Empty Shelf Challenge Book #17: “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” by Jan Silvious

I finished my 17th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency by Jan Silvious

Please Don’t Say You Need Me was mentioned in the back of a little booklet entitled Emotional Dependency, another resource I was reviewing for the ministry. Since emotional dependency and codependency are common struggle in the people I work with, I figured this book would be worth reviewing.

I’m so glad I read it! This was another book that I dog-eared like crazy. It’s truly a powerhouse of wisdom. It covers the roots and symptoms of codependency, as well as how codependency manifests itself in different types of relationships, including friendship, marriage, parent-child, and even in the workplace. It also has a chapter on how to maintain healthy relationships once you have recognized these patterns in yourself. The author does a wonderful job of weaving biblical truth into this struggle and healing from it.

If you have struggled with codependency or work with people who do, this book is for you.
My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Freedom Friday: Are You Being Honest?

We have a serious problem in the church today.

We lie to each other.

We lie every time that we feel deeply broken and in pain, and yet we say we’re fine.

We lie every time we skip church because we don’t want to face the question, “How are you?”

We lie every time someone opens up about a struggle and, because of pride and fear, we pat them on the back, saying, “I’ll pray for you, friend!” rather than sharing how we’ve faced a similar struggle.

We lie to each other.

In Russell Willingham’s amazing book, Relational Masks, he addresses the core beliefs that make us feel as if we must put on our smiles and act as if everything is OK.

One major core belief is this: If I am honest, I will be abandoned. 

Shame runs deep. It began in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve tried to cover up the truth for their all-knowing Creator. If Adam and Eve struggled with honesty in their relationship with God, how much more so do we need to fight against this tendency in our lives.

Russell Willingham stated this in a teaching I once heard: we demonstrate the above core belief by always putting our best foot forward and never letting anyone see our weaknesses. We have this secret fear that if we’re honest about how deep the brokenness goes, we’ll be thrown out on our ears.

A lot of these core beliefs are based on experiences we’ve actually lived through. Some of our families would shut down our honesty. We’ve shared our struggles and experienced rejection. Thus, we don’t risk with people. We’re always respectable. We act like we have it all together.

Paul address in the church in Ephesus. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). You can read the context of the passage here. Paul was giving the believers instructions on new ways of living and interacting.

Paul was basically telling Christians to stop lying to each other. 

Because that’s our tendency. Our tendency, since the Garden, is to hide. Hide our sin, hide our brokenness, hide our shame. Act as if we’ve got it all together and we don’t need help.

Russell Willingham states that we need a commitment to truth-telling in our lives.

What have you gained, spiritually, by being dishonest?

With God?
With your friends?
With those around you who can help you?

Why do we put on our smiling faces and go to church when we are totally broken inside? Or worse yet, skip church all together during those tough weeks?

I know from my own life and years of ministry, we have a desperate need to be seen. That is the imprint of God within our hearts. He did not create us for isolation. He created us for love, acceptance and support in the safety of authentic, healthy community. He deposited in us a need for affirmation, for honesty, for the freedom that is found when we bring our struggles to the light.

Here’s the thing: not everyone can handle honesty. And not everyone has earned a place of trust in our lives that we should tell them our struggles. Remember Jesus’ example of 3 intimate friends and 9 other good friends. So you may have to go to a number of people before you find a safe place to share your heart. But it’s worth the risk. You were created for relationship. God designed freedom, healing and growth to happen in the context of community.

Will you take a risk today? Would you risk being honest, and, in the process, risk finding the freedom you long for?

Monday Morning Meditation: Friendship with God (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 12-14):

Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

What is fear of the Lord? We addressed this a bit in the Psalm 34 series. One commentator on Psalm 25 says fear of the Lord is “an attitude of reverence and awe toward God, which is transformed into an appropriate manner of living.” This goes hand in hand with the ESV’s translation of verse 14:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.

To those who approach God with an attitude of reference and awe, He extends His friendship, his “secret counsel,” as a footnote says “friendship” can also be translated. According to the Hebrew, that word can also be translated “confidential talk.”

What an encouragement to get close to the Lord!

Lord Jesus, empower us to draw close to You today. Help to revere You by living lives of awe and obedience. Teach us in the way we should go, as the psalmist prayed earlier in Psalm 25, “for You are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long.” Thank You, Lord.

Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50. Vol. 19 of Word Biblical Commentary Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983) 221.

Freedom Friday: Invest in Intimacy

If you Google “intimacy with God”, there are 576,000 results. That’s a lot of people who are thinking about what it means to have an intimate relationship with our Creator. They want to know what this is, what it looks like and how to get there.

