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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 Decisions You Need to Make Before Entering Counseling.

Many years ago as Tricia and I began our counseling through Klesis Ministries (a ministry we founded in 1990),  we recognized that unless people "owned" getting better from their side of the table, they would only engage so far in healing. It didn't make any difference how hard we worked or how skillful we were, if they held back we all went in circles.

Below are 10 decisions we ask people to wrestle with before we begin the counseling process. If they take it seriously, these decisions put them on sound footing to get well, at least in terms of their commitment.

1. THE DECISION TO BE WELL: While Christian counseling and healing ultimately depends the movement of the Holy Spirit, it is also true that you have a crucial part to play in the process. You must commit to doing what it takes to heal and get well. Even if if you have little idea what they might look like or entail in the process, you must choose this perspective. It opens you to trusting God. If your will is not decidedly in the effort, no matter how skilled or diligent the counselor, you will only go as far as you decide. 

2. THE DECISION TO FACE PAIN: In the course of getting well you have to decide that you will face the pain necessary to heal. If you want to avoid the pain, you will only waste your time and that of the counselor. There will be struggles to face in the forms of grief, anger, guilt and shame, but you will not face them alone . Jesus will walk with you as will we. Exposing the pain begins the healing process. Walking through suffering with Christ leads to the treasures of faith, hope and maturity. (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7)

3. THE DECISION TO FACE A FEAR: Along with facing pain, you will also have to face what you are afraid of. It could be hidden sin that makes you ashamed. It could be the fear of going through trauma again. Maybe you are afraid of being abandoned and rejected. It could be the fear of facing the responsibility of being well. Whatever the source of the fear, it has to be faced so that it is not the LORD of your life, but Jesus is. Fear cripples; facing it in Christ's presence leads to freedom. (Psalm 27:1, 56:3; Isaiah 41:10; Mark 5:36; John 14:27; Hebrews 13:6; 1 John 4:18) 

4. THE DECISION TO GIVE TIME: Emotional or spiritual healing for most does not happen overnight. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets. You must have patience and perseverance to allow the Holy Spirit time to heal you as He chooses. He will not force progress faster than you are willing to embrace. Settle in your heart the commitment to take whatever time is necessary to let the LORD free you from what binds and afflicts . (Psalm 40:1-4) 

5. THE DECISION TO WORK: Counseling and healing are hard work. You must decide to work at the process of getting well, otherwise you will depend on others to do it for you. That means doing homework assigned to you or any other task the counselor gives to help you heal or change. Passivity hamstrings the process. Lip service nullifies authentic effort. No one is going to fix your life for you. You must choose to make the effort to do what the LORD asks of you to heal. (Philippians 2:12-13) 

6. THE DECISION NOT TO BLAME OTHERS: It is a chronic sin of men and women to blame others for their problems, and failures. But to do so is often to hide behind a smokescreen and not take responsibility for one's growth and maturity. Exposing sin, your own and that of others against you, is a decision to live in the truth. Refusing to make other people responsible for the choices we make honors God's call on us to " live as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8) 

7. THE DECISION TO TRUST: Underlying the decision to get well is the decision to trust God as you work through your problems. This Psalmist tells us that the "LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man or woman who trusts in him," (Psalm 32:10) and Isaiah tells us that "the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." (Isaiah 28:16) dealing with deep-seated addictions, traumas and pain requires that your trust in God be grounded in the belief that He passionately loves you, and will see you through the struggles to be healed. In turn, you also have to trust that we your counselors have your best interests in Christ. 

8. THE DECISION TO EMBRACE THE TRUTH: Implied in all of this is the decision to live in the truth at all costs. Through the healing process, Jesus tells us that knowing the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) The LORD " delights in men who are truthful," (Proverbs 12:22) and He " desires truth in the inner parts." (Psalm 51:6) The decision to get well is the choice to know the truth about God, about yourself, and about others. You must decide to let the Holy Spirit lead you into the truth so that lies, illusions, fantasies, and deceits can be brought to light, and their influence neutralized. 

