Notice: Undefined variable: show_stats in /home/content/18/7126518/html/blog/wp-content/plugins/stats/stats.php on line 1384
ESP 23 The hidden “family rules” that have shaped you (and still impact your life)

ESP 23 The hidden “family rules” that have shaped you (and still impact your life)

familyfightDid this ever happen to you? You think the way your family (of origin) does something is normal, and then, suddenly, you find out it isn’t?

Usually, this happens when you form close relationships outside your family of origin. Fireworks can ensue!

How your family dealt with conflicts, problems, shame, secrets, and tragedies shaped you and learning relational and loyalty dynamics from the previous generations in your family can bring relational repair, health, and hope.


That’s what today’s show is about. I’m glad you can listen, today.


Today’s guest is graduate school professor and marriage and family therapist in private clinical practice, Janet Stauffer, Ph.D.



Dean of Students, Evangelical Seminary

Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy

In addition to her work at the seminary and her clinical practice, Janet is vice president of the Board of Directors at Philhaven Behavioral Healthcare facility. She has led retreats, presented at professional conferences, and published articles in a number of journals. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and approved supervisor and clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. She also holds membership in the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. Her research interests include genuine meeting through dialogical engagement, loyalty dynamics between and across the generations of the family, and the intersection of faith and therapy.





Each person is born with an inherent longing to connect.


Early childhood experiences shape who we are and how we relate to others.

Our ancestors deliver ways of being to us across generations:


What can be done if the early years weren’t filled with dysfunction and problems?


How relationship can alter the wiring and re-patterning of the brain.


Jim Coen, UVA – The Hand holding experiment.


In close relationships, we end up feeling–not only are you here with me–but somehow you are me. Somehow we are here together.


Before we can help others, we have to be open to ourselves and our own healing. Our wounds can remain as vulnerabilities and our greatest resource.


“I because who I am through my relationships with other people, so that more of me gets called forth as I respond to others in my world around me.”


The still face experiment:


“Foo-Poo” (FOO = Family of Origin) influences our current relationships.


The interconnectedness and “loyalty dynamics” between and across the generations and how during all our interactions we are holding something that has been passed down across generations and in the larger cultural dynamics.


Example from life (Janet, her husband and the Ford Fiesta). Naming the truth in our interactions and being curious about what we hold from generations before us.


Janet explored what anger was like for her mother and grandmother and discovered not just a family secret and the shame that was carried on, but also a a family norm relating to how pain is dealt with.


Family secrets and ways of interacting waiting like land mines that can sabotage our other relationships.


We can also end up carrying or holding visibly or invisibly things that our spouse (or other close relationships) hold as well.


There are options for growth and healing if we can be open, aware, curious and can find courage to turn and face [the other] and remember where our weakness are and admit them.


The power of naming what is happening for us emotionally.


“Honoring my personal truth, personal awareness, my being, and made a claim for myself has a profound impact in my own knowing.”


“Every one of us experiences terror at the thought of finding the courage to turn and face the other in a painful situation at some point in our life.”


A defend or fight mode should be superseded by the prevailing message “You and I are on the team team ultimately. We have a reason to connect and I long for you. But it’s been hard between and here’s something of how it’s been for me… and I want to know what it’s like for you.”


Yet, we cannot think what we say will always help because we cannot guarantee the other person’s response. So there is vulnerability in saying the truth.


Being calm, curious and compassionate even in the face of wounds and vulnerability.


Emotionally self-regulating and contending with emotional triggers.


(In marriage or close relationships) Learning self and other in a whole new way…in a kind of sacred space to grow through the most tender places that we hold.


Telling the other what would help in what feels like an unsafe place emotionally.


Learning to soothe one another.


On core lies we can believe about ourselves.


Honoring when emotional safety is just as important as physical safety.


What to do when it’s not safe to have important conversations.


Martin Buber-We live with an armor around us and bands around our heart and being closed off and unaware and unaddressed.


Asking questions of ourselves to create more awareness and realizing our thoughts and memories are not us.


