Eva Yang

Devotion – To Understand – To Know

To Understand – To Know

Claire Wadsworth

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls ….

Jeremiah 6:16

Recently, I embarked on a transformative journey of silence at a Christian monastery—a wholly novel experience that has indelibly marked my soul. The serenity cultivated within those sacred walls has given me a profound tranquillity, diminishing the grip of stress and permeating my life with a newfound calmness. Even amidst the hustle and bustle of daily affairs, my mind now finds solace, echoing the timeless injunction of Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God.” I feel as though I am more alert to details in the day, I am more mindful of nature and colours around me my senses are heightened. I gaze at the beautiful tropical fish, the majestic sea turtle, the tiniest ants, spectacular cumulus clouds and I consider my God who created all these for His pleasure.

Who is this God that He should be mindful of me? The scriptures say that God is Spirit (Spirit circle), love (Love sector) truth (Truth sector) and by Him all things were created, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities (Control sector). It is no wonder that when we invite Him into our Spirit circle and ask Him to take residence (Centre sector) that it affects every sector of our being, His omnipotent presence in every facet of existence. Through moments of profound surrender, such as the week of silent communion, He draws near, establishing Himself as the focal point of our being. In this sacred union, I discovered a deeper understanding of both God and self, relinquishing control of my thoughts, behaviour, and mood to His divine guidance.

The words of Jeremiah 6:16 have resonated deeply within me. Even after more than forty years journeying alongside God, I continue to glean wisdom from its timeless counsel. I daily inch closer towards embracing the age-old pathways, where the rhythm of existence finds its resonance in divine centrality.  In this pursuit, I discover a profound serenity enveloping my soul, a testament to the restorative power of a life firmly anchored in God. In this text the ancient paths refer to faith, devotion, and honour to the one true God of Israel. These pathways, rooted in the gospel of Christ, offer a sanctuary of rest amidst life’s chaos. Matthew 11:28-30 extends a divine invitation to participate in this transformational journey, a journey characterized by an earnest pursuit of spiritual nourishment. For me this state of rest means soaking in Scripture more, listening to Christian messages, podcasts, worship music. In moments of extended travel, instead of subjecting myself to the whims of radio programming, I now manage a personalized worship playlist. This intentional choice enables me to arrive at my destination in a greater state of peace. I try to go somewhere green or blue most days to watch and be mindful of creation and the Creator. I acknowledge that this is only one side of the triangle, me, and God. Yet, this journey is not solitary; it extends an invitation for communal engagement. As I walk along the ancient paths, I find myself more attuned to the needs of others, extending an invitation for them to participate in this journey of transformation. Scripture directs us in greater detail and guidance to God’s workings. It shows us that these ancient paths are still relevant today and are accessible and relevant to all. They are a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

  • I am wondering when was the last time you spent an hour, a day, a week in silence, no distractions, just listening to your Lord?
  • What does Jeremiah 6:16 speak to you?
  • What does it mean for you to walk in the good way?
  • How do you seek to deepen your understanding and intimacy with God?  

Blog – Understanding Through the Square and Circles

Understanding Through the Square and Circles

By JP

In the Christian Wholeness Framework, we have 5 steps where the second step is the ‘understand step.’ The details of the understand step can be seen above.

Once a person feels connected [feels S-A-F-E-T-Y, safe and healthy attachment, attended, accompanied and attuned to], we can very easily go on to the second step, the understanding step, to be known. Once a person feels loved, the next thing a person wants is to be known.

Timothy Keller writes “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.”

As John Warlow writes ‘We need to know accurately to understand each other well. The five circles and the square facilitate profound and wholistic knowing. To understand is to know. When the truth of someone’s story is heard and accepted, it truly facilitates deep healing.’ There is so much to understand in this world, about ourselves, other people and about God! Where do we begin? A good place to start is the square.

In the square, as Christians, our goal is to be God centred, regardless if we are flourishing or suffering. We seek to understand ourselves.

  • How can we be God centred?
  • How can we stay God centred?
  • What pulls us to the left side?

I find the square is useful for simple yet deep understanding of our behaviours but also looking deeper our intentions. What pulls me away to the left side of the square? Is it pride, being in control, greed, materialism, saviour complex, anger, coveting, lust or things not going the way we planned? It could be a lot of things and at any season it can be different things or relationships or even people!

To answer these questions thoroughly and grasp a deeper understanding of ourselves, we need to learn to understand ourselves by being curious, reflecting, being aware, noticing and exploring. We can do this through looking at the circles.

We can explore our social circle (relationships, with God, with other people, with ourselves).

  • Who are the people in our lives?
  • Which relationships are important to me at this stage of life?

We can explore what is happening in our mind circle?

  • What is it that gives us volition [motivation]?
  • What makes us in a happy, sad, angry mood?

What is happening in my physical circle?

  • What is happening to my soma? (body/sleep/diet/exercise)
  • What are the reasons I behave the way I do?

What is happening in my heart circle?

  • What/who is my centre?
  • What/who gives me hope?
  • How do I feel loved?
  • Who am I?

What is happening in my spirit circle?

Remembering, God looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

As we seek to understand ourselves through the square and circles, I am reminded to be gracious to ourselves. As we learn to understand ourselves, others and God, we can learn to imitate Jesus. To understand ourselves is a life long journey but with God and others, it is journey worth taking.

Blog – Being with God

Being with God

A practice of being with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

By JP

In the Christian Wholeness Framework, we have 5 steps where the first step is ‘the connect step.’

From the picture above, we can see that part of the connect step is this idea of ‘accompany’ which means ‘being with’. There are so many different ways to connect/’be with’ with God.

Some people connect with God through the Scriptures, nature, journaling, music, sports, arts, fellowship and many through coffee/tea! Our God is a God who loves to be with us and connect with us. His promises to us in Matthew 28:20 (‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’) and Hebrews 13:6 (be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”)

One of the ways that I find connecting with the Triune God is through centring prayer. The name might be a little different to what you might think it is or looks like. Essentially it is a way of being with God through awareness of your body, mind and hopefully spirit too!

The benefits of centring prayer which I have experienced is: an experience of being with God rather than knowledge of God, a deeper sense of his presence in my life, peace and calmness, the essence of being present and practicing listening to His voice.

This has transformed my relationship with God through experience which has given me a deeper trust in Him, recognizing He is control, experiencing his love for me and strengthening my identity in Him.

When I do this practice, I realise I am calmer, and therefore harder for me to become angry, anchored in who I am and not swayed by what others say or the situation around me and it is easier for me to be fully present and aware.

To do this, first you will need to find a quiet place and position where you feel comfortable. For me this is usually in the living room either sitting on the couch or on the floor. Next you can do this eyes closed if that you find it helpful. The next step is to focus on your breathing.

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds if possible and then breathe out for 4 seconds. 

As you breathe in, hold and breathe out, it helps your mind if you can think of something related to God, for example, as you breathe in you can say in your head ‘Je’ and as you breathe out ‘sus’ or you can think of a promise of God, such as ‘God is with me’, ‘Jesus loves me’ or another bible verse or bible truth. As you breathe, it is natural for other thoughts to come in and distract you or things that you need to do. If there is something that really needs to be done and you want to remember it, you can write it down and then go back to breathing. As you get distracted, acknowledge it and then turn your thoughts back to the Triune God. This process is normal and as you do it more, you will find it easier to turn your thoughts back to the Triune God.

You could start this practice for 2-3 minutes once or twice a day and then build up to 20minutes once a day. Through this exercise I have found it helpful for my body to be aware of my body, my mind and my spirit. It has helped me to experience God rather than just knowledge. It helps to spend time with God, experiencing him and bringing transformation. I would encourage you to give it a try.

So my question is to you is, ‘How do you connect/’be with’ with God?’ I would love to know and share in the LW community. Let us know in the comments below.

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Devotion – Connection – A Pathway to our Heart

Connection – A Pathway to our Heart

Leone Drew

May you have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long, and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ….

