Archive for the ‘Emotions’ Category


Little Tim is experiencing feelings he has never experienced in his life.  He has fallen in love for the first time.  The air has a sweet aroma and the colors all have a deeper hue. Then one day his world collapses.  She asks one of her girlfriends to tell Tim that she wants to break up with him.  In that moment the sun is covered by a blue moon and he has the classic song calls a total eclipse of the heart.  Mom, trying to console him says, “Don’t worry, Tim, there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Get back out there and find another girlfriend.”  And so it begins.

The second way conventional wisdom says deal with your grief is to “replace your loss” while the Bible encourages us to first accept the reality of our situation.

When we try to replace our loss, what we’re really doing is trying to erase the memory of whatever was lost. A prime example of this is when someone goes through divorce and then turns around and too quickly remarries. The problem is that they’ve never really dealt with the pain and so they are hobbling into another relationship.

Coming to terms with the reality of loss is huge in recovering from pain. How can you be healed unless you know where it hurts?

King David was a great king, but at one point committed adultery with Bathsheba. She became pregnant, but because of David’s sin the baby died (A side note here: There is always death associated with sin. Romans 6:23) And so for seven days, David expressed his pain in loud wailings and moaning.

Then on the seventh day the baby died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He was so broken up about the baby being sick,” they said. “What will he do to himself when we tell him the child is dead?” But when David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the baby dead?” he asked.”Yes,” they replied. Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.” David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again?” 2 Samuel 12:18-23 [NLT]

David expressed his pain, but, then he accepted the reality.

Question – If you’ve suffered a major loss, have you tried to get a grip on the reality of it, to stare it right in the face and say, “this is the deal?” Or are you trying to just “get over it” or “get on with life?” It’s not that simple. It doesn’t work that way.

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If I’m being honest, this is not my favorite topic to deal with. However, we can’t escape the fact that we’re all going to experience loss and we are going to grieve; but there are some real choices to be made in times of grief. Those choices will determine whether our experience turns out to be bad grief or good grief. We’d better manage our grief well, because our future depends on it.

Last year I moved to a new location to start a totally new career.  Since this is the first time I’ve made a shift this drastic I was unaware that I was also strapping myself into what has amounted to a twisting, turning, climbing, and dropping emotional roller coaster ride.  The uncertainty driven fear has, at times, caused me to look back and grieve over the loss of my comfortable yet challenging ministry as a pastor.

So, what do you do when you find yourself knocked to your knees relationally, emotionally, professionally, or even physically – and it hurts? What does good grief look like? I think God has some things to say to us on this and, not surprisingly, they contradict the conventional wisdom at every point.

1. Conventional wisdom tells us to bury our feelings, but the example of the Bible is clear: EXPRESS YOUR PAIN.

Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? You may know that it’s in John 11:35. Jesus wept.

Do you know what caused Jesus to weep? A very close friend died. When Jesus got word of Lazarus’ death, he traveled to their town, and met with his two sisters and as the three of them stood beside the tomb of one of His closest friends, he cried his eyes out.

Jesus wept. Those two words speak volumes about good grief management. Tears have been called the language of the soul, a cleansing river of emotional release. And God’s approach says, let the river flow.

In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible that’s called Lamentations or “The Lament” and it’s literally a book of weeping.  It recounts the exile of God’s chosen people into Babylon.

“For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Lamentations 1:16 [NLT]

By the way, expressing pain isn’t limited just to weeping and tears. Sometimes expressing pain means confronting another person with their wrongs. Sometimes it’s doing something symbolic that represents the pain you feel. I’ve heard of divorced people who burn their wedding pictures as a way of saying, “this hurts so badly.”

In the past I have expressed my pain through my songwriting.  In addition to songwriting I now write blogs and manuscripts for books I intend to write… but not always.  Sometimes I crawl up into the weak area of my Melancholy temperament and grovel around in self-pity. 

Let me ask you a question. Have you experienced a major loss in your life but you’ve gone around trying to ignore or avoid the pain of it? May I suggest that you find a positive way to express it instead?  If you need help with this, don’t let your pride keep you from getting it.  Share your struggle with a friend, your pastor, or a counselor.  Express your pain.

LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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The unhealthy desire to please other people

Much like a drug addict is addicted to his or her drug of choice, a people pleaser is addicted to the approval of others. Psychologist Harriet Braiker calls it the “disease to please.” This is a very hard concept for the Christian because we are called to be servants.  However, what I believe we need to keep in mind is that ultimately, the recipient of our service is God not man.  Yes, God has called us to serve our fellow man but that service is to bring glory to God… not other people and certainly not ourselves (which is the case with a people pleaser).

