Sunday, October 16, 2016

Essential Bible Verses for Healing Shame

Shame has different elements, from feeling dirty or exposed, abandoned, and disowned, to a loss of confidence about being accepted or valued, to the fear of rejection and being alone. The Bible speaks to these: 
  1. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we assigned him no value. (Isaiah 53:3)
  2. God opposes the proud, and gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5)
  3. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who had no need to repent. (Luke 15:7)
  4. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
  5. You are washed, you are made holy, you are made innocent in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:11)
  6. And white robes were given to every one of them; and it was said to them, that they should rest yet for a little season. (Revelation 6:11)
  7. You shall no longer be called Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be called Desolate. (Isaiah 62:4)
  8. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God. (John 1:12)
  9. He calls his own sheep by name. (John 10:3)
  10. That you may be blameless and faultless, the children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)
  11. To him who overcomes, I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:15)
  12. The home of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)

Follow-Up: A Well-Loved Pitcher and Glasses

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Order of Confession

P: If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

C: Create in me a clean heart, O God.
I confess to you the things of which I am ashamed.
I confess to you the things for which I wish to make excuses, or would rather hide the truth.
I confess to you the things for which I have blamed others.
I confess my resentment for when I have been wrongfully blamed.
I confess my satisfaction at the downfall of the arrogant.
I confess my gladness when the crooked are caught in their own snares.
I confess my eagerness to hear evil of those I despise.
I confess that I despise those whom you love, and that I wish to justify it.
I confess my willingness to repeat evil tales.
I confess my fondness for complaining or arguing.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

P: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Guilt and Shame: Where religion and psychology meet

I've mentioned before that I've been participating in a Twelve-Step group for people whose parents were addicts. It has come as a surprise to me that shame plays such a key role for children of addicts. Without breaking any confidences, I think it's safe to say that shame is a typical struggle for people who were raised in a dysfunctional home. The varieties of shame, and the fact that it's such a common experience, are beyond anything that I'd have suspected. There is shame over being unwanted / unimportant, shame over things that were said or done to us, shame over the government taking an interest in the parenting in that home, over problems in school, over being hungry or badly dressed or having lice or having the utilities cut off or being from "that home" with the police car flashing its lights outside (again). It's about having so many experiences that can't be repeated in polite company.

Keep in mind that shame is an entirely different thing than guilt. It's easy for someone to offer as consolation:  "It wasn't your fault." True enough, and that would help if the problem were guilt; but that's not the point when the problem is shame. I'll put it like this: almost a year and a half ago, my mom said I could take some of my grandmother's things - a pitcher and some glasses -- from her home over to mine. I could see the potential in the pitcher and one of the glasses, but I wasn't sure I wanted the rest of them. They were filthy. I couldn't imagine ever drinking from them. They were so filthy that I was unwilling to put them in the dishwasher with other plates and glasses, since I didn't think that the dishwasher could manage that level of dirt. I filled the sink with hot water and soaked them, and washed them by hand. After the first wash they were still dripping dirt and the water was too dirty to clean them further. So I emptied the old water and did it again. After the second wash, they were still dripping a little bit cloudy when the second batch of water became too dirty to get them any cleaner. After the third wash, I was willing to put them in the dishwasher. Now that they are clean, I can see that they are actually beautiful. But in their original state, they were beyond ordinary "dirt" issues. They needed a lot of work before they were up to an ordinary level of mess, where they could go in the dishwasher. In that home, the levels of neglect are so profound that anything coming out of there will need remedial work. So at the end of the story: On a human level, shame is when you are so dirty that you can't even go in the dishwasher with the good dishes.

Some kinds of shame are about feeling dirty, some are about feeling unwanted. To heal the wounds of shame, it is necessary to become clean, and wanted, and welcome at the table.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Taking a stand against hatred in the public square

Remember that 'art' exhibit of Christ submerged in urine?

If works of art in general are free speech, this is hate speech.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spiritual health checklist - Moving forward

As I have written before, I have wanted to create a spiritual health checklist, mostly for the purposes of keeping myself honest and challenging myself to grow. This is a first draft where I try to give shape to the specific items to check. (Not all of these are positive things; some of them identify negatives.) All questions and feedback are welcome.
I have too much stuff.
I take good care of my things.
I manage my finances well.
I feel satisfaction and gratitude for what I have.

I have habits that disrupt my life, that I have trouble controlling.
I am easily upset.
I end up eating, drinking, or spending more than I want.
I can stick to a schedule or a budget.

When someone criticizes me or my work, I go on the offense.
I often find myself in situations where I feel righteous anger.
When I joke around, I sometimes go too far. I make comments about other people that I would prefer to keep private.

Many people don't live up to my standards.
When someone is rude or unkind to me, it bothers me for a long time. 

I can find the right thing to say.
I am on peaceful terms with the people in my family.

I avoid social situations because I feel awkward.
I'm glad when someone joins me for lunch.
I invite people to my home or to eat with me.

I admire the best achievements or traits in many people.
I am willing to lead if asked.
I am willing to serve if asked.
Am I more comfortable with, or enthusiastic about, leading or following?

I am my own worst critic. 
When someone criticizes me or my work, I become defensive.
If someone compliments me, I accept it graciously. 

Some of the virtues, or spiritual strengths that are on my mind:
I'd be glad for any comments, suggestions, or insights.

* A checklist based on the Rudyard Kipling poem, "If"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Moses: Two Ways of Resisting Oppression

In the book of Exodus we read about the life of Moses. He was troubled by the injustice in Egypt and how his own people were oppressed. At different times in his life, he took two very different approaches to confronting the evil.

In his earlier days, when he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew, he attacked and killed the Egyptian. No good came to his people, no good came to him, no good came to the name of God or the cause of righteousness. He fled Egypt as a refugee, a criminal and a wanted man. His violence had helped nothing.  His fleeing had helped nothing. 

He came back to Egypt when God sent him. Moses still cared that his people suffered; now he knew that God cared too. And nothing changed without the power of God. The Egyptians could not blame the Israelites for their calamities, because the calamities did not come from their hands. It took the power of God to free his people without the people resorting to bloodshed. God accomplished Israel's freedom through the power of the word, through signs and through wonders -- but not through Moses' attack.

There are different ways of resisting oppression. Evil must be resisted, but there are ways of resisting that only increase the evil. Without a devotion to what is right -- and with blood staining the hands of those who rise up -- the fall of one oppressor is followed by the rise of another. When a leader has seen God, and knows his unworthiness, and will lead to Sinai -- when the people will become a godly people -- then there is hope.