Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving  - it's the first of 3 holidays coming up…
Sheesh.. are holidays really necessary?, some of us may think.  Well.. we need to be aware of the fact that holidays can have a different meaning and purpose in our lives than those perhaps that we have learned over the years or what the world continues to teach us.

The word holiday comes from the Greek word “kadosh” which means to set apart from sin; to devote to God – ‘holy day’ – ha!  I think our holidays are very far removed from being holy these days…  (my story.. memories of the day before Thanksgiving – did you know that the night before Thanksgiving is the highest drinking day of the year – what? That's right; over and above New Years Eve) 

The Bible is full of examples of holidays..  especially in the old testament..  many were days of feasts, celebration, work was prohibited, people gathered for worship
Other holidays were more solemn.. they were opportunities for national repentance & cleansing, self-examination, and self denial like the ‘Day of Atonement’

What this means to us is that there truly is an appropriate time for both…  you can make them what you need them to be as God guides you..
Perhaps this Thanksgiving you need separation and consecration to God during this time..   Or.. maybe you need to celebrate – rejoice – bask in the joy of gratitude…

No matter where you are or what you need, there are reasons for you to participate in some way in the Holidays…..’Holy Days’.. you/ we may just need to re-define them…..  so.. let’s focus on that…

Re-defining Participation in the Holidays - "Holy Days"

1)    Allow them to be personal – what you need and what God has designed for you – celebration or…. separation & consecration – we can actually take this time as a time to rest despite the presumed busyness – it will take discipline and some scheduling but we can do it!
2)    Allow yourself to go through them right where you are --- but keep pressing toward truth, change, new experiences.  What does this mean?  Perhaps things are strained in your family right now and you are not in a good place emotionally.. give yourself permission to just ‘be’ and know your limitations.  Don’t do things out of obligation.. only do those things out of ‘obedience’..  What is God asking of you – not, what are others expecting out of you/ guilting you to do?  Perhaps you are single and you don’ t have family in the area – maybe God wants you to reach out to others and make a change this year – you provide something for those in the same situation (I know someone who is doing this for Thanksgiving - what a blessing)  Again, remember to chose 'Obedience' not 'Obligation'
3)    Allow this time to be a cultivation of the attitude of gratitude…   (our family – we have a bean tradition at Thanksgiving that I picked up from Focus on the Family many years ago – sharing at the table what we are thankful for as the basket goes around and we put our bean in the basket.  These have been very precious times in our family) --- Set aside time to remind yourself of the goodness of God.. Through others, through remembering answered prayer, through His word..  Let’s look at:

Psalm 103 Of David.

 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
       all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
       and forget not all his benefits-

 3 who forgives all your sins
       and heals all your diseases,

 4 who redeems your life from the pit
       and crowns you with love and compassion,

 5 who satisfies your desires with good things
       so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

 6 The LORD works righteousness
       and justice for all the oppressed.

 7 He made known his ways to Moses,
       his deeds to the people of
 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
       slow to anger, abounding in love.

 9 He will not always accuse,
       nor will he harbor his anger forever;

 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
       or repay us according to our iniquities.

 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
       so great is his love for those who fear him;

 12 as far as the east is from the west,
       so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
       so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

 14 for he knows how we are formed,
       he remembers that we are but dust. 

4 Reasons to give Thanks
not only does is affect our mood and attitude but…
1)  We have the opportunity to experience peace

 Philippians 4:6-7 (New King James Version) 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

2)  It gives us perspective on how Big God Is!

Psalm 69:30 (Amplified Bible)I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify Him with thanksgiving,

Magnify the Lord - I always thought of this word as the same as praise because it is typically in context with praise and worship in the Word.  However, consider this:  when we magnify the Lord - we make Him bigger! and bigger!  As God is magnified, made bigger in our lives, our problems, challenges, difficulties become smaller.

3)  It gives God glory!  

2 Corinthians 4:15 (New King James Version)15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

4)  Because Jesus Did!

1Cor 11:23-24  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Many of us have lost loved ones – probably all of us – and for some of us – it’s been recent – maybe this year, last year, a few years ago.. and every holiday we remember.. we go over memories of holidays with those who are no longer with us..    Maybe you smell something or see something that will all of a sudden remind you of them.. and then your heart is flooded with emotion.. your mind is filled with all the memories. 

