Tag Archives: healing

When “Father” is a Bad Word

eggs nestAs I shared in my last post, your intimacy with the cherishing Father enables you to more deeply and intimately cherish your familyBut what if intimacy with God the Father is hard — maybe even seemingly impossible — for you because of the deep wounds you carry from your childhood and your painful relationship with your own human father? Or what if your father was absent and your feelings of abandonment are coloring your ability to trust in God? Or what if your  mother abused or emotionally damaged you, rendering it extremely difficult for you to understand the nurturing parental love of God?

My friend from decades back — like when I was an adolescent! — Dan Kuiper has just written a powerful book called When Father is a Bad Word. Keep reading our conversation about how healing is possible. (And please consider sharing this interview with friends or loved ones who may be dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain of a deep father- or mother-wound.)

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dan kuiper 04Welcome, Dan! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

I am the husband of one wife (one of God’s many good ideas) and am a father of three and grandfather of two. I am a speaker, writer, story teller, and conference facilitator. My first book, When Father is a Bad Word, was released earlier this year.

This month on my blog we’ve been discussing family life. One way we learn about family love is through the love of our heavenly Father. How has God’s character and fatherly love influenced the way you love your own family?

Since I began my journey toward discovering just who my Heavenly Father really is, the attribute of God that has stood out the most is His unconditional love. I still have trouble wrapping my little brain around that — that my Father in Heaven loves me completely, absolutely, and irrevocably.

Perhaps I still struggle with this from to time because the love we humans offer so often has strings attached. The non-verbal message we give, sometimes even to our own children, is, “I’ll love you if . . .” The Heavenly Father gave me a bit of an epiphany after my first grandchild was born. As I held that beautiful little boy in my arms, it struck me just how much love I had for him. And this despite the fact that he hadn’t done one thing to earn it. At that point, all he did was eat, sleep, and poop. Yet, my love for him was and is so deep that I would die for him. That’s how the Heavenly Father feels when He holds His kids in His arms. As I’ve been coming to grips with that love I have found it imperative to not just verbalize but demonstrate Father-like unconditional, unalterable, and unending love to my family.

For some, the topic of “family” is very painful because of the hurt they’ve experienced in their family growing up. You understand this struggle, don’t you? 

Oh, my, yes. My father was an alcoholic. And if you know anything about alcoholism, you know that it is a family disease. A parent’s behavior will affect — either positively or negatively — every person in the home. Alcoholic family systems, in particular, produce children who judge themselves unmercifully, who live for the affirmation and approval of others, who have no idea what genuine love is, who are terrified of intimacy, who feel that they can never measure up, who live with a pervading sense of shame and a belief that they don’t matter. Continue reading

Liberty

What does it mean to shine as a light of the world? How is justice part of that life proclamation? What does Jesus reveal about a light-shining life? Consider this excerpt from my new Flourishing Faith book Shine Your Light.

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chains“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus, here, identifies himself as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies and teachings about God’s justice, compassion, and welcome. Quoting from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2, Jesus launches his ministry by proclaiming this as his mission. Following directly on the heels of his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus boldly declared that this is what he’s all about. According to Jesus, God’s concern for justice and his compassionate love for the vulnerable are essential to our understanding of the “good news.”

How often do you hear these kinds of ideas reflected in the way people normally talk about the gospel? Have we lost sight of a critical component of Jesus’ teaching and proclamation? Do we really understand how central these values of compassion and justice are to the good news? . . .  Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 2)

Amy Simpson is an author, editor, and leader — and to me she’s a friend, mentor, former boss, and an inspiration! Amy’s written a book about mental illness and the church called Troubled Minds. Today Amy joins me for part 2 of our interview about wholeness, suffering, and hope. (Read part 1 of our interview by clicking here.) 

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Troubled Minds #4304 CoverYour new book Troubled Minds addresses the issue of mental illness and the church — and your passion for this topic comes out of your own personal story of growing up with a mother who suffers from schizophrenia. In what ways did your difficult family experiences shape your sense of self and your view of faith, either positively or negatively?

