Turning the Page
Six People To Put Out Of Your Mental Health Room

Six People To Put Out Of Your Mental Health Room

October 8, 2020

Six people you don’t want help from, and there could be more; therefore, its time to detach from them and have them leave your emotional room.

There are some people that I am wary of getting help from or even suggesting others get help from. They may be well-meaning, have good intentions, and a deep desire to help, but they come up short on wisdom.

There is something about them that just doesn’t feel right and shouts ‘avoid.’

Have you come across people like that?

People to avoid

In my ebook, ‘So you want to help,’ I list five helping type people that I would encourage you to avoid.

Today I add a sixth.

 1. Fundamentalist Fred.
Fred comes alongside and doesn’t lighten the load but adds to it. He lays down the rules, the principles, and tells the person to try harder.

It’s all black and white. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no room for mystery. 

2. Super Spiritual Sally.
Sally comes alongside with a big cheery smile on her face but ignores the reality of what the person is facing. She offers a few quick spiritual platitudes, tosses a ‘Praise the Lord’ here and there, and then she’s off to the next person. 

‘Can I pray for you’ is offered before truly listening for the depths. It’s too scary and unknown to go there.

She lives in a spiritual ‘La-la land’ with doses of ‘Woo -Woo.’

3. Rescuing Rachel.
Rachel just loves to help. She comes alongside, takes the burden off the other person, and makes it her own. Isn’t she just so caring!

She continues to carry and rescue without wisdom. She eventually becomes overwhelmed and exhausted.

Caring does not mean carrying. The servant becomes a slave.

4. Program Pete.
Pete has the answer. He has a course, he has a book, and he has a lecture to give. Pete comes alongside and informs.

He takes people to the course; provides the information and says, ‘just go and do it!’

He walks away in frustration because, in his learned opinion, people are lazy and don’t want to change.

5. Superficial Sarah.
Let’s keep things light on the surface. If you’re smiling, Sarah will smile with you; if you’re not, she won’t know what to do.

Sarah is hesitant to talk about anything that might be difficult. She avoids the people who are in obvious pain. She likes happy endings and fairy tale novellas.  

6. Blind Bill
Bill has sight problems in that he can’t see beyond the here and now to what could be. There is no compelling vision that excites or allures him to go deep and be patient with the larger story being played out.

His mindset is stuck. Worse still is that he can be quite mocking and cynical of those that can look beyond the present struggle. 

There might be others too that are less than helpful. Perhaps you can see yourself in some of them.

Put them out of the room.

One of the enjoyments of reading the Bible many times is that you start to see little snippets and sentences which make you want to reread the story again and again.

You start to see things that weren’t so obvious in the first reading.

One of those is this Jesus story, where he came across some people he chose not to seek their help or opinions. He was laughed at for his wisdom.

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 

When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Mark 5:21-24; 35-42

I have this movie in my imagination, where I see Jesus shooing out all these people from the room. A bit like a shepherd moving stray sheep that have wandered into a house.

Or maybe it was like herding cats. Chasing them around the room to get them out.

Some people want to be there for the show, the entertainment. This, of course, was the synagogues leader and his daughter.

But nothing great was going to happen while the room was full of critics and mockers. Nothing of astonishment was going to be seen while a bunch of Blind Bill’s were dominating the stage and holding the microphone.

Jesus put them out of the room, and then the healing began.

Who are you surrounding yourself with

From time to time, you have to think about who you are surrounding yourself with. Who is in the room?

Some questions need to be asked.

    1. Who is in ‘my room’? Friends, family, neighbors, celebrities, writers, podcasters, etc
    2. What influence do they have over me?
    3. Do I give them too much sway over me?
    4. Am I trying to get something from them that they don’t know how to give, e.g., approval, love, recognition?
    5. Are others wanting to keep me in a box that I sense I am moving out of?

Jesus warned his followers about giving out your very best to people who don’t appreciate it. He described it like this.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Matthew 7:6

Those wailers and naysayers in the home of Jairus were trampling and mauling over Jesus’ holy intentions. Nobody needs pigs and dogs, soiling God’s good work.

Putting them out of the room 

I suppose it’s about lines of love and respect (boundaries).

We need to prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to nudge you about those people that are in your room and not helping.

What emotional connection do they have? What sway?

For some people where there is little physical connection, such as celebrities, writers, etc., it’s easy to unsubscribe, disconnect, and turn off.

But what about if it’s your spouse or a family member. Someone who you cant easily turn off.

Jesus offers us some wisdom about taxing people. People who want to tax your life, restrict it, and hold you back.

They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

“This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”

Their mouths hung open, speechless. Mark 12:13-17

We give others what they rightfully deserve – love and respect, but that which is in the room called holy, beautiful, tender, and full of Spirit delight, well, only those who have earned the right get to have a look are allowed in.

It’s about acknowledging your self-worth that you have something both beautiful and impacting inside of you.

Then you quietly, and maybe not so quietly at times, kick out the stray dogs and greedy pigs.

Pigsty

When my kids were little, I used to read a story to them called Pigsty.

It tells the story of a boy called Wendell Flutz.

Wendell Flutz’s room isn’t a mess. It’s a total pigsty. But Wendell’s mother can’t get him to clean it up. Wendell doesn’t think the mess is so awful. In fact, he doesn’t even mind it when one day he discovers a real pig sitting on his bed!

Wendell didn’t mind when the first pig moved into his room. They were friends, but then other pigs turned up and started to dominate his life.

Spoiler alert. It all started to change when Wendell took control, cleaned up his room, and the pigs didn’t find it so appealing. They left.

Perhaps many of us have allowed pigs into the living room when they should be out back in the yard doing piggy things.

A better friend

We can’t live in isolation. Cheerleaders and people who ‘get you’ are crucial for your ongoing journey.

In seeking out the ‘Jesus’ type people, those who deserve to be in your room, it’s going to be slow and tender.

Look for those who will hold you in love and respect no matter what they might discover. They ask gently curious questions rather than being quick to advise.

Prayerfully ask for discernment amongst the myriad of voices that come to you.

