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Entries in identity (23)


The Cure for Shame

Shame will be our default position and the virus in every relationship -  unless it is healed. Shame says, "You are flawed to the marrow, have nothing significant to offer,  hopelessly addicted,  and inherently prone to blow it.   The good in you can never outweigh the bad in you.  You will never be enough."

A shame-consciousness will be the Achille's Heal for every leader, organization, and every family and parent-child relationship, unless we find the cure.  And there is a cure.

But when we look to the pulpit or Public Television or TED pundits for a cure for shame, it often sounds like one the the following, often reasonable-sounding antidotes:

Acceptance as an antidote to shame:

"I am loved, despite..."

"I am accepted."

Self-confidence as an antidote to shame:

"Practice positive self-talk."

"Believe you are worthy."

Forgiveness as an antidote to shame:

"I am forgiven."

"God's grace is greater than my sin."


Discipline as an antidote for shame:

"Step up your prayer life and spiritual disciplines."

"Try harder not to miss group meetings."


Release from guilt as an antidote to shame:

"It's not your fault."


Positive thinking or better self-talk can't handle this.
Yet, as helpful and often true as most of the above antidotes can be, none of these solutions is sufficient to heal the root of shame.  Most Christians think that one or more of those antidotes I listed above will do the trick; yet it often feels like we're up against something much bigger than positive thinking or healthy self-talk can handle. 

Our best efforts to fend off our critics [whether external or internal] often feel a bit like the leather-tough cowboy who pretends the bullet lodged in his gut doesn't hurt; or the female CEO who tries to casually shake off the brutal criticisms lobbed at her by the Board, while she privately sheds angry tears in the bathroom stall. 

We're tired of pretending we're o.k., and though we are reluctant to admit it, pretending only temporarily shoves away the pecking buzzards, knowing the scavengers will always return until the kill is devoured.    Pretending we're o.k. doesn't actually heal us.


The cure for shame
The best question to ask is, "What does Jesus think the cure for shame is?"  Does Jesus have a way to heal the root system of shame within the human personality, rather than asking us to coax ourselves into positive self-talk or try to act bravely in the face of our critics? 

In Jesus' own words, the cure he offers is this: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." [Ezekiel 36:26]  His answer is as astoundingly simple as it is unique.  The heart is the root system for a person's relational health.  Jesus restores the root system in order to restore the person.    The moment you enter friendship with Jesus, the diseased root system is removed:  The heart that has driven you into a shame-mindset your whole life is taken away.  In its place is emplanted a remarkable, noble and radiant heart - a new root system.  Everything you hoped you could be is embedded in that new heart you've been given, waiting to be affirmed and released.


What Jesus might say to set us free: 

Jesus might say,

"Let's be truly authentic here, no pretending.  There's no need for that.  You're safe with Me.  No mustering up a sense of worthiness that shields you from the critics;  instead, let's take self-defense off the table forever. 

When the Devil comes to Me and tries to accuse and slander you to My face, I point him to your new and noble heart.  It infuriates the Enemy because self-defense is the only thing he has to teach you.

Your new-hearted nobility is a gift from me, and no one feels compelled to defend something they know is a gift:   If you didn't create it, you're not responsible for defending it, right?  I defend you so that you don't have to.  Your new heart is how I defend you against your critics."

To learn more about recovering your good and noble heart, you can check out Jim's book, Recover Your Good Heart - Living free from religious guilt and the shame of never good-enough.


"I am no longer a good and noble man."

"I am no longer a good and noble man." 

This was the indictment against my heart last week, and my character was on trial.

Why had I come to this aweful conclusion about my heart?  ... My wife exposed my anger.

I'd realized I'd blown it with my wife and kids, and had been blowing it for the last nine months: 

...Chronic impatience and irritability with the kids,

...backing my wife into an ideological corner in order to be "right" and to dominate an argument,

...and treating my family like a dumping ground for all that ailed me.