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, challenged us… He challenged us to remember at the Lord’s supper/ His final Passover meal..…  Even though we never touched him.. walked this earth with Him..  He wants us to remember just like we are taken back in time when we smell, see, taste something that reminds us of those we love who have gone before us.  

What do we remember?  Do you remember the answered prayers this month, this week? Remember His provision…  remember His protection? Do you remember the first time you experienced His forgiveness?  Remember the first time you felt His presence/ His love?    We can all be thankful no matter what our circumstances may be today..  Let’s give thanks today as we spend time together with our friends and loved ones.  Let's redefine our 'holy days' this year and make them better than they ever have been before!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lillian Easterly-Smith, LifeCare: BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF

Lillian Easterly-Smith, LifeCare: BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF: "THE PATHWAY TO HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 7BECOMING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF Augustine wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far f..."


Augustine wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”  He prayed, “Grant, Lord that I may know myself that I may know you”.   
St. Teresa of Avila wrote “Almost all problems in the spiritual life stem from a lack of self-knowledge”  I would have to agree. 
We talked briefly in our last lesson about the practices in a Christian’s life that may or may not be part of our current journey.  I added one that I know Pastor Peter would agree with but was not part of his list in his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – the practice of daily self-reflection/ self-examination (Psalm 139).  I mentioned that this practice is one that is highly encouraged in the 12 Step Program.. it’s Step 10 – ‘daily take a personal inventory of ourselves, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it’.  People in recovery understand the need for keeping short accounts in order to stay healthy & sober.. people in recovery also understand the huge need for self-examination and reflection.  ALL PEOPLE  should realize it’s importance.  We all have blind spots.. if we are going to eliminate them, we have to take the time to allow God to search us and then be willing to face what He reveals.
When we consider this lesson about becoming our ‘authentic self’, we must realize that doing Step 10 – our self-examination has to be a priority.  Sadly, most people are clueless about who they are these days… and sadly, most people who do, don’t like who they are.  Most are living someone else's life or someone else’s expectations of them.  So how do we get there?  How do we find our authentic self?  We have to first start out with owning our emotions. Researchers have classified them into some main groupings:
§        Anger (fury, hostility, irritability, annoyance, frustration)
§        Sadness (grief, self-pity, despair, dejection, loneliness)
§        Fear (anxiety, edginess, nervousness, fright, terror, apprehension)
§        Enjoyment (joy, relief, contentment, delight, thrill, euphoria, ecstasy)
§        Love (acceptance, trust, devotion, adoration)
§        Surprise (shock, amazement, wonder)
§        Disgust (contempt, scorn, aversion, distaste, revulsion)
§        Shame (guilt, remorse, humiliation, embarrassment, chagrin)

Once we identify them/ name them, we need to express them – the goal is to express them in a healthy manner but.. oftentimes when we haven’t allowed ourselves to ‘feel’ for so long, we don’t know how and we may have never seen a healthy model of expression either.  
Pastor Peter learned some things about non-expression the hard way.  He says "to deny our pain, losses and feelings year after year, we become less and less human.  We transform slowly into empty shells with smiley faces painted on them.  Sad to say, that is the fruit of much of our discipleship in our churches.”  When he began to allow himself to feel, he also began to understand that the failure to appreciate the biblical place of feelings within our Christian lives has done extensive damage, keeping people in slavery – and he was one of them.

Give yourself permission to feel and know it is Biblically correct.  God feels.  You feel.  God thinks.  You think.  God wills.  You will.  We are human beings made in His likeness and part of His likeness is to feel.  