It takes time to clean up the pigsty, but you can do it.

Quotes to consider

  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart
  • If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder
  • And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
    Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
    Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.
    Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.
    Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.
    Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.
    Anaïs Nin

Questions to answer

  1. Who is in ‘your room’ and has an influence that is not helpful?
  2. Why do some people want to keep you in the same box and not want you to change?
  3. What are the qualities of a ‘Jesus’ type person you want to have in your room?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash

When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Dark Hole

When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Dark Hole

October 1, 2020

Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in a dark hole and feel like we are going down, but there is hope when we open ourselves to the connection and support from others.

One of the properties I work on as a gardener is a small farm and I get to use a tractor for some of the jobs I do.

I was driving the tractor one day when all of a sudden I couldn’t move forward. I could see my wheels going round but there was little movement.

All had been going well. I was having a great day.

Driving the tractor, shifting dirt, and making the paddock I was in look tidier and neater. That was until my large wheels broke through the crust of soil and I discovered the mud and muck underneath.

I sunk.

I tried to back out but that didn’t help. The tractor was now up to its axle in mud. The heavy back wheels were a rim of mud and any movement I tried made the situation worse.

I got a spade and started to dig tracks out for the tractor, but it stuck like glue.

I was also stuck and felt shame. That sense of embarrassment and self-loathing.

All the old familiar critical self-talk started to flow around me.

    • I’m so stupid
    • I’m a failure
    • I should have …

I read once that the word shame can be an acronym S.H.A.M.E – Should Have Already Mastered Everything.

In my emotional life, I was sinking fast.

I have been at times stuck in the mud of my own life. Dark black holes have seemed to want to swallow me up.

Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ doesn’t have any effect on the glue of a dark hole.

When you’re stuck

I remember getting that tractor stuck and I also remember what I did next. I phoned a guy I know with a truck to come and help pull me out.

He turned up and we attached a rope between the tractor and the truck. With his truck pulling and my tractor wheels turning we slowly and quietly got free of the hold.

That was easy.

Getting out of a personal dark hole is not as simple but we can learn some lessons from this very exciting and riveting story. (I’m open for movie deals)

Friends, Neighbors, and a Birds Nest

I was raised on a farm and when you live in isolated rural communities you understand the need to have a connection with your neighbors.

You never quite know when you might need the help of a neighbor to pull your tractor out of the mud, fight a fire, or to be rescued from a flood.

Survival relies on being in community.

In good communities, you look out for each other. You notice when someone is acting differently. A change has occurred and you are gently curious.

Years ago a counselor suggested that I might like to become part of a bird’s nest for one of their clients. Puzzled, I asked for more explanation.

He explained that this particular person had several people in their life that offered some sort of gift, skill, or role in their recovery. Each person was like strands of fiber in a bird’s nest.

There was a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, support worker, dietician, friend, family, and many other people. I was invited to be the pastor and our small church – The Living Room could add other layers of support.

We all have a birds nest of relationships that support us. People we can call on when we get stuck. People who might also notice when were heading for the mud pit.

Ropes

My friend with the truck brought a rope with him. There had to be some sort of connection to the power and resources he had and the power and resources I had.

In that bird’s nest of relationships, people will have different gifts and skills they can bring. But there must be a connection for the transfer of power and resources to take place.

In the darkest of holes, there has to be some sort of reaching out for help.

I’m not a huge fan of rescuing.

Doing something for someone that they could do for themselves. It can create both dependency and repetition of behaviors that got you in the dark hole in the first place.

Instead, we need truth and insights to help ourselves change. Much like you build into your life in a thinking compass.

Encouragements

‘You can do this’

‘I am with you’

‘Together we will get through this’

When you’re in a dark hole, stuck in the mud, you need people on the sideline who will cheer you on. They have a compelling vision of seeing you out of there.

They believe in change often because they have been in those very same dark holes themselves.

When we encourage we breathe courage into the heart of another.

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage.  To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. “Encouraging the Heart – A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others” by Kouzes/Posner

Are you stuck in a dark hole?

Has something I have written connected to where you are at the moment?

Perhaps a total stranger might be the one that can reach down into your ditch and offer you a hand to help you out.

In that famous story that Jesus told of a man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch it wasn’t the professional and trained that first came to his aid. It was someone unexpected. A stranger.

I have noticed that people at times open up to strangers in ways that they wouldn’t with family or friends. There’s no history or social conventions or pretense that gets in the way. They let their guard down and it all pours out.

If you want to talk to a total stranger and let it all come tumbling out without judgment then here is my email address barry@turningthepage.co.nz or you can use the contact form in the sidebar.

You can also find out more about me here.

I may just have a few ropes that we can use to pull yourself out of that dark hole.

Quotes to consider 

  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • The main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. C.S. Lewis

Questions to answer

  1. In the past, when you have been stuck in a dark hole, what has helped you?
  2. What are the qualities of a good friend?
  3. Why do we at times open up to complete strangers in ways that we wouldn’t with friends or family?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Where is That Overreaction Coming From?

Where is That Overreaction Coming From?

September 24, 2020

We can have an overreaction to life’s events, but when we search out what’s behind the reaction, we often find history-based pain. Let’s help the prickly pear.

It was a reaction I wasn’t expecting. I had made a few jokes, and their response wasn’t to have a simple laugh with me but to get highly defensive and even go on the attack.

Have you ever wondered why some people take offense even to something seemingly unoffensive?

Where no harm was meant but there sure was a reaction!

Overreaction

In their overreaction, you decide that you need to be super careful around them.

You pick your words with utmost care so that you don’t get an explosion, that overreaction.

But all of this controlled containment of your natural self leads to a shutting down—you’ tiptoe’ around them, careful not to push their buttons.

And honestly, how does that lead to a more in-depth, more meaningful, and intimate relationship?

Maybe it’s withdrawal. Their response to some situation is a withdrawal into themselves—hiding away in a cave of negative echoes.

You see, we respond to the present out of the formation of our history.

The painful events of our history have bumped and knocked us into drawing up a guidebook of conclusions about life. Some of those conclusions need to be revisited as adults and decided upon if they are truly helpful or not, and if they help us develop meaningful and intimate relationships.

