Heart Scan – Part 3

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The real danger of unhealed wounds is not the wound itself, but what it makes us susceptible to believe. In the last two entries, I talked through identifying wounds and allowing God’s healing. Really, identifying evil agreements we’ve accidentally made should be done simultaneously. I’ve listed resources to help with this down below.

What are evil agreements?

First, they’re deceptive—which means we usually agree with them because we honestly think they are the truth, but they’re not! Jesus told us, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). By contrast, Jesus gives insight into the way the evil one works, “…not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Second, agreements give permission. There’s a way we can come under evil’s influence even when we’ve done nothing wrong! This is something I had not considered—and that’s why I fell prey to it. Satan and his fallen angels are terrorists–very smart terrorists. Paul warns the Corinthians to forgive “…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). If you are unaware, you’re susceptible.

Evil can wound us through the intentional or unintentional sins of others. If that wound, or those wounds go unhealed, he can suggest a lie that seems true (and remember the best lie is 90% true). He doesn’t fight fair—often evil inflicted on young, tender hearts can be the most effective stronghold for an evil agreement: “Don’t trust anyone—they’ll all hurt you.” “You’re worthless, you’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re flawed, that’s why people leave you.” “Your body is not your own—you’re dirty, evil.”

So we start to react and act out of fear, protection, desire to control in order to not feel the pain of those unhealed wounds—and before you know it, we are living out of agreements that get us sinning against God and others, wounding others, and get this—not believing we’re wounding others—just like those who wounded us didn’t see the deception clouding their own judgment.

So abused boys grow up to be harsh, abusive fathers because they act or react out of unhealed wounds. Sexually abused women end up using their bodies to make money in porn, yet help create more lust-driven, porn-addicted men who will treat other women as objects to be used. Spiritual leaders act or react out of wounds and sin against others, which Satan can use to drive many further away from God.

But thank God—Jesus has given us authority to overcome ALL the power of the evil one. We can break the cycle through Christ. So how do we break these agreements?

1). Write down agreements. List agreements that you may have believed (or still believe).  Often they are accusations, condemnations, fear-motivated thoughts, self-protective (as opposed to God-protected) inclinations, lies about your identity that do not line up with what God says is true about us if we have taken Jesus as forgiver and leader (go read Ephesians chapter 1 and 2 substituting personal pronouns “I” or “Me” to hear your true identity and nature in Christ).

2). Write down God’s truth. What does God say is true according about this in the scriptures (so you can soak your mind in the truth and be set free of this lie)? Use www.Biblegateway.com to search topically, or ask spiritually wise people who know the Bible to help you. You may find it helpful to personalize it (Instead of “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” “nothing can separate me from the love of God”).  Download the Next Steps PDF from the Heart Scan message on 8-24-14 www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

3). Renounce the lie.  Tell God out loud that you renounce this lie (say what it is), and you agree with His truth (say what He says).

4). Make a list of Daily Beliefs. This is something Michael Warden suggested to me, and it’s been very helpful.  I wrote down 5 Daily Beliefs (based on God’s truth that opposes evil agreements), and I say them every day to renew and transform my mind in accordance with God’s truth (Rom. 12:1-2). “Today, I CAN and WILL hear Your Spirit and follow Your will. Even if circumstances look bleak and all I see ahead is suffering and a cross—You are guiding me as I stay willing and obedient.” That’s one example.

What are some of the agreements you’ve fallen prey to, and what’s the Truth? Share some of them in the comments, so that others can see they’re not alone—we can all stand and fight together with spiritual weapons.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Waking the Dead, John Eldredge

Victory over the Darkness, Neil Anderson

21-Day Brain Detox – I’m going to post a separate blog on this resource developed by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology and a devoted Christ-follower. Many of my friends say it’s really helped actually clean out the negative thinking and lies.

How to Detox – Your Brain?

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I asked my friend Sheeri Mitchell to do a post on a program that really helped her with those evil agreements I blogged and spoke about last week.  Enjoy…she’s an excellent writer.

