This outline was created to facilitate online neighborhood gatherings during the Covid 19 quarantine. We discovered that neighbors who previously would not have gathered together to talk about struggles and heart issues, were now willing to do this and even enthusiastic about it. We gathered 20 neighbors from two different neighborhoods online via Zoom for 4 Tuesdays in April, for 1 hour 15 minutes. We texted first to give a heads up and casual invite and then sent out details via email with the link. I sent a reminder email each Tuesday with a “preview” question to get them thinking about what we’d be talking about. It was an incredible time of women sharing common struggles and for believers to be able to talk about the hope we have in Jesus.

WEEK 1  – THE UNKNOWN

WELCOME – CO FACILITATOR – 7:05-7:30

  1. From two neighborhoods
  2. Make sure your name is correct on Zoom (hover over name, right click, rename)
  3. Outline of our time
    1. Spend some time just talking together about our experiences
    2. Spend a few minutes looking at what God has to say to us about navigating these challenges
    3. I want to just verbalize some things that we all understand. (Put this heart in your words)
    • We all understand that we are all in boats that are similar – but not the same. We are all in the same circumstance, but our experiences of them are different. Some of us are figuring out schooling at home, some are spending our time doing all we can to protect a loved one that is at risk.
    • We all understand that pain and challenges can either give rise to new strength and peace or to defeat and cynicism. It depends on how we respond to them.  We are here to help each other respond to these challenges well.
    • We all understand that we are better together. We were made to do life in relationship with others.  We are all in different places, and we’re here to offer encouragement for wherever you are, not judgement for where you aren’t
  1. Introductions – VERY BRIEFLY, TELL US YOUR 
  • . Name, How you got here, What season of life are you in? (newly married, little ones, elem kids, teens/semi adults, empty nest, retired) (Leave this to last so that we pick up the stragglers)

CONVERSATION – FACILITATOR – 7:30-7:50

We have this in common. We all want to be courageous. We want to be brave. But many times we don’t feel courageous or brave. We might have grandparents or great grandparents who have stories of going through a life-defining crisis, like a war or the Depression and it made them courageous. But it doesn’t happen naturally.

Crisis shakes our foundation. It clears away all of the dust and debris and we see what we really stand on.

Crisis disrupts many of the core threads that run through our lives that give it stability.

“Reflection is what turns experience into real insight”  Dr. John Maxwell

  • What has been good in this season? A few of you share
  • What has been hard? A few of you share

As I walk through these 5 elements, think about which one are you struggling most with?

  1. Connectedness-the relationships that are natural to our rhythm, maybe the backbone of what you do
  2. Structure – which helps calm us down, routine
    1. time
    2. routine
    3. sameness – repetitiveness
  3. Calm – fight, flight, freeze
    1. thinking, planning, rationalizing goes down
    2. problem solving goes down
  4. Control –
    1. people respond by
      1. going into learned helplessness
      2. peoples systems start to unplug
      3. give up God designed need to control, give up self control –> depression, substance abuse
      4. need to have system of accomplishing something everyday – goals, new projects
    2. Productivity
      1. people need to be accomplishing something
      2. investing in your purpose

Which one of these is the most difficult for you right now? 

GOD’S WORD – FACILITATOR – 7:50-8:10

We’re going to look at a man who found himself in some hard circumstances that he had no control over. But he had a healthy

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 

Circumstances:

Paul was actually imprisoned a few times for his belief in Jesus.

  • actual dungeon with chains
  • under house arrest, where he wasn’t allowed to leave his house (probably this imprisonment)
    • he was still chained to a guard who watched him day and night.
    • Paul’s friends brought him food.
    • This house arrest lasted 2 years.
  • During this two years that he wrote this letter to the people who believed in Jesus in a city called Philippi.

13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d]

Paul had a secret weapon, he wasn’t in control but he had a relationship with the God who was.

He wasn’t in control of his circumstances or his future, but God was.

By trusting the One who is in control, Paul ultimately came to understand Rom 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

In ALL THINGS – not just the things that are comfortable or easy, the things we feel in control over or the things we don’t.  ALL THINGS.

Create two columns: one of things you are in control of, and one of the things you are not.

  • What do you have control over?
  • What do you NOT have control over?

We usually think of our need to control as a bad thing. But actually we were created to have some control – self control. God also gives us some things to manage and care for. It’s when we can’t control ALL that we want to control, that we get frustrated and afraid.

  • What does God want you to exercise control over right now? Manage well?
  • What are you frustrated at right now because you can’t control it?

If time allows:

When we feel out of control, we go into fight/flight/freeze – natural response, but we need to move beyond it into our more thoughtful, mindful way of thinking and responding

How can you get yourself out of fight/flight?

How can you keep yourself from going into fight/flight?

  • Limit news
  • Stop imagining and instead, deal with the reality
  • Engage in the now over the not yet

 

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

SUM IT UP

Knowing that God is in control of what we are not brings peace.  And Paul says that when we have a relationship with God, when we decide that we love Him more than we love controlling our own life and our own agenda, we can know that He is working behind the scenes, through all circumstances, for our good.

