50 Shades of Ego

shadesWhen my oldest child was born my mother would look at her and say crazy stuff like, “Babies are just pure selfishness! They’re so sinful; all they can think of is themselves.” It was this mindset, based on her ‘Christian values’, that formed the standard in which she raised me. I know that’s convoluted, and I in no way wish to place blame, but it gives some context for how my formative Christian experience shaped and affirmed the false self in me.

To begin with, my egoic specialness was identified with being sinful and inherently bad. I’m almost certain my mother thought I was the spawn of Satan. As I grew older, my ego discovered that it could also be special in the church if, instead of being pure selfishness, it became outstanding Christian goodness. I became a youth leader and eventually a pastor’s wife. In the Pentecostal circles I inhabited as a young person there could be no higher spiritual achievement for a young woman than to be married to a pastor. I had arrived.

And thus, my false self’s passive need to be special symbiotically joined the church in myriad ways. Oh, the (mis)adventures we’ve had.

Today, I find myself re-entering the context of church after a sabbatical. In my time away I explored other mystical paths and integrated new perspectives into the growing expansiveness of my spiritual repertoire. I’ve spent time in communities with no defined doctrines or sacred agendas, just simple unconditional love and acceptance.

I’d somehow drawn the conclusion that upon re-entering the church I would easily assimilate my fresh understanding into church life and something new and wonderful would just kind of instantly manifest for me.

I could not have been more wrong.

As a matter of fact, had I known before hand what I was getting myself into, I don’t think I would’ve agreed to Jesus’ invitation back into ‘the fold’! That’s not to say I was tricked; I’ve been a willing participant with the freedom to leave at any time.

My biggest challenge has been that my false self or ego is still trying to fill its old role of being special within the context of church. When I attend on Sunday morning or join up with a midweek small group, ego arises in me, nuanced with various shades of judgment, anger, frustration and self-righteousness. Ugly, ugly, ugly. It’s as if a mischievous toddler just walked up to my beautifully crafted masterpiece of ‘enlightened self’ and scribbled all over it with a crayon.

Could it be that the Divine is gently proposing I rework my sanctimonious showpiece, starting with a thick coat of primer? Seems so.

Jesus, give me the courage to walk in the humility you so graciously demonstrated, to be open to the reshaping of your Spirit in me, not clinging to what I’ve created myself to be, but in the openness and vulnerability of my True Self in you. Let me be a freshly primed canvass. This time, you be the paintbrush.

“Love does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Nuance

Transformed by the Father’s Love

fatherchildSome people grew up in families where their parents were able to convey enough love, acceptance and wisdom that the children grew up to be relatively functional adults. Other families, like mine, came from a heritage of victimhood and rather than growing up empowered, we entered the world of adulthood feeling like orphans. From there on, we either spiralled down the path of being a chronic victim or chose the path of awakening to who we truly are in God.

Both options are painful. While the path of victimhood is destructively painful, the path of awakening is productively painful.

If it’s going to hurt anyway, why not make it count?

For many years now I’ve been on a journey of being re-parented by Abba (Father God). Having my biological, mentally ill father living with me has made this a very interesting process. We have both lived like orphans; believing that we will never really be taken care of. Often, when I start to make progress in my healing and create stronger boundaries, I trigger the orphan in my father and he quickly becomes extremely defensive and verbally lashes at me. He has no ability to empathize and the conversation always morphs into him spotlighting all the ways that he is a victim of me. This is followed by him literally listing off how I am financially indebted to him. It’s twisted, but it follows a rhythmic pattern we’ve shared since I was too young to remember. Not being entirely healed of my own victim, I often react to this rejection instantly.

My father and I went down this road again recently, but something was different this time. I still reacted inside. However, instead of firing right back at him, a new sense of self-awareness awoke in me and I just turned around and retreated to my room. I now know exactly how to enter into that place of complete abandon into Abba’s Love. It’s the place I’ve yearned for and worked a life time to find. It’s not that I didn’t find it when I was younger, it’s just that I never knew how I got there, so I couldn’t find my way back intentionally. Things have changed.

In the scriptures Jesus taught that to follow him we must be willing to ‘hate’ our mother and father. There’s a lot written about what that means exactly and whether it’s just symbolic language. For me, entering into the true Love of God has required me to release all attachments I have to needing the love of my parents. I used to project the deficiencies of my parents onto my relationship with Abba. In time, and with much inner healing, most of that has transformed for me. Just one thing remained…

I heard a teaching by Arthur Burk explaining that some people actually need to heal a wound of being abandoned by God. What?! No way. I’ve been abandoned by a lot of people in my life, but never by God!