History-based pain

I read this quote the other day from David Riddell.

The more you fear humiliation, the angrier you must get, in your attempts to protect yourself from its history-based pain. David Riddell

Let’s unpack this.

We like to tease each other. It’s normal, and it’s part of play and growing relationships.

But we don’t like to be humiliated. To be shamed and feel small, foolish, or incompetent.

So we protect ourselves from anyone or anything that might trigger those feelings of humiliation. We fear being humiliated.

So we get angry at the injustice of it all. We lash out at the abuser.

But as we do this, a wall is being built—a barrier that stops the flow of intimacy – in-to-me-see.

It’s a history-based pain that keeps getting the touchdown.

Something happened back then that is like a trampoline that even now you still bounce off. It seems so normal and natural for you to respond that way, but it’s not helpful.

Their response is their responsibility.

When someone is overreacting, then it’s important to remember that how they respond is their responsibility.

You cant control them and the way they react to the various stimuli they are going to come across.

We are volitional beings. God has given us the cognitive ability to make choices.

Victor Frankl, a survivor of the extermination camps of holocaust Germany, knew something of our ability to choose how we respond.

Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  Victor Frankl

Your response to the ‘Prickly Pear.’

Perhaps you know someone who is what I call a ‘Prickly Pear.’

An actual Prickly Pear is a fruit from the Cacti family. It can be eaten and enjoyed but on the outside of the skin are fine prickles or bristles that easily dislodge and can cause skin and eye irritation.

So you handle them with care.

If you want more of a human face to a prickly pear, then meet Gloria.

Source: The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt

If you want to know Gloria and discover her goodness, you need to have loads of patience and learn to ask questions.

Good questions that defuse the walking landmine that they are.

Asking the questions

Questions have a way of opening up lines of inquiry, and if you want to go deep with a Gloria or Glen, then gentle empowering questions need to be asked.

Questions to ask yourself

    1. What do I know about their history that might help explain their reaction?
    2. What gets generated emotionally in me when they react in that way?
    3. Am I taking responsibility for my communication?
    4. Am I needlessly being too flippant with my words?

  1. Questions to ask them 
    1. I’m curious, why did you respond in the way you did?
    2. Could you describe another time when you reacted in that way, and how did that affect your relationships?
    3. When did you first ‘feel’ that feeling of … (eg, being mocked)
    4. What painful experiences have shaped your life in unhelpful ways

History to His Story

As we review the bumps and bruises of our story, we will notice times when we responded in certain ways to life events that have left us with thinking and emotional response habits.

But we are not locked into our past.

We can change, our brains are plastic (malleable), and we have God of infinite creative power that desires to make all things new.

So we now offer up our thinking and emotional response habits to God, asking for questions to unlock the purposes of the heart.

What would Jesus want me to know about this moment in my story and in his-story?

Can Spirit (Holy) help to lubricate the wiring in my brain to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus? Philippians 2:5

I believe they can.

Quotes to consider

  • Check every over-reaction in the present for an echo from the past. Trace it, face it, replace it, or live on in all-out reaction to others. D. Riddell
  • Reacting badly? A trauma in the past causes an over-reaction in the present. Acknowledge and compensate for it in order to carry on. D. Riddell
  • When you next over-react in anxiety, rejection, or anger, try to distinguish between present reality and the echoes of past experiences. D. Riddell

Questions to answer

  1. Fight, flight, or freeze. All can be overreactions to stressful triggers to history-based pain. What tends to be your default response mode?
  2. Can you think of times you overreacted? What history-based pain did that bounce off?
  3. What other questions could be asked to gently probe a person’s overreactions?

Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Can you Be Kind to Yourself?

Can you Be Kind to Yourself?

September 17, 2020

We are all in a daily grind of struggle, but when you listen for the voices of demand, you can learn to be kind to yourself and others. You can find rest.

This person deserves a  medal.

Sometimes I listen to a person sharing something of their lives, and I think they deserve a medal or some award for what they have been through.

We hand out awards for bravery, sports, business leadership, arts, and other achievements but not for those who have faced the grit and grind of life.

I hear, at a heart level, the failures, successes, regrets, moments of passion, and also moments of sheer exhaustion. Yet they still keep going.

It’s a humbling experience at times to go deep into the struggle of another’s life. There is an invite to say ‘well done.’

The downplay 

But they downplay your sense of amazement. Not so much out of modesty but more so out of an unawareness that what they do is quite amazing.

    • ‘Raising three kids on my own – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘My wife has had severe depression for 25 years of our 30-year marriage – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘I’ve had psychotic thoughts for ten years now. Its a struggle but not too bad.’
    • ‘I started going to counseling five years ago for PTSD stuff from sexual abuse as a child. It’s tough, but it’s not that bad.’
    • ‘Other people have it worse off than me.’

I want to say to them, ‘You’re amazing.’

An awareness of not being alone

There is often a pull to self-isolate. To hide away with our struggles. Rugged individualism has an allure to it of ‘I can do this on my own.’

Yet at the full stop point, that place where you run out of resources there is a need to reach out and seek help.

‘I can’t do this on my own.’

Only in the movies does the self-made superhero exist.

Most of all, we need others who say that they are with us.

They may not be able to magically solve the problem or heal the hurt, but they can offer to wipe away the tears of exhaustion.

They are there to be there for that moment.

The gift of being kind

Can you be kind to yourself?

Can you, for a moment, look at the grit and grind of your life and rest yourself in a bath of kindness?

Perhaps there is a little voice inside you that is saying you’re not enough. That you don’t measure up. You’re a failure, and you need to try harder.

Maybe you have a list of measurements that you have to achieve to feel you’re doing ok.

It could be spiritual exercises of having a daily quiet time, reading the Bible, praying for a certain amount of minutes, attending these church events, giving a certain amount of money.

Can you be kind to yourself and drop these for a moment.

No one is going to jump on you and kick you off God’s team. If you have critical people like that in your life, then perhaps it’s time to find a healthier group of people to be friends with.