We limit our imagination about the capacity each of us holds to respond the other, the world around us and ourself.


We can test our assumptions and plant seeds that bring new possibilities for ourself and others.


When we can’t yet name or isolate our feelings.


Giving permission and a soft demand to know what is going on with someone else and helping them find their voice.


The biblical tradition of the garden where God says “Where art thou?” a story about hiding. God’s longing for humankind.


King David in the psalms is modeling openness and receptivity…asking “What is in my heart?” “Who am I?” “What do I hold?”


Being open and still safe. Giving yourself warm, regard, and leaving the self-judgment out.

“Judgment limits the knowing.”


Being present to and growing in recognition of “here’s what I hold” or “here’s what freezes me” etc and asking “how can I be more free?” and then exploring new pathways and practices that go somewhere.


On the spiritual practices and things can people do to move forward.


These ways of understanding what it is to connect, grow and be human are universal and offer hope to those with varied religious tradition and no religious affiliation too.


The spiritual and the Other when it is not defined as “God”.


“God doesn’t limit God’s self to the church or the synagogue or the mosque and we can never fully describe God because God cannot be contained and is always more than what I can fathom or grasp”


Asking, “How do I understand the call before me and how do I invite others and find the place where they are experiencing call and longing and where is this work happening within them. What is being invited forth?”


How we can pass down the best of our generational dynamics and loyalties to our children.


On the invisible family rule of perfectionism and how it made Janet think she could be the perfect parent and how that idea was shattered.


How she approached her son after that point to understand what he was experiencing and being surprised by his reply.


We can never get it all right, but we can be willing to go to our child and ask them about their experience.


Inviting others to know themselves in whatever capacity to do that they can and hold what they say with care and honor.


Enacting moments and accumulating themes and transactions and happenings and asking “Is their a burden they carry or an injury of disregard or diminishment that was not theirs to carry?” which deserve address and caring and honor.


On having a commit to “I will be there for you, and I will be here for me, and I invite you to be here for me,” is a profound act that helps us for the long run.


Despite our efforts, outcomes are not guaranteed and each person has an opportunity to respond uniquely.

RESOURCES for further discovery:

Please subscribe to the Spark My Muse newsletter (HERE) to know about upcoming shows and new things in the works!

Think anyone else might appreciate the show? Please share it with that special someone! :)


Special “Ask Sparky” Episode: Responses to 5 Burning Question

Special “Ask Sparky” Episode: Responses to 5 Burning Question

Will you help support the show?
You can help me pay the bills by purchasing this useful and encouraging book!

(Already read it or feeling a bit more generous? Please use the donate button  (see left column) to contribute to the show. Help me make awesome things for your ears to hear each week. Much Love & Thank you! ~L)

Here, just the Father's beard could wipe out planet Earth
(Hey, God doesn’t have a body.)

Shownotes for the Special “Ask Sparky” Episode: Responses to 5 Burning Questions


1. It’s hard to pray to God as Father when you’ve had a bad dad. What should I do?

• How do we think about God? (usually like a human person or institution)

• God is Spirit not an old white man in the sky with a long beard.

What adjectives will help you connect with the Being typically called “God”


Hebrew word for God is a description too (yahweh “I am” a verb) that was not used. Adonai  was substituted and that simply means “Master/Lord” and is a term of respect.


It’s misguided to think that God can be contained or described well using a “Proper Noun”. God can’t be called a proper name/noun…like “Billy” (and that would make Jesus “Billy Jr.”).

Hebrew names are descriptive when referring to people (not how we use names to address people today).


YAHWEH (Hebrew word), means I AM (or “is”) and works like a verb denoting Presence an Love in Action. It defies typical proper names and descriptions.


2. On Forgiveness

“What should I do to forgive when I can’t forget?”


Forgiving is a continual process.

Thinking of forgiveness as transactional–a debt clearing mechanism. Be an accountant and don’t worry about your emotions being on the same page.


Remembering that you are not your thoughts.


