12 Things I’ve Learned about Forgiveness

As I’m preparing for our inner healing retreat next week, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned through the process of inner healing. God has taken me through this transformation process for 12 years (and continuing). Each day I continue to grow and change because of what Jesus is doing in my heart. I am grateful to God for this process of inner healing and also blessed to be part of a wonderful inner healing community.

One of the areas where I’ve experienced the most growth is forgiveness. Especially toward those who have hurt me the most severely. Jesus says we are to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-45). Through inner healing, I have learned a lot about forgiveness. And not just learned, but also put it into practice in my own heart. I am walking out my forgiveness more and more each day.

Here are 12 things I’ve learned about forgiveness:

Continue reading “12 Things I’ve Learned about Forgiveness”

Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

All my life, I have struggled with being a doormat. For a long time, I thought that’s what I should be. No one really explained that things could (or should) be different. I passively accepted whatever came my way. I thought that was the way I was supposed to live.

Continue reading “Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?”

Jesus Brings Freedom from Identity Theft

We have an identity thief roaming among us. He is the enemy of our souls. From the moment we are conceived, his goal is to thwart God’s amazing plan for us. This identity thief wants to keep us from stepping into our true identity in Christ.

Don’t be discouraged. The Bible and the Holy Spirit give us all we need to see past the lies of the enemy and into our true identity.

In fact, the enemy tips his hand. The very places where he attacks us the hardest are the areas where God intends us to flourish.

Continue reading “Jesus Brings Freedom from Identity Theft”

Jesus. Brings. Life.

Jesus brings life and inner healing
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:6a NIV)

Jesus says:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19 NIV)

Recently, Jesus has brought His words to life in my heart. Since my youngest days, I have struggled with a fear of death. I read Jesus’ words in these scriptures, but couldn’t get the truth into my own heart. I believed these words for others, but not for myself.

Over the past few weeks, Jesus has brought these words home to my heart.

Now, I believe!

First, Jesus reminded me of the healing work He did in my life a few years ago. After 27 years, I was finally able to find peace and life in the memories of my dad, who I had lost suddenly as a teen:

God’s Not Going Away

That testimony prepared my heart for what came next – an inner healing session in which Jesus obliterated the spirit of death’s hold on me, right before my spirit eyes:

Who’s Afraid of Death?

The changes in my life have been tangible since then, and I look forward to walking this out with life overflowing. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing abundant life. Thank You, God, for Your goodness and love.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7 NIV)

Jesus brings life and inner healing

Let the Daily Journey of Transformation Begin

I am immersed right now in editing the book of an inner healing teacher and spiritual coach. As I work through (and live) the words of this book, I am reminded of why inner healing is an ongoing, even daily process – the dying to self daily of 1 Corinthians 15:31.

I have worked with this teacher and spiritual coach for many years. I went through her school for the first time 12 years ago. I have been present at every school, seminar, and retreat since then. And I have been one of her interns for years. This means I have heard, lived, and walked out these teachings many times over.

And yet – the daily act of editing this book is changing my life in radical new ways.

The Apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – Philippians 2:12 (NKJV).

He is talking here about the ongoing process of sanctification, which is a daily work of the Holy Spirit, perfecting us more and more into the image of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit will do what we allow Him to do. If we give Him our hearts daily to continue the work of transformation, we will be changed into the people God created us to be. Our families will also change, as will our churches, workplaces, and communities.

I encourage you to immerse yourself intentionally in the Holy Spirit’s process of sanctification and transformation starting today.

To help you along your journey, the first resource I highly recommend is your Bible – to begin by praying through the words of the Apostle Paul that I referenced above. Ask God to take you on that journey of transformation to which Paul invites us. That is one prayer God will answer with a resounding, “Yes.”

For human help and encouragement, I also highly recommend visiting the website of Kerri Johnson (my teacher and spiritual coach) at The Center for Inner Healing. Her website and blog offer a lot of encouragement and guidance for this process of inner healing. She also leads a tribe called The Journey that you can learn about and join (no matter where your location is) if you feel led. I am part of that tribe. And she has an upcoming healing retreat where I will also be serving.

God bless you along your journey.

A Gift of Authority

I serve on a jail ministry team. Each week, we lead church at the jail.

When I started with that team eight years ago, I was just beginning to heal from a lifetime of “fear of authority.” So of course, God sent me to serve at the jail, under the authority of the sheriff’s office and surrounded by uniformed officers. What better place to get healed?

