forgive painting

Forgiveness is a lovely thing to witness. Having led more than a few Restoring Your Heart (RYH) groups, I’ve had lots of opportunities to watch the forgiveness process as it unfolds in people’s lives. The following is one such story.

I know we have all experienced forgiveness at one time or another. Maybe by giving it or receiving it ourselves. Or perhaps been a witness to someone else giving it or receiving it. We’ve all learned about it, studied about it and most likely, struggled with it.

One of the most encouraging and unexpected times I saw forgiveness in action was in a RYH group I led many years ago.

Margie was about 45 years old when I met her. She had joined a RYH Processing Pain group that I was leading in a local church.  Margie, myself and five other women met together for two hours each week to go through the RYH Processing Pain workbook and share emotional hurts from the past. The purpose of the group is to better understand our childhood, grieve our hurts and come to a place of forgiveness. It’s a healing process. During the three months of meeting together in a safe environment, the group members generally form a close bond with one another. Margie’s group was no exception.

A little history on Margie. Margie grew up in a strict home. Her parents were cold and stoic, and as we went through the lessons together Margie told us how they frequently called her stupid and ugly when she was a child. She was neither, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Margie married a man who didn’t treat her much better. She was accustomed to being put down and although she didn’t like it, it was “normal” to her. One day, when Margie’s sons were close to high school age, Margie’s husband left her…for another man. And although in many ways Margie was glad he left, the way he did it confirmed everything her parents had told her about who she was, ugly and stupid.

When we started the RYH group, it was clear that Margie had an enormous amount of animosity towards her ex-husband. The lessons in the first half of the workbook are focused on childhood but Margie had a hard time staying with her childhood issues. She wanted to vent about her ex-husband at every session. About a third of the way through the workbook, Margie realized the process was moving towards forgiving those who had hurt us. She became very agitated and announced that there was one person she could never forgive…her ex-husband.

Everyone in the group validated Margie’s feelings, confirmed that she had been mistreated, and comforted her in her hurt and anger.

Fast forward to the end of the workbook, just past the forgiveness part. Margie walked into the group session that night and she looked radiant, seriously glowing. She was happy and excited. She looked like a different person.

“You will never believe what has happened to me!”

Of course, we all wanted to know. Margie looked so beautiful we wanted whatever had happened to her, to happen to us as well.   “What? What?”

“I have forgiven my ex-husband! I don’t know how it happened! I never thought I would forgive him! But I have and I feel SO FREE!! God is so awesome!”

During the process of Margie acknowledging her pain and grieving her losses, she was able, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive. It not only changed the way she felt, it literally changed the way she looked. That night I actually saw the beautiful face of forgiveness.

If Margie’s story has encouraged you or perhaps touched something deep within your own story, and you would like to see and experience the healing power of forgiveness in your life, learn more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry at  www.RestoringYourHeart.com.

 

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Brene Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

There are eight of us women, sitting together in a circle of comfortable chairs, sharing our hearts with each other. The topic, however, is anything but comfortable. We are talking about our shame.

We are remembering how, as children, our moms or dads made statements or comments to us that were shaming. How our friends and fellow students put us down and we felt “less than”.  How even the shame carried by our parents was unknowingly placed on our own shoulders and became our burden.

Shame is subtle and sometimes difficult to name, much less to remove. This is our hope as we sit together for these upcoming weeks. To make at least a start at ferreting out this most painful of emotions. We are looking for the beginnings of freedom from shame.

The author of the WDA RYH Conquering Shame Workbook, Lee Tolar, has this to say about shame:

“In my 25 years of leading RYH groups I have found that shame is much more common than most of us think.  There will always be some people who have an obvious struggle with shame exhibited by “a poor self image”.   However, many of us mask our shame behind perfectionism, defensiveness, a false self, emotional numbness or low-level depression. Thus our shame is not so easily recognizable to ourselves or other people.”

“Shame originated with Adam and Eve.  After the fall, they felt guilty about having committed a sin and shameful of whom they now were (sinners).   They came up with the original defense mechanism: hiding from God.  This desire to hide our shortcomings has been passed down to us with our sin nature.

“25 years of leading RYH groups has helped me to see how extensive the problem of shame is in other people but it has also helped me to see and understand my own shame.  As I have recognized my own shame, I have been able, with God’s help, to release a lot of it, become less defensive, face and deal with my shortcomings, and to appreciate who He made me to be.”

WDA’s Conquering Shame Workbook helps people recognize what caused their shame, what their particular symptoms of shame are, and most importantly how to release and recover from these toxic beliefs and emotions. It is based on Biblical principles.  My favorite chapter deals with recognizing each person’s strengths.

Like our other RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions, it is designed for use in a confidential small group setting with a trained RYH facilitator.

A recent participant in a Conquering Shame Group had this to say about her experience:

“I want to express my gratitude to you and to those who have contributed in writing the manual for the ” RYH Conquering Shame group”!  I have been dealing with shame issues since I was a young child.  This group was able to clarify what shame is all about, and I clearly understand how damaging living this way is.  Shame affects every part of your being and it greatly affects your relationship with God. I believe the group dynamics and interaction, really enhanced the discussions.”

“The biggest breakthrough for me, was telling/hearing our shame stories!”

“Being able to verbalize what has been inside of me, in that dark place and bringing it out into the open (the light) with “safe” people was so healing. Actually, it was the first time I had been able to tell a group this story.  After hearing and telling my own story, I felt a great release in my spirit.  It’s freedom from the bondage of shame!  I have a changed mind-set about my shame- yes, that stuff did happen to me and it’s very sad, BUT that’s not who I am.  The lies that I have believed about myself for so long have lost their powerful hold on me.  Restoration is a process that takes time, and in my case many, many years.  Little by little, the Lord has nudged my spirit to take another step in the healing process.  God always knows what I need and at just the right time. One day, I will have total restoration when the Lord returns for, “HIS CHURCH” and that will be a glorious day!”

As our group concluded the 17 weeks together, dealing with our shame issues, we all felt lighter. I think most of us suffer from shame to one degree or another. Sometimes we feel shame but don’t even recognize it for what it is. We just have this nagging feeling that something is wrong with us but we don’t know what or why. Sometimes just being able to name shame is a powerful, freeing experience. It is definitely the start of conquering shame.

Our hope is that as the RYH ministry grows, more people will be able to benefit from participating in a Conquering Shame group. I certainly learned a lot about myself and gained some freedom while experiencing it.

Do you have areas in your life that have caused you shame? Maybe this article while be an incentive to start addressing those areas and begin to heal from them.

