Mad At God? What’s Your Reason?

Images courtesy of Microsoft

Madatgod

As someone in full time ministry it is very important to keep the joy levels high in my marriage and family as well as to be fruitful and productive in ministry. As a counselor I work with a lot of adults whose parents were in ministry as they were growing up. They are angry at God because they perceive that God took Dad away or Mom away when they were younger.

Serving my family blesses my ministry

Many of us as pastors and leaders are very goal oriented. If you are like me, you have a “to do” list and it feels very good to check things off your list! However, serving family, actually makes everything else better—especially your ministry. As your joy levels grow, personally as well as with your spouse and children, your higher joy levels give you more availability to serve other people.

Serving FamilyWhen I look at that to-do list and see the projects on my plate, the number of appointments that I have to keep…those pressures are real! And, wherever there are people there are going to be relational problems and real and urgent needs. For example, for those of you who are tender and compassionate, your mercy hearts feel other people’s pain. When there are problems, you want to fix those problems. There is always this tension that exists— How do I protect my time with my family to keep my joy levels high, and be productive at serving the people and comforting those who are hurting? Within that tension, the goal is to keep your joy levels higher than your distress levels!

When distress levels are higher than joy levels

Help

  • You go into “problem solving mode.” Problems become bigger than relationships. It is very easy to lose sight of what is important.
  • You live in the moment instead of remembering what is important. When you don’t know how to turn off the problem solving mode, you bring your work home with you.
  • Attention is elsewhere even though you might be spending time with your spouse and children, your mind is somewhere else.

The challenge is how to turn it off!

I don’t see problem solving as a switch to turn on or off. Rather, growing joy will give you strength to shift your focus so that when you are with your wife and children Off Switchyou are not still in your office mentally, dealing with projects or  emails, etc.

There was a point when my wife, Jen, and I were first married, that I was under a LOT of stress and on the verge of burnout. The turning point came when meeting with a pastor friend. He said, “Chris, God doesn’t need you. He chooses to use you as His witness.” I remember  saying, “Yes, of course, God doesn’t NEED me that is obvious.” But something inside still felt responsible to fix all the problems that were in my life and ministry at that point. It was miserable trying to keep a joyful foundation for my marriage and dealing with too many things, too many problems, and too much weight on my shoulders. I just didn’t feel that I could carry it all.

The weight of responsibility I was feeling impacted my health and marriage. It impacted what I had to offer at home because I was unable to let it go when I came home. I still felt responsible for the outcome of the situations even though they were not my responsibility. God had entrusted me to be attentive in those situations, but not to be responsible for the outcome. The weight was more than God had asked me to take on and my distress levels became greater than my joy levels. That meant making some drastic decisions to change our life in order to more proactively grow more joy.

An issue of maturity? I also had to take a really hard look at my own maturity. I came to understood that I was working and taking on tasks that were outside the range of my maturity and when you do that you can expect that you will crack in those places of immaturity. That was a hard time.

I can say that most of the pastors I work with feel that they are walking that line of “on the verge” of burnout or feeling they are already within the range of burnout.

What do you want your legacy to be?

One of the questions I ask leaders is, “When you look back on your life, what do you want to see? What do you want your legacy to be?” Summarize—give me three words. What are your three words?

My three words would be:

FAITHFUL: I want to be faithful with what God has given me, especially with my wife and my children and my ministry—whatever God has entrusted to me…and to have clarity on that. I want to be faithful.

AVAILABLE: I also want my children to grow up and say, “Dad, you were there when I needed you.” I want to be able to hear and know that I was available for my wife and boys, not absent. I want to be available and loving.

LOVING: Part of being available is also to express my heart so that my family knows that they are loved. Children feel loved when Mom and Dad are available. If we are not available for our children, especially when they are young, they are not going to feel loved, by me/us or by God.

In growing joy you have to be available emotionally and be mentally present to interact and attune to your family. There is no UNDO button in life! There is no REPLAY to play something over with your family. Family time cannot be regained. What we have is very limited and it goes very quickly.

