The enemy of your God-given destiny

“But though he (Satan) is cast out of heaven, he is not out of our lives. . . .  He is the enemy of your God-given destiny and longs to be the destroyer of your soul.  Don’t dismiss him.”- Max Lucado (emphasis author’s)

“Your rich commerce led you to violence, and you sinned.  So I banished you in disgrace from the mountain of God.  I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. . . .  So I threw you to the ground; and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings.”- Ezekiel 28:16-17 (NLT)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 3 of Unshakable Hope as he urges us to agree with the witness of Scripture concerning Satan.  From the first page to the last, the Bible confronts us with “an arrogant, anti-God force of great cunning and power. . . .  Satan appears in the garden at the beginning.  He is cast into the fire at the end. . . .  Serious students of Scripture must be serious about Satan.”

Therefore, we play into Satan’s hand when we ignore or deny his existence.  However, even though the devil’s real, the devil is a defeated devil (emphasis author’s).  We must be alert to the devil.  However, we must not let him intimidate us. Rather, Max exhorts, go immediately to Scripture!  Stand on God’s promises.

In addition, Pastor Lucado explains, God’s given us three spiritual weapons of warfare:

  1. Prayer – in prayer we engage God’s power against the devil.
  2. Worship– when we worship we place God on the throne, something Satan himself refused to do.
  3. Scripture – in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan as He proclaimed truth.  Because Satan has a severe allergy to truth, He left Jesus alone.  We reflect Jesus’ actions when we pick up the sword of Scripture.

In conclusion, Max observes, we possess certain victory over Satan.  For we know the final score.

Today’s question:  How do you employ prayer, worship, and Scripture to repel the enemy of your God-given destiny?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Divine resources deposited in you”

Boundaries for Your Soul

Boundaries for Your Soul (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller recently co-authored Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies.  Alison earned an MA in counseling from Denver Seminary and a PhD in religion/psychology from the University of Denver.  Kimberly Miller earned master’s degrees from Regent College (theology) and Azusa Pacific (clinical psychology).  In Boundaries for Your Soul, Alison and Kim show how to work with the conflicted aspects of yourself.  In doing so, they interpret the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model through a Christian lens.  Also, through this process you learn to understand, and even befriend, the hurting parts of your soul.  As a result, you establish healthy boundaries with different parts of your soul vying for control.

However, to lead struggling soul parts, you must focus on them and befriend them.  Then, once you invite Jesus to draw near, unburden those emotions and integrate them with the other parts of your soul.  The authors refer to this five-step process as taking a You-Turn.  As you journey on your path to peace and wholeness, you move from seeing these undesirable inclinations as problems to viewing them as allies.  Since it’s impossible to rid yourself of your soul’s parts, instead help them to grow, heal, and discover their God-given roles.  And, so your (Holy) Spirit-led self leads those parts of yourself with love, welcome your unwanted thoughts and feelings as valued members of your internal family.

Therefore, the first step in taking a You-Turn consists of a focus on the part of your soul bothering you.  It’s presenting itself for healing.  Next, get curious about it.  And, as you create space from your pain, you comfort yourself.  Once you’ve differentiated from a part, you find yourself able to speak on behalf of that part, rather than from that part.  That, in turn, enables you to extend grace not only to external enemies, but also to your perceived enemies within.  For God wants to do something beneficial with every part of you.  Hence, Alison and Kim exhort, don’t leave unwanted thoughts and feelings at the door when you spend time with Jesus.  For in the presence of your Spirit-led self, a hurting part of your soul finds relief as it lays down its burdens.

Furthermore, as you draw new boundary lines, you join in expanding God’s reign – within your internal terrain.  When you integrate the warring parts of your soul, you lighten your load.  Because you’ve eased your burden, you now notice holy reframes in your thinking.  And those holy reframes free you to focus on your God-given purpose in this world.  Through setting boundaries for your soul, your restore peace and reconcile the adversarial members of your soul. Remember, the authors exhort, Jesus invites every part of you- no matter how broken or rejected – to come to Him.

The authors conclude with a parting prayer for your future self:

“As you continue on this journey, we pray that you might know God’s delight, great love, and pride in you.  May God minister to you and give you freedom and joy, in this life and into eternity. May the power of God be at work in every part of you — that they may be found, befriended, and restored.”

