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~Dwight Edwards, author and advisor to Larry Crabb

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~Alice F.; Arizona

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Prone To Wander Myth

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 What if your heart is no longer 'prone to wander?'  What if God is more interested in releasing a noble goodness He's already placed within you, rather than pressuring you to be more 'holy?'  Discover the book by Jim Robbins.

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From borrowed righteousness to actual righteousness: That's the point.

Many Christians end up thinking that the goodness they possess doesn't really belong to them -- that it's only Jesus being good within and through them that counts; as if Jesus dwells within them, but alongside a still faithless or tainted heart.  

They assume that they themselves couldn't possibly be good:  It's just Jesus indwelling that makes them so.   The hope is that they're simply banking on Jesus' righteousness within them: because all the faithfulness and purity appears only on Jesus' side of the ledger and none on their side.

While our goodness is exclusively the gift of Jesus to us, and must always be the result of grace, his goodness has become our actual goodness.  That's the point of the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant system of sacrifices could not do two things:

1.  It couldn’t take away a person’s sin or wash the guilt away.

2.  The Old Covenant sacrifices could only lend the person a temporary and outward righteousness:

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”

“The law … can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they [the sacrifices] not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” “…because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb. 10: 1,2,3,4)

Under the old way of relating to God, the worshippers borrowed righteousness through the sacrificial system, but it never really made them righteous.  Because of your union with Jesus, his goodness has become your goodness. 

We have shifted from borrowed to actual. 


A reader's response: "After all this time, why am I still struggling to live from my new heart?"

A reader's reaction to my recent post, "Why Do Your Best Is Exactly What the Enemy Wants."  Many of you will find her honesty refreshing:

Jim, thank you for what you said in this newsletter. This speaks to part of my struggle. I've been struggling with circumstances lately that have made me feel really bad about my seeming lack of faith. I tried it for 7 years in the system and left. When I found people online showing me better answers, I left the system full of hope at the time.

Now 5 years later, I'm realizing I don't 'get' living IN Christ much better than I ever did. Oh, sure I can talk a good talk about it, but I'm not doing so well at actually walking it. I think what you speak of, learning to live from the new heart, is still a hindrance to many people because we don't believe, deep down, that God really, truly loves us, accepts us, and thinks well of us.

I'm not sure how much time this is supposed to take. You'd think after 5 years I'd 'get it' better, and I've even had other 'outside the box' Christians imply such to me. I'm not sure what the trick is to 'getting it' that God loves and accepts me, but I haven't found the key yet.

Please understand I'm not looking for advice or tips on how to 'get it.' I think I've already heard it all. I guess I just wanted to tell you this because you're a fellow introvert and you do get that. And as an introvert, you're not likely to take a "just do it" fix to a heart problem. Maybe there's some conversation out there to be had on this... maybe I'm not the only one...


Note:  I'll have more to say later on why I think it's so hard to live from our new hearts and what the nature of that battle is.


Why "Do your best" is exactly what you're enemy wants.


I think the greatest trick the enemy has pulled on Christians - especially committed followers of Christ - is to convince us to do our best.  Really.  It can take a hundred different forms - serve the world, be a good mother/father, live a holy life, witness for Christ, fight for justice. 

[The enemy] appeals to the very passions within us to live as we long to live, and urges on onward.  But it is absolutely deadly if any of these noble endeavors are what we are living for.  The cunning, cunning shift, so brilliant, so subtle, is away from union with Christ to doing our best for Christ.  - John Eldredge



Religious Pressure - Version 1.0
You experienced this when you diligently tried to make a go of the Christian life - serving on all the committees you were expected to, faithfully pursuing a 'quiet time' to demonstrate your committment to God, and by "raising the bar" on your prayer life.  You got off the fence, got serious and ran hard for God so that you could one day hear him say, "Well-done, good and faithful servant." 

Religious Pressure 1.0 is what the culture of Christian duty expected of us.

Religious Pressure - Version  2.0
But old habits die hard because it's possible, once you do understand that Christ replaced your diseased and wandering heart with a good and noble heart, to put pressure on yourself to live from your new heart. And, as the scientific community has known for the last forty years, a pressured demand to comply doesn't produce intrinsic [inside-out] motivation. 

We're frankly surprised when we don't consistently choose the new resources and appetites of our new nature:

  • We scold ourselves for habits we just can't seem to break, even with our new goodness.
  • We interpret our failures through the lens of shame:  "I'm still that kind of person."
  • We redouble our efforts to "walk in the Spirit" while doubting our ability to do that.


Pressure enflames the flesh.
Yes, it is certainly counter-productive to live from old habits and fleshly thinking, but pressure to engage your new holiness will actually continue to engage your flesh and not your new goodness.  It's like scolding a toddler for not walking when he falls back into a habit of crawling.  You know he can walk, so damn it! Why isn't he walking?! 

