healing


Throughout my sixty years on the planet, I have met very few people who have a healthy attitude toward conflict. Rather, I have come across individuals who are either conflict creators or conflict avoiders. Conflict creators thrive on conflict and crave it. They therefore go out of their way to create it. Conflict avoiders are uncomfortable with conflict and run from it as if running for their life.

Needless to say, neither of these approaches grows out of a healthy attitude toward conflict. As far as I’m concerned, a healthy attitude toward conflict means you don’t create conflict for the sake of creating conflict, nor do you shy away from conflict when someone else initiates it.

As a former approval seeker and people pleaser par excellence, I fell into the category of conflict avoider. I gradually came to see though, that conflict is not inherently good or bad. It can be either productive or destructive depending on how it’s handled. It also seems to be an inevitable and unavoidable ingredient for change, whether on a relational level or on a social and/or political level. It’s too bad it has to be this way, as I’m sure civil rights workers and women suffragists would attest to. However, it is what it is.

As I developed a healthy attitude toward conflict I gradually came to see that there are actually some positive aspects of conflict. Some of these are: 1.They make us aware of problems in relationships that need to be resolved; 2.They facilitate change and personal growth; 3. They help you understand what you are like as a person; 4. They can deepen and enrich a relationship; and 5. They can stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving through exposure to different ways of viewing problems and situations.

In church circles, I have met many people who believe that conflict and controversy in the church is not okay, and that it is not okay to question or challenge church leaders. If you believe this, I encourage you to read the four gospels and the book of Acts. They are full of accounts of Jesus and his apostles and disciples confronting and challenging the religious leaders of their time. If they hadn’t, Christianity would never have been established and taken root.

Finally, if you are not sure how to go about resolving conflict in a relationship, here are some tips for constructive conflict resolution:

First – convince yourself that conflict is natural and is resolved through open and honest communication.

Second – Understand and accept the reality that this communication will not be tension-free.

Next – before discussing the conflict take whatever time you need to cool down and try to see the other person’s point of view as well as your own.

When discussing the conflict use “I” statements (I feel, I’m hurt, I’m angry NOT you are…); stick to one issue, do not bring other issues or problems into this discussion; focus on the issue, not the person: and listen for the feelings under the other person’s words.

Finally – know that it is okay to agree to disagree. Resolving the conflict does not mean you have to agree, it means you understand each other’s thoughts and feelings and have devised a solution that works for both of you.

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Healing is a choice. It’s not our choice though, it’s God’s choice. It’s always God’s choice.

God created a natural healing process. When we get injured or when we get sick there is a natural healing process that takes place. Healing doesn’t always happen though. Sometimes people get injured or get sick and healing doesn’t occur and they die or live broken lives. OR, the healing doesn’t happen in the way or the timing that we want. For example, God may choose not to heal the physical or mental illness. He may choose, instead, to give us the inner strength, peace, and resources to cope with the illness. How and why this happens I haven’t a clue. Healing is God’s choice. It’s always his choice.

When it comes to emotional and spiritual wounds, however, I believe that God wants to heal us. I believe that he wants us to be healthy emotionally and spiritually so that we can better serve him. He also gave us free will, which means that we are able to make choices. The choices that we make can either allow God to heal us or can hinder him from healing us. Our choices can either facilitate the natural healing process or can block it.

The first choice we need to make re: emotional and spiritual wounds is whether or not we want to get well. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to get well. We can become comfortable with our wounds and want to hold on to them. Though they may get in the way in some area or areas of life, they may be our best friends or protectors in other areas.

The next choice we have to make is are we willing to do whatever it takes to get well. Sometimes there are things we need to do, doctors that we need to see, medicines that we need to take, procedures that we need to undergo, therapy sessions we need to go to, recovery meetings we need to attend, etc. in order to get well. The question then becomes are we willing to do whatever is needed.

(Some of the above content is paraphrased from Steve Arterburn’s book Healing is a Choice)

There is an event recorded in the gospel of Luke about a man who did what he had to do to be healed. “One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seems that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’ But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!’ Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, ‘Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God” (Luke 5: 17-25).

Here’s a song about this event. I invite you to take a listen.
Joy Gardner – Healer In The House (Live)

I just finished reading Tim Tebow’s book Shaken. I liked it very much. Parts of it resonated with me on a deep level in a very affirming way.