As the advantages of maintaining a fit lifestyle at every age move closer and closer to the forefront of western consciousness, many people have come to appreciate the value of a good cleanse or (as they’re called more often than not) a detox. Although it can take many forms, detoxifying the body is not only a fairly simple concept but a pretty straightforward process as well. Concept: your body is full of – well – crap – literally. You must get rid of it. Process: You drink, eat, take something or submit to a procedure to flush out the crap. Your crap-free body is healthier, better able to absorb needed nutrients, fight off disease, and function more efficiently, resulting in a happier you. From a non-threatening cup of dieter’s tea, to the dreaded and highly invasive colonic irrigation, untold number of methods, products, and services avail themselves to modern westerners, methods, products, and services that can clean out nearly any system in the human body in order to restore it to a high state of functionality.

As obsessed as westerners are becoming with having clean colons and consuming organic/non-GMO foods, a surprising number of us never pay any attention to all the crap we put into or that we’ve left floating around in our minds.  We stumble through our days wounded, broken, insecure, having made evil agreements (“All men cheat. All women are gold diggers.”)and unholy vows (“I will never marry. I will never be able to quit smoking.”), birthed out of legitimate angst from real wounds inflicted upon us anywhere from childhood up to last night. To cover our pain, to prove our worth, or to better our position in the world, we engage in behavior as dangerous as intravenous drug use and engaging  pornography and as socially acceptable as overworking or getting yet another degree. As a culture we spend billions of dollars a year* on counseling, therapy, or other forms of treatment to help us figure out how to manage our confusion, stress, and ennui. We are a tangle of mixed messages, dashed hopes, and failed attempts to thrive.

With all the voices that assail the minds of modern man with their many conflicting and often harmful messages, the charge to renew our minds so that we can be transformed into the best versions of ourselves instead of molded into culture-consuming drones, has never been more pressing. But how can a person renew his mind? How can he expel the garbage so as to make room for the good? And then, once the good is in, how does he keep it from leaking out?

In other words, how can you detox your brain?

Noted neuro scientist, researcher, and author, Dr. Caroline Leaf, has the answer. In 2009, I was introduced to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s work through a friend who had been a student of Dr. Leaf’s the year prior. At the time, I had begun to suffer increasingly severe panic attacks and was plagued by thoughts of the death of my spouse and feelings of overwhelming dread, whenever he had to fly out of town on business. I should explain that when I was a sophomore in college, my oldest brother, an executive at a Fortune 500 company at the time, a husband of 9 years and a father of two children, ages two years and 9 months at the time, boarded a typical commuter flight out of Los Angeles headed for San Jose. His plane never landed. Hours after he should have checked in, my very tearful mother called me to inform me that neither she nor my sister-in-law had heard from him; that the airline representatives were “behaving suspiciously,” refusing to answer questions over the phone; and that I should keep an eye on the news. In the pre-social media era of the mid-‘80’s, I dutifully scoured the 11:00 news, hoping that my brother had somehow missed his flight or gotten caught up in meetings and forgotten to call. As I watched the report in my dorm room with several of my closest friends, I learned that my brother’s plane had crashed and every person on board had died. For those of us watching, the station issued a rolling roster of the names from the manifest. Halfway through, I read my brother’s name and dissolved. He was 35 years old.

In the following days leading up to Christmas, it would come to light that a disgruntled employee had executed both pilots on my brother’s flight and had deliberately crashed the plane into the side of a mountain in a small California town called Paso Robles.  The pain of the crash was difficult enough to bear – to learn that it had been a deliberate, malicious act of unjustifiable revenge would test my faith at the deepest, most personal level.

Fast forward over a decade. I have effectively grieved and healed from my brother’s death. I have worked through forgiving the man responsible. I am at peace once again with God, but also a little bit wiser about the world which I inhabit. I am married to a wonderful, newly promoted, hard-working executive. We have four children of our own, living out the suburban life of playdates, carpools, school and club sports. We own a minivan. We are a young family on the upswing, the picture of stability – except for one thing – my panic attacks and dark moods surrounding hubby’s out of town trips, and the unrelenting thoughts of his death that plague me whenever he flies.

