Giving Up the Outcome–a look at surrender

A friend and I were talking recently about what it really means to “surrender” or “’give up control.” It was a great and enlightening discussion. We first talked about what she had been taught to believe about God being in control.  It’s as if He is both sovereign and powerful but has given up His power to man’s free will, an easily misunderstood teaching. Misunderstandings and slightly off teachings make it easy to draw some hard conclusions about God. If He is all powerful and could control and fix everything but has chosen not to, then one could conclude that He is not a loving and kind God.  From that conclusion, it would be very difficult to “surrender” to Him.

From there I took my friend to another conclusion that fits right here—If I have pain, trials, suffering, or bad circumstances and God is powerful but does not fix what’s wrong, then He is a bad God. These lies about pain seem to be very prevalent. (See my book Re-Framing Your Hurts for more on changing this view.)

Our next path took us to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. My friend had been taught that we should choose to live from the good side of the tree versus the evil side, and if we do, then God will bless us.  This belief leads us to struggle with trying to figure everything out in our own understanding. (Proverbs 3: 5-6).  The next question arose about where, in the Old Testament, Israel was told to follow God and be blessed—and it was so. I countered with another question: “What does it mean for God to bless us?” We agreed that most of us believe it means that good will happen and bad will not.  Israel as a nation had better circumstances when they followed God, but each person still had every-day problems with sickness, losing loved ones, bad crops; bad relationships.  Every jot and tittle of their lives was not always “good” even when the nation was following God.

So from here I took my friend to some new thoughts: We are always blessed; blessed means that we always have God’s love and presence. Blessed is not about circumstances. We mostly judge our lives by whether circumstances are good or bad.  On top of that, we have a distorted view of pain. We take our view of pain from that tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead of the tree of Life.  Our free-will choice is not between something being good or bad, but about whether we choose to focus on God or on our circumstances.  God does not promise us that everything will be wonderful, but He does promise that He will always love us and always be with us. He is with us either way.

Our discussion now went to an example of a difficult circumstance. When a person we love is not walking with God in His ways as we wish they would, we have some choices there.  We can condemn, reject, smother, or let go.  We can punish, nag, or take our hands off (give up control). When we let go, our minds immediately go to “What if. . . ?” We can quickly go to numerous  bad outcomes that are possible if nothing changes in this person’s walk. This is our battle of surrender. Just because we let go and surrender all to God does not mean He will make things come out as we wish, hope, or want. That is the struggle of surrender.  My friend summed it up so well—we have to give up the outcome. We cannot judge who God is, what He is like, our relationship with Him, and who we are based on outcomes. When we get to this point of surrender, now we will realize what we really and truly know and believe about God.

My friend wanted to know how to trust God enough to give up the outcomes that we so long for. So we talked about trust and how knowing the object of the trust was vital. Our discussion came full circle as the questions and thoughts tied together—we can’t trust a god whom we think is powerful but doesn’t fix things, a god whom we see as bad and out to get us because of circumstances in which we are living. We find it very hard to trust a god who allows pain and sorrow. Something has to change in our understanding and deep beliefs. God is not the problem; our circumstances, though often painful and difficult, are not the problem. The problem is our view of God and our view of pain. He wants to change those views so we can freely sit in His lap and know beyond doubt that we are LOVED, that we are SPECIAL, and that He DELIGHTS in us.  He wants us to experience that His grace makes each one of us His Favorite Kid.  He does this as we see Him in the scriptures, read and listen to others who know Him as He is, and as we practice hearing His voice better and stronger. (Living Lesson on Intimacy with Christ)

A good negotiator helps two parties to a place where both benefit and the outcome is better than if the two remained apart.  When we surrender, God benefits.  God gets to be God, He proves His character, He knows what’s best, and resolutions come easier. But most of all, He gets to have His beloved son or daughter cuddle into His lap.  When we surrender, we benefit. We don’t struggle as much trying to get things right, we get all our holes filled up by His love, and we rest.  What could be a better outcome?

For more on surrender, get my workbook for Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  You will need the book and the workbook.

 

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Another Aspect of Comfort after Validation

Last week I had an incident that caused some pain and I wasn’t sure if I was triggered or not. The gist was that I felt accused for something I did not have in my heart, and it hurt.  Most of the time, I tend to think of these kinds of painful bumps as triggers. After doing Immanuel Prayer twice, once to feel the pain and the other to listen to Jesus, I still wasn’t sure what He wanted me to know about it.   During the second time I did hear Jesus tell me to affirm this person rather than giving them a good shame message.  That was a relief to hear. I shared the story with Jim W. and he said that it was possible it was not a lesson but a practice of something to get faster at, reacting differently, a matter of repetition; just practice. This caused me to ponder some new ideas about lessons and growing.