That’s been my story and I stuck to it for many, many years. Then one day something triggered me deeply and I descended right down into the black hole of complete and utter despair that I felt way too often as a child. I was reminded how I cried out to Abba to pick me up and hold me…and sometimes He never came. If you’ve been there, you’ll know it’s one of the worst pains you’ll feel in this life.

Undeniably, I have felt abandoned by Abba.

It wasn’t until I could admit that this was true that I finally found (and remembered) my path straight to the Father’s heart. The Love of Abba is so radically different than anything I’ve ever know with my earthly parents that the comparison between the two has just stopped all together for me.

Now I know how to return to Love and it has completely empowered me to make some big changes that I never had the confidence to implement before.

Thank You Abba for Your complete and unending Love.

Rhythmic

Hidden Toxicity: Forgiving the Institutions That Hurt Us

treeWhen you think of healing and forgiveness do you think of it primarily in the context of relationships? I do. Psycho-therapeutic approaches, holistic living philosophies and the Scriptures all tend to focus on finding wholeness through the repair work we do with others. I would agree; we heal in relationship. However, I’ve recently realised that I’ve overlooked an entire area of healing in my life. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Having grown up in a severely abusive home and community, I’ve attributed my woundedness to the gross error and negligence of my parents, teachers and church leadership. While it’s true that people were the ones doing the hurting, there was something much bigger that created the framework in which all that pain occurred. It was what I perceived as the religious institution of the Christian church. In objectifying the church, I’ve not recognized how insidiously my unconscious bitterness, resentment and blame has been festering toward it and how this is affecting my life.

In my young experience, the Bible was used to justify inhumane actions. Attending church made you good even if your behaviour spoke differently. Religion gave adults the authority to destroy the souls of children and rob them of their creativity, passion and innocence.

So while I feel like I’ve done quite well with healing myself in the context of relationship, I’ve finally been able to see how my toxic perspective on the church has been holding me back from finding true freedom in other areas of my life. The task of forgiving the errors of a ‘thing’ rather than a person seems daunting to me. It’s not as if those structures can reciprocate my desire for reconciliation. Or can they? Or do they need to?

Social structures are the products of the minds that create them, nurture them and sustain them. And behind those minds are people. I don’t know them. I don’t know their intentions. Much of Christianity, as we know it today, was formed around decisions made 1600 years ago. Yes, I’ve explored and questioned the events that led to its origins. None of that understanding does me any good anyway. Understanding is not required for forgiveness to take place.

Forgiveness is something I do for myself. Reciprocity is not a co-requisite. Forgiveness is a shift in my state of mind from perceptions that held me back to perceptions that set me free. A frequent side-effect is that the forgivee is also set free, but this isn’t a requirement.

People make errors, individually and collectively, for reasons that we cannot truly comprehend. They play their roles and we play ours. For me the question cannot be ‘why’, but rather, ‘what now?’

‘What now?’ involves the gentle guidance of Holy Spirit and the application of Jesus’ unconditional love. Can I forgive that deeply and love that big? Yes. The only question that remains is will I?

Yes.

 

 

Recognize

Trauma Release Exercises

healingI grew up with abuse. A lot of it. Every kind of it.

I’ve watched over the years as emotional toxicity has manifested in physical disease in every member of my nuclear family. Seriously – every single one is now physically disabled. I believe I have avoided this path by relentlessly pursuing a journey of healing and wholeness. That’s not to say I haven’t had physical stuff show up in my body, it’s just that I’ve found ways to heal that have kept me healthy.

A few years ago I read a book titled Job’s Body by Deane Juhan. The author is a massage therapist and the book unravelled how memories are literally retained in the fabric our cells. This was demonstrated with the fact that an older man who holds his body in a disfigured shape will completely lose his disfigurement when his body  relaxes under anaesthetic. Why? His mind has subconsciously trained his cells to hold that shape while conscious.

Even weirder, take the fact that it has been documented that a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) manifested a personality that was an insulin dependent diabetic, but when that personality was taken over by a different personality, the diabetes literally disappeared!

Clearly, the body stores trauma on a very physical level. Many people work for years trying to heal their memories and emotions and never achieve full recovery.

