Breaking the Stronghold of Fear

See these women here? They’re about to change their world for good.

Because the way to bring positive change to the world at large is to first bring change  and healing to our personal world, our troubled souls, our deep hidden chambers of the heart. It’s the toughest work we’ll ever do, dealing with our past, our fears, our hurts and pain.

But nothing says  “Womens Liberation” better than to be freed up from the things that hold us back.

So at this Retreat, we first started with my workshop on Breaking the Stronghold of Fear. We talked about our First Fear– our first memory of trauma or loss, and the  resulting broken trust. Broken Trust causes a knee jerk reaction in us and in our subsequent relationships.

Many of us are still frozen back in that painful experience of trauma, and all other fears we later experience are layered over that initial experience where trust was broken and Fear entered in.

These layers of fear over fear can occur overtime until we are bound up by compulsions and unhealthy ways of coping–all resulting from the first fear that’s swallowing us up.

And then there’s the convoluted convictions we develop, that affect our relationships. These are the skewed negative “beliefs” that we have become convinced of, due to the trauma, that now dictate how we approach relationships and handle the ups and downs of learning to love and appropriately trust key people in our lives.

But we don’t do too well in these horizontal realtionships if we are reacting out of our past and having a hard time trusting the most Trustworthy person of all to help us–and that’s God.

Don’t believe the lies that God is out to get you, is angry at you, or is ready to catch you…when you’re doing something the least bit wrong. No, that’s not the God I know. Understanding God’s motive, his heart, and His plan for you will change everything.

It will change your world. It’ll change you. And then you will go out and change the world… for good.

It’s a journey. It involves the uncomfortable work of looking at your past and acknowledging the truth of any past trauma.  But the terror of your greatest nightmare, your worst fear, can not compare to the magnitude of God’s great, healing Love for you. So get ready.

It’s time to Break the Stronghold of Fear.

Revolutionize Your Dating Life With This One Word!

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward when it comes to first dates and new relationships. Most people anticipate their first date by shopping for a new outfit, trying out a new cologne, and getting the car washed. Some call and ask for advice from friends on how to approach the date, or where to take their date for the evening. Some even picture all the romantic moments to come and hope that they will soon feel the first stirrings of love.

But as we enter the dating scene, we encounter a world of challenges and we’re stretched beyond our early thoughts of how we thought it would be.  And while these preparations are helpful, there’s one word that can ultimately revolutionize your dating life: humility.

On The Way To Love

It takes genuine humility to participate in the process of meeting, connecting and falling in love because it takes an admission of our hopes and of who we are at the very core. Humility is not a word normally equated with having a healthy social life, mainly because it is often improperly defined and misapplied to our lives.

Humility isn’t about being down on yourself. It’s really about freedom – freedom from pride and conceit, freedom from performance anxiety, and freedom from the fear of being known. It’s about being realistic and appropriately vulnerable in our social connections. Christ is our role model when it comes to seeing how humility is fleshed out. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:29)

This freedom from arrogance can beautify your budding relationships. Dating with a humble attitude can actually revolutionize your dating life and bring you closer to the kind of healthy relationship that God can bless.

Here’s how:

…..

(Read the rest of my article at Believe

“Dating. Marriage. Relationships the Christian Way.”

Recovering From Rejection After A Big Breakup

Rejection is one of the hardest things to handle and the most insidious in the way it does damage to our self esteem. Things can appear to be going so well in a budding relationship, when all of a sudden you get a text or a phone call saying, “We need to talk.” When the phone call ends and so does the relationship, we can be left broken hearted and questioning our self worth. But it’s really not the Rejection itself that does the damage– it’s often what we believe about ourselves when we’ve been rejected.

Lost And Found

After a painful experience of rejection, we need a time of recuperation. Recuperation isn’t just about recovering from something; it’s also about regaining something. Often when we’ve been rejected, we lose our confidence, and our self esteem plummets.

In order to recuperate when you’ve been rejected, you’ve got to re-interpret that message of rejection and replace it with one that more accurately reflects the work of your ongoing personal growth and your hope of a lasting future relationship.

