Good grief is distinct from the negative patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior we exhibit when old wounds are in play.

  • Absent grief – is when we suppress our grief so that we don’t feel it.
  • Delayed grief – is when we’ve got too much happening to cope so we allow ourselves to grieve later.
  • Prolonged grief – is when we become unable to move through to the other side of grief because we lack closure.
  • Stuck grief – is when we stay in one of the stages for years because we don’t work on the issues that arise.

Healthy grieving is when, in the midst of the pain of the loss, we feel our feelings, express them with others, and we learn to value life. We actually heal through grieving.

Unique. Your grief is as unique as your fingerprint. Some people never are in anger, or denial. Some people never find acceptance.

Grief is always about change, specifically, the changes we experience in life that we didn’t want. How do we adjust to the changes in our life? Death is the biggest change, obviously, but people grieve breakups, divorce, being fired, moving to a new area, illnesses. Life involves lots of change, much of it is positive, but the unwanted changes feel like losses to us, and so we grieve.

The universal question seems to be, “How do I get out of this grief?” The only way is through. You must allow yourself to feel your feelings and be where you are. You don’t heal what you won’t feel. If you resist grief, you prolong it. If you reject what you feel because it doesn’t makes sense to you, or you simply don’t want to feel the way you do, you prolong it.

Comparison is no benefit. It never really pays to compare your losses to others losses. Just learn to be okay with not being okay and feel your feelings.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the one who identified denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance as the stages of Grief. She said that she had very few friends after she had her stroke because they couldn’t handle her anger. “People love my stages, they just don’t want me to be in one.”

At least one witness. We need people, or at least one person, to bear witness to our loss. I heard a story about a village where when any member of the village experienced deep loss, each person would change at least one thing about their house or yard so that when the grieving person re-entered the world the next day, they would see that the whole village was bearing witness that life would not go on as before.

Old wounds are often touched by the intensity of grief. This gives us an opportunity to heal from them as well! I like to say, “It came up to come out.” Grief often becomes a trigger for the old wounds of the past. By old wounds, I don’t mean old losses. I mean the wounds. Loss is a part of life, and grief is normal, but as we become damaged and our hearts take on painful lessons we were never meant to take on, that’s the wounding I’m talking about. The negative patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that surround an unhealed heart — that’s the unhealed wound.

Triggered grief is often a reflection of a lost connection. The current grief is resonating with a deeper wound. We grieve people we love, or like, or dislike or even hate. We don’t grieve people we’re indifferent to.

  1. We grieve what happened; what went wrong. The abusive dad, for example.
  2. We grieve what didn’t happen. The loving dad, for example. Not just the harm done, but the loss of the hope for what we wanted to get out of life.

What did you get out of life? Most of us have a wide margin between what we wanted to get out of life and what we got. But if you survey a room of people, just listen to the amount of painful stuff life gave each and every person. Suffering is universal! So even though we may feel like we’re being singled out, we aren’t! Even though we may be asking, “Why me?” It’s actually a wonder that more of the hard stuff doesn’t happen to us each more often. We could be asking “Why not me?”

Pain is inevitable, but unhealed wounds are optional. Unhealed wounds come because we turn the loss into a story that uses facts to tell lies. These distorted narratives say things like, “I’m unlovable,” “I’m a failure,” “My best days are behind me,” “I’m a burden,” “everyone leaves me eventually,” “If I put myself out there, rejection is inevitable,” “life’s not worth the trouble.” These are all, of course, entirely untrue beliefs that, when followed back to their point of origin, you’ll find an unhealed wound that’s still in pain, unresolved, not finished grieving, and not yet healed.

If someone came along and kicked your friend while they were down, told them it was all their fault, that they really are an unlovable burden and a failure, all the things I just finished saying, you’d probably become angry and protective really quickly and jump in the middle and say, “Stop it! What are you doing!? These are wicked lies! How dare you speak to them like that! That’s the worst thing you could do! They need gentleness and tenderness and care and support right now! Not your cruel lies!” But the odd thing is that’s often how we allow the voices in our own head to treat us in the midst of grief. Many of us treat ourselves terribly during grief.

What we learn. During grief we learn the value of life and the fragility of life, but the main lesson we’re learning as we enter the pain of loss is how to live well. To open ourselves to the pain is actually about opening ourselves again, not just of the thing or person we lost, but to life itself. To open ourselves to grieve what didn’t happen, the loss of the hope, actually opens us to experience hope again. Lament opens us to joy again. Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive. The heart that hides from one hides from both.

