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!”