Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Owen's return to Joy from Fear


Have you ever been stuck in life? You couldn't get yourself to do something because your emotions held you back? Courage is what happens when we join hearts in moments of fear, discovering God's presence in ourselves and each other. Jesus is in our midst. He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. Behold (notice) I am with you always!

 Several weeks ago, my 7 year old son Owen fell at the pool, he was badly scraped up. I held him, heart-to-heart, while my wife, Dawn, got bandages. I could feel him calm as our breathing matched and our hearts beat together. Our closeness helped him get through that moment, but there was a week of painful healing ahead of us, with lots of crying over changing bandages. 

One week later, we went for our first time back at our pool. Owen had not put on his bathing suit before we left home. I could feel the unusual discomfort in him as he said, “I don't want to swim today. Not today.”

 I let it go. It's cool outside; not much time here anyway. I dove in and began to swim laps. I saw Owen playing in a puddle with a tennis ball at the edge. He seemed content enough, yet I felt troubled as I swam. Something is not right here. And then I felt it, as I looked at the edge of the pool. This was where he fell a week ago. I could sense in my body that intense fear and the hot flash of anguish that came upon me in the instant I saw him tumble across the corner and hit the rough cement. He could have been hurt much worse.

 Oh dear Jesus, I prayed as I swam to the side, he's being triggered by that memory. That's why he doesn't want to swim! How can we help him work through this?

 Owen stood and bounced the ball in a puddle and I asked him about it. "Buddy? Are you feeling scared because you remember when you fell here?" 

He nodded, “Yeah, I guess so. I don't want to swim.” 

I could feel in me the concern and tension rising as I tread water clinging to the side of the pool. "That was really hard wasn't it? You’re healed now though, no more bandages."

Bounce went the ball. 

I remembered the time when he fell while trying to learn to ride a bike, more than a year ago. He got the smallest scrape on his knee, and still hasn't been willing to throw a leg over and try again. I want to help him overcome his fears, but I know that if I focus on the outcome, rather than his feelings, I'll lose him.

 "You even went swimming in that pool at the party yesterday. That was so brave." 

"Yeah, but that was that pool. It wasn’t this pool" he said. And I could feel the hesitation in his voice. I could sense he needed space, so I swam another lap and then came back to him.

“You fell when you were jumping that corner right there didn't you?” 
“Yeah, that's where it was.” 
“Was Jesus there when it happened?” 
“Yeah, He was there.” 
I remembered how I held him as he cried and twitched in pain, hoping that he felt God’s love through me.

Bounce went the ball, splash in the puddle. 

"You know, you could go to your garden to be with Jesus there." We both identify strongly with the garden and fountain imagery of scripture and often meet Jesus in that context as we pray together.

 He threw the ball in the pool and it made a bigger splash. I handed it back to him. He said, "Yeah, I have a swimming pool in my garden too, like this one, but the diving board is triple high, much bigger than that one." 

Oh! He's feeling brave in his heart.

 When I was a child I was afraid of the dark, the basement, swimming in strange pools, seaweed, going to the bathroom at school, you name it. My family didn't understand my fear very well. They laughed at my silliness, they tried to fix, they shook their heads in confusion, but they didn't know how to attune to my feelings. Who wants to be with someone else in their irrational fear? I’m not sure that I know how to do this, for Owen, but I want to learn.

 "You know, you fell from outside the pool, you'd be less likely to fall again if you came into the pool." I let him ponder this logic as I swam away again. When I came up for a breather on my next lap, I saw no sign of him. Oh no! Was my logic too insensitive? Did you run away? “Owen!” I called his name but got no answer.

So I got out to look for him and found him hanging his head as he sat far from the pool on the picnic bench. I could feel his sadness and shame, I could feel it in my own chest. I was a little discouraged, but not done yet. Dripping wet, I sat down next to him. I wanted to pray with him and lead him to Jesus to listen, but the voice in my heart said, “You lead him.” 

So I said, “That was really hard when you got hurt wasn't it?” And then I got quiet. 