9. THE DECISION TO FORGIVE: In order to be healed and live the kind of life God has for you, He wants you to decide to forgive those who have hurt, abused, betrayed, abandoned, offended and violated you. Obviously, this can only be done by His grace, but you must choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in forgiving. It is essential to your getting better. Even if you can only pray for the willingness to forgive, you have to decide to move in that direction (Matthew 6:14, 18:21; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32) To forgive is to free yourself from the effects of the sin against you, and to not condemn the persons who harmed you. 

10. THE DECISION TO LIVE A NEW LIFE: It takes courage to live without old hurts and fears to hide behind. You need to decide to discover what it means to live as one of God's treasured Beloved despite your brokenness.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Leave Aside" Spiritual Formation Exercise #3

If you were to come to an imagine/Northampton worship gathering (and we'd love you to), you'd experience a spiritual formation exercise we call Leave Aside. It is different every week and comes from how we open Listening in Christ retreats to help people "leave aside" anything which would distract them from focusing on and receiving what God wanted to give them. We do the same thing to begin worship so people can attend to God and what he wants to show them. I invite them to write anything they need to "leave aside" before we go any further into worship. They write it on a card, put it in a basket, and we leave them all outside the door of our space.

The following was yesterday's exercise. The point of each paragraph is to emphasize what Jonathan Edwards calls "the greater internal heart duties," or Johannes Tauler refers to as the need to "have the soul to open herself wider, to be able to receive much, that He may bestow much upon her," or Hannah Whitall Smith says must "be the interior surrender of the convicted free men," or Ignatius of Antioch reveals what God could accomplish with someone who could "abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and . . .  allow His grace to mould them accordingly." Themes of wholehearted surrender and abandonment to God focused the reflection.

So I asked everyone to ponder each statement, then look at the questions following to ascertain if God wanted them to see where further spiritual formation was necessary in them. I challenged them to spend this week revisiting the exercise with God daily as part of prayer time with him.

I invite you to do the same with the exercise this week. See what returning daily to these questions might open to your heart. Ask God to reveal truth to you. Invite him to draw you nearer to his heart through them.

1. “The first and the great work of a Christian is about his heart. Do not be content with seeming to do good in 'outward acts' while your heart is bad, and you are a stranger to the greater internal heart duties. See that your chief study be about your heart; that there God's image may be planted; that there His interests be advanced; that there the world and flesh are subdued; that there the love of every sin is cast out; that there the love of holiness grows.”

Jonathan Edwards

Ask Jesus to show where he wants you to attend to “the greater internal heart duties” where the “Love of holiness grows,” and God’s “interests be advanced.” Where are you still a “stranger to the greater internal heart duties?”

2. “It is not of God's severity that He requires much from man; it is of His great kindness that He will have the soul to open herself wider, to be able to receive much, that He may bestow much upon her. Let no one think that it is hard to attain thereunto. Although it sound hard, and is hard at first, as touching the forsaking and dying to all things, yet, when one has reached this state, no life can be easier, or sweeter, or fuller of pleasures; for God is right diligent to be with us at all seasons, and to teach us, that He may bring us to Himself, when we are like to go astray. None of us ever desired anything more ardently than God desires to bring men to the knowledge of Himself. “

Johannes Tauler (14th Century German Dominican preacher and mystic)

Ask God to show you where he still “desires to bring (you) to the knowledge of himself.”

3. “I saw that the kingdom must be interior before it can be exterior, that it is a kingdom of ideas, and not one of brute force; that His rule is over hearts, not over places; that His victories must be inward before they can be outward; that He seeks to control spirits rather than bodies; that no triumph could satisfy Him but a triumph that gains the heart; that in short, where God really reigns, the surrender must be the interior surrender of the convicted free men, and not merely the outward surrender of the conquered slave.”

Hannah Whitall Smith (19th Century author, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1875))

Ask God to help you surrender your heart and not be enslaved by that which promises what it can never deliver. Where are you still enslaved?

