Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

“Me Too”

December 8, 2010

 

Some of the most comforting words ever said are “me too.”

 

So here we go:

 

Do you know that feeling that you get when you see a girl wearing a blue jean jumper?

 

The ones that are shapeless, low waist, faded denim, long hem?

 

The ones like our pseudo X-ATI girl {Miriam Reede} wears in her profile picture.

 

The ones that you wear a t-shirt under – many different colored t-shirts.  Oh the possibilities.

 

You know that cringing feeling you get?

 

You know how it felt to be her.

 

Me too.


You know how that girl feels to be somewhat ashamed that she has anything feminine, any indication of the sex that God made her, and she hides behind a blue jean jumper in hopes of disguising it.

 

You were her.

 

Me too.


Maybe it is equal parts: she’s heard so many words that have made her ashamed of her figure, and the adults in her life insist that this type of modesty is what God intends for her little body.

 

{What is modesty anyway?  And why do these people talk about it so much?}

 

You still wonder; there are still equal parts.  You still aren’t quite sure why a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving would make something to be ashamed of.

 

And yet you feel ashamed.

 

Me too.


You are still wondering how much of that stuff to believe.

 

You’ve heard people speak, you’ve read sites like ours, you know so much of it was crazy – even a cult.

 

And yet you find yourself wondering: where does that end and I begin?

 

Me too.  I wonder, too.


You know how you feel when you pass the girl who has the white kerchief over her head and she imitates the older women in her life when she humbly says,

 

“I just want to show that my father is my authority.”

 

Me too.  I did that.  I remember how it felt at the time, and I remember it vividly today.


You wonder what went wrong.

 

You live with your parents, you’ve waited patiently, you wrote the journals, but at 28 your life is still where it was when you were 14 and you wonder why your patience hasn’t paid off.

 

You wonder if you’ll live in your pink bedroom forever if “a fellow” doesn’t come along who will ask your father if he can court you.

 

We know.


You regret not going past the eighth grade in math.

 

You regret it because it holds you back now from getting where you want to be.

 

At the time it sounded like a plan: you won’t need that!  You’ll be a wife and mother anyway!  You won’t have to support a family, and cooking does not require algebra!

 

We know.  Us too.  Me too.


You have these questions and many more.

 

We do, too.

 

You’re not alone.

 

You’re not the only one asking or wondering.

 

It doesn’t matter how much it turns your stomach or how dark it may seem…

 

We have been there, too.


And so have a host of other people.

 

Thousands of other people.

 

So ask the questions.

 

And look at it even when it’s dark and sickening.

 

Face the regrets and start addressing them.

 

We have too.

 

 


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Where to draw the line

November 23, 2010

 

Dear X-ATI Girl,

I feel a little bit ridiculous even writing to you about this.  Here’s what’s going on.  In the past several years of my life, I’ve been transitioning to the “real world” or what people always told me was the “real world.”  I know that you know what I mean.  For your readers, I will elaborate.  I now wear pants, I live outside the home, I have a job, cut my hair, etc.  I need to discuss with you one of my issues with adjusting to this hedonistic lifestyle.

For most of our lives we listened to a short, unmarried, constantly-smiling man (whose remaining hairs were of a shade not found in nature – even before the fall) who still lived with his parents (well past age 60) and yet gave advice on subjects like marriage, children, vasectomies,  yeast infections, and how you could lose your virginity to a tampon (?!?) even though he {clearly} had no experience in any of these areas.  He dispensed pearls of wisdom on subjects that he was completely unqualified to speak on.  Gosh, I’m surprised that he didn’t start dispensing pills.  Oh wait…and then he started a medical school…  For purposes of this letter, I should not even broach that particular subject.

One of my chief complaints about Mr. Gothard was his writing 3,000 pages of his thoughts on three relatively short chapters of the new testament.  When I was a child, I secretly asked myself, “Why does this man take 3,000 pages to say what Jesus said in 111 short verses of scripture?”  Of course I never spoke this out loud because to even dare think it was clearly, clearly sheer blasphemy.  Now that I’m older and looking back…why the dickens did he write 54 “Wisdom Booklets” on what it took Christ only several minutes to say?

