Know That You Are Welcome (Nouwen)

Excerpt from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love

Not being welcome is your greatest fear. It connects with your birth fear, your fear of not being welcome in this life, and your death fear, your fear of not being welcome in the life after this. It is the deep-seated fear that it would have been better if you had not lived.

Here you are facing the core of the spiritual battle. Are you going to give in to the forces of darkness that say you are not welcome in this life, or can you trust the voice of the One who came not to condemn you but to set you free from fear? You have to choose for life. At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, “I love you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb”(Psalm 139: 13).

Everything Jesus is saying to you can be summarized in the words “Know that you are welcome.” Jesus offers you his own most intimate life with the Father. He wants you to know all he knows and to do all he does. He wants his home to be yours. Yes, he wants to prepare a place for you in his Father’s house.

Keep reminding yourself that your feelings of being unwelcome do not come from God and do not tell the truth. The Prince of Darkness wants you to believe that your life is a mistake and that there is no home for you. But every time you allow these thoughts to affect you, you set out on the road to self-destruction. So you have to keep unmasking the lie and think, speak, and act according to the truth that you are very, very welcome.

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Crash and Burn

Tullian post graphic (2)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wants to set us free by showing us our need for a rightness we can never attain on our own–an impossible righteousness that’s always out of our reach. The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to demolish all notions that we can reach the righteousness required by God–it’s about exterminating all attempts at self-sufficient moral endeavor.

So, in the deepest sense, the Sermon on the Mount is not a goal, but a wall we crash into so that we finally cry out “I can’t do it!” Tullian Tchividjian

I CRASHED and BURNED – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally. I came so close..way too close, to ending my life…so close to leaving my beautiful daughter to live life without me, so close to leaving my mom to face the heartache of losing her only daughter.

Although the pain of crashing and burning was extremely intense and debilitating, I thank God for it. Hitting rock-bottom and finding out that Jesus was holding tightly to me, not because of any shred of righteousness on my part, restored my hope and saved my life. Failure helped me to realize that all of my efforts to be “good” could never succeed at earning God’s love. God LOVES me – Jesus lived perfectly for me and his righteous blood covers me.

I can’t do this thing called life on my own – I need Jesus DESPERATELY. His arms are wide open. He sees me – so imperfect, so broken, and oh how He loves me. I hit a wall..and found truth, life, and a love that can never be extinguished.

Psalm 40 MSG

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Psalm 40The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

40 1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
    At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
    pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
    to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
    a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
    they enter the mystery,
    abandoning themselves to God.

4-5 Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
    turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
    ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
    of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
    comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
    and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
    account for you.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
    that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—
    that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears
    so I can listen.

7-8 So I answered, “I’m coming.
    I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I’m coming to the party
    you’re throwing for me.”
That’s when God’s Word entered my life,
    became part of my very being.

9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,
    I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways
    a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
    I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
    let the congregation know the whole story.

11-12 Now God, don’t hold out on me,
    don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth
    are all that keeps me together.
When troubles ganged up on me,
    a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt
    I couldn’t see my way clear.
More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,
    so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

13-15 Soften up, God, and intervene;
    hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul
    will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable
    will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin
    will be booed and jeered without mercy.

16-17 But all who are hunting for you—
    oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
    tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
    make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
    but God, don’t put it off.

Control Freaks

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I read this article a few months into recovery from depression and codependency. Along with the help of the book Codependent No More (Melody Beattie), this article helped me to identify and be aware of people in my life who are “skilled manipulators” who I allowed to speak into and control my life; and also to help me identify my own manipulative, control freak behaviors (yes, I’m VERY guilty). 

Dealing with a Control Freak

by Thomas J. Schumacher, Psy.D., R-CSW
More About Thomas…

Most all of you have had to contend with control freaks. These are those people who insist on having their way in all interactions with you. They wish to set the agenda and decide what it is you will do and when you will do it. You know who they are – they have a driving need to run the show and call the shots. Lurking within the fabric of the conversation is the clear threat that if you do not accede to their needs and demands, they will be unhappy.