The kindness of rest

For six days, this creative team worked and built. It was truly unique what they created. Mountains and microbes. Stars and snails. A man and a mouse.

What a burst of energy it must have been. Furious love exploding out everywhere.

Then on the seventh day, they had a rest. Phew.

A deep rest of sitting with each other and soaking in the kindness of it all. They were kind to each other, themselves.

We still have that opportunity of entering kindness and rest.

Being kind to ourselves is an invite to rest with them (God) because we accept our clay bound human limitations.

To be kind to ourselves is to know that there is a much larger story going on, that we are part of it, and that God, with their creative artistic flair, will bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

Can you rest yourself in that?

Speaking to the critic 

Yet, there is still that little critic inside that whispers and shouts a list of expectations.

    • Do this
    • Do that
    • Try harder
    • You’re not good enough
    • You don’t measure up
    • You should be doing this
    • Why can’t you be like them

There’s no carrot, only a stick that drives the donkey of your life.

Please, be kind and stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.

Start to notice the inner voice of the critic and see the influence it has over you. Where did that voice come from? Who was that slave driver?

It may be time for you to learn how to work out of your rest.

The wind

Yesterday I had a typically busy day outside, but I stopped for a moment.

I noticed that there was a particular wildness in the wind and so I ceased working for a few minutes and let the genesis energy of the wind flow around my face and through my lungs.

I was kind to myself and rested.

It was a ‘No’ to the ‘shoulds’ and an embracing of the ‘coulds.’

There were options. I could keep on working, working, working, or I could, for the next few moments, become mindfully aware of the presence of God in the wind around me.

I was kind to myself and I rested.

You may be working so hard in life that I can hardly rest with you. Please, be kind to yourself and take a rest.

Quotes to consider

  •  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Socrates
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • Our anguish plays out in our distorted images of our selves, our self-centered compulsions, our need to control, and our illusions about what makes us feel we are accepted or important. In all of this, grace is at the heart of deep change. Roger Heuser
  • When you compare yourself with others, you have no idea what challenges they are facing. Rob Bell

Questions to answer

  1. Are you kind to yourself?
  2. Do you downplay your struggle to yourself?
  3. What would it be like to be fully at rest?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Anthony Duran on Unsplash

 
When There are More Questions than Answers

When There are More Questions than Answers

September 10, 2020

Life can hand us a bunch of questions with few answers. But there is something inviting in a question, and so we explore a road less travelled.

When Bob climbed into the passenger seat next to me, I could see that something was wrong. He wasn’t his normal cheery self. It was like a question had gripped his thinking.

Have you ever had that experience? Something has happened in your life, and with a sense of shock, you are consumed with trying to understand it.

I have many questions.

If you have lived for a few years, you will most likely have a closet full of questions.

Its that place where you store away those questions that haven’t been answered yet.

Or maybe they have been answered, but not to your full satisfaction.

I’m talking questions of the heart.

Perhaps the answer given was glib.

A nice, pretty sterilized bandaid used to avoid exposure to the rawness of the pain.

Few of us genuinely want to hear the rawness of another’s pain. We don’t even want to go near our own.

I have few answers

The older I get, I find that I have many questions and few answers.

Recently I have been listening, via Daily Audio Bible, to Job and Ecclesiastes.

Now here are a couple of books that inspire joy and overflowing positivity!

Job sits in torn clothes and a pit of ashes. His world has been thrown upside down and shaken to its core.

But why? He questions everything, especially God. His so-called friends question him and tell him their less than helpful answers.

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be stuck in a well of hopelessness.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2

How about that as a sales pitch for success!

I have a God that questions my questions

One of the delights of the book of Job is how God responds to Job and his friends.

Job asks questions. God responds with questions.

The questions God asked Job to answer were of a nature that no man could answer, put in a box and say ‘There I have the answer’.

I have some questions for you,
    and I want some straight answers.
Where were you when I created the earth?
    Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
    Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
    and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
    and all the angels shouted praise? Job 38

Job is cognitively invited to see his questions in the context of something bigger than himself.

There is a larger story going on, and we are invited to be part of it.

You don’t have to have the answers to gain entry.

Actually, those with the questions are more likely to hear the bigger God questions that truly matter, and that shape and form one’s wholeness.

 The fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Every one of us will, at some stage, go through a Job experience. It might not be as dramatic as Jobs with loss of family, wealth, and health, but we will all taste the ashes of loss.

It could be the betrayal in a marriage or the death of a friend. The loss of a job or a crippling car accident. Cancer eating your body and fire burning your house.

There’s a mill, a grindstone, a storm, and a place of fire that we all pass through—a place where everything seems meaningless and hopeless.

It’s a time where you’re invited to reassess all that you have believed in.

    • Is God good?
    • Am I loved?
    • Do I have worth?
    • Is it ok to change some of my beliefs?

Perhaps the place that gave you the answers as a child no longer provides the answers for the fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Trust is built on cognitive assessments.

I once was pastorally coaching a man with a severe addiction problem. His wife had had enough and had told him the marriage was over.

He was in the fire of change, and he didn’t like the taste.

He asked what he should do.  So we talked about her past and how she had suffered abuse and needed a deep sense of security. The facts were that he was untrustworthy and an abuser of her trust.

We had to give her, via his observed behaviors, new factual evidence that he was doing things differently.

So he became religious, in a good sense, of creating new habits. He did it for himself first. The change was for his own sake, and that if it restored his marriage, then that would be a bonus.

He questioned his beliefs and didn’t like the answers. We rebuilt his life, and the marriage was restored.

Spiritual formation and a good question

I want to listen to people with questions. I probably don’t have the answers, but the joy is to see that they are actually questioning things.

To just accept everything and go along in a trance of what others tell you shows little desire for growth or depth. That power, contained in a good storm or fire, has left no maturing mark.

Spiritual formation happens at that crossroads where there is a question.

Do I explore the road less traveled, or do I take the familiar, but old, and less than satisfactory route?

We need to, as Parker Palmer would say ‘hear each other into deeper speech’. 

Bob, can I ask you something?