Here are 4 ways to replace the message of Rejection with the appropriate message of Hope:

(Read the rest of my Article at BELIEVE– “Dating. Marriage. Relationships the Christian Way.”)

Depression: How To Let the Light Into Your Darkness

Many Christians have battled depression, but few feel comfortable talking about this all too common problem. It’s often too deep for words, the darkness and sadness we feel. It can be caused by a clinical disorder that requires medical intervention. For many of us, though, depression is a complicated experience often having to do with our delayed response to a season of stress, grief or an earlier trauma in our lives that we never dealt with.

These dark places in our past leave memories we often don’t want to deal with or speak of, and that’s understandable. Unexpressed grief and sorrow, though, will only resurface in one way or another, often ushering in waves of depression. But there’s much healing and freedom when we bring these past painful experiences to the light.

Turn the Light On

Scripture tells us that in bringing our sorrows and grief to Christ, we can be comforted in knowing He understands our pain as he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). There’s no judgment when we come to God in prayer about our weakness or pain. God has a way to bring light into our dark situation, and it begins with a simple but powerful word—Confession.

Confession isn’t just about the admission of sin or mistakes we’ve made. It’s also about an admission of our own need, our own pain, and the truth of our painful experiences.

Confession is part of the labor of love that is necessary for proper self love or self care. It’s also part of the work we must do of grappling with grief—not ignoring it, not stuffing it, not denying it. It’s got to be done. And when you do, you turn the lights on inside you, and find that there is nothing hidden there that God can’t heal.

Here are 3 aspects of confession that we can incorporate into our lives that will help us when we are experiencing a season of depression…

(Read the rest of this post at  Believe)

3 Ways To Resolve Family Conflicts

Every family struggles, to some degree, with arguments and stress. When different personalities and different ages live together in one house, it isn’t hard to imagine how personal interactions can go wrong at times. Add in the challenge and blessing of creating a blended family or bringing your in-laws to live with you, and you may be experiencing a heightened level of stress in your home. But there’s hope for how to navigate these stressful times and bring peace to your home.

Open Doors

In our family, the tumultuous teen years were fun, yet also frustrating and stressful at times. My son and I, in particular, sometimes found it hard to get along and to understand each other. Often tempers flared, and there were plenty of outbursts and slammed doors.

At one point, after a stressful scene with him, I remember crying to a friend that I thought my son didn’t love me anymore. After we talked about it, I realized that the more important thing was that he felt I still loved him, not whether I felt loved.

When we present unconditional love and make ourselves approachable, even in times of stress, we are showing the utmost of grace. As Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” This grace provides the way for peace to reign in our home ultimately.

Besides offering unconditional love, here are 3 more ways to help bring peace and understanding in the midst of your family fights.

…Read the rest at Believe
“Dating. Marriage. Relationships the Christian Way.”

What Do You Have To Give Up For Love??

Before I met my husband, I had an active dating life. Going out on dates was exciting and fun … until it wasn’t anymore! I found out there was an aspect of my personality that my dates couldn’t seem to deal with. Inevitably, as the guy would be driving me home at the end of the first or second date, he would turn to me and say, “You know, you think too much!”

When that would happen, I knew the relationship was over before it had begun. How my mind worked, my creative, overly analytical self, wasn’t something I could change. But I often wondered if I should in order to make that relationship work.

We all know we have to make compromises in a healthy relationship. There’s no such thing as instant and complete compatibility. But there’s a difference between healthy compromises that are necessary, and having to change fundamental aspects of your personality just to make a relationship work! So, what exactly do you have to give up for love??

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Compromise is about reaching an agreement by each person making a type of concession or adjustment. In other words, we don’t get to have our own way all the time – and that’s actually good for us and for our growth as Christians. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” That’s good relationship advice.

The areas where we generally should compromise on are usually in the area of our need for always being in control or always being right. In learning to compromise in our dating relationships, we learn how to get out of our comfort zone and grow up. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When It Doesn’t Work

But sometimes, compromise is not the right approach to take. There may come a point in your relationship where you both hit a wall of differences too great to overcome. Beyond differences even, it may have to do with who you are, at your very core.

