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.




Only Grace and Mercy

February 28, 2013

Recently, while praying, God told me, There is no justice on earth, only grace and mercy.  

Then he gave me this picture:

I am a small child standing at the register of a tiny old-fashioned store. There is only one register; I am standing in front of it, the door on my right. A small wrinkled man is at the till. He is giving me the wrong change. I point this out to him and he refuses to consider that he might be wrong. Jesus is standing behind me with a gold coin the size of an apple. The coin is for me.  Not for good behavior but because Jesus wants to give it to me, because he can. Jesus does not want me to quibble about the five cents (even if I am right) because he has a gold coin for me.  Part of me feels angry. I want the clerk to acknowledge that he, not me, has made a mistake.  I feel a childish pride about my ability to do mental math. But Jesus is asking me to be like Him.  He explains that almost no one on earth is willing to own all his/her faults—including me.  Jesus stays relational, stays connected with us anyway even though he sees clearly the sin we are unwilling to fully own.

The scene replays over and over. I know that as soon as I am done paying for my small purchase Jesus and I are going to go spend the day together. We are both anticipating the day with joy. The gold coin will abundantly supply all we need. But Jesus is not in a hurry. He is not impatient. He is gently coaching me, gently teaching me and he will not be hurried. At first I am angry with the clerk but Jesus leans over my shoulder and urges me to see into the clerk’s heart. Soon I am able to see the man with compassion but as we replay the scene again, the clerk gets meaner. At one point he spits on me. But Jesus is watching, quietly urging me to look into the heart of this hurting man and not take offense or even argue. It hurts. I want to be right. But all I have to do is turn to Jesus and he wraps me in his arms and comforts me. In the last replay, the man refuses to serve me at all, but by now I am not taking the offense personally, I understand in a deep and grounded way that this is not about me. I am not troubled because I know the clerk is in pain, otherwise he would not act like this.  I see into his heart and feel compassion. He is not being the person he was made to be and this is tragic.  I am simply able to glance back at Jesus who is standing so close behind me that I feel His warm breathe and presence of His strong body beneath his robes.  Our eyes meet as I turn my head. I see how proud He is of me and I smile.  I understand that nothing is more important than being like Him. Pleasing Him. Making Him proud. He sees into our hearts and knows every sin, wounds, and blind spot that fouls our soul. But He never uses that to lord over us or despise us or make us feel less than Him. He sees us with compassion. Even though he can see into the darkest most hidden recesses of our hearts, he does not expose us. He receives what we are able to own and acknowledge and is proud of our small victories.

Believing Promises

June 16, 2010

This was written on October 7, 2009

When I think about my dad, it seems impossible to believe that years of resistance could melt away, but then I remember God’s promises. The Bible is full of promises. I know that God is not willing that any should perish. And I know he has loved my dad since he formed him in the womb, but I am speaking of promises more personal, ones made directly to me and my family.

The first one is an old one.  Some years ago, a decade or more, our mother told us that God had promised her that one day our father would come into the kingdom of God.  My brother, Bob, reminded us of this three days ago while when me and my siblings–I have two sisters and two brothers–were on the phone together during one of our regular conference calls.

During those calls we talk and pray.  And feel a little lost as to how to best help our parents.  Or Dad now that Mom has died.

Back in June, when they were both alive, I sat on the steps outside their home, my family home, crying. I was in shock over my father’s condition and what was required of my mother to take care of him. In that moment I felt that I would never be able to go home to Virginia, for how could I leave them, when Dad was so ill and Mom so weak?

They had canceled the Meals on Wheels my sister, Kathy,  set up for them and fired the caregivers we hired to help them, yet could not take care of themselves and in the midst of all that pain, I heard God say to my heart:  Some day you will look me in the face and say ‘Well done.'” And with his words came the sense of His presence as the tight spot in my heart unwound and peace settled on my soul.

At that moment God brought to mind a time, just months earlier, when he had protected us, while we were blissfully unaware of the danger we were in. We had bought a car from my parents in May and then had let the most accident prone member of the family–my 20-something son, Sammy–drive the car for weeks while the car was uninsured because I did not realize that my mom had canceled insurance on the vehicle the day the moving truck fetched it from her home. I had mistaken assumed that I could not add it to my policy until I owned it, until we officially transferred title. I won’t bore you with the details but it took weeks for us to transfer title at first, because Mom could not find it, and then because she could not get it from the dining room table to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Yes, it was that bad. Walking 30 feet down a slope was beyond her.  God reminded of that season, by saying, “I protected you then, I am protecting your parents now.”