Like many other families that go through similar experiences, our family life revolved around Mom and her illness. The rest of us had to put our emotional lives on the back burner to keep the peace and avoid stress and conflict at home. We didn’t talk much about what was happening with her. And because we didn’t feel it was OK to discuss mental illness with others, we mostly kept quiet about it when we were away from home too. We felt very isolated, as if we were the only ones going through the experience.

I learned to shut off my negative emotions because they were just too overwhelming for me—and frankly, we couldn’t afford for anyone else in our family to be struggling. Over time, I lost the ability to fully experience emotion of any kind, and I had to learn to embrace my emotions and my own needs as I worked toward healing. Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 1)

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Simpson — a great friend and colleague I’ve known and worked with for years. Amy has recently — courageously — written a book exploring an issue she’s dealt with in her own family life: mental illness. Most of you, readers, have either personally known someone suffering from mental illness (or a friend of a friend) or have gone through some form of mental illness yourself (such as depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, Seasonal Affective Disorder, PPD, etc.). It’s a surprisingly common pain that touches many lives. Yet it’s so rarely talked about openly in Christian circles . . . why? Join me in this 2-part conversation with Amy about “wholeness” (healing, grace, confidence, identity, faith), mental illness, and her new book Troubled Minds (InterVarsity Press).

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DSC_0043 HeadshotAmy, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I’m a passionate leader and communicator who loves to encourage Christ’s church and its people to discern and fulfill their calling in this life. I do this in a few ways. With my husband, I’m raising two kids to follow Christ. I also serve as editor for Christianity Today’s GiftedForLeadership.com and the editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today’s Christian Woman. And I’m a freelance writer and author; my most recent book is Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.

Troubled Minds #4304 CoverThis month on my blog we’re looking at the idea of being “whole”–and, inevitably, this means also looking honestly at the brokenness in our lives. One quite common experience of brokenness that many women go through is depression. Other forms of mental illness are also common. Yet we often keep problems like these hidden away, behind a facade. Why do you think we hide these kinds of struggles?

This is very common for several reasons. Here are a few:

In our culture, many people think God owes us a happy and comfortable life. So struggling with our mental health can be deeply disappointing and confusing, and it can be very hard for us to even acknowledge to ourselves that our lives don’t measure up to what we thought we deserved.

But mental illness doesn’t mean God has broken his promises to us. Despite what our culture suggests, comfort, happiness, and perfect health are not our natural state. God has not promised them to us in this life, and he doesn’t owe us anything. In fact, humanity forfeited our claim on a perfect world way back at the beginning, when we chose to reject God’s rule—and we have been making this choice ever since. Jesus didn’t promise us health in this life, nor problem-free living. In fact, he guaranteed us we would suffer: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33). Suffering is not unusual and should not surprise us. What is shocking is that despite our sorry condition, we have hope. “But take heart,” Jesus said, “because I have overcome the world.”

Another reason people stay quiet is because they believe the lie that mental illness is an indication of spiritual or religious failure. They don’t want to admit that they just can’t measure up to God’s expectations, when the people around them seem to be doing just fine. But mental illness generally is not a spiritual problem (although the mind certainly can affect the spirit, and vice versa). A person with a mental illness has just that—an illness. While spiritual practices like prayer and Bible reading can help facilitate and support healing, illnesses require treatment. Besides, God does not hold himself out of reach and demand that we earn his grace or demonstrate that we’re good enough for his healing touch. Jesus asked “all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens” to come to him and “find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He condemned legalistic religious leaders, “For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Luke 11:46). Following Jesus may not be easy, but it’s not a religious burden. If someone tells you your suffering would end if only you were a better Christian, that message is not from God.

A third reason is because mental illness is heavily stigmatized. Continue reading

Summer Reading

Friends, I was so excited when I clicked open this article from Today’s Christian Woman and saw Embrace Your Worth — my new devotional book about identity, self-image, self-worth, confidence, and calling — recommended. What an honor! I thought I’d share this list with you because it has lots of great recommendations.