I should add that at this point in my life, I have fully embraced a biblical world view and have a committed, vibrant relationship with Christ. I study and meditate upon God’s word daily. I pray, and am planted in a bible teaching church where I am establishing life-giving relationships. I am growing and serving and thriving – except for the panic attacks and dark moods surrounding my husband’s travels and the persistent thoughts of his imminent death. Seeking prayer before one of hubby’s trips, I explain to my friend the problems I’m facing. Having known me for well over ten years, she immediately understands the gravity of my situation and that it is steadily worsening with each trip. We both agree that these attacks are certainly connected to my brother’s death and most importantly that they are spiritual in nature. She then explains to me what I would come to know and experience as Dr. Leaf’s 5-Step Detox Process and promises, that if I follow it, I will steadily gain victory over the attacks.

Desperate for relief, I rigorously began the process, which my friend assured me was not only scientifically proven, based upon decades of Dr. Leaf’s own research on the human brain, but biblically and spiritually sound – no hocus pocus or dubious dabbling in the dark arts.

The most crucial part of detoxing required that every time I recognized the intrusion of an unholy thought, I was to execute what Dr. Leaf calls an “Active Reach” an action that counters the lying thought and replaces it with Truth. At first I was performing an Active Reach literally hundreds of times a day. Little by little though, the fearful, oppressive thoughts stopped coming. The negative feelings dissipated, so much so, that six months after my worst panic attack, the one that had moved me to call my friend in the first place, I actually forgot one evening that my husband was flying out the next day! The day of his flight, I took him to the airport personally. Our drive was cheerful and light. We prayed in the car and kissed curbside. On the drive home, I found myself looking forward to his call as he settled in for the night. I thanked God for him and prayed for the success of his trip. I was free! I have never been plagued by those attacks, dark moods, or persistent thoughts of death ever again. Whenever I recognize concern growing, I go through the detox steps outlined by Dr. Leaf, and cut down the lie before it can grow.

With the success of conquering my panic attacks and the surrounding thoughts, I was motivated to read every book Dr. Leaf had written. To my utter delight, last year she came out with an app that walks the user through a 21 Day Brain Detox Program, where under her daily direction, the user repeats the 5-Step Detox Process, focusing on dismantling one toxic thought for the entire cycle. I have systematically and persistently gone after one toxic thought, evil agreement, or unholy vow every cycle. By detoxing my brain, I have learned how to “take every thought captive.” In as much as I am faithful to renew my mind daily, I am being transformed and increasingly reclaiming my original design as an image bearer of Christ. My personality is healthier, my default disposition more joyful, my attitude more hopeful, my faith more resilient and resolute.  My mind is becoming more and more “crap-free.” And you know what? It is truly a beautiful thing.

Sheeri Mitchell is a wife, mother of four, editor and published author, and member of Gateway Community Church, who serves in several ministries.

For more information on the 21 Day Detox, visit www.21daybraindetox.com

Heart Scan – Part 2

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You have been wounded! It happens to us all. “By his wounds we are healed”—but how? (Isaiah 53:5). God wants to heal us, but we must cooperate. Jesus said, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Matt. 13:15)  What does a callous come from? From being rubbed wrong—a callous is protection against further wounding.

Our hearts become calloused when instead of turning to the Lord for healing, we turn away and do sinful, protective, reactive things. Perhaps it’s motivated by fear of being hurt, or pride over not wanting to admit we’re wounded, or an inability to slow down and listen—who knows. But if we keep doing this long enough, our wounded hearts get so hard we can’t spiritually see or hear from God.  But don’t miss this, all it takes is “understand with your hearts and turn,” and look at what Jesus does—He heals us. He heals our wounded, calloused hearts.

