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Brave Heart (Designed: Emotions)

FB_IMG_1534300315645“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.” (Nicole Lyons) 

There is great pain in rejecting your feelings, denying your needs, disowning your desires,  eventually you starve yourself so much that you die inside.  You no longer even know who you are, you feel so little and insignificant, you loose your voice, your power, your passion and everything that once defined you as an individual.  At first glance one wouldn’t think that our emotions can be such a defining factor in who we are and how we are known.  But the truth is that our emotions are a critical part of who we are and how we are designed.  God gave you your emotions for a reason.  You are created in His image and your emotions are a reflection of that image.  When you deny your emotions you are denying a part of who God is and how he created you to function.

Let’s start by setting the record straight.  Feelings are feelings.  They are not good or bad.  Some are certainly more pleasant to experience then others, but in and of themselves they are neither good nor bad.  Feelings are designed to feel; not to think.  We are to take the information provided by our feelings and couple that with facts in order to make a decision.  If we were to allow our feelings to think for us we would only do what feels good and we would avoid everything that feels bad.  This would certainly put us in a very bad situation in just a short amount of time.

There are three levels of emotions; primary, secondary, and tertiary.  Primary emotions are the body’s first reaction to something that has happened.  These emotions come on almost immediately and are strong and transient. There are eight primary emotions; anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, and shame.  These basic emotions will be experienced in varying combinations and degrees of intensity which create the multitude of feelings one can actually experience.

Secondary emotions are much more complex because they often refer to the feelings you have about the primary emotion.  For example if your child runs into the road you might initially feel fear, but you might also feel and express the secondary emotion of anger.  Secondary emotions are our response to our understanding of the initial emotion.  These emotions may intensify with time.

Tertiary emotions are even more complex then secondary emotions.  Tertiary emotions are the layer of emotions that are on top of the secondary emotions and cover all of the other emotions.

When we allow our emotions to do what they are designed to do they can provide us with valuable information about our needs and our condition.  Just like in our physical bodies we have nerve endings to alert us to danger or pleasure we have emotional nerve endings that alert us to things we need.

Here are some examples: 

When we feel ANGER it let’s us know we need to create and protect our boundaries.

When we feel FEAR  it let’s us know we need safety.

When we feel HAPPINESS it let’s us know we have a level of satisfaction.

When we feel SADNESS it let’s us know we need to grieve.

When we feel GUILT it let’s us know we need to correct something.

When we feel SHAME it let’s us know we need approval or acceptance.

When we feel HURT it let’s us know we need healing.

When we feel LONELY it let’s us know we need relationship.

It is not wrong to have feelings or needs.  You have the right to experience all your feelings and to seek to get your needs met.  Feelings are part of what make you unique and define you as a person.  No one has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel!  Your feelings are yours and yours alone.  You have the right to express your feelings through words and actions.  However along with this right, there is also a responsibility to express your feelings in such a manner that it doesn’t infringe on the rights of other individuals.  You have the responsibility manage your feelings.  This is done by identifying, acknowledging, accepting and expressing your feelings.  For some people these can be daunting tasks.  Feelings can feel vulnerable, mushy and uncontrollable. Victims of long term abuse and trauma, may have chosen to cut themselves off from their ability to feel in an effort to protect their emotional safety.    Other individuals may have a “quick trigger” when it comes to emotional flare ups and outbursts, this may also act as a protective factor to provide a sense of control and power.

For some individuals it is difficult to identify what emotions they are feeling.  Sometimes it is simply due to not have a large “feeling” word vocabulary.  You may find it helpful to search the internet for a list of feeling words so that you are better able to express your emotions.  For other individuals, particularly for individuals who have cut themselves off from allowing themselves to feel or have needs,  they may not be aware of what they are feeling and will need to take some time to be intentional in thinking about what they are feeling.  This can be done by sitting and paying attention to what you are feeling without judging what emotions you think you should have.  Instead just accept the emotions that you do have.

Sometimes emotions come on so strongly that an individual may worry that they will be completely overtaken by the emotion if they choose to allow themselves to experience it.  In these instances it may help if you allow yourself to experience the emotion and think of, or visualize it as a wave.  Allow yourself to experience the emotion, and remember that it will pass over you and you will again experience calm.  Just like ocean waves will vary in frequency and intensity the same is true for emotions.  Just remember that in time the overwhelming emotions will subside and there will again be peace.

Sometimes the physical, mental and emotional toll that is being experienced seems insurmountable and there is nothing that can be done to change the situation you are experiencing.  In these instances it may be helpful to remember the serenity prayer as you learn to embrace with acceptance the “things you cannot change”.  It may be helpful to have a list of self soothing things you can do to help you get through those challenging moments while you are waiting for the emotions to pass.

DEVOTION: 

David is one of my favorite bible characters.  He was always going to God with all kinds of emotions.  He is filled with passion and that passion translates to life and energy.  I can only imagine the delight on God’s face as David worships Him with his whole being.  How painful it must have been as God watched David fall into the sins of adultery and murder.   However, through it all God loved him, God did not punish him for having the emotions that he had, it was his actions that invoked the consequences, not the emotions.  In fact, even after all of that God refers to David as a man after His own heart.

While we serve and unchanging and faithful God, we certainly do not serve a God that is non-emotional.  In his word he talks about being loving, delighted, angry, jealous, passionate, joyful, sorrowful, and the list goes on and on.  Since we are created in His image we also get to experience all of those emotions.  He understands that we feel fear, desire, sorrow, despair, anger and a vast amount of other emotions.  His heart breaks for those who are suffering.  He sees you in your distress.  He sees  you struggling day in and day out.  He sees you in your happy moments, and rejoices with you.  You are not invisible to him.  Your emotional pain is not invisible to him.  He cares deeply about all that you are going through.  He longs for you to come to him with all of your emotions and to freely express them to Him.