 

Mental health is ... exploring the questions for the questions that are underneathCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer. 
  • Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer 
  • It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer 
  • There are questions which illuminate, and there are those that destroy. We should ask the first kind. Isaac Isador Rabi.

Questions to answer

  1. Do you have a closet full of questions? Ones that you have subconsciously stored away but now and then make their unwelcome appearance? What are those questions?
  2. Under one question, there may well be other questions. What is the question under the question that simply needs acknowledgment at being there?
  3.   What shapes us more. Our questions or our answers?

Further reading

By Barry Pearman

Photo by xandtor on Unsplash

Can you Measure Spiritual Growth and Formation?

Can you Measure Spiritual Growth and Formation?

September 3, 2020

In our spiritual life, we want to know if we are making progress, but much of growth and formation is intangible, so we have to look deeper than a mere measurement.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but when we dug a little deeper, I could see the wisdom.

I was talking with a counselor, and I asked him how do we know if we are growing spiritually or not? There isn’t any objective measuring tool where we can say we have moved 5 points ahead or back. That would really open us up to feelings of pride or failure.

What he said was along the lines of this.

How well are you relating to those closest to you?

He conjectured that if we were growing spiritually, then this would be seen in how we relate to others.

We could pull this apart because relationships are a two-way street.  Some people are plain dangerous to be open and intimate with. They will take advantage, abuse, and possibly try to squash your faith. We all have a journey to take.

But I could see where he was coming from.

He was looking at how the three members of Trinity loved and served each other. A kind of self-giving self-sacrificial love between each of them where each tries to outdo the other in overflowing love.

‘I’m going to love you more’ ‘No, I’m going to love you more.’

Spiritual growth and formation, I believe, is a movement to that kind of intimacy and love.

If those closest to me, those who see me at my best and my worst, can say that there is a sense of an overflowing faith, hope, and love coming from me, then maybe something of that perichoresis dance has filtered into my movement.

Perichoresis (from Greek: περιχώρησις perikhōrēsis, “rotation”) is a term referring to the relationship of the three persons of the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one another. Perichoresis 

Tic on a dog

Relationships are tricky.

We want to give the very best to the other, but we also want and need from others certain things such as love and respect.

None of us love with perfection.

We can be like, as Dr. Larry Crabb says, two ticks with no dog.

A marriage bound together by commitments to exploit the other for filling one’s own needs (and I fear that most marriages are built on such a basis) can legitimately be described as a “tic on a dog” relationship.
Just as a hungry tic clamps on to a nourishing host in anticipation of a meal, so each partner unites with the other in the expectation of finding what his or her personal nature demands.
The rather frustrating dilemma, of course, is that in such a marriage there are two tics and no dog!
Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder

You’re not the dog for them to be a tic to.

For much of my life, I have considered that my spiritual life was measured by what I do.

Examples

    • Personal devotional life – reading the Bible, prayer, scripture memorization, meditation
    • Church attendance and serving
    • Giving to the poor and needy

All good activities to do, but it feels more like a religion of doing than a relationship of being.

Any step away from these, and you’re seen as backsliding and that you need to repent and try harder!

So often, it can feel like you’re the dog and others – individuals and organizations are the tic sucking the life out of you. They have a wonderful plan for your life that seems to subtly also include sucking the life out of you.

As far as it depends on you

I have limits as to how much love I can give to others. This old dog has only so much blood and life from which others can draw life from.

Paul, in a little section of the letter to the Romans, he talks about living with difficult people.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

In these few words, he says that it’s not always going to be possible to live at peace with everyone. That you can only do so much and that you have limits in your capability.

You won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs. You may know this logically, but it’s your heart that needs to hear it.

When I sense the demand of a tic, the desire to meet a need that was never mine to meet, then I gently point them to an overflowing well of nourishment.

Follow me and be formed.

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-20

Here were some tics, people much like ourselves with hungry, needy hearts. They had a desire for long deep draughts of love and respect.

Jesus comes, shows love and respect for them by speaking in the context of fishing. They drop their nets and follow.

They have found the well from which to draw from.

Formation becomes natural as they model themselves off ‘the Christ’.

Spiritual growth and formation now

I would love to be able to hang out with Jesus, much like those early fishermen, tax collectors, and other waywards.

I know it would probably wreck my life and possibly those around me. Throw everything into even further confusion and then have it settle into something new. Jesus has a habit of doing it that way.

How would I measure spiritual growth and development?

I like the idea of relationality has its merits. That is where God does their finest work.

I would also like to know if there is a growing fruitfulness in your life. At a relational level, that there is some evidence of the fruit of the Spirit

Things like affection for others,
exuberance about life,
serenity.

A willingness to stick with things,
a sense of compassion in the heart,
and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.

An involvement in loyal commitments,
not needing to force our way in life,
an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-24

Maybe I would also like to know if there is a growing sense of grace towards yourself and others.

All of this is highly subjective and can’t be measured. Only God knows the heart, and let’s leave it at that.

 

Mental health is ... having a spiritual formation journey that grows and develops. It overflows and touches the lives of others with faith, hope, and love.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri Nouwen
  • The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner

Questions to answer

  1. How would you measure one’s spiritual formation?
  2. What relational qualities would you want Jesus to mentor you in?
  3. Jesus used the language and context of fishing to Peter and his brothers. They were fishermen. What language and context would Jesus use with you if he walked up to you today?

Further reading

Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

Your Brain Needs to Rest Beside Still Waters

Mental Health Grows Through Little By Little Dance Steps

Barry Pearman

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Touching the Isolated and Touch-Deprived

Touching the Isolated and Touch-Deprived

August 27, 2020

Social isolation lockdown comes with touch-deprivation and highlights the need we all have of touch, but perhaps we can reach out and hold each other safely.

She walked up and gave me the biggest hug. Her husband shook my hand.

I’m missing touch. Are you?

I know some people who are huggy people and love to have big open arms that embrace others. It feels like you are being swallowed up by them.

Whereas others don’t like the physical touch.

But I wonder what will the world be like once this COVID19 crisis is over.

Questions bubble in the brain.