I digress.  Here is my present quandary: my very cool Bible study group has decided to study a book written by an author who met her husband at youth camp, was married young, has three children, and suddenly has figured out a way to help women achieve their full potential in Christ, if only they can truly understand and apply these 4 verses that she has helpfully expanded into a 241 page book.  I understand that I can learn something from everyone, but do I really need to spend 12 weeks searching for a needle of wisdom in this daunting haystack?

Here is my problem: if I have a dilemma with work, I do not ask advice from someone who has never held a job.  If I have a problem with my car, I don’t drive it to the hair salon.  Nor would I ask my mechanic to fill a cavity.  I also admit – freely now – that when I am ill, I do not consult an herbalist anymore (thank you, God).  I think we can all agree that these are fairly practical things.  So why if in my daily life I seek advice from professionals who are truly qualified to give me an educated opinion, why would I entrust my spiritual life to someone who has never dealt with the issues that I face on a daily basis.  I wouldn’t ask a woman who had less than 1/4th of the amount of children of my own mother, “how do you manage it all?” I would ask my mother.  And when it comes to singleville, why would I ask someone who has never come home to an empty apartment and had to cook dinner for one.

I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I am very wary of people dispensing advice that they are unqualified to give, and expanding scripture to meet their publisher’s quotas.  Where do I draw the line?  When they start a medical school?

 

Lovingly,

Bewildered in Birmingham

The Homeschool Family

August 10, 2010

Please join us in applauding Tim Hawkins for this {what should be} award winning video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM6uqj0_jQc

Cheerfulness,

X-ATI Girl{s}

What was it really?

July 27, 2010

Dear X-ATI Girl,

Please advise.  Recently someone asked me the question: what is ATI?

It’s hard for me to ponder the question ‘what is ATI’ because I guess I really don’t know myself.  (Why, it’s the Advanced Training Institute.  Training in what?  Well I’m not sure actually…)

Whether it’s because I grew up so closely associated with this organization and way of life, or because the majority of my friends grew up in it as well thus rarely requiring me to explain it to another, but I always find it difficult to successfully place words in any order that could describe such a ‘way of life.’

After fumbling for words and getting them all mixed up for a few minutes, this individual asked the shocking question: is ATI a cult?



I gasped.  I stopped.  All the wind was knocked out of me.  What?  Was ATI a cult?  Was he serious?  Why yes, unfortunately he was.

I didn’t know how to respond.  I still don’t know how to respond.  Here is a loose narrative of my mixed up and jumbled response:

Well, ATI was started by Bill Gothard, a guy who worked with intercity youth and then his car broke down on the interstate one day and he ran leaping for joy because he was so happy.

Can I pause here and ask a question?  My family always had vehicles that broke down.  As in they broke down all the time – all the time with all of us 12 siblings and my expectant mother.  No one was leaping for joy in those moments, hours, eternities of being stuck on the side of the road.  I digress.

Mr. Gothard lived with his parents until his father died and then he just lived with his mother.  He began courting a nice widow when he was in his 50’s, but his mother told him that she didn’t feel it was God’s will for him to court this nice lady so he never saw her again.

Mr. Gothard still lives in his parent’s house – as far as I know – and has a cabin in the woods on some land that ATI owns.

Mr. Gothard started the Institute in Basic Life Principles in the 1970s.  It was a basic seminar, an advanced seminar, a men’s seminar, a bunch of seminars.  In the 1980s he started ATI – which was at that time ATIA.  This was his Homeschooling limb that wrote Wisdom Booklets, Character Sketches, journals of all types, etc.  (The Wisdom Booklet is my most prevailing and perhaps painful memory.  Oh, and the monthly newsletter they sent out – those were prevailing and painful as well.)