4. “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mould them accordingly.”

Ignatius of Antioch (second bishop of Antioch in Syria; martyred in the 2nd century)

Invite God to “mould” you to the degree of abandonment necessary for him to accomplish all he desires in and through you. What do you hold back from him?

I would love to hear how God spoke to you through this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reflecting On My First Solemn Assembly, September 25, 2010, Plymouth, MA

I've never been to a Solemn Assembly. I just knew we needed to participate. It felt important and obedient for Tricia and I, as well as some other imagine/Northampton folks to be there. I still had a cold and felt rheumy, and could have opted out with some integrity, but we were summoned.

On the drive down to Plymouth, yesterday, I was a bit anxious, nothing new for an introvert going to a situation packed with people. I also had thoughts of what I'd experienced in Norwalk a few weekends back and did not want that again. I gave the thoughts no quarter, so after getting lost because of bad Mapquest directions we arrived at Memorial Hall smack dab in the middle of Plymouth and on time. We got situated and held seats for our mates, Nate and Ash, Steve and Vicki, and Jess (her mom joined us as well, a nice   surprise).

The event in toto lasted 4 hours. However, the folks in charge kept things flowing and I was grateful. There looked to be 5-600 in attendance, and as soon as worship began the room was filled with energy and praise. I have to admit, I miss that.

The day flowed with many speakers, some attention-keeping, others not so much. Shofars were blown announcing the Solemn Assembly. We heard about covenant, sang more than once, shared Communion, had a time of small group prayer, were guided in prayers of confession and repentance, and witnessed all manner of testimony over the centrality of New England in the redemptive Kingdom mission of Christ. It began at Plymouth. In the Hall, there was a sincere desire that the awakenings occurring here in the 17th and 18th centuries would happen again and soon. The speakers spoke of urgency, and the need for a remnant to rise to pray constantly, earnestly seeking God, and calling the Church and nation to repentance and revival. We were also entreated to examine our own hearts to see where they had grown cold because of sin and spiritual malaise. I was moved by the examination of my own heart and felt a renewed longing in me to pick up my cross, die completely to self and follow Christ no matter the cost. My confession and prayer to him was real. I want more of Jesus and less of me.

Something happened, though, which framed the entire event, and answered a prayer. What happened was hoped for, and I was stunned with gratitude when it did. We all were, I think.

About a third of the way into the Assembly, the speakers began to call us to repent for the sins of our people against the First Peoples of America. Because God has graciously opened a wonderful relationship with someone in our church who is Native American, and we've had talks about some of the shameful episodes between our peoples' in the founding of the nation, I hoped someone would address the issue. I was utterly taken by surprise when they did. It began with a prayer and general confession. It was poignant and heartfelt, but what happened next brought tears and a roaring thanksgiving from everyone.

A middle-aged gentleman was called up who is Mohawk and a Jesus follower. He spoke of the pain Native Americans have experienced over the centuries in the taking of their country, and the pitiful legacy of broken treaties - almost 500. At the same time, he humbly extended peace and identified himself as a brother in Christ. Some of the leaders addressed him on behalf of the Church and he graciously received it on behalf of Native Americans. Then, a young, Russian immigrant pastor gave him a gift signifying healing and unity. No one expected what our Mohawk brother did next, including the pastor. Around his neck was what looked like a "necklace" of straw-colored reeds he said he'd made. He said it was wampum. He took it from his neck and gave it to the young pastor as a sign of forgiveness, peace and unity. The silence in the room was thick. This simple gesture signified the power of the Gospel to heal and break down walls. It was sober and profoundly meaningful.

What a gift God gave.

At the very end of the event, the pastor who seemed to be the lead guy, called all the pastor's and leaders to come down to the floor in front of the stage so they could be prayed for. Our mates, on either side of Tricia and I turned and looked at me with a "so, you're going, right?" look. Tricia had gone to the bathroom, but she was returning to her seat at that moment.

