Trauma + The Church: Assumptions

We all make them and they usually lead to chaos, heartache, confusion, anger, and betrayal. ASSUMPTIONS are one of the worse things we engage in as human beings. Assumptions are no stranger to the Church either and its response to the trauma of others. Assumptions block our ability to see people and situations the way Jesus would have us see things. Here are some common assumptions we may make in the Church in regards to trauma:

  • Assumption: Trauma is only what happens TO US. Reality: Trauma can also be something that we witness (someone else’s pain, the news, public violence, etc). Secondary trauma can impact you just as much as primary (personal) trauma.
  • Assumption: Trauma is meant to teach us a lesson. Reality: Traumatic events are not a cookie-cutter ordeal. There are a lot of variables at play during stressful times. We can learn about ourselves from the traumas we face but we need to be careful how we interpret what happens to us. Yes, sometimes we make mistakes and it can lead to bad things (and sin); however, not everything in your fault. We live in a world of evil and there are other people in this world too.
  • Assumption: Trauma is just psycho-babble. You just need to pray it away. Reality: This is absolutely terrible theology. You should pray about your trauma, sins, hopes, and dreams. However, you can’t just pray everything “away.” As Americans, we like to rush to the next thing (or person or job) without reflecting on what went wrong in the last living hell we were in. Sit in your pain. Take your pain to Jesus.
  • Assumption: Trauma is just a trend. Reality: Trauma is something we are just now exploring in mental health and ministry/spirituality. I worked in mental health for 10 years and it was just becoming a focal point when I left the field in 2018. I have been in pastoral ministry since 2020 and we are slowly being introduced to trauma and the need to dialogue about it in the Church/ministry field.
  • Assumption: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Reality: Words do hurt. Words can shape your outlook (good or bad) in life–whether they are your words or someone’s words spoken to you.

Check your assumptions. Test them to Scripture using Romans 12:1-2. Is this good? Is this pleasing to God? Does this align with God’s will?

Our next post in this series will focus on Soul Ties and how they can make or break our hearts and minds as a community of believers.


Trauma + The Church: Practical Practices

In my last post, I wrote on why the Church is often hesitant to talk about trauma. Frankly, we fear what we do not understand (Nelson Mandela quote?) and therefore we make assumptions about identifying and managing trauma. For centuries, the Church has not been immune to human suffering. People have endured many public battles that we have witnessed. You may be someone who has endured public trauma; however, the past traumas (and current private ones) are the ones that can hurt just as bad. How will the Church respond when people have been internally bleeding in regards to their silent traumas?

I would like to offer you some practical practices in dealing with trauma. These practices are not rocket science and I am not a doctor. Please consult a medical professional if your condition is leading you to thoughts of self-harm or harming others.

Journaling: Everyone has a LOVE/HATE relationship with journaling. Journaling is a great exercise for trauma because it is not as invasive as someone seeing a therapist. The neat aspect of journaling is you can physically see your progress in your own handwriting. I encourage you to handwrite in a journal. At some point, you may need to burn parts of the journal (or all of it) due to life changes, privacy issues, or if the Redcoats are coming.

Get the Anger Out: Everyone’s trauma at some point has made them angry. Identify what or who has made you perturbed. Now, go do something with that anger. Ideas: chop some wood, lift some weights, play a sport, run, etc. DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL. If you need to complete home renovations and have demo work to do, then you have picked a great time to release your anger. The issue with angry is we usually bottle is up inside or we are not kind to other people with our words. Own your angry and show it that you are the boss!

Be Proactive: If there is anything that the human race has mastered over the years, it is the subtle art of procrastination. When we procrastinate and put things off, we are inviting more stress into our lives. Instead of waiting until Monday, plan on Friday for the next week. Planning more in advance should alleviate the stress and anxiety many people feel on Sundays. Planning should include your work tasks as well as things around your home. Additionally, make sure to include things that you NEED to do and WANT to do. You need to get things done but you also need a life.

Check the Voices: Take some time to evaluate where you are hearing advice from. Make sure you know the difference between advice (surface level) and wisdom (heart/mind/soul level). Do you watch alot of news and how do you feel afterwards? When you make decisions, which people in your life do you turn to? Get into the Bible and read (or listen) to gain more clarity for your life. Start small.

In our next post, we will address assumptions that we make about trauma.


