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Healing the spirit means embracing the shadow

Let me begin with a little Scripture that many of us learned in Sunday school: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me beside the still waters He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil... (Psalm 23, in part) I became very dearly acquainted with the Valley of the Shadow of Death shortly after losing a son in 2003.  It was the darkest night of my soul and my place of deepest grief.  Until that time, I had never experienced darkness quite like this.  I was ready to die at any moment.  I felt that I could sweep my hand to the side and brush aside the thinnest veil that rests between now and eternity.  It's a shadow that now rests on my life.  And as I was going through that Valley, I recognized (with confusion) that the line right before this one says that the Lord will lead us in paths of righteousness.  Certainly, i…

Our profound interconnection

Nonduality is the awareness that we are all interconnected.  There is no I-You.  We are One.  And isn't this was Jesus prayed that we would understand?  That we are One together with our Source, that is, God?  Think on this.
Every Monday morning, I drive two hours to work three days at the state psychiatric hospital.  My work is exhausting--mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining.  Every evening after work, I sit alone in my hotel room and practice my energy cleansing practices--chakras, mindfulness, prayer...sometimes sage.  But this morning, I decided to prepare myself during my morning drive.
Typically, it's a long, boring drive in which I occupy myself with music and podcasts.  Today, however, for the last hour of my drive, I decided to practice mindful driving.  I put on some calming music and tried to stay present in the NOW.  I succeeded for roughly ten seconds.  Immediately, my thoughts jumped to the past or the present and I found myself lost in…

Three questions we are always asking

"Spirituality is a force, or an idea, that challenges us (as a community) to be inward and outward looking simultaneously--a journey that regulates agency with the broader collective." (Gamble & Beer, 2017)



I love this definition of spirituality.  It at once recognizes that each individual has a spirit, that it is connected to others, and that it is always simultaneously looking in and out (subjective and objective) and seeking connection.  As a therapist that has my roots deep in Attachment Theory, I believe that this is true from the very moment of our existence.  We are always seeking secure attachment.  First, with our primary caregivers and then out into the world with peers, lovers, friends.

But we are also constantly seeking connection with other things as well--nature, animals, our work, entertainment, art, beauty, etc.  We want (and I would argue need) to know who we are, to feel that our life is meaningful, and to feel connected to the world and to others.  I c…

A Thanksgiving Story

For Thanksgiving this year, the young woman pulled her box of china from under the stairs.  She had often heard other women say that china should be used regularly throughout the year but this china was special and she had children with slippery hands.  It was a lovely little set.  Off-white in color with a delicate wheat pattern and each plate, cup, and saucer was rimmed in gold.



She removed the three plates, bowls, and cups from the box and washed them gently.  Three.  One for her and two for her children.  This was the first year since her divorce and she noticed a slight ache in her heart--a small nagging of guilt and pain and "what if?"  She had always said that she would never get divorced and felt pain for her children although they both seemed remarkably well-adjusted.



The marriage relationship had turned abusive through the years.  She had tried everything that she knew to do but a time had come when she had to leave for the health of her children.  Plenty of peopl…

To "speak the truth in love" does not mean "reprimand"

"...speaking the truth in love..." Ephesians 4:15
Notice the "dot, dot, dot," before and after that phrase?  But how many times have you heard it as a full sentence?  Speak the Truth in love.  As a full sentence, it loses all context.  And how often is this phrase used as an excuse to reprimand another "in love" and tell them about their multitude of sins?
The New Living Translation has a completely different take on this phrase.  It states, "we will hold to the truth in love."  Now, that changes it a bit, doesn't it?  That makes the action about me and not about me acting on another.  
In context, Ephesians 4 is talking about the Body of Christ and how we must work to grow up and mature in the Lord.  "Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe..."  The work is for each of us to grow up and cling to the Lord's love.  
And what Truth are we clinging to?  It is the truth that we are d…

Trauma is like a bee in the sand

My professor was teaching on the power of language- the power words have over us- when he used the example of the beach. He told us to remember the last time we were at the beach. The warm sand, the relaxing sounds, etc...

It took me back to Mazatlan. I left the resort pool and walked down the small steps to the beach where vendors were selling dresses, sunglasses, jewelry. The sand was warm on my bare feet and I walked quietly through the dry sand, my face to the sun, the wind in my hair... When a pain shot up through the ball of my foot into my ankle. I looked down to see a bee still stuck in the flesh of my foot. I was immediately angry. I looked around to see hundreds of bees in the sand. They had built a nest nearby in the base of a rock and a hotel worker was trying to kill them by covering them with sand... Not a great plan.