Here are some important areas you should not compromise on:…

(…Read the rest of my article at Believe !!)

The Sound of a Healthy Relationship

Nothing really shocks me when it comes to the reality of relationship problems many of us experience. So over the years, I’ve had the privilege of couples asking me to help spiritually counsel them in their troubled relationships. I’ve listened to women weeping, and men with averted eyes of pain, sharing their stories of relational breakdown. And the sound of weeping, angry words, and anguished questioning breaks my heart. It breaks God’s heart too.

But there is another sound that is literally music to my ears. It’s a secret, almost indiscernible sound that occurs in healthy relationships. And when I hear it, I get excited for that couple and their future. It’s not romantic music playing in the background or the sound of someone whispering sweet nothings in their partner’s ears.

Let me tell you about the sound of a couple on their way to growth, wholeness, and lasting love. Listen in as they talk to each other and deal with their baggage and their pain. Here’s what you’ll hear with your spiritual ears, if you listen carefully:

It’s the sound of chains falling. Bondages being broken.

When I see a couple that knows how to not only care for one another, forgive each other– yes, all that– but actually knows how to powerfully and prayerfully counsel each other, then I know that couple will make it. They will go the distance. They can overcome any obstacle, trial, or challenge in their relationship.

I Didn’t Sign Up for That!

You might say, “Lauren, I’m not a trained counselor! I didn’t sign up to do counseling when I got married.”

But you don’t have to have a Master’s degree to counsel your loved one. You don’t have to have thick psychology textbooks on hand to speak to your spouse the words that will break that despair they’re battling, that bondage they’re under. You just have to lovingly listen, and know the Bondage Breaker Himself, Jesus Christ. He will break every chain of deception and despair that’s on you. His Word speaks with authority.

And it’s not that you have to be a theologian and understand every nuance in every verse. The basic principles are there for even a child to understand: He is for us, not against us. He gave His life for us so that we can have abundant life. It’s His will that we forgive each other, bear with each other, love each other. And it’s not His will that we are in bondage to any secret sin, addiction, or pattern of defeat.

So here’s how you start: agree that you won’t ever lie to each other about what you’re personally battling. Agree that you both may have negative patterns developed from your past that need to be changed. And agree that in your relationship, you will pray for and fight for healing, wholeness and personal growth. Pray for that repeatedly.

And I’ll Be There…Always

Be committed to being each other’s counselor in the best sense of that word–because the Holy Spirit is our Counselor.

John 14:15-17 …I will ask the Father to give you another Helper, to be with you always. He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. But you recognize him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

The Holy Spirit comforts and helps us. He counsels and convicts us when we’re going off course. And while we don’t have the perfection of soul to convict someone of sin (leave that to God) there is something powerfully important about His ultimate function on earth: He is always with us. Ask God to help you function the same way, with your fiance or spouse. Commit to being there for them, always, in that same attitude.

Unstoppable

In our 33 years of marriage, Bill and I have counseled and comforted each other countless times. We have often joked about sending each other a bill for our counseling services rendered to each other. We’ve logged thousands and thousands of hours of prayerfully listening to each other unburden ourselves of hurts, fears, and painful memories from our past. And because of that trust built, the healing received, and the comfort of counsel given, we’ve become unstoppable as a married couple.

So reassure your spouse of your commitment to them. Tell your loved one, “I want to see you well. I want to see you whole. I want to see you walking in everything God has destined for you. And I’m not going to stop listening to you and praying and declaring that over you.

Let them hear you say that. Say it with conviction. And live it out.

Then get ready to hear that wonderful sound that lets the two of you know–you will make it: It’s the sound of Chains Falling.

BODY ON LOAN

There’s something ironic about a 55 year old woman discovering her body for the first time. And no, this is not a sexual tell all. This is a story about death and life, fat and muscles, despair and hope.