Recently, I came across the work of Dr. David Berceli who has discovered a somatic (body) based therapy that anybody can do for free. This therapy helps to release the trauma stored in certain muscles in the body. Specifically, the psoas muscles. These muscles are the deepest muscles in our bodies. They connect the backbone to the tops of the femurs; they literally hold the top and bottom half of our bodies together! The health of the psoas muscles affect our intestinal system, adrenal glands, lower back, hips and if you’re a woman – your uterus.

When we’re in a fight, flight or freeze situation it is our psoas muscles that clench up and pull us forward to protect our most vulnerable parts. People who have had chronic trauma in their life do this a lot and guess what? It causes physical problems. So many people who’ve experienced abuse have intestinal disorders, lower back problems, hips issues, ‘woman’s’ problems and burned out adrenals. This actually isn’t a mystery when you understand that chronically clenched psoas muscles from a state of fear can create all these problems!

Here’s the cool part: Dr. Berceli discovered that the shaking response we get after a traumatic event actually releases the trauma retained in the psoas muscles. The trouble is, most of us have taught ourselves not to shake when scared, primarily to save us embarrassment.

Do you know what happens to an archery bow when someone dry fires it? It usually doesn’t look any different on the outside, but the insides of the structure get so messed up and damaged it doesn’t work properly anymore. That’s why archery stores charge people who dry fire bows in their shops. Guess what happens when your psoas muscles absorb all the energy of repeated trauma and don’t discharge it properly? Exactly: you get all messed up and damaged inside just like a  dry fired bow.

If you want to heal from trauma you need to physically heal the part of you that initially absorbed it in your body. Exercises that gently induce the shaking response have been proven to assist with this. I’ve been doing Dr. Berceli’s Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) daily and I’ve seen a HUGE shift in my emotional and physical well-being not to mention healing of a hip impingement issue. If you want to learn more or give it a try, check out these links:

Trauma Release How To

Dr. Berceli Explains TRE

Be Blessed!

 

Successful Self-Care

selfcare

I worry about money. As the exclusive care-giver for my four kids and my father I go through these seasons where I worry that I won’t be successful at providing financially for all 6 of us. Caring for my family and maintaining our home is at least a full time job. Working to make money is a second full-time job.

When I get stressed I contract my muscles and this causes all kinds of problems from headaches and stiffness to earaches and lower back issues. Of course, these issues then create even more stress because they impair my ability to work my two full-time jobs. It becomes a self-defeating cycle.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Nothing could be more true when it comes to our wholistic well-being. It’s hard for me to slow down and focus most of my energy on myself when so many other people rely on me for their well-being. Truth be told, I can only be successful at caring for others if I am diligent in caring for myself first. This coming week I’ll be slowing down and having a “Healing Week”.

Surrendering Process

The best method I’ve ever learned to alleviate worry is a process that the late Dr. David Hawkins outlines in his book Letting Go. Basically, you imagine the absolute worst-case scenario for what you’re worrying about. You allow yourself to go deep into these emotions, as if you’re actually experiencing the scenario. (You may want to lay down for this.) The idea is that if you confront your deepest, darkest fears around a worry – the fears that will likely never manifest anyway – you will deactivate your worry and empower yourself to move forward.

For example, what’s the worst case scenario if I’m unable to work and provide for my family? I’ll have to move into housing that will probably be cramped for all of us. I’d have to rely on my church, community and government to help me out financially. I’d have to use the food bank. My kids might not be able to participate as much in their extra curricular activities and I probably wouldn’t be able to replace my vehicle which is already old. I’d probably struggle with feelings of low self-worth and being a burden on society.

If I go deeply into this story, I begin to realize that although it would be challenging, I could live with it and as a family we could creatively learn how to thrive together. By dispelling the fear and worry around my worst case scenario, I free up a lot of energy that can now be used for more uplifting pursuits, such as healing myself in the present moment. This healing week I intend to:

  • Rest
  • Stretch & do Yoga
  • Pray, Meditate & do Progressive Relaxation
  • Walk in Nature
  • Plan my meals mindfully
  • Use the Letting Go Process
  • Record my Vision and Motivation for 2017

How will you be successful this year? If you need inspiration, follow me on my journey. I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to send me a message!

Successful

Perceptions

wheelchairMy dad lives with me. He’s kind of a miserable old guy who lives in a wheel chair or in his bed. He has no hobbies or friends. He just watches TV, sleeps and coughs. He makes sure he gets his daily dose of worry-inducing, fear-laced television news casts with all their hopeless stories and gory details to ensure that his mental illness and hypertension don’t start to accidentally improve. He has a giant cancerous tumour in his left lung that was easily treatable four years ago, but he chose not to help himself.