My anger wasn't explosive or uncontrolled; it was more of a searing, wounded anger.  The kind of anger a man develops when he can't face one more betrayal of friendship, or another day of bleeding alone, or another hour of wondering why his Father has gone off and left him again.

It's the kind of anger a man feels when God is asking him to trust that "there is no shadow of turning" with Him, but the man can't quite believe it yet.

Faced with the knowledge I'd been wounding my dear family for many months, I went to a pretty dark place:  Not a place of simple and honest sorrow, but a destructive form of self-torture.  Indicting yourself is often a cheap substitute for the difficult task of receiving grace.

Here are some thoughts that were going through my head:

I am clearly unworthy of my family and can't be trusted with their well-being.

I am no longer the man I thought I was, and that terrifies me.

I am no longer a man with a good and noble heart.


Thank God he rescued me.  Thank God I have a very gracious wife, and understanding children.  I was able to finally come to my right mind -- like the man of the Gadarene tombs who cut himself with sharp stones and razored accusations...until Jesus broke his chains.

Do you see the treachery of the enemy there?  "Take out his heart by convincing him that he and his sin are one and the same.  Get him to identity so strongly with his sin that the restoring work Jesus has already done in him feels like a sham."

Here's where the truth is so practical [as it always is]:  If you don't believe your heart is good and noble, possessed by the very strength of Jesus' own goodness, you will likely get the emotional snot beaten out of you on a regular basis.  You need to believe you have a good and noble heart so that when kicked in the gut, you can still stand up...again, and again.

Dear brother, Jesus has cancelled Adam's legacy of shame against you.  On your worst day, you are deeply pleasing to God.

Dear sister, Jesus has denounced Eve's claim against you.   Despite your deepest fears, He has not turned from you.


Be a Provocateur

How many Christians do you know whose presence stirs you? 

Spending time with a provocative [intriguing, remarkable, compelling] person leaves you with questions: 

"How have I [we] been drugged?"  so to speak.
"How does this new insight or revelation set me [us] free?"

And the questions will not let you seek the safety of mediocrity or the tedium of dullness. Yet, as disruptive as the provocateur's questions are, shame isn't the provocateur's goal:  Recovery and restoration are.


Provocateurs are...

"passionate change makers willing to be shunned if it is necessary for them to make a point,"

says Seth Godin in his book, Linchpin

Provocateurs are not willing to be cogs in a machine, or passive wallflowers.  They know their presence was sanctioned by God and that the effect of their life reveals something about God.  A provocateur's presence in your life is indespensible.

A provocateur's presence in a system is rarely tolerated because, like the Borg Collective in the Star Trek series, the Collective declares, "You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile."  But the provocateur's perspective is ironically, the very thing the system needs. 


False scripts and expectations
Provocateurs are not willing to yield their God-given splendor to false scripts and expectations, nor are they willing to keep quiet simply because it's an unpopular thing to say. 

Note:  Provocateurs are not unkind.  They proceed with humility.  People are not their target: Disabling and destructive assumptions are.   If they provoke, it is to bring about a better day.  Inspiration and aliveness follows them.  They raise questions from which there is no retreat.

They do it because they love.

What is Jesus provoking through you?



Related podcast:  "THE UNIQUE GLORY YOU BEAR" [with fellow author, Gary Barkalow]



New podcast - DEVELOPING THE HEART NEEDED FOR OUR CALLING - special guest Gary Barkalow joins Jim

What qualities of heart are needed as we mature in our calling?  These are the qualities that will keep us from inadvertently sabotaging what we most truly want. 

Special guest, Gary Barkalow [author of the upcoming book on calling, It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here?]  joins Jim for part six of their seven-part series.

*  You can listen to the other podcasts in the "Calling Series" here.

*  Download in iTunes.


What's the best environment for your calling?

What kind of environment best fits your personality and calling?

Once you know what you want to offer people, determining which environments (contexts) you flourish in can be very helpfulFor example, I love to teach, but I would not do well teaching Junior High.  I also would not flourish serving in an institutional setting that felt too restrictive or that was led by an overbearing authority structure. 

