Exploring Shame

Shame is not easy to face. It is not quickly or easily diminished. It often takes years to even come to the awareness that what dwells beneath our constant frustration is the sense that we are not good enough, often because someone’s words or actions have been working to assure us of that our entire lives.

To  conquer our shame, we must first improve our awareness of it. This takes courage. We will have to be willing to examine our thoughts, not hide them as our natural impulses have always led us.

How can we improve our awareness of shame?

1. Notice the messages our bodies gives us. Shame clues include:

  • Blushing
  • Looking down or away (avoiding eye contact)
  • Sudden loss of energy

2. Listen carefully to our thoughts, especially automatic insults we give ourselves. (Negative self-talk.)

3. Pay attention to whether we isolate ourselves from others, or withdraw verbally or emotionally.

4. Observe whether perhaps we feel paralyzed (unable to approach or retreat from a situation because of overwhelming self-consciousness), perfectionistic, or especially critical of people around us.

5. Explore our spiritual connectedness or disconnectedness. How are we finding meaning in our lives? Do we have a strong sense of purpose and are we pursuing it?

Shame can be big or small. To be fully aware, we will need to notice both. The reversal of this habit must be challenged consistently.

To recognize when shame needs challenged, look for these common defenses against shame:

  • Denial – if something causes us shame, we might refuse to acknowledge it exists.
  • Rage- we might drive others away so they cannot see our deficits, especially if we believe they are out to get us.
  • Perfectionism – we might stave off shame by striving for perfection in everything.
  • Arrogance – we might see ourselves as better or others as worse (by being overly critical verbally or internally) to keep shame at bay.
  • Exhibitionism – we might act, dress or speak with flamboyance of that which we’d rather hide to try to convince ourselves and others that it doesn’t bother us.

Making it Personal:

How do you protect yourself from shame? 

  • Start to observe your tendencies. Not because you will ever stop them completely, but because they help you understand what is triggering your shame.

The goal is not to fight off shame. The goal is to explore it. If we can come to accept and understand that shame is a part of the human condition, we need not fear it, hate it or fight it. Then, we can change it.

My next post will be about how we can change our shame. Until then, explore your awareness of and defenses against shame to start understanding how it affects you.

~Barb

Where is God in all this?

​​When you look around our world today so seemingly filled with chaos and evil and hate, and you’re tempted to ask where is God in all this? Remember… we told God we didn’t need him. We expelled him from our schools. We removed him from our courthouses. We’ve denied the sanctity of the gift of life He gives with the degradation of the human fetus to a blob of tissue. We’ve chosen this world we must now live.

But remember this too. Surrounding the pockets of darkness so sensationalized albeit all too real, there are blankets of goodness and love.

There are infinitely more of us who still invite God into our lives, commune with him in prayer wherever we go, and love every human soul he creates. While we must mourn the losses that are dealt to us from within the darkness, we must never lose sight of the glorious light of hope and infinite blessings that still surround our hearts, our homes, and our communities. All the more when we actually welcome Jesus into our everyday.

Don’t get lost in the fight. Be the light. Be the change you wish to see in the world. That’s where hope lives. ❤

My Life… God’s Story.

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If I put everything I’ve learned in all my forty-plus years on this earth into one statement, it would be this… life is not simple.

No matter how much I work to improve myself educationally, relationally, personally, I still find that anything I want to see change— in myself, my loved ones, or the world—takes a lot of prayer and more time than I’d like. More than most of us want to invest. Why is that? 

In my experience, this happens because prayer works a lot like a crockpot, not a microwave. But we live in a microwave society. The speed of our current lifestyles is what most of us have come to prefer.

But which method produces a higher-quality meal… a crockpot or a microwave?

The generations that preceded us knew that good things aren’t always instantaneous. They even came up with a saying… “good things come to those who wait.” But then they didn’t have 75 mile-per-hour interstates, microwave ovens, and Google fiber®. Have these modern day conveniences affected the way we deal with the non-material issues in our lives too? So much so that we’ve become unwilling to wait for the better meal that God has planned for us, sacrificing quality for immediacy?

