The Danger of Unraveling Emotions

The Danger of Unraveling Emotions

Sometimes I wonder when emotions became the arch-enemy of strength. It’s an insult, isn’t it, for someone to declare, “She’s so emotional!”? Yet emotions are a significant part of what makes us uniquely human. And in typical fickle fashion, we are equally quick to insult folks who are completely emotionally unaware.

I recently ran across a Dilbert video poking fun at the stereotypical engineer, which highlights (with humor) the almost universal acceptance of the need for social skills. It’ll take less than two minutes to watch, and is worth the chuckle – especially if you know an engineer.

This causes us to laugh because it touches on the truth that unawareness of emotions leads to undeveloped social skills – something we’ve linked to pocket protectors and a calculator.

For the last quarter century the idea of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been studied, pondered, debated, and lauded. Ideas originally received with skepticism have been supported by sound research. Emotional Intelligence became an accepted, and much talked about, component of an individual’s resume and portfolio during the job search. Businesses began including EI as part of their hiring strategy, realizing an emotionally competent individual was a better investment than a similar candidate with high technical intelligence and low social skills.

Yet with all the recognition of emotions and the importance of understanding, appreciating, and learning to live with them, emotions still get a bad rap. People who express their emotions are often dismissed as irrational and (over)sensitive. And while Emotional Intelligence became an important focus in Human Resources during the hiring phase, throughout the rest of the company, emotions remained a bit inconvenient. Emotional Intelligence seems to be fighting an uphill battle – one step forward, two steps back – because at some point in history, we redefined “strong men” as men without emotion other than anger (consider phrases like “real men don’t cry” and “never let them see you sweat”).

Somewhere along the way we forgot that men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Walter Cronkite, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were not only strong and amazing leaders, but also experienced – and expressed – deep emotion. Indeed, their actions were often a direct result of their emotions, but not necessarily the result of unchecked emotions like we saw with leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.

Stripping men (and by default women, since to be “emotional” was redefined as weakness) of their ability to understand, confront, and connect their emotions to right actions, has actually weakened humanity. One of the fibers woven into the essence of humanity is our ability to be moved into appropriate action by what we feel. (Incidentally, the word “emotion” comes from the Latin ēmovēre, to move (ex = out, movere = move, literally move out). When we divest people (men or women) of the essential fiber of emotions, it is like removing a strand from a cord; the whole person becomes weaker.

Emotional Intelligence research brought this to our attention, but did little to weave a healthy understanding of and relationship to emotions. Though we have begun to value people who are emotionally stable and to denounce those who we now consider toxic (because they either intentionally manipulate others or destroy others through ignorance), we have yet to embrace emotions and weave them back into our understanding of how to be fully human and live life well. We are ill equipped to manage our emotions and direct them onto a constructive course.

So what do we do?

Perhaps the first step is to realize that emotions are not the enemy. We need to learn how emotions are tied to our physiological make up – in other words, we were created to be emotional (not in a hysterical, irrational way, but to fully experience emotions). We must look at how Christ – fully God and fully man – experienced a wide range of emotions, and yet did not sin (Christ was not afraid of his emotions). And finally, we need to identify when our emotions are revealing idolatry vs. righteousness, so we can make choices empowered by emotions but directed in a constructive way toward what we hope to accomplish rather than make choices driven by unchecked emotion.

Starting next week, I’ll dig into each of these ideas in greater depth. Here’s the plan:

May 2 – Emotions are Not the Enemy

May 9 – We Were Created to Experience Emotions

May 16 – Forever Starts Now

May 23 – Emotions are Scary

May 30 – Emotions Expose Idols

June 6 – We Do What We Believe

June 13 – The Truth Will Set You Free


I owe Ken Sande of Relational Wisdom 360 ( a great debt for the many insights he has given to me on this topic through his seminars, training, and personal conversations. – See more at:

God Wrote the Book on Relationships

God Wrote the Book on Relationships

As Christians, we know God has created us for relationships.

