Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Mind of a Woman: beautifully dangerous

Last Sunday in the first session of the Inner Healing course, we talked about the uniqueness of a woman's brain, not just the way culture has shaped us, but even our basic biological differences.  To start the healing of inner wounds, you have to start with you, who you are, what you feel and why you find yourself reacting the way you do.

There are beautiful gifts that God has instilled in women, that can even be seen in the scientific study of our brains.  Our center for communication, for example, is far more developed than in men.  Our abilities to sense the needs and emotions of others around us are critical skills for mothers who are dealing with children who can't speak yet, for adolescents who don't understand their emotions, and generally for connecting with our neighbors and coworkers socially.

But these have so often been twisted and used against us.  Women with the gift of gab can turn it into a weapon to hurt and insult, gossip and manipulate so artfully it's hard to even catch it when it happens.  Our gift of sensitivity can be so overstimulated by past hurts and disappointments that we become convinced that it's going to happen again, and begin to act on emotions rather than fact.  We put up walls, we hurt others before they hurt us, we hide in fear, we lower our standards in relationships because we are convinced that we don't deserve better.  We perpetuate our inner pain instead of heal it.

Wait a minute - the reason why I have inner wounds are because of what others have done to me.  If they hadn't hurt me/let me down/accused me/rejected me/misled me... then I'd be just fine.  It's their fault.  They have to make it right. 

Turning back time is impossible, and waiting for someone who offended you to finally apologize and undo all the negative things that they have done, will probably keep you waiting an eternity.  You don't have time to waste waiting for people or circumstances to change to believe in your healing.  The work has to begin with you first, right now.  It comes through intelligent decisions, practical changes, and allowing the power of God to flow in you.

Learn, and pray with us every Sunday afternoon at SiLC, Houston during these 4 weeks of Inner Healing for Women!

Inner Healing for Women, four Sundays, four sessions in Houston, TX  

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Guilt Trip

When it comes to teaching, leading, and shaping lives, a healthy dose of conviction is necessary.  A good parent knows how to make sure their kids feel the pain of disobedience and rebellious attitudes, and to feel badly for what they have done.  All of us need correction from time to time, but some teachers, parents, and leaders can't grasp how to use the power of positive leadership.  When guilt and condemnation run through every message, especially without a stronger message of hope to counterbalance it, something is wrong.

The continuous dumping of guilt over the heads of people who sincerely want to do what is right, but sometimes get it wrong, is a sure fire way to discourage and cause them to give up.  Only those with a firm sense of who they are can deal with that, but not without some form of negative effects.  You can force a child, an employee or a follower to do what you want for a time, while actually making it harder for them to find joy in what they do.  When it comes to children, your harshness can become a message that stays with them for life: "You are stupid, a loser and a big disappointment to me."  Once that's sunken in, healing that unnecessary wound will be very difficult.

Authoritarian cultures respond better to authoritarian leaders.  15 years ago in South Africa, my son was struggling through the very regimented school system there.  He was bright, creative and intelligent, but the dictatorship of the teaching staff at his various schools caused him to withdraw and shut out the demanding angry words that surrounded him every day.  His teachers complained that he was lazy, distracted, irresponsible and everything that I knew he wasn't.  The other children seemed to be doing fine, accustomed to that manner of education.  I was at a loss for what to do, but knew there had to be a better way.  How he was treated at home was so different from the treatment he got at school, but how could I explain that to his teachers?

After a few frustrating years of forcing him through this system, we moved to the Philippines where we found an American missionary school to enroll him.  Instantly, he blossomed, and not only his grades, but his love of learning shot up to high levels.  He was a pleasure to his teachers, and he made some very good friends.  When I saw that, I vowed never to subject him to the former again.  Homeschooling became our norm after that.  The difference?  Leading through encouragement, not through guilt.

For those who insist that it can't be done, that being too positive makes you "soft," I'd like to point out that Jesus' form of leadership was far more positive than negative. Sure, He said shocking things, sure He called the Pharisees vipers, a poor woman a dog, told a man to let the dead bury the dead, but that was not His normal mode of teaching.  He knew that people in general struggle with negative emotions, doubts and self-criticism.  Beating them down with criticism wasn't the way to win their souls.  Only the exceedingly proud religious leaders who resisted Him needed harsh words from time to time.  But the Early Church followers were ready to face the lions for His sake, not because they felt guilty if they didn't sacrifice their lives, but out of a sense of gratitude and joy to honor His name.  That was and is the effect of God's Spirit upon His children when He's allowed to work.

If the sun can peel the jacket off of a stubborn man's back more effectively than a storm, if a gentle constant drop of water can break through solid rock, don't doubt that leadership through encouragement is too weak or ineffective.  There's always that fear that no one will get the message if you're "too nice."  It is possible to be kind, encouraging, positive and firm all at the same time.  Maybe you've never really seen it done, or been willing to give it a try.  But if Jesus could do it, why not us?  There's another world out there that you may never have discovered.