I mention it because I've not been willing to call myself a pastor even though I am a leader in planting imagine/Northampton and fulfill a pastoral role - even people on the street call me pastor. I think my reticence has been because I'm one of three on the Leadership Team. By design, we've not formally designated anyone as Lead Pastor. Tricia, Jim and I all have distinct roles to play, and each has a pastoral component to it. Also, I'm a layman. All the ministry I've done in the last 20+ years has been as a layman: counselor, coach, spiritual director, retreat leader, ordained elder, teacher, and now pastor. Also, I've always seen pastors as seminary-trained specialists far more equipped and skilled than I to perform  pastoral duties.I still do.

When we went down to the floor to join the other pastors, I asked God's forgiveness for quietly refusing the mantle he's given since I have been up in Massachusetts. Standing there with other pastors, it felt curiously fitting and I gave myself permission to accept the role. I am still one of three, but I'll not hide the fact I'm a pastor.

May God be glorified in this simple gesture of obedience.

So the day was a gift on many levels. I'm grateful God gave us the opportunity to attend with friends and to experience a piece of what he is doing in New England. May what was prayed for all through the Solemn Assembly yesterday become reality in my lifetime, and may I do every bit of what God has given me to do with:

a fierce heart . . . a sound mind . . . a fertile imagination . . . a stubborn faith . . . an uncommon courage . . .

a spontaneous ability to laugh and cry . . . and abounding love for Jesus and all he loves . . .

until my last breath drifts peacefully heavenward.

Maranatha, King Jesus!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art: As Mucking About in Creation.

 "We should expect art to be more oblique. And instead of asking artists to show us God, we should want them to reveal the world—to expand the world, to make worlds that expand creation with their gifts of co- and sub-creative power. The calling of painters and poets, sculptors and songwriters is not always and only to hymn the Creator but to also and often be at play in the fields of the Lord, mired and mucking about in the gifted immanence that is creation. With that rich creational mandate, a Christian affirmation of the arts refuses the instrumentalist justification that we "find God" in our plays and poetry." (Jamie Smith online for Comment)

A few weeks back I wrote to explore the question: Can Art Be Kingdom Missional and Remain Art? I made a case that art is Kingdom missional when it turns people to the Story animating the world's story. I still think such is art's most exquisite calling. However, I also recognize art-making has intrinsic value as human expression of culture, and thus, inestimable value.

Today, I came across this quote in a Christianity Today article entitled "Culture in an Age of Consumption,", and love the idea of artists who follow Jesus assuming the creative freedom to "be at play in the fields of the Lord, mired and mucking about in the gifted immanence that is creation." Creative, artistic freedom requires mucking about to stumble into what might be, to find the stunning idea or uncover the hidden gemstone in the scree.

Another helpful way to think about art making is what James Davison Hunter quoted in the article terms "faithful presence," i.e., the creative making of culture, using the imagination to open our sensibilities to fresh encounters with the world God has created, and what we've done with it for good or evil. Just adding to the artistic oeuvre in the world; being a part of the creative dialogue . . . making something that didn't exist an hour, day or month ago.

Artists need the freedom to be subtle and oblique; to hint at possibility and mystery; to gesture as in a slight turn of the head or quick glance; to play and stumble into discovery, be in your face to help us squirm at true horror, or let 'er rip about just being alive. Art frames and ornaments human existence in unique fashion whether accessible in the moment or not.

And there are much worse ways under the sun of spending our "three score and ten" than artistically mucking about in "the fields of the Lord."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Following Jesus into the Mess Until the Cross Wears a Groove in Your Shoulder.

"The the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." (Matthew 25:34-6)

"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body." (Hebrews 13:3)

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it? And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; "do this and you will live." But he desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?"Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I get back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers/" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

When I first came to Northampton in the summer of 2008 I grew aware of feeling displaced, a stranger in a strange land, a foreigner on the outside looking in. I likened it to what missionaries must feel when starting out in a new culture. It seemed as if I couldn't find the door into becoming a genuine part of the unique life of this small, tribal city. I must admit the experience was really disturbing. I'd only been there before when I first moved from Albuquerque to Newbury Street in Boston in the early 70's. I felt a kid amidst sophisticated grown-ups (actually I was). The Boston and Northampton experiences were disorienting.