We know God has blessed us for relationships.

We know God has commanded us to do relationships in LOVE.

So how do we do this?

How do we learn to submit our relationships to the rule of Christ? How do we functionally, intentionally apply biblical wisdom in the arena of marriage, friendships, sharing the gospel, coworkers, children, enemies?

God wrote the book on relationships. There is a biblical framework. I have a friend who has worked hard to make that framework visible and applicable to daily life, sort of a systematic theology of relationships with real-life application. It’s way better than CliffsNotes. 🙂

Let me tell you a little bit about Ken.

He is one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met. I’m not saying he’s perfect (nor would he), but I see grace ooze from the crevices of his life. Like all of us on this side of heaven, he still has places in his heart that are not yet steeped in grace, but he’s grown in grace throughout his Christian walk and he’s spent a lot of time distilling in writing what it means to live in redemptive relationships God and with others.

Mike and I were first introduced to Ken Sande (known to most as the author of The Peacemaker and founder of Peacemaker’s Ministries) in Montana a few years ago. We spent four days in Montana as part of the process of becoming Certified Relational Wisdom Instructors (, and connected with Ken and his wife immediately.

Getting to know Ken has been one of the highlights of joining him in this life-changing ministry. Truly, RW360 has changed my life. Not because it’s some new method to personal happiness or quick-fix for troubled relationships, but because it draws so effectively from the whole counsel of scripture and gives practical skills to usher me deeper into God’s grace.

Relational wisdom isn’t about fixing troubled relationships, it’s about fixing grace firmly in all relationships.

Relational wisdom resonates with what I already know to be true, but have sometimes had a difficult time articulating and applying in my daily life. It’s something I’ve already been growing in as God has drawn me through his word in personal study and developing seminars and retreats for women.

As a matter of fact, I have a whole women’s retreat on relationships that I started doing with women’s groups in the years before I met Ken Sande or learned anything about his ministry with RW360, but it touches on the exact same themes. Truly, “[t[here is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

I encourage you to discover RW360 for yourself. I also encourage you to dig into the scriptures, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), and see if what you discover isn’t true.

You’ll also see a lot on over the next several months that reveals many of the ways relational wisdom is impacting my ability to extend grace in my day to day existence as a wife, pastor’s wife, mom, ministry partner, sister, friend, daughter, teacher, author, speaker, laundress, grocery shopper, restaurant visitor…

Relational wisdom is all about extending grace: to ourselves, to those in our homes, and to those beyond the front porch.

If you’d like to go deeper, please, consider finding (or hosting) a live seminar or watching the online seminar or working through the self-study guide. You can find information on organizing a seminar with any of the Certified Instructors (including me!), if you think RW is something your women’s group or church would be interested in hosting.

What do you think? Is it time to invest in truly redemptive relationships?

Horizontal Comparison Kills Grace

Horizontal Comparison Kills Grace

One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to maintain order in your home (as a matter of fact, a buyer’s agent showing our house recently asked our realtor if I was for hire – lol!).

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of living in an orderly home. A home that is tidy and inviting pushes back the chaos of the harried world just outside the door. It can invite peace.

So, how can we establish “order that invites peace”?

The answer will be different for every woman. I have a friend who has said to me, “I sometimes stop and think ‘What would Julia do?'”

My sweet friend is such a spontaneous and fun person. Her personality is one of light and freedom and playfulness. Yet she thinks and feels deeply – and has such wisdom and insight! There are a lot of times I ask myself, “What would she do?”

The trouble I have in asking this question is that it misdirects a true desire to do what will honor Jesus. Instead of comparing myself to him, I start looking at other women and thinking I should be like them. But I am only ever called to be an imitator of Christ – to become more and more Christlike.

In 2 Corinthians 10: 12, Paul writes, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” In context, Paul is defending his ministry against those who would discredit him based upon horizontal comparisons.

I do that!