Biblical support that God feels:   
Genesis 6:6 – grieved, 
Exodus 20:5 – jealous, 
Hosea 11:8 – compassion, 
Matthew 26:37-38 – sorrowful, 
Mark 3:5 – anger, 
Luke 10:21 – full of joy
If you were like me and had frozen feelings or perhaps you are totally unaware of your emotions, you may struggle with some of the following beliefs/ excuses of which we need to attend to:
§        I’m just not good at feelings and I really don’t have time for this.  My family was more about ‘doing’.
§        I don’t know what I am feeling – it’s all a big blur.
§        At times, when I am going to interact with authority figures or somebody I don’t know, I get physical sensations but I don’t know why it is happening (that’s an indication you are feeling something – often our bodies react/ feel before it registers in our minds anyway)
§        Sometimes I’m flooded by emotions that disorganize and confuse me.
§        After a difficult meeting with someone (conflict), I get depressed and I don’t know why
§        When I feel bad, I can’t tell if I’m scared or angry
§        I carry an overwhelming feeling that I am shameful, guilty and/or defective
§        I was taught that nice girls don’t get angry and big boys don’t cry (I read a book by Bill Hybel’s wife – he is the pastor of Willowcreek Community Church in Chicago – Good girls don’t change the world – she talks about her own journey out of depression and how for years she was a ‘false self’.. after getting counseling and help, she wrote this book which again, establishes the truth and need for us to deal with the stuff underneath that iceberg and come into our authentic self)
Truth: one of our greatest obstacles to knowing and loving God is our own lack of self-knowledge and authenticity.  We end up wearing masks before God (as if we could really hide something) 

In ‘The Cry of the Soul’, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman summarize why awareness of our feelings is so important:
“Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality.  Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God...Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice…However, we often turn a deaf ear – through emotional denial, distortion, or disengagement.  We strain out anything disturbing in order to gain tenuous control of our inner world.  We are frightened and ashamed of hat leaks into our consciousness. In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to our selves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know god. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.”
One way we have discussed in prior classes that helps us in allowing ourselves to experience the full weight of emotion is to journal our feelings without censoring them.  This is a very helpful exercise.. difficult at times, but helpful… Interesting that Pastor Peter now considers experiencing the full weight of emotion, expressing them, going over them prayerfully and thoughtfully after that expression and allowing God to speak to you in the midst is the first step to real discipleship.  I agree!   

How to get started:
Journal, share, express your feelings about:
-        the church (your church/ the Body of Christ)
-        your life (this encompasses a lot – your work, ministry, character)
-        the different relationships you have (spouse, friends, family members, children)

Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness outline three false identities or masks that Satan offers each of us.  These thoughts come from Pastor Peter Scazzero.  Before Jesus enters the wilderness we see Him in the river with John the Baptizer when the Spirit descends on Him as a dove and we hear the confirming words from the Father of who He is – Matthew 3:17, “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” – oh.. words we all need to hear from the Father and He speaks them to us regularly – but do we hear?  Do we listen?  So what do we see in this? – We see/ hear God affirming Jesus – You are lovable.  You are good.  It is good that you exist.  Several statements that counter many of the lies we believe.  
At this point, Jesus hasn’t performed any miracles or died on the cross.  Nonetheless, he receives an experiential affirmation that he is deeply loved for who HE IS – not what he does.  There is a huge message here for us!!  Now.. we can chose to dismiss this and say.. yeah but.. He was the son of God… This same love and acceptance is available to all of us through Jesus Christ – it is real!  It is true!
Peter Scazzero is quoted in his book saying.. I love this: “Living and swimming in the river of God’s deep love for us in Christ is at the very heart of true spirituality.  Soaking in this love enables us to surrender to God’s will, especially when it seems so contrary to what we can see, feel, or figure out ourselves.  This experiential knowing of God’s love and acceptance provides the only sure foundation for loving and accepting our true selves.  Only the love of God in Christ is capable of bearing the weight of our true identity.”  Love it!
Before we go into some of the lies that threaten us and keep us from fully experiencing God’s love, let’s have a look at what it will take to experience the perfect love the Bible talks about. 
-        Love is the most positive of our emotions and the first of the fruit of the Spirit
-        Truth is: few people ever fully experience love.  Studies relate that 90% of married couples ever do.
-        There are 4 definitions for love:  1. love is the ability to put others before ourselves 2. love is to accept someone else exactly as they are.  3. Love is never having to say I’m sorry (from the movie Love Story), and 4. Love is emotional fulfillment.  Biblical definitions of: phileo - friendship, eros - romantic, agape - unconditional
-        The Bible challenges us to experience perfect love.  Why would we be satisfied with anything less? Don’t!   1John 4:7 says “ 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  – so.. those who do not love, do not know God.  Why?  Because the basic attribute of God is LOVE!  He is LOVE!
So.. how do we get there?  How do we get to a place of being able to experience this kind of perfect love?
1.    We must realize that this perfect love must and does start with God!  This is not something we ‘muster up’ inside of ourselves.  However, we can believe that God has given us the ability and potential to fully love – read 1 John 4
2.    Perfect love demands a breaking process.  We all of the tendency to be self-centered.  Therefore, God uses crises and a variety of things to break us… bring us to a place of humility and willingness.
3.    Perfect love can be stymied by our personal hang-ups – therefore, we have to deal with our personal hang-ups.  1John 4:18 “there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear”.. Love truly has the potential to cast out all our fears – now that’s exciting!!!
4.    Perfect love often puts others before ourselves.  Eric Fromm is quoted in one of his books as saying “…in the very act of giving, we experience strength, wealth, and power…giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of our aliveness” – and I might add, our love.  Now.. I think it is important to mention at this point that if we do not practice self-care and deal with our issues and discover who we are, we will never ‘fully love’..  Loving and serving others has to come from within.. if we have nothing to give because we have never attended to the self, we are not going to be able to fulfill God’s call for us to love well.