To learn more about shame, we recommend any of Brene Brown’s books. She is a leading expert on shame and vulnerability and her books are eye-opening, informative and honest.  Link to Brene Brown’s Ted Talk talk on shame.

Note: We do recommend that anyone who would like to participate in a RYH Conquering Shame group has first gone through our other two RYH workbooks, Processing Pain and Understanding Emotions.

One of the circumstances of getting older is that I have begun to do things slower. It’s not that I intentionally want to, it just happens. In the fast-paced world we live in today that could be a cause for anxiety. But since I am slower, my anxiety doesn’t have the power it used to have.

Actually, there is a great blessing that comes with moving slower. I call it “living in the moment”. 

When I was younger I remember always waiting for the “next thing” to happen. I can’t wait till my daughter sits up, crawls, walks, talks, etc. I can’t wait till this pregnancy is over and I can meet my baby boy. I can’t wait till we get a bigger house. I can’t wait till I finish school and get a better paying job. Sometimes it was big stuff I was waiting on to happen and sometimes it was little everyday things. I can’t wait till it’s bedtime for my kids. I can’t wait till I finish cleaning the floor. I can’t wait till the mail comes. I can’t wait to get out of this car I’ve been riding in for two hours.

You probably know what I am talking about.

As I have gotten older though, one thing I have noticed is that time passes by at an alarmingly fast rate. When I was a child, the summer seemed to last forever. It was agony waiting for Christmas to arrive. The school day seemed to never come to a close.

Now, I sometimes feel like I can literally see time flying by me.

A few years ago I found an interesting little book that helped me change my thinking about how I was living my life and viewing time. It’s called The Practice of the Presence of God . This little book was written by a monk named Brother Lawrence who lived in France in the 1600’s.  Brother Lawrence was a humble and lowly kitchen aide in his monastery. He was so humble that if he had not spoken in depth with a French nobleman of the time, we would probably never have heard of him today.

Praise God for French noblemen!

One of Brother Lawrence’s jobs in the monastery was peeling potatoes. Every day, he peeled mounds of potatoes. Although this could be a monotonous and tedious job, Brother Lawrence adopted the specific attitude of peeling every potato as though he were peeling it for God. This helped him find joy and purpose in even the lowliest, most tiring aspects of his day. When I first read Brother Lawrence’s writings, a light bulb went off in my head. The example Brother Lawrence set could be used in my everyday life as well. I would not have to be missing the present moment by waiting on the next better thing to come along.

Living in the moment.

Perhaps you have already had this little revelation in your life. If you haven’t, I hope you will consider this. Life is not a destination, you are already there. Pay attention to each moment and open your mind and senses to what is happening right now. Don’t miss out on the moment while waiting for the future to come.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters  Satan writes letters to his nephew, a lessor demon, and explains to him ways to keep “his human” away from God. In one of the chapters, he advises his demon nephew to keep the human’s mind either on the past or on the future. He tells him that the future is the better choice because thinking about the unknown future can cause anxiety. The main thing is, it will keep the human apart from God. God lives in the present. The present is the closest thing we have to eternity here on earth.

Maybe this is old news to everyone but me, but realizing this concept has impacted my life in a dramatic way. Living in the moment, practicing the presence of God. It makes time go by at a less frantic pace and it calms my spirit. It is not a destination, you are already there.

Here are a few ideas I have about how to better live in the moment:

  • Turn off your electronics
  • Go outside
  • Give someone your full attention with kindness
  • Breathe
  • Notice your thoughts and feelings
  • Engage your senses in a really intentional way (taste, smell, sight, sound, touch)
  • Accept what is and don’t fret about what isn’t
  • Slow down
  • Express thankfulness

There are countless other ways to live in the moment. My prayer for you is that this might encourage you to consider applying the concept of living in the moment and practicing the presence of God in your own life.

If you have already done this, what are some of your ideas for living in the moment?

*Editors Note: This blog is from our archives and was one we wanted to repost! Enjoy

bandages

Each day that I sit in my counseling room, I listen to people share their stories. Stories that come with pain and stories that come with questions. Am I going to get better? Am I crazy? Will this ever end? Why did God let this happen to me?

To find answers and to feel better, people must experience the slow process of healing. And when there is pain, time always seems too long.

To help people understand the significance of time in their healing process, I have found a helpful metaphor. It is simple and understandable.

The healing of a heart wound is like the healing of a flesh wound.

Everyone has had a flesh wound and watched it heal. We all understand that.

 

The flesh that has not been wounded is like our heart when we are born, clear and undamaged.

Then the injury comes. To the flesh – a cut, a burn, a puncture. To the heart – abuse, yelling, neglect. The area becomes inflamed, agitated, irritated.

To heal well, a wound must be attended well. Here is what happens when a wound is not taken care of properly.

To the flesh, a hasty bandage is applied, maybe not adequate, but what is handy at the time. There may be no cleaning agent or antibiotic available.

To the heart, a crudely fashioned coping mechanism is applied, frequently by a child who has no idea of the extent of his injury or how to take care of it. Usually the adult who should be helping is not able. Or that adult may have caused the injury.

The flesh wound heals on the outside and for a while looks better. But underneath the skin, the poisons are brewing. They are destroying tissue, breeding infection and creating pus. This brewing poison can only be contained so long before it erupts through the skin.

A heart wound heals on the outside, too. A hurt child learns how to function and cover up the pain. Maybe to friends and neighbors he looks fine. He might do well in school. Inside, the child’s heart is secretly being destroyed. The poisons of hurt and pain are festering out of sight from the world. Just like a flesh wound, these poisons can only be contained for so long. Eventually they will erupt; acting out rebelliously as a teenager, drug or alcohol addiction, bad relationships, the inability to function at work or anger.

Once an eruption occurs, flesh or heart, the wound needs to be be dealt with. The exposed infected flesh is not pretty. The exposed hurt heart is not pretty. However, the good thing is that exposure allows healing to occur.

The pain of the eruption is harsh. The pain of the treatment will be intense. When an infected flesh wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already painful, now it is being hurt again on top of the original hurt. When a heart wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already wounded, now that tenderness is being touched again. When a person tells the story of how they were hurt, they feel that hurt again.

However, once the cleaning out begins, relief can come. The poison is being removed. The pain of abuse and the trauma of the wound are being healed. It has to hurt worse before it can begin to feel better. Cleaning out a wound is painful.

A flesh wound will not miraculously heal overnight. It will gradually begin to feel better, a day at a time. Likewise with a heart wound. God does not usually allow a fast healing. If we didn’t experience the process and learn from it, if healing were instantaneous, we might not be so careful with our flesh or with our hearts. We might not protect them well. We might be more likely to re-injure them.