Action Step—Questions to keep in mind as you are active in your ministries
  • Am I spending enough time to grow joy with my family because I don’t want regrets.
  • I don’t want my children to grow up and say “God took dad/mom away. Dad/Mom wasn’t really there.”

In thinking about your legacy, how did your parents influence your image of God? Please share your glory story to encourage others. Or, if you overcame a negative situation, be sure to include how God redeemed it!

Blessings, Chris, M.A. Theology                  www.thrivetoday.org/pastorsweekly.html

P.S. Big Announcement!

At the Thrive Applications Training the new book, Joy Starts Here will be released! The Beta Version is available NOW! Pastors and Leaders you can get your BETA VERSION here http://joystartshere.com/.

Addictions–Is Your “Zero Factor” Doing You In?

ZeroFactorImage courtesy of Microsoft

“I experienced tremendous success, accolades, rewards, etc. in all sorts of areas of life and yet, at the end of the day, even with all that success I still felt like a total zero. Is your “zero factor” doing you in? I was the poster child for “The Zero Factor.” (Today’s blog based upon a talk given by Darrell Bazell for Pastor’s Weekly.)

I was the leader of my high school youth group.

In college, I did an undergraduate and then a master’s program in Bible. I made close to straight A’s; I was at the top of my class.

I was hired for internships.

I had everything surrounding me look on the outside like I had it all together. But, at the end of every day I went home and believed that there was nothing there because I had an area of shame in my life that I had never exposed. I had never brought it into the light with others. That was my zero factor. (In an equation, if one of the factors is 0, the ultimate answer to the equation is 0.)

Unfortunately, that is a very common struggle for many, many people.”

Church surveys reveal that at a bare minimum 50% and often as high as 75% of men who attend church regularly and are actively involved, will admit to looking at pornography at least in the last week. But it is not acknowledged much less talked about.

The Problem:

disgraced

  • Most men wrestle with secret sins
  • Sexual sins are most often hidden in Christian Communities

Pornography is very well hidden in Christian circles. In fact, sexual sins are most often hidden in Christian communities. Christians don’t go there; they don’t talk about that. Everyone sort of knows it is “out there” but are real resistant to talk about it.

Those attitudes compound the issue that sexual sin is one of those subjects that we cannot touch; we can’t talk about—we can’t deal with in the church. If our Christian communities are not a safe place to deal with these issues then what are we doing?

  • Hiding destroys community and prevents the receiving of joy.

Addicts don’t make eye contact and they do not receive the joy that is being offered to them. This goes into all their relationships and especially the marriage relationship. As long as a man has the zero factor he has a filter and a disqualifier that prevents him from receiving what his wife or anyone is giving to him.

 The real sad irony is that they are even more stuck than before.

Addiction runs rampant in isolation. When you hide among people you feel incredibly isolated.

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  • Internet pornography is more damaging than the pornography of the past.

There is a whole movement taking place among the 20-somethings of getting away from pornography because they are discovering that it is the constant use of pornography that is leading to ED issues! What that really boils down to is the individuals begin conditioning their minds to needing a barrage of variety so that one person is not enough. As a result of that they rewire the brain in some very dysfunctional ways.

Solutions: What can pastors and churches do?”

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Create Safe Environments Without a “Sin Hierarchy.” Unfortunately it is very common for anything of a sexual nature to be seen as almost the ultimate sin. People struggling in this arena are somehow much worse than anyone else.  Sin is sin—there is no sin hierarchy. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourselves. So if there is a greatest sin, it would seem to be the refusal or failures to love.