Gradually in Northampton, God began to open a way to connect; it turned out to be a willingness to go into the mess of people's lives and on their terms. Mind you, I'd been a lay counselor for 20+ years, being in the mess was my daily experience - and I was intimately connected to my own. Be that as it may, the Northampton disquiet felt and still feels somehow different. Perhaps, I view it as messier in a peculiar way. The problems and dilemmas I encounter in people's lives here seem more labyrinthine with multiple layers of unhealth, tragedy and sorrow interwoven from decades or even generations of trouble. Whether its the story of the alcoholic Vietnam vet who broke his back, never had it fixed and now lives in chronic pain, or the Level 3 sex offender who's lost everything good in his life and lives on the street 24/7. Or it's the big-hearted, abused woman who tries valiantly to keep a semblance of normalcy and order in her life, but fails more often than not, The issues I encounter feel overwhelming, and the mess too great to walk along side in hopes of bringing redemptive change.

At the same time, I realize for all sorts of complex cultural reasons we're living through a period of tremendous strain and turmoil affecting large people groups on every continent. Northampton is merely a microcosm of global upheaval. It's in this personal and global context the Holy Spirit faces me with unsettling questions to reveal the actual state of my heart toward his Kingdom mission I've said I wanted to help shoulder (his light yoke?) He's asking questions such as:

  • Do you really want to follow me into the mess everyday?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your comforts, resources, dreams, time and energy to walk in the mess with the most broken and beaten of my brethren?
  • Do you merely want to talk and write about it while staying safely aloof and in control of your own Kingdom?
  • Do you want to carry your cross, enter more deeply into my suffering, and die daily to yourself as your preferred way of living?
  • Will you go further in with people and not look back even if it costs you everything?
My answer most often to these and related questions turns out to be varying degrees of "yes": "Yes, as long as you'll help me," "Yes, but," "Yes, oh, you mean right now?", or "Yes, maybe (which usually means not so much)." I know I don't want to live pursuing the American dream of wealth, power and prestige. I've never wanted to do that, although having some financial security, and being able to travel with family occasionally, or take time off, see more plays, concerts and arts events still has their charm to me.

By nature and motivational design, I'm motivated by values, they drive me instinctively, but I also have the same character flaws, selfish desires, blind-spots, and frustrating weaknesses (aka sin), as other Jesus followers. I hate that I have them (pride?), but they live in me, and I need daily transforming, lavish grace to cut through their substantial influence. Oh yeah, and I've a large, much practiced "gift" for wandering - some of it's my ADD, and some my motivational bent for exploring. The problem is when sin and design hold sway, I avoid the mess and pursue more pleasant activities and amusements.

The fact of the matter remains, I know if I'm to fulfill the summons to this imagine/Northampton mission my King has given me with Tricia and my teammates, I must make an avowedly consistent beeline for the mess and then linger there with Jesus. He always goes to the mess in people's lives - although they may not let him in - and he wants us to be with him there every day. We're not to be silent in the face of suffering, distant from the tragedies and sorrows of ruined lives, detached from the cries of the voiceless and oppressed, or too busy with our pleasures and securities to let our hands get dirty in someone else's chaos.

