Seeing the Unseen…a post by Joy

About a month ago, my eyeglass frames with progressive lenses broke. Knowing it was time to get a check-up I scheduled an appointment instead of getting my glasses repaired right away. Unfortunately, I had to wait another week to see the eye doctor. Thank goodness for another set of glasses that I use for computer work and reading music at the piano.

When the time came, the check-up revealed that my eyes would require a change on my lenses so I would need to wait about 7-10 days for the new glasses to arrive. In the mean while, we were traveling during that time. One morning, we required the services of an Uber driver. Once the transaction was complete, the driver drove away, and I walked into the house wearing my prescription sunglasses. As I began to look for my computer/piano glasses, I realized they were not in my purse and panicked realizing they had been left in the car of the Uber driver. My husband and my son discovered the info necessary to touch base with the driver. He delivered my glasses within 10 minutes. Once I walked into the house with them, I burst into tears thanking the Lord that they had been returned by the driver.   I felt very vulnerable not having those glasses and not being able to read anything without them. We still had 6 days to be away on the trip.

Later that same day, several of us accompanied our grandson to the aquarium for his 3rd birthday. When we arrived, as I began to climb out of the car, the left temple of my prescription sunglasses fell off. It surprised me and of course, I began looking for the tiny screw to repair it. It was not to be found.

With this saga that happened within one month to all 3 pairs of my prescription eyeglasses I immediately asked this question.  “Lord, what is it that you want me to see or change about the way that I am seeing or perceiving things in life?”

“What was so necessary to transform in me at this place in my life that you had to catch my attention by allowing all 3 pairs of my prescription eyeglasses to go through brokenness, delay of repair, and displacement?” My eyes, the “window of my soul” can only see what they are given to see at the appropriate time my soul is willing to see the truth about myself or another in my relational life.

I feel vulnerable with my “broken” eyes knowing that I can only see clearly when I use the eyeglasses with prescriptions designed just for my eyes. Yet, I also feel thankful for these wonderful tools that transform my sight from brokenness to clarity. I feel vulnerable with the brokenness within my soul yet thankful for the transformation that comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit through Scripture, through the community of other believers, and through the practice of Christian spiritual disciplines.

When it comes to the tool of this saga that I have experienced, I sense that Christ is reminding me that He is constantly providing for me even when I can’t see things clearly and even when I can’t see the whole picture of what He is allowing to happen to me in my every day life. I have once again been given the opportunity to trust God in all things even when I feel very vulnerable about my weaknesses. It has also been a lesson in patience with myself and with God’s timing. Part of seeing how Christ was working in me through all of this was to not be seeing through my own eyes in order to “open my eyes” to what He wanted me to “see”. The tools that Christ uses for our individual journeys of spiritual transformation may not always be the great sermon that we just heard or the Scripture passage that we just read. It may also be the most common and ordinary events of life that God is using to call us to pay attention to see what we can see through His eyes.

The Thrill and Agony of Longing…a post by Jim

Two weekends ago CrossPoint hosted retreat 5 (out of 8) for our current Deeper Journey community. The topic was ‘desire’ and it certainly touched a nerve.

The Bible repeatedly speaks to importance of desire, having our desires met by God, avoiding sinful desires, pursuing our deepest desires. Jesus asked the lame man, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer seems obvious. “I want to walk so please heal me.” It seems Jesus is pointing us to the importance of naming our desires.

There is the question of what desires are legitimate to pursue and what desires are tainted by sin and should be avoided. But for me the toughest part of the retreat came when we reminded ourselves that we have many legitimate, wholesome desires that do not come true. The frustration, anger, disappointment, and confusion that flows from good yet unmet desires is real. How can we avoid cynicism the older we get?

Seems the answer is found in a living hope. Hope keeps the heart alive and tender. Hope orientates us to what is coming, not what has happened (or not happened). Hope anchored in the promises of our Lord is a sure bet. Yes, all my desires won’t be met in this life but hope says that all my desires (and more than I can possibly long for now) will be experienced in the life to come. Praise be to God.

We cannot out desire God.

Accept the anxiety of 2018…a post by Tom

Happy New Year! I hope it is a slow, unstable, gradual, and anxious one for you.   Could you imagine getting a card with this in it?  Well, the following words from Teilhard shed light on what this spiritual formation process feels like. The ending part on “accepting the anxiety” has ministered to me greatly.   I thought them worthy of reflection for 2018.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Home is where the heart is…a post by Jim

Home is where the heart is. Sounds encouraging. And it should be. Home should be the place where our souls are safe, encouraged, and loved. Home should be the best place to be.

