Am I The One In Control?

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.

Am I The One In Control_I received this honest question in a text from a wife in a destructive/abusive marriage.  It’s far too broad and wide to answer in a text so I am writing some thoughts here:

“How is it that my husband is supposedly the blamer/abuser, when I have been the one for years believing he is someone he is not and pressuring him to be that man?”

First, you may or may not have responded to your husbands blame and abuse perfectly.  I don’t know of a single person who has always responded to someone else’s destructive behaviors perfectly…except Jesus.  

But, I would ask you a few questions:

Has he led you to believe he is someone he is not?  Has he said one thing and then done another? Has he said he would protect and care for you, but then been the most destructive person in your life?  OR has he said to you, ‘I am a lazy man and I don’t want to engage as a husband and a father’ and you are ‘pressuring’ him to be someone he doesn’t want to be?  

Secondly, who does the behavior serve?   Does your ‘pressuring him’ take away his voice and his choice?  Or are you pressuring him to keep his word to you? Are your expectations higher than what he is capable of?   Is your ‘control’ because you want the power over him or is it that you don’t want to live under his control?

I think we can have certain ‘common courtesy’ expectations, such as: calling when they will be late, keeping their agreements, taking everyone’s needs/desires into consideration when making decisions, personal hygiene, listening and working on issues and not stonewalling, and please and thank you.  These are things that are ‘common’ in our culture.  To require common courtesy is not being controlling.  They may have to be learned, but they are not too high of an expectation.  


We ALL have done destructive behaviors.  Every. One. Of. Us. Humans can be manipulative, selfish, and controlling.  We want what we want when we want it.

Abuse = power and control in taking away someone’s choice and voice.  Abuse is damaging to the human soul, psyche, mind, and body. We can even be abusive/destructive to ourselves and may need to learn healthy choices.  

The follow up question she had was telling:

“I don’t understand his inability to do the simplest things.  Like why should his hygiene even be something I have to bring up?  I am fed up with him not even showering or shaving. When I finally get fed up and ask him to shower, he just ignores me.  I feel like the only option I have left is to make him a spot in the basement to sleep. It feels like I am the controller.”  

My response:

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.  Give him options. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ statements. Rather than “you smell and need to take a shower”, say, “I don’t appreciate it when I smell you all night long.  I understand that sometimes you don’t feel like taking a shower. When that’s the case would you please sleep downstairs?” He can always say no, and then you need to make a decision…you sleep downstairs with a space heater, go to a motel, buy a cot and sleep in one of the kid’s rooms, etc.  

Remember, boundaries must be implemented kindly or they come across as you are the one with the problem.  When you hold a boundary in outrage, they will discount your boundary because they think you are just acting impulsively instead of acting decisively.  It can take a long time to learn to hold boundaries firm, confident, and kind, but when you are able to, it makes them far more effective. And yes…you can have boundaries!  They rock!  If when you hold boundaries it is met with further abuse, it is time to consider getting support and creating a safety plan.

Your original question is worthy to think through.  It is possible to attempt to pressure someone to be what we want them to be rather than who they want to be.  There may be desired expectations that need to be let go. But if your expectations have been communicated and agreed to or if your expectations are ‘common courtesy’, then finding your voice and implementing boundaries is not being a controlling person. It’s living in a normal relationship.  


How To Change Your Spouse

We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

How To Change Your SpouseOK…In all honesty, the title is misleading.  The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change.  But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.”  That’s not what you want to hear.  But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.

A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility.  We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person.  Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices.  It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children.  Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc.  But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it.  As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.

To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else.  It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something.  A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.

I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions.  But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse.  Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.

In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.”  It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage.
I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself.

I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises.
I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries.

I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing.
I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities.

I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum.
I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through
 coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through 
discipline and instruction.

I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies.
I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth.

A husband is not responsible FOR his wife
A wife is not responsible FOR her husband. 
They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.

God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6).  And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no.  Stay on your own side of the street.  Be responsible for you.  And THAT changes everything.

The Purpose of Authority

Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).

The Purpose of AuthorityI think ‘authority’ has gotten a bad rap.   The Bible speaks to both the purpose of authority and the abuse of authority.  We tend to want to throw out the whole thing when authority has been abused.  But that will only lead to anarchy.

The Gospel affirms that God’s plan for humans is not to keep them under His control, but to give them authority to write their own stories within God’s story.  We also see that all authority has its purpose and its limits.  Even God limited himself when he gave man choice in the garden.  Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).

