Thinking Out Loud

November 19, 2017

Emotional Inventory: A Sunday Confessional

A few years ago at church service we attended, a well known couple in the church — the pastor called them a “power couple” — shared a little of their journey through marriage counseling earlier in the year. It sounds like they were facing some rough challenges, and it would be easy for someone to be smug and say, “Boy, I’m glad our marriage never got to that.”

But then I got thinking about the whole idea of counseling. Some very high profile pastors go to counselors on a regular basis and are very public about it. I’ve never been mostly because I can’t afford it; it would be an expensive luxury given our budget.

What would a counselor find?

As I thought about this I realized that my emotional life is characterized by a number of negative things. I mentally listed seven yesterday, but can only recall five today. I’m going to be very honest with this confession, and this on a blog that tends not to get personal. For simplicity, these are alphabetical:

  • anxiety, apprehension, fear, worry — about health, finances, the children, the health of extended family members, business, etc. (This one concerns me the most, as worry and trusting God are spiritually incompatible.)
  • indecision — not that I can’t make decisions, but I feel like I don’t have a good track record, and therefore I don’t trust myself to make good ones (This one makes it hard to move forward; I tend not to plan things.)
  • isolation — for most of my life I’ve been flying solo in business and ministry projects; it would be nice to play on a large team sometime (This one flares up at the oddest times.)
  • regret — not that I spend a lot of time looking back, but as the song says, “Regrets, I have a few…” (This one probably brings out the greatest sadness, reminding me of another song, “If I Could Turn Back Time.”)
  • rejection — with a common thread to the isolation mentioned above, a lot of projects I’ve tried to start just haven’t clicked with the Christian community (This one just makes me angry, I feel like it’s other peoples’ loss.)

I could flesh these out in greater detail, but basically, these are some things I have been dealing with over the years, and it’s not a very happy list.

But I think it’s a very accurate picture of what lurks beyond the superficial, and while I don’t expect to resolve all these today, by sharing them here, you just saved me a few of the initial counseling sessions! I should also add that my days are not spent focusing inward; I don’t see myself as a candidate for depression, rather, these are themes that are lurking in the background. 

Furthermore, I am a great believer in transparency. I would never want my readers to think that I am something more than I am, or that I have everything together spiritually. James 3:2a notes that “Indeed, we all make many mistakes.” Proverbs 24:16a reminds us that “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” The conceit of appearing spiritually superior is much more dangerous than confessing one’s inadequacies. I’d much rather write a blog post which says, “These are my spiritual weaknesses;” than write one boasting that “These are my spiritual strengths.”

So now that I’ve left myself emotionally naked and vulnerable today — can’t wait to see what the search engines do with that phrase — does this resonate with any of you? You guys don’t leave a lot of comments, but this would be a good day…

Scripture quotations NLT at BibleHub.com

Advertisements

September 25, 2017

Defiance

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:03 am

There was something in the air on Sunday.

After viewing, I went on Twitter to what people were saying about the airing of Star Trek Discovery on CBS-TV. The mood was somewhat defiant. Well over half — in some stretches closer to 80% — of people commenting did not like the pilot and were adamant that they would not pay a subscription fee to CBS All Access to watch successive episodes. I think some were predisposed to not like the show because they knew it was moving to pay-per-view.

In a microcosm of that defiance, the second in command on the star-ship defies the Captain and several commented that defiance is usually not seen among the ranks of Star Fleet. There were also indications that the science officer was not going to necessarily be always obedient.

The show itself was delayed when an NFL game went into overtime, pushing back 60 Minutes (with new correspondent Oprah Winfrey); a game which was one of many on Sunday where players defied the President of the U.S. by either kneeling or locking arms or not showing up at all during the playing of the National Anthem. The “Take a Knee” action is also spreading on Twitter.