Ephesians 3:18

Some truly amazing things happen in nature.  When a grain of pollen lands on the stigma of a flower, it does not instantly fertilize it and cause the fruit to grow.  A pathway is first required to deliver the pollen into the heart of the flower.  The pollen must stimulate the growth of a pollen tube before it is able to access the hidden, deeper parts of the flower.    

Something similar and equally wondrous happens in the life of an infant.  As parents delight in and love their child, establishing an environment of consistent tender care and safety, a pathway is created into the heart of the child.  At the deepest level the child receives their loving care and is nurtured and established by it.  Who they are and a sure knowledge of their intrinsic value develops and grows.  Sadly, if a child does not receive gentle care and love, the formation of that pathway to their heart can be disrupted and the process of developing healthy identity and functioning fails to be set in motion.  The heart is starved of its own value and truth.  

It is so easy to assume that everyone is capable of receiving love.  The wording of Paul’s verse in Ephesians, indicates that he understood our capacity to experience God’s love can be weak or limited.  Since infancy my heart was isolated and without connection, with devastating consequences. Until I received care from a CWF practitioner who knew how to connect with an isolated, undernourished heart, I was unable to comprehend that I could be loved, and my heart was empty of identity and value.  I needed God’s healing and power to comprehend His love, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians. It is just so important to love and affirm our children and ask our Father that He might give to us all the capacity to receive and be nurtured by His endless, boundless love. 

How is your pollen tube?

Blog – Thoughts on LW Community

Living Wholeness Community

The vision of Living Wholeness Community

Dr. John Warlow

Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes the test of true community.

Has the fellowship served to make the individual free, strong, and mature, or has it made him weak and dependent? Has it taken him by the hand for a while in order that he may learn again to walk by himself, or has it made him uneasy and unsure? This is one of the most searching and critical questions that can be put to any Christian fellowship.”

In Living wholeness our desire is to ensure that our relationships and the community that we share passes this test. We are bound together in the love of God, supporting, caring for one another but ultimately to guide everyone to become the person whom God desires them to be.

And provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour.” Isaiah 61:3

Oaks of righteousness is a wonderful image of what we are to become, deeply rooted in our relationship with God, displaying His attributes as He lives in and through us. It also depicts the journey of transformation that we have been through in our lives marred with challenges, sorrow, loss, and despair. When we are rooted in Him, we will bear fruit providing shelter and comfort to those in need.

The Living Wholeness (LW) mission statement develops the understanding of our God-centred transformation bearing fruit. “The LWC is a community of people who learn, live and give the Christian Wholeness Framework (CWF) leading to God centred transformation (GCT)and growth of the whole body of Christ through the whole gospel, by the whole church, to the whole person in the whole community, through our services, training, products, research, infrastructure and prayer communities.”

Living Wholenessis a Christian community – a group of people who share a common vision and calling from God, and live and work together with Him to see this happen. Living from a full God centred heartof care and value, respect and honour, choice and encouragement, humility, and attuned, being open and vulnerable. We are changed as we grow together and as the body of Christ change the world.

We are a community who shares these values to build stronger connections through honesty, vulnerability in safety. We value diversity and respect our cultural differences. We endeavour to establish strategic partnerships and broadening networks so that we can work more effectively together to proclaim His Kingdom.

The Christian Wholeness Framework (CWF)undergirds our values and vision, the method and common language we share, which indeed has changed our lives for so much better, drawing us closer to Him, and to those whom we reach out to our colleagues, students, clients, neighbours, communities, societies, nations, regions.  We know that it is in giving that we receive. It is in our weaknesses that His strength is seen most.

God centred transformation:

If we consider John 15, Jesus outlines what it means for us to be grafted into His body and receive the nourishment of His roots firmly planted in the Father we can bear fruit. We will continue to be pruned by God so that we will become even more fruitful for His glory.

Abiding in ChristWe draw near to Christ, He lives in and through us, this is expressed through our lives personally and out to all our relationships.
Grow in
Intimacy (Love God)Remain in Jesus, Remain in His love; He is the vine you are the branches – how is your abiding?
Imitate (Love one another)Obey His commands – lay down your lives for each other – how is your caring for each other, and self?
Influence (Be fruitful)Have dominion… go into all the world… love others beyond our community by serving and teaching counselling – how is your serving? How can we serve and empower you to fulfil your calling in life?
Growing in GodHe is our source, our centre, our home/foundation, our goal, and the head of our community (as illustrated by the shapes).

The CWF is founded on the Bible, old and new testaments. This is well described in John Warlow’s CURE for Life Book 3. Essentially the LW community is founded on the God of the Word, and the Word of God. It is founded on God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and being in living real relationship with each of these elements of the Trinity.

LW as a Flourishing Community

We walk the CUREe steps with each other.

Connecting in SAFETY building trust, being invitational and attuned to each other. (Mark 12:30, 31).

Seek always to Understanding the other, knowing the other/s. (John 13:34).

Responding as appropriate and with the goal of empowering and facilitating the other/s to live top right corner as much as possible. We are serving from a position where God works through us to bring others to God-centred change.

Engaging help often, seeking others to assist to build team and empower newer people. 

Evaluating the progress periodically as we walk together, including being able to have mature grace filled conversations, celebrating the positives but also being able to face any difficult issues together.

“Get into shape” and to grow one’s T.A.S.K, as illustrated in the shapes of the

  • Triangle (“God be my source”)
  • Circles (“God be my centre”)
  • Square (“God be my goal”)
  • Shape of the Cross (“God my home and my foundation”)
  • Pyramid (“God be our head”)

The Shapes

Triangle

LW community members seek a deepened relationship with God, others, and themselves. Knowing that this happens best in long term safe relationships LW community members will generally have a safe prayer partner, SAP group, or T group, or somewhere they know they themselves can come easily safely without scorn or criticism to process personal issues.

Circles

Spirit

LW community are a people of change, who pray for change in circumstances, and as such hold keys to making history, as they keep the history of the world before the Throne of Grace.

LW members are strong in prayer remembering God’s strength, His love, His grace, His kindness, His healing power, His capacity to work miracles, and His awesome power which can kick in on the cusp when hope is fading. 

The so-called God gap – where without God there would certainly be nothing/disaster/failure is well known in the LW community.

In other words, but for God being with us, nothing of eternal value will really happen here. Only He is good, and His love endures forever.

Our connection with God is central to our faith and is obviously an essential aspect of life in the LW community. Every member is encouraged to develop that their awareness of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We encourage the expression of the spiritual gifts but also focus allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as be draw near to God. The Spirit is our mediator and as we become more attuned to hear God speak in our lives we will strengthen our faith. As a community we believe very much in the power of prayer and bringing our plans and petitions before God in prayer. We encourage the community to seek God’s leading and prayer into situations impacting the LW community. We desire to be in tune with His will and seek His guidance on all that we do.

Heart

Living in a fallen world, we know where to go when we are alone, we fail, we lose hope, we are tempted to fight flight or fake, and when our weaknesses are well in view of others and self. We move to the source of all joy and hope, love, and peace, to the God who loves us and knows us by name.

We are to take responsibility, be optimistic, and hope filled. We know who we are, we know our purpose and calling, we know our identity even in Christ.  And we know above and beyond all things we are loved by the gracious merciful kind and wonderful God who made us in His own image.

We are to have a sense of God is my centre, my axis of rotation, my purpose. My life, my first, and He deserves my whole self. Now and forever.

As LW community members we are to seek to address personal trigger points or newly emerged or recurrent issues within ourselves and/or with others by gentle kind facing and forgiving. We also have fun!

Mind

Just as LW community members hold healthy physical habits, so they seek to establish and hold healthy mind habits, processing thoughts and emotions in mature ways. In Community we are encouraged to spur each other on in our faith and renewing of our minds. Part of this is also to develop the gifting in each of us. We endeavour to assist in establishing co-labours gifts and abilities to train, supervise and innovate new programmes to further God’s kingdom.

