Patience Required

 

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One of the biggest challenges for me in gaining healing for my fragmented heart was that the very fragmenting of it made it difficult for me to find the path to regaining my heart and having it be whole again. Pat answers didn’t help and too often hindered. My heart didn’t respond to trying to Band-Aid it with a couple of scripture verses. It also didn’t happen all at once. It was a process just as its fragmentation was a process.

 

I love how Frederick Buechner describes it in Telling Secrets:

 “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”

 

In the poem “A Little Book on the Human Shadow” Robert Bly talks about at the very earliest of ages we start putting parts of ourselves that seem to be unacceptable into an “invisible bag.”

 

To begin the journey to waking up to the truth requires courage to face the fear of what we will discover. Sometimes it can only happen when our busyness has driven us to such a level of exhaustion that we yield because we have no other choice.

 

If we have never had an experience of a secure attachment with someone, we will tend to not have one with the Lord and that will make the process more challenging. Too often we have projected onto God how we viewed our parents when we were growing up.

 

Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub in God Attachment outline four attachment styles. Their research and personal experience suggest we will each fall predominantly in one of them, but will likely have a few tendencies of others. The four they list include: Secure Attachment, Anxious Attachment, Avoidant Attachment, and Fearful Attachment.

 

If we are blessed to have “good enough” parents, we will see our parents as safe people and places to turn to in our darkest hours and hardest trials. We will also be more likely to see God that way and see Him as accepting of us even when we mess up and feel safe running into His arms. We will develop a Secure Attachment with God and others.

 

If we have an not experienced that and develop an Anxious Attachment style, we will be caught up in always trying to pursue God and try to please Him by doing things to try to gain His approval so we might somehow feel connected to God. If we fall into this group, we will likely read more books, listen to more messages, and be perpetually praying, and going to meetings in the hope we have earned His love and care. Exhaustion will eventually catch up with us. A list of how to connect with God will be snapped up easily by those of us in this group because we keep looking for something to do to get us connected with God the way we believe others are. Our hearts seldom feel such connection with Him.

 

Those of us who develop an Avoidant Attachment style tend to keep God at a distance. Our relationship with Him happens more in our heads than in our hearts. We tend to focus on facts and duty where God is concerned.

 

If we fall into the Fearful Attachment style, it tends to be because our life growing up has been chaotic and inconsistent so we have never known what to expect or what we could count on. We have never felt safe with anyone. We would like to find such a person and may try very hard to find God to be that, but if He is all that people say He is then why wasn’t He able to protect us from the chaotic (often abusive) family we grew up in. We want to believe it is possible so too often we will blindly trust claims of teachers, preachers, and counselors who make claims to solve all of this for us. It can happen easily because we all want to belong, to have someone care, and to not be alone.

 

On my path to reconnection of my heart the Lord used many things. One of these was the book, Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. In their chapter, “The Lost Life of the Heart” they wrote these words:

 

“The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled, or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.”

 

 The first thing I learned I needed to do was to begin to understand and learn to know my story, not just the facts and the things that I would tell everyone when they asked about it. I needed to accept and know that I was not only broken but beautiful so that I could risk looking at all of me including the parts that were hidden under my desire to please and gain favor by ever doing.

 

As Clinton and Straub say clearly in God Attachment:

The very essence of secure adult attachment with others and with God is the ability to understand our lives. It’s a coherent story that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly events and integrates them into an understanding of why we are the way we are.”

 

 In the midst of all this, we also need to remember not everything is, as it seems. We live in the middle of a world we can see and one we cannot.

 

Next time we will look a bit more at that and discover more about moving toward regaining our hearts so we can let go of the endless striving.

 

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The Dismantling of Our Hearts

 

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The voices within us can seem relentless, nudging us that we need to do more, need to be more. Implicitly woven into those messages is the suggestion we are not enough. Much of it has to do with our relationships with others as well as God that come from our core relational beliefs that begin in infancy.

 

Much of that information that lays down the foundation and framework for our beliefs is in our implicit memory. These are the memories that we may not have a conscious recall for, but are very significant as we develop.

 

How our primary caregivers respond to us from the day we are born begins to form our responses to stress, needs, and wants. Research actually finds that how we trust or mistrust others occurs in us by the time we are one year old. Some of you may wonder how that can be?

 

In God Attachment by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub tell us,

 

“Trust is developed as a child associates crying with being comforted, or develops mistrust when its needs expressed in crying are met with a parent’s anger and rejection. The parents’ response to the child is imprinted onto mirror neurons, and later in life, the child is likely to automatically, almost instinctively, and without awareness, respond to his or her own emotions and behaviors in a manner that reflects the way the parents responded.”