As I thought about this in class, I remember that it felt offensive. I was enjoying the stillness, the relaxation. True, I stepped on the bee so technical…

What it means when a narcissistic pastor says, "I love the church"

I ran across this article while going through a rough place in my life.  It had profound meaning for me in dealing with some of the individuals in my life that have narcissistic traits. The article highlights the fact that when a narcissist says, “I love you,” he really means that he loves the way that you (fill in the blank): take care of his needs, focus your energy on him, submit, etc. Individuals that have been in relationships with narcissists often admit to feeling crazy, not recognizing the abuse while it was occurring, and to keeping secrets to cover for his abuse, infidelity, etc.  I wonder if this is what many people are recognizing in the #exevangelical movement.  Because as I was going through this article again, I began to realize that many of the narcissistic traits could be applied to the many pastors and men in church leadership that I have known through the years. Being in church ministry for twelve years, I became proficient at silence and lies to cover the behavior…

Church, our Borderline mother

Let’s look at Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states: “Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.” They go on to say that individuals with BPD, “may experience mood swings and display uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world. As a result, their interests and values can change quickly…an individual who is seen as a friend one day may be considered an enemy or traitor the next. People with borderline personality disorder also tend to view things in extremes, such as all good or all bad.” BPD is a valid personality disturbance that stems, primarily, from an attachment injury in childhood or adolescen…

Sh*t church women say

I can write this because I used to be one of these church women.  I was in leadership, I was married to a pastor, I was a mentor to younger women, I taught classes for women discipleship. I can write this because it was too risky to speak up about the problems in my marriage.  Because “submission” was a word that my husband and I argued about.  Because when I asked other church-women for clarity about “submission,” they sided with my husband. And so, because it was too risky, I adhered to the patriarchal narrative of submission and silence.  I encouraged other women to do the same. Here’s a list of sh*t that I have heard church women say to me and things that I, in turn, have said to others: Submission means that your husband is the ultimate authority in the home.  He is the one responsible to God for you and the family.  You should defer to him in major decisions.  In real life, I cried and fought and spoke my mind until I realized that it was no use and he was going to do whatever h…

Why should women be silent?

Read this.  It is one of the best writings on women speaking in church that I have ever read.  Rachel Held Evans makes some powerful points about Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14 that women should be silent in church.  It would do us well to understand the context of these Scriptures when answering questions about women in church. Arguments we don’t hear One of the points she makes is that we rarely hear sermons on other “demands” about men such as: when men are praying, they should lift holy hands or greet one another with a holy kiss.  These Scriptures (from 1 Corinthians 16) are spoken in the same authoritative voice but are not taught and certainly not adhered to. It’s the same old point that the church is proficient at highlighting certain texts and ripping out others. “Silence” did not apply to all women As Evans pointed out, Paul told some women to be silent but others were encouraged to prophesy.  Why?  As the article states, the church had attracted a large population of y…

The child co-narcissist: the narcissistic parent's missing piece

Growing up with a narcissistic parent meant that you had to learn how fit into the missing parts of your parent.  Like a puzzle with a missing piece, you became the shape of those missing pieces to balance your disordered parent–and for the ultimate goal of survival. Alan Rappoport has written about this a lot through his career as a psychotherapist and describes the actions of the child as co-narcissism.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I dislike that term.  So, let me unpack that a bit. Rappoport defines narcissism as a self-esteem disorder–a person with missing pieces.  The individual with narcissism is “interpersonally rigid, easily offended, self-absorbed, blaming, and finds it difficult to empathize with others.”  In this kind of toxic environment, the child tries to balance the narcissistic tendencies with intense people-pleasing, worry, anxiety, and self-sacrifice –the missing piece. So, the “co” of co-narcissism merely describes the balancing tendencies that the child d…

When asking forgiveness is manipulation

My ex’s family had a favorite quote:  “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” I was thinking about this today after going round and round and round with my ex about something that he did (that pertained to the children) without asking me first.  It was something important.  Like, potentially life-changing.  And all I received from him was a text that said, “hey… I did this… I called these people and set up these appointments… so you know…hope you’re okay with that.” And no, I was not okay with that.  I told him no and he proceeded to push and prod and argue and try to convince and be all manipulatively charming with his, “can you help me understand why…?” And dealing with him is absolutely exhausting.  I easily fall back into old patterns of the abused spouse.  I get exhausted, I say fine whatever, I become passively pissed, I shut down.  My husband has to remind me that I’m allowed to have boundaries and peeeaaaccceee. What’s so ironic is that this church-going family (als…

Why church abusers don't like John 14:6

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'”  – John 14:6 I’ve heard this verse taken all out of context and used to abuse folks of other religions, populations, and life sojourns.  The church has used this verse to say that only by saying The Sinner’s Prayer can a relationship with Jesus be built and developed.  That there are some magic words that fling us into the realm of God’s glory.  But that’s just not the case. See, when Jesus said these words, he was speaking against the religious abusers of the day.  The Pharisees were telling the common folk that they were the gatekeepers to the Kingdom of God.  They would be the ones to tell you when you had done enough praying, paying, and performing to reach heaven’s gates.  Heaven was the proverbial carrot dangling in front of the nose.  No one could reach it.  Imagine trying to win a ticket to heaven by obeying every letter of the law, no matter how minute.  If you ever