Avoiding God to avoid ourselves. Because worship, at least authentic worship, is at its heart rooted in a basic affirmation that it’s good to exist in God’s world, we cannot authentically encounter God without our hearts — which means to face God I must in that same movement encounter me. Which is why many of us hide from God when we are actually hiding from our own pain. Something about authentic worship means being as we are, unveiled, unhidden before the Lord. I wonder if that’s not why so many people resist church when they’re in a holding pattern of unhealth. Perhaps they don’t want to worship in public because subconsciously, without even realizing what they’re avoiding, they don’t want to be truly seen by others or God or even themself. Sometimes we avoid God as a subset of simply avoiding ourselves.

The facts vs the Truth. Demons use facts to tell lies that keep us bound, steal our identity, hope, and purpose, and kill what God created as good. Jesus uses fictions to tell the truth that makes us free, tells us who we are, reveals our hope, our purpose, and brings to life all that Abba always intended. Facts can deceive but the truth that makes us free isn’t a proposition, it’s a Person. We can come to actually recognize the voice on the line and no longer be fooled into following a thief.

Matthew 11:29-3029 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

John 8:31 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 10:3-5 The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”


Anchored In Hope

Posted: September 2, 2018 in Media, Theology, Tim's Sermons

7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

(Phil 3:7-14 NLT)

Thoughts are the language of the mind, just as feelings are the language of the body. Thoughts and feelings taken together make up our state of being or mindset.

We wake up in a feeling, and feelings are attached to events that we remember, and memories are usually stickier when they are more intense, but we tend to focus on the threats as a survival strategy. But a feeling that lasts for the day is a mood. If it lasts for weeks, it’s “how I’ve been doin’ lately.” If it lasts for months, it’s a season. If it lasts for years, it’s our character. We say, “Why is that guy so bitter?”

When we live by feelings, we’re living by a narrative about the past — usually a narrative we tell ourselves to explain our story, what it means, and who we are on the basis of that narrative. Often, pain is the determining narrative component. Thus, we end up anchored to the pain of the past through a story that tells us who we are and ends up defining our expectations for the future as predominantly negative.

Being anchored in the past, which is by definition unchangeable since it’s already happened, is disempowering. We begin to take on victim thinking, powerless thinking. In fact, even traditional thought about how we got the way we are — nature and nurture — are both disempowering!

Standard wisdom says that the best predictor of your future is your frequent past. But I say the best way to predict your future is to create it. Create it by being anchored in a hopeful vision of the future while cooperating with the Lord in the present.

Dr. Thobaben said, “No it’s nature, nurture, chance, choice, and grace.” And choice and grace are connected. Because our will — our mind — our spirit — is the place where grace acts. When we partner with God’s Spirit by exercising our will in the path of obedience and agreement with God, that’s where we break out of the orientation I have been describing so far. And as we do that we lift our eyes away from back on the past and down on the present to forward on the future and up on the great victorious God and Father of our Lord Jesus.

“My anointing isn’t for ministry, it’s for relationship.” Life is for living, songs are about living, writing is about living, and living is about relationship with Jesus. Specifically the simple things of daily life. Resting while you work. Not worrying. Receiving love. Trusting God and being small. Enjoying the gift of life and learning to share in God’s own enthusiastic joy over a million little wonders. Learning to love well.

Dream Small (Josh Wilson)

It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord – It’s a daddy spending family time that the world said he cannot afford – These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church – Forty years of loving on the broken and the hurt. These simple moments change the world

Dream small – Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all – Just let Jesus use you where you are one day at a time.

Live well – Loving God and others as yourself. Find little ways where only you can help – With His great love. A tiny rock can make a giant fall – Dream small

It’s visiting the widow down the street – Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world – Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things, no
‘Cause these simple moments change the world

Jesus said that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt 26:41).” We are meant to subject our body to our spirit by choice! That’s why one of the most important fruits or effects of being shaped by God’s indwelling Spirit is that we become self-controlled. That is to say that people who are mature in the Holy Ghost have learned how to keep going after God’s will even when their body and their emotions are telling them to quit, and they have learned how to quit or stop when their body or their appetites or their desires are telling them to do it. They know how to feel the burn and push through.

When you start out with a vision from God, there may be a great crowd with you, but at some point the cost of actually staying the course will get high enough that not everyone will have the stamina to pay the price when they realize that it isn’t going to be the party they signed up for. At that point, you may feel abandoned, betrayed, rejected — Paul felt that way (2 Tim 4).

9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me…16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… (2 Tim 4 NIV)

The cost of following Jesus with integrity is really high! But perseverance is essential!