During this time I was reading the section in RARE Leadership by Warner and Wilder, titled “Turning on your VCR—Validation, Comfort, and Re-patterning.”  I have been teaching on Validation and Comfort and liked what the authors said about adding the Re-patterning.  I know validation has to come before comfort and I see comfort as voice tone, facial and body language, and/or proper touches, but here I was reading that helping ourselves or others see an alternative perspective was part of comfort.  Since I am adamant about not trying to “fix” a hurting person, I gave this some thought.  The authors are in agreement that validation comes first and we should not fix people. Then I realized Jesus had given me an alternative perspective when He told me to affirm the person that had hurt me.  So I am adding alternative perspectives to my lessons on Validation and Comfort.  I think it is part of encouraging, which we said comes after the validation and comfort.

So here are some notes from RARE Leadership page 168-169. We are to do these things with ourselves for validation, learn the new patterns, and do them to validate others.

1) Name the emotion

2) Realize where it originated (not necessarily from the past, but the current event. It might or     might not be a trigger. So don’t eliminate possibility of triggers)
3) Understand the level of intensity of the emotion. (Part of synchronizing)

The new pattern is noticing that I am upset (or someone else is,) then validating and comforting, which speeds return to joy. This then sets up a new pattern that helps us self-calm, or calm others, and we can return to joy faster.  (I think the more we do this with ourselves, the easier it will be to do with others.)
     We are meeting someone in their emotion, not in ours; we name it accurately; and they feel understood and cared for. When they feel understood, they will be far more open to an alternative perspective or solution.

So to recap the three steps using my current event—I went home and talked to Jesus saying, ‘I am hurt.’ (named it).  I got hurt when the person said ____ to me and I knew in my heart it wasn’t true (originated).  At first the level of intensity was very big. (Later I realized that might have been the enemy.)  So I felt what I needed to feel and then went about my evening.  Later I wrote in my journal and heard Jesus say to affirm the person and not worry about speaking to them (an alternative perspective).

It was cool to realize while discussing this event at Joy Group that my Relational Circuits did not go off in the moment that the event happened.  Knowing we’ve grown is always a blessing.

I also realized at Joy Group that after this hurtful incident when I was crying with Jesus and letting out the hurt, that the enemy was amplifying attachment pain and making it worse.  I didn’t want to have a rupture with this person—that was the main problem—that I felt disconnected from someone I love very deeply.  Anyway, all in all, getting through the whole thing went a lot faster than the last time someone said I was doing something I didn’t have in my heart. And it went a million times faster than all the times from my distant past when I felt falsely accused.

Validating and comforting ourselves and others changes how we relate, calms upset emotions, and makes it easier to be glad to be together again. We feel loved and understood.

Posted in Current joyful musings, My Journey, Relationships | 2 Comments

It’s Not About Feeling Better–It’s About Feeling

I had a great discussion the other day with a friend who asked some probing questions about ministering to someone in deep grief.  We tossed around some thoughts about the differences in every-day negative emotions and deep emotions from grief.  It’s my opinion that they are a bit different although there are some parallels.

The six basic negative emotions usually last about 90 seconds.  If we have the brain skill of returning to joy (being glad to be together again) from these basic six, then all is well.  If we don’t know how to return to joy from any one of them, the 90 seconds might pass, but we will be left in pain that has to be avoided, denied, or buried.  (For more on dealing with pain see my book Re-framing Your Hurts). (For more on the six negative emotions, see blog Musings on Jesus and the Big Six)

When in deep grief the terrible pain may last around 90 seconds before we take a breath to blow our nose or breathe, but it will come right back in full force.  Grief pain is attachment pain, the worst pain we can feel when someone we want to be with is not available.  If they are unavailable through death, this pain is very nearly unbearable.  We want to die as well. We feel hopeless that life can ever go on again.

So the conversation with my friend concerned how to sit with, listen to, or encourage someone in deep pain such as grief.  This friend has the ‘’gift of encouragement’’ and as we talked about sitting with someone without trying to fix their pain, she seemed taken aback.  How could she fit that with her very precious gift?  Would she have to go against who God has made her to be?