A few days after that fateful day where I cried out to God on the steps, I went home. On the plane I prayed, “Lord, you promised me that I would look you in the eyes and say, well done!  I marvel and your capacity for pain!  It is beyond me.  Help me to trust in your love. I know you love my dad, help me to see your plan and move in harmony with your Holy Spirit. Help me to carry your presence.  Help me to dance before you, to draw strength from your love.”

A few days later my dad fell and the paramedics who came to lift him from the floor to the bed took his blood pressure and decided, instead, to take him to the hospital. It is hard to imagine that going to the hospital was a moment for rejoicing but from my point-of-view the particular nightmare of parents-home-alone was over.  They were no longer alone, barely able to get food in their bellies.

Now our occasional sibling conference calls, which my sister, Kathy, set up when my parents first grew feeble, have gone to every other night since the doctor told us on Sunday, September 20th, that my dad has days or weeks to live.  My sister, Laurie, who is with my dad in West Covina, reports on his condition. He is afraid, not ready to die, too weak to say much–he communicates by nodding or shaking his head, or uttering a few words.

All of us wonder, Should we go to West Covina? We live in Toronto, Virgina, Michigan, Tempe and Los Altos.  My brother who lives closest has nine children, one just born this summer. My sister, Laurie, has been there weeks and weeks but since she is the only one us who does not have a job and actually wants to sort through the belongings of two depression-era pack-rats, it is all to easy to let her shoulder to burden.

My sister Kathy is there now, having flown in on October 2.  We talk almost daily. She is doing a marvelous job taking care of Dad.  On October 6th dad slipped from consciousness and she called me, as Sam and I were driving home from church, to discuss options.  Should we let him die or try to intervene?  We prayed together on the phone, but neither of felt any heavenly illumination and then there was the advanced directive. Sigh. As schizo as it seems my dad was never willing to sign an advanced directive. He was saying in essence: don’t give me medical care that would keep me alive but don’t let me die without medical intervention. Yet there it was. After talking, Kathy and I agreed that the best courses of action was for her to go to the nursing home as ask him if he wanted to go to the hospital. Even though the nursing home nurses said he was unconscious he might be aware under the surface and might rally to respond. Just days before we had tried to convince him to go to the hospital at the nursing homes urging and he had refused.  We often experienced him as non responsive, then suddenly he would say a word or two or even nod and we would realized that he had been tracking the whole time.

So Kathy went and asked but this time there was no response.  Zilch. Nada. So she asked to have him taken to the hospital.  By now I was home, in bed and we were on the phone back and forth, praying together, calling out to God for wisdom. We are a dynamic duo in these hard times. We listen, process, talk, pray and then stumble forward towards what, in hindsight, seems right.

When the doctor tried to insert an emergency port in his neck, so they could start dialysis, my father began to die.  This was the view from California.  What I experienced was a ringing phone and then a voice saying, “I am Dr. Smith. Your father is taking his final breathes.” And I heard Kathy, in the distance saying, I love you Dad, I am right here,” over and over. I began to pray and the doctor handed the phone to Kathy. We prayed in tongues, a heavenly language unknown to us, and in English. We began to sing to him–me singing on the phone, Kathy there in the room. And . . . he rallied.  We were confused and did not understand what was happening at first. The doctor had left the room and the next thing we know, someone came in to report that they were moving to a room.  “Isn’t he dying?” my sister asked.

God had given us an opportunity to try to save him, but the answer, which we had surrendered to God was, “Not yet.”  The door had closed on dialysis, but not on his life.

After 30 minutes they transferred my dad to a hospital room and I rolled over and went back to sleep. He never regained consciousness. As I was driving to work the next morning, I felt strongly that we should move him to hospice and then my cell phone rang. It was Kathy.  “I’m going to move him to hospice.”  Had we not been three thousand miles apart, we would have given each other high fives.  A month prior Kathy had found a beautiful hospice. A spacious room with light and gardens and like-minded people.  We had tried to convince dad to move there but he had not wanted to leave his familiar nursing home even through they were focused on helping him get better by prodding him to do things he did not want to do–like eat in the dining hall and exercise. But since he was going to have to leave the hospital, why not take him to a place that would support what he was already doing–dying. He was unconscious and could hardly protest, so we did what seemed best to us.

