New Resolve

2013 has been a rocky year for me. I wouldn't call it all “bad.” But it definitely has been rocky. I feel like I hit a lot of these:

Cartoon image of a brick wall.
Lots of brick walls. It hurts to run into those. Leaves you feeling desperate and angry, frustrated.

The new year is only two days away. But I don't have to wait to make a change. Starting right now I can be a better steward of the things God has granted me. I can be more patient in trials. I can pray more than I worry or fear (or at least just as much!). I can focus on and be more thankful for the blessings God continually pours upon me.

Starting now, I can choose to place my faith in Jesus Christ more than I ever have before. And to continue making that choice.

Here goes!


Heart of Stone

The word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel during the first wave of Babylonian captivity.

… “Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the HEART OF STONE from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God. (Ezek 11:17–21; emphasis mine)
Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came…. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the HEART OF STONE from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek 36:22, 24–28; emphasis mine)

A heart of stone. What is that? I think I know. I think I have experienced at least a little bit of what it is like to have a heart made of stone. A heart unresponsive to God's word, to His patience, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. Knowing and believing that something is wrong but doing it anyway. Instead of praying for strength or escape from temptation, allowing myself to go numb and give in.

Ezekiel prophesied during the reign of Zedekiah. Not much is recorded of Zedekiah in the Chronicles, but enough is said to give us a picture of this man. He was young by our standards. Only 21 when his reign began. Only about 32 when his reign ended in his capture. He rebelled against the King of Babylon though he swore by God he would remain subject to Babylonian authority. Because he swore by God, he rebelled against God in doing this. Despite the prophet Jeremiah's numerous warnings and prophecies, Zedekiah remained unmoved: “He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord” (2 Chron 36:11–14).

Ezekiel's prophecies and Zedekiah's example were written for my benefit, for everyone's benefit. Here is a snapshot of my life: I am a young female, 27 years old. I have been struggling with a secret sin on and off for several years but regularly for the past several months. Because of my deliberate and repetitious rebellion against God, I am now captive to this sin, ensnared by it. Not wholly unmoved, but not turning to God, I have grown addicted. I harden my heart when I give in. I harden my heart against God. Once I become numb I am powerless to stop myself.

And yet, God is still God. And He has unfathomable power. John the Baptist proclaimed to the multitudes that came to be baptized, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8). If God can change stones into living descendants of Abraham, He most certainly can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV* Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version*), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In the acknowledgment above, fair use constitutes permission. See https://www.crossway.org/support/esv-bible-permissions/ for information on copyright and permissions.


This “Dismissive-Avoidant” in Relation to God

I dismiss my holy Father in heaven. I dismiss His mercy and grace and forgiveness. I dismiss His strength and power and might. I dismiss His wisdom and knowledge and understanding. I dismiss His precious Son who He sent to this earth to live a life of servitude and to ultimately die on the cross for all our sins. I dismiss the Holy Spirit who God sent to dwell within those who believe in Him and His Son.

I avoid my holy Father in heaven. I avoid Him when guilt and shame overwhelm me. I avoid Him when I am tempted and caught in sin. I avoid Him when I am afraid and don't know what to do. I avoid contemplating His Son's sacrifice. I avoid the idea that the Holy Spirit lives within me.

I depend on myself, my own resolve and strength and mind, rather than crying out to God for help. But I am through. I have no more to give in this fight. I am tired of feeling hopeless, afraid, and alone. I need my God and Father in my life.

Once again, Father, I spent several hours of the past few days in sin. You know this but I want to confess my sin to You. You know how I hate it yet am drawn to it. You know how I try to run from it yet I keep returning to it. You know the pangs of guilt I experience near the end of my sin and the wave of shame that washes over me. I am dirty, weak, and lost, Lord God. Please help me to receive and accept Your mercy, grace, and forgiveness; to lean on Your strength, power, and might; to seek counsel in Your wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Help me to accept that Your Son died for the sins of us all, including my own, and to think often on His sacrifice and what it means for me. Help me to accept and allow the influence of the Holy Spirit in my life. It is by the intercession of the Holy Spirit and through the name of Your Son that I am able to pray to You, Father. Amen.