People Pleasers are all trying to prove they are valuable people—trying to stop that inner voice within that says they aren’t. It is like there is a tape playing in their head that says, “People will love and accept me if I please them.” And here is the myth behind people pleasing: “You are somebody when you please others.”

A pleaser believes that if there is a failure to please it will result in rejection and that rejection will confirm their deepest fear that their life has little value.  As a result, they go about trying to make everybody but themselves happy.  They…

a. Avoid conflict at any cost

People-pleasers equate conflict with being displeasing. They don’t want to be the source of displeasure. So they stick their finger in the air to see which way the approval wind is blowing before they decide the path of least rejection.

b. Are extremely self-critical

It’s at a very young age most of us learned that people pat you on the back when your actions please them.  Therefore, at some point during childhood, we make the decision to be as perfect as we possibly can be in order to please people; this leads to a life that is filled to the brim with activities at which we feel we are good at doing. Eventually we all essentially run out of gas.  We give out and then we give up.  Because it really isn’t about pleasing people anymore; it is about me trying to meet my ridiculously high standards. I can’t even please myself. I become a prisoner to the approval of others and I wind up absolutely miserable. 

I don’t want to simply remind you of these destructive patterns, some of which you know all too well, I want to give you some suggestions for breaking these harmful life patterns.

TODAY’S SUGGESTION: Become a God-pleaser

Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10 NLT

Remember high school? I heard something that is true about that time in our lives. Most of us spent most of our high school years trying to please people that we have not seen since high school and may never see again.

Yes it is easy to see all of this looking back, but what if we could get a hold of it now? What if we, instead of worrying so much about what others think and feel about us, concern ourselves with what God thinks of us (and we might be surprised how loving and forgiving God can be).  It’s worth thinking about.

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“Jerry Fletcher is a man who sees conspiracies everywhere. But if you keep doing that long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get one right…”  That was the teaser line used for the 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. I would offer to the end of that teaser: “…however, sometimes you don’t get it right because you are not filtering life through a proper lens.  Sometimes growing up in a dysfunctional environment, or a single traumatic event will cause an individual to respond to life from a skewed perspective.”

That’s what this series of blogs is all about.  We are looking at what some have called, “Stinkin’ Thinkin;’” Those unhealthy relationship patterns that leave us wondering, “What’s wrong with me!” I would like to pick up today with the pattern of…

2. Mistrust toward others

a. Isolate yourself

The story you tell people is that you are a loner or that you prefer to keep to yourself but the truth is that you don’t trust people. And the safest thing to do is to put up walls and stay to yourself because your mind tells you that the only person you can trust is you. I use the words stay to yourself but I could have said protect yourself because that is exactly what people do. They protect themselves by staying away from other people. Mistrust can cause people to isolate themselves from other people but it can also encourage some people to be:

b. Codependent upon someone else

There is a negative side to this one. There are people who are in abusive situations and they will defend their partner and refuse to acknowledge any of their faults even though the relationship is destructive. But that is not all there is to codependency. There are people who trust only one other person and so they pour their life into that person and receive love and acceptance primarily from that one person. The whole world ultimately revolves around this person. They make this person their life source and will do whatever it takes to stay close to them. Codependent people tend to be jealous and aggressive toward those who get in between them and their partner. Other relationships are neglected because other people cannot be trusted. People can be codependent with their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even just a friend. Parents can even become so focused on their children that they ignore their spouse. Do you know anyone like that? Mistrust toward others.

Please allow me to suggest as an antidote to mistrust: SEARCH FOR PEOPLE TO TRUST.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can really find one who is really faithful? Proverbs 20:6 NLT

It is hard to find people who are trustworthy. But start trying. Take a risk!

Some of you know that I recently moved to a new location.  I have decided that I am going to take my own advice here.  Each time I go to the store, post office, doctor’s office, or church, I tell myself that I could be crossing paths with my new best friend.  That’s what happened with Andy and Marlene. We met them at church.  I discovered that Andy makes a slap-yo-mamma good seafood gumbo! What a great couple who are so encouraging to us.  It happens over and over around the world. Disconnected people find true friendship. I encourage you to take the risk, be friendly and you will attract friends.