“Yeah”, he nodded. 

Gently I said, “I was so scared when I saw that you had fallen” Silence. “Were you scared too?” 

Often Owen will get angry with me when I try to draw out his feelings, but this time he didn’t. We sat there, looking down at our knees. He showed me his mostly healed wound and I could still see the place where the puncture had been deepest. Then he shifted. Something changed about his whole demeanor and he stood up and said, “I want to put my suit on and go swimming now.” 

And he did. And we did. 

We swam short laps in the shallow end. He gave me high-fives at water level and splashed me in the face each time we took a breather at the edge. He even began to swim the butterfly, a stroke I've never seen him try before. I was surprised and overjoyed at his enthusiasm. Together we had made it through a trauma, and returned to joy.


This story may not seem like much to you, but for me it is a milestone. My parenting style was manipulative by default when my kids were born. I only knew how to use threats, arguments, or rewards to try to get them to do things. They didn’t really trust me enough to connect with me when I tried to feel their feelings with them. I didn’t know how to change that bad habit of mine. I’ve now learned that it is our secure emotional bond that gives me influence in my children’s lives. It’s not about outcomes; it’s about sharing our hearts. The practice of joyful connection, and learning how to attune with the feelings of others, has taken me on a journey into my children’s hearts. Where before I only had a kind of parental logic that never helped, now I have this pull in my heart to feel their feelings with them, attune to their hearts, and walk through things together.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Inner Voice of Love



As you realize a desire for companionship in all that you do, 
you are beginning to respond in your heart to who I really am. 

I am love. 
So that means I desire relationship with you more than anything else. 
I created you for camaraderie and companionship, 
with me and with the people in your life. 

This is the reason behind the greatest word I have spoken. 
Love me with all your heart and love you neighbor as yourself. 
It's not just a directive or a commandment; 
it is a description of my state of being with you and in you. 

When you stand on the shore beside a friend 
and look out at the waves together, 
you decide to go out into that ocean because you are together in it. 
This is my love at work drawing you into all the energy 
of doing something that you may never have done alone. 
That is how it is with you and me. 
Without my divine energeia, my dunamis, you may do nothing, 
but in our camaraderie there is nothing that you need to fear. 
So you can go forward into many adventures, 
calling others alongside you 
because of my holy embrace of you 
in all my energy and passion.

I made your heart for adventure. 
You dampen this with false religion 
if you believe that fun and challenge 
are not what I have called you to. 
You are disobeying your heart’s desire 
and so becoming less effective 
because you reject the dreams I have placed in you. 

So I am calling you into this adventure. 
I want to live through you as you invite others 
into the joy of knowing me in all that gives them joy. 

In the midst of all the beauty that I have made 
I call to you to live out the dream of my energy 
in your body, 
in your mind, 
from your spirit where you dwell with me forever. 

In whatever you do I call you to know me and be fully known.

Owen's Fall: Return to Joy


Attunement: Helping my son through a traumatic memory. 

We were going to the pool the other day, but my 7 year old son Owen wouldn't put his bathing suit on. I was a bit frustrated over this, but I brought it to the pool anyway. When we got there I asked him to to "go get your suit on" but he said “No! I'm not going in the pool today” with a very willful attitude. “Okay, fine!” I thought. He does what he wants. 

 He got out a tennis ball and begin to bounce it in a puddle by the side of the pool as I dove in to swim a few laps. As I was coming up for air, I looked over at him and I had a memory. A week ago he had fallen over the corner of the pool as he was running and badly hurt his knee and the bottoms of his feet with cuts on the rough cement. He had been bandaged up all week. Looking at him, Jesus spoke in my heart and made it clear that my son was traumatized by what had happened and that this is why he wouldn't go in the pool. I swam over to him and begin to ask him about what he was feeling. 

“Are you remembering when you fell in the pool last week? That was scary wasn't it?” He didn't respond much. He just began to splash the ball into the pool. Each time he did, I grabbed it and handed it back to him. 