Cutting to the bone, we are to do things like:

  • sit with and dry the tears of the abandoned (radical empathizing).
  • feed the hungry as much or more that we feed ourselves (radical sharing).
  • comfort and ennoble the discarded, warehoused feeble and dying (radical re-humanizing).
  • give away more than we keep (radical giving).
  • befriend the wearisome, smelly, dirty and obnoxious (radical befriending).
  • give our money more to the Kingdom mission than ensuring comfortable lives for ourselves (radical financing).
  • teach what we know to the ghettoized and disenfranchised who have no teacher ((radical equipping).
  •  disarm hate with tenacious love so courageous and unexpected it shames and neutralizes the tyrant (radical peacemaking).
  • pursue  and care for the addicted even when he or she is in the depths of using (radical care).
  • downsize, simplify, embrace redemptive downward mobility (radical sanctification).
You see, the mess is the earthly dwelling place of Jesus. In becoming a mess-dweller by choice, you walk in solidarity with the One who came to seek and save the lost, crushed, abandoned and dying here and now. You actually find your true life there and come to know him in the face of the forlorn. You see his beauty in lives filled with trouble, sickness and death. The broken, bleeding and crucified Christ is mysteriously recognized in the deformed and hardened. By being at home in the mess, you can see and hear him in the lives of these people. You learn to notice and sense without shying away instinctively.

Tricia (lately through the life of St. Francis of Assisi) and both of us through the persistent inviting of the Holy Spirit are being asked to shoulder our crosses in a manner which inevitably invites us to share in the suffering of Christ in the suffering of humanity. We are not in any way special in that regard. This call is the call to all people of Christ. It is the Way of the Cross, the hard way, but the way freedom for the world. Grace makes it possible to respond and grace makes it possible to persist wholeheartedly. Amazing grace; grace of the life in the mess with Jesus.


Holy One, Wondrous One, Son of Man, Son of God, Suffering Servant, Christ, my magnificent King, make us able to prefer living and serving in humanity's crushing mess with you. Enable us to shoulder our crosses until it wears a groove in our shoulders and we bear the marks of unconditional love. Give us uncommon courage, the love of heaven, Spirit-soaked creativity, and humility able to connect with people who frighten and repel us. Give us hearts that long for justice, mercy, and redemptive freedom for even those who mistreat and despise our solidarity with you. Let the mess in people be our healing ground and setting-free place. Deliver us from the world's enticing addictions to pleasure, amusement, wealth, power and selfish gain. Fill us to bursting with the Holy Spirit's love for you, and what you love that our days may see love triumphing over death in all its rotting malevolence. 


Sunday, September 5, 2010

In Defense of Inner Healing.

There comes a time in a man's life when you just have to say something; you can't let this one go by. To do so would be a missed opportunity at, best, and cowardice at the worst.

This, for me, is one of them.

Almost 2 weeks ago I was at a "school" of sorts held over a long weekend in southern Connecticut. I'd been invited by a friend to be a part of the worship. I was glad to do it . . . always a chance to play the instrument God fashioned me for.

During the course of the extended teaching, the speaker (who has a growing influence), at least 5-6 times denigrated and mocked a mode of healing Tricia and I've been closely associated with for 25 years. Some history:

In my 30's, through a series of God-orchestrated "circumstances," I spent a year going through inner healing with a very brilliant and spiritually gifted Episcopal priest. I went weekly for the duration. God let me know in no uncertain terms, I was going under the "spiritual" knife over issues which dogged me since my teens. Prior, I doubt I'd heard of inner healing. If I did, it registered little meaning with me.

My year of emotional, psychological and relational healing set me free to such a degree if I'd not gone through it, I'd have never been a counselor, or spiritual director. I wouldn't have led retreats or been sitting at my desk writing this blog about my thoughts and experiences planting imagine/Northampton. Ministry, at all, would have been a distant and far off land traversed by others.

The healing I received through the Holy Spirit from stifling memories and quietly suppurating heart wounds liberated me in a manner nothing else had. It was a redemptive, internal unbinding which opened authentic emotional manhood to me. Prior, I was a boy inside, a 35 year-old boy. He died when I could finally forgive my father for what his brokenness did to me. My anger was cut from its blood supply and I unlocked. I healed.