However, I do love to teach through writing, blogging and speaking.  I also love to bring discernment and direction through everyday conversation with family and friends. The right environment can encourage our particular splendor:  the wrong one can suffocate it.

I’ll add a word of caution here:  Sometimes, God will place us in contexts we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves:  Those places may feel unwelcoming and hostile.  Yet, our Counselor may still need us there for a reason, for a season.  Remember, he's a master tactician and knows what he's doing.

Again, it’s always helpful to ask:  “God, is this where you need me right now?  Is this where you would have me bring my splendor for a time?”


What environments do your gifts and glory thrive in?


You are more than your job.

It's not about a job, employment, or an occupation.

In his book, Working, Studs Terkel realized...that working is about the search for daily meaning in the struggle for daily bread.  Most people, he found, live somewhere between a grudging acceptance of their job and an active dislike of it.  But a recurring theme in [his] interviews is a yearning for a sense of meaning that comes when calling precedes and overaches work and career.  -- from The Call, by Os Guiness

What if you lose your job:  Do you lose your calling?  What if you leave (or are asked to leave) a 'ministry' position:  Do you lose your calling?

Not at all.  As Gary Barkalow says, "Your calling can't be contained in any single job."  Why?  Because you take your calling with you wherever you go -- to work, home, friendships:  It is your particular splendor - the impact and affect of your life on those around you.  It is how you, in particular, shimmer.

Note:  "Shimmer" will be the title of my upcoming book on identity.  I'll try to give you bits and pieces of it here on the blog as the book takes shape.

Ideally, your 'job' will line up with your calling.  Yet there are times, when God (for good reasons) assigns us to a job that doesn't seem to match -- yet he still needs you to bring your splendor and unique brilliance there.  Don't underestimate the importance of what you bring, wherever you are.



Use verbs that reveal your design

Choose verbs that reveal your design.

I have this need to figure out why something or someone exists,  their design or purpose.  Because of that, I've written countless memos to myself, scratching out statements and creeds that help me understand my own design.  Through this process, I've gained greater and greater clarity about why I'm here.  It's clarifying.

Here's my calling credo:  "I have consistently loved to create and reveal design."  And here's how that has showed up in my life:

  • Loved to sketch as a teenager
  • Loved to create high-quality music since a child
  • Love identifying the layers of instrumentation in a song
  • Love to create digital graphic design – website headers, images
  • Love to help others see their design (purpose, identity, true heart)

Notice the two verbs that I used in my calling credo:  "create" and "reveal." 

Here's a credo sentence structure you can use to help you: 

"I have consistently loved to (verb/verbs) _______________________________."


Here are some common verbs.  See if any resonate with your heart:

lead, challenge, create, provoke, identify, develop, influence, train, support, comfort, heal, transform, encourage, prepare, invite.  [There are more common verbs here.]

Here are some sample credo statements:

  • I have consistently loved to identify others strengths.
  • I have consistently loved analyzing information in order to help organizations or people perform at their best.
  • I have consistently loved encouraging and developing courage and confidence in children.

Of course, at the end of your credo sentence is the what that you want to see happen:

  • "others strengths"
  • "help organizations or people perform at their best"
  • "courage and confidence in children."

What verbs would you use to describe what you consistently have loved doing?

Related posts:

"Is there a specific calling for each of us?"





Interview with Gary Barkalow on discovering your calling

Tomorrow, on BlogTalk Radio, I will be interviewing Gary Barklow on the topic of "discovering your calling."  Gary was formerly on the men's leadership and speaking team with Ransomed Heart Ministries. 

Gary's teaching on calling is the best and most helpful I've found.  You can learn more about Gary at his website:  www.thenobleheart.com

Here's the link to tomorrow's interview with Gary.


Video - "The Power of Your Story"


Is there a SPECIFIC calling for each of us?