A flesh wound usually leaves a scar. Depending on the severity of the wound it may be a big scar or a little scar. If it is a small wound and leaves a small scar, we will probably not remember how much it hurt. If it is a big wound and leaves a big scar, we are more likely to remember not only the wound, but also how it happened and how we survived it. With wounds of the heart, the scar is not visible to the naked eye. However, the scar is very visible to the eyes of our heart. It reminds us of the pain and how we survived it.

One way we let others see our heart scars is to tell our story. The telling of our story is healing, both for the teller and for the person who hears the story. If the person who hears has experienced a similar hurt, he feels hopeful. Someone else who knows the pain, who understands the experience, has healed.

Since each person has a different personality, a different temperament and a different experience, each person’s wound will be different. And yet, all wounds heal the same way. They are re-opened and cleaned. As the scar forms, there is relief and the freedom that comes as people discover who they really are.

We can’t heal our heart wounds alone. We need help. Help is what happens in a counseling room.

If you have a wounded heart, there is a healing process for you. There is hope and there is freedom.

[A counseling room is not the only place where healing occurs. At WDA, we are committed to helping the Church become a place where heart wounds can be healed. For more information, click here for Restoring Your Heart.]

Do you have heart wounds that need healing?

What are your heart wounds?

To understand more about how we get hurt, read How Emotional Problems Develop, a free download from WDA. Click here to access.

Brazil

Translation Team Established for Brazil! Partner with us to help!

Hello! How are you? and God bless you!

From Brazil.

WDA in Brazil

Rio Tinto, Brazil is a city of about 25,000 with a huge catholic church right in the middle of town. The whole city spreads out around this very visible church. And in this city of Rio Tinto, there lives a very interesting man named Fernando Frincu.  One of the interesting things about Fernando is that, even though he lives in Brazil, he is Romanian. Fernando and his wife Carolina are associate staff members with WDA.

Everette Albrecht, who is on the WDA Equipping Team at Purdue University, has been to Rio Tinto about seven times over the years to teach discipleship principles. The pastors in that area were learning a lot about how to disciple others and in the course of their training, Everette starting teaching them about the importance of emotional healing. Just like everywhere else, the emotional needs are huge there and the pastors wanted to learn more.

So, in the summers of 2010 and 2012, Margo and Jack, from the WDA Restorative Team headed south with Everette, to teach and train about emotional healing and the importance of this in the discipleship process. They had the privilege of returning there again in August of 2013 for another three weeks and this is their report…..

Testimony of God’s Healing Work

Last year in Brazil, Margo had shared her own story of healing and redemption with some of the women. Talking about her struggles empowered the women there to open up their own hearts.

“One lady (Helen) came up and thanked me for sharing my testimony in Joao Pessoa. We had chatted with each other last year. She shared more of her story with me this year. God has brought healing in her life. She has asked her Pastor for permission to lead a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group in her church.

M., another young lady with whom I met last year, told me that hearing my “history” had helped her in the healing process. Since I’d seen her last summer, M. had participated in a Restoring Your Heart group and as a result, had forgiven her father. She told me with a smile that she was going to buy a gift for him for Father’s Day! She also wrote him a letter to apologize to him and tell him she loved him. M’s father wrote her back and asked her for forgiveness as well!

A highlight of our time was hearing feedback from a group of men and women (in Rio Tinto) who had participated in RYH groups during the year since we had been there. Each person talked about what they had learned, their initial concerns, the benefits to them and their desire for more healing in their lives. They all plan to continue participating in RYH groups.”

The seeds planted over the last two years had already born much fruit!

Discipleship and Emotional Healing

One of Everette’s goals for this trip was to introduce church leaders and seminary students to WDA’s philosophy of ministry, in two new areas, Joao Pessoa and Campina Grande. Everette has such a gift for teaching and has a huge amount of experience training seminary students in both Mexico and Brazil.

Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil
Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil

The team was encouraged by the fact that Fernando and Carolina both have a strong vision for discipleship and emotional healing. Since one of WDA’s objectives is to train people in the countries we visit, Margo, Jack and Everette spent extra time this summer with Fernando and Carolina.  They were able to share more advanced training in both restorative and discipleship principles and practices. This will allow Fernando and Carolina to better train the people in their own community and thereby spread the process. We feel this is the best way to multiply the blessings of healing and growth. Fernando’s schedule will allow him to do future training both in Brazil and also in Romania and their contacts will open the doors for WDA to hold even more seminars in Brazil.

“We work so well as a team with Fernando and Carolina. They are so teachable and it is a joy to be in partnership with them. We are very blessed to have them on staff with WDA.”

 Next Step: Translation of Materials

With most of the objectives of this trip being accomplished, including forming a translation team to work on both discipleship and restorative materials, Margo, Jack and Everette are looking forward to returning again next August. They plan, among other things, to do seminars in three large churches in different parts of Sao Paulo, a city where news of God is desperately needed.

We ask that you would pray with us for the trip next year, for Fernando and Carolina and for the people of Brazil. Many of the areas we visit are very dark and very much in the stronghold of sexual sin. There is a huge need for healing there, both emotional and spiritual.

Note: It is expensive and time consuming to have WDA materials translated into other languages. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort or to the ongoing training in Brazil, please click the button below. Your donations will be gratefully received and used to advance God’s Kingdom.


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To find out more about the WDA International Ministry and all the amazing places we go, click here.  To find out more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry, click here.

the heart tree

the heart tree

Because children interpret events with their emotions, it is important to protect your child’s heart. Many of the people I work with have been wounded by parents who have not been protective of this treasure. Some of their parents have been wounded themselves and have done the best they could. However, their own woundedness has driven them to make decisions that are harmful to their children. The following story was written by a 26 year old that I work with and is being shared with permission. It describes the events of a day that turned her life upside down. (All names have been changed.)

“That Day”

“That day. I will never forget it. It’s etched in my mind, clear as yesterday. It’s like a slow motion scene playing against the backdrop of melancholy violins. My world changed forever. The foundation broke beneath my feet into a million pieces. I was sinking, but there was no one to pull me out. I can see that little girl on that fateful day in my mind’s eye. She stands still, frozen as the unimaginable scene unfolds before her eyes; it seems unreal, like she is watching some twisted movie.