Physical

Holding healthy habits, lifestyle, communicating clearly with one another, serving one another, seeking to bless those whom we counsel, teach, and lead at all times.

Social

LW community members hold dear the TASK principal and as such seek personal growth and transformation. Living in healthy flourishing real relationship with friends and family; local and other churches and brothers and sisters, often cross culturally, with other lay and pastoral counsellors, and with coaches, mentors, counsellors, supervisors, researchers, product developers and teachers.

Square

As LW community members we should know the square well, we are aware of suffering and flourishing. We can sense when we are under the waterline, they know life under and above the waterline, and are not afraid to leave their position above the water to assist those below, or on the left. We hold on to the truth of our “Home base” at the foot of the cross, where we can return again and again repentant and seeking forgiveness. We are assured of the restoration and renewal through the sacrifice of the Cross and how in Christ we can live once again top right, God-centred and flourishing.

Cross

Living a life secure in our identity knowing that God is our loving creator, Jesus died to Save us, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit our enabler.

Pyramid

Our LW community lives by the pyramid. We are humble and gentle, seeking to help, and seeking help, when appropriate, all under the guidance of Father in heaven. We seek to serve others as an individual but more often seek to engage the healing community we partner with to assist the transformation and growth of others.

God-centred

And so, we seek to glorify His name, not our own fame, fortune, or somehow better future. We seek His will and His purposes and His plans to eventuate. We delight in His invitation to us to be engaged in this LW community and work for a moment in the history of the world. But it is all for Him, to Him, with Him, because of Him, that we are even able to articulate, let alone live, this vision for the LW community.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:22-25

In conclusion, this passage reflects the pattern for our Living Wholeness Community with three clear instructions. Let us draw near with a true heart, let us hold fast and let us stir one another to good works. We are journeying together encouraged and challenged towards God-centred transformation through a greater understanding of ourselves and God through the CWF. May we continue to see much fruit in our lives and in the areas, we serve, seeing lives restored and transformed fulfilling His Mission of redemption. May this community of brothers and sisters all over the world grow stronger and stronger.

Devotion – Praying Hands

Praying Hands

Dr. John Warlow

How do you practice the presence of God in everyday life, in a proactive way, God Through You (GTY)? I can find myself so often living reactively to whatever is going on around me. I want to keep my thoughts in my mind circle on Christ, and on wholistic God centred transformation. I try to keep mentally engaged in prayer, however it can be a challenge when either my mind is too tired or it is drifting, as I’m doing the washing up.  I’m grateful for prayerful meditation during the day, but currently, I am trying to move towards a posture of ongoing prayer as well. I want to engage my body as well as my mind.

This is what I have found to be helpful. This is a simple exercise to help us physically meditate on God. You have 5 fingers on each hand. Touch/wiggle your thumb to remind you of the first of the 5 “P’s” of God, the Person of God. Do the same for each finger for the remaining four “P’s” of God: His Presence, Placement of you, Purposes for you and Provisions for you. You can also focus especially on one of the five “P’s” for each of the five days of the week: the Person of God on Monday, His Presence on Tuesday and so on. If you want to go further, there are actually thirty-five aspects of God under these five “P’s” to physically meditate on! Have a look at the CURE for Life Book 1, “The Shape of the Cross” (page 145), and again in the CURE for Life Book 3, “The Shape of the Cross Illustrates Scripture” (page 32). May you grow in the wholistic practice of the presence of God, even when you are busy or tired, and want to draw near to your Heavenly Father.

Devotion – Group of Women with Noble Character

Group of Women with Noble Character

Four Chinese Sisters

Many years ago, when LW was teaching in China, students meet regularly in Transformational (T) groups. These comprised 6 people, and a facilitator, over the 2 years of the course. SAP groups hadn’t yet been developed back then. After the course finished this is what a group of graduates decided to do:

“After learning about the CWF, we realized the importance of meeting together, so four sisters of us decided to set up a prayer group. We called it the Group of Women with Noble Character (GWNC). On the first meeting, we discussed the function of the group and identified the expectations of each person from the group. We also emphasized the need to meet in safety, and meanwhile we reminded ourselves that there are phases and seasons we will go through on the journey together.
We get together 2-3 hours each week, first worshiping and then sharing ups and downs during the week, and spending the rest of our time praying together for our spiritual maturity, for our families and work. When an emergency happens to a sister, we will put aside our work at hand to go together immediately to the sister’s home. One time Sister Gao called and told us in tears that she felt so lonely and scared because her doctor just told her something was seriously wrong with her brain. We then held her together and prayed for her situation asking for HIS healing. It turned out her brain was fine! Sister Gao was so grateful to the group for being with her at “the darkest hour”.
GWNC is a safe place with love and genuine relationship, and in the group we can just be ourselves. It is both attractive and precious!
Dear friends, have you set up your own prayer and sharing groups yet? How could yours look?”

Blog – Barriers to Receiving God’s Love

Barriers to Receiving God’s Love

Elspeth Carr

A few months ago, our Living Wholeness supervision group discussed barriers to receiving God’s love. Afterwards, we were invited to reflect on three questions: 

  • What are my barriers? 
  • Where do they occur in the sectors of my circles? 
  • By what means might they be dismantled?

I named my pride as a one of several barriers and went around the sectors to understand it better. For each sector, I have added notes, seeking to predict prideful habits to be aware of, and to suggest new pathways to breakdown defences and alter entrenched habits. In the heart circle, I add additional notes to explain how God graciously meets and rescues me. 

Physical Sectors 

Appearance. Pride means I can present as better, or more, than I actually am; and rob God of glory that belongs to him alone. Note: need a sober and conscious acknowledgement of who and whose I am.

Behaviour. I can act superior, engaging in ‘one-up-man-ship’ tactics and perfectionism. Note: Think through and practise gentle and lowly ways. 

Communication. Silence is used as a self-protective, conceited tool to hide ignorance.  If feeling more secure, I am opinionated and hold the floor to silence others. Note: Watch and monitor motivation: fears or dominance.  

Soma. Sometimes sleep is interrupted by ruminating on my appearance, behaviour or communication. Note: Recognise. Confess. Be at peace.

Mind sectors

Cognition. A long-held misbelief that I was cognitively inferior to others. Note: Practise gratitude to God for what He’s given and tell others of His goodness.   

Mood: I habitually felt inadequate and inferior and had many fears. These feelings resulted in a superior demeanour. (In my thirties, my fears seemed entirely out of proportion to conscious memories of a stable and quite happy childhood. I asked my parents if they could explain. They did. I’d been extremely ill as a baby and, until I went to school, I would turn blue when I ran. The doctors said I would not live to adulthood… so I imbibe  my parents genuine, though unspoken fears, for my life, and I am the beneficiary of their prayer-filled faith that I be healed.) Note: As a child my favourite verse was: When I am afraid, I will trust in You. I am learning to practise this. 

Volition: My living can be impaired by fears and result in an overbearing presence. Note: Listen to God’s direction and follow Him, not detours, or stagnate.

Perception: Growing up, I experienced terrors and nightmares often, perceived as both real and irrational. Note: Practise stillness in God’s presence and use my senses to be awed by God and His world.

Thoughts: My mind has habitually dwelt on and been fed by fears and threats. Patterns have become entrenched: judging others and drawing unfavourable comparisons between self, and others especially those who threaten me.  Note: Be alert to thoughts and make every thought captive to Christ.

Heart Sectors with the Spirit circle

As I enter the heart circle, the Spirit, Jesus, and my heavenly Father greet me. The encounter is initially all about Him. It goes like this (often clockwise first, then returning anticlockwise):

Conflict: When meeting a ‘big’ person or idea, fears multiply. I’m thrown off my perch, deeply challenged. Hurt pride threatens to overwhelm me.

