Thursday, April 9, 2009

Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy?

I’m reading an interesting book entitled, “Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy?” The author, Elaine Martens Hamilton, thinks so. She concludes saying, “We need to tell the truth about who we really are and the struggles we face” in order to become an emotionally healthy community.

I’d like to share some of the insights from my reading. To begin with, though, I’m going to let you get a taste of a larger portion of the opening chapter to set the stage. I hope Elaine’s insights will cause you to think about yourself and challenge you as they are challenging me.


We keep saying to ourselves, “Don’t tell people who you really are because the fake you is easier to deal with.” We shut down or shut out parts of ourselves that don’t fit the picture of who we think we’re supposed to be.

We learn to filter what and how much to share in order to protect ourselves from disapproval or rejection.


Children aren't born with an impostor self. They have to learn to create one. Think about the young children you know and how they function. They don't screen their feelings or reactions. They just respond. They emote and express indiscriminately, without even thinking about it. When they are happy, they're giddy, silly, grinning from ear to ear. When they are sad, they're devastated. They sob and beg and scream. But over time, the adults in their lives teach them to respond more appropriately. Children learn that people don't want them around if they are having big feelings. So they learn to tone them down, to pull themselves together, to get over it or put a lid on it. Sound familiar?

Of course, this process of shutting down emotionally doesn't end in childhood. Most of us are still experiencing life intensely in high school. Remember how passionate you felt about things then? Causes you wanted to fight for, wrongs you wanted to right, friends you went out on a limb for, the first love you were willing to give up everything for? But over time, we learned to temper our range of emotional experience, to live less passionately, to minimize the intensity, to squash it down into this small margin of acceptable expression. By the time we're in our twenties and thirties most of us have joined the ranks of grownups who are pretending they are fine when they are really upset, pretending that it doesn't really hurt when they are rejected or ignored, and pretending their hopes and dreams no longer matter. We've learned to deny our internal experiences in order to fit in. We've become so socially acceptable, we are emotionally dead!

I'm not suggesting that emotional restraint is all bad. Learning to control your emotions and behave appropriately is important. Certainly it is not useful or healthy to throw yourself on the floor at Starbucks when your latte isn't hot enough, or scream at your family when you've had a hard day. But it seems that what most of us learned was less about dealing with our feelings in a healthy way and more about hiding them or ignoring them till they go away.

Now we are stuck in patterns of relating we have developed to keep us safe. And while they do keep us safe (no one can reject the real us if they never see it), these patterns are killing our souls. We live mired in self-protectiveness, unable to grow, create, or experience real intimacy with God or those around us. We've begun to believe our own game and embraced our pretend self as if that's all there is to us.


Tragically, when we come together in our faith communities, we bring these coping strategies with us. We gather because we long to be known, to grow and connect with one another, but many of us are so numb and disconnected that we end up circling around each other, never quite managing to create the authentic, life-giving relationships we came for. We have gotten used to being stuck and afraid together and have little or no expectation that we will experience authentic, transforming conversations with others in our faith community.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lord's Supper Celebration @ Metro

Last night was one of the most meaningful Lord’s Supper celebrations I have ever experienced. The auditorium was packed – the most we’ve ever had. Joel had the band rockin’, and everyone seemed to be singing with genuine enthusiasm as we reflected on the sacrifice of Christ. Paul spoken with conviction and passion like I’d never heard before. The unique approach to communion and the lines of people waiting to take the elements was very moving. The canvas of hundreds of handprints that represent the band of fully devoted Christ-followers who are willing to give their very lives for Christ and his work through the ministry of Metro brought tears to my eyes. We have an amazing God who is continuing to build and grow an amazing church. I am so blessed to be a part of it.

Paul’s challenge from scripture was – Because God in Christ has given His very life for us; because He has given us His Word to give clarity and direction for living a life of fulfillment and purpose; because He has given us His Spirit to live within us and empower us to become more than we’ve ever imagined – what response can we give that is anything short of rejoicing? If serving God isn’t done with joy, we’re inviting people into a false reality. We have absolutely no excuse for a gloomy disposition or critical and complaining spirit. Everything about us should shout out and reveal that we are grateful for what God is doing in our lives and that we are passionately pursuing His purposes for His glory!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NIV)

If you celebrated the Lord’s Supper last night, I invite you to share your experience and how it impacted you. Looking forward to reading your post!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My destiny in the hands of a magic frog?

I got up unusually early this morning. Just turned 49 yesterday. Older people seem to get up early. I just hope I don't start passing gas without realizing it, and stuff like that!

Anyway, I received an email this morning. One that is like so many that circulate through cyberspace. This one was about "Breakfast at McDonald's" and tells a story about a lady that was moved with compassion and bought breakfast for two homeless men. It was an inspiring reminder to not only be more aware of those around me, but to respond with selfless acts of compassion. But ... the ending of these kind of emails always turn my stomach. You know ... the threats you get for not sending it back or forwarding it on to ten thousand of your friends.

Here are a few statements that really bug me: 1) "There is an Angel sent to watch over you. In order for her to work, you must pass this on to the people you want watched over." OK, so I guess God set up this system where His angels' orders are dependent on my email replies. How in the world did they operate before the world wide web? Much slower, I would imagine, if they were dependent on good ole' snail mail through the USPS.

Another pet peeve. The email says: 2) "If this comes back to you then you'll have a friend for life but, if this becomes deleted, you are not a friend." Well, sounds like that bit in the email promoting "unconditional acceptance" just flew out the window! For me, a true friend will not threaten to withdraw their friendship if I have a few boundaries I'm my life and choose to use the delete key and control what goes into my trash bin.

Then there's the "wish" comment: 3) "This is a magic frog. It will grant you one wish and only one wish, that is, if you decide to send this to others." A magic frog? Isn't it interesting how a nice, religious email goes from God, to angels, and finally degenerates into a magic frog who is responsible for determining your destiny? And not just the frog, but the speed of your wish coming true is determined by the number of friends you forward the email to. Give me a break!

With all that said, here's the bottom line for me: As far as making a wish, sending it back and passing it on ... that I don't do. My good fortune does not come from what I do or don't do with emails ... I'm blessed because of God's grace and yielding to His will. I don't believe in making wishes ... I believe in prayer. (Also ... angels in scripture always have men's names! Just thought I'd throw that one in for a little Bible trivia!) At least this email didn't have one of those "If you're not ashamed of Jesus" endings!

So, I guess what I'm saying is, if you happen to like me and are moved to forward me one of these kind of emails ... don't expect a reply back. No reflection on our friendship. Just a reflection on my personal convictions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just Getting Started

I'm new to blogging, so bear with me. Just ran a difficult two miles, so I'm out of breath, sweating, and not sure all my brain cells are functioning. ... I think I'll come back later.