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.

What Blocks Your Hearing from God?

“Do you have cotton in your ears?” I remember my grandmother saying this whenever she thought we kids weren’t listening.

Sometimes I feel that way with God – that He knows I’m missing most of what He says. Why?

What Blocked Our Listening When We Were Kids?

Think about what it was like as a kid, when you didn’t listen. What were the reasons?

My list looked something like this:

  • Too busy, preoccupied.
  • Rebellious – didn’t want to hear, let alone respond.
  • Not really sure what the grownups were saying, so I tuned it out, or the words became distorted (like the teacher on Peanuts).
  • Didn’t like what I heard, or didn’t want to hear anything a grownup had to say on the matter.
  • Believed lies about myself, so whatever was really said became muted, muffled, or lost in translation.
  • Too many other voices in my head – mostly different parts of my own mind chastising or ridiculing myself.
  • Or just plain overwhelmed and checked out.

Those, and more, are the reasons we as kids often missed what grownups were trying to say to us. We missed helpful advice and direction. We missed expressions of love and concern. We missed fellowship.

The same can happen today in our communication with God. When our spiritual hearing becomes dull, we miss things.

How Can We Tune in to God’s Voice?

As an intercessor, you are no doubt interested in hearing from God clearly and frequently. How can you better attune your spiritual ears to hear Him?

One way is to identify what blocks your hearing.

This requires some heart introspection. What are the things in your heart that stand between you and God?

I went through many years of inner healing ministry to identify and allow God to remove many obstacles that blocked my hearing and my relationship with Him. I strongly recommend inner healing for everyone. We have all “stuff,” and it affects our relationship with God in more ways than just “hearing.”

Praying to Uncover What Blocks Us

Here is a starting point:

Ask God to search your heart and to reveal the things that block you from Him. That is one prayer He is very glad to answer. He began to answer me when I first prayed like this more than 12 years ago. He is still answering me to this day, showing me things in my heart that stand between me and Him.

Ask God to show you:

  • What lies you believe that are contrary to what His Word says.
  • Where you might hold unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart, or areas of your life where you might need to repent.
  • What lies you believe about Him, based on your relationship with primary caregivers in your young life. We often see God based on how we saw those first adults we encountered.
  • Where you have become consumed by religion, instead of relationship.
  • Any ways that fear or pride might block you from hearing Him.
  • Anything and everything in your heart that stands in the way of hearing and responding to Him.

Then realize that Jesus is here to help you pray through these blockages, to be healed, and to be free. Freedom means hearing your heavenly Father’s promptings, and responding to Him in love and prayer.

God Often Speaks in Silence

As an intercessor, it’s important to realize that you might not hear or sense God in ways that you would hear a person who walks into the room and speaks. God will have His own ways of communicating with you, and often His first language is silence. As an intercessor, your heart may simply beat strongly in tune with His, without you hearing a word.

So don’t take silence as an indication that you are not hearing.

But if you feel blocked in hearing from God (it’s usually a distinct feeling), the prayer detailed above can be a helpful starting point for drawing closer to Him and opening your heart even more to Him.

If you would like to learn more about hearing God, I recommend reading this wonderful article, “How Do I Learn to Hear God?” written by my friend Kerri Johnson at The Center for Inner Healing. It’s a quick read, and it gets to the heart of how we hear God.

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.

 

 

 

 

A “Tail” of Two Rodents: Gauging My Progress with Trauma Healing

At Christmas, I was out of town spending time with family. When I returned home, I discovered a rodent had taken up residence in my apartment. Granted, I live over the garage of a log cabin on a wooded farm. Rodents happen. I get that. But now I had a rodent claiming squatter’s rights. It took about a week to reclaim my turf.

I am grateful for this encounter because it helped me see where I am on the path to trauma healing. Even though it took a few days to find my footing in this rodent encounter, I have certainly come a long way since I started trauma healing. I was unsettled, yes. At night, even fearful. (That’s something I’m working on.) But I wasn’t emotionally and physically shut down as in the past. And it only took two nights of fear before I rallied against the rodent and got my life back. Ironically, it was a previous rodent encounter that sent me into that season of trauma healing. I love it when God allows tangible moments when we can see our progress.

Eight years ago, before I moved to this farm, I had a cat. She was living at a friend’s house because I lived in a place that didn’t allow pets. So my friend took her in. On my way home from work each day, I stopped to visit my friend and play with my cat.

After a while, my friend became sick with cancer and moved in with her mom to get daily care. My cat had the house to herself. (Note: I had never lived in my own house, but my cat had a house of her own! As it should be.)

One day I was sitting on the couch with my cat in that otherwise empty house. I became aware that the door between the living room and garage had just opened. A squirrel came into the living room.

My cat was not fazed, as if this were a common occurrence. I freaked out. Not a normal “There’s a squirrel in the living room” freak out. My reaction was more like “Someone just threw an explosive device through the window and they will shoot me as soon as I run outside.”

In tears and terror, I chased the squirrel back to the garage and opened the outer door. Instead of leaving, the squirrel ran into the farm supply room, climbed up on a shelf, and put its tail over its head, as if to hide. I picked up a handful of hay and threw it at the squirrel, who then chattered at me. The whole thing should have been comical, but I was sobbing, and every muscle in my body was shaking.

“I … can’t … take … any … more …” I kept shouting to God.

I was beyond overwhelmed. Everything in me was shutting down.

My reaction was not really about the squirrel. It was decades of unhealed trauma that had consumed me. The squirrel in the house was the proverbial last straw. It magnified all the other trauma that was stored away. I literally couldn’t handle one more thing.

I finally left the house, and from the comfort of my own home, I called my friend and asked her to send her step dad to deal with the squirrel. That’s when I started to seek trauma healing.

Unhealed trauma fills up like a water tank. If it keeps filling without being drained, each new traumatic event picks up all the unhealed trauma. Suddenly, you’re not just dealing with the squirrel in the living room. Instead, that squirrel triggers all the traumatic experiences you’ve never been healed of, and they bombard your heart, mind, and body all at once. Talk about being overwhelmed and shut down!

Trauma healing has changed my life. I could see that as I gauged my reaction to the rodent in my apartment two weeks ago. More importantly, I can see the changes in my everyday living. I’ve had some hard hits, and my friends have remarked on the changes. I don’t crash as hard (sometimes not at all), and I bounce back faster – within minutes or hours, not days or weeks as before.

If you would like to learn more about trauma healing, a good place to start would be reading this article by Kerri Johnson at The Center for Inner Healing: “Exchanging Trauma for Peace.” She explains why we lock trauma away inside ourselves, and what it takes to find healing.

After you read the article, I recommend exploring The Center for Inner Healing’s website. This is the ministry where God helped me with my healing from trauma.

Kerri is leading an upcoming healing retreat that will make a big difference in people’s lives. I know. I’ve been through it. She also leads a tribe called The Journey that helps all of us walk out our healing in community.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us a way to heal from trauma. I am so grateful to You for all You have done – and continue to do – in my heart and in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen

God bless!

 

 

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.