Just like David we all have emotions that are longing and needing to be experienced and expressed.  If we are willing to take our all of our emotions to God, the challenging ones as well as the pleasant ones, we will be less likely to fall into temptation.  God longs to be our comforter, our prince of peace, and our source of hope.  You can confidently bring all your emotions into the presence of God knowing that He understands, accepts, and loves you.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent Lord my God I will praise you. (Psalm 30:11-12)

Cast your cares on t he Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.  (Psalm 55:22)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold in times of trouble.  (Psalm 9:9)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  (Proverbs 4:23)

“I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear;  I will help you.”  (Isaiah 41:13)

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint,” says the Lord.  (Jeremiah 31:25)

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider:  God has made the one as well as the other.  (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart?  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

You know that I sometimes feel like an emotional mess.  You know that at times I can go from joyous to sobbing to furious to fearful in less then a minute.  I admit that I don’t always appreciate being a hot mess of emotions.  I admit that I often try to ignore my emotions  just get through my day.  Help me to appreciate the fact that I am created in your image and that part of that means that I am emotional.  Give me the courage to experience and express my emotions in ways that will be glorifying to you.  Help me to learn to understand your heart better as I seek to understand and accept my own heart.  Help me to show others who I really am by being willing to be emotionally vulnerable with them.  Keep my eyes open to the needs of others in their suffering just as you are open to me in my suffering.  Thank you for the gift of emotions.  Thank you for caring about how I feel.

In Jesus Name-Amen

REFLECTIONS: Where do you fall the continuum of being cut of from experiencing your emotions to being a raging hot bed full of emotional expression?  What emotions seem to consume most of your days currently?  How good are you at expressing your emotions, needs and desires to others in ways that are honoring to God?  Which of the verses above resonate with you in this moment and why?

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.)  Keep a feelings diary.  Write down one word that describes how you felt in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at night.  Journal about what prompted each of those feelings.  2.)  Find a feelings word guide and practice expressing your feelings using feeling words with people in your life.  For example “I felt happy when you…….” or “I felt hurt when you…..”  3.)  Take some time during the day to acknowledge and experience what you feel in the moment without judging the feeling.  4.) Create a list of positive pleasurable things you can do when your feelings feel like they will overwhelm you. 5.) Read in the book of Psalms and find Psalms that connect with how you are feeling.  Pray that Psalm back to God.

Let’s Talk About Jealousy (Designed: Emotions)

 

 

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Her looks, his money, her fancy house, their marriage, those kids, his success, that ministry, those accomplishments….or even my relationship, my friendships, my belongings, my rights, family: You name it and I can be jealous over it.  Sad to say I am no stranger to this life sucking, vision clouding, strife producing emotion.

We all experience jealousy at one time or another, it is one of the many emotions we experience because we are designed in the image of God but living in a sin filled world in a fallen state.  Our feelings are part of how we are created in the very image of God.  However, it is what we do with our feelings that make a difference.  Remember, feelings are not good or bad; they are simply present.  If I allow my thoughts to feed my jealous feelings then I may take damaging action that is irrevocable.  I may speak words that I later regret or hurt someone in such a way that the relationship is irreparable.  We have a right to feel jealous, but a responsibility to choose to respond in a manner that will help alleviate the pain of the emotion.

Up to this point in the Designed Curriculum we have examined, God, identity, along with the roles of our physical being, our thoughts and our emotions.  Now it is time to see how they are all connected together just as a tree is connected with it’s roots firmly planted in the soil and extending up through it’s trunk.

So, exactly what is jealousy? Jealousy is a secondary emotion that is a combination of sadness, anger, insecurity and fear.  It is defined as:

  • Feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
  • Feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship.
  • Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

Here are some of the potential indicators of jealousy:

Physical response:  Crying, increased pulse rate, shaking, lack of sleep and sweating. Sometimes accompany the feeling of jealousy are racing or ruminating thoughts.

Thoughts about self:  “I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough etc.”,   “I deserve more.”   “I should have gotten that.”   “I have a right to…..” “This is not fair.”

Thoughts about God:  “God won’t take care of me or meet my needs.”  “God doesn’t care about what I want.”

Our action/tendency/response:  Belittle the other person. Brag about self or accomplishments. Protect at all costs. Attack the other person. Wallow in despair or hopelessness.  Try to “correct” the situation by getting whatever we think we deserve regardless or the cost.

Communication: Jealousy says: This is not fair.   This is mine. I deserve more or better.  I can’t have what I want or need.

Sometimes when our emotions get out of control, or are suppressed, we end up with what I describe as an emotional infection.  An emotional infection is similar to a physical infection.  When a person receives a physical wound and doesn’t engage in measures to protect from infection or seek the proper treatment there is a risk of infection.  The result of the infection can result in varying degrees ranging from mild symptoms to amputation, to death.  Emotional infections are similar to physical infections.  Many times we will be in a situation where we receive an emotional wound.  If we do not attend to that wound our emotions can become inflamed and can result in varying degrees of relational difficulties ranging from increased personal distress, to relational loss, and ultimately to death.  Therefore it is important to pay attention to the state of our emotions and engage in healthy emotional regulation and distress tolerance.

Infected Jealousy.  Jealousy is not a pleasant emotion to experience.  If we let jealousy have free reign in our hearts and continue feeding it with our thoughts it can cause tremendous damage inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly one can experience bitterness, rage, hatred, extreme anxiety, depression and self-loathing.  Outwardly one may end up lying, stealing, or hurting someone.  In some cases jealousy has even led to murder!

As we learned in our last lesson all emotions are designed to give us important information about our needs.  So exactly what does our jealousy indicate and how can we get those needs met?

Jealousy may indicate a need to learn to trust, to be content, or to develop an improvement plan.  Here are some examples:

You may need to learn to trust God.  That he is who he says he is and will do all that he has promised to do.  You can trust him to meet your needs and to provide discovery or protection as necessary.

You may need to learn to trust an individual or process.  If you are worried that a loved one may be cheating on you it can be difficult to trust them because they may not be honest with you. Their behavior or confession will eventually show the truth of what is going on.     By expressing your feelings, thoughts and needs you are allowing the other person an opportunity to help meet those needs.

You may need to learn to be content.  Celebrate what you do have and learn to live without the things you don’t have.  Situations are temporal, they change.  Sometimes you will have a season of plenty and other times a season of want.  You can choose to be content in both scenarios.  Often times it is through the difficult process of learning to accept things as they are in the moment that we learn valuable life lessons, develop strength of character and gain the power that comes from being able to let go.

