Monday, June 25, 2012

The Little Things In Life!

Life really does consist of the little things doesn't it! Think about it, how many times throughout the day do you have the opportunity to control you attitude, or a thought, or a word?

How do you handle those frustrations that arise throughout your day? How do you navigate around those irritating people that you rub shoulders with on a daily basis? All those seemingly little choices throughout the day, at day's end make up the bigger picture of what you are really are on the inside.

Life is really lived on the inside isn't it? Your thought life, your attitude, and your motives of why you do the things that you do.

Jesus' dialogue with some Pharisees and scribes brings home my point that life is lived on the inside, listen to Jesus' words:

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man... (Matthew 15:18)

Christian, take the time to pay attention to your inner landscape, take the time to examine your inner life, take the time to see if your inner life is in harmony with those things that you believe. Integrity is the harmonizing of what is in your head with what is in your heart. 

Tip, and this is free---find someone that you are close to and ask them if you are living out those things that you profess to believe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jesus as a fierce lion and a humble lamb

Jesus as a fierce lion and a humble lamb

C.S. Lewis gives us such a wonderful picture of both the fierceness of Jesus and the meekness of Jesus in his classic tale Chronicles of Narnia. When he wanted to symbolize Jesus, Lewis created Aslan the lion, and not just any lion, he’s the King of Beasts and the real ruler of Narnia. Mostly unseen because he is always on the move, Aslan is powerful and yet kind, gentle but fierce. He is to be feared and revered and honored and trusted.

In one of the most famous bits of conversation in the whole series, Lucy asks the beavers, “Is he safe?” “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking,” Mrs. Beaver replies, “they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“So he isn’t safe?” asks Lucy.

To which Mr. Beaver replies, “’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King,

I present this narrative for it reminds me of how the Church has presented a lopsided Jesus to an unbelieving world. Throughout the history of the Church Jesus has either been presented as a stern judge that shows no mercy, but only has condemnation to offer when all the rules are not followed to the T.

Or, Jesus is presented as all love with no justice or fierceness or power, but a weak sentimental Jesus who will overlook and excuse our sins as mere mistakes.

No, the Jesus of the Bible is both the fierce lion as presented in the Chronicles of Narnia, and the humble servant, as presented in the gospels, who washes his disciples feet.

My plea to the Church and to the individual Christian is to approach all of the Bible's teachings with balance---we have such a tendency to overemphasize any one particular teaching of the Bible. Let us strive as the Apostle Paul warns, not to shrink from declaring  the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and as Jesus gave his parting instructions to his disciples when he told them that they were to teach others' to obey everything that he commanded (Matt. 28:27).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do we really understand the word Evangelical?

To those thinking Christians who are weary of being the spiritual hamster on the wheel of endless "principles for living," rules that tell you "what to do"and  "what not to do" and a mentality that equates spirituality with how busy you are in your local church.
Today's blog has good news for you! We need to get back to our roots. We call ourselves evangelicals which is taken from the Greek word evangelion, meaning "gospel." But do we really know and understand what and who we are as evangelicals?

We as evangelicals are a people who have been called by the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) to become children of God. We are a people who have been rescued from condemnation and judgement. We are a people who owe our salvation to God, for we realize that we can claim nothing, do nothing, contribute nothing, to our salvation; we are a people who exclaim that "salvation is of the Lord."

We are a people who realize our own sinfulness before a holy and righteousness God. We have come to know the true helplessness of our estate. We know and believe in our hearts that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and we substitute our own names in the place of the "all". We know and believe with all our hearts that no man or women could ever be justified  (made right) or (declared righteous) before God by being good. We are a people who know that the scales do not tip in our favor--- that is the good works bad works scale. We know that our own sinfulness will sink us into a Christless eternity.

Oh, but we are also a people who shout from the rooftops that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). We rejoice that the Gospel that we believe is not Christ plus our spiritual disciplines, Christ plus our free will, Christ plus our acts of love and service to others or Christ plus our pious experiences, but the Gospel we believe in is Christ alone.

We grab our bull horns and exclaim, "that the wicked are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from any works of the law (Rom. 10: 2, see vv.1-15).