5.      Perfect love is a willingness to hurt with others.   We need to embrace our urges of compassion…  ‘rejoice with others but also be willing to ‘weep with those who weep’ as God’s word instructs.  1 John 3:17 (New International Version)

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person?

1.       As we consider becoming our authentic self, we see the importance of identifying and expressing our feelings.  Of the categories shared, which do you find easiest to express in a healthy manner for you personally and which are the more difficult for you?
2.       Of the list of struggles/ beliefs shared this evening, which are areas you are having to press through in order to feel?
3.       Share your thoughts and reactions to Peter Scazzero’s quote: “Living and swimming in the river of God’s deep love for us in Christ is at the very heart of true spirituality.  Soaking in this love enables us to surrender to God’s will, especially when it seems so contrary to what we can see, feel, or figure out ourselves.  This experiential knowing of God’s love and acceptance provides the only sure foundation for loving and accepting our true selves.  Only the love of God in Christ is capable of bearing the weight of our true identity.” 
4.       On a scale from 1-10, share your present condition as it relates to experiencing love:  for God, from God, from others, for others.  Of the list we went through, what are those that God is showing you that need to be focused on to bring the # up on the scale?
Homework:  this week, pick one of these categories and practice .. Journal, share, express your feelings about:
-        the church (your church/ the Body of Christ)
-        your life (this encompasses a lot – your work, ministry, character)
-        the different relationships you have (spouse, friends, family members, children)

Friday, November 5, 2010


The last several week of our class has given us a lot of information on detecting unhealthiness and also outlined a bit of the goal / what health looks like in a Christ follower and just briefly on how to begin the journey.  Tonight and the next several weeks, we are going to go into great detail on the ‘how to’s’. 
The first thing we need to do is to plan and prepare for the journey.  Pastor Peter calls these gifts – the three gifts of integrating emotional health and contemplative spirituality.  We are simply going to call them gifts you need to give to yourself while preparing and walking through this journey of coming into healthy spirituality:
1.      the gift of slowing down
2.      the gift of anchoring in God’s love; and
3.      the gift of breaking free from illusions.
1. The Gift of Slowing Down:  almost everyone is busy.. too busy..  Mike spoke a couple of weeks ago about setting limits and boundaries and that is a sign of spiritual health.  At this stage of the process.. we have to begin to practice some limits/ some slowing down strategies in order to get to where God wants us to be.  All of us are probably too active right now to have time for the kind of reflection we need to do this… reflection that allows for an inward journey, listening to God and ourselves.  We must take time to slow down and reflect.  This is where journaling comes in.. take time to write, think, contemplate.