As we think about our grandparents and their parents, we see that they didn’t expect everything in warp speed. They were okay with that. They also didn’t throw away things that weren’t working—mechanically or relationally. They fixed what was broken. By work, prayer, mistakes, frustration, grace, breakthroughs, more work, setbacks, more prayer… they repaired what needed mended.

Marriage and family struggles are a common topic in circles of young to middle-aged women and men. I encourage those I speak with to reflect on the positives in those relationships, even as they wrestle through the negatives. I ask people to think honestly about what they could be doing to contribute to the disrupted connection in their relationships. It’s easy to point out how others are hurting us, but are we willing to acknowledge that we may be responding in ways that are equally hurtful to those about whom we complain? Are we either unintentionally contributing to their mistreatment by not meeting their needs, or in callous response to their not meeting ours? Couldn’t we instead be willing to focus solely on what we have the power to change—ourselves. Couldn’t we seek to understand and meet the needs of our spouses, children, parents, and siblings expecting nothing in return and see what God will do? I implore you to pray long while you also love deeply through difficult times when society will tell you to walk away from what doesn’t serve you. While co-workers, family members, and friends will commiserate and add fuel to the fires of pain that you share, I will speak this truth into your life. I won’t tell you what you want to hear. I won’t say, “Oh, he’s such a jerk!” or “I can’t believe what she did.” No matter the issue, marital or familial, I won’t contribute to the breakdown on connection that we all face in our closest relationships by focusing on the other person. I will love you. I will care about your hurt. I will let you complain, but I will not fail to help you see that we each own a circle of responsibility. Like a hula hoop lying on the ground encircling our feet, we are responsible only for what we do ourselves. How we choose to look at life. What we believe about God, and ourselves, and those in our lives. How we choose to act and react to what happens in and around us. We can choose to be a part of the problem, playing tit for tat. Or we can be a part of the solution. If we will choose that, we can watch as God writes our story, growing us and making us into happier, healthier people no matter the outcome of the problems that brought us to Him. Doesn’t that sound more appealing than a pre-packaged nuked response to the world? What if we instead waited to see how God writes our story? What if we chose to keep praying and loving no matter what, and see what God is going to do in and through us?

A 2002 study by the Institute for American Values Center for Marriage and Families revealed that those who stick it out through difficulty find themselves happier five years later than those who give up and end relationships. Divorce has not been shown to bring the happiness it promises, but on the contrary sticking it out does. A full two-thirds of couples who initially reported unhappiness but stayed together (although many admitted doing little or nothing different) reported a higher level of happiness five years later than those who chose to leave the difficult relationship. I believe that if this holds true for the closest of all relationships—marriage, it also illuminates a very powerful truth about any and all human relationships: endurance changes us. Quitting doesn’t.

Working through difficult issues in a relationship isn’t a microwave task, and we’re kidding ourselves if we believe ending a relationship solves anything for either party either. Honestly, personal experience tells most of us that when we’re willing to persevere through difficulty, matters usually improve with time. (Of course, we are not talking about enduring abuse. That is and always will be an exception.) In safe relationships, we all face differences, sometimes long seasons of trial after trial. There are times when it’s difficult to believe the struggles will ever end. And yet, we have probably all felt that moment of relief when we see God provide an unexpected solution or resolution in a difficult situation. If you haven’t, you either haven’t been alive long enough, or your eyes simply have never been tuned to look for Him. We can see little snippets of growth. We can see change happening, sometimes ever so slowly. Growth rarely occurs without our being humbled. Are we willing to wait it out in order to see the dramatic differences God can make in our lives when we learn to pray and wait in the context of a story that He is writing? One paragraph at a time… we must wait… and move according to His pen to see how each new chapter will unfold.

This kind of life requires permanently and repeatedly giving ourselves back over to the process of living in His story, not trying to force our own. And believing always that He really does know better.

To many of us, this can feel like surrendering to constant disappointment and frustration, but we only have to keep our eyes on our Storyteller (not the story) to see that He never stops writing.