PRAY – CO FACILATATOR     

WEEK 2 – WHAT? YOU’RE STILL HERE??

 WELCOME – CO FACILITATOR – 7:05-7:15

  • What is a joy this week?
  • What is a struggle?

CONVERSATION – FACILITATOR – 7:15-7:45

Last week, we talked about how crisis disrupts our

  • Connectedness
  • Structure
  • Calm
  • Control
  • Productivity

This week, we are going to focus on the CALM piece.  Routine and relationships both foster calm. When both these are disrupted, naturally, our sense of calm goes down.

When our calm is disrupted by a threat or crisis, we often respond by going into

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze

Automatic – we don’t control it.  But it affects our bodies and our relationships.

  • Are you noticing any physical effects of the quarantine?

Immediate effects of crisis:

Physiological

  • Heart rate increases – act quickly, protect self, increases O flow to major muscles, pain perception drops, hearing sharpens
  • Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in – dump in adrenaline and cortisol

Psychological

  • thinking, planning, rationalizing goes down
  • problem solving goes down

When a crisis is ongoing, there are longer term effects:

  • Lowered capacity
  • Lowered ability to concentrate
  • Lowered motivation
  • Increase in depression

When we are in a crisis, we can respond to:

  • The circumstances
    • Anger, frustration
  • Are you feeling an increase in frustration with your circumstances?
  • How is that coming out?

 

  • The relationships around us
    • Those we don’t know – yelling at the guy in front of you at the traffic light, grocery store, or feeling like it
    • Feeling unusually frustrated at those we live with
  • How is this quarantine affecting your relationships? With those you live with?
  • How can I make my brain leave fight/flight/freeze and engage the area of my brain that is rational and problem solving?

If you are wondering where I might be getting all of my information, it comes from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. which trains our first responders and clergy in crisis response.

Now, let’s take a look at what God says to us about managing the stress of conflict in our relationships.

GOD’S WORD – FACILITATOR – 7:45-8:10

Put Phil 2:3-11 in chat box

All of the letter to the Philippians takes place in the context of conflict in relationships. At one point, he even calls some people out and tells them “Come on girls, just get along!”

Phil 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Investing in others increases our CONNECTEDNESS

  • Why is investing in others so opposite what we naturally do in this situation?

Phil 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

Even though He had every right to be worshiped and hold onto the same position as the Father, He gave up the right to glory

To be grasped- held onto
rather, he
made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[
b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

Subjected to all of the physical weaknesses like hunger and sickness

And being found in appearance as a man,
he
humbled himself
by becoming
obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

  • Whole section says a lot about who Jesus is. And that God was accomplishing something bigger through Jesus dying on the cross than He would through Jesus living
  • But remember that this isn’t the purpose of Paul writing it. What is the purpose?  (v. 5)
  • What are the words that talk about Jesus’ attitude in relationship? (green words)

Finding ways to serve others, whether we know them or not, fulfills our PURPOSE

  • What are ways that we can practically serve others THAT WE DO NOT KNOW in this? Wear a mask, distance, give our parking spot, thank them for their service (grocery stores, fast food)
  • When you think of the person that you are most likely to have conflict with during this season, how would you’re deciding to serve them/put their needs above your own change the relationship dynamic? Write down 2 ways you’d like to serve this person
    • Things you want to do
    • Things you want to refrain from doing 😊

CLOSING PRAYER – CO FACILITATOR – 8:10-8:15

 

WEEK 3 – CRISIS CHANGES OUR PERSPECTIVE

WELCOME/SHARING – CO FACILITATOR – 7:05-7:20

  • What is filling your tank? Energizing you?
  • How has that changed from what normally fills your tank?

 

CONVERSATION – FACILITATOR – 7:20-7:45

  • What normal life things has this season made us realize we don’t have control over?
  • Do you have things that need to be in order for you to feel like your life is going well? Successful?
    • To feel secure?
    • To feel like you have value?
  • Of those things, are there any that have been disrupted?
  • How is that affecting your sense of worth? Purpose?
  • Are there things that have become more important to you in the last 6 weeks? Has this crisis brought any clarity in those areas?
  • Are there any things that have become less important to you in the last 6 weeks?

GOD’S WORD – FACILITATOR – 7:45-8:10

Crisis often changes our perspective. It brings clarity to what is most important. 

Paul encountered a change in his perspective too.  We’re going to look at how trusting Christ changed Paul’s perspective on where he put his confidence – on where he looked to get his value. 

Phil 3:4-14

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

  • Paul IS good enough – by the worlds standards. He comes from the right race, the right family. He has the right job, people respect him. He has power. He is good enough.
  • Being enough is what gave him a sense of value, confidence, security, and ultimately his idea that he deserved Heaven
  • But meeting Jesus changes how he sees all of those things that he used to think were most important.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

  • What does Paul consider a loss?

          He talks about family, education background, job, power, respect as his “gains”.

  • What does it mean to count something as a loss?

            Think about when a hurricane hits, how did people calculate their losses?

            They may still have a house but it doesn’t contribute to their well-being, security

            Something can be considered a loss without it vanishing (or being lost)

  • What do we often put our confidence in that is temporary and can change in a heartbeat?