So, I did a little word search on the term ‘authority’ in the New Testament and tried to categorize the essence of the purpose of authority.  Now I am aware that we can not have a full understanding of a topic simply by doing a word search, but rather we need to look deeper into the context and such.  Still, I found this interesting…I think I’ll just leave this here for you.

Authority of Jesus

To Teach: Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22,27, Luke 4:32, 1 Thess. 4:2, Titus 2:15

To Heal: Matthew 8:9, 10:1, Luke 7:8, Luke 9:1,

To forgive sins: Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24

Over demons: Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Mark 6:7, Luke 4:36, Luke 9:1, 10:19

To serve: Matthew 20:24-28, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26

To Be raised in 3 days: John 2:18, John 10:18

To give life: Luke 5:21, John 17:2, 1 Cor. 15:22,

To Judge (him alone): John 5:22, 27

To lay down his life: John 10:18

To show the Father to the world: John 14:5-14

Over all dominion, authority & power: 1 Cor. 15:24, Col. 2:10, Jude 1:25

Jesus has over the church: Eph. 1:21-22

Authority of the Father:

To set times and dates: Acts 1:7

To throw you into hell after death: Luke 12:5

Authority of husband/wife:

Mutual Authority 1 Cor. 7:4

Wife is not over a husband 1 Tim. 2:12

Authority as Christians:

To make disciples: Matt 28:17-19

To build up: 2 Cor. 10:8, 2 Cor. 13:10

Authority of Elders:

To speak and exhort and reprove these things* with all [i]authority. Titus 2:15

*instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age

To preach the gospel not in domination but appeal like a child: 1 Thess: 2:1-7

Keep watch over flock so as to give an account: Heb. 13.17

To command sanctification and love: 1 Thess. 4:2

Authority of humans:

To earn money from work: 1 Cor. 9:1-11

Authority of the Devil:

World’s Kingdom of Authority & Splendor: Luke 4:6

Authority of the Government:

To tax: Luke 20:26, Rom 13:6

God’s servant for good: Rom 13:4

To arrest: Acts 9:14

To govern: Rom. 13:1

To provide a quiet & tranquil life for citizens: 1 Tim. 2:1-3

To bring punishment on a wrong doer: Rom. 13: 4, 1 Peter 2:14

Authority of the Chief Priests:

To arrest & persecute: Acts 26:10,12 (this was reprimanded by Jesus)

Authority of the Angels:

Have positions of authority: Jude 1:6

You Must Have Deserve It

What this means is we can’t judge a heart by the trial.

you must have deserved it
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Recently, I saw a tweet from Diane Langberg which said this:

“You can do right and still have everything turn out wrong. I am not certain where we got the idea** that was not so, given that the One we follow and call God did do everything right and ended up treated with gross injustice.”

**She is addressing the belief that if I am doing the right things, then I should have a blessed life and if I am suffering then I have done something wrong. We want to believe we can control our fate by being good.

This is a powerful statement, which deserves some thought.  Her point here is very valid…Christ was always perfect, and He was treated with gross injustice.  However, I think there are three main reasons why we want to believe that the blessings in our life indicate we are righteous, and the curses in our life indicate we are in sin.

Deuteronomy 28

First, the Bible indicates it.  Deuteronomy is called The Book of the Law.  It tells us about how God set up the spiritual laws of the universe.  It tells us what to do and how to do it.  In chapter 28:2 it says, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.”  And then it lists for the next twelve verses the many blessings we will received if we obey.  Then in 28:15 it says, “If you will not obey the Lord your God, all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” And it goes on for the next twenty-nine verses the many curses we will endure if we live in sin. This is indeed a general principle that is true.

So, it goes to follow that if I am experiencing negative consequences in my life, it is at least worth the question to myself, “is there something I am doing that could be inviting this curse upon me?”

But let’s remember there is more than one chapter in the Bible to base our understanding on.

We Love Justice

The second reason we believe our actions produce a specific result is we love justice.  We love justice because this is a character of God.  We want to know what the rules are so we can get what we want.  If I do the right thing and suffer it’s not fair..  Nobody loves a story where the weak gets assaulted, robbed, and defamed and that’s the end of the story.  We forget there is an enemy in this world that brings sickness, strife, and temptation. We forget we have been given choice and we choose things that God would not choose.  And while God IS a just God and He will make right every wrong, there is nothing to indicate He treats everyone the same.