Redirect the straying, well-meaning parts of your soul

“These (straying) well-meaning parts of your soul need to be redirected, not berated.  If you find that you’re shutting out God or being tempted to sin, listen to that part, and get to know it.  Most importantly, invite Jesus to be near it too.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“Then neither do I condemn you (the Samaritan woman at the well),” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”- John 8:11 (NIV)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller continue Chapter 6 of Boundaries for Your Soul as they discuss the straying parts of your soul.

2.  The Straying.  Although Jesus spent time with religious leaders who knew every letter of the law, He also spent time with religious leaders called “sinners.”  In other words, they sinned in more overt ways.  However, Jesus typically spoke kindly, not harshly to them.  Rather, Jesus often befriended them and forgave them. Then, He called them to change!

Most noteworthy, Alison and Kim observe, these straying “sinners’ sound like our firefighter parts.  Consider two examples of their beliefs:

  • Skeptics: You don’t make sense to me, God.  I’m going to look for another path that does.
  • Escape Artists: I don’t feel like sticking around.  I’m outta here!

Furthermore, the authors explain what happens when firefighters are either too close or too far:

“Rebellious firefighters struggle to extinguish your pain.  If they’re too close . . . they can lead you away from God . . . insidiously by luring you to ‘check out’ when what you really need is to face your pain. . . .  On the other hand, if firefighters are too far you may miss out on the life-giving pleasures and exciting adventures that God created for you to enjoy.  You may also miss opportunities to operate effectively outside of your comfort zone.”

With healthy boundaries, these parts extend mercy and forgiveness to others, based on the mercy they’ve received from God.

Today’s question: What straying parts of your soul truly need God’s mercy and grace? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A more integrated and peaceful internal life”

Losing the war within your soul?

“Although you earnestly desire to live at peace with God, are you losing the war within your soul?  How do you care for those parts of yourself that are angry, acting out, and afraid? . . .  The next step is inviting Jesus to be near a struggling part of your soul.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

In Chapter 6 (“Step Three: Invite”) of Boundaries for Your Soul, Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller ask if parts of you reside far from God, in need of His loving presence.  If so, they continue, you’re not alone. For example, Jesus spent time with all types of people, including:

  • sanctimonious ones trying to keep everyone in line
  • straying ones breaking the rules
  • suffering ones living on the fringes

Most noteworthy, these three groups from the Gospels sound quite similar to the manager, firefighters, and exiles of your internal family.  Furthermore, Alison and Kim exhort, you might be surprised how Jesus responds when you invite Him to draw near your soul’s sanctimonious, straying, and suffering parts.

Therefore, the authors cover each of these soul parts.  Today they discuss the first.

1.  The Sanctimonious.  Throughout the Gospels, Alison and Kim note, Jesus interacted frequently with religious leaders who excelled at putting up a good front.  As a result, this masked their insecurities and weaknesses.  Also, this part of our soul often believes it’s speaking on behalf of God.  However, reality shows that this part often keeps you from establishing a meaningful relationship with Him.  And, when those managers stay too far away, that may prevent you from doing the good, kind things that a child of God does.

Finally, as you invite Jesus to draw close to your managers, they’ll start to understand that stepping back doesn’t reflect lower standards,  Rather, for you to operate effectively, you need to:

  • get rest
  • do what you can
  • maintain humble perspective

Today’s question: What Scriptures help you keep from losing the war within your soul?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog:  “Redirect the straying, well-meaning parts of your soul”

Lost sheep; exiled aspects of your soul

“Exiled aspects of your soul are like the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son: they’re alone within your soul yet worthy of being sought after and found.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”- Luke 15:4 (NIV)

As Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller conclude Chapter 4 of Boundaries for Your Soul, they stress one important skill to develop.  This helpful skill involves speaking on behalf of a part, rather than from it.  Hence, the authors sequence the effects of speaking on behalf of.  Speaking on behalf of:

  1. reminds you that this part of your soul doesn’t own the whole story.
  2. brings the part into contact with the Holy Spirit before you express your feelings.
  3. allows you to speak respectfully to others.
  4. increases the likelihood that people truly hear and understand you.
  5. elicits trust between you and God, as well as between you and other people.

When Jesus walked the earth, Alison and Kim note, He focused on things people lost or misplaced.  In fact, Luke 15 records three parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  Similarly, your soul’s exiled aspects live alone within your soul.  Yet, they’re worthy of being sought after and found.

