Designed: Experiences and Memories

experiencesShe was abused and that’s why she….(fill in the blank).

What did you choose to fill that in with?  That’s why she hates men.  That’s why she advocates for others.  That’s why she doesn’t trust anyone.  That’s why she clings to people.  That’s why she keeps to herself.  That’s why she looks for attention.

How you chose to fill in that blank may have more to do with your own personal experiences then with the actual truth.  As you looked at that sentence and filled in the blank, how old was the girl you pictured?  What type of abuse did she endure?  Who perpetrated that abuse?  How did she handle the abuse?  None of that information was provided in the question, yet you came up with an answer.  How you came up with the answer probably has a lot to do with your personal experiences and memories.

Each person is comprised of a unique set of experiences throughout their lifetime.  Even though we may go through similar things, how we process the information is based on our individual personality, our genetic make-up, and our environment.  All of these things combine to mold each experience into an intensely personal unique event.  From those series of events we create a lens through which we predict outcomes, view the world, and see other people.  Throughout your life time these views and expectations are subject to change because you are always acquiring new information and assimilating it through your own unique way of viewing the world.  This is why two people can experience the same exact event and recall it differently.  Likewise people who experience the same event can be affected or be changed in different ways.  One example would be of two twin children from the same family, treated in the same manner who grew up in poverty.  One of them may continue the lifestyle, being trapped and bound by the circumstances he was brought up in and attribute it to the fact that he was raised in poverty.  The other child may break out of that cycle and become a wealthy person and attribute it to the fact that he was raised in poverty.  Both would honestly be stating their experience, their memory, and their reasoning; as well as correctly attributing the outcome in part to their previous experiences.

QUICK DEFINITIONS:

Before we dig too deeply into the subject, let’s quickly review what each of these words mean.

World View: a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

Belief: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.

Values: a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life

Expectations: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

KEY THOUGHTS:

Our experiences shape our world view, beliefs, and values.  What you experience in your lifetime will effect how you see people and what you treasure.  You may see people as primarily good or as primarily bad.  Perhaps you believe that people are usually out for themselves, or perhaps you believe that everyone really is looking out for each other.  Maybe you have taken great risks and it has turned out well so you continue to take big risks believing it will work out.  Or maybe you have been very careful throughout your life and that has helped you to always be prepared for events that have come your way.  There are many things that have gone into creating the unique person you are with the unique way of looking at the world that you have.  This is part of the treasure of who you are and what you have to offer the world.

Our experiences shape our expectations.  If every Christmas since I was born I would wake up Christmas morning to a happy family and bunches of presents, it is safe to assume that I will probably expect that the next time Christmas comes I will be anticipating a good day.  On the other hand, if Christmas was always a time when my family members fought, there were no gifts, and people were miserable, it is likely that I will expect that on the next Christmas morning things will not go well.  Both sets of expectations are shaped by previous experiences.  We all have expectations, bias, and values that are a result of our experiences.  Often times they are so intrinsic, so woven into who we are, that we don’t even realize they are there until someone does or says something that we would have never expected or anticipated.  In that moment we struggle through confusion to understand their way of thinking or defend our way of thinking.

Not everything that happens to you is your fault.  Sometimes our memories and previous experiences create a scenario in our minds that we are to blame for the bad things we have endured.  While it is true that sometimes our poor choices have led to specific consequences,  it is also true that we sometimes have negative experiences through no fault of our own.  If your parents divorced, you suffered abuse, you were neglected, you were abandoned, you were the victim of a crime or some other trauma it did not stem from your own doing.  However, it is still true that it is a part of your experience and will still undoubtedly shape your your expectations, beliefs, world view and values.  Children are especially prone to magical thinking in which they will believe they are the cause of many of life’s bad experiences.  That type of thinking can easily follow a child into adulthood keeping them in bondage to a faulty belief system about who they are and what they are worth.  These experiences will also effect how you see and experience other people in the future.

Not all memories give a complete picture.  As humans we are limited to our own experience.  We can empathize with another person’s experience, but we can not 100% experience things they way they experience them, and we can not process they events exactly as they process them.  Even if we experience the same exact experience we will each capture, internalize, and assimilate different aspects of the experience.  For example a husband and wife may have a child who gets into trouble with drugs, yet each parent will experience that struggle differently.  They will each highlight different parts of that struggle. They will each respond in their own unique way to that pain.  In later years when asked to recall the event it is likely that they will each have a slightly different version of the story because different things stood out to them.  This is one of the reasons that collateral testimonies are collected.  Not necessarily because people are lying, but simply because they are remembering different parts.  So, when you are rehearsing your memories remember that there is room for other vantage points that could still be true even though different, of the same event.

