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.

Seasons of Life…a post by Joy

Seasons of life come to us whether we want them to or not. It’s interesting that this is the way God organized and planned the rhythm of life from the beginning. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8;11 states:

There is a time for everything,

a season for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal

A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to lose.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace….

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.….

The great thing about the change of seasons or a “time for everything” is the simple truth that it really IS “for a season” . When our appointed time comes to leave this earth, our season here in this life is complete.

In our journeys of Christian spiritual formation, there are seasons that are joyful, ambivalent, or sad even to the point of grieving the loss of the old season to make room for the birth of what’s coming with the new season. It’s a way that we are able to pay attention with our finite minds and hearts to the grief and the blessing of what we have just experienced through the season of Lent, Good Friday and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is always going to be the cycle of endings (“death”) and beginnings (“resurrection”) as Christ transforms us day by day in His time.   May we be mindful of the presence of Christ in our lives all the times.

Union: What We Never Forget … and God’s Invitation

We all begin our journey from a state of connection and union with our primary caregivers, usually our mother and father. Developmental psychologists make the case that every infant is actually one with their caregivers. Infants literally borrow the brain of their caregiver to help hold and shape their earliest life experiences. We begin our journey from a place of psychological union not separation. My (Rich) granddaughter Kate is four months old and now when she looks at you there is no longer the glazed, trance-like look of a new born. From her place of union she’s is on her way to becoming her individual self. Some suggest, and I happen to believe they are right, that we never forget our earliest state of union and communion. Kate will always remember. It is true that we can’t consciously remember our state of blissful union usually with mom, but it is nevertheless stored deep within the primitive recesses (our implicit memory) of our true self reality.

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Grounded in Being Loved

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Being loved grounds us. When we are loved we have an essential experience of belonging. An infant in the experience of being loved forms a relational attachment with mom and dad. This relation attachment is essential for physical survival and all future psychological and spiritual development. Without this primitive experience of belonging, of being grounded in love, life will unravel for the child as his or her sense of self begins to fragment. The essential psychological and spiritual need of an infant child is to be loved. Our soul’s deepest sense of being grounded is always anchored relationally!

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love, marriage, wedding

Love Changes Me

Taken from The Relational Soul – It is in our closest relationships that our attachment pattern and learned level of intimacy shows up most dramatically. We can meet a stranger on the sidewalk and be courteous and kind. But work in business with someone, serve in ministry with someone, live in a marriage with someone and our “stuff” begins to show. When it does we can make commitments to connect better, be more kind, to spend more time with each other, to not let another hit our emotional buttons (the list goes on and on). But more often than not we can find ourselves back in the old, unfulfilling ways of relating. It’s because of what is at the core of how we relate. It is because of our capacity to trust appropriately. Continue Reading

hot, cold, emotional temperature

Too Hot … Too Cold

Taken from The Relational Soul – Trust fosters an open, receptive soul that is able to give one’s self and receive the presence of another in a free, responsible, and loving way. Mistrust leads to a closed, reactive soul that is unavailable to another in both detached and enmeshed ways. A receptive way of relating is the result of early relational connections in which one felt safe, secure, and deeply loved. It is marked BY a willingness to be present to others as they are without exaggerated evaluation or judgment or protection. Continue Reading

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