“This can’t really be happening,” I thought to myself. I had just returned from playing video games and eating chips and salsa with my brothers. My big brother, Charles, whom I loved and admired so much, had just given Richard and me the time of our lives at El Azteca. I remember on that sunny Saturday afternoon how happy I was to feel so loved as I played packman with my brothers at the local Mexican Restaurant.  In that blissful moment, I had no idea that Charles was shielding us from the hell that was unleashing at home. I had no idea that in a matter of hours, minutes, life as I knew it would change forever.

When we pulled up to the house, immediately, I knew something was going on. My dad’s car sat in the driveway with clothes piled high in the back seat. The car door was open. The front door of the house was open. My dad walked out of the house, still in his work clothes from the day before…only the front of his white collared dress shirt was unbuttoned, exposing his undershirt.  He carried a box in his hands. He didn’t look at us. He walked towards his car, and then I saw his back. His shirt was torn. He had scratch marks, and he was bleeding.  Confused, I stood there, not knowing how to make sense of what I was witnessing.

Charles put his hands on mine and Richard’s shoulders like protective wings. The fight must have drug out longer than he had expected. He must have brought us back too early, and now he was trying to figure out what to do. He led us inside, perhaps hoping that the worst was over. I was confused when I walked in by what I saw- objects overturned, broken glass, wax, presumably from a lit candle that had been thrown, plastered in dripping runs on the wall. WHAT WAS HAPPENING!? I didn’t understand. I heard my mom yelling. I can’t remember what she said, but I knew it wasn’t good. Every time my dad made his way up to the stairs to get another load, more screaming…I think I heard “GET OUT!”

I don’t remember how long this went on…time didn’t exist in that moment. But, I do remember, that whenever my dad would come down the stairs, he would offer Richard and me this sad look…of regret?  We stood still, absorbing this surreal reality. Once the car was packed, my dad made his way over to Richard and I as we stood in the dining room. He was lost for words, trying to explain to us what was happening with pain in his eyes.  My mother made her way over. She was furious, high on adrenalin, and impatient with my dad’s stammering. She butted in and, with vengeance in her tone, blurted out, “Your father slept with another woman last night in a hotel!”  Time froze.

I immediately looked at Richard who is two years younger than I.  He stared in shock.  Although, at his age, he could not comprehend the full extent of what my mother was saying.  However, at 11, I could.  “You have something blue on your lip,” I commented to Richard about the residual stains of the blue gumball he had chewed at the Mexican restaurant. “I don’t care,” he said, not breaking eye-contact with my parents. The details of what happened after this world shattering news are a blur to me.  At some point, it was explained to me that my dad was leaving to live somewhere else. I ran to grab a recent art project I had made at school, and I gave it to my dad to remember me by.  It was a box cut-out of a magical, beautiful world of flowers, rolling hills, and a majestic sunset, like the sunset I had watched with my parents set over the Gulf of Mexico just a few short months earlier on our first beach vacation. That time seemed like a different life now. My whole world was turned upside down in a matter of moments. I didn’t know if I would ever see my dad again.”

This young person’s self image has been wounded by the events of her life. The power of the Holy Spirit is enabling her to heal and recover. **We appreciate so much the prayers and support you give staff and to all the people with whom we work. Nancy currently is meeting with about 15 people on a regular basis, all of whom have been wounded by people who loved them. Our prayer is not only that their hearts will be restored but that all parents with young children will learn how to protect their children’s hearts.

**Please consider making a regular part of your prayer life, praying for the individuals who participate in our Restoring Your Heart Groups but the individuals many of our staff and restorative staff meet with regularly.

Other blogs relating to this subject:

 Hide and Seek: Where did I hide my emotions

The Philosophy of Pain by Nancy Higgins

More by Nancy Higgins

[edited by our communications team]

conflict resolution

conflict resolutionWho likes conflict?

Hmmm, I don’t see any raised hands or hear any resounding “I dos.”

Yeah, I hate conflict too. It is painful and scary and it makes me feel out of control and vulnerable.

And yet, conflict is a part of life. God allows it, God assures us that we will have it and we have all experienced it.

We don’t learn how to cause conflict. We just automatically know. Even as little kids not able to talk, we know how to grab something we want from someone else, thus causing them distress.

Conflict. If there are people, there will be conflict.

How do you handle conflict? Usually we run from it, or pretend like it isn’t happening, or get angry, blow up and escalate the conflict, or blame someone else for causing the conflict, or do things we don’t want to do to please someone else and on and on. Anything but walk into the conflict, walk thru the conflict and walk out on the other side of the conflict.

Even though we don’t learn how to cause conflict, we can learn some ways to handle conflict. There are all kinds of instructions on “conflict management skills.”

Just google it. All the steps to resolving conflict are at your fingertips.

However, in order to implement those conflict management skills, I want to propose the idea of changing our thinking about conflict.  A new “conflict paradigm.”

So here are two ideas to begin thinking about conflict differently.

1. What if we begin to look at conflict as an opportunity?

Since we know we are going to have conflict, what if instead of dreading or dodging it, we began to see conflict as an opportunity. Because when I hear the word “opportunity” it sounds like a good thing. Like something positive is about to happen.

When people walk thru conflict together, tolerate the uncomfortable feelings, talk about the feelings, talk about the need to repair, confess their own wrong actions and come out on the other side of the conflict, they are usually more emotionally bonded.

Doesn’t emotional bonding sound like a positive thing?

Also, going thru something hard, like conflict, and coming out on the other side is character building. Having a stronger character sounds like a positive thing, right?

2. What if we begin to look at conflict as something to be redeemed?

Typically a positive outcome of working through conflict is that it gets resolved.

But think about the even more positive idea of conflict as being redemptive. We know our God is a Redeemer, so what does the idea of redemption really mean? To me it means making something good out of something bad.

If we look at conflict as an opportunity, we are already halfway there to thinking of conflict as being redeemable. Going into the pain of conflict, walking through it with others and coming out on the other side, will give us a new appreciation for the beauty of the process. We will see the positive results. We will bond with others and have a new appreciation for doing something hard and scary.

So, use your conflict management skills. Learn some new ones.

But consider thinking about conflict in a positive light and notice if your conflicts become more of a creative challenge than a fearful encounter.

What conflicts have you encountered that seem impossible to go through?

When are some times that you have successfully gotten to the other side of a conflict?

Barren Tree

Barren TreeAugust 18, 1998. The day my younger sister Lizzie died.

I remember pretty much every detail of that day. I was driving with John, her 13 year old son, from Stone Mountain to Augusta so we could see her one last time before she died. John had been spending the weekend with me to try to get away from the sadness in his home. We never made that last visit. Halfway to Augusta, I got the call from her husband, Martin, telling me that Lizzie was gone. He did not want me to tell John. He wanted to tell all three children himself when they were together. Later that day I sat in their living room while he told John and John’s younger sisters, Emily 11 and Kathryn 5 that their mom was gone. It was surreal. It didn’t seem like it was really happening. Even though we had known for five months that she was dying, it still didn’t seem true. She was 42 and dead from breast cancer.

