The River of ‘Me’…a post by Jim

Rivers are amazing. They can snake their way through a mountainous terrain or flow straight through level land. They can be deep and fast flowing or shallow and slow. Each seems to have its own personality.

Rivers provide a great metaphor (if that is the correct figure of speech) for our souls. We each have a personality that displays itself in various ways depending on the surrounding terrain.

I think of it this way. The river of me has two main contributing streams. There is the stream of my DNA, my wiring displayed in my personality. The second stream is my family of origin. The two streams come together to form the ‘me’ that i am and how I will navigate the terrain of my relationships.

The value of the Enneagram is that it helps identify the DNA God gave me that contributes to my personality. It shows me my strengths and the vulnerabilities that my wiring gives me. Both my strengths and my vulnerabilities can be magnified or diminished by the relational world of my family of origin. The value of a Life Map shows me the effects of those early influences on my personality. A Life Map (where I write the events that I lived, the emotions I felt during those events, and the interpretation I gave to what I felt) helps me see both my wounds and my solidity of soul.

God is honored as we embrace the river of who we are. He uses it to love others well. So let the water of your soul flow freely and deeply, graciously and generously, with receptivity and vulnerability.

Once, even Twice or Three Times, is NEVER Enough!…a post by Jim

My grandson spent the last few days with us. I always learn in his presence. This time what struck me is that his 23 month brain demands that he repeat and re-repeat whatever is on his mind. And re-re-repeat!

So when he thinks of the dog he will say ‘dog’ again and again. When he remembers throwing bread to the ducks three days ago he says ‘throw’ again and again. When he wants his dad or mom you can be sure he will make that known.

Some years ago Eugene Peterson wrote, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” He reminded his readers that a virtuous character requires repetition of virtuous thoughts and actions. Again and again. So that when a person lives an honest life, with enough repetition of honest thinking and doing he or she will eventually can be described as an honest person. Habitual righteousness results in virtuous character.

God wired our brains for repetition. My grandson is doing exactly what God designed him to do. Repeat, repeat, repeat. My prayer for him is that he will practice a long obedience in the RIGHT direction so that someday he will be known as a virtuous man. I pray the same for myself. I pray the same for you.

What will you think and do today that will habitualize virture?

 

Empathy vs Sympathy…a video post by Tom

Check out the following short video illustrating the important difference between empathy and sympathy.  Now ask the question which one is God? Which one are you? Imagine how the quality of our relationships  would improve if we embodied this…and thus the quality of our lives.

 

Butterfly effect…a post by Tom

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.”

—Dean Jackson

God’s first revelation is nature.  In nature’s cycles of life, death, and rebirth we see the gospel in action right in front of us.  Our spiritual journey is no different, we must journey through stages of order, disorder, and reorder.  The journey of Jesus was meant to be followed and not just worshipped.   Leaning into our own order, disorder, and reorder while trusting the process when we are in unknown spiritual territory takes courage. Let’s learn from the journey of the butterfly and relate this to our own path.

A butterfly goes through four stages of life egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  To cross from one stage to the next involves great risk and change. A person on the spiritual path also goes through stages with each stage having a different goal.  Often these stages are separated by a dark night or crisis of faith which involve creative risk.

The first egg stage: tiny eggs are laid on the underside of a leaf as the caterpillar larva is protected and growing inside its membrane.  If we are lucky, we are born into a Christian home and given the protection and teaching to develop our childish and childlike faith.  If not, we find ourselves saddled with a spiritual restlessness and desiring we know not what nor where to find it.  Perhaps we find our way to a faith community that can do what our homes did not.

The second larva stage: when the egg hatches a larva emerges and has only one goal…to eat.  The larva grows into a fat juicy caterpillar. On the spiritual path, one could call this the conversion.  We are awakened to the gospel and have a personal encounter with Jesus.  We have hatched!  Now we have an insatiable hunger to know more and all we want to do is learn, learn, and learn.  This is the time when we can’t take in enough podcasts, sermons, Bible studies and church.  We amass theology and data about being a follower of Jesus.  And just like the heavy caterpillar, we might take ourselves very seriously and be heavy with self preoccupation. Most of us think this is the end game and most churches park the bus here, but there is more.

The third pupa stage: when the larva stops growing, it stops eating and then forms a chrysalis. This is a mysterious stage of development because from the outside it looks like the pupa is doing nothing, perhaps dead.  However, inside the cocoon the pupa is literally being digested and reformed into a butterfly.  The old parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a radical transformation or metamorphosis. On the spiritual path there comes a point when we have had enough with the Bible studies, prayer groups, sermons, and talking heads.  We may even think we are losing our faith.  From the outside it looks like the person has backslidden or fallen into unbelief.  However, inside the person is learning the contemplative path and resting in union with God beneath thoughts, imagination, and feelings.  Ask them to explain what is going on and they can’t. The mother and fathers of the church have called this ‘quies’ or holy resting.  The person just wants to rest in silence and solitude in the loving embrace of God.  The old parts of one’s religious heritage and beliefs are being digested and brought into a higher or fuller realization.  Symbols take on new meaning and belief systems become pointers to the mystery rather than an explanation of mystery.

The fourth butterfly stage:  when the pupa is done forming it hatches from the cocoon through a breathtaking process and a butterfly emerges.  The butterfly must struggle to emerge from the previous stage and then flap its vulnerable and soft wings to get the blood flowing into them.  Once it has rested and gotten the wings to cooperate, it flies!  The mission now is reproduction.  On the spiritual path we must put our contemplation into action.  We might have to break out of the denominational traditions we were brought up.  We might have to break free of limiting relationships and theology.  We will most certainly have to break free of our family system and cultural conditioning.  We graduate from first half of life spirituality into second half.  This takes enormous effort and struggle to emerge into a world and sometimes a religious landscape that doesn’t value contemplatives.  We dare to fly because now we have learned to take ourselves…lightly.   It is for freedom Christ set us free!  Our mission then is to help others in their own transformation.

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!