What Justice is actually (Shalom). Making things right and reconciliation.


3. What to do about envying others (in this case writers in the field) and being jealous of their success.


Seeing the negative emotions as tools. Reframing them to use them to find our calling, gifts, and passions.


Not getting caught up in “should” and “oughts” and comparisons.


When you can say of your work, “Wow, I get to do this!” you can have enough gratitude to be comfortable with the success of others.


It’s common and normal to get feelings of jealousy. It’s only when the take over our hearts and mind do we need to reevaluate and recalibrate what we are doing and thinking.


Deciding that the options of other people and the opinions should have huge power is a choice we can change.


4. Getting over feeling guilt and shame that keeps resurfacing.

Daring Greatly Brene Brown (the difference between guilt and shame.

• Guilt is important so we can learn and correct and grow and become better people.

• Shame is a belief that something, un fixable, is wrong with you.

Shame whispers lies in your ears. Shame becomes a decision of who we are as person.


Being put to shame by parents and others.


A mistake isn’t part of who you are.

Redemption is always possible. You can start anew.


My caveat.


5. Church isn’t working for me anymore and I feel guilty leaving the church, but I don’t feel fed.

In the U.S. we often go to church as a consumers and look for what we can get out of it. Church can be piss poor.


Look for ways to give and minister and find connection in other ways.


For me, small groups were a starting point that lead me to seminary.


Bringing back the potluck and sharing life with people.


Sometimes we sense church isn’t “working” when meaningful connection is lacking.


“we” is better than “me”.

Thank you for listening and sharing the show with others. If you’ve gotten an enjoyment from Spark My Muse, come back every Wednesday for something new, or save your mental energy and subscribe!


Episode 21 (PART II Tom Reynolds) “Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”

Episode 21 (PART II Tom Reynolds) “Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”

Will you help support the show?
You can help me pay the bills by purchasing this useful and encouraging book!


Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds, PhD


Shownotes: PART II
A conversation with Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, author Tom Reynolds


Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, and his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

His recent Articles


MIN 00:30

Tom on Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.


How would Tom, as a theologian answer the question, “Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disabled and encounter such suffering?”


The Why questions and the answers are messy, ongoing, and evolving. These answers are limited and open to ongoing revision.


Reframing needed. Question the question and its suppositions about seeing suffering first and foremost as the issue.


If we are pitying a disabled person and seeing them how we would interpret suffering, we might be off base.


Exclusion as suffering. Social suffering is something we can alleviate as the church or community.


Tom on the central questions of Theodicy.


What would a good world be? Interdependent and that holds up the preciousness and fragility of life and human experience as valuable. Good things can be fragile things.


Does God cause suffering and determine it? Maybe it’s (all) unfolding for us in mysterious ways.


Book of John, chapter 9: The man born blind.

Who sinned? (disciples of Jesus thinking of blindness as a curse)

So the glory of God can be revealed. (What might that mean that we haven’t understood yet. [Lisa])

The story is less about curing the disabled and more about reveal Jesus’ power and legitimacy as the Messiah.


NT Wright author of Evil and the Justice of God

(on the Problem of Evil)

• God as the Incarnation steps into human suffering as a means to assuage it and also, in that, provides us a model for how to encounter it in the world ourselves, practically speaking.

The answers to suffering can become “incarnational”, not cerebral and (held) at a distance.


The why questions signal a (good) unsettledness which can be productive…


1. God is bigger than our questions and we should feel free to engage in dialogue with God and each other about God.

2. And because it calls us to live into the world and the lives of people will engage who ask, “Where are you?” and we can be there in presence and not (just) with answers.



(The heart of Incarnational living.)


In many cases God’s own presence is us to each other.


“Care isn’t so much “doing for” but “being with”.”


1 in 5 families regularly encounters a serious disability of some kind.


We (as a family) chose to continue to come to church even though it was sometimes messy so he (and everyone) could figure out how to make it work. (Lisa)


How can people in Christian Communities or leaders in Christian communities do better when it comes to being truly hospitable  and caring well for people with disabilities.