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I read this story recently:

In April of 1988 I came home to discover that my mother had left home. Most of her belongings were gone as well as the mobile concession trailer that my dad and a man named Lloyd had finished working on just that weekend. In a few hours my dad and I received a call from Lloyd’s wife. She was wondering where he was. It did not take long to figure out what had happened. In about 2 weeks we got a call from my mom. She and Lloyd were in the state of Washington. Since then I’ve only seen my mother about 5 times. Before my mother left we fought constantly and the fights were even more intense afterward. It wasn’t until 1992 that we started to get along again. We’ve had several shaky moments since then but for the most part we get along ok. The lack of closeness between me and my mother and the disintegrating relationship between my mom and dad created serious consequences for me. I’m still working on such things as what real intimacy is and how to develop it in my own marriage as well as how to communicate strong feelings without starting a fight. There is still distance between my mother and me that I’m not sure can be erased simply because she has missed such a large part of my life. I struggle with feelings of bitterness even though I’m trying to forgive her.

I see bitterness as a self-damaging result of unforgiveness.  Today I want to explore this and other relationship damaging, life blocking symptoms of a person who carries a load of unforgiveness.

a. Bitterness

Bitterness is so deceptive because it is perfectly legitimate to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed. The problem lies in how we responsed to these emotions. It is our response to these emotions that get us into bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Bitterness takes root in our heart and continues to grow into a huge tree. In Florida, we had an over abundance of what we affectionately called “stink weed.” It would completely overtake an azalea bush we had in our front yard.  It had to be pulled out but when you pull it out is when you understand where it gets its nickname.  It would stink to high heaven!  Bitterness is much like sink weed in that it makes our personality stink to everyone who comes into contact with us. It causes us much trouble and pain within ourselves. And because we have become embittered, we defile others with our negativity. Do you know anyone like that?

Another way to know if you have a pattern of unforgiveness toward someone is that you may tend to have:

b. Shallow Relationships

This one is not only related to unforgiveness but people that have patterns of unforgiveness rarely have deep relationships because deep relationships require conflict. Did you realize that? You are not in a deep relationship with anyone with whom you have not had a major conflict. Conflict and deep relationships go hand in hand.  People who have a pattern of unforgiveness tend to avoid conflict because it plays back the tapes of the past that are so fresh because forgiveness hasn’t taken place. So let me just ask you, are you struggling with unforgiveness? Is there some bitterness in your life? Are there many people who really know who you are? Or do you tend to stay pretty shallow with people?

Is there someone you need to forgive?  I’m not going to tell you it is easy but I am going to tell you it is do-able and necessary if you want to find joy and fulfillment in life.

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DEALING WITH DIVORCE 1.0

Posted: October 14, 2011 in Divorce, Emotions
Tags: , ,

In the late seventies and early eighties I experienced the trauma of divorce.  I was a student at New Orleans Baptist Seminary in my last semester.  That event affected everything in my life from that point on.  I experienced fear, frustration, and hurt on a level that I had only studied in books until this happened. 

For several weeks now I have wrestled with the idea of blogging about the experience and some of the lessons I learned as I journeyed through this dark time.  I’ve decided to unpack some of this and to share some of the lessons I have learned since.  It is my hope that these thoughts might help someone who is now experiencing or has gone through divorce.  I will not, of course, cover the topic all inclusively so if you have questions related to this topic, please email me.  I will try to answer or direct you to a resource.  I would also hope you could find information to help a friend or family member.

I would first like to deal with some of the emotions I faced early on.  The first thing I remember was my unwillingness to believe this was actually happening to me.  After all, I had given my life to God!  I spent five years in college (I crammed my four years into five) preparing for vocational ministry.  I had spent two and a half year in seminary.  This couldn’t be happening to me. 

This, my friend, is what the experts call DENIAL.  Denial is a natural, God-given reaction to a painful experience that is too overwhelming to handle.  Most people, including Christians say, “Focus on the positive.”  They give you the impression that it is unspiritual to have these bad feelings.  Aren’t you supposed to be constantly walking around with the “joy of the Lord!”

Listen.  The Bible never glosses over pain and suffering.  The joy of the Lord is our strength in tough times but it doesn’t mean that we walk around in some la la land pretending that times aren’t tough.   As a God-given reaction, denial is a good thing.  It can protect us.  In those worst times, denial can be a shield to keep us from complete devastation.   It becomes a bad thing when it goes on too long.  Denial clung to too tightly for too long can delay the healing process.

How long is too long?  From all I have read and studied there is no precise timetable.  It may last a few months or a few years.  If it has been two years, though, you could be stuck.  If you are waiting on your ex to make repairs on your house long after he has left, moved away and remarried, you could have a problem.  After about six months or so you should probably be saying yes to your friends invitations to go out.

I want to continue with my next post in dealing with anger.

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