He built a Headquarters (proper noun) for the organization and most of my siblings went there for trainings and to work for free.  Kids went there when they did rebellious things like told their parents they didn’t want to read the Wisdom Booklets or that they couldn’t memorize the Sermon on the Mount.

He started an auctioneering school, a chalk talk school, a law school, and even the Medical Training Institute of America (MTIA).  The irony is that none of us went to school…

Later I got to thinking about some of the things that I learned while in the program:

  • How to conquer the addiction of rock music

  • How to sew and wear skirts that glorified the Lord
  • How to honor my parent’s authority

  • How formal schooling would kill me
  • How sugar was the drug that Satan could use to control us
  • How some people believe in head coverings and some don’t, but lets not fight about it

  • How if you have an impure thought at lunch, you should confess it just before a Knoxville session
  • How you should wear light makeup and your hair in flowing curls
  • How sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell (wait…wait, now I’m getting confused.  I think that was a song, not Gothard.)
  • That beards are bad, bad, bad

  • You should always use CharacterLink to protect yourself from the evil influences of the internet (did this make anyone else suspicious?)

  • The only approved college was Verity College
  • That I was to be a keeper at home

  • How ATI was “Giving the world a new approach to life!”
  • Try to stay away from the flaming darts of Lucifer, ie. get back under that umbrella
  • How to tear down the strong holds in your life ie. my desire to wear pants (gasp)
  • Letters we were supposed to write that started out like this: “Dear Dad, I love you.  I want to give you my heart.”
  • Something about rhemas
  • Al Smith approved music

Do you have similar experiences?

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  I’m going to go ahead and make this bold statement:

ATI was and is a cult.

Here’s just a part of my reasoning:

Dictionary: Cult n.

  1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
  2. The followers of such a religion or sect.
  3. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  4. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
  5. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
    1. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
    2. The object of such devotion.
    3. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

Wasn’t that umbrella a little extreme and false?

Come on, those blue and white outfits were unconventional.

So was learning medicine from a Wisdom Booklet written by a man who lived with his parents.

Nonscientific guide to medicine – check.

Obsessive, faddish devotion to a person, principle, and thing

Being told to write a letter to your dad giving him your heart.

I’m stopping here with my argument because this letter is long.  Please advise.  What in the world am I going to do with the bomb-shell realization that…that…I was raised in a cult?

I thank you in advance for your time,

Cliqued out in Clairmont


God

February 6, 2010

Let’s Clear Up A Few Things…

January 12, 2010

Dear Readers,

After many emails, comments, and blog traffic over the past few days, we feel as if there are a few things we should clear up in case anyone should wonder:

1. We are X-ATI. 

2. There is more than one X-ATI girl behind this blog, but fewer than 5. 

3.We are all females {obviously}.

4. In answer to our most frequent and common question, YES, these stories are all real.  Take a breath, it’s true.  While we put these stories into a format that is reader friendly and somewhat therapeutic, all of these stories are true and we provide the details as accurately as possible.

5. A very few of you have responded that this blog discourages you.  It probably should.  This is real, it does go on, and this blog is a very honest, though satirical, portrayal of our lives.

6. One of us, while at University, researched the subject of Bill Gothard, ATI, and the social effects of this group.  The study encompassed consultations with medical professionals as well as in-depth interviews with those currently in actual treatment programs as a result of this lifestyle.  We write about this research, the research of the medical professionals who now specialize in this area, as well as our own experiences.

7. The purpose of this blog is so that we can look back at where we were, where we have come, and find the humor and sheer ridiculousness in some of it.  {Let’s not play the glad game.}  Also, we were among the first joiners of the ATI program, very involved in all parts of the ministry, and think it beneficial for others to know that yes, their experiences resound with many and they are not alone.  (In fact, one of us this week realized that her picture is still being used as Gothard clip art, much to her chagrin.  Don’t worry, one of us is a certified Character Coach, well versed in the strongholds diagram, and is working with her to tear down any towers of bitterness that still linger.)