We Want To Be In Control

To protect ourselves from the thought that we could be innocently assaulted with a curse, we construe blame on victims and think they must have done something to deserve this.  This gives us a feeling of safety and control.  The cancer victim must have eaten poorly, or the poor must not know how to work, or the rape victim must have been scantily dressed.  Our minds race to find some cause so that we can avoid this fate for our own lives.  But the story of Job indicates that even the righteous endure hardship at the hand of Satan.

So, how are we to look at it when we experience deep sorrow and hardship?

Keep our eyes focused on our own stories

First, the story of Job reminds us that we can’t really know what is going on in someone else’s story, we so need to keep our focus on our own stories.  Job’s friends were shown to be fools, because they opened their mouths to try and figure out why Job was going through tremendous anguish.

God doesn’t stop trials

In the story of Job, God is the one who points out Job’s righteousness to Satan (Job 1:8, 2:3).  God also repaid Job ten times what was taken from him.  God does not protect him from experiencing the pain.  If the Spirit does not convict us, then we can have a confidence our suffering is a not a result of our actions.  We can then also be assured that God will restore blessing to us many times over.

Deut. 23:5 “The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.”

1 Peter 2:19 “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.”

Trusting Has Three Elements

#1 Trusting doesn’t mean we are stuck in suffering

It is a kingdom agenda to relieve suffering!  We look for cures to cancer, we flee danger, and we comfort the afflicted.  If we can do something about our situation, then by all means we move toward relieving the suffering.   It is not ‘more holy’ to suffer.

#2 Trusting doesn’t mean we will not suffer

It is a kingdom agenda to grow through suffering.  There are many things we can’t change and Scripture speaks to the suffering God’s people will endure.  I have often heard people say, “I will trust that God loves me so this bad thing won’t happen.”  But that’s ultimately trusting in the outcome not in God.  We need to learn to say, “no matter what happens, I trust God loves me and whatever suffering I endure God will bring good from it.”

It is good to ask the question, “am I doing something that would bring this negative consequence into my life?”  If the answer is yes, then by all means we need to repent and change our ways.  But a valid answer could be, ‘no, to my knowledge I have not brought this on myself.’  Or, another equally valid answer is, “I am suffering this fate because I have done the right thing.”

#3 Trusting through the trial

The thing is, God doesn’t stop hardship or sin in this world; rejection, sin, catastrophes, trials, sickness, and death still happen.  He is faithful to us in the middle of those hardships, but not in taking them away.  He is faithful to give us His peace, perspective, patience, hope, and joy as we move through them.

He brings good out of the troubles of this world as we trust Him. And if we don’t trust Him through those trials, (we hold onto control, fear, anger, blame, etc.) I’m not sure He does bring good out of those troubles.  And personally, if I’m going to go through a trial, I’d rather have good come from it than dung.

What this ultimately means is we can’t judge a heart by the trial.  A person could go to jail (a negative consequence) because they have exposed and stood against evil (a righteous deed).  A person could have an accident (a negative consequence) because they are serving their neighbor (a righteous deed).  Or a person could be sick (a negative consequence) because we are in a spiritual battle (a righteous deed).

So, my hope is to judge myself (only) by doing what I believe God is calling me to do, according to Scripture.  If my conscious affirms me and I am yet experiencing a negative consequence or a curse, then I trust God knowing that my suffering will one day become gold.

Diane Langberg’s quote is spot on.  The cross our proof.

Dear Husband

No really, let’s talk for just a minute about a husband’s role.

Dear Husband
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Today’s blog post is short and sweet.  Mostly because this is not all that complicated.  Also because I sit with countless women in abusive marriages who have been taught from one or two verses of Scripture what marriages are supposed to look like.  If they do bring up other Scriptures, they have been told they only need to worry about their role in marriage. No really, let’s talk for just a minute about a husband’s role.

Dear Husband,

Are your prayers being answered?   Consider 1 Peter 3:7

“You husbands, likewise (as in 1 Peter 2:23 as Jesus was being reviled he did not revile in return and while suffering he uttered no threats; it’s not just a woman’s role to suffer her husband’s self-centeredness), live with your wives in an understanding way (considerate, kind, attentive), as with a weaker vessel (guess what? You are stronger, you are more domineering, you are meaner…so be nice!), since she is a woman; and grant her honor (respect, dignity, regard) as a fellow heir (equal, partner, co-inheritor) of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (well that’s serious).” (italics mine.)

Words That Change Reality

I want to encourage you to think of your words as a commodity to be spent and invested wisely.

Words RealityToday, I’d like to remind us (myself included) that words matter.

Prov. 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

And those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Over and over, Scripture warns and encourages us regarding the power of words.  