Trauma + The Church: Why It is Not Talked About

Today, I begin a series of blog posts entitled: “Trauma and The Church.” The focus on trauma and its effect on people has been picking up serious traction in the mental health field. Trauma is no longer a category on a service plan; it is a focal point that cannot be ignored with ALL people–whether they are in mental health services or not. The topic of trauma has now trickled into the spiritual/ministry/Church world. The only nice thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is it made us start doing new ministry OUTSIDE of the church walls and it unraveled how we deal with trauma.

Please note: I am not a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I spent 10 years working in mental health in a variety of positions. I have ministry experience and education. I believe it is time for the Church to start embracing the impact of trauma on our people. My views are opinions and not necessary perfect and pretty.

I believe that trauma is not talked about in the Church for several reasons:

  • We are scared of it. Everyone has been through something traumatic–Christians are no different. The reason I believe we don’t talk about it in churches is we are scared and uneducated about it. Too often than not, we defer problems to a lack of faith, needing to pray more, or evil. While all of these things could hinder our spiritual growth, they are not the go-to answer when someone is struggling.
  • Generational Differences. Every generation has its ups and downs. Some generations have different views on traumatic events. Their philosophy is: if we don’t talk about it, then it never happened. Some generations have been more receptive to getting dialogue going about trauma. Most people in our churches can not agree on Bible translations. The same can hold true for our views on managing trauma.
  • It exposes our own trauma. When we do not think of the effects of trauma on others–especially in the Church, we are avoiding our own woundedness. If we enter into that person’s suffering with them, our wounds may open up a little bit and bleed. This is where we must aim on being rooted in Christ so we can be healers who address others’ wounds.

In our next Trauma + The Church, we will discuss spiritual practices that can help you with trauma.


Beauty and the Beast

Our series on “Beauty” continues; however, today takes a different turn. Today, we talk about Beauty and the Beast. No, not the Disney movie! The Beauty and the Beast that we will take a look at is more metaphorical and yet uniquely personal.

Our Beauty is that person. The one who brings light into darkness. The one who stands by you while all living hell is breaking loose around you and within you. The Beauty could be a male or a female (don’t make this weird–a guy can have a beautiful spirit) and could be a friend, lover, etc. People who dispense beauty into our lives can be male or female. As a Jesus follower, this beautiful person points us to find healing in Jesus. Their presence may be quiet or loud but they consistently love you and respect you as Jesus does. In this fast-paced and often selfish world, this Beauty is rare. Thank God (and them)!

The Beast is YOU. Yes, you! I am not making fun of the fact that you look tired today or forget to wear makeup. The Beast is your vulnerable self. In this state, we are aware that we are letting someone into our scars, wounds, and successes. We are allowing someone to see our story and this is different from the public and social media version of our story. The Beast can indeed be ugly. What if they see me as I really am? The unperfect me? The still-figuring-out-my-life me? Find who you can be your Beast with.

May you find healing because someone stepped up and stepped into your life and showed you Jesus’ love. May you also return the favor!


Beauty And Spring

For the next few blog posts, I will be writing about the aspect of beauty and how it affects various parts of our lives. There is something restoring about beautiful people, places, and things that bring hope and healing to us. We will explore this as spring is a natural transition of beauty unfolding before us.

Spring is here! At least, that is what our calendars tell us. Today appears to be a day that is partly like winter and partly like spring. If you need something to look forward to today, I believe Rita’s Italian Ice gives out discounts or free Italian ice today.

In the Northeast, we usually crave Spring. The barrenness of winter has passed and everyone is coming out of their caves–some people literally. This is a time of planting, pruning, and blossoming. When I worked in mental health, many people experienced their worst depressive states NOT around the holidays (Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day). January through the beginning of Spring were the worse months for anyone with mental health concerns. Why? The holidays are over there is freezing cold temperatures, very little sunshine, and what appears to be little hope.

Dead leaves are on the ground yet green grass is peeking through the pile of yard debris. Patio furniture and fire pits are brought out from storage and ready to be christened with memories of laughter and joy. Lawn mowers are prepared for that first sacred cut of the new mowing season. Evil rears its ugly head as weeds and thistles pop up in your flowerbeds to let their presence be known.