Your experiences help shape you, they don’t define you.  Your experiences are part of who you are, but they are not the sum total.  If you have suffered with addiction, depression, divorce, infertility, abuse (the list could go on forever!)….YOU ARE NOT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU!  You can only be defined by your creator! He has the final say on who you are. (Review the article on Designed: Identity at   https://confidenthope.blog/?s=identity)  Never allow your experiences to decide for you what you will become or accomplish.  You are substantially more then all of your experiences.  You exist outside of them.

You can choose differently.  One of the great things about being human is that you can make choices.  You can choose to acknowledge some of the things that have happened to you and decide how you want to respond in the future.  It may take some practice, especially if you have been responding one way for your whole life and now you are deciding you will be doing things differently…BUT IT CAN BE DONE!

You can allow other people to be different than you.  Once you are aware that your experiences have shaped your world views, expectations and values you can allow other people to have their unique sets of values, views, and expectations.  You do not disappear simply because other people exist.  Their experiences have helped them become the people they are today.

Own your experiences and memories.  Good or bad your experiences happened.  They were real.  You lived through them.  Be honest with yourself and others about what has happened to you in your lifetime and how you recall those events and how they shaped you.  They are a part of you who you are.  Wear your physical and emotional scars with dignity because it is evidence that you survived and that gives hope to others.  Be aware that those experiences will color how you see other things.

Fault and responsibility.  While you may not be at fault for everything that has happened to you, you do bear the responsibility to manage those experiences and how they play out in your everyday life.  For example, if I were to step on your foot and break it, that would be my fault.  However the responsibility to get medical treatment for healing would be up to you.  Even though I would be at fault I can not see the doctor, get the x-rays, wear the cast, or do the physical therapy needed to recover.  Only you can do those things.  Many things that happen may be the fault of someone else, they may not be fair, they may hurt, and you may have every right to all the thoughts and feelings that go along with the experience.  Just bear in mind that you also have the responsibility to acknowledge what you experienced and how it has effected you.  You can take responsibility and use your experiences to help you into the kind of person you desire to be or you can allow those experiences to shape you into their mold.

DEVOTION:

I can’t help but think of the women at the well.  The fact that she had gone to get water in the heat of the day seems to indicate that her experiences had taught her that she would be ridiculed by the other women, so she learned to adjust her behavior to avoid their scorn.  She had learned to value hiding who she was and possibly had secretly accepted the truth of their accusations into her heart.  Initially she seemed to respond to Jesus with suspicion asking questions and giving limited answers.  Perhaps through her experiences with men she had learned to be cautious with men. Or maybe she had learned that men were deceptive, not to be trusted.  Either way in her limited time with Jesus it appears that her previous expectations, beliefs and views were challenged and possibly changed.  When Jesus asked her about her husband and she gave him a veiled answer. Jesus spoke truth to her, He challenged her, He treated her with dignity and offered her hope.  I believe through her experience with Jesus her views changed, and from there her life changed.   Just think….Now her story is one of hope!  She is included in the Bible, not as a shame filled, disgraceful woman, but instead as someone who carries the light and hope of Jesus.  Her past experiences led her to the one who could redeem her!

That’s what Jesus can do for us too.  He can heal our past experiences.  He doesn’t make them disappear, but He can redeem them for good.  He can use every single thing that you have ever been through to His glory.  None of you pain will ever be wasted when you put it in Jesus’ hands.

SCRIPTURES

 

Story of the woman at the well.  (John 4:4-42)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  (Genesis 50:20)

You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.  (Psalm 56:8)

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)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:11)

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)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,

You have seen me on my darkest days.  You know of all the things I have done wrong.  Every. Single. Thing.  Still you choose to use me.  You seek me out.  You pursue me and allow me to be a part of your master plan.

You also know of the pain I have suffered at the hands of others.  You have seen every tear I have cried…and your heartbreaks  under the weight of the pain I have endured.  Even in my darkest hour You never abandoned me.  Even when I was filled with bitterness, resentment, and hatred toward those who had done me wrong, You didn’t turn your back on me, or hide your face from me.

Help me to allow you to shine through all of my experiences.  Redefine how I interpret all of my memories and experiences so that they are in perfect alignment with your truth.  Help me to think with your mind, with your spirit, with your heart.  Heal me in ways that will bring Your hope to others that they might know that you are God and an ever present help in times of trouble.

Thank you that you are my Redeemer!  

In Jesus Name- Amen

REFLECTIONS:

1.)  Think for a moment on the events from your childhood.  Remember some of your greatest, most fond moments.  What did they teach you about yourself?  What did you learn about the people in your life?  Now think about some of the lowest, saddest, most hurtful times.  What did they teach you about yourself?  What did you learn about the people in your life?  Now, think about the truth and hope of Jesus.  Allow Him to shed light, love, and truth on those experiences.  When you look through His eyes how do you see yourself?  How do you see others?