Check out the Inner Healing for Women Course in Houston for the next 4 Sundays.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Filipina beauty turns 90

The newlyweds, Evansville IN, 1947
Today my mom turns 90.  Born in the town of St. Antonio, in the province of Nueva Ecija in the Philippines in 1922, she was the fifth child, but the first daughter of Benito and Julia Reyes.  She would later have a younger brother and sister.

She grew up surrounded by the beauty of sugar cane fields and rice paddies, tropical rains, mango trees, and the freedom to run and play in safety with neighborhood friends.

The stories she told me as I was growing up of her childhood were enchanting to me. The raft her brothers built to float down the river, the pigs and piglets she was given charge to care for until the mother pig was offered up as a Christmas barbecue every year that broke her heart...  The strict discipline of her grandmother, Celerina who was raised in the traditional Spanish school of etiquette, and who would pinch her if she squirmed in church.  The invasion of the Japanese during the Second World War, and their hurried escape into the mountains to hide for months in safety from the brutality of the soldiers.  The joy that the Americans had set their country free and driven out the Japanese, combined with the grief of losing her older brother Chrisolito as a prisoner of war during the Bataan death march.

And finally, the day that the handsome young American soldier wandered into Knox Methodist church in Manila, where her brother was the pastor, and she sang in the choir.  That soldier was my dad, PFC Donald Sansom who served in McArthur's headquarters during the war, and married her two years later.

The Filipina who was studious and well educated, married the mid-western all-American boy who took her home to Indiana to meet his family. Life was very, very different.  There was cold weather, snow, and curious eyes to see this strange island girl who had moved into the all-white neighborhood.  My mom was an oddity, but one thing she had was charm and confidence, even when she didn't feel confident at all.  She was invited to speak at all the local churches about life in the Philippines, and became more well known that my dad in his own hometown.

Her first snow, Evansville IN, 1947

As years went by, a masters degree from Boston U, a new baby girl (my sister), decisions to serve as full-time missionaries to Korea, more studies, another baby boy, and the adventure that took them to the war-torn capital city of Seoul in 1957, where I was eventually born, brought out some of the best traits in my mom.  She was resilient, disciplined, adventurous, an excellent speaker and professor, and a very devoted mom with the most welcoming arms and the softest lap to hug and kiss her children.  She was not perfect, but I don't want to list her imperfections.  In fact, coming from the time and culture she was raised in and from the struggles she went through in war time and poverty, I wonder how many other women would have fared emotionally.

The family grows to four in Nashville, TN 1956
One favorite memory is catching her in her daily prayers and Bible devotions, if I was able to wake up early enough as the sun was just rising.  I'm certain that much of the blessings throughout my life are because of her prayers and faith for me, even when I didn't give them any value.  She still prays for me to this day, because I caught her in her devotions early in the morning the last time I visited her in California.  My blessings from her still continue.

My beautiful mom is the sharpest, smartest, most vibrant 90 year old I know.  She survives my dad, who she cared for meticulously until his last day of life in 2010.  She has a wealth of experience, knowledge, memories, love and laughter that she carries within her, and I love her immensely.  I know that her prayers and faith have sustained me much more than I can realize, and I pray for her years to come to be full of blessings - who knows, as healthy as she is, she'll probably reach 100!

Happy birthday Mama!!

Pancake time!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Third of the Three Intolerables

This one should be obvious, but to a surprisingly large amount of people, it is not: affairs.

Unfaithfulness has deep and destructive effects that can't easily be healed by a simple, "I'm sorry, I won't do that again."  That doesn't mean that cheating or affairs automatically makes your marriage hopeless, but if the wound is not treated in a radical way by both partners, it could easily become fatal.

I have seen the issue of unfaithfulness become a big mess plenty of times.  It's often one spouse feels so unloved, that they have a secret sexual fling out of emotional distress, or some desperate hope to win back the affections of the other spouse.  Stupid, I know, but people do this.  A lot.

Then the affair is discovered.  She weeps in remorse saying that she just wanted him to give her attention. He is angry, hurt, betrayed, but then takes her back because she seems so sorry.  The marriage goes on, but no underlying problems were resolved.  His inability to be affectionate, her insecurities, his feelings of inadequacy to make her happy, her frustrations, nagging and put-downs, just grow with time.

Eventually a breaking point comes and he finds himself in the arms of another woman - not wanting to end his marriage, just wanting to feel loved, and now the tables are turned.  Again the affair is discovered.  She's mad.  He's mad that she would have the gall to be mad after what she had done to him.  She feels guilty because of her own unfaithful past, but also vengeful towards him and the other woman.  They now both love and hate each other, but can't let each other go.

And here we find ourselves in a tangled mess of a soap opera-worthy melodrama.  Except it's worse, because it's real.

Neither of them were prepared to make the tough decisions to live up to high standards before they even agreed to marry.  What are those standards?