Yesterday was August 18, 2012. Fourteen years since my sister died. I didn’t notice the date until a friend of mine called to tell me that her younger brother had been found dead that morning. August 18. Suddenly all the sadness came rushing back. I felt such a weight for my friend as I remembered the early grief over my sister. The ache in my chest. The pain I felt for her children and her husband. The pain I felt for my parents. The endless crying until I just couldn’t breathe anymore. Nothing can compare to the pain of losing someone you love too soon.

I haven’t cried for my sister in a while. I am to the point of grief now where it is just a dull ache and random sadness over events and circumstances. But today, the pain was back, unexpected and unwanted. Hearing about my friend’s brother triggered all those old feelings. So I went for a grief walk and cried. I miss Lizzie. She was sarcastic and funny. She stood up for herself and for those she loved. She could be intimidating because she was so outspoken and no one on earth could annoy me more than she could. When we were growing up she was a pesky little brat but she and I became good friends in adulthood. I miss her every day, but the grief really hit me today.

As I walked and cried and missed Lizzie, I thought about some of the things I have learned from the people I counsel with. I call them my chickies because client sounds too clinical. My chickies think they are coming to me to be healed but it works both ways. I heal as much as they do. One of my chickies told me that as she gets older it seems like grief sticks to her more. I love this phrase because it fits my reality. I, too, have found that grief sticks to me more and knowing I am not alone in this is oddly comforting. Another of my chickies told me the profound way that God has given him hope through the verse “Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)  Frequently, when he is at his lowest, God reminds him of the joy to come and I thought of that today as I walked. Both for me, with my old grief, and my friend, with her new grief. And again I felt the comfort of being connected to someone else in sadness.

God gives us to each other to help the healing. We all hurt. We all have sadness and grief. We all lose people we love.

August 18 will always be a sad day for me. There are some pains that just will never be totally healed. And yet, I am comforted by the people God has put around me to share that grief, even when they don’t know they are giving me comfort.

Read more about how WDA’s Restorative Ministry helps people find healing from pain and loss.

dancing

dancing“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

― William W. Purkey

The first time I heard this quote, I loved it. I especially loved the first line; dance like there’s nobody watching. That’s because on the rare occasion that I dance, I feel like everyone is not only watching, but they are at best, secretly smirking and at worst, laughing and pointing. In my reality the only people who get to dance like there’s nobody watching are kids, really old people and professional dancers.

“Dancing like nobody is watching” is to me a picture of freedom and joy. And dancing is frequently done with another person, usually someone you care about. So in addition to expressing freedom and joy, dancing is a connecting activity. Sometimes when I am dancing with someone, I am less concerned about the smirkers and pointers.

So what does this have to do with tolerance? Well, not a whole lot actually. But I thought it might be fun to toss around some ideas about tolerance, like nobody is watching and maybe we could connect with some ideas. So let’s dance with tolerance for a few paragraphs.

Some synonyms in my dictionary for tolerance are patience, sufferance, forbearance, impartiality and open-mindedness. These synonyms have slightly different connotations of meaning. However, all of these meanings imply interaction with other people or with our own personal circumstances. There is a relational aspect to tolerance.

Tolerance has gotten a lot of press recently. As we dance with tolerance, I will share some thoughts expressed by James Emery White, a pastor and author who thinks deeply about our church and our culture. (Click here for his blogs).

He says that tolerance was once more social in its dynamic. That is, tolerance was to be accepting of another person. You could recognize and respect different beliefs without actually sharing those beliefs. There is also a legal aspect of tolerance that says each of us has the right to believe whatever we want.

Recently, he says, tolerance has taken on more of an intellectual definition. To be tolerant is to do away with objective truth and substitute individual truth. It means that we must hold another person’s beliefs as equal to our own. If we say that anything is wrong or inferior, we are not showing tolerance. He calls this intellectual definition of tolerance “intellectual nonsense.” Dance on, James Emery White.

Moving across the dance floor, I have been playing with another idea of tolerance. This gets back to the social/relational aspects of tolerance. Tolerating emotional discomfort, or even emotional pain, is a skill that we can learn for ourselves and pass on to our children. It is important to learn how to “sit with” discomfort, pain and sadness. We all know we are going to be uncomfortable emotionally at times. How much healthier we would be if we learned to tolerate discomfort. And to help each other tolerate discomfort.

We all want to be able to dance through this life with freedom and joy. We all want to be able to express ourselves without fear of what others will say. And we all know that with freedom, comes responsibility. If we are dancing recklessly all over the dance floor, or meadow, or road or wherever it is we dance, and bumping into other people and knocking them over, we are not being very respectful or tolerant of their space.

Hopefully, when we dance with others, in whatever way we dance, we can hold on to the social aspects of tolerance, “I accept you as a person,” or the emotional aspects of tolerance, “I can get through this hard place” and let go of the intellectual aspects of tolerance, “I believe everything you believe.”

As you can see, my thoughts on tolerance are dancing all over the place… just like nobody is watching.

What are your thoughts on tolerating emotions? Other people’s beliefs?
Other ways of living?

What are some of the ways Jesus showed tolerance? Or didn’t?

 

Read more about this topic:

Healing from Emotional Problems – WDA Pocket Principle from Understanding People

Hide and Seek – Now Where Did I Hide my Emotions?  by Buddy Eades

Fight Nice! by David Parfitt

winding path

winding pathThis was advice given to me by one of my professors when I expressed my distress to him over not being able to find a job immediately after graduating form my Master’s program. Needless to say, that was not exactly what I wanted to hear. I would rather have heard, “Oh, I know someone who is hiring and you would be perfect for that job. I will call them right away and you will probably have the job tomorrow.”

Yeah, that would have been nice. Nice and easy.

Trusting the process doesn’t sound quite as promising or quite as easy. But, having no other choice, I began trusting the process. And it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was rather hard.

However, through a series of steps, God led me to the perfect job that He had in mind just for me.

Trusting the process, that seemingly scary walk down a path of unknowns, is exactly what is required for emotional healing.

And of course, the first step to trusting the process is entering into the process. This is a step that most of us do rather reluctantly. We already know it won’t be easy, it may be long and we will get tired and discouraged along the way.

God, in His infinite love for us, has designed a healing process for emotional problems a process that has many components. Since we all need healing in different areas, in different degrees and in different ways, God Himself directs our healing process. And true to God’s character, He tailor makes a healing process just for us.