So thinking Christian---since you have started the race in grace are you now made perfect through your doing or working or following the rules? No, of course not! We are a people who live in grace and follow our king and Savior out of a heart that is burning with love and gratitude. We are a redeemed people who live in total dependence on our King.


 live in grace!

Continue in grace!

 And enter into the rest that has been provided!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Skills For Becoming A Mature Adult

Well, here we are at the end of the Changes That Heal series. I always like to go over what was discussed, so real quick, we talked about how we need three ingredients in our lives in order for real growth to take place: grace, truth, and time. We talked about how grace and truth should never, never, no never be separated, they must always stay together, and then of course we need time for grace and truth to do their work.

We then went on and talked about four identifying personality traits of God that we need to emulate in our own lives: Bonding with other, separating from others, sorting out the issues of good and bad, and growing up into adulthood.

So here we go with our last personality trait of God that we need to have evidenced in our own lives.

Listed below are some of the skills you will need in order to become your own master under God, for they are skills that will help you become a mature adult:

Skills For Becoming A Mature Adult:

Reevaluate Beliefs:
 We need to evaluate what we believe. We can't live our lives because of, as Dr. Cloud calls them, " inherited beliefs." We need to have adult faith. There must come a time when we question not only what we believe, but also why we believe what we believe. 

Dr Cloud points out that "we need to look into why we think what we think and why we believe what we believe. Is it because we really believe it, or because someone told us to believe it? We need to recognize  what is a belief of "tradition" versus what is a real heartfelt conviction from God, his Word, and our own experience. This questioning period could last a while. But, when we are through, we will have developed a mind of our own."

How many times have you spoke with somebody and they said, " this is what I've always believed," or " this is what my church has always taught," now this could be "right belief", or it could be "wrong belief," but the other question is why do you believe these things?

An adult faith is borne from careful study of God's word and having those truths penetrate our souls. The truth of God's word becomes how our world view is formed and shaped. An adult faith has had both the mind and the heart touched and informed by the transformative power of God's truth. 

Disagree with Authority Figures:
An adult has no issue disagreeing with others. We must develop the mindset that there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with others, in fact in order to be an adult we must disagree with others. Disagreeing with others gives us an identity---now keep in mind we don't disagree just for the sake of being contrary, nor do we disagree with an haughty attitude, nor do with disagree without having all the facts, that would just be foolishness. Disagreement is healthy, it is "ironing sharpening iron."

Discipline Yourself:
Cloud notes, "Adults discipline themselves. Proverbs says to "Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her way and be wise, which having no chief officer  or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest (6:6 NASB, italics mine). The key phrase here is "having no chief, officer or ruler." In other words, the ant is not under another ant's authority, yet takes responsibility for her tasks."

One can't be an adult without self discipline and that always starts with taking responsibility for your own actions. 

I sit on a youth advisory board for first time juvenile offenders--the one thing that we emphasize to those young teens is individual responsibility. As one teen sat before the board it was so refreshing to hear him tell the board, " I own up to what I did,  I take full responsibility for my actions, and I'm willing to accept any consequence from the board," wow, it sounded like music to my ears.

This makes me think of the passage in Romans "So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." (14:12). There is certainly the thread of individual responsibility woven throughout the entire Bible--and this verse in Romans is inescapable.

To God be the glory, great things He hathdone;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life, an atonement for sin,
And opened the lifegate, that all may go in.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Becoming an Adult

Becoming An Adult!

What is Adulthood?

This is the last section in our book "Changes That Heal." It is rather interesting when one considers that somewhere along the developmental line we became adults, or we should have become adults. That is the question that Dr. Cloud answers in the last section of his book---What is adulthood? The nature of the problem! and what happens when we fail to grow up?

How many people do you know that are really little children, okay some are teenagers, in a big persons body? We are all born children under adult authority, and over time we become the authorities, and we take charge of our own lives, free and independent of those that were our authorities.

Dr. Cloud  notes that, "becoming an adult is the process of moving out of a one-up/one -down relationship and into a peer relationship with other adults."

Again Cloud notes, " Adults who have not yet become "big people" feel one-down to their contemporaries, or they defensively take the position of being one-up on everyone else."