Fear of authority is common with anyone who has been abused by someone in authority – a parent, teacher, husband, pastor, or someone in the legal system.

One problem with fear of authority is that we project it onto all authority figures, including those who walk rightly and don’t abuse. Fear makes it hard to submit to good authority. Once we’ve been abused, we don’t trust authority easily, and it’s scary to be around authority figures.

A bigger problem is that we end up fearing God’s authority – and I don’t mean “fearing God” in a healthy way. We may find it hard to trust or submit to God’s authority, so we never quite give Him our whole hearts.

In addition to that, God delegates His authority on earth through the people He places in positions of leadership. When we do not respond well to His delegated authority, we are not responding well to Him. (Please note: I’m talking about people who serve rightly, not abusers.)

I’m blessed that God has called me to serve in this particular jail because the sheriff is a godly leader who has raised up godly deputies. It has been a great place for me to find healing in relationship to authority. Over the years, I’ve been able to teach and model that to the women in the jail as well.

Last week, I had an unexpected opportunity to find further healing by watching healthy authority in action.

There was a situation that developed in which the guards had to be called in. It was a relatively minor incident that should have been cleared up quickly. The women were asked to cooperate and most of them did. But because one of them would not, the guards had to be called.

Two guards came in first to try to take care of the problem. When that didn’t work, they had to move a level up.

Next thing I knew, the door opened and a deputy walked in who carries a powerful gift of authority. It felt like a solar eclipse had consumed the jail pod. I have seldom, if ever, felt that level of authority in such proximity. I started weeping just from the weight of it.

Historically, everything within me would have liquefied just standing near the power of that authority. But because of my years of healing, I was able to stand upright, and breathe, even though my eyes did fill with tears. And I was able to watch.

Some of the women, who had been cooperative to that point, started lashing out verbally against him – simply against his presence. It wasn’t really the officer they were shouting at. It was the authority he walked in. Any unhealed areas in their hearts regarding authority started bubbling to the surface.

They were reacting as if he had done or said something harsh, when he had not. Again, it was the authority they felt. When someone has been abused, authority feels harsh, even when it is not.

As I watched, I could see how calm he remained. He didn’t raise his voice. He kept his words simple. He said he just wanted to find a solution.

It was a revelation for me to watch this encounter. My insides were shaking a bit, as if the officer were angry, which he was not. Meanwhile, my brain could see and hear that he was totally calm and trying to resolve the situation.

What an amazing lesson in how fear of authority clouds the way we see healthy and godly authority in action. That was further healing for me, and it’s not something I’ll forget. I’m always amazed at how God arranges these encounters for our healing.

Our jail team wasn’t sure if we needed to stay or leave. When we asked the officer if we could go, he gave us a big grin and said, “Of course!” He was very polite and understanding as he led us out. That was another layer of healing for me.

If you struggle with fear of authority, the first step to healing is to forgive those who abused you (God did not want that to happen to you). Invite Jesus to show you His love and how His authority protects you. Then repent for the ways you have projected your fear onto others, including God.

Then, I recommend that you watch someone who walks in healthy, godly authority, and observe how that person models that authority. Compare how it affects you inside (in your heart) with how you see it from the outside (with your brain). Note the difference, and you will be further along your way to healing.

By the way, it is better to try such an exercise when you are not on the receiving end of that authority, but just a bystander.

Big Reactions from Little Wounds

When I was a kid, I participated in the Girl Scouts. Our troop leader was amazing. She was a Catholic nun, but not stereotypical. In exchange for taking care of the Girl Scouts, she was allowed to have a van, camping equipment, and lots of other privileges. She was wild and crazy, and we all loved her.

Because she was such a favorite of mine, I think that’s why I was so shocked when she yelled at me one day. She wasn’t yelling “for real,” but I didn’t know that. She was quizzing me for one of my Girl Scout badges. The lesson had to do with emotions, and that was something I was really uncertain about. We didn’t talk about emotions in my home. I couldn’t come up with the words she was looking for.

That’s when she yelled: “Janet Gillis, get out of here!”

I started trembling. I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t move. I just stood there, shaking from shock.

As if nothing were wrong, she said, “How did that make you feel?”

“Bad.” That was all I could come up with.

“Okay. That’s the emotion I was trying to get you in touch with.”