Many of us have heard the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10:38-42 

 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
   41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Most of us have heard and read that story and we think immediately that Martha was being reprimanded for being busy and yet.. what she was tending to were all things that needed to be taken care of.  I want to offer you a new perspective – one that I learned a long time ago and one that Pastor Peter brings out in the book.  You see.. Martha’s problem went far beyond busyness – her life was uncentered and divided.  I believe that if Martha sat down at Jesus’ feet like Mary did, she would still be busy and distracted inside.  Her inner self is touchy, irritable, and anxious.  One of the surest signs of her life being out of order was the fact that she even told Jesus what to do!!  J
Mary was ‘being’ with Jesus.  She had the ability to be in the moment/ to be fully present with Him.  She was able to enjoy intimacy with Him – She was fully engaged and in tune with Jesus.  I believe that even if she was helping Martha with the household chores/ preparations, she would not be worried or upset.  Why?  Because her inner self has slowed down enough to focus on Jesus and He has become the center of her life.
Now, in order for us to get to a place like Mary, we have to start by stopping!  In our initial stopping and slowing down, we will create a familiarity with God’s presence, we will then learn how to be fully conscious of Him at all times because we will recognize Him and be deeply rooted in Him.    Not only that, but recovery/ healing / growth takes time – make a decision to give it 100%.  It takes time to grieve, feel, listen, reflect… and learn how to love well.  The goal of our lives, should be to love well.  Genuine fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is marked by supernatural love working in and through us (1 Cor 13)
So.. in order to reach our goals/ which I believe are God’s goals for us – spiritual health – we have to set aside some time for it.  We must set limits with His help that are related to our personalities, temperament, gift mix, physical, emotional and spiritual capacity. Therefore, your journey is going to look differently for each of you.
2. The Gift of Anchoring in God’s Love:  Christianity is not about our disciplined pursuits of God… it’s about God’s relentless pursuit of us.  God loves us so intensely, He died for us.. He loves us so much that when we turn back to Him after our wanderings, all of heaven breaks out in celebration (see Luke 15:7).   Most of us believe this intellectually but experiencing His infinite love in our hearts, is another matter.  Why?
The voices in our world, from within, and from our past seem to be much louder than God’s voice/ His truth.  We all have some deeply held beliefs that are tripping us up and keeping us from fully being anchored in God’s love.  Some of these negative beliefs are:
·        I am a mistake
·        ..a burden
·        ..stupid
·        ..worthless
·        ..not allowed to make mistakes
·        I must be approved of by certain people to feel okay
·        I don’t have the right to experience joy and pleasure
·        ..have the right to assert myself and say what I think and feel
·        ..have a right to feel
·        I am valued based on my intelligence, wealth, and what I do, not for who I am.
Any of these sound familiar?  It is astounding how many Christ followers would say yes to so many of these beliefs.

As we move toward getting anchored in God’s love, and how deeply he loves us –receive the prayer from the Apostle Paul in Eph 3:18-19 (New Living Translation)