We Need to Model Transparency. This is where it gets really scary, dicey for pastors.  The reality is that pastors are all strugglers as well. No, it does not mean that one Sunday you stand up in front in your underwear, but it is important at some place to be willing and able to talk about some of your own struggles, talk about places where your sanctification is still in process.

talk openlyImage courtesy of Microsoft

Churches need to TALK OPENLY about the tsunami of sexual addiction.  The reality is that sexual addiction is everywhere. We have a pornographic paradigm all around us. My son is now 10 years old and he is right at that age where he is starting to notice things. Being in Lawrence, Kansas, March Madness is in full swing. My son is getting more interested in watching basketball games and reading stories on line. Yet it is amazingly hard to find him any safe place on the web to go and read a story on KU basketball that doesn’t have pictures of women that are barely dressed. That is the unfortunate reality of our culture and our life today. If we are not talking about it and dealing with it in the church context then we are leaving our people unprotected.

EquipEmpowerImage courtesy of Microsoft

We Must Protect and Empower The Wives. I get phone calls, emails…I am bombarded every week from women all over the country, all over the world who have been devastated by the discovery of their husband’s pornography use or his use of prostitutes, etc., etc. One of the saddest things to me is how often these women have experienced their own churches putting it back on them in subtle and not so subtle ways. I have personally heard elders say things like, “Well, if his wife was taking care of him at home then he would not struggle in this way.” That isn’t true! In fact, I can’t tell you how many 100’s of men I have worked with one on one and groups over the last 12 years and every single one that I have worked with his struggle began long before he met his wife, let alone married his wife. So, we have to do whatever we can to empower women to know that this isn’t something that they just have to live with and put up with. This is something that they have an opportunity to address and to draw a line in the sand that says, you know, you need to get help or you need to get out of my bedroom. Because the damage this does to women’s hearts and their lives is …inexpressible.

We, as churches and pastors, need to provide good resources for both men and women. Thankfully, there are more and more good resources popping up all the time.

 internet addict

Image courtesy of Microsoft

What is critical to note is sexual addiction, pornography addiction, love addiction and those things, is not just a problem for men. It never has been, but especially in today’s internet age, it is becoming a greater and more common problem for women as well. It is real important that we provide resources, that we provide a safe place that people know that even if it is that they can see a pastor and they will know that they are not going to be shunned or shamed, but that they are going to have an opportunity to find resources and to find help and to find people who will walk with them on this journey even if they don’t quite know what that looks like yet.

What amazes me (Carol) is the help that relational joy gives but, relational joy is targeted by the enemy! He heaps on shame so a person will not make eye contact….what a vicious cycle!

Darrell Brazel

Today’s blog is from a talk by Rev. Darrell Brazell for Pastor’s Weekly.  Darrell Brazell is pastor of New Hope Fellowship, Dir. of New Hope Recovery Ministries. His specialty in ministry and work is in the area of pornography and sexual addictions. His ministry comes out of his own journey of healing and recovery and running groups for men a little over 12 years and working with individuals and couples through the recovery process.

Action Step:  This week let’s take a ruthless inventory of our fears. What fears are keeping you isolated, keeping your struggle hidden? I read recently that the best way to conquer a fear is to walk right into the middle of it. My prayer for each reader who commits to facing off fear is that the Lord makes Himself known to you, strengthens you and walks with you into the very thing you are afraid of.

Blessings, Carol Brown B.A.,  MACI                                                                               Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                                                                                                    www.fromgodsheart.com                                                                                      http://connectwithcarolbrown.blogspot.com

Big Announcement!! The BETA version of Joy Starts Here is now available. Begin being a joy starter in your church and community.

5 Hints Will Save Your Sanity When Working With People Attached To BEEPS!

Pastors working with people attached to BEEPS can find the complexity of the issues overwhelming. And many are not trained to recognize some of the problems that chew up people and time. The following 5 Helpful Hints could very well save your health, your sanity  and/or your ministry! 

 clip_image014_thumb1. Know your limits. There are some things you are good at and some things that you don’t do a very good job with  at all. You will tend to keep people safe around you when you function within your limits.

Think about it like this: If you are trying to remodel your house, you may be a good carpenter and a good plumber but if you try to think that because you can do carpentry and plumbing that it qualifies you as a licensed electrician you are likely to burn your house down and get some bad shocks when you turn the water on!