But there is another way to think of the phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” And it isn’t necessarily good news. Because the state of our home, especially our family of origin when we are young, has a huge impact on where the heart is emotionally. And if the home system is not healthy or holy we will struggle when it comes to how close we can be emotionally.

Here are 8 Family Systems. What was yours and what do you think was its impact on your heart?

The Functional Family

  • Life is essentially defined by your role within the family system.
  • Persons understand their value and significance in terms of the task to perform and the amount of work they accomplish.
  • The experience of connectedness or intimacy is through the relational bonding that occurs in getting tasks done, and surviving against set-backs and obstacles.

The Dramatic Family

  • Life in the dramatic family system is continuously emotionally intense where someone is acting out some form of drama.
  • There is typically a crisis somewhere, and the family is emotionally structured around enduring, navigating, and occasionally resolving the drama. Only to have a new one emerge in due time.
  • The dramatic family is emotionally exhausting to some, while one or two dominant family members will sustain the drama.

The Traumatic Family

  • The traumatized family is one that is defined around surviving traumatic events be they natural disasters or financial devastation or drugs or disease or death or divorce or the adoption of a child with a Reactive Attachment Disorder.
  • Depending on the nature of the trauma such as sexual abuse a child will be adversely affected emotionally and the trajectory of the relational dynamics will also be deeply scared and distorted.
  • Trauma can serve to bring family together in an effort to overcome and strengthen the relational fabric of the family system or cause it to merely survive and maybe even disintegrate.

The Chaotic Family

  • The chaotic family is marked by confusion and the lack of adult leadership and authority and personal boundaries are not respected.
  • The adults in particular have abdicated their role of establishing order and ensuring that family practices such as appropriate grooming, sleep patterns, meal times, school attendance, proper attire etc. are established and maintained.
  • Often times within these family systems children have to fend for themselves and figure out life by themselves or along with peers.

The Moralistic Family

  • The moralistic family is the family focused on keeping the rules.
  • Without the rules the lawgiver is usually very anxious and if the rules are broken the rule-giver becomes angry.
  • The family typically disregards or dismisses what individuals are feelings. Feelings are typically unwelcome because they are unpredictable and messy. Children in this system are often compliant, at least until teen years!

The Authoritative Family

  • The authoritative family is dominated by an enforcer who is in charge and maintains control. The focal point is not primarily a moralistic framework, but the need to control.
  • So the enforcer may control not by issuing commands on right or wrong, but through anger, blaming, or physical force.
  • The enforcer is not bound to consistency, but may be orientated around his or her personal preferences on any given day or in any given circumstance.
  • The emotional atmosphere is unreliable and unpredictable.

Emotionally Entangled Family

  • The emotionally entangled family is marked by parents who use their children for their own sense of emotional stability and strength.
  • The parent(s) will often confide in their child inappropriate information about their marriage, or family problems. Emotionally entangled families often seek a child to be a mediator between parents.
  • The child will often suffer under the demand of being called upon to address adult needs that are beyond their capacity to hold and manage.

The Mature Inter-Dependent Family

  • Each member of the family is recognized as an individual. Family responsibilities are clear and role appropriate. Adults are adults and children are children.
  • Adults assign age appropriate tasks to children and have age appropriate expectations for teaching personal and family responsibilities.
  • Parents maintain authority, sustain clear boundaries, and demonstrate affection toward one another and all family members.
  • Poor choices have consequences and discipline is consistent.
  • Family members rely on each other for love, support, encouragement, and guidance that is role appropriate.
  • Members of the family understand differences between persons and accept differences.
  • Members of the family understand that no one is perfect. Apologies and forgiveness are extended and received.
  • Disagreements and conflicts are worked through to compromise, mutual understanding or a willingness to agree to disagree. But the fundamental relationships of love and support are not threatened or compromised.
  • Individual members are assisted in discovering their giftedness and encouraged to pursue their dreams and desires.

Thankfully, the Gospel is warm and strong enough to handle all of our defenses and dysfunctions. We come to Christ just as we are and, by his Spirit and his Community (the Church) we find forgiveness and healing. When HE is our home our hearts will be in a good place!