You may need to develop an improvement plan.  This is a case where jealousy, when correctly focused, can help spur you on to achieve goals or dreams.  Perhaps you are jealous of some one who has attained a goal that you were hoping to obtain.  In this case you may need to learn to press into your goal or revise your plan for obtaining your goal.

So what can I do?  The important thing with jealousy, as with all uncomfortable emotions, is to 1.) acknowledge the emotion, 2.) uncover what is fueling the emotion, 3.) express the emotion in appropriate ways, and 4.) wait for facts before responding with irrevocable actions.

Dealing with JEALOUSY?  Here is your challenge:

1.)  Which of the 3 definitions of jealousy listed above best define they type of jealousy you are experiencing?

2.)  Exactly what are you jealous of?

3.)  Review the list of indicators listed above.  Which ones are experiencing? (If you are experiencing things that are not listed include them as well.)

4.)  Take a moment to reflect on your jealousy.  Are they symptoms of infection?  If yes, what are they?  (If necessary take some time to review the lessons on forgiveness and take appropriate steps.)

5.)  What needs is your jealousy indicating that you have?  What can you do to get those needs met?

6.) Practice expressing your emotion.  If the emotion has given you a lot of pent up physical energy engage in some healthy physical activity like running, walking, biking, swimming.  If it has given you a flood of emotional energy write out your emotions and thoughts in your journal in a prayer to God.  Try expressing your emotion to a trusted friend or loved one using the statement: “I feel jealous when…..”.

7.)  Take action.  Seek God. Get the facts.  Accept reality.  Make changes as necessary.

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father,

I confess that I struggle with jealousy.  It is so easy to compare myself to others and find myself coming up short.  My insecurities will often overwhelm me if I let them.  Help me become so content with what you have given me that I am able to honestly and truly rejoice over the success of others.  Help me to keep my focus on you and build my faith in who you are and who you say I am.  Help me to trust you and to act in obedience to all you have said.

I can’t thank you enough for loving me.  I acknowledge that you are a jealous God and in your jealousy there is no sin.  Thank you for making me your beloved.  Thank you for your fierce protection of me and your vigilance over me. Help me to reflect your character when I experience the emotion of  jealousy.  Show me how to be more loving in my interactions with others, more truthful with myself, and more honoring to you.

In Jesus Name-Amen

SCRIPTURE:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

A heart at peace gives life to the bod, but envy rots the bones.  (Proverbs 14:30)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Where jealousy and selfishness are there will be confusion and evil of every kind.  (James 3-16)

MEDITATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT:

PSALM 37:1-40

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord , and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord ; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the Lord ’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord ’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed ; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial. Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord ; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Beautiful Mess (Designed: Thoughts)

FB_IMG_1528762189238“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” ―Laird Hamilton

The mind is a wonderful, terrible, beautiful thing.  We have all been tortured by our thoughts at one time or another.  Those nights that have been spent tossing and turning wondering if you will ever be able to turn your mind off.  Those memories that you want to get rid of and those that you want to live over again.  All the information, the failures, the success, the dreams that swirl around in your head both limiting you and pushing you forward.  It’s crazy that they can all inhabit the same space in our being. With all that going on it is important that we take time to understand and care for our minds.

It is our minds job to think.  It is designed to gather and store information,  to plan, organize, evaluate, decide, discern, learn, assimilate, concentrate, choose, create, dream and imagine.  It is the command center for the body.  Sometimes you are fully conscious of it’s activities and sometimes things are occurring in your subconscious unbeknownst to you.  Whether you are aware of not, your mind is always working, and it has an incredibly powerful impact on your perception, your attitude, and your ability to accomplish your goals.

Our minds have so much to offer, yet we often find ourselves falling victim to intrusive thoughts and confusion which thwart even the best intentions.  Here are some of the ways our thought life gets us into trouble:

1.) Cognitive distortions.  Some types of cognitive distortions are: filtering, black and white thinking, over generalization, jumping to conclusions, magnifying or minimizing awfulizing, personalization, control fallacies, blaming, “should, must, ought”, emotional reasoning, fallacy of change, and global labeling.  When you engage in these patterns of thinking you believe you have lost your personal power for change and problems become distorted in your mind.

2.) Fantasy.  While some forms of fantasy and imagination are wonderful, some forms can be destructive.  Destructive fantasies are those that are counter to God’s will and plan and lead to sin.

3.) Automatic thoughts.  Automatic thoughts are images or mental activity that occur as a response to a trigger (like an action or event). They are automatic and ‘pop up’ or ‘flash’ in your mind without conscious thought.  These thoughts are often linked back to memories or trauma.  They have become ingrained as a habitual way of responding to a trigger.

4.) Intrusive thoughts.  An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate. 

5.) Lack of information.  Some times we simply lack the needed information and facts to make an informed decision.

6.) Lies.  These can be lies that others have told us, that we tell ourselves, or that the enemy has convinced us to believe.

In God’s word He talks about taking every thought into captivity, bringing our thoughts into obedience, and intentionally dwelling on good things.  Often his word speaks of being thankful and offering praise.  He also advises us to seek out truth and wisdom, to be aware of the devil and his lies.  This is God’s formula for changing our perspective and our attitude.  When we feed our minds good and true information, and follow God’s word regarding how to manage our thought life, we have the ability to change our perspective, which has the power to change our attitude, which will result in being able to find more peace and contentment along with clarity to make good decisions.  Additionally He has said in his word that if any one lacks wisdom to ask and he will grant it!  What a wonderful promise for those who are struggling with life decisions, with confusing circumstances, or even dealing with people who are abusive, manipulative or deceitful!