 In that moment, I had a tiny flashback to when I was a child and would not go in the pool because I was afraid. The adults in my life did not know to help me through my fear, but rather tried to force it. It was a horrible scene with screaming and pulling. Right now, I wanted to be with my son in what he was feeling, and I knew that any kind of force was not the best option.

 I decided to share some of my feelings on the matter to see if I could help him work through it. “You know Owen, when I saw you fall I was really scared.” Even as I said it I could recall the heartrending feeling of seeing my child fall and how my heart dropped about 2 feet and the kind of hot flash went over my whole body as I hurriedly jumped out of the pool and ran to pick him and hold him in my lap as he cried. It had been a very traumatic experience for both of us, but I had stayed calm and held him quietly in the pain.

 In the present moment, I gave him a little bit of time to ponder what had happened and then I asked him. 

“Was Jesus with you then when you fell and hurt yourself?” 
“Yes, he was with me”, Owen said. 

I paused for another moment or two, remembering how Owen had cried as I held him to me and then asked him, “Can you find Jesus in the garden of your heart right now?” Owen looked up at the spot where he had fallen and said, “There's a pool just like this one in my garden. It has a bigger diving board though, three times bigger.”

I said, “Owie, You went in the other pool at that party yesterday. The bandages are off now and your cuts are all dried out.”

 He looked at me and said, “Yes, but that was that pool this is this pool.” 

 I could see that he was clearly not going in because of the memory of what happened in this place. It was being triggered from his unconscious. Owen has so many places in his life where fear keeps him stuck. I so badly wanted to help him through this, but I didn’t want to push it. I knew inside that I just needed to be patient.

 And with that I had a somewhat logical thought. I probably shouldn't have said it, but I did. “You know Owen, when you fell you were running outside the pool. That's why we shouldn't run, but if you came in the pool now you'd be in less danger of falling and hurting yourself.” Even as I said it I knew it was not going to be helpful.

Maybe that’s why I swam away from him. 

When I came up for air at the far end of the pool I looked to where he had been happily playing with his tennis ball and he was gone. Oh great. 

A kind of fear struck my heart then. My informing him of the chances of being hurt was not helpful. Have I totally messed this up?  I looked to see if he was nearby, but I couldn't see him anywhere. I felt a kind of catch in my throat, wondering where he was. I looked over to the playground, perhaps he was there but I didn't see him. Finally I climbed out of the pool and found him in the area where we had put our things down by a picnic bench. He was sitting there with his head hung low. I wondered if he was feeling ashamed. I sat down next to him, “That was really hard when you fell wasn't it? It's been a hard week with those bandages having to come off every day.”

“Yeah”, he said. I knew I just wanted to be with him in the feelings, but I didn’t know how.

 I put my hand on his shoulder and just waited. He never really did express his feelings very much. He just looked up at me and said. “I want to go get my bathing suit on now.”

I knew that we were home free as soon as I saw him shrugging his arms out of the shirt sleeves, the way kids do. I jumped back in the pool and we swam laps in the shallow end. Owen swam better than I've seen before and we gave each other high fives every time we came up for a rest by the wall. He would slap my hands with them halfway in the water, splashing me in the face and we both laughed joyfully every time as I sputtered and coughed.

This story may not seem like much to you, but for me it is a milestone. My parenting style was manipulative by default when my kids were born. I only knew how to use threats, arguments, or rewards to try to get them to do things. I didn’t know how to change that bad habit of mine. I’ve now learned that it is our secure emotional bond that gives me influence in my children’s lives. It’s not about outcomes, it’s about sharing our hearts. The practice of joyful connection, and learning how to attune with the feelings of others, has taken me on a journey into my children’s hearts. Where before I only had a kind of parental logic that never helped, now I have this pull in my heart to feel their feelings with them, attune to their hearts, and walk through things together.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Understanding Joy, Grace and Shalom

Understanding Joy, Grace and Shalom
"It is important to notice that Joy, Grace and Shalom are all members of one family. Joy is not the same thing as her sister Grace or her sister Shalom. Because the members of this family are so closely related it is easy to be confused about who they are. Understanding this little biblical family helps us make sense of Bible teaching about Joy, Grace and Shalom (peace).