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary online reminds us that defiance can be an action or an attitude:

Definition of defiance

1 :the act or an instance of defying :challenge

  • jailed for defiance of a court order

2 :disposition to resist :willingness to contend or fight

  • dealing with a child’s defiance

Googling “What the Bible Says About Defiance” points often to defiance in children and there are also references to rebellion. The scripture context when referring to adults is usually in reference to rebellion against God. (See 1 Thess. 4:8)

I don’t want to go especially deep into this today except to note my personal conviction that defiance and rebellion can be contagious. While I applaud those who make peaceful protests surrounding key issues that really matter, I am hesitant to see the spread of protest culture. In some cases these demonstrations can be a great agent for social change, but in others they simply cultivate anger and can be breeding grounds for violence.

But defiance is definitely in the air these days.

 

 

June 22, 2017

Christian Leaders Have Feelings, Too

Have you ever received a letter or an email where you could acutely feel the pain of the person writing? It happened to me about a week ago, and not for the usual reasons that people experience hurt. This person had unexpectedly come out on the wrong side of a business dealing some other Christians. Though the letter wasn’t written particularly to evoke an emotional response, but it really affected me and has stayed with me throughout the week.

Interestingly, if I am to be perfectly honest I don’t particularly like this person. Circumstances necessitate a relationship that would not exist otherwise. Really, that’s how it is in the body of Christ. Look around your church on Sunday morning and ask yourself how likely you would otherwise be to interact with this set of people. Would you have another context to make their acquaintance? Would the ones you count as friends have ended up so through some other means?

Meanwhile, all’s fair in love and business, right? Tough luck. Easy come, easy go.

Ruminating on this continually however, I’ve been reminded that people in Christian leadership are not immune to hurt and pain. Years ago I was at a crossroads where I could have gone into pastoral ministry. “Don’t do it;” a mentor advised; “You’re not thick-skinned enough.”

But who is thick-skinned enough? We’re human. We bleed. Electing to choose a ministry that must be, by definition, compassionate means that pastors may be more sensitive than many of us. We all have different degrees of sensitivity, but I think pastors bear the biggest brunt of this. They are particularly vulnerable on Sundays, especially right after the sermon. If you want to bring someone down a notch or two, that’s the perfect time. As an aspiring Bible teacher, I had just finished a Sunday morning sermon at a Christian conference center that was transitioning into a summer camp; so adults from offsite were still in the habit of driving there for services. I don’t remember the topic, but I felt it had gone reasonably well until the director called me into his office immediately after.

“You really think you’re hot stuff, don’t you?”

I stood there not quite sure how to respond. It turned out later that there was a enormous political power struggle going on in this organization, and he didn’t want me feeling in any way empowered.  The rest of that conversation is a bit of a blur.

Christian leaders have feelings. Some no doubt pursue ministry not realizing the emotional price they will have to pay. This undoubtedly leads to the rather high attrition rate in this profession. But heads of missions, parachurch organizations and other Christian charities could be included in this, as well as lay-leaders who may have a role in the life the church which is quite a contrast to their primary vocation.

It’s important for the rest of us to bear that in mind.

Don’t cause hurt. If you need to confront an individual, do it lovingly. If you think something needs to be done differently, make a suggestion, not an order. If you feel someone is going astray, scripture tells us to lead them gently back.

Watch for leaders who are hurting. They’re all around you. In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, you can be a pastor’s pastor. They need to talk, too. Remember them in prayer.

Rebuke the person who causes hurt. If you know someone who loves to stir the pot, who loves to be ‘Brother Sandpaper,’ pull them aside and remind them that the Christian leader in question is human just like them.

Bear your own hurts well. If you’ve continued reading this far, perhaps you have some leadership role in the church and need to expect at sometime to have to manage the emotions which arise when the inevitable attack happens, because it probably will.

Make love your rule of life.

 

March 11, 2016

A Different Response to Envy

Over the years here at Thinking Out Loud, we’ve turned to the Steve Laube Agency for background articles dealing with everything from plagiarism to manipulating the New York Times bestseller list to the restructuring of a large Christian bookstore chain. Steve’s primary work however is dealing with author contracts with major publishers, and if you read the “acknowledgements” section in works by your favorite Christian writers, you’ll see his name connected to some very well known people!

But as we discovered in the article below, sometimes his blog branches out to deal with other aspects of being a professional writer, for example dealing with the success of other professional writers.