Patient encouragement is helpful:  Pressure is not.  Honey, not vinegar.

Beating a young colt

It's like beating a young colt for not having the stamina of the Preakness winner in the next stall.  There's nothing wrong with the colt, he just needs a good trainer...and time.

So, whereas under Religious Pressure Version 1.0, we assumed all the wrong things about our heart - that it couldn't be trusted, that it would lead us into sin - we now vigorously demand that our new heart comply with the demand to run hard like we did under Version 1.0-- and we demand this from a heart that is still learning and trying finding its way

... A heart that needs to feel safe in order to come out and play. 

... A heart that wants to do right, and will lead you well as it learns to walk.


Union with Christ trumps doing your best for Christ.  In fact, you don't need to worry about the second when you have the first.  Enjoy the union and the rest will follow.


The King has granted you "Naud." What Celtic lore knows about law and forgiveness.

What do you do when you don't get justice for the wrongs done to you? 
- When the King seems more interested in pardonning your abuser than making sure you get justice?


The betrayer claims "naud:"
Everyone knew that Paladyr, the murderous betrayer, would receive the death penalty for what he had done to them:  Stabbing his former king through the ribs - slicing the cold blade into the king's heart; then setting fire to a village that killed twenty-five, including young infants choking on acrid smoke as they burned while they slept in thatched huts; and joining ranks with the king's wicked son who raped, burned and slaughtered innocent life.

When they captured Paladyr, only a death sentence would satisfy the villagers' grief.  But to the horror of every widow, every father of a burned child and everyone watching, Paladyr claimed "naud" of the High King, and the king granted it.

In Stephen Lawhead's book, The Endless Knot [Part Three of his Song of Albion Trilogy],  we watch as the wicked Paladyr stands before the Aird Righ, the new High King, arrogantly claiming the clemency and grace of "naud" - which if granted, would instantly erase his crimes; and with that, the hope of justice for the wounded.  There would be no satisfaction for the mother whose daughter was thrown from the high cliffs as Paladyr tossed her onto the bone-splintering rocks below; nor any justice for the father whose baby lay under charred timbers.

Yet Paladyr didn't ask for the mercy of "naud" out of repentence or sorrow for his crimes:  He isn't the humbled prodigal son:  He asked because a bizarre twist of the laws of Albion gave him that option.  In effect, "this personal feature of justice means that the guilty man can make a claim on the king which he has no right to make:  naud."

If the King refuses mercy
Granting "naud" to a criminal put the king's own reputation at stake:  if he refused to grant mercy, "the king effectively declared himself inferior to the criminal" because his grace couldn't surpass the criminal's wickedness.  It would give the impression that the king's power and sovereignty would have limits:  In effect, the king's authority would be constrained by the strict letter of the law, binding the king's authority to the narrow rights and wrongs, consequence and punishment the law demanded.  In effect, not granting mercy/naud tied the king's hands to the law, making the King a servant of the law, rather than Sovereign over it.

If the King grants mercy
If, on the other hand, the king did grant pardon, allowing naud, his mercy would be seen as greater than than the crimes...extending his sovereignty beyond the guilty one's offenses.  Because the king himself is justice incarnate, his choice to grant naud supercedes the strict letter of the law.  He is able to grant mercy over and against a forensic, "eye for an eye" unforgiving legalism. 

Because the High King of Albion did chose to grant the mercy of "naud" to Paladyr, the angry crowds' cry for justice found an unlikely answer:    When the High King granted "naud" to the beligerant Paladyr, the king says that "in essence, I had been asked to absorb the crime into myself."  

The truth behind the analogy
Does this not strike you as oddly familiar?  Under the grace of Jesus' reign, justice is no longer a written code of sin and sanctions.  Rather, Jesus, because he IS justice in the flesh, [as Lawhead says, "justice wears a human face"] isn't obligated to mete out justice according to a rigid adherence to a legal code:  Rather, Jesus' authority supercedes the legal code:  "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."  [2 Cor. 3:6]   God isn't obligated under law to dole out punishment equal to the crime, nor any punishment at all.  He has granted us a peculiar gift of his sovereignty:  he has given us the outrageous right to "claim naud" of him.

Justice absorbs the crime into Himself.  The Cross is our claim to "naud."