Two of my favorite quotes from the book are:

o So many times we are paralyzed from forward movement because we hold ourselves down. We compare our journeys, our losses, our victories, our marriages, our jobs, our dreams, our families with everyone else’s. And in our minds, in some way, we fall short…When our self-worth crumbles, when we’re not feeling confident, when insecurities overwhelm us, we have to remember whose we are…remind yourself how much God loves you and that He has a unique purpose and plan for your life.

o Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Excerpt from When Religion Isn’t Enough:

Followers of Jesus are called to love with a calvary-type love. What is a calvary-type love? It is a verb. It is a choice. It is a selfless love. It is choosing to do something for someone else regardless of the cost to self. It is not a feeling. It is an action. It is Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary in Jerusalem and allowing Roman soldiers to nail him to it, and then staying nailed to it until he died.

This is selfless love. Jesus did something for us that we could not do for ourselves—he created the way for us to get to heaven. He explained this to his disciple Nathaneal in the first chapter of the gospel of John, verse 51: “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

During the last meal Jesus shared with the twelve apostles before he died, he told them “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13: 34-35).

This command still holds true today for all of his followers. Gregory Boyd, in his book Repenting of Religion, provides a description of calvary-type love. He says “While nonbelievers can be expected to love those who love them, disciples are called and empowered to love even their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. While nonbelievers can be expected to do good to those who do good to them, disciples are called and empowered to do good even to those who harm them…our love must be given without consideration to the relative merits or faults of the person we encounter…we are to love without strings attached, without conditions, without any consideration whatsoever of the apparent worthiness of the person we encounter.”

Bruxy Cavey, in his book The End of Religion, provides another description of calvary-type love. He says: “The way of Jesus is the way of risky love. Religion is the way of safety, security and shelter within the structure of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines. Jesus and his earliest followers were relentless in pressing people to see two things. First, loving people is the primary way we love God. Second, this love of humankind must always take precedence over religious ritual or ethnic obstacles… Christ-followers are called to be, according to the standards of this world, ‘foolish.’ Real love is, from a purely human, self-serving perspective, irrational…religious traditions can be a trap that keeps us from moving into unchartered territories of bold love and radical compassion. Irreligious people, on the other hand, are free to be more loving. Jesus calls people to love in such a way that all social barricades are broken, penetrated, subverted—including and especially those erected by religion. And to love like God wants, we must be willing to put practical service ahead of safety, comfort and convenience.”

Excerpts from When Religion Isn’t Enough:

From the beginning of time, God invited the human beings he created to be in relationship with him. His intention was never to give religion to the human race. His intention was to offer human beings a relationship with himself that was personal and intimate. God wants a relationship with us. God is love, and he wants to shower that love on us. God always has and always will be available to be in relationship with those who choose to respond to his invitation for a relationship. He rejoices when one of his children responds to his invitation and enters into a relationship with him, becoming part of his family.

Those of us who are human parents give our children rules to live by because we love them. The rules provide needed boundaries for our children, protecting and guiding them. In turn, we want our children to follow our rules because they love us and value the relationship they have with us, not because they are afraid of us. The same is true for our heavenly parent. When God gave the Israelites, his chosen people, his family, rules to live by he was taking care of them, protecting them. He never meant for the rules to replace the relationship he had with them. As a matter of fact, God gave the Israelites rules to highlight the relationship he had with them. He wanted the Israelites to be set apart from the nations surrounding them. He wanted them to live by a higher standard than the people around them and to be identified to other nations as his people, his family.

Somewhere along the line the Israelites got the idea that they had only to follow God’s rules to be acceptable to him and to become part of his family. They forgot that though God had sent them into exile, he had not ejected them from his family. He continued to be their Father. He was merely disciplining them for their misbehavior.

God did not want the Israelites to follow his rules so that they could become his children. They already were his children. God wanted them to follow his rules so that the world would know that they were his children. When people started misunderstanding the purpose of God’s laws, and then started acting off that misunderstanding, religion was born.

Important Note: When I speak of religion, I am not referring to any particular denomination. I am referring to Bruxy Cavey’s definition of religion which is “any system of rules, regulations, rituals, and routines that people use to achieve their spiritual end-goal.”

As a result of this misunderstanding, the Jews shifted their focus from their relationship with God to the rules God gave them, putting their trust in the rules and in their own ability to follow the rules, rather than putting their trust in God. Their view of God as a loving parent who would take care of them was replaced by a view of God as an angry parent who would punish them if they disobeyed him. This is understandable in light of their experience of having been sent into exile. They moved from being dependent on God to being dependent on selves. This is the very essence of religion. Bruxy Cavey puts it this way: “Religion offers a system that promises to lead to salvation one day. Jesus offers salvation as a gift, now. Everything after that becomes a joyful opportunity to express what is already ours, a celebration of salvation, not the method of it.”