You must click the link in the title below to read this even if only to see the very appropriate graphic they included that we didn’t poach (!) and catch some of the comments. But just in case you don’t…

Turn Envy Upside Down

••• by Tamela Hancock Murray

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins and not easy to conquer. Who hasn’t felt jealous over someone else’s success, especially when it doesn’t seem deserved? Seeing an outright enemy succeed is even worse.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, take your feelings of envy and put them to good use. That is, make those feelings work for you so you can succeed.

Here’s how:

  • When someone in your sphere is successful, send unvarnished congratulations. No backhanded compliments or sarcasm permitted.
  • Once you are alone, see how you feel. Do you feel envious? Chances are, you feel you deserve what that person has. Acknowledge those feelings and move to step three.
  • Evaluate the person’s journey. Was the “overnight” success a reality? Or has this person worked for years to have a particular book published, or to be published at all?
  • If so, consider that effort. Resolve to increase your efforts.
  • If not, don’t credit that writer’s success to “luck” because that takes away from such accomplishment. After all, you wouldn’t want your accomplishments credited to luck. Instead, look at what the writer is doing. Why do you think that book speaks to readers? Resolve to make your own work more appealing.
  • Always, always pray for a pure heart. Then take a genuine interest in the writer you envy. Engage her on social media. See what you can learn. If you are already friends with the writer, perhaps she can become a mentor. That is a powerful place to be.
  • Sin takes power away from us. Those who practice love are victorious.

Your turn:

When was the last time you were envious? What did you do?
What other tips can you offer to conquer envy?
Do you have a story about how a successful person inspired you?

click the title above to see the responses

November 12, 2012

Taking Emotional Inventory: Revelations and Confessions

Filed under: personal — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:39 am

I have no idea what the post title implies. It just looked good. Then again, I have a fairly good idea.

Yesterday I attended two different morning services at two churches. In the second one, a well known couple in the church — the pastor called them a “power couple” — shared a little of their journey through marriage counseling earlier in the year. It sounds like they were facing some rough challenges, and it would be easy for someone to be smug and say, “Boy, I’m glad our marriage never got to that.”

But then I got thinking about the whole idea of counseling. Some very high profile pastors go to counselors on a regular basis and are very public about it. I’ve never been mostly because I can’t afford it; it would be an expensive luxury given our budget.

What would a counselor find?

As I thought about this I realized that my emotional life is characterized by a number of negative things. I mentally listed seven yesterday, but can only recall five today. I’m going to be very honest with this confession, and this on a blog that tends not to get personal.  For simplicity, these are alphabetical:

  • anxiety, apprehension, fear, worry — about health, finances, the children, my mom’s health, business, etc. (This one concerns me the most, as worry and trusting God are spiritually incompatible.)
  • indecision — not that I can’t make decisions, but I feel like I don’t have a good track record, and therefore I don’t trust myself to make good ones (This one makes it hard to move forward; I tend not to plan things.)
  • isolation — for most of my life I’ve been flying solo in business and ministry projects; it would be nice to play on a large team sometime (This one flares up at the oddest times.)
  • regret — not that I spend a lot of time looking back, but as the song says, “Regrets, I have a few…” (This one probably brings out the greatest sadness, reminding me of another song, “If I Could Turn Back Time.”)
  • rejection — with a common thread to the isolation mentioned above, a lot of projects I’ve tried to start just haven’t clicked with the Christian community (This one just makes me angry, I feel like it’s other peoples’ loss.)

 I could flesh these out in greater detail, but basically, these are some things I deal with, and it’s not a very happy list.

But I think it’s a very accurate picture of what lurks beyond the superficial, and while I don’t expect to resolve all these today, by sharing them here, you just saved me a few of the initial counseling sessions!   I should also add that my days are not spent focusing inward; I don’t see myself as a candidate for depression, rather, these are themes that are lurking in the background.

So now that I’ve left myself emotionally naked and vulnerable today — can’t wait to see what the search engines do with that phrase — does this resonate with any of you? You guys don’t leave a lot of comments, but this would be a good day…

December 11, 2011

Guys Need to Guard Their Hearts, Too

Jamie Wright blogs at Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, where this rather blunt admonition to guys appeared under the title, Guard Your Heart, Bro. Very blunt, actually. I warned you.