Learning About Your Attachment Style

Faculty and doctoral candidates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are conducting research on attachment, particularly adult attachment. In my amateur research on attachment theory (meaning when I googled it), I came across two websites managed by some of the university's researchers that host or link to attachment-related and personality quizzes/questionnaires: http://www.yourPersonality.net/, maintained by Associate Professor R. Chris Fraley, and http://www.personalityassessor.com, maintained by doctoral candidate Nathan W. Hudson. Researchers are using these online questionnaires for the education of the quiz-taker as well as for collecting information to further their research. (See http://www.yourPersonality.net/about.htm and http://www.personalityassessor.com/about for more specifics.) If you are at all interested in attachment theory or personality assessments, I highly recommend these websites. Both provide informative quiz results that can help you understand more about yourself and how you relate to others in the context of attachment theory. Below are summaries of a few quiz results I received.

From http://www.yourPersonality.net/:

Relationship Structures

This quiz asks questions about four significant relationships in a person's life. Results are plotted on a coordinate grid, placing the quiz-taker in one of four broad attachment categories. All of my results land unquestionably in the “dismissing” area of the graph.

Close Relationships Questionnaire [ECR-R Attachment Style Questionnaire]

This quiz asks questions about your experience in “intimate” relationships, focusing on romantic relationships. The result is plotted on a grid, similar to the results in the Relationship Structures quiz, again placing the quiz-taker in one of the four attachment categories. Not surprisingly, based on my results I have a dismissing attachment style.

From www.personalityassessor.com:

Your Attachment Network

This quiz allows you to choose four significant people in your life and asks you to identify your relationship to them. Several statements are presented and you are prompted to respond in regard to the various relationships you selected. Your results for each relationship are broken down into three general categories: 1) Usage as Attachment Figure, 2) Attachment Anxiety, and 3) Attachment Avoidance. Your attachment style is provided for each relationship as well. To top it all off, your overall levels of Attachment Anxiety and Attachment Avoidance are plotted in comparison to the results of others who have taken the quiz. Once again, my results state that I exhibit a dismissing attachment style. My overall anxiety and avoidance ratings appear below.

I find these websites extremely helpful in learning about and better understanding my attachment pattern/style. This awareness has helped me process a bit more of the distressing aspects in past relationships as well as understanding my struggles in present relationships. Yes, I am insecure in relationships. Yes, I use avoidance tactics to cope with distress. No, it doesn't always have to be this way.


Attachment Theory: The Basics

Attachment is a concept my therapist has discussed with me at various times in regard to my relationship with my parents. Being the amateur scholar I am, I have read a bit about attachment theory to better understand and see if aspects of it fit my past experience. Below is a conjoined summary of the following sources:

Beginnings of Attachment Theory and Research: Infant Attachment Patterns

Attachment theory was developed by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s. Bowlby developed the theory after observing the separation of infants from their parents. He noted that it is common for infants to try very hard to prevent separation from parents, and, if separated, to try to regain proximity to the absent parents. Bowlby posited that the attachment behavioral system is a product of natural selection that developed because throughout the ages babies who stayed close to their parents, or attachment figures, had a better chance for survival. [Personal note: As a believer in God and His creation of the world and all that is in it, I disagree with Bowlby's assumption that attachment is a product of natural selection; I do, however, agree with the notion that attachment is rooted in human biology. End personal note.]

Attachment serves three basic purposes: 1) It provides a safe haven. 2) It provides a secure base. 3) It regulates physiological arousal.

  1. The safe haven is a real and felt entity, providing both physical and emotional safety. It is a “place” where a child can be safe and feel safe.
  2. The secure base provides a stable shelter from which a child can venture with confidence and explore the larger environment.
  3. The regulation of physiological arousal a child experiences when comforted by a responsive parent promotes his ability to self-regulate and self-soothe on an emotional and physiological level.

Mary Ainsworth's famous “Strange Situation” experiment led to the categorization of relational behaviors into attachment patterns. In the Strange Situation study, 12-month-old infants were observed with mothers, when separated from mothers, and when reunited with mothers. Ainsworth found that there are three distinct attachment patterns in infants: 1) secure; 2) anxious-resistant, an insecure pattern; and 3) avoidant, another insecure pattern.