When Jesus came to earth, he was coming to restore what had been lost: a personal relationship with God.

Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was continually trying to tell people that the way to God and to eternal life was not religion (a.k.a. following rules), it was relationship (believing that he was who he said he was, the Son of God, and following him).

When an individual decides to follow Jesus thereby becoming part of God’s family, all of heaven rejoices. Angels are Dancing, Sunday Shoes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSUq099PZhk

As I have journeyed through life I have had different purposes for different seasons of my life.

When I was a senior in high school I took a psychology course. I was fascinated by the concept that there are reasons why people do what they do and feel what they feel. This course was the beginning of a lifelong desire to understand what makes people tick. I subsequently majored in psychology in college, went to graduate school where I earned a master’s degree in clinical social work, and embarked on a career as a psychotherapist. I also engaged in therapy myself as a client to understand what made me tick.

The desire to understand what makes people tick grew into a passion for helping people live healthy, happy lives emotionally and relationally. When God called me to lead a Celebrate Recovery ministry in August 2003, I was given another avenue through which to help people heal the hurts, habits, and hang-ups which impeded them from living the lives they were created to live.

In July 2014 God narrowed this passion to focus on women. He lit a fire in my heart to help his daughters be set free from the belief systems and practices that tell them they are second-class citizens, and stop them from being who God created them to be. I put form to this passion and calling by writing When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream. In this book I focus on how the Christian Church has contributed to maintaining gender inequality in the United States. I hope that the men and women who read it will be encouraged to swim upstream against gender inequality wherever they either see it happening to others or experience it themselves. I finished this manuscript about one month ago. The publishing process will begin in January.

I don’t know what else God may want me to do. I don’t need to know right now. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that he will let me know what he wants me to do. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

turn turn turn the byrds lyrics

My name is Mary. I’m a recovering people pleaser and approval seeker.

Growing up I learned that other people’s opinions were very important, that their opinions were the source of my self-worth and of love. I, of course, didn’t realize at the time that I was learning these things, however, I grew into an approval seeker and people pleaser PAR EXCELLANCE!

I lived this way for my first forty years on the planet. I then became a follower of Jesus Christ and my idea of where my self-worth and where love came from slowly began to change. As I walked with Christ he taught me that my source of self-esteem and self-worth does not come from the approval of people. It comes from my relationship with him. I am a child of God and therefore I have worth. He loves me, period. Jesus taught me that I cannot and do not need to earn his love. I cannot make him love me and I cannot make him not love me. He loves me no matter what, and he knew me and loved me before he placed me in my mother’s womb.

Fairly early in my faith walk (mid to late 1990s), I started experiencing a nagging sense that I was supposed to do something for God. It kept gnawing at me inside and wouldn’t go away. Though I had this sense, I didn’t have the faintest idea what God wanted me to do. In an effort to try to understand what it was I was supposed to do, I served in a number of different ministries. Though each of these were good and enjoyable and somewhat fulfilling, not one of them felt like the right fit. Each one felt like putting on a jacket with shoulders that were too tight or sleeves that were too short. I didn’t give up though, and eventually I found the right fit.

In 2003 God let me know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he wanted me to be a Celebrate Recovery leader. As I served in that capacity I knew I had finally found the right fit. I knew I was walking in the will of God for my life. This knowing was accompanied by a profound inner peace and joy that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Soon after this I developed my personal definition of success, i.e. to faithfully fulfill my God-given purpose. That definition has not changed. I am now living my life for an audience of One. I am living to please God, not to please human beings. This extends to all areas of my life, not just the ministry I serve in. My ultimate measure of success, which flows naturally from my definition of success, will be to hear, when I stand before God, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Since I put God in the driver’s seat of my life, I have not always been successful in leaving him there. There have been times when I put myself back in the driver’s seat, doing life my way. When I allowed God to be in the driver’s seat of my life, I experienced an internal peace and joy that surpasses all human understanding. The reason for this is that kind of peace and joy can only come from God. When I put myself back in the driver’s seat of my life, I was looking for that peace and joy to come from human achievements and human relationships. What I received was the peace and joy that the world gives. Having experienced both of these scenarios, I can tell you that the peace and joy that the world gives is hollow compared to the peace and joy that God gives. Nothing can compare to that deep certainty you feel when you know you are right where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you were created to do.

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