8. To the parents, read this blog to know what your children are more than likely feeling but not saying.

9. To us kids, know that you are not alone.  We know you didn’t like reading a Pearls article {what a shocker, huh?} but it rang true with us which is why we posted it.

We would like to take this opportunity to apologize that all of these points did not start with the same letter of the alphabet.

How, oh how to sign this?  ‘It will be worth it all’?  ‘There is morning in my heart’?  ‘Blessings’?

Nah, peace out, girl scouts!

The X-ATI Girl{s}

Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting.

January 9, 2010

It’s unusual, difficult, and downright weird for the X-ATI girl to stray in any way from satire and/or humor. 

It’s important to do so every once in a while even if it’s out of my comfort zone.  {Thank you Chantelle for posting this.}

Many thanks to Michael and Debi Pearl for an article so well written that it tells the story of almost every X-ATIer’s life.

The good news?  Most of us have been disowned, denied, or distanced by the family cloister and were forced to go out on our own because of their disappointment and disapproval.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts.  We survived.  In fact, we did quite well.  Maybe our parents don’t like us, but today we are successful, intelligent, educated, and normal people who live very regular lives.  We have left it behind us.  We can begin to laugh now.

Warning: this is long.  It is well worth the read.

Cloistered Homeschool Syndrome

 Article by Michael & Debi Pearl, August 2008

The Foger family came to stay with us one spring about 12 years ago while they were on furlough from Mozambique.

Their eighth child was soon to be delivered. Although I had just met the family, I was highly impressed by them. The oldest daughter, 19 years old, was a joyful, hardworking, energetic, blue-eyed beauty. The next, a 17 year old son, was cut in the mold of his father, dedicated, reserved, and very mission-minded. The five other children were 13 years old and younger. The family sang together with strong, forceful voices, no bashfulness among them. The two oldest children provided the instrumental accompaniment. It was an experience just listening to such a group.

They all understood and spoke two languages. The oldest two children spoke three languages. The father had left South America after ten years of mission service to move to another country, which meant learning another language. The parents still stumbled around slowly learning the Portuguese language. The two oldest children were invaluable in the new ministry, which was already showing promise.

While we sat around one evening, the mother casually asked us to pray that their daughter find a husband before they left for Mozambique in the Fall. I asked in a shocked manner, “Why on earth would you want her to marry now? She is such a blessing to you and knows the language. Surely you need her to help you with the other children.” The mother lifted her arched brows as she pondered how she would answer me. Her look conveyed her surprise at my lack of understanding. “We will be in a foreign country for the next 4 years. All that time she will be at the prime of her marriageable age. We feel it is best for her to marry an American. God called my husband to Mozambique as a missionary…not our adult children. We have obeyed God and raised them up to serve HIM…not US. We don’t add; we multiply. It is time for her to live her life.”
That next year we received a mission card with their picture. There were only six children in the picture. The mission letter briefly stated that the oldest son was in Bible school and the daughter was married.

Over the years I received their missions update. I noted that the parents were growing fatter and grayer. The children disappeared from the picture, one or two every year or so. It was sad to see the diminishing of such a magnificent family. The mission letters were filled with gospel film presentations to prisoners and villagers, church camps, protracted meetings, people getting saved, and only a brief mention of their now grown children. They would write something like, “Joshua and his wife are in Romania serving as missionaries; Peter and his wife are in Russia working with the something ministry; Sara married this year. Her husband is the pastor of a church.” And so it went.

Today we receive mission letters from their now grown and ministering children. I see their families expanding. Their joyful, energetic, blue-eyed beauty of a daughter is now the mother of six children. Her family is growing up in Cajun country. I know if I meet them I will be very impressed. I heard that they sing like soldiers…with power and command.

