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Nurturing Our Natures

Nurturing Our Natures

By Curt Thompson, MD
Reposted with permission from
https://curtthompsonmd.com/resources/

As I have written elsewhere,

And there is no better vocational effort that we have been called and commissioned to put forth than that which takes place day in and day out in families, churches, and schools in order to create a world of goodness and beauty. But evil has other intentions, and as such finds no more lucrative work than in those very communities where we first learn how to learn. Where our natures are first nurtured with the intention of growing us up to become effective, loving parents, students, educators, farmers, park rangers, teachers, police officers, and all the other vocational domains we occupy.

It is therefore helpful to know that shame begins to take root in our minds as early as fifteen to eighteen months of age. This means that we initially take it in and are largely affected by it more so via our nonverbal brain activity than we do via language. Hence, if we are parents, it behooves us to be aware of our own narratives and where shame is trying to tell our story such that we can prevent it from having as much of a say in the stories our children are beginning to tell. As we rear our children, knowing where our own shame attendants are hiding out is the first step to quieting the attendants that have our children in their crosshairs.

Then, there is our larger family of faith—one that, if taken seriously, is potentially an equal if not more significant formational one. If it is true, as I said above, that evil does its best work in the middle of good work being done, why would we be surprised that we experience so much shame in the church? It only makes sense that in a place where we intentionally gather in response to Jesus’ invitation for all of us who are weary and heavy laden to come to him for rest, shame would be waiting for us.

Evil does not so much knock on our door and straightforwardly ask us to commit unspeakable horror. Rather, it waits for our movement to do good things, and simply joins our parade, weaving its way into the motion and direction in which we are already moving.

In our deep desire to love God, it reminds us that we don’t love him enough or in the right way. Only in the church, where we expect no one to shame anyone in any way, does it naturally catch us especially off guard. Only in the church does the proclamation of the good news so often begin by reminding us of how bad we are in the first place—often because we so fear that without that shaming element we might not respond as we should. Only in a place where like no other we genuinely desire to do the next right thing do we worry that we won’t. But let us be clear—this should not surprise us. Furthermore, it is not our fellow parishioners who are the enemy. Evil is the enemy, but would rather use shame to convince us that the enemy is sitting next to us in the pew.

It is therefore incumbent upon us to be as ready to meet the devil in our church families as Jesus was when he went to the synagogue in the third chapter of Mark’s gospel. It is in church where Jesus confronts—simultaneously—the woundedness and shame of both a deformed man and the religious community that was presumably responsible for nurturing his life in God. When we come to our worshipping communities expecting to work against shame, it will be less able to catch us off guard, and so be made more impotent to do what it usually does.

And from church, we send our children off to school, to institutions that themselves at times become cauldrons of shame. We know this not least because of the increase in the number of anxiety disorders in children in elementary schools who worry that they may not be making straight A’s, which might preclude them from eventually getting into Yale. This, not to mention how much school administrators worry that they are not providing enough for the worried parents they serve, and so, in their attempt to do the next right thing, apply more pressure to teachers who apply pressure to students who apply pressure to their parents who call the administrators to find out why their child is so anxious, yet is still not making straight A’s. And to be clear: all these people do not wake up in the morning planning to do these things. We are all trying to do the best we can. This is how evil wields shame: silently and subtly, largely outside of our awareness.

But there is hope. Indeed, to the degree that we are committed to allow our stories to be fully known and loved, whether that is at home, at church, or in our educational systems, we proclaim the gospel. Even as we learn math. As we learn how to make our beds and say please and thank you. As we preach sermons that proclaim God’s delight in the presence of the naturally occurring limits he has infused into the creation. As we discipline each other and ourselves.

So be of good cheer. As you have babies and then take them to church and then send them to school, know that as you are known and transfer that way of being known on to those for whom you are responsible, the Holy Trinity is working as hard as they can on your behalf, bringing you further up and further into the age that is here and is to come.

And if that’s not nurturing our natures, I don’t know what is.

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Dr. Curt Thompson will be speaking at Christ Community on October 14, 2021. Be sure to save the date for this upcoming event.

Redeeming Shame: Believing a Truer Story | Online Conversation with Curt Thompson

Redeeming Shame: Believing a Truer Story | Online Conversation with Curt Thompson

The Trinity Forum hosted psychiatrist Curt Thompson to discuss his insights on suffering, shame, and isolation, which are felt acutely in this COVID-19 pandemic.