As soon as Dad was settled into the hospice a man named, Leon, brought Kathy a CD player loaded with worship music and Kathy began singing over my
dad and reading him scripture. He did not responding. His kidneys were barely working. He refused food and water.

Kathy notes that he is smiling now and says, “I wish I could see what you are seeing now Dad!”

Every day we talk and I offer to come out there to join her.  I was there on Friday, now it is Wednesday, five days later, and she has asked me to come so I
will leave tomorrow afternoon.
Everyone says he cannot live long, yet he continues to live.

Several months ago when I was discouraged, God said to me, “Dear Heart, do
you really think all your prayers have been for naught?”  We have been
praying for my dad for forty-five years.  There have been moments of hope. I remember when he asked me why in dark moments in the middle of the night, when my mom sat up in bed and shouted, “No!” the darkness had fled.

I remember him wondering why his nose healed when we prayed to Jesus but not when he practiced his religion.

Yet, he has stayed steadfastly attached to his faith, though the congregation has shrunk to a handful and we have not had a single visitor from the church where he gave his time and money for more than 40 years.

I was distraught when my mother died a year ago. A month ago when I cried out to God and asked, “Why did my mother die! Why did she die first?” It seemed like a terrible mistake. I was not ready.  I thought she was going to live and then there was the estate. We were selling the family home to finance the massive medical bills that had accrued, in part, because my father had eschewed Medicare.  In a rage a decade earlier, my father had altered his will, leaving the house to his cultic church.  Our hearts sank when we learned this bit of news.

Had he forgotten when he gave us the go-ahead to sell the house? It would not have been an issue if Dad died first, but then Mom died suddenly, so the entire estate now belonged to Dad.  What was God thinking when he let my mother die?

Then God showed me a picture of a tunnel between heaven and earth. At one end I saw two figures bathed in a bright light– my tiny mom standing next to Jesus. My dad stood sideways in the tunnel of decision, hand his chin, pondering. Then I saw him turn and walk toward the light. Was this a picture of what was to come?

A few weeks ago He said, “HE IS MINE!”
Then last week He said, “When your mom got to heaven, I said, ‘Well
done.”  When your Dad gets here, I will say, ‘You made it!'”

Another time when I asked God, what are you doing? he said, “Securing
the perimeter,” then a few hours later, “Storming the beach,” then
later “Having the victory.”

The view outside these conversations did not seem to jive with what I was hearing from God.  When I said to my dad, “You are nearing the end of your earthly journey and will have to choose.  Jesus will be there. He loves you, Dad.”  He only looked frightened. Did he not realize that he was dying?

He altered his will, a relief to us all, yet showed such fear over dying that I was downhearted. Yet again, I heard God whisper, “I am mighty to save.”

And this morning when I asked, “Lord, how should I pray for my dad?” He answered:
“It is no small thing to save a man. It is no small thing to save a
man who has thumbed his nose at God, who has said, ‘I can heal
myself’. Who has hardened his heart to the Lord. But I am Mighty to

My heart cried out: “Lord, we stand in awe at what you are doing. You are at work in my father’s heart and mind. You are bringing him to the end of himself so that he might cry out to you. I believe. Help my unbelief.
I believe God will save him. He is not willing that any should perish.

Author’s note: My father died the following morning before I boarded the plane that would have taken me there.  I believe he entered paradise, because I believe God’s promises.

The last days of Ralph Oliver Moll

September 25, 2009

Last night we were told that my dad has only days or weeks to live. He is in a nursing home in West Covina, 20 miles east of Los Angeles.  For the last week, I have been trying to move him to Virgina so he will not be alone but my inquiries only brought bad news. He has been refusing medical care so the doctor has not been to see him in three and a half weeks, so my question, “Can he safely be moved to Virginia?” resulted in a blood test that show nearly every component in his body is badly out of whack.  His creatine levels which should be in the teens are 180. His blood has become toxic.

It is hard to lose both parents in a month. This weekend for the first time since my mother died on August 26, I began to feel almost okay, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach had eased and I could think of my mom without a visceral reaction.  But now that “kicked in the stomach” feeling has come back with the yawning fatigue that seems to swallow me.

I was always so proud of my fit, healthy parents. Trim, athletic.  In the last decade our family vacations revolved around horseback riding or hiking and I wonder, when did they start to decline? With them on the west coast and me on the east, it seems I missed some crucial turning point. I wonder, was it the accident?

