Immanuel, God with us

February 19, 2014

A method for connecting to God

At the end of our Life Model classes we almost always close by doing a simple Immanuel exercise. Immanuel means “God with us” and this approach to prayer is based on the awareness that Jesus is with us. He never leaves for forsakes us. This approach was developed by Dr. Karl Lehman who writes on his website ( that “Thousands of professionals and lay people around the world are applying the Immanuel approach to deepen intimacy with God, permanently resolve past pain, and discern God’s ongoing guidance.”

According to Lehman, one of the important distinctions of this approach is that we are not connecting to God to relieve pain; rather we are coming to Him to simply be with Him.  The primary objective is to remove barriers between our heart and Him.  We are wanting to learn how to have a living, interactive connection with Jesus by focusing on Him and engaging directly with Him at every point in the session.

Many have asked, “Can I do these exercises on my own?”  The answer is yes, though many people find them easier to do in a group because in a group you share capacity for joy. So if your joy capacity is low, you will benefit from having others with with higher capacity with you. Having said that, your goal can—and should be—to learn to connect to God alone so you can continually practice His presence.  The more you practice these exercises the easier they get, like learning to play the piano or speak Spanish.

The first step is to pray for protection.

Here is a simple prayer:  Lord Jesus, we commit ourselves to you, and we ask that you would push back any cosmic or demonic interference today and allow everyone present to experience a clear connection with you without interference or retaliation of any kind. We trust you, our Sovereign God to make it safe here today for us to experience your true presence, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Invite the Holy Spirit to come by saying simply, “Come, Holy Spirit, have your way!”

The next step is to quiet and relax. As you practice these exercises you will learn what helps you quiet and relax, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Get in a comfortable position.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly using your diaphragm, not your chest.  It helps to place a hand on your tummy so you can feel it moving slowly in and out.
  • Starting at the top of your head, scan your body for tension and relax any place that is tight. Pay close attention to eyes, jaw, shoulders, and stomach or any part of you that feels tense. You can simply relax any tight areas or tighten those muscles, hold them for a second and then relax. I like to roll my eyes, a technique Beth Cuje taught me because our eyes can become locked when stressed. Be sure to relax your jaw and drop your shoulders.
  • Yawn.  Arching your soft palate, the soft area at the back of the roof of your mouth, may help you yawn.
  • Focus on taking your energy level down a notch, then do it again until all the background buzz has subsided.

The third step is to focus on a memory of a time when you sensed a close connection to God.  Here again are some ideas to get you started:

  •  Think of a previous time when you felt a strong connection to Jesus.  Recall that time and focus on it. Try to be in the memory and remember how your body and emotions felt. Look for Him; see if you can perceive His presence. Expect Him to be there.
  • If you don’t have a memory of a time when you felt close to God, think of something you appreciate, for example, a person, pet, fruit, or flower. I like to focus on natural beauty, such as sunset, snow falling, flowers in spring, the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. As we feel gratitude we connect with the One who gave us those good things. Avoid things you are addicted to as well as any relationship that is a cause for concern. Try to find something for which you can experience pure gratitude to God.
  • Rest in His presence for at least three minutes. Jim Wilder a neurotheologian with Life Model Works says we need three minutes of connecting to God for our brains to become elastic and open.

Joy Building Questions

Here are some questions you can ask while connected to God that will encourage joyful interactions:

  • Lord, what do You love about me?
  • When You formed me in the womb, what were You excited about?
  • Would You sing over me?
  • Can we do something fun together?
  • Is there anything You want me to know?
  • Is there something on Your heart that You want to share with me?
  • When you think of me what are You happy (or proud) about?
  • Would You show me something wonderful?
  • Would You show me something beautiful?

Processing Pain

Once you have experienced a strong connection for 3-5 minutes you can use this method to process pain. Do not try to process pain if you have not first succeeded in establishing a strong place of connection with God first.

Give your peaceful connection place a name such as Jesus, mangos, water, nature, trees, prayer, the Grand Canyon—whatever you choose.  This will help anchor your connection place in your brain and help you return to it if you need to while processing pain.

Spend several minutes connected to God, asking questions that build joy.

When ready, ask Jesus to take you to a place where you do not perceive His presence.  Places where we do not perceive His presence are often painful so it helps to go with Him. Pay close attention to your body and emotions. While you are in the place of connection you can ask Him questions, such as:

  • What do You want me to know here?
  • What am I missing?
  • How do You see this situation?
  • How do You see this person?