  1. Secure infants are noticeably upset when separated from their mothers and readily welcome contact and comfort when reunited with their mothers.
  2. Anxious-resistant infants experience high levels of distress when separated from their mothers but seem conflicted when reunited with their mothers; they seem to desire comfort but they also defiantly resist being comforted.
  3. Avoidant infants do not seem very disturbed when separated from their mothers and attempt to avoid their mothers or avert their attention to other things when reunited with their mothers.

Current Attachment Research: Infant and Adult Attachment Patterns

In recent decades, researchers began to study attachment in adults, widening the scope of attachment to relationships other than the parent-child relationship. Research findings authored by Brennan, Clark, and Shaver (1998) iterate that there are two dimensions of adult attachment patterns: anxiety and avoidance. These dimensions recall aspects of Ainsworth's insecure infant attachment patterns.

Researchers have also continued to study infant attachment. Replications and descendants of Ainsworth's Strange Situation repeatedly revealed the need for a fourth category of infant attachment, so the disorganized attachment pattern was added to the three existing categories. The four infant attachment patterns have counterparts in the four adult attachment patterns.

Comparison of Infant Attachment Patterns with Adult Attachment Patterns.

Though there are clearly defined and widely recognized categories of attachment, attachment is, as Allen puts it, “somewhat fluid” (p. 41). Most people have multiple attachment figures throughout the course of their lives. It is possible to have different attachment patterns with different attachment figures. It is also possible for attachment patterns with one attachment figure to change over time. Though these possibilities exist, according to Fraley (2010), the factors that promote change in an individual's attachment patterns are not clearly understood and remain an important area of future research.


Frustrated and Confused… and Maybe That's OK

The last few weeks have been frustrating and confusing. The focus of my therapy sessions the past couple months has been the things I learned as a young child through my interactions with and observations of my parents and, to a lesser extent, the church community. As a child I interpreted these interactions and observations and developed some of the attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts about myself and others that influence how I view myself and others today (psychology vocab term: internal working models). My observing, interacting, and interpreting carried on into adolescence… and that's where the interpreting at least seemed to freeze in the context of a bad dating relationship.

What's frustrating and confusing about all this is that my various attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, etc., don't fit together; in a lot of ways they flat out contradict each other (psychology vocab term: cognitive dissonance). My therapist framed it this way last week:

Part of you feels that you want these things. That's the Child part, the part that says, “I want this” or “I like this” or “I don't like this.” Then there's another part of you that says you don't need those things, those things are bad. That's the Parent part. The Parent part is doing what it knows to do to protect you.

Part of my assignment for this week's session is pictured below. My therapist says the Parent part is trying to protect. I say the Parent part is being a jerk. Oddly enough, I identify myself with the Parent part and disown the Child part.

Borrowing the Parent-Adult-Child ego state concept from the Transactional Analysis school of thought helps me to understand a little better what is going on in my brain now and what's probably been going on in my brain for 20-some-odd years. It has been my (subconscious?) strategy to beat down the Child thoughts and squelch those little stirrings of humanness and vulnerability with the Parent's dismissive beliefs and attitudes.

I am still really confused about all this and that confusion is what frustrates me so much. What do we do now? How can we correct some of my thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs if those are the lenses I've been looking through as long as I can remember? Won't that change everything about me and how I interact with people? How will I know who I am? Is this even possible?

I think it is OK to feel this way because I am allowing myself to question where we are going next (anticipating movement rather than stasis) and because, for once, I am emotionally engaging in a part of my therapy.


Cognitive Restructuring: Letter to My (Baby) Self

Hey, little baby [J],

The first letter I wrote to you was really mean. [My therapist] wanted me to rewrite that letter. At first I didn't think I could do it but then some verses from the Bible popped into my head. Here they are:

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take care of me.” (Psalm 27:10)

A lot of the time it will sort of feel like Mom and Dad aren't really there with you. You will always have enough to eat and drink, and you will always have shoes on your feet and clothes to wear. (Don't worry. You won't always have to wear those frilly dresses.) You will get your teeth brushed, your diapers changed, your hair and body washed. Mom and Dad will make sure of all those things. But once you have 2 or 3 siblings, Mom and Dad won't really hug you or play with you. There are going to be lots of babies in your family and that will be a lot of fun. The babies will get Mom and Dad's hugs and attention. And you might not realize it for a long time, but you will get overlooked and accidentally ignored. And that won't feel good. You won't develop strong, positive attachments to either one of your parents. And a lot of times you will feel empty and alone. But you and I both need to believe that God is able to be there for you and me in ways that Mom and Dad can't be. And that is true for everyone because moms and dads aren't perfect. When you feel alone or forsaken, believe that God still wants to take care of you.

