Are You in Chains?


woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

“I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains…”                                    Nahum 1:13

Say what?

This verse from the old testament prophet spoke of the ancient oppression of the Assyrians. The Lord promised his people that their freedom would come from his hand. So what does that have to do with us today?

We can be chained by pain from our past. Wounds caused by the actions of others whom we still haven’t forgiven or poor choices we made and their consequences, but often our bondage comes in the form of patterns we’ve developed to cope with daily life.

I love what author, Mary DeMuth, wrote in her devotional Jesus Every Day. Her words grabbed me with their simple truth.

“…the chains and yokes have become terribly familiar to me, like companions I nurture instead of anomalies I should shun. They are my normal. And so without even knowing it, I walk around shackled, and I can’t even see where they’re cutting my soul anymore.”

We all have those places that we don’t even recognize.

They can cause us to:

  • Get stuck in unhealthy ways of relating
  • Excuse our destructive behaviors
  • React unreasonably to the words or actions of others
  • Over react in common situations
  • Become isolated or suspicious of others
  • Feel haunted by our past

God wants to free us.

He uses his word, his presence and other people to do so. Connecting with a trusted, wise leader or good friend who will speak truth to us even if it hurts can reveal those hidden places of bondage and start us on a road to freedom.

Unfortunately, that can be scary.

We don’t like to be nudged outside our comfort zone. And as Mary writes in her “Chains” devotion Day 179, we like what has become normal for us because it’s how we navigate our lives.

“It’s like a comfortable blanket.”

The thing is, we might think those chained areas are secure, but they keep us from the abundant life God has for us. They keep us from good, healthy relationships with people who love us. They rob us by making our world very, very small.

So, I’m asking God to reveal those places to me that need to be freed up and changed. I’m trusting God can and will do it.

Will you join me?

 

 

Why Are You Angry?


IMG_4658Anger is a secondary emotion.

That what the workbook I use to lead women through a study on relationships says. The truth of that statement recently catapulted me into a season of discovering the source of my anger.

And that what feels like anger isn’t always…well, anger.

The inexplicable rage that builds like a volcano preparing to erupt feels like anger. Looks like anger when I give full vent to it with slamming, flinging or throwing (which only a fool does according to the Bible – good job, Laura). Sounds like anger to my spouse and children…

But surprisingly, is actually not anger.

Well, it is in part. The past part. The little kid who got hurt instead of protected, ignored instead of forgiven or lashed at without warning. That little kid’s feelings of fear, confusion, being unloved or unimportant turned to anger.

Anger at self – nothing is your parent’s fault when you’re a kid. Or anger at the person hurting you but stuffed away – since nothing can possibly be your parent’s fault when you’re the kid. Anger becomes a defense.

Stop hurting me!

Rebellion, tantrums and angry outbursts are often a sign of fear, anger, confusion or other emotions when a child’s world isn’t right.

During my current season of delving into my emotions and learning what it means to control them well (not stuff, ignore or minimize), I jotted down a list of feelings I experienced in regard to a recent event. (I had the help of a list to look at. You can find the list of “Soul Words” at www.howwelove.com)

Initially, anger surged through me.

I wanted to react in anger. Instead, I took a deep breath. (Remember that count to 10 thing? Not a bad idea.) I managed to keep self-control, speak calmly and cry later, asking God what I was really feeling. Here are the emotions I listed that described how I felt:

betrayed, worried, unloved, shocked, hated, injured, beaten down, tired, unwanted, cut off, crushed, grieved, heavy, bewildered, misunderstood, let down, distrustful, unimportant and disregarded

Notice anything?

Yep. Not ONE word of anger. But truly, each of these words really described my feelings. When I read through the list of words describing anger, none of them resounded with me. Go figure.

Fascinating.

This opened up new insight about myself, my emotions and the way I respond to situations. If I allow anger to be the go-to reaction, I miss out on understanding my true feelings and communicating them to others.

Not helpful.

Not only that, but when I don’t deal with the actual feelings, anger spins around like a tornado in my heart and mind. When I try to squelch it because I don’t want it’s destruction, I end up feeling depressed and aimless. (An indication something deeper is going on.)

In addition, my outbursts of frustration hurt those I love, making them defensive. And how can they respond well to me if I am “always angry” at them? Instead, if I share accurate emotions, I invite understanding and intimacy.

Maybe even compassion.

