Every Woman a Theologian
— Shiny Happy People Pt. 4 —
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Dear friend,
I’m watching Shiny Happy People, the new Amazon documentary about Bill Gothard, the Duggars, and the IBLP movement. Each newsletter for the next four weeks will discuss an episode of the show. Today's newsletter addresses the final episode.
The last episode of Shiny Happy People focused on three things:
  • The child pornography case against Josh Duggar
  • The Joshua Generation of conservative Christian kids being trained for political office
  • The impact of ATI and IBLP on individuals and how they are breaking free from it
A gentle reminder: This is a secularly made documentary. Every documentary has a bias. This doesn't discount the testimonies of victims; it just means the conclusions a documentary director wants you to draw can be shaped by how the show is edited and compiled. For instance: Shiny Happy People represents ultra-conservative home “education”, but it in no way represents homeschooling as a whole. SHP presents us with an extreme faction of “Christianity” that I would argue was not true Christian teaching at its core. It does not represent the whole Christian church, all pro-life advocates, all homeschoolers, etc. In the wake of SHP, however, we will probably see secular culture attempt to draw such associations. We should expect this. There are inevitable negative side effects to the good work of exposing sin (an exposure that even a secular documentary can accomplish). 
I won't get into the child pornography case because to be honest, it was too disturbing. I was aware of the case and followed it years ago when it occurred; I wish I could say I was surprised. But I know how porn works. I had my own addiction. If you do not brutally cut off the head of a pornography addiction, it WILL grow – and it will lead you into greater and greater darkness. The only way to break its back is with confession, vulnerability, Spirit-led prayer, accountability and in many cases, licensed counseling. We already know that the IBLP environment did not allow for real vulnerability. It also enabled abusers rather than holding them accountable. Josh was fully responsible for his actions – AND the environment set him up to continue.
Which leads me to a quote from interviewee Bobye Holt: "They have to look happy… they can never deal with what may be rumbling inside their hearts." 
Bobye's comment struck me to the core. Without transparency, vulnerability, true confession and lament for sin, you can never truly deal with sin at all. You have to look happy and manage it. Confession is not safe with unsafe people. And high stakes environments, low on grace, create a space where vulnerability is impossible. If you share what you're struggling with it can be used against you. Rather than grace, support, and healing, you find gossip, slander, and manipulation. Reputation must be protected while character is lost.
We MUST deal with what's “rumbling in our hearts” when it is small. When it's just beginning. Otherwise, it only grows.
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It's tempting to manage sin with rules and regulations. If we AVOID xyz… then we can AVOID sin. But sin cannot be permanently “avoided” and repressed. And Christ didn't die so we could attempt a life-long evasion of every temptation. Christ died to defeat the POWER and IMPACT of sin. That's not just an eternal reality. It is for TODAY. The Holy Spirit equips us to say no to sin every single day without fear, anxiety or control. As we walk by the Spirit, we can reject the leftover vestiges of the flesh and live into the saintly identities we possess through Christ (Gal. 6). In Christ, we are victors. We get to live like it!
This is the freedom organizations like IBLP just can't reckon with. Another interviewee pointed this out when she said: "The fear of your kids doing drugs or going to jail… I ended up in jail anyways." In her account, she reacted against her upbringing by running the other direction. The controlled environment did not teach her strength, discernment, or the blessings of righteousness. It made a fool of freedom. It sold her the lie that true freedom is found in doing whatever you want - rather than in confident godliness and “options within boundaries”. 
At the beginning of this series I mentioned that I grew up adjacent to fundamentalism but not in it. I was in a Christian family, oldest of six kids, homeschooled. On Father's Day last week I was at the beach with my parents talking about all this. “How did you escape this kind of fundamentalism if you were basically doing a lot of similar things?” I asked my dad. His answer? 
“We were well discipled.” 
Dad explained that the church he and my mom were in for the first 14 years of parenthood was a church environment low on legalism and heavy on the Holy Spirit. And, as the Spirit does, He equipped with discernment. Even when the church changed and my parents eventually left, the training in hearing God, following the Spirit's discernment, checking against the Word, questioning everything (even things that look good and promise great results) equipped my parents to circumvent the Christian-calling card of their day.
What's the calling card of your day? Your city? Your environment? 
It might be shrouded in goodness. It might seem, at first glance, like it's the biblical way. Maybe you can narrow it to a list of rules and to-do's, tidy little scripts you can memorize and say to your kids. The perfect, controlled environment (Christian school? Homeschool? Youth group?). Be wary of anything that teaches you to shortcut walking with the Spirit. 
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If I could sum up Shiny Happy People's fundamentalism in one sentence, it would be this:
“Attempted holiness without the Holy Spirit, missed the mark – and missed out on God's love because of it.”
Because that's the heart of true holiness, friends. True holiness is always a response to grace. True holiness is sparked by meeting the God who made you, knowing His heart for real. Its repentance led by kindness. It's not hidden. It's not secret. It's not hard to find. The TRUE God is standing there, arms open on a Cross, ready to welcome and win and weep with you. Ready to see you walk away from the laws of man and into the love of Christ.
I think the best way to end this series is to end with another quote from one of the interviewees: "No matter what, God actually loves you."
Jesus replied: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
 They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mark 7:6-11)
Bestsellers this week:
Ask Anything Q/A