Once upon a time, we took a short line from the Bible and we turned it into a life song for girls. We slapped it on silver promise rings and we stamped it on rubber bracelets. We emblazoned it on fitted v-neck T’s, engraved it in hinged lockets, and chickified it in every way imaginable. Then we developed flowery, heart themed girls-retreats around it to ensure that our daughters would embrace it.

      “Above all else, guard your heart…”

                                    Proverbs 4:23


We admonish our girls to guard their hearts, and we warn them about “giving away pieces of their heart” in the form of every kind of love to the unworthy slobs they hang out with after school. Then we wind their “heart” up with their virginity so tight it becomes a two-fer-one deal – in the process of guarding their hearts, we end up guarding organs south of border. It’s a pretty brilliant plan, when you think about it.

Oh, and we train our boys, too, but not to guard their heart. To our boys we say,”For the love of God, avert your eyes and keep your johnson in your pants.”

I’m, like, kind of an authority on guys because I have a husband who is a guy, and I have lot of friends who are guys, and, also, I have a bunch of kids who are all guys. So yeah, listen to me when I say that it turns out guys really don’t talk about their hearts that much. In fact, most of the guys I know don’t talk about their heart at all. And I’m guessing 90% have never, ever been told to guard their heart. Probably because everybody knows that’s totally a chick thing to do.

As the mother of 2.8 teenage sons, I win the awkward award for trying to engage dudes in these conversations. When I start talking about heart stuff, the eye rolling gets so intense it blows my hair back. This makes me nervous, so I do that thing where you try way too hard to be hip and relatable and end up saying stupid crap, like, “The Bible says you need to guard your heart…dawg.”  And then my kids shake their heads, “No, Mom… Just, no.” So then I say something even more idiotic, like, “I’m just bein’ straight wichyou. My boy, Solomon, was, like, the wisest brother to ever walk the planet and it’s his advice, not mine, Bro.” And then, naturally, one of them will point out that they are, in fact, not my “bro”.

It’s all very embarrassing. And worthwhile.

I don’t think that our men are reminded often enough that they need to guard their hearts.

We teach them to guard their eyes, but I want my sons to know and understand that what porn does to their eyes isn’t what will break them, it’s what it does to their heart that will eventually leave them empty and hurting.

And we teach our men to guard their junk, to keep it in their pants, but I want my sons to know and understand that what promiscuity does to their loins isn’t what will break them (although herpes is no cakewalk), it’s what it does to their heart that will leave them lonely and aching for more.

I want my kids to get it when I tell them that the greatest thing they can bring into marriage will be their own well-guarded heart. A heart that, for all of its years and to the best of its ability, has borne the wisdom of Solomon“For they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.”

When I look around the church, when I talk amongst my friends, when I peek into the world – I see men who are broken and hurting, men tied to their addictions, men out of control, men drowning in lust, so many men longing for peace and grace and mercy, and in desperate need of restoration for their tattered and broken hearts. Hearts that have gone unguarded for far too long. And I want to break this verse like an alabaster jar over their brows. I want to pour out the perfume of Redemption on their lives. I want to release the words of Solomon to his sons, that they may be free to take up their spears and stand guard over their own hearts, because their hearts are worthy of the effort…. above all else….

   “Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.”

May 24, 2010

Your Pastor’s Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

If you’re like most of us, you attended church somewhere yesterday, heard a good sermon, and probably picture your pastor today with his feet up, reading the paper while sipping fruit juice;  relaxing on Monday.   But a pastor’s life isn’t like that; not for a minute.  If physical stress doesn’t weigh heavy, often emotional stress does.

I was going to save this post by Pete Wilson of Nashville’s Crosspoint Church for Wednesday’s link list, but I really want to make sure y’all read it in full.   (Yes, I’m writing from Canada, and I just said “y’all.”  Go figure.)  Besides, it’s a holiday Monday nationally here, and my creative department is shut down for the day!   The picture — which he posted the next day — is Pete Wilson on the golf course with Max Lucado.   I had to retouch it a bit to make sure it wasn’t just a generic guy in a hat!