Psychiatrist, speaker and author Curt Thompson connects our intrinsic desire to be know with the need to tell truer stories about ourselves — showing us how to form deep relationships, discover meaning and live integrated, creative lives.

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Dr. Thompson will be speaking at Christ Community Leawood Campus on Thursday, October 14, 2021.

A Word Spoken for Ash Wednesday, 2021

A Word Spoken for Ash Wednesday, 2021

By Kelli Sallman
Reposted with permission from
https://sallmanediting.com/resources-1/2021/2/11/a-word-spoken-for-ash-wednesday-2021

From Ash Wednesday to Easter, the Lenten season beckons us to consider our mortality and sinfulness. But that inward look can develop into tunnel vision if we don’t venture up from the depths, into God’s light, to see what He’s doing in this great cosmic battle. And that’s really what we’ve been experiencing this past challenging year—and every year before it and after—the cosmic battle playing out on our home soil. In our distress, we can easily miss this bigger picture, the telescopic view of our Savior and our world, and when we do, we see more dividing lines than unity, more failure than victory.

The three movements of “A Word Spoken for Ash Wednesday” were created for the Ash Wednesday service in February 2021, to help us remember who we are as the church in Christ—and whose we are in this great battle. Take a few minutes to WATCH each movement in video format, created to help you contemplate our complicity in the problem, Jesus’s offer of absolution, and His invitation into something wholly and divinely better.

Based on Isaiah 55; Ezekiel 37:1–14; Ephesians 2–4; 6:10–20
With help from the body: Randy Bonifield, Dawn Heckert, Callie Johnson, Kia Hunt, Bobbie Jeffrey, and Emily Hobbs
Video Performances: Michael Burke, Alyssa Hershey, Michelle Lee


Complicity

Under the steeple
steeped in truth, full of people,
a darkness persists in the middle of the light.

’Cause while we the people in our pews take an hour away from news
to turn our eyes on Jesus,
in our flesh, we’re priming for a fight.

See, we’ve been stepped on, and the truth, it’s been dumped on,
and there’s a sea of white crosses for the ones
who’ve been imposed on to give their lives
for our freedom.

So we lash out with lashes against the trash talk of the masses
that we see as the crowd
of our country, the overloud
of our culture—the ones who don’t think
like me. In fact, the ones
who are evil, the ones
who need Jesus.

And so we take our Bibles, and we flail them at our neighbors.
We holler like children, “Mom, he started it!” We cry,
“I didn’t do it!” And inside we seethe
at the injustices on earth.

All the while—
in a dark corner of the cosmos, the underworld of the universe,
the serpent nurses bruises and sinks low to sit and watch
the great reality, the show of earth.

He might run scared from a legion of saints
from every region, arms locked
not with religion but relation to the Regent—the King
of kings—the Savior—as we fight a common foe.

But here? There’s just a dust up in the ranks
that need to stand up, that are subdivided
by our make-up and the privilege
we won’t give up.

So Satan, he’s gettin’ cozy as us cretins,
we just mosey on down to the mud pits he set
to trap us in.

Like a sister getting fed up or a brother who won’t put up,
we just bicker till we break up, we argue
and we beat up God’s own image for a mockup of his kingdom.

And the image that we hold up to the world is a soul
that feels so small.
We have eaten and devoured the Word so much
that our spirits are parched, so that our hearts dry and shrivel.
But we deny it.

We might be right, but still wrong
because brother against brother, and
sister against sister, we leave our father and mother
to fight a holy war
all our own.

No grace, no irresistible attraction, no quarter for our enemies.
From dust we were taken and to dust
we shall return, but in the middle, we want
power, we want pride, we want perfection, we want profession, we want protection, we want possessions,
so in our pews, we take our eyes off the redeemer
of the nations,
and we set the world on fire.
We set the church on fire.
We reduce ourselves to ashes.

And Satan, in his Lazy Boy,
kicks his feet up
and laughs.


Absolution

Jesus stands over our ashes and he weeps—
for his church, his tears clear the air.
Can you see him?

While we wager on our dreams, he fights for our imaginations.
While we wheedle through politics, he fights for our ideals.
While we wrestle over pennies, he fights for our souls.
We fight for our philosophies, our rights, and our security.
He’s not just a lover of wisdom, he’s the wisdom that loves.
He’s not just the defender of right, he’s the righteous defender.
He’s not just the giver of riches, he’s the giver of life.

With the earth as his footstool, his thoughts rise to the heavens,
his arms reach around the universe. His word created the cosmos,
yet his hands bear the scars of sinners. (That bit wasn’t Satan; we did that.)
His heel crushed the serpent but was nailed to a cross. (We did that, too.)