In conclusion, the authors exhort:

“You pray for others and for God’s guidance.  Would you extend the same compassion to an injured or straying part of your own soul?  Jesus loves lost sheep, and he loves the lost parts of you.  You can join with him in finding the lost parts of your soul and bringing them home at last.”

Today’s question: How do you compare the exiled aspects of your soul to lost sheep?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “This critical person – in your own head?”

The human soul’s mosaic nature

“Every major school of psychology has acknowledged the mosaic nature of the human soul.”- Bessel van der Kolk                                                          

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”- Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller continue Chapter 3 of Boundaries for Your Soul as they discuss two protectors of the soul, managers and firefighters.

1.  Managers.  First, managers strive to maintain your emotional safety.  Thus, they prevent your more vulnerable parts from experiencing harm.  In addition, they work vigilantly to keep your life smooth and predictable.  Also, they drive you to perform, produce, protect, and please.  And, managers believe it’s impractical for emotional pain to bog you down.

Activities managers pursue to protect you include:  (1) needless worry about situations out of your control; (2) people- pleasing; (3) criticizing yourself and others without a valid reason; and (4) pursuing perfection and refusing to accept human limitations

2.  Firefighters.  When you hurt, firefighters strive to keep your suffering to a minimum.  As their name suggests, firefighters try to extinguish your pain – after it occurs.  At their best, they help you effectively manage life’s hardships.  However, if you fail to keep firefighters within proper boundary lines, at their worst they can lead you down the path of reckless self-indulgence.

Finally, your soul contains more vulnerable parts, which the authors call exiles.

3.  Exiles.  Exiles consist of feelings and insecurities we’d rather the world not see.  Therefore, we try to banish those parts or send them into hiding.  Thus, managers and firefighters attempt to protect exiles.

Yet, your protectors posses limited strategies.  Furthermore, they equate weak with inferior.  As a result, author Andy Crouch notes in his book Strong and Weak that, in order to flourish, we must embrace both:

  • authority and vulnerability
  • capacity and frailty

Today’s question: How would you describe the mosaic nature of your soul?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Lead your soul’s unruly parts with curiosity, compassion”

Attuning to your soul’s challenging aspects

“Attuning to the challenging, painful, sometimes dark aspects of your soul creates a connection with them that God can use to strengthen them from within. . . .  Guided by the Holy Spirit, you can weather the storms of life with hope.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

As Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller conclude Chapter 2 of Boundaries for Your Soul, they reveal how to know you’re leading from your Spirit-led self.  When you lead from your Spirit-led self, you experience any of the following qualities.  All begin with the letter c: calmness, clarity, curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, creativity, and connectedness.  Another way involves manifesting any of the fruit of the Spirit.

Therefore, Spirit-led self-leadership consists of keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.  However, like a runaway bus, soul problems crop up when various parts of your soul wrestle for the wheel.  In fact, the authors invite you to view any emotional issue as “a cluster of entrenched parts that have taken over leadership of the soul.”

Consequently, change comes when you start to realize, I’m letting the kids (soul problems) drive the bus!  Yet, you don’t want to befriend Satan, the spiritual enemy of your soul.  Sometimes the devil influences you, while at other times you’re overwhelmed by a part of you that simply needs befriending.  As a result, you must not condone sin nor criticize yourself.  Thus, Alison and Kimberly explain what the path to freedom involves:

“The path to freedom involves clarifying sin before God.  Clarifying what is sin does not require shaming and condemning; you can do so in a way that is loving, kind, and leads to repentance and abundant life.”

Finally, with your Spirit-led self leading, troubling parts of your soul:

  • gain perspective
  • let go of their extreme beliefs
  • take on helpful roles

Today’s question: What Bible verses, Christian hymn/ books/ songs help you in attuning your soul’s challenging aspects?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your soul protectors – mangers and firefighters”

Unhealthy ways of relating to painful emotions

“There are two opposite, unhealthy ways of relating to your painful emotions.  You can keep them too close to you, or you can push them too far away.  If they’re too close, your risk being overwhelmed by them.  If they’re too far, you risk being cut off from them, only to be influenced by them in harmful ways.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

In Chapter 1 (“Why Boundaries for Your Soul?”) of Boundaries, Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller talk about resolving the difficult thoughts and feelings ruling our lives.  We work hard and try to set boundaries with others.  Yet, we wonder why we still struggle with anger, fear, and guilt.