Training ministers to come along side is important.


In his mission and intro to Theology class, what is framed is practical wisdom lived out in relationships of caring regard with other people. (not in the academic halls or in isolation).


On developing the perception to see/understand differently and to see places where people have been harmed by certain ways of seeing these…like the healing narratives…illness as curses from God, or metaphors of seeing and hearing language and attitudes (able-ism) for example.


How to show consideration:

Asking before you assist someone. Or asking how you can best help and not presuming that you know (or know better).

Listen first, then do.


Ministry doesn’t have to be deficit-focused to the “needy”…but rather possibility focused.

As all people of resources and gifts [are] welcome among the community…this turns things upside-down.


Think of people as sites of wisdom that help a community of belonging.


1 Cor 12:25

Members having the same care for one another. All can care and contribute.

Living out the image of God with shared affinity.


Transformative and vulnerable communion within our communities…being together.


[There is] dignity in participation. (Lisa)

Allowing people to serve along side means that we are equal.


Equality isn’t sameness. Difference doesn’t mean a hierarchy.


(Tom) Music is my therapeutic other life.


A Call for Help!
Will you help me meet my goal of raising $1,000.00 in August to keep Spark My Muse going? Use the Donate button on the left sidebar. Thank you for listening!

Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Episode 20 – Puncturing the Illusions of our own Ableism and Flawed Ideas of Normal (with Tom Reynolds) part 1

Tom Reynolds
Tom Reynolds, PhD


Shownotes: PART I
A conversation (in 2 parts) with

the author of Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, by practical theologian Tom Reynolds


Tom joined the Emmanuel College (part of the University of Toronto) faculty in 2007. He is committed to an interdisciplinary, practical, and relational vision of theology, his teaching and research address a range of topics related to constructive theology (particularly the doctrine of God and theological anthropology), theological method, intercultural and interfaith engagements, contextual theologies and globalization, philosophical theology, disability studies, and the thought and influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

His recent Articles


MIN 4:00

Incorporating the theology of disability into his work training pastors at Emmanuel Seminary, because theology is personal, and not disconnected from the real world concerns of the church and people living their lives.


About his son Chris sparking his interest and work in the theology of disability.

5:30 Learning that disability isn’t a problem to figure out, but rather it’s about a person who I love and live with, and care with and for, which radically reoriented my perspective on theology.


Disability and God’s Providence

(Questioning does God “cause” disability as a curse or opportunity for healing…or a kind of moral lesson…)


His son exploded the theological categories (and assumptions) pertain to Providence…making everything confusing and needing to be re-thought.


What is abnormal? What is “faulty” humanity?

Amos Yong, Hans Reinders, John Swinton writing on the topic too.


Tom details the new book on the Theology of Care which builds on the first book.


Some churches stress Cure over Care in terms of disability.


(Lisa) My visit to a church where the leadership was interested in healing my son from his non normative experience of the world.


The range of responses churches have when encountering people with disabilities.

The  church’s “urge to cure” is better than outright exclusion, which plenty of families have encountered.


It comes from the the idea of remaking and fixing someone in a way that is more comfortable for non disable people and normalcy (what they consider normal). Not helpful or Christian.


About the church that didn’t want his son as a disruption and a church that did receive them.


“How can we help you?” was water for his parched soul. How the church accepted and welcomed the uniqueness of his son.


Hospitality vs. a narrow view of what is preferred.


The messiness of various kinds of people, in general, means we have to expand our view of grace.


Who gets to be a full-fledge member of the church community?

and the “mascot syndrome” for those with disabilities.

16:30 – 17:50

Levels and types of responses:

• Tolerate disabled, but they do not get to be a true part of the church.

• “Inclusion” sometimes means means the the “outsiders” get invites to the inside group based on the good graces of the in group, but are still treated as problems to be solved, or people that are to receive the gestures of charity from others (people for whom things are “done for (them”)”. Doing for instead of “being with”.