Note A: The God of compassion meets me here. My focus is on Him. He welcomes me just as I am. Come, He says, and I am comforted. I’m reminded of His many comforts, His tenderness, and His mercy reassures me. 

Note B: Consider and practise how to meet others as God meets me, with tenderness, mercy, and kindness rather than as a threat or challenge.

Cope: I can overrule plans. I can thwart others’ rights when jealous. I can seek to override sound systems.  Subjugation can be used to get my way. Fight and pretence, flight and faking can be used. It is certainly not fun.

Note A: Once I am calm, He leads me to face my true self: gently exposing what is false, reducing perceived threats, revealing the ugliness of my superior attitudes. 

Note B: I would like to learn more about how to grieve over my sins of pride. Keep prayerfully practising Connecting with Understanding, so others are helped to face the barriers they face in receiving God’s love. 

Centre: I often usurp God as my Lord. I often lord it over others, especially those closest to me. 

Note A: Practise naming the ways I have usurped his Lordship in the past 12 or 24 hours and surrender these to Him. I spent a few weeks making a map of ‘S’ words vertically on my circles to remind me (Stay, Sit, Still, Seek, See, etc). 

Note B: I consciously acknowledge the rightful place of others in my sphere (particularly those I’ve robbed of their place). I envisage what is, and how to take, my rightful place. 

Control: My over-controlling patterns are quite entrenched, alongside (a now less common) hopelessness and helplessness.  

Note A: The God who redeems meets me here. He is in control. What a relief! May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Note B: There are numbers of challenges to learn here. Honouring others above myself by not controlling them. Becoming less demanding on myself (to cover up my weaknesses). Choosing the last place. Being quiet so others have the freedom to be, to think, make mistakes, to be led by the Lord, to serve.

Truth: Long-held belief in my inferiority robs me of self-respect and self- acceptance, causing me to assert my superiority. It is born out of lies about who I am. Trust in God for my salvation has not been difficult but trusting Him personally to be with me day by day has not been my lived reality until recently. I have generally depended on me. 

Note A: Here I meet the God of all faithfulness, my Rock and my Saviour.

Note B: Forgiving myself (in all the sectors where I’m conscious of pride rearing its ugly head) is helping build a truer view of my worth before God Himself. This in turn can help me view others as valued and valuable, able to be forgiven and to trust in a faithful God. 

Love: The tank can be empty, dried up by seeking security and worth in the wrong places. This weakens my esteem, creating a lack of confidence which demands much of others and gives little in return. 

Note A: The God of love overwhelms me with His love, reassuring me of my worth as His own unique daughter. Perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with judgment and those who fear are not made perfect in love.

Note B: Learning that God and His love is enough for me, for every person I encounter, every situation, trouble and doubt. He is the gift I receive and give. 

Having received God’s love, faced and named the barriers to His love that my pride erects, I can place each of them at the cross, seek His forgiveness, and receive the exchanges He offers as per the five ‘F’s (now anticlockwise in the heart circle):

  • God’s unFailing Love
  • God’s Forgiveness and Faithfulness
  • God’s Freedom
  • God’s Fullness of life, like an ever-flowing stream.
  • God’s presence and power, promises and purposes to Fight the good Fight of faith unflinchingly against the foe of my pride.

Final note: On the square, I find my pride quickly pulls me to be left upper quadrant.

It often hides, is resistant to being dislodged, and can quickly re-appear after a ‘good’ day or ‘successful’ encounter. It’s ugly and most tenacious. This stronghold means it requires oft-repeated dismantling by our great and gracious God. My ‘L’ (Learner Driver) plates need to grow ever larger. I’d love to hear wisdom from fellow pilgrims.

Devotion – Twelve Angles on Discerning Gods Will for Your Life

Twelve Angles on Discerning Gods Will for Your Life

  1. Submission and Surrender 

At the end of the day, it comes down less to ‘what is the correct choice or path to take’ but more ‘Am I fully surrendered to you Jesus?’ He who tries to save his life will lose it but he who loses it for the sake of the gospel will save it. We need to be surrendered if we want to hear His will. If we are half surrendered, half still me-focused, we want the power still. Full surrender means fully open to His ways.  Because on the new road, He knows we will need to trust Him more, and walk hand in hand with Him more closely still, for it all to work. How surrendered are you?

  1. What is your heart’s desire? (Ps 37: 3-7)

He will have planted a desire in your heart which is like the instinctive capacity migrating birds have to find home. He has given you the vision, the calling, for your life, and will see it through with you. Don’t be afraid to take time to clearly hear your heart’s purest desire, and with this sense where it leads you. What is Your hearts highest calling?

  1. Scripture: General and Rhema 

The way ahead will always be congruent with the general will of God as declared in scripture. Maybe care for the poor; feed my sheep; share the good news and so on. Then there will often be Rheema words from scripture which confirm a particular direction. Seek Him in His Word, and He will show you.

  1. Opportunity for Kingdom Growth

Does the opportunity in front of you make Kingdom sense? Does it give God more glory? Does it facilitate the growth and expansion of His Kingdom in greater ways than currently? Or is it something that would be of benefit more for you? How can you usher the Kingdom in?

  1. Wise Counsel 

Seek wisdom from those who know you well. Don’t make big decisions alone but put them in front of those who will seek His will with you, those who are for you and for Him. Spend a session with such people in prayer, just waiting on God. This has been immensely helpful for my family at several significant times, as those we sat with offered their impressions which added up beautifully to a full picture. Seek counsel and prayer.

  1. Fasting 

The spiritual disciplines are all important in seeking His face. Solitude, silence, submission and so on. And yet there is nothing that seems to grant us greater access to His Spirit than the discipline of fasting. There are many ways of doing this – length of time, types of abstinence, solo or with others, and so on. Ask Him what He would have from you.  

  1. Holy Spirit Leading 

Ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit. For these major decisions, intently seek His clear voice and guidance. I have experienced this ever so clearly at major decision points in life, including dreams, hearing His audible voice, confirmation by 7 people when I just asked for 3, and so on. He loves you, He is for you, He is on your side. He will not give you a snake when you ask for a fish. Ask Him to lead you.

  1. Faith vs Obedience 

This is an interesting one worth mentioning and holding in balance. At some stages of our spiritual walk He seems to want to test our obedience. At others He seems more interested in our faith. At one of the biggest decisions of my life it was the latter…not so much a sense of I should obey His call but more He was inviting me to step out in faith. Of course it involved the release of His gift of faith to me, but it interested me that it wasn’t just a step of pure obedience that was called for. And in His wisdom He built my faith up to live confidently in this new paradigm. What is He calling you to – a step of faith or a step of obedience? 

  1. Is there a God Gap?

God Gap meaning the way ahead is only possible if God is with me. If I can do it alone then really there is not much Kingdom challenge here. If the new path looks in a way like sitting on a sailing boat at sea, only able to move if or when the wind arises; if it involves rock climbing antigravity style under an overhang, then these are times I must have the wind of His Spirit, or be held up by His hands against gravity, to move at all. It is living in this God Gap where, in my view, Kingdom life is most challenging, enjoyable, and eternally fruitful. What is your God Gap here?

  1. Building on Life Experience 

Look back over your life. What were your most significant life events, your sense of God and His journey so far with you, maybe key life scriptures. What is your hearts desire? Journal these. As you look back, what step or steps does it seem to make the most sense that you would take now in the journey, as prepared or inadequate that you feel. When I did move to Asia, so often afterwards I would be in awe at how He had already built experiences and learning into my life so I could do well what was required of me.

David, at 15, had life experience in defending sheep. Goliath was simply one more step along that path. There was a God Gap, where he needed faith, and obedience, (and loads of courage I imagine) which subsequently led to an amazing array of Kingdom events for the rest of his life. 

What are some of the main areas across your life, likely they are preparation for what He is inviting you to walk forwards in to? What was that investment for, if not for this next step?