So let me declare boldly the surprise of the gospel,
the mystery of the ages, the foolishness of earth:
We can be so wrong, yet still right
with the Father—
Gentiles share privilege with the Jews.

They’re members of the same body.
They eat at the same table.
They partake of the same promise.

In fact, the gospel gets better than that.
Hold your hats on, my people.

See, the banquet is waiting.

You bet Satan is watching; he has turned up the volume;
he’s perched on his chair to pick off survivors,
to see who we’ll vote off the island.
In his hand is an app that picks the winners and losers,
he swipes and sows more division,
he posts and scorns with derision,
he manipulates the algorithm of the human mind and heart.

But Jesus, standing in our ashes, divine ruler of the cosmos,
lays his sword down.
He lays his stone down.
He lays his body down
and rolls in the dust that is us.
And when he rises, the all-sufficient, the magnificent glory
of God is encased in our own mingled ashes.

The Christ once held his arms out; now, he holds his hands out
and he offers the bread and the wine of the banquet not just to Gentile and Jew
but to socialist and capitalist, to the nationalist and the centrist,
to the populist and the elitist, to the Calvinist and the Methodist,
the fundamentalist and the syncretist, the anarchist and the conspiracist
—and get me, church—
to the rapist and the murderer, the papist, the embezzler,
the racist, the ignorant, the opposition, the arrogant,
the repugnant, the grumbler, the reviler, the complainer,
the promiscuous, the gambler, the drunkard, and the arguer.
He holds his hands out to the liar, the thief, the snitch, and the denier,
invites the tax collector, the fallen woman, the self-made man and his choir.
Are you worried that I’m naming you?
Or afraid he’ll leave you out?
His guest list includes the self-indulgent, the lazy, the jealous, the crazy,
the gossip, the bully, the self-righteous, the unholy,
the pedigreed, the undocumented, the worshiper of idols—
and such are we. Such are we, yet he holds his hands out
and invites us to unity in the beauty of our diversity
to the one faith that can bind us and uphold us;
he holds his hands out so we’ll know him—
so we’ll know him—
so we’ll know him:
the Son of God.

And at the banquet there are two names on the guest list:

First, the unconquerable, the Savior, the unquenchable, the Spirit,
the unchangeable, the Father—and the name we must profess is Jesus.
The other label, despite our libel and our slander, is fully able
to get our nation back to livin’
to get the church back to lovin’
to get our world out of the scorched-earth mud
because our name is
forgiven.

Come and seek.
Come and see.


Invitation

All across the grieving world, the Christ holds his hands out:
“Come buy wine and fresh milk without cost, without price.”
But while these bones, dry and parched, reach for Jesus,
we look around at devastation
and ask, “How shall we now live?”

In the valley of ashes, we hear a great rattling
as the bones that were battling join together—
bone, flesh, and sinew, every joint held with glue—
every part working properly.
From the ashes we rise.

As with the clay he once formed, Yahweh fashions a new body.
One arm equipped most for justice; the other, more for truth.
This hand, equipped for mercy, that tongue, equipped to soothe.
He empowers one foot to follow; he humbles this leg enough to lead—
Yahweh forms us from every tribe, tongue, and nation, every color, stripe, and creed
and burns away our strongholds—
from the ashes we rise.

He pumps the bellows and stokes the coals and lights a holy flame;
for us, he forges a heart of flesh and reignites us again.
He names love as the stumbling block, recommissions service as our crown,
hammers out his holy Word so we grasp heaven and bring it down.
And though we may not know how to do this, even though we disagree,
this new temple isn’t just me full of God; it’s God housed in we.

The church stands when we understand; from the ashes we rise.
Because as we call ourselves “blessed Christians” and also
“those with a wicked bent,”
we will look to our head that is Jesus to remember why we’re sent.
We will think the thoughts of God and look at others through his eyes,
and speak his words of mercy.          The cosmic battle wages in us,
but we’ll respond as the One who’s wise—from the ashes we will rise!
We will see the down and out, the CEO, the angry, the terrorized,
the journalist, the common man, the woman who took our prize,
the family member who makes it hard to breathe, the victim who just cries,
and we’ll set aside our roar of thunder and our earthquake reprise;
we will bend to embrace all these who thirst and those we once despised
and engage their ears with a whisper:

 

“Leave the war. Come to the banquet.”

