Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Great Exchange

This past weekend was one of the most amazing times with the Lord and a group of women seeking healing and deep connection with God.  The Great Exchange weekends are based on Isaiah 61 and how God exchanges some of the most painful experiences, character defects and life issues into something beautiful.  As we worshiped, experienced God through healing exercises, and loving connection from one another, it was evident that there were miracles taking place in our midst.  We will never be the same again!  The Lord truly exchanged shame, fear, mourning, despair, wounds, disappointment, pride, self-protection, loneliness, bitterness & anger for His amazing love, peace and joy.  There were so many moments when I looked up to the heavens giving thanks to God that He would allow me the privilege of entering into another's pain.. that He would and they would trust me and those around them with their most intimate thoughts, longings; the deepest places of their heart.  
I am reminded once again that God's word is true - "NOTHING is impossible with Him" and 'all things truly work for the good to those that love Him' (my life verse in Ro 8:28).  Out of our brokenness, God brings great beauty that He might be glorified.  Out of our tragedy, He brings triumph and goodness!  Together, these 22 women and I are now exhibiting more of who we are in Christ and as it says in Isaiah 61 - He has given us:     
a crown of beauty for ashes,
   a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
      festive praise instead of despair.
   In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
      that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Our God is being glorified and we know that even greater things are yet to come!  Praise Him! 
The next Great Exchange weekend is being offered the last weekend of February - don' t miss out on your miracle!

Monday, October 25, 2010

HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 4 - Identifying the Problem Part 3

Symptoms 8 - 10

It was a joy to co-teach this lesson with my wonderful husband, Mike Smith.  Be sure to check back and listen to the audio which will be posted next week.

Matthew 9:12
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

One of the most remarkable features of the human condition is our capacity to pretend that we are healthy when our lives are in total chaos. We work hard to cover up our problems and flaws in our character. We will sacrifice almost anything to keep from facing the truth about ourselves. We work this hard to look good because we experience our human needs, limits and failures with deep shame - a shame that drives us to strive harder and harder to look better and better. We sacrifice our serenity, our relationships, our sanity on the altar of perfectionism. We also sacrifice any possibility of getting the help we need by continuing to insist that "we can handle it."
God does not ask such sacrifices from us. God has no need for us to be perfect. Jesus speaks to us gently but very clearly about this issue. He confronts our pretense, shame and perfectionistic striving. He says in effect "you do not have to sacrifice yourself in this way. You do not have to drive yourself like this. I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I want you to learn to be mercy-full to yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. It will free you to accept your need of healing. It will allow you to acknowledge your longing for me."
Jesus was saying "I did not come to pass out blue ribbons to the people who have all the answers and have worked hard to prove themselves. I came to bring hope and healing to people who know they need help."
We can stop shaming and condemning ourselves because God does not shame or condemn us. God knows our brokenness, our pain, our need. We can give up our attempts to prove ourselves and acknowledge our need for help and healing.

Our next symptom of unhealthy spirituality is:

8.   Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
Here is an example of someone who is hiding.. someone who wears a mask….    MIKE - READ THE MASK.. (listen to the audio for The Mask)
Biblical Examples:
King David:  Psalm 51:17 "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise".  The apostle Paul: 2 Cor 12:7-10 "His power is made perfect in weakness" "His grace is sufficient".   And here are a few other Biblical heroes:  Moses- murderer, Hosea's wife - prostitute, Peter rebuked Jesus, Noah - drunk, Jonah - racist, Jeremiah - depressed and suicidal, Thomas - doubter, Moses - anger/had a temper, Timothy - sick/ ulcers/ worrier perhaps?    So... what's the message?   All human beings regardless of their personality, gifting, and strengths have areas of weakness..  We all need God.. we all need one another!   We are all deeply flawed and broken.. hiding it does nothing but keep us trapped and unhealthy spiritually!  "we are as sick as our secrets" - hiding keeps us sick!

MIKE SMITH –9.   Living without limits - when we consider this one.. we have to think about having the lack of boundaries, we are codependents oftentimes or we are enablers or enmeshed with others.  Sadly... most believers believe it is selfish to take care of themselves.   There is a HUGE difference between being selfish and practicing self-care.
Parker Palmer said "self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the gift you have" -- the gift of life you have been given by God -- the gift of your body - let's talk about that for a minute -- I think this is where many Christians fail miserably whether that is a lack of exercise, eating properly, rest, or simply having fun and recreation.

 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" We are expected to take care of the gift God has given us.  