  1. Timing 

Is it the right thing but not yet the timing? I have also experienced this. The major call was right, but suspended for several years until it was truly the right time to take the new path. This allowed those around me to adjust to the idea so when it was the right time they were on board. It also allowed me to be located in one place where I was needed for that season, then released for the new.  Be patient, wait on Him, don’t move until it is the right time. For me  I never looked back. How about you?

  1. Peace that Passes Understanding 

When we have taken the decision and begin the action steps that affirm to ourselves and others that we are taking a new way, there may be opposition, criticism, or objection. But like Nehemiah, we need to continue in faith. More than likely, even though there may be some doubts, deeper than that, we will know His peace that passes all understanding and keeps our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Likely you have thoughts and experiences which have helped you too. Do draw on your past walk with Jesus to inform your present and future!

My prayer for you is that you find:

His good and perfect will for you at every fork in the road, 
His loving and gracious presence in your heart at every step, 
His encouragement when times are tough, and 
His affirmation of a life well lived when you move to glory.

Don’t settle for less.

David Nikles
January 2024

Blog – Attitudes

Attitudes

Dr. David Nikles
Create in me a pure heart, O God

King David
Psalm 51

Man, he looks at the outside. God, He looks at the heart. Man, he judges by success and failure. God, He sees our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, pain and victories. He sees us. He knows us. Amazingly He welcomes us to Himself. He knows we are like a shellfish without a shell. We need Him to be our shell. He is true to His nature and loves and values us in our brokenness, longing to restore our souls and create in us pure hearts. What an amazing God we have.

Living Wholeness understands that we all have a personal and professional TASK that is important to grow. Knowledge is learnt. Skills are practiced. Transformation occurs as we and He cooperate in the transformational dance. But growing in attitudes takes commitment and cooperation, in our relationship with God. Our attitudes could in some ways be seen to be an outcome, even a measure, of our transformation.

Arguably the most important part of TASK for counselors is our ongoing transformational journey. It is impossible to underestimate how much this impacts our life, choices, and relationships with others. If attitudes are formed as we are transformed, then they are the reflection of the unseen inner work we have chosen to submit ourselves to.

A diamond deep underground develops ever so slowly but perfectly, and beautifully. So it is with God at work on and in us, shaping our hearts and particularly our attitudes. The counsellor with a healthy God centered flourishing heart is such a blessing to his or her clients, let alone family, church and community. As our one of our Living Wholeness friends says – life is about mature love. The courage to stand up, to respect and accept self and others, in a mature stable lifestyle takes much time and honing by life. May God open your mind and heart as you read this chapter, may He grow you in your inner being, that your character and attitudes are deepened and strengthened. For His glory.

John 15 is a favorite Living Wholeness passage. While it contains much, we will focus on the two aspects of abiding and fruit. Abiding in the vine, being in, with, in surrender to, living with, Jesus is the beginning. Lately I have been reflecting on the slow demise of some parts of the body of Christ, particularly in the western world. What happened? Multiple reasons for sure. I believe the one thing that would keep a civilization Christian and God centered is surrender. Complete surrender to Jesus. For a real Christian, nothing else makes sense. Either we are in or we are out. Jesus spat out the lukewarm in the Church of Laodicea. We can only truly abide in surrender. Abiding in fact is increasingly surrendering.

The key to life in Christ is simple. Surrender to Him. Abiding is living a surrendered life every day, from the day we
became a Christian until the day we die. It’s that simple and that hard. Because we have an ego who has wants and desires. And we have an enemy who fuels the ego’s desires and whispers half-truths our itching ears like to hear. Somehow, we who were sold out, surrendered to Jesus, take back a little and a little and a little more – all for seemingly good reason, and before you know it, we are no longer surrendered. We begin to live on the left of the square again. What a tragic process, ALWAYS remediable by our Lord Jesus’ open arms welcoming us to home base with Him again.

Like the tree planted by the stream in Psalm 1, in abiding we live, we love, we send down deep roots to the Christ we dwell in. We ask the Lord to fill our central circle with His spirit, we pray that this same Spirit permeates and saturates each of our sectors, marinating them in the Holy Spirit, developing a beautiful being made in the image of God. When the desert winds blow, the tree stands firm under duress. We need to decide to abide.

Such trees bear flowers, form fruit, fruit of the spirit, of the sap within their core. Such fruit is beautiful to eat and points to the Maker, glorifying Him. The fruit lasts the days of judgement. The fruit sustains and nourishes those in our shade and there is enough for everyone. As we decide to be abide, we bear fruit that will last.

Such fruit is the hands feet eyes and ears of Jesus. It is the heart attitudes we will explore during this chapter. It is the healing balm the world needs. It is good to the taste and sweet to the tongue, nourishing soul and body. And the leaves of this tree are the healing for the nations. (Revelations 22:2b).

Attitudes then arise from our predominantly our heart sectors, thus what is within these sectors determines to a large extent our attitudes. And it is our attitudes people rub up against, as they get to know us.

Meet Alan, the new boss. James, 49, an engineer, with a healthy love and truth sector, naturally has an accepting and respectful attitude towards a new person in his social circle. In his cope sector he faces the new situation and invites relationship. James seems to embody the pursuer attitude in relationships – he is quietly confident in who he is and seeks new relationship from the vantage point of how can I bless, help, befriend, support this new boss, Alan, so it’s best for him and all of us. What is being said is essentially, “I welcome you here to do your best amongst us.” It happens that James has been an active growing Christian for a decade now.

Jeremy, 29, also engineer, on the other hand, with a dodgy love and truth sector, knows he feels inadequate when new people arrive. Somehow, they threaten him, and make him feel insecure. To cope, he has contrived an affable exterior, and a mix of flight and if necessary, fight for when people get too close. His extreme tattoos, and long wild hair, seem to help keep most people distant. When Alan arrives at the workplace, Jeremy, if he is honest, has a somewhat arrogant, critical, disrespectful attitude towards him. He does feel threatened and tends to avoid Alan. Given opportunity he may tend towards spreading gossip, and some subtle anti-Alan slander. A very human tendency. As we can see this comes from his less robust heart sectors. His approach to the boss is more “how can I avoid him.” What is being said in effect is “If you come too close I am afraid you may find out how broken I really am. Please go away.”

When we face God, we can also find a similar theme. Some of us are very healthy in heart sectors and welcome God’s help to do and be better. Others of us feel guilty and ashamed in His presence. Ashamed of our brokenness and guilty we aren’t anything much to speak of, our attitude becomes either one of wanting to remain unseen, or a contrarily elevated self-esteem and identity to cover the gap. Still others of us know we are weak and lost, but somehow by His grace have the capacity to admit our need and ask Him for help. These people have a more humble and honest attitude.

As Richard Rohr says, our heart and life experiences will significantly impact our attitudes, usually fairly easily detectable by anyone who comes close.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Richard Rohr

And he is right. Unless we face our pain, it will not cease to dominate our lives.

The key elements regarding attitudes seems to be

  • we have choice over our attitudes – we can choose for example to be thankful or take things for granted.
  • our attitudes may be a somewhat automatic expression of our inner life which
  • we may be able to modify, or
  • we may struggle to modify, but
  • as we submit ourselves to God, He and we together can work on refining our attitudes toward Godliness.

Returning to Alan, James, and Jeremy’s workplace a year later, let’s see how things are unfolding. James is a year older and wiser. He had a great 50th birthday party, inviting the whole work team and their families. Jeremy increasingly struggled with Alan, with so much frustration as he reminded him of his dad. One day Jeremy left early and got exceedingly drunk.  Somehow, he ended up in a place where some Christians reached out to him, and a few months, and lots of love and care later, he believed. Slowly he realized his distancing and rejecting attitude to Alan. 