There is a linguistic theory called The Speech-Act Theory, which says that words not only have a surface meaning, they also have an intended meaning, which in turn, have an effect on the world.

This theory is used in hermeneutics (how to interpret God’s word) because it understands that God not only has said something in His Word, He had an intended meaning, which was meant to have an effect in the world.  Since we are made in His image, our words also have an intended meaning, which will affect our world. In other words, our words change reality.

I’d like to look at several Scripture references which show us the power of the tongue.


In Gen. 1:1 it says, “And God said” and creation happened.

He created the worlds by speaking! He brought order out of chaos.  Now, think about this…we are made in His image. What do we create with our words!  Chaos? Conflict? Peace? Rest?


Rom. 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Confessing with our words has huge impact on reality.  I can be saved!!! I can be healed!! I can be forgiven and cleansed!  How amazing is that!

Promise & Vows

Psalm 89: 34 “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.”

Duet. 23: 21-23 “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. “However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. “You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.”

James 5:2 “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”

When God makes promises we can be assured it will come to pass.  The world will be different because of a promise. I then wonder, what happens in the spiritual realm when I make a promise?  Or when I break a promise? It seems we are warned to be very careful with our words when it comes to promises and vows (and it’s different than a yes or a no), because they have implication that it changes something in the spiritual realm.   


Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

When we forgive, something changes whereby God can then forgive me!  The reality of my own bondage is broken.


John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Speaking the truth brings freedom.  If you feel in bondage, Scripture says we break free by speaking the truth about it.


Gen. 1:22 God blessed them, saying (with words), “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

1 Peter 3:8-9 “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

We see many accounts of blessings in Genesis: Abraham blessed Isaac, Isaac blessed Jacob, Jacob blessed his twelve sons including Ephraim before Manasseh. And we see multiple accounts of God blessing Abraham’s descendants.  We see Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing, showing it’s a thing that can be stolen and it’s a thing to be inherited.

A blessing calls out good and impacts the trajectory of an heir.  We are called to give a blessing even to those who are evil to us so that we also might inherit a blessing. Sweet!   Our words of blessing have impact and changes the world around us.


Matthew 26:41 “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Can prayer really keep us from even being tempted?  Can we find healing through prayer? Of course, prayer always changes things, even if it just gives me peace.  But there are millions and millions of stories of God interceding because of prayer.


Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

It seems here that encouragement helps keep us from a hardened heart.  That’s pretty important!


Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

We are warned here that judgments, condemnation as well as pardon all have a boomerang effect.  They have an impact on us. These are not just emotions that sit inside of us. These emotions come out in everything we do including our expressions, actions, and words.  Words of judgement and condemnation also have impact on the world.

We also see in many parts of Scripture huge warnings to be careful with our speech.

Ecc. 10:12 “Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him.”

Matthew 12:35-37 “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Eph. 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Eph. 5:4 “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

Col. 3:8 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

This is a short list of the many, many times in Scripture we are warned to watch our speech because it has incredible impact on our world.  And it has incredible impact on us! We are not called to shaming, condemnation, or ridicule. This does not exhibit the heart of God. Our words matter.

I’m going to stop here because this is a blog post and not a book. But I could go on with what the Bible tells us about grumbling, disputing, empty chatter, worship/singing, wisdom, teaching, preaching, thanksgiving, and the Word of Life.

Walk by Grace

My friends, I want to encourage you to think of your words as a commodity to be spent and invested wisely.  Words of derision, mockery, contempt, ridicule, judgement, and shame will all take away from this world. Words of truth, blessing, forgiveness, love, and prayers will bring the Kingdom of God crashing into earth!  Because they have impact on the world, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col. 4:8)


Why Celebrate Recovery Isn’t Just For Addicts

That’s right! It’s not just for addicts! It’s for anyone who is stuck and can’t move forward in life.  

Why Celebrate Recovery Isn't Just For AddictsCelebrate Recovery (CR) is a 12-Step recovery program designed to deal with any hurt, hang-up, or habit.  That is almost unbelievable! How can one ‘program’ help deal with coping mechanisms, divorce issues, sexual issues, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, rejection, substance abuse, or any other hurt, hang-up, or habit?  That’s right! It’s not just for addicts! It’s for anyone who is stuck and can’t move forward in life.  

CR presents 25 lessons which are broken down into four sections; getting ready to write down your inventory, writing your inventory, dealing with your inventory, and continue to manage your inventory.  The term inventory is simply a list of significant areas of your life including sins you’ve committed, sins committed against you, traumas, lies you’ve believed, attitudes you’ve experienced as well as blessings you have received and discovering your identity.