Conversely, Alison and Kimberly note, when you’re strong inside, you’re:

  • able to respond with more resilience to life’s challenges
  • true to the person God created you to be and to the work He has planned for you to do
  • realistic about your limitations, with a clear sense of your own values, vision, mission, and priorities
  • aware that the health of your relationships as well as the sustainability of your service depend on the wise decisions you make about how to allot your time

Thus, the authors note, this book walks you through a process where you establish healthy boundaries with the various parts of your soul competing for control.  As a result, you care for your soul as you reshape and redefine your thoughts, feelings, and actions.  In addition, in this book Alison and Kim define the soul as the nonphysical part of you.  And when you care for your soul, you reprogram, or reform, the contours of your inner life.  Therefore, you take responsibility for this.

In conclusion, Alison and Kimberly explain why you need to draw painful feelings in closer:

“Your painful emotions are being experienced by parts of your soul that need to be heard, honored, and understood for you to be able to help them.  Furthermore, the parts of your soul experiencing those difficult emotions have much to say when you get to know them. . . .  the key is to establish comfortable distance with these parts of your soul.”

Today’s question: How have you related to painful emotions in unhealthy ways?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Restored and made right – I’ve got Jesus!”

Mature love = extending hospitality

“Mature love is extending hospitality — even toward the parts of your soul that are angry, fearful,  anxious, or sad.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“But when you give a feast,  invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”- Luke 14:13-14 (ESV)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller conclude their Introduction to Boundaries for Your Soul as they make an ironic note.  They note that the most natural way of addressing troubling emotions actually makes things worse.  Thus, many well-meaning people attempt to suppress aspects of themselves they don’t like.  Or, they go so far as to condemn those aspects.

Most noteworthy, the authors states, this book presents an alternate way.  Hence, it uses different means to reach the same end.  As Alison and Kimberly describe, Boundaries offers “a slower way to get where you want to go — faster.”

Through this approach, Alison and Kimberly add, you learn to understand and even befriend the hurting parts of your soul.  Furthermore, you’ll get to know your overbearing aspects as well as facets of your personality hiding in the shadows.  And these aspects exist for a reason.  You need to create healthy boundaries with them.  As a result, you can relate to them from a comfortable distance.

In conclusion, Alison and Kimberly observes that, ultimately, the Holy Spirit provides the best way to care for the overwhelming parts of your soul.  Here’s what the authors know:

“When you think of your unwanted thoughts and feelings as belonging to parts of your soul, you begin to see how they relate to one another and to the core of your being where the Holy Spirit abides.  And just as you can experience a more peaceful life as a result of healthy boundaries with others, you can also establish helpful boundaries with the parts of your soul.”

Today’s question: “To what parts of your soul do you need to extend hospitality?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Unhealthy ways of relating to painful emotions”

Creating healthy internal boundaries

“Internal boundaries strengthen the connection between the sacred place inside your soul and various parts of yourself. . . .  we call this process of creating healthy boundaries within your soul ‘Spirit-led self-discipleship.’ “- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I have.”- Romans 7:15 (NLT)

In their Introduction to Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies, coauthors Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller note that all of us can be overtaken by extreme thoughts and feelings at times.  Yet, just as we possess the ability to set external boundaries with others, we’re able to set internal boundaries with the overwhelming parts of ourselves.

Most noteworthy, the Bible contains more than three hundred verses that relate to boundaries. In fact, the apostle Paul described his own conflict with internal boundaries in Romans 7:15. Furthermore, Boundaries for Your Soul focuses on this universal struggle.

Therefore, healthy internal boundaries empower you to live from the essential you, meaning your soul in its purest, holiest state.  As a result, Alison and Kimberly state, the work of building strong internal boundaries involves:

  • practicing the presence of God while at the same time becoming attuned to the parts of yourself needing your attention
  • inviting the Holy Spirit into the farthest reaches of who you are

In addition, the authors stress, internal challenges – anger, guilt, unforgiveness, etc. – require your attention.  Otherwise, you’ll end up overwhelmed and unnecessarily hurting others.  For when you hurt inside, it’s hard to be good to others.

Today’s question: What sense of urgency do you feel to create healthy internal boundaries?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the latest Short Meditation, “Restored and made right – I’ve got Jesus!

Tomorrow’s blog: “Mature love = extending hospitality”