Here are some final thoughts about how our souls become attached to what they should be detached from. How does Christ enable us to remain attached to, or in an abiding relationship with, him? The ideas of being ‘aroused’ and ‘awakened’ are key for us to consider.

The Bible’s use of ‘arousal’ mostly refers to sexual arousal, meaning that the body’s sexual sensitivities are stirred. But our souls and emotions can also be ‘aroused’: stirred, moved, touched.

Being aroused from sleeping seems to describe the brief time between slumber and being fully awake. “She was aroused from her deep sleep and woke up,” for example. I wonder if this is a way for us to also consider how our emotions and thoughts can be stirred in a direction that then leads us to be ‘awakened’ towards acting upon those emotions and thoughts. We can either acti upon them in either a Christ-ward direction, abiding in him and his Word, or in a selfish and sin-ward direction.

Psalm 34:8 says to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (ESV). Galatians 5:16 instructs us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Both of these verses speak to the issue of what and who will arouse or awaken you. What do the taste buds of your heart hunger for? Seek to attach to? The promise of Galatians 5:16 is that we will not gratify our sinful desires as we walk in the Spirit, which is another way to describe what it means to abide in Jesus: being filled with and directed by his Spirit. Those sinful desires come from our sinful hearts being aroused and awakened to worldly things rather than the Lord. Sinful cravings can be for things like:

  • physical or emotional pleasure at any cost
  • escape from emotional pain at all costs
  • fearful avoidance of any circumstance or encounter that might lead me to feel rejected
  • being number one and made much of by those in my life

To be aroused by, awakened by, and attached to holiness and the things of the Lord isn’t a series of steps per se; rather, it is a radical relational reorientation towards a person: Jesus.

What do you think about the idea of attachment vs. abiding?

Updated 5.11.2017

Let’s consider some more thoughts on what God’s Word would have to say to us about ‘holy attachments.’

Part I highlighted John 15 as a key passage for understanding God’s design for our attachments or ‘connections’ with people. Jesus was in his last earthly hours with the faithful eleven disciples. There had been talk of him leaving, of troubles, sorrows, death. In effect, chapter 15 describes for the believer what life in Jesus looks like.

Life in Jesus is more than coming to the temple. Life in Jesus is not merely following rules. Life in Jesus isn’t about us down here and him up in heaven. Life in Jesus is exactly that: in him. He carefully helps us to understand this with the analogy of a vine and branches, of fruit being born through the branches as they abide in their source of life, the Vine—Jesus.

The theory of abiding is so much richer and more hopeful than attachment theory! When I attach to something or someone, I’m stuck to it, clinging, grasping, holding. The picture Jesus draws for us in John 15 is one of “oneness” and shared life. We experience this oneness with Jesus through faith, through his Word abiding in us, and believing in him. It’s a lifestyle of increasing, loving obedience.

None of us, however, experiences this oneness with Jesus without being tempted to abide in something or someone else. Relational habits and sexual habits that have been a home for us, and to which we’ve become attached, can and must be dismantled by the vine dresser! This is Father God.

Part III will discuss how awakenings and arousings fit into the picture. We’ll unpack this into specific scenarios of relational and sexual attachments that are anything but safe.

Part 1., Part 3.

Updated 5.11.2017

What wakes you up in the morning? An alarm? The aroma of freshly brewed coffee? The cry of a child? Habitual body clock? And when you wake up, what rouses you to actually get out of bed…to move into the day: a sense of responsibility? Desire? The need to…um…use the bathroom? Time with the Lord through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer?

There are lots of things that wake our bodies up and lots of other things that then move us from our just-wakened state into an aroused or “active” responsiveness. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on how, in similar ways, our souls and affections are awakened, aroused, and then move into ‘attachment’.

We all experience some level of attachment to behaviors, people, relational dynamics, and emotional patterns. Habits form, and sometimes these habits are the fruit of attachments that are not healthy, not holy. Unholy, habitual patterns are called besetting sins in the Bible and patterns don’t “just happen.” They form over time as we are awakened and aroused somehow, in some way, and take little steps towards these unthealthy patterns.

Attachment Theory in biblical categories is something I’ve been delving into in recent months. I’ve been spurred on by my own heart’s bent towards attaching to certain emotional dynamics in relationships and by hearing the stories of many women. I minister to women who wrestle in some way on the spectrum of female same-sex attraction, from emotionally enmeshed relationships to sexualized relationships as a lifestyle. A key concept in our counseling is understanding attachment theory.