Looking back now, I want to say to her, “Really?” But of course I said nothing. I was a smart kid, and I quickly realized she had yelled simply to prompt an answer from me. Wrong way to do it, for sure. I think nowadays she wouldn’t have gotten away with it. But back in the early 70s, things were different. More was tolerated, or ignored, overlooked.

I told my mom about it, and she said, “So did you understand what she was trying to teach you?”

Again, “Really?”

I never looked at this nun quite the same after that. I still participated in the Girl Scouts and had fun with my friends. But I gave our troop leader a little bit of a wide berth. I wasn’t mean to her. I just tried not to get into any kind of confrontation with her. Stay silent. Stay back. Stay out of trouble.

From that moment on, I became afraid of clergy. Anyone in a position of spiritual leadership. I gave them all a wide berth. With some of them, I was downright fearful. Because time had elapsed, I didn’t make the connection. I had forgotten the nun’s comments. I had simply put up an invisible wall in my heart, and everyone who was clergy bumped up against it.

As a middle-aged adult, I took an inner healing class. Our teacher, also clergy, had a wonderful, out-of-the-box personality similar to that lively nun I had encountered in childhood. However, I didn’t recognize that connection. I had long forgotten what happened. But I kept giving this inner healing teacher a wide berth.

Fortunately for my healing, she wasn’t having that. She kept trying to interact with me, to draw me out of my shell. She wouldn’t let me hide. She called me out as who I really am – the person God created me to be.

Eventually, after months of discomfort, I went into an inner healing session and asked God, “Why am I so afraid of clergy?” Immediately, He brought the encounter with the nun back to my mind – just like it was yesterday. I could feel myself shaking. Probably making all kinds of vows never to let that happen again. And I saw where that wall had gone up in my heart. My mom worked at the church office all through my growing-up years, so I encountered a lot of clergy. They bumped up against that wall every time.

I repented for my judgments against the nun, against church leadership, against God. The wall began to crumble. I still had to walk it out. As a volunteer at the church, I went through lots of interactions with clergy, still shaking, but finally able to get through it. Soon, I became part of the church staff, and went into seminary. I was still intimidated, and that was just something that had to be walked out through experience. I felt less and less intimidation as time went on, and especially as I interacted with clergy who acted in more affirming ways than our nun had acted.

But that outright terror, that wall, that thing that had paralyzed me around clergy for years – that was gone. Thanks to Jesus and the healing He brings.

Who would have thought one loud remark from a nun – a remark that wasn’t even intended against me, not really – could have shut me down in the face of clergy for so many decades? Often it’s the big traumatic experiences that get to us. But the little ones can shut us down as well. That’s why we need Jesus to help us see where our dysfunctions come from. They may come from a place we least expect.

 

 

 

 

The Writer’s Prayer Life

Prayer is a key part of the writing process. We should seek God regularly for what He would have us write. We need to begin and end our writing time and writing projects with prayer. We should remain prayerful as we write. Ideally every word we write should be bathed in prayer. But that’s just part of the prayer life of the writer.

Here are five ways that will enrich our writer’s prayer life:

1. Daily conversation with God – As we spend time each day growing in relationship with God, we will experience a daily process of transformation. That process is about our life, not our writing, but it will shape our writing and give us a new excitement for the things God calls us to write.

2. Seeking God for inner healing – Again, this is part of our transformation, and we should do this whether or not we are writers. But the benefits will be clear to us and our readers. Imagine how different our writing will sound when we have found peace or forgiveness in an area where we have struggled with bitterness. Imagine the testimony through which the Holy Spirit can impart peace to those who read our words of God’s healing.

3. Lectio divina – This meditation on scripture that has been practiced for centuries in the monasteries can benefit the prayer life of the writer. We just need to be sure we are engaging the process as God’s kids, not as writers. While we can (and should) engage in lectio divina as part of our preparation to write about scripture, we also need to take time for ourselves to immerse in scripture with no writing agenda. A time to just be with God in His Word. As the Word of God comes alive in us, He will shape our writing.

4. Centering prayer – This spiritual discipline, also practiced in monasteries, is devoted to simply sitting quietly in God’s presence. Just being with Him. During this time with God, we are not aware of anything God is doing. We are simply present with Him, focused on Him, and filled with His presence. Not talking, not listening, just being. This time spent with God will shape our whole day. And the next time we sit down to write, we will see that God has been (and is) with us.