This issue has to do with authority and moving out from under the authority of your parents. At the heart of this issue is the family structure, for if parents (moms and dads) are enablers and never let their children fail and suffer the consequences of their actions they will inevitably create small children in big peoples bodies.

If parents parent passively then their children will never gain a sense of personal power and this can lead to all kinds of problems as the child grows into adulthood. If a parent does not teach a child how to "stand," how to be strong, and how to live independently the negative consequences will last a lifetime

Remember, our job as parents is to prepare our children for the real world. We as parents are to help our children reach adulthood---now that might be kinda hard if we as parents have not come into mature adulthood ourselves. God's plan for the home and the Church is that they reach full maturity---that they come into the fulness of the image of Christ.

 will deal with learning ways to become mature adults.

Monday, June 11, 2012

We need to assimilate both good and evil in order to be balanced and healthy

We all know that we live in an imperfect world. We all have experienced both good and bad in this world. We get unbalanced when we cannot accept the fact that there is both good and bad in the world.

In today's blog we will discuss some of the problems that can develop when we fail to recognize and assimilate the good and the bad into our daily lives:

We all have known somebody who displays an extreme striving for perfection in everything that they do, or you may be that individual that expects perfection from yourself, others, and the world around you. Those who are perfectionists are extremely demanding of themselves and those around them; they usually push people away from them due to their high standards and demands for perfection. The perfectionist is certainly an individual that has not been able to assimilate the good and the bad in the world--to the perfectionist it has to be all good--there is no room for the bad.

Inability to Tolerate Negative Feelings
This symptom can be so damaging on so many levels. When we deny our negative feelings we our limiting our ability to grow and mature. We cannot move away from our negative feelings, like anger, sadness, and disappointment; they are part of being human.God's word never tells us to ignore our feeling. Our feelings must be brought to the light of God's word and acknowledged.

Self-Image Problems
We need to be real warts and all. As Dr. Cloud notes, "The only way people can feel good about themselves, can have a good self-image, is to have the real self loved unconditionally. People who can't deal with good and bad can't bring the less-than-ideal parts of themselves into relationship and have them accepted. If this happens, they can't have a positive self-image because they are too afraid of the bad."

Let me list a few barriers to resolving good and bad:

Our View of Self

"I am really not worth loving."
Dr. Cloud notes that "people who have been unable to risk showing their real self to others may still think that they are unlovable, a belief they built in childhood. They don't realize that our "lovability" rests on the ability of the one doing the loving, not on our merit." 

While working in the foster cares system I came across so many boys and girls who felt that "they were not worth loving," there experiences led them to believe that they were not worth being loved. A young teenage girl that came into care from an extremely dysfunction home, said to me once " why doesn't anyone want me," it took everything I could from shedding a tear, (that's the man thing). 

"I am unforgivable."
Those who feel that they are unforgivable feel that they have committed the unpardonable sin. To them, they are the worst people in the world, their sin is outside the scope of God's forgiveness. Shame, guilt, and regret, are the weights that keep these people in emotional bondage. 

Our View of Others

"They will dislike me for my badness."
Dr. Cloud notes, " People who struggle with good and bad have learned that their badness will be hated or disliked. They view others as rejecting parents, quick to judge and slow to love. Because this fear keeps them from opening up, it cannot be disproven without new experiences. For this reason, confession to others is important." 

"They don't have feelings like this."
Often people who struggle with feelings of being bad think to themselves, " I'm the only one who struggles like this," it is so liberating for them to find out that we all struggle, we are all sinners, we all have our own weaknesses and emotional issues. 

Most of these negative feelings leave a person isolated from others which just continues them in their emotional dysfunctions. They feel that others will abandon them if they show "their true selves." 

Our View of God
"God expects me to be all good."
Growing up in a Fundamental Independent Separated Baptist Church I can certainly relate to those who view God as the person who sets all the rules and then just sits back and bangs you over the head when you mess up. 