Never, ever be afraid to refer to excellent resources in your area. There is not enough time in the day to meet every need and every problem for every person who walks in your office.

Know the community resources in your area. You want to know:

  • Where are the resources for battered women
  • Where are AA meetings
  • Where are Thriving meetings
  • Where are addiction counselors
  • Where are Christian counselors, or Christian addiction counselors
  • What kind of referral to rehab programs is in your area

2. Take all reports of abusive behavior seriously, clip_image016_thumbespecially when children are involved. The laws vary from state to state about what reporting requirements are for abuse. In general, they tend to be that if you know that a child has been abused and they are under 18 or if a child or an elderly person is being abused or is in imminent danger of being abused, you need to report. Check out your local laws. Everyone should know that.

You have a responsibility as protectors to protect the most weak and most vulnerable who are being exploited by predators. Your first duty is to the weak and those who are unable to protect themselves. Never hesitate to report if you need to.

When involved with pastors who have congregants who have been physically abused by their spouses, the general suggestion is to refer them to domestic violence programs in their area. They can more easily deal with a self-justifying abuser or a self-justifying narcissist than a pastor can.

Lack of submission is never an excuse for abuse. That is not biblical.

3. The nature of addiction and the nature of BEEPS. People can have all different levels of involvement with BEEPS from just experimenting with them to developing a relationship with them, to having a full blown harmful dependence on BEEPS.

Most pastors are not qualified to make that distinction. That is why addiction counselors can be very important in this whole process of assessing how serious the involvement with the BEEPS is.

clip_image018_thumbIf you are looking at an addiction, you should know that addiction is the primary problem, there are a whole herd of other messy secondary problems like how they are relating to the person the BEEPS relates to, children, the spouse, work, rent, physical problems, mortgage problems…there is a whole host of things.

If somebody has a full blown addiction, no lasting care for underlying and secondary issues can begin until the person is sober.

Don’t get roped in by a clever person with an attachment to BEEPS who keeps you chasing your tail around the issue of addiction. Who says, “well I wouldn’t drink so much if my wife did this better, or if my boss wasn’t this way, or if the children minded me better, or whatever. That’s the kind of common denial and smokescreen that goes with BEEPS.

4. Be aware of your own co-dependent tendenciesclip_image020_thumb. Everyone has them. Co-dependent tendencies are sometimes subtly manipulating other people to do the right thing, or what you think is the right thing. Some do it because they really care and don’t want anyone hurt. Others do it because they are fed up and want people to do what they tell them to do.

The safest way to deal with your own tendencies is to have at least one or two other people on staff with whom you bounce things off of regularly. That keeps you safe and your counseling safe and it helps you get the support you need when you are working with complicated problems.

clip_image022_thumb65. Know that BEEPS are messy. If you think about someone with an attachment to BEEPS and you get that queasy feeling in your stomach or the knot in your stomach…that is because you have discovered that BEEPS make a mess and they don’t counsel particularly easily. They don’t always resolve very easily.

  • The best thing that you can do is be very patient
  • Utilize all the resources that are in your community
  • Things get worse before they get better.

The person with attachments to BEEPS is highly avoidant, highly ticked off that this issue has come to light and that it has been talked about outside the camp. You are going to need other resources in your community involved.

Action Step for this week:

  • Assess your strengths and weaknesses in dealing with people who are attached to BEEPS
  • Make your list of community resources

We hope by breaking it down in bite sized pieces you can begin to bring your load down below the overwhelmed mark and begin creating a Transformation Zone in your church and home. If you have questions, feel free to drop them in the comment box!

Blessings, Carol Brown, B.A., M.A.C.I. and Chris Coursey http://www.thrivetoday.org/pastorsweekly.html

BEEPS make you crazy?

Want to know how to be a less overwhelmed pastor when dealing with BEEPS? clip_image002BEEPS are behaviors, experiences, events, people and substances that people on low joy attach to, to feel a sense of joy. 