Introverts and the Church: The pain of performance and perceptions

What does it feel like to be an introvert in a high-pressure, driven church environment.  Here are a few stories from some introverts:

  • Dan says: 
    As an introvert in ministry leadership at two different churches I often perceived I didn't measure up because I would feel empty, tired, and in need of time alone following ministry events. I thought there was something wrong with me because I wanted to barricade myself in my office after preaching on a Sunday morning or leading an evening with students as a youth pastor. Understanding the "gift of introversion" has been a blessing. 
  • L.H. says: 
    I think 'high-reactive introverts' may be in high numbers among the pioneers of what is often termed "emergent church." [Things that drive "high-reactive/high-sensitive introverts crazy are]: the loud music, the showiness, the competition, the mixed messages, the performance-based environment, the hypocrisy, the frenetic busyness.  Being a highly-sensitive Christian lent itself to being intensely uncomfortable and discontent at traditional church nearly all the time. 
  • Amy says: 
    Unfortunately, for years all I got was the message that I wasn't good enough. The church institutions I was involved in were all well-propped up by natural achievers who thrived on always doing more. I often encountered teachings and articles written by blazing extroverts that said do more, work harder, run faster, keep up the good walk for Jesus! Remember, He's keeping your scorecard and you want to hear Him say, Well done, good and faithful servant! You don't want to be one of the ones that hears, Depart from me, I never knew you!  ...

    ...This type of religious environment cuts especially deep with introverts. We tend to be more sensitive by nature, and more deeply internalize the arrows hurled at us by the enemy, who unfortunately finds his job all to easy to do through the hands of often well-meaning religious leaders. We also find it more difficult to find a place to belong in the midst of the frenetic activity and performance of today's average church institution.

Related posts:


Your stories: recovering from religious shame

This is Meredith's story of recovery from shame, and how she found freedom in the truth that her heart was made good and noble when she met Jesus:
Meredith's story:

Before I completely understood my good heart I often felt badly about myself and I didn't know why. In churches I was viewed as someone who was very flawed.  I left church on Sundays feeling burdened and tired. This feeling spilled into every corner of my life and I couldn't understand why it was. I knew I was a good person but didn't understand why I felt the way I did.

Church was a hostile environment and I left because the pressure to conform and perform was too much and it felt like I was missing something. In church I was criticized for the way I dress, although relatively modest, and even for wearing red lipstick. I was treated with suspicion and was excluded for that and other things. Things didn't make sense and I felt alone.

Learning about my good and noble heart put a name to the bad feelings I had. It helped to to recognize the teaching that I had heard for so long and that had impacted me so badly. As I understood what Jim teaches more deeply I was freed from the burden of feeling like I was not good enough and that suspicion that I have encountered in churches. My self-esteem has improved and I feel genuine joy in freedom in understanding the true message of Christ and the truth of who I am.  I am free from hostile judgment and burdens and most importantly I am healed from that old belief!



This is Amy's story of how an introvert experienced the hyper-drive, push and pressure environment all too common in performance-based churches:

Amy's story  [how an introvert experienced "church":

My story is going to focus more on the extra difficulties that introverts encounter in today's performance-based religious institutions. The ones I ended up in, largely by default, were big, showy, noisy environments. The ones who looked the happiest, sang the loudest, had their hands up highest and prayed the most 'spiritual' sounding prayers were lauded as 'spiritual leaders.'

Unfortunately, for years all I got was the message that I wasn't good enough. The church institutions I was involved were all well-propped up by natural achievers who thrived on always doing more. I often encountered teachings and articles written by blazing extroverts that said do more, work harder, run faster, keep up the good walk for Jesus! Remember, He's keeping your scorecard and you want to hear Him say, Well done, good and faithful servant! You don't want to be one of the ones that hears, Depart from me, I never knew you!

This type of religious environment cuts especially deep with introverts. We tend to be more sensitive by nature, and more deeply internalize the arrows hurled at us by the enemy, who unfortunately finds his job all to easy to do through the hands of often well-meaning religious leaders. We also find it more difficult to find a place to belong in the midst of the frenetic activity and performance of today's average church institution.

So these years left me with so much shame that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown until years later, I finally began doing some serious internet research and found better answers. Jim's book was one of the tools that God used to show me how many poisonous lies with a "Christian" label that I had been fed. Thankfully, one book I have greatly benefited from is "Introvert Power" by Laurie Helgoe.

I am not "all the way healed" but it is a journey. I am so much healthier and more whole than I ever was during the days I was being told that my heart was not good and that there was always one more thing I had to do to try and earn God's favor. Now I am creating my own space and my own ways to be an introvert IN Christ, not an extrovert always doing things 'for' Him. I ponder. I create. I write. I work on and share music.  I connect more closely with others one-on-one however I can, one of the things I do best. I do things for others that are uniquely me, but were never valued by the institution. I am learning that being an introvert the way God made me is just fine, and there may be reasons for it that I haven't even discovered yet.


SHARE YOUR STORY:  If you'd like to share your story here with others about recovering from "bad heart" messages and the  discovery that your new Christ-shaped heart is good and noble, send me an EMAIL

GET JIM'S BOOK:  To read more stories of people who were shamed under a "bad heart" or "wandering heart" message, you can also read my book, "RECOVER YOUR GOOD HEART." 



New solo piano video of Jim


Most damage done by leaders centers around the use of power.

Most damage done by leaders centers around the use of power:

  • The administrator or manager who makes decisions unilaterally...for you and not with you.