Dr. Cloud put it so sufficiently when he says, "Nothing could be farther from the truth, but no distortion is more common than this one. God has said repeatedly that we are sinners, and he expects us to fall over and over again. He knows our frame, says the psalmist (Ps. 103:14). We must comprehend the way in which God sees us, both to be humbled away from our perfectionism and to be awestruck by his grace."

"God will reject me if I do..."
The Bible teaches that the follower of Christ is eternally secure. It is hard for those who have been loved conditionally to believe that God can love them as "they are." God's grace is inexhaustible, it is deeper than deep, it is higher than high, and you can never be bad enough to exhaust God's amazing grace.

Our last and final posts will deal with coming out of childhood and moving into adulthood. Many of us get stuck in childhood, as Dr. Cloud puts it, these ( one down relationships), cause the person to view themselves as inferior and childish. Our goal in this last post is to help us grow out of childhood and into real adulthood.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Understanding Good and Bad.

We need to understand good and bad. We need the ability to sort out the good and the bad. We live in a fallen world where both good and evil co-exist. In Changes That Heal we are told that in order to be healthy we need to have a world view that can assimilate both the good and the bad.

We have a natural tendency to try to separate good and bad; as Dr Cloud notes, "We want, by nature, to experience the good me, the good other, the good world as all good. To do this, we see the bad me, the bad other, the bad world, as all bad. This creates a split in our experience of ourselves, others, and the world around us--a split that is not based on reality and cannot stand the test of time and real life."

Many times new followers of Jesus fall into the trap of thinking that now, since they have become "new creatures in Christ," all of life will just magically fall into place for them. 

Kevin came to Christ as a young adult; he came out of a back-ground of alcohol and drugs, he grew up in the counter culture revolution of the 60s and 70s. When Kevin met his wife he planned for the perfect life--the "good life" the "ideal life," a life where bad did not exist with good, of course, how could bad be a part of his life, since he was now a Christian.

Kevin, indeed had the "good life," a steady job, a solid home church, and four healthy children. Kevin also had the ideal wife--a stay at home mom who was by all considered to be the ideal Proverbs 31 kinda of wife. But after the loss of his job which forced his wife into the job market, things began to unravel. Kevin started to question God on why these" bad things" were happening to him.

This led to despair and anger toward God. However, Keven finally came to realize that the Christian life does not promise us relief from any of the "bad" of this world. Kevin started to realize that in this world both bad and good do co-exist, and in order for him to be healthy and grow he must develop the ability to tolerate and deal simultaneously with the existence of both good and bad.

We must learn to live with the tension of both good and bad in this fallen broken world. We must find that balance in our lives that allows us to walk in the reality that not all is good, we must be able to tolerate badness, weakness, and failure in ourselves and others.

The follower of Christ can find much comfort in Ephesians 1:6 where the Apostle Paul tells us, " we are accepted in the beloved." For the believer the issue in not that we are bad when we do bad things and we are good when we do good things. The follower of Christ is in a constant "state of being loved" by God the Father. We confess our sin (1 John 1:9) to have our fellowship restored with our father---the same as telling your spouse that you are sorry for what you said or did, by doing this you restore or bring back your relationship into harmony

The believer does not walk in condemnation. The follower of Christ must realize that as long as he is in this world there will be bad---but we find our hope in the God of all grace who loves us unconditionally.

Our next post will deal with "when we fail to accept good and bad."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Setting Boundaries in our Lives

Before we move on to the next section of the necessity of understanding the difference between good and bad, I'll bring our session on understanding boundaries to a conclusion.

We need to understand that we are only responsible for our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors as Dr. Cloud says so often in our book "Changes That Heal," we are only responsible for our own backyard, we must not climb over the fence and rake our neighbor's yard, you are not responsible for his leaves; in other words, get your own leaves raked up, and stop taking responsibility for your neighbor's leaves.

Let me illustrate this principle. John and Mary had John's mother move in with them after the death of John's father. John's mother Kay would use guilt to try to get her own way when she wanted something. Kay would say things like, " are you leaving me alone again, you are always leaving me alone." This was a emotional manipulation by Kay to get John and Mary to do what she wanted them to do, namely, stay at home with her.