Let’s talk for a minute about some of your rights and responsibilities as they relate to your thoughts.  You have the right to acquire new information and skills, to expand your horizons.  You also have the right to change your decisions or your opinion.  You have the right to ask questions, to study, to explore and to understand.  You have the right to create and imagine. You have the right to share information, memories, and dreams.  You have the right to have and express your opinions, your likes and your dislikes even if they are different from other people.  All of these manners of thinking are part of what make you uniquely you.  You also have some responsibilities.  You have a responsibility to seek out and share truth.  You have a responsibility to make choices and bear the consequences of those choices.  You have a responsibility to monitor and control your thoughts.  You have a responsibility to seek counsel and advice when you need information or when are struggling with your thoughts life and/or memories.  You are responsible for what you put in your mind.  If you continually feed it junk and lies you will find that you are not only misinformed, but you will also find your self discontent and set up for struggles with temptation, sin and self sabotage.  Your mind needs a steady diet of truth to stay healthy.  You also have a responsibility to understand that others will not always think they way you think and to allow them the right to their thoughts.

DEVOTION:

Reign it in!”  That’s the thought that came to me as my mind wandered all over.  Tossing and turning over every single thing hanging out there waiting to be resolved.  I tried mercilessly to solve my problems.  I gathered information, I examined all the pro’s and cons, I looked at all my options.  Truly there was nothing I could do.  Everything was outside of my control.  Still I felt the need to try to solve the problem.  As I waded through my situation I felt the familiar tug of shame pulling me to think about the things I had done wrong.  How I had messed up.  What I should’ve done instead.  The names from my past felt like they were plastered on my chest like a name badge, telling the whole world of my mistakes.  I felt desperate and hopeless.  My mind was thick in despair as I replayed my failures.  Then again I heard it in my being.  “Reign it in!”  It was a familiar voice.  One I have come to recognize as the Lord.  I began to think on His words and his truth.  I remembered the verses that I had learned long ago that reminded me that he has a plan and purpose for me.  That he will finish his work.  That he loves me.  That he is in control.  These are themes from his word that I have had to rely on when life gets hard and my thoughts consume me.  I sometimes need to be reminded that I don’t need to solve all the world’s problems.  Heck, I don’t even need to solve all my problems.  God has this, He has me….and beloved….He has you as well.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, of love and of sound mind.        (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
 (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
 (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 (Psalm 139:23 NIV)

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9 NIV)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

I confess that sometimes my thoughts are out of control.  I confess that I find myself worrying when I need to trust.  I confess that I believe lies and that sometimes I even tell lies.  Help me to be truthful in all my dealings.  Help me to focus on your truth and to find you in all circumstances.  I am so thankful that you have given me your word to guide me.  How wonderful to know that I can seek you in all situations and you will grant me wisdom and peace.  I desperately need both of those!  Thank you for loving me despite the craziness that sometimes goes on in my mind.  Help me to be a good steward of all that you have entrusted me.  Help me to attend to the situations in my life with your guidance and your wisdom.  Lead me in truth.  Protect me from the schemes of the evil one who seeks only to kill, steal, and destroy.  Guard my heart and my mind so that I might glorify you in all my dreams and desires.  Help me to submit to you and your plans for my life knowing that you know all things and have already prepared a way for me. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

REFLECTIONS: In which ways do you struggle with your thought life?  What do you need to do to “reign it in”?  Which verse from the scripture meditation list stands out to you the most and why?

ACTIVITY OPTIONS:  1.)  Practice journaling your thoughts about a specific situation and scriptural responses to them as if God was speaking the answers to you.  2.)  Each day read some scripture.  Meditate on it.  Look for ways through out the day that it applies to the situations you are facing.  3.)  Make a “whatever” list.  Use the Philippians 4:8 passage and list specific things for each attribute.  When your thoughts seem out of control get the list and begin reviewing and thinking about the things on that list.  4.) Begin a gratitude journal.  Each day list 5 things you are thankful for.  5.)  Gather facts regarding your situation.  Get information and counsel from experts or people you trust to advise you. List pro’s and con’s.  Apply scriptural instruction.  Acknowledge your opinions and preferences.  Make a decision and play out the result.  6.) Mindfulness exercise.  Train your mind to focus on something.  Find some place still.  Pay close attention to a specific details for a designated amount of time.  For example, sit by a creek and listen to the sounds it makes, or choose a verse from scripture and focus solely on that verse and it’s meaning.  If you notice your mind starts to wander, don’t give up or be harsh on yourself, simply go back to the verse again.  In this way you are training your mind to do what you want it to do.

A Temple, A Teacher and A Treasure (Designed: Physical)

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“Your body listens to everything your mind says.”

On first impression our physical self seems pretty self explanatory. However, it actually is more inclusive and complex then one might initially think. So what does the physical part include? 1.) our bodies 2.) our physical needs and desires 3.) our senses that shape our experiences 4.) our physical sensations, and lastly 5.) our actions. Along with these various aspects we also have specific rights and responsibilities in relation to ourselves and others. Our bodies are designed as temples, that inform our thoughts, teach others about who we are, and are the treasure through which God works. Lets examine the wonderfully designed physical self that God has given to us, and our rights and responsibilities that go along with it.

1.) BODY. Your body is miraculously designed. It is your most distinguishing feature. Most people will recognize you by your physical appearance. We all struggle with aspects that we dislike about our appearances. Still your appearance is part of what makes you uniquely you and therefore it is something to celebrate. Your body is the most basic way in which you set boundaries. You have the right to decide who will be allowed to touch you and how you will allow them to touch you. You also have a responsibility to provide for and care for your body. This includes sleeping, eating, exercising, setting limits, personal hygiene, maintaining health care and healthy routines.

2.) NEEDS. Your physical needs are the things you need to survive and include things such as; food, sleep, air and water, without these things you will die. Those physical needs can be expanded to include things such as touch, communication, attention, clothing and shelter, while you may be able to live for a while without these thing you will surely need them eventually. You have the responsibility to get these needs met and to help meet these needs for others who are in your care. Remember is that it is not bad that you have needs! It is part of being human. You have a right to ask others to help meet your needs. Seeking to get your needs met in appropriate ways is how you are designed by God to function. We are designed to be in relationship. It is not a flaw! Our needs give us an opportunity to move toward growth and affords a reason to develop relationships with other people.

3.) SENSES. Our senses include sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. These senses work together to help us gather information about the world around us. They alert us to things that may be dangerous, such as touching a hot stove, we would feel the pain and remove our hand. They also alert us to things that are pleasing, such as the taste of cold ice cream on a hot day. Our senses contribute to our individual likes and dislike of an experience. This makes our individual interpretation of an experience uniquely our own. For example we can both go to a symphony or a heavy metal concert and hear the same thing, but one of us love it and the other hate it. Simply because we have differing opinions on the experience doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other wrong. We have the right to our own unique opinions and experiences as well as the responsibility to express them respectfully. It is part of what defines each of us as an individual.