    1. Will we be more paranoid about physical touch?
    2. Could the habits of social distancing continue as matter of course?
    3. Will the fear of physical touch feed into an even greater fear of being open and vulnerable on a soul level with others?

We need to touch

Something happens when we touch. It’s a physical awareness that we’re not alone.

There is pressure on the nerve endings of your skin. Someone has moved from their existence into yours. You are not alone.

And it’s not just the COVID crisis that’s changing our touch habits. It could be the device your reading this post on.

Tiffany Field is a researcher of touch at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. She traveled to different airports in Florida to watch people interacting.

She made a shocking discovery: Nobody was touching each other. Everyone was on their phone.

Read an article about her research here. Why Physical Touch Matters for Your Well-Being

Entering the world of the unclean

Everyone passed him by. Nobody stopped to talk, touch, or even have eye contact.

It felt like he wasn’t there, even though he certainly was.

He thought of getting a little bell and ring it in time with the syrup worship songs they sang.

Perhaps he needed to sing ‘Unclean, unclean’ in this place of worship.

It was a kind of social isolation he knew. No one knew how to handle him. He was on the outside.

You see, he could no longer play the cosmetic mask games they were playing. He hurt on the inside, and it flowed outwards. There was no ability to contain his depression and make out like everything was ok.

He needed presence.

That was until a little old lady of 92 came and sat next to him, held his hand, and told him without words that he wasn’t alone. Her old wrinkled and crinkled hands entwined for a good half hour.

He was in love.

A God Hug

Back in 2009, I wrote my final essay for my Bachelor of Applied Theology.

My essay was entitled The Dehumanising Effects of Sexual Abuse.

In my research, I came across the work of theologian Miroslav Volv.

Volv writes

On the cross the circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in.

We, the others – we the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace.

An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.

They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.

I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Miroslav Volv

To the isolated and touch-deprived

Actually there wasn’t a 92-year-old lady, and that was the day he left the church that had deluded him.

Instead, he went to the others on the street. He found others in the gutter, and they shared war stories.

They all had wounds and bruises. Some of which had turned into scars.

For some, they were still bleeding, and hugs were mingled with the anger and the hurt of a fresh wound.

Then there were others for whom the wound had turned into a scar.

There was a confidence in them of a well-walked traveler. They had walked the walk, and they could silent the talk.

I have this thing about being a preacher who reveals things about herself,
and it’s that I always try to preach from my scars and not my wounds.
So, talking about depression is not in any way, a wound for me.
Nadia Bolz-Weber

Please, be that 92-year-old woman or man who knows how to hold someone else’s hand, soul, life safely. Let them speak their wounds and see the scars take shape. It’s a beautiful thing.

You may just look a lot like Jesus.

 

Mental Health is ... learning to give and receive touch. In an ever-increasing isolated world, we all need to learn how to touch wellCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Remember that touch-hungry children become touch-hungry adolescents. Don’t miss the opportunity to provide the remedy, before they start looking to others. D. Riddell
  • Hug your loved one soon. Love and affection do not truly exist until they are given expression, and many suffer from ‘touch hunger’. D. Riddell
  • I think not touching a child for decades at a time is a form of injury.  I think withholding any expression of love until a young boy is a grown man is a form of emotional violence.  And I believe that the violence men level against themselves and others is bred from just such circumstances. Terrence Real
  • Spiritual friends see a facet of Christ in us and bring it out as no one else can. And they delight to do so. When they see what is unique about us, it causes them great delight; and then, giving away to the powers of daring imagination, they envision what we could become. The vision excites them – with Paul, they see us where we are and feel the pains of labor till Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Larry Crabb. The Safest Place on Earth, 172

Questions to answer

  1. What do you think might be the long term effects of social isolation?
  2. How has touch played a role in your life?
  3. Have you been injured in some way by lack of touch?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

Your Faith has Made you Unwell

Your Faith has Made you Unwell

August 20, 2020

We can become so loaded down with religion that our faith makes us unwell but Jesus can make us well when we reach out for the fringe.

They were loaded down.

You couldn’t see it, but as you listened you could hear and feel it.

It was a load of religious shame, guilt, questions, and general confusion.

    • Did I do something bad and God is punishing me with a mental illness?
    • I’ve prayed and prayed but God hasn’t answered. I don’t have enough faith.
    • The pastor says there is sin in my life.
    • I did what the church elders told me to do and now I’m in an abusive relationship
    • I keep going to church but nobody talks to me. It’s like I’m not meeting some standard

Perhaps you could add to this list.

I’ve heard many statements like those above. They all fill me with a sense of both sadness and anger that we continue to shoot our wounded and poison our little ones.

Your faith has made you well

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

And instantly the woman was made well.
Matthew 9:20-22
  Mark 5:25-34

So we, who want the prescription to health and wellness, look to the doctors’ notes and see that it was ‘her faith’ that made her well.

We conclude that we need more faith so we try harder. We read more, give more, pray more. It seems like it’s all about more, more, more.

We ask questions such as

    • What happened to this woman?
    • Can we replicate it into our situation?
    • What is the secret?

I don’t know what exactly happened but something miraculous took place that will confound and frustrate the mechanic and the chessplayer in all of us.

What we can say is that her pistis (faith in greek) – belief, trust, confidence contributed in some way to her healing and being made whole.

The woman’s faith

We know very little about this woman other than what this story tells us. We do know that she was of part a ‘faith’ and that she had a personal faith.

Part of a Faith

We are all part of ‘a faith’.

It could be the Christian faith but it also could be Muslim, Buddist, etc.

A ‘faith’ is a collective of people that believe certain things and group themselves around these beliefs. Breaking it down further it could be a denomination, a church grouping, a small group.

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume this woman was part of the Jewish faith tradition. Her understanding of what God was like had been shaped by years and years of teaching and training.

It was a faith that had rules around ritual cleanliness, bleeding.  She would have known the rules. ‘Don’t touch the Rabbi (Jesus) or you’ll make him unclean’.

But she was also engaging with an emerging and new faith.