Read this week’s Pocket Principle, “Healing from Emotional Problems” to learn more about how to begin trusting your own process towards emotional health.

Get Pocket Principles in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Child Sulking

Child Sulking

Being a person who deals with emotional problems every day, I am decidedly and unabashedly biased about the information I am introducing here. Let me just say that I think it is profound.

All good thinking has a framework, or a backbone or a philosophical undergirding. As we learned in the last Pocket Principle, Created With Emotions, we all have them. Emotions, that is. And we all have problems with emotions from time to time. Most of us have difficulty figuring out exactly what our emotional problems are and even more difficulty figuring out how to solve them.

In this Pocket Principle, Understanding Emotional Problems, we lay out the philosophy of how emotional problems develop. Don’t be scared off by the word philosophy. It is not heady and hard to grasp. In fact, it is a simple, well laid out, helpful and practical description of how we get hurt and why we have such a hard time healing from those hurts.

I encourage you to read this one. It will give you a totally new understanding of what has gone on in your heart over the years.

Understanding Emotional Problems – Pocket Principle

And for the solution…..Stay tuned for next week’s Pocket Principle, Healing from Emotional Problems.

 

Pocket Principles® are currently offered along with Guided Discussions. The content of the Pocket Principles® will reinforce truth learned in the group discussion. Each workbook is formatted for use in a small group, where pocket principles may read prior to each discussion.  Also, if a group member misses a meeting, he can read the corresponding Pocket PrincipleTM to review the information missed.

For more information visit the WDA Store.

are you normal

are you normalI love reading and hearing about how people live their lives as they attempt to follow Jesus. I get inspired, uplifted, convicted, motivated and encouraged. Those people who share their ideas and actions challenge me to think and to grow.

But then, sometimes when I read too much about what other people are thinking, I get tired. I begin to feel dissatisfied and restless.

I just read a blog written by a woman who doesn’t want to be “normal”. I liked her blog because it showed a real example of living in the tension. Having your stuff and following Jesus. You can read it here http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/faith/essentials/growing-in-your-faith/i-dont-want-to-be-normal and form your own opinions.

Even though I liked her blog, reading about her desires to be more “sold out” and “surrendered” to God started to make me feel tired.

Sort of the same feeling I get when David Platt tells me how to be “Radical”, Shane Claiborne tells me how to be “Revolutionary”, Francis Chan talks to me about “Crazy Love”, Erwin McManus takes me down the “Barbarian Way” and Tullian Tchividjian tells me how to be “Unfashionable”. Yeah, I love all those books. I love their thinking. I love that their writing and their lives are all sold out, surrendered and way out there for Jesus.

Yeah, I want to be like that too. When I first became a follower of Christ, I told my friend, who was largely responsible for dragging me into the Kingdom, that I wanted to be a radical Christian. I didn’t want to be a namby-pamby pew sitter. I wanted to go all out for Christ. I still do.

But now and then, I wonder. What is wrong with being normal?  Why does normal have a stigma attached to it? Why do we glamorize “surrendered, radical” lives? Why do we agonize if we feel we aren’t measuring up to being “sold out”? Do we really understand what Jesus meant when he said follow me?

Do we just have so much stuff here in America that we feel like we have to get rid of it to be sold out? Do we believe we aren’t radical enough if we have a regular paying job instead of a helping-the poor-ministry job? Do we really believe that focusing on our kids and spending most of our time and energy on raising them well is not surrendered enough?

It seems as though a publishing/speaking industry has grown up around those buzzwords like “radical” and “revolutionary” and “unfashionable” and we all want to get on the bandwagon. Or at least talk about getting on the bandwagon.

And honestly, all those buzzwords did originally come from Jesus and the life he modeled for us.

There is, however, another thing that Jesus modeled for us and that is maturity. Yes, maturity. That is one of Scripture’s buzzwords. Somehow maturity just doesn’t sound as glamorous as radical or revolutionary. But when I think about it, maturity is the natural course of life. It’s normal.

So, I have come to realize that as long as I continue to follow Jesus, I am going to be living in that tension of how to be radical, revolutionary and unfashionable as I grow and become more mature. And I guess that is just normal.

What are your thoughts?

Created with Emotions -Boys

Created with Emotions -BoysIt all sounded so simple, back in Genesis. Some dirt, a rib, God’s breath. Man and woman were created so quickly and easily.

It hardly seems possible that the amazingly complex creatures we know ourselves to be were crafted with such seeming effortlessness. But our God had planned us long before the actual event of creation and his design was to make man in His own image. He already had the blueprint.

One of the things we know for sure about God is that He is a God of emotions. He shows anger, He feels tenderness, He weeps, He rejoices. So we, being created in His image, are also created with a full range of emotions.

Emotions are so complex. So hard to define. So hard to explain. Sometimes even so hard to experience. They are not only psychological, they are also physical. We feel emotions in our bodies. When we suppress our emotions they get stored in our bodies as stress. There is a little part of our brain called the limbic system that appears to be most directly involved in emotional responses. And we know how complicated our brains are. An area of always new exploration. Our emotions are so complex that we aren’t even sure exactly where they originate or how or why.

Since God is so complex, and we are created in His image, it follows that we would be complex as well. Not as complex as God, of course, but still sometimes difficult to understand. And it follows that our emotional life would be complex as well. It is a life long journey to understand and express the emotions that give our life spice.

In this week’s Pocket Principle we take a look at some of the ways God designed us when He created us with emotions. We will also discover some healthy ways to think about emotions and some healthy ways to express them. Read on for new insights!

 

Pocket Principles® are currently offered along with Guided Discussions. The content of the Pocket Principles® will reinforce truth learned in the group discussion. Each workbook is formatted for use in a small group, where pocket principles may read prior to each discussion.  Also, if a group member misses a meeting, he can read the corresponding Pocket PrincipleTM to review the information missed.

For more information visit the WDA Store.

you need help

you need helpRemember when you were a little baby lying in your crib and all of a sudden you started crying and you didn’t even know why? Then someone put something in your little mouth and you tasted milk and you didn’t need to cry anymore. Then remember you started crying again and you still didn’t know why, but someone came and took off your wet clothes and put dry clothes on you and you didn’t need to cry anymore? Remember all that? Probably not, but it happened every day of your little baby life. You had needs and you were so good about asking to get those needs met. And usually when you asked, you received. Interesting how babies and kids just instinctively know to ask to have their needs met. How else would they get satisfied?