Getting Ready

CR takes eight (8) lessons just to get us ready to write down and deal with our inventories!

  • We start by coming out of denial and recognizing ‘I have a problem.’
  • We realize that we have tried to control this problem and can’t.  We need a power outside of ourselves to help us and that power is Jesus Christ.
  • We begin to hope again because we understand that we matter to Christ and He has the power to help us recover, which leads us back to truth.
  • We choose to turn our lives and our wills to Christ’s care and control.  And we recognize that we must do something different than what we have been doing to get a different result.
  • We commit to complete honesty about our lives and we surround ourselves with others who have gone this road before.

This sets us up for success!


Now this is where the rubber meets the road and it starts spinning out, doing wheelies, and flipping over.  This is where we tend to lose people. I’ve heard it countless times, “Why do I have to rehash all the crap in my life?  Can’t I just move forward?” Yet, every recovery program has an inventory process so it must be important! So, the answer is, yes you can move forward but without healing from past wounds it’s like walking over broken glass with bare feet. You simply cannot heal until you deal with the past.

In CR, there are three inventory lessons in which we write down the good, the bad and the ugly.  We write down people who have hurt us, people we have hurt, life’s significant events, deaths, and how we’ve responded to these traumas.  We answer questions like who am I resentful of, jealous of, or am critical of? What makes me lose my temper or what do I worry over? Have I stolen from anyone or been dishonest?  We write it all down. I suppose that’s the scary part as we see ourselves looking back at us from the paper. We begin to own our stories, so that our stories will no longer own us.

Writing down our inventories is not meant to shame us or make us proud.  We simply write down the truth about our lives. We then take our inventories through God’s healing process to find freedom.

Dealing with our Inventories

Here is where the miracles happen!  God’s healing process is simple, but it’s not simplistic.  This is so difficult that we really can’t do it on our own.  We need safe people to help us navigate the truth by helping us see when we are still believing lies.  We need safe people to grieve with us in the losses of our life. We need safe people to be an example of how to walk the road to freedom.  And, of course, we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to do these things. It’s not meant to be done alone.

  • We start by confessing our sins, our needs, and weaknesses.  This is the first step of the healing process!  It’s a guaranteed promise.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness.”

  • We admit our wrongs to another person.  This is such a necessary part of recovery because this is where we walk out of shame.  I know it feels like we would be walking into shame, but that’s not the truth! We tell another person our sins and the world doesn’t end.  In fact, most of the time, at CR you will hear ‘me too.’ You get to take your mask off here, you get to be the real you, and you are loved for who you really are.  Your mask gets thrown away.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

  • We are ready to have God remove our character defects as we voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in our life.   (In religious terms that’s called repentance.)

Matthew 5:6 “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

  • We evaluate all our relationships.  We offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us and make amends for the harm we’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others.  This needs to be wisely done and having others help you navigate these relational issues is huge!

Luke 6: 31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

And there we have it!  Boom-Sha-ka-la-ka!! Confession – Admitting – Repentance – Amends –Forgiveness.  These steps break any bondage we are stuck in and put us back in right relationships with God and (as far as we can do) with others.  At CR, we call it ‘cleaning up my side of the street.’

You see, these steps don’t really make sense.  If I were to create steps, it would be all about gaining control of my own world or finding solutions to manage my own happiness.  That makes sense to me. But God’s plan is possible for all to follow because He does the work. When we have done our part in following God and in restoring relationships, He breaks any bondage we are held to and we find freedom. It’s interesting to note, that even secular recovery programs use this as a basis because God’s principles always work even when you don’t give Him credit.  It’s a spiritual law much like the law of gravity.

What this does not do is fix physical issues such as cancer or even depression, although many people have found relief from depression when they follow these steps.  It does not control another person to act the way you want them to, although it can free you from their control. It doesn’t save you from the consequences of poor past decisions.  And it does not make life easy…sorry, life is still life.


The last eight lessons of CR are how we continue to walk in the grace of God.  We establish new habits of confession, admitting our struggles to safe people, repenting, making amends and offering forgiveness on a daily basis.  We establish safeguards for relapses in our character, develop an attitude of gratitude, and learn to give away what we have received.

Celebrate Recovery works because at its core is the Gospel.  We learn to recognize our part in all of life’s issues and we trust God’s plan of breaking the bondage through His provisions.

If you are in or near Moscow, Idaho I invite you to come any Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Real Life, Moscow Campus.  If you are outside of my area, then look up one of the 35,000 Celebrate Recovery groups world-wide here. 