Above all, when the story takes a turn we weren’t expecting, we have to disrupt our natural tendency to try to take back control and fix things. Instead, ask, “Lord, what are you doing on this page of my life and how can I stay in Your story?” We are unwise to attempt to write the next scene in our heads and try to force His pen to transcribe what we would have composed. As for me, I choose each and every day to trust that as my Creator, He is also the best Author of my story.

What might God be writing in your life’s story today? Are you willing to trust Him with the pen? Share some of the latest excerpts that God’s written in your life lately, and how you are responding to the story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28

 

Take heart!

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I’m learning to live above my circumstances. This requires me to spend focused time with the Lord.

There are troubles and stress in all of our lives because we live in a broken world, but Jesus reminded us in John 16:33 that he overcame all this and he encouraged us to take heart! Or in other words… be courageous! Only the Life of the One who overcame this world can give me the courage I need to face the neverending flow of life’s problems with good cheer.

How?

As I sit quietly with the Lord every morning, He floods my troubled heart and mind with His peace in a way that cannot be explained or understood… only experienced.

Then, ever so indeterminately, I am released to rise above my circumstances. I start to see my life differently… through His eyes. This new vision allows me to discern what I need to focus on ~ the GOOD and what I can change ~ and what I need to forget as I leave it with Him ~ the BAD and what I cannot change.

Then, I rest… as I breathe out all that I carried to Him today, and breathe in His joyful, peaceful Presence that no one and nothing can take from me.

Power!

We all have needs.

We come into this world needy, and we never live a day of our lives without need. And though there are basic physical needs and even some emotional and psychological needs that can be met through our relationship—marriage, children, family, friends… we will struggle immensely if we fail to recognize that this world we live in—and everyone in it—is just as needy as we ourselves. We cannot put our dependence on anyone or any material thing, like a job title or a car or house. The One who made us is the only One qualified to meet the needs that He planted inside each of our hearts and minds.

Instead of looking to a job, a marriage, a child, or any other earthly thing to meet our needs, we instead can learn… one day at a time… one moment at a time… to depend on God alone to meet the needs He already knows we have, and that He desires to meet.

Here, when we can come to Him, our weakness becomes emboldened with His POWER. This is the place… the only place where our frantic “I can’t do this anymore!” can become a calm “I’ve got this.”

He says to each of us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my POWER is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Won’t you exchange your weakness for His POWER today? His peace awaits. #peacejourney #truthandgracewriting

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One

Only one.

# 1.

Numero uno.

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Ephesians 4:1-6 reminded me today to lead a life worthy of my calling because I have been called by God! To do that, I need to be ONE minded… the mind of Christ that offers me the choice each day to be humble and gentle and patient with others, making room for others’ faults because of the Love he has given to me to flow through me to others.

The unity…the ONEness…that this kind of Love produces binds us together in peace.

I am called to this ONEness by the ONE Spirit of God because there is ONE body of Christ that has called us all to ONE glorious hope for the future. There is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism and ONE God and Father who is over all… in all… and living through all of us.

Let’s follow this ONE in whom there is no confusion or contradiction who calls us to a life that is worth living!

3 Ways You Can Rise Above Today

What difficult situation are you facing today?

Are you wondering how to handle it?

God has already promised us that we will always have problems in this life, but He also frequently reminds us that we must not let the problems of life be our main focus. When we focus on our troubles, we begin to sink as if in some kind of malignant quicksand. But like Peter, who was invited to walk on the water with Jesus, all we have to do is call out to Him and turn back our focus to Him and we can rise above whatever we face.

Micah 6:8 gives us three powerful answers to what to do in the difficult situations we face in life… three places to direct our focus today:

1) act JUSTLY

2) love MERCY, and

3) walk HUMBLY with God.

Do what’s right, show everyone mercy and stay humble. If you were wondering how to handle that situation that causes you so much stress, now you know from the pages of God’s personal Word to us. 📖

May your Monday be blessed.

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Today!

Today is the day you have made, Lord! I will rejoice and be glad in it. I begin this day with my heart and my hands open to You, ready to accept anything and everything that you will pour into this day–this brief portion of my life.

