People are complex… aka Emotionally Healthy Spirituality #1

I first encountered Peter Scazzero & his “Emotionally Healthy” books in 2006. TheBean & I were in therapy together & we were coming to the realization that a big chunk of the issues we were facing in our marriage stemmed from unresolved “Louie-issues” (aka things, behaviors, attitudes, practices, etc… related directly/indirectly to my own emotional immaturity, unresolved hurts, & a Type-A bent.) As our therapy transitioned from “US” in therapy to “ME” in therapy, my counselor suggested I read through Scazzero’s book & then process with him the things that stood out to me, the things the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, & the areas I saw that needed something more than a little change… I needed a wholesale extreme makeover. A transformation. Something not orchestrated & conducted by me, attempting to put my life back together again in my own strength & resources, but a transformation instigated, worked through & completed by God the Holy Spirit.

During this time, I clung to the verse: “…and I am SURE of this, that He who BEGAN a good work in you WILL BRING IT to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

One of the first things that stood out to me was the “10 Symptoms of Emotionally UNHealthy Spirituality.” They are:

  1. USING God to RUN FROM God.
  2. IGNORING anger, sadness, & fear.
  3. Dying to the WRONG things.
  4. DENYING the impact of the PAST on the PRESENT.
  5. Dividing life into SECULAR & SACRED compartments.
  6. Doing FOR God instead of being WITH God.
  7. SPIRITUALIZING away conflict.
  8. COVERING OVER brokenness, weakness, & failure.
  9. Living WITHOUT limits.
  10. JUDGING other people’s spiritual journey.

(List taken from “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. (re) Published by Zondervan in 2017. p.22.)

Today, I’m going to tackle how #1, Using God to Run from God, showed up in my life.


I have been a Christian since I was 3 – prayed the prayer with my mom on Easter 1973. My earliest book I read was the Bible. All of my earliest memories involve our family going to church. Being involved in church. Leading others in the church. I am eternally grateful for the foundation that was worked into my life: a foundation of God’s love, grace, compassion, stability, & faithfulness, esp. as revealed in the Scriptures.

The problem was, I often never considered HOW living as a Christian would involve Jesus as Lord & Master of EVERY area of my life (physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, & emotional.) Mostly I just focused on the accepted, tried & true “spiritual practices” of church, worship, Bible study, serving, etc.  How I “felt” was irrelevant, don’t you know? Because feelings would LIE to you, & feelings CAN’T be trusted to drive the Louie bus.

At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but the answer to just about every challenge was strongly implied: Read the Bible MORE. Pray MORE. Get MORE involved in church. Do MORE. (This isn’t something I was taught by my parents; it was more ‘absorbed’ through observation & participation in the daily/weekly life of the church.)

MORE always seemed to = BETTER.

The real world has a way of blowing up our illusions of being in control of our lives.

At about 30 years of age (right when i began as the Lead Pastor of our church, BTW) I was angry. I was frustrated. I was volatile. I was in all sorts of turmoil inside my head & heart & I had no idea what the issue was. So I did what I’d always done when I didn’t know what to do about how I was feeling: I did what I was currently doing, MORE & with MORE gusto.

It didn’t help.

How I used God to run from God:

  • My schedule was so packed there was literally no room in it for any of life’s surprises, emergencies, &/or challenges. Keeping busy made it so I never actually had to evaluate (let alone invite the Holy Spirit to review) how my life was going & if there were any changes/course corrections necessary.
  • Instead of following clear Scriptural instruction (stuff like, “If you have an issue with somebody, go to them & work it through;” or “Forgive in the same way Jesus forgives;” or “Don’t be harsh with your wife,”) I would “pray about” the issues – I was having, almost as though Scripture wasn’t clear enough for me so I had to triple-dog-clarify with God what I should do & how I should interact with my spouse.
  • Things were never my fault. There was always a very valid (& RIGHTEOUS I’m sure) reason WHY I was acting the way I was acting.
  • I didn’t really ask for God’s directions for me – my prayer life was more of a wish-list looking for Divine validation of my priorities & values.
  • I blamed God, to others, for my own opinions, thoughts, & preferences.
  • This list could go on, but I think you might get the point.

