Reacting from our bird brain

“If we’re reacting from our bird brain, we cannot have a productive conversation.  It doesn’t matter how smart we are.”- John Ortberg

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”- James 1:19 (NIV)

John Ortberg continues Chapter 12 of I’d Like You More . . . as he thinks about moving from rupture to repair.  He adds that he finds it helpful to visualize four simple symbols.   Today, Pastor Ortberg discusses the first two symbols.

1.  A stop sign.  When you feel your emotions flooding and your pulse racing, John cautions, it’s time to stop and shift your internal gears.  Because, when anger takes over, you shift to your reactive brain.  Sometimes the reactive brain goes by another name – the “bird brain.”  That reference came into use because a bird’s brain consists of a relatively small cortex (thinking part).  In contrast, a bird’s brain has a proportionately larger reactive brain.

Therefore, as you get madder and madder, there’s only one solution.  Stop.  And switch to a safer setting to ride out your adrenaline surge.

2.  A question mark.  Once you’ve stopped long enough to exit your bird brain and return to your cerebral cortex, John suggests asking yourself two questions.  “Why am I angry and “What do I want?”

First, it’s important to understand why you’re angry.  Usually, anger = a secondary emotion with roots in your past experience.  Thus, to deal constructively with anger, begin with stepping back and asking what’s beneath.

Next, realize what happens when your emotions escalate too high.  At that point, your only focus centers on how to win the argument – or worse, inflict pain on the other person.

In conclusion, John notes that anger rooted in frustration rarely goes away on its own.  Such anger needs to be dealt with.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you when your bird brain takes control?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dis-appointing God — rejecting his divine appointment”

Forgiving someone specific

“It’s [forgiveness] more than just dealing with your feelings, it’s forgiving someone specific.”- Kyle Idleman

“Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm.  The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”- 2 Timothy 4:14

In Chapter 6 (“More Prevailing Than Your Vengeance”) of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman asks what happens when forgiveness is personal.  How do you handle forgiveness when someone intentionally tries to hurt you?  Furthermore, you trusted in, counted on, and loved that someone!

As Pastor Idleman observes, it’s natural, sometimes even appropriate, to get angry.  However, Kyle cautions, we can’t allow anger to turn to bitterness:

“But when anger turns into bitterness it becomes toxic.  We need to get rid of it.  After enough setting suns (see Ephesians 4:26), those feelings can become a part of you.  What was done to you begins to shape your identity.  What was said to you begins to define you.”

Therefore, forgiveness needs to go further.  It needs to involve forgiving someone specific.  In the process, grace flows.  Yet, Kyle cautions, don’t confuse simple with easy as you consider the following four steps on the journey of grace.  Today, Kyle talks about the first two steps.

1.  Acknowledge it.  The apostle Paul lived out forgiveness in real life.  Alexander the metalworker (coppersmith- NLT) caused Paul much pain.

Sometimes, though we pretend nothing happened.  As a result, we seek to sweep our hurt under the rug.  But, such efforts fail.  If we refuse to acknowledge our hurt, we can’t forgive.

2.  Release your rights.  While Paul didn’t minimize Alexander’s hurt, he chose to release his right to take revenged.  In other words, Paul waived his right to retaliate.  Paul released Alexander over to God.

Kyle describes what happens when we retain our right to retaliate:

“When we insist on holding on to our right to get even, we put ourselves in God’s place.  It’s a way of saying, ‘God, I don’t think you can handle this.  I don’t think you can handle this.  I don’t trust you to take care of me.  So I am going to deal with the situation myself.’ ”

Today’s question: Do you have a situation where you need to consider forgiving someone specific?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Pray for those who mistreat you”

When we live in grace – releasing

“When we live in grace, releasing doesn’t mean giving up, it means giving it up to God. . . . You loosen your grip from the pain of what was done to you and you place it in God’s hands.”- Kyle Idleman

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 5 of Grace Is Greater, he presents the final two ways we deal with our hurts and anger.

2.  Rehearsal.  Pastor Idleman notes we all love to watch our favorite movies again and again.  However, we often unintentionally rehash out least favorite memories.  Kyle explains:

“We keep the moment of betrayal or the hateful words or the unfair treatment cued up and ready to play.  You don’t repress what happened, you rehearse it.  Rehash it.  Replay it.  Again and again.  And it turns your heart into resentment.”