In fact, I so unlocked that God soon sent folks to me for inner healing. I was so enthusiastic about my experience of the process that I studied with this priest after our work together, and did extensive reading. Studying with him felt akin to being in graduate school, so extensive was his mastery of theology, biblical and cultural anthropology, psychology, and Christian spirituality, especially related to healing. I was able to trust the Holy Spirit, access my own healing and what I'd learned to help people overcome sometimes devastating wounds.

For the last 25 years to the present I can testify God works through deep healing in ways only he can.
I'm not sure what experience the speaker had to so categorically mock the inner healing ministry, but he must have seen abuses or gross ineptitude. From my experience and watching Jesus use Tricia brilliantly to heal deeply scores of women crushed by the sin of others committed against them, I'm bewildered by his position. Frankly, this teacher is completely in error with his blanket denunciation.

So in defense, I need to lay out a few key inner healing principles:

1. Healing, in general, has always been a critical component of the Gospel message: healing of the catastrophic separation from God because of sin, healing of relationships, healing of the body, and healing of the heart and mind, of nations: (Ps. 103:1-4; Mt. 10:8; Lk. 9:6; Mt. 14;14; Mt. 24:14; 1Cor. 12:9; Rev. 22:2) A key reality of the Kingdom of God is access to healing. Jesus demonstrated it in the Gospels as a means of establishing his identity as God's Anointed One ushering in a new way of life; the way of the Kingdom of God included healing.

2. Inner healing applies the Gospel to the experience of, and how a person thinks about or responds to his or her most emotionally crippling experiences in life. Biblical truths about forgiveness, salvation, redemption from sin, and the radical love of God illuminate a person's perception of his or her intrinsic worth. Wounding experiences always threaten to steal the truth of how God values each one of us. What happened in the past obstructs our ability to apprehend the beauty God sees in us. As that occurs, we disengage emotionally from the wonder of God's gracious gift, and settle into living an emotional half-life preserved by a noxious tangle of lies. Worse, we disappear and pose or find an acceptable persona behind which to hide. The authentic self is suppressed and held at bay for to avoid true intimacy and vulnerability at all costs.

Here's what inner healing accomplishes:

Isaiah 53:4 asserts Christ bore our griefs and carried our sorrows on the cross. He took them completely and opened the possibility of healing from their deleterious effects in our hearts so we might be freed from re-living horrors for a lifetime. Miracles occur through inner healing because what he bore on the cross and accomplished through the resurrection; miracles which overturn the emotional lordship of abuse, neglect and violation.

Psalm 247:3 states simply that God "heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds," because of human cruelty, indifference, lust, oppression, and deceit. It's not hard to break a heart or crush a human spirit, especially in the tender and trusting years of life. A broken heart dims the light of life in a person, muting their unique voice, and subverting their power to truly live. Through inner healing the Holy Spirit neutralizes the domination of evil and restores a person's ability to pursue living life to the full, a gift Jesus said he came to give (John 10:10).

In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes Isaiah, declaring in the synagogue, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those that are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." People who need inner healing are held captive to what others have done to them, or to the sin for which they are most deeply ashamed. Inner healing through the Spirit gradually unbinds people to live at liberty from the wounds they suffered or oppression they lived under. They don't pretend it "never happened," rather Jesus confronts and removes the fear, shame, unforgiveness, anger and condemnation infecting and ruling their hearts. His love helps them internalize God's favor.

One of the most powerful passages undergirding the efficacy and practice of true inner healing is 2Corinthians 10:4-5, "For the weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." What it says regarding the inner healing process, although admittedly in the context of Paul's letter he's not addressing the process of inner healing per se, is that even lies which grow from being hurt, defiled or abuse by others must submit to the lordship of Christ through inner healing. There, he asserts authority over the distorted, anguished thinking of people who've had their sense of self radically altered by sinful acts and the lies attached to them. When terrible memories are healed internally it's because Jesus makes them submit to him and replaces what occurred with love and utter acceptance for the wounded one. Emotional a re exposed and strongholds are destroyed.

Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Not only is the person made spiritually whole from the substitutionary atonement of Christ on their behalf so that positionally they're at peace with God by faith, but they experience peace from tormenting memories of terrible things. Inner healing leads to peace because the destructive power of what people did to (or withheld from) them loses its force through Jesus taking authority over it. Subsequently, peace with the past settles in over time.The peace given through justification sinks more deeply into the heart of the wounded because it can be more clearly seen. Guilt, shame, and fear can't stifles its presence.

Paul speaks of an existential/spiritual transformation in 2Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." The healing is so existentially profound and complete that a new way of being is created by regeneration. Inner healing revives the grasp and deepens the reality of being a new creation to the person devastated by abuse, neglect and hatred. This transformation from old to new to which Paul refers occurs instantaneously at the point of new birth. However, sanctification is the process by which we grow into our new creation relationship with God and others; we learn to live love and service as our primary way of being. Inner healing becomes necessary when people are emotionally, physically or spiritually traumatized and can't embrace fully this new creation way of living. They need to be freed and settled into the new way.

Ephesians 3:17-9, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God." At the heart, inner healing slowly opens people to being firmly established in the passionate, affectionate love of Abba Father. Being filled with the fullness of God is his longing for his Beloved that we might be unleashed to receive and share such love from what we've experienced in him. Inner healing lowers a person's guard so he or she better receives love and gives it with growing generosity and abandon. A guarded heart is a heart rooted in the shallows of God's healing love. Healing helps people be less defensed and protected; less hidden and opaque. They become conduits for unconditional love in ways never imagined because that same love freed them to healthy vulnerability.

Inner healing exposes and defuses the toxic, cancerous fear that overtakes the heart of someone who's been terrorized and dehumanized by human evil. 2Timothy 1:7 proclaims, "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind." God himself has graced us with an ability to think soundly (from a firm grasp of the truth), love well and live in the vivifying, fructifying power of the Spirit. Inner healing attacks and exposes the sources of malignant, abiding fear. Fear is a cruel taskmaster keeping people enslaved and irrationally confined to what appears safe, but actually just imprisons them in an illusion of self-guarded safety. Inner healing opens people to the unparalleled power of Christ over life and life's enemies. It also opens people to the power God has placed in them to live their lives in freedom and life-giving enterprises. Crippling fear teaches people to stay away from life; inner healing unchains and beckons them to an authentic present and promising future. Fear is gradually silenced by the gentle, peaceful, but authoritative voice of the Spirit in the jangling memories of pain and terror.

3. Inner healing takes advantage, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of the incredible power of imagination. It's that creative faculty of the mind which makes mental images, creatively formulates or signifies the minds conversation. Ideas, concepts, experiences, mental constructs and thoughts of all kinds can be pictured through the imagination in some form. It is the imagination that the Spirit employs to vividly depict memories, painful or otherwise, and then provide a way the mind can bring Jesus into the middle of the painful remembrances such that people "see" his Lordship over the offenders, and offenses against the person. Being able to put ones self back into the horror and "see' Jesus in the midst of it powerfully makes real the healing of the ordeal which has paralyzed the person sometimes for decades. Not only that, but healing actually occurs. The terrible sting and binding power of what happened is neutralized, and the person gradually emerges authentically from it's taint. 

Tricia and I've witnessed this hundreds of times as counselors, and we've kept a pile of cards and letters from over the years testifying to the lasting effect of God's work in the deep heart. Inner healing is a powerful means by which God frees the captive. While there are all sorts of counterfeits and inanities practiced in the name of inner healing, to be sure, the inner healing we've experienced, were taught, and practiced is at the heart of the applied Gospel of Jesus Christ

We also know many gifted and spiritually mature Christians around the country who are serving the Kingdom of God beautifully by helping heal crushed hearts through inner healing. They are hard-working bringers of the Good News and bearers of hope to the voiceless, feeble, maimed, and broken in our midst.

The teacher I heard recently denigrate this ministry of healing just doesn't realize how sadly far off the mark he is, and what a disservice he does to the Body of Christ.

May Jesus open his eyes.