10.  Judging other people’s spiritual journey - Sadly, we often turn our differences into moral superiority or virtues.  We judge people for their music (too soft or loud), length of their hair, tattoos or no tattoos, piercings, what they wear, the cars they drive or work they do...  we create never-ending groups to lump people together and then pre-judge them - that's prejudice.   
- artists and musicians are flaky                                                    
- engineers are cerebral and cold                                            
- men are idiots and socially infantile                                      
- women are too emotional and overly sensitive                       
- the poor are lazy or the rich are self-indulgent

I have to say something about the gender issue here...  How about we all stop lumping and coming up with generalities for men and women and start focusing on our individual uniqueness.    We are all different.   And some of what I see and generalizations made for males and females have more to do with personality types than gender!   Stereo typing only creates more harm and confusion.  (example - clients I have seen who feel like there is something wrong with them because they relate more to the 'male' generalizations or the 'female'.   I have actually had couples say.. well, we're kind of weird - I am more the man in the marriage and he's more the female - what!?) This needs to change!

Matthew 7:1-5 --   let's work on getting the 'blank/log out of our own eye

There are several different types of Christ followers in our churches… those who are ‘done its’, ‘doing its’, ‘don’t need its’…  The ‘done its' feel that they have gotten to a certain point in their healing and growth and are satisfied.. perhaps they are at a place where it’s comfortable.. the pain and discomfort may be there but it is tolerable/manageable.. they are settling for where they are and not pursuing going any further.. perhaps that is ignorance or the deception of the enemy that has allowed them to buy into the lie that there just isn’t any more?   The ‘don’t need its’ are those that are in denial.. they are stuck and don’t even know it…And then there are those of us (most in this room I’d say) that are the ‘doing its’…  we are doing it.. pursuing more in God.. pursuing freedom, the abundant life – which really isn’t about comfort at all.. it’s about learning how to surrender and lean into God no matter where we are or what we are going through and in that leaning… we find peace, safety.  We can do this because we get to a place of spiritual health.. one of the manifestations of spiritual health is trust!

So.. how do people end up in one of the other camps/ groups?  Well…  is could be because of a lack of information.. and that lack of information comes from poor discipleship.  Most of us and others who are being discipled/ mentored spiritually learn to do the following:
§        Attend church each week for worship, the Word and be sure to participate in communion when it is offered
§        Have a quiet time/ devotions – preferably at the start of every day
§        Get in a small group, bible study, Sunday school class so you can have fellowship, study Scripture
§        Trust God by giving your tithes and offerings
§        Let Christ direct how you behave at work, home, school and all other relationships
§        Discover and use spiritual gifts – serve in the church
§        Evangelize – share Jesus/ invite others to church
§        Attend retreats, conferences, read books and listen to talks on cd/ your ipod

All of these are great steps to begin the journey with Christ yet, they are simply not enough – spiritual disciplines are good but they are not enough! 
So.. what is needed? – Emotional Health and what Pastor Peter S, author of ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ calls contemplative spirituality.  We will dig into this more deeply later and I will be deviating from some of what is taught in this particular book.  This is where I believe I mentioned in one of our earlier classes that most of our churches have ‘missed the mark’ – we have gotten far too far at one end of the spectrum in knowing more ‘about’ God rather than having ‘encounters with God’/ deeply connecting with him/ having times of deep prayer that includes listening and sensing His presence.  Step 11 in the 12 Steps is ‘sought through prayer and mediation to increase my conscious contact with God’.. it is this step with some added dynamics.  Again.. there will be more on this later..

1.      Share your experiences in wearing masks and covering over your brokenness.

2.      In what area or your life do you have the most difficulty in setting limits and boundaries?

3.      What are some of the prejudices you have had in the past or currently?

4.      Discuss your discipleship experience.  Did it include any facet of emotional/ mental healing?  

Sunday, October 17, 2010



Thank you for continuing with our lessons on Healthy Spirituality.  If you stick with it, you will find life transformation.  Please check back and listen to the audio version where you will get greater explanation of the notes below (they are uploaded typically 1 week after the actual lesson is taught)


2.   Ignoring Emotions - we discussed this a bit last week... as believers we have often been taught to ignore our feelings especially the ones we deem 'bad' - anger, fear, sadness.  Our emotions are a gift from God and yet we have been taught to ignore, suppress, dismiss them and told that is Biblical - using passages such as Jer 17:9  “9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” , and demands God places on us in Phil 4:6 “6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”, and Is 41:10.. “10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
 I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
 What is the proper interpretation of God's word as it relates to fear?  For a very long time early in my walk with the Lord, I thought the 'do not fear' passages were being spoken from God like a 'command' -- now don't you be afraid!  It was like a mandate so if I was afraid, I always felt I was in sin or disappointing God.  What I have discovered through my study of various texts and going back to the original language is - it is not that way at all!  An picture of what God is saying to us is like .. a small child waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare or a storm.. when the parent/ we go in to their room after they are crying for us, do we yell at them and tell them not to be afraid/ demand/ command it?  Of course not.. what do we say?  It's going to be ok.. don't be afraid, I'm right here.. that is how God is speaking to us.  Big difference isn't it?

