Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!
Me: Why do you want the toy?
Child: Because it will be fun to play with.
Me: Do you think heis having fun playing with the toy right now?
Child: Yes.
Me: Would it make him sad to take the toy away?
Child: I guess so.
Me: And do you like to make your brother sad?
Child: No.
Me: You know, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving your brother the way he would want to be loved. Since Jesus loves us so much, we have every reason to love others–even your brother. Would you like to love him by letting him play with the toy for awhile?
Child: Yes I would daddy.
I try that. Really I do. But here’s what actually happens:

Me: What’s the matter son?
Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me!

Me: Why do you want the toy?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy?

Child: I don’t know.
Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something?
Child: I guess I just want the toy.
Me: Obviously. But why?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon "why" questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now?
Child: No.
Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place?
Child: Because he’s mean.
Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: What do you know?
Child: I don’t know!
Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad?
Child: I don’t know.
Me: [Audible sigh.]
Child: He makes me sad all the time!
Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do? Thinking . . . .thinking . . . .man, I can't stop thinking of that mustache. This isn't working. Let's just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other.
Child: I don’t know.
Me: I didn’t ask you a question!
Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks?
Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too.
Child: So?
Me: So give him the toy back!

Then I lunge for the toy and the child runs away. I tell him to come back here this instant and threaten to throw the toy in the trash. I recommit myself to turning down speaking engagements on parenting.

Oh, and I found a new book to read!!! I can't wait to check this one out:

Here's another one I can't wait to get my hands on:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prisoner of the Glass House

I have a friend who is a part of a group of people journeying through a recovery process after coming out of a religious cult. In 2009, he wrote the following (Thank you, Micah):

My family went from ordinary homeschooling to ATIA when I was 8 years old, along with moving to a very rural area, another pregnancy, Dad leaving his job and starting his own business... At age 14 I was given the choice to literally burn to ashes my life's dream, or have a parent do it for me. So I set the fire...... And cried, alone. I cried once more at 17 (also alone) watching my mother descend into mental/nervous breakdown in front of us. I displayed almost nothing, a few months later, when she pulled a large kitchen knife in a disagreement with my sister.

I was plenty 'tough' for OK TC life on Characterlink's staff. Only I had this crazy, touchy-feely coworker named Matt Jensen, who came from a broken home, checkerd past, college, once had a live in girl friend... And actually FELT something with God when he prayed! It took six months for us to even get close enough for meaningful conversation. Let alone for him to introduce me to the God he knew, through The Holy Spirit...
I could describe in detail some of the crazy stuff that I experienced the night Matt and I prayed, and I asked for 'the overflowing presence of The Holy Spirit'. And we could argue theologically ad infinitum. But there I was, laughing, sobbing, in front of a guy I barely got along with, babbling it all back to a God that I all of a sudden like calling 'Father'.

A couple of years ago, I finally revisited where I'd been to write the story in poetry. I doubt this story is mine alone.

Prisoner of the Glass House

"Don't throw stones" said the sage so well
"If in a house made of glass you dwell"
But a different tale I think he'd tell
If he'd been raised in my crystal hell.


I never felt a breath of wind
No rain, no snow, no sleet
Not even a pebble to stub my toe
No grass to stain my feet.

What secret sin could I commit
In this prison where every inch is lit
And the world can see every time I spit?
While an inch away my inquisitors sit
Peering into my prison of glass.

Prisoners all, through the walls we stare
Quick to judge and unable to share
With our hearts concealed and our actions bare
In our spotless palace of glass.

So our deeds eschew what our minds embrace
We dare not go where our feelings race
Shouting 'TRUTH', a path of lies we trace
And 'holy' we call the best poker face
In this twisted dungeon of glass.

Kept alone by walls we dare not break
Enslaved by chains that we will not shake
Entombing our hearts where the will not break
Immune to the love that we try to fake
Frozen fast in our cell blocks of glass.

In this sterile world, with its pristine curse
My charade grew better and my heart grew worse
Long prayers poured forth from a soul half dead,
My heart dreams crash round me, their wings made of lead.
But I helped build this prison myself.

Yet through our halls one man walked free
Blemished past laid bare for us all to see
Free to hug and to laugh, get annoyed, even cry
If this life was human, then zombie was I.
And TRAPPED in this prison of glass!

Of the touch of his God I heard him tell
And it tossed a rock through my crystal cell
A rock called hope touched my vacant shell
While around our heads, in shards it fell,
That hideous prison of glass!

So I told him my life's tale in all its woe
Fear slave of the God I didn't know
Choking back the emotion I couldn't show
Dreaming of places I dared not go...
Yes, THIS was my prison of glass!