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
When we are anchored in God’s love, we will have a more biblical self-understanding:
·        I hold myself in high regard despite my imperfections and limits
·        I am worthy to assert my God-given power in the world
·        I am entitled to exist
·        It is good that I exist
·        I have my own identity from God that is distinct and unique
·        I am worthy of being valued and paid attention to
·        I am entitled to joy and pleasure
·        I am entitled to make mistakes and not be perfect
Your assignment – take some of the above and write them out as affirmations that you carry with you for the next several seeks and leave them in places where you will run into them and read them regularly throughout the course of your day.
I must also learn that anchoring myself in God’s love is going to mean that I must be ok with Him using human love for me to receive His love.  Defensive walls we have built must come down. 
So how can we practice contemplative spirituality and anchor ourselves in God’s love?
Practice (go through list then go back):
·        Silence
·        Solitude
·        Daily meditation on God’s word
·        Daily Prayer
·        Daily time of self-reflection
·        Practice the Sabbath
Repeat and add comments…
·        Daily meditation on God’s word
·        Daily Prayer – both of which help us to stop daily/ regularly so we can be mindful of His presence.  Mother Theresa required her missionaries of charity to spend three one-hour blocks of time each day for prayer to sustain their love for God and the dying.  St. Francis of Assisi left the monasteries for the streets to proclaim Christ but had a rhythm of leaving the cities to be alone with God for days and weeks at a time.
We may not be called to be monks, but we can learn many things from them as we seek to follow Christ.  Example:  one of my counselees is going through a healing process and really seeking to be anchored in God’s love.  She is beginning to understand and see the value in time alone away from all the routine and busyness of life.  So.. this week she is going to a camp/ lodge – spending the whole week with no technology – only her Bible and workbook she has been going through with me for her healing journey.  She was also intentional about picking a place that is close by where she went to high school.  She has some very painful memories there and plans to visit and allow herself to feel/ grieve/ deal with the emotions and memories of those events and allow God to speak truth and healing to her.  Journaling is another exercise that we could all benefit from that she will be doing as well.
·        Daily time of self-reflection (Step 10) – in order to become and stay healthy, we need to be self-aware (Ps 139)  If we choose to do this at the end of every day, it will also enable us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude as we reflect over the day and the blessings God has given and even the things He potentially spared us from.
·        Practice the Sabbath – stopping one day a week to rest to delight in God’s creation and to take care of ourselves not only anchors me in God’s love but anchors me in the practice of ‘being’ not simply ‘doing’.
All of these help us to Stop!  And enable us to become more and more aware of who God is and His inexhaustible love for us.  As we practice these things regularly and do our self-reflection, we will begin to see our image of God change.  Some of us have a very skewed image of who He is.  We may see Him as the celestial watchmaker in the sky – He created the word and set things in motion but He doesn’t really have any direct involvement any longer.  We may see Him as an angry, punishing God or we may see him as demanding and anti-human.  We may even see Him as being totally passive about our lives and needs.  I have mentioned this before but the research proves that much of our image of God comes from that of our parents – especially our fathers.  So, if our father was not spiritually healthy and mature, more than likely, we have some issues to work through as it relates to our Heavenly Father.  Scripture reveals our Heavenly Father as one who seeks our good in any and every situation.  And He also seeks to mature us as His children.
Brennan Manning summarizes the results of anchoring in the love of God as this:
“It is always true to some extent that we make our images of God.  It is even truer that our image of God makes us.  Eventually we become like the God we image.  One of the most beautiful fruits of knowing the God of Jesus is a compassionate attitude towards ourselves…This is why Scripture attaches such importance to knowing God.  Healing our image of God heals our image of ourselves.”
God delights in us.. He wants us to delight in Him, know Him, trust Him, be anchored in His love!
Finally.. the third gift of integrating emotional health and contemplative spirituality is:
3.   The Gift of Breaking Free from Illusions – The call to healthy spirituality is a call to a radical, counterculture life.  I must:
·        Break free to live in the truth – stop pretending – be authentic and let others know what is really taking place inside of me
·        Break free by choosing to live the unique life God has designed for me and not someone else’s (to find out more come to the God’s GPS seminar next Saturday)
·        Break free from the need to attach yourself to accomplishments, things, people’s approval to feel ok about who you are.
·        Break free from generational patterns of your family and culture that negatively affect how you relate and live today
·        Break free from the illusion that there is something richer, more beautiful, than the gift of loving and being loved
·        Break free from the layers of your false self
·        Break free from wrong perspectives on life and see your life as Christ defines success
·        Break free from any belief that prevents us from seeing our lives as a vapor.  We can live in the reality of eternity each day and not the shortness of this earthly life.
·        Break free from selfish desires that consistently move us away from God’s will for our lives.
David, a man after God’s own heart, modeled beautifully for us the integration of emotional health and comtemplative spirituality in Ps 55:1-2, 4-5, 16-17

 (New Living Translation)

Psalm 55

 1 Listen to my prayer, O God.
      Do not ignore my cry for help!
 2 Please listen and answer me,
      for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
 4 My heart pounds in my chest.
      The terror of death assaults me.
 5 Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
      and I can’t stop shaking.

 16 But I will call on God,
      and the Lord will rescue me.
 17 Morning,
noon, and night
      I cry out in my distress,
      and the Lord hears my voice.

1.  How will you begin to give yourself the gift of ‘slowing down’ this week?  What benefits do you expect to receive from this practice?
2.  Are you a Mary or a Martha currently? (Remember the proper interpretation of this text in Luke)  Explain.
3.  What are some of the deeply held beliefs that are tripping you up in your walk toward maturity?
Examples shared were:
I am a mistake  ..a burden  ..stupid ..worthless ..not allowed to make mistakes …I must be approved of by certain people to feel okay ….I don’t have the right to experience joy and pleasure...have the right to assert myself and say what I think and feel...have a right to feel…I am valued based on my intelligence, wealth, and what I do, not for who I am.
4.What does anchoring yourself in God’s love mean to you?  Of the practices discussed, which are you currently doing and which are you going to be working on incorporating?
·        Silence
·        Solitude
·        Daily meditation on God’s word
·        Daily Prayer
·        Daily time of self-reflection
·        Practice the Sabbath
Hold one another accountable to do the assignment – write out affirmations that you carry with you for the next several seeks and leave them in places where you will run into them and read them regularly throughout the course of your day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY - LESSON 5: Beginning Transformation to the Deep Places