 

These are very powerful influences on us and perhaps even more important than our explicit memories that we use to recall facts in real time about our relationship with our parents.

 

To form our stories about our lives, we use these memories stored in key parts of our brains. The implicit memories are emotionally charged and continue to affect us the rest of our lives.

 

Those of us who write often talk about our stories and the value and importance of them. Telling our stories has been a part of who we are as humans since God created Adam and Eve.

 

“The very essence of secure attachment with others and with God is the ability to understand our lives. It’s a coherent story that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, events and integrates them into an understanding of why we are the way we are” according to Clinton and Straub in God Attachment.

 

 This complex set of connections and interconnections help to develop those internal voices that sometimes can be very destructive by criticism and shaming. In addition to our first caregivers, we then pick up things from teachers and others in our lives that help us to confirm those beliefs about others and ourselves.

 

These things form the soil that influences how we seek to affirm and confirm ourselves that then propels us to respond to expectations as well as demands which nudge us to be busy to hide those parts of us we deem are not good enough, competent enough, or that cause us shame. It can push us into perfectionism as well.

 

Usually we extend very little (if any) compassion toward ourselves for not reaching the goal or grade that others expected or what we expected of ourselves. This often kicks up our striving into more drivenness.

 

If we could learn to be compassionate toward ourselves, we would less likely become so perfectionistic.

 

Chuck DeGroat speaks to this in Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self.

 

 “Self compassion allows us to give ourselves the gift of being adequate at many things instead of exceptional at everything.”

 

 If we silence any attempt at self-compassion, we will be much more likely to become exhausted, reactive and divided, losing track of our hearts. And why is our heart so important? It is because that is where the Lord lives if we know Him and it’s the empty spot waiting to be filled by Him if we don’t yet know Him.

 

That internal world is crucial to our relational, emotional, and spiritual life. Can it be any surprise that the enemy of our souls tries to develop a belief very early in life to distrust, dismiss, and ignore our longings and yearnings and focus instead on those external goals and appearances. Those adjustments result in more fragmentation as we develop our external persona that most people in our lives know as us.

 

John Eldredge and Brent Curtis tell us in The Sacred Romance that “the inner life, the story of our heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and our dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds…it cannot be managed like a corporation. The heart does not respond to principles and programs; it seeks not efficiency, but passion.”

 

Is it any wonder that our heart becomes a battleground? Can you see how that very battleground can be a powerful weapon used against us to stop us from discovering the truth about ourselves, the gifts He has placed inside us, and then how our doing more and more exhausts us with our heart more constricted than ever?

 

I think that is why I often rebel against lists of things to do or be in order to “fix me”. They do not take into account my heart.

 

In his great book Waking the Dead by John Eldredge we can see an illustration of what happens:

 

“The Enemy knows how vital the heart is, even if we do not, and all his forces are fixed upon its destruction. For if he can disable or deaden your heart, then he has effectively foiled the plan of God, which was to create a world where love reigns. By taking out your heart, the Enemy takes out you, and you are essential to the Story.”

 

 To discover the truth our hearts are trying to tell us about who we were created to be and designed to do, we cannot be rushing about, always driven, and never finding the truth.

 

As I have listened to my heart, I have begun to reclaim pieces that were broken off, hidden, and placed on a shelf. I have also grown in letting others see the real me.

 

To hear more about that and what I have learned, join me here for my next post.

 

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Run Your Race

 

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I have never run an actual race in my lifetime, but I have watched others run and prepare to do so, most notably our daughter who didn’t start running until she was 40. Little by little she trained to run, first a 5K and then moving up from there until she conquered a half marathon and the Army 10 Miler. As a homeschooling mother of four, it was no small feat that began when she started her oldest child learning to run a mile and ran with him.

 

Training in the wee hours of the morning gave evidence to her discipline to reach goals she had set for herself. For a season she was blessed to train with several other women and gain encouragement and companionship from them, but one thing became clear: she would need to run her race and it would not look quite the same as anyone else’s.

 

pexels-photo-596823Whatever she learned from others in her quest, she needed to choose what worked for her. Looking at what others did or did not do could point to options, but her legs, heart, and lungs would run her race and what worked for her would be what she would choose.

 

Each of us is running a race in this life. It is tempting to look at others running the race and try to emulate what they are doing if they are faster or better than we seem to be. (Comparing ourselves to others is a human malady none of us escape completely even though the consequences tend not to be beneficial.)

 

The problem with focusing on the races of others are that their races are not our race. Each of us has a race that is laid out before us to run, designed for us alone. That is the only one we can run, It is the one we must run.

 

Some will look at us and think we cannot possibly run the race. We may appear to be too fast or too slow or lack the stamina to persevere to the race’s end.