My 'God' was a bully who'd take me to task
His, a gentleman friend-- whom I'd only need ask
And choking up sobs that for years I'd held bound
I begged 'Him' for whatever this friend of mine found.

And I felt rushing LIFE where before-- only glass!

I sob, I laugh, I babble thanks
As walls collapse of rage and angst
My God-- no more in black and white
In livid colors, warmth and light.
My prison's shattered-- I have flown.

And if as we walk through this earthly veil
At an unseen wall you see me quail...
Rejoice when that relic I finally pass through.
To my newest found freedom raise your glass (or two).

For a ruin is all that remains today
Of my hideous prison of glass!

And if one day as I've left these shards
I meet one trapped in his house of cards
Then joy from my broken heart I'll show
And a rock through his glass prison wall I'll throw.

That the God who is LOVE
We can feel, we can know
I was once past feeling,
I know,
I know!

Micah Kohler-- 7/21-8/4/09

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

purpose through pain

"I'll promise you the worst possible thing we can ever do is to have suffering with no meaning and no purpose."

Friday, June 3, 2011

thriving outside of a religious noose PART #5

To read "Thriving Outside Of A Religious Noose"
in order, you will want to start at my
March 13, 2011 post and scroll up. 
Okay, you’ve recognized it.
You got out.
Now what?

They were raised in a normal America. They had children and then, in reaction to the symptoms of societal misdeeds, they were drawn to an organization (Institute in Basic Life Principles) that held a checklist of answers to life’s every question. (clothing, hair style, vocabulary, music, activities, pets, education, culture, friendships, dating, marriage, raising children, finances, etc.) “If you do A, B, and C, the results will be success. If you fail to do A, B, and C, the results will be heartache and chaos.” And so these seeking individuals joined the exotic inner-sanctum of this IBLP which is now called the Advanced Training Institute, subjecting their young children to the ideals and “standards” of the organization.
These children did not grow up in a normal America. They grew up in the homeschool/ATI culture chosen by their parents. Many of these children reached an age where they finally were able to get out.
So when these children finally leave, (get married, get shunned [see my post on PART#2 from May 10th] get counsel, or just walk out due to overwhelming oppression or finally seeing the truth) they are leaving their first culture. Remember: Normal America is their secondary culture. Therefore, recovery is going to be a process!

In the beginning, I think it’s pretty normal to feel guilty. You’re opposing the only thing you know. On one hand, you're sure that getting out is the right thing to do. But on the other hand, you feel like a rebellious child. In my latest post, I referred to Tangled’s depiction of this type of confusion.
Rapunzel’s dialogue after her first taste of freedom was as follows:
“I can't believe I did this.”
“I can't believe I did this.”
"I CAN’T believe I DID this!”
“Mother would be SO furious.”
“That's OK though, I mean what she doesn't know won't kill her.”
“Oh my gosh. This would kill her.”
"I am a horrible daughter. I'm going back.”
“I am never going back!”
“I am a despicable human being.”
“Woo-hoo! Best. Day. Ever!”
Not only are you afraid of being wrong, but you’re afraid of hurting the ones you love who are still involved in the system: leaders, friends, parents, pastors, relatives, God,… Yes, I included God. Because, although God has not been properly represented in this religious sect, all you know is to connect Him to it. If we have swallowed false teachings about God. And if we’ve been fed a misrepresentation of his character, (especially throughout childhood and the teen years) then a lifelong task lays before us to get to know the real Him. A genuine, simple, sweet relationship can be developed with the true, loving Heavenly Father. At first, however, it is natural to think you might be running from Him as well as from the cult. What a terrible, terrible feeling. The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” comes to mind. Damned if you do. And damned if you don’t.
The next phase many of us reach (perhaps not in this order?) is the questioning phase. It can get pretty confusing as to what exactly needs questioning. You question the “standards” of the organization. But maybe you also question the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. Unfortunately, I’ve seen former cult members stop and plant their feet here. They’ve turned to a lifestyle opposite to their upbringing merely because it’s the opposite. The thing we need to remember is that the families who bought into the cult did so just to be different from normal society, while hoping for promised success.
For more information on the pendulum swing, refer to the beginning of my article dated March 31st.
I’ve seen ex-cult members become atheists, claiming that there is no God. Or, some become agnostic. Because “If there is a God, then why would He be so cruel?” To them, IBLP meant God. To them, the beatings they received to comply to the family standard was received as coming directly from Him. So, really… who needs God? Who wants to voluntarily invite that kind of heartache and pain into their lives?
The physical stress that goes along with pre and post-recovery varies in form. I know of grown-ups who still carry literal, physical scars left by the whippings handed out under the approval of the IBLP organization. Other stress-signals have come in the form of frequent sickness, anxiety, nightmares, emotional problems, attachment disorders, marital problems, sexual confusion, divorce, suicide, hostility, anger, nausea, clenched teeth, or other signs of stress. The longer or deeper the person or his family has been in the group, the more painful these symptoms can be.
The final stages of successful recovery from a cult (such as ATI and others) comes with the realization that you are precious to your Heavenly Father. It comes with taking hold of the true meaning of grace in your life and making it personal. The key is learning to lay yourself out there naked to Jesus,
knowing that you don’t measure up. And you never will. But it’s still understanding that, to Him, you are to die for. You’re priceless. It’s integrating your old personality -the one who was trained to please, and to hide imperfections, and to fit a mold- into your new personality –the one who sees your Creator for all He is. The one who “gets” that grace makes everything okay. The one who is learning, day by day, to keep centered in Jesus. The one who rests in Jesus, learning to live fulfilled, growing, thriving, and loving others to Him along the way. This is recovery.