One evening he shared this with his new friends and together they asked God for healing within his heart so he could relate in a healthier way to Alan. He recognized his unhealthy attitude, faced it, had another conversation at his new and welcoming home group, and found immense relief as God heard their collective prayers.  Jeremy begins the at times painful journey of restoration of his injured sectors. About 18 months after he arrived, Alan, sharing lunch with James one day, commented, “You know, when I first came here I found it hard to get to know that young guy – what’s his name – Jeremy. I felt like he didn’t like me and avoided me. But lately he has been more and more kind towards me.  I feel he is kind of growing up or something.  He has even stopped swearing. It’s weird hey! “….. James smiled quietly. Even engineers can grow!

Attitudes flow from our heart condition. People around us notice. 

Attitudes in Counsellors

We will take some time now to look at each of the five steps, and what attitudes are important for us as counsellors to develop. As you go through this exercise, keep a note pad beside you, and give yourself a snap score for each attitude, mentioned in the boxes: say a 1-10/10. When you finish, look through your scores. What do they tell you?  Are there any that stand out as exceptional or struggling? You may choose to lift the weaker areas to Father and decide to embark on some attitude reconstruction surgery. You may also choose to do that with another person, within your transformational or SAP group, or through journaling. This book, Cycles of Transformation, has a chapter for each of these approaches.

Connect: to Love

The essence of the connect step is to love. This is first base for relationship.

The attitudes undergirding this love include the following three C’s we list under the Attitudes of SAFETY.

Care

Connection is based on an attitude of a desire to really care for the person. We accept the person as they are, made by God Himself. We value and honour them. Why? Because we love people, because God first loved us, and called us to a life of loving people. Such care and love generate a relationship of trust. It is only when we have trust that we can expect people to open their hearts to us as counsellors. This is absolutely foundational. As we shall see later these are Love sector concepts.

Connect Attitudes

  • Care
  • Confidentiality
  • Choice

The Four A’s

  • Attach
  • Attend
  • Accompany
  • Attune

Confidentiality 

Foundational too are these truth sector concepts. Confidentiality is vital. A person who feels there is acceptance and a ring of confidentiality and respect will naturally be more open in sharing deeper parts of themselves. How betrayed Shandra feels if she is shopping at the market, and meets Diya, her good friend, who mentions she just heard some of Shandra’s marriage secrets at the churches prayer meeting that morning. Terrible right! We who practice a lifestyle of SAFETY must personify the one who hears much but tells nothing.

Choice

Exemplified by the Invitational Posture, we practice a lifestyle of offering choice for people. This is the diametric opposite of control, power above, and the like. God Himself offers man all these things and again as SAFE people we stand beside those whom we are walking with allowing them freedom and choice, we simply accompany. Of course there are limits to this including when the one we walk with being suicidal or homicidal, mentioning thoughts of causing harm to self or other. Children and teens of course need a more narrow set of boundaries within which we offer choice compared to healthy adults. Choice empowers and gives hope, increasing connection. Control disempowers, reduces the sense of resect and acceptance, thus reducing connection.

As we will see, the connection step involves the triangle – God at work through us; the invitational posture (choice based on client respect)  and the four attitudes of a decision to Attach, Attend, Accompany, and Attune, and thus form a place of  SAFETY for our clients. As such, we also represent God to the client, as He works through us, represented by the triangle shape.

These are summed up in the A of SAFETY for the three C’s  and the 4 A’s of the connection step.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. 
To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.
But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.
It is what we need more than anything.

Timothy Keller

Understand: to Know

Tim Keller makes the astute observation above. Being loved in itself is not enough. We humans search too for being known. In being with another this is what we seek to offer – a safe place for them to be known in completeness: the good, the bad, and even and especially, the ugly. Being accepted even in brokenness is a powerful force for healing and restoration.

Care

Understand Attitudes

  • Curious
  • Reflect
  • Aware
  • Notice
  • Explore

The understanding we offer is based on our desire to know. Our curiosity, awareness of both our self and the other, and noticing what is happening within them and also ourselves. Emphasis is on self as well, because we are a barometer of how this person will be also perceived and experienced by others.

This curiosity is because of our foundational desire for growth of the other. If the curiosity is for our own use, maybe to compare ourselves with them and find ourselves superior; or we are curious because we are thinking their son might be a good catch for our coming of age daughter, then we are definitely left sided, and should immediately stop this self centered curiosity. (And take time later to examine the course of this within self).

This healthy other- centered curiosity though is that we are curious to know the truth of who this person is. We want to know them as a whole person whom God made, in order to better understand them and be able to offer appropriate counsel. Again we also need be reliable and trustworthy, men and women of our words, respecting and confidential with the life stories people share.  

Reflect

The experience of being known needs some reflection. Simply hearing the story of another with no interaction whatsoever is weird. Interaction is human, with flesh. Reflect what we see and hear and experience: thoughts and perceived emotions and bodily experiences. So, we need to be interactive and reflect the picture we are building up in our minds, clarifying where needed, correcting misunderstandings we may have, so we have the clearest picture. 

Aware

We must be present with the person, aware of major and minor themes, the interplay of thoughts emotions facts and fantasies, links between present and past dialogues, indeed the present and past of the person.  

Notice

We need to notice verbal and nonverbal cues, behaviour, appearance, demeanor, congruence and incongruence, speech and communication patterns. A lot of noticing goes onto the picture we are slowly developing of this person. At times we might access that, and bring that to put on the table, for example when we are summarizing what we have heard. 

Explore

We should be curious as mentioned above, meaning we wonder about links, what might have been the person’s experience, (empathy), how it really was for them. We explore WITH permission. Never without. (Except for situations where we become aware of the potential for harm of self or others). The Invitational Posture is vital– never assuming, but opening doors for opportunity to, together with the person, explore previously unspoken areas of their precious lives. We generally would offer such invitations gently for example “I hear/have noticed you have mentioned you are often afraid of men. I am curious as to whether you would like to explore this together?” Very much invitational, lots of choice, respect, care, attunement and attending.  This is so much better than “Why are you afraid of men?”, which is confrontive, more closed questioning, little room to move and thus decreasing safety and connection for the client. 

Speaking of ‘why,’ this is a word we try to never use with clients as it can easily put us in their eyes as a critical parent, thus potentially complicating and reducing safety in their relationship with us as adult to adult. (To access and refer to  Transactional Analysis). 

We need courage to face, to be real about our own strengths and weaknesses; to work on our weaknesses and committed to personal growth as an individual. The experienced guide has travelled these roads before. 

Finally, we also need be motivated to follow through, to persevere, to be faithful in our accompanying, to do what we said we would. This includes our responsibilities as people and professionals – this to our God, our family, our client, our colleagues, and our own selves. Quite a lot to balance!

If you are a self-ratings type of person, how does your personal evaluation look so far? You may be using numbers (1-10/10) or possibly more: ‘that’s me that’s not me,’ or your own system. No matter – just reflect and see where you seem to be doing well, and celebrate; and seek where God would have you grow and ask His help!

Respond: to Grow

For good responding, as in most things, it begins with our attitude towards the client. If we believe they are hopeless and our interaction pointless they will for sure sense this. We need to really believe in them, made in the image of God, whether or not they acknowledge Him at present. Since God doesn’t make failures He must have made this person for His glory and for a life of good works He has already purposed them for. Thus – how can we as the counselor position ourselves to respond in the most helpful way? We believe it is in our attitude to them, upon which the work of facilitating transformation will flourish.

Respond Attitudes

  • Challenge
  • Heighten
  • Affirm
  • New ways
  • Growth
  • Empower

As we shall see later (Responding Chapter) the therapeutic work by the counselor required here often involves more response questions than just making suggestions for change. This approach respects the work the client will have/has already done and is invitational more than directive. While many cultures initially expect that counselling gives advice – a very directive approach, the truth is that in general people tend to take away ideas they had during the session more than your ideas, ones they can own and carry out and will work for them.