Also, next week one of the authors from the TCW list — and a good friend of mine — will be stopping by this blog for an interview. Amy Simpson (my former boss and an all around awesome person!) will be here to talk about her new book Troubled Minds and the difficult but important topic of mental illness. One in four adults suffer from mental illness — so chances are that you or someone you love are either dealing with a mental illness or navigating a relationship with someone who is suffering in this way. How can we approach this difficult issue? How does it relate to our spiritual wholeness — our faith, identity, and the grace of God? Be sure to swing by on Monday to read our conversation!

What’s Your Mark?

Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Kim Goad. Kim’s newest book Inked, co-authored with Janet Bostwick Kusiak, explores the messages that mark our lives. Read along as Kim and I chat about how we can experience wholeness by grounding our worth and identity in the Truth.

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Welcome, Kim! Tell my readers a bit about yourself. 

kim3I have a passion for helping others find their true mark – whether it’s helping companies with their marketing and business development practices, or using my counseling background to help others find God’s true mark for their lives. In my dream world, I’m doing it all while hiking or traveling the globe.

You recently co-authored the book Inked which is all about “Choosing God’s Mark to Transform Your Life.” It uses tattoos as a metaphor for how we can understand our identity in Christ. So, let’s get this out of the way first. Do you have a tattoo? If so, what is it?

No! I brave a needle about once a year when I need a shot for a poison ivy breakout (even that once resulted in passing out in the doctor’s office with the needle still in my hip), and I can’t even commit to a hair color! But I have a fascination with tattoos and, like everyone, I’ve been marked by life nonetheless.

To build upon this metaphor, I think many of us feel marked — labeled — by things we didn’t choose. Marked by pain or shame from our past, by others’ expectations or judgments, by cultural definitions of our value. Why do you think this is such a struggle for women? Why is it so hard to strip these “marks” away from our sense of identity?

It’s a struggle for everyone. We’re learning more and more about how our brains are shaped by our thoughts, or others’ words and actions. However, I do think women have unique challenges when it comes to identity. For example, research shows others observe men’s successes and women’s successes differently. If a man is successful, we tend to attribute it to his skill. If a woman is successful, we tend to attribute it to luck. 

When something goes wrong, men tend to attribute the blame to external causes, where women tend to internalize the blame. Here’s the good news, though, male or female: Research also shows that we are capable of changing the negative and harmful  patterns. But, of course, as Christians, we’ve always known that. The apostle Paul urged first century Christians to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

3D Book CoverIn Inked you write, “Every day, we have the opportunity to choose good markings. To be made new.” What do you mean by that? Practically speaking, how can a woman move toward embracing God’s truth about her value and identity? Continue reading

The Poetry of Grace

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

potteryAhhh… Thank God for the beautiful words of Ephesians 2:8-9. Grace to save us. Grace to build up faith within us. Grace as the most generous of gifts. Grace that is freely given — not earned, not accomplished, not awarded like a merit badge. And this grace makes us whole. Even in our brokenness and our ongoing struggles, this grace shapes us, builds us, forms something in and out of our lives.

And this grace is the context within which we understand the verse that follows. Read it all together: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Handiwork” is the word poema–it’s something made, something crafted, a masterpiece. It’s the word from which we derive “poem” and this idea of poetry can give us a unique way of understanding God’s beautiful working in our lives.

mosaicYou are divinely, intentionally, handmade by God. You — your story that includes pain and brokenness and areas of weakness and failing — You are God’s grace-shaping masterpiece. The Artist can create stunning and divine beauty even out of the broken pieces of one’s life! In Christ, you are whole and are being made whole (the journey isn’t done!) . . . and it’s for a purpose: to do the good work of God that he’s prepared for you to do in this world! God desires to work his goodness and love and healing and grace in this world through you. Even today, in whatever is on your plate, God has goodness — blessing — to give to the world through you.