4.) SENSATIONS. Sensations are those things we feel physically within our bodies. For example before a job interview you might feel your heart racing. Other examples would be the feeling of physical pain in your chest as you grieve a loss, extra energy as you begin a dating relationship, or a tense neck and shoulders when you are under stress. These sensations are a physical manifestation of your emotional state and provide valuable information for you regarding your surroundings. If you are a person who has suffered abuse or trauma, it is possible that you will misuse or ignore these cues. For example, if you suffer from prolonged abuse, you may choose to ignore the uneasy feelings you get in your stomach when you’re around a certain individual so that you can continue to maintain a relationship with them. Or if you were the victim of a sudden traumatic event you may have escalated responses to anything that triggers memories of that event. You have a right to experience all your sensations with acceptance. There does not need to be a reason that you can specifically pinpoint for feeling uncomfortable around someone. Perhaps your body remembers things that are similar to people and situations that your mind can’t recall and is alerting you through sensations. We have the responsibility to pay attention to our sensations and respond appropriately by incorporating facts and emotions to determine specific actions.

5.) ACTIONS. Actions are what you choose to do with your body and words. You are always responsible for your own actions just like other people are solely responsible for their own actions. What you choose to do, or not to do, will almost always have an impact on others. Sometimes things will not be your fault, but you will still have the responsibility to fix them. For example if someone were to push you and cause you to fall and break your leg, that would not be your fault. Still it would be your responsibility to seek medical treatment and follow the treatment plan in order for your leg to heal. You have a right to set and enforce boundaries for through your actions, and the responsibility to take ownership of your actions.

DEVOTION:

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
(Psalm 139:15‭-‬16 NIV)

As I think about this verse I am struck anew by the thought “all my days were written in your book before one of them came to be”. So that means all of them! God knew my good days and bad days. He knew the days I would be victorious in my trials and the days I’d fail miserably and fall into sin. He knew every single moment I would have and exactly what I would choose. Still he chooses to love me. Not only does he know them, he uses them for good. That truth is true for you as well. There is nothing you have done or can ever do that excludes you from his love and plans for you. Also there is nothing anyone can do to you that will thwart his plan for your life. In fact God says in his word, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” {Romans 8:28) and “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you well carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phillippians 1:6) So, are you struggling with a past that haunts you? Or perhaps you are currently under the weight of a bondage that seems to powerful to break? Maybe you’re trapped in a situation that seems hopeless. What you are doing, what you’ve done, and what has been done to you are not the defining or limiting factors in God’s plan for your life. While you have rights and responsibilities you can rest in the confidence that God still has you and is able to work his purposes.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for creating me in such a way that I can experience the world that you have created. Thank you for all the marvelous sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that you have made for me to enjoy. Thank you for setting a rhythm to my days and night, for offering me times of activity and times of rest. I have to confess that sometimes when I think of my body I am very critical. I am not always pleased with my appearance and I often neglect to take care of myself the way I should. I also confess that I do and say things that I am not proud of, things that I know would be displeasing to you and hurtful to others. Thank you for not holding me to any standard of perfection in my appearance or in my actions. Help me to fix messes that I have created. Teach me to handle my rights and responsibilities in this area in ways that are pleasing to you. I ask for the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control so that I can learn to implement them in my own life, and demonstrate them to others.

Amen.

REFLECTIONS: Are you treating your body as a temple? What would you need to do to honor God with your body? Are you getting your physical needs met? Are you setting appropriate boundaries with your body, words, and actions? Are you maintaining healthy, balanced routines? What are some areas that you are strong in? What are some things you need to work on? Is there a specific area that you feel God is speaking to you about regarding the physical part of you? Journal your answers.

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.) Think about your daily routines. Consider ways to bring things back into balance. Choose one item from your list to implement and track. 2.) Consider if you are getting all your physical needs met. If they are not being met, make and implement a plan to ask someone to help meet your physical needs. Journal the result. 3.) Practice mindfulness. Take 5 minutes each day to sit, still and quiet. Take notice of the environment around you with all your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Try to stay focused in that moment with no distractions. 4.) Find a quiet place to lay flat and still. Take a couple moments to calm your body. Focus on the inner sensations in your body starting with your head, neck and shoulders and moving systematically body parts down to your toes. Focus specifically on each area how it feels in the moment, then trying to relax each body part. 5.) Think about some of your current actions. Journal a time when you someone else was at fault at it was your responsibility to fix it. Now ponder things that are currently happening in your life. How is God asking you to respond in this situation? Journal your response.

What’s In Your Trunk: Designed Trunk Overview

FB_IMG_1531095548445.jpgJennifer was a mess!  Her thoughts were going a million different direction. Each day she worried she was becoming more forgetful and distracted.  Her emotions were off the chart.  One minute she was screaming in anger, the next sobbing hysterically.  Her heart would race with fear about what the future would hold.  Throughout the day she would find herself exhausted and longing for sleep.  Yet at bedtime she was either unable to sleep or tormented by nightmares.  She would get through each day by numbing herself to her thoughts, feelings, and body and would fake her way, going through the motions, praying for it all to end, yet seeing no possible way out.

Perhaps you can identify with some of Jennifer’s struggles, or maybe you have had the unfortunate experience of being able to identify with all of what she was going through. These symptoms are often the reason that people will finally come to counseling.  The pain of being where they are at moves them to seek relief.  Over the next several weeks I will share with you some of the key ideas that I have used in  counseling sessions to help individuals regain their sense of self, face their struggles and win their battles.

In the previous lessons we learned about our “roots”.  Over the next several weeks we will examine the “trunk” of your tree.  The trunk includes your physical body, senses and actions, it also includes your feelings and thoughts, as well as your inner beliefs, values, memories, and experiences.  These systems work together to create a sense of health and well being if they are operating correctly  or a sense of chaos if they are out of whack.   As we examine the trunk, we will be discussing topics like our needs and desires, boundaries, rights, responsibilities, regulation, acceptance, action and processing.   You and your specific situations will be the focus of the reflections and homework.  This is where you are called to dig in and make changes.  This will be hard work, but let me encourage you that it will be well worth it.