And what about anger?  Many are taught that anger is sin... but it is not - 'be angry, sin not'... and... any time we are angry and open up about it.. what is the response we get oftentimes?  "Now _____ you know that God is in control." "Anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God"… "You need to just forgive"…"Jesus was lied to and cheated as well, so stop the anger, it is pointless.... you must forgive so let it go, move on."
Peter Scazzero says, "To feel is human.  To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love god, others, and ourselves well.” 

3.   Dying to the wrong things - I have talked about this several times in the past - Luke 9:23 says we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Christ.  Many have interpreted this passage inaccurately.  The message they received is that 'we'/ 'they' must cease to exist - all of who I am is annihilated.  The apostle Paul said "I die daily".. Again, what does the proper interpretation of these passages mean? 
We must die to the sinful parts of who we are - we must die to our defensiveness, arrogance, stubbornness, character defects (we discuss this quite often in Celebrate Recovery and the 12 Steps).. what else?  we must die to our hypocrisy, our self-protective devices, our judgmentalism..and of course the obvious lists:  Exodus 20:13-16 & Eph 4:25 murder, lying, stealing, etc.  We are not called to die to the good parts of who we are... God made us unique/ special with our own God-given bents and personality.  

Are we called to die to our dreams, wishes, hopes and desires?  Sometimes... but what exactly does that mean and when would God call me to do so? - only when they compete with our affection for Him!  Anything can become an idol in our lives even our goals and dreams!  However, what we are talking about here is... we need to realize that those things oftentimes line up with passions God has put in us - not something we have conjured up on our own.  So.. he wants us to enjoy them.. there is healthiness in this!

4.   Denying the past’s impact on our lives - We touched on this last week and we will spend some extended time on this in a later lesson but the point to remember here is that many will use Scripture to condemn you or challenge you about dealing with your past.. For example 'the old has gone, the new has come' 2 Cor 5:17
There is a slogan I continue to hear that goes something like this: stop looking in the rear view mirror while going forward.. it's hazardous to your future... I get what they mean but the truth is:  while driving .. we have to use our rear view mirror and our side mirrors because there are blind spots - the same is true of our lives.. we have to look back in order to go forward in health... we have to use our mirrors while driving in order to find safety as we drive forward to our destination.
The process of sanctification/ growing into health and maturity in 'all the parts' is going to require/ demand we go back in order to break free from unhealthy patterns and false beliefs that prevent us from loving ourselves, God and others.

5.   Dividing our lives into ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ compartments - We all have the ability to compartmentalize our lives.  Examples - we all know some well known public Christian figures that were an amazing influence on thousands of lives by their preaching and yet, they were living a double life full of sexual sin, etc... I recommend Beth Moore's book "When Godly People do Ungodly Things" There are other reasons... but this is definitely one that enables that to happen. We all have the uncanny ability to compartmentalize - we do our 'Christian activities' around church and all our spiritual disciplines without including God in our marriage... or in our jobs... or in our parenting... or in our friendships.... in our lifestyles...  The statistics are devastating that support this:
  • church members divorce their spouses as often as their secular neighbors
  • ..beat their wives as often as their neighbors
  • ..their giving patterns indicate they are almost as materialistic as the rest of the world
  • white evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race
  • of the higher-commitment evangelicals, 26% think premarital sex is acceptable, while 46% of lower-commitment evangelicals believe it to be okay 
Good book on this topic that I read several years ago is "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience" - the consequences of this on our witness for Christ is staggering -- people look at us and continue to cry 'hypocrite'... not only that.. but.. we are missing out on the genuine joy we could have in Christ by living compartment-ally....  a fulfilling, joy-filled life (John 15:11 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.)  