What is access? In is not just accommodations (i.e. ramps and special bathrooms) and alterations but ongoing…

Faith communities may be not expecting and not ready to receive those with disabilities.


It’s not an issue about outsiders, because disability extend to a broad range of issues, both visible and not visible, including mental health challenges that are already there.


Thinking of the word “BELONGING”

as in “to be longed for when you aren’t there in the fullest sense.”

John Swinton and belonging


Jean Vanier “In giving and receiving do we really thrive as people”


Unconscious bias that includes “fear of the stranger” and “fear of the stranger within”.


We fear weakness and vulnerability.


Before “mainstream”…the stigma of “retard”…and fearing and disposing weakness.


Nathan means gift. (Lisa) I learned that I had to recognize weaknesses (shortcomings) in myself the I saw reflected in my son…and communities can do the same type of thing unconsciously.


“The encounter with disability punctures the illusions of what we think of as our own strengths.”


The journey with a child with disabilities is isolating.


Societal epidemic that fears being vulnerable or perceived as weak or unable to perform in ways that are considered valuable by society.


We have to see what are myths about autonomy, independence, and productivity where are assume we are self-reliant and these qualities are prized so highly. “Able-ism” (The idea that being able in body and mind is normal and most vital which serves as the lens by which we see and judge the world and others outside those parameters as faulty.)


Tom’s latest work called “A spirituality of attentiveness”. Christianity: St Paul’s strength in weakness serves as a prophetic witness against a society that prizes the strong as the main thing of value. 1 Corinthinians pretense of strength undercuts our ideas of grace)


We are all only temporarily-abled. (Lisa).


On hearing “You must be so blessed to have a disabled person as a teacher.” Is this sometimes a reframing of the situation that spins the situation to be more palatable? A glossing with spiritual truths and making it about spiritual growth.


Instead, Chris’s life seeks its own flourishes, and he may at times function as a teacher.


Thoughts on intellectual ability (or inability) and belief in terms of Salvation.

God’s works God’s own path in different ways and in different capacities with people. This undercuts my arrogance (as a theologian), so I don’t think I can so easily map it out definitively and universal for all people in all places.


His son’s atheism (who is the God he doesn’t believe in)…and how that challenges our presuppositions about God.


“It is in the kind of relationships of mutual belonging that the full image of God is borne out.”


(Lisa) To my son I said, “when you see someone who is loving you, you are seeing God.”

(Lisa) On how I changed from thinking “right belief” as the way to understand God was central. Our intellectualizing what God has done is not salvific.


Martin Luther’s theology of the Cross:

The pretense that we know exactly where God is and how God works. Where God is most hidden is where God is most vividly revealed in saving ways.


“Who I am to declare that God’s grace only works in some ways? and the God’s capacity and God’s own mystery is limited to what I would deem and my community would deem adequate.”


What the practical theology of disability tells us about Grace with God and relationships with others.


“The longer I live and work as a theologian the more I realize the limitations of theology and the true infinite mysteries of God.”

Jesus was disruptive to religious pretense and suppositions. “You say this..but I say this…”

Theodicy – The question of why does God allow suffering and how should we think about suffering.

How Tom, as a theologian, answers the question,
“Why would a sovereign God allow a person to be born disable and encounter such suffering?” (This is great!)

The best is yet to come! Come back for part II next week.

Will you help me meet my goal of raising $100.00 in August to keep Spark My Muse going? Use the Donate button on the left sidebar. Thank you for being a big ball of love!

Episode 18 – Nicole Unice is “Brave Enough” AND so are you!

Episode 18 – Nicole Unice is “Brave Enough” AND so are you!

Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice is on staff at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia, and the author of the breakout book: “She’s Got Issues” which she wrote from her counseling and ministry experiences. The book produced and encouraged a refreshing and radical honesty that she’s built on in her new book “Brave Enough”.

Enjoy the Shownotes and links below and please share this with friends that you know CAN be “Brave Enough“. Thanks for listening!