Certainly, it’s natural to want to be in control of your life. But when you have to be in control of the people around you as well, when you literally can’t rest until you get your way … you have a personality disorder. While it’s not a diagnostic category found in the DSM IV (the therapist’s bible for diagnostic purposes) an exaggerated emphasis on control is part of a cluster of behaviors that can be labeled as compulsive generally characterized by perfectionism, orderliness, workaholic tendencies, an inability to make commitments or to trust others and a fear of having their flaws exposed. Deep down, these people are terrified of being vulnerable. They believe they can protect themselves by staying in control of every aspect of their lives, including their relationships. Control freaks take the need and urge to control to new heights, causing others stress so they can maintain a sense of order. These people are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity, and anger. They’re very critical of themselves their lover and their friends, but underneath that perfect outfit and great body is a mountain of unhappiness. Let’s look at what makes control freaks tick, what makes you want to explode, and some ways to deal with them.

The Psychological Dynamics That Fuel a Control Freak

The need to control is almost always fueled by anxiety – though control freaks seldom recognize their fears. At work, they may worry about failure. In relationships, they may worry about not having their needs met. To keep this anxiety from overwhelming them, they try to control the people or things around them. They have a hard time with negotiation and compromise and they can’t stand imperfection. Needless to say, they are difficult to live with, work with and/or socialize with.

Bottom Line:  In the process of being controlling, their actions say, “You’re incompetent” and “I can’t trust you.” (this is why you hate them). Remember, the essential need of a control freak is to defend against anxiety. Although it may not be apparent to you when they are making their demands, these individuals are attempting to cope with fairly substantial levels of their own anxiety. The control freak is usually fighting off a deep-seated sense of their own helplessness and impotence. By becoming proficient at trying to control other people, they are warding off their own fear of being out of control and helpless. Controlling is an anxiety management tool.

Unfortunately for you, the control freak has a lot at stake in prevailing. While trying to hold a conversation and engage them in some way, their emotional stakes involve their own identity and sense of well-being. Being in control gives them the temporary illusion and sense of calmness. When they feel they are prevailing, you can just about sense the tension oozing out of them. The control freak is very frightened. Part of their strategy is to induce that fear in you with the subtle or not so subtle threat of loss. Since the emotional stakes are so high for them, they need to assert themselves with you to not feel so helpless. To relinquish control is tantamount to being victimized and overwhelmed. When a control freak cannot control, they go through a series of rapid phases. First they become angry and agitated, then they become panicky and apprehensive, then they become agitated and threatening, and then they lapse into depression and despair.

Repetition Compulsion

Control freaks are also caught in the grip of a repetition compulsion. They repeat the same pattern again and again in their attempt to master their anxiety and cope with the trauma they feel. Characteristically, the repetition compulsion takes on a life of its own. Rather than feel calmer and therefore have a diminished need to be controlling, their behavior locks them into the same pattern in an insatiable way. Successes at controlling do not register on their internal scoreboard. They have to fight off the same threat again and again with increasing rigidity and intransigence.

Two Types of Control Freaks

Type 1 Control Freaks:  The Type 1 control freak is strictly attempting to cope with their anxiety in a self absorbed way. They just want to feel better and are not even very aware of you. You will notice and hear their agitation and tentativeness. They usually do not make much eye contact when they are talking to you.

Type 2 Control Freaks:  The Type 2 control freak is also trying to manage their anxiety but they are very aware of you as opposed to the Type 1 control freak. The Type 2 needs to diminish you to feel better. Their mood rises as they push you down. They do not just want to prevail; they also need to believe that they have defeated you. They need you to feel helpless so they will not feel helpless. Their belief is that someone must feel helpless in any interchange and they desperately do not want it to be them.The Type 1 needs control. The Type 2 needs to control you.

Some Coping Strategies

1)     Stay as calm as you can. Control freaks tend to generate a lot of tension in those around them. Try to maintain a comfortable distance so that you can remain centered while you speak with them. Try to focus on your breathing. As they get more agitated and demanding, just breath slowly and deeply. If you stay calm and focused, this often has the effect of relaxing them as well. If you get agitated you have joined the battle on their terms.