In a sentence or two, attachment theory acknowledges the impact that healthy or unhealthy emotional bonding with our primary caregivers impacts the way we navigate our emotional bonding with other people. This bonding, or attachment, can be expressed in ways that are holy, Jesus-centric, and boundaried. Or our attachments to people can be enslaving, fueled by idolatry and self-protection.

Scripture thankfully has much to say about holy attachments that go much deeper and wider than how we regulate our emotions in relationships. True to form, Jesus our Savior and Restorer of all things broken thought that holy attachment was so important for his followers to understand that he spent a good chunk of time teaching about it in his last hours with them. Check out John 15; we’ll delve into the passage more on Part 2.

Part 2., Part 3.

Updated 5.11.2017

“Be to me a rock of refuge to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:3, ESV).

Psalm 71 might seem like an unusual (or unexpected, at the least!) place to go for a Christmas-week meditation. “Come on Ellen…you must at least go to Psalm 22, Luke 1-2, or Isaiah 9!”

Well, isn’t it great how our Lord, the Wonderful Counselor, opens up his Word to us in new ways? I’ve gone to Psalm 71 a lot in recent years for the insight it gives on how our mouths are to be used. Being a woman who vocationally depends on her mouth, words, and speech, this psalm is full of the truth I need daily.

Recently, however, some new thoughts have emerged from this psalm that I want to share with you this Christmas week.

“…to which I may continually come.”

‘Continually’ is a solid word, indicating ‘always, habitual, lifestyle.’ We continually come to Jesus because he is continually available. He is always present. He is an “all the day,” “at all time” Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, and Lord. Always. This is what I’m calling his 24/7-ness, which invites us to a lifestyle of responsiveness to him. David lives, speaks, and hopes from a 24/7 responsiveness to the Lord.

David had the freedom of heart and faith to express his 24/7 neediness of God, to God, but David didn’t stop there. This song is also full of expressions of living continually before the Lord in hope, in worship, in trust! This is where Christmas leads us: the Word made flesh and living always with us. This is Luke 1-2 and is absolutely Psalm 22’s Messiah. This is life in a fallen world that is being redeemed and in which the Lord Jesus is present to us through his Spirit.

Where have you been running to continually? Where, what, or who is your “rock of refuge,” especially in the holiday season, which for many is so challenging, painful, lonely, disappointing? Today, be reminded of Psalm 71:3’s Christmas hope for you: Jesus is continually available for you in temptation, in struggle, in the ‘groaning’ you may be experiencing in the battle against sin. He came so that now, by faith, we experience him coming to us in our weaknesses and in our worship, as we believe upon him to be our Rock of Refuge.

Updated 5.19.2017

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:1-2, ESV).

Rich “food,” or “fare,” should be capitalized here, as this fare, this banquet table is Jesus! When we have the taste buds of our hearts re-oriented and set on what is true, on what is sweet and good, we are led to Jesus, the table in the presence of enemies (Psalm 23:5). Jesus comes to us in our disordered desires and confused understandings and gives us himself.

We at Harvest USA have the amazing opportunity to enter into conversations with people week after week and to experience Jesus bringing peace where turmoil has been reigning. He reigns in thirsty hearts who come to him in the midst of deserts, of unholy attachments and behaviors that have left them unsatisfied and experiencing a “continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19, NIV).

This Christmas season, you may be invited to many types of tables…to snack, graze, feast. If sexual sin, emotional idolatry, addictive and life-dominating menus are what you’ve been ordering from, Jesus invites you to come to him to delight in the richest of fare. There is hope for you to taste and see and know that he is good!

Updated 5.11.2017

I’ve been slowly meditating my way through Isaiah during this Advent season, desiring to draw near to the Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I was struck by some contrasts in chapter 5, in which the Lord speaks strongly against those who lead others into sin, who teach error, and who gravely misinterpret what’s what:

“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21, ESV).