The Jesus Way was now the Faith expression that had a pull on her life. She had been watching Jesus. Learning from him, and feeding off his every word and action.

Personal Faith

Then there is your own personal faith. Your own set of beliefs and convictions. What you put your trust and confidence in.

We are shaped and molded, mostly in early childhood years, by parents and other groupings such as the faith traditions you are exposed to.

However, something was changing in this woman’s life I believe. Her personal faith was evolving and changing as she encountered Jesus.

His loving, caring, and compassionate responses to the outsider invited her to a place where she decided that maybe the merest touch of his cloak might change her life.

It did.

The faith that makes you unwell

I once talked with a man who wanted to challenge me with his religious rule-keeping. Everything was black and white for him.

Instead, I suggested we talk about the stories of Jesus.

‘I don’t want to talk about Jesus stories’ was his response.

I believe his faith was making him unwell.

In his strong rule-bound religious life there was little room for love and grace. The problem was that he was passing on this toxicity to others. Vulnerable others.

At the extreme level of spiritual abuse, we have the cults where it’s all about mind control, obey the leader, follow the rules. But sadly I know churches where similar abuses happen.

It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Follow the rules and behaviors of the group or you’re out.

All those messages, spoken and unspoken get sown into the soul.

They can cripple a person’s faith.

Touching the hem that makes you well

It was a leap of faith for this woman to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. It was faith reaching for the fringe.

When you are questioning your faith tradition and all the beliefs and convictions you have held dear, there comes a moment of decision.

Will I stay within the confines of what is familiar and known or will I reach out and take a risk.

The fringe is always there for you to reach out and touch.

Would the real Jesus stand up

I want to meet Jesus.

Not the Jesus of religious conformity, but the Jesus who went to the edges of life. The Jesus that will rattle the religious rules out of me.

He’s the one who turned water into wine. The God who danced on the water and ate with the outsider.

That’s the Jesus we all need to encounter and be on the fringe with.

As I listen to people I sense the urge to point them to the real Jesus. To tell them Jesus stories and invite them to touch the fringe. It’s risky, dangerous but oh so good.

C.S. Lewis perfectly portrays Jesus as the Lion Aslan to some children.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Mental health is ... having a growing, changing, evolving experience of faith as we touch the hem of Jesus garmentCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • There are others who know about this miracle birth
    The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
    For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
    But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums.
    Bruce Cockburn Cry of a Tiny Babe
  • Faith is the willingness not to be certain and still to say ‘You know what it’s ok, I can live with it, it’s allright, it is what it is’. Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the oppostite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel 

Questions to consider

  1. How has your faith developed and changed over time?
  2. What is it like to leave behind some of the old ‘faith’ conclusions you have made to embrace new ones?
  3. What does being ‘well’ look like for you?
  4. What would change in you if you touched the fringe or hem of Jesus’ cloak?

Further reading

Picking Up The Broken Pieces

Picking Up The Broken Pieces

August 13, 2020

It was tasting the dust of devastation. The broken pieces. But those fragments can be brought together, and so we quietly form a new mosaic

Broken pieces. That’s all that was left behind.

It was a moment that captured the world’s attention.

A massive explosion of ammonium nitrate brought a city to be a pile of rubble.

But amidst the dust 79-year-old May Abboud Melki, played Auld Lang Syne on her piano in her broken apartment.

Playing in her pain.

She then went on to play Arabic hymns, which caused those around her to gather around and start worshiping.

“To see her lean into her faith, lean into God was something that was a strong message to her community and our family immediately”May-Lee Melki –  granddaughter.

Most of us will never have to face the type of devastation caused by such an explosion. But it could be an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, bush-fire that brings us to a place of picking up the pieces.

As you read this tap into the emotions of loss.

Something has swept through your life and now it’s like everything has been turned upside down, shaken around, and thrown to the four corners of the universe.

You are left with a few fragments from which to rebuild.

Broken pieces

As part of my devotional life, I find it helpful to meditate on scripture. One of the ways I do this is through the ancient art of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina asks the listener to be quiet and listen to a passage of scripture and allow God to speak to you personally through this.

I use a podcast called Daily Lectio Divina. 

One of the readings this week was about the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. The miraculous turning of a few loaves of bread and some fish into a banquet for the multitude.

At the very end of the story is the mention of the cleanup crew.

and they took up what was leftover of the broken pieces. Matthew 14:20

I could see all those people fanning out and collecting the scraps. There would be joy, amazement, and songs of thankfulness.

But I wanted to know what they did with all those pieces of fish and bread.

Did they get creative and make some sort of fish cake? They didn’t have freezers to store it for later use so perhaps they gave it away.

I think that’s what they probably did.

As they traveled along, following Jesus, they told the story and shared the bread and fish. They, and others feasted on the leftovers, the broken pieces.

We like nice stories

It’s a nice Jesus story, isn’t it. Everyone is happy. Full stomachs and the needs of the heart met. We like it like that, don’t we.

For Jesus, there were thousands of happy people following him. Ministerial success! He was now the leader of a mega-church!

Yet, a few years later, after walking a very narrow path of crushing discipleship only a few friends remained.

I wonder sometimes how long Jesus would last in our modern PC church world.

Political Correctness and Pastoral Correctness might just see him excommunicated while the good people continue to sing him their happy songs.

Your broken pieces

Life is full of broken pieces. Leftovers after a storm of life.

The marriage fails, a child dies, cancer rages through the body. You’re made redundant after years of faithful service. No longer needed. A pandemic sweeps through your village.

You sit and look at all the shards of debris and grandma moves to the piano.

She’s been there before.

She knows the grit and grind of what life is actually all about. There is a time to lament and mourn and there is a time to pick up the pieces.

What prompted the nudge?

As I pondered over the passage I wondered why Spirit (Holy) gave Matthew the nudge to write this little facet of the story down.

Perhaps God wanted us to know how amazing the miracle was in that there was so much leftover.

Or might it be that God wanted us to know that there was a divine interest in the broken pieces? Those little things that most would discard as being worthless. The scraps of our lives.