5. Soaking in God’s presence – God is always with us. But the world is also very distracting. It is life-sustaining to take time and intentionally soak in God’s presence. Just breathe Him in and revel in who He is. This may look different for each of us on any given day. It might be taking a walk and enjoying nature, listening to music, playing with animals, reading an uplifting book, or enjoying a meal with friends. If we ask the Lord, He will prompt us for what He knows we need that day. Our writing will reflect what we have soaked in.

Those are just five (of many!) ways to engage a life of prayer as a writer. We need to remember that we are not simply practicing these ways for the sake of our writing. The life of prayer is vital to our spiritual growth and well-being as God’s kids. But a healthy prayer life will also affect our writing and will impart God’s peace to our readers.

Honor is Not the Same as Tolerance

When I was growing up, my mom would often vent to me about her bitterness toward people. My mom was not the kind of person people would think of as bitter. In public, she came across as quiet and kind, and a little bit quirky and eccentric.

What people didn’t realize was that her compassion came from a very sensitive heart. Her heart got stepped on quite a bit, and she was easily hurt. She held in her bitterness, which grew into resentment. Her only place to vent was talking to me. I would come home after school and hear about whoever made her feel hurt that day.

From age three, when I started attending Sunday school, I had been taught to “honor my mother and father.” I was told this was a very serious thing that Jesus wanted me to do. I took it to heart. Unfortunately, I was only given the platitude. I was not taught what honoring looks like in real life.

I came to believe that the best way I could honor my mother was to quietly and submissively allow her to say all kinds of bitter things in front of me. I would just nod my head and try to muster great sympathy. Her bitterness would grow because I kept helping her nurture it.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I learned what honor really means. To honor someone is to value that person at her true God-given worth. It means holding that person up as who God created her to be.

If I had truly been honoring my mom, I would not have tolerated her bitterness. I would have let her vent, but then I would have said, “Mom, let’s pray to forgive those people and ask Jesus to take away this bitterness. Because bitterness is not who you are. I want to honor who you are. God made you loving and compassionate with a sensitive heart. I’m so sorry people have taken advantage of that and trampled your heart. That hurts me to see you hurt. But bitterness is not the answer. It is just hurting you more. Let’s ask Jesus to lift that bitterness.”

That kind of confrontation didn’t come easily or naturally to me. I avoided speaking like that to anyone. I tried so hard just to be nice. But as I have come to learn, and as a friend of mine has written so compellingly, “nice” is not a fruit of the Spirit. “Nice” elevates tolerance over truth. In my situation, “nice” dishonored my mom.

Once I realized my sin, I had to repent for how I had dishonored my mom all those years. And I had to repent for the ways I had judged her as “bitter.” Because even though I tolerated her behavior outwardly, in my heart I resented her bitterness. (You can see how easy it is for this kind of pattern to continue generationally.) I asked God to forgive me.

When I finally did have that conversation with my mom about bitterness (in my early 40s), I was terrified. But the outcome was something I couldn’t have imagined or expected. My mom’s heart softened. I may have been one of the first people to acknowledge her sensitive heart and apologize for how people treated her. We prayed together, and she said she felt better.

Our conversations after that were more peaceful. She was still bitter sometimes, but I just invited her to pray with me, and she did. She always said she felt better. I got to see a new side of her during the final years of her life, and she had much more peace. Through that experience, I learned what it meant to honor my mother for who God truly made her to be.

 

Inner Healing for Christian Writers

Christian inner healing has helped me as a person, and also as a writer. The Lord has used inner healing to help me overcome things that blocked my writing voice. Inner healing has also helped me hear God’s voice more clearly. I can also refer to what I’ve experienced through inner healing to understand my characters when I write fiction. Inner healing has also helped me share my heart with readers in the non-fiction pieces I write.

In my experience, Christian inner healing has been a wonderful way for me to grow in my faith and in my call to write. I thank God for opening this door for me. He heals in many ways, and inner healing is one of the ways He has chosen to bring healing to my heart and to help me along His path of transformation.

God has brought healing in many areas of my life, all of which affect me as a writer. However, there have been some inner healing sessions where God and I distinctly worked on my struggles as a writer. I hope to share some of those here in the future, as well as the good fruit that has resulted from those prayers.

Thank You, Lord, that You are always ready to work in our hearts, to bring good changes, new life, joy, freedom, and peace. Thank You also that You love each one of us so dearly and call each of us to be, in every way, the person You created us to be. Thank You for the gift of writing, and for Your call on us to use writing to worship You, and to point the way to Christ. Help us to find deeper healing in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.