As a result, the devil gets a foothold, or staging ground.  Consequently, the devil walks through the open door of our anger and resentment.  Thus, he gains access to the rest of the rooms in  our house.  Allowing the weeds of bitterness and rage to grow chokes out the fruit that the Holy Spirit desires to produce in our lives.

3.  Release.  In Ephesians 4:26-27, Pastor Idleman believes, Paul isn’t trying to be simplistic or dismissive in regards to getting rid of anger.  Rather, Paul wants us to understand that getting rid of anger represents the only option.

Furthermore, releasing anger is far from simplistic.  In fact, it’s extremely difficult- perhaps even impossible- on your own.

Citing Luke’s account of the death of Stephen in the Book of Acts (Chapter 7), Kyle notes Stephen prayed that God would forgive his murderers.  Ultimately, Kyle adds, God’s forgiveness matters most, not ours.

In conclusion, Kyle recommended this first step in forgiveness- “ask God to do what you haven’t been able to do.”  Prayer makes forgiveness possible, as it functions as the release valve for your negative feelings.  Finally, forgiveness involves you and God.

Today’s question: What Bible verses support you in releasing or loosening your grip from the pain of what was done to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “God made you to flourish”

Choking our resolve to forgive

“Our emotions can tie us up, hold us down, and have a way of choking our resolve to forgive.  They are roadblocks that keep us from moving forward with forgiveness.”- Kyle Idleman

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”- Ephesians 4:26-27

In Chapter 5 (“More Freeing Than Your Bitterness”) of Grace Is Greater, Kyle Idleman focuses on releasing our feelings of anger, bitterness, and rage over to God.  Therefore, releasing head the list of three significant mile markers on the journey of giving grace.

Furthermore, Kyle stresses, it’s time to mature and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, do what we don’t feel like doing.  We just rid ourselves of the anger and bitterness piled up inside us so we’re able to make progress.  In addition, the author notes, we tend to deal with our hurts and anger in one of three ways- regression, rehearsal, or release.  Today, Pastor Idleman discusses repression.

1.  Repression.  Kyle observes that we often deal with our hurts by pushing them down, thus repressing our anger.  In other words, we fail to surrender our hurts to God.  Yet, our hurts fester beneath the surface.  We deceive ourselves with the belief that refusing to let our hurts surface spells success.  However, as our hurts fester, they go toxic.

As a result, we need to stop repressing our feeling, hold them up, and examine them one feeling at a time.  Next, decide to keep the feeling or let it go.

In conclusion, Kyle advises us to look for these warning signs of repressed anger or bitterness:

  • disproportionate anger over little things– suppressed anger eventually spills out
  • complaints about everything– seeing the world through the lens of bitterness rather than through the lens of grace
  • over-sensitivity/ defensiveness– as Kyle quips, people don’t tell you you’re overly sensitive and defensive precisely because you’re overly sensitive and defensive

Today’s question: What emotions choke your resolve to forgive?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When we live in grace- releasing”

Give them pieces of your heart

“Instead of giving someone a piece of your mind — it’s far better to give them pieces of your heart.”- Ann Voskamp

In Chapter 16 (“When It Comes to Wooing God and Healing Wounds”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp cites Jean Vanier, a Canadian Catholic philosopher.  Mr. Vanier observes:

“Most of the time to discover new meaning we have to go through a cross, we have to go through a breakdown.”

As a result, Ann states, two opposing options present themselves as a response to hurt and pain:

  1. throw up a barrier to vainly keep the hurt out, using bricks of escapism, defensiveness, apathy, or distraction
  2. break down your barriers, break right open, and let love with all its pain in; pick up your cross and choose the humility of vulnerability

Furthermore, no barrier in the world blocks out pain.  In addition, any attempt to block out pain only creates a pain all its own.

Yet, although being broken or rejected may hurt like a kind of hell, it will be holy.  For God created you to grow into something more.  However, you must be brave enough for this to happen.

Most noteworthy, Ann puts forth a significant caveat regarding anger:

“Never become a container for anger.  Anger is the only toxin that destroys what it’s carried in.”