It's all about Lordship folks!   We come to saving faith in Christ.... and many stop right there.. the journey is about surrendering all the areas of our lives...  one area at a time or several at a time.. but we must surrender to His Lordship.  This is what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

6.   Doing for God instead of ‘being’ with God - Praying and enjoying God's presence for no other reason than to delight in Him is where we need to be.  And yet, so many get the message of 'service/ serving' that is above and beyond that of relationship building.  The message we get is:
  • doing more for God is a sign of spiritual maturity
  • it's all up to you...and you'll never finish while you're alive on this get busy and stay busy
  • God can't move unless you pray
  • you are responsible to share Christ around you at all times
  • you must persevere and hold things together or they'll fall apart                        
None of these things are necessarily wrong but... they must properly flow from a life WITH God - we cannot give away what we do not possess.   Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”..  Not in the hereafter but now, are you ‘seeing God’.. the only way is through that intimate connecting with Him.

7.   Spiritualizing away conflict - This is a big one in the church... there is a lot of 'sweeping things under the rug' going on.  Let's face it... we ALL hate conflict but.. ignoring it is not God's way... ignoring it only creates more pain, confusion and yes, CONFLICT - even if it is all internalized.  This is the reason I believe most church splits happen, the break up of small groups, ministries, even some marriages.  So.. how do people generally deal with conflict in unhealthy ways:
  • say one thing to the person's face and another behind their back (gossip / slander)
  • make promises or say 'yes' to things they have no intention of keeping
  • blame
  • attack
  • give the silent treatment
  • use sarcasm
  • give in because we don't want to be rejected or disliked
  • 'leak' your anger through triangulation (explain) or using e-mail or text that uses criticism
  • tell only half truths - we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings
  • avoid/ withdraw/ cut off
Jesus did not avoid conflict.  He is the perfect model for us.  "Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around Him.  He refused to 'spiritualize away" conflict."  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Note:  check out the audio version of each lesson that will be posted the week following the original presentation to get the explanations and illustrations that may be mentioned in the notes each week.


This lesson and the next couple of weeks is on identifying the problem (refer back to quagmire monologue).  It’s just like a math equation – if we don’t know the problem.. we cannot find the solution - Or for that matter, the solution-giver, Jesus Christ.  
2 ___ 2 =    What’s the answer?  We won’t know unless we can identify the details of the problem – is it a -, + , x ???  The same is true of our life issues… we must identify the details of the problem or get to a place where we even admit we have a problem!  
I have met hundreds of people over the years - And many I have discovered have matured physically but not mentally, emotionally relationally or spiritually.  I know individuals, including myself that started this journey of self-awareness and healing to find themselves being emotionally stuck at an age far younger than their physical bodies.  Personally.. I think when I started pursuing recovery, my mind and emotions and my relational abilities were probably about at an 18 or 19 year old level but physically I was 28.  I deal with individuals in  counseling that mature physically and still relate and deal with their feelings and relationships as if they were in their early 20’s or younger and sometimes even throw tantrums like they were still toddlers. Can you relate?  Truth – when we have something traumatic happen, begin to use addictive substances or have some other form of tragedy in our growing up years, we often stagnate at that point in certain areas of our lives.  For example… the person who starts smoking marijuana or abusing other substances at 15 years of age will more than likely grow into adulthood with the relational abilities of a 15 year old.  
Could it be that part of the issue in the Body of Christ today is exactly what we are talking about here?  Christ followers who came to a saving knowledge of Jesus 20+ years ago but still act like they are a 1 year old Christian?  Could it be that this is the reason many make such lousy human beings – they are simply stuck in their development?  I think so!  The other part of the problem also revolves around misapplied biblical truths that not only damage our closest relationships but also obstruct God’s work of profoundly transforming us deep beneath the surface – remember the iceberg?
Here are the Top Ten Symptoms of Unhealthy Spirituality most of which come from Peter Scazzero’s book.  I will go through the list and then we will go back and spend some time looking at each.  You will find some overlap in the list I gave you last week which was “Why Christians are not Healthy/ Whole”:    
       1.    Using God to Run from God
2.    Ignoring emotions
3.    Dying to the wrong things
4.    Denying the past’s impact on our lives
5.    Dividing our lives into ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ compartments
6.    Doing for God instead of ‘being’ with God
7.    Spiritualizing away conflict       
8.    Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9.    Living without limits
10.       Judging other people’s spiritual journey