Spring breaks into nature and yet also into our heart and soul. We have needed THIS. Yes, THIS! In colder climates, I do not know many people who have not struggled mentally or spiritually through the winter. Our heart and soul have really been longing for beauty. Beauty can have many forms when it comes to Spring. Maybe we needed reassurance of more sunlight. You could equate this with needing more hope in our despair. Maybe we needed to see new life in our plants and nature. You could also equate this with those places in our heart where we know we need to take some risks with Jesus and others.

Find Beauty in Spring today. Embrace it. Love it. Thank God for it.

In-Between Places

There is something equally frustrating and holy about those in-between places. You know what I am talking about. The times you are waiting from Point A to Point B. The times you are waiting for that thing, situation, or person that you have been praying for. Here is where most of us get stuck as Christians. We go into that in-between place and we lose our minds and hearts. We have to develop a better way of handling these times as we will encounter many of them in our lifetime.

First and foremost, we need to remember that waiting is a normal process but waiting does not mean being monastic. God does not call us to wait in our prayer rooms, disengage from the world, and put our life on hold as we “wait”. When I was in high school, there was a big push for teenagers and young adults to have these lofty expectations in their dating/courting/premarital lives. The standards were so high that it left many Christians frustrated and they no longer have anything to do with Jesus because the standards were almost cultish.

We will experience some suffering in our waiting but we should be looking and seeking out joy. If you are waiting for a spouse, you will not appreciate when you do meet an awesome prospect if you are a miserable being from waiting and praying. That person will run the other way! The same goes for other opportunities: jobs, children, hobbies, friendships, etc. You have to look for the Light in the Darkness. As believers, we are called to be the Light in the Darkness.

During our times in the in-between places, we need to develop a balanced lifestyle. The American way of handling this (and especially driven people) is by disappearing into our work. It is safe there because we will be rewarded for all of that work, right? Not exactly. You can work hard and slowly kill off your heart and mind because your intention is to just be distracted. Be aware of the things that are distracting you during your waiting season.

Lastly, invest in deeper relationships. Relationships and friendships that have sustenance will aide you in being resilient in hard times. Who loves you and is there for you? Who believes in you? These are the folks that you need to be spending your time with. Make an effort to connect with them regardless of how busy you are. You need it and I bet that they probably do too.

May you find joy in your waiting!

Ending the Year Strong: Forgive Others

Moving forward is never easy. It doesn’t mean that we forget what others did or didn’t do to us. However, we need to forgive others. Not forgiving others is a toxin to your heart, mind, and soul.

Think about this last year. Who hurt you really bad? Was it someone’s words or actions? Here’s the deal, folks. The old saying: sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me. <—–Garbage saying!

The actions AND words of others will hurt. Sometimes people hurt us on purpose and sometimes they don’t even realize they shoot arrows at us.

To forgive, first go to God. Who do you need to forgive? What person or situation is bothering you? Give it to God and keeping praying to truly release it to Him. It will take more than one time of releasing them in prayer.

Ask yourself if you need to talk to this person about forgiving them. Sometimes this must occur for closure and other times it will just be traumatic for you. Talk to God and someone you trust and then decide.

Forgiveness frees you from a trapped heart and mind. It allows you to live in the now and hope for the future. Without hope, it will be difficult to see what God is doing in your life.

Ending the Year Strong: Forgive Yourself

2023 is only 3 days from now! In the last blog post, we talked about reviewing 2022 and taking notes. There is something revealing and therapeutic (and hopefully healing) about reviewing the last year. Every year is different. Maybe your year had alot of good surprises or perhaps you had a year that was traumatic and heartbreaking. One thing that we need to do with the last year is forgive ourselves.

When I talk about forgiving ourselves, I am not advocating for some self-help tactics. Quite the opposite, forgiving ourselves means that we take a step towards Jesus. As we take this step, we forgive ourselves for where we screwed up this year. Our year might have been full of bad decisions we made or a year full of indecisiveness. Both active and inactive decisions can lead us closer or further away from Jesus and others. We give the last year to Jesus and seek forgiveness.

A lot of feelings may be brewing inside of you from this past year: joy, disappointment, heartache, failure, grief, suffering, confusion, peace, etc. Regardless of what you are feeling (good or bad), give it to Jesus. In this moment, do not look for the lesson learned. It is too early for that. You need to heal, seek restoration, and gain clarity for the next year.