2.)  What values and world views do you hold?  How did you come to those conclusions?  Why are they important to you?  Compare them to scripture.  What does the Bible say?

ACTIVITY OPTIONS:

1.)  In your journal draw a line through the middle of one of the pages.  Below the line write your most memorable negative experiences.  The more negative they were the lower you write them.  Above the line write your most positive experiences.  The more positive they are the higher you write them.  Write them in chronological order.  Journal what you learned from each of those experiences?  How do they still affect you today?  Take them to the Lord in prayer.

2.)  What are some things that bring back strong memories for you?  Ex. a certain song, a certain smell, a specific place.  Recall the memory in detail.  Try to get a sense of what other people in the memory may have thought, felt or experienced.  *Do NOT do this with any memory that is specifically tied to abuse or trauma.

3.)  Ask a someone about their personal experiences, memories, values, beliefs.  Learn about their values and world views.  Try to listen without defending your own position.  Try to understand their experience from their perspective.  If necessary allow yourself to disagree without needing to vocalize your disagreement.  Process your own feelings about the conversation in your journal after the experience.

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.

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.

Developing Your Tribe

AirBrush_20180120181758In this age of isolation, introverts and social media it is hard to make real life connections with people who are available to hang out, grab coffee, talk about life, and help in a jam.  Regardless of whether you are single, happily committed, or in a “complicated” relationship, it is important that we develop our support systems; our tribes.  This is an essential piece to developing a healthy and happy life.

There are some people who you will meet who will stay in the large outer circle of your tribe.  These are people who you may interact with in your neighborhood, at work, at church, or at your child’s school.  You may be friends on social media and hang out on occasion, but they are not the people who you would pour out your heart and soul to simply because you do not know them well enough.  Maybe they are “inner tribe” worthy, maybe they’re not, only time and testing will tell.  For now they are on the outskirts of your tribe.  They are people with whom you have something in common and that you enjoy or find helpful on some level.  While they are essential and enjoyable, they have not yet earned the right to be in the inner circle of your tribe.

Then there is the inner circle of your tribe.  These are the people who love you and who you love.  These are the ones who will do anything for you, who will tell you the truth even when it hurts, who will always have your back.   It is this inner circle, this core group of people, who will help clarify who you are and who you are becoming.  They will help you solve problems and create an atmosphere where you can grow and flourish.  These people are your inner tribe.

If the people of this inner circle are not carefully selected and the deep friendships not cultivated, then you risk being isolated and lonely, or deeply hurt and betrayed.  That is why it is so important to carefully choose who you allow into this sacred part of your heart.  That being said, here are some things to consider:

1.)  How big should your tribe be?  There is no magic answer to this question.  Typically I suggest cultivating around three or four really close friendships at any given time. The longer you live and practice the process the more close friendship you may end up with over the course of time.

2.)  Where do I find these people?  It would be fabulous if it were super easy and we could just go to the mall and grab a few that met our criteria.  Unfortunately that is not the way friendships work.  They take time to develop and require that we develop a history.  So examine the people in the outer circle of your tribe.  Who do you have some history with?  Who do you admire or enjoy?  From that group of people begin to select a few that you think might make a good inner circle for you.

3.)  Is she safe?  Let’s face it, if you are going to open your heart to someone you want to know that they are safe.  A key factor in determining the safety of someone is watching how they handle the hearts of others who have entrusted their secrets to them. Does she break confidences? Does she gossip about other people?  Does she tolerate listening to gossip from others?  Does she tear people down or build people up?  It’s a pretty safe bet that if she does it to others she will do to you.

4.)  Do you have similar values?   Since you will hopefully one day be coming to this person for their advice and opinions you are going to want to make sure you have similar values.  Are you on a similar page when it comes to dating, marriage, parenting, partying, fun etc.?  If you have totally different values in practically every area then it could pose problems when you come to her for counsel or advice.  While she may make a wonderful friend, and a great person to bounce ideas off of for a different perspective, she may not be the person you want to go to for advice regarding upholding your own values and morals.

5.) Do you trust their judgement?  By choosing this person to be a part of your inner circle you need to be able to trust them.  Have they demonstrated that they will do what is right concerning you and your relationships?  Do they seek to make good decisions in their own lives?  Have they consistently given you good advice even when it was not what you wanted to hear?

6.) How do they handle conflict and confrontation?  It is important to notice how they handle these things because with out a doubt this will become a part of the relationship.  This will ultimately affect how you deal with others as well as how you and she deal with interpersonal issues between the two of you.  Does this person handle conflict in a way that you would like to imitate?  Consider what a confrontation with them look and feel like if you were on the receiving end.