“I was placed in your care from birth. From my mother's womb you have been my God. Do not be so far away from me. Trouble is near, and there is no one to help.” (Psalm 22:10–11)

You are very blessed because your family goes to church and you hear about God. And even though you will wrestle with and question your belief in Him, you will find that God is the only real answer. Around the time you become firm in your belief, there will be a lot of scary and difficult things going on. Your family will have moved to a place where you don't know anybody, and you will not get to go to school with your friends from church. You will go to a very different school and a different church. You will no longer be taught about God by your friends' parents or your relatives or other adults you've known for a long time. You will sit by a boy in school who dies in a car accident. And you will be in a scary and sinful relationship with a boy who was also one of your first friends at your new school. You'll probably notice it then but as the years pass you'll realize it even more: You need help. But you don't know how or who to ask. These situations are too heavy to handle alone. So at night you will pray to God because that is all you can think to do. And you will pray, asking God to hear you even though you have doubted His existence, you continually sin against Him, and you have not committed yourself to following Him. And I do believe He heard you and pulled you out of the relationship you were in. When you didn't know who to go to for help, you went to God. Don't ever stop going to God for help.

“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, the few people left of the nation of Israel. I've carried you since your birth. I've taken care of you from the time you were born. Even when you're old, I'll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I'll support you. I made you and will continue to care for you. I'll support you and save you.” (Isa 46:3–4)

These verses are from God to His children. No matter how old you get, you will still be God's child. Even after you outgrow your cuteness and you lose your innocence, God will still pick you up and carry you. Even if you live long enough to earn gray hairs, God will still be willing and able to carry you just like your parents did when you were too young to crawl or walk or scoot on your own.

I know you don't feel these things, and neither do I, really, but we both need to believe these things. Maybe in time the feeling will match the faith. It is the faith that matters most, and that is our choice.


Scripture is taken from GOD'S WORD®. Copyright 1995 God's Word to the Nations. Used by permission of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

In the acknowledgment above, fair use constitutes permission. See http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/rights-permissions/permission for information on Licensing and Permissions.


Bible Verses in Song: “Whom Shall I Fear

A song that resonates with me is Chris Tomlin's “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” composed by Ed Cash, Scott Cash, and Chris Tomlin. I think one reason it resonates with me so much is that the words paraphrase or capture ideas described in scripture. If you've never heard the song and would like to, or if you have heard it and would like to again, follow this link to Chris Tomlin's VEVO site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOkImV2cJDg. As an exercise, I tried to pinpoint verses that verify the soundness of the song's lyrics. This is what I came up with.

I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear to me, and hear my speech. (Psalm 17:6)
But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. (Psalm 59:16)
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:11–12)
God, whose word word I praise,
God I trust; I do not fear.
What can mere flesh do to me?
(Psalm 56:4; LEB)
I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them. And I have consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me. (2 Sam 22:38–40)
Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places. (Deut 33:29)
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. (Psalm 138:7)
God I trust; I do not fear.
What can mere humankind do to me?
(Psalm 56:11; LEB)
The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. (Prov 18:10)
I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. (Isa 43:11)
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)
O sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. (Psalm 98:1)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1; ESV)
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord. (Isa 54:17)
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4–5)
But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day…. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. (Josh 23:8,10)
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations…. (Psalm 89:1)
And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints…. (Psalm 89:5)
O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee? (Psalm 89:8)
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward. (Isa 52:12)
Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. (Psalm 103:20–21)
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (Deut 31:6)
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. (Ex 15:18)
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. (Isa 41:8)
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. (Psalm 34:7)
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. (Deut 31:8)

Scripture quotations marked (LEB) are from Lexham English Bible. Copyright 2012 Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software.
See http://lexhamenglishbible.com/license/ for license information.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from the ESV* Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version*), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In the acknowledgment above, fair use constitutes permission. See https://www.crossway.org/support/esv-bible-permissions/ for information on copyright and permissions.

All other scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible. The KJV is public domain in the United States. See version information here: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/King-James-Version-KJV-Bible/#vinfo.