It’s one thing to spend a little time here and there with people that are down and out. It’s a completely different thing to live with one 24/7. I can literally ‘feel’ when dad is out of his room and moving about on the main floor of the home (I can smell it too, but TMI). It’s like there’s a palpable cloud of depression hanging in the air where ever he is.

So how is this uplifting? Good question! I’ve been working on this for 7 years now. I keep asking God, “How do I keep my thoughts mindful and positive when I keep seeing and feeling my dad’s misery every single day of my life without a break?!”

Ask and ye shall be given…

It’s not that I hear God audibly or anything, but I get these inspired thoughts that I know can’t be mine. So here’s the answer that came, “Stop seeing and feeling your dad’s misery.”

What the…? Seriously, God? You mean I need to take 100% responsibility for what I’m seeing and feeling even though this guy is such a crankpot and in my face all the time?!

Enter rant…

“That’s not fair! I can’t not see (and smell) what’s right in front of me! It’s his fault. He chose this path. I just got stuck with him because nobody else would do the job! Really? This is stupid. I want out. I’m going to drop him off at the doorstep of the hospital and then move to a different house so they can’t send him back. I don’t deserve this. He’s the one who’s been a jerk. I’ve just tried to be nice and kind and guess what, God? I’m burned out. I’m gonna quit!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played that script in my head, but I’ve tried it enough times to know that it won’t get me off the hook of being 100% responsible for my own perceptions, attitudes and decisions. Wait, did I just say ‘perceptions’? Yes, I did.

I remember the first time my counsellor challenged my ‘perceptions’. I was livid. How could it be that being mistreated and hurt by someone was all my perception??

Now for a little news flash: Your flesh/ego can’t fix its own perceptions. Case closed. Changing perceptions is a God thing and all you can do is surrender to the process and allow the shift to take place. It happens at the level of the soul. Simple, not easy.

However, taking responsibility for myself means not only relying on Holy Spirit guidance to shift my perceptions, it also means making the hard choices and sticking to them. Setting a standard and living by it.

I know my time of care-giving for my father is coming to a close. These years have been extraordinarily challenging, but they have also been one of the biggest gifts of my life. My father has shown me more about myself then anyone else. This situation has inspired me to be more loving, more kind, take responsibility for myself, strive to achieve goals and breakthroughs and to never, never, never give up no matter how hard the journey.

You will be given beauty for ashes.

Your Life is A Prayer

prayer

“Your faith has made you well!” That’s what Jesus told people after they had experienced a healing in his Presence. The idea here is that these healed people already believed they would be healed even before it happened. They had faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Faith is a lifestyle.

So what is prayer then and what has it got to do with faith? Well, I suppose it has to do with how you pray. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, then why do so many people pray for what they don’t want? For example, “Please don’t let me get sick” or “Please don’t let him lose his job” or “Dear God, help things to not get worse for them.”

Seriously? People never came up to Jesus hoping to not get a bad thing. They came expecting and knowing they’d be healed. As a matter of fact, Jesus didn’t even take the credit. He said YOUR faith has made you well.

People who experience divine healing live in assurance and expectation of miracles. It is a way of being and not just something that they set aside 15 minutes in the morning for. I love that old Keith Green song, “Make My Life A Prayer to You.” What an awesome concept!

Whether we realise it or not, everything we think and do has the same power that intentional on-your-face prayer does. Jesus explained that even if you have a sinful thought it’s the same as doing that thing. And so it goes with all other thoughts: if you think it, it is the same as doing it or asking for it. Your life is a prayer.

What are you really asking God for by the way you think and live?

Grow Up!

How often do we hear ourselves blaming the events and circumstances in our lives on the actions of some other person or institution…or maybe even the devil? It’s easy, isn’t it? Have you ever wondered what it would look like to take 100% responsibility for every thought in your mind and every word that escaped your mouth? Some people call this ‘mindfulness’. The scriptures repeatedly admonish us to take responsibility for our thoughts, to keep them set on things that are pure and good and that by doing so we will be cleansed and renewed.

Cleansed and renewed, eh? Sounds kinda like healing to me…healing that comes from faith, which is the assurance of things hoped for! And so it comes full circle, folks. Your life is a prayer, whether you like it or not. What is your life praying for? What are your thoughts and actions really petitioning God for?

Here’s a challenge: try carefully paying attention to all your thoughts and words for one day and transparently journaling all the things you are praying for; good or bad, intentional or unintentional. What changes do you need to implement in the Prayer of Your Life?

May you be blessed to be a blessing!