‘Whiplash’ is a word I’ve used more than once when describing the emotions I often go through as a pastor.

Yesterday was a difficult day.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I need to write this now more than you need to read it, so please bear with me. Let me give you a little back story to help you understand.

Over the course of the past two years Brandi and I have had two sets of friends who have experienced the loss of a baby. Todd and Angie Smith who lost their baby after two hours of life and Mike and Holly Phelps who lost their baby late in their first pregnancy.

I can’t even begin to imagine the heavy heartache and deep loss they went through. And while getting pregnant again doesn’t take a way that pain, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that both couples were once again pregnant.

While each couple faced their own unique challenges, they were both on track to have healthy babies. I couldn’t help but think of what a bitter sweet experience it would be for both of them. A glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness they’ve been walking through.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, in hospitals just two blocks away from each other, both couples had an pre-term delivery.

Yesterday morning I walked into two different hospital rooms. Both scenes could not have been more similar and yet more different.

Both rooms had moms who were laying in hospital beds. Both rooms had dads who were right by the bed holding and rocking a tiny infant.

However, the similarities end there as one baby was breathing and the other was not.

Todd and Angie’s room was full of prayers, crying and pure joy.  There was life.

Mike and Holly’s room was full of prayers and crying, but no joy.  No life.

The whole way to the Phelp’s room I cried. I knew the situation I was walking into. I cried out to God…

How could this happen to them again?

Why God, would you allow this family to endure this pain yet again?

Haven’t they been through enough?

Why God?

I’ve been criticized in certain circles for writing a book called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?, which is about God, crisis and pain.  A book that clearly states I don’t think there are answers to all of life’s questions and complexities.

I dare any one of those critics to stand in the room with this young couple and even try to answer all of the questions they had yesterday as they sit there holding their lifeless child.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this as a pastor, but I’m going to anyway… Isn’t it amazing how in a moment like that you so desperately want God near, but at the same time you also feel secretly mad at Him?

  • Reality for Christians often means we have more questions than we do answers.
  • Reality is sometimes lacking the faith that will give us a sustained hope.
  • Reality is even though we know God is with us sometimes we feel completely alone.
  • Reality is even though we believe, we also doubt.

There’s a big difference between trust and understanding. They say trust is what we need when we don’t have understanding. So today I’m praying for trust. A big, huge, helping of trust.

It’s funny but the final paragraph of Plan B says,

I’m asking you to trust that one day faith will win over doubt, that light will win over darkness, love will win over hate, and all things will one day be redeemed. I’m asking you, right in the middle of your Plan B pain, to trust this process that is going on in your life.

I never knew when I wrote those words how much I would need them on a day like today.

~Pete Wilson, pastor and blog-author of Without Wax.

February 25, 2010

Classic Reading: Damaged Emotions

from Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands

If you visit the far west, you will see those beautiful giant sequoia and redwood trees. In most of the parks, the naturalists can show you a cross-section of a great tree they have cut and point out that the rings of the tree reveal the development history year-by-year. Here’s a ring that represents a year when there was terrible drought. Here a couple of rings from years when there was too much rain. Here’s where the tree was struck by lightning. Here are some normal years of growth. This ring shows a forest fire that almost destroyed the tree. Here’s another of savage blight and disease. All of this lies embedded in the heart of the tree representing the autobiography of its growth.

And that’s the way it is with us. Just a few minutes beneath the protective bark, the concealing protective mask, are recorded the rings of our lives.

There are scars of ancient, painful hurts… the discoloration of a tragic stain that muddied all of life… the pressure of a painful, repressed memory. Such scars have been buried in pain for so long that they are causing hurt and rage that are inexplicable. In the rings of our thoughts and emotions the record is there; the memories are recorded and all are alive. And they directly and deeply affect our concepts, our feelings, our relationships. They affect the way we look at life, and God, at others and ourselves.

This book was published in 1991 by Chariot Victor (div. of David C. Cook) and is still recommended by counselors today. The book is now available in 15 different languages.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.