In reading these words, and in knowing my own heart, it’s even more comforting to know that one of the names for the Savior is “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6). As our True Counselor, the Lord gives correct definitions and interpretations of all of life. Many of us have named evil, bitter, and dark experiences and longings as good, sweet, and light. Our desires ruled, or we were naive, or we were mis-educated by those who should have known better. The result is that we need a radical redefining of what is what! Praise be to Jesus who comes as Wisdom, Author, Healer, Truth, and Light.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” If you’ve been confused, hurt, disoriented because you’ve been tasting and feasting on what you thought was good, but the aftertaste is bitter captivity to sin and entanglement, then may I invite you to pray:

Lord, I come to you needing a radical re-orientation of my heart! I’ve longed for satisfaction and have tasted only increasing lust; I’ve sought to walk in a way that seemed sweet and good, but the incoming harvest is painfully bitter and dark. By your grace, I submit to heart (and appetite) surgery and ask for courage to receive your answers to these prayers.

Updated 5.12.2017

So let’s continue on with some more thoughts on people and food addictions. What are we to do if we are compulsive eaters? If we run constantly to food, snacks, bingeing on Boston creme-filled donuts, potato chips, or super chunk peanut butter chocolate ice cream, or whatever foods are most irresistible to you?

Well, first of all, we need to realize that what we’re hungering for really isn’t those items. Those goodies do taste good, and they can be enjoyed in a way that doesn’t numb but delights you…but only if you know what your heart is really hungering for.

Psalm 34: 8 says that we are to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (ESV); we are blessed when we take refuge in him. We might also say we are blessed when we feast upon him through relationship with Jesus, through prayer, through trusting and obeying him, through surrendering our lives. Having him be my banquet table allows me to enjoy and delight in the gifts that are presented to me.

This is so similar to people addiction or the ‘worship’ of people. A few posts ago, I wrote about how women (and men too) can be enthralled with each other, or seek to ‘feast’ upon each other through emotional connecting, nurture, affection, etc. This fixation really isn’t about a certain woman or person or people in general. Like food, it’s about our souls seeking what they were created for: satisfaction. But true satisfaction can only be found through the only One who fills us, the Bread of Life, Jesus. This is great news for us and gives us so much hope, even if we are people or food addicts!

What things or people are you seeking to find satisfaction in, apart from Jesus? How have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good, even more than your ‘addictions’ and temporary satisfactions?

Updated 5.12.2017

Someone once asked a mentor of mine, “Do you think you can be addicted to a relationship?” Beth responded immediately: “Yes!”

And it’s true. The dynamics that we experience in certain relationships can become habitually destructive when they turn into a perceived need in our lives.The feelings of comfort, security, value, and acceptance are among the top nutrients that feed and nurture a co-idolatrous relationship. Those things are evil in and of themselves! But when they become the reason we are relating to someone, a people addiction could be at work.

And in my own journey of seeking to run to Jesus from my people idolatry, I’ve come to see how similar people addiction is to food addiction. With this post, I’ll present some initial thoughts, and then I’ll follow up with more ponderings on how cravings for food and for people are more alike than different!

  • People, or relationships, and food are good gifts from God. (James 1:17)
  • We can’t just give up people or food; we are called to live in community and, well, we need food to survive! Romans 12:9-10 speaks to our call to be involved in relationships.
  • Both can become a ‘feel good’ substitute for Jesus, a way to soothe heart pain.
  • By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we must learn to live in holy moderation of these good gifts, not clinging to the created thing in a way that only the Creator is worthy of.
Updated 5.12.2017

I frequently talk with women who are struggling, hurting, or confused because either one particular relationship, or many relationships with other women, have resulted in obsessive, entangling captivity. It’s been a pattern of relating since they were young or, as an adult, a relationship grew to something that seemed to control them in a destructive way.

John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #14 has a line that expresses the answer to why the experience of women being enthralled with each other will never work: “Except you enthrall me, never shall [I] be free.” The craving to be enthralled by someone, the driving desire to have your heart filled up by the emotional and perhaps physical connection with another woman is evidence of your heart being created to worship! Yes, God has created us to worship, to be fully, wholeheartedly enthralled with Another, with One: Jesus Christ. John Donne had it right: Unless we find our deepest satisfaction, comfort, and security in him, we will not be free, and our relationships will be unenthralling more often than not!

Women seeking life in other women—emotionally, sexually, mentally—rather than in Jesus have at least two things in common: They are deeply loved by Jesus who wants to bring freedom and life to their hearts through him. Also, they will continue to experience the ‘captivity of creation’ until they seek life in the Creator.

Do you need a safe place to talk about your struggles, temptations, questions, and hurts in these areas? If so, call us here at Harvest USA. We warmly invite you and will seek to be a safe place for you to process your relational world! Jesus Christ is your Hope, Haven, and Help.