So assuming you made your list from the last blog post, Heart Scan Part 1, now…

1. Carve out solitude time. Make time and find a place to be alone and uninterrupted. I spent 3 hours one Saturday just listing all possible wounds (what we talked about last blog). This next part took me a whole day. It may not take you as long, but set time aside.

2. Pray for a whole, healed heart. “Jesus I want my whole heart back. Come and heal me in my inner being so that Your Joy and Love can flow through me again.” “Heal me, 0 LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).

3. Go through one wound at a time slowly. Give Him permission to go to that memory or situation with you and show you what’s going on. Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Rev. 3:20). Go slowly. Ask Him questions. Do not be afraid for “perfect love casts out all fear,” so let His love shine into the darkness. It’s really important not to run away from emotion—emotions tell us something about our hearts. If you really “go there” with the Lord to that memory, you may feel uncontrollable fear, or overwhelming sadness, or intense anger, or other strong emotions.  Don’t run away! Running keeps the wound unhealed—turning away to busyness, achievement, eating, drinking, trying harder. You’re not alone. He’s with You to heal you.

PRAY: Jesus, come and lead me in healing this brokenness in my heart. Speak to me here, Lord. What are you saying to me? Give me ears to hear and eyes to see what you are revealing. Let no other voice speak but you.  (from John Eldredge, Waking the Dead)

4. Ask and listen Ask the Lord to show you what’s going on and what He says about that situation. If you’ve never learned to really listen to the Lord, read Soul Revolution or Hearing God by Dallas Willard. Often Lies will be attached to wounds, especially childhood wounds. A parent was abusive and we heard the lie “It’s your fault—if you didn’t screw up so much he wouldn’t have to hit you.” Now there’s intense fear of failure, or a driven perfectionism running over all our relationships. You need to hear His Voice—His Truth about what happened and what He wanted you to hear.  Ask and listen deeply. He will often bring loving, kind, comforting thoughts—DON’T reject them—let them replace the accusing, condemning, shameful thoughts. Accept His Truth—renounce the lie outloud—speak the truth. (If you don’t know His Word well, ask someone who does to help you know what God might say about that lie or situation).

PRAY:  Lord, what is this fear, sadness, hurt, anger, etc. really about? Search my heart and know me—show me what’s going on. What lies did I believe about You or about me or life because of this? What’s Your truth You want me to hear, Lord.  I renounce the lies. I agree with Your Truth. Now I give You permission to remove this fear, this sadness, this bitterness, this anger. You are in control, so I will trust in Your control, not my ability to protect or control. Take this away and heal my heart.

5. Ask for forgiveness.  When we run from our wounds, we almost always turn to wrong things for distraction or comfort or to temporarily feel good–like food, illicit sex, pornography, buying stuff, cutting ourselves, over-achievement, even religious do-gooding and judging. And when we’re hurt, we often hurt others. If we have done these things, Jesus will bring that to our minds. Confess them, receive forgiveness, and turn from those old ways and He promises to cleanse them (1 John 1:5-9).

PRAY: Jesus, forgive me for the ways I’ve mishandled my brokenness. You alone make me dwell in safety. Forgive me for all my self-protection and self-redemption, and for all my false comforters. (You’ll want to renounce specific sins you are aware of here.) Cleanse my heart of every sin by your shed blood. (Waking the Dead).

6. Forgive and release. What often keeps us acting and reacting out of wounds is our unwillingness to forgive our offender. Anger held onto (Eph. 4:25-27), resentment and bitterness (Heb. 12:15), and especially unforgiveness gives evil a foothold in our lives. Jesus likened holding onto grudges or unwillingness to release someone from the debt we feel they owe us as giving the evil one permission to torture us. We aren’t punishing our offender, we’re giving ourselves over to spiritual torment and torture (read Matthew 18).