I am thankful for the testimony of the Foger family as well as other families that have come into our lives. They are a prototype to help us understand the problems that are arising among some older homeschooling families. We call it by different names. Today it is the Cloistered Homeschooled Syndrome. Briefly, it is the failure of the parents to understand, appreciate, and respect the individuality of their adult children. They sacrifice the individual identities of their children on the altar of their own emotional needs, making them nurse when they should be killing and dressing their own food, making them obey when they should be learning to command. They seem to think that grown children are God’s gift to them rather than their gift to God. Through letters and personal contact, we see more and more of this cult-like isolationism, parents demanding absolute allegiance to the family group, and fearing outside contact might break up their “fellowship.” Adult kids who want to launch out on their own are told that they are rebellious and disloyal and are causing grief to those who have nurtured them. Emotionally needy parents manipulate their grown children into remaining loyal to the unit. Thirty-year-old daughters sit at home acting as surrogate mothers, watching their prospects to ever be a mother dwindle.

You cannot stop a tree from growing without killing it or deforming it. Likewise, every year of one’s life up until about the age of twenty-one or twenty-two is a year of radical change and development. Some parents are trying to stop that development, clinging to their teenagers like they were six years old. We have observed the victims many times. They either flee their chains in anger, or they are slowly smothered into inordinate submission, and their personalities die as they merge into the ego of their dependent parents.

This medieval hierarchy is preached as Bible doctrine. Father and Mother as King and Queen of their little kingdom preach the divine right of Kings and parents—“Obey me without question, for it is your manifest destiny.” Their “patriarchal” status is the only expression of their significance in an otherwise disconnected world, and they milk it until their children are dry and lifeless in spirit, or until they fly away to breathe fresh air.

For over a year we have been discussing this subject, thinking about how to address it. We have talked with many young adults who are, or were, held captive, the rebellious and the subdued, those who are disciples of Christ and those who are worldly and lost. We have spoken with families who lost their children early, in their teens, and families who lost a child to the world in their twenties or later.

How did this happen? It is the old pendulum at work. Thirty to forty years ago Christian parents were losing their children to the world through public schools, public churches, and public play. The family was disconnected and dating was the norm. We rebelled against the soul eating monster and took charge of our lives. Our children would not be raised on the TV. They would not lose their virginity in a school bathroom or under the stairwell. No more evolutionary philosophy and godless history and science. We took our children home and taught them from used books and the Bible. We created culture anew, abstaining from mega churches with their youth groups and revolving boy-girl relationships. We parents became the principle influence in our children’s lives, selecting their friends and ours with care. No overnight sleeps or backyard playhouses with closing doors. Family worship and Bible study took the place of Television. Once again parents were in charge and there was hope.
It felt good to be in control of our own destiny, to not be a victim, to know that our children would escape the sin and shame that some of us had to go through before we came to Christ.

There was a vacuum, a need for leaders to arise and define what had become a movement, to clarify our journey and give us direction through uncharted waters. First, curriculum was written, then seminars. Sub-movements arose to flesh out the new culture, specialists addressing every conceivable issue—head coverings, dress, doctrine, spanking, scheduled nursing, Kosher foods and Jewish practices, and the list goes on. Books were written, some good, some not so good. Then someone pulled from ancient Chaldean and Sumerian culture, also practiced by Jews of that day as reflected in Scripture, a system of Patriarchal rule. It was the way nomadic clans were held together, a necessity of the times, but never taught by Moses, the prophets, or Christ as God’s divine plan.

I laughed the first time I hear of the Patriarchal Movement. “It will never fly,” I said, “People are not that gullible.” But they were. Daddies who were never in charge of anything, maybe not even their wives, were finally given justification for assuming the throne. Yippee!

It is now become a disease of epic proportions. We call them PDFs, Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families. The children are treated as permanent property of the parents. If they don’t marry, and many of them never have the opportunity, they remain at home as a sort of indentured servant, never rising to the status of an adult, always under authority of the head of the clan, the Patriarch Daddy. Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting. And if you want to see something scary, try to conduct a betrothal with two patriarchal mothers involved. It is uggggly.
Daughter sits at home serving the younger children and doing Mama’s chores—waiting for God’s choice. Daddy and Mama hold their merchandise guardedly, waiting for a buyer who never comes.