I’ve put my body through a lot over the years: two high risk pregnancies and births, a week in the cardiac unit when I was only 25, the more recent debilitating side effects of Graves Disease and resulting heart complications and weight fluctuations. These have all taken their toll on this body of mine. I know many people have had health challenges far worse than mine. Still, I didn’t do that great of a job taking care of my physical body. I had never realized the cooperative nature, the reciprocal relationship, of me taking care of my body–so that my body could take care of me.

I have seen the human body literally shrivel up and die, before my very eyes. Several years ago, my husband and I were suddenly thrust into full time caretaker roles when his mother suffered a massive stroke and his 93 year old father had just begun to be bed ridden. The next thing I knew, we were dealing with adult diapers, hospice nurses coming into the house, feedings, medicine being dispensed around the clock, and the sense that we were caught up in something we were unprepared for but could not escape. And neither could they.

It was a whirlwind of paperwork, visits, and conversations with nurses as to the speed of their decline, and most of all, a sense of great loss, anxiety, and dread. For some people nearing the end, there are murmured words of affection, and reminiscing together over sweet times and tender memories. But they were not in a state to talk or reminisce, or murmur words of love. We held their veined, translucent hands and talked to them but I don’t know how much they understood. Their bodies deteriorated quickly. Skin became paper thin. Their eyes lost focus. Their decline was not a scene you would want to remember foremost in your mind. But in reality, it was just their physical bodies that spiraled towards death. I knew they were still vibrant people, generous and kind, in their hearts. Just as we knew God was still faithful and kind, even in this very devastating scene. Those truths, my husband and I held onto.

In the midst of this dark scene, I was dealing with some serious health issues myself. Doctors evaluated my racing heart, blood pressure spikes, my nervousness, and tremors. The diagnosis of Graves Disease, an endocrine disorder, had me feeling like I was having a nervous breakdown. In addition, my past experience I had had with Pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of my heart, was re evaluated and we questioned what damage had been done to my heart.

My physical body was in revolt against me. But it was a wakeup call for me. Suddenly I had a desperate will to live and thrive, even as my in-laws were dying in front of me. This juxtaposition of life and death, fighting for it and failing, got to me. I had never thought much of protecting my body. I had never been its advocate, really. As long as it worked fine, as long as it didn’t work against me, I ignored it. I had carelessly accepted how it housed my soul. I didn’t plan or prepare how to help it weather life’s storms. I hadn’t thought of its needs.

Now I realized I had to change that thinking. I was given this wake-up call during the short months my in-laws were finishing their journey on this earth. This, perhaps, was their final wordless gift to me.

This wakeup call culminated in an epiphany, two years after their passing. I looked at my own body in the mirror and realized it was going to take a journey to the end as well. My body would be reaching an expiration date in the years ahead. It would only get older. It would only get weaker. Or so I thought. Until one day last fall when it hit me—did I need to cooperate so passively with the decline of my body?

Did resignation have to lead the way?

So I joined the gym back in September. With my Graves Disease in temporary remission and my blood pressure under control, I had no excuses why I couldn’t at least perk up my old body a little. Give it a tune up, even if I couldn’t give it an overall over haul. But something happened in those early weeks of lifting weights, being on the tread mill, going to exercise classes: I started to admire my body. Or I should say, I started to admire the body God had loaned to me. He made it, after all. He designed it. And the physical body is a beautiful thing.

I decided my body could become fit, more muscular and toned. It wasn’t an egotistical quest. It was more of a release I was giving my body; a permission to show its strength and let me marvel at its capabilities. I had always admired my husband’s muscles, his strong back, his thick powerful legs. It had never occurred to me, before, that I could have these same glorious muscles; to not only work with this body on loan to me, but to actually work it out.

Oh I had done daily walks, and I had, in years past, done some mild exercise from time to time. But never had I pressed my body to its limits. Never had I worked to actually develop muscles. Never had I consistently worked my body out and smiled at the end of an hour and a half, because my body had done so well. Good body, I would silently praise it, after a good hard work out. Good job, I’d affirm it.