Finding The One

What to look for in the dating world.

Finding 'The One'
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

The romance movies have it all wrong.  They tell us we find our soul mates by looking across the room, catching their eye, we make it into the bedroom after some initial flirting and live happily ever after.  This sets up singles to be seeking for a partner based on physical attraction alone. Now, there’s nothing wrong with physical attraction, and I will say it is one important element of a romantic relationship, but it certainly isn’t the totality of it.  There are 23 ½ hours left to a day after romance, so it might be important to like the person you’re with. I’d like to suggest that there are at least 11 practical wisdoms to be looking for in a prospective spouse. Please know, nobody will have these down perfectly.  But are they willing to admit where they are weak and are they actually working on growing strong?

Will they fit in with your community of people?

From Romeo and Juliet to The Princess Bride, media tell us that it’s you and your true love against the world.  It sets you up to think that you must follow your emotions and run into an isolated relationship. The problem with this is your emotions then run the show.

While it may seem old fashioned (or even impractical) to have a prospective suitor ask a girl’s father for a date, the wisdom of this tradition is important; community protects.  Parents are often privy to understanding young hearts and motives. But other family members and friends know you best and love you too. They want good for you. And they can see things in a prospective heart-throb that you can’t see. And if you are the prospective suitor, community can call out motives that you might not even realize are present.

Before you hurl headlong and give your heart away, ask them.  Do they think this person is good for you? What do they think of the character of the one you are attracted to?  What are they known for? And then listen! You don’t need to take any one person’s advice, but if you have several people who love you are telling you there may be red flags, then listen!  And if the prospective heart-throb is telling you that your community of people ‘has something against them so come away with me to prove your love for me’, that is a red flag on fire! Run like hell!

How do they resolve conflict?

Does this person know how to deal with conflict?  This is something that you can see if you are in the same social/work settings before you ever go on a date.  Do they destroy relationships? Do they appease others rather than speak the truth? Do they dominate in social settings?  Do they have long-term friendships? Can they see their part in a conflict, or is it everyone else’s fault?

This is an important trait that has life-long implications.  Even if you have never had a conflict with this person, there will come a day that you will and you will want them to be able to fight fair.

Are they balanced in seeing their weaknesses and sins?

If a person cannot admit they are weak or wrong, this is a huge red flag?  This will mean everything will be your fault one day. Look for where they consistently place blame.  At the same time, they shouldn’t be taking all the blame and thinking of themselves like a worm. Finding a spouse that can be both confident and admit weaknesses and sins is an important element of a healthy person.

How do they treat others?

How they treat others is how they will one day treat you.  How do they treat family members? Waitresses? Subordinates?  Bosses? Civil Authorities? A common thinking pattern that will often hook you is this: ‘they treat others badly, but they treat me great, therefore their love for me is true.’  Be very careful with this type of thinking!!! How they treat those they think are ‘less than’ them, will one day be the way they treat you.

How do they deal with failure?

Do they run from failure? Do they get angry, destructive, or try to control?   Or do they learn from it and dust themselves off to go again? Failure is a given in life; they will fail you, you will fail them, you will fail together, and each of you will fail alone.  And, if you don’t ever try because of fear of failure, you fail. Knowing how a person fails will determine the trajectory of your relationship.

Do they know who they are?

Do they know who they are; their gifts, talent, values, and purpose.  Or are they looking to you to define them? In any healthy relationship, both people should bring the fullness of who they are into the relationship.  What is important to them? Do they have goals?  Do their goals complement your goals?  If one person wants to travel, while the other wants to set down roots, it will be a point of contention throughout the relationship.

Do they support your dreams? Do they share or at least respect your values?

How do they complain?

What do they complain about?  Is the glass half full? What is behind their complaints?  Do their complaints produce change or is it a never-ending drip?  This is a disposition they will carry with them until they decide to change it.  It is a very heavy burden to hear complaints about everything all the time that you can’t do anything about, especially when the complaints turn on you!

What is their attitude toward work?

Work is a given whether a person works as a CEO or a housewife.  Do they resent work? Do they bury themselves in work? Do they find their identity in their work?  Do they avoid it? Create it? God gave us work before the fall, so to resent it is a problem. It’s equally a problem if it becomes their entire life.  Balance here is important.

How do they spend money?

Are they a tightwad or a spendthrift?  Do they spend money on things or adventures?  Do they hoard or throw money away? Are they responsible with finances or do they abdicate responsibility?  No two people on the face of the earth will spend money in the same way so having a respect for how someone spends money will be important.