2)     Speak very slowly. Again the normal tendency is to gear up and speak rapidly when dealing with a control freak. This will only draw you into the emotional turmoil and you will quickly be personalizing what is occurring.

3)      Be very patient. Control freaks need to feel heard. In fact, they do not have that much to say. They have a lot to say if you engage them in a power struggle. If you just listen carefully and ask good questions that indicate that you have heard them, then they will quickly resolve whatever the issue is and calmly move on.

4)     Pay attention to your induced reactions. What is this person trying to emotionally induce in you? Notice how you feel when speaking with them. It will give you important clues as to how to deal with them more effectively and appropriately.

5)     Initially, let them control the agenda. But you control the pacing. If you stay calm and speak slowly, you will be in command of the pacing of the conversation.

6)     Treat them with kindness. Within most control freaks is a good measure of paranoia. They are ready to get angry and defend against what they perceive is a controlling hostile world. If you treat them with respect and kindness, their paranoia cannot take root. You will jam them up.

7)     Make demands on them— especially when dealing with the type 2 control freak. Ask them to send you something or do something for you. By asking something of them, you will be indicating that you are not intimidated or diminished by their behavior patterns.

8)     Remember an old but poignant Maxim: “Those who demand the most often give the least.”

Keep in mind that control freaks are not trying to hurt you – they’re trying to protect themselves. Remind yourself that their behavior toward you isn’t personal; the compulsion was there before they met you, and it will be there forever unless they get help. Understand that they are skilled manipulators, artful and intimidating, rehearsed debaters and excellent at distorting reality.

In order to not feel degraded, humiliated and have your sense of self and self worth assaulted, you need to avoid being bulldozed by a controlling lover, boss or friend. When you are caught up in a truly destructive/controlling attachment, the best response may be to walk out. You have to understand that whatever you do will have a limited effect. These people are angry and afraid to let go of you. Hence, it is your job to let go of them, protect yourself in the process… and grow.

Found at Eldercare Online

Words Left Unsaid

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I was so in love with the boy. He was mysterious. He was a surfer. He looked a little bit like Keanu Reeves. He was my temporary salvation. I couldn’t believe I had a long-term boyfriend. Even though I had one or two very brief relationships in high school, something deep inside me told me no guy would ever really want me, would ever really love me, and especially no one as cool as this guy.

It was written all over my dad’s face the moment he met the boy on a trip back home a few months after we started dating – he could see my obsession, and I’m sure he could see that this relationship wasn’t good for me. Partying with the boy and our little circle of friends every night became my way of life. Any goal that I had to finish college and move forward in life was put on the back-burner while I soaked up any morsel of love this boy was willing to throw my way, even if in the form of his jealousy.

After spending the summer working on South Padre Island, I returned to San Antonio and moved in with the boy and his parents for a few months. I had a job as a waitress. I missed the deadline to sign up for Fall classes, and I lied to my parents about this fact. They weren’t paying for it, so they didn’t need to know was my excuse…but I would have moments when the guilt would eat away at me.

Dad called me late one afternoon on the boy’s parent’s phone. This was before cell phones. I walked outside with the cordless phone. The boy was sitting beside me. Dad begged me through tears to come back home, live rent free and go to college there. I thought it was preposterous that he would even think to ask me to leave the boy. He begged me to talk to my mom. My stubborn heart wouldn’t listen to anyone. After a few more moments of begging, I hung up on dad and gave both my parents the silent treatment for several weeks.

The boy and I broke up a few months later. I stayed in San Antonio, but my Dad’s offer to go home loomed over me and I actually considered it a few times. I was so lost, so broken, so afraid that I would never find love, and there was my dad offering me the love of a father, the love of a family, and the promise that I could always go home.

I did go home a few years later…pregnant, alone, afraid. My Dad…well, he was going through treatment for cancer. I had a beautiful baby girl about six months later. Dad died a year after her birth.