Escaping the Matrix…a post by Jim

 

God created us to be a complex mix of biology and experience. We are embodied souls who have minds that inevitably draw us into relationships. Gregory Boyd calls this complex interface a matrix (Escaping the Matrix). He explains what he means by saying, biologically, we are given billions of neurons that connect via trillions of neuro synapsis. We are also given the manner by which the brain is constructed to function (e.g. neurons firing together wire together). God created us this way and it is “very good” (and incredibly complex!).

Now what gets registered in our God-given neuro structures occurs within and through our relational experience with our world and particularly with other persons. The most primitive structuring of the neuro system is organized emotionally around experiences. It is the foundation for our earliest representation of ourselves and others and our outside world (i.e. how I see me, how I see you, how I see you seeing me). This takes place in and through our relationships be they safe (which leads to trust) or unsafe (which leads to mistrust).

Through our primitive emotional experiences and representations structured in early neuro mapping we are also learning, within this early mapping, our relational strategies of engaging others (i.e. primary attachment patterns). Our earliest neuro mapping is prior to the development of conscious cognitive self-reflection. It relies on our emotional experiences within our key relationships and becomes our ‘script’ for how we do relationships.

Because the nature of neurological mapping within our emergent self is so profoundly influenced by our emotional experience, to expect mere cognitive notions to be the fundamental means of transformation is ‘misguided’ (in light of God’s foundational created order of the human soul). So when we think about transformation we are entering the world of memory and imagination and emotion. There simply must be a new and better ‘order’ of things that captures our souls with its astounding beauty. And we must have experiences that re-order the false representations that we have inevitably developed in a fallen world.

This is where the Gospel story of God pursuing and drawing us to himself in Christ becomes crucial for change. IN Christ a ‘new’ order has come, changing the distorted reality of the fallen (created) order of things. IN Christ we can escape the old matrix of mistrust and distorted representations (e.g. of what ‘father’ means to us if we had a difficult dad). IN Christ we are introduced to the true reality of God being FOR us. IN Christ we find ourselves in the new community of faith that re-presents our deepest images of what it means to be loved and valued.

Walking In Step…a post by Joy

Many years ago, I memorized Psalm 37: 23 as a song. The verse reads :  “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. “

This song has played over and over in my heart and mind the last couple of weeks. I began to think about the different kinds of steps that Christ guides us to take in our journeys of spiritual formation. Some steps moving forward are small and some are moving by “leaps and bounds”. There are slow steps and even some steps in the process that may feel as though we are moving backwards.

Recently, I’ve been released from physical therapy for my right foot and leg. The therapy I’ve received is helping to put my body into alignment to help me learn to walk in a way that is healthier for me. In light of this, I’ve been very aware that the process of Christian Spiritual Formation is Christ working in us to bring us back to the alignment of our true selves created by God.

Taking a step forward into the new “way of being” that Christ transforms can be uncomfortable at times as we let go of what we are most familiar with even though it may not be the healthiest.

The greatest comfort in this journey of spiritual formation is that we are not alone. Christ is upholding us with His hand. He walks in step with us through the presence of His Holy Spirit by helping us step out of fear into courage; out of shame into embracing that we are His beloved children who receive our worth from Him; and out of a false guilt by accepting that He has covered everything for us through His death and resurrection.

May the peace of Christ be with us all as we walk with Him one step at a time!

Our Broken Emotional Thermostat

Taken from The Relational Soul – When it comes to the thermostat of our learned level of emotional intimacy there are three things to keep in mind. First, the early setting becomes one’s normal … Second, the setting on the soul’s thermostat ranges from icy cold to boiling hot, from detached to enmeshed ways of being with others … The third thing to note about the thermostat is this—the thermostat is defective (as if we didn’t have enough to worry about already!). Continue Reading

puppy, feeling safe, relating

How Close Can I Be and Still Feel Safe?

Taken from The Relational Soul – Our attachment pattern contributes to the level of closeness that makes us feel safe. For some closeness creates anxiety. For others separation creates anxiety. This learned level of closeness in which one feels safe is called the “proximity principle” or one’s “learned level of intimacy.” The proximity principle functions much like the thermostat that regulates the temperature in a house. Continue Reading

Attachment, grandkids, trust

Four Ways of Relating

Avoidant Attachment Pattern

Taken from The Relational Soul – When the primary caregivers are consistently unavailable a child learns to avoid trusting others. The learning is not conscious, but it is profound. When mom or dad routinely fails to show up emotionally, a child experiences the pain of anxiety. Over time a child learns to defend against the pain by avoiding others emotionally. The child unconsciously begins to feel it is better to be distant than disappointed. Continue Reading