What do they value?

Values are important in life because they dictate how you spend your time, money, and energy.  It’s good to share at least a few values with your spouse or at least have respect for their values.  For instance, if your spouse values organization but you don’t it could be a source of conflict.

There are many values exercises online; here are a couple.


Are they honest?

Do they lie to others?  If so, one day they will lie to you!  #enoughsaid

Develop these characteristics too!

This might seem like a long list that no one can get past.  But that’s not true. If you are important to them, they can at least be developing these traits.  And it will be important that you also develop these characteristics yourself. As you begin to establish a community of support who will help you see red flags, ask them how you are doing in these areas and grow into a person that you would want to date.  If you expect these characteristics (or any others) then it’s important to live them out yourself.

Most of these things can be observed or inquired about even before a first date, if you are in community.  Remember, being attracted to someone IS important…but it’s not the only important thing. As you develop yourself as a person of character, you can also expect to find a person of character.

The Great Gift of Choice

The heart of God is that we use the great gift of choice for the welfare of community.

Great Gift of Choice
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

At the h­eart of understanding abuse is the conversation about choice.  Abuse is about power & control, which removes choice from the one without power & control.  Almost all forms of taking a person’s choice away are, at the very least, destructive.  So, if this is such an important element to our beings, why isn’t there a verse which states ‘thou shalt not take away a person’s choice?’

I recognize that we live in a very individualistic society and we can get a little too carried away with individualism.  Choosing should not be only about ‘what’s in it for me.’  The heart of God is that we use the great gift of choice for the welfare of community.

In the Beginning God Gave Us Choice

Gen. 2:17 says “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

While this is a ‘command’, there is an inherent choice God is offering and not forcing on Adam.  It’s part of being human vs. being an animal.  Animals have instinct but humans have choice.  In fact, I don’t think a human can NOT make choices all day every day, unless you are enslaved.  This is the reason addiction is inherently evil.  In addiction, a person is compelled to act or react in ways they don’t want to.  This is the reason all forms of slavery are inherently evil.  And this is the reason abuse (the forced or manipulation of a person’s choice) is inherently evil.

There isn’t simply a single verse about the evil of taking a person’s choice away because it’s inherent in every verse.

God, Himself, doesn’t take our choices away even though He could.  At every turn, God GIVES us choice.  It was for freedom that Christ (through his death, burial, and resurrection) set us free. Freedom is ‘not under compulsion’.  It’s actually freedom. It’s freedom to follow, freedom to love, and freedom to choose.  

You Have Options

At the end of the book of Joshua, he recounts the many ways in which God acted on the behalf of the Israelites.  Over and over again, God did miracles to rescue Israel from slavery, darkness, and destruction.  Inherent in the call to serve, is a call to serve the Lord in sincerity (not compulsion) and truth (v. 14). But He then offers the choice, if you don’t want to

Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

It Wouldn’t Be Temptation If We Didn’t Have a Choice

Inherent in temptation is choice.  We don’t instinctively follow God, we choose to follow God.   God provides a way out of temptation, He doesn’t force us out of temptation.

1 Cor. 10:13  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Faith is a Choice

In Romans 14, Paul tells us to not judge one another for our ‘choices.’ There are many choices we make on a daily basis that require faith, such as to eat meat (sacrificed to idols) or not.  Paul states in vs. 22-23 “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.  Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”  Note it does not say, unless you are a parishioner, slave, employee, or wife.  

Love is a Choice

Inherent in love is a choice.  

God wants relationship with us, not robots or animals.  My dog has to ‘love’ me because it’s imprinted on his being to follow his master.  She can’t help herself.  But that’s not real love.  My husband must choose to act in my best interest in order to love me.  If I force him through manipulation or coercion to do what I want him to do, I will never feel loved because he didn’t have a choice.

Mark 8:34 “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Positions of Power

Authority carries with it responsibility.  But responsibility doesn’t mean we get to take away choices from another person, unless they are three years old and darting into the street.    Jesus taught that if we want to look like him, we will wash feet and bear the burden of consequences for those under our authority.  Godly Parents, Pastors, Bosses, and Leaders will use their positions of power to listen, lead, and give the power of choice whenever possible.  

Godly Choices Look Like God

God always moves and acts in relationship on our behalf.  Therefore, as we pursue godliness, our choices are not to be made autonomously with only ourselves for consideration.  They are weighed within our relationships. This means I’m not called to make choices that will only make others happy.  I am called to make choices as to what I believe will be best for you, and sometimes that means saying no, not giving in, walking away, firing you, or sending you to jail.