Also, defending our own hearts deafens us to the cries of other hearts.  This absurdity (from the Latin surdus, meaning “deaf”) of hurt only changes when we listen to each other’s hearts.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you given those responsible pieces of your heart?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Brokers of healing”

Intercessory prayer

“Intercessory prayer . . . acknowledges our inability and God’s ability.  We come with empty hands but high hopes.”- Max Lucado

Max Lucado begins Chapter 7 (“They Need Help”) of Before Amen with a three-part question.  What can you do when:

  • the challenge is greater than you are?
  • the hurt is palpable?
  • you feel helpless and impotent?

Pastor Lucado suggests turning to Luke 11:5-10, one of Jesus’ most intriguing teachings about prayer.  Luke’s account illustrates intercessory prayer at its purest.  Lack and boldness meet in a midnight request for three loaves of bread.

Most noteworthy, Max observes, Jesus never refused on intercessory request. Nor did He grow impatient at the sheer magnitude of those requests.  However, the Gospel of Matthew records one instance where Jesus grew impatient.  However, this was at the lack of a request (Matthew 17:14-20).

In Matthew’s account, Jesus’ disciples tried, but failed, to heal a demon-possessed boy.  When the disciples asked Jesus why they failed, He responded: “Because of your unbelief.”  In addition, Pastor Lucado presents contrasting definitions of unbelief and belief:

Unbelief– attempting to help others without calling on Jesus.

Belief– pounding on God’s door at midnight.  Doing whatever it takes to present people to Jesus.

It follows, then, that “intercessory prayer . . . acknowledges our inability and God’s ability.  Although we come to God with empty hands, we also come with high hopes.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado exhorts us to stand up on behalf of those we love.  And yes, that includes those we do not love.  Furthermore, Max states, a bucket of prayer quickly douses the fire of anger.  Finally, Pastor Lucado reiterates the all-encompassing nature of prayer:

“Pray for those you love; pray for those you don’t. . . . Present their case to the Giver of Bread.  And bring a grocery basket.  God will give you plenty of blessings to take back to them.”

Today’s question: How have you utilized intercessory prayer during your desert, transition time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The grace to remain strong”


“At its root, self-forgiveness is a choice.”- Dr. Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman concludes Chapter 12 of Anger with steps four and five of a positive approach to processing anger.

4.  Choose to forgive yourself.  Dr. Chapman states forgiving yourself has much in common with forgiving someone who has sinned against you.  You feel pained at your wrongdoing and wish you never had sinned.  However, as the author explains, self-destructive thoughts displease God.  Therefore, since God has forgiven you, you do not have the right to condemn yourself.  Furthermore, Gary describes the process of self-forgiveness:

“Now it is time to forgive ourselves.  We must choose to do so.  No positive purpose is served by berating ourselves explosively or implosively.  All such behavior is destructive and thus a sinful response to our anger.  This too needs to be confessed to God.  Choosing to forgive ourselves is best done in the context of prayer, letting God witness our self-forgiveness.”

As Dr. Chapman emphasizes, forgiveness releases you from the prison of your past failures.  Self-forgiveness gives you the freedom to make the most of the future.

5.  Focus on positive action.  Self-forgiveness puts you in position to change the course of your life.  Rather than developing failure amnesia, choose to learn from your failures.  In addition, take positive steps to make your future brighter.

Gary defines unconditional love as “a true effort to enhance someone else’s life simply because we care about him or her.”  God does this for us every day.  Whether or not an individual responds positively, you know you have followed the teachings of Jesus.  Hence, take comfort in that knowledge.

Today’s question: Which of Dr. Chapman’s five steps resonate most with you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Responding to angry people”

At peace with yourself

“Be at peace with yourself and then you will be able to bring peace to others.”- Thomas A Kempis

In Chapter 12 (“I’m Angry at Myself”) of Anger, Dr. Gary Chapman begins by listing reason you may not be at peace with yourself.  When we experience anger at ourselves, it is because we:

  • perceive ourselves guilty of wrongdoing, unkindness, injustice, or carelessness
  • fall short of our own expectations
  • violate our own strongly held values (perhaps the area of greatest anger)

Most importantly, Gary emphasizes that “anger and guild should lead to repentance and refreshing forgiveness.”  Therefore, he suggests a positive, five-step approach to processing anger toward yourself in a healthy way.  Consequently, Dr. Chapman discusses the first three steps today.