 In the Greek language of the New Testament, Joy and Grace are two forms of the same word. Grace is the third declension form and Joy is the first declension form. Joy is the response to Grace. Since most of us have not heard the word Grace except in the definition of "unmerited favor,” we can miss the connection. The best translation of grace into English these days is not the old word "favor" but the word "special." Grace is therefore being really, really special to someone. “Unmerited" means "without having to work for it” so we are very, very special to someone without having to work for it. This is exactly what a baby receives from a loving family, total delight that the baby is very special just the way she or he is. No work by baby is required for smiles, coos, giggles, feeding and Joy. Joy is the response to being the really special one. These two go together, being very special without earning it and total Joy. God cares deeply about joy. Joy is our response to God's grace. In the Psalms we find that God expects our response to God's grace to be high-energy Joy!"


Joy and the power of God’s Grace, Christ IN Us.
At Grace Ministries we have often defined grace as the indwelling power of Christ working with in our weakness to enable us to be our full selves in Him. As Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:9 "But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  

I am now seeing that this joy of the Father over us is a good way of understanding what empowers our lives as believers. The spirit of Jesus in us reveals this joy when we turn to Him. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain runs on joy (Someone is glad to be with me). Building on this concept, it makes perfect sense that God designed us to know His special favor for us as the source of our mental and emotional energy.  When we see the fullness of the work of Jesus to reveal the Father as Love to us, we see the glory of this joy filled relationship that is ours because of Christ. Jesus said it this way in John 17:3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." 

This kind of knowing is far more than information, it is an intimate  connection. To know the Father and the Son like this is to know their joy over us, and that is what empowers us to be who we are!

The angels announced this joy and God’s special favor at the birth of Jesus:

“I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people . . . Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

That pleasure of the Father over us (rejoice, your Papa loves you!) is the good news that Jesus came to reveal for all to enjoy.

Jesus went to the cross anticipating the joy between us which His work would unveil:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Her. 12:2

When we look at Him, face to face, fixing our eyes on His loving gaze, we experience the joy for which He died and rose to bring us home. That is the energy of God’s special favor that inspires our perspective and gives us hope and direction in our lives. Christ in us, giving us the awareness of His presence and His perspective every moment, is the inspiration, the power and the peace that allows us to live out our true identity as God’s beloved children.

This is the message I teach, and it is the experience which I introduce through prayer to each person that God brings my way. Our hearts can only rest in Him, when we know from the spirit how it is between our Father and us.



As we appreciate the importance of how glad Jesus is to just be with us, we experience a total shift in our outlook, from a fear based problem focus (religious legalism), to a desire based relational focus (trust and grace).

In this “relational mode” we learn how to deal with difficult emotions, to see the characteristics of our hearts and how to forgive from a new perspective, how to act like ourselves in tough situations, and how to pass on some of what we are experiencing to the people in our lives.

When we learn to focus on seeing what God sees, it changes the way we see ourselves. I have always been passionate about helping people to discover their Identity in Christ. Now I experience the reality of Jesus teaching us our identity together as we sit with Him and wait upon His Spirit in our hearts. What amazing things He can accomplish in such a short time as He touches and heals us.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thrive Training Year One Overview.

Thrive Training Track I : Our year in review. 

Our track one training has been so satisfying. Learning to notice our children's attachment lights (bonding center in their brain) was a great experience early on for Dawn and I. We can feel them growing more secure with us as we pay attention to their needs for both attachment and space. Another highlight has been the exercises on noticing overwhelm in others. I grew up in a family that was constantly overwhelming each other and so my habits were very bad in this area. It is taking me a lot of practice but I am learning to see very clearly and instinctively when I am overwhelming someone else. Getting myself to take a pause is such a satisfying way of building trust with them.