I discredit my own calling and influence by comparing myself – my gifts, talents, personality, appearance, and even my calling – to others. Horizontal comparison robs me of faith, replacing it with feelings of failure. But when I focus on imitating Christ, I choose significance over shame. And I gain an understanding of what Christ can do in and through me because he created me for these good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Here’s the tricky part: I write about different ways to organize a home, relate to others, and to understand how God is working in our lives. Obviously, I think I’ve stumbled on some ideas worth imitating – and lots of folks who spend time with me or in my home agree.

So here’s my suggestion: look at what I do and ask yourself, “Will adopting this idea will direct me in a more God-ward direction?” If the answer is, “No,” please delete and move on with no feelings of guilt.

Still, some of you are asking, “What is your advice about maintaining order in the home?”

Here’s what I tell folks with whom I consult one-on-one: Start by understanding who you are uniquely created to be. Look honestly at the home in which you live, the people with whom you share it, and the resources with which you have to work. Until you embrace these things with contentment you’ll never find a system that works for you. 

Under the category of posts called “Executing Grace” on this blog I offer ideas of what we are trying in our house in areas like household management, child training, functional organization, and practical advice for schedules, but I hope you’ll think of it as a buffet. Pick a little of this and a little of that until you get your plate full of just what suits you. Then pray over that plate before you dig in.

I chose the term “executing grace” because it has a twofold meaning:

  • Done well, I am executing a plan and using organizational tools which allow me to express grace to those around me.
  • Done poorly, I am executing – as in killing, chopping the head off of, shooting dead in the streets – grace.

Ultimately I must answer the question, “How will I execute grace today?”

I Forget, but I’m Not Forgotten

I Forget, but I’m Not Forgotten

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to experience God the way he’s presented in scripture: holy, loving, present. Probably because I have trouble experiencing myself the way scripture portrays me: human, with all the dignity and shame humanity entails.

The problem is not scripture – but my failure to connect with God through scripture. Having been raised in the church, all too often, my eyes pass over familiar passages without really engaging them. So, I started writing scripture down; it makes me go through it more slowly.  Recently I copied out a familiar story, and in the space between the letters, I could picture this event:

Now [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke 2:41-46

Have you ever done that? Forgotten a child?

One time my husband and I were planning to make a 14-hour drive with our kids. We taught the pre-schoolers during the mid-week Women’s Bible Study and planned to leave right from church when we were done. I will admit that the civilized chaos of alternating groups of children through our program followed by passing them back to their mamas with craft projects in hand left us a bit frazzled.

Finally loaded and ready to go, my husband looked over his shoulder to back out of our parking space. That’s when we noticed the empty infant seat. My heart stopped and my stomach knotted up instantly. It only took about three minutes to race back into the church and retrieve our baby, but the feeling of horror the moment I noticed the baby missing has never escaped my memory.

Mary and Joseph probably had to wait until the next morning to return to Jerusalem to find their missing child. Can you imagine the angst of that long night?

Can you imagine looking for three days in a city that no longer felt warm and welcoming? They searched streets, alleys, and marketplaces for their missing child, not knowing where he was. What went through their heads as they ached with guilt over leaving him?

I feel a certain camaraderie and connection with Mary and Joseph. As I wrote out their story by hand, I could feel their humanity – and I began to relax in my own.

This is why Jesus came.  Because I mess up.  Because I forget.

Sometimes I realize I have been missing Jesus. I just plod along the path and at some point I notice I’ve forgotten him.  The truth is, he came so that I could find him. His word, his Spirit, and prayer… these are all means to finding him. Again and again. And he’s always right where I expect him to be: sitting in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49; John 14:2-3) interceding for me (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34),

Other times, I realize I don’t trust that God really remembers me. I feel forgotten. Jesus came for this, too. He came because he wanted me to know a Father who would never forget me. (Psalm 121: 1-8)

What about you? Do you desperately look for Jesus when you notice you’ve forgotten him? Are you able to rest in the knowledge that God has not forgotten you – however bleak your circumstances may be?