Is "calling" simply doing whatever is in front of us - just living from our heart wherever we find ourselves; or did God intend something more specific and tailored for each of us?  In other words, is calling general or specific? 

There's certainly validity in assuming calling is general -- that each of us should love and relate from the new reality of Christ-within, wherever we find ourselves.  But I'd suggest that there's more:  Paul had a specific calling to Gentiles; Moses was to rescue Israel from Egyptian tyranny; and Jesus' calling was to reveal the Father.  There was intent and deliberate direction in each of those cases.  Movement with meaning.

There's a reason you have the gifts you do -- they benefit a certain group of people who need exactly what you offer.  There are also contexts that will be more suitable to your passions and skills than others.  For example, the institutional church was not an appropriate context for my gifts.  As a former pastor, I was even told right from the start that I would never find a role in the system where I could bring what I most wanted to.  If only I had known then how true that would be.

God intended something distinct and distinguishing when he introduced you to the world.  You clearly have latitude and a voice in shaping your unfolding story; but it's better to move through life knowing the specific thing (s) you offer.  Christ lives in you, as you:  He has bound himself to your personality, your experiences, and your unique brilliance.  There's nothing general about you. 

“You have so many extraordinary gifts.  How can you expect to live an ordinary life?”   -- Marmie’s counsel to Jo in Little Women.


Finding your hidden vein of gold

Quite often, we're asked to be honest about our weaknesses and shortcomings -- job interviews ask us to disclose this, churches obsess about it,  and accountability groups major on our failings.  There's nothing wrong with being honest about our weaknesses, but there's something more worthy of our attention:  it's the vein of gold within:

"Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness; yet, perhaps, as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of." -- Jonathan Swift

The vein of gold is where God focuses his attention:  he is obsessed with what's most alive, radiant, and strong in you.  A vibrant seam of gold.


Creating a personal crest/ coat of arms

Last week, I told you I'd show you something I've done to capture my new name in physical form.

Coats of arms and family crests have long been used to express identity -- what a family, clan, or person stands for.  As I've been looking back over my story and doing research for my next book on personal identity, I've decided to create a visual metaphor that captures the new name (s) God has given to me.

Remember, he often re-names his loved ones because he wants to restore something in us, and he wants to affirm what we offer the world.  Further, God is often attempting to heal a wound when he speaks a new name to us, and affirm what we mean to him.

Here's the symbolism in each of my personal crest's parts below:  I designed this to reflect my unique story:

The sword of Aragorn - In the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is the wanderer-warrior and heir to the throne.  "Aragorn" is a name God bestowed upon me to help me understand my story, reveal a strength I doubted, and to heal some wounds.

A gold musical whole-note in the middle of the sword's handle guard.  "You are my 'Bruce Hornsby' is another piece of the identity puzzle.  I'm a writer, but also have been a musician for four decades.  Again, God wants to heal a wound here, as well as affirm what he wants me to bring to the world. 

Three interlocking rings:  the Royal Fellowship, the Trinity, that welcomes me to fight with them, and ultimately rule with them  (Yep, the bible actually says that we will rule with him.)

The roman numerals CXLIV -- translated is "144."  This number stands for Psalm 144:1 -- "Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle."  Whether I'm sitting at the piano or at the computer keyboard, war is being waged -- beauty against desolation, meaning against futility, heart against religiousity.

The larger circle surrounding the sword:  the fellowship of those who have gone before. 

There are a number of things you can do with a personal crest. 

  • First, you can ask a graphic designer to create one for you that reflects your deep heart, your renaming.
  • Second, the crest can be printed, matted, or as in my case, a ring can be engraved with your crest on it.  I found a jeweler who is creating a ring based upon my design and should be receiving mine in the next couple weeks.


What would your personal crest look like?


Our new name is God's way of healing us

You are named by your parents, then you are named by God.  Until you discover the secret name he's given you, your story won't make sense to you and your wounds will haunt you.

He gives us our new names so that we may be healed. 