How many of you have had moments like this poor pastor, completely frustrated and overwhelmed with the needs that your people have?

What overwhelms pastors are BEEPS. What can yoclip_image004u  as a pastor, or someone in a counseling position in your church, do in response to pernicious problems of BEEPS and their related behaviors?  Most people call these addictions, but we feel the acronym BEEPS works better.

Some of today’s information is in the new Joy Starts Here book which Chris, Sheila Sutton, Jim Wilder and Ed Khori wrote. It is in BETA form; we hope you get a copy, test it and join them in the online forum at www.joystartshere.com. The book is designed to help groups and individuals look at how to create an environment of transformation in your church, in your family and in your school.

Two simple equations for pastors and leaders. Joy makes the difference between ministry that is life giving and ministry that burns you out. Compassion + the desire to make a difference + the call of God + joy can = LIFE. Compassion + the desire to make a difference + the call of God but no joy = DEATH

clip_image006Without joy, sooner or later you tend to burnout or develop a strong mask that does not allow much through. You lose connection with your heart and the whole reason you went into ministry to start with. Working with BEEPS has an incredible ability to drain anybody’s capacity.

Grow Your Own Joy

clip_image008You must grow your own joyful capacity. People with BEEPS tend to carry a lot of pain. And whenever you are working with BEEPS you are almost always also working with trauma. (A trauma is an experience that you do not have the capacity to process at the time.) People with BEEPS are loaded with pain. Your joy bucket must be more full of joy than the pain bucket of the person you are working with.

When brains feels joy, you feel—“Oh, yes! Life makes sense, life works. I can do this!”

  • Joy is simply a way of expressing God’s grace to other people.
  • Joy is God’s grace that says, I am so glad to be with you! I love you. I care about you. I have this wonderful relationship to offer you!”
  • Our response when God is glad to be with us like that is absolute joy—“Wow! God is glad to be with me!”

The problem is that in the absence of joy your fear circuitry tends to be way over active; when you approach people who have counseling issues related to BEEPS you are going to be more afraid of them and their problems than glad to be with them. They will figure that out in about 40 milliseconds because the brain knows how to do that. And the entire environment of your counseling session becomes based in managing a problem instead of being based in joy. Without joy, people become problems to manage rather than people to love and care for.

clip_image010Places to Grow Joy — There are two places you can grow joy. The first place is with God. God absolutely loves you and delights to be with you. He loves to keep your joy bucket full and wants to stay interactively connected with you all the time. You can

  • talk to Him about things that are hard
  • share appreciation with Him
  • celebrate victories and good things

God will validate and comfort you when things are going bad and let you know what to do! So grow your relationship with God to stay interactively connected with Him.

clip_image012You can grow joy in your relationships with other people. Sharing joy in relationships with others is sharing God’s grace between the two of you. Interactions with God and others is what keep your joy buckets full.

 Joy is foundational for anything you do—even if you make mistakes, if you do it with joy, they are less likely to be catastrophic. Everything goes better with joy!

Action Step:

  • Thank God for three things today as it relates to your life, relationships, health (find some good!) and weather.
  • Thank God for three things from your week.
  • Thank God for three things from your month.

Blessings, Carol Brown, B.A., M.A.C.I. and Chris Coursey http://www.thrivetoday.org/pastorsweekly.html

This post is based on a talk for Pastor’s Weekly by Ed Khori, April 18, 2013.

BEEP, BEEP!

Images courtesy of Microsoft

Road Runner

“Was that the Road Runner?”

“No, that was the pastor”!”

Some days don’t you feel like Road Runner—rushing here and there? In the position of pastor or leader you see all kinds—people who eat people for lunch if they dare to disagree, those who turn themselves into pretzels trying to make everyone happy, those who are hiding behind whatever they can find to avoid the guy on the attack, and Roadrunners. But what if that attacker…is me, the pastor, the one who is supposed to be the shepherd? What if the one who is avoiding conflict at high speed is me, the leader, the one who should be protecting the flock?