If at any point in processing the painful memory it becomes too overwhelming or painful, return to the place of connection by recalling the name you gave it and enjoy being with Jesus again.

Once you have reestablished a strong connection with Him, you can try to look at the painful place again. Here are two ways that may make it less overwhelming:

Trying looking at the painful place as if viewing it through a port hole

Ask God to show you the big picture–His point of view. You may need to go back and forth several times between the painful memory and your place of joyful connection to God. That’s okay. In fact every time you go from the place of pain to the place of joyful connection with Jesus, you strengthen your brain’s ability to get from pain to joy.

The goal is to process the painful memory until the painful emotion has been resolved and you see the situation from God’s perspective. Sometimes this means that we see that our experience was horribly painful, but we also see that it is behind us and did not last long in the light of eternity.

Remember the goal is to be with our Lord Jesus and remove anything that hinders our intimacy with Him, not through performance but by being in His presence.  Do not be in a hurry; there is nothing more important than spending time with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Invite Him to reveal barriers to intimacy. Invited Him to show you where you are stuck. Be honest and real with Him about how your truly feel, not how you think you ought to feel.

Lehman writes: Our goal is to “get to the place where we perceive the Lord’s presence, and abide in an interactive connection with Jesus, as our usual, normal, baseline condition as we walk through life each day.”

The top priority is intimacy with God.

Trouble Shooting

Anything you hear from the Lord should be consistent with what we read in scripture.  It is good to share what you are hearing with a spiritually mature friend.  Doing Immanuel is not a substitute for Bible study, quiet time with God, prayer or fellowship with other believers. We need to be in community with other saints who can speak into our lives.

Problems connecting with God usually have to do with what we believe. Since God is always with us and wants to connect with us, the problems are all on our end. But that does not mean he has left us alone and is waiting for us to figure it out. He is right here with us ready to help. In his book, Forming: A Work of Grace, David Takle writes, “When we can discern that there is a barrier between us and God, the best thing to do, paradoxically, is ask God what we need to know about that barrier.  Surprisingly, very often when we cannot hear what God has to say about a passage of Scripture, we can hear what we need to know about what is blocking the connection”

If you have trouble connecting, pay attention to your feelings and thoughts. Also pay attention to spontaneous words, thoughts, images, and impressions.

Here are some common lies:

  • He won’t speak to me, I am not important.
  • He doesn’t love me. He never speaks to me.
  • God is disappointed with me and therefore won’t speak to me.
  • I’m too ___________ for God to want to interact with me.
  • God talks to other people, but not me.

Ask yourself, do I believe that God wants to connect with me and is always with me?

When I think about connecting with Him, what feelings and beliefs stir up?

Am I afraid of Him?

Am I angry with Him?

When we are angry we don’t want to draw near to God because we believe He is to blame for our pain.  If we are afraid we might want to ask Him to help us feel safe or even ask Him directly, Lord are You safe? Is there anything You want to tell me here?

With any painful emotion it often helps to tell God out loud how you feel. Pour out your heart to Him. Be completely honest about what you feel, even if you think it is “not right.”  He knows and understands. Then be still and listen. Pay close attention to His response. Let Him acknowledge what you feel, then ask Him to give you His perspective.

If you are sad, remember that He bears our sin and our sorrow. We can always give God our sorrows. Simply tell Him what is making you sad, and then ask Him to lift the sorrow off of you. Surrender whatever you are willing to give Him.  Then let Him give you something in exchange.

If you are afraid, spending time with Him can take away the fear.

We are his children. He wants to be with us. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).

If you remain stuck, consider making an appointment for prayer with trained prayer ministers. The Falls Church offers healing prayer. Information is on their website. Apostles offer Theophostic Prayer Ministry sessions at our Healing Center. Appointments can be made at our website:



Anxious? Upset? Angry? Relational Circuits and how to get them back on

October 27, 2013

I continue to be impressed with Karl Lehman’s book, Outsmarting Yourself, Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do About It.  Karl is the psychiatrist in Chicago who developed the Immanuel method which we use to connect with God and process pain. According to Karl, there is specific circuitry in the brain that is active when we are relational.  When we are relational we feel connected to others and we want that connection. When our emotional intensity stays within the limits of our capacity, we are able to engage well with others and stay relational.  When the intensity or duration of an emotion exceeds our capacity, we become overwhelmed and we lose the ability to stay relational to varying degrees. This is like plugging too many appliances into an electrical circuit.  If we exceed the capacity, we will trip the circuit and electricity no longer flows.  In the same way we can overload our relational circuits. Healing increases our capacity so as we heal we should be able to stay engaged at higher and higher levels of intensity without becoming overwhelmed. Capacity is limited (except for God) but it can grow throughout our lifetime.