So, let’s begin with an initial self assessment.  As we consider the trunk of the tree I want you to picture it as a stump, think of yourself as looking at the stump from a birds eye vantage point.  It would look like a circle, with concentric circles inside of it.Green Leaf Plant on Brown Wooden Stump

I want you to imagine that there are 3 key concentric circles.  The outer most circle signifies your physical self, the next circle signifies your emotions and thoughts, and the inner most circle signifies your experiences, memories, and events that shaped you.  Each of these circles together represent how you experience the world and provide a context in the way in which the world will experience you.  It is your actions, thoughts and feelings when expressed that will teach the world about who you are.  Likewise, how you care for your physical needs, experience your emotions, process your thoughts, and integrate your experiences will play a huge role in how you perceive the world and others around you.

Each part has it’s own vitally important role to play, but all parts effect the functioning of the other parts. For example if you are physically hungry, it is likely that you will feel irritable and unable to focus.  Alternately if you are stressed by a relationship it may effect your appetite.  In order to be healthy in your relationships with others it is wise to start with learning to understand yourself.  If you ignore your needs or allow parts of yourself the ability to do jobs they are not designed to do you will have a recipe for disaster.  Our physical bodies use senses to take in information, to experience and interact with the world around us and to perform actions.  Our emotions cause us to feel and sense things that may not be present in the physical realm, they allow us to be empathetic towards others.  Our thoughts help us to process information and help us make decisions about what to do, they organize facts, and formulate plans. Our experiences give us wisdom and help to shape our view of our self, others and the world.  Each part is intricately designed to work intimately with the other parts.

DEVOTION:   It is incredible to think about how we are designed.  Like some of you, I have had the amazing experiences of birthing children as well as the experience of watching the birth of a child.  It is crazy to think that there is a tiny human being being formed inside of you.  It is almost surreal when you hear that heart beat for the first time, or alien like when you feel them kicking the inside of your belly. While you are carrying them you take extra precautions for their health, multivitamins, iron, staying away from certain foods and drinks that you would normally enjoy.  When they are finally born you stare at them for hours thinking about how they were inside of you and ponder what a miracle they are.  From the moment that child is born, and even before, he or she is developing a physical frame, they have various systems, needs and preferences.  They are able to learn and express emotions.  All their tiny parts are working to some degree and they are dependent on you to care for them and provide for them.  Over the course of time you will teach them to care for and provide for themselves.   You will also teach them how to get along with others.  Eventually you expect that they will also care for and love other people.  Still you will always be their parent and even when they are grown you will still support them and of course you will always love them.

If you as a fallible parent can create, love, and teach a tiny person to grow and care for him or herself, then just think about how a perfect parent, your heavenly father, can teach you to love and care for yourself in such a way that you will be better able to love and care for those who are in your life.  God wove you together long before time.  He made provision for you.  He has a plan and a purpose for you and for every single thing that you will ever go through.  He considered your frame and made it a temple for his spirit.  He designed your brain to manage your thoughts and your emotions.  He linked the physical sensations of your body to your brain and transmits them into emotions and stores them as experiences.  Then He allows you to partner with him in practice of loving Him, yourself and others.  You truly are wonderfully made.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  (1 Corinthians 12:12)

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34)

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’:and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27)

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, I confess that I have not always done a very good job at loving and caring for myself.  There have been many times that I have let myself go without needed sleep and nutrients, times that I have allowed my emotions to overtake me, times when I have let my past define me, and times that I have dwelt on evil things.  I know that you have told me to love others as I love myself and yet I know that at times I have failed miserably at both.  I ask that you would please teach me how to be a better steward of all that you have entrusted me.  Help me to learn how to care for myself in ways that are pleasing to you.  Remove the lies that caring for one’s self is selfish.  By your Holy Spirit help me to know truth.  You are the example I long to follow.  Give me courage to keep trying even when things are difficult and grace to make room for errors.  Please continuously remind me of your love for me and calling on my life so that I will not loose heart.  Thank you for loving me, for holding my hand and gently leading me into your presence.  In Jesus Name- Amen

REFLECTIONS:  The scripture verses above talk about the body having many parts and about love; specifically loving others as ourselves, and as Jesus loves us.  Meditate on the following question.  How does Jesus love you?  Journal some of your answers.  Now, think for a moment about how you take care of other people whom you love.  Journal those thoughts.  Next, take a couple of moments and reflect on how well you are loving and caring for yourself.  Are you more diligent in caring for others or in caring for yourself?    

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.)Think about what the circles of your trunk would look like. Draw that image.  Are some sections taking up more space than others?  Are some sections being ignored?  Are they currently balanced and in alignment in all situations?  How are you doing physically?  How are you doing emotionally?  What types of thoughts are you consistently thinking on?  2.)  Think about a specific situation you are currently facing.  Focus on your role in that situation.  Create a diagram showing what your circles (physical, emotions, thoughts, and experience) would look like currently in that situation.    Ask God to reveal areas where you need balance and healing.  3.)  Journal a prayer to God regarding a specific situation you are currently facing.  Focus on yourself in that situation.  Submit to him your physical self, your emotions, thoughts, and experiences.  Ask him to help you to create balance and health in this situation.

UPCOMING LESSONS:  Next week we will examine our physical circle and how it is designed to function, the role it plays and our responsibilities in relation to our physical needs, preferences, and desires.

Your True Identity: Your Roots (Designed: Roots)

FB_IMG_1528761897413Pastor Jeff Kapusta once said that if “Satan can’t steal your destiny he will lie about your identity”.   Satan will tell you that you are worthless, hopeless, crazy, dirty, stupid, ugly, and that you will never be enough or perhaps that you are too much.  His array of insults are limitless and he knows exactly which ones to apply to keep you feeling fearful, defeated and trapped.   A key part of God’s design for your life is tied to who you are…so who are you?  Are you a composite of Satan’s labels and lies?  Are you simply a parent, a partner, a child, a sibling, an employee?  The truth is your true identity is only found in Jesus.  Since God is the one who created you he gets to decide your true identity, the creator decides what he is creating.  So what does he say about you?