Persons that have learned how to set-up boundaries in their lives will not allow others to cross over into their backyard. You see setting up boundaries goes both ways--we do not go over into anothers' backyard neither do we allow others to come into our backyards.

Dr. Cloud notes, " Realizing our spiritual and emotional property line is the key to responsibility, freedom, and love."

Let me share a few methods for setting boundaries in your life.

Gain Awareness:
 Remember, setting boundaries is taking ownership of what is yours, so the first step to setting up boundaries is gaining awareness of who you are. Take inventory of you attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, abilities, choices, wants, and limits. If need be get out a notebook and begin to list list those things that make you you. Define who you are and then define who you are not.

Develop the "No" Muscle
Think of when children hit those "terrible twos," the one word that you will hear more than any other word is the word no. This is the stage in a toddler's life when they are finding their own identities; this is the stage when a toddler begins to separate from mommy and begins to become a person apart from mommy. One of the most important and difficult tasks in creating boundaries for most people is that they can not say no, and by not saying not we allow others to climb over our fence and control and manipulate our who we are.

Stop Blaming Others
Blaming others is a dead end street. Blaming others will never move you to healing and free you from bondage. We need to take responsibility for our own pain and stop blaming others. By not blaming others does not mean that others have not caused the pain; it just means that the pain is yours and you must deal with it.

Go to God's Word for Wisdom
 When we read the word of God we are listening to the mind of God. God is our creator and He has left for us the manual for how we ought to live. Now, I always add this disclaimer--the Bible is not a manual on how to be successful--no, the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ from the beginning to the end. But as we read God's word and do things the way that He has told us to do things we will reap the benefits of obedience. We will always reap what we sow.

Our next blog will deal with the ideal and the reality. We must understand the relationship between good and evil and God's plan for our lives as we live in a fallen world.


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Need For Boundaries.

Today, we'll be discussing the importance of being able to separate from others--this ability to find our own identities is what Dr. Cloud calls boundaries.

We're created as individuals, remember Psalm 139:14 "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." God also knows each of us as individuals, Jesus says to His follower in Matthew 10:30 that even the very hairs of our head are numbered.

One of the dysfunctions that I saw while doing social work was the Enmeshed family--these families are characterized by an extreme sense of closeness, so much so that almost any expression of independence or separateness is seen as disloyalty to the family.

Remember the movie the Godfather? Where the aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. Michael, the reluctant son has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father's business. Through Michael's life the nature of the family business becomes clear. The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family.

Michael  initially wants nothing to do with the "family business," but in the end loses his identity and becomes everything that his father ( Marlon Brando-The Don), was, and even worse.

How many people set no limits on others' control of themselves, they have no sense of personal boundaries and space, and they posses very little of what the Bible calls "will."

I've listened to many people, particularly as they get older, say, "I've finally learned the importance of saying no to people  in my life." By saying no we set boundaries in our lives, we keep our sense of who we are.

Dr. Cloud gives his definition of boundaries as: 

 lines or things that mark a limit, bound, or border. In a psychological sense boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we don not want. Boundaries, in short define us. In the same way that a physical boundary defines where a property line begins and ends, a psychological and spiritual boundary defines who we are and who we are not.

Dr. Cloud does a good job at presenting a biblical basis for boundaries. As we have mentioned in an earlier post about God being a bonded person. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always connected; they live in eternal oneness. However, God also in that unity has diversity--The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, separate persons. All three persons in the Godhead have different wills, ministries, and responsibilities, but at the same time maintain relationship and connectedness.

Another important Biblical basis for boundaries or separateness is seen in the fact that God is separate from his creation. Christianity does not teach the eastern worldview of pantheism. Pantheism is the worldview that says God is in the trees, waters, and in all of creation. Christianity does note teach that God is infused with his creation, God is not us and we are not God, God is separate and distinct from all his creation.

As Dr. Cloud notes, " [God] can have relationship with us, but is not us, and we are not him. Boundaries exist between our identities, wills, and responsibilities, He knows where he ends and we begin."

Keep this in mind, it is one of the benefits of understanding and establishing boundaries in your life--you are not responsible for others' feelings, attitudes or behaviors. When you develop a healthy sense of identity, and when boundaries are understood you become free and liberated--you realize that you are only responsible for your own backyard, you know not to jump over your neighbors fence and start raking up his leaves, even if it is unsightly and an eyesore.