James Dyson was asked if he thought it was his intellect, his creativity, his hard work, or just luck that made his vacuum business such a success. He spent his forties in debt and failing. Now he’s hugely successful. He said definitely not his intellect, others are far smarter. Definitely not his creativity, others are far more creative. He said it is luck, but not alone. He said 50% of the things he tries fail. BUT, he never quits. At just the point when it’s so hard that you want to quit, you need to remember that it’s like that for everyone, and most people quit there. So that’s exactly the time to put in extra hours, extra effort, extra sweat, blood, and tears. But that’s the exact moment when you are pulling away from the pack. That moment of greatest weakness is the moment of greatest victory if you just don’t quit. Exactly when you most want to quit is the most important moment to persevere, and that’s what sets you in the right place at the right time for “luck” to find you.

So we wake up and we tell our body NO and our spirit YES. We make our agreement explicit with the truth and we choose HOPE.

Again, we are either defined by:

  1. A hopeful vision of the future or
  2. The pain of the past

For freedom Christ set us free. Forgiveness received and extended is such a big deal to Jesus because he wants us FREE from the past. He wants our past redeemed and healed so we aren’t anchored to it. How can you sail a ship with it’s anchor dropped and dragging in the rocks of the dangerous shallows?

Facts aren’t the same thing as truth. Just because a perspective involves some facts doesn’t mean it’s the truth; the devil is a liar who uses facts to deceive, and Jesus is The Truth who spun fictional parables in order to reveal ultimate reality.

You can’t help what you see, but you can help what you look for. Being trained to see God at work is a skill. Three people can be in the same experience and all see radically different things. The question is, what does Jesus see as he is here and now. God has often told me in the past that the story I’m telling about what happened in my life is not the same story he’s telling in heaven. I desperately need to know what the story is that he’s telling when he talks about my life, because the facts can lead me astray, but his voice is the truth that will set me free.

Setbacks aren’t the right feedback. Focus determines direction. The original creative vision for your life that emerged in your “first love” is. You need to stay the course with that vision for your life.

Layla wrote this huge poster and hung it on the wall in our hallway — which has become a prophetic mantra of sorts. I asked her if it came from a song or a book or if she heard it in a movie. She said, “No, I just thought of it and wrote it.” It says this: “No matter what they hear or say, just keep going your way.” This is the prophetic wisdom of the child, tapping into what God is saying over the Miller household and releasing it without even knowing how on point it is.

People don’t see the world as it is. They see it as they are.” (Anais Nin)

Wayne Biggs told me, “Don’t take it personally.” But we’re so used to it being our responsibility to obsess over our pain and let that tell us who we are that we don’t know what it would be like to simply say, “That’s not what God says about me and this changes nothing, it only reveals that person’s heart, not mine. I’m staying my course, and I won’t move in resentment or self-pity either.” That is so odd we don’t even know if that guy is healthy! I’ve heard a lot of talk about how Dan Mohler isn’t balanced, isn’t healthy, and can’t be trusted because it doesn’t work in real life. That’s how upside down the kingdom feels to the world.

“This doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t feel safe.” Well of course not! We haven’t been trained by truth enough yet for truth to feel true. Moving from the old self to the new self happens in an instant in the heavenly realms, but making the adjustment on earth to what is real in heavenly places feels…a little weird. We’re talking about a biochemical, emotional, psychological, relational, intellectual, physical, and spiritual transformation, leaving one way of being behind and taking on something entirely different.

Ok – let’s sit quietly with Jesus for a moment.

Don’t try to achieve everything all at once. For now, learn to receive love. Learn to recognize God’s presence in public, at work, in the busyness of daily life. Dream small.

Sit with Jesus. Relax. Imagine your life, in Christ, lived well. Imagine your hope-filled future…

This is the life He’s offering. Let Him activate the creative centers of your brain. Let him rewire your synapses. Mind, in Jesus’ name, be renewed. Heart, in Jesus’ name, receive hope.

Let this hopeful imagination of your life generate a new emotional state. It is your privilege to live from this place of hope. You get to enjoy it, now, before it has even happened. Your body gets to taste a sampling of the future as you are leaning toward it.

With eyes on the prize, now you are prepared to see opportunities where before you only saw potential threats. Now you are positioned to see the goodness of God in the land of the living (Ps 27). Now we aren’t living from defeat with a hope-so that maybe one day things might go our way. Now we’re living in victory already. We feel as though we’ve already won.

This is hope. And it looks good on ya.

Smeared with God

Posted: July 29, 2018 in Media, Theology, Tim's Sermons


Gospel Fathering

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Theology, Tim's Sermons