Marjorie Thompson, in The Way of Forgiveness (Upper Room Books), distinguishes between guilt and shame. She notes that guilt is about what we have done (“I did something bad”) while shame is about who we are (“I am bad”). Recognizing we’ve made a mistake, i.e. guilt, is very different from believing we are a mistake, i.e. shame. This led me, this past year and a half, into an exploration into shame –in Scripture, in my own life, in conversations with seasoned therapists, and to researchers of shame like Brene Brown. Shame is cruel. Like a hidden taskmaster, it drives us to overachieve, overwork, overcompensate, and protect ourselves with a face that is not our own. Shame is, at its essence, demonic. We can’t lead well without resisting the shame-based messages that come to us from the culture, our churches, our failures, and inside our own head. We can’t lead well when we feel deeply flawed. Read more.
I spent a good part of this week reflecting on more than twenty-five years of preaching as I spoke this morning at a Preaching Rocket conference here at New Life in NYC. Others, like Andy Stanley, have done an outstanding job describing the craft around preaching. My task was to consider the unique applications of emotional healthy spirituality to the preaching/teaching task. The following are the ten questions to which I return over in preparation my own sermons and work with our NLF Preaching Team: Am I contemplatively grounded in God Am I centered in myself? Am I allowing the text to intersect deeply with my family of origin? Am I preaching out of my vulnerability and weakness? Am I allowing the text to transform my spiritual journey? Am I surrendering to the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension process? Am I taking sufficient time to think through clear and pointed applications? Am I thinking. Read more.
When we are forced to acknowledge our very limited real control over what happens to us, a “thin” place opens up – one that is filled with spiritual possibilities and gifts. David Benner says it well: “Surrender is simply inner acceptance of what is. There is probably nothing more difficult for humans. But there is also nothing more freeing.” While many demands scream for our attention, I remain convinced the most important thing we do, especially as pastors and leaders, is to surrender our will to His. Towards this end I have been experimenting with a well-known practice known as Welcoming Prayer. It provides a framework for how to respond to something emotionally upsetting with a spirit of surrender. Cynthia Bourgeault describes the three simple movements or steps as follows: 1. Focus on the difficult emotion (e.g. anger, fear, depression, shame). Face it directly and feel it in your body. Don’t try to change. Read more.
As we are in the process of doing our annual job reviews at New Life Fellowship, I have been struck anew by the need to include in our job descriptions that our number one task is to love God, ourselves and our spouses (if applicable). Out of a “cup that runs over,” we offer the life of Jesus to those whom we serve. What else do we have to give? When we overextend ourselves, we grow resentful, love with a “human love,” lose our passion and gradually hear His voice less clearly. The fruit is short-lived. The reason this is so challenging for us (and I begin with myself) is it touches the core of our relationship with God. Limits touch my desire to do my will, not His, to rebel rather than surrender, to keep going rather than stop. Adam and Eve crossed God’s limits in eating from the tree in the Garden.. Read more.
I spent the last week and a half pondering, once again, the profound lessons buried in Jesus’ testings in the desert (Luke 4:1-14). His internalization of biblical truths in the desert enabled Him, in an extraordinary way, to walk through his fellow-townspeople who attempted to kill him by throwing him off a cliff (Lk. 4:28-9). And to think these were his friends, neighbors, clients, cousins! What will it take for us to be so differentiated, so clear about who we truly are in Christ, and His purpose for lives that we too can walk through people who have agendas for our life and may not approve of us? I think the answer lies in a surrender to an inner, downward journey. Without this commitment to look at the hardest realities of our lives, I think it is inevitable that we will project them outwards. We will make other people into monsters when the real. Read more.