Last week we discussed the final symptoms of unhealthy spirituality and started the beginnings of bringing transformation to the deep places in our lives.  I recently finished reading through the Bible – The Message paraphrase and I marked a page that I wanted to go back to.  It is the introduction that Eugene Peterson wrote to the book of Jude in the Bible.  It says this: ‘Our spiritual communities are as susceptible to disease as our physical bodies.  But it is easier to detect whatever is wrong in our stomachs and lungs than to our worship and witness.  When our physical bodies are sick or damaged, the pain calls our attention to this, and we hopefully do something about it.  But a dangerous, even deadly, virus in our spiritual communities can go undetected for a long time.  As much as we need physicians for our bodies, we have even greater need for diagnosticians and healers of the [emotions] and the spirit.”
So true… my prayer is that as a result of the time we have and are spending in identifying unhealthy spirituality, it will enable us to diagnosis ourselves and our communities we are worshiping in so we can be a help to others.

So.. what makes it so difficult to follow Jesus today and become spiritually healthy?  Besides our unhealthiness in all the parts of who we are, what prevents us from becoming all God intends?
Os Guiness says it has a lot to do with our culture.  “The global culture is the beast that threatens to swallow us up in these days.  The core values in the twenty-first century scream at us from computers, billboards, televisions, DVDs, music, schools, newspapers, magazines and iPods.”  We have lost a Biblical worldview…   

Our worldview comes from what the world tells us:
·        Happiness is found in having things  
·        You should get all you can for yourself, as quickly as you can
·        Security is found in money, power, status, and good health

Matthew 6:32-34 (New International Version)

32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

·        Above all, you should seek all the pleasure, convenience and comfort you can
·        God is irrelevant to everyday life
·        Christianity if just one of many alternative spiritualities
·        There are no moral absolutes; whatever is true for you is what is true
John 14:6
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
·        You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself
Galatians 6:1
[ Doing Good to All ] Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
·        This life on earth is all there is

All of these feed our fears, mistrust, fierce self-will, stubbornness and rebellion.

The apostle Paul had the courage to look within as we read in Romans 7:21-24 (New International Version)

 21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Do we have that same courage?  

--A person can grow emotionally healthy without Christ. 
--A person can grow physically healthy without Christ or mentally for that matter.  You can all probably think of people who are non-Christian that are more loving, balanced and civil than many in our churches. 
At the same time, we can find people who are deeply committed to contemplative prayer/ spirituality like a monk perhaps that is emotionally unaware, out of tune with themselves and socially maladjusted.   How can this be? 

Very few people integrate working towards emotional health and contemplative spirituality.   
Let’s break the 2 down (from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality):
Emotional Health is concerned with such things as:

·        Naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings
·        Identifying with and having active compassion for others (discuss personality and gifting differences here - DISC, True Colors) Even though our personality has natural bents, this cannot be an excuse for not developing mercy, care, compassion - we are all called to become like Christ.
·        Initiating and maintaining close and meaningful friendships
·        Breaking free from self-destructive patterns and habits (we are all sin addicts - what has a hold of you? controlling you? - if anything other that Christ is, you have some work to do to remove idols in your life)
·        Being aware of how our past impacts our present
·        Developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly, both verbally and non verbally
·        Respecting and loving others without having to change them (acceptance/ live &; let live – discuss honoring parents that we can’t respect)
·        Asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly and respectfully
·        Accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others
·        Learning the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others
·        Distinguishing and appropriately expressing our sexuality and sensuality, and,
·        Grieving well  (why do you think this is on the list? - most believers do not 'encourage' grieving.. they try to put a band-aid on it)

Let’s go back and discuss the area of ‘needs’ briefly.  ·  Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  

I think that often we read this scripture and we don’t realize the conditions that go with it.  Let’s look at the requirements that the Lord has established as boundaries around His promise to supply our needs:

OBEDIENCE – We cannot live in sin and disobedience and expect God to give us everything we request – including our needs.  Psalm 84:11

 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
       the LORD bestows favor and honor;
       no good thing does he withhold
       from those who walk uprightly

This does not mean those who are sinless.. the focus is the intent of the heart – those whose hearts are bent toward the Lord and they want to please Him.  God assumes full responsibility for meeting the needs of those who obey Him and remember His word says “those who love me, obey me” – obedience is a byproduct of fully loving and being devoted to God.
Sometimes God will cause us to do without in order to bring us back to Himself (Luke 15:11-24).