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A Way Where There Seems to be No Way

September 21, 2009

Strategic thinking is one of my strong suits: my mind often ticks through options automatically. But my father’s situation: sick and in a Christian Science nursing home seemed like a brick wall at the end of the road. I was afraid that he would worsen and his fellow Christian Scientists would let him languish and even die all the while proclaiming him healed. Yet once he decided to opt for Broadview, the Christian Science home an hour west of my parent’s home in Los Angeles, there seemed little I could do . . . but pray. Why does prayer seem so wimpy? The last resort when all my heaving and hoeing has come up empty?

So pray I did. And I heard God whisper to my heart, I am still with him. I am there.  I still love him. I also heard God say one morning as I rose to consciousness, Buy plane tickets now. I agonized over the dates, praying, God, show me when to go. When you run a busy Healing Center it is not easy to leave town on short notice. It is not easy to cancel appointments, skip leadership meetings and tell your boss, my rector, that you are headed back to Los Angeles for the second time in a month. The best time seemed to be the week set aside for our family vacation. I asked my daughter if she minded going to Los Angeles and ask my husband if he minded being left behind. He reported that a tight deadline was going to make it impossible for him to go to the beach anyway. He urged me to go to Los Angeles and Sarah said she did not have a preference.

So I booked tickets, then proceeded to be dogged by nagging doubts. Should we go? After all, things seemed to have settled down. Dad was in the nursing home and Mom was sleeping a lot, recovering from months of battling cancer while simultaneously taking care of a husband who could not carry his dirty plate to the sink much less help cook a meal or carry out the trash.

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Letters from Africa to my intercessors

July 26, 2009

July 26th, 2009

Dear Ones,
I want to thank each and every one of you for being willing to cover us in  prayer.  We leave at 6:10 PM today on KLM flying first to Amsterdam and then, at 11 AM  tomorrow on to Entebbe, the
airport in southern Uganda made famous by the rescue of hijacked hostages by Israeli paratroopers in 1976.

Entebbe Airport at dusk

Entebbe is on a peninsula that extends southward into Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

Three days ago I learned that my mother has cancer in the pleural cavity which surrounds her lungs. We have not told her yet, so she believes she has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. This particular cancer is even more insidious than most because it produces large amounts of fluid which keep her lungs from expanding. The doctors drew a liter of fluid from her plural cavity a week ago.

According to her favorite doctor at City of Hope, the plural effusion, or excess liquid showed up on X-rays in May, so my dear little mother has four to ten months to live.

But we are going to doctor Jesus for a second opinion. Cancer is not too much for Him as he reminded me about a week ago. In the last year we have not lost anyone to cancer. None of the people that we have prayed for have died. We’ve had some amazing miracles including the healing of my sister-in-law whose cancer markers dropped faster than her doctor had ever seen before. She recovered from advanced ovarian cancer; Joe K. who many of you know is healed, along with Jeanette T. and many others.  We are grateful.

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They Made It!

April 17, 2009

I was in a meeting, but when I heard my cell phone ring, I jumped to my feet and was pulling the phone from my purse in seconds. “I won’t answer this, I just want to see if it is Anna and Dan,” I explained to the bewildered woman sitting in my office.

It was Anna! Despite my promise I opened the phone. “The last few days have been unbelievable,” she said. “You would not believe, Mom, how difficult it has been.”

I smiled. I felt like I had known. Yes, I had not been there, but I had sensed it in my spirit, in studying the topo maps and the snowy ground from satellites, and hearing the weather reports. I had asked scores of people to pray for their safety. They had not encountered high winds at San Gregorio Pass, famous for its blowing sand. In fact, that passage had been unbearably hot, eight miles without a single tree in still hot air. “The only shade,” Anna reported, “was in the I-10 underpass. But the next night, 8000 feet up the San Bernadino Mountains they experienced winds that made the tall pine trees a 100 feet high look like upside down pendulums, swinging back and forth. Two large pine trees fell so close to their tent that they felt the ground shake. The flexible poles on their tent bent under the wind then snapped back to attention all night long.
Anna also described the perils of navigating old snow, melted and frozen to icy on steep slopes.
But in the end they made it and are now at Big Bear Lake in a room with a bed, a hot tub, and a mini-fridge. Bravo Anna and Dan. Yeah God! He is good.