Merry Christmas from CrossPoint…a post by Rich

We at CrossPoint Ministry wish you all a very Merry Christmas. In a world polarized by and riddled with fear there is no greater message than of the one who is called “Immanuel” God with us. The Christmas story is magnificent in many ways. The angelic announcement to the shepherds of “good news of great joy,” the noble humility of Mary and her words “let it be to me according to your word,” and Joseph’s dream marked by the angelic voice saying, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And of course Joseph’s ensuing obedience to what he had heard. The magnificence of the arrival of the one who is “the Son of the Most High” is shrouded in simplicity, obscurity, and poverty.

Christian orthodoxy has for centuries contended that this child in the manger is the Mediator between God and man. He is the Mediator of the created order. All things are created by him, through him and for him. (Col. 1) He is the one in whom “all things hold together.” The very nature of this infant child is the one who creates and sustains all that is! Since the Son of God is the mediator of all creation everything in the created order is structured for relational participation. Nothing exists except through him and for him. Everything that is has his personal touch upon it. As Paul would say, “He is the firstborn over all creation!” God is with us beckoning us in all that is created to see his invitation for connection and communion.

But this God who structures the universe for relational participation seeks personal relational communion for his glory and our good. So the Son of God is born in the fullness of time and will save us from our sin. Sin anchored in mistrust is the great adversary of communion. The Son of God the very outpouring of the love of God comes so that we may each be loved beyond measure and by grace we are given faith to receive life in his name. And this life is eternal life because it is the very life of the Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is with us! He is with us in the depths of our being. His Spirit is permeating our souls ensuring that as sons and daughters of the living God we shall in Christ find the glory of Christmas becoming progressively more and more, “one degree of glory to another” our glory.

So Merry Christmas to you all. Whatever your present lot in life, whether joyful or sad he is doing far more in you than you think or imagine. He is the God who gives gifts that are beyond our comprehension! And so we say, thanks be to God for the Savior of the world, our Savior, has come and is coming.

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!

Let the Gospels Define Us…a post by Rich

 

A recent discussion with a pastor led to us considering the question, what do the gospel writers emphasize as the message of Jesus? Did the gospel writers emphasize that Jesus brought a message about life or was it about sin. Our perspective at CrossPoint is that the gospel writers believed that Jesus in inaugurating and establishing the new creation through his life, death, resurrection and ascension was bringing a message of life. Perhaps John is most explicit when he records these words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Jn. 11:25-26 (Jn.3:17,4:13,5:24,6:27,7:38,8:34,10:27-30).

It is true the cross of Christ is Jesus addressing through his substitutionary death our enslavement to sin and God the Father’s judgement of our sin. The truth is all who believe in Jesus are now justified by faith and made children of God. (Rom. 5, Gal. 4) As a result the believer’s life is now hidden in Christ with God (Col.3:3, see also Rom. 6). We can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. (Rom. 8). Our primary attention is now to love God with our whole heart. For some their understanding of loving God has turned into a preoccupation with sin and the naming and repenting of idols. The pastor mentioned above came to realize in light of his preoccupation with sin and repentance that over time he developed a critical and judgmental spirit and was only experiencing more and more anxiety. Inordinate self-preoccupation especially if it is about sin will always prove over time to morph into severe soul-sickness.

We believe at CrossPoint our attention should be on gratitude and joy for the gift of participatory communion in the life of the Trinitarian God, which is eternal life. We believe that if we pursue with all our hearts what is true, good and beautiful God’s Spirit will make clear to us the sin in need of repentance. We see our self most clearly by seeing ourselves more fully in Christ. Our heart’s attention is on our love of the Trinitarian God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact, a lover of God will make regular times for confession of sin. But our liturgy does not end with confession of sin and endless idol hunting but with the assurance of pardon, which reminds us we are free to love our Lord and neighbor as best we can. The gospel of Christ is liberating and so sets our hearts on a spiritual journey of thanksgiving, praise, joy and wonder at the fullness of God’s goodness to us in Christ. Yes we live in a world that has lost consciousness of sin, but are we to have our life in Christ defined by the deficiencies of a secularized age or by the words of life and hope in the Gospel? We at CrossPoint say we allow the Gospels to define who we are.

Christ, the Doting Father…a post by Joy

This past week-end we have been celebrating the 1st birthday of our grandson, Hayden. Having never been in this position before, we entered the occasion with delight! Travel plans to fly across the country were made, bags were packed, the camera and phones were charged to take lots of pictures and video clips and of course, a birthday gift was chosen, purchased and wrapped.

While participating in the preparations for the party, Jim and I were told that Hayden needed a playmate. We, or course, obliged! Watching him explore while crawling from place to place reminded me how far he has come since he first began. Stacking cups of different sizes, throwing and retrieving balls, knowing how to turn the pages of his baby books, taking stronger steps one at a time while holding onto someone’s fingers.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him! It’s true that as a grandmother, I have “fallen in love” with him! I held him as often as I could, laughed with him, played with him, sang to him, and helped with the other activities of carrying for a baby.

I kept thinking that Christ must dote over us the way that I am “foolishly” and crazily happy to be around my little grandson! It brings joy to me to just watch him in his process of constantly playing to learn new things and to keep going, especially in the crawling stage and now as he is exploring and trying to walk on his own 2 feet.

Christ loves each of us with this doting insatiable fondness. Sometimes we may think He doesn’t really love us that much in our day to day lives when we may feel shamed, or guilty, fearful, or angry. Yet, He Does! He loves us with that doting love right where we are in our journey……even when we are just beginning to crawl!

Two of my favorite verses are Ephesians 3:17-19.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide,

how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will

never fully understand it.

Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. “

Let’s Get Physical…a post by Jim

A couple months ago I wrote a post about the importance our bodies in spiritual formation. I’m coming back to the same topic because I just can’t get it out of my mind (and my body!). What Your Body Knows about God (Rob Moll …If you are interested in more on the body and its impact on formation I strongly encourage you to read it) is also at work in my reflections on the body. As I have read it (and pay attention to my own experience) I am more and more convinced that our bodies REALLY influence the trajectory of Christian transformation.

For example, spiritual disciplines are “activities within our power which bring us to a point we can do what at present we cannot do by direct effort” (Dallas Willard). Disciplines shape us so that we become the kind of people and do the kinds of things that Jesus wants of us. They change our being through our doing. Habits of the body shape habits of the heart. Grow in love, patience, hope, goodness and the like involve disciplined actions of our bodies. If I want to develop a kind heart I need to practice regular acts of kindness.

Neurologists tells us that what most fundamentally drives us is not directly accessible to us (no matter how solid our thoughts or determined our volition). Our instinctive feelings and emotions matter far more than rational ideas. This is not to say our frontal lobes aren’t important in regulating emotions and actions. Thank God we can reflect on and reverse a course of action that will get us in trouble. But Christian transformation will need the help of emotions that are sensitive to what is true, good and beautiful (from God’s perspective).

And that is where the body comes in. Emotions are body states. Spiritual disciplines that involve our bodies shape the emotional (instinctive) reactions we are likely to have. Any time we can instinctively follow God we will be in better shape than relying only on the executive, cognitive center to make us follow God. Rather than needing to choose them we can become people who desire them.

As any top athlete or musician will tell us, training the body to instinctive do at the highest level takes time. But a great game or great music requires people who have disciplined their bodies so that they can do something great. As Christians we cannot overlook the importance of our bodies in play the game/music of being loved and loving God, others, and ourselves.

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

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