NOTE: A friend of mine commented on my article from March 31st, "Okay. I see what grace isn't. I see that we learned an incorrect definition of grace. But what IS it?" So in the next few weeks, I'll be posting on the Biblical meaning of grace and my understanding of living a “centered” life.
For a glimpse on keeping centered, refer to my post on June 29, 2010.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

thriving outside of a religious noose PART #4

IBLP? A Cult?

Maybe the following link will shed some light:

I'll include some key excerpts below:

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gothard’s heterodoxy is what it does to God. Not only does God plays little or no part in a believer’s life through omission, but Gothard actually teaches that God’s grace is bound to the limitations of our own abilities. It is not simply that God helps those who help themselves, but that God will not and cannot help anyone who is not already practicing the right principles.”

“Another part of the answer to why Gothard is so popular is, to put it bluntly, his personality is simply irresistible. This is not, however, in the usual way that one would expect. Bill is not an outgoing extrovert that wins people by impassioned speeches and a sanguine personality. If that were the case he might be easily seen through. Bill is a bit shy, a quiet man that one feels would rather not have to be speaking to thousands. He is doing it because he cares for you. His relaxed and gentle face, together with his quiet sense of humor, make one feel instinctively that Bill understands me. He has an atmosphere of quiet wisdom about him, so that anything he says tends to feel right simply because he has said it.

People are often surprised when they attend one of Gothard's seminars for the first time, for they come expecting Bill to be harsh and strict like his teachings, and instead he seems more like someone who's just walked out of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

This is one of the reasons I said earlier that we cannot evaluate Gothard based on his results, for many of the seemingly positive results may actually be a direct effect of Gothard's skill at being a silver-tongued, scripture-quoting confidence artist, who is able to use his powerfully hypnotic personality to make people do what he says, for both good and ill.”

“… an almost universal tendency within human nature. At any time in history when cultural or spiritual factors create a situation whereby large numbers of people are desperate for a solution and need the stability of having a leader to follow, there will almost inevitably be someone who rises from the crowd to fill that void. At that point, it is crucial to see whether the leader gathers crowds to himself in order to point them to higher realities, leading them to Someone beyond himself, or whether he creates a system of dependence whereby his followers would be unable to function if he were removed. Does he teach people to look to him for the answers, or does he motivate them to find the answers for themselves and to follow their own convictions even when those convictions may differ from his own? Does he spoon-feed his followers the answer to every problem, or does he help them to hear the still small voice of the One who alone is the Answer? Does he present a concept of reality that is exclusive to anything outside a narrow orientation, a reality that does not stretch beyond the confines of his teaching, or a reality that is open-ended, expansive, dynamic, non-static and exciting? In practice, does he encourage people to put their trust in him, or in the Lord?”

“Two thousand years ago, Paul warned the believers at Colossi to beware of those who would deprive them of the freedom in Christ and cheat them of their reward through unnecessary regulations. These regulations, Paul said, had the appearance of false humility but were really nothing other than the striving of the flesh. "Therefore," wrote Paul, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations...according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:20-23)”

For a book shedding more light on the ministry, check out

A former ATI student wrote the following letter to someone considering joining the ATI movement:

"I was in ATI for about 12 years, from age 10-22, very involved, lots of mission trips, Russia, Singapore, Character First, Children's Institutes and so forth. And I never rebelled, I was not one of those who hated the program and fought it while I was in it. I threw my heart and soul into being a good example for my siblings and embracing the standards and trying to live as I was taught. My family left the program in 2002, when I was 22, primarily because they could no longer afford the $600 annual fee. Since then, I have been soul-searching, searching the Scriptures, and re-examining what I was taught. It has been a long, complicated sifting process. To this day, my wonderful, godly husband of nearly 3 years, who grew up in a fabulous Christian family but NOT in ATI, cannot believe some of the things I grew up believing, or the culture my young life was based in.
It is especially now at age 31, looking back, that I see the very subtle dangers and heresies that I (and my family) fell for. Part of the danger is in the teaching, part is Mr. Gothard himself, part is in the culture... I truly believe, now, that it is a very dangerous organization. I would STRONGLY caution you to do your homework and be very careful! It is so easy to get sucked in, a bit at a time. It truly is like a cult." For the rest of the letter, you can visit her blog at the link noted above.