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

  • What did Paul gain, that he now puts his confidence in?

Paul has had a perspective change. The things that inspired confidence, feelings of security and value no longer had that impact on him. He realized that they are temporary and that they couldn’t really provide the value, security that he was looking for.

He realized that faith in Christ was the only thing that was going to fill that void in him.

  • Has going through this season changed your perspective on what is important? How?
  • Live on less
  • Connection with friends is non-negotiable
  • Need to be willing to sacrifice for people I don’t know, even if it takes time out of my schedule
  • How has this season reminded you that your security and value are in Christ?
  • How does believing that our security and value are in Christ change the way we go through this season of uncertainty?

 

WEEK #4 – CONQUERING THE “WHAT IF’S?”

WELCOME AND PRAYER – CO FACILITATOR – 7:05-7:15

  • What has been the high point of your week?
  • What “What If” has snagged you this week? 

CONVERSATION – FACILITATOR – 7:15-7:40

When you begin to feel physically yucky, what’s the first thing you do? You take your temperature. It’s an objective guage of your health. Gives you a heads up if your body is fighting something before you go into full out sick.

Helpful to Take Your Heart Temperature

  • Before you hit the wall and have a meltdown
  • Easier to “cut it off at the pass” so easier to course correct and get to a healthier place
  • Better for those who live with us and depend on us

What’s Your Heart Temp?

1 – 10: 1 being lowest/worst and 10 being doing pretty well. Take a minute and jot down your temperatures for the following areas:

  1. Acceptance of your “Out of my control” list
  2. Surrendering your “Out of my control” list to the God who is in control
  3. Choosing what you dwell on, what thoughts you entertain
  4. Irritability/quickness to anger/annoyance
  5. Thankfulness
  • Which area are you feeling pretty good about?
  • Which area is pretty low on the temperature scale?

Worry and anxiety are the enemies of peace.  That’s why God tells us to not worry or be anxious about anything.  He knows that they are the enemy of peace, and our God is a God of peace. God give us 3 things we must do to embrace peace.

GOD’S WORD – FACILITATOR – 7:40-8:10

Phil 4:4-7 Post in chat

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • There’s a key word/idea that happens 3x in this passage: What is it?
    • Rejoice – be glad, to be well, thrive
    • Thanksgiving
  • Why is thanksgiving or rejoicing in the Lord so important in battling being anxious?
    • Thanksgiving re-establishes our calm, helps move us physiologically from fight/flight/freeze to rational thinking
    • Thanksgiving focuses us on what God has done, not on what He has not done yet
    • Thanksgiving puts in perspective our haves and our have-nots
  • Why, after telling us to rejoice, does he tell us to “let our gentleness be evident/obvious to all?”
    • Because he’s still addressing how we should handle conflict. Jesus is right here, so be kind to each other.
  • What is the next thing he tells us to do?
    • Pray, bring our requests to God
    • Supplication is a type of prayer, a call to God for help
  • How are we to do it?
  • Remember, this is in the context of having conflict with someone. So when we are praying about that conflict, how are we to do it?
  • But is concern the same as worry?

Dr. Winfred Neely says, “Worry is concern that is separated from the grace, power, love, and wisdom of God. It’s concern that we address in our own strength. It’s concern that we handle by thinking that we are facing life alone and we have to deal with our problems alone without God’s help.”

But God tells us that when we pray, he hears us and answers us.

  • What is the result of handling anxiety and worry by praying, and inviting God into it?
  • Peace of God, not based on circumstances, guards our hearts and minds against fight/flight/freeze

Phil 4:8-10

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you

Disciplining our thought life helps us re-establish calm and allows our brain to function the way it was designed to (problem solving, rational thinking)

But there is so much out there trying to derail our thinking. Sometimes it is helpful to just make them come into the light, name them, call them out.

  • How does your imagination jump on the fear bandwagon?
  • What things do you need to be careful not to “go down the rabbit hole” in your mind?
  • What things are we supposed to think on? In this circumstance?

True – facts, let facts inform our decisions/behavior

OPPOSITE

  • Not speculation, forecasting, unknowns, those things designed to incite fear

Noble – of high morals, the right thing

OPPOSITE

  • Appealing to the lowest human character, twisted, dishonorable
  • So not how this is bringing out the worst in humanity

 

  • But isn’t this just being “polyanna” and just thinking positive?
  • Does this mean that we don’t address the unpleasant issues?

All of these words have to do with what spin we put on things, or the spin we listen to others put on things.

The last 3 words have to do with things that are pleasing to see, hear, experience.

  • When I find myself tending down a dark path, what question can I ask myself to turn around?
    • What is God doing in this situation that is good? Resist just chalking it up to “karma” – good happens/bad happens
  • When I find myself tending down a dark path, what 3 things does God tell me to do to turn around?
    • Rejoice/Give thanks
    • Pray
    • Discipline my thoughts
  • How are you going to catch yourself this week?
  • What are your take-aways from our time together?

CLOSING/PRAYER – CO FACILITATOR – 8:10-8:15