Your brain is designed to seek and  function in joy, but in the absence of joy, your fear circuitry becomes overactive. When fear becomes the dominant approach to life, you either run away or attack to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Fear it is not life giving.

Fear tends to cause two very different responses.

1. Hide parts that are weaker and more vulnerable

 They may be used against you

Your congregation may not like weakness and see it as a reason to get rid of you.

2. Fight—a predator response—eat the people in your  herd that upset you…OR Run away — a possum      response—duck and cover.

Predator

When joy is low you tend to act as a possum or predator which is not life-giving or joyful for you or other people. When you have not had a joyful foundation for a long period of time, you tend to function mostly in predator and possum behavior. You don’t do much joy.

Check out that tiger checking out the possum. Have you seen that look on somebody else’s face when you are the possum? Or, have you seen that look on your face in the mirror when you think about that person who is annoying the heck out of you—that person on your board, your committee or that person in your congregation who is just ticking you off?

Brains amplify. Think of your brain as an emotional, relational loudspeaker. It tends to amplify what is going on inside you and broadcasts it.

Brains AmplifyIf you are firmly rooted in joyful connections with God and others you are going to radiate and amplify joy. You will naturally create a joyful place for others to be with you and belong to you. That’s your basic design.

When your joy is absent, weak or overwhelmed, you amplify fear to people around you—or whatever negative emotion happens to go with fear. If you fear shame and someone’s threats trigger your shame, you may respond with a lot of anger which your brain will amplify. The brain also amplifies predator or possum behaviors—they tend to get worse.

Hide the fear! We end up putting on masks to hide the fear to avoid being eaten, attacked, made fun of or feel shame at the responses other people have. We really just want to appear strong and stay safe.

Masks

Staying safe by wearing masks does not bring joy, nor can you bring joy to anyone when you are busy hiding.

When hiding, your brain starts to crave a source of pseudo-joy to manage the stress, the fear, the anxiety, all that stuff that is going on inside of us.

             CravingsCookies

Food is an excellent source of pseudo joy—especially high fat and high sugar.

You have to understand that this is not something you are consciously choosing. The hiding, the amplification, the craving for pseudo-joy is so far below the level of consciousness that most of the time we are not even aware that we are doing them. You cannot consciously manage them or address them or change them through conscious thought!

Pseudo-joy is found in BEEPs—Behaviors, Events, Experiences, People or Substances. BEEPS trigger the same neuro-chemical cocktail in your brain as genuine joyful relationships does. It can actually fool your brain into connecting to those things instead of the genuine joy that it really needs.

Typical BEEPS:

Sex

Co-dependence

Partying Drugs

Performance

(Performance and approval do the same sort of things to your brain as cocaine!)

Work

(In the ministry, many times workaholism is seen as godliness. The truth is  that when it is a source of pseudo joy, it is totally opposite from what we think it is.

Alcohol

Internet or internet pornography

Money and success

Entertainment

Gambling & thrill seeking

Control

Approval 

(Liking the pats on the back, the approval of other people for the ministry we do)

Ice cream!Ice-Cream-BEEPS.png

Action Step: This week, after we stop off at 31 Flavors, (Ice cream comes in so many different varieties and flavors. It is wondrous!)  our “homework” is to identify our reaction to fear. Are you a predator or a possum, or both? And identify your “go-to BEEPS.” What is your source of pseudo joy?

Standing in front of the mirror is not always comfortable, but identifying what we are doing is the beginning of returning to joy! May you consciously, intentionally build joy this week with family and with staff.

Blessings, Carol Brown BA, MACI

Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive                                                                                             www.fromgodsheart.com  http://connectwithcarolbrown.joystarters.com

P.S. In our next blog we will discuss common ministry BEEPS and what to do about them.

P.S.S. Get your copy of the BETA version of The Joy Starts Here!

This post was based on a talk done for Pastor’s Weekly by Ed Khori