7.) Are they loyal and available?  There is really only one way to test this out.  Ask them to be involved.  Now I don’t mean straight up ask, but I do mean test things out.  Send them a text or call them.  Invite them to an event or to get coffee.  This is how you will learn if they are available.  If they consistently turn you down, or don’t respond, I would suggest that they are not available to cultivate a friendship with you at this season in their lives.  As far as loyalty watch to see if they keep their promises.  Are they ditching others to spend time with you or vice versa?  If so that is a good indicator that at some point you will be the one being ditched.

8.) How often and in what ways can you invest in each other’s lives?  Let’s face it we only have so much time that we can truly give, that is why it is so important to intentionally invest in these relationships.  Figure out how frequently you can check in with your friend and be faithful to do it.  Find ways to connect with them, bless them, pray for them, encourage them, and celebrate them.   This is an investment that will have great rewards for you and for them.

A couple other things to think about.

While it is important to find the people you want in your tribe, it is even more important to be the kind of person you want in your tribe.  Re-read through the list and evaluate how you are doing in each of those areas.  Make a plan to improve in areas where you are weak.

No one is perfect.  People are messy and relationships are messy.  To have these kinds of friendships you have to be willing to take some risks knowing that the possibility exists that you may get hurt.  You also need to be willing to try to work through things showing the same measure of love and grace that you would want to be shown.

These kinds of relationships take time to build.  Be an observer of others.  Choose carefully with whom you will begin to share and build a relationship.  Offer little pieces of your heart at first and evaluate how they handle it.  If they do well, offer more.  If they do not do well, then you can always address that with them and use that as an opportunity to develop your own conflict resolution skills, which will make you an even better friend in the end.

Sometimes people are available only for a season in your life.  Allow the natural flow of life to move some people in and out of your life.  Treasure them while you have them and continue to connect when you can.

If you are currently in a destructive relationship it is likely that your partner will hinder your attempts to reach out to other people.  Building this support system is critical to your emotional, mental, and possibly even physical health!

Bible References:

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

Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 27:5-6 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals”

 

 

 

 

When Words Hurt: Deciding Who Has The Right To Influence Your Inner Voice

received_909583419213313Choose wisely whom you allow to have the power to speak into your life, for their words will become your inner voice.  If you have ever suffered due to the accusations someone made about you, the labels they applied to you, or the harsh “feedback” they gave you, then you know all to well that this is true.  No doubt their words rang in your mind long after they said and left you wondering if maybe that person was right and those words were true.  The weight can feel crushing to your soul and the residual effects can haunt you long after the initial event.  It is for this reason that it is crucial that we take into consideration who we allow to speak to us about who we are, our actions and our motives.

It is true that people are called to speak into your life. As believers we are to be open to feedback about our blind spots. However, there are times when an individual’s interpretation of your behavior misses the mark entirely. In those times it is wise to hedge your heart and protect against the arrows the individual is launching. (Prov.4:23)

Here are some things to consider before receiving into your heart someones admonishment about your behaviors and motivations.

1.) How long have you known this person? If someone you have just met is trying to reveal to you the motivations of your heart BEWARE, they have not known you well enough to have that level of insight in to who you are and why you might do what you do.

We are designed for relationship and relationships take time to develop and grow. If someone has a long history with you and has proven their love for you over the course of that relationship, then they have earned the privilege of speaking truth into your life on a personal and intimate level. Someone you just met on-line last week has not known you long enough to speak to the intimate areas of your heart.

2.) What is the person’s interest in pointing out your faults or blind spots? They may tell you it is because they love you, but is it also possible that they are in some way hoping to benefit from you changing your behavior.

Consider what is in it for them if you change to conform to their desires. Would changing your behavior help you conform to God’s standards or the other persons standards?

3.) How is the person sharing the information with you? Are they being demeaning, demanding, or critical? Pay close attention to how you feel as they are sharing the information. It is normal that you might feel a little uncomfortable, but if you feel fearful, hopeless, condemned or demoralized it is likely that the person is not delivering a message from God.

When a person is speaking the truth in love to you, you will feel the love. You will hear the love in their voice and their words. They will be able to say things that are difficult to hear, but have it covered in a true compassion and love for you.

4.) What is the character of the person who is trying to speak truth to you? If the individual is not in a right relationship with God or has questionable morals you may want to consider if what they are sharing may be skewed by their own areas of sin and their own blind spots.

God has clear boundaries and truth in his word. An individual who is in a good position to speak truth to you will know truth and be living it out in their own life. Granted no one is perfect, the individual who is speaking to you will also have personal areas of sin and struggle, but it is most likely that they will be, at the very least, trying to live a life of purity before God and have a solid knowledge of his word.

5.) Are you getting the same message from a variety of different sources? If one person is telling you you are impossible to get along with and every one else is telling you you are too compromising then those are clearly mixed messages and one of them is incorrect.

God is a God of consistency. There is a good chance that if the Holy Spirit is poking around in your heart you will be receiving the same message over and over from a variety of sources.