Being “whole” doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out or that you’re earning “perfect-Christian” merit badges from God! It means you’re wholly-reliant upon grace, you’re wholly-immersed in God’s love, you’re wholly-dependent upon God for your identity and life’s purpose.

How is God shaping you with his love? How is he writing his poetry of grace in and through your life? How are you now, and how are you continually becoming, his masterpiece?

Thank you God for these words of truth that defy the darkness and confound what we, at times, believe about ourselves! Help each of us us more deeply embrace your truth at the core of who we are: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Whole . . . From Broken

In the face of our own brokenness and failings, in the shadow of past trauma or current hurts, in the midst of woundedness or the perpetual swirl of confusion about who we are and what we’re worth . . .

broken glassWhat does it mean to be whole? How does God’s grace, God’s love, God’s healing change us, shape us, bind us up and weave us together into something new, something healed, something integrated, something complete? Into someone whole?

It starts with facing, first, our brokenness. In honest courage, looking squarely at the stain of sin in our lives. Join me in this month’s exploration of wholeness by first considering this excerpt from my Flourishing Faith devotional study Embrace Your Worth (Wesleyan Publishing House):

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“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

In your mind’s eye, imagine Adam and Eve, hiding away in the trees of the Garden of Eden. Sin has entered the world—and the immediate human reaction is shame (“We’re naked! Hurry, cover up!”) and hiding.

Can you picture Eve, crouched down, trying to hide herself away from her Maker? Trying to be smaller, to be invisible, to disappear?

Before the fatal choice to disobey God, Adam and Eve walked in confidence and joy and security. But now they’re completely different—isolated, insecure, ashamed.

When sin entered the world, it shattered the self. Continue reading

Meet My Friend Lori Lowe

Marriage can be amazing . . . and it can also be really hard. Readers, I’m super excited to introduce you today to Lori Lowe. Lori researches and blogs about insights and strategies that contribute to a healthy, successful marriage. Her book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, details real-life stories of couples who made it through tremendously difficult circumstances–and came through it with a stronger marriage.

Welcome, Lori! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Lori Red DressThanks so much for inviting me into your forum. Engaging with other writers and readers is one of the best aspects of my job.

I live in Indianapolis with my hubby (a pilot who keeps me grounded) and two school-aged children. Becoming a parent has been the most satisfying—and challenging—role of my life. And it often causes me to contemplate how I have a responsibility in trying to make the world a better place.

I’ve run a communications business since 1995 focusing on health care communications, so I get to use writing in different ways in my work. I was very satisfied in my consulting work, but I felt a calling to write something that would be more substantive and lasting and that would use my journalistic training.

How did you become so passionate about marriage? What drew you to focus on this topic?

As a Gen-Xer, I was born during a doubling of the divorce rate. A child of divorce myself, I experienced the pain of family division and its long-lasting effects. I was blessed to marry my college sweetheart in 1995, but I realized how many in our generation lacked positive marriage role models—particularly for how to protect marriages in times of crises. What’s more, the culture didn’t seem to even see much value in marriage at all. 

I began to research how marriage has positively contributed to our society, and to seek out extraordinary couples with unique stories. Many had experienced great adversity in their lives, but had used those challenges to improve their marriages instead of ending them. 

I’m passionate about marriage because it’s a part of my faith tradition and teaching, but also because I have experienced the amazing gift of having a strong marriage. We know through tons of data that marriage has many societal and economic benefits, but I think the strongest benefit is for the children who are fortunate to grow up living with their two married parents. Being a part of an intact family benefits them emotionally, educationally, physically, spiritually and financially. This is something that motivates me to a great extent.

First Kiss CoverI read your book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss in my book club and I was really blown-away by the real-life stories of couples weathering some major struggles. Can you tell my readers a bit about your book? Why did you want to write it?

My premise going in was that if more people had strong role models that gave them hope that even difficult marriage problems could be solved, and that their marriage could not only survive, but thrive despite obstacles, this hope could save marriages. Continue reading