 

There will be days you do not believe you can run the race, but it will not be your skills that see you through. It will be who you are. It will be your character that makes the pexels-photodifference.

 

In the powerful movie, Secretariat, we see the portrayal of not only the legendary racehorse, but of his owner and champion, Penny. The movie includes a song that plays during the credits written by A.J. Michalka entitled “It’s Who You Are.” Most of you who have seen the movie may never have stayed through the credits or noticed the lyrics, but they speak volumes for the race each of us is running:

 

“It’s not the price

It’s not the game

It’s not the score

It’s not the fame

Whatever road looks way too far

It’s not what you have

It’s who you are

 

It’s not how fast

It’s not how far

It’s not of cheers

It’s who you are

 

In darkest night

You make your sun

You choose your race

And then you run

 

It’s never the glory

It’s never the score

It’s not about seeing about who’s less and who’s more

Cuz when you find out how fast and how far

You’ll know it’s not how much you have

It’s who you are

 

You lose the moon

Then be a star

It’s not too soon

Be who you are

Whatever road looks way too far

It’s not what you have

It’s who you are

 

It’s never the glory

It’s never the score

It’s not seeing about seeing

Who’s less and who’s more

Cuz when you find out how fast and how far

You’ll know it’s not how much you have

It’s who you are

 

When you have found

How fast you can run

When you have found

Your place in the sun,

It won’t be just you that you’ll find

Has made the run and the climb

It’s everyone

 

It’s never the glory

It’s never the score

It’s not seeing about seeing

Who’s less and who’s more

Cuz when you find out how fast and how far

you’ll know it’s not how much you have

It’s who you are

It’s who you are

 

Learning to bend and not to break

Living to give more than you take

Dying to live

Living to try

Feet on the ground

Dreams in the sky

 

It’s never how much you have

It’s who you are”

 

 

Scripture makes clear the value and importance of the race. Paul loved to use the metaphor of a race to describe our spiritual course. He speaks of it often:

 

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 (ESV)

 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

 

 You may be thinking that you are no one special, but that would be untrue.

 

You are the daughter or son of a King, betrothed to a Bridegroom beyond comparison. You are destined to rule and reign with Him and it is He that has set the course of the race before you. It is He and His character that will see you through and accompany you on the course.

 

The writer in Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) gives you what you need to know:

 

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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Fearfully Made

 

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One of the big news items we have all been reading about for months of time now are the record number of flu patients being felled by a virus that just won’t seem to quit. Of course when one virus appears, there will be sure to be others. More than pesky nuisances, they have turned deadly far too often.

 

Add to that the impact of allergies of all sorts; boxes of tissues have been selling like hotcakes everywhere. Cough drops have been sought to quell the nagging coughs that just won’t stop and any and all remedies have been considered.

 

Allergens that flooded my lungs and sinus cavities when gusting winds blew through our area for several days hit their aim with me. Of course that triggered sinus issues and for the past week I have been one of those looking for relief.

 

What caught my attention was that before I started having allergy symptoms (24 hours to be exact), I was feeling somewhat “off”. It wasn’t a body thing, but seemed to be a mind thing. I didn’t feel creative or inspired to read or do things I love to do. I even told my husband how odd it seemed, as there was no reason to support such feelings, but then I remembered reading an article that caught my attention almost a month ago.

 

The article talked about viruses and the immune system and how it attacks us and affects our brain. That type of article is the kind of thing I am often drawn to and enjoy sharing with my oldest grandson who is in college with a pre-med major. He is fascinated by anything connected to the brain and we love sharing back and forth.

 

The article resulted in a fresh appreciation for how fearfully and wonderfully made” we are by God. Bear with me as I share a few of the key things I discovered and the spiritual application.

 

When any pathogen (a.k.a. germ/virus) attacks the body, God has designed our immune system to kick in to defend us against it. When a virus invades the cells of any one of us, the goal is first to remain undetected by the immune system so it can replicate and increase its odds of surviving and taking us down. Sneaky, right?

 

But God…He has designed our cells to offset their trickery. He created our cells to know when a cell is behaving appropriately and when it isn’t. I’m thinking radar that catches stealth enemy bombers zeroing in on us in my imagination.

 

As soon as these aliens are detected, the immune system goes to work with a long list of incredibly devised tools to defeat the intruders. What we don’t often realize is how much of the warfare is happening in our brains around neurotransmitters. The battle results in fewer neurotransmitters being produced due to pro-inflammatory immune responses that begins 24-48 hours before the viral symptoms we would all recognize would even begin. That impact also lasts for weeks after the other symptoms go away.