As we get older, we can sometimes lose the ability to ask to get our needs met. We feel guilty, or we are afraid of being rejected or maybe we just don’t know who to ask. There are probably as many unique reasons we don’t ask as there are unique people.

Since God created us with all these needs we have, He also has devised ways that
these needs can be met. Sometimes He is the only one involved in meeting our needs. But more often, He teaches us how to involve other people in helping us get our needs satisfied.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Needy-05-30-12Did you ever have anyone in your life who you just wanted to turn to and yell, “Why are you so needy?” Sometimes it might even be your own child, or spouse. Sometimes it is a person who truly IS too needy and no matter what you do for them, they always need more. I know I have had people in my life from time to time that I just avoid, because they are always exhaustingly trying to get their needs met.

When I am honest, I recognize that I am not always the best at getting my own needs met. Sometimes I don’t even know what my needs are. I just know I NEED something.

And of course we have all kinds of different needs. We need air to breathe, we need food and water, we need clothing and shelter, we need rest, we need stimulation, we need each other, and the list goes on.

As you look at this Pocket Principle, you will discover an interesting fact. The reason we have needs and the reason we are all so needy is because God created us that way. Read on to discover what God had in mind when He created us with needs and how he had planned all along to satisfy our needs.

Read the Pocket Principle – Understanding People: Created with Needs

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

broken picture with restored picture

Two things in life that I find really interesting are WORDS and FEELINGS.

I love the way words can be put together in endless patterns and sequences out of our imagination to do all sorts of things. Tell a story, convey information, give instruction or evoke a feeling. Our own creativity determines how we will put words together, never the same way, never like anyone else.

I love that feelings are frequently a mystery and can be so hard to understand and identify. Sometimes appearing when we least expect them or sometimes being ushered in early in anticipation of a certain situation. There are so many words to describe feelings and yet sometimes we are unable to name a feeling when we feel it.

And then there are words, standing alone, that just by our knowledge and experience of them, can arouse feelings in us.

For me, the word RESTORATION is one of those words. When I hear “restoration”, I feel positive and secure, maybe even safe. Restoration is a good word. It even is fun to say. Repeat it out loud a couple of times and see if it doesn’t feel good just rolling off your tongue.

Restoration means to be brought back to a former or original condition, to be brought back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. With a definition like that, it is no wonder it feels so good to say it….rest – or – ation!

In this Pocket Principle, we learn about how restoration occurs in us spiritually. And since all our parts interact when we experience spiritual restoration, we also get restored mentally, emotionally and even physically. Read on to learn what God had in mind when he gave us the Gift of Restoration. Hopefully, this will cause you to feel positive, secure and safe.

Understanding People – Restoration through Christ

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

problem modelWhy is Life so unfair sometimes? Why do I have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior? Ever heard those questions before? Ever asked them?

I know I have. And I have heard those questions asked numerous times in counseling sessions with other people.

None of us like it when somebody else messes up and it affects us. It leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out how to correct the problem. One of the biggest areas that I help people work through in counseling has to do with their fathers. Many fathers are absent, neglectful and hurtful towards their children. Some fathers don’t even realize what they are doing, or the effect it might have on their children.

When these children become adults, the fallout of their father’s interactions with them can cause major problems. When they show up in my counseling office they are suffering from the results of someone else’s behavior. Together we have to figure out how to correct the emotional damage done to them. The good news is that there are solutions. The bad news is that the solutions involve going through a process that takes time and hard work. Yet there is hope and healing during the process.

 

In the Pocket Principle (Fallenness of Man) , I noticed many similarities between the counseling process and the solution God has provided for man’s fallen condition. They both involve a change of heart and a process of restoration. Read on to discover the good solution that God has given us for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad behavior.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Genogram GraphMany times, in counseling situations, we use a little tool called a genogram. If you have never heard of this tool, a genogram is just a glorified family tree. Only, many times, what people discover when they make a genogram, is not so glorious.

The purpose of a genogram is to learn more about your family history. An understanding of your family history can be helpful to gain more insight into yourself, especially your decisions, feelings and thoughts. It is important to understand where we came from so we can better navigate where we are going.

A genogram used in counseling will generally focus on relationships and how people function. Deaths, divorces, remarriages, births, siblings, birth order, illness, and many other things can be noted. Discoveries made when creating a genogram can go something like this; “there was a lot of alcoholism in my family”, “women in my family did not pick good men”, “there were so many people who died young in my family”, “divorce was really common in my family”, to name only a few.

What people notice in a genogram is patterns and trends of how their families related to each other. This helps people understand why they do things one way or another and that understanding gives them power to break unhealthy patterns.

In this Pocket Principle, we take a look at the human genogram by going back to the original mother and father of humanity and studying how their behavior affected every person born since. What we learn about our history is not so glorious, but understanding the impact of Adam and Eve’s behavior is important for our own growth and maturity.

 Read our Pocket Principle – The Fallenness of Man  and look for part two next week.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Clock Face 8 am

Last week I finished meeting with a group of ten ladies that have become very special to me.  These ladies were selected to be part of a training group by the leadership of their church. The WDA Restorative Team  is helping their church launch a Restoring Your Heart emotional healing ministry. My ladies have now completed the majority of their training to be Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group leaders. Most of this training was accomplished by actually participating in RYH groups and working on their own self-awareness and dealing with their own hurts and pains. Sounds like fun, huh?

Here is a bit of the story of our journey together.

Last January, we met for the first time on a cold windy Sunday morning. My co-leader and I did not know exactly what to expect, the other nine group participants knew even less of what to expect. Let me start off by saying that 8 AM on a Sunday is not exactly the ideal time of the day or week to dig into your past and take a long look at your hurts. Yet this was the time allotted for the training, so we began.

In a typical “first group session” for RYH, we spend some time introducing ourselves and getting to know each other. This is one of my favorite parts of the group because we all know nothing about each other. It is always interesting to notice what people reveal about themselves, and I love the beginnings of getting to know each person. This group was no exception. Each lady told a little bit about herself and what she hoped to get out of the group. We are all usually very cordial and congenial and somewhat guarded when the group begins. After some sharing time in that first session, we went over the Group Covenant, which is basically the “rules” of the group. This is important because one of the primary “rules” is confidentiality. This is so important to make the group a safe place for healing. A person can be asked to leave a group if confidentiality is violated.