Lets look then at an easy way to remember the attitudes that assist the counselor build a strong foundation for their work in helping clients change. At the outset we need to mention prayer, indeed the central plank of any response step; indeed as it is central to the whole of the CURE process. As we pray we engage the help of God, (maybe more Engage help step) and His mighty assistance in helping the client undergo broad and deep transformation.

Challenge

When our attitude to the client is to assist and strengthen them as people, and is perceived as such, given we have connected and understood well, and they are open and less defensive, we do have the opportunity to speak into some difficult areas of their life. Meaning they will be more open to our curiosity about things that appear to be holding them back from healthy growth. The Living Wholeness Approach doesn’t generally do confrontation so much as in other therapeutic approaches but more would ask gentle response questions for example: ‘Talking about smoking, I am wondering what would you see as benefits of stopping?’ We don’t loose connection so easily and the client is encourage to think about their behaviour and own their own decision to change. ‘You really need to stop smoking’ is a much more directive statement which can lead quickly to defensiveness and lack of ownership and thus no change happens.

The art of championing (also a C for Challenge word) someone is masterfully demonstrated by John Warlow. Spend more than 30 minutes with him and he is championing you! He believes in you, your life, he can find something to champion in, it would seem, anyone. Optimistic, hopeful, caring, wise, relevant and real, seeing you as God made you, seeing the better you. Downplaying failings (not ignoring them) and just being someone who believes in the good of you. A great foundation for all who offer counsel!

Heighten

This means to help people grow higher up in the square – be less below the waterline more above and higher, and of course ideally more to the right as well.  The goal is so they can live their loves to the full, in all abundance. The point here is not just being a better person but one more available and open to being God centered, and functional in all circles and areas of life. These people are then more able to reach down more effectively to help others up as well. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. We offer others the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. 

Affirm

We as counselors always need to have an attitude of affirmation of our clients. They have taken the courage to meet with us, in vulnerability and honesty, often sharing things they have told no one else. Surely, they need our affirmation that they have done a courageous thing, to desire growth and transformation. While we affirm their courage and strengths, we would not affirm self-defeating, harmful, and non- God centered behaviors or thoughts. In this instance we might be most helpful to them to be curious about where they might see taking such a ‘negative path’ might lead  them. Affirmation is more than just ‘I understand you,’ it is really ‘I admire your courage to face these massive challenges!’ 

New Ways

As we journey with our clients on their healing pathways, we will find they want to explore new roads and new ways. Their old ways just aren’t working. So often, that is why there are really here with us. We do well to thus assist them consider, explore, try, succeed, and even sometimes initially fail, at new initiatives. New strategies, new ways to cope, new opportunities that come into view. The broader field, or eagle eye big picture approach, can often assist them find these new paths. New paths take time to be established. Dr. Pieter Russouw, an eminent Neuroscientist, used to say it takes effort to cut a new path through the jungle, taking around 6 weeks of walking that path for it to become established, then its ideally set for life. If unused it will of course become overgrown soon again.  (Discussing neural pathway development for new thinking and behavior patterns). 

Growth

The acronym GROWTH is used by coaches around the world for those seeking to assist growth in clients:

Goals….SMART Goals (below) can be helpful in the coaching area of counseling – more applicable when being with those seeking to mature and find new ways when above the waterline. 

  • Specific – clear succinct definable goals 
  • Measurable – which are able to be measured in some way 
  • Achievable – are achievable and 
  • Realistic – realist for the person in their current state and situation 
  • Time bound – and can be reviewed after a certain period/s of time.

Reality  

The process of walking with the client needs to hold water, needs to apply to their reality. Thus it must be practical and relevant for life after the client leaves the counseling room. We can brainstorm with a client, we can suggest our own solutions that we think are awesome, but in the end the way forward must match the current reality of the person and capacity of the client.

Options 

This raises the important question of our needing to have the attitude that our client is a mature adult (when they ARE an adult!) and as such need to make and take responsibility for their choices. We can help them develop options, as above maybe by brainstorming with them, but they need to decide and proceed with trying these. However, it is not unreasonable, if they decide to go a way we have no experience with (for example take a major decision we do not condone) we may at times sense we should review our capacity to walk with them given our lack of experience on this path. Attitudes and ethics overlap at times. We need so much to be prayerful and seeking Gods leading in such cases.

Will 

What level of commitment, and determination does the client have for their own growth? If low, then how can we as the counselor facilitate their owning the need to take responsibility for growth. There are various ways to encourage higher ownership, which will be discussed in the response chapter but suffice to say for now consider:

  • Look forward – how will your life be in 3 or 5 years if you do take a certain path and/or if you don’t?
  • How will this decision (to take a different way or not) affect those around you – not just yourself?
  • What might you wish you had decided and done, at this fork in the road, when you are eighty?
  • How do you think God sees this decision at this time (assuming a believer)?
  • What might He be inviting you towards?
  • What, if you feel unable to proceed with a wise choice, what if there are people, and God, who believe in you and would champion and help empower you as you take this new path?

Tactics 

Tactics refers to examining habits, thinking, responses, coping mechanisms, and ways of life that would maybe be better left behind. Secondly, what are new tactics and strategies that the client can live out which will empower them for a life of greater fullness. Not only behaviors, but ways of developing their own new strategies, new patterns of life.

Empower 

To empower is almost to transfer power to the client. To believe in them, their God given capacity, and to desire the best for them. We empower people when they really understand that we, and the God who made the universe, are on their side. No problem then is too great. As we do this, we will see amazing things, more than we can ask or imagine. Encouragement, the spiritual gift of walking beside a person and speaking words of hope and ‘you can do it’ are incredibly powerful, especially as we pray for them. Just remember when someone did (or didn’t) do that for you! It changes a persons paradigm. Just one such person in someone’s life can make all the difference. Ask any seemingly successful person.

Finally again, prayer can be an extremely powerful response step as we pray for and with our clients, to be God empowered. Remember to give Him the glory for the outcomes.

Transformed people transform people.

Richard Rohr

Engage help: to Show: Servant Leadership

Accessing or engaging help requires a certain degree of humility. It is a vulnerable thing to ask help. We cannot be all things to all people, despite our best ambitions. Sometimes we serve people far better by asking them to see our colleague, even the one we are most competitive with, if they are a better fit than we for this client.

Engage Help Attitudes

  • Supported
  • Serve
  • Link

Another issue is of complete and wholistic help. One person has limitations that a team can much better fulfill.

Also simply more relationships can be very helpful towards a fuller repair.

Supported

The attitude of being able to receive help from others. Some people simply refuse help. They might think this shows they are still strong or independent. Often older people refuse help for these reasons as well as maybe they really don’t want to bother others. We actually all function best in life when there is give and take, when at times we accept help and support, and at times we offer that to others. These second two are mentioned below.

Serve and lead 

Leading involves followers. If you look over your shoulder and see people following you then you are leading. This may be a crowd but often it may be a crowd just one by one. You might meet 20 people a month and speak into each of their lives one by one as a counselor. You might say ‘Me…a Leader?’  Yes, you are because people follow you. 

Again, you might say ‘No, I am really not a leader …I am just serving the poor.’  Serving is also leading, it is influencing the lives of others. In fact, following Jesus’ example the best form of leading is servant hearted leading, where you put the needs and situation of those you seek to serve before your own gain.

Link

When a team who have linked together around a common cause, person, or group of people, is functioning well there is such immense power. Similarly, there is not much else so rewarding in life than serving in a team setting to overcome issues which one person alone could not. Mission is a great example – linking hands with others from around the globe to serve those in need, backed by prayer and our awesome God.

A real desire to cooperate is an essential aspect to be able to say I need a team to link together with to effectively serve the people we are called to help. It might again be with serving the poor – best done as team for many reasons. The team concept is great – many hands make light work; we are the body of Christ serving together. Great plan. But so often someone turns up to serve and before you know it is having an argument with the others on the team because they aren’t doing the job how they would do it. Teamwork requires relational maturity or at least the again that attitude for unity to complete the work we are collectively called to: I don’t have all the answers; there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Evaluate: How did it Go?