How to stop viewing God as a hard master?
I understand this struggle. Your upbringing, your own predispositions, your exposure to spiritual abuse or unhealthy church environments; these can all affect your view of God. Step One: identify what you believe about God and compare to what Scripture says about Him. Start with these verses. Step Two: Get a right understanding of holiness and sin. God's treatment of sin isn't arbitrary and hard. He is against sin because He is holy, of course, but He also against sin because He is love. Sin wounds the ones He loves, so like a good and loving Parent He is wrathful against the thing that wounds His own. God would not be trustworthy if He was NOT wrathful against sin! His wrath is protective. Step Three: Cultivate your prayer life. Even if you start out not sure what to say, keep showing up. Ask God to reveal His heart and goodness to you. And He will!
Quiet my heart and I’ll hear at last
the thrumming love makes when pause lets us rest.
Still my soul and I’ll see through the haze the myriad ways
you loved me, before I was able to open
the eyes of my heart to behold them.
I was afraid to see you;
all the glory and wrath they told me about.
But now I have heard and have seen;
I opened my eyes by faith in your goodness
and to my joy and surprise
You were actually good.

Show Me Your Glory, PDM
How can we prove the Bible is without error?
Inerrancy applies to the original documents of the Bible. In their original form, the manuscripts were completely without error and unable to deceive (infallible). This is why translation efforts must be so, so cautious and careful. It's why books like The Passion “translation” are so dangerous; they take great liberties that mistranslate and misinterpret what the Bible says. As far as proving the inerrancy of the Bible, we can look to archaeology as well as the consistency of manuscripts and most of all, the consistency of God's character over time. He is the same God with the same Law from OT to NT. 
What does prophecy look like today?
Short answer here because this week's Verity Podcast episode is about this! Stay tuned for that on Wednesday. A few short truths: prophecy in the Old Testament was both foretelling and forth-telling. It was also “double reference prophecy” in many cases, with both a short term application and long term fulfillment (e.g. prophecies about Jesus in the book of Isaiah). Prophecy in the New Testament was expected and encouraged by the apostles (see 1 Cor. 13-14). It's also the primary role women take in Scripture from the OT through the NT (Miriam, Huldah, Isaiah's wife, the women of the early church). However, NT prophecy is not adding anything new to Scripture; it is reaffirming Scriptural truths and applying them to the Church. More details in the episode!
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My Five Faves

  • Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp: Nabbed this recipe when I realized I only had almond flour and WOW I'll be making this again!
  • If you're in the Petoskey area Petoskey Farms Winery just opened a coffee shop! I love having a spot so close to home. Their “Bees Knees” latte is my favorite!
  • Frownies: Since Day in the Life last Wednesday (behind the scenes on Instagram) I've had so many questions about the face patches I use. They're affordable and they work! I get really severe forehead wrinkles and wanted to naturally reduce their presence. These really work. 
  • I switched from a satin pillow case to a satin bonnet: If you have curly hair, this is a gift. My hair is “type 3” curly and needs reduced friction to prevent frizz. 
  • I'm about to restock my ValMariePaper Prayer journal: This is my favorite for daily prayer journaling and tracking requests!
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At Home with Phylicia

A little glimpse of what's bringing us joy at home: routines, books, kitchen and home life.
  • Day in the Life, an hour by hour glimpse of our home and homeschool, is now on Wednesdays. You can watch on Facebook or Instagram stories.
  • Yard sale finds: I did a yard sale tour with a friend on Saturday with GREAT results! For less than $100 I nabbed dresses, belts, and shirts for the girls; two Nike pairs of shoes for Ivan; a set of stainless taco holders; an entire stack of kids books (including a big set of Magic School Bus and the entire Junie B Jones series), two dresses for myself, sunglasses for Josh and more. 
    • Tricks: Keep a note in your phone of books and other items you're looking for. Look up the sales in your area and make a list, then number them in order of location - you want to make a big circle. Start furthest out and work your way back! We like to get breakfast first then start right at 9 am. 
  • Book list: I've been working down Adeline's summer book list. Some of the books have been harder than others, but I love the variety of this list. I'll be adding this list to our school year list when we are done and counting up everything we read in 22-23!
for the awakening,