Your broken pieces, those things that might seem as leftovers and trash to most, may just have a purpose as you rebuild out of the devastation.

The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle might come together and form a new mosaic.

A picture of new beauty.

Mosaic of beauty

Years ago I had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Ephesus.

It was a city of ruins, but it was also a city where I knew the apostle Paul had walked and talked.

As we walked down the streets our guide called us over to the sidewalk.

He then took his water bottle out and squirted some water onto the pavement. With the dust washed off a beautiful mosaic appeared.

Ancient colors burst out from under the dirt and washed us with delight.

Broken pieces, of various colors, all arranged into a pattern.

Someone, thousands of years before, had collected some broken pieces and with Spirit-led, creative celebration, made art for us to enjoy.

Your gift is …

As you have read this you may well have been nudged about the broken pieces in your life. I hope so.

What is the invite God is whispering to you?

Can you pick up a few broken pieces and form them into a mosaic that might help you make sense of it all.

Do it slowly with a sense that this artwork can take as long as it needs to take.

There is no rush or demand to perform to anyone, including yourself.

Your broken piece artwork may be the gift another person is needing to savor off in their broken world experience.

The challenge is whether you are willing to look at your broken pieces, own them and their pain, and then invite the Jesus of miracles to come and co-create a new mosaic.

 

Mental Health is ... acknowledging the broken pieces in our lives and then, with Spirit-led creative design, join them together as a gift to yourself and others.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Can my world ever be rebuilt? Do I have any value? Can I be useful again? Is there life after failure? My answer is yes. That is what grace is all about. A marvelous, forgiving, healing grace says that all things can be new. Gordon MacDonald
  • Tell Moses, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and St. Paul that the broken-world experience is an addendum, an add-on, to life. Tell them that pressure, failure, and embarrassment are not part of the course of human development and maturation. They simply won’t agree. They will say that sorrow, pain, and stress are the “graduate school” of godly character and capacity if people are willing to enroll. The problem, they may suggest, is that this school has too many no-shows and dropouts. Gordon MacDonald
  • In pain, failure, and brokenness, God does His finest work in the lives of people. Gordon MacDonald
  • If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.—Henri Nouwen 
  • Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place. We live in brokenness. We just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others. Larry Crabb
  • A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own, and reveal our brokenness. Larry Crabb

Questions to answer

  1. Where have you had a broken world experience?
  2. There is a time for everything. How much time do we allow ourselves or give permission to ourselves to own the fact that we have broken pieces?
  3. What would be an example in your life where a few broken pieces have come together to form a mosaic of beauty?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?

Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?

August 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through our lives, but perhaps simple wisdom could save the world. The most important thing is people.

In January, I could see that it was going to be war. It was going to be a battle for our lives.

This was the attitude I had to have about the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the enemy was unseen to the naked eye.

Perhaps my realization was strengthened by having just read a biography of Sir Winston Churchill (The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill: Hero in a Time of Crisis by Stephen Mansfield). Still, I knew that the world was about to experience a war that would test everything and everyone.

Some questions came to mind.

  • Would leaders lead with humility and resolve?
  • Would people listen to their leaders?
  • What political structures will be revealed as flawed?
  • Which leaders would prioritize dollars, politics, and the economy before the health of people?
  • Will we love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
  • Who will be wise but quickly forgotten?
  • Who will be unwise and be remembered forever?

You can answer those questions yourself.

The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19

Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.

Every day in the paper
you can watch the numbers rise
No such event can overtake us here,
we’re much too wise.
Radium Rain – Bruce Cockburn

I thought, ‘Wow, this so describes our times’.

Numbers of deaths on the increase, but still some people think that they’re ‘much too wise’ to be vulnerable.

I watched a protest march on T.V. the other night. Thousands of people angry about losing some of their rights.

They were being forced, by law, to wear masks in public places. It seems that they considered themselves ‘much too wise’.

By the way, ‘Radium Rain‘ was written by Bruce a few days after the Cheynoble explosion back in 1986, and he was pointing out to the west the foolishness of thinking that a Chernobyl event could never happen in their backyard.

There is an arrogance in the heart that demands personal rights without considering the responsibilities of being human in a community with others.

The kindness of a mask 

A self-centered view of life says that the mask is to prevent contracting the virus from other people.

It’s all about me—an addiction to the self.

Incurvatus in se’ – turned/curved inward on oneself.

Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently

A community-centered view of life says that the mask might prevent others from contracting the virus if I unknowingly have it.

It’s about others. Compassion and thoughtfulness. Care and wisdom.

So we wash our hands, we use hand gel, we keep our distance, and we wear a mask because we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We lead by example.

Being a wise leader

You are a leader.

One of my all-time favorite Bible stories is the short story of a poor but wise man that saved a small city.

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:

There was once a small city with only a few people in it.

And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siegeworks against it.

Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.

But nobody remembered that poor man. 

So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

Wherever you live, you are part of a small town. It could be as small as the group of people you live with—your family, husband, wife, flatmates.

Small as a tight community.

That’s where we start to be leaders and exhibit wisdom.

It starts in small places where we have personal control.

You, in your small town, have the power to make the difference. Leadership is influence, so you lead by example.

He Tangata.

We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

What is the most important thing?
It is people,
it is people,
it is people.

Perhaps COVID-19 is a huge wakeup call to reassess our wisdom.

We think we are gods with our 21st-century modern technology and knowledge, yet we are mere dust.

If you want to beat COVID-19 you need to ask yourself this question ‘What is the most important thing?’ and I hope you say it is people, it is people, it is people.

It is your neighbor, your friend, your loved ones. You wear a mask for them.

 

Mental Health is ... knowing that the most important thing in the world is people.  He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • If you imagine you are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to justified arrogance or violence toward those others. Richard Rohr
  • Any spirituality that does not lead from a self- centered existence to an other-centered mode of existence is bankrupt. Brennan Manning
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Questions to answer

  1. Do you think the world as a whole sees themselves as ‘much too wise’?
  2. What is happens when we have an attitude of pride and arrogance?
  3. Who are the people, think the small town, you can lead by example?

Further reading

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Barry Pearman

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