When I heard my new name, it felt like I was making it up.  The skeptic would say that because I wanted to hear it, I fabricated it in order to make myself feel better.  That certainly could happen -- if you leave God out of my story.

It happened when I was watching Tolkein's Lord of the Rings - the Return of the King for a second time.  God whispered something like, "You have a strength like Aragorn's."  Aragorn is the warrior-wanderer who would one day assume the throne as the true heir to the kingdom.   (Again, all this will sound self-serving unless we understand what God is up to.)   By the way, God renamed people all the time in Scripture:  'Abram' to 'Abraham,' 'Saul' to 'Paul,' 'Simon' to 'Peter.'  He hasn't stopped renaming people.

Why call me, 'Aragorn?"  I'd heard God whisper that name to me before.  The answer is that all men doubt their strength.  But in my case, there was more:  I had been a young pastor who challenged the unquestioned authority of those in positions of power.  I stepped out of my "proper role" to dispute the status quo.  Older and more tenured men in leadership saw it as insubordination and threat.  I was tossed out on my ear and kicked out of the pastorate. 

Congregation members who knew what was really happening voluntarily wrote letters on my behalf to the district leadership and to the bishop.  They fell on deaf ears.  The system wasn't designed to hear opinions other than its own.

Here's the parallel:  Aragorn faced a similar challenge with established leadership.  You may remember the scene in which King Theodin has just been released from the grasp of Worm Tongue's poisonous lying.  Under this spell of deception, Theodin had no mind of his own.  He was easily deceived.  The light in his eyes had gone out, his skin pasty and prematurely aged.  Then Gandalf banishes Worm Tongue and his foul counsel from the great hall, and King Theodin becomes himself again.

But Theodin is reluctant to expose his people to war.  The younger, inexperienced Aragorn challenges him:  "Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not."  Theodin is taken aback by what he thinks is Aragorn's brash arrogance -- but the would-be heir to the throne is simply speaking what needed to be said.  And Aragorn's unwelcomed counsel ended up moving the elder King to rescue his people from a dark army approaching their doorstep.

"Jim.  You have a strength like Aragorn." 
So my wounds began to heal as God spoke the name meant for me:  the pain of rejection (being thrown out of 'ministry'), as well as the doubting:  "Was I justified in what I did?  Was I the one who was wrong?"   And through the new name I hear, "No Jim.  That was your strength coming through.  It cost you, but they don't write your story.  I do."

Over the last 6 years, on several occassions, God continues unwrapping more layers of meaning to "Aragorn."  And so the healing continues. 

Have you begun to hear your secret name?


Locate the wound.

How do you know what your calling is?

One of the ways is to locate the wound.  There are many cuts, punctures and breaks we've suffered, but if you look, there will be a central defining wound -- perhaps going back to childhood.  That wound will carry a heartbreaking message with it, a sentence of despair.

In my case, the journey from childhood to adulthood was a cycle of being missed and dismissed.  I had something to offer, yet no one seemed to affirm it or draw it out.  There was no one to call out my gifts and the heart I wanted to offer.  The Church didn't help.  With crushing force, I was thrown out of pastoral ministry because I challenged assumptions leaders were making.  Though truthfully, I never fit the mold.  I had too much passion about what I wanted to offer, and the institution said there was no place for me ... over and over again.  The institution thought my role was dutiful compliance, as they ordered me to take on whatever scripts and roles they thought were necessary to keep the religious machinery going.

The wounding over the last four decades was clear:  "No one wants what you have to offer."

A wound of rejection.  A cycle of dismissal. 
The very thing I wanted to offer was being shut down. 

Locate the wound.  Your wound will be the ashes out of which your glory and brilliance rise.  Jesus is in the process of redeeming and healing your wound, turning shame into glory.  The very thing at risk of being shut down and sabotaged is the very thing you are called to. 