ASK -  Just like what we learned healthy spirituality consists of:  Asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly and respectfully.  We have to be willing to first of all ask God to supply what we lack.  What is your first response when an unexpected problem arises?  Immediately bring it to the Lord or do you resort to worry, maneuvering, manipulating, figuring out how to handle it yourself?  We are told repeatedly in God’s word to come to Him with our requests (Phil 4:6).  Asking God for help and asking Him to meet our needs shows that our attitude is one of humble dependence on Him and not prideful self-reliance. Even if we have the resources and smarts to take care of ourselves, we should still recognize that all of it comes from HIM!

BELIEVE – When we ask.. we must ask with faith/ belief.  Mark 11:24 (New International Version)

24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Jesus wants us to be confident in the Father’s promises.  Caution: don’t use verses such as this in an attempt to get what you want.  Prayer must always be initiated with pure motives, or it is worthless.   Like it says in

James 4:3 (New International Version)

3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

PARTICIPATE – God is not going to do anything for you that He has already equipped YOU to do.  For example:  what if I was simply trusting God to provide the lesson for next week and I did nothing to prepare for it?  Do you think the Lord would just drop a message in my head next Thursday? (hmmm.. maybe I’ll try that – NOT!).  No, He expects me to prepare and pray.  My laziness would not merit the blessing of God.  

WAIT – God not only knows  WHAT we need but WHEN we need it.  Some of the things we have asked for have already been granted by God, He is just waiting the ordained time to deliver it.  He always knows the best time to grant our petitions.   If you get impatient and try to rush ahead by doing things on your own in your own way, you’ll miss all he originally planned to give you… so…. Try to be patient as you wait and trust..

ACCEPT – God’s way of meeting our needs may not be what you envisioned or hoped.  Have you ever prayed and asked God for something and then proceeded to tell him HOW to He should intervene?  We must be open to whatever way He chooses to provide.

PRIORITIZE – Keep your eyes on the Lord; not on your needs!   And remember.. our greatest needs are not the most obvious ones, but those that have to do with the development of godly character; renewed minds, surrendered wills.  That’s what we should be seeking and asking the Lord to produce in us.

Contemplative spirituality focuses on practices such as:
·        Awakening and surrendering to God’s love in any and every situation
·        Positioning ourselves to hear God and remember His presence in all we do
·        Communing with God, allowing Him to fully indwell the depth of our being
·        Practicing silence, solitude, and a life of unceasing prayer (Apostle Paul – explain praying without ceasing)
·        Resting attentively in the presence of God
·        Understanding our earthly life as a journey of transformation toward ever-increasing union with God
·        Finding the true essence of who we are in God
·        Loving others out of a life of love for God  Romans 5:5
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
·        Developing a balanced, harmonious rhythm of life that enables us to be aware of the sacred in all of life
·        Adapting historic practices of spirituality that are applicable today
·        Allowing our Christian lives to be shaped by the rhythms of the Christian calendar rather than culture (Sabbath/ discuss Lord’s day, etc) and,
·        Living in committed community that passionately loves Jesus above all else!

Together – emotional health and contemplative spirituality unleash the Holy Spirit in us in order that we might know experientially the power of an authentic life in Christ!

1.      Discuss your discipleship experience.  Did it include Contemplative spirituality as discussed this evening?

2.      Discuss your worldview.  How has it been shaped or is currently being shaped in your life?

3.      Discuss the conditions of God ‘meeting needs’.  Of the conditions, which do you find the most difficult for you:

4.       Of the list of contemplative spirituality focuses and practices, which are you currently doing and which were new thoughts/ practices you never considered?  Any that were a surprise?