 

That information was what rang a bell in my head when I considered how I had been feeling 24 hours before I developed the onset of all the other symptoms bombarding me. It didn’t change how I felt, but it gave me a fresh appreciation for the intricate steps God has created to preserve my body and keep it whole and healthy.

 

As believers we are aware of the extreme sacrifice God made to allow Jesus to go to the cross for our sins so our spirits and souls would be saved and reborn. But sometimes we can ignore or minimize all He has put in place to try to keep us alive and healthy physically. So much is going on unseen within us in multiple areas at one time. It might be a little like having Delta forces “at the ready” for any and all intruders.

 

There are other intruders that are just as sneaky and full of trickery and seeking to remain undetected that we too often fail to recognize before symptoms start to appear. The intruders? Pesky doubts, nibbling anxieties, regrets and disappointments that we too often keep alive. Of course there are also those “pet” sins and addictions we have minimized that no one knows about except the Lord of course.

 

But there is provision for all that as well just as there is with our immune system. Have we forgotten Peter’s warning?

 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

 

We are clearly reminded to expect an intruder seeking to take us out. Time and again scripture exhorts us to be ready,

 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV)

 

God has also given us what we need to repel an assault. He has also given us the strategy. Paul makes it plain in Ephesians 6 in part:

 

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV)

 

To use that armor effectively, we need to recognize the Spirit’s nudge quickly when anything at all starts to feel “off” instead of shrug it aside. God has given us those alerts for a reason, for our well being, for our very life. He has also amassed the most powerful forces in the world to equip us, His light bearers, to push back the intruders.

 

He is the BEST and we are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

 

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The Call to Be Darkness Chasers

 

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I shared a statement from a pastor in a recent post that we are to be darkness chasers. What does that mean? Certainly we are not to be chasing after darkness, are we? Aren’t we to chase after the light?

 

Consider this: Jesus is the light of the world. His light exceeds any light known by or created by mankind. If we are His children and He dwells in us, we are His light bearers. There is no need for us to chase the light because He dwells within us.

 

For as dark as the world is becoming, we must remember that it is not filled with darkness. Darkness is the total absence of light and so long as we Christ followers are here, there will never be total darkness on the earth.

 

John 8:12 (ESV) tells us He is light:

 

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

Where was Jesus when He said these things? He was in the temple to celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles. This, like the other feasts, was used by God to remind the Israelites in every generation of their deliverance from Egypt.

 

090e8d65f6169db727f684e536971510As a part of this feast a lamp-lighting ceremony took place in the temple every evening of the feast. Large lamps would be set up in the Court of Women and it was said that the lamps’ light was so great it that it filled every courtyard in the city. Once these large lamps were lit, there would be singing and dancing to celebrate God’s salvation, especially His deliverance in the exodus from Egypt. There He used a pillar of fire to lead His people through the dark wilderness.

 

When the Israelites followed the pillar of fire into the darkness of the wilderness, the light illuminated the darkness. When we follow Christ and become His, we no longer walk in darkness.

 

Wherever we go, we have the possibility of causing the darkness to flee so long as we are His light bearers.

 

It can be tempting to fear the darkness and cower from it, but the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear and He would have us be light that dispels the darkness as we travel the path He has set before us. His call on us is to let His light in us shine in the midst of the darkness. Within us resides the power of God’s light through Christ by the Holy Spirit. The darkness needs to fear that.

 

Do you remember childhood games outside after dark? Sometimes it was flashlight tag or some other game made up on the spot. No matter how dark the night outside, the flashlights chased away the darkness wherever the light was.IMG_3332

 

Many of us in childhood also learned the little song, “This Little Light of Mine”. The lyrics of the Veggie Tales version are likely the ones you know the best:

 

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel – NO!
I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel – NO!
I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel – NO!
I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine.
Don’t let Satan blow it out.
I’m gonna let it shine.
Don’t let Satan blow it out.
I’m gonna let it shine

I discovered the lyrics of the song when it was sung as a spiritual are just a little different so let me add those now as well:

 

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Ev’ry where I go
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, ev’ry where I go
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
Ev’ry where I go
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

All in my house
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, all in my house
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
All in my house
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
Hallelujah
I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

So, how do we assure that we are shining brightly and chasing the darkness as we walk out the life He has called us to lead?

 

It means keeping our light renewed and fresh; being sure we have oil in our lamps. When we see the ever-growing darkness, we must remember it points to the Lord’s soon return. As such, I believe Jesus would have us take heed as He taught in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25. Let me share that with you from The Message version:

 

1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’

12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’

13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

 

The call to be darkness chasers is one to keep our lamps lit and filled with oil as we ready ourselves for His return.

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