Think of someone in your life with whom you have an intimate relationship. I’m speaking of emotional intimacy, not physical intimacy. How did you develop that intimacy?
Time, time, time.
And then some more time.
I know. I saw you cringe; you wanted an easier answer. But it’s true.
How did you develop an intimate friendship with someone? You spent time with them. You invested life in them. You were intentional about making space for them in your life. And it took a while, right?
Developing an intimate relationship with Jesus takes time and effort. We need to grow not only in our knowledge of God, but in the ways we relate to Him.
“You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Psalm 139:3 (NASB)
God is intimately acquainted with our ways, and wants us to be intimately acquainted with His. How do we do this? Here are some possible ways to develop intimacy with God.
1. Read the Gospels.
One way we can invest in intimacy is to see how others invested in intimacy. How did the disciples develop their relationship with Jesus and how did Jesus develop His relationship with the disciples? Notice what both Jesus and the disciples say, see, experience and feel in the gospel accounts. Put yourself in their shoes as they walk along. Notice the things that Jesus says about life with Him and what it looks like. Notice the ways that Jesus reflects our Father.
2. Practice stillness, silence and solitude.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
Make it a practice to sit quietly during your intentional times with God. Listen with expectation. Wait. Pause. Breathe.
Consider taking a silent retreat. Or create intentional times of solitude in your daily life. We read in the gospels that Jesus did this.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (NIV1984)
If He needed it, then we certainly do to.
3. Talk to God.
Talk to God? Do I mean “pray?” Yes & no. Talking to God is part of prayer, but I think prayer for us can sometimes look like giving God our laundry list of daily requests or crying out in a time of desperation.
This is not what I’m talking about.
Think of it this way. Imagine a good friend of yours, someone you speak with regularly. Imagine your day, the things you text to each other, or the funny stories that remind you of this friend.
Now imagine that friend to be Jesus. Talk with Him as if you were talking on the phone with that friend. Tell Him the funny stories or the little things that happen. Share with Him your thoughts, dreams and fears. Pause and listen and wait for His response.
Our God is a jealous God. He desires to work and reign in every area of our lives. Ask God to open your heart and reveal to you areas where you need to draw closer to Him. We need to be jealous of our time with Him, just like we intentionally carve out time for a friend, a spouse or our kids.
Pause. Talk to Him. Read about Him. Listen. Invest in intimacy.

Freedom Fridays, Tools for the Journey (New Series): HALT

I had a blog post started for today but decided to simplify it. Various events lately have reminded me that sometimes, we just need to keep things simple. So today’s post will be the beginning of another series within Freedom Friday called “Tools for the Journey”. Yes, I will continue to finish the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” after this brief diversion 🙂

How do we keep recovery simple? What small things can I keep in my toolbox as I learn to walk in freedom?

I’ll start off the “Tools for the Journey” series by talking about a number of things we can do when we have a “Moment of Maybe” as described in “Act like a Free Person, Part 2“, those moments where we are tempted:
To sin
To see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
To believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them
To fall into despair and hopelessness

In those Moments of Maybe, we need to stop and do some evaluation & self-care. So the first thing I want to share about is HALT.

We need to practice HALT.

In recovery, HALT stands for:

In evaluating HALT, we ask if our most basic needs are being met. Our need for food and sleep, as well as our need for relationships and true expression of feelings.

My older son has food sensitivities (can’t eat wheat, dairy or soy). And we discovered not long into his little life that if he doesn’t get adequate protein in his diet, it manifests itself in his behavior.

So every morning, he starts off the day with protein. He has to eat his protein before he gets anything else. Protein helps regulate blood sugar, and drastic blood sugar drops cause mood swings. 3 year olds are moody enough without adding blood sugar issues to the mix, so we make sure he gets plenty of healthy protein.

The reality is people who feel bad act bad. We can’t use our physical or emotional feelings as an excuse to behave poorly, but we can use those feelings as an opportunity to evaluate:

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

If we find one of those things to be true, then we can take care of it. With my son, he sometimes doesn’t know that he needs a snack; thus, asking, “Are you hungry?” in the middle of a tantrum isn’t all that productive. Instead, I put a drink and a protein-rich snack in front of him, and as a general rule, he’ll devour it.

Since I’m a grown-up, I can get myself a small snack and then re-evaluate how I’m feeling. I can think about whether or not I’m getting enough sleep. I can look at the recent weeks and see how much time I’ve spent developing my relationships. And I can stop for a minute and consider whether or not I am angry or upset & unsettled about something.