Many factors can reduce capacity. One of the primary ways is lack of sleep. We’ve all experienced how hard it is to deal with even minor bumps in life when we are tired.

There will be times when situations exceed your relational capacity. It is okay. But it is really good for us to be aware when this is happening so we can get our circuits back online.  The circuits affect all of our relationships including our ability to connect with God and people.  By now all of you who are familiar with Theophostic Prayer Ministry will recognize that having your circuits off is similar to being triggered.

In his book Karl outlines an objective way of recognizing when your relational circuits are fading or going off. How many of you have gotten into an argument with a spouse or friend about who was more triggered?  It’s you! No, it you!  Well here is an objective way to know if you are triggered.

When you are upset ask yourself:

1.  Do I feel connected to ____________? (Fill in the name of the person involved).

2.  Do I want to be connected to ________?

3.  Do I experience them as unique, valuable, relational beings?

4.  Am I aware of their true hearts?

5.  Do I feel compassionate concern regarding what they are thinking and feeling?

6.  Do I want to offer attunement? (More on this below)

7.  Am I able to offer attunement?

8.  Am I free of judgment?

9.  Do I experience their presence as a source of joy? (As opposed to a problem to be solved or a resource to be used).

10.  Am I glad to be with them?

11.  Am I comfortable making eye contact with them? (Other than angry glaring).

12.  Am I flexible and creative (as opposed to rigid and unable to think outside the box) with respect to thoughts and behavioral options?

13.  Am I patient and tolerant (or impatient, intolerant and irritable)?

14.  Do I perceive others as allies, and want to join, explore, understand and collaborate?  (As opposed to perceiving others as adversaries, tending toward judging, interrogating, and focusing on trying to “fix” the situation).

15.  Can I recall past positive experiences with the person and do I feel the positive emotions that should be associated with these good memories?

16.  Can I think of things I appreciate about the person, and do I feel gratitude as I think about these specific appreciations?

Note that these questions are not asking about how you ought to feel but what feelings spontaneously and involuntarily arise.

Karl’s book and hundreds of page of essays are available at and at


If your relational circuits are offline, how do you get them back online?

 According to Karl, one of the fastest ways to get your circuits back online is to have someone attune to you. To do this they should have their circuits on, have the capacity to do so in that area, and be willing to help you:

  1. feel seen
  2. feel heard
  3. feel understood
  4. feel that he/she is with you
  5. feel that he/she cares about you
  6. feel that he/she is glad to be with you

Karl notes that friends with the capacity and maturity to attune to us are not often available when we need this kind of help. If you are able to experience the Lord’s presence you can also let him attune to you.

 2,  Do the Shalom For My Body exercise, followed by Shalom For My Heart and Soul worksheet from the Belonging workbook.  This may be the best option if you both are highly triggered or don’t have access to TPM.


Shalom for my Body Demonstration on You Tube




3. Practice appreciation. Think of three things you are grateful for and remember those things in detail. Enter into the memory of what it feels like to savor a favorite meal, a time with a friend of a beautiful landscape. As you dwell in a place of gratitude, your relational circuits will come back on. You can do this even if difficult circumstances. My husband is fighting MDS and as he had his first transfusion (which took 13 hours!) we came up with a list of ten things we were grateful for. Right. In. the. It lifted our spirits and helped us realize that God was with us in the midst of our pain. Here is our list from December 23, 2016 when we were trying to get to Asheville to celebrate Christmas with our children and granddaughter:

1. Nurses and doctors have been great.
2. Sam feels better after the transfusion and his color is better.
3. I was able to walk to a Harris Teeter and get us both lunch. I “mistakenly” bought Sam a huge a sub but he needed it because he ate half for lunch and half for dinner.
4.  We are all packed and ready to go so that big job is done.
5. I drove home around 4 o’clock and loaded the car.
6. We have a great car, a one year old Prius.
7. Our kids have been incredibly supportive. Interacting with us by phone and FaceTime. Our daughters are both in Asheville with their husbands; our son is in Charlottesville and is willing to meet us and drive us the rest of the way to Asheville, if we need him to.
7. We took our dog Darby to Sam’s brothers yesterday because we thought we were leaving and we’re so glad we didn’t have to worry about him today while we were at the medical center.
8. We have tons of people praying for us.
9. Were able to hear from God who is comforting us in our distress. God is good. He loves us.
10.  We’re trusting that Sam will feel better for at least two weeks. We are grateful for that.
All this just to demonstrate that even with everything seems to be going south–you are heading out of town when the calls comes: Don’t leave, you need a transfusion!–you can find things to be thankful for and that can make all the difference.
After the transfusion we were so tired that we went back home and slept. In the morning I drove us to Charlottesville, our son drove us the rest of the way. We got there Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM, just in time for dinner. It was wonderful to be together. God is good.



Eating crow on Good Friday

April 22, 2011

I’ve been reading Karl Lehman’s new book, Outsmarting Yourself, Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do About It. In the book he talks about recognizing triggers. You know, the moments when you get stirred up about something. A meltdown. An overreaction. A not-so-nice reaction to someone you normally love.

We all learned about triggers from Theophostic Prayer Ministry which teaches that the primary source of our pain is rarely the present. The pain orginates in unresolved memories. I’ve been practicing Theophostic or TPM as we call it for years, since, I think, 2004 and all of us have benefited.

Now most of my family knows the drill: Let yourself feel the painful emotion and, because your brain works by association, a memory that feels the same will surface. Once you have the memory let yourself be in the memory and process how you feel and what you believe. Your feelings will match your beliefs and as you cycle down to deeper and deeper levels of feelings you will hit pay dirt: A core lie such as, I am worthless; I should have never been born; or my personal favorite, No one will ever love me because I am unloveable. Once you have the core lie, we ask Jesus to speak: Is it true that Betsy is unloveable? And he does. It is different for everyone. I ususally see pictures in my mind, some people have impression or thoughts that come to them. It is a glorious experience, something you have to do to fully understand.

All this to say that I know about triggers, but I don’t get so easily triggered anymore. Or so I thought.

Then I began reading Lehman’s book. Kudos to Karl for being so open. It is as if he is dissecting his heart in front of you. And ouch, it got me.
One of the best ways to recongize that you are triggered, he writes, is to check your relational circuits. My what? Relational circuits are anologous to electrical circuits, they can only handle so much juice before the go frizz, bang, pop.  The list is long but I will give you the ones that resonate with me:

1.  Do I feel connected to ____________?

2.  Do I want to be connected to ________?

3. Do I experience their presence as a source of joy?

4.  Am I comfortable making eye contact with them?

5. Am I patient and tolerant (or impatient, intolerant and irritable)?

At this point several people came to mind and I was batting 0 for 5.  I began to squirm. It is so easy, as a busy ministry leader to simply carve people out of your life. Those who criticize me.  Those who irritate me.  Those who wanted “too much” of my time.  Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

I was looking forward to a quiet Friday. I was fasting and looking forward to connecting with God.  Good Friday.  But as the morning puttered on I began to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I had a few calls I needed to make.  To people I had rendered invisible.

They accepted my apologies and said that they honestly had not noticed.  I know that is true. It is so easy to ignore people and they just assume you are busy. It is so easy to look good and have a rotten heart. But God knows, and so do I.

If ever there were a good day to eat crow, Good Friday has to be it.

Karl’s book is available at
More about Theophostic at

Lessons from the Life Model

May 15, 2009

It is a simple exercise, you simply say, “Lord, help me to perceive you,” then when you see where he is, and make that connection, say, “Lord, help me to perceive you more clearly.” (

Quiet yourself and enjoy being with him. After all, Jesus is always with us, even if we do not believe in him, so the sense that we are alone is a matter of our perception, not reality. He is there. With me. With you.

The other night I was watching a DVD with my family when a memory flooded back—losing my new red bike to my brother.  Before you conclude that my parents are heartless, let me explain.  I was the second of five children and had received a new bike, a rarity, for my birthday. I eyed the shiny wheels and frame and my heart sang.  Then a few months (or was it years?) later my older sister got a new bike for her birthday,  so all the bikes bumped down the peaking order: I got her old one, a used blue, heavy thing and my bike went to my younger brother. I remember well the sting, the sense of outrage. It was, after all, my bike!

Read the rest of this entry »