Here is how this works……

  1. We admit our flaws. We don’t air this out on social media or text a friend. We take this to God.
  2. We repent. Repentance means “to turn away from”. We seek a better way in Jesus and this is NOT performance-based or behavior modification. You can know the rules of Christianity, have nice manners, never miss church, and still not KNOW JESUS.
  3. We forgive others. (This is my next blog post!)
  4. We plan and make changes. This is where you get help. Seek a trusted friend, mentor, or professional whom can help you learn and process from the last year. Process and then plan for the next year. If you hate your job, why is that? If you keep dating people who treat you like crap, then up your standards!

Give yourself some grace. Jesus has already extended it to you. Will you accept it?

Ending the Year Strong: Take Notes

Some people love taking notes. They take notes at church, at work, and in life lessons learned. And then there is everyone else. These are the folks that only take notes because they “have to”. Which crowd do you belong to? There is no wrong answer! As the year winds down, I will be focusing on a series of blogs on Ending the Year Strong. Maybe your year was great and it was far better than you imagined 2022 would be. Perhaps 2022 was a dumpster fire for you and you are cautious about 2023 and praying for Jesus to return. I encourage you to take some notes today.

We will take inventory in several areas of our lives and how we fared in 2022. This is not a performance tracking tool. In fact, our review of the year is more of a reflection….

  • Spiritual: What did you learn about God this year? If you had a theme for the year, now is the time to establish one (my post from a year ago) for the New Year. Take note of what spiritual practices worked (and didn’t) this year. Maybe you need to pray more or perhaps you need to serve on less committees and feed your soul more.
  • Financial/Career: Check your bank account and your budget. This will tell you where your priorities were for 2022. Do you need to make more money, eliminate debt, or both? On the flip side, what keeps you at the job you are at? If you are only at your job for the cash, you are slowly killing your soul.
  • Emotional/Mental: How is your mental health? Everyone handles their mental health differently and know that there are many tools out there if you need them.
  • Relational: Evaluate your love life/friendships. Do you like where these are and are they healthy or toxic? Are YOU healthy or toxic to others? Check your heart from this past year and if it needs more healing.
  • Physical: How did you take care of your body this year? Find an exercise regimen that works for you. Even a daily walk will be good for you mentally and physically.

This post is just a sample of how we will tackle Ending the Year Strong. Stay tuned, friends!

Your Soul and Autumn

Autumn is ALMOST here. Almost. However, the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) lovers have been rushing this season since August. As I type this, I am seated at a cafe’ that has about 10 Autumn-themed drinks on their menu. Slow up!

While I joke about the early entry of Autumn flavors, we would benefit from looking at the importance of Autumn and what it does for our soul. Summer is a time where kids are off of school; however, most people go non-stop during the summer. We cram in that vacation we never took and try to make up for all of the time we spent at work all year-long. And we limp to the finish line of the summer known as Labor Day.

Autumn should slow you down. It needs to and you need it to. Why is this? There is a natural transition between seasons. Summer is time to sow and Autumn is a time to reap. It is time to enjoy the harvest. It is a time to slow down and get outside. Summer is usually a time of busyness outside –AKA yardwork, home renovations, etc. Autumn gives us less daylight but provides us with so much more: fall foliage, bonfires, cooler temperatures, and a rhythm that is sorely needed.

Autumn slows us down. Take a moment to ponder this question: do you enjoy the pace of life that you are living at right now? Is this pace of life sustainable or is it going to lead you to burnout? Even though Autumn does not officially begin until September 22, here are some suggestions on preparing for the transition to Autumn.

  • Take notes in a journal or a Notes app on your phone. Document how you are feeling as Summer has ended. For most people, the start of Autumn is a busier time of the year with work and family obligations. Be honest and patient with yourself as you write.
  • Plan for some fun during the new season. Do something that involves being outside.
  • Do one hard thing. Clean out that room you have avoided for 5 years. Make the phone call. Write the letter. Visit the cemetery. Say “I love you”. Whatever it is, take a risk.
  • Take daily walks. Unless the weather is terrible, go for daily walks. This is the time to admire God’s beautiful artwork known as fall foliage. Take pictures or draw what you see.

I pray that your transition to Autumn is one that is beautifully disruptive–a movement that awakens your soul.