  • The pastor who mistakes self-righteousness and arrogance  for confidence and humble authority.

  • The executive who, when confronted with difficult issues,  filters decisions through “risk assessment” rather than truth and empathy:  Empathy for others is discarded for the sake of the leader's own self-preservation or those the leader is protecting.

  • Leaders who abuse power believe that the image or perception of the institution or corporation is paramount, and will be maintained at the expense of higher values.
  • Compliance [outward adherence to expectations] is mistakenly equated with change.

  • Because of the leader's tragic misunderstanding of power, your relationship with this leader is instantly expendable, regardless of shared history or alleged common beliefs.  Personal allegiances with him are tentative and illusory at best. 

Too many men are made "kings" too soon, and too many women have mistaken control for love.

Authentic leadership is not the absence of power.  Rather, it is power in service to others, even when it requires sacrificing ego, title or positional authority in order to do the right thing:


"...have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

by taking the very nature of a servant,
And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself...


Be careful what you sing: How hymns and worship songs don't always tell the truth

For years,  I've wished Christian worship leaders and song publishers had a board of theological advisors that really understood the implications of our new-hearted identity in Christ.  Everything teaches, especially those things we repeat.   Sunday after Sunday.

We become not only what we worship but how we worship. 

Take the lyrics of two well-known worship songs:

 "Change My Heart, Oh God"

Change my heart oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart oh God,
May I be like You.  


"Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing"

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;


Myth:  Your heart, Christian, is still suspect and can't be trusted.  Your core desires and your will are still in opposition to God's plans.  You are 'prone to wander.'  God is patient with people like you, but disappointed in your progress. 

Your heart is an unruly and stubborn child:  Therefore, God needs to continue a work in your heart in order to get you to the place where you can love as he wants you to.

:  You no longer have a wandering, "divided heart," because Jesus removed that diseased heart that was in opposition to God.  In its place, resides a powerful, clean and obedient heart that loves what God loves, desires what God desires, and is just as good and noble as the heart Jesus himself possessed.


Your heart is no longer your enemy.  It is now your ally. 


To learn more about the widespread Scriptural basis for your good and noble heart, you can get my book, "Recover Your Good Heart:  Living Free from Religious Guilt and the Shame of Not Good-Enough."    The book has been especially helpful for people who are tired of being told they're never enough for God.

It's time to trust what God has already given you.




"Fully-Devoted" and Quietly Ashamed: How some Christian books crush the heart with pressure tactics.

Pop Christianity's message of "commitment"
Popular Christian books come with a clear message:  "You are lukewarm at best; on the fence with Jesus and far from a "fully-devoted follower."  You're keeping Jesus at arms'-length because you're too busy or too apathetic.  You're not fully-surrendered to Christ." 

Serving up a diet of pressure, "conviction," and self-deprecation, these pop-Christian books will have you nervously reconsidering whether you're a radically committed "fully-devoted follower" of Jesus or merely a "fan" watching casually from the stands.  The author's "wake-up call" will admonish you to "up your game" and "ratchet up your commitment" with the same suffocating judicial strong-arming the Accuser himself delights in. Their message is built upon this core assumption:  "Your heart, Christian, is naturally unfaithful and it is our job to point that out to you."

Exposure disquised as truth-telling
These popular books delight in exposing you.... reaching in to rip your spiritual fig leaves off, leaving you naked and branded for spiritual adultery.  "Step up your commitment.  Get off the fence." The authors use pressure disguised as "admonishment" and "truth-telling" to lay bare your lack of spiritual fervor.

Here's one reader's comment on a recent popular Christian book she read:

I feel this is a great book to get you really thinking about your relationship with God. Am I "all-in"? Am I committed? Am I a fan, or an "enthusiastic admirer," that is running lukewarm for Christ, instead of on fire?

The reader's comment continues...

In all honesty, this book revealed to me that I'm not 100% completely committed. When I'm honest, I put other things before God. Not all the time, but sometimes. Do I surrender all? Do I die to self everyday? It's sad to say the answer to these questions is . . . no. I can be full of pride, I can be selfish, I can be judgmental. I'm a sinner...

Why do authors and pastors write these books?
Can we live from the flesh and get apathetic, succumbing to a myopic view of other's needs?  Of course.  But the problem doesn't lie in the commitment or faithfulness of your heart - for the heart that was "prone to wander" has been replaced with a thoroughly good...and faithful heart.  [Ezek. 36:26]

I think one of the reasons there are so many Christian books designed to expose our lack of commitment to being "radical followers" is precisely because those leaders believe the Christian's heart remains "prone to wander" and therefore prone to apathy and lukewarm commitment. The authors are writing books based upon outdated assumptions, treating a threat [a diseased nature] that no longer exists - like vaccinating people against small pox even though that disease was declared wiped out worldwide by 1979.