Then the trees will clap their hands, the mountains will start to sing
because the valley of ashes has come to new life—
what was cut off and dry now sprouts green!

At the last, Yahweh dips his finger in the ashes—
see, with this new body he isn’t quite done—
He says, “Put a mark of peace on their foreheads.
Ah! This one is my Son.”

Are You Actually Good, God?

Are You Actually Good, God?

Guest Author: Ashtyn Fair

I never expected to openly talk about our story until we were on the other side. I had hoped it would never even be our story in the first place. I remember being seven months into our journey and thinking “Surely we won’t hit a year.” I remember being a year in and thinking, “Surely we won’t hit two years.” Now I sit here at two years, and Taylor and I are still longing for God to give us our first child. And still I think, “Surely God will do it this year.”

What about you? What has your path to parenthood felt like? From experience, I’d assume it’s felt isolating, that it’s full of emotional ups and downs, confusion, and even despair. Your grief feels complex and unexplainable to those around you. Your joy is complicated as you hear another friend is pregnant with her second while you’re waiting for your first — you’re happy for her and sad for you and maybe even bombarded with shame because you’re not as happy as you want to be. 

The process of pursuing a family is a physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally taxing experience. Your marriage may feel added tension as you both experience stress while also, you know, trying to make a baby — a real recipe for not a lot of fun. You may harbor anger toward your body for not doing what you think it ought to be able to do. You long for community that can meet you deeply in your darkest season, but instead feel remarkably more alone. You desire to exhaust every option no matter how extreme with the belief that if you just tried hard enough you could control the outcome. You’re asking God questions like “Why?” and “How long?” — and voiced or not, what you are really asking is “Are you actually good, God? Can I trust you?”

I’m so incredibly sorry if you’ve experienced this or are currently walking through it. My heart breaks with you. I want you to know your extreme weariness and tired eyes are seen by God as He sits next to you in the middle of this journey. Pay attention — the Spirit of God is found here in our suffering.

When suffering falls heavy on your shoulders where do you place the weight? Do you tell yourself to pull it together as you strap the heavy load more tightly onto your back? Or do you find yourself at the feet of Jesus with legs shaking underneath you as you drop the backpack of shame, anger, and despair before Him, feeling your body relax as He takes the burden. Do you actually ask for the easy yoke that Jesus offers? Or do you find yourself bearing the weight all on your own, gritting your teeth, and hanging onto as much control as possible?

I urge you to seriously reflect on which road you most readily choose, for it will be pivotal in your life and in your spiritual formation.

Scripture tells us that walking through suffering with God produces perseverance, good fruit, and hope. Meaning these very things are absent when we choose to side-eye God and keep Him at an arm’s length while we carry suffering around on our own. I’ve had plenty of those side-eye moments over the last two years. They come when the enemy tempts me to believe that God can’t actually be good. They come when I see the seventh pregnancy announcement that week and believe the lie that God has forgotten me. They come when I’m tired of feeling all the feelings and wanting to simply shut down and check out.

Maybe you’re in that place right now. You’re tired and weary, questioning His goodness, His presence with you, questioning if He sees you, if He even cares…so you’ve looked away. You probably wouldn’t say you’re “angry” at God or even “frustrated” — that’s not what “good Christians” feel, right? Maybe you’d just say you feel indifferent or distant from Him.

But I’m going to ask you in the middle of your sadness and frustration to look up at Him. Make eye contact again. Do you see Him?
This God in front of you knows every unsaid word in your heart and does not shame you.
This God you see was there when you found out you weren’t pregnant again.
This God looks at you and knows your questions and anger.
This God longs for you to talk to Him about it.
This God you see is a Miracle-worker.
This God you see renounces all shame the enemy has tried to use to tie you up.
This God, with the kindest of eyes, says “I see your pain. I weep with you. I am here with you.”

I have learned and experienced profound hope and joy throughout these trying circumstances. I do indeed know and believe that God is good, that He is near, and that Jesus is truly our only hope. I have discovered that relinquishing control of my plans (and really, every corner of my life) to a trusting and loving God produces freedom, an unexplainable joy, and peace. 

Hope, joy, and peace can only be found when we bring our complaints to God. That may seem backward and even unChristian, but a life with Jesus that is not honest will lack wholeness. It will lack transformation. Bringing our lament and pain to God with honesty is how we come to know personally that Jesus is near to us through His Holy Spirit.

The more we experience our good Father with us at our darkest, the deeper we discover who He is and what He’s like. And that will lead to a new joy, new peace, and new hope. Read through a few psalms and you’ll discover that lament often ends in praise.