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I will intentionally not complain about anything, even the weather, because I know my life is not my own. You are the one writing my story, and that includes every circumstance of my life. The best way to deal with things I wish weren’t happening is to just look for your hand in them and thank you for always working through it all. This allows me to be free of any resentment and allows You to do the good work in me that you desire to do in Your own way.

To find joy in the present moment, I cannot drag yesterday or pull tomorrow into the boundaries of today! You said Your mercies are new every morning because You understand human frailty, and you know that we would need them that often! We cannot bear the weight of any more than one day at a time. Let us not REHEARSE tomorrow, or REGRET yesterday. There is abundant life in the REALITY of Your Presence right here in this moment today. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Too Big to Trick-or-Treat?

If you’re like me, Halloween holds a lot of fun memories. You’ve spent loads of money on costumes and decorations and candy; you may have even created a few unique costumes of your own, and you definitely enjoyed every moment of taking your little ones around to neighbors and friends and family to gather goodies on this exciting fall evening!

But also, if you’re like me, your kids have outgrown this fun night now, and you’re not sure who misses it more… them or you?

There are so many areas of our lives where we invite our children to grow up and be more like us… and rightfully so. But, there are very few events in their young lives where we decide to allow ourselves to relax, to be a kid, to live in their world for a little bit. And Halloween is one of those!

If you’re not yet where I am, with kids too big to trick-or-treat, be thankful and set aside time to make believe with your little ones this weekend. And while you’re at it, don’t neglect to be gracious to those in-betweeners who may seem too big but who show up on your doorstep anyway because they’re just not yet ready to not be a kid.

And if you are raising teenagers who’ve finally surrendered to having surpassed the acceptable age to dress up and beg for goodies, be thankful for a new kind of fun, and look for new ways to “treat” your teens. Consider some of these ideas:

1. Throw a Halloween costume party and let them invite a bunch of friends. Make spooky fun treats, including punch with dry ice for that foggy effect, and rent or save on Netflix a line-up of good scary movies.

2. Take them with a bunch of friends to a local corn maze and treat everyone to hot apple cider and other fall treats after they find their way through the maze a time or two. Look for haunted hayrides too.

3. If you’re really brave and don’t mind the expense, take your teens with 1 or 2 of their friends to the big haunted houses downtown,  if your area has them.

4. Coordinate a neighborhood “Trunk-or-Treat” by going door-to-door a couple weeks ahead and get your neighbors commitment to have their car(s) at the end of their driveways & their trunks full of treats. Challenge everyone to a best decorated driveway contest! Winner gets a big blue ribbon to display next year and all the leftover candy from all the trunks!

5. Get involved in a church or community Trick-or-Treat event and participate as a family.

6. If you live out in a rural area, host a big bonfire, with weanie roast and s’mores. Invite everyone you know. Costumes optional, but beware of the higher flammability of cheaper, storebought costumes.

7. If you are really adventurous and don’t mind the time, expense and risk of opening your home or backyard up, create your own haunted house and invite all your teens friends and all your neighbors.

8. If your teens prefer a more family-centric, and quieter evening, have the whole family dress up, play spooky music at your doorstep and have fun watching the little ones come to you.

Whatever you do, have fun. Make memories. Dress up your pets. (They love it! Hee, hee.) And don’t forget the candy!!!

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Do Something!

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This morning on my way into work, I heard a song that I’ve heard many times before, but today, it really spoke to me.

Matthew West sings about all the injustice and pain in the world from poverty to kids being sold into slavery, and he relates how so many people feel when they see these kinds of things. He sings about looking up to heaven and shaking his fist and saying, “GOD, WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING?”

Have you ever felt that way?

I think we all have.

But I got chills as the song goes on to give us what must be God’s likely response when we ask him things like that…

“I did. I created you.”

West also sings about how he’s tired of hearing about how we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That obviously couldn’t be more true, as we are his living representatives here in the physical realm. But West’s point is well taken. It’s a lot easier to say that we are his hands and feet than to actually be them.

I’m challenged today to tune in and be certain that I’m answering this call. I want to be the one who stands up and says  I’m going to do something.

How about you?