My body loves to exercise now; even if I don’t. This body of mine wants to show off muscle and sinew. It begs for a work out now, when 4pm rolls around. And my mind doesn’t mind the routine either. I do a lot of thinking and dreaming on the tread mill. I do a lot of breathing and counting when I’m pumping some iron.

I do a lot of living, at the gym. And it makes up for the scenes of death and dying that I have experienced, and will still experience more of, in the future.

You know that song, Love the One you’re with? I think we should take that advice. And start by loving the body that’s with you for your entire life. Your physical body is not going anywhere until you draw your last breath. It’s your best friend, so to speak. You might want to try being friendlier to your body.

It was strange to receive the cremated remains of both my in laws. They had donated their body to the local teaching hospital so that it might help their research on diseases. That was how my in laws had lived their lives, with other people and their needs on their minds. They were sacrificial and caring, generous and kind. I remember the day the hospital sent first the cremated remains of my mother in law (her body, apparently, didn’t hold as much fascination for them as my father-in-law’s physical body because his, they kept for over a year. He was 95 when he drew his last breath.)

My husband and I opened the cardboard box it had been shipped in and took out the urn. Mo mother in law had loaned her body to science and now her body was returned to us, in ashes that would be returned to the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. It wasn’t such a tragic, scary thought anymore, this cycle of life.

I’m learning to love this body of mine. And I don’t mean that in the sense of needing to accept my weight or physical appearance. Who cares about stretch marks or moles when you’ve got a body to live in and you’re still breathing? When you get a chance to live, right here, right now?

It’s more that I realize this body is just on loan to me. I can pump some iron and make this body stronger, or I can let it go weak and flabby. I can get on a treadmill and feel my heart beat furiously or I can lay in bed for hours and let it get all squishy. It’ll pretty much become whatever I want it to become. And lately, at the age of 55, I’ve decided I want my body to be a fine running machine, like a sleek sports car but without all the pizzazz. I’ll settle for strong bones, beating heart, arm muscles that can lift bags of groceries or support the aging back of my own 90 year old mother. I’m watching her body decline before my eyes. As I do, I’m working out my body more than I ever have before. But not because I’m trying to furiously beat the inevitable physical decline. I know that happens to us all.

I’m just realizing my poor body hasn’t had the challenges its needed. It hasn’t gotten used up enough. It hasn’t been flexed and worked out enough. There’s so much more this body can do. I feel sad for having deprived it of the opportunities to climb, run, lift, stretch, pull, to its maximum capacity. I owe my physical body a profuse apology.

I’ve come to see that this body on loan to me is a gift from God. He said I could do whatever I want with it. But like an ignorant silly child who takes an expensive complicated toy and just bangs it on the floor, I have not understood what this body can do, what it was meant for, what it begs for.

I’ve been a poor host to this body on loan to me. And I’m changing that.

For as long as I can, for as long as it will hold out, this body will get the excitement, physical challenges, exercise and nutrition that it deserves. I’m not only going to take care of it, I’m going to enjoy what it can do.

I’ve got a relationship with my physical body. And its not going to be a love-hate one. I don’t have time for that. And neither do you.

No, this will be a harmonious relationship, that my body and I will have; a relationship of appreciation and respect –and even tenderness. Later when my body has done its work and it is declining its way to the dust of the earth once more, I hope to hear some good news as I approach heaven’s gates.

And the “well done” I want to hear from God won’t just be all about my faith, my words and actions towards others. It’ll also be about the stewardship of this life God gave me, and that includes the body God loaned to me for the time I was on earth. I want to make God proud. And I think of that each time my muscles flex and I lift a weight upward, towards heaven.

Falling Like Rain: BREAK UPS

I love old maxims and proverbs, things like “Into every life a little rain must fall.” But I have a new saying of my own for all my single, dating friends out there, experiencing hope and heart ache–

Into every life, a little Relationship must fall.

Little Relationships are Relationships that are puny in perspective,  and powerless to go the distance. They’re short-legged because they run out of steam from rushing ahead with emotion only to find there’s no substance after just one week of dating or after just one major disagreement. The first major fight you have, he’s all shaken up. She thinks the sky is falling.

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