There is a profound and mysterious way that Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain. Praise God!
But first we must be honest with Him about it.

Today, take a few minutes and journal or type out how you’re feeling about your situation. Ask God to help you connect with Him and with yourself. And be honest. I pray that He would meet you in a tangible way that comforts you and leaves you with peace.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

 

Nurturing Our Natures 

Nurturing Our Natures 

By Curt Thompson, MD
Reposted with permission from
https://curtthompsonmd.com/resources/

As I have written elsewhere,

And there is no better vocational effort that we have been called and commissioned to put forth than that which takes place day in and day out in families, churches, and schools in order to create a world of goodness and beauty. But evil has other intentions, and as such finds no more lucrative work than in those very communities where we first learn how to learn. Where our natures are first nurtured with the intention of growing us up to become effective, loving parents, students, educators, farmers, park rangers, teachers, police officers, and all the other vocational domains we occupy.

It is therefore helpful to know that shame begins to take root in our minds as early as fifteen to eighteen months of age. This means that we initially take it in and are largely affected by it more so via our nonverbal brain activity than we do via language. Hence, if we are parents, it behooves us to be aware of our own narratives and where shame is trying to tell our story such that we can prevent it from having as much of a say in the stories our children are beginning to tell. As we rear our children, knowing where our own shame attendants are hiding out is the first step to quieting the attendants that have our children in their crosshairs.

Then, there is our larger family of faith—one that, if taken seriously, is potentially an equal if not more significant formational one. If it is true, as I said above, that evil does its best work in the middle of good work being done, why would we be surprised that we experience so much shame in the church? It only makes sense that in a place where we intentionally gather in response to Jesus’ invitation for all of us who are weary and heavy laden to come to him for rest, shame would be waiting for us.

Evil does not so much knock on our door and straightforwardly ask us to commit unspeakable horror. Rather, it waits for our movement to do good things, and simply joins our parade, weaving its way into the motion and direction in which we are already moving.

In our deep desire to love God, it reminds us that we don’t love him enough or in the right way. Only in the church, where we expect no one to shame anyone in any way, does it naturally catch us especially off guard. Only in the church does the proclamation of the good news so often begin by reminding us of how bad we are in the first place—often because we so fear that without that shaming element we might not respond as we should. Only in a place where like no other we genuinely desire to do the next right thing do we worry that we won’t. But let us be clear—this should not surprise us. Furthermore, it is not our fellow parishioners who are the enemy. Evil is the enemy, but would rather use shame to convince us that the enemy is sitting next to us in the pew.

It is therefore incumbent upon us to be as ready to meet the devil in our church families as Jesus was when he went to the synagogue in the third chapter of Mark’s gospel. It is in church where Jesus confronts—simultaneously—the woundedness and shame of both a deformed man and the religious community that was presumably responsible for nurturing his life in God. When we come to our worshipping communities expecting to work against shame, it will be less able to catch us off guard, and so be made more impotent to do what it usually does.

And from church, we send our children off to school, to institutions that themselves at times become cauldrons of shame. We know this not least because of the increase in the number of anxiety disorders in children in elementary schools who worry that they may not be making straight A’s, which might preclude them from eventually getting into Yale. This, not to mention how much school administrators worry that they are not providing enough for the worried parents they serve, and so, in their attempt to do the next right thing, apply more pressure to teachers who apply pressure to students who apply pressure to their parents who call the administrators to find out why their child is so anxious, yet is still not making straight A’s. And to be clear: all these people do not wake up in the morning planning to do these things. We are all trying to do the best we can. This is how evil wields shame: silently and subtly, largely outside of our awareness.

But there is hope. Indeed, to the degree that we are committed to allow our stories to be fully known and loved, whether that is at home, at church, or in our educational systems, we proclaim the gospel. Even as we learn math. As we learn how to make our beds and say please and thank you. As we preach sermons that proclaim God’s delight in the presence of the naturally occurring limits he has infused into the creation. As we discipline each other and ourselves.

So be of good cheer. As you have babies and then take them to church and then send them to school, know that as you are known and transfer that way of being known on to those for whom you are responsible, the Holy Trinity is working as hard as they can on your behalf, bringing you further up and further into the age that is here and is to come.

And if that’s not nurturing our natures, I don’t know what is.

 

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Dr. Curt Thompson will be speaking at Christ Community on April 24, 2021. Be sure to save the date for this upcoming event.