After talking a bit more about what to expect and what we hoped to accomplish, I asked the group members in that first session if they had any thoughts or questions. There was silence for a minute. Then one lady spoke up and said, “To be honest, I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing anything with this group. I have been hurt by gossip in the church in the past and I just don’t trust people in the church.” I nodded and said nothing. Then another lady spoke up and said basically the same thing, “I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing, either.” I waited a minute to see if anyone else had a comment or thought. Then I said, “You must only share what you feel safe sharing. Hopefully, as the group gets to know one another better, trust will form. But, YOU will be the one to decide what to share and when to share it.” Half the group still seemed uneasy; the other half nodded expectantly.

That was a year ago, two workbooks ago, numerous trainings ago, and many tears and laughs ago.

Over the course of our time together, the two ladies who were most unsure in the beginning have become two of the most hard-working, courageous, gut-sharing members of the group. It took some time and patience with each other. It took baby-steps of sharing and trusting. It took the powerful healing work of the Holy Spirit moving among these women and in their hearts.

These 9 ladies have bonded in a supernatural way with each other. They have shared things about their pasts and their hurts and their hearts that they have never shared with anyone else before. They have gained insights about themselves and new ways of thinking and acting. They have learned to express their feelings in healthier ways and they have learned the meaning of safety. They have disagreed with each other. They have confronted each other. And in so doing, have come out on the other side of their disagreements and confrontations even more connected and bonded. They have encouraged and supported each other. They have prayed for each other.  They have learned how they impact other people and why they do the things they do. Each lady, in her own unique way, has healed and become more self-aware. This is the beauty of a Restoring Your Heart group experience that is guided by the Holy Spirit.

These ladies have also learned a lot about the emotional healing process and group dynamics. They are all excited about using what they have learned and experienced to help other women heal: women who are also afraid to trust, women who have deep hurts from their childhood, women who want to grow and don’t know how.

When I end a training group, it is always a little sad and a lot exciting. It is sad for me because I grow so attached to the women in my groups. I hate to end our time together.

But it is also exciting to think back over how far they have come and to see the growth in their lives. It is exciting to see them want to share with others their experience of healing.

Ultimately, this healing is because of the power of the Holy Spirit, working in us and through us. However, the Spirit employs us as His co-workers and lets us work along side Him as He does His mighty work. I am encouraged by what is happening in these women and at their church. I am looking forward to seeing what God does next.

 

Have you ever been afraid to trust others, especially in the Church?

Have you ever wondered why the Church should be a safe place and sometimes isn’t?

Have you experienced emotional healing in the Church?

We would love to hear your comments or experiences.

 

PostScript:  At this church, there was a men’s training group going on at the same time. These men will also now be helping other men begin their healing process.

For more information on emotional issues we refer you to our Pocket Principles:

Created with Emotions

Understanding Emotional Problems

Healing From Emotional Problems

 

group of womenAs a counselor, I meet with people one-on-one all day long. It’s rewarding, exhausting and humbling. As much as I believe in the value of individual counseling, there is another way of helping people heal that I believe is, in many ways, more powerful.

The group.

Oh, how I love a group, in all its messiness, closeness, vulnerability and intimacy.

At WDA, our materials are designed to be used in groups. We believe in the vast restorative power of a group. We use groups for our discipleship materials and for our Restoring Your Heart materials.

There is a reason “small groups” are so popular in churches today. We all crave intimacy. We are designed for intimate relationships with each other and a healthy small group is the perfect place to “figure out” intimacy. Most of us really don’t know how to be closely connected to others because we have been hurt by others. We don’t trust, it is risky, and we would rather not take the chance. Yet, in avoiding closeness, we go against our created design. So, we get caught in an approach/avoidance relational intimacy dilemma.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you in three ways.

1.  Embrace the risk of either being in a small group or starting a small group.

No matter what the stated purpose of your small group, whether it be Bible study, fellowship, discipleship or emotional healing, no matter what materials you use or don’t use for your small group, there is an overriding transcendent goal for your group.

Cloud and Townsend, in their book Making Small Groups Work, refer to this goal as the ministry of reconciliation. In aiming for this goal, we (the group) are not supposed to be the moral police, we are supposed to be the restorer’s of life. We achieve reconciliation in a small group by combining grace, truth and time with our desire to connect with God and with others. We use a small group to be restored to God, to learn how to relate to others and to experience and practice grace and forgiveness.

And, yes, it is messy sometimes. There will be conflict. There will be unease. There will be anxiety and unsurety. But, don’t you have all of those in your life anyway? And isn’t it frequently hard to navigate those waters?

The beauty of a healthily functioning small group is that all these things can happen, but all these things can also be successfully navigated, dealt with and the group members restored to relationship with each other. There is nothing more exciting and bonding than to experience this reconciliation in a group.

2. Read Making Small Groups Work by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. 

Take notes while you are reading it and think about ways you can use these principles in your own life. This book is one of the best books available about small groups.

3. Read this Short Story.

I was leading a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group several years ago. When leading these groups, I use one of several workbooks dealing with emotional issues that are written by WDA staff. With this particular group, I was using the Processing Pain Workbook, which deals with childhood issues and then moves into grieving and forgiveness.

The group consisted of myself, the co-leader and three other women all of whom had bi-polar disorder. (If you want to learn more about bi-polar disorder, click here.) My “starting out” goal for the group was to help these women see the impact their past had on them and move them joyfully into emotional health within the 18 week group time frame.

About three weeks into the group, I realized that my lofty goal was out the window. These women could not focus on the material or on their past long enough to gain much insight from it. They were having so many problems navigating their daily lives, largely because of their bi-polar disorder, that they were overwhelmed. Each week, one or all of them would come in with a present day crisis that needed to be discussed.

So, I readjusted my goal for the group. Once I let go of my agenda, I realized that these women were gaining much more benefit from the group just by being in a place where they were heard. So we moved through the workbook slowly and incrementally. Usually each week, we spent roughly one-third of the group time on the material, sneaking it in and out of our conversations. They all gained some small understanding of the impact of their past, and they gained a little benefit from talking about grieving and forgiveness.

But, the huge benefit they gained from the group was a chance to bond, experience intimacy and be heard. In other words, they experienced the ministry of reconciliation. Our group lasted about 6 months, much longer than the prescribed 18 weeks. During this time, I realized that the Holy Spirit was going to do a much better job of leading this group than I was and He was going to help these women experience intimacy at a more experiential level than the materials could. The group ended when one group member went to jail and another one went into the hospital. The workbook was still not completed.

Did this group challenge every aspect of my group-leading experiences and desires? Absolutely! Do I consider this one of the more successful groups I have ever lead? Definitely!  Grace, truth and time came together and created intimacy for women who rarely experience it.

And now, following the encouragement, a challenge for you.

Look for ways you can experience intimacy in a small group environment.

And,

Move towards the messiness that results in closeness and reconciliation.