The next time you’re in a Moment of Maybe, stop and practice HALT.

Freedom Fridays: Act Like a Free Person, Part 2

Freedom Fridays: Act Like a Free Person, Part 1

Recap: we as believers should not be surprised when we fall into old habits and patterns. That’s why I call it “learning to walk in freedom”. We need to proactively make choices to act like a free person.

Acting like a free person means in those “moments of maybe”, as a former pastor called them, those moments where we are tempted:
Tempted to sin
Tempted to see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
Tempted to believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them

In those moments, we choose to act like a free person.

A free person would realize the temptation she is experiencing is common to man. That person would choose to act as if she were free rather than act as if she is still enslaved to that temptation and has to give in.

A free person would say to that dark thought, “That’s not what Jesus says about me!” A free person would say to that boundary violation “I will leave the room if you continue to speak to me that way.” A free person would say, “In the past, my emotions have felt overwhelming, so rather than choose to feel them, I choose to medicate my emotions through food, sex, power, escape. I can make different choices today, knowing that I can experience these emotions and they won’t kill me because I can handle anything with the Freedom Giver and other Freedom Seekers at my side.”

So you see this isn’t just about saying no to sin. It’s about saying no to bondage in all its forms and saying yes to throwing off the chains.

Don’t forget it’s a process. We’re back to the analogy of training, running a race. When we were slaves to sin, our body and mind was trained that, when faced with temptation, we sin, we give in to the negative thoughts, we let our boundaries be trampled on. So like an athlete needs to discipline himself or herself to train, whereas it feels much more natural to sit on the couch and watch TV, we too need to train and discipline ourselves so that when we are faced with temptation, we, like Joseph when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him as told in Genesis 39, flee the scene rather than give in to old habits and say yes.

We read this in Romans 6: “From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”

There are a million different reasons why we choose to old behaviors/patterns/choices rather than choosing to act free. It’s not just because it feels good or natural. We sin because we have emotions, feelings & experiences that we have trouble dealing with. We sin because we lack coping mechanisms. We sin to avoid uncomfortable feelings. We feel lonely, we feel rejected,, we feel unlovable – so we go out & try to hook up with someone. The feelings are still there, but we get to escape them for awhile. We sin – because we’re used to the chaos.

So when we start taking a risk & saying no to our old nature, these feelings will come up & we need to make sure we have a support system in place to deal with them. I heard someone who struggled with same-sex attraction share in his testimony that he would go to his counseling appointments, feel all these overwhelming feelings, and on the way home, he’d hook up with someone. Finally, he contacted a friend and said, “Look, I just need someone to hang out with me for a couple hours after my appointment.” We need to learn appropriate self-care.

Next week we’ll find out the freedom step that makes it easier to say no to the old nature.

The Importance of Practicality

Today, I heard a great teaching on the importance of transparency and authenticity in our relationships, as we desire to live in freedom from life-controlling issues and grow to be the people God created us to be. I walked away from that time, wholeheartedly nodding my head and saying “Amen!” I also walked away, feeling as if there needs to be more practical instruction on how to develop these authentic and transparent relationships.

It made me think of this great quote:

“Preaching a sermon that is strong on information but weak on application is like shouting to a drowning man, ‘SWIM, SWIM!’ The message is true, but it’s not helpful.” From Jay Kesler via Kathy Koch

This quote is a bit harsh to blanket-ly apply to the teaching I heard because there was some application and some examples, but I’m a 3-point sermon kind of girl, and I like to walk away with a handful of things I can do today! So I followed up, asking for some helpful hints 🙂

Is Having One Best Friend Biblical?

This is not a new topic, nor is it one I thought up. I actually first heard it at an Exodus conference, and then read more about it in the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. I’ve since wrote about it at Boundless.

I’ll quote myself is saying that Jesus had 12 good friends, His Apostles, but He also had three intimate friends whom He took with Him certain places, such as the transfiguration, and the raising to life of the dead girl in Mark 5. At the Garden of Gethsemane, He had the nine other disciples sit at a distance while Peter, John and James went further into the garden with Him.

I never made the connection that when Jesus called the first disciples, Peter (also called Simon), James & John, they already had some sort of established relationship. I read today in Luke 5 that James & John were Peter’s fishing partners. Jesus built a relationship with the 3 of them together.

Just a tidbit I found interesting 🙂 I’ll actually be writing about Mark 5 in a future blog post about how to find the right kind of support.