I asked my friend to define “encouragement.”  I had an inkling what that definition would be.  Most of us think along the same lines—encouragement is about helping someone feel better.  As we talked, we realized that encouragement is part of being with someone in their pain, but encouragement works better after we have validated and comforted.  Validation helps us focus on how truly painful the hurt is; how it’s OK to admit how bad it hurts.  Validation gives us permission to feel as bad as we need to feel.  Do we take the chance that the hurting person might hear permission to harm themselves?  Perhaps. But more likely it will help them accept the pain instead of battling it.

Fighting pain does not work very well.  Validation helps us see we are not alone and that someone is at least trying to understand how bad it feels. Validation says something like, “I cannot imagine how much this hurts and I am so sorry.” We can add encouraging suggestions later with ways that might help them get through their deep hurt.

Comfort, via voice tone, body language, proper touch, and facial expressions, has a non-verbal calming effect on hurting people. It’s not our words that help as much as the tone. Both comfort and validation communicate almost on a sub-conscious level that we are not alone, we are loved, and someone cares that we are hurting.

So, back to the conversation with my very encouraging friend.  I realized that encouragement works really well when I am having some kind of relationship problem, I’m confused about something, and/or I am feeling discouraged.  I want to hear how it will be better, what I can do to make it better, that there is nothing wrong with me, and God is on His throne.  When in deep grief, there is really nothing that can make it better.  It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling.  We just need someone to be with us, someone to listen, and someone to let us feel what we need to feel without shame or fear that we aren’t trusting God somehow.  The only way to get through is to go through—and we do this best when not alone.  It’s so helpful to have that support from someone who is like Jesus with “skin on.” And for those times when there is no friend or family to help, we can try to remember that Jesus is always with us; He understands. And we cling to Him as best we can, because He is the best at validation and comfort.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”                                                          2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

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Beginning a Joy Group–How I Facilitate Mine

Joy Groups are beginning to spread and a friend asked me recently if I could write up something about how I facilitate my Joy Group. But first let me answer the question, “What is a Joy Group?” A Joy Group is a group based on material from Life Model Works, materials  that teach how God designed our brains to work and relate through joy-filled relationships. Joy is defined as “Someone is glad to be with me–regardless of my emotions or circumstances.”  My Joy Group has been meeting since 2013 and we are seeing tremendous life changes as we learn relational joy, brain science, how to grow and interact with Jesus, and what to do with emotional pain. We have been using my book, Joy-Filled Relationships (amazon), based on material I’ve learned from my mentor, Dr. Jim Wilder and his ministry, Life Model Works. They have other great resources.

My purpose here is to put into writing how I facilitate my Joy Group. This is, of course, not the only way to have one. These are just suggestions and guidelines. As in all endeavors, we must be Spirit-led.

I see my Joy Group as being a little different from most small groups for several reasons. Joy Group is a place for training because we will not only be learning information, but we will be learning brain skills that are non-verbal and right-brained.  These brain skills cannot be learned from a book or a video, but must be learned in joy-filled relationships with people who have the skills.  This makes it important that members of Joy Group are teachable and committed to working on their own issues at some level.  There will be ways of relating and approaching life that are often different than our usual reactions and habits.  If we want to grow in maturity and character, there will have to be healing of unresolved emotional wounds that can keep us stuck in immaturity. This will call for a willingness to be open and vulnerable. The group will have to be a safe place so that people can share openly. In Joy Group we learn how to deal with pain and not avoid it, as well as learning how to sit with others in their pain without trying to fix them.

At the beginning of each of my Joy Group meetings we do a short time of appreciation and then we do Immanuel prayer which is interacting with Jesus.  Appreciation is usually a brief sharing of something that has happened during the week that has been encouraging, joy building, an answered prayer, times with Jesus, or anything else that makes us feel warm and cozy and grateful.  Appreciation is one way to get our brains ready to interact with Jesus. For our Immanuel time the facilitator wants to make sure that everyone has their Relational Circuits on. We usually do this by tapping on our chests on each side of the sternum and saying Psalm 56: 3 together.  (Members would have already been taught about Relational Circuits and how we will do the Immanuel Prayer time. See Share Immanuel or Joyful Journey from lifemodelworks.org) The prayer time is a time of sitting quietly and listening to Jesus after asking Him, “Please show us where You are in the room, let us have a sense of Your presence, and  answer each of us as we ask You, ‘What do You want me to know today (tonight?)?’”