Dad and I had a beautiful relationship before he died, but so many of my most painful moments are moments where I am sure I broke his heart. When I went through the horrible depression 2 ½ years ago, thoughts started to take root in my mind that all the heartache I had caused Dad contributed to his cancer (I’ve never shared that with anyone except Jesus, till now). So many regrets piled up in my head. So many amends I could have made to dad before he died that I never took the time to do. I wanted a ticket to Heaven so I could beg for Dad’s forgiveness and mercy.

But God…

I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. God ’s my strength, he’s also my song, and now he’s my salvation. Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs in the camp of the saved? “The hand of God has turned the tide! The hand of God is raised in victory! The hand of God has turned the tide!” Psalm 118:13-20 MSG

God’s grace reminds me that Jesus paid it all. I don’t have to live my life buried in regrets and shame for the horrible things I did or the words left unsaid. Dad wouldn’t want me to live that way either. Grace reminds me that the pain of this life will one day be, as St. Teresa of Avila wrote “no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”

“Grief is a statement of faith that one day things will not be this way.” Tullian Tchividjian

Fall Apart

My friend Jacob (@jacobgoff) posted a cover photo on Facebook last weekend that simply stated…

fall apart

Just seeing those two simple words pierced some tender place deep in my soul. I went for a long walk and thoughts and feelings started flooding in…just because of those two simple words. Tears that I had been holding back for way too long were released and I took a much-needed extended deep soul breath. Side-note (not for sympathy, just info): It was also the 16th anniversary of my dad’s death, and I didn’t give myself permission to grieve the way I needed to grieve when he died.

We are hardly, if ever, given permission to fall apart. The prosperity gospel culture we live in is almost always encouraging us to be strong, fix ourselves, smile more, be more grateful (damn it), put on our big girl panties (or big boy undies), and strive for perfection. We are encouraged to never let em’ see us sweat so we don’t ruin our witness. We hear self-help messages from the pulpit* and leave our churches Sunday after Sunday striving to do better, when all along Jesus is giving us permission to fall apart and rest in him.

My fall-apart moments, though I try to fight them with every self-defense mechanism available to me, are inevitably where I experience the comfort, inexplicable peace, and beautifully unconditional love of Jesus. He doesn’t punch me when I’m down, bully me to work for his love, or ask me to hide my truth.

Luke 12:4-5 MSG “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

I can’t do it on my own anymore. I give up. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of playing this game I can’t win. I’m tired of the fake version of me receiving love while the little girl screaming out inside of me rots away in a dungeon of shame. I’d rather risk rejection and be loved by the only one (Jesus) who knows me completely and loves me in my messy state than be surrounded by a company of friends who are not okay with my fall-apart moments.

I fell apart in a big way a little over 2 years ago. I found myself in a place where I became well aware of my broken, sinful state and my need for a savior every second of every day was blaring like a neon sign on the Vegas strip. Sidenote: I’ve never been to Vegas, but I did see the movie Leaving Las Vegas. Yes, I am a sinner who saw a movie about fellow sinners. You have permission to be shocked, but as Steve Brown says “I’m a lot worse than you think I am.”

I have been hearing and reading messages for so long telling me that I need to buck up, be RADICAL, stop being “just a fan”, and get serious about my faith. Those same messages encouraged me to put aside my emotions (replace them with scriptures and positive thoughts), and get busy working for God (making sure never to leave home without my mask).

Jesus became the springboard for my self-salvation projects and somewhere along the way I developed a decade’s long case of spiritual amnesia that made me forget that he is my rescuer, comforter, wonderful counselor and best friend. I lost the proclamation that IT IS FINISHED in the sea of confusing, legalistic, “just do it” messages.

If you have never been given permission to fall apart, don’t listen to me, listen to Jesus…

Matthew 11:28 NIV  Come to meall you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.

2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

If “they” are not okay with your fall apart moments, remember that Jesus always is.

*with the exception of those pastors/churches that do preach law and gospel (I’ll be posting a list of those soon)