You are loved. “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'”  Jeremiah 31:3

You are forgiven.  “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  Isaiah 43:25

You have value and significance.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

You are accepted and belong.  “But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

You are a child of the King.    “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12

You will never be alone.  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

You are designed in His image.  “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:27

You are a victorious warrior.  “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 8:37

You have a plan and a purpose.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

You are worth fighting and dying for.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Let’s read through that list again slowly and this time replace the “You are…”  statements with “I am…”.  Add your name in the scriptures.  Let the statements sink deep in your soul.

I am loved.  “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved (your name) with an everlasting love; I have drawn (your name) with unfailing kindness.'”

I am forgiven.  “I, even I, am he who blots out (your name) transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers (your name) sins no more.”

I have value and significance. “Before I formed (your name) in the womb I knew (him/her), before (he/she) was born I set (him/her) apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

I am accepted and belong.  “But (your name) is a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, (he/she) is God’s special possession, that (your name) may declare the praises of him who called (him/her) out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

I am a child of the King.  “Yet to (your name) who did receive him, to (your name) who believed in his name, he gave (him/her) the right to become children of God”

I will never be alone.  (your name) will be strong and courageous.  (your name) will not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord my God goes with me; he will never leave me nor forsake me.”

I am designed in His image.  “So God created (your name) in his own image, in the image of God he created (him/her)…”

I am a victorious warrior.  “In all these things (your name) is more than a conqueror through him who loved (him/her).” 

I have a plan and a purpose.  “For I know the plans I have for (your name), declares the Lord, plans to prosper (him/her) and not to harm (him/her), plans to give (your name) a hope and future.”  

I am worth fighting and dying for.  “For God so loved (your name) that he gave his only son so that when (your name) believes in him (he/she) shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Remember our analogy of the tree from our last lesson?  The roots bring nourishment to the young tree and with the proper care the roots will grow strong and deep so they can anchor the tree in wind and storms.  It is the same with us. God longs for you to grow strong and deep in Him.  By believing what God says about who you are and who He is you will grow strong and deep in Him.  In this life you will face trials and temptations, at times you will fail, you will be rejected or abandoned by others, you will be mistreated and misunderstood; having a deep understanding of who you are and who God is will help you stay anchored in life’s storms.

DEVOTION:
Not long ago I went through a very challenging season in my life.  I had done somethings that I was ashamed of, these sins caused me to doubt my identity and God’s purpose for my life.  I felt ashamed.  Satan knew that I was struggling to survive under the weight of my sin.  He hurled insults that went straight to the core of my being.  My heart hurt so deeply, waking up each day was a struggle.  I would weep throughout the day and long into the night.  I longed for the pain to end. Each day as I cried out to God in my pain He would softly remind me of my identity in him.  Having been a Christian for a long time, I knew that God’s word is true.  I clung to that truth as if my life depended on it, because in fact my life truly did depend on it.  I was in a battle, and from all I could see, I was loosing.  God reminded me through His word that  my identity was securely in Jesus and nothing could change it.  No matter how bad my sin was, no matter how I felt about myself or what others said about me…NOTHING could change the fact that I was still a beloved child of God, completely forgiven, never alone, sealed for His purposes.

If you are now or ever were, in the same place as I was, please listen closely…You are loved and forgiven.  There is nothing you could ever do that will separate you from God’s love for you. There is no way that you can ever be too far gone, or too bad for God to redeem you.  You do not have to try to clean up your act before coming to Jesus.  He wants to be the one to help clean you up.  You do not have to be perfect.  Come to him in your dirty, messy, sinful state.  He will not turn you away.  He will not leave you stranded or alone.  He sees you in your pain and in your mess.  He will not leave you there!  He will not condemn or shame you.  He will lovingly put his arms around you and will work with you to get through this.  You are his beloved and He has a good purpose and plan for you.

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:  “For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10  You are God’s handiwork!  He sees all your weaknesses, all your imperfections, all your sins, all your struggles, all your idiosyncrasies,  all the things that make you uniquely you.  He designed you and you are his beloved.  He has not forgotten you.  He is preparing you and using you even in this moment for his purposes.  

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father,  You are my designer and creator.  You knew beforehand where I would stumble and fall.  You know everything there is to know about me, even more than I know about myself, and yet you still love me.  Not with a pitying love, but with a passionate, radical, relentless love.  You say yourself that you delight in me, you smile on me, you rejoice in me, and that you sing over me.  I confess that I often don’t feel very lovable.  I often don’t measure up to all that I think I need to be.  At times I am ashamed of the things I do or think.  Help me to come to you and not to hide from you.  Lift my shame and clean my messes.  Help me to remember who I am and that I belong to you.  Cleanse me from my sins.  Empower me to live out the identity you have given me.  In Jesus Name-Amen

REFLECTIONS: Which of the above characteristics are you most comfortable acknowledging?  When and how did you learn of that characteristic?  Which of the things that God says about who you are is the hardest for you to believe about yourself?  How would letting the truth of what God says about you change how you relate to others?  How would it change how you tackle the difficult situations in your life?

ACTIVITY OPTIONS:  The main ways we can grow and nourish our root system is to stay deeply connected to God.  Some of to the main ways to do this include: prayer, bible study, scripture memorization, and meditation. Each activity option will focus on one of those key elements.  1.) Choose one of the things God says about you each day and meditate and reflect on it through out the day.  Ponder specifically and personally what that characteristic means for you.  Then journal what the characteristic means and how it impacted you that day.  2.)  Think about a difficult situation you are currently facing.  Choose one or more of the identity characteristics that we identified.  Personalize and pray about the situation using the verses that go with that characteristics.  Journal the process you go through and the outcome.  3.) Search scripture to uncover more aspects and verses related to who God says you are.  Journal your findings.  4.) Choose one or more of the verses to memorize.  Share what you have learned about your identity in Jesus with at least one other person as a testimony, prayer, or encouragement to them.  Journal the experience.