 As my wife and I have learned to build joy with each other and included the children in our practice, we have all become so much more connected and playful in our times together. We find ourselves singing our prayer of Thanksgiving before dinner and sharing joy with our eyes as we do so. What a blessing.

 Learning to tell return to Joy stories has been very very helpful as well, though I am still in the middle of that process and have a lot of practice needed. It does feel so good to have a pathway back to joy and a story to tell within my mind and too the person in front of me. Learning to turn to Jesus to see what it is like me to do in each emotion has been amazing and transformative. I find myself calm in the midst of situations where normally I would've completely lost it in the past. I'm I find myself simply aware of what is going on instead of lost in a panic.

 Going through a childhood inventory and getting a sense of the presence of Jesus in each trauma has also been very fruitful. I’ve seen healing in some areas from getting together to pray with my wife and sensing the presence of Jesus in those memories. Still more healing needed though, so I’m hopeful in the process.

 I would say that the most challenging part has been looking at maturity work. Seeing the gaps in my maturity, and taking the steps to do the tasks and needs has been a slow process. I'm so grateful that I have two groups of elders in my life who are available to me to help me learn in the areas where I am lacking. Learning to synchronize with a group is challenging to me, but I'm getting lots of feedback about how to notice what others are feeling and needing in the group setting.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bouyancy

April 23, 2013

Me to Jesus: I deeply desire to teach what you have been showing me in counseling and my personal journey and practice.  

 Jesus to me: Life in my spirit is poetry and music and story and song! I am your creator. Moment by moment I pour my heart out into our life together, and that means love. My love includes brilliant ideas, beautiful images, stunning landscapes, inspiring words, breathing characters, soothing tones and vibrant colors. My compassion inspires the gentlest observations and the most sensitive listening. My patience is incredibly perceptive and meticulous with the most minute details of your life. My peace, our peace, captures the stillness and solitude of total joy and contentment in our unique passion to simply be together. My glory manifests in you as much in labor as at rest, and shines brightest when you simply experience and exhibit my love. Oh small ship on the sea of my love, feel the buoyancy and rejoice!

Rumi : Buoyancy.

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating
No strength but yours, but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable, chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That is how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
quickly reduced to smoke and ash.

I saw you and became that empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence.

The sky is blue.
The world is a blind man sitting beside the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond the blue and the blind man.

A great soul hides like Muhammad or Jesus
moving through a crowd in a city where no one knows him.

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the journey goes on,
and no one knows where.

Just to be held by the ocean
is the best luck we could have.
It is a total waking up.

Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?
It does not matter how long we have been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness around you.
the buoyancy.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Come Out of Your Inner World



Good morning Charles I love you! that was a great ride wasn't it? Cold, beautiful. I know you want to be more connected to me every time you ride. I'm so glad you learned to do appreciation for the world around you and within you, so that your mind can turn to me more and more. I know your rides are lonely without your friend Mark, but I am with you. When you turn your mind to me, you know that you are not alone, and the pain subsides. 

 Let my love teach you to take the risk of coming out of your inner world and meeting with other people right where they are. You woke this morning desiring to pay more attention to your boys, not because they need it, but because it is your father's heart to do so. Don't try to enjoy them, instead notice that you are enjoying them with me. Let the same be true for Dawn. Let your breathing be your guide as you listen to her. Release the fear and arrogance of being solipsistic and come out of your inner world to enter the joyful worlds of others. This is how it is between you and I as we learn and grow together.

 Charles you heard yesterday that if you want to feel special in someone's eyes, as an adult, you learn to let my life flow through you and into their lives. This is the source of your true specialness, and it is a glory to behold. You have a beautiful part to play in my kingdom and I have been teaching you to play it for a long time.

 Listen with fascinated attention as other people put their lives on display before you. You do not need to put your life before them, because you live your life in my presence always beholding my adoration and being beheld by me in all your richness.

 Let your heart sing quietly on the inside as you discover with great joy each person right in front of you. This is my spirit of power and love and a sound mind!