(edited version from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
1.   Using God to Run from God – Few killer viruses are more difficult to discern than this one.  Tons of Christian activities – filling all your time to keep from dealing with pain.  We dealt with this issue in the last class I taught (Telling Yourself the Truth) as we talked about the truth ‘Life is Hard/Not Fair and Growth & Healing are Painful’.. however, we all have the tendency of avoiding anything and everything uncomfortable and definitely painful!  So we run from pain instead of embracing it which in essence is running from God.  What we need to do is very similar to child birth.. relax and work with the pain.. the more an expectant mother fights the pain she is in , the harder the labor.  The same is true for any emotional challenges we face… we need to embrace it, allow it to teach us, train us, grow us and then we will be able to release and heal..  Most Christians fall into this camp of dealing with pain – using God stuff to run from God… running from pain is running from God…  God calls us to enter into the sufferings of Christ… and let’s face it, it is in the valleys we grow..
What is God’s will for us?  Romans 8:29…”we are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ” We like 8:28 (all things work together for the good) and skip 8:29… or we especially skip the knowledge of how vs 29 is going to happen in our lives. Folks – it’s going to take working through pain.. dealing with discomfort.. moving through it, not making attempts to go around it.
Here are some examples of God-activity that helps us ignore difficult areas in our lives that God wants to change:
·        Doing God’s work to satisfy me, not Him
·        Doing things in His name that He never asked me to do (1 of the 10 commandments) – taking His name in vain (explain).  I heard a teaching from Pastor Shawn Hennessey – about taking God’s name in vain -- it is not about ‘swearing’ as most of us might think…. It’s about putting God’s stamp of approval on things that are not of Him at all.
Vain – def – idle, worthless, foolish – implies either absolute or relative absence of value.
·        Praying according to God doing my will not my surrendering to His – How many of us pray this way regularly – "God help me do.. God bless this" ..and the reality is, we have never consulted Him on what He wants.. instead we are coming up with what we want and desire and then ask Him to bless it and make it happen.. God’s word says that when our prayers go answered it is possible that not only is it that we simply "don’t ask, but when we ask, we ask amiss”..  that’s what that passage is talking about in John 16..
·        Demonstrating “Christian behaviors” so significant people think well of me – wear masks/ pretend/ present a false self
·        Focusing on certain theological points that are more about my own fears and unresolved issues/ things I am uncomfortable with than concern for God’s truth.  (ex: 1 Cor 14:40 – “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”)
·        Using truth to judge and devalue others – there is a difference between judging and looking at behaviors and situations realistically/ factually
·        Exaggerating my accomplishments for God to subtly compete with others – my church (pastor speaking) has 1,000 members, I have read through the entire Bible 12 times, I fast 5 times a year, etc..
·        Saying ‘the Lord told me…’ when the truth is, ‘I think the Lord told me …’ – this can definitely be a form of manipulation – what happens in prayer lines & alter calls
·        Using Scripture to justify the sinful parts of my family, culture, and nation instead of evaluating them under His Lordship – we can truly find Scripture to validate almost anything WE want – another reason why we need to be diligent about proper study of God’s word – consider the context, the culture, the audience, and the totality of God’s word and truth
·        Hiding behind God-talk/ Christianeze, deflecting any spotlight on my inner cracks and becoming defensive about my failures – What does this look like?  Ever been in a discussion group where it starts to get really personal and someone there is obviously uncomfortable with that – all of a sudden they take things from a deep sharing level back up to the surface by offering pat answers and Christian clichés – sometimes it’s even the person who is sharing – they start getting in touch with deep emotion and quickly dismiss it by spouting off Scripture and clichés. Examples: Ro 8:28, when God gives you lemons, make lemonade, no pain, no gain
·        Applying Biblical principles selectively when it suits my purposes but avoid situations that would require me to make life changes

Join me next week as I team teach with my husband, Mike Smith to complete the lesson on "Defining the Problem".  

GROUP WORK – LESSON 2 - Parts 1 & 2

1.  Of the 10 Symptoms of Unhealthy Spirituality, which one(s) do you identify with the most?   
1.     Using God to run from God
2.    Ignoring emotions
3.    Dying to the wrong things
4.    Denying the past’s impact on our lives
5.    Dividing our lives into ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ compartments
6.    Doing for God instead of ‘being’ with God
7.    Spiritualizing away conflict       
8.    Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9.    Living without limits
      10.    Judging other people’s spiritual journey

2.  With the discussion/ materials presented for 'using God to run from God', what were some of the things you have used in the past to run from God's will/ what He was asking you to do?

3.  Do you see any compartmentalizing in your own life or the lives of those you are in relationship with?  Share.

4.  Discuss some of the healthy limits and boundaries you have placed on your life that help you in moving toward balance.

5.  What are some of the prejudices you have had in the past or currently?