So you might guess that over four decades, I searched hard and long for validation and clarity.  I was desperate to know what I was called to.  "How do I find out?  What are the particulars of my calling?"  And God brought people into my life to call out and affirm the gifts and passions they knew were there.  Slowly I began to heal.

Remember that your wound will be a clue to your glory.  You might guess that, because of my own wound, I enjoy helping people recover their own identity, longings, and offerings.  I want them to get their noble and unique heart back.  

Have you discovered your wound and how it points to your glorious new identity? 



QUOTES for shaping your own story

In my last post, I told you about Dan Allender's book, To Be Told -- know your story, shape your future.  Here are some great quotes from the book that I think you may find helpful:



The unique glory you offer:

What about God am I most uniquely suited to reveal to others?

Living by the wrong scripts:

They have lived less in the light of the story of God and more by the inevitabilities of life's demands.  In other words, they allow circumstances to write their story.

We have permission to shape our story:

We are called to co-author the ending [rest of our story] according to the themes that the primary Author has penned for us.  We are called to take up our pen and follow him.  It is the enormous humility of the sovereign Author to give us a voice in the dialogue.  And not only does he want us to write, but he cheers us on.

Discovering your calling:

But how in the world do we know our calling?  I've seen that our calling always seems associated with the name that God gives each one of us.

Vicarious living:

Too many people are missing their story because they're watching the stories of others.

Your unique role:

God has ... given us a role that will reveal something about him that no one else's story can reveal in quite the same way.



Know your story - shape your future

I'm reading a great book by Dan Allender called, To Be Told -  God invites you to co-author your future.  Discover how your tradegies to this point have shaped your story and "unnamed you," sabotaging your identity.

And then learn how God wants to work with you to shape the rest of your story; so that you can live in your true and glorious name.  What does God want to say to the world through you, your unique story?


'MISLEADING OURSELVES' - today's podcast with guest Andrew Farley

Listen 'live' today as special guest Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel, joins Jim again.  This time they'll talk about the misleading catch-phrases Christians often use -- spiritual language that ends up separating us further from our new hearts and restored identities.  


Airs at 11:30 a.m. EST.  on Wednesday, Nov. 25th.
Click here to go to episode page on Blogtalk Radio.


UPCOMING PODCASTS -- airing this week

Monday, Nov. 23, Jim will by the podcast guest on Joel Brueseke's "Growing in Grace Together" series. 

Wednesday, Nov. 25, Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel, will join Jim for a second podcast.  They'll be discussing the misleading language and catch-phrases Christians often use that end up preventing them from embracing their true goodness and restored identity. 

Here's the episode link on Blogtalk Radio. 


HOW 'The Prisoner' raises issues of our own identity

AMC TV Chanel's mini-series, The Prisoner stars Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings-X-Men) and Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line-The Passion of the Christ):

From the series synopsis:

A man, known as Six, finds himself inexplicably trapped in The Village with no memory of how he arrived. As he explores his environment, he discovers that his fellow inhabitants are identified by number instead of name, have no memory of any prior existence, and are under constant surveillance. Not knowing whom to trust, Six is driven by the need to discover the truth behind The Village, the reason for his being there, and most importantly --  how he can escape.


The struggle for our hearts will always involve the issue of identity in some way.  "Who are you?"  is the question the Devil used to distract and tempt Jesus himself: 

  • "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."  (Matt. 4:3)
  • "If you are the son of God, ...throw yourself down."  (Matt. 4:6)

And the Enemy, through the insults of the crowd tempts him, "Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"

If we don't know the answer to the question, "Who are you?"  we will fall for anything.

The attack comes against identity.  Your identity.  What is in you that the Enemy or the world would snuff out?  You are not ordinary.  There's no such thing in the Kingdom.  So what is the noteworthy glory you have been given that the world needs?   God is in the process of unveiling your unique self to the world. It is his good pleasure.

[Our] original shimmering self gets buried so deep we hardly live out of it at all . . . rather, we learn to live out of all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.   --Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets


What did you think of The Prisoner mini-series?