Sometimes we will need to suffer for the welfare of another by giving, forbearance, patience, forgiving and allowing consequences.  Suffering can look like staying in a difficult relationship or it can look like pulling away from a destructive relationship.  Godliness though always invites into healthy relationship, but it never enables a person to sin against us.  And it never means we lose the ability to bring our opinions, gifts, and self into the relationship to appease another.  Godliness is to come into relationship, fully ourselves, and to move and act for the welfare of others.  To allow another person to continue to sin against us without consequences, isn’t acting in their interest.  

Gal. 5 is all about how we can choose to walk in the flesh or walk in the Spirit.  Why would Paul be telling us to walk in the Spirit if we didn’t have a choice?

Because we are human we choose.  We can choose selfishly or we can choose godly.  Abuse seeks to destroy and take away choice.  Godliness offers choices.  


Defining Codependency

Two people can have the exact same actions but for one it’s healthy and the other it’s codependent.

Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

The problem of codependency is difficult to define because our actions often look like what we are taught to do as a “good Christian.”  We always put others first and we sacrifice ourselves in the process of serving others.  Many of our co-dependent actions have been our attempt of loving others.  We don’t want to see others make poor choices, we want what is best for them, and we want to feel loved.  These things are not wrong until we make unhealthy choices.  The problem comes in the motivation behind our actions.  We do not act independently for the welfare of others.  Instead we act out of fear, guilt and/or manipulation to obtain a desired result or for the approval of others.  In other words, two people can have the exact same actions but for one it’s healthy and the other it’s codependent.  As co-dependents, we:

are unaware of and suppress our own emotions.

  • Have difficulty identifying and expressing what we are feeling
  • Appease or rescue in an attempt to avoid our own anger, or the anger of others
  • Worry about how others may respond to our feelings, opinions, and behavior
  • Minimize, alter or deny how we truly feel in an effort to protect ourselves from others’ disapproval.
  • Do not ask others to meet our needs or desires
  • Are very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same instead of having independent emotions.
  • Are afraid to express differing opinions or feelings
  • Value others’ opinions and feelings more than our own

are consumed by the emotional state of another.

  • Assume responsibility for others’ feelings and behaviors
  • Feel guilty about others’ feelings and behaviors
  • Have difficulty making decisions without approval

willingly go against our own convictions for fear of rejection or fear of another’s reaction.

  • Are afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others
  • Feeling like we don’t have a choice in response to someone else’s choices
  • Feel a need to rescue others from their decisions
  • Willingly hide, lie, or remain silent to cover for someone else

do for others’ in hopes of approval, love, or control

  • we find ourselves resentful when we help others’
  • become angry when we don’t receive the approval we deserve
  • feel we don’t have choices and must do what others’ want us to do
  • try to control the actions of another through guilt and shame

The Process of Recovery

Many of our actions as codependents are similar on the outside to what the Bible teaches.  It is good to help someone in need, to care for and have empathy with those who are hurting, and to put others’ needs ahead of our own.  Many of us have good intentions and have a strong desire to follow and obey God.  But codependency occurs when we want to please man rather than God.  

Recovery begins by admitting our true emotions to God, to ourselves, and to someone we trust.  We take ownership of our own feelings. We let others have their own emotions without feeling guilty, anxious, or responsible for how they feel.  We learn to express our feelings and deal with others’ reactions in healthy ways.  We learn to offer help without rescuing others. We change when:

  • We begin to act out of mercy and not from a need to be needed.
  • We act with intention serving others by choice because Christ has served us, not out of guilt or fear.
  • We seek to please God, not people.
  • Our value comes because we were made in God’s image, not from our work, service, or performance.
  • Serving others becomes a choice, not a reaction based on our emotions.  Healthy Christian service comes out of joy, not guilt.
  • We make choices not allowing others to dictate our actions.
  • We learn how to have healthy boundaries with others and how to respect other people’s boundaries.
  • We learn to help others appropriately by allowing them to make independent choices rather than making them dependent on us.
  • We learn to live balanced lives by caring for ourselves as well as caring for others.
  • We are willing to begin the process of recovery and working through the 12 steps to heal and start living the life God has planned for us.
  • We will use the tools of recovery: calling our accountability partners, journaling and reading the Bible.

As we begin this process of recovery, it often feels like we are not loving others.  But as we learn that God has given us the freedom to act and love Him independently without compulsion, we learn to love others independently.  We also allow others to love us independently and without compulsion.