Evaluation is a vital step in the counselling process, as indeed it is for life itself. Required are attitudes of honesty, facing our weaknesses and growth points, or also facing the fact that we are good at such and such but not becoming proud and independent. 

Evaluate Attitudes

  • Face
  • Vulnerability
  • Humility

Evaluation requires integrity, facing the truth, a capacity for vulnerability especially when receiving feedback from others, and a degree again of humility.

Essential is the desire to do something with the feedback – to grow, to develop, to mature. As they say its not how often you are knocked down, what matters is how often you get up again. 

As we seek to grow in these attitudes, we will become more caring, integrated, gracious, God and other centered, real, human beings, respected by our clients for our kindness wisdom and maturity.

Embarking on the journey of Christian spiritual transformation is enrolling in the divine school of love. Our primary assignment in this school is not so much study and practice as letting ourselves be deeply loved by our Lord.

David Benner   Sacred Companions

Attitudinal Transformation

While the above is a goal, placing perhaps a point on the horizon to walk towards, we may wonder how do we get there. For me at least, just because I desire to grow in all these attitudes doesn’t guarantee they will sprout within my soul and take root, and one day I wake up really caring gracious integrated and wise!

In my view it is when we are challenged – when we are tired after a long day; when we interact with someone who faces their own personal challenges and maybe isn’t quite on the same values page as ourselves, that we find within ourselves things which we didn’t put there. Or which we wished wasn’t there. Unfortunately, I still have too many fresh examples to mention.

In these situations, it behooves us to sit quietly, honestly face what happened, be real about how  we were that was good, and how we were that was not up to expectation. Ponder the roots of this and come before the Lord either just our self, or with another, and commit the old ways that keep rising up within us to His care and forgiveness. Bring them to the worn and rugged cross, to Jesus of Christ, no less. 

As we saw in the Chapter on Transformation – John affirms that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and forgives us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). 

The Kind Wise Strong Ones

Susanne, my (very kind wise) wife, encourages clients to locate within themselves their kind wise strong self.   Many find this very helpful as they seek to grow more into this person. This kind wise strong self can also shepherd the heart of the less kind and less wise and weaker self within. The broken fragments find a place of safety, being known and respected by their kinder wiser stronger self. Thus known and affirmed, the less mature parts of the person can be let go, and slowly the person grows into their kind wise strong self for more of the time. God loves to accompany people on this process. 

It is interesting to note that this approach is congruent with the love truth and control sectors: kind being love sector, 

wise, truth sector, and strong, control sector. It also commensurate with the Circle of Security concepts. 

Another dimension to this approach can be with the truth sector questions:

  • Who am I ?
  • Who am I leaving behind ?
  • Who am I becoming ?

Still another approach consists of the concept of standing on my feet, spread slightly apart, facing fully forwards. Standing in wisdom and love for the other. Standing in Jesus. Standing on the rock. Standing with the full knowledge that He is alive within me. And as challenges are faced, as trials head my way, I trust Him and stand firm even, as encouraged by Paul in Ephesians (sit walk stand) being my full and true self in Christ.

The list below illustrates in the top right of the square a number of qualities of the kind wise strong one. It really helps me to ponder these attributes and day by day to be intentional about them. This often involves not reacting with my first or even second thought on an issue but waiting, considering, pondering, what is the wisest thing that could be said here. What is the most useful thing for this person to hear right now. What would help then draw near to God. And refrain from jests, half formed comments, and especially anything hurtful.  I am not perfect ….but I have developed a prayer for the times when I am less than what I hope. These prayers are powerful, as they crystallize those moments in our lives when our soul touches Heaven, and Heaven touches our soul.

Prayer 

Lord, I am back again. Again, I give you my failings and weaknesses.
I don’t know how I end up here so often.

Right now, I give you my latest version of clumsiness and lack of good attitudes, character and judgement.
I am not as mature as I like to think.
Forgive my imperfections and please tend to those who have borne and been hurt by me.

O Lord please fill me with your love, help me live in it, imbibe it, know it.
Knowing You is knowing Love. I need you.
Your dwelling within me is Love dwelling within me.
May I increasingly be a conduit of your love to others,
And so grow as one who offers true love and healing in this world.

The Examen

It may seem an afterthought to place such a profound Christian practice at the end of this chapter on attitudes. Purists would shudder and St Ignatius tremble at the thought of such a simple version of this finely-honed practice of drawing near to God, living top right. Yet in some ways this is often how God does things. You stumble across a life changing practice in a book on counselling.  The Examen is ever so helpful to assist us to put into practice the goal of the Christian life – to draw near to God Himself. In so doing we are refined in our heart, and especially our attitudes. As James promised, and we discuss further in the Chapter on Retreats, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. (James 4:8a). The Examen gently and graciously unearths our attitudes and how they are affecting our daily life. So, with bated breath, we present a simplified version of the Examen. 

Ideally one spends time with Father at day’s end, prayerfully reflecting moments during that day. This version of the Exam consists of two primary groups of questions as below.

Consolation Questions: When was I near God?

  • When today was I was aware of God’s presence?
  • When today was I able to give and receive love?
  • When today did I feel joyful, and alive?

Notice these times, reflect on them. 

What do they show you about yourself? 

About God?  

Be Grateful!

Desolation Questions: When was I away from God?

  • When today was I not aware of God?
  • When today did I feel separate from Him?
  • When today was I not able to give and receive love?

Notice these times, reflect on them. 

What do they show you about yourself? 

About God?  

Be Grateful!

There are many versions of this age old practice. 

My own experience is when I repeatedly do this each night, it builds into my day, and I find myself more turning towards God than either neutral or even turning away from Him in the moments of that day. It certainly offers a way to process the multitude of occasions where my attitude was less than acceptable.

The Examen is a lot about inner noticing, never a lost skill for a counsellor. Ask the Spirit to show you – what was going on inside of you? What might have been triggers for this?  Ask for His forgiveness if you need to. Maybe not for ‘a sin’ as such but where is the line, really, between self-centeredness, sin, and turning away from Father? Admit your incapacity to change yourself and ask the Spirit to work on this aspect of your heart and mind. We all have challenges in our lives that will continue with us until we arrive in heaven. Indeed, one of the major things I look forward to about heaven is being free of my selfishness and significant imperfections. But take heart – His promise is that He will not desert us, and when we are weak and need His hand, He will be there. Where we can’t, He can!

In Closing

The growth of our attitudes to self, others, and God is paramount. This is established upon the foundation of our desire for an integrated transformational journey through the whole of life. We explored attitudes counsellors do well to grow in, inviting you to assess your personal level of growth at this moment. You may find it interesting to reassess yourself at some stage in the future, and so continue to be intentional about this process. We presented the picture of the wise kind self, both in regard to assisting clients, but especially in regard to oneself. Last but not least, we presented a very brief part of the whole concept of the Examen, and a suggested way to begin to attend to ourselves in this way.

If we were all living in renewed attitudes to God, others, and self, we would start to look like the beautiful picture of community Paul envisaged the Colossians to live. May it be so.

Therefore, as Gods chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. 
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, 
which binds them all together in perfect unity. 
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
 And be thankful. 

Colossians 3:12-15

Suggested Further Reading 

Circle of Security International: www.circleofsecurityinternational.com
Nikles, Dr. D and Mrs S. (2024). Cycles of Transformation Edition 3.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 1   God Centered Transformation. Ocean Reeves Publishing.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 2  God Centered Relationships. Ocean Reeves Publishing. 
Warlow, Dr. J. (2018)  The CURE for Life   Part 3  Biblical Foundations: An Illustrated Commentary on the Bible . Ocean Reeves Publishing.
Warlow, Dr. J. (2010)  Living Wholeness. 
Ignatian Books are helpful on the Examen. It is A Jesuit practice. A simple introduction can be found at http://jesuitinstitute.org/Pages/Examen.htm