Forgiving is not forgetting.  God says He will remember our sins no more, but God can’t forget. What this means is that God will not use the past against us (Heb. 10:17, Ps. 103:12). When we bring up the past against someone, we have not forgiven from the heart—we have not released them. But it’s not the offender still tied with a noose to that wound—it’s you! Forgiveness is a choice. A crisis of the will. As Neil Anderson says, “To let them off your hook. But they are never off God’s hook.” That’s why forgiveness and release is an act of trusting God. Trusting that God is the just judge who will forgive and or bring justice (Rom. 12:19).  Thank God He pays the debts of all who realize they need His forgiveness.

PRAY: God, I trust You to be both the loving, forgiving God I need, and to be the righteous, just, judge who will make sure justice is done.  Lord, I forgive and release (name) into Your hands for (name the specific offense or offenses).

7. Go make amends. Ask God for your assignment related to this incident. We are told to do all we can to live at peace with all people—that’s what keeps that bitter root from poisoning us and others (Heb. 12:14-15).  Ask Him, “Is there anything I need to do to live at peace with this person?”  Write it down, and go do it.  What will follow is His peace, joy, and a love that’s not logical, but amazing!  It took me four months to do all my “live at peace” assignments. But I believe my obedience brought God’s joy back into my life. I want that for you too!

Post your comments on what questions or concerns or insights you get that may help others.

Heart Scan – Part 1

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sorrow
Steps to healing a wounded heart—that’s what we’re talking about in this series Heart Scan–dangers of a wounded heart.  If you’ve missed it, check out the messages starting with my “Confessions” talk and the last two Heart Scan messages at http://www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast/.  In the next few blogs, I want to just summarize the exercises we’ve been walking through so far that helped me find life, joy, and strength return.

Signs of a Wounded Heart

First, you must identify if there’s some place you’re unaware of that needs healing in your soul. I was totally clueless until God’s Spirit gently started pointing out some of these signs:

Loss of joy – You don’t experience that sense of wonder, awe, and beauty, celebrating the goodness of life.
Protecting yourself – You don’t have much to give, so you find yourself not wanting to initiate with people. You dread being with people because they might drain the little you have left.
Deep sadness – You may find feelings of deep sadness, like grief, well up unexpectedly. When a memory still feels sad, painful, terrifying…it’s a sign it’s still not healed.
Defensiveness – You’re easily hurt, defensive, reactive because you don’t have the reservoir of a full heart. Ask “What am I protecting or defending, and why?”
Easily Offended or Frustrated – when you carry unhealed wounds, it doesn’t take much of a jab to feel a lot of pain or anger or frustration.
Agreeing with Lies – We start to believe lies of the evil one because our wounds reinforced the lies: “You’re a bad leader,” “God’s not guiding you,” “He’s not speaking or you can’t hear His voice.” All lies, but wounds make them feel true.
Lack of Love for People – ultimately, unhealed wounds rob us of the ability to love people. People have hurt us, we still feel the hurts, so we are unable to love people because that requires proximity and vulnerability—which unhealed hearts fear.

Do you see the signs of a wounded heart? Can you see how dangerous it is for Christians, leaders especially, to ignore the signs and pretend it’s not there?  So here’s part 1 of what I did that helped. I’ll put part 2 in the next blog.

Let God Heal You

Spend time in solitude or doing things you enjoy with the Lord. Like a bottle of muddy water, your soul needs to be quiet and unshaken for an extended amount of time, otherwise the silt never settles out and it’s hard to find clarity to face reality.

Do the Grocery Store Test. If you turned down the isle in the store, and there in front of you was [fill in the blank], but he/she didn’t see you—your fist inclination would be to turn around before you had to meet eyes with them.  Don’t evaluate why, just write down that name.

List every person or event that might possibly have wounded you (or you them). I say “might possibly” because our tendency is to over-spiritualize and say “I forgave that” or “that didn’t really hurt me” and so we ignore the cumulative effect of all the “paper cuts” still oozing. So no spiritual editing—just put them all down. “Hearing from a 3rd party what someone said about me.” “When my spouse said or did…” “What my dad said…”  Make a list of people, and what they did that hurt.  Remember that Jesus also said,  “If you take your gift to the altar and remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift on the altar. Go and make right what is wrong between you and him. Then come back and give your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).  So we also need to write down relational damage we might have caused or where we might possibly have wounded another.