  • My value as a person doesn't depend on anyone else but me.
  • Promises of faithfulness in any area of my life will not be broken, even when I don't feel like it.
  • I don't enter into agreements with people who don't believe in being true to their word.
  • If I am fooled by someone who is unfaithful, I'll only take them back if that character flaw is gone.
  • If I find myself tempted into unfaithfulness, I will seek urgent help to change a serious character flaw within me.
  • I don't use flirting or sexuality as a form of revenge or attention seeking.
  • I have the right to end a relationship with an untrustworthy person.
  • Forgiveness doesn't mean trust. 
  • I will give my best to whom I marry - I don't accept anything less in return.
Happy couples know that there is a high price to staying happy.  The knowledge that each partner holds themselves, and each other, to a high standard adds far more value to a marriage than just passionate romantic feelings.

"I'll never be happy without her," is never true for those who have a healthy sense of self-worth.  It's not just her presence that can give you fulfillment, but her character - combined with your own. Contrary to popular opinion, love only intensifies and sweetens with each year of patient, enduring, hard-working, faithfulness on both sides.  Maybe you've never been a witness to that kind of marriage,  so decide to make yours become the first.

Marriage counseling and courses available at SucceedinLife.org


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Second of the Three Intolerables

It seems paradoxical that so many spouses will call it quits for trivial, petty matters, while others will tolerate serious betrayals and keep hanging onto toxic marriages for years.  They imagine they are being forgiving, caring, understanding.  But they are slowly poisoning themselves with all the negativity that they choose to put up with.  They have become codependent.     

Some behavior or habits are intolerable in a marriage, and the marriage either needs to end, or each spouse needs to actively and aggressively find help to change.  Anywhere in between is just an existence, not a marriage.

The second intolerable?  Addictions.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, any obsessive behavior that consumes a person's mind and attention to the detriment of his or her family relationships and/or health.

"I love the sinner, but hate the sin," is a common saying, which is generally the right idea.  Whoever is caught up in an addiction needs help, love and compassion, while his addiction should be fought against.  But how this is interpreted by some, is to do nothing more than complain, beg, plead and pray that the offending spouse change.  When the addict promises to stop, begs for forgiveness, makes an effort, but goes right back to his or her addiction after a period of time, the codependent spouse will also go right back to the same tactics of pleading, crying, complaining and getting angry.  But nothing more is done.


  • Because my addicted husband is the primary bread winner, and if I kick him out, who will pay the mortgage?  
  • Because Jesus says we must forgive 70 times 7 times, and hopefully sooner or later, he'll really mean it when he says he's sorry.
  • Because the kids love her and it would break their hearts if I made her go to rehab.
  • Because I'm not strong enough to make it on my own without him.
  • Because then the whole family would know this dirty secret.
  • Because I believe that marriage is for life and that God would be angry with me if I end it.

If you look at these excuses, you can see that the underlying logic is that of fear. What will happen if...?

But have you considered that if you love the sinner, you'd realize that he is in desperate need of help, but is unable or unwilling to break out of this addiction on his own?  Maybe there is a great counseling program that he or she can access, but for some reason, just won't.  Maybe he or she has tried and tried and feels too demoralized with each failure.  So how does the combination of pitying and nagging help?

If you love your addicted spouse, you need to be ready to take drastic action, even if it means allowing them to lose you, so that they can awaken a sense of indignation towards their destructive behavior.  Allow them to feel the shame of being exposed to their extended family, and for them to see that someone loves them enough to say ENOUGH.  Everyone's heard about tough love, but it takes a very focused and loving spouse to be able to administer it.  Sometimes love does hurt.

Addictions are just symptoms of deeper unresolved problems.  Self-hatred, disappointments, fear, a desire to escape the pain of the real world.  Giving up a substance is one thing. Getting healed of the root cause is a totally different thing, that has to happen on a deeper spiritual level.  So giving your spouse an ultimatum to just quit the addiction, or you're out on the street, is not intelligent.  Find the options that can help them find their freedom - a program of intensive counseling, rehab, spiritual deliverance, whatever is needed.  You also, need to find the counseling and prayer that can help you get out of the codependency rut.  Your nagging can actually become a trigger for your spouse's addictions.  Not the results you thought you would get, right?  You may even be addicted yourself, to your own negative thought processes.

There are of course, risks.  What if you tell him or her that if they don't seek help urgently, that the marriage will end, and then they go off the deep end?  What if they never do change? What if they don't like the counseling, resist the steps they need to take to be healed, and end  up in the gutter?  That's where your faith in God has to kick in.  True, he or she may never change.  But in that case you and your children will be better off free from the bondage of those addictions.  When it's all said and done, each of us has to answer for our own choices.  You can't rescue someone who desperately wants to remain lost.

On the other hand, your prayers can allow God to reach your spouse in ways that no one can.  Even in the gutter, he or she can make that decision to fight for a real life.  They will remember all you said and know just where to go to find what they need to be free.  Some people need to hit rock bottom.  And some stubbornly refuse to change.  But that's a choice that no one can make for anyone else.