Remodeling

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Behavior modification is often the method sought out by well meaning mothers and fathers parenting children, whether the children come from hard places or not. See a behavior you don’t like? Let’s change it. There are a variety of methods available for behavior change, some more parent-child connecting than others, some actually harmful to the parent-child relationship. But what they all have in common is the belief that at the root of mankind’s problem are some behaviors we need to be altered by renovating or making over what is already there.

King David knew this is not the way toward lasting change. And he needed lasting change.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.Psalm 51:10-12

This is David’s prayer after becoming overwhelmed with the weight of his sin. He prays for something he doesn’t currently have – a heart clean from corruption that stems from sin. In Hebrew clean heart is lev tahor. Lev is heart and tahor is clean. To the ancients (the ones to whom the scriptures were written) heart didn’t mean that blood pumping organ, and it didn’t mean just where we ‘feel’ things; it meant the seat of the mind and will. We moderns might think of the brain to be the seat of these things, but to David it was in the heart that not only emotion lay, but also volition (the power of one’s will) and cognition (thinking).What made him him resided in the heart.

What David recognizes is that he needs something new, and a plain reading of this verse in English suggests that. But there is something wonderful that is hidden within the Hebrew language that is missed in English. Hebrew has two words that are translated as create: bara and yatsar. Of course David knows these two words and their significant differences.

David does not use the standard verb which means to do, to fashion, to make (yatsar), referring to shaping something from existing material. Instead, David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), uses the Creator verb, bara’.   Bara’ is about bringing into being something that was not there before. “In the beginning God bara’ the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Bara’ is only used in the scriptures with God as the object. Only God can make something out of nothing.

David’s lev houses the essence of who he is and he knows that it is inadequate to be ‘re-built’ by anything already existing. In other words, he can not provide this building project himself – only God can bara’. David doesn’t need a renovation project, he needs a new house; he doesn’t need a makeover, he needs a new birth.

David teaches us that we can’t reform ourselves apart from God creating a new heart in the way that only He can. It is Creation week all over again.

May we look for only for that which brings lasting behavior change to your life and the lives of your children. Quick fixes through behavior modification only shape what is already there. Pray that God will bara – it is what He is so good at!

 

(Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Proverbs 127:1)

Power

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Do you ever feel powerless to effect change in the chaos of trauma in your son or daughter’s life? I know I sure have. Some days it was so bad that I questioned whether my sons were even better off in our family.  Those were hard days, but they passed. Not because of anything I did, but just because of the natural ebb and flow of parenting children from trauma backgrounds. Some days are just harder. Then they get better.

Webster’s dictionary defines power as “the ability to act or produce an effect”. In my attempts to gain power over the chaos, I often turned to self help books on parenting traumatized kids – even in the early days I had a shelf of them. I’d try this method, then that. I was looking for a power source to battle their issues. I looked for power, out of love for them. And desperation. Knowledge is power, to quote Thomas Jefferson.

I would like to suggest that we be mindful of what power we are trying to harness in our pursuit of healing for our children. It may be that our best intentions will lead us down paths not meant for us. To whom or to what program are we looking for solutions? Psychology? Neuroscience? Evidenced-based practices that are trauma-based? At what point do allegiance to and reliance on these powers cause us to veer away from the only real solution?

I came across a shocking (to me) realization in the Word of God today. God doesn’t want us looking for any other power source except Him. Ok, sure, I have always thought that was a safe assumption. But perhaps it is not only an assumption, but rather a command that we need to adjust our lives around.

Exodus 20 tells us And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

First off, let’s be mindful that deliverance from slavery in Egypt parallels deliverance from anything that had us (or our children) in bondage, including traumatic past experiences.  We are reminded that God brings people out of bondage. Then we are told how to partake of that truth.

Have no other gods.

At least, that is what I was taught is the plain meaning. And if I was being honest, I thought it a bit archaic to modern life, because, after all, our cultural doesn’t celebrate a plethora of gods does it? And for those of the Judeo-Christian beliefs, we’re mono-theistic anyway, so it seems unnecessary, or a ‘duh! moment’. Even when I read it (with the help of translators) in the Hebrew, it reads “you shall have no elohimbefore me.

Elohimand the shortened form El are universally recognized as a name of God, and also translated as god with a lowercase g. So far we still have the same translation: have no gods before me. Ok, we are back to a command toward monotheism. Or are we? What if el and elohim are not just a name of God, or reference to false gods.

Take a look at this verse from Genesis 31 (especially notice the Hebrew words in bold).

It is in my power (EL) to do you harm, but the God (Elohim) of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’ Genesis 31:29 NASB

This is Laban speaking to Jacob. The word ‘power’ is the Hebrew word el, shortened for elohim! No one translates this verse as “It is in my god to do you harm”. Context tells us that Laban uses el as “power,” not “god.” Now let’s take another look at the second commandment:

“You shall not have any other elohim before Me.” Now we know that sometimes el or elohim can just as easily signify any force believed to be powerful, even if it is not divine.

Are we actually being told to not have allegiance to other “powers” besides God? Does that change the commandment for you? It does for me. And this includes what kinds of power sources to choose from in the fight against the chaos of traumatic early life experiences. What are YOU looking to to deliver you?

 

******thank you to the following source: David Fohrman, The Exodus You Almost Passed Over

 

Fidelity

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“Fidelity to the program” was something greatly emphasized by the organizations that trained me in trauma-informed care, as part of the education I received to do the work with adoptive families that I do. Fidelity means “the extent to which delivery of an intervention adheres to the protocol or program model originally developed”. For example, the ones who created Circle of Security Parenting and Trust-Based Relational Intervention did not want me attaching their name to the work I do in their name if I was going to deviate from their protocols. Therefore, I had to sign my name to documents attesting that I would stay true to their message, or not use their name for some hybrid method I came up with myself but said I was practicing their methods.

Fidelity to the program clauses are written to keep the integrity of the organization’s message the way it was originally intended by those who created it. It keeps from diluting the message, and preserves the name (or character) of the organization.

God has a fidelity clause for those who will take on His Name and His Covenant too, and I came across it today. It shows up here:

Deuteronomy 4: 2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12: 32 [a]Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

May it be sobering to realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is judged by the world based on what the world sees in us – based upon our actions as His ambassadors! He is ‘unseen’, we are very visible to the world. What we do ‘in His name’ carries weight for how the world views Him.  It carries weight for those in our family and other spheres of influence.  When we ‘sign on’ to come under His protection and jurisdiction as our King, He expects us to be faithful witnesses of His holy standards, which are His commandments.

But are we? Or do we listen to those who have changed His message, tweaked it to suit themselves/ourselves? Are we muddying His character broadcast into the world by the ways we have deviated from His original message/commandments? Do we bring His Name honor or do we bring His name shame when we do not have fidelity to His program?

I pray that we all will spend more time seeking what it is that we are called to do when we say we follow Him. Seek what the Word says that His ‘program’ is. And do it, just as He said to do, adding nothing and taking away nothing that He has not authorized to be changed. Fidelity is the mark of the good and faithful servant (Matthew 5:23)

I am a work in progress in this area.