This book is about the six core rules of my (Dan Woodard’s) upbringing and journey of change and growth. They are the same rules of most every alcoholic home, but we had those rules with no alcohol. To be more precise, our alcohol was not in a bottle; it was in the form of other addictions . . . religious addictions. These rules were don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust, don’t think, don’t choose and don’t change.

These rules in some ways pervaded my life from boyhood, my teen years, through university, and through the first ten years of my tenure as a career missionary. When I dared to depart from these rules in my fourth year of marriage, it triggered great disruption. This disruption was necessary for me to begin learning how to live life differently: to talk, to feel, to trust, to think, to choose, and to change. This book is about my journey of leaving these rules to find healing and wholeness. It is about my journey from religion to a much more attached relationship with Jesus.

Why This is Important

This book is important because people need hope in the midst of despair. The six rules we talk about in this book are serious. Maybe the word I am looking for is “devastating.” The level of damage these rules cause is at the level of seventy-five percent divorce rate among my extended family. The level of damage of these rules is at the level of the majority of my nephews and nieces being raised with an absent father. Think: the cycle of abandonment, of betrayal, of abuse, the heartache, the depression, the suicide attempts, the stress, the tears.

Dan Reinhardt and I have all confidence that change is possible if people are willing to start from the inside out. These rules were never directly spoken in my home of origin; they were written on the tablets of my heart before my memory began at age three. Any change I have experienced in the past three decades has happened from the inside out.

I needed help breaking these rules. Anyone who was raised with these rules needs help breaking them. This book explains my journey of how I broke each of them, or more accurately, how I am learning to break them. I never want to stop breaking these rules. I am committed to helping others break them. It is the only way to leave slavery and find freedom. It is the only way to leave death and find life.

The truth is, as we suggest throughout the book, Jesus came to this earth to help people to break these rules and find real relationship with him, with God. And that is why the truths in this book are important.

How Did This Book Come to Be?

This book comes out of a series of Sunday morning messages we prepared and video recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic at a church in Three Hills, Alberta.

Reluctant would be the best adjective to describe how I (Dan Woodard) felt about the phone call I received last February 24, 2020 from my friend Jim. He was simply asking if I would meet with him and few others to consider offering some workshops to bring clarity to their difficult situation. I met with them and exchanged stories. The chair of the meeting heartily suggested I needed to share my story of the six rules with the church family on the earliest Sunday morning possible. This only increased my reluctance. What will certain people think? This will go on YouTube? So anyone can watch my stories and I will have no chance to make sure they understand my context?

A month later I shared my story on Sunday morning. Before I could leave town to return home, discussion had begun about Dan Reinhardt and me bringing a series entitled Let’s Break the Rules. Again, more reluctance from me. No, gentlemen, I think you are stretching this too far. No church is gonna go for a title like this. We are all gonna be burned at the stake! Nobody will ever like us anymore. Your legacy as a rule-keeping church needs to be respected at least a little bit. Let’s Break the Rules is way too direct and in your face.

Ten days later I crossed the threshold of age sixty-five. I had just officially accepted the responsibility of creating eight Let’s Break the Rules messages where I was specifically asked to share more details about the rules of my upbringing. Did I even know what I was doing? Was I going to be okay with going public about some sordid details of the damage of these rules? Would I be okay when (not if) certain family members would misunderstand and call me out of line for believing I struggle with bitterness? Had I really counted the cost here?

At the end of two days of being on the phone with certain VRPs (very resourceful people) in my life, I finally told God three words: I surrender all. All those questions I had wrestled with God over? I did not need him to give me an answer any longer. It was OK. I surrendered to the Author, the Editor, the Choreographer, and the Publisher of my story, my life. He owned it all. He could use it as he pleased. Oh, the freedom of this surrender!

Eight messages with six thousand views later, requests had flowed in from numerous friends for the series to be written out. That is why this book has been written and published.