So, here are some practical steps I’m learning to implement to get a handle on anger:

  1. Every time I feel “anger”, ask myself what I am REALLY feeling.
  2. Share those feelings in a journal, with a trusted friend and/or with God. I do all three in the reverse order: God, journal, friend.
  3. Ask myself when I felt those same or similar feelings as a child – usually where it started, but now is being triggered by a similar interaction or experience.
  4. Grieve over the past situation. Cry, pray, journal. Let myself feel.
  5. Forgive anyone that caused past hurts. Looking at the past isn’t to blame, it is for us to acknowledge so we can grieve, forgive and move forward in life.
  6. If I displayed anger in an inappropriate way to someone, I need to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. (God’s too.)
  7. Share with the person involved my true feelings. If necessary, do this with a third party like a counselor or pastor. Sometimes defenses created by our previous anger may require additional outside help to work through and heal.
  8. Move forward. Let go of the situation.
  9. Repeat as needed. Years of these patterns aren’t changed in one time.
  10. Have grace for myself as I establish new patterns.

The Bible says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) As we analyze the way we’ve thought and the emotions established due to past pain, we can be changed and healed. Not simply by “trying harder” not to get mad, but by examining our true feelings and submitting them to our loving heavenly Father.

Here’s to the journey ahead!

I’d love to partner with you in prayer as you address your anger. Please let me know how I can pray in the comments below.

 

 

 

Looking Deeper


It’s been a rough week.

Symptoms of illness have flared again, leaving me discouraged and depressed. In addition, current circumstances are less than desirable. Can I confess that as a result, I’ve been having a hard time getting excited about Christmas?

But God has a way of flipping my perspective. 

Two days ago, I sat on a massive piece of driftwood, looking out over the expanse of our beautiful bay. My friend and I talked, cried and prayed. As I gazed at the bay, I felt a whisper from God.  What if I have something deeper for you this year? Are you willing to ask? Look for it? Find it?

In the moment, I didn’t voice those thoughts, but as the past couple of days have unfolded, I’ve come back to that moment.

What does Christmas mean this year? DSC_0002

It’s never really been about the materialism. Our family focuses most on the birth of Jesus, and our gift giving is a reflection of all he’s given us. But each year I find God digging deeper in my heart to turn up a nugget of spiritual gold; a treasure beyond even the best intentions of the season.

Last year, I was struck by Emmanuel – God with Us.

Everywhere I turned; the message danced around my head and evidenced itself in numerous ways. I needed God with me, and I knew with great confidence that he was. His presence was imperative to my existence and well-being so he showed up all over my life. His assurance dogged me this year.

What does he have for me this year?

I’m asking, seeking, contemplating. I expect it will hit me with a suddenness that will produce a rush of revelation and tears. And because of this anticipation, my heart toward the coming holiday has done an about face. Today, a seemingly impossible situation that unexpectedly changed reminded me that my God can do the unbelievable in a matter of moments. And nothing will be the same.

I remembered the words of James “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (4:14) In a moment, everything could change.

Waiting for that moment with anticipation this Christmas.

 

What about you? What does Christmas mean when you look deeper?

Just Say Yes


An EX-Buccaneer named Baxter.

I just spent a week participating in a VBS day camp put on by our church and watching my husband, Brendan, be transformed by playing the role of a buccaneer named Baxter in the assembly portion of this event. He thrilled the audience with his lively, dramatic gestures and accent — a mix of Aussie, English and Scottish that branded his character, the soft-hearted pirate captured by a loving crew of baggage toting misfits. Baxter decided he liked being wanted and loved so he changed his pillaging ways and became an EX-buccaneer who loved his new family. The script was wonderfully written.

But what I loved best was what playing the role developed in Brendan. Confidence, faith, camaraderie, and a new freedom in allowing for mistakes. Not only that, but Brendan is hilariously funny! Truly entertaining. (You can check out the entire week’s adventure at www.coastlands.org or see Coastlands on Facebook.)

We never know what God has in mind when we agree to follow him. But it’s all good.

When Brendan and I met online, just over four years ago, I would never have imagined all that would happen to bring us together in that first year. The three years since have held so many obstacles, trials, complications and joy, healing and excitement. We couldn’t have planned it. But God did.

This has been one of the best weeks of our life together. Who would have thought?

Something so simple, and yet challenging as playing a role in a skit for kids could be used by God to change a life. Wow!

What is God using to change you?