Updated 5.19.2017

Hello again friend, wanted to share a few more thoughts with you since the post a few weeks ago. Jesus really is your real and present Savior and Deliverer for any area of sin struggle, including your addiction to porn. But how does he deliver us? Should you say a prayer and then make a New Years Resolution in the next days as 2009 rolls in? Should you resolve to just not look anymore…no more clicks that will lead to those sites?

Of course prayer and resolve to walk in obedience are wise and holy steps, but I want to share a few steps of wisdom that I trust will lead you to the hope that is yours in Christ for freedom. The hope we have in Jesus, is so much more powerful than a desperate resolution made in our own strength. Consider the following and then step forward in faith friend…it is supremely worth it as true freedom can happen in your soul as you walk into 2009 with Christ!

1) Walk in the light (1 John 1:5-9, James 5:16). We are not meant to walk in a “me and Jesus” kind of Christianity. Of course, a personal and intimate one-to-one relationship with Jesus is foundational to our faith, but he calls us to walk with him as a body, as a family of believers. It is hugely significant that for starters, you confess your struggle to someone who is a) wise believer, b) will pray for you and c) will check in on you.

2) Trust Christ to provide a way out of temptation today and in the days to come (1 Corinthians 10:13-14). God is calling you to a radical faith and radical obedience and He promises to provide escape for you, but you must look for it and walk in it!

3) Pray for and seek out help for the deeper work of discipleship, healing, and repentance that needs to happen in your heart. (Jeremiah 17:5-9, Psalm 107:20, Psalm 147:3) Jesus knows that your heart has brokenness and needs not only spiritual sight but also healing. Your pornography addiction does not define you friend, and it is not “you.” It is however the fruit of messiness that is happening in your heart. Somehow, someway the porn that you’ve invited into your life is “working” for you, it’s providing comfort, escape, pain-smothering…something. You are seeking life and escape in creation rather than your Creator. Why you are doing this and the crooked patterns of coping with life that have grown in your heart over time need the balm of God’s Word applied to it. Through a mature friend, a pastor, a counselor, a woman in ministry leadership at your church, you need to invite someone to help you. You cannot do this alone!

4) Take steps to starve the flesh and to feed the Spirit. This phrase comes from Bible teacher Beth Moore. The idea comes from Galatians 6:7-8 and Romans 8:5-8. We are always sowing seeds and a harvest is always coming in. You’ve sown a lot of seeds into what the Bible calls your “flesh,” or the selfish nature that is a part of all of us. We all do it in various ways and the path of becoming more like Jesus and free from sin entanglements will be a process of increasingly sowing to the Spirit and godliness, rather than to our flesh.

How, where, when are you tempted to turn to porn? When you are alone? Tired? Lonely? Anxious? Sad? Your lunch hour at work or when the kids go to school…or to bed? How are you handling your new cell phone with Internet? Do you use the church computer that has no filter on it? You need to do a radical 1 Corinthians 10:14 and flee from the situations that trigger you to turn to porn and instead begin looking for Christ’s way out, and to feast on him and the Word. Having others in your life who will “lovingly meddle” is crucial. Do you have anyone in your life who will ask you if you’ve been viewing? If you’ve been setting yourself up for temptation?

5) Practice soaking upon and praying God’s Word (Psalm 138:1-3). God uses his Word to cleanse and transform our minds and our desires. Over and over in his Word, he commands us to actively relating to Scripture through study, meditation, considering, teaching, and speaking it to others. It is the only book that is actually ‘alive’ with the power of God to bring change to our hearts and the way we think, feel, live, relate, deal with life. I strongly recommend Praying God’s Word, written by Beth Moore. I use this prayer tool all the time in my ministry with women who are seeking to be free from all kinds of sexual sin and entanglement. Pornography easily becomes a firmly entrenched stronghold in our lives and strongholds are called that because they have a strong hold on our hearts. 

Strongholds will only topple down through a radical surrender to Christ!
 Friend, 2009 can be a year of new beginnings for you, of freedom from sin and of healing for your hurting heart. Christ offers a hope that is true and free, that is yours as you turn to him in surrender and dependence. Don’t resolve to make 2009 a year of trying to make yourself better…it won’t work because we cannot heal our own hearts! Turn to Jesus with your pain and your desperate neediness…He is waiting and he is able to deliver you with true hope…himself!


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