Rather than assuming the believer's heart needs scolding and judicial exposure, they need to acknowledge that Christ has decisively removed the old, unfaithful heart, and replaced it with a new heart that will gladly move in love and devotion towards God and others if they'll just stop scolding it.

Related posts:


Note:  I don't fault pastors for what they believe - they're simply teaching what they've been taught.  However, a refusal to question our assumptions about the Christian's heart will lead to more defeated and less Christ-like followers.  A pressured focus on law inflames sin rather than constraining it.


New solo piano song demo from Jim: "Montana Front Range."

As many of my readers know, I am not only an author, but also a professional solo piano recording artist.  The goal of each solo piano piece I write is reflected in this great quote from Dallas Willard:

Beauty is "good, made present to the senses."

I've been at work in the piano studio - writing new pieces for my second solo piano CD. 

Here's a raw song idea I'm working on called, "Montana Front Range."  The idea isn't fully-formed in my mind yet, but has already developed a distinct direction.  

I was inspired by the beauty of mountains rising up from the valley in places like the Madison River Valley area of Montana, or Bozeman, or the Lamar Valley where herds of bison roam.

The song draft here isn't fully-formed yet or polished and mixed, but gives an idea of one of the songs that I'm writing for the new solo piano CD.



Related Links:


My story: "Generalized Accusation Disorder"

I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd done something wrong.  My parents had taken my sister and I on a cross-country trip during our Junior High years; but I felt chronically guilty for much of it.  I remember driving along a West Virginia highway in our rental car, feeling like the principal had caught me smoking in the bathroom.

But I had done nothing wrong.  There was no sinful choice or shameful act to point to.  My hyper-sensitive conscience was creating a smear campaign designed to discredit my integrity.  A higher susceptibility to guilt and remorse can also be one of the characteristics of a highly-sensitive or "high-reactive" person.  I was being forced to take the stand in the absence of any proof of guilt.  In fact, if you asked my parents, they would have agreed, "No...Jim didn't do anything wrong.  I'm not sure why he would think that." 

The truth was, even the most staunch Southern Baptist could have examined my motives and actions then and found nothing immoral - but I was convinced there was something I'd done wrong. During the months we traveled across country, the oppressive guilt remained like a hall monitor scanning the halls for the wayward student.

What I call "Generalized Accusation Disorder" - this entrenched and unjustified belief that I was guilty of something, anything-  stole my childhood joy in those long months.  I'll never get that time back.


Accusation is designed to disable.
Accusation will disable a person more quickly than almost anything else.  It's no wonder the enemy of your heart favors it as his preferable toxin. 

Even in my late fourties now, I'll experience a similar sensation when watching a crime drama:  "That's where you'll wind up someday, Jim.  Just like the man who compromised his integrity one too many times.  Someday, you'll cross that threshold as well ...and the iron bars will slam shut behind you."

Or, that vicarious guilt I feel when a close friend gets divorced because he's shattered his family through an affair that neither he nor we saw coming:  "Jim, what makes you think you're stronger than your own friend?  Why would you be able to resist sexual temptation when he couldn't?" 

Accusation's deceptive voice:
Accusation will disable the truth about your good and noble heart faster than anything else.  Why?  Because it comes disguised as "humility" and a "contrite heart."  Accusation wants you to believe that, "therefore, by the the grace of God, go I."  Accusation creates suspicion:  "Is your heart really as noble as you think it is?  Are you really a 'new creation' possessed by the goodness of God?"

Accusation masquerades as healthy remorse or "good guilt."  Though healthy remorse and repentance are often truly helpful, accusation is a trick of deception.  It's message:  "Your heart is the problem.  There is more than the act of sin here...because there is the condition of sinfulness.

It is a lie.  Your enemy will even have you believe it is the Spirit's own voice of "conviction."  Even if you have sinned, Generalized Accusation Disorder will have you camp there in the mess, rather than celebrate a new God-given purity and noble goodness waiting to be released from your new heart.

Ally, not enemy.
Trust the goodness of your God-given new heart.  Your heart is now your ally, not your enemy. 

*The book I wrote, RECOVER YOUR GOOD HEART, may be particularly helpful for those of you who have suffered with "Generalized Accusation Disorder."  


Were you a "high-Reactive" introverted kid? [High-Reactives: Part-two]

Here's part two on "high-reactive" people, and the unique ways in which they suffer as well as can do well in the world.  Excerpts from Quiet:  The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking.

High-reactive kids and adults:
Although much of the research with "high-reactives"  has been done with kids, "the footprint of a high- or low-reactive temperament never disappeared in adulthood" when those same persons were tested in adulthood. 

In other words, you certainly have the free-will to change some parts of your personality, but certain aspects will follow you into old age.  According to the "rubber band theory" of personality, we can stretch our personalities to a degree, but they'll always snap back to a preferred default position.

More characteristics of a "high-reactive" temperament:

  • These kids are more at risk when there's "marital tension, a parent's death, or abuse.  They're more likely than their peers to react to these events with depression, anxiety, and shyness." 