1.  Admit your anger.  First of all, verbally admit that you are experiencing anger toward yourself.  Furthermore, Dr. Chapman encourages you to admit other thoughts and feelings that accompany your anger.  Those thoughts and feeling include disappointment, stupidity, letting people (including yourself and God) down, and irresponsibility.  In conclusion, say them in prayer to God.

2.  Examine your anger.  Most of all, vast differences exist between definitive and distorted anger.  Hence, violating moral principles requires much greater constructive processing than carelessly hitting your thumb with a hammer.

3.  Confess wrongdoing to God and accept His forgiveness.  Finally, Gary stresses that only one appropriate way exists to process anger toward oneself arising from one’s own sin.  In addition, 1 John 1:9 presents this clear Scriptural message:

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you to be at peace with yourself?  Please share.

Please note: new addition to Crown Jewels- “Practice, practice, practice”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Self-forgiveness”

Cain or Elijah?

“Every person who feels anger toward God will follow the example of Cain or Elijah.”- Dr. Gary Chapman

Today Dr. Chapman discusses the second and third steps in responsibly handling anger toward God.

STEP TWO: Listen to God’s message.  Expressing our honest concerns to God puts us in a position to listen to His “quiet whisper” to us.  This quiet whisper may come through a trusted Christian friend, a beloved hymn or contemporary chorus, personal reading of Scripture, etc.  You can be certain God is speaking if the message you receive is consistent with Scripture.

Although listening does not always lead to understanding, listening does lead to accepting our situation without taking a malicious stance toward God.  Eventually, the believer who shares his anger with God experiences the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Dr. Chapman believes God interprets your anger as an expression of your love for Him.  After all, Gary concludes, you wouldn’t be angry unless you believed that God loves you and looks out for your best interests.

STEP THREE: Report for duty to get you next assignment from God.  Just because we get up and begin to do what God’s gifted us to do doesn’t mean our pain has evaporated.  However, it does mean our anger no longer functions as a barrier between us and God.  We choose to believe God consistently works in life’s most painful circumstances.  As long as we’re still alive, God continues to work through us.

When you feel anger toward God, your response falls into one of two categories: Cain or Elijah.  Following Cain means yielding to your sinful impulses.  Uncontrolled anger creates difficulty in your life.  On the other hand, following Elijah entails fully sharing your anger with God and listening to His quiet whisper.

Processing anger toward God constructively leads to a future that holds hope in spite of the present pain.

Today’s question: Currently, where are you positioned in Dr. Chapman’s three-step continuum?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “At peace with yourself”


Our anger toward God

“The problem with our anger toward God is not the anger itself but how we handle the anger.”- Dr. Gary Chapman

As Dr. Gary Chapman concludes Chapter 11 of Anger, he analyzes our anger with God as distorted anger.  Even though no wrongdoing occurs on God’s part, we still experience real anger.  In addition, Gary states, we don’t choose anger.  Rather, we respond in anger.  We believe God could have averted the situation that brought us great pain.

Although God made us with the capacity for anger, we carry the responsibility for handling that anger.  Dr. Chapman ends the chapter with a detailed description of three steps for responsibly handling anger.  Gary discusses the first step today.

STEP ONE: Take the anger to God. Feel free to express your perception of things to God.  Unlike human beings, God doesn’t experience hurt feelings.  He’s neither disturbed nor surprised by your anger.  God desires that you share your thoughts and feelings with Him.  As our compassionate Father, God wants to hear our complaints.  As our sovereign God, however, He does no wrong.

Both the prophet Elijah and God’s servant Job expressed anger toward God.  Their stories illustrate the value of talking to God about our anger, as Dr. Chapman summarizes:

“He [God] will either help us understand His perspective on our present situation as He did with Elijah; or He may, without explanation, simply ask us to trust Him as He did with His servant Job.”

Today’s question: In the aftermath of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you expressed your anger toward God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cain or Elijah?”