Start by doing this—just list all of them and write what happened. Next blog we’ll continue with what to do with the list. By the way, I thought this part of the process would take 15-20 minutes. It took me 3-4 hours! I’d love to hear comments—how does the thought of doing this strike you? What did you discover as you did it?

Wounding or Healing Our Children

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ashleyMy baby girl got engaged last night! It seems like yesterday we were driving to McDonalds, watching her bounce up and down in her car seat yelling, “Shake, Fries, Donalds—Exciiiiiiitteed!”  Now she’s yelling, “Shake, Fries, Dom (Dom is his name)—Excited!”  I am thanking God this morning that I’m excited too!

I started praying for my children’s spouses the day they were born! I know God heard me. I think about Dom’s character and the choices he’s made—God has obviously been guiding and leading him and protecting him. It’s pretty amazing. So pray for your kid’s spouse even though you don’t yet know them—God does! And time in His world isn’t linear like ours.

But here I sit on the backside of yesterday—speaking Sunday morning about father wounds, then celebrating my daughter’s engagement last night. If what I said is true, that no one comes out unharmed—how have I wounded her? Wow—that’s a tough question to ponder. In fact, I’d rather not think about it. I’d rather think about what a great parent I’ve been. I think that is true—I have been a very engaged parent in the lives of both my kids, and the payoff is that we have great relationships today. But I’ve also wounded them.

In some ways, I think this is inevitable. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53).  “All sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). How could we think we will be the special ones who become the first perfect parents?  So what do we do with the fact that we probably have wounded our kids along the way? How do we becoming healing agents? This is the important question.

We humble ourselves and seek God’s healing. We can proudly deepen the wound or become healing agents to our children as they grow up. God has not left us to drown in our own vomit, He is in it with us rescuing and redeeming (healing and growing) us all.  So the very best thing we can do for our kids, is to become more and more self-aware by becoming God-aware.  Letting God’s Spirit and scripture be a daily mirror we hold up to our lives, asking Him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). This keeps us from inflicting deep wounds that never heal.

Don’t over-react. Not every wound is the same depth, and every wound can heal.  The two over-reactions parents can have is to not care and do nothing (they’ll get over it), or to be so fearful you never bring discipline or allow them to suffer consequences. Discipline feels like “hurting them” but it’s not the same as “wounding them.” “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:5-6). Letting our children feel the pain of consequences for wrong actions is not wounding them, it’s loving them (assuming love, not anger or frustration is our motivation).

Say “I’m Sorry.”  When you let God search your heart daily, you will see some place where you sinned against your kids or in front of your kids.  This is your chance to heal or wound.  Do what you make your kids do when wrong—go to them and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” This heals. And if you said something damaging, admit it was wrong, and replace it with a blessing. This heals. How many adults would have found healing years ago if their proud father or critical mother had just been humble enough to do this?  Letting our kids see us humbly grow spiritually models what they will need to do to have increasingly healthy families.

Learn from the Past.  There may be seasons that are now long gone. You look back and see that it might have done some damage. As your kids get older (teens into young adults), process with them what happened. Process it from God’s perspective, not “here’s why I did this,” or “your father was just…” – excuses don’t heal.  Honesty about our own broken, wounded humanity that sometimes strays from God’s path (despite our best intentions), and helping them see why God’s will would have been better, let’s them learn from your mistakes.

I’ve had to do this with my daughter (and son) over the years.  Kathy and I did not make it out of parenting without mistakes. But we also didn’t make it through without appropriate apologies, processing the past, and learning with our kids as they’ve grown up.  I want to believe we did such a great job that my daughter will one day be the perfect parent, but she won’t (No Perfect Parents Allowed). At the same time, I do believe we can pass on a better legacy than our parents left us, and that’s my new prayer for my daughter and future son-in-law!

Love to hear your reflections and thoughts.