UPCOMING LESSONS:  For the next few lessons we will be discussing the “trunk of the tree”, this will be a major portion of where we will spend our time.  In these lessons we will be discussing our physical bodies and actions, our thoughts, our feelings and our inner being (values, experiences, expectations, memories, inner compass). We will be studying each area individually, beginning with our physical bodies.

Who Do You Belong To? (Designed: Roots)

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Perhaps you have heard it said that, “Whose you are is more important than who you are”.  So let me ask…to whom do you belong?  Do you belong to your parents, your spouse, or maybe your children?  Or maybe you are alone in this world and feeling like an orphan, like you don’t matter to anyone, or like there is no one who would take care of you. The truth is you do belong to someone; you are not your own and you are not alone, ultimately you belong solely to God.

Remember our tree illustration from the overview lesson.  If there are no nutrients, no soil, no sun and no water a tree can not grow.  It must be connected to a source to grow into the majestic tree it is destined to become.  Just like that tree we also need to be connected to our source in order to fully become all that we are designed to be.  So as we begin our series let’s take a moment to reflect on who we belong to, who is our source of truth, of power, of hope and ultimately of life, and how we can connect to him.

So how do we know who God is?  How do we tap into the resources he has for us?  God himself has given us several means of learning who he is.  1.) He has given us his word, the bible, which tells us who he is.  2.) He has also given us creation that we might observe who he is.  3.) He has given us the Holy Spirit to reveal to us truth of who he is. 4.) He has given us pastors, teachers, and mentors to help teach us about who he is.   5.) He has given us other believers to live out a life that reflects who he is.

You may be asking yourself why does it matter who God is?  The reason is that if He is our source, if he is the one whom we are going to trust with our lives, we need to know that he is trust worthy.  It matters because we would need to be able to trust Him for truth, for provision, for purpose, for our identity, for our protection and ultimately for life itself.

So, who is this God?  Here are just a few of His characteristics…

Loving– “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Just– “God is just; He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.”  2Thessalonians 1:6

Faithful– “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13

Trustworthy– “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

Merciful– “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Never Changing– “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Honest– “God is not man that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19

Generous– “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Forgiving-“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1John 1:9

Purposeful– “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”  Jeremiah 29:11

Always with you– “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

Strong enough to keep you-“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angles nor, rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Victorious– “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have over come the world.” John 16:33

In His word, the bible, He is called the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Lord, King, Healer, Provider, Comforter and Defender.  THIS IS WHO HE IS!

DEVOTION:  When I was a young girl I had an issue with my knees dislocating.  It was excruciatingly painful, especially the resetting of the knee cap.  I remember one time in particular when my knee cap had actually slipped out all the way to the back of my leg.  Once I was immobilized they took me to the hospital so the doctor could reset it.  I clearly remember my dad meeting me at the hospital and standing in the corner of the room.  When the doctor came in, I was terrified and helpless.   As soon as the doctor touched my knee I screamed a blood curdling scream.  The pain was unbearable.  I could see my dad looking at me.  On his face was an expression I will never forget.  It was a mix of his protection of me, his pain for me for what I was experiencing, and his knowledge that I would need to endure more pain.  In his wisdom he allowed the doctor to continue to set my knee because he knew it needed to be done for me to heal.  To this day when I am facing an incredibly difficult life situation I can picture my dad’s face at that moment.  I believe that is a good example of how our God is for us.  He sees all that we are going through.  At times he is heartbroken because of what we must suffer.  He will provide all the resources we need at any given moment, he will remain present with us no matter how terrifying the situation may seem, he will allow consequences and pain that will ultimately lead to our healing and restoration.  He will oversee all that we are exposed to and will bring us through to the other side triumphantly and victoriously.  In those moments when you cannot see the purpose for your pain it helps to remember who you belong to…a God who is faithful and capable to do all that he says, whose love for you is without limits, whose knowledge of you and plans for you are far beyond anything you could imagine.  YOU belong to that God!

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION:  From the scriptures listed above which one stood out to you?  Select that scripture.  Read it slowly, out loud, to yourself five times. Each time you read it emphasize a different word in the verse.  Let the words of who he is sink in.

PRAYER:  Heavenly father, thank you for being my God.  Thank you for being a God whom I can trust, who is always faithful.  I confess that at times when I look at my circumstances I feel completely helpless and hopeless.  I allow myself to panic and take things into my own hands.  Often time I make a mess of things.  Help me to trust you to be who you have promised to be.  Help me to remember that you are in control of all the situations of my life and you will work them out in a way that will grow me and bring you glory.  Thank you for your unending love.  I love you.  Amen.

REFLECTIONS: Review the lists of his characteristics and names.  Who do you need him to be for you right now in this moment?  Take a moment.  Sit quietly and let Him speak to you regarding those words.  Journal what He is speaking to you.  Throughout the week take time to consider his attributes and names, ponder them, dwell on them, let who he is sink deeply into your soul.

ACTIVITY OPTIONS: This week I want you to consider how you can move forward and seek out some of the “nutrients” you need to grow.  Here are some “next step” options for you to consider taking.  Don’t worry about the fact that some of them may take longer than a week to accomplish.  Don’t worry what others might think or what order the activities are in, you do what feels right and trust God to lead you in what your next step should be.  The main idea is that you are using different avenues to gain and grow your knowledge of who God is and allowing him opportunities to work in your life.   1.) Salvation.  If you are not saved, or are not sure if you are saved, contact me or another believer about getting what it means to get saved and how to become a christian.  2.) Attend church.  Try out some churches in the upcoming weeks, find one that you like and keep attending.  3.) Join a church.  Maybe you have been going to a church for a while but haven’t made a commitment to one.  This week make the commitment to do what you need to do to become a member.  4.) Get baptized.  This is where you mark yourself publicly as a disciple of Jesus.  5.) Begin tithing, giving money to your church and charities. 6.) Serve on a ministry team within the church.  7.) Join a small group or class.  8.) Share your testimony or faith with someone.  9.) Begin having a daily devotion time. 10.) Ask for prayer, or pray with someone. 11.) Prepare to go on a missions trip or serve in a local mission.

UPCOMING LESSONS: Next week we will be focusing on who God says you are.  The truths that you will learn will be your anchor from which you can draw your identity when the world tries to shake you.