The true story of one whose life was damaged by ATI/IBLP:
And another:
And yet another (an Alert graduate): and
Years ago, the following was written by a pastor who was seeing too many people hurt by IBLP/ATIA:

To read "Thriving Outside Of A Religious Noose"
in order, you will want to start at my
March 13, 2011 post and scroll up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

thriving outside of a religious noose PART #3

To read "Thriving Outside Of A Religious Noose"
in order, you will want to start at my
March 13, 2011 post and scroll up.

I watched Disney’s “Tangled” with my family last week and was struck with the number of analogies I saw in the story. Here was a soul, trapped and made to believe that her captivity was only in her best interest. Then when she finally escaped her captor, she felt liberated. And then her liberation scared her. Notice the confusing dialogue we heard and how spot-on that dialogue is to our confusion when we realize the deception we've been under for so many years!
“I can't believe I did this.
“I can't believe I did this.
"I CAN’T believe I DID this!
“Mother would be SO furious.
“That's OK though, I mean what she doesn't know won't kill her.
“Oh my gosh. This would kill her.
"I am a horrible daughter. I'm going back.
“I am never going back!
“I am a despicable human being.
“Woo-hoo! Best. Day. Ever!”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

thriving outside of a religious noose PART #2

To read "Thriving Outside Of A Religious Noose"
in order, you will want to start at my
March 13, 2011 post and scroll up.

FREEDOM. There is nothing like it. There is liberty in resting on the other side of a cult. But how do we get out? How do we get here? I’ve seen it happen in a variety of ways:

Leave. Yes, it feels like rebellion. And, unless you can shed the mind control, I’ve seen this lead to destructive, fear-filled, agnostic, or even atheistic living. The misuse of the Bible has these people confusing God with the very thing that is hurting them. Some people may think they didn’t measure up to this organization’s requirements, so they must be less than desirable to God.

Get kicked out… Or, as the religious like to call it: shunning. The one being shunned obviously has not mentally or emotionally yielded properly to the brainwashing of the organization. Being shunned can cause great guilt (and grief) do to the fact that, being a minority in the situation, you’re made to believe that the situation is your fault.

Burn out... Have you ever felt so used up that you’re hardly able to function? In this situation, symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Reactive Attachment Disorders have been known to overwhelm the victim.

Discovery… You stumble upon information that disproves everything you thought you believed and trusted in. You catch a leader telling a lie. Or maybe it’s just an exaggeration. Or twisting the truth to accommodate his point. And then it happens again. And then again. After a few incidents, it dawns on you that you have been dedicated to a foundation of lies. Yes, some of the teaching are true. (Remember: every cult begins with a seed of truth.) But the FOUNDATION is lies. Harmful, controlling lies. To the person who finds out that they have been following lies, well… their world has been rocked to its core. It will take time. Lots of time. To wade through the mess to find the Truth.

Wise, loving counsel… I’m not sure this is very common. But there are those people who have been counseled by concerned individuals… people who saw the damage that was being done and spoke up. In many cases, the person receiving the counsel is so caught up in their lifestyle that they cannot see the harm. Since the person giving the counsel is “from the outside”, they are viewed as a heretic or a liberal or worldly, or what-have-you.

I think that no matter how you leave, reality is going to be a difficult grasp. Maybe for some people, it is easier to fall into a normal lifestyle without feeling tremendous guilt. But for some, they are leaving the only culture they knew to try to fit into a normal America. If you’ve not been a part of a separated organization, you will not relate to the cultural and social issues I’m referring to. Your reality is standard to you. But to those coming out of a religious sect, reality can be a little foggy. I personally go through cycles of life where I have this tremendous drive to study, study, study… Figure out what the Truth is on a few particular issues. Then I land there and rest for a while. Basking in the reality of my freedom. Then, the cycle hits again triggered by family issues, my child’s question, a reconnection with someone from my old life, or a particular sermon heard at church. And then I find myself driven to study, study, study again. And so then I can, once again, rest in the fact that no matter how terribly I’ve messed up, GOD LOVES ME. And I so here I rest until the next cycle hits. Surely I’m not all alone in this???