We Set Boundaries With Our:

Attitudes: One aspect of our personhood is our attitudes. Dr. Cloud tells us that our attitudes are our opinions about or mental positions toward something. He continues and tells us " we are responsible for our own attitudes, for they exist inside of our property line."

I have to share Chuck Swindoll's axiom on attitude:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.

Behavior: Another aspect of our personhood is our behavior. God requires us to take responsibility for our own behavior. We must take ownership for what we do. When we take responsibility we begin to understand the law of "cause" and "effect." The Bible uses the words "reaping" and "sowing." When we realize when we behave in a certain way, certain things will inevitably happen, it gives a person a sense of control. 

Think of those in our society that are being raised without the law of cause and effect--they are constantly blaming "others" for their own ill-behaviors and life choices. They never come to the cross-roads where they take ownership for their behaviors.

Negative Assertions: We certainly know that we are defined by what we like, we say things like ," I like gardening" or "I like being a mother, father", or "grandparent," or "I like my pets." So, we assert who we are by saying what we like.

But we also fix our identity by asserting what we do not like, such as, " I hate it when someone acts phony" or " I hate math," or " I hate all the injustice in the world," by these negative statements we are defining ourselves by what we are against. 

Cloud notes, " Many people are not in touch with their "not-me" experiences. By being in touch with our "not-me" experiences, we further define ourselves to others and the world." 

Throughout the Bible we're presented a picture of God as what he is against and what he is for.  Let me provide one snapshot of the life of Christ. Jesus was for "worship that came form the heart." We see over and over that Jesus wanted his followers to worship him in "spirit" and "truth." Jesus wanted followers who honored him first from their hearts. 

Jesus was against those who spoke about honoring God, but their hearts were far from God--Jesus was against hypocrisy. Jesus was against those who were religious, but had no relationship with God. Jesus was against "putting on religious airs," Jesus was defined by being against those who were mere pretenders.

Our next post will deal with "learning how to set boundaries."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tools and Skill that are necessary for bonding and attachment.

Today's thoughts will be short. However, they are very important as Dr. Cloud gives us some skills or tools to learn how to bond.

I'll list the tools that Dr. Cloud talks about with a brief comment on each:

 Realize the Need
If you don't realize that your relational problems stem from a lack of bonding and attachment you can never begin to heal. Many of  us have grown up in families where closeness and bonding were not valued, and we may have been traumatized and have forgotten how to bond. In order for healing to happen one must realize the need for attachment.

Move Toward Others
Be intentional about making connection with others. For those who have difficulty bonding moving toward others can be very hard, but they must seek out others for help and support.

Be Vulnerable
We can move toward others, get socially involved and have people around us, but still remain isolated. The next step from moving toward others is being vulnerable. This is the hardest of all the skills to learn, the ability to be open and honest with others is for some people like jumping off a cliff. This step however must happen, if not all at once, then in little steps, cracking the door of you life open a little further every time.

Dr. Cloud remarks, "humility and vulnerability are absolutely necessary for bonding to take place at a deep level."

Rely on the Holy Spirit
We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to bring about real and Godly change to our lives. Since God is a relational God we need to strive to be relational in our dealings with those that God has placed in our lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to fight against old patterns of thinking and against the defense mechanisms that we erect in our minds that keep us from bonding with others.

Be Empathic
Dr. Cloud tells us that empathy is "the ability to share in anothers' emotions. thoughts, or feelings. Empathizing with others' needs, identifying with their hurt, softens your own heart."

Many times those who get close to others who are hurting find that they begin to heal and grow emotionally, and find it easier to connect with those around them.

The next several posts will deal with the need to separate from others. Dr. Cloud talks about the need to set boundaries in our lives. How many times have we allowed others to control us because we have not set the proper boundaries in our personal lives? How many times have we gotten stuck in bad relationships because we have failed to enforce good and healthy boundaries in our lives?

Spend some time thinking about how God sets boundaries in our lives for our good.

The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...