After we do Immanuel Prayer we share how we related with Jesus during the prayer. This time of sharing can vary from sharing where one sensed Jesus was in the room and what He was doing to getting healed from a painful memory.

After we do appreciation and Immanuel Prayer we will have a lesson from my book that we use (Joy-Filled Relationships—amazon) or sometimes I bring a lesson from something going on in my life or supplemental material from other joy sources such as a CD by Dr. Jim Wilder or other Life Model Works books such as RARE Leadership or Joy Starts Here.  Sometimes we do brain-training exercises.

The atmosphere of the group is safe, accepting, caring, and joy-filled.  We are glad to be together and we are glad that others are here. We want to create belonging around us. Occasionally someone in the group will bring a small, inexpensive gift for everyone that we call, “I’m glad you are here” gifts.  These have been bookmarks, handmade jewelry, candy, things that cost less than $2, etc.

I furnish a roster with emails, addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays.  We try to mention birthdays and send or bring cards. Some people attend regularly and some come when they can.

We are learning, practicing, and sharing relationally the 19 brain skills that Life Model Works focuses on.  A list can be ordered from their website http://www.lifemodelworks.org and they are listed in my book, Joy-Filled Relationships.

It’s good to have members who are different ages.  Our group has members from 20’s to 70’s and currently we have one man.  My group is by invitation only but that is not a per-requisite for groups, although it is helpful to keep in mind some of the characteristics mentioned above.

I personally love questions and discussion so we move very slowly through the book.  When we finish the book, we start over.  Since learning the brain skills is not just information, it takes time for the skills to work in our lives.  We spend weeks on the list of maturity needs and tasks for 5 levels of emotional maturity. These help us see what needs to be worked on—what we did not get growing up and what tasks we did not learn growing up.  It can be painful to realize these lacks.  This is why the group has to be safe and loving and accepting as we all learn how to deal with emotional pain.

Again I say, this is how I view my Joy Group. I am available to help groups get started around the area in which I live.  This material on relationships based on being glad to be together, staying relational in spite of intense emotions, acting like myself, and learning to suffer well while I’m growing in maturity is life-changing and worth all the effort.  Get my book, Joy-Filled Relationships, get some people together who are open and teachable, and give it a try. Your view of relating will change, your view of God will change, and your relationship with Jesus will grow deeper and bigger.  He’s always glad to be with us, no matter what!

Posted in Current joyful musings, Immanuel Prayer, Relationships | 2 Comments

Parenting Tip: The ”Big Picture” of Life

In the late 90s I learned about emotional maturity from Dr. Jim Wilder. His organization, Life Model Works, has a detail list of needs and tasks pertinent to each emotional maturity stage of life.  One of the maturity tasks for children towards the end of the Child Stage (ages 4-13) is to learn the “big picture” of life. “What does that mean?” you might ask.  “And how do I help my children learn it?” Here is one way to help a child learn what this means.

Draw (or have them draw) a road with a fork in it.  Talk about the two forks. The left fork represents that we can walk with Jesus and live as He wants us to live. The right fork represents that we can make choices that will take us away from how Jesus wants us to live. What we want to consider is a very important question—“What will my life be like in 5 years if I choose the left fork?”  Talk about how old the child will be in 5 years.  Then discuss the question using 10 years as the example.

If you have a teen who is already leaning towards the left fork, it can be helpful to them to think about what their life will be like in 5 and then 10 years if they continue the direction they are going.  Doing this exercise has to be done in a loving manner.  The most important thing we can do with our children regardless of their age is to love them unconditionally, communicate that we are glad to be with them no matter what, and remember and practice that relationships are more important than problems. Make the fork in the road part of your conversations, but not as a tool to discipline.

The lists are also in myHandbook to Joy-Filled Parenting.Left or right? stock photo

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A Slurp of Living Water

The last few years I have been on a passionate mission to help others learn to listen to Jesus during prayer as well as talking to Him, and to learn to turn to Him all day long as a lifestyle. The other day  I woke up with a mental picture of something I thought would be helpful.  So during a small group where I was sharing, I asked this question, “If you are in the desert, what is the main thing you want?”  “Water!” several people answered.  “If you are on a long hike what is the main thing you will want?”  Again, everyone answered, “Water!”

My next question was, “Have you ever seen one of those backpacks in which you can carry all of your water?” Most had and several knew the name.  From the water in the CamelBak there is a straw that comes around to your mouth from the water container.  With a big grin, I acted out my mental picture by turning my head towards my left shoulder and making a slurping sound.  The ladies laughed.