In my solo-therapy, I was forced to STOP & CONFRONT the fact that the wheels had come off of my life, my marriage, my family life… the only thing that was going “well” was church, & that was only through force of will & the denial of the inner storm, struggles, rejection, turmoil, & pain I lived with.

Chuck, my therapist, asked me a few questions. Went something like,

  • “What do you really think that Jesus NEEDS you to do for Him that you are constantly so busy?”
  • “What are the reasons you believe that God loves you?”
  • “What evidence is there in your life today that you believe & live out the fact that God’s grace applies to you & not just other people?”

I couldn’t answer the questions adequately. I could ANSWER them, but even I, in my state of turmoil, could see that I was merely offering up platitudes & not touching on what was going on in the depths of my heart & life.

And so I gave up. Surrendered. A little bit at a time. And God met me.

To be continued…

Running in the Real, thinking on spirituals…

It was time to go running, & at the last minute I decided to run outside, in the real world; it was too nice not too. There’s only so long that a person can ‘treadmill’ it. Outside, on the road-running is a completely different exercise than I normally do (vs. the elliptical & treadmill, to save wear-&-tear on the knees…) Surprisingly, I immediately found my pace & my stride. And as soon as I did, my brain kicked into ‘defrag’ mode. Hmm. In a way i don’t quite get, running Outside stimulates a kind of thinking & processing that happens only in the Real, & (almost) never in the fabricated work out world of Gymnasium.

Thoughts course through my brain like a train moves across a landscape; the first sign of the thought is welcomed, as it moves so slowly, sometimes barely perceived, but there, just crawling along. Then it’s GONE when least expected.

Pondering 2Timothy 1:3-7, & the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to ‘stir up the gifts in you by the laying on of my hands’…

We (the modern Western Church, get ‘funny’ (funny-weird, not funny ha-ha) when the subject of spiritual gifts comes up. Maybe its just me & my 39 years of church life experience, but we have a preoccupation with knowing what My spiritual gifts are… & we love the Spiritual Gift Assessment tests to let us know what gifts we have, & by default ‘don’t have.’

As I run, I wonder if the early church cared to try & identify their particular spiritual gifts… I laugh out loud (which the people I run by must be think so amusing,) when I imagine Pastor Timothy of Ephesus trying to get people together for a Gifts assessment…

My mind wanders to the present day, to thoughts of those in persecuted nations, like my friend “Jerry” who lives for Christ ‘off the grid’ or ‘under the radar’ in China. The idea of a Spiritual Gifts Assessment or Test for Jerry & his house-church seems ludicrous because of the gravity of their day to day life & very real “life & death” dependence on the infilling & leading of the Holy Spirit.

I think of the Acts 4 church, facing the threat of violence, bodily harm, persecution, & death – & their prayers… for boldness, not for protection. For boldness to speak the word, to live as Christ’s witnesses in the face of whatever may come. And they were filled (refilled?) with the Holy Spirit. And they continued to speak the word with boldness.

Running still. I pray for boldness, to be filled with the Spirit, to be prepared for whatever, for the no matter what.

The train in my brain gives me a glimpse of the spirituals as Paul calls them in 1Corinthians 12:1… the spirituals, giftings & empowerings of the Holy Spirit. God’s blessings & provisions for His people, as a way of life. To share with others, to build up, encourage, comfort & strengthen each other, as the life situation demands or calls for it. It’s definitely Less about what gift I have, than it is the “on the go” provision given me for the situations I’m in, & the peoples I’m surrounded by… My prayer turns to a question: “how can I love You, God today? And how can I love the people I’m with? Show me Your ways…”

Done running. The sun came out at the end, reminding me that midday is NOT the time to be out under the Orb. Yet I’m thankful for the defrag, for the time with the LORD. Something has stuck with me… & there’s a confidence that what I need for today will be provided, at just the right time.
And I’m thankful. And tired.