  • But there's a beneficial side to having high-reactive kids - especially if they're parented well under a stable environment:  These kids will "tend to have fewer emotional problems and more social skills than their lower-reactive peers, studies show."  They can even be more resistant to the common cold when in a nurturing environment.

  • These children [and presumably as they grow into adulthood] are often "exceedingly empathic, caring, and cooperative.  They are kind, conscientious, and easily disturbed by cruelty, injustice, and irresponsibility." 

According to Jay Belsky, "'Instead of seeing these kids as vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as malleable - for worse, but also for better.'"  The ideal parent for a high-reactive child:

  • "can read you cues and respect your individuality;"
  • "is warm and firm in placing demands on you without being harsh or hostile;"
  • "is not harsh, neglectful, or inconsistent."


Creating a new environment for high-reactives [and probably everyone else as well]

As I read this research, it was obvious to me that "high-reactives" in particular need a grace-filled environment  - absent of accusation and shame.   Certainly, though, everyone could benefit from gracious relationships; but particularly "high-reactives." 


  • Respond without reactivity.
  • Refrain from controlling and accusing.
  • Confront [when necessary] with information, not condemnation.
  • Celebrate the new heart in the other before jumping in.


Related posts:


What about you?
What did you experience as a "high-reactive" kid?  How has it carried over into adulthood and what benefit has it brought you?


Why accusation is so debilitating for "sensitive" hearts.

I have a particular empathy for those who are "sensitive" and tender-hearted - particularly because they are more vulnerable to accusation, or even perceived accusation, than most.  It's probably one the reasons I wrote, RECOVER YOUR GOOD HEART

I also happen to be one of those "sensitive types."  It's not surprising that I'm a writer and a solo piano artist, callings that require introspection and a willingness to feel deeply.  My mentors are books and my piano is my therapist.

In her extraordinary book, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts In A world That Can't Stop Talking," Susan Cain lays out the research on people called "High Reactives," a trait that often corresponds to introversion but not always.   These children and adults "react" more intensely to changes or perceived threats in their environments than "low-reactives" do.

Here are some characteristics of "high-reactives:"

  •  Sensitive nature
  • May be “quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness,  and likely to have a strong  conscience.” 
  • Will experience a “more intense mix of guilt and sorrow than a lower-reactive kid.” “High-reactive kids seem to see and feel things more.”
  • "...The reactivity of these kids' nervous systems makes them quickly overwhelmed by childhood adversity, but also able to benefit from a nurturing environment more than other children do." 
  • “High-reactive types …are more like orchids:  they wilt easily, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent.”

My own opinion, based on reading these findings, is that accusation will do more injury to a "high-reactive" because they're likely to feel a "more intense mix of guilt and sorrow" and more likely to internalize perceived accusation, even when it's not their fault.

Yet, there's a hidden blessing to functioning as a "high-reactive:"  Others will likely benefit from your courageous, yet tender heart.  People need your vulnerability and ability to feel deeply with them.  You'll also benefit from knowing just how tender and kind-hearted Jesus can be.

I'll share more characteristics of "high-reactives" in the next post.


How "classroom management" [control] has stripped your kids of dignity.

If you've read my posts long enough, you know that I have little tolerance for leaders that shame or control people under their care...especially when children are the victims. 

Here's an excerpt from an article touting the right of teachers to get their classrooms under control - and in my opinion, at the expense of the very kids whose care they are charged with.


Here's the article excerpt:

Freshly minted teachers have passed every test but one: how to control their classrooms.

Pat Wingert, Newsweek correspondent.  March 5, 2010

Back in the '60s, when I attended the Queen of the Rosary school in suburban Chicago, classroom management was not an issue. We had more than 35 kids in a class, but even first graders knew you sat with your hands folded, eyes on the board, and mouth shut. If you got out of line, you might be sent to the corner. One nun had an amazing pitching arm. She would spin away from the blackboard and bean a slacker with a fully loaded eraser. It didn't hurt. But it was effective.

Now when you talk to new teachers—which I do regularly as an education reporter—their biggest complaint is that no one teaches them how to control a classroom...The solution is probably not to encourage teachers to bean kids with erasers. But something is needed.


Notice the point of the article was to find a way to get kids under control; not to connect with them, not to understand them or love or respect them; but to manage them.  People, especially kids, were never meant to be managed.  We ought to manage things, or processes, but not people; and especially not kids.


You can have order without control.
While order is often necessary in the classroom, control is not.  In one classroom I observed that thankfully understood the difference, the teacher brought about order by whispering; not by yelling, harsh reprimands or other shaming tactics. 


Would you treat a colleague, or even a pet this way?
Contrast this with one mother's lament I read, stating that her child's teacher used "one-size-fits-all" accusations where the teacher scolds the entire classroom for the poor behavior of a few. As that mom pointed out, class-wide shaming holds the view: "Blame everyone no matter who did it."