That is a picture of how easy it is to take a sip of Jesus–the Living Water.  He is always with us; He is always right here; His love and care never run out, and we can take a slurp anytime we want to.

I took the analogy a little further by saying, “Just as we know we are thirsty and want to take a drink of water, we can notice that our peace is gone and turn right to Jesus for some Living Water.”  (Head turned to the left shoulder–slurping sound.)

Can you see how easy it is?  Can you see how necessary it is?  Can you see how wonderful He is?  I left the ladies with these three things to do when turning to get a sip of Jesus:  Tap* to be sure your relational circuits are on. Ask Jesus, “Where are You right now?” And then ask Jesus, “What do You want me to know about this______?”

As easy as getting water from a CamelBak.

*(With the fingertips,  tap back and forth-1-2, 3- 4, 5-6 on each side of the sternum below the collar bone.  Say this verse as you take a deep breath–“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You, O LORD.” [Psalm 56:3])

 

 

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Musings from the book, Joy Starts Here

For some months now I’ve been musing on a section from the book Joy Starts Here, by Dr. Wilder, Ed Khouri, Chris Coursey, and Shelia Sutton.  The more I’ve mused on these paragraphs, the more interesting these points have become and the more convinced I am that they are vitally important—but little known. So in order to do these points justice, I will quote some of them here and then share my joyful musings.

“The solution of Western culture (for living a victorious Christian life) the last 400  years is that we should make better choices by thinking better thoughts.” (After emotions were brought into the picture more recently) “The new load for our thinking and choices is that if we choose our thoughts carefully, we will control the emotions that run our brain and body system. Thoughts and choices become the solution to controlling emotions. . .”  “While this sounds good, and our choices do affect us, our identities are not formed by choices but by the bonds we experience. Who we share mutual mind states with and who we love will shape our choices more than the other way around.  Attachments are at the center of our identities. . . Try to change the character of how young adults eat by telling them to think more about nutrition and make better choices. But watch what happens when they begin to fall in love and attach to someone and we will see thoughts, feelings, and choices changing in a hurry. . . The brain is much more concerned about who we love than what we think. . . The emotional control center is heavily influenced by joy and shalom that grow from attachment and relationship.”

At this time two events have been the catalyst for my musings on “who we love will shape our choices more than right thinking.” For the last year I have been helping a teenager work through some issues that arose from being in the wrong crowd of friends, and right now I am preparing for a parenting workshop.  In helping the teenager I have mostly spent time getting her and going out to dinner, talking, and doing something fun.  It seems to me that Jesus led me in this rather strange style of counseling, and I truly believe it is this relational approach of being in joy (being glad to be with her regardless of her feelings or circumstances) that has helped her the most. Yes, we went through painful feelings. Yes, we did Immanuel prayer.  Yes, we looked at truth. Yes, we talked about life and maturity. Yes, she had to work through some difficulties with her parents.  But most of the year our “sessions” were spent eating together, talking, and “shopping.” Her choices improved because of joy and love—Jesus’, mine, and her parents’.

So back to the points above from JSH: The wrong crowd my teenage friend wanted to be with was a big part of her issues. After a while, her parents and I had to wait and watch as she came to the end of “loving” that crowd and found a better way. Grounding and consequences helped.  Knowing that Jesus and others loved her helped. But until her “love” changed, her choices continued to fluctuate. I am glad to report at this time, that she has found another “love” that fits so much better with who she really is. The love of the new crowd has greatly changed her heart attitude and her choices.

So from a parenting standpoint, I have been musing about the importance of joy and shalom in the home—the importance of truly being glad to be with others even when their behavior stinks or they are upset. Teenagers are supposed to be working on their group identity in order to become their own person and believe what they believe for themselves.  It’s imperative that our children know how much Jesus loves them and that He is Real.  It’s imperative that they know we love them as they work through their struggles and failures so that eventually they will make ‘good’ choices because they love ‘good’ people.

In light of this different way to look at thoughts and choices, let’s encourage one another to spend more time working on the love angle than on the thinking and choosing angles.  And making choices based on whom we love works for adults, too.  When we truly know and love Jesus, we will want to make better choices.

For comprehensive help for the teen years, check out my parenting book, Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting It’s on amazon.

Posted in Current joyful musings, Instilling Maturity & Other Parenting Tips, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , | 4 Comments