What is pitiful is the whole process is done in hopes of getting the perfect will of God, but one vital ingredient is missing—encouraging your children to become responsible, autonomous, well educated, and experienced adults as soon as possible. You should have trained your sons to be men by the time they are fifteen, independent by the time they are eighteen. Your daughters should be capable of living apart from the family by the time they are eighteen and should be allowed to make their own life’s decisions somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty. Unmarried, grown (18 years old) children may remain at home; it is good if they do; but the parent-child relationship should evolve into an adult-adult relationship by the time they are sixteen to eighteen years old. Parents should have earned the right to give advice, and kids should have grown in wisdom enough to ask for it. But a parent should never invoke his parental authority on a grown kid. It is demeaning to both and akin to not being potty trained.

To teach a student to drive or fly a plane and then always make him be in the company of his parents is degrading. You teach them so they can become independent of you. Whose need is being met when a Father treats a 22-year-old girl like a child, dictating the parameters of her choices?
 The glory of a parent is to work himself out of a job, to stand back and see his kids fly solo. I expected to have supplanted myself by the time my kids were eighteen. And so it was. Long before that, I began to confer with them adult to adult. I have stepped back and allowed them to make decisions that I knew were not the best choices, and sometimes I was wrong; they were wiser than I.

Space does not allow us to say more at this time. More will come later. Sit down and talk with your nearly grown kids. Ask them what they want, feel, aspire to. Don’t express hurt, and don’t emotionally manipulate them. Encourage them to pursue their dreams and support them in their effort.

In 1996, our daughter Rebekah Joy, then a 20-year-old in training to be a linguist, wrote this poem. At the time, the poem was the future; it was full of promise and hope.
There is a mighty army
Being trained to stand and fight.
A Battlefield of soldiers
Learning what is right.
A Company of warriors
That will boldly take the Word
To every tribe and nation
Til every soul has heard.
There is a mighty army,
I’ve seen them everywhere.
Most are wearing diapers
And dragging Teddy Bears.
Infants in the training
Drilled in right and wrong.
Mom and Dad are making
Soldiers brave and strong.
There is a mighty army

Trained in righteous war.
Cheer them on to victory,
Children of the Lord!

At 22 years old, Rebekah went into a remote mountain range of Papua New Guinea to study the language of a tribe who had never even seen a white person. Her 19-year-old brother, Gabriel, went for a few months, then was replaced by Nathan, her 17-year-old brother. Nathan stayed for a few months until he believed that she would be safe. She was left alone on that mountain with the unreached tribe. After two years, others came to help, and she came home.

It was her understanding of languages that gave us the information needed to pass on to veteran missionary Tom Gaudet. He is a publisher of Bibles into obscure languages. He sent out an appeal on the web for any translator that might have been working on a common language of that area. He received 14 replies. One was from a missionary who had spent 35 years translating the Bible, but when he went home he couldn’t raise the money to get it printed. Tom pulled together all the translators, had them correct each other’s work and settle on a finished manuscript. We raised the money to get 20,000 printed and shipped.

Sending a beautiful, unassertive, young woman is not God’s usual way. He was proving a point. He was making a statement to her, to us and to you. “If I can protect and use this young girl to win a remote tribal people, then I can do the same for you.”

Rebekah kept a diary of those years, which we read when she came home. We wept at her courage and resolve. We wept that we had the honor of being her parents. We published Rebekah’s Diary in 1997. She was such a regular, normal girl until God gave her the vision of reaching a tribe. A few years ago, missionaries contacted us and told us that there are now seven strong villages of believers on that mountain and that the village men proudly carry their Bibles under their arms.
Because a young girl went willingly…
Because we, HER PARENTS, didn’t say no.
Because she would have obeyed us and stayed home.
But we cheered her on to victory…
There are new names written down in glory.