I also heard another mom tell the story of her daughter's teacher, who in front of the classroom, threw out her daughter's papers in the trash because they had too many eraser marks on it.  On another occasion, the teacher had put the student in time-out simply because she used the pencil sharpener while the teacher happened to be on the phone.

Control delivers shame, because it gives the person in authority the self-justifying smugness to bring a child under rigid compliance while stripping them of their dignity.  Control says, "I have the right to use power over you in this way because you are lesser than me.

Some dogs get kinder treatmen
My guess is that under this disparaging view of children, a classroom pet would get better treatment than a kid.  Obedience Training is for dogs, not children.


Why the Dinka and Nuer tribes pull their children's permanent teeth out...

Image courtesy PittRivers MuseumIn the Sudan, the Dinka and Nuer tribes have a bizarre tradition.  "They extract the permanent front teeth of their children - as many as six bottom teeth and two top teeth - which produces a sunken chin, a collapsed lower lip, and speech impediments." [1]

Why?  During a period of time in which lock jaw [tetanus] was common,  children's jaws were slamming shut, preventing them from eating and drinking.  The teeth are painfully removed with a fishhook.  By pulling out up to eight permanent front teeth, the children could drink through the resulting hole that was left. 

The tetanus epidemic has long passed, but the two tribes are still pulling adult teeth from their children's jaws, continuing a completely unnecessary pattern of injury.

The threat has long passed, yet the pattern continues.

Many Christians continue a similar pattern of self-injury, fearfully detesting their own heart and distaining the very core of their being.  They unwittingly believe their heart continues to be the source of malice, sin and threat when it no longer is.  Out of ignorance, many Christians wish they could extract the alleged evil within their hearts, not realizing that the epidemic sickness that once ravaged their hearts is no longer there. 

In fact, the diseased heart was removed during conversion, when  Jesus entered their bodies.  Yet Christians continue a curious tradition of self-deprication and self-loathing - believing there is still a threat within them that makes them "prone to wander," selfish and opposed to God's will.


No longer in the heart, but in the body.
Though the Christian may and does still sin -- the source of that sin is no longer within their heart.  Sin, as Paul indicates, may be lodged in the Christian's body...but not within her core nature [the heart].  "So don't allow sin to rule in your mortal body, to make you obey its desires." [Rom. 6:12] 

In fact, you can count approximately 17 times throughout Romans chapters 6 through 8 the use of terms like, "flesh," "body," "members."  This is why we "eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies."


The threat has passed.
That old, wayward heart [our core nature] was removed by Christ the moment you said 'yes' to Him.  The threat of a former diseased heart is gone. Let's learn something from the Dinka and Nuer tribes, and stop a completely unnecessary and painful tradition based upon a diseased disposition that no longer exists.  Your heart is good now.  God made it so.

[1]  "Mistakes Were Made - But Not By Me,"  by Tavris & Aronson


Our old nature is not in remission, it's been removed.

As I pointed out in my last post, there's a big difference between "reassuring grace" and "replacement grace." 

While "reassuring grace" says that we can "live loved" and that "God isn't disappointed with us,"  replacement grace offers us the real change we needed.  Reassuring grace is a welcomed relief, but not the cure.

Our dis-eased nature [heart/spirit] - the thing that led us astray in the first place -  was completely removed when we said 'yes' to Jesus:

  • It's not about a touch-up, but a transplant.

  • It's not about incremental improvement, but a dramatic deletion.

  • It's not about remission, but total removal.

  • It's not about symptom-management, but eradication of our sin-stained nature.

Then why do Christians still sin?  Because residual attitudes and patterns of sin - left over from before we met Jesus  - can still operate in our bodies...  like a residual infection from an amputed limb.  Sin may still operate in our bodies, or "members" as Paul says, but not in our new nature [heart.] 

[Paul describes "sin" as an alien force in our bodies:  A force that can operate within us, but is not us.]  Those left-over habits and patterns of thought live in our bodies, not in our hearts now.

Because the ruined heart that used to hold us captive has been surgically removed by Jesus, our God-given new heart is now our ally and not our enemy.


Why reassuring grace isn't enough...



There are two kinds of "grace:"

  • "Reassuring Grace"

  • "Replacement Grace."

Most of us think that God's offer is limited to reassuring us of his forgiveness, or reminding us of his "unmeritted favor."  We're drawn to the comfort of "living loved," "God's not angry with you," and "resting in him."  This kind of grace, while putting us at ease with God and removing the anxiety that comes with religious performance, is not the best part of God's offer.

More immediately hopeful than even Reassuring Grace is "Replacement Grace."  Why?  Because "Reassuring Grace" by itself is cruel:  Like comforting a cancer patient without attempting to cure the cancer that's destroying her. 