P.S. Would you like to get a special, cozy Spark My Muse t-shirt?

Let me know HERE.



Get  Brave Enough or find out more here:

Like to listen instead of reading? Get the AUDIO book here.

Shownotes – Episode 18 Nicole Unice is honest, enthusiastic, and “Brave Enough”, so you can be too.


MIN 1:10

Nicole on staff at Hope Church

on the Richmond VA place and new midtown location.



Nicole’s podcasting experience (the Becoming Podcast) doing hundreds of episodes with her pastor doing 15 minutes shows for commuters.

Lisa asks: Is “campus” a Christian code word for mega church?


How she grew with Hope Church for 18 years, as they started out small in an elementary school “cafetorium”.


The “Youth Lodge” plans and the unique setting with wetlands and hills.


On the importance of Beauty, Setting, and Art in architecture and church building planning to evoke the imagination, inspire awe, and connect with the heart.


Collaborative workspace, and place where kids can do their homework and where people can enjoy the time away in a beautiful setting.


“artist come through the side door of the soul and preachers come through the front door.”


The history of the church and Christian tradition is one where the Church is source of beauty, wonder and connected to art because God is a the Creator.


Her first book: She’s Got Issues

6 main issues women (and men) face that can be a hinderance.

A rich relationship with God can come to a dead end as the ways we do life stop working.


How was it received? The #1 thing Nicole heard was, “You’re so honest.”

Why would honesty be such a revolution in Christianity?


She leaned into that for her next book “Brave Enough”


The story of how she got the title for the book:

To the question, “Do you think you can be brave?” Lucy Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia says, “I think I can be brave enough.”


Few women will self-identify as brave. [and not many men will either]

“After we identify the hinderances, what does it look like to walk forward in freedom?”


Brave Enough is about Grace and its effects, inside and in action.


Nicole answering the question: Do men have the same problems in this area?


“Women hearing teaching from women is like hearing in your first language.”


Ways Nicole leads and teaches men.


on how women have to translate teaching from men into their “language” and context.


On how, similarly, Brené Brown was challenged (by a man) to include men in her writing and teaching. (Lisa)


How men and women have similar vulnerabilities though they might deal with them differently.


“up speak” tones in language in women and men revealing different insecurities. (Lisa)


Nuggets from the Brave Enough book:

How the ingredients mixed into something she didn’t expect. It follows a narrative “arch of the heart”. How we can be full and free and confident in life.


on why (inner) freedom is illusive for men and women.

On “Fake Grace” in our head. (the excuses we make or how we blame others). Inviting God/Jesus into those places.


We all (default) and go back to rules and laws and how to short circuit that pattern.

It’s about resetting the heart with a new spiritual reality.


Radical honesty about our ugly parts inside the heart.


Nicole’s Parable: The violently stopping of the elevator door…(and how it relates to our soul).


Open ourselves to God’s Presence and healing.


(Lisa) God uses what bothers us about other people is a mirror of what we don’t like in ourselves.


How our baggage works to impede our progress.

Brave Enough includes major parts on forgiveness


God’s breathing on us and giving us the mission of forgiveness, first.

(Click to read the reference John 20:19-23)


When we keep living out of a wounded place.


How we continue categorizing our experiences to support our false and faulty premises and hypothesis about ourselves.


Questioning what is really true about ourselves (and the mental “tapes” we play).


God gives us opportunities to practices forgiveness every single day, often in small ways in the relationships and event of regular life.


If we can’t be gracious to ourselves we can’t be gracious with others.


The economy of our heart: if we forgive little then we love little.


(Nicole asks Lisa) “What have you learned in doing podcasting?”


We have the chance to never stop growing and transforming and God never gives up on us.


Brave Enough is also an AUDIO book. Find it here.


Did you like the show?

Please share it or otherwise support Spark My Muse!

Want to extend the good times and answer the question of the day?

What “bad/negative tape” do you have playing in your head most often?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

The Spark Store is the place to find the NEW Soul School COURSES. The first one starts in May! Dismiss