That sick person needs the cancer to be gone if her body is to function at-ease.  She needs restoration.  [* I realize that in the physical world of sickness, "victory" doesn't always mean removal of the disease.  However, in the spiritual world, the world of our heart or core nature, victory can and does mean the immediate removal of the diseased organ - in this case, our diseased, sin-sick spirit/heart.]

While reassuring that patient that you love her and will comfort her certainly helps her, what she really needs is a new lung, or whatever organ is ransacked with death.

So God, in addition to reassuring us with his gracious love, replaces the diseased core within us:  he replaces our old, wandering and sin-sick heart with a new, supernaturally-good and noble heart.

The grace that replaces is even better than the grace that reassures.


"Change Blindness:" How today's Church missed the core of God's offer.

  • Why do some Christians still believe that they're more likely to sin than to love goodness?

  • Why do some Christians still believe they have a 'divided heart?'

  • Why do some Christians still believe God the Father has to look upon them with 'Jesus glasses' so he doesn't see their sin?

AnswerChange Blindness.

"Change Blindness" is when a person [or group] looks at two seemingly identical pictures or scenes and misses important visual changes from one scene to the next or one picture to the next.  The person believes that they are still looking at the same exact image as the first. 

Even though something in the second picture is very different from the first, they don't see it.  It's a gap in perception.

Here's a short video on change blindness:

Watch Change Blindness on PBS. See more from NOVA scienceNOW.



Another Example:
Look at this short video called, "The Big Fish."  Did you notice the change in the scene?


How the Church has missed the dramatic change in our core nature...our heart:
Here's how change blindness has occured in much of the Church today:  Many Christians believe that the New Covenant message of 'grace' means that their heart is still just as deceitful as ever, or only somewhat improved from before, yet Jesus will work in them despite their still unfaithful heart.

*In other words, they believe that their true nature [heart] has been left unchanged, even after they've come to Christ.  They mistakenly think that their nature [heart] is still corrupted by sin, and that Jesus must work around that diseased and corrupt heart.  Like the subjects in the video you just watched, Christians are missing the change:  something was replaced with something else.

The real offer of God:

Grace means that an old, "prone to wander" heart was surgically removed -- replaced with the supernaturally-good heart of Jesus.  His heart now throbs within you, and has taken on your unique God-given desires, gifts, and temperment. 

The dramatic change we missed is this:  Your heart is no longer prone to wander, because that heart doesn't exist anymore.  It was burned up by Jesus' indwelling righteousness.  Just like the change from one picture to the next, the old has gone [it no longer exists] and the new heart has taken its place.

Your "flesh" [some residual and often strong programming left over from before] still exists, but that's not the authentic you.  Paul points this out in Romans 7:  "It is no longer I who sins..."

Your heart is now your ally and not your enemy:   Once you see that, change blindness can no longer keep you pinned down.


P.S.  If you missed what changed in the "Big Fish" video, look for something large and yellow.


What's up with the new look?

Many of you know that in addition to being a full-time writer, I'm also a solo piano recording artist

For some reason, I thought I had to keep these two sides of my life separate.  Part of that was the fear multi-artists can have that people will think:  "He can't possibly be qualified in multiple areas:  You know, "Jack of all trades - master of none." 

I think things are changing for what one writer calls us "slashes."   Marci Alboher calls people who operate equally in multiple areas "slashes."  Some examples of "slashes/" are:  

  • architects/personal trainers,
  • accounts/poets,
  • student/personal chef
  • I.T. tech/musician

I read about a psychotherapist who also makes violins that sell for $15,000 each to high-end orchestral clients.  Or, you can look at the classic case of DaVinci.  His own brilliance covered such sweeping pursuits as painting, architecture, the anatomy of the human body, and even the design of tanks and advanced weaponary.  The man who painted the "Last Supper" also excelled in geometry and architecture.  [I wrote a past post on the Renaissance Man.]

By pen or piano, the goal is restoration for the heart.
I'm introducing what really isn't another side of me, but rather a different expression for my creative outflow.  I write books and I compose music both for the sake of restoration.  I still write daily and love that.  But the music expresses things my writing doesn't.  It's a perfect marriage. 

Upcoming project:
In fact, in the future, The Good and Noble Heart Creative Studios [me] will be introducing a project series called "The Restoration Sessions"  that will combine both my teaching message of the Good and Noble Heart with my solo piano music.

As a former pianist/keyboardist for large worship events, I used to create "worshipscapes" and prayer backdrops for different elements going on in the worship moment.  Music can reach wounds and gently gain access to places that words might not have permission.  By combining word [teaching] and music, I get to offer the synergy of both.

I'll also be working on my second solo piano album.  My first was recorded on a Steinway Concert Grand and was called, "RESTORATION."  They are all originals.  "Emotion.  Touch.  Sensitivity" might describe the contemplative piano pieces on that album.  For now, enjoy.  [CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.]